Saturday, November 29, 2014

Murder In My Heart For The Judge (Wranglers' Canyon No. 7)

The first thing Deputy Shugg had us do after we put our hands up was make us put them down again and undo our gun belts.
"Drop your guns and kick them over to me, real slow-like", he gave us the stink eye with his pearl handled .45 trained at our heads. We kicked our beautiful guns towards him, and not leaving us from his sight, wrapped both gun belts around his free arm.

The next thing Deputy Shit For Brains did was make us put our hands up again. Did this idjit even have any idea what he was doing?

"What about Miss Willa?" I nodded towards the gutted corpse of my former bed hostess.
"Well, that is none of your concern any more, Killer", Shugg sneered. "Phineas Lexington the undertaker will handle her remains. Now, git!"

We both marched angrily in the dark with Deputy Numb Nuts holding up the rear. We walked from the alley to the main drag and towards the sheriff's office. I was cussing under my breath to raise the devil and spank his ass. Pete stopped crying long enough to start spitting angrily.

"You'd better have a good explanation for all this ruckus, Shugg".
"Never you mind, Killer. You just keep walking and when we reach Sheriff's door you open nice and slow, and no funny stuff from either one of you, hear?"
This big-eared jackass was full of piss and gumption. I was dying to take the gun out of his hands, stick it up his ass and pull the trigger.

I let Pete open Sheriff Frehley's door as we marched in, catching Frehley almost choking on his coffee when he saw us.
"Alright, Shugg, what is this all about, now?" Frehley asked at the sight of us all rolled in.
"Sheriff, once again there's blood all over these boy's hands. They hung Miss Willa in the alley right behind the old barber shop!"

Frehley rubbed his face irritably. "You just told me you weren't a killer, Walker. What goes on here?"
"I didn't kill Miss Willa, Sheriff. We found her hanging against the fence by the barber's".
"Don't tell me that! What is it with you two? This used to be a pretty quiet little town. Ever since you two rode in you've left a trail of dead bodies, one after the other. First there was that rodeo bull, then the clown, and now Miss Willa. I wouldn't be surprised if you two are responsible for the dead Hiss boy that's got that darn family in an uproar".

"MYUT OIO VDEYFT JKJIOIUO!" Mumblin' Pete protested.
"What the hell is he sayin'?" Deputy Shugg sneered.
"What the hell do you think he's saying? We're innocent, you turkey necked bastard".
"HU TREP IOYT FCDX!"

Shugg waved his gun at us. "Hand over your bandanas!"
I frowned. "Our bandanas? What the hell for?"
"Evidence".
"Evidence? Why you piss-breath gopher, I said we didn't do nothin'!" I yelled.

"He's right, Walker. Hand over them bandanas, both of yous".
Cussing blue streaks, we took off our bandanas and practically threw them at Frehley.
"Now head on in to the cell. You gotta admit, Walker, three dead people -"
"TWO dead people AND A BEAST", I corrected him.
"A very expensive beast. And like I said, for all I know you might be responsible for that Hiss death, too". He slammed the jail cell door and turned the key. "I'm going to have to formally charge you both for the death of Young Rance Hiss, Miss Willa, The Rodeo Clown, and a Very Expensive Bull, Property of Dr. Tarr's National Rodeo".

Pete angrily kicked his bunk. I sat on mine, angrily rolled a cig and smoked. "Ain't that some sweet sheepdip? Self-defense don't count for much around these parts".
"Blaga hiy weg nhyt desp!"

"Frehley, you coward. I didn't kill Rance Hiss and you know that. You'd rather turn me over to crazy old Hiss than have your town burned down".
Frehley walked up to our cell. "I don't do the tryin'. I just do the arrestin'. We'll let justice be served tomorrow when you come up before Judge Harschaw".
"WHAT??? I'm being judged by Judge Horseshit? Are you kiddin' me?"
"Know him? I always found him to be pretty fair, Walker. Seems to me if you're seriously innocent you got nothing to be worried about".

I groaned and turned to Mumblin' Pete. "We're going to be judged by Judge Horseshit. Let me tell you all about Judge Horseshit, this no-necked pecker faced old puke I got into a tussle with at the barber shop a week ago after I sang at the Town Fair.

"Well, I was still feeling pretty puffed up and full of myself after singing and yodeling for all the ladies, breaking hearts and what not. So I decided to celebrate by getting a good and proper barber shop shave and a few cuts on the back and sides.

"Ty Flint the barber was taking good care of me with a nice hot towel over my face, the whole bit. I was telling him about that song "Campfire" and how I swung all the gals with it.
As I was talking about it this big bo I didn't pay any mind to before started snorting in the next barber chair. It kinda rankled me, you know?"

"Bzza yty pomi def tyu!"
"That's right, you got it", I puffed away. "So, anyhoo, I got all chuffed about my next song 'Buffalo Babe' and telling Flinty about it while he's a-shaving me, y'follow? So this big galoot starts rumbling words like 'Ballll-der-dassssshhhh!' and 'Tuurrrr-nip Juice!'

