Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
FROM THE BATTLE OF WOOTEN FOSSLEY
With the rising sun, the Trolls advanced across the Wooten Fossley Plain, in a solid line of brown that stretched farther than the several hundred men looking wide eyed down from the city's makeshift defensive walls could see. The invaders' trudging feet thundered across the dry earth, raising a column of dust as they marched. From somewhere within the ranks, the sound of sing song chanting in an alien tongue drifted upward and seemed to tickle the ears of the defenders. Along the city's wall at regular intervals and over the city gates, older women and boys too young to fight but too old to hide stood next to firepots full of hot oil and pitch. Below in the courtyard, other women and old men rolled bandages. The drawbridge over the shallow moat below the wall was shut and across the river behind the newly fortified city waited the hastily built barges, guarded by a company of armed men.
“What I wouldn't give for some tactical training and a cannon or two, “ Will muttered to himself. “Steady on," he called up to the row of archers thinly spread along the top of the walls encircling the city. “Don't fire until they are securely in range, Raf. We haven't arrows to spare.”
“Aye, sir,” the archer's captain agreed. “We'll wait for your signal.”
“We're as ready as we'll ever be,” Tim commented. “And in the nick of time too, it seems.”
Will nodded. “Ragnar's dwarves are already by the side gate and my men are ready as well. Let the trolls come.”
“From the sound of things, they are,” Tim replied. “I will go aloft in a moment.”
“Good luck to you today, Tim.”
“And to you as well, lad,” Tim answered.
“Have you seen Miranda?” Will asked. “I wanted to tell her something but I couldn't find her this morning.”
Tim coughed and looked over Will's head before answering.“She's gone off to a safe place. Don't worry.”
“Good. I just hope she stays there.”
“I do, too,” said Tim, flapping his wings.
“If anything happens to me, Tim, make sure she stays safe,” Will shouted, shielding his face from the wind generated by the force of dragon's wings.
“I will, lad," Tim promised as he caught an air current and ascended high above Wooten on The Foss. “Never fear.”
Tim circled the massed invaders on a reconnaissance flight, eyes narrowing at the sight of a purplish black cloud which hovered over the center of the marching column. “That's a wizard cloud,” he said to himself. He shook his head.“That's not good. Not good at all.” His nose wrinkled at the sour smell that reached him even as high as he was above the marchers. “Dragon memory tells me that it is the signature of a dark wizard from Altarr. Zendan, I believe. Humph.” As the rhythm of chanting reached his keen ears, he listed slightly to one side. “Sound makes me feel sleepy,” he said blinking his ruby eyes.” He flew higher above the cloud, swiveling his ears tightly to his skull and dropping his second eyelid against the sun's glare. “That's definitely not good. That's magic of a high sort. If I was on the ground below that cloud instead of above it, I might drop where I stood and fall into a trance.” He quickly banked and reversed direction back to the city.
A mist began to form, curling tendrils across the ground between the advancing trolls and the city as the chanting continued. The sun's glare began to dim. Men in the courtyard shivered despite the warmth of the day. On the walls above them, men began to look over the ramparts in fear. “It's hopeless,” said one townsman to his fellow beside him. “There are too many for us to fight. We don't really know what we're doing. We are all going to die.”
“I'm never going to see my little son again,” replied the man, wiping his eye.
“Are you crying, Mick?” asked the first. “For, I feel as if I would like to cry myself.”
“No!” declared the second defender. “A man doesn't cry! I've just got dust in my eye or something.”
“No shame in it, if ye are crying, lad. I'm scared, too. I'd cry if I could. Cry for my bairns and my beautiful Molly, for I can't save them this day. I'm no soldier. I'm just a tailor.”
“And I am a farmer, or I was,” said Mick.
“What's the point of trying to hold this position?” asked a third man. “We're all townsmen, not soldiers. We're done for.”
“We should just open the gates and surrender,” said a fourth man. “Beg mercy.”
“From trolls,” snorted an archer. “Whats' the matter with you fussbudgets? Are ye daft? Trolls would just eat you.”
“We should open the back gate and run for the river, “ said Mick. “Even a farmer might outrun a troll.”
“I'm getting out of here,” declared a fifth defender, throwing down his bow. “Let the dragon and the prince save the town themselves, if they're stupid enough to try. I'll swim across the Foss if I have to. Maybe trolls can't swim. Who's with me?” he turned his head and slumped to the floor as the men around him dropped like stones.
