Comic Stripped (END)

Author’s Note: Mature Content Warning – Sex. Violence. Language.

The Getaway

Max Pine sat with rattled and tattered Christine LaBrush in a small room off the kitchen that was kind of like a screened-in porch. He tried to look at her through the glaze of a rhombus evening, a yellow light seeped in from the house. Her eyes were red and puffy from all the crying she had done. He was reluctant to comfort her. He blamed her for the horrible evening he was having, and all Max wanted to do now was escape from this hell. But she started to talk, and he was forced to listen.

“I’m so sorry I put you through this, Max,” she said. I am so humiliated and embarrassed and angry. I just want to have a normal god damn life!”

Max sighed as he pondered a reply. “That’s probably out of the question at this point.”

Christine’s head snapped in his direction, and she scowled at him. “Wow. Wonderful support.”

Max suddenly shot up from his seat. “You know what… Fuck this shit! I’ve tried to be nothing but nice all evening and all I’ve gotten is hateful crap from your father and now attitude from you. You dragged me into this nightmare, and I owe you nothing. I think I will be going now.”

Just as Max was about to leave, Mrs. LaBrush appeared at the precipice to the room. “Everything okay?” she wanted to know.

“I’m actually heading out, mam,” Max said. “Thank you for dinner. Have a pleasant rest of your evening.”

“But you haven’t had your schaum torte.”

Max sighed. “I really should be going.”

“It’s a very difficult dessert to make. I went to a lot of trouble, Max.”

She cocked her head oddly and smiled at him. “Please? It would bring joy to my heart after such a rough and tumble evening.”

Max conceded. “All right. I’ll have some of your schaum torte.”

“Wonderful,” Mrs. LaBrush gushed. “Shall we go into the kitchen. I’ll make some coffee,” she said, and then she looked over at her blubbering daughter / son. “Come now dear and wash up some. Wipe away those tears and pull yourself together.”

The trio sat in a nook with two benches and a table between. Max looked out a large, dark window as he sipped on his coffee — instant Sanka — and ached to disappear from his present situation.

Mrs. LaBrush cleared her throat. “Are you enjoying the schaum torte, Max?”

“It’s delicious.”

“I made the strawberry compote myself.”

“It adds a delectable zing to the entire dish,” Max said with a hint of sarcasm.

“I was thinking, Max,” Mrs. LaBrush began as she spooned a wad of whipped cream-dappled schaum into her mouth. “It is getting so late and it’s such a long ride back to Mankato… Why don’t you just stay the night.”

Max nearly choked on his schaum torte. “Well, if it’s all the same to you, mam, I think I may just walk into town and get a room until the bus comes in the morning.”

“Oh no. I won’t let you do that. We have a big house here with plenty of room,” Mrs. LaBrush insisted.

“I appreciate that, but I don’t think your husband will like me being here overnight. He hates my guts.”

Moody Christine finally lifted her head from her bowl of schaum torte, her inflated fake lips white with cream. “He doesn’t hate your guts. He’s just very overprotective and old-fashioned.”

“He’s a hypocritical asshole,” Max blurted out. “No offense to you, Mrs. LaBrush.”

She smiled in agreement. “He is quite the challenging mate,” she said. She sighed and then started licking at her spoon seductively yet grossly, her eyes aimed directly at Max. He caught on to her flirtation and it sickened him, and he squirmed where he sat. “But don’t worry about Herbert. He’ll drink himself to sleep in front of the television and you’ll be gone before he even wakes up.”

Max’s eyes went from depressed Christine to her mother and then to the gaudy walls and finally the stained ceiling. “I suppose one night wouldn’t hurt.”

“Wonderful!” Mrs. LaBrush excitedly exclaimed. “A sleepover! You can use our guest room — upstairs and at the end of the hall. No one will bother you in there.”

“That will be fine. If it’s all right, I’d like to go up and take a shower and turn in for the night. This has been an overly exhausting day,” Max said, and he wiped his mouth with a napkin and got up from the table. “Thank you for dinner and the schaum torte and the accommodations. Goodnight.”

“Wait,” Christine said. “Would you like me to come sleep with you. I mean… In the same bed, tonight? I need to be held.”

Max beamed at her like headlights on bright. “No,” he said, and he left them.

It was uncharacteristic for Herbert LaBrush to wake up in the middle of the night from his drunken stupor and begin to wander around the house, but on that night, something in the walls, the air, shook him and he did.

He fumbled for a familiar switch in the kitchen and clicked on a light. He opened the refrigerator door. He peered inside and the glow of the appliance bulb reflected against his slick dome. He looked for something to eat. He picked a few things up, sniffed at them and then put them back. He opened a carton of egg nog, drank from it, and then wiped at his mouth with his hairy arm.

After he closed the refrigerator, he thought he heard a noise coming from upstairs. He went to the bottom of the stairs and pointed an ear upward. There were noises drifting in the air. Something out of place was indeed going on. Mr. LaBrush tip-toed halfway up the stairway and then stopped. Again, he pointed an ear upward and it was then that he realized what he heard were the sounds of lust being played out in real time. Some sort of lovemaking was happening, live.

Herbert LaBrush gritted his teeth and clenched his fists in a silent rage that turned his face red and caused steam to swirl from the top of his head like in a cartoon.