I look over to the next chair and there sat this Humpty Dumpty behemoth of a man. Fingers like fat sausages, legs like four ham hocks tied together and a belly bigger than six Horns O' Plenty put together. His nostrils were so large you could see all the bush a-growin' inside them! The man was fatter than an Easter Sunday Hog on a spit. He had the bushiest eyebrows covering this little piggy squinted eyes and an even bushier beard rolling down to his ol' belly bucket.

"The smell coming out of that body was so pungent even a tin o' talcum powder couldn't kill it, and did he come in for two bits and a shave? Hell no, he's there for a manicure, can you beat that? He wants his piggy fingernails cut, cleaned and lacquered like a Kansas City whore!

"Not content to say those dopey words he starts up with, 'Good responsible citizens work for a living. The fair people of Jonestown have no need for deadbeat, no-account fancy boys who refuse to toil God's earth and waste time instead indulging in their vanity and singing obscene songs for the sole purpose of corrupting the good Christian ladies of their maidenhood'.

"I looked at him and said, 'If you are referring to me, Tubby, you can take all that Sunday School sermonizing and go shit in your flat hat'.
Well, the next thing you know this big fat ass jumps out of his barber chair with his bib still on and screams at me, 'Sir, I'll have you know you are addressing the Good Judge Clinton Harschaw! Unlike you, neighbor, my lips do not touch alcohol, nor do I indulge in demon weed tobacco!'
I said, 'I reckon there's a lot of things your lip's ain't touched. Maybe that's the problem, Elephant Pants!'

"We both jumped out of our chairs, ready to attack. He tried to grab me and I was ready to hit him back until Flinty stuck a cane between us and pushed us away from each other.
'No fighting in my salon! Both of you, back in your chairs!'

"Well, Judge Horseshit threw his bib down and started walking out of the barber's, but he stopped and turned around to face me. Do you know what he said before he left?
'It'll give me great pleasure to sentence you. I'll be looking forward for that day to come, and knowing your scurrilous type, that day can't come soon enough!'

"He snorted like a pig and stormed right out. Best shave I ever had!"

Deputy Shugg drifted over to our cell bars. "How do you sleep at night knowing you're a killer?"
"Leave the prisoners alone, Shugg!" Frehley barked.
"Jig frde vncjkdhj yyue bil koh!"
"Yeah, when do we eat?"

Frehley got tired of Shugg cutting up like some attack dog so he sent him home and slept in an empty cell next to us. he was a pretty good host, I got to admit, lighting a fire and turning down the lights so we all got a good night's sleep. Every once in awhile and I'd wake up thinking about Judge Horseshit and get all riled up knowing my life was in his fat, smelly hands.

I hoped I had some good representation - I was going to need it, especially since I was in the company of people who were damned good at forgetting who their friends were. These weren't fair weather friends, they were no weather friends. One day I was the singer they all applauded and now they were ready to blame me for everybody's death.

It was true I killed the Straight Razor Bull and The Rodeo Clown but it was in self-defense. I had nothing to do with the other murders. Well, Pete killed that Hiss boy but I wasn't about to pass the hanging rope to him, and anyway you could say that was self-defense, too. Defense against a bunch of man-buggering coyotes.

What rankled me the most was the way everyone in Jonestown was so quiet, fair and eager to party with their whiskey until things got a little too tough and then they couldn't point the finger at me fast enough. It was like they had their fun handing me the key to their city and now they were going to beat me to death with it. Cowards.

All those drinks and nights sharing laughs with Frehley meant nothing. He was going to dump me on old man Hiss's doorstep, letting him kill me so he can have his revenge. It's as if our friendship meant nothing. Here today, gone tomorrow.

I can see the darkness evaporate into a growing light creeping through the door crack and windows. Soon the night will be over and the new day I hoped would never come will finally arrive and take over. Damn it.

******************

Hours later we were cuffed and put in a caged wagon like a couple of rodeo beasts and they rode us over to the old school house down the road. As we were taken through town all the citizens stared at us and some even got on their horses and followed us. Some of the girls who swooned at my singing a few days ago stared at me in surprise.

"Where they taking you, Crash?" they asked.
"I don't know. Follow me".
"Why are you behind bars?"
"I said I don't know. Follow me". And that they did.

When we got to the school house Sheriff Frehley jumped off the running board and unlocked the cage and treating us like he was some kinda fool lion tamer and we were trained lions.
"Alright, both of you out nice and slow, and no funny stuff". Deputy Shugg was on the other side of the cage with his pistol pointed at us.

As I jumped off the wagon I realized there were already a passel of horses and wagons hitched by the front of the school house. It seemed people were waiting for us, and Lord, I smelled trouble.

