Saturday, February 22, 2014

John Anthony Helliwell Interview:
The Maestro of Music
Conducted by Anthony Servante

John Helliwell

Today with us on the Servante of Darkness Blog we have the Maestro of Music, John Anthony Helliwell,.the saxophonist, woodwind player, and background vocalist for the Pop Rock band Supertramp. In 2004, Helliwell formed the band Crème Anglaise with Mark Hart, who joined Supertramp in 1985. It was when I heard the music of Crème Anglaise that I reached out to John Helliwell to talk about his music outside of Supertramp. But for the sake of historical accuracy and to look at the man behind the Sax, I included a few questions about Supertramp. So, without further ado, let's speak with the British Maestro.

1.   Can you tell us about your early days with music? How did you get started in the music business? I started to play the clarinet when I was 13, after hearing a British clarinetist, Monty Sunshine, playing "Petite Fleur" by Sidney Bechet. Then I bought an alto saxophone when I was 15, after hearing Cannonball Adderley play. In my teens, I played mostly jazz until one night in Coventry, UK, I heard The Graham Bond Organisation, which included Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker and Dick Heckstall-Smith. They blew me away! I then continued to play while I was a computer programmer in Birmingham. I joined a blues group, Jugs O'Henry" and we turned professional, moving to London. It didn't last long - then I put an advert in the Melody Maker which said "Have sax, will travel" after wich I joined "The Alan Bown Set" with whom I stayed for 5 or 6 years. In the early 70s I played with various groups including backing-up singers such as Jimmy Ruffin, Arthur Conley, Johnny Johnson. I also played in cabaret clubs, strip clubs, and a season in US Airbases in Germany.

2.   Who were your early influences in music? Handel, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Miles Davis.

3.   How did you come to become a member of Supertramp? I’ve followed the band since the first self-titled LP, the one the band never plays any music from. It seems there was a new band until the Crime of the Century LP settled down the personnel changes. I had met them when I was playing with Alan Bown (which had included for a short time Dougie Thomson) He subsequently had joined Supertramp, and when they were "re-forming" in 1973, he called me to see if I wanted to join them. I just sort of stuck around and I am still there, although they never did officially ask me to join!

Supertramp (John, center)

4. How did you go from Saxophonist to Emcee at the Supertramp concerts? You were a wonderful host that made every concert an evening spent with friends. As far as announcing, nobody else in the band wanted to do it - so I stepped in - I think that any humorous emcee-ing was perhaps to get a little light relief after a serious series of songs.

5.   What were your contributions to the music side of the songwriting? Your Sax solos seemed built for you. Did you help arrange them? Every saxophone and clarinet solo is extemporised - made up on the spot, by me, except the solo at the end of "Crime of the Century" which had to be re-done and arranged by me and Rick Davies when strings were added and clashed with the original solo. We all would help arrange each song

Supertramp (Rick Davies, left, John, right)

6.  After Supertramp disbanded, what did you do before starting Crème Anglaise? Supertramp didn't disband - we took some time off - and we may play again, even at our advanced years! In the early 90s I went to study saxophone at The Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. It was there that I started playing jazz again and met some great players, some of whom I still play with!

7.  Now can you share with us how you put Crème Anglaise together? I had a band around 2004/5 and I was asked to play at a prestigious event in Geneva for the watch company IWC. They asked me to play a couple of Supertramp numbers, so I asked Mark Hart (who had been singing and playing with Supertramp for many years) to join us. I thought that we should have a more interesting name than "The John Helliwell Group" so, as they speak French in Geneva, I tried to think of something French/English, or as we say - "Franglaise." "Crème Anglaise" just came into my head!

Click Here to Purchase

8.   Tell us about the music of your band. What are you aiming for with the Crème Anglaise sound? The music of "Crème Anglaise" reflects our eclectic tastes - we are influenced by soul, R&B, jazz etc. I like to think that our music is relatively uncomplicated and "easy to listen to" - not of the genre "easy-listening music" We feature the superb talents of Mike Walker (guitar), Arthur Lea (piano), Ben Bryant (drums), Mark Hart (vocals and keyboards), Geth Griffith (bass) On our eponymous CD we also have Barbara Walker singing. Lately, we have featured Steve Gilbert (drums) and John Ellis (vocals and keyboards) who will be on our future recording project along with Mike and Geth. We play only a few concerts as the guys are all busy and I'm a bit lazy.

9.   Lastly, I’d like to ask you to list your ten favorite songs, songs that you’ve written with Crème Anglaise or for other bands, or songs by other bands or artists that have had an influence on your career.

     10. John Helliwell's Song List:

1. "For unto us a child is born" from Handel's Messiah - the first music I remember - my parents would sing it (and various other pieces from Messiah) around the house when I was about three.

2. "Petite Fleur" by Sidney Bechet, played by Monty Sunshine with The Chris Barber Jazz Band

3. "Autumn Leaves" by Joseph Kosma, played by Cannonball Adderley from his LP "Somethin' Else" featuring Miles Davis.

4. "Tenor Madness" played by Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane from the LP "Tenor Madness"

5. "The Goldberg Variations" by J S Bach played by Glen Gould. There is one aria , thirty variations, and a reprise of the aria. I would choose the aria if I can only have one of them!

