April 25, 2004

April 2004 (Vol. 3, Issue 4)

Thanks for returning to my literary blog-zine. This sensational issue features seven new stories, and three of them are from yours truly; a Miami story, a Vegas story, and something special I wrote for someone special. My favorite Norwegian blogger Sigge, shared a witty tale about my clone. Hilarious. Paris Wispy returns with a sultry tale called Ward. All the way from New Zealand, Richard Bulkeley is back with another excellent read. And lastly, Jessica E. Lapidus concludes the second part to her intense story: rancor. So sit back, relax, and enjoy. Thanks for coming back, McG

1. Pleasure Consultants by Tenzin McGrupp
I fumbled inside my pocket and found the lighter I had bought off of a hairy armpitted hippie chick at setbreak during the Phish concert the night before. Casually, I lit her cigarette, an American Spirit. She seductively glanced at me, the flame illuminated between her green eyes... More

2. Ward by Paris Wispy
A few people are scattered around the cave, gazing at us in wonder. I scarcely notice them. The pool we are in is reflecting the light and prisms of blue are streaking across the walls and ceiling. I am fascinated by this vantage and laugh, delighted by the scene and the excitement in getting here... More

3. My First Adventure with LP by Sigge S. Amdal
The Smithsonian Institution's Research Department had conducted a study going where they needed volunteers for cloning. This was way back when Pauly's writing days had just begun, and short of cash as he was, he agreed to add more Pauliness to this already crazy world... More

4. Roadside Assistance by Tenzin McGrupp
During a drunken conversation at the end of a soused bar, at the end of a serious binge, in between swigs of Stella Artois, she wanted to know what it felt like to watch the wandering afternoon rain fall on top of the tarred roofs of brownstones in Brooklyn... More

5. The Kindness of Strangers by Richard Bulkeley
A dishevelled young man yelled a greeting at me from the other side of the street. He wore a ragged grey coat that looked like he had looted it from a German soldier on the retreat from Moscow... More

6. rancor. (Part II) by Jessica E. Lapidus
Ilka’s parents were unhappy, but how could they begrudge their wheelchair-bound daughter her one wish? ...More

7. Maggie's Flight... Another Miami Story by Tenzin McGrupp
It's always interesting when you are out of your tits stoned and are semi-interrogated by law enforcement figures. Those were the same night stick wielding yahoos who had been beating up protestors weeks before... More

Pleasure Consultants

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2004

The Bellagio was crowded for a Sunday night in Vegas. Standing at the bar across in the sports book across from the poker room, I watched a NBA playoff basketball game on the TV. She accidentally nudged my elbow as she grabbed an ashtray. Of course it was no accident, she intended to get my attention.

"Do you have a light?"

I fumbled inside my pocket and found the lighter I had bought off of a hairy armpitted hippie chick at setbreak during the Phish concert the night before. Casually, I lit her cigarette, an American Spirit. She seductively glanced at me, the flame illuminated between her green eyes.

Adorned in a sleek, olive green dinner dress, her firm, but medium sized breasts bulged out, which detracted from the string of elegant pearls that hung around her neck. Her nails were freshly done and her blonde hair looked too perfect. Her lips glistened in the lowly lit Bellagio sports book and she smiled when she spoke.

"How did you do tonight?"

"Huh?" I mumbled with one eye on the basketball game and the other locked onto her cleavage.

She pointed at the poker room.

"Oh, I did pretty good, but I had been getting my ass kicked all week."

"I saw you in there," she motioned and smiled, "You had a lot of chips, so I guess you're a good player. I was playing low limit, you know because I'm still learning. How long have you been playing?"

"Since college, but seriously only for a year or so."

"You playing in the World Poker Tour Championships tomorrow?"

I lied to her. "Yeah."

Her eyes perked up and she slid closer to me.

"Cool. Best of luck. Winner is gonna get almost $2 Million."

I nodded and winked. She gently touched my arm.

"So, are you staying here?"

"No, at the Excalibur."

"You know," as she looked around, "it's super crowded here. Do you want to go back to your place for a drink?"

I just didn't fall off of a turnip truck from Moultrie. It wasn't my first time in Vegas. And it wasn't the first time I had been propositioned by a hooker.

