mostly blood and bones and pain

diary of a professional antagonist

Category Archives: Short Story

My First Wife

I met her on Alcatraz. Her name was Nancy. To date, our marriage remains the most expensive hour of my life.

At the time, I was still what I now consider young and had just experienced the second major loss of my life, my old man, ‘Burt’. He owned a construction company that had seen its fair share of troubles over the decades. Our relationship was testy at times. I was considered soft because as a teenager I took a few acting classes and preferred a pen to a chisel, but in truth, mano y mano, Burt wasn’t up to much, and so I became useful whenever an angry client came by the house to settle up. I’d step in, turn on the water works in frantic despair, and wail pitifully until sympathy trumped vengeance.

In the year leading up to Burt’s death my mother passed away and an apartment complex he erected collapsed, killing one person. He received a suicide note from some poor bastard who lost everything as a result of the same incident. All these things add up, I guess.

Even though I hated construction, Burt left the company to me when he hammered his last nail. He was well known, and his picture was in all the papers when he passed, so, given that I knew nothing about the business – which projects were active, who worked there, how to get an outside line on the office phone – I hopped on the first flight out of town, drank most of the way and arrived in San Francisco out of my mind.

My limited knowledge of San Francisco told me that it was full of hills, hippies and homos. I could have shacked up anywhere given the inheritance, but ended up taking a room in some dive in the Tenderloin area. Even back then it was a shit-hole area. A lobotomized geriatric checked me in to my room and told me that breakfast was a noun before staring at me for a solid minute after I made the mistake of laughing.

A sourdough bowl of chowder later, my stomach begged me for something normal, so I knocked back a fifth of Night Train, grabbed a second bottle, then hopped on the boat to Alcatraz; figuring the water was the best place to be if I was going to hurl. Walking ‘The Rock’ is still a blur. All I really remember is hearing something about Capone getting syphilis before I was shaken back to consciousness on a cot in one of the cells. Nancy was standing over me.

The journey back to the mainland was excruciating. Nancy talked about her folks all the way. How her Mother always joked that she just needed a good man to complete her. How her Father said she was one in a million. How Maw and Paw told her that family occasions were never dull when she showed up. I listened for two reasons. One, I needed something to focus on so I could stay conscious until I reached the hotel. Two, she had a big pair of tits, and an ass as thick and round as a bus wheel that made up for her average at best looks.

Nancy was still there when I woke up. My clothes were clean and pressed, and there was a big, fat, bloody steak and a cold one on the bedside table. This woman had me down. I asked why she did it. She said she saw something in me, something she needed then leaned in and kissed my cheek. My shoulder brushed against her breast and I got a half lob on. Later she told me that she was leaving for Vegas. I’d slammed six beers by then and thought, “fuck it, I’ve got money, time and a semi with ambitions.”

Nancy listened to my sop story on the flight. She managed to bring booze onto the flight in a Coke bottle, so, as I got more and more wasted, I blabbed on and on. When I stopped talking she didn’t offer any advice, didn’t sympathize or ask how I felt, didn’t tell me everything would be okay – I may have been drunk, but the simple fact that she didn’t do any of these things made me think I loved her.

Nancy had to meet a business associate when we arrived, so we arranged to meet later at my hotel. I’d gotten rid of my emotional baggage and was feeling good, so I hit the strip hard. Somewhere in the middle of it all she returned. She laughed at how drunk I was, but not in a “you’re a disgrace” kind of way, more like a woman who liked to see her man enjoy himself, and could get into the spirit of it, and, man but she could put away the booze. I’d hit the jackpot. Four cocktails later, and after she told me she’d done a pole dancing class, I proposed to her.

In the middle of the night we got married in a fun little shit-hole where Elvis now worked. I took Nancy back to my hotel room and got down to business. Basic instincts operate in all men even when hammered drunk, so I figured I’d have emptied my nuts into her in about three minutes before crashing. However, despite my best efforts, something went wrong.

It started when her dress fell away from her body. I wasn’t confronted by heaving flesh, instead there was another layer of fabric tightly bound to her. I said, “what’s this?” Nancy said, “my spanks”. “Spanks?” “Yeah.” She turned away from me and started to remove it. The only way I can describe it is that it was a like fat suit, except a thin suit, so when she took it off everything that had been so shapely and tight suddenly sagged and fell loose. “Fuck”, I said.

There was a bra and panties embedded in rolls of fat, held together by skin that was anything but healthy looking. She removed the bra. Two things fell on to the floor from the bra. “What the fuck are they?” “My chicken fillets.” “Chicken fillets? What the fuck?” My dick sagged when she tugged at her hair and removed a whole mess of extensions. Thin, greasy hair that fell just beneath her earlobes remained. When she turned around, I did my best to smile but then I looked down and saw a bulge in her panties.

When she next spoke, she was a he. “You’ve got two options here, Chuck. One, you sign a few papers, we annul this and never see each other or speak about this again. Two, we consummate this relationship, and if you don’t think you can get hard, don’t worry, I can.” I thought about it and took option one. She, he, (s)he, she… fuck it, Nancy opened the door and in walked an amenable looking solicitor, her business associate, who had a bunch of legal documents ready. As he laid them out on the bed I muttered that I should have known better than to pick up a chick in San Francisco. Nancy uttered a knowing laugh.

We hadn’t met by chance. She tracked me to San Francisco after reading about my father’s death in the paper. This was a revenge mission. Her mother died in the apartment complex my father built that collapsed. Her father later committed suicide, lost without his wife, and too proud to go live with ‘Nancy’, his estranged, cross-dressing son.

I signed the papers without further question, but I’ll admit, even though I never wanted my Dad’s company, it fucking hurt when I put down the pen and realized that I’d given away everything my old man ever worked for, the place where I knew him best, where our relationship was least strained and where I felt close to him.

Nancy didn’t have that with her old man. Chemistry, hormones and whatever else separated them, and I guess in the end if this was the only way she would ever do right by her folks, then this was how it was going to be.

The next morning I woke up single again to the hangover from hell, with no prospects and no money. Nancy left me a one way ticket back home. I was already late for the flight. On the way to the airport my brain started to work again – it had been a while – and as the taxi pulled in at the set-down area I realized that the only reason I signed the papers is because I was afraid people I didn’t give a shit about would find out that I married a dude in Vegas. I hadn’t even stuck my dick in him, and who said he was really going to stick his in me? God damn it, I had no real reason to be ashamed.

In that moment I felt stupid. I took comfort in a cheap bottle. Nothing’s changed since then. The decline continues.

300 Miles South of Salt Lake City

Selina was standing outside my front door, pressing a shotgun against my chest. Barb, Barbrilla, was on her knees in front of me, undoing my flies. A camper van full of what looked like rednecks was parked by the curb and, inside it, some old bastard was filming the whole thing. Worst of all, my parole officer was coming to.

Selina’s tongue ran across her upper teeth as Barbrilla snapped what looked like a flying saucer-shaped department store security tag through my foreskin. I squealed until my voice gave out and the stars on the ragged flag over my door took flight then burst into a thousand more. Selina whispered in my ear – “miss me, baby?” Next thing I knew I was following the disappearing stars into darkness.