The archers on the walls dropped their bows and slumped down as if asleep.
“What is happening up here?” frowned Will from the top of the wooden staircase that led to the battlements.
“It's black magic,” called Tim, landing in the courtyard. “ Cover your nose and mouth and hold on, I can fix that.” He began to chant in ancient dragon. A moment or two later, the purple/black tendrils withdrew back towards the invaders and the men blinked their eyes as if awakening from a bad dream.
“What was I saying?” asked Mick to his friend.
“I think I must have dozed off,” said the tailor, standing up. “How did I do that?”
“They're almost at the earthworks,” cried Will, peering over the wall.“They're in range,” he yelled, swinging his silver sword over his head. “Fire!” He scrambled down the steps and raced to where one of his men was waiting with the reins of a large white horse arrayed for battle, wearing the Von Hollenstine colours.
As the dwarven company and Will's men slipped from the side gate, the archers launched a flight of arrows skyward which fell upon the invaders like stinging silver rain. A few trolls fell and were trampled into the dust by their fellows. “Again,” shouted the archer's captain. Another volley dropped more trolls, but not enough. The archers launched a third volley. The trolls kept coming.They beat their chests and ran forward roaring open mouthed, showing rows of gleaming yellow teeth sharpened like knives. “Sholto, Sholto,” they chanted as they ran. They threw themselves without outward fear against the sharpened pikes that protruded from the earthworks in front of the town.
Men wielding whatever weapons they had learned to use under Will and Ragnar and Groof's tutelage leaped up from the other side of the earthen works as more trolls launched themselves upon the first line of defense. Those trolls fell upon the sharp pikes, but the press of more trolls behind them carried the invaders over the earthen walls. The men retreated and regrouped. Howling, Ragnar's company of dwarves raced past them to engage the enemy in hand to hand combat. Groof's company quickly formed a shield wall behind the dwarves in front of the city, sending trolls who survived the pikes and the axe men's reckless charge to their deaths.
Groof' skewered a troll on his sword and braced to meet the the charge of another. A second troll knocked both shield and sword from his hands, hitting him hard enough to split his skull, had he not ducked aside in time. The man next to him knifed the troll in the gut but not before taking a fatal blow to his own. He fell writhing to the ground as the troll ran past, shoving Groof to the side. Groof stood over the fallen body of his still living comrade, teeth bared and snarling, to rip at an advancing troll warrior with his formidable were -claws. The troll snarled a challenge and swung his heavy club, bristling with rusty iron nails at Groof.
“For Dwarvenhelm,” shrieked Ragnar from behind the troll, swinging his axe in an arc. Groof ducked and dodged as the troll toppled and fell forward, nearly sliced in half in the exact spot where the were bear had been standing a moment before.
“Thanks, mate,” he said to Ragnar, who was already turning to engage another troll. Groof picked up his dented shield and sword and fell back in the shield wall beside another defender. By now, the fighting was hand to hand or claw to claw and blood of defender and invader alike arced and spattered all around the field. The ground shook with the force of falling bodies, screams, and running feet. The sound of sword striking sword and axe splitting bone was everywhere.
A trumpet blared from another part of the field and Groof peered over the shield wall to see a line of pikemen advance in from the east side of the city to come in behind another company of trolls, who turned to meet the new foe. Behind the pikemen, Will's small force waited atop battle chargers for their chance at the enemy.
Tim flew above the battlefield. As far as he could tell, the battle in front of the main gates was not going well for the defenders despite their determined defense. The trolls threw themselves against the shield wall without regard to the death that awaited. Those that fell where quickly replaced by those behind.Tim soared over the plain spewing bolts of fire downward upon the advancing trolls where ever he could but he could not do much for the men massed between the earthen works and the city gates since the press of bodies was too close. He could not risk burning his own men. Finally, the shield wall broke completely apart and trolls raced towards the main gates. The few shield wall defenders left alive regrouped with the fighting dwarves or ran for their lives in whatever direction they could. He threw several more fire bolts and returned to the city.
The city walls shook as wave after wave of trolls battered against the heavy gates. Some screamed as boiling oil poured down on them from above. A few maddened by the pain of their crisping hides broke and ran. Arrows whistled down from the walls. Trolls fell but others crawled over the bodies of their fallen comrades to throw their shoulders against the wooden gates.
