31 May 2011

A Very Unique Overcoat

Well that sure is a strange overcoat, Peasy Lou.” Elsa Mae studied her friend inquisitively, giving her the requisite up-and-down glance. “Now I wonder where you might have picked up such a thing? Was it from Belcher's over in Cotton City? They have the most unusual things, you know.”

It was a hot day, and it did not seem right for Peasy Lou to be wearing such an outer garment. A shawl would have sufficed, or at most a light cardigan. Certainly nothing of this sort.

Now I wonder, Peasy Lou, darling, is that real or synthetic? I knew a woman over in Cotton City who used to have something not unlike that particular overcoat, and she would wear it to civic functions – to ice cream socials and to Eastern Star dinners. Everybody used to stop and stare, but one year we found out that it was synthetic, and the gilding was off the proverbial lily, you might say. Is that how you say that phrase, anyway, Peasy Lou?”

Peasy Lou just stood very still and tried to attune herself to the trickle of sweat running out of her underarm. It tickled ever so gently as it flowed from her armpit and down the side of her abdomen. The tiny, salty rivulet was absorbed by her clothing, so that it never reached her fine, fine overcoat.

For heaven's sake, Peasy Lou, I do declare! I would purely love to try on that delicious overcoat if you would not mind...I have just never seen such a thing in such lovely condition. As I said, that woman from Cotton City wore one, but I do believe hers was synthetic, and it was getting rather threadbare by the time I knew her. Do you know that woman, Peasy Lou?”

Peasy Lou shook her head.

Of course, I suppose this particular overcoat of yours probably would not fit me...seeing as I have a, well, how shall we say...oh, Peasy Lou, I think you know what I mean...you know, a more well-developed, well...a better, umm, I am more amply endowed with...a...well, I think you know what I mean.”

You've got broader shoulders, you behemoth of a mannish amazon war-beast,” replied Peasy Lou, “here,” she said, stripping the human-hair and domestic cat-skin overcoat from her shoulders and handing it to Elsa Mae, “try on the damned coat.”

29 May 2011

A Century of Dreams

Sanguine Sanny woke up in a rather marinated state and looked at the mushrooms growing outside his window.  They were red.  More accurately, they were reddish-brown, and Sanguine Sanny was sure that these mushrooms indicated where the little people dance.

The little people. The wee folk.  You know what I mean.  Of course you do.

Sanguine Sanny rolled out of the urine-soaked sheets of his bed and wrapped a tapestry around his naked frame.  He toddled to the window and surveyed the wonderful field and the vast, vast number of reddish-brown mushrooms.  Donning his fez, he walked out into the bright daylight and began meticulously picking mushrooms with a bobby pin.  One by one the mushrooms made their way from the grassy meadow where the little people dance into Sanguine Sanny's salivating mouth.  It was Pavlov all over again, except with no dogs, no bells and no meat powders - only the saliva.

It took only a few minutes for the pain to begin in Sanny's abdomen.  In another minute or two it was excruciating, but Sanny continued his fungal feast.  The bobby pin darted faster and more deftly as he went, and the reddish-brown mushrooms flew down the poor fool's gullet at breakneck speed.  It was only a small voice that made him pause.

"You damned fool," said a wee man in wee bell bottoms, "those'll get you sicker'n a dog."

"Tap, tap," went the bobby pin, and the wee man in bell bottoms fell to the ground unconscious.

Sanguine Sanny vomited a great column of chunky, reddish-brown gastric juice. "No leprechaun with bad fashion sense is gonna' tell me what to eat," he said, wiping his lips.

27 May 2011

The Old "Two Finger Shuffle"

Dr. Schiffinger, the albino proctologist with an increasingly-vigorous hand tremor, had hid his tourettes' syndrome for years, but now as he entered the twilight of his career, it was becoming more and more difficult to conceal the symptoms and pass them off as mere eccentricity. There was that time he had been in the middle of administering a digital exam to the congressman's wife. Just as he intended to ask the nurse for more lubricant, he instead cried out “OaschlochOaschloch!” and began pumping his fist quite violently in a most untoward manner. The nurse blanched, shook her head and asked the poor Dr. Schiffinger for clarification. The good doctor shook his own head, came to his senses and mumbled something about horticulture and reached for the lubricant himself. The congressman's wife was never quite the same.

Proctology is nothing to sneeze at – let us be honest about that, shall we? It is the most serious of medical disciplines and the highly-esteemed Dr. Schiffinger knew it. Otto Wilhelm Schiffinger III, M.D., had studied proctology at Vienna's famed Heinprodder Proctological Institute and had immigrated to Putnam County during the war. There being no call for proctologists at the time, the good doctor made his way in the world by serving as a bismarck-filler at the local doughnut emporium. In time, Dr. Schiffinger returned to his craft, and Putnam County was given the services of the finest Viennese proctologist ever to lift a finger, as it were.

