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mark mclaughlin


We're extremely proud to include Bram Stoker Award winner Mark McLaughlin's column Four-Letter Word Beginning with `F' as one of the features EXCLUSIVE to HORROR GARAGE!

Mark McLaughlin

Mark McLaughlin's fiction, nonfiction and poetry have appeared in more than 800 magazines, anthologies, newspapers, and websites, including Horror Garage, Doorways, Hungur, Cemetery Dance, Space & Time, The Black Gate, Galaxy, Writer's Digest, FilmFax, Dark Arts, Midnight Premieres, and two volumes each of The Best of the Rest, The Best of HorrorFind, and The Year's Best Horror Stories. Collections of his fiction include Pickman's Motel, Slime After Slime, Motivational Shrieker, At the Foothills of Frenzy (with Shane Ryan Staley and Brian Knight), and All Things Dark and Hideous (with Michael McCarty). Also, he is the co-author, with Rain Graves and David Niall Wilson, of the poetry collection The Gossamer Eye, which won a Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Poetry. His most recent poetry collection, Phantasmapedia, was a finalist for the Stoker Award.

In September 2008, Delirium Books/Corrosion Press released Monster Behind the Wheel, a novel Mark wrote with collaborator Michael McCarty. In that same month, Skull Vines Press released Attack of the Two-Headed Poetry Monster, also co-written with Michael McCarty. These and other books can be ordered at www.horror-mall.com. Be sure to visit Mark online at www.myspace.com/monsterbook and


Time sucks. Or rather, it sucks the life out of us all.

The fear du jour, the terror of the day, is (drum roll, please....) Aging. Let's face it. Growin' old isn't the sort of experience one would put on the same entertainment level as, say, a swingin' shindig or a happenin' scene.

For me, one of the hardest aspects of meeting new people is the age thing. At some point in a budding friendship, the other person will want to know how old I am. I must be a bit of a masochist, because when people ask, I always say, "How old do you think I am?"

Happily, most people place me in my early thirties. Two or three people have thought I might be near fifty. I have very angular features and fair skin, so it's difficult to tell my age. At the time of this writing, I'm forty-four.

After people guess, I do tell them my actual age, and usually, one of two things will happen. Most will say I look good for my age. But sometimes folks who had thought me to be younger will say "Ohhh..." and I'll never hear from them again. In every instance like that, the other person is in their early thirties. I guess they'd have liked me better if I were closer to their age.

Still, I refuse to lie about the year I was born. What good would that do? I'm still me, and if a person doesn't like me because of my age, there's nothing I can do about it. Do they dislike all folks who are forty-plus? Woe is me, for in such cases, I am the victim of prejudice! I'm tempted to say, "Don't dis me with your hate crimes!" But I think I'm too old to be using "dis" as part of my vocabulary.

I do try to act my age. For the record, I don't call anything the "fa-shizzle" and I never wear baseball caps backwards, drape my pants halfway down my ass, or adorn myself with bling-bling. I'm not even sure what bling-bling is, so it's probably just as well.

I love being forty-four. For one thing, I've finally grown into my face. When I was younger, my features were so sharp you could have chopped a tree down with them. I've always wanted to look like a James Bond villain, and now... oh, now I'm finally there. I'm a little on the stocky side, but that's okay. Villains are always well-fed. That's part of their sinister charm. There's nothing sinister about a guy with pipe-cleaner arms (unless maybe one of those pipe-cleaners is holding a sawed-off shotgun).

But rest assured, I'm a benevolent villain. All show, no actual menace. I don't have an army of sexy-but-deadly robots or killer flying-fish waiting in the wings. Poisoned blades don't pop out of my sleeves or the tips of my shoes.

Will I always feel good about my age? Will I enjoy being fifty-four? Sixty-four? Seventy-four? Hmmm, good question! I hope I'll always have enough confidence to feel good about myself, no matter what sort of semi-liquescent poop that majestic monkey-god known as Time decides to fling at me.

For Time is a monkey, you know.

Or perhaps you didn't know that. Think about it. Time is capricious, perhaps a little sadistic, always unpredictable... just like a monkey. It swings by its tail and peels humans like bananas. It destroys everything in its path, and yet it can show kindness. Time can cuddle a kitten or bite the head off a snake.

Time is funny that way.

Actress Mae West used to have a pet monkey, so maybe that's why Time was so kind to her. Back in the black-and-white movie days of the Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields, Mae was the reigning queen of naughty comedy. She was a Junoesque girl with a face as round as the moon, but back then, full-figured girls were considered yummy, and skinny girls were encouraged to eat pork chops.

Mae was well into her retirement years during the 1970s, but that didn't stop her from playing lascivious playgirls in the movies Myra Breckinridge and Sextette. Her leading men in those movies were Tom Selleck and Timothy Dalton. Mae was always a healthy gal. I once read that she insisted on having an enema every day, to help keep her innards clean. And, I imagine the men in her life gave her plenty of exercise. Way to go, granny!