By Tom Fillion


They weren't exactly retards. They were ideal customers for my first waterbed set-up.

There at the Turkey Creek shanty surrounded by thick woods was Frank, a skinny freak with long, tangled brown hair. His beard and several teeth matched his caramel-colored hair. The jeans he wore were frayed like Julia, his girlfriend, who joined him on the front porch that rippled with uneven floorboards. Dressed in jeans and a skimpy halter top, she looked like a cross between Janis Joplin and Cousin It from the Adams Family. She pushed the tumbleweed of hair out of her eyes.

Frank led me inside the broken down, rent-to-own clapboard house. With the shades drawn on the windows, the only light available zigzagged along the edges of the shades. Blinded by the sudden dark, I felt my way through the front room. My sense of smell overcompensated for the darkness. A strong fetid odor of decomposition filled the room. Gradually, the source became visible. It was a stack of dishes in sink water. No telling how long they'd been marinating. Next to the sink stood a rusty refrigerator. Above it were cupboards with peeling paint. On this side of the refrigerator was a pyramid of old television sets covered with thick dust.

         Frank led me to their bedroom in the back and pointed to where he wanted the waterbed, then returned to the living room and curled up like a house cat next to Julia on their couch. The first installment of Double Feature Creature Feature was just starting. Dr. Paul Bearer, the TV emcee introduced a Bela Lugosi black and white horror movie. Then he crawled back in his casket until the first advertisement for a diesel mechanic trade school.

I had my own horror show to contend with. The bedroom floor had holes in it like Swiss cheese, and the ground underneath was visible. The rest of the floor was as flimsy as a saltine cracker. I stepped back into the hallway. I liked cheese and crackers but not served this way.

Before I had a chance to panic, Julia pulled out a plastic bag filled with Ganja. On a small table next to the couch she reached for a large, hardbound copy of the Holy Bible of King James and placed it on her lap. She flipped it open and spread the marijuana in the open book.

         I watched her as I thought about the predicament in the bedroom. She was meticulous with the marijuana - like a jeweler working with precious stones. She separated the seeds and pressed them into the binding. She proportioned equal amounts of marijuana along the length of a cigarette paper. When she was satisfied with her measurements, she folded the paper towards the other side, overlapped it, and twisted the ends. She sealed the plump, Ganja burrito with a big, wet lick from her tongue. She closed the Bible with the unused seeds near the beginning, I'm guessing, maybe Deuteronomy, but I wasn't sure, growing up Catholic, I didn't have to read the Bible. We had middlemen to do that for us. When Julia lit the joint it popped like a small brush fire. She took a long draw off it, then offered it to me. I was still thinking about the horror in the bedroom.

     "No thanks."

     "He don't want no smoke," Julia said. "It's good smoke."

         Frank grabbed it from her without looking up from the Bela Lugosi movie.

I declined, not because I didn't smoke. I just didn't want to be stoned if and when the waterbed, all one thousand pounds of it when filled, fell through the floorboards - which seemed a real possibility. Like it or not, the waterbed was going in there because I didn't want to return without the C.O.D. on my first job. Frank and Julia being stoned out of their minds and me, sober as a priest, seemed like a good idea so that's what I went with.

Here was the plan: set the Econo King waterbed up without a heater as quickly as possible; fill it with rusty, rotten-egg smelling well water, then haul ass with the C.O.D. that was on the watermelon-colored, linoleum-topped kitchen table next to the open box of Krispy Kreme donuts, each one crowned with thick, white glaze, and a handful of Slim Jim beef jerky from the convenience store where Julia said she worked and watched hotdogs rotate on the rotisserie when she was stoned.

I started bringing in all the stuff. I stepped lightly on the bedroom floor, as lightly as someone in size fourteen sneakers could, careful not to bump the walls either that had the same flimsy texture as the floor.

     Hopefully, both of them got so stoned that only a crowbar and hand truck could move them. I was in and out of the house, carrying the pieces of the dismantled waterbed. Julia took another draw off the reefer and exhaled it in my direction and temptation was my mistress.

     "Maybe I will have some reefer," I relented.

I rested a side piece of wood against the pyramid of old televisions. Julia passed the reefer from the couch. Frank took a pull off it.

"Maybe I'll go be a diesel mechanic," he said to the TV, before passing it along to me.

I took a few draws off it to catch up with them. Everything felt as light as cotton candy at the county fair. It made me hungry enough to eat a couple of hot dogs from the rotisserie at Julia's convenience store, or maybe a few of their Krispy Cr¸me donuts.

After I was able to perch the waterbed on the bedroom floor, I had a flash of inspiration. Before filling the plastic mattress with water, I'd support the floor joists in the crawl space below. It didnÕt take a genius to figure out that when Frank and Julia did the Big Splash and the Wild Thing in their new Econo King waterbed, something had to give and most likely it would be the floor. 

The solution was there staring me in the face. In the open closet were stacks of large books, all bound in thick, dark blue binding that were as sturdy concrete blocks. Each one had a year number printed on it.  The earliest was 1947, Brooklyn Heights and contained four inches thick of the collected works of JehovahÕs Witnesses.

I picked up four volumes and carried them to the largest hole in the floor, then dropped the ornate books to the ground.  I did this several times so there were enough scattered below for pylons to support the waterbed when they turned it into a water park trampoline.

     I went outside to get the water hose from the van. From there I crawled underneath the house with shreds of pink insulation hanging from a few staples. The fiberglass stung like yellow jackets. I stopped several times to scratch, then inched my way under wires and across copper tubing that carried fuel oil to a decrepit floor furnace.  The cracked tubing leaked kerosene into the damp earth. I cleared an area under the joists and built four pylons from the heavily bound volumes. The books worked great except that I disturbed one of the creatures from the woods that frequented the crawl space. It was black and white like the horror movie Frank and Julia were watching. It was short like Bela Lugosi too. Except it was a fucking skunk. There was shrieking involved in my discovery.


I rolled in the opposite direction and banged my head against a floor joist. Kerosene smeared all over my work shirt. Same for my jeans.  I bumped the joists several times before the skunk lived up to its reputation. By the time I cleared the crawl space, Frank and Julia were out the front door. They freaked out even more when they saw me, muddy and feathered with pink insulation. They high-tailed it into the woods, but left the C.O.D. on the table next to the Krispy Kreme donuts, the King James Bible, and the beef jerky.


© Tom Fillion



Bio: I'm a graduate of the University of South Florida. I teach mathematics and coach golf and tennis at a Tampa public high school.  My short stories have appeared in many online publications. For a complete list please visit:

I have stories forthcoming at Danse Macabre, Bartleby Snopes, SubtleTea, Read This (Montana State University), Cantaraville, and Rose & Thorn.