Monday, October 31, 2005

The Wolf and the Vulture

Latigo Flint has just invented a magnificent drinking game called The Wolf and the Vulture. The Wolf and the Vulture is a one-person drinking game. The rules are pretty simple. You will need:

One bare coffee table, or similar surface.
Two sheets of art paper.
An assortment of charcoal sketching pencils.
Six bottles of high-proof liquor. Your choice.

Place the two sheets of art paper on the bare coffee table or similar surface, and with the charcoal pencils, sketch your best depiction of a wolf on one and a vulture on the second.

Next, drink yourself to death.

And that's it, that's the game. You win if you succeed in drinking yourself to death.

You lose if tomorrow comes.

You also lose by disqualification if your wolf looks more like a kitten and your vulture rather resembles an adorable fluffy duckling--because honestly now, when you get right down to it, leaving a charcoal sketch of a kitten and a duckling as your suicide note is just plain weird.

It might be a good idea to take a drawing class before attempting The Wolf and the Vulture.

(Happy Hallows Eve, you sly, sexy fiends.)

Sunday, October 30, 2005

A Lake That Unicorns Could Not Swim

Latigo Flint has probably made a significant paleontological discovery this weekend. This is rather exciting for a number of reasons--not the least of which is the fact that pretty girls tend to be quite keen to sleep with dashing men who make significant paleontological discoveries. No one is altogether certain why, but it is nonetheless a steady truth.

Anyway, this weekend Latigo Flint probably found The Lake That Unicorns Could Not Swim. How does Latigo Flint know? Well, it just sort of gives off that vibe. It's the sort of lake where if you stare at it long enough, you come to know that Unicorns probably died here, and in horrifying numbers.

For those of you unaware--the Unicorns that roamed our planet thousands of years ago loved doing three things above all else:
1) Standing in mountain meadows, caressing wildflowers with their velvet noses and blinking beautifully at stars.
2) Gently running their horns through waterfalls.
3) Swimming across lakes.

Of these, they liked the third the best because when they reached the far side, they got to jump out, climb a nearby rock and shake water droplets from their silken manes. This is how rainbows were invented, by the way.

But one lake held a monster--and when the Unicorns came to swim across it, as was their joy, the monster tore their throats out.

And it is this lake that Latigo Flint is quite certain he has finally found. Latigo Flint stood on the shore and called out over the water.
"Hey Monster!" Latigo Flint bellowed. "How many Unicorns have you killed through the eons you wretched fiend?"

The monster did not reply. The number was so high as to shame even a monster.

This was pretty damning, but Latigo Flint needed to definitively prove that it was in fact the lake that Unicorns could not swim. So in the name of sound scientific procedure, Latigo Flint stripped down to his buckskin briefs and swam across the lake.

The monster in the lake did not tear Latigo Flint's throat out.

Latigo Flint is not a Unicorn.

Latigo Flint will promptly submit his paper to all the pertinent scientific journals now.

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Legend of Insanity Gulch

Latigo Flint knows there are mysteries in the desert to rival any the sea or stars may hold. The old prospectors knew it too. They knew it all too well.

I straightened from the bronze plate embedded in concrete and stared out over a craggy, broken land of ancient, dusty dreams and dementia. I spoke then, my voice low and hard.
"This one stretch of desert has clamed more souls than all of humanity's ocean-crossings put together."

Several feet away stood a family, admiring the view. They turned, eyes wide.
"My goodness, is that really what it says there?" The father asked.

"Not exactly." I admitted. "But then bronze plates at scenic overlooks rarely get the story straight and really shouldn't be trusted."
I trailed a hand across the distant horizon.
"Somewhere out yonder lies Insanity Gulch. Believe you me, many a lonely prospector met his wretched end in the narrow, twisting--"

The daughter shoved me aside and stared at the placard.
"Shall I read it to you missy?"
I chuckled. "You don't look half old enough to be at the schoolin' age where they teach all the readin' and cipherin' and whatnot."

She shot me a vicious look. "I'm sixteen you spaz!"

"They teach it that early?!"

She rolled her eyes and read to the end, then looked up at me with a sigh and frown.
"This used to be a gravel quarry--in the fifties. They made concrete down there until demand dwindled and competition from San Bernardino put them out of business."

She gave her parents a disgusted look. "Of all the scenic overlooks you've forced me to stare, this one has got to be the lamest."

"Hey now missy." My voice trembled with emotion. "I already told you you can't trust bronze placards, they never get the story straight. See, I'm talkin' 'bout before it was a gravel quarry; I'm talkin' 'bout when it was known as Insanity Gulch--a craggy, broken land of ancient, dusty dreams and dementia."

