Blog Summary

A blog for poetry, prose, and pop culture.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

True Story Time!

Hey all!

It's been a while since I posted a strange but true story and I have one that I really wanted to tell. This is a rare instance where I wasn't a part of the story, but I am going to relay it to you as best as I can. Unfortunately I can neither verify the the truth of this tale, and one or two minor details may have been skipped in the telling, but it was just weird and wild, and I did get the one guys job corroborated. I also don't have all the names involved, but here we go anyway.

This past Sunday I agreed to help my local comic shop move to a new location. I'd earn $10.00 an hour in store credit and there was a lot of work to do. this was a story being told between a few of the comic store store managers and one of the volunteers. It seems this one guy, sadly whose name I did not catch as we were stationed at different stores the whole day (him on breakdown and me on set up at the new store), runs a specialty website dedicated to basically nerd porn. Hot girls dressing up in various fantasy elements, super heroes, movies, the like, and posing for pictures with various elements of pornography. The website, which I had heard at the time but now cannot really recall, was called something like exploitedcomic girls.com (or at least close to that though I couldn't find them on the web.)

Now it seems this guy is very good friends with the family of Stevie Nix, the famous singer and front woman of Fleetwood Mac. In this case it turns out that Stevie Nix's niece is an amateur photographer (like her father) and does makeup and costuming for photo shoots. Occasionally Nixie (as she was called) does work for this guy. The kicker is that Nixie is only 17, a few months shy of her 18th birthday. Now her parents are aware of this and have signed releases and the like for her to work on shoots.

One day the photographer has a shoot with a smoking hot girl, just 18, who does full on porn. She has agreed to do a spread with this guy and calls up Nixie to do some makeup. Nixie shows up several hours later, much to the photographers chagrin at having lost so much time. She has brought another girl, 18 as well, who wants to pose. While he agrees, its getting late and he needs to get his shoot going. So Nixie does the makeup and is talking about how when she turns 18 she may pose nude. But she isn't going to be all exploitative and thrusting her pussy out. This sets off our young porn star who does exactly that thing and the two girls snip at each other the rest of the shoot. Meanwhile the photographer is talking to this other girl about potential costume ideas and sumps a laundry bag full of various panties on the table for him to pick through.

Now this site is run by pretty much nerds, and short of the photographer who takes these pictures for a living, the rest of the team does not. One of the other site operators is there and makes a face that the photographer describe as quite possibly the best picture of the night, at the shock and awe of so much available pantie. As this story is being told is when we all agree that you just can't show a nerd that much pantie and not have that reaction.

Meanwhile as this is all going down, Nixie's boyfriend shows up, also 17. As Nixie has completed makeup, she goes with the photographer to set up the studio shots. Our young porn star then gets to talking with the boyfriend, dumping a bag of various dildo's out and explaining to him the qualities of each for the shoot, and showing him different stills from her career in film, specifically the biggest group sex act she was a part of and the biggest facial she ever took. When Nixie finds out, the photographer literally has to separate her from fighting and sends her home to finish the shoot.

This story seems like one of those things that is so outrageous that it has to be true. Several factors were verified after the telling of this story, which sadly ended about there as it was time to get back to work. He does work for a website specializing in nerd porn and is a professional photographer. Allegedly he also works with Nixie and has mentioned that in the past. So take it for what you will. I want to believe it just on the fact that it is so crazy. Even if it isn't, its still a fascinating story. Enjoy it for what you will, it was just the kind of tale that is told when I am around.

End of Line.
Gerrad!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Flash Fiction: Three More Bullets

Chapter 10

"Any last words now you piece of shit?"

I could still feel the cold barrel of the gun on my forehead. It was weird how in this instant, everything around me seemed somehow heightened. I could still hear the whore he had been screwing mewling under the rustling bedsheets and the crackling of the logs in the hearth. The pain in my leg seemed almost as if it belonged to someone else. I looked up at the man that took everything from me, the man who had raped my wife and daughter and left me for dead. I looked up at him and smiled.

"Yeah I do. Seems you forgot to put on your boots."

It was just a momentary flicker, his eyes flashing down to his bear feet and I moved. My right hand flashed down from over my head, having freed my knife from where I had stashed it. My left shot out, driving the gun wide. I could feel the hot lead of the gun as he fired and the bullet farrow through the side of my scalp. My vision went red as the blood poured down my eyes. At the same time I plunged the knife deep into his foot until I ran it into the floorboard. I was rewarded with a scream through the red haze of my own blood.

My face a mask of crimson as I sprung upwards off of my good leg and tackled Morgan to the ground. I could hear him roar as his foot was pulled free from the floorboards. I kept his gun arm wide of his body with my hand as we pushed forward. He pulled the trigger reflexively again and again, the shots echoing in the room. I heard the whore start screaming at one point, but I drove the thought out of my mind as we fell to the floor. On top, I had the leverage, but he still outweighed me in muscle. The last year had made me lean, and in a straight fight, Frank Morgan would have killed me. But I wasn't fighting straight. I rammed my forehead into his nose hearing the crunch of cartilage. The headbutt had hurt me more than I thought, but I did it again anyway, catching part of his jaw and cracking a few teeth.

I felt my own hot blood running down my face as I brought the knee of my good leg up and drove it into his solar plexus. I could hear him grunting and huffing for air as his eyes went wide. I finally heard his gun click over to the empty barrel and I brought my right fist across into his jaw. I slammed his left hand onto the floor repeatedly until he dropped the gun with a clatter. Then I just kept punching. I smashed his face over and over until I couldn't feel my hands anymore. I didn't know where the blood of his face ended and the cracked knuckles and torn flesh of my hands began. I might have punched for minutes, or just a few seconds, but either way he stopped moving. Finally I stopped and leaned back from his body, my own breath coming in deep ragged rafts.

Frank Morgan's face was a bloody pulp. His breath came in forced gasps through a smashed nose and a mouthful of blood and teeth. He laid on the floor, eyes too swollen to open, and didn't move. I looked over to the whore in his bed, whose cries had long went from loud screams, to simply pathetic whimpers. One of Morgan's shots had caught her in the stomach and she was bleeding to death. I slowly stood up and retrieved the shotgun from where I had dropped it. My left leg was numb from the bullet, and Morgan's pistol had cut a deep gash across my scalp, running from my temple down through my already cut ear.

Moving to the bed, I used my boot on my good leg to kick off the dying woman to the far side of the bed. I fired the last round from the shotgun into her and silenced her sobs. Then I began ripping the blood soaked sheets into long strips. When I had a few solid strips, I took one and wrapped it around my head and another around my leg and hoped I wouldn't bleed to death until I was done. Then I flipped the bed over and stood it on end to expose the wooden slats beneath. I grabbed Morgan by a bloody mop of hair and dragged him to the bed. I rammed another hard fist into his stomach as I hoisted him up and tied one arm off. He began whimpering something, maybe a prayer, but God doesn't hear men who are about to die. I tied off his other arm after an even harder kick to the gut, until he was splayed across the underside of the bed, arms akimbo. I pulled the bloody knife from his foot and cut off the remains of the soiled nightshirt we wore. Still he whimpered.

I went back to the fireplace and placed the poker into the flames, feeding it the last of the logs that lay beside it. I waited until the poker glowed a bright orange and the flames licked the flume of the hearth before pulling it free. Then, I showed Frank Morgan the real meaning of pain. I did things that I didn't think I could. I hurt him and hurt him until the flames grew cold and he had grown hoarse from the screams and the begging. I hurt him until I became a worse monster than he ever was. When Frank Morgan took his dying breath, I whispered into his ear the name of my wife. Emma. The name of my daughter. Eve. And my name, Death. Then I fired my third bullet.


Epilogue:

A week after my business at the Morgan estate, a single horse was found tied to the post in front of the Lawson house. It had a fancy saddle with the letter's B.T. engraved on the side. When Maggie opened the bags, she found several stacks of currency and a note that simply said, "A gift for an angel." Several other bags full of currency matching that of a series of train and stage robberies were also found at Sheriff's office.

