Fiction Week: The Ernie Bedlam Stories | Bleader

Fiction Week: The Ernie Bedlam Stories

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Editor's note: Craig Champlin submitted a number of shorts for our annual Pure Fiction issue, writing "Pick any of them. What I’d really like is to run 'The Ernie Bedlam Stories' weekly. I have a lot of them and people seem to really like them." We'll run five of the Ernie stories here on the Bleader this week. Here's the first.

Primal Ernie

Ernie lay on the couch feeling adventurous. He was flipping through the pages of National Geographic, looking for pictures of naked women. It was the middle of the night and his family was asleep.

Outside a howling wind shook the windowpanes. Ernie was peaceful. He popped a can of beer and hoped he wouldn’t pass out before the early morning exercise shows came on. His priorities were in order: beer, wife, children, and education—both mental and physical.

He could find only a picture of a Tibetan monk with his shirt off in the National Geographic, and wondered if it was possible to get the new Playboy out from under the bed without waking his wife. An executive decision. He popped another beer.

In the midst of this reverie, out of the corner of his eye, he saw something scurry across the far wall of the living room. Ever since he peed in his pants when Alan Arkin jumped out at Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark, Ernie didn’t like to be scared. He really didn’t believe that alligators came through toilets and ate people, but the possibility lingered in his imagination.

He arose from the couch and found the cat, got another beer, and placed the cat in front of the bookcase. The cat regarded Ernie blankly and strode off. Ernie mumbled out loud, “This wouldn’t happen in the jungle where there’s no cat chow.” Ernie got up, found the cat again, got another beer, and once more put the cat down in front of the bookcase. The cat looked at Ernie like he was a wall hanging and strutted out of the room.

“Why have a cat?” thought Ernie. Cats don’t bark at monsters, cats don’t cook, clean, raise kids, do the laundry, pay bills, have gainful employment. A wife yes, a cat no.

The mouse scurried out from under the bookcase and darted under the entertainment console. Ernie was getting pissed. The mouse had already grown six inches. Ernie found the cat, got another beer, and set the cat in front of the TV. The cat looked at Ernie like he was a Scientologist or something. He meowed, “Piss off!” and walked away.

Ernie was getting angrier by the moment. This wasn’t right. He got up, found the cat again, got another beer, and plopped down on the floor next to the cat in front of the TV. He whispered in the cat’s ear, “Cat, mouse, cat, mouse . . .” The cat looked at Ernie and said, “Oh, please!”

Ernie got up, stumbled into the kitchen, got another beer, and swore under his breath. He went to the bathroom, read two sentences of Crime and Punishment, relieved himself and retired to the living room. He was cynically perusing the National Geographic, when the mouse poked its head out from under the TV.

This time the mouse didn’t bother to scurry, but sauntered across the floor like he owned the place. Ernie had had enough. He chucked the National Geographic across the room. It was a direct hit and the mouse fell dead in its tracks.

Ernie fell asleep at sunrise just as Billy Blanks and his spandex-clad bevy of believers appeared on the TV screen. Ernie snored loudly and dreamed of bigger game. The cat walked past the dead mouse, climbed on the couch next to Ernie, fell asleep, and dreamed of birds.

Read parts two and three of "The Ernie Bedlam Stories."

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