SEAHORSE RODEO FOLK REVIEW
SEAHORSE RODEO FOLK REVIEW
Table of Contents
Ladies Go Missing at the Cirque de Fried Chicken Christopher James . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4 Encyclopediascope: Adgogglepluralsernos Tom Samuels . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Noria Eartha Forest. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
The Ballad of Long Tom Garroutte Daniel Eli Dronsfield . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
The Sad Story of Christmas! Sarah Deale . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
The Fantasticals Trevor Richardson. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Roky Erickson and Okkervil River...The Intentions Were Better Than the Outcome Cody Finkner. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50
This Wacky Weather Danger Slater . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
SEAHORSE RODEO FOLK REVIEW
Ladies Go Missing at the Cirque de Fried Chicken
Red-nosed and squinty-eyed on Lynchburg’s finest, Slim James left a yellow heart in the snow out the back of the Cirque De Fried Chicken. ‘SJ’ to the left of it, ‘Rosie’ to the right. He threw the empty bottle of amber mash against the black and green canvas Big Top walls, raised his face to the waxing moon, and howled like Teenwolf. ‘Rooooooooooosssssieeeeeeeeeee!’ Squid-ink clouds passed in front of what was left of the moon, and Slim James fell face first with a soggy thump into his cold piss-framed heart. His body was found with the crow of morn’s first cock, frozen stiff and misshapen. ‘SJ’ and the heart remained, but Rosie’s name was gone – a pure blanket of snow in its place, and nothing to suggest Slim had ever had the urine in him to finish the job. Rosie was number one *
Christopher James Big Tiny, the Human Punch-Bag, was writhing on top of Jenny the Mime, grunting and groaning and grinding his pelvic bone into what he thought was her clit. She bit her lip to block out the hurt and he mistook it for passion and writhed even faster. Jenny the Mime was too disingenuous to pretend to be done, and too sweet to complain about the pain. But when Big Tiny started banging her head over and over and over again into the oak veneered headboard of his caravan bed she clapped her hands together until Big stopped. She mimed changing positions, and climbed on top. She planted a foot either side of his considerable girth, and bounced up and down on him like one of the bare-back riders on Rover the horse. Big Tiny soon came, and when he did Jenny vanished in an explosion of sparkles. Big Tiny pondered this whilst the sparkles settled on his sweat wet bulk, and then he, like so many men before him, forgot all about Jenny the
JULY 2010 “I do this for you,” he shouts. “I love you all.”
He slept like a drunken baby. Jenny was number two.
One ball is white as snow. One sparkles. One is bright blue. He throws them effortlessly higher. One by one they explode at the height of their arc, and the circus is filled with happiness and sadness and love lost.
* Morgan Palookaville took Lucy Lastic to the circus on her birthday with a diamond on a ring in his back pocket. Lucy was a hooker from opposite the Seven Eleven on Fifteenth. Morgan was a banker from Sackman and Sacks. They’d shared a taxi the Thanksgiving before last and gotten along like ketchup on curly fries. They’d not met again since then, what with Morgan travelling so much and Lucy spending all her money on crystal meth, but they’d stayed in touch and their love had blossomed. Back last month Morgan had tasted the savoury goodness of a Jacket Potato-induced choking attack. He’d been Heimliched by a lad from the mail room, and it had opened his hidden emotional eye. He paid a small fortune on a ring and called up Lucy, who he’d realised was the love of his life. He’d flown into town and taken her to the Big Top. He noticed the g-string, the dilated pupils and the graveyard teeth, but he worked hard to ignore them because Lucy was the love of his life. The love of his life. The love of his life. The love. The love. Of his life life life. “You’re exactly as I remember you,” he said when they shot a man from a cannon. Lucy threw up in his lap. Her vomit was bright blue, the colour and texture of Listerine mouthwash. Lucy was number three * The saddest greatest show on earth begins amid a sugar-rush orchestra of child-sound. Whining kids ride tired elephants. Alco-clowns chew gum to mingle with the crowds and paw the young girls. Caged tigers are wheeled in and wheeled out. APPLAUSE! And then the lights go low and the audience is hushed. Jonah the Juggler and Part-Time-Lady-Killer walks the long spot-lit walk to the centre ring. He begins to juggle.
SEAHORSE RODEO FOLK REVIEW
Mime and fell asleep.
“This show gets better every year,” says Thomas to his wife, Gerri.
“Yeah,” says Gerri – a cynic. “Last year he only had two balls.” From the centre ring, the juggler caught her eye. Gerri was number four.
SEAHORSE RODEO FOLK REVIEW
What a mess of a word. Can you figure it out? I can’t. Plural, s, er, no, s. Strange mind is that of a fermenting Tomuels. IDon’t know what femenrentfenting is, or fermenting. Leave me out of this; leave the zones out of this as well. Cluddle clam clurp in a row. Dog goD bottoM Top. Zildy milhoonie stop with the texting while thinking. Stop it. Do a different task, like eating. That will make you a valuable dog, mister. Yes sir I do think so. Art is uninformed. Art don’t know what I’m all about. I can maim Art severely. But I regreleeteel Slim that Gaillard - I should leave Artart alone. AAA. Is it zobpowerful or zobSlimGaillard? Slim Gaillard yesyesyes. DiWinger. Leave that sentence out. It hath no relevance. Zobber zont zild zraroraspberrian religion spoke Nietzschenoonoo.
I’ll be honest here... who is still reading? Who? Solicitor General and Limitless zont-sorto Elena Kagan. Sadness comes in many forms - human is one of zobber zroct. Eastraction ozor raver blade rodilmo pack of fish of cranberry sauce ka-mleepolitical maneuveE. It’s all in good fun. Just leave her alone. She just wants to sing and love and hate and create and destroy and and. That’s enough. It truly is. Let Adgogglepluralsernos go. I did. That’s the best a punk can get. Adgoggles in furious packages of hate. Let me watch, it’s a brand new ad I ain’t never gon’ see. Gorr. Enough with the stiv. Suuu cron sun of a raspbeet of a couple and a half flavors, all being rocked and razzled at a furty furty rog existence rog rog, I’ll say it again, rog, just one more time rog... ok, I’m done... ROG. Ha ha! You can’t fool me!
SEAHORSE RODEO FOLK REVIEW
SEAHORSE RODEO FOLK REVIEW
The Ballad Of Long Tom Garroutte
The following are transcripts of interviews that I have conducted over the last fifty years in more than one hundred countries concerning the enigmatic and nearmythical trickster hero of the Northwest; LongTom Garroutte.
Interviewing the Mirror.
“Have you never heard the tale of LongTom Garroutte? Why, he’s the greatest American hero since Paul Bunyan, the best since that old moonshiner Johnny Appleseed. The earliest stories of the most recent incarnation of LongTom often begin during the great hobo migrations of the early twentieth century right here in these United States. He is said to have saved Rusty Skillet himself from the hands of blood-lusting Pinkerton’s in the hollers of West Virginia. It’s said that he stole the President’s turkey on Thanksgiving while all the hoboes were camping in Washington. LongTom, Junkyard Jed, and 3-tooth Tiny broke thirty-one anarchists out of pris-
Daniel Eli Dronsfield on in Joliet, Illinois. Once he even stole an entire train and gave the grain and millet to bankrupted orphanages and churches. He only did these things because he liked mischief and adventure, not because of any staunch or solid moral code. At least that is what he would claim through eloquent mumbles if you were to ask. I heard that he invented zippers and barbecue sauce, and that he was the first man to hit a grand slam. I heard that he twice talked Charlie Chaplin out of suicide. I heard he was ten foot tall and that he was a midget, I heard he looked like a Viking and that he was half African and half Mohican, I heard he fathered a hundred sons and seven daughters. It is difficult to say how long he lived or where, because everyone sees him as such a different man. And in a way, I think that is correct. LongTom is a character that lives through generations, he is like Tin Cup, or Jesus… The first time that I heard about LongTom Gar-
Oregon fighting ducks. “Thing most people don’t know is that the ducks in Oregon are some of the most violent creatures ever to exist. They are rarely seen fighting in the wild. In the wild, the dominant male duck becomes so dominant that he no longer has to fight. He rules through a regime of sheer terror. Any duck that has questioned his power has already been reduced to a greasy, feathery, smear. Was a time when LongTom lived on an island in the Mckenzie River and he had seen the deadly dance of the ducks. LongTom, being a man of the world, had
seen much spectacle. He had lost many pesos at cockfights in his life. When he saw the unabashed honking quacking murderousness of the ducks, he got an idea. That is how the notorious resurgence of Oregon duck fighting began. First he trained a duck. Logically he grabbed the dominant male of the area. He called this duck TractorFace Jim, and he was a killer. After his training old Tractor-Face would strike at anything that moved like a quacking cobra. He was a lighting bolt of a mallard and LongTom became quite proud. Now, when it came to the lifestyle of LongTom he would go for months in absolute hermitage and then reappear in society and immerse himself in humanity and shenanigans until that once again soured, and he would ramble the hell on. So he had been out in the bush training ducks to fight and he wanted to show off. He wanted the world to know of Tractor-Face Jim. So, LongTom, never being a man to sit and wait for something to happen, set out to find some competition. It began in all the bars of Oregon. From Davy Jones Locker down by the creaking docks of Charleston up to the sunburned blackberries of Blue River, LongTom Garoutte worked the taverns, looking for bikers and badmen, talking to hunters and highwaymen, looking for somebody who had a fighting duck. And that is how he ran into me, your man, Curly Burns. You see, I myself come from a long line of hard men in the Oregon hills and when I was a boy my granddaddy had a resident flock of ducks on his land. Those ducks were like fucking pitbulls. I never felt safe around them. I remember seeing the duck fights as a boy. Groups of small dark Calapooyan men wearing fedoras and Mexican blankets would come down out of the hills. Some of them would have ducks tucked proprietarily under their arms. All the ducks have to be blindfolded, because they are killers, they attack any other duck they see. Gaunt, red-cheeked white men, not filled with the fleshiness you see in folk these days, would ride up on skinny horses with mason jars filled with moonshine. There was much whooping and money changing hands. It inevitably ended with men fighting in the dusk with rusty blades, arguing over unpaid debts or slights of honor. When I met LongTom, I was just back from the war. He was a whooping and a hollering and buyin drinks and dancing in the sawdust. I liked his style and
SEAHORSE RODEO FOLK REVIEW
routte I had never heard about him. He has been said to be many things. Well, one thing for sure, he was a man. He walked these hills and sailed those seas. Some would have you believe that he was more than a man, that he was carved from bronze and not from flesh, and these are the philistines and dilettantes that I set out to disprove… Every man’s story deserves to be told… At least once… The first time I saw him I was but a boy, kneehigh to a june bug. It was in the middle of this country, out there where the corn grows tall and the cheeks grow rosy. Me and three of my brothers were on the trail of a pack of coyotes that had been eating our chickens. Least we thought it was coyotes. We were slogging around and swishing through the tall grass when we came across it. It had been a coyote pack’s den, but no more. When I looked back inside of it all I saw was blood and fur and two beady green-blue eyes. That was the first time I laid my peepers on this man, LongTom. He was probably ten years older than me, but so skinny he looked younger, and I shan’t forget to mention that he was shithouse crazy. We took him back to the farm because he had killed the coyotes, saving us the trouble. We let him sleep in the barn that night, but back then he was wilder than the wind or a wolverine and he ran away in the night and I didn’t see him again for decades. Over the years as I worked in mines and on trans-Atlantic steamers I would hear mention of him. He is a man who cut a wide swath. It seemed as if people would attribute the most outrageous and fantastical exploits to this man without ever having met him. In truth, I don’t think any of the stories really capture that power, that frightening whimsy, and that lust to know all things that resides just behind the eyes and nose of our man Mr. LongTom Garroutte.”
SEAHORSE RODEO FOLK REVIEW
quick as we shook hands he asked me what I knew about fighting ducks. Well, I says, I looked him up and down and I sez, “Yeah, I might know more than your regular Joe…” He seemed trustworthy, despite his obviously loose hold on his sanity. He then took me out to his truck and showed me his duck, Tractor-Face Jim. Now that was one bad duck. He had scars all over his face and the second his blindfold was removed he lunged right at me. LongTom laughed with a whiskey wheeze and asked, “Can you find us some competition?” I sez “Damn LongTom! Looks like you already found some! What happened to that ducks face?” I remember he seemed surprised, but he just looked right back at me and says, “Training.” Training! Hah! He was a unique individual this guy. Shit,… Well then what happened… Well from there things just snowballed. Seems like the rural folk around here had just been waiting for something to bring them all together and it turned out that LongTom Garroutte’s idea to bring back the Dirty Depression Duck Fights was just the thing to do it. By the third week we had to find a new venue because the crowds were getting so large and ornery. LongTom was like the master of ceremonies during these fights. He would get up there in his American flag zoot suit with the top hat and he would wave around his huge bad-ass duck Ol’Tractor-Face Jim, and he would challenge all comers. Thing was, he would always win… Most other folks had a whole truck filled with their fightin’ ducks, no, it wasn’t like the old days, although a few Calapooyans would still show up, now they dressed like rich cowboys…He always just had the one duck, Tractor-Face. Six weeks in we were doing it at the county fairgrounds. We paid off the Sheriff and we would have the fights in the middle of the week in the middle of the night. Some nights we had three hundred, four hundred people. That sort of thing is hard to keep quiet. So wouldn’t you know it, the local gangsters wanted in. They were something of a meth dealing and tractor stealing outfit. Not too intimidating but they seemed cracky enough to not have anything to lose. So we paid them too, shit, there was plenty of money. But if you give a mouse a cookie… so pretty soon those cracky bastards wanted a bigger and bigger piece of the action.
LongTom didn’t care because that man never had much use for money, but me, I mean I got kids to feed and they sure ain’t getting fat. So it’s hard to say what was going through his head, I think he thought things were getting too commercial, he often complained that you couldn’t hear the pained quacking of highly trained Oregon fighting ducks anymore, and could instead only hear the “thundering of the buffoons”. He became a bit stormy of brow for a while there and I could see something brewing. The big night came and he was there drinking white lighting homemade moonshine out of a mason jar and smoking a haphazardly rolled cheroot. He was in high spirits and held Tractor-Face Jim slung across his chest in one of those things people use to carry their babies. “ “A day no ducks would die!” He said to me when I saw him. “What?” But that’s all he would say. “A day no ducks would die…” “But we’ve been killing ducks for weeks… Shit, that’s our business brotha…” He then took a large gulp of the shine, lit a match and proceeded to blow a giant fireball at a pile of hay in the corner of the fairgrounds. It immediately exploded into flame. “What the fuck?! What are you doing?! How did that hay get there?” He only answered one of my questions. “Oh. I put that there a couple of days ago.” “Why?” “You know, it’s strange… At the time that I did it, I didn’t myself even know why… And look at it now… It’s a magical world…” Then he just looked at me. He was such a strange dude. People came running towards the fire with blankets and buckets. “Now we release the ducks.” He said this with conviction, in a low voice so only I could hear. “But they are savages, they’ll kill each other the second you let them free!” “Well, that’s freedom motherfucker!” Then he punched me in the face. I saw him fifteen years later and he only had one leg. I think he recognized me, we didn’t really talk, we just nodded, quite profoundly, to one another.