As for me, I returned to the farm I had bought with my wife. I had done things I was not proud of. I had become something in seeking revenge that my wife wouldn't even recognize. A worse monster than the men who had taken everything from me. I held up my Father's gun and opened the barrel. There was still one bullet inside. The bullet I had found in the gun when I picked it up. The one I had saved as I loaded in those three more bullets. The bullet I had saved for the last monster on my list. Me. I tasted the cold steel of my Father's gun and prayed to see Emma again.

End of Line.
Gerrad!

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Line Up

Hey all,

It's been a while since I talked about the current crop of television shows and I thought today that we would touch base. Honestly I think the amount of TV I am watching is decreasing as many shows I like have either taken a step backwards or have drawn to an end. Let's look at what hasn't been working first.

When the fall and mid-season shows dropped, there wasn't that many new programs I was looking forward to. So far only three have managed to make the cut. I quickly lost interest in shows like The Mentalist and I didn't even watch the first episode of the new NBC drama Kings. Even established shows that I have enjoyed in the past haven't been as compelling. Heroes is one that I keep waiting for to take off. A very solid show with great characters, I just don't know if the writers know where they are going with it this season. For nearly 3 seasons we have been waiting for some epic throw downs between the super powered folk and it seems like all they want to do is tease us with it. Just get to the fights! A little action will go a long way toward developing characters to the viewer.

Terminator is another show that is facing the same dilemma. For a show about robots from the future killing people there is a hell of a lot of talking. I love great characterization, but when I watching a show called Terminator, I want some damn terminators. Even the show I was most looking forward to this season, Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, runs that same parallel. It's a show where each girl can be anything, but I don't know that they are providing enough entertainment to be successful long term. Admittedly the last few episodes have been better, but I still can't call it a great show.

Fox's Fringe is borderline show for me. I love the concept, but I am still waiting to be sold on each character. I haven't made an attachment to any of the leads, but I like the general subject matter, sort of Lost meets the X-Files. I think it pays by being in a safe timeslot on Tuesdays when I don't have any counter programming.

There have been some positive moves in programming this season. I still think that The Office may be comically the best show on television. They continue to push the boundary of awkward, socially channelling humor each week. Just a great cast of characters and Steve Carrell as Michael Scott may be the most fearless actor in TV. Next up is Chuck from NBC. This show I think finds the best balance between pure fun and action and character development. It's got an overall story that furthers each character, but it intersects each week with humor and action to keep things going. Just a great balance.

Then there is Lost. Without a doubt the BEST show on TV. This season the producers have taken the show up a notch from last, no small task, bringing the mysteries of the island to the forefront. They still provide more answers to our questions, but leave enough room to ask another question in its place. Just from top to bottom the best show each week.

There have been some sad departures this season as well. First out was the criminally underrated Pushing Daisies. Fun, quirky, and offbeat, I wish it had the chance to continue. I fear there was simply to long a layoff between season 1 and 2 with the writer's strike last year and it became a victim of the ratings. This was certainly a show that had something for everyone, men, women, young, or old, it was a very pure form of entertainment that wasn't preachy. Just a good show. Another loss that will hit me hard very soon is the cancellation of the only other new show this season I like, ABC's Life on Mars, about a cop from today stuck in 1973. One part Lost, one part crime drama, it entertained many fascinating concepts. This ranged from time travel and mental illness to social issues like gender and race issues that were so prevalent in the 70's. I am really sad to see it go as it was one of my favorite programs on TV.

The biggest loss is undoubtedly Battlestar Galactica. Easily one of the best shows on TV (second only to Lost for me) it wrapped up its run in an epic 2 hour finale, full of blockbuster action and really great closure for the cast of characters we had come to know. Despite future BSG spinoff's in the works, the main show and cast is done. With it went a great balance of action and character beats, where you really watched the characters grow and change over the 5 year run of the show. Each person is a far different cry from who they were in the beginning. I'll miss BSG, there really was nothing else quite like it.

That's my rundown of the current state. My guess for a follow-up would be a good re-evaluation around the end of the season, specifically in the final episode of Lost. Thanks for reading, I'll be back again this week hopefully finishing up the last chapter of Three More Bullets and maybe even some new Darkest Dawn by the end of the month. Thanks!

End of Line.
Gerrad!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Flash Fiction: Three More Bullets

Chapter 9

I didn't have to look for the last man on my list. I knew exactly where he was. The same place he had been since that fateful night over a year ago. Frank Morgan was the son of one of the biggest cattle barons in all of Colorado. He had been born rich, but he had a wild sadistic streak that even quelled his Father. At the age of 16, he had been disowned from his family after brutally murdering a prostitute in Denver. Cut off, he took what money he had and set up in New Mexico, vowing one day to run even his Father out of business. He used any means necessary to buy up land and cattle, rustling and strong arm tactics. If the law got in his way, he'd buy them off of have them killed. So far, no one had directly linked him to any crime but his stake in the territory was getting bigger everyday.

He had approached me tyring to buy my section of land, offering me far less than the property was worth. He wanted my land because of its location, and because it would give him a foothold into JR Campbell's land, whom I had bought the land off of. I told him I wouldn't be selling for any amount of money. Emma, my sweet Emma, had picked this land and we weren't moving. He came back that same night, even before I had the chance to tell the Sheriff, and killed my family.

Morgan had a ranch a half a days ride from my old house. I looked down from the hilltop overlooking the ranch and waited. It was July 4th, the middle of summer, and many of his "ranch hands" were in town celebrating. Morgan and a few of his boys had stayed behind. I could see the fireworks in the distance, and hear the sounds of singing from below. I had taken Billy Travers horse and my own, and I kept them quiet. Waiting for the drink and the festivities to slow them down.

Finally, after the moon had grown thick in the sky, I walked down to the ranch, horses in tow. I had managed to tie them off before the first of his men saw me. His pants were undone and he had a bottle in his hand.

"Hey..Who tha' fuck are you?"

I pulled up Billy Travers shiny steel plated Colt that I had taken and shot him in the head before he could utter another slurred sentence. Walking past him I saw the door to the ranch house open up as another man come running out, clad only in his shirt and boots. I shot him before he ran 6 steps as I walked to the front door of the ranch house and kicked it in. Two more men lay passed out on the floor, surrounded by empty bottles. I emptied the last four shots into them, killing them in cold blood. Reaching across my shoulder I freed the sawed-off shotgun from its holster across my back and began walking upstairs.

I made it about halfway when another of Morgan's men came around the landing. He was tall and dark haired, and he fired his pistol as he cleared the corner. I felt something hot burn into my thigh and my leg go numb. I let fly with both barrels as I collapsed on the stairway. I probably took out as much of the railway as I did him, the man screaming as his face was full of buckshot and wood splinters. I could hear him screaming as I thumbed open the shotgun, sliding two more rounds into the barrel. I held the gun in my left as I used my right hand to pull myself up the railing. At the top of the stair I fired again, taking the man out of his misery. Far more mercy than I was gonna show Frank Morgan.

I limped down the hallway, leaving a trail of blood down his fine carpets until I reached his door. I turned the handle, throwing it wide. Frank Morgan stood next to his bed, clad only in his long shorts and gunbelt. The room was lavishly furnished, with an ornate wardrobe and washstand on one side. A roaring fire was lit in the hearth, casting the room in an eerie orange glow. A dark skinned girl with hair as black as his soul lay under the bedsheets, eyes wide with fear. I could see her dress strewn across the floor. Morgan had his gun pointed at me, one arm out in front of himself. I dropped the shotgun to the floor and raised my hands.

"Hello Frank. It's been a long time."

"Who the fuck do you think you are? Killing my men, coming into MY home? I'm gonna fucking hear you beg before I kill you."

He walked closer, keeping the gun trained on me. He turned the gun over and smashed the barrel across my face. I fell to my knees and tasted my own blood, hot and wet, and laughed. Loud and thick, I laughed. Then I felt him press the barrel of his gun hard against my forehead.

"Who the FUCK are you?"

I opened my eyes, looking at his and smiled.