6. "A remark you made" by Wayne Shorter from The album "Heavy Weather" by Weather Report

7. "You've got a friend" by Carole King, sung by Donny Hathaway, from his album "Live"

8. "A case of you" by Joni Mitchell from "Both sides now" with the London Symphony Orchestra - arrangements by Vince Mendoza
Click to Watch.

9. "En La Orilla Del Mundo" by Charlie Haden, from his CD "Nocturne"

10. "The ballad of the sad young men" by Tommy Wolf and Fran Landesman, played by the Keith Jarrett Trio from the CD "Tribute Live" (disc 2)
Click to Watch.

Best wishes, John.

BONUS VIDEO of John Heliwell with Helliwell-Derix Quintet in Beauforthuis, Austerlitz. Thanks to Egbert Derix for the footage.

Thank you, John, for being with us today and for sharing this great selection of Classical and Jazz, and everything in between. This song list has to be one of the most musically subtle we have had on the blog; it shows not only the spirit of a great overall sound and theme but also the soul of John Helliwell, the Maestro of Music. Visit John Helliwell at his website to learn more about John and Crème Anglaise. 

Thank you, readers and music lovers, for joining us today as well. Till next we meet on the road to musical discovery and enlightenment, this is your host, the Servante of Darkness, bidding you adieu. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Off Kilter TV: 
Where Horror Rears its Ugly Head on Family Television

South Park Season 15, Episode 7

"You’re Getting Old"

Reviewed by Anthony Servante

Off Kilter TV explores that odd TV episode that doesn't quite fit the series. For example, in RAWHIDE, when the cowboys come across the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (see my review in an earlier issue), the episode enters the supernatural realm, leaving behind stories about cow thieves and Indian conflicts. 

In today's discussion of Off Kilter TV, we examine the television show, SOUTH PARK. While this show sets the rules for being unpredictable, what happens when it takes on the standard structure of a dramatic TV show not uncommon to networks like the WB. Then we have an Off Kilter episode.  

Our story begins with a birthday party. 

Stan Marsh turns ten years old and develops a cynical attitude to the things he loved before his birthday. The catalyst for this change centers around the “Tween Music” he once listened to with his friends so enthusiastically. The problem now is that the music sounds like “shit”. Literally. Like flatulence and diarrhea exploding in cacophonic beat with the Tween songs. Initially, it is only the adults who hear the shitiness of the music. They even try to teach their children about the difference between “fad” music and “classic” music by playing kids a song by the band, The Police. To the kids, The Police sounds like shit. Thus, the metaphor is established: the sound of shit represents the cynical attitude people take toward new things; Tween Music is new to the adults and The Police is new to the kids, and both parents and children hear the same thing: shit.

But the episode moves past the music as Stan not only hears the Tween sound as shitty, but also sees trailers for movies by Kevin James, Adam Sandler, and Jim Carrey as populated by turds and diarrhea mouths. Eventually, everything for Stan starts to sound and look like shit. His closest friends, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman begin to avoid him because of his negativity and cynicism. So, not only is he losing the things he used to love, but also the friends who’ve meant so much to him in life.  At the age of ten, he is diagnosed by his doctor as being a “cynical asshole”, an attitude usually reserved for crotchety old folks.

Meanwhile, Randy Marsh, Stan’s dad, is also undergoing a negative change. Although he hears the Tween Music as crap, he longs to hear the music the way the young kids hear it, the way he heard music when he was a youngster. He pretends to like the Tween songs, and tries to hear beyond the shitty sounds. He starts a band and plays guitar as he flatulates, believing he is recreating Tween Music. His wife scolds him and accuses him of always trying to recapture his youth with his stupid projects. She alludes to his brawling with the Little League Baseball parents, taking up cooking, and playing this crappy music as ways to avoid facing the fact that he is getting old.

Finally, Randy admits the truth. He is attempting to recapture the happiness of his youth because he is no longer happy in his marriage. Sharon, his wife, confesses that she, too, is no longer happy. Furthermore, she says that week after week it is the same old story played over and over; it resets and ends only to be reset once again. And that she can't take it anymore. Randy and Sharon then agree to a divorce. Randy moves out, and Sharon moves herself and the kids to a new neighborhood.

As Landslide by Stevie Nicks plays in the background, Stan goes through the motions as he moves his things into a new house, turns his back on the friends he once loved, and sits alone and faces the setting sun that looks like a glowing turd in the sky. And here with this poignant ending, the controversy began.

The fans and the media believed that South Park was coming to an end. What started as a joke about Tween Music quickly turned into a story structured like a traditional drama TV show. Without the “shit” metaphor, this episode played like a “Dear John” letter to fans. When Sharon talked about “the same story” resetting itself week after week, the media understood and Trey Parker and Matt Stone, South Park’s creators, were hanging up their animation series to make movies and Broadway musicals; after all, The Book of Mormon was riding the crest of success with its Tony wins and sell-out audiences. The poignancy wasn’t lost on the fans. Matt and Trey were saying goodbye through the break-up of the Marsh family, Randy, Sharon, Shelley and Stan.

