The Dweller in the Christmas Mustard (Ep.3)

Oswald Madness was sitting at the end of a very long table in a very white room that had a long line of narrow vertical windows against one wall. The windows were covered with chemical blue curtains, the bottoms of which gently swayed because of some sort of artificial air being pumped in.

His eyes hurt. His throat felt like he had been screaming for a long time, but he didn’t know why. There was some sort of lingering cloud over the table that silently churned like a butter thunderstorm. Then someone spoke and the cloud began to twirl into a tighter vortex and then drifted up and out of the room through an invisible hole.

“Can you pass the Christmas mustard?” the young girl called from a seemingly long way away. “I have some vivacious ham here that I would like to add a little more zing to.”

Oswald looked down in front of him at the table adorned in a crystal white cloth. There before him sat a jar of unopened Christmas mustard from a deli in Chicago that he used to know of because his Aunt Sharlene would never shut up about it at family gatherings around the holidays.

He looked up and called out. “Who’s there?” He saw the vibrations of his voice shoot across the long table and stumble into something on the other end.

The girl’s voice came back. “Do I need to come over there and get it myself? You really don’t want that.”

Oswald pushed his chair back and got up. The floor didn’t feel real. He picked up the jar of Christmas mustard and started walking toward the other end of the table. He walked and walked and walked. “This is the longest table I have had the displeasure to encounter,” he said out loud.

“Just keep going. You’re almost there.” A small hand suddenly reached out and snatched the jar from him. “Thank you.” And then the mist around her cleared and she slowly came into view. He just watched as she struggled to open the jar. “Fuck!” she said loudly, and then she handed the jar back to him. “Could you open it please?”

Oswald pushed his hand against the lid and turned. There was a little audible pop. He handed it back to her and she smiled up at him. “I don’t know why they make those things so damn hard to open. What if this had been an emergency?”

“A sandwich emergency?”

She gave him a dirty look as she did not care at all for his sense of humor.

He quickly altered the awkward moment. “I know you,” Oswald said to her.

“That’s right,” she said as she smeared Christmas mustard on a piece of rye bread with a silvery knife that flowed like liquid. “I know you as well.”

“What is this?” Oswald wanted to know. “It seems that just a minute ago I was chained to a very different table. I was in some sort of trouble, I think.”

“You were in trouble, but I decided to get you out of it,” the girl said, and she looked around with admiration. “This is my home and I have invited you for lunch. Are you not hungry? I assure you the meats and breads are top of the line… Top of the line.” She took a monstrous bite of the sandwich she assembled and chewed. She casually swung her legs beneath the table and hummed while slowly moving her head side to side as if she didn’t have a care in the world. She was wearing washed-out blue jeans cut by ragged stone, red high-top tennis shoes and a Nirvana T-shirt. She swallowed and looked back up at him as if she was annoyed. “Are you just going to stand there and stare at me all afternoon?” She took another bite of her sandwich and chomped. “Go on now. You can go back to your seat and have your lunch.”

Oswald looked to his right and down the long length of table to a chair in the distance. “We can’t possibly carry on a conversation with so much space between us,” he said to her. “Can’t I sit closer to you?”

She ran her hand across her mouth and looked at him as if he had requested something horribly unreasonable. “Why would you want to do that? We’re eating, not talking. There’s a time for talking and it’s not when we are eating.”

“We can’t do both?”

“No! They’re two totally different and unrelatable things. It would be a mess!”

Oswald decided it was not in his best interest to push the subject, so he turned and walked away from her toward the other end of the table, a table that seemed to have become even longer than before. When he reached his end, he sat down in the chair there and scooted it in closer to the table. He sighed when he realized he forgot to bring the Christmas mustard back with him. “Hey!” he yelled out.

“What do you want now!?” the girl answered sourly.

“I forgot the mustard. Can you bring it to me?”

There was a cackling, childish laugh. “You’ve got some nerve, Mr. Madness. You’re in no position to ask me to do anything for you.”

“I just want some mustard. You can’t expect me to eat a dry sandwich. It’s not like I’m asking you to jump off a cliff.”

“You want me to jump off a cliff?”

“No! I just want some mustard!”

He heard a plate clank in the distance and then it was quick footfalls coming toward him. The girl suddenly appeared, and she slammed the jar down in front of him. “Here’s your fucking mustard!” she barked. “I wouldn’t want you to choke on a dry sandwich… Or would I?” She scowled at him, turned, and walked away toward the other end.

Oswald cringed and called out to her vanishing trail. “Thanks.”

