Saturday, December 31, 2011

road to nowhere, part 1

ted williams
ted williams
ted williams

joe dimaggio
joe dimaggio
joe dimaggio

casey stengel
casey stengel
casey stengel

sparks has got headquarters on the line

alexander woolcott
alexander woolcott
adele rogers st john

george jean nathan
george jean nathan
jack dempsey



jewel thief
jewel thief

st tropez

uncle remus
thorstein veblen
henry david thoreau

uncle remus
thorstein veblen
henry david thoreau

clarence darrow
amelia earhart
george jean nathan

top of the empire state building
statue of liberty
knute rockne

jim thorpe
jesse owens
joe dimaggio

tell headquarters i'll call them back

woodrow wilson
charles g dawes
frances farmer

babe ruth
babe ruth
babe ruth

ty cobb
ty cobb
ty cobb

shoeless joe jackson
shoeless joe jackson
john mcgraw

jack johnson
amelia earhart
w somerset maugham

khyber pass
good shooting
drums in the night

noel coward
noel coward
w somerset maugham

ronald firbank
nancy mitford
louis-ferdinand celine

rogers hornsby
rogers hornsby
rabandrinath tagore

i'm afraid i don't know these people

they fell in the river and the crocodiles ate them
orson welles
ted williams

orson welles
joseph cotten
alfred hitchcock

dorothy parker
dorothy parker
dorothy parker

billy, i'm shocked, i had no idea you knew so much

charles g dawes

they laughed when i sat down at the piano
arthur murray taught me dancing in a hurry
i love my wife but oh you kid

lucky lindy
lucky lindy
amelia earheart

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


i wrote a poem to pass the time
it didn't scan and it didn't rhyme
i had absolutely nothing to say
but i went and wrote it anyway

i thought it turned out kind of nice
i looked it over once or twice
i finished it off and set it free
on wings of immortality

o little poem, boil and bubble
at least you kept me out of trouble
maybe you need a little friend
another poem - will they ever end?

