Wednesday, April 28, 2010

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 22: Grupler

Previously in our story:

Dick Ridpath (
“One fairly expects his passport to list his occupation as ‘mysterious stranger’” -- John Updike) and his lovely and unflappable young wife Daphne partook of an uneasy lunch at the table of dude-rancher Big Jake Johnstone. Who should Dick have seen there but the notorious Hans Grupler and his accomplice Marlene, under the guise of tourists named Feldschmitt from West Germany.

New Mexico, September 1969...

(Click here to see our previous chapter; go here to return to the beginning of this uncut serialization of Larry Winchester's sprawling {"Oh, but how one wishes it were twice as long!" -- Ronald Firbank} epic.)

Dick went down the hall to take a pee before they went out for the day but the door was locked.

“One moment please.”

It was Grupler.

Dick stood and waited. He lit up a cigarette. A Marlboro. There had been a mahogany box of them on a little table by the staircase and he had grabbed a handful. He breathed it in. He missed his unfiltered Craven “A”s, which he had gotten used to in Saigon and Singapore. He’d have to pick up some Chesterfields in town.

A deep orgasmic groaning came from the bathroom, then finally a heavy liquid plopping accompanied by burgherish sighs of pleasure.

Dick had only seen Grupler in person once before. Marlene he knew only by photographs. However it had once been Dick’s job to know quite a bit about people like Grupler and Marlene.

They were terrible people and indeed on the one occasion when he and Grupler had come face to face the only thing that kept Dick from doing humanity a favor and shooting him down like a mad dog on the spot was the fact that they were both sitting in the crowded bar car of the Paris/Marseilles express.

Dick had needed to take a pee then, too. Grupler had made him as well, and they both had to sit there for hours, keeping an eye on one another. The seconds oozed by like beads of sweat as Dick nursed a cognac, his bladder feeling ripe to burst, but he didn’t dare go to the head. Not if he didn’t want to take a chance on getting drilled through the door while taking his piss.

His only consolation through this agonizing trip was that Grupler didn’t dare go to the WC either.

When they finally pulled into the station at Marseilles, Dick (with his hand in his jacket pocket gripping his Browning) had tried to follow Grupler but had lost him in the crowd. Being too wary to use the station’s rest room he had carried his suitcase to a nearby seedy café and there had finally voided his bladder into the reeking but quaint hole in the men’s room floor.

Shortly before Dick’s retirement from the service he had heard rumors that Grupler and Marlene’s multiple treacheries had finally been discovered by the East Germans; that they had gone underground; that they had offered their services to and been turned down by the CIA (whom they had already worked for and betrayed several times -- indeed they were suspected of the murder of at least one CIA officer, and of who knows how many other “assets”); that the Soviets had a $50,000 contract on their heads.

The last Dick had heard of Grupler and Marlene was that they had been chased out of London by the Kray gang and then had gotten themselves killed in Haiti after trying to pull a double deal on Duvalier.

But these sort of people were like cockroaches.

They would keep turning up.

Dick had almost finished his insipid Marlboro when the toilet flushed loudly and decisively.

The slapping sounds of washing up, like a thirsty horse in a water trough, as the toilet bowl slowly refilled itself, whining rustily and moaning as if it was drawing its fresh water not without pain from some dark cistern deep beneath the surface of the desert.

Then the door opened and there stood Grupler still buttoning his heavy worsted trousers as the stench wafted out of the bathroom behind him.

“Commander Ridpath,” he smiled, showing those yellowed doglike teeth, “or should I say Mr. Smith, such a pleasure to meet you again.”

“Mister whatever will do just fine, Hans. I’m retired.”

“Ah yes.” Grupler took a soft leatherbound notebook out of the inside breast pocket of his tweed hunting jacket and thumbed through it.

“Retired -- officially -- from active service 29th April 1965.”

“Actually my papers were dated 17th May.”

Hans raised his eyebrows.


He removed a pencil from a holder in the book, made an erasure on the open page, blew away the rubber dust, licked the point of the pencil, wrote something, put the pencil back, and then closed the notebook with a precise little thwap.

(To tell the truth Dick had no idea when his papers had been dated.)