The day before I’d been released from county; broken record, I know. I got a year of hard time after some cop decided my driving wasn’t too hot when he found me completely hammered, mercilessly grinding the gears and revving the last living shit out of my Chevy, which was tipped upward and balancing precariously on the window ledge of a grocery store.

A new man, I’d returned to the world with a fresh perspective, a decision made to get a solid nine-to-five and I was gonna do all of this after I’d gotten myself a brew and blowjob. When you’re in the joint they do all they can to reform you, try to steer you in the right direction and some of that shit can stick, but what they don’t do, and should, is a frontal lobe lobotomy to stop creatures of impulse from taking the first dumb-ass step toward repeat offense.

Hot off the bus, I jogged down to the West Valley Motel and a couple of minutes later I was out back with a working girl trying to convince her I was good for the balance of the cash. Her bigger, burlier buddy – read pimp – wasn’t half the conversationalist she was, which is saying something. After taking the few dollars I had, he did the bulk of the talking with his fists. So, fresh from my first broken nose of the month, no biggie, the year in prison had more or less flattened it out anyway, I figured I should get some cash or things weren’t exactly going to go so smoothly.

I robbed the 7/11 just around the corner a few minutes later with a bag of dog shit. The CCTV wasn’t gonna have a hope of ID’ing me with the amount of lumps and blood on my face, and after taking one look at the little old lady cashier I knew she wasn’t gonna want a pile of dog shit in her mouth.

Admittedly it wasn’t my proudest moment, or my best robbery. My total haul amounted to $23.20 but I did grab a pack of Trojans on the way out and after jacking my load into one of them in an alley across the street, I figured I’d head home and see if anybody had been squatting in my shit-hole house.

Nobody. Even the rats and woodlice had abandoned it. The swelling had gotten worse on my face and my head was throbbing so I pulled a couple of floorboards and retrieved my hidden alcoholic stash, and so, ten minutes later, with a fifth and a fifth of vodka working its numbing fingers over my aching body, I passed out.

The door was pounding like a jack-hammer bouncing around in an echo chamber when I woke. I crawled to the door and wished I hadn’t opened it. My parole officer didn’t think the beat-down I’d managed to pick up or my barely intelligible state was quite as funny as I did and decided it was going in her report.

She started to ask me a whole bunch of questions I couldn’t answer, or understand, then started to quote the law as if that was gonna help, so when her head suddenly snapped forward and she toppled to the ground beside me I was initially relieved, that is until I looked up to see Selina standing in the doorway, a drop of my parole officer’s blood sliding off the butt of the shotgun in her hands.

It was a confusing moment in time for me… my balls were running for shelter and my dick was trying to get hard… then Barb said “heya there, Chuk, uh huh huh hee, I gotta gift for ya”. Selina leveled the shotgun with my chest. Barb dropped to her knees and clamped my cock. I blacked out.

I woke in absolute agony. I’d pissed myself, that is, into and onto myself and through my open wound, and experienced a pain so severe that the thought of passing large gall stones was a luxury I couldn’t afford myself. Selina, her mind drifting further out onto the reservation by the second, explained that my new junk jewelry was the only way she could protect me from the ‘frequency’ – which made a ton of sense.

She introduced the rednecks as her family. Most had the mental capacity of a peanut if they were lucky, and I’m pretty sure I’d seen some of them on America’s Most Wanted over the years. I still can’t piece together how Selina had emerged as a result of two or more of them bumping uglies… Barb kinda made sense, but Selina was a ten, even if she was a few sandwiches short of a picnic. This fact became more obvious the more she spoke about why they had picked me up and what they were planning.

Selina said that three hundred miles south of Salt Lake City some guy had proof of extra-terrestrial life. For only six hundred bucks he would give her the location of a UFO hiding beneath the Earth’s crust, which had been transmitting an undetectable frequency that was responsible for global warming, the sole purpose of which was an attempt to slow cook the human race and have them ready to consume when the alien overlords arrive.

Naturally when we met this prophesier of doom he greeted us by pissing on our legs and rolling around in his own feces. I was the only one who found this troubling and wasn’t surprised when I was the only one who recognized the location of the UFO. Five hundred miles further south by south-east lay our destination… the city of Roswell, New Mexico.

According to this deluded space cadet, the UFO was in a highly fortified base protected by aliens who dressed in US army uniforms. Selina naively asked him how they should proceed, to which his response was, “with extreme force”, as he handed each of them an ‘alien ray-gun’. These were rusty gun barrels wrapped in tin foil, sellotaped to plastic statuettes of Jesus Christ which were subbing in for the missing grips.

Back on the road, Selina revealed that she had been following me since I was released from jail and had witnessed my 7/11 gig, after which she decided I was a thief of some skill and would be the perfect candidate to join their gang and steal the weapons they required for the attack from a high security gun shop. Hence my abduction. She then handed me my ‘weapon’ and I realized just how much I had impressed her, because clearly I was about to try to take down a gun shop armed only with a bag of shit.

I don’t know which was worse, the five-mile journey to the gun shop thinking about the hail of lead that was likely about to fly toward me, or being stuck in the back of the camper van having to listen to the old bastard saying, “U-fo”, “now we go u-fo?”, “I see U-fo!”, “when is u-fo?”.

I prayed that we would find an angry alien race characterized by a complete lack of sympathy for stupidity as the camper pulled in outside the gun shop, the sight of which quickly returned me to my natural place among the semi-sane of the world. I settled for Gramps’s head being blown apart by .44 Magnum fire within the next few minutes as I walked through the doors. The odds were stacked in favor of that outcome and I found it difficult to hold onto my little plastic bag of shit as sweat began to pour out of me.

As I stepped inside the owner handed a jacked up looking overgrown teen lunatic a pump-action shotgun then said, “take him out back to the range there, Jeb, let him give her a whirl.” Jeb, a backward, dangerous looking man-beast led the way and they disappeared out back. Then the owner noticed my mashed in face and the doubt about whether he was just encouraging another nut vanished and was replaced by suspicion as I tried to look like a casual gun shopper.

I noticed that the security tags on the hunting jackets were the exact same as the one weighting down my masculine gland and, in my rattled state, I figured it would be a good way to start-up conversation. “Excuse me, sir”, I said as I put the bag of shit on the counter. He frowned then his face creased in disgust. “I was hoping you could help me.” The second I reached for my crotch he tasered me in the neck.

I fell into a crazed dizzy nightmare and tried to keep up with the room as it spun around my head. The owner tried to drag me toward the door when, suddenly, it slammed into him. He screamed, “JEB!” The rednecks rushed in, all carrying their alien ray guns. Selina and Barb weren’t far behind. Then, the door to the back room opened and overgrown teen with the pump-action shotgun raced out, racked his new toy and opened up.

The rednecks, all stunned by the noise, stood still and exploded one by one like retarded piñatas, much to the joy of the deluded solider of fortune. Selina dragged Barb to the ground just outside the door and one look told me that a crumb of sense had found its way into her head. Shotgun Psycho had turned his attention to me when the old guy fired the taser at him.

It wasn’t enough to put him down and with the barrel pointing directly at my face, and his finger about to squeeze the trigger, Jeb came to the rescue and wrapped a steel shovel around his head. Selina and Barb were gone in a trail of dust. The hunt for UFOs was officially over.