the thing in the place, part 2

for part 1, click here

i had a pleasant surprise on returning to my house after my first visit to the firehouse. my housekeeper, mrs adams, presented me with a package that had been delivered in my absence - a new monograph, with copious notes and addenda, by doctor hargrave on the aboriginal burying grounds in his native dakotas. he and i had long enjoyed a friendly rivalry as to the relative antiquity of the ruins in his part of the world and my own, and i looked forwardly eagerly to studying and passing considered judgment on his newest findings.
consequently the three days passed swiftly before the date of my next scheduled visit to hank and the firehouse, and as i spent them almost entirely in my study and did not so much as look out the window, i had sadly neglected the good doctor melville's exhortations to exercise. i decided therefore to walk the three or four miles to the firehouse, rather than summon a hackney as i had on my first visit. and also save a few pennies from my all too rapidly disappearing patrimony.
i quickly regretted my decision - the day was much chillier and windier than i had first apprehended - but some unsuspected reservoir of stubbornness welling up from the depths of my being kept me from turning back.
when i was about half way to my destination i began to feel light headed, and the landscape - of unremitting fields of some crop or other - agriculture being no part of my field of study - began to take on a sinister and sneering hue not easily described. the midday sky was a loathsome bluish-gray and the crops - tall greenish-purple stalks of who knew what - seemed both to wave mockingly and be frozen in some obdurate obsidian vision of cosmic blasphemy.
a single gray cloud hid the sun.
butterfly wings of panic tickled my brain. where was i? where? what had possessed me - i , who had hardly ever gone fifty yards from my beloved study - to venture into this terrifying desolation? a desolation undreamed of in my most terrifying nightmares? and yet existing, apparently, only a few miles from the cocoon of my ancestral fortress?
you are a waterspoon, i told myself, a waterspoon. the direct descendant of the pitiless pioneers who cleared the land of its savage inhabitants, in order to stamp the impress of civilization on its flat and ungrateful face. it won't do to give in to even the appearance of effete hysteria, it won't do at all.
no vehicle had passed me in either direction as i walked the road - a road, i should mention, absolutely straight and uncontoured - nor had i seen a living person, or heard an animal or bird.
i began to feel thirsty, and even more lightheaded. i must, i thought, be only a mile from my goal. what could i do but press on.
at last - at last! - i saw a figure approaching in the distance. what relief i felt! i should mention here that i was under the impression that the farm dwellers in the neighborhood, though ignorant brutes to be sure, had at least a vestigial remnant of respect for their betters, in contrast to their degenerate cousins in the modern metropolises (with whom i had had only one terrible encounter - never, unfortunately, to be forgotten).
as the figure came closer, my blood began to run a little cold. i beheld a shambling, rawboned figure - "human" to be sure - it wore ragged clothing and a battered felt hat - but barely. the craggy face, simultaneously apish and reptilian, seemed to light up with an unholy delight on perceiving me, and i felt nought but panic as it hastened toward me, swinging its long, low-hanging arms.
"morning!" it cried. "morning there, professor!" in a voice like ice breaking in a subterranean cavern. "out for a stroll, are you? ha, ha, ha!" and it roared with laughter at this humorous sally.
with some effort i mastered my first fear. as the creature came closer i perceived that it was, after all, only a man - a hired man type of fellow of about thirty rough years. and the sobriquet of "professor" with which he greeted me, though not strictly accurate - my studies have always been maintained privately - seemed to indicate a modicum of respect.
"hey, professor, hey!" suddenly a thick walking stick seemed to materialize in his right hand and he poked me in the chest with it. as i staggered backward i heard another voice raised in laughter - the shrieking laughter of a banshee. and i perceived on the road behind the man a stunted figure which on rapidly approaching i could see was a pigtailed girl of about fifteen, in a tattered flowered dress, and with a face even more lewdly simian and reptiloid than the man's.
"uncle jack asked you a question, professor! ain't you got no manners?" and she howled with laughter as i shrank back from her hideous person.
"yes, yes," i managed to stammer, "i am out for a stroll, as you so drolly put it. a stroll into town." i controlled myself, and felt some little rage bubbling up beneath my fear.
"no need to be snickety, professor, when folks asks you polite questions." and the man poked me with the stick again, harder this time. "into town, hey?"
"yes, to the fire station to be exact. for a friendly game of checkers."
"fire station! as worthless a bunch of sons of bitches as ever there was, hey, lily?"
my fear began to return. needless to say i was not used to such rough talk as this, and in front of a young woman no less, rough-hewn as she might be. something was amiss. where was i?
"you said right, uncle jack. almost as worthless as those no good clowns as call theirselves deputy sheriffs. they friends of yours too, professor?" i now saw the girl had a stick too, and she shook it at me.
"i don't have the honor of those gentlemen's acquaintance," i replied with such composure as i could muster.
"is that right, professor?" drawled the girl. it had finally gotten through to me that in their mouths "professor" was not a term of respect at all, but intended as some sort of epithet, even insult. "gentlemen, eh? are you a gentleman, professor?"
"why of course i am a gentleman."
the girl whacked me sharply across my knee with her stick, and i cried out.
"lily, lily," laughed the man. "no need for that. he ain't said nothing to deserve that. yet." he looked up at the sky. though it was about mid day, the single dark cloud continued to hide the sun. the wind had died down. "kind of hot, eh?"
"yes, it does seem to be getting warmer."
"seems to be, seems to be. always the way with the likes of you - seems to be, hey?"
i did not know how to answer this. "yes, and i must say i could use a drink of water. though there does not seem - though i don't see any place in sight where i could find one."
"oh? look over there." the man pointed across the fields and i saw - surely i would have noticed it before if it had been there - something i can hardly describe. some kind of giant featureless mound rising from the field. but made of what? and was it a building? it had neither doors nor windows. some kind of giant growth from the depths of primordial dreams, like a colossal mushroom ? it seemed too smooth.
"what is it?" i managed to ask at last.
"well, what do you think it is?" asked the man. "it's the place."
"the place?" i replied. "and what is in the place?
the girl howled with laughter. "what do you think is in the place? ha, ha, ha! what would be in the place, do you think, but the thing? ha, ha, ha, ha!" and she whacked me with the stick again.
this time the man made no objection to her striking me. he looked into my eyes, and his own eyes seemed to change from rhinoceroid gray to cobroid green. "you've been asking questions, professor. but there are those in the place who would like to ask you questions."
the two of them fell upon me, flailing at me and driving me into the fields with their sticks. i staggered through the hideous green plants toward the "place" with them laughing and shouting behind me, and as i did i lost all dignity and began sobbing uncontrollably with fear.
the horror! the horror!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

