MTO Roger Miller

Roger was out of stage blood. How had that happened? He could’ve sworn there was more than half a bottle left. The “zesty mint” flavor made a dab of blood on the tongue an effective breath mint.

But that didn’t explain half the bottle gone.

And–four alarm fire–it was Friday the 13th. Roger and Beth had a Jason Voorhees party that evening. Roger being the FX guy–they were going as Jason and Pamela from FTT Part III. For that magic, Roger needed a good amount of blood.

Jason Voorhees, Friday the 13th Part III

All the specialty stores were out of blood. Sure, Roger could go to Walmart or one of the other box stores. But that was like Van Gogh using crayons–and not even Crayola but the cheap, waxy ones–to render Starry Night. Still, as Roger trudged to his car after the last store was a bust, he decided Walmart blood was better than no blood at all.

The Walmart in Strongsville had a bum. He was basically the store’s hobo mascot. Sat on his cooler with the cardboard box sign propped up against it. Diabetic. Homeless. Anything Helps. God Bless you. Roger passed him, and whenever he had extra cash or Cliff bars in the glove compartment, he’d share. The dude was partial to cash over Cliff bars. “Diabetes,” he said, but he took the bar anyway and chased it with a Mountain Dew.

Although he was in a rush, Roger stopped as usual to say hello. The first thing he noticed was the bum’s sign. It was different: Blood 4 Sale it read. And it was sloppily painted in red, still dripping.

Roger stared.

“Need some blood?” the bum garbled. A cough sent a little blood over his lips. He licked it. “Blood for sale, today only.”

“Is this one of those reality shows?” Roger scanned the parking lot for a camera crew.

“No, sir. It’s a Friday the 13th one day promotion.” Only with his missing teeth and coughing, Roger had to do some interpreting.

“How much?”

“One Cliff bar.”

“I mean, how much blood do you have? And what kind? And you don’t like Cliff bars.”

“Type O, and it will be enough. I didn’t realize how good them Cliff bars was.” The bum pulled out a bottle that was the same size and shape of the finest stage blood Roger used. It was exactly what he needed. Roger thought he remembered eating the last Cliff bar, but he popped the glove compartment anyway and fished around. One Cliff bar, chocolate brownie flavored.

“Type O. That’s funny,” Roger said.

The bum wasn’t smiling.

Roger needed blood, and…providence delivered. Why did he question it? Because it was too providential. But wasn’t that how it worked? You needed a thing and–if you were good and kind and you gave cash or Cliff bars to the “homeless” dude at Walmart–you could expect some good turns coming your way. “Deal,” he said.

That night doing their makeup, Roger was the Van Gogh of splatterpunk. He was Jackson Pollock in blood and guts. Jason Voorhees had nothing on him. Roger was so good at horror FX, he was a bona fide shapeshifter. He and Beth were the stars of the party. Even when they danced, Roger’s makeup stayed put. Beth’s ran a little. He dabbed her cheek with the sleeve of his shirt.

“You’re a dear,” she patted his cheek. “Ouch!” She pulled her hand away as if she’d touched a stove. “Roger, my hand.”

Beth held her trembling hand, palm up. Before he could even inspect it, Beth started to scream. And scratch. She ripped her hand back and rubbed it vigorously against her leg. The kitchen still had remnants of sausages and mac and cheese, baked beans, and hotdogs. Beth flung the closest aluminum tray across the room and placed her palm on the chafing fuel canister. The smell of frying beef was instant. Roger yanked her hand off the flame, but she put it right back. It took four men to drag Beth from the chafing flame.

#

The paramedics said that sometimes an allergic reaction can make a person act uncharacteristically, that the self-harm was really just the body’s way of protecting itself from a perceived invasion.

An allergic reaction? Her hand was burned down to the bones, but Beth insisted she didn’t remember anything after touching Roger’s cheek. Beth was brave about the whole thing, and a good sport, but it broke Roger’s heart to see her hurting. The doctor–after staring in disgust at Roger’s face–assured him there was hope for reconstruction. “Get some sleep and we’ll talk treatment strategy in the morning,” the surgeon said.

Home was too quiet without Beth. Diesel, their great dane, could sense the sadness. He nuzzled Roger’s legs and wound around them silently as Roger made his way to the bathroom. He gazed at his reflection in the bright lights. Still perfectly gruesome. Still exactly how Jason Voorhees looked when he came crashing out that door.

So strange, how bad Beth’s skin reacted to the make-up. She’d been getting gruesome with him for years and never before had an allergic reaction. He sighed and pulled out the imported German baby wipes he always used to remove thick makeup.

Odd.

It wasn’t coming off. The wipe in his hand was as clean as when he pulled it out. He scrubbed harder. Still nothing. Not even a blush. He used the wipe on his hands, and it got a little dirt on it. The wipes were specially made. Grumbling, Roger ran the wipe under hot water and added dish soap. Still nothing. He took a plastic scrubbing sponge and went ballistic on his cheek. He took to scratching it with his fingernails.

Still as “perfect” as the moment he applied it.

He didn’t know what to do. The bum from Walmart gave him bad product, so bad it gave Beth an allergic reaction, and now it wouldn’t come off his face. He’d go see that bum in the morning. He had messed with the wrong guy.

Roger woke to Diesel licking his face. Then whining. Then sharp, agonized barks. Roger sat up as Diesel jumped out the window, literally tore through the screen.

In the hospital, everyone was surprised to see Roger still looking like Jason Voorhees. Especially Beth. “Honey?”

“It won’t come off. Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it. I got bad paint from the bum at Walmart.”

Everywhere Roger went, people stared. Or they giggled nervously. Some recognized him and asked if he’d pose for a picture. At first, he was willing, but it got old. And the bum didn’t show. Day after day, he didn’t show. Roger showered, scrubbed, sweated, and still the Jason Voorhees makeup wouldn’t budge. The nurses whispered behind his back. The surgeon asked if he wanted to speak with someone. Code for: we-all-think-you’ve-got-a-screw-loose.

Diesel hadn’t come home, and that weighed on him, too. Thoughts of his power sander kept coming to mind. Beth was due to come home, and he couldn’t look like Jason Voorhees forever. Plus, she was allergic. The power sander was useless. It just made a mess all over the garage. A neighbor heard the commotion and called the squad.

“Don’t touch me,” Roger warned.

But they didn’t listen. They were trained, they said. He needed medical attention on his face, they said. The first few paramedics didn’t listen. Just the first few.

The “real” Roger…photo-bomb!

True: Roger is a talented FX artist. He hosts Tues@7, a Facebook group for artists and creatives. I think that’s Beth photo bombing his picture. They strike me as a wonderfully fun couple.

Also true: Roger’s daughter, Delaney, has the biggest heart. When I had a brain tumor and was facing surgery, she sang and played the guitar and recorded a song for me. Mind blown, or should I say: heart blown.

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