Whatever disarray the school house was in when I fought The Rodeo Clown was all cleaned up. Where once there was an empty floor with broken furniture there was now rows of chairs filled with an already seated townsfolk, a jury box to the side and a nice little platform for the judge to park his big, fat ass on.

The judge was already sitting on his big, fat ass, chuckling quietly and murmuring, "Well, well, well...heheheh". He had a wide cage next to his chair with a large vulture perched in it, hopping around every once in awhile and ruffling his old, stinky feathers.

There was a large cage wide enough for me and Mumblin' Pete to stand in and Sheriff Frehley ushered us in. He and Shugg sat down towards the front of the courtroom.
I saw Mayor Randall sitting at a table facing Judge Horseshit.
"Hey, Mayor, you representing me today?"
"Hell no, he's the prosecuting attorney", someone shouted and everyone laughed. Everyone but me and Pete. Randall looked sheepishly ashamed of himself.

"Well, where's our attorney?"
"Killers don't get attorneys!" the man shouted back again and I turned to see Bo the squarehead blacksmith doing all the yelling. He never did like me.

"Order in the court! Order in the court!" Harschaw pulled out a bull whip and snapped it so loudly you could hear the wind rustle around the room. "CRRAAAACK!" "No one gets to speak in my court until I tell them to! Mayor Randall!"

Randall stood the floor of the court room and barked.
"The case of The City of Jonestown, Festus County, plaintiff, versus Mr. Crash Walker and Mr. Mumblin' Pete, defendants in the matter of four charges of murder in the case of Mr. Rance Hiss, Miss Willa Parton, one John Doe rodeo performer we'll name Rodeo Doe, and one, uh...rodeo bull".

Everyone laughed at the last charge.
Harschaw belched and spat into a brass spittoon to the side of his dais. "Let's forego the charge on that dead beast. We have enough to hang these two without some damned bull".
Mumblin' Pete nervously gripped my arm.

"Bring on the first witness".
"Teresa Mullins, please take the stand". Miss Teresa was all duded up for this shebang and she looked finer with clothes on than she did in her usual Jezebel finery.
"Miss Mullins", Randall puffed up his chest, "please tell the judge and jury what Mr. Walker asked you the night of Miss Parton's murder?"
"He asked me where Miss Willa was like he really had to see her something awful".
The court murmured all over.

"Did you see her alive after he asked you about her?"
"No, Mayor...I couldn't. She was dead!" She gripped a hanky and wept, dabbing at her baby blues.
Everyone talked even louder around the room.
"Thank you, that will be all".

"Quiet in my court room!" he banged a pistol instead of a gavel on his desk.
"Wait a minute! That don't prove nothing!" I yelled.
"I SAID BE QUIET - YOU'LL SPEAK WHEN IIIIIIIIIIIIIII PERMIT IT!!!" He pulled out his whip and cracked it closed enough to almost reach our cage bars. "CRRRAACK!"

"Next witness, Mayor Randall".
"The court calls on Phineas Lexington, undertaker, please take the stand". A potato faced man of dumpy build with saggy eyes and a soiled suit took the stand.

"Now, Mister Lexington, are you a certified undertaker?"
"Why, yes, I attended Good Shepherd of Christ University in Baltimore, Maryland and have buried more than a hundred deceased souls".
Harschaw hacked up a green goblin and spat it into that brass spittoon again.

"You examined the late Miss Willa Parton, did you not?"
"Yes, I did, Your Honor".
"Considering the physical damage that was done to Miss Parton, would you in your estimation say the little man in the mustache inflicted any form of pain on her person?"
"No, not at all. He's too short of build. He couldn't reach her".

"So, would you say a man of Mr. Walker's height could have killed her?"
"Welllll..." he looked me over like he was fitting a brand new coffin to bury. "Yesss, I'd say so".
"This proves that Mister Crash Walker killed Miss Willa Parton!" You could hear Miss Teresa wailing like a baby in the background.

The court roared in outrage.
"NOW, WAIT A MINUTE!" I yelled.
Harschaw jumped out of his chair and cracked the whip. "CRRRAAACK!" The whip licked the bars of my cage while I heard the words "Killer" bandied around.
"You may be seated", Randall excused Lexington, "My next expert witness is-"

Judge Horseshit waved his pudgy arms around. "That'll be all, Mayor. I don't give two whoops and a holler about hearing any more. I've reached my verdict".
"WHAAAT?" I screamed.
"Don't need some meddling jury nohow. What's the name of that funny looking guy with the moustache?"
"Mumblin' Pete".

"Mumblin' Pete, the city of Jonestown, Festus County, finds you not guilty". Pete relaxed while Frehley stepped into the cage, unlocked his handcuffs and let him out the cage.
"Free that little squirt. I know my killers and he wouldn't piss on a fly", Harschaw muttered.

