30 November 2011

Water Knot (as told by Ashley, again)

(Excerpted from The Pultenham County Sketchbook, by Tom Andrews)

Preston sat down, that fool Preston. He had such a big head, and I ain't talking full of himself, either. He had a big head, and I wouldn't have been surprised if he had to go and get the necks of his shirts enlarged just to get them over that big old head of his. Sometimes I thought something was wrong with him, if you know what I mean. Didn't that one lady from the health department show us all those pictures of the people, it was in Africa I think, that had big old heads? Maybe it was their stomachs that were big, or their feet, but I thought it was their heads...I don't know, I ain't sure. But anyhow there was something not right about those folks, and I always kinda' felt deep down that maybe Preston was kind of the same. There was something just not right about him and his big old head...but the big old head was just the start of it.

So he sat down, and folks stared at him and that big old head of his, but those folk who got distracted got distracted by something pretty bad – it was something else and it sure as hell wasn't his head. He was holding that thing, right there in his hand, and he was smiling at it. And you just know that when Preston smiled, he smiled big. That smile stretched right across that big old face of his, and his face seemed even bigger than his head, if that's possible – I know it ain't, but it just seemed that way when he smiled.

So he sat down there and was lookin' at it layin' in his hand – only a little bloody, and when folks drew nearer to look at it, well, like I said, they kinda' stopped payin' so much attention to his head and they started lookin' at it lyin there in his hand. Again, like I said, it was only a little bloody, and folks thought it either woulda' been bloodier or maybe they thought that Preston that fool just might have washed it off a little bit, but it wasn't really wet or nothin' either. It looked like it might still be warm.

That one guy who works at the garage in Cotton City was there that day, and he had enough guts to say “Preston you fool, where'd you get that?” like Preston was gonna' just answer and tell him where he done got it. We all figured he cut it off of someone, but no one was sayin' a thing, 'cause we didn't know whose it was, and well, if you cut it off someone then she'd probably hafta' not be doin' so good and maybe even dead. 'Course we didn't want to say that, but it was what everyone was thinking. So the guy from the garage just said it and made it sound like Preston just found it lyin' around somewhere – like you find those things just lyin' around. 'Cause hell, you don't just go findin' things likje that lyin' around, you know what I mean? The way you find spare change or maybe a cigarette butt that still's got some smokin' in it.

My brother Evan found a bottle with what he thought was whiskey in it, and that's what his friends told him, but when he tried drinking it, well, it turned out someone had pissed in the bottle and Evan got sick.

There was that time that someone found what looked like a dried up eyeball over in Pole Creek near the septic tank outside of the rendering plant, but it turned out just to be some kind of tiny fruit that was just lyin' around. We didn't know.


So Preston just sat there and kept on smilin' at it and holdin' it, and we all kind of kept quiet until the sheriff showed up and helped Preston and his big old head into the patrol car and drove him away. Preston was back at work the next day, and he never said much about it, but he was always a little funny anyway, big head and all. The one lady at the dry-goods store – that would be Danny Lyman's mother's step-sister's friend – she walked with a limp and wore a heavy coat for the next few months and even in the heat of summer, so we all kind of wondered, but we never did ask and no one ever did offer. When she stopped limpin' and took the coat off and was normal and everything, some got to wonderin' about it again, but most just forgot about it.


28 November 2011

Snares of the Insidious

I firmly believe those Masons are involved with the movement to cover up the fact that what we think are angels are actually aliens,” said the dried out little chain smoker, shaking the flaky little bits of dead skin out of her sweater. “No one really knows what they're up to in their lodges, you know.”

Peter gave her a quizzical look and backed up a bit. This was a Monday and he didn't need flaky little bits of dead skin all over his nice, fresh blazer. “Ma'am,” he said, “I don't think the Masons really care too much about aliens. They are more concerned about children's hospitals and pancake breakfasts...”

