Sunday, May 30, 2010

Against the Tide

Nobody else is on the beach. The time for swimming or practically anything starts at four. But now that I’m no longer itching to punch him out, Charlie taunts me into the ocean, which is uncomfortable and unsafe. He’s splashing and nudging me underwater with “shark” attacks.

Two minutes in the light and heat and it’s my head that’s swimming. A colorless, searing nightmare: midday at the equator.

Charlie nudges me twice and disappears. I start calling him.

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

“Hey! Let’s hear it for Charlie everybody!”
And: “Char-lie! CHAR-LIE! Come on, flick your Bic!”

Another minute, though, and I’m calling him for real.

Score! Team Charlie wins the game. Out of nowhere he yanks my feet and holds my ankles together. I yell and curse. We’re splashing and laughing. But then I nod. “Time to go.”

“Not me,” he says. “Not yet. I float like a boat.”

“All right.” We ride a few waves but each one swells higher. They’re already starting to crash on the shore. No way am I swimming out where it’s calmer and deeper and invisible currents flow. “I’m out, Charlie. This is stupid. Do you want me to haul you in now or later?”

“Ha! Can you push a whale?”

I tell him again to get out. We’ve played in the dangerous ocean. We’re bad and besides, he won.

In the air, my skin, hair, and shorts dry before I reach Emma sitting under a palm tree. I’m asking her if she’ll come straight to my place tomorrow, when she jumps up, tossing her sunglasses in the sand.  “I don’t see him, Scott! Do you? I never took my eyes off him but now I don’t see him!”

She’s running knee-deep in the water and I run beside her.

“Stay in the shade, Emma. Don’t come in; I’ll look for him.”

I run into the water and start diving, eyes open. After scanning the clear water, I swim out where the sandbar drops. I dive down but cannot touch bottom. The water’s dark green and cool. I dive, search the depths, and come up for air, shouting, “Charlie!”

 I shout his name underwater too. “Charlie! Charlie!” pops inside bubbles of wasted breath. By now the ocean’s roaring inside my head. Nobody rescues anyone this way—everybody drowns. But this is Charlie! It’s insane to even think of walking away.   

A few more attempts, though, and my lungs seize up. Nose above the surface, I calm down, treading until I get the involuntary rhythm going again: inhale, exhale.

I keep searching, but surface more often, more desperate for air. Big waves roll in and the light is paralyzing.

Making an unconscious plea, I look up. A bird flies overhead and its shadow skims the surface just ahead of me. Between me and the horizon, the shadow seems to linger, almost within reach. Half-aware I’m chasing a silhouette—the warped copy of the bird’s flight, I race, arm over arm, because life skims ahead of me.

Only after the bird has flown past, do I tread and breathe hard. My head swivels and my eyes sting at the sight of arms churning the water. Emma’s swimming, because Charlie’s still nowhere to be found. Her feet kick and her slender arms rotate but she won’t survive unless she turns back now. We both know that.

Emma, I can save, if I’m still able to save myself. With the extraordinary strength that sometimes comes in an emergency, I propel myself beside her. Out of breath, we stare at each other, struggling to hold our heads high enough.

“Go back!” I’m afraid to reach for her, afraid she’ll slip from my exhausted grasp. “Go back, Emma!” I’m screaming although we’re face to face.

“Only if you do,” she says.

I nod. I swim alongside Emma toward the beach. We’ll be lucky if we make it. Except I still don’t give up: Heading inland, I continue diving and shouting and searching. Emma stops and waits for me, waves splashing her face. She doesn’t say anything, but I panic: no more swimming underwater.  Emma looks pale and frightened and I’m ready to clasp her in a rescue hold. 

We need to agree, however, or my hold could kill us both. “Emma, let me carry you in.”

She shakes her head and swims to the shore.

(click here for the last episode)

Friday, May 28, 2010

indirect genetic modification...


(The last crow is heard as night falls...)

- Hey pals, let's finish the job tonight! There is no moon and darkness is a good cover-up. The barn will be pitch dark and none of our fellow sheep can see anything!

- What about Beefy? Is he in? Stargazer is strong; just Beefy can serve him right! He he he...

- Yea... He's in... but wants the first round of grazing in return.

- Greedy pig! He'll just sit on a loose mouth for five minutes... No big deal!

- O the hell with that! Let him stuff his big tummy more... One of these days he'll burst like a firecracker! But the point is that I don't wanna hear any of Stargazer's speeches on not believing the farm men's threats... Can't stand them anymore! Man... sure they do take us to the slaughterhouse one of these days and he talks about preserving the pastureland for the future generations... Teaching our lambs how to...

- How can we care about future when we know we die soon? How can we think about others when we are not sure if we are alive tomorrow?!

- And all he does is to gaze at the stars... smiling at us and saying,
"Hey buddies, our world is not just this barn and this pastureland... We can find a way out only if we are... "

- I don't care a damn how big our world is... I don't like any adventures... And maybe everything would get worse if we left here... or if we didn't believe the farm men... They look after us, you know... That's what they do...

- Hey Stargazer! Get ready to eat crow! He he he...

(The first crow is heard as day rises...)

- O my! It's so damn heavy! Can't drag it out... Gimme a hand, pal! Now what should we do with it? Bury it?

- Sure! We wouldn't like any of Stargazer's genes to be spread around! Ha ha ha... Hey Jake... Told ya! They'd take care of the bad genes themselves... Did you like my slaughterhouse trick?... "Go graze gamins! Today may be your last! The butchers' knives are waiting for your necks!"

