Tag Archives: Serial Fiction

The Moon Scars of Elysium (2)

Photo by Aaron Echoes August /

Algernon Wasp had been sitting in a Big Boy restaurant in Manistique, Michigan when the big blue bomb blew. He had been eating a hamburger and a house salad with Thousand Island dressing when the shaking began and there was the sound of a great howling wind and a deep rumbling thunder. People screamed when all the windows shattered. Algernon had ducked under the table as the debris rained down like real rain. When the dust finally settled, Algernon crawled out and wandered outside among the rubble and the moans and the cries.

A cluster of people, a church group he guessed, were on their knees in a semi-circle, and they had their folded hands thrust up toward the heavens. They were begging God for mercy. They were inviting the Son to finally come down and roam among them, to save them, to lift them up to the Promised Land. They called upon the Holy Spirit to cleanse the world of wickedness. But wickedness had already come and gone.

Algernon groaned in despair as he looked around at the state of the new world… And like Charlton Heston in the Planet of the Apes when he came upon the ruined Statue of Liberty, he too fell to his knees and he screamed out as he slammed his fist against the pavement, “You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! God damn you all to hell!”

He later wandered the few blocks back to his hotel, The Happy Hole Inn, and guests were gathered outside, and they were looking up at the sky and pointing and were amazed by how it had taken on such a bruise-blue hue. Like technological sheep, they all had their cell phones in salute position, and they were recording the end event to later post on their social media sites of choice. He scoffed at them. “What are you all looking at!? How many likes are you fools hoping to get!? You idiots! This all your fault…” And he went around pointing to each of them. “And yours, and yours, and yours. You’re all too stupid to live!”

He waved them away in disgust and went inside the hotel and to his room. The roof was gone and when he looked up, the sky was churning like sick guts. He gathered his things, checked out, and began walking to wherever his feet would take him.

And where his feet took him was an amber colored bar in downtown Manistique. It was quiet inside except for the television that blurped in and out with news of the end of days. Two other men sat at the bar and watched along with the bartender. He finally noticed Algernon and asked him, “What are you doing here, mister?”

“I need a drink,” Algernon answered. He tapped a finger against the bar top as he sat down. “Suds.”

The bartender poured him a beer and set it before him. “No charge, mister. It looks like we’re all in for a rough time.” He motioned with his thumb. “Listen to these two idiots.” He shook his head.

“This is all because of the god damn liberals,” one of the men at the bar grumbled.

The other man nodded in agreement. “That’s right. If it weren’t for all these sissies and all their gay stuff, we’d be eating apple pie and living our best lives right about now… Not watching the world come to an end on CNN.” He motioned abruptly with his hand. “Come on, Wilbur. Can you ate least put it on Fox News so we can get the truth.”

Algernon laughed out loud. He finished his beer and tapped his fingers on the bar to indicate his desire for another.

The two men turned to look at him. “You got a problem, mister?” one of them asked.

“I have all sorts of problems,” Algernon added. “Try not to be another.”

The man that lastly spoke to him got up off his bar stool and walked right on over to where Algernon was. He took his hand and slapped at Algernon’s beer mug and knocked it over. “You wanna fight me or something?” He was close to his face when he spoke and his breath was annoying.

Algernon sighed as the barkeep cleaned up the spill and gave Algernon a fresh beer. “You start something, Lloyd, and I’ll throw you out. Then you’ll have to go home to that ugly wife of yours.”

Algernon chuckled. “He’s lucky to get that.”

The man put a rough hand on Algernon’s shoulder and Algernon reacted immediately with a rigid brush of his arm to knock the man away. “Don’t touch me!”

“Well, you look pretty gay to me. I figured you’d like it.” He laughed. His friend laughed and came over as well. “Kick his ass, Lloyd,” the friend said.

“You’re the one here with another man,” Algernon replied. “I’m flying Han Solo.”

The two men made faces of confusion and backed away. “Let’s just leave this one alone,” one of them said. “Han Solo my ass.”

After the two men settled back in their seats, the bartender brought Algernon a bowl of hot beef and noodle soup. “Here you go. I didn’t want it to go to waste and you look like you could use it.”

“Thanks,” Algernon said, and he smiled. “I appreciate it.”

“So, did you use the Jedi mind trick on those two buffoons?” He laughed.

Algernon chuckled. “You got to have a mind first.”


Just then the power went out and the only remaining light was the blue hue of the day coming in through the windows at the front of the bar.

“Sure as hell is eerie,” the bartender said. “What you plan on doing?”

“I don’t know. My wife recently passed, and I was on a sabbatical. I wanted to see all the places I’d never seen but wanted to… And now this happens. Nuclear war.”

“Where’s home?”

“Buena Vista, Colorado.”

“Never heard of it.”

“It’s a wonderful place, mostly.”

“Well, I hope you can get back there.”

“Me, too.”


The Gravy Canoe of Wild Wyoming – 10

man in white suit standing on street
Photo by David Henry on Pexels.com

It was a sunny Sunday morning in Berlin, Wyoming and Steel Brandenburg III was sitting in a modern honey-colored pew inside The Carbon Copy of Christ Church on Alameda Avenue.

Up in front of him on an elevated stage with big displays of fresh flowers at each end and a large bodiless cross that hung high behind as the centerpiece, a man paced as he preached. He was wiry and energetic. He held a Bible and wore a white suit with a yellow tie tacked to a blue shirt, and his thin hair looked greasy, but maybe it was just a manly grooming product. The dyed black hair was slicked back, and along with his pencil-thin moustache, it made him come off as a homemade dungeon in the basement kind of creep.