"My name is Ethan Edwards. You, along with John and Billy Travers raped and murdered my wife and daughter, forcing me to watch. You beat me, shot me, and tied me to my own horse and left me to die. All for a lousy piece of farmland. Now, I am going to do to you what you did to me. Except I won't be as nice."

His eyes sparked with recognition.

"You sonuvabitch. You tough fucking sonuvabitch. You're resilient, I'll give you that. You just got one problem, see, I still got the gun and I'm not a man who makes the same mistake twice."

Then I heard the click of the hammer being drawn back. It was almost over.

End of Line.
Gerrad!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Movie Time: Rewind: The Quiet Man


Hey all,

Welcome back to the Rewind, highlighting great movie made before the year 1976. Since March has St. Patrick's Day in it, I though would look at a really great movie about Irish life, John Ford's The Quiet Man, with John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. Filmed in 1952 for Republic Pictures, it is a serious departure for both Ford and Wayne.

The film stars Wayne as Sean Thornton, a disgraced ex-boxer who has fled America to return to the land of his parents in a small rural Irish town. Upon arrival, he catches the eye of one Mary Kate Danaher, played by the fiery Maureen O'Hara. Mary is a spinster, leaving with her older brother Will, played by John Ford regular Victor McLaglen. Sean falls in love with Mary, but her brother Will takes a quick dislike to the American after he outbids him in an effort to reclaim the old Thornton family estate from a rich widow that Danaher also likes. Sean quickly earns the support and respect of the town folk as a quiet and peace loving man, refusing to fight against Danaher.

When Sean learns of the the antiquated rules of courtship that are still in effect in the town he is confused. Enlisting the the help of the town matchmaker (or chaperon) they try to arrange courtship for Mary, but the quick tempered Will refuses. Devasted, it is up the the towns folk, led by another of John Ford's Regulars; Ward Bond as Father Lonergan, to set up the affair. Tricking Danaher into believing that the widow Tillane would agree to a courtship between them if his sister was married off, he reluctantly agrees to the courtship between Sean and Mary. Unfortunately he learns of the deceit on the day of their wedding and refuses to pay Mary's dowry of 350 pounds. Sean is unconcerned, long ago learning that money isn't worth fighting for, refusing to "shame" himself over the matter. Mary interprets this as cowardice, and refuses him his martial rights on their wedding nights.

Tensions grow between the two as Sean refuses to fight over money, and Mary lives in shame of her husband. When Mary finally leaves Sean, it is the final straw. The film culminates into a final confrontation, as Sean literally drags Mary 5 miles back to town, and confronts Will in one of the movies greatest fist fights on film.

There is a lot about this movie to like. Arguably my second favorite John Wayne film (only behind his and John Ford's 1956's The Searchers) it is a very different role for Wayne. Far more subtle and layered, the film isn't the kind of movie Wayne was known for. Despite the great fist fight at the end, much of the film is about a very deep and complex relationship between two people, Wayne channelling inner turmoil and pathos into a character many would expect to fight first and talk later. Part of this is why Ford and Wayne worked so well together, Ford could push Wayne into places many other directors never could and its why the two made so many movies together. This movie, along with The Searchers and 1948's Red River, are the three films that really show the depth and range that Wayne truly had, if only he let himself.

Ford himself won his fourth directorial Oscar for the movie, having won previously in 1935 for The Informer, 1940's The Grapes of Wrath, and 1941's How Green Was My Valley. Ford had been attempting to make this film for over 15 years, initially buying the screen rights in 1933 after reading it as a short story. It wasn't until the late 1940's that he could get financing for the project. Republic Pictures was a small studio that mostly made low budget war films and Westerns. Low costs on low budget films. They agreed to finance the film with Ford's hand picked cast of Wayne and O'Hara, if they three also agreed to make a Western for them first. They figured the Western would recoup any loss they would have making this film. The three went onto to create a big hit with 1950's Rio Grande for the studio, but went onto to make them even more money with The Quiet Man. It also acts as the only film ever to be nominated for an Oscar from the studio.

Ford's trademark cinematography is all throughout the film, wide sweeping vistas, much of it on location in Ireland, another first for the studio. Ford is a master of creating wide open spaces in film. It always amazes me how he can keep so much action in a shot, but leave room for the viewer to take in the wide open spaces of the countryside. The lush iconic green of Ireland can be seen in every shot of the movie, which he also shot in chronological order. The cinematography went on to earn the film another Academy Award.

The beautiful and fiery Maureen O'Hara is wonderful as well. One of the biggest box office performers of the 1940's she co-starred in five films with Wayne. She was tough and athletic and beautiful. She really broke out in movies in 1939, starring in Alfred Hitchcock's Jamaica Inn and The hunchback of Notre Dame at only 19. She would go onto success in Ford's How Green Was My Valley and most notably in 1947's Miracle on 34th Street. To many though, it's her pairing with Wayne that were memorable. As a tough tempered woman, you always knew she could hold her own against a movie star who was bigger than life. In no film is that more evident than in The Quiet Man.

The Quiet Man has a little something for everyone, romance and fighting. It is a great picture that truly transcends as such a timeless film. John Ford is one of the best directors in cinema history and John Wayne is one of the biggest stars to ever grace the screen. Even if you are not a fan of many of Wayne's movies, this is the one that is different, this is one that really stands out. Check it out, Republic Pictures The Quiet Man, by director John Ford and starring John Wayne, Maureen O'Hara, and Victor McLaglen.


End of Line.
Gerrad!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Introspection

Hey all,

So it seems my sister in law, with the best of intentions, tried to hook me up with a girl from her office. We had a series of enjoyable, informative, even provocative text messages that I quite enjoyed. I don't really have a full field of confidence with women and having this opportunity was really awesome. I thought we had some decent conversations on my end, though to be honest I never got a good idea of what she thought from me. I tried to be as funny and as charming as I could, asking questions to learn as much about her as I could.

After talking for the first time I wanted to exchange digital information. Pictures, blog, whatever, just a simple exchange of MySpace information. Really I had two reasons behind this. One was the simple fact that I wanted a face to put the words to. I wanted to see what she looked like. I am not the kind of guy who gets caught up in looks, I just wanted to get to know her better. The other reason, the real reason, is that I wanted the same for her. I wanted her to put my face with myself. I know who I am and what I look like, I know that I an overweight. I didn't want that to be a disappointment. I didn't want to let her down. So I sent my info along in one of my emails.

We talked briefly the day after that. Again I sent another email, just low key and not insistent, just saying how much I liked talking to her and getting to know her better. I asked if she had checked me out yet. Then that was pretty much the last I heard from her. I suppose it might have been to much to ask on my part, she was younger than me, just 23. Raising a child on her own. I just find myself wondering if she did check me out and that's why she lost interest. Maybe I lost it before then, maybe I didn't. I don't think I did.

I wondered if I was prepared for dating. Even taking it slowly, there was a child involved. Long ago I gave up on those thoughts, I would have been just happy with a date you know. I'm trying to chalk it up to being just an experience, but I still think that some days I am better off not trying. I just wish I knew where I stand sometimes. If that was the reason, if how I looked turned her off, I'd have rather heard the truth, painful or not. It's the not knowing that really hurts.

End of Line.
Gerrad!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The End of the World

Hey all,

Here is a new poem in kind of a different format. It really stems from the first two lines of the poem, a phrase that kept echoing of the caverns of my mind that I wanted to incorporate into a poem. When I started writing it though I realized that I wanted those words to precursor the poem, to not be a part of the actual poem. I wanted something that stated a message and then went from there. I like how it sets itself out a little different, but overall I am open to some feedback on it.

*Note* I did edit one line based on a pretty good suggestion, scrapping a rhyme of scent and sent to scent and lament. I think it makes it contextually stronger. Thanks Jason.



The End of The World


I closed my eyes tonight,

And I awoke to the end of the world.



Its as if the fires then succumbed the sky,

As I clutched at bonds that held me bound.

A sudden flash of heat and flame.

The clap of thunder now the only sound.

Tears then fall from senseless loss,

Though they quench not my pain.

Missing you just hurts to much,

Yet of your memory I can't abstain.

Trapped inside these fears and doubts,

A passion now remorsely cold.