Once things calmed I cut a deal with the owner and Jeb. They would remove the security tag from my penis and I in exchange would not prosecute them for tasering me and placing my life in danger without just cause, seeing I didn’t even have a weapon, was clearly in need of medical care and was carrying a bag of shit which was obviously a cry for help. I’d even back up their story that a bunch of lunatic rednecks carrying guns burst in and they were left with no choice. They thought about it for a second then Jeb set about wiping the security cams.

After I’d done my duty I hit the road, thumb out praying for a lift that’d take me anywhere that resembled civilization. Two hours in my face had proven itself a major deterrent. Night closed in, masking my fucked up features and finally a pick-up tooted its horn and slowed to a stop. Wearily, I thanked the driver as I opened the passenger door. Of course Selina and Barb were the occupants.

Selina said she was sorry, that she’d made a mistake and that they were about to start off, start fresh on the straight and narrow. “Baby, your family are dead”, I said, “doesn’t that bother you?” She shook her head and smiled that beautiful bat-shit mad smile and said, “you and Barb are all the family I need, Chuk.”

I had one last act of stupidity left in me, so I got in, and as she drove us off into the darkness I somehow felt at home.

Guess I’m just a sucker for romance.

You’ll Never Work in This Town Again

I started life as an actor, a jobbing, useless motherfucker desperate for attention and cursed to serve my more supple skin days in the car parks outside parties I wished to be invited to. I did it all, park cars, take tickets, find keys, keep wives at bay while their director husbands had their cocks sucked on by my coat-check girl colleagues – all of whom found careers in the spotlight, even if they still bow down before they get the green light. Me, I took the hard road into the light and had to pave that same road in blood before I got my shot… and then blew it.

It was a cold, crisp December night. The Ritz looked prettier than a supernova and I felt like shit. 2:30am and only one set of keys was left. I told the others to go, hoping on a big tip but really waiting on the owner for something else, an introduction. Then he staggered out, the director of what would turn out to be one of the greatest movies of all time. The 70’s were already flying but this was going to change things. I helped him to his car, he fell in before vomiting all over my shoes, then apologized. I played it cool, said I was waiting for an excuse to get a new pair of brogans anyway. I told him I was an actor and would love to work for him.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Drive me home, kid, I’m late.”

The wait was worth it, I had a foot in the door and one of the icons of the 70’s now owed me. Then we got to the house he was staying at in the hills and things changed. A black sedan was parked outside. I helped him to the door, it was already open. Something was off, the air was dead and I didn’t like the way the floorboards creaked inside. Deliberate. Expectant. He pushed the door open to reveal an abyss of darkness beyond.

“Come back tomorra’, kid. We’ll work something out.”

“Thanks, Mister –”

Suddenly, an electrical cable whipped through the air behind him, wrapped around his throat and dragged him inside. I ran – into an elbow. When I woke I had a view of the stars I hadn’t asked for and a gun pointed at my head. The director was on his knees, begging for his life, saying I was his nephew and that we would do anything to live. These weren’t the kind of guys you fucked with. These weren’t actors, these weren’t Hollywood. This was a different ball game that jumped the fence and invited itself to the party. Nobody was going to tell these guys ‘no’, not the cops, not their wives and, as piss leaked into my shitty brogans, I realized I wasn’t going to say it either.

They told the director to fuck off back to New York and never look back unless he wanted me, his ‘nephew’, to experience the digestive system of a fish. Naturally he agreed and after he crashed his car twice trying to get out the front gate they took me as collateral into the dregs of the city’s slum in the back of a car, despite my pleas of mistaken identity. A couple of seconds later I knew life was about to change in a very real way when a .38 revolver was placed in my hands. The fingers that pressed it into my grip were colder than the devil’s and harder than the bit of a jackhammer.

“Get a feel for it, kid.”

They raised it, forced me to point it at the back of the driver’s head.

“Go ahead. Pull the trigger.”

The driver flashed a look at me in the rear-view, his black eyes filled with dead fury and burning intensity. He winked at me then said –

“What’cha waitin’ for?”

I looked at the man in the shadows next to me. The brim of his hat bobbed ever so slightly and I caught a brief reflection of silver light in the black coals where his eyes once used to be. I couldn’t tell which of them said it, but someone whispered –

“Snap back the hammer, then squeeze. It’s that easy.”

I admit, I thought twice about putting it in my own mouth and doing just that, then a hard *snap* jolted me to my senses as a blade jabbed me in the ribs and cut the skin. I pulled back the hammer and held my breath. Time stood still. Snow flakes seemed like they were floating for an eternity toward the front windshield.

*CLICK*

The gun was empty. A booming laugh filled the car, my arm was still locked forward. Something like post-traumatic stress was setting in but then I noticed what they noticed –

“Look at that.”

“Rock steady.”

My arm, unflinching, holding that weapon like it had been born with it. The man in the shadows started to clap, he stopped when I pulled the trigger a second time, then a third and my eyes locked on those black coals of his.

“I’m hoping for your sake four, five and six are just as hollow.”

He didn’t move, but the driver did. I had his attention, he was worried. He knew how to count and knew the score.

Four.

Five.

*BAM*

The tires screeched, we hit an embankment then slammed through a wall. The accelerator was still down when I came to, blood dripped from my face, none of it my own. The man in the shadows stood outside looking in and I could feel cold steel against the skin on my neck.

“That was a first, kid. You’ve some nerve, but you’ve got balls, too.”

“I don’t know what I was –”

“You’re workin’ for me now.”

He pointed at the driver.

“I’m a man short and the work’s backed up.”

“What kind of work.”

“Cleanin’.”

It wasn’t long before another car pulled in beside us. He got in but before he left threw the .38 to one of his goons and pointed at me. I was left with an edgy, semi-psychotic looking waif.

“When you’re ready, kid. Let’s do this.”

He took me to a warehouse where this fat bastard was tied to a chair with a bag over his head. This was to be my training. Over the course of the next eight hours he showed me the how’s and where’s of the trade then made me finish the job. Details aren’t important, suffice it to say my stomach was long since gone and the shred of sanity that remained was going to leave me on the breadline or in bottom dollar jobs for the rest of my life. Somehow I made it through and they set me up in an office on the strip with nothing more than a phone and a poster of the ocean – one a reminder of where they wanted me at all times, the other a reminder of where I’d end up if I tried to run.

So, for four years I sat there, took the odd call and rid the world of one more scumbag. I started to decorate the place, decided if I was going to have an office on the strip I might as well act the part, so I had a guy engrave my name on the door and put ‘productions’ after it. I never made it as an actor, fuck that game, I was going to be top dog, hot as shit producer, no credits to his name but a shit load of firepower backing me up. They dropped in once or twice, thought the idea was funny then realized there was an angle and put some money behind me. I was legit, I was making porn, but I was legit. They ran drugs, guns, everything through that little office, made connections they couldn’t have before and introduced me to all the wrong people. It wasn’t to last and the fun was about to come to a dead stop.

Word had spread about an indie producer who kept a low profile, they were billing me as a Howard Hughes type and some buzz started to build. The guys didn’t like it and I got the feeling they were about to send me to the ocean for a long swim. A knock on the door saved my life. A hero of mine, a real life, big shot producer walked in the room, introduced himself and said –

“What’s your story, kid? You’re starting to steal my thunder.”

