Here is a dandy little review of The Crawford County Sketchbook from the good folks at Kirkus Reviews. Please go and have a read...
"An elaborate morality play set among the cult of Southerners and their haunted landscapes."
"Grotesque tales of the struggle between good and evil from a dark corner of the American heartland."
15 June 2015
01 June 2015
I work on a fetching tuna boat. That is probably news to you, as so few people work on fetching tuna boats these days, and when they do they are reluctant to admit it. They usually keep the fetching tuna boat stories to themselves.
Oh, the tuna boat is fetching, all right. She's all dolled up, but not in a gaudy way. Our captain has strung lights around the pilothouse – little electric lights that are in the shape of anthropomorphic jalapeño peppers, complete with tiny sombreros, mustaches, and sunglasses. They make the pilothouse look cheery, and when we are working on the fetching deck it makes us smile, knowing that our captain cares enough about us to string such festive lights on the fetching tuna boat.
During the day, we sail about and look for tuna. We never find any, seeing as how we sail upon the Mississippi River, and there are no tuna for hundreds of miles. Hell, maybe thousands of miles. I have no idea, as I have never seen a tuna in the wild – only in a can. That doesn't matter, though, as the captain tells us that we are one of the best tuna boat crews he has ever had work for him. We do all the things necessary to catch lots of tuna, and the first mate has even learned to make the harmonious tuna call using only his right hand, held firmly to his lips. He makes the harmonious tuna call, and we strain our eyes looking for the approach of the elusive tuna.
None ever comes.
In the afternoons we take siesta. It is pleasant and restful, taking siesta in our bunks below decks on the fetching tuna boat. Our captain has thoughtfully provided small nap mats that we may spread on the deck if the weather is warm and we wish to take siesta topside. When it is cool, we go to our bunks and listen to the waves lap at the hull of our fetching tuna boat. It lulls us to sleep with great ease.
In the evenings, after dinner, we will often gather on the lido deck to sing songs and play the concertinas. Each of us was issued a concertina when we signed on to the fetching tuna boat, and the first mate gives group concertina lessons each night, unless he is sober. The waves lap at the hull of our fetching tuna boat, the sound of sea chanties rolls out over the deck, and old man Bettendorf dances a merry jig until his prosthetic leg comes loose, causing him to hop back to his seat. We close the evenings with toasts of absinthe to our captain, and then we retire below decks. Only the first mate stays topside, keeping watch and drinking until he has passed out.
We enjoy our life here upon the fetching tuna boat, but we question our vocation. We have yet to spy a tuna, let alone catch one. Some of the crew say that it is our technique. Some say it is that our boat needs to be arrayed in an even more fetching manner. Others claim it has to do with the stars and the way the constellation of the Archer has risen in the East, bringing with it wary schools of tuna. We labor on, enjoying our life but never achieving our goal.
Some say that all of life is like that.
I work on a fetching tuna boat.
04 May 2015
“While we are on the topic of other planets, please allow yourself to drift off mentally to another planet – not terribly far distant in terms of space and time, but very distant in terms of reality. Place yourself on a war-torn field. A field of churned-up mud, debris, and dead bodies. See a series of trenches facing one another. See two armies facing one another across the churned up field. See the young men, huddled in a troglodyte world of mud and fear. See the mist and smoke rolling across the deserted landscape. Can you feel it?” asked Blaze Raygun.
“Is this an intentionally undertaken cloquey-overdose?” asked Grogan, opening one eye.
“It is often times the setting for an intentionally undertaken cloquey-overdose, but we are not using it like that right now.”
(Author's note: the Bezeldan word “cloquey” means, literally, “a confusion”. When extra-dimensional travelers would find themselves depressed from having landed in a real heck of a cloquey, they would travel through the ether of time and space and take in a little bit of opening day on the Battle of the Somme. It was cloquey-overdose on a grand scale, and they always felt a little better about whatever it was that they had previously witnessed. This whole issue is addressed in another story of mine – Yerba Maté – that you should probably go and read. Right now. Please report back to this paragraph when you have done so. Thank you.)
