All posts by Karl Kowesky

Karl Koweski continues to be at the forefront of solving the world's Amish problem. His latest collection of short stories, Kockblockers, published by Kleftjaw Jaw press and is available everywhere fine books are sold online... Namely Amazon.

Banging Heads at the Hog Palace Hair Metal Symposium

1

Hoyt looked out the passenger side window of Culley’s Dodge Neon and did not recognize the world passing by.  This profound disconnect existed between the world as he imagined it should be and the reality as it presented itself.  He could have blamed this detachment on the dirty dime he served behind the razor blade wire of the bloody Bilt, a sentence he earned for being Cullman County’s greatest meth manufacturer and also for shooting a kid’s ear off with a .22, but, truthfully, he believed he’d been on the outside of everything since his rotten birth.
+++++Lately, his malaise had come to be personified by a certain neighborhood hipster pedaling the backroads on a fixed gear bicycle.  This fella cultivated a ridiculous mustache and wore a funny hat that wasn’t quite a fedora.  Hoyt had seen these hats for sale at many a Hindu-operated gas station, these dusty oddities usually hanging above and to the right of the cash register.  Every time he bought a pack of smokes, he’d glance at the hats and feel those tendrils of hipster aggression uncoiling in the deepest, darkest section of his brain.
+++++At least now he knew there existed a target to hone in on, a jackass with a comically large mustache jutting off his face and little stick legs propelling a clownish yellow bicycle.  Hoyt didn’t know the fella’s name, but he believed if he could just stomp the guy’s head into the concrete one real good time, he could somehow make peace with his shitty life.
+++++Hoyt shared his idea with his colleague in criminality, and, of course, Culley had something negative to say.  “Whatcha gonna do?  Beat this kid to death because he looks like an asshole?  Jesus Christ, Hoyt, where would it end?  Mass Murder?  Stay outta Wal-Mart, that’s my best advice to you.  There’d be no end to the asses you’d feel compelled to kick.”
+++++“I’m not saying I gotta beat down everybody, Culley.  Pay attention.  I’m saying one dude.  One goofy fucking mustache.  One pair horned-rimmed glasses.  One stupid ass hat.  See how I feel once I beat him half-dead; go from there.”
+++++“That’s just silly.”
+++++“It’s not for you.  It’s for me.  I don’t give a shit what’s silly to you.”
+++++Then why’d you bring it up to me? Culley thought that oughta be the next logical thing to say, but he decided to just keep his mouth shut.  Hoyt was clearly working through some anger issues and despite a tenuous friendship which managed to last half their lives, Culley knew that Hoyt could become plum unpredictable when the overwhelming urge to hand out ass-whuppings told hold of him.
+++++“You want to put in my David Allen Coe cassette?  That usually gets me feeling better about things,” Culley offered.
+++++“Yeah, it wouldn’t hurt none to hear some ‘Long-haired Redneck’, I guess.  You know the ladies use to say I looked like Merle Haggard.”
+++++“I don’t see it.”
+++++“Back in the day.  Before Biltmore Prison.”
+++++“Still don’t see it.  Sure they weren’t saying ‘pure haggard’.”
+++++“Why the fuck they say that?  You even know what Merle Haggard looked like?”
+++++“More or less.  You do look country, though.  I give you that.”
+++++If Hoyt resembled anyone, it was Culley.  Culley was a bit taller, Hoyt a tad broader across the shoulders.  Culley’s teeth outnumbered the gray, rock bottom remainders in Hoyt’s yap.  Hoyt’s hair was thicker, his eyes somewhat more crazed.  The tattoos bunched heavily along Hoyt’s arms, whereas Culley kept his tattoos placed more strategically, a howling wolf on his shoulder, a grim reaper on his forearm.  Their dirty jeans could have been purchased from the same thrift store rack, their work boots from the same Wal-Mart shelf.  Hoyt’s Somewhere in Time T-shirt and Culley’s Can I Play With Madness T-shirt were both give to them by the Reverend Eddie Vacuum who bought his Iron Maiden shirts in bulk from some sketchy fella out of Scottsboro who thrived on copyright infringement.
+++++“Leave them hipsters alone.  I think a shot of leg would go a long way toward setting you right,” Culley said.
+++++“What the hell you know?”  Hoyt said, hoping to just kill the conversation so he could get back to staring out the window, listen to some David Allen Coe, and think of all the women who never called him by his name, either.
+++++“We got an invite to see Eddie Vacuum’s band play the Hair Metal Symposium this Saturday night at the Hog Palace.  Bound to be some trashy women there who don’t care about their lives enough to say no to coming home with us.  Big hair.  Painted on jeans.  Knee high boots.  If that don’t put a smile on that fucked-up face, there’s no hope for you.”
+++++Hoyt’s jaw muscles trembled like tumblers falling into place.
+++++Culley watched him out of the corner of his eye, but a smile never did appear on Hoyt’s fucked-up face.
+++++Culley went back to concentrating on his driving just as a newer model Mustang shot past his Neon.  Though he had the gas pedal mashed to the floorboard doing a respectable sixty miles per hour, the douche bag piloted Mustang made him look as though he were driving in reverse.
+++++“You know who I hate?” Culley said.  “Dipshit douchebags wearing backward flat brim ball caps with fashion symbols on them.  And jackassy beards that look like they’ve been smeared with shit because the dumbass is past forty and trying to hide the gray.”
+++++“And then they drive Mustangs.”
+++++“Yep.  And then they drive Mustangs.”
+++++“We need to make some money if we’re gonna make any headway at the Hog Palace Hair Metal Symposium,” Hoyt said.  “Some real money.  Not confederate flag selling money.”
+++++“They’re hiring at the Wal-Mart,” Culley offered, lips twisted in a grim smile.  “Third shift, janitoring.”

