Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Sad Title Goes Here

For Squinty-Eyed Gunslingers like Latigo Flint, the latter days of December are reserved for introspection and misery. And occasionally the violent interruption of holiday parties to which they weren't invited.

Thus the night found me standing in shadows just beyond the reach of rented patio lights, close enough to sense warm rhythms of familial joy but far enough to remain unaffected. I stared grimly from beneath a low-tugged hat brim, rolled a cigarette and sneered.

And this should have been enough to declare victory and stagger home--for when the character points are tallied, it is always the man in the dark with a sneer and a broken heart, who comes out on top over sweater-clad husbands who have to shake every hand and pretend floral arrangements are grand.

But I didn't declare victory and stagger home. Partially because I'm the quickest quickdraw the world has ever known and partially because I'd been drinking steadily since a Thursday night (who really knows which one anymore) and couldn't remember where I lived.

I crept to the window with no intention of crashing through, but then I fell in love with half of the women there, and several other figures whose backs were to me, obscuring gender--and before I knew it, I was crouched in the center of the room, shaking glass shards from my hair and bleeding on a rug.

"Season's Greetings!" I bellowed. "I am Latigo Flint, the quickest quickdraw the world has ever known."

I wasn't necessarily expecting roaring applause, but surely scattered claps and murmurs of awe at the very least. Instead I was met with horrified silence and a slow retreat for the doors. I scrambled to my feet.

"No, no! I am Latigo Flint--here, I'll prove it." And then I attacked the couch with a bowie knife. (Hey, it made sense at the time.)

The priorly merry revelers screamed and fled the room. I gutted the couch, and two armchairs, maimed a bookcase, badly wounded a coffee table and let a grandfather clock off with a warning only after it promised never to chime again. I rode a chandelier into the top of the Christmas tree--tried to chat up the angel on the way down and accidentally ate a snow globe.

Then the swat team dropped me with several waves of tear gas and projectile beanbags.

As I lay there in a crumpled heap, counting internal ruptures and drooling on myself, a child's face appeared at the top of the stairs. I managed to smile up at her though the effort cost me the use of a lung.

"Hello child." I whispered.
"Hello cowboy." She replied.
"I'm sorry I wrecked your party."
"That's okay, there'll be another next year."
I could hear the heavy tromp of many boots in the foyer. I sighed and lowered my head.
"I'm the villain tonight, aren't I?"
"Yes." the girl replied, "Yes you are."

She glanced to her left. The light reflected off the visors and shields of the approaching troops and danced across her face. I coughed and felt a rib break the skin. A forest of upraised nightsticks appeared in my peripheral. I ignored them.

"Don't forget me child."
"How could I?" She asked. "I just watched you eat my snow globe."

I smiled a little. "The water is salty you know."

The nightsticks descended. The girl followed their vicious arc with her eyes. "I've always wondered about that."

"We all have." I replied, and then the lights went out.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Unspeakable Acts of Savagery and Enlightenment

If this morning you had told me that by the end of the day I would have beaten an owl to death with a hammer, I would not have believed you. Nobody ever wakes up and expects to beat an owl to death with a hammer that day.

There is something extremely surreal and almost unholy about beating an owl to death with a hammer. It's just not the sort of thing that happens very often and so we tend to be unprepared, almost to the point of mental instability, for the breadth and depth of emotion the act invokes.


Children sometimes ask: Why chickens? Why do we breed and eat chickens, instead of, say, owls?

Well, Latigo Flint knows why. It's 'cause us and owls are both top predators, and top predators tend to not eat each other very often--it's unnatural.

And that answer satisfies most children.

But some children, mostly the odd, quiet ones with unreadable eyes, refuse to let it go. They ponder for a moment and then point out that if we started up a bunch of owl farms worldwide, breeding and processing millions of owls a year--well, pretty soon they wouldn't really be considered a top predator anymore--they'd be little more than a yummy alternative to tuna, and eating them would start to feel pretty natural.