"Look." She crossed her arms. "There's nothing out there. No mystery, no gulches, no dementia. They don't ever build gravel quarries in places where there's anything other than gravel."
She shook her head condescendingly. "And someone would have to be pretty dumb not to see that."

I turned from her and stared off into the distance. A soft desert wind blew up from the west. I removed my hat and let it blow through my matted hair.
"It looked like the sort of place where you'd find gold. It just did; everyone agreed."

The family was starting to trudge back to their minivan at this point. I heard their footsteps slow and then stop with a slight crunch in the unpaved parking lot where they stood listening.

"Everyone agreed." I repeated. "If gold was anywhere, it'd be here. But they never found a single nugget, only gravel."

My shoulders slumped and hands dangled limply at my sides. I bowed my head in tribute to countless dead prospectors.

"And in the end it drove them mad."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Background Sorrow

The benefit of loving in vain is that in the end it makes you tough and dangerous and also sexy. And this is an awesome thing to be. Anyone who claims they wouldn't like to be thought of as tough and dangerous and also sexy, is a filthy liar.

But the downside is that until then, you tend to show up in the backgrounds of photos, making sad, frowny faces into glasses of booze and swiping at persistent tears with the butt of a revolver.

Midwestern families gather 'round hand-hewn dining room tables to peruse vacation pictures and end up laughing at you all night long from a thousand miles away. And that's just bad for your Chi, is what that is.

Latigo Flint finds himself pinned beneath the crushing torment of an epic sorrow trifecta: Three useless loves for one useless man. The first is for a long-departed way of life--that era of squinty-eyed gunslingers in the American Old West for which Latigo Flint is so perfectly suited but can never live. The second useless love is for the cute Starbucks barista--a wretched, captivating little harlot with mean eyes and blond highlights that refuses to smile no matter how wry and charming Latigo Flint is that day.

And finely, Latigo Flint is in love with those rolling ladders that elderly librarians use to reach the highest level of a fifty-foot bookshelf. And maybe also in love with the elderly librarians, especially if they smoke a pipe. But Latigo Flint has crossed Los Angeles a thousand times and not a trace of rolling book ladders hooked to fifty-foot shelves, ridden by elderly, pipe-smoking librarians can he find.

Paralyzing are these useless loves; no question. They wreck and ruin is what they do; incessant.

(But damn if being wrecked by things doesn't tend to make you tough and dangerous and also sexy.)

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Boy Who Smiled at Otters

There are three major obstacles to overcome if you are to write a sweeping historical novel about love, anguish and redemption set against the bloody backdrop of the French and Indian War.

The title is one.

Well no problem there--Latigo Flint has come up with a magnificent title. The title of Latigo Flint's sweeping historical novel about love, anguish and redemption set against the bloody backdrop of the French and Indian War shall be The Boy Who Smiled at Otters.

The second and third obstacles: Coming up with a perfect name for the Boy, and writing the opening line, respectively. These need to be solved simultaneously because the hero's name must appear in the opening line--it is how sweeping historical novels about love, anguish and redemption are done.

But Latigo Flint is having some trouble with this part. Evidence:

Nesbit Shacklethorne was born in the tiny clearing between a fort and a stream.

That's crap. Without question that's a crap way to open a sweeping historical novel about love, anguish and redemption set against the bloody backdrop of the French and Indian War. But is it crap because of the boy's name or the rest of the line? This is the difficulty Latigo Flint currently faces. First we try a few different names.

Tavin Flannery was born in the tiny clearing between a fort and a stream.

Roger Nightshade was born in the tiny clearing between a fort and a stream.

Gunderson Smith was born in the tiny clearing between a fort and a stream.

Not working. Then we have an interesting idea:

No one ever knew the name of the boy who was born in the tiny clearing between a fort and a stream.

Clunky. Not to mention we suddenly realize we're going to have a devil of a time coming up with interesting ways to identify our hero over the course of a thousand pages.

Perhaps the problem is with the line. We try some alternatives:

Nesbit Shacklethorne was born to the echoes of canon fire and the burble of a nearby stream.

Nesbit Shacklethorne's earliest memories were of long parapet shadows on the riverbank where his mother washed linen.

Damn and damn.

Okay, can't hurt to try to get the otters in there right off the bat. Um, let's see--

For as long as he could remember, Nesbit Shacklethorne liked otters.




My god.

And just like that, there it is. Latigo Flint has just surmounted the three major obstacles to writing a sweeping historical novel about love, anguish and redemption set against the bloody backdrop of the French and Indian War.

The Boy Who Smiled at Otters
by Latigo Flint

For as long as he could remember, Nesbit Shacklethorne liked otters.

The rest should practically write itself.

(Oh, one more question--what font do you use to get the first letter, in this case "F", to be all giant and sweepy and frilly and stuff?)

