Sunday, April 30, 2006

Silver-eyed Demons

Sometimes Latigo Flint gets the distinct feeling he's being watched.
"Hmm, I sense something is watching me." Is what Latigo Flint thinks to himself. Then Latigo Flint notices the demon hanging from the ceiling, grinning at him with silver eyes upside down.

The second-worst thing about discovering a demon on your ceiling is that you tend to moan and wet yourself--and now your couch smells funny and there'll always be a lie behind your eyes when you tell girls how brave you are.

The worst thing about discovering a demon on your ceiling is that you have a demon on your ceiling. And whatever that demon is about to do, it's certain to be unspeakably savage.


A Letter:

Dear All Who Could Have, In Alternate Futures, Been My True Love,

Hello there. How's it going? Hope you're well. I regret that we shall never meet but you see there's this demon on my ceiling, grinning down with silver eyes--and though I don't yet know its plan, I think it's certain to be unspeakably savage.

I'm very brave of course, but like that'll do any good. I'm afraid this demon's advantage is one of gravity and claws.

Good-bye. Please don't marry a jerk.

Latigo Flint

P.S. By the way, someone really needs to invent demon repellent. That is a product I would buy.

Oh yeah, and I guess a time machine so they can ship it to me yesterday.


Demon hasn't attacked yet. It's just biding its time, playing mind games and whatnot.


Demon can make itself look like a credenza--I still hear it laughing though. Fuckin' Demons man.


Demon just disguised itself as my fern. It better not have killed Fern in the process.

Hey, leave Fern alone you wretched demon, he's just an innocent fern! If it's me you want then let's get it done!!!


Demons are intolerable--the schedule always has to be theirs.


Fine then, you wretched demon--I'm gonna get some beer and watch the game while I wait to be disemboweled.

(Oh wait, here it comes.)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hobo Soup for the Soul (aka Jump Spin Thrusts)

It has been noted that in space no one can hear you scream. I submit the same is true of submersion in a large vat of petroleum jelly.

Now, someone would have to be very drunk, or very stupid, to confuse a large vat of petroleum jelly with outer space. But Latigo Flint has been known to shoot people in the face if they call him stupid, so I've a pretty good idea which way the consensus will trend.

One of the unfortunate side effects of mistaking a vat of petroleum jelly for outer space is that you end up looking rather silly demanding Astronaut Wings from NASA with your clothes stuck to you, your hair slicked eight ways to hell, and Vaseline oozing from your ears and nose. (Not to mention you tend to get labeled a pathological masturbator.)


There are people who like to demand that money not be spent on space exploration and settlement right now, what with so many terrestrial problems as yet unsolved.

Now, the rational might counter with the fact that Europe in the thirteen and fourteen-hundreds found itself beset by problems that make ours today seem like a wink and a tickle, and yet they still found the means to fund the voyages of discovery that resulted in the steady improvement in the quality of life for nearly every human on earth that continues unchecked to this day. (Nearly every; obviously there are going to be a few exceptions--sorry about that Mohicans.)

But not Latigo Flint. Nope, I never even mention any of that to people who claim NASA's budget would be better spent on healthcare, after-school programs for angry urchins, walls at the border, disaster response or hobo-soup. Instead, I savagely beat them with a rubber hose until in stumbling desperation, they pledge half their income to JPL on the off chance it'll enable them to put more than a world between them and me.

I'm not saying cut out hobo-soup, some of my best friends are hobos, but stay away with your foolish fiscal knife from those things that truly matter long-term. For when we run out of room and opportunity, we all end up killing each other for soup. Or worse, peaceful words on a two-thousand-year page.

(Not to mention sex in microgravity is gonna be awesome! I call dibs on the copyright for the wall-to-wall, jump-spin-and-thrust.)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Purple Scars

Purple Scars -- A Very Short One-Act Play
by Latigo Flint

Sometimes when it's cold my scars turn purple.

But it's not that cold and that's not a scar!