- Cool! But this time you are the one repeating that ghastly sentence first thing in the morning everyday when you open the door of the barn...


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode Twenty-Six: "...upon this bank and shoal of time..."

(Click here for our previous episode, or go here to return to the beginning of our Schaefer Award-winning serialization of this uncut “director’s version” of Larry Winchester's long-out-of-print epic. “Makes Moby-Dick look like a guppy.” -- Harold Bloom)

Come with us to the environs of the wretched town of Disdain, New Mexico, in that momentous September of 1969...

Our heroes the (recently discharged young soldier Harvey and the mysterious and beautiful couple Dick and Daphne Ridpath) have finally set out on horseback from the ranch of the blowhard rancher Big Jake Johnstone.

Little do they know that they are being spied upon by Moloch, the former Oxford don who commands the vile motorcycle gang called the Motorpsychos. (Two nights before Dick shot and killed one of Moloch’s men in self-defense, and humbled Moloch himself before his men...)

Moloch adjusted the telescope and saw them quite clearly cantering down the road from the ranch.

He stood behind a large crucifixion-thorn bush, and behind him on the mesa sat the Motorpsychos on their hogs.

Testicle tapped him on the shoulder.

“It’s them people, ain’t it?”

Moloch put down the glass and fixed Testicle coldly with his one good eye.

“You know I don’t like to be touched.”

“Uh, I’m sorry, Moloch.”

They looked at each other and Moloch considered the possibilities:

Throw the swine into the thorns of the bush.

Smash him in the face with the butt of his knife.

Drive the knife’s blade into his fat gut.

Or let it pass.

He saw the pathetic fear in Testicle’s eyes and, suddenly, Moloch was appeased. The acknowledgment of terror was enough. Enough for now. He turned away and raised the glass again.

“Yes, it’s them. Soldier boy. And Nick and Nora.”

“Is that their names?”

Moloch sighed.

“Let’s take them, Moloch.”

Moloch gave him another cold stare.

“I mean,” said Testicle, “if you think we should, or --”

“Or what?”

“Or -- whatever you think we should do.”

“Yes. Quite.”

He turned and raised the telescope again.

“No. We’ll wait.”

His immediate reason for saying this was simply to put this arsewipe Testicle in his place. But something else inclined him to forestall the pleasure of wreaking a very nasty vengeance on these people. As much as he hated to think, he felt the need to think, to brood. Upon that man who had so humiliated him.

“Sometimes my dear Testicle you will find that if it were done when ‘tis done, then ‘twere well it were not done quickly.”

“Uh, yeah. Dat’s right.”

Moloch shut the scope up and put it back in its case.

“Come, let us find some teenagers and sell them hard drugs.”

Continued here.

Coming soon to a theatre near you, the fully-restored director’s cut of Larry Winchester’s long-lost bildungsroman-biopic from 1965,
Private Proust, starring Jean-Pierre Léaud and Françoise Hardy, with original songs by Serge Gainsbourg.)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

the thing in the place

by horace p sternwall

pictures by rhoda penmarq

my name is carstairs athelbert waterspoon, of the smithfield waterspoons, and i have ever been a poet and a dreamer. the story i am about to relate, however, is one that no poet would wish to dream, and no dreamer to poeticize.
"the ancients knew things of which we dare not dream." how often, dozing over the trove of dusty manuscripts in my study, had i repeated these words of the medieval chronicler known only as magnus - languorous words, evoking morning mist over blue and green fields.
how different the reality!
but i am getting ahead of myself. some background is necessary.

during the long winter of 1----, dr melville, who had long served as family physician to the waterspoons, recommended in the strongest terms that i devote less than my entire waking existence to my studies of the history of necromancy, and find something else to "occupy my mind" in his somewhat unsettling modern terminology. for dr melville, i am afraid, despite his many fine qualities and his impeccable background, had succumbed to some extent to the disease of "modernity" - as, alas, who among us, despite our best intentions, has not?
in any event, i responded with a smile, as i had so often before, that i did indeed have another occupation from that of an antiquarian - the occupation of poet. but of course he brushed that aside.
"it is still just words you are dealing with," he insisted. just words, indeed! his own words were such that i would never have politely refrained from challenging them, had they been uttered by anyone else. he shook his white head. "i would almost allow the poetry to count as something a bit different, if your subject matter dealt with something later than king arthur."
i smiled and allowed this, too, to pass unchallenged. what would he have me deal with - some modern nonsense like the crusades?
"what would you have me do?" i asked. "chop wood? traipse through the woods collecting mushrooms or sighting birds? you know how delicate my constitution is."
"have you considered playing checkers?" the doctor asked.
i was a little surprised. he had tried to interest me in chess a few years previously, with unfortunate results. i had proved so helpless at the "ancient" game that the poor doctor had to essentially tell me what moves to make in order to provide him with "competition" and the experiment had been abandoned. i could still hear him crying "no, no, no!" as the winter winds howled outside my study.

