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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Interruption Continued: A Mortifyingly Long Post

The interruption from Batwings and Strangers continues!

MPK, a friend I’ve known for nearly forty years gave me feedback in the early days of Just Plain Stupid. “Your posts are too damn long,” she said.

Not exactly high praise. She was right, and since then I’ve done shorter posts – until today. This post will be long. If MPK reads this post, she’ll be saying to herself (or a passing dog/cat/child/husband, “this paragraph doesn’t need to be here. Why is he wasting our time with this?”

Why indeed.

I’m writing this really long post for a few reasons.

First, pissing off MPK is always fun.

Second, because I haven’t written a post over 800 words in a while.

Third, because it’s Halloween, and things should be different on Halloween.

Fourth, because Bethlehem Writer’s Group is releasing their new book this Week, Once Around the Sun (with some added subtitle.)

Once Around the Sun (with or without its subtitle,) includes two things I wrote, (and I’m hoping for lots of money out of the deal.) One item is an article that I wrote for the now defunct Winston-Salem Magazine entitled A Spouse’s Guide to March Madness. I’ll post that here later. The other item is a short story called Mortified. I’d tell you about Mortified, but as it’s attached to this really long post that would even be stupider than Just Plain Stupid.

So settle in a comfortable chair, make sure you have plenty of battery life on your web device, and stick out your tongue at MPK, as JPS presents…


by Headley Hauser

I remember it started the Halloween my frat brothers hauled a keg out to Woodland Cemetery. While I’m as brave as the next guy – or at least some of the next guys, I spent the night in front of the tube. Why go to a graveyard on the one night of the year when the dead are supposed to rise?

The next morning I felt like a coward. Why was I shy about graveyards? I couldn’t still be worried about, ghosts, zombies, vampires. I was a grad student, not a child anymore. It was time to do something stupid.

After all, All Saints Day follows Halloween. That’s some kind of undead-free holiday -- right?

That night Woodland didn’t look very spooky, though it wasn’t exactly tidy. Toilet paper hung limply from a marble Jesus, as it did from a massive oak tree. Beer cans leaned against William A. Mayberry’s (1870-1921) stone. That had to be high school kids. Even the dead won’t drink Coors Light.

Suddenly someone was there, standing straight but not stiff. It gave me a start. His clothes were perfect without looking metrosexual. Even the wind didn’t bother his natural-looking perfect hair.

Of course, I hated him immediately. He extended a manicured hand and flashed a cold smile.

Godfrey Hamilton.”

Stan Plotz,” I said, shaking his cold hand and feeling inferior. It reminded me of shaking the priest’s hand after mass. “You’re very nicely dressed for graveyard walking,” I said.

I was just saying something to make noise. What did I know about graveyard-walking attire? Was there a uniform, maybe from a business fashion magazine? What would that be, Graveyard Quarterly?

First impressions are important, Stanley,” Godfrey answered. “People judge you by your outward appearance. They’ll never take the time to appreciate your finer points if your presentation shows a lack of self-respect.” Pausing, he took in my flannel shirt, grass-stained blue jeans, Demon Deacon jacket, and three-year-old Nikes. So much for my “presentation.” “You’re a grad student?” he asked.


That would be MBA or law school?”

I’d been turned down for both, so I lied. “No, I decided not to go the money route. I’m getting my MSW at Wake.”

Master of Social Work.” Godfrey frowned. “Yes, I suppose it’s important to have qualified people in every field.”

I felt vindicated. Why, I didn’t know.

As long as you’re striving,” said Godfrey, “to be the best you can be each and every day.”

One never knows what to say when encountering a Dale Carnegie cultie.
I hated him more, but I sucked in my gut and straightened my jacket. Then, rebelliously, I unstraightened, earning another frown from Godfrey. I’ll be damned if I’ll change my appearance to earn the approval of some upper crust Ken doll.

So, Mr. Hamilton,” I said in what I hoped was a superior tone, “why is it so important to give a good first impression to perfect strangers one meets in a graveyard?”

Godfrey showed no sign of irritation. “Well, Mr. Plotz, in some cases, hardly important at all.” He gave me a glance that made it clear I fell in that category. “However, once in a while you’ll run across a more formidable type. It’s important to keep them off balance so you can do this.”