Creep. Jarrod Creep. Steel was sickened that he was suddenly reminded of his horrible boss at the Berlin Daily Times. And that’s when, like a nudge from the Holy Spirit herself, he slowly turned his head to the left and saw Jarrod Creep sitting with his wife in a pew across the aisle. He was sternly returning the look. He waved. His eyes were investigative slits. His wife turned her head, too. She tried to smile but she gave off the impression that her life was hell.

Did Mr. Creep really attend The Carbon Copy of Christ Church? Steel wondered to himself. It was possible. Highly likely even. But on the other end of the stick, Steel considered he was there to just spy on him to make sure he was living up to his end of the bargain when it came to Carrie Gould and the disastrous outcome for all if she decided to walk and talk.

Carrie Gould. And there she was sitting to Steel’s right. The right hand of the priesthood holder, she probably thought. Her body was pressed up tight to him and she was holding his hand within both of hers. It felt like a hand-hold cage to him, and he couldn’t break free. The skin of her hands was soft, warm, moist, puffy. He could feel the cholesterol pumping through her veins.

She was wearing a white dress with a pattern of common garden flowers flung about by a madman. She had curled her golden hair with one of those curling iron things. Steel caught the faint scent of burning hair. Her lips were doused with a much too heavy slick of red gloss. Her eyelashes were grossly plump. The rouge on her cheeks nearly resembled the blood on a deeply pink carnation after a Mafia shootout.

Carrie’s attention was fully on the preacher up front, and she smiled when he said something funny or nodded her head gently when he said something very aggregable to her. Whenever he touched on the subjects of love or marriage or relationships between men and women, she would squeeze Steel’s hand and look over at him with bewildering eyes of adore.

On the other side of Carrie, sat her mother, Melba Gould. She was an exact duplicate of her daughter, just 25 years older and with less body mass. She fanned herself with the paper church bulletin as the preacher ranted and raved about sin and purpose and the laws of spiritual physics. Occasionally she would glance past her daughter and look directly at Steel. She was sizing him up, perhaps uncertain of the new relationship he was beginning with her only and fragile child. When Steel caught her studying him, she would give him a sour smile and quickly turn away.

After the service, people filed out of the church and Pastor Craig Stikk shook hands and chatted at the exit. When Carrie Gould reached the doorway, the pastor licked at his sickly worm-like lips and grinned. He too had a thing for fetching fat girls. And especially one named Carrie Gould.

“Carrie, Carrie, Carrie,” he repeated with joy as he clutched her hand with one of his own and gripped her arm with the other. “It’s so good to see you back in the pews.” He leaned in to awkwardly hug her. Carrie squirmed. He had a sour body odor. “What did you think of today’s message?” His breath smelled like deli salami.

“I thought it was very inspiring, pastor. Very inspiring.”

Carrie’s mother squeezed forward and reached out to shake the pastor’s hand as well. “As did I,” she sneaked in.

“My, my, Melba,” Pastor Stikk said. “I can certainly see where Carrie gets her delicious beauty from. My God, if you were an ice cream cone, I’d lick you all over.” His laugh that followed was boisterous and sickly.

“Well, thank you, pastor… I think.” She giggled. “But I give all the glory to God. For he made me.”

“Indeed, he did,” the pastor agreed. “And he did a very good job… On both of you.”

Steel tried to keep walking on through, but Carrie stopped him. “Steel, please introduce yourself to the pastor. Don’t be rude and just run off.”

“I wasn’t running off.”

“And… Who is this fine young man?” Pastor Stikk wanted to know; a fog of suspicion veiled his eyes.

“This my boyfriend, Steel Brandenburg,” Carrie noted with an air of pride.

“The third,” Steel added to correct her omission.

The pastor reluctantly reached out and gripped Steel’s hand. “I’m Pastor Craig Stikk. I’m glad you could attend our service today.” It seemed to Steel that the holy man wanted to crush his bones, being that his hold was so pressurized. He looked Steel dead in the eyes. “The boyfriend, huh?”

“So I’ve been told,” Steel said. Carrie scowled at him and slapped at his arm. Steel cleared his throat and reworked his words. “Right. I’m the boyfriend.”

The pastor seemed puzzled. “I had no idea,” he said, his head moving from one to the other. “How long have you two been an item?”

“Just a little while,” Steel answered. “But it seems like forever.” He chuckled but no one else found it funny. “I mean, as in I feel like I’ve known her forever. Like I have always known that she’s the one for me. Since… The beginning of time.”

Carrie melted inside. “Awww,” she purred. “That’s so sweet, baby.”

The pastor scoffed and started to turn away to attend to other worshippers.

“Pastor Stikk?” Melba Gould called out to reel him back in.

He turned. “Yes…”

“We’re having a sort of ‘welcome to the family’ dinner for Steel at the house. We would be honored if you would join us. It would be wonderful if you could sprinkle your blessings over the two lovebirds… And the pot roast.” She laughed at herself.

The pastor searched his mind for an excuse not to attend but he came up empty. But then again, he felt he needed to do something to intervene. This young cock blocking fool Steel Brandenburg III was moving in on his territory. His very large territory. He felt threatened. “I would love to,” Pastor Craig Stikk relented. “Sounds absolutely wonderful.”


