The Day of The Rope

The wind can blow cold, in Los Angeles, even during July. Hell, it can blow cold in August at the same time as the Santana winds. This is a particular sort of icy blast that can curl the sack-hairs of the toughest Chollo that ever rolled down Normandie.

This is the cold that one feels on The Day of The Rope. It’s the cold that Thomas Jane must have felt when he finally parted ways with his beloved Punisher franchise…

“Do you really think he was fired, or do you think he left?” asked my wife, tossing a handful of popcorn at The Boy, who managed to snatch six out of the seven popped kernals before they hit the ground.

“Left? To do The Mutant Chronicles 2?” I sneered. “For years, I’ve felt like the only thing keeping the possibility of a 2nd Punisher film possible was Mr. Jane-Arquette’s tenacious involvement… his insistence that they’d ‘get it right the second time’ after the wet-fart missfire of the Ought-Four debacle…”

My wife shook her head. “The Punisher I know would never do something as petty as play tricks with a fake fire hydrant. Unless the fire hydrant was packed full of semtex and C-4,” her eyes widened and she pulled her feet underneath her on the couch, starting to bounce a little.

“In fact, that is exactly the kind of thing The Punisher should do!” she exclaimed breathlessly.

“The kind of thing The Punisher should do if he was played by the actor who gave the only decent performance in Antoine Fuqua’s lamentable King Arthur?” I asked.

My Wife’s eyes got even wider, Anime Wide. “Stellan Skarsgard? That is really weird casting, but he’s so good it could-”
I was shaking my head, picking up a piece of popcorn and swirling it around the bottom of the bowl to pick up stray salt crystals.

“No-no, honey. Let me rephrase: the one with the crew cut, not the one with the viking hair.”

She giggled and tossed her legs out from her, spilling backwards and throwing her feet up in the air, nearly upsetting our pitcher of LA Beer. “Ray Winstone? Blimey! The Punisher as the ultimate bloke!”

I sighed, running my fingers through my rapidly greying mustache. “The tall one that died in the movie, on the ice. Was on that over-rated HBO show with all the killing and fucking,” I salvaged the pitcher, drinking straight from it.

My wife laughed and picked up the Boy, spinning him around in the air as she whirled, he giggled. “Tim Olyphant was in King Arthur? He’d be good, kinda skinny… but he is tall: remember that time he ran past me in your old office because he thought his car was getting towed?”

I started gently denting the coffee table with forehead. “Ray Stevenson, dearheart.” She stopped swinging and the Boy shot like a RPG from her arms, grabbing onto a heavy 17th century Claymore hanging on the wall next to a 20th century Claymore mine, and swinging like a spider monkey.

“Huh. Yeah, he’d be a pretty badass Punisher. Confirmed?” she queried, and I nodded.

“This is really boooooring to me,” said Perfect Tommy from the love-seat, where he sat curled around Miss Twist. Our friends are visiting from up North, way past the Winterline.

“Aren’t you supposed to sound more… nautical?” I asked our ex-Navy pal. “Naw, I kinda got all Salty Dogged and Avast’d out by the time those fucking Pirate movies came out,”

“The Pirate Movie? Fuck, I LOVED Kristy McNichol in that,” screeched my Wife. I reached over and pushed her back onto the couch. “You’ve never even seen Empty Nest, let alone The Pirate Movie, you drunken sot!” I gibbered. My wife snarled low in her throat and launched herself at me, knocking me into a rack of beaver traps.

“I always thought it was silly to display those open,” began Miss Twist, nonchalantly dragging the lemon twist from her martini and popping it in her mouth. “BleaRGH! Fuck! Why… why don’t you people have any olives?”

“But I’m still confused,” began Perfect Tommy. “What does ‘The Day of The Rope’ have to do with which actor I’ve barely heard of plays The Punisher in a sequel I didn’t even know existed?”

I disentangled myself from the mess and handed my wife a screwdriver so she could disengage the trap on her left leg. I limped over to PT and clapped him on the shoulder. “It’s a day for people getting fired, or ‘exiting due to creative differences’, Tommy my man. Why, the Missus and I have ourselves kicked our management to the curb this day!”