the penultimate hit, chapter 4: peril

"hi, jerry, it's jake."
"yes, jake."
"i want to talk to bill."
"jake, how did you get through? i just told dorothy not to let you through."
"i told her i wanted to talk about something else - not get through to bill."
"but now you're telling me you want to talk to bill."
"so you lied."
'yes - i feel it's that important that i lied."
"you lied to dorothy - to dorothy, the gatekeeper to bill."
"yes - i just admitted it."
"jake, that's almost as bad as lying to bill. it's almost as bad as lying to me."
"can we cut the crap, jerry, and get this over with. just let me talk to bill, please."
"we've just been over all that. tell me what you want to talk to bill about, and i will decide whether he needs to hear it. that's my job. it's what i'm here for. it's what i do. i'm here to serve. let me serve you, jake, and tell me what is so important that you've been wasting my time all morning with it - and then, then i - i , whose job it is to do so, will decide whether bill needs to hear it. am i getting through to you?"
"i need to talk to bill. its very important."
"jake - "
"i'm willing to take the consequences, if any, of failing to go through proper channels."
"oh, really? and what about me? what are you going to do for me, if i get fired for not observing proper procedure? eh? eh?'"
"i'll buy you a drink."
"a drink ? did i hear you say a drink? i am sitting here fifty feet from bill's office and you offered me a drink? what year is this, eh? am i hallucinating here?"
"i meant a drink of pure spring water."
"what did you think i meant?"
"let's get back on track here. are you, or are you not, going to tell me what you want to talk to bill about?"
"i think bill should hear it directly from me."
"but the universe is in peril."
"the universe is always in peril. that's what it's there for. if it wasn't in peril, it wouldn't be the universe."
"i want to talk to bill. something has come up that he should hear about. directly."
"jake, this conversation is over."
"it shouldn't be."
"but it is."
"you are making a terrible mistake."
" jake, i have had enough of you. do you know what i am going to do when i get off the phone?"
"no, what?"
"i am going to find the biggest ugliest agent under my command and i am going to tell him to get the biggest ugliest stick he can find and he is going to track you down like a wounded animal and beat you with it."
"i really have to talk to bill."
"goodbye, jake."
jerry clicked off. he picked up a pint bottle of water - the only thing on his desk - unscrewed the cap and took a few thoughtful sips. then he got up, opened the door of his office and went to the reception area outside.
dorothy looked up at him.
"that was jake . he was lying when he said - "
"i know, i listened to the whole conversation."
"i hope you don't mind."
"of course not." jerry smiled. "it's what you are here for, isn't it?
"i hope you are not really going to have somebody beat jake with a stick."
"oh no. i was just kidding - just venting."
"violence never solved anything."
"i know that. thank you for reminding me."
"jake may be lacking in certain desirable qualities, but he shouldn't be beaten with a stick."
"point well taken." jerry looked up. "who is this?"
a man with a cloth cap shading his face was slouched in a chair along the wall. he looked up when jerry spoke.
"jerry, it's roy, roy cohn. you remember me, don't you?"
"roy - of course!'" jerry opened the little railing in front of dorothy's desk and held out his hand. "great to see you. what can i do for you?"
"i got something real important i think the big guy, the inspector, should hear about."
"i see." jerry glanced back at dorothy. "you wouldn't happen to be in touch with that rascal jake mccarthy, would you?"
"jake mccarthy? no, no i don't have nothing to do with that rat. i wouldn't walk across the street to pour a glass of water on him - if he was - if he was - something- i can't remember."
"that's o k."
"i don't remember everything. i'm not what i used to be."
"who among us is?"
"do you remember what you wanted to talk to bill about?"
"sure. that's what i'm here for."
"would you mind telling me first what you want to see him about?" jerry smiled. "that's what i'm here for."
"no, no, i don't mind. i may not be one hundred percent, but i know how the game is played."
"well, that's great. i'm glad somebody does."
"it's about brock, sergeant brock. you remember the brock case, don't you?"
"um - maybe you can refresh my memory. but we don't have to stand out here, come on into my office." jerry stepped back and motioned roy through the opening in the railing. "is there something we can get you? dorothy could get you something or have somebody get you something. something? anything?"
"anything, huh? how about a burger? or even better, a roast beef sandwich with horseradish?"
"uh - those things might present a challenge, even for us."
"i can get you some water," said dorothy, " or an orange or some grapes. how about yogurt - we have strawberry, blueberry, boysenberry - "
"strawberry is good. i'm a strawberry guy."
"that's settled then - we'll get you some strawberry yogurt and some water. come on in."

jerry closed the door behind him and motioned roy to the one chair in front of his desk.
"jeez, i'm glad you could see me. what i am about to tell you was going to blow a hole in my gasket - or my brain."
jerry sat down behind his desk. "well, blow roy, blow."

Thursday, March 10, 2011

i'll sleep when i get even, chapter 1

‎‎"let's get this lead out of your guts first - then we'll decide what to do about al. ain't that right, doc? "

jenny turned her blonde head away, so that she wouldn't be blowing smoke right into dave's blasted body.

she formed two perfectly round smoke rings which drifted across doc wilson's little office and into his front parlor, and fixed the doctor with her cold green eyes.

but he ignored her and kept on probing dave's stomach.