A mix of sensations and emotions flooded me. Incredibly powerful hands grabbed me by head and shoulder. I felt a sharp, two-pointed stab in my neck. Racing through my head was fear, anger, embarrassment, and the feeling that this all would be a lot better for my self-esteem if Godfrey had been a hot woman.

Everything went black.

Coming awake for me had always been a prolonged blurry experience, requiring coffee, or a red bull. This time when I awoke, I was fully aware. It was that dark. The air was stuffy, and I had a disgusting flat taste in my mouth. I shifted to ease a lump in my back and bumped into walls to my right and left.

That’s when I heard an odd muffled sound, like someone else’s phone conversation bleeding through the line. It seemed to be a human voice or a number of human voices. It sounded far away and close at the same time. There was a musical quality to it like singing or, more accurately, chanting. I strained my ears to hear the words, but the harder I strained, the less distinct they became. Whatever I was hearing, I wasn’t hearing it with my ears.

Did I grow a new sensory organ? I touched my face expecting to feel a lump or mutant zit. There wasn’t anything there, but the chanting got louder. What do you do with a new sense? I had no recollection of using my eyes or ears for the first time. Maybe that’s why babies sometimes look so thoughtful.

Reaching up, I my fingers touched cushioned fabric. I was in a pretty tight space. Normally I’d be trembling with claustrophobia. I was never good with closets, elevators, or even small cars, but I felt fine, even comfortable. I pushed against the ceiling. I heard wood cracking and metal complaining as I pushed the roof several inches. Did I just do that? I’d never been particularly strong, as every bully in my middle school could tell you. Maybe the wood was rotten? Freshly turned soil and sand poured down on my face.

The voices were clearer now, and much louder. Working my way through dirt and debris, I got to my knees, then to a crouch. I reached up till I felt a breeze on my fingertips. The earth parted above me like water, but when my hands gripped the topsoil, the ground held.

I stretched to loosen tight muscles. It was a delicious sensation. I felt both light and strong. With one heave I not only cleared the surface, but sailed several feet into the air, landing majestically on a stone.

A grave stone.

My grave stone.

So this meant what, I was a vampire?

Some might have been horrified. Not me. I was now a lord of the night. No more fear of brawny troglodytes like those who had, a decade past, beaten me with my own violin case. I was now a creature to be feared. Gathered around me was my new brotherhood, fellow members of a mighty pack. I was secure in our mutual admiration. Why else would they be gathered to sing me out of my grave, imbue me with their mighty spirit, and… laugh?

Around me the dread fraternity of vampires rolled about, cackling like so many Shriners at a whoopee cushion trade show.

Plotz,” Godfrey said, “you haven’t any pants on.”

It looked down. I wore my best shirt, tie, and suit coat, but with nothing but boxers below. I suppose I should have been grateful for the boxers, but I didn’t feel gratitude at that moment.

Who did this!” I sputtered.

The vampires laughed even louder. Godfrey, however, only snickered. “Plotz,” he said, “you might want to check with your undertaker.”

How do I do that?”

The cemetery office. You’re newly buried; there’ll be a file.”

I disliked Godfrey Hamilton, even in my newly glorified state. I was also afraid of him, but I took his advice.

The file identified my undertaker as Mr. Feeley Nuzbetch, who ran his establishment in the West End. I knew the place – up the hill from Burke Street Pizza.

A light burned downstairs at the Feeley Nuzbetch Funeral Parlor. I didn’t have a watch on, maybe Feeley took that too, but it felt really late or, more likely, really early morning.

Going to the door, I silently broke the deadbolt. I planned to sneak in and spring on Nuzbetch. That’s what vampires do, right? I opened the door, but I couldn’t cross the threshold. I’d heard something about thresholds and vampires. Breaking into the cemetery office hadn’t been a problem, but no one lived there. Maybe this was Nuzbetch’s home.

That was sort of creepy. I tried to imagine living in a house with a continuous flow of dead bodies. Of course I was dead now, so I guess I had no reason to be judgmental.

I circled the building. Through a window I saw a pudgy man in his fifties or sixties. He was working on a body using a machine with tubes attached. The process fascinated me. It also made me hungry. Then I realized – the man was wearing my pants.

And they fit. Impossible. I couldn’t be as fat as he was. Maybe he had them tailored.

Something nagged at me. A clock inside read five-fifteen. What time did the sun come up?

I wondered if the government kept records of vampires’ mortality or re-mortality on their first dawn. Maybe you got a mulligan if the sun toasted you on your first night out.