“I am so happy to make the acquaintance of your charming wife the former Miss Daphne F. MacNamara of the Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.”

He paused rather disgustingly with a wet little smile.

“You have done very well for yourself, Mr. Ridpath or should I say Mr. Smith. It is wonderful is it not to have someone to share one’s life through fat and thin.”

“Thick and thin,” said Dick.

“Quite. Through the thick of the thin of it.”

“Uh, yeah.”

“To the bitter end,” said Grupler.

What the fuck.

“Excuse me, Hans. I really gotta pee.”

“Yes, of course, pardon me.”

He stepped aside, bowing, and Dick walked by sideways, not taking an eye off him.

Grupler seemed almost ready to follow Dick into the bathroom, but Dick closed the door.

Inside, he stood to one side of the door and waited until he heard Grupler’s footsteps receding.

The bathroom still reeked of Grupler’s bowel movement.

Dick took one last drag of his cigarette and dropped it into the toilet.

Of course Hans had left the lid up.

And, yes, damn it to hell, there was a definite fresh smudge of shit-smear on the toilet seat.


Dick tore off some toilet paper, wet it under the faucet, then wiped off the seat. He dropped the paper into the toilet, ripped off another wad of paper, and gave the seat another good wipe with the dry paper.

He paused, wondering if Grupler had tiptoed back and was standing out there, listening.

Fuck him.

He dropped the paper into the bowl and then washed his hands thoroughly with Ivory soap.

He dried his hands and only then did he unzip and take his pee, amidst that still-lingering shit stench, mixed with -- yes -- it could only be -- the cloying tang of Hai Karate cologne.

Fucking Grupler. Him and that whore Marlene.

Dick had not felt good about killing that motorcyclist the other night, and he knew that if he hadn’t been quite so ripped on that Owsley acid he could have probably easily stopped the guy with a simple pistol barrel smacked against his nose and a kick to the balls, whatever. There were other ways to stop a big fat giant with a monkey wrench besides shooting him in the eye.

No use crying over spilt milk, but still...

He had decided a long time ago he wanted nothing more to do with killing people.


But he had to admit that right now he really wouldn’t mind at all killing Grupler and that bitch Marlene, too, in the bargain.

People like that just had no respect for human life.

He’d run into his share of that sort in his career, and they weren’t always foreigners, either.

When you came right down to it, it was that cold-blooded sort who had caused Dick to retire early from the navy.

He just couldn’t stand people like that, and if Grupler was smart he’d watch his step.

But come to think of it, Grupler was smart. After all, he had fucked over plenty of the most dangerous people in the world, and here he was, still walking around, full of beans.

Dick finished and flushed, washed and dried his hands again.

He pulled the door open and with one eye peeked down the corridor.

(Continued here.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

the cad

by horace p sternwall

pictures by rhoda penmarq

for mr dan leo

it must be sad
to be a cad
and have women every hour
fall like flowers

into your lap
when you're trying to take a nap
or want some solitude
to sit in a somber mood

and create unflinching perfect art
but how can you start
when these myriad creatures
with their softly shifting features

will not go away
but multiply every day
lining up for miles
in kaleidoscopic styles

and wind through city blocks
stopping the tower clocks
of the haughty bourgeoisie
who hate art and poetry

o apollo shed a tear!
but poet, try to persevere
though the world be misbegotten
you will never be forgotten

your words will be on lips
when thinking machines and rocket ships
are wiped from time's black shining slate
immortality shall be your fate

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"A Town Called Disdain", Episode 21: lunch

The place is the Johnstone Ranch, several miles outside of the town of Disdain, NM. The time is September, 1969, the month after the first Moon landing, and Woodstock, and the Manson murders. “Sugar Sugar” by the Archies is soaring its way to #1...

(Click here to read our previous episode. Go here to return to the beginning.)

Finally around one o’clock we came down these long wide curving stairs, following the lovely maid Esmeralda, and into an ornate large dining room where apparently everyone was waiting for us.

And who do we see but Hans Grupler and that evil bitch known as “Marlene”.

Talk about not being able to escape one’s sordid past.

We sat down and were introduced.

