Page 1

The zen of bluffing vol.1

by Jonathan Machen

edited by Patrick Lynn

Mapleton Avenue Press copyright 2000 by Jonathan Machen all rights reserved. printed in the united states of america

we’re set to go, marge--the next batch should be here in a few days

hey! this is seymour--you got the shipment ready? uh-huh...good... and the cigars? yeah--i know... well, you know how i feel about those sanctions...allright. talk to you later...

leaving so early, sir?

yeah. got to go meet squirrel nutkin--

better put this thing out before the rest of boulder sees me

...says he wants to talk, but won’t say why.. bird brain !!

yikes! slow down!


fossil fuel addicts!


what’s eatin’ that elephant?

cretins! blasphemes! ecto-morphs!

sufferin’ anenomies! its amazing to see how the traffic affects some folks


these things are programmed to ignore pedestrians!

what the... c’mon! lets get a



man, the junk heaps people insist on driving these days.... 2

...kayaks? that’s funny--i didn’t know nutkin was into kayaking

you really walked into it this time, pal... prepare to be 'bout a poker game, for old time’s sake? wharf, tie him up.

what... ! what’s the big idea?


hah! surprise! !!!!

that’s right, seymour--put your hands up-not what you’d expect from an old business partner, is it??


seymour’s luck appears to have changed for the worse, like the luck of an obscure bookseller in another part of town...

meet percival, on the clock at one of boulder’s fine bookselling institutions, hoofs ‘n books. it’s been a long week.

good day, sir. before i ring you up, might i ask if you are a member of our frequent buyers’ club?

of course... heh offense meant...just something we have to ask, that’s all...


jeez, what a grouch!! why won’t his card work??

sorry, sir, we can’t accept this card. do you have an alternate form of payment? cash, for instance?


okay, i’ll go with this one...predators’ club...frozen brambles! now there’s a huge line! lissen--a couple hundred of years ago i would have bitten your head off before i bought the book...all i got are credit cards... take your pick


magazine for you, sir?

okay, calm down...think of narrow alpine ledges...steep precipices...rocky couloirs...


this time it worked--thank you--come againnext!

stop!! don’t touch it!

just scan it! for cryin’ out loud!

this place is full of germs

stupid raccoon! he’s a fine one to be talking

percy... may i have a word with you for a sec?


why don’t you take a break-shelve some books for awhile, eh?

we leave percival for the time being in order to check in on a moment of tense betting over at nutkin’s house...

what’s with the customers today? mercury must be retrograde or something i’ll see your ten dollars and raise you fifty

wharf deals to nutkin...

ah ha! king of chipmunks--looks like a possible straight--

and to seymour...

nonsense. i’ll go the vole and raise you seventy-five...unless you feel like folding right now...

the three of voles--not looking so good there, seymour


hey boss--i’d watch it if i were you--remember what happened last time--

i’ll raise that seventyfive to one hundred, seymour. let’s see your hand

scat! wharf might be right. still, i don’t know. i have the feeling that he’s bluffing

you never could read me very well, nutkin. looks like i’ve won again

aargh!! looka straight thrush

that’s it! this game is over! you must be cheating!! wharf, a word with you for a moment, if i could...


i thought i’d mastered this stupid game, but it appears that i haven’t. while i’m explaining to seymour his role in our little ‘operation’, i need you to run an errand for me.

i read an article about this guy who won a bunch of money at poker after reading a book called the zen of bluffing. i think barnes and stables is selling it... here’s a counterfeit gift certificate. you can use this to buy the book. but don’t dally around--we need to get out to burton’s place by this afternoon

ah, seymour. my old friend. we’ll play poker again soon. we’ve always enjoyed doing business together, haven’t we? i’ve got a little proposition for you.

my boss is truly nuts!

i happen to know that your buddy burton mole is thinking of selling his land--along with those immigrant prarie dog colonies--to the city’s open space department

i need that land to build condominiums on. you are going to help pursuade burton to sell to me--and here’s why you will


these beauties that you import from jamacia are illegal, and you know it...