And it isn't always easy to quickly think of a verbal rebuttal to that sort of pure, unyielding logic. In fact, as far as Latigo Flint knows, there can be but one response: Climb a pine tree, drag down an owl, and force the child to watch as you beat that owl to death with a hammer--making the kid stare so close into those giant, unblinking eyes as they hemorrhage and cloud, that shards of bone and beak fly at her cheek, cutting so deep that they stain her tears.

Only then will the child understand that there are some things you just don't do; and eating owls is one of them. Why? Who knows. It might just be one of those things that can't be known--only felt.

(Of course, it might also be because owls taste like rusty mice and mildew... it's one or the other, or maybe a little of both.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Of River Rocks and Sorrow

Where do the female whitewater rafting guides go, with their tight cutoff jeans and sunscreened noses, when the first days of winter roll so dreary and cruel?

Back to heaven I reckon, where they do pass the time with granola and sit-ups until sunshine and joy does call them once more to the shore.


Hey, has Latigo Flint ever told you about the time he fell in love with a female whitewater rafting guide with tight cutoff jeans and a sunscreened nose?


Well that's a crime I intend to rectify this instant.

Her name was Saphey, which was short for Sapphire, and her arms were strong and tan. Saphey sat me at the back left gunnel, the position in the raft closest to her. She taught me to how to paddle and read the river--showed me how the water draws and boils over sharp, dangerous rocks but foams harmlessly over the smooth.

I easily figured out how to tighten my life vest but let her show me anyway.
"I'm hungry for your love." I whispered as she cinched the top strap tight across my chest.
"I know you are." She replied and shoved us off from the bank.

Oh how the other clients did monopolize her time. I tremble with rage even now just thinking about it. They peppered Saphey with an endless string of questions about local flora, fauna and paddling techniques. Hardly a minute passed that didn't find some cherished item, like a flip-flop or a child, swept overboard--followed by horrified shrieks and demands to circle the raft around.

Near the very end of the run I managed to turn to her during a quiet moment.
I said. "This trip has seen many items, mostly flip-flops and children, swept overboard."
She nodded. "Yeah, that's pretty common."
I gazed across the water. The sun was starting to set. A pair of egrets flew in low over the trees and landed on the far shore.

"Well, every time that happened, we back-paddled the raft and retrieved it... all except for my heart. It was the first thing swept overboard Saphey. I guess I thought it would just sort of float alongside the raft and I'd be able to collect it at the end."
My voice broke and I had to bow my head and compose myself. When I spoke again, my voice was low and husky.
"But I haven't seen it for quite some time now."

Saphey sighed and inspected the blade of her oar.
"Yeah." She said sadly. "Unfortunately anything we don't manage to retrieve is going to drift for miles and then get sucked into the turbines of the hydroelectric plant down by The Narrows."

We rounded a bend and saw the riverside parking lot. We paddled to shore and tried to learn how to walk normally despite rolled up twists of wet underwear.

With practiced ease, Saphey told us we were the best crew she'd ever rode the river with. Then she jumped into a jeep and roared away up a steep dirt road.

I walked to the river's edge, sat down on the muddy bank, and waited for my heart to float by.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Galloway Brothers -- Forgotten Legends

In 1886, identical twins, Ephram and Louis Galloway, came to Carson City, Nevada with nothing but a dream and a horse they took turns riding. (The horse, not the dream.) They were gunslingers and former outlaws looking for a fresh start. The Comstock mines were nearly played out, but the brothers weren't interested in metals--they had decided that the "gold-rush" of the twentieth century was going to be antimatter, and were determined to get in early. Over the next four years, they attempted to build and operate the world's first particle accelerator--a steam-powered atom smasher made of hickory planks and adobe.

But the story starts twenty-six years earlier, with their birth.

Ephram and Louis were born within minutes of each other on March 21st, 1860 in Charleston, South Carolina, to an unwed schoolteacher named Priscilla Galloway. Their father was rumored to be town drunk and frequent nudist known locally as Smudges. (The brothers decided not to take his name.) It was apparent, practically from the cradle, that Ephram and Louis had an astonishing skill with the six-gun. They killed their first man together at the age of five. It was a stevedore and riverfront brawler named Axe, who made the mistake of calling them the "bastard babies of a godless whore".