I had the cover story down but my mistake was underestimating this guy, a guy who had heard every bullshit pitch from A to Z and knew a phoney when he saw one. Somehow, all that blood and firepower made me forget that I was stupid. He had heard things, names of people seen up here and knew I was knee deep in shit so rancid I’d leave a stink on the strip that would outlast the next four generations of my seed. Then he dropped a bomb on me, he was talking to the feds and guaranteed that if I gave up what I knew there would be a way out. The weight of the last four years buckled my knees and I finally gave up.

They moved hard and fast. It was a blitz, and before I could breathe the first breath of the next morning all my employers were behind bars or full of lead. With nowhere else to go I went back to the office and found my hero waiting with a big, fat cigar in his mouth, directing the removal men as they cleared out all of my shit.

“You did a good job, kid, but I promise you this – you’ll never work in this town again.”

He patted me on the back on his way out. A fed took me out of town then dumped me in Salt Lake City to lie low. I stayed there for a few years, living out a shitty, boring existence and to fill in the time started to write. Lucky for me my hero’s promise didn’t have the legs to outrun cancer. He sank into the dirt a few years back and the door to the strip opened once more. Sure, I’m a hack, a bum, a screenwriter, the lowest of the low, surviving on that one shred of sanity, but that’s all they ask in Hollywood, and if you last long enough someone will make a movie about you, too.

Murder Blues

Standing over his coffin wasn’t the hardest thing. Putting him there was. Despite my success, something felt wrong, didn’t add up and as my presence as a mourner began to cause a disturbance, the pieces began to click together.

A week prior I was on my way home from another failed script pitch I’d made to a barely C-list production company, to a bottle of cheap label whisky with the power to pile drive my consciousness into a dark abyss for at least three days, when a young lady approached me. There wasn’t anything remarkable about her, a bit dumpy, a bit needy looking and it seemed like she had tried to make an effort to spruce up, though the lipstick on her teeth and the mascara in her eyebrows said she didn’t know too much about how. She slapped me in the face then screamed that a man like me had fucked her life up completely as she attempted to claw my face. I was in no mood to take the blame for some other fucker’s mess and even if I could turn the situation around into a quick lay against an alley skip I figured that considering the day, there was only a case of something itchy at the bottom of it. I cut my loses and gave it to her straight and hard.

“Fuck off back to the Crayola box you fell out of.”

As I walked away, the reality of just how bad the studio rejection was had begun to fester. Feeling like a hooker who offered a free one to a convict on death row and got a “maybe next time” response, I continued on home, slammed the bottle back and fell into another, warmer world, though that was likely down to having periodically pissed myself while out for the count. I woke up smelling worse than a chemical attack and while this wasn’t unfamiliar, the slender, if slightly stubbly pair of crossed legs a few feet away, were.

As the deep set crust on my eyes dropped off and blur gave way to focus, I followed those unkempt pins upward and it soon became clear that they belonged to the young lady from before. She hadn’t figured out how to paint her face during my downtime but with half a skull-load of old brain cells continuing to slide out my nostrils onto the solidified remains of their already departed cousins, my sharpness was back and I figured I knew her face from somewhere. Then it hit me, she was a pretty damn close fit for my wife, Selina. This was not necessarily a good thing but, considering the neurological gene pool, it made the lack of make-up expertise and the incompetence with a razor make a lot more sense.

Last I’d heard Selina was trying to fight her imprisonment seeing as she’d been locked away on testimony taken from one of the motel employees who was under heavy sedation at the time of trial, and as her lawyer argued, was therefore susceptible to being coerced into telling the truth the jury needed to hear. It was bullshit but she had nothing to lose and a new date had been set for the plea three months down the line. Judging by the facial ticks and the inability to retain gas, or at least pass it silently, the unshaven ‘babe’ before me was her sister. Somewhere inside me I felt responsible for her, which says a lot about my own mental function. In an effort to bond, and at least have something to defend myself against Selina with, and buy time should we ever cross paths again, I struck up conversation.

“What’s your name, honey?”

“Barb”.

“Barbara?”.

“No, just Barb, y’know, like, Barbrilla.”

Fish in a barrel. She admitted the kinship with my ball and chain and told me that Selina had said that if she was ever in trouble to come find me. The heat of the moment had gotten to her three days earlier and just finding me had given her hope that her nightmare was about to end. Some guy she’d been banging had slapped her around and tossed her out on her ear, and he’d taken the last bit of cash she had – fifty bucks. I couldn’t understand why the idiot would put any amount of time into a tray of nuts like Barb and was about to throw her out myself but then she mentioned that ‘Ol Garth didn’t need her cash and it began to make sense.

He was relatively new in town, had moved from a more tropical climate, and was loaded. A payout from an accident at work had left him crippled and somewhat deformed. She didn’t get into details, I didn’t care enough to ask. All she said was that once his bosses cut the check he severed his ties and decided to move back to his old stomping ground. But ‘Ol Garth had been reduced to Barb after he was ripped off by a couple of hookers who got wise to his fortune and were tag team bleeding him dry until he shot one of them then claimed it was self-defense after having been broken in to by two prostitutes. Naturally the cops found enough at the second hooker’s pad to lock her away and ‘ol Garth went looking for a more long term, reliable female. Enter Barb, fifty bucks in her purse and kinda dumb – jackpot. Turns out she was the penance he had to pay for his previous wrongdoings and after a month he’d had enough and pitched her out of his house with two black eyes and an option to visit the dentist. It’s a shame his crippled ass didn’t think to look up the family tree online.

Brass tacks, the guy had close to a quarter mill at his fingertips and kept a lot of it in his attic. We cased the house over a couple of days, she showed me the ins and outs, his favored places to watch T.V., and most importantly the routine of the meals-on-wheels he had going. In all fairness, she had the vengeance thing down and even had a nine millimeter of ‘Ol Garth’s with a full clip, with which he was to be killed. It was damn near poetic. I was still debating whether to get involved but Barb’s instincts proved similar to those of her sister’s and she blew me stupid me for the guts of two hours before draining me dry through the night. Sperm nor scruple was left when she put the nine milli in my hand and told me that I had a five minute window to get in and hide while the meal man was on site. I hobbled across the road, a big stupid fucking smile on my face, as if the twenty four hour bout of coitus was somehow going to make everything run smooth.

Once inside I settled on upstairs as the best place to find a hiding place, seeing as the meal man wouldn’t be going there and ‘Ol Garth wasn’t about to jog up any time soon. It was, of course, a mistake. I settled in a wardrobe on some rolled up linen and before I knew it I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of my car horn blaring outside like a fucked alarm clock. All over the place, I staggered out into the bedroom where Garth was sitting, buck naked, using one of those elderly person can openers to twist the last bit of jizz out of the remains of his fucked up looking johnson.

“What the fuck?”

“Uh…”

“Who the fuck are you? What the fuck are you doing in my fucking house?”

“I, uh…”

He’d heard enough and smashed me in the face with the can opener. Garth was spry, there was no getting away from that, and he quickly sent the nine milli flying out of my grip before cracking two of my ribs and loosening a few teeth for me. I had mobility on my side though and in my panicked state, shoved him out the door to buy time. What followed was the sound of springs, something rolling then crashing down the stairs. Garth was lying at the foot of the steps, a wheelchair wrapped around him, the can opener in his hair and a pool of blood growing larger by the second. I found the attic, the shoebox with the cash, it was going to work out. I opened the box, there wasn’t a quarter mill, more like five grand. Why was I even surprised? Then the doorbell rang and instead of biding my time and making a clean escape, I jumped through the bedroom window into a hedge and compounded the damage to my ribs. Back at the car, no sign of Barb – then she came running, from the house.