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Sunday Morning Rabies

Latigo Flint doesn't care what the public health authorities say--there was rabies in that park today. He'd bet his glands on it. Mortal danger scampered somewhere and the thickets whispered peril. Oh, of course Latigo Flint couldn't prove it, but then the worst things hide their proof so cleverly. You must know this by now.

The barbequing families, the frisbee-throwing hippies, the teenage girl softball teams, the impoverished immigrant wedding -- hydrophobia stalked them all. The foaming death shows no mercy. It is a bestial dementia that knows only to savage and tear. The citizen humans have lived too long behind well-watered lawns. They had but one hope: His name, Latigo Flint.

I sprinted through the softball game and snatched the ball away from the young pitcher.
"Eyes on the ball!" I bellowed. "Eyes on the ball!" Then held it in front of my face for a moment to ensure I had everyone's undivided attention.
"Your lives are in danger. My keen ears have detected whispers of peril in the thickets!"

The coaches of both teams stormed from their respective dugouts, shouting and brandishing clipboards.
"Gentlemen," I addressed them. "I can see you are grumpy. That's good. Save it. Store it up. I'm going to need every fighter I can get if the rabid creatures attack before your girls are safely on busses."

They reached the mound and we discussed the matter. I explained that I could smell hydrophobia lurking somewhere in the undergrowth. Probably ground squirrels, possibly a badger or two. And they took turns punching me in the face. Now ordinarily I pistol-whip people who punch me in the face, but today I needed to keep moving--I had barbequing families and frisbee-throwing hippies to warn, not to mention the impoverished immigrant wedding party.

The barbequing families and frisbee-throwing hippies weren't nearly as violent as the coaches of the youth softball teams. (But then few are. Personally I blame repressed pedophiliac urges, but that's a theory no one seems to want to discuss.) However, they ignored my warning just the same.

On to the wedding party heroically I strode. The bride in the park was beautiful. Big, soft eyes in a dark, flawless face. I nearly wept when she also refused to flee to safety.

So I circled the park for hours, stumbling and cursing and swatting at the undergrowth. And you know what? You can't tell me I'm not the reason everyone survived.

The wedding party was the last to leave. I stepped from the shadow of a faux-brick restroom and approached the bride who was sitting in her car--a study of elegance and pride in the ripped front seat of a rusted Datsun.

"Congratulations Ma'am." My voice was low and husky.

She looked up. "Oh, it's you. So many rabid animals, yes? So many that we couldn't even see them there were so many, no?"
She grinned a bit as she said it. I chuckled slightly and nodded.
"Yeah Ma'am, something like that."

She glanced over at the picnic benches where her new husband stood, chatting with cousins and fumbling with a cooler, then looked back up at me.
"In my mind I hear you in the background of our vows. You're stumbling and cursing and hitting bushes with a stick."

"Sorry 'bout that."

She shrugged. "All the moments are the day, and the day is all the moments."

I had no idea what that meant, but I needed her to know something. I leaned forward and rested insistent fists on her car door.
"Ma'am, you actually weren't in any real danger today, because I was prepared to lick the rabies from your wounds."

She smiled sadly. "My brothers would have cut you."

"I know." I straightened then, and turned to face a purple sunset. "Well, good night Ma'am."

"Good night Cowboy."

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Grin in the Dark

Success!!! Latigo Flint has finally located the tiny muscle that when properly flexed, turns the white part of your eye completely black.

The effect is demonic and cruel. It tends to horrify anyone who witnesses it. I call it The Grin in the Dark. I use it on people who annoy me. What I do is stare at the ground, slouching a bit with dangling arms and all my weight on one leg--then slowly raise my head.

"Baby," I say in a low, cold voice. "Don't you know I'm the grin in the dark?"

Then I turn the white part of my eyes completely black and repeat it with a snarl:
"I'm the grin in the dark!"

It turns people numb with fear and causes an immediate loss of motor function. I don't ever use The Grin in the Dark on puppies or children, no matter how much they deserve it. I'm no monster, just an old time pistolero born many years too late. A blazing-handed gunslinger hopelessly out of time and near the very end of sanity's slide.

Today I visited a local chain restaurant for a burrito and a beer. My order number was 54. It was printed in red ink across the bottom of my receipt. I stood there next to the salsa garden for a full fifteen minutes, watching order numbers 55 through 77 happily receive their food. Finally I could stand it no longer and approached the counter. I fixed the girl behind the microphone with a piercing stare.
I said in a low cold voice. "Don't you know I'm the grin in the dark?"

Then I turned my scleras completely black and repeated it with a snarl. "I'm the grin in the dark!"

The color drained from her face. She crossed herself and took a stumbling step back, colliding with a co-worker and causing him to drop his tray. The burrito splattered all over the checkered floor. The three of us stared at it for a moment. I allowed the outer part of my eyes to turn back to white.
"That was order number fifty-four, wasn't it?"