so, if you don’t help me, i’ll turn you in! simple as that!

reticulated gills! this is becoming a constant problem. maybe i’ll play along with nutkin’s game...for now... meanwhile, wharf cruises to barnes ‘n stables

one unfortunate aspect of being on nutkin’s payroll is being sent on stupid errands--especially while the river is high. maybe i’ll drive by the kayak course and check out the water level

of course, i’d never be able to afford this boat unless i worked for him...hey, would you look at that!


wow...looks like a good flow. maybe i’ll sneak a run in tonight

keeping to task, wharf speeds down to barnes ‘n stables

crumbs! where am i gonna find a place to park?

wharf squeezes in between two misparked sport utility vehicles

these things are huge hey! who said you could park there? crazy river rat!!

gimme a break...

it does sorta look like a barn... 11

my heavens, this place is like a tomb! don’t they have any employees here?

holy cow--how am i going to find that book? well, i guess i’ll do like the sign says


*bleep* greetings, cowstomer! welcome to our “online while you’re in the store” service!

no way!!


welcome to barnes n’ stables. all of our representatives are busy in our corporate office arranging mergers. please email us with any sales requests. excusezmoi? here? yes! i mean no!

wow! monsieur! do you work here? i need a book about the rivers of colorado!

quick! think! i will be racing in the grande slallome on the arkansas river next week. i have come all the way from france. can you help me?

as a matter of fact, i’m a boater myself...i need that same book...but last time i checked, they were out of stock

ah oui...i have heard how very helpful you american men are...

i’ve got an idea, though! why don’t you hang out with me, and maybe this evening i can take you on a personal guided tour of boulder’s very own kayak course!

but i insist on finding this book. i was told of another bookstore in boulder ...hoofs ‘n books... maybe you show me your kayak course after we find my book, non?


i don’t usually trust foreign men, but since you are a boater, i see no harm... what is your name?

wharf rat at your service, m’aam!

...and you are?

right! well, angel, let’s be on our way! whoops! better not forget about nutink’s book...maybe hoofs has it

angelique suberbe. you may call me angel.

you’ll love this town, my dear! it’s an outdoor paradise!

but...monsieur wharf... why so many cars?

no-one can afford to live here, so they drive in to get to work


now, dont worry about the traffic--i’m a seasoned expert--

we love cars here in are a way of life. plus, fuel is heavily subsidized! dirt cheap!

hey!! that was a red light you just ran! cheese mold!

i guess we’ll have to park here

on the pearl st. mall yeh...trustafarians, punks, refugees...we got ‘em all...

ahem... this is one of our new cultural attractions...a multi-story parking garage



bowling green, kentucky!

ooh! you have street theatre here, just like in paris!

actually, it’s the zip code raven... check him out


hey! 34141! yes, sir...34141...i see a road...a swamp at the end of the road...cypres trees... mangroves... you reside in the last subdivision on the loxahatchee river, big cypress preserve, florida. am i right?

yeah...heh heh...‘ats right... great toads! how’d you know that?


monsieur raven! 01770!

ah yes..your accent nearly gives it away, my lovely...but let me ponder this one for a moment...

go ahead! see for yourself

i see a distant country...a low stone fountain overflowing with water... cobblestone streets...

if i am not mistaken, you come from a small province on the border of france and switzerland-the town of avouzon, chevry, france... oui?

wharf! did you hear! he knows my hometown! should we tip him? and now, folks, it’s time to pass around the hat...fifties and one hundreds are appreciated...

uh...not now, angel.. we gotta find that book... 17

here we go, angel. maybe we can find what we’re looking for...hopefully it won’t take too long

we’ve had a few problems with the book trolls down there. watch out

uh...yeah. we’re looking for books on kayaking in colorado... right. well, the computer tells me we have a few in the lower realm... but i’d be careful...