"i didn't know you played checkers, doctor," i answered. "you have never mentioned it before. rather a plebian game, is it not?"
"hardly. there is evidence of it being played five thousand years ago - who would have played it but kings? canute played chess, but tilgath pileser iii played checkers. in any event, it is not i who play, but hank thorne down at the fire house. he told me the other day he is looking for a new player, as old abner adams passed away around thanksgiving time. i thought of you - as you are so unsuited to chess, you might well be a natural at checkers." the doctor took his glasses off and began cleaning them with the blue handkerchief he kept for that express purpose.
"it will get you out of your study - and the fire house is so draughty it could almost count as outdoor exercise." this was a long speech for the doctor, and his eye twinkled a little uncertainly as he paused for breath.
"play with hank thorne!" i laughed. "i hardly think so, as he is not exactly a gentleman, is he?"
"oh, but there you are mistaken. the thornes are quite the oldest family for miles around - hank is the direct descendant, in the male line, of thaddeus thorne, who claimed the land around here from the woolly mastodons, the arctodus simus, and the other ancient inhabitants."
"hmph." i was a bit nettled by this apparent denigration of the claims of the waterspoons. "i suppose you - or hank thorne - have the papers to prove this claim."
"indeed i do."
"well then, bring them along. and if i am satisfied as to their authenticity, i will humor you and hank thorne and accede to this outlandish suggestion." and then, in defiance of the doctor and to demonstrate my total independence of him and his strictures, i took out my pipe, stuffed it with the local wild weed, and lit it.

and so it was, that on a windy afternoon a week later i found myself sitting across from hank thorne in the old firehouse on main street with a checkerboard between us on a barrel that might have held grog for general burgoyne's or general washington's troops. although i had myself verified hank's bona fides as a gentleman, i soon found that was he was as uncommunicative as any peasant or his cow.
i won the first four games, although hank had to constantly point out moves i was "forced" to make. this "forced move" element seemed to me immeasurably superior to anything in chess, relieving one of the necessity to think. i have always distrusted thought, as interfering with inspiration.
it occurred to me that perhaps hank was letting me win, as a prelude to proposing that we play for money. country mouse that i was, i smiled inwardly at this transparent ruse by my new friend.
suddenly the fire house began to shake violently, and i jumped up in alarm.
"no need to be perturbed," hank assured me, in his slow but perfectly enunciated speech. "i have had the checkers magnetized, so there is no chance they will be shifted from their proper positions."
"yes, but what - what is causing this?" i exclaimed. there was another, even more violent tremor, and then the shaking stopped.
hank looked up at me curiously. "why, what do you think is causing it? the old ones, of course."
i stared down at him blankly.
"do you mean to tell me, sir, that you have lived in these parts all your life - as dr melville assures me you have - and are not familiar with the old ones?"
i began to stammer, but stopped and asked myself just who this fellow was, to presume to address me in such an interrogatory manner.

"i am afraid i spend most of my time in my study," i answered stiffly. "perhaps some mentions of these old ones have indeed filtered through to me. if so, i may well have filtered them back out, as of no interest to myself or my life's work."
"interesting," hank thorne murmured. "interesting. is your study built on some extremely firm foundation, sir, that you have never yourself felt the rumblings of our ancient friends?"
"of course the study is built on a firm foundation," i responded. "as is the whole ancestral dwelling of the waterstones."
hank thorne pondered this, and took a pipe from his pocket. "do you mind if i smoke?"
"of course not." what a question! what did he take me for, a methodist cleaning woman?
"something other than firm foundations may be involved here," hank continued after lighting his pipe. "i shall have to consult quardley. quardley, you see, has always held that there are those whom the old ones have singled out, who will be spared when they, that is, the old ones themselves, return to reclaim the universe. but he has always assumed that those so chosen are well aware of their favored status." he looked at me challengingly.
he had lost me. i sat back down. "and who is quardley?" i asked politely.
"he is an apothecary, over in wilsonville. and a volunteer fireman, of course."
"of course. shall we continue our game?'
"why not?"
hank seemed to play with greater speed but less concentration than before - perhaps because he was preoccupied with the "old ones."
he won the next four games, and i took my leave, agreeing to return in three days time, on the following tuesday.

part 2

hap dixon in the case of the dark tunnel: chapter 1, a stout chum

by jason gusmann

visuals by rhoda penmarq

Hap Dixon in the Case of the Dark Tunnel

Chapter One: A Stout Chum

Her legs are thin and her dress is black; the picture above the sofa's cracked.

Mom is no longer in the picture in the brown wooden frame.

No blonde hair, no blue dress, no devil mask.

There is only blue sky and a russet tree.

Aunt Cindy sits on the left side of the green sofa in her short black dress.

She has short black hair and long white legs.

Her long white legs are crossed at the knee.

Her suspended white right foot shakes incessantly.

The black high-heeled shoe that dangles from it shakes along.

Bodie the dog sits on the orange rug near the green sofa watching Aunt Cindy's white right foot and her black high-heeled shoe.

Aunt Cindy watches Bodie and ashes her long white cigarette on the orange rug.

Bodie watches the ash descend, then turns his attention back to Aunt Cindy’s shaking foot and shoe.

Dad sits on the right side of the green sofa eating a TV dinner which sits upon a tan TV tray.

Hap Dixon sits between Dad and Aunt Cindy eating a TV dinner which sits upon another tan TV tray.

Dad and Hap Dixon watch the television in the big brown console.

The television is off.

What’s on for tonight, Hap? asks Dad.

Hap swallows what he is chewing.

I think I’ll probably just do some homework

Aunt Cindy sighs.

Bodie growls at Aunt Cindy.

Maybe I’ll take Bodie for a walk first, though, Hap adds.

Sounds good, Hap! says Dad as he pushes his TV tray back and gets up.

Hap follows Dad, glancing back at Aunt Cindy.

I’ll just grab a light fall jacket first.

