31 January 2012


Chumbley the pig-sticker had just completed his morning chores and was about to stimulate his elbow chakra with a nice round of yoga and iced vodka when a small bird lighted upon his head. “Chirrup,” called the tiny little bird, attempting to get Chumbley's attention.

Chumbley swatted his hand at the bird and moved his head furiously, trying to dislodge the perching creature. As he did so he became aware of his own body odor – something of a blend, it seemed, of bacon-cheeseburger, sweat, vermouth, and cookie batter. His brother Marco had referred to such a scent as “drunken old man stink,” and Chumbley was horrified to notice the odor rolling off of his very own personal carcass. “Uggh,” he called aloud, “I stink like a drunken old man!”

Chirrup!” called the tiny little bird, still clinging to Chumbley's head, “you think I don't know? I'm sitting in your freaking hair! Chirrup!”

Holy cow,” said Chumbley, startled beyond belief, “a talking bird!”

Chirrup! Not just a talking bird, you stinky old nutter, but one with a sensitive beak and a good understanding of chakras. Chirrup!”

Chumbley marvelled at this. “You know about chakras?” he asked.

Chirrup! I know all about chakras, homeboy.”

Well,” said Chumbley, “I think I've got this problem with my elbow chakra – there's not nearly enough chi and vodka flowing through it, so I thought I might try stimulating it. I think that's the reason I've got this drunken old man stink going on. Kapiche?”

Chirrup! I've got you, stink-boy, but I've also got some bad news for you.”

Wuzzon?” asked Chumbley.

Chirrup! Well, let's look a bit more closely, shall we?”

The tiny little bird flitted to the top of a fence post and sat down. He folded his legs first in the lotus position. Then he folded them in the pranuhama position. Then he flipped his little wings up into the squatting artichoke salutation. “Chirrup! Hammba hammba! Parhuna! Krishna rama! Mantequea de cacajuete! Shave and a haircut! Now you try it. Chirrup!”

Chumbley sat down on the grass and folded his chubby, white, hairless little legs in the lotus position. Then he folded them in the pranuhama position. The he tried to flip his chubby little arms up into the squatting artichoke salutation. “Crap!” he shouted, “Krishna bollocks! I can't parhuna for the freaking life of me!”

Chirrup! Not to worry...I think I am beginning to see the problem. But let's try something else first.” The tiny little bird folded his legs into the lotus position again and withdrew a pale pink crystal from beneath his wing. He slowly rubbed it and softly chanted, “llama...llama...baloonga. Llama...llama...baloonga.” His tiny little eyes rolled back in his head while he chanted and attained cosmic parhuna consciousness.

Chumbley followed the bird's lead and folded himself back into the lotus position. He took the crystal and fondled it a little. “Llama...llama...baloona,” he chanted.

Chirrup! That's 'baloonGA,' chunk-style! Get it right!”

Chumbley tried again. “Llama...llama...baloonga. Llama...llama...baloonga.” His yellowed, beady eyes rolled back in his head while he chanted but he failed to attain cosmic parhuna consciousness. “What the hell is wrong with me?” he shouted at the little bird, “my chakra still feels plugged and I stink like an SOB!”

The tiny little bird looked at Chumbley and from beneath his wing he drew a beautiful gold watch on a long gold chain. Holding it up before the pig-sticker he said in his most breathy and mystical voice, “chirrup! Keep your eyes on the watch...you are getting sleepy...sleepy...you are getting very, very sleepy.” The little bird dangled the watch before Chumbley, swinging it to and fro. “You are a racoon...a hairy little racoon. Make the sound of a hairy little racoon.”

Blehnna...blehnna. Nyahhhg,” said the hypnotized Chumbley, making the sound of a hairy little racoon in his mesmerized state.

Chirrup! Good, very good! Now crawl around like a hairy little racoon,” continued the little bird.

Nyahhg,” said Chumbley again as he scurried about on all fours, intermittently licking his perianal glands and looking for all the world like a pale, chubby racoon.

Chirrup! Good, very good!” The little bird flitted back to Chumbley, perching on his head once more. He took a long sniff through his tiny little beak. “Hmmm...hey fatty, you still smell like a blend of bacon-cheeseburger, sweat, vermouth, and cookie batter. If I didn't know any better, in fact, I'd say you smell even more like a drunken old man.”

