Friday, June 17, 2011


"It looks like a movie, don't it?"

He raised his hand and waved a finger forward. She looked over at him. He had one of his lanky legs crossed over the other with his boot heel jammed against the air vent so it wouldn't slip. It didn't look all that comfortable, least not compared to both flat on the floor, but he'd been riding that way for the past sixty miles or so, so who knew. He gestured again, this time with his chin and a little tilt of his head. She smiled at him, perhaps a bit wickedly. She knew how to rile him, and enjoyed doing it. He thought himself so easy-going; some sort of carefree cowboy who rode his own trail far apart from the agitated masses... and yet it took so little to turn his face all petulant and pouty. She marveled sometimes that he couldn't see it on himself. He caught it though this time and grinned at her.

"That's not exactly what I'd call safe driving there, ten-and-two."
She laughed and turned back to face the road, her eyes automatically pulling focus through the bug-splatted window, first to the road and then to the desert horizon that sprawled pink and purple across the front of distance like a local motel mural.

He was right, it did look like a movie, and not a recent one either. It looked painted and two-dimensional--how'd they used to do it? Giant backdrops placed fifty feet behind the actors, right? And the audience went right along and believed it was real 'cause what other choice did they have.

"Everyone used to get to participate in creating the particular world of movies they watched."
She knew he was suddenly listening to her intently; she could see it in her peripheral. "That's why no one likes movies now as much as we all used to."

He made a sound as he smiled, a delighted exhalation. From the corner of her eye she watched him open his mouth to reply but then he closed it and instead uncrossed his leg and pulled a bunch of slack into his seat belt. He moved against her with uncertain purpose. There was an urgency in the way he kissed her neck and desire trembled his hands, but he didn't know quite what to do with them. He caressed her bicep with his right hand and followed her bent arm down, finally wrapping his hand around hers against the steering wheel. He slid his left arm around her waist and rested his chin on her shoulder. She glanced down and their eyes met. She could feel his heart beating. She laughed.
His heart was beating directly into her right nipple and for some reason she found it equal parts arousing and absurd.

When she didn't answer he tugged the wheel a bit to the right. The car lurched slightly and she elbowed him in the stomach.
"Ooof! Ow."
"Well, don't do that."
"'Cause you're the driver?"
"Right, 'cause I'm the driver."
"And you're in control?"
"I'm in control."
He relaxed his hand and rubbed the tip of his thumb in tiny apologetic circles around the back of her thumb knuckle.

"I may have to steal your theory." He breathed into her collarbone. "It's too good not to be my own."
"Take it. I got plenty."
He smiled against her shoulder. She could feel the corner of his mouth pull across her skin. The final pumpkin sliver of sun vanished behind the distant range. She reached down and clicked the headlights on. His side jostled against hers as he chuckled. She laughed too and he promptly kissed her cheek. He'd teased her without saying a word. They both knew smart drivers turn the headlights on when the sun goes down, but her timing had been too precise not to have a laugh.

The highway hummed beneath their tires, the only music they needed now. Under the blazing midday sun, with the air conditioner rasping, you can lose your good moods without Petty and Lyle and Dwight and all the rest, but the desert road at twilight brings its own quiet song and you miss all the chords if you don't hold someone and listen.

"Well anyway, it does look like a movie."

And he was right, it did.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sweet Madness in the Songs we Scream

There's no great trick to insanity, no real mystery to unravel. You needn't ask questions of the wind or plumb the depths of hell.

There are many difficult things in this life but going insane isn't one of them. It's so damn easy that frankly I'm surprised more people don't do it.

You wanna know the trick? You wanna know the basic truth? Well, you came to the right place. Here's insanity in a nutshell (tee hee)--here's the fundamental aspect of madness that underlies all others.

Are you ready for it? Stop reading now if you aren't.


Okay then... here's the fundamental aspect of madness that underlies all others:

Everything, and I do mean everything, sprouts tentacles and grows a fangy clown face if you stare at it long enough.

Toasters: check. Laptops: check. Bus drivers: check. The Revlon Girl on the billboard: check. The list goes on and on--concentrically and then back in again.

So, soon as you see it happen--scream. And don't stop until the fangy clown face tentacle monster is dead, killed by your mighty screams, and/or the men with caps give you a magical jacket made of space age polymer fibers designed exclusively for the purpose of shielding the wearer from fangy clown face tentacle monsters.

Name your jacket immediately. It can't protect you for very long if it doesn't have a name. Whatever you do though, don't use vowels. Vowels are how the fangy clown face tentacle monster latches onto your insides. If you utter a vowel when you talk to your magical jacket then the beast is gonna tear you apart and lap up your lung blood with a bacteria tongue of festering doom.

