Vinegar Village (1 of 2)

And it was me, that is Mr. Hat, and three other dudes and we were in some strange DREAMLAND, kind of like a chessboard VILLAGE, but green and there was blue sky and some whipped-cream clouds and neatly placed buildings and finely manicured lawns and there was sun, but I felt no heat at all. One of the dudes I knew, and that was Mr. Hulk. He’s a dandy Israelite from Hollywood. The other two were Mr. Gorgon – he never wore clothes – and Mr. English – he was a man whore who always walked around with a bottle of Red Wine Vinaigrette Salad Dressing – and other than that, I did not know much about them.

We were walking around this VILLAGE, and we came upon what seemed to be some sort of sorority house on the corner and there were all these chicks hanging out on the lawn and on the porch and on a finely-formed stone wall. They were blowing bubbles and drinking and laughing, all in there tight summer clothes, and it smelled like bubblegum and nail polish. There was one girl there doing yoga like Yoda on the lawn. She invited Mr. Hulk to join her and so Mr. Hulk lied down on the lawn next to her and started stretching his legs up into the air and round and round like some metaphysical Merry-Go-Round and she was the yoga horse and he was the yoga cowboy and they rode off together to the Yoga, Yoga West.

Mr. Gorgon and Mr. English submerged themselves into the crowd of young ladies, but I did not. I pretended to be looking at my cell phone and slowly walked away, invisible. There was a little town square there not too far off with some benches, a fountain and big, ladies bushes cut and trimmed to resemble wild animals frolicking through some mad scientist’s dream. I sat on one of the benches by myself. No one else was around at the moment, but I could hear the sorority girls and Mr. Gorgon and Mr. English roaring it up off in the distance. Mr. Hulk came jogging through the square with the yoga chick, but they did not notice me at all, but he was singing some song about California and fornication, and she laughed out loud and then pushed him gently on the back in a playful kind of way, but Mr. Hulk then stumbled and fell right into a big, thick tree. 

The yoga chick covered her mouth with both of her hands and her eyes grew wide, wide, wide. She started shaking and crying as Mr. Hulk was stone cold still on the ground there, blood trickling out of his mouth.

“Oh my God! Oh my God!” the yoga chick screamed as she bent down to touch Mr. Hulk. “I think he’s dead!”

I got up and ran over to the scene.

“I think you killed him,” I said to her.

“No, no, no. It was an accident. Please, call someone won’t you?”

I retrieved my cell phone from my pocket but it did not work, would not work.

“Damn this device to hell!” I yelled and chucked the phone into the fantastic, phantasm of the bushy safari of green.

I saw that there was some sort of a fruit stand building not far from the square. Water was pouring off the green awning, even though it was not raining.

“Wait here with him,” I said to the yoga chick. “I’m going over to that fruit stand to see if I can get some help.”

“Oh, ok,” she said, as she knelt beside Mr. Hulk, playing with his red locks. “Do you think you can bring me back a banana?”

I went to the fruit stand but I had to use an umbrella while I talked to the fruit clerk there.

“I say,” I said. “There’s been a terrible accident in the square over there and I think my friend may be dead, or at the very least, seriously injured. Could you telephone for an ambulance please?”

“What happened to him?” the fruit clerk asked without any sense of urgency at all.

“Some yoga chick shoved him into a tree, but I have no time to explain, he needs help now! He’s lying over there bleeding to death.”

“Well, if you want to use the phone, you have to buy some fruit, company policy.”

“Are you fucking mad man!? There’s someone dying and you expect me to buy a piece of fruit just in order to use the telephone?”

“Yes sir, company policy.”

“All right then, give me one fucking banana!”

“Well sir, I’m afraid there is a minimum purchase of 5 dollars in order to use the telephone. Company policy. One banana is only 1 dollar.”

“Well then give me FIVE fucking bananas you imbecile, and let me use the phone!”

I retrieved a 50 dollar bill from my pocket and shoved it toward him.


“What the fuck is the matter now!?”

“I’m sorry sir, but we cannot accept bills over 20 dollars. Company policy, says so right there on that sign,” and he pointed to a sign that read: NO BILLS OVER $20.

I stabbed him in the throat with the tip of the umbrella, hopped over the counter and grabbed the telephone.

“Hello, is this the police then? Yes? There’s been an accident in the square near the fruit stand and my friend may be dead or at the very least seriously injured. Can you please send help right away?”

And then on the other end of the line it was like how the grown-ups talk in Charlie Brown cartoons:

“Wha, wha wha, wha wha wha whaw?”

“Yes, that’s right. The square by the fruit stand.”

