“These Nuts”

If you want to hear me read this story, head on over to R. B. Wood’s awesome Word Count Podcast (Ep. 37).


I was out for an early morning stroll when the final battle to the death began. I was wearing slippers, week old socks and a particularly worn and tight fitting G-string I borrowed from an elderly neighbour. He was wearing the yellow getup Uma Thurman used in Kill Bill. Which was not as strange as you might imagine, the tiny nun-chucks and bandana surprised me more. But it was the motorcycle, my assailants’ mode of conveyance that caught me off guard. It was clearly an RC toy which meant that somewhere, very close, a small group of industrious squirrels were working a remote control. The image sat in my mind, squat, curious, indignant, like a picture of a dog on two legs doing the Macarena.

The yellow clad ninja squirrel tilted its head. The tiny toy engine whirred and the motorcycle ploughed forward and to the right into a collection of cans the local hobo uses to collect rainwater for drinking, and urine, for drinking. He chirped meowed his frustration and an apologetic murmur fell from somewhere above me.

The squirrel righted itself and drew its nun-chucks with speed and grace, its blank stare hiding its keen intellect and Dane Cook level of wit. And I knew it was on.

I wish I could pinpoint the beginning of our feud. That moment when human and rodent turned from casual strangers to mortal enemies, but I can’t. Too much history has passed between us for any one moment to ascend above the others and declare itself king of the hill.

For example there was that particularly harsh nut harvest. I collected the nuts with glee; I sang old timey tunes and smiled even after I saw the squirrel family weeping in the tree tops. I didn’t do this to be harsh; rather, I didn’t give two shits about the affairs of squirrels.

Not long after the nut gathering incident came the vroom vroom squish of late autumn.

In the following spring, on the year’s first bright warm day, I dressed in overly tight Speedos and roasted the same collected nuts from the previous harvest, burning and discarding most of them. I should point out that I actually hate nuts. Later there was an incident with a lawn strimmer, two bottles of cheap bourbon and a well placed if damp plunger that led to two squirrels being buried Viking style in a pencil case half filled with vomit.

The threats started to follow quickly.

I’d wake up and find totally incomprehensible squiggles covering my window.

In the mornings when I went to collect my mail I found piles of small dark nuggets at my door. After eating a few handfuls I realised what they were so limited myself to three handfuls a day. When I didn’t get rabies I moved up to five handfuls and visibly gained weight so that my once comfortable ball gag began to chaff me terribly.

As an avid pervert I take long walks in the park with my pet cat so as to take wide angled photos of elderly men fiddling with dentures. Sometimes I would spot a squirrel in the background doing squirrel things. Later I found that a squirrel appeared in each shot. More often than not, the little menace was waving a fist or trying to give me the finger.

I attempted reconciliation with the squirrels on two occasions. I left a half eaten bag of chocolate peanuts in my garden the first time. The next day I found several dead squirrels next to it. Some had suffocated in their own diarrhoea. The next attempt at peacemaking was a bowl of almonds laced with rat poison. But nothing seemed to work.

Finally I took a cue from Ghandi and blighted all the nearby trees so as to starve them all to death. But clearly that failed too.

Now the ninja squirrel, champion of its species is moving toward me. It swings the nun-chucks in wide arcs before switching paws and doing that Bruce Lee move, I believe it’s called the Castrator.

I watch, dazzled by the skill and poise and tiny crotch-less yellow suit. The creature, sure footed with an impressive fuzzy tail gets closer and closer until I can no longer risk inactivity. Lacking ninja skills myself I do what most would do under the circumstances. I stamp on the little bastard. Dazed it falls back, so I stamp repeatedly on its head until something the colour of Mississippi mud pie and the viscosity of glue streams from the groin of its little yellow crotch-less suit.

The little beast’s chest heaves as its no head, faceless wreck above its narrow broken shoulders struggles for breath. I let my cat start to eat the thing out of pity more than anything because I know that that tiny yellow suit is ruined and won’t fit any of the hundreds of stuffed squirrels that cover my house.

I suppose you might call this a morality tale, the moral being never stamp a squirrel to death if you intend on stripping the corpse.

Fear & Loathing as a Reason

Misery and despair have a number, 2,382,672. That’s how many books have been published this year so far. That’s the competition. That’s the number of trees in the forest an author must drag every potential reader past in order to dazzle them with their own shiny leaves, beautifully patterned bark and crop of delectable and quite potent magic mushrooms sprouting at the base. Its 2,382,672 reasons to say, huh, fuck that. Or is it? Are there only 2,382,672 readers in the world? How many books will each reader read a year? Is there a reason other than readers to publish a book? Why is 42 the answer to everything and am I the only person who thinks that Punch a Coffee Shop Douche Day might be the answer to world peace?

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A Reason to Publish

Maybe there are other reasons to publish a book, release photographs or write an article for a paper or magazine. Maybe the reason is far better and far more important than actually publishing.

It’s no easy task to publish. I speak as a writer but the lesson is applicable to all creative types. Even in this exciting era of self-publishing there are hurdles to overcome. No one wants to part with their hard earned cash and get a book riddled with errors. Even getting to that point requires a catchy cover as easy on the eye as Scarlett Johansson and with all the promise of a hedonistic weekend in international waters. So the book needs an editor (ching), it needs a glorious cover (chi-ching), and it needs to be worth the readers time.

Even after all the hard work the damn thing might not sell a single copy. So why bother? Why publish that first story in the first place? The answer is entirely selfish and absurdly gratifying.

I’m putting out a story for Christmas (wallets at the ready) for free (what a douche). Lots of authors do this, its lead-gen, publicity, an easy free entrance for prospective readers. But that’s not why I’m doing it. The story is about a boy who fights off goblins to save Christmas, as simple as that. But the road to its publication and the act of publishing the story is both the point and the reward.

