Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Birthday Wishes and a Call for Help!

So, my Gemini roots will be celebrating in a matter of days.  Yes, it's that glorious time of year when I embrace the fact that I'm moving toward the elderly end of the spectrum (and a reminder that I've yet to find a pharmaceutical fountain of youth).  Okay, forget the flowery chatter - it's my birthday!

Last year at this time something glorious happened.  I found out that I was going to be published through Eraserhead Press.  In fact, recently, I sent a "commemorative" email to editor Kevin Donihe, just thanking him, once again, for the opportunity.  This year, as the day approaches, I've had "Naked Metamorphosis" out in print for 8 months.  8!  Can you believe that?  Well, it's true.

This time around, I'm not celebrating the fact that I will be published.  I'm celebrating the fact that I am published.  It's a glorious feeling.  And, this year, I really want your help.  A few people have done the obligatory: "What do you want for your birthday?"  My typical response is: "Just gather, drink, and have a grand ol' time."  This year I have an answer; I have an actual birthday wish.

My exodus from the womb occurred 9 days from now.  And between now and then (ah, hell, through the first two weeks of June), all I want for my birthday is to sell some books.  See, the goings been pretty slim here lately.  Why?  Well, as most of you know I've been working on "The Authors Speak" (http://www.theauthorsspeak.com/), which is great.  Work's been good, but good translates to busy.  And, I've probably not been carrying the promotions torch as high as it should be held.  I've also been dreading sounding too whorish online, consistently begging people to buy a copy of my book.

These first two weeks of my birthday month, I am asking for help.  Please, if you've not purchased a copy of "Naked Metamorphosis, do so.  It's $10, and that's a heck of a low price for a gift (unless you're unemployed, which I totally understand).  You can purchase it at amazon.com.  Just use this link: http://www.amazon.com/Naked-Metamorphosis-Eric-Mays/dp/1933929901/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1275391570&sr=8-1.  If you've already purchased a copy for yourself, perhaps considering purchasing a gift copy for someone, or buying a copy for your local library.  If you'd like it signed or personalized, let me know.  I'll cover your shipping.

If you have purchased a copy, but haven't posted an Amazon review, please help a brother out and post a review.  I assure you it's rare that I get so down in the dumps that I need to re-read every good word said about the book.  Reviews are just a great way to cultivate sales from unknowns.  It really, really helps.

If you've done one or both of the afforementioned steps, it would be huge just to recommend the book to someone.  Pestering works, too, though it is a way to annoy and ostracize those you know.  So, be gentle.  But make your point loud and clear...

Exciting things are happening.  Recently the book has made the rounds to many, many minds.  Some were eager to read it prior to its release (for a blurb) and are just now getting to it.  Some are new friends and acquaintences.  Mary Roach has a copy (supposedly to read when she travels to Italy next month).  James Morrow's read his copy on the train back from Floriday to State College.  There's an electronic copy with Stana Katic (the actress that plays Kate Beckett on "Castle").  It's out there.  It's been well received.  I just need a little extra push.

This time next year, I'd like to celebrate a new book.  With a push like this, I hope that will be possible.  Can you guys help make a birthday wish come true?

Thanks...and happy birthday to me.  Cake and ice cream served in the lounge.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Flattery Works so Well (especially when it's friggin' awesome)!

David W. Barbee is a pretty cool cat!  Man!  We met when our respective books - "Carnageland" and "Naked Metamorphosis" - were released by Eraserhead Press.  I'd already read "Carnageland" at that point and dug it.  Plus Barbee was coming from Warner Robins, Georgia, not too far from where I went to college. 

Needless to say, Barbee is a wonderful guy.  He even survived the Georgian blizzard of '10.  And, I've been flattered that he's producing some very awesome art featuring some of the characters from "Naked Metamorphosis".  Ah.

Well, if you've read "Naked Metamorphosis" you know the deal: it imagines a classic piece of lit (in this case, "Hamlet") when it's twisted by other authors.  In my novella those other authors are Franz Kafka and William S. Burroughs.  Well, David Barbee just wanted in on that action.  So the continuation of both our stories describes what it would be like if Barbee got his hands on "Naked Metamorphosis" and his characters from "Carnageland" invaded.  Confused?  If you'd read the books you'd not be.  What?  You've not read them?  Well, then go get them.  No, now.  I'll wait.  Go ahead and put them in your amazon.com shopping cart.  Hurry.



There, now you'll understand what's going on.

Well, I've been writing a very small and short chapbook featuring these characters as if they were in an NCAA-style bracket.  The first round is posted here on the blog.  The second is posted over at Barbee's blog: http://davidwbarbee.wordpress.com/2010/05/07/carnageland-vs-naked-metamorphosis-round-2/.  When you go to David's site, just ignore the creepy Jar Jar Binks-like thing giving you judgmental eyes.  He he he.

But he's drawing some pretty amazing art!  I love it.  I dig it.  I'm flattered by it.  And it's got me thinking about artists in general.  The term "starving artist" is a cliched and overused term, even if it's not too far from reality.  So, if you dig the art and you want to help real, true authors out, go and pick up a copy of our books at Amazon.  If you don't dig the art, just keep your opinion to yourself.  Let's keep the art alive!  Keep artists producing art!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Naked Metamorphosis v. Carnageland

It's International Shakespeare Day, kids, and that means it's a chance to outsell the Bard and make him look completely foolish.  You dig?  I've included some ways that you can help with this on the previous post.  So, knock yourself out.  However, I also agreed to post an epic Shakespearean crossover.  Mr. David Barbee's character creations, from his book "Carnageland", have made their way into the warped universe of my Hamlet.  What gives?  Well, if you've been following the bracket you know there's going to be some ass-kicking.  And, here's round one.  Enjoy.

There's accompanying artwork by Mr. David Barbee - if you saw the poster, then you know it's pretty righteous.  And anyone that purchases a copy of "Naked Metamorphosis" AND "Carnageland" today, will win an autographed, original print.  Email me when you stroll over to amazon.com, and I'll take care of you.

Osric v. Garry Snotter
Wizch’s are interesting creatures. Even those that are not so established, like Garry Snotter, are interesting. Their power is oft sketchy and errant. So, to see the student go head-to-head with poor, squirrelly Osric odds were it wasn’t going to end well for the put-upon courtier of Elsinore. Even as the two met head-to-head, visions of spontaneous combustion flashed in Osric’s skull. Surely, the Danish countryside would run red with his own entrails.

“You’re no match for me,” spat Garry Snotter.

“I do believe that you’re quite right, my lord,” remarked Osric. “Now that the outcome’s been established, the debate quite quelled, would there be anything I can do for you? I’m quite good at fetching things.”

“Fetch? Like a ball?”

“Or a warm cup of tea, perhaps. I’ve also been known to be perfectly adept at drawing the perfect bath. It’s all a matter of balancing the proper amount of warm water and the –“

Garry interrupted Osric. “A warm cup of tea would be delightful. Perhaps with a bit of honey?”

“Indeed. I shall fetch it for you presently, sir.”

And without nary a protest, Osric sped off to fetch the beverage for the young wizch student. The tea was followed by the fetching of fleece blanket, which was followed by the fetching of a pen and paper. After Garry was quite satisfied he tested Osric’s bath drawing skills and found them to be spot on.

Garry’d never had a friend, much less a person so eager to wait on him hand and foot, so the duel never went further than the exchanging of mild threats. After all, Osric had conceded that Garry Snotter would win. Thus, the most anticlimactic of challenges came to a close.
Wizch Headmaster v. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
The Wizch Headmaster would have been content to smear a courtier’s brains on the wall. Alas, he was not facing a mere courtier who’s ambitions lay solely with serving others. No, the Wizch Headmaster was facing Rosen Crantz and Guilden Stern, college friends of Prince Hamlet. And they were known to be ninjas.

A blast of power rose from the headmaster and the two ninjas leapt away from each other. Sizing up the Wizch Headmaster was difficult. Neither Rosen nor Guilden had faced a threat quite as unique as this. Hell, neither Rosen nor Guilden were ninjas. The costumes were a silly byproduct of Gertrude and Claudius’ silly royal shenanigans. “Quake with fear, they will, when they see ninjas,” Claudius had said. “It won’t matter if you can’t actually do ninja things.”

And now death loomed over them.

Another burst of power, this one slamming into Rosen, escaped from the headmaster’s hands. Guilden raced to his partner, shedding his head wrap in the process. Rosen winced in agony, but seemed to be somewhat clinging to the world of the living.

“Guilden,” Rosen wheezed.

“You bastard,” said Guilden, turning his gaze towards the headmaster. “Have you no heart?” The “ninja” leaned over and kissed his partner.

The headmaster was preparing another decisive blow, since both were together at the same time. The sight, however, of the two lovers took the wizch by surprise and he averted his gaze, offering them a slight bit of privacy. Wizch’s, though, are interesting creatures, as is well established. The power was already surging, and as the headmaster covered his eyes, the blast of energy smashed into his head and melted his face.

898 v. Polonius
Meanwhile, back at Elsinore…
Polonius paced the war room, muttering to the warlord council.

“Wah! This is utterly preposterous, men. That fool of a King should be drawn and quartered, wah. Declaring a war on terrors is a waste. We’ve more pressing issues at hand. Norway is on the rise. And now, we’re bombarded with this Inpire, Inc, business. What sort of people are these? They cannot even spell Empire!”

As if on command, the doors to the war room exploded raining splintered wood and chunks of steel onto the council. Polonius threw himself to the floor, just dodging an oncoming hinge. The hinge pinged off a table and flew into the skull of a geriatric warlord.

When it was all over and his ears had stopped ringing, Polonius stood and examined the scene. Four warlords were slumped in their chairs, chunks of metal and oak sticking out of their faces like they were porcupines. The other warlords – men who, in their youth, had stormed the battlefields like gods – cowered beneath the council table.

One, speaking with a voice that should belong to a mummy, were mummies capable of speech, said: “Mayhaps we should reconsider this war on terrors.”