"kind of flabby aren't you, dave? i thought you desperadoes kept in a little better shape." he looked up quickly at dave. "just kidding."

"i don't get it, doc. i just don't get it. me and al - we were partners for years - since we were kids. why would he just turn on me all of a sudden, just like that?"

"hold still. don't excite yourself. still - still - perfectly still. well, there are usually one of two reasons or both. the first of course is money."

"but the deal was a bust. there wasn't any money. we were just trying to get away."

"take a breath. hold it. all right. maybe he was mad about the deal not going down. maybe he blamed you."

"nah. it wasn't my fault."

"was it his? maybe he figured you'd get mad so he got his lick in first."

"it wasn't anybody's fault. it was just bad luck."

"there. i think i got it all."

"you think?" jenny interrupted. "did you get it all or didn't you?"

the doctor gave her an annoyed glance. "i got it all."

"then why did you say 'i think'?"

"it was just a manner of speaking. hold this on the wound," he told dave, " while i unwind this bandage." he took a long roll of white bandage out of a drawer under the table dave was sitting on. he began to wind it around dave's body below the gunshot wound just below his heart.

"as i was saying before i was so politely interrupted, there are two reasons for even the tightest partnerships to break up. money of course - " the doc looked over at jenny. "and dames."

"why you cheap gin-soaked back alley butcher, how dare you insult me -"

"easy baby, easy." dave laughed. "doc, consider the specific situation. jenny is here, ain't she? she's not with al. and she brought me here. she dragged my bleeding carcass away with her brute strength -" he grabbed her arm and squeezed her bicep - "strong, ain't she?"

"i'm strong for you. baby."

"very touching," doc observed. "of course, what could i have been thinking? here, let go."

he slapped a pad right right over the bullet hole as dave flinched, then continued winding the bandage above it. "all set. now, you just have to rest up."

"can i light up a smoke now?"

"sure, why not?"

dave fished in his pockets. "looks like i lost my smokes in all the fracas."

"you can have one of mine," jenny told him.

"they got filters. doc, can i bother you for a smoke?"

"i smoke cigars. parodis. you want one?"

"i guess they will have to do. thanks."

"hold on, i'll go get one."

jenny scowled at doc wilson's back as he left the room. "can we trust this cheap chiseler?" she asked loud enough for him to hear.

"relax, will you? being trusted is doc's stock in trade. he's not going to win the nobel prize for medicine. are you, doc?" dave called after him.

"did you hear the way he insulted me?"

"he was making a general statement about human females. don't be so sensitive."

"i'm a human female, ain't i?"

the doctor returned with a red and green pack of parodis he had taken from his jacket hanging in the front hall.

he extracted one of the crooked little cigars from the pack and gave it to dave, then lit it for him with a wooden match he struck across the sole of his scuffed brown shoe.

"no, if doc was a better doctor he'd be treating four star generals for indigestion at walter reed hospital, not stitching up the likes of us." dave blew some of the vile smoke into the air. "this is awful."

"you sure you don't want one of mine?" jenny asked.

"jeez, i just might."

the doctor cleared his throat. "well, dave, after you've finished - enjoying your smoke, we can settle up and you can be on your way."

"what? what are you talking about? we're going to hole up here." dave laughed and waved the parodi in the air. "have you gone out of the hole up business? that's the biggest part of your trade."

"what about her?"

"i don't know, what about her? haven't you ever holed up two people at once before? why, just last year -"

"come on, you know what i'm talking about. i don't trust her. i don't trust her not to shoot me when we both fall asleep. i just have a bad feeling about her."

"please. i know we're all under some stress here and harsh words have been spoken, but let's act like adults. and what about your fee?"

the doc held up his hand. "dave, there will be no payment. we've known each other for a long time and i hope we can do business again in the future. but i just don't trust this bitch."

he leaned forward and in a stage whisper intoned - "are you sure she's not in it with al?" he straightened up. "she can drive, you can walk, those aren't problems. you'll have to go."

"but i've got the police of six states after me."

"i'm sorry, dave."

"this is totally ridiculous."

"can you guarantee she won't shoot me or both of us?"

"yeah. yeah, i can guarantee it." dave reached behind his back and pulled a pistol from his waistband. jenny laughed. dave quickly checked the safety, released it, and shot jenny in the head.

"henry! what's going on down there?"

