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IS SUPERMAN DEAD? - PART ONE (THIS STARTED OFF A SHORT STORY - AMSTERDAM BLUES)

Book By: batfish
Mystery and crime



Death seems to Ziggy to be the only option left in his worthless life. He's been kicked out the Navy, served time in the brig, lost his job, and worst of all, lost his woman. Then in the middle of a suicide attempt in his beat up trailer in the California desert, he is rescued by a crippled up ex-hit man who just may give Ziggy a new shot at life.


Submitted:Mar 17, 2012    Reads: 10    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


Copyright © 2009 by Scott L. Anderson

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U. S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, stored in a database or retrieval system, without the written permission of the publisher.

This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass!

Walter Sobchak (The Big Lebowski)

SUMMER OF 1995

WHO KILLED SUPERMAN?

The cable was finally hooked up again - he'd been three months behind on the payments and they had shut his service down - and Superman, the one he loved when he was a kid, was flying around on the tube as some old school badass gangsters in suits and Fedoras peppered him with bullets. You could hardly see the television through the cloud of smoke hanging in the dingy apartment, the cable technician had been bribed with all the beer he could drink and all the hits he could handle off the hookah to hook up HBO and Showtime for free. Fucker had had a hard time getting out the goddamn door he was so toasted. Hanus plopped his Volkswagen wide-ass down on his beaten up old couch, fired up a Pall Mall, and popped another can of Grain Belt open.

Hanus Miller was a very happy, happy man. He had cable, weed, he had beer, he had more cash in his pocket that he had ever had in life, and very soon he would have some blow. Not that stepped on with baby laxative shit either. No fucking way, Jose! He was going all the way today and from now on for that matter. He was scoring some ice cold pharmaceutical blow, straight from the source, gonna be like snorting ice crystals.

And then would come that pussy. Once he scored the cola and got rid of the old man he'd give Donna a call and get her big ass over so they could snort some lines off her big jugs and he could get down on that trim. He was gonna tear that big momma up. Make her cry in the pillow. Donna was big - damn near as big as Hanus, and he weighed close to three bills, but she sure could get in on! He had met her during his last stretch in the joint. She had been a contract cook on the side of the prison where they kept the retards - folks on the street don't realize that they keep retards in prison - think that they're all those cute Down's Syndrome kids, like the one that even had his own television series, wouldn't hurt a fly -when in fact the local state prison had a whole unit of them, mostly child molesters but they were even a few murderers in there. Hanus had been assigned to work the kitchen since he had acquired short order grill skills from working at the local Burger King and the White Castle up in St. Paul between his prison sentences. Donna hated the retards - "the droolers" is what she called them - and showed Hanus her contempt for them one day by demonstrating how she often prepared their burger patties - pressing them flat with her bare and unshaven armpits. Hanus had one upped her by dropping his trousers and squeezing the hamburgers with the cheeks of his ample and unwashed buttocks. One thing led to another, and soon the new couple had romantically screwed standing up in the cold storage area. This routine went for months until Donna was immediately fired when she was caught beating Hanus off with a handful of Crisco behind the potato bins, but they hooked up again soon after had been released.

Criminal mastermind - Al Capone or Pretty Boy Floyd for example - was not what came to mind when one thought of Hanus Eugene Miller III, although he thought of himself as some sort of a gangster with his baggy shorts hanging past his knees, his dirty underwear sticking up out of the back, his Tupac t-shirt, and his ball cap turned sideways on his head even though Hanus was a born cracker and in his forties.

He had been busted - first time at the tender age of seventeen - and had done time up the ladder, from reform school to county to the penitentiary - even one plea bargained stint in the federal slammer - for nearly every goddamn every crime he had committed, mostly boosting cars, petty theft, marijuana dealing, and burglary. But a lame ass and trumped up - Hanus had felt - charge of looking out the window of his apartment at a couple of high school girls and giving them a wolf whistle while not wearing either pants or underwear - when he had gotten turned all sideways one steamy summer afternoon on a potent combination of cheap gin and dynamite blotter acid - had earned him his most recent two year jolt, this time in the state's security prison hospital for the criminally insane, only fifteen miles down the road as the crow flies.

That had been a hard bit to take. Locked down with all of Minnesota's worst child molesters, rapists, jack off artists, nuts that screwed farm animals, and guys who fell in love with women's shoes and underwear. Parole no longer being an option for him because of his record he had been forced to do his whole sentence. After he was released he'd been forced to register as a sex offender - shit, he couldn't walk fifty yards from within a school district now or his ass was back in stir. But that was six months ago. Times had been rough for a spell but that was then and this was now.

Because just four short days ago, everything had changed for old Hanus, and all for the better for once in his shitty life. While cruising through a quiet downtown Northfield in his battered Chevy Nova, high on Dilaudid and three cans of Crazy Horse malt liquor, and with just change in his pocket, Hanus saw a vision sent straight from God. On the sidewalk in front of the Northfield Bank were two ancient - in their sixties easy - old guards struggling to load bags of cash onto a dolly. Glancing quickly in his rearview mirror, Hanus could see the driver of the armored car reading a newspaper. Without thinking (as always, since he tended not to think any of his capers out too much in advance, hence his numerous times in the slammer) Hanus took a sharp right, whipped around the block to the other side and parked in a loading zone. Quickly he jammed a Minnesota Viking stocking cap halfway down his face as he pulled his aluminum baseball bat out of the back seat, and with the motor still running, had tore ass around the corner and charged towards and then upon the unsuspecting guards (although Hanus was quite portly, he was surprisingly nimble and fleet of foot) from the blind side of the armored car. Neither of the geezers had noticed him until he was right up on top on them. Two vicious swings - Hanus hit one of the poor old bastards so fucking hard that a dental plate was found on the other side of the street - left two bloodied and unconscious guards, one in a state of seizure - laying on the sidewalk and Hanus sprinting back up the sidewalk with two huge bags of cash that were so awkward and bulky he could hardly handle them along with his baseball bat.

