Matthew Licht

JH ghost1

A Big Start, Part 7 (Finale)

The guy at the reception desk had a checkerboard on the counter. His nose was deep in a book of chess problems. He said, wait a minute. I slammed the bell until he understood that having me wait a minute wouldn’t help him work out a new opening gambit or endgame. He muttered something that included “Ofay.” I flashed a C-note. A fifth of it was his, if he’d buzz my room to let me know if two middle-aged women with sweet-sounding names checked in.

The room had a TV set. Adult entertainment was available on closed circuit.

Holmes knew how to treat a lady, at least on-screen. His co-stars were all smiles when the act was done.

The chess wizard in the lobby called to say a couple white chicks just checked into the Matrimonial Suite as Kitty Moisten and Mary Widow. The ladies were regulars. He wanted his $20 before he knocked off and the night man took over.

I doused porn-o-vision, walked down the hall past an ice machine and a room with a Do Not Disturb sign permanently painted under the doorknob as a matrimonial touch. I put my ear to the door and heard rushing water.

I exited the motel from a side staircase without passing reception, got twenties from the Sea Gull’s cashier. No good handing an unbroken C-note to a guy who probably practiced magic tricks between solo chess games.

I snapped the bill. “What do the ladies look like?”

“White girls,” he said, and made a grab for the dough. He might’ve been good at chess, but wasn’t quick with his hands. “Both of ‘em tall, with dark hair.”

“That ain’t much.”

“You just said to call your room.”

“I mean, did you notice anything else about them?”

“They got your same taste in movies.”

He sniggered. I gave him twenty bucks.

I loitered in the lobby, crossed the street for dinner and a beer at the Sea Gull. At 10 o’clock, I retrieved the John Holmes nametag from my car, pinned it back on and knocked on the Matrimonial Suite’s door.

“What is it?” Kitty Moisten or Mary Widow sounded displeased at being disturbed despite the sign.

“Pizza delivery.”

Whispers. “Someone says we ordered pizza.”

“Tell them to go away.”

“But it’s like…” Unintelligible.

The door opened on mature women wrapped in towel togas. Background TV glare bathed the scene in blue light. The sound was off. A dresser mirror reflected adult entertainment.

“So where’s the pizza?”

“Look at his name tag!”

“Get in here, stupid.”

The lady standing closest made a grab. The other lady shut the door on her friend’s towel. The towel got stuck.

The lady who pulled me in punched my chest. “Say the line,” she said. “If you’re going to do this, do it right.”

The nude woman behind me twittered. “It worked! I can’t believe it.”

The woman who punched me wheeled and slugged her shower buddy on the arm. Her towel hit the ground too. “Shut up! How do we know he’s for real?”

They looked expectant.

I fumbled. “Uh well, I gues there ain’t no pizza after all.”

The air was steamy. Everything was out in the open all too soon.

The punchy one said, “It’s not him.”

“But he’s here.”

Motel life turned metaphysical. A glowing woman emerged on a cloud of steam from the bathroom. I would’ve been scared, but she seemed friendly. Her smile was familiar.

The client, Mr Johnson, said his mother was dead, but there she was. She looked as happy a she did on TV. Honey and Sadie didn’t look up, didn’t seem to know she was there, but they moved aside when she knelt down between them.

After an eon or two, the waifish wraith said, “How do you feel?”

Deadly porn dialogue seemed appropriate, but I felt like crying. “Havin’ the time of my life.”

She beamed forgiveness. She’d heard all those lines before.

“Talk like a human being,” she said. “Go on, try.”

I tried. “You ladies are a dream.”

“These two are ladies, not me. And I’m not even a dream. Just here and there and gone. But do you like what you’re doing?”

 “A man hired me to find out who his father was, or wasn’t. He said you’re his mother. He showed me a scene where you and John Holmes were together, at least on film.”

“His story’s true,” she said, and moved aside so Sadie could cut in. Sadie’s eyes stayed closed.

The mystery brunette watched. “Johnson’s my son,” she said, “and John’s. But he wants to be sure, for the wrong reasons.”

“What wrong reason could there be for wanting to know who your father is?”

She looked sad that I couldn’t figure it out. “He just wants to turn a buck. He wants legal proof so his story will hold up in court. He wants the name, the rights, and royalties.”

“Maybe so, but I took the job. Would you tell me where John Holmes is buried? I got a feeling these two don’t know.”

“Nobody knows. These two girls come here together to conjure the spirit of love.”

“I thought love was different.”

“You don’t feel the love here now?”

Her smile faded. I almost yelled a line from a disco hit that was popular then. “I do,” I said. Sadie and Honey either couldn’t hear, or didn’t let on. It wasn’t a wedding, after all.

“Love is love,” the spirit said. “Even if you do it for money. Money isn’t real.”

She said it as though she were revealing a deep secret. “My son might’ve hired you, but from now on you work for me.”

I couldn’t tell her Johnson’s money was real enough. Couldn’t explain the man retained people who’d deal with me if I screwed him. She took me into another world, and then I couldn’t see her any more.

There was another man behind the reception desk when I checked out. He said a pretty lady had dropped something off for me. He’d tried to buzz my room.

He slid a manila envelope across the counter.

I opened it in the car. Inside was a plastic bag printed LAPD and EVIDENCE. The bag was full of smaller bags with case numbers written on in blue ballpoint. “Hair specimen, pubic.” “Poss. blood sample.” Another bag contained a stained scrap of towel: “Semen sample: AB-/secretor”.

The package looked hideously genuine. The client would believe it’d been obtained it through private investigator skulduggery.

Back at Mr Johnson’s Hollywood Hills home, I accepted final payment. He would’ve been suspicious if I hadn’t. In exchange, he got the Bag from Beyond. When he asked how I got it, I said, “Don’t ask.”

Johnson smirked. He probably owned a private DNA lab.

Everything would come back negative. Justice of a kind would be done.

On my way out, I asked Johnson what his mother’s real name was and if he knew where she was buried.

John Holmes was cremated, his ashes scattered at sea. He’d made charitable donations towards dolphin welfare.