“That bastard!” he seethed quietly to himself. “He’s having his way with my son… And in my very own house! I’ll kill him! I’ll kill him to death!”

Herbert LaBrush went to the garage. He was fuming and out of his head with debilitating anger when he retrieved an old baseball bat buried in a corner. He held it in his hands. It was heavy and solid. “I’ll knock that sinful fornicator straight to hell,” he said aloud as he took a swinging stance and swayed the bat in the air a little bit. “He’ll never see the lights of Heaven when I’m through with him.”

Once back inside the main part of the house, he quietly crept up the stairs, the filthy moans and groans blurping forth like rapid heartbeat elevator music in a snobby office filled with lonely orifices. He rattled like a fake plastic tree in a turbulent wind.

Herbert LaBrush held the bat high and slowly moved down the dark hallway toward Christine’s old bedroom. It was then, as he got closer and reached for the doorknob, that he became aware his hearing had deceived him, and that the sex noises were not coming from Christine’s old room, but instead, his very own bedroom.

A symphony of confused wrath choked his mind and body as he got closer to the room and suddenly realized that it was his very own wife from whence the sounds of animalistic passion were percolating from. He trembled with pain and anger as he pressed his head against the door and listened to her moist and guttural ramblings as the bed squeaked and the headboard smacked against the wall.

Herbert LaBrush looked skyward, his eyes penetrating the ceiling and beaming straight to Heaven. He shook a fist in the air. “Why have you brought this demon into my house!?” he whispered through clenched teeth and spit. “Why have you allowed my own wife to be speared by such a sinful wretch!? What have I done to deserve this, Lord!?” He panted as he waited for a sign, an answer, but there was nothing besides the orgasmic cries of his wife beyond the doorway.

Herbert LaBrush slowly stretched his sweaty face with his taut fingertips and then kicked the door in and switched on the ceiling light. And there it was, all splayed out in a naked, twisted and jungle steamy mess. The air soaked with the scent of unfathomable love. It was his own son, or the one who used to be his son, an unrecognizable creature now grinding groins with his own mother and drooling like a hell-fired fiend all over her.

Herbert LaBrush let out a horrifying howl and went at Christine with the bat. He first brought it down against her sweaty back and then went for her head and hit a blood-spangled all-American home run across the room. Mrs. LaBrush got splashed in red and then tried to scream as he came at her next and her yellowed teeth soon started to flow down her esophagus and into her guts.

Herbert had completely lost it. He dropped the wet with blood bat on the floor and went down with it when the full scope of what he had done hit him. He stayed like that for a long time, bent over, panting, weeping until finally the sun began to creep up and tap the new day on the shoulder. The smell of death began to rise more forcefully as he went to the phone on the bedside table and called in his confession as if he were ordering a pizza.

Max Pine sat on the curb outside the bus station somewhere in Minneapolis smoking a cigarette and feeling a bit sad. He looked up into the sky and saw birds. Then he thought he heard sirens screaming toward the burbs and he felt somewhat relieved and calm about the fact that he had snuck out of that madhouse around midnight and hoofed it downtown. He had a sense about things like that.

People were crazy, he concluded most days of his life. People were fucking nuts and that’s why he felt it was a wise decision to steer as far away from them as possible whenever he could. This devastating brush with Christine LaBrush and company solidified that fact for him. It felt better to be alone, he knew. It felt better to be alone all right.

Max enjoyed a stale cup of coffee by himself before he boarded the bus. He took a seat in the back by a window and the bus hissed and lurched forward and soon it was out of Minneapolis and onto the open road and back the 80 some miles to Mankato and then the unlocking of the gallery door and releasing the curtains and letting the sun in and sitting at the cash counter and polishing glass doorknobs and feeling good about being fucking independent.

It was another quiet, sunny day… And Max Pine liked that for sure.


A Crab Crawl Crucifixion (Ending)

They trailed after me and I readied my rifle as I walked. It was the only light on in the entire town and it cast an odd yellow glow against all the ruin. It was a narrow building made of brick like the others and there were two large windows in the very front. We took cover across the street and tried to study the place. The light inside was very bright and I thought I saw someone sitting in a chair and reading a newspaper. “My god,” I said. “It looks like a barbershop.” And that’s when we noticed the barber pole at the side churning red, white and blue in the yellow light like cake batter. “I can’t believe it.”

Rob started walking out into the street toward the shop without any care. “Wait!” I snapped. “What are you doing?”

“I’m going to get a haircut,” he said.

“You’re crazy. You’re good as dead if you do that,” Daisy warned him.

“You’re both wrong. This is an answer to my wish. You remember, Ed, I said I wanted a haircut and here it is, a place in the middle of deathly nowhere, a barbershop. Someone’s listening to me. It must be apocalyptic God or something.”

“You’re delusional,” I told him. “Delusional and downright stupid if you go over there.”

He smiled at us oddly and he turned and just kept on walking, right up to the shop. We saw that he was looking in and then he pushed the door open, and the light swallowed him up.

“We have to go after him,” Daisy demanded.