The End

Monday, April 24, 2006

Lonesome Gunslinger Songs

Sometimes Latigo Flint's neighbors assemble in the courtyard and ask him to stop singing Lonesome Gunslinger Songs from the roof of the apartment complex... at 3am... through a bullhorn... wearing nothing but a neckerchief and tear-smudged mascara.

It's a request Latigo Flint can't honor.

The other night Latigo Flint was crooning the lonesome tale of an outlaw and gunslinger named Canebrake Divinity who fell in love with a stage driver but had to shoot her anyway when the holdup went bad.

Latigo Flint was just getting to the good part when he was suddenly pelted with shoes.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?!!!" The mob howled.

"I'm singing a lonesome gunslinger song about a lonesome gunslinger named Canebrake Divinity." I replied.

"You're singing what?!!!"

"There was once this lonesome gunslinger named Canebrake Divinity." I explained. "Many things conspired to make him so lonesome--one of which happened to be the tragic shooting of a female stage driver with whom he'd quite recently fallen in love."
I scanned their faces for comprehension.
"I sing the story of that day."

I drew a deep breath and resumed the third verse, singing even more beautifully than before. Someone found melon rinds in the dumpster and dispensed them to the rest of the crowd--not as a snack to enjoy with my song but as projectiles less precious than shoes.

It is difficult to sing a lonesome gunslinger song when you are constantly being smacked in the face with melon rinds. I decided to climb down and pistol whip them all to death.
"Please wait there." I implored, setting aside my guitar. "So I can climb down and pistol whip you all to death."

When I reached the edge I noticed children in the crowd. Had they been among the melon rind tossers? Even if they had, should their punishment be equally harsh? I agonized over this. It became moot a moment later when the eave gave way and I fell six stories onto gravel.

I hemorrhaged a lot and groaned a bit. Almost everyone laughed and went inside. One child hung back.

"You were planning to pistol whip us to death." It was a statement, not an accusation.

"That wasn't for sure yet." I noted.

I struggled to light a cigarette, needing one after such a fall. I might as well have tried to fly, nothing on me was working at all.

The child knelt and produced a match.
"In the song." She asked, striking it across gravel. "What happened after Canebrake Divinity fell in love with the female stage driver?"

I waited for her to bring the flame in but she held it out of reach, as if to trade it for an answer.

"The holdup went bad and Canebrake Divinity had to shoot her, and then he was lonesome for the rest of his life."

She shook her head sadly and lit my cigarette. "That’s sort of how all your songs seem to end."

"Well kido," I took a long drag and felt one of my lungs collapse. Fortunately I had a spare. "It wouldn't really do to have much joy in a lonesome gunslinger song, now would it?"

"I guess not." She leaned over and tried to poke a protruding vertebra back into my neck where it was supposed to be. "I just thought you could try leaving it open-ended every once in a while--ambiguity can also be pretty lonely, just in a different way."

"Yeah, maybe."

Cigarette ash drifted into my face despite my attempt to divert its course with staccato nasal snorts.

"You landed so hard my eyeballs groaned." She whispered, brushing the ash from my cheek. "I'm sorry you fell--even if you were probably going to decide to try to pistol whip us to death."

I gave her small crooked smile that turned sad even as it began.
"Thanks kid, you're one in a million. Now go away--I think I'm about to pass my spleen and I don't want you to have to see."

She touched my brow and walked away, softly weeping on wobbly knees. I watched her go with a sigh and a retch, then shuddered and violently passed my spleen.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Of Love and Rusty Trowels

It took hours, but Robert finally succeeded in turning an empty beer can inside out using only his pinkies and thumbs.
"You know what the trouble is with falling in love with a woman you can't have?" He asked, turning to Bentley.

"It makes you want to kill people with a rusty trowel?" Bentley replied, easing away and covering his throat.

"It makes you want to kill people with a rusty trowel." Robert confirmed. And if Bentley was happy to have answered it right, it certainly didn't show.

"Hmmm, yes. Well there you have it I suppose." Bentley nodded, rubbing his jaw contemplatively, praying that was a neutral response.

"There you have what?"

"You know..." Bentley's knees started to tremble. "There's the rub and stuff. It's like a Catch-22 and whatnot--hey I wonder if there's anything good on TV!"


