THERE IS SOMETHING STRANGE HAPPENING IN PLACIDVILLE!
It is 1962. Kathy Anderson, a serious actress who took her training at the Actors Studio in New York, is stuck playing Vivacia, the Vampire Woman on Vivacia’s House of Horrors for a local Chicago TV station.
Finally fed up showing old monster movies to creature feature fans, she quits and heads to New York and the fame and footlights of Broadway.
She stops off to visit her parents and old friends in Placidville, the all-Ameican, middle-class, blissfully normal Midwest small town she grew up in.
But she finds things are strange in Placidville.
Kathy’s parents, her best friend from high school, the local druggist, even the Oberhausen twins are all acting curiously creepy, odiously odd, and wholly weird. Especially the town’s super geeky nerd, Gerald, who warns of dark days ahead.
Has Kathy entered a zone in the twilight? Did she reach the limits that are outer? Has she fallen through a mirror that is black? Or is it just—just—politics as usual!
Publication Date: September 21, 2020
Print Length: 158
Publisher: Magpie Press
Preorder on Amazon now: https://tinyurl.com/y5p94k3e
HOME AGAIN, HOME AGAIN
It was going to be a long drive home to Placidville, Illinois, the small, self-contained town passed over by the interstate where Kathy was born and grew up. She filled a large thermos with hot black coffee and started out at dawn. Placidville had nothing to recommend it except good, nice citizens who had little ambition except to be good, nice citizens with little ambition. They, in the main, liked their little town and, with rare exceptions, each other. They found life to be sunny for the most part, and they had the ability to store that sunny for the days that weren’t.
For years the outside world had come to them mainly through the radio, and for the past ten years, television had begun to usurp that function. There was one elementary school and one high school and the education received therein was pretty good. Farming continued to feed the town, but no one was sure how long that would last, and that was a worry, but a worry they tried not to worry about. Kathy had nothing but affection for the town Affection tinged with the anxiety of wanderlust but still affection. For Kathy, as you may have gathered, did have ambition, a very particular ambition, which she felt had gone off track. But she was back on track now! Although, because of her affection, it was a track that doubled back to Placidville before heading on from there straight to New York and the lights of Broadway.
It would be wonderful to see her parents again. They had both been in their early forties twenty-two years before when Kathy became their little surprise bundle of joy. Her dad was an accountant who was unaccountably a fun-loving guy. Her mother was a housewife who, to get herself out of the house, volunteered for many good works. They were outstanding citizens. And perfect parents. They had not spoiled Kathy, they had just loved her through constant, sincere encouragement. They were extremely proud of their daughter, even of her turn as Vivacia, which somewhat embarrassed Kathy. Her dad had installed a huge TV antenna in the backyard to pick up the signal from the Chicago station so they could see with perfect clarity, Vivacia’s House of Horrors every weeknight, disturbing a lifelong belief in early to bed, early to rise. Kathy’s parents were her biggest fans.
And how could one not want to visit one’s biggest fans? Kathy drove straight through except for one stop for a quick lunch at a diner, and several quick stops to empty her bladder and refill her thermos. But she still pulled into Placidville after dark. Very dark, in fact. Although the street lamps were lit, they seemed dimmer than she remembered, and the houses in her parents’ neighborhood were certainly not illuminated with the warm glow of families settling down to dinner and Dr. Kildare. Maybe the town had become even sleepier than she remembered. But her house wouldn’t be, of course, her house would be ablaze with light because that’s what her dad liked.
Plus, her mom and dad were expecting her, so she was fully prepared to see a banner emblazoned with WELCOME HOME KATHY stretched across the front of the house illuminated with little klieg lights that somehow her father would have gotten. She was also fully prepared to act surprised at this, as she knew it would tickle her parents’ funny bones. But well-illuminated her parents’ house was not—it was no more bright than any of the other houses on the block. The porch light was not on, and very little light leaked out of the downstairs windows, and none came from the upstairs. There was no banner.
She pulled into the driveway, stopped, and honked her horn with her father’s favorite shave-and-a-haircut-six-bits beeping but got no response from it. A bit confused and wondering if she was actually on the wrong street—they all did tend to look alike and she was tired, maybe she made a wrong turn—Kathy got out of the car and peered through the dim light to confirm that she had the right address, if not the right street. But, no, there was her mother’s garden gnome mooning the hydrangea bushes, and the three others doing their hear-no-evil, see-no-evil, speak-no-evil poses that her mother had found so delightfully funny, so this must be the place. She went to the back of her car and opened the trunk and pulled out her large, overstuffed suitcase.
Then she noticed another strange thing. The lawn had not been mowed recently. This was odd because her father had always been convinced that a neatly trimmed lawn was the very symbol of the American Dream. Oh, well. Maybe her parents had thought she was coming tomorrow night.
Creature Feature is, in a word, silly – and deliberately so. The story is silly, the narration is silly, and the characters are silly. It’s almost too much at times, especially early on as Kathy/Vivacia continually just misses the glimpse of something that would clue her into what’s wrong with Placidville (while the narrator points out the miss with a nudge and a wink and a smirk and a self-congratulatory pat on the back), and yet there’s a charm to it that keeps us reading.
The story itself is a 1960s parody of b-movie culture and small town paranoia featuring a would-be serious actress who cannot escape the shadow of her cheesy, late-night, local TV role as Vivacia (a clear homage to the legendary Vampira). When she stops home after quitting the role to become a serious actress, it’s painfully clear to the reader that things are very wrong in Placidville. All questions of monsters and mayhem aside, the way the entire town worships her as Vivacia, feeling she owes them that role, is an interesting commentary on the nature of fame.
There is, of course, one person in town who knows the truth of what’s going on, the stereotypical geek who Kathy would just as soon have nothing to do with. The way his obsession with TV ties into the strange events is actually rather clever, and it’s once the two of them team up to challenge the new mayor that the story finds it legs and becomes more than just a series of humorous moments.
The first half of Creature Feature felt a bit too long, and the finale came a bit too quick, but those pacing issues aside, this was a fun read.
About the Author
A Scribe award-winner, receiving the praise of Ray Bradbury and the Oscar-winning film producer, Richard Zanuck, Steven Paul Leiva is no stranger to the business of telling a good story. Author of several novels, and with a writing-style that lays hard on the satire, this Hollywood-escapee doesn’t pull punches when it comes to politics.
Need to know more? Follow him on Amazon or Goodreads, or check out his blog here: http://emotionalrationalist.blogspot.com/p/about-steven-paul-leiva.html
$10 Amazon gift card + Print copy of Creature Feature