Spring 2008, Volume 4

Fiction by John Stacy

Unwired Girl—Synopsis

Patient reader,

What is presented is a selection from my novel in progress (or novel in waiting) “Unwired Girl”. For anyone who has never seen Unwired Girl or who have put her memory into the box of blessed forgetfulness, here is a short synopsis:

Katy, who calls herself “K” (like a character in Kafka) is a sixteen year old technophobe, happier in the world of Virginia Woolf, Jane Austin, or John Donne, who her absent father studied before disappearing seven years ago on sabbatical leave. Lena, K’s overly trendy mother, has brought her to Sunset Beach this summer to try to flip the beach house left to them by K’s recently deceased uncle.

K has met and fallen in love with Zachary, a pudgy intellectual who types tracts about Nietzsche in his kayak out on Anaheim Bay.

Meanwhile K is still pursued by the doting Gunther, a childhood sweetheart, who deserted her when he fell in love with Grand Theft Auto. Gunther has followed her to southern California, staying with his surfing older cousin who has a car.

Susceptible Lena has been swept off her feet by a middle-aged and handsome Braxton. K discovers she can use the classic Ray Ban Aviator sunglasses her uncle left behind to see Braxton’s true natureóa tentacled gray-green creature from another world.

Lena refuses to listen to K’s fears, threatens to either send her to Barstow to live with her grandmother, or to a camp for the computer impaired. In the meantime, Lena has attempted to get K to sign a quit claim deed giving over control of the uncle’s beach house entirely Lena.

Zachary dumps K unexpectedly after having wooed her just that morning reciting Shakespeare from his kayak while she listened at her upstairs window.

That same morning K sees (or thinks she sees) a Braxton-like monster giving a news conference on local television.

K decides to flee and gets as far as the South Coast Plaza mall, where she is tracked down by Gunther (in his defection from traditional intellectual life he has become super Geek and uses a black market GPS trackeróhe still loves the ultra-traditional K). She lets Gunther try the Ray ban’s on the image of a Braxton-like monster speaking on a flat screen in a video store. All Gunther sees is a politician talking about a new power plant in Huntington Beach.

She allows Gunther’s cousin to drive her back to the beach house. There she finds Lena drunk and upset over an old framed photo of herself and K’s father, a photo Lena smashed while K was out.

We join “Unwired Girl” in progress.

“I’m not still carrying a torch for your father!” Lena insisted.

“Huh? I didn’t say you were,” K just wanted to concentrate on her own problems. K had been dumped. She was delusional and had been pretending a pair of Ray Bans enabled her to see monsters instead of real estate salesmen. But for the moment Lena’s problems actually sounded more interesting than her own. What was this about her father?

“That pompous, stuffy nogoodnik. That arrogant weasel. That snake with a Ph.D.”

“Lena, it honestly sounds like you are protesting too much.” She used a soothing tone but it came out pedantic or worse yet, like one of those trashy TV shows even Lena looked down on, where people spilled their tawdry secrets for cash prizes and washing machines. “Aren’t you saying you still miss my dad?”

“What kind of reverse crap is that? I hate him so I must miss him?”

“Did something happen? Do you know something about my dad?”

“How could I miss somebody who runs off for seven freaking years without a word? Yes something happened. I got this!”

Lena slapped a flat Air Express envelope onto the coffee table, dislodging one of her uncle’s set of crystal dolphin,

K reached for it, but Lena snapped it back and waved it her cagily. “Your father shows up all right--in a little 3 by 5 snapshot with his graduate student hotsie-totsie? Miss him? I’d like to see him boiled in small pieces, fried--Cajun fried!”

“What are you talking about? What graduate student?” This was a whole new unacceptable direction.

Lena ignored her, speaking to the wall and clutching the envelope, her face red as a supermarket tomato. “I always thought he might come back,” she blubbered. “Even when boyfriends skipped out, I always thought, ëWell that’s all right. Steve’ll probably show up one of these days. And now this comes in the mail, no not mail, but Air Express.”