“You might see some soldiers huddled together in groups, talking in low voices, and lighting cigarettes in their cupped hands. You can see the look in their eyes, and maybe you can even feel how uncomfortable they are in their woolen uniforms. Wool, encrusted in mud and maybe even some blood here and there. To top it off, there are bugs. Lice. Little vermin that crawl around and bite the soldiers, just to add a little bit of discomfort to everything else. If you look further, there are also rats. Not as numerous as the lice, but probably more visible. The rats are sometimes feeding on the dead, and the soldiers know this. In fact, they know that some of the bodies of men who had been their friends – men just like them with bodies just like theirs – those are some of the bodies that the rats are nibbling on. Worst of all, the soldiers know that their own bodies might be next – they might become the next body that the rats nibble on. It's just awful.”
“Aside from the rats and the lice, there is not a lot of wildlife painted into this picture. No starlings. No bletcher-birds. No bluejays. No redjays. No anykindjays. The soldiers huddle on both sides of the trenches, all speaking their respective languages in hushed tones, smoking cigarettes from their home countries. And one of the things that the soldiers do on either side of the trenches – something they do no matter what language they speak or what uniform they wear – is bond with each other. The men sometimes have nothing else to keep them going but each other. They become almost closer than brothers.”
“Okay. I want you now to depart this field of horror and death, and come with me to another place.”
“Gladly,” said Grogan, wiping sweat from his brow.
“Come with me to a Frosty-Chill on a warm summer night in a small town near the northern pole. Look at the teenagers gathered around the counter, ordering Frosty-Chill cones and cylinders and wheaty-milks. Look at the hormones coursing through their systems. Well, you can't really see the hormones, but you know they are there, don't you? Don't answer that. Look at the boy and the girl sitting at that little table off to the side. Look at their eyes, and they way they hold each other's hand. In another time, and in another place there were those who called this 'puppy-love' but we mostly think of it as the affection that two young people have for one another when their systems and their brains are not quite developed yet, and they don't really know what they are feeling. You can almost feel the sugary, sappy, warm, and wonderful emotions that they have going on right now, can't you? Again, don't answer that.”
“Look inside that young boy's heart. Can you? Of course not, but maybe you can feel it just a little bit. If you can tell how much he never wants this moment to end, and how in just 30 or 40 short years into the future he will wish that he could feel that same feeling once again, you might get a sense of what I'm talking about. Likewise with the young girl. She might be looking back in 30 or 40 years and thinking that there was once a perfect summer evening outside the Frosty-Chill, and that there was a time when she felt so good and so young and so blissfully ignorant of what was really going on.”
“This is very different from the last place we were. Nobody is dying here, at least not actively, and there is a lot less fear, a lot less mud, and certainly fewer rats. There might be some lice, but we won't even bring that into the equation, if you don't mind.”
Grogan and Rosalyn shook their heads without saying a word.
27 April 2015
Maguida raised a flag of truce and sailed into the tiny harbor of her mind. Her boat was fragile but still seaworthy, and at any rate it appeared as though there would be no more salvos fired at her from the coastal guns.
Coastal guns on the shore of the tiny harbor of one's mind can be particularly deadly.
The winds were steady but warm, and the waters fairly calm. She looked around at the ragged sails, torn from the previous battle, and she wondered how they could have ever held enough wind to bring her home – home to an occupied port, home to become a prisoner. She thought deeply and with salty-wounded wonder at how the gimple birds had made a warning call before the battle. She listened to them, but ignored their dire message. We all do that from time to time.
As her battle-ravaged boat pulled into port, she stepped into what had become a foreign land. Enemy-held territory. A strange place. She walked ashore and saw no trace of her captors.
No threatening words.
No marauding troops.
No laurel-wreath clad victors, grinning at her with bloody smiles.
She was alone. The worst kind of defeat there is.
20 April 2015
When the police arrived, there was little that could be done aside from cleaning up the mess. One older officer directed one of the younger officers to get a 2-liter bottle of a well-known cola soft drink and wash the blood away.
“Are you sure we should do that?” asked the young officer. “They might want the blood for evidence.”
“Who? Who might want it?” asked the older officer.
With a shrug of his shoulders the younger officer walked away in search of the cola. The older officer crouched down next to the body and looked into its eyes. “Its” eyes, as the officer was not sure if it was the body of a man or a woman. There were no obvious clues.
The officer stood up, shook his head and smoothed the lap of his his trousers, slowly, but almost as though he were brushing off crumbs. There could have been crumbs on his trousers, in fact. He had just eaten a very crumbly baked good on the way over. The officer was not sure, exactly, what sort of baked good it was. There had been no obvious clues.