Originally I called it, Danny vs the Boggart. I decided to keep it under twelve thousand words and target it towards sixth graders (ten year old types). It’s essentially for and about my son so writing it as a gift was the original point. A personal gift means far more to me, no matter how small, than any lavish object you care to name (with the exception of Scarlett Johansson and a hedonistic weekend in international waters). I believe children are talked down to a lot, even by writers in stories created for said children. So I wrote a flight of fancy tale for younglings but I kept the deeper and darker questions the story asked rather than cut them out. Making that decision started the happy ball rolling.

Next I changed the name. As young critters, my brother and I loved a story called Russell’s Bogle. At least I think that was the name it was over two decades ago. Once I finished writing my 12 thousand words (3 days of writing) I sent my brother the rough copy and asked him what he thought. He seemed to like it which of course made me happy, but he also had a suggestion. Why not change Boggart to Bogle in honour of our long ago youth. I himmed at first and then realized that the new suggested title made me feel all warm and gooey inside. So I changed the title.

None of this is related to selling books. None of it will make you rich. But, if you want to create and share your creations, all of this is important.

“am I the only person who thinks that Punch a Coffee Shop Douche Day might be the answer to world peace?”

Breaking the Seal

DvsB Blog Pic

Hitting the publish button sets me free. The works been done. The creative process is over. The nightmarish landscape of criticism and derision await. But fuck ‘em. The important thing, the priceless gift you have given yourself, is freedom. We are all held back by uncertainty. We expect and so receive negativity. We wait and mutter, it needs more work, it’s not pretty enough yet, it’ll never make me Oprah rich. But releasing that first story is the breaking of the seal. Every time after is easier. It becomes fun, a gathering excitement rather than a paralysing bundle of nerves.

Ignore the naysayers. Tell your story, capture your moment, share your opinion and hit send. Until you do you will be trapped behind all the excuses you can muster.

I had problems with the cover. I edited the story myself (always, always bad), I cursed all the old gods for the barriers they set before me. Then I hit send and had a mug of coffee and a bun. Because fuck that. Break the seal, pop your cherry, push, push, push and know that every time after will be golden.

Embrace Failure, the gift that keeps on giving

Embrace Failure, the gift that keeps on giving

Life is hard. Work seems endless; no one wants to mention the elephant in the room, namely the platypus. But there’s good news, a light at the end of the tunnel. Someday, you’ll be dead. We can leave it there if you like. All worm food, all decrepit oozing slime and bones piercing paper thin rags of skin, or we can do something about the here and now. Who wants to be an employee? Who wants to live under other peoples deadlines, striving to enrich the lives of them who decide what YOU are worth? It makes me feel ill, like a Justin Bieber song or the 1993 Super Mario Bros.  movie. I want to make my own decisions and create my own path. How about you?

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If you do it, stuff will happen, I guess

Sadly I’m not talking trans-humanism or a give-me-some-of-your-time-and-your-credit-card-details-and-I’ll-give-you-the-future tosh. We all have plans and ideas and goals. There are things we want from life, places to go, orcs to hunt. But we are caged by limitations. Everything costs time and money and hey bub, I’m broke. Or damn near so as to make no difference. I’ve a family to feed, a mortgage to pay and kids I want to put through college and sometimes the wall. None of this is impossible, just really, really hard.

I write, or at least I want to write. I want to tell stories of worlds and heroes, awesome battles, emotional sacrifices, dark dangerous thoughts. I want to make people shiver, shake and laugh. I want to create, Authors without Borders, wherein the borders are the limits to which for this reason or that we can’t even attempt to cross. Don’t you want the same? Maybe you create art in a different way. Maybe music is your thing, photography, dance, architecture, games, Coke can sculptures of Ancient Athenian philosophers. The point isn’t what you want to do but how we go about doing it, how we free ourselves to do what we want rather than what we must.

Time and money is forever an obstacle, but discipline is the real bitch. If you believe that no matter what happens, the cost of producing art or distributing art is always going to be out of your reach or that life simply takes up too much time for that run, to read that book, to write that book. You are robbing yourself of the truth. You are the obstacle.

“I want to tell stories of worlds and heroes, awesome battles, emotional sacrifices, dark dangerous thoughts.”

How to fail upwards!

About now you are thinking, who is this guy to lecture me? How dare he put the blame at my feet, what are his credentials?

To which I say, Fuck You.

You’re doing it again. Procrastinating like a little bitch with a sore finger. Throw on a pair of big boy panties and grab opportunity. And that means failing. Yup, failure sucks, and if you let it, it’ll tear you down. What you need to do is learn from it. You need to test those boundaries and push. Make a plan, not something crazy, way beyond the realm of reason. Don’t expect to build a starship out of lollipop sticks and nostril gloop. At least not quite yet. Begin by considering what it is you want and how you can go about getting it. Include time. If it was that easy you’d have it already, it’s going to take a moment, how many moments is up to you.

I have set myself a goal. I’ll be my own boss. I will write comedy, satire, space romps and pure fantasy goodness where and when I can. I will tell stories through other media. I will collaborate with likeminded peeps and when I inevitably fail, I will mark that failure, dissect it, learn from it. I will make that mistake, error, sheer moment of bad luck my little lab bitch and build on it. I have set out a time span, how long I expect it’ll take me to become self-sufficient. Three years. That seems like a long way off but it’s not. Its only 1095 days. 1095 days from the madness of doing the bidding of others and struggling to be free to the light and air of possibilities.

