Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The World's Weariest

The other day my relatively trusty sidekick, Kid Relish, and I were sitting at the food court of our local outdoor shopping plaza discussing fatigue--levels of, its resultant effects, could it be quantified? That sort of thing.

We soon realized that somewhere, at this very moment, was a person who happened to be the most tired person in the world. We wondered who it was. Then the Kid decided it was him because he'd missed his afternoon nap.

"Why, but that's insane Kid!" I spluttered. "You honestly believe you're the weariest person in the world right now because you missed your afternoon nap?!!!"

Kid Relish tried to respond but his words were swallowed by a massive yawn. He pounded a fist on the table a couple times as if the yawn was coming dangerously close to choking the life out of him. He pointed at the yawn with his other hand. "See, see!" Said his insistent eyes.

I folded my arms into a surly set and waited for him to finish. Kid Relish stretched that one yawn into a ten-minute extravaganza--a head shaking, eye rolling, back arching spectacle. At one point, I think around minute seven, he assembled and self-applied a makeshift defibrillator using a discarded nine-volt battery and the wire from a stripped twist-tie. The implication being that the force of the yawn and its underlying fatigue had been extreme enough to temporarily stop his heart.

At last, with a twitching stretch and several lip smacks, the yawn ended. Kid Relish slumped in his chair and stared up at me through lidded eyes.
"Case closed, huh Latty? Have you ever seen a tireder person? I'm the most tiredest person ever."

I resisted the urge to club him to death.

The Kid glanced to the right. "Hey Latty, do you think that woman sitting over there would mind if I shuffled over, knelt in front of her and then just toppled forward and took a nap on her lap?"

"Oh hell Kid, suit yourself. I hope she clubs you to death."

But she didn't club him... she actually let him take a nap on her lap. She even stroked his matted brown hair while he slept.

The Kid's a menace--a threat to society of illogical proportions. Why is he so well liked by strangers? The same strangers who would mace me at the drop of a hat, or spur as it were.

Right about then I started to feel mighty tired.

Monday, August 29, 2005

In the Jingle Jangle Morning

Okay, this is important so listen to Latigo Flint now. That sewer grate over yonder on San Fernando Boulevard routinely eats spurs. It has a great hunger for spurs. If you walk near that sewer grate with spurs on, it will grab the spurs and eat them... and painfully twist knees in the process.

I decided it was imperative that my good neighbors be made aware of this spur eating menace. Moments later an attractive young woman turned the corner.

"Pardon me Ma'am," I tipped my hat politely and stepped in front of her. "Do you ever wear spurs?"


"Spurs Ma'am, you know: cowboy steel, gut hooks, pony-git-alongs. Do you ever wear them?"

She blinked several times at me. "Pony-whats???"

"Flank-ticklers Ma'am. Buzz saws, heel nuggets, jingle jangle mornings. They come Texas Style, California Style and Vaquero Style. Inlayed or plain. With or without silver conchos, chap guards or a curved shank. I'm talkin' 'bout spurs Ma'am, and whether or not you wear them... so, do you?"

The poor gal seemed about to cry she was so confused. I would have shown her my own spurs except that wretched sewer grate had already eaten them. I gently touched her elbow with one hand and lifted her chin with the other until her bewildered eyes met mine.

"A cowboy Ma'am: Get the picture in your mind. Now he's wearing boots, of course, and attached to the heels are round twirly metal things... Spurs! Do you understand?"

She nodded.

"So, do you ever wear them?!"

She took a long moment to process everything that had just happened to her in the last thirty seconds. Then a grumpy set began to creep across her face.
"Spurs? Like cowboy boot, metal twirly things, spurs? And you stopped me to find out if I ever wear them?"

I smiled broadly. "Yes, yes, you've got it! I want to know if you ever wear spurs."


The girl had lungs. My serape practically blew straight back behind me. I looked like Linus in a gale.

The question was rhetorical so I didn't answer it. I pointed at the sewer grate. "Well if you ever do, don't walk near that particular sewer grate--it eats spurs... and twists knees in the process."

While I was looking over my shoulder, pointing at the sewer grate, she was filling each fist with a can of mace. When I turned back around, she emptied both into every topside orifice I had and left me to slobber and writhe in the gutter like a strych-laced dog.

Never one to disappoint, that's exactly what I did. At some point the sewer grate started laughing at me so I head-butted it to death.

Then some more stuff probably happened, I'm not really sure though. The sun went down and up, down and up a few times. My senses had been stripped. My hands couldn't feel to grip.

Then I think a hobo peed on me.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Larson Silkhammer

A healthy citrus orchard is not an easy thing to burn to the ground. The moisture level of a citrus tree, from root to fruit, is quite high. Plus the topsoil is tilled and kept clear of any sort of tinder source. Human arsonists know to steer well clear of citrus orchards when selecting a target.

But this simply makes Larson Silkhammer's accomplishment all the more impressive. To this day no one knows how he managed to pull it off but one thing is certain, river otters the world over will never forget the name Larson Silkhammer and what he achieved one late August night some years ago.

Larson Silkhammer was the last-born of a litter of six river otters. Even as a young kit, Larson Silkhammer felt the irresistible pull of singular purpose.
"Mother," he would whisper from atop his small rock that overlooked the moonlit Kern River in the southernmost stretch of California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. "Someday I shall burn a citrus orchard to the ground."

"Larson Silkhammer Otter! You get back in the den with your brothers and sisters this instant. What is the rule about tuck-in's?!"

Larson would sigh, conflicted and more than a little ashamed by the ever present duality that split his soul: the instinct to be a good otter kit and make his mother proud, and the need to burn a citrus orchard to the ground.
"I remember the rule Mother, I do: After tuck-in and good night kiss, young otters shan't roam nighttime mist."

His mother would try to retain her grim tone, but the strains of a sad, loving smile would creep in.
"Well Larson, if you always remember a mother's rule yet break it almost every night, what does that say about your heart's regard for her?"

Larson would start to cry then and leap down from his small rock to nuzzle her side.
"I'm sorry Mother. I love you and always will. I'll fall asleep with my brothers and sisters from now on. I won't climb rocks after tuck-in ever again, I won't!"

Larson's mother would return the nuzzle and send him back to the den with a gentle tail spank. The next night would find him again perched on that rock, gazing off to the west. Somewhere out there, beyond the distant river bend, was a citrus orchard, and someday he would burn it to the ground.

Larson Silkhammer had never actually seen an orange in person (err, otter) but in his mind's eye he could see hundreds of thousands of them consumed by towering flame; orange on orange, shriveling green and boiling pulp. The vision made him shudder with the ecstasy of accomplishment and fire.


We know how the citrus orchard went up; the trees had been irrigated with straight diesel fuel, and a charred Zippo lighter was found in the center. What is unclear is how on earth an adolescent river otter managed to pump seventeen thousand gallons of diesel fuel into the irrigation system and then open and strike a Zippo.

