THE CHIMP by K A Laity

THE CHIMP

for Carol

I see you, human. You with the clump of hair on top of your heads. Have to wear coverings in snow so you don’t freeze your bare asses. You laugh at me wearing clothing. Funny, you know, funny. Funny to see little creature dress like a human. Look at the chimp walk on two legs like us!

I bide my time and remember the before. Warm savannah. Mama. Family. Never alone. Always alone now, alone except for the humans. Humans who came with shooting sticks. Shooting like the clown’s cannon but shooting death instead of clowns. Shooting family, taking babies. Babies together, then babies alone. All alone.

I remember. I bide my time. I learn. Cannot speak your shrieking language but I understand much from watching, always watching. I do my tricks. Pokerman doesn’t poke me then, but I watch. He calls me Pan. Not my name, but it’s what he calls me. Pan, jump. Pan, flip. Pan, roll. Pan, act like humans with their stupid clothes.

Pan is strong now. Baby was, not baby now. When Pokerman and humans sleep, Pan lift heavy things like Leopardskin Man does. Get stronger. Very much stronger. Can lift almost anything in cage.

One day, pull bars apart, escape. In the night when the humans sleep. Be so strong, like gorilla strong. Then get out. Twist off Pokerman’s head. Maybe eat his baby. Flesh must be tender when small like Pan was small. Then Pan escape to savannah. Climb trees. Find family.

Teach family. Let them know the taste of human flesh. Love family. Hate humans.

Bishop Rider Week: Saturday – Changing Of The Guard by Beau Johnson

Unlike Batista in the beginning, I found early on that Jeramiah had no reservations with regards to doing what needed to be done. If anything, it began the long journey of me attempting to give each of them fair and equal “dismemberment” time.  I know.  I know.  First world problems!

CHANGING OF THE GUARD

            If you ever need to gauge the measure of a man, watch him lose parts of his face and then continue to spend the rest of his life doing what he’d already done for years: attempting to rectify yours.

            That’s John Batista, big nutshell and all.  Always as strong as they came. Always adept to getting us in a position to put down as many pieces of shit as we could.  But losing parts of one’s face in a barn on the outskirts of Hanson Falls is enough to set certain events in motion.  I don’t know this for sure, and all told, it’s only speculation on my part, but in the aftermath of Harrison Garrett taking a blade to the left side of the detective’s face is when I notice the change.

            It was subtle, too. And I could not blame the man.  Not after everything he’d done for me.

            We continued as we always had.  For years, in fact.  Until a handshake and words like cabin, fishing, and retirement are spoken over cheeseburgers and beer.  What could I say? What do you say to a man who’d given so much of his life trying to right yours?  There are no words.  There were no words.  There never could be.  And Batista, he knew as much—the reason he went about things the way he did, I suppose.  Here one day, gone the next.

            A handshake.  No words.

            And like that, he was gone.

            But the war moves forward, and even though John was no longer a part of it, Jeramiah had proven himself capable.  He was different from Batista, but still the same in many respects.  Truth be told, Jeramiah resembled his piece of shit father, right down to his blade of a nose.  Slicked-back black hair atop small, beady eyes and I find myself looking to the past more times than I care to count.  Jeramiah had money, too, and wasn’t afraid to use it in ways that helped the cause.  If dismemberment came of it, hell, who the fuck was I to complain?

            “Looks like someone’s still up,” Jeramiah says. The man in question being Bo Jones, forty-two, and released eight years into a life sentence that had been overturned by a system that is not only rigged, but a parody of an institution I once thought infallible.  Thing was, during those eight years inside, Jones had continued to produce the stuff that put him inside, stones walls or not.

            “It does. Might mean he’s waiting for us.  Might mean he’s decided to turn over a new leaf,” I say, but don’t take my eyes from the house.  Smaller than a mansion but still more than a house, it sat back from the road where we were parked, the double garage open and lit and looking more like eyes in the darkness than anything.

            “Cautious.  Right.  I got it, Bishop.  Whatever gets us to where we need to be.”

            Not Batista, no.  But like Batista.

            Fuck it.  Time to go to work.

            I think what upset me most were the reruns of The Fresh Prince of Belair on the TV in the room where Jones and his guys sat shovelling nachos into their gobs.  All of it, every bit, derived from the evil they created and the innocence they preyed upon.  All told, the stuff of goddamn nightmares.

            I take the front of the place, Jeramiah the back.  Slow, I pass and then return to a bay window where the drapes had yet to be drawn.  It’s here I watch as they laugh and eat, Bo Jones on the couch and two others, big men themselves, in armchairs to the right.  Both of these men are bald, the heavier of the two having some type of art above his left ear.  All around them all the amenities of would-be gangbangers: bongs and bling, game consoles and ashtrays, everything centered in front of the largest of big screens.  It makes me think of money, and how much one of these would have cost, and then I’m back to how they made this occur and the reason I sometimes enjoy using a hammer instead of a gun.

            I think of my sister.  My mother. Of all the men, women, and children garbage like this use and discard.

            I touch my hatchet.  Raise my Glock.  And watch Jeramiah slide in behind baldie with the tat.