THE FOLLY

Gordon shivered. His hands closed to fists and the urge to retreat rose in his gut. Winter winds, early for the time of year brushed his prickling skin and plumed his breath. But it was not the coming harshness of an Atlantic chill that froze the caretaker. It was the footprints in the snow.
He preferred isolation, took the job watching the manor for peace and quiet, though he was now thankful for Rufus’ company. The big Bassett nuzzled his leg silently demanding to leave this place and the Folly behind.
Gordon looked to the grand structure, a tower, forty feet high with windows at cardinal points and a door set ten feet up. As if its purpose was defence, protection. It was built according to the agent in the late eighteenth century to give the poor something to do. Victorians did not believe in handouts. The poor had to work, to build follies, vast garden ornaments on the master’s land. This one stood sentinel on a small rise overlooking the manor with lawns between and a deep wood behind.
The footprints in the snow ran a circle around the folly. Gordon could make out individual toes, he could see patterns as if the makers whirled or danced, and had that been all he might have laughed at the absurdity of the thing. But he was cut short by a salient fact. The prints ran around the folly, but none led to the building. It was as if the makers just appeared and disappeared after.
“It must be teens” Gordon said under his breath, “hmm?” he patted the dogs head letting his hand linger. “Must be.”
As he made his way back to the two room hovel that was his winter home he decided to check fences in the morning, patch whatever holes the teens or coursers used to get in.
Rufus held back a moment. His attention on the folly’s snow capped door. Then with a huff he retreated too.
That evening, Gordon ate slowly. He took no joy in his broth or the warmth it brought. His mind was fixed on the tower and what to do about it. He decided to wait up and see the visitors for himself. He let the fire die out early to give the impression he was asleep. And as a pale cloud wreathed moon took its ascendency, he sat and waited.
By midnight, sleep beckoned and her call was sweet and tempting. The choice between risking sleep and scaring off the visitors was no choice at all though. Gordon led Rufus to the bathroom by his broad red collar and closed him in before, shrugging on his overcoat and taking his cigarette makings he slipped out the front door. At first he felt no cold, his skin numbing to the still icy air. Then his fingers burned making the action of rolling his smoke difficult.
Inside, Rufus began to bark. The tobacco of the poorly made smoke drifted to the earth. And the moon cast an eldritch glow silhouetting the folly.
It is as Gordon lifts the smoke to his lips that he sees the lights. They burn bright in the follies windows, golden and hot and alien.
In his bed later, with night all around and the snow falling in matted clumps outside, Gordon dreamt of the lights. He saw the follies windows clearly and fancied that within the fire lit interior, he could see dancers.
Gordon remained indoors all the next day. He told Rufus that the weather was going to worsen and he would get little done. He let the dog out before darkness descended, to mark territory and whatever else was necessary. But when Rufus ventured north, toward the tower, Gordon called him back.
The manor and its grounds were sullied in the caretakers mind now, because now he had neighbours, now he had visitors and his peace and isolation were broken
As soon as light peered over the eastern horizon, Gordon ventured out into the thick drift. Tired, he made a ring of the manor and its grounds checking every high fence and stout gate. He found all secure and intact.
Just after noon, as he sipped coffee from a heavy plain mug the man asked to no one, “how are they getting in?” and with that he had an idea that made him sweat. What if they are already in?
Gordon almost ran to the manor. He passed through its oak clad door and raced along its halls checking every room twice and finding the same thing, nothing. From the master bedroom he could see the tower stabbing from the white blanketed earth like a spear. Sullied, he thought again.
Before leaving the manor, Gordon took something. It was precautionary he told himself. Better I have it than some yahoo find. He tucked the shotgun under his arm as he made his way home, its weight a comfort.
That night, Gordon cleaned the gun to the best of his ability and with dawn he took it on his rounds. By the edge of the wood he test fired the thing and found great satisfaction in its deafening roar.
Not meaning to, he turned to the folly. Was he expecting a retort from it? It crossed his mind and anxiety turned to frustration. He started to march north.
There again he found the footprints. But he had expected as much. What he found next however turned his blood to ice.
Organising some loose stone and a large urn into a makeshift ladder, the caretaker climbed up until he could reach the latch on the follies door. He turned it, pensive at first and then swung it open wildly. His breath caught in his throat. Beyond the door was stone. And from here he could see that the same lay behind each window.
In his hovel, Gordon brooded. The fear and uncertainty rising and infecting his every thought like a fever. He tried sleep but dreamt of dancers. He cleaned the gun but his hands shook. Eventually, when he could stand it no more, he pulled the curtains from his window and dumped the heavy material to the ground. Outside was white, pristine and silent. The face of the folly was blank. The air carried no music. Exhausted he lay on his bed and let sleep carry him away to nothingness.
The fear returned the next morning the moment he opened his front door. There in the snow he saw tracks, a line of bare footprints leading from the folly to his own window.
Stumbling back, Gordon shut the door with a crash, only stopping when his back met wall. The prints hovered in his vision, burned into his retinas by the bright glistening snow and his own terror.
He stood there, fearing to move, fearing to make a sound and dreading to glance at the naked window for fear he his eyes would be met by Another’s.
The rest of the day is a blur. He completed his chores. He cleaned the gun and re-hung the curtain, going so far as to tack the dark material to the wall. But his attempts failed. It was just too heavy for his improvised rod and time after time the curtain slumped to the hovel floor allowing the outside in.
Gordon let Rufus out to do his business at about four of the clock. The hound bounded free from the doorway and reaching the prints it sniffed and then moved off in a different direction. Gordon understood why.
He took to his chair and rolled a cigarette. He didn’t want it but his bones ached for the need of something. He sucked in the acrid cigarette smoke keeping his attention on the door. That was safer, the other option was to look beyond his widow and see the accusing tower.
It is ten in the morning when Gordon wakes. The door is still open but there is no sign of Rufus. His neck and back are stiff. A small dark crater marks the wood by his feet where the smoke from last night fell and burned out. Frost coats his boots. He wants a fire but a dread lurks in his mind between the tower and Rufus’ whereabouts.
Taking up the old double barrelled shotgun, Gordon abandons the shelter of the hovel and starts outside into heavy falling snow and a growling wind.
After three hours in which he fell often and almost lost a boot to the packed snow, Gordon returned home without his companion. Heart heavy and shaking hard the man started a fire.
He tried to focus on kindling and matches but couldn’t. He’ll be back in no time. Found some foxes tracks I bet and is off investigating.
But he understood somewhere deep in his mind that that was wrong. A gust banged his door startling him. He reached for the shotgun and only managed to knock it onto the ground. It was pointless. He left town, left people to find security. Now, here, in the middle of a blank space on the map he found exhaustion and something far more sinister.
The door bangs again and it is as if a summer breeze has cleared Gordon’s mind. A solution to at least one of his problems becomes apparent.
Grabbing some firewood, the long pieces, some tacks and a few nails from a drawer, the caretaker takes to the gathering storm and pushes north.
These will do, he decides as snow covers his shoulders and eyelids. They must do. Without losing pace, the caretaker scours the follies wall for a loose brick. Once found, about six inches long with curiously rounded edges. He ascends the makeshift ladder as before. It shakes beneath his weight but he is unperturbed and board by board he blocks the bottom half of the follies door. He strikes the nails and tacks with the stone like a troglodytes hammer until they are all attached. Finally he reaches for the latch as he did on his first investigation here and pulls. But the door is stuck tight. He pulls harder. The door remains shut but the pile of debris beneath his feet crumbles and he is cast down.
For the first time in his life, Gordon is glad of the snow. Like a thick blanket it protects him from the rough ground beneath. A single stone however has cut his left temple and the warmth flowing there tells him he is bleeding. But it is done.
“Now what” he whispers to the folly, “now who is imprisoned?”
As Gordon starts to get up marvelling that nothing is broken his hand finds something in the snow. It jingles as he brings it close to his face, and he knows its Rufus’ broad red collar before his eyes see it.
Gordon left the folly and the collar. He wouldn’t bring the thing into his home. Or at least his home for tonight because regardless of the weather. Regardless of the roads or the distance needed to travel, Gordon was returning to humanity and sanity with dawns first light.
Once inside the dim hovel, Gordon begins to fill his pockets with shotgun shells. He bolts the door and throws wood onto the small dying flame in the hearth. He lifts the weighty weapon from its perch by his bed and turns his chair to face the door. Blood runs down his cheek. He can hear it tip tapping onto the wooden floor. He feels dizzy. He feels the room grow and falls rather than sits into the chair making it creak. Darkness follows.
At first he thought to tell Rufus to quieten. The dog almost always made a fuss first thing in the morning but as his senses returned he heard the noise for what it was and his eyes opened.
The handle of his door turned slowly.
By instinct, powered by a combination of loathing and terror, Gordon levelled the gun at the door and emptied both barrels. The thing thundered, it thumped into his gut and caused bile to rise burning his throat. The gunshots affect was evident on the door. A hole the size of a human head with raggedy edges had replaced the handle.
For a moment all was still. The caretaker noticed only the cold then the frosted windows, steamed as if by breath. And then he realised as the sound of a jingling collar rose that he could hear a call, like the one he used to get Rufus to heel. With the low clicking and jingling a new sight appeared beyond the hole in the door. It was Rufus’ collar. And the hand that bore it was long fingered and almost blue.
Gordon screamed and struggled with the shotgun. He realised it needed to be reloaded just as his door burst open. A wave of snow filled the space blocking his view and then coating his eyes. But he felt the hands, not a pair but many. They took the gun and pawed at his face. His scream turned to a shriek as the hands grabbed about him and lifted him from the chair, bearing him north, into the snow and on to the tower.