“Wha, wha wha, wha wha wha whaw?”

“I’m not sure. Some yoga chick shoved him into a tree and now he’s on the ground and he’s not moving and there is blood coming out of his mouth. Now please send someone!”

“Wha, wha wha, wha wha wha whaw.”

When I got back to the square the yoga chick was sitting on a bench, her face in her hands, crying. The paramedics were knelt down beside Mr. Hulk frantically working to save his life. They had something strapped to his face; one was pushing on his chest, another sticking tubes and needles into him. Then they just stopped. They started shaking their heads in grim unison. One looked over his shoulder and with a feigned look of sympathy on his face, said:

“I’m sorry, but there is nothing we can do. He is in fact, dead.”

The yoga chick really started bawling and some cops came over to her and roughed her up a bit with small clubs and then put her in handcuffs and arrested her for the accidental killing of a person. I watched as they shoved her into the back of a patrol car and as they drove her away she looked right at me through the window, all beat up and crying and mouthing the words:

“Where’s my banana you bastard!?”


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.


Comic Stripped (P.4)

Disturbing dinner conversation

Once at the modest brick and vinyl Midwest bungalow, Max Pine took a seat in an uncomfortable chair near an unlit fireplace. The mantel above was littered with framed photos of Christine as Chris, images of another time that Max scanned with wild sick eyes. An old clock quietly ticked away in the middle.

Mr. LaBrush was fixing drinks at a small wet bar on the other side of the room. Max could hear ice being dropped into a glass.

“You drink whiskey, Max? Or does your kind prefer a wine spritzer?”

“My kind, sir?”

“Well, you’re porking my son so technically that makes you queer, right?”

“I don’t think you know me well enough to make such a brash and insensitive statement, Mr. LaBrush. And what makes you so certain that Christine and I have had any sexual relations? I mean, we haven’t known each other that long. I’m not a pig… And I’ll have a whiskey.”

Mr. LaBrush dropped another round of ice and poured whiskey in a glass. He walked across the room and roughly handed it to Max.

“I wasn’t born yesterday, Max. I spent over 30 years in the military, and I know a thing or two about human behavior. I’m not accepting of any of this at all. It’s wrong. It’s ungodly. I’m not going to cave in and be nice about it either.”

Mr. LaBrush took a deep gulp of his drink, picked up one of the photos on the mantel and studied it with disappointment in his aching eyes. “Just look at what my son used to be. When I think of all he could have become, all he could have accomplished. He’s destroyed his life and soul. It hurts my heart. It truly does.”

“But Christine is still your…”

“I demand you refer to my son as Chris in my house!”

Max sighed with frustration. “Chris is still your child regardless of what he or she accomplishes or doesn’t accomplish in life. If I could be so blunt, sir, you talk as if she has absolutely no value anymore. It’s untrue and sad.”

Mr. LaBrush chuckled as he took another gulp of his drink. “Wow. You certainly are bold. Maybe you could lend some of your balls to my son.” He came closer to Max and hovered over him in a threatening manner almost. “But let me just make one thing nice and sparkling clear, Max. Once you leave this house tonight, I don’t ever want to see you again. I don’t want you back in my home and I definitely do not want you screwing my son. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll just walk away. Walk away, Max.”

Max gulped down his drink, held up the empty glass to Mr. LaBrush and smiled. “May I have another?” he asked.

Mr. LaBrush snatched the glass away, set it on a nearby table and disappeared into the dining room.

The dining room hummed with an uncomfortable quiet as they gathered at the table to eat Swedish meatballs.

“Max,” Mr. LaBrush began. “It’s customary in our household for the guest to lead us in prayer before we eat our meal.”

“Actually, I’m not religious,” Max let it be known to those gathered. “I’m afraid I don’t know anything about praying.”

Mr. LaBrush shook his head in disbelief and dismay.

“What do you mean you’re not religious? Everyone is religious. Don’t you believe in God or his little friend, Jesus?”

“No sir, I don’t.”

Mr. LaBrush slapped the tabletop with a meaty hand and the dishes jangled. “Well god damn it! I never thought I’d have a real live pagan sitting here at my supper table. I’m really at a loss here, people. Seems everything is going to hell in a hand basket. The problem is, you young people have no standards or religious morals anymore. You young people just think you can go off and do anything you want. If it feels good, you just go and do it no matter the consequences to your body, mind or soul.”

Mr. LaBrush glared at Christine. “Take my son, for example. He didn’t want to be a man anymore because it didn’t feel right to him… So, what does he do? He decides to turn himself into a girl. Well, I call all that bullshit! Now look at him — he’s got manufactured body parts. He’s defiled God’s own work. It makes me sick.”

