Christopher Moore's Blog

Miscellany from the Author Guy

Christopher Moore's Blog header image 1

Razzmatazz – The Tour!

March 16th, 2022 · 3 Comments

Out Now!

Chris’s latest novel Razzmatazz is out now! Check the dates below to find out where you can catch the man himself on his live tour!

  • Thursday 6/16
    SANTA CRUZ, CA
    Bookshop Santa Cruz
    7:00PM PT
    More Info
    *Ticketed

  • Sunday 5/15
    VIRTUAL
    Books Inc.
    5:00PM PT
    More Info
    *Ticketed

  • Monday 5/16
    SAN FRANCISCO, CA
    Books Inc
    7:00PM PT
    More Info
    *Ticketed

  • Tuesday 5/17
    PORTLAND, OR
    Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing
    7:00PM PT
    More Info

  • Wednesday 5/18
    SEATTLE, WA
    Third Place Books
    7:00PM PT
    More Info
    *Ticketed

  • Thursday 5/19
    SAN DIEGO, CA
    Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore
    7:00PM PT
    More Info
    *Ticketed

  • Friday 5/20
    TEMPE, AZ
    Changing Hands Bookstore Tempe
    7:00PM AZ TIME
    More Info
    *Ticketed

  • Saturday 5/21
    DENVER, CO
    Tattered Cover Bookstore
    7:00PM MT
    More Info
    *Ticketed

  • Monday 5/23
    AUSTIN, TX
    BookPeople
    7:00PM CT
    More Info
    *Ticketed

  • Tuesday 5/24
    SAN ANTONIO, TX
    Nowhere Bookshop
    @ Madison Square Presbyterian Church
    in conversation with Jenny Lawson
    6:00PM CT
    More Info
    *Ticketed

  • Thursday 5/26
    PETALUMA, CA
    Copperfield’s Books Petluma
    6:00PM PT
    More Info
    *Ticketed

→ 3 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Razzmatazz

December 24th, 2021 · 19 Comments

(Here you go, kids. Christmas preview of the new novel, due out May 18th, 2022. Hope you like it. Happy Holidays.)

Prologue
A Dragon in Big Town

So, about three hundred years ago, when the Qing dynasty isn’t even old enough to buy a beer, there comes a wave of barbarians out of the north with such fury and numbers that it kicks nine shades of shit out of the Emperor’s army, causing much embarrassment and fear among the aristocracy, and a large number of corpses among the peasants and military. You can’t walk a block without tripping over a widow or an orphan, the sky is black with the smoke of burning villages, and it is widely agreed throughout China that the soup of the day is Cream of Sadness.

So the Emperor calls his ministers together and says: “Who are these mugs? Why do they vex me thus? And will no one rid me of them?”

And one of his ministers, a toady whose name is lost to history, but let’s say he’s called Jeff, says: “These are the same mugs from the north that have invaded us regularly lo these many years.” But he does not say, “They vex you thus because you have opened up the aristocracy to anyone who can afford the ducats, including merchants and lawyers, so you have a kingdom very top-heavy with bums, but you have not spent any of that sweet cabbage on walls, weapons, or the training of soldiers.” Jeff does not say this because he is one of those selfsame bums of which he speaks. But he does say, “I hear of a Buddhist monastery in Fukien Province where the monks train day and night in the art of fighting and are said to be so fierce that one of them punches out a yak’s lights when he goes outside to take a leak in the morning—rings the bell of a wild yak with one hand on his willy and does not get even a drop on his robe.”

And the Emperor says unto Jeff, “Yeah, go get those guys. Offer them substantial cheddar and powerless positions at court to save our bacon.”

So Jeff journeys to the mountaintop where the monks keep their clubhouse, and asks them will they rid the kingdom of the vicious barbarians from the north and the abbot answers thus: “Nope. We have some chanting and meditation to do, and after lunch, fighting practice.”

“But,” says Jeff, “we will give you titles, stacks of cabbage, fine outfits, a feedbag of the finest fare, and gorgeous dames with feet so tiny they can tap-dance on a bottle cap.”
And the abbot says, “We’re good. Now, if you will excuse me, I’m going to have some tea and punch a yak.”

So Jeff spake thusly: “But many peasants have been killed, there are widows and orphans coming out the wazoo, villages are burning, and there is much suffering in the land. Besides, what’s the point of training at fighting all day if all you are going to do is knock out random mountain beefs?”

And with that the abbot says, “That is an excellent point, toady. We’ll do it.”

And so it comes to pass that one hundred and thirty-eight monks, outfitted for fighting, march north (leaving home one guy for ringing the gong and another to milk the yak). And before three

days have passed, those barbarians who were not killed or wounded are more than somewhat discombobulated, and they retreat to their own land, while not a single monk is lost (although a couple have blisters on their thumbs from their fighting sticks and the abbot quotes the Buddha to them, saying, “Life is suffering,” and “You should put some ointment on those” and they are comforted). Then they return to their monastery, shut the doors, and resume their routine.

Meanwhile, there is much rejoicing in the land, and in the Celestial City, the Emperor is praised for his strength and wisdom and says thus: “So these daffy mugs don’t want anything?”

“Nope,” says Jeff. “They say they are content to have lessened the suffering and oppression of the people and would I please go piss up a rope.”

“Buddhist parable,” explains one of the other ministers. “Probably.”
“Something’s fishy,” says another toady. “How do we know these guys aren’t up to something?”

“And what if they start to think that we are the ones oppressing the people?” says another, “Which, you have to admit, has come up at meetings.”

“Yeah,” says the Emperor. “I don’t trust a guy who doesn’t want anything.”

“Maybe,” says a younger toady, “we—” And here he makes the gesture of cutting someone’s throat and makes a croaking sound.

“How?” asks Jeff. “They are the best fighters in the land and I think we can admit that in comparison, our guys are shit.”

“Maybe we give them a little flaming medicine,” says one of the more clever ministers, referring to what they call gunpowder at the time. “I hear recently from one of the Dutch white devils that it can be used for croaking guys as well as entertainment.”

And around the great hall goes a collective “hmmmm” of thoughtfulness.

See, gunpowder has been around for hundreds of years, but up until then it has only been used for firecrackers on New Year’s and to blast that one guy to the moon several centuries ago, which, it is agreed, would have worked if they hadn’t made his rocket ship out of bamboo. But recently, traders from the West have introduced the flaming medicine for making bombs and loading cannons, thus giving it the new name.

“Make a plan,” says the Emperor.

So it comes to pass that a small force of the Emperor’s soldiers sneaks into the mountains in the night and sets fire to the monks’ clubhouse, stacking barrels of gunpowder at the gates and tossing bombs over the walls until the entire joint is in flames. When the monks run to one gate to meet their attackers, it is blown up, and when they run to another, it too is blown up, until most of the monks are dead or in flames and it is not looking good for those few who are not.

But then the Immortals look down from the heavens, and despite the fact that the Buddhist monks don’t believe in them, they are moved by their discipline and good deeds, and they send a thunderbolt down to blow a hole in the back wall of the monastery, through which the surviving eighteen monks escape, leaving the Emperor’s soldiers thinking the monks are toast to the last man.

Hidden and nursed by the peasants whom they saved from the barbarians, all but five of the monks perish from their wounds. Those five, who are called the Five Ancestors, vow to oppose the reign of the Qing Emperor and all those of his descent, as he is now regarded throughout the land to be a first-rate douche bag, and they also vow to restore the previous Ming dynasty, which everyone agrees was swell, and much better for the people. To each of the Five, the Immortals bestow a talisman of the Five Great Dragons: dragons of wood, earth, metal, fire, and rain, whose power they will represent on Earth.

So the Five Ancestors adopt a banner of three red dots, which is the symbol of the Ming dynasty, and for that they are called the Triads. They spread out through the cities and villages, recruiting members to the secret resistance, and eventually, to make ends meet, they evolve into great criminal organizations, always with the goal of overthrowing the Qing emperors, as well as making a few doubloons on the side. A couple of hundred years go by, gold is discovered across the salt in the Land of Golden Hills, the Triads establish benevolent societies called tongs, and many sons of the working class are recruited and helped to immigrate to America to find their fortunes. The tongs become very powerful among the Chinese in America, and become very proficient in running gambling, smuggling, prostitution, and extortion operations. In the New World, the tongs are competitive to the point of war, and adopt all kinds of spooky rituals, calling on their noble Triad history to recruit and earn the loyalty of their soldiers. There are rumors that even some of the talismans of the Five Great Dragons made their way to Big Town (San Francisco) and the tongs promised the power of the immortal dragons could be summoned against their enemies at any time.

But you know, rumors. Dragons? In San Francisco? C’mon. What are the odds?

Chapter 1


Mother Superior and the Big Black Dong

When we pulled up to Jimmy’s Joynt on Pier 29 the doorman was beating a skinny guy in a tux with a black rubber dildo the length of a Louisville Slugger and the diameter of a soup can, hitting him only in the soft parts—the thigh, the shoulder, the caboose—so each blow sounded like a butcher smacking a fat ham.

We had the windows of the cab down, as it was a warm night for November, with only a light wind, and the fog hadn’t even crept through the Golden Gate yet, despite it being the small hours of a Sunday morning.

“Boy, you don’t see that every day,” said Milo, whose cab I was driving. Milo often assumes passenger duties in his own taxi, as he was soundly blown up while driving a tank at the Battle of the Bulge and so sometimes gets jumpy behind the wheel.

“Well, Butch likes to keep a tight ship.”

Butch, who was also wearing a tux, as she always does when working, performed a two-handed golf swing that sent the dark dangler into the thin guy’s nut sack with a sickening thud, to which the guy, Milo, and I all responded with explosive “oofs!” although the oofs were only sympathetic from Milo and me.

The thin guy sank to his knees, then rolled over on the pier, trying to catch his breath, while Butch menaced him with the point of the dong. “And don’t come back,” Butch said, “or it won’t go as well for you.”

“It does not seem to be going that well for that guy this time,” said Milo.
The guy, still gasping for air, scuttled away from Butch, passing on my side of the cab.

“That guy looks like he could be good for a return fare,” I said to Milo. “Pac Heights or Nob Hill. You want I should flag him down?”

“Nah,” said Milo, pulling down the brim of his checkered cabbie cap like he couldn’t even see the guy. “That guy has a pencil-thin mustache and it is well known that no one grows a pencil- thin mustache except douche bags and Errol Flynn.”

“Are you saying that Robin Hood is a douche bag?”

“I am saying no such thing. I said douche bags and Errol Flynn. I’ll wait. You want I should keep the meter running?”

“First, I do not know how long I will be, and second, since I drove here, the flag has not been dropped on the meter to date, so third, and in conclusion, no.”

“Fine. Off the meter. You sure you don’t want to drive back?” “I have to see to the Cheese,” I said.
“Well, she can drive back. I don’t mind a dame driving.”

“We will not be returning to Cookie’s,” I said, referring to the diner in the Tenderloin where I often rendezvous with Milo and various other citizens for late-night coffee and philosophical discourse. “I am accompanying the Cheese to her place, where I intend to attend to her various wants and needs and vice versa.”

“I’ll be back!” shouted the pencil-thin mustache guy. “I know people! Important people. You’ll be sorry! You, you, abomination!” Then he scuttled off down the pier past a line of parked cars where two dames were smooching furiously against the side of a Studebaker.

“You wanna come in?” I asked Milo. “I’ll buy you a drink.”

“Nah,” said the diminutive Greek, “I gotta get back to Cookie’s. I might just sit here a minute and watch those two dolls swap spit, you know, pick up some pointers I can use on Doris.”

“You are a thoughtful fellow,” I said as I climbed out of the cab and screwed my hat down tight against the breeze. “Always thinking of Doris’s happiness, Milo.”

“She is a stand-up dame,” said Milo.

“That she is,” I agreed. Doris is the graveyard biscuit-slinger at Cookie’s Coffee, and despite her being ten years older and several stones heavier than Milo and being in possession of a very large Swedish longshoreman husband called Lars, Milo is deeply smitten with her, and vice versa, it would appear. “Well, hold down the fort,” I said, tapping the hood of the cab. “I will see you tomorrow at Cookie’s.”

“Adieu, ya mug,” said Milo, sliding over behind the wheel as I strolled away.

“How’s it hanging, Sammy?” called Butch, holding the dildo in a menacing manner (and it occurred to me then that menacing is about the only way one can hold a yard-long rubber dong).

“You an abomination now, Butch?” I asked.

“Taking night classes,” said Butch with a shrug. “Something to fall back on.” She stood five feet ten, weighed maybe a buck-ninety, so my size plus about twenty pounds of shoulders, giving her a linebacker V-shape that unruly patrons had come to fear or at least respect. Her hair was short, black, and slicked back in the manner of a lot of the dames who frequented Jimmy’s Joynt.

“Well, that is quite a respectable pasting you gave that guy. This a regular thing?” Being a barman myself, at Sal’s in North Beach, I am acquainted with various methods of managing unruly patrons. I appreciate the art.

“Regular enough. Some guys get sored up when they find their missus joining us here on the sunny sunny side of the street. Such guys are often of the opinion that they can push a dame around by virtue of their sex, and I am obligated to correct their way of thinking, sometimes rendering them unconscious before my point is made.”

“Point taken. I, too, have resorted to such tactics, although I use a sawed-off pool cue to help make my point, rather than—” I bounced my eyebrows at Butch’s weapon.

“Oh, this,” she said, holding up the dong like a marine saluting with a dress sword (her weapon wiggling disturbingly with the gesture). “You’d be surprised how few guys want to report to the

cops that a dyke down at the wharf just beat the stuffing outta them with a big black rubber dick.”

“That is a very savvy angle, Butch. Very savvy indeed. They ever come back with some pals to get revenge?”

“Nah, although one guy comes back the next night and offers me a C-note to do it again, only slower.”

“You take him up on it?”

“Nah, the boss does not like us to pursue personal business while at work. Jimmy has asked that we attract as little attention from the gendarmes as possible. I keep the corporal punishment very much on the QT, what with the Mother Superior vowing to rid the city of all forms of fun.”

The Mother Superior, or Dunne the Nun, is Captain James Dunne, the San Francisco Police Department’s new head of vice, a starched-shirt, churchgoing flatfoot who was trying to claw his way into the mayor’s office on the backs of many respectable citizens such as hookers, gamblers, hustlers, strippers, lady lovers, pansies, pimps, pornographers, panderers, and people who like jazz—in other words, the guys and dolls I call my friends.

“Still, you got that as a fallback, if working the door gets you down.”

“I don’t think so,” Butch said, tucking her dark dingus behind the podium where she stood guard, as she functioned as both the doorman and the host on slow nights. “Taking money for it would be weird.”

“Yeah, you wouldn’t want it to get weird. Well, you got style, pal, I’ll give you that.”

Butch raised an eyebrow of skepticism. “Don’t go sweet on me, Sammy. I know you got a talent for falling for the wrong dame and dames don’t get any wronger than yours truly.”

“She inside?”
“Holding court at the bar. Not a dry stool in the house.”

“What’s the damage tonight?” I reached into my pocket for the toll for the cover, which changes from night to night, depending on the time and how much the joint is jumping.

Butch tossed her head and a well-oiled forelock broke loose from her coif. “Get out of here with that, ya mope.”

I tipped my hat as I went by. “You’re a gentleman and a scholar, Butch,” I said, which made her laugh until she snorted.

The main room at Jimmy’s Joynt was once a warehouse, now painted black to cover the hooks and hoists in the rafters. A low ghost of cigarette smoke hung in the air over about forty tables where dames, only dames, in dresses or men’s suits, were paired up, looking sad and urgent as, up on the stage, a skinny dame in white tux and tails with a painted-on mustache squeezed out a slow song about lost love in a sultry alto. The joint looked like some daffy Sapphic goddess had sprinkled an abandoned coal mine with melancholy lesbians, then taken a powder in a puff of smoke. On the dance floor three couples rocked in rhythm to a stand-up bass coming out of a dark corner where a tall blonde in a long green evening gown was giving it an expert fingering for their pleasure. It was three in the morning and whatever high time there was to be had had been had, whoever had somewhere to go had gone, and now everyone was just marking time until last call, when they had to go somewhere they didn’t want to be or home to someone they didn’t want to see.

A few faces turned toward me as I walked in and for all the welcome in their expressions I felt like a leper wearing a dead skunk for a tie. I don’t take it personally. A lot of these dames have grounds for giving a general stink-eye to citizens of the guy persuasion and no use for us whatsoever.