“It’s a long way down”

Or

“So that’s what spinal fluid tastes like”

 

I literally have nothing to say. Not a thing. But I fully intend on taking about five hundred words to do it.

You might be asking why, why are you bothering man. Surely you have better things to do with your time than write long sentences that have no real point or direction yet seem to continue on and on and on and on, going nowhere and being needlessly repetitive as they do so (do so). And yes you would be right to ask the question even if it is an ignorant ass question that could very easily break my heart and upset my momentum while giving my pride a kick with your fist. I mean seriously, you have to be one mean dude to just sit there with your laptop or smartphone, your trousers round your ankles waiting for PornTube to upload a new set of vids in the Granny Sex category and belittle my dream of posting a blog entry when all I’m really wondering is are they really making a Ferris Bueller 2 (I bet Cam’s dad kicked his ass and left him in an ICU for like six days before the attending physician gave him the all clear as Ferris stayed in bed and your one from Dirty Dancing learned the true meaning of charity in prison from a two hundred and sixty three pound Madame called Charity with a tattoo on her arm that reads, “I made Satan my Bitch”).

-Seriously I’m only on 263 words.-

So yeah, you can ask the question. And you know what, I’ll answer it. Because that’s what a real man does when confronted with obstacles, or when his mind goes blank or he still has 200 words to write before he can pat himself on the back and enjoy an orange chocolate éclair that he doesn’t actually have in his possession at the moment but would very much like to. Damn an orange chocolate éclair would be great right about now. And some milk to wash it down. Hell yeah, that’s what I’m doing after I write about 137 more words. I’m gonna have a whole mess of orange chocolate éclairs, a carton of moo juice and some M&M’s. Man I wish I was finished.

Any who. . .

Yeah it’s a long way down, a long road from success-Ville to old underpants and tuberculosis town. You claw your way up and hope to stay awhile but gravity and a mental condition characterised by moments of lucidity interspersed with just plain whack-a-doodle have more sinister plans like Mark Strong in pretty much every film ever made. Wait, what? Settle, settle, I’m getting there. The reason I want to do this blog even though I have nothing to say is rather simple. It’s not rocket science or reinventing the probability density charge but it is important, important to everyone and it is serious. The reason is, I

By C. Thomas Smith Posted in Blog

SINNERMAN

                        It’s never as simple as it sounds. I know that. I know it like I know up from down, left from right, right from wrong. Yeah, right from wrong.