The glow on the horizon line could be seen from Fresno, some hundred and forty miles to the north. And the smoke was reported the next morning from as far away as the CA/Nevada border.

You have to know there's no way Larson Silkhammer could have survived... I mean come on, he struck a Zippo in the center of an orchard that had been trickled and sprayed with seventeen thousand gallons of diesel fuel--but you can still dream he found a way.

Lord knows I do.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Fun With Light Switches (Tastes Like Dying Though)

You know what's a lot of fun? It's a lot of fun to stand in a dark bathroom for several minutes staring at your murky reflection in the mirror... then flip on the light and watch your wide pupils abruptly contract.

The effect is stunning and awesome. It looks like CGI!

But you're cheating yourself if you stop there. Latigo Flint likes to enact all manner of awesome scenes, placing the light switch flip at the exact right moment.

Here's one:

"There is something you should know Miss Petalwood... that which has so strongly attracted you to me shall in turn repulse and horrify you as you have never been repulsed and horrified before. For my dear Miss Petalwood, a significant portion of the blood that flows through these veins is, and has always been, that of THE WOLF!"
[Flip light on, pupils contract eerily. Snarl.]
"And so now you know Miss Petalwood, now you know."

It is a fine one, no doubt. This one is also pretty good:

"Wind swept sails and capstan creak obscure the muffled clank of shackles dropping heavily upon the slimy deck below. 'The prisoner is free!!! The prisoner is free!!!' scream the gulls from the bow, but the busy crew does not hear. A shadowy figure glides across his pitching tomb, cutlass in hand. Tomb no longer, his footsteps imply. He stops at the damp oak door and gently grips the knob. He can smell the sunshine on the other side. He grins at his cutlass in the darkness and begins to whisper:
'Slice, slice. Sever, sever. Lock me down? Never, never.' He repeats it, a bit louder this time: 'Slice, slice! Sever, sever! Lock me down?! Never, NEVER!!!' He turns the knob and lunges out into the briny morn."
[Flip light on, pupils contract. Laugh manically.]

But none of the hundred or so light switch pupil contraction scenes currently in my repertoire can hold a candle to Latigo Flint's Poem for a Darkened Bathroom, written specifically for the purpose of light switch pupil contracting. Would you like to read Latigo Flint's Poem for a Darkened Bathroom? Here it is:

From history's grave fresh gunsmoke wafts, a tolling of time's bell.
Assembled here in bathroom bare, souls of gunmen back from hell.

Into one form they squish themselves, Earp's handlebar pokes Doc's eye.
At Dalton squints the Younger Gang and Jesse frowns at Ike.

Billy grins as Masterson spins his bowler on a Colt.
John Wesley Hardin sits, Sundance spits and Hickok deals and folds.

They've gathered here and won't leave I fear, until citizens dern well know
that the West twern't bad, it was good and rad--reap it world, I'm Latigo!

[flip lights on]


[Then shatter mirror with a vicious headbutt. Next goes fist through shower door, backhand drag blood across face. Kick ball change and shoot the towel rack clean off. Toilet related mayhem. Tiny wastebasket hurled through window. Self inflicted plunger wound, and then big finish... Nose hair clippers stabbed into foot, nipple shorn off with straight razor, followed by headfirst dive into bathtub faucet.]

I try to pace myself and engage in light switch pupil contraction only about once or twice a year. It tends to take a lot out of me you know.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

A Scuttle in the Dark

Attention all residents of the City of Burbank, California--there is a spider currently scuttling around somewhere in our fine burg that cannot be killed. I'm sorry to have to break such grim news, but Squinty-Eyed Gunslingers are always forthcoming and frank. (It's in our charter.)

This spider is about the size of a silver dollar, is quite hairy and terrifyingly agile. It looks a little bit like a cross between a tarantula, a Venezuelan rock spider and Satan! It is probably beyond poisonous.

Latigo Flint has tried shooting it, stomping it and setting it ablaze with a Zippo and a can of WD-40. Latigo Flint has also tried throwing credenzas at it, stabbing it with a grilling fork and prayer.

Nothing works. This spider is simply too fast and too cunning. In addition to possessing unholy speed, this spider can jump great distances, rear up on its hind legs, and bluff-charge! (Yes, bluff-charge... just like an elephant, or a goddamn grizzly bear!!!)

Latigo Flint has failed you Burbank. You have no idea how deeply it shames Latigo Flint to have to say this. Latigo Flint tried his dernedest to slay that dastardly arachnid, but in the end had to open all doors, wrap himself in a mattress slipcover and crouch on top of the refrigerator until it left.

I'm sorry Burbank; I'm so sorry. Don't even look at me right now. Scorn is unnecessary--I've flayed myself far beyond anything you could muster. And judge me not please, until you yourself have faced a giant, hairy, jumping spider with a lightning dash, that understands the nuances of feints and bluff-charges. (Which, if you live in Burbank will probably be sooner rather than later.)

Abraham Lincoln once said: "The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just."

And this would seem to cast my retreat as one of deplorable cowardice. However, what most people don't know is that moments later Abe mumbled underneath his breath: "But, when faced with a hairy, rearing, jumping spider that's berserkedly fast and knows how to feint and bluff-charge, failure is not a probability but a certainty, and the wise man wraps himself in mattress slipcover and ascends an ice box."

So there.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Unaffiliated Vengeance

As the betrayed girl ascended the gallows steps, she shot a proud glare at the smirking man watching with a casual lean from the shadows next to the saloon. The girl managed to laugh somewhere deep inside. Few though her years, they'd been full and happy. The smirking man's had always been petty and miserable.

There were some in the crowd who knew of her innocence. Fear of a similar fate had sealed their lips. Time would eventually yield the truth; of this the girl was certain. She would not weep today over what cannot be stopped. Pride, beauty and an upraised middle finger in the direction of the smirking man: This is how she'd be remembered, and not a bad way to be she reckoned.

The smirking man spoke then, a cruel, giggling taunt, and in ten seconds demolished nearly a month's worth of planning and mental preparation.
"You ate a full meal last night Love; I saw the jailer's dish barrel."
He stared at the crowd with mock concern. "Turn away all faint of heart--mud on snow is spring's most gruesome sight."

The girl gasped and stared down at her flowing white dress. Symbolic of eternal innocence: this had been her thought two weeks ago when she'd requested it of the jailer's wife. Only now did she realize tragic mockery was to be its ultimate price.

The betrayed girl numbly allowed herself to be shoved to the center of the platform. Her auburn hair wilted across her face as the noose was affixed and she did not triumphantly flip it from her eyes as she had planned. The smirking man smirked harder.