The girl behind the counter looked at me then at the splattered burrito then at her co-worker. The co-worker looked at her then at the splattered burrito then at the order slip.
"Fifty-four." He told the girl. The girl looked back at me.
"Yes sir, it's fifty-four. We'll re-make it for you right away, just please don't do that thing again."

"You mean The Grin in the Dark?" I asked.

"The horrible all-black eye thing." She replied.

"Yeah," I said nodding. "The Grin in the Dark."

"Whatever, just please don't do it anymore."

I stared at the splattered burrito and sighed. "Scoop the fuckin' thing back on the plate and hand it here."

"Are you sure sir? It's been on the floor!"

"Do you want more Grin in the Dark, or do I get my burrito now?"

She shot to the floor, scooped the burrito onto the plate in one swift motion and stretched up her arm to hand it to me. "Thank you sir, enjoy your meal."

I accepted it with a curt nod and walked to a far corner table where I proceeded to devour it with surly gusto between grumbled oaths.

"Hey Burrito," I said when it was half-gone. "Did you know I'm the grin in the dark?" The burrito didn't respond. "Well I am." I said and proved it.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Cardiff Giant

In 1869, workers digging a well behind William C. Newell's barn in Cardiff, New York, unearthed a 10-foot-tall stone man. It instantly became the subject of great interest and debate, with many believing it to be the petrified remains of a primitive giant, and others claiming it was an ancient statue.

After further inspection, some in the first camp recanted and admitted it probably was an ancient statue--BUT obviously an ancient statue built by a primitive race of giants--most likely to honor some sort of outstanding individual achievement in baby eating or sheep decapitation or something.

In the end it turned out to be a hoax, one of the more famous in America's young history.

Last night for no discernable reason, I confessed to perpetrating the hoax of the Cardiff Giant to an off duty exotic dancer. I think I wanted her to feel that we had formed some sort of trust-bond so she'd sleep with me. Or it simply could have the first thing that popped into my head. Or I actually do believe I perpetrated it. One of those--or none--I don't really remember, I'd had quite a bit to drink.

Needless to say, she didn't believe me. Oh she believed it was a hoax all right, just not mine. She pointed out that would make me roughly a hundred and sixty years old. This was the main flaw the off-duty exotic dancer found in my claim that I had masterminded the hoax of The Cardiff Giant.

I squinted into my beer and mumbled something about time machines. She turned and walked away.

Later that evening I accepted full responsibility for the enactment of South Africa's apartheid laws to a stack of empty beer glasses. They didn't believe me either, so with impassive hands and a disdainful stare I put all the glasses with ridges around their base on one side of the table and all the smooth glasses on the other.

The beer glasses said that didn't prove a thing and brought up the time discrepancy again. So I smashed them all with my forehead and stumbled off to pick a fight with the jukebox.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Where Seldom is Heard

Hello, this is the advanced computer program that sometimes picks stories to re-run. Latigo Flint is currently off in a cave somewhere, licking himself and snarling like a sexy, wounded wolf.

I was programmed to only select awesome stories, but awesome is subjective and my machine logic skips that line of code.

So instead, this story was selected for its well-structured vowel ratios.

From the archives: 2-26-2005:


Where Seldom is Heard

So it turns out there are a number of overlapping laws and statutes that prohibit the public staging of a good old fashioned cow-punching, campfire sing-along... on a Friday night... on the corner of Hollywood and Vine.

The noble Vaquero, those wild and dashing Mexican cowboys of the old Southwest, have always been a friend and ally to the squinty-eyed American Gunslinger. There was much that each respected and admired in the other. Vaqueros could be fierce fighters when necessary but rarely sought it out. Love, passion and romance--these were the things the Vaquero lived for and bullets have a nasty habit of obliterating future opportunities to love.
"Lips," so goes the old Vaquero saying, "are for kissing a fine woman, not for forming bloody spit bubbles with last ragged breaths."

Over the years, many a tired gunslinger has enjoyed a night of peace, good food and carefree song at a Vaquero campfire.

For ten dollars an hour, the gentlemen relaxing outside the local Home Depot were more than willing to help Latigo Flint reenact this comfortable picture of frontier camaraderie.
"Campfire songs senior? Of course we know campfire songs. Serapes and cooking pots? No problemo."

We rehearsed until twilight then drove to Hollywood & Vine; double parked the U-Haul for a moment and quickly set up. And that was how it came to pass that a large crowd of Midwestern tourists got to witness the following scene:

Seven Vaqueros hunkered around a campfire, leaning comfortably against saddles, singing magnificently as the frijoles and tortillas warmed.
"El Oh la vida de un vaquero es fino. Caballos y vacas y coyotes y tales. El Oh la vida de un vaquero es magnífico. Tengo gusto de hacerlo oh tanto."