The young Galloway Brothers left town after that and drifted west, taking work when they could find it and robbing stagecoaches when they couldn't. Many a driver paid dearly for laughing at the pre-pubescent stick-up artists standing before him, when he should have been diving for a shotgun and praying.

At the age of sixteen the brothers found themselves in Santa Fe where they happened to fall in love with the same woman, a Mexican seamstress named Reyna. They married and shared her for two years, alternating nights, until Reyna finally noticed that the birthmark on her husband's thigh kept switching sides. Reyna divorced them and they had to flee Santa Fe one step ahead of her father's lynch mob.

The Galloway Brothers drifted north and disappeared into the Rockies, vanishing from the pages of history for ten years. When they turned up in Utah in 1885, their sandy blond hair had turned completely black and their pupils were vertical and slitted, like a cougar's. One year later they were living in a desolate stretch of the Nevada desert, trying to build the world's first particle accelerator out of hickory planks and adobe.


The Galloway Brothers died of a congenital heart defect within minutes of each other, one day shy of their thirtieth birthday. Desert creatures scattered their bones across miles of the loneliest country you ever want to see, and their particle accelerator was carried away by the flash floods of spring.

No one knows if the Galloway Brothers ever got their particle accelerator to work.

Despite their duplicity, Reyna couldn't seem to forget them and though she lived to be ninety-five, she never remarried.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Elk, Nature's Perfect Killer

Latigo Flint knows there are plenty of reasons not to trust an elk. Elk are notorious tramplers and frequent gorers. Elk attack from ambush and have been known to eat human babies.

But what else would you expect from the closest living descendant of dragons.

Most people don't know that elk are directly descended from dragons. It's one of those facts that time seems to have swallowed, but get your Grandpa good and drunk and then ask him about elk, he'll likely tell you stories that'll make your blood run cold.

Many historians now agree that the lost colonists of Roanoke were probably devoured by elk.

Peter Benchley's first draft of Jaws was actually set in northern Montana and told of the relentless terror inflicted on a small logging community by a giant, man-eating elk. It was based on true events. It drove early readers insane with fear and Peter decided to revise it.

Elk have hunted Sasquatch to the brink of extinction. When Sasquatch is gone, who do you think is next?
(By the way, try not to ponder that for very long if you don't happen to be extraordinarily brave. p.s... It's us!!!)

The Lewis and Clark expedition was actually the twenty-seventh such overland expedition commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson. The previous twenty-six were all eaten by elk.

Recent advances in crime scene investigation techniques have shed new light on Los Angeles' infamous Black Dahlia murder of 1947. Elizabeth Short's mysterious assailant is now widely believed to have been an elk.

Today, public officials are quick to caution against blaming every single disappearance and unexplained murder on elk. Noting that while elk are the likely cause of 85% to 90% of all disappearances, investigators must be careful not to become so complacent that they fail to interrogate street performers and minorities.

(Most minorities used to be in the majority... but then too many of them were eaten by elk.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Crumbling Cliff

The Crumbling Cliff
--a magnificent poem by Latigo Flint
(periodically interrupted)

We stood as men, without fear,
seven abreast on a crumbling cliff.
We shared a smoke, but the wind took most,
and not one of us thought of home.

(We knew this to be true because we queried each other on that very topic.
"Hey Dan Tallows!" It was big Fackles Smith who broke the silence.
"Yeah Fackles?" Came Dan's reply.
"You ain't thinkin' 'bout home are you?"
"Heck no Fackles, I ain't thinkin' 'bout home."
"Good, good." Fackles grunted. "Neither am I." He looked around. "Is anyone thinkin' of home?"
Silence for a moment until Tipperson Gentry piped up.
"Hell Fackles, I don't even know what that word means anymore."
The rest of us grumbled our admiration and heartily clapped Tipperson's frail back.)

We checked our guns with steady hands
and sneered so the sky could see.
Then tugged our hats, shading dangerous eyes
and polished buckles resplendently.