Two smooth young men (“Mr. Philips and Mr. Adams”) whom I at first took for a couple of homosexual lads on vacation, but further observation makes me think CIA, maybe FBI.

Also a rather dissipated-looking young Englishman with long hair.

Big Jake of course and this absolutely stunning but very strange creature introduced as his daughter with the somehow unlikely name of “Hope”.

Grupler and Marlene are supposedly “Mr. and Mrs. Feldschmitt...tourists from West Germany”. Uh huh.

Grupler looked tanned and fit, as did Marlene, who by the way is built like a brick shit house and was wearing this distracting blouse thing opened up way down.

Philips and Adams were “geologists” doing some “fieldwork in the area for the government”. Right. OK.

The only guest who seemed legit was the Limey, introduced as Mr. Squitters, apparently a rock and roll star (never heard of him, what do I know) here to record and study local Mescalero chants. He spoke little; he said, with a thick Cockney accent, that he was “bloody ‘ungover”, and he looked it.

Lunch was OK. “Chicken fried” ham, which Big Jake said was from Virginia. A quite good “red hot” salsa. Nice warm tortillas instead of bread. Heinz baked beans. Canned peas and carrots. The pineapples were also from a can. An unusual rutabaga salad. Mateus and Blue Nun unfortunately, but -- surprise -- a decent Beaujolais.

Everyone played their cards tight to the vest.

Jake is dumb enough not to know about Grupler and Marlene, and Philips and Adams. But who knows?

With a day already wasted sleeping I thought it best to get right to work, so I asked Jake if we could have the soldier for the day “to show us around”.

Daphne wanted to go horseback. This seemed as good a way as any to reconnoiter the neighborhood, and had the advantage of being good “cover” since we were supposed to be on vacation ourselves.

After lunch Daphne changed into riding clothes. Brought out those old jodhpurs. She asked me how she looked in them, turning around.

She looked so good in them I had to take them right off her again.

(Continued here. Somewhere a plot lies waiting. Maybe.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

hap dixon in the case of the mysterious cove: chapter 2 - clues in the night

click here for chapter 1

by jason gusmann

visuals by rhoda penmarq

After dinner in the white and yellow kitchen, Hap races up to his bedroom, which is sizable for a boy his age.

The walls are painted sky blue.

On one wall, there is a forest green pennant that reads FOOTBALL.

On the opposite wall, there is an oxblood red pennant that reads BASEBALL.

On a heavy brown wooden table in the middle of the room there is a chemistry set, a fingerprint set, a mini-camera, several disguises, a flashlight, a magnifying glass, and a yellow legal pad and pen.

Parallel to the table, resting against the BASEBALL wall, is Hap’s bed which is neatly made.

Hap sits on it and reaches down to pet Bodie, who has followed him up from the kitchen.

Jeepers, boy, we’ve got a mystery on our hands!

But Dad and Aunt Bea will never let me out at night to look for more clues...

I know! I’ll climb out the window after they’ve gone to bed!

Bodie whines sadly.

Aw, Bodie, it’ll just be for a little while!

Besides, I’ll wear one of my disguises so that if anyone sees me they’ll think I’m a grown-up!

Hap gets up and walks over to the wooden table upon which all of his detecting equipment lies.

He picks up a false nose and glasses as well as a black corkscrew wig.

See, it’ll be fine!

Bodie lays down, his head pointed away from Hap.

Aw, you’re no fun!

Hap spends the next few hours reviewing his shortwave message and consulting his Codes & Codebreakers book.

Soon enough, Dad comes knocking on Hap’s door.

Lights out, Hap!

Hap responds, Okay Dad! Goodnight!

He jumps into his bed and turns off the light.

Dad responds, almost laughing as he does so, Goodnight son!

In the background, Aunt Bea calls out to him but he cannot make out what she says.

After he hears the footsteps move down the hall, Hap turns on the flashlight under the covers and scrutinizes the message one last time.

DEVIL MASK...what could that mean?

Devil – that could mean the Devil’s Cove, up by Chimney Rock.

And mask? Mask...

Of course! Hap snaps his fingers.

Scuba masks! They’re smuggling out of the Devil’s Cove - underwater!

No wonder no one has realized it yet...