I pressed a finger against her fish lips. “Shhh. Let’s be really quiet and check it out.” We crept out into the glow and up to the building, one to each side, and we peered in through the glass. Rob Muggins was sitting in a barber chair of chrome and burgundy vinyl and a man was wrapping a cape around the front of him. I looked over at Daisy and even though I knew she saw the exact same thing as I did, I couldn’t really believe it. I pointed to the door, and we went in with our guns drawn.

A little bell rang, and the barber looked up at us and smiled. “There will be no need for weapons in here,” he politely said to us. “I don’t cause any trouble. I just cut hair.”

He stood on a booster stool and held a pair of scissors and comb over Rob’s head and started to snip away very carefully. He was a very odd-looking man of small stature with a dead-serious emotion in his cleanly shaven olive-toned skin. His hair was jet black and combed back very slick and neat against his scalp. He looked up at us again. “Were you here for a haircut sir?” he asked. Then he looked at Daisy and smiled with apology. “I’m sorry miss. I don’t cut women’s hair. Far too much emotion involved in that endeavor,” he explained.

There were three chairs against the wall and Daisy sat down. “It’s okay. I’ll just watch.” The barber smiled and went back to work. There was a small radio on the counter behind him and it played old time music very softly. The barber began to whistle along as he cut Rob’s hair.

“What are you doing here?” I finally asked him.

He stopped cutting and looked at me. “What do you mean? This is my barbershop. I cut hair.”

“But there’s no hair to cut,” I pointed out. “This place is dead.”

The barber seemed confused. “I don’t understand. I’m cutting this gentleman’s hair right now. What’s the problem?”

“Don’t you know what’s out there?” I moved to one of the windows and gestured. “This place is deserted. Why are you here?”

The barber clicked on an electric clipper and moved it carefully against one side of Rob’s head. “I don’t know what you want me to say. I’m here every day. I cut people’s hair. This is my life, my livelihood. I have an apartment right upstairs if you want me to prove it to you… I’m sorry, who are you again?”

“My name’s Ed. Ed Dick. This here is Daisy and the man you’re snipping on is Rob Muggins.”

The barber chuckled some. “Odd names,” he said. “But good to know you all just the same. I like my customers to consider me as a friend and not just a barber. It’s the personal touch that matters most,” and he looked over at Daisy and flirtatiously worked his brow up and down for a moment.

I looked over at Daisy and she looked at me. I could tell she was feeling unsettled.

“Do you have any food and water?” I asked the man.

He chuckled. “Of course, I do. I’m not a savage. If you don’t mind waiting until I’m done with this gentleman’s haircut, it would be wonderful to have you all upstairs. I haven’t had many guests lately.” He clicked off the clippers, leaned back and studied his work. “That looks pretty fine,” he said, and he hopped down off his stool and spun the chair around like a carnival wheel so Rob could see himself in the mirror.

“Wow,” Rob said, admiring himself. “That’s a damn fine haircut. What do you guys think?”

Daisy got up, walked over, and looked at him. “You clean up pretty well Mr. Wall Street,” she said.

I felt a twang of jealousy in my guts. “But he needs a shave,” I suggested. The barber studied Rob’s face. “Hmm… I really like his beard, but I suppose I can do that,” he said.

We all felt a bit nervous as he reached for the straight razor and some fluffy cream. He lathered Rob’s face and then very carefully scraped the blade across it, clearing away the stubble every so often as he went. When he was done, he wiped Rob’s face clean with a warm wet towel. “After shave?” he asked as he held up a glass bottle containing a blue liquid. Rob nodded. The barber smiled as he patted his face. “It might sting a bit,” he cautioned.

The barber undid the cape and Rob got up out of the chair and ran his hand over his head and across his face. “This feels great,” he said.

The barber shook out a towel and smiled. “Okay… That will be 23 dollars.”

Rob instinctively reached for his pockets, but they were empty. “I’m sorry. I don’t have any money.”

The barber was confused. “No money? Then why did you come in here for a haircut? Give me a break. I’m trying to run a business here!”

Daisy sensed his oncoming tirade and tried to calm him. “We’ve been traveling for a very long time. Don’t you know what’s happened to the world? There is no more money.”

“No more money? Ah blah, that’s a bunch of rubbish. I’ve got a till full of it.”

I stepped forward to get a closer look at him. I wanted to see if he was real. His eyes looked weird. “Who are all these people who come for haircuts?” I asked him. “Don’t you understand? There’s no one here.”

The barber grabbed a broom and pan and started to sweep up Rob’s fallen locks. “You keep saying that, and I still don’t understand. I get plenty of business from the hill people and the ranchers and the water barons. They come all the time.”

Daisy stepped in front of me. Her arm fell back a little and her hand accidentally swept over my crotch. “We’d love to see your apartment. And maybe we could work something out to pay you for the haircut.”

The barber looked at her porcelain face the color of flour and noticed the ring in her nose. “That’s a funny thing,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that on a woman before. Okay, let me just lock up and we can head upstairs. But I don’t want any funny business.”

The stairs were old, and they creaked as we went up. The hall smelled of cooked meat and dust. He looked at us and smiled as he fumbled with the key in the lock of a red worn door. “My apologies, but the place isn’t as tidy as I like,” he said. “I’ve been busy with other things.” He got it unlocked and pushed it open. It looked old and charming. I couldn’t understand why he was worried about what the place looked like. Everything was in order.

