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The Shivers — Truckee

I knew it was a dream—mostly because I’ve had this dream about a hundred times.

I’m standing outside an old craftsman house that’s on the corner of Pine and Elm. There’s a wraparound porch filled with people whose faces are distorted. It’s not scary, just off putting that I can’t see any of their facial expressions while they wave and tell me to come up for a cold glass of lemonade. I always refuse with the wave of my hands, because I want to get into the three-car garage and wrench on my uncle’s 1970 Plymouth Barracuda.

Its big block 273 cubic-inch engine is just begging for an oil change, and I’m looking forward to putting a coat of Carnauba wax on its glorious maroon exterior. It belongs to my Uncle Paul, who seems to always be off in the corner sipping an ice tea and talking about the virtues of piano study and mathematics. He doesn’t care that I’m giving his baby some loving, he just seems to be happy that I’m in his garage working on cars.

Even in my dream, I know I’m just some dumb ballplayer from Idaho, but I can see and sometimes feel my hands as they loosen the oil pan. I can feel the hardness of the concrete as I slide under the car and can even catch a glimpse of Elm Street while watching the oil drain out of the pan. It seems like the only time I ever wake up is when I accidentally look in the mirror after I finish replacing the oil.

I guess I’m kind of like a dream vampire of sorts.

This time, there wasn’t a mirror in the garage and Uncle Paul’s face is not distorted. His sanguine bearded face smiles at me through his coke bottle glasses and he tells me to go inside and say hi to my Aunt Pat. Wiping the excess oil off my hands, I go through the garage and into his kitchen where she is sitting at the kitchen nook reading the paper over a cup of coffee.

I never talk in the dreams. It’s only the other people that can speak to me. Sometimes when I try really hard to tell them something, I usually just wake up. But this time was different. I was able to say good morning and tell her that I’d love some bacon and eggs cooked in the bacon grease. Time moves like the viscous oil I just changed but the breakfast is immediately served and I eat with a smile with my Aunt. I can’t taste the food but I can feel the warmth of love in the room.

“You should go outside and say hi to everyone,” she said with a smile.

“I don’t want to,” I manage to say looking at the black and white checkered tiles that line the kitchen. “I just want to stay here.”

“You know you can’t stay here,” as Aunt Pat folds the newspaper and clears my plate. “You need to go outside.”

I reluctantly stand and look for a mirror so that I don’t have to leave this perfect moment, but everywhere there should have been a mirror, one of Uncle Paul’s drawings filled the frame. I knew better than to touch his artwork, but I broke his rule and tried to lift the print to find a mirror.

“Please don’t touch that,” Uncle Paul said sternly. “Listen to your aunt and go outside.”

Dropping my head, I lumber from the kitchen into their dining room through their solarium and towards the front door.

“Can I please stay? I don’t feel good.”

They both shake their heads.

“Please, please?”

And with that, my beloved aunt and uncle’s faces slowly fade and become unrecognizable. I want nothing more than to stay in their home, but I am being banished. I feel myself taking a deep breath and open the front door.

I wake up and things aren’t looking so good.

I thought I’d be pretzeled up in the front seat of the step side truck, but instead I’m tied up to a chair in the middle of a motel room.

“I think he’s awake,” I heard from behind me. “You up and at ‘em, boy?”

“Good morning, sunshine,” Stan said as he patted me on the head.

It looks like the cheap motel rooms the Twins had us stay in when we were on the road. The only difference was the wall art was more western themed and my hands and body was lashed to the chair in itchy, thick ropes.

“I don’t want to complain, Stan, but do you mind cutting me loose. I think I need to use the bathroom.”

“Looks like you already did.”

I looked down at my jeans and it looked like I peed myself. Boy, that was embarrassing. Nita would tan my hide if she knew I wet myself. My crotch felt really cold but I could feel my breath was nice and hot.

“Uh, did I do something to offend you, Stan? Because I have to get to Reno and I figure with everything nuts happening outside, I might have been a little different than myself when I passed out last night.”