Many, many South Park fans admitted that this episode, in fact, made them cry. Divorce. A loss of innocence. A loss of friends. A loss of happiness. We were reminded: We are getting old.

And everywhere Matt and Trey went, the media asked them about the end of South Park. They were overwhelmed by emails and tweets about the sad farewell. The problem was, the South Park creators didn’t know what people were talking about, but the talk show hosts, the gossip rags, and the leagues of South Park geeks continued to seek confirmation about the show’s demise.

But there was no demise. Matt and Trey explained what the show meant and how and why they believed it was misperceived (listen to their commentary below by clicking on the link). The problem, in a nutshell, was that they had virtually used a traditionally structured drama format to tell the story, rather than sustain the “shit” metaphor about Tween Music, which was their original intention. Even Sharon’s speech about the weekly resetting of their lives was a last minute addition to close out the episode, culminating with Stevie Nick’s Landslide and Stan’s acceptance that the world had turned to shit. The South Park creators figured they would “reset” the show after the mid-season hiatus (You’re Getting Old was the last episode of the first half of the season). They realized that they left things hanging but never thought that the fans and the media would respond so overwhelmingly. After all, the show does “reset” every week. It’s a running gag; only the poignancy of the episode and its dramatic structure seemed irreversible, that the gag was over.

But as we have seen, South Park continues. Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman still get into trouble, the rest of the cast still contribute to the storylines, and Matt and Trey yet satirize today’s hot topics. For a brief moment, however, we had an Off Kilter TV episode, and South Park ended in the saddest way possible, not with a laugh but with a frown. And we wept. Luckily, even tears can be reset.

Thank you, readers, for joining us today for our Off Kilter TV episode. Until next we meet, keep your eye glued to the TV screen and give a holler if you spot an Off Kilter show.

Then listen to Matt Stone and Trey Parker discuss the episode after all the controversy settled down.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Sara Karloff Interview
With Anthony Servante

Originally Published in The Black Glove Zine

When Bela Lugosi turned down the role of the Monster in FRANKENSTEIN, Boris Karloff accepted the part and became an icon of Horror overnight. We are speaking today with Sara Karloff, daughter of the film, radio, and TV star.

Anthony: I am Anthony Servante. 

Ms. Karloff: Nice to meet you. I’m Sara Karloff.

Sara Jane Karloff Pratt

Anthony: It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Ms. Karloff. I’d like to start the interview with a little background on the subject of Sara Jane Karloff Pratt. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Ms. Karloff: (slight laugh at hearing her full name). I’m the only child of horror movie star Boris Karloff, also known as William Henry Pratt, and I was born on my father’s 51st birthday. I have two sons and three grandchildren, and I live in California.

Anthony: What kind of childhood did you have with such a famous father?

Ms. Karloff: Well, my father didn’t bring his work home; he was a very modest, self-effacing man, the very antithesis of the role he played, so my childhood was not would one would have expected of a child of a movie star.

 Boris Karloff and young Sara

Boris and Sara a few years later

Anthony: So, when did you decide to carry on the legacy of your father?

Ms. Karloff: Well, I’m not carrying on his legacy. The fans of my father do that. I just try to oversee,--to make certain that when the persona of my father is used, it’s done appropriately and with respect. It’s due to the fans that his legacy has such long legs and his fans are absolutely amazing.

Anthony: Boris Karloff is one of the few Hollywood stars who has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Can you tell us about that?

Ms. Karloff: Well, one is for film and one is for television. And he did an enormous body of radio work as well. He did over 170 films, and on television he had three series, and he was one of the very few Hollywood stars to embrace the new medium of television in the 1940s and he moved back to New York in 1949 and he starred on all the prominent shows of the day as a guest star, and as I said, he had three television series of his own: first, THRILLER, and COLONEL MARCH, and THE VEIL; so he was very, very active in television as well, of course, in film, radio, and on Broadway.

Anthony: What are some of your favorite memories of your father?

Ms. Karloff: Well, I think that the principal legacy that he left was that he was a man of great personal integrity and kindness.

A dapper Boris Karloff

Karloff as the Monster

Anthony: That’s nice. Having a father who’s an icon of Horror, how do you feel about the genre of Horror?

Ms. Karloff: Well, one of the worst kept secrets is that I do not like scary movies, and so it was the world’s worse casting me as my father’s daughter. I leave the room during MURDER SHE WROTE. When the music starts, I’m out in the hall. I don’t like scary movies. I don’t like horror movies. I don’t like being discomforted by film. I like to be entertained, and I think that my father would be not only disquieted but disgusted by the flesh and gore horror film of today.

Anthony: I agree with you. Sometimes the movie is shot around the gore and not the story.

Ms. Karloff: It leaves nothing to the imagination, and it really doesn’t involve anything but the gut reaction of the movie-goer. My father felt—well, he didn’t like the word ‘horror’; he preferred the word ‘terror.’ To involve the audience’s participation and intelligence was far more important to revolting them. And that’s why he preferred the word ‘terror.’