"nothing dear, go back to sleep."

the penultimate hit, chapter 3: changes

"well, i just wish you had told me this before."
"the billing cycle doesn't come up for another week, i was going to notify you then."
"do you think he will give you any trouble?"
"i don't know. probably not."
"i can send somebody over. to be there when you tell him. i'm really sorry about this."
"no, don't bother. i can handle it. nurse johnson and i can handle it."
"you sure?"
"yes, i'm sure."
"if you change your mind, let me know,"
doctor fenway put the phone back in his pocket. he took it out again, began punching in another number, then shrugged and stopped.
he took a flat pill container out of his pocket, opened it and took out a small blue pill, which he quickly swallowed.
then, with a sigh, he opened the door to the front sitting room.

brock was back in his stuffed chair, breathing a little heavily, and nurse johnson was back on her sofa. both were straightening out their clothes.
"i hope nurse johnson didn't tire you too badly, sergeant."
"he'll be all right."
"yes, i'm sure. um, listen , sergeant , i just got off the phone with the representatve of your sponsor -"
"sponsor? what's this sponsor? what am i , a race car?"
"the gentleman who has been paying me for twenty-five years to maintain you in comfort."
"gentleman? how about good old uncle sam? i mean, i am a sergeant in the u s army rangers, am i not? or not?"
"do you mind if i sit down?" the doctor edged toward a stuffed chair close to the sofa nurse johnson was sitting on.
brock looked at him curiously. "it's your place, isn't it? sit wherever you want."
"thank you."
the doctor tried to lean back in his chair but quickly hunched forward again.
"you have been unconscious for over thirty years. you understand that, don't you?"
brock thought for a few seconds. "i understand the concept. and so far i am taking your word for it that is the way it is."
"why? why are you taking my word for it?"
"why not? i will find out quick enough if you are telling the truth."
"really? how?"
"i don't know - look at a newspaper, see what the date is."
nurse johnson interrupted. "there are no more newspapers. they became obsolete years ago."
"how about radio?" brock asked. "hey, i know - how about television? that was the next big thing thirty years ago - i bet everybody has a television now."
the doctor shook his head. "ancient history. come and gone. remember, this is 1977."
"yeah. yeah."
"look, he doesn't to need to know all this stuff right now. what's this about je- about the sponsor?" nurse johnson stared at the doctor.
"the sponsor is dead. according to harris." the doctor turned to brock. "harris is his representative."
"and we are just hearing about it? when did this happen?"
"a couple of weeks ago. harris was going to tell us when the next payment was due."
brock yawned. then he yawned again.
"hey, you just woke up!" nurse johnson laughed.
the doctor didn't laugh. he looked intently at brock. "you know what this means, don't you?"
"no doctor, what does it mean?"
"it means - it means - you have no visible means of support."
"you mean, except the three hots and a cot the u s army gives me. i'll be all right."
"no - you don't understand. there is no u s army any more. there is no u s any more. do you begin to understand?"
brock scratched his head. "not really."
the doctor laughed nervously. "you seem to be taking it like a philosopher, anyway."
"it hasn't had time to sink in."
"you are right, doctor," nurse johnson put in, " it hasn't had time to sink in. so why not leave him alone?"
"leave him alone? but who - who is going to take care of him?"
"me. i will take care of him."
"someone appointed you his caretaker?"
"i appointed myself."
"well - you have always been a take charge type of person, but this is above and beyond the call of duty. thank you."
"you are welcome." she stared at him. "since i am being so helpful, maybe i can have the rest of the day off - i will take our friend here home with me, explain a few things to him - gradually, the way it should be done."
"you want to leave early? what about the report on mrs miller?
"you can't do it yourself?"
"oh, i guess so." the doctor exhaled and leaned back in the stuffed chair.
nobody moved. the doctor and the nurse looked at each other and brock looked at the floor.
"i sure could use a smoke," he announced after a while.
"sorry," nurse johnson told him. "that is as unlikely as anything in this world - or any world."
brock sighed. "how about that steak?"
"maybe. i will see what i can do. it will take time. i can't make any promises."
"you can get him a steak?"
"you heard what i said. i said i could try."
"you never told me you could get me a steak."
"did you ever ask?"
"no, i guess not." the doctor leaned back and shook his head. "it never crossed my mind. i knew you were resourceful. i didn't know you were that resourceful."
"you know," said brock, "i thought the modern world and science and stuff was about progress. what kind of progress is it when there is less stuff, not more?"
the doctor forced himself up out of the chair. "an excellent question. i am afraid it is one i can't answer."
nurse johnson also stood up. "come on, big guy. let's move out. we will leave the doctor here to his busy afternoon."

the doctor stood at the window, watching brock and the nurse move around the side of the building to the nurse's parked car.