"And now, Mister Crash Walker. The court of Jonestown, Festus County, finds you guilty in the first degree -"
"YOU SON OF A BITCH, THIS AIN'T NO FAIR TRIAL!"
"CRRRRAAAACK!" The whip again.
"-for the murder of young Rance Hiss, god-fearing Rodeo Doe, and poor defenseless Miss Willa Parton -"
"THIS IS NOTHIN' BUT A DAMN CIRCUS AND YOU KNOW IT!!!"
"CRRRRAAAACK!"
"-killed in the flower of their youth, all good Christians and soldiers in the Army of Jesus Christ".

The court room roared louder and louder upon hearing my verdict. Judge Horseshit's mouth twisted into something that almost looked like a smile.
"The court sentences you to be hanged by the neck until stone cold dead this coming Saturday morning, the 24th of September. May the Lord have mercy on your murderous soul". He spat derisively into that spittoon again.

At this point I yelled so much I couldn't even hear my voice any more. The white hot courtroom became blacker and blacker until all I could see was a vulture flapping its wings wildly in its cage. My knees gave way and everything went...black.

Be sure to get a copy of the complete novel "Wranglers' Canyon" in eBook form to be released in July 2015 by Book Baby. Don't miss it!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Life Without Enemies Is A Life Not Lived (Wranglers' Canyon No. 6)

One of the most aggravating things about law enforcement isn't the part about catching your man or even killing him, but what comes after. Killing The Rodeo Clown was hard work, to be sure, but dragging his dead ass across town on the back of my horse and turning him over to Sheriff Frehley was even harder. I had to do it, otherwise no one would believe me about that guy.

I was just riding and praying old Clyde didn't get a hernia carrying me and that psycho bastard over his poor back, but fuck him, he's a horse. God made him that way. As we were riding through the woods in the pitch black darkness I have to confess to getting a touch of the heebie jeebies and turned around every so often to look at The Rodeo Clown, just to make sure he was really dead. I kept thinking he was going to come to and strangle me from behind, so sometimes I'd even stop riding and turn and smack his dumb ol' dead clown face.

"Hey! Stupid!" Naw, he's still dead. Stiff. Cold. Stiff, cold, dead clown in the dark. And then the thought of that shit creeped me out even more, so I kicked Clyde pretty hard with a stern, "GIDDYAP, BOY!"

I got to Sheriff Frehley's office after ignoring the townsfolk gaping at me like a bunch of loudmouth bass at the horror of a dead clown hanging from the back of my horse. Stare and stare again, folks. I'm doing all the work, not you.

After tying Clyde to the hitching post I had to lift this fat assed clown off the horse and carry him on in. There was a lot of heavy lifting going on and I was feeling mighty tired after that tussle with Chuckles, so after a few false starts I said FUCK IT and simply pushed him off the horse. He landed head first on the ground ass-over-elbows with Clyde shooting a jet of piss that luckily missed his sorry head. A dead head full of piss would be hard to explain to Sheriff.

I dragged Clowny up the wooden sidewalk and opened the front door taking him with me. Sheriff Frehley and Deputy Shugg both practically jumped out of their desks at the same time when they saw the stiff being dragged by his dead leg.

"Walker??" Frehley yelped. "What the hell?"
"Here's the jasper who killed the real rodeo clown in Tarr's show. See? He's for real. We had a tussle over yonder by the woods and I had to kill him, see? It was self defense, Sheriff. I'm no killer!"

Frehley and Shugg both walked over to inspect the dead clown from head to toe.

"Walker, give us a hand with this body", Frehley picked up the top side while Shugg grabbed the bottom.
"Get it yourself, I'm plum tired from all that killing". I sat down.

They picked him up and plopped him down on Shugg's desk, the clown's ass knocking over Shugg's coffee cup and tobacco fixings and shit.
Frehley asked me a lot of dumb fool questions while he was looking the stiff's body up and down.

"Any idea who this is?"
"Hell, no. I'm new here, remember?"
"Some of the paint on his face is all wiped off. Did you do that?"
"Yup. I was trying to figure out who he was, too".
"Any ideas?"
"Could be. I saw him dancing with Miss Willa at that big to-do the other day. Didn't know who he was then and still don't know who he is now".

Since I wasn't any help at all the two lawmen do what lawmen do best: they ignored me like I wasn't in the room and started talking to each other, treating me like I was the fifth wall.

"Who do you reckon it is, Sheriff? Could it be Hogg Stinson?"
"Naw, Stinson's a lot bigger than this fella. And anyway, Stinson's ass is always falling out of his pants".
"Haven't seen Clem Sturgis in awhile. Kinda looks like him".
"Sturgis shot himself in the face cleaning his gun last year. Couldn't be him".
"No fooling? Hmm, his wife's kinda fine...wonder if she's fixin' to get married again".
"Aw hell, ferget it, Shugg. You gotta get past five squallin' brats to get to her cootch".

