How I Spent My Weekend

My new book, about which I droned-on  last time, is “Dead Set on Tuesday.” Well, from Friday through Sunday (ending in just a short while, now) I have offered it free to all comers on Kindle. The results have been intriguing. It has climbed to the #9 spot among free “procedurals” (meaning books with police procedures running along their spine, so to speak) and as high as #638 among all free books offered on Amazon. In both cases, that is doing pretty well, because we’re talking about a lot of books, a big “sampling” by curious readers. Or people just looking for something they don’t have to pay for, I know. I gave away over 510 books (exact number not finalized as of this writing), along with 65 in Great Britain, 10 in Germany, and 1 in France (!). This is a fascinating process. More fascinating will be what comes next, because now readers who want to own the book will have to plunk down the princely sum of $3.99 (USD), and those who wish to borrow it from the Kindle Prime Members Lending Library will have to plunk down $0.00 (USD), although as do all authors of Kindle Select books borrowed from the lending library, I will make roughly $2.00 per borrow. This last part is pretty cool, since everybody wins. I would have very few qualms about being the most borrowed bookster in history.

You might get the impression that as a writer, one walks off a very high cliff when shifting from the free to everybody realm into the buy-or-borrow my baby realm. You’d be right. It feels pretty risky, pretty scary. What if everything just stops? What if I don’t get good reviews from even a few of the people who’ve read the book? What if I break out in hives or terminal adult acne due to a bad case of rejection fear? All this might sound like no big deal to a person who does not write–I was going to say ‘for a living’, but in truth it’s much closer to ‘as a way of living’ to anyone who really does it–but trust me, it’s vertigo all the way. Cold sweat city. Here comes the test, and you have no guarantees of passing. Again, people might have taken the freebie, read it, and hated it. These things happen, no matter how desperately one wants it to be otherwise. It would be worse, however, to be simply ignored. And in the world of the Internet– that vast sandy beach upon which we single grains jump up and down screaming ourselves hoarse in hopes of getting SOMEBODY’S attention–being ignored is not just an insult, it’s the norm. Same is true of this blog. If you’re reading it, I’m in some small way beating the odds. Fact is, there are far too many things going on at one time to reasonably expect one’s book to suddenly go viral and leap into the consciousness of the world at large. There are even too many books to expect that.  So it’s pretty tough, and it requires tireless effort to get people’s attention, hopefully without alienating them into thinking “Oh my God, there’s that asshole writer screaming for attention again, wanting me to buy his goddamn book. Why doesn’t he get a real job? Nobody reads anyway, although I, of course, do, but I can’t be in the majority.” Well, you know what? People do read. Actually, with the Internet, probably more than they have in a good long time. So the battle is well worth the waging. Especially now, when trends take shape and foundations are being laid–only problem being, we don’t know which are foundations and which are foundering–it’s vital to get one’s head above water and gargle for all one is worth.

So that’s what I’m doing. Gargling. I went to college to learn how to gargle, and I’ll be damned if I’m stopping just because it’s a little tough out there. I have stories to tell, even if people will only read them for free. Or at least, only read this most recent one for free. So maybe next time, if I’m a little bit lucky and there’s a little bit of wind in my sails, those freebie readers will remember that they actually liked what they read by that guy what’shisname, and they might even be willing to pay a small amount to see where he goes from here. Maybe. A beautiful word, ‘maybe.’ Equally so the word ‘might.’ Closely related to ‘we’ll see.’ Won’t we.

 


Spring, Hopes Infernal!

Yes, it’s that good ol’ startin’ it up feeling. I’ve gone through the late nights and self doubt once more, grinding out yet another story of good, not quite as good, and downright bad people running into each other like so many electrons in a supercollider. This time the book is called “Dead Set on Tuesday,” and it’s just now available on Amazon. You can actually get it for nothing by checking it out of the Amazon Lending Library, provided you have a Kindle and have purchased the Amazon Prime plan. But fear not, if you try out the plan for a month at no charge, you can still check out the book at no charge, and after all what in the WORLD is more important than getting my book, right? I’m glad you see it that way.

