Monday, September 30, 2013

Clash of the Figments - Chapter 13

When I finally came to, I got up and ran forward, suddenly feeling the need to escape from the oppressive gloom.  Elbowing panhandlers out of my way, ignoring the come-ons from the working girls (except for one brief conversation with a cute little dish in row 53 wearing a mini-skirt to die for; I got her number and promised to call), and finally just kicking one guy straight in the nuts for no real reason, I reached the curtain and burst back into First Class. 

The flight attendant thoughtfully whacked at the reaching hands of the coach passengers with a canoe paddle until they receded back to their domain, the anguished moans & shrieks fading away as they went. 

Weary and sore, I plopped down in my seat with a sigh of relief and realized that I had been gone so long that Jimmy now had a notarized deed to his new property and was in the process of selling timeshares on the outer rings of Saturn.  Then I saw Simon emerge from the lav, which only confirmed how long I had actually spent in coach. 

Simon sat down and I called to Jimmy to put off selling mineral rights on his planet and join an impromptu meeting.  After the obligatory “Wha-zaaaaaaa’s  we got down to brass tacks. 

“Alright,” I began, “What have you two found out while I was gone?” 

“If you drop your gum in the toilet up there, don’t bother to try and reach your hand in to get it.  It’s a waste of time.  Or so I’ve heard,”  Simon offered. 

“Yeah dude, and if you look at the chick in 3B when she goes for her wine you get a pretty decent cleavage shot,”  added Jimmy. 

I bit my tongue so hard my elbows bled.  “Let me rephrase the question,”  I said.  “Tell me what you have learned that specifically relates to our mission.” 

“I thought I just did,”  replied Simon. 

“What mission?”  said Jimmy. 

I didn’t bother replying.  Instead I got up and walked to the cockpit.  I needed information and I needed it now.  Like, where the hell was this plane going?  So, not bothering to knock, I pushed the cockpit door open and instantly came face to face with the business ends of no less than seven serious looking handguns held by all three of the very serious looking pilots. 

Freeze asshole!  they yelled seriously. 

Figuring that this might be a bad time to rush up and hug them, I did as they suggested, and rather than asking who was holding the 7th gun (not to mention who was now flying the plane), I quickly excused myself. 

“Uh .  .  .  .  my bad.  Sorry, sorry.  Nothing to see here.  Sorry.  I’ll be on my way now.  You gents take care.  Just leaving the cockpit.  Backing up now.  Sorry again for the intrusion.  Bye now.” 

When I had backed out and shut the door, I took a few deep breaths and then went to the lavatory and changed my shorts.  All cleaned up, I took a different tact and approached one of the flight attendants, throwing a question at her and leaving it hanging in the air as tactfully as the smoke from the joint she was smoking. 

“Hey there, stewardess person,”  I said, “when do we arrive at .  .  .  .  .” 

“The airport?”  She said in all her blondeness, hiding the doob behind her back and waving the smoke away.  “About 20 minutes.” 

Damn.  Snookered me. 

“Yeah, 20 minutes.  That’s gonna be great, just great.  Say, yeah, this airport, um, what is it called again?” 

“That would be AIA,”  she said with a bounce. 

Damn.  Snookered again. 

“Good,”  I said.  “Real nice.  Tell you what, let’s do something crazy and go out on a limb here for a moment and assume that I don’t know what those letters would stand for.  If that were the case – and I know that’s a real stretch – what would be your explanation to me as to what those letters represent?” 

“Why, the first letter in each word of the airport’s name, silly,”  she said giggling. 

“Yeah, thanks, that’s terrific information.  You know, you’ve been just a fountain of knowledge here.  I really appreciate all your time you whacked out reefer smoking heifer bitch.” 

I retook my seat and waited for the plane to land. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Clash of the Figments - Chapter 12

I walked casually down the aisle of first class toward the aft end of the plane.  That’s the back.  Not sure why they call it aft, but they do the same thing on boats too although you can also call it the stern, the top of which is the fantail.  No stern or fantail on a plane, just forward and aft.  So right now I was moving physically forward to the aft section.  This made no sense to me at all.  Even though I wasn’t walking backwards, I couldn’t be moving forward if I was headed aft.  I got confused, had a small aneurysm, and fainted dead away to the floor. 