I die again with each new breath,

From the thoughts of you that I behold.



I dreamed the world did end today,

And awoke to find it true.

Not of war or fire, flood nor famine

Just the loneliness of missing you.

My house is now a barren waste,

A blight upon once fertile land.

Haunted by the ghosts of past,

Just another horror I must stand.

When I close my eyes you're trapped inside,

A holocaust in shadows caught.

And I dream my death in peaceful days,

Still your prisoner in this war we fought.



My arm caresses that empty sheet,

Soft of silk still holds your scent.

You're not there when I awake,

All that's left is my lament.

I built my myself upon your love,

Wrapped inside that warmest soul,

And now that you have gone away,

My heart is naught but an empty hole.

A trailing path of trinkets left,

Some clothes still on the rack,

Reminders of the life were shared,

Telling me you'll not come back.



I close my eyes a final time,

As the world itself slowly dies.




End of Line.
Gerrad!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Flash Fiction: Three More Bullets

Chapter 8

I found John Traver's brother Billy three days later on the road to Sedition. He was traveling with another man I didn't recognize, but I knew neither of them meant anything good. He might have been a hired gun helping in the stage robberies, or just another cutthroat that Billy adopted. Either way, Billy was traveling with a big pack, and one other man didn't make any difference to me as to what I had to do.

They had set up a camp near the Henessey River which led south, toward Sedition and what he was guessing was his brother. They were a good two days from another farm or town, though this particular spot had been a stop along the old Pony Express route. The building and stable had long since fallen down, though the horse post was still there and it made for a popular stop along the trail. Billy was cooking over the fire while the stranger lounged on his bedroll, peeling an apple with a long knife. I observed this as I walked down the hillside. It was just close enough to dark to break for camp, though not to dark as for me to see each of them react as I closed in. Billy's hand eased towards his gun as he stood over the fire, the smell of bacon wafting in. The stranger never moved, just peering up from under the wide brim of his hat while he kept peeling the apple.

"Greetin'! I was on from Sedition and I noticed your fie and the smell o' cookin'. Was wonderin' if I could share it with ya. I got some whiskey I'd gladly pass."

I might have laid the country accent a little thick, but Travers seemed to buy it. He eased his hand off the pistol and broke into the kind of smile that never touched your eyes. He'd as soon kill me and take what he wanted. I didn't plan on giving him the chance. The stranger never moved, other than the knife over the skin of the fruit.

"Hell yes. Yer more than welcome. Why don't you pass that bottle?"

I smiled wide and mentioned my thanks as I reached back under the blanket I'd laid over my horse. I felt underneath it until I gripped what I wanted. I whipped the double barrel sawed-off shotgun out faster than Travers could react and fired, the buckshot ripping through his stomach as he cried out. I had swiped the gun from Traver's brother three days before, turning its use for my own. I turned the second shot to the stranger but he was to fast.

He drove his head hard into my gut and I felt the air leave my lungs in one great whoosh. We fell backwards landing even harder on the packed clay dirt trail. The shotgun fell with a clatter as the stranger loomed on top of me. He still held the knife which he pressed down towards my throat. I threw one hand up around his fist, the other clenching at his throat. He grinned wildly, flecks of spit at the corners of his mouth, as he pulled his free hand from my own throat and pressed down on the blade, leaning in on it with his weight. The headbutt had hurt and I could already feel my strength begin to wane under the strain. The knife glinted just inches from my throat, getting closer. Desperate, I wiggled my hips lower, stretching my neck up to avoid the blade, until I could move my right knee. then I brought it as hard as I could up into his balls.

His eyes went wide with surprise, but he held on. I did it again, then again, until I heard a sickening crunch. His eyes went buggy and wild as he screamed. I pushed the knife with all my strength to the right, the tip narrowly missing my throat, but meeting the thick cartilage of my ear. I could feel my own blood, hot, flowing down my neck. His body was still on me, so I pushed the pain in my ear to the side and stiffened my fingers. Drawing back, I drove them deep into his eye, hearing a wet sucking sound as I drew them free. He threw himself off me, trashing wildly on the ground, screaming in pain. I crawled to the shotgun, placing my hand on its grip.

As I stood, one hand to my ear, the other around the gun, I looked at the two men. Billy Travers laying in a pool of his own blood, the life slowly trickling from his body. The stranger, thrashing in pain, with a broken eye and broken balls. I walked over to the stranger first and kicked him hard in the ribs. I kept kicking until I heard a crack and his breathing grow ragged and forced. He stared up at me, unable to breath, terror and pain etched on his face. I placed the shotgun to his head and fired, tasting the spray of his blood on my lips.

I dragged Billy Travers to the shore of the Henessey River, leaving a bloody trail of dirt and gore on the packed clay road. I plunged his head into the cold waters again and again, never letting him drown, never letting him breath, until the milky foam of his eyes grew dark and he was knocking on the door of hell. I pulled him free of the water and drew out my father's revolver. I pulled his ear to my mouth and told him my tale. The name of my daughter. The name of my wife. He knew the final name before I said it. The name of death. Then I placed the cold barrel of the old gun into his mouth and fired. I left him in the river, the red of his blood mixing into the deep blue of that river, washing downstream.

Only two more bullets to go.

End of Line.
Gerrad!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Movie Review: Fanboys


Hey all,

Well, I have definitely seen one of the worst movies of the year so far in Fanboys, directed by Kyle Newman. Starring Sam Huntington as Eric, David Marquette as Linus, and Kristen Bell as Zoe, this was one comedy that never got out of its own way.

Linus and his best friends, Hutch played by Dan Fogler and Windows played by Jay Baruchel are a trio of serious Star Wars fanboys, literally obsessed with all things Star Wars. Eric, Linus former best friend until he stopped hanging out with them after high school, runs into them at a party. After the party Hutch and Windows tell Eric that Linus has terminal cancer and only a has a few months to live. Not wanting to get trapped selling cars like his father and wanting to make amends for not being there for his friend, Eric devises a plan that the group has had since childhood. To travel across the country and break into the Skywalker Ranch, to see a cut of the impending release of a brand new Star Wars film months before anyone else has seen it, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. This way he can reconnect with his friends, and Linus will get a chance to see the film before his death.

Along the way they battle Star Trek fans, run afoul of the law (prompting hot nerd-friendly Zoe to spring them from jail and join their quest), smoke pot, and cause a riot in Las Vegas between a Star Trek Convention and a pimp looking to even the score until they finally reach their destination and break into the Ranch.

What kills the movie isn't the premise, its the forced Star Wars jokes and the general sense of nerdity that overwhelms the piece. The jokes seem to fall flat and all the characters are unbelievable. Hutch is way over the top, Windows is to nerdy even for life, Linus is vanilla, only Zoe manages to come across as any character who seemed to be able to hold her own in a scene. Even then though she is undermined by the horribly forced love story that she's a part of.

In terms of jokes and dialog, the film relies heavily on the minutia of Star Wars and the geek community, sending up everyone from Harry Knowles of Ain't It Cool News and Kevin Smith. Current funnyman darling Seth Rogan has two roles, as the leader of a group of angry Trekkies and as a Star Wars loving pimp the boys run into. Lucasfilm also gave the movie access to the library of Star Wars sound and the film takes an almost perverse joy in cramming the authentic sound effects in almost every scene. Even the groups Star Wars themed panel van sounds like the Millennium Falcon as it drives down the road. The worst part is the forced use of pop culture references, forcing any mention of any line from any Star Wars or Indiana Jones film that even remotely fits the scene. I am convinced one scene with the boys trapped in a gay leather bar was written simply to use the line," A wretched hive of scum and villainy."

The actors overall are fairly unknowns. Even the stunt casting of Rogan and Smith doesn't make anyone more likable. You don't really empathise with Linus dying, even in the end. I also think that in retrospect, most people don't qualify Episode 1 as a good film. Seeing these people obsess over a film, that while at the time may have been the most anticipated movie of all time, now kind of falls flat. A stronger cast or story might make that more workable, but here it just helps to accentuate the flaws. Another thing that hurt it was that the movie has been complete for nearly two years. The Weinstein Brothers, producers, have cut and recut this film several times, even taking out the cancer subplot at one point. The Internet hype for the film has long since cooled and that will hurt the films word of mouth, a big proponent to any success this type of nerd-friendly film would need.