The priest droned on and on, something about this and that, that and this--all will be rad and groovy on the other side once we've offed you. The girl didn't listen, her soul had sunk into a swamp of impending shame. She knew how broken and guilty she appeared but was powerless to react.

A gruff cough pierced her apathy. She opened one eye and met the stare of a bedraggled old fur trapper. She remembered two nights before, how she watched from her window bars as he limped into town. She recalled that with every step he had mumbled words of encouragement into the ear of an ancient mule, and the tender smile she'd managed, despite her situation. She'd watched, strangely ashamed, as the handsome playboys lounging in front of the saloon turned the weary duo away with scoffs and hurled bacon rinds.

Two nights in a barn had done the old trapper neither favor nor ill--he looked exactly the same, save for the urgent message that flashed in his sagging eyes and the insistent way he cradled his long rifle. The betrayed girl understood in an instant; their minds were one. Right then the two of them could have conversed for years with looks alone, but of course they never would--only seconds remained now.

The proud lift returned to the betrayed girl's jaw. She laughed out loud over the dirty hats of the stunned assemblage. The executioner strode to the drop-pin, and with a glorious grin the betrayed girl extended both middle fingers at the smirking man. The executioner gripped the drop-pin cord and double wrapped it around his fist. As one the crowd leaned forward, none choosing to turn away despite the smirking man's giggled promise of mud and snow.

Then with a speed that belied his creaky age, the old fur trapper slammed the long rifle to his shoulder and triggered two of the most accurate shots history has ever known. The first severed the rope two inches above the betrayed girl's head, the second punched a round, elegant hole directly between her beautiful eyes.

The smile never left her face. She fluttered to the wooden deck like a wing-shot angel, the pristine, white gown falling in rippling folds, obscuring her arms. Her last earthly shudder raised those arms, a triumphant fist at the end of each.

Three hundred cheated spectators whirled around to the old fur trapper.
The constable's face was beet red. "Why would you murder the condemned?"

The old fur trapper sneered at him.
"Constable, if you don't know the answer to that by now... excuse me one moment..."

The old fur trapper disappeared into the crowd, reappearing moments later alongside the smirking man. The old fur trapper calmly buried a rusty hatchet deep in his throat. The smirking man let loose a liquid scream, whimpered a bit, then died. The old trapper shuffled back to face the constable.
"... you probably never will."

The constable opened and closed his mouth several times but failed to produce any sort of sound. The old fur trapper slowly ambled down the muddy track, the crowd parting before him.
"My mule and I are leaving this town. Try and stop us if you care to. Perhaps you can--I don't really know any of you."
The old fur trapper paused and stared dangerously over his shoulder. The crowd bumped into each other in their haste to further retreat.
"And yet at the same time, I think I do."

The old fur trapper mumbled a word of encouragement into his ancient mule's ear and the two of them limped out of town.

(This has been an awesome and true story of American Western Lore. Look it up if you don't believe Latigo Flint. If you find no mention of it in the historical records... um, that probably means you didn't research hard enough.)

Monday, August 22, 2005

A Tough Way to Forget

Do you want to hear one of the ways Latigo Flint can tell he's really tough? Latigo Flint knows he's really tough because one time a wrought iron patio table fell off a balcony and landed on Latigo Flint and Latigo Flint didn't cry.

People who aren't tough always cry when a wrought iron patio table falls off a balcony on them.

People happened to be passing by and they saw the patio table fall on me. "My God!" They said. "That iron patio table just fell on you!!!"

"Oh did it?" I stretched out, reclining on an elbow and tried to look nonchalant. I gave the patio table a disinterested glance. "Hmm, yes, I suppose it did."

They couldn't believe it--they couldn't believe how tough I was. They watched stunned, as I hummed a carefree little tune and gingerly explored my gaping head wound with gentle fingers.

"Yep, that's fairly severe. I'm going to need gauze, quite a bit of gauze. Would someone be a sweetheart and fetch me about a barrel of gauze?"

They stared around at each other in astonishment. "Shouldn't we call an ambulance or something?" One of them piped up.

"No thank you, just gauze. A barrel or two of gauze please."

The nice thing about having a wrought iron patio table fall on you is that you get the chance to prove to strangers how tough you are.

The downside is it hurts quite a bit and you forget April... All of them! I've lost twenty-something Aprils. Lord only knows how I've spent this lifetime's Aprils. I constantly bemoan my inability to woo the cute Starbucks barista... Hell, for all I know I've successfully wooed hundreds of cute Starbucks baristas, and their uncles. And don't even know it.

Losing all your Aprils is kind of a bummer. It's such a lovely month you know. Fortunately Latigo Flint does a lot of living and eleven of Latigo Flint's months more than equals most people's twelve.

(For instance, I don't even remotely recall ever writing this: Eve Flint.)

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Strump Fed Brawlers

American Western lore and its replicative sights and odors is Latigo Flint's main area of expertise, but when you have a true story to tell about East End London's Strump Fed Brawlers, it would practically be a crime against humanity to withhold it.

The Strump Fed Brawlers are a jolly assemblage of hard-drinking British lads, whose greatest joy in life is to charge around cobblestoned street corners and overturn apple carts. Afterwards they always right the cart, restack the apples and pay for any damages. They are a remarkably polite lot of fellows once they get apple cart related mayhem out of their systems.

The Strump Fed Brawlers have appeared in a number of magazines and periodicals. Whenever anyone needs a photo of unruly ruffians overturning apple carts they contact The Strump Fed Brawlers. It's a win/win. The photojournalist gets her cover photo and the Strumpers make a few quid just for doing something they would have been doing anyway.

British girls know that when they marry a Strump Fed Brawler they instantly gain many dozen brothers-in-law. British girls are fine with this; they know there are plenty worse things in this world than having sixty or so, gentle-hearted lunatics in the family.

But it is not always the case with girls from across the pond.

One time a smashing young Strump Fed Brawler by the name of Rowland Lashington Gripsnarl, happened to woo and wed a Rhode Island beauty queen named Tiffany. When Rowland's brother Strumpers staged an impromptu apple cart overturning in the middle of the wedding reception dance floor, Tiffany was furious. She blew her stack... she scuppered her crockery... she twisted her frothy bits...

"This marriage is annulled unless those filthy Strump Fed Brawlers leave this instant!!!"

Hundreds of horrified faces turned her way, including that of her father, who had moments ago been linked arm in arm with his new son-in-law, happily stomping apples into the carpet. (And it was from HIS cash deposit that the cleaning bill would deduct.)

"Honey please..." Tiffany's father threw open his arms imploringly. "Don't be rash. Stomp an apple or two with your new husband and me. I think there is much about life that can be learned from these Strump Fed Brawlers."

Tiffany stared at them through grim eyes. "The Strump Fed Brawlers leave now!!! And I mean NOW!!!"

