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Night of the Clippies Part Two

From Clotheslines to Killers

Part Two: Night of the Clippies

A half hour later, Monroe was alert, bandaged and bruised, but sitting upright in the kitchen chair drinking a tall glass of orange juice. He borrowed the phone and called Sheriff Taylor at his home.

“Hey boss. My apologies for calling you so late but –“

“No problem.” Monroe could tell he just woke him up. “What’s news?”

“I’m up at the Baldwin residence. We’ve got ourselves a killer clothespin situation.” The kids corrected him. “Sorry, clippies – and they’re everywhere! They almost killed me tonight. They swarm like those African killer bees. We gotta warn the town!” There was silence at the other end. “Sheriff?”

“You’re absolutely positive deputy? Killer . . . clippies?”

“I swear,” said Monroe, staring at the multiple bandages on his hands.

After what he saw today, Taylor was game to believe anything. “I’ll meet you at the station,” said the sheriff, bleary-eyed and achy. “I’ll contact the local radio station to start spreading the news.”

“New York, New York.” On the other end, dead silence. “Sorry boss, but you served me up a fastball right in my wheelhouse,” replied Monroe, feeling better and now eyeing a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies.

“Fifteen minutes deputy.” Taylor hung up the phone. He dressed, gave his sleeping wife Anna a kiss on the forehead and trudged downstairs to make a Thermos of black coffee with lots of sugar. It was going to be a long night, he suspected.

The deputy turned to the Baldwin parents. “Folks, I want you to stay indoors, don’t open any windows, and call your neighbors to warn them. These things are lethal, okay?”

“You got it,” replied Mr. Baldwin.

“One last thing,” said Monroe, “Mind if I take a few cookies for the road?” Mrs. Baldwin, already suspecting the deputy had a supreme sweet tooth, bagged a handful.

“They say laughter is the best medicine; I prefer homemade chocolate chip cookies -- bless you both.”

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Residents from all over Red Orchard were ringing up the police station. Paula, three months new as the night shift dispatcher, needed to be an octopus to pick up all the calls. The effervescent thirty-two year-old brunette originally took the night shift job, figuring it would be a cinch. And it would fund her return to school and pay the bills. During the afternoon, she went to class at the local college. At night when it was slow, which was ninety-nine percent of the time, she’d do homework, browse the Web, and dream of being a writer.

Sheriff Taylor arrived at the station first. “What are you doing here?” asked Paula, slipping a pencil to mark the spot in her textbook and covering it with the local free newspaper.

“I work here, remember?” shrugged the sheriff. “It’s okay; I know you’ve got school work. By all accounts, you may have the story of the decade right here in ole Red Orchard.”

“What do you mean?”

“Those clippies have killed at least three citizens of this town.”

“What are clippies?”

“You know -- those things you use to hang up clothes.”

“Clothespins? We’re really being attacked by clothespins?” Deputy Monroe came through the door minutes later sporting multiple bandages plastered across his ears, hands, and a large one behind his neck. There was even a bright yellow SpongeBob Band Aid adhered across the bridge of his nose.

“Holy crap, what the hell happened to you?” asked Paula. She rushed over and helped the deputy sit down in one of the lobby chairs.

“Are you okay,” said Taylor. “Maybe you should go home and rest, we can handle –“

“No you can’t Mike, not this,” said Monroe. “These things are everywhere. I got a call that a bunch more people were attacked at the White Castle. What happened at Taylor Lake, did Walters find the other body?”

“Yeah,” replied the sheriff, pouring himself a cup of coffee. “Said the guy looked like he’d been shredded by piranhas – it was horrible.”

“Well, what do we do now?” asked Monroe. “We’ve got no chance!”

“We gotta put our heads together on this one,” said Paula. Taylor and Monroe looked at the radio dispatcher/all purpose employee. “When did all this start happening?”

“I guess yesterday – with Margie,” replied the sheriff as he rubbed his chin.

“Well, that meteor shower began last night. What if that meteor shower, I don’t know, somehow reacted with the metal on each clothespin?” said Paula.

“Oh jeeze,” sighed Taylor. He started whistling the X-Files theme.

“You’re a science fiction geek too?” asked Monroe, his brain percolating now with ideas. He was an avid reader of Orson Scott Card and H.G. Wells among other science fiction gurus. Paula nodded. “Maybe you got something there.”