Nancy Ebbett Johnson’s last wish was to lie beside her show biz colleagues in Hollywood’s hallowed ground. The graveyard’s caretaker took five bucks and a pint bottle for a grave number, even though he would’ve given the information free. I left flowers, chocolates and a heart-shaped note that said, “Love is love.”

jh ghost finale

A Big Star, Part 1
A Big Star, Part 2
A Big Star, Part 3
A Big Star, Part 4
A Big Star, Part 5
A Big Star, Part 6

David Estringel

Kiss Me, Again, Again, and Again

The coppery taste of meat beneath your sweet breath lingers
like a penny on the tip of my tongue.
Heads or tails?
Can’t lose—
Lucky me.
My equilibrium’s fucked raw,
as my hands drink-in the warm curvature of your hips.
O, glorious spit—
a little dab will do ya—
streaked red and hot,
never take me from this place,
leaving me
haunted by the ghost of that breath—
your Heaven,
your Hell—
that leaves me…
Words can’t capture what’s smeared on this cheek
by fingers,
sticky and sweet—
so why try.
Kiss me,
and again,
in that white muslin dress of thigh-stretched daisies
that roll and grin like morning shadows,
smiling at secrets hidden in dark places.


(Originally published at Terror House Magazine)

Jack Henry


she suggests we pray
my eyes gaze up
at her
‘now?’ i ask

i push her legs wider
move in

i resume

‘maybe not,’
she says breathlessly

i listen to the clock
a cat
a door

‘you should stop,’
she says

i comply

‘we should pray’

she kneels next to me
on the motel floor
hands folded
eyes closed
‘heavenly father…’
she starts

five minutes pass
her sins washed
‘where were we?’
she asks
we resume
my prayer


James Babbs

I Hear the Train A-comin’

I’m getting drunk again
Johnny Cash filling the room
and I think
I need some more whiskey
I haven’t drowned myself yet
and I’m floating
I’m floating around the room
it’s after midnight
and I don’t care
sleep doesn’t come so easy
most of the time
I just end up drinking
until I pass out
sleeping wherever I fall down
and dreaming that same dream
where I’m tied to the tracks
and I can see the light
bearing down on me
and the whistle blowing
while I’m struggling with the ropes
trying to get myself free
and when the train’s
almost on top of me
the whistle sounds like a scream
the light blinds me
and that’s when I always shut my eyes
and I keep them closed
for a really long time
and I try not to breathe
when I open my eyes again
I watch the train
into a thousand white horses
and all of them turning
at the exact same moment
in the same instant they all turn
and run away
in the opposite direction
but I’m still sitting there
tangled among the ropes
my face wet with tears
and the wind turning cold

between the two of us
Thomas was the real writer
words always came so
easy to him
for me
it was a constant struggle
there was so much I wanted to say
but I was always afraid
of not being able to say it
in the right way
the way it sounded in my head
and my terrible fear of failure
kept hanging me up
but Thomas always gave me encouragement
he said
I just needed more confidence
he said
I needed to stop
thinking about it so much
and just write
whenever I let him read
something I had written
I would tell him
it’s not very good
but when he was finished
he would always tell me
it was better than I thought
Thomas wrote a weekly column
for the college newspaper
whatever was on his mind
he always impressed me
with his ability to take
the most mundane things
and turn them into something meaningful
I don’t know
how many times I told him
he was going to be
a famous writer someday
and I would get to tell people
I knew him when
it was after I was drunk
and I felt the urge to talk
and talk
until Thomas finally stood up
when he told me
to shut the fuck up

I’m alone on the train
and outside
the lights keep flashing
past all the windows
and I can hear the wheels
clanging against the rails
I don’t where I’m going
I feel like there’s something wrong
but I don’t know how or why
I get up
and walk to the front of the car
letting my hands touch
the back of each seat
as I move down the aisle
I hear someone
whispering my name
but when I turn around
nobody’s there
I see the door closing
leading into the next car
and I hurry in there
only to find it empty
I hear someone laughing
and it reminds me of
some drunken laughter
from a long time ago
and I walk all the way
down the aisle
until I reach the end of the car
I think I see movement
among the shadows or
it’s just the coming
and the going of the lights
I walk into the next car
and it’s empty
just like the other two
but there’s a noise
coming from the far end
and I run down there
but don’t find anything
and the next car
and the next one
and always the emptiness
always something
pulling me forward
and the lights keep flashing
in the windows
and I hear the sound of the wheels
when I reach the last car
I walk to the end of it
and stand there
looking through the glass
seeing nothing but the darkness
when I turn from the window
and start moving up the aisle
I find an old man
dressed in rags
asleep in one of the seats
he looks familiar to me
but I don’t know his name
for all I know
he could be dead
no matter how much
I shake him
he doesn’t open his eyes

I remember some of the parties
Thomas and I went to
getting so drunk
and laughing
just having a good time
Thomas made things up
about the two of us
like telling girls
we were both reporters
doing an investigation
on underage drinking
and we needed to check their IDs
or he would pretend to be
a concerned big brother
looking for his little sister
he would make up a name for her
and ask the girls if they knew her
then he’d ask for their names
and where they lived
and he’d write all of it down
in the little notebook
he carried around with him
he even got their phone numbers
one time
this really drunk guy
bumped into me
and started picking a fight
for no good reason
and Thomas came over
asking him
how he was doing
Thomas told the guy
he looked familiar
Thomas asked him
if they went to school together
the guy just gave Thomas
a funny look
then the guy said
said Thomas
it must’ve been your mother
and we both walked away
leaving the guy
standing there
just looking confused
when we were far enough away
I couldn’t hold it anymore
and I just burst out laughing
Thomas and I met Vicki
at one of the parties
I saw her first
and stumbling out of the bathroom
she lost her balance
and fell into me
when I caught her
she pushed against my body
and gave me a kiss
but later that night
she went home with Thomas
and they started seeing each other
for awhile after that
kind of on-again
and whenever I saw her
we talked about a lot of things
but we never talked about that kiss
at the end of those nights
Thomas and I
would go back to our apartment
and continue our drinking
carrying on
long discussions about writing
and music
and women
and life
all of those memories
flooding my brain
until it’s difficult
for me to breathe
and I reach for the bottle
leaning back from the table
and pour myself another drink