Aunt Cindy glares at Hap, again ashes her long white cigarette onto the orange rug.

Bodie follows Hap up the staircase behind the wall which abuts the big, brown console television.

Hap walks into his bedroom, which is sizable for a boy his age.

Hap sits on his bed, which rests against a sky blue wall with an oxblood red pennant on it that reads BASEBALL.

Hap’s bed is neatly made.

Hap sighs, Bodie, I just don’t know what to make of Aunt Cindy sometimes.

Bodie whines.

I know you don’t like her either, boy, but we’ve just got to make the best of it.

Hap grabs his fall jacket and springs to his feet.

Now, let’s go for that walk, boy!

Bodie wags his tail and barks happily.

Hap bounds down the stairs and Bodie follows.

Dad pauses lighting his pipe to say to Hap, Why don’t you stop by Yardley Shaw’s while you are out?

Hap replies, Sure, Dad, that’s a swell idea!

Dad wags his finger at them as they leave the house, Don’t be too late, though, Hap - it’s already getting dark.

We won’t, Dad! Hap calls over his shoulder.

Dad waves to Hap and Bodie while Aunt Cindy, still seated on the green sofa, takes off her black high-heeled shoes.

Hap and Bodie half-run, half-walk down the block until they see a stout young man in a navy blue polo shirt and plaid shorts waving to them from his front yard.

Hi Yardley! calls Hap.

Hello chum! calls Yardley Shaw back to Hap.

And there’s my Bodie dog!

Bodie quickly pads up to Yardley and jumps up on him, nearly knocking the stout fellow over.

Whoa there, Bodie!

Yardley reaches into his plaid shorts and pulls out a sweet for Bodie.

So what are you pals doing, painting the town red?

Hap bashfully kicks the ground.

No, Yardley, we’re just going for a walk.

Suddenly, Hap snaps his fingers.

Hey! I just had a swell idea.

Do you think it’s dark enough to use your telescope?

Yardley squints into the deepening dusk.

I think it just might be, Hap!

Oh boy! exclaims Hap.

This will be fun!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode Twenty-Five: the Brian Jones affair and fifty-nine kilos of heroin

“Marlene”, disguised as Indonesian woman, Singapore, 1969

(Click here for our previous episode, or go here for the beginning of this authorized serialization of renaissance man Larry Winchester's great American epic, previously only available in a drastically-cut and long-out-of-print Avon original paperback.)

A young soldier named Harvey has returned from Vietnam to his depressed and depressing New Mexico hometown. He is barely home an hour when he is forced to kill a nasty bully named Bull Thorndyke in self-defense. The local big rancher Big Jake Thorndyke promptly hires Harvey to act as guide to the mysterious strangers Dick and Daphne Smith (real surname: Ridpath). Later that night Dick is forced to kill a nasty motorcycle gang member in self-defense.

After sleeping for two nights and a day Dick recognizes two old adversaries at Big Jake’s lunch table: two international killers and spies named Hans Grupler and “Marlene”.

You now know as much as I do...

(This episode rated P for purple plot development.)

It was a grey afternoon, a little cool for September, the sky the color of the inner shell of a freshly opened clam, and Harvey sat smoking on the porch rail and chatting with Mrs. Smith. The three horses stood there saddled and waiting, hitched to the post, and Mrs. Smith was running her fingers through the mane of the chestnut mare she’d chosen for her own self. Tip and Ed Harris the foreman and Pedro the stable man stood over there by the corral looking at Mrs. Smith. She wore that Jungle Jim helmet and black boots and these tight tan riding pants and an embroidered paisley vest with a pink shirt under it and a red silk scarf around her neck.

Mr. Smith came out with Mr. Johnstone, and Harvey got off the railing. Mr. Johnstone yelled across to Tip and Ed and Pedro:

“You boys lookin’ for some work to do I’ll find ya some.”

Tip and Ed and Pedro took one more good look at Mrs. Smith and then tossed down their cigarettes and walked off back toward the stables.

Mr. Johnstone had a leather belt with a covered holster with a gun in it hanging over his shoulder.

“Harvey, I want you to take these good people anywhere they want to go and I want you to take this.”

He handed Harvey the gun belt.

Mr. Smith looked bored, and ready to go.

“Now I know you ain’t no pistolero,” said Big Jake, “but after what happened the other night with them bikers I figger it don’t hurt to be careful. You got six in the cylinder and a couple loaded speedloaders in the ammo pouches there. Ya know how to work ‘em?”

Harvey unclipped one of the pouches and looked in.

“Yeah, ya just plug it up against the cylinder and turn the gizmo, right?”

“That’s right. Reload ya in two seconds.”

Harvey buckled on the belt, then took the pistol out. He popped out the cylinder, emptied all the cartridges into one hand, put them into his shirt pocket, and then checked the pistol out, popping the cylinder back in and spinning it, cocking and uncocking the hammer, squeezing the trigger hard and then soft a few times, with the hammer cocked and with it uncocked.

“Nice weapon, huh, Harve?”

Harvey started reloading the gun.

“It’ll do, sir.”

“Good. Now I had Esmeralda pack your sandwich cases with some nice sandwiches, plus you’ll find a flask o’ fine old fino sherry in each one, but I want you folks to be sure and get back in time for dinner. We got a side o’ beef all set for roastin’ in the mesquite pit and we gonna have us a old style New Mexican barbecue.”

“What’s the occasion, Big Jake?” asked Mrs. Smith.