Okay, the crass commercialism dispensed with, allow me a few moments of the unabashedly artsy-fartsy. I first toyed with the story of “Dead Set on Tuesday” back in 1989 (holy crap!), and never forgot about it, but also never actually wrote the damn thing until very recently. I have no idea why this temporal hiccup occurred, except that I got very busy just when I would have written this as a follow-up piece to “The Proving,” which came out in 1988. But at long last, gory and bloody and mad as hell, here is the story of Homicide Detective Louie Wall, a man riddled with guilt for his own past foibles yet unable to cope terribly well with the foibles of his son, Patrick. Patrick is an addict, and a link in the chain of drug traffickers known affectionately as “The Coke Machine.” He is also among those targeted by a man bent on revenge against said machine. That man is Wagner W. Curry, or “Wags,” or “Daddy Wags,” depending on how well you know him. See, a year ago, on Fat Tuesday in New Orleans (see another recent post here) Wags was the target of a hit that was sponsored by The Coke Machine. They were just too damn uneasy because Wags knew everything about everybody in the organization, and they decided that he was a bit too dangerous to have around. So they tried to get him. They failed, and in the process created a monster with two heads. The other head was one Jackie Del Fain, a large young man — really large — born and bred in Louisiana, and full of desire for his own revenge.  His reason: somebody sold cocaine to his baby sister, Cherry, and she managed to drop dead because she did too much, too fast, and it probably wasn’t the greatest shit ever purchased, anyway. So Jackie wants to kill everyone and anyone involved in the drug trade. All Wags has to do is outsmart him (not exactly the tallest of orders) and make him believe that like him, Wags is the victim of these awful people, and that together they can raise the kind of hell that makes for nightmares. Wags does this, and more. The two crusading avengers descend upon The Coke Machine in Los Angeles, killing one member, one link in the chain, each and every Tuesday. They are aiming at Fat Tuesday, the one year anniversary of the ill-conceived attempt on Wags’ life, when they plan to finish with a flourish, to say the least.

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans… they make a nice throw rug. Things don’t exactly go according to the rules for anyone involved, and that’s where the fun is. At least for me, it is. That’s pretty much at the core of why I write fiction — because it should never go according to the rules for anybody you’re interested in. Anyway, if you feel like buying or “checking” the book out, library-style, go to www.amazon.com/author/tomszollosi and you should find it. (You might have to click on “show all books,” but it’s in there.)


Dead Set on Tuesday

Dead Set on Tuesday

Yes, it’s that good ol’ startin’ it up feeling. I’ve gone through the late nights and self doubt once more, grinding out yet another story of good, not quite as good, and downright bad people running into each other like so many electrons in a supercollider. This time the book is called “Dead Set on Tuesday,” and it’s just now available on Amazon. You can actually get it for nothing by checking it out of the Amazon Lending Library, provided you have a Kindle and have purchased the Amazon Prime plan. But fear not, if you try out the plan for a month at no charge, you can still check out the book at no charge, and after all what in the WORLD is more important than getting my book, right? I’m glad you see it that way.

Okay, the crass commercialism dispensed with, allow me a few moments of the unabashedly artsy-fartsy. I first toyed with the story of “Dead Set on Tuesday” back in 1989 (holy crap!), and never forgot about it, but also never actually wrote the damn thing until very recently. I have no idea why this temporal hiccup occurred, except that I got very busy just when I would have written this as a follow-up piece to “The Proving,” which came out in 1988. But at long last, gory and bloody and mad as hell, here is the story of Homicide Detective Louie Wall, a man riddled with guilt for his own past foibles yet unable to cope terribly well with the foibles of his son, Patrick. Patrick is an addict, and a link in the chain of drug traffickers known affectionately as “The Coke Machine.” He is also among those targeted by a man bent on revenge against said machine. That man is Wagner W. Curry, or “Wags,” or “Daddy Wags,” depending on how well you know him. See, a year ago, on Fat Tuesday in New Orleans (see another recent post here) Wags was the target of a hit that was sponsored by The Coke Machine. They were just too damn uneasy because Wags knew everything about everybody in the organization, and they decided that he was a bit too dangerous to have around. So they tried to get him. They failed, and in the process created a monster with two heads. The other head was one Jackie Del Fain, a large young man — really large — born and bred in Louisiana, and full of desire for his own revenge.  His reason: somebody sold cocaine to his baby sister, Cherry, and she managed to drop dead because she did too much, too fast, and it probably wasn’t the greatest shit ever purchased, anyway. So Jackie wants to kill everyone and anyone involved in the drug trade. All Wags has to do is outsmart him (not exactly the tallest of orders) and make him believe that like him, Wags is the victim of these awful people, and that together they can raise the kind of hell that makes for nightmares. Wags does this, and more. The two crusading avengers descend upon The Coke Machine in Los Angeles, killing one member, one link in the chain, each and every Tuesday. They are aiming at Fat Tuesday, the one year anniversary of the ill-conceived attempt on Wags’ life, when they plan to finish with a flourish, to say the least. 

Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans… they make a nice throw rug. Things don’t exactly go according to the rules for anyone involved, and that’s where the fun is. At least for me, it is. That’s pretty much at the core of why I write fiction — because it should never go according to the rules for anybody you’re interested in. Anyway, if you feel like buying or “checking” the book out, library-style, go here you should find it. (You might have to click on “show all books,” but it’s in there.) 


Fat Tuesday In Old New Orleans

As a different sort of blog post, here’s the opening of my forthcoming novel, “Fat Tuesday”.  Comments welcome.

 

FAT TUESDAY IN OLD NEW ORLEANS

Wagner W. Curry left his hotel at eleven A.M., Mardi Gras morning.  Fat Tuesday.  He forgot to watch his back, but nobody could concentrate on precaution with so much dress-up, drink-down shit going on.  He’d managed to hit New Orleans and Mardi Gras for several years now.  It wasn’t particularly hard.  Nobody really cared where he was on what day – except delivery day – long as business got done.

And Wagner could do business.  He showed up on time, where he was supposed to be.  Nobody better.  His personal mantra went: “I am a manager, I can manage.”

He’d taken a correspondence course in the Air Force, read paperbacks about managing personal business and organizing your life.  They were every asshole’s gloss-job, but “I am a manager, I can manage”, caught his ego about chest high and he decided to use it.

Shit, he was a manager.  Nobody could tell him otherwise.  The reality he managed was one most people couldn’t take for a day, much less three years.  But he had.  And just then, as Wagner walked to his car thinking how ugly any city-sized party looked when daylight struck, that reality asserted itself mongoose-and-cobra-style.

Wagner spotted a face; an expression that pumped him with adrenalin.  It was the tense, eager visage of Danny Monique, a man he unfortunately knew. It was peeking out at him from a hotel window, about twenty-five yards before he got to his rented Mercury in the hotel lot.

The shock of those L.A. eyes in New Orleans steered Wagner, on pure instinct, away from his wheels.

There had been no logical reason to worry, no hint of a problem.  But Danny Monique meant just one thing to people like Wagner: chances suddenly became unacceptably high the car would blow Wagner to vapor the second his key hit the lock.  Danny was a door-lock boy.

Danny’s frowning face would pinch into a little asshole of an expression as he watched Wagner walk away from the car.  He’d either guess he’d been made or assume “Daddy Wags” had thrown fate the spitter, deciding on a whim to cab-it and postpone the full body disassembly Danny had rigged.

But Wagner knew that Danny couldn’t be ignored.

They’d never dispatched anybody to watch Wagner’s ass.  Something was fucked up, in a king-sized way.  You didn’t send Danny to watch.  You sent Danny to rig car doors, or smile his tight smile while small bullets entered people’s heads from extremely close range.

Among guys who knew, word was Danny’s peepers fogged when he felt the brain-spray.  He kept it low caliber so he’d have to get close.

Wagner got a cab, knowing Danny would be hurrying to take one after him.  A quick look out the back window was all he needed.

Starting a random, increasingly nervous trail through hung-over New Orleans, Wagner strained to guess why Danny Monique had come after him.

Any way you tilted it, things wound-up ugly.

Wagner himself was Big Burrito – number one mule in the extremely large, extremely successful trafficking operation known as The Coke Machine.  If that was the light side, Danny Monique lived on the dark side of The Machine, working for Victor The Inflictor back in L.A.

Victor was the guy you didn’t want to see if you dealt powder on the street.  He meant they’d decided you’d been ripping them off, so now they’d relieve you of your skin.  And Danny played perfect Helper to Victor’s Santa.

Wagner ditched the guessing game.  It didn’t matter why Danny was after him.  Reality was reality, in Wagner’s world.  Once you saw it, the thing to get was the advantage.  Get the explanation, if you gave a shit, later.

Wagner paid the first driver, took a second cab and made a crisscross of town, bringing himself almost back to his hotel. Danny Monique stayed after him, probably pissed and by now certain he’d been made.  He liked things to go quickly.  He hated wasting time.

But it wasn’t wasted for Wagner.  It gave him the chance to map some moves.

Legions of cars were parked on the side streets near his hotel.  Getting out of the cab by the main entrance, Wagner sprinted through the lobby. He went right out a side entrance before Danny was back inside the place.  Danny had to guess directions, which could give birth to mistakes.