2

“I’m not White Lion when I say I wouldn’t mind putting the White Snake to some of these Twisted Sisters,” Culley said, grinning like a jackal at the way he incorporated old hair metal band names into his verbal repertoire.
+++++Hoyt, who’d been hearing this bullshit since Culley picked him up an hour ago was less than amused.  The Hog Palace was living up to its name tonight.  Most of the women present for tonight’s battle of the hair metal cover bands were shamefully obese or woefully old or both or they just weren’t interested in engaging Hoyt in conversation.
+++++The Reverend Eddie Vacuum, friend of the family and owner/proprietor of the local fringe church/thrift store/professional wrestling megaplex, found Culley’s wit exceptionally hilarious.  “These Cycle Sluts From Hell are Treat-ing us like a bunch of Ugly Kid Joes,” The Reverend added.  “I’m like Enuff Z’Nuff already.  Give my Great White a chance to Kingdom Come in your Faster Pussycat.  Know what I’m saying?”  Eddie glanced quickly over both shoulders, making sure his wife Charlotte was out of ear shot.
+++++Culley’s hair metal knowledge was a bit more limited than the Reverend who actually fronted a band performing tonight.  He thought he caught some of the references based on the hard emphasis Eddie put on certain words.  “I hear you.  I ain’t Def Leppard.”
+++++“Both of you, shut the fuck up, before I Saigon Kick you both in the Blind Melons,” Hoyt said.
+++++“Blind Melon’s not hair metal,” Eddie said.  “They’re not metal at all, actually.  Kinda mellow.  Folksy.  Like them, though.  Very underrated band, especially the second album.  Shannon Hoon is still missed.”
+++++“You need to pay more attention to the shut the fuck up part of what I said,” Hoyt warned.
+++++He glanced around the venue with eyes that would vaporize ninety percent of the people in attendance if he could.  This was life for Hoyt.  Every trip outside his house trailer upped his anger quotient.  But he felt the desperate urge to fuck, and every moment the ladies refused to flock to his genitals, the greater the desire to punch faces became.
+++++Culley monitored his friend’s fading humor through a series of sidelong glances.  Hoyt had been getting edgy lately.  He knew Hoyt was hurting for money.  None of their criminal activities had panned out lately, and Hoyt’s talk of shaking down some area meth manufacturers made him nervous.  Culley didn’t relish a career collecting Wal-Mart shopping carts; he really didn’t like the prospect of catching a shotgun blast to the face compliments of some crank crazed dixie mafia motherfucker.
+++++Hoyt tended to disregard consequences.  Culley just wanted to make it through the evening with some telephone numbers and at least one Vixen he could get his Hanoi Rocks off with.
+++++While Hoyt sulked, Culley circulated.  The Hog Palace usually catered to a more shitkickery clientele.  Its dance floor was large enough to sustain an army of two-stepping jackasses who found profundity in the lyrics of Luke Bryant anthems.  Strangely enough, the area had undergone a transition of sorts.  There developed a sudden proliferation of hair metal cover bands celebrating the glam rock of the mid to late eighties, and the Hog Palace began focusing on an entirely different style of mullet.
+++++The lady patrons who ultimately approved or disapproved of these night club aesthetics with this presence showed up in Aqua Net drenched droves.  Their nightclub wardrobes switched from tight denim and boots to tight denim and boots.  A little extra fishnet here and there.  Tim McGraw concert tees discarded in favor of Ozzy Osbourne.
+++++Culley moved among them, smiling, struggling for meaningful eye contact.  The witty conversational skills he impressed Eddie and Hoyt with earlier abandoned him now.  He couldn’t even recall the name of one god damn glam rock band’s name at one point when he tried explaining to one half ass decent-looking brunette the fun game he hand his friends played, working band’s names into casual conversation and how he excelled at it.
+++++Hoyt wasn’t at the bar five seconds before he found someone to focus his rage upon.  The man bun and scraggly beard were all reason enough to despise the man.  What really put Hoyt’s teeth on edge were the Dream Theatre T-shirt he wore and the incredibly intricate vaping instrument the dude sucked on intermittently, commenting to no one in particular how mellow the Fresh Island Infusion tasted.  “Pineapple and coconut with champagne infused blueberries with just a subtle hint of lime garnish.”
+++++Hoyt enabled the jackass to make the mistake of commenting on the vape’s flavor by standing near him at the bar when he ordered his Coors.  He reacted to the fella’s conversational gambit by knocking over his microbrew with his elbow.  The comic skeleton on the beer’s label made quarter turns in either direction like a gut-shot victim as beer gurgled from the neck.  The Dream Theatre fan made a show of securing his vaping instrument in a sophisticated fanny pack before addressing the fallen beer.  By then, Hoyt was on his way back to Culley and Eddie who greeted him with lopsided grins and diminishing hopes.
+++++“What did that Ratt do to Warrant such an Extreme reaction?” Culley asked, getting his mojo back.
+++++“I didn’t like him,” Hoyt said.
+++++“The band that just played all those Slaughter covers was Carnage,” Eddie Vacuum said, hoping to mollify Hoyt with some shop talk.
+++++“They gave me a fucking headache with all that screeching,” Hoyt said.
+++++“The lead singer, Wyatt, is a friend of mine.  He’s stopped by the church a time or two.  Took communion.  Sung a few Iron Maiden hymns.  The girls love him.”
+++++“I think he sucks.”
+++++“Hoyt, do you even listen to any glam rock?  Hair metal?”
+++++“Sure.  Sure.  Metallica.  Some Megadeth.  Dio, back in the day.  Foreigner.”
+++++“Hmmm…  Well, you might like this next band, Gentle Ruckus.  They do some pretty awesome Quiet Riot covers.  So good, you’ll see.  The actual drummer of the real Quiet Riot wanted to join their band, but, you know, the singer’s brother plays the drums, and you don’t cross family, even if it means having an in on the carnival circuit.”
+++++Credit due, the singer did possess a very pretty head of hair.  Very Farrah Fawcettian.  He thanked the crowd for coming, announced their name a highly detailed back story of how Quiet Riot’s drummer really wanted to join his band and how he had to gently let down one of his childhood idols.  The singer introduced himself yet again, Zeke Zydeco, a name which sounded suspect to Hoyt, and Gentle Ruckus launched into “The Wild and the Young”.
+++++The audience who were far from youthful and no longer particularly feral, screamed to drown out the shoddy sound system.
+++++Hoyt caught Culley’s eye.  Culley immediately telepathed Hoyt’s thoughts, an experience akin to walking through toxic mist.  My head hurts and I want to beat somebody to death.
+++++Culley shrugged.  The band sounded pretty good and the ladies looked like they were loosening up a little bit.  Maybe he could integrate himself among them, mention how he use to play a little bass.  Sure, he’d never played an instrument in his life, but Eddie Vacuum would back his play.  He’d use the excuse of chronic tendonitis in his wrists if any of the ladies called for a demonstration… and had a bass guitar handy.  Unlikely as that scenario might be, Culley’s luck dictated a high probability of this bullshit occurring.
+++++Hoyt turned his back, walked toward the door as he shook out a cigarette.  Since his prison stint, Hoyt found himself increasingly anxious among crowds.  Too many moving pieces, here, too many banging heads.  Even the Reverend Eddie Vacuum was getting his skullet swaying in time with the music.
+++++Outside, Hoyt lit a cigarette.  He exhaled a plume of smoke into the crisp night air and felt himself begin to relax, the muscles in his chest loosen.  His headache began to dissipate, the constricted blood vessels in his scalp he could imagine opening up, a feeling akin to cutting the blue wire two seconds before the nuclear bomb detonates.
+++++He walked toward the side courtyard of the Hog Palace.  The area was dark and isolated since most of the smokers congregated in the rear with the tokers.  He set his beer down on a picnic table and finished his smoke and lit another.  The music, muffled as it was, sounded all right.  They were playing “Love’s a Bitch.”  Hoyt knew this because Zeke Zydeco was one of those jackasses who the need to introduce every fucking song as if it were new to earth.
+++++Hoyt was just beginning to feel human again, or at least backing away from the cusp of mass murder, when he heard someone say “there’s the man of the hour” and just knew it was directed at him.
+++++Hoyt didn’t recognize the voice, but knew the figure stepping out of the shadow by size.  6’6, three hundred pounds.  Lank, greasy hair, protruding forehead, jaw like an anchor, the same Live After Death T-shirt he wore the first and only time he met the massive bastard.
+++++“Moon Slice or Moon Dog or whatever the fuck you call yourself.”
+++++“Moon Pie.  Cause when people ask me how I got so big, I tell ‘em I eat a lot of Moon Pies.”
+++++“Good thing they don’t ask you how you got to be so goddam ugly,” Hoyt said, flicking away his cigarette distastefully.  “Folks be calling you Dick Suck.”
+++++“You a funny motherfucker,” Moon Pie wasn’t smiling.  “The Reverend said you a funny motherfucker.  What you think, Bubala?  He a funny motherfucker?”
+++++Bubala stood half a foot shorter than his friend.  In the dim illumination put forth by the Christmas lights strung across the courtyard, Bubala looked instantly familiar though until now they’d never been introduced by name.
+++++“Oh, he’s a motherfucker.  I don’t’ know so much about funny.”
+++++The red bandana Bubala wore didn’t come close to obscuring the medical bandages swathed around his head.  His left eye was still so red you’d think he could squirt blood if he winked real hard.  He wore a Scorpions T-shirt under the black leather vest festooned with Invaders insignia.
+++++“All them bandages of your head, I imagine it takes some time for my jokes to sink in.”  Hoyt tried keeping it funny, scanning the darkness for the silhouettes of any more Invaders, specifically a certain little red-headed sausage-fingered dwarf who trucked with these motorcycle gang wannabes.
+++++“You’re referring to the knock I took upside the head.  I’m guessing you wouldn’t know anything about some bushwhacking son of a bitch who’d club a man half to death and steal every last goddam Confederate flag within a half mile radius of his fallen body, would you?”
+++++Funny he should ask that.  Little less than two weeks ago, Hoyt and Culley knocked out a couple Invaders with lead pipes before stealing enough Dixie flags to overflow a Dodge Neon.  When they hocked the flags at Reverend Eddie’s thrift store, the entire score netted the duo a cool twenty dollars.
+++++“Sounds like something them Southside niggers would do,” Hoyt said.
+++++Culley had spray painted BLACK POWER on the cinderblock wall of the Invaders’ hang out.  It was a subterfuge Hoyt doubted had the desired effect on the gang’s psyche considering Moon Pie, newly baptized into Reverend Eddie’s fucked up faith, had been hanging around the store recently.
+++++“That was my first thought, honestly.  But them ghetto clowns know better than to fuck with us.”  Bubala slapped the large AB emblem tattooed on his forearm.
+++++“So what’s that got to do with anything?”
+++++“Aryan Brotherhood.”
+++++“So what?”  Hoyt showed his SB tattoo amidst the swirls of ink coloring his arm.  “Southern Brotherhood.  For folks who truly hate niggers, rather than just tolerate them.”
+++++“Tolerate?  Who tolerates jigs?”
+++++“You do, jackass.  Aryan Brotherhood, friends of niggers for long as I can remember.”  Hoyt had to laugh.
+++++This Bubala joker was throwing off some serious bitch vibes.  He stood there, exaggerating his butt hurt sentiments to a homosexual degree, flexing his steroid swollen muscles, narrowing his eyes, grinding his teeth, shifting his weight from one foot to the other as if he were going to do anything other than stand there and take the insults.
+++++Moon Pie stood stock still as a totem pole.  Only his eyes moved between Hoyt and Bubala.
+++++“You do not know what the fuck you are talking about.”  In his building rage, Bubala took the time to enunciate his words perfectly.
+++++“Sure I do.  Those AB boys, they’re pretty all inclusive these days.  Doing my dirty dime at the bloody Bilt, I seen Aryan Brotherhood playing checkers with niggers, lifting weights with niggers, sharing sissies with niggers.  In fact, you can always tell when the Aryan Brotherhood’s getting anxious, they got black dicks hanging out their mouths.”
+++++“You’re so full of shit,” Bubala spat.  “Where’d you do your bit?”
+++++Hoyt looked at him with a mixture of pity and disdain he normally reserved for Jeff Gordon fans.  “Ten years at the Biltmore Federal Penitentiary.”
+++++“I guess that makes you think you’re a tought motherfucker, doesn’t it?  ‘A dirty dime at the bloody Bilt’ he says, like that means something to me.  I did two months at Huntsville Correctional.  I’ll tell you what I hated more than anything is trying to make grilled cheeses in the cell.  I hate how that prison cheese don’t melt; it just blackens and burns.”
+++++“Cheese?” Hoyt blurted.  “I got stabbed fourteen fucking times.”  He pulled up his shirt revealing the scarred, mottled mess of flesh stretched along his left side from the top of his ribcage down to his waist.  “This was from the second race riot while I was there.  The one the Aryan Brotherhood decided to sit out of.  The one that was so bad it got every prison system in the entire fucking state locked down.  I was going toe-to-toe with this fire plug-looking nigger and he was blasting me in the side.  I’m wearing out his head, but every time he hits me in the ribs it feels like bombs are going out cause he’s shivving the shit outta me.”
+++++“I’m gonna stop you right there,” Bubala said.  “Cause I don’t give a shit what happened to you in prison, you ain’t smart enough not to get your ass shanked nightly, whatever.  It doesn’t give you the right to steal our Confederate flags the day before our first annual Invaders Ride for the Freedom to Celebrate our Southern Heritage.  We had to ride our bikes passing around a couple of goddam Dixie hankies Goat Fucker Udee had stuffed in the bottom of his sock drawer.”
+++++“What’s going on out here?”
+++++Culley and Eddie came around the corner, their cigarettes glowing like two red Marlboro eyes.
+++++They caught Bubala’s attention just long enough for Hoyt to step forward and punch him right in the bandaged head.  Bubala made a strange “gurk” sound and dropped to the ground unconscious.
+++++Hoyt balled his fists and stared up into Moon Pie’s jack o’lantern-looking mug.  “You got a problem with what I just done?”
+++++Moon Pie glanced at the Reverend Eddie Vacuum.  Eddie shook his head, no.  Moon Pie repeated the gesture.  “Not unless you killed him,” Moon Pie added as if to prove some level of autonomy remained to him.
+++++Hoyt wasn’t exactly sure.  He toed the Invader and got a slight groan out of him.
+++++“Christ,” Culley said.  “You have to hit him so hard?”
+++++“Didn’t have time to wrap my fist in padding to make you happy,” Hoyt said.
+++++“Yeah, but couldn’t you just hold back a little.  Never mind, there any more of these fuckers running around here?”
+++++Hoyt shrugged.  Culley stared at Moon Pie.”
+++++“Don’t look at me,” Moon Pie growled.  “He’s just an acquaintance.  I ain’t responsible for what he does, who he runs with.”
+++++“You two looked pretty chummy when it was just the three of us out here.”
+++++“You were shooting your mouth off at him.   Any man’s gonna defend himself.  I didn’t side with either one of you dummies.”
+++++“All right.  All right.  He’s just an acquaintance,” Culley said.  “Then you won’t mind if I do this.”  Culley grabbed the Invaders vest and peeled it from Bubala.
+++++“Nope.”
+++++“Then you won’t mind if I do this,” Hoyt added, reaching into Bubala’s back pocket and withdrawing the man’s wallet.
+++++“That’s pretty sorry,” Moon Pie said.
+++++“He ought not to have fucked with me.  Now he ain’t got no wallet.”
+++++“As much as I want you guys to see me own the band with my band, The Reverend Eddie Vacuum and the Powerslaves,” Eddie said.  “It’d probably be best you guys get the fuck out before this poor bastard wakes up, or dies, or someone finds him.”
+++++“The Invaders are gonna find out this Motley Crue is Every Mother’s Nightmare after we Stryper’d a few more asses,” Culley grinned.
+++++“Seriously,” Eddie grimaced.  “Up the irons.  And get the fuck outta here.”
+++++On the way home, Hoyt sitting in the Neon’s passenger seat, he took out the driver’s license from the stolen wallet.  “Joe Bubala.  I know where you live, now.  Maybe I oughta send you a thank you note for the eighty bucks you donated to the Southern Brotherhood cause.”
+++++“Eighty bucks, huh?”
+++++“And he gets to go back to his boyfriends and explain why he don’t have a sassy leather vest no more.  How’d you do?”
+++++“I got a phone number.  Girl named Natalie gave me her number.  And it’s her real number, too.  I dialed it right there standing in front of her.”
+++++“That’s good.”
+++++“Yeah.  Only problem is I got two days learn how to play the bass guitar.”