I woke up a while later, looking up at the ceiling.  At least I think it was called the ceiling.  I decided not to blow anymore brain cells and refused to go further down that path.  Besides, something had caught my eye to reinforce my belief that a certain Zodar the Spy Moose had been on this plane.  Namely one set of fresh moose prints running all along the roof of the compartment. 

Looking at the spoor more closely, I realized that there were only prints of his hind feet, which meant that he’d been tip-toeing.  And though I was no zoologist (and in fact had no idea what a zoologist was), I knew that anytime a renegade Russian Spy Moose has been tip-toeing on the ceiling of a passenger aircraft, he’s been up to no good. 

The footprints headed back.  To the stern .  .  .  .er, I mean, aft. 

I got to my feet, approached the curtain separating First Class from Coach, paused slightly to steel my nerve, and slipped quietly through. 

The first thing that hit me was the stench.  A nauseating aroma of death and decay permeated the air, and I recoiled because of it.  The second thing to hit me was a fist with four large knuckles, which came without warning from the side and caught me square in the jaw.  I recoiled from that as well, watching my hat fall to the floor and settle in a pool of urine.  I turned to face the threat – if anybody’s gonna be punching somebody it’s gonna be me – but there was no one there.  Through the gloom and murk I could see a man running down the aisle on the far side of the plane, huge floppy antler shaped ears bobbing a quick retreat into the bowels of the 7- somethin’ - 7. 

What the hell? 

I raised my hand to my face.  Blood.  Wiped my injured lip on my arm.  I bent down to pick up my hat.  Pee.  Wiped it on a woman sitting in 24-C.  With the bodily fluid cleanup complete, I continued my way further into the depths of the aircraft. 

Around the second stewardess station the compartment had embraced an eerie twilight.  Vines hung from the overhead and a thick mist rolled around my knees, obscuring the creatures who scurried below.  Two children in rags sat in front of a broken television, warming their hands by the fire burning inside.  The stripped remains of a sport SUV stood off to the side on blocks, chopped down to the serial numbers. 

I never fly coach. 

I stopped to let my eyes adjust and lit a cigarette.  In this type of atmosphere, it was the perfect complement to the coat and hat.  Very 30’s retro.  But I didn’t have time to enjoy the moment or gloat in the envious stares I was getting for long.  A stewardess – one with a dick – appeared out of nowhere and promptly spouted off some airline regulation about smoking being prohibited.  I told him I was happy for him but apparently that wasn’t what he wanted to hear.  He wanted me to put it out. 

Still smarting from the fact that I’d been sucker punched just minutes before and now totally annoyed that my moment was being interrupted, I wasn’t in the mood to hear it.  So I cleared his sinuses with a meaty haymaker and parked his regulation abiding ass on the carpet. 

Just a word here, folks.  If you ever come across a big guy in the dark wearing clothes that went out of fashion 60 years earlier, and this same individual is just standing there in a haze of smoke looking like he might like to punch someone, it’s usually in your best interests not to provoke him.  Unless you have a horrible toothache and can’t find a dentist. 

I caught a sudden movement out of the corner of my eye, but by the time I looked it was gone, whatever it was.  Probably a squirrel.  But it did lead my eye to an area just between rows 65 & 66 that didn’t look quite right.  I went over, yanked a few people from their seats, and knelt down for a better look.  Sure enough, there was a passage beaten through the underbrush.  I looked for trail sign and spotted several.  After a quick check of the spoor, I realized that something had recently passed this way.  I also realized that I had just used the word “spoor”  twice in the same chapter.  Maybe I was turning into Wilbur Smith.  But if you’ve never read a book by Wilbur Smith, you don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about, do you?  Fucking idiot. 

I wondered who or what had recently come through the trail; my floppy eared friend with a penchant for surprise attacks, perhaps?  Maybe. 

I pulled out my gun and felt the pilot adjust the flaps to compensate for the weight of it.  Working slowly along the path, I went even deeper into the bowels of the aircraft, the gaping muzzle of my gun staring into the darkness with a black dead eye. 