Hap turns off the flashlight and carefully gets up out of bed, stepping lightly so that no floorboards creak.

He takes up a light fall jacket and moves to where the window is open.

Bodie whines, but Hap shushes him and Bodie obediently puts his head down.

Hap quietly slides out the window to the narrow porch above the front door, then shinnies down the drainpipe to the bushes below.

The night air is clear and cool.

Hap takes out his flashlight and begins to walk down the green tree-lined sidewalk.

The town is silent and motionless.

The houses are all dimly lit, closed up for the night.

The moon is just a thin white crescent in the black sky.

Hap looks left and right, keeping his eyes wide open, looking for clues.

He moves toward the town square, directly ahead of him.

In the middle of the town square there is a gray statue of a man with a beard.

The bearded man is wearing a gray hat.

Hap raises his flashlight to the base of the statue where a silver platter rests.

Lying on the silver platter are two insects: an ant and a bee, carefully arranged.

Hap looks down at them, scratches his head.

What could this clue mean?

An ant and a bee?

Ant? Bee?

Hap slaps himself on the forehead.

Of course!

What’s missing? A fly!

Fly-ing! They’re not smuggling by water, they’re smuggling by air!

Hap smiles and shakes his head.

Sometimes I can be a real dope!

Hap begins walking toward the North side of town, to the airport.

Along the way, his flashlight isolates something on the sidewalk in front of him.

It is red and white and crumpled.

As Hap moves closer he can see that it is a white apron with red stains on it.

He peers closely at the apron and also sees that the white apron strings trail away from it in both directions.

Hmmm...apron strings...

Tied to apron ties...

I know!

The smugglers are a family business!

Hap gets a very determined look on his face.

To the airport, before it’s too late!

chapter 3: a job well done

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Whenever Charlie’s here, I’m anxious to steal Emma upstairs so we can be by ourselves. But she’s obviously eager to please Charlie and enjoy the farewell dinner he’s made. When she moves, her dress shimmers and she seems like a mirage.

We sit and sip our drinks and pass around bowls of olives and crackers smeared with bright sauces. Charlie says, “Just a minute,” and returns with grilled mushrooms.

 Emma squeezes my leg under the table. “Isn’t Charlie an amazing cook? Just for us?”

 “Yeah. Charlie, you’re an amazing cook.”

Emma bites into a cracker smeared with orange stuff. “Mmm, yummy,” she says. “Let me guess. Baby carrot, coriander, cinnamon…salt and pepper, and, um, the littlest bit of mango juice.”

(click here to read the first episode and here  for the previous one)

Charlie winks, “Right on,” and passes a plate with avocado, sweet onion, cilantro, and lime juice.

Emma reaches for a bread stick and her arm brushes mine. I stand up to get a bottle of water.

“How long did this take you?” Emma asks Charlie, waving her bread stick.

I hold up the bottled water. “Anyone else?”

But Emma and Charlie are laughing about something else, although Emma at least looks up and shakes her head. “No thanks.”

The god-damned feast lasts hours. Little salads, sauteed prawns, Spanish rice. Charlie opens a bottle of chardonnay he got from Trixie who owns the restaurant next to the airport. Talbot 2008. But I’m not interested in any more wine.

Charlie keeps talking about the band we’ll put together in Chicago, and I keep saying, “You gotta count me out.”

“He won’t play anything he didn’t write,” Charlie tells Emma. “It’s gotta be a hundred percent Scott’s genius or forget it.”

“I’m just sick the same old shit, that’s all.”

“Hey, we’ll play whatever you say, Scott.” Charlie’s chair scrapes back and he brings in ginger custard. “And you’ll be our singer, right, Emma?”

“Sure,” she says.

“What do you care if I’m your half-assed band or not, Charlie?”

He pours coffee. “Because we’re brothers and we make good music together.”

“But we’re not brothers, Charlie. And if we were, brothers grow up and live their own lives.”

“If you don’t want to perform, fine. But why not play with me in a studio and see what happens?”

“How many times do I have to say, no, Charlie?”

Emma carries her several bowls into the kitchen. “We’re celebrating. Why don’t you guys talk business later?”

