Scriptopia by Michael A. Kechula

“Hey there,” called an armed guard. “You lost?”

“Not exactly,” said Bret Harding. “According to my historical research, this is where the town of Stepford once stood.”

“Never heard of it,” said the guard.

“That was the creepy town where guys turned their wives into robots, making them ravishing creatures of pleasure. Where all the women made endless batches of chocolate chip cookies. The government discovered what was going on, destroyed the town, and jailed all the men. It happened about thirty years ago.”

“Doesn’t ring a bell,” the guard said.

“What’s the name of this place?”

“Scriptopia.”

“Hmmm. It’s not on my Connecticut road map,” Harding said.

“This town’s very exclusive. Has special status. They kept it off maps and the Global Positioning System. Everything behind this wall ain’t part of Connecticut. Just like Washington, D. C. ain’t part of Maryland.”

“No wonder it isn’t on my map. Is this some kind of hush-hush research center like Area 51?”

“Not that I know of. All our residents are writers.”

“What kind of writers?”

“Fiction.”

“Sounds interesting. How are my chances of getting inside? I’m Bret Harding, instructor of Modern History at Santa Buffoona College, in California. Here’s my ID.”

After scrutinizing Harding’s ID, the guard said, “We usually discourage visitors. But, since you’re a college teacher maybe the Sheriff will let you in.”

The guard mumbled into a cell phone.

“The Sheriff wants to know if you’ve ever written a best seller.”

“Not yet, but I’m working on it.”

“Sheriff Spitz says you can enter under certain conditions. Please raise your right hand. Are you now, or have you ever been a writer of poetry, limericks, greeting card jingles, nursery rhymes, or song lyrics?

“No,” Bret lied, figuring they’d never heard of his three books of esoteric, cryptic, noxious poetry.

“I’m obligated to warn you: poets are strictly forbidden in Scriptopia. Violation of town ordinances carries extremely stiff penalties.”

“I understand. Can you point me to a coffee shop? I could use a good cup of brew after driving so long.”

“Sure. This is Dostoyevsky Drive. Take this for about a mile, then turn left at Steinbeck Street. It’s on the corner. Hemingway’s Hashery. Oh, the Sheriff said you can stay for only one hour. Better set a timer. He’s one mean SOB. By the way, he writes sock-o detective novels.”

Bret almost blurted, “Me too,” a fib of monstrous proportions. He couldn’t write a piece of readable prose if his life depended on it. But when it came to iambic pentameter, he was a master.

The gates swung open.

Bret drove down a tree-lined avenue. “Get a load of that,” he mumbled when he saw lampposts shaped like fountain pens.

Beautiful brick homes came into view. The chimneys of some emitted puffs of gray smoke. He had to glance twice when a smoke cloud suddenly formed a bubble in which appeared the words, “IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY NIGHT.” Pulling over to the curb, Bret rubbed his eyes in disbelief. How are they doing that?

When he looked again, the smoke was gone. But suddenly a second smoke cloud rose from a different house. It formed into, “BRAD DROPPED HIS HOT HAND ON CHELSEA’S QUIVERING THIGH.” Still another said, “THE ZOMBIE’S EYES GLOWED, AS HIS POWERFUL FINGERS GRIPPED MISS POTTER’S CREAMY NECK.”

“Holy smoke!” Bret yelled, chills running down his spine. He couldn’t wait to get inside the restaurant for a sanity check.

The restaurant, shaped like a giant, old-time, manual typewriter, came into view. Once inside, he noticed the place was as quiet as an Arctic graveyard. Everywhere he looked, customers were eating with one hand and scribbling in notebooks with the other. Even the kids.

“Mommy. What do you think of this sentence?” a boy asked quietly. “The werewolf grabbed the vampire and twisted his head off.”

“Very nice,” said a blonde woman, patting the boy’s head. “I think you should add some dialog. Tell us what the werewolf said. And maybe you can include what the vampire was thinking as his head was being twisted.” Then she quickly added, “Better finish your Fiction Fries before they get cold and soggy.”

Bret chose a counter seat a few feet from the waitress who was writing furiously in a notebook. Glancing at Bret, she whispered, “I’ll be with you soon as I finish this paragraph.”

After several minutes of boring silence, he absent-mindedly tapped keys on the counter. Immediately, he was bombarded with shushing sounds and hostile stares. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

“Finished,” the waitress whispered, glancing at Bret. “Sorry to make you wait. Didn’t wanna break my thoughts. Been struggling over that paragraph all morning.”

Her happy-face nametag announced, “Becky Bunky. Author of The Moiling Mob. 10 weeks on the NY Times Best Seller List.”

“Wow,” he whispered. “I see, Becky Bunky, thee art she who wrote a bigee.”

“What did you say?” the woman asked sharply.

Oh, hell! I goofed. “I said that I see you’ve hit the big time, with your book being a best seller.”

“No you didn’t. I distinctly heard you say something that sounded like a poem. You a poet?” she yelled loudly.

“No. I’m a history teacher.”

Suddenly, customers surrounded Bret. “You a poet?” they chanted in unison, repeating it a dozen times.

The Sheriff stormed in. Handcuffing Bret, he yelled, “You were warned at the gate, Harding. We don’t want any damn poets around here. We’re all refugees from that abominable trash that uses countless, meaningless, mind-bending words to say nothing. It’s five years since somebody tried to sneak in here and convert us from prose writers to poetry hacks. Do you realize what you’ve done? Look at all the kids here munching on Homonym Hamburgers, Simile Sausages, and Personification Pancakes. You‘ve contaminated their malleable minds. Do you think we want them running around yelling, “Rosy-posy-chewy-dewy-hokey-smoky?” It’s downright pornographic, you sleazy malefactor!”

Searching Bret, the Sheriff pulled a petite volume of sonnets from his coat pocket. “Here’s proof!” yelled the Sheriff, holding the book high for all to see.

Women shrieked, men blanched, oldsters threw up, parents shielded children’s eyes to prevent trauma.

That night, the townsfolk gathered to watch Bret Harding walk barefoot across ten feet of white-hot train rails. Wearing a dunce cap, on which was written, “POET,” Bret never got past the first few inches. When his feet burst into flames, he toppled headfirst into a pit of blazing embers.

“Look,” somebody yelled, as a cloud of smoke rose from Bret’s charred corpse. Inside the cloud appeared the words, “A POX ON THEE FOR KILLING ME.”

“What does that say, Mommy?

“Nothing. It’s just a stupid poem.”

“What’s a poem?”

“The ravings of demons,” she snapped. “You better forget you ever heard that terrible word. If I ever hear you saying it, I’ll wash your mouth out with soap and sell you to the Gypsies.”

The End

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