Wednesday, February 10, 2010

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 11: an unpleasant encounter on the road to the ranch

Go here for our previous episode of this "uncut" edition of Larry Winchester's long-lost epic masterpiece. Newcomers may go here to return to the first chapter.)

The time is September, 1969. The moon landing and Woodstock and the Manson murders have all taken place the previous month. The number one song in the country is "Sugar, Sugar" by the Archies...

Twenty-year-old Harvey
has returned from a court-ordered hitch in the army to his impoverished and depressing hometown of Disdain, New Mexico.

It is still only Harvey's first day back, but already he has killed a bully in self-defense and been hired by the local rancher Big Jake Johnstone to act as some sort of guide to a mysterious couple named Dick and Daphne “Smith”.

Everyone has gotten very drunk.

(This episode is rated R for ridiculous writing).

Big Jake got too drunk to drive, so Dick drove him in his red Cadillac and Daphne drove with Harvey in the Thunderbird. Daphne took off first, with Harvey giving her directions out to the Johnstone ranch.

Five minutes into the drive Big Jake, who had been lolling in his seat singing horribly along with Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” on the radio, suddenly said, “Ah, Christ, pull over, Dick. I’m a-gonna hurl!”

Dick pulled expertly over to the side of the road and Jake got the door open and tumbled out to his hands and knees and started puking into the dust.

Dick (pretty much peaking on the Owsley by now) turned off the ignition and lit up a cigarette. From the way Big Jake’s massive body was bucking and buckling, like some fat buffalo in its death throes, this was going to take a while.


Harvey felt a little nervous the way this Mrs. Smith was driving -- very steady but very fast, but what the hell, at least there wasn’t any traffic at all out here.

Or was there?

Lights up ahead, then a whole lot of lights, coming straight at them, then it was a whole bunch of madmen on motorcycles hogging the whole road and heading straight at them, and Mrs. Smith looking damn near likely just to plow right on through them hell bent for leather and damn the torpedoes.

Harvey closed his eyes, he could feel the Thunderbird swerving and lurching then hitting something hard and swerving again and then it jerked to a stop and somehow he was in the back seat. He clambered up and Mrs. Smith was slumped over the steering wheel. He reached over and turned off the ignition because he was afraid the car would blow up, and then he passed out over into the front seat, rolling down into the foot space.


The motorcyclists pulled their choppers up all around the Thunderbird, their headlights shining directly into the car. Through the swirling cloud of dust and exhaust they’d created they looked at at the beautiful woman and the young soldier both groggily trying to sit up straight in the front seat.

The motorcyclists laughed and laughed, showing their broken discolored teeth in the harsh jagged light.

They were called the Motorpsychos (a name they had stolen from a certain trashy drive-in movie); self-styled “scum of the scum” -- who for the most part had been drummed out of other motorcycle gangs for behavior too vicious, swinish, dishonorable and vile even for the likes of the Hell’s Angels or the Pagans -- they lived in foul caves in the wasted hills, subsisting on the profits of the drugs they sold to the local youth.

Their leader, a former Oxford don called Moloch, switched off the engine of his Vincent Black Shadow, kicked his kickstand down, dismounted and then vaulted up onto the hood of the Thunderbird. He stood there with his hands on his hips, grinning through his scruffy beard. Greasy filth covered him from head to toe. He was a rangy tall man in tight leather pants, jackboots with two-inch heels and a black leather jacket worn directly over his bare flesh. His dark blond oily hair was long and knotty, falling dramatically around his sculptural shoulders. He wore mirrored Ray Bans and an SS officer’s cap; a ragged Magdalene College scarf, once black-and-white but now the color of a week-old dead trout, was knotted around his corded neck and flapped behind him in the night wind; a tarnished Iron Cross hung on a tattered black ribbon over his chest. He had at one time been a stunningly handsome man, but now his nose was crushed, his lips were brutally scarred, and his right eye had been thumbed out in fight with one of the Wheels of Soul and thus he he wore a black leather eye patch. He had never bothered to have a glass eye installed in the empty socket, and whenever he encountered a little child he liked to remove his sunglasses, lift up his eye patch, politely say hello, and then watch the child burst into tears.

“We are going to have some fun,” he declaimed. His diction was impeccable, and this utterance was met with a chorus of cheers from his cohort.

(To be breathtakingly continued.)


kathleenmaher said...

I really can't get enough of this: one of my all-time favorite novels.
Maybe someday Larry Winchester will be treated with at least the regard comparable to Philip K. Dick (whom I've never especially liked.)
It's a dated concept at this point but if ever there was A Great American Novel, "A Town Called Disdain" would get my vote.
It doesn't miss anything.

Dan Leo said...

Larry told me to tell you he thinks you're pretty cool, too, Kathleen, and he said to give him a buzz next time you're in Hollywood.

Manny said...

Philip K Dick happens to be one of my favorite writers. But this is right up there.
That Bee Gees video is the strangest thing I've ever seen. Apparently a shameless attempt to ride the slipstream of Yellow Submarine.

Dan Leo said...

Y'know, Manny, P.K. Dick is one of those writers I just never quite got around to reading! One of these days...I do love the movie Blade Runner though!

Know what you mean about the Beatles influence in this video, and in fact on a lot of early Bee Gees stuff. But I shamelessly dig the early BGs. (Can't abide the disco stuff though...)

Old 333 said...

Dan, if you ever get around to Dick (chortle), I recommend starting with...oh. Hmmm. Well, maybe Radio Free Albemuth. Although it is rather involved, it should at least leave some marks on you.