A delivery van of some sort slowed down as it drove past the crime scene, trying to figure out what was going on. The driver turned down his radio – for that is what people do, it seems, when they need to concentrate on things while driving. They turn down the radio. When your family was on a vacation and you pulled into a strange city, would your mother pull out the map and turn down the radio, saying “we have to concentrate” ? Perhaps she did. I know that my mother did. In like fashion, the driver of this delivery truck sat up, took notice, and turned down his radio.
The officer looked at the truck as it passed by and noticed the driver staring at the crime scene. He took note of the driver turning down the radio. The officer looked at the delivery truck and tried to determine what sort of delivery such a truck would be making, but he could not decide what it might be. There were no obvious clues.
The officer returned to his patrol car and opened the trunk. He withdrew the “Crime Scene Removal Kit” that was issued to every police patrol car in Weaverton. Taking the kit to where the body was, he put on his tidy white apron and rubber gloves and got to work. The body fit neatly within the several resealable plastic bowls that came with the kit – bowls that were guaranteed to not leak, and that would keep body parts or baked goods as fresh and flaky as the day they were murdered or baked. “From our kitchen to yours!” was the cheery message that was molded in bright, happy colors on the snap-tight lid of each bowl.
The kit was very complete, the officer thought, except for the cola soft drink that all of Weaverton's finest used to give a final cleaning to any crime scene. Well, to any crime scene that needed cleaning, that is. The crime scenes of Jaywalking (unless lethal) seldom needed such a good cleaning. The cola soft drink that they used for crime-scene clean up had a special wang-doodley enzyme in it that immediately ate up and digested blood and small body parts that were too small to pick up with the tongs that were included in the kit. “Who stocked these kits, anyway?” the officer wondered aloud. He turned the lid of the kit over several times, looking for the name of a manufacturer. There were no obvious clues.
The officer wiped off the tongs, packed up the kit and the resealable plastic bowls full of body parts, and placed them all neatly in the trunk of the patrol car. He took off his tidy white apron and rubber gloves, and placed them in a large plastic bag that the City of Weaverton Police Department had so thoughtfully included in each policeman's personal goody box. The personal goody box contained very crumbly baked goods, tear gas, a smiley-face button, and a kazoo, along with the plastic bags. Each goody box was prepared personally by the mayor of Weaverton each morning, and contained a hand written message of joy. The older officer's goody box this morning had a message that read “Slap-happy to the end! Boxer dogs and hiccups! Happy!” It was, sure enough, hand written and signed by the mayor. The officer, after reading it, had misplaced it in the patrol car somewhere, but was not sure where he had laid it. There were no obvious clues.
The younger officer returned with a 2-liter bottle of the particular well-known cola soft drink, and the two of them used it to wash away the remaining blood and some small body parts. They flushed the whole of it into the gutter, where it ran over several empty pistol cartridges and down into the storm sewer. The older officer was not sure where it went after it entered the storm sewer. There were no obvious clues.
The two officers got into the patrol car and made their way back to the station. In the precinct headquarters that afternoon, just before he headed home after his shift, the older officer made his daily “record of events” and entered it into the duty log.
“Quiet day. No activity. Ate two very crumbly baked goods. Happy!”
10 April 2015
He did it again.
Mr. Reemer (not his real name) held out his hand on the corner of 18th Avenue and 31st Street, and juggled two balls of stiffened beef tallow, daring any passers-by to pluck one of the balls from mid-air. No one ever wants to touch stiffened beef tallow, of course, so he found no takers. It was his next action that baffled everyone – even the reporter from the Daily Slouch.
The sun burned brightly in the skies over Weaverton that morning, and Mr. Reemer's hand grew all the more slippery with each cycle of the balls of stiffened beef tallow. As one last passer-by passed by (that is, after all, what passers-by do, you know), he paused in mid-juggle, and a ball of stiffened beef tallow stopped in mid-air. It hovered. It wobbled. It glistened.
“Hear my tale,” said Mr. Reemer to the passer-by. “Hear my tale of tallow. A tallowy tale, yet not too tall of a tallowy tale.”
The passer-by stopped and stared at the ball of stiffened beef tallow.