Charlie’s sniffing some beige power off his hand. “Later? Honey, let me tell you about later.” He throws his head back and pinches his nostrils. “Later, Emma, you won’t exist. You’re Scott’s super-deluxe baby now but he’ll trade you in…’’

I pop up and slam my fist into his face. In fact, I hit many him times and Emma’s screaming. I turn to her, “Don’t listen to him. He’s rabid.”

“Well, he’s gone now,” she says. I look behind me and it’s true. She sinks into a chair. “You know, Scott, he didn’t say anything I haven’t heard before. Like, from everyone.”

It takes me awhile to calm down, but the truth is she’s not especially angry. So after I prove how wrong Charlie’s accusations are, after the sex I wanted so much, we lie in bed and count stars.

But after awhile, Emma says, “Promise me you’ll make up with him. ’Cause if you can’t forgive him, Scott, I’ll never forgive you.”

(click here for the next episode)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

voyage to star 25, part 1

by horace p sternwall

pictures by rhoda penmarq

there once was a landlord named jake
who had for a tenant a thirty foot snake
he grew so fond of that boa constrictor
he knew in his heart he could never evict her

she was the best friend he ever had, oh
but over his life there fell a shadow
he worked all day at the missile base
and came home at night with a sad face

many tenants in rooms along the street
sat in the gloom staring at their feet
and conceived passions for barely sentient creatures
mental death was one of their features

and the missiles - when would they go off?
the silence was broken by an occasional cough
and a slurp from a bottle of schlitz or bud
the collapse of the universe was in their blood

the windows in the bars were dim and blue
the used car lots were silent too
with burgers and marlboros on their breath
they waited in the shadow of meaningless death

you can't love a snake unless you give it a name
that's part of the game
but words came slow to jake's brain
on the dusty window it began to rain

the snake used a hundred square feet of rental space
but jake took it with a good grace
not so mrs harvis down the hall
who did not care for reptiles at all

and neither did jack d hubbatak
a retired spaceman with a bad back
who lived upstairs in a one room flat
with a seashell collection and an orange cat

he and mrs harvis put their heads together
whether in fair or stormy weather
and drank tea and stayed up late
complaining about the government, life and fate

mrs hervis was forty-four years old
her hair was orange and her eyes were cold
men had betrayed her, religion too
her children were worthless through and through

she did not care much for other females
of their troubles, she did not want the details
her only desire, and it made her eyes grow wide
was revenge against the world before she died

joe archibald was another tenant
he could say "i'll kill you" like he meant it
he had a machime gun tattooed on his arm
and was completely devoid of charm

joe was prowling the hall one night
something just did not feel right
he heard the throbbing music of fear
for which he had a most sensitive ear

he started down the creaking stair
past jake's well-barricaded lair
of the snake he was not scared a whit
in fact he'd like to have a go at it

he put his ear to jake's scarred door
a thing he'd never done before
on the scuffed and worn linoleum
a vision suddenly came to him

jake was nothing but a commie rat
joe was absolutely sure of that
talking to his snake? that was a load -
he was really talking in code!

he was an un-american deceiver
talking to a hidden receiver
probably planted in the snake
it was almost too much for joe to take

"peeping through keyholes, eh, fellow?"
hubbatak, more than a little mellow
swaying in his slippered feet
sneered at joe without missing a beat

"what's it to you anyway, hubbatak?
wasn't peeking through no keyhole, i was peeking through the crack.
"it's not the same thing at all
and besides, it ain't your call."

inside, jake seemed impervious
to all the fuss
but another door opened down the hall
and miss maisie muldoon, willowy and tall

barely glanced at the two combatant gents
as past them she serenely went
hubbatak and joe didn't scream or shout
but forgot what they were arguing about

maisie worked two blocks away
in mrs wilson's all night cafe
the moon looked down and seemed to say
is it her fate to carry a tray?

to be continued

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 20: Enid’s joint

In our previous episode, Harvey, just back from the army, hooked up with his old pal Tip Bullock and had dinner at Harvey’s mom’s place.

Then they got high and headed over to Enid’s Café.

The time of the season is September, 1969, and Zager and Evans’s “In the Year 2525” plays on the jukebox...