“The gates are not going to hold much longer,” once of the defenders called from the wall to Tim who was taking a water break in the courtyard. Tim swallowed one last gulp of water and sprang back into the air.
“I'll give you a clear field as long as I can,” Tim said. He spewed rivers of fire over the heads of the trolls massing in front of the gate. Shrieking, they fell back for a few moments until other trolls took their place. Town folk poured more boiling oil over the walls upon the heads of the trolls who pounded upon the gates.
Although the trolls were tall as trees, the smaller but burly dwarves darted in and out of the crowd slashing massive thighs and torsos. More trolls fell in bloody piles before the gates. Gnomes bearing sharp knives followed the dwarves and joined the chaos in front of the city. On the other side of the earthen works, trolls threw themselves upon Will's small calvary as they engaged them from behind. Archers fired volley after volley from the walls. Arrows now struck friend or foe alike. It became a melee of hand to hand combat. Dwarves, gnomes, and men fell, slashing and skewering troll after troll. But still the trolls kept coming. There were just too many.
Tim swept back and forth over the battle hurling fireballs at the trolls. From the center of the invading force lightning bolts went skyward, popping all around Tim as he zigged and zagged. He avoided most but not all. Blood dripped from emerald scales and he could smell burning flesh beneath.One of his wings was smoking. He ignored the pain and continued to spit fireballs, sweeping over the battle. Below him, he saw Will unhorsed and alone with a group of trolls advancing to his position. “No!” he bellowed spewing fire in front of him as he swept over the field. The trolls drew back and Tim landed heavily in front of Will. “Get up on my back,” he said, hunkering down. He snapped his teeth and snarled at the trolls running towards them and the trolls stopped in their tracks. The knight grabbed his harness and swung himself on Tim's back. “You've got to call a retreat,” Tim yelled. “Now, or we're going to lose everyone.
Will nodded. “Retreat!” he shouted again and again as the dragon swept over the field back towards the city. “Retreat! To me!”
Men began to retreat with the fierce dwarves and the shield wall veterans in the front of the defenders, giving them as much cover as they could. Tim dropped Will on the wall and swept back over their hard pressed forces. “Hurry up,” he called, spewing more flames earthward at the trolls who broke and ran from him, “I am almost out of fire.” The archers, Tim, and the town folk dropping boiling oil were able to clear the way long enough for the defenders to reenter the city. As soon as everyone was inside, Tim landed panting in the courtyard. “I'm spent,” he said to Will who clambered down from the wall to his side. “I hope you have some brilliant thing up your sleeve or we are lost.”
“Are you badly hurt?” Will asked, frowning “You're bleeding and your scales are smoking here and there.”
Tim shook his head. “I'm okay but I need to recharge my fire.” he looked up and frowned. His neck stretched out an his eyes seemed to spin like crimson tops. “Wizard cloud drifting over the walls.” he screamed. “Everybody seek cover.”
With surprising speed. for there was no breeze, the large purplish cloud oozed over the walls. Men guarding the walls dropped to the ground. Two men in the gatehouse walked to the gates as if in a trance and pushed the bars away before falling over. The gates swung open. “Close the gates,” Tim shouted in vain as everywhere the damp cloud touched them, defenders dropped to their knees and fell over in a stupor. Trolls poured through the gates into the undefended city. Tim coughed and roared and moved forward to stand between the trolls and the now helpless folk of Wooten On The Foss.
Unaffected by the magical smoke, Ragnar, and Groof rushed to his side. “I can hardly see anything through this cursed purple fog,” Ragnar groused.
“Will's passed out just like most everyone else,” Groof growled. “Do something quick, dragon, or the battle is lost.” Tim shook his head and his eyes cleared. He began to chant loudly in ancient dragon. The wizard cloud began to dissipate and men regained their feet, grabbing whatever weapons were at hand and howling desperate defiance at the trolls. Hand to hand combat resumed in the fortified part of the city. Somewhere in the city proper, women screamed. Tim tried not to think about what the screams might mean.There was no time for thought. Battle was now raging in multiple places inside Wooten on The Foss.
“I'm here,” Will said suddenly at Tim's left. He swung his sword, stabbing a troll with as Tim stretched out his neck and bit another troll in half. Ragnar cut off a trolls leg at the knee and it came crashing to the ground where a gnome in a chef's smock ran up out of the thinning fog and stabbed it efficiently through the heart with a butcher knife before running on. Groof ripped the arm off another troll and clubbed it to death with its own weapon.