“Wah,” said Polonius, but it was devoid of anger and filled with curiosity.

898 walked in the war room, Doomshooter in hand.

“Wah! Your insolence to this kingdom shall be revisited on you…”

Whatever threat Polonius was busting a vessel to say died in his mouth. An exploding head tends to have that sort of effect.

Cries of fear and agony emerged from beneath the table as the warlords found themselves covered in gore, courtesy of their leader. Many began screaming for their lives. But nobody moved an inch; they were paralyzed in terror.

Invader 898 kicked stray chairs and leapt onto tabletops. He took aim and fired the Doomshooter at the warlord council. One by one the elderly “brains” of Elsinore’s government were reduced to…well, brains. And brain matter.

Ophelia v. Green Wizch
Ophelia, unaware of her father’s demise (which should have been at the hands of Hamlet, rather than a green alien from Inpire, Inc. Had she even known this, her simplistic brain would not have been able to process it. What was happening to Denmark at present was nothing more than a recycling, as it were. It’s what happened when David Barbee, author, tried to re-tell what had already been retold by William S. Burroughs, and retold prior by Franz Kafka, and retold prior by William Shakespeare. Ophelia was better not knowing), was rambling on about “taters”, as she did. She was so focused that she’d not heard the Green Wizch.

“Child, make thee ready for Death’s welcoming embrace,” said the Green Wizch.

That got her attention. She turned and asked, “Do you have a tater?”

“I’m in no position to grant final requests. But, were I able, I do not know what a tater is.”

“I want a tater!”

“I am unfamiliar with this slang word. Now, prepare for your demise.”

Sometimes it’s jokingly referred to as “retard strength”, which is horrendously offensive. That said, Ophelia, so overwhelmed with the need for a tater, unleashed her retard strength at the Green Wizch. In her simplistic mind, if the Green Wizch was incapable of providing her with her heart’s desire, then it was no more than an obstacle that needed to be removed.

The Green Wizch had not seen the blow coming. Fists of fury went through the wizch and within seconds his existence flickered into nothing. His final thought: “I wonder if she means potato?”

Alfred v. Ninjerbread Man
David Barbee’s attempt at perfecting “Hamlet”, even better than Kafka and Burroughs, had gone widely astray. That’s probably why actor Alfred found himself still playing the Prince of Denmark, even though the story had come to an end. “Whatever,” he said to himself, “I’m still being paid for my services.”

He was reminiscing about working with the Courtyard Players when a man, a man made of cookie bits, came across the path he was watching.

“What gives? You’re rather odd, aren’t you?”

The cookie man said nothing.

“I can see your manners are as lacking as your voice, knave! Perhaps a good slap, one you may offer an ignorant bitch, will revive your words.” Alfred slapped the cookie man across his face. It was a fey slap, as Alfred was known for, but it still bore a bite.

The cookie man remained quiet.

“Please step thee from the path, fiend. I’ve pressing business to tend and you’re holding me up.”

The cookie man still said nothing.

“Verily then shall I destroy thee,” Alfred said, sure to keep the flowery performance. “For I am Prince Hamlet of Denmark and you are nothing more than a scurveous, onion-eyed scut, you are! Avast!”

Alfred drew his rapier and let the tip tickle the cookie man.

“Surely you would pleasure me with your name before I allow maggots to feast on your soul.”

The cookie man looked up and said, “I’m the Ninjerbread Man.” The look that followed was enough to send a shiver of dread right down Alfred’s spine.

Alfred was a lover, an actor, and a self-indulged fop – these were things at which he excelled. What he did not excel at was combat (save for the stage, of course). It only took seconds, if that. Perhaps it was nanoseconds. When it was all said and done, Alfred lay broken, literally, in seventeen pieces. The Ninjerbread Man placed a single gum drop atop each the pieces and walked off into the countryside, seeking his next victim.

Pirate Captain v. Gertrude
Story Intercepted:
“I’m not one to beg, as I find it loathsome and unbecoming a lady so such stature, but I must beg you to excuse this interruption. Behind the outer imagery of a functioning kingdom, there are layers of intricate comings and goings. Ignorance, they say, is bliss, and I could not agree more. You’d not wish to know all the ingredients of your favorite sausage, I assure you, so you never think to question. You just eat, enjoy, digest, and send it back to the earth with nary a thought.

This is the same for the royals.
The kingdom is at war, my people, and it’s not important to question the specifics. What is decidedly important is that you place your trust in the decision makers as we embark on this tumultuous time.

I could offer you specifics about my – and my husband’s, of course – encounter with a Pirate Captain lothario, but the details are not important. Nor does a lady speak in rumors and gossip. Rest assured, though, that this individual threat has been dealt with immediately.

That said, it is my responsibility to inform you that your leader, King Claudius, has perished in a most retched fashion, but I shall spare you the details. Early in the day, too, our esteemed leader of the warlord council suffered an accident. That man just lost his head, as it were. It is my responsibility to lead you, Denmark. And lead you I shall.

I’ll offer no other specifics, but for those that sling the rumors that I’m an ice queen and vicious bitch, well, rest assured there is truth to those things. I’m adept at protecting myself and seizing an opportunity.”

Queen Gertrude
Puck v. Se7en Dwarves
The hobgoblin was hurtling through space and time, his watch gibbering and jabbering all the way.

“Hell’s bells,” he said, as the space-time-continuum spit him onto the landscape.

He jumped up and surveyed his surroundings. It was odd, really. According to the chirping of his watch, he was supposed to be answering a prayer. Oddly, though, there was not a bended knee to be found. Time travel is tricky business to be sure, but usually the odds were in his favor.

“Um, hello,” Puck tried.

“Um, hello,” someone or something echoed.

“Oh, I see we’re trying to prank a prankster,” Puck said. “Well, get ready for the fun, ‘cause it’s about to get right vicious.”

“So you say,” the voice said again. This time Puck could hear it. It wasn’t a voice. It was voices. Seven to be exact.

“What has seven voices and doesn’t want to be seen? Sticks and stones, kids. Come on out so that we can get on with this. I’ve prayers to answer and hogs to feed. Plus, I’ve got a lovely faerie waiting, so if we can get this going, I’d appreciate it.”

There was a silence for a spell, then the voices returned. “You cannot see us, but we see you. We have the advantage here. We are nothing, as far as you’re concerned.”

“Finally,” said Puck. “Thank the gods for that. I was starting to worry.”

The hobgoblin snapped his fingers and the countryside grew quiet. The se7en dwarves that were lurking out of sight only moments before were no more. Well, it dealing with time-travelling hobgoblins is a tricky sort of task. It wasn’t that they were no more. It was that they never were. They’d said they were nothing, and Puck had made it so.

Miles and miles away in a different world, author David W. Barbee’s brain buzzed like a bug lamp. He was writing something about dwarves and then the words just left him. He slapped his dome a few times, doodled a bit, but the tangent never came. It was in that moment that Barbee decided he should smoke less pot. Yeah, and pigs can fly.
Hamlet v. Red Riding Hood
“They’re demons, Horatio! You cannot see them, but they pester me so. Open your eyes you damn fool.”

“Yes,” said Horatio. “Demons, indeed. Vicious buggers, I’d wager.”

“You’d wager correct, sir!” Hamlet swung the sword viciously through the air, sending the blade into an imaginary imp. The blade slammed into the brick and mortar of an Elsinore courtyard with a clang. “Of all the damnable…Horatio! Bring your ass here this moment. They’ve gotten craftier.”

“I’d say, my lord,” said Horatio, the mildest hint at bemusement in his voice. “First the cockroach business and now this. I must find this god Kafka that you have spoken of.”

Hamlet struggled with an invisible beast. “If we stop the demons perhaps we can stop the metamorphosis, Horatio. Please help me,” he grunted as he pushed the mirage away and swung the blade through the air. “Oh, and the god’s not named Kafka any longer.”

“Beg pardon?”

“No time for pardon begging, chap! Fiends are about. We must thwart them.”

“That’s all very good, my lord, but what is this about the god.”

“Oh, that. He’s no longer Kafka.”

“The hell you say, prince.”

“The hell I do. He’s Barbee now.”

Horatio bitch-slapped an imaginary demon and grabbed Hamlet by the collar. “There, the demons gone. You’ve been snorting stuff again, haven’t you?”

Hamlet shrugged.

“Dammit all to hell, my lord. You must stop this nonsense. Tell me, as you did about Kafka, do you converse with this Barbee?”

“Aye, Horatio. I’ve known him well. Not only is it inevitable that I’ll turn into a cockroach, but I’m doomed to have my face melted away by a being not of this world.”

“Oh, please. If you’re going to talk of fuckery, then I’ve nothing to do with you until you find yourself sober.”

“Watch out, Horatio!”

The Prince pushed his friend to the ground and thrust his blade through the air. Assuming it was at another hallucination, Horatio stood ready to lecture his college roommate. His finger was already pointed and a rant already formed. But when he arose the words dissipated. Hamlet held his sword, now a young lady was skewered on the end.

“I got one,” said the prince sheepishly.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

St. Cripin's Day...er, uh..."Naked Metamorphosis"Day

"And gentlemen in England well-read,
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here
And hold their manhood cheaps while any speaks
The fought upon Naked Metamorphosis Day!"