"What's your name?"

"Crystal," as she smiled once again.

It figured. I betcha she was a stripper too.

"I'm in the middle of watching this game here," as I pointed up to the multiple TV screens, "I got big bucks on Denver. I really don't have time to haggle with hookers. How much will it cost me to suck my dick and type of six days of notes and journals in Vegas onto my hard drive?"

"$2500."

"And how much for just the blowjob?"

"$1000."

"How much will you charge to do my laundry?"

"Fuck you," she screamed as she smashed her cigarette out onto the bar and shoved past me. The bartender poured me another drink and I watched the game for a few more minutes with an empty seat next to me. A few seconds later, she accidentally nudged my elbow as she grabbed the ashtray. Of course it was no accident, she intended to get my attention.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

Ward

By Paris Wispy © 2004

The hike through the trees and up the boulders has made me very hot and sticky. I almost lunge up the last bit of path and stand dazzled by the sky and water. Ward stands beside me as I peel off my tank top and fan myself with it. Below us are giant slabs of smooth rock that disappear slowly into the icy, blue water of Georgian Bay. There is no sand but it is a beach nonetheless and we watch the people paddling around and sunbathing for a moment. There are two paths open to us from our vantage point high above them. One, to the left, is rock-strewn and treacherous even on a dry, windless day such as this. It leads to a graveyard of ancient boulders that line the entrance to The Grotto, a water cave. There are people down there but we turn to the right and climb down a gentler path to join the party people.

I sit on the edge of the shelf, my feet dangling in the cold water and drink deeply from my cooler. Ward brings me another one and we sit companionably staring down at the depths. The water up here, where Georgian Bay meets Lake Huron is as pristine as you can find. I can see the bottom but have no idea if it is fifty or one hundred and fifty feet below. I feel the alcohol working on my brain and I relax onto my back, closing my eyes. The sun is beating down on my body and the voices of the laughing kids start to fade.

“Come on, let’s swim.” I shield my eyes and look at Ward. He is in the water in front of me. I hesitate – I am comfortable and warm but he smiles at me and I slip in beside him. We swim out and around the towering cliff that encloses The Grotto then pause. We are out of sight of everybody and I gaze out at the endless water. It is easy to imagine that we are the last people on earth. I look up to the top of the sheer cliff to the spot we stood on when we emerged from the climb. It is far above but I am able to pick out a figure standing on the edge. I start to wave but stop when Ward says we should go to The Grotto.

“Ah, I don’t know…we’d have to swim back around then climb the hill then scramble back down the other side….”. Ward is shaking his head.

“What?”

“There’s another way in.” He points at a darkish smudge on the cliff wall beneath us. The water distorts the image as I peer into the depths. Now, I am shaking my head but he ignores me, continuing.

“Yeah, scuba divers use this to get in. All we have to do is dive down and swim through.”

“You are insane. Do you KNOW what scuba means? Do you SEE a big tank on my back? We can’t even tell how far down the hole is!” He laughs and warms to his topic.

“Nah, people free dive in too. You are an excellent swimmer, let’s do it.” I gaze at him, treading water.

“You don’t even know how long we would have to hold our breath or…anything.” I finish lamely and he smiles jovially – he knows he has me, again.

“Forty-five seconds, maybe a minute, that’s it. I’ll go first.” My brain is mentally preparing to hit the road. I am caving and it wants no part of such inanity.

We dive.

I am terrified.

Alarm bells are going off – it’s taking too long to reach the gash in the cliff. I almost turn back but I can sense Ward pulling me along. The tunnel is small and I scrape my arm on the side. I do not feel it. Suddenly, we are through and I look up at light above me. I kick frantically, almost clawing my way up and burst into the cavern. Ward grabs my arm. He is grinning wildly.

“That was cool! Are you ok?” I nod and look around.

A few people are scattered around the cave, gazing at us in wonder. I scarcely notice them. The pool we are in is reflecting the light and prisms of blue are streaking across the walls and ceiling. I am fascinated by this vantage and laugh, delighted by the scene and the excitement in getting here. The only way to reach the water we are in is via the hole in the outside cliff and I have never been in the pool before. After a long while, I look at Ward. He is floating on his back, his hands behind his head as if he was in a hammock. He glances at my radiant face and chuckles then winks and goes back to staring at the cave.