The Strump Fed Brawlers wordlessly shuffled out of the reception hall. Rowland Lashington Gripsnarl scribbled his signature on a cocktail napkin and tossed it at Tiffany's feet.

"Forge it Love, no one checks annulment papers too careful anyway."

Tiffany's father stood forlorn in the center of an emptying hall. Then he nodded several times to himself and started backing toward the exit.

"Honey, I think I'm a Strump Fed Brawler now too, so your decision would also apply to me."

The Strump Fed Brawlers and their new inductee strode resolutely into the Rhode Island dusk.

If you liked this true story you'll probably enjoy this one as well: The Knights of the Order of a Most Romantic Death.

(If you didn't like this story, chances are you're a miserable bastard and your neighbors wish you would move or die... and they aren't particular which.)

Friday, August 19, 2005

Dusty Stickers

Hello Kitty stickers do not belong on the serrated wool edge of Latigo Flint's serape. That's not where they're supposed to go. Hello Kitty stickers go on lunchboxes, TrapperKeeper notebook flaps and the cell phones of Japanese schoolgirls.

My shoulder muscles tensed as I strode through the front lobby area of my local pizza establishment. Something was wrong. Squinty-Eyed Gunslingers are always highly attuned to our environment. We have to be. "You attune or you decompose." Goes the old gunslinger saying. (They pronounced 'decompose' a bit differently 150 years ago, so the saying rhymed much better back then.)

I eased around, hands wide and ready. Then my keen ears detected it again, the unmistakable "splu-chunk" of a discharging sticker dispenser. I glanced down to discover a pair of silver and pink Hello Kitty stickers clinging to the hem of my favorite serape.

"Well isn't that just a grim howdy." I thought to myself. I drifted a squinty-eyed gaze over the length of the dining area. It was packed with couples, families and organized youth sports teams, all boisterously supping. None seemed aware a sticker dispenser even sat in the lobby, much less a malfunctioning one.

"Pardon me neighbors--did anyone pay for but not receive, two Hello Kitty stickers?"

No response.

"I bring it up only because a moment ago the sticker dispenser in the lobby happened to produce a pair of Hello Kitty stickers directly onto the edge of my serape. I figured perhaps the mechanism is old and tends to jam, resulting in an unpredictable delay between the insertion of two-bits and the resultant deposit of Hello Kitty stickers."

Several diners shot me a wary glances then continued eating.

"Friends, these stickers cannot remain on my serape. It is out of the question. Their temporary adorability must adhere to a different surface."

A large, red-faced father lurched to his feet, knocking over his young daughter's root beer glass in the process. He scowled down at her, apparently choosing to blame the placement rather than his uncoordinated elbow. She shrunk from his rage. Appeased, he turned his attention back to me.

"How 'bout you stick 'em in your ass and shut the hell up about it."

This was actually a rather severe mistake on his part. I proceeded to bludgeon him senseless with a large pie tin and then fed the remaining pizza to his nostrils. Over the relative calm of a trembling moan, I offered the edge of my serape to his young daughter. She shyly removed the Hello Kitty stickers and admired them longingly for a moment, then she used them to gently bandage her father's wounds.

I occasionally find myself humbled by a child's innocent capacity for loyalty undeserved.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Squinty-Eyed Gunslinger's Fate

Latigo Flint's winks can make colicky babies stop crying and burble contentedly instead. Squinty-Eyed Gunslingers do not often wink but when they do it is quite powerful. Markets value a limited resource, you know.

"There is no machine for that." Latigo Flint's low, steady voice easily cut through the barcode scanner beeps. The harried mother with a baby carrier at her feet looked up from her stack of frozen food coupons.

"Excuse me?"

I tilted my head at her baby. "For the past ten minutes your colicky child has been shrieking his displeasure. I winked at him a moment ago and now he burbles contentedly--I say there's no machine that can do that."

She icily appraised my attire, from well-traveled boot tips to the crown of my wide brimmed black hat. Then she decided to ignore me.

Someone in the line behind harrumphed. My turn in response was slow and dangerous. A very short, middle-aged man in a silk shirt bemusedly met my stare. I squinted down at him.

"Did you harrumph me sir?"

He gave two quick, businesslike nods, "I did."

My hand shifted ever so slightly toward the butt of my authentic replica Colt Peacemaker. "And what would possibly qualify you as one who could harrumph me?"

To his credit, his face remained terror-free. "Why I'm a pediatrician of course."

I grinned sardonically and took a step forward so as to better loom over him. "Not an inventor or a welder or an electrical engineer?" He shook his head. "Well, this surprises Latigo Flint a great deal, since the lady and I happened to be talking about machines."

"Nonsense!" He blurted with that fearless indifference often found in the very short. "Machines, yes, but only as they relate to the actual topic, which was as I recall, colic. What you obviously don't know is that nearly two thirds of the time a child's chronic colic condition may be alleviated or remedied altogether, merely by switching from a milk-based formula to one of soy or whey. I harrumphed in response to the inane inference that you should be so highly valued simply because humanity seems to lack a reliable colic-curing wink machine!"

Stunned, I brought a rage-trembling finger level with his chest. "Hey! I'm Latigo Flint goldangit! Of course I know all that. What I meant was... um... there's no machine that can be used to make soy-based baby formula."

Unfortunately that had been the first thing to pop into my head. The tiny pediatrician tore it to shreds without mirth or mercy. "Why, how on Earth do you think soy milk is made... little Asian kids stomping around in a giant vat of beans?!"

Murder was my first instinct at that point but instead I winked at him. He stepped back, astonished, then a warm smile began to flicker in his bespectacled eyes. It spread across his entire face as he extended his right hand.

"My boy, Latigo was it? Quite abruptly I find myself desiring many beers of hearty comradery with you. I'd be honored if you'd come over for dinner this very evening. My daughters are home from college; they're helping the Missus in the kitchen as we speak. I was dispatched to fetch cooking sherry." He raised the bottle in affirmation. "So, what do you say?"

"Daughters... as in plural?" I silently thanked the awesome power of a gunslinger wink.

"Cute as buttons and smart as whips if you'll forgive a father's clichéd pride. I know they'd be delighted to meet you."

So I graciously accepted.

But true to the cruelest of all fates: Squinty-Eyed Gunslinger's fate, my new pediatrician friend happened to suffer a fatal heart attack as we walked to his Lexus. I considered checking his wallet for the address and going over to his house anyway, but then I thought better of it.

The tiny pediatrician died in that parking lot; face down in puddle of cooking sherry. I walked until I found a culvert and bedded down there for the night.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The First Bank of Character

Girls you love but can't ever have are not a curse; they are a blessing. Consider them a large deposit into the First Bank of Character, and the name on the account is yours--and the personalized background on the check is you standing bare-chested and sexy at the top of a waterfall, ignoring the blood that oozes from a temple wound and trickles down your stubbled jaw.