He worked on assembling a sandwich and when it was built to his satisfaction, he took a big, deep bite. It was very agreeable to him. But then he realized as he reached out in front of himself that there was nothing to drink. He looked all around to see if he had perhaps overlooked something. He swallowed what was in his mouth, cleared his dry throat and called out to her again. “Hey!”

“Jiminy Cricket! What the hell is it now!?” the girl replied from the other side of the vast distance.

“I don’t have anything to drink. I could choke without something to wash this rye bread down with.”

“Ugh!” she scoffed loudly. “Seriously, Mr. Madness. You are becoming a real pain in the ass.”

“You sure do swear a lot for a young lady.”

“So fucking what!”

“See.”

“I’m sorry if I offend you, but I was unfortunately raised in not the most stable or proper environment. I’m afraid I’m the product of poor parenting… But despite my personal woes, I persevered. As you can see. But try not to be so judgmental.” She reached for and rang a small bell.

He thought he heard her whispering to someone. And then that someone suddenly appeared beside him balancing a small silver tray on his hand. He was tall. His bald head was large and shiny. He had small facial features. He was dressed in a black and cornsilk-colored suit. And when he spoke it was in a very soft, almost undecipherable tone. “The lady has asked me to bring you something to drink.”

Oswald hesitated to answer the strange man at first. “Yes. What do you have?”

The strange man nodded his head and a slight smile appeared on his face. “Whatever you want, sir.”

Oswald thought about it. “Chocolate milk.”

“Fine, sir. I’ll bring it straight away.” He gave a quick bow and then was off. He returned in nearly an instant, and the strange man’s hand, clad in a tan glove, set down a tall glass of chocolate milk in front of Oswald.

Oswald peered up at him and tried to smile. “Thank you.”

“Oh, you’re quite welcome, sir,” the strange man answered. “I do hope you enjoy it. I worked it out of one of our brown cows myself… May I get you anything else?”

Oswald nodded. “I think I’m good.” He lifted the glass to his mouth and took a deep drink. He smacked his lips and looked at the strange man who had brought it. “That’s the most incredible chocolate milk I ever…” The glass suddenly fell from his hand and the chocolate milk pooled on the table and began to seep into the tablecloth. Then Oswald’s eyes flickered and closed, and he collapsed headfirst into the spill. The strange man got down on his knees and moved his face closer to where Oswald lay. The man shook his head and made a noise with his mouth. “How unfortunate,” he whispered. Just then the girl appeared. She was whimsically eating a chocolate covered banana as she looked things over.

She cocked her head and asked. “What happened to him?” Then she laughed before taking another bite of her treat.

The strange man looked up at her and grinned. “Must have been a bad cow.”

TO BE CONTINUED

Go HERE to read the previous episode.

Revolution Meat (Last Part)

After cleaning up the kitchen, Marsella Blume stood out beneath the carport with a cigarette and three fingers of whiskey in an iced glass. She exhaled toward the heavens and laughed to herself. “What a fool I’ve married,” she said, her thoughts lighthearted at first but then she suddenly deeply regretted most of what she had done with her life, and she almost started to cry. “I live on a planet of murderers and I’m the only one who seems to care. Rubbish.” She tossed the glass out into the street and listened for the glory of the scattering smashing.

The record store downtown was open late on most nights because it was the cool thing to do. The sidewalk there was dirty, and rebellious teens loitered about talking loudly and laughing and playing music out of their cars. Marsella pushed on the door of silver metal and heavy smudged glass and went in. The place smelled like the smoking of marijuana. Loud music blared from hidden speakers. She went over to the area where they had the alternative rock, post-punk indie music CDs. S, S, S, she was looking for something that began with S. Then her fingers hit on it. The Smiths. The album was titled Meat is Murder and she pulled it from its place and looked it over. “Hmm, this used to be one of my favorites,” Marsella mumbled to herself aloud. “How strange that I had forgotten about it for all these years and then suddenly it comes back to me… Memories do tend to return to find you and shake you at the most unexpected times in our lives.”

Marsella went to the counter and presented what she wanted to buy. The young man with blue hair and piercings that made his face look like a pincushion looked at the CD and then looked at her. He made a weird face with his already weird face.

Marsella gave him a playful smile. “Don’t you get it, Johnny? It’s for me.” She handed him the money, took her change and bag, and walked out of the store and to her car.