Maybe not.

If dawn meant certain death, or whatever it’s called when dead people expire, how much longer could I afford to stand by this window in my boxer shorts watching this pants-altering mortician? If I didn’t do something soon, Nuzbetch would find himself a matching jacket. But where could I go? I looked around me. There were plenty of homes I couldn’t get into. There were also shops and restaurants, but even if I could enter those, they might not appreciate a corpse resting the business day away. Even worse, they might move my body, and once outside…

So where to go? Saint Paul’s Episcopal?

Too chancy.

Inside Feeley shut down the machine and pulled a large plastic bucket from beneath the bench. He headed toward the back of the building. Silently I moved with him. Should I cross my fingers? Crossing anything was probably not a good idea for a vampire.

Before the door opened I smelled blood in the bucket Nuzbetch was carrying. I could also smell the mortician’s blood. His was more appetizing, like an order of prime rib holding a bucket of chipped beef. I waited for Feeley to clear the door then I slammed it behind him. He spun around, sloshing blood from the bucket onto his pants -- no -- my pants.

Who are yo--?” He never finished the question, maybe because he recognized me. I could smell his fear, but that didn’t keep him from laughing.

I wanted to kill him, I wanted to drain the blood from his body, but most of all I wanted to scare the hell out of him. I knew I couldn’t do that partially dressed.

First of all, give me back my pants.” I tried to sound scary and mysterious, and I guess I succeeded, because he wasted no time stripping down to his green and orange boxers.

Instead of getting fancy, I put my pants on one leg at a time. With my new undead abilities I could probably jump ten feet up in the air, have my shoes off, pants on, shirt tucked in, and shoes back on and tied before I hit the ground, but I didn’t want to give Nuzbetch a chance to escape. I sure didn’t want to botch it and start him laughing again.

I zipped up; the pants fit. It had to be a vampire thing. No way was I as fat as Nuzbetch.

The mortician shot glances at the door and at me. I made a point of pulling the belt in an extra notch as I casually stepped between him and the door. The move might have appeared more ominous if I hadn’t burned my hands on the silver belt buckle. Wasn’t it supposed to be werewolves that hated silver?

You know, it’ll be dawn soon.” Feeley sputtered. “You can’t enter my house, so you’ll be nothing but a pile of dust unless I help you.”

The man knew his vampire lore -- certainly better than I did. Probably came with mortician training. Still, how certain could he be about everything? “It’s very simple, Feeley,” I told him. “After I kill you, your home will be as open to me as any other abandoned building.”

I leaned in and smelled the rising terror in his blood. The scent was intoxicating. No wonder vampires didn’t just bonk people over the head and drag them off to feed.

I was glad I got my pants back before I scared him. A yellow stream ran down Feeley’s leg, forming a puddle by his right foot.

The smell of urine, while unpleasant, did nothing to stem my appetite. The urge to kill and feed was strong, but another force rose inside me.

I never liked my great aunt Agnes. When I was a child, she used to hector me about proper behavior and table etiquette. As much as I wanted to ignore her, I always buckled to her irresistible will. I was the only kid in summer camp who ate his hot dog with a fork.

Here she was again, nothing but a dead woman’s voice ensconced in my supposedly demonic, undead brain. “Don’t slay your food,” she said.

What did that even mean? Ridiculous, how could I survive if I didn’t slay?

From Nuzbetch’s perspective my inner battle must have looked ominous. The man knelt before me, his bare bony knees in mud and urine, shaking and blubbering for mercy.

Don’t kill me!” he cried. “I can help you. I’ll do anything. Please, don’t kill me!”

He was a pathetic mess. He stole my pants. But I needed his help.

I waited, feigning uncertainty. The sky glowed pink in the east. As much as I enjoyed the groveling, I needed to get under cover. I grabbed the mortician by the chin and forced him to look me in the eye.

Invite me inside, Nuzbetch.”

I suppose things could be worse. Nuzbetch’s basement is dry and blocks the sunlight during the day. He set me up in a lovely coffin and asked if I wanted it lined with Transylvanian dirt. I declined; it seemed more messy than exotic. The funeral business keeps me well supplied with blood. Dead blood makes for a bland diet, but it keeps Great Aunt Agnes quiet.

I went back to school, taking only night classes. People were pretty surprised to see me, but it raised less fuss than you’d think. My frat brothers thought it added prestige to the house. They try not to eat too much garlic when I’m around.