The dried out little chain smoker was having no part of this. “No, I know one of them Masons, and he told me all about the angels.”

Trust me, ma'am,” Peter said, turning the square and compass on his ring to the inside of his hand. “I think a lot of anti-masons would probably like you to believe that, but unless I'm mistaken the Masons themselves don't require any particular beliefs of their members aside from an unwavering faith in...”

Look here, you,” she blurted in his face while little white puffs of dead skin sloughed off her cheeks in her excitement, “I know...so just you shut up. Those good-for-nothing Masons are always covering up their evil, kabbalistic, secretive alien-baiting and new-world-order-creating work with a bunch of childrens' hospitals, orphanages, burn-care centers, academic scholarships and relief to the poor and afflicted. All that do-goodery is just a red herring to keep us off the scent of their connection with the ones who did in Hoffa, JFK, and Andy Rooney.”

Andy Rooney?” he asked.

And don't say you don't know anything about it, you dirty, filthy Mason...I saw that filthy little conspiratorial ring of yours.”

With a disgusted, flaky look the dried out little chain smoker walked away. Peter watched her sit down near a man from the county road-repair crew at a booth nearby and strike up a new conversation.

I firmly believe all those unions are involved with the movement to cover up the fact that what we think are aliens are actually Freemasons,” she said, shaking the flaky little bits of dead skin out of her sweater. “No one really knows what they're up to in their labor temples, you know.”

22 November 2011

The Unity of You

Stevie the pile-driver operator sat fuming at his rickety little table. You remember Stevie, don't you? Of course you do. It is most likely the table that is the stranger to you. Stevie's rickety little table was crafted from a solid block of chopped, pressed, formed, and cooked turkey breast (Stevie's rickety little table was always popular around the holidays).

Fleck the balls with gobs of cha-cha,” Stevie would sing at the top of his pancreas as he crafted popcorn donkeys with his grubby little hands. He would dip deep into the popcorn vat and extract a handful of popped corn, white and fresh. Into the puddle of sugared epoxy he would drop it, coating each piece. He would then form the epoxied corn into a ball and proceed to the most disturbing part of the process – the part of which he sang.

He would fleck the ball with gobs of cha-cha.

There was a social worker from the upper west side who once walked in on Stevie while he was flecking the balls with gobs of cha-cha, and while being rather caught up in the moment, she soon needed to leave the room, as the horror of the process had overtaken her. Stevie smiled, as you might expect, and his hand pumped vigorously while he flecked. Most disturbing to the social worker were the illegal immigrants who stood nearby, ready to stir the steaming, stinking vat of cha-cha in between applications. Stevie just giggled a merry, Wagnerian tune to himself as he flecked another ball.

After all of his balls were suitably flecked, Stevie let shine his true artistic merit as he pressed each one into the shape of a herniated donkey, complete with saddle. There was a priestess from the coven down the street who had once suggested that he make the saddles large enough and supportive enough for anyone to ride in, but this was really not feasible at all. Stevie gave it a halfhearted attempt, but it was no use. It would require far too much popcorn, and of course more cha-cha than he was willing to commit to such a venture. The saddles would remain at a standard size.

The priestess from the coven down the street frowned and turned away. We all knew where she was headed, but Stevie kept a stiff upper nipple. This was no small feat, as Stevie's many rows of nipples were all quite soft and supple. For the upper-most one to remain stiff took a boatload of derring-do, and the city had some sort of ordinance about cleaning up after one's derring.

When the priestess returned with a man from the Federal Corn-donkey Regulatory Agency, Stevie knew the end was near. He opened the gate to the immigrants' pen as he saw the federal agent nearing over the crest of a nearby hill just above the industrial home of the “Pawtucket Erection Company,” but it was not the immigrants that the agent was coming for.

Stevie's upper nipple quivered in time with the pounding of his heart.