sunday morning
and the phone’s ringing
sunday morning
and who the fuck’s calling me
at this hour of the day
I pick it up
and mumble hello
I’m sorry
did I wake you up
Vicki’s voice
I say
she says
do you want me
to call back later
I tell her
it’s okay
how are you doing
she tells me
she can’t sleep
she’s always thinking about
too many things
and I say
I know what you mean
she laughs
but it sounds sad
Vicki says
remember the Halloween party
I say
I remember
Thomas came dressed
in just a diaper
carrying a baby bottle
filled with beer
Vicki says
he looked so funny
I say
he asked some girl
if she’d breast feed him
and the girl slapped him
and without
missing a beat
Thomas started wailing
just like a baby
it was so funny
Vicki says
later on
I remember him
out in the middle of the room
acting like a baby
stumbling around
trying to walk
of course
he was pretty drunk
by then
I say
I forgot about that
and I laugh
Vicki says
he gave me a story
I say
she says
it was about a dog
with super powers
but he kept them
hidden from people
he only used them
around other animals
I say
oh yeah
Vicki says
I know
it wasn’t like
any other story
Thomas ever wrote
I don’t know
maybe that’s why
he gave it to me
I say
then neither one of us
says anything for awhile
finally I say
I’m going back to sleep
Vicki says
I ask her
if she wants to meet me later
somewhere for dinner
I tell her
I want to hear
more about that story
she doesn’t answer me
right away
then she says
that sounds good
I say
I’ll call you later
she says
I say
she says
and hangs up the phone
I’m thinking
about the funeral
how Vicki stayed
so close to me
the whole time
how she didn’t know
what else to do
and I was glad
she was there with me
but I never said anything
after the funeral
we rode home together
Vickie said
I don’t want to
be alone tonight
on our way back
we got stuck at
a railroad crossing
a long
slow moving train
and some of the cars
waiting behind us
got out of the line
and drove back
the way they had come
but Vicki and I
stayed there
we didn’t say anything
we just sat there
watching the train move past
we didn’t have
any place to go

I remember that morning
I wanted to sleep
but Thomas came in my room
and told me to get up
he kept pulling the blankets
off of my bed
and turning all the lights on
I said
what the hell
come on
Thomas said
I want to take my column
over to the paper
I said
what’s that got to do with me
he said
I want you to come with me
hit the bars this afternoon
I said
what time is it
Thomas said
so get the fuck up
I think we made it
over to the paper
around eleven-thirty
and then we had lunch
at one of our usual haunts
Thomas told me
some girl
wanted to meet him
at one of the bars
so we went over there
and we started drinking
the day slipped past us
it seemed like
so many other days
and later on
nine or ten o’clock
maybe earlier
maybe later
I’m not sure
and I’d already
crossed over the tracks
started up the embankment
on the other side
I thought
Thomas was right behind me
so I turned to look back
wanting to see
exactly where he was
I saw him laughing
stumbling across the rails
but there was the train
and Thomas should’ve waited
why didn’t he wait
the train was too close
the whistle was blowing
and I saw the light
like a big bright eye
looking through the darkness
I started to call his name
I opened my mouth
and nothing came out
I heard the train
screaming to a halt
I closed my eyes
I knew
I knew it was too late

it’s a school night
and I’m suppose to be asleep
but I can see the light
from the street
coming through the window
the shadows of trees
fluttering on the wall
it’s almost ten o’clock
and I hear the whistle blowing
in the distance
the train approaching from the west
it’s a freight train
it doesn’t have any passengers
passing through the middle of town
the way it always does
every night
around ten o’clock
I hear the sound
the wheels make
clanging against the rails
before it all fades out
and the train moves on
heading to the next town
when I shudder awake
I’m uncertain
whether or not the train was real
or something I just dreamed about
and I stumble over
the electric train set
when I get out of my bed
I see the black steam engine
turned over on its side
the coal car lying upside down
and the little plastic people
standing around
with blank looks
on their plastic faces
and I always wanted to put
the track on a piece of plywood
I wanted to have all kinds of buildings
and trees and houses and cars
and all kinds of people
I wanted to set up a whole town
a place where the train
would come and go
and the children would wave
as it passed by
and there would be laughter in the air
and everyone would always be happy
I wanted my own town
where nothing would ever change
some place I could always return to
whenever I felt like it

John D Robinson

A Good Night Out

‘I got home about 3am, I was
slaughtered, booze, cocaine and
grass, I was good, I was alive,
you know, I put on some sounds
and then I passed-out: a
couple of hours later I came
too as my front door was
being smashed-open: I got
up to see 4 police officers
walking towards me, 1 of
the officer’s turned off the
deafening music, another
of the officers began
exploring my apartment
whilst the other 2 explained
to me that they were called
numerous times about
excessive noise: I knew I
was fucked: I had several
healthy marijuana plants
growing in the bathroom:
I was busted for anti-social
behaviour, noise pollution,
breach of the peace and
cultivation with intent to
supply: I was handed a hefty
fine and 100 hours of
community service work,
two years probation,
‘it was just bad luck at the
end of a fucking
good night out’
he told me

Leah Mueller

Legal Age

The day after my 18th birthday
I wandered around Peoria
in twenty degree below zero
wind chill, trying to find
a hotel that would take a check
from a teenager with no luggage.

Several desk clerks turned me out
into the cold without mercy,
but the one at the Ramada Inn
took pity on me and said yes.

The room cost a fortune: $21.00.
More than I had in my bank account,
but I signed my name on a check anyway,
ripped it from its plastic binder,
got my magic key to liberation.

The room was luxurious: queen-sized bed,
wall radio, rotary dial telephone
with long distance. I called
my parents, told them not to worry.

My mother cried, screamed,
and slammed down the receiver,
so I phoned my boyfriend.
We laughed about my mother’s pain.
“I’m through with her forever,” I said.
“Good riddance,” he agreed.

Afterwards, I felt hungry, ordered
a hot fudge/butterscotch sundae
from room service, and listened
to “Year of the Cat” on the wall radio.

In the morning, I wrote the clerk
a second check for $20.00: charges
for my phone calls and sundae,
wandered into the frigid morning.

After I found the bus station,
I bought a ticket back to Peoria.
Everything was going to work out.
I’d never have to see my parents again.
Instead, I’d move to Champaign-Urbana,
get a job, work part-time in the evenings
and finish high school. I’d eat
ice cream sundaes for dinner,
and have sex without worrying
about being called a whore
by my jealous and violent stepfather.

I sat in the front row of the bus,
stared out the window and dreamed
of adventure. Adulthood stretched ahead
like an unbroken swath of highway.

When I arrived in Peoria,
my parents lurked at the bus station
with my three hyperactive siblings.
The pack had tracked me down.

Mom smoked a cigarette,
while my brother and sister ran
in circles on the linoleum floor.
“Come home,” she said.

“Just for one night,” I replied.
“I don’t have to stay any longer.
I’m an adult now, you know.”