Bentley knew this wasn't good. Neutral responses elicited non-committal shrugs and the eventual switching of subjects. They weren't supposed to result in tensed muscles and a feral glare. He took a deep breath and tried to un-dig his hole.

"Well, it's like, a guy falls in love with a woman he can't have and then in his agony he ends up killing people with a rusty trowel--a natural response."
Bentley glanced at Robert, trying to judge the effect of his words. Robert's face was a mask and his fingers kept on bleeding.

"But women are, like, horrified by guys who kill people with rusty trowels and stuff."
Bentley paused, hoping that would suffice. Robert seemed to expect him to continue.

"Yeah, so like, now he can't have her even more than before--that is to say, now he really can't have her 'cause he's killed people with a rusty trowel and so his agony redoubles and he kills even more people with a rusty trowel and then, see above, now there's even less of a chance, and on and on and then eventually his trowel breaks."

Bentley ran out of air and had to stop talking.

"Yep." Robert replied, gutting Bentley with a rusty trowel. "That sounds about right."

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Boy who Tampered with Saddles

Every town in the Squinty-eyed West had at least one scruffy-haired boy who liked to tamper with saddles. They were the hackers of their time, gifted yet bored, and could no sooner quit saddle-tampering than fly. You double-checked your straps in those days or risked a face full of mud.

And of all the boys to ever tamper with a saddle, Claudio was the boldest.

Claudio was the sort of lad who in broad daylight would swap the metal cinch rings to which the girth strap fastened, with loops of licorice painted gold. It would hold for a moment, just long enough for a cowboy to forget there was mischief in the world. Then as his right leg swung across, all his weight in the left stirrup and a center of gravity still perilous at best, the licorice loops would separate with a mushy sigh and the cowboy would get to learn how gravel tastes.

Most men chuckled and dusted themselves off, dismissing it as just scruffy-haired boys being scruffy-haired boys. But Snarlin' Ben McClintock wasn't most men.

Snarlin' Ben McClintock stood six foot five and must have weighed upwards of three hundred pounds. He crushed puppies beneath his boot heels for sport and bathed with sand and turpentine, when he bathed at all.

Snarlin' Ben let it be known around town that he'd eyebrow-scalp any scruffy-haired boy who even so much as glanced at his saddle. And then he proved it twice the very next day. (And the second boy was blind from birth and didn't even know where he was glancing.)


Two towns over, young Claudio heard the news. Chills raced up his spine and tingled the roots of his scruffy hair. He stood and set aside his work. (A saddle horn he was rigging with springs to fly up and bonk noses in a trot.) Claudio took a deep breath and closed his eyes. When he opened them they flashed with the steely glint of fatal resolve. He strode off to fetch his pony, and by the time he reached the barn, every other child in town walked with him--lock step, faces down--grim as a funeral dirge.

"So you'll be goin' off to tamper with Snarlin' Ben's saddle then?" Whispered one of the Allen Twins--the one who didn't walk with a limp.
"I reckon so." Claudio replied.
The other Allen Twin limped up to Claudio.
"Watch out for his knife hand." He said, placing a trembling hand on Claudio's shoulder. "He holds his knife in that hand."
"Thanks, I will." Claudio replied with a solemn nod.

Without a word Claudio turned and kissed Sally Ann on the cheek. She couldn't have been more astonished if he'd sprouted wings and bayed at the moon. In all the years she'd been tagging along, he'd done little more than throw dirt clods and call her things like "Squishy Face".

Claudio leapt up on his pony's bare back and gave them all a little wave.
"Don't go Claudio." Sally Ann cried, finding her voice only now at the end. "I don't want you to be eyebrow-scalped."

Claudio flashed her a crooked smile that turned sad even as it began.
"Sweet Sally Ann. That's what he does to boys who just glance at his saddle. I plan to do so much more."
Then he nudged his pony and was gone.


Claudio was buried the next day, two towns over and without a name. The head stone read:

Here lies a boy who tampered with saddles.