"jeez, that's a small car."
"you think so? it's bigger than most - i had it made special."
"get in." she opened the door on the left side.
"it's not locked?"
"no. get in."
brock got in, careful not to bump his head.
"pretty good neighborhood, huh, nobody steals cars."
"no money in it?"
"no money in anything. no money."
"now you've gone too far." brock settled himself in the right front seat, and gazed out the window. "i know you are kidding me now." he turned to face her. "hey! what the - where's the steering wheel?"
"don't need it." nurse johnson took a little metal object like a cigarette lighter out of her big purse and pressed it. the car started up - brock could barely hear it - and rolled out to the street by itself.
"what fun is this? could you drive it yourself if you wanted?"
"there's places you can go to drive cars around by yourself."
"well, that's something. any around here?"
"no, they are on mars and jupiter."
"but they are not that hard to get to."
"i guess not."
the car picked up speed on the straight empty street. soon they were driving through flat desert.
"what's this about no money? if there's no money, what makes the world go round?"
"love, huh?"
"i'll tell you all about it when we get to my place. relax and enjoy the view."

Sunday, February 27, 2011

fellaheen - the darkness: a fragment

when belle starr played the piano in cabin creek
the fellaheen couldn't stop crying for almost a week
the piano stood in the middle of the barroom floor
decorated with only a skull and an apple core

the wanderers lined the walls upstairs and down
and spilled out into the dusty streets of town
they leaned on the banisters and stairwells with careless ease
and sat on the floors beneath the chandeliers

the sahibs lined the bar looking grim and strange
smooth gamblers, and leathery men who rode the range
miners and rustlers and dreamers in search of gold
and wandering strangers whose tales will never be told

frank james stood behind the bar in his best white shirt
no glass or bottle behind him had a speck of dirt
the mahogany under his elbow shone cold and black
his pale blue eyes rolled the room both front and back

jesse sat alone in a corner of the room
riffling a deck of cards with an air of gloom
fat men and thin kept away from his reverie
but he was not what they had come to see

belle tipped her feathered head as she struck the keys
her red dress shimmered from her shoulders to her knees
the air was filled with a rainbow of bumblebees
that turned to drops of ice in a mountain breeze

quantrill leaned over the rail by the upstairs rooms
silent behind him like the apostles plundered tombs
his red eye drifted down in the shadows to belle
his blue eye was fixed forever in the depths of hell

beyond quantrill, in a corner of the landing
a boy in black with white buck teeth was standing
his eyes were cast straight down like coffin lids
who else could it be but billy bonney - the kid?

but nobody looked at billy, or quantrill
all eyes were on belle - they couldn't get their fill
all were as quiet as if their own selves had died
outside in the desert a lone coyote cried

one note, two notes, three notes rippled and broke
the fourth note rang like a rifle through the smoke
an arrow shot through the darkness and suddenly fell
in a waterfall racing the rocks between heaven and hell

over the waterfall diving into the moon
an almost silent half-remembered tune
frank at the bar lights up a tailor made
and jesse cuts the deck to the four of spades

quantrill is last to remove his granite gaze
the kid is a statue - and on and on she plays
when belle starr played the cabin in cabin creek
gunmen turned into clouds and could not speak

nothing lasts forever in the western night
birds walk across the desert and the stars...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