“Hear of the genesis, as it were,” continued Mr. Reemer, smiling. “You know where this lovely ball of stiffened beef tallow comes from, don't you?”
The passer-by shook her head, as if to say “no.”
(That is often what people mean when they shake their heads.)
“Let me show you.” With his free hand (the one that was not growing all the more slippery from stiffened beef tallow) he traced a picture in the air – a picture so divine, so graceful, and so intricate. He then reached out and placed his index finger upon the forehead of the passer-by. “Receive,” said Mr. Reemer.
The passer-by shook and trembled, and then grew still.
“Deeper than you might think?” she asked, at great length.
“Deeper than you might think,” said Mr. Reemer.
The passer-by reached out her hand. Mr. Reemer reached out his own hand (the one that had been growing all the more slippery). As their hands met, he turned his over, placing the ball of stiffened beef tallow in hers. While she held it, he kept his hand on the ball for a long while, allowing liquefied beef tallow to run from his palm and cascade over hers.
“Deeper,” he said.
“Deeper,” she said.
The softened beef tallow ran down in tiny little rivulets, over her palm, down her wrist, and down her arm. She felt it dripping onto her shoes.
Mr. Reemer (not his real name, remember?) withdrew his hand, leaving the passer-by holding the ball of stiffened beef tallow. He gently directed her arm beneath the other ball that was still hovering and wobbling and glistening in mid-air.
He looked into her eyes.
She looked into his eyes.
“Receive,” said Mr. Reemer. He made the sign of the grackle and walked away. Out of sight. Out of mind. Out of body.
The passer-by began to juggle the balls of stiffened beef tallow. The sun burned brightly in the skies over Weaverton, and the passer-by's hand grew all the more slippery with each cycle. A voice from deep within came, at long last, to her lips.
“Hear my tale...”
23 March 2015
(from my forthcoming novel, Cinema! Cinema!)
“Well," said Jerry Grogan, "this one guy that I know, his dad was a sailor. I don't mean like a professional sailor all his life or anything. This guy wanted to be a professional athlete, actually. A baseball player, in fact. A pitcher to be exact. Do you know what baseball is?
“Sure,” said Rosalyn. “It's that earth sport that moves real slowly. I see it from time to time on inter-dimensional planetary television. It's the one with all of the beer ads.”
“Yeah, that's it. So anyhow, he wanted to be a baseball player, but as fate would have it, there was a war going on at the time. The guy doesn't want to get drafted into the army, so he joins the navy. Seems like a good idea at the time. In the long run, it sets into motion a whole turn of events that winds up with him retiring as a social worker rather than a baseball player, but such is life. You know how that goes?”
“Do I ever,” said Rosalyn. “I wanted to be a plumber, but I wound up as an art teacher. Some days what I wouldn't give to fix a leaking faucet or a toilet with a bad flapper valve.”
“You can do those things any time you want, baby-cakes. The next time my toilet overflows I'll give you a call.”
“Anyhow, the guy winds up floating around the ocean, running up and down steel ladders and scrubbing decks and saluting people and all the things that sailors commonly do. I don't think he had a parrot or anything. I think those are reserved for pirates, and these guys were legitimate sailors. Some of them had tattoos, though, I'm pretty sure of it."
"When the war ended," Grogan continued, "this guy's ship had the task of picking up a whole bunch of soldiers and marines who had been involved in more 'hands-on' sorts of war-making and ferrying them back home. This seemed like a pretty good deal, because the sailors were a lot less concerned about people trying to kill them or sink their ship or whatever, now that the war was done. Their thoughts had mostly turned to getting home and getting jobs or getting laid or getting really good and stinking drunk.”
“Everybody has their vices,” inserted Rosalyn.
“You can say that again, baby-cakes. So all of these sailors and soldiers and marines are on the ship together for a few weeks, and they end up getting to know each other a bit, and playing poker together and all the things you do when a war is over. And this one marine strikes up a conversation with my friend's dad, and eventually asks him if he wants to see what he was bringing home as a souvenir from the war. Well, this is too good for my friend's dad to pass up, seeing as how the guys on the ship never really had the chance to do any souvenir gathering during the war, and mostly were bringing home only tattoos or the clap.”
“I bet some of them picked up tiny things, too,” said Rosalyn, “just as a little gift for their moms or girlfriends.”