The going was slower now.  The terrain grew rocky and pitted.  Complex mangrove root systems tried to snare my legs and the dense brush & improperly stowed luggage made movement almost impossible.  My progress got so slow at one point that even I got bored with the whole thing and dozed off for a while.  When I awoke I had to chase two kids out of the barrel of my gun.  They had apparently crawled in there for shelter.  And of course one of the little bastards had stuck gum in the rifling groove so I had to waste more precious time cleaning that out. 

At last I came to the rear of the cabin where even the airline crew looked like something out of a John Carpenter movie.  I stood there, puzzled, as there was not a sign of my quarry anywhere.  Well, perhaps there was a sign of him, but if there was, I missed it since I wasn’t sure what or who I was looking for in the first place. 

Then I spied it.  One of the bathroom doors was ajar.  Without thinking (okay, that’s a lie; I did think about it, but only briefly), I raised the mergers & acquisitions end of my gun and fired off six rapid shots into the small room, the BLAM!  BLAM!  BLAM!  BLAM!  BLAM!  BLAM! of the weapon obliterating all other noise.  I looked over my shoulder to see if anyone noticed but saw no looks in my direction. 

Peering through the gray smoke and shattered fiberglass of the lavatory, I looked to see if I had scored any hits, but other than the general carnage and the decapitated rhinoceros, nothing seemed amiss other than a few gaping holes in the fuselage and the strong smell of jet fuel in the air.  I shut the door and hoped no one would notice the damage until after we landed. 

Since the trail had gone cold, I decided to make tracks of my own back to the creature comforts of first class.  But as I turned to head back, I collected the second cheap shot of the afternoon, only this was no love tap.  I remember falling back slowly to the ground, watching the primates in the branches above swinging and chattering in slow motion.  Then the world turned black. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Clash of the Figments - Chapter 11

I heard a “ding”  first and then a voice told me that the seatbelt sign was off, but it would be preferable if I remained seated unless I had something important to do.  Not those exact words, but I get paid to read between the lines. 

Not sensing any treaties between world powers needing immediate facilitating, I heeded the advice.  Instead, I slowly opened my eyes and looked around.  Rows of seated people.  Small confined space.  Steady vibration & mechanical noise in the background.  My initial assessment – that I was on a bus – was quickly replaced when I looked out of the window and noticed a pronounced absence of asphalt anywhere in the near vicinity.  Accompanying this in close proximity was a serious lack of any land, apparently hanging out wherever the asphalt was.  There was, in fact, nothing but a lot of feet and the blue ocean below.  And me without my swim fins. 

The presence of a wing was the final piece of the puzzle.  In case you’re not used to detective work, let me spell it out for you: I was on an airplane. 

Like I said, I get paid to do this. 

Not a lot of difference between a bus and a plane.  Sure, your survival rate is a little higher on a bus if the engine suddenly decides to quit, but overall, not too different.  We were stretched out in first class, me on the aisle and Simon next to me fogging up the window.  I decided Simon had milked out this hangover thing long enough and taped over his mouth and nostrils.  It took almost three minutes before his brain registered that it had no oxygen supply and would be legally dead in another 60 seconds. 

His eyes popped open.  “Mggfleduh,”  he said. 


“Mggfleduh!  Mggfleduh!” 

“Look, Simon,”  I said.  “If I want to talk gibberish I’ll strike up a conversation with Jimmy.” 

He looked at me quizzically which I thought was a pretty funny way to look and told him so.  At about the same time that I realized he couldn’t breathe, he realized that his hands were not tied together behind his back and he reached up to rip the tape off his mouth.  We both breathed a sigh of relief.  Him, because life giving oxygen was again pouring into his lungs.  Me, because his silly Groucho Marx moustache was ripped off with the tape.  I thought it was an improvement.  Simon then screamed, either in agreement or pain.  Remembering my first aid training, I put a handy alcohol swab on his upper lip. 

“Welcome back Simon.” 

“Yes, thank you.  And a good morning to you as well.”  He removed the remaining strip of tape from his nose, pulling out a fair quantity of nose hair with it.  Good tape. 

“Looking a little green this afternoon,”  I said. 

“Ohhh, my head.  Where are we?”  he asked. 

Since I had already figured this one out, I shared the answer with him. 

“I can see that we’re on an airplane,”  he snapped, “  but why are we on it, how did we get on it, and where are we going?” 