Ms. Grundy and the Bone Ghosts (3)

Constable Harley O’Shea strolled around Lloyd the bartender’s small apartment above The Village Fig. He bent his thick neck from side to side to leer into nooks, crannies, corners, cubbies. He pulled out a pair of reading glasses and leaned in close to a dusty wooden cabinet of clutter. “You sure do have a lot of stuff, Lloyd. What gives?”

“I like things,” Lloyd answered. “I don’t have many friends, but I have plenty of interests. Is there a law against that?”

Constable O’Shea took note of Lloyd’s attempt at sarcasm. “No.” He pointed to a door off the living room, darkness in the cracked opening. “Is that your bathroom?”

“Yes,” Lloyd answered as politely as he could, but his patience was already wearing thin. He stood behind the constable as the lawman worked his plump body through the doorway of the bathroom and switched on the light. The constable pulled the shower curtain aside to look inside the tub. “What’s with all the different kinds of shampoo, Lloyd? Hell, you don’t even have that much hair.”

“I like to experiment with different brands, fragrances and cleansing styles. I don’t understand what shampoo has to do with…”

Constable O’ Shea raised a hand the size of a thick bone-in porkchop to silence him. “Interference with my investigation isn’t a good idea, Lloyd. Trust me on that one.” He turned and bent with a groan and opened the cabinet beneath the sink. He retrieved a small flashlight from his utility belt and illuminated the dim space. “Am I going to find any feminine products down here?” he asked.

“No!” Lloyd protested. “That’s preposterous.”

“What about boner pills or condoms or latex gloves? Huh?”

“Oh, good grief, Harley! I’m not a swinger.”

The constable stood and there was an audible popping sound that came from his overtaxed joints. Once erect, he reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a blue cloth bandana and wiped at his brow. “Whew. It’ so damn hot in here, Lloyd. Why don’t you go open a window.”

Lloyd did what he was told, and when he returned, he found that the constable had migrated to his bedroom. When he walked in, Harley was inspecting the closet. “You’re kind of light in the fashion department, Lloyd. Why’s that?”

“I don’t want to have to trouble myself with too many clothing decisions on a daily basis,” Lloyd answered.

“Like Einstein, huh?”

“Something like that.”

“What’s in the shoeboxes?”


“Aw, come on, Lloyd. No one uses shoeboxes for shoes. What you got in them? Dope? Naughty pictures? Laughing gas for pre-coitus huffing?”

Lloyd sighed with frustration. “If you want to know so bad, just look.”

The constable grinned and worked to remove the lids from the tops of three shoe boxes… Nothing but shoes, shoes, and shoes.

“I told you.”

“What about the dildoes and the vibrators? Under the bed?”

Lloyd was insulted. “No! I don’t have those kinds of things!”

But Harley ignored him and had already gotten down on the floor and was training his small flashlight under the bed. “Jesus, Lloyd. Do you ever clean? You’ve got enough wootzoolas down here to build a bear.”

“I suppose some dust is reason to arrest me, too?” Lloyd snapped.

The constable got to his knees and looked up at him. “You’re being too far lighthearted about this, Lloyd.” He wagged a fat finger at him. “But you might want to take this a bit more seriously. I’ll find something.” He stood all the way up at the foot of the bed and proceeded to loosen his gun belt and undo his pants. He let them fall to around his ankles and then stepped out of them.

“What the hell are you doing?” Lloyd said, now growing furious and more confused.

“Investigating,” Harley said, and he proceeded to climb up onto the bed. He stood as tall as he could, somewhat struggling to keep his balance on the soft mattress. Then he took a giant leap and violently bellyflopped into the sheets. There was the sound of something cracking and the bed comically collapsed as if they had time shifted to an old Laurel and Hardy film.

“What the fuck!” Lloyd screamed.

But Harley ignored him as he buried his face into the bedding and inhaled deeper than the deepest depths of space. “Ahh hah!” the constable bellowed. “I’m catching the scent of my own wife’s delicious ass!”

Lloyd grew red in the face and fisted his own head in uncontrollable anger. “Get out! Get out now before I call up the real cops!”

Harley rolled out of the bed and thumped onto the floor like sack of potatoes. He struggled to get up, but when he finally did, he scooped up his pants and put himself back together. He sniffled, dabbed at his head with his blue cloth bandana and tried to fix his wispy hair back into place with a hand. He looked around at the mess he created. “Wow. Geez, Lloyd. I didn’t mean for that to happen. I was just trying to be thorough in my investigation.”

Lloyd’s pointer finger shook at the end of his outstretched arm. He spoke through clenched, grinding teeth. “Get the hell out of my apartment.”

“Okay, Lloyd. It appears I went a bit overboard here. Things really got out of hand. I realize that now.”

“A bit? A bit!?”

“I’m sorry, Lloyd. It’s just that… Damn it all.” He sighed with a soul full of sadness. “I know Mary is up to something. I thought I had you pegged. It appears I was mistaken.”

“You sure as hell were, Harley. Very mistaken.”

The constable bowed his head in shame and walked out of the bedroom and toward the front door. Lloyd rushed after him. “What about my bed?”

“Oh,” Harley said, and he scratched at his honeydew melon-like head. “I’ll send over a new one as soon as I can. No charge to you, of course. I’ll ding the ding-a-ling taxpayers.” He tried to laugh.

But Lloyd found no humor in any of it. “When?”

“Soon, Lloyd. Soon.” Harley pulled the door open and went out.