Which is no fun, by the way. It's just really no fun at all.

I recommend you name your magical jacket: "Gggrrgffttsk." Although you can’t go wrong with: "Pllfflrrgghh" either. "Ssgrrfflkmnhrrgy" is risky… you know, 'cause of the whole "and sometimes Y" thing.

(Everything moves if you watch it long enough. And eventually becomes a fangy clown face tentacle monster. And some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by fangy clown face tentacle monsters.)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Sara and Rufus

There are many frontiers. This is a story about the most dangerous one of all... the frontier of the heart.

From the archives June 16, 2006:

Sara and Rufus

Rufus asked Sara to wait for him, and she tearfully said she would.

"I go to seek our fortune Sara." Rufus told her, shouldering his pack. "To literally claw our future joy from frozen mud and granite tombs."

Sara kissed him and smiled bravely.

"Remember to look to the far north hills and keep me always in your thoughts."

Sara assured him that remembering to do so wouldn't be a problem.

"And know that the sound the wind makes echoes my heartache and my soul is calling for you."

Sara sighed and rested her head on his chest.

"My time apart from you, sweet Sara, shall not be counted in days or weeks, but in fallen tears on a wilderness beard."

Sara began to wonder when exactly, if ever, Rufus planned to leave.

"We shall each have nights, dear Sara, when we fear the loneliness is more than we can bear. It is then that we must be strongest--if not for ourselves then for each other."

Sara gave Rufus a little shove, hoping it might start him down the trail.

"Nothing is certain except love, my love." Rufus breathed, striding back to her side. "Remember to look often to the far north hills and keep me always in your thoughts."

Rufus was beginning to repeat himself. Sara cleared her throat.

"Know this, sweet Sara, I shall always--"

Just then a cougar jumped out from a grove of aspen trees and ate Rufus' face off. It was a perfect example of how savage the frontier could be, and though she never quite forgot Rufus, Sara married well and did just fine.

Rufus on the other hand, not so much--he didn't exactly do just fine. Mostly because a cougar ate his face off and then he died.

The End

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Badwater Kid

The Badwater Kid crossed Arizona on a horse that couldn't see.


(Mercy that's a good first line.)


The Badwater Kid crossed Arizona on a horse that couldn't see. The posse nearly caught him at the border but sympathetic streetwalkers took Badwater in and disguised him as one of their own.



Oh no, what have I done? It's too good. How can this story be told? The opening is simply too magnificent--nothing that follows could possibly satisfy. You've got the Badwater Kid: lawless and sexy, he's on the run. Desperate and shirtless and bleeding he takes to the desert--that savage volcanic wasteland of twisted spires and murderous dunes.

He rides a blind yet oddly competent horse. Why? Who knows. Damn, it's probably a spectacular back-story though.

Men are chasing The Badwater Kid. Armed men. Determined men. Men who smolder with the righteous fury of those sworn to uphold the law. Some of them probably smoke pipes. What has the Badwater Kid done to spite their singular sense of justice? I don't know. Maybe he, like, robbed a bank or something.
Gah! That's no good!

Well, how did he get his name? Why is he called The Badwater Kid?
Heaven help me I don't know!!!

Those streetwalkers in the border town... why are they risking their freedom to protect The Badwater Kid?

Let's see, 'cause they love him? Trite!

He saved the life of the youngest whore? Cliché!

He has a birthmark on his shoulder that shows the way to dry land? Shit, that's from Waterworld ain’t it?!!!

Argh!!! Writing is too hard. I don't want to do it anymore. I'm Latigo Flint damn it--I'm the quickest quickdraw the world has ever known. I should be striding squinty-eyed and dangerous through dusty streets of vengeance, tipping my hat to the ladies and shooting men who deserve it. Not sitting here in this blue/white glow of habitual insignificance. Damn this misintended life of bedrunkled complacency and shame.


I blame The Badwater Kid. He's my Little Bighorn. He's my Waterloo.

Hemingway once said: "Any character can be known if you take the grace and time to see the world as he must surely see it."
But then he added: "Unless that character is The Badwater Kid, 'cause that mysterious fucker just can't be writ. You know, I once tried to write a story about The Badwater Kid and ended up drinking myself to death instead."

Chilling. Well, now we know.


Anyway, please believe me girls--I'd never, ever compare myself to Hemingway... unless of course I really, really wanted to sleep with you and thought it might somehow make me seem more mysterious, tortured and sexy.


I count steps in the dark so I don’t stumble from room to room. That’s how I know it’s twelve to the door, five to the body of the whore.

I wrote that just now. It’s the mysterious and tortured and sexy line that I decided to end with tonight. Booze is my inquisitive crowbar, but please don’t tell my mom.