We leave the way we came.

Perhaps we are both drawn to water in the same way because we find ourselves one day floating down The Grand River on large inner tubes. Beside us, the walls of the Elora Gorge tower and we admire the myriad of rain-fuelled waterfalls that have sprung up overnight. We have tubed a few of the rapids already but this is a slow spot and we are just supine, letting the gentle current push us onward. We chat and pass a drink back and forth, waving lazily at fellow tubers drifting by. I take a last sip and start to maneuver myself into rapid-riding position. The Big One is coming up next.

This rapid is fairly severe for a tuber. It hooks to the left and has a big drop. The current tends to push people toward the gorge wall and as many people get tossed as make it through. Because of its lie, it is possible to climb out on the right and bypass it. Many people either do that or run it and climb out below and go back to run it again. Ward and I are old pros and do not fear it but we have also been scraped up pretty good on the rocks when we have been tossed out. We plan to run it a few times before carrying on downstream.

Neither of us is tossed and I paddle madly to make it to the side before I sweep past the landing area. Ward is sitting about halfway up the rapid on a large rock watching me clamber out. A benevolent smile creases his face and he sips happily from the bottle. He waves me over and I join him. He doesn’t say anything for a moment and we enjoy the sounds of the crashing water and screams from dumped tubers.

“You see that section of rapid there?” He is pointing at some rocks and water that look just like the other rocks and water. I nod uncertainly.

“There’s an underwater chute there.” I look at him sharply and he turns that high-voltage smile on me.

“Forget it Ward.”

“No, seriously. I’ve seen some guys doing it and they told me it’s cool.” I hold my hands out.

“Slow down, Tex. The river is filled with rocks and this current is strong. You can kill yourself easily and nobody would even know where you were.” He waves his hand in dismissal.

“You just sit right there and get your knees up then let go. The current will pull you down and guide you through the rocks. It’ll pop you out down there.” He waves vaguely downstream and I narrow my eyes.

“Ward, listen to me. I am a lifeguard and I am urging you not to try this. It is stupid. What if your clothes get caught on the rocks or you run out of breath or bang your head?”

He laughs and hugs me.

“Everything will be fine. I will go first. I don’t think you have to hold your breath for too long.”

As usual, I am helpless to resist this man. He is all about living life in the moment and with me, he holds all the cards. He knows I need his kind of excitement. He knows I will follow and I do.

He gets in position and looks back at me, winking, then disappears. It seems a long time and I grow apprehensive but then his head emerges downstream. His face is alight with the rush and he gives me thumbs up. I edge midstream and close my eyes for a moment then let go.

The current yanks me down and I am indeed in an underwater channel. Smooth rock walls form s-curves and it is the strangest feeling. I cannot keep my legs up so I am vertical, being pushed through and around. The water is raging above me – I am in the middle of its fury but it is serene down here. My fear is gone and when I finally break the surface beside him, I hug him hard, laughing. We stare at each other then he grins.

“Wanna do some cliff jumping?” I dunk him.

Ward moved to Africa and I received an email from him the other day. It reads, in part:
“If you are coming this far then there are some things you gotta see! Safari in the Serengetti - or at Treetops - then there is hiking in the rain forest to see the great apes, then there is a 2000 year old Arab stone town on the Indian Ocean with no cars and clothing optional deserted beaches, and it is on the edge of a part of this world which is really, really truly Iron Age (ain't no white man there.)… and there is southern Mozambique by Ultralite... to see the whales and dolphins give birth and we can live on fresh spicy sea food curries all day... Ya, and we can swill down major quantities of fine wine in Cape Town when all is said and done (actually, in the charming 350 year old French Huegonot village of Franshoek nestled in the mountains - about 40 minutes away from my place…oh, and I left out the really exotic parts!! All kinds baby – start packin!”
You bet I am.

Paris Wispy is a writer originally from Toronto, Canada and currently lives in Miami, FL.