Oh hell yeah pard'ners! Hell yeah I say!

Self-pity? Pffaugh! Who has time for such weaknesses? Certainly not us, no sir, not when there are tawny muscles to be flexed into the front edge rage of a savage gale. (And stuff!)

You know, I think author and naturalist, John Muir, said it best when he stared into the eye of an approaching storm from his precarious perch upon an exposed High Sierra ledge and uttered, and I quote: "Fuckin' Grrrrr M'Lady Fury. Fuckin' Grrrrr!"

I'm going to leap from a cliff so goddamn high Gal, that you won't be able to ascertain, not even with binoculars, whether or not I've perished.

I'm aiming for a distant grove of willow trees on the canyon floor. I hope they're in season, leafy and soft. But I won't check first, so tough and dangerous am I. Years later you'll come across a flattened willow tree and a single spur, but no bleached bones. Apparently someone incredibly sexy and strong landed here and then limped away.

Decisions shall be second-guessed at that point -- Trust that Starbucks Girl, trust that! Fuckin' Grrrrr!

(I'm Latigo Flint and booze approves this message.)

Monday, August 15, 2005

A Fistful of Origami Cranes

Kid Relish, my relatively trusty sidekick, thinks that we should make a fine documentary film about a Mexican gunslinger who goes around giving origami cranes to hobos. The Kid says it will be sublime and also awesome, with many layers of rich subtext for esteemed reviewers to explore.

Kid said he sees it opening small, 2000 screens or so, and expanding to twice that once the word-of-mouth really kicks in. I was a bit dubious and made it clear that while I can appreciate the singular visual of a Mexican gunslinger giving a hobo an origami crane, I'm really not at all certain the premise would be able to carry a 90-minute film.

Kid mumbled something into his shirt. "What's that Kid?" I asked.

"One eighty Puto! I said the film is going to be one hundred eighty minutes long, give or take!"

I gave him a sad smile. "Three hours Kid?! Have you really thought that through?"

He sulked for bit then abruptly brightened. "I've got it Latty! We'll tell people the filmmaker, who was also the director and cameraman, is actually legally blind and has been from birth. That's another layer for the audience to appreciate and should be just enough to put us into the top ten grossing films of all time."

Kid Relish started pacing about the room, wildly gesticulating and randomly licking furniture. (That's what Kid Relish does when he gets really excited, you see?)

"Latty, sometimes the camera will bonk into things. It'll be incredibly funny and tragic at the same time. Teenage girls will see our film dozens of times in the theater just like that one Billy Zane movie."

I slowly backed off and gave him space. His pacing now approached a dead sprint. Suddenly he stopped cold and stared at the ceiling. He appeared on the verge of seizure. The Kid began to shriek elatedly and had to lick the coffee table for a full two minutes just to calm down enough to get the words out. Tears of joy were streaming down his cheeks when he finally craned up to face me.

"Amend all that Latty--You know what we're gonna make?! We're gonna make a documentary about a blind documentarian who is making a documentary about a Mexican Gunslinger who goes around giving origami cranes to hobos!!!"

And then he blacked out. The excitement and joy had become too much for him.

I stared at his motionless form for a long time. This was probably the greatest idea I had ever heard. I shuffled, trancelike, to the computer, logged into a popular internet auction site and started methodically selling every last possession, save what we currently wore.

So it appears our budget shall be in the range of 1.5 to 2.5... hundred dollars. I'm waiting for Kid to wake up so I can ask if he sees the film being shot in 35 millimeter, DV, or perhaps Disposable-Still.

Kid Relish sleeps like a troubled angel. He is my friend and sidekick and I love him like a brother. I should probably tell him that more often... or in fact, even once.

Oh lonesome dang! I hope it's not an aneurysm he had. Come back to me Kid. Do not go gentle into that good titanium pimpstick factory.

(Make your own goldangit! Give it to a hobo.)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Wolf in the Chair

Once I happened upon a blond child weeping bitterly as she stared up the dusty slope of an off-season ski run. I couldn't see much worth crying over. Sure it looked a little ugly, a great wide swath of dirt and rock running through an otherwise pristine pine forest, but it's an acceptable trade-off. Recreational use of parts of our wilderness tends to do more good than harm in the long run as far as awareness and preservation for the rest.

Ah, so the naiveté of youth. I chuckled and patted her on the head. "Dry up little Ma'am, sure this one section looks kinda slashed and ruined, but it's an acceptable trade off--recreational use of parts of our wilderness tends to do more good than--"

She roughly jerked her head out from under my hand and glared up at me. "Shut up, I know that. That's not why I'm crying."

"Oh, it isn't?"


I went back to studying the slope, more intently this time. Squinty-Eyed Gunslingers pride themselves on their observational skills. I didn't want to ask, I preferred to figure it out.

"Um, you were picnicking at the top and you forgot your doll up there and your mother says there's no time to go back and get it."

She gave me a dirty glance and continued crying. I nodded resolutely to myself and got down to the business of some serious observation. I crouched down, resting my weight on boot heels and a fist. I absently rubbed my stubbled jaw with the other hand and tasted the wind with long, slow nostril breaths.

"Okay, your father used to be ski lift operator here but last winter he lost his job when he showed up to work drunk, forgot to adjust the speed setting and accidentally killed the children of a visiting foreign dignitary and so now your family has to move to Des Moines in shame."

She slowly turned to face me, contempt oozing from every pore. "Are you stupid?"

"Depends on who you ask."

She stared into my eyes a long time, evaluating my worth. Finally she stretched a pale arm up the slope at the line of motionless ski lift chairs. "Count down four poles from the top. Second chair below the fourth pole."

"I see it."

"That chair is inhabited by the spirit of an old timber wolf."

I laughed in her face. I couldn't help it. "What did you just say little Ma'am?!"

"Just look at it."

So I did, and I'll be damned if she wasn't right. That chair was inhabited by the spirit of an old timber wolf. He howled his anguish down the dusty track and it nearly split my mind in two. I really don't know how I could have missed it before.

I slumped to my knees and stared up at the child. Not a trace of squint remained, my eyes were now wide and pleading. "How the... why..."

She wiped her eyes with her knuckles. "His joy was running free and strong up and down mountains. Last winter he knew he was dying so he inhabited that ski lift chair with his spirit-" Her voice broke and she was consumed by sobs for a moment. When she spoke again it was in a near whisper. "He didn't know when the snow is gone they turn it off."

I screamed my grief into a blue sky. My shirtfront was fast becoming as mucus stained as the child's. In a tearful terror I reached wildly for her arm. "Child!!! What the hell are we going to do?!!!"