“Your arrival, dear lady,” said Jake.

“Well, we won’t be late then,” she said, and she swung herself up onto the mare in a motion so smooth that the animal didn’t even budge.

Mr. Smith and Harvey mounted up also, but with considerably less grace, and they all headed out toward the gate.

Before they reached the gate with the neon Johnstone Ranch sign hanging from a metal cross-pole over it a car came up fast behind them, spooking the horses, and it was that German couple, in an open Range Rover.

They all leaped about a bit on their horses in the dust, trying to hold on and to settle them down, and Harvey damn near got thrown.

The Range Rover turned horizontal to the entrance and stopped, and the two Krauts were smiling or grimacing ear to ear.

“I am sorry,” called the man. “We should have been more careful.”

Harvey felt an intense hostility as he patted the horse, which was still neighing and whinnying, pulsing under his legs and stamping at the dirt.

The Kraut waved, and then rammed the car around and out the gate, leaving a cloud of exhaust and dust behind it.


After the Brian Jones affair Grupler had deemed it best not to linger in Great Britain. Marlene was afraid she had left fingerprints on a whisky tumbler, the Krays still had an open contract out on them, and far too many people had seen them in London already. Marlene met the bag man outside the shop on Jermyn Street as planned, and as soon as she gave Grupler the signal that the money was correct Grupler followed the man, put an ice pick into his throat and up into his brain and then walked quietly on.

A week on the beach in Ibiza and they were both bored.

Marlene met a rich Dutch youth who was interested in entering the Vietnamese heroin trade.

A week later Grupler and Marlene arrived in Saigon via Bangkok disguised as West German missionaries. They proceeded to cheat their Dutch employer out of a hundred thousand dollars and fifty-nine kilos of raw heroin.

One day, as Grupler was waiting for the culmination of the deal he had set up to unload the heroin, he saw Dick Ridpath sitting in a café with a beautiful young woman whom he later found out was Ridpath’s wife. Grupler was intrigued. If Ridpath was really retired what was he doing here in Saigon, in this city reeking so bracingly of venality and murder? Grupler decided to keep an eye on him, and the next day he read that a hat shop owned by Ridpath’s wife had been bombed. As it happened that same day Grupler’s heroin was stolen from the military warehouse he had stored it in by a couple of former members of Philadelphia’s notorious East Oak Lane Boys, now serving in the US Army. And to make matters worse that very night Grupler got drunk and lost $42,000 playing poker with some American and Australian businessmen.

But Grupler made inquiries, blood was shed, and he found out that the bulk of his (he thought of it as his) shipment of Burmese heroin had been flown down to Singapore, there to be transported to the States in a private yacht. He also found out that the man hired to captain the yacht was none other than Dick Ridpath.

Grupler bribed passage aboard a C-47 Air America flight, and he and Marlene were in Singapore two hours before the Ridpaths.

Grupler, wearing an uncomfortable false beard, and Marlene, in a blond wig, trailed Dick and Daphne to the Palm Grove. They engaged the suite adjacent to the Ridpaths. They followed the Ridpaths down to the docks, and saw the policemen swarming over the yacht like bugs.

For two weeks Grupler and Marlene shadowed the Ridpaths. Grupler even set up listening equipment on the wall between their suites. Despite the grueling insipidity and even inanity of every conversation he overheard Grupler still refused to believe that Ridpath had nothing at all up his sleeve, let alone that Dick had been unaware that he had been hired to transport heroin and had no money and no prospects.

And Grupler was listening with his headphones that 4 AM when Ridpath received that strange message on his wireless.

So, to San Francisco.


(Continued here. Coming soon to a selected art theatres and campuses: the restored 35mm black-and-white mono version of Larry Winchester’s long-lost 1964 classic, In the Graveyard of My Youth, starring Michael Parks and Tuesday Weld.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

2 poems

by horace p sternwall

pictures by rhoda penmarq

the ice cream man

a million jobs and it's just my luck
mine was not to drive an ice cream truck
but to sit all day behind a desk
dealing with the mad and the grotesque

but o how much more satisfying
in the soft twilight as day is dying
to bring smiles to children and take their pennies
joy in their lives they hardly had any

until they hear the longed for bell
announcing that now - now all is well
as they stuff their metabolisms with slush
over the world there falls a hush

o wise men in your chambers and courts
with your investigations and reports
will you deny the occasional spark
that lights this universe so dark?

i'll never tell

many strange dreams i tried to weave
into what i really believe
but something always broke the spell
so now - i'll never tell

Monday, May 17, 2010

they didn't live happily ever after...


Once upon a time, there lived a long time... he happened to fall in love with a short time... before he could prepare his long love proposal, the short time passed by...


Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Invisible Horizon

After coming from Logan’s tree-house, Charlie and I drink coffee in the pavilion’s garden. The horizon’s practically invisible at midday: sky and ocean are the same bright blue. Without a word, we’re comfortable—like our best times together. Not sad to be leaving, either. We’re ready.

The yoga class ends and Charlie bounds up, serving the dewy yoginis and swearing his love. Emma and I eat at the round table, extending from the supporting beam.

We hear Charlie making jokes about his two black eyes. “I’ve heard girls love panda bears. Got the physique and the ears, just needed the eyes.”

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

Emma touches my forearms. “It’s not funny, Scott. It’s gotta hurt like hell.”