See, this is the thing with Simon that pisses me off.  I mean, if he was so sure that we were on a plane, then why did he ask in the first place?  And you notice how he immediately throws in not one, but four – possibly three – more questions on top of it that he knows damn well I haven’t had time to work out yet.  Just goes to show you can’t believe what they tell you about Ivy League schools. 

I shoved a knuckle sandwich down his throat and the questions stopped real quick. 

Though I hated to admit it, Simon had brought up some valid questions.  I decided that I should probably address them.  But first, I had to satisfy a more important question.  Like, where was Jimmy? 

Fortunately, with only a few surreptitious glances around the cabin (this is where a trench coat and fedora work wonders), I spotted him across the aisle two rows back.  For the next several minutes I got a little ticked off since the words “aisle”  and “isle”  sound alike, but are spelled differently and have completely different meanings.  Not to mention that both of them have a silent “s”  for crying out loud which is just about the stupidest damn thing since the entire plot of the James Bond movie Moonraker.  No doubt some uppity Brit with nasty teeth had thought up both things.  Probably Roger Moore.  I mean, he never quite “got”  Bond, so why should he know shit about spelling?  Didn’t hold a candle to Connery.  And don’t even start on that dickhead in Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  That was the lamest Bond movie ever.  Not only does he have the gall to replace Connery, but he falls in love and gets married?  Please.  Bond get married?  Why?  At least they knocked the chick off before the end of the movie. 
But I digress. 

I spotted Jimmy across the aisle two rows back.  Dammit, I already said that and now I’m pissed off all over again.  Have you ever seen a boy named “Kaisle”  or “Kisle”?  No, never, it’s “Kyle”, always Kyle.  Silent “s” my ass.  The English language is so fucked up. 

I heaved a sigh of relief at finding Jimmy, though whether that was because he was with us or because he wasn’t at large among the general public I couldn’t tell and would rather not speculate on. 

About this time I also noticed that I was a humming a song.  It was either Meet Me in St. Louis or Metallica’s Enter Sandman, both classics in their own right.  Regardless, the humming was a trigger, and it all came back in a rush; Rok Hard, the Barking Spider, Stinky Pete’s mysterious disappearance, and some damn fine two part harmony if I do say so myself. 

Rok was going to provide me with some information on the Spy Moose.  Something to do with a foreign country.  He must have given me a lead or we wouldn’t be on this plane, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember what. 

My mind was blank between my late night warbling with Rok and waking up on this airplane, and try as I might, I couldn’t fill in the gap.  It was almost as if an entire portion of my memory had been erased. 

That’s when I noticed Chapter 10 was missing. 

“What do you mean Chapter 10 is missing?” exclaimed Simon when I informed him.  “What the hell happened to it?” 

“Two possibilities,”  I told him.  “First, we must take into serious consideration the fact that it may have been removed by the Spy Moose to conceal vital information as to his whereabouts.  Obviously, something important happened in Chapter 10 or he wouldn’t have risked taking the whole thing.” 

“Is he capable of doing that?”  asked Simon skeptically. 

“I don’t know,”  I replied, “but we have to assume that he may have powers that weren’t included in his dossier.” 

“That’s pronounced ‘dos -ee – ay’, Dick,”  said Simon, “not ‘dos -ee – er’.” 

“Yeah, whatever.” 

“What’s the other possibility?”  he asked. 

“Well, this is only an outside theory.  And it’s a little vague.  But it may be that the author wrote the first nine chapters on an IBM compatible laptop that he was using from work.  Then, when he left that job for another one and turned the laptop in, he continued writing on an iMac at his home which, as we all know, doesn’t have a floppy drive to back up his work.  Then, in a fit of anger, and in an effort to purge the iMac of all of the unnecessary files that their 16 year old son had downloaded from the internet, his wife deleted almost everything on the hard drive, including the aforementioned Chapter 10.” 

“You’re right, that is a little fuzzy around the edges.  A little far-fetched too, don’t you think?”  Simon asked. 

“Yeah, I think.  My money is on the moose.” 

That settled, we began to contemplate where we were going and what we were going to do when we got there.  About that time Jimmy stood up and announced to the entire cabin that he owned a planet.  Apparently the fact that no person, country, or entity had yet claimed any of the planets had just struck him.  Or maybe it had struck him a few days ago and he had been secretly plotting since. 