(By the way, dare you to say of another man that he’s your Little Bighorn. You have to be straight as the driven snow like me to even have a chance at pulling it off.)

(("Pulling it off." Did I just say that? What an odd night this has turned out to be. It’s like it’s become a one-voice argument, both for and against my heterosexuality. Odd, odd, odd. Oh well, I guess insanity is a natural grace for those who speak but can’t be seen.))

Friday, November 17, 2006

Cry War on Wolves

But in their language, so they understand and are afraid.

From the archives - February 14, 2006:

Cry War on Wolves

Today the pretty waitress set my breakfast 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.

"You know," I said, as she turned to leave. "For you I'd probably jump off a cliff and cry war on wolves."

And that happened to be a statement she was not expecting to hear. I know this because she blinked twice, opened her mouth but then closed it again, opting instead to blink some more. (Which happens to be a sure sign someone has just heard something for which they were unprepared.)

I acted it out for her using items on the table.
"Okay, see, this pouch of non-dairy creamer is you." I said, placing the pouch of non-dairy creamer in the middle of the table.
"And this saltshaker is me... on top of a cliff--represented by this metal napkin dispenser."

I looked up at her.
"Getting all this so far?"
Her eyes were twice as wide as when she'd arrived, which I figured signified interest.

"Good. Now all these little butter packages are wolves, and they've been stalking you for some time through the dark forest of syrup bottles. See how cleverly they sneak?"
But I must have been too accurate in my portrayal of wolf pack hunting technique, because the pretty waitress started backing away from the table.

"No, no! It's okay, don't be afraid." I urged, grabbing her wrist and pulling her close. "Yes, the wolves are closing in--" I shoved the butter packages toward the pouch of non-dairy creamer. "--with crazed glints of blood-lust in their slitted lupine eyes--but my dear, you've forgotten I'm here."
I rapped the top of the metal napkin dispenser with the base of the saltshaker to remind her.
"And I'm prepared to be inconceivably brave."

I swatted the saltshaker with two tight fingers. It arched off the napkin dispenser and clattered to the table, scattering the butter packages and overturning the tiny pitcher of cream.
"Cries, you know?" I said, gazing up at her intently. "The grains of salt spilling from the holes on top represent my cries of war on these wolves. But!!!"
I raised a trembling fist.
"In their language, you see? I'm crying war on these wolves in their language, so they understand and are afraid."

Then I picked up the saltshaker and started smashing butter packages with it. When I'd killed them all, I turned my wrath on the cougars and snakes, as represented by packets of sugar and straws.

I became aware of screams at some point, then realized they were coming from me. My hand was no longer under my control, and when the cougars were dead, it sought out the jam.

Eventually law enforcement officials arrived on the scene and dropped me with tasers and clubs.

They took hold of my twitching legs and dragged me from the diner. As we passed the pretty waitress I noticed she was weeping; I foolishly thought over me.
"Don't be sad." I whispered up at her, through lips smeared with butter and blood. "I'm Latigo Flint, and I cry war on things that no one else would. Usually wolves, sometimes butter."

She kicked me in the jaw and let the door hit my neck.
"Hey," one cop said. "I thought you were holding that."
"It slipped--rough him up twice for me." She replied. And though it's against policy and rules, they cheerfully obliged.

(I cried war on wolves today and don't quite remember why. I think I loved her but can't be sure. The butter had it coming though--I'll tell you that right now.)

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Crenshaw Burnaby, U.S. Marshal

"Who would murder a coat check girl? Answer that and you've solved the case."

Marshal Crenshaw Burnaby came to Chicago in the winter of 1962. He'd been dispatched from headquarters to help the local police solve the mystery of who was murdering coat check girls and dumping their bodies in the snow.

"I ask you again." Crenshaw Burnaby paced up and down the wooden floor of the South Side precinct building. "Who would murder a coat check girl?"

"A nudist?" Rookie officer, Melvin Murphy ventured.

"Perhaps." Crenshaw replied. "Who else?"

"Someone with gum smeared on his collar." Jimmy O'Toole spoke up.

"Interesting. Explain."

"Well, it wasn't there when he handed it in and so he blames the coat check girl."

Crenshaw raised an approving eyebrow at Jimmy. "You've a sharp mind son. I bet you're a hell of a cop."

Jimmy blushed. Crenshaw resumed pacing.
"Come on men, keep 'em coming. We call this the brainstorming process."
No one spoke. They didn't think they could top Melvin and Jimmy's theories.