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They go. They go down through the village The Tiger-Lady. and outside of it and up over two hills. They walk very slowly because the blind man is leading. Eight days later It has been said that he was an operative, a spy. they arrive at another village, they walk through that, and Though I personally cannot imagine that he was very just outside the village on a little green Chinese hilltop, helpful to any particular side, as he was quite definitely there is a house. It is made of bamboo and sits high off a man who disdains anyone in power. He disdains a the ground on less than confident stilts. The old blind power that needs to be awarded and respects power man points at the hut, says some shit in a mumble, and when it is natural. He was never a man to respect laws begins to walk away. LongTom shouts after him, or governments, but I think the idea of being a spy and “Where lives a tiger?” The old man points at the the adventures that he could get into are what brought shack and says the word for tiger and another word that him in. young LongTom can’t understand. Then he climbs the The way that I heard it he was in China. This is hill, ascending unknowingly directly into the claws of Cultural Revolution, closed to the world, sixty million the tiger-lady. You see, the old man is half deaf as well people starving to death, Chairman Mao, muthafuckin as blind and when LongTom showed up the old man China. At this time there were a great number of people just assumed he was looking for the tiger-lady, so being a trying to escape the death camp that mainland China good communist he had taken him to her. had become under Mao’s flabby iron fist. The way with the highest success rate was swimming to Hong Kong. She was something of a legend in here own This is an audacious swim even for an Olympic athlete right, so it almost makes sense that she would cross and in a stretch of sea that is profoundly shark-infested. paths with such an epic wanderer and romantic as our I met a number of older Chinese men over the years and man LongTom Garroutte. It seems that two hundred they all have told similar tales: as they were swimming some years ago a tiger had come into this village and away from a certain hell upon earth, near death they eaten a family, it is said that he spared their youngwere, some of them with a wife or child clinging monest daughter but not without giving her a very violent key-like to their back, they saw a man. A white man, or tiger-raping and fleeing back into the bamboo. From certainly not a Chinese man, a man with strange laughter this horrific affair a child was produced. Everyone in in his eyes, and he was swimming the other direction! the village wanted to throw it in the river and forget the None of them could believe that anyone would want to beastliness that had occurred there, but the holy man go where they were coming from. They tried to tell him, wouldn’t allow it. He was very wise and three and a half they shouted and waved their arms, he waved back, but feet tall. He took the baby. He raised it himself in a he just kept swimming. cave behind the highest waterfall. So he got ashore. Now, he was always a trap The half-tiger baby was gorgeous, but dangerous per, a killer, he was good with his hands and could walk to raise. The holy man soon was killed by his playful naked into the bush anywhere in the world and live com- little tiger-girl. She felt no guilt, as she was a tiger. She fortably. In China he wanted to wrestle a tiger. Sure he then ran through the woods but couldn’t live just as a was spying on the communists to see what they were up tiger, she also was a girl and when she reached a certain to, but he didn’t give a fuck for the affairs of the world. age she desired copulation. She went to the logging He wanted to wrestle a tiger. Before he did that he went camps deep in the jungle. into villages and he saw the people starving and killing These camps were staffed by chiseled little Bureach other. He saw a group of peasants attack and eat mese men who worshipped leaves and wind and hiked their former landlord. He is said to have knocked a man up through the jungle from their villages in Burma. out of the way to get a piece for himself (“Just curiosThey would log a great section of this foreign forest and ity”). Gnawing on a grown man’s forearm, LongTom take payment and return to their village, deep in the tall growls out the only phrase he knows in Chinese, trees. The trees surrounding their home contained their “Where lives a tiger?” A blind man who is eatgods and they would kill to protect them. That is why ing a big bloody chunk of his landlord grabs LongTom they had to hike so far, to find trees without their gods by his shirt and goes to lead him away. in them. Obviously these trees still contained gods, just
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not their gods. A man must find a way to make it. When she first appeared the men were scared, but she could be quite provocative with her feline grace. She could almost talk, but at this generation her tongue was just a little bit too tiger still. So soon she fucked the whole camp, but their puny human masculinity could not sate her thirst, many men were killed in the process. She ran on. So it was to be for her, and then following her, her daughter. Her daughter’s daughter is the one we meet along with our man LongTom Garroutte. Now her daughter’s daughter, our aforementioned Tiger-Lady, was more lady than tiger. The tiger in her was three generations back. She was something of a mythical character in the small village where she lived. As we have said she lived in a stilt shack on top of the hill. The villagers would occasionally climb the hill and supplicatorily leave her things, rice, sweet treats, combs with emeralds inlaid in them, daggers, and pearls. She took it all and rarely gave them the slightest response. Once a year she would perform what the villagers simply called “The Wildness” and lash about through all the valleys sating her tigress’ lustiness. She was now nearing thirty and had yet to produce an heir. She was feared, due to the fact that during her period of wildness she had killed a number of young men and boys with her ferocious copulation. When LongTom arrived at the bottom of the hill the Tiger-Lady was out behind her house slicing the wings off of butterflies with her thin sword. It made a wonderful noise when the blade slashed through the air and the silence of the wings being removed was like a siren call to LongTom’s unique ears. He walked up the hill barefoot and silent but her minute feline whiskers twitched and alerted her of his presence long before he came into view. He came around the corner of her house and she was ready, just before he had come she had leapt upon the roof and now pounced upon him with a ferocious roar. She was decidedly Chinese but her hair was streaked with shocks of orange and startling white. She had long claws that were retractable and the only thing about her face that betrayed the tigress in her heritage were her slightly oversized eyes. They were green and the eyeball itself was shaped like that of a feline. As she dug her four sets of claws into twenty wounds on LongTom’s chest, thigh, neck and genitals, he couldn’t help but be shocked by her beauty. He stared into those eyes, eyes the likes of which he had never before seen on a
human, and he had a moment of realization. “I came to wrestle a tiger.” He thought to himself and then looking at this gorgeous beast who had pounced on him, he snatched one of her claws loose and flipped her over. What followed was a squabble that made such horrible noises as to give children in villages two days hike away nightmares for years. They rolled and they snarled and they fought. Within ten minutes her shack was torn to the ground and it’s bamboo used as a weapon until smashed to bamboo dust. They, still locked in a high pitched tangled snarl of battle, rolled thumpitythump down the hill and plopped right into the swiftly flowing river. Their fight continued under water and down river for an hour or more, then they both flopped to the reeds of the river bank, naked, bloodied and exhausted. This is the story of how LongTom Jr., the tiger boy, was conceived.” The Havana Slammer. “Well, me and Garroutte got off the boat in Kingston, no Havana, Havana! Of course, it had to be, well, off the boat we went for a bit of shore leave. It was me and Garroute, we left the boys on board to guard the boat, because back then, well shit, I bet even today, those docks down there in the Caribbean, every single one, filled with pirates, thieves ready to steal the wheel right out of your prop house, crafty devils… yes, me and Garroutte, and we are down in the Prado, we sidled up to one of those down and dirty, built in 1321 type Cubano cantinas and grabbed ourselves a two liter bottle filled with that sweet molasses of Cuban rum, and into the streets, why we painted the town! And in Havana everything needs a paint job… We quickly met up with three gorgeous eyed girls filled with the kind of whore’s charm you only find in Cuba and Brazil and we danced the dirty sweaty night away, we ended up in their room and they began to speak in a language different from the Spanish we had been speaking all night, they talked in a weird secret language. All the words they used started with the sound of the letter p. “pippila petoto pedangi petricio…” some shit like that… LongTom didn’t give a damn because somehow he had two of them in his bed… When I woke up the three of them were sitting on their bed naked and someone had produced a chicken, it was walking slowly around the bed on some
JULY 2010 that role and interacting with humans so much and he left the capital. I heard he went and lived in a cave way up on a cliff in Pinar Del Rio for a while with a goat he named Maurice. He just drank goat’s milk and ate lizards fried on a stick the whole time. After that I heard he jumped on another ship, and lord only knows what happened after that. Monkeys and Molotov’s.
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line drawings, looked like one of them chickens that can play tic-tac-toe. They were still speaking in that weird ass pippilo poopoloo language and I couldn’t understand shit, but won’t you know it, fucking LTG is speaking that shit as if he was born with it on his tongue. I remember thinking to myself “what the fuck are they going to do with that chicken?” But then I heard that church bell chime and I realized we were set to leave at oh seven hundred and I will be damned if that bell didn’t clang seven times. I damn near knocked my little Guantanamera onto the floor on my way out of there. “LongTom! Let’s get a move on!” I threw open the rickety old Havana door and flakes of sky blue paint fluttered to the ground like little lead based snow flakes. He didn’t even look up. “You go. This is way more interesting.” Shit, I looked around that room and they started talking really fast in their weird strange Cuban whore language that Garroutte now knew so well, and I slammed the door and ran for the port, leaving behind a veritable blizzard of sky blue. I had to jump off the end of the dock and swim to the boat, and that was the last time I saw LongTom Garroutte. You know what I heard happened though? Not sure if this is true, but an old salt told me… After that, Garroutte and his two Voodoo priestesses got in really close with Castro. What happened was they got arrested for doing some crazy fucking large scale voodoo shit and when they were about to gun him down Fidel was actually there to watch. LongTom was blindfolded but, just before they shot him, he began to speak. No one could pull the trigger, you know Cubans, they love a good orator. He gave a speech for some nineteen hours and Fidel spared their lives. It is said that for a period of two years he was something like spiritual advisor to Fidel. He took to wearing fatigues all the time just like the Beard and he grew a thick beard and smoked cigars and he would make outrageous demands of Castro and Fidel wouldn’t be able to deny it because he feared Garroute’s power. He ended up getting a cobra and he would walk around with it in his sleeve, slithering up there all poisonous and vipery. He tried to get Fidel to be revolutionary in all areas, he wanted him to legalize drugs and homosexuality and subsidize every artist, eventually Fidel grew tired of LongTom and his Voodoo whore priestesses. But by then I think LongTom was probably bored with playing
Well some folks might try to tell it like it’s a romantic tale… shit was about as romantic and pulling a rotten tooth out of your rotten head… It was Kinshasa… It was the seventies. I was sitting in Chez George drinking away the hotness of the afternoon when in walks this guy, your man. He is old, at least sixty-five but he walks with a certain vigor. He is a sinewy mutherfucker, coiled-like. Anyway, he walks in with a chimpanzee. Walks in, sits at the bar, orders a bourbon on the rocks and- I was listening- “a double for my monkey.” The chimp has climbed up onto the bar and is cracking peanuts. The bartender sees the wad in LongTom’s hand and is the coolest thing in the hot Congo afternoon when he obliges this request as if it happens to him thrice daily. The chimp and man are both served and set about sucking at their drinks. It was maybe three thirty in the afternoon and the ape, this strange man, and myself were the only occupants of the bar aside from the bartender and two whores snatching naps on barstools behind languidly rising smoke plumes. Next I see the old guy light up a smoke and light up one for the monkey. I laugh aloud and we make eye contact for the first time. He doesn’t look at me threateningly, it is almost dismissive, but I get a strange feeling. Not wanting to seem coarse or species-ist I decide to engage this extraordinary couple in conversation and perhaps find out a little about what the fuck is going on. The introductions were turgid and the conversation muddy. Somehow I blubbered out a question about the possibility of them being circus performer’s and Mr. Garroutte backhanded me across the mouth. My nose began to bleed. Upon seeing this he immediately softened and made long explanatory speeches that could be construed as apologies and spoke often of being “out in the bush” and of “forgetting the nuances of how to deal with city-humans”. We then spoke for a while of
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fighting techniques and avant garde filmmakers, and the bar began to fill with the usual nighttime crowd of foreign journalists and peace corps types. I could see him get steadily more uncomfortable as the place crowded. As people showed up, each and every one commented comedically about the monkey and when they would try to touch him he would very mannishly shrug off or slap away their paws. As the night wore on he would growl at them. Low, mean, growls that would provide us with ample space at the crowded bar. People and ape became drunk and I could smell carnage in the air. When it happened it looked like LongTom did most of the fighting, the monkey went straight for the bartender, then the register, then the vault. LongTom fashioned a Molotov cocktail from a bottle and held the crowd at bay with it while the monkey disappeared into a back room. There was an explosion just before he threw the Molotov, and there was one right after. Last thing I saw was LongTom and the ape jumping through a plate glass window and running away, the ape carrying a weighted down pillow case and firing a pistol wantonly back in our direction. Somehow this was never in the newspapers.” Dolphin boy. “It was in the Amazon, I mean deep down there, where the men are naked and the treetops disappear the heavens, down where the bugs can spit fire and cure cancer, down on that big muddy river that still has pink river dolphins swimming beneath it’s lazy swirls. I was drinking sugar-cane juice down by the river when I see this white man paddling a canoe. He is paddling standing up and in the boat with him are two Chiquiki looking girls with nose plates and machetes. The canoe was riding low low in the water due to it’s cargo of capybaru and tapir pelts. Upon seeing me, well, I can’t really call it a smile, but, he bared his teeth at me, and then hailed me in a language that I didn’t recognize. I responded in a click/whistly combination of Aymara, Quiche, and Portugese. Apparently my polyglottic response pleased him and he poled and paddled his little boat over to the bank in front of me. In Portugese he asked for news of the dolphins, the pink ones… I said I knew nothing. He stepped out of the canoe, wading knee-deep in the cocoa brown water towards me. He sat beside me and produced a skinny spiraling shell. He packed the
wide end of it with a gummy black substance. He lit it, and smoked a milky wave of smoke, taking three volcanic puffs and passing it to me. I took it and puffed. It tasted like the inside of a temple smells. The girls stayed in the boat and sang a song in low harmony. We just sat there and smoked until our vision sharpened. Soon everything zinged as it moved. The birds chirped along with the frogs and bugs symphonically. The warm night wind blew and LongTom asked if I wanted to barter. I told him I had nothing to trade. He told me we all have something. I looked at myself and at the dirt upon which I sat, and I looked back at him. He bared his fangs once more. “Where are the dolphins?” I looked at his eyes. They were wild and leonine, they almost rolled in his head. Just then I heard a wail, small and high-pitched emanating from the canoe. A baby popped it’s head over the side of the canoe, crawling out from under the animal pelts. The baby had very indigenous features except for it glowing green eyes and great shock of curly blond hair. LongTom smiled and said, “My son.” He looked over with paternal bliss for a moment, then looked back at me with business in his eyes. “I don’t mean the dolphins any harm. I am trying something new. You have no reason to fear me.” He went to the boat and produced a leather bota bag filled with pisco and lime juice. He plopped on the bank next to me and told me his plan, his theory. He was obviously an accomplished linguist and it was in that direction he was questing. He told me of working on a research boat years ago at sea. “You see, it was like this, we followed a pod of dolphins during a Trans-Pacific migration, and we were recording their speech and attempting to identify patterns and linguistic repetitions in dolphin language. We recorded their songs and played back parts of their recorded speech to them. They became excited and made many new sounds. The problem here was that our recording robot did not have the human brain’s capacity to learn. It would play back random clips and this eventually frustrated the dolphins. They would try to engage in conversation with us and the robot could only respond with nonsensical foolishness, and they finally gave up attempting to communicate. Try as I might, I couldn’t make the dolphin noises or find any recognizable speech pattern. I have just been a human too long
JULY 2010 slice of bamboo as an improvised snorkel. Magically, the dolphin came right for him. All you could see from the surface was a pink dorsal fin and a little brown butt, bobbing with the current. Eventually the dorsal fin disappeared and LongTom hauled Dolphin Boy back aboard. About an hour later, from downriver, we see four pink dorsals swimming our way. This time they stayed for hours. The boy came back aboard smiling and squealing in a decidedly dolphinesque pitch. Next day there were nine pink dorsals. Soon we had countless numbers surrounding us. The river veritably roiled with pink dolphin. LongTom loved it, but became worried because he was now having trouble teaching the boy human language, which was an essential element to the execution of his plan. The boy’s squeals sounded exceptional and other-worldly when uttered above water. He had never yet said a human word. One day, about midday, when the river was so full of dolphins you could cross it by hopping from back to back, it happened. The canoe was upended. The vine was sawed through by three pairs of dolphin teeth and he was spirited away. He looked back at us, at his father and mothers as he sat astraddle the biggest dolphins pink dorsal fin. We could do nothing. We all bobbed in the drink, watching Dolphin Boy disappear. When he was almost out of sight a great vocal peal escaped him, it was heavy with dolphin accent but it also sounded positively like an infant trying to speak Chiquiki, yelling ‘Daddy!’ That was the day LongTom heard his son’s first and last human words. The dolphins took him. I knew LongTom Garroutte for thirty more years after that and that is the only time that I saw him cry. Shit, I saw him get shot twice, well, those tears and those dirty thieving dolphins are still down there, flowing slow, along with the Amazon, and you can see ‘em, if you use your eyes right. Zebras, Bacon, and Breastmilk Cheese.
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to learn the dolphin language. So I gave up for a long time. But, now…” He gestured with a leathery elbow to the canoe, where the two girls had started a fire and were cooking a big hunk of tapir haunch. They had ceased to sing but continued to whistle lowly along with the random meter of the fires crackle. The baby had climbed over the side and crawled and splashed dangerously in the shallows. “I have a son. He has not been human too long. I think he can learn to speak dolphin, if we can just give him that chance.” He looked at me quite seriously, but I couldn’t contain myself and let out a hearty guffaw. He chuckled along with me. “I don’t know how, but I will try to help you. I have always wondered… I have always wanted to talk to animals, or at least understand what they are saying. Dolphins, huh? Well there aren’t very many left.” “I know. Now is the time.” We finished the pisco, ate the tapir haunch (delicious) and set out downriver on a dolphin hunt, beneath the cover of a lonely white moon. Many days we spent, dolefully floating, sticking our heads and the baby’s head underwater, hoping for high-pitched dolphin squeals. Nothing. Once a piranha bit me on the nose. LongTom fought and killed an anaconda just to combat boredom. We would drop the girls off, dressed only in mud, on the riverbank and pick them up two days downriver. They would always have a large supply of fresh bush meat and smiles in their eyes. We went up and down, tributaries and inlets, we talked with fisherman and fire-eaters, loggers and Indians, we saw river sharks, we saw alligators, capybarus and crocodiles, we saw it all. No dolphins. LongTom began to get frenzied. He began to fear that his baby was becoming too much of a human, too far from the womb to understand a language spoken underwater. As we flowed downriver LongTom would periodically hold the boy underwater, to remind him, to help him learn, sometimes I feared the boy might drown. As things were becoming dire, when near to all hope was lost, a dolphin jumped right in front of our canoe, pink as Valentine’s day, and splashed a little brown river water deliciously onto my lower lip. LongTom howled and tossed his son into the river. He had attached a vine to the boy’s ankle and trained him to float just below the surface with a thin
“Old Garroutte, he wasn’t the type of man who would be told things were impossible. Or, actually he quite often told that things were impossible, but he was the type of man who never would believe it. I met him, oh when was the first time? Ah, yes, back then, anybody
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who was doing anything interesting was doing it in Africa. I was working as a bush pilot in Eastern Botswana. The first time I saw LongTom I thought I was saving his life. HE got really mad at me. You see, I was flying some cocaine smugglers back to the coast along with three German tourists who wanted to see the “real Africa”. I looked down and I saw a man all alone and stark against the savannah. A man alone out there is like a man bobbing in the middle of the sea. By that I mean, he need saving. So I spiraled down to save him, much to the lament of my smugglers and tourists. As I neared him, a small herd of zebras stampeded away. When I landed I expected him to be overjoyed. I expected him to act like a man who has been rescued from certain death. Instead of that response, it was quite the opposite. He bared his fangs at me through the window. When I finally cut the engine and opened the door he was already deep into a horrifc and multilingual obscene invective heavy tirade that damn near stripped the paint off my plane and the enamel off my teeth. I must say I was taken aback. I had never heard anyone speak like that, least of all someone that I had risked my life to rescue. I just closed the door on his guttural profaneness and flew away. I didn’t see him for a year or so after that, but I thought of him nay times. I also heard reports on the bush grapevine that there was some crazed American out there trying to ride a zebra. When I heard that, I knew it had to be LongTom Garroutte. That turned out to be his name. Two years later, I was working, once more for the ex-pat community, and at this point I had become a bacon smuggler. Muslim laws are put into place but german tourist still need their bacon and schnitzel. I had a little Citroen station wagon and I would run the MalawiMozambique border every three weeks. As I was bribing my way across the border one day, I was engaged in generic banter with the border guards and they mentioned that a man riding a zebra had just bribed his way across the same border, using not money, but some type of exotically pungent and flavorful cheese. I found this hilarious. I relayed to them my encounter with what must have been the same man. Now I was intrigued by this guy and I decided I would set about seeking him out. You see, I am no greenhorn, when Maurice Mulligitawny wants to find a man, that man is as good as found.