“Maybe. Here and there maybe a plastic snow-globe or something. I'll give you that. But whatever the case, my friend's dad apparently didn't want to miss seeing what a marine might be bringing back from some battle-torn island somewhere. Maybe a cool sword or a helmet or a flag or something. So he goes down to the hangar deck of their ship, where all of the marines are camped out on makeshift bunks, and the marine grabs his seabag and they go to a private little corner behind some crates and pipes and stuff. And the marine pulls a glass mason jar out of his seabag.”
“That's what my friend's dad thought at first, too. Or maybe some kind of special ethnic delicacy that he found in an enemy chow line. But the marine lifts it up in my friend's dad's face and lets him get a real close look at it. You know what it was?”
“Of course you don't. You couldn't believe it. You couldn't imagine it. You couldn't make this up.”
“What was it?” pressed Rosalyn.
“Ears,” said Grogan with a horrified look. “Ears.”
“Ears. Enemy ears. It turns out this marine was cutting off ears from dead bodies of the enemy soldiers that his unit killed. Whenever they overtook a position, or captured a bunker, after everything was quiet, this guy would go around with his knife and slice the ears off of dead soldiers, and then put them in a jar with vinegar or vodka or mineral spirits or something. He had it all wrapped up in a couple of towels, and he carried it with him everywhere. Apparently it was the second jar he had used, as the first one broke in his backpack or seabag or something, soaking everything with his field-expedient embalming fluid. He managed to save the ears, though, so it was okay.
“Lovely,” said Rosalyn, looking a little nauseated.
“Well, my friend's dad was speechless, I guess, but he never forgot the mason jar the ears were in. The marine had scratched the word 'ears' into the metal cap. Probably scratched it in with the same knife he used for removing the ears. Who knows? You don't forget a thing like that, though.”
“You would think that just seeing a bunch of ears floating around in a jar would be enough of a reminder of what's in the jar, though,” Rosalyn pointed out.
“Yeah, but I guess he wanted to dedicate that jar for one use and one use only. He probably didn't want to use the jar for making a batch of pickled eggs after the war.”
“Good point. What if he got the lids switched with another jar, though?”
“I have no idea. Anyhow, years later, probably forty years after the war, my friend's dad is on vacation in a big city on the coast, and was at an antique store with his wife, and they're poking around, looking at stuff, and he spots an old mason jar with a metal cap sitting there on a shelf, and it looks familiar.”
“Way. He grabs it, and sure enough, there's the same word, 'ears', scratched into the lid. The very same jar. I guess he even opened it and took a sniff. Still kinda' smelled like vinegar or something, but no trace of ears. “
“He did. He bought the thing and took it home with him. He kept it on his desk at work, and put old fortunes from fortune cookies in it. Every time he ate at a Chinese restaurant and got a fortune cookie, he'd keep the fortune and take it with him to put in the jar. When he retired, the thing was over half full of old fortunes, and he took it home with him. After he died, my friend got the jar, and now he's doing the same thing with it. It's on his desk, and he's trying to fill it to the top with fortune cookie fortunes before he retires. Only one problem, though.”
“He can't stand Chinese food.”
16 March 2015
(A little bit from "Ashes and Seed Corn", another novel underway...)
Might there be a thing called generational memory? Perhaps that is not the right word for it, of course. Perhaps there is a psychologist or a wise, learned man who studies such things that has a special name for such an occurrence, and he would tell you what it is called. It would be the sort of situation where one set of circumstances is passed on from generation to generation. I'm not talkin' here about the sort of thing where a family stays in poverty or where a family is made up mostly of folks who aren't all that bright, either. I'm talkin' about the sort of thing where by chance or by design or by the same kind of luck or fortune or whatever you might call it, things happen in the same sorts of ways. And folk do the same sorts of things. And make the same sorts of mistakes. This story I been tellin' has a lot of folk doin' the same sort of things that other folk done, and from age to age, it seems, some things just never change – as little as folk change.
So to put it all together, we 'been seein' things that look a lot like a story that someone made up and put onto a motion picture-show, but yet, you see, a lot of stuff ain't just made up – it's for real, and folk get hurt and stung because of it. Hurtin' and stingin' ain't so bad except for when it don't end, and it just goes on and on. Like from one generation to the next.
Just like I'm talkin' about.