Sons Of The Confederacy

“What the fuck is this?”
+++++Hoyt leaned forward in his Salvation Army Laz-E-Boy and set his Natural Lite down on the carpet between his feet where it was immediately knocked over, gurgling the last four ounces which easily reached the perimeters of the perpetual beer stain.
+++++He glared at the television.  His eyes shifted to the wall clock, back to the television, to the glowing numbers on his cell phone, back to the 45” Vizio.  Hoyt could not understand what was happening.  Here it was 7:02 in the pm on a Wednesday.  He checked the channel as many times as he checked the clock.
+++++“Where the hell are my Duke boys?”
+++++Rather than his Dukes of Hazzard in the 7pm time slot on the TV Land channel, there was some bullshit show about four really old women gibbering about sex and shit he didn’t even want to imagine they were capable of.  It was a goddam outrage.
+++++All he knew to do was phone his cohort in crime.  Culley was a smart ass who thought he knew everything about everything.  This was not the case.  However, Hoyt had to begrudgingly admit, Culley did know a little bit about a little bit.  Maybe the sumbitch knew what happened to his Duke Boys.
+++++Culley didn’t answer his phone the first time around.  This did not surprise Hoyt.  Once his unemployment checks ran out, Culley had lucked into a lucrative career collecting up shopping carts at the Super Wal-Mart on the outskirts of Cullman County.  He was shitting in high cotton, a guaranteed twenty-four hours a week and ten percent off all Wal-Mart purchases.  Hoyt liked him better unemployed and immediately available for shenagins.
+++++Hoyt texted 911 CALL ME FUCKER, waited three minutes, then keyed Culley’s number again.  Culley answered on the fifth ring, sounding like he was in the sort of mood to say something Hoyt would hold him accountable for in the near future.
+++++So Hoyt got right down to it.  “I’m sitting here.  Same Duke Boys time, same Duke Boys channel.  It’s ten minutes after seven in the pm.  And there’s no fucking Duke Boys on the Vizio.  What time is it by you?”
+++++“Oh, you poor, clueless bastard.  You ain’t heard the news have you?”
+++++Hoyt felt his sphincter draw up.  “Heard what?  I don’t watch the news, you know that shit.”
+++++“Dukes of Hazzard ain’t coming on, brother.  Not any time soon.”
+++++“What’s going on, Culley?  What’s really going on?”
+++++“You’re gonna wanna be shit-faced when you hear this.  I get outta here in twenty.  Meet me up at the Horse.”

***

Culley knew the woman saw him, looked him straight in the eye.  Hell, his fluorescent vest was bright enough to guide ships to harbor.  Yet this woman wearing a fancy, sequined Alabama University sweatshirt that screamed disposable income walked her empty shopping cart right past him and his caravan of carts and parked her cart in the far corral he had cleared only moments before.
+++++He’d swear before god and his host of cocksucking angels the woman smiled at him, and not the fetching sort of how about hopping in the back of my hubby-financed Escalade for a five minute fuck romp kind of smile either.  This was more of a fuck you and your fluorescent Wal-Mart vest smile Culley had become increasing familiar with these last few months.
+++++Culley wanted to grab her by the throat and choke the hell out of her, screaming “don’t you know who I am, bitch?  Don’t you know I’ve killed people?  Who you think you’re fucking with?”  Fortunately, fear of prison restrained this impulse.  Punching her in the face wasn’t an option, either, not with all the cameras Wal-Mart had pointing all over the place.
+++++Besides, that would be misogynistic.  And that just wasn’t Culley’s style, no matter how badly he wanted it to be.
+++++“You have a great day,” Culley smiled as she rebounded past him from the cart corral.
+++++“Hmmm,” she replied.
+++++Hmmm?  What the fuck does that even mean?  That he isn’t important enough to warrant a ‘fuck you’?  Christ, the back of his hand begged for the bitch’s mouth.
+++++It saddened Culley to think the only thing holding him back from salvaging a little pride was the fear of losing a guaranteed twenty four hour work week and ten percent off all his Wal-Mart purchases.  He watched her climb into her white Escalade and pull away, not even pausing at the crosswalk where an elderly couple had to give up their right-of-way to let her pass.
+++++With the chirping of his cellphone, Culley forgot all about his Wal-Mart angst.  His partner in situational criminality, Hoyt, came up on the screen.  “Just fucking perfect,” Culley muttered.  “This is what I need right now.”