Christine started to whimper within the cloud of his berating. She dabbed at her tears with a napkin.

“Herbert!” Mrs. LaBrush screamed. “You stop that right now or I swear I will leave you! This is our child! No matter what, this is our child!”

Mr. LaBrush snorted.

“You’re going to leave me? Hah! That’s a laugh. You wouldn’t survive one day out in that crazy world without me you silly bitch! Those pagans and hippie liberal assholes would eat you up like a bowl of dog food.”

Max started to get up from the table. “I think we should leave, Christine. I feel very unwelcome.”

“Sit down!” Mr. LaBrush barked. “My wife went to a lot of trouble to cook you this meal and you’re going to eat it!”

Max grudgingly sat back down and plunged his fork into the plate of the worst Swedish meatballs he ever had. He looked around the table at the startled, dying eyes as the people there ate the food without any hint of real purpose in life.

“By the way, Max,” Herbert LaBrush started up again, slushily talking with his mouth full of food. “What kind of a person are you?”

“What do you mean what kind of person am I?”

“I mean your background, your ethnicity. Your skin seems a little… Off.”

“Daddy, stop it!” Christine cried out. “You’re being awful.”

“Zip it, girly boy! I want to hear what he’s got to say.”

“Well, if you must know, my father was black, and my mother is Chinese.”

“Holy dog shit!” Mr. LaBrush bellowed. “God damn, this just gets better and better! But it explains a lot.”

“What the hell do you mean by that!?” Max asked, his blood boiling to the point of overspill.

“I’m talking about consequences, Max. Consequences.”


“Yes. You’re the unfortunate consequence of the sinful mixing of skin types.”

Max slammed his napkin down on the table. “You know, Mr. LaBrush, for a man who constantly spews talk of God and righteousness, you sure are one hell of a hateful bigot!”

“Don’t you dare talk to me that way in my own house you little son of a bitch!”

Mrs. LaBrush suddenly shot up from the table, her arms raised above her head, hands violently shaking in the air. “Just stop it, stop it, stop it right now!” she wildly screamed and stomped. “No more! I’ve had enough of this ugliness! Now, we are going to act like civilized human beings or there will be no dessert for anyone. And I’m serious. I’ll go throw it in the garbage!”

“Don’t you dare touch my schaum torte!” Mr. LaBrush warned. “I’ll stick a fork in your face!”

“Oh, shut it, Herbert!” she said, breathing hard as she looked around the table at them. “Understood?”

Mr. LaBrush grumbled under his breath. Christine hung her head in embarrassment and shame and pain.

“Yes, mam,” Max said. “I agree we should try to be a bit nicer to each other. And I apologize for the role I may have played in the disruption.”

“Thank you, Max,” Mrs. LaBrush said. “I’m glad you are willing to make this evening work… Herbert?”


“Don’t you feel you owe us all an apology for your cruel antics?” his wife asked.

Mr. LaBrush sucked on his teeth for a bit as his eyes went from Max to Christine and then up to his trembling wife. He scooted away from the table, got up and walked off into the other room and poured himself another drink.


Comic Stripped (P.3)

Meeting the awful ‘rents

Max Pine had his face buried in a magazine about the puppetry industry as Christine LaBrush gazed out the smeary dreary window as the world rushed by in BUS No. 13 on its way to the edge of the big, big city among the lakes.

“Mother is making Swedish meatballs for dinner. I told her that you like them,” Christine said as she leaned into him.

Max looked up from his magazine, perturbed. “I hope she knows how to make them. It’s not an easy dish to prepare. I don’t want to be puking all over the place.”

“Mother is a wonderful cook and daddy hates people who vomit,” Christine huffed.

“People can’t help puking. That’s like hating someone who has nervous tics,” Max said in the defense of people who puke.

“It doesn’t matter to daddy. Once he hates something, he hates it for life.”

“Well, then he’ll hate me for sure,” Max pointed out. “I didn’t tell you this before, but I puke a lot.”

“What? Why?”

“I have stomach trouble. I have since I was a kid. My Chinese mother made too much spicy shit.”

“That’s disgusting.”

“I can’t help it. You of all people should understand the uncontrollable.”

Christine gave him a puzzled look and went back to looking out the window at nothing. “Well, just try to control yourself tonight, that’s all I ask.”

“I’ll do my best, but my guts have a mind of their own,” Max told her.

The bus pulled into the station and Christine started waving frantically through the window when she saw her plump ma and pa standing there in the glowing parking lot with big, stupid grins on their faces.