“Get out of my way everyone,” Tim commanded, as his tail lashed to the side, knocking three big trolls to the ground. Ragnar cut off the head of one and as Groof ripped another almost in half. A troll tried to jump on Tim's head but was skewered by Will's sword in mid leap. “Get the people who can't fight into the guild hall and bar the doors,” Tim ordered a townsman in a scholar's robe, carrying a rake and running up to join the defense.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Hello fellow bloggers,
PUSH COMES TO SHOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA
If one bug doesn’t get you
Another one sure will.
Don’t wait until your fever’s high,
Until you’re really ill.
Just get out your insurance card.
Avoid a grim surprise.
Then hasten to a doctor.
Make sure you’re immunized.
There’s lots of possibilities
To catch a deadly germ.
There could be microbes in the air
That render you infirm.
It might be plague or Asian flu,
A chicken pox or worse.
So hurry now and get your keys,
if your co pay’s in your purse.
Watch out, be careful what you eat,
don't swallow an amoeba.
E coli might be in the meat,
or maybe Salmonella.
Keep your shoes upon your feet.
Look around you everywhere.
A rusty nail is in the grass,
A spider’s on the stair.
A rattle snake might bite you,
A tree fall on your head,
There’s endless opportunity,
For fate to strike you dead.
I’m not telling you to worry,
Just do everything you can.
Make sure your premiums are paid,
You’ve got the best health plan.
Make sure your heart is ticking right,
Your arteries are clear,
Do check your bones aren’t thinning.
You must have those tests, it’s clear!
They’ll poke you and they’ll prod you
They’ll stick things up your rear
Take your temp and drain some blood,
They’re thorough, never fear.
Although those tests are nasty,
You’ve got to pay the price.
Disease is all around you,
And dying isn’t nice.
You’ve got to change your habits,
And exercise a lot.
Keep stresses at a minimum,
Or rest in family plot!
Nancy Wayman Deutsch
from Between The Lines
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Another prompt and continuation of a story:
Jessie paused in the open elevator door, glancing carefully in both directions before entering the hallway. The 13th floor corridor was deserted. She looked at her watch. The silver hands pointed to three. I guess I was down stairs watching the demon longer than I meant to be, she thought as she walked to her suite. But this is Vegas, after all. Its early for the corridor to be so quiet. She shrugged. It was not a mystery needing to be solved at the moment. She stopped in front of her hotel room door and looked over her shoulder once more before opening it with the white plastic card Mai-i had given her earlier.
Inside the suite, Jessie smiled.The soft strumming of a six string guitar sweetened the air. If Mai is playing hillybilly music he is more confident than I am of the outcome of this assignment, she thought. Mai's confidence was always a good sign. She recognized the tune as one her daddy used to play on his guitar. She hummed along, the lyrics flowing through her head. “You ain't nuthin but a hound dog, howling all the time. You ain't nuthin but a hound dog howlin all the time. You ain't never caught a rabbit and you ain't no friend of mine.” She crossed the suite's common area, following the musical notes to the balcony where Mai sat with an Elvis impersonater dressed in a black leather jacket studded in silver, designer jeans, and obviously expensive cowboy boots.
Mai stopped picking and nodded at Jessie. “Sit down, girl,” he said, indicating a wrought iron chair to his right. “This here's my buddy Aaron Elvis Pressley. He's givin' me a few pointers on my playing. Not that I need them, of course from a youngster like him.”He winked and strummed a couple more cords. “No suh. This old dog don't need new tricks from no hillbilly.”
“Well, that's as may be and that picking wasn't half bad,” the Elvis impersonater said, “but that last chord was a little off, old dog. You ain't been practicing much of late, have you, son?”
“Well, son,” Mai-i replied. “I been a mite busy with saving the world of late. Don't leave much time for guitar practice.”
The Elvis sighed. “Don't I just know it,” he agreed. He turned to Jessie. “Old dog here hasn't introduced us,” he said.”He's forgotten his manners again.”
“He does that,” Jessie laughed, “frequently.” She held out her hand. “Anyway, I'm Jessie McNeill. His, um, student.”
The man whistled. “Not the little lady who snatched TinkerBelle from the spider bitch. Pleased to meet you.”
Jessie frowned. “I'm surprised you heard about that. I didnt' think...”