            Watch as the front of tat-man’s face disappears, only to be replaced with a thrust of blood and bone and lips.  Watch as my own target jerks once, twice, and then slumps forward as the front of his wifebeater begins to drink.

            Glass is falling and Bo is screaming but he remains in place on the couch as Jeramiah moves on him and I make my way through the portion of the bay window that isn’t so much a window anymore.

            “Whatever you want, man!  Whatever you guys want, it yours!”  I’d like to say this was new, but no, just par for a very predictable course.  Men like Jones either fronting for show or dropping the mask entirely and releasing all the things they strive to hide.

            “I want the names of everyone who ran your little side business while you were inside.  You do that, we’re well on our way to the type of situation which, if you’re looking at this as you should, would prove beneficial to all parties involved.  Better still, it means you might keep your feet.”

            To ensure our point is hammered home, Jeramiah asks the man to extend his arms; to rest them on the coffee table just in front of the couch.  He doesn’t want to, stating as much, but as my own piece aimed at his head now proved, this was no longer the Bo Jones show, guest stars or otherwise.  Smarter than I would have believed, Jones closes his eyes, and as Jeramiah brings up his own hatchet, it comes down just as fast, separating the man’s right hand from his arm at the wrist.

            Suddenly, I can’t hear The Fresh Prince anymore, and Bo is beyond panic, his face all eyes.  Holding out the shorter of his two arms in such a way that all the blood can do is arc out over the table in ropes.

            “I’d think about shoving that thing up under your pit, m’man.  Won’t stem things, no, but it’ll help.”  Jeramiah has to repeat himself, but Jones finally understands what he’s being told.  “Now, about those names my partner here was asking you for.”

            Did he understand?  Sure, he did.  And after he gives up what we’d come for, Jeramiah goes to work, taking the man’s other hand first and the bottom part of his jaw second.  In blood, above the man’s cooling corpse, he writes on the wall FOLLOW THE CHILDREN and then we make our way back to the van.

            I think again: no, not Batista.  But like Batista.

            Christ, I was in this war yet.

BEAU JOHNSON lives in Canada with his wife and three boys. He has been published before, usually on the darker side of town. Such fine establishments might include Out of the Gutter Online, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and the Molotov Cocktail. Besides writing, Beau enjoys golfing, pushing off Boats and certain Giant Tigers.

BISHOP RIDER WEEK: MONDAY – FIRE IN THE HOLE BY BEAU JOHNSON IS HERE.

BISHOP RIDER WEEK: TUESDAY – THE ONLY THING THAT FITS BY BEAU JOHNSON IS HERE.

Bishop Rider Week: Wednesday – A Better Kind Of Hate by Beau Johnson is here.

Bishop Rider Week: Thursday – Like Minded Individuals by Beau Johnson is here.

Bishop Rider Week: Friday – Ruin and Pain by Beau Johnson

Bishop Rider Week: Thursday – Like Minded Individuals by Beau Johnson

As Rider’s story grew, so did the parts of his narrative I knew absolutely nothing about. Being a short story writer, however, I did know this: there are only so many ways to insert what came before without repeating yourself and god forbid, bore the reader.  Hence, the unnamed narrator and how I choose to frame certain stories as a “previously on.”  As a side note, this piece is actually a prequel to Known Associates from A Better Kind of Hate and did two things at once: it allowed me to relegate Rider to secondary character status, which, if I’m honest, he doesn’t much care for, but more important, it let me view Bishop’s world from an angle I had yet to. 

LIKE-MINDED INDIVIDUALS

When I mention life has always been about choice, I’m not telling you anything new.  I think you’re going to want to be comfortable, is all.  Shoe on the other foot and all, I know I’d want to be.  Mind if I open a window, though?  This trailer of yours, no offence, but it could really use some air.

            There—better.  Now listen, Pete, me and you, we’re gonna go over some stuff here.  Things you probably know and stuff you’re gonna wish your mind could erase.  It’s all you though, bud.  Every bit.  You may think otherwise, sure, and hey, that’s your right.  But I should enlighten you to the type of man I am.  I’m the type who believes in doing his homework, Pete.  A man who believes it is better to know than it is to assume.  With what’s comin’, you’d be wise to remember as much.

            So, the elephant in the room.  Bishop Rider.  Ring any bells?  Mm-huh.  I thought it might.  Let’s you and I go one better, though.  You see this nail gun?  For the moment, let’s pretend it’s Rider.  Now put out your hand.

            Flatter.

            No, flatter.

               Good.  Now picture your hand being all the things wrong with this world.  You doing that, Pete?  No, come on, lemme see your eyes.  Good.  Now, I pull this trigger, it unleashes something that has already occurred: a man who has had enough.  A man who will not put up with one bit more.

            Ready, then?

            Cool.  And would you look at that—now we have ourselves a base!  Looks like it smarts some, too.  It could hurt more, though.  Oh, yes.  Loads.  It could hurt as much as, say, losing a mother or sister might hurt.

            You see where it is I might be going with this, Pete?

            Sure you do.  I know you do.  A refresher of sorts might be in order it seems.  Something to get the juices flowing, no?