Just like Butch said, Stilton, a shapely blond biscuit of whom I am more than somewhat fond, was perched on a stool up at the bar, looking bright as a summer day in her white dress with the big red polka dots (despite it being November, and dark as Dracula’s dirty drawers) and red Mary Janes, tall heels hooked into the rail of the bar. The Cheese, as I and my pals refer to Stilton when she’s not around, was surrounded by a bevy of broads of various sizes and shapes, attired in men’s suits, smoking and laughing and hanging on the Cheese’s every word like she was the Blessed Virgin passing out tips on a hot horse at Bay Meadows.

But before I could catch the eye of my one true I heard, “What’s the scam, Sam?” Which came from Jimmy Vasco, who was flanking Stilton on the starboard side, smoking a coffin nail in a long black holder that she chomped between her pearly whites so it bounced a little when she talked. Jimmy was slicked-back, sharp as a tack, in a satin black tux and tails tailored to flatten her curves; maybe five-two and a C-note soaking wet, and though she was little, she was fierce, as the Bard says, and a stand-up dame—she lent me her car and a sweet little Kraut pistol on occasion. Jimmy Vasco owned the joint.

Jimmy gave me a respectable punch on the shoulder by way of a hello.

“This jamoke bothering you, Toots?” said the Cheese. In this scenario, Jimmy was the jamoke, and I was, well—

“Don’t call me Toots,” I replied.

One of the dames on the other side of the Cheese sneered at me—actually sneered—I suppose sensing that Stilton and I had enough chemistry to put Union Carbide and Dow Chemical in the soup line.

“Hi, Sammy,” chirped Myrtle, a tall Olive Oyl–shaped redhead who worked the lunch counter at the Five & Dime with the Cheese and who had been decorating Jimmy Vasco’s arm nigh unto half a year.

“Hey, Myrt,” I replied with a wink. “Looking very fetching this evening. Very fetching indeed.”

“Aw, pshaw,” Myrtle said, and hid her smile like she was embarrassed instead of basking in it.

And she did look good. Jimmy had wrapped her in various sheaths of satin and sequins since they started dating, at least when Myrtle was in the club, and rather than looking gawky like when I’d first met her, she was threating elegant. In fact, that long green number on the blond bass player in the corner had made its maiden voyage on Myrtle a month or so back. (Jimmy Vasco was nothing if not efficient.) I liked Myrtle. She was a good pal to the Cheese and she said things like “pshaw.”

“You ain’t so bad yourself,” said Myrtle, batting her eyelashes, flirting for Jimmy’s benefit. “Me? I’m a sack of old sweat socks compared to you, hot stuff.” And I sort of was, still in my bartender togs, smelling of stale liquor and cigarettes, my tie tucked into my shirt, my tweed overcoat thrown over the whole mess.

“My sack of socks,” said Stilton, who pulled me over to her and bit me on the ear, a little harder than was strictly necessary. And with that, all the dames who had been trying to make time with the Cheese moved away, dispersing into the room like mosquitoes who just tried to take a bite out of the Tin Man. The one who’d sneered at me before harrumphed as she walked away.

“Hey, I’m trying to run a business here,” said Jimmy. “It’s hard enough these days without you dancing in and crushing everyone’s hopes and dreams.”

“That your business, Jimmy? Hopes and dreams?”

Jimmy stepped to me and let a stream of smoke trickle out of her nose as she tried to look sinister. “Very dark, very damp dreams, Sammy.” Then she grinned around her cigarette holder. “Also dancing and moderately priced liquor. Whaddaya drinking?”

“Vodka gimlet,” I said. Jimmy nodded to Mel, the bartender, a lean, androgynous dame in the same outfit as me, sans the overcoat and fedora, plus a cameo on a velvet choker at her throat. She started building the gimlet without a word.

To Stilton and Myrtle I said, “Don’t you two have to be at work in about”—I checked my Timex—“three hours?” The girls were generally pushing pancakes at the Five & Dime by six. In fact, the Cheese and I had decided we would take a night off, as I did not get off work at Sal’s until two, and she had to be at the Five & Dime by six, so I was more than somewhat surprised when she’d called me at Cookie’s Coffee, where I was enjoying coffee and narrative with my pals, and invited me to join her at Jimmy’s Joynt, as Jimmy had something she wished to discuss with me, after which, the Cheese implied, we would retire to her place for much nudity and merriment.

Gimlet in hand, I tipped a toast to Mel the bartender, then turned to Jimmy and said, “So, what’s on your mind?”

But before Jimmy could answer there came the sound of a whistle, such as a coach might use, tootling through the club, although I was sure it was not the tootling of a coach.

“Fucking cops,” said Jimmy by way of explanation, and with that she grabbed Myrtle’s paw, who in turn grabbed the Cheese, who grabbed me, and we were led willy-nilly behind the bar, through a door, and into a long, badly lit hallway with walls painted black. I had been there before, and I headed for Jimmy’s office down the hall, but I was whipsawed in the grasp of the Cheese as Jimmy stopped and bumped a shoulder into the wall, from which snapped open a hidden door, revealing a narrow staircase.

“Pull that shut behind you,” said Jimmy, and I did.

Jimmy led us up the stairs to another hall, barely shoulder width, where she pulled a chain, snapping off the single lightbulb, leaving us standing in the dark listening to each other’s breath as well as no little shouting by cops and patrons coming from the club on the other side of the wall.

“They can’t see—” I started to say when I heard a scraping sound, which was Jimmy opening a little port that revealed a peephole the size of a quarter, which Jimmy filled with her eyeball.

“The fuck happened to Butch?” she asked.

“Butch has a button on the podium that warns everyone,” said Myrtle.

“Maybe they sneaked up on her,” the Cheese offered.

“There’s a dozen cops down there,” said Jimmy. “No one sneaks up on Butch.”

“Why the commotion?” I asked. “You ain’t doing nothing illegal. I mean, serving after hours, but that’s maybe a ticket or a bribe, not a raid.”

“Three articles,” said Jimmy, and she pulled away from the peephole to give me a gander.
I looked down to see the cops lining all the dames dressed in men’s suits against the wall, while herding all the dames in dresses over to the stage.

“Masquerade law,” said Myrtle, casting no more light on the subject than the peephole did on the dark passage.

Below there was much protest from all involved and a little sobbing and sniffling from a few. The uniform cops did, indeed, number a dozen, which surprised me no little, because if you had asked me, I did not think there were a dozen cops working all of Fog City at this time of the morning. As I observed, two plainclothes mugs made their way in, one a dumpy mope with a

boiler trying to escape his pants and jacket, and a very tall, hard-looking cop with a jaw like a hatchet and creases in his pants that would cut butter.

While I watched, the tall cop went from one dame to another, pulling up her jacket and pulling out her waistband, inspecting each in the most invasive way. “I don’t know what he’s looking for,” I said, “but it ain’t weapons.”

Jimmy Vasco pushed me aside and fitted her eye to the peephole. “That cracker-crunching mackerel snapper is checking their underwear.”

“Cracker cruncher?” I asked Myrtle with a raised eyebrow. My peepers had adjusted to the dark and between the light from the peephole and what was coming over the top of the fake wall I could see just fine.

“Body of Christ,” said Myrtle, crossing herself.

“Sorry, doll,” said Jimmy. “I forgot. It ain’t he’s a Catholic, it’s he’s a holier-than-thou cocksucker of a Catholic.”

“That’s Dunne?” I’d never seen the new head of vice.

Jimmy shushed me, finger to her lips. We could hear cops rummaging around in the hall below us, slamming doors, tipping stuff over.

“Looking for you?” I whispered.
Jimmy nodded. “’Swhat I wanted to talk to you about.”
“Well, I’m not going to hide you. My apartment’s small and you’re bossy.” “Nah, I was gonna ask you to take care of him like you did Pookie O’Hara.”

“I did not scrag Pookie,” I said. And I didn’t. Pookie O’Hara, SFPD’s previous head of vice and a certified creep, mysteriously disappeared a few months ago while the Cheese and I were having an adventure up in Sonoma County. Many citizens attributed his disappearance to me.

“Right,” Jimmy said with an exaggerated wink that not only was visible in the crepuscular light of the passage, but looked like she had wiped a cut lemon across her eye and was trying to squint away the burn.

Stilton pushed through and put her eye to the peephole. “Now they’re looking at their socks. What kind of loopy shit is going on down there?”

“Masquerade laws,” said Jimmy. “Started back in the 1800s. If a dame is dressed like a guy she’s got to be wearing at least three articles of women’s clothing or she’s in violation of the law.”

“Three-articles law,” said Myrtle.

I heard a click and a flick and Jimmy’s Zippo lit up and she held it down by her feet while pulling up her pants leg, showing a lacy sock with pink embroidered roses. “Embarrassing,” she said.

“Most girls wear a pretty pair of panties, too,” said Myrtle. “I know I do.” “Aw, Myrtle,” said Stilton, “you got feminine for miles.”

“Well, those socks make two,” I said to Jimmy, then, with an elbow to her ribs, “What else you got hidden to keep you out of jail?”

“Things get rough, I figure I can jump into Stilton’s panties.”

“Well, you’re shit out of luck tonight, buster,” said Stilton, still looking down on the club. “Unless you want to hike up the hill and get ’em out of the hamper.”

And I was thinking, What kind of bum lets his girlfriend go through life with only one pair of skivvies?

“Hey!” Stilton yelled. “Let go of her!”
“Shhhhh, doll,” I said, and Myrtle and Jimmy were shushing her for all they were worth, too. “Well, he’s roughing up Betty Anne. She’s a swell gal.”

I looked through the peephole and sure enough, Dunne was going down the line, whipping each of the dames up against the wall while the uniforms were cuffing them. Not exactly punching their lights out, but being much rougher than the situation called for. Dunne was a big guy, maybe six-six, and well over two hundred, a church tower of a guy, one of those sturdy English church towers with the slots on top for your church archers to shoot through. He was whipping these dames around like they were rag dolls, calling them perverts and dykes and various other unflattering sobriquets, and let me tell you, dykes can call themselves dykes all night long and laugh it away, but a guy tries that one on and he will have some severely sored-up lesbians on his hands. But these poor dames were growling or crying and I did not care for the scene at all. I do not care for guys roughing up dames, even if they are wearing suits that are nicer than mine, and just as I was about to comment thus, Dunne whipped this tall, thin dame around by the shoulder, and she had nothing but fire for him. She couldn’t have been more than twenty-two, twenty- three, wearing a black pinstripe suit over a silk blouse unbuttoned to her navel, and not a stitch under that I could see. Her hair was black, short, in a bob like that silent film star Louise Brooks had, long, pointed sideburns sweeping down near to the corners of her mouth. She was a looker, in a pissed-off, vampire-who-wouldn’t-drink-your-blood-if-she-was-dying-of-thirst sort of way.

Dunne dropped his tone and said something I couldn’t hear. The thin dame gave him a sneer. Whatever she said, it made Mother Superior Captain James Dunne look like he’d run into a solid wall of nope.

“The fuck?” I sort of let drool out, as I watched Dunne order all his uniforms to uncuff the dames against the wall. While they were still sniffling and rubbing their wrists, the cops cleared out, Dunne called the uniforms back out from Jimmy’s office, then made a tucked-tail exit with the tall, thin dame stepping right behind.

“Jimmy,” I said. “Look, look, look. Who’s the tall dame trailing Dunne?”
I stepped to the side and Jimmy fitted her eye to the peephole.
“The fuck?” Jimmy said.
“What? What? What?” said Myrtle, pulling Jimmy away from the peephole. Jimmy looked up at me. “The fuck?”

I shrugged so hard my hat tipped. “She said something to him and he nearly pissed himself.”

“Oh yeah, I saw her come in after you,” said Myrtle. “Wait. Look, look, look.” Myrtle pulled aside to give me a look.

So I looked. “The fuck?” On her way out the thin dame threw an arm around Mel, the bartender, who had been lined up against the wall with the others, and laid an Argentine backbreaking tongue-tango on her while catching the back of Dunne’s jacket so he was whipped around and had to watch.

I stepped aside quickly so Jimmy could see. “The fuck?” she said.
“Who is she?” I asked.
“No idea, first time I’ve seen her,” said Jimmy. “But I’m glad she’s on our team.”

Two minutes later we were downstairs on the dance floor, the lights all the way up like you never want to see in a bar at three in the morning, and Jimmy had gently but sternly told everyone they had to get the fuck out, so they shuffled off, some of them still sniffling from their run-in with the Mother, the bass player carrying her axe like an oversized baby.

Jimmy herded us out last, turning off lights and locking doors as we went. I helped her bring the host podium in and noticed that Butch’s dingus of death was still tucked behind it.

“Can’t figure what happened to Butch,” Jimmy said. “That’s not like her to take a powder on a work night.”

“You want us to help look for her”

“Nah, I’m beat,” said Jimmy. “I’m staying at Myrtle’s place. You two need a ride?”

Jimmy kept a small apartment behind her office and had a pearl-black ’36 Ford Coupe with a rumble seat that would be a snug but welcome fit about now. I did not relish climbing the 387 steps to Stilton’s place on Telegraph Hill or finding a cab to my place at that hour.

“Sure,” I said. “Thanks.”

“We can find out Butch’s story in the p.m.,” said Jimmy, the p.m. being the hours in which we in the hospitality trade actually begin to stir, as opposed to the morning for normal citizens.
But what we found in the p.m. was that at that very moment, Butch was bobbing facedown in the bay about fifteen feet below where we stood.

→ 19 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Shakespeare for Squirrels

February 12th, 2020 · 19 Comments

Chapter 1 – He is Drowned and These are Devils

            We’d been adrift for eight days when the ninny tried to eat the monkey.  I lay in the bow of the boat, under the moonlight, slowly expiring from thirst and heartbreak, while the great beef-brained boy, Drool, made bumbling snatches for the monkey, who was perched on the bowsprit behind my head, screeching and clawing at my jester’s hat, and jingling his bells in a festive manner.

            “Sit down, Drool, you’ll capsize us.”

            “Just one wee lick,” said the giant, grasping the air before him like an enormous baby reaching for his tiny monkey mother. The bow of the boat dove under Drools weight. Sea water splashed the monkey’s bottom; he shrieked and made as if to fling poo at the giant, but it had been eight days since any of us had eaten and he could birth no bum-babies for the flinging.

“There will be no monkey-licking as long as I draw breath.”

“I’ll just give him a bit of a squeeze, then?”

“No,” said I. On the fourth day, after the water ran out, Drool had taken to squeezing Jeff (the monkey) like a wine skin and drinking his wee, but now the monkey was dry and I feared the next squeeze would produce little but a sanguine monkey marmalade.

“I won’t hurt him,” said the oaf, so inept in the lie that he might as well have tied bells on the truth and chased it around the town square while beating a drum.

Drool dropped back onto the seat at his end of the dingy, his weight sending the bow up so rapidly that Jeff was nearly launched into the drink. I caught the monkey and comforted him by slapping my coxcomb over his head and holding it fast until he stopped biting.

“But…” said Drool, holding a great sausage of a finger aloft as he searched the night for a point.

“Shhhh, Drool. Listen.” I heard something beyond the lap of waves and the growl of my gut.

“What?”

I stood in the boat, still hugging the monkey to my chest, and looked in the direction of the noise. A full moon puddled silver across the inky sea, but there, in the distance, lay a line of white. Surf.  

“It’s land, lad. Land. That way.” I pointed. “Now paddle, you great dribbling ninny. Paddle, lest it be an island and we drift by.”

“I will, Pocket,” said Drool. “I am. Land’s the dog’s bollocks, ain’t it.”

He showed less enthusiasm than the revelation should have engendered.

“Land, lad, where they keep food and drink.”

“Oh, right. Land,” a spark finally striking in the vast, dark, empty of his noggin.

The pirates had set us adrift without oars, but Drool’s arms were long enough that if he lay down he could get enough of a hand in the water to paddle. By his sliding from one gunwale to the other, the little boat sloshed slowly forward.  My arms would barely reach the water, and as it turned out, though the monkey could swim, even with a sturdy cord tied round his middle,  Jeff was complete shit at towing a boat.

An hour or so later, what had been a calm sea began to rise up on rollers, the blue white lines I’d spotted churned into a briny boil. What had been the distant swish of surf now crashed like thunder before us.

“Pocket,” said Drool, sitting up, his eyes wide and alight with fear. “I don’t want to paddle no more.  I wanna go back.”   

“Nonsense,” said I, with enthusiasm I did not feel. “Once more into the breech!”