***

The Plush Horse was about an hour away from becoming an interesting place.  The smattering of customers drinking at the bar, presently, didn’t intend to stay any longer than forty-five minutes.
+++++“Now I watched just about every episode of the Duke Boys twice, not once I ever see a nigger get lynched on that show.  Fact is, I don’t recollect even seeing a nigger nowhere near Hazzard County.  Now how they gonna label the show as racist?” Hoyt was livid.
+++++Culley was not.  “It ain’t got nothing to do with the show.  What they’s fired up about is the Confederate flag.”
+++++“On the General Lee?”
+++++“Well, everywhere, but, yeah, on the General Lee, too.”
+++++“Well, fuck them.  I can’t believe this shit.  You telling me some white boy goes and shoots up a church full of jigs and now I don’t get to watch the Duke boys jumping their General Lee through barns and giving Boss Hogg the fits?”
+++++“That’s one way of putting it, I guess.  He did have a Confederate flag selfie.”
+++++“So fucking what?  Ted Bundy had his picture took with Bob Hope.  Did all the brunettes in Florida get together and ban Christmas specials?”
+++++“That’s society for you.  Wouldn’t be surprised, government comes for our guns.”
+++++“That’s next.  I’m telling you, Culley.  This is open war against good, honest, white folk.”
+++++“By discontinuing Dukes of Hazzard?”
+++++“By everything.  They start with the psychological warfare.  Letting the gays marry like normal people.  Giving that Olympic runner tits and a Woman of the Year award.  How bad is it?  Three billion women in the world, and you wanna tell me not one of them is better than some goofy-looking jackass with fake titties?  We’re through the looking glass, and it’s so goddam muddled, I don’t know we’re looking in or looking out.  It’s no wonder you got these white boys getting crazy-eyed, shooting motherfuckers.  I ain’t judging them, I’m just saying.  Why they gotta take my Duke Boys, but them Kardashians are still running around, unharmed?”
+++++“I don’t know, Hoyt.  I just think it’s a damn shame, we gotta yank every Confederate flag off the Wal-Mart shelves so no one gets their delicate sensibilities offended.”
+++++“Where I gonna get my Confederate flag needs met, should I want one?”
+++++“You ain’t.”
+++++“Well, that’s some bullshit.  I run with the Cullman Klavern for almost twenty years, until they priced me out with all their horseshit upgrades, saying I gotta get new vestments every year.  I wanna tell them, it’s fucking white robes!  You know?  What’s wrong with the robes my daddy pass down to me?  Yet every year they expect me to pony up another three hundred dollars on top of what I’m already paying in dues just to have a 2015 edition with the red iron crosses cross-stitched along the hem.  How’s that gonna help me hate the niggers any more, or solve the miscegenation problem?”
+++++“What’s your point?”
+++++“Point is we don’t salute the Confederate flag so much.  Even in the Cullman Klavern, we carry the American flags.  Cause for one thing, we’re good, honest Americans.  Another thing, we don’t want to marginalize our Yankee brethren.”
+++++“Hopefully, the blacks don’t catch hold of that little tidbit, we’ll have to discontinue all the Evel Kineval products.”
+++++“That’s got me to thinking…” Hoyt threatened.  “That fuckin’ Monkey Muslim in office, he the one outlawed selling Confederate flags?”
+++++“No.  No one outlawed anything, man.  It’s just frowned on, you know.  Political pressure and colored folks threatening to boycott stores.  That sort of thing.”
+++++“So, whatcha saying is, it’s just more difficult to buy one, now, right?  But you can’t go to jail for selling them?  For a mark-up if we wanted.”
+++++“It’s not illegal,” Culley agreed, “but who we gonna sell them to?  Anyone flies the rebel flag’s already got one.  And we don’t have any, no how.”
+++++“Exactly.  We can steal them, wherever we see them.  And when the demand gets high, we sell them.  I drove past The Yellow Ribbon on the way over here.  Every last beat-to-hell Harley and welfare Goldwing had a Confederate flag hanging off the back.  That goddam pick-up that cocksucking little midget drives looked like a Southern Brotherhood float for the shitkicker pride parade, there’s so many Dixie flags hanging off it.”
+++++“Hoyt, you already got your bell rung by them assholes, once.”
+++++“Now, it’s round motherfucking two, Culley.  And my eyes are wide open, now.  Them Michael Jackson impersonators thought they had the drop on us, too, and we straightened them pedophiles out but good.”
+++++“Those guys… weren’t really… just because they dressed like MJ didn’t make them kiddie fuckers, you know?”
+++++“No.  Cause now they dead.  They ain’t fucking nothing.”
+++++“Shit, Hoyt.  I don’t wanna go there.  I can’t go there, right now.”
+++++“Don’t worry about a thing, brother.  I got it all planned out.  This is gonna be my silver lining to losing the Duke Boys.  Even know who’s gonna sell’em for us.”
+++++“Eddie Vacuum?”
+++++“Reverend Eddie Vacuum.”

***

When Culley and Hoyt pulled up to Eddie Vacuum’s establishment with a backseat piled high with rebel flags early the next afternoon, the Reverend Eddie was already showing signs of industry.
+++++“What the hell he dragging behind him?” Hoyt asked.
+++++“What’s it look like?  You telling me you never played in a little princess castle before?”
+++++The plastic castle playset Eddie dragged along behind him looked as if it had served a long line of reckless royalty before succumbing to a Bolshevik revolution or two.  And Eddie was still asking fifty bucks for the ruins.
+++++The Reverend Eddie Vacuum had inherited the low, white brick building from his father who for thirty years prior had unimaginatively utilized the real estate for an auto repair shop.  Upon his father’s death, Eddie realized there were more lucrative endeavors outside the sphere of vehicular repair and transformed the space into a church/thrift shop/professional wrestling association.
+++++Despite not being the Lord’s day, Eddie wore his church vestments, tight Wrangler jeans, an Iron Maiden “The Trooper” T-shirt and professionally tailored, patent leather wrestling boots, air-brushed with Iron Maiden’s skeletal mascot also named Eddie swathed in mummy bandages, crackling lightning striking the metal latch holding his skull cap in place.  Reverend Eddie’s religion of his own devising was a strange amalgam of Christianity, Egyptology, Iron Maiden lyrics and homilies culled from Wrestlemania storylines.
+++++Culley visited a Reverend Eddie Vacuum Sunday service once.  He was not converted.  He just could not accept Ric Flair into his heart as his Lord and savior.  One good thing about the church, Culley didn’t feel as though he were being judged and found lacking by the five other members of the congregation.
+++++Hoyt had a similar experience dropping in on the Powerslave Wrestling Association’s Friday night slobber knocker event.  Twenty jackasses standing inside a garage watching a handful of jokers slap the shit out of each other inside a homemade ring.  Every wrestler spending more time talking shit into the microphone than applying wrasslin moves.
+++++Neither Culley nor Hoyt had ever stepped foot inside the thrift shop.
+++++Eddie Vacuum confused though hopeful expression melted into a look of amused dissatisfaction once he recognized the two men.  A gap-toothed smile lifted the sides of his handle bar mustache.
+++++“Culley and Hoyt!  Holy Christ, it’s the Smash-and-Grab Brothers.  I didn’t recognize your new wheels.  You traded in the ole Chrysler Lebaron for a 2002 Dodge Neon, huh?”  He wiped his hands on his denim and reached in for a double handshake.
+++++“Nah, the Chrysler finally give up the ghost, man,” Culley said.  “Had to sign my life away for this Neon from that car lot in town; what use to be a Food World parking lot before the Wal-Mart Supercenter come to town, shut everything down.  I got a pretty good deal on it.  Sixty-five dollars a week until the Red Chinese come in and take over everything.”
+++++“You should have brought the Chrysler up here, brother.  I would have moved the ring out of the garage and maybe tried to fix what’s wrong with it.”
+++++“You ever notice, Eddie, how you never see anyone showboating a fully restored Chrysler Lebaron at the Big Star Diner the last Saturday every month.  There’s a reason for that, and it’s because the cars truly ain’t worth a fuck.”
+++++“Fair enough,” Eddie bobbed his head.  The long hair hanging off the back and sides swayed with the motion.  The few stray strands jutting off the top of his scalp just sort of danced languidly in the breeze.  “Just thought I’d offer.  From one stranger in a strange land to another.”
+++++“There is something you can do,” Hoyt said.  “You can help us sell these Confederate flags we got back here.  Strike a blow against Obama and any folk wanna take an aggressive stance against our Southern heritage.”
+++++“I’m from Jersey,” Eddie said.  “But I get what you’re saying.  How’d you come by a backseat full of rebel flags, anyway?”