The sequel to the Great Minnesota Northfield raid by the James Boys it wasn't, but it had worked so that's all the fuck it mattered. Hanus was running up the stairs of his apartment that was built on top of an abandoned warehouse just outside of Faribault, ten miles away, almost before the second cop car had gotten to the bank. 130 large richer! In large unmarked bills! Luckily for Hanus there hadn't been a dye pack inside either of the bags since he had tore them both open before he had given it a thought.

Straight up at eight o'clock he could feel the stairs shaking as someone slowly climbed up them. The old man walked in without knocking and glanced over at the TV. As always he was wearing his Bogart style trench coat - Jesus Christ! It was the middle of the summer - but he came off looking more like a combination of Hunter S. Thompson and William Burroughs instead of Humphrey. Hanus knew all about old movie actors and writers from all the time he had spent locked down - Hanus himself, contrary to popular local belief, was not a complete idiot, he had tested out many times in many institutions with way above normal intelligence scores - even though his tastes both inside and out of the joint ran more towards Bugs Bunny cartoons, comic books, and stroke magazines. The old man pulled out a tissue and started hacking as he doubled over - Mother of God, he looked rough! Like he didn't have many days left on the calendar - and then straightened back up and spit a bright red oyster into the tissue. He tossed the tissue on to the floor without seeming to give a shit what Hanus thought and then turned back to the television.

"Superman! Shit, I haven't seen that in years. Did you know someone whacked him? Blew his fucking brains out, they found his ass buck naked in his bedroom. Never figured out if it was murder or suicide, but he liked to fuck other guy's wives so I'd bet on the murder angle."

"Hey! Could you pick up that tissue? That's fucking nasty, dude!

The old guy gave a wheezy snort. "Fuck you and the horse you rode in on you fat bastard! Look at this place, it looks and smells like someplace a street vagrant wouldn't take a crap in so give me a fucking break with your housekeeping tips! Now I asked you a question. Did you know that someone murdered Superman?

The old son of bitch had always been crazy and seemed to be getting crazier the older and sicker he got. "Superman never died. Plus, you couldn't kill him with a gun. Only Kryptonite could kill Superman."

"Not Superman, you ignorant turd. The guy that played him, George Reeves was his name. Someone whacked his ass!"

"I thought that dude killed himself by jumpin' off a building cause he thought he really was Superman."

"Nope, that's just a rumor, just your typical Hollywood generated horseshit. Keep the morons like you who buy the tickets to their movies interested. Anyway, I don't have a lot of time. You said on the phone you want as much as I got? Well, you've got shit for brains if you think I'm fronting you as much as a line without some cold hard jack up front and on the barrelhead."

Hanus belched loudly and grinned. "You got it all wrong, Doc. I need as much as you can scrape up. And I've got the cash."

The dealer gave Hanus one of those strange looks he always seemed to give him when he thought he was laying on a line of bullshit and then he turned slowly as he took in the rest of the room. The cable on the new TV, the big bag of weed on the album cover that was lying on the coffee table, kitchen counter loaded with junk food and candy, it all seemed to be strangely out of place by the inquisitive look on his weathered face as he took it all in. He looked back to Hanus and gave an evil grin, like all of it had suddenly registered in his mind. That he had put two and two together and it equaled Hanus having a lot of explaining to do.

"It was you, wasn't it, Hanus?'

"What the hell are you talking about you old fool?"

"Don't bullshit me, boy! What happened in Northfield, you fit the score like a goddamn glove. It's been all over the news. You're just lucky I got to you before the heat does so I can help you out. Your ass is smoking hot, you're lucky that Minnesota doesn't have the death sentence. You could at least have the sense to hide your car somewhere. The damn thing is parked right outside."

Hanus threw a look of disdain as he tried not to squirm around on the couch. He gave the old man what he thought passed as an innocent look. "What?" He tossed his hands up in the air like he had no fucking idea what the old bastard was talking about. "I have absolutely no fucking idea what you're babbling about. I haven't left the apartment in two goddamn days."

