Miss Havana: (flashing a “come hither” smile at Mike Robinson): Oh, my, do I have a treat for all my lovely visitors today—and for me as well—an outstanding writer, the author of Skunk Ape Semester. Now, let’s be real, with a title like that, the book must be outstanding, right? So, I want to delve right to the heart of things … you know, get to the most important questions first if Mr. Robinson doesn’t mind. (Miss Havana leans forward, rests her elbow on the table and places her chin on her closed fist) Tell me, Mike, are you married?
MR (blushes): Ah, no, I'm not married. How is that relevant to Skunk Apes?
MH (flexing her shoulders forward playfully): I’m not entirely certain what a Skunk Ape is, Mike. Please tell me … and then I might be able to answer your question.
MR (looking incredulous): Even blondes know what a Skunk Ape is. Are you pulling my leg?
MH (shrugging and with an even blanker look than normal): Well, maybe not everyone.
MR (sighs): A Skunk Ape is a sasquatch … a Bigfoot.
MH (eyes lighting up and grinning as she glances toward the ceiling): I dated a guy with big feet once. It’s true what they say.
MR (rolling his eyes; shaking his head): Any chance we could get back on topic? I’d like to tell you a little about my book. It’s about a paleontologist and three students who go on a quest to find a Skunk Ape. They travel from place to place meeting level-headed and eccentric characters and, in seeking Bigfoot, Chupacabras, UFOs, goblins and lake monsters, they discover truths about themselves and one another.
MH (clapping her hands together; grinning from ear-to-ear): I knew a paleontologist once. His name was Jeremy and he liked to jump my bones. As a kid, he claimed that meeting a ghost would be more exciting than meeting a girl. I never believed that because he hadn’t met me yet. Too bad he married that Sheri Belhem girl before he finished college. I would have been a lot more fun.
MR (Snorts. Clearly irritated): I heard about that, but you told him your name was Beth. Jeremy is my main character.
MH (eyes wide open): Oh, dear. I hope he isn’t one of those loose-lipped guys who kisses and tells all the sordid details. What did he say about me?
MR (places hand on forehead, grimaces): Nothing … nothing good at all. As I was saying, my book is about an experience with a Sasquatch Jeremy Fishleder had when he was ten, and his subsequent quest to re-capture that moment as an adult.
MH (dabbing on face powder): Interesting. So, how would you classify your book? What genre?
MR: I’d call it a Literary Paranormal Road Trip. I try to go where no others have gone before.
MH (looking puzzled): You mean, like Star Trek?
MR: No, no … that’s not what I mean. All I’m saying is that my genres are unique. My novel, The Green-Eyed Monster is a horror-mystery, and The Prince of Earth is literary horror. My forthcoming Negative Space is uniquely genre-less. Honestly. Read it and tell me what exactly it is … if you can. It has elements of "coming of age" and "thriller," but those descriptions just don’t encompass all of it. You can read … can’t you?
MH (snapping her purse closed; curls upper lip and casts an angry glare): Of course I can read … I’m a substitute teacher. But I’m not teaching now. I’m learning. Do you have children?
MR (raising his eyebrows): I told you … I’m not married.
MH: Well, duh. The two aren’t necessarily connected. Are you evading my question because of child support issues? I can assure you, the IRS rarely reads my blogs.
MR (gasping; places splayed fingers over sternum): You are one messed up character, Miss Havana, I’ll give you that. No, I don’t have children. Unless you count brainchildren. They can be just as messy as the real ones, in a more metaphysical sense.
MH (Huffs): Well, I did like Jeremy, so your brainchildren must be pretty good. (She sighs) For an average-looking zoology professor, he had his moments. Why don’t you give our visitors a look into your book, a little excerpt to whet their appetite?
MR: Sure. Picture this:
The night is a bristly alive thing in the Florida summer, and it spreads from the shadows and comes in close and suffocating while concealing secrets rarely glimpsed. I was a kid when I encountered one of these secrets, barely a decade removed from my physical birth, and it was then that the real Jeremy Fishleder was born.