Lloyd stood for a moment in shocked silence. He eventually sighed, a calming breath in and out, and put a hand to his forehead and scrunched his face as if he had a terrible headache. Which he in fact now did. Then he heard the muffled, soft voice coming from behind the door of a small closet in the kitchen. A closet the constable had overlooked. Lloyd went to the nearly invisible door and tugged it open. The constable’s wife, Mary O’Shea herself, came tumbling out and fell into the bartender’s arms.


The Gravy Canoe of Wild Wyoming – 8

man in water
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Steel’s hatred for his boss Jarrod Creep grew by the millisecond as they sat at a table at Dong’s Thai Palace in downtown Berlin, Wyoming. They stared at each other from within the cloud of a menacing chill. The air that surrounded them was incredibly uncomfortable. The silence was like autumnal mud—heavy, thick, dirty, sloppy, brown, cold—and finally broken by the annoying sound of Jarrod Creep spilling and speaking another glob of nonsensical bullshit.

“I wanted us to meet here today because I thought it might be a better arena for us to speak to each other more openly. More casual. Without the constraints of an office.” He tossed a hand in the air. “Don’t think of me as your boss right now, just consider me a friend, a guide really, in getting you back on the path to success.”

A waiter brought them each a Thai iced tea the color of an arroyo discharge after a heavy western summer rain. The ice cubes slowly turned. Steel took a long sip. “I love this stuff,” he said.

“Right… But look at me when I am talking to you, Steel.”


“I’m really putting my neck out for you here and sometimes I wonder why I even do it. I mean, you’re a bad person. I can’t say I like you in the slightest, but being that I’m a good person, I feel that as your mentor and the captain of the ship, so to speak, I should at least give you the opportunity to prove yourself. Doesn’t that seem extremely fair and generous of me?”

Steel’s emotions took a serious blow. “You think I’m a bad person?”

“Generally speaking. Yes. A lot of people do. In the office, around town…”

“Around town?”

“Yes. Word spreads. Word gets to me. People say you give off bad vibes, that you’re unprofessional and have a salty attitude about life.”

“Bad vibes? Unprofessional? Salty? I find all that hard to believe, Mr. Creep.”

Jarrod removed his glasses and cleaned them with a napkin. His tiny eyes of inherent evil squinted, and it made him look like a burrowing mole in a delicious garden. He replaced the spectacles on his face and looked at Steel with a full load of seriousness. “Believe it. My sources are credible. Honest people live in this town.”  

“Well, if we’re going to be open and honest here,” Steel began. “I would have to disagree with you on all counts. I feel I’m a good person and this talk of me giving off bad vibes in public and all that other garbage… It’s all just so inaccurate. In my opinion, people in Berlin, Wyoming don’t take kindly to outsiders… Regardless of if you’re a monk or a rapist. Newcomers just don’t have a chance.”

The waiter approached the table, looked down at them, and cautiously smiled. “Are you ready to order?”

“Get whatever you want, Steel,” Jarrod told him. “The newspaper is paying for this lunch.”

“Then I’ll have the most expensive thing on the menu… Dong’s Crispy Duck.” Steel smiled like a grimy Old West cowboy who had just won the poker pot at a rowdy saloon.

Jarrod acted like he was hot shit to the waiter. “And I’ll have the Tom Yum Soup with shrimp. Make sure it’s hot and fresh. Last time I was here it was a tad bit tepid. Thanks.” He turned to glare at Steel. “The Crispy Duck? Are you even going to eat all that? It seems a bit excessive to me. Have you ever heard of manners or etiquette?”

“You said I could have whatever I want. I can take the rest home if I don’t eat it all… Geez Mr. Creep, don’t have a panic attack. I thought we were here to have a productive conversation and it’s just turned into a relentless attack on me.”

Jarrod laughed, humorously at first but then ending it in a serious and judgmental way. “Look at us. We sound like an old married couple.”

Steel made a face. “Gross.”

“But seriously… If you feel so mistreated here, why not just quit?”

“You’d love that wouldn’t you?” Steel said. “I feel like that’s what you want me to do. You want to take joy in defeating me, in crushing my soul.”

Jarrod Creep sighed and leaned back in his chair. “It’s not, Steel. I’m not trying to crush you. I’m trying to groom you, like a horse. Right now, you are this awkward, dusty pony and I want to turn you into a shining stallion. I just wish you would see me as someone who wants to help you, not hurt you.”

Steel chuckled sarcastically at that sentiment. “Yeah. Right. And I can’t just quit. I need the money. There’s a woman who’s got the screws on me for a kid.”

“You need to keep that thing on a leash.” Jarrod now leaned forward and in almost a whisper said, “Look. We’ve got a bit of a problem.”

Steel eyed him suspiciously. “What’s that?”

Mr. Creep looked around before speaking. “Carrie Gould came to me. She told me that you assaulted her with some trick gum, and then said some pretty nasty things to her. She was very upset. So upset that she’s threatened to sue the newspaper for sexual harassment and emotional distress.”

“Oh please. That whale is a drama queen.”

“Perhaps, but this whole thing could really blow up. It could be very bad for the newspaper, the company, the town… And especially me.”

Steel looked at him halfheartedly. “So. What do you want me to do about it?”

The food arrived and filled the table. Mr. Creep unfurled a napkin and tucked it into his shirt collar before dipping a spoon into his soup and slurping it into his puppet-like mouth. “Oh yeah… That’s good. This makes me excited.”  

Steel cut into the duck and lifted a hunk to his mouth with his fork. He put it in and immediately made a face of disgust. “Oh, God. That’s awful.”