“That a second rate Vegas performer would be up on the latest news?” the man interrupted, raising his right arm to expose a blueish-black Celtic tattoo spiriling around his wrist. “I'm not just an entertainer. I'm a Watchman, little darlin'. We're expected to know those things. Just like I know that your friends Glinnie and Tania are downstairs in the bar keeping track of Morrigan and Glory O'Toole. And just like I know the the demon Azer Roth and his vampire ally are watching your fairy friends.”
Jessie frowned. “Oh, and do you also know the magician who apparently isn't really a magician and who is clearly up to something that might interfere with our mission, Aaron?” She turned to Mai. “I don't trust Gabriel man and I don't care what or who Glinnie says he is. He makes the hair stand up on my arms.”
“Who is she talking about?” Elvis/Aaron asked turning to Mai-i.
“ Gabriel Vann,” Mai-i replied. “He's performing here at the hotel.”
The Watchman nodded. “That so? Been awhile since I've seen him but its good to know he's up to his old...tricks...again.” He scratched one long coal black sideburn. “Don't worry, little darlin', Gabe is okay. He's on the side of light. Just like we are.”
“Well, Jessie shrugged, “Did you know that Glinnie swears he's a vampire hunter who should have been dead two hundred years ago? Not that I believe that, of course.”
“What don't you believe?” Mai-i asked, putting his guitar into a long battered black leather case beside him on the tiled terrace floor. “That Gabriel is a magician or a vampire hunter or that he's a couple hundred years old?”
“He doesn't look a day over forty,” Jessie declared, “No matter what Glinie says. Humans don't live that long. Especially vampire hunters.”
Mai-i laughed. “True enough in most cases, Jess. But Gabriel has been working for the Vatican for centuries. His skills are legendary and many. He may no longer be completely human as you would define it, but he was born one just like you.”
Jessie shrugged.“Well, I just don't know that I buy all the hype about Gabriel Vann. I guess it doesn't matter much in the scheme of things though, whether I believe it or not.” She reached into her pocket and removed an tiny object that looked very much like a single grain of rice. “I brought the device back up here just like you wanted. I sat near enough to Asher and the count to record enough to tell us that we're on the right track as to their agenda at the convention.”
“What is that thing?” asked Aaron?
“Its a digital mini micro- recording stick, “ Jessie replied. “Tink gave it to me before she and Gai left for the Disney world gig.”
“Humph,” Aaron said. “Comin' up with new stuff every day, aren't they? Make you feel like a female oo7, little lady?”
“Except that I almost swallowed it in my sushi,” laughed Jessie. “Bond wouldn't have done that.” Her eyes widened. “Please don't tell me he was real too!”
Aaron chuckled. “Nope, strictly fictional. But, Van Helsing is real and you'll be lucky if he agrees to help you out with the Azer Roth problem.”
“Not buying it. I watched his last show and he isn't even a very good magician. No threat to David Copperfield.”
Mai-i chucked, turning to Aaron. “Notice that she accepted your Watchman status right away,” he said. “She's seen me turn into a coyote and Gai morph into a rabbit without blinking twice, has battled a spider goddess on the astral plane for a pixie she acknowledges as Tinker Belle, and works with a deposed fairy Queen and a witch from Oz. But she doesnt believe Gabriel Vann is a story book hero and a Vatican secret agent. I wonder if those tingles I suspect she feels when he's around aren't something besides dislike, eh? Gabriel was always a...uh...what do they say now....a chick magnet, wasn't he?”
“Oh yes, women love battle scars,” Aaron agreed.
“Oh stop it you two,” Jessie said. “I don't buy the Van Helsing story. If he's human how can he really be hundreds of years old and look sort of like Hugh Jackman?”
“Jessie,” Mai-i said, “you know that the bite of a vampire can kill or turn a human, right?” She nodded.
“Well, the freely given blood of a vampire can bestow the gifts of super healing and a much longer life than you'd imagine.”
“But why would a vampire do that? Give blood to one of their greatest enemies?”
“Because all vampires aren't evil, that's why. Didn't you watch that Buffy show a few years back on Fox?”
“I remember Angel, the vampire with a soul. He was pretty hot. But that's just television fiction that Joss Wedon made up.”
“Stories and legends are based on fact, Jess. Most people don't want to accept that there are things that would shake up the foundations of their hard won beliefs, so they just discount them. But magic is real. So are dragons and fairies and all manner of things that go bump in the night You know that.”