Max and Christine deboarded the bus and went over to where her parents were waiting. Christine’s mother embraced her, but her father gave her only a minimal hug.

“Hello Chris,” he said.

“Daddy, it’s Christine now.”

“Sorry, but you’ll always be Chris to me.”

She was disappointed but avoided an immediate confrontation. She grabbed Max by the shoulders and twisted him a bit to show him off to her parents. “Mom. Daddy. I want you both to meet my serious boyfriend, Max.”

Christine’s mother had a ghoulish, wrinkled face and she wore too much makeup, and the color palette was all wrong for her — too much orange and green and she looked like a sickly Irish flag. She was round like a beach ball and her clothes strained against her billowy flesh and her orangey, brassy hair was thinning and whimsical in the wind.

“Hello Max,” she said, and she got really close to his face; she smelled of cigs and booze and her teeth were nauseatingly misshapen and yellow.

“Hello Mrs. LaBrush,” Max said as politely as he could. “I understand you’re making Swedish meatballs for dinner. That’s my favorite.”

“Oh yes, Christine told me on the phone right off that you enjoyed them. And I do hope you enjoy them. I just love to give people joy.” She got uncomfortably close to Max and fluttered her sticky eyelashes at him. “I want you to feel so good inside, Max.”

Christine’s father was just as round as his wife with a big balding head that displayed an ever present and sour scowl on the face part. His hand felt wet to Max as he grasped it and shook it.

“Hello Max,” he began. “Chris hasn’t told us much about you; we’ll have to talk in the car. I must be honest with you, but this is quite a shock to us… I mean, we never thought someone, anyone would want this.” He motioned toward Christine with two open hands in a gesture of disappointed showing off.

“Daddy,” Christine moaned. “Could you be kind for just one evening.”

He gave her a disgruntled look and then sighed in avoidance. “Gather your things and we’ll get going,” Mr. LaBrush ordered.

Max sat up front in the big, oddly smelling car with Mr. LaBrush as Christine and her mother quietly chattered like annoying jungle birds in the backseat.

“So,” Mr. LaBrush began. “Christine said something about you working in an art gallery?”

“That’s right. I manage it. One of my good friends is the actual owner, but I’m in charge of the day-to-day operations.”

“Huh,” Mr. LaBrush grunted. “Operations. That’s a sore word for me. Makes my stomach hurt.” He glanced into the backseat via the rear-view mirror.

“Sir?” Max wondered aloud.

“Never mind… I never cared too much for foo foo galleries and all that nude stuff they call art. Art? I call it filthy pornography straight from the devil himself.”

“I don’t have much nude art in my gallery,” Max said. “It’s not that kind of gallery. And I find it offensive, as well. Not because it’s evil, it’s just that I have some issues with my own body and…”

“Really?” Mr. LaBrush interrupted. “And you don’t find it offensive that my son now has lady parts?”

“Daddy!” Christine bellowed from behind. “I heard that.”

Max surprisingly began to sing loudly and with a dash of spicy vocal irritant:

“People are people so why should it be, you and I should get along so awfully. So we’re different colors and we’re different creeds and different people have different needs. It’s obvious you hate me though I’ve done nothing wrong. I just now met you at the bus station so what could I have done? I can’t understand what makes a man hate another man, help me understand.”

“What the hell was that all about?” Mr. LaBrush demanded to know.

“It’s part of a song,” Max replied. “Do you like Depeche Mode?”

“Depeche a what?”

“It’s a band Mr. LaBrush. It’s music. Groovy music.”

“Sounds like crap to me! I can’t believe you were singing a devil song in my car. I find that quite disrespectful. And it is quite daring of you to bring my morality into question here. My morality is the right morality, and I won’t stand for someone else to cast doubt over it.”

“But Mr. LaBrush. I was simply making a statement about the love for all people and accepting Christine for who she is via the spirit of a shirtless Dave Gahan.”

“Boy, what in the name of super-duper Jesus are you talking about? And may I remind you his name is Chris and he’s got mental problems and we’re going to see a doctor and get his head and balls all fixed up right and make him a man again!”

“Herbert!” Mrs. LaBrush barked from the back. “This is no time to discuss this. Max is our guest, and we are going to have a pleasant evening whether you like it or not! I’m sorry Max, but my husband can be a bit of an insensitive gorilla at times.”

“And my wife can be a cackling bitch most of the time!” Herbert LaBrush snapped.

“Please, sir,” Max broke in. “I’m very sorry I spoke out. You’re right. I overstepped my boundaries and I apologize to you both. I’ll try to do better, but let’s not resort to horrible name calling.”