(Cavanaugh Weathers blinked in astonishment and pointed at Chappy Swede’s belt.
"Good god gentlemen." Cavanaugh blurted. "I know we've got urgent, deadly business to attend to, but take a moment and see at how shiny Chappy Swede has managed to get his belt buckle!"
We crowded around Chappy Swede’s belt buckle and softly whistled when we saw how shiny it was.)

We mounted up, crossed ourselves
and aimed steeds at the setting sun.
Across the chaparral a coyote wailed
as if it knew war had begun.

(Blaine Norton grunted and jerked his chin out at the desert.
"That wolf's even lonelier than we is, huh Latigo?"
I frowned and tugged my horse to a halt.
"That weren't no wolf Blaine, that there was a coyote."
"Um, I don't think so Latigo, I'm pretty sure I know a wolf when I hear one."
The others noticed we had stopped and they doubled back to see what the trouble was.
"What's going on?!" Fackles Smith demanded. Blaine gestured to the desert.
"Did 'yall hear that wolf howl a moment ago?"
Fackles scratched his temple and looked at Tipperson. "I don't believe there's any wolves 'round these parts, is there?"
Tipperson Gentry shook his head. "Nope, don't think so." He pointed at Blaine. "I'll bet it was a coyote you heard."
I tried not to look too smug as we nudged our horses and rode on. Blaine scowled and spent the next hour mumbling to himself.)

We charged a storm of lead, limbs torn,
then sank trembling to the ground.
We bade farewell to sweethearts known,
and those as yet unfound.

(But each of us was careful not to let the other fellers know we were trembling as we died.
“Hey Chappy Swede!” Cavanaugh Weathers called out after some time had passed.
“What do you want Cavanaugh?” Came Chappy Swede’s low reply.
“You aren’t trembling are you?”
“No… I’m, uh… I’m laughin’ actually.”
“Right. So am I. Hey, we’re pretty tough, ain’t we Chappy Swede?”
But there was no reply--Chappy Swede had died. He was not the last.)

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Trouble with Drowning

The trouble with drowning is that it's a very difficult death to look sexy doing. Your eyes get all bulgy and you writhe and flail and claw around a lot at the end. Not sexy at all--not one bit.

It's a far cry from the good ol' fatal stab wound, which affords you the time to lie back and make wise observations to strangers, or give final declarations of love to sobbing sweethearts, or leave cryptic instructions for family members as you slowly bleed out and away. All of which are extremely sexy.

Now, the one exception is drowning in a deep pool of the blood of your enemies. That does happen to be quite sexy. But it's pretty rare, and that's an awful lot of enemies.


You know what's odd? I can't think of one thing that would be even slightly morally reprehensible about Hollywood starlets forming a side business in which they charge a moderate fee to visit lonely infirm men at the very end and hold them tenderly and brush the matted hair from their eyes as they die. Yet, you just know were such a company formed, the public outcry would be swift and deafeningly savage. But I honestly can't think of one good reason why it should be so, only that it would.

Jena Malone. That's who I'd pick. Why, if I had the money, I'd gladly spend upwards of several hundred thousand dollars to have young Hollywood starlet, Jena Malone, hold me tenderly and brush the matted hair from my eyes as I died.

(Diane Lane would be my second choice.)

Friday, December 09, 2005

Of Lions and Quickdraws

When you drink as much as Latigo Flint does, you tend to talk yourself into doing things like walking across Los Angeles, challenging the lion on every Narnia poster you see to a gunfight.

The conversation goes something like:
"Hey Latigo, know what you should do--you should go see if the Narnia lion wants to gunfight."

"Ahh, I don't know Latigo--I don't think lions know how to use a gun, and besides, I'm pretty sure those are all just drawings."

"Look to your heart Latigo--what does it say."


"That fuckin' lion is going down!!!"



I caught a reflection of myself in the scratched plastic face of a dirty bus stop poster and didn't like what I saw... But that's mostly because the plastic was warped and it made it look like my head was three times as tall as my chest and I had no knees. Then the lion twitched and I went for my guns.