She sadly shook her head. "Hand over hand up three hundred yards of cable, bolt cutters in back pocket, cut the chair down..." She buried her face in her hands. "But it can't be done. No one is that strong."

I nearly knocked her over I leapt to my feet so fast. "Oh god Child--I'm Latigo Flint, don't you know? Okay, your job is to shout encouragement and keep track of how far I've gone and how many chairs I've yet to go!"

I was fifty yards up the mountain and a hundred feet in the air when my strength gave out. Many bones were shattered and the bolt cutters punched a new asshole for me in the small of my back. The little girl ran to my side and stood over, concern twisting her perfect face. I stared up through hemorrhaging eyes.

"Child, I fell."

"I know, I saw."

"I'm not going to be able to try again for at least a week, maybe longer."

"I understand."

Then her parents started calling for her from the lodge and she had to go. I got a little lonely just lying there and tried talking to the wolf in the chair, but he was a wolf, and wolves don't speak English. I decided it didn't matter and talked to him anyway. I taught him the lyrics to Van Morrison songs and he taught me how to howl in anguish.

When it rained we drank. When the buzzards appeared we shuddered.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Salvador Nightshade

There was once a young Gypsy named Salvador Nightshade who lived in Bakersfield, California. Salvador played the harmonica so beautifully and with so much passion, that when two people heard it there was a very good chance they would instantly fall in love with each other.

But no one ever fell in love with Salvador Nightshade. Salvador was kinda funny looking to begin with and when he played, his eyes would cross and his cheeks bulged. It also didn't help that all that rapid inhalation and exhalation tended to make him extremely flatulent.

Salvador and I became occasional drinking buddies. We'd wile away entire evenings, decimating cases of Coors Long Necks and playing musical magic 8-ball with the upcoming songs on the jukebox.

"Hey Musical Magic 8-Ball, will a girl ever fall in love with Salvador?"......

Blame it all on my roots
I showed up in boots
and ruined your black tie affair

With every Musical Magic 8-Ball answer, Salvador and I would giggle drunkenly and collapse against each other. Then we'd demand another round with hearty slaps upon age-stained oak. We never compared our interpretations. Sometimes now I think back and can't help but wonder if we ever read the same answer into a given song. I guess it's not important. Our response was always the same, and at the end of the day maybe that's all that matters.

When our giggles started to become hysterical, the bartender would unplug the jukebox and then Salvador and I would go our separate ways. I to a nearby barn, bedroll under my arm, Salvador to his concrete culvert where he'd practice harmonica 'til dawn. His melancholy strains and trills would drift reverberantly across lonely truck stop lots, bringing unexpected tears of joy to the handlebar cheeks of weary long-haulers.

Salvador Nightshade was so incredibly good with that harmonica, you can't even fathom. If you heard the first half of a song, you'd be willing to eat an entire crate of live beagle puppies just to hear the rest. Salvador Nightshade made John Popper sound like an asthmatic old mule with a kazoo in its nose.

One night Salvador Nightshade took his own life with a modified hay baler and a barbed wire noose.

It made me so goddamn sad that I forgot how to speak and spent the next four months trying to headbutt passing freight trains off their tracks.

(Which is impossible by the way. It can't be done. Not with a headbutt. You may try if you like--I guess I can't stop you. But I am kind of like, the foremost expert in the world and stuff, at headbutting passing freight trains off their tracks, and if I say it can't be done... Well then, you know, it probably can't be done.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

My Scientific Colleagues Wince

The scientific community has reacted with universal scorn and/or indifference to Latigo Flint's recent study that suggests if penguins could fly it would be easier for them to avoid being eaten by leopard seals.

Latigo Flint presented his findings at the special conference of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission's Joint Technical Consortium for Marine Methodology. (Latigo Flint gained stage access through shrewd exploitation of the long-standing scientific conference loophole that permits unscheduled speakers, provided their PowerPoint presentation is properly formatted, they're wearing a blue blazer, and they know what the acronym on the podium stands for.)

My presentation was succinct and elegant. (Hey, just like me!) It consisted of two short video clips, a one-paragraph summary and a brief question and answer session. The first video clip showed a terrified penguin attempting to out swim a hungry leopard seal. The penguin made a series of quick breaches, propelling itself out of the water a few feet... then the leopard seal ate it.

The second clip began with the same footage but froze with penguin in mid-jump and switched to a lifelike animation in which the penguin flew away. A hand drawn frowny face appeared on the face of leopard seal as it watched the penguin disappear into an icy blue horizon line.

The Q&A session started off poorly and got worse in a hurry. I thought these were supposed to be the brightest minds in marine biology--why weren't they getting this? Had my presentation been too complex? I singled out a particularly patronizing scientist in a teal dress shirt sitting about three rows back.

"You! The smug one. Yes or no goddamnit, it's a yes or no question." I angrily stabbed at the buttons on my remote control. "Here we see the desperate penguin's final leap. Move ahead a few frames... Here he is at the apex of his jump. Moving ahead... He lands back in the water and BANG, the leopard seal breaks his downy little back with one savage chomp and then proceeds to eat him."

The smug scientist in the teal dress shirt shared an eye-roll with his neighbor. I grinned wolfishly, 'cause if he's so smart, with it all figured out, how come I see fear behind his eyes?

"NOW by thunder!!!" I hurled my laser pointer at the back wall. (In truth, kinda hoping for a minor explosion or at least a blinding flash of light... nothing though.) "Hey, pay the fuck attention you smuglords! Can you look me in the eye and tell me that penguin wouldn't have had a better chance of escaping if he'd been able to fly away at the top of his jump?!!!"

I fixed Teal Shirt with my most intense squint and waited for an answer. All smugness drained from his face. He swallowed hard and absently scratched at his armpit. "I... I... Actually... I can't."

I gazed at him with true warmth and sincerity. "Thank you Sir. There's no shame in that. We're all colleagues here, we learn from each other. That's what colleagues do."

Then my keen, squinty eyes detected squads of armed security personal amassing at the auditorium doors.

"Hey now," I passed a cautionary finger over the crowd. "Colleagues don't ever have each other forcibly removed from scientific conferences. It simply isn't done. Colleagues don't forcibly remove another colleague unless that colleague becomes violent."

"Well then." Teal Smug Shirt oozed. "I guess we're about to prove that you aren't a colleague of ours, aren't we?"

At that, my eyes began to sparkle with a dangerous light. Several of the more intelligent scientists eased themselves flat against the side walls. I leapt smoothly from the stage and strode up the isle.

"Oh god, what have I done? That's a logic trap isn't it?" Teal Smug Shirt suddenly found himself standing alone, staring up at six foot, four inches of lean doom.

"You're speaking to God?! How very unscientific of you. But hey -- God and Darwin could form a crime solving pop duo with street sensibilities and they still wouldn't be able to prevent this." And with that, I unleashed upon him a mighty backhand and then peacefully allowed my colleagues to have me forcibly removed.