If you are looking to see a funny movie, pass this one. The films only reward is Kristen Bell, and even her appearance in a slave girl Princess Leis outfit circa Return of the Jedi, isn't enough to save this film. Remember too, I can actually qualify as a Star Wars nerd and I am saying to stay away. Fanboys is just the kind of comedy that makes you feel bad about watching it.

End of Line.
Gerrad!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Moon

Hey all,

I really got on a writing kick this weekend with super long posts on movies and columns. In order to break up the repetition, here is a poem I wrote today. I was inspired by the fullness of the moon driving home from dinner tonight. The moon was very overcast and gloomy and it had a very melancholy air. I tried to run some subtly through the poem to give it a varied meaning and I think it turned out okay. I like to think that even when you feel at your lowest, the moon can be a very comforting sign when all you can see around you is darkness.


Moon


A moon drenched sky obscured by fog,

Thinning branches of supple light,

Trickling through the patchy mist,

As darkness dreams across my sight.


The black unknown in shadows wait,

For clinging bright has washed away.

Only the glow from this nightly orb,

Illuminates this course I must stay.


Lost among the foggy world,

When once its fire held a blaze.

Now I wander, dusk to dark,

Trapped inside a gloomy maze.


Once eyes turned towards the sky,

And witnessed as the sun grew cold.

First red then yellow, blue to black,

'Till endless night consumed the fold.


Now I wish for that day,

With my wounds to fresh to heal,

For these scabby salves have worn me raw,

And the pain still hurts to feel.


My only friend that misty man,

Whose craters offer a lonely smile,

To far away for me to reach,

Separated by an endless mile.


I reach my arm to hold you tight,

Though my fingers clench not but air.

An image held within my grasp,

How I wish that I was there.


So light my way through this life,

In wholest orb or half-lit moon,

I take what you can freely give,

And pray that I may join you soon.



End of Line.
Gerrad!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Movie Review: Watchmen



Hey all,

Friday night we headed out to the theatre to brave a screening of the DC Comics adaptation, Watchmen, directed by Zack Snyder of 300 fame. My last post went deeply into my love and reverence for the Watchmen source material and honestly I was seriously concerned as to whether or not the film version could even be in the same league as the novel.

For me at least, I thought the creative staff behind the film hit one out of the park. I loved it. Not in the same way I loved the book, but in the sense that this is about as good as you can get with such a heady and serious plot. Director Snyder has the comic pedigree with his previous hit, 300, an adaptation of Frank Miller's excellent graphic novel. In that film he was almost slavish to detail and exactingness. With Watchmen, a bigger novel and undoubtedly bigger project, Snyder walked a fine line of reverence to material and theatrical changes to make the film work for today's audience.

The film stars Billy Crudup as Dr. Manhattan, Malin Ackerman as The Silk Spectre, Matthew Goode as Ozymandias, Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian, Patrick Wilson as Nite-Owl, and Jackie Earl Haley as Rorschach. Let's start by talking about the casting. Snyder really tried to find the right actor for each role, forgoing big name stars in order to find the right actor to bring these characters to life. Haley is spot on as Rorschach, a diminutive ball of fury and anger all bottled in a series of neurosis. My biggest fear was Malin Ackerman as the Silk Specter, with little film experience, she had to carry the only female role in the film as a woman who is on one hand the only tie to humanity for the Nation's greatest weapon; and the other a lonely, embittered former crime fighter without direction in her life. Ackerman nailed it though, being both vulnerable, tough, and sexy all at the same time. Perhaps my only complaint was Matthew Goode as Ozymandias, a character who comes of in the film far darker than he did in the book. A bit more menacing than I thought he should be. Crudup is good as the dispassionate superman Dr. Manhattan, and I thought Morgan was an utterly superb Comedian, dark and twisted, but ultimately a tragic figure.

Let's look at the film itself now. The plot is almost similar to the novel. Its a dark time in 1985. Richard Nixon is in his fourth term as President, superheroes have been outlawed since 1977, with the exception of the nuclear powered Dr. Manhattan and The Comedian, both in the employ of the US government. Nite-Owl has retired, spending his weeks reminiscing with the man who first donned the cowl as Nite-Owl, before passing it on to him. Silk Specter has retired but is currently dating Dr. Manhattan who is involved in government research. Manhattan is slipping further away from humanity, and truthfully, Spectre is his last tie. Rorschach is still prowling the streets illegally fighting crime, which leads him to the apartment of a murder victim, who turns out to be his former Watchmen teammate, The Comedian.

Believing this to be the work of a "mask" killer, Rorschach launches an investigation, first warning his fellow vigilantes. After warning Nite-Owl, Dr. Manhattan and Silk Spectre, he begins to dig deeper into the Comedian's past. Nite-Owl, reluctant to resume the cowl, warns the final member of the team, Ozymandias. Ozymandias was the first to retire and built a huge financial empire when he unmasked himself. That combined with his sup[er intelligence and speed made him one of the richest men in the world.

As Rorschach digs deeper, we get to understand the origins of each of the heroes and what motivates them. Dr. Manhattan, almost godlike in his power, has lost faith and touch with humanity around him. Rorschach is obsessed with justice, he sees no gray areas in the world, only black and white, right and wrong. Silk Spectre, who never wanted to be a hero, but now knows nothing else. She is a woman in search of an identity. Nite-Owl, suffering through his own impotence without the cowl, and who can only feel like a man when he has it on. Ozymandias, dedicated to the betterment of humanity, but unrelenting in the face of an objective.

Silk Spectre decides to leave Dr. Manhattan after realizing that his grasp on humanity has been lost, she turns to Nite-Owl for comfort. Manhattan, hurt by her loss and accused of causing cancer in his former girlfriend and colleagues, flees Earth to Mars to contemplate his place in the world. The mask killer also strikes against Ozymandias, but fails. Meanwhile Rorschach is framed for teh murder of one of the Comedian's former enemies. Nite-Owl teams up with Silk Spectre and they decide to free him from prison. Finally finding a sound reason in Rorschach's conspiracy theories about a mask killer, the two bust him free.

When Manhattan returns and asks Spectre to come with him, they both teleport to Mars, where she has to find a way to convince him to stop the end of the world. With Manhattan gone, the Russians believe that they can move freely with America's superman to stop them. Nuclear tensions are at an all time high, and only Manhattan has the strength to stop them. When Rorschach and Nite-Owl delve deeper into the evidence, it leads them to someone they never thought possible, and someone who believes that a few millions deaths from nuclear fallout could usher in an age of peace.

I don't want to spoil the ending or the reveal. Snyder did take a few liberties with the film, cutting sections of the book, specifically the text heavy prose pieces that accompanied each issue. Tales of The Black Freighter, the pirate comic subplot that a young boy is reading in the novel, is actually a parable of the main villain and his descent into darkness. Its a pirate comic, but the characters journey runs parallel. The other prose section are excerpts from the original Nite-Owl's autobiography. Each of these are not critical to the film, but help deepen your understanding of the characters. Both will actually be released as an animated DVD in the next few weeks and will be re-cut into the films DVD release as an Absolute version of the film. The only other radical change is the ending, but this works. In the book the world is confronted by possible extinction from aliens, in the film its a much more real world threat of nuclear holocaust. While the nuclear threat is heavily present in the book, the resolution in the film version actually helps to keep the film in more of a reality.

My only other complaint in the film is some of the CGI on Dr. Manhattan. As a glowing blue naked nuclear powered character, sometimes the simple mechanics of lining his speech with his lips seemed a bit off. Otherwise I liked the run time of the film at a solid 2 and a half hours and the casting. I heard complaints that the plot was to complex or convoluted, but both people I went with haven't read or finished the novel and they followed it easy. There have also been some complaints about the sex and violence in the film. For me, that goes back to this being really the first super hero comic to be made for adults. I thought the nudity and sex actually served a purpose to each character. in Dr. Manhattan it shows how even a simple thing like the importance of modesty has been lost with his powers. For Nite-Owl, finding his manhood after putting on the cowl again is important, it is a symbol of how he values his self worth. In apathy, he is powerless, in costume he finds his purpose.