And before I could turn to see where we were headed, a great wave lifted the boat and we were driven ahead on its face, racing as if on a sled down a never-ending slope. Drool let loose a long, terrified wail and gripped the rails as the stern was lifted, lifted – and then we were vertical on the face of the wave. I looked above me to see a great flailing nitwit flying in the night and a monkey tumbling with him. Then the wave crashed down upon us. I lost my hold on the boat and was awash in a confusion of salt and chill. Over and down and over until there was no up, nowhere to go for air, and no way to get there. Then a light. The moon. A tumble, and there again, the silver above, shining life.  I kicked, hoping to find some purchase on sand, but there was nothing but water; then the moon, and a black specter diving out of the silver disc above – the boat. I tried to tuck my head but too late and then a shock and a flash in the eye as the boat struck me and all was dark. Oblivion.

                                                                     #  #  #

There were flames dancing before me when I woke from the dead, which was not entirely unexpected. The Devil was smaller and rather younger than I would have guessed. He danced barefoot around the fire as he stoked it in preparation for my torment. The fiend wore a tunic of rough linen, leaves and sticks clinging to it, and a bycocket hat with a single feather in the style of bow hunters back home in Blighty. Bit of a ginger fringe. Scrawny and pathetic, really, for the prince of bloody darkness.

As I stirred, the fiend made his way over to me and studied my face. He had wide eyes and high cheekbones, decidedly feminine, which gave him the look of a cat that has been surprised in the middle of his repast of a freshly killed rat — alert and fierce.  

“He’s awake,” said the demon.

“Pocket!” I heard Drool say, at which point pretending to still be dead was a fool’s errand.

I looked over to see the great oaf sitting splayed-legged on the other side of the fire, a massacre of nuts and berries in his lap, the smeared evidence of their fate already streaming down his chin in red rivulets. “Cobweb saved us,” said the ninny. “She’s the git’s tits.”

“She?” said I. “So not the devil?”

“’Fraid not,” said the girl.

Of course, a girl. I looked over the figure crouched before me like some gamine gargoyle. Right tiny, and in need of a good scrubbing, but I supposed a girl she was. And not a child, neither, despite her size.

“I didn’t do so much of the rescuing as your large friend,” she said. “On the beach I jumped up and down on his back until he was breathing again. He carried you up here into the forest.” She leaned into me to whisper. “Methinks he may have taken a blow to the head during the wreck. He seems a bit slow.”

“Slow is his only speed, I’m afraid.”

“You took quite a shot to the noggin yourself.” She touched a spot above my forehead and I winced with the pain. “Covered in blood, you were. I cleaned you up.”

I touched the tender lump on my head and bolts of pain shot across the corners of my vision, a deep ache throbbed behind my eyes. Only then did I notice I was lying on a bed of ferns and leaves, naked but for my hat, which had been draped modestly over my man bits.

“Your kit is drying still,” said the girl. She shot a thumb over her shoulder to indicate my motley, propped on sticks before the fire, along with my jester’s scepter, the puppet Jones. “You’ll want to wash it proper in fresh water when you get a chance. Most of the blood came out in the sea, but not the salt.”

“What about Jeff? Where’s my monkey?”

            “Weren’t no monkey, sirrah. Just the big bloke and you.”

She held out a leather wine skin. “Here. Water. Slowly. Your friend drank it all in one draught and I had to fetch more at the stream.”

“Had a wee chunder,” said Drool.

I took the wine skin and thought I might swoon again as I drank the cool water and felt the fire in my throat abate.

“Enough for now” said the girl, taking back the wine skin. “There’s food, too, if the big one’s left anything.”

“I saved you some, Pocket,” said Drool, holding out my codpiece, which was spilling berries as he moved.

The girl returned and handed me the codpiece. “Wondered what these things was for.”

“Thank you,” said I. My cod was nearly full of berries and nutmeats. I thought I might weep for a moment at her kindness and pinched the bridge of my nose as if chasing away a headache.

“Your friend says you are fools,” she said, giving me shelter.

“I am a fool. Pocket of Dog Snogging upon Ouze, at your service.” I tow a train of titles behind my name — royal fool, black fool, emissary to the queen, king of Britain and France — but I thought it ill-mannered to be grandiose while lying on a litter of leaves with only a hat to cover my tackle d’amore.  “Drool is my apprentice.”

“We are fools and pirates,” said Drool.  

“We are not pirates,” said I. “We were set adrift by pirates.”

“But you were on a pirate ship?” She asked.

“For two years,” said I. “There was a girl, a Venetian Jewess who fancied me. She wanted to be a pirate but became homesick. When she returned to Venice I was not welcomed to join her.”

“So you stayed with the pirates?”

“For a while.”

“And they set you adrift?”

“With no food and only enough water for three days, the scoundrels.”

“But why?”

“They gave no rhyme nor reason,” said I.

“It was because you’re a shit, wasn’t it?”

“No, why would you say that?”

“Because I only have known one fool, a fellow called Robin Goodfellow, and he, also, is a shit.”

“I’m not a shit,” said I. I am not, that she could prove.

“Did you insult them? Make sport of their efforts and appearances? Craft clever puns on their names. Play tricks on the naïve and the simple? Compose rhymes disparaging their naughty bits? Sing bawdy songs about their mothers and sisters?”

“Absolutely not.  There was no way to know if they even had sisters.”

“I think you were a shit, just like the Puck, so they set you adrift.”

“I was not a shit. And who are you to say? Why, I am deft at being rescued by wenches of great beauty and character, one for whom my heart still currently breaks, and I’ll not be abused by a waif, an urchin, a linty bit of stuff like you?” 

“Feeling stronger then?” She asked, thin, sharp eyebrows bouncing over her disturbingly wide green eyes.

“Possibly,” said I.

A horn sounded in the distance, as if to call hounds to the hunt, and Cobweb leapt to her feet. “I have to go.”

“Wait,” said I.

The girl paused at the edge of the firelight. “What?”

“Where are we?”

“Look around, you’re in the forest, you git.”

“No, what land?”

“Greece.”

“It doesn’t look like Greece.”

“Have you been to Greece before?”

“Well. No.”

“This is what it looks like. I have to go. The night queen beckons.”

“The night queen?”

“My mistress calls. Rest, fool. Your friend knows where the stream is and there are plenty of nuts and berries to eat. Stay clear of the captain of the watch. He’s a shit, too. And not so playful as you and the Puck.”

“Wait—“ but she was gone like a spirit in the night.  

“She were the dog’s bollocks, was wee Cobweb,” said Drool.

“She was not,” said I. “And where is Jeff? Have you seen him?”

The ninny wiped a smear of berry gore from his lips. “No.”

“Drool, Jeff is a friend and valued crew member. If you ate him, I shall be very cross with you. Very cross indeed.”

→ 19 CommentsTags: Writing

Worst 1st Chapter Ever

January 19th, 2019 · 38 Comments

I wrote this for a San Francisco Sketchfest Performance on January 19th, 2019, for The Worst 1st Chapter Ever reading at the request of Paul and Storm, famous songwriter performer dudes, breaking two of my steadfast rules, reading in public and writing something bad on purpose. Oh well…

Throwing Shade

By Christopher Moore

The Backwash dropped out of warp like one of those pellets drop out of an owl – the ones with desiccated mouse bones and fur and stuff –except the mouse bits were me and my support bot Scrote-9 and the 20 humanoid clone blanks in the hold that were going to expire before they could be imprinted and would melt into puddles of organic goo if we couldn’t find a buyer for them.

Scrote rubbed her deely-bobbers on the impulse console, pulling the Backwash into low orbit over a level 9 merch planet called Durex Magnum7 and I strapped into the shuttle pod.

“If I’m not back in two hours, come in blasting,” I told my faithful robot servant.

“Affirmative, rotting protein bag,” affirmed Scrote-9.

She’d been having trouble disguising her disdain for organic life forms lately and if she turned off the life support one more time I was going to have to do a memory wipe on her or chuck her into space while she was recharging like I had Scrotes one through eight.

As I closed the shuttle pod hatch, I made a note to look into a different model of droid-pal, but when I thought of all the Scrote corp chargers and accessories I had that wouldn’t fit any other company’s units, I deleted the note and sent a reserve notice for the Scrot10 when it came out.

Scrot-9 released the shuttle pod and it made a swoosh sound like one of the gas geysers of Mezazon 5, but which I couldn’t hear because there’s no motherfucking sound in space and because to counter the trauma of reentry and landing I had just pressed a neuro-derm against my neck and leaned against a plasteel screen as the neurochemicals, pheromones and nanobots combined to give me three minutes and fifty two seconds of the sights and sensation of being hate-fucked by Marie Antoinette on the hood of a vintage Citron Deux Cheveau.

(May cause nausea, rash, sudden death, loose stool, resurrection, nodes, nodules, lumps, bumps, boils, enlightenment, transcendence, sleeplessness, or existential dread.)

I came out of it with ringing in my ears, and echos of Marie Antionette calling me a disgusting little fuck-pig in German.

The German part always surprised me. And getting tangled in the hoop skirt. I’d talk to Zebo, my pharma-barista and see if he could pare that stuff out. But then I landed.

The space port was crawling with peepers, gazongas, dingleberries, wazoos, wafflepods and wankbots, all looking for a way off world before they dropped their last credits on some designer debauchery or a luxury illusion implant that would make everything they saw or touched appear to be made of gold. You’ll only survive a couple of weeks with one of those things in you, but the puddle of your own bloody shit you die in feels like you’re bathing in a warm golden dream.

I knew a quad-arm blue-skin called Jooz who worked the bar at the Bit Rot Club. We’d taken a turn around the Parvo system once in a Tachyon Mini with a case of lube and a 100 mics of LoveYouLongTime

(May cause hallucinations, delusions of grandeur, faith in humanity, the power of positive thinking, scaly elbows, infatuation, blisters, burps, and spontaneous combustion.)

that Zeno had scored off some rodent minors on world on a day pass from the asteroid mines. Me and Jooze had a connection – I might not see him for years, but when we got together sparks flew, especially if he forgot to take the pour spouts off his thumbs or I forgot to lower my body shield. You just don’t forget the four arms of a guy who’s swung you around the Parvos by your gizmos.

“What’s blasting, laser-tits,” ejaculated Jooz.

“That was a fashion stage,” I extorted. “Traded the lazers for some nano-armor.”

“You always were the cautious one. What’s your pleasure, like I don’t know?”

Jooze was sporting a micro-2skin that clung to a set of abs you could shred a Noberian turnip on. I’m a level 19 Sex Ninja, one of those dames who can tear out your root shakra, tie it in a knot, and show it to you while it’s still throbbing before you pass out, and I wanted to do it to Jooze right then, but I had a ticking clock and twenty-human spooge-cicles in my hold that were about to hit their sell-by date.

“Look handsome, I got twenty human spoog-cicles in my hold that are about to hit their sell-by date. Know anyone who can help me off-load them in the next couple of hours?”

“Yeah, I know a guy,” Jooze expectorated. He thumbed a doodad implanted in his wrist and said, “Call Wango. No, the other one. No, the other one. Yes, that one. > While his coms connected Jooz mixed something with gender fluid and blue fire in a tall beaker and slid it down the bar to a jort-porter.

“Hey, Wango, this is Jooze down at the Bit Rot. I got a hot pirate down here with twenty cold unprinted protein tubes about to go off and no place to put them. Interested?” Jooz turned to me. “Where’s your ship and what’s the scan signature.”

“She’s in low orbit. The Backwash.” I rattled off the scan numbers that identified the ship to spaceport traffic control. I waited. Jooz waited. I took to time to survey his four shapely shoulders. I wondered if he’d had the bite marks I’d left erased.

Yeah, I’ll tell her to wait,” Jooz said. “He’ll be here in an hour.”

“An hour?”

“Yeah, his partner has fecal alcohol syndrome”

“Fecal alcohol syndrome?”

“She’s shitfaced. He has to sober her up.”Just as well for you Plonka’s off her game. She’s the tougher negotiator. ”

“Good to know.” I took a seat and waited.

An hour later they came through the iris port of the Bit Rot. Wango was 120 kilos of hairy dude-flesh packed into a 100 kilo elastanium flight suit. He had a drunk’s nose that looked like a squirrel fucking a sweet potato on a matress of beef tripe. Plonka was petite, jacked, and her flight suit was fitted with so many retractable spikes she looked like she was a clone-bond of an elf and a porcupine. Her hair was shaped into dull titanium spikes with red tips. I couldn’t see her eyes behind a set of wrap-around holo specs. She’d be reading real time analytics of my voice patterns and pupil movement to detect any bluff I tried to run. This was going to be tricky.

I scratched a sub-dermal doohickey behind my ear and the scoozamator implanted under my occipital lobe fired 300 mics of toxic masculinity into my brain stem. (May cause overconfidence, heebie-jeebies, verbal leakage, threat sweat, blustering, jive, mansplaining, delusions, peen screams, callbacks and punk ass.)

The effect was about as subtle as white thong underwear after taco night, but after I stopped twitching I would have the ability to immediately understand anything a female meant to say — could state it back more clearly and louder — and any male in proximity would recognize it as my original thought. The Toxic Mask essentially bypassed my upper brain function so I was unreadable. If Wango was the decision maker, and I was betting he was, the analytics from Plonka’s holo specs would be useless.

“We’ll give you two K, per,” said Plonka, her voice was like a clown stomping an antique bicycle horn full of nightcrawlers.

“And you deliver,” Wango added.

“They’re worth 10 K minimum,” I replied.

“Fine,” squoke Plonka. “Find another buyer.”

“Nine,” I commanded. “Can’t take less.”

“Open your kimono, Shade,” said Wango. “You’re not fooling anyone.”

They both paused. Looked at each other. Plonko looked at the ceiling like she was reading something on her holo-specs then nodded. Wango started to reach into the collar of his flight suit.

I flipped my index nail back and shot Wango in his middle eye with my finger-blaster, spraying his brain matter across the two porters drinking at the bar behind him. Plonka went for a disrupter on her belt and I finger-blasted her until she was just a spiky moist spot on the floor.

I picked up her holo-specs and put them on.

“So no deal then?” inquired Jooz, reaching for a mop and some Windex.

“Aparently not,” I responded.

Plonka had been getting messages from a ship in orbit. I recognized the scan code as the Backwash. The last message read, “It’s done. Finish it.”

“He used your name,” Jooz said. “I didn’t tell him your name.”

“Yeah. I gotta jet, trouble in orbit,” I said. “Keep it shiny, sugar pecs.”

When I got back to the Backwash there were sparks shooting out of the warp gazongas and the navigation wazoo was a smoking heap on the bridge. Bits of what used to be Scrote-9 littered the ship from stem to stern. In the hold I found twenty – no, wait, 19 melted blobs of destroyed clone-blanks. The 20th table was empty. Ship’s log showed that someone had uploaded a DNA profile into the blank, which then woke up and took out Scrote-9 and trashed my ship.

“Computer, is the intruder still on board?” I asked the computer.

“Negative. Intruder took pod B be to unidentified ship. Was unable to track without nav systems.”

“Identify intruder.”

“Intruder was clone blank.”

“Identify uploaded DNA.”

“Scanning. Uploaded DNA profile belongs to Zebo Tantoni.”

 

Zeno. My pharmo-barista. Well, now I knew who I was after. And now I had to figure out why. As soon as I fixed my ship I’d find out. The part of his plan that went went wrong, killing me, would be his undoing.

 

But first I needed a three minute and 52 second vacation, so I pushed my last neuroderm against my neck and braced for the effects, because you haven’t lived until you’ve been swung around by the gizmos by an 18th Century Austrian princess wearing a strap on plastopeen.

 

 

 

→ 38 CommentsTags: Stuff

Noir- Excerpt #2

February 15th, 2018 · 13 Comments

Hey kids, as promised, here’s another excerpt of Noir, where you get to see a little more goings on between Sammy and the Cheese. It was supposed to be up for Valentines Day, but events and whatnot happened. Thanks for adding my stuff to your shelf on Goodreads and for following my author page on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Christopher-Moore/e/B000APFLHC/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1518706568&sr=8-1

Laff in the Dark

They got on the B-car at Geary Street and rode it for nearly an hour, laughing and smooching and commenting between them on everyone who got on or off at every stop, making up out rageous, silly stories about street pirates and bus stop witches, mentioning neither the war nor what had come before. They got off at Ocean Beach, between the Great Highway and Playland, where, as usual, a freezing wind whipped off the Pacific at about seven hundred miles per hour, whistling through the Ferris wheel and the roller coaster, and surprising more than somewhat those tourists who had come here for a balmy midsummer night’s dream, but discomfiting Sammy and the Cheese not a whit. They were locals, and knew what the author Jack London had said about Ocean Beach in 1902: “Holy fuck, you couldn’t get a match lit here to save your life.” Stilton wore her raincoat to protect her from the wind and Sammy wore a wool overcoat with a pint of Old Tennis Shoes in the pocket to protect against the cold.

“So, what’s your pleasure?” Sammy asked as the streetcar clanged away.