Jessie shrugged. “Okay I'll accept Gabe Vann as Gabriel Van Helsing if you really want me too. But don't tell me Angel was real and he gave Van Helsing his blood.”
“No, not Angel. He was a fictional character as was Buffy although there is a Hell mouth in California. Wedon got that much right. It was Mina Stoker who gave Van Helsing his gift of longevity. He is mortal but with luck will still look middle aged when your grandchildren are old.”
“But he's not a magician.”
Aaron laughed. “Let's say it is more of a hobby with him. But he's good enough. After all, Harry taught him a trick or two, ain't that right Mai-i?”
“No, of course not. Harry Houdini.”
Jessie groaned. “Of course, I should have known. Houdini." She pointed at Aaron. "And of course, you are the real Elvis Pressley and you didn't die and you don't age, either. And Gai is really the Easter bunny.” She ran her fingers through her tangled red hair. “I have a headache.If you two gentlemen don't mind I think I am going to bed before the sun comes up and its time to save the world again.”
“Well, little darlin',” the man in black drawled in a soft Mississippi accent. “Igai Gai is definitely not the easter bunny. Don't ever let her hear you say that. And like Van Helsing, I reckon I have a few skills besides singing and making stupid movies. You ever heard about hiding in plain sight?”
Jessie sighed. “If I am lucky this is all a dream and I'll wake up.”
“Sleep tight,” said the man in black, turning to look out a the distant mountains in the faint pre dawn light. “But, be sure to close the closet door. All the way.”
Ma-i's chuckle followed her into the common room. “It's a full moon tonight but I'll do my best not to howl too much,” he called. “Breakfast meeting at ten o'clock sharp. Be there.”
Jessie glanced at her digital watch which read five am. There's no place like home she thought. What I wouldn't give for a pair of ruby slippers right about now.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
This is part of a writing workshop exercise: a prompt to make a character or characters have animal characteristics and act on a compulsion or obsession:
It was early afternoon, on a Wednesday, and I had no real excuse to go to the Straw House for a beer. Its not like I didn't have beer in the fridge and didn't know I was acting outside of my pattern and comfort zone. But, it was one of those really awful Farch days where the sky looks like its made out of dull grey lead that's about to fall on you at any minute and crush you flatter than a chipmunk under an alphas' paw. It was cold and there was the usual winter wetness in the air which normally doesn't bother me since I had a particularly warm and thick coat. But that day, even inside, in my snug den, it seemed to leach right into my bones themselves. I'd spent the better or the worst part of the morning housecleaning, which I'd neglected for way too long, being as I was in the middle of a project. After sneezing a few dozen times and wading through dust bunnies all the way to my unshaven whiskers, I decided I'd had enough of the domestic stuff and that I'd might as well take a little jog into town and see what was doing at the Straw House. So, I put on my coat and my boots and followed the dirt road that lead from my clearing through the forest and into town.
When I got to the bar it was pretty empty being still fairly early. The mines hadn't let out yet for the afternoon shifts so most of the of the regulars weren't there. I noticed a couple of cute under aged chicks sitting in the booth closest to the door, chirping to an odd duck out who looked like he was uncomfortable being there in the middle of the day on a Wednesday instead of somewhere else. Maybe home with his wife or in front of a classroom. It was none of my business. I slid into my favorite booth with the faux leather seat on the other side of the room and nodded at the barmaid, Flossie, who was squeezed in behind the bar, wiping a beer glass with a white cloth. Her people were German too, like Fritz's mama, from Holstein I think. Anyway, she drew me a beer in a tall glass and brought it to me, patting my arm and winking before returning to her duties at the bar. As I sipped the beer I looked around. An old salty dog sat in front of Flossie nursing a lager and talking trash to a doll I'd never seen in there before whose hair was so light as to be almost silver. She was drinking something girly, a daiquiri or something like that. I remember thinking that she was as cute a kitten as I'd ever seen in our little burg. All decked out in a white mohair sweater, she looked as soft and fluffy as a cloud. I debated slinking up to the bar in an effort at engaging her in witty conversation, but lost my nerve when the door slammed open and the three O'Reilly brothers pushed their way into the room.
The Salty dog turned his attention from the kitten and looked into the mirror. He swiveled in his chair. “Look at that,” he said to the room at large. “You boys are back in town already. Thought you wuz gone at least until spring. Who let you out of the pokey early, mates?”