The end came swiftly but in rather tame fashion. The cha-cha vat needed to be drained and taken away by a haz-mat crew, while the offending corn-donkeys were transported to a large federally-maintained donkey destruction facility somewhere on Long Island. The illegal immigrants were rounded up and given jobs at a nearby quick-mart, and Stevie's turkey breast table was sliced into several portions and used in the production of appetizers at a state dinner. The ambassador from Latvia commented on the pleasant, smoky flavor.

Stevie himself was sent to federal prison, but was released on most weekdays to work at a community college, where he taught young men and women how to fleck.

21 November 2011

My New Author Site...

Please have a look at my new personal site...it is pretty well under construction, but getting there.  Please bookmark your browser while you are at it.  Thank you!  Feedback and criticism is welcome!

Tom Andrews (click to check out the site)

16 November 2011

Like a Peacock

Hot and saucy,” gargled the ruminant tax accountant, “like I like my broads.” His bald head glistened in the candlelight of the oily evening as he lifted another forkful of lasagna to his blubbery lips. His date shifted uncomfortably in her seat and adjusted her napkin. Blind dates can be uncomfortable but hemorrhoids can be worse.

The young woman knew herself to shine, of course. Shine like a star. She knew her escort to be the envy of every man in the restaurant on this oily evening, and surely all men would covet such a blind date with a shining star such as herself. She touched her hair absentmindedly and covertly adjusted her breasts against her forearms. The slight manipulation of her perceived cleavage pleased her greatly. Had her hemorrhoids not been flaring this might have been a bearable evening, oily though it was.

The ruminant tax accountant wiped his blubbery lips on his napkin and make a loud sucking sound between his teeth. What might have been a belch emanated from between those lips and he touched his sternum. He glanced out the window at passers-by.

Hot and saucy, I tell you,” he said again, winking at his date. She smiled back and then glanced down at the table, wondering how a shining star such as herself ever wound up with such an ashen gargler. It was then that she saw the reflection of the handsome young man in the metal lamp on her table. There, in the silver of the lamp's base she could see an Adonis with wavy black hair and a firm, young jaw standing on the street outside the window, looking in. He was most certainly transfixed. He was most certainly captivated with her beauty - the beauty of this shining star. Her silken hair, her flawless skin, her perfect teeth. Her well-adjusted cleavage. Here was a man, she thought, who knew beauty. A man who knew radiance. A man, she thought, who knew the real value of a goddess.

The ruminant tax accountant chewed on. The young woman beamed. The young man left the window and made his way home, making a mental note to try out the decadent-looking lasagna the next time he visited the trattoria.

14 November 2011

Two and Two Together

Klupper, it appears as though you have only one nostril. Just a blessed hole in your nose, and you hold it as though it were a camera and you were threatening me with it. Stand down, you foul smelling little troll, stand down. Point that thing somewhere else, if you would.

Mercy me, but your nostril is moist. It currently matches the bottom of your trousers in that regard - and with that very useful connection I will attempt to tactfully point out that you are in dire need of diapers. Not those “adult absorbent briefs,” mind you, but real, honest-to-goodness diapers. I do believe that the ones with the small cartoon characters emblazoned upon them might be the cheeriest and the easiest to use, owning to their convenient adhesive tabs. Go ahead, Klupper, select for yourself a fine, fine diaper from among those many viable options.

Klupper, you must sit up straight. You are slouching down so drearily, and there is such a blank expression on your face. Wipe your nose. There is something upon your shirt as well. My, my, Klupper...we can dress you up but we cannot take you out. Please do try to keep your mouth closed when I am talking to you.

This reminds me of the time we ate lunch together in the park. I had opted for fried sweetbreads on rye and you placed several of those pickled string beans side by side in an extra-long hot dog bun and covered them liberally with a bright red chutney. I kept asking you if you would like a taste of the sweetbreads, but you continued to recite a litany of how it is that fried foods made your gout flare up. Likewise, you continued to offer me a bite of those succulent green beans, but I was reticent. So reticent. In the end you finished your sandwich and I finished mine and we were both quite content until that pinata celebration began in the same park in which we had just eaten. You hated pinatas, and I merely hated long wooden sticks and blindfolds. The pinatas made you sweaty and the blindfolds made me urinate uncontrollably. We should have just gone out for for prime rib, I do suppose.