“Please, come in and sit down,” he offered. “Would anyone care for a grape soda?” We all heartily accepted. “Good,” he smiled. “I’ll make us some cheese sandwiches as well.” He fiddled with an old phonograph before disappearing through a swinging door that must have led to the kitchen. Scratchy weird music began to fill the room.

I went to a window, pulled the cranberry-colored curtains aside and peered out. The moon was higher now and the landscape littered with desolation. I turned to see Daisy sitting close to Rob on the couch. She seemed attracted to him now. She put a hand on his thigh as they whispered to each other about the place.

A few minutes later, the barber came back out carrying a tray with grape soda and cheese sandwiches. He set it down on an old coffee table and invited us to eat and drink. I squeezed in between Daisy and Rob on the couch and stuffed a sandwich in my mouth. The barber took a chair across from us and watched.

 “Is the food all right?” he asked. Our mouths were full, and we were very pleased. I sucked down my grape soda and belched loudly. Daisy elbowed me.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I haven’t eaten in a while. It’s so good. But, where do you get your food?”

“Little elves bring it to me,” the barber joked, and then he crossed his hands in his lap and smiled. “I’m glad you appreciate good soda and cheese.”

“Thank you so much,” Daisy creamed. “This is all so wonderful.”

Rob clomped on a sandwich between sips of the soda. “Yeah. It’s great of you to help us out like this.”

“Well, I try to live a godly life. You know, do unto others …”

I looked around the room and noticed there were no photographs of other people. “Do you have a family?” I asked him.

“No,” he answered somewhat sternly. “They all died in a terrible house fire many years ago. I grew up an orphan.”

“I’m so sorry,” Daisy said to him.

“I’ve learned to carry on.”

“Do you know about the monsters?” I blurted out.

He turned to look at me, it was a cold stare. “I don’t know what you are talking about. There aren’t any monsters here.”

Daisy leaned forward and looked at him. “Don’t you know about the end of the world, and all that has followed?” she asked.

He blinked at her in confusion. “I heard a rumor about a terrible war, but that’s all. I enjoy my life here as a simple barber. I don’t want to know about such things.”

I adjusted my hat and rubbed at my rough face. “The monsters are a product of social disease. There’s no cure. They have no heart or soul.”

He looked at me with the same puzzled emptiness. “Sometimes they wander in and out, but I just turn off all the lights and pretend to be dead.”

“So, you have seen them?” I asked pointedly.

“I’ve seen others, yes, if that’s what you’re getting at, like you were talking about, but they are not my customers. Those people are real. You speak of phantoms.” He suddenly got up and changed the record. He seemed uncomfortable.

“Where are you from? Originally,” I asked. He turned to look at me over his shoulder after plopping down fresh vinyl on the phonograph. It spun slow and rough. “Chicago,” he finally answered. “I was born in Chicago.”

I thought he was lying. “What part?”

“Arlington Heights. My father came here from Appietto on Corsica many years ago and opened his own barbershop. That’s why I do what I do. Then he burned to death.”

I could tell he was getting uneasy about the subject. “I was hoping we could rest here if that would be all right. We’ll leave you in the morning.”

He studied us one by one. “You want to stay the night?”

“You’ve been more than generous,” Daisy began, “But we understand if you don’t want strangers sleeping on your floor.”

“It’s okay,” he said. “Just one night?”

“We’ll head out in the morning,” I said, answering for her.

“Okay, you can stay,” the barber said as he lifted the arm up off the record and carefully set it in its resting place. “But I’m getting tired now. I think I’ll go to my room and rest, but please, make yourself comfortable. We can settle things in the morning. I hope you sleep like angels in the hay heap of a warm barn.”

I was hoping Daisy would lie down next to me but instead she rolled herself out on the floor right next to reincarnated Rob Muggins. I thought I heard them kiss, but I might have been mistaken. Whether it was real or not it still hurt my guts and heart. The place was too quiet, and I struggled to sleep. I wanted to be on top of Daisy and thrusting against her, but I felt her interest was rapidly waning. Maybe I was too old for her. Maybe I was too rough around the edges. What kind of life would we have together anyways? The world was a ruined place. I focused my eyes on a slit in the drapes as they grew heavy. I started to see some stars twinkling above the dead land. I was starting to feel sad and hopeless but tried to find peace in the thought of the coming morning. I finally fell asleep and dreamed of nothing.

The barber tip-toed to a table in his bedroom where sat an old phone and he picked up the receiver. He worked the dial with the tip of a crooked finger. It rang on the other end — four times before someone picked up and breathed.

The barber whispered in the grim darkness. “Yes, they’re here now. I think it would be a perfect opportunity to come get them. I’m sure you’re very hungry.”


A Crab Crawl Crucifixion (Beginning)

We were lost somewhere in Arizona. The heat was better than the cold now. It was all about survival mostly, but maybe it was more about the ability to live off the streets and the rough land — which was all that was really left unless you lived high in a glass tower in one of the protected cities. We did not live in a glass tower. There was a privileged dude with us named Rob Muggins and he used to live in a glass tower. He was one of the rich guys who took a tumble down the ladder there at the end. Rob was scared most of the time — him being so damn out of his element. Sometimes though, Rob could step up in a time of heated crisis and do something really noteworthy and admirable — like the time he snatched Daisy from the grips of certain death.