oh dear...just go away....

could you help us? we’re looking for-hey! something wrong?

you bet there is! i been down here for days without a break! i’m parched... and the trolls are gettin’ to me!

do you know what they’re up to now? they misshelve all the books..dribble coffee and crumbs over special orers for books that don’t exist...

in fact, there’s one now!

hey! bug off!!


g’wan! get outa here!

excuse me... i need to pursuade my boss to call the exterminator... why don’t you ask percival for help? he’s shelving books in the east room.

sorry about that


yeah... we need a book on kayaking! in colorado!

my man! can you help us!

mumble.. let’s see here.. travel guides to the alps... pyrenees...

i sure like these books about exotic mountains

‘scuse me?



uh, yeah. while she’s looking, could you help me find the zen of bluffing... is it down here?

...looks like your lady friend has already found the right shelf...anything else?

ah yes! ...the classic

you’re on the wrong floor.. th’ upper north room...annex of sacred texts...

sacred texts! whadya know?

thanks, man!

you’re welcome-hey--watch out for father lynx father who?


a river rat! hmmm....

welcome to the annex! what brings you up here, my son?

cheese mold! why does this hafta be so complicated?

uh...jus’ looking for a book... is never just “lookng for a book”...there are always deeper issues to be examined... for instance...

when i was young i sought books on “how to hunt”... little did i realize my desire was challenging me to discover the true siginficance of the roles of predator and prey...

of course, by spending my time studying, i escaped the fate of my brothers and sisters, who have since been driven to the edge of extinction.

so you see... knowledge is liberation. what text do you seek?


well, it’s a book about zen...say, what’s all this back here?

ah...this is where we keep the sacred database... this baby helps us locate esoteric texts

let me just scoot back here on these cushions...i’ll show you what i mean

maybe i’ll mess with him a little

uh...yeh. it’s called zen parties, 14 variations

this is ridiculous!

first, i quiet my mind and establish a link with the modem. now, go ahead and make an inquiry-what was that title again? 23

much to wharf’s surprise, his random guess hits the mark

what a weird store... maybe i can log on to this thing, find nutkin’s book, an’ get outa here

my goodness! we do have that volume! i’ll run and get it for you...just a moment...

how was he linking into the modem?

he wasn’t touching it, as far as i could tell...

i guess i’ll just think it out loud--

zen of bluffing



oh my goodness! why is the alarm going off?


no!! mr river rat! you musn’t get near the sacred database!

aaagh! what is going on? i’m outa here!



down th’ hatch! maybe she’s still downstairs--


yikes!! this place is outa control! i need to find angel and scram!

angel! what’re you readin’? we gotta leave! hear the alarm?

for the love of compost! you’re lookin’ at that?? that’ll warp your mind! put that down and lets


but wharf! you know he lives in france now? 26

dang--we lost ‘em wharf! what is going on?

i’ll explain later


can you zoom in on his back pocket?

not so fast--the security video should be working. let’s replay the tape

percy, that was the biggest zen breach we’ve had in years...

there you go... a little closer?

well, this is a mystery--a gift certificate for barnes ‘n stables! and look at the name on there... s. nutkin...

why don’t you take an extra hour for lunch and investigate this nutkin?


um...okay well, at least i get an extra hour for lunch

who does he think i am, tintin? lessee... here we go...nutkin... 421 acorn avenue

trampled tundra! look at all the traffic

here we go! into the fray!


holy tyrolean traverse! stuck in a sea of automobiles! this traffic is a nightmare...maybe i can improvise on my route

this is more like it

hey! watch out!




protoplasm! this is a bike path, not a speedway! oops! sorry! we go...acorn avenue

back on track

let’s see... 727... 723... must be down further



hey! it’s percy...yeh... both of ‘em...but get this! looks like a hostage situation... what’s that?

no...there’s a fish here, too...he’s tied up...huh? yeah. cover my shift for now... i’ll call back later... see ya.