My First Adventure with LP

By Sigge S. Amdal © 2004

This all happened a couple of months ago when I visited Pauly in the great city of New York. We'd been doing stuff the entire week, Pauly was eager to prove me wrong on certain views I've had on America(ns) and still have, so he'd decided that he wanted to spend his Friday alone (with Haley, I presume) and that he needed a babysitter for Little Paul. Friends just call him LP. For those of you unknown with LP's history, he is not Pauly's son. The Smithsonian Institution's Research Department had conducted a study going where they needed volunteers for cloning. This was way back when Pauly's writing days had just begun, and short of cash as he was, he agreed to add more Pauliness to this already crazy world. They grew the clone in an underground lab in Nevada, while Pauly was kept busy solving mazes and eating free cheese, and everything seemed to go the right way for everyone. Bam! Congress found it unconstitutional to grow clones, the Research Department was closed down and LP left to Pauly's "care". After that they pretty much stuck together, for whatever reasons I don't care to know.

Pauly was making a move on Haley and found it difficult to have LP running around the apartment, or Studio as Pauly likes to call it, and since the little bugger had been left to himself around Central Park all week because of my visit, we found it reasonable to leave him in my care for the evening. Despite the fact that Pauly and I had pretty much covered the beer-consumption quota for the week, I still fancied a couple of cold ones, and that's how we, that's LP and I, ended up at a Texas-wannabe pub near the river. They were having some sort of combined lapdance and karaoke, and I thought that this must be the right place for a twelve-year old to learn some of the hard facts of life and of women, so I just let him run along as he wanted to and come back whenever he felt like some more Diet Coke. Me, I'd gotten my hands around a mighty Guinness Draught, and couldn't care less about what was going on around me. Except for the strippers of course.

LP had been gone around twenty-five minutes when I noticed just that, and I began looking for him after ordering another Guinness. I found him at a deserted table... well, the guys who'd been sitting next to him got out of my way as I entered the premises to ask if everything was all right. LP looked up at me, eyes like golfballs. The two bastards had thought it was fun to feed him a couple of tablets of Amphetamines. I turned after them, they'd just left, but saving LP was more an issue at the moment so I gave them up. He was sitting on the red, fake leather sofa, back to the wall and shaking like a leaf. He looked really scared. Or maybe more like a twelve-year old you've just fed eight espressos. I told a waitress that everything was all right, that he was a hyperactive little devil who mostly just wanted attention, and paid for my beer and an additional Coke for LP. I sat down with him.

"Are you all right?" leaning across the table to not arouse suspicion.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALllllllllllllllllright!" he answered, one word in two sentences. What could I do? If I took him to the hospital I'd be held accountable for his condition, since I'd been more interested in looking at the strippers, so I figured that all I could do was to make his way down again easier for his young body. Coke.

I'd informed the people working there that they shouldn't mind LP's little drama. His condition was overrated and was totally normal and that the hookers over there were giving bjs for free! It was only when LP began singing the theme song of "Willie the Steamboat" at a really high pitch and really, really fast, that I decided to take the boy with me and out into the streets of New York.

Outside the Texas-wannabe pub we ran into a bunch of bikers, probably Hell's Angels, and I had a hard time explaining to them why LP was pointing at me calling: "PERVERT! PERVERT! PERVERT!" because I'd denied him a Coke to-go. They thought his appearance not unusual at all, merely worrying and probably my fault. While I was standing there arguing I failed to keep my eyes on the hyperactive, hyperdrugged LP who had disappeared. This was actually quite good, as I was about to get my ass kicked by Hell’s Angels bikers, who didn't like the way I'd been yelling back at the kid.

Shit! I thought to myself. If I lose LP in New York, anything can happen to him! And Pauly, what will Pauly say? I started looking around a construction site nearby, thinking that he might have been interested in the machinery or something, but I changed course immediately when I heard the annoying sound of his voice around the corner and up a block.

LP was standing in front of some people looking abashed by this little youngster screaming, "GEZUNDHEIT!" from the top of his voice over and over again, and I ran over to the rescue. The four people, two men and two women, turned out to be German tourists, who'd gotten themselves lost in this district, which explained LP's enthusiasm. In this district? I told them to get out of here ASAP, there were hookers, Hell's Angels and kids on gear around these areas, and you never could know. What happened to them later that evening? I don't know.