The whole of Dr. Schiffinger's world came crashing to the ground one fine spring day, however. It was the day Colonel Murphee, the planter, came in for his semi-annual high colonic. Colonel Murphee, resplendent in his white suit and black string tie, faced each high colonic with great poise and dignity. Each spring and each autumn the Colonel would return to the Heinprodder graduate and keep a stiff upper lip while Dr. Schiffinger plied his craft, but this one fateful day was different than those in seasons past.

Colonel Murphee had been prepped by Dr. Schiffinger's nurse, Miss Penelope, and was waiting patiently in “the position” when Dr. Schiffinger entered the procedure room after having spent a good number of minutes chopping pieces of ice for use in his after-hours cocktail. A full quart of ice chips he had prepared in his office, and the prospect of a frosty libation weighed heavily on his mind - even more heavily than the prospect of the day's last high colonic. Contrary to his usual practice, he still carried his pearl-handled ice pick – a gift from the Countess de Mont-Palatine for “services rendered.” This treasured possession he still twirled absentmindedly as he prepared for the procedure.

The remaining events of that afternoon are the stuff of legend. With the beginning of the flow of water and the sound of a cool, cool trickle, the good doctor felt strangely led out of his body. The Colonel inquired as to the prospects for a dry planting season, and something was triggered deep in the albino proctologist's mind.


26 May 2011

Hog Quest, in Utero

I used to belong to that one church...you know the one. It's the church where everybody has a different type of wildlife they specialize in. I specialized in fish.” This was Billy Durbin, the nine-toothed, wild-eyed butt smoker, and he was telling David all about his “church.”

So while I specialized in fish, there was this woman who did crustaceans, and there was a guy who was a serpent specialist – not like in handling them, though...just in knowing about them. We all just had our specialty. You know that kind of church?”

Ummm...no,” replied David, “I really have never heard of such a thing. Where was this?”

Oh, back east,” said Billy Durbin, his nine teeth clacking wildly against one another. “In Massachusetts. Or Maine. Or something like that. They had a law, of course, the state did...there had to be an equal distribution of different types of wildlife. That is, you had to have a crustacean church here, and then a fish church there, and then a serpent church and maybe even a moose church or something like that. You know how that goes?”

Sure...it sounds kind of like Massachusetts, I guess.” David glanced at his watch, noting that he was getting a little hungry and that Billy Durbin had been holding forth for at least ten minutes regarding the wildlife churches of Massachusetts.

Yeah...when I had this building...” Billy motioned to the empty store in front of them, “I had it full of aquariums. I was really into studying fish, you know. When I started growing gills I knew that I was getting serious about it, and so did everyone else at church. Then I had an accident.”

Gills? Accident?”

Hell yeah. I had the finest gills in Massachusetts or Maine I think. When I sang you could see them flap wide open all pink and fleshy. Boy Scouts used to take field trips just to come and look at my gills. I would sit real quiet like I was dead and then when those Boy Scouts got in real close I would open my eyes, scream and flap my gills at 'em. The Boy Scouts would scream and then I'd take an old seven-iron that I had cut off, and brain one of 'em with it!”

Brain a Boy Scout?”

Sure as hell. The scout master didn't like it, but I figured it would give 'em something to talk about back at the scout camp.” Billy Durbin was enjoying this storytelling, and there was frothy saliva clinging to his nine teeth.

Brain a Boy Scout?” David asked again. “You can't go around braining Boy Scouts...you just can't do that...that's against the law.”

It's OK,” said Billy Durbin, the nine-toothed, wild-eyed butt smoker, “I did it as outreach for the church. Those scouts were for atonement. And I was the high priest of the seven-iron...”

David just stared at Billy, open-mouthed and unbelieving.

Billy Durbin smiled a rather vacant smile, “but then I got religion.”

24 May 2011

Please, Father, May I Have Some More Ipecac?

The tiny librarian was serving up heaping bowls of farina from the window that normally saw the returns of non-print items, and if anyone had stopped to think about it, it might not have seemed all that odd.  The farina was hot, bland and roughly the same shade as paper.

"You chilluns want mo' bettuh farinas?  Ize got summa dis' heah turpentines to lay onnit,"  offered the tiny librarian, affecting some sort of unnatural dialect, and holding a tablespoon brimming with turpentine over a child's bowl of farina.  The child shook his head and withdrew with his hot cereal.  Another little waif approached the return window in his place and held out a copy of "True Stories" on DVD.

"Hey! Datsa' nice-a film!  Howsa you like it, my goomba? Hey-hey, mama mia dat David-a Byrne he's a scuppicio crazy man!"  Some sort of Italian accent came out this time, along with a shaker full of sparkly material.  "Howsa you like I put some titanium bits on dat farina? Huh?  Ciao, bella!"