Marsella drove fast and in complete disregard for the laws of the prickly electric night. She had the windows rolled down and the volume of the stereo was turned up high to overtake the whoosh of the air blowing in. She had track 10 on repeat, and the lyrics of Meat is Murder burrowed into her head and stoked the flames of her disenchantment with human beings and the world in general:

Heifer whines could be human cries
Closer comes the screaming knife
This beautiful creature must die
This beautiful creature must die
A death for no reason
And death for no reason is murder

And the flesh you so fancifully fry
Is not succulent, tasty or kind
It’s death for no reason
And death for no reason is murder
And the calf that you carve with a smile
It is murder
And the turkey you festively slice
It is murder
Do you know how animals die?…

“Do you know how animals die!?” Marsella screamed out as she brought the car to a stop in the nearly empty parking lot of the grocery store. She got out of the car and went around to the back and popped open the trunk. She reached inside and pulled out the can of red paint she had pilfered from her husband’s work shed, set it on the ground, and undid the lid with the screwing end of a standard screwdriver. She dumped some of the paint on the ground and watched it pool and slowly spread like a wound. The unnatural smell of it drove up her nose. She took a breath, and then she went inside the store.

The lights were bright, and they hurt her eyes as they buzzed and dazzled above her. The place was mostly empty except for the lone cashier flipping through a magazine, the young night stockers tossing boxes around, along with a few zombified customers perhaps craving a midnight pot pie. No one paid her any attention as she strolled down the cereal aisle with an opened bucket of red paint. When she got to the meat department, it was barren as a midnight graveyard in western Oklahoma. She heard wolves howl. She heard people chittering and giggling somewhere off in the distance. The music up above was sterilized, vomit-inducing ass hat glitter pop.

The custom meat case was empty, the animal flesh now removed, and the area behind was dark and quiet. Marsella looked around again before setting the paint can down and kneeling beside it. She dipped two fingers deep into the paint like it was a woman spread wide, pulled them out, and then wrote Meat is Murder, Don’t Ya Know? in a crooked, dripping scrawl against the exterior plexiglass of the meat case. She stood and looked at her handiwork as it continued to slowly bleed on itself, a very fitting touch to her art she proudly decided.

Next, she went over to the display case where they had all the packaged meat and she gripped the paint can in two hands, cocked it back and thrust it forward repeatedly as she haphazardly splashed the glossy red all over the chicken and their bones, the ground beef, the roasts, the steaks, the lamb, the porkchops, and all the groaning loins they had stacked there like genocide bodies.

“Hey!” someone suddenly yelled out from somewhere behind her. “What the hell are you doing there!?”

She turned just as the man got to her and she threw red paint on him, took the can by the carrying handle and whopped him upside the head with it as hard as she could. He made a pain-filled grunt like ooomphhh, then slipped and fell. She dropped the can with a clank and dashed down the soda aisle toward the front doors. For a woman of 39, she flew out of there like a wild bird, got into her car and sped off just as two other grocery store workers came hustling out after her screaming and yelling and carrying on as if she had just possibly committed a felony.

Marsella Blume sat in her car at the end of her block with the engine purring. She blew cigarette smoke out the open window as her eyes fixed on her house that sat like a morbid shell down the street and to the left. The air around the neighborhood was salted city orange and misty. The Smiths were still bubbling out from the stereo, but quieter now for she didn’t want to wake anyone. She took a final puff and then threw the butt out the window like she was Josey Wales cool. She pulled the shifter back into the D position and stomped her foot on the gas pedal. The car shot off surprisingly fast and Marsella gripped the steering wheel as she aimed the engine block straight for the corner of the house where her husband was hopelessly waiting beyond the brick and glass.

The impact was more violent than she expected, and her body snapped back and forth as the car drilled into the house. And it looked like being in an automatic car wash, she thought, with that suffocating blizzard of water and soap blotting out the windshield, the weighty thunder of the mechanical mops as they molested the filth away, the quaking turbulence of the high-powered dryers as one’s vehicle slowly emerged from the wash tunnel like a turtle’s head checking to see if it was safe out in the world.

Through the chaos she saw her husband’s startled face as his body was thrown back as if by a poltergeist, the bowl of buttered popcorn just moments before in his lap now curling high in the air and scattering its contents like youthful mischief. And then she watched as the debris rained down all around her in dust wallowed slow motion, bricks and glass and splintered wood hitting the car, and the sound came like ludicrous hail, and Marsella felt like she would soon be buried alive by the burdens of her own madness.


When Marsella opened her eyes, the butcher was sitting in a chair beside her hospital bed. There was something wrapped in fancy paper on the bedside table. She didn’t recognize him at first without the hair net, but the eyes were familiar. Those unsettling eyes were very blue as she recalled, almost a fake blue.

“Hello,” she managed to say. Her eyelids fluttered to batter away the stinging light.