Mr. LaBrush sighed with deep annoyance and drove the rest of the way to the house without saying another word.


Comic Stripped (P.2)

A Step in the Possible Wrong Direction

It was the next day and Max Pine nervously watched the clock. He hoped the transgender cartoonist would not return, but a few minutes before he was set to close the gallery, she walked in.

“Hi, hi, hi there,” Christine LaBrush cheerfully sang as she swiftly approached the counter. “I’m back with some new drawings. Would you like to see them?”

“Not really. I’m about to close.”

“But you said you would.”

“All right then, what do you have?”

Christine carefully pulled the new comic strips out of her portfolio case and spread them out on the counter.

Max put on his groovy glasses and intently looked over the new work. He immediately saw something that greatly upset him.

“Hey, is that supposed to be me?”

“Yes, it is. Pretty good, huh? I think it is a fabulous likeness of you.”

“But you’ve drawn me as being in odd sexual positions with, with… You!”

“I know!”

“And why is that squirrel watching us?”

“Isn’t that a nice touch? Look, he’s got nuts in his mouth!”

“There’s no way in hell I’m displaying this in my gallery,” Max snapped.

“Why not? I think it’s totally awesome.”

“It’s inappropriate and highly offensive… And besides, I’m not queer like that!”

“It has nothing to do with being queer, and besides, I don’t believe that for one second. I think you’re very queer.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Do you have a girlfriend?” Christine asked.


“And how long has it been since you’ve been with an actual woman?”

“That’s none of your damn business!”

“You are so snippy!”

“I think you should leave.”

“Wait. I have a proposition for you.”

“I doubt that I would be interested.”

“Just hear me out.”

“What is it then, eh?”

Christine looked around the place and then got close to Max’s face.

“I’m not dumb. I know you dig it.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I have a whole bunch of cocaine packed up nice and tight right here between my intelligent breasts and you can have it all in exchange for one night of hot love in the sack and a place for my dirty comics on a wall in your gallery.”

Max’s mind started salivating at the prospect of getting some blow. It’s been a while. He had thought he had gotten over it, pushed the addiction to the back of his mind, but now it has opened the door just a crack and peeked out — peeked out from between Christine LaBrush’s giant boobs.

How bad could it be?” he started to rationalize in his own brain. I’ll just close my eyes and pretend he’s a girl. No wait! He is a girl! What am I thinking? This is beyond even me!

“Let me see the goods,” Max suddenly demanded.

Christine began to unbutton her blouse.

“No, no, no. Not those goods! The dope, baby.”

Christine retrieved two eight balls wrapped in plastic from her bosom slot and threw them down on the counter.

“That’s about $400 worth of blow, buddy. It’s good stuff, too. Blow for blow. How ’bout it?”

Max stared at the dope. He wanted it so bad. He reached out to touch it, but Christine snatched it away.

“No, no, no. First things first.”

Christine came around the counter to where Max was standing. She got down on her knees and undid Max’s pants and let them fall around his ankles. She reached in, pulled it out, and went, “Wowza!”

Max relaxed on the bed beside her and smoked a ciggy wiggy.

“Where are you from, anyways?” he asked her.

She snuggled up closer to him.

“Bakersfield, California,” she answered.

“That’s a fine town. Reminds me of a big Roswell.”

“Roswell? Roswell, New Mexico or Roswell, Georgia?”

“New Mexico.”

“That’s where I had my operation. Operations.”


“Yes. There’s a ranch hidden deep within a big, old pecan orchard there. They do really strange stuff with people and robots and animals and aliens.”

“Why didn’t you go to a regular clinic?”

“I was desperate and didn’t have the money for a proper makeover. This was a full-blown underground and dark operation.”

“Are you sure they got everything in the proper place?”

“You tell me, baby. So, what’s your connection to that fascinating, far out place?”

“I used to live there,” Max explained. “I taught creative puppeteering for the school district until I got in trouble for assaulting a minister.”

“Why on earth would you do that?”

“His damn kid was in my class and this boy really, I mean really, sucked at puppeteering. I mean his voice was all wrong, he was always moving his lips like a big goof, and he just didn’t have any damn coordination. Let me tell you, it takes a bit of coordination to work a puppet. Anyways, the preacher father was always giving me grief because I wouldn’t put his shitty kid in any of the shows we had. One night he came backstage and started bitching at me and I had enough of his harassment and punched him right in the face.”

“That’s wild, baby.”

“Well, they fired me after that, and I wandered a bit and then ended up in Mankato, Minnesota running the Fist Gallery. So, do you mind me asking why you did it?”