I don't think you have to be a huge Watchmen fan or a purist to enjoy this film. It finds a great balance of action and storytelling, really deconstructing the super hero myth. When your protecting the world, who protects it from you? I really just liked the movie. It reminds me of why super hero comics aren't just for children, that they can carry a bigger tale and have the depth and meaning of a a "regular" drama. Watchmen is a must see film and easily one of the best comic book movies ever made, a film to make you think, where one viewing won't cover everything that the film has to offer. The movie asks "Who Watches the Watchmen? I think the safest answer is that you should.

End of Line.
Gerrad!

Friday, March 06, 2009

Word Balloon: Watchmen



Hey all,

Okay, this month there is really only one option for the Word Balloon. A book I contemplated detailing shortly after starting this column, but felt would be better served by waiting until the film adaptation was released. Of course I mean DC Comics Watchmen, by creators Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, and John Higgens. First published as a monthly maxi-series in 1986, the 12 issue story has gone on to become one of the most celebrated books of all time, even making Time Magazines list of the 100 greatest English books of the modern era in 2005.

1986 was a pivotal year in terms of comic creation. Frank Miller's iconic take on Batman dropped with The Dark Knight Returns and Art Speigelman's Pulitzer Prize winning Maus also launched. It was Watchmen though that changed the way comics were both looked at and made. Writer Alan Moore had been achieving critical acclaim on his run of Swamp Thing, as well as short stints on Superman and Green Lantern. DC was eager to get him working on more things and Moore was eager to re-team with artist Gibbons, whom he had worked with on the British anthology series 2000AD. DC had recently acquired the former comic publishers Charlton Comics cast of characters. This included characters like the Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, The Question, and Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt. DC editor Dick Giordano had other plans for the characters though and convinced Moore to create his own universe from the ground up.

The characters Moore goes onto create, while becoming their own fully realized characters with flaws and their own traits can still trace their roots back to those original Charlton characters. Watchmen has six main heroes, Rorschach, an homage to The Question; a character with a strangely blank face that sees the world in blacks and whites. The Comdeian, a dark take on The Peacemaker, a patriotic hero who epitomized his country. The Comedian does the same, but the things he has done for his country have turned him. Dr. Manhattan, based on Captain Atom, a nuclear powered hero, though our version is losing his humanity. Nite-Owl, referencing the Blue Beetle. A hero who has taken the mantle from another to fight crime ala a Batman. This Nite-Owl though has a hard time finding his self worth in a world without the costume. Ozymandias is very similar to Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt, Charlton's answer to Nick Fury. Super smart and athletic, he has now retired to make a fortune off his super hero image. The last character, Silk Spectre, isn't based on a Charlton comic, but instead is a mash up to the superheroines of the 1940's and 50's, specifically characters like the Silhouette and The Black Canary. Tough female fighters who fought crime has part of the family trade. Both Silk Spectre and Nite-Owl are legacy heroes, heroes who have taken up the mantle of a previous hero by that name. The Comedian bridges the gap of the formation of the original heroes in the 40's, to the incarnation seen in the book.

Watchmen is set in 1985 America. With the creation of the super-powered Dr. Manhattan, The US won the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon is still president. Tensions between the US and Russia have escalated towards the verge of a nuclear war and "masks" (costumed heroes) have been banned since 1977. Only Dr. Manhattan and The Comedian are still active under government sanction. The nation seems on the verge of a collapse. The heroes of the 40's have long since retired, and their replacements have given up the cowl. All but Rorschach, operating as a lone vigilante wanted by the police.

The book begins with Rorschach investigating the murder of a man who turns out to be The Comedian. Believing this to the work of a costume killer, Rorschach begins an investigation that people don''t want him poking into, by reconnecting with his former compatriots. Dr. Manhattan is in the employ of the US government has turned to science and exploring the mysteries of teh universe that his vast power has unlocked. He lives with the Silk Spectre, his girlfriend. A woman who feels lonely and neglected by Manhattan's increasing solitude and separation from humanity. Nite-Owl has retired, but has lost his sense of self-worth and confidence without the cowl. Ozymandias has turned into a public figure, using his looks and intellect to build a vast fortune, with little care or worry about his former comrades. The deeper Rorschach dives into his investigation, the closer the clocks ticks towards a final doomsday.

At the funeral for the Comedian, Dr. Manhattan is accused of causing cancer to his friends and family and exiles himself on Mars. Laurie (the Silk Spectre) reunited with Nite-Owl and pick up the cowl. As Ozymandias narrowly escapes an attempt on his life, Rorschach is framed for murder and sent to jail. Nite-Owl, growing to believe Rorschach's conspiracy theories, teams with the Silk Spectre to free Rorschach from prison. All the while the Earth is plunged closer to war as Russia invades other countries with America's weakening with the departure of Dr. Manhattan.

Dr. Manhattan meanwhile has analyzed his past and brings Laurie to Mars and allows her to choose his role in the fate of humanity and in doing so, she comes to terms with her own dark past with adventuring and her hatred of The Comedian. All the while, Nite-Owl and Rorschach come closer to finding the true culprit behind the murder, and who is responsible for the impending Doomsday.

What makes the book special is the inventive format. Originally DC had difficulty selling all the advertising space in the book as well as trying to figure out what to do with the space a letter column would normally take up. Since the book was a limited series they had 3 to 4 extra pages per book and a letter page would make no sense until the series was nearly over. Instead Moore created subsequent "filler" material to flesh out the world of Watchmen. He created excerpts from the original 1040's Nite-Owl autobiography Under The Hood, as well as another piece detailing a pirate story, Tales of the Black Freighter. The Black Freighter story was actually a comic within a comic. Moore, figuring that a real world with superheroes wouldn't have comics about masks, instead would have comics about adventure strips. The Black Freighter actually helps top flesh out the world of Watchmen as a secondary plot, about a young boy reading this tale that ultimately has an effect on the final conflict, a story that parallels the tale of one of the Watchmen.

Gibbons art style was also very visionary. The cover to each individual issue serves as the first panel of each comic, its the first story element even before you have opened the book. He also used a nine panel grid, which allowed Moore the opportunity to flex his story-telling and exposition skills. It was the first real world comic book, with an incredibly intricate plot featuring multiple characters with detailed and flawed backgrounds. Hell Moore's scripts for each issue were mammoth, the first issue being almost 100 pages for only 26 pages of art. Filled with detail and background information, Gibbons would have to highlight structural elements to narrow the scope into a workable format. Then take the details provided to fill in the dense imagery.

Watchmen was the first book to deconstruct the super hero genre. To place masks in the real world and analyze what kind of affect the would have on the world at large. It asks the questions that other comics never got around to. Yes, with great power comes great responsibility. The better question is when you have great power, who watches over you. Who watches the Watchmen? The book deals with moral grays in the world, tough issues like are your actions moral when sanctioned by the government? things like rape and is murder justified if it can save lives?

These are tough questions with clear answers. Its this morally dense, intricate story that many have called un-filmable. Elements like the Black Freighter and Under the Hood excerpts by many can be seen as superfluous, but they add such a deeper understanding of the material that cutting them detracts from the story. Rich detailed characters in such a contextually long formula (12 issues) can be tough to film. Picking up this trade is a way to enjoy the story as it was meant to be told. DC has over 1 million copies in print and it is one of the few titles to be kept in continuous publication as a graphic novel since it caused the inception of the medium in 1987.