So, I got in country, sold my bacon, collected some cash and imported cigarettes and crates of liquor, these things being a perk of being involved in the ancient and dignified trade of smuggling. I made some queries, tapped a couple of contacts, and I got a location on your man. Well, the reports weren’t positive as to his location, but word was that he had charmed his way into a fiercely traditional tribe of warrior nomads who were currently encamped down on the banks of the big river. I went down to check it out and was promptly chased away with rocks and spears clattering off my windows. Rumors continued to circulate, the talk of a tamed zebra I found intoxicating, because shit, I don’t know what you know about zebras, but I know quite a bit. Zebras are some of the most vicious, pernicious, wild, and stubborn animals that exist upon the face of the blue and green earth. People have been trying to ride zebras since the dawn of time. Problem is, whenever a human gets close enough to a zebra to throw a lasso around its neck that zebra would bite said person, most likely in the face, but the arm or leg too, and proceed to run up and across and around, dragging and trampling the enterprising person until they are dead, or wish they were. Yeah, the classic horse kick hasn’t been the zebras chosen weapon, they are biters. If you have ever been around a horses mouth you surely have noted the scariness of those enormous yellow teeth, teeth that could grind off a mans arm. The thing about horse teeth that is exceptionally intimidating is their flatness, those grass chewing teeth would grind your bones to powder. So I wondered how this guy could have tamed a zebra. I wanted an audience with anyone who had the audacity to even attempt such a feat. So, I set up a stake out. I headed back to the border, a place I knew he had been. I also suspected he was smuggling something, which is a bit of a personal affront to me, as he would be cutting into my business. Deals would have to be made. I slipped the border guards a carton of Galouises and they smoked as I sat in stake out. After a couple of days of this, there he is, and he comes riding up on a zebra. The guards were elated, as they had become unabashedly addicted to his stinky cheese. They moved towards him with reverence and humility, they didn’t even
JULY 2010 Its teeth sunk and clamped down solid on my bone. Then he ran. Three days later I awoke on the bank of a big muddy river, surrounded by zebras and elaborately costumed natives. Before me, sitting on a stool made from an elephants foot, was LongTom Garroutte. He introduced himself to me and dumped a bucket of dirt brown river water over my head. I could not speak. The three preceding days came back to me in a blur of unspeakable pain and horror. There was a dead zebra on the bank next to me. It looked as if its neck had been snapped. Garroutte explained that one of the young girls of the tribe had saved my life. She smiled down at me shyly, clutching her spear before her with both hands. As I scanned the crowd I slowly realized it was all women. I worked my way up to leaning on one elbow, and in trying to speak, succeeded only in vomiting a stomach-full of blood. As I lay there in the dirt, puking blood and attempting to draw wind into my punctured lungs, he looked down at me with unadulterated contempt. “Why were you following me?” I mumbled some nonsense and LTG spat at me and walked away. The little woman who had saved my life moved forward and squatted proprietarily by me in the dirt. Everyone else slowly mumbled and shuffled away. That little lady was my salvation. She helped me staged to her grass hut and she nursed me back to help through the monsoon rains using a combination of acidic tinctures and esoteric chants. It was near a month before I could walk again and I didn’t see LongTom the entire time. She carved me a handsome cane from a wildebeest femur and thence I could locomote. Once again, I set out in search of Garroutte. I really just wanted some cheese. After convalescing for near to six weeks I had picked up a bit of the native tongue and I began to query my native princess as to how the cheese was produced. At first she was coy, but I eventually got it out of her. The next day at dusk I snuck to the spot, to see. I was surprised to not see any cows, nor goats, not that they were common in the region. But where was he getting the milk? It was a straw hut, like the rest, erected during the monsoon and easily blown away after, the brilliant low impact housing of the nomad. Two young women came out, chatting amiably. I wrapped myself in a shawl and hunched over my cane, limping like an old lady and hoping to get a look in the door as I passed.
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brandish their weapons, which I had come to regard as the sole occupational imperative of third world border guards. He greeted them with papal waves and a gentle paternal condescencion. He gave them a large chunk of cheese wrapped in Swaziland newspapers. They danced and chanted. I moved in. “That is a fine mount. From where was it acquired?” “Acquired? So coarse. We encountered one another out there in the wilds. Our relationship is one of mutual respect and understanding. I needed transport and he needed purpose.” “You seem an accomplished horseman. How does the zebra ride?” “A tempermental mount no doubt, but with proper crop application he moves well enough. It is something like riding the worlds strongest donkey, something of a super-ass.” We conversed for a while in this vein, him never dismounting, and I alluded to the business in which I myself was involved. This intrigued him, I think he liked the idea of bacon smuggling. I tried repeatedly to query him about his cheese, he remained tight-lipped, though he ended up giving me a small piece. The cheese was of a unique and near-erotic flavor. I commented on this and Garroutte laughed a hearty laugh. I asked if we could meet again, and he gave me a time and date three weeks in the future. The location was left undisclosed. “How am I supposed to be there if I only know the when and not the where?” He cocked an eyebrow and then he spurred his zebra on. I couldn’t help but laugh. I am not a mystic, so I gave chase. I have tailed many men in many countries, on foot, at sea, in car, bus, and bicycle, but never before have I tailed a man traveling on zebra back. This presented me with unique challenges. I had trouble following in my automobile due to obvious noise and speed reasons. On foot, I had difficulty keeping up with LongTom and his zebra. They would walk for long stretches and then explode into a gallop. It seemed as if Mr. Garrouttes control of his mount was far from absolute. I followed at a useless distance for hours, and then, after cresting a small hill, I saw a zebra. I am no weakling. I rolled up my sleeves. I went to sneak up behind it and when I was just close enough to grab it, it whirled around and bit me on me left bicep.
JULY 2010 alarm bells clanged and clonged. We locked eyes and I stepped to him. “Where were you last night?” I’m a cop. I don’t mince words. I wanted to use my presence and position to intimidate him. He appeared unflapped, amused even. “Hunting.” And he went to resetting his rabbit trap. I stood there a while longer, asked a couple more textbook questions and received mono-syllabic replies. Back at the crime lab, the boys told me that our victims did not fall straight down, they had come in at an angle. This had us confused. A straight helicopter suicide or murder is investigatable, but this, we didn’t have a suspect, a motive, or a method of dispatch. We just had bodies, broken in the bushes, as if tossed from the heavens. I spent a lot of time out there in the woods where we found the bodies, and when I was out there I saw quite a bit of you Mr. Garroutte. He lived, as far as I could tell, in a cave behind a waterfall and killed or picked all his own food. He would sit, patient with a lasso in the center of a deer trail. When a deer finally happened by, he would yank the lasso around an ankle and move in. He would have the deer’s throat slit before it realized it had even been caught. He tanned the hide and made pants and jackets of amazing quality. He would stand atop the waterfall with spear in fist, waiting The Murderous Catapulter. for salmon to expose their silvery sides. He made musi cal instruments from their small bones. “Well it started with a string of unsolved mur I staked out his cave for six weeks and never ders… We kept finding men in the middle of the woods saw him interact with another person, let alone murder crushed to death, as if they had fallen from a great one. The victims all turned out to be high powered and height. There were no parachutes. I thought we had a particularly unscrupulous timber executives, so I gave up Peron-type, old school Argentine-style helicopter assasmy stake out and went to the city to see the source, to sin. investigate the lives of these men, the beginning, instead That is to say, after my primary investigations I of solely investigating the place where they had ended. became quite sure we had an aircraft involved. I came Around about that time was when we found the across your man one day, deep deep in the bush. He senators body. He was killed in the same manner as all was fashioning a rabbit trap from a tender sapling. the rest. When I got to his cave, Garroutte was gone, When he saw me he let it go, and it sprung back upright, there was no sign he had ever been there. He left no much like a miniature catapult. trace. I started looking around, kicking floors, punching Now, I been a law man for a long time, and rock walls, pouting, angry that I had lost my man. As I sometimes, there ain’t no detective work in it, you just stepped outside I could hear the roar/crackle of a large know. You see a man, and you know it’s him that’s done fire in the distance. Fighting preservation instincts, I it. This was such a case. headed for the flames. I saw him, way out there in the woods, your There, in a small clearing of blue and purple man, LongTom Garroutte, and I knew he was involved, wildflowers, engulfed in a raging inferno, was the largI didn’t rightly know how right then, but all my internal est catapult I have ever seen. LongTom was on the far
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Just as I walked by a young woman was coming out the door, and as the door blanket swung back into place I caught a momentary vision of what was going on inside. There was LongTom and he was cupping the breast of a tribal teen and holding jar in one hand. In the split second that I saw and realized, so did he. As if sensing my presence, he looked up just then and we locked eyes for a single moment. The door blanket swung finally closed and I heard a guttural growl from inside. I tried to make my escape, shuffling painfully through the closing dusk. He was on me in a flash, knocking me to the dirt. “Why can’t you just leave me alone? “You’re interesting.” “You are such an American, you want to ruin everything. Must you master every mystery? Let me tame Zebras and make breast milk cheese! I let you do whatever you want! Just back the fuck off!” At this point I realized we were not going to become friends and felt stupid and needy for forcing this situation. I just got up and limped away, never learning how to make cheese from breast milk, or how to break a wild zebra. He was an asshole, but I understand. I obviously didn’t have much to offer such a man.
JULY 2010 “I punish myself when I do bad things. I don’t trust your blanket justice. I am an autonomous entity. I am not subject to your laws. “Those men died because they wanted to kill this forest. With the aid of a socio-pathic catapult the forest ended up killing them. Who would you charge with a crime here? The Earth?” I swung gently as he spoke, the asshole. So, yeah, that’s it, he left, that’s all, that’s the one that got away, are we done here?”
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side with a pitchfork throwing great heaps of dry pine needles onto the fire. He smiled at me through the flames. I was circumnavigating the fire when my legs were swept out from under me, and I found myself swinging, upside down, and a little too close to the flames. I stared at him, and he laughed at me. “You are a murderer.” “The catapult did all the killing.” “You won’t get away with this.”
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T h e Fan t
““This is FNR, The Fantastical Radio Network – your home for the paranormal, the bizarre, and their unexpected assimilation into America today,” the microphone rap was the typical, practiced radio talk show host fanfare. The DJ, Wolf-Man Flack, was one part game show announcer plus one part pro-wrestler plus one part rabies. Mix in three cups milk, two eggs, beat until loopy, and you get the self-proclaimed voice of the people. “All right, caller #4, Rodney…you’re on Cryptid Talk. What’s on your mind? Rodney sounds half drunk, angry, but educated, possibly a college drop-out, “That damn unicorn is to blame. All of this, everything that followed, was directly the result of some lazy, hungry hoofed quadruped wandering stupidly out of the wilderness. Ten thousand years of shrouded mystery, fantasy, and hopeful worldly hunters searching for a photo or even just a glimpse, and here she comes staggering into the light for all to see like a full frontal Mona Lisa nude. Smiling. Hello world. It’s about time, eh?
“Stupid damn unicorns.” “Okay, Rodney,” Wolf-Man Flack chuckled, “Tell us what you really think? So where’s all this coming from? We know the story.” Rodney replied, speaking a little too closely to his telephone receiver, “I was a rancher. Did you know that? Got into unicorn ranching after I couldn’t be a lawyer anymore. It seemed equitable enough. I’ve learned a lot about them, you know? They lived on a diet of honeysuckle and irony. Some said it was global warming or deforestation, others said it was a general lack of social humor or wit, but as their food of choice became scarce for one reason or another they began moving closer to the world of humans searching for the brief cessation of a hollow stomach.” Wolf-Man Flack cut in, “Yeah, Rodney, we know, we know…We’ve all seen the Al Gore special on the plight of the unicorns. It’s not a new story, really. Polar bears in Alaska invade small villages looking for beer nuts or
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funnel cake or small children. Mountain lions have become increasingly unfazed by barbed wire fences around cow pastures in Texas. Those damn timber wolves are in danger of extinction because they keep getting too close to Farmer Dale’s 30 ought.” Rodney, over the sound of sloshing liquid and glass clinking against glass, said, “It was only a matter of time before the world became too small for any of them to stay hidden from our watchful eyes and our checkbooks.” It started with a unicorn. But they all soon followed. The world had too few forests left to hide them all and too many people bugging out on satellite surveillance looking for Bin Laden or El Dorado or Elvis Presley. Wolf-Man Flack said, “For those of you listening at home that don’t know the story, here’s the run down. The day was a warm July afternoon, three days after Independence Day had fizzled to a blue smoke curl from the tip of the premature pop of a Roman candle.
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ta s tic a l s
The sun was up and a family, the Smiths or Joneses or Berkowitzes, something like that, were throwing one last stubborn refusal to admit that American extravagance was over for another season. Dressed in the checkered picnic table cloak of a backyard barbecue, their pride in a belated July 4th Celebration was just enough to draw out a half-starved allegory-eating pronged steed.
“Pop Berkowitz or Momma Jones or whatever was standing there in a Kiss the Cook apron, holding a spatula, or squeezing ketchup from a red bottle when here comes that dumb beast hungry for a snack of ambrosia salad or delayed patriotism. Pristine white like a virgin sacrifice she strolled up with a horse-face full of pomp and eyes full of want and a belly full of nothing but desperation. Bobbing on tired legs, her head swung back and forth, slicing a three-foot spiraled ivory horn through the air like a blade. Someone probably dropped a hotdog. Someone might have snapped a photo with a cell phone. Everyone held their breath.” Wolf-Man sighed and chuckled, “It’s been a long time
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since we’ve thought about that day, Rod. I’d bet good money that old unicorn knew what the Smiths or Berkowitzes or Dufraines were thinking. The world had just changed and nothing would be the same again. It was a Saturday afternoon, the first Saturday after American Independence Day, and a unicorn changed the world for the smell of roasting wieners, the sound of lemonade on ice and a smug appetite for satire.” “Stupid damn stupid unicorns,” Rodney sloshed, “I just wanted to get that off my chest. If it weren’t for that dumb beast none of this would have happened.” “Are you sure, Rod?” Wolf-Man asked, “I mean, what do all of you folks at home think? Was it the animal’s fault or ours for driving them out? If it wasn’t the unicorn would it have maybe been a centaur or a leprechaun or a fairy that was eventually discovered? Has the world gotten too small for anything to hide from our prying eyes? Call in, voice your opinion. This is The Cryptid Hour on the Fantastical Radio Network and I’m your effervescent host, Wolf-Man Flack.” ***
From an article printed in The Village Voice:
The media dubbed the newcomers “fantasticals,” that is, any being thought to be a fantasy or superstition that showed up on the day the world changed. Following the arrival of the Fantasticals, the Federal Government passed a bill essentially reinstating segregation. After much deliberation in the Senate, a few vetoes, a filibuster from Joseph Lieberman reciting the lyrics to every Carly Simon album, many bribes and boxes of bear claws from a nearby Krispy Kreme, and it was decided that the Fantasticals were set to be a threat to the American way of life, our culture, destiny, and, perhaps worst of all, our economy. Senator Adalgiso Hefflefarb of North Dakota spoke out on this afternoon and had this to say: “Ladies and gentlemen of the Senate, members of the press, I, Senator Adalgiso Hefflefarb, have never been a jealous man. Nor am I a proud man. I am, however, a man of facts, reason, and institutionalized gambling. If we allow these creatures access to America’s job market
it will be a short week before true Americans, human Americans, are left out in the cold, unemployed and outshined by the competition. How can we compete with beings with boundless strength, in touch with ancient magic and knowledgeable to a fault about the secrets of our world we have yet to answer or, perhaps, even ask? Is the Earth alive? Is she a man or a woman? Have we been insulting him by calling him ‘mother’ for all these years? Does a tree falling in the woods when no one’s around actually make a sound? Why did the chicken really cross the road? “My friends, do you see my point? How can we allow such fantastic, powerful beings access to jobs that are in high demand among the solely human population?” Senator Genevieve Screwtorn stated, “Your point is valid, Senator Hefflefarb, but what, may I ask, is it you are proposing?” The Senator from North Dakota replied, “If they are to become American citizens then they must be employed, taxable voters with all the rights and privileges therein. However, I suggest we restrict that employment to jobs that are well-suited to the natural abilities that have allowed them to survive for this long. They must not be allowed to use their strengths to overtake the civilization we have worked so hard to build, rather, let us empower them to use those abilities to strengthen our great nation. That, ladies and gentlemen, is my proposition.” Vice President McDuglebottom held a vote. Hands were raised. The gavel struck. Senator Hefflefarb’s proposition was made a bill which eventually passed unanimously. After much deliberation, the US Congress passed a law which effectively gave America a well-enforced labor class with humanity standing on the shoulders of the Fantasticals. As quickly as a unicorn can crash an After-4th-of-July Barbecue and change the world, human beings found themselves, each of them, promoted to white collar workers. *** It was Tivoed and replayed to the partners. Halfway between the commercial break at the end of Law & Order, just before the debut of some new crime dramedy featuring Christian Slater, the ad aired. Shelton Chic,
On screen, playing to a group of pale-skinned, lifeless attorneys gathered around a mahogany conference table is an auto mall refurbished by its new owner into something they will all soon find fairly alarming. The spokesperson for the commercial, a highly flamboyant and oddly flexible individual given his particular race, was dressed in a finely tailored suit over dusty, tattered strips of rag. He waved his arms, shouted and leapt at the camera and gestured maniacally at the rows and rows of new product he had on sale. Line across the parking lot like so many Jaguars or Coupe De Villes, was the strangest assortment of multi-colored caskets anyone had ever arranged in a seven acre lot. That is, assuming anyone had ever been bold enough to do so. “Mummies, Shelton?” asked Nathaniel Rose, “What does this company care about mummies?” “Please, Nate,” Shelton replied, “Just bear with me, here, I feel this is worthy of our attention.” On the television, the pre-recorded mummy salesman in his cheesy, dust-powdered suit, waved his arms and shouted, “Folks! Folks! It’s like nothing you’ve seen yet! I’ve got chestnut, I’ve got oak nut, I’ve got walnut, I’ve got fiber glass, I’ve got a pine box if that’s your thing! All top of the line, all very, very reasonably priced and just waiting for you to come down to the Mummy Mortuary Mega Mall and pick out your taste in the latest designs in death! And don’t forget, because we’re mummies, for a reasonable additional charge we can always ensure the possibility that your loved ones could rise from the grave. With the Mummy Mortuary patented system, no one needs to stay dead for long! Come down to the Mummy Mortuary Mega Mall and we’ll get it all wrapped up for you!” Numbers flash, graphic texts, colors and a subtle, fasttalking voice says, “Prices for resurrected dead may vary. Mummy Mortuary Mega Mall is not responsible for soul eating, necromancy, dark magic, curses, or plagues that may occur as a result of loved ones returning from the afterlife. Side effects may include dry skin, dry mouth, stiff joints, sleeplessness, and an uncontrollable desire to conquer the living. If these or any other side effects oc-
cur, please consult a physician or priest immediately.”