“Where the fuck were you?”

“I rang the doorbell to create a distraction.”

“Fucking idiot, get in.”

“I don’t know how to drive.”

“Get out.”

“Is that the cops?”

“Gimmie the fucking keys, you clown-faced cretin!”

Somehow we made it out of there. Two hours later after I stopped shouting at her for exaggerating the truth about the amount of money in the house I felt very ill, remembering that I’d neglected to collect the nine milli before leaving. The cops would have it, I was a goner. Reluctantly, I turned on the news. There wasn’t too much coverage then the story of a local man found dead after an accident in own home started up. No foul play was suspected, the victim seemingly died during a sex act. Turns out the quarter mill wasn’t an exaggeration but ‘Ol Garth had blown the majority of it on hookers and porn. I figured I was off the hook and wanted to let it go but knew a gun with my fingerprints was still in the house of a deadman and it wouldn’t be long before his kin started to pack up his things.

The funeral was scheduled a couple of days later. An open house for mourners to pay their sympathies. I had Barb iron my suit. She made a complete fucking mess of it, but all I needed it for was a half hour so let it slide. Barb said she was going to stay home and count her share of the loot – fifty bucks, that’s all she wanted. Honest. I didn’t argue seeing as I was secretly hoping she’d be gone when I’d get back so I wouldn’t have to actually use the gun. That said, I wouldn’t get the chance if I didn’t find it. Into the lion’s den I walked.

I furled my lips together, nodded sympathetically, raised my eyebrows, all the cliché body language as I made my way through the mourners toward the coffin. I closed in, noticed a few odd looks, some whispers but paid no mind. Of course I was the stranger in the crowd and would draw some attention, but all I had to do was fit in then slip upstairs. I looked down at ‘Ol Garth and couldn’t help thinking that the mortician had done a pretty decent job to get all the cum out of his hair. The murmurs got louder then I thought I heard my name. I looked around, saw a picture of ‘Ol Garth from his heyday and something sank deep inside me.

I wish I had been on acid and that it was all a fucking insane flashback, but I was clean and this was a legit memory kicking in. ‘Ol Garth was a face from the past, a past I’d tried to distance myself from but one which Barb had clearly been trying to force back into my life. Selina was the accident that left ‘Ol Garth deformed and crippled, he was the motel employee whose testimony sent her down. This wasn’t about fifty bucks, or a quarter mill, this was about me in the house of a dead man whose violent past I and my wife were very much a memorable part of. I’d been set up. As if figuring it out wasn’t bad enough, or the fact that everyone in the room had simultaneously tuned into the same frequency, the cops had also just walked in and I knew then that Barb had made the call, and had done the same on the night when they showed up just as we were leaving, far too soon for anyone to have known.

They found the gun in the linen. Chance had landed it there. Barb was nowhere to be found, the money was gone with her and I knew that in three months Selina would likely be free or in a facility with much lower security and far more options when considering an escape. As for me, I stooped to a new low in a desperate attempt to maintain my freedom. When asked what I was doing there I said I was hired by ‘Ol Garth to strip for him. I mentioned my lack of success as a screenwriter and having been reduced to giving hand and blow-jobs out the back of a 7/11, which is where he picked me up, I agreed to go back to give him a private show.

The gun I had was his and ‘Ol Garth wanted to whack off while I threatened him with it. I also felt it necessary to tell them that he wanted me to pretend I was the hooker he shot when he caught her stealing from him. Naturally this didn’t go down too well with his surviving family members but the gun checked out and every studio in town wholeheartedly backed up my inability to get a writing job. They had no choice but to let me go on condition that ‘Ol Garth’s story die with him and the family be allowed to move on. Dignity, reputation and self-worth all flushed down the fucking toilet, I agreed.

I decided to ‘celebrate’ by buying a bottle of pile driver and driving home at speeds which would normally result in a fatal collision with a wall, or into an embankment, but no. Of course Barb was there, waiting for me when I walked in. A thin trickle of piss leaked down my leg as she kissed me, then whispered in my ear:

“Selina said to tell you that she’ll pay you back when she gets out.”

She left me with the bottle, my sorrows and a bad case of the blues. Penance, it would seem, was only just beginning.

Desert Death Rattle

It was gone when I woke. She’d taken it. There was no doubt in my mind. I stumbled out of the cot, legs still working their way back into sensation. My head was pounding and I was numb from the waist down, that is until I pulled on my slacks, wrenched the zipper and tore a landing strip off the shaft of my still erect prick. My legacy, my name, my next two weeks were fucked, and catching the bitch wasn’t going to be easy.

The engine rattled a strained growl as it barreled down the highway. The desert sun was hot as hell, crossing lizards popped beneath the rubber and bugs kamikazied into my windshield. All this ending life and impending death didn’t cost me a thought, all that was on my mind was the box. All I hoped was that she hadn’t undone the leather belt that held it together. All I knew was my crotch was warm with blood and I hadn’t yet taken the time to piss out the last bottle of dollar wine. I prayed I was still limber enough to bend around the stream and save myself the sting, but with God in absentia and my middle aged legs shriveling under the weight of time, win or lose pain was on the horizon.

Then I saw saw a flicker just ahead. Was it a mirage? And if it wasn’t, was it even her? I jammed my foot down hard on the gas and soon realized it was. The taillights were broken, one on each side, just like I’d left them. The rusted silver side panel jarring against the sun bleached red of the rest of the machine. That blonde hair trailing in the breeze off a head so fuck-me-now beautiful even the man in hell would be tempted to ignore the conniving glint in her gold digging eyes and take a dip. I decided to play it cool. This time she wouldn’t get the drop on me. I eased off and followed until she stopped at gas station then pulled in the other side of the cashier building, grabbed the tire iron and carefully negotiated the side wall.

The cashier was a dope in his late teens, drooling over the counter at her tits like a sloped fucking yak as he handed her a pack of cigarettes. She’d probably already done enough to convince him to say “on the house ma’am”. I convinced myself this was the case as she kissed him on the cheek then collected a pack of chips from a low shelf. He was good as dead the way that short red skirt was bobbing and weaving off her hips and didn’t even notice when she collected a bottle of suds from the fridge on the way out. I don’t know what made me madder, the fact that she was getting away with it again, or that I’d fallen for the same routine twice already and was still watching her in action instead of taking it.

I bucked up and slid into the passenger seat just as the car pulled away. She wasn’t even shocked, just looked at me like another bump in the road she had to run over. But at least with the tire iron I had her attention. I asked where the box was. She didn’t have it any more, she’d stashed it somewhere safe and if I wanted it I was going to have to do something for her. I asked what, considering I had a tool worthy of trying my hand at dentistry in my grip. Naturally she used the tools at her disposal but the second her hand contacted my crotch I yelped like a scolded pup. Most people would retract, but she knew the score and spun the wheel into off-road terrain and dug in. The car filled with dust and in the blinding pain of confusion and with gravel adding to the problem I suddenly realized I was alone.