“You what?”  I asked Jimmy. 

“I want Saturn.  I’m just letting everyone know now, so it’s like, official and everything.” 


“Well, I was just thinking, you know?  About how in the old days dudes like Columbus and Magellan and Socrates used to just land on these countries, you know?  And they’d like, say, ‘Hey all you dudes, this land is like, mine and shit’.  So, I was thinking that, like, well, there’s nothing left to claim, you know?  Except, like, you know – whoa dude – who owns the planets?  Like nobody, you know?  So, I want Saturn.” 

Whoa dude, indeed.  I was amazed.  Not so much at the prospect of Jimmy wanting a planet as him stringing together over 50 words in one stretch. 

“I see.” 

“Yeah, you know, I mean, I think it’s fair and all.  I mean, nobody’s claimed it yet have they?” 

I assured Jimmy that no one had.  I looked over at Simon to see if he had any input.  He said nothing, but I noticed that he continued to breathe my air. 

“So.  Cool.  It’s mine.  So if anybody ever asks, you know, like, who owns Saturn, it’s like, hey man, Jimmy does.” 

“Okay.  But why Saturn?” 

“It’s just way cool, you know?  I mean, like the rings?  They’re like, you know, ‘Get back’ dude.” 

Get back indeed.  I assured Jimmy that we would register his claim with the Federation of Planets at the first opportunity.  Just to make sure it was on record.  Jimmy seemed satisfied, but as a precaution, stood up and went around getting signatures of witnesses to his proclamation. 

“So, okay, you guys can have, like, the other planets,”  he explained to the other passengers.  “Jupiter too.  I just want Saturn.” 

He was received with a few smiles and not a few looks of utter bewilderment, but Jimmy didn’t seem to notice.  Instead, he slipped the passenger next to him – an attorney as it turned out, but is that really surprising when you think about how many of those little bastards there really are? – a smooth Abraham and had him start preparing the official paperwork for his claim. 

Simon informed me that he had to pee and asked if I had noticed whether anyone had recently gone to the bathroom, because if I knew they were occupied, he would just wait until he saw someone come out rather than stand outside the door, which would be not only embarrassing to him (since people would be looking at him and obviously would know why he was standing there) but might also make whoever was in the bathroom feel pressured, which might cause them to freeze up and actually take longer to go –

I could feel a brain embolism coming on if I didn’t get away from him. 

“Listen, Simon, not that you’re boring me to tears or anything, but I’m gonna have a look around this tank,”  I said getting up.  “Something here doesn’t feel quite right.” 

“You mean .  .  .” 

“Yeah, Moose-Business.  Antler hanky panky.  Call it what you want, it ain’t good.” 

“But how can you – ” 

“Hey, with the fucking questions already.  Just a hunch, okay?  I’m gonna do a little looking around.” 

And with that I pulled the brim of the fedora over my eyes like the little kids playing T-ball for the first time do.  You know, pull it down all the way to your ears and just over your eyes so you have to tilt your head back to see.  Makes you look like a geek, but the little geeky boy look has landed me some prime tail in the past.  And if my hunch turned out to be nothing, maybe I could score with some chick back in coach.  It’s all about priorities and options. 

Timothy Dalton was okay, I guess. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Clash of the Figments - Chapter 9 (Part 2)

 “Rok Hard?”  Simon repeated, his head wobbling slightly.  “What kind of stupid name is that?” 

“Simon, I’m sure Rok here didn’t pick his own name,”  I said. 

“Actually, I did,”  Rok said.  “Fits me don’t you think?” 

“Rather smacks of sexual innuendo, I’d say,”  Simon said.  He turned to me.  Apparently forgot why.  Turned back to Rok. 

“And I suppose your wife’s name would be something along the lines of ‘Vixen’?”  he asked, suddenly having a difficult time keeping his eyes from working independently of each other. 

“Nah, her name’s Areola,”  Rok answered. 

“Ah, that would have been my second guess.”  And with that Simon fell off the stool. 