In exasperation K snatched the envelope and opened it. She found herself looking at a photograph of her father aged a few years, the moustache had become a Van Dyke beard, making him look more John Donne-like than ever. Beside her father was a woman who actually looked a little like Lena, but it wasn’t, she was younger, frankly more attractive, and sophisticated looking. Both the woman and K’s Van-Dyked father were looking intelligently into the camera.


With it was a note, word processed, not typed, that said he was happy, teaching at a Midwestern university and was thinking of marrying the woman in the picture one of his ex-grad students, just like Lena said. It was about time, the note went on, to make his and Lena’s long separation legal and it gave Lena the name of an attorney to contact. It could be done immediately if she wouldn’t mind facilitating the process. He hoped Lena was well and that the small trust he had left continued to meet her needs. There was no return address. There was no single word about Kate.

She clutched the letter so she crumpled it. “This isn’t real.”

“Huh? You’ve got some problems with reality kid, but unfortunately this is as real as it gets.”

“This ISN’T REAL!” K pounded her fist into Lena’s shoulder, startling her. There was a moment of shock. She never in her life struck Lena and vise versa. They were far too “evolved” for that. Lena used to send her to her room as punishment where she would read Kafka or D.H. Lawrence, until Lena caught on and made her sit with her to watch something she hated liked like Danielle Steele Presents instead. But hitting the formidable Lena? That never happened.

Lena shoved her back. “Yes it is, kid. See for yourself.”

Daddy wouldn’t. He couldn’t. It was colossally unacceptable--- she tried one more solution, fumbling out the Ray-bans from her blouse pocket, shoving them onto her nose, staring at the picture through them, willing the picture to change. For the tentacles of the blonde graduate student be revealed, instead of the slender pale arm enwrapped in her father’s. For the bland intelligent face wreathed in pale blonde hair to show itself as purple and bulbous, the skin writhing in worm-like polyps. All she could see was the Ray-ban tinted, tear-blurred image of the woman and her father smiling into the camera.

“No!” She squinted desperately and tried again, wiping away her tears and tilting the glasses backwards and forwards, but the woman in the photo was not a monster, just a graduate student, just some real woman working on a Ph. D., some real woman her father had loved more than them.

What could she do now? Take the Ophelia way out with the flowers in the bay?

Chapter 12

It was morning. K had had long, long dreams and the air from the Pacific had wafted in through the open bedroom window, filled with fog horns, and ships’ bells at anchor that only made her sleep the deeper.

When she awoke she lay there for a few minutes thinking. Literally pulling the covers over her head. How to deal with yesterday, to deal with the smashing revelation that her long-lost dad had cheerfully gone off to start another family and had forgotten her completely! Her eye fell on a leather bound volume and she searched her mental files for what she needed, then burbled under the wool blanket about taking arms against a sea of troubles and sat up. No poesies of remembrance for her. . She could allow herself to be subdued, depressed, and beaten, but NO! She was going to meet this new world head-on.

K. went down the stairs holding the sunglasses. It was time to re-make herself. To become normal. To explore the 21st century.

She held the aviator Ray bans, between thumb and forefinger. She marched them over to the kitchen wastebasket, and paused there frozen with reluctance. She took a deep breath, gritted her teeth and whispered “The hell with Dad” and dropped the glasses with a thunk into the can, scooshed among the espresso grounds and kiwi rinds of whatever mess Lena had been up to this morning. She had thought of running them down the garbage disposal or taking them out and throwing them in the service bay beside one of the yachts that lay at anchor. But that seemed too dramatic, giving them too much power.

She saw from a pink Lena Post-it that Lena was off looking at bridesmaid’s things, coming back with Braxton later this morning. K knew perfectly well if she had put the glasses on when they came she would see only a rather muscular real estate agent, wearing a knit shirt of the kind sold in golf pro shops. Why take the chance that her mind would still play wacky tricks and maybe this time let her imagine that Lena was a crocodile in pink running gear?