One week later, in a child-like scrawl, this postscript appeared at the base of the stone:

He was beautiful and he was our friend.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Ancients

The Ancients believed that every tree in the forest had two stories to tell: The one you heard with your ears, if you took the time to listen. And the one you felt with your skull if the tree toppled over and fell on you when you weren't looking. The Ancients were pretty insightful.

The Ancients knew that Brother Coyote had as much right to the mountain as they. They also knew he couldn't be trusted not to devour unattended infants. Today whenever coyotes come across an unattended infant and devour it, somewhere the spirit of an Ancient is saying: "Well hell, I could have told you that would happen."

The Ancients didn't take sunrises for granted, and gave each one a new name. Overcast mornings made them uneasy--and rightfully so.

Every once in a while one of the Ancients would jump up and try to force the other Ancients to do things the way he thought they should be done. They didn't pay him much mind though--they knew sooner or later all his racket would attract a bear.

Fire was no mystery to the Ancients. When small things burned it was okay to get close--when large things went up it was time to run away. Lightning was not to be trusted.

Sometimes the Ancients would walk for a while and then realize they didn't know where they were. They didn't waste time blaming each other--even though they all felt like it--they just reversed their steps until they saw a landmark they recognized. Often they'd be attacked by cougars though.

For a long time the Ancients had no need for the concept of zero. One might not have any goats, but that didn't mean he didn't have some grain. Or a hide. Or a pebble. It was actually the last Ancient who invented the concept of zero. One day he noticed that trees had toppled over and landed on all the other Ancients. "Splendid." He thought. "More fish for me." But then he wondered who would eat the fish if a tree should land on him.

(The first Ancient to pleasure himself did it entirely by accident. Some mud had splashed on it, which he was trying to brush off-- the result made for a remarkable day.)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

So Many Strangled Kindnesses

This evening the pretty waitress set my order down, smiled and told me to enjoy. ('Cause that's what pretty waitresses do.) I had planned to thank her and leave it at that, but what we plan and what we do are so very seldom the same.

"Wait Ma'am." I said, taking her hand in mine.

"Yes?" She warily replied, trying to decide what she'd tolerate to receive a decent tip.

I gave her a long and steady stare, tracing the veins in her eyes. When I spoke, my voice was low and gritty.
"We stand on the edge of a cliff, you and I, overlooking the end of all we know. The leap is uncertain but to stay is to die. The ground is above and below us the sky."

And for some reason, that happened to exceed her tolerance. (She obviously didn't know who I was.)

She jerked her hand away and pretended to check a watch-less wrist.
"Oh, look at that--it's my lunch break."

"It's 10PM." I noted helpfully.

"Food service personnel keep a different schedule." She replied. "Bruce is going to finish you up."

"I don't suppose you'd reconsider Ma'am, if you knew how much I'd prefer not to be finished up by Bruce?"

But she was already walking away.

Bruce sure seemed to know who I was.
"I know who you are." He said with a glower, massaging his fist with the other hand.

"You know I'm Latigo Flint, the quickest quickdraw the world has ever known?" I beamed. "How splendid. It's always nice to meet a fan. Do you know it's been said that I draw, aim and fire a six-gun so fast that Aaron Copland is inspired to compose again... from beyond the frickin' grave?"

"You're the guy who likes to grab waitresses and say to them creepy things." Bruce continued, as if I hadn't spoke.

"Hmm, yes, an unfortunate side-effect, steeped as I am in the romance of the Squinty-eyed American West." I acknowledged with a sigh.

"Creepy, hand-grabbing customers piss me off." Bruce pointed out, cracking his knuckles against the table.

"And rightfully so." I agreed. "But creepy is subjective and you should know that a hundred and fifty years ago, that advance would definitely have been met with a blush and a dowry."

He thought about that for a bit, and decided to punch me anyway. I decided I didn't like being punched by him, and when he tried it again I shot him.

(With the paper sleeve of a straw... got 'im right in the eye too. He required over a dozen stitches. Not so much from the paper sleeve, though that couldn't have felt all that good--but more from the metal napkin dispenser, which I followed up with a boot.)