Paula started pacing back and forth, Monroe joined in, albeit with a slight limp.

“Okay, okay enough Muldoon and Scully,” said the sheriff. “We need something a bit more tangible here.”

“It’s Mulder, not Muldoon,” corrected Monroe. Taylor gave the deputy an icy stare. Okay, this is what we’re going to do –-“

A sudden downpour of flashing lights illuminated what seemed like the whole downtown square. The three walked over to the front glass double door, amazed by its intensity.

Taylor pressed his head against the glass, cupping his eyes. Out in the distance, he spotted something that looked like fireflies.

“What is it?” asked Paula. Monroe shuffled his size twelve feet on over.

The sheriff remained still. “Quiet; both of you. Oh no -- look out!” All three jumped out of the way.

Like a sandstorm, they pelted the glass relentlessly. From every direction the clippies bombarded the small, one story building. Thousands pressed against the door like fish trying to escape a trolling net, pushing at the door until it started opening.

Paula rushed over, slamming it shut with her shoulder. She locked it and took a step back. They kept coming, hitting the glass, each time harder than the last. The three heard shattering glass in one of the back offices. Taylor ran back, storming past the kitchen area trying to pinpoint the exact room. He pressed his ear against the middle room door and could hear them pecking and gnawing. The buzzing sound was intense, like bees on steroids. The sheriff bent down on one knee and saw chips of white paint and wood falling to the musty carpeting like snowflakes. Taylor called out. “We’ve got a problem here!”

Bob Cortland couldn’t sleep, tossing and turning for hours. The horror of seeing Margie dead like that, mauled by inanimate objects was too much. What the hell could be less harmless than a clothespin, thought the electrician. It was completely surreal, like some horrid nightmare. He finally got out of bed, dressed in his flannel shirt and Dickies jeans and walked into the kitchen. He tore open a pair of strawberry frosted Pop Tarts, stacked them and started chomping away. He poured himself a tall glass of milk and chugged it down.

Cortland slipped on his duck boots, grabbed his car keys, and walked into the garage. There in a corner, he picked up a vintage Wilson T-2000 tennis racquet, the kind Jimmy Connors sported, for protection before heading outside. The night was crisp and cool, just the way he liked it. Cortland got into his beast of a truck, a mammoth eight-cylinder top of the line black Dodge Ram 3500 four door. He pressed on the gas and shot out of the driveway. He felt like he had to do something; the Red Orchard police station seemed like a good place to start.

-------------------------------------------------------------

“How’s the door situation looking?” asked Monroe.

“It’s holding so far, but I’m not taking any chances,” said Taylor, who started layering every open crevice with duct tape. “Those little bastards don’t give up.”

The clippies continued their assault on the building. Thankfully the front door glass was extra thick, just in case some nutcase decided to fire a few rounds front and center.

“So what do we know so far,” asked Paula, searching feverishly for an answer. “The light shower seemed to provide the necessary energy. As long as these meteor showers continue . . .”

“We’re screwed is what you’re saying,” said Monroe, who, like Paula, enjoyed the peace and tranquility to working the nighttime shift. Sheriff Taylor had already put in a full day. And despite consuming a half-gallon of coffee, his eyelids were sagging. The only thing keeping him awake was the frequent treks to the bathroom.

“After all this is over, what do you say you and I have dinner and see a movie?” asked Paula. She knew Monroe was shy as an eighth grade boy asking a girl to the school dance so she figured she’d make the first move.

“Uh -- I’d like that really much, I mean very much,” the deputy replied, blushing. “I know a great new horror – “

“No horror movies for a while, okay?” Monroe nodded. “And absolutely no chick flicks either. I’d rather bathe in barbeque sauce and stand outside with those clippies than watch that stuff.”

“Ugh, how gross,” said the deputy. But the idea of an attractive woman smothered in Open Pit sounded . . . “Stop it – now!”

“Stop what?” Paula asked.

“Uh, nothing,” Monroe replied, perspiring a bit. “It’s getting kind of warm in here, isn’t it?”

Taylor returned from the bathroom and walked over to the front door. The clippies were still swarming the building, tap, tap, tap like snare drums, as they continued to peck at the glass. “At least we’re safe – oh no.”

“Oh no what?” asked Monroe.