“Charlie and I beat each other up all the time in high school. Sometimes we were just slugging at each other, because of testosterone. And if we did have a grudge, nothing solved it like a good punch out. But that’s when we were tough kids. Last night I acted like a punk. I told him I’m sorry. Now I’m telling you, Emma: I’m sorry; it won’t happen again, I promise.”

“Did you promise him?”

“I told him I was sorry but even talking about it—apologizing outright like that—made him suspicious. It’s not how Charlie and I do stuff. Except this was extreme; I felt awful. Sorry and mean and mad at myself. That’s what I told him. But, he still thinks you made me do it.”

“Did I? I mean,” Emma asked, “are you really only sorry because of me?”

“Speak of the devil and sit down.” Charlie couldn’t have been standing there long; his tray is piled precariously high. And even if he overheard every word, so what? I was telling Emma what he knows are my honest to God feelings. Nuff said.

We clear the table to make room for Charlie’s enormous meal. He’s got a full platter of bacon and sausage that he brings in just for himself—the yogis don’t eat it. Cheese and pepper omelet with hash browns, two huge squares of cinnamon coffee cake, two more of pineapple upside down cake, a big bowl of caramelized flan, fresh foamy coconut milk and a tumbler-full of papaya nectar.

 Emma’s the one who says, “Pig.”

“Tomorrow,” he answers, mouth full, “is a cleansing fast. You know those planes. Snacks for ten bucks that might satisfy a bug.”

“Yeah,” Emma says. “But I’ll be watching if you’re gobbling up airport junk food every chance you get.”

Charlie says, “I’m much less likely to use drugs from questionable sources if my metabolism’s in massive digesting mode.”

“Really?” Emma looks at him and then me to see if it’s true. “Then by all means, eat up.”

He’s chowing down and taking girls by the wrist to say good-bye.  After he’s swallows, he asks them, “Won’t you miss me?”

They all kiss him good-bye. Of course they’ll miss him.

The mysterious frustration between me and him has vanished. I’m happy he’s sweet-talking the girls. He hasn’t mentioned the band but if he does, that’s fine, too. It’s sure not what I want, but why I was fighting him puzzles me. Charlie’s hit-or-miss theme bands rarely last a season.

So Emma calls him a pig and I’m the one who wants to walk back along the beach, so we can stop at Pedro’s on the way. Folded in my pocket are the papers for a trust accessible to Pedro’s baby girl the day she turns eighteen.

The light and heat are so intense that Emma clings to the shade. But Charlie plunges into the ocean. I wade in, telling him to wait. We’ll go swimming later. Midday’s not the time and he knows it.

(click here for the next episode)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

“A Town Called Disdain", Episode Twenty-Four: Dick and Daphne Ridpath make their way --

Our serialization of this great American epic by the legendary film-maker and raconteur Larry Winchester continues with another abrupt shift in voice, to that of the mysterious Dick Ridpath:

(Click here for our previous episode, or go here to return to the first chapter of A Town Called Disdain, previously only available in drastically cut form in a long-out-of-print Avon paperback original.)

And what did I know? Only that Daphne’s little transistor had started to talk to me that night in Singapore at 4 AM.

“Commander Ridpath, please leave on the 9 AM United Airlines flight for San Francisco.”

Daphne snored gently through it all. I had been lying awake, smoking and reading Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour. Unlike me she always sleeps like a rock.

I closed the book over my finger and looked at the little radio. Daphne sometimes liked to lie in bed with the radio on by her head, and I always turned it off after she fell asleep. I tried the dial, and sure enough it was off.

I’m sleeping, I thought. Or I have been sleeping.

And then the voice came on again.

“It will be very much to your benefit, Commander Ridpath. This morning, the 9 AM flight. We will talk to you further in San Francisco. Please book rooms at the Belvedere Hotel. Thank you and good night.”

Well, I’d really heard that.

I had often heard faint voices in my head -- didn’t everyone? -- and I’d gotten used to that, but this was different. This was real.

And I had no idea who or what it was. Was it one of my old supposed friends from Q Section having fun with me, trying out some new piece of equipment? It had to be someone from the old days; no one called me Commander any more. Hardly anyone had called me Commander when I was a commander. I could not place the voice at all. It was clear but somehow alien, with an accent I couldn’t place. It was like a combination of Afrikaner and Burmese, and for all I knew it was.

But, okay. What the hell. Let’s go to Frisco. Or try to go there, anyway. As good a destination as any, and God knew we had to get out of Singapore.

Against my advice Daphne had wanted to go into that hat shop in Saigon. Her mother’s boyfriend had assured her on the highest authority that the war would end that year, that Saigon would return to its pre-World War II glory, and that a high-tone millinery was “just the thing”.

Well of course the shop had been bombed the third week we were there, a time bomb set to go off at eleven AM, and the only reason we weren’t both killed was that we had been up all night playing baccarat, had slept until noon, and hadn’t even opened the shop.

Another fiasco, like the inn in Cyprus, like the safari service in the Congo, like our “American Bar” in Prague.

Like the sushi restaurant scheme in Chicago which had fallen apart when we had taken out the Japanese backers during the Democratic Convention and the cops had beaten them up.

Or like that Desert Rat Girls movie Daphne and I wrote with that Larry Winchester guy and we were just about to start filming near Gaza when the Six Day War breaks out...

But after the hat shop blew up I met a Special Forces captain named Shackleton at the Lovely Bar who connected me to someone who needed a skipper to take a 60-foot yacht from Singapore to New York by way of the Canal.