There's subtle debate aobut the context of the above translation, true.  Language was different in that time, and people read what they want to read.  Regardless, St. Crispin's Day is a day when people are known to get naked and groovy and attempt transmogrification.  So, why the hell not use this, eh?  Y'know I never realized that "hold their manhood" part of this classic speech prior.  Henry V has a whole new meaning to me.
As you can tell, Shakespeare was onto something.  And he gets a cut from me, 'cause he's sort of a character in the book "Naked Metamorphosis".  And I bastardized some of his characters, it's true.  And that bastard's been leaving notes all around the place.  Look above to see what he left with my blocks!  But he still shows support like no other and he's issued, from beyond the grave mind you (there's always a bleeding ghost), a "smack down".  Granted he calls it a "gentlemen's game" to sound flowery, but I know that it's a smack down.  I can read between the lines.
"A gentlemen's game, a wager of fate," said the Bard.  "To best the master of the written word, the good man shall proffer from his text and make mine own 'The Tragedy of Hamlet' wilt as doth the tulip in winter."
I told Shakes that write in prose.  "Suck it," was my retort.
So the challenge holds.  We're going to outsell the Bard himself.  He's no longer a part of the living, but his ghost still lurks.  I want that ghost to feel right foolish at my success.
Tomorrow I'll feature a few vignettes from the Carnageland/Naked Metamorphosis crossover.  Until then, in the words of Roger Rabbit, "Help me, pppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppppplease!

April 23rd is International Shakespeare Day. Here's what you can do:
  • Tell your local Shakespeare Company about the book;
  • Purchase a copy of "Naked Metamorphosis" from Amazon.
  • If you've purchased a copy of the book, post a review at Amazon.
  • Request that your local library carry this book (annoy them until they have no choice).
  • Post this blog post on your wall
  • Tell your facebook friends to do you a favor and purchase your friends book.
There's really all kinds of craziness happening, fine folks.  There's no telling what's going to happen.  But if Jordan Krall can outsell Louis L'amour, I've no doubt that the Fates will allow me to best Shakespeare at his own game.

See you all tomorrow,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, versus Aliens from Outer Space

CLICK THE PICTURE TO ENLARGE. It's totally worth it...especially to see Polonius as Dick Cheney!

In the 60's and 70's crossovers were all the rage in popculture. The Harlem Globetrotters, The Addams Family and numerous others were always making cameos on "Scooby Doo". Likewise, many series employed the crossover to garner ratings. So, it's not really all that original, but it worked then and a couple of authors feel it can work now.
In "Naked Metamorphosis", I tried to imagine Shakespeare's "Hamlet" if it were retold by Franz Kafka, and then that version was toyed with by William S. Burroughs. Thus far, I've been told it worked to hilarious ends.
In "Carnageland", David Barbee indulged in his juvenile, gaming, A-D-D antics and told the tale of an alien set on destroying everything in its path.
Initially I thought there was no way to merge these two into an alternate tale. Little did I know, author David Barbee had a few tricks up his sleeve. In order to achieve this vision, David Barbee took the Hamlet retold by two authors and added his own touches. Well, shit, I thought. Now what have I gotten into?
David Barbee and I decided to use this bizarro set-up as a little experiment. Okay, I conceded, let's do it and see what happens.
April 23rd is Shakespeare Day - it's the day that commemorates William Shakespeare's death. To that end, I'm trying to outsell Hamlet on that day. So, buy a copy, will ya? And while you're there, you should probably try to snag a copy of "Carnageland" so you'll at least have an inkling at what sort of insanity you're getting yourself into.
I posted a bracket here a week back where Barbee's characters are pitted against Shakespeare's characters. And, I've even devised a little story that sort of merges these two tales. It works, hopefully, to hilarious ends once again. I mean, just look at the original artwork above for these two! God, this could actually be good.
On April 23rd check back to find out the first round winners! There are surprises aplenty. Trust me.


The Author Speaks Series is Moving

Sorry, gang. But as of today, the Author Speaks is housed at a new locale - www.theauthorsspeak.com. I'd appreciate it if everyone became a follower there. I want to cultivate this site more for the promotions of my books, my quirky rants, and my outlet to explore new fiction.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Author Speaks: Jordan Krall

There are authors that are capable of juggling so many different styles and coming out of each smelling like roses and there are some authors that just plain suck at it. Elmore Leonard writes westerns and hard crime mysteries, both in a seemingly appropriate voice. He’s even dabbled in merging those two somewhere in between (“The Hot Kid” is a good example of this). For a long time Stephen King has ventured from hard horror into the dramatic and back. Some of the failures, however, would be James Patterson and Michael Crichton (sorry, Mikie, I know you’re flying with angels [or suspended in a cloud of nanobites] but your pirate novel sucked).

When I first read “Piecemeal June” by Jordan Krall, I thought I’d found an author with a truly unique voice. I’d no idea how unique. “Piecemeal June” is a tale that dabbles in a macabre world where a man, living above an adult novelty store, assembles a living, breathing sex doll. The concept, I felt, was a little reaching and the story is definitely in the crags and caverns of bizarro. But, the concept alone was what interested me; the story and the writing are what captured me.

Shortly after, “Squid Pulp Blues” was released by Eraserhead Press. I’m famously pro-novel, anti-novella, so I was elated to see that “Squid Pulp Blues” was a full length collection (3-novellas all set in the same seedy world). Upon examining the cover of the new Jordan Krall book – that sinister looking squid-man holding a gun and trying to pass itself off as Bogie in a Raymond Chandler story – I was salivating at enjoying another horror tale. What I got was a gritty crime tale (ala Elmore Leonard) and I was not in the least disappointed. In fact, I was blown away and thought that this book was infinitely better than “Piecemeal June”.

In “Fistful of Feet”, Jordan tackles the Spaghetti Western genre and, once again, rises to the challenge. His knowledge of the styles he chooses to write in are well learned. Jordan Krall is also an amazing author to read, as you can truly see the evolution of a literary talent. Now, he's working to get "Fistful of Feet" to be the #1 bestselling western of all time!

I’ve spoken to Jordan on a few occasions and there’s always a consistency: Jordan will talk about a wide variety of subjects that are near and dear to him. There aren’t too many authors who can shift gears from Will Smith the “actor” to flying underwear and tie it all into the mythology of the Karate Kid with ease.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jordan Krall this week, in celebration of his “Bizarro Spaghetti Dinner” on April 16th, 2010. Find out more about that here:

Eric Mays: Jordan, I'm going to get to the important questions first and foremost. You seem to have a thing for squid - not just in "Squid Pulp Blues", but also in "Fistful of Feet" and "Piecemeal June". Why squid? Do you enjoy fresh calamari or loathe it? Did you have a childhood experience? Is it part of your sideshow act?

Jordan Krall: I’m not sure where it started. The first appearance of my obsession with squid is in my novella KING SCRATCH which was written before any of my other books but will be published this summer. I actually dislike seafood and have a strong aversion to even the smell of it. But it’s a love/hate thing because I’m fascinated by sea life especially squid and spider crabs. And in a way, I want to like seafood.. if that makes any sense at all.

EM: "Fistful of Feet" pays homage to the Spaghetti Western and Giallo films. What compelled you to write a novel playing by the rules of these genres?

JK: With Fistful of Feet, I played by the rules but I wasn’t too conscious of it. A lot of it just came naturally. Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows I love movies and those are two of my favorite genres. There’s just something about the Spaghetti Western that’s special. I think part of the reason why I’m attracted to them is because it reminds me of my grandfather. Giallo movies are just so cool, many being sleazy murder mysteries. That’s what a lot of the American slasher movies are missing: a good mystery. But it’s more than just that. Just think of the cool seventies music, the black leather gloves, the razors, the red herrings.

EM: Was it hard incorporating these two together?

JK: Not really because in my mind, those seem so compatible. It also helps that my favorite films from those genres came from the same country and approximate time period. All of those genre devices are already in my head anyway. You don’t even want to know how often I think about killers in black gloves.

EM: Your main character is Calamaro, from New Jersey. Stephen King once said that he pictured his gunslinger, Roland, as Clint Eastwood. Who were you channeling when you designed Calamaro?

JK: I actually didn’t picture him as any real person. I believe that if I did that, I might have him start acting like that actor instead of my own creation. I did pattern some of his personality after various tough-guy characters but it wasn’t a major aspect of my writing Calamaro. He was his own man, so to speak.

EM: I know that you're a bit of a film buff. When most people think of Spaghetti Westerns they gravitate towards early Clint Eastwood and Sergio Leone's work. What are some of your favorites within the genre? I'm assuming "Django" is there.

JK: Oh yeah, the Sergio Leone films and “Django” are obvious favorites. Other than that: The Big Gundown, Sabata, the Sartana films, Cut Throats Nine, Death Rides a Horse, and Companeros.

EM: Does the western genre still garner the interest it used to?

JK: No. If you just look at the late 1950s through the late 1960s, Westerns were more popular than vampire novels are now. There were dozens of western shows, hundreds of movies (not even counting the ones coming out of Europe), and novels. Now, there are western movies here and there but not the deluge that appeared decades ago. Personally, I love old westerns. But the last good western was “Open Range” with Kevin Costner. Not as good as Eastwood’s “Unforgiven”, but it was definitely a breath of fresh air.

EM: What are some of your other influential favorite films?

JK: How long do you want this interview to be? (haha!) Let’s see. Other than Spaghetti Westerns and Giallo….Halloween III: Season of the Witch, Lost Highway, scores of Charles Bronson movies but especially Mr. Majestyk, Pulp Fiction, Suspiria, Road to Perdition, Hardcore (with George C. Scott), Rolling Thunder, Blast of Silence, The Asphalt Jungle, Killer’s Kiss, Flaming Creatures, Messiah of Evil, Eraserhead, Hitchcock films, Last Man on Earth, Gleaming the Cube, The Holy Mountain, Videodrome, lots of film noir flicks, films by Andy Milligan, and every single film starring Ginger Rogers.

EM: I’ve heard that you're a fan of "Karate Kid". Which is the best of the movies?

JK: “Karate Kid Part 3”. Don’t scoff. It’s an over-the-top film that is bound to be a cult classic in twenty or thirty years. It pretty much has the same formula as the first but it trumps it by the brilliant performance by Thomas Ian Griffith as Terry Silver, president of Dynatox Industries. Griffith is simply awesome in that role. The dialogue is quotable beyond belief (much of it coming from Griffith’s character). And let’s be clear: there are only THREE Karate Kid movies and they all star Ralph Macchio.