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President of the law offices of Chic, Rose & Steele, hit record the moment the spot began.
Shelton Chic clicks the television remote and the screen goes black.
Drake Steele clears his throat and says, “Well, I think you were right to bring this to our attention, Shelton. The Board of Directors is always interested in any non-human laborer reaching beyond his pay grade or breeching the social contract we all have agreed to abide by. I will assign one of the associates to this case immediately.” Just then a seven foot tall centaur dressed in a red tassel coat and sequined cowboy hat kicked open the double doors to the conference room, ducked through the doorway and stomped a steel-shoed hoof. He was followed immediately by an agitated and apologetic receptionist pulling his tail in a pointless attempt at dragging him back out into the waiting area.
The receptionist, a young temp named Barbara, almost cried, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, sirs...he just, he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I tried to tell him he had to wait, but he wouldn’t hear of it!” “It’s fine, Becky,” Shelton replied. “Barbara.”
“Right. Well, in any case, it isn’t your fault. I am sure that neither I, nor the partners, nor the Board of Directors, would expect you to be able to stop a two-thousand pound centaur on a mission. You may return to your station.” “T-t-thank you, sir,” Barbara stammered on her way out. “Rosey,” Shelton said to Nathaniel Rose, “See to it that she is fired.”
Turning to the agitated centaur, Shelton Chic stated flamboyantly, as if to bow, “Now then, my impatient friend, what can the Law Offices of Chic, Rose & Steele do for you?” “I met a rodeo clown named Louie. Well, retired rodeo clown, but still!” the Centaur replied in a bellowing, if not childish voice.
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“Our sincerest apologies, sir,” Drake Steele cut in, “And you want to sue him for speaking to you? Lowly rabble of that kind shouldn’t even dream of speaking to a creature of your magnificence.” “No, no, not at all, not at all,” the Centaur said, wildly waving his hands in protest, “You see, Louie the Rodeo Clown is black.” A sudden tension fills the room. Vampires, while capable of flights of romance, seduction, and victorious prosecution, are often callused to most things labeled “human drama,” but even the still-born heart of a vampire trembles when someone pulls the race card. “I’m sorry, Mr. uh...” Shelton Chic begins. “Clatterfoot, Gabriel Clatterfoot is the name of my federal identification card.” “Mr. Clatterfoot,” Shelton continues, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know that your case is right for us. We make it our business to sternly avoid issues pertaining to AfricanAmerican civil rights, discrimination, police brutality or music.” “I’m only try’n to say, folks,” says the centaur, “That Louie the Rodeo Clown taught me about a time in America when his people followed some king who said that what was happening to them ain’t right. You know what I mean? This king had some kind of vision or visitation in his sleep and the spirits told him in a dream that he had the right to be whatever he wanted to be and he ought to fight for it, right? So I figger, why ain’t we doin’ the same? They say America’s a free country, and anybody can be anything they want, but I don’t want to be stuck workin’ on the ranch, herdin’ unicorns and scooping goat shit all day.” “Actually, Mr. Clatterfoot,” says Nathaniel Rose rubbing pale fingers against the pink hued edges of his eyelids, “Under Article 1 of the People vs. The Fantasticals, our Federal Government ruled that the rights and privileges outlined in the Constitution of the United States applied only to citizens of human origin. The credo of America itself clearly states ‘that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the
pursuit of happiness.’ It states that ‘governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.’ Your government has ruled that the stated ‘men’ refers directly and exactly to human beings alone.” Drake Steele says, “I don’t know what case you think you have, sir, but according to the US government, you are not a man, you are an animal of reasonable enough intelligence to be put to work in lower level human employment.” “But, but…” Clatterfoot stammered, “But I don’t want to have to work on the farm! I don’t want to be a lower level human employee! I want to be a rodeo star! I want to ride in the lights and cameras and be free like Louie was free!” “Sir,” Shelton Chic stifled a laugh, “I am sorry, sir, but you just simply cannot be a rodeo star. How shall I put this delicately? It is, as a part of your physiology, impossible for you to become separated from your horse and, as it is the basis of the sport to be able to be knocked loose from the bucking steed, I am afraid it would afford you an unfair advantage.” Nathaniel Rose said, “I am afraid, for the time being, Mr. Clatterfoot, you are a ranch hand, and I’d wager, a damn good one.” “But…” Clatterfoot began. “Next!” Drake Steele shouted. “But?” “Next!” Clatterfoot hung his head, pulling off his sequined hat and dragging his heavy hoofs despairingly as he turned to leave. Feeling a degree of guilt at the sight of the misguided centaur, a young partner at the table, Phoenix Black, excused himself from the conference and headed down the hall toward the elevator. Standing in front of the well-polished chrome doors, waiting for his turn for the bells to chime and the doors to slide open like a race horse stomping at the gate,
JULY 2010 He found himself thinking about the nature of this new America. The vampire allure, the attraction of his own existence, had entertained him for centuries. In a land of music and shadow and sex, cold stares and lifeless heartbeats, he had lived to the beat of his own organ player and enjoyed the secret mystique of his being. But today, vampires, as if by some social jab or pun, had been allocated as the blood sucking lawyers of a world of numbers and parking tickets and job classes and reruns. He took the elevator to the basement and found his sleek, black Bentley parked alone under a flickering halogen light. To him, in this new world where a unicorn can ruin your fun at the speed of a barbecued hot dog or a group of elected puppet masters can decide your fate with a vote and a toast, there was no more music or romance or candlelight to experience. To Phoenix, walking toward his car in the concrete scrape echoes of his footsteps, in the exposed pipe works and slab pillar blocking and paint grids of the lot, everything around him just looked like the inside of a computer. Phoenix was bored. His hands shook as he tried to unlock the driver’s side door and the key scratched the paint. It was a minor scratch, but the tension of his job, his lack of life, and the desire to feel a heart pounding in his chest made it a catastrophe. He kicked his tire, hard, and swore, “Fucking unicorns!” ***
Excerpt from an article published in the Willamette Weekly: Everyone knew they weren’t their real names. You probably heard about them and thought, “Gee whiz, do vampires only make new vampires out of people with names that sound like heavy metal guitarists or Las Vegas magicians?” Everyone knew the truth. When the government opted to make citizens out of those with human or almost human intelligence the vampires were the first to step forward and apply for identities, employment and Social
Security. They had never been on paper before that moment, which allowed for a certain rare opportunity.
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Phoenix stared into his absence of reflection and sighed.
You mean we can be anyone? We can have whatever name we want?
Maybe it was their flare for the theatrical, a certain penchant for anything in a cape or a Phantom of the Opera mask or black leather, but they all chose names like Ice Dennehy or Diamond Edward Pearl. There was Axle Valentine and Raoul Dark.
Everyone knew that when they were made there had to be at least one that was a Hubie Lawton or a Maxwell Davies. Someone had to be ordinary, but it seemed inevitable that going vampire meant becoming an Armand Delacroix or Razor Steele. The willingness of the vampire community to come out of the shadows to join American society won them the most prestigious job designation of any of the Fantasticals: lawyer. ***
Phoenix needed to clear his head. He loved his Bentley. Its windows were too heavily tinted for any normal human being to ever dream of driving safely, but with eyes like his, adjusted to the night for centuries, they were just right. It allowed him to get out during the day without fear of messy spontaneous combustion. Plus, it didn’t need annoying alarm systems to keep people from stealing it since you pretty much had to be a bat to be able to drive the damn thing. The streets were more alive during the day. Unlike his counterparts, he liked that. Phoenix was a social being and had grown to hate the loneliness of an empty street after midnight. He wanted life, momentum...he wanted things to get weird. This new America, for him, was too stable, too predictable -- patterned and formulized like calorie counting diets, regularly scheduled programming on satellite television, TIVO, awards shows, tax season, traffic lights. His list was endless. Even outside of that parking garage, everything looked like the inside of a computer. On the corner of Lexington and 86th, an elderly home-
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less man held a cardboard sign that read, “Hungry. Unicorn Burger?” Phoenix had to laugh. Goddamned fucking unicorns. The world used to be fun until the government had to get tipped off that they were surrounded by Fantasticals. He knew what it was all about. Man was afraid. They had suddenly realized that they were no longer the top of the food chain. So they had instituted rules to hang on to the illusion that they still were. To no one in particular, Phoenix Black said, “Nothing unreal exists.” ***
The Jersey Shore waterfront has the distinct odor of fish sex, smoke stacks, algae rave parties, soggy trash and spray-on tans. Desmond Gossamer hated it. It reminded him of growing up, working the docks summers to try to make a clean break of everything. When he’d made detective he swore he’d never come back, never smell that stink again. Figures that would be the beat he got assigned. Desmond knew it was cliché, but he had become the kind of cop that couldn’t keep a partner for long. No one was more surprised, if not entirely perturbed, than Desmond himself. But it had happened all the same. “Better late than never, eh, Des?” The voice was a bellows spraying dust, liquor and hot air. It was his most recent partner, an over-the-hill exheadline with a chip on his shoulder and enough clichés to boot to make Desmond look downright unorthodox. They say you are what you eat, but when you’re a cop you are what you carry. You can tell more about a man by his sidearm than by his breakfast of choice. His partner was a .38 snub nose. Desmond Gossamer was a Glock. Driving with his partner gave Desmond flashbacks to Lethal Weapon dialogue. Detective Horace Sullivan was obese, in a perpetual state of drunk or hung over, with a moon-crater face of old scars and hands that would make King Kong check his manhood. He didn’t go by Sullivan, Sully or some nickname derivative of his last name like you might expect.
Everyone just called him Grimace. Desmond thought it was on account of his physique being strikingly similar to that purple blob of a mascot from old McDonald’s commercials. You might also figure it was his ghoulish expression. Truth is it was a bit of both. People on the force would call him Grimace to his face as a form of masked appreciation for his stoicism, but the second he turned his back to light a cigar downwind they were making Hamburglar jokes. Desmond strolled up, casually lighting a cigarette and completely disregarding his partner’s morning ribbing. “What do we got?” he asked. “Double homicide just washed up on shore,” Grimace replied, “By the look of it, Romeo here gave it to Juliet a little too hard and she gave it back to him with interest.” Wood crates and shipping pallets were stacked high all around them, gathering seawater, moisture and bad tempers. The ground, this close to the water was cobalt colored gravel with a side of litter and junkie trash. But the bodies were the eye grabbers. You saw the bruises first. In training, they try to teach you to remain objective, to see the whole picture before making any judgments. But these two were a picture of brutality, naked to the skin and bloated on the dirty shore. What was left to analyze after the fish had gotten their bellies full was glossy, swollen, and green where it wasn’t purple and black. Grimace said, “Look, you ask me, these two got to wailing on each other and they took a dump over the balcony and into the drink. Look at ‘em, all banged up, broken bones from an impact. That’s my call, anyway. These two killed each other.” Desmond knelt down beside the bodies. Looking closely he could see stitch marks in the flesh, some older, some more fresh. Grimace was right, there were a lot of broken bones, but they weren’t from any impact. They were too abnormal, and too similar to one another. The legs in particular. The wounds were identical. “Hey, Grim, check this out,” Desmond said, gesturing for him to come closer, “When’s the last time you saw
Grimace leans in for a closer look and says, “Ex-wife’s tits. She wanted an upgrade, had to scrimp for a year to pay for ‘em.” “Don’t worry, pal, you look like the missed meals didn’t hurt you too bad.” “Eat me, Gossamer,” Grimace chuckled, “Point is, she got the new rack, the house, car, everything...and I got the payments. But yeah, those ain’t ER stitches. Those are top dog, Beverly Hills plastic surgeon stitches.” “That’s what I thought too,” Desmond replied, “And the legs, broken clean like that in the same place on both vics. It looks like someone broke them intentionally.” “What do you figure, kid? Some guy playing doctor in his basement grabs a young couple off the street?” “Maybe so and maybe the only way they could get loose was by going for a swim. Means we’re looking for a place on the waterfront. You know, looking at the skin tones, I’d say they’d been wearing casts. See the line? You ever get a cast off, Grim? What’s it look like underneath?” “Like a limp dick when you been swimming all day. Shriveled, pressed and green.” Desmond stood, brushing imaginary dust off of his slacks, “Exactly. You know, I’ll bet you they tore their casts off themselves so they wouldn’t weigh them down. The bones were still too fragile and cracked up on the way to shore.” “Figure they drowned when their legs couldn’t carry ‘em anymore?” “Could be, old timer,” Desmond replied, distracted, feeling around in the matted hair of the dead man, “Hello? What have we here?” “Whatcha got, kid?” Desmond shrugged and gestured for Grimace to feel
for himself. He hesitated, making a face worthy of his moniker, then reached down and rubbed the scalp of the body. “It feels like…” “I know.”
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stitches like that? There’s no trauma, no lacerations, just a clean cut sewn back together.”
“Stumps?” asked Grimace, “Like little, flattened lumps on the vic’s cranium.” “Horns, maybe? Filed down out of sight? You don’t think?”
“Yeah, I do,” Grimace replied, “These kids ain’t human. If I remember my fairy tales right, I’d say he used to be a faun till somebody got to cutting on him. Means it wasn’t random experimentation. Our doctor friend is trying to turn Fantasticals into humans. And he’s doing it Island of Dr. Moreau style.” Desmond nodded, “I think, Grim-Baby, we’re looking at our first hard evidence to support rumors of the infamous Mr. Wizard.” ***
The Coffee Pot was located a cigarette flick off of Highway 360 in Texas. Mike Shagtoe liked to stop in early mornings on his way to the worksite. If anyone had told Mike ten years ago that he’d be logging for a living he would have probably pulled their head off by the roots. His people live in the trees, the trees are their life and their home, able to cover them from rain and danger, able to pull them in like mist and ghost them out of sight. But then it’s all different now. Now he’s considered just human enough to have to wear blue jeans and flannel to hide his hairy back side. Just not human enough to deserve working anywhere other than cutting and hauling tree corpses. This New America had sasquatches behind the wheel of logging trucks. Sasquatches were taking chainsaw blades to the skin of the only thing he loved in this world. A forest was not a field of sticks for him. For Mike Shagtoe, a forest was as alive as a city. In some ways, maybe even more than a city.
JULY 2010 for shrouding illusions in paperwork to make the illusion seem like reality. Is that right, Hack?”
On the bar, leaning elbows on the Formica countertop, sat a noticeably short gnome, even for his kind. His name was Hack, just Hack, he refused to take on any more politically friendly name and opted, instead, to continue in his life in very much the same way he had before the world changed. Hack worked as a gardener for local apartment complexes and gated communities. He was something of a novelty to the residents, he knew they liked to stare and comment about him as if he were some sort of cute patio fixture or pink flamingo on the lawn, but he dealt with it with characteristic hostility.
“The same, yes…rumors of a man capable of altering Fantasticals into human forms are looking to be confirmed. It’s the next breed of plastic surgery, species reassignment operations, or whatever it is they’ll be called, will likely be the new trend in this foul century. Can you believe it? How can our kind actually willing to trade their skins just to look like one of the fleshies? It sickens me. But that doesn’t change the fact that the Wizard is likely just a figment of some frustrated faun’s imagination. Still, it doesn’t matter. If something is unreal that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It just takes an act of Congress, a good ad campaign or the right news coverage to make it so.”
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The cowbell hanging on the door chimed as he pushed his way into the greasy dive for his morning brew. Mike didn’t like coffee much. He frequented the Coffee Pot because it was friendly to his kind. As he ducked in through the front door he got a few polite nods from the regulars. He always looked around, taking in the atmosphere of the little hole in the wall. Jukebox, rotary payphone, static-blinking television hanging high on the wall, it was all there, just like the people. This place wore its customers like a flannel jacket and they wore it out in return.
Hack was mid-rant as Mike dropped his weight onto one of the stools beside him. “If the idea is unreal, a rule can be created that isn’t. Laws exist to enforce fiction. A clever way of defying the logical claim that nothing unreal can exist. The law is there, therefore the idea is real. It’s no wonder, then, that possession is nine-tenths of the law. We’re talking about a novel-length social contract that exists solely to enforce the fiction of ownership. I don’t really have anything, but the law says I do, therefore I do. Ain’t that right, Mike? Mike knows what I’m talking about, don’t you Mike?” Mike always felt kind of dumb whenever he talked politics with Hack and had taken to just saying, “Yessir, Hack knows.” “You see! Hack knows!” Hack exclaimed, waving his coffee mug at Burt the owner. Burt said, “You see, Mike, our dear friend Hack here was just commenting on the nature of the philosophy of politics. Hack thinks that politics is a polite euphemism
“What set him off this time?” Mike asked. “I guess you ain’t heard yet?” Hack shouts, “Story leaked out to the leaches in the press, apparently some cops in New Jersey think they proved the existence of the Wizard.” “You mean the...?”