Anthony: But he isn’t only an icon of horror, he’s also become an icon of the Holidays with How The Grinch Stole Christmas…

Ms. Karloff: Oh, yes, that is such a wonderful part of his legacy that he left his family and his fans. He won a Grammy for How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

Anthony: So how did Boris Karloff hook up with Dr. Seuss?

Ms. Karloff: Well, my father could do most anything with his voice. It was a wonderful brilliant casting and a blending of great talents when they cast my father. Not only did he do the voice of The Grinch he was the narrator of the story. My father absolutely loved doing that program. The night it was to air, he called me; he said, “I want you to sit down with your sons and watch this—it is such a wonderful program.”

Boris voices the Grinch

Anthony: It’s a TV program that enters many homes during the Christmas season.

Ms. Karloff: It’s part of the Christmas season just as my father’s horror films have become iconic during the Halloween season.

Anthony: One of my favorite Boris Karloff movies is Black Sabbath. In the American version, he hosts and introduces each of the episodes of the movie. Did this give him the idea to host a show like The Twilight Zone or One Step Beyond?

Ms. Karloff: Well, he hosted Thriller, and introduced all of the episodes in the Thriller series, and he acted in several of them as well. The Thriller series was a remarkably well-written directed and performed series. It had marvelous actors of the time, some superb directors such as Bob [Robert] Vaughn and Ida Lupino, suberb actors from the time, and some wonderful scripts. It was along the line of The Twilight Zone, but it was just a wonderful, wonderful series. And my father introduced each episode.

Karloff come to TV

Anthony: And he also did THE VEIL?

Ms. Karloff: Yes, as well as COLONEL MARCH OF SCOTLAND YARD, which was a British TV series.

Anthony: Can you tell us some of the important events for your father?

Ms. Karloff: One of the events of which my father was most proud was his work with the Screen Actors Guild. His card number was 09; he was one of the founding fathers. When the Guild was founded, those screen actors who founded the Guild were putting their careers on the line because they were forming a union against the all-powerful studio bosses, and it was altogether possible that those actors would never work again, but my father and the other actors who were involved in the formation of the guild felt it was very important that once they had reached a point in their own careers to speak out on behalf of those who had not yet reached that point in their careers, and so I know my father, although he seldom ever spoke about his work with the guild, was very pleased to have been a part of that time with the Screen Actors Guild.

Anthony: Do you like attending the Horror Conventions honoring your father?

Ms. Karloff: Well, I am fortunate in that I am invited to conventions around the country and sometimes out of the country, and it gives me an opportunity to meet my father’s fans and it gives me an opportunity to thank them for their interest in my father’s career and his work.

Anthony: When is the next convention?

Ms. Karloff: That would be the Monsterpalooza in Burbank, California [held every year]. 

Anthony: I hear there’s a new book out on your father’s career?

Ms. Karloff: Yes, a terrific author in England named Stephen Jacobs has written the absolute infinitive superbly researched biography on my father, and it’s called “Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster”. And it’s unbelievably researched. I mean, I’ve learned things about my father and his career and his family on every page. It’s just an amazing and in-depth research on my father’s life, his family, and his career. For any fan of my father and his work it is a must-read biography. And we offer it on our website: (link only—no pic). And I would encourage people to visit our website; we have an artists’ gallery on which we show the wonderful Karloff art that various artists have submitted to us. It’s just the way we can help the artists display their art. We have a gift shop where you can pick up the biography and other licensee things.

Anthony: Thank you for taking this interview on such short notice.

Ms. Karloff: It’s been my pleasure. You made it very comfortable and very pleasant. Make sure you send me a copy of the interview when it comes out.

Anthony: I’ll be sure. Have a good afternoon.

Ms. Karloff: You have a good afternoon as well.

I interviewed Ms. Karloff by phone. It was my first interview. I was overwhelmed and awed, but I pushed on. When I transcribed the tape of our conversation, I couldn't believe how coherent it came out, and how we touched on a few controversial topics, such as Boris Karloff's work with the Screen Actors Guild. Unions were not popular back then in early Hollywood. 

I hoped you enjoyed my visit with Ms. Karloff. Please comment and share. Thank you.

Servante of Darkness
February 2, 2014

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Servante of Darkness
Horror Story of the Month
February 2014