My Wife nodded, packing the wounds on her leg with a white moss found only on the southern face of Mt. Shasta. “Useless swine, utter fucking tossers. Lying ass-bitches,” she spat.

“And we take no truck from no new scum! We accept no shit from no suckheads! All leeches must perish!” I bellowed, grabbing up a 6th Century cudgel and brandishing it vehemently.

“It was a creative difference, in that they were fucking passive-aggressive, and never actually listened to any of the information we were giving them… that, and they only wanted to be Manager/Producers,” said my Wife sagely, grabbing the Boy before he could work back the hammer on the old Hawkins muzzleloader I keep behind the couch for vermin: it’s only a .30 caliber.

“We have no need of someone who brands his or herself ‘creative’ helping us develop a project from the ground up. I’m a fucking development genius, it’s what I’ve done for years. I’m not discounting the development process: we’re currently going through it on three of our projects, the pitch with a production house, and the two spec-rewrites that are both for producers… all of these have been developed up one side and down the other,” I said, now standing astride the coffee table with an 18th Century Sergeant-of-Foot’s saber in hand. I glanced around for a flag to wave with the other.

“You see,” began my Wife, climbing up beside me and expertly flipping the Boy to Miss Twist. “These fucktards didn’t bother to listen to us, they were viewing these projects as projects that they could jump on board as producers, that they could ‘develop’ -and I use that word with air quotes! These shit monkeys had ideas that Albert Pyun would toss out of a room for being too goddamn idiotic to go in front of a camera… unless he had Ice-T and Christopher Lambert available, then it would be totally boss.”

I took up the tale, handing my Wife the saber and crouching down so that my eyes were at a level with PT and Miss Twist. “Besides, they stank of desperation and failure. Plus, here’s the real crux: a manager, or an agent, works for his talent. It isn’t the other way around, and these guys were too busy playing producer to remember that. We wasted 2 months. It’s a tragedy, and we were insulted by idiocy and I was driven to violence. But what else is new? There are, even now, two managers circling us like rabid buzzards…” my Wife climbed up on my shoulders and outstretched her hands as I stood up. She’d get the grand finish.

“I want a goddamned Agent, someone who is happy with their percentage and doesn’t feel the need to tell you that a simple tongue-in-cheek, spam-in-a-cabin, horny-teens-vs-monster movie should be rewritten (page 1) as an adult-centric eco-thriller with land developers and protesting hippies getting killed by an Indian Folk-loric monster that is sympathetic… if someone thinks that is a good idea, they can write it themselves… or, hell, they can pay us to do so. But suggesting a complete rewrite based in one’s own agenda? Pedantic. Pathetic. Insulting. Also: tends to show utter lack of comprehension of what a manager-client relationship entails,” She stretched a little to far and her fingers almost got lopped off by the ceiling fan.

I decided that I wanted the final word. After all, it is my blog.

“If I represented Mr. E, and he told me he wanted to write and direct a feature about 7 twisted, and possibly sinisterly magical little men living in Central Park who befriended a brain-damaged alcoholic stripper who had lost custody of her beloved daughter… I would be a shitty fucking manager, whether I liked the idea or not, if I told him it should be about a hot young artist living the Boho existence in SoHo who was beloved by a vampiric (but very clean) homeless man who was part of a cult in Central Park trying to find a virgin to sacrifice to the elder gods. My job would be to help him make it the best goddamned movie about a brain-damaged boozin’ titty dancer that ever met a baker’s half-dozen dwarves on Sheep Meadow. This is what these fucking yahoos (a failed writer and failed actress, respectively) didn’t comprehend, and So It Is, Has Been, and Will Be!” I finished in a roar. Miss Twist and Perfect Tommy nodded sagely. My Wife pressed a button on a remote and recorded applause and cheering pumped out of the hidden speakers.

“mmmmmMMMMMMMMmmmmmnnnngggggg!” Karloff’d the Boy. Last word. Little bastard.

The Anvil of Crom

“Hey, so, fuck Yeah! Man, off we go!” the Czech composer stood on the gangplank of the Sovay Trinitron VTOL cargo bird.