I’d never held so much power:
comfortable hotel beds, bad checks,
ice cream sundaes, and the chance
to tell my parents to fuck off.

It would go downhill later,
but that didn’t matter now.
I was in charge of everything,
and my checks wouldn’t hit the bank
for at least a week. No one
would ever tell me what to do again.

Matthew Licht

jh ghost6

A Big Star, Part 6

A gibbous moon silvered the waves off Redondo Beach. Ship lights flickered in the distance, blinked out over the horizon. I tried some Morse code semaphore with my car’s brights, but got no answers.

An arrow aimed at nothing in the dark had missed, or hit the wrong target.

A bonfire blazed further down the strand.

There was a luau in progress, a possible taste of the beach lifestyle Los Angeles advertises lavishly and doles out so sparingly.

Surfers are a friendly crowd. The kids who stared into the driftwood pyre called me dude when I showed them a paper bag with a bottle inside.

A surf-bunny in a sheepskin jacket and sheepskin boots noticed the John Holmes nametag and flicked at it with a chipped black fingernail. “Oh hey, my Mom goes to your meetings.”

“You mean, like AA?”

She shook her head. “It’s funny, because my Dad used to go to John Birch meetings. After they got divorced, Mom started going to John Holmes meetings with her friend Honey.”

Honey. Holmes’ co-stars in the Johnson film went by Sugar and Candy. “What’s your name, kitten?”

“It’s not Kitten, it’s Amy.”

“What’s your Mom’s name, Amy? When does she attend these meetings, and where are they held?”

“That’s too many questions. My mom is Sadie, but how come you don’t know where the meetings are if you’re wearing the badge? I don’t think I should talk to you any more, ‘cause you’re a stranger.”

A surfer with major muscles under his sheepskin detected alarm in Amy’s voice. He could’ve made me eat a surfboard in a fair fight.

To preserve the luau spirit, I said, “Mellow out, Amy. John Holmes is…was…he died, unfortunately…a movie star. Well, a kind of movie star, but a big one for sure. Your mother and her friend Honey must belong to his fan club. I’m in Redondo ‘cause they’re making a movie about him. We’re shooting not far from here. The nametag’s so they’ll let me on the set.”

Amy stared. “That’s cool,” she said, as though nothing could be less so.

Waves crashed and surf music oozed from a battery-operated beatbox.

These coastal kids were in diapers when the Reaper took John Holmes. Pre-video porn’s largest male star had become a brand name. Brands are imprinted, like the rule against talking to strangers, on infant American brains. The Girl Talk’s stag films were product for smut consumers of the near future. Mister Johnson wanted to make his presence legal in a potential mega-million licensing market. Genetic proof of his legitimacy meant he could have the Feds bust scams like Deek’s without messing a manicure.

“So Amy, when does your mom go to meetings with her friend, and where do they go? Maybe I could convince the producer to hire them as extras.”

There were no stars in Amy’s eyes. They were red, and her pupils were as wide as the moon seen from the Earth. She wouldn’t remember our conversation in the morning.

“Mom and Honey go to Huntington Beach on the last Sunday of every month.”

That was tomorrow, or later, since it was after midnight.

“They meet up at a motel called the Zag-Nut,” she went on. “I listen in on the phone in the den whenever Honey calls. Honey’s got tons of boyfriends and she and my mom talk dirty to each other.”


There was a lonely, lit-up phone booth just off Redondo Beach. An operator named Dolores said there was a motel called the Ziggurat on Grabber Blvd in Huntington Beach.

Grabber Boulevard runs along the coastline. There was no early morning traffic, and only waves and seagulls for a soundtrack. The Ziggurat Motel was a faded two-story longhouse. Mock balconies faced the parking lot, decorated with Babylonian motif glazed ceramic tiles stolen from the set of “Intolerance.” An Orange County Persepolis of men in pleated skirts and spit-curled beards, wingèd cows, lions with Shirley Temple manes. The entire cast looked to the west.

There was nothing going on at the Zig. Someone inside or an automatic timer turned off the neon sign framed by naked bulbs.

The dashboard clock said 10:08 when I awoke, but that’s what it always says. The clock in the Sea Gull Diner down the street said it was nearly noon. The redhead waitress’ nametag said Brenda.

Brenda hadn’t noticed anything unusual about the Ziggurat Motel. She couldn’t say whether Masons or Shriners or bored OC housewives gathered there on Sunday nights. She only worked breakfast and lunch, she said, but if I wanted to find out what happened at the Ziggurat after sunset, I could park on the stool, drink coffee and stare out the picture window till kingdom come.

The Sea Gull Diner looked even older than the Ziggurat Motel. There was a wooden phone booth in the back.

The client’s girl Friday said Mr Johnson was on a lunch date, he’d have to call me back. He needn’t bother, I said, but if someone could deliver emergency expenses cash, I’d be able to have a lunch date too, and continue surveillance of a possible lead. Mr Johnson had told her about the case. She asked where and how much. She laughed when I sheepishly asked for a hundred, so I said OK, make it two hundred.

Not much later, a brown Plymouth Valiant parked just outside the Sea Gull. A brown dude in a non-descript brown suit got out and stretched like he’d been driving around selling encyclopedias all morning. He entered the diner and sat two stools away. He spoke to waitress Brenda as though he’d known her for years, ordered a chicken sandwich, coffee and pie. He ate quickly. When he reached for his wallet to pay the check, he knocked his brown briefcase off the stool. When I bent over to pick it up, we koko-bonked each other. “Ouch, thanks,” he said, and reached into his breast pocket. “Just the kind of thing people need insurance for.” He gave me his card.

“Thanks,” I said. “Thanks a whole bunch.”

He left waitress Brenda a generous tip, and drove away.

His card was two cards, with a pair of folded mint-condition C-notes taped in-between. The cards weren’t from an insurance brokerage, but from Mr Johnson’s film production company. One of them had green ink scribble on the back: “Glad you’re on the case. I need to know.” The phone number was a direct line to the client, not the one he’d used to call Mrs John Holmes. Gladys.

Mr Johnson worked fast, and employed a far-reaching network of skilled professionals.

After sunset, the diner stakeout turned into a Ziggurat Motel hole-up.


A Big Star, Part 1
A Big Star, Part 2
A Big Star, Part 3
A Big Star, Part 4
A Big Star, Part 5

John Knoll

Coyote Woman

A starless winter sky above Pojoaque Valley, it felt like snow. I walked into Jake’s Dirty Shorts Laundromat. It was around 8 p.m. Two people washing clothes; a woman with her six-year old daughter telling her: “Don’t try to blackmail me with Santa Claus mommy,” and a tall guy with long black hair, dropping quarters into a dryer.