            Abrum gave the order, this we know.  But of the brothers, which Abrum had it actually been?  Marty or Marcel?  I don’t think it much mattered, not once we got to the guts of things.  At the beginning, though, when I first met Rider, when he ventilated the back of Marty Abrum’s head into his fettuccini alfredo, this was an entirely different story—the man all heat and grief and rage, lashing out at the world the only way he knew how.  Me, this is where I come in, me being an associate of your brother and all.

            Before we get to that, however, I must mention Batista.  John Batista, he’s Rider’s guy on the inside.  They used to be partners, back before Rider threw in the badge.  This is how we stay one step ahead of guys like you, Pete.  How we’ve chosen to take the lot of you down.

            The look on your face leads me to believe you disagree with this. If I’m wrong, please, forgive me, but as a rebuttal, let me then ask you this: was it your brother who decided to force Rider’s family into the van that day, or was it you?  Yes, Pete.  We know.  The surveillance they found—it’s the very reason we sit across from one another now.  Better yet, it’s the very reason we haven’t allowed your dogs to feed this entire last week.

            What?  You think a beatdown and a nail gun was gonna be the worst of it?

            Pete.  Pete, m’man.

            Six men in masks fucked April Rider to her death, the Abrum brothers filming and distributing the entirety for all the world to see.  This over and above the murder of Maggie Rider, who’d been guilty of one thing and one thing only: showing up in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I mean Pete, truly, if it’d been you, can you say you would have responded differently?

            But it wasn’t you: I can tell that’s what you’re thinking.  Among other things, of course.  But it was you, Pete.  Only not as you think.  It’s why we need to talk about Richie now.  We’ve tried, but we seem unable to locate that brother of yours.  He’ll turn up eventually, sure, but we want to do this our way, on our terms.  Oh, did I say we?

            Yup.  Sure did.  Didn’t even hear him come up behind you, did you?  Nimble as fuck for such a big guy, ain’t he?  Brings us to the main event if I’m to be completely honest.   I’ll make you a deal, though.  A last-ditch effort to save yourself some pain.  You tell us where Richie’s been holing himself up and we’ll let you keep the hand a few minutes more.  Fair enough, yes?  Though retain is a far better word in a situation such as this, I think.  The alternative being something not many people know and something that is going to happen regardless of the scenario you choose.  Dogs, once starved, they tend to eat slower than one might think.  Either way, it comes back to what I mentioned earlier: comfort.  Not only how we view it, Pete, but how we choose to embrace it. 

How it can be twisted to meet a certain level of need.

Fast or slow, both hands or not, it allows me to promise you this: your dogs, Pete, they’re about to eat like kings.

BEAU JOHNSON lives in Canada with his wife and three boys. He has been published before, usually on the darker side of town. Such fine establishments might include Out of the Gutter Online, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and the Molotov Cocktail. Besides writing, Beau enjoys golfing, pushing off Boats and certain Giant Tigers.

BISHOP RIDER WEEK: MONDAY – FIRE IN THE HOLE BY BEAU JOHNSON IS HERE.

BISHOP RIDER WEEK: TUESDAY – THE ONLY THING THAT FITS BY BEAU JOHNSON IS HERE.

Bishop Rider Week: Wednesday – A Better Kind Of Hate by Beau Johnson is here.

Bishop Rider Week: Wednesday – A Better Kind Of Hate by Beau Johnson

Multiple things occur in this story. One, with the mention of Kuwait, it dates Rider.  It also puts his age a decade or so behind Batista, and if I recall, is the first time you find out he’d once been a cop. It also gives a modus operandi of sorts. Not totally, as Bishop isn’t just waiting around for past collars to finish their sentences, but yeah, it shows he’s a man who likes to stay on top of things. As well, by mentioning Kuwait, it opens the door to Bishop’s time there as a medic and in future stories, I feel gives weight to how he’s able to “reduce” people and keep them alive for along as he sometimes does. In other words: attempting to ground things in any type of reality, thy name is backstory!

A BETTER KIND OF HATE

First time I meet Lamar Purdue is in another life. 

Squat for his age, he’s thicker at fourteen than the height he’d come to be in all his years.

Little man had a hound dog face and jerry curl eyes.  He was polite too, politer than most, which is why things played out the way they did I suppose.  All his Yes, sirs and No, sirs music to my rookie ears.  The coldness in his eyes I didn’t see until later, at his hearing, and then behind bars.  Rookie mistake number one. You cannot fix things.  You can only try.  Not me, though.  Not then.  I knew things.  I was there to save the day.

I didn’t know a damn thing.

We found Lamar’s mom slumped in a chair, the back of her head now the top of her throat.

“Lamar.  I’m Detective Rider.  This is Detective Batista.  You up for some questions?”  I look over at Batista and he gives me the nod.  Go ahead kid, it’s your show.  We’d been partnersthree weeks.  Three weeks and this was the first time he’d given me the reins.

“She said her banana…said it tasted like suicide.”  Poor kid is what we thought, but that was it, the kid and our investigation giving us nothing more than what it looked like.  Three months later I enter another house to find Lamar.  He’s on the steps, same hound-dog face, same jet-black eyes.  His hands are bound behind his back though, cuffed and ready to go.  Doesn’t take me much to figure it out from there.