I make money for tuition and death’s little extras as a night watchman. The black uniform suits me. Feeley packs me a thermos each night.

I do get tired of dead blood all the time.

Maybe someone will show up and make trouble.

Great Aunt Agnes would never defend a troublemaker.

Happy Halloween!

So… Back to Batwings and Strangers on Monday? Yeah, I think I’m ready. Get your guesses in for the Nine Missing Words, and win a Trouble in Taos coffee mug.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Interruptions by Imaginary Friends and Oog

For those expecting the fifth installment of chapter 7 (Batwings and Strangers) from Trouble in Taos, I… Well, I guess I don’t really apologize – though that would sound polite; I hate to be disingenuous (and what then does ingenuous mean?)

For those expecting the fifth yada, yada, yada – I don’t care. It’s my blog. I’m still not over being called stupid in its title, and it hasn’t been a great weekend, so learn some patience and stop bothering me. The fifth installment will happen on Thursday, unless I get interrupted again, which I probably will because I just feel contrary right now.

The reason for this interruption (as you probably guessed from the title) has to do with my imaginary friends. Imaginary friends get a bad rap in society. They’re much more loyal than real people, they ask great questions, and they never get on you about the crumbs on your sweater.

My assembly of IFs (I have quite a few,) wanted to know about the first version of Johnny Comes Marching Home alluded to in the forth installment of Batwings and Strangers – or the next blog entry down on your browser – Oog Got Bit by a Dinosaur.

Dutifully, I did extensive imaginary research for my similarly imaginary friends (another thing they don’t get on you about.) I discovered that the Legend of Oog (as it is referred to by imaginary scholars,) has been preserved in two locations: The Puritan Department of Ridiculous Antiquities, and Dominican Archives of the Depravity of Man. The two facilities agree on most details, but differ on the last word.

The PDRA claims the last word in the song is ‘nose.’ Puritans, though happy to burn witches, and slaughter the Irish are squeamish when it comes to rude language.

The DADM claims the last word of the song is, ‘butt.’  Dominicans, though they have a strong scholarly tradition, and great experience torturing Jews and Muslims, have an unfortunate tendency towards euphemism.

So, with a certain level of imaginary confidence, I present to you the imaginary authoritative original words to the first version of any song sung to the tune of Johnny Comes Marching Home.

(Who knew that cave persons sang in English?)

The Legend of Oog

Researched by Headley Hauser

(To the tune of Johnny Comes Marching Home tune)

Oog got bit by a dinosaur

munch-munch -- munch-munch

It’s what you get from a carnivore

It hurts -- a bunch

Should have run; it’s what feet are for

Stead he raised his arms; now they ain’t there no more

And the whole cave’s laughing

Cause now he can’t scratch his ass.

One of the things this imaginary research confirmed was that cave persons were strong on slapstick humor, but not quite as strong on compassion, as the celebrated scholar of antiquities, Mel Brooks illustrated in the following clips.

So… Thursday, I’ll get back to Batwings and Strangers.

Or not.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Trouble in Taos: Batwings and Stangers, Part Four

Still no right answers in my Nine (should be Eight) Missing Words Contest. Finally we’re getting into the song portion of Chapter Seven of Trouble in Taos. The tune is The Ants Go Marching In, which is a variation of Johnny Comes Marching Home, which is probably a variation of a variation of a variation going all the way back to Oog Got Bit by a Dinosaur. Today’s scrambled letters are to word seven - EENRV. That means so far the phrase is ___ _ TRIPTREE GILTH SUEHO ___ EENRV ___ ___. If you think you know the 9 (should be 8) missing words and want to win a Trouble in Taos coffee cup, send your guess, name, and mailing address to, with the subject line Nine Missing Words.

Oh, if you want an idea of what’s going on, the first three parts of Chapter Seven are here1,here2 , and here3.

Lowell took another sip of beer. “Alright,” he said, “here’s a song I learned in the Carolinas before the war.”

And he sang. The tune was a bit like Johnny comes marking home, but it was livelier, and instead of sounding like the music was marching, it sounded like it was rocking with the waves.

Off to sea went the fighting ship, make way, make way.

You never did see a mightier ship, make way, make way.

With a hearty crew and a captain proud

They sailed through the night in the fog and the cloud,

And the crew roared MAKE WAY.