In school I heard all about Peter and his letters, his sermons on paper trying to keep those early Christians on the path, stop them shitting bricks when dawn came around again regular as clockwork. They were waiting for it all to end, fucking begging and praying for the ride to stop so they could get off and collect their tickets at the big pearly gates. Can you believe that? They wanted it to end, true crazies if ever there was and I know, like I know the rest. Anyway Peter told them that we were all born dirty, conceived in sin, raised in sin and living in sin, a fact that every teenager in the world can attest to. He said our souls, our very spirits were clouded by the sin of the first people those original gangster’s Adam and Eve, the Bonnie and Clyde of the Old Testament. Can I get a Hallelujah brother? He said our first mother, the nasty Eve, cursed us all when she convinced poor idle brained honest Adam to take a bite of that big old Granny Smith. Now you and I know that that’s a lot of crap. Adam didn’t need convincing, a hot Arab girl in nothing but a fig leaf offers you some fruit with a shake and a smile and she may as well be handing you cyanide for all you’d notice. Peter insisted it was the finer sex that started the shit rolling down hill and we’ve been praying and paying ever since. That’s why we confess our sins and seek absolution. That’s why babies, barely a hot minute in the world need blessing, cause old Pete says they are guilty as sin.

That’s why on the worst fucking night of my life I’m cradling a small gold cross and staring into space like a junky. I should be paying attention but I’m not. I’m thinking of absolution instead of what I’m supposed to be thinking. I’m supposed to be thinking about running. I’ve got enough strikes on my card to fill a hammer with envy and I’m thinking about hell instead of the gun. I can smell the oil it was rubbed down with and I can almost taste the metallic tang of the thing. I should be listening to Juno’s last words but all I can think about is the fact that the games rigged from day one. We are all sinners before we take our first breath, gurgle our first words, take our first crap or tell our first lie. Now if that doesn’t take the cake, eat it and then vomit it back up into your lap I don’t know what does.

‘You hear about Saul?’

Did I hear about Saul, that simple dumb bastard? We both know what’s going to happen here and he’s asking me about a dwarf Jew with hookers on speed dial. Some people have no respect for the big picture. Two men sit in an area of Brooklyn nicknamed “Stiff’s Alley” and both know that only one of them is going home to a hot woman and cold beers while the other chills in purgatory before burning in hell. I want to be mad but I can’t. Juno’s big docile cow’s eyes are all glazed and moist looking at me with complete sincerity, his hair parted and hanging over his left eyebrow like a guinea Hitler. I can almost imagine him with that weird little ball jockey moustache. I want to be mad but I just can’t get there. This isn’t the time or the night for it.

‘Nah’ I answer before wiping the sweat from my upper lip, ‘what he do this time?’

Saul Manmunchyre -I shit you not, that’s the guys real name- was known far and wide for the kind of shenanigans you read about in dime store rags, the kind of guy who makes millions by just being himself, a low life. He has no talent, no skills, not even a catchy catchphrase, unless “fuck me I’m stoned” has had a resurgence since the mid seventies. He’s a local celebrity though, the guy who can get you dope or blow or a clean piece of tail at four in the morning. A couple of years ago a paper did an article about the seedy side of pop music and the little prick got a mention. From living in a basement to the penthouse in less than a year and a paragraph because that’s all it takes to become famous, to become a celebrity.

Juno licked his lips and took a drag on one of his ever lit Pall Malls before continuing. He sighed, a nasal drone that allowed the grey wisps of cigarette smoke escape his mouth and start their journey to the stained ceiling of the car.

‘You know about his thing?’

I gave Juno a wide eyed look, the kind southern belles give dudes like Rhett Butler when he asks, side saddle or bareback. It took Juno a moment to understand and when he did he started to splutter and laugh. He sounded like a small out board motor on a fishing boat starting up, smoke and all.

‘You filthy shit kicker’ Juno wheezed clutching his chest, ‘you know that’s not what I meant, I’m not talking ‘bout some midgets fucking junk. I mean his thing, you know, with the all year round fucking tan. That thing,’

Yeah, I knew about that thing. Saul looked like a pumpkin in December. It could be minus fifteen outside and he would still look like a cabana boy.

‘Okay I’ll bite, what about his thing?’

‘Guy had more money than sense friend’ Juno started, ‘guy was a genius for the green and white and pink but that dumb fucker couldn’t tell the time on a digital clock. He stepped into his mini me tanning machine and got ready for the blitz. He did all the usual shit, and that was his mistake.’ Juno said wagging a finger, ‘As it turns out, one of his girls used the machine before him and broke it. She tried to fix it but you know how it is. All done up and shit with her five fucking inch fake nails and coke mushed brains, she just made it worse.’ Juno paused and took another drag on his cigarette.

‘And the moral of the story is . . .’ I said twirling my hand for him to finish.

‘The moral of the story friend is never let a hooker with five inch nails play Handy Manny with your shit if you ever intend on using it. That poor dumb midget stepped into a machine that had a broken door and broken timer. The maid smelled that shit and asked who making bacon before someone was sent to check on old cooked Saul, as easy as that my friend, dope dealer to pot roast.’

Juno stubbed out the cigarette on the cars dash and let the butt fall to the floor. He looked younger somehow beneath the yellow fluorescents of the street light. He could pass as thirty right here and now and no one would question it. The lights colour hid the taint of dirty flaxen skin around his fingers from three packs of Pall Malls a day and covered the red and blue snarls of veins that marked his nostrils from Wild Turkey and bourbon binges. Yeah at a glance he could pass as someone else but I can still smell the gun oil with its lemony bite. I can still feel the weight of a revolver against my chest and every now and then I consider going for it, but it’s not the time for that. Executions have a ritual all of their own, especially when it’s between friends.