But LP was on the run again, making his way towards a traffic light that must have looked brilliant in his drugged, little eyes, and me being totally out of shape with the remainings of what once had been a cigarette in the corner of my mouth, fell behind. I was walking fast, lighting my cigarette, coughing, cursing, lighting my cigarette again, annoyed that the little asshole had nullified the effects of a great Guinness Draught. I reached LP, now hanging above the street on what he explained was a holy quest, in a state of anger. I put both of my feet firmly to the ground, gathered the last breath of my lungs, and announced that if LP wouldn't get down from there I would make sure Pauly cut out on his Coke-supplies for at least a year. LP mumbled something, before he climbed down again.

It was getting late, but as I knew Pauly would still be busy – if things had gone as planned with Haley and all – it would be too early to get on home. What do you do, in the middle of NYC, when you’ve got nothing better to do?

LP was allowed to decide what film we where going to see, and I was glad that he'd chosen a hard-core German fetish film in 3D colours and cinematic sound. I thought it couldn't hurt, he was twelve years old and I thought it was about time for him to see his first foreign porn movie. Me with a bottle of Jack Daniels, trying to fit in with the Americans, and he with the shaking hands, 3D glasses and king-size popcorn sat there for about the first twenty minutes of the film when LP decided that he'd had enough. He ran towards the little whole at the top of the theatre where the projector was standing, and begun to interrupt the course of actions on the screen, annoying a lot of bald, middle aged men who had their hands full, but otherwise would have killed both me and LP, or so they said. I rolled my eyes, and I understood that this was my cue to take LP out of here, despite that I'd just begun to understand the plot of the film. After yelling at each other for about fifteen minutes outside the theatre, randomly kicking after the other’s legs, we shook hands, decided to ride a cab home and call it a night.

I had to pay the cabdriver an extra fifteen dollars for LP insulting his cultural heritage, by making obscene hand gestures and pig-like noises. I've heard that tourists are ripped of in the Big Apple, but this was surely overdoing it. Still, I was thinking about the moment of heavenly peace I would have when I would turn LP over to Pauly, and could find myself a hotel room.

Pauly wasn't satisfied. He couldn't care less about the amphetamines, I told him about that you see, but Friday night was Friday night and it surely must be something that even I could find to do with a kid on speed in the great city of New York. I agreed, but stated that I’d had enough and that I wouldn't have anything more to do with that little bugger, as he'd almost got me killed on several occasions during one night alone. He'd nullified the Guinness I'd had, he'd ruined my chances with that Bosnian waitress over at the Texas-wannabe pub, he'd yelled at Germans and Hell's Angels and had been a pain in the ass all around. This began to sink in. Pauly thanked me, and we decided to meet again the following Sunday. Without LP.

So that's my story. That's the first meeting I had with Pauly's little life-mate, a heck of a kid. Despite what I believed when leaving that evening, me, Pauly and LP were set to go on a whole lot more dangerous adventures.

Sigge S. Amdal is a word wanker from Oslo, Norway.

Roadside Assistance

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2004

I never told the uptight girl that I secretly enjoyed sitting on top of the Brooklyn rooftops and memorizing what it looked like as she silently smoked in the warm hue of twilight. One day, if she gets internet access, she will see that I wrote something about her trembling hands that shook with unease when she lit her thirty-second cigarette of the day.

I used to make fun of the conventional uptight girl from Wellesley, the skinny girl in the J. Crew clothes, with a name fresh off of a restricted country club registry. During a drunken conversation at the end of a soused bar, at the end of a serious binge, in between swigs of Stella Artois, she wanted to know what it felt like to watch the wandering afternoon rain fall on top of the tarred roofs of brownstones in Brooklyn.

Sometimes I threw water balloons at snot-nosed school children while she reluctantly chain smoked French cigarettes and spoke softly, her lanky legs perched up on an old Dellwood Farms milk crate. The psychedelic swirls of exhaled smoke danced with the flock of pigeons invading the unsteady airwaves and dodging the infrared and satellite TV signals for the dozens of mindless pill poppers staring at watered-down gibberish in a welcomed daze on couches with worn out ass prints in every seat. Hungry for Big Macs and thirsty for Lite beer, I wondered whether or not they used coupons to buy Happy Meals or whether they were just too lazy to clip them out of the newspapers tabloids with headlines that read MOB BOSS MISTRESS FOUND DEAD.