EM: Are you looking forward to the reboot?

JK: In the words of “actor” Will Smith: “Aww, hell no”. Will Smith is pissing on the grave of Pat Morita. What a self-indulgent piece of masturbatory “cinema” it is. Casting your own son as the underdog who triumphs over bullies? Transparent beyond belief, trying to make his son an icon like Daniel Laruso. Give me a break. Don’t destroy a fucking classic in the process of trying to make your son successful. I’ll probably see the movie, though, tomatoes in hand. Of course, I’m not above swallowing my words. If it’s good, I’ll say so. However, it will never compare to the original KK trilogy. (again: note I said TRILOGY).

EM: Getting back to your writing…do you think "Fistful of Feet" will serve one day as a cautionary tale against unprotected sex and sexually transmitted diseases?

JK: I thought of it more as a “How-To” guide.

EM: You've mentioned before that you're a pretty big fan of Elmore Leonard. I can definitely see some influences of that in both "Squid Pulp Blues" and "Fistful of Feet". So, Elmore the western writer or Elmore the crime hound?

JK: Leonard’s crime fiction is my favorite. His westerns are good but you can tell he’s more comfortable writing about modern scumbags.

EM: “Piecemeal June” felt a little more horror than the last two books you've written. Are you a fan of the horror genre?

JK: Yeah, there was a good chance that I would’ve been a horror novelist if I didn’t decide to indulge my interest in weird/bizarro fiction. Horror has always been the genre I gravitate to ever since I was a kid.

EM: Any plans on returning to the genre of "things bumping (and grinding) in the night"?

JK: Yeah, I’m actually in the process of writing two hardcore horror novellas but they will definitely have a bizarro slant to them.

EM: Boxers or briefs, Jordan? And yes, you're welcome for the non-sequitar.

JK: Briefs. Though for a long time I wore boxers. But before that, briefs. And when I was in fourth grade I had a dream about flying underwear.

EM: In the back of "Fistful of Feet" you reference your wife, your stepdaughter, and your son. It's got to be crazy juggling writing, your day job, and the family life! How do you do it?

JK: It’s difficult and I’m sure I don’t write as much as my peers. Even though I wish to be successful in my writing, I have no intention of neglecting my family in order to do it especially my son who’s only 21 months old. I want to spend as much time with him as I can. That’s my number one priority. Everything else, including writing, comes after.

EM: What advice would you offer to aspiring writers who are caught in the tendrils of everyday life?

JK: Don’t let life overwhelm you… just use some of that craziness for inspiration. Don’t be lazy. Don’t try to romanticize writing and wait for so-called inspiration. Please allow me to give you a real world example of what I mean. I was talking to this aspiring writer a few years ago. He was able to write full time because his girlfriend made a lot of money. Sounds like a great set-up, right? No, because he refused to make himself write everyday. He said he couldn’t push himself and that he needed to wait to be inspired. So what did he do instead? He played video games. That’s a fucking waste. I’d love to not be able to work a day job so I could write. But there it is, a guy like that waiting around for some fucking act of god to make him a good writer. And what is he doing now? Nothing. He’s no further into his writing “career” than he was two years ago. Anyway, getting past that rant, more advice: write whenever you can even if it’s just a fragment of a story. Read a lot and not only in the genre you want to write in. Look at the authors you like to read and find out WHY you like to read them. Then try to mimic some of it. And lastly, don’t just write to entertain yourself. You have to think of the reader, too. I don’t care how much fun you had writing it, if it bores the reader, they’re going to chuck it in the trash and then never buy a book from you again.

EM: What's up next for you? More squid?

JK: Ha, yeah. Squid-spaghetti tacos all around. But as for books...I got KING SCRATCH coming out from Black Rainbows Press. Also, a nonfiction book about movies coming from Bucket O’ Guts Press. And then TENTACLE DEATH TRIP will be published by Eraserhead Press this fall. This book will be fucking awesome. It’s Death Race 2000 meets the Cthulhu mythos … grindhouse style.

EM: I heard that you’re throwing a spaghetti dinner online? What? I’ve heard that this “Bizarro Spaghetti Dinner” is a festival all about you! Isn’t this just the foundation for a cult?

JK: Being a cult leader has always been my dream and what better way to lure people in than with spaghetti? Actually, it was inspired by author Kevin Shamel's similar promotion for his book Rotten Little Animals. Basically it's a day to get the word out on my novel “Fistful of Feet” and celebrate it's Spaghetti Western-ess.

EM: And this “event” is taking place on April 16th, right? What do you want from people on April 16th? Why?

JK: I'd like people to spread the word on “Fistful of Feet”. Tell your friends on Facebook, Twitter, My Space, etc. If you haven't bought the book, buy it April 16th so my Amazon ranking can go up. If it does, Amazon will see what a hot book it is and it'll take over. If it takes over, the rest of the bizarro authors will get exposure as well. If you already have Fistful of Feet, consider buying a copy for a friend or for your local library. I appreciate any and all help. I never forget a good deed. The reason why I'm doing this is to not only sell books (which will help pay bills...I'm not a rich man, you know) but also to spread bizarro. The success of one bizarro author can mean success for many others. Thanks to everyone in advance! And thank you for the interview, Eric!

EM: Thanks, Jordan!

Jordan Krall’s books are certainly worth a peek. You may look at one of them and see it priced at around $10, but I’ll tell you to pick them all up. Why? Well, as mentioned, Jordan writes in many different styles AND if you pick up all three you’ll get free shipping on all the books. And, really, what’s better than free?

Next week’s spotlight will shift, slightly, to the horror genre and Mr. David Agranoff. David’s the author of the upcoming horror novel “Hunting the Moon Tribe”. We’ll discuss the true nature of fear, examine Maoist ideals, and try to figure out why everyone is Kung fu fighting. Be back here for the interview on 4/22/2010.

Until then, pick up the books discussed here by using the links below:
“Fistful of Feet”:
“Squid Pulp Blues”: http://www.amazon.com/Squid-Pulp-Blues-Jordan-Krall/dp/1933929685/ref=pd_sim_b_1
”Piecemeal June”: http://www.amazon.com/Piecemeal-June-Jordan-Krall/dp/1933929634/ref=pd_sim_b_1
The KK Trilogy: http://www.amazon.com/Karate-Kid-Collection-Four-Film/dp/B0006OBPTA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1271073631&sr=8-2
If you’re an author that would like to be a part of the Thursday Author Speaks Series, please email ericm@witty.com. To read “Naked Metamorphosis” by Eric Mays, purchase at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Naked-Metamorphosis-Eric-Mays/dp/1933929901/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271093268&sr=8-1

Friday, April 9, 2010

Jordan Krall: Author Spotlight

Despite the ridiculousness of this picture, it's a good representation of the level of dorkdom that Jordan Krall has achieved. This may come across as an insult, but it's certainly not at all. I've always said, if you're going to be a fanboy go all the way and avoid half-assing it. Jordan's definitely outdone himself.
In talking with Jordan Krall you get the sense that he loves looking at the world through twisted goggles. It's probably why he's jumped into the bizarro genre, and the genre has embraced him. But, what Jordan Krall likes are things that are not necessarily weird. Take for example Jordan's love of Elmore Leonard and gritty noir. Then examine his second book, a collection of novellas entitled "Squid Pulp Blues". SPB is a prime example of what Elmore Leonard (or even the great Raymond Chandler) would read like if it were shared by John Waters, David Lynch, and Dave Cronenberg. (I've taken to calling David Cronenberg "Dave". That's how we roll.)
Talking to him even further you'll uncover some other Jordan faves: Ginger Rogers, dark and visceral horror, post-apocalyptic movies, Italian giallo, Spaghetti westerns, and "space rape" (there's a story there, but I'll save it for another time). Examine his most recent book "Fistful of Feet" and you'll see that it is possible for a fanboy of the Spaghetti Western to twist that genre on its ear and create a very unique and original experience. Oh sure, the classic cliches are all there - the bad good guy with shady intentions, the whore with teh heart of gold, the roughneck Confederates, savage Indians, the works. But under that is an original tale that touches on such an array of subjects, you cannot compare it to anything you've ever experienced (exactly like SPB).
I guess I'm a Jordan Krall fanboy. Perhaps one day I'll write a Jordan Krall-inspired tale and twist it my own literary conventions. Who knows.
What I do know is this: Jordan should have more fans than he already does! I realize that people aren't reading as much as they once did. While this saddens me, it doesn't sadden me near as much as WHAT people are reading. Rather than looking for something truly original, I see people picking up the same tripe.
Most of you know that I'm always willing to recommend a good read. I try not to steer you the wrong way. I'm telling you, if you want something truly different, take a look at Jordan Krall's Squid Pulp Blues (for noir) or Fistful of Feet (for western). If you don't like either genre I'm sure you know someone who does and may like it. So, really, you've got no choice or reason not to.
On April 16th, 2010, we're honoring Jordan and trying to cultivate his garden of fans. For information you can visit his website at www.filmynoir.com or visit me at facebook for information. Basically, we're having a cyber-party to promote Jordan and generate some new kick-ass fans. If you're not familiar with Jordan, then perhaps you should swing over to amazon and pick up a copy of two of his book.
Order a copy and acquaint yourself this Jordan's unique voice. While you're there, be sure to remember that orders that are over $25 ship for free! So, a certain book by yours truly, "Naked Metamorphosis", can round your order out (it needs some love too!).
Please join me on April 16th and honor a fellow writer, creator, and friend. And, have fun yourself.
Thanks, and drive-thru,
**keep your eyes peeled on all the festivities happening in the month of May(s). Details will be coming soon.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

April 23rd Carnageland Versus Naked Metamorphosis

April 23rd is coming. It’s a date that commemorates the death of William Shakespeare (a prominent figure in the Naked Metamorphosis). And, as some of you have seen on facebook, it’s the week before a major Mays launch in, well, the month of May(s). David “Carnageland” Barbee and myself are offering a little teaser. We’re matching wits (and universes) to bring you the UFC of Bizarro – Carnageland meets Naked Metamorphosis. Mark your calendars for round 1, which will feature stories and art from this epic tournament. Since tickets are sold out you’ll have to just wait. AND, you’ll have to pick up your copies of the respective books for tips on how to manage your bracket:

Carnageland: www.amazon.com/Carnageland-David-W-Barbe.../ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_c

Naked Metamorphosis: www.amazon.com/Naked-Metamorphosis-Eric-...270650418&sr=8-1

Until then – we (David and I) would love to hear your feedback…

Monday, April 5, 2010

Rotten Little Animals Day

This is from Kevin Shamel, author of "Rotten Little Animals", which is kind of like an E.B. White book gone horribly awry. It's like Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith got their hands on "Charlotte's Web" and did it their way. Anyway, author Shamel has launched an official holiday for his book. And why not? He can, after all.