***

When the first heavily-bearded jackass wearing the hundred dollar pair of blue jeans entered the Plush Horse, Culley and Hoyt knew it was time to leave.
+++++Hoyt drummed his fingers on the bar.  “Let’s run by the Yellow Ribbon and see if we can’t confiscate some of those flags,” Hoyt suggested.  “Maybe strangle a smart mouth midget if the opportunity presents itself.”
+++++“Don’t see why not,” Culley said.  “I ain’t in favor of trying to fight a barload of bikers if it comes down to it, though.”
+++++“Me, neither.  I’m just saying, though.  Somehow, we catch ahold of that midget, we shouldn’t let the chance pass to choke him out.”
+++++“Ok, then.”  Culley motioned for the bartender and requested two shots of Southern Comfort.  “Here’s to our next business enterprise.”  They clinked shot glasses and downed the liquor.  “Maybe this’ll get me outta Wal-Mart before I end up beating a soccer mom to death up there.”
+++++“That’s the spirit,” Hoyt said.  “I was starting to think that whole Michael Jackson episode had gentled you down but good.  Shriveled your balls up.”
+++++“Nope, my balls are just fine.  I just like to temper the testicles with some common sense every once in a fucking while.”
+++++They exited the Plush Horse, crossed the parking lot into the shadows behind the neighboring car wash where Culley hid his Dodge Neon.  He unlocked the trunk and lighted the interior with his phone’s flashlight app.  There was an entire Law and Order season’s worth of crime paraphernalia packed into the small confines.  From the Nazi method of meth manufacturing to kidnaping, from home invasion to auto theft, Culley was prepared for any illegality.  For this job, the fellas decided on a couple eight inch lengths of lead pipe and a can of spray paint.
+++++Hoyt watched in disgust as Culley wrapped the end of his pipe with an Alabama Crimson Tide T-shirt he kept in the trunk for wiping off his dipstick when he checked the oil like a motherfucking thug.
+++++“What the fuck you doing with your pipe?” Hoyt asked.  “Padding it?  What’s the point of knocking someone on the head if you’re just gonna deaden the blow with… what’s that?  A commemorative annual beating of the Auburn Tigers shirt?”
+++++“I don’t want to fracture any skulls.  Don’t worry, Hoyt.  It’s still stout enough to scramble some brains.”
+++++“Who says I’m worried?  All I’m saying is I prefer my pipes naked.  Course, I know how to handle them.”
+++++“I guess that’s where we differ, then.”
+++++It took every bit of the ten minute drive for Hoyt to process the previous conversation.  As the signage for the Yellow Ribbon appeared at the corner of the next block, Hoyt suddenly felt the need to clarify his remarks.  “When I say naked pipe, I’m talking about this here lead pipe; I ain’t talking ‘bout dicks, you know.”
+++++“Oh, I know.”
+++++“Ok, I’m just saying… because you had that look on your face.”
+++++“What look?”
+++++“The look like I’m talking ‘bout dicks look.”
+++++“Hoyt, that could be any look.”
+++++“All right, slow down some,” Hoyt hissed.  “Let me get my reconnaissance on.”
+++++Culley crept past the Yellow Ribbon, the gray Neon practically invisible in its anonymity.  He turned left on the side street and eased through the gauntlet of rebel flag draped motorcycles and the midget-owned Dodge Ram.
+++++“I don’t see that sausage-fingered son of a bitch anywhere.” Hoyt said.
+++++“I see two Invaders standing outside, sharing a joint,” Culley observed.  “The double doors out front are closed, that’s good for us.”
+++++“Looks like there’s a good couple hundred dollar’s worth of dixie fabric hanging off about ten dollar’s worth of rice burning motorcycle,” Hoyt added.
+++++Culley parked the Neon behind the midget’s truck.  He left the car running and the back door wide open.  They secured their pipes in their waistbands and immediately set to work stripping the flags off the truck.  As Hoyt stripped the flags off the makeshift poles attached to the back of each motorcycle, Culley shook a can of spray paint and defaced the sides of the truck with the words BLACK POWER.
+++++“The hell you doing?” Hoyt whispered.
+++++“Misdirection.”
+++++“Save that for last, goddammit.  We gotta get these flags before one of these jackasses gets wise.”
+++++The odor of marijuana permeated the air signaling the arrival of two sentries wearing the Invader colors.  Aside from the denim vests, the Invader bikers didn’t look much different from the hipsters invading the Plush Horse earlier in the evening.  Same outlaw beards cultivated to be acceptable both in duck blinds and office cubicles.  Denim perhaps a bit too tight for alcoholics.  Hair slicked back for the ladies.
+++++Hoyt busted the one on the right upside the head.  Culley had to hit the one on the left twice before he dropped unconscious; Hoyt knocked his out first blow.
+++++“Ha!”  Hoyt crowed.  “You see that!  One shot.  Your’s looks like he wants to get back up again here in a second.”
+++++“Well, look, you crazy motherfucker.  You cracked his skull like an egg; he’s bleeding all over the place.  His brain starts swelling up and he dies, you’ll be back in Biltmore for the rest of your life.”
+++++“He’ll be all right.  What the hell you doing, now?”
+++++Culley brought his spray paint back out and sprayed the fallen Invaders faces and hands black.
+++++“Misdirection.”
+++++The retrieved the rest of the flags from the motorcycles.  Culley piled up his flags in Hoyt’s arms and sent him back to the Neon.  Culley wiped down his pipe and stuck it between the door handles to keep anyone else inside the Yellow Ribbon from coming out through the front door.  He shook the can one more time and spray painted FUCK YOU WHITEYS across the door before running back to his car.
+++++On the drive back to the Plush Horse, Hoyt connected the dots.
+++++“Oh, you want the Invaders to think the niggers done it.  Took their dixie flags and what not.”
+++++Culley nodded affirmative.
+++++“That’s some mighty fine thinking,” Hoyt allowed.

***

A week passed before the Reverend Eddie Vacuum called the Smash-and-Grab brothers back to his house of worship, pawning, and wrestling.  Church had just let out and Eddie stood in the vestibule of his garage shaking hands with the exiting handful of parishioners as Culley and Hoyt entered the parking lot.
+++++As the faithful dispersed, one fella stayed behind and accompanied the reverend to the open driver side window of the Neon.  The dude was a big metal head, not because of the long greasy mullet or Iron Maiden Live After Death T-shirt, or steel studded belt around his waist or the leather wrist guard clamped to his left forearm.  The guy was just gigantic.  Six foot, six inches, three hundred pounds of hellion.  He looked like he could flip a Dodge Neon end over end if he took a notion to.
+++++“Hello, Reverend,” Culley smiled.  “Is this your altar boy you brought with you?”
+++++Eddie laughed, good-naturedly.  “Oh, hell no.  I don’t think Moon Pie has ever been a boy, have you?”
+++++Moon Pie grinned green teeth.  “Maybe once back in the late summer of ’92,” he said.
+++++“You two oughta congratulate him.  He just got baptized into the faith today.”
+++++He crossed his forearms across his chest.  “Up the Irons,” he intoned.
+++++“And also with you, buddy.” Hoyt said.
+++++“What you baptize him with?  Lava?” Culley asked.
+++++“No.  When Moon Pie decided to accept Ric Flair into his life and vowed to acknowledge Iron Maiden as the greatest metal band in the universe and Bruce Dickenson as the voice of the heavens, he removes the ceremonial Judas Priest concert Tee and puts on the Iron Maiden shirt to symbolize his devotion to the faith.”
+++++“Sounds reasonable,” Culley hedged.  “Now, you said you were able to sell every last one of those Confederate flags we brought you in last week.”
+++++“Every one of them.  Once word got out we had them, they flew off the shelves.  We must’ve had every shitkicker from Scottsboro to Cullman County come through here.  It’s how Moon Pie here got introduced to the fold.  He might even do a little wrestling come Saturday night.”
+++++“Fantastic.”  Culley couldn’t help but notice the holes Moon Pie was boring through his forehead with those newly zealous eyes.  “How much our cut come to?”
+++++The Reverend Eddie Vacuum flipped a crisp twenty dollar bill from the front pocket of his Sunday denims.  “Here you go, boys.  You find any more flags, you let me know, we’ll do business again.  Up the irons.”
+++++Culley stared dully at the green portrait of Andrew Jackson smiling back at him.
+++++“Twenty fucking dollars,” Hoyt mumbled in amazement.
+++++“Twenty fucking dollars,” Moon Pie echoed.  He placed his ham hock sized hand on the door frame.  “Is there a problem with that?”
+++++“No problem at all,” Culley said.  “Up the irons, Moon Pie.”
+++++“Up the irons.” Moon Pie and Eddie Vacuum spoke, simultaneously.
+++++“Up your ass,” Hoyt sputtered.  “You thieving, scum-sucking bastards.  Goddammit.”
+++++Moon Pie and Eddie Vacuum exchanged raised eyebrows.
+++++“Don’t mind him,” Culley said.  “We’ll pass this along to the brothers we bought these from, since,” Culley looked at Moon Pie, “we didn’t actually steal these, we’re just acting as go-betweens for a whole gang of black panthers operating out of the Cameron Projects on the south side of Huntsville.  We’ll take our five dollar cut and deliver the rest to their headquarters.”
+++++Moon Pie looked at him as though he were crazy.  Eddie Vacuum nodded his head as if this were the most sensible thing he’d heard all day.
+++++“Let me ask you one thing before we take our twenty bucks and run,” Hoyt said.  “What the hell does the Nature Boy Ric Flair have to do with Iron fucking Maiden.”
+++++Eddie Vacuum shrugged.  “Absolutely nothing.  Why should it?”
+++++“Good enough for me.  Culley?”
+++++Culley shifted the Neon into drive and slowly rolled out of the parking lot onto the boulevard.  In the rearview, he watched Moon Pie take note of his license plate.

Entry 3 – G String Gangsters

Listen instead!
Listen instead!

“Where the hell’s Domingo?  He’s the one suppose to be spear-heading this bullshit.”  Antonetti looked pissed.
+++++The boys glanced sideways at each other, mouths clamped shut.
+++++Radonja sighed.  “He’s shaving his balls, boss.”
+++++“What the hell you mean ‘shaving his balls’?”
+++++Metcalf, Koza, and Darth Peter kept their mouths shut, eyes firmly fixated on their shoe tops.
+++++“You know, Mr. Antonetti… manscaping.  The ladies don’t like a lotta pubic hair in their face.  You know?”
+++++“Since when?”
+++++Radonja’s jaw hung open.  Antonetti repeated the question.
+++++“Since the last time Burt Reynolds made Jackie Gleason look like a jackass, I figure,” Darth Peter answered.