"Hey goddamn it!" Crenshaw's voice cut like a thunderclap. "You gonna quit at two?!"
Crenshaw grabbed the nearest man and slammed him against a wall.
"There's a villain out there murdering coat check girls and their innocent blood is on your hands."
Crenshaw drove his knee into the terrified cop's solar plexus.
"You're lead-less, theory-less, gutless and pale."
He released the quivering man and didn't watch as he slid to the floor. Crenshaw whirled on the rest of the officers, his lip curled in a snarl.
"Coat check girls are being murdered out there." He spat. "They need sturdy heroes and theories and brutal, righteous rage. But meanwhile you're in here braiding each other's hair and trading cookie recipes."
He took one step forward and two dozen cops shrank back as one.
"I've seen more ferocity on the spring-time pages of calendars, the ones where baby ducks cuddle in hay with fuzzy kittens."

Crenshaw drew his sidearm and emptied it into the ceiling.

"Now." He roared in the plaster dust silence. "Who would murder coat check girls? And keep the goddamn theories comin'."

"Drunken sailors!" Brian screamed.


"Circus folk!" Marcus hollered.

"Nice thinkin'. WHO ELSE BY THUNDER?!"

"A big meanie!" "The mob!" "Wombats!"
Three cops spoke at once. It was impossible to tell who said what. Crenshaw didn't seem to mind. He dropped to his knees and started dry-humping his rifle.
"Yes boys, yes! Let the purifying theories wash over our trembling minds. WHO?!!! Who else would kill the coat check girl?!!"

"Jealous bartenders!" "A guy named Steve!" "Wolves!" "Space aliens from the planet Tweed who think that she's a jailor!"

Crenshaw writhed orgasmicly and started tonguing shotgun shells.
"More boys more! We're gonna crack this case, I can feel it! Who would kill the coat check girl?!!!"

"Somebody's uncle!" "An armless man!" "A death platoon of beavers!"

"God I love you boys!" Crenshaw lurched to his feet and sprinted around the room, kissing the cops on the mouth.
"There's yet to be an unsolved case that couldn't benefit from a theory!!! So, more damn it more or I'll shoot you where you stand! Who would kill coat check girls?!!!"

"Dock workers!" "Sasquatch!" "Someone who doesn't like ticket stubs!" "Minorities!" "Johnny Unitas!" "Buttons the Psychopathic Clown!"

Crenshaw dropped his pants, spit in his hand and proceeded to clutch at himself.
"Oh boys, detective work!!! Don't it just make you wanna... WHO ELSE?!!!" He bellowed. "Who else would kill the coat check girl?"

"Vampires!" "Renegades!" "Someone who wasn't hugged enough!" "A Bengal tiger!" "Dwight Eisenhower!" "That guy right over there!!!"

Crenshaw Burnaby tuck-rolled and came up double-fisting shotguns. "Who said that?" He snarled. "Who said 'that guy right over there' and at whom was he pointing?"

Sergeant Freddy Sanderson stepped forward. "It was me, C-Crenshaw." He stammered. "That guy in the lobby--h-he just walked in."

"Look." Said the guy in the lobby. "I just wanted to report a bicycle theft, but if this is a bad time I can always--"

Crenshaw Burnaby raised his shotguns. "Instinct governs most successful police work."
"No Crenshaw, what are the odds?!!!" But Freddy's cry was swallowed up by the roar of Crenshaw's shotguns. And the guy in the lobby left a stain so severe that it had to be replastered and painted over.

"And now we wait." Crenshaw whispered as he sat cross-legged on the floor. "If no more coat check girls die then we've got our man."

And through some spectacular chance of fate, the man in lobby actually had been the killer. No more coat check girls died. And Crenshaw Burnaby returned to headquarters victorious and his legend ever-grew.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Character Plane (And So They Fall Beneath the Bludgeonry)

The emphasis is on the second syllable. "Gin." "Blud-GIN-ry." And we'd do well not to forget it.

From the archives - April 12, 2005:

A Character Plane (And So They Fall Beneath the Bludgeonry)

So Latigo Flint's relatively trusty sidekick, Kid Relish, has been significantly less trusty these past few weeks. No doubt about it, he's caught the celluloid fever, the cinema aspiration infection that runs so rampant in this wretched town, and it's starting to seriously detract from his sworn sidekickeral duties.

Today, Kid Relish shambled up to my doorway, hunched over a steno pad. I watched his furious scribbling with the bemused detachment of a squinty-eyed gunslinger. His pen hand slowed and he spoke.
"Latty, I'm sick and fuckin' tired of all these goddamn character arcs you see in movies. So I'm writing a movie with no character arc. It's about a guy who likes viciously beating down random passersby with his titanium pimpstick, so that's what he does. And one day he doesn't beat people with his titanium pimpstick, but not for any particular reason--he just doesn't do it that day. Then the next day he's right back to beating people with his titanium pimpstick."