Chumbley shook his head as the bird released him from the hypnotic trance, and he sat down cross-legged on the ground. “So,” he said, “the yoga didn't work, the crystal didn't work, the chanting didn't work, and the hypnotism didn't work. What the hell am I supposed to do?”

It was just then that an air-breathing Tilapia (a rare species in this part of the world) wheeled himself by on a little electric-powered cart. The Tilapia looked up at Chumbley. Chumbley looked down at the Tilapia on his little cart. The Tilapia looked up at the little bird. The little bird looked down on the Tilapia on his little cart. They all looked at each other for some span of time.

So you stink, huh?” asked the Tilapia.

Yeah, I stink,” said Chumbley.

He really stinks,” said the tiny little bird, still perched on Chumbley's head.

And you tried yoga? And crystals? And chanting?” asked the Tilapia.

Yes,” said Chumbley.

And hypnosis,” said the tiny little bird.

And nothing has worked?” asked the Tilapia.

Nothing,” said Chumbley and the tiny little bird in unison.

Well, if you are so disposed, I have something for you. I have a feeling that there is one last bit of ancient wisdom that might just allow you to reach the place you seek.”

Lay it on me!” said Chumbley. The bird looked skeptical.

The Tilapia leaned forward toward Chumbley's ear and cupped his little fins around his mouth. “Three words I have for you. Three words from the wisdom of the ancients. Three words that can change your life.”

Lay it on me!” said Chumbley, trembling.

The Tilapia whispered three words of ancient wisdom ever so softly, ever so quietly, but with power and great authority.

Take a bath.”

27 January 2012

Hey! Check This Out!

My cousin, Natasha Gdansk, has a poem up at a most unlikely but wonderful spot: The Centre for Heritage Imaging and Collection Care in Manchester.  Her poem, "The Art of Illumination," can be found by clicking this link or by clicking any of the words that you are currently reading:


Please go and have a read.  Cousin Natasha is a fantastic poet, and I am honored to collaborate with her on our blog, "the lost beat," which, if you have not already begun following, you should immediately go and check out at http://1lostbeat.blogspot.com/ .  Please and thank you.

You may now return to your regularly-scheduled program.

23 January 2012

Squeaks and Hollows

He sat for a long time under the buzz of that fluorescent bulb – so long that he thought he might manage to get something of a suntan. No suntan was forthcoming, however, and he only managed to singe the small, seductive hairs around his navel. Seductive they were, for they spoke of neaderthal dreams and cro-magnon fantasies. Hulking foreheads protruding into the personal space of a wet-bottomed flesh crawler.

Prinny held the fluorescent bulb in place, and he held it until the flesh burned right off the palm of his hand. Could you smell it? Could you smell the burning flesh as he laughed? Michael had to wipe Prinny's bottom as his laughed – he was so wet and so wretchedly soiled, but poor Michael had to wipe his bottom. Prinny just laughed and laughed and laughed his throaty laugh while Michael wiped those dark, fleshy buttocks – tickling Prinny's sensitive private parts and making him laugh with all that much more gusto. Laugh, Priny, laugh.

Michael threw up all over the psych ward . He emptied the contents of his stomach (mosly – with the exception of a small portion of a “Cocoa-nutty-licious Bar” that remained undigested and lodged somewhere between his stomach and his intestine). Prinny liked that. Prinny smiled and laughed again, jiggling his parts, and then standing up to wave his incompletely-wiped buttocks in poor Michael's face. Michael blanched and then laid down for a well-deserved rest. He fell asleep and drifted into the linoleum – fading right away into the flooring and making a small, faint whispering sound as he vanished. Prinny licked his lips and shook his buttocks one last time.