Daisy was a crazy chick from Hazelton, Pennsylvania with black hair and black eyes but pale white skin. She had been working as an apprentice in an upscale tattoo parlor in Philadelphia when we picked her up. She had been trapped in a wishing well after seeking a place to hide from the monsters. Two days later Rob heard her soft cries for help. So now she’s with us. My name is Ed Dick and I’m the leader. I’m a good-looking oceanic cowboy from Maine. Like I said, we were lost in Arizona when things got very weird and ethereal.

The sun of the southwest could make a man parch in no time at all. We needed water. Water was our sweet salvation. Without water we wouldn’t last long. It was when we reached the apex of a dusty ridge that Daisy pulled out the spy glass and picked out a town way down in the rusty valley of corrosion. I took the spyglass from her to get a look for myself. “That’s a town all right,” I said to them. “I don’t see anything moving around. I think we’d be foolish not to check it out.”

Daisy was all for it, but Rob was being a whiny prick as usual. “I’m not going down there. The place could be totally infected with them. I’m not risking it and I don’t think you two should either.”

I stood up tall against him and looked down. “You know we’re going to die if we don’t get some water. What are you going to do… Hunt the desert for a few more days? You’ll never make it. Your throat will swell up and you’ll die.”

“I didn’t know you were a doctor, too,” Rob sniped with sharpshooter precision. He eyed the landscape and he wiped at his sweaty face with his hand and looked in all directions. “There’s got to be a river or pool or spring around here somewhere. There must be.”

I shouldered my rifle and started to move down the other side of the ridge. “Trust me. There’s not,” I called back. “That town is our best bet for survival right now.”

Daisy followed me down a cut in the ridge toward the floor of the valley, more of a dusty alley in a dead city. “You’re not going to leave him behind, are you?” she asked me.

I stopped and looked back up. “He’s smart enough to know to come with us. If he isn’t well then that’s his problem.” I continued on and Daisy had to work hard to keep up.

“You don’t like him very much, do you?” she asked me, in a tone that sounded like she was defending him. Maybe she liked him. Maybe she wanted him.

“No. I really don’t,” I answered. “He knows nothing about the real world. He’s been hiding behind a desk and a computer screen his whole life. He’s not my kind of people.”

“What is your kind of people?” she wanted to know.

“No people.”

We reached the floor of the valley and it felt even hotter as we ducked down in some dry brush and looked in the direction of the town. Daisy was close and I could feel her breath in my ear when she asked “What do you think? Is it safe?”

I turned back to her, and our noses nearly touched. My moustache wiggled with sexual excitement. “It’s never safe, but sometimes you got to take a chance. Are you locked and loaded and ready to shoot anything that moves?”

She looked nervous as she double checked her firearm. “I’m ready.”

We emerged from the brush slowly and started our trek toward the town. I stared straight ahead as Daisy scanned our perimeter for any signs of monsters. “It’s as dead as the world,” she whispered.

I nodded and we pressed on until the first building was not more than 100 yards away. We crouched near a cluster of fallen boulders. That’s when Rob Muggins came sloppily jogging up from behind us panting like a dog from hell. “They’re coming,” he told us as he collapsed in the dirt. “I saw them from the ridge. They’re headed this way.”

“Monsters?” Daisy quivered.

“Yes. And more than usual,” Rob answered, a tincture of fear in his voice.

I twisted my head back and forth in a panic. “We need to make for that higher ground. We’re raw meat down here.”

We dashed across the floor of the valley until the land began to crest upward. We scrambled through slippery rocks until we reached a dip beyond a hedge of desert brush and stayed low. “All this running around is no damn good for our dehydration situation,” I said to them. “No damn good at all.”

“Be quiet,” Daisy whispered, and she focus her eyes through the brush and scanned the land beyond. “I don’t see anything. Are you sure they were coming this way?”

“Maybe he’s hallucinating,” I suggested.

“I’m not hallucinating. I swear I saw them,” Rob said in his defense. “Why do you always doubt me?”

“Because you’re a polished desk jockey with no real life skills,” I snapped.

He turned away, offended by my blunt assessment of him. I waited for a reply, but none came so I just went back to dealing with our present situation. “I say we lie low here until it gets dark and then make for the town and try to find some water, or whatever else to drink.” I commanded. “It’s our only chance.” The other two looked at me and agreed. “Good. Now let’s try to conserve some energy. Daisy, you keep watch.”

Rob sat down next to me. His clothes were torn, and he was burnt from the sun. He looked terrible for a guy who used to be pretty sharp. “I don’t think I’m going to make it, Ed,” he surprisingly confided in me. “I feel like I’m about to drop dead… And I almost wish it.”

I spat at the ground, adjusted my hat, and looked at him. “You need to get over that. We’ll make it. You’ll feel a whole hell of a lot better once you get something to drink inside your guts.”

Rob stared at the ground and the sweat dripping from his head dotted the sand. “I once heard a person could drink their own urine to survive.”

“If that were true people wouldn’t die of thirst,” I pointed out. “And not only that, it’s disgusting and unsanitary.”

“Have you ever done it?”

“Drink piss?”


“Hell no! What’s the matter with you!?”

“I once saw a guy do it on a television show.”

“Then he was a dumb ass. Television is for suckers.”