“The ceiling vent. Don’t anybody move.” The buzzing wooden objects managed to slip through the heating vent. They clipped themselves to the metal grill surface like bees gathering around a beehive. “Paula, grab the fire extinguisher behind you, but no sudden moves, okay?”

Paula backed up against the wall and opened the plastic handled door and picked up the extinguisher. “You know this thing expired like two years ago.”

“It’ll be fine. They’re like Twinkies, they’ll last forever,” replied the sheriff.

“I’ll get the one in the kitchen too,” said the deputy.

Taylor motioned the deputy. “Good.”

Monroe tiptoed down the hallway towards the kitchen, keeping an eye on the clippies. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as graceful as Paula, tripping over a metal trash can. Clank. The buzzing stopped. A handful shot directly at Paula.

Now!” yelled Taylor.

Paula let loose with the extinguisher. The blasting cold met the descending clippies head on. Monroe raced to the kitchen, snagged the other extinguisher and stormed back, returning fire. Half of the clippies dropped to the ground but others attacked Paula.

“Get them off me, get them off me!” The deputy showered his co-worker with the icy blast, coating her white as snow. A few clippies dropped like dead insects, the rest vanished in a heartbeat back through the ceiling vent.

“It’s working; it’s working!” screamed Monroe. “Take that you little bastards – no one bites my woman!”

“That’s so sweet of you deputy.” Monroe smiled. “Now keep spraying!”

The sheriff ran back to his office and retrieved another roll of bright orange duct tape, a mainstay in any police station. He positioned the step stool under the vent and began ripping off strip after strip, blocking the grilled vent.

“Sweep up those things and put ‘em in the safe, quickly,” said Taylor. “We can’t risk opening the door and tossing them outside.”

“I think the cold stuns them, but only momentarily,” said Monroe, who put down the spent container and grabbed the broom and dustpan from the closet. As he swept, he could see the clippies regaining movement. “Oh Shih Tzu.”

“Jeeze, where’d you learn to sweep?” asked Paula. “Felix Unger, you’re not. No, I’ve got a better idea, you unlock the safe and I’ll take care of this.”

Monroe grabbed the key from the sheriff and headed to the corner office in the back. He entered the dusty room, slid some boxes aside, and opened the safe with the key. “I’m all set here.” Paula finished sweeping the handful of clippies and jogged over. She tossed them in and closed the metal door. “Peachy keen -- now what?”

The two walked down the hallway when the taped up middle door exploded. Hundreds of clippies swarmed the small, 2000 square foot station. “Holy Christ!” yelled Sheriff Taylor. The three huddled in the front lobby picking up seat cushions for protection. A truck pulled up near the front door.

Cortland observed the massive wave of killer clippies engulfing the police building. “Oh my God.” He saw three people waving their arms frantically inside. He laid on the deep, bellowing horn to get their attention.

“Who’s that?” asked the deputy, glancing out the window.

“Who cares,” screamed Paula. “Let’s run for it!”

“On three,” screamed the sheriff.

“We don’t have till three; run your ass off!” yelled Monroe, trying to be heard over the intense turbine sound.

Cortland rolled down the side window a couple of inches. “Hurry, hurry!” He leaned over and opened the front and back passenger doors.

The three dove into the truck. A few clippies managed to trail inside, but Taylor scooped them up and threw them out the window. “You, my friend are a life saver,” said the sheriff.”

“Life savers more like it, thanks!” added Monroe. Cortland was about to exit the parking lot when the deputy asked him why he was out so late.

“I couldn’t sleep. And after what happened to Margie, I felt like I had to do something.”

“Well your timing was impeccable, thank you,” added Paula, giving the man a hug.

“So what’s our next move folks?” asked Cortland, the truck idling.

“The cold seems to stun them, but not for long,” said Monroe. “Other than that, I believe the town of Red Orchard is up a certain creek without a paddle.”

“I think the key to this whole thing is tied to the meteor shower,” said Paula. “That’s their power source!”

“So what do we do? Tell Mother Nature to chill out with the fireworks display?” said Monroe. “God don’t work that way.”

“Doesn’t,” said Paula. “God doesn’t work that way. If we’re going to go out on a date you need to speak correctly, okay?”

“Okay -- really?” replied Monroe. “You know I think I still have my copy of Elements of Style from high school, somewhere.”

“Then you better start brushing up lawman.”