The little waif retreated with the cereal before the titanium graced its surface.

Just then an immigrant Swedish dirt farmer clad in filthy overalls approached the window.  His face was reminiscent of one whose head had caught on fire as a child and whose father attempted to put it out with a rake. He spoke with great determination, "Herro...Meestah Po hea.  You rike anchovy?"

The tiny librarian wept bitter tears and turned the cardstock sign over his head to read "Closed".  Out the door of the library he ran, flinging spoonfuls of farina into the air and blowing kisses to the gingko trees.  As he disappeared past the city limits, a man outside the shoe repair shop on the edge of town distinctly heard him singing the lyrics of "I'll Sponsor Your Procto, Sweet Ida Mae" to the music of "Smoke on the Water."

In the library a little waif reached up to the non-print return window, seeking more of that delectable farina.

23 May 2011

A Portent to Many

I was just thinking of the difference between gin and bourbon, and it didn't have anything to do with taste,” Jack said to me as we made our way down the sidewalk. “I was thinking more about headaches and the lack of headaches and the way that gin makes you smell sweaty but bourbon just makes you smell dirty. You know what I mean, Andrews, old boy?”

I confessed that I had never really gone out of my way to smell others and classify them according to their cocktail preferences, but that I had once tried to smell myself after a three-martini night. “I think I was sweaty smelling for other reasons,” I told him. I left out the details about the club and the Rick Astley-fueled aerobics on the dance floor. Some things are better left to the imagination, I figured.

Well, bourbon always leaves me smelling dirty. Like I've been sitting on an old oil drum in rural Kentucky after having pulled the engine out of my neighbor's quarter-ton pickup. I can almost hear the coonhounds panting nearby. You know what I mean, Tom?”

Sure Jack. Let's get some breakfast,” I suggested to my inquisitive friend who was actually looking quite wild-eyed as he described the pickup truck and coonhounds. “You feeling OK?”

And gin just leaves me sweaty-smelling, like I've been worrying – it's that nervous sweat...not that exercise sweat. Like the sweat that you don't really think you need to shower off but you probably should. And then instead of showering you just shave and rub some more Brylcreem through your hair, thinking that it's gonna' cover the sweaty smell, but it never really does. Have you had that happen?”

Sure, lots of times, Jack,” I told him, “I use bay rum and Brylcreem to cover sweatiness lots of times...it has nothing to do with gin, though.”

I'm not saying it has to do with gin...it's just that too much gin makes me think of that smell,” Jack replied – he was probably making less sense than I was, but I figured that I had an excuse, as I was mad with hunger and thinking only of a plate of bacon and eggs.

Come on, let's pop in here,” I said, motioning to a small diner tucked into one side of the street. “They have good coffee, I hear.”

We ducked inside and were met by a wall of heat and stink. “There was a chippy in Portsmouth...right under the roadway...made out of corrugated tin...it smelled just like this,” I reminisced aloud. The stink of old grease took the thoughts of coonhounds and oil drums and sweat and gin right out of my head. We sat down at the counter and I ordered up my eggs.

A filthy old sot of a drunk sitting nearby leaned over and exhaled as he looked into my eyes. “You pass the creamer?” he asked. His last drink was still thick on his breath, and his eyes were bloodshot. I passed him the creamer, along with a question of my own.

You like Rick Astley?”

22 May 2011

The Queens of Putnam County: Second Blood, Part One

Of all the strange maladies from which the Crackhouse sisters suffered, none was more debilitating than the chronic sequential nomism that had plagued Lulubelle since her early days as an apprentice phenologist. The disorder began shortly after she accepted employment at the Putnam County Phrenology Clinic, but the ravages did not become apparent until much later in life. Unable to speak of things out of sequential order, her life took unfortunate turns.

There was that time she was asked to view a screening of the fine Sylvester Stallone film “Rambo: First Blood, Part Two,” and she did writhe and shriek throughout. “Second Blood!” she cried without ceasing, “Second Blood! It must be Second Blood!!” Mr. Stallone was later declared the Thespian Laureate of Putnam County, but poor Lulubelle could not bring herself to attend the much-celebrated weekly screenings of the film at the Civic Arts Center.

The sisters' father, Prentiss Michael Crackhouse (known to his daughters as “Daddy”), did one day ask dear Lulubelle to stop at the drugstore on her way home from the phrenology clinic and obtain for him a new bottle of Old Spice. As Lulubelle understood it, this must be considered “New Spice”, and it took nearly three hours at the drugstore before she came home with the desired product. Lulubelle was drenched with sweat, her alpaca shawl in tatters and the reek of Old Spice all about her. Prentiss Michael never again asked his dear, sweet daughter to undertake such an errand.