Wagner hadn’t boosted wheels in years, but he remembered the golden gift fate often dealt car thieves:  the incredible number of mental defectives who left cars unlocked.  At first, running along the side street, scanning parked cars, it looked like the retards had either stayed home or gone to pay lots.  But a Ford pickup, driver’s door-lock button poking up like a proud little hardon, finally offered itself.

He was in, pulling his knife, thinking how stupid this would look to anybody who knew him: Wags, hunkered in the dust-caked cab of a pickup on a side-street in New Orleans while the whole town fucked itself blind and stayed unconscious for days. Wags, watching nervously for an L.A. poof in Hawaiian short sleeves, a man who’d come looking to blow his nuts off.

Sweat trickled, stinging Wagner’s eyes.  He wiped them with his sleeve after getting the ignition housing to yield its cylinder.  Now things went fast.  The knife blade penetrated deep into the housing, which gave a little plastic cracking sound, but the blade did its job and he hot started the fucker.  Pulling out, Wags got a good look at Danny, puffing and pale, long thin hair plastered to his skull in sweaty, sticky disarray.

Out of shape, thought Wags.  I can do you.

Danny stood framed by the doorway of the hotel’s side entrance, glaring at the pickup and Wagner W. Curry, who glared back.

As Wagner went around the corner to fight Mardi Gras traffic, he didn’t see Danny run into the street and point his too-short gun at the driver of a cherry condition Thunderbird deluxe edition.

“Hit the brakes!”  The reedy assassin-voice seeped through the slightly open window of the T-Bird, barely audible over the CD player.

But the T-Bird stopped.  The gun was easy to understand.  The driver got out, Danny took his place behind the wheel.  Right away he didn’t like the guy’s lingering after-shave any more than the shit on his cd player.  Danny lowered both windows and threw the just ejected disc at the guy as he took off.

“Simian,” Danny rasped in disgust.

It was a few minutes before Wags realized the T-bird, weaving nearer through traffic, was the one.  He almost had to smile, except Danny sure as hell wasn’t smiling back.  Danny pressed close, trying to keep up when Wagner graduated them from city streets to equally crowded highway.

Wagner’s frustration grew.  What was he supposed to do, race the little fudge packer clear to Chicago?  Danny clung to the pickup’s ass, trying to be inventive, trying to move up alongside.  It was laughable.  Wagner saw it coming again and again, slid the greater mass of the pickup a couple feet into Danny’s lane at the right moment and forced the greasy little bastard back to await another opening.

Wagner was now and then enjoying this little game, particularly since he knew Danny hated it.  Door-lock Danny was your surprise in the middle of the night type.  He’d’ve had a boner as big as all outdoors if Wagner’d never seen him watching, stepped up to that rented Merc and vanished in a red-hot mist.

But it hadn’t tilted that way.

Things like that didn’t happen to Wagner W. Curry, and he firmly believed there was a reason.

He believed in reincarnation.  He believed he, Wagner W. Curry and no one else, was in fact the reincarnation of somebody very special.  It began back in Oklahoma, in school.  When Wagner first read about Rasputin, the man, the name, the idea hooked him like nothing before or since.  He found more books on the Mad Monk, quickly beginning to admire and identify.

To know, he thought, what he’d felt and done.

It was some time before Wags could accept the idea, but he knew his attraction to Rasputin could be no accident.

He couldn’t keep from talking about the man.  The subject was an intoxicating trigger; a weakness.  He babbled.  He got odd looks from more than one of his Coke Machine contacts.  They tired of hearing how some old Russian fucked the Czarina, got people under his spell, got them to do whatever he wanted and believe he was infallible.

The looks hurt Wagner, but he never let on.  He smiled that engaging simple farm boy grin he could muster, and changed the subject.

They’d given him the same look in Oklahoma, wondering how a kid born with blond hair and ten pounds of agri-dust in his veins could give a shit about the long-since freeze dried ass of some Moscow mind-fucker.

They just never got the point.  That Mexican teacher he’d put up with in high school, Mr. Gomez, outright accused Wagner of being a communist.  A communist!  What an asshole!  Gomez said if Rasputin hadn’t fucked up the Czarina, and hence the whole Romanoff family, maybe Czar whatshisname wouldn’t’ve been so screwed up and Lenin would’ve found the door locked.

Wagner hadn’t bothered to argue.

Instead, he waited a little over a month, already understanding the advantage and power of patience.  Then he’d slipped into Mr. Gomez’s garage one night.  It was too fucking easy.  Gomez had left the door open.  He’d walked in, opened the little slot in the bottom of the gas water heater in the corner and snuffed the pilot.