We’re the mighty ship, you better get out of the way.

Two-Bucket leaned over to Flossy, who was holding his hand under the bar, at least I hope it was his hand. “This song’s a hell of a lot better than his first one.”

Flossy showed her teeth again, and I decided that I just wasn’t going to look their way for a while.

The captain spied a light ahead, make way, make way.

They better move, or they’ll be dead, make way, make way.

To the ship ahead, this is Captain Clyde,

Move five degrees port or else we’ll collide,

And the crew roared, MAKE WAY.

We’re the mighty ship, better get out of the way.

By this time, we were all shouting, “Make way,” when it got to that part of the song. Jacques didn’t stop there. He was mouthing all the words an instant after Lowell sang them. I figured that he was trying to memorize the song as Sparger sang it. It didn’t seem like he needed to do such a thing. Sure, songs were hard to come by, but we had a singer who knew hundreds of songs. We felt like rich men. Jacques mighta known it was too good to last.

Out of the gloom, there came a reply, make way, make way.

You better move or else you will die, make way, make way.

To Captain Clyde, this is Seaman Nash,

Move five degrees port or else you will crash,

And the crew roared, MAKE WAY.

We’re the mighty ship, better get out of the way.

The strumming was louder now and a little faster. Slimy jumped off his stool and started hoppin’ around. I guess by that time I should have stopped trying to predict what Slimy would do, but I never had him pegged as a dancing guy. I couldn’t blame him. My feet were tapping.

The Captain said, have some reason, son, make way, make way.

This fighting ship is twelve hundred ton, make way, make way.

With a triple hull, and a mighty prow,

We’ll make short work of your garbage scow,

And the crew roared, MAKE WAY.

We’re the mighty ship, better get out of the way.

Slimy was dancing like one of those gospel-show-holy-ghost preachers who set their act up in tents. Sparger didn’t seem to mind; he was strummin’ and smiling as we watched Slimy dance. He even held off the next verse so Slimy became the focus of attention.

Slimy’s dancing aired out an aroma that really shouldn’t a-been released indoors. Lowell couldn’t have missed the stench, bein’ back against the wall with a cloud of Slimy smell between him and the door. Sparger was a nice regular fella who knew a bunch of songs. He’d be welcome anywhere, even with respectable folk, and he looked content to be with us. It seemed too good to be true.

Here's the trailer to one of the worst sequels of all time - but it was Christopher Lloyd's birthday this week, and doesn't he make a great cowboy?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Trouble in Taos: Batwings and Strangers Part Three

This is the third installment of Chapter Seven of  Trouble in Taos.  Here's Part one, and Part two.  For those of you entering the Nine (should be Eight) Missing Words Contest, the scrambled letters to word five is SEUHO.

Howdy Estevo, I’m Lowell Sparger.”

Well Mr. Sparger,” said Estevo, “your first drink is on the house. Can I get you beer or whisky?”

Two-Bucket Joe muttered something about never getting a drink on the house, but most of Joe’s drinking came when someone else bought a round, so no one paid any attention to him, except maybe Flossy, who did something under the bar that made Joe twitch.

Sparger was still leaning on Estevo’s new doors, so offerin’ whisky and beer instead of mud was probably a good idea. The stranger pushed both the batwing doors in, just like the cowboy in the picture. It made me feel like I wasn’t in Taos anymore, but some made-up place that was supposed to look like the American West.

Is the whisky any good,” he asked.

Not really,” said Two-Bucket. Then he grunted as Flossy made him twitch again.

Why no tequila?” asked the guitar player.

Estevo’s afraid of worms,” said Two-Bucket Joe. He twitched again, but he didn’t look so much like he was in pain. It was almost as if he was enjoyin’ it.

I’ll have the beer,” said Lowell Sparger.

Two-Bucket opened his mouth, twitched, smiled, and never said a word about Estevo’s beer.

Estevo poured the stranger’s beer in an almost clean glass while everyone else paid attention to whatever they were drinkin’. Some were even polite enough to sip instead of slurp.

Yup,” said Slimy. “This reminds me of that time Uncle Ned didn’t say anything. Uncle Ned always said what was on his mind, like how there was water in the cotton fields one Spring. I wasn’t there that Spring, cause I wasn’t born yet, but I guess there was a lot of water. Water isn’t somethin’ you want in a cotton field, they say, at least Uncle Ned didn’t want it. That’s what he would say, except that time he didn’t say anything that really surprised us that time.”