the penultimate hit, chapter 2: new age

"today's world? what's that supposed to mean?"
"oh, you'll find out, sergeant."
"maybe you should stop calling him sergeant?"
"oh, what's the harm? my great-great grandfather was in the spanish-american war and he called himself colonel to the end of his long days. we can humor the sergeant here." nurse sherman smiled a little less maliciously at brock. "i think he'll find little enough to humor him - in the new world."
"oh, i don't know." the doctor stared meditatively at brock. "i am sure he will prove very adaptable. i don't think his patron would have paid for his upkeep all this time if he didn't think so."
"maybe you should notify mister g that he is awake."
"yes, yes, of course. i should have thought of that first thing." the doctor looked up at brock for a few more seconds and turned and left the room.
brock looked at nurse sherman again. "about that drink?"
"you've got your drink in your hand, sergeant . it's the only one you are going to get - at least for now."
"all right." he looked at the glass of water, put it to his lips and took a sip. "at least it's cold." he drained it in one gulp and handed it back.
"that wasn't so bad, was it?"
"not for water." brock nodded toward the half open door. "i thought he was making a phone call."
"of course he's making a phone call. what else would he be doing?"
"i got pretty good ears. i can usually hear a phone being dialed - even in the middle of an air raid."
nurse sherman smiled. "really? how impressive."
"not to mention that i don't hear him talking to anybody."
"he's on the phone. things are a little different from the last time you were in an air raid."
"all right, how long have i been out? six months? a year even?"
"over thirty years."
"what? what year is it?"
"no! let me look." he started for the door and she stepped aside to let him pass.
he entered into a "front parlor" with heavy stuffed chairs and sofas and a large picture window. outside the window was a narrow paved street - and beyond that a flat empty plain under a cloudless blue sky.
"1977 huh? where's the dome?" brock walked right up to the window and put his hands and face against it. he looked up and down the street in both directions. it seemed deserted, with no cars or pedestrians. white two story frame buildings stood about a hundred yards on each side of the building the doctor's office was in. there were no buildings on the other side of the street, just the flat plain.
nurse sherman followed him into the room and lowered herself onto one of the sofas.
"don't worry about the domes," she told him. "most of the world is very well domed. we happen to be in one of the remaining open spaces."
"yeah?" brock walked over to a side door and opened it on to a small porch dominated by a long swing. "and where is that exactly?"
"we are just outside abilene, kansas."
"huh. a long way from berlin."
"not so long. distance is measured differently these days."
"if you say so." brock sat down on a stuffed chair and tested his weight on it. "you wouldn't happen to have a cigarette, would you?"
"i would not happen to have a cigarette. would you like another glass of water?i can make it extra cold."
"if that's the best you can do." he watched her as she got up and left the room.
"1977 huh?" he called after her. "so there must be men on mars and jupiter and all that, right?"
"oh, a lot further than that." she came back with another icy glass of water, gave it to him and went back to her sofa. "humans reached the stars years ago."
"damn." brock took a sip of the water and looked down at his feet. "there must have been a lot of great wars out there." he shook his head. "and you're telling me i missed them?"
"i don't know where to begin." she looked at him pityingly. "you have a lot of catching up to do."
"yeah. hey, i'm hungry. we're in kansas, right? i should be able to get a pretty good steak."
"i'm afraid that might be a problem too. not an absolutely insoluble one, but a problem."
"what! what is this - i can't get a drink, can't get a cigarette, can't get a steak! what did we do, lose the war or something? i thought i had it just about won."
"don't excite yourself. everything will be explained."
"drink your water."
brock looked around. "where's the doctor?"
she shrugged. "probably doing some explaining himself." she looked right at him. "is there anything else you'd like?'
"well... yeah, there is, now that you mention it." he laughed. "but i don't know that you can help me out there."
"you might be surprised."
"oh?" brock looked around the room, at the window and doors.
"looking for something?"
he shrugged, and laughed again. "you're telling me you got a babe for me behind a door somewhere? upstairs maybe?"
"i think you're being the babe, sergeant. you know exactly what i'm talking about." she stood up, and walked over and stood over him.
"but what? it's not 1945? this is the new age, women who don't meet traditional standards of body imagery are no longer afraid to explore and assert their sexuality."
"what! speak english, why don't you? we are in america, aren't we?"
"come on, you've been asleep for thirty-two years. you should have a little energy stored up." she put one hand on his shoulder and began unbuttoning her blouse with the other.
"but...but..." he looked at the picture window. "it's broad daylight. anybody can just look in and see us. and the doctor..."
"welcome to the new world, sergeant. welcome to 1977."

the penultimate hit, chapter 1: black whirlpool

Brock was almost out of ammo for his Tommy gun; but what he wasn't almost out of was guts; what he wasn't almost out of was heart; what he wasn't almost out of was blood-lust; and, most importantly of all, what he wasn't almost out of was hand grenades.

so when hermann goering stepped out of his sleek black armor plated limousine, brock thought he still had a little surprise for him.
"careful, reichsmarshal, this man brock could still be alive."
that voice - where had brock heard it before? could it be...?
"i hardly think so," drawled goering. "with all due respect, my esteemed kamerad, i doubt this fellow actually has supernatural powers."
against his better judgment and his infinitely honed warrior instinct, brock lifted his head ever so slightly to get a look at the reichsmarshal's esteemed kamerad.

and that's when it hit him. suddenly his head was a black orchestra pit playing the thunder from a million colliding galaxies. he reached out and there was nothing there... except the thunder and the laughter ... the hellish laughter ... the laughter turned into a red river ... and the red river carried him down to a boiling yellow sea... and the legions of the damned were laughing ... laughing at him... and the ones laughing loudest were the very ones he'd sent to hell himself... laughing.... go ahead and laugh, you yellow bellied sons of bitches... laugh while you can... i'm still brock.... i'm still brock...
suddenly a rowboat appeared on the shore of the boiling yellow sea... and in the rowboat was a dame... and what a dame! flaming emerald eyes, red hair cascading like waterfalls over a body as round and smooth as the sparkplugs in a rolls royce, down to legs so long he wasn't sure he could fit in the boat... even with his head exploding brock felt his mouth fall open even more.
"don't stand there like a monkey looking at an elephant, soldier. get in the damn boat and let's get moving!"
"sure, baby, sure..."
"that's yes, ma'am to you..."