(Go here to review our previous thrilling chapter; the idly curious may go here to return to Episode One of
Larry Winchester's A Town Called Disdain, an American International Production.)

They were lucky and one of the two pool tables was free. They got a couple of Dr. Peppers off José at the counter and Harvey said hi to the guys and chicks there, who were pretty much the same guys and chicks who had been there the last time he’d been in here, two years ago.

They racked up their balls and Enid came out from the kitchen wiping her hands on her apron.

She grabbed Harvey’s ass as he was leaning over getting ready to break.

“Hey there, big boy."

“Hiya, Miss Enid.”

Enid was about thirty-five, a tall strong voluptuous woman who had inherited the coffee shop and ran it to support herself while she made sculptures out of great big rocks she found out in the desert and the hills and hauled back in her ‘54 Dodge flatbed truck with the tommy-lift.

Harvey broke, and all the balls stayed on the felt but none of them went down any holes. He straightened up and Enid ran her hand along the short hairs at the back of his neck.

“All grown up, huh, Harvey?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“How’d you like the army?”

“The army sucked.”

“Four ball,” said Tip.

“How about Vietnam?” said Enid.

“Vietnam really sucked. Fuckin’ hot and humid, and it smells like shit. Good shot, Tip.” Tip had just sunk the four. “Oh, yeah,” said Harvey, “and there’s a war goin’ on. But fortunately I spent most of my time at a rear echelon gig just fuckin’ off all day.”

She smiled.

“Six ball,” said Tip.

“So what’d you do with all your time if you were fuckin’ off? Chase those cute little Vietnamese girls?”

“Mostly I read a lot of books. Nice, shot, dude.”

Tip had plopped the six-ball in.

“Books?” said Enid. “What’s your favorite book?”

Molloy, by Samuel Beckett.”

“Crazy. Listen, Harve, you ever want to come around and just talk about books, or borrow some, well -- you know --”

“Yes, ma’am, I’ll do that.”

Enid was the only person in town who had ever gone to college or who had ever read a book more complicated than a Harold Robbins.

Tip missed his next shot, and Harvey stared at the table. He was pretty fucking stoned is what he was.

“Odds or evens I got?”

“Odds, Harve.”

“Okay. That one there, in the corner.”

He took aim and shot and missed.


“So what’s your plans, Harve?” said Enid.

Harvey straightened up and looked at her.

There was a long pause while he tried to think of an answer and then she just smiled and ran her finger along his cheek.

“How about stayin’ out of trouble?” she said.

“Yeah,” said Harvey. “That’d be nice.”

"Ten ball,” said Tip, and he sunk it.

“What was up with you shootin’ Bull Thorndyke?”

That seemed like a year ago.

“That was self-defense, Miss Enid.”

“Yeah, I’m sure it was. And what was up with that motorcycle guy got killed?”

“That was this Mr. Smith killed him. That was self-defense too.”

“Number twelve ball,” said Tip, and he pocketed that motherfucker too.

“Lot of people gettin’ killed around here,” said Enid.

“Lot of assholes around here,” said Tip.

The door of the café opened and the clean-cut nice young couple who had asked about the motel came in.

Later Tip and Harvey sat crosslegged on the hood of the car up on a mesa looking out at the desert and the little dark line of mountains beyond and up at the stars, and they smoked another doobie and talked.

It was up here they had watched that secret H-bomb test when they were kids; secret, but the government had told everybody in town to stay inside, and Harvey and Tip had sat here with their sunglasses on and flash it was like a sun exploding out in the desert, and they saw the flash getting bigger and bigger and then the cloud rising up all churning and climbing with fire all up in it and then this long scary deep rumble that got louder and louder until it got right in your bones, and then it got dark all around and the explosion cloud kept churning up higher and bigger with the fire all in it ten thousand different colors, and then came this warm electric-smelling wind blowing hot dust all over and around them and they could taste the warm lead in the fillings in their teeth.

That test had caused half the people on the desert side of the hills outside the town to get sick and had killed off most of the livestock and vegetation in the area. Every household in the neighborhood got a five thousand dollar check to keep quiet about it in the interests of national security. One rancher had threatened to sue the government and go to the newspapers, but he got a visit from a skinny naval officer in a big black Cadillac, and after that the rancher changed his mind. He sold his ranch to the government and moved himself and his family, supposedly to Mexico.