“I could put on the feedbag, if you don’t mind,” she said.

“Sounds good. There’s a diner down by the merry-go-round, if you can stand diner food.”

“I built up a tolerance. Let’s go.”

They walked arm in arm to the Sea Lion Café, where they ordered burgers and Cokes from a counter guy in a paper hat. Sammy splashed a jigger or two of Old Tennis Shoes from the pint into their Cokes under the table.

“More,” said the Cheese.

Sammy slurped some cola off the top and splashed in more liquor—a bartender used to juggling glasses.

“Okay?”

She nodded as she blew the paper wrapper off her straw at him, then drank off a quarter of her Coke in one pull. “Ah, perfect.”

“Glad you liked it. Old Tennis Shoes is aged in oak barrels for several days.”

“You can taste it.” She put her glass down. “Sammy, I need to ask you something, and don’t say no just to be nice. Be honest.”

“Promise. Shoot.”

“Do you think I’m an alcoholic?”

“How would I know? I’m a bartender. Everyone I know is a drunk except the kid who hangs out on the steps of my building, and I’m not even sure about him.”

“What would you guess, then?”

“Nah. Considering what you been through, you’re as sober as a church mouse.”

“Isn’t that ‘quiet as a church mouse’?”

“You’d think, but once you get a few drinks in those little guys, you can’t stop them singing.”

“Thanks,” she said, smiling at him around her straw before she took another long pull on her drink.

“Just the truth,” he said. “Now me.” “You’re definitely a drunk,” she said. “No, now I get to ask a question.”

“Oh, okay. Forget I said that. Shoot.”

“What were you looking for when you came into my bar that day?”

“I was looking for you. Just you.”

“But we’d never met.”

“I didn’t know you were what I was looking for, but there you were . . .”

“What if I hadn’t been there? Would anyone have done?”

“Nope. I wasn’t looking for just anyone. I wasn’t looking for you until I found you. I thought, That’s the guy I’ve been looking for, that guy, right there.”

“It was because I was pouring drinks, wasn’t it?”

“That did not hurt. It wasn’t everything, but it was something.”

“You could have lied about that.”

She sucked on her straw until it made a thirsty slurping noise at the bottom of the glass, then said, “I’m not lying.”

“Yeah, but you could have. I would have been okay.”

“Okay, here’s the truth, Sammy. I’m trouble. I’m not right. I do reckless things. Selfish things. I’m a wreck waiting to happen. You should steer clear of me.”

“You want another Coke?” Like he hadn’t even heard her.

“Yeah. Please.” She had warned him. You can’t blame her.

“You like onion rings?”

“Nah.”

“Me either.”

Their burgers arrived and they dove in, the Cheese eating hers in four bites, cheeks puffed out like a lipsticked chipmunk. Sammy was impressed. For a slim broad, she could eat.

She was munching away at a bouquet of ketchup-tipped fries when he said, “You know, for a slim broad, you eat like a champ.”

“Yeah, thanks,” she said. “Been eating since I was a kid. You know, practice.”

“I mean, a lot of girls on a first date would be dainty and pretend they weren’t really hungry. Push the food around on their plate. But not you.”

“Yeah, but what you don’t know is then they go home, climb into the icebox with a spoon, and think bad stuff about you. I won’t be doing that. I got plans for you, later, buster, which is why I gotta keep my strength up.”

“Plans?”

“Yeah. You gonna eat the rest of your fries?”

Sammy grinned and pushed his fries to her side of the table and was about to negotiate for a hint of her plans when two cops came in the café and took seats near a window looking down the walk toward the merry-go-round. Sammy watched their reflections in the paper napkin dispenser. They were young, not particularly tough-looking, and seemed more interested in watching girls than fighting crime—like they were celebrating drawing sweet duty where the worst thing they might encounter was a rowdy sailor or a kid lifting wallets in the funhouse.

Sammy snatched the last handful of fries from his plate and crammed them in his mouth.

“Too slow,” he said around the mouthful of distressed spuds. “Let’s go.”

Stilton laughed and the cops looked over. Sammy put on his hat and stood, dropped some money on the table, and said, “Keep the change,” to the guy at the counter.

“Thanks, folks,” the counter guy said, but they were already out the door—Sammy, with a hand on her hip, was steering Stilton toward a ride called the Ship of Joy.

“You’re not even limping,” Stilton said. “Guess you were right about the cane.”

“I’m right about most stuff,” Sammy said. “It’s a curse.” He gave her hip a little squeeze to mark the nonsense he was talking.

The Ship of Joy was two ship-shaped gondolas, each seating twelve people, that swung on long pendulums and approximated the experience of being on a big playground swing with a bunch of strangers. They swung and they laughed, mostly at some kids who whooped like they were going over a cliff with every swing, but also at a dad who had lost his hat on the first swing, then stared forlornly for the rest of the ride at the spot over the shooting gallery where it had drifted.

As they were stumbling off the Ship of Joy, arm in arm, Stilton said, “I was expecting more joy.”

“Kind of a phonus bolognus in the ship department as well,” Sammy said.

“Ooh, I love it when you speak Latin. You been to sea?”

Sammy hoped she didn’t see panic on his face. “Just transport,” he lied.

“My husband was on a ship. Heavy cruiser. Went down with all hands near Savo Island, August ’42. They never found him. Uncle Sam sent me a flag.”

Casual as you please, like that first day in the saloon when she’d mentioned her husband. And, like then, he didn’t know what to say. He said, “Sorry, kid.” He pulled her close.

She pushed him away, took his hand, and pulled him toward the games of chance. “Come on, win me something.”

Sammy threw some baseballs at milk bottles filled with concrete and threatened them not at all, although Stilton cheered him on and cursed the bottles’ stubborn ways. At a shooting gallery he downed a few metal ducks with a .22, because his father had given him and his brothers BB guns as boys and he was not a bad shot, although not good enough to win a prize.

“C’mon, let’s kill some clowns,” she suggested, pointing toward a booth where you could throw darts to pop the balloon bodies of painted-on clowns.

“How ’bout you, little lady?” called a barker as they passed. “Guess your weight for a nickel! I get it wrong and you win a teddy bear.”

“And you get it right and I’ll rip your lips off and stomp them like slugs,” replied the Cheese. Sammy nodded earnestly to the barker to confirm her conviction. Stilton’s weight went unguessed.

Sammy finally won her a prize when a ping-pong ball he tossed settled into one of a hundred baseball-size goldfish bowls, startling the fish inside somewhat, but which it soon forgot.

Stilton held the bowl aloft and looked at the perky orange occupant against the lights of the Ferris wheel. “He looks so lonely, Sammy. Win me another one so they can both be in the same

bowl and have a little goldfish razzmatazz.”

“I don’t think goldfish have razzmatazz,” said Sammy.

“Well, then how do they have little goldfish?”

“Far as I know, the female lays her eggs on the bottom, then later on the male comes along and fertilizes them.”

“Really?”

“Not exactly sure with goldfish, but that’s how it works for trout. We had trout in Idaho. I read a book on them when I was a kid.”

“Yeah,” said the scruffy guy working the goldfish booth. (You could have sanded the varnish off a coffee table on his five o’clock shadow.) “He’s got it right.”

Stilton handed the fish back to Five O’Clock Shadow. “Take this sad fish. Give him to a kid. Come, Sammy, I need fun.” She took his arm and led him toward the funhouse with the great yellow letters painted across the red façade reading laff in the dark. Sammy bought two tickets and they entered through a giant clown’s mouth, stepping through baffles of black fabric until they were stumbling inside a ten-foot-high, rotating drum. It wasn’t dark yet, but they were laughing and stumbling until they stepped out onto a very mushy field of what must have been black foam rubber.

“It’s like walking on meat loaf,” said the Cheese, giggling, as a skeleton dropped from above them and was caught by a red spotlight. Stilton yipped and jumped into Sammy’s arms. He carried her through another set of black fabric draperies and into complete darkness.

“Should be called Pee in the Dark,” said Stilton.

“Really?”

“Nah. Close, though.”

“C’mere, ’fraidy cat,” said Sammy. He smooched her perhaps a little too zealously for someone who was laughing and they banged their teeth. Then they separated and felt for chipped teeth with their tongues.

People, mostly teenagers, pushed past them in the dark, giggling, groping, and shrieking like joyful heretics at a clown inquisition. Someone pinched Sammy’s bottom and he jumped. “Was that you?”

“What?” said Stilton, her voice sounding about ten feet away.

“Nothing,” Sammy said. “I think I mighta just made a friend. Stay there, I’ll come to you.”

He found her in the dark and they kissed like they’d been separated for months, clinging to each other as revelers bumped into them, shrieked and laughed and stumbled on. They blundered together through another set of baffles, these made of some kind of black gauze, which felt like spiderwebs against their faces, onto a dimly lit floor that shifted and tilted, sending them staggering one way, then stumbling another.

“I don’t think I’m drunk enough to walk this way,” said the Cheese.

“Relax, ma’am, you’re in good hands,” Sammy said. “I’m a bartender.”

He pulled her through the next door and ducked under the outstretched hand of a moaning mummy that pivoted on an axis at his waist and swung his arm back, just missing delivering a backhand to the Cheese. Sammy pulled her down just in time and they crouched beneath the bandaged automaton. The mummy moaned again.

“This mug’s got a moo box in him,” said the Cheese.

Sammy pulled the pint from his overcoat and unscrewed the cap. “Pardon?” he said.

“A moo box,” said the Cheese, taking the pint from him. “We sell them at the five-and-dime. It’s like a little can and when you turn it over, it moos like a cow.”

The mummy waved over their heads again and moaned.

“That does sound like a cow,” Sammy said.

“Moo box,” the Cheese explained. She pointed at the pint of Old Tennis Shoes. “No chaser?”

“Rehearsal’s over,” Sammy said.

She went a little cross-eyed as she took a swig, scrunched up her face like a kid eating a lemon, then shook her head until the burn settled down. There were tears in her eyes when she held the pint out to Sammy as if it contained a cocktail of nitroglycerine and monkey spit, which is to say, with careful disgust. “Smooth,” she gasped.

“Good for cleaning engine parts, too,” Sammy said, braving a swallow himself and capping the bottle. “Let’s get out of here.”

They raced away from the mooing mummy and made their way across the ceiling of an upside-down room and through a mirror maze to stumble, arm in arm, out onto the midway. The smell of sea air, popcorn, cotton candy, and cigarette smoke washed over them. Sammy bought them snow cones, red for her and blue for him, and, at Stilton’s suggestion, doctored the chilly treats with the last of the Old Tennis Shoes.

“Not bad,” said the Cheese.

“Could use some more blue,” Sammy said.

They walked by the rides and souvenir stands, and tried to find takers for bets on the merry-go-round.

“I’m giving six-to-five odds on the funny-lookin’ kid on the camel!” Stilton called, waving a fan of Skee-Ball tickets in the air to show she was legit.

“I think that’s a giraffe,” Sammy said.

“Five-to-six on the funny-lookin’ kid to win, then,” said Stilton.

Sammy pulled her away before she could find any takers and they ended up in front of a caricature artist, who sat on a stool, wearing an artist’s smock and a beret.

“Pinup of the little lady, sir. Only a buck.”

“I don’t know . . .” Stilton tried to walk away.

“I think she’s worth giving a second look,” said the artist. “Don’t you?”

“Absolutely,” said Sammy. He swung Stilton around by the arm. “Come on, Toots, I think you’re worth it, don’t you?”

“Don’t call me—” She caught herself falling for the bait. “Aw, hell.” She slurped the last of her snow cone, handed the soggy paper wrapper to Sammy, then sat down on the stool opposite the artist and let her trench coat fall off her shoulders.

“Color me pretty,” she said.

A look passed between Stilton and the artist that made Sammy think she might slug the guy.

“No work for me, ma’am,” said the artist, and he commenced drawing, holding his drawing board out of Sammy’s sight.

“Fine,” Sammy said. He walked away and fought with a half a book of matches to get a cigarette lit, noticing that the breeze had changed directions and was blowing offshore—it was warm, a rare condition on a summer night at the San Francisco beach.

“How ’bout you undo a button or three in the front there, Toots?” said the artist, when he thought Sammy was out of earshot.

“How ’bout I bop you in the beezer so hard it spins your beret around?” said the Cheese.

“Jeez,” said the artist. “No need to get tough.”

“And don’t call me Toots,” said the Cheese.

The artist finished his sketch about the time that Sammy was grinding out the butt of his smoke on the gravel of the midway.

Voilà!” said the artist, in perfect fucking French. He flipped the drawing around.

Sammy took a look, then took a step back and whistled. “Holy moly.”

“You’re a lucky guy,” said the artist.

“Yes I am,” said Sammy.

The caricature portrayed Stilton in the pose of the classic Rosie the Riveter she can do it poster from the war—a blonde flexing a bicep, her hair tied up in a polka-dot bandana, the classic chambray shirt—except this Rosie was facing the artist, not looking over her shoulder, and the shirt was unbuttoned to the point that exaggerated bits of the Cheese were about to burst out for the world to see. It was Stilton all right, but rounder in the places where she was round, and sharper in the places where she was sharp: drop-dead sexy.

“That should be on the side of a bomber or something,” Sammy said.

“That’ll be a buck,” said the artist.

“You got it.” Sammy handed the guy a dollar. The artist tore the drawing from his sketchbook and started to roll it up.

“No, not yet,” Sammy said. He took the drawing, held it up, and compared details with the model, his eyes darting from Stilton to the drawing and back. “I need to look at this Rosie.”

“You two have a good evening, sir,” said the artist with a wink to the Cheese.

“Wendy,” Stilton said as she stood and joined Sammy in admiring the drawing, turning her back on the artist. “Rosie the Riveter was for girls who worked in airplane factories. In the shipyards we were Wendy the Welders.”

“What a dame,” Sammy said. Then he turned from the drawing and kissed her.

“You like it?” She pouted with anticipation. “I like the model,” Sammy said. “I like the model a lot.” “Let’s go for a walk,” Stilton said. “It got warm out,” Sammy said. “You notice?” “Oh yeah,” she said.

Sammy rolled the drawing up and fixed it with a rubber band the artist had given him and tucked it in his pocket. They walked arm in arm around Playland at the Beach, then out of the park and up into the dunes. They found a sheltered hollow where all they could see was the stars and sand, and calliope music from the merry-go-round sailed over them on a warm offshore wind. They lay down between her trench coat and his overcoat, wrapped the stars around them like a blanket, and made love until time disappeared.

***

Time returned, just before dawn, dressed in a chill fog, and Sammy awoke to the caricaturist’s drawing poking him in the ribs. “Hey,” he said. “How did that guy know you worked at a shipyard during the war?”

 

 

→ 13 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Your Christmas/Hanukkah Present/ NOIR, Chapter One

December 25th, 2016 · 106 Comments

Hey kids. As has come to be a tradition, here is a preview of the new book, tentatively entitled, Noir.

The book is finished and in New York getting edited, but I have no idea when it will be released. I guess all you

need to know is it’s set in the summer of 1947.  Have a great holiday season, and a safe and happy new year.

Your pal,

Chris

NOIR

©2016 Christopher Moore

 

Chapter 1- Sammy and the Cheese


            She had the kind of legs that kept her butt from resting on her shoes — a size eight dame in a size six dress and every mug in the joint was rooting for the two sizes to make a break for it as they watched her wiggle in the door and take a seat at the end of the bar. I raised an eyebrow at the South African merchant marine who’d been spinning out tales of his weird cargo at the other end of the bar while I polished a shot glass.

“That there’s a tasty bit of trouble,” says the sailor.

“Yep,” I says, snapping my bar towel and draping it over my arm as fancy as you please. “You know what they say though, cap’n, full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes.” So I move down the bar toward the dame, beaming a smile like a lighthouse full of charm, but trying to keep my limp on the Q.T. to discourage curiosity.

“I don’t think that’s what they were talking about, Sammy boy,” says the sailor, “but steam on.” Which is the kind of cheering a guy will give you figuring it’s no skin off his nose if you get shot down.

“What can I get you, toots?” I says to the dame. She’s a blond, the dirty kind, and her hair is pinned up on her head so it kind of shoots up dark, then fountains out yellow every-which-way in curls at the top– makes her look a little surprised. Her lips remind me of a valentine heart, shiny red and plump, but a little lopsided, like maybe she’d taken a shot to the kisser in an earlier round, or the valentine heart haa acute angina. Crooked but inviting.

Then the dame fidgets on the bar stool, as if to get a better fit on her bottom, causing a gasp to go through the bar that momentarily clears the smoke, like a truck-sized dragon has sucked it out through the back door. It’s not that a lone dame never comes into Sal’s, it’s just that one never comes in this early, while it’s still light out and the haze of hooch hasn’t settled on everyone to smooth over a doll’s rougher edges. (Light being the natural enemy of the bar broad.)