It turns out that cops really don't care if it looked like the Narnia lion was about to reach for its gun--destruction of property is destruction of property.

I'll bet you didn't know that accidentally urinating on a police officer can be booked as Assault depending on his mood at the time.

Oh, and for some reason judges get extremely grumpy if you cough loudly right as they announce your arraignment date, forcing them to repeat it... eleven times.

You know, lawmen in the Old West tended to step back and let squinty-eyed gunslingers and Narnia lions settle their differences one on one. I like that system. That is the system I prefer.

(Today is always a better day to die than yesterday, see 'cause it's one longer now ain't it? It's X plus one, and ain't that the whole point? Unless of course you've had a vicious headache and diarrhea all day long. Then it doesn't apply. If you happen to die on a headache and diarrhea day then honestly, come on Lord--it might as well have been yesterday damn it!)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

An Intriguing Theory

You know what's really great? Latigo Flint will tell you what's really great--theories are really great! Latigo Flint is very keen on theories. Theories excite Latigo Flint. The elegance of a theory is that for it to be valid, it need only be impossible to disprove.

The following are several intriguing theories which Latigo Flint fully intends to detail and submit to prestigious scientific journals for a thorough peer review:

Intriguing Theory #1
Latigo Flint's shower nozzle has, for some time now, been possessed by Mictlantecuhtli, the skeletal god of death from Aztec mythology. Grumpy and weakened by centuries of non-worship, Mictlantecuhtli somehow found his way into Latigo Flint's shower nozzle where he derives sadistic delight in alternately searing then freezing Latigo Flint's flesh.

Disprove it you pasty-faced sissies--I dare you.

Intriguing Theory #2
Pioneer, war hero and seventh President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, was in fact an extremely intelligent badger.

Intriguing Theory #3
I truly don't know where my pants are.

Consider if you will, the possibility that I actually don't have the slightest idea where my pants could possibly be. I know this flies in the face of all conventional wisdom and logic--we lose things all the time, but rarely pants, and in the unlikely event we do, we at least retain some clue as to their whereabouts. Well, my theory is that I actually have no idea where my pants are.

It is a good theory and I defy you to refute it.

Intriguing Theory #4
Eggplant flavored sorbet is incapacitatingly yummy and so the oil companies bought up the patent and buried the recipe for fear we'd all give up working and commuting and driving, in favor of sitting at home for the rest of our lives, eating eggplant flavored sorbet.

You can attempt to prove this theory wrong in my presence if you like, but there's a very distinct possibility I'm going to douse you with petrol and strike a match on your face if you try.

Intriguing Theory #5
What has actually happened is that over the years, I've developed a highly severe yet heterosexually-nuanced man-crush on actor Cary Elwes, who played Westley in the fine documentary film, The Princess Bride. (Also seen in the fine documentary films: Glory, Days of Thunder, Hot Shots, Dracula, The Crush, Robin Hood: Men in Tights, The Chase, Twister, Liar Liar, Kiss the Girls, HBO's The Pentagon Wars, Cradle Will Rock and Saw.)

This is a very intriguing theory indeed. No doubt the debate will rage long after I'm gone.

Intriguing Theory #6
The Sasquatch and Yeti are actually ghosts of ancient hominids and they're mighty pissed about what our forefathers forefathers did to them and have been simply biding their time in the Alps and the Pacific Northwest, waiting for the perfect time to wreak vengeance upon us all.

This is a very creepy theory. It's because of theories like this that so many scientists have to sleep with the nightlight on. But discovery and knowledge do not yield their sweet fruits without a savage price--you and I know this, and forge ahead despite. And that is probably the main reason we are so goddamn sexy.

(Oh, and our tight bodies help a little bit too.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Haunted Bassoon

The boy with a haunted bassoon stood in the center of a gravel parking lot, watching the diner burn. Only now did he remember what he'd come here to do--it had nothing to do with arson but things have a way of going horribly wrong when you own a haunted bassoon.