This from shamelesscreations.com:

Hi! The following note is long. I understand that you may not want to read it all right away. So here’s the gist of it:
Everything is great with Rotten Little Animals
I’m halfway to my goal
I need your help
Thank you!

Dear Friends,
It’s been almost 6 months since the launch of my first book, ROTTEN LITTLE ANIMALS. Most likely, if you are reading this, you have been a friend or a fan in some way, so THANK YOU. I greatly appreciate all the support, help, reviews, sales, and all the amazing people I have met through this experience. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
In the past six months, I’ve worked hard to promote ROTTEN LITTLE ANIMALS, and it’s really been making a difference. So far, I’ve sold over 100 copies on Amazon.com, roughly 40 more on my own, and a number of copies at different conventions. In the past year, I’ve attended Crypticon, BizarroCon, OryCon, and RadCon. Even more exciting is that people are LOVING it. I’ve gotten over 30 reviews at Amazon and rave reviews on my Rotten Little Puppet Show when people see it.
You may already know this, but ROTTEN LITTLE ANIMALS was published by Eraserhead Press as part of their New Bizarro Author Series. This series gives more new authors a chance to be published. Eraserhead wants to see how dedicated the new authors are, and if they can write books that sell and then actively sell those books. In order to be considered for a five-book deal with Eraserhead, one of the qualifications is that I need to sell a MINIMUM of 200 copies of ROTTEN LITTLE ANIMALS on Amazon.com in one year to prove I’ve got what it takes. With the current state of the publishing industry, becoming a cult sensation online, and specifically at Amazon, is one of the best ways to establish myself as an author.
As you can see, we are almost halfway through the year and I am about halfway to my goal of selling 200 copies on Amazon.com.
To kick off the second half of this year, I’m declaring April 5, 2010, ROTTEN LITTLE ANIMALS day. (No, I have absolutely no power to do this. I’m doing it anyway.) On April 5, 2010, ROTTEN LITTLE ANIMALS will be exactly 6 months old. With your help, I’d like to kick off the second half of the year in a big way, and hopefully easily and quickly make Eraserhead’s initial goal of 200 copies sold. You may ask, How can I help? If you do ask that, there are myriad ways that I’d greatly appreciate:
If you haven’t already, buy the book on or around April 5th on
Amazon.com. (If we can get a number of people purchasing it on the same day, the Amazon algorithms could help to push ROTTEN LITTLE ANIMALS on to be advertised more by Amazon.)
If you already have a copy of the book, do you have weird friend(s) who might also enjoy a copy? You could purchase it for them or talk them into it.
Invite your friends.
Share this note on Facebook, your blog, or anywhere.
Post a link to ROTTEN LITTLE ANIMALS on Amazon.com on your Facebook or Myspace page. Include a glowing review.
Review ROTTEN LITTLE ANIMALS on Amazon.com and post that review to your page.
Do you have your own blog? Include a review of ROTTEN LITTLE ANIMALS on your blog, including the link to Amazon.com.
Do you have any contacts at radio shows, tv shows, or newspapers? I’d love to talk more about ROTTEN LITTLE ANIMALS and Bizarro in general in more venues. Hook me up.
Anything else you can think of to get the word out about my book is WIN!
Let me know what you’ve done so I can thank you personally.
It’s been a fabulous year of dreams coming true for me. Thank you so much for being here with me. But this is just the beginning. There’s still much to do in order for me to ensure my future as a professional author. I truly appreciate any and all help you can give.
Have great days,

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

NYUCK, NYUCK (part 3)

And now, the thrilling conclusion to "Nyuck, Nyuck". Thanks for reading, folks:

NYUCK, NYUCK (part three)

William S. Burroughs had thrice wandered into the town of Bethlehem; two of those times had been completely unintentional.

After wandering the wasteland desert for a spell, William decided he really wasn’t much of an Eagle Scout. There was no way a city dweller like himself could possibly survive the elements. Assuming that he’d succeed at nothing more then feeding a flock of buzzards, and believing that men were inherently good (which was a thought that he did not subscribe to – he’d seen the horror that lurked within a man’s chest) he hightailed it back to Bethlehem. How he’d manage to convince Burl to “take him back”, he was unsure. All he knew was that it was worth the effort.

Burl was placing the coffin, of the man with steer horns, on display outside the local tavern. Though William’s eyes were filled with grit and flecks of tumbleweed, he could see Burl’s face turn from amusement to anger as the undertaker caught sight of his sorry ass strolling back into town.

“Get on,” Burl had said, shooing the much hated beat out of town.

The second time William had stumbled into Bethlehem had been a complete surprise. He had wandered the desert for hours, though it felt like days. He would pass cacti and other desert flora. Delirium had made it so that each and every time he passed a cactus, he would do a sweeping bow and introduce himself. Fuck – the combination of heat, exhaustion, and withdrawal were sending him on something that was starting to rival most of his trips.

A couple of cacti William tried to cut open. While not an Eagle Scout, he seemed to remember Kerouac saying you could cut open a cactus and find water. What Kerouac had failed to explain – and what William failed to comprehend or even think about – was how one went about doing such a thing without tools. Burroughs had succeeded at nothing more than impaling fingers and palm with spikes and needles.

One line of cacti had purple blooms sprouting from the skin. Burroughs carefully picked several of those and shoved them in his maw. He did this not for nourishment or any liquid they might be carrying. No, he did this strictly out of curiosity. Someone discovered magic mushrooms and the Indians had discovered peyote. If he were going to be stuck in a desert, dammit, William S. Burroughs would discover what flora or fauna would get you high (he was not beyond eating a Gila monster lizard if he had an inkling of its potency).

A flock of seagulls followed him overhead. He hated seagulls. Buzzards and vultures had the decency to wait until the spirit left the body before chowing down. Seagulls just went in for whatever they wanted – and here he was, cooking like jerky.

As he was about to surrender to weakness, William caught sight of something that gave him hope. It was the silhouette of a town, rippling like a lake reflection, dead ahead.

A new found energy sparked and his legs sprang into action. As he ran his thoughts bounced back and forth between hope and despair:

Thank God! If I ever meet you big Fellow, I’m going to have to break out my best shit. Oh, we’ll smoke a bowl.


Fuck! It’s just a mirage. It’s got to be a mirage! There’s no town. There’s no seagulls. This is just hell, pure and simple.

He skidded to a stop just before he could smash into the walls of one of the town’s buildings. Cautiously he extended a hand and rapped his knuckles on the wall. Knock, knock, knock. Seemed he owed some good shit to God after all.

He stepped into the town and felt his feet sizzle. William tiptoed towards the shadows cast by the awnings of the local tavern. He never registered that there was no chortles of drunken cheering coming from the bar.

In one mighty leap, William sprang from the main strip of dusty road onto the wooden porch of the pub. He was greeted to relief; the planks of wood were definitely warm, but nothing like that scorched earth. Then he saw it and his heart stopped beating.

On the porch, in a box, was a dead man with steer horns coming out his head.

“Oh, stupid luck,” muttered William. “I went in a damned circle.”

“No, no, no, no,” Burl chattered. The undertaker was rushing across the street waving a horse leg at him. “I tol’ you. Now get.”

So once more, William had headed back into the wastelands. And once more, he found himself strolling back into the streets of Bethlehem. He realized he lacked survival skills, which included navigational sensibilities, but he was fairly sure this was beyond coincidence. There was no way he’d traveled in a circle. None. Each time he’d wandered the desert, he’d seen different cacti with different blooms. He’d eaten blue ones and purple ones and one pink one. No way was this coincidental.

Something was drawing him in. Like a tractor beam. Perhaps he was indeed trapped in a Sisyphean Hell, from which there was no escape.

“Look mister,” said Burl, rushing from out his barn. “You can’t be here.”

“I’ve no desire to be here, Mr. Ives. But just when I think I’m out, it draws me back in.”

“Please,” said Burl, tears welling up in his eyes. Each tear drop evaporated before it could roll down his cheek. “You gotta leave. You got no idea what them boys are capable of.”

As if on cue, the rumbling started.

Burroughs and Ives both flicked their attention to the desert beyond Bethlehem. A great cloud of fog and sin headed towards them. Within that thunderous rumble of giant horse hoofs on cracked earth, they could make out the high falsetto laughter, random gunshots, and someone crying “nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.”

“They find you here,” Burl started, “they’ll go ahead and string me up, too. You gotta…”

The undertaker’s words trailed off. A bullet to the dome will have that affect. One minute he was frantically trying to push the beat out of town and the next William’s face was showered with brain matter. His face looked like the start of a Pollock.

The bullet had entered the back of Burl’s oversized head and stirred around a bit. Then it exploded out one of his eyeballs, creating a geyser of vitreous fluid and brain particles. The large man swayed a few times then tumbled to the ground. William was sad to see him go, but he was grateful to have a Mister In-Between when the bullets were flying.

The writer panicked and froze as the cloud drew nigh. The rumbling rattled his eardrums and the high-pitched cackles sent shivers down his spine. Then it was all over.