Mr. Creep was worried and wanted to know. “What do you mean it’s awful?”

“I mean it tastes awful.” Steel pushed his plate away. “I’m not eating that.”

“It cost 24 dollars! You can’t just not eat it,” Mr. Creep protested. “Do you think money grows on trees?”

“Well, it is made from paper. And if you’re so upset about it, just take it with you. I don’t care… And what’s this stuff about Carrie Gould?”

“She’s agreed to not sue and not press charges… If you go out with her on a date.”

“What!? A date!? Are you kidding me. Gross!”

“Come on, Steel. A lot of shit is on the line here. It wouldn’t be that bad.”

“Ugh. Forget it. I’d rather go work at Taco John’s.”

“No, you wouldn’t,” Jarrod berated. “And it’s just one lousy date. Her body may be grossly distorted, but she’s got a decent face.”

“She stinks,” Steel complained.

Jarrod nauseously grinned. “Maybe you can give her a bath. I bet she’d really like that.”

“Oh, please. Do you want me to barf right here at the table?”

Mr. Creep eyed Steel for a moment and then smiled. “Wait a minute… I think this whole acting like you’re grossed out thing is just that… An act.”


“I think deep down and in a creepy secret way, you really like her. I bet you fantasize about her all the time, don’t you.”

Steel was flustered. “No.”

“It’s okay, Steel. We all have sick, twisted thoughts at times. And here I am giving you the opportunity to live out your lurid fantasy… And keep your job. Seems like a decent offer to me.”

Just then, Steel glanced toward the window of the restaurant because it seemed some large object had crossed in front of the sun. He only saw her for a moment… It had been Carrie Gould looking in on them. Why did he want her the way he did? What was wrong with him? “Okay. I’ll do it.”


The Gravy Canoe of Wild Wyoming – 7

Steel Brandenburg III moved through his overpriced apartment in Berlin, Wyoming like an Isosceles tornado. Veronica Eyes was leaving Mango’s Tangle and getting ever closer. It didn’t take long to get anywhere in the realm of Berlin, Wyoming.

His place was a mess because he rarely had guests. He found a chunk of cheese hidden within the trunks of fibers of the living room carpet. He had no idea how it got there. But it was hiding like a little fuzzy Dr. Seuss character. He picked it up, opened the front door, and tossed it out into the park-like courtyard. He thought he heard a tiny scream as it sailed through the crisp, night air.

Steel’s thoughts then turned to Veronica. He wondered if she would be worked up and wet when she arrived. He wondered; would she finally be willing? He went to the doorway of his bedroom and glanced at the messy bed. It’s been six years since he has shared a bed with anyone. He’s gone six years without even a kiss or a hand to hold. He went to tidy up the bed, fluff the pillows. He worried if he was clean enough. What if she wanted to go down on him. Would she suddenly jerk her head away because he was gross? But there was no time to shower. He worried about all that. Steel was always worried about something. Wyoming was a good place to worry about things. Being in the hollow echo of Wyoming made it easier because one was usually cold and alone.

Steel looked out a window just as a set of headlights came bouncing into the night light parking lot. He watched and waited. The door opened. She slid out and looked up. Steel moved away from the window quickly and went toward the front door. He was overly eager and pulled it open just as she was coming up the stairs.

“Hey,” he said. His nervousness was vaguely apparent.

Veronica handed him a paper bag. “I brought more beer.”

“Oh, how sweet of you,” Steel said, and he quickly regretted his choice of words… “How sweet of you?”

She had taken notice and gave him a look. “Okay,” she smirked as she moved past him. He breathed her in, and she had the scent of night rain and spray paint, cue chalk and throbbing womanhood. She was so cool and collected, he thought. She handled life like it was meant to be handled. How did she do it? Did she ever shed a tear? he asked himself. She was so out of his realm of existence. It was like he was Mercury and she was Pluto.

They sat on his couch. There was a good bit of space between them. They drank more beer until they both had reignited their buzz. Steel fell into the look of her face as she talked. Her eyes were like some explosive spinning star in space. Her skin was smooth. Her dark hair flowed from her head haphazardly. She twisted her mouth in endless expressive shapes. Her smile was clean and wet. Steel wanted to reach out and touch her. When would he ever have such a perfect shot at it? Here she was, in his home getting drunk. She seemed happy. She was smiling and laughing as they talked about work and life in a nonsensical way. And of course, she was the one that suggested she come over.

“Why don’t you move a little closer,” he finally said. “I feel as if there is this great chasm between us. I’m not Evel Knievel you know.”

“Huh? You’re weird.” She laughed and scrunched her face. “Are you going to try and kiss me or something?”

His longing for her tumbled like a gymnast on crack. “Would that be a problem?”

“Women don’t want men to ask… Just do it.”

Steel moved closer. He put his hand at the back of her head and pulled her in. The thrust of her tongue came quickly. He was surprised by that but took all of it he could. She moaned. She clamped her hands to his face and pushed him down onto the couch and crawled on top of him. Her hair fell upon him like soft rain as she continued to forcefully mash her face to his. Steel wrapped his arms around her average frame and held her close. The warm weight of her against him felt like all of astrology coming true. She suddenly sat back up and worked her top off. Her bra was purple. He wanted to burn funeral incense and he didn’t know why. He suddenly felt religious as her flesh became spiritual in his hands.

“Where’s your bedroom?” she breathed. Her mouth glistened in the soft light of a dime-store table lamp with a tilted, yellowed shade.