It's impossible to ever be remotely prepared for anything Kid Relish says. The trick is to repeat part of his statement back to him while you're thinking of a response.
"Sick and fuckin' tired of the character arcs huh Kid? Well you know, um, change is kind of like a common thread, uh, running through the fabric of the universe and stuff. Um, so probably on, like, a subconscious level, people relate more to characters that go through some sort of transformation or something."

He lowered his steno pad and scowled at me.
"Peter Pan never grew up, he never changed and that's like the favorite story of all time and shit!"

I sighed; I was already tired of this conversation.
"Kid," I tried to explain. "Peter Pan fell in love for the first time with Wendy. Pan learned about mortality when Tink nearly died. Pan discovered the concepts of true friendship and sacrifice. Pan came to realize-"

Kid threw his pen and me and started kicking the wall.
"Pan never loved Wendy," Kid howled. "He was just pretending-"
He paused in mid kick, his eyebrows shooting toward his hairline.
"Why that's perfect, I'm a goddamn genius Latty--at some point the character in my movie will meet a girl who disapproves of his titanium pimpstick bludgeonry, so he'll pretend to change in order to have sex with her and then afterwards he'll go back to beating people same as before."

Kid paused to furiously scribble a note in his steno pad.
"That'll be my twist ending," he mumbled. "Like in the 'I See Dead People Movie'. The audience will think there's a character arc going on but then at the end they discover there wasn't any character arc at all."

There was no way I was continuing this inane discussion.
"Fine Kid, I see it now. Yeah, you're right, that's the best idea ever."
I reopened my newspaper. Kid Relish turned to leave but stopped and looked back over his shoulder.
"You know something Latty?"
I was struck by the tremble in his voice and stared at him in amazement.
"I just wanted to do something great you know." He whispered. "You're the quickest draw in the world. What have I got?"

The Kid's eyes glistened with emotion. I was astounded and sudden compassion for the guy surged through me.
"Oh God Kid, I had no id-" I halted abruptly, every cilium in my inner ear screaming "danger!" I slowly pointed at him.
"You're pretending right now aren't you Kid? Pretending to actually have a human emotion."
Standing, I could now see what appeared to be a lead pipe wrapped in aluminum foil tucked into his back pocket. Kid grinned wickedly.
"Keep moving forward to hug me Latty and I guess you'll find out."

I sat back down, disgusted at my foolishness.
"You may actually have what it takes to make it in this town Kid."

But Kid wasn't listening to me anymore.
"How amazing I am Latty, I just got the title: And So They Fall Beneath the Bludgeonry."
He glanced at me.
"Except it's pronounced with the emphasis on the 'gin', bluh-GIN-ry."

I could hear him saying it over and over to himself as he walked away: "bluh-GIN-ry, bluh-GIN-ry. And So They Fall Beneath the Bluh-GIN-ry."

And right then is when I started to fear for producer's lives, just a bit.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Guns of Autumn Moss

"The moss don’t know it's dead yet."

He couldn't have been more than seventeen, that Confederate soldier with his back to a rock and his guts spillin’ into his hands. He'd been slumped there when we took shelter in the ravine, cold and still, his face as gray as his uniform. And so it surprised us somethin' awful when he opened his eyes and spoke.

"It clings to the bark," He continued, his voice a ragged whisper. "Just as green as yesterday, but frost came last night and that moss is dead where it dangles and the next strong wind will prove it."

General Grant's Yankee gunners had us pinned down in some godforsaken corner of a Carolina swamp. Being a Tennessee Boy myself, high-blue-mountain born and raised, I couldn't quite seem to poke square the notion with my reckon stick as to how anyone would want to live in a festering marsh, much less fight for it. But my momma only birthed two types of sons: Fighters and quitters. And Pa done buried all the quitters beside the beechnut tree. So when Lincoln went an' riled the Southern Sons I grabbed up my gun and joined 'em.


The preceding was an excerpt from Latigo Flint's NY Times Best-Selling Civil War epic, The Guns of Autumn Moss.

They said it couldn't be done. They said it was impossible. They said sweeping historical novels about love, anguish and redemption set against the bloody backdrop of the American Civil War were over--that there weren't any more stories left. They added up all the books about the Civil War and the movies about the Civil War and plays about the Civil War and TV shows and TV-movies and radio programs and puppet shows and doodle-sketch flip-books and Internet video reenactments of the Battle of Gettysburg done entirely with Lego men... And the total came to one hundred and twenty-four thousand, six hundred and forty-two different Civil War stories.

Stories about the Yankees, stories about the Rebels. Stories told by women, stories told by slaves. Stories told by people who didn't care either way. Stories told from the point of view of the hound of a Confederate General whose mother was saved from drowning by the half-black daughter of a New York abolitionist.

