i don’t know if you have noticed, said the moogle to the dink
but we have been too long without a drink
my friend, you are right, the dink replied
let us remedy that situation, before our souls are tried
and so they entered the first bar that they approached
and there they found a rabbi, a nun, and a football coach
the rabbi was weeping into his beer so foamy
and the nun was saying, sir, you don’t even know me
the football coach was singing a happy song
and the bartender was trying to hum along
cheer - some good, some not so good - was spread
when suddenly the bartender dropped dead
good heavens cried the moogle, as he sat upon his stool
they never taught us about such things in school
i hope the poor fellow was properly insured
and that a long wait for our drinks we must not endure
this place is cursed, the dink replied, alas
there seems to be no one to fill our glass
and this poor fellow seems to have no friends
to mourn his most untimely end
not so, the football coach suddenly asserted
no, not at all, the rabbi weepingly blurted
he was the finest of men, the nun assented
and yet his earthly form was only rented
if the pope were here - he left only minutes ago
all the proper prayers he would surely know
but we can only meditate on fate
and hope for our next drinks we have not long to wait
these meditations of the assembled drunks
were interrupted by a gang of punks
and hoodlums with an agenda of their own
who proceeded to make the place their home
the bartender’s corpse was quickly tossed aside
no barbaric impulse was left unsatisfied
the coach, the nun, the rabbi, and the dink
watched helplessly and knew not what to think
the moogle shook his head and softly sighed
this, my friends, is the end of earthly pride
all is mirrors, all is smoke
and no one ever got to tell a joke
aaron, chad, and damon were guys, and bethany was a girl.
they often met in the evening at eddie’s pizza house.
when eddie’s pizza went out of business they started meeting at the cafeteria at the art museum.
they were vegetarians, and did not smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs.
aaron and chad drank tea, but bethany and damon preferred coffee.
aaron, chad, and damon all had their first sexual experiences with bethany, and for this they were always grateful.
aaron’s ambition was to develop a new universal blueprint for human society, one that could be used in any environment and on any planet in any galaxy.
bethany aspired to be a poet. her particular ambition was to be translated into more languages than other poet, living or dead.
chad wanted to establish a new, benevolent would empire, with himself as emperor. or, if that did not prove feasible, to at least be the richest person on the planet.
damon wanted to write, direct, and star in his own movies, which would be watched in every home on earth.
one day they were hanging out at the cafeteria in the art museum and damon remarked that bethany’s ambition to be a poet was a reflection of her smaller female brain.
bethany was deeply insulted, and aaron and chad were also shocked at damon’s retrograde opinion and quickly came to bethany’s defense.
damon professed to be surprised at their reaction, and excused himself to go to the rest room.
when he returned everything seemed to be forgotten, but the damage had been done.
a few days later the four friends met at a starbucks. the starbucks was next to a cinema complex where they planned to see the latest woody allen movie.
that were placidly sipping their beverages when a woman walked by who recognized bethany. her name was elissa and she and bethany had been at graduate school together.
bethany introduced aaron, chad, and damon to elissa.
“wow!” elissa exclaimed. “not one, not two, but three boy friends! you were the last person in the world i would have expected to turn out such a big slut!”
elissa meant her remark humorously and aaron, chad, and damon found it amusing, but bethany did not.
these two events coming close together - being told she had a small brain and was a big slut - both by people she considered friends - strangely affected bethany.
after that things were never the same, and the four friends began to drift apart.
aaron was accepted into a management training program by a management consulting company.
he met a girl named francine who was a hockey fan and he became a hockey fan too.
eventually aaron and francine married and had three children, a girl and twin boys.
bethany got a job as a hostess at applebee’s.
she continued to write poetry, but had little success getting any of it published.
chad, who had been the most frugal of the four, invested all the money he had saved in setting up his own consulting company.
he quickly went bankrupt and moved back in with his parents.
chad’s mother introduced him to glenna, a lawyer ten years older than himself who was divorced with two children - a girl who had been adopted from mali, and a boy with developmental disabilities.
chad married glenna and became a full time house husband.
of the four friends, damon was the most successful. he inherited his father’s textile importing business, which had been doing poorly, and turned it around. he was the only one of the four to ever reach a seven figure income.
aaron and chad kept in touch, and both occasionally heard from damon, but bethany disappeared.
chad had a heart attack and died. glenna invited aaron and damon to the funeral, and attempted to contact bethany but could not.
aaron and damon chatted after chad’s funeral.