better call the bookstore

you did

what? for the love of nuts, wharf! how could you mess up

again? such a simple task! um...


and what’re we gonna do with your french friend here? merde!

well, it’s not such a big deal. she’ll have to hang out with us for the time being...the important thing is that seymour has agreed to help us...

don’t worry, angel... i’ll think of something...

wharf, i’ve had enough! how can i get out of here?

bother! this is messed up

okay! let’s be on our way

hey! no secrets between you two! i mean it!

to burton’s house we go!

well, look at that... they’re all leaving together

wharf, you drive... seymour and angel, in the back


now, listen up-i got an idea

here’s what we’ll do--we’ll impress burton by introducing angel as an old colleague of mine from the paris school of urban studies

an’ then, while he’s contemplating the positive effects of economic development, seymour will grease the kitty with some of his smokes!

ah yes--i can already see those pretty condos springing up--


just like in the movies!

colony estates? must be a new development

look closely, folks-- see all those shacks? occupied by immigrant prairie dogs! rif raff! i want to see some real houses out here! 35

pull up behind burton’s that old truck

here comes nutkin... goodness me... look what i’ve started! nutkin’s desperate for this scrap of land--the city wants it too...

as long as the dogs keep quiet, i oughta make a good return on one of their offers...


monsieur nutkin! prairie dogs with signs, coming this way! niwot sauvignon?

weasles! the prairie dogs are amassing! what rotten timing

hey-nutkin-get in here quick! better hurry it up--oops!

we can survey the situation over a glass of wine

unless you want to face that mob! c’mon! what in the name of nuts is going on, burton?

i can explain...let’s go upstairs

some welcome for our foreign guest! huh!


seymour, you must try this cabernet

but monsieur nutkin! these prairie dogs carry signs proclaiming that their homes are threatened! my heart’s breaking...

now remember, just play it cool while i do the talking

angel! come meet burton

burton! i’d like you to meet ms. angelique suberbe, an old colleague of mine from the paris school of urban studies

uh...nice to meet you, ms. you might guess, i’m presently undecided about what to do with my land

she’s an expert at developing suburban and industrial infrastructure...came all the way from france to help me!

now...who needs open space, anyway? there are a lot of people moving into this city. let’s build some houses!

that’s why we’re here, burton. ...have a cigar 38


don’t mind if i do

well, i’m still not convinced... the city told me they could match anybody’s offer... whattya say to that, nutkin?


who is that little man with the briefcase down there?

mr. burton! my name is ignatz! i represent these prairie dogs! my clients and i wish to speak to you

under the international habitat charter, you have been found guilty of unethical stewardship practices


while e! burton here! listen...i need to ask you another favor...the colony’s getting unmanageable again... you set to go?

oh yeah? i’ll show him what’s fair and natural...looks like it’s time to call mr. while e...

hey, ignatz! be right down! just wrapping up a small item of business!

while e. ought to help quiet things down...hey! nutkin! where you going?

oh, i ever. i just got my license renewed...piece of cake...

be there in a jiff!


up on the roof... i want to survey the situation from the highest point...

bound to be a good view from up here

my luck seems to be running out--burton’s not exactly warming up to my proposal--

negotiating this sale reminds me of my skill at poker...if wharf hadn’t forgotten that book, i probably could have convinced burton by now...


hey angel! check this out--burton’s got some rare french burgundy--you might wanna try some--

because the odor of these things dominates the room! sheesh!

ah, oui...the bouquet is manifique...however, it’s a little hard to tell...

huh! i wonder what’s causing the glare over there on the hillside?


this is too much! a massive protest in front of that building! and now there’s someone on the roof!

get some water...get something! help!

phew! these things are starting to smell like a campfire

weasles! it is a campfire!

hmm...this should come in handy...

angel! wait for me!


nutkin’s still on the roof!

kof! still, i can’t really make out who is out there...what’s that smell?



hey!! how am i...


stop! slow down! where do you think you’re going?

excusez moi, monsieur...there’s been a mistake. see those kayaks? i’m a boater...i’m late for a race...

as a matter of fact, we were just coming down here to transfer my boat into that pickup--right, wharf?

psst! angel! what are you talking about? you aren’t taking one of my boats, are you?

hmm...?? very well then--wouldn’t want you to miss your race...i suppose i’ll hear from burton soon enough...

quiet, fool!