And so Prinny sat for a long time under the buzz of that fluorescent bulb – so long that he thought he might manage to get something of a suntan. No suntan was forthcoming, of course, and he only managed to further singe those small, seductive hairs around his navel. Had I mentioned a hulking forehead that was protruding into someone's personal space? Yes, I suppose I did, and you might even remember it if you can think back that far. But when a hulking forehead and a wet-bottomed flesh crawler with horrendously soiled, half-wiped buttocks begins to giggle, you will observe that any hulking neaderthal foreheads withdraw. They withdraw and even the very flesh of man will hesitate to take on the divinity of God. You will, won't you? For to that sublime end I leave you these pristine, pristine, f***ing pristine truths:

  1. Maintain buttock cleanliness. It is next to godliness.
  2. Do not laugh aloud in public.
  3. Shave your navel regularly.
  4. Keep your hands off the fluorescent bulbs.

Hold fast to these truths, and do not stray.

19 January 2012

Day 49, Dig It.

(Yes, dear readers, this, too, is excerpted from the forthcoming Balloon Heart by Tom Andrews)

The next time I saw Ed's ghost was when I was out behind the barracks. I was drinking a cup of coffee and trying to nurse a hangover when I heard that low, unassuming voice. “Yo, hombre. 'You been watching clocks these day?”

Ghost of Ed,” I started to say.

Ah ah ah...”

Ed. Sorry,” I corrected myself. “”Clocks?”

Clocks, hombre, clocks. Have you noticed how they don't really work?”

They work just fine, Ed. Whaddya' mean?”

Name me one f***ing clock that works fine. I bet you can't.”

I thought a little bit about this, and I realized I disagreed with Ed's ghost. I was kind of scared to tell him this, though, so I just prodded for more clarification.

You mean like, all clocks? In the barracks and everywhere?”

Where else do you see clocks?” he asked. “Where else have you seen one f***ing clock?”

OK. I'll bite,” I said, “what's the deal with clocks?”

You just keep an eye on them from now one, OK, hombre? I have no doubt you're going to find yourself mighty surprised when you see what I mean.” Ed's ghost was starting to move away from me, like he was going over to the stockade fence to look out over the battlements, but when he got to the edge he turned to face me and gave me kind of a sad stare.

Wassup, Ed?”

You'll see, my friend.” he replied, “you'll see.”

Ed's ghost silently vanished into the ether once again, without ever turning to look out over the battlements as I expected. I realized just then that it was the first time either Ed or his ghost had ever referred to me as a friend.

I drained the last of my coffee and turned to go back back into the barracks. I needed to go and see what time it was.

17 January 2012

The Sexy Serum

From the top of this fuzzy little promontory I could see almost forever and to the end. The end of what? I thought you might ask that, and in anticipation of it, I have prepared this small vial of serum. It is a delicious, delicious, sexy serum. Go ahead – say it with a snake-like lisp. Sexy serum. There you go. It is sexy serum, strained from the sweetest sycamore sap. OK, I made up that part. It is truly a sexy serum, though, and it will render you uncaring and unquestioning.

Allow me to gently slide the hy-po-der-mic needle into the large vein in your forearm. See how easily it enters your flesh? Note how it almost glides into your vein. There you go. Now I am going to inject the sexy serum into your bloodstream, and I would like you to count backwards from the letter “O”. Can you do that? Good.

You might note that as the sexy serum begins to take effect your cares seems to just slip right away. Hold still, please. Don't fight it. Mr. Packy, will you please draw the horse-leather cinches a little tighter? And please bring a nice little glass of something for our guest. No...no, Mr. Packy, I prefer not to think of our guest as a “patient,” for that has such a cold sound to it.

Anyhow, as I was saying to you, you are probably noticing that the sexy serum is beginning to take effect. Do you feel all kind of loose and squishy? Yes, yes you do. I feel squishy too, but for a different reason. We both have our pantaloons full of fecal matter, but mine is from an aquatic creature, and not my own.

The sexy serum was first shown to me in a dream – a most awful dream in which I struggled, struggled, struggled to fight my way free from a large piece of latex. When I broke free, I was presented with a small vial of liquid. Indeed, it was the sexy serum. And it was then that a voice spoke to me of the hope and the dreams that the sexy serum would grant to all those who took the serum into their veins. I accepted the sexy serum myself, of course, and now it is all that I can do to tell the world about the sexy serum, and allow everyone the sublime pleasure of feeling the sexy serum flowing through their veins.