Yeah, I may have made the last one up. But goddamn, you wouldn't bet your life on it would you?--not without checking first.

Anyway, they said there wasn't anything left to say--that you couldn't possibly tell another story about love, anguish and redemption set against the bloody backdrop of the American Civil War.

But then Latigo Flint went and wrote The Guns of Autumn Moss and triumphantly proved them wrong.

And how did Latigo Flint do it you ask? Shrewdly, deftly, beautifully. That's the answer. Latigo Flint wrote lines of dialog like:
"The moss don’t know it's dead yet."
And he pulled from a deep well of savage poignancy, lines like:
But my momma only birthed two types of sons: Fighters and quitters. And Pa done buried all the quitters beside the beechnut tree.

Oh yeah, and there was one other thing... love. A whispering love. A love that dare not speak its name.

For the two central characters in Latigo Flint's sweeping historical novel about love, anguish and redemption set against the bloody backdrop of the American Civil War... yep, they were gay lovers. One fighting for the North and the other for the South.

And I'm not so humble that I won't admit that it was a stroke of pure, unbridled genius. Why, the ink wasn't even dry on the pages of the first printing of The Guns of Autumn Moss, and already every single Critics Choice List was saving its top slot for it.

But now some people are trying to ban it. They're trying to ban The Guns of Autumn Moss. It's the epic-est, sweeping-est, historical-est novel about love, anguish and redemption set against the bloody backdrop of the American Civil War ever written and they're trying to ban it out of existence.

So if you visit your local bookshop and can't find a single copy of The Guns of Autumn Moss, then most likely they've already been there and have succeeded in banning it.

But that doesn't mean I didn't write it. That doesn't mean it never was.

And so I leave you now with another excerpt from The Guns of Autumn Moss.


Davy died screaming on the tip of a Yankee bayonet. I was on my way to save him but the hot, jagged teeth of blue coat canon fire tore my face apart. It delayed me a bit. Like canon fire does. I staggered to my feet but was too late to save Davy. I'd marched through a thousand miles of swampland with this man. We'd shared weevil-riddled rations. He'd cracked the jokes that kept me sane. We'd forged the bonds of friendship that are impossible to fathom until you've slept back-to-back in frozen mud, cold, bleeding and hungry.

I couldn't save Davy, but I sure as hell could avenge him. I spun his Yankee murderer around and raised my blade for the kill. And there beneath the navy brim of a sweaty Union Soldier's cap were the green eyes of Claudio--the boy I never thought I'd see again.

"Hello Johnny." Claudio whispered.
"Hello Claudio." I replied.

The battle raged all around us but it couldn't half-equal the war Claudio and I fought deep in each other's eyes.


The Guns of Autumn Moss -- a sweeping historical novel about love, anguish and redemption set against the bloody backdrop of the American Civil War.
-by Latigo Flint

Coming nowhere soon to a bookshop near you.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

In the Third Person

So it turns out that while people certainly find it a bit odd if you continually speak of yourself in the third person, they become positively unnerved if you refer to them in the third person as well... 'cause apparently that's the way psychopaths talk.

Evidence: The other day Latigo Flint was feeling a mite parched and decided to visit his local Starbucks.

"Let's see now." Latigo Flint mused at the drink board when it was his turn to order.
"Okay, Latigo Flint would like the Cute Starbucks Barista to know that he will have a Mocha Chip Frappuccino."

She stared at Latigo Flint warily.

"Did the Cute Starbucks Barista not hear what Latigo Flint said?"

Her eyes traveled the room, mentally cataloging the exits.

"Hey now," Latigo Flint assured. "The Cute Starbucks Barista doesn't have to be afraid of Latigo Flint. Latigo Flint would never hurt the Cute Starbucks Barista. Latigo Flint loves the Cute Starbucks Barista."

It wasn't so much terror on her face as it was just a general, all-around desire to be anyplace other than there.

Latigo Flint leaned over the counter and extended a comforting hand.

"I don't think the Cute Starbucks Barista fully understands," Latigo Flint whispered. "The lengths to which Latigo Flint is prepared to go to see her naked."

Crap. That came out all wrong.

Latigo Flint desperately tried to retract, reassemble and clarify but it was too late, she was screaming by then and you can't stop real screams once they start. Well, you can--there are ways, but they aren't very gentlemanly. Not very gentlemanly at all. And Latigo Flint is nothing if not a gentleman.

I guess some other stuff happened after that. Latigo Flint doesn't really remember. Something to do with a sneak attack, head trauma, incapacitation and liquid fire.

Security footage shows the Assistant Manager and several burly customers quietly removing the metal housing on the cappuccino machine and beating Latigo Flint senseless with it. Followed by them duct taping his arms to his sides, lighting cans of Sterno and pouring them down the front of his shirt.