He’d even been good enough to close the garage door on his way out.

Police investigators figured the whole house was filled with gas by the time Gomez had rolled out of bed next morning, stretched his mex-muscles and flicked his Bic to light that first morning cigarette.

 

Now Wagner’s attention came fully back to the present; to the road.  He heard loud honking directly ahead.  A Greyhound was heading right for him, leaning on the horn.

A quick look revealed Danny Monique, angling to get a shot, sitting alongside Wags in the wrong-way lane, causing all the trouble with the Hound.

But Danny, acting nuts, wasn’t gonna be bus-meat because the bus driver had desperately changed lanes, probably figuring the guy in the pickup wasn’t crazy, so maybe he’d figure out how the hell to avoid the disaster this idiot asshole going the wrong way in the T-bird was causing.

Wags didn’t let him down. He veered off the entire highway.

The pickup left the pavement at a small rise in the asphalt.  It sailed into dense, hanging fronds of ingrown bayou foliage that brooded over this thin, picturesque strip of Louisiana highway.  Ungainly as the pickup looked, it had more armor plating for such flight than a car.

Expecting to be imbedded in some gnarled old cypress, Wagner was amazed as the truck zoomed through that sheath of green and landed in a tooth-smashing slam on semi-mud/semi-rock ground.

The pickup bounded, skidded, and rumbled thirty yards in a hail of flying gravel.  It spun as Wagner tried the brakes.  Rock and pebbles flew.  His tires refused to grip the cheesy, perma-soaked mulch.

The truck slammed broadside into a boulder, windshield shattering into tiny glass projectiles that blew outward and away from Wagner.

Silence descended.  Nothing moved.   Seconds ticked by.

In the cab, Wags discovered he couldn’t get either door open after the sudden reshaping of the frame.  He squeezed quickly out the hole where the windshield had been.

He knew that back on the highway, there would’ve been plenty of honking, skidding, and panic.

Danny Monique would pull over to make sure he’d seen Wags die.

Climbing out and jumping down, Wags saw gas and oil leaking from the truck:  a time bomb.  He stayed low and bolted for the closest trees.  Maybe Danny would see the truck explode and declare victory.

He barely had time to realize this was another Rasputin moment, when the whole area lit up in fiery violence.

The concussion in the air threw Wags forward, speeding his already full-out run beyond the limits of balance.  He landed hard, slid a few feet and scratched his clean-shaven, handsome face.  He got up quick, shaking dirt out of his straight, until-now-neat blond hair.  He smelled his cologne, triggered by his sweat.  It was tough to breathe but he knew to keep running.

He didn’t know the same blast had walloped Danny Monique.  Danny had run through that first stripe of trees, having abandoned the t-bird by the roadside. The exploding truck had put him back on his ass.

But Danny had done too many people, too many ways to let a simple truck explosion fool him.  He believed there had been a fleeing form heading for the next cluster of trees just before everything went orange, yellow, and hot.

When he opened his eyes and still experienced sky instead of whatever you saw in the afterworld, he got right back up and ran toward where he’d seen the fleeing form.

Danny didn’t like places way out where nobody could hear you scream.  He couldn’t imagine anybody liking them.   The mosquitoes in this place were big enough to carry passengers.  He wanted this whole thing over with and behind him.  God knew after hitting that mother of a rock the way the truck had, Wags had to be hurt bad.

Danny’s heart rose into his throat, and then sank to his knees again when he saw clear imprints of running feet in the mud ahead of him.  Maybe Wags wasn’t hurt at all.  Part of Danny couldn’t believe it.  He figured some local had seen everything and run like shit, afraid to be questioned by cops who’d inevitably smell homebrew on his breath.

But when he thought a second longer, Danny didn’t believe this any more than Victor The Inflictor would.

So finally, bottom line, it was the specter of an angry Victor that drove Danny farther into alien bayou bog.  It was Victor, as much as Wags, that Danny blamed for the sweat now pouring off him.  Finally, muttering, he removed his drenched shirt and kept on.

He was quickly out of patience, but not before he was out of breath, out of his element, and not sure how he would find the road again.

He’d come at least a mile in.  He still saw those tracks now and then.  He thought he heard a sound, but couldn’t be sure.  It seemed like the guy could be anywhere, but he was nowhere.

Wags hoped the rural turn things had taken would mean the death of Danny Monique.  It was another of the omens Wags was seeing in his life with increasing regularity.