"I imagine you haven't been watching the news in the last couple of days. There was a big bank robbery in Northfield, one of the guards is dead, that other poor old son of a bitch one might as well be. They think he's going to be a vegetable. Someone's dear old grandfathers, Christmas just won't be the same in their houses. Jesus Christ, you're high class, Hanus. You're looking at life in Stillwater this time but then again mostly likely this time it'll be Oak Park Heights. Super-Max time, baby! Locked down twenty, twenty-two hours a day, maybe an hour to shower and recreate if you're lucky. But you probably don't want to do too much of that as I recall there are some gentleman of the dark persuasion who wouldn't mind seeing you back out on the yard for a minute or two. "

"I don't know what in the hell you're talking about, dawg. You got the blow or not? If you don't, you're just wasting my motherfucking time!" Hanus shouted out with indignation (he hoped it appeared that way) as he fired up another smoke. His guts were starting to squirm, felt like he had a case of watery shits coming on. The old man had always been able to read him all these years, even as a little boy. He was right though, there were some guys that wanted to see Hanus back on the yard, actually quite a few, especially those members of the Minneapolis Crips that he had burned a number of years ago on a bum drug deal in Stillwater penitentiary. Crystal meth laced with talcum powder, actually it had been more talcum powder than crystal meth, but so fucking what, that didn't matter anymore, the cops didn't know squat. If they did, he'd be down in county right now waiting for his court appointed suit to show up. He focused his gaze on the TV, avoiding those eyes. Old son of a bitch had eyes like a coyote, predator eyes.

"Don't you ever talk to me like that again you fat son of bitch!" The old coke dealer reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a piece, an old military issued Colt .45 - Hanus instantly recognized the make and model from his numerous viewings of the Platoon video that he had never returned to the video store. He slowly raised his arm and aimed it at Hanus's chest. "Now tell me what happened in Northfield and remember if you lie to me again you're fucking dead you piece of shit!"

Hanus took a confused deep breath and shot his hands straight up in the air as if he was the victim of a robbery himself. "Hey man! Put that fucking thing down! Chill! Just fucking chill! What the hell is wrong with you? I just want some blow! That's it!"

The old man hawked up another bloody lunger and spat it down on to the floor. "This is your last chance, asshole!" Did you or did you not rob that fucking armored car outside the bank in Northfield?" The words came out slowly. Hanus could see the old man's teeth were covered in blood and phlegm.

A trickle of sweat ran down from his greasy hair and down across his face as he nodded his head slowly. He had to be real steady here. This was a real dangerous situation. One wrong answer and Hanus knew that he'd be soon seeing his departed grandparents and dead baby sister as he was drawn up into the light. Hopefully it would be the light when his time came (just hopefully not now) and not the other option of roasting like a chicken in hell for all eternity. Strangely, even though Hanus had spent the majority of his life as a two bit criminal who was concerned about satisfying only his most basic instincts - eating, sleeping, fornicating, and getting loaded - along with his grandparents he had gone to both bible and Sunday school as a youngster and still embraced old time religious values, even attending chapel services when he was locked down.

"Yes. I robbed the armored car. I was planning on telling you but things just got a little weird here. I kind of forgot."

The old man smiled and nodded his head. "Yes, you forgot, I understand that now, you forgot. How could I be so fucking stupid? And I forgot what a moron I was dealing with here. Now Hanus, I want you to listen closely to me. This is very, very important. Listen to my questions carefully because your life depends on how you answer them. Does anyone else know about this?"

"No."

"Was anyone else involved?"

"No."

The old man looked doubtful. "I think you're lying. I can't imagine a dumb fuck like you pulling this off and not fucking it up somehow, someway. It's damn near impossible. You're damn near a retard. I always thought you were locked up in the wrong side of the prison."

Hanus swallowed dryly. "I swear to sunny baby Jesus, sir! I did it all myself."

"How about the cable company man? I watched him when he left here. He seemed pretty loaded. Did you two get stoned together and then you bumped your fucking gums to him? Bragged about what a badass you are. So when he sobers up the first thing he does is call 911 and catches a big fat reward?"

"Not a word." Like a child, Hanus made a twisting of the key motion in front of his mouth and pantomimed a throwing away of the key. Why the hell did he do that?

"Does that fat bitch short order cook that you've been fucking know about this? Now she has to. Come on! A little pillow talk you two had when you were snuggling up together all cozy after some hot bone dancing?"

"No, I swear. Donna doesn't know a thing about it."

"Maybe after I leave here I'll pay her a little visit and see what her side of the story is. Maybe I'll hook those big fat tits of hers up to a car battery and see what she knows."

"Donna doesn't know a thing. Please don't hurt her." He could care less about Donna at this point; he just thought it sounded gallant for some asinine reason. Like something a guy would say in the movies.

The old man spread his legs and steadied his feet and then brought his free hand up to the Colt to steady his aim. Hanus nervously watched the old man squint his eye down the pistol sight as he centered it down on his ample midsection.

"Wait! Can't I explain? I was going to cut you in, I swear."

"You've been on borrowed time for quite a while, Hanus. I should have done this twenty years ago after what you did, you fucking snitch!"

Tears were now mixing with the sweat on his face. "I know, sir. You've always been good to me. Like family all these years. And you know I'm sorry about what happened and I wish it had never happened, but it did. But I couldn't do all that time. Hey! I know what! Just take the money and split it with him. Take all of it. I don't want it anymore. Make up for things, you know, kind of a peace offering. You know I tried to call and warn him about what was going down bu..."

There was just one shot, right in the middle of Hanus's chest. The noise was deafening, the slug ripping straight through his body and into the couch. Bits of stuffing were floating in the air. Hanus sat there whimpering softly, first staring at the old man in disbelief and then staring down stupidly at the bloody hole in his chest, before slowly looking back to the television with empty eyes. "I think I shit my pants, mommy. Please don't spank me," he whispered.

