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A Complaint | By Bradley Bazzle

Categories: NER Digital, Secret Americas

Stacked Cars In City Junkyard Will Be Used For Scrap, August 1973.

Dear Fortress Plus,

I write with not-so-good news. The Car Wall 4.0 I ordered is rusting more quickly than advertized. Your salesman, Herm C—, who’s a very nice fellow so I don’t want to cast aspersion on him, said that the wall would last “ten lifetimes, plus!” More specifically, he referenced the Great Wall of China and said that because Car Wall 4.0 is made of metal it’s twice as strong as that one, which is made of stone. It made sense at the time. But then I saw the rust, and also how the 1963 Chevy Impala was sagging from the weight of the 1963 For Fairlane directly above it, and so I did some online research and learned that metal doesn’t fare well under compression, which is why the pillar things under bridges are made of stone. Other bridges are made of metal but those are suspension bridges, so Herm was kind of wrong when he told me to think about the Golden Gate Bridge and how strong it was. Maybe correct him. Don’t fire him, though. He’s a really nice guy. The anecdote he told me about protecting his own family homestead from marauding meth-crazed looters using Appliance Rampart 3.0 was deeply moving. Which brings me to another point. Several of the cars, e.g. the 1957 Plymouth and 1959 DeSoto Adventurer convertible, are faring extremely well. Barely rusting, barely crushed, and the grills are kind of nice to look at, like faces. Would it be possible to have more recent and flimsier models, such as the aforementioned Impala and also the 1967 Pontiac Catalina and 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Corsa, replaced by models from the fifties? Also—not to be piling it on—but there’s something beneath the 1962 Cadillac Coupe DeVille, in what the owner’s manual calls the Seventh Quadrant, that looks kind of not like a car. Is it the undercarriage of a bus or something? Like, folded over? I ask because, while it’s actually pretty strong, it isn’t very fun to look at. That’s it. Whew! Except, well, it would be kind of neat if I could turn on the headlights from time to time, just for effect. Herm said that that was in the planning stages, possibly to be featured in Car Wall 5.0. Sign me up, if so, because I consider myself a lifelong Fortress Plus customer, despite the circumstances. Yours is a company that looks towards the future, because, I mean, where are all the dead cars going to go otherwise? Junkyards? Pretty soon there’ll be more cars than people, and every grave will have a car on top of it, maybe sideways. At least that’s what Herm said. And I believe him.

Yours Sincerely,

Bradley B—

*

Secret Americas features writing about images from the U.S. National Archives.

Image via Flickr “Stacked Cars In City Junkyard Will Be Used For Scrap, August 1973,” photograph by Dick Swanson. National Archives and Records Administration College Park. Part of the Documerica project.

Bradley Bazzle’s story “Gift Horse” appears in NER 31.4. Other stories he’s written appear in The Iowa Review, Epoch, Phoebe, Bad Penny Review, The Beloit Fiction Journal, and elsewhere. He lives in Athens, Georgia, where he’s working on a novel and a PhD in English.

Touch a button, things happen

Categories: NER Digital

Flag on the Moon: The Beast of Yucca Flats | By Bradley Bazzle

Bradley Bazzle

When I was a kid and my parents tried to read to me from storybooks, I wrested control of the operation by telling my own story based on the pictures. Many writers do this as children, I think. But then we learn to read and it’s all over, at least until we start writing. What a shame, those wasted years. Lucky for me, I was left alone in front of the television for hours each day and invented a new, related practice: muting the sound and narrating what was happening on screen. My version of The Beverly Hillbillies probably had a lot in common with the actual Beverly Hillbillies, but it didn’t sound nearly as stupid to me. Today, though I’ve moved on artistically (I hope), I still take a special interest in voiceover narration. I can’t think of Days of Heaven without hearing that little girl’s tough voice, or of Goodfellas without hearing Ray Liotta (“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster…”). Sunset Boulevard, The Piano, The Shawshank Redemption—these are the classics of the genre.

Or so I thought.