For the sexy serum is hope itself – the hope that you can have in yourself and not in any silly fairy tales or grand mythological beasts and...what is that name of that creature? It is a called a...oh yes, it is called a “machine.”

Oh dear. Mr. Packy, I think we may not need any refreshments for our guest. I cannot find a pulse. Our guest appears to have had an adverse reaction to the sexy serum.

This seems to happen every time.

12 January 2012

Query of Queries (Part 2)

The Marquis de Flo-burner decided that the mango pit had been really no challenge after all, and he consequently decided to change his name to something a little less out of the ordinary. After much consideration and legal wrangling, his name was changed to “The Marquis de Flo-bulgur,” and life brightened right up. He returned home and ordered Fancy Jemima thoroughly flogged and then hung by the neck until dead. The chauffeur urged him to rethink his decision, but the Marquis would have nothing of it.

And so that night, after the public hanging, all the garden and house staff gathered around the freshly dug (and subsequently filled) grave of Fancy Jemima and proceeded to sing dirges most solemn. Upon the singing of a most solemn and ancient dirge, known to the singers only as “Side B, Track 4,” the ghost of Fancy Jemima slowly rose from the dirt of the grave.

She looked good. A little stretched about the neckish regions, but basically good. She towered over the dirge-singers and looked at them with a bug-eyed glare.

I told him he had some ass-wipe stuck to his shoe,” she howled, “just a little ass-wipe!” A terrific moan issued from her spirit, a moaning and wailing such as the dirge-singers had never heard. The very leaves on the eucalyptus trees shook with her groans. It was just then that Spiny Jim the putty-monger happened upon the scene and looked at the assembled throng and the spirit hovering over them.

You must be talking about Flo-burner,” he said, “the littlest ass-wipe I ever met.”

09 January 2012

Keep Plugging Away

The presence of a rotting corpse in the room helped Peavler the deep-sea sausage maker wake up more quickly than was his custom.”How do you do?” he politely asked the cadaver, expecting no response.

As well as can be expected, considering the circumstances,” came the response from between the decomposing lips. Lips decompose rather quickly, Peavler remembered, at once horrified as well as pleasantly surprised. He had often used less-than-fresh lips in the production of his deep-sea sausages, and he found them to get ripe at an astonishing rate – much more quickly than a sea cucumber or a barnacle.

I suppose you wonder what I'm doing here,” asked the corpse, lighting a cigarette.

It came to mind,” replied Peavler, frantically looking for an ashtray.

No need to worry,” said the corpse, “I don't need an ashtray, if that's what you're looking for. I can just use my liver right here,” he said, producing the wet, slippery organ through a hole in his side.

Lovely,” replied Peavler, looking a little green around the gills. The smell coming out of the corpse's side was overwhelming.

Well, why don't you just have a seat and I will share a little something with you. Sit back down. There you go. Sit down, let your feet hang.” The corpse took a long drag on the cigarette before continuing. “A long time ago there was a young boy who lived right around here, named little Johnny Pitstick. Johnny Pitstick was a sensitive youth with two live garden slugs for eyelids. At least they looked like garden slugs – they were actually just his eyelids, but they were coated with a greyish ooze that made them resemble garden slugs. Johnny wore sunglasses most of the time to hide his eyelids from the public.”

It sounds awful,” interjected Peavler.

Don't interrupt me when I'm on a roll, sausage-boy. Anyhow, he wore sunglasses to hide his eyelids, but his mother thought those eyelids were just about the most wonderful things she had ever seen. She had a full twenty-seven pages of his baby album dedicated to closeups of those slug-lids, and she never missed a chance to show them off when company came. 'Just look at little Johnny's eyelids,' she would gush when Mr. Garza the mayor came to call. 'Look at how they glisten!' Johnny would tremble with shame, his face flushing bright red. Even those hideous eyelids of his would take on a crimson cast.”

Once again, quite awful,” said Peavler, making a sour face.