There was a lot of head scratching and just as much ass scratching to boot, but they weren't getting anywhere.
"I GOT IT!" Shugg stamped his boot down hard. "It's Jedidiah McGrew!"
Frehley frowned and pushed his hat back. "Nope, nope, nope. McGrew hasn't been seen around these parts in a coon's age. T'aint him!"

Frehley turned to me and wrinkled his face impatiently. "Did you get a chance to talk to him before you killed him? What did he sound like?"
"He talked real funny like he head a cold, y'know, like he had a sore throat".

"That don't ring a bell", Frehley mumbled to Shugg, shutting me out again. "That's no help at all".
"Okay", I was getting fed up with this treatment. "I need a drink. Sheriff, you gonna press charges?"
"Of course not! Get out of here, Walker, we have official business to take care of".
"Don't let me stop you".

I moseyed over to Sailor Jerry's feeling weary and all punched out. I took a quick stool and blasted back a few shots of redeye. Jerry was banging some crazy barrelhouse piano. Tapping my feet like crazy, I looked around the saloon and saw my girls Miss Teresa, Miss Charity and Miss Clara. I smiled at them and thought it was time for a song.

"There's a hoedown down by the ranch
Grab your little girl git ready to dance
Don't be shy, there's no time
When the night is right for frontier romance.....
YODELYODELYODEL-LAYWHEHOOO!!!"

I yodeled and yodeled and yodeled, my tongue all loose for yodeling and the gals all yelling and laughing. The men saw the gals liking it so they kinda cheered, too. Most of the men were married and kinda walked around all scared their wives might run in and pull them out of the saloon. Every dude knew the ladies of Jonestown hated the saloon gals.

Jerry took a liking to my yodeling and banged the 88 keys even harder whenever I'd do my hooting. It all sounded real nice. I even threw in a few whippoorwill bird noises, too. Damn straight.
"GOOOOO-WRREEEEK-OOOO!!! WOOHEEHEEWHOOO!"
The gals all swooned.

"Roping, riding, hankering and loving is all I ever do
Hold me tight like you're a gonna reach right through
Grab my heart and love me all night
Rope me in and tie me up, to boot...
YODELYODELYODEL-LAYWHEHOOO!!!"

I was really starting to enjoy myself like a crazy loon but I got real tired and just plain stopped. Jerry just kept tinkling away like a madman. Miss Teresa and Miss Charity both joined me for a drink.
"You're really putting it away, Cowboy! You feelin' alright?" Miss Charity laughed.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. I have a few questions I have to ask Miss Willa. Where is she, anyway?"
"Why?" Miss Teresa's eyes narrowed and her high steppin' blonde breasts rose angrily. "We're not good enough for you anymore?"

"No, it's nothing like that. I saw her with this fella the other day and I'm trying to get a hold of him".
Charity and Teresa looked at each other real puzzled, almost as puzzled as those two backasswards lawmen back there.
"We haven't seen Willa for awhile", Charity frowned as she grabbed a shot of sarsaparilla.
Teresa jumped at me. "Sing us another one, Crash!"

I waved her off. "Okay, okay, let me wet my whistle before I start vocalizing again".
But that chance didn't get to happen. Our not so peace and quiet was interrupted by a louder eruption.
The sound of what must have been ten horses rumbled towards the saloon, almost shaking everything in sight, and loud? It was louder than Jerry's loud-ass piano playing.

The saloon doors swung open and in marched ten hombres, and I knew right away who they were. It was that mean looking bunch that rode by while Mumblin' Pete and I did our shooting a week ago. I remembered the older guy with the beady eyes and the long, thin, scaly face. He still looked ornery as hell, so bad that even Jerry quit playing.

"Howdy. Something I can do for you fellas?" Jerry asked politely, almost knowing damned well who these boys were.

A wide, real wide like a train car wide guy stepped up to Jerry. "Are you the proprietor of this saloon, boy?"
"I am, and as you are addressing a former officer of the United States Navy I'll have you not refer to me as 'boy'".

"Someone in this town, and I mean SOMEONE, had a major altercation with the men of The Hiss Ranch and massacred them in cold blood. We aim to come right in and raze this little town of yours until we find the murderer of our men. D'you understand, nigger?"
Sailor Jerry's back straightened up to him. "I thought I told you -"

The old dude dressed in black pushed his way past the wide guy and leered at everyone with his mean old rattler face.
"One of my boys is LYING DEAD in a watering hole and I DEMAND to know who did it. You have no idea what trouble you SMALL TOWN PEOPLE got yourselves into. I'll give you 48 hours to TURN THE KILLER IN or you will SUFFER THE CONSEQUENCES. You have awakened... a SLEEPING GIANT".

I looked over at Mumblin' Pete across the room, who was trying to melt into the wall like he wasn't even there. The mean-ass dude leaned straight at me, shoving his ugly face right at me.