"First time I've heard that one," laughed the old man as he bent over and picked up the spent shell casing and slipped it into his pocket. He wished he had time to find the slug itself but he just didn't have the time and wasn't really that worried about it anyway. He found what he was looking for in a knapsack underneath the filthy single bed in the corner. Walking over to the gas stove, he blew out all the pilot lights on the burners and lit the candle on top of the television.

As he walked out the door, Superman was standing with his hands on his hips, facing his attackers, watching the bullets bounce off his chest.

The explosion that came about twenty minutes later blew out windows in farmhouses a quarter of a mile away.

EARLY 1974

A SMUGGLER IS BORN

I was eye-balling a box of a dozen Trojans (lubricated with the reservoir tip), not for my personal use mind you since I was having a hard time getting laid in that one horse town, but I had a rather lucrative business going on at my high school dealing the contraceptive devices to the lucky bastards who were getting some. I sold the rubbers at a buck a pop which in those days was pretty good cash money since you could still buy a pack of smokes for about fifty cents and a bottle of MD 20/20 or Boone's Farm went for just over a dollar and some change. This was had become my only source of outside income after my small pot dealing operation had been forced to shut down after my childhood buddy Gene, who was my source for pot, had been busted breaking into the high school and shipped off to the state reformatory school in Red Wing for six months, he was even going to miss graduating with our class in the spring.

The obnoxious shout of "Hey! Get your ass over here" quickly foiled my planned heist since the loudmouth was my Dad who I had caught a ride to the store with. He was there for I believe to buy either laxatives or Preparation H and was standing with some flunky buddy of his - men seemed to pop in and out of our house at all hours on some sort of "business" whenever the old man was home which was not often - most likely a fellow state employee or a local farmer that he was so enthralled with. My Dad had grown up on a farm but had never been able to get the dirt from underneath his nails, even after he graduated from two different colleges. He loved all farmers, thought they were all salt of the earth, even though some of the sons of bitches for all he knew could have a graveyard of mutilated dead kids buried in their barns.

"Take a look at this!" The old man shoved a piece of paper into my hands. "Orin here has a son over in Viet Nam and he just got this letter from him." I looked down at the letter I was holding, it was damn hard to read since about half of it had been blacked out with a magic marker.

"Goddamn government is censoring the mail coming out that God forsaken place, can you believe that? Our government is censoring our own boys. He's in the Air Force over there. Works in the intelligence field. You should think about doing some like that after you graduate instead of sitting up in your room all night listening to those long haired faggot Beatles." My father was so out of touch with music and the outside world in general that he thought the Beatles were still together. Actually I had always been more of a Doors and Led Zeppelin follower although some of the Beatles stuff had been pretty good after they had started dropping LSD.

The old man babbled on but I was having a hard time listening to him because Orin's son had also included with the letter a photo of himself (who looked like he could be a borderline dimwit - the shitbird looked like Howdy Doody with a bad haircut) sitting at a bar with a beautiful Asian chick with nipples as hard as erasers sticking through her halter top - I didn't know that Asian broads could have big hooters like this chick did. The parts of his letter that weren't censored were peppered with words like "pussy," "blowjobs," and "hot oily backdoor action (huh?)."

I had never given the military any thought with the war and all going on, but shit, lately it sounded like on the news that it was going to be wrapping up pretty soon anyway. But the letter swayed my thinking a bit and it wasn't just the photo of the bar whore although I'll admit that had a hand in it, getting steady beaver would be nice. But if I joined something like the Navy I could go to all those kickass ports - which is were all the good weed comes from. Thai stick. Kona Bud. Acapulco Gold. Good pot is supposed to be dirt cheap over there in those spots, literally grows like weeds in those tropical climates. The only smoke that ever got this far north to here in southern Minnesota was that goddamn Mexican ditch weed shit - seeds and stems - and more often than not gave you a fucking headache after you smoked it.

Man, now that's an idea. Gene would be home by then if he didn't fuck up and not get his early release and I could just mail it home to him. We could sell it at triple the cost here in this shit hole. The people at the post office never check the mail when it's coming in, who would have time to go through all those packages? Get the business going again only on a much bigger level this time. We could make some serious cash in four years. Hell yes!

There would be an added advantage of getting the hell out of Dad's house. Ever since Mom had departed us forever by overdosing on prescription tranquilizers and Coca Cola and vodka it hadn't been much fun even though the old bastard was on the road four days a week with his job and I was almost totally unsupervised those days. It wasn't worth it because Friday through Monday morning was the shits with him. Dear old Dad was a contract dentist with the state of Minnesota. He toured the state every week hitting every prison, group home, and mental institution to render top notch dental service to the dregs of the state. Dad had a thing for top shelf scotch and stray easy women and he hit both hard on those four days - he had whores lined up from Austin to Duluth - and he wasn't big on spending his down time with me. The son of a bitch had once beaten me almost half to death with a wooden cane when I idiotically wondered aloud (under the influence of some of that previously mentioned Mexican pot) if his behavior on the road had something to do with my mother's demise - granted I hadn't really been on good relations with her either but she was the only Mom I had had.

Plus, thinking back to that picture again, there would be all that hot snatch in those ports as a bonus. There's sure no women around here that look like that chick that old Orin's dimwit son was nailing. Even if he was paying for it.