“Jesus, Harm, you’ve been asleep for six days. Don’t you remember what you did? You scared the living crap out of me and my new friends,” Stan said like a scolding parent. “Oh, by the way, this is Buzz Aldrin and Donna Summer. I met them in Truckee.”

“Truckee? Truckee!!! That’s west of Reno, Stan. You knew I’m trying to find my family,” I yelled as I tried to force the ropes off of me. “You know what, Stan? You’re a real jerk. No, no, no, you are an asshole!”

I panted in the chair for a minute while they looked at me confused.

“I’m sorry for the harsh language, but you knew I was heading to Reno, right?”

“I did but there wasn’t anything there. The whole town was completely leveled. Only the Circus Circus and the Peppermill were still standing. I couldn’t even use that Harrah’s players card you had in your shirt pocket.”

I forgot that I held on to Ernie’s players card. This is turning into a heck of a day.

“When I took the wheel from you, I thought you had passed out but instead you snorted this powdered substance and started howling like a banshee. You shot out the windshield and started feverously masturbating. If we weren’t being chased by a flock of pterodactyls armed with RPGs and flamethrowers, I would have kicked you out of the truck in Winnemucca,” Stan slowly explained. “You were so bad, I thought you had changed into one of those beasts. I was so scared for my life that I started filming everything just in case I died and my parents could know how I went.”

“Well, that sounds awful, Stan,” I said apologetically. “If I scared you at all, I am really, really sorry.”

“Show him the movie, Kubrick,” Donna said as she poured another glass of malbec into a plastic cup. “When the world gets right again, you’re going to win an Oscar for sure.”

“I’d rather not, feels incomplete, more like a stag film. The steadicam wasn’t ballasted right and I wish I went with a 65mm instead of the 35mm to get a better scope of what happened,” he said morosely. “I don’t want to sound like a gloomy goose, but it would have been a lot better if we had a tighter shooting schedule.”

“I’m sure it’s fine, Stan,” I said reassuringly. “I’m dying to see it. After spending a couple of days with Walt Disney, I know how hard it is to make a good movie.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

And with that, Stanley Kubrick wheeled over a full-sized movie projector, loaded a can of film into it and started projecting it against the motel’s wall. Buzz carefully took down the cheap cowboy art and put them in the small closet nest to the bathroom as Donna drew the blinds and turned off the light.

I thought it was pretty good but the last movie I saw in the theater was The King and I, so I don’t know much about the movies. I usually prefer listening to the radio or watching a little bit of television before I have supper. It was a lot more violent than I like but considering what was happening in the world, I suppose I’d let it slide. But I would absolutely not let my kids watch this until they are a lot older.

It started out in a brothel just outside of Reno with me grabbing three girls and going into the back. The camera followed me over my right shoulder as I got into bed with them and made passionate whoopee. I don’t know what Stan was talking about this being a poorly made movie because I kept forgetting it was me who was the star of the film.

After satisfying each woman twice, I got dressed and went to the bar where Pat McCarran and Richard Feynman were arguing over the finer points of Parcheesi as Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention played their first album, Freak Out!, cover-to-cover on the makeshift stage. I challenged McCarran to an arm-wrestling match, beating him three-out-of-five times and then played lead guitar for most of Trouble Comin’ Everyday. After drinking a carafe of bourbon mixed with grapefruit juice, I darted out of the whorehouse and stood shirtless in front of a tumbleweed monster.

The beast defiantly spit a tarantula on the ground as I tightened my gaze on the creature and charged. We wrestled with neither one of us able to get the upper hand. Just as I jumped off the hood of a 1989 Mercury Topaz with an elbow drop, the normal sized spider grew to be almost ten feet tall and gnashed at me with its oversized fangs. Punching out one of the fangs, I swung it like a sword killing the tumbleweed monster before driving it into the tarantula’s million eyeballs.

Punching into the swollen poison sac of the spider, I smeared the venom across my chest and got three more girls for more whoopee.

