26 July 2013

Walkabout and Rocketry

Pinny walked out his skin that fateful day (the day after he died in the cold county jail, victim of the United States Postal Service). Pinny walked down the street and up to the house of the man who was rumored to give rocketry instruction to anyone who was interested. That is exactly what the sign on his lawn said: “Free Rocketry Instruction to Anyone Who is Interested.” Pinny figured he had nothing to lose. He had been dead for a day, after all. What could it hurt?


With a deft rap on the door, Pinny summoned Rocketman, who quickly appeared.

“You're the meth addict who died in the county hoosegow, ain't you?” asked Rocketman.

“Sure am,” said Pinny, rubbing his tender noggin with a piece of flannel soaked in camphor. “And I'd like some rocketry instruction.”

Rocketman studied Pinny's eyes and his nose and his mouth. He went on, studying his chin and the lump on the side of Pinny's neck. Pinny shifted uncomfortably.

“What 'cha doin'?” asked Pinny.

“I'm studying you...as one must study oneself. You got it, or do I gotta' pop you one? Now shut up, while I study.” Rocketman seemed impatient.

Pinny could feel the insects beneath his flesh begin to move again, and he was afraid that his beloved necklump might be shifting in shape or size. He raised his hand to cover it, and then lowered it again, afraid that it might call attention to him in a way that he did not desire.

“Is that the cha-la salute?” asked Rocketman, noticing Pinny's raised and then lowered hand. “You a cha-la boy?”

“I'm afraid I have no idea what you're talking about,” said Pinny, blushing bright red (bright red for someone who has been dead for a day, anyhow. These things are rather relative, you know).

Rocketman stopped his study and stood close (very close, in fact) to Pinny's face. He locked his little beady eyeballs onto Pinny's little beady eyeballs. And he leaned in close. Close. Real close.

And he stuck out his tongue.

The serpentine tongue must have measured at least eighteen inches on a good day, but Rocketman only needed an inch or so of it just now, as he placed but the very tip upon the very tip of Pinny's nose. It felt cool, and then warn to Pinny, who very nearly drew back, but stood still and allowed Rocketman's tongue to linger for at least a minute.

Rocketman withdrew his suddenly rainbow-colored tongue and turned back into his house.

“Where you going?” asked Pinny. “You going to go get your rocketry supplies so's you can teach me?”

“I will not teach you,” said Rocketman. “I will not give you instruction.”

“Why?” asked a saddened Pinny. “Do I taste bad?”

“Steel,” said Rocketman. “Steel dreams. They ooze out of a man's flesh. And I can tell your dreams, even if you cannot tell them yourself. Be off. And be well.”

Pinny turned to a deserted street – nowhere to wander for a lonely meth-ghost, but the abandoned avenues of Rocketman dreams.

16 July 2013


Once, twice, a fourth time the bell sounded. It skipped right over the third ring and made the fourth ring louder than ever. Eyes shot heavenward to see if the bell was right. Eyes shot up, eyes came down. Eyes closed and deep breaths came in...deep breaths went out. It was the fourth sounding.

The man down the road who kept pigs in his backyard “lifted a finger,” but not to help. The man (he was a priest, but not the typical kind) made a motion. A gesture. A sign. He lifted his finger, so that no one could say “he didn't even lift a finger,” but it made no difference whatever the case. Sometimes you have been on the right side of a thing like that, sometimes on the wrong side. Sometimes it makes a difference, sometimes it doesn't. The best part is when the person (the man with the pigs in this case) offers you something really fun to eat.

Consider the fun things you may have eaten when you were a child. You may have been given all sorts of sweet things and precious crumb-cakes. I might as well have called this clappy-doodle tale a “precious crumb-cake,” for I love the tale with the same affection I pour out of my very soul for that wondrous baked good. Don't you? The fun things you ate as a child might even come back to haunt you, for just last week I was visited in my dreams by a horrendous meatloaf. I loved meatloaf, and I still do, especially such as my mother made, complete with a hard-cooked egg in the middle. My mother always said there was a “surprise” in the meatloaf, but I knew better. I knew it was just a hard-cooked egg.