Put a sock in it for a minute, chopstick,” warned the corpse, who continued his story. “One day little Johnny Pitstick was watching some of his government-mandated 14 hours of daily TV viewing when he saw an advertisement for eyelid toupees. He had never heard of such a thing, but apparently hairpieces for the eyelids had become all the rage in Romania after a bell-wearing hippie from Minnesota had tried to begin an arts movement in Budapest. Not speaking any Romanian, the hippie was entirely misunderstood and what he intended to have received as a neo-Dadaist movement took root as a fashion trend. Romanian men began undergoing transplant surgeries. Follicle plugs in the upper lid were going like hotcakes in the Romanian countryside. Considering what a kick-ass hotcake your average Romanian housewife whips up, that's saying a lot.”

Peavler had learned his lesson and sat quietly while the rotting corpse lit another cigarette.

Anyhow, little Johnny Pitstick just had to get some eyelid hair. He was consumed with the desire for lid-toupees or a transplant or some such method for getting hair in a place the Creator never intended. Using something that in the twenty-first century was known as the 'Internet', Johnny contacted a Romanian follicle specialist by the name of Dr. Radek Copacia. Dr. Copacia was amenable to giving little Johnny a go, so he scraped together the money he had earned selling 'anti-inflammatory of the month' subscriptions while hanging around the local hyperbaric chamber, bought himself a round-trip ticket to Budapest, packed up his sluggy little eyelids and off he went.”

Hyperbaric chamber?” asked Peavler.

Yeah. This used to be a mining community. Anyhow, little Johnny made it to Budapest and at long last the anticipated day of his surgery dawned. As the anesthesia was being administered, Dr. Copacia informed Johnny that the only donor for follicular plugs that week was a sixteen year-old Welsh Corgi by the name of Rudy who had met an untimely end at the hands of a rampant furrier. Johnny wanted to rethink the whole thing, but the anesthetic was dulling his judgment. He reluctantly agreed, and slipped into dreamland.”

Corgis can be a mean lot,” said Peavler.

Ain't it the truth,” said the corpse. “Well, when Johnny awoke from surgery, his eyelids throbbed like somebody was dancing the Charleston on them. As it turned out, Dr. Copacia and his nurse actually were dancing the Charleston on them. When they realized that little Johnny Pitstick was awake, they stopped dancing and got off the recovery room table.”

My goodness.”

Well, a few weeks went by and things just got worse. Johnny's eyelids swelled up like balloons and all but a few Corgi hair-plugs fell out. His poor, swollen eyelids looked like gray, slimy Swiss cheese, and Johnny had to rely on a continuous stream of Tramadol and Vodka to keep the pain at bay. Finally, a full month after surgery, Dr. Copacia declared the surgery a complete failure and sent little Johnny packing. Arriving back home in the 'States, Johnny felt depressed and woozy. He sat at the family table at dinnertime and hardly said a word. It was his mother who finally brought him back to his senses and with some kind words helped him to break out of his depression.”

What did she say?” asked Peavler.

She told him not to feel too bad...the old 'hair of the dog' strategy never works.”

Peavler gave a disapproving look to the rotting corpse and crawled back under the covers.

06 January 2012

Query of Queries (Part I)

The Marquis de Flo-burner swallowed hard as he attempted to pass the mango pit, and he wished for all the world that either

a. He had not ingested the mango pit
b. He had ingested, at the same time, some of Dr. McCoy's special colon dressing.

People were always wishing, after the fact, that they had dressed their colons with liberal doses of Dr. McCoy's coyote-colored wonder drug. The stories were legion of how the dressing had saved many a colon from certain destruction, yet the stories of less fortunate paths likewise mounted in great number. Mr. Wilpaseur Blankenburg of Nutterwood Terrace would have given anything to have remembered the treatment prior to his fatal ingestion of 17 cracked-pottery souffles.


As it turned out that day, the Marquis de Flo-burner managed to pass that mango pit just fine, and afterward as he wiped his (wait for it) brow he gave a silent prayer of thanksgiving for such deliverance. Down the steps, away from the reredorter he scurried, hardly noticing the small piece of tissue adhering to the heel of his left shoe – a size 11 cordovan wingtip jackboot with sharpened steel aglets upon the lace ends. The tissue was noticed, however, by Fancy Jemima, his rock gardener and former wetnurse. Fancy Jemima was most observant, and as the Marquis' favorite philosopher had once said, “you can observe a lot by looking at things.” So it was with Fancy Jemima.