Now I knew very little about yachts of any length, but I figured my good Annapolis training would come back to me. Besides, we were practically broke and the money offered was more than generous. It all sounded too good to be true, and this turned out to be the case.

When we went down to the dock in Singapore to see the boat (twenty minutes late for our appointment because Daphne had insisted on going back to the hotel for her sun hat) we found the yacht swarming with police. Needless to say we beat a hasty retreat, and we later found out that the boat had been impounded along with fifty-nine kilos of heroin.

Two police detectives came to our hotel (the Palm Grove) the day after and asked us about the yacht. I claimed complete ignorance of the whole affair; we were merely tourists, ha ha. The detectives left and didn’t return, but afterwards I had the feeling we were being watched.

The thing to do obviously was to get the hell out of the country quick, but at this point we were down to less than a hundred bucks. We decided to stay on at the hotel and put up a brave front while we tried to raise some money.

Daphne’s mother proved to be unreachable, on assignment in Biafra. My dad was drinking when I finally got him on the phone at the Union League and would only tell me that Daphne and I should ship out on a banana boat. My dad had money, but he had never forgiven me for retiring from the navy, and he didn’t like Daphne. And she didn’t like him. And, in fact, my father and I didn’t really like each other.

Daphne always let me handle our finances, much as they were handled at all, and I hadn’t let her know exactly how dire our straits were. If she had known she would have been quite likely to set about raising funds the easy way from the wealthy businessmen who craned their necks to stare at her at the swimming pool or in the cocktail lounge. She would have led them on and maybe let them paw her a bit, and then have asked for a “loan”, or perhaps she’d just beat them with a belt for a flat fee. All of this would be against my wishes of course, but I knew when I married her that Daphne does just exactly what she wants to do and that’s all there is to it.

An agonizing week passed. The weather was absurdly hot and humid, and except for the odd swim in the pool we rarely left the air-conditioned confines of the Palm Grove. Our room, the lobby, the pool, the bar, the restaurant. The restaurant, the bar, the pool, the lobby, our room. Drinking way too many cocktails and signing bills like mad...

It would have been nice if that voice from the radio had said something about tickets waiting for us at the UA desk, but it hadn’t.

Came the morning, rarely an energetic time for either of us, and I dragged Daphne out of the hotel after first dropping our luggage from a window and down into an orchid bed. Wearing our bathing suits so as not to arouse suspicion, we sneaked into the garden, pulled on shorts and shirts we had secreted in our towels, grabbed our suitcases, dashed out to the street, hailed a cab and told him the airport and step on it.

We passed through some sort of political demonstration or riot, people pounding on the cab. I handed the driver a wad of Singaporean one-dollar bills, just about the last of our kitty, and the guy sheared through the mob like a knife through warm butter.

Maybe for once we’d get out of a country before all hell broke loose.

I tried the United Airlines desk and sure enough there were no tickets in either my or Daphne’s name. Swell. I wondered what the penalty for bolting a two-week luxury hotel bill in Singapore was. Probably a thousand lashes and life imprisonment.

We went to the cocktail lounge and ordered drinks.

At the bar I saw an American naval captain smoking a pipe and drinking a martini. It was Huey Gregg, an old classmate from Annapolis. I got up and went over. He was reading a paperback, The Rare Coin Score by Richard Stark.

I pumped his hand frantically.

“Huey, please tell me you’re taking a military flight out of this joint.”

“Sure am, Dick. Got a flight at oh-nine-thirty hours. Need a lift?”

“I fucking love you.”

“Easy there, big boy.”

“Not that it matters,” I said, “but where’s the flight headed?”

“How’s Frisco sound?”

(Continued here.)

Coming soon from Ha! Karate [Yokohama]: The Complete Larry Winchester, Vol. 2, a budget-priced DVD box set comprising Race to Rangoon, Hot Rod Hooligans, and The Joey Bishop Story, plus a special bonus disc of all six episodes of Larry’s 1962 TV series Heintz Factory Days. Includes voice-over commentaries from Larry, his longtime collaborator Tommy "Legs" Larkin, and the actors Carolyn Jones, Nehemiah Persoff, Edd "Kookie" Byrnes, and Richard Beymer, as well as the feature-length documentary Larry Winchester: Hollywood Renegade, directed by Buddy Best, narrated by William Shatner.)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

the clown, chapter 3: the mill burned down

to begin at the beginning, click here

words by genghis and rhoda

pictures by rhoda

"she's a reporter."
billy freed squinted at geraldine through his dark glasses. "from the local paper?" he lowered the tent flap and came into the tent.
"right now i'm freelancing," geraldine told him. "trying to sell to places like the all-world journal. but i was with the minsk times before."
billy made a show of scratching his head.

"minsk - where's that? somehere between peoria and cairo. illinois?"
"no, it's in -"
"ha ha, we know where it is, don't we joe? listen, there's no friendlier people than the belarussians anyhere, except maybe in mongolia, wouldn't you say?"

"i'd have to agree," said uncle joe. "but don't forget the people in uruguay, especialy way in the backlands."
"i see you gentlemen are true citizens of the world," geraldine noted politely.
"that's right. say, did you ever go too mimi's in minsk? i remember they had great pelmeni and chips. and the buraki was pretty good, too."

"oh yes, i used to go to mimi's all the time."

"what was the name of that accordion player there? the one with the cork leg?"
"mike, of course! so he's still there?"
"last i heard, he was carrying on."