“Have fun storming Texas!” shouted My Wife, waving her hand with The Boy’s within it… he was tossing a two-finger salute to the ship. “Victory, or the ‘peace’ sign face the other way, spud,” she muttered to him out of the corner of her mouth. He glared at her: “MaaalalalaBA!” he gibbered, obviously saying something like “Bitch, I know what I’m doing!”

The Trained Actor walked down the gangplank, having carried a few boxes onboard for our old friends. “I dunno, Doc,” he sighed to me. “The cockpit is just soooooo big. I mean, it’s a transport ship, right? It should be all cramped! Took me right out. Fuck Joss Whedon, man. Fuck ’em,”

“It’s not like we’re going that far away,” assured the composer’s incredibly elegant wife. “You can always fire up the Deus X and come visit…” I nodded in a stoic, iron-faced kind of way, trying not to show emotion. I hate goodbyes.

“Sure, sure. Austin Colony in the Willie Nelson quadrent of the Texas Galaxy isn’t that far,” I mused. “But be safe! Remember LV4-26,” I cautioned.

“Remember that time in Singapore?” muttered Mr. E, lighting up a silk-cut.
“I keep trying to forget” I told him, firmly steering him back into the compound proper. “We’re dealing with LA friends, Viking. Go back to New York,”

His wife stood in the doorway to the kitchen, greenish-black smoke was billowing out from behind her.
“Um…” she began. My Wife gave one last goodbye to the departing Texanauts and rushed into the smoke, depositing The Boy into my arms.

“Ahahahamoohoohoo?” he laughed ominously. “Sure, kid!” I told him reassuringly. “I’m sure whatever Nova is doing won’t make anyones skin bubble this time,”

“If you need me, you know where I’ll be. And you’ll need me!” I assured The Czech, embracing him and his brood as they climbed into the Sovay.

“Don’t forget to write!” said The Trained Actor, waving as the gangplank was retracted, the blast doors sealed, and the engine began rumbling. “They can’t see us anymore, right? They’re inside and leaving?”
“Okay. I’m tired of waving.”

We headed back inside. Miss Twist was on the video-phone.
“Why in the name of Traci Lord’s bouncing buttocks are there a dozen mime strippers at my front door?”

I shrugged. “Happy Birthday?”
Mimes?” she snarled.
“Cheaper than clowns.”

It was a good weekend. But now the week begins. Two mercenary outfits are checking their hot spots to see if a man of my talents is needed, but money is scarcer than Armadillos in Transylvania. The Rent is long since due, and we jump every time a car passes by The Compound. The phone is rarely answered, so used are we to the insistent badgerings of the gargoyles… it’s terrible, terrible. Like some hideous rain of stillness… like fetid swamp water. The energy is there, the will to survive… but with no lucrative battles to fight…

Well, hell. So it’s tough, things are like that all over! Who am I to bitch? Who indeed. I know who I am…

Time to fire up that extremely elegant Writing Station and get some work done on one of the Spec jobs then… building a better future, indeed. Before the hammer comes down…

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Bad Company

We sit huddled in front of the cold light of the television in a sad world without netflix. I’m gnawing on a cutlet carved off the side of one of my older pairs of bullhide roper boots. We’re poor again.

“We have tofu, you know” says My Wife.
I snarl at her and try to backhand her across the room, but I’m too weak.
She smiles grimly and slips on those creepy leather gloves she has… she makes a fist and a punch-dagger-blade pops out of the back of the gloves with a satisfying “schwick” of a sound. Not a “snikt” at all.

The Boy starts to cheer and pound on the bars of his cage with his tin cup. “Aaahaaaahaaa!” he shouts. It means “Attica! Attica!”

He loves this disharmony.

But it wasn’t always like this, dear ones. No indeed. Just last weekend, for instance, we were celebrating here in The Compound, celebrating Wife’s birthday. And a wild and woolly festival it was indeed! She sat atop a throne hastily errected by a madman from wrought iron. “It’s cold wrought iron” Venter growled at me, his welding goggles reflecting the sun setting redly in the west. “No ghosts’ll get her while she sits on this baby.”