There weren't any brass bands playing to send me off to Navy boot camp about five months later. The old man dropped me off at the Greyhound station and told me to be careful that I didn't "get ass raped in the showers." I walked on to the bus and sat down in my seat and looked out the window at my Father lighting probably his sixtieth cigarette of the day, hopefully this would be the last day that I ever saw him. When he looked up at me I flipped him the bird and mouthed the words "you killed my Mother, asshole," very slowly so that he could read my lips.

He grinned up at me, flicked his smoke so that it hit the glass directly in front of my face, and then turned and walked towards his car.

NEW YEARS 1996

AN ABORTED SUICIDE IN THE DESERT

I couldn't even kill myself without fucking it up.

Quaaludes are a tricky drug to attempt the big sleep with as I was soon to discover. I had popped five of the damn things and had washed them down with a six pack of a real fucking expensive imported India Pale Ale - why should I give a shit how much it cost I figured since I was going to be dead soon anyway? What I had misjudged in my soon to be aborted suicide attempt was that three or four of those damn 'ludes were either bootlegs or were just old or spoiled or whatever the fuck happens with drugs when they aren't stored properly. I was leaning towards them being bootlegs since my desert rat drug dealer - his Christian name was Horace but he went by Big Buck - was well known in the Barstow area for ripping people off. Most people didn't complain though since he weighed close to four hundred pounds, was in the Aryan Brotherhood, carried a big .44 magnum and several knives, and previous people who either had the nuts or were just plain fucking stupid enough to give him grief about the quality of his goods had had their faces ground down in the hot cement leaving a road rash that they could look at in the mirror as a reminder of their ignorance for the next several months. Even I didn't really have much room to bitch about the quality of the 'ludes since I was deep into hock to him.

But a six pack of good beer, even one just semi-good Quaalude, and a shit box aluminum trailer sitting in the Barstow, California desert sun with no air conditioning (the window unit had gone tits up several days past) are more that adequate to put a lad into a deep coma even though the patient had a previous drug and alcohol past that could rival John Belushi. I just wasn't going to die my sub-consciousness was whispering to me.

So there I lay - Robert Zigstrom, Jr., AKA "Ziggy" - out like a fucking light, spread-eagled out on my sweat soaked mattress, naked as the day I was born, having had one hundred percent intent of killing myself with a combination of booze and a fistful of heavy industrial narcotics, and I wasn't going to die. I was out, down and out; there is no doubt about that. I couldn't have been more unconscious if Mike Tyson himself had stormed into my trailer, enraged that I had been humping his wife or girlfriend, and had unloaded a wicked right uppercut to my prominent jaw. But I was not going to die. I would just be sleeping it off and probably waking up sometime the next afternoon. I was not going to die! What a fuck up I truly am - my mother was successful at killing herself and I'm not sure she even meant to do it or not.

Not comes the embarrassing part. I was having a vivid erotic dream most likely spurred on by the combo of the booze and the one working 'lude and the heat that was baking my brain. I had been dreaming about Lita again. It seemed like I dreamt about her every night. Ziggy and Lita. We were going to be together forever. I thought anyway, living in our little desert trailer in Barstow for just a while, with me tending bar, dealing some smoke, and jamming with my band, waiting for the big time to finally call, and Lita working as an exotic dancer which was a job that seemed to come natural to her since she had been conceived in Amsterdam, the daughter of a red light district prostitute with slipshod birth control practices. Her father was a bible thumping American army officer - who had a wife back stateside and they took custody of Lita after the officer convinced his wife they needed to "adopt this little angel he had stumbled upon." Lita's biological mother had a real don't give a shit attitude about the whole damn thing since having a baby just wasn't good business practice for a career sex trade employee.

But I'm digressing here. In the dream we were out in the desert, totally naked, our bronze, tan bodies soaked in sweat, and Lita was bent over the hood of my old Jeep - her big yet shapely knockers flattened out across the hot metal - and I was giving it to her like a jackrabbit from behind. This wasn't actually a dream since we had really done this more than once when we were together, once when we were both on peyote which was really wild. But now, here in the trailer, I was in the weird state of being half in the dream and half conscious because I vaguely remember that I was sporting a painful erection and was stroking it wildly…when the bucket of ice cold water hit me in the face.

"Drop your cock and grab your socks, you fucking pervert!"

I suddenly had the horrible feeling of drowning or being water boarded. Choking and sputtering out snot, I sat halfway up and saw a very tan, very lean, and very tall older man looking at me with a look of both amusement and curiosity - he was standing above me and holding a plastic bucket. The trailer was literally as hot as the Devil's ball sack and I thought momentarily that I had been successful in my suicide attempt and had passed into the afterlife and was now residing in Hell and old Beelzebub himself was standing over me, but then the room started spinning and everything got real fuzzy as my eyes rolled back up into my head and I blacked back out.

"Oh no, you don't!"

I didn't have time to get back to humping Lita out the desert. The water hit me on the back of the head this time around but this time I also had the unpleasant feeling of having a drum stick being shoved down my throat which was what was really happening. The man who had invaded my trailer had me by the back of the neck and was holding my head - face down - over the side of the mattress, as he shoved one of the drum sticks of former Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle (a souvenir of a concert in Honolulu) deep down into to my throat. He jumped back quickly as I wretched and projectile puked the India Pale Ale and both the real and fake Quaaludes onto the floor.

Another bucket of cold water hit my face. "All right, goddamn it, enough's enough! Jesus Christ!" I yelled out.