Your eyeglasses have gone missing, my boy. Aha. Here they are on the floor. You will never be able to see through these eyeglasses the way they are, I am sorry to tell you. It was like my friend Pete the Marine used to say, “good idea.” That is what he would say. He would say that it was a good idea, as he said, “to wash your glasses a little bit.” I think, Klupper, that you are going to need to clean those glasses quite extensively – you have made a pure mess out of them.

I see. I see, Klupper. I see what is going on here. I knew a young priest by the name of David who had done the same thing as you have done. I see. Well, this is really no way to solve things. You are just fooling yourself. “Same prostate fluid, different day”, as my cousin Tico used to have embroidered upon his Nehru jacket. And furthermore, you should never leave loaded firearms out in plain view, where young people could potentially find them and use them for acts of aggression against local haberdashers and foodstuff vendors.


2011 "Micro Award" Nominee! Yikes!

I am greatly honored and humbled to have a story of mine nominated by Red Fez Entertainment for the Robert Laughlin Micro Award this year.  If you are interested in reading the original, you can click right here.

Thank you so very much to the editorial staff at Red Fez for taking my work seriously!  Here is their press release:

THE FEZZERY. November 13, 2011 --Red Fez Publications is pleased to announce their nominations for The Micro Award. 

In a continued effort to promote underground writing, the following stories have been nominated for The Micro Award, presented annually for a work of prose fiction written in English, of any genre, not above 1000 words in length: “Musketball” by Tom Andrews and “The Assignment” by Josh Olsen.

Both stories were published online in 2011.  They can be read in the archives at www.redfez.net.

11 November 2011

Scabs, and Lots of Them

Putter was deaf and Putter was blind. Putter held a filthy washrag against his mouth and the dying cries of an innocent imbecile would never be heard - Putter would make sure of that. Hatred of Putter was a national pastime and the loyal viewing public cringed when Putter decided to take a nap.

But deep down inside we all loved Putter. Didn't you? Hell yes you did – don't lie. We all loved Putter because he was small, soft, and furry. We all love small things. We all love soft things. We all love furry things, and we all love things that are golden brown like the toasted shell of a roast marshmallow. Can't you just smell the caramelized sugar right now? That is kind of how Putter smelled when you got close to him...except he never let anyone get close to him.

When a deaf and blind Putter smelling of caramelized sugar smiles and retches and squints his sightless eyes hard against his skull you just want to squeeze the stuffing out of that innocent imbecile, don't you? Hell yes you do – don't lie. We all love to give such a little Putter a squeeze like that now and again. Some of us desire it daily and yet we are not ready to sacrifice the sport-utility vehicles and the lovely houses in the lovely subdivisions. We revert to our animal-like tendencies of gouging and ripping. We rip and we gouge and we gouge and we rip. The Putter is not forthcoming and when the Putter-apportioning authorities inform us of our need to sacrifice the amenities of a stable suburban life we bare our teeth and slink away...backing away from the downed gazelle, blood still on our teeth, backing away and keeping an eye on the bigger predator that has shown up on the scene of the kill. But we still want our Putter. The blood of that gazelle tastes so good on our teeth.

So good. So very, very good.

10 November 2011


Quince...put down that chicken!” Stippy was hollering and wavin' his arms over his head like a madman. I dunno...do madmen wave their arms? Who can tell?