“The name’s not toots,” says the blond. “And give me something cheap, that goes down easy.”

There then commences a lot of coughing as all the guys in the joint are suddenly paying attention to draining drinks, lighting cigarettes, adjusting the angle of their hats and whatnot, as if the dame’s remark has not just floated like a welcome sign over a room full of hustlers, gamblers, day drunks, stevedores, sailors, ne’er-do-wells, and neighborhood wise guys, each and every one a hound at heart. So I looks over the shotgun bar, trying to catch every eye as I am reaching down as if I am going for my walking stick – which is my version of the indoor baseball bat most bartenders keep, and even though my cane is ten feet out of reach, they get the message. I am not a big guy, and I am known to have a slow boil, but I have quick hands and I put in an hour on a heavy bag every day — a habit I picked up due to my inability to know when to keep my trap shut, so it is known that I can handle myself. Most of these mugs have seen more than one guy poured into the gutter out front after thinking my sunny disposition and bum foot make me a pushover, so they keep it polite. Then again, I also control the flow of booze. Could be that.

“What do I call you then, miss?” I ask the blond, locking my baby blues on her cow browns, careful not to ogle her wares, as dames often do not care for that, even when it is evident that they have spent no little time and effort preparing their wares for ogling.

“It’s missus,” she says.

“Will the mister be joining you, then?”

“Not unless you want to wait while I go home and grab the folded flag they gave me instead of sending him home.” She doesn’t look away when she says it, or smile. She doesn’t look down to hide her grief or pretend she is pushing back a tear, just looks at me dead on, a tough cookie.

First I’m thinking she might be busting my chops for calling her Toots, but whether she is or isn’t, I’m thinking the best way to dodge the hit is to act like I’m taking a shot to the body.

“Awe jeeze, ma’am, I’m sorry. The war?” Had the be the war. She can’t be more than twenty three or four, just a few years younger than me, I guess.

She nods, then starts fussing with the latch on her pocketbook.

“Put that away, it’s on the house,’ I says. “Let’s start over. I’m Sammy,” I says, offering my hand to shake.

She takes it. “Sammy? That’s a kid’s name.”

“Yeah, well the neighborhood is run by a bunch of old Italian guys who think anyone under sixty is a kid, so it’s on them.”

Then she laughs, and I feel like I’ve just hit a home run. “Hi Sammy,” she says. “I’m Stilton.”

“Pardon? Mrs. Stilton?”

“First name Stilton. Like the cheese.”

“Like what cheese?”

“Stilton? You’ve never heard of it? It’s an English cheese.”

“Okay,” I says, relatively sure this daffy broad is making up cheeses.

So she pulls her hand back and fidgets on the stool again, like she’s building up steam, and all the mugs in the place stop talking to watch. I just stand there, lifting one eyebrow like I do.

“My father was a soldier in the Great War. American. My mother is English –war bride. They had their first real date after the war in the village of Stilton. So, a few years later, when I was born, that’s what pop named me. Stilton. I was supposed to be a boy.”

“Well they totally screwed the pooch on that one.” I says, and I give her a quick once-over, out of respect for her non-boyness. “If you don’t mind me sayin’.” Suddenly I wish I am wearing a hat so I can tip it, but then I realized that she and I are probably the only people in all of San Francisco not currently wearing hats. It is like we are naked together. So I grab a fedora off a mug two stools down and in a smooth motion I put it on and give it a tip. “Ma’am!” I says with a bow.

So she laughs again and says, “How about you fix me an old fashioned before you get in any deeper, smart guy.

“Anything for you, toots,” I says. So I flip the hat back to the hatless mook down the bar, thank him, then step to the well and start putting together her drink.

“Don’t call me toots.”

“C’mon, it’s better than the cheese.”

“But the cheese is my name.”

“So it is,” I says, setting the drink down in front of her and giving it a swizzle with the straw. “To the cheese. Cheers.”

Now I want to ask her what brings her into my bar, where she’s from, and does she live around the neighborhood, but there’s a fine line between being curious and being a creep, so I leave her with the drink and make my way back down the bar, refilling drinks and pulling empties until I get back to the South African merchant marine.

“Looks like you charmed her, all right,” says the sailor. “What’s she doing here, by herself, in the middle of the afternoon? Hooker?”

“Don’t think so. Widow. Lost her old man in the war.”

“Damn shame. Lot of those about. Thought I was going to leave my wife a widow a hundred times during the war. Worked a Liberty ship running supplies across the Atlantic for most of it. I still get nightmares about German U-boats –” The sailor stops himself in the middle of the tale and shoots a glance down the bar at my cane. “But I guess I was luckier than most.”

So after feeling top of the world over making the blond laugh, I’m feeling like a four-star phony all of sudden, which happens like that, but I shake it off and give the sailor a slap on the back, letting him off the hook. “Doesn’t sound that lucky,” I says, “considering your cargo.”

“Like Noah’s bloody ark,” he says. “That’s what it is. You haven’t sailed until you’ve sailed through a storm with a seasick elephant on board. Had a stall built for him in the hold. Poor bloke that has to muck it out will be at if for days. We offloaded the animal in San Diego last week, but the stink still lingers.”

“Any tigers?” I ask.

“Just African animals. Tigers are from Asia.”

“I knew that,” I says. I probably should have known that. “Never seen a tiger.”

“The big cats don’t bother me much. They’re in iron cages and you can see what you got, stay away from them. Push a bit of meat into the cage every few days with a long stick. A very long stick. It’s the bloody snakes that give me the jitters. Next week our sister ship is bringing in a cargo of every deadly bloody viper on the dark continent, going to a lab at Stanford, and snakes don’t need to eat, so they’re just in wooden crates. You can’t even see them. But if one of them was to get loose, you’d never know until it bit you.”

“Like a U-boat?”

“Exactly. There’ll be a dozen black mambas on board. Those buggers grow ten, fifteen feet long. Saw one of them go after a bloke once when I was a kid. Mambas don’t run away like a proper snake. They stand up and charge after you — faster than you can run. Poor bastard was dead in minutes. Foaming at the mouth and twitching in the dirt.”

“Sounds rough,” I says. “That settles it. I am never ever going to Africa.”

“It’s not all bad. You should come over to the dock in Oakland in the morning and see the rest of menagerie before we off-load. I’ll give you the grand tour. Ever seen an aardvark? Goofy bloody creatures. Will try to burrow through the steel hull. We got two aardvarks.”

“Aardvarks are delicious,” says Eddie Shu, because that’s the kind of thing he says, trying to shock people, because it is a well-known fact that Chinese guys eat some crazy shit. Eddie is a thin Chinese guy wearing a very shiny suit and black and white wingtips. His hair is curled up and lacquered back to look like Frank Sinatra’s. I don’t see him come in because I am trying to keep an eye on the blond, so I figure he sneaks in the back door, which no one is supposed to do, but Eddie is a friend, so what are you gonna do?

“Pay no attention to this mope,” I says to the sailor. “He lies like an Oriental rug.”

“Fine,” says Eddie. “But as the Buddha says, a man who has not tasted five-spice aardvark has never tasted joy.”

“Uh huh,” I says. “The Buddha says that, huh?”

“Far as you know.”

“Eddie Moo Shoes, this is Captain – “ and here I pause to let the sailor fill in the details.

“Bokker,” says the South African. “Not a captain, though. First mate on the Beltane, freighter out of Cape Town.”

So Moo Shoes and the Mate exchange nods, and I say, “Eddie works at Club Shanghai down the street.”

“Who’s the tomato,” Eddie asks, tossing his fake-Sinatra forelock toward the blond, and I find I am somewhat defensive that he calls her a tomato, despite the fact that she is that plus some.

“Just came in,” I says. “Name’s Stilton.”

“Stilton?”

“Like the cheese,” I explain.

Eddie looks at me, then at the sailor, then at me. “The cheese?”

“That’s what she said.”

“Have you seen her naked?” asks Moo Shoes.

Now in the mean time I have been watching various patrons circle and dive on the blond, and I see each of them limp away, trailing smoke, shot down with a regretful but coquettish smile. And meanwhile, she keeps looking up at me, like she’s saying, “Are you gonna let this go on?” Feels like that’s what she was saying, anyway. Maybe every guy in the place feels that way. This Stilton broad has something…

“Oh yeah,” I says, answering Moo Shoes. “She walked in naked, but I had to ask her to put on some clothes so as not to distress the upstanding citizens who frequent this fine establishment on their way back and forth to mass.”

“I’d like to see her naked,” says Moo Shoes. “You know, make sure she’s good enough for you.”

“Not for you, then?” the sailor asks Moo.

And Moo Shoes nearly goes weepy on us, hanging his head until his Sinatra forelock droops on the sad. “Lois Fong,” he says.

“Dancer at the club,” I explain.

“That dame wouldn’t so much as punch me in the throat if it made me cough up gold coins.”

“It’s a Chinatown thing,” I explain further. “They have customs and whatnot.”

“We are a mysterious and ancient people,” Eddie says to the sailor.

“But you have seen her naked,” I say, clapping Moo on the shoulder, a ray of fucking sunshine on his dark despair.

“On the job,” Eddie says. “So has everyone else at the club. Don’t think that makes it any easier.”

Then I notice the blonde’s drink is low and it’s time I pay her a visit, so I hold up a finger to mark the place in Moo Shoes’ sulk. “Be right back.”

“Another old fashioned, cupcake?” I says with a grin, daring her to get sore at me.

“My name’s not—“ and she catches herself. “You buying, wise-ass?”

“Me? There’s a dozen guys in here already offered to buy you a drink.”

“Maybe I was waiting for a better offer,” she says, and rolls her eyes, bats her eyelashes, then sighs wistfully – well, fake wistfully, which makes me laugh.

‘You know it doesn’t cost me anything if I buy you a drink, like it would one of these mooks.”

“Which means you won’t think I owe you anything in return, like one of these mooks, right?”

“No, no, no,” I says. “Perish the thought.” Then I lean in in hopes of perpetrating a little conspiracy. “Although I have told my friend Eddie back there that I have seen you naked, so if he comes over, cover my bet, would you?”

“I have a birthmark on my right hip.” She winks.

“That’s the spirit!”

“Shaped like Winston Churchill.”

“That must be a sight to behold,” I says.

“How about that drink, Gunga Din?”

I like a dame who knows her Kipling, or any poetry, for that matter, as I am a sensitive and poetic soul. My dear ma was an English teacher, and from the time I squeak out my first word she steeps me deeply in metaphor, simile, symbolism, alcoholism and all the various iambs of the poetic tradition, all of which have served me greatly over the years in pouring drinks, welding ships, bird-dogging broads, and waxing poetical on both this and that.

So I’m about the say the same about the Kipling to the Cheese, when the door flies open behind her and in walks Sally Gab, Sal Gabelli, my boss, followed closely by an Air Force general with so many campaign medals on his uniform that it looks like someone is losing a game of mahjong on his chest.

The bar is called Sal’s, after the aforementioned Sal, although there is no sign that says so, and over the years the joint has been known as Flossie’s, Danny’s, The Good Time, Grant Avenue Saloon, The Motherlode, Barbary Belle’s and a half-dozen other monikers going back to 1853 when the place first opens on the same spot. I am told that the long oak bar and beveled mirror back bar came around on the Horn on a clipper ship with sailors who dreamed of striking gold in the California hills. Currently, the sign reads only, Saloon, Sal being too cheap or too smart to put his name over the door. Sal is a well-known in the neighborhood, but also well known to be such a douche bag that no one would be surprised to see a long red hose and nozzle trailing out his pant leg. The joint might have survived the great quake of 1906, but Sal knows that having his name on the place just might be enough to bring it down.

“General,” says Sal, a rangy fifty-year old who is always in need of a shave, wears suspenders and an ill-fitting suit, and holds a cigar in his jaw at all times. “This is Sammy Two-Toes, my guy with his ear to the ground in the neighborhood. He’ll be able to help you out with your little problem.”

I cringe a little at the nick-name, which only Sal uses, and I give the General the once-over. He’s a tall fellow, pushing sixty, with a pencil-thin mustache. When he takes his hat off, he reveals a jail-house window of dark strands of hair combed over a bald pate. “Sammy,” he says, as if he wished he has a rank rather than a name to call me by. It would be a low rank, I guess from his tone, and he just nods, not offering his hand to shake, as I am clearly beneath his consideration.

“Two-Toes knows all the hustlers in town, don’t you Sammy?” Says Sal, who suddenly realizes he is talking over the shoulder of a dame and steps back from Stilton to give her a gander. “Hey, sweetheart—“

“Hold that drink, Sammy,” Stilton says, standing up and putting her finger in Sal’s face to shut him up, a red-lacquered nail a half inch from poking him in the eye. “I gotta scram.”

Before I can say anything or make a move she keeps her one finger in Sal’s mug while she threads her other hand through the strap of her pocketbook holds it up to put the halt on me, which I do. “I’ll see you later, handsome,” she says, and in a single move she drops both arms, pirouettes, and slides out the door while her skirt is still twirling, leaving me, Sal, and the general not a little dumbfounded, and me feeling like luck takes a powder on me. Lost, is what I’m saying.

“Extraordinary,” says the general, still looking at the spot Stilton has just vacated. “Now that’s exactly the type of young woman—“

“The gimp is your guy , then—“ says Sal, cutting him off.

Just then Eddie Moo Shoes comes sliding behind the general along with a couple of other guys. The evening crowd tends to clear when Sal is around, as many find him revolting going back to the war when he gouges military guys for the privilege of buying watered-down hooch past off-limits hours.

“Catch you after work for a bite,” Moo Shoe’s says.

“Sure,” I says. “Meet you at the club.”

Eddie waves and is gone, but Sal says, “I told you no fucking Japs.”

“He’s Chinese,” I say.

“Same difference,” says Sal.

Now Sal knows his place is only a block out of Chinatown, and the Chinese were in San Francisco long before the Italians and that his Italian fisherman ancestors had been selling fish to Moo Shoes’ Chinese forefathers for five generations, but he chooses to ignore this in favor of showing his patriotism to the general with indiscriminate discrimination. But the douche bag is my boss, and he gives me a job after the war, when jobs are not easy to come by, and under somewhat phonus bolongnus circumstances that I would rather not have him examine, so I let it pass.

“What can I get you, General?” I says, looking past Sal.

“Scotch, neat. Single malt if you have it.” He looks around at the place and assesses it as the kind of place that won’t have a single malt. Most places don’t. The Scots had to suspend distilling it during the war and it’s not a quick process, but I remember seeing something…

“I’ll see what I can find.”

As I rummage around under the bar, Sal says, “General Remy’s just in town for a few days — meeting with some mucky-mucks, but he’s coming back next week.”

“I’m hoping to make some arrangements for some – some — social company upon my return.” For a military guy, the General seems a little uncomfortable being in a bar. Maybe it’s just Sal’s bar, and how those two end up together is mystery to me as well.

Sal says, “The General is commander of a base back east.”

“Oh really,” I say, my head still down with the spiders and the dust looking for Scotch. “Where is that?”

“Roswell, New Mexico,” says the general.

There it is. I pop up from under the bar with a dusty bottle of Glen Fiddich. “Never heard of it.”

“No reason you would,” says the General. “Nothing ever happens there.”

“Right,” I say, corking the bottle. “Double?”

“Please,” says the General.

So I pour, thinking not at all about New Mexico, but about the Cheese, and how she walks out without my getting her number, or even finding out if she lives in the neighborhood, wondering if she just jitterbugged out into the great beyond, never to be seen again. But then I think, no, she stands up, and stands up to Sal on my behalf. And even though I don’t know where she comes from, where she goes to, or how to find her, it feels like I’m going to see her again, and when I do, something is going to happen — something big and strange and hopeful, and there’s not a goddamn thing I can do about it.