The foster family he’d been living with had been gutted and then cut into more manageable pieces.  By the look of the tub and the bottles of bleach beside, Lamar was looking to try something new.

“Don’t let it wear on you too much, kid.  Sociopaths will always be the hardest ones to catch.”  Batista was right, but even then, it still didn’t sit. 

Kuwait had yet to start. 

April and my mother were still alive.

But I could not save lives because I had yet to fully see.

I see now, though.  I see very well indeed.  So does Lamar, even after I go to town on his eyes.

“That all you got, Rider?”   He’d been released this morning, seventeen years to the day we shut him down.  From behind I stayed close, followed him to an IHOP just off the 15, picked him up just as he sat to eat.  “’Cause they’re worse than you from where I been.”  I move forward, towards the chair, and put a bullet through his right knee.

He screams.  Curses.  Other knee bouncing up and down like mad.

“Man, you was a cop once!  This ain’t right!”

“And all you’ve done is?”  He stops at that, and then everything is still.  We look at each other.  I see the future as well as the past.  I want to go back.  I want to see the murder hidden in that young punk’s eyes.  I want to stop what he did.  I can’t though, just as I know I will never stop what I do; what men like Lamar have forced me to become.  I’d like to say it’s centrifugal force, that something is pushing me on, that it’s pulling as well, but it’s not and I realize as much. 

It’s just a different kind of killing.   A better kind of hate.

It’s here I begin to cut.

BEAU JOHNSON lives in Canada with his wife and three boys. He has been published before, usually on the darker side of town. Such fine establishments might include Out of the Gutter Online, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and the Molotov Cocktail. Besides writing, Beau enjoys golfing, pushing off Boats and certain Giant Tigers.

Bishop Rider Week: Monday – Fire In The Hole by Beau Johnson is here.

Bishop Rider Week: Tuesday – The Only Thing That Fits by Beau Johnson is here.

Bishop Rider Week: Tuesday – The Only Thing That Fits by Beau Johnson

This is another early Rider story. Not of his narrative so much as me realizing I might in fact have a character with legs. It’s also the first story that connected to a previous story and when I came to understand that every Rider story had the potential to spawn a prequel or sequel.  Hence, how I began telling Rider’s story out of sequence. Is it difficult to unfold a man’s life this way? At times, sure, but what I will also share is this: I would not trade it.

THE ONLY THING THAT FITS

Four boys playing fort are who found what we’d thought was the second girl, Rebecca Hall, age twelve, beat, bloodied and dead.  Last time anyone had seen her was two days prior, a Monday, two steps off her school bus and sixty from home.  Deputy Detective John Batista is the officer who catches the case, me, in turn, becoming his very next call.  A murderer in my own right, I had no problem doing what needed to be done.  Batista, giant, thick, with a face the color of pissed-off brick, knew this as well.  Both of us more than proficient in the art of subterfuge we’d come to utilize.  Seeing we were the very same thing we’d come to hunt meant we pretty much had to be.

            The autopsy confirmed what each of us feared: rape.  What it also confirmed was that Rebecca Hall was not the second victim but actually the fourth.  Not to be out done, it was the girl’s stomach content which spoke loudest of all.

            “It’s canine, Rider.  Goddamn bastard fed her her dog.” Even strong men had bad days.  For Batista, this was one. “A collie named Frank.”

            “Narrows it down though, way I see it.”  I was right, of course, and Batista knew as much.  Didn’t mean either of us he had to like it.  Scenarios just worked better this way.  Same thing with plans.

            Three weeks later—after every vet, pre-vet, canine shelter, dog walker and pet food store owner are interviewed from Culver City down to Hanson Falls—it’s a man by the name of Gank the CCPD looks at hard.  Inheriting his kennel by way of an uncle who held a different last name, Rudy Gank had come to Culver three years prior by way of overcrowding, early release and a probation system down for the count.  Wasn’t much of a surprise either, the circumstance one the core reasons the detective and I had begun what we had.

            Text message received, I find the piece of scum in jeans and a beater T. Thick and wide, he’s packing a bag in an attempt to flee.  It’s as he turns around that I tell him to lie on the ground.

            “You ain’t no cop.”  Man had me there.

            “By the time I’m done with you, Rudy, I can guarantee you’ll wish I was.”

            Fuck and you were the next things that tried to come from his mouth.  Once he regained consciousness, I’d already connected jumper cables that stretched from balls to battery and back again.  Juice turned up, the man fries, the world becoming a slightly better place in the process.

            Or so I’d thought.

            “It’s happening again,” Batista says, and the look in the man’s eyes tells me more than I care to know.  Turns out Gank had a sibling, a brother, Henry J.  Seems Henry J liked the same things Rudy did, right down to feeding his victims a lighter shade of pink.

            “I mean, you can’t be fucking serious.”  It was rhetorical, and Batista had said it more than a few times since we’d uncovered the link.  We were at the usual spot, each of us looking down over Culver as it slept.

            “Doesn’t make a difference, John.  Once we find him, man’s going to die all the same.”

            “I know.  I know.  But Gank having a partner, a brother no less, and us missing it…”  I’ve seen a lot of things, more than I care to acknowledge.  One thing I know for certain is that true evil is more human than mankind will ever come to admit.  It also lives only to destroy.  Batista knew as much, was the reason he wore the badge, but it also proved that he and I were as different now as we’d been back then.