Everyone froze. Slimy’s stink was only half of the problem, but how could we get him to shut up? He had a habit of shooting men that tried to do that.

He obeyed me when I asked him to move; it was time to see just how far this new friendship would go.

So Uncle Ned didn’t say anything about the fields or the cow horse what kicked him when he was only…”

I stood up.

Slimy,” I said. “This man here has a guitar. Wouldn’t you like to hear a song?”

Slimy looked up at me. I couldn’t tell if he was furious or just surprised.
Maybe he didn’t know either, but after three real slow heartbeats, he smiled.

Yah,” said Slimy. “I would truly like to hear a song.”

Estevo started to giggle. I think he was just too scared to do anything else. If anyone was going to take charge, it would have to be me.

Say, Mister,” I said. “My friends and I would sure like to hear a song or two. Do you know any? I mean, any other than ‘Dixie,’ ‘Green Grow,’ or ‘Tenting Tonight.’”

Or ‘Frère Jacques,’” added Jacques.

Oh yeah,” I said. “We know that one too.”

The stranger shook his head. “You’re telling me that you fellers only know three songs?”

Four,” said Jacques.

We all nodded except for Slimy. He seemed to be paying attention, but sometimes that was hard to tell with Slimy.

Well shoot,” said the stranger, “I know hundreds of songs. I’d be happy to sing for you fellers as long as someone buys my beer.”

How about mud?” said Two-Bucket Joe. He twitched again, looked up at Flossy, and muttered, “I’m not going to have to pay for this, am I?”

Flossy flashed her teeth in what I suppose was a smile. It was a scary sight, but it made Two-Bucket smile back.

The West was a lonely place in those days.

Lowell took his beer from the bar and brought it over to a table. He set the beer down, unslung his guitar, and started tuning it. A few of the fellers looked confused – was that supposed to be a song? Slimy was bobbing his head to it.

We finally get to the song on Thursday.  For now, here's my last (promise) yodeling video.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Trouble in Taos: Batwings and Strangers Part Two

This is the second installment of the seventh chapter of Trouble in Taos. Part One is here. If you would like to win a Trouble in Taos coffee cup, enter the Nine Missing Words contest (though two of the nine missing words should really be one compound word.) The letter scramble for the forth word is: GILTH.
Part Two

Every time a stranger came into the Rosa Linda, we asked him if he knew any songs. Most didn’t. A few would start singing “Dixie,” or “Green Grow.” One feller sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” We never bothered learning that one. A fair number of the regulars had been Rebels. Sure, the war was over, even Slimy knew that – though Slimy thought the South won it. But the Rebs didn’t want their noses rubbed in it, and even us Yankees didn’t care much for “The Battle Hymn.” It just sounded so churchy.

One fella offered to teach us “Garry Owen.” We passed on that one too. It was that bastard Custer’s song. There were more Indians, or at least part-Indians, among us than there were Rebs. Even after Little Big Horn nobody wanted any part of that tune.

I wracked my brain to remember the words to those great songs like “Beating Down the Micks” and “Chinaman in a Ditch,” but bein’ born with a voice like a cat with a rusty nail in its tail, I never bothered to learn songs I knew I couldn’t sing.

The day Lowell Sparger stepped into the Rosa Linda was a day I’ll never forget. Lowell was the first man to walk through Estevo’s new bat-wing doors. Estevo ordered the doors from a Sears and Roebuck’s catalog. They were supposed to be real popular in western saloons.

Ain’t they too small?” asked Charlie Four Fingers. “They don’t reach the ground.”

No,” said Estevo, “that’s the way they are supposed to look. See here in this catalog.”

The catalog showed a picture of duded-up cowboy pushing back the two small doors, one in each hand.

That don’t look like any cowboy I ever saw,” said Jacques.

Yeah,” said Flossy, “too clean. I might like to try that for a change.”

His hat’s all white,” said Charlie. “Who ever heard of a workin’ man keepin’ a white hat clean?”

What do you know about work?” said Two-Bucket Joe.

Just look at the doors,” said Estevo. “They’re just like in this picture.”

They’ll let the flies in,” said Jacques.

More likely to let them out,” said Joe.

You’ll see,” said Estevo. “Doors like that will bring in more business. We’ll get a whole new quality of clientele.”