The trunk creaked open, a shotgun was racked and a deafening boom of buck pelted my door and shattered the window. I crawled over, knocked it into drive and revved hard. Dust sprayed everywhere. I couldn’t see her. BOOM! This time the back window exploded into pieces. I sliced my hand open on the seat debris then out of nowhere there was clarity and a drop into a drainage ditch. Two teeth hung from my mouth from a long, thick glob of blood then parted company with me once and for all. I shoved the door open and toppled out. The sun vanished as she stood above me then cracked the butt of the gun into my forehead. All I hoped was that when I woke I wasn’t tied to a cactus getting gang-banged by a bunch of vultures.

Consciousness came before sight. I figured I was in the trunk of a car, which had to mean that she had an accomplice. Just then the car slowed to a stop. Two people got out and I waited until their footsteps had cleared earshot. After some more kicking sunlight washed over me and when my retinas had adjusted I clambered out. We were at a junk yard, a lost and forgotten wasteland filled with every trash and crap-mobile since the forties. I saw her disappear into the hut set in the center of it all a couple of hundred yards away. They were going to sell the box – had to be why they were in such an isolated dump. I was fucked, then, realized the car was the heap I’d driven to the gas station, I grabbed the spare key from the glove box, started it up and turned to face the road. “Get far away” ricocheted inside my skull but then something came over me. Maybe it was pride, or self loathing at my cowardice, or just that plain old nasty instinct that usually put me in that position, but as I looked in the rearview I knew that I couldn’t just let her get away with it.

My brain started working around two seconds before I plowed the car into the shack, but by then it was too late and when the dust settled I’d slammed some fat guy I didn’t know into a spike on the wall and was face to face with the shotgun, in her hands. She told me to get out. She was teary eyed, it looked like genuine sorrow but it might have been rage, I wasn’t sure. As I got out I stumbled on something rubbery and only after I found equilibrium again did I notice the gas station cashier’s head sticking out from under the chassis. It was rage. I took another shotgun butt in the nose, it broke, and given the number of previous breaks I knew that after this I was going to resemble some sort of a retarded puffin for whatever number of days I had left. She didn’t like that notion, though and as she racked the gun one last time I knew I was seconds from oblivion.

SNAP. All out. SLAP. Knocked out. I caught her before she fell. Bad a bitch as she was it would have been a crime to let that body bruise. I tied her hands to the wheel then looked for the box. She came to after five or so minutes and laughed in my face. This wasn’t a sale, this was a negotiation. The box was not here. The money was not here. There was nothing here except two dead men one hot broad and a retarded puffin. I’d killed the only party interested this side of the Grand Canyon and her partner in crime, the only one who could safely retrieve the box without drawing unnecessary attention. She was out of friends and I was out of luck so against my better judgement, which I’d last seen the night I turned twenty one, I teamed up with her one last time.

The gas station was quiet at night. The passing trade was slow. Then the night cashier came into view, resembling an aggression repressed MMA fighter, which was just perfect. She was about to take him down all by her lonesome, one bat of the eyelids and a long deep breath and he would be in the back toilet working her for all she was worth, but then the law rolled in. They questioned Mister MMA, showed him a photo or two, then pointed at the CCTV. Someone was looking for the goober I’d crushed back at the junk yard, and the only person of interest on those tapes was my red hot passenger. It was only a matter of time before they searched the place and found his locker. It was all or nothing time, so I headed for the back toilet window.

Once inside I could hear them bantering away out front. The muscle bound freak manning the desk was doing a wonderful job of not making the cops’ job easy, simply because he had the mental capacity of a grape and was getting pissed at the questioning.

“Go in back and get the God-damn feed from today”.

“Fuck you, pig – make me”

“I’ll get it myself.”

“Not on my watch, mother fucker.”

“Get outta my way, dummy.”

SLAP. SLAP. SLAP. I couldn’t help but look. MMA and the two cops were fighting full tilt. I found the locker, nabbed the box and got out the window without any of them noticing a thing. Everything was golden, all I had to do was get around the corner, back in the car and drop over the horizon before the next squad car arrived and I was made. The only problem was that the car was gone. Bitch.

I ran off into the desert, knowing that if I was caught with it that’d put me down for everything and clear her slate. I made it as far as the Canyon just before dawn. I stank and vultures were circling overhead by noon. A tour bus had pulled in a few hundred yards ahead. I couldn’t risk exposing them to it, fuck that, letting anyone near enough to swipe it so I decided to climb down into the red rock and hide it. I didn’t get far before my sense were crippled with fear but luck was on my side and I stashed it in a crevice. The markers were decent, a flagpole, a wood cabin and a memorial plaque for some dead guys who went down the canyon river in row boats back in the day. I was choosing a forth when I saw her.

Taser in hand, approaching at pace, she jabbed it into my side, knocking me to the ground.  I scrambled to stay clear of the edge. This time she wasn’t letting me get any sort of a second chance and kicked me in the face. I gripped pathetically at the earth as I slipped over the side. Then I felt the pain. She dropped her stiletto hard, stabbing it through the bones in my hand and pinning me to the wall. Some of the tourists noticed the activity and unsurprisingly started to take photos and video as gravity conspired with her stiletto against me and began to tear a slow line through the tendons, inching me closer to death by the second. She looked at me, didn’t have to say anything by way of stating the obvious. I nodded. She dropped the taser, reached down and took my free hand. Dumb broad. I fucked her into the canyon and climbed to safety.

The stiletto came in handy. I managed to latch onto the leather belt around the box and drag it up as distant sirens rang out. I had no choice left but open it. Fuck the fortune it was worth, fuck the loss, fuck the death it had brought by my hands – if I was going to walk, this was the only way. I crawled under some shrubs, unclasped the belt and wrapped it around my hands. The latch broke apart on contact. I sat there for a moment, listening to the rush of footsteps on approach. The words I picked up indicated that the cops knew what I had. They were cordoning off the area. The flesh on my fingers slipped between the lid and the bulk then prized it open. The last thing I remember is the blinding light.

I woke in the desert, close to the highway, the box lying empty by my hand. A tour bus was pulling away. The windows were blacked out. I sat up, scanned the horizon until I saw the flashing blue lights way out in the distance. It’s value was gone, she was gone and I was back at square one again. I sat by the highway until sunset when I began to slump. Maybe it was the dehydration setting in, but the last time I looked the belt was clasped tight around the box and a car was on approach. The driver’s blonde hair was trailing in the breeze.

Night Shift at the Morgue

There’s something comforting about a dead body. A few years back I took a job in a morgue out of necessity. They needed security and didn’t care much if I had any sort of ability when it came to handling myself. They also liked that I didn’t care that they were scrimping on the electric bill by shutting down the fridge overnight. Why would I? It was Christmas, and if the dead weren’t cold enough already they weren’t likely to complain.