“Hi. Do you remember me?” the man said, leaning in closer.

“You’re the butcher.”

“That’s right. How are you feeling?”

“Not terrible, but far from wonderful,” she said, and she tried to sit up more. “How did you… Why are you here?” She looked around the room trying to establish more thoroughly where she was.

“I read all about it in the newspapers. I just knew it had to be you,” he said. “The policeman let me in to quickly visit.”

“The policeman?”

The butcher turned his head and nodded. “Outside the door. I’m afraid you’re under guard.”

“I did something bad, didn’t I?”

The butcher sighed but tried to smile. “You made a terrible mess of my meat department. I’m afraid in your attempt to save the beasts, however, you inadvertently cast most of them off to the trash bin… So, in that effort, it seems you failed. But that’s really the least of your concerns considering the other charges.”

“Other charges?”

“Felonious assault. Aggravated homicide.”

“Aggravated!?”

“Don’t you know you killed your husband in a very terrible way? They had to pull him from the rubble piece by piece.”

Marsella shook her head in denial.

“They didn’t tell you?”

“Perhaps someone did. I can’t remember much… Just the cigarette and the grainy light and the music and the sound of the engine beating faster… And then it was just like a terrible storm but then bright like heaven.”

The butcher beamed at her with a gentle butcher-like smile. “Maybe you escorted him part way, hmm?”

“Huh?”

“Your husband. To heaven.”

“I do doubt it,” Marsella said. “He was a terrible person. He really was.”

“We’re all terrible people who do terrible things at times. We are after all, merely animals.”

“But I must have loved him at one time. I mean, real human love. Don’t you think?”

“Doesn’t appear that way, now does it, considering your present-tense situation,” the butcher with blue eyes said coldly. He glanced up at the black and white clock on the wall. “I’m afraid my time is limited so I must be on my way. But there’s a present for you there. I don’t really know why I felt you deserved a gift; I suppose I’m strangely sentimental like that. Hopefully you can do something with it before you go off to jail.”

She looked up at him, puzzled. Then he drew closer to her, and she jerked back when he bent to grasp her hand and shake it. “Good luck,” he whispered. He made himself upright again and looked down at her. His eyes were taking pictures.

“You aren’t really a butcher, are you?” Marsella said as her gaze crawled up his body and to his face.

“We’re all butchers,” he said, and he turned and walked out of the room without another word.

Marsella drowsily sat up on the edge of the bed and reached for the present on the bedside table. She shook it like a curious child, and then carefully peeled it open. Inside was a package of meat — a flank steak. It was the color of a broken heart and lightly marbled with thin rivers of greasy cotton. Some blood pooled in the white tray. She drew it closer to her face and studied it and her soul shook like grass in the dawn of spring.

She poked a hole in the plastic wrap with a finger and stripped it away. She lifted the meat out and held it in her hands. It was cold. It was wet. It was heavy. She opened her mouth wide, moved her head forward, and clamped her teeth down hard on the animal flesh. She fiercely strained and pulled until a piece tore off. She chewed on it slowly, ingested it, and went in for another bite… And then it was another and another and yet another until the whole cut of the meat was gone from the space in front of her and slowly sliding down into her belly in various shaped chunks.

She went into the bathroom and turned on the light. Her animal reflection stared back at her from the other side of the mirror. She barely recognized herself. An ugly murderous stain bloomed around her mouth like a pink flower. She grinned at herself; a thin film of red juice was still collected on her teeth. Then the screams of all the beasts she had ever known crawled up from her bloated belly and into her head. And there they stayed and got comfortable, always calling to her until the death chamber of man snuffed her out forever like a quick puff of breath on a flame.

END


Revolution Meat (First Part)

Marsella Blume woke up on the wrong side of a lifetime of wishful thinking.

The house in the manicured suburb where she lived was quiet. She gathered some fresh clothes and took a long hot shower full of steam and soap. She had to be clean for him. She had to smell good.

Once dressed and properly perfumed, she went downstairs to the kitchen. An orange cat rubbed against her legs and purred. The cat’s name was Alex, and he was hungry so she undid a fresh can of food and plopped it into a bowl. The cat smacked at it mercilessly while Marsella brewed herself a cup of light roast coffee. She drank it down quickly and rushed out to her car that sat beneath a carport. She looked at herself in the rear-view mirror and dabbed at her face with a fingertip to smooth the makeup one last time before pulling away.

As she drove toward the Lucky U Motorlodge to meet the man she was cheating on her husband with, she went through a grocery list in her head for when she would do the shopping following her affair appointment. Gravy. Fat-free milk. Scouring pads. Cat litter. Onions… Meat.