“You think we get popped for this, I’d get in extra trouble?” Koza asked.  “For impersonating a police officer and what not?”
+++++Domingo tightened his grip on the steering wheel.  “No one’s getting popped.  Most you need to worry about is impersonating a male stripper.”
+++++“How much stripping I gotta do?” Koza asked.  We gonna rob them bitches, right?  Not earn it in tips stuffed down my man-panties.”
+++++“And thank God for that, we’d be walking outta Scarlett’s empty-handed.  And thanks for telling Antonetti I was shaving my balls, had to hear about that shit all day.  Antonetti asking me I got five o’clock shadow to the nutsack, yet.”
+++++“He asked where you at.  What was I suppose to say?”
+++++“Anything but that, Koza.  Coulda said anything.”

Blanco could see the Scarlett’s sign from the Lansing Boulevard intersection where he waited on the red light to change.  He’d taken the back way as instructed, lighter traffic, less chance of witnesses.  The figure emerging from the shadows beside the corner house came as a relief.
+++++Antonetti opened the passenger side door and pointed the barrel of his .45 directly at Blanco’s face which drained the relief right out of him.
+++++Too much gun, Blanco thought immediately.  The fuck is he doing?  Slightest bump would send Blanco’s brains dancing across the asphalt outside.
+++++“You,” Antonetti snarled.  “Drive.”
+++++Blanco very lightly stepped on the gas turning away from Scarlett’s.  Antonetti turned his attention to the male strippers seated in the back of the shuttle van.
+++++“Christ,” Antonetti said, flipping open his burner phone.  “Looks like Fabio took a shit on Jersey Shore back here.  Probably not a ball hair between the five of you.  Keep your hands away from your smart phones and your crotches the next twenty minutes and you won’t need any arm slings go along with your g-strings, you feel me?”

Koza, the policeman.  His job was to handle the bar area, collect the cash from the register, make sure no one hit any silent alarms.  Radonja, the Indian chief, was tasked with collecting the cash from the ladies in the back half of the club and discouraging smart phone use by whatever means necessary.  Metcalf, the vampire pirate, maintained the club’s front half.  Darth Peter kept the Cadillac running, monitoring any police activity or parking lot shenanagins.
+++++It was up to Domingo to keep the ladies mesmerized with his pelvic thrusts and swinging cock.
+++++Simple.  A club full of horny women waving fistfuls of cash.  All for the taking.
+++++“They didn’t call me Elvis back in the day for nothing,” Domingo said.
+++++“I knew you then,” Metcalf said.  “It was because of your thick ass muttonchops.”
+++++“I’d feel better about this we had masks,” Koza said.
+++++“Masks?  The fuck you talking about, Koza?  That goes against the whole concept of the plan.  All the titty flops you been, describe the face of one stripper you’ve seen,” Domingo challenged.
+++++Koza shrugged.
+++++Domingo’s burner chirped.  He answered.  “Ok, boys, we’re a go.”

They carried small duffel bags.  Man-panties and big bottles of baby oil on top, below the stripper subterfuge were the untraceable .38s, mostly to throw the fear into the ladies.  Antonetti made it clear earlier, pistol-whippings for bad behavior was the only action on the table.
+++++Domingo led the way inside the club.  Girlish squeals of delight welcomed their entrance into the dim, smoky interior.  Techno music like pulsating migraines thumped from the speakers.  Everywhere, there were mustaches.  Rainbow flags adorned the walls.  Domingo tried to blink away the images, yet they remained.
+++++“Abort! Abort!” Metcalf hissed.
+++++“Fuck that,” Koza said.  “Go on, mesmerize them with that big cock of your’s, Domingo.  We gotta make that money.”
+++++Domingo thinned his lips, nodded.  “Keep your heads on a swivel, boys.  Gay money spends just as easily.”

With everyone in place, ignoring the cat calls and butt pinches from their soon-to-be victims, Domingo sashayed between the two pool tables onto the raised platform acting as a paltry stage.
+++++“You mens ready to have a good time?” Domingo lisped, getting into character.
+++++While the audience of men horned up on Viagara party favors and mint juleps were naturally effusive, there remained a bitter undertone of disappointment Domingo found unnerving.
+++++Per Domingo’s request, the DJ played the techno Elvis rendition of “Little Less Conversation”.  Strangely, his hips refused to move with the music.  No matter how much he sucked in his distended gut, he could not replicate the look of six pack abs.  The more spastically his pelvis quavered the louder the dissident voices rose against him.
+++++“I can’t believe I shaved my balls for this,” he muttered.
+++++The first time a dude reached for his crank, a ginger-haired fella with a comical push broom mustache and “My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult” T-shirt, Domingo gave Koza the signal to move.
+++++Koza got as far as hollering “queer” before the gun was knocked out of his hand and his head forcefully knocked against the bar several times.  Shit went south from there real quick.
+++++There was a moment while Domingo was getting his freshly-shaved balls kicked into his abdomen when he wondered why they didn’t wait to highjack the shuttle van after the male strippers did all the heavy lifting.  It was a fleeting thought, not worth pursuing at this point.