I loaded a washer and sat down to read a magazine. The big guy came over and sat beside me.

“How are you doing?”

“Good. How are you?”

“My name’s Lucy Flowers.”

“Dwayne Evans.”

Lucy Flowers? I was shocked. Lucy had bulging biceps, stood about 6’5”, weighing in at about 235. She wore a New York Yankees baseball cap, a sleeveless black t-shirt with San Diego State in gold lettering and tattered blue jeans.

For a moment I wondered why she sat next to me and aggressively introduced herself. That moment didn’t last long.

“Tomorrow night,” Lucy said, “I’m going to commit suicide on stage at the El Farol Theatre. I’d like you to shoot the video and believe me it will go viral. I want you to memorialize me forever. But first you need you to design a web-site:

“Wait a minute. How do you know I make videos?”

“I watch you on YouTube,” she said. “I liked your last one, Coyote Woman Sings the Blues. I’ve created a design for the site. I’ve even written the advertising text for you.

“Basically, here’s the deal,” she said, “ will give anyone $1,000 for the video of their suicide. One-thousand dollars may not sound like much, but if you’re committing suicide you’re a loser, so forget about it. If you’re interested in learning more about our offer please go to and we’ll have a counselor guide you through the process.

“After you get the suicide videos put them on your site and charge $5.00 to log on. You’ll become a millionaire within three months and then you can sell the movie rights to Hollywood.”

“And I go to jail and someone makes a movie about suicide. com and I’ll quote Lacan from behind bars and become famous and I’m still be in jail. Sorry Lucy, I can’t help you out. I’m busy tomorrow night.”

“It’s your choice. I’m committing suicide whether you video it or not. I just thought you might like to make some easy money.”

Lucy asked me if I’d like to hear about her last performance piece. I didn’t have anything better to do so I listened.

“I called the piece “Frozen Blood,” she says. “I collected eight pints of my blood, it took me over a year. I froze the blood and carved and ice sculpture of myself. Then I sat my frozen self at a computer with the icy fingers on the keys. The room was refrigerated but the blood slowly melted, leaving nothing but bloody fingerprints on the computer’s keyboard.”


Lights up. Bare stage, except for a full length mirror next to a small round table. Black flats enclose the actor in a 12’x12’ space.

Lucy dances to the Future of Radio, a Noise piece by Khlebnikov. The music is mechanical, a cacophony of cars, bombs, trains, honking, screaming, guns and machine orgasms sans melody, just a hint of rhythm.

“Have you ever heard the noise of a butterfly’s wing? The noise of a dying sunflower makes me cry.” Lucy chanted as she danced. She entered into a trance.

“I am giving birth to the dark waters of time…” She picked up a pistol from the table, aimed the gun at her image in the mirror. Held that pose for ten seconds then continued to dance, the gun like a magic wand.

“I am Kali, Isis, Persephone…” She holds the .45 to her head, her stomach, pauses and aims at her image in the mirror. “I am crow, cloud, demon, saint, virgin, mother, whore. I am trans-sexual and I am tired.”

She aims the pistol at her image, holds the position. Lights down. Five beats of silence. Loud gunshot blast. Future of Radio goes silent. Lights up. Lucy’s body splayed on the floor, blood leaks from her head. Lights down. One minute later, lights up. Lucy’s body’s not there. An empty stage. “Future of Radio” heard at a deafening level.

Dwayne caught it all on video. On his way driving back home to Pojoaque Valley he thinks about erasing Lucy’s suicide video. He doesn’t.

Judson Michael Agla


The leftover evidence of last night’s macabre massacre of debauchery was seemingly crawling furiously out to sea and with the same determination back on up on to the beach. There was no grace this afternoon; it was going to be a new vicious form of sodomy.

I was laying half on and half through the holes in my lounge chair, somewhat conscious but mostly unconscious. I had a field of vision somewhere between the angle of my sunglasses and my bucket hat, I was clutching a mostly empty bottle of rum, and I had fallen into a worrisome self-induced atrophy horrified with the thought of that barbecuing sun creeping around my sunglasses and shooting a powerfully concentrated beam of unshaded light into one of my eyes that would then manifest into a horrific chain of events leading to the eventuality which included my brain savagely slamming itself into the sides of my skull like a hyena tripping balls in a small enclosure.

Cautiously I began to raise my arm to plug the bottle into my mouth, moving almost robotically, careful not to move too abrasively, bringing on the inevitable beginnings of what could have been the worst hangover I’ve ever experienced. The plan was to get just enough rum into me so I wouldn’t die when I attempted to move.

After recovering the ability to swing my head sluggishly from side to side, anxiety started to set in as everything I hoped didn’t happen, actually did. There were bottles of every size shape and color, bodies strewn out prostrate all over the beach, hopefully still alive (I’d been getting heat about that lately), piñatas busted open coming in on the surf still spewing out pills syringes and dildos of remarkable size, as such would require hospitalization immediately after insertion. Party favors; wallets, purses, wigs, clothing, all sorts of luggage and a small herd of donkeys painted up with foul slogans, butterflies and flowers, swastikas and peace symbols, and some very dangerous incantations from the Necronomicon, who were roaming the beach looking as stunned as I was.

I regained some motor skills and with that; fell straight through the already doomed lounge chair, the aluminum supports crushing and bending around me. I was fucking trapped without any cigarettes or hope for help from the preferably not but probably dead people on the beach. I started to feel some sensitivity in my body when the realization that I had vomited shit and pissed all over myself came to mind.

I had managed to squirm and shuffle around a bit when I noticed my old faithful bag of angry rats to my right who were pretty fucking angry, given the fact that they were beginning to drown in the surf. I reached over and using the bag of angry rats for leverage I managed to pull myself from the clutches of that abyss of plastic plaid and aluminum.

Struggling to stand I swung the rats over my shoulder; I felt like I wrestled a fucking bear and lost horribly, looking at my shack I could see where this confrontation might have occurred. It was completely leveled, a sort of wrath of god without prejudice type of leveled” FUCK ME “.