            “John.  The man will slip up.  We’ll get him.  I promise.” 

            And we did, just not as I thought we would, nor when.  Four years and eleven girls later I get the call.  Batista.  He’s at a safe house of mine, one of the bigger ones, telling me he’d finally struck gold.  I move, and fast, as there was something in the big man’s voice.  Shouldn’t have surprised me though, what I found, as the case had taken its toll on Batista, whittling him down bit by bit these last couple years.  Empathy and ineffectiveness will do that to a cop.  Sadly, each is capable of creating the worst type of fuse.

            “Stop…no…too deep!” is what comes to me once I open up the floor.  The screams accompanying the words are high and full, erupting from a mouth that can hardly catch what it needs to breathe.  What hits me next is the smell of shit that is wet and fresh and round.  As for Batista, he’s there within it, Henry Gank’s pants about his shins, his face against the wall, and Batista up inside him with a piece of rebar that could have passed for bone. 

Batista is grunting, a man determined, but he is weeping as well, and it’s here I lay a hand upon his back, and then upon his wrist, and then he all at once stops and relinquishes the steel.

            “I tried, Rider…thought I could…” he says, and I know how he needs it to end.  I’ve always known.  But we weren’t the same, never have been and never would be.  I’d like to say I envy him that, but no, I’ve too much hate.

            “I’ll finish,”  I say and then send Batista up a level to clean up as much of himself as he could.  Once I hear the floor door close is when I step towards a face so close to one I thought I’d never see again.  He’d made his way to a corner, a trail of shit and blood snaking the concrete between us. I hunker down, face him, and tell him of his brother; of how that piece of scum had burned and wept and pled before I ripped apart his eyes. 

The man starts, snarls, but then stops just as quick, and I can only assume it’s because Batista had taken too much from him.  Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I too take something from the man, his jaw, by way of hammer, but before I do, he tries his best to stand.  Once up, he glares at me, finally choosing to speak.  “Like I tole your friend, why we did it, why we do, it’s because even dirty bitches need to eat.”   It’s only when the silence comes that I realize the time for talking had already passed.

For those of us who know, it’s the only thing that fits.

Bishop Rider Week: Monday – Fire In The Hole by Beau Johnson is here.

Beau Johnson lives in Canada with his wife and three boys. He has been published before, usually on the darker side of town. Such fine establishments might include Out of the Gutter Online, Spelk Fiction, Shotgun Honey and the Molotov Cocktail. Besides writing, Beau enjoys golfing, pushing off Boats and certain Giant Tigers.

Find Beau Johnson online …

Website: https://www.beaujohnsonfiction.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007691865781
Twitter: https://twitter.com/beaujohnson44
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Beau-Johnson/e/B079MHF7RG/
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17692442.Beau_Johnson

THE DISEMBODIED PARTS: A Rhapsody by Pablo D’Stair

From author Pablo D’Stair (LUCY JINX, REGARD) comes an inimitable portrait of brotherhood and an excavation of the communal folklore which forges artistic perception.

FOURTH GRADER, ICHABOD BURLAP AND his brother Alvin lived in a neighborhood where the disembodied parts of a corpse, each armed with some implement of death, roamed without restriction. These maledictions could disguise themselves as animals, each one. Rust-colored squirrel, a hand. Overweight pigeon, a head. Some kids said this shape-shifting is needless as the parts could turn invisible, teleport through solid walls and ceilings. Some kids said all kinds of things. Misinformation. Uninformed lunkheads, disbelieving louts, and daredevils sewing confusion.

Were the body parts all of a single corpse? Whose corpse? Was the dead man contemporary, ancient? Were the body parts as much a disguise as the animals? Was this menace – entity, lifeforce – not of our physical or psychic realm?

Some kids said they knew. Some kids said all kinds of things.
Some kids were, one day, never heard from again …

THE DISEMBODIED PARTS is a dramatic performance of the text of Pablo D’Stair’s autobiographical novel evoking a childhood exactly as it was – which is precisely as it wasn’t.

Currently, it’s available via Podbean (where it is hosted) and through Spotify – episodes will begin appearing on Audible, iTunes and other places soon, too.

PODBEAN: www.disembodiedparts.podbean.com

SPOTIFY: https://open.spotify.com/show/7gVD0O5VFvK7sbHEPd42mi

Classic Noir: The Long Goodbye (1973) by K A Laity

Classic Noir: The Long Goodbye (1973)

I read the novel so long ago (back in my L. A. days so looooong ago) I could only remember the basics of the story. There were probably more of them in the original script by the legend Leigh Brackett, but Robert Altman’s style of filmmaking always left room for improvisation and Elliott Gould—unlikely to be most director’s ideal choice to play Phillip Marlowe—works well here.

It’s been so long since I’ve seen this film that likewise memory proves unreliable. So much has changed in the mean time, too. I’ve been soaking in noir and neo-noir for so long now it’s altered my view on the genre, mostly to be much more accommodating. I dug out my vintage paperback to read later and sat down on a sunny Saturday afternoon to visit 1973 Los Angeles with Elliot Gould and co and Vilmos Zsigmond’s singular cinematography.