...why is smoke coming out of the window?

?? uh.. yeah...

i happen to love races myself...

listen, wharf, here’s my plan--i’ll take one of your boats and this old truck--and give you a call when the race is over


see you later, river rat!

you think so? i’d like to go with you...

what’s...hey! the fire must have gotten out of control! nutkin’s still on the roof!

but i suppose i should stick around-i am still on nutkin’s payroll

got too see if i can help nutkin great rabbits! would you look at that!

hello--fire department? got an emergency out at colony estates


nutkin! we gotta get out of here! you can jump on the roof and shimmy down the gutter


i say...



hey! someone’s coming in on a chopper!

nutkin! speak to me! can you help us! my boss just fell!


careful...he might have broken his back

iv’e already called the fire department...they should be here any minute

my house!

...why does this guy look so familiar?

fire department? uh-oh!

looks like he’s still breathing...a friend of yours?

ahem! mr burton...


i’m sorry, but on behalf of my clients...


you are hereby summoned to appear in court

yeah, this is nutkin...

...we find you guilty of charging exorbitant rent for a keystone species

rubber worms, ignatz! i’m a decent steward-at least the ‘dogs got a place where they can prop up their shacks--

where’s while e.?

look at my house! if you take me to court, i’ll say this was the work of a riotous crowd of prarie’ i’m sure i can round up some witnesses who can corroborate such a claim...

and what about nutkin? i smell a countersuit, ignatz



did you see that? a fish on a ‘cycle, and in a big hurry, too!


we don’t have time to worry about some stupid fish right now. look up ahead--that building is toast

hey you! move outa the way! we got a fire to fight!

wait a sec-my boss is hurt-can you help?

for now, cover him with this blanket

how on earth did that happen? yeah...we’ll call a helicopter right away...

tramp! sea trawler!

aaugh! i can’t believe that fish stole my bike!

let’s get this building wet! 53

this is your fault! it all started when you and that woman came into the store, looking for books on kayaking ‘an zen!

oh...that’s why he looks so familiar

which reminds me--you’ve got some explaining to do. we recorded a major zen breach up in the annex. hey-where is your girlfriend, anyway?

i wish she was my girlfriend... you just missed her, actually...hey! someone’s shooting at the prairie dogs!

man, what is going on down there? looks like the ‘dogs set burton’s house on fire...this is serous...

but this rodent population is seriously out of hand, which is where i come in... 54

woah...what’s with the helicopter?

this is getting a little too crazy for me...i’m outa here

aah! i’ve been spotted!

i can’t believe how hard it is these days to get my job done

load ‘im up!

why don’t they just land?


wharf... i’m counting on you... don’t let me down...


just exactly what does he mean by that?

aaugh! my house!

won’t be his first visit to the hospital, either...he’s had a few run-ins with cars... i dunno... he must be delirious...


actually, this would be a good time to give nutkin the slip. ...i could use a vacation... what about you?

well...i should report back to work and let them know what’s up...

bah! work’s overrated! lets go kayaking! or camping! forget about that crazy bookstore and lets go boating while the water’s high!

he’s got a point... it would do me good to get out of town for awhile...

i don’t think burton’s noticed that his truck is gone...let’s get out of here while he’s preoccupied with the fire...


hey! don’t leave me here with the prairie dogs!

...and so, percival and wharf make a fast exit from the charred remains of burton mole’s once-magnificent estate. what lies ahead for these two? find out in the next installation of the zen of bluffing! 58

Zen of bluffing  

An original cartoon novel by Jonathan Machen