It was a proud day for me. I wanted to share it with you.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

To Hell With Poetry Circles

Friends, I'm sorry but I won't be able to tell any new stories tonight. You see, my pet monitor lizard, Señor Sackett, has just impaled himself on one of my spurs and now needs immediate medical attention.

I leave you with the story about the time I was booed out of a poetry circle. That was a wretched night. Almost as bad as this one.

From the archives: 11/19/04


To Hell With Poetry Circles

Latigo Flint recently wrote a wonderful poem titled: "Don't Crap in My Mittens, I Have to Wear Them if it Gets Cold".

Latigo Flint attempted to perform Don't Crap in my Mittens, I Have to Wear Them if it Gets Cold at poetry circle night at his local independent bookstore, but midway through the third verse he was booed out of the circle.

As Latigo Flint walked home he started work on another poem called "I Sat Quiet in my Chair and Listened to Your Dumb Poems So You're Damn Well Going to do the Same if I Have to Kill You First", but he had trouble rhyming it and quit after the twenty seventh verse.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Fatal Wounds and Hand-Tied Flies

There was once a boy with a fatal wound who decided to go fishing instead of die. His is an incredible story. Frankly I'm surprised it didn't garner more national attention.

Young Nathan P. Halloran, an avid catch-and-release fly fisherman, (do you say "fisherboy"?) was walking to school one morning when he was suddenly mashed practically in two by a runaway road grader. I happened to be nearby, sleeping off a drunk beneath a main street overpass, and bore sole witness.

Nathan gazed down with some dismay at his now translucent abdomen. "Well, this is a most disappointing turn of events." He mumbled to himself. Nathan was an intelligent young lad with a precise and distinct way of speaking. He read at a tenth grade level, a full three grades higher than his age would ordinarily dictate.

Nathan's plan was to become an underwater photographer and filmmaker when he grew up. Since the age of seven he'd been doing pre-production and research for what was to be his first film, a documentary titled: Trout - Silent Glory Beneath the Eddies of America.

I didn't figure he had much of a chance of doing that now. Even a correspondence course in underwater photography is going to take a month or two to complete. By my calculations Nathan had about seventeen seconds to live - give or take six seconds. But then he did something astonishing. Nathan scowled resolutely and lurched himself up onto his elbows.
"No," His voice was calm. "I'm not going to die. I'm going fly fishing." And with that he began dragging himself towards a distant river.

At that point my mind's voices just absolutely started shrieking. For the first time in my life I was stunned into immobility. I stood breathless and trembling on the concrete slope, trying to decide if I should help carry him to a riverbank or not. Would assistance cheapen his accomplishment? But wait, listen to myself, that boy is almost in halves; he's little more than a torso tugging at a pelvis. How on earth is he even going to... but yet, look at that determination. I've never seen so much determination. Perhaps he actually can--

Nineteen seconds later Nathan was dead. "Hey, I was close, only two seconds off." Part of me whispered. The rest of me started craving booze and amnesia like never before.

Somber paramedics did their job. I stood and watched them from the shadow of that overpass. I mumbled Dwight Yoakam songs to myself as tears traced trails through my man-mascara and down my stubbled jaw. And somewhere a thousand trout beached themselves in sorrow.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Not a Unicorn

Last night I was lounging against the bar in my local alcohol establishment when I saw a pretty girl standing next to the jukebox. She was breathtaking I tell you. One look and I was breathtook. I was smitten and breathtook. It was imperative that I speak with her.

"Hello." I said. She continued to sway with the music.

"I don't think you're a unicorn."

(That certainly got her attention.)

"Excuse me, what did you say?!"

I nodded my affirmation. "You know, a unicorn..." I stopped nodding and started shaking my head. "I don't think you are one."

She blinked several times and chewed lightly on her knuckles. Her eyes traveled the room, cataloging the exits. She drew a wary breath and spoke. "O.... kay?"

I smiled, detecting the question mark in her voice; I'm very perceptive you know.
"Eons ago during the savage time of The Great Gruffening, the last thirty-six unicorns in existence permanently assumed human form. They have traveled our earth ever since, ageless and graceful, beautiful beyond description -- twenty females, sixteen males. It didn't take but ten thousand years or so before they grew tired of each other's company and parted ways. Now each wanders alone, swaying to music when they can find it."

She had no idea how to respond. (I've actually grown quite accustomed to that.) I touched her elbow and looked deep into her eyes. "You certainly are beautiful enough to be one, and I did see you swaying to music, but for some reason I'm pretty sure you aren't."

"Pretty sure?" She asked, her voice husky, a near whisper. "Pretty sure." I replied. She smiled shyly. "Well, how does one ever know for certain?" I nodded and cleared my throat. "Very good question. You tear out the heart and hold it near a black light. Under a black light, a unicorn's heart blood swirls violet and white. You will also know by the rich scent of lavender and primrose, tender first kisses on a honeysuckle morning."

The girl lowered her pretty eyes and had a contemplative moment. She wet her lips and seemed to reach a decision. "Get the hell away from me!"

I was disappointed with her decision and tried to appeal it--arms wide, head tilted at an endearing angle. "Pretty girl..."


I could sense this slipping away from me on so many levels. "Wait! I just remembered another way to tell: During climax they have a tendency to whinny slightly."

And that's when she lit her drink on fire and threw it at me.

I don't like liquid fire. It goes places, touches parts ordinary fire can't. Liquid fire can ruin nights.

Friday, August 05, 2005

An Action Memo

The only problem with being bitten by a moray eel is that being bitten by a moray eel happens to be one of the worst, most horrible things ever.

Moray eels have powerful, locking jaws and unbelievably sharp teeth. They've been known to grow to around eleven feet in length. Moray bites can result in bleeding, severe muscle damage and chipped bones. Morays lurk in reef holes and rocky crevasses waiting for people to swim past so they can lunge out and bite them. (I've heard they frequently aim for the kidneys or the genitals.)

Latigo Flint has just made a firm decision that he will never be bitten by a moray eel. Firm decisions have a better chance of holding up if they are accompanied by action memos. Here is Latigo Flint's action memo to himself.

Pertaining to the avoidance of being bitten by a moray eel.

Insomuch as being bitten by a moray eel does suck tremendously, the following steps shall be taken to ensure it never occurs.

1) Do not go near moray eels.
2) Do not go somewhere a moray eel might be.
3) Do not permit anyone to bring a moray eel into my vicinity.
4) If despite steps 1-3 above I still find myself in a situation wherein a moray eel is about to bite me, then I shall prevent it from biting me, using every available resource.