The basement door was open again, but she ignored it.

She had some other things to do. Orange Coast College had sent a summer flyer of extension offerings and Lena had helpfully circled one for her and left it by her nightstand. She used a cell phone to call the college office to make sure she was eligible even though she was still a high school student.

After that call she called Gunther. Gunther and his electronics were definitely part of the new world she wanted to embrace, and she had begun to have some new ideas about the loyal, hamster-faced, Gunther. She had his cell number. And this was getting to be kind of fun, take the tiny glowing thing in your hand, punch some numbers and voila!

“K?” Gunther answered. “Wait a minute! We have a security problem! My phone tells me you’re calling from a cell. What’s going on? Is Lena forcing you to make this call?”

“No, Lena’s gone. She’s gone to get some wedding stuff to marry Braxton. It’s just me.”

“Marry Braxton? I don’t--” There was a gasp from Gunther. “Now it tells me you just plugged in a Bluetooth.”

“I did. Don’t worry, Gunther. It’s all right. Yesterday Lena and I had a long talkóshe was a little drunk, She showed me a letter from my dad.”

“Your dad? I thought he was dead.”

Talking on the Bluetooth allowed her to walk around the house as she talked to Gunther. “He might as well be.” She stopped at the cellar door. It was still open as though someone had been it, this despite the formidable deadbolt Lena said they were going have to get a locksmith to open.

”Something’s wrong here Gunther." She stood at the threshold; the computer class application in her hand and the Bluetooth on her ear She looked at the partially filled-in application and knew instinctively her resolution did not lie in a community college computer class. There was a bluish otherworldly light down there, casting weird moving shadows on the gray concrete floor at the foot of the stairs. Shadows that called to her.

“Gunther, maybe you better come over, right now!”


“I’m beginning to revise my thinking about my being crazy,” said K leading Gunther down the cellar steps, “Even though my father is off starting a new family I think my Uncle Bob has been fighting goblins. My problem is what to do about it.”

“No K!” Gunther stopped on the stairs and gripped her shoulder and stared into her eyes with his intense hamster’s features. “I thought you were over that.”

She took the hand from her shoulder and held it as she led Gunther down the remaining stairs. "Wait ëtil you see this.”

A few dusty fluorescents flickered overhead, most of their fellows having burned out long ago, giving everything a dim illumination.

“Holy Mackerel.” said Gunther.

The cellar was obviously as large as the house and even extendedóimpossibly--under the bay, It was ramshackle, smelling of wet earth and sand, in fact there was a pool of water in a far corner, but there were steel supports of the kind you might find on an old airship. The walls were banked with the looming shapes of old furniture and antique mechanical equipment partly covered by canvas drapings.

But what drew their attention was a large object that dominated the basement. It looked like a gigantic leather horse collar, the kind you might see illustrated in a 1930’s Disney cartoon. It stood on a stand with a wooden base and an old-fashioned frayed looking electric cord connected it prosaically to a wall socket. What made it most obviously not simply a horse collar for a rather large horse was the fact that a buzzing blue haze or field filled the opening of the collar, and a sharp feeling of an electric charge filled the air.

“What is that thing? ”

“I thought you might know. You’re the techno-wizard.”

“Jeez.” They approached it, their hands and faces glowing in the fierce blue light.

“And look at that” She pointed to the papers on an ancient desk next to the device,. a dusty assemblage of closely written journals, arcane charts, typed reports in several languages, some in symbols that looked like nothing of this Earth. "I don’t know this language,” said K holding up a page, “but I’m pretty sure it’s my uncle’s handwriting. I think that this is why Braxton and probably his friends were trying to get hold of this house,” said K.

“Maybe you’re right,” said Gunther, his voice uncertain over the humming sound of the device. ”I don’t know what to think. Isn’t your Uncle Bob, dead? That’s why you came down here, to take over his house?”