`“Aw shut up, Sparky,” snorted Pinky, the eldest O'Reilly. “We wuzunt guilty, anyway. We wuz framed and you know it.”
“Yeah, said Oscar. “We got time served. When the judge saw all the evidence our lawyer had, he realized we wuz honest businessmen only trying to bring home the bacon. We didnt do nuthin' wrong. We wuz co-erced into sumthin' we din't understand by that sneaky Foxy Renard.”
Sparky nodded. “Yeah, he's a fox all right. You boys mebbe know better than to listen to him next time.”
Oscar eased his considerable bulk in to the nearest booth and winked his eye at the barmaid. How ya doin' babe? He said. How bout bringin' old Oscar here a bottle of yer best.”
Flossie put her beefy hands on her ample hips and frowned across the bar at Oscar. Ya got cash, fatty?” she mooed, rolling her liquid brown eyes. “Boss man says OReileys credit ain't good here no more. Old MacDonald says he sure ain't runnin' a tab for you swine, uh uh..Not after what you done to bust up the place on yer last binge.”
I leaned back into the booth. I could smell trouble coming and I didn't want to deal with the O'Reillys after what had happened on our last encounter. I tried to make myself as small as I could but when you are my size its hard to fade into the wall. I remember thinking that no matter what they did to provoke me this time, I wasn't going to lose my cool. Landing back in jail again and having to deal with Red's disgust afterwards, even if she heard about it somewhere and decided to come see me wasn't worth it. No matter what those pigs did or said, about me or Red or what happened with her grandmother, either. “No,” I remember thinking, '”I will not lose my temper again. I've done anger management. I can handle myself now. I will not blow it.”
No matter what I had to put up with from the damn O'Reilly pigs, it wasn't worth risking all that that I'd had to work so hard to regain.That's what I thought at the time. Not worth losing what was left of the respect of my neighbors and anyway I was still on probation. I didn't want to go before the judge again. Old Peter Lapin's punishments were harsh unless you had a snake of a lawyer like the O'Reilly's man, who it was rumored, worked for the mob.
So, even though I wanted to howl, knowing what was probably coming, I sat there and tried hard to be quiet. Not interfere. Pull back in my shell like Doc Turtle would. Flossie was on her own. That old cow could just take care of herself. I wasn't in the mood to be anybody's champion. I was done with trying to be the hero. After all, that's what made Red finally give up on me and run away with the deer hunter. It was my screwed up heroics that got me sent to jail the first time.. You probably don't believe that. But its true. It wasn't what happened with her grandmother. No matter what you've heard, that one wasn't my fault. I wasn't even there. It was blowing down the Irish pigs' house that was the final straw, although the dirty lies the pigs spread about me and the incident with Red's grandma probably didn't help.
Even if people didn't want to admit it publicly, Red's grandma was one hot number, a real cougar if the truth be known. So, nobody except maybe Red herself would have blamed me much even if it had been true, although it wasn't. It was my brother, Jack, that was responsible. Sure, he looks a whole lot like me, but anybody who knows us both knows he was always creating trouble trying to work his way up in status and take down his older sib. I guess if you'd seen him running away from the place that night in Grandma Lola's nightgown with the bloody ax you might have thought it was me, but it wasn't. For a long time I thought that if I ever caught up to him I'd roll him and put my teeth to his throat, anger management counseling be dammed, and make him admit to what he did. For now though, I'm just gonna say it was a pack of lies, what they say I did to Red's Grandma, and leave it at that. Anyway, there was no real evidence and it ended in a mistrial. They never found a body, you know. So Jack got away with it, whatever he did and for all I know he and Lola are laughing into their rum and colas somewhere next to a pounding surf on the insurance money. Red's family are tough, the lot of them. Birds of a feather. Pioneer stock from Rhode Island. They don't kill easy.
I think a few people believed in my innocence until the crack house incident. It was me being at the house when it blew up that finally made them give up on me, turned them against me and sent me to prison. Being behind bars gives me nightmares and maybe always will. It made me a lone wolf and I don't trust anybody.” He took another drag on his cigarette. “But you don't care about that, do you? You're just here for the story.”
“I don't know what to say,” Mina admitted.
“Doesn't matter. Anyway, the thing was, I never should have gone into the Straw House on a Wednesday afternoon. I was tempting fate and fate is never on my side. For, Oscar spotted me.