Steel motioned with his head of quaking diamonds and dust. She took him by the hand and led him that way. Halfway there and with heat in the air, there came the sound of someone yelling from outside, down in the parking lot. Yelling through a megaphone. Steel’s first thought was that it was the police. Veronica was trying to frame him for rape, he worried. His heart pounded as he rushed to the living room window and moved aside the curtain. His murmur was puzzlement. “What the hell?”

Carrie Gould from the newspaper was standing in the middle of the parking lot barking butchered poetry and love psalms through the device she held to her mouth. “I forgive you, Steel Brandenburg. I forgive you because I know you are more than the bad words that come out of your mouth. I know you are more than a dirty trick or a prank. I forgive you because I love you!”

“Ah fuck,” Steel moaned. “What the hell is she doing!?”

Veronica came up behind him and her warm breath hit his ear like magical wind. “Looks like you have a stalker.” She laughed and pulled away.

“What should I do?”

Veronica went back over to the couch and slipped her shirt back on. “I don’t know, pal. But I suppose we’ll have to make it another time. That is unless you get married or something.” She popped open a fresh beer and began to drink it. “Want me to go out there and say something to her?”

“No… Maybe if we just ignore her, she’ll go away.”

“Chicks like that don’t ever just go away,” she told him. “You’re going to need to be forceful.”

He turned to look at her. “The only one I want to be forceful with is you. I guess you could say I only have eyes for you, Veronica Eyes.”

She laughed at him, but then turned serious when he came to her and stood before her. He undid his pants and let them fall. Then he guided her with his hand on her head as beyond the walls and windows Carrie Gould trumpeted the glories of her infatuation: “I love you Steel Brandenburg!”


The Gravy Canoe of Wild Wyoming – 6

colorful indoor lights
Photo by Sean Patrick on Pexels.com

Steel and Veronica drove in separate cars over to a place called Mango’s Tangle. The owner of the bar was named Mango and he had gotten into a lot of tangles in his life. He was from Miami, and no one could ever understand how or why he ended up in horrid Berlin, Wyoming.

He worked behind the bar a couple times a week because he liked the people and he liked to talk to them. He was loud, but mostly kind enough, depending on who you were. Mango shaved his head and had a creepy black goatee. He liked to wear Hawaiian shirts with the top buttons undone and his thick chest hairs were always crawling out and trying to escape. He wore overtight jeans with those Hawaiian shirts, and his skin, once perpetually bronzed by the Florida sun, had now faded to the cold pale flesh tone all the rest of them in town wore.

Mango smiled when he saw Veronica Eyes walk in but then frowned when Steel came in after her. He eyed Steel suspiciously as he reached for Veronica’s favorite bottled beer and set it down in front of her. “Who’s this guy?” he asked her. “Is he your new boyfriend?”

Mango had a crush on Veronica just like most of the men in Berlin, Wyoming did. He looked at Steel like he didn’t trust him, didn’t like him. “You going to have something to drink?” he snapped.

“I’ll take a tequila shot and your best IPA,” Steel answered as he reached into his pants to retrieve his wallet. He spread it open and pulled out some crisp bills and threw them on the bar. “I’ll take care of everything tonight.”

Mango snatched up the money, counted it, and put it near his till. He turned back around and tapped at his glistening head with a stiff finger. “I’ll be calculating in my mind… All that you drink.” He poured him the shot and put the beer down. “Are you new in town? I’ve never seen you in here before.”

“I’ve been here about five months,” Steel said.

“He works at the newspaper with me,” Veronica chimed in.

Mango raised his chin to study him from another angle. “Oh. A newspaper guy, huh. Do you do the writing, or take the pictures, or what?”

Steel winced after he downed the tequila shot. “Something like that.” He chased the strong drink with the beer.

“Well,” Mango began. “No one will be as good as this one.” He gestured with his head toward Veronica and smiled. “She’s on top of everything… And on the bottom, too.” He winked at her and smiled again. “Isn’t that right, Veronica?” He laughed out loud.

Veronica shook her head. She was embarrassed and excited and almost proud all at the same time. She enjoyed being popular with men. “Really? Exposing my weaknesses in front of the new guy.”

Mango laughed again as he poured someone else a drink. “Oh, you’ve been exposed all right.”

When he momentarily stepped away, Steel leaned closer to Veronica and whispered, “Why do you let him talk about you like that?”

She smiled and her eyes sparkled as she wrapped her mouth around the beer bottle she had. “Because it’s true.”

Steel looked at her face. He saw soiled perfection in everything. His heart thumped and he was getting warm from the liquor. “Can it be true for me?” he asked her in all seriousness.

Veronica giggled as Mango returned and replaced her beer with a fresh one. He poured Steel another shot. “I don’t know,” she said. “I’m still trying to figure you out. You’re an enigma or something closely resembling one. And you’re still kind of weird. You need to be genuine and penetrable for me to give myself up to you willingly.”

Steel was dejected about being called weird again and she took notice. “See… Like that.”

“Like what?” Steel grunted.

“You’re much too emotional. You take things way too personal. You have to loosen up and just be comfortable in your own skin. If I don’t see that in you… You’ll never be in me.” She got up off her barstool. “I’m going to go use the pisser. Think about it.”

When Veronica came out of the ladies’ room, she saw some people she knew gathered around a round table talking and laughing. She went right up to them and joined in the conversation. Steel envied the ease at which she could be so comfortably sociable. He watched her as she smiled and laughed. She reached out and touched a guy’s arm. She was invited to pull up a chair and be among their tribe. She glanced in Steel’s direction for just a moment, and then turned away to join her more straightforward and transparent friends.