"great. well, what exactly can we do for you?"
"she's doing a story on the clown," uncle joe told billy.
"the clown!"

geraldine had the impression billy wasn't as surprised as he pretended to be, but smiled politely. "i'm attempting to do a story on the clown," she told him.
"and you've been filling her in?" billy asked uncle joe.
joe shrugged. "as best i can."
"did you tell her about the manuscript?"

"no, i forgot all about it. i thought you gave it to that detective in liberia."

"no, he mailed it back to me. i'm pretty sure i still have it somewhere."
"what is it?" geraldine asked. "some kind of confession?"
"no, it looks like stuff he just made up. a made up story, you know?

but this detective in monrovia, he thought it contained psychographic clues or some such."
"you mean it's a novel?"

"it's a made up story."
"well, can i look at it?"
"you can have it, if i can find it."

geraldine had planned to drive the rental car back to heidi's place in the north woods, but decided to turn it in and take the bus instead, so that she could read the clown's manuscript on the way.
the man at the ticket window at the bus station scratched his head when she told him her destination.

"we don't have a bus that goes that far." he looked at geraldine suspiciously.

"not too many folks want to go that far north."
"well, then, just give me a ticket for as far north as you go."
"and then what?"
"well, " geraldine answered patiently.

"i will either get a rental car or call someone to pick me up. how much is the ticket, please?"
"i'm pretty sure there ain't no rental car place up there. couldn't swear to it, but i don't think there is. why not just rent a car here, the place is just next door."
"i know, i just came from there."
"pretty sure there's no rental car up there."

"then i'll have to call for a ride, won't i?"
"get there pretty late."
"my friend won't mind if i wake her up."
"must be nice to have a friend like that."
"yes, it is."

"if i woke my wife up to pick me up in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere, she'd like to blow my head off with a shotgun."

geraldine took her wallet out of her handbag. as she did, the clown's yellow manuscript popped a little way out of the bag.
"you know, cell phones don't always work so good up there."
"i've never had any problems. how much is the ticket, please?"

"three hundred and forty-one dollars and twenty-nine cents including tax."
"paying cash, huh? are you a criminal?"

"hey, you're not very friendly, are you? with the one word answers."
"i'm sorry. i've had a long day, i'm a little tired."
"hey, the circus is in town, you know. if you need to relax and unwind, you could do worse than go see the circus."
"i've just come from there."
"pretty good, huh?'

"yes, it was. an excellent balance of authenticity and professionalism, i thought."

the ticket seller's eye fell on the clown's manuscript sticking out of geraldine's bag.
"what's that you got there? that looks like some pretty old paper."

"yes, i suppose it might be." geraldine stuck the manuscript down more securely into the bag.
"i haven't seen paper that old since i don't know when.

the mill burned down a long time ago that made that paper." the man handed geraldine her ticket.
"thank you. when is the bus due?"
"about an hour. it ain't always on time, though. don't get all in an uproar if it ain't on time."
"i won't."
"it's never early though. that's one thing you got to say for it, it's never early."

geraldine got a can of diet mountain dew and a bag of fritos out of the machines. she settled down in the corner of the bus station to read the manuscript of the clown's made up story.

the story was on lined yellow paper, mostly in various colored pens (or pencils?) but with some typing. some of the pages had writing or typing on both sides. a few sentences and paragraphs had been blacked out or typed over with x's.

death of a clown.

happy the clown was dying. in the rain by the side of the road lit a cigarette. joe wayne in a mist of stars was in charge of the circus, because bakunin was away with the chimp chasing folding dust.

wayne pulled his chair a little closer to the door of the trailer. the clown was lying on a golden cot that almost filled the space in front of the door, so there wasn't much room to get in or out or see the rockets.
the rain was washing the night air clean as a plate in mrs miller's boarding house.
"julie," mumbled the clown. "julie."

wayne flicked ashes out the door.
"julie - is julie there?"

"i don't know who julie is, happy. there's nobody named julie in the circus. and there's nobody here but me and you."
"that's just what i called her, it wasn't her real name. i don't think."

"oh. i see."
rockets across a single blue star in the waiting silence.

red sparks and orange ribbons.
"she was wonderful."
"but you didn't know her name."
"and she didn't know mine."

"just a girl you saw once?"
"i saw her all the time. they called her rockets and the star jumped up the rain across the highway. but they didn't know what they were talking about."

"give a dog a bad name and hang him," wayne agreed. "or give a bad hang a good girl and raindrops."
once upon a time there was a beautiful young princess

and then the wanderer came to a high hill
"relax, happy. look out the window. out the door. see the
stars. one of them is your star."

"they are all my stars."

"that's a good attitude."
a booming voice in the darkness in the mud. "wayne! wayne!"

wayne didn't answer. the voice kept calling, fading away and then coming closer. kropotkin, the chief roustabout, crossed the shaft of dim light from the trailer. wayne lit a new cigarette from his old one and snapped the old one out the door.

the clown fell sleep. his breathing was fading and misfiring across a gray and white rocket rainbow.
kropotkin watched wayne's glowing cigarette butt fall at his feet. he went over to the trailer.
raindrops bounced off his hat.

"where you been, wayne? the place is falling apart."
"i've been sitting here with happy. he's dying."

"it's real this time. he's had it."

xxxxxxxxx . at this point the manuscript was heavily x'd and blacked out. geraldine folded it to mark her spot and put it back in her bag. she took a sip of diet mountain dew and looked out the station window.

the bus was pulling in.

chapter 4: the headliner