Tip and Harvey sat there and watched the furry black tumbleweeds skipping by way down there in the desert, and every once in a while they’d see the lights of a plane or a squadron of planes go by, and sometimes they could hear them but other times they couldn’t hear a thing, just the howling of a coyote, and the wind.

They laid back against the windshield with their hands behinds their heads and looked up and saw all the stars and the blinking satellites, and every once in a while a star shot out from the rest and then disappeared.

(Continued here.)

the waitress and the satanist, chapter 15: road to yucatan, part 1

click here for complete episode

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

hap dixon in the case of the mysterious cove: chapter 1 - a strange message

by jason gusmann

visuals by rhoda penmarq

The walls are beige and the sofa is green; it’s the strangest room you’ve ever seen.

There’s a picture of Mom above the sofa in a brown wooden frame – it’s older, as she has been gone for a long time.

No matter how close or how far you are from the picture it never quite comes into focus.

Mom is a blue dress, blonde hair, a smile.

The rug is orange.

Hap Dixon is lying on his stomach on the rug, playing a board game with Aunt Bea.

Aunt Bea moved in after Mom was gone.

Aunt Bea has lived in the house for a long time.

There is a spinner on the board game; Hap spins the spinner.

Whenever Hap spins the spinner, Bodie the dog looks up from where he is sleeping on the orange rug.

Then he puts his head back down.

Hap smiles and moves his playing piece seven spaces.

Across from the green sofa, near where Hap and Aunt Bea are stretched out on the orange rug, there is a television set in a big brown console.

It looks like wood, but it’s not wood.

If you pick at the surface the stuff that looks like wood will come off in your hand

If you pick at the surface Dad will become cross.

The television is off.

Dad sits in a chair by the front window, opposite the kitchen.

He is smoking a pipe and reading the paper.

Dad’s hair is gray.

Aunt Bea’s hair is white.

Hap’s hair is yellow and it sticks up in the back from wearing his baseball cap.

Bodie’s hair is brown and white.

Suddenly a high-pitched pinging sound comes from up the stairs.

Hap jumps up.

He says, Oh boy!

The shortwave set!

Then he runs for the stairs, behind the wall which abuts the big, brown console television .

The carpet on the stairs is orange .

Bodie leaps up and follows Hap up the stairs.

Dad lowers his paper and shouts after Hap, Don’t be up there too long!

Your Aunt’s dinner will be ready soon.

Hap shouts back down the stairs, I won’t, Dad!

Aunt Bea and Dad exchange knowing looks.

Dad returns to his paper and pipe.

Aunt Bea places the board game back in its box and goes into the white and yellow kitchen, opposite Dad’s chair, across the living room.

She peers into the oven and murmurs satisfactorily.

Hap and Bodie enter the attic.

The attic is dark and brown.

It looks like wood, and it is wood.

Hap kneels down in front of the shortwave radio by the window.

He depresses the button on the microphone base and says, This is HDWXY 1, over.

Bodie lays down at his side.

There is no response.

Again, Hap says into the microphone, This is HDWXY1, over.

This time there is a response.

The high-pitched pinging sound returns, and it is followed by a man with a low voice.


Hap scrambles for the pad and pen he keeps by the shortwave set.

Hap writes down everything the man says.

The high-pitched pinging sound repeats, and then the man with the low voice repeats everything he said the first time.

Then the high-pitched pinging sound transmits again, and then there is silence.

When he is done transcribing, Hap looks down at Bodie.

Oh boy, Bodie!

I think this is a message!

Hap takes the first letter of every word in the transmission, and then arranges them in order.


Hap says, Jeepers, Bodie!

I think this is a clue!

Then Aunt Bea calls from downstairs, Hap Dixon, time for supper!

Hap looks downcast at Bodie.

Gosh darn it!

We’ll have to come back to this after supper.

Hap rips the page off the pad, stuffs it in his pocket then goes down the stairs.

Bodie follows without enthusiasm.

chapter 2: clues in the night