“Hey, I think I got something,” said Cortland, the mechanisms in his brain churning. “These things are just stinking clothespins, right?”

“Yeah,” replied the sheriff. “So?”

“And what do clothespins generally do – I mean when they’re not killing people?” The other three sat in silence. “Come on, this ain’t rocket surgery.” He egged them on.

“Uh . . . hold up . . . clothes?” uttered Monroe.

“Exactly!” boasted Cortland. “So what if we create a super long clothesline out of metal wire, I mean a hundred yards long if we have to, and I run a charge to my big badass Interstate battery. We get them to clip on it, and then I’ll shock those little shits back to reality. They need to get back to what they’re supposed to do, and that’s hold up laundry, not eat people.”

“Works for me,” said Monroe.

Paula shrugged her shoulders. “Why not?”

“And what do we use as bait – us?” asked the sheriff.

Cortland thought for a moment. “I don’t know, how about a bed sheet?”

“If this works, I’m making you an honorary deputy,” said Taylor.

“And if it fails, we’re making you honorary scapegoat,” joked Monroe. Paula elbowed him. “Sorry. I thought humor was always a good thing when you’re stressing.”

“And how do you spell you’re?” asked Paula.

“That’s easy, y-o-u . . . uh, apostrophe . . . r-e?” Paula gave the deputy a peck on his cheek. He blushed.

“Enough Mr. Spelling Bee champion,” said Taylor. “So what do we do now?”

“My store’s just around the corner. I got enough wire to circle the entire town of Red Orchard. We go there, get some supplies, then head to the high school. I’ll wrap a line around the goal posts, and let my battery do the rest.”

The whole congregation of clippies encircled the truck, pecking away. Cortland laid on the horn, startling them momentarily.

“Look at those bastards,” he said before flicking on the wipers on high, swatting them away as they cruised slowly into the main drag of town.

“It’s like a freaking snow storm!” added the deputy.

“I’m gonna pull around back of my shop and run in real quick, okay?”

“You need any help?” asked the sheriff, flinching his eyes as the clippies hit the window.

“No, all of you stay right here, it’ll be easier for me to go alone.” The clippies continued to congregate above the truck like the dust cloud over Pigpen from the Peanuts cartoon strip.

“Look, I’m less than eight feet from the door. If I get bit, I’m just taking one for the team. Be back in five minutes. Sheriff, lay on the horn.”

Cortland thrust open the door and ran over to the rear entrance, his key already out, ready to open the lock. By the time the startled clippies prepared to attack, Cortland was already inside.

“Moves well for a fat guy,” mused Monroe.

“And you’re – that’s y-o-u apostrophe, r-e, are not too far behind,” said Taylor. “I’ve told you many times: Fudge makes pudge.”

“That’s cute,” said Paula. Monroe looked down at his plump midsection, disappointed. “Well, it’s true, but a little exercise and less sweets will cure that.”

Eight minutes later, Cortland emerged carrying a large round object filled with wire while balancing a duffle bag of supplies on top. The sheriff laid on the horn again then propped the door open for the electrician. Cortland shot inside and slammed it shut, breaking a handful of clippies as they tried to dart in.

“Okay, I got the wire and even found an old red beach towel we can hang for bait.”

“Why a towel?” asked Monroe.

“I don’t know, maybe they’re attracted to red garments – like blood and sharks. We can use a couple of these dead clippies to clip it up – use ‘em as decoys. The electrician felt energized, smart as a tack. “I want to see those things get justice for what they did to Margie.” He backed out from the parking lot and drove to the high school.

Cortland reached the entrance then headed towards the football stadium. “Last thing we gotta do is turn on the lights. That should attract ‘em.” He followed the curving side road until he reached the chain link fence. It was locked.

“Crapola, and I don’t have a key.”

“Is there another entrance?” asked Paula.

“No, this is it,” replied Cortland. “Sheriff, will you vouch for me if my insurance refuses to repair my truck?”

“You’re vouched.” Cortland floored the gas pedal and barreled right through the fence, breaking it open. He stormed onto the pristine grass football field and headed for the opposing goal post.

“He’s at the fifty, the forty, the –“

“Not now, deputy,” said the sheriff.

Cortland slammed on the brakes, skidding on the slick, low cut turf. He placed the truck, parking just under the goal post. “Hand me the wire.”