“do you ever think about the old times we had together?” aaron asked.
damon almost said, “are you shitting me? why would i?”
but instead he said, “yes, we had some great times together.”
even colonel waters, who had been wheeled in, sniffling and grumbling, by a ferociously scowling nurse jaspers.
the windows had been thrown open to the night.
a wolf howled in the surrounding hills.
clyde took one look around the room and got down to business.
maxwell was seated on the blue divan, nonchalantly murmuring to colette, but turned when he felt clyde’s eyes on him.
“it was a sweet setup, maxwell, “ clyde began, “and you almost got away with it.
everybody was looking for the hinkydink. and they thought they needed the birkenstock to find the hinkydink.
what nobody cottoned to was that the birkenstock was the hinkydink.
how did i figure that out? it was the postcard. the same postcard that seemed to seal the deal once and for all against eberhart. the postcard that was written in red ink - “
suddenly hogan burst into the room.
“clyde! stop right there, old buddy!”
clyde smiled tolerantly. “what is it now, hogan?”
“it’s miss wildwood.”
“you mean you found out where she came from?”
“no, we found her! in a motel in bakersfield - a little buzzed, but alive as you or me.”
“you mean - ?” clyde gasped.
“that’s right. the body in the burned yellow camaro wasn’t her at all - never was. it looks like we all are starting from scratch.”
the people gathered in the room - mrs cora davis, jenny white from the chronicle, colonel waters and nurse jaspers, and of course maxwell - began to snicker and giggle.
maxwell leaned back and let out a loud guffaw. “well, mister clyde, it looks like your carefully constructed case has blown to the proverbial smithereens.” he looked around. “by the way, does anybody know exactly what a smithereen is? no one has ever properly explained it to me.”
mrs cora davis and jenny white laughed out loud.
“so that’s the great clyde…” someone in the back of the room said.
clyde looked down at the cold fireplace. he wished there was a fire in it, and he could jump in it.
his case had been blown to bits like a nest of dead wasps dropped from the top of the taj mahal…
later that morning, in maggie’s diner.
hogan put his coffee cup down. “well, got to run. i am on the public payroll, you know, and have to put in an appearance.” he tossed a half dollar on the counter, and got up.
he slapped clyde on the back, gently. “don’t take it so hard, clyde. today is another day. and you might get another case - some day. ha, ha !”
clyde didn’t look up as hogan went out the door.
neither did the waitress leaning on the counter down by the cash register.
there was no other customers in the place. the waitress, whose name probably wasn’t even ruby, did not come down from the end of the counter to offer clyde any consolation, or to speculate on the unpredictable nature of existence.
it wasn’t like the old days.
so it’s come to this, thought clyde.
the big case - the big case that was going to him back on top -
just another spider web in a hurricane.
just another cat up a tree that was cut down forty years ago.
outside it was a gray day, with the threat of rain.
a cold rain.
there was a quarter of an ounce of coffee in clyde’s cup. did he want to finish it?
or didn’t he?
he couldn’t make up his mind.
behind him, the door opened. the little bell above it jangled.
clyde didn’t turn around.
a shadow fell across his coffee cup.
the guy who had sat down beside him - and who had six other stools and three booths he could have chosen - weighed at least three hundred pounds. and that was without his bowler hat and camels hair coat.
“can’t say that i do.”
“i didn’t think you would, but no harm in asking.”
the waitress appeared. “what will you have?” she asked the newcomer.
“we have more than one special. we have - “
“i’ll have the special with the most calories. i tell you what, i’ll have that and i’ll have the special with the next most calories too, how’s that?”
“that sounds good, mister. coming right up.” the waitress scribbled something on her pad.
“i didn’t think you would remember me,” the stranger said, after the waitress had moved away to hand the order through to the kitchen.
“i give up,” clyde told him. “who are you?”
“pleased to meet you, randy,”
“ha, ha! but you don’t remember me?”
“i am sorry, i don’t.”
“walter j abbott elementary school in springfield, ohio?”
“see - i told you you wouldn’t remember me.”
“and you were right.”
randy peterson smiled, but fell silent when the waitress brought him a cup of coffee and a big plate of toast as the first installment on his two specials.
“but i’ve been following you, clyde,” randy resumed, when the waitress departed again.
“following me? clyde looked up.
“ha, ha! i mean following your storied career in the papers. not following you down the street, ducking behind doorways, ha ha!”
“oh.” clyde looked back down in his coffee cup.
“i kept track of all the famous cases you were involved in - the silver walrus case, the beheaded peanut case, all of them. one in particular - the redheaded buzzard case, i had my own views. i am not so sure you got it right.”
“i think all those cases are closed,” clyde said.
“oh, i know that. i didn’t follow you here to talk about old cases.”
the waitress came back with a plate heaped with pancakes and put it down in front of randy peterson.