“I think he threw up.”

“I don’t doubt it.” I turned my attention to Daisy. “What’s going on down there?”

She turned and licked at her burnt lips. “Nothing. I don’t see a thing.”

“They must have turned,” I decided.

Rob scratched at his unruly bustle of curling hair. “I need to see a barber,” he said. “Do you think there’s a barber down there?”

“Could be… But not the kind of barber you want,” I warned him. “Not the kind that cuts hair.”

Once the day began to fade we made our way down and into the town. There was a ghostly moon hovering in the dying light and the streets were broken and overgrown with prickly weeds. The buildings were shattered, brick crumbling from years of the in-and-out of a blazing sun. The wind began to dance, and some tumbleweeds crossed our path. We saw no signs of life — monster or human. “We should split up here,” I suggested.

Daisy grabbed me by the upper arm. She squeezed a little. “I don’t think that’s a very good idea. What if something happens?” I looked over at Rob and he seemed nervous and fidgety. “What do you think?” I asked him.

“I don’t want to be left alone out here. I say we stay together.”

I was overruled and so we pressed on as a trio down the main thoroughfare of the town — what was left of it. We came upon what looked to be an old grocery store and we went in. It was fairly dark inside except near the front by the broken-out windows. I illuminated our way with a small everlasting flashlight I kept in a pocket. The shelves were decimated except for a few cans of those vegetables no one likes — stuff like okra and asparagus and Lima, Peru beans. I didn’t even care that I was hungry, there was no way in hell I’d eat any of that crap. The coolers at the back were dead and empty. The storage room was picked clean of food as well. “It looks like we’re out of luck here,” I said as I swept my flashlight up against the walls and across the floor. Then I hit on something — a plastic bottle of water that had rolled out of ordinary view. “Look, there!” I said.

Daisy got down on the floor and reached her long and tatted arm underneath a worktable. “I got it,” she said, and she got back up and held it for us to see.

Rob snatched it out of her hand and uncapped it. He took a long drink. “Hold on,” I said. “There are three of us.” He reluctantly pulled the bottle away from his mouth and handed it to me. “Sorry. I was thirsty.”

“We’re all thirsty, you selfish prick,” I snapped, and I wiped the top of the bottle off with the sleeve of my shirt and took a few gulps. It was warm but tasted like water. I let Daisy finish it off and she tossed the bottle to the side. That’s when we heard a strange howl and we all instinctively ducked down and I shut off the flashlight. “What the hell was that?” Rob whispered in fear. The howl came again.

“It’s a lobo,” I answered. “Sounds like a crazy lobo, too.”

“Are you sure it’s not a werewolf?” Rob asked.

“What the hell did you just say?” I wondered aloud as I tried to see him in the dark.

He repeated himself. “I hope it’s not a werewolf.”

“Quit being stupid,” Daisy butted in. “It’s not a werewolf.” She reached out for my hand and squeezed it as if to say: Can you believe that? I squeezed back and smiled in the darkness. I was glad it was just a lobo and not anything else.

We left the cover of the store once the howling grew fainter and more distant. The animal had moved on. We resumed our stroll down the main drag when something off down a side street caught my eye. It was a light. I stopped and moved back into the shadows. “Come here,” I whispered. They ducked in next to me and I showed them. “There’s a light on over there in that shop.” Daisy pressed herself against me. “How is that possible?” I touched her back and I could smell her feminine side. “There must be someone in there,” I said.

I could sense Rob was trembling. “We need to leave now,” he said to me. “Right now.”

“No. It could be someone who could help us.”

“I think it’s a bad idea,” Rob said.

“Look,” I said. “There are three of us and we’re armed. I think it’s worth the chance. What do you think… Baby?”

I knew Daisy was looking at me strangely in the darkness. “Did you just call me baby?”

I was really embarrassed and avoided her question. I pressed them like a leader should. “Let’s go take a look.”



And love is but a trickle in this RAMSHAMBLED river of love, the armies of men keep marching upon the bones of memories under the grass, shot out of cannons, cloud seed ashes billowing and giving the puff of life when all falls down the stairs and justice can’t see straight, and idiot babies cower behind a crooked as geometry ding-a-ling ding dong and thump him like God in holy water AMMUNITION heaven. The maskless taskers take to yet another task of utter disbelief, these idiot genes, the cyclic generational stupidity tumbling from trucks and bleeding out through muddied star-spangled blue jeans. They meet this apricot alien of the universe on Sunday and then go back to the mob fight on Monday. The holy fuckin’ mob fight where busted teeth and busted guts and busted emotion is all part of the prize that comes at the end of the day when you finally turn your key in the lock of your favorite back door and breathe a sigh of relief that you’ve made it back to your own yellow hole in this world and can maybe shut out the mad libs and broken ribs for one night and always hoping that with the new sun comes a new hope and a better way.