Mike ordered four omelettes and a pot of coffee to himself and let Hack burn out on the speech. After his breakfast he drove in to the worksite in a beat up old GM truck that barely held him. He hated driving it. His feet could barely fit on the tiny pedals and his head pressed into the ceiling, but he needed it if he was ever going to get anywhere on time. Mike Shagtoe pulled up to the half-devastated lot, grabbed his saw and gloves and got ready to crush a little bit more of the world that had been his sanctuary for longer than most of those politicians had been alive. Because of them he had traded morning dew and the voice of the trees for death rattle and the lead belly heat of cheap whiskey. To him, Hack was mostly right, everything unreal exists as long as people mean for it to. If it doesn’t exist then it can’t be destroyed. And this world, this country, heaps destruction. *** Phoenix Black pulled into a metered parking space in
The wolf in the bloody apron and paper hat said, “Sorry, sir, I don’t carry that anymore. I’m going kosher. In this economy I have to cater to the neighborhood demographic. So, kosher meats only from now on. My doctor told me to get religion. This here’s a Jewish establishment. There ain’t a pig in sight. Can I interest you in a nice cut of pastrami, sir?” “Forget it,” Phoenix grunted, turning back toward the door. Nothing beat the taste of a pig. Nothing was closer to human. Phoenix knew he needed an outlet. He felt passion, energy, moodiness, sleeplessness, and a backward kind of romance that injected the night with daring and mystique. He felt that if he couldn’t get it out somehow that he might just explode and bits of him would go hailing like meteorites all over New York. And that, at least, would be an improvement. At least he could have shown the world how he felt. He climbed back behind the wheel of his Bentley and pulled, absentmindedly, away from the curb. Cramming his foot into the gas pedal he blindly gunned it into traffic and heard an abrupt, immediate thud like a sack of racquet balls hitting the plaster wall of Ray’s Pizza. That’s the one on Prince Street, not the one on 8th Avenue. Someone was lying face down in the street, moaning, with documents, office supplies, a leather satchel and a
half-eaten onion bagel strewn all around her. Phoenix was helpless. The sun was out in force and all he could do was watch. She could be hurt, bleeding, and he had to stay in the car. By day, the life of Phoenix Black was parking garages, corporate offices, and the inside of his car. He, like every other lawyer, was trapped and could not allow the sun to touch him.
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front of a local butcher shop, but didn’t bother to put money in the machine. He used the Vampire Entrance for daylight hours and rushed through the covered awning toward the front door. Phoenix had a kind of swoop when he walked, like a black cloud on the wind or the winged flight of some nocturnal predator. He swooped in through the glass door with the sound of an automated bell chime and greeted the werewolf at the counter. Phoenix ordered a raw pig, bloody as hell, as a substitute for the now socially irresponsible habit of biting down on an exposed human throat. He normally had no trouble curbing his appetites, but something about the job lately had been eating him alive inside and he needed to splurge.
“Hello?” the girl groaned, sounding exasperated, “You gonna sit and watch me all day or are you gonna help me out?” “I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry?” the girl asked, “Sorry for what? For knocking me down or for staring up my skirt while I’m sprawled all over Manhattan like a deflated Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon?” Phoenix rolled down his window a quarter of an inch and said, “Definitely not the balloon thing.” The girl stood up, turning to face him and Phoenix flinched. “B-Barbara? It’s Barbara, right?” “Yeah, who the hell are you?” “It’s me, it’s Phoenix from the office.”
“Phoenix? Oh, Mr. Black!” Barbara knelt down, nervously scooping up papers and pens, “I’m so sorry I... I mean, if I had only known... I mean...of course you didn’t get out of the car!”
“Don’t worry about it. Can I give you a lift somewhere to make it up to you?” Phoenix replied, casually. “Yeah, I’m headed downtown. Just let me get the rest of this stuff.”
Barbara gathered up the last of her things and placed them in a crumpled box. As she stood and moved toward the passenger side door Phoenix stopped her. “Um, Barbara, you sort of forgot something.”
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“Yeah, there under the tire of the car behind me. I can see it in mirror.” Barbara moved around to the back of the car, awkwardly balancing all of her belongings in her arms. “Here?” she asked. “No, not there, the other one.” “Back here?” “No, not there either, it’s the other tire. Toward the front,” Phoenix said, impatiently. “Up here?” “No, look, just forget it. It looks like it’s probably a paper weight or something anyway.” “Oh, yeah! I see it,” Barbara exclaimed, “No, it’s a souvenir snow globe I got at Coney Island. I collect them for a Museum of White Trash Paraphernalia I’m making in my bathroom.” Barbara moved toward the passenger door pressing the snow globe against the window. “See,” she continued, “If you shake it up, tiny wieners float around all over the Cyclone Rollercoaster. Pretty cool, huh?” Phoenix shrugged and said, “Just get in the car, will ya?” Barbara, balancing a leather satchel, a crumpled box filled with documents, pens and a stolen telephone from Chic, Rose & Steele, along with a souvenir snow globe from Coney Island, reached for the Bentley door handle clumsily. “It’s locked.” Laughing, Phoenix fumbled with the automatic locks and apologized. Barbara climbed into the passenger seat and her belongings immediately sagged and expanded into the floorboards, seat cushion and pretty much all of
the available space around her. Phoenix shrugged it off and pulled cautiously into traffic. “So, Phoenix,” Barbara said with a sly grin, “Is this how you meet all the ladies? With a fender in the ass?” “Yeah, I’m really sorry about that by the way. I’ve just been preoccupied today.” “Because they fired me? Oh, Mr. Black, you’re too kind.” “Partly, I think you were the last straw. Shelton fired you after smiling to your face. And then there was that centaur that just wanted to be treated with some respect.” “Well, in Shelton’s defense,” Barbara smiled, “The sequins were a bit much.” “I still feel bad about it,” he replied. “Don’t worry about it. I get fired all the time. I’ll just get a new job, no big.” Phoenix stopped the car abruptly as a yellow cab cut him off on 47th Street. He slammed a fist into the steering wheel and shouted, “Dammit, nothing makes any sense. The world used to be illuminated by candlelight everywhere you went. It had romance. Then the light bulb came along and turned New York City into the inside of a refrigerator. Now we have laws restricting the movements of creatures that used to be the dreams of human children. It’s all nonsense and I swear, Barbara, if I have to send away one more discouraged centaur or frustrated dwarf miner or disenfranchised unicorn rancher I might just take a walk in the sunlight.” “Whoa, Phoenix, man,” Barbara said with a laugh in her voice hiding just a martini olive’s distance from the surface of put on concern, “You need to lighten up. What is it with you vampires anyway? Everywhere I look there’s always some overly emotional, borderline manic emo kid vamp whining about the old world or how his love is gone or how he dreams of sunshine. You guys need to get a hobby that doesn’t involve blood, satin or lawsuit settlements.”
JULY 2010 “What do I suggest? Christ, when I’m mixed up I just play a good record or take a walk through Union Square and watch the art dweebs try to get famous behind an acoustic guitar or interpretive street dance. But, hey, you’re the ancient, undead night ghoul with a poet’s heart and a sellout job, go do what you do. Run over hot girls or suck on a bat. Whatever. You can drop me here, Phoenix. Good luck and all.” Phoenix Black pulled to the curb and felt taken with the carefree cynicism of his passenger. A new kind of warmth spread through his body as the car slowed to a stop and she awkwardly shuffled her thin form and shabby belongings onto the street. He apologized for bumping into her, and for unloading all his troubles. She smiled and, as she turned to leave, said, “Not to mention firing this sweet ass. Still, whatever, it’s your loss. But maybe you vamps don’t feel it downstairs like a human boss might? Don’t know don’t wanna know… later, Count.” She moved walked away, a tease in her voice as she blew a kiss and said good night. *** Log on to the internet and type in “Un-American” in your search engine. Ten years ago you might have run across public announcements or media buzz about Middle-Eastern terrorism, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, or the dangers of conspiracy theories. Maybe you’d find something from a State of the Union Address. Forty years ago, if we had internet access that could have been anything other than dial up because, let’s face it, dial up blows, you would have logged on and found Nixon speeches, public service announcements, public warnings and testaments to the dangers of youth counterculture movements, rock music, John Lennon, and patchouli oil. Twenty years before that and it would have been socialism, communism, anyone Joseph McCarthy didn’t like, Russians, Germans, Japanese, beatniks, and Hollywood. Today all of these things might show up if you scrolled through enough pages. But 10-1 says you’re going to run across anti-fantastical websites claiming that they are
a threat to our way of life, not deserving of our jobs or our wages or our fast food, and that they should all just “go back where they came from.”
SEAHORSE RODEO FOLK REVIEW
“What do you suggest, you’re so smart?”
Neo-conservative brow-furrowers march on Washington, waving picket signs calling the Fantasticals freaks or unwelcome invaders or a drain on the national trust. Senator Adalgiso Hefflefarb stepped forward as the voice of the frightened masses, promoting new legislation that would effectively “Give these cryptids their land back.”
Congress gathered for a special session regarding the matter. The extreme right was relieved, hopeful and flattered that someone took the time to listen to their shouts, media hype and bomb threats. The left was reminiscing around bonfires, bongo drums, and bongs about Native American reservations, internment camps during World War II and Nazi ghettos.
No one asked the Fantasticals for their side of the story. ***
The Drowning Horse was the place to be after work. Loggers, truck drivers, prison guards and one marriage counselor frequented the place. It was a popular hangout for customers of the Fantastical persuasion as the owner was one himself. Mike Shagtoe stopped by every day at 5:30 PM, but not for the same reason as the others. He was there for just one reason, one person. An aquatic dancer named Millie.
The owner, Gary Snodcrust, was what most people would immediately describe as a giant crab, but what a more sophisticated expert on cryptid varieties would recognize as an “anomaly.” Meaning he was the only one of his kind and, therefore, could not be classified as a race. For this reason alone he was granted the right to own and operate a business as long as he didn’t try to expand and he did not generate too much publicity.
Gary greeted Mike at the door and escorted him to his reserved table, the closest table to Millie’s dance tank. Millie always focused on Mike once he showed up. She would twist around in the tank, flick her fin, or twirl her hair, always with her eyes locked on the hairy ape on the
SEAHORSE RODEO FOLK REVIEW
other side of the glass. Mike took a seat, reeking of sawdust, ape sweat and cigarettes, and smiled an awkward Sasquatch smile at the girl in the water. Millie winked and her golden hair floated around her like lustful fingers. Her skin always shimmered in the overhead lighting as colored bulbs throbbed and pulsed to the ocean-themed music. She arched her back and nearly folded in half, pulling her blue fin up toward her mouth. Mike gripped the table, hard, nervously watching her with his mouth hanging wide open.
Mike slammed his fist into the table, toppling a few beer mugs and cracking the wood right down the center. Slightly embarrassed, he stood up and stormed away on heavy feet. He needed to calm down. Millie wouldn’t leave him for Las Vegas, would she?
Heading back to the truck he lit up a cigarette, tiny in his enormous hands, and leaned on the hood. The chassis sagged down to the tires beneath the weight of his tired body and he just sat there, chain smoking, lighting the next smoke with the one he had just finished. Mike was tired of not being wild. He was tired of cutting trees down so people could take A smarmy little man at the table next door leaned over notes or Xerox legal documents or build bigger, more and whispered something. Mike didn’t hear him at first. unnecessary houses in Malibu, or wipe their asses on the He was too engrossed in Millie’s dancing. But he turned great north. He wanted out. and saw him dressed to the nines in a tailored gray suit, black tie, shellacked hairdo and triangle moustache. Gary came out and leaned on the truck beside him. The Mike didn’t like him immediately, mainly because he suspension screamed with a rust-clank voice, but they stunk of Old Spice, cheap gin and gunpowder. ignored it. “What was that?” Mike asked politely.
“That dirt bag upset you, Mike?”
“I said,” the stranger repeated, “Quite a dish, ain’t she? If you’ll excuse the obvious seafood pun. I’ve had my eye on her for a couple weeks now.”
“Yeah, he wants to take Millie away.”
Mike felt a wild, untamed mountain rage billow up under his hairy skin. His knuckles stretched white against his skin, forming a stone-tight fist. But he had to remain calm. This was no longer a world where a man like Mike Shagtoe could let his passions take control. It was a tango between the man and his instincts, and the federal government said the man had to take the lead. This world had replaced “Kill or be killed” with “Speak softly and carry a big corporate attorney.” “Interested in her for what?” Mike asked through gritted teeth. “In giving her the star treatment, of course,” the little man replied, “I’m talking Vegas. Showgirls. I’m talking the whole bizarre color of booze and babes and money for everyone on the ticket. Since you weirdos showed up Vegas has taken a turn. Shows are going places nobody had ever dreamed up before now. You should see Circus Circus, that place was circling the drain until they got a few of you bozos to liven up the scene.”
“C’mon, Mike, you know Millie loves you. She ain’t going anywhere,” Gary replied, patting him on the shoulder with a barnacle-encrusted claw. “I hope you’re right,” Mike shrugged, dragging on his cigarette and sighing blue smoke, “It’s just, creeps like that get me thinking, you know? That’s the type I work for, right? They’re the reason I am killing my home.” “C’mon, Mike, we’ve been over this. That’s the way the world works. Try not to think about it like you’re killing them. Just think you’re turning them into something new.” “It’s murder, Gary, I know it,” Mike let his head fall into his hands, pulling away a felt knit cap and tugging, frustrated, at his clothes, “They had voices.” “It’s business, Mike.” “So is war.” Suddenly the air split with its own war cry. A bubbly,
Gary Snodcrust said, “It came from the dancers’ entrance.” “Millie!” Mike shouted, charging, bounding on heavy catapult feet toward the sound of the scream.
his belly as he carried Millie to his truck.
SEAHORSE RODEO FOLK REVIEW
high-lilting voice like a song made doubly terrible by the contrast of its beauty and the desperation of its shriek.
Gary said, “Get her out of here. I don’t know what these guys were really about, but I have a feeling it wasn’t Vegas. I’ll clean up the mess. You’d probably better be getting out of town. Hey, Mike, we were lucky. This could have been a lot worse. I had to stop you from pulling them apart.”
Mike turned a corner and hit the back alley entrance of the Drowning Horse faced with a black van, double doors open, two men carrying away a topless girl, soaking gold hair like dead snakes all over her pale skin. One had her under the arms, the other by her blue fin shining in the moonlight. Light danced off of her scales like the moon was screaming right back at her and she fought with all she had. She tossed her fin, tried biting the man that held her by the arms. And standing on a concrete landing, three feet above the commotion, was the smarmy stranger, smoking a cigar in the backstage light.
Mike thanked him and turned to leave. He put Millie in the passenger seat and hoped she could be out of water long enough to get to a hotel and get her in the bath. He drove silently into the night. Millie was unconscious.
There was no time to think, no time to be civilized, all the fury Mike had felt since he first picked up a chain saw boiled up within him -- killing his home, being made to wear clothes like a man, getting an ID, driving, pollution, clear cutting, paper mills, taxes, unicorn burgers, government, the end of the wild days...he didn’t think. He acted. He saw more red than a dramatization on a shark attack special. He saw red like Superman’s stunt double collided into the camera man and the lens got a face full of cape.
“Sure, he says come and live with me in peace and harmony. Sure, he offers them employment, stability and safety. But what does he get? Indentured servants? Cheap immigrant labor? Tax-free, off the books workmen? With the promise of room, board and chocolate, Willy Wonka acquired himself every plantation farmer’s dream: happy-go-lucky, busy, sing-song, smiling workaday mule horses. Face it, fellas. The Oompa-Loompas, like us, were slaves. Not only that, but like so many in this God-forsaken land, they sang their slavery masked as safety all the way to the time clock.”
When it cleared Mike was standing over the man in the gray suit. The stranger was gasping that last, weak breath that comes just before fading into unconsciousness. Mike held Millie in his arms like a child, her wet body pressed into his, her frail wrists crossed behind his neck. The men that had grabbed her were sprawled out on the pavement like mobster marionettes if Jim Henson had gone on some wild, Scorsese fueled drinking binge, created his Pinocchio gang and cut their strings in a fit of rage. One does have to wonder if such wild, artistic debauchery would have helped or hindered his career, but the real issue at hand is the state of the two sleeping henchmen. Their faces were bloodied as if two massive hands had crashed their skulls together. Mike tried not to think about it, but a lead weight grew hot in
Seven worker elves sit side by side on a pack line. They’re putting springs in Pez dispensers. Their faces are twisted masks of frustration, boredom and 401Ks. Six listen in as their apparent ring leader, center stage, rants.
It didn’t take a lot of time, but the unicorn that changed the world became a media icon almost overnight, and the next night she was known as Daisy. Daisy was put on stages and television screens and magazines around America. They took her to Las Vegas and put her in a show at the Bellagio, dressed up in colored lights with a flickering star at the end of her horn. They took her to New York and put her in a Broadway show. Daisy was kept on a regular dosage of sedatives to keep her from being spooked and trampling through the expensive stage or skewering the paying audience members.