The undead started to rise around me; crippled, desultory, disoriented and thoroughly lobotomized holding their heads trying to stop their own brains from not killing them. They were all damb lucky they weren’t decapitated or cannibalized; the island was full of head hunters and crazed experimental surgeons who had been expelled from their countries because of the bizarre horrific dark alley atrocities committed without consent or appreciation, they were always on the prowl; bodies, dead or alive, as long as they could carry them without drawing too much attention. We also had a black market where human organs of any value were tossed around, bought, sold, and packaged up to mail off to someone who would be having a very macabre Christmas, it was like a butcher shop for exotic meats, for all I knew, it may have been our largest export.

There were many ways to die on the island, hence the bag of angry rats I carried without falter, everywhere I went. Nobody is going to fuck around with someone fucked up enough to walk around with a bag of angry rats, the intimidation factor is enough for anyone to steer clear and be on their way. I’ve only had to use it a few times which have become the whispers of dark subterranean legends on the island. In all truth; it’s an unproportioned massacre, I’ve never seen the body being torn apart like that with pieces of skin and bone exploding out beyond any discernable radius, intestines strewn around the bars and streets hanging from the ceilings, tourists being killed off with projectile pieces of skull and cartilage. Most people get kind of religious after seeing that.

I stumbled over to where the shack had met its end; it was a dump, I mean it was actually a real “DUMP”, I built the thing using found materials from the “DUMP” which was about a hundred feet away, I don’t know if I was technically living IN the “DUMP”, but it didn’t matter anyway I wasn’t going to go up to town and look for the city plans at this fucking point.

I was still shitting myself as I made my way to the crime scene (the sort of Voodoo type of debauchery I was involved in had the unfortunate random side effect of incontinence) and I could see the grenade holes strewn across the beach; no doubt it was Dems handy work. Dem was our local demolitions expert; officially retired but he sure loved to light up a party. What he was infamously noted for was tossing homemade mini sticks of dynamite out from our local spot “The Corpses Cantina” into the street at passing tourists, I saw one get his fucking hand blown off once, but it was all good fun.

I set down the bag and let the rats go for a run, I usually feed them a little P.C.P. at parties, it gives them a nice little bump and makes them particularly ferocious. Gazing around with glossy eyes I discerned that there were extra pieces laying in and around the catastrophe zone; white painted wood planks covering greased up machine parts broken and scattered arbitrarily with a very distinct odor of gasoline, with closer inspection I found all the evidence I needed to put this conundrum to rest, a fucking prop.

Someone or some “thing” had driven a boat straight up on to the beach and into my bloody shack; there was no corpse or pieces of a corpse to be found anywhere so the fuck must have buggered off somewhere. Just then a very extremely coordinated and furious extraterrestrial bolt from the great blue sky came down like a sledgehammer of the gods exploding straight through my skull and into my brain. I had officially without any doubt began what was to most probably be the worst hang over I’ve ever had, death was on the table, self-induced or otherwise, dehydration levels were off the scale, my brain was attacking me from the inside; literally, psychologically and philosophically, I was working with the I.Q. of one the little monkeys that hang around town throwing their feces at tourists. I was legally retarded; I wouldn’t be making any educated decisions for days, I would never actually fully recover without some deviation, other people shoot people like me out of “basic humane sympathy”, people in my state become government property and ushered off to “area 51”stuck in closets with decomposing aliens.

It was a “Dead Dog Day” as it goes; here on the island. I’ve never known the origin of that saying and everybody seems to have their own version, I’ve always envisioned a dog, too beaten and whipped to crawl across a road in the unrelenting boiling hot sun, where sits a huge bucket of cool fresh water, hours later in total anguish and torment the dog a quarter way across when a huge truck comes speeding by and flattens the dogs head with brains and skull fragments bursting out like a macabre biological jet engine exploding at full velocity. The horrifying punchline of this specific version is that the dog doesn’t die; he just keeps squirming and gyrating being cooked by both sun and searing hot concrete trying to make his way across the road, occasionally getting hit, his body a disintegrating atrocity, and however strong his determination he never makes it to the other side, and he never stops.

I rummaged through all the sealed rubber bags I could find (always store your important shit in rubber bags; everything on the island always sinks at one point or another) looking for a pack of cigarettes and anything that I could summon up the ingenuity to make fire with. Having scored my booty I plunked down on the engine casing; ironically being the only object in one piece. As I sat smoking away I shifted my weight a little and received a horribly acute stabbing sensation right into my left testicle, keeping my balance as I was almost thrown to the dirt I reached into my pocket and pulled out a pair of boat keys “FUCK ME”.

On the island it was an unwritten; unspoken, semi-criminal but perfectly acceptable behavior to steal other people’s boats and I was one of the more infamous abusers of the “let it slide” understanding that most of the islanders had, having to frequently steal boats themselves; small children could hot wire a boat before they could even kick a ball or throw a grenade. The interior of the island was sick with jungle and virtuously untraversable; aside from a few side roads and a number of leftover WW2 (unmapped) mine fields so you had to travel by water if you were going to get anywhere.

Back in the 1950’s some rich expatriate hiding from what most people who end up here are hiding from; commissioned the construction of a fleet of life-boats to address the issue of transportation and to protect the islanders during the unpredictable but inevitable bi-annual sinking of the island. It still happened these days; twice a year the fucking island would sink into the ocean on random dates, it would fill up in a matter of chaotic horrifying hours and just as it came, after about a half hour it would all drain right back into the ocean with everything that wasn’t tied down or too heavy to move. This expatriate must have been in it thick because shortly after arriving he gathered up a bunch of his “men” and set them on an impossible titanic mission to go out and erase all evidence of the island whether breaking into map stores or infiltrating secret libraries they had to erase the island with no evidence that they’d ever been there, he called them R.A.M.’s (Reassessing Agents of Maps) and sent them out to the four corners of the globe, I’ve never seen the island on any map or heard of anyone who has so they must have done the job, the expatriate died of syphilis five months after he arrived.

If I wasn’t to die today I would have to gather a small but very specific group of supplies; first was some really spiced dark rum, about two or three bottles which were already secured in an old nonfunctional chest freezer which was one of the possessions I had that was still standing, secondly, a shit load of clonazepam and Tylenol 3’s, the ones with the codeine, I should probably crush them down to a powder and take it in the nose but I really wanted to avoid any superfluous extremes. I needed garbage trucks of cigarettes and an adequate amount of fire making equipment, finally one or two “Fucking Fucked up Fuckers” an extra special cocktail that only ascended from “The Corpses Cantina”, it started off with a 16oz blood rare steak, the brains of a mostly extinct unmentionable animal that may or may not be on the endangered species list, a clusterfuck of hallucinogenic roots, mushrooms and insects and as far as the real truth goes; nobody really knows.