Inside the kitchen it was a madhouse, a madhouse. Holly McHottie was battling the ovens over a series of increasingly complex onion-quiches. “It’s an onion pie!” she said breathlessly: understandably. It’s probably hard to lean over an oven while strapped into a leather bustier. Her hirsute man-beast, Lopez, was combing his mutton-chops out. “Si! Mi Gusto!” he exclaimed happily.

The range was aflame with strange smells and bubbling cauldrons, Nova was up to something. “Oh, this has nothing to do with the party,” she said demurely. “Can you hand me that pestle of mandrake shavings?”

I tossed a match at the Volkswagon sized BBQ pit, which burst into flames. “Sweet Jesus!” shrieked Professor Victory, jumping back and patting his smoldering hair. “I was trying to clean some of the grease off!” “Brains,” said his roommate, the zombie masseuse Dr. Hands. “Also, the grease gives everything a flavor. Braaaaiinnnssss!”

“Where should I put this?” asked Baby-J, carrying a crate of Charles Shaw shiraz in. “Pour it into the bitch,” I answered. “And you don’t need to be wearing hazmat gloves to handle it, doll.”
“You shouldn’t call her that on her birthday!” she gasped.
“No-no: the mess of chopped fruit and triple sec that is the base-the bitch- for more sangria,” I laughed.
“Oh, ha-ha-ha!” she laughed as well. Then everyone stopped what they were doing and laughed as well. It was a wonderful moment.

“You fuckers had better not be fucking laughing at me! Fuck!” shrieked the Birthday Girl, running into the room in her jogging gear.

Later, as she sat atop her throne and watched her subjects gorge themselves, she accepted gifts of tribute. “A Chateau Lafite Rothschild, ’56” she said, examining the bottle proffered by Baby-J and Dr. Hands. “Had to go through a lot to get that,” said Baby-J proudly. “I ate someone!” chirped Dr. Hands.

My wife swirled a mouthful around and spat it out.
“Pah! Tastes like French feet. Pour it into the bitch!”

And another bottle of birthday wine went into the sangria while Baby-J wept.
“but… Rothschild!”

I hacked another chunk of meat off the roast Dr. Hands was turning on the spit.
“This is delicious, my man” I told him. I chewed happily, then looked at the weird look on his face.
“This tastes like… pork,” I said.
“Uh. Yes. Pork. Pig. Yes!” he stammered.
I handed the meat off to Mr. E. who shrugged. “Long or short, I love me some barbecue”

Holly and Lopez were dancing, as were Baby-J and The Boy. Some people were standing around talking, others fighting or fucking, and still others were admiring the fantastic hair of a distinguished Czech who held court, along with his incredibly elegent wife, in the saloon. Some Compounds have a Salon. We have a Saloon.

It was a lovely party, I thought, standing on the parapet and lighting a roman candle.
“Pah! Tastes like stinky feet! Pour it onto the bitch!” shrieked my wife from her throne as another birthday bottle was added to the sangria.

Good times. Now, of course, I’m bleeding profusely on the floor of the compound while my Wife makes me tofu. Tofu!
“It’s good for your cholesterol” she said. And, like Jesus, I wept.

Kiss me Deadly

It was pre-dawn, and The Boy and I were entrenched in the kitchen, breaking eggs.
“Make sure we don’t get any shell in with the goodies,” I ordered my subaltern.
“anggggMMMMMnnnnnn” he grunted in response, holding both arms up to be lifted.
We diced some tomatos, kalamata olives, finely sliced some sage…
“oooOOOOOOOoooooOOOOO!” shrieked my assistant, who chops with both hands and therefore requires two knives.
I grabbed the leftover red peppers from dinner last night and tossed one into The Boy’s eager mouth while mixing the rest in with the chopped goodies.
“Ma-ma-ma-ma-ma?” asked The Boy. I started cutting the goat cheese.