Omens.  To hear it, for anybody but Wagner, it could sound completely nuts.   Maybe he’d failed to hide it… maybe the immaculately combed, cold silver heads of The Coke Machine had decided in some conference call from Bogata that Wagner W. Curry, with his belief that he was the reincarnation of Rasputin and his encyclopedic knowledge of who, what and where they all were, was no longer tolerable.

Maybe they’d deemed him too great a risk, too hard to predict.

Considering this, circling wide through the bush and listening for his winded pursuer, Wags found himself grinning.

Too great a risk?  If that was what they thought, they better make sure he didn’t get out of that swamp-bog motherfucker bayou, because if escape was possible, he’d do it.  And then he’d be the worst news they ever got.

And Danny was for fucking sure not the badass champion Victor The Inflictor would’ve wanted if he’d guessed things would get down to this.

Wags heard footsteps walk right past him.  Couldn’t see ol’ Danny Boy yet, but the feet sang loud.  They were all Wags needed.  They made him hungry ‘cause by this time it wasn’t just survival.  It was that precarious, belly-to-butt-with-the-monster existence he’d been born to.  A war nobody ever tried to name or to end.  Funny thing was if you were really in it, you liked it.

The footsteps continued… heavier, tiring fast.  Soon to be slow enough, vulnerable enough for Wags’ knife, which was his only weapon.

Wags caught himself staring at a bug on a leaf.  The two of them remained quiet until the footsteps stopped completely.  They were not far from where he was crouched, poised.

He heard Danny’s labored breathing.

An inch at a time, Wags turned his head, extending his body to see around the bushes in front of him.  Finally he saw Danny’s feet.  Facing away.

Wags paused the slightest pause, then started up out of his crouch to launch at Danny.

But, in mid-launch, he froze.  He was unable at first to believe what he saw.

To be sure, it was Danny Monique’s pale, sweaty face.

But there were two enormous, clenching hands wrapped around Danny’s throat.

An alarmingly tall and powerful man held the pathetically gasping Danny in his grip.  Wags had no idea who they guy was or where he’d come from.  The man didn’t see Wags, but Wags couldn’t bring himself to move.

Instead he watched in fascination as the intruder did an amazing thing: shaking Danny, who was so short of air already that the gun flew harmlessly from his hand into the bushes, the big man turned Danny upside down like a kid handling a doll.

Now the two enormous hands clamped down on Danny’s ankles, holding the feet together.  Danny made disoriented, fearful noises as he hung upside down just above the ground.  His arms were slack, hanging down past his head.  The tops of his hands brushed the rocky soil.

The huge man, looking to the sky for some unseen moral okay, took a deep breath and began rushing toward a large tree.  He was building speed as he carried Danny upside down, head still just off the ground.

Danny’s protests grew as he was jostled to awareness by the motion… and the fact that the hands had been off of his windpipe for several more seconds.  But he was being moved much too fast.

Wags watched silently as the big man, still clutching Danny’s ankles together, swung his victim like a baseball bat.

 

Danny’s skull and upper torso hit the great old tree unbelievably hard.  The sound was like a watermelon hitting pavement off a high-speed truck.  Blood, bits of meat and facial bone coated the big man’s muscle-corded forearms in wet red aftermath.  No more whimpering.  The front of Danny Monique had been caved in with a single blow.

The huge man’s anger continued unabated.  He hammered at the tree with his victim several more times.  Danny was tenderized meat, his clothes crimson.

In a disembodied realization amid the hypnotic brutality, Wags told himself this was the strongest man he’d ever seen, bar none, in his life.

He also knew the man had quite possibly just saved his life.  Danny, exhausted as he’d been, might’ve heard Wags coming.  Might’ve turned and frantically pulled the trigger of his little popper in time to invalidate the truck- starting knife blade.

Now the big man looked down at his victim, rage seeming to leave his body.  He dropped Danny unceremoniously.  Standing over the pummeled button man, he quietly, expressionlessly, opened his fly and began to piss on him.

 


A Conspiracy of Dunderheads

A Conspiracy of Dunderheads.


A Conspiracy of Dunderheads

Okay, I really hate to give in and start thinking like this, but I really do think there is a conspiracy — albeit one of dunderheads of titanic proportions — to utterly trash nothing less than The United States of America.  And if the rest of the world should get dragged along, well, who the hell really cares about them, they’re not us.  This is what I mean.  I have never seen, nor imagined, such a consistent, concerted effort to destroy and warp and befoul every last decent institution we’ve got, as that which we are now witnessing, courtesy of the so-called “Tea Party”.  Never has an term once reserved for kindly little old ladies and Mad Hatters been so cruelly misused and, frankly, stolen.  This ain’t the Boston Tea Party, or the English cucumber sandwiches school of tea parties.  This is the vile concoction of the Koch brothers or someone like them, and believe me, you’d recoil if you knew what they’re really putting in your cup.

