• Terence Hannum

Maturation: Terence Hannum


Terence Hannum is a visual artist, a musician, and a writer. Based in Baltimore, MD he has performed in the groups Locrian (Relapse Records) and The Holy Circle. His death-metal coming-of-age novella "Beneath the Remains" (Anathemata Editions) was published in 2016 and his body-horror novella "All Internal" (Dynatox Ministries) was published this year, his short fiction has appeared in Terraform, Lamplight, Queen Mob's Teahouse and Turn to Ash.

Terence about his poetics: "I am interested in places where the mundane meet the fantastic and macabre. Part literary and part speculative fiction. My genre is never straight and always bent."

In prose piece "Maturation" a family goes on a trip to a Delaware beach town, stopping at breweries where the husband's enthusiasm for craft beer causes him to awake in an abandoned tourist city where he confronts his future.

Maturation

I.

The door banged in the empty motel room. Grabbing my head with my bandaged hand I stumbled between the queens. No suitcases, no Legos. The door opened and then slammed shut again. At the sink I filled up the plastic cup and downed the water in my parched fire throat. I forgot to take off the plastic covering so it felt weird on my lips, like plastic skin. I filled it up again. The bathroom light was off. Used towels in a pile under the sink. I was missing a shoe. The other queen was made up, perfect, and the surf crashed outside when the wind opened the door and then slammed it shut.

Everything was gone, her bathroom bag, her deluxe hair dryer. Gone. The kids bright blue superhero suitcases. Gone. I downed the water and felt my temples sting. I checked the drawers in the dresser TV console, empty. The nightstand drawer just held the Gideon Bible and a coupon book to beach attractions. The door slammed again. It was quiet outside save for the wind, save for the waves. No more rollercoasters, no more distant bass of the radio on speakers, no people waiting for beach fries.

I checked the fridge and pulled a double IPA off one of the six packs. At least she left me these. The clock blinked 11:11. I opened the front door, fixed the latch, and could see the gray Atlantic waves crest on the dirty brown shore, the wind blew cold and vacant over everything. I crack the can open, drink, and slowly feel the emptiness abate.

II.

On our way in to the beach we pull the Audi off at Erebus, one of the craft breweries on my list. Taking the tour, session ales in hand we wandered with other couples, families and bridal parties between shiny fermenters and pipes. Bottles and cans zip by on shiny assembly lines. I finish the session half way through the tour. Emily’s was still half way full.

“Do you want the rest of mine?” She asks me as we enter the large hops room and the air changes from stale fermentation to bright pine of hops.

“You don’t like it?” I ask, she shakes her head and hands it to me, “Thanks.” I place her glass in my empty one.

“Dad, it stinks.” Colton says staring up at the bulging bags stacked to the industrial ceiling.

“It smells delicious.” I say and flip the Phillies cap on his head.

In the tasting room I quickly go through the flight of small glasses of malty porters and farm house ales. The kids play cornhole beside a group of frat boys in shorts and sweatshirts. Emily nurses a cider watching me mark down the notes on a piece of paper.

“You ok to drive?” She asks.

“I’m ok, got my dad’s genes.”

“You’re dad drank Heineken. Not this stuff.”

“My dad drank Lowenbrau.”

“What’s Lowenbrau.” She asks and takes a drink.

“It’s like a Helles, or pale ale, Miller bought it in the 1970’s, and in the 1980’s my dad would polish off a 12 pack in one night on his own.”

She doesn’t say anything. Maybe she laughs. She looks at the boys. But I know what she wants to say. I take a picture of the empty flight for Instagram.

III.

I fix the motel lock keeping the door open and walk down the outer corridor. The sea rages, wave over brown wave, and the wind blows through the empty passage. Taking the stairs down to clear my head I wander through the empty parking lot. The car is gone. She took the car. All the cars are gone.

In the lobby the lights flicker on from my movement.

“Hello.” I call out, and politely ring the bell on the desk with my gauzy paw. No one comes. I walk through the pastel lobby where there was no breakfast set up, no bagels, no waffles, nothing. A single tray steams empty vapor into the still air.

Stepping outside into the street, the salt whips my hair borne on the ocean gusts.

I walk towards the boardwalk and try to recall her number. Try and think of what happened.

IV.

It annoyed me how slow she drank her wine, we sat in the pub, the kids doodling on their placemats as I finished the flight, an IPA that was pretty tasty, a pilsner that was fine, a blood orange IPA and this sour beer that I couldn’t stand so I sipped it through our appetizers before downing it.