If that means clean men,” said Flossy, “then I’m for it.”

And that’s when Lowell Sparger appeared at Estevo’s new batwing doors. He wasn’t clean like the cowboy in the picture, but he was tall and straight. His clothes were nicely mended, and most amazing of all, he was carrying a guitar across his back.

I got up to make room for this stranger and motioned for Slimy to move with me against the wall. He surprised me by obeying without a word. He stank like he always did, but against the wall it wouldn’t be as strong.

The fellers at the Rosa Linda didn’t have any manners, but at least they knew that, so they just did nothing. Estevo, the only man with anything approaching sophistication, did all the talkin’.

Welcome, stranger,” he said. “My name is Estevo Silva. I own this place.”

I got a little boggled last week looking at yodeling videos. Check this one out.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Trouble in Taos: Bat wings and strangers Part One

In conjunction with the NINE MISSING WORDS contest link, Just Plain Stupid presents part one of Trouble in Taos, Chapter Seven: Bat wings and strangers. For those following the NINE MISSING WORDS contest, I’ve gotten guesses already, but not all of them addressed to, nor do all include a mailing address in the continental US (Maynard, Massachusetts – not included.) Two of the nine missing words can be (maybe should be) combined to form a compound word. Here is the scrambled letters for word 3 – TRIPTREE.

Chapter Seven

Beach was a man of compassion, a protector of the innocent, a defender of the helpless. Those who victimized the good people of Taos rarely lived long enough to regret it. Slimy Beach, the great guardian of the little people, let no act of villainy pass without swift retribution in the manifestation of his avenging six guns. Even Lowell Sparger, a simple drifter, was under the mighty hero’s protective wing. Ernest Felthousen, the feared cattleman’s hired killer, shot Sparger while he was innocently playing a guitar for church children. Slimy Beach evened the score by shooting the speedy Felthousen. Felthousen drew on Beach before the hero even knew his peril, but Slimy Beach, with the power of righteousness in his veins, shot faster and truer, ending Felthousen’s villainy and bringing him to God’s seat of judgment.

W. G. C. R. Colmes, Slimy Beach, the Tornado of Taos, p. 65

They’ve got entertainment in the restaurant now. “The Hotel La Fonda proudly presents the Highlands Heartbreakers.” The Highlands Heartbreakers were three college students from Santa Fe dressed up like Juarez pimps.

What a pile of horse shit. Music is just pathetic these days. It’s all love ballads by momma’s boys like Cole Porter and Irving Berlin. I don’t mind a ballad once in a while, but how many ways can they rewrite “Down in the Valley?” It was all those damn crooners in the ’90s that ruined it.

When I was still living in New York in the ’60s, we had Gilbert and Sullivan and songs like “Little Brown Jug” and “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.” Then we had a buncha songs that made fun of the Irish and even more that made fun of the Chinese – ya know, interesting songs. At least people didn’t go around moon-eyed all the time.

I just don’t know what’s wrong with people these days.

Of course, I got out of touch with the music scene when I headed west. Most of the campfire evenings on the trail were taken over by tree-stump preachers. Once you got past the Mississippi, it was hard to hear any music other than hymns and evangelistic songs.

I never cared much for the stuff. I don’t think most people cared for it. Maybe the mules liked it, ’cause it was everywhere we went. I went through prairie towns where a man could spend a night in jail for singing “Home on the Range” or for playing an instrument other than a church organ. Some towns didn’t even allow the organs.

Good folk are raised to fear what gamblers, koochy girls, and gunslingers will do to their communities. Well, I’m here to tell you I’ve seen men of God that were more destructive and terrorizing than any card shark, whore, or murderer, not to mention harder on the ears.

The trail just squeezed good music out of a body so that you could hardly remember a decent drinkin’ tune by the time you got to the Rockies. The only songs they knew at the Rosa Linda were “Dixie,” “Tenting Tonight,” and “Green Grow the Rushes Ho.” Jacques de Tiwa claimed to know “Frère Jacques,” and he did a fair imitation of French words, but I’d heard the song enough in New York. I don’t know if he was using real French words, but he wasn’t singing “Frère Jacques.”

When a man has a drink or two, he likes to have a song. We regulars at the Rosa Linda got pretty tired of the same four songs, and we were damned if we was goin’ to croon “Ave Maria” while we swilled our mud.