 

 

→ 106 CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Signed Secondhand Souls In Your Own Damn Town

August 21st, 2015 · No Comments

Do you want a signed first edtion of Secondhand Souls, but you can’t make it to an event, and you don’t want to wait for it to ship. Well Tuesday 8/25/15, you’ll be able to buy a copy in your own damn town. I wouldn’t wait around. Listed alphabetically by state…

Secondhand Souls – Confirmed Bookstores with Signed Copies

*Please note: while supplies last. You might want to call ahead to make sure the store still has signed copies available

 

ALASKA

 

FIRESIDE BOOKS

720 B S ALASKA ST

PALMER, AK 99645

907-745-2665

www.goodbooksbadcoffee.com

 

ALABAMA

ALABAMA BOOKSMITH

2626 19TH PL

HOMEWOOD, AL 35209

205-870-4242

www.alabamabooksmith.com

 

HUCK FINN & CO

2717 18TH ST SOUTH

HOMEWOOD, AL 35209

205-870-7463

 

PAGE & PALETTE

32 SOUTH SECTION ST

FAIRHOPE, AL 36532

251-928-5295

www.pageandpalette.com

 

ARIZONA

ANTIGONE BOOKS

411 NORTH 4TH AVE

TUCSON, AZ 85705

520-792-3715

www.antigonebooks.com

 

CHANGING HANDS BOOKSTORE

300 W CAMEL BACK RD

PHOENIX, AZ 85013

602-274-0067

www.changinghands.com

 

CHANGING HANDS BOOKSTORE

6428 S MCCLINTOCK DR C-101

TEMPE,  AZ 85283

480-730-0205

www.changinghands.com

 

MOSTLY BOOKS

6208 E SPEEDWAY

TUCSON, AZ 85712

520-571-0110

www.mostlybooksaz.com

 

PEREGRINE BOOK CO

219A N CORTEZ

PRESCOTT, AZ 86301

928-445-9000

www.peregrinebookcompany.com

 

POISONED PEN MYSTERY BOOKSTORE

4014 N GOLDWATER BLVD, STE 101

SCOTTSDALE, AZ 85251

480-947-2974

Poisonedpen.com

 

CALIFORNIA

A GREAT GOOD PLACE

6120 LA SALLE AVE

OAKLAND, CA 94611

510-339-8210

www.ggpbooks.com

 

ALEXANDER BOOK CO

50 SECOND STREET

SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94105

415-495-2992

www.alexanderbook.com

 

AVID READER

617 SECOND ST

DAVIS, CA 95616

530-758-4040

www.avidreaderbooks.com

 

BAY BOOKS

1029 ORANGE AVENUE

CORONADO, CA 92118

619-435-0070

www.baybookscoronado.com

 

BOOK PASSAGE

51 TAMAL VISTA BLVD STE B

CORTE MADERA, CA 94925

415-927-0690

www.bookpassage.com

 

BOOK SELLER

107 MILL ST

GRASS VALLEY, CA 95945

530-272-2131

www.thebookseller.biz

 

BOOKSHOP SANTA CRUZ

825 FRONT ST

SANTA CRUZ, CA 95060

831-423-0900

www.bookshopsantacruz.com

 

BOOKSHOP WEST PORTAL

80 W PORTAL AVE

SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94127

415-564-8080

www.bookshopwestportal.com

 

BORDERLAND BOOKS

866 VALENCIA ST

SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94110

415-824-8203

www.borderlands-books.com

 

CHAUCER & CO BOOK SHOP

3321 STATE ST

SANTA BARBARA, CA 93105

805-682-6787

www.chaucersbooks.com

 

COPPERFIELDS BOOKS

140 KENTUCKY

PETALUMA, CA   94952

707-762-0563

www.copperfieldsbooks.com

 

DARK CARNIVAL FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION BOOKSTORE

3086 CLAREMONT AVE

BERKELEY, CA 94705

510-654-7323

www.darkcarnival.com

 

DIESEL A BOOKSTORE

5433 COLLEGE AVE

OAKLAND, CA 94618

510-653-9965

www.dieselbookstore.com/

 

DIESEL A BOOKSTORE BRENTWOOD

225 26TH ST STE 33

SANTA MONICA  , CA 90402

310-576-9960

www.dieselbookstore.com/

 

DIESEL A BOOKSTORE LARKSPUR

2419 LARKSPUR LANDING CIR STE A

LARKSPUR, CA 94939

415-785-8177

www.dieselbookstore.com/

 

GALLERY BOOKSHOP

319 KASTEN STREET

MENDOCINO, CA 95460

707-937-2665

www.gallerybookshop.com

 

GREEN APPLE

506 CLEMENT ST

SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94118

415-387-2272

www.greenapplebooks.com

 

KEPLERS

1010 EL CAMINO REAL

MENLO PARK, CA 94025

650-324-4321

www.keplers.com

 

MOES BOOKS

2476 TELEGRAPH AVE

BERKELEY, CA 94704

510-849-2087

www.moesbooks.com

 

MYSTERIOUS GALAXY

5943 BALBOA AVE STE 100

SAN DIEGO, CA 92111

858-268-4747

www.mystgalaxy.com

 

NORTHTOWN BOOKS

957 H ST

ARCATA, CA 95521

707-822-2834

www.northtownbooks.com

 

PEGASUS DOWNTOWN

2349 SHATTUCK AVE

BERKELEY, CA 94704

510-649-1320

www.pegasusbookstore.com

 

PEN DRAGON BOOKS

5560 COLLEGE AVE

OAKLAND, CA 94618

510-652-6259

www.pegasusbookstore.com

 

THE BOOKSMITH

1644 HAIGHT ST

SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94117

415-863-8688

www.booksmith.com

 

WARWICKS

7812 GIRARD AVE

LA JOLLA, CA 92037

858-454-0347

www.warwicks.com

 

COLORADO

BOOKWORM OF EDWARDS

295 MAIN ST, STE C101

EDWARDS, CO 81632

970-926-7323

www.bookwormofedwards.com

 

BOULDER BOOKSTORE

1107 PEARL ST

BOULDER, CO 80302

303-447-2074

www.boulderbookstore.com

 

EXPLORE BOOK SELLERS

221 E MAIN

ASPEN, CO 81611

970-925-5336

www.explorebooksellers.com

 

OFF THE BEATEN PATH

68 9TH ST

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, CO 80487

970-879-6830

www.steamboatbooks.com

 

TATTERED COVER

2526 EAST COLFAX AVENUE

DENVER, CO 80206

303-322-7727

www.tatteredcover.com

 

WHO ELSE BOOKS

200 S BROADWAY

DENVER, CO 80209

303-744-2665

www.whoelsebooks.com

 

CONNECTICUT

BANK SQUARE BOOKS

53 W MAIN ST

MYSTIC, CT 06355

860-536-3795

www.banksquarebooks.com

 

RJ JULIA BOOKSELLERS

768 BOSTON POST RD

MADISON, CT 06443

203-245-3959

www.rjjulia.com

 

U CONN COOP

ONE ROYCE CIRCLE U101

STORRS, CT 06268

860-486-8523

www.bookstore.uconn.edu

 

WASHINGTON, DC.

BUSBOYS & POETS

235 CARROL ST NW

WASHINGTON, DC 20012

202-726-0856

www.busboysandpoets.com

 

KRAMER BOOKS & AFTERWORDS

1517 CONNECTICUT AVE NW

WASHINGTON, DC 20036

202-387-3825

www.kramers.com

 

POLITICS & PROSE BOOKSTORE

5015 CONNECTICUT AVE NW

WASHINGTON, DC 20008

202-364-1919

www.politics-prose.com

 

DELAWARE

BETHANY BEACH BOOKS

99 GARFIELD PKWY

BETHANY BEACH, DE 19930

302-539-2522

www.bethanybeachbooks.com

 

BROWSEABOUT SHOPS INC

133 REHOBOTH AVE

REHOBOTH BEACH, DE 19971

302-226-2665

www.browseaboutbooks.com

 

FLORIDA

CLASSIC BOOKSHOP

310 SOUTH COUNTY RD

PALM BEACH, FL 33480

561-655-2485

www.classicbookshop.com

 

THE BOOKMARK

220 FIRST ST

NEPTUNE BEACH, FL 32266

904-241-9026

www.bookmarkbeach.com

 

GEORGIA

A CAPPELLA BOOKS

208 HARALSON AVE

ATLANTA, GA 30307

404-681-5128

www.acappellabooks.com

 

HAWAII

BOOKENDS

600 KAILUA RD, STE 126

KAILUA, HI 96734

808-261-1996

 

IOWA

IOWA BOOK & SUPPLY CO

8 S CLINTON ST

IOWA CITY, IA 52240

319-337-4188

www.iowabook.com

 

ILLINOIS

ANDERSON BOOKSHOPS

123 W JEFFERSON AVE

NAPERVILLE, IL 60540

630-355-2665

www.andersonsbookshop.com

 

BOOK CELLAR

4736 38 N LINCOLN

CHICAGO, IL 60625

773-293-2665

www.bookcellarinc.com

 

BOOK TABLE INC

1045 LAKE ST

OAK PARK, IL 60301

708-386-9800

www.booktable.net

 

UNABRIDGED BOOKS INC

3251 N BROADWAY ST STE 1

CHICAGO, IL 60657

773-883-9119

www.unabridgedbookstore.com

 

KANSAS

WATERMARK BOOKS

4701 E DOUGLAS

WICHITA, KS 67218

316-682-1181

www.watermarkbooks.com

 

KENTUCKY

CARMICHAELS BOOKSTORE

2720 FRANKFORT AVE

LOUISVILLE, KY 40206

502-896-6950

www.carmichaelsbookstore.com

 

CARMICHAELS BOOKSTORE

1295 BARDSTOWN RD

LOUISVILLE, KY 40204

502-456-6950

www.carmichaelsbookstore.com

 

JOSEPH-BETH BOOKSELLERS

161 LEXINGTON GREEN CIR STE B1

LEXINGTON, KY 40503

859-273-2911

www.josephbeth.com

 

JOSEPH-BETH BOOKSELLERS

2785 DIXIE HIGHWAY

CRESTVIEW HILLS, KY 41017

859-912-7860

www.josephbeth.com

 

LOUISIANA

FAULKNER HOUSE OF BOOKS

624 PIRATES ALLEY

NEW ORLEANS, LA 70116

504-524-2940

www.faulknerhousebooks.com

 

GARDEN DISTRICT BOOKSHOP

2727 PRYTANIA STREET

NEW ORLEANS, LA 70130

504-895-2266

www.gardendistrictbookshop.com

 

MASSACHUSETTS

A B NORMAL BOOKS

321 CHICOPEE ROW

GROTON, MA 01450

www.abnormalbooks.com

 

BROOKLINE BOOKSMITH CORP

279 HARVARD ST

BROOKLINE, MA 02446

617-566-6660

www.brooklinebooksmith.com

 

HARVARD BOOKSTORES

1256 MASS AVE

CAMBRIDGE, MA 02138

617-661-1515

www.harvard.com

 

JABBERWOCKY BOOKSHOP & CAFE

50 WATER STREET

NEWBURYPORT, MA 01950

978-465-9359

www.jabberwockybookshop.com

 

ODYSSEY BOOKSTORE

9 COLLEGE STREET

SOUTH HADLEY, MA 01075

413-534-7307

www.odysseybks.com

 

PANDEMONIUM BOOKS & GAMES

4 PLEASANT ST

CAMBRIDGE, MA 02139

617-547-3721

www.pandemoniumbooks.com

 

PORTER SQUARE BKS INC

25 WHITE ST

CAMBRIDGE, MA 02140

617-491-2220

www.portersquarebooks.com

 

TRIDENT BOOKSELLERS & CAFE

338 NEWBURY ST

BOSTON, MA 02115

617-267-8688

www.tridentbookscafe.com

 

MAINE

SHERMANS OF PORTLAND

49 EXCHANGE ST

PORTLAND, ME 04101

207-773-4100

www.shermans.com

 

MICHIGAN

HORIZON BOOKS

243 E FRONT ST

TRAVERSE CITY, MI 49684

231-946-7290

www.horizonbooks.com

 

LITERATI BOOKSTORE

124 E WASHINGTON

ANN ARBOR, MI 48104

734-585-5567

www.literatibookstore.com

 

MCLEAN & EAKIN BOOKSELLERS

307 E LAKE ST

PETOSKEY, MI 49770

231-347-1180

www.mcleanandeakin.com

 

NICOLAS BOOKS

2513 JACKSON RD

ANN ARBOR, MI 48103

734-662-0600

www.nicolasbooks.com

 

SCHULER BOOKS INC

1982 W GRAND RIVER AVE

OKEMOS, MI 48864

517-349-8840

www.schulerbooks.com

 

SCHULER BOOKS INC

2660 28TH ST SE

GRAND RAPIDS, MI 49512

616-942-2561

www.schulerbooks.com

 

SCHULER BOOKS INC

2820 TOWNE CENTER BLVD

LANSING, MI 48912

517-316-7495

www.schulerbooks.com

 

SNOWBOUND BOOKS INC

118 N 3RD ST

MARQUETTE, MI 49855

906-228-4448

www.snowboundbooks.com

 

MINNESOTA

COMMON GOOD BOOKS

38 S SNELLING AVE

ST PAUL, MN 55105

651-225-8989

www.commongoodbooks.com

 

MAGERS & QUINN BOOKSELLERS

3038 HENNEPIN AVE SOUTH

MINNEAPOLIS, MN 55408

612-822-4611

www.magersandquinn.com

 

UNCLE HUGOS SCIENCE FICTION BOOKSTORE

2864 CHICAGO AVE SOUTH

MINNEAPOLIS, MN 55407

612-824-6347

www.unclehugo.com

 

MISSOURI

LEFT BANK BOOKS INC

399 NORTH EUCLID

ST LOUIS, MO 63108

314-367-6731

www.left-bank.com

 

SUBTERRANEAN BOOKS

6275 DELMAR BLVD

ST LOUIS, MO 63130

314-862-6100

Store.subbooks.com

 

MISSISSIPPI

LEMURIA BOOKSTORE

4465 I 55 N STE 204

JACKSON, MS 39206

601-366-7619

www.lemuriabooks.com

 

SQUARE BOOKS

160 COURTHOUSE SQUARE

OXFORD, MS 38655

662-236-2262

www.squarebooks.com

 

TURNROW BOOK CO

304 HOWARD ST

GREENWOOD, MS 38930

662-453-5995

www.turnrowbooks.com

 

MONTANA

COUNTRY BOOKSHELF

28 W MAIN ST

BOZEMAN, MT 59715

406-587-0166

www.countrybookshelf.com

 

NORTH CAROLINA

MALAPROPS BOOKSTORE/CAFE

55 HAYWOOD STREET

ASHEVILLE, NC 28801

800-441-9829

www.malaprops.com

 

PARK ROAD BOOKS

4139 PARK ROAD

CHARLOTTE, NC 28209

704-525-9239

www.parkroadbooks.com

 

QUAIL RIDGE BOOKS

3522 WADE AVE

RALEIGH, NC 27607

919-828-1588

www.quailridgebooks.com

 

REGULATOR BOOKSHOP

720 9TH ST

DURHAM, NC 27705

919-286-2700

www.regulatorbookshop.com

 

NEBRASKA

BOOKWORM INC

2501 S 90TH ST, STE 111

OMAHA, NE 68124

402-392-2877

www.bookwormomaha.com

 

NEW HAMPSHIRE

GIBSONS BOOKSTORE

45 S MAIN ST

CONCORD, NH 03301

603-224-0562

www.gibsonsbookstore.com

 

INNISFREE BOOKSHOP

312 DANIEL WEBSTER HIGHWAY, STE 116

MEREDITH, NH 03253

603-279-3905

Millsfallmarketplace.com

 

NEW YORK

BOOK HOUSE OF STUYVESANT PLAZA

1475 WESTERN AVE

ALBANY, NY 12203

518-489-4761

www.bhny.com

 

BOOK REVUE

313 NEW YORK AVENUE

HUNTINGTON, NY 11743

631-271-1442

Bookrevue.com

 

BOOKSTORE PLUS MUSIC

2491 MAIN ST

LAKE PLACID, NY 12946

518-523-2950

www.thebookstoreplus.com

 

HOBART + WM SMITH COLLEGE, THE COLLEGE STORE

51 ST CLAIR ST

GENEVA, NY 14456

315-781-3449

www.collegestore.hws.edu

 

MYSTERIES ON MAIN STREET

144 W MAIN ST

JOHNSTOWN, NY 12095

518-736-2665

www.mysteriesonmainstreet.com

 

NORTHSHIRE SARATOGA

424 BROADWAY

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY 12866

518-682-4200

www.northshire.com

 

OBLONG BOOKS & MUSIC

6420 MONTGOMERY ST STE 6

RHINEBECK, NY  12572

845-876-0500

www.oblongbooks.com

 

TALKING LEAVES INC

3158 MAIN ST

BUFFALO, NY 14214

716-837-8554

www.tleavesbooks.com
OHIO
BOOK LOFT

631 S THIRD ST.

COLUMBUS, OH 43206

614-464-1774

www.bookloft.com

 

BOOKSHELF

7754 CAMARGO RD

CINCINNATI, OH 45243

513-271-9140

www.cincybookshelf.com

 