Burroughs didn’t hear the men, which instinctively made him thing he’d gone deaf from the thunderous rattling. He wasn’t even aware it had all come to an end until one of those massive horses snorted and sent a cloud of phlegmy nasal mist into his hair. He slapped at the grossness that had caked his head and slowly turned his gaze upward. The star blotted out most everything. He could make out shadows, silhouettes against that blinding, piercing light. There were three figures – one he knew was Jew-fro (Larry, he remembered), one was Bowl-cut (Moe), and one seemingly had a bald head and no neck. He could also feel the heavy huffs of horse sinuses.

“So, this is the wise guy, eh?” shrilled a voice. It must have belonged to the new member of the gang, the bald one.

“Yeah, this is him,” said Moe.

A massive hand came down and grabbed Burroughs by the hair, jerking him upward.

“He don’t look like too much to me,” said the newer voice.

William felt the man drag him across the street, much the same as a caveman would have done to a mate. He couldn’t see with the light in his eyes, but he could sense that the other two – Moe and Larry – were following behind them. In a festive manner at that. They were singing an odd song as if it were a blood chant.

“B-A, bay. B-E, be. B-I, bicky-bye, B-O, bo. Bicky-bye-bo. B-U, boo. Bicky-bye-bo-boo! C-A, cay…”

The childishness of the song in contrast with the macabre violence that was about befall forced William to release his bowels.

“Smells like he shit hisself,” cackled Larry.

William’s head felt like it exploded as the large man cabertossed him into a building. Darkness fell around him, but it was not from fading consciousness, rather the absence of that godforsaken star above. He was inside something. He fluttered his eyes like a butterfly on speed, hoping to catch the slightest glimpse of his attacker. Blurred vision surrendered their forms. He spotted the silhouettes of Larry and Moe, but he knew they were there. The other was a hulk of a man – easily three hundred pounds – with a shaved head. Curly, Burroughs thought, that’s cute.

Curly approached Burroughs, a sausage-sized finger pointed at him like a javelin.

“So, the boys tell me you’re a wise guy.”

“I’m sorry they said such a thing. I wouldn’t consider myself any wiser than anyone else.”

“You talk like a wise guy,” said Curly, jabbing his thick finger into William’s chest. “You like to use them pretty words. You know what we do with wise guys around here?”

“I haven’t a clue,” said William, his voice quavering with fear.

“You’re a wise guy, I’m sure you can figure it out.”

“Please!” William spit the word out in a whirlwind of spittle and tears. He sniffled hard.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” said Curly, his voice oddly soothing. “I didn’t mean to make you cry. I was just spookin’ you a bit.”

The big man gently held William’s head in his hands maternally. William stared at the brute through tear-stained eyes. He snuffled hard.

“Sounds like you got a runny nose,” cooed Curly. “I can help you with that, if’n you want.”

“If you feel charitable enough,” William said weakly.

“Absolutely.” Curly’s cooing had been replaced with the mischievousness that had been there before.

The man pinched William’s nose with his first two fingers. He squeezed hard and William felt something crack within. In a massive display, Curly brought his other hand down hard on the fingers pinching the nose like he was swinging a mallet. POW!

“You got his nose!” squealed Larry.

“You got it good!” voiced Moe.

For that instant, William was convinced that Curly had indeed gotten his nose. He remembered that retarded game crazy uncles used to play with nieces and nephews. That “I’ve got your nose” game. William was certain that Curly had just given him the reality edition of that game. He’d knocked his nose clean off.

He was happy to find that he was wrong…sort of.

The author/wise guy brought his hands up to his face. He wheezed snotty blood all over his fingers, an indicator that this was bad. Slowly he felt where his nose should be. There was a cavernous hole in his head that was spitting blood like Ol’ Faithful. Fuck! His nose was really gone. Nope, there it was. His fingers fumbled with a dangling piece of flesh. It felt like a big skin tag. As he fingered it, though, he knew it was his nose. He could feel the chunks of cartilage.

“Boys, it looks like I didn’t quite get it all!”

Curly reached down, snatched that dangling nose of William’s, and ripped the thing right from his forehead. William opened his mouth to scream but nothing came out. Larry and Moe cackled in the background.

“Nyuck, nycuk, nyuck,” said Curly. “I got his nose.”

William began crawling across the wooden floor, intent on crawling out the front door. As futile as the idea was, he was operating on instinct, not logic.

“Feed it to him, Curly! Make him eat it,” said Moe.

“That’s disgusting,” said Larry.

“It is disgusting. Like eatin’ a booger samich,” said Curly. “I like it.”

Burroughs continued his escape, looking like a geriatric inchworm. He heard the conversation that was surrounding him, heard them threaten to feed him his own nose, but couldn’t quite comprehend it.

Larry and Moe seized the struggling beat by the shoulders. They flipped him over and held him tight. His vision was still blurred, but he saw Curly’s ginormous hand gripping his bloody proboscis.

“Please!” tried William once again.

“Why soitnly,” Curly said. Burroughs knew he was saying “certainly”.

Curly shoved the thing into William’s mouth. The two stooges that were holding him gripped his jaw line and forced him to chew. William felt bile rush up his throat with every crunch. He swallowed hard and felt bits of cartilage and flesh flow down his esophagus.

The human body is a funny thing. It’s no surprise that a person can drink themselves silly until two in the morning and wake up still drunk. Things have a way of staying in the body longer than we’d expect them to. Sometimes it’s temporary; other times, not so much. It definitely depends on what it is you’re imbibing and how often you find yourself doing it.

William S. Burroughs was a living, breathing Petri dish of drug research. He’d snorted, smoked, toked, eaten, dropped, and inhaled anything and everything. Despite that he was not elderly or geriatric, decades of the lifestyle had led to a certain tolerance to drugs as a whole. Meanwhile the residue that had been left over – from every spliff, every line snorted, every drop of LSD – had terraformed his body into their own personal village.

The withdrawal had been a bitch. Now, as he chewed that nose, he felt left over cocaine re-entering his bloodstream. He tasted the sweetness of marijuana residue. He sucked the blood from the nose and instantly felt the oncoming rush of a high. His mind worked up imagery: William S. Burroughs was Popeye the Sailor Man and that nose was his motherfucking can of Spinach. He watched the scene playing in his head as his biceps ballooned into bowling balls and his calves inflated. He’d gotten a fix and he was unstoppable.

The movements were fluid and they occurred without William being fully aware of it. It was as if his subconscious and his body were having a private conversation. His hands turned to fists and the arms jerked upwards violently. Each fist made contact with a nose – Larry’s and Moe’s.
“Packed with peanuts,” William said, though not sure why.

With the two stooges hunched over in pain, William opened his left fist and slapped Curly across the face. It was fast and vicious and William could feel his hand still vibrating. Curly buckled in pain.

Curly regained his balance and glowered at the beat. William saw he’d drawn blood from the big man’s face. He liked that.

“Why I oughta…” Curly said, and began rushing towards him.

“Come get some,” replied William. He sidestepped just before the big man could barrel into him like a freight train. Immediately behind William was a wooden post that existed to help keep the top floor on top. Curly didn’t have time to stop. He hit head first, the wood splintering under the attack. A chunk of wood split through the big man’s dome sending blood and brain matter across the floor below.

Larry and Moe were awestruck. They were too far away to recruit Curly Joe (a doppelganger who sometimes stood in for Curly). They watched William to see what he would do next. The writer wasted no time.

William S. Burroughs bitch slapped Moe across the cheek. It wasn’t as hard as he’d slapped Curly, but it did send the stooge to the floor.

“Why I oughta…” started Larry.

“Like talking to a broken record. You all just keep saying the same thing.”

William brought his hand up like a cobra, his index and forefingers ready to strike. His arm waggled in front of Larry’s face, going up, then down, then up again. Larry was transfixed. Then the cobra struck.

Two fingers poked into Jew-fro’s eye sockets. “Look who’s blind now!” shouted William. He jabbed further and felt warm vitreous fluid wash over his fingers. He wiggled his fingers while they were still in the sockets and felt his fingernails scratch the brain. Larry slumped to the floor.

For the first time since stumbling into Bethlehem, Burroughs had a smile on his face.


The noise reverberated within his dome. He’d forgotten all about Moe, who had seen fit to take advantage of the situation by slamming something into William’s head.
Burroughs spun around to defend another blow. There was Moe, frying pan in hand, ready to strike out again.

“We hate wise guys ‘round here,” said Moe.

The beat needed to defend himself. He glanced around the room. Nada. He felt in his pocket. No dice. Then he saw something that might aid him. It was a canister of some sort jutting from Larry’s pocket. He ducked and grabbed the item.

“A seltzer bottle?” Moe guffawed. “What? You gonna squirt me, wise guy?”

And that was what William did. He made the bottle spit its contents right into Moe’s face.

“Wah, wah, wah,” William laughed.

Moe screamed in bloody agony.

“It’s just soda water! There’s no need to be a big baby.”

The stooge screamed again.

His vision was already fading – partially because of the blood and grit, partly because William himself was fading. He strained as hard as he could and glimpsed the grotesque vision. Moe’s face was sizzling. Steam rose from his head, and puss jutted from popping boils. The seltzer water was eating him alive. Or maybe it wasn’t soda after all. Perhaps it had been acid.
The screams grew softer and before long, Moe was a headless corpse on the floor.

William laughed, completely unsure why he was doing so. He fell to the floor and felt his head begin to split. It was literally splitting in two, a crack spreading from where his nose used to be. So this is what they mean by splitting headache!

He chuckled at his own joke – after all, nobody else would or could. The darkness came swift. First his eyes flickered out, then he couldn’t feel his arms or legs. He felt his heart rhythmically slow, each beat sending him further into hypnosis. He wondered if Jack and Allen ever made it to Mexico. That was his last thought, before death swooped over him and he was nothing more than a memory.

