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Portrait of the artist as a young witch

Lovecraft's Zadok Allen recalls the mysterious childhood of Brian Quass




Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin!

Oh, hi there, young feller. Brian Quass, say ye? Let's take a load off yonder at that abandoned wharf opposite Devil's Reef and I'll tell you all about him -- in return for some hefty pulls on that whiskey bottle, that is, what you been ostentatiously waving in my face ever since you shuffled out of that dingy variety store on Eliot Street. That's it, partner, forward march, and I'll start rattling on en route.

Brian Quass. Brian Quass. Let me see.

I calculate I last saw Brian back in '63. Yes, indeedy. I can mind him shooting dice of a Sunday on Paine Street in front of the old Gilman House, that rickety five-story fire hazard what the sea things call a hotel, though it's really just a glorified mouse trap for ferners what get prying into things that ain't none of their bi'ness (viz the Loyal Order of Dagon and anything connected wid it!) Hah! Brian was a mitely little critter back then but he could outthrow Cap'n O'bed himself in a game of standard craps, seven-eleven, Sic Bo, Farkle, Liar's Dice, or even Yahtzee.

Folks allowed that Brian had uncanny luck, but there were dark whispers about the child's father makin' bargains with the devil in the South Sea Islands, where he travelled as a bos'n in the twenties and thirties on the Elizy Brig an' the Ranger scow, both of 'em Gilman ventures. That's where the tiny tyro must have got the strange jewelry that he would fuss with and mutter over before making those unnaturally lucky dice throws o' his'n. I can see him now, that grubby little half-pint clad in his trademark suspenders, a kind of autistic Dennis the Menace, taking the entire adult male population of Innsmouth straight to the cleaners with his highly improbable luck. Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin!


Mind you, no one thought that Brian was cheating at first, let alone using some kind of foreign hoci-poci to maintain his increasingly eerie winning streak. But then Librarian Adoniram Southwick let it slip that the boy had been repeatedly checking out the Innsmouth Library's otherwise shunned edition of the Necronomicon of the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred, and that each time the forbidden tome was returned to the Main Street branch, the pages of the surprisingly extensive gaming section were found to have been shamefully dog-eared by the wunderkind, as if the prodigy were somehow extracting powerful gaming tips from the twisted Medieval Latin.

Well, things came to a head around Brian's 15th birthday. That was the year that the Innsmouth native shook his way to the World Craps Championship in nearby Arkham. Maybe you saw that. It was broadcast extensively on Swedish television. They called him ID: the Innsmouth Dicer, and he was definitely on a roll that year, defeating world champion Linda 'Lowroller' Mabry in eight straight sets and taking away half of the tournament's special awards into the bargain, including The Golden Shovel Award, which until then had seemingly been the lifelong property of one Missouri Rick -- although the victories proved bittersweet for Brian after a good half-dozen of his bested opponents publicly accused him of witchcraft shortly after the competition pulled up stakes and returned to its customary venue in Vegas. Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin!

Can't say I seen hide nor hair of Brian since. But legend has it that he put his tournament winnings toward a tour of the South Sea Islands later that year, probably to do some fact-checking on the seemingly improbable yarns that his maritime father had spun for him back in his Innsmouth days. Fact is, I had nigh on forgotten about old 'ID' until you come here, young feller, and started pumping me with this here liquor, tellin' me you were after a what-cha-ma-call-it bio-graphy of Innsmouth's most famous (and indeed only) sports hero, if you can call back-alley games of Perquackey and Chuck-a-luck a sport, that is.

Another serving of hooch, if you please, young feller. Mene, mene -- Ahem! I say Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin!

Say you're fixin' to put my words on something they call an Internet, eh? Sounds like the devil's work to me, boy, along with your wild talk of e-mails, iPods, and smartphones, and something you call a Roku de-vice, whatever that be. (And I used to think Chief Walakea talked nonsense. Even them South Sea Islanders couldn't have come up with all the dubious-sounding gewgaws as ye speak of!)

Humph. And people wonder why I'm forever muttering Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin! Well, news flash, young feller: just stop spooking this here 92-year-old toper with 21st-century devil-speak and maybe then he'll clam up. Until then, these lips were made for mutterin'!





People who liked this article are often seen mulling around Hammond's Drug Store in Newburyport around 10 A.M. of a weekday, waiting for Joe Sargent's rattle-trap of a bus to take them to the secluded port town of Innsmouth on some kind of routine business trip or other. Little do they realize that the town in question has been recently taken over by a legion of Frog-Fish things that are 'mixing bloods' with the locals while aggressively evangelizing a new so-called religion dubbed the Loyal Order of Dagon. Fortunately, the majority of these commercial wayfarers miraculously survive their brief sojourn in this shadow-haunted backwater, though a good 90% of them go on to tell wild stories in Ipswich later that night about strange noises issuing from behind the boarded-up windows of many an attic and basement ("as wasn't supposed to have nobody in 'em," as one local historian likes to put it, namely Zadok Allen, the town's liquourish nonagenarian, who dishes up color commentary on the town at the rate of 500 words per pint of "the good stuff," as he calls it).








Copyright 2017, Brian Quass quass@quass.com (follow on Twitter)