The tragic crowning of Lulubelle's struggle with the disorder came during the summer the gypsies arrived in Putnam County. While the townsfolk and countryfolk alike did give such a wide berth to the gypsy camp, dear sweet Lulubelle made a point of visiting their trailers nightly and offering free phrenological consultations as a form of charitable outreach. One evening while reading the bumps on the gypsy king's melon-like cranium, the gypsy band struck up a rendition of “Istanbul (not Constantinople)” by Jimmy Kennedy. When the gypsy crooner came to the part about “Old New York” once being “New Amsterdam,” poor Lulubelle grabbed an accordion and used it as a trampoline.

“Old York!! Old York!!” Lulubelle jumped up and down, coaxing an eerie wheeze out of the mangled instrument.

In the morning, the gypsies left Putnam County, and Lulubelle was placed on bed rest. Old Doc McFadden said it was the strangest looking case of the mumps he had ever seen.


...stemming from a blown modem at my home office compelled my wife and I to sit around last night, listen to the Talking Heads and sip martinis.  Actually, it was just me doing the sipping - my dear Michelle stayed stone cold sober. This morning she has driven me down the block a short distance so that I can pirate the nearby church's Wi-Fi signal with my netbook.  What a country!  Whatever the case, I pray that all will be back to normal soon and that I will be up and running with new hardware sometime on Monday.  Keep your fingers crossed, please.

19 May 2011

The "Rapture": 21 May 2011

It was the last day of life on earth and I had made the fatal error of forgetting to pick up my favorite three-button blazer from the cleaner's. A ravenous appetite last Thursday, combined with ranch dressing and chicken gravy at the dinner buffet had rendered my grey tweed temporarily unserviceable, and now I was paying the price for my short-sightedness.

I had always figured that when the end of the world came, I would be ready. I had intended to meet the day armed with not only my unflappable faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, but also a good dose of panache and, as regards my personal attire, a certain 'je ne sais quoi'. Hence, the angst over not having my blazer ready to hand. I would be forced to see the Second Coming clad in houndstooth, rather than the herring-bone that I had planned on, and I was fretting over my tie and pocket-square combination when my friend Jack called.

Tom, what are you wearing for the second coming, old boy?”

I confessed that I was behind the eight-ball on this one.

Well, I'm opting for a casual approach this time – I have a pair of chinos and a button-down Argyle sweater-vest ready to go,” he shared with me, effervescently. “I'm agonizing over my tie, however. Why don't you come over and help me pick one out.”

I saddled up and headed over to Jack's place – a pristine brownstone with awesome window treatments. Once there, Jack shook up a couple of Beefeater Martinis and proceeded to show me his tie rack. I immediately pointed out a splendid blue silk number.

Naaah...too conservative, Andrews, old boy. If I am going to be judged, I want to stand on the merits of my pizazz. How about this one?” He held aloft a true relic – a “fish tie.”

I thought a moment. “Perhaps you are on to something, Jack. I like the cut of your jib...go with the fish tie.”

Jack had his own moment of reflection, and apparently reconsidered his selection. “No...Yes...OK...I think it's this one. Definitely this one,” he said, of a Italian specimen dappled with emerald polygons. “If this isn't good enough for the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, I don't know what is.”

Best of luck to you, brother,” I said to Jack, hugging him and slapping him on the back.

When he turned to go back to his bedroom, I quietly and deftly pocketed the fish tie. A trout would look splendid with the houndstooth, I figured, and a fish looks a lot like a lion.

As Promised...

'Lov'ed, focus gaze
on wormwood - freshly clouded.
Silent, green fairy.

16 May 2011

Floor Covering Mishaps 101

Ever so lightly tanned were the woman's retinas.  The linoleum blast had left scars on her face and forearms, but the tanning of the retinas was what she prized most.  "Look at my nicely-tanned retinas," she would say to her friends in the days following.

The woman would walk down 54th Street and bat her formerly-luxurious eyelashes at passers-by.  One might say she would "flap her eyelids" rather than "bat her eyelashes,"  but that would just be splitting hairs, as it were.  Men would glance and then glance again.  "Do you find yourself drawn to my nicely-tanned retinas?" she would ask them.  The men would avert their eyes and walk by quickly.  The woman would beam a self-satisfied smile and flap her eyelids once more.

All the way down 54th the woman walked and flapped.  Approaching 5th Avenue, she reached into her purse and pulled out a candy bar of the same name.  She opened it, discarded the wrapper, and sank her teeth into the chocolately, peanutty-crispy goodness.  A young police officer drew near, and the woman could not resist.  She flapped her eyelids at the handsome young man.  "Good afternoon officer.  Do you notice anything?"  Her eyelids flapped wildly.

"Indeed I do," replied the policeman, "I am afraid I will have to ticket you for littering."