Moonwalking at the Grab-A-Granny Inn

Culley didn’t consider himself a criminal.  Criminality carried the eventual obligation of justice and punishment.  Culley preferred the term “outlaw” when describing himself to Hoyt, his cohort in crime.  He liked to think he existed outside the law the way the Amish lived outside the realm of technology.
+++++For Hoyt, criminality was something he sought to avoid in all his future endeavors.  Having done a dirty dime at the bloody Biltmore, a sentence that rewarded his achievement of becoming the top meth manufacturer in Cullman County, and also for clipping a kid’s earlobe off with a .22, he looked forward to at least a year’s respite from police interference.
+++++Hoyt was the smaller of the two but he was not the brains of the duo.  Culley was broader across the shoulders but couldn’t be considered the brawn.  From the outside looking in, neither brought much to the table.
+++++Seven o’clock Friday night found Culley and Hoyt sitting along the mahogany bar at the Grab-A-Granny Inn, a hotspot for the over-forty crowd.  Located on the bank of Lake Guntersville near the marina, it offered a safe haven for the local rich white folks to dance as though they were poor young black folks.
+++++“I hate this place,” Hoyt sneered.  “Eight dollars for a jack and coke.  We’re in the wrong business.”
+++++“We ain’t in any kinda business,” Culley reminded him.  He lit his home-rolled cigarette with a cheap yellow Bic and exhaled a plume of smoke.  “You hadn’t gotten us 86’d outta The Yellow Ribbon, we’d be drinking dollar drafts right now.”
+++++“Man, fuck that place.  And that mouthy midget.”
+++++“Dwarf.  He was a dwarf.  He had the sausage fingers is how I know.  And he was wearing colors.  What’d you think was gonna happen?”
+++++Hoyt shrugged.  “How’m I suppose to know he’s in a biker gang?   I didn’t see no side car on the Hondas out front.”
+++++Culley said “I can go the rest of my life without getting my ass kicked like that again.”
+++++“Those AB wannabe motherfuckers ain’t shit.  Getting the boots put to you by a bunch of Yamaha riding faggots trucking with a faggot don’t faze me none.  I busted nigger heads for a solid hour at the Bloody Bilt, punctures all up and down my ribs.  I tell you what, though, those cocksuckers better hope I don’t drive up on them while they’re on one of them bike rides for Navajo injustice or some shit.  There’ll be midgets and greasy ass beards scattered all over the highway.  Fuck the Invaders.”
+++++“Easy, Hoyt.  Easy.”
+++++“No, fuck them– why?  There ain’t no red and black vests in here, is there?”  He cast cagey glances the length of the bar.
+++++“No,” Culley spoke calmly. “You’re starting to use your outside voice again.  And you’re gonna get us thrown outta here.”
+++++“Shit.  I ain’t worried bout that.  Dump’s starting to get crowded anyway.”
+++++He flicked his cigarette disdainfully toward the ashtray.  He missed by a wide margin and the ash landed with all the other baby phoenix turds.
+++++Had there been a surplus of cash in Hoyt’s wallet, he might have been a bit less disgruntled with the waves of women, faces shellacked with quick dry concrete cosmetics, appearing at the bar, ordering mixed drinks with names designed to piss him off.  The ladies didn’t need to look any further than his tattered sneakers to realize he didn’t have anything to offer.  The dirty jeans, prison tattoos and Dale Ernhardt Jr T-shirt was just the icing on this incredibly inedible cake.
+++++“I’m tired of mowing yards for eight bucks an hour,” Hoyt said.
+++++Culley who had nine weeks left of unemployment didn’t relish the idea of hefting a weed eater in the Alabama heat for beer and cigarette money, either.  He said, “you could always hang chickens at the Tyson plant now that they run off all the illegals.”
+++++“Fuck that.  We’re gonna hafta come up with something.  I’ll go back to shaking up Sudafed if I gotta.”
+++++No where near enough time had passed to allow Culley the luxury of forgetting what sort of madman Hoyt could be with his veins pumped full of home-cooked meth.  Culley said simply “you know gorillas can’t sell bananas.”
+++++“Tastes too good, I reckon.”
+++++“I told you, there’s a chrome shop off Route 67.  The whole damn set-up where they dip the parts is made out of copper.  All we gotta do is take it apart and heft it to the truck.  Old Man Zurzolo told me he’d give me twenty five percent of what it’s worth.   No questions asked.”
+++++“Too much work for nothing,” Hoyt grumbled.
+++++What had been background music sublimated beneath the steady roar of conversation, jumped up twenty decibels.  Michael Jackson.  Son of a bitch.  Culley recognized the song from his early youth.  Pretty Young Thing or some shit.  There was a time he believed he was going to be able to live out the rest of his bar-hopping days without having to hear this shit while boozing.
+++++The crowd reacted with far more enthusiasm than Culley figured the song warranted.  The synchronicity of the crowd’s movement drew his attention to a young black man dressed in pre-Thriller era Michael Jackson attire.
+++++Folks stepped aside as MJ threaded the night club needle.  He moved like a hologram in a child’s nightmare.  His legs went spastic in ways which those in attendance construed as dance moves.  His teeth shined crazy white.  Massive sunglasses shielded the top half of his face.  Several caucasians applauded.  Hoyt and Culley cut their eyes at each other.
+++++“We wouldn’t have to put up with this shit at The Yellow Ribbon.”
+++++“Quit fighting dwarves, then.”
+++++“If that dancing pedophile comes this way… I’m gonna karate chop his fucking throat.:
+++++“Hoyt…”
+++++“I’m serious, man.”
+++++“You know that’s not Michael Jackson, right?  It’s just some poor black kid from Nigger Hill trying to make a buck.”
+++++“I ain’t dumb, Culley.”
+++++“So why the aggression?  You getting worked up the same way you did with that midget.  And you know what happened there.”
+++++“That midget had a gang, this clown’s alone.”
+++++The music segued into Billie Jean.  The PYT MJ slipped into the geriatric herd lurching on the dance floor.  From the opposite end of the club another black man wearing a white suit moon-walked across Culley and Hoyt’s field of vision.  The impersonator stopped within karate chopping distance of the outlaws, spun on his heels.  He pointed off to the side, and thrust his groin in the same direction and made a sound like a harpy getting back-handed.
+++++“Watch out, Hoyt, looks like MJ brought some back-up, too.”
+++++“What the hell you get me into?” Hoyt asked.
+++++Culley didn’t have a ready answer.  He’d never seen two Michael Jackson impersonators sharing the same venue before.  BJ MJ flashed his fancy dance moves among the bar area patrons.  PYT MJ felt up a chunky blonde on the dance floor.
+++++“Jesus Christ,” Culley said.  “It’s what Rome would look like if Caligula was an MTV VJ.”
+++++“Who the fuck’s Caligula?”
+++++“Remember that soft core toga movie that pissed you off so bad cause there wasn’t near enough pussy in it?”
+++++“Oh yeah.  Fuck all that.”
+++++Billie Jean faded out just as the two Michaels met on the dance floor.  The speakers erupted with a beat anyone alive back in 1985 would instantly recognize.  Thriller.  The two MJs began to dance in synch to the zombie choreography.  Gleeful white folks with a basic understanding of the dance moves joined in.  As the song reached the Vincent Price monologue, it seemed as though half the Grab-A-Granny’s patrons had formed some sort of liquor-infused flash mob.  The third MJ impersonator appeared in the midst of this shuck-and-jive orgy.  He wore the famous red and black pleather jumpsuit.  A wolfman Halloween mask obscured his face.
+++++“This is how the world ends,” Culley sighed.  “We deserve everything the Chinese is gonna do to us.”
+++++“I’d almost rather be back in Biltmore,” Hoyt agreed.
+++++“Wonder how many more Michaels they got?” Culley said as Smooth Criminal kicked in on the sound system.
+++++The Jackson Three clapped their hands and fanned out across the dance floor.  BJ MJ faded to the back of the club near the washrooms.  PYT MJ flanked the dance floor near the booths.  Thriller Michael stayed front and center, clapping his hands and hustling his balls with his sequined-gloved hand.
+++++Hands.  Sequin-gloved hands.  Odd, Culley thought.  He hadn’t noticed until now the dancers were all breaking MJ protocol by wearing sequined gloves on both hands.
+++++“Something’s not right,” Culley said.
+++++“You just figuring that out now.”
+++++“Well, yeah.”
+++++“I’ve known something’s up first laid eyes on the motherfuckers.  Prison instincts never lie.”
+++++“You got a lot of experience with Michael impersonators at the Bloody Bilt, eh?”
+++++Before Culley could ask about a plan, the last Michael Jackson impersonator charged in through the front door.  He also wore sequined gloves on both hands, one of those hands being filled up with a Mac 10.  He wore a three piece white suit and a white fedora pulled low over his eyes.
+++++“All right,” the latest incarnation of Michael Jackson spoke.  “Don’t nobody do nothing stupid.  It’s time to tip your entertainers.”
+++++The three other MJ impersonators pulled their pistols from matching ankle holsters and plastic Wal-Mart bags from their pockets.  They worked quickly, efficiently, collecting wallets, jewelry, dumping purses, ignoring the bleating of the club sluts.  Even the toughest shitkicker in his fanciest Aeropostale T-shirt offered no resistance.  He couldn’t even make eye contact as he dug out his wallet from the back pocket of his Levis.
+++++Smooth Criminal Michael Jackson eased behind the bar, using his automatic pistol to back the bartender away from the cash register.
+++++“This is bullshit,” Hoyt muttered.
+++++“Easy, Hoyt.  Give’em the twenty bucks in your pocket and let it go.”
+++++There was no such thing as an easy Hoyt.  In his mind he was back at the epicenter of the racial seismic quake that was the bloody Bilt.
+++++“Fucking pedophiles.”
+++++“Hoyt, they’re not really Michael Jacksons.”
+++++“Hey, you two dumb crackers need to shut the fuck up, j’mon.”
+++++Smooth Criminal MJ glided to the elbow of the bar.  His high pitched voice only marginally compromised his bad ass attitude.  The Mac 10 balanced the scales, mostly.  “Gimme yo money, shammone.”
+++++Culley drew out his wallet.  Hoyt simmered until Smooth Criminal stepped out from behind the bar and came within karate chopping distance.
+++++“Gimme yo shit,” he said.
+++++“I wasn’t entertained, asshole.”
+++++Hoyt brought his left hand down, his right arm uppercutting, simultaneously, snapping Michael Jackson’s elbow.  SC MJ emitted a keening “hee hee hee” through clenched teeth and the automatic clattered on the floor.
+++++Hoyt uncoiled a right jab to Michael’s jaw, knocking him out of his fancy white shoes.  The moment the Michael hit the floor, Thriller Jackson dropped to one knee, aimed his snub-nosed .38 and shot the bartender square in the chest as though he meant to.
+++++Five feet to the bartender’s right, Culley froze in place, staring down the dark eye holes of the generic werewolf face.
+++++Good God, Culley thought, this is how it truly ends.  Shot dead by a black man wearing a dollar store mask.  The Grand Wizard of the Cullman County Klu Klux Klavern had it right when he claimed a negro criminal was going to snuff him out in the end.  Who would have thought?
+++++Hoyt grabbed the Mac 10 and sprayed a quick burst into the crowded dance floor.  Thriller Michael’s mask erupted with lead impacts, blood geysers blasted from behind the elongated latex ears.  Blood also spewed from the silver blouse of a blonde woman standing behind T MJ.  Mini-skirt clad ladies were dropping it low to the floor, but not in the sexy way.  The herd bolted for the back door, stampeding, screaming.
+++++Hoyt advanced on the dance floor, shouting “I’m sending your black asses back to Never Ever Land, you kiddie-fucking sons-a-bitches.”
+++++Smooth Criminal Michael Jackson squirmed on the floor at Culley’s feet.  His broken arm like a rubbery noodle flopped painfully as he tried to reach for his ankle holster with his good hand.
+++++“Hey,” Culley said.  “Hey.”
+++++When the fallen king of pop looked up Culley asked him to give his regards to Bubbles.  He brought the heel of his cowboy boot down on MJ’s face once, twice, half a dozen times, each stomp loosening the impersonator’s facial bone structure until even the world’s most skillful plastic surgeon could not put Michael’s face back together again in any of his previous configurations.
+++++Culley pulled the clownishly small .22 from the ankle holster and grabbed the bulging grocery bag from the noodle arm.
+++++Hoyt reached the dance floor, utterly indifferent to the white bodies bleeding next to the fallen Jackson.  His vision focused on the PYT MJ.  Though the sunglasses shielded his wide-eyed horror, his quivering lips revealed everything.  He dropped the gun he hadn’t even bothered to load and the bag of loot.
+++++“I don’t want no trouble, man.”
+++++“You don’t even sound like Michael Jackson.”
+++++“Man, I barely know these niggers.  My cousin LeRon axed me I wanna make some money.  He axed me can I moonwalk.”
+++++“Can you?”
+++++“Shit yeah, man.”
+++++PYT MJ took two gliding steps backward and Hoyt depressed the trigger opening up a couple extra airways into his lungs.  Life blood sprayed the dance floor lights dimming the carnage.  Hoyt pried the Piggly Wiggly bag from the dead Jackson’s fingers.
+++++Culley approached Hoyt cautiously from behind.  He kept the .22 not quite pointed down.  He liked Hoyt well enough, but if he spun around and still had those wild ass Biltmore eyes, Culley told himself he wouldn’t hesitate to pop a couple .22 pills in his mouth.
+++++Perhaps sensing this, Hoyt kept stock still.  He acknowledged Culley with a slight nod.  “You see which way the other pedophile went?”
+++++“Billie Jean?” Culley scanned the remaining crowd for a black face.  “Nope.”
+++++“Probably hiding in the bathroom.  Taking a cue from his buddy George Michael.”
+++++“If we’re gonna keep this cash we’re gonna hafta get the fuck outta here right now, before the cops get here, start asking questions.”
+++++Walking out the door, Hoyt said, “why wouldn’t we keep the money?  With or without the cops, we earned it.  If it wasn’t for us, those Michael Jacksons would’ve danced right out the door with it.”
+++++“The law’s funny that way.”
+++++“Am I right, though?”
+++++“Yeah, you’ll be right back in Biltmore you don’t move your feet.”
+++++The parking lot teemed with ruined mascara eyes pleading and crimson lips pouting.  Several of the more cravern patrons had dove into the marina, swimming toward the relative safety of a big deep lake.
+++++Two newer model Mustangs, identical in the unimpressive penis size of the drivers, collided trying to beat each other onto the street, effectively blocking the only exit from the lot.  A Ford F10 tried to make a path by repeatedly ramming a Mustang in the driver’s side door.  A beige Lexus circled the lot like a light-crazed moth until it side-swiped a tall, mustachioed man wearing a black stetson.
+++++Culley and Hoyt double-timed it across the parking lot, hopped the divider into the lot of the neighboring ice cream parlor.  It was all shadow from here on out.  Culley’s rusted out Chrysler LeBaron was parked beside the parlor, away from the judgmental, waxwork stares of the Grab-A-Granny clientele.  They threw the loot on the floorboard and climbed in.  The car mercifully started on the third attempt.
+++++“So where you wanna go?” Culley asked.
+++++Hoyt thumbed open the first wallet fished from the Piggly Wiggly bag.  He fanned out a couple hundred dollars worth of twenties.
+++++“Let’s go to Olive Garden.”