Stippy waved and waved and hollered across that field, but Quince sure as hell did not put down that chicken. He held the chicken's head close to his mouth and then stuck out his tongue and licked that chicken but good – giving rise, eventually, to that nickname of  his - “Old Chicken Licker.” The chicken didn't seem to care for it and Quince had to give it a good shakin' to settle it down. What happened next was just plain wrong. Stippy couldn't get to him in time and right after he licked that chicken, old Quince started pluckin that chicken – live. The chicken started going all crazy, as you can imagine, and Stippy started hollerin' again, “that's a layin' chicken – not a eatin' chicken!” Stippy finally got across the field and tackled Quince. He hit him like a professional tackle, and popped that chicken right out of his hands. The chicken bounced once and then took off runnin' and Quince started tryin' to lick Stippy's face. Stippy hauled off and clocked Quince a good one. That shut him up for a minute and at least stopped him from licking.

Stippy got up to go back across the field to the house and Quince got up and started takin' his clothes off and flinging them around the field. Stippy stopped and turned to look at that damn fool who was standing half naked in the field and looking around for the half-plucked chicken.

Quince, you're just plain damn dumb, you fool.”

I gonna' lick you, Stippy,” replied Quince, his mouth foamin' like a bar of soap was lodged in there somewhere.

Go lick your damn chicken then,” said Stippy, turning again and heading back to the house.

Quince sat down right there in the field and I suppose eventually got dressed again. Stippy asked his momma if they could just have some of that leftover pulled pork for supper that night.

09 November 2011

Guest Author!

I am thrilled to be able to post a piece of flash from my cousin, Natasha Gdansk - the poetess from Milwaukee who is also known as the Parchment Banshee.  Without further ado, I give you...

Bad Casketiquette

My wake from death was quite a disappointment. I expected to see dirt, or at least those worms playing pinochle in my snout. But, alas, I woke up in a bakery. 

Not just any shop, but one of those alluring French patisseries that whispers XXX in every language. The kind with desserts so lush, so enticing, so perfect…that they must certainly be airbrushed.

Of course, nobody was behind the counter to serve me. Panic set in when I realized that I couldn’t get at the chocolate ganache, the raspberry mousse tarte or the almond gallettes. Locked in freshness forever.

Frantically, I swung an antique silver coffee urn against the glass, only to spill day-old, tepid coffee on my toes.

Crazy Uncle Frankie was right: I would end up in hell someday.

08 November 2011

General Kosciuszko

If I had never told a story about Larry Lastagna and his little car, I might never have known about him. Larry, you see, lives only in a clump of brain cells in my head – next to another clump that deals with the smell of burning chicken fat and another that is tasked entirely with making my left earlobe feel as though it is being bitten by a small dog. Amazing how the brain works, really.

Larry was a janitor at an elementary school. Properly, he was called a “custodial engineer,” but nobody was buying that, least of all Larry himself. “I scrub out the shitters,” Larry would respond when people asked him what he did for a living, and he was quite proud of that fact. Monday mornings would find him scrubbing the porcelain to a bright, shining gleam. Tuesday through Friday would often see much of the same. For eight hours each day Larry would work his art – upon toilet, floor, wall and stairwell. In the evenings he would return home to his wife in their comfortable little cape cod. Larry would paint in watercolor and serenade his wife on the violin. Paganini made his spirit soar.

One year his wife suggested they take a cruise in the Caribbean, and after much soul-searching, Larry agreed. When the school's winter vacation rolled around, Larry and his wife packed their swimsuits, their zinc oxide cream, a copy of Being and Nothingness, and a hard salami. They shuffled off on their merry way to regions far distant and far warmer.

On the first full day of the cruise, as Larry and his wife strolled on the ship's deck with cool drinks in hand, they spoke of their dreams, of their aspirations for the years to come. They spoke of their love for one another and for their plans to use their gifts and their talents to make a positive impact in the world. So much to give; so much to share. Life is a blank canvas and dreams are the palette.

The next morning Larry made his way to the bathroom in their suite. He gave a cock-eyed look to the white porcelain toilet and with great passion his thoughts turned to the disinfectant and scrub brush packed away in his luggage.