As I sat alone the smell returned but it was faint and hollow, so much so I initially took it as an imaginative perversion of some other smell, if not downright fabricated by my heightened, caffeinated senses.
I righted at the sound of disturbed foliage and snapping branches. Something big lurked on the fringe our backyard, just beyond the light of the back porch. Fortunately for the adult into whom I would later develop, my young fears weren’t big enough to drive me into the house, screaming and disrupting Mom’s phone call and who knows what else. At this point – God knows why, given the last month – curiosity trumped fear.
I waited and tried to peer past the foliage, then got up and went down the porch steps to the grass when something truly did make me halt in fright: the smell, oh God the smell, that sulfurous stench that was like a harsh olfactory whip, bladed and terrible, worse than anything I’d smelled of it prior.
There was something there. Two eyes glinted back at me from the brush, elevated in the darkness. I assumed it a deer, especially in the way the animal froze.
But the smell grew. Deep and musky. Wild.
Then the lighted eyes rose -- it was definitely taller than a deer. Maybe six feet. I stepped back. We stared at one another across a gulf not only of species but of spirit, two entities from two different dimensions suddenly intersected.
The eyes rose a final time as it stood its full height, and for a long second all of civilization drained from me. It was gargantuan.
And cautiously, it came forward and the light drew it further and further into form.
The thing emerged from the fringe of the backyard and I stepped back. Our eyes remained dead-locked and I could see them better, see them deeper and they were orange-tinted, small citrus gleams alien but identifiably terrestrial, even twistedly empathetic. The animal was bipedal, more erect than most people I see, and so goddamn massive – to my child brain, a Rose Parade float. All functions in my young body came to a standstill. It was like a childhood fantasy thrust upon me, a trespassing dream lost in reality, and I had no reaction other than a strange sensation that straddled the line between awe and terror.
The creature stood and looked towards the house, then back into the warm syrupy wilderness from which it had come stomping. The odor held firm and strong, a noxious force field. It opened its mouth as if to yawn and I could see long wet canines. Then the mouth closed sharply and the head – which was fastened directly to the shoulders with no discernible neck – slanted back and from the depths of its throat issued a burst of whooping noises that ranged from fleeting to full, long and slow. Its body responded to each whoop with a tremble that ruffled the lengthy silver-blue hairs hanging like coarse tinsel from its skin.
Then it turned, moved, and was gone.
Hurrying back inside, I went for the first visible person which was my father. Though I stammered and was probably somewhat incoherent, he was patient enough to bring it out of me.
“What’s wrong, Jeremy?” he asked.
MR: Does that pique your interest, Miss Havana?
MH: Sounds wonderful, Mike. You’ve got my attention, and apparently the attention of others as well. I loved the reviews below.
"One of the best books I've read this past decade."
------ Leslie Ann Moore, award-winning author of Griffin's Daughter
"I loved this book! Are you interested in the weird and unexplained? SKUNK APE SEMESTER by Mike Robinson’s a page-turning road trip--a journey of the mind, heart, and spirit. I was captivated from the first page, and I learned a lot. Most of the stories in this novel (other than Bigfoot) I'd never heard of before. You'll like the characters and feel like you took this fascinating journey with them."
------ Syrie James, international bestselling author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen and Dracula, My Love
“‘On the Road’ meets ‘The X-Files’!”
------ Marla Miller, author and columnist
"A love song to Fortean Americana....a truly unique book."
----- Richard Freeman, author / researcher
MH: I’ll read Skunk Ape Semester, and then review it here on my blog in the near future. I look forward to it. How would our visitors find you?
MR: That’s an easy one: email@example.com. Readers can find the book at http://www.amazon.com/Skunk-Ape-Semester-ebook/dp/B0076S5TH8/ref=tmm_kin_title_0. But here’s a question that’s not easy. This blog is part of a scavenger hunt. Your readers need to answer the following question at http://cryptopia-blog.com/ to be eligible to win: What phony name did Miss Havana give Jeremy when she toyed with him in college?
MH: Hey … I don’t tell anyone my real name until I get to know them better … and the phone number I gave him was for the IRS.
Thanks for reading!
James L. Hatch