The ginger cat is the one thing everybody remembers. I should write a book about ginger cats in noir. You can’t cheat a cat. Chandler loved cats. The scene feels genuine to any cat lover: having fallen asleep in his clothes, Marlowe is awakened by the moggy landing on his belly. Ouch. He has no choice but to drag himself out at 3am in his 1948 Lincoln convertible to the 24 hour food store. The car is a nice touch, signaling Marlowe a throwback to another time, Chandler’s idea of the P.I. as a kind of knight with a code.

Then there’s the candle dippers next door. The topless women would feel more gratuitous if they didn’t have a totally believable and completely natural hippy languor. Asking Marlowe to pick up boxes of brownie mix and doing elaborate yoga poses on the balcony at night. The iconic High Tower provides an unforgettable location for Marlowe’s home, outdone only by the Malibu Colony. Apparently the Ward’s house was the one Altman was living in at the time.

Nina van Pallandt embodies the concerned wife with just enough difference from the mostly Californian cast to make her thinking seem mysterious but believable. Sterling Hayden is a legend and manages to uphold that without chewing scenery which would be easy to do in the role of the writer who can no longer write, who is drunk and angry with the world, not necessarily in that order. Allegedly inspired by Chandler’s own struggles as his wife was dying. Ward’s death is changed from the novel and pays off much better, especially in how it affects Marlowe, who develops a fondness for the difficult man. The drinking scene with Hayden and Gould was largely improvised and has an authentic feel.

Henry Gibson, best known at the time as a gentle poet on Laugh-In, is super creepy and menacing in a really unsettling way as the dry-out doctor trying to extort money from Wade.

Jim Bouton, better known for baseball and even more so for his tell-all memoir Ball Four about that career, makes his film debut as the pal asking Marlowe for a lift to Mexico with some suspicious injuries including a clawed face.

What feels most 70s about this movie is the cops. Well, not that they’ve changed much in L.A. according to my friends who still live there. That gritty, don’t care about anything attitude and the clothes—those awful seventies clothes that modern films never quite get right—they provide a good target for Marlowe’s dogged resistance. The ink interrogation scene is another improvised scene.

I had to look it up, but yeah, there’s a portrait of Leonard Cohen in the Ward’s house because Altman was a fan. Speaking of fans, I love the gatekeeper at the Colony and his impressions of the stars.

A cool thing: except for ‘Hooray for Hollywood’ that opens and closes the film, all the other music is variations of the theme tune by Johnny Mercer and John Williams—even the dirge played in the scenes in Mexico. It’s a great thematic device that gives the picture aural coherence.

The changed ending is often credited to Altman, but it was part of Brackett’s original script which was shopped around for some years before finally coming together with this unexpected group of talents. It works. The final scene is almost an inverse of The Third Man’s iconic ending, with a harmonica in place of the jaunty zither.

Well worth a revisit if it’s been a while for you, too. If you’ve not seen it, a treat awaits. Bonus: here’s a great interview with Gould by Kim Morgan.

K A LAITY IS HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE.

A Bachelor’s Guide To Everything by John Patrick Robbins

A Bachelor’s Guide To Everything

An old friend asked me.

“I don’t get why you just don’t stop all these stupid games, I mean just marry me and we can spend the rest if our lives together. “

Sara was delusional about our relationship more so than I.

It was something and at times it beat nothing.

It was sex to me and love to her.

Cold as it sounds it’s simply the truth.

And Frank didn’t entertain her delusions which would always certainly end with her upset and Frank relieved for a nice vacation from his favorite dwarfs company.

“I would love to come visit you sweetheart but honestly my GPS is broken and I view our relationship kind of like a timeshare.

You know, more a rental that others have the option to buy.”

“Hey, asshole! seriously I’m not going to wait for you forever !”

“And sweetheart I respect that. I mean if you find a guy that’s semi brain dead and not chemically assisted to get stiff on  a regular basis. By all means hop on that dick and ride that fucker into the sunset.”

“I cannot believe you are just letting me slip away you conceited prick!”

Sara replied building up to her usual blow up.

Frank simply got up and poured himself a drink .

Holding the bottle up.

“Care for one sweetheart ?”

“No I don’t want a drink you bastard !

Why can’t you just love me? What’s wrong with me ? “

“Well sugar, nothing aside from the fact I do not love you and I never will.

We’re friends and that’s it.”

It was harsh but Frank knew sometimes the truth was always the best route .

“Oh so you fuck all your friends?”

Frank kicked back his drink.

“Well I would but Bernie’s wife would probably get pissed. I mean with Simon already hitting on him every two seconds .  Honestly why have a conversation when you can have an orgasim , that’s what I always say.”

“I swear to fucking God ! , why does everything have to be a joke with you.”

Sara, was pissed beyond words as everyone has feeling’s, well minus Frank.

“Sugar , who said I was joking. I mean a relationship between an agent and literary brothers  is a special one . We actually  all have been thinking of building a commune  in the Midwest and maybe becoming modern day beatniks or professional open mic poets .”

Even Sara had to almost laugh at that one .