SEAHORSE RODEO FOLK REVIEW
Her name in lights, her name in print, her name as the A-List drooling target of paparazzi photographers around America, and it was almost enough to kill her. Like so many big name starlets, the fame and the drugs were killing Daisy. In a world growing more and more full of protesters and left wing radicals crying foul against the grape stomp frustrations of the right, a few stepped forward to do the unthinkable. Daisy was a spectacle. She was being flashed around on stages around America like a striptease or an Oprah tragedy special or some kind of DIYer’s eyewitness recording of a real Wonderland. The Cryptid Liberation Army worked in the shadows, plotting, planning, and buying lottery tickets until they made their move one night in Hoboken, NJ. After a show, when the day-tripper unicorn was too far gone to notice, they fired blind rounds of horse tranquilizers into Daisy’s transportation crew. She was loaded up onto her trailer and stolen from the show site. The CLA would have gotten away with it too, had it not been for an overeager beat cop that stumbled onto the scene of the assault and gave chase. The young officer apprehended the CLA on Palisades Parkway and brought them all up on charges of assault, grand theft auto and operating a semi-truck without a proper license. They were not, however, brought up on charges regarding the theft of Daisy herself as she never made it into the report. The trailer, as was reported, was empty. And Daisy was never seen again. She, like so many of her kind before her, slipped passively into legend. ***
Phoenix Black took her up on her advice. The sun set and the weirdos came out in force. He walked the sidewalks and grassy knolls of Union Square Park like a cop on the beat. If, of course, a cop were looking out for inspiration, romance, poetry, beauty and the bizarre rather than drug dealers, prostitutes, rapists, and a face to take out his aggression on. His thoughts were distracted, embedded with viruses from someone else’s heart as if some new mind had entered his own. As if the frustration of a corporate lifestyle had lit a fire, a small one, between the toes of
a sleeping giant and it had grown slowly, silently, until it was big enough to send him screaming awake and dancing a pain jig. He told himself if old Bill Shakespeare were writing this story, this is where he’d drop in a longwinded soliloquy to help us get to know the character a bit better. Phoenix walked through crowds of smokers, laughers and horny-eyed vixens sucking on the ears of their playmates. He saw leather jackets, striped stockings and Converse shoes. He tried not to see it as ugly, but focus on the words, the sounds, and the liberty of an art community trying to launch itself from a cliché testing ground. New York City at night is a home for all kinds of vampires. Not just blood sucking undead lawyers with something to prove, but poets that feed on the pain and fortune of past poets, musicians eating and drinking Bob Dylan or Led Zeppelin, and would-be actors channeling the energy and lifeblood of Bogart, Dean, Grant, Monroe or Hepburn. Everyone is feeding on what came before them, a generation living and dying on the life and death of the one that paved their way. New York City is a vampire full of sadness and ruin and hunger. New York gutters whisper the poetry of an empty cobblestone street. It breathes the smoke of its own kind of fire and billows it through the nostrils of manholes and sewer grates all over the tourists and wannabes of downtown. New York feeds on its residents as they feed on its memory. To make it in New York you have to be part blood sucker, part pirate, and part preacher. Phoenix Black knew this as he walked through the gypsy-bent rabble of the square, staring at their clothing, anti-humility and crucible-checked devotion to the antithesis of all virtue in the name of fame, fortune and immortality. Phoenix Black heard Tom Waits covers and spoken word poetry about undying love or a doom-fueled government and knew he was home. Phoenix wanted to be an artist, but he knew something more than that. He couldn’t. Art, like management positions and political careers, was reserved for those that could call themselves human.
JULY 2010 Detective Desmond Gossamer rarely slept. His was a mind preoccupied by injustice, details, method, closing the next big case and cravings. If coffee and cigarettes were a religion he would be the pope. He would be the ninth incarnation of the Buddha of Caffeine and Nicotine. It was a poetic combination, reminiscent of an older America when men were men. It was the only thing that made him feel like he was really grown up. For Detective Gossamer, the world had changed more times in his short life than he could track. Men were looking more and more like women every day. Women were gaining all the sack and gumption and testosterone. He’d walk the Hudson shores looking at nearby strangers, the man-child aesthetic of boys in too-skinny jeans with their parts stuffed so far to one side you had to double take to see if their balls had even dropped. Men in beards were disgraced as terrorists, hobos or rapists. It was trendy to look like a working man in denim and flannel, but only if you hadn’t worked a day in your life. It was hip to wear army fatigues, Vietnam era greenback jackets, and combat boots, but only if you were a pacifist that never served and you accessorized with hipster sunglasses, scarves, striped undershirts, bangles, bracelets, nail polish, patches or earrings. Desmond didn’t understand. Everyone had gone and made it cool to be everything you lacked the spine to stand up and become, as if hypocrisy or irony had become the new sexy. He lit a cigarette and stared out at the water. His back was turned to the squad car, but the radio was on and he figured he could spare a minute or two. This case troubled him and he had to clear his head. Two bodies in a morgue Monday led to two more Wednesday and another this morning. It was the same M.O. each time flayed flesh, broken bones, stitch marks. Skin grafts and laser hair removal. Filed down bone protrusions. It was all a mess. Someone out there was trying to surgically enforce humanity on helpless patients. Or victims, depending on your point of view...and your job description. It was all wrong. The radio chimed in and dispatch broke the detective’s concentration. His partner wanted to meet up at Jersey
Station near the Path train for a lead on the whereabouts of the Wizard. About time too. This was getting ugly. Desmond flicked his cigarette into the river and wished he could have heard the short pop and sizzle of burning ash hitting frigid, polluted water. ***
SEAHORSE RODEO FOLK REVIEW
SEAHORSE RODEO FOLK REVIEW
Mike Shagtoe got Millie into the bath as quick as he could. Even so, she was looking a little green and he worried. She had woken briefly for a moment or two and fallen back asleep when he put her in the lukewarm water. Her sleeping mouth curled into a gentle smile and he knew she would be okay. It was a non-smoking room, but Mike lit one up anyway as he paced the floor thinking of his next move, trying to make sense of what had transpired. Only one thing made sense to him, the one thing he swore he would never do. He got on the phone and dialed Jersey. He asked the operator to connect him with the local police and asked the curt voice that answered to direct him to Detective Gossamer. After a few ticks Gossamer answered via radio. “Yeah?” said a tired voice on the other end. “Detective Gossamer?” Mike asked. “This is Detective Gossamer, who the hell are you?”
“Don’t bother, I won’t be here. Listen, Des, I’m just calling to let you know I’m coming to you. That’s all. I’m coming out your way and I need you, man. Let’s say I’m finally calling in that favor.” *** Phoenix Black stopped off in a coffee shop near 13th Street. He ordered a cup, but didn’t drink it. He just wanted an excuse to sit down. In New York you have to buy something if you want to use a toilet or sit in a warm room or pretty much breathe the air inhabiting a space that even remotely resembles a business. So Phoenix bought a coffee he had no intention of drinking. He sat down at the bar and watched the steam roll out of the cup like hollow seaweed. The man beside him was a mouth breather with one eye on a crossword puzzle and the other on Phoenix himself. Phoenix breathed in the man’s nerves. The odor of his sweaty palms told him everything. His heart was pounding almost out of his chest. His blood whispered secrets. Paranoia, anxiety, curiosity, the man clearly had a question to ask.
“You may not remember me, but you once told me to call you if I ever ran into any trouble. You said we could meet at the place we’d both never speak of again.”
“Yes,” Phoenix said, “I’m the walking dead.”
“Dax?” Gossamer’s voice came back hushed, as if Christ himself had just walked in the room tracking blood across white carpet.
“And yes, I work uptown for a prestigious law firm. And no, I don’t like my job. And yes, this world looks as frail as paper to me. Perforated paper, stained by the backside of the American Dream. Our desire for capital has turned all of us into single bits of binary code in a long chain of corporate intel. You were a child once, and as that child, you dreamed of me. I can see into your mind. You dreamed of vampires and werewolves, zombies, witches, centaurs, fairies and elves.”
“It’s Mike now, Des, but yeah. I’m in a spot of trouble.” Gossamer replied, “What do you need? Money? Is it money? I ain’t got much, but I’ll give you all I got.” “No, not money, Des, I need a place to lie low. And a little professional advice couldn’t hurt. I got some weird coats on my tail, something about my girl, ain’t sure now...but I need someone I can trust that ain’t in the middle of it.” Gossamer replied, “Sounds heavy, old man, I’ll see what I can do. Look, I’m on my way to meet up with my partner right now, but can I call you in an hour or so?”
“How did you--?” the man began.
Phoenix stood, glaring down at the man, peering into him and continued, “Your world discovered us. Thrust us into the light and betrayed the one thing that made us magic: our anonymity. In your world, growing up and becoming responsible means ‘putting aside childish things.’ Is it really any wonder why so many of you hate and fear my kind? We are the summation of everything you have learned to set aside in the name of commerce, success and bank accounts. My world is your inner
“I know,” the man replied, “That’s exactly what I wanted to say. It’s like you can see right into me. I just wanted to tell you that...I’m sorry. I wish it had never happened. It changed my life too. I was happy working in the mail room. Now I am a producer for a record company. It’s all wrong. We ruined everything, even ourselves.” “Goddamn unicorns,” Phoenix dropped to his seat and laughed into his steaming coffee. “I’m bad at my job,” the man replied, “I’m not a creative type. I don’t get music. I’m numbers and facts. I’m paperwork and order. They took that from me and gave it to the people that wanted it the least.” “Because it would break our spirit,” Phoenix added. “Or because they thought bloodsucking lawyers was a good joke.” *** Barbara Louise Belmont was her full name. She had worked corporate jobs as a temp ever since the unicorn showed up. It wasn’t really for her, but she kept at it while working on her writing. She knew she probably wouldn’t make it, especially now that every human on earth was a boss or an artist. It seemed the only logical reaction to the economic situation. If you aren’t a leader among men then you became an artist. Period. It was just like she told Phoenix. When she needed inspiration or a chance to clear her head, she walked through the parks and took in the local color. Tonight, however, she had a date. Not that kind of date, though as much as she wished it was. As luck would have it, she had to meet her brother for coffee to talk him down off the proverbial ledge. The new world was harder on some than others. Ernie Belmont was a weakling of a man that talked into his chest and sweated in unnatural
places. If it weren’t for Barbara’s quick wit, cynicism and bluntness to whip him into shape on occasion he would likely have gone the way of the dodo years ago. And not just any dodo, Ernie’s way would have been the dodo that grew tired of a life of frilled colors and famed stupidity and went home to cut its wrists, put its head in the oven and swallow the wrong kind of pills. Ernie’s dodo would have been extinct on purpose because he couldn’t cut it.
SEAHORSE RODEO FOLK REVIEW
child. Your world is the Super Ego. You became a man by destroying us. You become adults by killing our memory. And what do we have now? A world where your leaders put us to work? Turn us into employees and laborers? Force us to bow to the almighty dollar? We have been forced to cave to your imminent ‘responsibility’ at the cost of our own mystique.”
Barbara was on her way out the door feeling her usual state of unprepared and completely disheveled. She hit the third floor landing, neglecting to lock her door, and pummeled down the stairs with her hair all over her head like an unfinished basket. Her clothes were not on properly, a button down denim shirt was unevenly buttoned and hanging off of one shoulder over a Black Flag tee shirt and a rainbow button. She wore a plaid skirt over a pair of paint spattered blue jeans, two different shoes and a fur coat that looked as though it likely had mange. Barbara intentionally dressed strangely in an attempt to thwart the advances of coffee shop lurkers, street pimps and Joe, the corner drug dealer. ***
Phoenix pitied the man beside him for his weakness and insecurity, but he felt a certain jealousy of the one thing he had that Phoenix never would: humanity. As a human man this stranger had the luxury of making his own choices. Suddenly a disheveled girl burst through the front door and shouted, “Garcon! Coffee!” She turned to the man beside Phoenix and said, “All right, Ernie, Goddammit, what is it this time? Are you -- um...M-Mr. Black?” “Hello, Barbara,” Phoenix said with a smile, “Am I sitting in your seat?” “N-no, of course not, it’s just...you know, no offense, but...why the hell are you here? How are you here?”
Ernie looked perplexed, “You two know each other?”
“Yeah, you dope,” Barbara replied, “He’s my old boss,
SEAHORSE RODEO FOLK REVIEW
or was until this afternoon when his boss fired me for not...how should we put it, Phoenix? For not having the girth to stop a raging man-steed? But you didn’t answer my question, how are you here? Are you stalking me? Should I sleep with a scarf around my neck tonight? Are you hot for what I got?” “Divine coincidence, perhaps,” Phoenix replied coolly, “Or maybe I read your mind.” “Don’t. You – you’d better not, I mean...Oh! Just don’t.” Ernie chuckled, “This isn’t what I expected, but it’s exactly what I needed tonight.” The night proceeded in warmth and laughter. Whether it was hating your job to the point of contemplating suicide, hating your job to the point of contemplating the possibility of resurrection, or just not having one, the problems of three people all melted into one warm pot of coffee that smelled oddly layered, sophisticated and somehow challenging to even a trained palate. When combined, everything felt intriguing, either through the eyes of a would-be writer, an undead lawyer with the unbeating heart of a poet, or a bedraggled accountant with the heart of a dodo bird, it was all illuminated by the light of their own experiences. ***
It was rude, irresponsible, and downright Un-Christian, but Mike needed water or Millie might die. He ripped the hotel bathtub out by the mildewed caulking and carried it to his truck. And just to make sure she would stay warm enough, he stole the camper off of a Bible salesman’s Ford Ranger and threw it on the pickup bed of his own GM. They didn’t exactly fit, but that’s why God invented duct tape. It’s true. It is a little known fact that after God rested he said, “Let there be an adhesive that can hold down truck campers, pull cat hair off of a black pair of slacks, tie up kidnap victims, make wallets, repair cracked windows, bandage big cuts, serve as a cheap alternative to fly paper and anything else imagination can conjure.” Look it up, it’s in the Bible…somewhere.
Mike Shagtoe filled the tub, by hand, using the bathroom sink as a bucket and skipped town without returning the hotel room key. Millie rolled around in her tub all the way out east, laughing and calling Mike her big man. Millie was a ball of effervescent energy, if her personality were epitomized by an object it would be that one starfish you see scuba diving that always seems to catch that beam of sunlight no matter where you are or where you look, as if it may not be catching the light but emitting it on its own. That was why Mike loved her. He was a dirt clod thrown at a prison bus. She was a tide pool resident that made sunshine. They were a match made in a Dr. Seuss book. Millie leaned through the open window over Mike’s shoulder and said, “Love? Do you know where we’re going?” “Yeah, Millie,” Mike replied, “I know exactly where we’re going. I just hope we get there safe.” “We’ll get there safe, love. I know we will with you here to protect me. I’m sorry you had to fight those men. I know you try hard to be nice, but they didn’t give you a choice, did they?” “No, baby, I guess they didn’t,” Mike sighed, “Why’d they grab you anyway, Millie?” “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, Mike. Can we not talk about that now? Let’s talk about nice things. What’s something nice, love?” “You, when you dance. You look like an angel, and the water makes your hair float like time is stopped all around you.” “Oh, you say the sweetest things,” Millie laughed, churning in her tub, “How about shooting stars? Those are nice, right? What’s something else an old land lubber like you might enjoy? Something we both might like?” “Sunsets?” “Sunsets! Of course, can’t forget about sunsets.”
“Okay, Millie Girl.” *** They had moved to a table to get more comfortable. Ernie was nervously picking gunk from under his fingernails. Phoenix was using his coffee and a stirring straw to paint brown pictures on a napkin. Barbara, as Barbara was fond of doing, was leading the conversation. “I’m just saying, in this economy, in this weird new state of things, folks gotta stick together, right? So why not put all the pieces out in front of us here? Phoenix, you hate your job and want to be something with a bit of theatricality to it. Ernie, you’re...you’re Ernie. I’m recently unemployed. We are three people with nothing to lose and a strong desire to change their lives. Why not make something of that. Turn loss and frustration into some kind of mutant happiness.” “What are you suggesting, Bee?” Ernie asked. “Bee?” Phoenix chuckled, “Pet names, you humans never cease to entertain.” “Oh, cool it, you old gargoyle,” Barbara snaps, “It ain’t like you were born ‘Phoenix Black.’ You were probably Delmer O’Farmer until someone sucked you off one night, so don’t get haughty on me. I might be the only woman on the planet that doesn’t go weak in the knees when one of you breezes into a room. I mean, what is it, anyway? Some imbedded female fetish with neck sucking or throbbing veins full of blood and their connection to engorged sex organs, skin sensitivity, heart rate or...sexuality? “Or is it just the look of your pale skin and your dead eyes? I don’t get it, but from my point of view it seems like you’re the Oprah’s Book Club version of teen beat cover mag heart throbs and Fabio-esque harlequin romance novels all rolled into one. Is it the rumors
of your longing for emotion or feeling because you’re all dead inside and how that is supposed to make you more sensitive or effeminate? Is it the way every woman imagines you being more like a woman just because you’re soft spoken, soft skinned or thirsty? Or maybe it’s your potential to swing both ways, huh? I don’t know, but if being more like a woman requires a stillborn heart and sunken cheekbones then make mine red meat. I want my man to be a man.”
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Millie sighed and paused for a time. The road hummed and dimpled beneath their tires. She sang softly to herself and said, “Mike? Thank you for saving me. I want us to always be together, but I am so afraid of you getting hurt. Please, please don’t get hurt just because of me. Promise me, okay?”
Ernie sat back in his chair and delivered a sarcastic round of applause.
“Done?” Phoenix asked blankly, “I was merely attempting to have a sense of humor by poking fun at what is clearly a childhood nickname. Believe it or not, my kind aren’t especially keen on something as trivial as humor. I was just trying to lighten the mood.” Phoenix turned to Ernie and said, “In answer to your question, Ernest. Your sister...Bee...is suggesting we cheat the system.” “Cheat? How?”
“Easy,” Barbara replied, ignoring Phoenix’s polite jab and unflappability, “We pull a Prince and the Pauper. Remember that one? Two men, envious of each other’s lifestyle, swap lives. Only, in this version I get to be secretary.”