From somewhere beyond the circle of firelight my boot heal scuffed audibly on the curb.

"Es somebody there?" Juan peered cautiously into the night.

"Not to worry amigos!" I said in a low, clear voice. "Continue to play and sing your fine song. None but a friend approaches your fire this night."

"Es that Lateego Fleeent the esteemed gunslinger? Could it be so?"

"None other my amigos."

"You know you are always most welcome at our fires of camp Lateego Fleent. Step in from the cold and join us for frijoles and tortillas."

"Thank you Juan. You're certain you have enough to spare?"

"For you Lateego Fleent, always. You will of course lend your mighty baritone to our humble song to earn your food."

I threw back my head and laughed heartily. "Juan my amigo, does nothing ever change?" I stepped to the fire and breathed deeply of the wonderful smells emanating from the kettles. "And so again amigos it has come to pass that-"

Screeching tires and wailing sirens cut me off at that point and our comfortable picture of frontier camaraderie quickly disintegrated into chaos and bedlam. My gentleman reenactors hollered "I.N.S.!!!" and started to scatter, colliding with the suddenly terrified tourists who screamed and began beating them with handbags. The frijoles pot was overturned into the path of several charging police who slipped and crashed into the campfire, sending flaming logs flying in all directions, badly burning several tourists and igniting some nearby magazine racks. A squad of street people charged from an alley and tried to scoop up the musical instruments until enraged, frijoles-stained police, started pummeling them with nightsticks. A large crowd formed out the outside of the circle and started collapsing everyone toward the flames. Then a stray dog darted in, gulped down a couple of tortillas, took a giant sniff from a small dish of cayenne pepper and just went completely berserk...

They're going to try to throw the book at Latigo Flint. You may hear newscasters and court reporters saying terrible things about Latigo Flint. But you'll know they aren't true. You know Latigo Flint was just trying to bring a little frontier camaraderie to a cold, heartless town.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Lunacy and Compassion in a Freezing Rain

Today thunderstorms lashed Los Angeles like a dangling martyr. Latigo Flint, being the wise cowboy that he is, planned to spend the entire day holed up in his tiny studio apartment reading pulp westerns and drinking heavily. But 'round about two-thirty found himself tormented by the horrible feeling that somewhere out there in the storm's fury, Hollywood starlets Jena Malone and Scarlett Johansson were getting drenched and in danger of catching the sniffles. So Latigo Flint donned a leather duster, tugged his hat low across his brow and set out to rescue them.

Latigo Flint broke onto a dozen studio backlots and trudged silently down the replicated streets of the world. It's raining on New York. It's raining on Belfast. It's raining on a prison drama and Jaws is getting wetter.

But I didn't find a single trace of Hollywood starlets, Jena Malone and Scarlett Johansson on any of the studio backlots. It was time for Plan B.

Plan B consisted of running through the streets of residential Beverly Hills with a thermos of chicken soup and a handful of Day-Quil LiquiCaps, screaming their names at the top of my lungs.

I was half-blind, had completely lost my voice and was sneezing rather violently when the dogs were set on me. I beat one of the curs to death with the thermos of chicken soup, but the rest dragged me down and started savaging my arteries. I swallowed all the DayQuil capsules and bit them right back.

The first paramedic on the scene was female and young. I collapsed in her arms, bloody and trembling, and tried to lick her neck while she bound my wounds. She gently taped my red mouth shut, brushed the matted hair from my eyes and whispered that everything was going to be okay.

And through it all the rain came down.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Eighteen Drums and a Silver Wheel

Friends, this weekend Latigo Flint invented a brand new musical instrument. But really it's so much more than that--Eighteen Drums and a Silver Wheel is also a way of life. It's a mantra, a totem, and performance art that runs the risk of an involuntary manslaughter charge. And we know what a turn-on that is for jaded Art Majors.

The concept is pretty simple. Basically you attach eighteen snare drums to a giant silver wheel and then roll it down a hill. You stand at the top, gyrating your hips and doing triumphant things with your arms as the drum wheel rumbles down, clanking its epic fury across the rooftops of a sleeping city.

Then you pick the jaded Art Major that most appeals to you and make love to her 'til Thursday.

You have no idea how happy and proud Latigo Flint is to have invented Eighteen Drums and a Silver Wheel. In the end it was a toss-up, and Latigo Flint almost decided to invent Eighteen Wheels and a Silver Drum--which consists of strapping a tiny silver drum to your chest and stepping in front of a speeding truck.

Which would have been an equally powerful musical instrument/way of life, and probably also a big hit with the jaded Art Majors. But with the big difference being that you don't get to sleep with them after the performance, what with you being a road stain and all.

No, I'm glad I opted for the former.