"Sorry about that. But that last time you passed out it looked like you might not be coming back. By the looks of that barf I think I was right. Looks like pills and booze. Not a good mixture, did you know that's what killed Marilyn Monroe?"

I pushed myself into a sitting position and wiped my mouth with a sweaty sheet. "Who in the hell are you?"

"I'm a friend of your father." He threw the bucket into a corner and leaned against my dresser. Reaching into his front pocket he pulled out a chrome cigar holder and took out a large stogie. As he dug into the front pocket of his jeans for his Zippo I noticed that his fingers were curled up like claws. He noticed me looking as he lit the cigar.

"Dupuytren's disease, it's a disease you can get if you have Viking blood in you. It won't kill you it just grows these cords in your hands and cripples you up."

This was getting too fucking weird to handle. First I think I'm killing myself, then I'm screwing Lita out in the desert, then I'm visiting Hades, and then some friend of my father's - who by the way I have not seen in almost twenty years - with crippled up hands from some goddamn Viking disease is shoving a drum stick down my throat after he throws a bucket of water on me when he catches me jacking off! I modestly pulled the sheet up over my crotch.

"You're friend of my Dad? What the hell? This doesn't make any sense. I haven't talked to my Dad in about twenty fucking years!"

He blew a smoke ring in the air and stabbed at it with the cigar. "You are Robert Zigstrom, Junior, aren't you?"

"Yes, I am, but that doesn't explain what the hell you're doing here in my house."

"Actually I'm sweating my ass off looking at a naked fool is what I'm actually doing right now, but the real reason I'm here is that your Dad paid me good cash money to drive down here to find your masturbating ass and bring you home." He turned and walked out of the bedroom and then stuck his head back in. "And that's whether you like it or not. I've got a pickup out front, load whatever you can in the truck bed and we'll cover it up with a tarp. Now get the fuck up and get showered, you stink and I want to get on the road before it gets dark out."

He was sitting in my living room looking at a photo album of pictures of Lita - some semi and some totally nude - when I got out of the bathroom after brushing my teeth, vomiting, showering, vomiting again, and then brushing again.

"Good looking gal." He tossed the album on the couch.

I had my head in the fridge as I dug around for a cold Coke. "Thanks."

"Where is she now?"

I sat down at my tiny kitchen table and started to comb the knots out of my shoulder length hair as I guzzled down the cold beverage. Goddamn, I had a case of the hot pipes. "Gone," I sighed. "She got sick of living out here and left me a Dear John letter when I was in the hospital. She went back to Amsterdam. That's where she's from, Holland."

"What were you in the hospital for? Dope? You overdose?"

"What the fuck is this?" I bristled. "An episode of Dragnet? You still haven't told me what the hell you're doing here other than my asshole father sent you to track me down."

His face was blank. "Just a simple fucking question, that's all. I just don't really want to be stuck on the road with a junkie who has to stop every fifty miles to shoot up or take a shit or puke because he needs a fix."

"No, it wasn't fucking drugs. I was on stage with my band and I jumped up in the air on a guitar solo and landed funny and blew out my knee. I was doing kind of a Pete Townsend imitation, you know."

"Who the hell is Pete Townsend?"

"He plays with The Who."

"Who?"

"The Who. The band."

He had a disgusted look on his face. "A rock and roll band I take. I'm not much for that shit. I'm a Hank Williams man. The original I'm talking about, not his dumbass son."

I looked at his silk shirt with pearl snap on buttons, pressed jeans, lizard skin boots, long gray tied back in a pony tail, and the cowboy hat sitting on the back of his head. "Well, that's not much of a surprise."

"What kind of music does your band play?"

"Did play, we're kind of on hiatus. Some creative disagreements would be the best way to describe why we aren't touring right now." I drained my Coke and got up for another. "We considered our music kind of a cross between the Sex Pistols and Molly Hatchet."

"I've heard a few of those Hatchet tunes but not the other guys. What was the name of your band?"

"ARP"

"Sounds like the insurance for senior citizens."

"That's just the initials; it stands for Alien Rectal Probe. One of our members was born in Roswell. You know that whole thing about the spaceship crashing there."

He gave me a weird look and then stood up and stretched his arms over his head. "Well, this is all been very fucking interesting but you need to pack whatever will fit in the truck so we can hit the road."

"Hey dude, I don't mean to seem rude or anything but I'm sure as hell just not jumping into your fucking truck and driving off to Minnesota on just your say so. I got a job I just can't walk out on and other responsibilities. Anyway, for all I know you could be a goddamn serial killer and my ass will wind up in a shallow grave somewhere in the desert."

The cowboy reached inside his pocket on tossed a thick roll of bills onto to the kitchen table. I hadn't seen that amount of cash in a long time. "There's two grand there. That's from your Dad." He sat back down on the couch. "Now I've been hanging around here for a couple of days. I've seen your comings and your goings and here's what I've picked up so far. Your old lady has left you. You have a shit job in a rat hole of a bar. Your band sucks and doesn't sound like it performs anymore anyway. You're behind on your rent, on your electricity bill, and even worse you're behind in several dope payments to a big fucking Nazi biker."