14 May 2011


Tristan was an asshole, let's be honest about it.  A womanizing, cheating asshole.  I hate to use foul language like that, but I realized after trying to edit it several times that there were very few words that could convey the weight of the eloquent and poignant "asshole."  The hole of an ass.  OK.  We are clear on that.

Tristan used to look at the dock workers and say stupid things.  He would chide them for their hairy forearms.  He would ridicule their lunches.  Worst of all, he would imitate their underbites - he would walk around with his jaw jutted out and saying things like "heck yeah," and "ayup."  What an ass.  The veritable hole of an ass, at that.

When Tristan was struck down by the moving van, there was not a single one of us who was inclined to shed a tear, I can assure you.  His bloodied shirt notwithstanding, we were not moved to emotion.  We were more likely to use words such as "relief" and "justice" than we were were "tragedy" and "sorrow."

The thin, blond-haired girl at the convenience store, though...the one with the stud through her lip...she cried a single tear and shouted at the heavens.  At the top of her lungs she shouted at the heavens when she heard the news about Tristan and the moving van.

"Patience is a lie!!"

Sweet Apple Wood (as told by Sonny)

"'Sucker never could dance - he just hopped around until everyone was tired of seein' him sweat, and then he'd sing outta' key and I'd be none too surprised if he pissed himself."  Damon and Daryl would say things like that when they got to drinking, you know.

Sure, you know it, you damned fool.  But you know that they only said it to explain why that black-haired muffin designer from the big city always wore navy blue trousers.  When someone urinates all over himself while wearing dark blue trousers, you can hardly tell.  It is made especially difficult if the trousers are polyester, and you knew that was what every last pair of his trousers was made of.

That raven-tressed sculptor of muffins would stand there at the urinal sometimes, so relaxed...so relaxed.  He got to thinking that he was dreaming, and that the restroom he was in was just a figment of his dream.  He would be so relaxed, and the urine would flow, and then something deep inside his brain would prod him with the question "am I thinking about dreaming while urinating, or am I urinating in a dream?"  He would snap out of it with a start, and shake his head as though he were trying to make sure he was awake.  Damned fool.  That was just how he was.

And you knew it, and Damon and Daryl would say things like that when they got to drinking - they would laugh, and their big, saliva covered lips would jiggle like fatty, greasy slabs of hog flesh - straight from the cutting floor.  My old neighbor (growing up) was a "belly grader," did I ever tell you that?  Yeah, he worked at the packing plant and he graded bellies.  Not nearly as bad as my friend Chris who worked there part-time and was issued a small, sawn-off baseball bat to keep the hogs in line when they unloaded them from the trucks.  Chris had to give 'em a good smack between the eyes to settle 'em down when they got all riled up.  Damn.  You can hardly do that very long and not develop some kind of problem.  So shake those fatty lips, you fools.

The pieces of flesh looked a helluva' lot like they came from hogs, but when the police put that tape up we all knew better.  The greasy, fatty lips cut from a face and left on the rim of that urinal were bad, but that bloody, sawn-off baseball bat on the urine-covered floor of the restroom was worse.

A lot worse.

13 May 2011

Please Patronize Red Fez #34

A very fine issue, indeed.  Amongst the many fine pieces there is this interesting offering from Mr. Andrews.  I would also highly recommend this poem by Mr. Nathan Savin Scott, partly because it is good, and partly because I was raised in the deep south and can relate.

Mr. Linus G. Janikowski
Business Manager

11 May 2011


There you have it, as I often say...a Wednesday afternoon and not a single pirate ship in sight.  The roads of your village are strangely quiet, and pirate attacks have been rare in recent weeks.  There was that time that poor old Mrs. Deerbush was hauled off after a particularly fierce raid a couple of weeks back, but when I think back on it, it was actually Danes (and not pirates) who took her.  The last we heard, dear, sweet old Mrs. Deerbush had been sold into slavery, and was assembling athletic shoes in a sweatshop near Kuala Lumpur.  At least it was a bit of a break from the monotony of her life as a cultivator of broad beans and gooseberries.

The last time the pirates landed on your street, they came looking for chutney, as far as you could tell.  Did you have any chutney for them?  If we are to believe Mr. Hargrove, the chemist, the answer would be an emphatic "NO."  He seems to think that you held out on the pirates and the chutney they sought.  Mr. Hargrove claims that you had a few spare pots in the larder and were just unwilling to give them up.  As it turned out, Mr. Hargrove himself ended up forking over a batch of gooseberry chutney, made from fruit cultivated by none other than dear, sweet old Mrs. Deerbush, late of our village.  How is that for irony?

Well, I suppose that you are probably thinking that the pirates are gone for good and that attacks will be nonexistent from now on.  Ha!  What  premature hope!  I have it on good authority that Black Sam Rackham, the fierce pirate captain from Barbados is prowling these waters in his man o' war, seeking out lemon curd and suet puddings.  You had best be on your guard.