Eighteen drums and a silver wheel. My passion begat triumph, which begat passion again. And really, when the sun goes down and Monday morning is in the chamber, I think you'll find you can't ask for too much more from a weekend. Peace hombres!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Gentle Trapper and His Lady Whore

The gentle trapper sighed as he stared across the room at stinking buckskins draped over the back of a pine board chair. His forty-five minutes were almost up. It wouldn't be long now before he'd have to untangle himself from lavender scented sheets and trade this warm room for a thousand miles of half-froze marsh and lonely, dripping campsites too cruel for even wolves.

He let out a half-laugh, more grunt than mirth, and stroked the lady's leg through the sheet.
"Dern those wretched buckskin clothes. I wish that they would just crawl away." He glanced back over his hairy shoulder and grinned. "Then I'd have to stay here with you--wouldn't be decent to tromp nekkid through the halls."

Sarah Fallows stared back at him through half-closed eyes. She hated almost every man she'd ever met. This one was a great big filthy bear of a man; the sort every whore dreads. But he'd been coming to see her for three years now, and one day she discovered she tolerated him for reasons she couldn't explain, not that she'd ever bother to try.
"Well Charlie," she replied. "I think it serves you right your clothes don't crawl away." A smile fluttered for an instant across her mean-set lips. "The baby animals you trap can't! They just have to sit there and wait for you to break their necks and gut them hole to hole."

Sarah watched the pain ripple through his massive form and immediately regretted the jest. Charlie stood and slowly made his way to the chair. He eased into his pants, shuddering a bit at their greasy touch. He kept his face turned down.

"Charlie, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have-" Sarah frowned a little; she couldn't remember ever apologizing to a client before.

Charlie's eyes were damp when raised his head to gaze at her.
"It's okay... I reckon you described it pretty right." He chewed on his tongue to keep the sobs at bay. "The wretched truth is I love them, every last furry one. Always have."

"Then why--"

"I was a miner until three years ago. I had to give it up. I wasn't making enough."

Sarah shook her head in disappointment. "How much money does a man need?"

Charlie gave her a sad smile and opened the door.
"See you in a few months Sarah. I'll pay up front... same price as always?"

She nodded instinctively and then he stepped through the door and was gone.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Being haunted by things makes you awesome and also sexy. This is a steady truth. Latigo Flint has come to know this.

Norman Maclean was haunted by waters. See, see?! That's awesome; it's sexy. Well guess what... Latigo Flint is haunted by basil!!!

Yeeeeah! Equally sexy ain't it, to be haunted by basil?

Latigo Flint has decided to compile a comprehensive list of all the things that haunt him so that when Latigo Flint is conversing with goth chicks, college girls and female whitewater rafting guides with sunscreened noses and cutoff jeans, it won't matter where the conversation goes, Latigo Flint will always be able to reference something he is haunted by.

So for starters--in addition to being haunted by basil, Latigo Flint is also haunted by soda machines that steal dollars, hangnails and kelp. As well, Latigo Flint is haunted by bagpipes, marigolds and torn dust jackets.

And yogurt! I'm haunted by yogurt!

Furthermore, Latigo Flint finds himself haunted by stucco, egrets and blood producing sneezes.

But mostly I'm haunted by you.

In summation, you haunt me.

(The goth chicks, college girls and female whitewater rafting guides with sunscreened noses and cutoff jeans will immediately attempt to sleep with Latigo Flint at this point. Of this there is little doubt.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Savage Passion and Lobster Pots

Those salty old lobstermen of the North Atlantic are a jolly bunch. And they become doubly so when they happen to discover lines of empty lobster pots that really should be full. The lobstermen giggle late into the night, tossing back pints of ale and polishing their sledgehammers.

See, the great thing about catching someone in the act as they rob your lobster pot is that by law, you're allowed to bash them to death with a sledgehammer and dice up their body for bait.

It's kind of like frontier justice except it takes place on the frigid waters of the North Atlantic, and didn't vanish a hundred twenty years ago with the buffalo. It's a nautical loophole, this permitted bashing of lobster pot looters with sledgehammers, and maritime towns keep their traditions well.

Most people don't know that the John Denver song, Calypso, is actually about lobstermen bashing a pot looter to death with sledgehammers.

Aye, calypso, the places you've been to

This refers to all the lobster pots the thief has robbed.

The things that you've shown us

They can see dozens of illicit lobsters crawling around the bottom of his boat.

The stories you tell

Referring to the lies the lobster thief tells about how all the lobsters just happened to swim up and jump in his boat.

Aye, calypso, I sing to your spirit

The lobstermen have just bashed the pot looter to death with sledgehammers at this point.

The men who have served you so long and so well

This last line of the chorus is actually directed at the sledgehammers and represents the bond that forms between a lobsterman and his sledgehammer.