he woke up. he was lying on his back on a cot in a little room about the size of the linen closet in a bowery hotel. he could hear bored, drawling voices on the other side of a half ajar door.
"hey!" he tried to call out, but only managed a soft rasping croak. the voices carried on as before. he croaked a little louder and the voices stopped.
"could it be?" a woman's voice - a no-nonsense voice, probably a nurse.
the door opened and a little grey-haired man wearing a short sleeved white shirt and a green knit tie looked in.
"hello there."
"hello." brock rubbed his head and his face. "what time is it?"
"what time is it?" the little man laughed. "you mean the time of day? what do you care what time of day it is?" he laughed again. "do you have someplace you want to go?"
"i might. i might have someplace to go. and i might have things to do too. yeah. i might have all sorts of things to do, doctor. you are a doctor, aren't you?"
"yes, of course i'm a doctor. what else would i be?" the little man looked brock straight in the eyes from behind his thick wire-rimmed glasses.
brock stared back. the doctor cleared his throat. "don't you want to know where you are? don't you want to know - what year it is?"
"sure, doc. those sound like good things to know. meanwhile, how about a drink?"
"of course, how rude of me." the doctor turned and spoke to someone behind the door. "nurse, please bring mister brock a glass of water. a tall, cold glass of water."
"water! and it's sergeant brock. master sergeant brock."
the doctor ignored this. the door opened after a minute and a woman - not wearing a nurse's uniform - squeezed her wide body into the little room with a large moisture-dripping glass of water in her hand. the doctor took the glass from her.
"thank you, nurse sherman." the doctor twirled the glass in his hand and held it up to the light as if studying a glass of wine. then he handed it to brock.
brock took the glass and pointed with his other hand at the nurse. "sherman. i bet your friends call you tank, right?"
she smiled evilly at him with large white teeth. "not in today's world, sergeant."
"today's world? what's that supposed to mean?"
"oh, you'll find out, sergeant."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

at the club

at the club

my grandfather soames
who made the family fortune
had difficulty getting his point across
to my grandmother emily

or to women in general
or to servants, foreigners, cab drivers, birds, cats or even dogs
but with horses and men of his own class
he got on very well indeed

when the automobile replaced the horse
he was devastated
and never really recovered

his eldest son, my cousin edmund
who had heretofore
(am i using that word correctly?)
languished in his father's shadow
became a champion race car driver

and quite the most famous
member of the family
his exploits had to be followed
in the new york times

because the transcript, of course
regarded them as unworthy of notice
i could go on in this vein for a while yet
but i fear that i am boring you

please forgive me
would you like another drink?



doctor, am i going mad?
please be the friend i never had
tell me, are things what they seem
or are they only just a dream?

doctor, doctor, please tell me
is this life but a fantasy?
why in all the wide world free
must only i have eyes to see?

now am i afraid to sleep
lest creatures from the the swirling deep
rise up and swallow not just me
but all so-called humanity

why must i who had such faith
be now a disappearing wraith?
why must i lie in this dark room
my brain the screen of universal doom?



i talked to the wind
and the wind died down
i talked to the trees
and they all left town

i talked to the stars
and they faded away
i talked to the night
and it turned to day

i talked to a flower
on a windowsill
i called it bob
and it said, i'm bill

i talked to a bottle
lying in the gutter
it looked up at me
and its eyelids fluttered

i talked to the drops
that were still left in it
they looked up at me
and said, hold on a minute

i talked to the glass
when the bottle broke
when it fell on the sidewalk
through a cloud of smoke

i talked to the smoke
as it drifted away
and then -
i had nothing more to say



i saw your mom at fourth and main

the clock struck twelve and it started to rain

she didn't hurry to get indoors

but kept on walkin with the rest of the _______

i kept on walkin, the rain didn't stop

a few blocks down i saw your pop

in front of the pet store where they sell canaries

with his hand on his hip with the rest of the _______

 i saw your girl friend sitting all alone

eating horn and hardat out of house and home

now maybe some people like it like that

but she'll never get to heaven because she's too ______

i saw your grandpa, the poor old fool

dressed in his coffin like he's ready for school

the undertaker said, i don't know what he did

but he's so ugly i can't close the ______