She bit at her frosted lip, worried, hoping she would remember everything. She scolded herself for not writing things down like any sane person would, but she usually relied on her own overloaded mind instead, readily at the cost of her own personal derailments. And the boxcars were piling up.

When she finally pulled into the gravely lot at the Lucky U, she shut the car down in a space in front of room No. 9. He appeared in the window without a shirt on and smiled at her through the glass. Part of her wanted to throw it in reverse and tear out of there and drive to the other side of the world. Another part of her wanted to break the rules of decency.

The next thing she knew she was lying on her back in the uncomfortable bed, and she mindlessly studied the ceiling while he thrust himself inside her. The landscape moved annoyingly — a visual jolt every time he went deep that was beginning to make her head swim. She closed her eyes and thought of Niagara Falls in the spring. She could hear the thunderous flow of the water as it went over the edge and fell with a power like no other. Who was this seemingly random person above her this time? He wasn’t nearly as strong as the falls. She had her hands on his upper arms that weren’t even very muscular. She looked up at his unappealing face, now twisted with his own hard work and pleasure. He was breathing like a marathon banshee and dripping sweat onto her face as he slapped against her skin.

“Please don’t cum inside me,” she warned him.  “Not today. I don’t want to feel it today.”

His dead eyes went wide as he looked at her face. “I may not be able to help it,” he grunted. “You’re a dream come true.”

She suddenly turned away and tried to get out from under him by twisting her body. He popped out of her like a cork from a bottle.

“What the hell! What are you doing?” he wanted to know.

“I’m suddenly not in the mood,” she said as she straightened herself on the edge of the bed. “And I’m not anyone’s dream so don’t say that ever again.”

He scoffed in frustration and went to sit on the opposite edge of the bed. He was trying to catch his breath as he moved his hair out of his eyes. He reached for his pack of cigarettes on the nightstand and lit one. He just sat there naked and smoked quietly.

Why had she even chosen him, she thought, as the room filled with the haze of his smoke. Glenn. What an inconsequential name, she thought to herself. They worked together in the real estate office. He was an assistant to the more experienced brokers like herself. How did it even happen? She tried to recall. Then the memory suddenly bobbed to the surface of her jumbled mind like a dumpling in boiling water. One day they were driving in his car together, just the two of them, and they were on their way to the home of a prospective client out in the country who had a very large house they wanted to sell. They had been listening to the radio and laughing about something. He purposely reached over and touched her leg. She instructed him to pull off in a secluded spot and then she found herself leaning in and kissing him. He kissed her back ferociously like he’d never known love. She recalls seeing the glint of her wedding ring as she held his rough face. Soon after, her top was undone, and his hands were on her. She knew she had to stop, but she couldn’t. Then her head had fallen into his lap and this essential stranger was in her mouth, and then she began to cry because it wasn’t love. It was never love, but still, she kept at it. And now she was trapped in a cheap motel room once again, and she didn’t want him at all anymore.

She got up and walked past him without a word and into the bathroom to take a shower. But there was no erasing him from the hard drive of her body — only time and keen personal deception could do that, maybe. He was long gone when she came back out. The key to the room sat on her pillow atop a one-dollar bill.


Marsella Blume always ended up with the shopping cart that didn’t go straight or had a wonky wheel that rattled and drew unwanted attention. It was just her lot in life, she achingly figured.

She steered her trolley down the shiny, well landscaped aisles of boxes and cans and bottles and bags and tins and sacks and pouches until she reached the meat department at the very back of the store. The chilled and brightly lit cases gently hummed. She drew closer and peered down at the animal flesh neatly cut and presented atop the white foam trays wrapped in plastic. She studied all the various hunks of animal flesh. Some were bright red like blood. Others the color of well-tanned human beings. Others still were pale as a sun-bleached shell on a sandy beach or like a distant breakthrough muddied star in space.

She picked up a package of flank steak. She wondered to herself. Flank? She didn’t know what that even meant. The only thing she knew was that she was staring at a piece of animal flesh. It was the flesh of an animal that once walked around and ate grass or something like that, she thought. It breathed. It looked at the sun or stood on a hill in the rain. It had eyes and a brain. And now she was holding a piece of it in her hand. How incredibly odd, she thought. How when you really think about it, the truth of the matter is human beings savagely kill other living things, cut them up into pieces, wrap them up neat and tight and sell them for profit. Then we burn them, chew them up and swallow them down into our collective guts in a celebratory sort of way.