Oh de aye yay de day yo de dooo
Oh e oh do de de de de de dayyy

This doesn't really mean anything, it just sounds good. Songwriters are allowed to do that from time to time, you know?


By the way, I love a girl with a passion that could only be described as savage.

I think savage is a glorious word. It can be an adjective, a noun or a verb. (Don't cross a savage savage, he'll likely savage you.)

I made the mistake once of describing my feelings for her as such... "Savage". And I snarled a bit as I said it, which made her very uneasy for some reason. I decided I was the last sentry and stoically stuck to my post. The world up and went sane and I was left to stand alone.

Or was it the other way around? Either way, it was pretty goddamn awesome, all in all.

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Neighbor Who Never Sleeps

Latigo Flint had a new neighbor recently move into the studio apartment next door. This neighbor doesn't ever seem to sleep.

I didn't think much of it at first--just assumed he or she kept the same erratic schedule as I. But after a while this became more and more improbable. I'd rise at dawn and hear the telly. I'd get home at midnight and hear a microwave ding. I stumble toward a 4:00am piss and hear creaking, rustling and cupboards slam. Its showers match mine, every single time.

And it has driven me quite mad at this point. Whatever is over there must be a ruthless, deliberate evil of a most subtle nature. I'm going to kill it or die trying. There can be no other outcome. Well, short of moving... but only sissies move to avoid committing murder. And since I've already proved (at least to myself) that what's over there is most assuredly some sort of demonic entity, not a human person, I don't think killing it is even considered murder.

Here's my plan:
1) Grab a giant knife.
2) Crash through the window of my neighbor who never sleeps.
3) Stab it in its unholy face with the giant knife.
4) Get a good night's sleep for once.

It is a good plan. I've become quite fond of this plan. Now I'm going to sharpen my knife and do pushups for about a week. Then it's time to kill me a demonic entity that never sleeps.

(And those aforementioned pushups... Latigo Flint does 'em on his knuckles, not his palms! I'm the genuine article you wretched fiends. I'm the grin in the dark.)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

A Troubled Journey

We can never really know our destination until we've arrived. This is an ancient truth. Wise people of various cultures have said as much over the years. And I'm repeating it now.

Friends, Latigo Flint embarked upon a journey last Wednesday. It seemed like a good day for it. Latigo Flint did not know where this journey would lead. He set out anyway. (Setting out on journeys with uncertain ends is really quite very sexy.)

But never in wildest thoughts did Latigo Flint ever even remotely imagine that this journey would lead to a circumstance in which Latigo Flint would need to kick a baby dolphin to death.

Kicking a baby dolphin to death tends to scar you pretty good. I'd bet money it's a life-long furrow. It's been two days now since I found myself having to kick a baby dolphin to death and I'm quite certain it shall stay with me always.

When it was over, I turned around and came home. It was all I could think to do. I'd just kicked a baby dolphin to death--savagely toed it until blood gushed from its blowhole. Watched the light flicker and die in its big intelligent eyes. Heard it whisper my name in halves.

You tend to want to sleep in your own bed after something like that. So I came home. In the end, my journey's destination was a stomped-dead baby dolphin.

Or home.

Whichever's deeper.

Tonight I weep. I weep for that baby dolphin and I weep for my troubled soul.

(I don't weep for my boots however--the blood came right out. I feel horrible for saying that though, even if it is true.)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The Virgins of Hollow Bay

"My girls, you must practice every day, swiveling the guns of Hollow Bay. When the lechers come, and you know they must, those battery guns are your only hope."

Twenty feet of rocky shoreline separates thick pine forest from the smooth waters of Hollow Bay. The cove itself is an almost perfect circle, less than half a mile in diameter. Sheer cliff walls rise up on either side of the narrow mouth where it joins the sea. A battery of heavy artillery sits atop each prominence. Together, the gun installations can cover every inch of water, a mile out and up the coastline in either direction.

"But pray tell Old One, how are we to know which are the lechers and which are the princes?"

Two rope and wood plank bridges run between the cliffs, spanning the inlet. One across the top, hundreds of feet in the air--the other at the bottom, practically dipping in the water at spots. A rope ladder ascends each cliff.

"You won't know my child. You can never tell--not until it's too late. You must sink them all, prince and lecher alike. Feed their ships to the reef and their flesh to the sharks."

Ancient tides have carved away the rock at the base of one of the cliffs. Halfway back, out of the spray but not the light, lies the old woman. Her breaths come now as ragged gasps and she stares through cloudy eyes at the fourteen maidens kneeling by her side. The old woman tries to smile through a grimace. The girls turn their faces away even as they touch the sheets.

"Please don't leave us Old One."

"I'm sorry girls, I must."