He died with a smile on his face and his hand raised offering a middle finger to the world. It was satisfying to have one final trip.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

NYUCK, NYUCK (part two)

The steeds trampled the earth beneath them. Their snorting sent violent clouds of haze into their wake. Each was larger than horses should be allowed to grow – more like Babe, Paul Bunyon’s big, blue ox. The sheer size of the beasts made their riders, at a distance, appear to be nothing more than dwarfs.

William watched through the cracks of the barn wall, his feet sizzling on the scorched earth beneath him. They were beginning to smell like bacon. Still, he couldn’t pull his eyes away from the scene unfolding in the streets. He bit into his lower lip, hard enough to draw blood, and kept his attention.

Out on the streets none of the residents of Bethlehem could be seen. Surely there were other residents here beside Burl Ives. The riders hadn’t reached the main strip that ran through the town, and already the landscape looked like chaotic vomit: a horse trough bubbled and boiled under the sun’s heat, several windows shattered as poorly aimed bullets burst through them, and piles of horse manure ignited, courtesy of the heated soil.

It was like every version of Armageddon William had ever heard of.

The horses rampaged into the main strip of Bethlehem; a hefty tumbleweed of fog ensconced them. As the dust settled, William caught glimpse of the men. They were odd and seemed out of place – though everything seemed out of place in this Sartre hell.

Both men were about the same height and each wore matching outfits – white button-up shirts that had yellowed over the years, turd-brown pants, and red suspenders. Neither man wore hats, but each wore a hefty belt that prominently featured two holstered pistols.

One of the men was grayer than he other, his skin thick and ashy. His hair was fashioned in an odd sort of way, as if someone had placed a bowl on his head and cut everything that hung past the rim. He also had a Hitler-like fashioned mustache that quivered in the warm breeze.
The other had a peachier complexion, like blood still flowed beneath his skin. His hair was auburn and stuck upright in crazed tendrils. One of William’s friends In New York had referred to a similar hairstyle as a “Jew-fro”.

A third man rode with them. Well, not so much rode as he was dragged. Two thick ropes were attached to the coffin that dragged behind the men. Inside the box, William could barely see, was a fellow that looked vaguely similar to the Hitler wannabe, sans mustache. The corpse had been dead for a bit – the eyes had been devoured by crows and the cheeks sunken in like fleshy craters. Looking at the corpse, William felt an odd connection, like he had been responsible for the man’s death.

That’s impossible, he thought. I was with Jack and Allen. That guy’s not a beat.

“Burroughs!” shouted the Hitler look-a-like. “Get your ass out here!”

“We ain’t got nobody named Burroughs here,” said a voice. William couldn’t see the owner, but instantly knew it was Burl. “Now you boys get on out of here. I ain’t lookin’ for no trouble.”

“Big Daddy, we don’t want no trouble from you. We just want Burroughs.”

“And, I b’lieve I just said, I they ain’t nobody named Burroughs here in town. Don’t try to muscle me around, Moe.”

The chills of withdrawal washed over William’s body. He felt thousands, nay millions, of spiders running across his skin. He felt the cool sweat rushing down his head. He looked down at his hands and saw them tremble. At that moment, William realized these were not symptoms of his withdrawal. Rather they were signs of pure terror. What were the odds that there was another person named Burroughs in this town? Even if it was spelled Burrows.

William returned his gaze to the cracks in the barn wall. Burl Ives came into view, approaching the two riders as if he was immune to fear and threats.

Jew-fro leapt off his horse and jabbed the hefty undertaker in the chest. “Lookee here, see. We know there’s a knucklehead named Burroughs here somewhere. We followed tracks that went this way.”

“Those tracks could have been made by anybody,” Burl said.

“They could’ve been made by anyone,” the man named Moe said, “but we know they came from Burroughs. Who do you think you’re talking to, Big Daddy? Do you really think Howard, Fine, and Howard are a bunch of maroons.”

Burl swallowed back a verbal jab. He’d always considered them stooges more so than maroons.

“And what do ya want with this guy Burroughs? What’d he do?” asked the undertaker.

“What’d he do?” asked Moe. He turned to his comrade. “Larry, the guy wonders what Burroughs did.”

“If he don’t know,” said Larry, “then he must be blind.”

Moe sauntered over to Burl. “You blind, Big Daddy?”

“Not last I checked. No sir.”

With deft, speed-of-light moves, Larry brought his index finger and middle finger, like a frog gig, and jabbed them into Burl’s eyes. The action wasn’t strong enough to gouge out the eyeballs, but Burl did drop to his knees and rubbed his eyes furiously.

“He’s blind now, Moe,” cackled Larry. “Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.”

“Well since he’s blind,” said Moe to Larry, “I guess I better describe the scene. Y’see, this kid, Burroughs, he decides to up and shoot ol’ Shemp back here. He’s the one wearing the wooden kimono back there.”

Burl spoke, but his tone had turned somber. “I’m sorry for your loss. But they ain’t no Burroughs here.”

“You play your games, Big Daddy, and we’ll keep playing ours. Nobody happens upon Bethlehem my accident. This is the place you go to die. For this Burroughs fellow, we’re hoping to expedite that a bit. You be sure to let him know that. We’re going to bury brother Shemp and then we’ll be back.”

“And with Shemp out of the picture,” said Larry, “he’ll be dealing with brother Curly! Big Daddy, you want to make damn sure you’re out of the way when we get back.”

Not Curly, thought William, though he was unsure why. How did he know these people.

The stooges – or maroons – mounted their horses and exited the town in a thunderous rumbling.

Wiping the grit from his eyes, Burl headed back towards the barn. The childlike energy that he’d had minutes ago had all but faded. Now, he maintained a solemn and somber stance like every undertaker William had ever known (which wasn’t many).

With the action ended, William turned his attention to other things. Like his feet. The things hurt like a sumbitch (as that rat bastard, Ginsey, would have said). They smelled of bacon fat sizzling in a skillet and felt like a thousand scorpion stings. How he’d not noticed the severity prior was beyond him. This cursed scorched earth was literally cooking him. He could hear the hiss of searing flesh.

He leapt away from the barn wall and climbed onto the cot he’d found himself on when he slipped back into consciousness. The reprieve was temporary. He heard a spring door slap a door frame.

“William!” boomed Burl’s voice.

William did not answer, but his heart actually stopped a beat.

“William! Get on out here now.”

As well meaning as Burl seemed, William knew he should heed the request. The large man was capable of hammering steer horns into a man’s head (granted the task would have been much more difficult if the man had been alive), surely he’d have no trouble crushing him like the proverbial bug.

The first step was painful as the earth bit his feet. He jumped from shadowy spot to shadowy spot, all the while singing a frantic chorus of “fucks”.

“Is your name Burroughs?” Burl asked, not waiting for William to reach him.

This was a clustered mess. Should he say “no”, which he was inclined to do, then what would it mean for Burl? Would those boys actually return and gouge out his eyes like melon balls? Could he live with that?

Of course, answering “yes” was certain to deter his little breathing habit.

He opted to avoid the question completely and just offered a shrug.

“You are Burroughs, ain’t ye?”

“I suppose I am,” William said.

“Look, besides shooting Shemp, which was the dumbest of the dumb ideas a person could have, I don’t know what you did to piss them boys off. You gotta leave, mister. I can’t get involved with the likes of them…or you. Heckfire and tarnation is what’s comin’.”

William felt a sinking sensation inside, like his bowels were made of quicksand. He’d managed to somehow piss off his two best friends, who’d fed him to this hellhole. Now, the first person he’d met he’d managed to piss off. More impressively, he’s managed to piss him off without doing a goddamn thing.

“Here’s the thing, Mr. Ives. I don’t know what I did. There’s a vague familiarity when I noticed them out there, but I can’t remember them. I certainly feel I would be incapable of killing someone. Seems, I’d maintain a certain recall of that.”

“You talk real fancy,” said Burl. It was the first time William could make out actual spite. “Since you’re kind of fancy smart, answer me this: how’s a person do something and not remember it? You got that amnesty?”

“I believe it’s called amnesia,” answered William. “And to answer your question, well as smart as I am, I’m only capable of utilizing thirty percent of my brain function. The other seventy percent is a muddled mess, I’m afraid. You see, Mr. Ives, I’m an experimenter. Those experiments have left craters in my brain, and those craters are filled with lakes of absinthe, rapids of laudanum, and fog clouds of ether.”

He knew it would sound impressive to the undertaker. Hell, it sounded impressive to him. Still, he knew he was no goddamn “experimenter”. He was a fucking junkie and he knew it. Just the mention of the word “ether” caused him to salivate and twitch. Damn, he needed a fix, stat!

Screw Jack and Allen, he thought. Those two beats were probably neck deep in fresh sticky buds down Mexico way.

“I don’t understand much of that,” said Burl. “I ain’t never heard of ‘loud anum’ or ‘absent’. You talk fancy, but use made-up words. Earlier I remember you askin’ for some benzy dream. Regardless, I don’t want to get messed up with them Fine boys. Nor do I want to get messed up with you and your strange addictions. Now, get on, boy.”

Great, William thought, I’ve been downgraded from mister to boy.

“Where am I supposed to go?”

“Far the hell away, I’d reckon.”

“And how am I to get far the hell anywhere? You said there are no horses.”

“Those two things growin’ out your hips ain’t celery stalks boy.”

“Well then may I at least beg you for a pair of shoes or boots? My feet are frying as it is.”

“That damned star does play hell on the soil here. We can’t grow nothin’ in it,” said Burl matter-of-factly. “Shines all night and all day. The ground’ll scorch the skin right off you, if ye ain’t careful. Sadly, I ain’t got no shoes I can spare. Just the boots I’m wearin’ and the nice ones I wear to church.”

“That will make walking all the more difficult,” muttered William.

“You could try runnin’. I reckon the faster you move the less time your feet’ll be on the ground. Now I must bid you good day. I wish I could do more for ye, but I can’t.”

Burl seized William with his two massive paws and tossed him out into the streets of Bethlehem. So much for thinking of him as the Good Samaritan. As he hit the street his cheek sizzled from the heat.