Unfortunately, this is also the book that burned the bridges between Moore and DC Comics. Watchmen, along for his book V for Vendetta, were supposed to revert to Moore and the artists 1 year after the completion of the series to retain copyright. In Moore's contract though that would not happen as long as DC kept the book in continual print, which it has. Despite having almost free editorial control on his books, Moore walked away from DC, only returning to the fold a decade later when his own comics imprint ABC Comics, was purchased as a wholesale element from his publisher. Moore agreed to stay on as long as he was left alone, which he did. Additionally, poor theatrical adaptations of his work by DC Comics parent company Warner Brothers further drove the wedge in place. Adaptions of his books From Hell, Constantine (a character he created on his Swamp Thing run) and the dreadfully awful League of Extraordinary Gentleman drove Moore to have his name taken off any Hollywood adaption of his work. (He would donate all of his profits to the artists and collaborators on his titles.) The final straw was when producer Joel Silver said that Moore had liked and approved of Warner's V for Vendetta adaption, which he refuted and sued over. He several all ties with DC, with no mention of his name to appear on any future materials (except the comics he wrote of course).


Its hard for a comic book fan to explain why Watchmen is so important. It changed the way the industry (and the world) looked at the funny book medium. You could tell a very adult tale and not talk down to the audience. For the next decade after Watchmen, books were all about the grim and gritty. Finding the darkness of the anti-hero and generally trying to do what this book did so well. I can't honestly say that Watchmen is my favorite comic of all time, or even my favorite Alan Moore comic. It is a book that changed how I read comics, that showed me that sometimes one or two or twenty read throughs isn't enough to unearth everything a book has to offer. Its a book that each time I read it, a find some nuance or element that I didn't see before. Its a comic book in name only, its truly one of the best pieces of prose you can read. it is widely considered the gold standard of comic books, the pinnacle of graphic achievement. Please read DC Comics The Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

I'll tune in this weekend with my take on the theatrical version. Also listed above are the various covers for the Watchmen trade. The group shot is detailed on the hardbound volume, while the smiley face badge depicts the recent soft cover version, the one iconically associated with Watchmen. The version with the broken window is the original cover from the initial trade collection.

End of Line.
Gerrad!

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Flash Fiction: Three More Bullets

Chapter 7

It took me several weeks to track down the first of the three men who had killed my wife. John Travers was one of two brothers that had held down my wife and daughter as they were defiled. I could still hear his laughing when I closed my eyes. He had holed up in a shabby hotel in the small town of Sedition. It had seen a small copper rush twenty years earlier, but between the rush and the War, most of the town had folded up. Now it was a stopover for people on the run from the law on their way to Mexico. Why Travers was here I didn't care. I only cared about the bullet I was gonna plant in him.

Travers had taken up a room in the shitbox they called a hotel. I knew a day or two wouldn't make much difference so I took some time just watching him. I had picked up a tip from the Sheriff that both the Travers brothers were on the run. Pinkertons were after them for a series of stage robberies and the Sheriff recommended I check out Sedition. My guess was the brothers were gonna meet up, either here or further along the road and lay out in Mexico. The fact that Johnny boy was still here led me to believe I was right.

I took a stool up at the hotel bar near the door. I was close enough to hear Travers go on about how rich he was gonna be. The way he was throwing money at whores and liquor made me think he might be right. To bad the only precious metal he was gonna get would be lead.

I had my opportunity the third night I was in town. Travers stumbled from the bar to the farrier, why I didn't care. I followed him as he entered the loft. The son of a bitch stumbled and lurched down the street. Drunk or sober, I didn't care any more. He was standing my his horse when I walked in. He turned to face me, his face blank.

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised he didn't recognize me. The thick growth of beard and long unkempt hair masked me, as well as the shabby travel worn clothes and boots. A far cry from how I use to look.

"Hello John Travers."

"Who the fuck are you cocksucker?"

His hand slipped to his gun, resting on the handle, but I kept my pace walking forward.

"I'm hurt that you don't remember me John. I haven't forgotten you. I haven't forgotten what you did."

"What the fuck are you talking about asshole? I think you better fuck off if you wanna keep that mangy piece of skin you call an ass alive."

He drew out his gun but I thundered in faster. My arm drawing up, a flash of silver streaking and the thick knife found its mark, drawing true and deep into his gunhand. His gun clattered to the floor and he clutched his hand, a cry of pain freeing his lips.

"FUCK!"

Then I was there. I clenched one hand around his throat and drove the other deep into his stomach, once, twice, three times, before bringing my boot up hard into his crotch. His eyes bulged with pain with each blow, but my grip was tight and no sound escaped his lips. He struggled but I held on. I could already feel my body protesting the exertion, but I'd have time to rest later. I drew out my Father's gun and brought it across his nose, shattering it in a spray of blood and cartilage as Travers fell to the floor.

"I want you to know who did this to you John Travers. I want you to suffer like my wife suffered. Like my daughter. I will listen to no plea of mercy, no begging. You gave them none. I am going to make you hurt so bad the only salvation you will find will be the bullet in this gun."

It was then his eyes went wide with recognition. Clutching his broken face with his bleeding hand, he understood who I was. He understood what was in store for him as I shoved the wadded handkerchief down his throat and dragged him off into the brush behind the stable. As I dragged him to his death.

They found his body the next day, battered and bloody with only a single bullet through his eyes.

End of Line.
Gerrad!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

More Assorted Nuts

Hey all,

I am kind of stuck for a topic today, but I did want to rehash a bit on my Flash Fiction posts. It was really fun to get back into The Darkest Dawn after that layoff, and I look forward to devoting some time over the next week or so to crank out the next installment. I also think I am going to finish up Three More Bullets in just a few more posts. The story is winding up into the fighting chapters and hopefully someone will enjoy it.

I have already begun the thought process on my next major Flash Fiction project, an idea that my room mate and I were floating around a few years ago as a series, though with some modifications. It would combine my love of Westerns with a definite science fiction feel, one part sword and sorcery, one part western, with a healthy dash of space fiction. I'd love to hear if anyone would be interested in that.

That's not to say that I couldn't return to the Darkest Dawn at some point, or even that I am done with that story. This would be sometime off as there is still a lot of story left in that tank. Still, I want to start gearing up instead of making stuff up on the fly and integrating it into my overall story. I keep Dawn pretty loose in terms of story structure, trying to set up each chapter so that I can write what I feel like (to an extent). This time I would go in knowing where each chapter would go from the beginning. I don't know if I can do it, but its fun to try.

Changing gears, poetry has just not been there this month. I think I overproduced last month and I am being punished with this writer's block. Tomorrow I am going to gear up for another try as well as set up for my Word Balloon column a little early this month. If anyone has watched TV this past month, it won't take a genius to figure out my pick.

I'd love to hear any input on what kind of stories they would like to read about. I am seriously open to ideas and up for any challenge. Hit me up.

Also click on the Idle Hands link on my sidebar and check out the truly awesome apples my best friend painted in Photoshop. They are amazingly accurate and I can't believe how good they are.

End of Line.
Gerrad!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Flash Fiction: The Darkest Dawn

Chapter 22

The last thing I remembered before I woke up was Allegra flying away. I had been engulfed in flames, under the light of the sun and she had spread her wings, smooth wings of molten fire and left me standing in the ruined street surrounding my Father’s house.

I looked around now and realized that I was back in my room. My old room. I could see a couple of sandwiches and a bottle of beer on the stand next to my bed, and a fresh set of clothes laid out. My trusty jacket and weapons harness has also been hung on the hook of my closet. I guess someone had grabbed my guns from the foyer.

I winced as I swung my feet out of bed, I was naked, though I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. That shit usually melted everything I had on anyway when I transformed, though I caught myself wondering what unlucky bastard had to carry my naked ass to my room. My body was full of sharp pains as I stepped clear of the sheets, sort of like really bad sunburn. It would pass in a few hours, but that didn’t mean that I liked it any better. I walked into the bathroom and ran some cool water over my face, rubbing it gingerly. I spent a few more minutes cleaning up before I went back and grabbed the folded pile of clothes. It was a pair of thick black cargo pants and a black wool pullover, with a pair of new boots that I wasn’t looking forward to breaking in. I grabbed my harness and checked it over, finding all my pouches had been re-filled and loaded. That meant that Gear was here. He was the only other person who would have known what equipment I use and where it went.

I grabbed the jacket next and ran a finger over it. All the new tears had been patched up and mended, making it just like old again. I was tired, but my Second Sight caught a heavy glimpse of Green Aura in the jacket, more than normal after a repair and I made a note to ask Gear about it. Shrugging it on, I patted down the pockets and found a nice surprise, a fresh pack of smokes.

