Novelette (20k words) Psychological horror / suspense / ghost story – When Layla's professor husband has an opportunity to spend the winter at an old motel in a seaside amusement park resort, she reluctantly agrees to run the pub attached to it while he works on his book. The arcades, food stands, souvenir shops and tattoo parlors are boarded over for the winter but the bungalows tucked in the dunes are occupied by artists and transients looking for cheap rentals. She faces a long, cold, lonely winter but a bunch of old guys she calls The Geezers soon begin regaling her with stories about the “old days” and about an ill-fated romance between the beautiful wife of a Boston mob boss and The Great Hercules, a sideshow strongman. She is also increasingly fascinated by an elusive roustabout who flirts with her and shows her the secret spaces in an old beachfront ballroom. As winter gets darker and deeper Layla's husband is both struggling with his writing and becoming suspicious of her behavior. What Layla doesn't know is that nothing is what it seems and her options are growing fewer every day.
Ghosts of a Beach Town in Winter
They're getting the ferris wheel ready for winter today. I've been standing by the sink watching out the window as a gang of men with enormous arms unbolt the carriages and stack them on the flatbed of a truck to take away for storage. The wheel itself will stay in place until Spring looking like a giant skeleton against the gray sky.
“We're running low on gin and bourbon,” Joel calls from behind the bar.
He pushes through the swinging doors and frowns at me. “Gin and bourbon, put them on your list and I'll make a run to Stateline Liquor for more. What are you looking at?”
I nod toward the window. “They're taking all the seats off of the ferris wheel. It looks naked.”
He peers over my shoulder as two roustabouts with biceps the size of Sunday dinner hams hoist another carriage onto the truck.
“They have to,” Joel says, “if they leave them up and we get a bad storm they could do a lot of damage.”
“I know.” I lower my eyes and continue unloading beer mugs, Pilsner glasses, rock glasses – all kinds of glasses – from the dishwasher. They are scorching hot and my fingers burn as I touch them.
“How are we ever going to get through this?”
Joel takes a deep breath. “Come on, Layla. How many times have we discussed this? It's only for a few months so I can work on my book. You hated living at St. Basil's. I thought you'd like being somewhere quiet and ...”
He pauses but I know what he is thinking. He is thinking “someplace like what you're used to”-- meaning in a bar among people who are the polar opposite of the faculty and their spouses at St. Basil's Preparatory Academy where Joel teaches literature and composition. When I met Joel he was a horny egghead just past thirty and pathetically ignorant of women like me. I wasn't far from thirty myself but I looked lots younger, which was a good thing. Working in a casino takes its toll on a woman. I knew my looks were getting harder and harder to maintain. The only reason a guy like Joel was even in a place like Mohegan Sun, where I waitressed, was because his cousin was getting married and all the guys had taken him there for a final fling before tying the knot.
“... low key,” he concludes. He puts his arms around me and turns me to face him. “Stop worrying, Layla, it'll be fun. Just the two of us. No faculty parties. No high teas. No volunteer projects that drive you crazy.” He nuzzles my neck. “Just the two of us and the Geezers, what could be more romantic?”
The Geezers are a bunch of local guys who hang out at the pub that we – mostly I – will keep open all winter.
Halcyon Beach, probably the most ironically named beach town in the world, is a popular tourist spot for people who like a lot of noise and kitsch and who have a strong sense of nostalgia. During the summer it is loud, bright and busy twenty-four hours a day. But by the end of September all the tourists leave and most of the business owners board up their ice cream stands, arcades, souvenir shops, and cocktail lounges and head south for the winter. The families who packed themselves into the little bungalows behind the dunes shutter their windows and lock their doors unless they've managed to find a winter renter. Mostly artists and itinerants, the renters are willing to put up with the drafty windows and poor insulation in exchange for cheap rent and proximity to three sandy miles of beach on the other side of the dunes.A few of the locals stay around though, which is why the owner of the Snuggle Inn and Pub, where Joel and I will spend our winter, keeps it open. Halcyon Beach is just a few minutes off of Route 95 North in an area where motel rooms are scarce in the off-season and the owner, who also happens to be Joel's Great-uncle Fitz, never one to pass up the opportunity to make a nickle, has kept the place open through the winter both for the locals looking for a place to get a meal and some company, and for the random travelers in need of food and rest. Which is how I got stuck with this job. Read the rest....