A man in a white lab coat streaked with red and with a hair net atop his head that made him look extremely peculiar smiled at her as he stocked more packages of animal flesh beside her. His eyes were alien blue and twirled like old time camera flashcubes when he smiled. “Can I help you find a particular cut?” he asked her politely.

Marsella looked at him. “Is that blood on your company uniform?”

He looked down at himself. “Yes, it is.”

She was alarmed. “Where did it come from?”

He looked at her strangely, but then again, he was used to odd birds swooping in from the ridiculous world. “I work in the meat department. I’m a butcher.”

“So, you cut up animals back there?” Marsella asked with a nod of her head toward an unknown space beyond them.

The butcher chuckled at her. “Not really. They come to us already cut up. We just cut them up more.”

“So that they fit neatly in all these little packages or in trays in your fancy little case over there?”

“That’s right. We take it right down to the point of purchase and consumption… Are you sure there’s nothing I can help you find?”

“Can you show me where you work?”

He made a puzzled face. “I’m sorry, mam. We can’t allow customers into our production area.”

“Then can you tell me what a flank steak is?”

The butcher cleared his throat and thought about it as he looked at her. “Listen. You seem nice enough. I’ll let you come back and look at my beef chart and I can show you exactly where the flank comes from.”

Marsella suddenly brightened. “Really?”

“Sure… But you can’t say anything to anyone. Okay?”

“Okay. But what about my shopping cart?”

“Just leave it. We’ll only be a minute or two.”

She followed him to an area behind the custom meat counter and through a set of swinging metal doors with two little square windows on each one. He led her to a white plastic table that was stained pink from repetitive butchering. Above the table was a big poster with a drawing of a cow except the cow was divided up into all sorts of different parts and the parts were labeled and color-coded. He pointed to the one marked flank. It was blue.

“See there. The flank is at the bottom of the cow, just forward of the rear quarter.”

Marsella’s eyes slow danced across the chart, and it almost made her feel like she was back in her high school biology class. It nearly smelled the same — like death and bleach. “I never imagined such a thing,” she said.

“Well, where did you think meat came from?” the butcher asked with a tone of sarcasm that made her feel stupid.

“I guess I never really thought about it,” she said. “I suppose like most people don’t.”

“Well,” the butcher smiled. “There’s a bloody reality behind every shiny facade.”

“I suppose that’s true,” she said, returning the smile.


The flank steak Marsella had purchased sizzled and smoked as it hit the hot cast-iron skillet. She turned to look at her husband who was sitting at the table behind her flipping through a day-old newspaper.

He sensed her looking at him. “What’s the occasion?” he asked.

“Huh?”

“Steak. You never cook steak.”

“Oh,” Marsella fumbled in her thoughts. “I decided I would try something different. The butcher recommended it.”

He moved the newspaper away from his face and beamed at her from across the gap between them. “The butcher? What butcher?”

“The one who works at the grocery store. He was very helpful. Did you know they have a huge poster of a cow back there and it shows all the different ways they cut up that poor animal?”

“He showed you a poster?”

“Yes.”

Her husband sneered with suspicion. “Did he show you anything else?”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” she wanted to know.

Her husband mumbled something undecipherable and rattled the newspaper in frustration. “Don’t burn it,” he said louder.

Marsella jabbed a large fork into the cooking flank steak and it bled out, the juices smoking and sizzling loudly in the pan. “I won’t,” she meekly answered.

She set two plates down. Her husband looked up at her from across the table and smiled after she took her seat. “This looks amazing,” he said as he unfurled his napkin. “I’m hungry as a dinosaur.”

Marsella looked down at her meal as he worked his knife and fork into the slab of animal flesh before him. His utensils scraped and clinked against the oval plate, and that combined with the sounds of his prehistoric chewing made her skin crawl and her teeth hurt.

She crinkled her nose at the hunk of flank steak before her. She thrust her fork in followed by her knife. She sawed, pierced the piece she had dislodged from the bigger piece and brought it to her mouth. She pushed it in and started chewing. The taste of salt and blood and iron played out strongly on her tongue. She forced herself to swallow and then she gagged a bit.

Her husband quickly glanced up at her. “Are you okay?”

She ran her tongue across her lips and fake smiled. “Do you see what we are doing?” she said, and she took a sip of water.

He looked confused. “I thought we were having dinner,” he answered.

“Yes. But no. Think about what we’re doing. I mean really think about it.”

He looked at his plate and then back up at her. “I’m having a steak, some potatoes, green beans…”

“No!” she blurted it out. “I want you to think about it at a much deeper level. Why can’t you ever do that!?”