I wolfed down the sandwiches and the beer before pulling out my lighter, which I had tucked into one of my pouches. Lighting up, I took a long drag before I headed out the door and back upstairs towards my Father’s study. My guess is that was where I would find him, and Gear if he was still around. As I passed the foyer, I could see several of my Father’s underlings repairing the house and cleaning the mess. I couldn’t have been down for to long because there was still a significant part of the mess left.

I walked up the stairs and tried to avoid looking at myself in my Father’s mirror, I could see the orange tined fire a lot more privately than I had the last time I went up those stairs, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. The door to the study was cracked open and I took that as a sign to walk in, unsure of what, or who, waited inside.

What I found may have been the strangest collection of people I have ever been in company with. Dad and trusty Hood was there, Hood burrowing a gaze at Belladonna, who was pointedly not making eye contact with her Father. Gear sat to her left and had some fucking huge ass ogre I’ve never seen before lurking behind him. Next to him where two guys I took the be Vatican officers, mostly based on the collars, but one of them had a big ass sword in the shape of a cross on his back, He had close cropped black hair and definitely had some military training. I hate these guys because they always think they know the best way of dealing with people like us. A good knife and a Hail Mary. The other guy I took as maybe a monsegnouir based on his age and the tabard around his shoulders. He was very calm, sitting with his hands folded.

They all turned to look at me when I walked in, a mixture of emotions on their face. Bell lit up like a Christmas tree, a big smile and bounded to her feet to embrace me in a great hug. It looked like she had gotten some healing because her color was back and when I used my Second Sight; her Aura was flushed with color. Gear gave me a wink and a grin, while tall and ugly behind him didn’t as much as flinch. Dad just raised an eyebrow, the most emotion he was going to show that I may be up to soon. Hood gave me one of his patented withering looks that earned a big shit eating grin outta me. The Vatican people though, they were different.

Sword guy scowled at me like he had just stepped in a pile of dog shit, while the older guy rose to his feet. My Sight already flush, I could see the whirly mass of Blue that encompassed him. This guy was seriously deep in Holy magic, more than Quint, more than Father Mal. This guy was legitimately a serious User, someone on the level of Dad. I gently pulled Bella off and gave her a smile.

“Missed you to Bell. Heya Gear. Sorry you guys missed all the fun around here. Dad had a really interesting block party and you wouldn’t believe which neighbors showed up.”

I took a drag off my smoke while Bell shot me a scowl. She was clearly worried about me but I had too many questions to assure her right now. Starting with who these Vatican guys were.

“I assume you guys are the backup I called for? Vatican officials in the home of a known Ancient? This is a story I am dying to hear. Anyone want to fill in some details, seems I missed something on my power nap.”

I finished off the smoke and failing to see an ashtray, dropped the butt in an empty glass. In the past I probably would have wadded it up and chucked on the floor, but at this point, I think even I felt a bit bad for all the shit this job had put Dad through. I lit up another and pulled up one of the study’s overstuffed chairs as Bell sat back down by Gear. The old Vatican guy started off.

“Allow me to introduce myself, Monsignor Everett Malkin, at your service. I believe you once worked with my brother, Edward, Mr. Develin. The man to my left is the Vatican’s top Hunter, Father Shepard. First allow me to assure you that Father Quinton is doing well. The doctors stabilized his condition and he is receiving healing as we speak, we also healed your friend Ms. Dellacroix. When we received your call, I was dispatched immediately, due to my familiarity with both Santa Diego and yourself, via my brother. “

“We also received your belief, one which Father Quinton vehemently corroborated, that Brother Tristan was working against the Church. We are here to support you in your cause as your new Agents, until such a time as Father Quinton can re-engage his duties. We are also very interested in finding the angel Serapha, for Father Quinton has informed us of the prophecy she foretold. We at the Vatican believe this girl to be the key to unlock many of these mysteries.”

EVERETT MALKIN! I had no idea that old Mal had a brother in the service. We had shared a lot over the years and you think this is the kind of thing a guy would tell you. Still this guy was of a power level that Mal had never crested before and that in of itself made me curious. I was also guessing that he had a few questions about Mal and how he died. Questions like how good I was at my job that he wasn’t gonna like the answers to. Shepard the Hunter shouldn’t have surprised me though; no way was a guy like this traveling with a little more conventional protection. Hell, he probably had agents surrounding the place as we speak.

“Glad to know you Monsignor. Your brother was as fine a man as I have ever known and I am sure you have some questions for me about him. Questions I’d be more than happy to answer any other time, but right now we have more pressing matters. I’m glad to have you aboard.”

Malkin nodded and took his seat as Dad grabbed this queue to chime in.

“Good to see you up and about son. As you have most likely guessed, after the herald Allegra came, you collapsed in the street. We managed to drag you into the shadows and put you in your room. With the arrival of False Dawn, and you failing to appear or answer your calls, Bella brought your friends back with her, including Mr. Dent here, worried that you did not arrive.”

I shot Bell and Gear a grateful smile. We both knew what coming back here meant to her, as well as me. Though I was coming to realize that my Father may be more than he appeared to be in my youth, in any shade Hood was still a prick, doing what he had to her and her Mother.

“What you don’t know is that this wasn’t the first time a Herald of Light came here looking for you. From what I guess, before your arrival at The Academy earlier, agents arrived looking for you here, thinking that perhaps you would return home for answers as to why the Dark Walkers and Fell had turned on you. They were not as….skilled as the Herald Allegra though and we fought them off.”

I had figured as much when I saw Pop patching himself up on my arrival. That filled in some blanks, though I was gonna have to corner Gear and figure out why he was getting mixed up in this. Gear was my friend sure, but I don’t know if he knows what kind of shit we are getting into. Watching over Quint and Bell at the hospital was one thing, but coming here was a big decision. Worse yet, it painted a bigger target.
Still, knowing this group was looking to me was a first step. I knew I could trust Bella and Gear, and maybe even the meathead following him around, and if Mal Sr. and his junior sidekick were half as good as the Aura’s they kicked off, it made for a good start. I was also fairly certain that my Dad had already done about as much as he was willing, or even able to do, so now I have to figure out what the next step was. Find Tristan and Serapha and figure out the power behind them, or confront my sister and try to stop the apocalypse. I knew these two things were connected, I just was missing a few pieces, and if I remember correctly, the first step at solving a jigsaw puzzle was to fill out the borders and work your way inward. Allegra was at the heart of this matter, first I needed to get the border pieces. Then maybe the big picture would be clearer. I grabbed another drag of my smoke before starting.

“Allegra is waiting for us, for me. There’s no way we can stop her unless we know who else is involved in this fucking mess. We find Tristan, we find Sera. Tristan is the key. Whoever put the muscle behind him doesn’t want me talking to her. The same person is providing Dark Magic and worse, Dark Walkers to do a holy man’s bidding. This is the connection we need to figure out. We find the link between this; we find a link to Allegra.”

Bell was the one to ask the first question.

“Where to then Alex?”

“There’s only one place you can hire muscle like that as a norm, holy man or not. We gotta go to The Copper Cup.”

I gotta see Julien. See the man I failed most of all.


End of Line.
Gerrad!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Assorted Nuts!

Happy March Everyone!

February I thought turned out pretty well for posting, averaging about a post every other day, something I am trying to stick hard to. I mean the more posts the better, but I want to make sure that I am not just posting to post; but creating at least a passable topic.

I definitely liked the poetry output for last month. I haven't written poetry at that clip since I restarted the blog 2 years ago. I thought there was a nice range of poems, ranging from love and hope, to loss. Honestly I have taken a few cracks at writing a new poem in the last week but I haven't got a good rhythm down. I do promise to finish up Three More Bullets last couple of chapters, as well as getting back to posting up new Darkest Dawn. I am committing to posting it at least a few times a month, starting tomorrow.

You will also be getting a big drop on the Watchmen movie, as well as the comic in the coming week.

Thanks for reading.
Gerrad!