But in my dreams it was a horrendous meatloaf that came to me. I struggled to wake up, and I tried calling out. While I thought I was screaming, when I began to come to consciousness I realized I was making only a quiet “engh, engh, engh” sound (as in “what sound does a turtle make, Timmy?”). The meatloaf in my dream was not, in and of itself, horrendous, but rather it was the spectre that carried it that was so horrendous. I cast my mental gaze upon him, and did not even ask why he was carrying a meatloaf. I just tried to move, to scream, to flee. For there are awful things that a spectre with a meatloaf can do to you in your dreams. Don't even ask me to elaborate.

And so he made no sign, he lifted not a finger. It was just as it always had been. I was on the right side, but I noticed that no finger was lifted. And the bell sounded again – a fifth time, a sixth time, a seventh time. It fell silent, never to ring again.

And the man down the road, the man who kept the pigs, he said the same thing. The same thing that always gets said. By someone. Anyone. The same thing I have told you all a thousand times if I told you but once. The same six words that make me want to break into a wander. That make me break and wander. That make or break a wander. A breakwander. Breakwander.

I told you once before to go and consider what this means, and nothing changes. You know that.

I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”

12 July 2013

The Boss

As long as we have been on the topic of the Trudgey Mint®, we had best say a few words about the Lumpy Burger®, and the psychic benefits of consuming this most delectable treat.

Crafted entirely from reclaimed and karmically-neutralized human flesh, the Lumpy Burger® is the fast-food delicacy you have been looking for! Aside from the golden-brown spelt and glucose-ethylene bun that serves as a royal throne to this king of meat-wiches, the Lumpy Burger® is 100% gluten-free, and produced exclusively from the donated limbs of free-range Chicagoans. Bone fragments are carefully removed, and the resulting meat is ground to a smooth and even texture.

Before we go any further, please note that this entire account is fictitious, and neither the blog, the editors, the writer of a Martini and a Pen, the board of directors of Tom Janikowski Industries, Inc., or the Monika Luukkonen Literary Agency advocates cannibalism or the eating of human flesh in any way.

Little Mikey Nitrous knew just how beneficial the Lumpy Burger® could be, and he would save up the nickels and dimes that he earned from mowing old Mr. Swicknipple's lawn just so he could enjoy the meaty treat at least once a week. When Mr. Swicknipple's lawn did not need mowing, Mikey would break into his house in the middle of the night, flood the basement with a garden hose, and then offer to help Mr. and Mrs. Swicknipple bail it out later in the morning. Mr. Swicknipple was always confused, but grateful. Little Mickey would squirrel away the loose change in the tin-foil brassiere that he had crafted in art class and that he kept on a high shelf in his bedroom. Sometimes when the moon was full and bright, its light would reflect off the brassiere at night and keep Mikey awake. A small price to pay for such fine artwork, he felt.

Good art is like that, isn't it? More on that on another day.

When the time was right and his brassiere was full, Mikey would ride his little scooter-contraption down to the local Lumpy Burger® franchise and order up “a double”. This was always a little dicey, as each Lumpy Burger® was crafted from the flesh of a single limb, but there was no such guarantee made about the continuity of limbs when more than one patty were combined. The diner might be consuming the calf-meat of a dental hygenist from Cicero and the forearm of an accountant from Westchester, or the bicep of a transient from downtown and the thigh-meat of a shop owner from Skokie.

Psychic and karmic confusion could likely ensue.

After consuming his Lumpy Burger®, little Mikey would recline on the cool, cool lawn outside the restaurant (for Lumpy Burger® restaurants were always, by contract, encircled by a wide swath of cool, green grass). He would look up into the sky and watch the puffy, white clouds float by as he waited for the spirits of those whose flesh he had just consumed to talk to him. Often, with a double, he might be liable to hear from spirits on “both shores,” as it were, for about half of the Lumpy Burger® donors were still alive and merely getting by with prosthetic limbs.

On one fine day, after having just enjoyed a double with friend onions, little Mikey Nitrous lay in the grass, listening for voices and looking at clouds. He did not have to wait long.

“Make peace with your creator every day,” said the spirit of a librarian from Lincoln Park who had met her end by a falling brick.