The Bucket Boy, a laconic twelve-year old kid with a pair of worn out drumsticks, viciously slammed down onto his upside down, empty white bucket, formerly used to haul around medical waste, now his ticket to contentment. Every beat he threw out into the hellacious world equaled another cent that fell into the weathered Yankees hat with a few odd dollars bills and overflowing with shiny new pennies and old quarters, his take for the day and his food money for his six-pack of starved brothers and restless sisters.

The first time I slept alone in a very long time, was the moment when I knew, the faint beat of her pulsating Heart was just the obscure echo of the Bucket Boy. I gave him three dollars last week so he could buy a Dime Bag and a half a dozen Popeye's biscuits, while his overweight and racially charged mother, flung ripped open ketchup packets at his inbred stepfather, a hopeless lifer who sold batteries door to door, when he wasn't picking up all the half-used condiment wrappers off the messy living room floor.

She smiled, you know, that uptight girl from a place I never visited, but read about in books like The Catcher in the Rye and in another twisted epic, The Bell Jar. The distant place with the fancy name, like Yarmouth or New Canaan, where those proper well-bred girls recited Chaucer and silently fingered each other in between classes and after long sessions of oral gratification with half-baked, erotically challenged misfits they found in Star Trek chat rooms on Yahoo. Her smile made me think of what her eyes looked like early in the mornings before they had a chance to be tainted with the glumness and grit, after being taken hostage by the daily dose of anxiety medication and the dejected sigh while she glanced at her aging hands.

I never knew why she kept calling me early in the mornings, when I woke up with an open mind, in a warm and empty bed, or why she kept buying me drinks, when I told her that I hated Rilke and all those other poets I loathed. The seasons came and went and she could not change me, or my old ways. But still asked me to take her to the roof, like we had often done many, many reckless summers before. And we took turns sipping cheap wine that I stole from a corner bodega that laundered money for Al-Qaeda, then we squinted at the millions of lights that fluttered in the Manhattan sky, swarming like a horde of fireflies in a desperate night.

I could hear the soft sounds of her voice muffled slightly by the harsh beating that the Bucket Boy used to take from the end of a broom that his villainous mother chased him with when he did not come home with enough money to feed her habits.

Bucket Boy, let's hit the road. I can get you gigs in the Midwest and in Portland. Of course, that's if I can ever shake loose the gaze of the chain-smoking, Rilke quoting, anorexic, J. Crew-clad heiress with manicured nails and three Platinum credit cards in her new Prada purse. I'm going to swipe one of her credit cards and drive to Lost Wages and let her pay for all my gas at $2.12 a gallon.

I never told the uptight girl that I secretly enjoyed sitting on top of the Brooklyn rooftops and memorizing what it looked like as she silently smoked in the warm hue of twilight. One day, if she gets internet access, she will see that I wrote something about her trembling hands that shook with unease when she lit her thirty-second cigarette of the day.

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

The Kindness of Strangers

By Richard Bulkeley © 2004

It was 5am and my mouth was as fuzzy as my head. The flat grey light of dawn was reluctantly revealing the town. *

A disheveled young man yelled a greeting at me from the other side of the street. He wore a ragged grey coat that looked like he had looted it from a German soldier on the retreat from Moscow. Although he hadn’t shaved for a few days, he looked sane enough. Besides, he was waving a familiarly shaped glass bottle in a friendly manner. He sprawled back onto his throne made up of small items of soft baggage, and waited.

As far as company went, he was the only game in town, and he knew it. Sitting on a duffel bag to one side of him was a fairly attractive girl in a much more presentable condition. Perched on the kerb on the other was a longhaired, vaguely French-looking, guy. I crossed the street.

They faced me, like a panel of disreputable judges.

“Where you going?” The chief justice spoke. He sounded somewhat tired, but then aren’t we all when seeing dawn the hard way?

“I thought I’d walk to the edge of town and then hitch to Dawson.”

“You don’t want to do that” Frenchie gave himself away as a Quebecois the instant he opened his mouth, and I was reassured that my prejudices were as accurate as ever. “It is 5 am, there will be no traffic for several hours. Sit.”