Phoenix finished her thought for her, “I step away from the firm under the guise of going independent, saying that I feel I would be better suited to a more personal approach to law. You take my place at our new offices. I take your human life, free to pursue art, romance, poetry, candlelight... or whatever.” “You just did it again, didn’t you?” Barbara asked, “The mind thing? You’re in there? Really? You just...right after I...” “Sorry,” Phoenix replied, “You’re a total open book, I can read every thought of yours, right out of your breath and sweat and laughter. I can’t disconnect. Really, I’m sorry.” “Hey!” Ernie said, ever the cock-blocking dodo that
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couldn’t, “It’s not a bad idea, you know? I’m in if you are, Mr. Black.” ***
Millie was counting on her fingers like a little kid. And cookies, and hummingbirds, and neon signs and helium balloons when they start to go flat…and gumdrops… She said, “I haven’t really eaten many gumdrops in my lifetime. But they’re good, right? People like them? They’re commonly suggested to be one of those things that are good in songs and stuff. This week has been full of things that I like and things that I don’t like. I hate garbage disposals. Have we talked about how terrified I am of the garbage disposal? I just know that one day for some reason, a finger is going to be down in the sink hole and it’ll just get turned on somehow...yikes. I’ve never been comfortable with garbage disposals. That’s just one example of something I don’t like.” Mike just smiled and drove, listening to Mille through the back window over the sound of wind and the roar of tires. She said, “Oh, Mike, I just like you. I believe you. I believe you can do anything and that you mean everything you say and that’s a lot when everyone wants to get something out of you somehow. I think that I inevitably find pretty things most believable because I like to hold on to them. I like to hold on to you. Do you think that might be why I find you believable? Maybe I trust you so wholeheartedly and feel so safe around you because I can see you and you can see me and we both see each other like we see birdhouses or sand dollars?”
ing. Then Millie delivered her own coup de grace when she twisted in her water, arched her spine and flipped her hair against her back revealing a pair of breasts that had dazzled the drunks and locals of the Drowning Horse and had themselves grown quite accustomed to the light of day. The man at the wheel of the minivan sped closer to Mike’s GM to get a better look and that’s when he slammed on the brakes. The minivan swerved and the black car tailing them collided into its fender stopping traffic, cracking a radiator and sending one tire rolling like a tumbleweed across the desert plains. Millie squealed with laughter and flicked her tail through the air as Mike sped away from the pileup and on to safety. “Men,” she sighed, “I’m glad it’s you and not me, babe.” *** Grimace had a snitch in Jersey City, right off of the Holland Tunnel in a cheap hotel. He was a twitchy elf that lived off of trading info and narcotics for cash and sugar cubes. The little bastard was nervy as a crack addict with a time bomb for the stuff. His name was Flit and he gave Grimace the dirt on anything he could get his pointy ears on. Word was the Wizard was putting the vibe out to the Fantasticals via underground circuits. He promised a new life, freedom, choice, and the right to be and do whatever you wanted...everything that being human had come to represent to their kind. Anyone interested in a species change operation was directed to a warehouse on the New Jersey waterfront, just north of the Hudson Exchange.
Millie kissed Mike on the cheek and said, “Don’t worry, baby, I got this one.”
Grimace and Detective Gossamer had gathered the troops. News vans had already arrived in response to the usual leaks in the pipe works of police protocol. Everyone was poised for a real horror show. Desmond ran images from the morgue over and over in his mind. Skin grafts, amputations, Frankenstein-style limb transplants...freak show didn’t quite cover it.
She moved around to the back of the tub, pushed open the camper door and winked at the man driving the minivan. First, she flipped her tail out through the door and shook it and the man at the wheel gawked, gazing around to see if anyone else could see what he was see-
And then, in the full on gaze of God, CNN, the local news teams, the police force, a curious homeless alcoholic, a stalled taxi cab and everybody, the building exploded like so many Roman Candles on a belated 4th of July barbecue, minutes before the visitation of
Mike whistled low and said, “Don’t look now, Millie Girl, but I think we got another one. Black car, second from the left, there’s a minivan between us.”
Desmond turned to go. Another dead end. The Wizard, like the allure of humanity itself, like the promise of America to illegal immigrants or the promise of Hollywood to bored dare-to-dreamers, was still out there. Growing. Grimace chuckled and shrugged, “Look on the bright side, kid. At least we know he’s real now.” “I don’t know, Grim,” Desmond replied, “Is that a bright side? Besides, we may know, but so does everyone else. And maybe that’s just exactly what he wants… news coverage as free advertising. He’s gotten his practice in on his guinea pigs. Soon he’ll perfect the craft. It won’t be long now before species reassignment surgery becomes the new vogue. Give it a decade, maybe less, and you’ll start seeing specials on Maury or Tyra or Who-Gives-A-Shit about the human born in the faun’s body sitting upstage from the girl born in a boy’s body or the man that wears his wife panties just to stay level. We’ve made it more than just easy…we’ve made it big business to be anything except what we really are.” Desmond turned to leave. He’d worked too many sleepless nights to put this operation together. He didn’t feel like watching it go up in flames. And besides, an old friend was on his way into town. “Hey, Gossamer!” Grimace yelled, “We’ll get ‘im. Sooner or later, right, pal?” *** The night Daisy disappeared has been a topic of much debate amongst journalists, historians, police officers, conspiracy theorists and fetishists for some time. Theories ranging from a magical transportation to the hidden unicorn land to a garden variety bestiality fueled rape, kill and drop flood cyberspace like so much cheap porn. What no one knew was that the officer on the scene
that won a gold star and a stack of brownie points for capturing the Cryptid Liberation Army was not entirely honest. Sure, he wrote up the paperwork and called for backup and delivered the stolen trailer. What he didn’t mention was taking the doped up mystical hoofed quadruped out into the trees off of Palisades Parkway and tying her to a bent Douglas fir.
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a dopey unicorn. Up in smoke, fire and brimstone like an Old Testament fable, the warehouse blew red and orange into the deep blue, Hudson night. Jersey was ablaze and it reflected yellow and daring on the lenses of every camera.
He returned later that night, unsure whether he was more nervous about being caught, finding Daisy gone, or finding Daisy there but her sedatives worn off and her in a mood for punching people with her three foot horn. The young officer went home, changed into street clothes, and drove his personal vehicle out to the site. Flashlight in hand he stalked into the underbrush to the bent Douglas fir knowing that this might mean the end of the life he had planned to have. Something big like this, you don’t bounce back from. He had to go away with Daisy, far away, and there was probably not a real explanation for why a cop suddenly goes on an epic road trip without asking for time off just a few short hours after the bust of a lifetime. The young officer felt the weight of his choice and braced himself under it. He pushed through the last few branches, emerging to the clearing where Daisy was tied to a crooked tree and found absolutely nothing. The man wasn’t sure whether he felt regret or relieved, until, that is, he saw a seven foot tall ape man standing a unicorn’s poop away, glowering down at him and petting the drugged beast menacingly. The young officer dropped his flashlight and cast a short shriek which he quickly reeled back in because the weight was wrong, he had no bobber, and had forgotten to bait the hook. The ape man did nothing, but his eyes looked like they had something to say.
Impractical or not, the officer felt he should speak up. After all, he had never seen an ape man before now, who knew what the rules were? It seemed ridiculous enough, why shouldn’t they be able to talk as well? The officer said, “Hello? I...come...in peace...I only wanted to help her to safety. Please don’t...tear my arms off or anything.” The ape man said, “Dax!”
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JULY 2010 “Dax?” the officer repeated, confused. “No, me Dax!” the ape man shouted, “You, you not Dax.” “Oh, Dax! Right, right...I see,” the young man straightened his clothes and stood up to his full height, taking on a proper tone and holding out his right hand, “Desmond.”
“Yeah?” Dax asked, confused. “Just wanted you to know,” Desmond replied, “You aren’t just helping her, you’re helping me. If you ever need anything, anything at all, you just meet me right back here. This will be our little secret, a place neither of us can talk about ever again. Remember that, yeah?” “Yeah.” ***
“Des!” Dax laughed, “Des! Dax! Dax! Des! You help her?”
It was the last thing you’d expect to see turning a corner in the middle of the woods surrounding the Palisades “Yes, Dax,” Desmond replied, “She was being hurt and Parkway. Desmond Gossamer poked through the unI helped her. But she is not safe yet, she needs to go derbrush, vines, thorns, and low hanging branches just farther.” as he had so many years before. He had flashbacks to his days as a beat cop and didn’t enjoy the aftershocks. “I help!” Dax said, “You helped. Now Dax.” All of the old emotions came right back. He remembered the nerves, the anxiety, and felt them all again as if Desmond nodded and finally lowered his hand, realizing they were fresh. Part of him expected to part the leaves that Dax was not a shaker. So, it happened that Daisy and pine needles like a curtain and find himself face to was released into the care of a wild-eyed Sasquatch face with Daisy all over again. Instead, it was a slightly roaming the hills of the Palisades. He took her off of older seven foot tall ape man dressed like a lumberjack the young officer’s hands and led her as far as Buffalo, in a red woolen coat, blue jeans and knit cap standing NY, where she crossed the border into Canada like so beside a half-cracked hotel bathtub with a slightly green many on the run from America’s policies, prosecution mermaid smiling and bouncing topless in six inches of or paparazzi. Daisy, reportedly, is living quietly in the dirty water. His gut told him to leave, his head told him forests west of Toronto and has taken to skewering he wished it was Daisy because that would be easier, maple trees with her elaborate horn. Whether this is and for just a second he had the exact same gut-check considered a social service or a nuisance in Canada is sensation as you might have walking into the wrong not known, as their habits, rituals and social structure are motel room to the site of a five hundred pound Samoan something of a mystery to those of us living in America. giving it to a stretched thin gym sock. Desmond went on to become a detective and carried the memory of bending the law with him proudly and secretly for the rest of his career. Dax was captured by government funded animal control officers from some agency called FEMA that claimed to be recruiting cryptids for service in American society. He was given a new name and shipped to Texas to work as a logger as that was designated by analysts and pundits to be the job function most suited to a creature of his size and skills. As Dax turned to lead the sleepy unicorn into the wild the young Desmond Gossamer called out, “Dax! Hey, Dax!”
Sorry, sir, wrong room. Back away slowly. “Dax?” Desmond asked. “Hey, Des,” Mike replied, “It’s Mike now, remember? So the government says anyway. This here’s Millie.” Millie flicks her tail and splashes dirty water as she leans out of the tub to shake Desmond Gossamer’s hand. He stifled the urge to make a joke about dead fish handshakes.
JULY 2010 “…New York knows how to drink you down with a beer chaser, a wink and a gun...”
“Um...hello, Millie. Everything all right? You know, she ain’t looking too good, Da-um-Mike.”
Headlights paint the street a washed out gray. Desmond feels hypnotized by the music and the tones and the hum of strange makeshift instruments scratching like chalk and tape and siren’s songs through the speakers.
Millie smiled and splashed water at Desmond, “Everything’s fine, Desy, I’m just a little tired and could use a fresh bath. Mike here is the one that’s had it the hardest. He just drove non-stop from Texas to New Jersey! Some friend, eh Mike? Asking about me when you did all the work?” Mike chuckled and stroked her cheek, “Yeah, what’re you gonna do, these boys up north don’t know anything about southern hospitality, I’d wager.” “Good wager,” Desmond replied, smiling, “What do you say we get the hell out of here? I’ll take you to my place and we can catch up, see what we can make of this pickle you seem to be in.” *** They left the bathtub in the woods. Mike just held Millie in his arms the whole way. Desmond couldn’t decide whether it was the sweetest damn thing he had ever seen or creepy like father and daughter. He shrugged it off and opted to just keep his eyes and mind on the road. The silence, however, was a razor blade. Desmond cranked up the volume on the radio and spaced out.
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Millie, as usual, was all smiles as she rolled around on her back sliding down into the tub.
This new kid, Ernest Belton, whoever he is, sings moody into the microphone, “No one brings anything at all into a bar around here. I’ve wanted to see the sun without losing.” Desmond said, “So, Mike, you wanna tell me what all the fuss is about?”
“Can’t tell you much, Des,” Mike replied, “Millie knows, but I can’t get her to tell me. All I know is, I pulled three goons off her in Texas and we’ve been dodging them in every town from here to El Paso. She won’t talk about it, says if I know then I’m involved.” “Like you ain’t already,” Desmond mumbled. ***
Millie wasn’t herself. She was practically hibernating and Mike was concerned. Still, that was nothing new. Mike was always concerned about something, especially when it involved Millie. Desmond seemed distracted, moody even, until he finally asked flat out. What do you see in her, Mike? And Mike had to think of an explanation.
The Radio DJ said, “And now, something new from a local boy that’s taken New York by storm...Ernest Belton, In any given moment there exists that possibility of playing his gypsy-folk ramblings in the spirit of Tom illumination, absenteeism, tardiness or a critique from Waits, Gogol Bordello and old Rasputin himself...” Martha Stewart Living. Mike had lived most of his life dancing between tardiness and absence. He knew Desmond sighed and Mike looked over at him with someone that had lived their entire life turning everyconcern smeared across his face like so much sloppy joe thing into metaphors about meringue or draperies and meat. had learned to turn each stitch in time into a well-knit The radio cued an eerie voice that sounded like skinny embroidery to save nine bucks on bathroom decorations jeans and guitar backpacks to Desmond. at K-Mart. But the day he popped into the Drowning Horse for a drink was the day lightning struck a puddle “...it’s Ninth and 12 o’clock...sidewalk gutters whisper of orange Jell-O in primordial Mesopotamia and gave a the poetry of an empty cobblestone street...” few crumbs of amino acids the first spark of life. It was a day bigger than a unicorn crashing an Independence Millie kisses Mike on the nose. Day weekend barbecue.
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Bon Jovi said no man is an island, but some men like Mike Shagtoe were mountains isolated unto themselves by a world of forest groves, tree bark, north-facing moss and raccoon masquerade balls. He dreamed of a world where everything was colorful and moved in rhythm to tides and bands of aquatic sunlight and predatory mouths, but it was as foreign to him as the moon or Morocco. Mike was landlocked and Millie was the sea. Seeing her was Lewis and Clark discovering the Pacific Ocean all over again. He saw her dancing in her tank, sapphire tail, golden hair and shimmering white features, and something passed between them. Her eyes split the Continental Divide like a piñata raining down Tootsie Rolls, Blow Pops, Good and Plenty, ambition, illumination, and those bongo shaped fruit things that take an hour to chew. The world split in two and it wasn’t full of molten rock, and it wasn’t hollow. It was a tunnel leading from where you are to where you want to be. What did she do to him? How had she, with one wink, handed him the Promethean fire? How was it possible for her to mouth the Holy Om and the Holy Moan at the same time? Millie, with one smile, cut down the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, fashioned it into a schooner and taught him how to sail. And he had enough forbidden fruit to keep him full for the whole voyage. When they spoke, she was as sweet as a fig and funny as a lemur on crack. He knew immediately that he would love her forever. He knew that he would always care for her, protect her, and value the luxury of worrying about her. ***
They arrived at Desmond’s apartment -- a five story ex-brownstone turned black by second hand smoke stacks and one runaway meth lab. Inside was one chair, a card table, a coffee pot and a dartboard. Mike put Millie into the tub and she seemed to perk right up. The shared a cup of coffee, had a few laughs about the Daisy caper and finally got down to business. Millie said, “All right, I can see that I’m not getting out of telling you two so here goes. For three years now I
have been running from these men, dodging them at every turn and getting work where I could to stay afloat. The oceans are not safe for my kind anymore, so we had to find clever ways to move inland. My sister took a job at Sea World in the whale and dolphin show for a while, but the job was too public and they got her.” “Who are they, Millie?” Mike asked, “He said he wanted to put you in a show.” “They say that to everyone, but it’s just a lure,” she replied, “The truth is, they have a show to put us in, and it has lights and explosions and fireworks…they’re military, some say government, some say privately owned mercenaries like Blackwater or something. I don’t know, those things confuse me…all I know is that they have been snatching my kind for years and training them to plant devices on enemy naval boats and submarines... they make us retrieve torpedoes or disarm enemy mines. You get the picture. I found out all about it through the circuit.” “The circuit?” Desmond asked. “There is a complex web of communication in the ocean that you people have never understood. We know you’ve discovered whale song, but let’s say that’s just the beginning. Point is, I learned about what was going on and have been on the run ever since. They have likely tracked us here, but it was a risk worth taking to meet up with someone you trusted, love.” “I see,” Mike sighed heavily and lit up a smoke. Desmond joined him. “Way I see it,” Desmond said, “We got three choices. We hide you two away where no one’s going to ever find you. Millie turns state’s evidence and we blow the lid on this whole caper. Or we make you two such public figures no one would dare to touch you.” “How would we go about doing that?” Millie asked, “The third option, I mean.” Mike said, “I’m with Millie, granted, I don’t like the notion of being a spectacle and all, but she’s tried hiding, I’ve tried running, and we’re Fantasticals which means
“Point taken,” Desmond said, “Then it starts with getting you two a good attorney.” *** They didn’t get a good attorney. They got an attorney they could afford on the savings of a logger, a stripper and a cop. At the Law Offices of Phoenix Black the price was right. The girl at the front desk was popping watermelon flavored gum and wore combat boots over striped stockings and a peasant skirt. She had a Black Flag tee shirt and a leather jacket and her feet were propped up on the water cooler. Clearly, this place was in their pay grade. The lawyer himself wasn’t what they had expected either. The rumor was that all lawyers were vampires and that all vampires were attractive. Phoenix Black looked like a chubby accountant in a vampire costume. He was either grossly pale, even for the undead, or wearing white, flaky makeup. It was difficult to tell. They wheeled Millie in on a makeshift tank built out of a lawnmower and a wine barrel. The three of them, Desmond, Mike and Millie, had a conference with Phoenix Black about where they stood and whether or not they had a case. Phoenix scratched his left cheekbone and Desmond was fairly certain he saw white paint flake away. His eyes were bloodshot and looked to be rejecting a pair of orange colored contact lenses. Finally, he said, “I think we have a case. The issue hasn’t been taken on because no one wants to commit career suicide. As you can see, I barely have a career as it is, so I can only go up. If we handle this correctly, the two of you will be a big hit on both sides. The conservatives will call you abominations or terrorists or Un-American, whatever it is that they say these days. The liberals will want to make banners and buttons out of you and march on DC. Either way, we win. I should warn you, a case like this isn’t about winning the suit. It’s about opening up doors that haven’t been opened yet. And I don’t mind telling you that the revolution has already begun. The Fantasticals Civil Rights Movement is a
growing trend, and the two of you might be a silver bullet in the chamber.” ***
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we have about as much legal ground to stand on as a black in Pre-Lincoln Alabama.”