JOSEPH-BETH BOOKSELLERS

2692 MADISON RD

CINCINNATI, OH 45208

513-396-8960

www.josephbeth.com

 

LARRY SMITH BOOKSELLER

3824 PATRICIA DR

UPPER ARLINGTON, OH 43220

614-442-1010

 

OREGON

ANNIE BLOOMS BOOKS

7834 SW CAPITAL HWY

PORTLAND, OR 97219

503-246-0053

www.annieblooms.com

 

POWELLS BOOKS INC

PORTLAND, OR
http://www.powells.com/biblio/2-9780061779787-42

 

VJ BOOKS

12250 SW MYSLONY ST

TUALATIN, OR 97062

503-750-5310

www.vjbooks.com

 

PENNSYLVANIA

CHESTER COUNTY BOOK CO

967 PAOLI PIKE

WEST CHESTER, PA 19380

610-696-1661

www.chestercountybooks.com

 

DOYLESTOWN BOOKSHOP

16 S MAIN ST

DOYLESTOWN, PA 18901

215-230-7610

www.doylestownbookshop.com

 

TOWNE BOOK CENTER

220 PLAZA DR STE 3

COLLEGEVILLE, PA 19426

610-454-0640

www.townebc.com

 

RHODE ISLAND

BOOKS ON THE SQUARE

471 ANGELL ST

PROVIDENCE, RI 02906

401-331-9097

www.booksq.com

 

BROWN UNIV BOOKSTORE

244 THAYER ST.

PROVIDENCE, RI 02912

401-863-3168

www.brown.edu

 

SOUTH CAROLINA

BOOKSMITH

283 MARKET ST

SENECA, SC 29678

http://thebooksmith.com

 

TENNESSEE

BOOKSELLERS AT LAURELWOOD

387 PERKINS RD EXTD

MEMPHIS, TN 38117

901-683-9801

www.thebooksellersatlaurelwood.com

 

PARNASSUS BOOK

3900 HILLSBORO PIKE

NASHVILLE, TN 37215

615-953-2243

www.parnassusbooks.net

 

TEXAS

BOOKPEOPLE

603 N LAMAR

AUSTIN, TX 78703

512-472-5050

www.bookpeople.com

 

BRAZOS BOOKSTORE

2421 BISSONNET ST

HOUSTON, TX 77005

713-523-0701

www.brazosbookstore.com

 

MURDER BY THE BOOK

2342 BISSONNET ST

HOUSTON, TX 77005

713-524-8597

www.murderbooks.com

 

UTAH

KINGS ENGLISH

1511 SOUTH 15TH EAST

SALT LAKE CITY, UT 84105

801-484-9100

www.kingsenglish.com

 

VERMONT

NORTHSHIRE BOOKSTORE

4869 MAIN ST

MANCHESTER CENTER, VT 05255

802-362-2200

www.northshire.com

 

PHOENIX BOOKS

21 ESSEX WAY STE 407

ESSEX JUNCTION, VT 05452

802-872-7111

www.phoenixbooks.biz

 

PHOENIX BOOKS BURLINGTON

191 BANK ST 1ST FL

BURLINGTON, VT 05401

802-448-3350

www.phoenixbooks.biz

 

YANKEE BOOKSHOP

12 CENTRAL ST

WOODSTOCK, VT 05091

802-457-2411

www.yankeebookshop.com

 

WASHINGTON

AUNTIES BOOKSTORE

402 WEST MAIN ST

SPOKANE, WA 99201

509-838-0206

www.auntiesbooks.com

 

EAGLE HARBOR BOOK CO

157 WINSLOW WAY EAST

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, WA 98110

206-842-5332

www.eagleharborbooks.com

 

ELLIOTT BAY BOOK CO

1521 10TH AVE

SEATTLE, WA 98122

206-624-6600

www.elliottbaybook.com

 

THIRD PLACE CO

17171 BOTHELL WAY NE

LAKE FOREST PARK, WA 98155

206-366-3333

www.thirdplacebooks.com

 

VILLAGE BOOKS

1200 11TH ST

BELLINGHAM, WA 98225

360-671-2626

www.villagebooks.com

 

WISCONSIN

BOSWELL BOOK CO

2559 N DOWNER AVE

MILWAUKEE, WI 53211

414-332-1181

www.boswellbooks.com

 

CANADA

 

MCNALLY ROBINSON BOOKSELLERS

3130 -8TH STREET EAST

SASKATOON, SK S7H0W2

1-306-955-3599

www.mcnallyrobinson.com

 

PERFECT BOOKS

258A ELGIN STREET

OTTAWA, ON K2P1L9

1-613-231-6468

www.perfectbooks.ca

 

BAKKA PHOENIX BOOKS

84 HARBORD ST

TORONTO, ON M5S1G5

1-416-963-9993

www.bakkaphoenixbooks.com

 

FANFARE BOOKS

92 ONTARIO STREET

STRATFORD, ON N5A3H2

1-519-273-1010

Fanfarebooks.ca

 

NOVEL IDEA

156 PRINCESS STREET

KINGSTON, ON K7L1B1

1-613-546-9799

Novelideabooks.ca

 

BOOKMARK HALIFAX

5686 SPRING GARDEN RD

HALIFAX, NS B3J1H5

1-902-423-0419

Bookmarkinc.ca

 

MCNALLY ROBINSON BOOKSELLERS

GRANT PARK SHOPPING CENTRE

1120 GRANT AVE. UNIT 4000

WINNIPEG, MB R3M2A6

1-204-475-0483

www.mcnallyrobinson.com

 

BOLEN BOOKS LTD

111-1644 HILLSIDE AVENUE

VICTORIA, BC V8T2C5

1-250-595-4232

www.bolen.bc.ca

 

MOSAIC BOOKS

411 BERNARD AVENUE

KELOWNA, BC V1Y6N8

1-250-763-4418

Mosaicbooks.ca

 

MUNROS BOOKSTORE

1108 GOVERNMENT STREET

VICTORIA, BC V8W1Y2

1-250-382-2464

www.munrobooks.com

 

TANNERS – A BOOKSTORE & MORE

2436 BEACON AVENUE

SIDNEY, BC V8L1X8

1-250-656-2345

www.tannersbooks.com

 

CAFE BOOKS

100 – 826 MAIN STREET

CANMORE, AB T1W2B7

1-403-678-0809

www.cafebooks.ca

 

 

→ No CommentsTags: Uncategorized

Secondhand Souls Tour 2015

July 21st, 2015 · 2 Comments

Chris will be touring for his new novel Secondhand Souls from August to October. Check the dates below to find out where you can catch the man himself.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Tour

Secondhand Souls — The First Chapter

June 18th, 2015 · 15 Comments

Prologue

(Selected from the Great Big Book of Death: First Edition)

1. Congratulations, you have been chosen to act as Death, it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. It is your duty to retrieve soul vessels from the dead and dying and see them on to their next body. If you fail, Darkness will cover the world and Chaos will reign.

2. Some time ago, the Luminatus, or the Great Death, who kept balance between light and darkness, ceased to be. Since then, Forces of Darkness have been trying to rise from below. You are all that stands between them and destruction of the collective soul of humanity. Try not to screw up.

3. In order to hold off the Forces of Darkness, you will need a number two pencil and a calendar, preferably one without pictures of kitties on it. Keep it near you when you sleep.

4. Names and numbers will come to you. The number is how many days you have to retrieve the soul vessel. Do not be late. You will know the vessels by their crimson glow.

5. Don’t tell anyone what you do, or the Forces of Darkness etc. etc. etc.

6. ­People may not see you when you are performing your Death duties, so be careful crossing the street. You are not immortal.

7. Do not seek others of your kind. Do not waver in your duties or the Forces of Darkness will destroy you and all that you care about.

8. You do not cause death, you do not prevent death, you are a servant of Destiny, not its agent. Get over yourself.

9. Do not, under any circumstances, let a soul vessel fall into the hands of those from below—­because that would be bad.

Part One

Do not be afraid
Everyone before you has died
You cannot stay
Any more than a baby can stay forever in the womb
Leave behind all you know
All you love
Leave behind pain and suffering
This is what Death is.

—­The Book of Living and Dying
(The Tibetan Book of the Dead)

1
Day of the Dead

It was a cool, quiet November day in San Francisco and Alphonse Rivera, a lean, dark man of fifty, sat behind the counter of his bookstore flipping through the Great Big Book of Death. The old-­fashioned bell over the door rang and Rivera looked up as the Emperor of San Francisco, a great woolly storm cloud of a fellow, tumbled into the store followed by his faithful dogs, Bummer and Lazarus, who ruffed and frisked with urgent intensity, then darted around the store like canine Secret Service agents, clearing the site in case a sly assassin or meaty pizza lurked among the stacks.

“The names must be recorded, Inspector,” the Emperor proclaimed, “lest they be forgotten!”

Rivera was not alarmed, but by habit his hand fell to his hip, where his gun used to ride. Twenty-­five years a cop, the habit was part of him, but now the gun was locked in a safe in the back room. He kept an electric stun gun under the counter that in the year since he opened the store had been moved only for dusting.

“Whose names?”

“Why the names of the dead, of course,” said the Emperor. “I need a ledger.”

Rivera stood up from his stool and set his reading glasses on the counter by his book. In an instant, Bummer, the Boston terrier, and Lazarus, the golden retriever, were behind the counter with him, the former standing up on his hind legs, hopeful bug eyes raised in tribute to the treat gods, a pantheon to which he was willing to promote Rivera, for a price.

“I don’t have anything for you,” said Rivera, feeling as if he should have somehow known to have treats handy. “You guys aren’t even sup- posed to be in here. No dogs allowed.” He pointed to the sign on the door, which not only was facing the street, but was in a language Bummer did not read, which was all of them.

Lazarus, who was seated behind his companion, panting peacefully, looked away so as not to compound Rivera’s embarrassment.

“Shut up,” Rivera said to the retriever. “I know he can’t read. He can take my word for it that’s what the sign says.”

“Inspector?” The Emperor smoothed his beard and shot the lapels of his dingy tweed overcoat, composing himself to offer assistance to a citizen in need. “You know, also, that Lazarus can’t talk.”

“So far,” said Rivera. “But he looks like he has something to say.” The ex-­cop sighed, reached down, and scratched Bummer between the ears.

Bummer allowed it, dropped to all fours, and chuffed. You could have been great, he thought, a hero, but now I will have to sniff a mile of heady poo to wash the scent of your failure out of my nose—­oh, that feels nice. Oh, very nice. You are my new best friend.

“Inspector?”

“I’m not an inspector anymore, Your Grace.”

“Yet ‘inspector’ is a title you’ve earned by good ser­vice, and it is yours forevermore.”

“Forevermore,” Rivera repeated with a smile. The Emperor’s grandiose manner of speaking had always amused him, reminded him of some more noble, genteel time which he’d never really experienced. “I don’t mind the title following me, so much, but I had hoped I’d be able to leave all the strange happenings behind with the job.”

“Strange happenings?”

“You know. You were there. The creatures under the streets, the Death Merchants, the hellhounds, Charlie Asher—­you don’t even know what day it is and you know—­”

“It’s Tuesday,” said the Emperor. “A good man, Charlie Asher—­a brave man. Gave his life for the ­people of our city. He will long be missed. But I am afraid the strange happenings continue.”

“No, they don’t,” said Rivera, with more authority than he felt. Move along. Moving along. That it was Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, had put him on edge already, sent him to the drawer to retrieve the Great Big Book of Death, but he would not give weight to more reminders. Acknowledge a nightmare and you give it power, someone had told him. Maybe the spooky Goth girl who used to work for Charlie Asher. “You said you needed a ledger?”

“To record the names of the dead. They came to me last night, hundreds of them, telling me to write down their names so they are not forgotten.”

“In a dream?” Rivera did not want to hear this. Not at all. It had been a year since all that had happened, since the Big Book had arrived, calling him to action, and he’d walked away. So far, so good.

“We slumbered by the restrooms at the St. Francis Yacht Club last night,” said the Emperor. “The dead came across the water, floating, like the fog. They were quite insistent.”

“They can be that way, can’t they?” said Rivera. The Emperor was a crazy old man, a sweet, generous, and sincere lunatic. Unfortunately, in the past, many of the his insane ravings had turned out to be true, and therein lay the dread that Rivera felt rising in his chest.

“The dead speak to you as well, then, Inspector?”

“I worked homicide for fifteen years, you learn to listen.”

The Emperor nodded and gave Rivera’s shoulder a fatherly squeeze. “We protect the living, but evidently we are also called to serve the dead.”

“I don’t have any ledgers, but I carry some nice blank books.”

Rivera led the Emperor to a shelf where he stocked cloth and leather-bound journals of various sizes. “How many of the dead will we be recording?” Something about dealing with the Emperor put you in a position of saying things that sounded less than sane.

“All of them,” said the Emperor.

“Of course, then you’ll need a substantial volume.” Rivera handed him a sturdy leather journal with letter-­sized pages.

The Emperor took the book, flipped through it, ran his hand over the cover. He looked from the book to Rivera and tears welled in his eyes. “This will be perfect.”

“You’ll need a pen,” said Rivera.

“Pencil,” said the Emperor. “A number two pencil. They were quite specific.”

“The dead?” said Rivera.

Bummer ruffed, the subtext of which was: “Of course, the dead, you tree-­bound squirrel. Haven’t you been paying attention?” Rivera had still failed to produce any treats and had ceased scratching Bummer behind the ears, so fuck him.

Lazarus whined apologetically, the subtext of which was: “Sorry, he’s been an insufferable dickweed since he was given the powers of a hellhound, but the old man likes him, so what are you going to do? Still, it wouldn’t kill you to keep some treats behind the counter for your friends.”

“Yes, the dead,” said the Emperor.

Rivera nodded. “I don’t stock pencils in the store, but I think I can help you out.” He moved back behind the counter and opened a d ­ rawer. When the Great Big Book of Death had shown up in his mailbox, he’d bought the calendar and the pencils as it had instructed. He still had five of the pencils he’d purchased. He handed one to the Emperor, who took it, inspected the point, then dropped it into the inside pocket of his enormous overcoat, where Rivera was fairly sure he would never find it again.

“What do I owe you for the book?” asked the Emperor. He dug several crumpled bills from his coat pocket, but Rivera waved them off.

“It’s on me. In ser­vice of the city.”

“In ser­vice of the city,” repeated the Emperor, then to the troops, “Gentlemen, we are off to the library to begin our list.”

“How will you get the names?” asked Rivera.

“Well, obituaries, of course. And then perhaps a stop at the police station for a look at the missing persons reports. Someone there will help me, won’t they?”

“I’m sure they will. I’ll call ahead to the Central Station on Vallejo. But I can’t help but think you’ve got a big task ahead of you. You said you need to record all of the dead. The city has been here, what, a hundred and sixty years? That’s a lot of dead ­people.”

“I misspoke, Inspector. All of the dead, but with some urgency about those who passed in the last year.”

“The last year? Why?”

The Emperor shrugged. “Because they asked me to.”

“I mean why the emphasis on the last year?”

“So they won’t be forgotten.” The Emperor scratched his great, grizzly beard as he tried to remember. “Although they said lost, not forgotten. So they won’t be lost to the darkness.”

Rivera felt his mouth go dry and his face drain of blood. He opened the door for the Emperor, and the ringing bell jostled his power of speech. “Good luck, then, Your Majesty. I’ll call the desk at Central Station. They’ll expect you.”

“Many thanks.” The Emperor tucked the leather book under his arm and saluted. “Onward, men!” He led the dogs out of the shop, Bummer kicking up his back feet against the carpet as if to shed himself of the dirty business that was Alphonse Rivera.

Rivera returned to his spot behind the counter and stared at the cover of the Great Big Book of Death. A stylized skeleton grinned gleefully back at him, the bodies of five people impaled on his bony fingers and rendered in cheerful Day of the Dead colors.

Lost to the darkness? Only the last year?

Rivera had bought the pencils and the calendar as the Big Book had instructed, but then he’d done absolutely nothing else with them except put them in the drawer by the cash register. And nothing bad had happened. Nothing. He’d peacefully taken an early retirement from the force, opened the bookstore, and set about reading books, drinking coffee, and watching the Giants on the little television in the shop. Nothing bad had happened at all.

Then he noticed, just below the title on the Big Book were the words “revised edition.” Words that had not been there, he was sure, before the Emperor had come into the shop.

He pulled open the drawer, swept the pencils and office supply detritus aside, and pulled out the calendar he’d bought. Right there, in the first week of January, was a name and number, written in his handwriting. Then another, every few days to a week, until the end of the month, all in his handwriting, none of which he remembered writing.