Author, Author

“Wherefore art thou, Violet?” Precious Martin had a habit of asking this every time she walked into the nursing home. She would ask it even before the urine and fecal matter bouquet assaulted her nostrils. She would ask it even before the sight of that bent and crooked frame made the color empty out of her face. She would ask it and care not the least if anyone heard.

On a very typical day on that very typical street in that very typical Midwestern city, Precious walked once again into the residential care facility that had been her daily destination since her sister was admitted to the Alzheimer's unit some three years ago. “Wherefore are thou, Violet?” she called out, almost audibly. She smelled the onion and fish-stick melange from the kitchen even before the urine and fecal matter. “Wherefore art thou, Violet?”

It was a small thing, to be sure, the brief visits, but maybe they meant something to Violet. They sure as hell meant something to Precious – they meant a dread fear that she would end up in the same place in a few years. Precious was the baby of the family, and she watched the onset of her oldest sister's disease for years. And Precious tried so hard...so very, very hard to keep the wolf of that disease at bay. That bastard wolf that took the mind and left the body – the neutron bomb of diseases. Take your fish oil capsules. Eat the leafy greens. Plenty of water and exercise. Best of luck, Precious.

“Wherefore art thou, Violet?” Her voice was just a little sing-songy today. She knew this visit would be different, though, and it seemed right to sing a little bit. The onions and fish sticks were less noticeable now, she thought. Other aromas had crowded them out as she neared Violet's room.

It is amazing, Precious thought as she looked at her sister, how similar the teeth look to the fingernails. Not so much in color as in composition. A little washcloth had been rolled up and tucked under her sister's chin to keep it from curling tightly against her chest, and her mouth was open a little bit, allowing Precious to make this observation about her teeth.

It had been several hours and already the effects were evident. Death comes quickly and keeps on working, she thought. Efficient. Thorough. Violet's skin was already appearing kind of waxy and foreign – nothing like the skin of the sister with whom she had grown up and laughed and lived and cried and joked and grown up and grown old. The skin on this corpse was just that – skin on a corpse. A husk. A rind, more or less. Precious would wonder about this over a big glass of gin four days from now after the family had gathered to say goodbye. She would swallow a chewed up olive and want to vomit it all over the floor of that banquet hall. Rind. Skin. Husk. Violet. All that was good mingled with all that was bad and all that was scary and all that would never again be and she would just want to vomit all that right up onto the floor.

“Would you like her eyeglasses in the bag or do you want to just take them with you?” The nursing assistant broke the silence and Precious lifted her eyes away from her sister.

“Thank you. You've been so good to her. I'll take them with me. Thank you.” Precious hardly knew what else to say. The eyes on the face above the chin that was propped up on the rolled-up washcloth were not fully closed, and even though they no longer needed the eyeglasses, Precious could almost feel them looking at her. The nursing assistant obliged and closed the door behind her as she left. No hint at all of onion or fish stick was in the room.

“Wherefore art thou, Violet?” Precious sang out in a tiny, tiny voice.

09 May 2011

What To Do Next

Well, there you are.  You have safely navigated your way to A Martini and a Pen.  Mr. Andrews and I thank you for coming and I congratulate you on your interesting taste in literature (and I use that term loosely).  You might be wondering what you should do now, and with that in mind we have developed this handy little checklist for you to use:

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As always, Mr. Andrews takes no responsibility for any injuries incurred while browsing his site, and he washes his hands of any suggestion that he is guilty of slander or any of that rubbish, blah, blah, blah.  Any similarity to persons living or dead is, of course, absolutely intentional.  You think he could make this stuff up?

On behalf of Mr. Andrews, I thank you for visiting A Martini and a Pen, and we hope you come back soon.  Please keep the shiny side up.  I think I need a nap now.

Mr. Linus G. Janikowski,
Business Manager, "A Martini and a Pen"
Personal Secretary to Mr. Andrews

08 May 2011

At the Talent Show (Alabama Luncheonette)

When your knife comes across some membrane that's really tough and rubbery, well, the only thing there is to do is to press a whole lot harder. My daddy told me that a long time ago, and he ought to know, seein' as he came across a whole lotta' really tough, rubbery membrane in his day. Shit – he didn't even go a day, I bet, without cuttin' into some really good, rubbery membrane.

There was fellas back home who didn't care much for the cut of my jib, as my friend Spleeny used to say. Spleeny was called Spleeny on account o' his spleen, I heard told, but I was never too sure. I think it really mighta' had somethin' to do with his likin' that Beaudry girl from over the next town – down there in that dirty little shack – she was the girl from Pine Bluff, and that was the girl that I think Spleeny got in trouble with. She had real dark eyes and no one ever did trust her, 'ceptin' Spleeny of course, 'cause I think he prob'ly did things he shouldn't have and no one ever knew until everyone found out. Damn fool Spleeny.