“He’ll be okay,”  Rok said to me.  “Won’t be worth much for a few days, but he’ll be okay.”  He leaned back onto the bar in front of me.  “Now, maybe you can tell me what you want here?” 

The first thing that popped up in my head was a strawberry shake.  No lie.  I didn’t have the balls to ask for one of course, but if I had I would have been justified since I really did have a hankering for one at the moment and he did just ask me after all.  However, my vast experiences with establishments such as this coupled with my will to live told me that an order for a cool and fruity strawberry shake would probably be interpreted as a request for some inbred genetically defective redhead hillbilly to come over and beat the crap out of me. 

So instead of actually sticking my head up my ass and petitioning a death sentence, or worse, my very own Barking Spider (or whatever other arachnid type potions that might lurk in the bowels of the recipe file), I decided to go straight up with the man.  So I threw out the whole story to him; the D.C.  suits, the renegade Russian farm animals – the whole nine yards, plus a couple of extra feet that, while completely fabricated and untrue, gave the story a little more pizazz. 

When I finished, I stubbed out my cigarette in the ashtray – when the hell do I keep lighting these things? – and drained the rest of my beer.  Old hindquarter arms, aka Rok, just stood there staring at me.  I hoped that he was considering how to answer my request for information and not trying to decide how much of me he could stuff into a glove compartment.  He finally reached up to his face and plucked out what was either a hair or a small fir tree from his nose. 

“Come on in the back,”  he said to me, motioning with his big ole’ Andre the Giant head.  “Your friends ain’t going nowhere.”  This was true.  Jimmy’s drool line now ended in a pool large enough to stock with bass.  Simon was still laid out cold on the floor; a pedestrian speed bump. 

I followed Rok into the backroom and felt as though I had stepped into another world.  Instead of a dirty slaughterhouse filled with meathooks and chicken feathers as I was expecting, it was as sterile as a bank waiting room.  Same muzak too.  Shiny clean linoleum flooring fit enough for Officer’s County on any ship covered the floor.  Four high powered computers with big color monitors hummed in the corner around a set of desks, and a large status board showing the layout of the globe hung tacked to the wall, many countries an explosion of red colored pins.  The computers certainly looked impressive, though I must admit that I feared them more than I understood them.  As far as I was concerned, a hard drive referred to interstate travel in a Hyundai.  ROM was something you mixed with Coke. 

The room smelled of disinfectant and the air was cool.  A backup diesel generator sat by itself, ready to start up should any loss of power occur. 

“Wow,”  I said, but it came out “Holy Shit.” 

Rok smiled and winked at me.  “Yeah, pretty impressive, ain’t it?  My own private war room.  Have a seat.”  He motioned to a chair and we both sat. 

“I was wondering when you’d show up,”  Rok continued,”  Stinky Pete said you would.” 

“You know Stinky Pete?”  I asked. 

“Knew.  Yeah, I did.  Stink and me went back a long way.  Desert Storm, Grenada, Somalia, Vietnam, the Six-Day War – ” 

“You’re Jewish?” 

“What?  Oh, no.  Just looked like a good time.  So we got circumcised, grabbed a couple cases of Coors, and hit the beach.  Not real sure who we were fighting there, but we blew up a lot of shit.” 


“Listen, me and Stink were following this moose fella since he attacked that first farm in Germany.” 

“I thought it was in Spain,”  I said. 

“Yeah, Spain, Germany, whatever.  What’s the difference?  Can’t understand a damn thing they say either place.  A foreign country, okay?” 


“This Zodar dude is one bad piece of business.  Got everyone scared.  Brass don’t know what to do about it.  So me and Stinky started listening in, getting the hi-pri dope and keeping track of this guy.  Figured we stay on top of the situation and hang tight until the suits come and ask us for help.  Everything’s going just like we planned and then last night Stinky disappeared and his place turns into a parking lot.  Nobody knows nothing.” 

“Oh come on, someone tore down his whole bar, carted the rubble away, and paved the whole thing in a single day?  That’s just a bit fast don’t you think?” 

“Work was contracted by Disney.” 

“Oh.  Well, I guess that makes sense.  Also explains why you can’t get any answers about it.  Disney’s tighter than an inner mob circle.” 

“Don’t I know it.  Anyway, I’m glad you finally showed up.  I got some stuff that might help you nab this Zodar character.” 