Consider, if you will, that every last candidate on the Republican side of upcoming presidential debacle makes Ronald Reagan look like a liberal fiend, bent on raising any taxes on anybody.  Even Mitt, a man named after his father’s baseball glove, it would seem, has carefully distanced himself from the kinds of tax increases he knows damned well are going to be necessary, whether the rest of the Seven  Dwarves up there on the dais with him realize it.  And then there’s the party as a whole (or a hole, depending upon just how fed up you are), grimly, blindly refusing to cooperate with Obama simply because he is Obama.  That is to say, partly because he’s a black man (well, black enough for them, thank you very much! Did anybody actually see that white woman give birth to him?  Huh? Huh!?), which is made even worse because he’s a reasonable black man, and smarter by any measure than the whole pathetic assemblage of GOP alternatives, except when he actually tries to sneak his little tricks past them by offering compromise — one of the many things now considered needless and wimpy by these all-knowing revisionist stalwart patriots who WILL make us see the light whether it’s light or not.  Along with compromise, they’d like to get rid of compassion — you know, the “Ponzi scheme”, the softie’s medical programs (not just “Obamacare”, but Medicare, which is going to see someone in everyone’s family through hell at some point) that exist to help old people, poor people, or people who just can’t afford the hideously inflated costs of getting somebody to stick a tongue depressor in your mouth and ask you to say “ah”.

THEY DON’T CARE.  And I don’t mean the poor little dunderheads walking in protest with nasty signs, I mean the guys pulling their strings a couple floors up, giggling between themselves at how much they’re raking in while not having to pay taxes like the little guys, the dumb guys, the suckers down there on the ground.  Yes, they’re even screwing their own foot soldiers, blinding them with dreaded words like liberal, spending, socialism, and the implication that just because the GOVERNMENT does something it’s got to be bad.  The kicker for me was when Ron Paul, a man who should be greeting people at the front of a Walmart someplace with his goofy little grin and glistening nice old geezer eyes, actually had the cohones to say — not imply, but to say — that building a fence along the border with Mexico was not a bad idea because it wouldn’t keep the Mexicans out, but because someday our government might well use it to keep our people IN.  What is this guy smoking?  I know he’s a doctor, so maybe he’s over-prescribed something for himself. Let’s get real, Ron.

But see, not even Ron understands the sweep of this conspiracy.  Even though he’s spouting the mantra of the Tea Party and the Brothers Koch, he’s playing into their hands too.  Right along with, I’m sorry to say, the Mainstream Media.  Yup.  Consider:  on Monday Sept 12th, hereafter known as the day after the ten year anniversary, CNN is going to co-host the second republican candidates debate — and they’re going to host it IN COOPERATION WITH THE TEA PARTY.  They’re actually advertising this nauseating little detail!  How can you co-host a debate and be the press — you know, those guys who used to be impartial and just tell you the news and let you decide — when you’re co-hosting it with the most influential and newly powerful faction of the very party you’re covering?  I wonder what Ed Murrow or Walter Cronkite think of that?  Or Chet and David?  Or Dan Rather or Mike Wallace or you name the guy you actually trust?  IT’S A JOKE.  They’re throwing it in your face, implying (strongly) a preference for these distinctly UNpatriotic people (unpatriotic in the sense that they are not exactly constitutionally “observant” when somebody doesn’t agree with how they see things — in other words, they will shout you down and try to shut you up) and worst of all, they are LEGITIMIZING them!  They’re letting the starry-eyed faithful hold the flag.  Advocating inactivity in the frontal lobes of all americans.  Blind belief (but not color-blind belief).