But security footage can be doctored, what with CGI and whatnot. And I'm pretty sure I'd never wet myself in public. So I don't think that's how it went down at all.

(I don't think you fully understand the lengths I'm prepared to go to see you naked.

That's a good line. I don't care what anyone says--that's a good line right there.)

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Night We Fell

The worldwide votes have been tallied and I'm very proud to announce that it appears that The Night We Fell has just been awarded the title of most beautiful and moving short story ever written.

I want to thank everyone who made this possible. Chiefly me for actually writing it but also every writer ever born for failing to write a more beautiful and moving one.

From the archives - January 20, 2006:

The Night We Fell

The children ran with fire in the night, up and down the shore of the lake--tiny, giggling streaks of light. Molly and I sat on our deck in folding chairs, holding hands as we watched them play.

"From here," Molly said in her soft voice. "You almost forget they're children."
And it was magical that she'd said that just then, because I'd been thinking the very same thing.
"They could be angels for all we know." Molly continued. "Or some new, amazing species of bird."
(Well okay, maybe we hadn't been thinking the exact same thing--I'd been thinking something more like Angry Villagers, but close enough for love and stuff.)

Molly rubbed my knuckles with her thumb and I knew she was happy.
"Know what I mean?"
I shrugged. She couldn't see it in the dark but the rustle of my shirt gave it away and I'd done it enough times over the years for her to catch the move. She laughed lightly.
"You know what I mean--you just think it's manly to pretend not to."
I dismissed that statement with a very grumpy snort but met her thumb with the tip of my own so she'd always know I cared.

"Let's join them Molly." I proposed after some time had passed. "I think there's some sparklers in the shed. Let's light those sparklers and run crazy in the night."

Her hand went rigid in mine and I knew I'd said something wrong. A moment later I remembered she had no legs--which was just a truly absurd thing to forget. I mean, for Pete's Sake, in half our wedding pictures you can see the stack of apple crates she'd been placed upon to bring our eyes at least close to level.
Senility's a real fuck in the mind sometimes.

"I'm sorry Molly." I whispered. "I keep forgetting you have no legs."
"I know you do." She replied. "It's one of the reasons I love you."
I sat up abruptly, a wild grin spreading across my craggy face. "We're doing it anyway." And I tottered off to get the sparklers.

It had been years since I'd lifted her but I put that from my mind. I had already fetched the sparklers by then, which was easily thirty steps and back, and at my age you don't ever want to waste perfectly good strides.

We were halfway to the lake when the stroke hit. I dropped as if shot but managed to safely cradle Molly as we fell. I'd have probably minded the pine cones digging into my spine a lot more if I could have actually felt my spine.
"Run for help Molly." I managed to groan. "I think it's the big one now."
A second later I had to laugh at myself, though it came out as more of a whimper.
"God, I'm such an idiot."
She dragged herself over, propped her elbows on my chest and kissed me for a very long time.
"Yes, you are." She replied. "But in the very best way."

And a man can't do better than that. And even if he could--why on earth would he want to?

The children ran with fire in the night--tiny giggling streaks of light. We could see them from where we'd fell. Molly held me as I died.
"How Molly?" I whispered. "How will you make it back the road?"
"Don't worry my dear." She softly replied. "Maybe I'll crawl. Maybe I'll roll."

Friday, November 03, 2006

All About Caves

Contrary to popular belief, most caves don't have any treasure hidden in them. Unless of course you consider one of the earth's more subtle and magnificent ecosystems to be treasure enough in itself.

But then, that would make you a granola-munching geologist who's never known a day of real work in his life and won't as long as his grant is renewed, wouldn't it?


Chip Bannon, the smug tour guide for the National Park Service, never has any trouble remembering which are the stalactites and which are the stalagmites. This is mostly because he's smarter than you, but partially because he knows a handy little memory trick that he's more than happy to share:
Stalactites have to hold on tight to the ceiling.
Stalagmites might grow up big and tall if they eat healthy and remember to take their vitamins and minerals.

The latter being extra clever, as Chip hastens to point out, since they form from the calcified drips of mineral-rich water.

Well, what Chip Bannon doesn't know is that for the last few minutes I've been mentally killing him in just about every horrifically gruesome way imaginable involving stalactites and mites. And that if he reminds us one more time that cave ecosystems are very fragile and we must stay on the designated path, taking only pictures and leaving only footprints, then I'm gonna beat him to death with his helmet lamp and feed him to the cave slugs.


Contrary to popular belief, cave slugs don't attack unless provoked. And rarely grow much longer than a foot or two.

(You're thinking of the Paraguayan Devil Worm.)


When Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher's last candle burned out after they became hopelessly lost in McDougall's Cave, Tom Sawyer found Becky's lips in the darkness, kissed them tenderly and told her everything was going to be all right.

Which is quite lovely.

Well, when I clicked off my flashlight and tried to kiss the woman next to me as our group gathered on the bank of some boring underground river that Chip claimed was a geologic masterpiece, she broke my nose with a cave rock and then Chip was furious because apparently that cave rock took something like a billion years to form... and now it had my blood on it.


Contrary to popular belief, farts do echo in caves.

Quite resoundingly in fact.


There are many types of caves. Two main ones are Volcanic Caves, formed by lava flows through rock, and Solutional Caves in which water erosion through softer (soluble) rock produces the passages and chambers. Limestone caves are a common example of solutional caves.

Chip Bannon claims there's no such thing as a Wizard Cave--that twisting maze of scorched granite, blasted deep into shear cliff walls by the lightning-tipped staffs of levitating wizards. But Chip Bannon is an asshole and a liar.


Contrary to popular belief, caves aren't scary to walk through alone. Well, not all of them. Okay, most are but there are a few that aren't.

Okay, fine, even those are pretty spooky.


Chip Bannon will always politely thank everybody who paid the four dollars to take the National Park Service's crappy tour through the smelly cave, but he becomes significantly less-than-cordial if he discovers your pockets are stuffed with endangered cave newt carcasses.


Contrary to popular belief, your dead relatives can still see you if you touch yourself in a cave.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Song of the Wereotter: Warrior of Justice, Protector of the Innocent

Life has this nasty habit of taking your every little failure, coating it with meat sauce and slapping it on your back, where it dangles like a festering squid until enough of them accumulate, and with a pitiful cry, you tumble into a ravine, where you thrash limply for a while until sand wolves come and tear out your spine.

I've seen it happen to others. I could smell it happening to me.

Well, I certainly wasn't about to sit idly by as life and my failures conspired to render me pitiful. No, it was time for some causative action. After reviewing all my many options, I decided to go insane.

And so then the next thing I know I'm an otter that can talk and my sidekick is a tarantula spider named Ernesto. And we're standing on a hilltop with the evening wind in our fur, watching clouds turn from purple to black as the sun slips behind Andean spires.

"Where am I?" I asked the spider.
"On a hilltop." Ernesto replied.
"Of course, silly question."

I stared at my paws.

"What am I?" I asked the spider.
"You're an otter." He replied.
"But a moment ago I was a man."

He crawled up on a rock and placed his long, segmented legs on my furry shoulder.
"You're The Wereotter." He solemnly blinked all eight eyes. "The Shamans said you would come."

Wow. That was a lot to process. After a long pause I asked Ernesto what it meant to be a wereotter.
"Not a wereotter," He replied. "The Wereotter."
"Well, what does it mean to be The Wereotter?"

He smiled and gestured to the horizon with one of his hairy legs.

"With me at your side you shall travel this world, seeking and combating evil. For you are The Wereotter: Warrior of Justice, Protector of the Innocent."

And it is so very difficult to imagine the powerful, singular feeling of pride that surges moist and hot and alive from places deep within, unless you yourself have been recently informed that you are a Warrior of Justice, Protector of the Innocent.

"Oh God yes!" I cried. "That just feels so right. Let's definitely be that. Let's definitely be warriors of justice and protect the innocent."

Ernesto knuckled a tear from eyes number two, seven and four. "And so you truly are The Wereotter." He whispered.

"Oh hell yeah." I had never felt surer of anything. "So what's the plan Ernesto?"

"Well," Ernesto replied. "The plan is--we travel the land until we come to a place where evil people are doing evil things. Then we hide in ferns until they walk by and then we jump out and bite the shit out of them."

And so that's what we did. And we had many, many adventures. And we frequently danced with grateful villagers at festivals of joy thrown in our honor near the town square fountains. And pretty girls jostled each other to dance with Ernesto and me.


And do I shapeshift back into a man from time to time? Sadly I do. I’m The Wereotter yes, but the otter is not my only form.

And so sometimes I wake up tangled in saline sheets, screaming for the forest.
"Ernesto!" I sob. "I'm a man again, not a Warrior of Justice anymore."

I staple live flies to my chest by their wings and beg for the spider to come.
"Please Ernesto, help me change. I want to matter some more. I want to be The Wereotter forever!"

And in the darkness an itch draws my hand to the red welts that dot my flesh.
"Ernesto, is that you?"

And then suddenly my hand is a paw again and I'm standing on a hilltop with the evening wind in my fur.

"You came back for me Ernesto."

"Of course I did my mighty friend." The spider replies. "You are The Wereotter."

And so I am. And so I am.

The End