Monday, April 10, 2006

Sara's Horrible Night of Ruptured Innocence and Ducklings

The twisted soul known as Vaspith Keel sat cross-legged on the floor of a barn, surrounded by scores of dead ducklings. He adjusted the heat lamp, bringing it closer to his lap and the stack of eggs he held cradled there.

"Don't be afraid." Vaspith cooed. "It's time to hatch into a beautiful world."

Vaspith cocked his head, listening intently to peeps. His eyes crept guiltily to the nearby lumps that once were their downy siblings.
"No, no. It's okay." He whispered. "I don't do that sort of thing anymore."

Behind him, the barn's giant doors opened and moonlight streamed through the maw. In snuck two stealthy figures, their shadows stretching up the slatted wall. Vaspith waited until the shadows crouched to leap--then he slammed shotguns backwards on top of his shoulders and emptied all four barrels. The shadows erupted in a chunky spray, wilted and then were gone.

A cry rang out above the rumbling echo. Vaspith turned and called out into the gloom.
"Those nasty shadows meant us harm you know!"

The only response was the muffled clank of a pitchfork being lifted from its wall mount. Vaspith eyed his empty box of shells.

"I'm not reloading!" He noted. "I'm not reloading because I love you."

Footsteps crunched on straw. Vaspith shinned the lamp down the narrow row of stables that ran a hundred feet to the side of the barn. The light only reached halfway, and for twenty seconds he sat still, listening to the approaching strides.

"Did you hear me?" Vaspith demanded. "I said I love you girl."

Sara became visible, first as slender patch of darkness that wasn't quite as dark as the rest, and then as a fuzzy, nightgowned form with dangerous eyes and a pitchfork.

"You made an orphan of me tonight." She snarled, continuing to stride toward Vaspith. "And those 'nasty shadows' were my brothers, come to save me from the ducklings' fate."

She didn't look fourteen--certainly not in the half-light of an incubation lamp--and with murder in her eyes and the way she held that pitchfork, it's unlikely she'd ever look it again.

"I'd like the chance," Vaspith whispered, stroking the eggs. "To prove I can be around ducklings without twisting their necks 'till they snap. And then you and I can be married and have so many children that the ducks on our farm will think that it's a race."

"Oh yeah?" Sara asked. She'd aged a decade in minutes. Less than an hour ago she'd been a child--innocent going on fifteen. Then Vaspith showed up and massacred her parents, and as she stood there screaming, he'd dropped to his knees in their spreading blood and asked for her hand in marriage. When she fainted, he'd run to the barn, where he giggled and started strangling ducklings.

"Yeah." Vaspith replied. He pointed at the downy lumps at his feet. "And I want you to know I don't do that sort of thing anymore." He gazed at the eggs between his legs. "I assure you, these ducklings won't be harmed when they hatch."

"Yes they will." Sara replied and rammed the prongs of her pitchfork through his chest. "They'll bare the eternal scar of having sat for a time in your lap."

Vaspith Keel tried to scream but his soggy lungs betrayed him. All he could muster was a phlegmy red foam that bubbled then oozed down his chin.

Sara stood over him and raised her pitchfork.
"Some would claim you're an opportunity." She spat. "A chance to decipher the madness of man."

"You know, that is so true." Vaspith wheezed, raising a thoughtful finger. "You really should hear about how--"

Sara plunged her pitchfork into his throat.
"There's nothing to learn from a mind such as yours and I gladly, gladly waste you."

(The eggs hatched in a puddle of blood and Sara worried that it'd derange them. But she raised them as ducks and showed them nothing but love, and if they'd imprinted evil it didn’t change them.)

Friday, April 07, 2006

An Outlaw Named Canebrake Divinity

The mysterious outlaw and pistoleer named Canebrake Divinity placed the barrel of his gun to his horse's eye.
"I remember not loving you." Canebrake whispered. "I smiled more then."
He pulled the trigger. His horse took another two steps then fell. They happened to be in the middle of a rope bridge. The canyon was so deep that Canebrake had time to re-breath his scream, twice maybe thrice in midair.