He silenced the start of my feeble protests with one hand held up. "I called your Dad this morning and told him what I've learned so far and he told me to give you the cash to get you back on your feet, that it might make making your decision a whole lot easier. But with one little requirement and this is my requirement," he reached behind him and pulled out a chrome .38 and held it loosely with the barrel aimed up towards the ceiling with a clawed hand, "which is you have to come back to Minnesota with me. Right fucking now! Not in two weeks, not in two days. Now! Your Dad had a stroke a few weeks ago and he can barely get two sentences together at times but his mind is still clear, he can hear, and he wants to see you. Now pack up your shit and let's hit the trail." He stood back up and looked around the trailer. "You can always come back to this shit barrel if you want after you hear what he has to say although I can't imagine why in the hell you would want to," He looked back at me. "Anymore fucking questions?"

We drove from outside Barstow to southern Minnesota straight through stopping only for gas, to piss, grab a greasy burger and coffee, or to stretch our legs. The cowboy did all the driving - he seemed to be able to function without sleep by running on cigarettes, White Cross, caffeine, and telling tall tales of bullshit once he got cranked up - I was hoping they were bullshit anyway because the ones that didn't involve snatch, drinking, and gambling - just pure scared the hell out me.

"Your Dad tells me you where in the Navy?" This was the first time he had spoken to me after we had left the trailer. It was pitch black out, the moon and stars obstructed by the clouds, and we were somewhere out in the boonies long past Las Vegas. I was stretched out in the passenger seat with my head hanging out the window, half asleep, and the sound of his voice jolted back to reality.

"Back in the seventies, but I got my ass in a sling and caught a court martial. Did just short of twelve months in the Pearl Harbor brig and got a dishonorable discharge."

"Selling dope?"

Son of a bitch must have been a mind reader. "Some weed that I was mailing back to the states. I had done it many, many times for way over a year. I had a good system going. I'd shrink wrap it and mail it out in these sealed plastic boxes, wore rubber gloves the whole time I was doing the wrapping, so there was no way in hell a dog could have smelled it and it was damn fine smoke. But one day one of the fucking hounds must have caught a whiff of it I guess and my stupid ass wound up in the brig. In a crazy fucking way I sometimes think that still worth it cause that's how I met Lita. She was a secretary for the Navy investigators assigned to the case."

"That was the hot chick in the photo album?"

I stared out the window at nothing but dark desert. "Yea," I whispered. As the hours passed by and I guzzled cold Cokes out the cooler I told the cowboy all about Lita and what had finally brought us here, to Barstow.

"Lita's Dad was stationed at the army base on Oahu and he had pulled some strings and gotten her the civil service job even though she was barely eighteen. I must have sat in that goddamn office fifty times during the course of the investigation and eventually my endless requests for her to go out with me had broken her down for a night out on Waikiki Beach (definitely without her father - I actually think the first time she went out with me was kind of a "getting back on Daddy thing" - or NIS knowing about it). She wrote me, her "bad boy" every day when I was locked up, even sending me nude photos of herself which the guards confiscated and I assumed jerked off to until I wrote her and told her stop sending them much to their disappointment (I was locked in the hole for three days for that). When they finally let my ass out, Lita was three months gone, transferred to the mainland with her parents to some dusty base in Nevada but she had sent me the address and I soon followed - her parents went ape shit but we moved in together in a dumpy one room apartment in Vegas.

The first five or six years had been good. Lita found working dancing in one of the big shows, all feathers and high heels and topless, but it paid just insane wages. I tended bar in a casino - made good tips and stole from the register when I could - and I jammed in a Doors tribute band, we had gigs most weekends. Then it slowly started to deteriorate.

Lita started to get a little older, old enough that it was hard to keep her weight down so the bosses gave her a lot of shit and kept weighing her once a week and finally put her on some kind of death camp diet - they wanted their dancers tall and anorexic and not too big in the breast department. Then her jugs started to get bigger because of the weight and her age and before long she was canned and was dancing at strip clubs instead of the big shows. The money was still pretty good but the audience was a bunch of perverts - businessman feeling up the dancers and beating their meat under the table. She played the strip club circuit for years but the clubs got progressively shittier and shittier. Then I got caught with my light fingers in the cash register at the casino and I got both fired and blacklisted from working in Vegas at any casinos.

With time on my hands I started showing up stoned, drunk, and belligerent, at whatever club Lita was performing at. There I would start arguments and eventually fights with whatever customers I thought were manhandling my woman which were damn near all of them since I guess that's what strip clubs were put on the Earth for - places where drunk, lonely, and horny men could say and do shit to women that they would probably be arrested for if they did it on the street. But I'm getting on my soapbox here. So anyway, Lita would get fired and we would fight and she would eventually find another job. Then the band finally dumped me because I either wouldn't show up on time or I was too hung over or I was beat to shit from fighting some asshole that was grabbing Lita's ass wherever she was currently stripping at. We finally decided we had had enough of Vegas and so we headed west thinking maybe of getting to Los Angeles for a fresh start. We spent a few nights in Barstow and one thing led to another and we figured what the fuck, there were bars and strip club here, just like anywhere else, we'd just stay long enough to build up a bit of a nest egg. But it didn't turn out like that. Barstow became the end of the line.

After I got released from the hospital following my knee surgery, without health insurance by the way, Lita hadn't shown to pick me up, and I had to take a fucking cab home, only to find our trailer deserted and a note on the kitchen table announcing her flight back to Amsterdam. She loved me she said in the letter, only she needed something more permanent, more commitment, someone more mature. Not some bartending, pot dealer who sat around the living room pissing and moaning about his dysfunctional family, while picking at his electric guitar and dreaming of becoming the next Jimmy Page."