07 November 2011

"Share a Martini Monday"

Hello everyone. Tom here.  I really do appreciate you coming around and having a read on this site every now and again and patiently waiting for the release of A Martini and a Pen - a Collection of Short Fiction and The Pultenham County Sketchbook.  It means a lot to me that you take your time to read little excerpts here and there as well as the bizarre cocktail of fiction that I throw at you.

Speaking of cocktails, don't you love it when someone shares a drink with you?  Particularly a Martini, in my opinion.  In that vein, I have a favor to ask...might you like to share this "Martini" with a friend?  I think you might.  Turning someone onto "A Martini and a Pen" is a kind way of saying "you matter" to a loved one or co-worker.  In fact, sneaking into your co-worker's cubicle while they are out for coffee and a doughnut, accessing their web browser, and secretly subscribing them to this site is a great little way to show you care.  They will love it, trust me.

Sharing "A Martini and a Pen" is fat-free and tax-deductible.  It will lower your serum cholesterol and allow you to combat hangovers more effectively.  Sharing it will make you the envy of the office and the playground, and it will give you the magical ability of being able to speak with hermit crabs.  One in four persons who turns someone on to this site will attain immortality and elbows plated with solid gold.  All your wildest dreams will come true.  You will learn how to fly and walk in corduroys without making that annoying sound.

Go ahead...share a Martini with a friend.  You'll be glad you did.

04 November 2011

Better Sense (as told by Marcia)

(Excerpted from The Pultenham County Sketchbook, by Tom Andrews)

Leavin' as I was, I saw that I had better get some food put together 'fore I left. I was gonna' be goin' away from Putnam County for the first time ever, and I didn't think I'd ever be comin' back. I done been wooed by a crystal vendor on the west coast – a man I done met through an ad in one of them magazines – and I was gonna' go out and marry him. It all seemed a little odd, I know, but I loved the idea of bein' a mommy to a couple of chihuahuas.

I never even knew, really, that there was much out in the world aside from these pea fields and the cotton. I been up to Cotton City once with my aunt Della, but that was just for an afternoon. We had phosphates or sodas or something she called 'em. It was next to an ad for some kind of soda phosphate or something like that where I done seen the advertisement for meeting your dream and I done bit like a catfish on a tickler's thumb. Little did I know that there was a strange chapter awaitin'.

As time wore on and I was s'posed to head out west, I got a letter from the orphan who used to live near Blancher's but had moved up in the world and was doin' OK. Peter Switchback it was, but it was not so much a letter as it was a clipping. A newspaper clipping about the fellah' I was goin' to marry. Peter Switchback ain't never been someone to hurt another person, let alone speak bad of another human being. Like my daddy had said about him, Peter Switchback is so clean he wouldn't say crap if'n he had a mouth full of it. That's pretty clean in my book.

Anyway, Peter sent me a clipping of the crystal vendor and how he was running a charade and the whole of his supposed crystal therapy clinic was nothin' more than a front for a puppy mill. That's right. A puppy mill. He was raisin' little baby chihuahuas and sellin' em for profit. The mommy chihuahuas had their teeth all taken out so's they wouldn't fight with each other – you done heard of this, I know you have. I read it somewhere. Well, Peter found out about it and just dropped a friendly clipping in an envelope through my screen door just a couple of days 'afore I was gonna get goin'. I saw the envelope when I was packin' some potted meat and stuff for makin' frybread – I didn't know if they had potted meat on the west coast. I read the clipping and I felt like all the blood drained outta' my face and I just hadda' sit down.

I hate people who run puppy mills. Don't you? I hate it when people hafta' have those damn pure-bred dogs. My black dog is damn good, pardon my French, and he is the best dog you can imagine. What with all the strays and shelter dogs out there I don't see why anyone has to have a pure-bred. 'Specially not from a puppy mill.