Steel slipped out of the bar and into the night. He leaned against his car and smoked a cigarette, but he what he was really doing was waiting to see if Veronica would come out after him and invite him back into the bar. He waited and waited. His heart jumped every time the door would open, and the noise inside would rush out, then quickly fade when the door shut again. It was never her that emerged. He figured it never would be. Steel threw his cigarette to the ground and harshly snuffed it out with his shoe. He got into his car and drove home.

When he walked into his cold and dark overpriced apartment, Steel Brandenburg III wondered just what the hell he was doing with his life. He felt like with the rising of every new sun, he was dying inside more and more. He glanced out a window at the ugly city bathed in its ruins of economic depression and the dead spirits of its inhabitants.

He believed deep down within his own unfurled guts that moving to Berlin, Wyoming would turn out to be the greatest regret of his life. He was already beaten to hell when he had first arrived, and the beatings continued. He was so ready to chuck it all, take the losses, and just get the hell out of there. But the means to survive…

His phone suddenly lit up. Veronica was calling.

“Where the hell did you go?” she wanted to know.

“You drifted off to be with your friends. I just thought… I felt like you didn’t want me around anymore.”

He heard her sigh. “You fucked up again, I hope you know.”

“What did I do?” Steel wondered. His hot nerves started to kick in.

“You should have taken the opportunity to come over to me and meet my friends. Instead, you just took off. That was kind of a letdown. I was really hoping you’d stand up and be a man. I wanted you to be brave and step into the circle. But you just ran.”

“Jesus. That’s all a bit harsh.”

“You need to know I speak my mind… Completely,” Veronica said. “I’m just being honest. Don’t you value honesty?”

“You want me to be honest?”


“I thought it was rude of you to just leave me hanging there at the bar. You ditched me. It was selfish and snobbish.”

“I’m selfish and snobbish!?” Veronica protested. “It’s a small town. People know each other. People are friendly to each other. We greet each other and gather, not fade into the wallpaper. You should have pulled yourself together and come over.”

“I think I’m done with this conversation… And this town,” Steel told her, and he nearly ended the call.

But then she breathed, almost in a longing desperation. “Wait… Can I come over?”


The Gravy Canoe of Wild Wyoming – 5

For Gravy

In the toiled tick-tock of a fat blue dusk, Steel Brandenburg III stood at the stove in the kitchen of his grossly overpriced apartment on the west side of Berlin, Wyoming.

He was frying two tombstone-shaped slabs of reduced-sodium SPAM in a heavy black iron skillet. He thought about life as the meat sizzled and popped and filled the room with the smoky smell of a cheap life of struggle. He wondered how bad the repercussions would be for pranking the evil chubster Carrie Gould with the trick gum. He suddenly didn’t care. He didn’t care if they fired him or if she had him arrested for assault… As long as she didn’t sit on him, he laughed. “I’m just not into that,” he said aloud to a pale-yellow wall slightly splattered with grease. He suddenly felt like a sad clown.

Steel turned off the burner and used a white plastic spatula to transfer the SPAM to a piece of waiting toast slathered with mayo that sat on a dark blue plate that was chipped in one spot. He topped the SPAM with a thick slice of tomato and a crisp piece of iceberg lettuce. He put down the top piece of toast and gently squashed the sandwich with his palm to connect all the parts.

He moved the plate to the table and set it down next to a tall glass of chocolate milk. He sat down, scooted his chair in, and began to eat and drink in silence. His mind was chugging with a revenge repertoire. He was set on paying that asshole Craig Nusmerg a visit. That very night.

Carrie Gould was sprawled out on her bed as much as her large body would allow it. She was slowly flipping through her diary and reading over all the entries she had made about Steel Brandenburg III. The inky red hearts she had drawn were now all deflated after she crossed through them with hard Xs that nearly tore the paper. The words her eyes traced again and again made her ache. Tears were falling down her face like slow, gentle rain in Africa. She put the tip of the pen to a blank page, sighed, and began to write:

Dear Diary,

Today was absolutely one of the worst days of my life. The worst. I can’t even describe the depth of my pain, the emotional torture I have suffered at the very hands of the only man I ever loved. Steel… Why are you like real steel? So cold, so metal, so heartless. Maybe if I had told him a long time ago how I felt, maybe things would have been different. He was so unbelievably cruel to me today. He played a prank on me with trick gum that tasted of mustard and made my mouth yellow. I was mortified. Absolutely mortified. And he laughed at me. He laughed out loud. I’m nothing but a joke to him. And the worst of it… He called me a “fat sack of shit.” Maybe he’s right. Maybe that’s all I am after all.

She lifted the pen from the tear-stained page and began to cry even harder. She began to wail like an injured whale in the ocean. Then there came the sound of feet on the stairs and a knock at the door of her bedroom. “Carrie? Is everything okay in there? Are you crying again?”

It was her mother. Carrie Gould still lived with her in the house she grew up in. Even though she was an adult, Carrie Gould had a hard time navigating the real world and her beloved mother was sympathetic about that and had agreed she could live with her as long as she wanted. “You’ll always be my child,” she often said. “Always.”

The door opened and the mother walked in. She looked upon her sobbing daughter with pained pity. “What is it, dear?” she asked as she went to sit on the small slice of space that remained on the bed. “What’s the matter?”

Carrie sniffed and closed her diary to keep her true feelings hidden from her mother. “It’s nothing,” she told her mother. “It’s nothing at all.”