He flipped through the pages. The entire calendar was filled. But nothing had happened. None of the ominous warnings in the Big Book had come to pass. He tossed the calendar back into the drawer and opened the Great Big Book of Death to the first page, a first page that had changed since he’d first read it.

It read: “So, you fucked up—­”

AHHHHHHHIEEEEEEEEEE!” A piercing shriek from right behind him. Rivera leapt two feet into the air and bounced off the cash register as he turned to face the source of the scream, landing with his hand on his hip, his eyes wide, and his breath short.

Santa Maria!

A woman, wraith thin, pale as blue milk, trailing black rags like tattered shrouds, stood there—­right there—­not six inches away from him. She smelled of moss, earth, and smoke.

“How did you get—­”

AHHHHHHHHIEEEEEEEEE!” Right in his face this time. He scrambled backward against the counter, leaning away from her in spine-­cracking dread.

“Stop that!”

The wraith took a step back and grinned, revealing blue-­black gums. “It’s what I do, love. Harbinger of doom, ain’t I?”

She took a deep breath as if to let loose with another scream and there was an electric sizzle as the stun gun’s electrodes found purchase through her tatters. She dropped to the floor like a pile of damp rags.


Order your signed, first edition copies from:

Signed with personalization from:

Also, until June 29, 2015, you can catch up with a Kindle copy of A Dirty Job for only $1.99.

→ 15 CommentsTags: Writing

Friends of Dorothy – An Excerpt from Secondhand Souls

December 24th, 2014 · 25 Comments

Friends of Dorothy – An excerpt from Secondhand Souls

A novel by Christopher Moore

©2014 Christopher Moore

Mike Sullivan is a painter on the Golden Gate Bridge. From time to time, the ghosts of the bridge visit him. Like this one:

#  #  #

            I was working in the Naval Investigations Service out of Chi-town when we first got word of a potential enemy propaganda operation called the “Friends of Dorothy” operating on the West Coast, probably originating in Frisco. I know, what’s Naval Investigations doing in Chicago, a thousand miles from the nearest ocean? That’s the slickness of our strategy, see: Who’s gonna suspect navy cops in the middle of  Cow Town on the Prairie, am I right? Of course I am.

Anyways, we get word that new troops shipping out to the Pacific of San Fran are being approached on the down low by this Friends of Dorothy bunch, who are playing up on their pre-battle jitters, trying to cause some desertions, maybe even recruit spies for Tojo.

So the colonel looks around the office, and as I am the most baby-faced of the bunch, he decides to send me out to Frisco under cover as a new recruit to see if I can get the skinny on this Dorothy and her friends, before we got another Axis Annie or Tokyo Rose on our hands, only worse, because this Dorothy isn’t just taking a shot at our morale on the radio, she’s likely running secret operations.

I tell the colonel that despite my youthful mug, I am an expert on the ways of devious dames and I will have this Dorothy in the brig before he can say Hirohito is a bum, maybe faster. So five days later I find myself on the dog-back streets of San Fran with about a million other sailors, soldiers, and marines waiting to ship out.

Well, San Fran is getting to be known as liberty city, as this is the spot where many guys are going to see the good old U S of A for the last time ever, so in spite of restrictions and whatnot all along the Barbary Coast, every night the town is full of military guys out for one last party, looking for a drink or a dame or the occasional crap game. It’s a tradition by this time that the night before you ship out, you go up to the Top of the Mark, the night club on the top floor of the Mark Hopkins Hotel on California Street, where a guy can have a snort whilst looking at the whole city from bridge to bridge, and if he’s lucky, a good-smelling broad will take him for twirl around the dance floor and tell him that everything is going to be okay, even though most guys are suspicious that it’s not. And these are such dames as are doing this out of patriotism and the kindness of their heart, like the USO, so there’s no hanky panky or grab-assing.

So word has it, that the Friends of Dorothy are recruiting at the Top of the Mark, so I don a set of Navy whites and pea coat like a normal swabby, and stake out a spot by the doorman outside the hotel, and as guys go by, I am whispering, “Friends of Dorothy,” under my breath, like a guy selling dirty post cards or tickets to a sold-out Cubs game (which could happen when they make their run for the pennant). And before long, the cable car stops and off steps this corn-fed jarhead who is looking around and grinning at the buildings and the bay at the end of the street like he’s never seen water before, and he’s sort of wandering around on the sidewalk like he’s afraid of the doorman or something, and I gives him my hush-hush Friends of Dorothy whisper.

So Private Hayseed sidles up to me and says back, “Friends of Dorothy?”

“You’re damn skippy, marine,” says I.

And just like that the kid lights up like Christmas morning and starts pumping my hand like he’s supplying water to douse the Chicago fire, or maybe the Frisco fire, as I hear that they also have a fire, but I cannot but think that it was not a real fire as Frisco is clearly a toy town. Kid introduces himself as Eddie Boedeker Jr. from Sheep Shit, Iowa or Nebraska or one of your more square-shaped, corn-oriented states, I don’t remember. And he goes on how he is nervous and he has never done anything like this before, but he’s about to go off to war and might never come home, so he has to see —  and it’s all I can do to calm the kid down and stand him up against the wall beside me like he’s just there to take in the night air and whatnot. You see, I am dressed like a sailor, and he is a marine, and although technically, swabbies and jarheads are in the same branch of the service, it’s a time-honored tradition that when they are in port they fight like rats in a barrel, which is something I should have perhaps thought of when I picked my spy duds.

So on the spot I compose a slogan of war unity so as to shore up my cover. “Fight together or lose alone, even with no-necked fucking jarheads.” I try it out on the doorman like I’m reading it off a poster and he nods, so I figure we’re good to go.

“C’mon, marine,” I says to the Private Hayseed, “I’ll buy you a drink.”

So we go up the elevator to the Top of the Mark, and I order an Old Fashioned because there’s an orange slice in it and I’m wary of scurvy, and I ask the kid what he’ll have, and he says, “Oh, I ain’t much for drinking.”

And I says, “Kid, you’re about to ship out to get your guts blown out on some God-forsaken coral turd in the Pacific and you’re not going to have a drink before you go, what are you, some kind of moron?”

And the kid provides that, no, he’s a Methodist, but his ma has a record of the Moron Tabernacle Choir singing Silent Night that she plays every Christmas and so I figure the answer is yes and I order the kid an Old Fashioned with an extra orange slice hoping it might help cure stupid as well as scurvy. But I also figure that old Eddie here is exactly the kind of dim bulb that Dorothy and her cohorts will try to go for, so I press on, pouring a couple more Old Fashioneds into him, until the kid is as pink-faced as a sunburned baby and gets a little weepy about God and country and going off to war, while I keep trying to slide in questions about Dorothy, but the kid keeps saying maybe later, and asks if maybe we can’t go hear some jazz, as he has never heard jazz except on the radio.

Well the bartender provides as there is an excellent horn player over in the Fillmore, which is only a hop on the cable car, so I flip him four bits for the tip and I drag Eddie down to the street and pour him onto the cable car, which takes us up the hill and over to the Fillmore, which is where all the blacks live now, as it used to be Jap neighborhood until they shipped them off to camps and the blacks moved in from the South to work in the ship yards bringing with them jazz and blues and no little bit of dancing.

And as we’re getting off the car, I spots some floozies standing outside the club right below a war department poster with a picture of a similar dame that says, “She’s a booby trap! They can cure VD, but not regret.”

And as we’re walking up, I says, “Hey toots, you pose for that poster?” And one of the rounder dames says, “I might have sailor, but I ain’t heard no regrets yet,” which gives me a laugh, but makes Private Eddie just look down and smile into his top button.  He whispers to me on the side, “I ain’t never done anything like this before.”

I figured as much, but I say to the kid, “That’s what the Friends of Dorothy are for, kid,” just taking a shot in the dark.

And he gets a goofy grin and says, “That’s what the guy said.”

And I say, “What guy?” but by that time we’re through the door and the band is playing, the horn player going to town on the old standard Chicago, to which I remove my sailor’s hat, because it is, indeed, my kind of town. So we drink and listen to jazz and laugh at nothing much, cause the kid doesn’t want to think about where he’s going, and he doesn’t want to think about where he came from, and I can’t figure out how to get behind this Dorothy thing with the band playing. After a few snorts, the kid even lets a dame take him out on the dance floor, and because he more resembles a club-footed blind man killing roaches than a dancer, I head for the can to avoid associating with him, and on my way back, I accidently bump into a dogface, spilling his drink. And before I can apologize, when I am still on the part that despite his being a piss-ant, lame-brained, clumsy, ham-handed Army son of a bitch, that it is a total accident that I bump into him and spill his drink, he takes a swing at me. And since he grazes my chin no little, I am obliged to return his ministrations with a left to the fucking bread-basket and a right cross which sails safely across his bow. At which point, the entire 7th Infantry comes out of the woodwork, and soon I am dodging a dozen green meanies, taking hits to the engine room, the galley, as well as the bridge, and my return fire is having little to no effect on the thirty-eleven or so guys what are wailing on me. I am sinking fast, about to go down for the count. Then two of the G.I.s go flying back like they are catching cannonballs, and then two more from the other side, and through what light I can see, Private Eddie Boedeker, Jr. wades into the G.I.s like the hammer of fucking God, taking out a G.I. with every punch, and those that are not punched are grabbed by the shirt and hurled with no little urgency over tables, chairs, and various downed citizens, and it occurs to me that I have perhaps judged the kid’s dancing chops too harshly, for while he cannot put two dance steps together if you paint them on the floor, he appears to have a right-left combination that will stop a Panzer.

Before long guys from all branches of service are exchanging opinions and broken furniture and I hear the sinister chorus of  M.P. whistles, as which point I grab the kid by the belt and drag him backwards through the tables and the curtain behind the stage and out into the alley, where I collapse for second to collect my thoughts and test a loose tooth and the kid bends over, hands on his knees, gasping for breath, laughing and spitting a little blood.

“So, kid,” I says. “You saved my bacon.” And I offer him a bloody-knuckled handshake.

Kid takes my hand and says, “Friends of Dorothy,” and pulls me into a big hug.

“Yeah, yeah, Friends of fucking Dorothy,” I say, slapping him on the back. “Speaking of which,” I say, pushing him off. “Let’s take a walk—“

“I gotta get back to Fort Mason,” the kid says. “It’s nearly midnight. The cable cars stop at midnight and I gotta ship out in the morning.”

“I know, kid, but Friends of Dorothy,” I says. I’m aware all of sudden that I have strayed somewhat from my mission, and that if the kid goes, I’m going to have to start all over again, although I suspect I have not exactly stumbled onto the mastermind of the diabolical Dorothy’s organization. But still.

“Look,” says the kid. “This has been swell. Really swell. I really appreciate you, you know, being a friend, but I gotta go. I aint never done nothing like this, never met anyone like you. It’s been swell.”

“Well, you know–” I says, not knowing how to bail this out. That one tooth was definitely loose.

Suddenly the kid grabs me again, gives me a big hug, then turns and runs off toward the cable car stop. He’s about a half a block away when he turns and says, “I’m going to go see the Golden Gate Bridge in the morning. Oh-six-hundred. Ain’t never seen a sunrise over the ocean. I’ll meet you there. Say good-bye.”

And I’m am tempted to point out several things, including that he will have to see the Golden Gate Bridge as he passes under it when he ships out, that we are on the West Coast and the sun doesn’t rise over the ocean, and that there is no need to run, as I can hear the bell of the cable car and it is still blocks away, but these being finer points than I want to yell up an alley when there are M.P.s still on the prowl, I say, “I’ll be there.”

“Friends of Dorothy,” the kid says with a wave.

“Friends of Dorothy,” I say back at him. Which goes to show you, right there, the difference between sailors and marines: marines are fucking stupid. Running when you don’t have to.

So next morning I’m  on the bridge, crack of dawn, so hung-over I feel like if I don’t close my eyes I might bleed to death, but not having to worry about it, since my eyes are too swollen up to bleed, and I see the kid, all by himself, about halfway down the bridge, out in the fog, waving like a goddamn loony when he sees me. So I limp out to him, and when I get close he starts running at me, so I says, “No running! No goddamn running!”

But he keeps running, and now he’s got his arms out like to give me a big hug, which I am in no mood for.

So I back away and say give him an, “At ease, marine.”

And he stops, bounces on his toes like a little goddamn girl.

“I couldn’t wait to see you. I thought about you all night. I couldn’t sleep,” he says.

“Yeah, yeah, that’s good,” I say. “But about the Friends of Dorothy—“

“I’m sorry about that,” the kid says. “Really sorry. I mean, I want to, but I never did anything like that before. I mean, in Kansas nobody’s like that. I thought – I mean, if my folks –I thought I was the only one. Then this guy in boot camp told me about the Friends of Dorothy.”

That’s right. It was Kansas. Anyway, I says, “That’s it, you got to tell me about Dorothy, everything you know, Eddie.”

“But I don’t know nothing. I just, I just have these feelings—“

Then the kid grabs me, right then, and gives me a great big wet one, right on the kisser. I was so surprised I just about shit myself. So I push him off of me, you know, big flat palm to the chin, and when I get done spitting, I’m say, “What the hell was that about?”

And the kid looks like I just shot his dog. “Friends of Dorothy,” he says.

“Yeah, the Friends of Fucking Dorothy, that’s why I’m here, but what the fuck was that? You queer or something?”

And he goes, “Friends of Dorothy. Like the scarecrow. Like the tin man. Like the cowardly lion. People ain’t got anyone else like them. But Dorothy don’t care. Like you. Like us.”

“I ain’t like you kid. I got people. I got a wife and kid back in Chicago. I’d be out shooting the ass off of Tojo myself if I hadn’t blown my knee out in football in high school. I’m not Dorothy’s friend, I’m not your friend, kid.”

“Friends of Dorothy,” the kid says. “We find each other,” he says.

“Queers? That’s what this about? A bunch of fairies? Marines? Sailors? Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Friends of Dorothy,” the kid wails.

“Not anymore. Naval Investigative Service. I’m taking you in, kid. You’re going in the brig, and if you ever wanna get out, you’re going to tell me everything you know about the Friends of Dorothy. Everyone you ever talked to about them. I need names, places, dates.”

“But I’m shipping out today. I ain’t never done nothing like this.”

“And you’re not going to again,” I says. “It’s time of war, kid, and being queer is a court martiable offense. You and your Friends of Dorothy are traitors. Hell, they might even shoot you. You might make it back to Kansas, but it’s going to be in chains, to Leavenworth.” Rough, I know, but I’m hung-over and annoyed that I’ve been made a sap, and I’m just trying to scare the kid so he’s easier to handle.

The kid starts shaking his head and backing away. “You can’t tell my folks. You can’t tell my Dad. It would kill him.”

“Everyone’s going to know, kid. It’s going to be in the papers, so you might as well come clean.”

Then he turns and really starts to run.

“Where you think you’re going, kid? I got the whole fleet I can send after you. A deserter. A queer traitor and deserter.”

“Friends of Dorothy,” he wails. His face is melting into a big glob of snot and tears.

“Yeah, Friends of fucking Dorothy, traitor. Let’s go, Boedeker.”

The he just starts wailing, crying it, “But Friends of Dorothy! Friends of Dorothy!” and then, again with the running, but this time for the rail, and before I can get close to him, he’s over, head first. Hit the water like a gunshot. I bet they could hear it all the way to Fort Mason.

I look down and he’s just all bent up, like a broken scarecrow, floating dead in the waves.

#  #  #

“That’s the saddest story I’ve ever heard,” said Mike Sullivan.

“Yeah, it was the war. Tough times.”

“So, you, did you, I mean, did you jump too?” asked Mike.

“Nah, I went back to Chicago. Heart attack in fifty-eight.”

“Then why are you here?”

“Smoked a lot, ate a lot of bratwurst, we didn’t know stuff in those days.”

“No, why are you on the bridge?”

“No idea. Guess that’s why the Spanish broad wanted me to tell you my story. You want I should fetch her?”

“Maybe that would be good,” Mike said. The ghost’s story had made him a little woozy, he couldn’t figure out if it was nausea or anxiety, but neither were to be taken lightly when you were up on the bridge.

“So long, bridge painter,” said the ghost. “And by the way, you can tell the dame that you have not been helpful in the least. I feel like I’m the only one did any talking here. No offense.”

“You’ll want to fuck off, now,” said Mike, who despite being a nice guy, had his limits, which he was very close to reaching with this particular spirit

_____________________________________________________________________________________

Secondhand Souls is the sequel to A Dirty Job, so yes, it will have characters from that first book, but Mike Sullivan and his group of ghosts is kind of a fun addition,  I thought.
Seconhand Souls will be released August 25, 2015.
Merry Christmas Everyone!

→ 25 CommentsTags: Uncategorized