So that rain goes fallin' on the just and the unjust, and it don't really matter which of them knows which is which. I mean, you never really know quite how just or unjust you are, do you? Do the evil know they are evil? Do the arrogant know themselves to be arrogant? Again, I ain't quite sure. It seems I remember Mr. MacBurney down the road sayin' one time “you can never say 'thank you, God, for makin' me humble.'” So when the rain falls on the unjust, I suppose they think they deserve it every bit as much as the just, whatever that all quite means.
The spot where his house stood is pretty near where that main road between Croydon and Cotton City runs – the same road that goes through Pole Creek, makes itself a dog leg there and by means of Rural Route 4 connects up Highway 26 in the north with Highway 32 in the south, and is the artery for all of Crawford County. The only folk who take Route 4 north of Haverland would be the Switchbacks and them that live north of their place.
Miles Standish Morgan lived in a crusty-dry little tar paper shack that was the biggest little tar paper shack you ever did see, as he began addin' on to it the day after he finished building it. It looked like something out of a dream, I'm told, with rooms and walls goin' everwhichways, and chickens and such runnin' loose all day long.
Right outside of that shack there was a little footpath that old Morgan used to walk down – just a few hundred yards away and to the south of his shack, and it led a man right this little draw. Actually, it was more than just a draw – more like a little valley or a hollow in the side of the rise heading back to Pole Creek, and some say that's where another creek used to run – one that emptied itself into Pole Creek along time ago. The valley is deep enough to warrant a little bridge all its own. A little wooden bridge that someone built a long time ago, and that only took a man by foot across the valley. It was too small for a horse, too small for much anything else. You could walk across it, though.
Folk who used to live out near there said that old Miles Standish Morgan used to get in the habit of thinking it was his bridge – that it somehow belonged to him, seeing as how he lived the closest to it, and that he was the one who walked on it every day. A couple of times folks heard him hollerin' at some kids or others who walked across it when he was nearby. Folks said he only really got to hollerin' real loud when he had been hittin' the bottle . Sometimes I guess we're all kind of like that, though, aren't we?
About the hollerin', I mean – not necessarily about the bottle.
09 March 2015
Here, for your reading pleasure, is the most-read piece on this blog,
published in October of 2013...
published in October of 2013...
David dipped his finger into the pool of clear, cold water that was just taking up space in his living room. The pool had been there for the past week and a half, and David had no idea how it got there.
The pool was six feet and seven inches in length and at its widest point about four feet and two inches in width. David knew this because on the second day of its existence he took out his fancy little tape measure and checked its dimensions. What else would you do with a pool that spontaneously appeared in your living room? He carefully noted the dimensions and wrote them down on a wrapper from a cheesesteak poorboy. He used a black magic marker, for although he originally tried writing with a blue ball point pen, some grease on the wrapper made that impossible.
The depth he had not been able to determine. That is often how it is with spontaneously-appearing living room pools.
David had been checking the dimensions daily, to see if they had changed, and he found no fluctuation in size. Now, after swallowing the oversized silver capsule of the trickey-dickey powder that he loved so much (and ingested twice daily) he was conducting another experiment. He had turned off the heat in his apartment and opened the windows. As it was in the depths of a Minnesota winter, he figured the water in the pool should freeze in no time. This had not yet happened, but the water seemed to be cooling down.
As he looked down into the water it seemed as though there was a face visible just a foot or so below the surface. It did not appear to be attached to a body, and it did not appear to be a severed head, as had been found in that one spontaneously-appearing living room pool that had cropped up in a subdivision in Dayton, Ohio back in 1997. This was just a face, or the form of a face. Perhaps that of a young woman. Or perhaps it was that of a not-as-young woman. It is hard to tell in situations like that.
As he watched the face, he expected to see its eyes open or its lips move, but neither happened. In a minute the face seemed to vanish. Immediately the pool began to shrink in size. Soon it was the size of a coffee table, then the size of a toaster oven, then the size of a napkin holder, then the size of a deck of cards.
David was left looking at a spot of dry carpeting in his very cold living room.
And with a face in his memory forever.
06 March 2015
“That's one big-time icy doughnut, Baby-cakes,” said Grogan. He peeled the kumquat-flavored tissue off of his tongue and flicked it away. It fluttered off on a breeze that neither he nor Rosalyn could feel, but believe you me (as some would say), they knew it was there. People seem to be hyper-sensitive around the Waycheeda Glacier, and they sense everything's presence, even if there is no sensory data to tip them off.