It turns out one film stands above the rest: The Beast of Yucca Flats. This 1961 creature feature had so little money that the director, Coleman Francis, scrapped sound altogether. He told his crew he’d add dialogue later, maybe do a voiceover. And did he ever do a voiceover. The film’s narration is so dark, so bleak, so transmogrifying with regard to the footage it describes, that I wish it could stand on its own so you could read it as prose. But it can’t. There are too many holes. So what I’ve done, in order to encourage you to see the film as soon as you can, is a summary that incorporates italicized fragments of the narration. I hope it captures this bleak, dazzling slice of wretchedness. For full effect, real aloud in a dour monotone:

Movie Poster for The Beast of Yucca Flats

A young woman in a towel is strangled in a motel room. A small plane touches down in the desert. An obese Russian disembarks. Joseph Javorski, recently escaped from behind the Iron Curtain, wife and children killed in Hungary. His aide carries a briefcase, secret data on the Russian moon-shot. Destination: Yucca Flats. A meeting with top brass at the A-bomb testing grounds. Flag on the Moon. How did it get there? Men in suits drive up and start shooting. Javorski staggers into the desert. Mushroom cloud. Javorski screams. Touch a button, things happen. Joseph Javorski, respected scientist, prowling the wastelands. A prehistoric beast in a nuclear age. Kill. Kill. Just to be killing. Javorski, his face covered in fleshy looking burns, gently strangles a young couple then drags the woman to a cave. Young Joe Dobson, Desert Patrol, caught in the wheels of progress, finds the man’s body and calls his partner, Jim Archer, wounded in Korea, another man caught in the frantic race for the betterment of mankind. Progress. Together they climb some rocks and find the woman barely alive. Vacation time. People travel east. West. North or south. The Radcliffs travel east, with two small boys. Adventurous boys. Not yet caught by the whirlwind of progress. Their car breaks down and the boys go behind a decrepit gas station and feed soda pop to the thirsty pigs. They see a coyote roped to a tree. Coyotes. Once a menace to travelers. Missile bases run them off their hunting grounds. The boys wander off. Their father, Hank, goes looking for them. Hours in the boiling desert sun. Joe and Jim are still searching for the killer. Twenty hours without rest and still no enemy. To put Jim Archer’s paratroop training to good use is the only answer. A trip up into the skies. Shoot first, ask questions later. From the plane, Jim sees Hank. A man runs, somebody shoots him. The pilot dropped his man. Hank rolls down the hillside. An innocent victim, caught in the wheels of justice. In the blistering desert heat, Jim and Joe plan their next attack. Find the Beast and kill him. Kill or be killed. Man’s inhumanity to man. The Beast returns to his cave and, finding his victim gone, unleashes his fury by throwing a rock. He sees the boys and chases them. They outrun him. Jim appears, shoots at the Beast. They wrestle. Jim is getting strangled, slowly and sensuously, when Joe shoots the Beast point-blank. Jim and Joe leave with the boys. The body remains. Joseph Javorski, noted scientist. A rabbit hops around then nibbles at the Beast’s chest and face. The Beast caresses it then dies.

*

NER Digital is a creative writing series for the web. Openflix features The Beast of Yucca Flats on YouTube. Bradley Bazzle’s story “Gift Horse” appeared in NER 31.4. Others appear in The Iowa Review, The Beloit Fiction Journal, Cold Mountain Review, Splash of Red, Phoebe, and Opium. Bradley has an MFA from Indiana University and lives in Athens, Gerogia, where he’s working on a PhD (and a novel). If you enjoy comedy videos, check him out on Trophy Dad’s Youtube channel.

Santa Direct

Categories: NER Classics

From Bradley Bazzle’s story “Gift Horse” (NER 31.4):

Gift certificates. Six years ago Santa Direct gave me a gift certificate to an electronics store. My wife joked that Santa hurt his back and couldn’t carry the new computer I wanted. When I was a kid we got everything we wanted. Every year my sisters and I made little lists on the day after Thanksgiving. It was a good day to get Santa’s attention, my father said, because he was hung over and sitting around his house at the North Pole. We made the lists directly in a memo pad my father kept, one page for each of us. There were twelve lines on each little page, so we could ask for twelve things. We spent most of the morning drafting and redrafting our lists before copying them into the pad. Most of what we wanted was books and games and toys, but even when we wanted something more expensive we got that too—chemistry sets, pogo sticks, a basketball hoop. One year we banded together, and each of us asked for a swimming pool. Under the Christmas tree in a little flat box with all our names on it was a picture from a magazine of a family splashing around inside a pool. I was the youngest and didn’t understand what this meant, but my sisters went wild. I jumped around with them and hugged them, and my parents were smiling. Ground was broken in our backyard for the pool the following April. It was a happy moment for the family, and we all stood in a line watching a fat man wearing a hardhat inside a bulldozer. I remember wondering if the fat man was Santa. Maybe he had shaved his beard.

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