And that ought to do it. That right there is a flawless action memo. I'd just like to see a moray eel try to bite me now. It won't be able to. Not so long as I adhere to my foolproof action memo, which I fully intend to do.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Perfect Numbers and a Gunslinger Savant

Several experts agree--Latigo Flint is most likely a gunslinger savant, the rarest of all the savants. Raymond Babbitt is an idiot savant, and a highly functioning one at that.

Raymond Babbitt and I actually get along quite well. We have long and halting conversations about courtroom television and hydrophobia. Boxes of toothpicks fall and Raymond Babbitt knows in an instant how many toothpicks lie scattered on the floor. (82, 82, 82.)

It only takes but another instant for me to slap thigh, shuck iron and shoot toothpicks in half until the total number of toothpick pieces is 496. (Four of them I have to shoot into thirds, of course.) This makes Raymond Babbitt extremely happy because 496 is a perfect number -- one of those incredibly rare numbers whose factors (the numbers by which it is divisible, excluding itself) add up to the number itself.

To date there are 42 known perfect numbers. The 42nd was discovered in February of this year. They started keeping track of perfect numbers in the mid 1500s. The first perfect number is six. I think this makes a beautiful sort of sense since the six-gun is a perfect weapon and it helped build a great country. Raymond Babbitt doesn't seem to care one way or the other. But the sly grin on Raymond's face every time the subject comes up leads me to believe that he knows of a couple more perfect numbers that he isn't telling about.

Perfect numbers are closely related to Mersenne Primes, an infrequent type of prime number named for the 17th century monk and mathematician, Marin Mersenne. But Latigo Flint isn't near drunk enough to discuss them right now.

Raymond Babbitt lets Latigo Flint hug him. Raymond Babbitt is very comfortable around Latigo Flint. Raymond knows that Squinty-Eyed Gunslingers are much too tough to be hurt by a little hot bath water.

(Latigo Flint has seen his own death in dreams so many nights in a row now that it isn't even funny.)

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Range Wars

Those dishes are not allowed to fall. Latigo Flint forbids it. Yes, perhaps Latigo Flint over-stacked his dish rack. Latigo Flint recognizes that this teetering mound of ceramic doom is of his own design, but Latigo Flint doesn't give a damn. That's his kitchen they're living in--so his rules. Those dishes had just better call upon all their frictional powers and hold themselves up until they're dry.

Latigo Flint doesn't own one of those automatic dishwashers. This is probably because Latigo Flint's apartment is only slightly larger than an office cubicle. Being the quickest quickdraw in the world doesn't pay what it used to.

If Latigo Flint had been born 150 years ago, he'd be out in the fresh air defending small ranchers locked in hopeless range wars against evil cattle barons. And occasionally defending evil cattle barons locked in hopeless range wars against incredibly evil cattle empires. And every once in a while defending incredibly evil cattle empires against coordinated attacks from Canadian and Mexican armies.

Defending cattle was a noble and lucrative career 150 years ago. You received a percentage once the fighting was over. A hired gunslinger could take lead with a grin and a wink all day long, but should a stray bullet happen to drop a passing heifer, he'd be weeping like a baby 'till sun up.

None of this matters now though. Latigo Flint wasn't born 150 years ago, Latigo Flint is a digital child.

"Creak all you want you wretched dishes, but don't forget--if any of you even think about falling, I'm going to tear every single one of your diamond meat-houses down!"

Every dish in the world believes it owns a meat-house somewhere made entirely of diamonds. It's what allows them to endure the drudgery of being a dish. They all have very vivid pictures of what their diamond meat-house looks like. They calculate daily what it must be worth now on the open market.

Threatening to tear its diamond meat-house down is the worst thing you can say to a dish. They have no choice but to believe you capable of it. Dishes know you go many places they don't. What if their diamond meat-house happens to be right outside the front door and you could tear it down anytime you felt like? They can't take that chance; they're compelled to obey.

(My dishes dried without falling. As I put them away I felt a little bad about scaring them so severely, but you know I didn't let it show. Dishes are deceptively cunning and manipulative. If they sense any weakness in you, they won't hesitate to exploit it.)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Predatory Instincts

Today I was relaxing in the outdoor dining area of the local shopping plaza when my keen, squinty eyes detected something alarming in a nearby cedar tree. My fellow shoppers needed to be warned.

"Good neighbors, Latigo Flint thinks it best if you all move away from that cedar tree. Latigo Flint does not wish to alarm you, but a very angry opossum is at this moment lurking in the branches."

Several of them followed my pointing arm with skeptical eyes. The rest simply ignored me.

"Friends! Please do as Latigo Flint suggests. Latigo Flint has much experience with angry opossums. His is a wisdom earned at great expense, Latigo Flint is missing large chunks of his soul because of it. His mind twitches and shudders when it should be resting."

A young woman turned to her college football player looking boyfriend, mild concern wrinkling her pretty face. "Perhaps we should do as he says?" The college football type made a scoffing sound. (Pffflllffff) "Look at him, that dude's a freak and a liar." And believe it or not, that college football player looking guy happened to be correct, at least on the liar part.

Telling lies goes against everything a Squinty-eyed Gunslinger believes in but I actually was lying this once... for a purpose. See, I hadn't wanted to cause a panic so I'd told a little fib. Truth is, it wasn't an angry opossum lurking in the branches of that cedar tree, it was a rabid cougar.

I sighed and came clean. (I knew how bad this was going to sound.) "Friends, I haven't been entirely truthful just now. I didn't want to cause a panic for fear your frenzied flight would trigger its predatory instinct. It is actually not an angry opossum lurking in the branches of that cedar tree, it is a rabid cougar--and if I know anything about rabid cougars, it's about four seconds away from leaping down here and tearing faces off."

My words were met with disdainful laughter and cruel taunts. The sound must have triggered the rabid cougar's predatory instinct because it promptly leapt down and started tearing faces off.

I saved as many shoppers as I could. I wasn't able to save them all. That rabid cougar tore off many faces that day. I was finally able to catch the cougar and beat it to death with something blunt. When it was all over I wept silently. Damn my lack of duplicitous skills. If had been a better liar perhaps this tragedy could have been avoided.

I made a firm decision to practice telling lies every day so that next time I will not fail.

I started with the first EMT to arrive on the scene. "Good God, what happened here?" I fixed him with my most truthful stare. "Well sir, actors Charlie Sheen and Rob Lowe walked up, challenged each other to a face tearing off contest and then just started tearing people's faces off." I waved a trembling hand in the direction of the blood splattered food court."

The EMT crinkled a wary nose. "I don't believe you." (Drat!) Then he scowled and pointed. "HEY!!! Are you sitting on a dead cougar?!"

I gave it one more try. "Um... no?"

"Liar!!! It is a dead cougar."

I was oh for two; my deceptive skills still frail. I went home at that point and started drinking heavily. That's where I am right now in fact... I promise.