So the membrane cuts real tough when you don't want it to, and when you least expect it you prob'ly just poke the tip of your knife right through and stick yourself in the hand. Damn. I did that when I was cuttin' out a tongue once, and I stuck that knife halfway through my hand and I screamed bloody murder until my uncle Shiloh came and said it was gonna' be OK. Uncle Shiloh wrapped my hand in a dirty old sock, 'cause that was all there was around, and he told me a story of a kid cuttin' offa' piece of a chocolate Easter bunny and he set that kitchen knife right on that bunny's neck and whanged down on it real hard with his other hand. Only he had the damn knife turned the wrong way and his hand came down on the blade. The kid cut hisself' good, I mean to tell you. It's true. So he wrapped it in a dirty sock just like my uncle Shiloh just did with my hand with all the blood from that tongue and my hand all bleedin' together and I was gettin' sick and Uncle Shiloh just was sayin' it's gonna' be OK.

But Spleeny, he got that Beaudry girl pregnant and no one knew until everyone knew. That Beaudry girl up and left and I think she went back to Pine Bluff, maybe. Spleeny didn't care where she went to, but he let himself go crazy. Out of his mind crazy, I mean it. He went and took his pants off in the post office and when they tried to come and get him, he started makin' a mess. You know what I mean. Yeah, that's what I mean. Eventually the sherriff came and wrapped an old oilcloth around him and one of the deputies hit him with a little leather bag on the back of the head until he didn't fight no more. He just went all limp and fell down in the mess he made. It was bad, I mean to tell you. They took Spleeny away and I never did hear of him no more. Neither did I ever hear of that Beaudry girl, but then, I never really get over to Pine Bluff.

Spleeny had it bad, but I s'pose that Beaudry girl had it worse. Everybody kinda' thought everything got worse anyway after the whole mess. But as my daddy used to say, when your knife comes across some membrane that's really tough and rubbery, well, the only thing there is to do is to press a whole lot harder.

06 May 2011

Waiter, There's a Fly in my Soup.

(Mr. Andrews places pen in inkwell...draws it out. Sighs)

V.  I don't think I'm going to post this on the blog.

R.  Awww...c'mon.  There must be SOMEBODY who will want to read it.

V.  Well, that's just the point.  I think I'll hang on to it and if anyone wants to read it, he or she can read it somewhere else.  I'll just post a link to it.

R.  Bloody killjoy.

V.  Watch your mouth.

The Queens of Putnam County

Most people 'round these parts remember the Crackhouse sisters - Lulubelle, Yolanda and Desdemona.  There was a time, in fact, when I believe the whole of Putnam County knew the daily dress of those three queens.  Lulubelle would always dress in a shade complementary to the vesture of Desdemona but contrasting most starkly to that of Yolanda.  Never did the three stand still at the same time.  If Yolanda and Desdemona were standing still and Lulubelle happened on the scene, one of the others would begin moving the moment that Lulubelle ceased to display forward movement.

Lulubelle practiced the fine art of phrenology.  Yolanda was taking a correspondence course in locksmithing.  Desdemona was a druid priestess.  In Putnam county there are only so many phrenologists, locksmiths and druid priestesses, so the three Crackhouse sisters stood out for reasons aside from their manner of dress.  Work was hard to come by during the great recession of 2009, though, and before long the three sisters found themselves destitute and seeking news methods of making their way in the world.  In the early twenty-first century there was a profession known as "telemarketing," and it was here that the Crackhouse sisters attempted to lay down some roots.  "Telemarketing" consisted of attempting to sell  items or services or some combination of the two in exchange for something that used to be known as "money," which formed the basis of something called "credit".  The catch was that the transaction took place over what we used to call "telephones."  These "telephones" allowed people to speak with one another over great distances, but it required both parties to speak into a small plastic device of which people grew quite fond.  Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous, but that was the way we did things back then.  People would even type messages into these things back then, and send them to one another.  You would see all sorts of people being ever so rude and "texting" one another in wholly inappropriate settings - restaurants, libraries, swimming pools and in the midst of proctological exams.  How rich!

But I digress.

The Crackhouse sisters all took positions with a septic-system manufacturer, and began to spend their days extolling the virtues of a delightful product known as the "Hoopertank BM-2000."  It really was the finest of septic system components and Lulubelle in particular found it quite easy to sell.  "It practically sells itself," Lulubelle would exclaim when she returned home in the evenings, flushed with delight over the day's successes, "and to think that I frittered away so many years in phrenological research and practice!" Yolanda was equally as pleased with the new line of work, and her sales bonuses she repeatedly invested in subscriptions to septic-system trade journals - journals that had become a great comfort to her.