But how could that ever be? We will be trapped in the dying limelight of our own skin from here on out. Until we die and they come pounding down the door for collection of all the debt you have so graciously piled and left behind. And all those broken souls are still lined up on Broken Boulevard reaping the harvest of a world they alone did not sew. They are reaping the bastions of all holy rape and looking to the ivory spires fucking the stratosphere out there on the smoky horizon, the tin shack dotted yellow hills on the horizon, the aches and pains leaking out the top lip of the stovepipe like mangled signs of white peace from the great Natives of yesterday, bent to it, the wind, the rain, the screams, the love gone astray, a 40 cent diamond ring resting in the breast pocket of your favorite leather jacket, waiting for no one, a love undone by selfishness, adultery, poverty, thanks again, she said with a gun tucked between her tits and a sliver of spit hanging from her heart, dangling across to mine, like a clothesline, in some great green backyard of some snowed-in metroplex pad of the East, where she sits and smokes tea as my alabaster soul floats off to brickyard Heaven, that place beyond the cabbage white ridge of hot dirt, that place of the pale lip red sandstone mechanical jaws like Jawas in the desert. I recalled all those days today in driving green, the look back at the looking down upon that lonely desolation, the memories gnawing my guts, the infinite ghost LEDs dangling like lightbulb jewels in a flawless blue sky, a sad Springsteen song breathing of eternity upon the dashboard.

The Angelfish of Giza (Excerpt 1)

Author’s Note: I’m 57,000 words into this, my “novel” based on my experiences of living and working in a small town in New Mexico many years ago. I thought I would add a few excerpts to the site here and there… A satirical commentary on the evil men and women do to each other. Rude, raunchy, and raw, The Angelfish of Giza explores a ring of mostly empty human relationships set against the backdrop of a small, isolated city in the New Mexico desert at the turn of the 21st century.

The Beginning

At the crossroads of the metal moon and spilled-milk stars and beneath the exit to the Earth and its sun, a thumb rolls across a spark wheel and Wilburn Valentine’s labored face glows orange for just a moment.

In the low-lit and hazy Sundowner Bar on the outskirts of a swallowed and lost Western place called Giza, New Mexico, he looks up at a softly buzzing neon yellow sign nested among the amber and clear bottles and it reads: Live Long and Suffer.

“Don’t I know it,” he breathes aloud to the ghosts, crushing the smoke in a green plastic ashtray, trying to quit.

The door to the bar opened and the dark universe streamed in carrying with it more ghosts — loud, laughing, exhausting. He snapped the last shot back and stood. The feet of the barstool scraped across the floor and mixed with the sounds of achy country music and pool balls smacking into each other off in a corner. He threw money down on the bar and gently smiled at the lonely woman behind it as he slung a backpack over his shoulder. “Thanks for the dull memories,” he said to her.

He stepped outside and the ceiling of the world was the color of a candle-lit bruise pinpricked by broken glass and contrasted by a paler desert floor. The distant hills were sharp and rocky, the colors of chocolate and red grape juice. A highway separated the wavering roadhouse bar from a much bigger plot of land that now glowed under the night sky, competing with the larger glow of Giza itself to the south. He walked across the momentarily quiet road.

Where he was standing, he had not been a minute before. Now he was in a 3-acre glossy blacktop parking lot that had clean, straight white lines indicating the parking spaces. He could smell the freshness of the oil and the paint. It was night, but tall lamps sprayed cones of pinkish-white light down all around him. There were just a handful of cars, five at most. The store was called Pharm Farm, according to the blaring sign, and it emitted a glow like an alien mothership and its tentacles of light reached out and nearly blinded him. A slightly curled grand opening banner fluttered off in the shadows. There was a slight wind. He nervously searched his backpack for his phone. He flipped it open. It was something past midnight. There was one text message: I love you so so much. Where did you go? He flipped it shut and powered it down, tried to catch his breath. The sound of trucks on a nearby bypass dreamily stroked and rolled in the distance. He rubbed at the Christmas watch on his wrist with his thumb to clear the grime. He tapped at it. Saint Nicholas was screaming atop his sleigh as he flew through a blizzard but he was still keeping time. He loved that watch.

There was an artificial, plastic bench in front of the Pharm Farm and he set his pack down. There were two bright soda machines and a nearly empty Giza Revealer newspaper vending box. He dug for change and bought a retro Elf brand grape soda in a can and the most recent edition of the paper. He sat down, opened the soda, and scanned the front page of the newspaper, the self-proclaimed Voice of the Giza Valley. The top headline read: Gas Industry Battles Planet Earth. “What the fuck?” Wilburn Valentine said aloud to no one. He flipped through the paper to see if it was in fact a real newspaper. He guessed it was after all, folded it up and stuck it in his pack. He sat and looked around as he dug in his head for answers to the questions he always had. What is this place? How did he get here? What had he done this time? Why?

He tilted the soda can and drained the last of it and it forced him to look up at the crystalline stars screaming silently across the light-polluted sky and his entire being suddenly steamed with anxiety. He fumbled in his pockets again and found the orange bottle of pills, uncapped it, popped two in his mouth, and swallowed. The bottle was empty now. He sighed with worry.

Anxiety had always gotten the best of him. Anxiety led to fear which led to hiding which ultimately led to failure. He wanted a different past, a different life altogether. He was searching for a place void of anxiety, empty of chaos and free of fear — but did it exist? And even if it did, would it matter anymore? He wondered if he should just give up after all. Most of his life was over, so he thought. There was no more work to be offered to him. No one wanted an ancient architect full of unorthodox dreams and a touch of mental abnormality. Was there even need for new structures anymore? He turned to look at the shimmering new Pharm Farm store. Obviously, there was, but it was hideous and stained with greed. There was no humanity in its design. Let the young ones take care of it now, he thought. They had far more energy and gumption yet sadly were raised in a dumbed-down world and the products of their imaginations will be so less than what the ancient others built. He looked up into the stars again. Amen to that, he thought, even though God was not his friend. Someone rolled past him with a rattling shopping cart.