“Some say she was born a long-long time ago, in a far distant land,” I began, splatting the canola-margarine into the frying pan and tossing the bread into the toaster.
“mamamamamamamaaAAaaaa,” he shook his head like a horse worrying a fly.
“Shut up, I’m the storyteller here. Anyways, she was born; of this there was no doubt. Portents abounded at these times… rains of blood and small lizards that get in everyones hair. Wells that have forever given up sweet water suddenly drawing salt… you know: Portents,” I grabbed some goat cheese and starting disking it onto the cutting board.
The Boy nodded a few times and then asked for a cracker. I tossed him a handful and beat the eggs (w/ a splash of water) before pouring them into the pan.
“Some say she was born in a cornfield near Ogallala, others say it was in a besieged trench in what was, is, and will be Montenegro… there are still others who say she was never really born at all, which is nonsense, because if that were so, why would we be making her a birthday omlette?”
“mmmmmmmNNNNNNNNNNN!” grunted the Boy in a pitch-perfect Karloff.
“True, we’d need to celebrate her existence even if she were a golem, incubated in horse manure. I hadn’t thought of that. You are so wise,” I replied, testing the edges of the egg with a spatula.

The toast popped up, and I plated and buttered it. The egg looked ready so I started applying the various goodies…
“Anyhow, she was Born, or Brought Into This World, or Summoned, or whatever you want to call it,” I wrapped up. “And this is why, today at least, we will be very nice.”

The Boy perked up and looked expectently at me as I carefully folded the egg over the stuff, transforming a mess into an omlette.
I nodded and platted the omlette, adding a sprig of parsley and a random orange slice.
“Yes. Now let’s go tell her that you like her that much.”

“Boom? Ma-ma-ma-ma. Boom!”

The Boy was holding out the flare gun to me.
“No, sweetie. Let’s let her wake up gently for once…”

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“If a man has a bounty on his head: blow it off”

We’ve been screening “A Fistfull of Trailers” and “For a Few Previews More” on a continuous loop broadcast on all monitors at The Compound for the past 48 hrs. That is a whole lot of foley gunshots, whip cracks, poorly dubbed, barely dubbed, and unsynched snarls, grunts, and sly witticisms… so my thoughts have been on dusty streets and the venerable Colt’s Navy more than normal… which is to say a lot.

“I wanted to make you biscuits, for breakfast” I said to My Wife as she emerged from the circular bed, pushing through the white gauze netting like Aphrodite rising through the foam. “But I’m pretty sure the only baking soda in the house is in this little glass dish… and I think you were using it to clean.”

“Jesus, what the hell do I know about cooking?” groaned my wife as she grabbed the chin-up bar and started doing reps. “You can probably use that, right? But… it could be leftover arsenic or something from the Great Rat Cull of the other night… Ye Gods.” She dropped lightly to the floor and ambled towards the Master Control System. “how the hell do I turn this infernal racket down? It’s too early.”

“It’s never too early for La Resa Dei Conti” i snarled, slapping her hand away from the volume. “Isn’t that the shootout from the very end?” she yawns, staring up at one of the screens. “Yeah. Gian Maria Vollante had a real Oliver Reed vibe, didn’t he?” I gushed. “It’s kind of like how in the early 90’s Van Damme trailers they’d always show the last slo-mo jumpkick from the big finale…” says my Wife, padding off towards the kitchen. “Let’s see what we can do with your biscuits, cowboy.”

I ignore the sounds of The Boy leaping out of a cabinet and landing on his mother’s shoulders, biting into her earlobe while she tries to throw him off like a maddened Bronc still in the chute. I strap myself in to the Writing Chair and flip up the fire control cover, activating the Hyper-Writer Mode. As I lose myself in the rapidly appearing text, I think a few days back to when I was visiting Professor Victory with The Boy…

“This isn’t funny. If you drop me, how will I be able to install all the new hardware into the Writing Station?” asks Victory calmly as I dangle him off the balconey of his penthouse apartment with it’s grandiose view of the Hills up to the North. “No, it’s not funny,” I acquiesce. “It’s hilarious, you turn this really vibrant shade of eggplant when I do this…”

“hmm, sort of a puce?” muses the Proff.
“Sure, give it a name.”
“How about Carl?”

I help him up and pull a beer out of the mini-fridge he has under the coffee table out on the porch. He fixed himself a cocktail and leaned back on the railing.
“So, you came all the way to the Westside… aren’t you worried about us falling into the ocean at the next tremor?”
“Thats not why we built The Compound so inland. I just don’t want to have to wait as long for the desert to reclaim it’s natural territory.”