“Give me back my stapler, you idiot,” said the spirit of a graphic artist currently working in Elmhurst.

Michael swallowed and then sat down the rest of the burger. Using his little entrenching tool (he always carried his little entrenching tool), he dug a small grave in the soft green lawn. He placed the remains of the Lumpy Burger® in the shallow hole, and carefully covered it with soft, cool earth. He picked up his things and, wiping the dirt from his hands as he walked from the grave, got back on his scooter-contraption and zoomed home, feeling his neutralized-karma levels to be at a dangerously low level. Mikey contemplated this as he arrived at his house and went inside.

He went to the den and plopped down in his father's overstuffed recliner. “Aww, fiddlesticks,” he said, flipping the TV to the shopping network, “the hell with Karma. I'm just gonna' buy me some herbal samsara inhibitor.”

05 July 2013

Trudgey Mint®

When Mr. Michael Nitrous of West 43rd Street was still a tender youth of only ten years, and still known to the world as “Little Mikey Nitrous,” (you remember him, don't you? He would grow up to hold a respectable position within an advertising agency. Of course you remember him. Who can forget him?) he opened the door of his parents' suburban home one fine, shiny day.

(If you can make sense out of long, convoluted parenthetical asides such as the one in the last paragraph, more power to you, you freak of nature.)

(The biretta calling the cassock black, you might say.)

Enough. It was a fine and shiny day, and Little Mikey Nitrous had just taken his prescription pain killers, downed a pint of his father's bourbon, and was weaving his way to the little corner store, known for penny candy and Polish sausage. The lady who owned the place liked Mikey, and would sometimes give him a bonus gift of a free piece of penny candy or a shot of neutral grain spirits. Mikey was hopeful.

As long as we are one the subject, my brother Patrick had struck up a cordial relationship with the owner of a similar corner store in our hometown – of course having no relationship to the one in Little Mikey Nitrous' hometown. The owner of the store that my brother would visit often gave him small gifts such as the broken nibs of ink-pens and tiny bits of blueprints that had been torn up or fashioned into works of origami. Patrick never quite knew what to do with these little gifts, so he stored them all in an old coffee can that smelled of rancid bacon fat. He kept them there for many years, until the day that his gardener mistook them for garbage and threw them into the incinerator along with the Styrofoam packing peanuts that he burned every Tuesday – Tuesday was Styrofoam packing peanut day in his community. Thursday was bubble wrap day. The incinerators burned overtime both days.

Little Mikey Nitrous walked through the door of the shop, making the little bell tinkle merrily. It had the same effect on old Mr. Potchford, sitting near the counter. He shifted his weight on the rickety chair fashioned from the staves of a cracker barrel, broke wind, wet himself, and scowled at Mikey. “Damn kids,” he said in a creaky voice, “all that damn racket...”

“Good morning Mr. Potchford, you old loon,” said Mikey.

“Go to blazes, you lil' injun,” said Mr. Potchford, motioning rudely with his middle finger.

“Awww...Mr. Potchford,” said Mikey, “I'm sorry, I shouldn't call you a loon. I apologize.”

“You still go to blazes, you lil' injun.”

“That is hardly the politically correct term to use, Clarence,” said Mrs. Potchford, walking up and calling her husband by his name. Nobody else dared to call Mr. Potchford by his first name. Anyone foolish enough to do so would risk a severe finger-waving and dressing-down at the hands and mouth of Mr. Potchford. He had a reputation.

The old man grumbled, closed his eyes, and lowered his head to his chest.

“What can I get you, Mikey?” asked Mrs. Potchford, beaming at him in his Opossum-tagged Garanimals.

“Just an ice cream sandwich, please, ma'am.”

“That's all?” asked Mrs. Potchford. “No carburetor fluid or ice picks?”

“No thank you, ma'am...just the ice cream sandwich.” Little Mikey Nitrous slapped two thin dimes on the counter.

Mrs. Potchford produced a fine, fine ice cream sandwich from the folds of her apron. No one pondered quite how unlikely and incongruous this was, aside from Mr. Potchford, who merely feigned sleep.

“Thank you, ma'am,” said Mikey. “Keep the change!”