A Cemetery Scrawl, Like Litter in the Wind

Zombie in sweatpants jogging in the ghetto
arms stuck out lean and mean
cold soles slapping the greasy street
and my little girl thought she had just escaped
from the cylinder, the bilingual,
the catastrophic farm of listless stones
the graveyard
a cold and misty day
cold and teary and smelling of sludge
who was to judge
the importance of the non-potable headache
swimming in my tender sockets
man, I am a rambling’
like some loose-geared jalopy on the old road,
but I found a letter to the dead
full of things left untold

I and my two cases of flesh and blood
we stormed the dam
doodled in the cool, green waters of some lake that is really a pond,
but in an area where water is practically non-existent
even a pinprick of piss is considered a lake,
but we clambered the slick geometrical stone
the water skimming off the surface
flushed through the portals
and we shook on our balances
feeling the fluttery wings in our bellies
as we did ballet on the precipice of the sun in our eyes
clutching hands
skipping stones
hopping logs
and life was a memory of ice cream
dripping down sticky baby faces
and now they were being brave and curious
and interested in the lives of the dead

We climbed a hill
shagged it rotten
like cotton candy
between the legs of an angel
and at the top of the hill
we found a flat, gravely place
I wanted to name the place Ashley
because it looked burnt and turned over
and all that remained was the ashes of destruction
and great piles of tumbled trees
and mountains of unraveled gravel
and off behind us was a fence
a chain-link fence topped with rusting barbed wire
and beyond the fence
acres of dead —
it was a cemetery
and the fence encircling it
was cluttered with the debris
of loved ones’ tokens,
tokens of love
tokens of regret
plastic and paper flowers
rolling in the wind
candied tumbleweeds smashed against the wire
and in this lot called Ashley
I found a letter
in a plastic bag
and the words were intact
and all a hush fell about my brood
as I began to read to them
this letter to the dead

It was a mom speaking to a daughter
and from the letter I gathered
the daughter’s life had come to an end
in a most tragic way
suicide it seemed
perhaps gunfire
or violence extreme
and in the letter
the mother was very weepy
very weepy and full of regrets
regrets, weeping and wondering why
why? why? why? dear daughter
why did you have to die
so, I felt kind of bad
that this piece of weepy sad writing
was like litter in an open field
and my youngest slice of flesh and blood
my youngest elixir of greed and breed
wanted to comb the graveyard
to find the stone
of the girl in the letter
but there was only a first name —
and how could I find one Sharon in a field of thousands of dead
and so, I simply put the letter
still encased in its plastic
over the edge of the fence
believing the wind would carry it back,
back to the place it belongs
and we felt better for that
and we carried on with our journey
watching the jogging zombie sweat through her velour
and the world smelled dirty
and the sky was gray
and Sharon was free
and so were we

The Anatomical Tragedy of a Rubber Witch

This is all a divine anatomical tragedy I thought
as I leaned on the cold wet rail of green
looking out at the sea,
the chilled air billowing forth from my mouth,
the oddities of life spilling from an aluminum pail at my side

The black rain poured down
I hunkered beneath a canopy of rubber
and went to the smoky joint
on 7th and Riverside
to hear Quinn the Brown play jazz in the bar by the bay

The mannequins gestured lightly
smooth wax skin reflected orbital rainbows
and motions of sickness,
caramel paint with light red
oozed down the walls, into the light,
into the fear framed within my own eyes

It was getting late,
but I didn’t care
I was here to bleed
and wonder why,
I shifted my position
stick dangling from my burdened lip
and moved to play her
as she leaned on
a dirty brick colonnade
sipping a drink
thinking about
getting stuck by a stranger
on the wrong side of town

Quinn the Brown was picking up the tempo
the deadline was near
the flies and I were laughing
under the smoky plaster sky
and some cheetah rubbed her knuckles in anticipation
of a naked night savagely calculated
from the room where her heart ticks
and all is red wine and white roses
and blood tracks across the back

It was a muted journey home
through rain curtains and bees
the sidewalks were wet,
the cafes were dripping,
children were riding magic carpets
over sooty smokestacks
and terror-filled voices were
belching angst from the rooftops

I turned the key
she came on home
to the drone of electric lights
and cinnamon spells cast by kitchen witches
I poured her a drink,
she fell on the floor
and I walked out
onto a sidewalk mirror of parting clouds

I fell down some dirty stairs
my vision all nonsense now, like gravity in a spaceship
and into a den of brightly lit thieves
listening to the howls of the night stalker
They invited me in for tea, a smoke, a cabbage white rail
there was a damaged angel there
all burnt and crisp
staring at the ceiling
from a point on the wall where she was tacked
black and sparkling,
eyes gaping wide,
a crystal cathedral dead and gone

It was a night of walking gone bad,
a wrong turn on the messy runway
and someone else paid the price for being born,
for living once,
breathing once
but now no more