Chapter One:
For every miner who managed to pan himself a living on the banks of California's sun-dappled streams, another twelve found only sand and ended up drinking themselves to death in that wretched, sloping, bayside shanty-town that would one day add some Trolleys and a Wharf and call itself The City.

Tipperson Gentry was one of the few. In the spring of 1851, young Tipperson happened upon a river bend that had been more than a little blessed by geology. He worked that shore for nearly three months and was well on his way to becoming quite wealthy.

But that all changed one morning, when a mysterious outlaw named Canebrake Divinity fell screaming from the sky, crashed through the boughs of a river oak and landed at Tipperson's feet.

"Good heavens!" Tipperson exclaimed, shoving up his floppy hat and rubbing his eyes with calloused hands.

"Urrrg." Groaned Canebrake.

"Good heavens!" Tipperson replied, faintly aware he was repeating himself but temporarily unable to otherwise converse.
"You're gonna want to move now." Canebrake Divinity managed to say with a feeble wave. "Here comes my horse."
Tipperson looked up to find half a ton of plummeting horse heading straight for his eyes.

Tipperson Gentry learned two things in the very next instant: One, he could move much quicker than he thought himself capable of, and two, the sound of a horse hitting the ground from hundreds of feet in the air actually sounds exactly like one would expect a horse hitting the ground from hundreds of feet in the air would sound.

It landed square on its back and the impact separated flesh from bone. All four legs drove themselves over half their length in the earth, and for a moment it looked like some sort of adorable tiny-legged dachshund-horse taking a nap. Then pressure and sloshing innards split its barrel open like a melon in a furnace.

"Good heavens." Tipperson murmured in a voice so struck with shock and awe that the words could have never been uttered before.

Tipperson Gentry tenderly nursed the mysterious outlaw and pistoleer named Canebrake Divinity back to health. It took months. Not a day went by that Canebrake didn't warn Tipperson that when he was well he fully intended to beat Tipperson senseless with his own cookware, tie him to a tree and make off with all his gold. Tipperson shrugged it off as the delirious ramblings of a man who has bled too much. But he shouldn't have. Canebrake Divinity was the purest outlaw the world has ever known. And not only that, but mysterious to boot--he acted on motivations unfathomable.

As soon as Canebrake Divinity was well, he beat Tipperson senseless with his own cookware, tied him to a tree and made off with the gold.

The End

Can't get enough of Canebrake Divinity? I don't blame you--he is spectacular.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Rabies is a Dancer

Some dogs don't think hydrophobia could ever happen to them, and they just really don't see what the problem is with doing a little rabies every now and then.

"Come on man." They say. "Who do you think I am, Old Yeller or something?! Please, that cur was messed up waaaay before he got into rabies."

They glance around and lower their voice.

"Look, I'm not prejudiced or anything, but Old Yeller didn't have a day of training."
They nod and wag their tail insistently. "It's true man, completely uneducated--didn't even know the meaning of the word ‘Sit', much less that it was supposed to apply to him."

They shudder as if the very thought is morally reprehensible.

"Yeller had no self-control, know what I'm sayin’? Come on--stealin' hams off the smokehouse wall, suckin' eggs in the night..."
They place a paw on your knee so you really get the point.
"Did a summer day go by that didn't find Ol' Yeller splashin’ around with a naked Little Arliss all up in the drinking water part of the creek? Hell no! He knew that ticked Travis off something fierce--didn't care, did it anyway."

The dogs shake their head, disappointed at such disobedience. And then take a long lick off the foaming anus of a snapping, writhing squirrel.

"Yeah man, frankly I'm not a bit surprised the hydrophobia took Old Yeller the way it did. Shit, if it hadn’t been that, it was gonna be something else, you know what I'm sayin'?"

They offer you a lick of rabid squirrel anus--which you do very well to decline.

"Look man, I'm not sayin' the dude was all bad." The dogs admit with a shrug. "Yeller did help Travis out when those javelina hogs attacked; that was pretty solid. And saving Arliss from that bear took guts.”