“You don’t have to drink it if you don’t like it.” She says, sipping her first glass of wine. Our first stop arriving in town is this pub I checked out on Yelp. I order a glass of this imperial IPA, she didn’t say anything. They bring the food. They brought the beer in a nice tulip glass, golden amber and it smelled like hops and apricots. The food was good. On the way out I got a growler of an imperial stout to take back to the hotel. Snap another pic for Instagram of the shop, all the beers lined up.

“You ok?” She asks as we walked back to the motel in the night, past the dog walkers and window shoppers, down the boardwalk where the fry grease and sea-spray mic.

“I’m fine.” I say shifting the growler to my other hand, hooking it through my finger and holding Colton’s hand. The boys just stared at the arcade lights and loud music. We bought them some ice cream.

I spent the night nursing the growler and changing channels after they all fell asleep on the other queen. Later I stood out on the balcony and watched the Playland shut down its rides, taking deep pulls off of the growler as I heard the fading melody of The Police’s “Message in a Bottle”. Each bright light winked out and the music wound down like the batteries died. Then I let the drink go to my head, and somehow, I floated to my bed.

V.

The boardwalk is dead, bleached by salt and a sun that is now hidden, shuttered and closed. Just the ghost winds ripping through the metal and unlit signs. I can feel the headache coming back, my sides ache and bring sugars up to the back of my throat. The sky is a bland gray, covered in clouds. No birds fly. Nothing.

I check the candy shop but it is closed, shuttered. I go to the arcade but it is closed with rusted white metal. Looking down the vacant length of the pale wood boardwalk There is no one.

VI.

The first morning I had to sleep it off, she took the kids down to the beach with their sand toys. I took a cold shower and gulped a bit of the warm uncarbonated stout, I left the lid off all night, before I put on my flip flops and went to the beach.

Flopping on the rattan mat she had laid out on the sand, I look up at her as she sits in her lime green camping chair.

“Feel better?” She asks from behind her large black sunglasses, she looks like a movie star as she reads her book.

“Yep.” I say and see the boys tumbling in the cold wet sand by the shoreline playing with their bright sand castle molds.

“Dinner was good.” I offer as a probe to see how angry she is, and reach into the bag.

“It was.” She agrees, she doesn’t sound angry. Couples play with wet dogs up and down the beach.

“Did you like the beer?”

“Yeah.” I say and stretch out feeling for my shades. She doesn’t say anything. “Seen my sunglasses?” I ask. She holds them out to me.

“You done?” She asks, more serious. I take the Ray Bans and place them on my face.

“Yeah, yeah.”

“Going to do that tonight?” She asks, as a cop rides his bike through the sand.

“No.”

“Ok.” She says and goes back to the book. Kyle comes up to me with his castle form full of sand. “Do you still want to visit that other brewery?”

“Yeah, Purgation Brewing? Yeah. They’re special.” I say, “Hey buddy.”

“Hey daddy, can you help us make a sand castle?”

I join the boys down by the shore, let the cold water hit my feet. We build walls, and mounds of sand, decorate it with broken shells of dead things. I carve a moat with my hands. The tide comes in.

“Hey guys watch your toys.” They scramble into the shallow surf to grab the drifting pink parapet and yellow rampart but one gets away. Colton stands there upset staring into the sea, angry something got lost. Our castle is annihilated by the incoming tide.

VII.

Trying to lift the metal shutters of the shops is futile. I stomp down the boardwalk. The t-shirt shop, the toy shop, the surf shop, all are closed and locked. The cruel metal grates don’t budge. I kick them and their brash echo repeats. I turn by the French-fry stand and kick another metal shutter, but it moves. I grab the rusty silver handle with my good hand and pull it up. A bar. It’s interior black, it’s Bud Lite sign with a palm tree is off. The door opens to my hand and I enter the dark space.

“Anyone here?” I say to the void inside. I pass the stacked bar stools, and tall chairs, my feet stick to the ground and it reeks of spilt beer that stirs something within me.

Passing the long black bar I peek behind the kitchen doors into the closed kitchen. I pick up the phone, listen to the dial tone but I can’t remember her number.

I turn back to the bar and slide open the waist high beer fridge. It’s cold inside as I rummage around. Killian’s, Fosters, Bud Light, a bunch of shit and then some Flying Dog. I crack open the IPA on the edge of the bar, then take down a stool and sit in the dark to listen to the wind as the outside light shifts its shade from the looming clouds above.

VIII.

Purgation Brewing is a large sprawling complex, a food truck out back, a distillery to the side, and a large area for distribution. The tap room is all glass and chrome, modern and sleek. We pull in around the winding curved roads. The lot is full. Some nerds are playing ultimate Frisbee.