“Damn this is heavy,” said the sheriff as he handed the wood spool to the electrician.

“You see anything?” asked Cortland. All shook their head, no. “Okay folks, this should only take a second.”

The electrician shot out of the truck then climbed up to the back of the pickup. He placed the spool of wire on the black plastic bed liner in between split wood logs and formidable looking axe then wrapped it around the center crossbar ten feet off the ground. He twisted and tightened the end with wire cutters then rushed back holding the spool under his brawny arm. In seconds, clippies appeared.

“Damn it,” said Monroe.

“No, no, we need ‘em to return – just not all at once,” replied Cortland. He placed a thick dowel in the middle of the spool, letting the wire out as he drove slowly back to the other goal post. “We’re almost there.”

He approached the opposite end zone, parking to the right of the goalpost. “Go ahead and say it deputy, I give you permission, but just this once,” said Taylor, offering up a half smile.

“Touchdown?”

“You two finished?” asked Paula.

Cortland shook his head. “Hand me the wire cutters.”

“Be careful,” said Paula.

Cortland got out of the truck and quickly wrapped the wire around the other goal post and twisted it tight, then cut the wire. He popped the hood and started hooking up the connection.

“How much longer?” the sheriff asked. He looked at the time -- it was past three in the morning. No wonder he felt exhausted.

“Almost there folks,” said Cortland as he continued worked feverishly, nipping his index finger by accident in the process. He lowered the hood when he heard the familiar buzz. The three screamed. Cortland turned around just as the clippies engulfed his body.

“Stay here Paula,” ordered Taylor. The sheriff and deputy jumped out immediately and ran over to Cortland. He flailed his arms trying to defend himself. The two picked the electrician off the ground and dragged him inside the truck.

“I’m all right, thank you both,” said Cortland. Paula used the red towel to douse the multiple wounds. “There’s something else I need to do.”

“What’s that? asked Paula.

“Place the towel on the line, and . . .”

“And what?” asked Monroe.

“Just give me a second folks; I just need to catch my breath.”

“Take your time,” said Paula, patting Cortland on the shoulder.

“We need to turn on the sprinkler system. When I turn on the juice, a little water should add a shocking punch to those little shits.” He coughed, gazing at his injured hands.

“So how are we going to hang up the towel?” said Taylor. “You can’t move the truck now that it’s hooked up.”

“Good point,” replied Cortland, his hands throbbing in pain now. “Someone’s gonna have to run to midfield, drape it on the line and secure it, and run back. I don’t think I’m in any condition –“

“You’ve already done enough -- I’ll do it,” said Paula.

“No way, I’m gonna have a girl do that,” said the sheriff. “That’s man’s w . . . “

“Man’s what?” answered Paula, ticked off. “First of all, I’m thirty-two years old, and two, let’s neatly tuck away that primitive male chauvinist crap, okay? Last but not least, I’m the only one who’s in actual good shape here.”

“I won’t argue with that,” said Monroe.

“Sorry,” said the sheriff. “Tell me where the sprinkler system is and I’ll take care of it.”

“It’s behind the home team sideline,” said Cortland. “There’s a three-quarter cement barrier painted crimson red around it. Just flip the metal cover back and hit the all the switches and turn on the spigot.”

“And the lights?” asked Monroe.

“In the press box,” replied Cortland. “You’ll need the key to open it. Head upstairs; the first door you see on the left, open it. The box is on the wall to the right. It’s got a red apple sticker on it; you can’t miss it. Be sure to turn them all on.” Cortland struggled to reach his key ring, a collection of at least two-dozen.

“Christ, you got a key to every home in Red Orchard?” said Monroe. Cortland found the appropriate key and slid it off. “Shoot, by the time I’d have found it, those little clippie bastards woulda turned me into bones!”

“Everyone ready?” asked the sheriff.

“I’m not a real religious person,” said Paula, “but I think we should maybe say a prayer and hope God’s on our side tonight.”

“Amen to that,” added Monroe.

The four adults grasped their hands together. “God, if you’re up there –“ Monroe interrupted. “That’s spelled y-o-u, apostrophe re.”

Paula flashed the dull deputy a look then continued. “Like I was saying, God, give us the strength to win this battle and restore normalcy to the city of Red Orchard.”

“Not bad young lady,” said Cortland. Paula thanked the electrician. “Okay guys, let’s take care of business.”