“Did what?”

“You know. Trade in the yarbles for a taco salad.”

“That’s a bit insensitive.”

“Well, I’m king of the insensitives. But honestly, it’s a bit of a train wreck down there.”

Christine suddenly threw the covers off and stormed into the bathroom and slammed the door. Max grudgingly climbed out of the bed and lightly tapped on the door.

“Hey, I’m sorry. Don’t mind what I say, it was stupid. Why don’t you come out of there and we’ll finish up this blow.”

Christine opened the door and brushed past him. She picked her clothes up off the floor and began to dress.

“Are you leaving?” Max asked.

“Yes, I am you bastard. I can’t believe you said that. Don’t you realize I am already emotionally compromised? A little support and compassion would be nice.”

“Look, I’m a degenerate cokehead with a penchant for Swedish meatballs and sometimes I can be just plain mean. My appypolly loggies, but this is pretty damn weird for me too.”

Christine wiped at the tears running down her face and looked at him.

“Can you do something for me then?”

“What’s that?”

“Go on the bus with me to Minneapolis and have dinner with my parents.”


“Look, they’re really freaking out about me being a woman now and think that I will never have a normal life ever again. If I show them that I’m in a serious relationship, maybe they will be a bit cooler with the whole situation.”

“But we’re not in a serious relationship,” Max pointed out.

“You can at least pretend to be. I’ll get you more drugs.”

“I’ll do it,” Max promptly pronounced, and he wrapped his arms around faux Christine, hugged her tightly and then kissed her.


Comic Stripped (P.1)

The Gallery and the Obtrusive Puppet

It was a morbid Monday at the Fist Gallery in Mankato, Minnesota as Bob Weir’s acid ghost was mumbling the lyrics to Black Throated Wind as he lazily strummed a toy guitar in the corner and the manager polished antique glass doorknobs with a clean, white cloth at the cash counter.

“The world is a laxative and I just crapped my mind pants,” Max Pine whispered to glowing orbs and vases and dangling jewels shaped like broken hearts and then he breathed on one of the doorknobs and then rubbed. He held the object up into the sunlight that was streaming through the shop windows like Bog spreading luscious thighs in Heaven and he studied it. He still wasn’t pleased and so breathed and rubbed some more.

“Cleanliness is more important than Bogliness,” he said aloud to no one. He set the knob down and leaned back in his beat-up chair at the counter. He ignited a ciggy wiggy with a crackhead blowtorch and he threw up the smoke and relaxed. He listened to the neighborhoods dance and breathe and make love all around him in the outside world for a long time and then the door ding-donged and a large woman with an orange-shaped face and clean, blonde hair came strolling in holding a black leather portfolio case.

“I like the way you polish those knobs,” the woman said to him.


“I was watching you through the window. Out there… I was standing on the sidewalk for quite a while. Creepy, huh? But I noticed you were so gentle and attentive with them,” the woman said. “That’s very attractive.”

Max Pine was a bit annoyed. People annoyed him, especially people who spoke to him. But there was something very odd about this one, odd indeed.

Is there something I can help you with?” he asked the robust gal, and she smiled wide and Max Pine noticed she had really big, clean teeth, almost too big and clean, and they were encased behind oversized lips, too full for that face, and they were the color of unpeeled garden beets… Not enough blood flow?

“I’d like to speak to the manager if I could,” she said.

“I’m the manager,” Max said.

“Well, that’s deliciously wonderful,” the woman said and then oddly giggled. “This may be the luckiest day I’ve had all week.”

“What is it then I can help you with?”

“My name is Christine LaBrush and I’m a very famous transgender cartoonist. I was wondering if you’d be willing to sell my work in your gallery?”

“Ah hah. I thought there was something not quite right about you.”

“Excuse me?”

“You said you were famous, but I’m afraid I’ve never heard of you.”

“Well, in certain circles I am famous, and in Amsterdam, I’m huge there. So, you will look?”

Christine LaBrush placed the black leather portfolio case on the counter and unzipped it. She carefully extracted some examples of her work and presented them to him.

Max Pine placed groovy glasses upon his face and studied the cartoon strips and then looked up at her; he tried to picture her as a man in his mind without being too obvious.

“Hmm, I’m not really getting it,” he said. I mean, the artwork is decent, but the story line seems a bit queer.”

“It’s supposed to be queer,” Christine said, somewhat offended by Max’s critique.

He looked at the strips again.

“I don’t know, we usually don’t deal with comic strips. Look around, I sell real art.”