He slammed his knife and fork down and they rattled angrily against his plate. “What the hell do you want me to say!? And I’m sorry if I’m not as intelligent as you supposedly wish me to be.”

“Do you not see it!?”

“See what, Marsella!?”

“We’re eating animal flesh! Look at your plate. That used to be a living breathing being with a heart and a brain and eyes to look upon the world with.”

He rolled his own eyes at her and wiped at his mouth with a napkin. “Oh Jesus. Here we go.”

“What!?”

“Is this your way of telling me you’ve decided to become a vegetarian now?”

“I may consider it.”

“Because of your great enlightenment following your visit with the butcher? I bet you won’t swear off all meat,” he scoffed.

She avoided his comment for the moment but filed it on the horizon of her memory. “Don’t you see how heinous it all is?”

“Heinous?”

“We stand over all these poor animals like gods and treat them horribly while we fatten them up just so we can cut them to pieces and then cut them to more pieces until the pieces are just the right size of convenience for the bloodthirsty bah, bah, bah consumers. Look at what you had in your mouth! Look at it!”

He watched her carefully in case she physically attacked him, and then he looked down at his plate.

“That’s right,” she continued. “We cut them up into little bits and package them up nice and friendly like and stack them in a refrigerated fluorescent case for the humans to prey upon with their watering eyes and nimble fingers. Oh, but to all of them it’s just a good piece of meat. It’s just something we breed and harvest to feed ourselves. We’ve turned other living creatures into a commodity to buy and sell by the pound! And then you put it in your mouth and shit it out later! Does that not bother you in the slightest?”

“It’s simply the cycle of life, Marsella. The cycle of life,” he answered sternly.

“It’s barbaric. If a man did that to another man, they’d send him to the electric chair and then some… And how many people out there do you think would even buy a steak after watching it gutted and plucked straight from a cow right in front of them? Hmm. Would you?”

He stood up. He was perturbed and he yelled at her. “I don’t know what you want me to do about it! It’s just the way it is, Marsella, and I’m sorry, but there are a lot of things in this crooked world far darker than you realize or wish them to be. But man is at the top of the food chain. That’s reality. It’s where God put us. It’s called survival of the fittest. Cows weren’t meant to plow fields or operate machines or be doctors. If you don’t like it, then go ahead and stop eating meat, but I for one will continue to eat meat because humans are carnivores… And I happen to like it.”  

“Omnivores,” she said dejectedly.

“What?”

“Human beings are omnivores. Maybe if you educated yourself, read a few more books, you’d know that.”

“Why is this suddenly turning into an attack against me. Jesus Christ, Marsella! All I wanted to do was enjoy my dinner and you launch into this psychobabble about meat and insult my level of intelligence. I won’t stand for it anymore.”

He snatched up his plate and started to walk away.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m going to finish my dinner in the den. There’s a game on I want to watch. And I would appreciate it if you just left me alone with my subpar thoughts.”

TO BE CONTINUED


Vinegar Village (2 of 2)

So, I was sort of sad about the unfortunate death of Mr. Hulk and was walking around the VILLAGE and it was getting a little later in the day and then I soon found myself inside this electric saloon and casino that looked like the old Wild, Wild West but with neon and crackling and rebel rousers in fancy pants and trollops in stilettos all smacking away and laughing really wild, like animals, and there was the smell of perfume and smoke all mingled like hot sex in the back seat of a silver Opal and there I was trying to sit by myself at a small table to smoke a ciggy wiggy and enjoy a few glasses of imported Scotch whiskey, but then people were bumping into me and stealing the other chairs from my table and laughing at me because there I was all alone in this wild crowd and no one seemed to give a damn that Mr. Hulk had just been killed by a yoga chick.

Yeah, no one ever really knows what’s going on inside your own world and why you be the way you be and their bimbo, bozo narrow-minded misunderstanding makes them just laugh and point like a bunch of spoiled bitches. And I grew tired of it all and saw that there was a staircase that went up, up, up and so I went up, up, up.


And up there it was a home-style country scene all warm and soft and peaceful that showed how people used to live like a century plus a go. There was a long hallway with a wooden floor and off the hallway there were several rooms where actors and such were all dressed up in fashion appropriate for the period of time they were portraying and they were pretending to live life like it was when it wasn’t the mad mess we have now.