You think the move west didn't mess up music?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Nine Missing Words Contest

Those of you who have read Trouble in Taos link may still be wondering about an omission I made in Chapter Seven. I had the unfortunate character, Lowell Sparger sing a song at the Rosa Linda bar, but I killed him before he could finish. I felt kind of bad about doing that to my readers (and I don’t think Lowell liked it much either.)

Here’s the tune

And here are the lyrics that show in the book.

Off to sea went the fighting ship, make way, make way.

You never did see a mightier ship, make way, make way.

With a hearty crew and a captain proud

They sailed through the night in the fog and the cloud,

And the crew roared MAKE WAY.

We’re the mighty ship, you better get out of the way.
The captain spied a light ahead, make way, make way.

They better move, or they’ll be dead, make way, make way.

To the ship ahead, this is Captain Clyde,

Move five degrees port or else we’ll collide,

And the crew roared, MAKE WAY.

We’re the mighty ship, better get out of the way.
Out of the gloom, there came a reply, make way, make way.

You better move or else you will die, make way, make way.

To Captain Clyde, this is Seaman Nash,

Move five degrees port or else you will crash,

And the crew roared, MAKE WAY.

We’re the mighty ship, better get out of the way.
The Captain said, have some reason, son, make way, make way.

This fighting ship is twelve hundred ton, make way, make way.

With a triple hull, and a mighty prow,

We’ll make short work of your garbage scow,

And the crew roared, MAKE WAY.

We’re the mighty ship, better get out of the way.
The seaman said you’re in danger now, make way, make way.

For what you approach is no garbage scow, make way, make way.

She may be small for eight tons, she be

___ _ ________ _____ _____ ___ _____ ___ ___

Yup – that’s how I left it.

So to make up for leaving the readers in the dark, I’m planning on revealing the missing lines here on JPS. But first let’s have some fun.

Can you guess the nine missing words? The last word rhymes with be and I put (I think,) the right number of space marks for each word. Take a guess. Send your best guess to with the subject line Nine Missing Words. The first one to come up with the right words (failing that – the one who comes closest: failing that – the one who gives the funniest response: failing that – the one that makes the best effort: failing that – the one that doesn’t hurt my feelings,) wins a Trouble in Taos coffee mug
It's suitable (surprisingly) for coffee.  It is also suitable for tea, hot chocolate, bullion, and Ovaltine (Mr. Pibb not recommended) (not because Mr. Pibb will harm the mug – I just don’t recommend it.)

The contest is open to anyone who has an address in the Continental US where they’d like their mug sent. (Other than in Maynard, Massachusetts – some grudges die hard.)

In the event of multiple right answers, those who were not first to get their guess in will receive a set of 6 low-quality Go Figure Reads refrigerator magnets, suitable to cling to your refrigerator door and mock you for not getting your response in fast enough. Those with right answers who fail to give their name and address will receive a raspberry via email reply.

All legal disclaimers ever written apply.

Over the next few weeks, I will be serializing Chapter Seven on Just Plain Stupid. In each installment I will jumble one of the Nine Missing Words. I will announce the correct answer and winner at the end of the series (unless the winner is too ashamed to let me use his/her/it’s/their/whatever’s name – you can make up a fake name and I’ll announce that… but the NSA will still know.) Awarding of the prize may be cancelled or delayed due to NSA actions such as kidnapping me, blocking my blog, or taking away my tin-foil hat.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Rotting Your Brain 3 Facebook Beasts.

The old Vaudeville saw is to never do an act with a baby or an animal.  Not only are they unpredictable, but they're bound to look funnier than you are.  As I scan FB, I marvel at the amount of time people must stand poised over their pets or other beasts with a camera in their hand.  And people worry about our Gross National Product!  Here's our GNP - pictures of animals posted on FB.  Surely, this must help our trade deficit somehow!
Sorry for calling you, Surely.

 Kittenhood is contagious
 I hope they don't talk to their distant cousins in the North Pole
 Too much time on Hubby's hands
 Been there
 Squirrel peace
 Yeah, that's about it
 Why I love the feel of Wash and Drys
 Who gets the remote?
 Not really an animal - or is he?
 Sorry, girls - too wise
 Like as in...?
 Why cats have mental health issues
 Good tip
 Cute warning
 And She Don't Care!
 I hope they didn't train him to do that
Eat - Sleep, so much to do.  Hard to keep it all straight
Here's a video that makes me feel better about the kind of person I am.