As it goes I would have to message the cantina for my cocktails to be delivered, as I would never make it into town without a surprising newly evolving gift of super flight or a splitting up of the atoms Star Trek type of transportation device. We had a message service here called “The Monkey Chain”; for years the islanders have trained some of the smaller monkeys, (the ones that throw feces at tourists in town) to perform all sorts of abominable tricks and tasks some homicidal some slightly crossing the lines of pedophilia, and they all knew how to use guns with expert marksmanship. “The Monkey Chain” was a mail and shipping delivery system owned; performed and governed by the monkeys themselves. All I had to do was whistle in a particular way and a representative would bounce on by picking up the message and whatever the going rate was; depending on the dangers traversed along the way, the size, weight and legality of the object shipped, but generally the monkeys would take a wad of crumpled up “Canadian Tire” money any day.

The monkey came by as I was ineffectively attempting to create a sort of tent like canopy thing; I had already made up a grave/bed out of flat firm pieces of the disaster but still needed that fucking sun off me. The monkey took the message and some cash for the cantina; I hustled him into accepting a handful of rusty 38 caliber bullets that had been soaked in salt water for months but still worked most of the time. The monkey sauntered off but not without chucking a little slimy chunk of feces in my face.

The entire concentrated empire of monkeys and other species of simians on the island beat the human population 4 to 1; this, in itself demanded a great deal of acceptance and fearful respect. “MONKEYS THROW SHIT”; they’ve been throwing shit since before the dawn of man, who I suspect through their own shit for a while along the evolutionary trail. It was something that you just had to expect; at some points during the day, every day, you’d have shit thrown at you and after a while islanders just got used to it, it gets so that you hardly notice it, nobody complains, nobody cares; it’s like living next to a railroad and somehow adjusting your senses so that you never notice when the wretched things scream by.

As it goes; about ten years ago, some of the more charismatic and abstract thinking monkeys managed to get a book published in Sweden where it was translated misguidedly believing it was a new age Arabesque/Southern Caribbean language crossover of symbols and claw marks scratched into bark by Pigmies explaining the do’s and don’ts about dieting in the rain forest. The monkeys were rightfully pissed and tried to get it pulled from the shelves until they found out that it was a best seller in some war stricken 3rdworld countries and the money started coming in. The actual book wasn’t bad; it was called “The Deciphering and Literalizing of different Styles and Forms of Feces Throwing in accordance to the English Language”. Every piece of shit thrown means something and the monkeys did a hell of a job in the making of this book; unfortunately it was scratched into bark and completely illegible, I did catch some of the few nuances and a definite style emerging, but in all honesty I really didn’t understand a word of it.

I had managed to rig up a minimalistic desultory type of shelter for my temporary hospitalization; the sail from the “borrowed” boat acted as a canopy held up by a mix-match of some precariously fashioned poles, ores, a hockey stick, three rifles, some rusted pipes, rope, and a lot of wiring used in place of actual rope. The bed had evolved a little, in that it was now covered in life-jackets and dirty cloths, I even made up an easy to reach bed side table out of an old wood up-turned soft drink box, everything was thoughtfully placed with the precise purpose of me not having to move anything but my arms; cigarettes, lighters and matches, books, writing materials, all my pills with a facility to crush them for nasal ingestion if it came down to that, an extremely exorbitant amount of bottles full of rum and still quite enough room for my cocktail delivery, which was coming directly.

I guzzled the “Fucking Fucked up Fuckers”cocktail and lay back onto my make-shift casket; cigarette lit, pills taken, rum opened up with book in hand and a feeling of a slightly removed velocity in my brains bouncing exercises. I managed to drift off after smoking a joint the size and elegant manufacturing of which could be presented to royalty. The dreams/nightmares I couldn’t recall but I woke screaming bloody murder; having no clue of who I was or how I managed to get into that person’s body “FUCK”.

As disorientation and self-loathing came in with the relentless tides; sitting up, clearing my eyes of sand, salt water and monkey shit, I saw, standing before me, a petrified, shaking, gelatinously covered, shadow of one of my better friends in the realms of debauchery ”Captain Edgar”.

Captain Edgar wasn’t a captain at all; he couldn’t paddle, steer, start, swim or barely even get into a boat out of fear and an acute sense of unbalance. Plain and simple; he liked to pretend he was a pirate, he had these black t- shirts with the “Jolly Roger” printed on them for every day of the weak, he had an eye patch which he randomly wore over a different eye depending on mood and time of day, he carried a lightsaber that was hardly ever lit up due to the salt water getting into the batteries and he spoke in a dreamed up version of what he thought pirates might sound like; for this, we really got on his case so he localized speaking that way to the touristy sections of town.

“What the FUCK”; he was standing in front of me stark naked, shivering, crying and vomiting a little. The gelatinous goo he had been covered in was unfortunately the digestive fluid of one of the many giant carnivorous plants growing in and around the jungle and it was a surreal arduous task to succeed in escaping its clutches on your own, most people carry a grenade or two for this specific purpose and for any other tight situations that inevitably arise on the island. I set him down gently like a mangy puppy I just kicked and felt bad about, he was speaking in tongues and was obviously out of his mind far beyond the everyday madness of his general persona, I wrapped a blanket over his shoulders, which was actually a louse ridden tarp in the midst of disintegration that I pulled out of the dump.

After filling him up on rum; pills, grass, and a pack of cigarettes his frenzied demeanor started to throttle down and decipherable words began to emerge; disjointedly at first but soon enough the words manifested into full sentences and I could see through his fiery blood shot eyes into his shattered mind that he was beginning to realize where he was, who he was with, and had under benevolent duress accepted that this particular dimension was the spot he was supposed to be in.

“FUCK ME”; here I was, half dead and trying to endure the kind of damage to my brain that only a few homicidal deranged nazi surgeons could ever even conceive of, and I’ve got to workshop through whatever misadventures had come upon my cohort while in all likelihood his brain was covertly transplanted with a jellyfish.

Upon reaching semi-composure and constitution with the pills and rum finally succeeding in carrying out their jobs Captain Edgars ethereal self popped back inside, no doubt with its own collection of tales of the macabre, but now with all extraterrestrial components of his personality back in place I began to listen without any sympathetic or empathetic curiosity. I wanted him well enough to survive his day and I wanted him the fuck gone.