The three stormed out of the car. Cortland remained in the front seat, recuperating. Paula sprinted like a track and field star to midfield. She felt terrified yet exhilarated at the same time – a strange mixture for sure. She reached into her pocket and pulled out the four injured clippies, two managing to bite her hand.

“Ouch, you little piss heads!” Paula pried them off her now bleeding fingers and hung up the red towel. For good measure, she wiped the blood along the wire. “Come and get it!”

Monroe huffed and puffed his way up the stairs. He swore if he made it through this horrific night, he’d get in keen physical shape. “Okay, okay, I’m up the stairs and there’s the door. He unlocked it and pulled the string, turning on the dimly lit lightbulb. He searched around for the sticker. “Ah, there you are.” The deputy inserted the yellow-coated key and turned it. The small door opened. There, he saw three rows of switches, twelve in all. “All righty, here it goes.”

The stadium lights emitted a faint dim, like an early morning dawn. The deputy expected them to turn on right away like any desk lamp. Instead, they brightened at a snail’s pace. He went over to the microphone, tapping it. It was on. There was a part of him who always wanted to be a disk jockey, barking up some classic tunes, being cool as the other side of the pillow. The deputy used to play bass in a local bar band, belting out rock and roll standards, getting paid in beer, mostly.

“Is this thing on?” He thumped the mic head with his index finger. “Testing one, two, and a three.” He could hear his voice echoing all over the premises. “All right folks, let’s get this show on the road and kick some clippie ass!”

Paula glanced up, smirking, as she raced back to the truck, feeling better now that the whole field was on display. She closed the back door and patted Cortland on the shoulder. “We’re almost there.” The electrician didn’t respond. “Hey, Bob, you okay?” Paula clutched the headrest and pulled herself forward. His eyes were closed, mouth slightly agape.

She saw movement from under his jacket, then a sound like kids churning their little hands in mud. Paula tugged him on the shoulder. Still no response. “Oh God, no.” From the top of Cortland’s jacket, a clippie emerged with bloodstains around its mouth. She jumped outside on her hands and knees, almost throwing up. She tried to scream but couldn’t.

The sheriff pressed four blue buttons then turned the rusted spigot handles all the way clockwise. Monroe rumbled back downstairs where he met his boss. “We’re all good?” asked the deputy.

“I think so. Paula should be at the truck by now,” said the sheriff. “Now all we need is Cortland to do his thing and hope for the best.” Paula trembled, but regained her composure, finally yelling to her co-workers.

“What’d she say?” said Monroe, his hearing not especially good after years of high volume band practice.

“He’s what?” said Taylor. The two rushed back only to find Paula in tears. Through the window, they saw the electrician’s lifeless body sitting in the driver’s side. The sheriff opened the door, spotting blood all over the interior seat. Both he and the deputy saw movement under the jacket.

Monroe put on a brave face as he stretched out his arm and reached for the metal zipper. The deputy narrowed his eyes, pulling it down. There, a baker’s dozen of clippies feasted on the electrician’s chest and gut. “Oh shit, they’re still eating him!” Monroe turned Wonder Bread white in shock. He quickly zipped it back up and stumbled out of the truck, landing on his ass.

“God damn it,” said the sheriff. He rubbed the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger. There was no time to weep. They needed a plan ASAP or they’d all be dead. Then he uttered something under his breath. “Bait.”

“Bait? Did you just say, bait?” asked Paula, horrified.” What are you talking about?”

“I don’t want to sound coldhearted, but we need to use him to attract the other clippies. I’ve got a whole damn town to save and I don’t think we can rely on a ratty old towel to do the trick.”

Paula and the deputy looked at each other. They were fresh out of ideas. “What do you need us to do,” asked Monroe.

The two men of the law grabbed the dead man’s body and struggled to carry him to where the red towel was pinned. They set him down and made a sign of the cross, in deep gratitude for everything he’d done. The sprinkler system finally ticked on, sputtering into high gear, soaking the two men as they jogged back to the truck. Paula was still shaken up, staring out at the football field. She’d never seen a dead person before, only in the movies. In a matter of seconds, the trio spotted clippies swooping down near the body like vultures.

“There!” pointed Monroe as more descended onto the long stretch of wire. The lit field soon turned into a sea of darkness as thousands of clippies began perching themselves along the metal clothesline, throbbing and glowing like a string of Christmas lights.