I think he’s nervous. He hides it well but I can tell, everyone has their tell, and I know Juno’s. It comes with knowing a cat, working with a cat.

When I met James Phelps Junior he was eleven years younger and twenty five pounds lighter. He was a son of a bitch then as now but that was fine. I was a son of a bitch. It was just one of a number of things we had in common. For example, we shared a fondness for fried food, Monday night football, cold beers, chicks in short shorts and fuck me boots, beers, Pall Malls, horse racing, beers, college girls looking to make a few bucks and don’t mind wearing their old high school cheerleader outfits, bourbon and of course, beers. Do you see a pattern emerging from times murky past friend? I wouldn’t call us degenerates but others might.

It was the boredom you see. That’s what the life is like. Its early mornings and late nights and the space between filled with obnoxious malcontents griping about how nothing in life is how they expected it would be. Sure, sure, I get it. You want a bigger house, or a better car. You want that promotion at work you didn’t earn and why is it wrong to have sticky thoughts about your neighbour’s daughter. Because she’s a kid fucko, that’s why. You don’t deserve the promotion because you are a lazy slob, ditto the house and car. We never say it. It’s not part of our job description to be that honest, if you can call it a job. Being a member of the big man’s special family is not supposed to be about work, it’s supposed to be an honour. Winning the lottery is an honour; subservience is a major fucking drag.

Juno cleared his throat. Eleven years and it all comes down to this.

‘You outta smokes?’ I say trying to fill in the quiet but my mouth is dry. The words are so final it makes the fat guy quiver slightly. His foreheads sweaty, shiny like a fairy sprinkled it with magic dust. He shakes his head and produces the cigarette packet but he doesn’t light one. Maybe he is ready. He’s psyched up for the big moment and ready to rocket into action with a bang, a thump and the acrid cordite smell of gunpowder.

‘Who you fancy in the playoffs?’ he wrinkles his discoloured nose; ‘I like Miami. It’s just my opinion but fuck it; their times gotta come around sometime’

Jesus, Miami, seriously, Miami? Are they even in the fucking playoffs? I try not to look annoyed but I can see it in his big dumb eyes. I don’t want to make it hard on him but fuck, his parts the easy part. And we’ve all got to play our part.

‘Football or basketball?’

‘Does it matter?’ Juno replies raising his large hands.

‘Yeah, kinda, Juno old buddy old pal, I mean, it’s not rocket science but the devils in the detail you know what I mean. One’s a yes and the others a who gives a damn’

‘Right, fine’ Juno starts, but with a sigh he leaves it.

He looks like he’s going to have a heart attack before the trigger is even pulled, a big fat juicy coronary before the magic moment. Fuck. Now I can’t get the idea of a vast porter house out of my head, thick and red with all the fixings and a pitcher, gold and cold. Now that would make a fine last meal. I consider asking him if he wants to hit an eatery one last time for old times’ sake but I don’t. His hands are shaking. That’s why he didn’t try and pull out a smoke, he couldn’t. Now in the yellow light on a deserted street my friend changes. Rather than looking younger, he ages, he sickens. Parkinson shakes twist his strong bold frame and time spreads its grey fingers across his skin. I wish for a moment I could take it all back and save him but that’s not my job either. It all boils down to sin and who’s got to suffer it. Saint Peter and the angels demand vengeance. What a swell bunch they all are, really.

‘We should get going Juno’

‘Are you that eager? You just wanna get it done, right?’ he’s upset, and I can’t blame him. Eleven years man, eleven fucking years all boils down to a mistake and a muzzle flash.

‘There’s no point putting it off anymore. It’s gotta be done. It’s the right thing to do. We both know it.’ I squeeze the little gold cross praying for inspiration.

‘Maybe I’m not ready’ he wheezes, tears form in the corner of his eyes. ‘This is crazy. There’s got to be another way.’

I wish my friend. I really do.

I can remember that day. I see the blood. I smell the stink of it. Juno stands stock still but says nothing. He just reaches into his pocket and proceeds to free and light a smoke. I start to cry. What a waste, what a terrible violent waste.

‘It’s time’ I say focussing my eyes on a smashed phone box on the street ahead. Trying to escape the vision of past sins, but it doesn’t work. It never works. ‘I’m not belittling the seriousness of the situation. I get it; it’s hard, harder than almost anything but we made a promise. We swore on God and all his crummy little angels. There’s a sin and a punishment and its time.’

‘This is a sin too brother, murder is a sin’

I smile and believe it or not it’s genuine. ‘It’s the right thing Juno. Checks and balances, everything in the world needs it. If the roles were reversed, what would you do? All that blood man. I’m sorry, but it’s got to be done.’

‘Then why me?’ he asks.

He was there. That’s why. He knows about it. That’s why. He took on the job. That’s why.

‘You know why. Someone’s got to pay for the sin. It has to be made right.’

Seconds pass. A car horn on another block sounds like a ship calling to port in the silence. A breeze, nothing more, a ripple of air, tugs at a candy bar wrapper pulling its ward like a hangman taking the condemned to the gallows. I hold tight to the cross as the smell of the gun grows stronger.

We are all born with sin. That’s the truth. It’s not Pete’s sin, it’s not some fucking primordial thing that crawled from a swamp and latched itself onto us. It’s the sin of being human, the sin of mistakes. Absolution can be as easy as saying sorry, as easy as a friendly nod of the head to someone you argued with not long ago. Most human sins are piddling fucking things that show up on no radar and no one cares. Some however, they are whoppers, sharks in the paddling pool of human iniquity if you’ll pardon the philosophising. Murder is a sin. It doesn’t matter if it was planned or fell upon you. Murder is a sin, and for that I pity Juno. His sin will be the absolution of mine.