A word about the Waycheeda Glacier before we go any further. The name is quite curious, and it shows up in print with different spellings and different forms. “Way-chee-dah” was apparently the name that the ancient inhabitants of Bezelda gave to themselves. It means something like “people in search of cocktails”. The ancient inhabitants resettled there by means of time and space travel – all of the prehistoric Bezeldans or “Way-chee-dah” came from Detroit.
Detroit, Michigan, that is. They were the smart ones who knew enough to get the hell out.
“Waycheeda Glacier” is the official spelling on government documents and on maps. Maps and newspapers up until the 1950's (in the earthling manner of marking years) most often hyphenated the name: “Way-cheeda”, and sometimes “glacier” was left uncapitalized. Bezeldans who live near the glacier sometimes just call it “the 'cheeda”, and the guides who take paid expeditions atop the glacier for backpacking, picnicking, and sex usually refer to it as “The Ol' Doughnut.”
Now that you know these details, we shall now attempt to refer to the glacier from this point on in the manner of the Bezeldan Tourism Council and the official government appellation: “Waycheeda Glacier.”
02 March 2015
I was walking downtown (fancy that) to meet my brother Pat at Limpy's Place one fine summer evening, just after the war. It was the cola war, in case you were wondering. Do you remember that? Some of the most viciously-fought advertising campaigns ever seen. It was brutal. I was able to serve as a mercenary for one of the minor combatants, “Okra-Kola”. Okra-Kola was a soft drink produced in Oklahoma City (where else?) that was designed to go perfectly with barbecue, and that was made with real okra – not artificial okra, the way that “Dr. Okra” from Tulsa was. I managed to free-lance a couple of slogans for the company before they folded:
“Okra-Kola: It's the Stringy Thing!”
“O-K! Seed-free Since '73!”
In retrospect, perhaps it wasn't my best work.
Anyhow, I was walking down to Limpy's Place and as I passed the Johnson & Weinberg Hernia Parlour, I happened to spy a most curious little box on the ground. Who can resist these things, right? It was blue and seemed to be lacquered. I stopped and looked both ways. Then I looked up and down. Then I lit a cigarette, just to make me appear more nonchalant. Putting the lit cigarette behind my ear, I stooped down, picked up the box, slipped it in my jacket pocket, and walked on.
A few steps down the sidewalk I turned into the alleyway just alongside the New-China Sauerbraten Buffet (which gave off a much more agreeable aroma than you might have guessed). Making sure that the coast was clear, I pulled the box out of my pocket and slowly opened it. Inside there was a lone slip of paper – bigger than you might find inside a fortune cookie, but smaller than a business card. That narrows it down, doesn't it?
I took the slip of paper and turned it over to find some words written in the finest blue script.
It was wisdom. Divine wisdom.
I read the words again.
I felt a warmth that I had never felt before. It was as if my entire intellectual and empirical faculties were beginning to glow as an ember. I was alive. Alive and on fire, as it were, with this new-found wisdom. I needed to share this with Pat.
I ran out of the alley and sprinted the block and a half to Limpy's Place. I burst in the door, nearly tripping over Filthy Milt Gozomski who was back in town and apparently on quite the bender, owing to his prone position on the floor. I leaped over whatever it was that he was lying in and stepped over to Pat, who was just finishing his first triple de-alcoholized scotch-and-tumbler.
“Tom, you look all out of breath. You okay?” he asked, licking the little bits of peat moss from his complimentary “scotchy-doodle” that Limpy gives to all of his hard-core de-alcoholized scotch drinkers.
“Patrick...it...it...it's wisdom...divine wisdom!” I said, handing him the little slip of paper. “I'm burning with the enlightenment of the ages!”
Pat glanced at the slip of paper, and then up at my head, and then back at the paper. “Inspected by #7” he read aloud, frowning and looking a little doubtful.
“Oh,” I said, “I must have read it upside down. I thought it was in Cyrillic.”
“Here's your martini, Tom,” he said, pulling out a barstool and handing me a wet rag. “Drink up and crush out that cigarette behind your ear. You do know that Brylcreem is flammable, don't you?”
(Almost a true story. The names, circumstances, locations, and dialogue have been changed to protect the innocent.)