“He was presumed dead. I’d say as of now all bets are off on that.”

“And you think he used this thing to fight the monsters or goblins or whatever they are?”

She nodded. “Exactly! Let me show you what it does," She took an inkbottle from the cluttered desk and tossed it through the portal and listened. There was a muffled smashing sound of glass breaking but nothing fell to the concrete floor.

“Wow” said Gunther resisting the urge to put his hand through it.

“I’ve been tossing stuff through ever since I called you. Pennies, quarters, an old fountain pen, a wastebasket. I’ve been running out of stuff. You can hear it land on some hard surface Try this. Dial my cell phone.”

“Your new one? You didn’t!”

“Go ahead.”

He thumb clicked the number and a moment later they could hear the first few notes of

Fyr Elise

playing from somewhere, somewhere far away.

“Whoah,” said Gunther. “I wonder where it is.”

Fyr Elise

stopped then played again. He shook his head. “Wherever it is, it still gets good reception.”

“That’s your department. But I would guess the signal leaks through this thing. Go ahead and call it again.”

Gunther folded his cell and whispered. “I don’t think so, K. Imagine if somebody answered it.”

“I know you’re scared. But you realize what this means don’t you? That we’re going to go exploring. We’re going to find my uncle and help him.”

“What, climb through this thing into another dimension?”

“That’s my plan.”

“K, I don’t think so.”

“Watch this.” She reached out a hand stepping towards the device as though to get a grip on the collar as one would a gymnastics horse.

“K wait. Look out.”

A bluebottle wasp, the kind that skimmed along the bay waters, had been humming in the far corners of the basement; now it soared toward them perhaps attracted by the noise and movement.

Gunther pulled K aside and the wasp made a beeline between the times of the horse collar. Except it didn’t. It hit the force field with a zap and fell to the concrete apparently lifeless.

“Hmm,” said K,” nudging it with her shoe. “So much for Plan A.”

“That could be you, K. We hadn’t tried this on living things yet.“

A horn sounded from upstairs K nodded, feeling a little nauseated looking at the dead wasp. That could indeed be her shrivled on the floor there.

“Maybe this thing is useless to us. It might only work for things and creatures from other worlds.”

“It could be. Listen K. Let me go home and get my laptop. There’s an old computer there on the desk ómy God is that a Trash 80? ómaybe I can plug into. We need to figure out what’s going on here before we do anything more.”

The horn continued.

“That’s my cousin. Please K. Promise me you won’t do anything more before I get back.”

“All right,” Gunther was at the top of the stairs and she called to him. “But come right back, won’t you.”

“I promise, K.”

Gunther was gone and she began to mount the stairs. But just then there was a burst of energy; the blue haze from the horse collar began to glow even more brightly. There was something coming through the collar.


There was a dark shape visible clamped in the horse collar. Kate was so stunned by the burst of blue electrical energy, producing a loud hum and the smell of a high-tension wire or a cattle fence that she sat down on the top step.

The bluebottle wasp, her fellow earth creature, had been zapped at that portal, so this could only be something inanimateóor something not of this Earth.

The field throbbed and hummed, and purple lights crackled and zapped. It was not an enormous portal like you see in some science fiction movies. More like a tunnel or an adult birth canal. The huge psuedo-fetus grew large, crowning,. K braced herself for the appearance of a goblin, a monster. So this was how they got into this world. They were born in the cellar!

It continued its headfirst progress. A head of curly dark hair covered with gray dust, coughing, skin sun tanned or weathered, covered with salt and pepper stubble, shoulders hunched. There were no tentacles, this thing was human and it was being spewed onto the cellar floor in a coughing heap and rising dust.

At last the purple humming and vibration stopped and the man sat up, wiping dust from his eyes.

K stared at him. His clothes were gray denim and he wore lace up boots. There was a bandana tied around his neck that may have been used to protect his face and hair at some point as the dust was streaked across his cheeks and forehead in straight lines where he had been partially protected. He pulled the blue bandana from his neck and wiped his eyes with it, then stared around blinkingófocusing at last on K.