“What about you?  Aren’t you still planning to go after him?’

“Well, you know, now with Stinky gone, someone’s got to mind the bar.” 

It was refreshing to see where national security and the threat of global extinction of all animal life on the planet fit in to Rok’s priority list. 

“Hey, no grog without a grogmeister,”  I noted. 

“Damn straight.  I consider myself a pubic servant.” 

“You mean public servant.” 

“Nah, pubic.  Kind of goes with the name, you know?” 

I did. 

“So, back to the moose.  What kind of information do you have on him?” 

“Not so fast, friend,”  Rok said.  “I don’t have much company back here now that Stinky’s gone.  Let’s maybe you and me sing some Neil Diamond songs before we talk shop.” 

“Stinky’s only been gone a day.” 

“Yeah,”  he said.  “Still .  .  .   

I could see that Rok was in the mood for a duet and without much else going and a couple of beers in my gut I had to admit the prospect of a little two part harmony was inviting.  Four hours and three six-packs later, we had successfully crucified several dozen top 40 favorites before going coma.  The rest of the night was spent filling the room with the sonorous snores that sloppy drunks are known for. 

And before you ask I’ll let you know right now that just because we were sleeping in the same room doesn’t mean that any of that "Brokeback Mountain" stuff was going on.  So don’t even think about it. 

Next Week:  Chapter 11

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Clash of the Figments - Chapter 9 (Part 1)

The Barking Spider was typical of the much celebrated hole-in-the-wall dives that we were accustomed to.  Located about three blocks down from where the Roadkill had been, it was more importantly blessed with an agreeable location.  That is to say, it was the first dump we ran into. 

A prestigious collection of Harley-Davidsons, El Caminos, and two beat-up Ford pickups that resembled mud plows graced the parking lot and told us we were dealing with the edge of society.  Not the top edge mind you, but definitely an edge.  No faux-Euro aerodynamic styled vehicles here; just basic, down home, tobacco chewing, Rebel flag flying transportation. 

Neon signs in the windows of the bar informed us that Pabst, Miller, and some unknown brand called ‘udweiser’ were spoken here.  Frequently and in great quantities from the smell that greeted us as we walked in. 

I sidled up to the bar as inconspicuously as a stranger in an outdated hat and trench coat could and took a stool.  Beverly Hills 90210 and Baywatch victim followed.  We sat there looking around and nodding like three dorks who knew they had no place being here.  Judging from the looks from the local clientele, there was no argument. 

A tall, bearded barkeep that made Richard Marcinko look like a Broadway queen successfully ignored us from his spot on the corner of the bar.  The guy had Navy Seal written all over him.  Literally.  Tattoos covered virtually every square inch of his biceps; a substantial amount of real estate that resembled Earl Campbell’s thighs.  I had always thought the great Oiler’s running back had retired, but was now convinced that he sat leg-less in a wheelchair somewhere, this choirboy having pulled his legs out from their sockets and now wearing them as arms.  Cover this guy with a shag carpet and you have Chewbacca on steroids. 

Suffice to say he was a large man. 

“Let me do the talking,”  I whispered to Simon and Jimmy.  Jimmy nodded his head, either in agreement or as notification that he was about to take a nap.  Simon, of course, ignored me and decided to take charge of the situation. 

“Excuse me,”  he called out.  “We’d like some service over here.  Pronto, if you please.” 

I winced.  Jimmy snored.  The bartender eyed his magazine for a few more seconds and then turned his massive head slowly in our direction.  Metal on metal, the bearings in his neck screamed. 

Oh shit.  Simon, you idiot.  I concentrated on keeping my sphincter securely fastened.  The room became as quiet as a Sprint commercial and several people who looked like they had just broken out of prison headed for the doors.  This gave me a pleasant feeling not. 

When he came over and leaned on the bar in front of us, I felt like that dude in Jurassic Park that got sniffed by the big T-rex.  I continued struggling to maintain control of bodily functions. 

“Well now, what do we have here.  ‘Couple of respectable gentlemen.  And in a hurry by the sound of it.”  He looked us over for a moment, then said.  “What can I do for you?” 

If his words sounded like an offer of assistance, the tone indicated otherwise.  Simon either pretended to be an idiot or genuinely was one. 