Desdemona alone felt somehow unfulfilled.

"I don't know what it is, my dear sisters," she confessed over a glass of absinthe one evening after work. "I seem to find my mind wandering when I attempt to sell toilet parts over the 'phone.'

"Desi," said Lulubelle, in an attempt to comfort her sister, "don't think of them as toilet parts - remember that we are purveyors of the finest septic-system components in Putnam County!"

"I know, Lu', but when one has drawn down the spirit of the sun at the summer solstice and flown through the ether planes with a badger goddess, a septic tank seems a little tame in comparison."

"I know what you mean," offered Yolanda, "I found it hard at first, too...goin' from wafer-tumblers to regenerative blowers, but you'll get used to it."

05 May 2011

Quechee (I s'pose you might look it up)

On that long drive outta' town I s'pose there was only one thing that poor bastard Devlin was thinkin', and I don't s'pose he was wantin' to think very much of it, if truth be known. Earlier in the day he prob'ly wanted to just pull that old Crown Vic over on the side of the road and have himself a good long cry, but as it was he just kept driving until he found himself a Tim Horton's in Portland. Look at that, will you, that kind of rhymes. Horton's in Portland.

Well anyhow he just kept driving that big old Crown Vic down the road and long on before he ever got to Portland he picked himself up a hitchhiker who looked none too dangerous – just a thin, watery lookin' man who walked like he had a club foot and whose face was set off by a big ol' mole o'er his right eye. Damned thing had a tuft o' black hairs growin' right out of the center, too. Wicked filthy, it looked. The whole of the club-footed, mole-faced hitchhiker looked a good bit wicked filthy, in fact. Didn't matter no how, as Devlin picked him up anyway and told him he was headed to Portland for business or some such lie.

Devlin thought he was gonna' take 89 down to Manchester and then across to catch 95 to take it on up to Portland, but he decided right around Lebanon to just keep goin' east, and the next thing you know he was stoppin' for gas just outside of Meredith. That club-footed hitchhiker got out to stretch his legs a bit while Devlin filled up the tank. Bastard of a man that he was, he went and got himself a coffee and never thought to ask the hitchhiker if he wanted anything. I think it's only the right and decent thing to do when you got a club-footed, mole-faced hitchhiker in your car...you really should offer a coffee to the poor guy, don't you think? Anyhow, Devlin never thought to do that, no how, and he just went and got himself a coffee with an extra cream thrown in, seein' as how he didn't get any real lunch that day, outside of a hahd'-boiled egg.

When he stepped out of that gas station convenience store, sippin' that coffee with the extra cream, I tell you, old Devlin, he got the scare of his life. There was that club-footed fool leanin' up against the Crown Vic, smokin' a cigarette while the fellah' next to him was gassin' up. Good God but Devlin turned pale. He rushed at the hitchhiker and hit him like a professional tackle, I tell you. Knocked that fool for a loop and popped what he thought was a cigarette right out of his mouth. He gave that club-footed, mole-faced fool the thrashin' of his life. 'Beat him near half dead, and the gas station attendant had to come out and pull old Devlin offa' him. The hitchhiker was bloody, all right. It looked as though Devlin had broken his nose and popped out a right couple of the poor bastard's teeth. Devlin had just gotten' to takin out his frustrations of that lousy day on the poor cripple, and before anyone could call the cops, Devlin was back in the Crown Vic, spillin' coffee all over himself and speeding on down the road, this time not stoppin' till he made that Tim Horton's I was tellin' you about.

He sat there and tried to eat a cruller, but it was no use. That damned cruller just kept getting' caught in his throat and the coffee didn't do any good about washin' it down. He cried, all right. Cried more about the stick of chewing gum he had realized aftah' it was too late that the club-footed, mole-faced hitchhiker was puttin' into his mouth and poor Devlin thought was a smoke. Damn fool. Damn fool bastard. I guess sometimes you end up cryin' over things you don't expect to be cryin' about.

02 May 2011

Prisoners Ate Here

Living under the overpass in that old refrigerator box in the way you did, I know you found hope.

It smelled like split pea soup when I thought of you and that refrigerator box.  Every time I thought of you I smelled it.

And then I looked up the word "scalene" just the other day and realized that it spoke more of you and me and those caissons (as they went rolling along) than I could have imagined.  "No two sides equal."  Truth does not come in degrees, you always said, but this was more true than the truth of a good coffee.

So that man in the straw shirt bought two coffees and waited for his lover.  "Random" she said to him when she arrived, "you are always so random."  Why?  Where was he supposed to be? I'll show you random.

But as the sleep fell upon me I could not smell the split pea soup anymore and so the memory of that old refrigerator box went the way of the memory of the man in the straw shirt, and I chose not to care.

I closed my eyes and the night became as bright as the day.