The Blame Game

by Lori R. Lopez

His voice bore a note of disapproval.  This is your fault.  The least you can do is go first.
            Warily they eyed the beast as it paraded past eyeing them.
            We all know whos to blame, and it isnt me! was her retort.
            How do you figure that?  I wouldnt be here if you hadnt lured me under a false pretense.
            What makes you think it was false?  Mummy and Daddy really are dead.  There just wont be a funeral.  Theres nothing left to bury.  Theyve been eaten by Waldo.
            The sullen conversation sounded like a dark comedy routine.  Except nobody was joking.  They were dead serious; drop-dead serious, implying I wish you would . . .
            They were also twinned asymmetrical halves of a whole; a pair of mismatched wombmates.
            Edie and Eddie had been born three minutes apart, yet there was a profound chasm separating them, so deep and vast it could never be bridged.  Raised by the same parents, in the same environment, they developed as different as two people could be.  Like they were not even related.
            As children, flowing black hair distinguished Edie, and glowing white skin.  Graceful, confident, she mastered every skill attempted.  Eddies hair was a drab shade of blond, severely cut.  His complexion beige, eyes brown, he was a tad pudgy and uncoordinated, often moody.  Her orbs were green, with stunning twinkles.
            Edie loved to do anything that made her brother look stupid or culpable.  Humiliating him amused her.  Getting him in hot water was a game.  She played it well, taking advantage of his kinder nature, his refusal to get even.  For years he shrugged off the offenses, acting like none of it bothered him.  The pain, however, would neither tumble nor blow away.  It was absorbed as internal scars beneath the surface, then manifested in peculiar visible traits.  Uncontrollable embarrassments like rashes and nervous warts.  Having to count to ten before crossing the street, entering a doorway, walking up or down stairs.  One day his twin went too far she involved a red-haired girl he had a crush on in her twisted game.
            Eddie asked Missy, which was short for Melissa, if he could walk her home from school.  To his chagrin, the sister he couldnt trust caught up and tagged behind them.
            Hi, Missy!  Arent you pretty today!
            The eleven-year-old responded politely:  Hello, Edie.
            Dont you have something else to do? hissed Eddie over a shoulder.
            Nope!  I have all the time in the world.  Edie grinned broadly.
            Eddie knew, he just knew there would be trouble.
            As if she were psychic the albatross blurted, Did you know my brother wets his bed?  He cant have company because his room smells like pee.
            The boy stopped cold, blood rushing to his face.  He whirled and yelled at his sister, I hate you!  Then fled, for he couldnt bear to face the girl he liked.  He couldnt summon the courage to talk with her, or any girl, since that crushing moment.  Edie wasnt a girl.  She was a monster.  He strove to avoid her, yet on occasion they would have to speak.
            Eddie hardened, constructing a wall around himself.  Protective armor.  He abandoned further efforts at understanding her, establishing truces.  As far as he was concerned, she was an aberration.  His nemesis.
            It baffled and dismayed their parents, broke their hearts into shards of grief that brother and sister could not get along.  What went wrong?  The girl and boy had been loved, taken care of.  Shouldnt they be close?  They were twins.  You might think them enemies the way they fought and loathed each other.  Were they conjoined they would have ripped asunder, their mutual dislike was so extreme.
            Poor Eddie lay at night staring into the dull starless void of the ceiling and wondered if his obverse hailed from another planet.  That seemed the only explanation.  She feuded with him over everything, whether the topic mattered to her or not.  And aimed an accusative finger rather than bonding, possessing no sense of unity or loyalty.
            Due to the intenseness of their relationship, they decided at eighteen in a single rare consensus to spend the rest of adulthood at opposite ends of the Earth.  Barely had they survived childhood, and the ill will was bound to increase according to Eddie.  Surprisingly his sister agreed.  From that day forward, the twins charged in contrary directions to put as much distance between them as possible.
            Eddie conquered the majority of his habits with the sibling from Hell out of his life, but in sleep he recited the alphabet.  Awake he could not, for his mind went blank.  There was an additional stigma that lingered, a disturbing characteristic as shameful as the bedwetting . . . and this one he successfully concealed.
            The inevitable happened.  The arch-rivals came face to face having circumnavigated the globe.  Demeanors had altered.  He sprouted a beard.  His hair was sooty, untamed, hanging down to his shoulders.  Her mane was axed, reduced to a bob and bleached.  He was weathered, bronzed.  She had managed to grow paler, exuding an alabaster sheen.  They still resembled strangers.  And she said her name was Divinia.
            Who arranged this?  Mother?  Green eyes, rimmed heavily by black, penetrated to his soul.
            Are you following me?
            That made her snicker.  How could I be following you?  Im standing in front of you! she disputed.
            Well, you think youre so clever.  Im sure youd find a loophole a wormhole, he stammered.
            Banter was not his strength.  In her opinion he didnt have a strength, only weaknesses including virtue.  I see youre as pleasant as ever.  Some things never change, she grimaced.
            Youre right.  Like how callous you are.
            I cant help it.  The sight of you nauseates me.  I would prefer to jab my eyes with a thousand pins than gaze at your repulsive mug.