The next scene was me at Circus Circus in Reno working as a trapeze artists. My knees were locked under the swing while a bearded lady somersaulted in the air and gingerly grabbing my hands to the cheers of the casino floor. After doing the 10:15 and 11:30pm show, I went into my dressing room where I meticulously measuring half a teaspoon (5 ml) of cocaine into each of my whiskey shots. Stanley is a heck of a director because somehow he was able to speed up the footage and showed me doing 17 shots of this wild concoction before I disrobed and took a shower.

I think the most terrifying part of the movie was that shower scene because all you could see was the shower curtain and hear me screaming like a maniac for almost five minutes. Stanley said he wanted a “static” shot (whatever that means) and my screams built louder and more chilling each passing second as the room filled with steam eventually blurring out the camera.

I think this Kubrick guy is going to be a heck of a director later in life.

I got dressed into a grey double-breasted suit with a Fedora hat and did four more of those cocaine/Old Crow shots before heading into the casino floor. Stanley didn’t show how I got those automatic pistols, but I’m glad I had them when those nasty Shivers came storming into the casino floor and disrupting my roulette game. Still placing chips on the table before the dealer waved off any more wagering, I upholstered my gun and shot six Shivers dead with bull eyes through their heads.

Me, Stanley, Buzz and Donna all had a good belly laugh when I said, “Nuts!” when the ball landed on Black 8 when most of my chips were on Red 9.

Quickly reloading, I dashed through the casino cherry picking shots through Shivers heads only stopping to reload or to play one quick hand of blackjack. The carnage was brutal but somehow my grey suit remained immaculate. Stan told me later he had to hire some computer animators to color-correct my suit because in reality, it was soaked with blood and dislodged body parts.

I really liked the next three parts of the movie which had me captaining a yacht on Lake Tahoe where I fought to the death a sperm whale with a harpoon, me disarming a thermonuclear device that was hidden in Harold’s Club on the south shore, and me recreating the scene from the Godfather when Fredo gets shot—the only difference in the Fredo fishing scene was that I was supposed to be Fredo but I used kung-fu to disembowel Neri before he has a chance to put a bullet in my head.

The last part of the movie had me more upset than the time we lost the World Series in 1965. After so much drama and violence, I finally find my wife, Nita, and my four beautiful children. They were shacked up in a dingy motel in the south part of Reno. I knock on the door and Nita answers with crocodile tears in her dark and beautiful eyes. I try to hug her but she pulls away. The music swells as she explains she wants nothing to do with me and she took my family to Reno to get a divorce. A divorce! I sobbed in my chair as she showed me the paperwork that was filed into the Washoe County courthouse that said she was never going to be Mrs. Harmon Killebrew again. I tried to hug my children but they hid behind Nita. She cried out that she could never be my first love, that baseball filled my heart and I didn’t have time for her or the kids. I was devastated—both in the movie and in the chair Stanley had me bound to. On film, I begged her to reconsider that I’d quit baseball forever and take the family back to her parent’s hometown of Milwaukee where I’d work as a longshoreman and be home for dinner and tuck the kids into bed every night, but she said it was too late. The divorce was final and she was taking MY family back to Wisconsin. Getting into a station wagon, the kids didn’t even wave at me as they drove off, forever.

I don’t recall the last ten or so minutes of the movie. It was me hiding in an underground parking lot as military jets bombed Reno back into the stone age and me wandering around the town with a jug of vodka and a sword killing any and everything that came at me. Grief poured out of me as I sobbed and beheaded Shivers, human porcupines, animated vending machines that fired soda cans at supersonic speeds, and Episcopalians.

Fin.

The movie reel sputtered through the projector and flopped lazily as we watched the blank wall. Donna Summer took a knife and cut me loose where I buried my face in my hands and cried. I cried for my family and myself and this world of madness and terror and sorrow and death.

It wasn’t fair, I kept muttering, it wasn’t fair.

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About Ben Raskin

Born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated in Reno and living in Salt Lake City. I bartend, write, box and live in Sugarhouse UT.

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