“thank you, sweetheart.” randy grabbed his fork and prepared to attack the pancakes. “don’t worry, clyde, i will get to the point.”
mike did not express any great surprise when eddie showed up at his door, although they had not seen each other for twenty-two years.
“remember me?” eddie asked.
mike nodded. “eddie. how you been?”
it was just starting to get dark. the street behind eddie was deserted. mike’s house was a run down one story. it looked like it might never have been painted at all. the little patch of land in front of it was all dirt, no grass.
mike’s ten year old chevy pickup was parked in a driveway. it had a new coat of green paint.
the other houses on the street looked abandoned. there were no vehicles parked in front or beside any of them.
mike looked up and down the street. either eddie had walked, or whoever drove him had taken off.
“can i come in?” eddie asked.
“oh, yeah, sure.” mike backed up and waved eddie in.
a hall led into a kitchen, the only room with a light on.
eddie looked around. the kitchen was not too dirty. there were some clean dishes stacked neatly beside the sink.
a girl was sitting in a chair beside the kitchen table. she looked about fifteen. she was naked, and bound firmly to the chair with elaborately knotted ropes. she had something in her mouth - a rag or a ball, with a gag tying it in.
eddie looked at her. “i hope i’m not interrupting anything.”
“no, she can wait. she’s not going anywhere.”
“same old mike.”
mike shrugged. “some things never get old. “ he sat down across from the girl, in the only other chair. “so what can i do for you, my friend? you want something to drink? all i got is beer.”
“i’ll take a beer.”
“help yourself.” mike nodded at a small refrigerator behind eddie.
eddie took a can of schlitz out of the refrigerator and popped it.
mike relaxed in his chair. “i repeat, what can i do for you?”
“you heard from phil lately? phil winters?”
“phil winters? are you kidding? he’s been dead for eighteen years. i ought to know, i killed him.”
“maybe you did, but he’s alive again.”
“you don’t say so?”
“yeah, this new technology, you know.”
mike nodded. “i heard about it. i didn’t know anybody was using it on a bum like phil winters.”
eddie took a sip of the schlitz. “maybe he wasn’t such a bum as we thought.”
“no?’ you mean he was connected? to who? i don’t remember anybody giving a shit when i killed him.”
“it looks like he was rich. his folks had money.”
mike slammed the table. “i knew it! i always suspected it. there was just something about him. damn! we should have kidnapped his faggot ass and held him for ransom.”
eddie nodded. “well, that was then and this is now.”
“so what does he want now? is he looking for me?”
“i don’t know what he’s looking for, but some people are looking for him.”
“where do you come in?” mike asked.
“they asked me to look for him. they’d make it worth my while, all that.”
“yeah, right. damn, this is a lot to take in.” mike closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead. “all this new stuff, it’s just too much for me sometimes.”
with a glance at the girl, eddie slipped something out of his back pocket.
what mike did not suspect was that “eddie” was not really eddie at all. he was mal-dor, an agent of the tricanean trans-time empire, and that the girl in the chair was the princess aleaaa of the house of nor, whom he had been commissioned to rescue.
eddie pressed the little gray disc he had in his hand, and a bolt of blue flame dissolved mike’s guts into a quickly cooling pink puddle of fuzz…
turning the gray disc over, mal-dor used it to quickly cut away the princess’s bonds and gag.
“whew! i thought you would never get here.”
“everything was under control.”
“that’s easy for you to say. did you have to spend so much time jabbering with him?”
“i was probing his brain - seeing if he knew anything.”
“and did he?”
“do you care? “
“not really. why don’t you get me one of those beers? i’m thirsty.”
“are you crippled? get it yourself. and let’s get out of here.”
“my arms and legs are all numb from being tied up.”
mal-dor took a can of schlitz out of the refrigerator and gave it to the princess. “now let’s go.”
“have you got a ship?”
“no, i walked from clavon-7. of course, i have a ship, it’s right around the corner. can you walk, or do i have to carry you?”
“i can walk, big boy. just wait until i find my clothes.”
forty-eight hours later. dusk was falling again.
dolan and jefferson looked down at mike’s body.
“look at that hole, will you?” jefferson shook his head. “ i know it’s nice and clean in its way, but it gives me the creeps. give me a good old-fashioned bullet wound with pus and guts and maggots.”
“it’s time’s like this,” jefferson continued, “i wish i was back in the andes, chasing pancho garcia.”
dolan rolled his eyes. he had heard it all a thousand times before. “let’s look for some kind of bullet.”
“you know there’s not going to be no bullet.”
“there’s a hole in front of him and a hole in back, ain’t there? regulation says we look for a projectile, which we will either find or not. so let’s do it, soldier boy, and get it over with.”
“all right, all right. i just hope we get back in time for the game.” jefferson looked around. “is there a tv in this place?”