I swung my backpack onto the road, and sat on it. Before he introduced himself, the pirate chief handed me the bottle. Johnny Walker, three-quarters finished. I raised the bottle in salute to his hospitality.

“I’m Curtis. Welcome to Whitehorse.”

I took a polite swallow and felt the familiar burn in the back of my mouth. I had not had any liquor for a month, since an event filled Wednesday night in Toronto’s gay district, and that was only tequila. Whiskey, whisky, and their American cousin, bourbon, were all old friends to me. Not frequent friends, but good ones. I remembered as I handed the bottle back just how seductive alcohol was to me.

We made our introductions, and I found out that Curtis’ friend was called Julia, and that Felix was a pseudo-local. He had arrived a few weeks ago to work as a translator, doing his bit for the Yukon’s official bilingualism. Curtis and Julia had come to find mushrooms. Not the magic kind as I first assumed, but the gourmet kind. Apparently, the mushrooms that grow in the aftermath of forest fires are much prized by foodies.

Curtis’ brother owned the cyber-cafĂ© we were waiting outside. The three of them had taken his “jeep”, a rough map, and a shotgun, in the hopes of finding a mushroom patch unexploited by the increasingly industrial operations of the big buyers. I would see the vehicle a few days later, brown and cream, it resembled a station wagon that had escaped directly from the seventies more than an off-road vehicle, and the losing entry in a demolition derby more than either of the options.

The jeep had expired midway along the old logging road that was supposed to lead them to a land of ash and wealth. Julia noticed the preponderance of grizzly bear tracks around them while the guys stared in blank defeat at the faithless engine. Before long, the bear returned, and they had to shelter in their jeep.

Over the next two days, they discovered that they had parked directly outside the home of a rather territorial bear. They also discovered that birdshot, while it creates a loud and impressive bang, merely gives ursus horriblis a bit of a tickle (and that he doesn’t really like being tickled). When they made their third, and least pleasant, discovery, that an angry grizzly bear is heavy enough to dent the roof of a 1974 Chevy Something-or-other, they decided that they should make a break.

The grizzly obliged them by wandering off to do whatever it is grizzly bears do and I was truly thankful. Not just because it demonstrated that the god of the impetuous traveller was doing his job, but also because Curtis had just pulled out a small wooden box. He rolled a joint without ceremony as he finished explaining that his brother was still up in some little town with the newly rescued jeep, trying to arrange for the surprisingly minor repairs to be completed.

The conversation lasted another two joints and the rest of the Johnny Walker before exhaustion overpowered inertia. It was the perfect anecdote to lengthy bus travel. The weed was pretty welcome too. By the end of the conversation, Curtis had lined up a place for me on his next adventure and Felix had invited me to sleep on the couch of the basement suite he was living in for “as long as you want buddy, no problem”. I did take Felix a little too literally on my visit, and ended up squatting there after he moved out until a surprise encounter with his upstairs neighbour convinced me to move on.

The kindness of strangers is a wonderful thing. Karma is usually pretty good at weeding out those who abuse it too. But that, as they say, is another story.

Richard Bulkeley is gentleman scholar from Auckland, New Zealand.

rancor. (Part II)

By Jessica E. Lapidus © 2004

On the day of Hochner’s sentencing, Ilka’s mother brought her the newspaper article with tears streaming down her face. She didn’t have to read it; the headline told her everything:
Burger King Killer Sentenced to Death on Nine Counts of Murder
For the first time in three months, Ilka smiled. For the first time in two weeks, she spoke.

"I want to go see him."

Her mother was stunned. "What?"

"I want to go see him. I have to ask him something."

"Ilka, sweetie, I don’t know if you can do..."

"Of course I can. Will they let me? Sure they will. Can I handle it? I don’t know. But I have to find out."

"Honey, I don’t think that it’s a good idea."

Ilka looked at her mother, more emotion on her face in one glance than there had been since the day she woke up without her left leg. "Mom, I’ve been waiting for this. Please, I want to go. I have to go."

Ilka’s parents were unhappy, but how could they begrudge their wheelchair-bound daughter her one wish?

Her father made the arrangements, and on a sunny Tuesday morning, he drove Ilka down to the county jail so she could meet Louis Hochner. Her father wanted to go with her to the visiting area, but Ilka insisted she go by herself.