The road that led to the tiny outbuilding that housed the reredorter was strewn with tiny, broken bits of sticks and shredded twigs that had formerly been parts of the Marquis' ship-in-a-bottle collection, but of which he had grown tired and decided to scuttle. His size 11 lace-up jackboots crunched as he scurried. Crunch, crunch, crunch went the scuttled ships-in-bottles. Crunch, crunch, crunch went the little bits of wood that were but remnants of his energies and talent. Fancy Jemima took note of his uncaring attitude toward the little bits of wood, and filed this away for safe keeping and later use. The Marquis de Flo-burner scurried all the more quickly – scurrying all the way to Squirty's Lounge. Squirty's Lounge had opened last April-month with a flourish of critical acclaim. The review in the Holyoake Gazetteer read thusly:

HOLYOAKE – Minor nobles from among the crowned heads of Europe and the Berkshires are most excited to partake in the opening festivities at the city's newest Marquis- and Baron-watering hole, a fine establishment known to those of a decidedly upperish-crust as “Squirty's Lounge.” Squirty himself is a pompous and obese man with glandular ailments, known for his displays of public largesse and nudity masquerading as art, and who hails from a small village in the Catskills. Cocktails and appetizers (pompously yet stylishly labeled hors d'oeuvres) will be served on most evenings when the moon is full and green fairies flit through the ether (let the reader understand). Reservations are suggested.

And so another evening was spent at Squirty's Lounge – the Marquis appearing to be sprouting a barstool from the cleavage of his butt-cheeks. The Marquis was ever so fond of that graciously-hyphenated word - “butt-cheeks.” He would attempt to use it in all manner of sentence whenever he could, and so his speech was littered with references to his lower quadrants.

Such a pity. It was his left pectoral muscle that was his finest feature.

As the Marquis sipped his chipotle-tini and dreamed of new colors of leather from which to craft wing-tipped jackboots, Fancy Jemima wandered into Squirty's Lounge and sidled up to the Marquis. She shot a glance at the barstool sprouting from his butt-cheeks, and suddenly felt such pity for the Marquis. She reached out with a caring hand and tenderly touched his shoulder. The Marquis slowly turned and their eyes met. The moment was electric. Silence hung between their sullen eyeballs. Fancy Jemima's pouty, bee-stung lips opened in a most tender, thoughtful, and caring gambit. 

 “You had some ass-wipe stuck to yer' shoe when you ran outta' da shitter t'day.”

04 January 2012

the lost beat

Subscribe to this, bookmark it, come back, and read it often:

the lost beat

I am collaborating with Natasha Gdansk (my poetess cousin from Milwaukee) on this literary venture, and I am thrilled about it.  She writes some of the most wickedly good stuff I have ever read, and I am honored to have the chance to work with her.

Go read.  Now.  Thank you.

03 January 2012

The Ongoing Dialogue

If you should happen to call me “Sweetcheeks” one more time I shall be forced to turn ugly on you. Believe me, Baby-pun'kin. You had better believe me, if you know what is good for you. No one calls me “Sweetcheeks” and gets away with it.


Nearly twenty years ago a man strolled into this, my humble cantina, and dared to call me “Sweetbread,” in homage to the hypothalamus of the calf that he loved ever so much. The hypothalamus, that is – not the calf itself. Mind you, he no doubt had a true and lasting affection for the animal known as the 'calf,' but it was the hypothalamus of said animal that truly peaked his affection and passion. This man was known to the community as “Scroty of the Moist Bottom,” and we never saw fit to ask him about the origin of that appellation – we only lauded and marveled at his desire and passion for tender young bovine sweetbreads.

When moist-bottomed Scroty strolled into my humble cantina he carried a large bag – a valise, really, constructed of the most unlikely material. It was crafted from the foreskins of unborn primates. A whole variety of primates, actually. He had obtained, through strictly secretive surgical methods, the soft and supple foreskins of unborn baby chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans and lowland gorillas. These he took to a master leathersmith in the wilds of British Columbia who was an expert at crafting valises from such skins. Oh, how that valise, when completed, was the talk of the town! Weaverton had never seen such a valise, and there was talk of recognizing the finely-crafted article with a parade and fireworks.

But that was not to be.