I had all that money spent on a plane ticket, and I lost it all, but about a month later I got another envelope with the full amount of the plane fare in it. It was anonymous, but I done learned through the grapevine that Peter Switchback's lodge done raised the money over coffee one night after one of their Masonic meetings. I hear they're always doing things like that for people and churches and charities and such. They think no one knows who it is, but this is a small town.

But I know Pastor Williams says the Masons are an evil bunch, though, even though they helped me out of a tight pinch and I guess they got a soft spot for puppies and old folk and the poor and the hungry. 'Least some do, anyway. And some know how to do the right thing, as some do anywhere, but I want to shout it from the rooftops about the dogs and the dark that is in some people's hearts – the some who lie and the some who got greed comin' out their pores.

I was glad I had the potted meat on hand, anyway. My black dog, Barker, he and I sat down on the porch and shared that can of potted meat and I said a prayer of thanksgiving for Peter Switchback and those friends of his that he calls brothers.

01 November 2011

Holistic Medicine

Sufficiently twisted were the fingers on Hobbie the creamer merchant's hands. Just twisted enough to make his customers believe the wild tales he would tell about his need to sell coffee creamer in order to pay for special medical treatments available only in Thailand or Indonesia or maybe even in a place that his customers had never heard of. Maybe it was in a place that Hobbie had never heard of. Maybe it was no place at all.

Hobbie lifted his little pearl-handled knife and gestured at the Paint Kid. “You gonna' git goin'? Or are you just gonna' sit there?” He gestured at the slice of pie on the table in front of the Paint Kid, “you gonna' gimme' that? Or are you just gonna' let it sit over there?”

The Paint Kid pushed the slice of pie toward Hobbie, and watched as Hobbie greedily pulled it toward himself, pulled off the top crust and placed it in the immense gaping wound on his face that a medical professional would call a “mouth.” A wet, shiny tongue flopped out of that great wound and flapped in the air until Hobbie placed the bottom crust upon it. The tongue retracted with the pastry upon it – leaving both Hobbie and his tongue greatly satisfied.

I sit here. You sit there. You give me pie. I eat the damn pie. That's just how it works, crap-o,” said Hobbie to the Paint Kid, who flinched at being called “crap-o.” Hobbie smiled, revealing great gaps in his teeth that were now plugged with doughy bits of half-chewed crust. Damn, that was some fine pie. “If I don't like the pie, I shove it down your throat. You'll see why we call that hole in your face the 'pie-hole'. It's only one of my two favorite holes. I keeps both of mine clean. You should too.”

I got a clean hole,” said the Paint Kid.

You shut the hell up, crap-o,” shouted Hobbie, “you shut that hole and keep it closed until I decide to shove something down it. That hole belongs to me now, you hear me?”

The Paint Kid just sat there, looking at the floor and smelling pie in the air. He looked up and saw himself reflected in the eyes of the creamer merchant sitting across from him, and he saw what his pie hole looked like. Hobbie continued to chew the last remnants of pie ever so absentmindedly and occasionally worked a little bit of crust to the tip of his enormous tongue, and then would reach up with a dirty thumb and forefinger and pick it off. He would flick the bit of crust against a nearby wall, where it would adhere. The Paint Kid looked away in disgust with each flick.

Crap-o, I gotta' tell you. I want more pie. You got more pie?” asked Hobbie. His voice sounded almost forlorn for a moment. “You got any really moist pie?”

The Paint Kid saw the bright light of the moment and sat erect. “I got no more pie, Hobbie. No more pie. Never.  No pie.”

A tear rolled out of Hobbie's yellow-crusted eye. “No pie?”

No pie.”

No shit?”

No shit, Hobbie.”

Hobbie the creamer merchant began to turn to a silvery mist and move with the wind, and the last part to turn into a silvery mist was his enormous tongue. It floated in mid-air for a moment and then winked out of existence. The Paint Kid pulled a tart from his knapsack and placed it on the table. He whistled a merry tune and then placed a moist forkful in his pie-hole.