"Who the hell is Jimmy Page?" The cowboy asked.

"You wouldn't know him. Could you pull over? I need to take a piss."

"I know how you feel about your woman. I shot a man in the balls for fucking a woman of mine. Had to go to prison for it. But it was fucking worth it."

I sat up in the cab of the truck and looked at the cowboy. It was many hours and miles since we had stopped to piss and this statement just came from way out the blue after he had talked for hours about playing poker with shady characters. I think we were somewhere in Wyoming. "What? You shot a guy in the nuts! Did it kill him?"

He gave a slight grin. "Didn't kill the son of a bitch but he sure as hell will never forget me."

"What prison were you in?"

"Long Binh Jail. LBJ."

"In Viet Nam? The military prison? You were in the military?"

The cowboy didn't say anything for a couple of minutes, just drove and stared straight ahead, a cigarette burning between his lips. When he finally spoke again the words seemed to flow out him like he couldn't wait to tell the story. Like he had been sitting on it for years and it was just bursting to come out.

"I was in Army in this special unit. All volunteer. Hit and run, gathering intelligence in places we weren't suppose to be. Calling in air strikes. Laos. Cambodia. There was a hell of a high turnover rate in that unit mostly because everybody got fucking wasted in the first couple months. I went as the unit medic but my unit's LT gave me another assignment. Sort of a collateral duty he thought I was fit for. I was thin and wiry so I could slither down those spider holes of the gooks like a fucking snake. My LT was a good judge of character; he had to be in his line of work. Because the LT was straight CIA.

So armed with only a flashlight and two Colt .45 government issued pistols, I shot more slopes in three months than most GIs saw in the whole goddamn war. I was a goddamn stone cold killer! A fucking life taker and heartbreaker!

The adrenaline rush was intense. Better than mainlining horse. Pumped up by a hand full of bennies washed down with a cup of coffee, with a thin rope wrapped around my waist in case I ran into some shit, I would crawl through the tunnels a light in one hand and his pistol in the other. Gathering intelligence, setting explosive charges, killing any motherfucker who was down there.

The pistol going off would seem to blow out your eardrums. The smell of gunpowder was like an aphrodisiac. The rounds lighting up the tunnel like the Fourth of July. I scalped men and cut off their ears. Wore them around my neck on a piece of twine.

But the China white heroin that I needed to bring me back down at night became a source of concern to the LT. He thought I was burning out, that I needed some R and R, so the LT cut me a pass for two weeks in Bangkok.

I fell hard for a beautiful hooker in Bangkok that I met my second night there. You know I can't even remember her goddamn name now! Isn't that fucking crazy? They didn't have women like that back where I came from. She did shit to me I didn't know was possible. I had wined and dined her. I was so strung out over her I talked about taking her home with me when I rotated back to the world. But the H was clouding my mind. Not letting me think in reality. I showed up early one night at her place and caught her screwing a Marine Captain. She was bent over the bed taking it in the ass from that jarhead son of a bitch.

The Captain was drunk and had taunted me. 'You lost your mind, asshole? She's a goddamn whore, for Christ's sake! What did you think? She was going to marry your scrawny fucking ass? You gonna take her back to Mom and Dad?'

I had pulled my piece and shot the Captain straight in the dick.

The local MPs had shown up at my hotel. I was arrested and shipped back to Saigon in shackles. I was court martialed and sent to LBJ for two years. The prison was hell. Blacks against whites. There was no brotherly love in that concrete box of shit. My first week a couple of brothers cornered and tried to turn me out. Fuck the white boy in the ass. But they weren't counting on the shank that I slashed across both of their faces. One of the spades lost both of his eyes.

So I went to the hole. For a long goddamn time. I became the pet project for the assistant warden who didn't like the fact that I had shot a fellow officer square in the nut pouch. I had no mattress. No running water. The food was shit. I had to piss and take a crap over a hole in the floor. The assistant warden had my light shut off for days. Turn a hose on me to wash the cockroaches and lice off that crawled all over my body.

The riot in Long Binh military stockade would finally cut me loose. The Blacks were tired of taking shit from Whitey and the end result was one of the worst prison riots in U. S. penal history. Luckily for me, the Brothers couldn't find the keys to the segregation unit or my asshole would have been so big you could have parked a Buick in it.

When the Army finally took the prison back, I was shipped back to California and finished my sentence in a stockade in California. They let me go with a dishonorable discharge, a hundred bucks, and a cheap suit."

I was stunned into silence. He looked over at me and grinned.

"Every fucking word is true."

"So what did you do when you got out?"

"Not much I could do with a bad discharge and all. So I put my Army training to good use and started my own little business and I've done quite well up until my hands started to cripple up with this goddamn disease. It's kind of semi-retired me. It's damn hard to shoot a weapon with claws like this."

"Shoot a weapon! What kind of business are we talking about here?"

"Haven't you figured it out by now? Shit, boy! I killed people for a living. And not cheating husbands or for insurance money or any lowlife shit like that. Hell no! I contracted my assignments out through only two channels - the government or the Mob - they paid the best." The cowboy took another long swig of coffee and then looked over at me with another smile.





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