“Well, he leered, “look it who's skulking in the corner, boys. If it ain't the guy who tries to hide in sheep's clothing and seduces his girl's grandma before he cuts off her head.”
“Yeah, the guy who pretends he's all that, huffing and puffing illegal sub-stant-ces,” said Pinky. “Walks around stoned half the time an thinks he's tough just cause he can get away with murder and blow down innocent business men's houses.”
“Yeah, we got a brick house now. You ain't gonna blow it up with your stinkin' drug lab like you done to our wooden one,” put in Meyer.
“The sheep outfit was for Halloween, I didn't seduce Lola, and I didn't blow up your damn wooden house,” I said. “You know its all lies and slander. The explosion was an accident.
“Yeah, Oscar replied. “That's what you told the judge and he din't believe you neither.”
“Next you are gonna say you didn't blow up our barn, either,”Pinky sneered.
“Yeah, damn gypsy Lobos always lie, “ avowed Meyer.
“It didn't blow it up, it burned along with the house. And I didn't blow anything or burn anything, not on purpose, although you seem to have convinced your insurance guy that I did.”
“ Mebbe you think folks will believe we done it ourselves. That we knew when we rented the house it was a drug lab.”
“Why not? Could be it was your drug lab not mine and you were trying to hook Red on meth. Maybe I just wanted to scare you off her.” I shrugged. “Business was off, the law was getting close to sniffing you out and you wanted the insurance money. Maybe it was all rigged to blow up. Maybe I was completely innocent and you tricked me into being there and fingered me for the job.”
“Oh sure,” Oscar snorted, his piggy little eyes growing narrow and mean. “That's what they all say in the joint. They're all innocent. Well, Johnny, I'm no arsonist or drug-crazed bomber and I think I've taken all I am gonna take from a lying cheatin' son of a bitch like you.”
I felt my hackles rise and my entire body went stiff.
“ Johnny Lobo,” Flossie mooed from the bar. “Don't loose your cool, liebchen. Don't listen to them pigs. They're just trying to get you in trouble again, ja they are, and you know the cost ain't worth giving into your anger.”
“I am not going to give into anything,” I growled. I stood and threw five bucks on the table. “I'm going to walk out of here now and go home and I don't want any trouble. What's over is over. Believe what you want. I've served my time and I'm done with it.”
But then, Pinky laughed again and Oscar snorted and Meyer said, “ Looks like Johnny Lobo turned into a prissy little pussy cat while he was away. Are you Johnny or Jeanette now, sweetie? Prison a bitch, huh?”
I opened my mouth to frame some clever reply but heard myself snarl instead. I saw something red before my eyes, but it wasn't my long lost love. Then I sort of blacked out. Maybe you saw heard what happened next on the eleven o' clock news or read it in the paper. If so, then you know more than I can remember. Oh, I saw Pinky and Oscar in court at the trial and I heard all the testimony. From the O'Reilys and Flossie and The Salty Dog. The pictures of what was left of Meyer were pretty graphic. I'd like to forget those, but I can't. I'm sorry for what they say happened. I'd take it all back if I could. Even though those Irish pigs were real bastards. But I don't remember doing what they claim I did to Meyer. I only know for sure and certain is that I shouldn't have gone into the bar on a Wednesday afternoon. Not even with the anger management counseling I'd done. I know that for a fact. And another thing, I'll never eat pork chops again, not as long as I live. I can promise you that.”
Fritz stood up, folded the motorcycle magazine and stuffed it into the pocket of his white uniform. “Some promises are easy to make wolf man,” he said. “As long as you are in here.When you know we're in a recession and the funding for this place is cut back to nuthin'. You ain't gonna get the other white meat in here, not as bacon or pork chops, for a long time, if ever.”
Johnny laughed. “Well, since I'm certified crazy and I'm not getting out, I'll deal with that.”
Fritz looked at the clock on the wall over the table. “Time's up,” he said. “It's time for afternoon meds. You gotta leave now, Miss Maus. I hope you got what you wanted out of him.”
Mina blinked and reached forward, shutting off the recorder. Johnny Lobo ground out his last cigarette on the top of the scarred oak table instead of in the tin ashtray. “Come back again,” he said, winking at her and smiling his sharp toothed smile. “If you want to visit some more. Maybe I haven't told you everything yet. But do me a favor next time. Don't wear anything red.”
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Hey there boys and girls in Blogland,