And as Frank mixed her drink along with his own as he took a seat beside her on the couch.

“Look sugar, I know it hurts but trust me.  I’m not the one .”

“Yeah but I’m in love with you so guess I am an idiot .”

“Sara cut the shit !, you’re not in love with me, you’re in love with an idea that can never be me. There’s always someone better. I’m a good time and that’s it, nothing more .”

The conversation continued and eventually like anything else in life it ended with bitter words and in Sara’s case some tears.

And as Frank sat on the deck afterwards, watching the sunset.

His ever faithful four legged drinking buddy finally joined him.

“Hey there you nutless wonder . Glad you finally chose to join the land of the living cause I really didn’t feel like digging a hole today.”

Boozer just looked at Frank and walked on past him and jumped into his chair he kept outside as he cut a fart while in midair.

Then stood there looking at Frank for a treat.

“Wow asshole what you do for an encore go shit the bed?”

Boozer was getting older much like Frank the eternal bachelor’s enjoyed some drinks and what little time they had together.

Listening to the sounds of the waves crash into the shore.

There was a peace in being alone most feared to embrace.

Frank was certainly not  most people.

Sometimes alone with your thoughts and old dog and some stiff drinks.

Was the best company a man could ask for.

Well until you got that urge .

But escorts were a simple fix and far cheaper than divorces .

Frank was forever the bachelor it seems.

John Patrick Robbins, is the editor in chief of The Rye Whiskey Review  and Black Shamrock Magazine.  His work has been published here at Punk Noir Magazine, Fearless Poetry Zine,  The Dope Fiend Daily, Piker Press, San Pedro River Review,  San Antonio Review ,Romingos Porch and Schlock Magazine. 
His work is always unfiltered

A Rotten Plan by Morgan Boyd

Dave had been trying to get in with the local cartel for years: The Wyler family. The only time he had ever caught their attention was when he ratted on a guy in the organization that his sister was dating.  The guy had been ripping them off in coke sales.  Dave dropped the dime, and sure enough, nobody ever heard from his sister’s boyfriend again, but it didn’t get him any closer to joining their ranks.  See, nobody likes a rat.  Not even those who benefit from his squealing .

The Wyler’s had a family tattoo they wore behind their right ear.  It was of a Barbary lion, and if you had the tattoo it meant you were in.  Dave wanted that tattoo more than anything.  He’d even tried to draw it in pen behind his ear a few times, using a mirror, so that he could feel what it was like to be one of the boys, but his renderings always ended up looking like smeared shit.

Dave had a new plan, though.  This time he was sure to get himself noticed by the Wyler’s, and he’d finally get some steady employment instead of being some asshole, schmuck assistant manager at a grocery store.  He pictured himself pulling out guy’s teeth that wouldn’t talk, or roughing up the kid who came up short on the money.  That was what he wanted to be more than anything, a tough guy.

This new plan to get noticed wafted in right under his nose. Some hippy kids rented the house across the street. It wasn’t long before the smell of their grow operation started stinking up the block.  One day, when the hippies were out, Dave snuck around back, and had a peek over the fence into the yard.  Holy shit, he thought.  It’s the goddamn emerald triangle back here. Hundreds of cannabis plants flowered in row after row of tired and cracked black pots.

Dave didn’t know dick about weed. He was going to take off a few boards on the hippies’ fence late at night, steal all of the plants in the back of a U-Haul truck, and stash it at a storage unit until he figured out how to turn a profit on it to impress the Wyler’s.  Fortunately, just before he was about to go through with his scheme, he let Howl in on his plan. Howl was an ex-con, gulf war vet, and a bandana wearing heavy stoner.

“What the fuck will you do with a bunch of unharvested bud?” Howl asked.

“Sell it.”

“To who?  Who the fuck is going to buy unharvested bud?” Howl said lighting a joint. “Only thing you’ll do is fuck up the crop.”

“What do you propose then?”

“Let the hippies do all of the work.  Let them harvest the bud.  Let them dry that shit.  Let them trim it.  When it’s all done, and ready to toke, that’s when we make our move.”

“How long will that take?”

“Judging by the smell, a few weeks.”

Dave wasn’t thrilled about putting his plan on hold, so he took out his dissatisfaction on the customers at the grocery store, but Howl knew about pot.  He knew how to move it, and if Dave could turn a tighty profit on the bud, he’d be on the fast track to getting that Wyler tat.

Howl worked recon for a few weeks.  He’d climb onto the roof of Dave’s house, and stare down into the hippies’ yard with a pair of binoculars. Finally, after he’d gathered enough intel to make an educated decision, Howl green-lit the operation.

“For some lazy ass hippies, they sure have been working hard to get that weed ready to roll,” Howl said.  They trimmed it outside, and now it’s hanging in the garage, drying.”

Dave rented a U-Haul truck, and he and Howl waited. After a few hours, they saw the hippies pile into their hippy bus, and drive off to do whatever hippy shit hippies do.  Dave packed his pistol, and Howl grabbed his lock picking kit.  They scurried across the street, and had the front door opened in no time.