He took a sip of his drink and swirled the ice in the glass. “I imagine this isn’t a shop visit,” ventured Victory.
“you do, eh?
“Sure. When you need work done you page me, you sure can’t bring your system out here. Does the ejection seat work?”
I peeled back the bandage on the back of my head and gave him a peak. “Phew!” he whistled. “It works just fine,” I assured him. “My problem is more… theologic in nature. Or possibly, reality. It could even be purely fictional, I’m not sure,” I tossed the half-empty beer down in front of the couch, beneath which The Boy was hiding. His hand darted out and pulled the bottle back under the seat, we could hear guzzling sounds and a satisfied belch.

“He’ll sleep now, for sure!” enthused Victory.
“Yeah, I reckon” I started mixing myself a martini (gin, thanks) while staring off in the general direction of the ocean. We were all quiet while I shook the shaker.
“So I keep worrying about The Pagans…” I began, thoughtfully straining the cloudy liquid into a chilled glass. Victory tossed a few huge Spanish olives in the glass, and topped off his Manhattan.
“The biker gang from Pittsburgh? They found you?”
“Yeah, see, that’s part of the problem… you know me, Proff. You know I’m a man of The Lord…” I began uneasily.
“Well, sure. Except, you don’t believe in One God, let alone the Judeo-Christian God. So while you are a religious, even spiritual man… you don’t really subscribe to the standard doctrine of those who are ordained,” Professor Victory looked happy. Like he’d been practicing that statement. I growled at him, irritated briefly that The Boy was asleep under the couch, or else he’d have matched my growl and possibly attacked Victory’s calf-muscle with his teeth.
“Sure, why not.”
“I mean, whenever you take a shot of fine Irish whiskey, you toast the 4 winds before drinking, do you not?” Asked Victory, holding up a finger.
“It’s a precaution, that’s all. You’d do the same if you’d seen some of the things I have.” I took a few steps towards the railing and glanced over. He’s got a hell of a set of nerves, to take the dangling that I routinely put him through when I’m in a mean study.
“You never pray to Crom,” Victory stated, holding up another finger.
“Of course not!” I barked. “There’s no point in it! He’d just laugh at…” I trailed off, seeing the smug look on Victory’s face.
“So this isn’t about the biker gang from Pittsburgh, eh?” he was waving the end of a Leon’s #3 over a wooden table match, it’s supposed to seal in the flavor. I hung my head and took a sip of my perfectly chilled drink. It’s hard to do that when you are hanging your head and I ended up with a slight olive juice flavor in my chin-beard.

“No, it’s the word pagan. It just…” I trailed off lamely. What the hell was I doing at my good friend’s elegant stronghold? Assailing him with weird midnight concerns? He stepped forward and plopped the cigar into my mouth and topped off my martini from the shaker.
“Doc, I understand the issues here. You come to me since I also have been known to sacrifice to the Elder Gods: we’re polytheists, mono-spiritualists in a post-modern world. It can be kind of confusing, especially when you include Jesus Christ into the equation.”
I nodded while collapsing into a rattan chair. “You are so right, Professor. He was merely a fine human being and a Teacher. But so many greedheads and fools have confused the memory… even if he was the living son of some ancient deity, the utter corruption of his teachings has laid most of the good to waste!”

Victory grinned sagely while assuming the lotus position atop his coffee-table, a glass-topped monstrosity built atop the wheel of a Conastoga Wagon.
“But this isn’t about Christianity, RevDoc. This is about the label of Pagan, and how it disrupts your mental flow, right?”