The job paid enough to cover the bare essentials, and after arriving early one night only to catch the boss fingering a cadaver I was free to bring my own booze, was given a small black and white TV and enough coupons to keep me in vending machine snacks for the night. Ideal and all as that sounds, the morgue can also be a pretty lonely fucking place, and the first couple of months were only made bearable by an unhealthy nightly cocktail of bourbon, vodka and whatever lukewarm tab cola shit was in the machine. And so, morning after morning as I fell onto the mattress on the floor of the 12×15 ‘studio’ apartment I was renting, I wondered if when I woke up I’d finally have been checked into the funny farm. Luckily enough, after a major pile up on the freeway, I arrived for the night shift, semi-suicidal, at the end of my tether, only to find a familiar face lined up to work with me in that empty, damp, dead-zone.

Kristy, an old-flame, had fallen on hard times and was drafted in by the owner to push through some general admin that came with the freeway crowd. Boy it had been a while since we’d bumped uglies. My six pack had been replaced by a keg, some of my hair had committed suicide and a bite mark scar adorned my dick; a jack russell the perp, don’t ask. Kristy hadn’t faired so poorly and though her hair was stuck to her head and her tits were sagging a bit all I really missed was the glint in her eyes that drew me in all those years before, but I guess life will do that. She acknowledged me with a jaded look as I held up a Styrofoam cup then her head bobbed. Some people you just pick up where you left off and get on with it.

We didn’t talk much, we’d said it all before. Truth be told, back then we just got drunk, shouted at each other then fucked until we were sober and didn’t know what started it. Neither of us had any interest in working then or in our current positions, this was a strictly ‘collect the check, vomit once outside then fall asleep in a sticky mess with a bottle of malt liquor’ type deal. Thing was, having Kristy around that night probably kept me from unloading a bullet on my brain. The little I said to her was uncharacteristic, my God-damn memory was bringing up shit I’d long forgotten but her presence had now sparked back into life and I guess I wanted to say sorry. For once she listened and I felt a weight lift off of me. She didn’t refuse when I followed up by asking if we could do the bad thing to seal the make up deal like old times.

It was just what the doctor ordered and I knew I’d turned a corner, even though she was tired and didn’t really get into it that much. I figured she’d matured in the years in between and taking pole was no longer the glory ride it once was. Fuck it, at ninety, if my gland is willing and able, I’m betting I’ll still be grinning. This time, though, I was exhausted and the smile soon slid off my sweaty, panting face. I knocked over the last of my scotch trying to light up a cigarette while trying to keep my head on Kristy’s mammaries and before I knew it I was out for the count. Time passed, however much I hadn’t a clue, but I was brought back to consciousness by a piercing siren.

Horror invaded my senses in the moments following my waking. A red light was pulsing through a thick plume of smoke, water was falling all around me and a harsh white light was darting through it all, ultimately settling on my face. The morgue was on fire. The fucking scotch and cigarette was enough to set it off. A firefighter suddenly accompanied the white light and grabbed my arm, then he quickly let go, looked down, then looked back up at me. A couple of more firefighters joined him and stopped dead in their tracks. I looked down. Kristy was lying under me, butt-ass naked, she was unconscious. Scratch that, she was dead, and by the looks of it had been for a while. The firefighters roughly took a hold of me and dragged my naked bod out of there into the street and planked me down in front of the onlookers. I admit I was somewhat confused and may have made a move on a fifteen year old Puerto Rican girl before being battered around the temple by a crotchety old cop. I woke up in hell.

Hell is communal cell B in the fifteenth precinct when you’re brutally hungover, have no clothes and are desperately trying to convince yourself that you fell hard on your ass when that cop knocked you out as you John Wayne it toward the wall with a cacophony of whistles and laughter your only soundtrack. The arresting officer informed me that I was being charged with drunk and disorderly, arson, indecent exposure, necrophilia,  – the list went on a bit, and in short I was looking at a ten year stretch minimum. My instinct told me to plead ignorance, so I worked that angle hard enough until they put me through a few psych tests and determined that I was mentally unbalanced.

After consulting with the lawyer assigned to me, a total ball-busting prick looking to reclaim his professional name by embarrassing the cops – his practice crashed and burned after he was caught getting blown by a hooker and the arresting cop refused to play ball – I followed up by playing the good old reliable coward card and blamed it on the morgue owner, that I’d not been given any orientation and that I was driven to drink given the smell in the place when the fridge was turned off at night. Once I knew they thought I was nuts I went whole hog and claimed I was following the bosses lead by fucking a corpse, seeing as I’d witnessed him doing similar.

When they learned that I had a legitimate history with Kristy it tied a neat emotional bow on the whole package. Kristy had unfortunately perished in the freeway pile up and they assumed I’d been so traumatized on sight of her that I temporarily lost sense and reason. My lawyer made it look like they’d tried to pin the charges on an incompetent, semi-retarded innocent rather than pursue due process. He claimed that the press would need only one look at me and it’d be over. I was out in no time.

The great thing about happy endings is that the moment you acknowledge them karma usually steps in. In typical fashion I developed complications in a sensitive area as a direct result of my behavior at the morgue. I pissed puss and razors for weeks, and it nearly fell off a couple of times after turning colors I’d never seen before, either in the rainbow or the Dulux catalogue. Years later, though, I can laugh about it. Time is a great healer and I’ve adapted to the challenges posed, eventually finding my own natural motion once again. Let me tell you, these days, I don’t even think twice about it. Pissing sideways is a breeze.

Drunken Leprechaun or: How I Failed My Irish Ancestors and Barfed Fucking Everywhere

I was once a proud person. My life had more or less been filled with the same experiences the average Joe Boxer-shorts checks off the life list by the time he’s reached the age of twenty three, so I had no reason not to be. Of course things could have gone better at times but you’ve got to take the rough with the tumble and chalk it down to the building of character and the formation of a well-rounded human being. However, at twenty-three I took my first trip abroad, and embarked on a life-changing holiday in Ireland, which gave my pride a solid kick in the sack and finished with me clambering aboard the plane home wishing “beam me up” wasn’t just a phrase from TV but a very real and private mode of transportation which would spare me the shame, and spare my fellow passengers those six hours of smelling the stale piss sloshing about in my loafers and the acidic stench of bile and puke wafting from my mouth and hair.

My Irish roots are supposedly on my mother’s side and I figured I’d spend a week in the old country, live where some of my people had lived, soak up all there was on offer culturally and hope to be charmed by a lady leprechaun before finding a job back home and beginning to build a career. O’Neill was her mother’s surname and they hailed from a place called Ballyjamesduff in County Cavan which I found close to the middle of nowhere, somewhere north of the midlands (the actual middle of nowhere). Having landed in Dublin Airport, with not one building worth calling a skyscraper in sight, I began to wonder that if this was the capital city then where in the Christ was I headed?

Despite being initially impressed by the scenery, my enthusiasm waned as the bus took roads the width of sidewalks and ventured into towns which wouldn’t pass as villages at home, where we were usually greeted by a man waiting at a red pole signaling desperately to be collected and taken back to civilization. The fact that every fifty yards saw a new curve in the road and our driver insisted on meeting or exceeding the speed limit at all times encouraged my stomach to repeat its efforts in ridding itself of the slops it was thrown on the plane ad nauseam. Then the bus stopped and I was there, but, where the fuck was there? The man who signaled desperately to the bus had remained on board. This clearly was not his stop…

After battling the hotelier’s accent for a solid fifteen minutes I eventually understood that I was the only occupant and that rain had been forecast for the next seven days. I ditched my bags in the room and decided the only way to go forth would be with a sense of adventure, camaraderie for my fellow Irish men and dive right in, so I changed into something more comfortable and made tracks for one of the local pubs. I spied an O’Neill’s and figured that’d be a good start. Order a glass of Guinness, fit in, feel comfortable and then dig for stories of my ancestors.

