No, this post isn’t about some dude’s body part. If you were directed here by some mischievous search engine…well, kick up your heels and stay awhile! I’m sure I’ll post about that body part one of these days (likely in connection to a Judd Apatow movie).
The name T.E.D. Klein is synonymous with three things: 1) Twilight Zone Magazine, 2) two amazing books, and 3) the fact that he’s only written two friggin’ books despite the fact that he’s one of the best writers of horror anyone’s ever read. Honing in on claim-to-fame number two (I could type a twenty-page tirade about how deeply I wish the dude would write more—yeah, he wrote some cool short stories, but we’re focusing on the two books people actually know about), the two Klein books I own, cherish, and generally obsess over are The Ceremonies (a spellbinding novel I’ll someday blog about) and Dark Gods, a collection of four novellas. While each of the novellas in Dark Gods is outstanding, my personal favorite is a spooky yarn called “Petey.”
I’ll let Amazon or Paperback Swap or Creepy White Van Book Exchange Guy provide you with a synopsis; what I’ll give you are a couple salient facts about the plot (Why am I numerically outlining all my thoughts tonight?): 1) There’s a dude in a mental asylum who’s so spooked by something he’s seen that he’s trying to commit suicide, 2) George and Phyllis and thirty of their friends are celebrating G & P’s new home, an old place they’ve recently fixed up (more specifically, cleaned up), 3) The previous owner of the house was a bit…imbalanced (“Eyes like a sorcerer,” some of the locals claim), and 4) About twenty pages into the story, someone pulls out a very important deck of cards. Tarot cards.
To say too much about this amazing story would be spoiling it for those who haven’t read it, and one of my purposes, Dear Readers, is for anyone who hasn’t yet read it to order it tonight (along with a bottle of sleeping pills—you’ll need ’em). What I will say is this (Mustn’t numerically outline! Mustn’t numerically outline!): “Petey” is one of the five best novellas I’ve ever read. What makes it so incredible is the slow unfolding of the horror. It’s the kind of tale that will quickly exhaust the patience of the short-attention-spanned reader. It’s also the kind of tale that will reward you, the patient reader, and make you glance over your shoulder at the slightest noise and wish to hell you hadn’t sat down to read next to a window.
The other day I wrote about Stephen King’s wonderful story “The Road Virus Heads North.” Like that tale, “Petey” involves a drawing that changes. I can tell you that ever since I first read this story a decade-and-a-half ago, I’ve pictured that drawing hundreds of times (both in its early incarnations and in its final, unspeakable reveal).
Which brings me to the ending. So much of true genius is about impeccable choreography. You see it in Inception when the dream within the dream within the dream within the dream all climax at the same moment. You see it when Juliet awakens mere moments after Romeo has guzzled his dram of liquid death.
And you see it in “Petey” when what’s happening inside the house connects with what’s happening outside the house.
Now go order “Petey.” Then picket T.E.D. Klein’s house and demand he get off his duff, carry his damn coffee and tattered bathrobe over to the word processor, and crank out some more amazing prose.