“That’s a mean thing to say! This is just as much art as the crap you got hanging on the walls here!” Christine blubbered.

“Hey friend, just settle down. No need to get all ornery up in here,” Max told her. Tell you what, what you got here is kinda blah, blah, blah. Draw me up something new tonight, you know, something that will knock my socks off and I’ll consider it.”

Christine was dejected.

“All right, I’ll see what I can do. Hey, do you like Batman?”


“Yes, Batman.”

“He’s all right, I guess. Why?”

“There’s a Batman film fest playing at the old theater downtown tonight and I was wondering if you’d like to go with me.”

“To the movies?”


“I don’t think so. I don’t go out much and I really don’t care for the theater. Besides, you need to work on your new comic strip.”

“Is it because I am the way I am? Is that why you don’t want to go with me… Because I used to be a man?”

Max hesitated and shifted uncomfortably.

“Not at all. I have things to do. That’s it. I have things to do, and I told you I don’t like to go out.”

Max’s dead father had been a black cowboy and his mother was a Chinese seamstress who was a hoarder and lived alone in a crapped-out house in Toledo, Ohio. Max studied his odd appearance in the mirror in his bathroom at his apartment. He felt his face and it seemed rhinoceros-like to him. He played with his wiry jet-black hair and squished his bulbous nose with the tip of his finger. His skin was the color of burnt sepia and he played with the curly black hairs on his arms.

He dragged a stool in front of the mirror and then pulled down an old time, creepy looking puppet from a high shelf he had in the bathroom there. He fisted the thing and then sat down with it.

“Am I repulsive, Popo?” he asked the puppet.

Max made the puppet turn its head toward him and open its chipped-up mouth to speak.

“You’re not repulsive,” the puppet said.

“Thanks Popo, that makes me feel better.”

“You’re revolting!” Popo blurted out, and then he let out a high-pitched, crackling guffaw.

“You’re a tricky dick, Popo, a tricky dick!”

Popo laughed out loud again.

“Hey Popo?”


“Can you look at something for me and tell me if you think it looks okay?”

“I’m intrigued.”

Max stood up, unbuckled his pants, and let them fall to the floor. With his free hand he stretched his underwear out in front of his slightly Samoan belly as far as it could go.

“Look inside there Popo and tell me what you think.”

“Whaaaaattt?! You already got your hand shoved up my ass, what more do you want?”

“Shut up and just look,” Max scolded.

Max maneuvered the puppet downward so that its head was almost completely inside his underwear.

“It’s hard to breathe in here,” Popo said.

“Just take a look and tell me what you think.”

“Well, all I can say is, I’m suddenly hungry for kielbasa and kraut.”


The Puppets of Kudzu (END)

Karl from the city went to work cleaning the mess he made in the kitchen as Franco and Cheise Karn Mouise looked on. When he finished, he rinsed out the towel and washed his hands in the kitchen sink. “Well, I suppose I should get going now before they wonder if I went AWOL,” he said to them.

“Can I have a hug before you go Karl?” Franco asked with open arms.

The man eyed him, confused, and wondering. He looked around to make sure no one was watching but then again nobody could have been.

“All right,” he said. “Bring it in.”

“Oh yippy!” Franco squealed, and he wrapped his arms tight around Karl’s body and snuggled him lovingly.

“All right, all right, that will do, mister. Thanks for saving my life. You both take care now. And be sure to clean up your yard before they send someone else a lot less understanding.”

Karl limply smiled at them, went to the door, opened it, and walked out into the mean world.

“Well,” Franco said to Cheise Karn Mouise. “Now that that’s over with. Let me ask you one last time. Are you still planning on staying here to watch your stupid football while I go have a sparkly good time shopping?”

Cheise Karn Mouise looked up at him with little expression. “Yes.” Then he turned and disappeared into the other room.

Franco yelled after him. “Fine! I’m going now. You may choose not to be happy, but don’t rain on my parade. I’m going to be so gay they’re going to have to wipe the smile right off my dead body!”

The front door eventually slammed and Cheise Karn Mouise was all alone in the house, nice and snug in a comfortable chair, and he was glad for the peace and quiet.

After a while, Cheise Karn Mouise fixed himself some microwave popcorn and an iced grape soda before getting back to his football. He watched one game, then another, and was then into his third when he realized Franco had not returned home yet. He clicked off the watching devices and the house was eerily silent except for a lonely low hum of electricity throughout. The light of day was beginning to crisp over. He was oddly worried and went to a window and looked at the street. Franco’s car was still gone. Cheise Karn Mouise tried calling him on his cell phone but there was no answer. He began to think something bad had happened, but he decided to just go ahead and take a nap on the living room couch. So what if he wasn’t home yet? he thought to himself. Franco’s a grown man who can take of himself. Besides, they had gotten into a fight, and he was mad, and he had to play the little game of acting like he didn’t care even though he did care. It was a lot of emotions for a small puppet to juggle. Being really alive, he decided, was tough sometimes.