Steel Brandenburg III blasted Oasis on the stereo in his white Toyota Tacoma as he drove the night streets of Berlin, Wyoming. The streetlights were gaseous and wet due to a rare rain that had come over the city. The wipers made a noise against the windshield as he drove. Droplets of water were frenzied in the headlight beams ahead of him.

Once he reached downtown, he pulled into the parking lot of the newspaper and used his key to get into the office. The reserve lights burned like yellow pollution in the dead of night dim as he strolled through. Computer screens glowed in places. Buttons on phones flashed with messages. He could hear the clambering of the pressmen as they worked in the back. He heard the obnoxious voice of Craig Nusmerg above all the others.

Steel made his way back to the press room just as they walked to the back dock for a smoke break. He followed them and listened to them make remarks about the weather.

When he emerged from the shadows, Craig Nusmerg turned and noticed him there. “What the hell are you doing here?” he said with a squinting eye of suspicion.

“I forgot something,” Steel lied. “Can I have one of those?”

Craig Nusmerg scoffed. “No. Cigarettes cost money and I can’t just hand them out to everyone.” He turned to one of the others. “Ricky. You got money coming out of your ass. I don’t even know why the hell you even work. Give Steel a cigarette.”

Ricky was skinny and dirty and was missing a few teeth. “To get out of the house and away from that nag of a wife of mine and them damn screaming kids. God, I swear. All they do is scream. I don’t care how much money I have; I’ll always be looking to get out of there.” He reached into his pack and handed Steel a cigarette and the use of his pink Bic lighter.

Craig Nusmerg laughed out loud. “You need to get yourself fixed and quit knocking her up… Damn baby maker. The damn world is already too crowded.”

Steel lit the cigarette and exhaled his first drag from the edge of the dock and into the rain that was more like mist.

Craig Nusmerg redirected his attention back to Steel. “So, just what the hell are you doing here so late. I thought you were a 9 to 5 man like all the rest of them fools,” and he gestured his head toward the main office.

“I just had something to work on that couldn’t wait… And I wanted to talk to you.”

“Talk to me? What the hell for?”

The other pressman tossed their smokes and moved around Steel and Craig Nusmerg as they returned to work.

“I wanted to apologize for the other night… At the party,” Steel said. “I was way out of line with all that talk about gravy. It was stupid. Sorry about that.”

Craig Nusmerg shifted nervously. He looked at Steel as if he were the strangest person alive. “Whatever, dude.”

“No. Seriously, Craig. I’m sorry. I thought maybe we could be friends. Maybe we could hang out some time, go grab a few beers at the pub.”

Craig Nusmerg let out a laugh. “Friends? I don’t think so. I’ve got plenty of friends. Hang out? No way.” He took one last drag of his smoke and tossed it into the darkness before walking away.

Steel feigned disappointment. “Wait,” he said. “All right. I guess I’ll just let you get back to work then.” But before Craig Nusmerg completely walked away, Steel moved after him. He quickly pulled something out of his pocket. “Hey. Do you want a piece of gum, Craig?”


“Yeah. Gum.”

Craig Nusmerg looked around to make sure no one was watching before reaching out and taking the piece. He didn’t want anyone to think he was gay. “Okay, I guess so.”

“See you later, man,” Steel said, and he walked off. He paused alone in the editorial department and waited for it. Then it came. The angry wail was like a dinosaur’s and the solo stampede coming after him even greater.

“You son of a bitch!” Craig Nusmerg cried out, his mouth stained green and spitting as he burst into the room. “I’ll fucking kill you for making me eat shit gum!”

A light suddenly illuminated on someone’s desk in the corner. Veronica Eyes was suddenly aglow like a fox angel. “What’s going on, boys?” she wanted to know. “Fighting again?”

“This son of a bitch gave me gum that tasted like shit,” Craig Nusmerg loudly complained.

Veronica Eyes giggled. “And you should look at yourself in a mirror.”

“What?” Craig Nusmerg said, pawing at his own mouth and tongue.

“You’re all green,” Veronica said. “But it serves you right, don’t you think. You did pour gravy all over his head at my party.”

Craig Nusmerg steamed as he looked at them both. He pointed at Steel. “This isn’t the end of it,” he growled. “I’ve got my eye on you, mother fucker. You better watch yourself… And you better watch out for me.” He turned and stomped off.

For some odd reason, Steel wanted to give Veronica a hug. Then he thought it not so odd and moved on her. She felt good in his arms. She smelled good. He wanted to kiss her, but he was so caught up in the moment that he didn’t clearly realize she was forcefully pushing him away.

“Whoa pal. You can thank me for saving your life from over there,” she said.

Steel took a few steps back. He was horribly embarrassed. “Sorry about that… How did you do that?”

“Do what?” Veronica wondered.

“Make him back off like that. I was sure he was going to beat the hell out of me.”

“Women have a way,” she began. “We’re smarter and stronger than men. We don’t resort to violence at the drop of a hat… And we’re sleeping together. He knows he needs to keep himself in line and not ruffle my feathers if he still wants to get some.”

Steel was shocked. “What? You and Craig Nusmerg?”

“It’s not exclusive, or a relationship. It’s just back-alley lust. It’s completely selfish on both our parts and that’s fine.”

Steel thought about it for a moment and wondered if she could be selfish with him as well. “Do you want to go get a drink?” he suddenly asked her.

He was delightfully surprised when she said, “Yes.”