I looked into the room at the very end of the hall. There was a girl in there wearing a long, green and white checkered dress, like old-fashioned armor for a sinewy body. There was a white bonnet upon her blonde head. She was holding a stuffed dog and walking around the room, a room sparsely furnished, with white walls, white curtains slapping around the frame of an open window. And as she walked around the room with the stuffed dog she talked about life back then and how it was and how she liked to churn butter the best because it was so “sexual” and then she sat on the edge of a squeaky bed clad in fresh, white linens, and then suddenly this young man dressed in similar time fashion and with thick curly dark hair stormed into the room right past me and he moved on her without any hesitation and kissed her right on her unadorned mouth. She looked a bit puzzled at first and then she seemed to get even angry. She stood up, threw the stuffed dog across the room, and started talking about how she would tell on him for his “indiscretion.” There was a momentary pause, and then they both turned to me, smiled, and then bowed like actors.


I went back downstairs to the noise and wild lights. I needed a drink and maybe something to eat. And while I searched for a table in all the hoopla, I saw Mr. Gorgon come in through the doors followed by Mr. English who was holding a girl in one hand and his bottle of Red Wine Vinaigrette Salad Dressing in the other. I moved through the crowd to greet them and to my horror noticed that Mr. Gorgon had big chunks of broken beer bottles sticking out of his stomach and chest. They were real nasty wounds and I could even look inside his guts and see a pile of broken glass there and Mr. Gorgon just laughed and whooped it up and acted like nothing was wrong.

I had to yell over the roar of the crowd to him.

“I think you better go to the hospital. Those are some nasty wounds you got there, Mr. Gorgon.”

He just smiled and looked down at his body.

“What? This? Aw come on, it’s just some bits of broken glass. Doesn’t hurt a bit.”

“It looks rather nasty,” I said to him. “It could get infected and then you’ll be in real big trouble. Maybe even dead like Mr. Hulk.”

“Ah, you worry too much Mr. Hat. Always worried about shit and you never take the time to just relax and have some fun.”

Mr. English leaned in then.

“What’s this about Mr. Hulk being dead then?”

“Yes, he’s dead all right,” I said to him. “That yoga chick shoved him into a tree and done him in.”

“What in bloody hell would she do that for?” asked Mr. English, looking at his chick and shaking his head. “Sounds like one of your friends killed one of my friends, sister. What the hell is up with that then?”

The chick pulled away from Mr. English and put her hands on her hips.

“Well, she wasn’t my friend and don’t get all nasty with me about it. I had nothing to do with it. For all we know, he was trying to rape her and well, then he got what he deserved.”

“Ah, piss off you bitch. You don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re just a drunk and a stupid girl,” Mr. English said to her.

I could tell the chick was steaming mad and about ready to haul off on ol’ Mr. English, but she clamped her mouth tight, looked up at the ceiling, frantically tapped her toes and then burst out like a tea pot come to boil: “Well at least I don’t chum around with a bottle of salad dressing all day, ya bloody freak!”

The entire place suddenly went silent except for some soft whispers and the shuffling of sleeves against sleeves. “You didn’t have to say that then did you?” a dejected Mr. English said to the chick. “That was a mean thing to say, and in front of all these people, too.”

Mr. English clutched his bottle of Red Wine Vinaigrette Salad Dressing, bowed his head and worked his way through the crowd, out the EXIT and into the night.

The noise began to roar again immediately like some great conflagration in a hip Albuquerque dancehall.

Mr. Gorgon tugged at my sleeve.

“I’m going to the bar; would you like me to bring you back a drink?”

“No, I don’t think so… You’re really not going to the hospital?”

“Hell no, it’s party time mate and I feel fine. I feel fit.”

“All right then,” I said to him. “I think I’m going to leave.”

“Aw, you don’t want to stay and see if I can get more broken glass in my belly?” Mr. Gorgon said with a laugh. “I bet we can find you a girl in here. You just need to loosen up a bit, like me.”

And he slapped me on the shoulder.

“There was a girl upstairs, acting out some scene with a guy who looked like Arnold Horshack.” I said to Mr. Gorgon. “He tried to make it with her, but she got all psycho and said she was going to tell on him. I don’t know who.”

“Well, that sounds bloody weird,” Mr. Gorgon said.

“Yes, it was weird, very weird, but it wasn’t a bad scene. They were reliving history, just for me.”

“Well, there’s a feather in your cap… Mr. Hat. Heh, that’s kind of funny isn’t it?”

“Yes, I suppose it is.”

I drained my last bit of Scotch whiskey and just dropped the glass on the floor.

 “So, Mr. Gorgon, how do I get out of this dream?”

END


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.

END


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.

“No.”

“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.”

“Really?”

“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.”

“Whaaaaatttt?”

“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.

TO BE CONTINUED


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.

“What?”

“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?”

“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?”

“Yes.”

“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?”

“Yes.”

“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.”

TO BE CONTINUED