Demons and wraiths and spectral fiends rarely choose to possess bassoons. But when they do look out, for behind every bassoon reed lurks an inherent capacity for unspeakable cruelty.

"Oh Bassoon." The boy whispered as grease-fed flames billowed high into the night. "What have you done?"

The bassoon chuckled woodenly. "There was one rule Boy, when first we met. Do you remember what it was?"

The boy lowered his head and fought back tears. "Oboes are the enemy."

The bassoon grinned wickedly, showing all its keyholes. "And..."

The boy's voice broke just a bit. "And so are all who play them."

"That's right." The bassoon leered. "And so are all who play them."
The bassoon jerked its stem in the direction of the smoldering diner.
"An oboe burns inside those flames along with a red-cheeked girl. She picked the wrong instrument so into hell she's hurled."
The bassoon looked up at the boy. "Did you love her Boy?"

The boy looked down at his bassoon, swallowed hard and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. When at last he spoke his voice was steady. "How could I? She was a filthy oboe player."

The bassoon laughed then. It rumbled the length of his hollow form.
"That's right Boy, she was--she was a filthy oboe player, and thus an enemy of bassoons."

The haunted bassoon vibrated his reed seductively. "What shall we play now to celebrate?"

The boy shook his head numbly and raised the stem to his lips. "No doubt something repetitive and incomprehensible."

The bassoon flexed his keys. "I know just the thing."

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Cruel Flutters

In most stories, traveling back in time and changing even the slightest thing tends to have catastrophic results. That may be, but I'll tell you this much--if I could go back 24 hours and not kill quite so many hookers last night, at least I'd be able to walk to the store today without being shot at by angry pimps.


Okay, it's true that you don't have to outrun the grizzly bear, you just have to outrun your friends. But what if the grizzly bear just wants to be pals? Now one of your friends has a grizzly bear for a pal, which is pretty damn awesome, and all you have are blisters. I think a better plan is to cripple your friends and then wait to decide if you're going stay or flee until you're certain of the bear's intentions.


Falling in love with the birthday girl is a real tough deal because for once she's actually desensitized to guys who buy her things. You'd think that on this day the logical play would be to steal her presents, but that doesn't seem to work either. So what I recommend is sleeping with her sister and pretending it's her. (What, you don't like that plan? Fine, I guess you could try telling her her dress looks very pretty, but you better get in line 'cause everyone else is gonna do that too.)


I knew that hobo was going to ask me for a dollar. That hobo knew I knew he was going to ask me for a dollar. That hobo knew if I gave him a dollar he was going to buy a beer. I knew that hobo knew if I gave him a dollar he was going to buy a beer. That hobo knew I knew he knew if I gave him a dollar he was going to buy a beer. But neither that hobo nor I knew he was going to bleed quite that much when I stabbed him the face.


I have always admired quiet people and thought them rather wise. I nod at them knowingly and then we sit together in contemplative silence. But after a while I get to wondering if maybe they're actually deaf mutes so I scream obscenities when they aren't looking. But when they whirl around I feel pretty silly. I try to pretend it was a sneeze but they never buy it--so then I ask them to leave, and they usually do.


Doing a brave thing is worthless if pretty girls don't find out about it. But you aren't allowed to tell them without being a braggart, and you can be damn sure no one else is going to tell because they're all jealous it wasn't them. I guess you could try faking some sort of elaborate bravery scenario, but lord is it humiliating if something goes wrong and you're exposed as heroism hoaxer. The best plan is probably to die heroically and then haunt them.


I can stand the smell of burning dust when the heater is lit for the first since May. And I can deal with the rush of spiders from out between ventilation grates. I run madly through the room, desperately trying to squish them all. It reminds me of years gone by, this spider-squishing rite of fall. I remember how she'd scream and cheer from her perch upon a chair. Like a task-bred dog I'd hunt the spiders down or gently brush them from her hair. But we parted ways on a summer day thinking ever the sun would shine. I heard she married nice, which cut me twice, and our follies sear in time. So the pain I know switching the heater on is that like all I ever try--it reminds me of her, the one who is gone, and then I want to die.