My first step inside was met with silence, then laughter. I shrugged it off, probably a coincidence and bad timing, so I hit the bar – “a glass of your finest Guinness, please”. More laughter. It was definitely me they were laughing at. Men were repeating what I’d said to the older gentlemen at the bar, the ones with hair growing out of their ears, who in turn also laughed. As I took my first sip I smiled, content that this would ingratiate me, however, as I looked around I soon realized my error. I was holding a glass, thin and slender, while the other men were holding thick, bulky glasses with twice as much Guinness in them. The fact that I blushed at the moment of realization only made me look like more of a woman. Then I noticed their clothes and how their choice of dark threads and fabric served almost as camouflage  against the walls of the drinking hole. I looked at myself – brand new white sneakers, khakis, blue sweater and polo-neck – all I was missing was a big fucking pink sign around my neck with ‘on vacation’ printed on it.

I’d lost the respect of the local men and could feel myself slipping deeper into infamy by the second, slowly becoming part of the ‘go to for quick laughs’ section of every local barfly’s tall tales encyclopedia. I tried to shrug it off and asked the barkeep if he knew of any O’Neill’s in the area – more laughter – I think someone said “you’re standing in his fucking pub, y’daft, yank, cunt”, but I can’t be certain. Hearing, or convincing myself that I’d heard that word uttered aloud, and to jovial acceptance and laughter, prompted my balls to seek shelter north of their normal resting spot. Not five minutes into the visit, I was standing on the most hostile ground I’d ever stood and contemplating walking away. Nobody took the next natural step to prompt a fight and so I persisted and asked again, making direct reference to my grandmother’s people. Then they really started laughing.

“God-damn it! What in the heck is so funny?” Silence. I’d said that. Shouted that. Even I couldn’t believe it. Something changed in the air, a few of the men looked to each other, nodded, then one got up and made his way over. I downed what was left in my glass and prepared to die but then this fellow reached out to shake my hand. I accepted. “How’a’ya? Name’s Thomas Comiskey.” I introduced myself, folded my arms and said – “well, care to explain the source of merriment?”. Someone scoffed in the corner. Thomas looked at me earnestly, like one would at a relative when doling out some heartbreaking information. “Sorry to tell ya, lad, but if y’say who y’said is yer granny then I’m sorry t’have ta tell ya that yer granny was a hewer. Didn’t mean t’laugh, just thought y’knew the local legend and was tryin’ to have a laugh with us. No offence meant. Welcome t’Ireland.” He gave me a pat on the back then made for the toilet.

It was the fastest unravelling of a man’s family tree since Cain and Abel hit their teens, looked over at Adam and Eve and said “huh?”. Of course all I had was this man’s word to go by but the fact that most of those present wouldn’t look me in the eye for the next ten minutes spoke volumes. Someone broke the ice and told me that I should have a pint, not a glass. I guess I laughed but honestly can’t remember. I was supposed to be the exotic foreigner, full of mystery, bringing awe and wonder to a small island full of old fashioned brogue and tradition. Instead I’d been transformed into the most common, ignorant, son-of-the-daughter-of-a-whore within an hour of hitting the family turf.

Whatever it is about returning to the places your roots sprouted, I noticed a change in myself that evening which evolved into a compulsion which then spawned a hunger. I started to drink pretty darn hard. After three days I had frequented every bar in the town at least twice and had been thrown out of half at least once. Turns out I had a “real taste for a drop” as the locals put it. I didn’t eat much, the Guinness usually lined the stomach well but the consequence of this inaction was a lack of very many memories. I get the occasional flashback – urinating into the gas tank of a tractor, chasing sheep, running downhill blind and getting tangled up in barbed wire, having my face punched in by some farmer and being berated by the local law, a stocky, short cop with a penchant for twisting my balls while making idle threats – he didn’t have a gun so his countless warning fell on deaf ears. By the fifth day I was unrecognizable, a black and blue, wild, roving mess, stinking of body odor and alcohol. Logic and reason were gone but I somehow ended up back at my hotel, starving.

I’d paid up-front for the week which included bed and breakfast. A moment of clarity reminded me that the hotel hadn’t fed me once to date and so I protested and demanded all of the breakfasts I’d missed in the last five days immediately. The owner’s wife brought me a monstrous plate heaped with what I estimate at ten sausages, five chunky bacon strips, five eggs, five fried tomatoes, ten pieces of pudding – five white, five black (good shit) – a can of beans, maybe fifteen chopped mushrooms, a toasted loaf of bread and two pots of tea. I dug in. Not only was it the tastiest meal I ever ate, but about an hour after finishing I dropped the greatest shit of my life and returned to the bar a new man, with a new hunger – the hunger for some Irish lovin’.

Somewhere in the region of my ninth pint of the night I struck up conversation with a young filly and after another three pints, and having lost the sense of sight, instinct suddenly kicked in and I came to with her pinned up against the wall of the bar and my tongue dripping translucent saliva from the corner of my mouth. She was embarrassed but led me out by the hand. My face made the acquaintances of the coat rack, the door jamb and then the outer wall of the pub as I tried to figure out how these rubber legs I’d inherited worked. As it turned out I’d chosen the easiest mark in town, probably a relative knowing my luck, and was soon lying next to her in a stack of hay. I couldn’t understand a word she said with that thick fuckin’ accent but started into the motions hoping that’d shut her up.

I imagined that at some point my own relatives had probably been laid in this very same barn. It was a suicidal thought which led to my mother’s face, then my grandmother’s face in the throes of pleasure. Blood rushed from my nether regions, up into my suddenly disturbed stomach then hit full speed and raced for my head and sent me into a dizzy spin. My filly playfully punched me in the gut to get my attention. Bad move. The vault was unlocked and I spewed left, right and center. I covered my date and myself in equal measure with the undigested remnants of that epic breakfast marinated in Guinness and whisky. Her screaming alerted what turned out to be her parents, both adept at inflicting pain with shovels and spades. As it turned out, Daddy was the local cop who I’d managed to incense countless times over the past few days.

Balls in a twist I was dragged and thrown into the back of his cop car, taken to the airport, handed my passport, my plane ticket and a bottle of holy water, which I was told was the only thing that’d prevent the plane I was on being struck from the sky by a bolt of lightning. I was covered in vomit and, trying to remember my name as I approached the check-in desk, soiled my slacks – it was only when they asked for my passport that it clicked that my effort had been a costly and unfortunate waste of brain function.

Six hours later, back on home soil, I was placed in a decontamination chamber as part of US quarantine protocol and berated by a guy I went to high school with who was now working with homeland security and had received notification of US deportation from Ireland. When he finally stopped reminding me how disgraceful my representation of citizens of the US of A had been he asked what had happened to me over there. All I had was, “Leprechauns. Fuckin’ leprechauns.” In the sorriest state of my life I failed to hail a cab and began the long, sobering walk home, revisiting the few memory entries that had returned of my week of debauchery and carefree insanity. By the time I reached home a smile had found it’s way back onto my face and I could think only one thing – Ireland fucking rules, man.

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