He started out with the carnivorous plant story when I drifted away, having been in that particular situation before, as have most if not all the islanders, I just couldn’t take another perpetually spinning broken record of an experience that everyone on the island has fucking been through. He went on about some situation in town where some idiotic drunk tourist went off “old west style” blasting his snub nose revolver demanding to be compensated for a handful of worthless rusty bullets some monkey had sold him. I began to start nodding off, Edgar’s story turning into a kaleidoscope of bewildering sounds, until hearing that unmistakably worrisome word that indicates the inevitable incursion of law and order and white bread, a puritan invasion into a surreal land where everyone is hiding from something, where there wasn’t a legal object; event, sexual exploit, book or other writings, paintings, substances of any sort, machines or items that at some point might be called machines anywhere on the island. The curtain was going to be opened and a destructive deviant wizard was going to pop out with vicious ambitions, there were guerillas positioned all over the jungle, Voodoo cabarets, whore houses that allowed unspeakable and impossible incorporeal sex parties, some of which were affiliated with a few monkey unions who were trying to get their shitty little paws into everything as of late, everybody had stashes of guns, drugs and other antiquated munitions; we weren’t just talking about grenade launchers and dynamite, we had tanks, howitzers, functional missile silos with malfunctioning and mostly missing launch controls, cannibals and head hunters and any and everything we didn’t want the “COAST GUARD” to find.

“FUCK”; I understood the politics of the island at the level of a retarded child in kindergarten, but I do know that there were very secretive, back alley cut throat, end up disappeared or decapitated or both, kind of channels in place that kept certain organizations and sovereignties away.

Captain Edgar was looking pretty horrified pointing his finger to the entrance of the bay where a cruise ship had run aground; there were “COAST GUARD” rescue boats everywhere, they even had a goddamn helicopter, and how the fuck didn’t I even see it? It was in clear site for the entire afternoon. This whole disastrous event; this exhibition on fire, the wolves are at the door with claws, laws and a pair of keys.

A while ago I surmised that some of the more “elite” islanders rich in physical wealth like property and precious metals, those that excel in the dirty playgrounds of commerce, those with an obscene amount of ammunition and massive murder machines that literally eat the ammunition and spit it back out. Homicidal Projectiles choose their own course; their ass gets blasted off and velocity manifests into a momentary consciousness within the metal itself, they know where they’re going, homicidal projectiles choose their own course.

Anyway I’m talking about “payoffs”; even an island such as ours needs an outside source of incoming cash, grass or ass. The ocean liner company “Oceanic Falls” was the only cruise line that came to the island aside from the stray ships that get lost and end up in our bay; which was a very risky kind of bad news for them, due to the shaky trigger fingers perched on the high ground, however, we have not as of yet caused any international incidents.

Oceanic Falls was on the verge of bankruptcy; they had a small fleet of cruise ships all fucked up and sinking, hence the irony of its name. It was the cheapest vacation available with deep sub-level amenities such as; the absence of sea worthy life boats, busted shitters replaced with buckets, food rations from WW2 served up on paper party plates and plastic forks, no plastic spoons or knives mind you; just the forks, the pumps rumbled viciously day and night to keep the boats afloat due to the lack of funds and personnel to actually fix the holes. The repair crews had left the company with advice from their union’s years ago; duct tape and inept unschooled uncertified welders were the only things keeping the boats afloat, shit houses on the water with the stench of impending doom following in their wake.

So the deal was that Oceanic Falls was the only ship line that was permitted on the island. Oceanic Falls agreed not to disclose the whereabouts of the island or what unspeakable atrocities happened there and we wouldn’t report any possible infractions seen or heard about the condition of their boats. Unfortunately this “Deal” was based on the misguidedly tenuous belief that all would go as planned; the ship running ashore wasn’t planned, the coast guards presence wasn’t planned and the gruesome manifesting consequences of this catastrophic event were most certainly not planned.

As it goes; asses are asses and I’ve got to worry about mine. I’ve got a painted herd of donkeys that aren’t leaving; dangerously huge dildos, copious amounts of pills, other drugs that require syringes, and syringes, all erupting from probably once obscene pedophiliac themed piñatas. I was concerned that, all pieced together, the evidence would point to a super-perverted mass abomination of animal rights and possible investigations into any solicitous activities concerning children. But; who the hell was going to check out the dump, I mean the stench and fumes at this time of day were a biological hazard, and being the dump it was nicely tucked away at the far end of the beach next to where the jungle began.

My thoughts turned back onto Captain Edgar who was caught in the surf curled up in the fetal position next to one of the donkeys who seemed to take a liking to him; the donkey was licking his face and was setting himself up to do some unmentionable things. As I dragged his ass up to the shack/canopy/hospitable thing Captain Edgar began to cough up some horrifying truths about the previous night.

Pointing at the mayhem going on at the entrance of the bay, he said in a very meek fashion “We crashed that boat”. At the very same moment of Edgar’s confession there was slight stir behind us on the edge of where the beach meets the trees; where a man wearing full on jungle –battle camouflage with all the bells and whistles, his face painted with a tiger stripe design, a helmet geared up with night vision, a menagerie of grenades representing every nation that ever smuggled or sold arms were pinned all over him, strapped with huge desert eagle side arms and carrying an M16 over one shoulder and an AK47 over the other, “JESUS FUCK”, he was a walking museum piece, a collective aberration sporting a piece of every war that was ever fought anywhere.

It was “DEM” of course; the third member of our viciously demented little crew and consensual contributor to mostly all of our unspeakable debaucherous behaviors, such as, thefts, property damage and destruction, potential homicide (unproven), the blowing up of things arbitrarily, general crimes against humanity and that unfortunate night with the cow and the parachute which we all felt really “REALLY” bad about. “What do you guys remember about last night and this clusterfuck in the bay?” Dem calmly asked as he looked over our two living corpses, we all squatted in a circle like the chiefs of some warrior clan going over the strategical intricacies of some integral insurrection. “FUCK”, in all reality we all feel into heaps onto whatever was flat and wouldn’t explode; and our conversation resembled apes trying to sign words the other apes didn’t know, an extravagant “still life” of atrophy and self-abuse unable to decipher the numbers that led to the equal sign.

It took a lot of time, pills, and rum but we finally pieced together the most probable version of the prior night’s events. We figured that, by morning at least, we’d all be held up in some third world jail; no passports, no money, no booze, and no chance of reaching the civilized world; I’d have to find someone to take care of my angry rats.