            He opened his mouth then clapped it shut, believing that if you didnt have anything nice to say, you shouldnt say anything.
            Arent you going to dare me to? she needled.  Youre pathetic.  We could have so much nastier spats if you held up your side.  Youre no fun.  Thats why I cant tolerate you.  Divinia was seeing red, eyes scarlet as if bloodshot.  Lips painted black (Eddie assumed) peeled from vivid white teeth that nearly blinded her brother.
            Who are you? puzzled the man with a shaggy mop.
            Edie, alias Divinia, scarcely recognized him.  She circled sharklike, wearing a sneer.  Youre the one who changed.  She cupped a whiskered chin.  I bet you were saving lives, she taunted.  Pulling children from burning houses.  Rescuing puppies in floods.  Shepherding goats to donate for needy villages.  Admit it.  You have hero written all over you.  She pinched his cheek.  Its disgusting.  Youve gone from a Goody Two-Shoes to sainthood!
            Heck with it.  Youre even more abominable than I remembered, he marveled.
            Im just being myself.  She smirked, winking.  A pointy tongue flicked in a devilish manner.  You tend to see the best in people.
            He shook his gourd.  I can find nothing of value in you.
            Not even a teeny tiny shred?  Impishly the woman gestured, thumb and forefinger framing a sliver of space.  Oh well, thats because were unbalanced.  We were divided by equal measure, split like an atom, and yet one of us is all good, one of us all bad.  Guess which one I am?
            You are not my sister.  There must have been a mix-up at the hospital, he declared.
            She tipped her noggin to laugh.  Then scathed, her expression odious, That almost hurts.  An index finger to her jaw, the nail tinted black.  On second thought, Id have to care to care, wouldnt I?  Divinia glided into his personal zone.  Their noses touched.  The truth is, brother, I could not care less if I tried.  About you, your pitiful life, and our dear departed parents.  You, they, mean zilch to me.
            Right.  Got it.  Swallowing, he yearned to retreat a step but refused to yield to her leverage.  He concentrated on thwarting the magnetism, resisting the familiar impulse that compelled him to submit rattling his cranium, clouding his faculties, allowing the witch to win her little games.  It had to be a twin syndrome.  And she was the dominant element in the deuce.  The mans brain throbbed.  Get out of my head!  Shouting, he pushed her.
            She swooped toward him.  The argument escalated to a scuffle.  Eddie swung a fist.  It was self-defense.  Edie had her hands locked around his throat, talons digging into the flesh.  Although he ordinarily wasnt inclined to punch a female, this was no lady.  And she was misbehaving worse than usual.
            Ducking, Divinia released him as she cackled and mirthfully darted.  Go on, hit me!  For once let me have it! she teased.
            He restrained himself.  The wicked took delight in corrupting the innocent.
            Thought so!  Contemptuous, she swiveled her back to him and strutted off.  The harpy paused to state, Next time you tread on my path, you had better be prepared to kill me.
            The positive sibling watched his negative saunter away, and prayed they would never again meet.
            Seven years later she tracked him down.  He received an invitation in the mail to attend the funeral of their parents, victims of Botulism.  Turned out, it wasnt something they ate.  It was something that ate them.
            Waldo? he now inquired, concealing his grief.  The question was rhetorical; sarcastic.  He had no clue why a bell dinged in the rear of his mind.
            Beaming, she indicated a dragon guarding the only exit from the vault a rust-stained reinforced chamber where Edie, an amateur biologist, had orchestrated the birth of a K0modo-Croc for the sole purpose of feeding her family to the twenty-three-foot brute.  Thats his name.  With supreme patience she had bred and nurtured the crosshatchling to maturity.
            The twins exchanged unblinking appraisals.  Her hair was lengthier and dark, a glossy silken cataract.  His russet thatch was clipped, still unruly.  A goatee surrounded the guys mouth.  Her countenance shone, gleaming and white, smooth as porcelain.  Eyes and lips were morbid, smudged black.  Somberly attired, she wore a small hat with a polka-dotted veil, a short jacket and long velvet skirt.  Crimson gloves provided a splash of color.
            Eddie rigidly beheld the beast.  What do you give him when he isnt munching relatives?
            Cats and dogs.  Or I let him starve.
            Of course.  She was the type to beat a chained animal with a stick, the lowest form of humanity.
            Alternately growling and grunting, the scaled behemoth paced on sturdy limbs twice the size of crocodilian appendages, towing a thick sweeping tail.  The hybrid licked enormous toothy chops.  Eddie and the four-legged monster traded glances.
            The creatures mother had miscalculated his speed.  The dragon outmaneuvered and confined her with the intended meal.  Divinias doubtless cruelty was evident in the reptilian orbs that leveled morose hooded glowers, flung in a thrashing motion of rolled eyes.  It was clear he had suffered at her hands and regarded her with a blend of disfavor and fear, much like a tormented circus cat or elephant.  There was an inner sadness, yet the resignation of a caged animal was absent.  Waldo was in control.
            His creator lost the flippant smile, subdued by apprehension as she viewed the mutant stalking to and fro in an agitated pattern.  Divinias intellect groped for an exit strategy.  The vixen would use her brother for bait.  She needed to overpower him.  That should be a cinch.  It had never been a problem.
            So all these years, you were plotting to destroy me? her sibling carped.
            Not only you.  Mom and Dad.
            Who does that?