“Who are you calling?” asked Taylor.

“The Baldwin’s,” replied Monroe. “I want to know if any clippies are still there.” Mr. Baldwin answered the phone. Both he and his wife were still awake, the kids hit the sack two hours ago. The deputy nodded and smiled, then hung up.

“Good news guys. Apparently there are no clippies up at their house, or their neighbors. Let’s hope we got ‘em all here.” The three peered out at the field. Every inch of space of wire seemed to be filled with clippies.

“So how do we do this?” asked Paula. “He never told us what to do?”

“We’ll figure it out,” said the sheriff. “First of all, we start the struck.” He reached over and turned the keys. The big eight-cylinder engine rumbled but was running on fumes. Taylor slipped on a pair of work gloves he found in the back of the truck and quietly opened the door. He rounded the front of the truck and picked up the end wire, the other end already attached to the hundred-plus yard stretch of wire.

The sheriff eyed the battery. He inched closer, not sure which cable to touch. “Let’s see, red is positive and black is negative – and how does this help me?” He shook his head. A wave of clippies from out of the sky suddenly pounced on Taylor like strafing sharks in a feeding frenzy. He dropped the wire as the wooden objects gnashed and gnawed on his exposed flesh.

Monroe hurried out of the truck and swatted the clippies off his boss. “Take the wire,” screamed Taylor, covering up in a protective ball. The deputy hesitated. “Just do it!”

The deputy picked up the wire with his bare hand and touched the battery connection. From end to end a bright flash of light trailed the line of wire.

Monroe felt a tremendous jolt as he fell to the ground, shaking. Paula jumped out of the truck and rushed over to remove the wire from his scalded hand.

The deputy wasn’t moving. She started giving him CPR followed by mouth-to- mouth resuscitation. “Come on you!” She pressed her palms against his chest repeatedly, pressing away when the deputy started coughing.

The deputy opened his eyes halfway. Monroe whispered, signaling Paula to move closer to his face. “Need more . . . mouth to mouth.” Paula gave him a big hug then helped him sit up.

The sheriff, wounded and exhausted as all hell, emerged from a lifeless pile of clippies. As she helped both men to their feet, the trio peered at the outstretched wire and noticed the glowing clippies abruptly shorting out. They dropped from the wire, and from the sky like hail, falling harmlessly onto the Kelly green turf.

“Did we win?” asked the dazed deputy, still trying to regain his bearings, his hair disheveled as he leaned against the truck. The two men limped towards midfield and stared at all the clothespins littering the football field. Cortland’s dead body was buried under them.

The next day, school maintenance raked up each and every clothespin they could find. Residents of Red Orchard were asked to do the same. Any and every clothespin was gathered up, bagged, and brought down to the downtown incinerator where they were disposed of. The mayor wrote up an emergency ordinance banning the purchase of all clothespins in the town of Red Orchard. Everyone obliged.

Two months later and twelve pounds lighter, newly anointed Sheriff Thomas Monroe had returned to work, tan and rested from a weeklong vacation in the Bahamas with his girlfriend Paula, now a reporter for the local newspaper. She still worked part time at the police station. Former Sheriff Mike Taylor, freshly retired and fully recovered from his wounds, became a consultant for a home security company in nearby Cortland.

Monroe quickly developed a newfound reputation for being detailed and dedicated. He was working late as usual, alone, following up on some paperwork, the worst part of the job. Now he understood why his former boss was cranky at times, especially on a Friday night – he didn’t get paid overtime. Paula finished up covering a story at the mayor’s office before heading over to meet her boyfriend.

The sheriff put down his pen and took a break, his right hand was cramping up again. He walked over to the front door, admiring his newly svelte frame in the reflection. No more donuts, he promised himself, again. Normally he’d be on his second Coke and package of Ho Ho’s, but now it was strictly tea, perhaps bottled water and carrot sticks. He could fully relate to Holly’s dieting hell, but he felt good.

There was that sound again, like someone tapping their knuckles on a dense slab of waterlogged wood. Paula had mentioned it before. It seemed to come and go. The sheriff wandered into the seldom-used office in the corner of the building, the official storage facility. Just then, the heat kicked on, drowning out the sound. He quickly turned it off, wanting to listen intently.