Charlie Dancer Was A Dirty Cop

Everyone knew it. The crooks knew it. They’d get shaken down by the sumbitch on the regular. The cops knew it. They’d crack jokes about Dancer selling the best meth in Hohman. Hell, the average citizen knew it. You couldn’t walk into a bar in North Hohman without crossing paths with Charlie Dancer, sitting at the end of the bar, with his back to the wall, radiating bad intentions.
+++++I stopped at the Whiskey Double Tap, hugged Kristy the bartender while getting an eyeful of her cleavage, then slipped downstairs for a snootful of marching powder. I hated going to the WDT. It seemed like the cops raided it once a month so scoring coke here was always a gamble. The secret was get your shit and get out. Don’t get caught loitering with the coke whores hanging around like its superbowl Sunday in Bolivia.
+++++My breath caught in my throat the moment my foot hit the bottom stair. There’s Charlie Dancer in the back of the room. He’s snorting a line of coke bigger than his nostril. It’s like a traffic jam going on up there. He’s huffing and wheezing and he’s got two weekend strippers from the Industrial Strip on either side of him, giggling and having a good old time.
+++++“The fuck are you doing here, Ohms?” Mickey asked me.
+++++“Feeding my addiction. Why I usually come down here? What the fuck is he doing down here?”
+++++“Keep your voice down.” Mickey walked me back up the stairs.
+++++He owned the joint so he could do that. Also, he’s got arms big around as my torso.
+++++“What’s Dancer doing here?” I asked again in a whisper once we were back in the bar proper.
+++++“Whatever the fuck he wants to do here, that’s what,” Mickey said. “You gotta lotta balls showing your face around here.”
+++++“Oh shit. What now?”
+++++“You ain’t heard?”
+++++“Nobody tells me nothing.”
+++++“Dancer and Starla’s got together. They’re the new item. Like the Hohman power couple. The Region’s Bradgelina.”
+++++So there’s only one Starla I know in all of North Hohman. My on-again, off-again girlfriend.
+++++“Well, it looks like we’re off again.”
+++++“It would appear that way, Ohms. See why it’s a good idea you make yourself scarce from around here a little while.”
+++++I left Whiskey Double Tap thinking Mickey probably wasn’t just referring to me keeping away from the bar, so much as steering clear of the entire Region altogether.
+++++Laying low didn’t appeal to my self-destructive streak, so I stopped at Toecutter Joe’s to nurse my ego. It was the one bar in the area women generally avoided. It’s a good place to go to when you want to massage your misery without having to worry about combing your hair.
+++++“Yeah,” Yahtzee said, bringing me a bottle of Okocim. “Dancer always said he’d bring down Starla, eventually. And he did!”
+++++It occurred to me Starla and I had been off again a lot longer than I had anticipated. Once Mickey clued me in, everyone felt the need to fill in the informational gaps for me.
+++++Starla was famous in North Hohman. Her fame resulted directly from her big tits, her whorish immorality and her lucrative marijuana trade. She kept at least ten pounds of good weed around her apartment at all times. It was another one of those open secrets North Hohman thrived on.
+++++Of course, when I say she was my girlfriend, it ain’t like we at the Ruby Tuesdays every Saturday night. Mostly we smoked pot and fucked on the couch. I thought we were really good for each other.
+++++“Whatcha got there, Ohms?”
+++++My cell phone.
+++++I have a self-destructive streak a mile long. That’s the only explanation I have for taking my phone out in the middle of Toecutter Joe’s and cycling through a year’s worth of naked pictures. There’s Starla in all her buck naked, spread eagle glory. Every pose imaginable for everyone in the bar to see.
+++++I imagined the text went something like this:
+++++HEY DANCER, OHMS IS OVER HERE AT JOE’S SHOWING OFF NAKED PICTURES OF YOUR OLD LADY.
+++++The bar began buzzing with a nervous energy. I quickly became aware of the grins and whispers, never a good combination. That self-destructive streak shriveled from a mile to a millimeter.
+++++“Well, I guess I better get going.”
+++++“Stay and have another one. I’m buying.” Brian Taylor offered. The sleazy drunken Judas to my broken-hearted, coke head Jesus.
+++++“No, I gotta skedaddle.”
+++++Brian: “Yahtzee, get Ohms another one of those Polish beers. Put it on my tab.”
+++++“Gotta fucking go.”
+++++I walked to the side door, slipped out, in time to witness Charlie Dancer driving up on the curb in his dull gray Dodge Charger. Even his car windows were illegal, tinted darker than the state law allowed.
+++++My longevity in this town went hand in hand with my lack of pride. I’ve never been afraid to run away. I thought, maybe if I keep running fast enough and Dancer keeps chasing long enough, he’ll be too tired to do much damage once he caught me. It was a drunk’s logic and I loved my mind for it.
+++++Charlie Dancer stepped out of the Charger, drew his police issue 9mm and opened fire on me.
+++++I thought I’d gotten a fairly decent head start on Dancer, but those gunshots sounded like canon shots. The window of a Camaro to my right exploded in a party blast of glass. Bullets ricocheted off apartment brick to my left. I heard some hollering, more than likely Dancer screaming for me to freeze or something equally Ludacris. I ducked into the alley, cut through yards, I didn’t stop running for a long time.
+++++A week passed before I worked up the nerve to show my face at the Whiskey Double Tap again. I seemed to have upset the status quo. Kristy didn’t have a hug for me. Ever her cleavage seemed to shrink before my eyes. Mickey didn’t invite me downstairs.
+++++“It’s hard to believe you took down the most corrupt cop in the entire Region,” Mickey said.
+++++“Yep,” I treated the folks to my biggest, most self-destructive smile. “Who knew discharging your service weapon at a fleeing drunk was grounds for dismissal, eh? Not I!”
+++++“You know he’s gonna fuck you for this if it’s the last thing he does, right?” Mickey said.
+++++“He was a year away from getting his twenty,” Kristy added. “Even with sick days and vacation, he ain’t getting his pension because of you.”
+++++“Boo fucking hoo.”
+++++Kristy and Mickey exchanged this-guy-is-an-idiot glances.
+++++“I’m just saying,” Mickey said. “It ain’t gonna be this week. It ain’t gonna be next week. Probably six months would be my guess. And it probably won’t even be Dancer who pulls the trigger. He’ll be sitting out in Tennessee somewhere with Starla on his lap, and you’ll be getting assassinated by some Cholo who owes a favor.”
+++++“Mickey, please. If I took every death threat seriously I’d have never made it outta kindergarten.”
+++++“And you ain’t learned nothing since then.”
+++++“Nope,” I smiled, withdrawing my phone. “You wanna see some naked pictures?”