They hit the rabid squirrel anus one more time and finish it off. "By the way, that's probably the only one I'll do this week." They assure you.

"Anyway, listen man." They say, wrapping up. "The sad truth is the old boy had no discipline. I mean for Rin's Sake, that mutt thought Rollover and Heel was some kind of flaky breakfast pastry. I'm tellin' you, when Old Yeller found rabies he just dove right in, ears and tail in the air, just like he'd done everything else. And he took it deep and he took it dark and he took it to places it shouldn't be. And then he danced with the foaming death bitch 'till dawn."

They wag their tail dismissively and lick your hand as you try to forget where that tongue has been.

"Won't happen to me, I got a pedigree... now WOOF, what say we play with a ball?"

Monday, April 03, 2006

True Western Truth #233

Once a shootout began in the Squinty-eyed American West, it could only be halted by blood... unless one of the participants got a foot cramp. Even the rankest killers knew how brutal a foot cramp could be. They'd rush to their writhing adversary and help him out of his boot, all the while imploring him to relax and for Christsake don't curl the toes. The penalty for faking a foot cramp and shooting your opponent as he knelt by your side was the immediate impoundment of your horse and a five to ten-dollar fine. But it never had to be enforced and was just on the books for show. Faking a foot cramp for advantage is wrong, and even the desperate wouldn't sink so low.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Westward the Tide of Wagons and Glory

About a week ago, Latigo Flint rolled a bicycle into the street and started lashing canvas to its frame. Inquisitive neighborhood children gathered around.

"What are you doing?" One of them asked.

"I'm making a covered wagon." I replied. "Also known as a prairie schooner."

She had never seen a covered wagon before. "What's it for?" She asked.

I tugged on a leather strap. "Do you really want to know?"

She glanced around at her companions, then shrugged and nodded.

"Well all right." I replied. "It's like this: Ever westward the tide of our dreams does flow, to where hope and danger collide. On horseback and foot and wagon we go, courting freedom, our deadly bride."

I trailed my hand across the canvas and sharp billows crackled down its length--the tight undulation that is the hallmark of great craftsmanship.

"Do you understand what I'm saying?"

They shook their heads.

"Well, that's because your parents have enfeebled your minds with processed sugar and television and any computer game that isn't Oregon Trail."

"Oregon what?" The child asked.

"Shut up." I replied. "It's too late for you."

Then I lashed water skins to the handlebars of my prairie schooner, crawled inside and snapped the kickstand up with my heel. Canvas brushed against the wheels and it spoke of glory and westward the tide.

I stuck my head out the front flap and gave the children a sneer. "Farewell you lost souls of this wretched digital age." I slammed boots to pedals and my good ship Wagon Trail surged forward into the street.

The little girl pointed at my bike chain. "Sir, your canvas flap is caught!"

"To hell with you, Naysayer!!!" I bellowed, extending my middle finger. "You be sure to think of me as you suffocate in the stagnant throes of a sheltered and empty life."

An odd stretching sound came from somewhere beneath my feet but I ignored it for the wind it probably was and picked up speed as the street became a hill.

"This is spectacular!" I shouted to myself. "Look how rapidly I'm traveling. Why, at this rate I'll be much more westward than I was a moment ago and even sooner than I thought I'd be."


Witnesses speak of the thirty-six car pileup, water main explosions and gas pump fire caused when a screaming bundle of canvas and metal tumbled through a busy intersection, smashed through the front window of a sandwich shop, blasted out the side window a moment later and reentered the intersection. They say the bundle weaved around in circles for a while, bouncing off cars and shrieking something about pioneers--then lurched itself into the back seat of a convertible, where it alternated between bleeding heavily on the upholstery and sexually assaulting the terrified driver. When a city bus t-boned the convertible, the bundle of canvas and metal flopped to the pavement and somehow managed to writhe itself into a storm drain, where it moaned and wept and sang Dwight Yoakam songs until dusk, at which point it started screaming about spiders and rats and clanked off deeper into the sewer system, never to be heard from again.

(But you know how unreliable witnesses can be.)