“That smarts,” he said, not really to anyone.

Taking Burl’s advice, he broke into a sprint and raced towards the wastelands that lay just outside of town. He figured there really wasn’t any other choice.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Nyuck, Nyuck, Part One

As a special treat, to all of you who have made "Naked Metamorphosis" a success to date, I'm offering an unpublished story just for you. This story came about through a conversation between myself and Jordan Krall, author of "Fistful of Feet". I'm not sure if it's any good - you'll have to be the judge. I like it, biased as my opinion is, and haven't really shopped it around. I've been told if you liked "Naked Metamorphosis", you may like this one. I'll be posting this in parts. Enjoy!
(And if you've not purchased your copy of "Naked Metamorphosis", do so here: http://www.amazon.com/Naked-Metamorphosis-Eric-Mays/dp/1933929901/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1269442121&sr=8-1)

(part one)
by Eric Mays
Three wise guys rolled into the town of Bethlehem on two ponies that were weathered and begging for a bullet in the head. They didn’t have maps to guide them through the desert wasteland. The only landmark they had to follow was a glowing star that hung above the city and could be seen for miles on the flat landscape.
Though it sounded biblical, the town of Bethlehem, Texas has strayed far from Christian ways long ago. The town was nothing more than spittle on a map and as time had progressed the town had faded from commonplace into the annals of folklore. It was as rough and tumble a town as you’d find in the western wasteland of Texas. Needless to say, nobody ever happened upon Bethlehem. It was the sort of place you went to if you never wanted to be found again. There were no immaculate conceptions, or innocent infants in mangers, or frankincense and myrrh (whatever the hell that was).
As unusual as it was for three men to search out the fabled town of Bethlehem, the wise guys’ attire was just as out-of-place. The two men working the horses to the bone wore matching outfits: black suits, thin neckties, and dusty bowler hats. One of them was heavyset, nearing two hundred and fifty pounds. The other was as slender as they came. The third wise guy lay slumped on the back of Skinny’s horse, his hands and feet bound with a heavy rope, and his bowler hat long gone.
The ponies tramped past the welcome sign of Bethlehem and into the dusty streets. The only light present was the overwhelming luminescence of the damn star that hovered above. No gas lamps glimmered, no candles flickered in windows. The town was dead.
The ponies came to a stop and the hefty man grabbed the bound form off his comrade’s horse. With one grunt and shove the third of their party landed in the dirty street.
“Another fine mess you’ve gotten us into,” said the skinny man.
The bound man came to, flickering his eyelids, shaking the shock from his system. His throat was dry from days in the desert, but he croaked a dry retort. “Jack? Please don’t do this. Ginsey?”
The heavy man said, “You know I never liked the name Ginsey, Bill. I’m fine with Allen, or Ginsberg, or Allen Ginsberg. But, calling me Ginsey when I’ve firmly asked you not to is insulting, Bill.”
“And you know I do not prefer the name Bill. It’s William,” said the man in the streets. He shot his glance over to the skinny man, Jack. “So what? You’re just going to leave me here in the streets?”
“You’ll like it, William,” said Jack. “It’s your kind of place. Meanwhile, we’ll be on the road.”
“I thought we were all heading to Mexico,” said William, tears welling.
“Kerouac and I are headed to Mexico,” said Ginsberg. “We don’t have much of a choice, thanks to you. We have to hide. You need to just disappear.”
“The fuck I do,” spit William. “We’re a team.”
The two men snatched their respective reins and began steering the horses back towards the desert. William, still with tied wrists and ankles, wriggled along the dusty street like a cocoon birthing a butterfly. He shouted, though it was nothing coherent.
Allen turned his pony around and held a finger to his mouth. “Shhhh! It’s not real polite to wake the neighbors, William. That’s not how you make first impressions.”
“You bastards!”
The other pony turned to face the struggling William. Jack said, “A word of advice, William: get off the shit. You get that stuff out of your system and never put any back in and you might have yourself a pleasant life.”
William watched as Jack and Allen rode away. He watched as their forms shrunk until they were nothing more than the size of ants. And he watched as the faded away. His stomach ached with anxiety. Pangs of stress raced through his system. And despite that his hands were bound, he could feel them violently tremble. Damn he needed a fix; that was the only way to deal with the current predicament.
As soon as the thought hit him, William passed out from exhaustion and the world dissolved around him.


He awoke in a cold sweat with the sensation of a million cockroaches running over his skin. He jolted upright and brought his hands to his face. He fingered his jaw line and realized he was in desperate need of a shave. He stopped. Shave, he thought. Holy shit! His hands were untied and he was…in a bed.
William took in the surroundings. He was positioned on a cot in what looked like a barn. Hay was strewn about and a miasma of manure and urine wafted past his nose. Sun streamed in through cracks and crevices. And there was an incessant banging in the background. Where the hell was he? Had it all just been a dream. Maybe, Jack and Ginsey were waiting with coffee and ganja.
He stood from the cot and examined himself. He was still wearing his black suit and narrow tie, but his shoes and socks had been removed. He stepped across the dirt-bottom barn floor and the heat from the ground sizzled his feet. He tiptoed to a shadowy spot and worked to hop-scotch across the barn in the shadows as he pursued the source of the banging.
As he leapfrogged through the shadows, he was oddly surprised that he found no animals in any of the stables. No cows, horses, chickens. That made the smells of feces and piddle all the more perplexing. William didn’t waste too much time on the oddity, primarily because he was hypnotized by the rhythmic banging. With each beat a vision became clearer. First it was a hammer. Then he saw the hammer smashing the contents of a prescription bottle. Then he saw a fist slapping the table and sliding the powder into an envelope. The thought made him salivate and gave him an erection.
Past the stables, William found a small work area. There was indeed a man working at a table. On the table was what looked like a large, wooden box. The burly man, twice the size of Allen Ginsberg, was hammering away. Cautiously William approached.
“Excuse me,” he said softly.
“Holy son of a honky,” the man screamed, spinning on William, his hammer raised above his head.
The two exchanged glances – William’s was pure terror, Mr. Burly’s was confusion.
“Well, hell friend,” the man said, with an overwhelming twang. “You cain’t sneak up on folks like that. I ain’t much for violence, but I coulda accidentally smashed your melon in with this here hammer. Don’t worry, I’d felt bad about it.”
William was still working to reclaim his breathing function. That Joan Vollmer bitch had given him a scare with that whole William Tell thing back in the day. He’d not breathed right for a year after that.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
The burly man tossed the hammer down to the table and wrapped William in a bear hug embrace. “Don’t you worry about it, friend. Ain’t nothin’ to be sorry for. I just don’t want to hurt you. Not too sure what brought you into Bethlehem. It’s usually not anything good. But, like everyone who stumbles into our town, you’re a friend.”
William’s head was swimming. In the most fantastical of trips, nothing he’d experienced had been quite like this.
“What’s your name, friend?”
“William,” he said, feeling the words exiting his maw outside his control.
“Well, William, most people ‘round here call me Mr. Ives. I think that’s so impersonal. You can call me Burl, got it?”
William, once again outside of his control, felt his head nod.
“Now I’ll fix you up some eggs and some bacon, if you like. You look like you could use a good meal. Right now, though, I gotta finish this job. I’m on a deadline.”
William inched towards the table and the box in order to catch a quick glimpse at what the man was working on. He instantly regretted it. In the box was a macabre vision that force bile to creep up William’s throat.
The box was a coffin that housed the corpse of a man, a fairly young and muscular lad. What Burl was hammering was much darker than the image of a corpse. The big man was hammering the horns of a mighty steer into the head of the dead man.
Now, William was sure he was most certainly, as the kids said, tripping balls.
Seeing that the stranger was about to vomit all over his masterpiece, Burl aided William to the ground.
“Breathe deep, friend. Ain’t nothin’ to be worried about! It was his last request.”
“Who requests something like that?”
“Well, we folks around here still got imagination. Seems the rest of the world has moved on.”
Seeing William’s confusion, Burl elaborated:
“See, when one of ours passes, we like to decorate the corpse. Makes it that much more festive. There was this ol’ boy who passed of cholera a while back. That fella was obsessed with these things called jackalopes. You know what a jackalope is, right? Rabbit with antlers. Well, he wanted antlers attached to his forehead when he passed. Bein’ the undertaker and all, who was I to say no?”
“And this fellow?” asked William, turning green.
“Well, this fella used to get razzed all the damn time. He used to travel into New Mexico and those boys there would joke on him for bein’ from Texas. They’d always say ‘they’s only two things from Texas – steers and queers, and we don’t see no goddamn horns.’ So he passes of typhoid and asks me to find some steer horns. Wants his body shipped into Santa Fe so he gets the last laugh.”
William nodded. As perverse as it was, it did make sense through a certain eye. “Where’s the rest of the steer?”
“Smothered and chunked, I s’pose. We try to use up ever last scrap ‘round here.”
“I see,” said William. A sense of ease settled like a fog around him. If he wasn’t tripping, then Jack and Alan had indeed left him to rot in this godforsaken town. He knew in that instant that he needed to make a run for it. “Mr. Ives – Burl – I’m grateful for all you’ve done. I appreciate the offer for bacon and eggs. It’s beyond generous. However, what I truly need is a horse. And some Benzydrine.”
“Ain’t never heard of bennzy-dream. And, sadly, I ain’t got no horse. One came through here yesterday. The thing just sort of wandered around town.”
“Well, where is it now?”
“Well, it’s in pieces back in the work shed. Ol’ man Gustefson always wanted be hung like a horse…”
Burl’s words repulsed William, but he was still intrigued and wanted to hear more. Unfortunately for his ears, the undertaker’s words were drowned out by the sound of hell riding in. Gunshots, yelling, and the thunderous sounds of giant horses drowned out all that was around.
“William,” said Burl, swapping the niceties for caution, “you’d better hide yourself. Sounds like Shemp’s boys are back.”