The old woman closes her eyes and slips away. The girls rise and leave without a sound. The first seven out step to the rope ladder that hangs just outside the entrance and start to climb. Their grass skirts stream sideways in the evening breeze. The other seven walk single file across the lower bridge, heading for the far cliff. Hungry sharks track their progress.

Across the sea in uncountable numbers come prince and lecher alike. A thick swath of timber and sail does stretch between horizon curves. The word is out, the old woman is dead; surely the cliff guns will rumble no more.

The moon rises over the tiny cove. Bow lights twinkle in the distance--the first of the ships, on pace to arrive by dawn. With a practiced fluidity, the virgins of Hollow Bay swivel their guns in complex patterns. The ammunition stacks are double-checked.

But as the night wears on, each girl finds herself troubled by a single nagging thought--with a fifty/fifty chance the very first ship carries princes, shouldn't they take a chance and allow it to enter the bay? Then they can blast all ships that follow and live happily ever after. Isn't that a chance worth taking?

This nagging thought grows throughout the long night, as nagging thoughts tend to do. By dawn there is little chance a single fuse will be lit in the direction of the first ship.

The ships sail on, Hollow Bay dead ahead. One has the lead by at least a mile, but what manner of men walk its heaving deck? Be they prince or lecher? "Fifty/fifty chance" the virgins whisper and allow it to pass unscathed into Hollow Bay.


Their guess turns out to be right, but also very wrong that day. For the princes are the lechers, and back again the same. Fifty/fifty, yes--but within a single frame.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Laptner Riley's Rolled Up Soul

Laptner Riley raised a hickory stick and struck his snare drum a vicious blow. The report cracked and echoed like a musket shot. The sound took his breath away. It was, Laptner decided, a sonic triumph--a majestic wavelength of raw, undulating power.

Laptner searched for something larger than a spindly hickory stick with which to strike his drum. He tried bowling pins and table legs. Then he discovered that if he doubled over and contorted in just the right way, he was actually able to reach in his mouth and pull out his own soul. Laptner gave the snare drum an exploratory tap with the edge of his soul and the pyrotechnic systems in a thousand unused arenas worldwide simultaneously erupted.

Somewhere in Canada, Neil Peart dropped a book of photography.
"My god," Peart gasped, "what was that?"
Deep in the American South, Carter Beauford raised a window shade and gazed across a mangrove marsh.
"Someone's done it." Beauford breathed, "I do believe someone's done it."
In a pub just outside London, Stewart Copeland set his pint down and promptly burst into tears of joy.

(And in a Los Angeles crack house, Tommy Lee paused mid-thrust, belched twice, and resumed fucking.)

Laptner Riley played those drums with his own rolled up soul for nearly five minutes. It was a rhythmic outburst that shall never be equaled. A drum solo by which all others shall be eternally judged. At its conclusion, Laptner half-stood then pitched forward and sprawled out, stone dead, across his kit.

Such is glory's price sometimes.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The Bertram Boy

If you ever visit Latigo Flint's street in the late afternoon, you'll probably see a child at play. That's the Bertram Boy; the only child in the neighborhood that ever plays outside. He's an active little guy with a vivid imagination. He wages war on ivy and has fallen out of trees. He knows where all the gophers live and finds reasons to be in mud.

The Bertram Boy has two older sisters, aged twelve and fourteen. They spend nearly half of every day in front of a computer screen. Recently the Bertram Boy confided to me that their eyes had started to glow in the dark; a flickering whitish blue.

"Damn Bertram Boy!" I stared at him, astonished and just a bit horrified. "Does it scare you?"
He shrugged. "Only at night." Then he spotted a lizard and scampered off to catch it.

I needed to know more. My mind had gripped the image of his sisters' glowing eyes and I couldn't shake it free. I followed him across empty lots, pelting him with questions, which he nonchalantly answered. How does he know their eyes glow blue? Well, they creep into his room at night and stand over his bed.

Can't he lock his door? His parents forbid a bedroom lock--it seems he had a seizure when he was three and instant access has been mandatory ever since.

Does he remember having the seizure? Yes, but he doesn't want to talk about it.

The sun slipped behind the hills. Porch lights started clicking on up and down the quiet suburban street. The Bertram Boy was due for supper now. I had one last question for him.

"Hey Bertram Boy?"

He turned; I could just make out his small figure in the gloom. "Yes?"

I moved next to the trunk of large old pine, wrapping myself deep in thick bough shadows. I stared straight at him.

"Do... do my eyes glow Bertram Boy? Do my eyes flicker and glow a whitish blue?"

I heard him sigh a little before speaking. "Do you really want to know Latigo?"

I thought about it. "No, I guess I don't."

He gave a little wave and trotted toward his house. "Well then good night Latigo."

"Good night Bertram Boy."