Excerpt from an article by Barbara Belton, published in The Village Voice:
Today in Washington, Senator Adalgiso Hefflefarb fell out of his chair when he turned on his television. News reports of the Sasquatch and the mermaid on every channel. A crummy looking vamp-lawyer had this to say:
“And who is to say that marriage can only be between a man and a woman? Who is to say it can only exist between a human and a human? These two are in love and it is real and it is good. And if this truly is a free country then who are we to restrict their choices simply because we find it disagreeable? It is high time that we rewrite our understanding of the Constitution to mean not just life, liberty and happiness for men, but life, liberty and happiness for all. We are not created, under God, as vessels of liberty and hope simply because we are Homo sapiens. We are vessels of these virtues and principles because we are alive. The love of these two, controversial or distasteful as it may seem to a great deal of you, is a glowing example of the American ethic...that we are all created equal because we are all a part of this same Earth.” The Senator from North Dakota angrily jerked the power cord out of the wall and the screen went black. He knew it had happened again. As it had happened when a foolish unicorn wandered into a barbecue, it was happening again. A revolution was starting, not with torches, pitchforks, rifles or cheap flags and not with banners, marches, picketers or tie dye. It started the way old Bill Shakespeare would have ended a comedy: with a marriage proposal. The world was changing again. And Senator Hefflefarb spat, “Stupid, damn…stupid unicorns.”
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“Roky Erickson and Okkervil River... The Intentions Were Better Than the Outcome” Cody Finkner
Of all the reviews I read about “True Love Cast Out All Evil,” the new record by Roky Erickson and Okkervil River, one line stuck with me the most. “Comeback stories inherently elicit good feelings.” Sadly, I think the inherent good feelings are what this album will be riding on rather than the actually quality of the product. If you aren’t familiar with Roky Erickson, one paragraph will surely not be sufficient for you to completely understand the complexity, tragedy, and triumph of his life. The story seems too strange to be true. Incarceration in a maximum security mental hospital as a result of the legal backlash of being caught with a miniscule amount of marijuana, forced electroshock treatment, drug addiction and mental health issues are just a small amount of
the trials that this man has been through in his 62 years. As a musician Roky played a pivotal role in creating both the Psychedelic Rock and Horror Rock genres with his group The 13th Floor Elevators, and as a solo artist. Credentials? As a borderline obsessive fan, imagine my excitement when I heard that after 15 years there was going to be a new Roky Erickson album with Okkervil River backing him up. I’m admittedly unfamiliar with the latter’s previous efforts, but I’ve heard good things about them through word of mouth and they are established enough that this thing seemed legit. I also read some pre-release interviews with Will Sheff of Okkervil River who produced the album and worked hard to make the collabo-
I feel like it’s necessary to focus on the parties involved and their intentions before I voice my opinion on the final product. Let’s face it, there have been a lot of bullshit reunion tours, comebacks, and collaborations in the world of music especially in the past few years. I have no interest in seeing people who are far past their prime getting back together and acting like it’s because they are interested in making music. I even tend to cut a little bit of slack for tours as opposed to records because no one is trying to rekindle a creative flame that has been dead for a decade. This somehow seemed different though. Will Sheff seemed to be genuinely interested in helping Roky Erickson record music again and Roky Erickson seemed genuinely happy talking about the idea of recording with him. If you end up reading up on Roky, you’ll find out that recording music, making music in general really, hasn’t been a priority for a long time, and it’s good to see him going for it again. That being said, I didn’t enjoy any part of this record musically. The whole thing just bores me to tears. I honestly couldn’t finish listening to any of the songs in their entirety. It’s obvious that Roky is far past his prime as a musician, especially as a singer which was always his strong suit. Okkervil River’s contribution to this album, the instrumentation, is very linear, non-dynamic and completely uninspired. It just reminds me of what Rick Rubin did with Johnny Cash. It was my opinion that Johnny Cash was far past his prime and the music he was recording at the time wasn’t even in the same universe as his older recordings. I was glad to see he was recording it, I’m sure it made him happy to do what he loved, but I had no interest in listening to it. In that respect, at least, it’s not a complete disappointment to know that someone like Roky Erickson is at least seemingly gaining some sort of peace from doing what he loves to do. I suppose that is the most we can hope to get from this work. My main concern, and reason for writing this, is that people who are now discovering his music will be under the impression that this is Roky Erickson’s document. This is his swan song, final stand, definitive work, whatever term it is that critics usually use to refer to these sorts of attempts. From a well researched fan’s point of
view I’d like to say that this is not definitive Roky Erickson and I want to try to provide some sort of guideline to what I would consider to be definitive Roky Erickson. I hope people do like the new record and I hope it sells a million copies and he can live comfortably from it. I doubt it will, but I will say the guy certainly deserves it. If you don’t end up liking the new album and are interested and unfamiliar with his large and HIGHLY shoddy output over the years, here is what I consider essential...I hope you obtain and enjoy!!!!
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ration happen, and he seemed to have a good attitude and good intentions for the project.
“Don’t Slander Me” (1986) – Roky Erickson playing rock and roll and playing it well. Probably the best backing band he ever played with. The chorus in “Can’t Be Brought Down” is one of my favorites of all time. “The Evil One” (1981) – This was released under the name “Roky Erickson and the Aliens” and was produced by and features Stu Cook from Creedence Clearwater Revival on bass. A heavy B-Movie theme runs through this album.
“All That May Do My Rhyme” (1995) – Released on Trance Syndicate records, which was a label run by King Coffey of the Butthole Surfers. This is comparable to the Okkervil River collaboration album but with finer execution. Acoustic, folky, singer/songwriter type stuff.
“Easter Everywhere” (1967) – The 13th Floor Elevators second and best release in my opinion. Similar to the first Elevators album with better production. “Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators” (1966) – The debut and the first known use of the word Psychedelic in reference to music. Groundbreaking for the time and still classic to this day. “You’re Gonna Miss Me” (Film and Soundtrack 2007) – Highly informative documentary featuring a huge archive of photos and video from childhood on. This is a very interesting story even if you are completely uninterested with Roky’s music. The soundtrack is a great starting place because it gives a broad taste of all of his musical phases.
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This Wacky Weather
Dear Fellow Scientists, Greetings from SkyFortress3000! I wish I were writing to you today on more cordial terms. Since my banishment from the League of Extraordinary Pancakes [the world’s preeminent scientific/ pancake collective] our relationship has been a bit..well... stressed. In case you were wondering, the answer is yes, I recieved your death threats. I have edited them for grammatical errors and have sent them back to you. If you require any more proofreading in the future, my office hours are 9am-1pm, Monday-Friday. I realize you all consider me a “loose cannon” of sorts. You claim my techniques are reckless. Unnecessary. Amoral, even. Listen, just because a guy clones a few dozen Sexy Hitlers’ and then declares his floating island-fortress its own private country, all of a sudden, I’m the one who’s being unreasonable. Let me tell you something - if my Sexy Hitlers’ had succeeded in their Final Solution, we’d all be wearing a lot less pants right now. But I’m not bitter. So I compose this letter not to publicly proclaim my
Danger Slater hatred for you all - a hatred that is both all-encompassing and eternal - but rather, to extend an olive branch. A peace offering. My Fellow Scientists, I need your help! I’m sure by now you’ve noticed the recent surge of bizarre weather-related phenomena we’ve been experiencing. It’s hard not to. The sky is in revolt and the weather is something that affects us all. It has the power to ameliorate or destroy. Revive and ravage. The weather is the ultimate unifier, pulling every living being under its big, blue blanket. So before you rip this letter up and use it as toilet paper or campfire kindling or tickertape for your sactimonious robot-orgy parades, please know, all I’m asking from you is to listen for a moment with an open mind and heed the warning I am about to relay. I’m speaking, of course, about global warming: What is causing it and what are its implications? *** I, like most of the scientific community, used to scoff at the idea of climate change. But all that changed a few months ago when it started raining amputated limbs outside of my Los Angeles body dysmorphia clinic:
JULY 2010 was too much for them to handle. One by one, they orderly took their own lives. I could only watch in horror as my friends, relatives, and lovers perished by their own [lack-of] hands. ***
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At the time, body dysmorphia was all the rage in Hollywood after Jennifer Aniston, Matthew McConaughey, and their entire viewing audience had their brains removed before the premeire of their latest romantic-comedy crapfest Someone Else’s Finger. As it was reported in Us Weekly, proponents such as Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Sir Ben Kingsly could all attest - amputation is the fastest way to shed those extra pounds - and keep them off! Every trophy wife in Beverly Hills was rushing out to have thier legs cut off or their hunchbacks removed. And I was making bank! Then one typical level-5-smog-alert-self-righteousliberalism-tiny-dogs-in-purses afternoon the sausage-like clouds above us started to gather. The sky grew meaty and sinister. Thunder clapped. And suddenly fingers, toes, arms, legs and torsoes were falling from the heavens in a torrential downpour. The terrified screams of pedestrians echoed across Rodeo Drive as a meteorite comprised of condensed guts - appendixes, pancreata, and other assorted viscera - smashed into my solid gold Rolls Royce, evaporating it in a mushroom cloud of gore. The L.A. River overflowed with sweet and sour slime, washing away hoboes and shantymen alike on its apocalyptic journey to the sea. The corpse-shower shocked the newsmedia, causing Local 12’s weatherman Chip Branson to nearly mess up his hair. Luckily, his helmet of hairspray and perfectly straight teeth repelled the cascading refuse with tact and aplomb. Afterwards, he straightened his tie, looked directly into the camera, screamed, “IT’S THE END OF THE FUCKING WORLD!” and then blew his brains out on live TV. The local Emmy was awarded to him posthumously. Meanwhile, on the streets, in the thick of it all, knee deep in the mucous and severed limbs and bile stood I, watching the sun turn the color of blood. The ground shook as a very, very, very, very centralized earthquake nosed its way through Tectonic plates and rocked the lowest part of my lower intestine. Before I knew it, I - one of the greatest minds the world has ever known was uncontrollably pooping in his pants! Patients leaving the clinic were both confused and anxious. Were the body parts they had just removed enacting their swift yet austere revenge? And was I, their favorite doctor - one whom they had lauded and hailed as their makeshift Messiah; a title I humbly accepted because, in fact, I most definately deserved it - suffering from a case of Fatal Diaper Failure? The shock of it all
[Personal note: I realize that performing elective disfiguring surgery on the rich and famous is not the nobelest line of work a man of my stature could persue. Some even say it violates the Hippocratic oath that I, as a doctor, have sworn to uphold. But it takes a fuck-ton of money to keep SkyFortress3000 running efficently. So judge me not, fair members of the Leauge. I’m just trying to make this world a more beautiful place, one severed organ at a time.] ***
I realized then that something was wrong. This type of extreme weather is usually reserved for the Armageddon. Never in the summer. And never in L.A. But the debacle at the B.D.C. was to be merely the tip of an ever-melting iceberg: Reports of midnight sun, fire snow, reverse tornadoes, and banana tsunamis are pouring in faster than the election committe of Miami-Dade county can count the ballots. After a month of recounts, bake-offs and a few “lazy Sundays,” in an unprecedented act of nepotism and political bias, George W. Bush was declared the Supercell Supreme of the United States of America and Hell froze over. While many Democrats merely cried, a few began spontaneously lactating bees, prompting some Republicans to declare America as the new land of Milk and Honey. As the Supercell destroyed cityscapes and countrysides alike [most notably, New Orleans. The mishandling of the situation by FEMA and ineptitude of the fedral government had UNICEF up in arms and forced certain narcacisstic rappers to proclaim “Cyclones don’t care about black people!”] the social-economic infrastructure crumbled around us. The country slumped into a Depression. Obesity rates rose. Incidents of violent crime increased. And somehow I misplaced my car keys. Again! All of this commenced in the winter of 2008 with the election of Barack Obama into office, promising to give us the “Change We Need.” The disenfranchised were
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hopeful. Finally a candidate who’s rhetoric didn’t seem like a complete natural disaster. But alas, on Inaugeration Day, just seconds after being sworn into office, President Obama “changed” into a Katabatic wind which blew any chance of healthcare reform right out the window. Millions of people are still living in poverty and recieving improper medical care, ushering in a new era that many backalley abortionist are calling: The Golden Age of Organ Theft. Indeed, prices for black market organs have inflated, and nearly everyone is feeling the crunch. But until the auto industry can develop a proper electric car, the cost for a gallon of blood will continue to rise. ***
The economic devistation is just one of the many facets that global warming will affect. The planets average temperature has climbed 1.4 degrees F since 1880. While adversaries of global warming claim this statistic is bogus [as it was reported in the confidential intraoffice memo between Cargo shorts lobbies, entitled: The Future of Cargo Shorts: The Fallacy of Global Warming and How Exploiting the Lie is Going to Make Us All Very, Very Rich. Perhaps We’ll Even Get a BlowJob From That Girl at the Starbucks. Did You See the Tattoo of a Cheshire Cat She Has on Her Forearm? So Cute. I Bet She’s a Tiger in the Sack. Me-ow! HaHaHa.] But the Cargo shorts conspiracy is literally full of holes. Seriously, I put my cell phone in my pocket and it must have fallen out somewhere. It had all my contacts in it and everything. So annoying. By the way, I need your number. I know we don’t talk much, but just in case, you know? The fact is, the increased sale of Cargo shorts is just a symptom of a much larger problem. All fashion trends aside, complete ecosystems are at stake. The Nuclear Reactor Coral Reefs are rapidly disappearing. Roman Emperor Penguins are being fed to the lions. Bi-Polar Bears have fallen into a funk. And Serial Killer whales have grown lethargic, no longer stalking and hunting the vulnerable young women on which they used to prey. The increased volume of vulnerable, young women has put an unnatural strain on their local environment as the demand for new-age self-help books and vampire novellas have risen exponentially, causing the continued
deforestation of Amazon.com. *** I realize the sheer volume of this information is daunting to you. To put it all in perspective, I have compiled a list of facts and myths about global warming which may prove helpful as you disseminate this material: MYTH: Global warming is responsible for stealing my newspapers every morning. FACT: It is your redneck neighbor that is stealing your papers. MYTH: Global warming does not exist. FACT: Global warming is very real. More real than you, even, as you, I suspect, are a hallucination brought on by a sentient supercomputer [see archived footage: sect. IIX, file 426: The Matrix.] MYTH: Global warming will not affect me in my lifetime. FACT: Global warming will affect you in your lifetime because it is happening. It’s happening RIGHT NOW! Oh wait, it just stopped. Okay, it’s happening again. Now it seems to be slowing down a bit. And...it stopped again. Hold on...oh, no it didn’t. My mistake. It just kind of looked like it did for a sec, but yeah, it’s still going on like it was before. Wait...okay, now it’s stopped. For real, this time. Crap, it started again. MYTH: Last night, global warming and Bigfoot thew eggs at my house and then toilet papered my tree. WTF? FACT: While global warming and Bigfoot did both egg and toilet paper your house last night, they both did it of their own volition. The fact that it happed on the same date is coincidence. While global warming was only looking for some cheap thrills, Bigfoot’s agenda is still unknown. MYTH: History shows us the planet goes through natural heating and cooling cycles. How do we know that global warming is the result of our anthropogenic influence? FACT: While what you say is true, the rate at which
MYTH: Global warming is having an affair with my wife. FACT: Again, the redneck neighbor. *** The research facilities in SkyFortress3000 are vast. When the Sexy Hilters are not busy commiting genocide against their own bodies [an act they call “making love”,] they are fastidiously at work, compiling data. Attached to this letter will be a spreadsheet, graphing their findings. Be advised, the sheet will only spread after a lobster dinner, a couple of glasses of wine, and some coy yet flirtatious remarks. WARNING: DO NOT PRESSURE THE SPREADSHEET. It’s been hurt before and it may take a while for it to trust you. As the planet’s best and brightest, we have an obligation to ensure that future generations will be allowed to prosper. The world our children are to inherit is a dangerous one. Our pursuit of technology and convinience has poisoned the globe, almost irrevokably. Putting aside all the petty differences and tenuous pancake breakfast’s that we’ve shared, I am calling on you, my fellow scientists, to help me in reversing the folly of our selfish ways. I have at my disposal an unlimited supply gorgonzola cheese, an as-yet untested DeathRay, and a paper sack full of illegal fireworks smuggled in from the next state over. I am willing to donate these resources towards whatever plan of action that we, together, can come up with concerning this impending plight. Please get back to me as soon as possible. The Sexy Hitlers’ are waiting
by the phones. Call in the next 20 minutes and recieve a second complimentary Snuggie - The Blanket That Has Sleeves®. . Thank you for your time.
Hugs and Kisses,
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our atmosphere is warming far exceeds the rate at which it happens historically. Natural climate change can take several thousand years. What we’re experiencing has only taken decades. Plus, what do you know about history, anyway? You barely graduated county college. Remember that class we shared? I saw you doodling in your notebook, like, the whole time. Don’t even try and tell me you were listening. Oh, that’s how you learn? By drawing a unicorn fighting a helicopter? Yeah, right. Listen, kid, your good looks and charm may have gotten you by in the past, but you’re in the big leauges now. What’s that? You’re only in college because your parents are making you go? Ya, real good reason to persue an education. What are you studying anyway? Environmental science?!? Oh Jesus!
Dr. D. Slater, Carnival Barker and Mad Scientist