And that’s when he started to cry before he fell into a deep sleep and he dreamt about how he was first created, how he had once been nothing but pieces of a puppet that had to be assembled. He dreamt about how it took the thoughts of some human being in a wood shop down in the snug of Lyon, France to come up with the idea, the design, and to finally carve, shape and birth him into the living world before shipping him off simply for the entertainment of others. He truly was a puppet in a world with countless opinionated hands.

It was later when his phone rang, and it startled him awake. He fumbled in the darkness for his puppet cell phone. “Hello?” he sleepily mumbled.

Franco Dellaronti was crying on the other end.

Cheise Karn Mouise sat up. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

“They beat me up!” Franco said, whimpering.

“What!? Who beat you up?”

“Just come get me. I’m at the First Church of Loving Goodness on 37th Avenue. I’ll be the one bleeding on the steps out front.”

“I should call an ambulance for you.”

“Just come get me!”

Cheise Karn Mouise went to the garage and jumped in his dream car — a Kia Soul specially made for puppets with souls. He activated the garage door with a press of a button on a remote, fired up the car, and tore out of the driveway like a puppet with purpose. “Don’t worry my human friend,” he said aloud to the kaleidoscopic dash. “I’m coming to get you!” and he cranked the volume of his favorite song — Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People — and he drove along to the beat like a ferocious dancing wind to get to Franco before he possibly died.

When his GPS had finally guided him to the church, he saw Franco Dellaronti slumped on the stairs out front, leaning against a silver rail. He worked himself out of the Soul and ran over to him. His master was a bruised and bloody mess, and he carefully shook him a little bit. “Hey man. I’m here. Jesus… What happened?”

Franco looked at him with a dazed expression. “I wanted to say a prayer for you. I wanted to pray that you find true contentment in your puppet life and be gay all the time.” He turned his head and looked at the doorway of the church. “I was in there, giving my prayer and they were going to start a night service and then they told me I had to leave.”

“What on earth for?”

“They said I was a sinner and that I was destined for hell. They said Jesus hates people who are gay. And I wondered, how could Jesus possibly be against someone being happy? Anyways, I didn’t want to leave. I told them I wasn’t finished praying yet. That’s when a group of the church men grabbed me and threw me to the floor. They started punching me in the face, and then the women there and even some of the children started kicking me and spitting on me. I think someone threw a Bible at me. They looked right at me and told me God hated me and that they hated me, too. Then they hustled me outside and dumped me, and I’ve been sitting here all wumbly bumbly and half bleeding to death ever since. Why did they beat me up for just wanting to pray for my beloved puppet friend to be happy?”

Cheise Karn Mouise sadly sighed and then said, “Because they’re hypocritical assholes.”

“I just don’t understand, Cheise Karn Mouise. I just don’t understand.”

“I know. Neither do I, but don’t worry about that now… Let’s get you home. Where’s your car?”

“They set it on fire.”


“Yes. They wanted me to witness the burning. They told me it was a preview to my own personal hell.”

“What horrible people.”

“Yes. I’m going to see a lawyer about all this,” Franco said.

“Good. Can you walk?”

“I’ll manage. Thanks for coming to get me.”

“I should have come with you in the first place. I’m sorry for acting like a dick.”

“Oooooh,” Franco managed to happily squeak through his pain.

“Zip it,” Cheise Karn Mouise said, then he laughed. “Let’s just get out of here.”

They rode in silence for a while until Cheise Karn Mouise suggested they get a late-night treat. He thought it would help cheer Franco up a bit. “How about some ice cream? And not that yogurt crap. I mean real ice cream. Are you in the mood for some 24-hour Cream King goodness?”

Franco Dellaronti brightened through the pain. “Cream King? Absolutely. I want to get something super swirly.”

Cheise Karn Mouise shook his head. “God that’s gay.”

Then the puppet with soul gripped the steering wheel of his ultra-cool Kia Soul as he plowed the night streets, and he was glad to be in a fairly decent mood, his good friend and master at his side, badly beaten, but still alive. Then something in the sky caught both their eyes, and they saw magical electric Jesus riding a bicycle, and he gave them a friendly wave and smile before rising and flying off across the face of the blue-white moon — like an E.T. kid — on his way to space Heaven.