I pulled the old semi-automatic from beneath my coat. I studied it a second then drew back and released the slide. A shiny copper shell leapt toward the front window and tinkled against the glass before becoming lost among the cigarette butts on the floor.

‘Wait a minute’ Juno began to say but I cut him off.

‘It’s loaded, cocked and the safety is off. All you have to do now is point and pull.’ I turned the gun over and offered it to him.

‘I can’t, I won’t’ he spluttered throwing his hands back as if the gun was red hot, ‘you can’t make me do this. How many years have we served together? We put on the collar every day and preach about not doing this.’

‘We also preach about hell brother’ I say, ‘we let it be known that God can be an angry bastard and when its time, its time. I need you to do this my friend, a little sin for a big one.’

‘No.’

‘I can’t live like this Juno. I can’t be haunted like this for the rest of my life. What happened . . . it needs to be made right. You need to fix it for me because I can’t. I can’t add suicide to the cheque. No one’s gonna know about this. Later some overworked cop will note a call and a dead priest in a shitty neighbourhood where he should never have been and then the world moves on. You can be forgiven; you’re doing God’s work. You’re punishing the wicked and you’re saving him at the same time.’

It’s working. I can see it in his eyes. Those large hands of his still shake, but less, and his arms are returning to his sides. I deserve this. I truly fucking do.

‘But . . .’

‘Will you forget that day?’ I ask.

Juno closes his eyes. I can see the shiver. ‘No’ he whispers.

‘Take it’ I say pushing the gun forward, ‘for all that’s holy and pure just take it’ and he does.

I turn to look out the window. I can’t see him like this, my friend for so long looking so haggard, so drawn and empty. I deserve this but he doesn’t.

Finally, exhausted, I grin. A last meal would be grand, a last beer. I hope this won’t take long. I can hear the sizzle of onions; feel the heat of the grill. I think about the steak again, a big juicy heart stopping . . .

“Irreducible Complexity”

Or

“So I created God, big whup, wanna fight about it?”

 

In fact I have created many Gods and twice as many monsters. They are my babies, my squalling, violent, bug eyed chaps and chapesses. Some might pass unnoticed at your local supermarket or while ordering a stout at the bar. The rest require discreeter surroundings or a “Hills have eyes” themed party or Marilyn Manson concert. They come in an assortment of shapes and sizes from handsome giants to Danny DeVito’s with fangs. Yet all credit to dimorphism, it really isn’t helpful when one tries to write one’s stories and finds fifty thousand eyes staring back like Hollywood hopefuls itching for a break (or because they once slept on Charlie Sheen’s bed). When it comes to creating a mythology my creativity and thyroid have run amuck and left me to sort out the pieces.

So what do I do? How do I tell a story when it begins thirteen billion years ago and the good guys are bad and the bad guys do all the wrong things for all the right reasons? Should I have my own pre/post crisis era story to cleanse the palette? (Comic book geek reference, *Lonely high 5*) Or should I scrap whole swathes of twenty year old material. To that I say, FUCK, NO. You must be chewing paint chips if you think I’m going to hurt a hair on my baby’s head. Trash my warped sense of reality to expedite the telling of a story, bitch be tripping. No, I have a better idea. I’m going to create an entirely new mythology. Yes, that’s it, keep the old one and start a brand new soul sucking project, like marrying Joan Rivers and carrying on an affair with Tom Cruise. That is the plan. That is my mission.

What?

Yeah, I kinda let my brain do its thing and look what happened. I swapped one problem for a nappy load of others. To make it, interesting (?), I’m going to share the process with you, “people”. Now I could scan every note I jot down or every badly drawn Superman rip off with the Super-genitals that I draw but that could be quite labour intensive. And I am one lazy bastard at heart. So I’m going to start writing. I’ll write a series of shorts like chapters to first base and then build upon this mythology. I’ll use simple archetypes in the beginning and then expand like Kirstie Alley’s waistband. We’ll start closer to home I think, maybe with a girl. I might just make it a mystery with something to solve. Either way I’ll enjoy it. You, “people”, may not. But that’s art.

Okay then, here we go. I will try and put out about 4000 words a story/chapter and put up a couple of pieces a month. You, “people”, can even join in. You can send me ideas, notions, ponderings, criticisms, cold hard cash. In the end I might actually figure out how to tell a story revolving around such a huge cast by starting at the beginning, a new beginning, a New Hope. *lonely high 5*

 

Just to say I actually love Danny DeVito. The rest can kiss my ass.

By C. Thomas Smith Posted in Blog

“Crouching Spleen, Hidden Placentababy”

Or

“How being insane helps me think”

 

The ancient Irish kings knew it. Tycho Brahe lived it. And Lady Gaga, third Baron of Cloud Cuckoo Land embodies it. What is it? Its nuts people, crazy ass stuff that goes completely against reason, common sense and medical advice yet somehow leads to genius. I am that goose. For all intents and purposes my mental state rates a burrito on the Mad-Dash-For-the-toilet-scale and I hope to capitalise on the bitch.

I love history, I love mythology, and when you add bestiality and food to that mix I get goose bumps. The ancient Irish believed all sovereignty and right to the land was held by a Goddess. She in turn was represented as a horse. Most ancient cultures of Europe and Asia held such beliefs and in their own way honoured them. In Ireland, Eire, the Dipsomanic Isle, these ideals were drawn to their fullest conclusion, and with gusto. The king to be got scrubbed and anointed and then slept with a lovely horse. The next day he and his minions ate the poor thing. This was him marrying the Goddess and so the land. Yup, horse burgers and the special sauce comes included. Crazy right? No. This odd and vaguely German act kept the peace. It prevented wars and protected the little people (not leprechauns, they still got picked on) by proving that the right guy was in charge. The guy literally married a Goddess and of course there was little left after the wedding feast for a usurper to use against him.