"Are you my boy's KILLER? You have something you want to say to me?" He rasped.
I tried my best to match his stare.
"Nope, not at all. My name's Walker, and to who am I addressing if I may ask?"
His little eyes got kinda big for a second.
"I'm the one and only Clinton Hiss, owner of The Hiss Ranch, and if you had ANYTHING to do with my son Rance's death it will give me GREAT PLEASURE to kill you personally!"

Rance. That was the name of that dang Sodomite back in the prairie who had that sick little gang trying to invade my virtue. Shit. We killed Snake Face's ugly little boy.
I smiled and said, "I had not a whit to do with it, Sir".

He threw a pointed finger in the air at everyone. "FORTY EIGHT HOURS! OR SUFFER AND DIE!!!!"
The gang turned around and stomped out. It was dead silent in the saloon like all the air just dried out.
The thundering of their horses resounded again and faded out into the distance.

"Hell's bells, I need a drink", Sailor Jerry ambled over behind the bar. Miss Clara sympathetically rubbed Jerry's arm to console him. "ROUNDS FOR EVERYONE!"

Shot glasses appeared all over the bar as Jerry ran down the bar filling them up from his bottle. Mumblin' Pete grew a pair and walked over to me, taking the stool next to me, too.

"Nice little town you have here", I said to Jerry.
"Isn't it? And Sheriff and his Deputy are nowhere to be found while all this is happening".
"Where's Mayor Randall?"
"Shit. Who knows?"

I threw back a shot and looked straight at Mumblin' Pete. I leaned in and mumbled into his ear.
"Might be a real good time for us both to scram before we turn to scrambled eggs".
"Mghst rklji ji ghgd kleb uib bg jjhugdhvdhh".
"Hell yeah!"

I started tossing and turning the idea about Mumblin' Pete and me packing our sleeping bags and rags and skedaddlin' out of this ratty burg. It wouldn't take long before we'd get found out for being the killers of Sonny Boy, especially since no one in this boring little shed of a town was smart enough to kill anyone.

Not only that, we were also the new fish in town and a little weird, at least Pete was, so it wouldn't take long for these cowardly folk to start accusing us of all this shit anyway.

I smiled a phony smile at Sailor Jerry and mumbled into Pete's ear. "Just about two more shots o' this piss and we'll head on out to the hotel and skip out with our things and we'll shake these cactus-head fuckers, y'know what I mean?"
"Ght erfgd jkjiu ink opsneghu!" Mumblin' Pete chuckled.
"Sure as shittin', Hoss".

After we tossed our two final shots, I bid adios to ol' Jerry and the gals and we galloped the hell out with our cheap $2 smiles. Just to make sure we didn't make our adios too obvious we snuck down the alley behind the Jonestown General Store, the Jonestown Bakery, the Jonestown Post Office, hell and high falutin'.

"When we git on our horses we gotta keep them nags quietest as quiet can be, and then -"
"Fgkltny!" Mumblin' Pete banged against something big hanging against a wall and almost stumbled over his big clodhoppers.

"Watch where you're going, Pete!"
"Gjkl rtnvf eg jio wemin iyrt!!!" He kicked at the dark lump by the wall. I didn't know what he stumbled over but this real rancid odor wafted from it.
"What is that? It smells like -"
Pete touched it and jumped back a few feet. "GH REEE HPIJK!!!"

I lit a match to get a better look at what made my pal jump like a nervous gopher. I brought the match closer to the hanging lump and we both gasped at what we saw.

It was the already rotting corpse of Miss Willa hanging against the wall with a rope tied around her neck. One of her eyes was completely ripped out of its eye socket. Her nose had been bashed in until it looked like a bent tin can. Her hair was all pulled out and sticking out all over the place like a rag doll left out in the rain. Her once pretty dress had been ripped out wide open with burn marks and bruises all over her once pliable titties. You couldn't see her stomach any more because it was torn wide open and her intestine-type guts were falling out. Whoever did this really went to town on my former bed hostess.

"Will you look at that? Whew!" I pulled out my bandana and wrapped it around my nose and mouth. "Now that's what I call a perfectly good waste of a woman. OWW!" The match burned down to my fingers. I lit another one but got some old newspaper to burn a tiny torch to keep the flame going.

"Now who do you reckon did that to Miss Willa? Could've been that damn Rodeo Clown. I'm pretty sure Willa knew him. She probably knew too much. What do you think, Pete?"
I turned to look at Mumblin' Pete and he burst out crying.
"BAWWWW HAW HAW HAW!!!!" Tears were flowing out his eyes until his face looked like a busted out levee. It was the first time he made a noise that sounded halfway human, I gotta admit.

"Aw, Pete, I'm sorry. I forgot you took a genu-wine liking to her. Ah, that's love fer ya".
"BAWWWAH HAAHAHAWWWW!" Pete cried some more.
"Shit, amigo, she sure was good in the feathers, too. Where did you reckon her other eye went?"
"BUUUHAWAWAW!" Pete's face was wetter than the Rio Grande by this point.