He squinted and wiped his eyes with the bandana again. “Who are you, kid?” he croaked.

K. tried to answer but couldn’t. No words would form.

He stood unsteadily and shambled toward her, seizing her by the shoulders staring into her face, muttering words in some other language. It was a voice she heard in dreams. In fact it was a language she heard in dreams.

“Duh,” she said. “Duh-Daddy?”

“Katie?” The sun burnt face broke into an enormous grin, and he hugged her to him.

“But, the portal killed the bluebottle wasp.”

“I’m tougher than a wasp,” he said.

He smelled terrible. Awful. His arms squeezed her painfully. He smelled of swamps and dead rats and urine, and unnamable spices from rotten meat.

And he felt lean, gaunt, thinner and wirier than she ever imagined. But not weak at all. His muscles rock hard as she bumped against him, the awful stubble raking across her forehead. It was wonderful.

“Dad,” She was crying, blubbering unashamedly. “Where have you been?”

He held her out again staring into her face. She saw he had tears coursing freely down his face too, leaving tracts in the brown dust and puddling on his dusty military-style collar. “I’ve beenó“ he gestured to the air above them. “ In prison I guess you’d call it.”

That voice, that charismatic, charming voice that mesmerized Berkeley lecture halls.

“In Prison where?”

“He looked back toward the portal which was now as quiet as a horse collar on a museum stand.” Good question.” He stared around him at the cellar. “That is going to require some calculation. This is Sunset Beach. That’s good. As soon as I can hook up with Bob we can start-- Did he get here yet?” He looked around.

“Uncle Bob? No, you’re the only one I’ve seen.”

“It’s okay. Okay.” He muttered again in the other language, his expression becoming wary, listening for sounds above them. “I know he’ll make it. Sunset Beach should be safe.”

“Daddy, I’ve got to ask you something.”

“What is it, baby?”

“You’ve been in prison. I thought you were going to marry one of your graduate students. That’s not true then, is it?

“What?” He laughed out loud. “Oh Katie, I haven’t seen any graduate students where I’ve been. What are you talking about?”

“It was in your letter.”

“Letter? There weren’t any post offices for a couple of light years. But where’s Lena? Where’s your mom? I can’t wait to see her.” He looked toward the stairs expectantly.

“Mom? “ The last K saw of Lena she was zipping off to South Coast Plaza to find something to wear for her wedding. “Mom’s out getting some stuff.”

“Lena’s shopping. Of course. But she’ll be back soon?”

“Soon.” A terrible suspicion was racing across her mind. “Daddy I have to ask you something else. Did you and Mom ever know someone named Braxton?”

“Braxton? I remember a smarmy condo salesman with a shaved head your mom used to work for.”

“She worked for him? You mean years ago, before you left? She knew him?”

“Sure. They were thick as thieves. Hey, what about him?”

She remembered holding “poor” dumped Lena in her arms yesterday, drying her tears for her, consoling her, telling her yes she should marry her new boyfriend, the boyfriend Lena had known before her father ever left. Had been “thick as thieves” with behind her dad’s back.

Oh Lena you snake!

The boyfriend who no doubt was a monster for real.

“He’s uh, he’s back. And I think he’s ëevolved.’”

There was a noise from upstairs. A door slamming. “Katie? Where are you? Are you down in that cellar? I see a light.”

BIO:  John Stacy enjoys both writing and visual arts. In addition to Unwired Girl he is working on a graphic autobiography focusing on his childhood in Long Beach and the interplay of an Anglo-Hispanic family in Mid-Century California. John teaches English Literature online for Barstow College where he enjoys emeritus status. His collection of short stories and poems, 21 Nets That Once Contained Butterflies, may be found in the CSULB Library. He and his wife Joyce live across from Whaley Park in Long Beach where they enjoy walking their two dogs Archie and Sheila.