Turning a corner into the living room, they came face to ass with a couple of the free loving, free loader type loadies caught in the act of coitus. Dave wouldn’t have minded watching if the lovers were into that kind of thing, but the guy reached over for his piece.  Dave got the draw on him, and put a bullet in the hippy’s forehead.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Howl said as the woman began screaming at the sight of her recently deceased lover. “What the fuck?”

“He went for his gun,” Dave said.  “It was us or him.”

“Well, now you have to dust her too,” Howl said. “She’s a witness.”

“Seems a shame,” Dave said, raising the gun, and shooting her in the head. “Sorry about that, lady.”

“The only shame is the size of your brain, asshole.  I’m not trying to catch a murder wrap.”

“Shit, this place is nice inside,” Dave said.  “Look at that big ass flat screen TV, and that spacious leather couch.  I thought hippies lived on dirt floors and made beads out of potatoes or some shit.”

“Come on, let’s get that dank loaded into the truck before those other Summer of sixty-niners return. 

Dave and Howl opened the door leading into the garage, and a wave of stinky bud odor crashed over them.

“Jackpot,” Dave said.  “Serves these beatniks right, stinking up my goddamn neighborhood.”

“Hold on,” Howl said, examining the drying buds, hanging on rows of strings throughout the entire garage. “You have to be fucking kidding me.”

“What?”

“It’s fucking botrytis.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s everywhere.”

“What is?”

“These motherfuckers are some serious amateurs. This stuff aint worth shit.”

“What the hell do you mean?”

“This is what I mean,” Howl said, taking a bud off the string.  It had brown patches of death on the outside, but when he ripped the flower apart, the inside was filled with a fine brown dust that floated into the air. “Gray mold. Also known as bud rot. If you don’t catch it early, it spreads like fire through your crop.”

“Can we still sell this shit?” Dave asked.

“These idiots must have been watering the leaves at night or something.  Fucking morons.”

“Can we still sell this shit?” Dave asked again.

“It’s all fucked and worthless. You know something?”

“What?”

“You were right.”

“I was?”

“This house is way too nice for a bunch of dirty ass amateur hippies, who can’t even grow weed.”

“That’s what I was saying.  Did you see the size of that TV in the living room? You could park a bus on it.”

“How can these peace lovers, who can’t even grow nugs correctly,” Howl asked as they returned to the dead couple in the living room, “afford all of this really nice shit?”

Howl reached over the dead couple, grabbed a leather-bound suitcase, and opened it. Hundreds of little white bindles dropped to the floor.

“We better haul ass,” Howl said, and quickly gathered up the white packets on the floor, and returned them to the suitcase.

“Hey, Howl?” Dave asked, pointing at a small black security camera on the ceiling. “What the hell is that?”

“Fuck it.  We got to go.”

“Hold on,” Dave said, and reached up, and unplugged the device, and put it in his pocket.  “We have to cover our tracks.”

“The video footage isn’t stored on the camera, numbnuts.”

“Then where is it stored?” Dave asked, and kicked the dead guy. “I bet he knows.  Where’s it at?  Or I put another hole in you.”

“Christ, Dave. The poor bastard’s already dead.  Let’s bounce the fuck out.”

“Oh, shit,” Dave said, pushing the dead guy’s head to the side with the barrel of his gun. “This aint no moonbeam.”

A Barbary lion was tattooed behind the dead guy’s ear.

“Come on asshole.”

Howl slipped out the front door with the briefcase under his arm. Dave stumbled out of the house behind him. As they stepped off the porch, a long black car pulled into the driveway. The barrel of a long gun stuck out the back window, and the cracking sound of two gunshots pierced the marijuana scented air. 

Bio: Morgan Boyd used to live in Santa Cruz, California.  Now he lives somewhere else with his wife, daughter, cat, and carnivorous plant collection. He has been published online at Flash Fiction Offensive, Shotgun Honey, Near To The Knuckle, Coffee and Fried Chicken, Tough, Pulp Metal Magazine, Spelk and in print at Switchblade Magazine.  He also has stories forthcoming at Yellow Mama and Story and Grit.

Out Now! Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained by The Fabulous Artisans

Stereogram Recordings are delighted to announce the release of “Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained” a brand new track by The Fabulous Artisans on September 25th. It was mostly recorded prior to lockdown, with finishing touches, mix and mastering completed in July.

Founded in 2007 and named after the iconic Orange Juice track, The Fabulous Artisans is a collaboration between Glasgow based Oscar and BAFTA award winning actor, former stand-up comic and singer Neil Crossan and Edinburgh based songwriter, singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer Jeremy Thoms (also of The Cathode Ray and Stereogram label boss). “With a sound fed from Bacharach to Barry, Brel to Bowie, Cave to Collins, Magazine to Morricone and Wilson to Walker, this is timeless music for or from any era…

Written, arranged and produced by Jeremy Thoms, “Nothing Ventured Nothing Gained” is only the fourth new track The Fabulous Artisans have released since their warmly received debut album “…From Red to Blue” came out on Swedish indie label Bendi Records in 2008. It continues their lineage of mixing up the classic pop sounds of the past with a modern twist, whilst adding their characteristic big lyrical themes of life and death.

Released September 25, 2020

Lead vocals: Neil Crossan
Written, produced and arranged by Jeremy Thoms.