Tycho Brahe was a genius. He measured the heavens the way Michael Jacksons family measured his bank balance. His results were so precise they formed the basis for many discoveries. He proved Novae and Comets were not atmospheric anomalies but objects out in space. He also hired a dwarf to sit quietly under his table as he ate dinner. In all fairness, Jepp, the dwarf, was clairvoyant, though not enough to forestall Tycho’s pet elk from drinking too much beer at a party and falling to his death down a flight of stairs. Need I say more?

Then there’s Lady Gaga.

The point is that success or inspiration comes from doing the radical or new, or a horse. You need to be a little wonky in the sanity department in order to come up with or spot the things that make you stand out. Becoming super wealthy usually means luck, geekdom or a bigger stick than the next guy but without a little bit of cuckoo bird in your cereal you might lack the vision or tenacity to reach out and take the opportunity. I like cats. It is therefore my professional opinion that if we are to succeed in life we must grasp the Bullwinkle by the horns once in a while and scream its peanut butter jelly time, peanut butter jelly with a baseball bat into its placid bovine chops and grin as we do so. Be a little crazy and see what happens. I hope one day that my own brand of nut free nut bars will earn me a Nobel Prize or a shit load of cash to spend on dwarfs and meat suits. It’s a small dream but it’s mine dammit. I eat oranges.

By C. Thomas Smith Posted in Blog

IN ALL FAIRNESS, LIKE

[The Truth & Other Lies]

“Asking for a lobotomy in French sounds like a come on, in German it sounds like a drunken guy arguing with his socks.”

Ancient Greek Philosopher Prodicus

 

“I’m a gonna punch ya in da face bitch”

The Dalai Lama

 

The Story . . .

Once upon a time there was a large group of people who felt boxed in, forgotten by the system and ridiculed for their hat choices. A cruel society of Princes and Barons pushed and mocked them. These people found themselves in goalless wars, paying soul sucking taxes and watching the misguided Pastors of confused religions strutting about bedecked in finery. The whole world seemed crazy. It teetered over the precipice of damnation, beguiled by a dark lord.

It is no wonder then that these people sought freedom in solidarity, peace in a unified voice and choice in demonstration. They left their homes and old lives and headed out into the world to find a better place. No more would they yield beneath the yoke and tirade of religious fanaticism. No more would they stand in line to fight and die for the causes of fat white overlords whose wealth and power came from the same people they crushed. This group did not have the whole world on their side nor did they agree on all things together but when the tide came they took off and left the old world at their heels.

 

Here’s the question. Am I talking of the Mayflower Pilgrims or the Occupy Wall-Streeter’s? Does it even matter?

 

America today is in the same shape as old Europe. Between Conservatives, Evangelicals and bought and paid for politicians / policies there is very little difference. The Democrats made promises to change things, to shake up the system and when asked if it was even possible, could they even do it they answered “yes we can”. Poppycock.

A political system is like an animal. It survives through adaptation and mutation. It feeds and grows and thunders along until it’s either too big to be brought down or too well armed to be assaulted without one expecting to lose a few limbs. It toughens its hide with legislature and fills its mouth with jagged pointed lies. You can’t kill the beast by running at it. You can’t expect to hack at its neck and not get bitten. So how do you defeat it? You starve the bastard out. You scorch the earth. Take away its food. Block its cave mouth and set a fire beneath its tail. The beast will try to defend itself but if you hold on and stay true to the cause, it’s screwed.

Yeah, yeah, I know, what do I care? I’m sitting pretty in Ireland and not out in the cold of Zuccotti Park. Well I do care, we all should. America is not simply another country. The whole Leader of the Free World tag is preposterous but between its economic and social impact on Europe and the rest of the world it’s one giant we don’t want to see going blind and wandering toward us. A failed US is like the fall of Rome. We may not want to be Roman but we sure as shit don’t want to be barbarian fodder.

Bear in mind that this is only my two cents worth but there are two clear sides here. We have Fox News on the right, aka the Republican Shopping Channel and we have the slightly mad Occupiers on the left. We can’t all go and we can’t all afford to support them financially (Irelands already bust), but we can show a little love. And when we hear about the Boston P.D. playing Imperial Storm Troopers we should ignore Rush Limbaugh’s “it’s all anti-Semitic hippie nonsense” and say, you know what, I’ve other things occupying my mind. Let’s show the ones with balls to actually do something about their predicament that we not only respect their cause but also themselves. Ireland did not stand up to its weak and greedy government. We didn’t force them to resign or arrest the white collar bank thief’s. I think we should feel a little ashamed by our own lack of spirit and remember that government is not there to rule the people but to obey our wishes.

www.Wolf-pac.com

#OWS

 

†Be serious.

C. Thomas Smith

Oct 20th, 2011

By C. Thomas Smith Posted in Blog

MOUSE’CAPADES OF FAITH

This morning I watched a field mouse in mitre and cape lead a procession of sparrows to a pond. I was so shocked I took a picture of my big shocked face. With hindsight I probably should have taken a picture of the mouse. He had such amazing bearing and the countenance of a thrice blessed raccoon. I swear he winked at me as his congregation took its place by the water’s edge. I cannot express the mixture of surprise and terror as the mouse slowly produced a copy of Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion”. The sparrows seemed confused too but lined up before him like a multi winged millipede of faith. The mouse raised the book, shook his head and whacked each one of the stunned birds in turn with the great book. So surely you can see why I was so shocked. Surely a tiny Kindle would have been more appropriate?

By C. Thomas Smith Posted in Genius