Which brings us back to President Obama.  The man has actually done really well, considering the screaming tantrum-throwers he’s had to contend with ever since they started realizing that they had actually lost, and he had actually won the election of 2008.  He’s improved the lot of anyone needing medical insurance because now you can’t be denied just because you have a pre-existing condition (which happens to an awful lot of us who’ve actually been alive prior to needing medical attention), and managed to do better at getting rid of Bin Ladin than “W” ever could. Not to mention the fact, irrefutable although vastly under represented, that he has cut taxes for middle class families and saved everybody across the board on what they have to pay — with the idea that maybe they need the money a little bit more right about now than ever.  Because his predecessor, a republican, I believe, took a surplus and turned it into a sow’s ear, which he then left to the black guy to clean up.  Hell, to the republicans, that probably made sense.   (I’m sorry, do I sound partisan?  Uh… tough.)  Sure, he’s not perfect.  He might even be arrogant, I don’t know.  But he’s also smart, cagey, and he understands that you can’t just say to hell with the rest of the world as we bring our own institutions crashing down around our tea-swilling ears.  (And hey, the guy should know about ears, huh?) The world’s too small.  Too complicated.  And if Obama is having trouble keeping it all straight, what’s Rick Perry going to do?  Or any of the magical midgets?  They’re gonna hide their heads behind their dogma, their easy, pat answers, and stash the loot they chisel out of the rest of us in the biggest, stinkiest mattress on the face of the earth.  And they still won’t care.


Angst

Just about when I start telling myself that maybe I see things a bit too darkly, maybe I let that ennui, the ‘ol rolling blah infiltrate too deeply into my cerebral cortex, something like this happens.  My wife has been working for several years now with kids, keeping them constructively busy in after school programs so they’ll stay off the streets and out of their otherwise latchkey afternoons and early evenings.  She gets a lot out of it, and so do the kids, who grow very attached to the people looking after them.  It’s the kind of thing you’d imagine would build up nice karma cushions for all those concerned in that kind of work.  Well, two nights ago, at three o’clock in the morning, a car speeding down Topanga Canyon Boulevard in the west San Fernando Valley hit a pole, careened, hit a few other things and finally  came to a brutal stop.  Inside the car were two people, one of whom was a young woman my wife had worked with in the after school program operated by the Los Angeles Unified School District.  The woman, her name was Jennie, was twenty three years old.  Her boyfriend, at the wheel, was twenty seven.  God only knows why they were going as fast as they were, why they went into that curve near Lassen Street and Topanga Canyon Boulevard maybe just a little too high, a little too quick to hug the road.

Nobody”s going to be able to explain this adequately to Jennie’s four year old little boy, the light of her life.  Nobody’s going to be able to reconcile what happened with the fact that she’d just a couple months before finished getting her degree at California State University, Northridge. Nobody’s going to be able to really make sense of why a young life full of potential and good spirit needed to wind up inside a mangled white and black metal body along Topanga.  They could’ve stayed home.  They could’ve been sitting in a restaurant.  They could’ve been making love, making popcorn, making plans.

It makes no sense that some people live to ripe old ages and don’t appreciate it — or maybe they do, I don’t know, I’m not there yet — while others get cheated out of the absolute best their lives were going to give them.  It certainly makes me, for one, look around and give quiet thanks for the fortunate, good long run I’ve been on.  I hope that for more than  one day or so, I remember and appreciate what I have, what’s around me, what I see when I go to the beach or the bathroom or the market or… you name it.  It’s going to make me treasure any little encounter I have with my sons, my nephew, of course my wife, even my dog.  Because the person who I believe must be hurting the most is the other now-staggered soul who lived with Jennie.  Her mother.  I can’t even conceptualize what the parent who survives their child’s sudden, violent death must cope with and try to overcome.  She’s got to be there for her grandson.  Hell, she’s probably having enough trouble just being there for herself.  She’s going to run the events of that early morning through her mind a million times over the rest of her own life, and not once will it make sense, seem right, seem even possible. And she’ll have to live with that anvil on her chest.

So me, the ambitious writer, living in denial of the effects of gravity on a body significantly older than Jennie’s ever got to be, thinks that this really is the random, lurching, bull-in-a-china-closet reality I thought it was, after all.  Demolishing unpredictably, demolishing predictability.  The greatest power in the universe is an amalgam of chance, entropy, unfortunate collision and undeserved pain.  The poet described life as nasty, brutish, and short when discussing the medieval survival chances of the average man.  Well, nowadays medieval times isn’t just a bad dinner theater in Anaheim or Buena Park or wherever it is.  It’s still what we’re living in.  It’s all around us when we’re riding in little japanese cars at three o’clock in the morning on Topanga, and the Bad Luck Spirits are out upon the land.  It’s a hunter and a killer, a panther, coyote, or telephone pole.  It’s the reason you give another quiet little sigh of thanks — to whomever you think might be listening — when you come up that freeway off ramp at the end of a late night high speed ride from the other side of town, or farther.  And you can relax for a while, because tonight the unexpected sudden stop against the immovable object wasn’t in your cards.  The Bad Luck Spirits attached themselves, lamprey style, to someone else’s back.


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