“Need some drinks, Jeeves.  A draft for my friend here,”  a thumb in my direction, “and a pillow for this one.”  Another thumb for Jimmy who by now had his trademark drool line running into a small pool on the bar. 

I shook my head back and forth.  Godzilla noticed. 

“What’s your problem?”  he asked me.  His voice had that low, gravelly, you boys got 30 seconds to live quality to it. 

“No problem,”  I said quickly.  “I just wanted to state for the record that I’m not his friend.  Never seen him before, actually.”  I turned to Simon.  “Who the hell are you, mister?” 

“Please, Dick, don’t indulge the hired help.  Know your place and they’ll know theirs.” 

I could envision my place soon to be in an abandoned refrigerator in a long forgotten landfill.  Whether safely tucked away in it or dead, at present I felt confident enough in that future address to go ahead and forward my mail. 

The bartender seemed unaffected by Simon’s remark and if he hadn’t been staring directly into my eyes I would have thought that our chances of survival had improved.  The pits of hell, however, never looked so bleak.  “That’s right, Dick.  I’m here to serve.” 

Gravel.  Lots of gravel.  The bottom of a rock quarry during a landslide. 

He turned to Simon and stood up to his full height, making several low flying aircraft change course.  Sir, may I recommend the house specialty?” 

“That sounds fine, thank you.”  Simon turned his head slightly to me and whispered, “Proper breeding exudes power over even the most savage brutes.  Notice how docile he is now?  Really, Dick, you have to trust me in these things.” 

Dr.  Docile returned in a moment with a beer, a pillow, and the house specialty.  The beer looked safe enough but of course could have been poisoned, and the pillow, while seeming innocent, could certainly be used to suffocate Jimmy.  But any fears that I personally might have had were forgotten when I saw what was placed in front of Simon. 

“A Barking Spider.  On the rocks,”  the bartender said.  “House special.”  He leaned in close to Simon until their noses almost touched.  “Enjoy.” 

Whatever a Barking Spider was, it was not pretty.  I found myself feeling sympathy for the ice cubes; they looked in pain.  For that matter, so did Simon. 

“Perhaps I’m not as thirsty as I thought,”  he said. 

I leaned into Simon and did him the favor of a return whisper.  “You know, Simon, if you don’t drink it, the power shifts from the proper breeding back to the savage brute.”  I gave him a second to dwell on that and then set the hook.  “Face, Simon.  It’s all about saving face.  Be a big boy.  Show him who’s the boss.” 

A grim but resolute look set Simon’s face.  The sucker was going to drink it.  He glanced up where Earl Campbell’s crotch should have been and forced a smile. 

“Cheerio,”  he said, and kicked it back.  He wiped his mouth on his sleeve.  Set the glass on the bar.  Straightened his back. 

“Well, now.  That wasn’t so bad.” 

The bartender had a strange look on his face.  I didn’t recognize it at first because I never thought it would be there.  But sure enough, he started to smile.  Then he started to giggle.  Then he started to flat out laugh his ass off. 

“What’s so funny?”  Simon asked. 

“I can’t believe you actually did it,”  he said, wiping tears from his eyes.  “I can’t believe you really drank that.” 

“Why should that be so surprising?” 

“Because you’re such a wimp.  You have no idea what that drink is going to do to you.”  He knocked his laughter down somewhat.  “But I do.  Hope you don’t have to operate any heavy machinery in the next day or two.”  He broke out into a fresh gale of laughter.  About a “7” on the Beaufort scale. 

Jimmy, meanwhile, was observing everything with all the attention that you’d expect of someone who was dead asleep. 

Finally, the bartender got himself under control.  He seemed to be in a good mood, almost cheery.  It’s strange and moderately frightening to see a man large enough to pop your head off like a zit look at you with mirth in his eyes. 

“Sorry about that boys,”  he said.  “I don’t get to enjoy myself that often.  Been a while since I had the chance to get someone to drink one of those.”  He nodded to Simon.  “Your boy here is in for a wallop.”  He picked up the glass, wiped down the bar, and then stuck out his hand to me. 

“I’m Rok Hard.  I own the joint.” 

Next Week:  Chapter 9 (Part 2)