"Wait a doggone minute. What's this?" I spotted a note scrawled on a piece of paper pinned to her lacy dress and pulled it off. "The killer left a note, Pete".
Pete stopped squalling for a beat or two.
"'THIS PIG IS THE FIRST OF MANY WHO WILL BE GUTTED AND SLAUGHTERED IN JONESTOWN.
JONESTOWN WILL BURN AND EVERYONE WILL BE FORCED TO DIG THEIR OWN GRAVES BEFORE THEY ARE MURDERED. YOU WILL DROWN IN YOUR OWN BLOOD!!!!
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!'"

Pete bawled after I read that little missive.
"Whoever killed Miss Willa spells real nice, I'll tell you that for sure".
"BUUUHAWAWAW!"
"Shhh, quiet, Rubberneck. Someone's gonna come runn-"

"HEY! WHAT'S GOING ON OVER THERE???" A figure in the darkness walked over, spotting us. I still had the torch lit and couldn't put it out in time.
"BUUUHAWAWAW!"
"WHAT THE HELL???? PUT YOUR HANDS UP!!!" It was Deputy Shugg with both his guns drawn straight at us. He looked horrified at the mess of Miss Willa and then back at us.

"YOU'RE UNDER ARREST, BOTH OF YOU!" Shugg yelled. "KEEP YOUR HANDS UP AND FOLLOW ME. YOU'RE UNDER ARREST FOR THE MURDER OF MISS WILLA".
The jig was up. We weren't leaving town. We were innocent, but sneaking in a dark alley makes you look guilty as hell, don't it?

Be sure to get a copy of the complete novel "Wranglers' Canyon" in eBook form to be released in July 2015 by Book Baby. Don't miss it!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Happy 100th Birthday Jackie Coogan

This year's Scorpio Birthday Tribute is a special one because it's not only in honor of one of my favorite silent film stars but it's also his Centennial Birthday, the one and only Jackie Coogan. F. Scott Fitzgerald once remarked that there are no second acts in life, but Coogan not only disproved that by having a second one, but an enormously popular third one.

I'll bypass a full-fledged biography on Jackie Coogan and simply talk about his work in films. Let's start with the first phase of his career as a child actor and one of the brightest lights in silent films. Many of his movies as a little kid were mostly comedies, beginning with a small part in Charlie Chaplin's short "A Day's Pleasure" (1917), one of his best. Two years later he starred in Chaplin's classic "The Kid", where Jackie plays a child raised by Charlot in a glass selling scam by smashing in windows so Charlie can sell his glass plates.

Jackie, only six years old, had a natural talent for comedy with an equal knack for drama, and his talent provided a hit for the then-troubled Chaplin, who had the smuggle prints of the film past several states from being confiscated.

A year later he starred in "Oliver Twist" opposite the legendary Lon Chaney, who played Fagin. It was said that Coogan was afraid of the wild eyed Chaney who had to things down a notch or two once the cameras stopped rolling to gain the friendship of little Jackie.

Unfortunately, prints of his classic comedy "Circus Days" (1922) are lost with a few surviving scenes available on the Warner Bros' DVD of Charles Chaplin's classic comedy "The Circus". Jackie plays Toby Tyler, a character later made famous by Walt Disney on television, however, Jackie plays the character with a better feel for slapstick than the Disney version.

At the peak of his popularity, Coogan was the highest paid child star of his time, making $2,000 a week as salary with his parents as the trustees.

What was saved, however, by Turner Classic Movies, is "The Rag Man" (1925), where Jackie plays the crafty runaway orphan Timothy Aloysius Michael Patrick Kelly, who befriends a tired old Jewish junk dealer played by the great Max Ginsberg. By now Jackie was ten and growing but still adorable and funny. His constant negotiating and wheeling and dealing with an old East Side Jew on the streets of New York is very funny.

By the mid-thirties Coogan suffered two major tragedies: (1) His father and best friend died in an automobile accident with him as the only survivor; and, (2) His discovery that his mother and step-father spent every penny of his child-star earnings. Both tragedies sent him towards a downspin complicated by heavy drinking.

A three-year marriage to Betty Grable resulted in Coogan raising the ire of MGM mogul Leo B. Mayer, who offered Coogan a 7-picture deal, which Coogan turned down and earned a blacklist from the monstrous Mayer. Coogan didn't work in films for another eight years.

It's at this point that Coogan's career becomes even more interesting, because Phase Two of the Jackie Coogan Story has our hero acting in the Fifties doing mostly exploitation schlock classics like Mesa of Lost Women, where he played the mad scientist Dr. Aranya (joined by Dolores Fuller!). Now that Coogan had lost most of his pretty hair he had the freedom to play mostly bad guys and psychos, attacking every role with nutty abandon.