I threw back the remainder of the cocktail and watched the horizon go fuzzy for a second before my equilibrium kicked back in.
“Yeah. I mean, what the fuck is up with this screwheads who take the name? ‘We are Pagans!’ they proudly proclaim… and it’s like: WTF? Which ones? Ancestorism, Animalism, Hindism, Buddhism, Confuciouswhatever… I mean, they seem to think that by calling themselves Pagan, I am supposed to understand what their spirituality is… and then they get pissed off at me!” I pulled at my mustache and took a hearty puff on the stogie.
“They are just trying to set themselves apart…”
“Yeah! I get that! But why use that particular word?”
Victory shook his head sadly and stared out at the setting sun.
“It really hurts my eyes when I do this.”
“Is that why you have welding goggles hanging right there?”
“Ah, yes. Much better. So it’s semantics that have crawled up your ass?”
“Sure. I mean, look: Know Your History is what I always tell the Boy. If you are going to proclaim yourself a Pagan, or a Wiccan, or a Christian; know what it means. What it actually means, not just what you think it means or think it should mean. I’m guilty of this myself! How many times have you heard me refer to myself as a Good Christian?”
“But I’m not, because I’m a secular Christian. I don’t proselytize, I fucking loath what the Church has done to the development of 3rd-world cultures, not to mention 1st and 2nd world! What the hell is 2nd-world anyways?”
“Well, it’s a long-”
“Eh, to hell with that. I’m just so goddamned tired of everyone being so mean and petty and critical and insistant that it’s Their Way or the Highway to Hell. That isn’t what Frank Sinatra was singing about, dammit!”
Just then, the door to the porch slid open and the slightly swaying form of Victory’s roommate stood in the blazing sunlight.
“What are you guys talking about?” he was munching on an uncooked chicken carcass, and I felt the bile rise in my throat. I whipped out my baton and flicked it open with a sharp wrist movement.
“You keep your distance, you Zombie fuck. At least until you’ve scrubbed the hell out of your hands and flossed and used Listerine. That is a potentially dangerous cross-contamination issue in your grubby maw and we have a sleeping baby out here!”
Dr. Israel Hands (’74-’07, RIP) nodded shamefacedly and went back inside. “Sorry!” he called around a mouthful of salmonella.
“Ugh. How Baby-J can kiss him, I don’t know,” I shuddered, slamming the baton down on the cement floor to collapse it before sliding it back into it’s sheath.
“Lots and lots of rubbing alcohol to sterilize. She says it tastes like the everclear punch they used to quaff back on the Great Plains. I like that you are carrying the baton, by the way: I totally approve of less-than-lethal force,” said Victory, fixing us a fresh round of drinks.
“It isn’t the way I use it,” I shrugged. “I don’t know how we ever resolve anything around here without lethal force…”
Almost as if it was the hint of cranial-bashing in the air, Israel stood in the doorway again, blue-green listerine running down his chest. “Were you guys talking about Religion and stuff?”
I glanced at Victory who wouldn’t meet my gaze.
“No,” we chorused.
“Oh. Hey, did one of you borrow my Order Of The Stick collection?”
Victory looked pointedly at me while whistling casually.
I scoffed: “Of course not, D&D is for mouth-breathing freaks, everyone knows that…”
“Says the owner of the West Coast’s largest Deadlands collection-” snapped Victory.
“Hey, we’re all mature adults, with responsibilities, RPG means rocket-propelled-grenades at this point in our lives, not-” Hands stopped and scuffed his shoe on the railing. Victory grunted and stubbed out his cigar. I felt shameful and glanced at my fingernails.

We all three sighed simultaneously, and The Boy crawled out from under the armchair. He sleepily rubbed at his eyes and glanced around at us before grinning and holding up his arms to be lifted.

“I guess it is a bit early to get him started on gaming…” I said lamely.
“True, but shouldn’t we… keep our skills honed?” began Victory slowly and with a bright voice.
“Yeah, after all, gaming is like any other muscle: if you let it atrophy, I mean,” said Dr. Hands, his milky zombie-eyes darting towards the bookshelf groaning under the weight of various sourcebooks.
“Right, it ain’t like riding no bike,” I snapped, arranging the seating in a circle around the coffee table.
“Thats right. We need to train. To be ready…” said Professor Victory with heartfelt resolve, flipping open his cell phone.
“Yes. This is for The Boy’s sake, for the future. Think of the children! For they are our future!” exclaimed Dr. Hands, dragging an armful of books and hex paper over to the table.
“Indeed. Get extra pepperoni,” I told Victory. He nodded, and I grabbed a handful of hexagonal dice and showed them to The Boy.

“Ok, son. This is a d-20…”

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