            Apparently, I do.
            Its insanity.  I had hoped you were capable of more!
            Oh, I am.  After I finish with you, I plan to destroy the world.  She was obviously jesting.
            I never knew you were so nefarious.
            I told you Im bad.  Im even a bad influence.  I rubbed off on you.  Calling me nefarious.  Ouch.
            Is this a grudge?  Is it something I did?  Something I said?  Something they didnt do?
            Quit trying to label it, Ed.  I dont need a reason!  Evil simply is.  Ive evolved.  Cant you be supportive?
            You killed our parents.  What did they ever do to you?
            I dont know.  Maybe they liked you better?
            Yeah.  Theres no maybe.  They did.  But why would you care about that?
            I didnt.  Well, I didnt think so.  I just despised them, for everything.  What they did, what they didnt do.  I dont know.  Its complicated.  I resented that they wanted me to be like you this boring, predictable, lame duck of a dork!
            He nodded.  Thanks.
            I dont see you shedding any tears for them.
            Hugging himself to hide a surge of trembles, Eddie clenched his teeth.  The man bitterly relaxed his jaw, lids shuttered.  She was right, it was complicated.  He had endeavored to erase the travails of youth by scurrying to the future and not looking back.  Needing to heal, sort things out, he vainly believed his parents were impervious to time or treachery.  He had only thought of himself.  Most of the trip here I was numb.  I wasnt sure how to feel, he uttered.  They were always in the middle.  I couldnt be close to them because of you.  Either they were punishing me for something that wasnt my fault, or they were tired of hearing us squabble and penalized us both.  I couldnt get them to see me without you.  Finally they had the attitude of people who realize they made a mistake and couldnt fix it.
            They kinda gave up, huh?
            He focused on her in astonishment.  Was that a trace of sympathy?
            Man, they sucked.  They got what they deserved.  There it was.  Her warped ideology.
            They didnt deserve this!
            Make up your mind.  And Waldo was hungry.
            A chill raced through him.  Eddie reproached, Youre sick, you know that?
            She performed a mock curtsy.  You flatter me.  Obsessed, perhaps.  And what have you done with your life thats so terribly noble?
            She had an instinct where to thrust saber-edged words.  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  He had become disaffected, wandering job to job.  Then got stuck in a rut that he couldnt climb out of, accepting employment at a candy store, fancying it would lead to happiness.  I considered it the greatest gig in the world.  Watching the faces of kids pressed to the glass counters, eyes bright, goggling at shelves of sweets.  The smiles of rapture, drinking in whiffs of confectious perfume.  It seemed magical.  After awhile the sugarcoated veneer wore off, revealing tooth decay and maladies underneath.  His stomach would lurch, repulsed by gruesome images.  Picturing the consequences, I couldnt sell candy to children with a clear conscience.  I felt like a drug-dealer, like I was pushing narcotics, he confessed.  I was in debt to the owner, so I had to sneak from town at night.  A fugitive.
            Wow.  If youre hoping for compassion, youve come to the wrong sister, she remarked.  Funny, isnt it?  People worry about sugar being bad for them.  Smoking and processed foods.  White bread and rice, gluten . . . caffeine and sodium.  Chemicals, food dyes, fat and cholesterol, meat . . . unhealthy stuff.  Then one day you get locked in a room with a giant man-eating lizard, and those fears sail out the window!  Or would if there were a window.
            Yeah . . .  He ogled her askance as if she had an extra head.  Something was definitely wrong with her, he didnt deny that.
            Waldo made a series of chuffing noises, rocking on four limbs.  The dinosaur tail bashed a wall like a demand for attention.
            Jolted, Edie waved a hand to implicate her sibling and appeased, I brought you dinner.  A juicy snack.
            The dragon crouched onto his belly, eyes shifting, and whined, then slid toward Eddie.
            Thats right, take a big bite.  Youll like it, coaxed his mistress.
            Braced to flee, the critters uncle lifted his palms.  Shes softer, he bargained.  Yummier.  More appetizing!
            Take a massive chomp!  Bite him! urged Divinia, gesticulating, her tone shrill.
            The mutant scrambled obediently.  His maw jacked, rows of sharp teeth glimmering.  Eddie lunged aside.  The gaping muzzle swerved after him and clamped together loudly, nipping a swatch of denim.  Eddie sprinted for the door.  The monster scuttled to intercept.  Reversing, the man barrelled out of reach.  Divinia chortled with glee and merrily applauded.
            Eddie was determined for once to be the victor.  I AM NOT A CHEW TOY! he roared.
            Three sets of dagger-glares met in shocked silence.
            The brute snorted.
            Youll have to convince my pet.  Edie giggled, muffled by a glove.  Then stabbed a finger at her brother and shouted, Gobble him up!
            The creature rampaged, halting in frustration as Eddie skipped hastily out of danger.  He stumbled beyond the dragons jaws, flinching every time they slammed, in a jerky ballet of mad dashes.
            The beastmistress poked forth her foot.  Eddie sprawled.   His visage flaming, he picked himself from the floor as mortified and awkward as when she humbled him in childhood.  He staggered, loping clumsily, faltering.  The croc snapped at his heels in pursuit.
            Exhausted, man and monster squared off.  Eddie cautioned himself to avoid eye contact, to not provoke his adversary.  Then reminded himself that his foe was human.
            Eat him! the woman shrieked.