A string of wild late-Fifties psychotronic dementia followed, all illuminated by Coogan's demented presence: Eighteen and Anxious, The Space Children, but he really hit pay dirt when he joined producer Albert Zugsmith's cast of off-the-wall players Mamie Van Doren, Steve Cochran, Vampira, John Drew Barrymore, Jock Mahoney, and an endless cattle call of Hollywood star babies (Harold Lloyd, Jr.!!!!)

You've seen at least two or three of these crazy films: Sex Kittens Go To College - Jackie plays a rich tycoon using an unfunny W.C. Fields voice while Mamie plays the busty, brainy college professor, The Beat Generation - Jackie's a cop who has to put on the drag during a stakeout with his partner Steve Cochran (comedy gold), Night of the Quarter Moon - directed by the great Hugo Haas!, but the magnum opus of that period has to be High School Confidential, where he plays the sinister Mr. A, resplendent in dark badass shades and heroin pusher to the high school kids at his hipster jazz club.

But alas, the sleaze stands alone and the well dried up for high school crime flicks so Jackie did a bunch of sporadic TV appearances for the next four years, until he reached Phase Three of his career and arguably the role he's still notorious for, the role of Uncle Fester on The Addams Family (1964).

Some of Coogan's best comedy work is on The Addams Family and a lot of fans even say he steals many of the scenes he's in because he's that good. Coogan's signature comedy shtick on the film was to stick a light bulb in his mouth and immediately have it light up. Kids would tune in every week to see what he's say and do next. He was the Soupy Sales of Goth!

The bizarre irony of the Uncle Fester character was that Coogan wore a thick sweater virtually identical to the one he wore forty years earlier in "The Rag Man", making virtually the same smiles he did back then but now older and more worn out. Also ironic about his popularity is that although he was once a child star he now had every child in America following him just like the Twenties.

But nothing spells closure to the Three Acts of Jackie Coogan's career than the day his old boss Charlie Chaplin returned to the United States after 20 years to accept a Lifetime Achievement Academy Award. Upon arrival at LAX he saw Jackie Coogan there to greet him and hugged his once young co-star. He turned to Coogan's wife and said, "Never forget that your husband is a genius". From million dollar kid to exploitation films to TV horror comedy, Jackie Coogan always delivered.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Stacks of Style

During the course of my regular forays to the textile stores in the Garment District I saw some wild material that looked outer space-like with its use of craters, drifting colors and tech stripes. It came in three colors: red, dark blue and purple, and they were applied in a slightly hippie tie dye style, but not so much that it was overpowering.

I bought the purple to make a cool top (pictured above), the dark blue for pajama bottoms, and shined on the red (too feminine). The vendor called it zombie fabric and I think Shrine sells tops made of this material, also calling it "Zombie tops". I think it looks more Outer Space than Zombie, but whatever. I thought it came out pretty well.

I've always had a problem with t-shirts because of two things that bug me about them: 1) That annoying high "Fanboy Collar" that rides so far up it practically covers your Adam's Apple. As someone who suffers from claustrophobia I find this tight collar unacceptable, and 2) Those hug bat-wing cap sleeves that jut out of your arms. Since girls for the most part wear baby tees this isn't a big problem for them, but as a guy I can't stand the baggy cap sleeves.

With that in mind I've taken to remodeling my tees by cutting the tight collar for a more boat neck collar look. The boat neck collar is more flattering because it features a nice neck and a good pair of shoulders. It makes for a more body-friendly look.

As far as the bat-wing sleeves as concerned I've taken to rolling up my sleeves and sewing them in. This gives each tee a cool retro Fifties vibe to them which I like. They also show your guns to their best advantage, and it's my opinion that a man's guns are the masculine equivalent to a woman's cleavage: a sexy reveal that isn't dirty and shows a man's hottest feature.

While American Apparel is mulling over former CEO Dov Charney back to the fold - a big step back, I think - his old promotional formula of featuring swarthy, underage girls is being foiled by, horror of horrors, using three blonde drag queens to promote their new line.

The three drag queens are RuPaul's Drag Race superstars Courtney Act, Willam and Alaska Thunderfuck. This might be the greatest F-U to the sexist, homophobic monster who ran the most offensive retail marketing campaign in fashion history.

What makes this campaign doubly amazing is that it not only supports transgender models, blasted recently by fashion curmudgeon Tim Gunn, but that it also smashes AA's previous use of underage models. T-shirts of all three models marketed by AA have gone through several printings after selling out worldwide. In-store appearances have resulting in mobbing not seen since the heyday of Victoria's Secret's "Angels" campaign.

While some people like Gunn find this perverse it's a fresh breath of air from all the Gerber Baby looking girls one is forced to look at on a daily basis. Besides, the times they are-a changin', what with TG models like Carmen Carrera and Andrej(a) Pejic treading the catwalk modeling women's wear. It's time for the men to show all those Gerber Babies how to walk the walk.