“Of course, Mikey.” said Mrs. Potchford, pocketing the money. “Oh, and Mikey...” she trailed off.

“Yes, Mrs. Potchford?”

“Here is a little Trudgey Mint® for you to suck on.” Mrs. Potchford slid the large, ominous capsule across the counter.

Oh boy!” exclaimed Little Mikey Nitrous, “I love sucking on a Trudgey Mint®! There is nothing quite like the fresh, clean taste of a Trudgey Mint®! Thank you!”

Little Michael Nitrous skipped to the door of the Potchford's store, thinking of the delightful afternoon he would have, nestled safely in the secure bosom of his beloved treehouse, listening to old polka albums and sucking on a Trudgey Mint®. He paused before he left, and turned once again to the old man sitting near the counter on the rickety chair fashioned from the staves of a cracker barrel. “See ya, Mr. Potchford,” he said with a smile and a wave of his hand.

Go to blazes, you lil' machine designed to convert thermal energy into mechanical energy for the purpose of producing force and motion,” said Mr. Potchford, his breath reeking of Trudgey Mint®.

02 July 2013

Pull-Through (or "It Took Me Five Days")

It seems to always be the men with the biggest belt buckles who have the widest-brimmed hats. Perhaps you have noticed this. Perhaps you have also noticed that there is a greater pressure exerted upon those belt buckles than upon other belt buckles. Whether or not this is just a function of physics remains to be seen.

There was one particular fellow with a wide-brimmed hat and a large belt buckle that wandered into myth (his ears didn't get to itching – he just had wandered into myth. I know that you are expecting me to give you his name so that you can keep track of him. I refuse to accommodate your desire in this case. I will refer to him as Puller, for he was very good at pulling, and most people that he knew would refer to him behind his back as their friend “who is good at pulling.” If someone needed something pulled, they would go to him. They would fly to his side and request that he pull. “Pull,” they would cry, “pull!”

Puller wore his wide-brimmed hat to conceal a balding pate (no one calls it that anymore, you know), and to shade his eyes from the glare of the radioactive sun. When the winds blew hot and fierce, likewise, he would pull the brim down just a little bit, so as to offer some protection from sun and blowing sand. The wide-brimmed hat was a beauty, all right, encircled with a ht band made of woven calf intestine. When Puller told people about the hat band, he would pronounce the word “intestine” with a hard accent on the second syllable, and would make the third syllable rhyme with “fine.” What a riot. Fun for the whole family, that crazy, crazy Puller is.

Puller stepped out of his cocoon to watch the dance of the mitzi-puffon ballerina fairies one intensely windy day. The samite gowns that adorned the fairies' bodies blew in the hot, dry wind, and offered little protection from the elements for their fair, fair skin. Puller noticed this and offered each one of them a small suit of glittering armor, which they declined to a fairy. Puller laughed ad shook his head, thinking them foolish. More than foolish, they were immune, you might say, to such ravages.

Mitzi-puffon ballerina fairies are stronger than you think.

With a rough and calloused hand the sketchy Puller reached out to stroke a fairy, which was not allowed (but Puller had no way of knowing this, as you could imagine). As he opened his had the dry, dry skin cracked open so that red, sore flesh could be seen underneath the epidermis. A slow trickle of blood began to issue from the cracks in the proud flesh, and it dripped onto a samite gown. Tragedy of tragedies.

(Let me mention, by way of my patented aside, that samite is difficult to wash. Further, it is symbolic of a purity mostly unseen these days, and so for a trickle of blood to stain such a pristine piece of fabric would naturally dredge up thoughts of similar inconsistencies. Blood on a white sheet. Nails through pure, innocent flesh. An ensign before the entire world. The moon in a sun-dappled sky. The sun appearing at midnight.)

(For the night is as clear as the day.)

(As one said.)

Puller paused. He dropped to a knee and watched his blood drip onto the sand beneath his holy, holy boots. The mitzi-puffon ballerina fairies all flitted away and disappeared. Puller was left by himself – aloone with the wind, alone with the sun, alone with the sand. Alone with his belt buckle and wide-brimmed hat.

And a perfect red heifer.