            Addressing her, Eddie spread his arms.  Here I am.  Its on you.  I dont blame him.  The blame is yours.
            It slowly sank in.  He would win the game.  Her lips shaped a ring of protest.  NOOOO!
            A tail swung, lashing his legs.  Eddie collapsed.  The dragon trampled him, planting a forepaw on his chest.  An extensive yap grinned.  The breath was foul.
            I hope you didnt add anything else, like fire, the guy quipped, peering down the monsters trap.
            Mighty jaws clashed with tremendous force.
            Eddie blinked, stunned by the impact as air fanned his features.  A reptilian eyeball trained keenly upon one of the mans orbs.  Catlike, the vertical iris enlarged to a disk, transmitting a ripple of intelligence.  A connection.
            Waldo veered abruptly, churning past the humans, tail dragging.
            Eddie released a bated gasp.
            Wait! moaned Edie.  The females self-assurance had dimmed to a conflicted tangle of enmity versus relief.  She had toiled for ages on a ridiculously elaborate scheme to make her family pay for the crime of existing, an extravagant vendetta that appeared to have no logic, no actual atonement or prize.  She craved instead a hollow thrill, the intangible reward of satisfaction.  Above all, she ruthlessly desired to triumph against her twin.
            He straightened.  Why?
            The word toppled her smug tower of indifference like wood blocks.  Why?  She stormed to him in fury.  You and I will never glimpse reality with identical perspectives!  How can you expect me to share what you wont comprehend?  There is no why, so quit asking me!
            There must be.
            Fine, if you want to be obstinate, why do you have to be so decent?  Why cant you be flawed and vulnerable like everyone else, with passions and jealousies? she vented.  Ive had it with you acting like youre holier than me!  Brother Eddie Of The White Hat Society!
            The man frowned.  I dont.  Im not.  He lowered his eyes.  Then divulged his darkest secret.  I dont wash behind my ears.
            She scoffed, incredulous:  Youre kidding!  Thats all youve got?
            He fidgeted.  He was a clean-freak.  It seemed heinous to him.  I, um, I dont love Lucy.  I dont even like her.  There, your turn.  Tell me why.
            His sister parted her lips for a subsequent hostile retort, then a red glove flew to her mouth.  A memory of playing in the sand.  A minor thing, so insignificant, yet it overshadowed her entire childhood, and festered in her heart as an adult.  Green eyes bulging, glazed, moist with tears, she stretched an arm to touch the vision.
            They were toddlers, squatting side by side.  Eddie hummed and scooped sediment into a pail.  He patted the bucket of sand, wielding a plastic shovel.  Edie fed her doll, pouring sand into the babys puckered cavity.
            Where is it? she demanded.
            Her brother had a toy lizard.  It was green, and he called it Waldo.  He would hide it from her.  Edie wanted that lizard, so shed grab Waldo and run.  Their mother and father scolded her, taking the lizard away, giving it back to Eddie.  That made Edie mad.
            Where is it? she yelled, and smacked Eddies pail with her doll.  Knocked over, the sand spilled.  He wailed.  She spotted a tail protruding from the bucket and seized it.
            Their mother and father confiscated the toy, restoring it to the rightful owner, then chastised her.  Why cant you be good?  Their words echoed in her ears for decades.  Why?  He wanted to know why?  She wanted to make him weep and have no comfort, no consolation.  She wanted him to drown in his sorrow while being eaten by a very huge, very hungry lizard.
            Her lizard.
            That was why.
            You had the cool toys.  I got dolls.  I hated dolls.  I wanted the lizard, she murmured.
            Eddie was flummoxed.  I didnt have a lizard.  I had a turtle once.  Lancelot.  Somehow he escaped.  I cried for a week.
            No.  I buried him in the dirt.
            Eddie refuted, Liar.  That wouldnt suffocate him.  He could tunnel out.
            I cracked his shell with a rock, then placed the stone on top of his grave.  She enjoyed the anguish in her siblings crumpled aspect, as she had relished his mourning at nine years of age.  Im not referring to a live lizard.  It was rubber!
            He didnt remember.  Their parents didnt remember.  And it had meant so much to her.
            Speaking of the lizard, where did he go?  She glanced about.  Her dragon had vanished.  An icy heart leaped to her throat.
            A crocodile tear, shimmering with emotion, splatted the tip of her nose.  Divinia peeked upward.  Oh no.
            Waldo grinned down at her.  Cruel acts, like kind ones, could reverberate on and on . . . around the world, across the universe . . . and ultimately bounce back to the source.  Edie would get what she wanted.  Her just desserts.  A rebellious abused creature sprang from the ceiling and bit her head off.  He gulped her body in ragged chunks, savoring a messy feast.
            Eddie leaned on a wall and queasily witnessed the carnage, forgetting to slip out when the beast was distracted, preoccupied too, haunted by his thoughts.  She was gone.  He grappled with the fact, struggling to digest it.  One of the most regrettable losses in death was knowledge, along with talent and beauty.  Youth was especially tragic.  And hope.  Her death was a waste, as was her life.  He didnt wish to gloat.  A fraction of him was missing, but he wouldnt miss it.
            The mutation slurped down a last leg, rejecting bloody scraps of cloth, a squashed hat and veil, then pivoted to his audience.
            The mans tension eased.  Waldo.  Smiling nostalgically, Eddie nodded.  Human and reptile gandered each other respectfully, without malice or condemnation.  The game had ended.  Victim and pawn emerged into the light of freedom.
            Companionably they traveled to the middle of nowhere, searching for a modicum of peace.