He knelt down, trying to pinpoint the direction. His hearing was never quite the same when he decided to punish his refrigerator-sized Fender Bassman 100 amp by cranking out John Entwistle riffs at volume ten back in the day. Monroe narrowed the sound to the deep corner of the room. He pushed some boxes aside and saw the safe, slightly bigger than a standard college dorm room refrigerator. The sound abruptly stopped. The perplexed deputy pulled out his set of keys and selected the particularly odd-looking gold one. He placed it in the slot and turned the key. Just as he opened the door, he vaguely remembered something. Unfortunately, the shock he received from the live wire deleted minuscule memory details. “Nah.”

He peered deep into the safe, left over from the previous occupant. It was mainly used to store confiscated items, but in a town as safe as Red Orchard, it was basically an antique gathering dust. Inside was the original deed to the building and an old revolver discovered during the renovation project when it was converted from the old post office into the current police station.

There was a rustling sound under the papers in the back. Monroe couldn’t see anything, but thought maybe it was a cockroach. He hated cockroaches. Suddenly his fuzzy memory started to come into focus. A chill rose up his scoliosis-free spine. “No way.”

Before he could close the door, a pair of clippies shot out like bullets. The sheriff fell over backwards then scuttled to the door, shutting it. He pulled out his gun and huffed. “All right you clippies, show yourselves!”

One swooped down, latching onto the back of the sheriff’s neck, sampling a tasty morsel of Monroe’s flesh. “Ow! Damn you!” He reached around, but it vanished.

Monroe started sweating. The sheriff wiped the perspiration from his eyes when he heard a click. The lights went out. Monroe shifted over and reached out with his arm to turn on the light switch when he felt a familiar pain. The two clippies ambushed the sheriff’s hand, nipping and gnawing at his fingers, drawing blood.

Monroe tried to flick on the lights with his elbow, but the switch was snapped off.

“Damn it!” He could hear the clippies buzzing around the room like hummingbirds. He reached for his cell phone and shined the light frantically around the dark room. Nothing.

Suddenly, there was a tapping sound coming from inside the safe. More clippies. The sheriff’s eyes got big. “No way, Jose.”

The sheriff backed up against the door, ready to escape when he spotted the two clippies perched on top of the five-drawer metal file cabinet. They creaked their vicious little wooden mouths, opening and closing in slow motion. Monroe held his phone steady, beaming the light directly at the clothespins. He raised his gun and aimed, about to reel off a shot when they darted away.

“Shit.” The sheriff scanned the room finding nothing. Monroe stood silent for what seemed like hours. Suddenly, he noticed debris floating down from the ceiling like snowflakes.

He spotted them, trying to burrow through the water stained ceiling tiles. Monroe raised his gun and fired. Pop-Pop-Pop-Pop. He turned away, not wanting to catch a ricochet in the face.

The dust settled. Monroe, still crouched on the floor, heard a faint scratching sound. He stood up and slowly panned the light around his feet. There, lying on the unkempt checkered linoleum floor were the two clippies. One of them was blown away in half, non-responsive. The other was partially wounded. The sheriff watched it struggle along the floor, the twisted metal spring barely holding the two pieces of wood together.

Monroe bent down on one knee and gazed at the ordinary wooden clothespin. He pointed the gun barrel almost point blank but suddenly paused. For a second he felt . . . To hell with that. Monroe blasted the hell out of the inanimate object, blowing it to pieces.

Paula suddenly burst through the door, scared out of her wits. “What the hell is going on? Honey, are you okay?”

The small room was filled with dust and gun smoke. Monroe waved it aside and hugged Paula. “God I really, really hate clothespins.”

Paula helped her boyfriend to the employee kitchen where she dressed the wounds. The two walked over to the sheriff’s desk. Monroe sat down on his chair and was about to reach into the top drawer for some Advil when he heard a tapping sound. He looked up at Paula then back down at the drawer.

Monroe took in a deep breath and clutched the worn metal handle in his left hand. Paula stood behind him; her hands perched on his shoulders. The sheriff positioned his gun just in case and slowly opened the drawer. He peered inside then abruptly slammed it shut.

“Paula jumped back nervously. “What was it? More clippies?”

Monroe made a big gulping sound. “This is worse than I thought.”

“What could be worse than killer clothespins?”

“Staple removers.”

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