For on the very day after his return to Weaverton with his special valise, Scroty was smitten by Wanda Thorduggle – a meter maid who was in possession of the largest and most imposing lower legs the county had ever seen. Her calf muscles were of epic proportion, and when they were not in use she would carry them in an oversized black steel briefcase, attaching them to sinew and bone only when truly needed. When Scroty's and Wanda's eyes met over oatmeal and strychnine old-fashioneds at the wet bar in the public square, it was as if someone had set torch to dynamite. Scroty stood up and moved to Wanda with a lustful look in his eyes and a burning flame in his loins. Wanda took one look at him as he approached and then hefted that briefcase over her head and straight into Scroty's cranium. The unexpectedly-brained Scroty flopped to the ground like a damp and discarded article of underclothing while Wanda wobbled out of the park on her calf-less legs and returned home.

Are you still with me, Baby-pun'kin? You look all pale and sweaty.

So anyhow, Scroty was a changed man, and the following day he hauled that bruised melon of his into my humble cantina and called me “Sweetbread.” His eyes were all swollen shut and there was a trickle of dried blood issuing forth from his left ear and he held that foreskin valise so closely to his chest. And he called me “Sweetbread.” He ordered a seltzer water and called me “Sweetbread.” I burst into tears. Scroty burst into tears. The drunken man who had soiled his trousers and was sitting on the adjacent barstool burst into tears. We had a good, long cry and then I proceeded to slice open Scroty's abdomen with my Little Orphan Annie letter opener. Scroty died in the arms of a drunken man with soiled trousers. And that was nearly twenty years ago this very day.

So this, right here, is his hand crafted foreskin valise. And if you know what is good for you, Baby-pun'kin, you will never again call me “Sweetcheeks.”

02 January 2012

Moves Like it Milks

(Yes, dear readers, this is excerpted from the forthcoming Balloon Heart by Tom Andrews)

It wasn't that the dream freaked me out or anything – it just left me feeling like things were a little more real. Like everything was just about to happen, and happen in a real heavy way. You know what I mean? It's like when you're drinking with a bunch of friends and everybody is getting real sloppy and drunk and having a great time and then when you least expect it one of the guys you're drinking with falls out of a window and bashes his head in or breaks his neck, or something dumb like that happens and suddenly everybody comes to their senses – you know the feeling. A buzzwrecker of gigantic proportions. Well, that's how the dream was – but only as I look back on it. It seems now that everything was in slow motion or that I was looking at it while half in the bag, and then I have the dream and suddenly everything gets real serious. I can't look at anything with that drunken veil anymore.

The first time I realized this was when we were out on patrol, almost the next day, if I recall correctly. We were clearing through a bunch of what had been apartments for people who were too old to work – except these things weren't part of the Project. These were put up by some kind of a church or something. Some kind of superstitious bunch who did what they were doing because they thought they were gonna' get some kind of metaphysical or spiritual reward of some sort, I guess. Well, these old deserted apartments still had a few Threats living in them, and we would patrol through from time to time and clear out as many as we could. It made for an interesting morning, and it wasn't too terribly risky.

Well, on that morning I was following our squad leader up a flight of stairs when I heard something move in a room off to my left. I spun back to my right, and shouldered my weapon. There was a dog, growling at me and baring its teeth. Now, normally I would have popped a couple rounds into the damn thing to shut it up, but something inside of me recalled the dream, and so I just backed up a bit. Good thing I did, too, because just then a young girl stepped out from behind a door that was hanging crooked on its hinges and she levels one of those old-style handguns at me. It all looked suddenly very real, and I saw the veins in the girl's eyes, and I saw the saliva on her lower lip, and I swear I could see the rifling in the gun barrel that she had pointed at me. And all at the same time I could smell that the dog had gas from eating something that he couldn't digest all the way. And a voice inside of me just says “go, go!” So I put a quick three-round burst through the girl's chest and then a couple of singles through her head and she drops like a brick. But I looked at the dog and he just looks back at me, like nothing happened, like he's looking for some more food.

And I didn't feel so bad about dropping the Threat the way I did, but I felt bad that I didn't have any kind of treats to give to that dog. That's when I started realizing that things looked different.

Real different.