“Is this another beer place?” Colton asks from the backseat annoyed.

“Yes.” I say. Because it is.

“Do they have anything for kids?” Kyle asks. I don’t answer. Emily says something but I am out of the car. I can smell the brewing. Some people holding beer glasses play a makeshift mini golf course around the yard. They laugh.

“I don’t want to go on the tour.” Colton says as we walk up to the line.

“Sweetheart, it’s just a short one.” Emily says.

“There’s no games here.” Kyle adds. I hand the bearded guy at the desk my ID.

“Hey, why don’t we come back later.” Emily says to me, some sort of peace offering.

“Later?” I ask. The beard man hands me a pint, some signature brown ale that tastes thin as I place to my lips.

“Yeah later. I don’t think they’re going to make it.”

“But I thought we were going to do this together?” I sip the glass.

“This way sir—” the bearded fool says to me. Emily waves him away.

“I’m going to go see if we can play that mini golf course they have over there.” Emily says.

“Ok.” She walks away guiding the kids through the couples and leashed dogs out the clean glass doors. They don’t look back at me.

I stay with my group, watch the pitch about grains and malts. Watch the steam rise off of things. Pound the pint. Around the corner another tour guide hands us some cans of a shandy. I hate shandies but I still down it. After the tour we end at the bar, they ask me what I want but I forget. They give me a strong IPA. Signature. I sit at the bar and watch the crowd gather. Popular place. They ask if I want to start a tab so I say ok and hand them my card, the one Emily doesn’t check. I look through the windows but I don’t see Emily and the kids. They bring me another IPA. I ask for something else, say it wasn’t my favorite and they bring me a cask conditioned ale. Now we’re talking. But they leave the IPA. I check through the windows again. I see Emily standing up behind the picnic area searching for me. I down the IPA, grab the cask conditioned ale and head out the door. I slosh the cup a little as I meander among the lunching groups of friends toward their table made of reclaimed wood.

Colton holds Emily’s phone playing a game and Kyle sits holding his head in his hands.

“Hey.” I say crossing the gravel picnic area. “How was mini golf?”

“Stupid.” Colton says.

“It was for grown ups,” Emily says. “Let’s go, ok?”

“I need to get something from the shop.”

“No, we should go now.” She says it more forcefully. I can see she’s been crying.

“They have this hard to find IPA. I’ve only seen it on Instagram,” I say but Colton is already going to the car. “Do you want a cider or something?”

“No, I want to go,” She says, “Colton.”

“Colton! Hey buddy.” I run after him balancing the beer. I catch up to him. He throws Emily’s phone on the ground.

“I want to go home.” Colton says.

“Give me my phone.” Emily shouts, I bend to pick it up but lose my balance, falling down and crushing the beer glass on the ground.

“You idiot.” Emily says and snatches the phone from me. I laugh and look at the blood and beer. On a delay, it begins to sting.

“Get in the car.” She says, some guy with a moustache comes over kneels by me trying to care for my wound, I watch Emily drag the kids to the Audi somewhere in the labyrinth of parked cars.

I don’t get in the car but I watch it go. I feel displaced as the beer begins to hit. I am brought to an office, someone looks at my hand, they offer me gauze. I wrap it up. It isn’t that bad. I go to get my card, they open a special bourbon barrel Belgian style triple. Someone feels bad for me and offers me a glass. I take it. I drink it. Like dessert it goes down smooth. As I go down slowly to the floor.

It tastes as amazing coming up as it did going down.

IX.

I walk down the beach in the gray light, the sand looks darker. Like a moon. I tilt my head back and let the IPA go down, piney grapefruit. Citrus hops. Great. It’s the wrong beer for the turn in the weather, I need something more malty or a stout. My pants slip, I have a cold one weight down each pocket. There’s sand in my shoe when I sit on the exposed part of the jetty. The waves break near me spraying me with foam. I peel off the label and roll it up, stick it down the brown neck of the bottle and chuck it into the violent wave. Pulling out another bottle from my jeans I crack the cap off on the wood, let the cap rest in the sand. The waves build up at the shore, then past the jetty, even further out maybe on the sandbar. Then the bottle is empty. I roll up the label, imagine all the things I need to say on it and cram it back in the bottle. Toss it and watch it vanish into the wave. Swallowed up by the sea. I look back at the empty beach towards the abandoned hotels. I think of how nice Emily’s face used to feel pressed to mine.

I turn back to the sea, expecting to see a tidal wave coming to swallow me whole. But it’s just the same waves. Except at my feet in the surf is a small pink sand toy for making ramparts. I pick it up. I hold it close.

#TerenceHannum #newprose

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