Her arms were tired by the time she got to the end of the stark white hall. She presented her ID to the guard at the door, and when the opening alarm sounded on the door to the visiting area, Ilka jumped.

"You all right, miss?"

"Yep. How long do I have in there?"

"Ten minutes to talk to the prisoner."

Ilka nodded and wheeled herself into the room. There were other people sitting around, mostly women with babies on one side of the glass, screeching into the phone. On the other side were men in orange, chins in hand, listening with empty eyes and sad hearts to their baby mamas, wondering when the hell their ten minutes would be up. She handed her appointment card to the guard leaning against the wall and he handed it to another man who walked behind the glass and through another door. The first officer indicated a space at the glass and Ilka wheeled herself into it.

She was staring at the door on the other side, waiting for Hochner to appear, and for a moment she felt the twitch in her missing leg like she could just get up and run. She looked down. The left leg of her jeans was tied in a knot against her thigh. She wasn’t running anywhere.

Another alarm buzzed and Ilka’s head snapped up. Hochner came through the door followed by a solemn looking guard. The bile of fear rose in Ilka’s throat and she swallowed it down. She gripped the side of her wheelchair. Hochner looked shorter than Ilka remembered, and then she realized that he was in a wheelchair, too. The guard wheeled him into the table on the other side of the glass from Ilka and stepped back against the wall behind the prisoners.

Ilka and Hochner stared at each other. For a moment, neither of them knew what they were doing there. Ilka reached for the black handset and Hochner did the same. They held their handsets to their ears and kept staring.

"Who are you?" Hochner finally asked. Ilka flinched. She had expected his voice to be angry and bellowing like it had been in the Burger King. Instead, it was deep but soft, almost concerned. He had the same creased brow as he had in the mug shot that had been broadcast on the news, but now he looked more concerned than angry.

"My name is Ilka. You shot me in the leg. They cut it off."

Hochner looked at Ilka’s eyes and a shiver blew through her. "I’m sorry," he whispered, lowering his head in shame.

Ilka fought back tears. "It’s okay."

He looked up. "It is?"

Ilka nodded. "They said you have a weakness for whisky."

Hochner shook his head. "Those fucking assholes, they sold me out."

"Who?"

"They went all the way against the Bum Code of Ethics, telling the police I was a drunk."

"My dad is, too."

Hochner picked at a scratch in the table. Ilka pulled the receiver close to her ear and leaned into the glass between them as though he might hear her better. "We’re human, you know."

Hochner looked into Ilka’s face. "Humans don’t do what I did, usually."

"We all make mistakes. You lost your legs, too."

"How old are you?"

"Twenty-four. How old are you?"

"Forty-six. They’re gonna kill me."

"Why did you murder ten people?"

"Hey, it was only nine. That old lady dropped dead of her own accord."

"Was it all just for money for whisky?"

"Scotch. It’s scotch. And no. Have you ever had a Whopper from Burger King?"

Ilka nodded, smiling. "Oh man, they’re good. I was eating one when you… you…"

"Yeah, well, I was hungry. And all I wanted was a Whopper, you know, with extra onions."

"I always liked mine with extra pickles and mayonnaise."

"Oh, I hate mayonnaise. But I wanted a Whopper that day."

"So why didn’t you just come and buy one instead of blowing the place to bits?"

"When you’re broke and hungry, you’ll do anything for some food. I asked the girl for a Whopper and she said no and I told her I was gonna rape her ass with the shotgun in my pants and I showed her the stock and she screamed so I shot her."

Ilka and Hochner both leaned closer to the glass between them. Their noses were both almost touching. He had blue eyes. She had dark roots around the perimeter of her blonde head.

"Louis…"

"…Hochner. Please."

"Hochner, was it worth it?"

"Why did that little cunt scream when I said not to?"

"A man’s arm landed on her chicken sandwich."

"Two minutes," the guard leaning over Hochner’s shoulder mouthed at Ilka. She nodded.

"We gotta stop soon," she said, leaning back in her wheelchair. Her palms were sweaty.

"Why did you come here, Ilka?"

She shrugged. "I originally came to tell you how awful you are, but I saw you in a wheelchair, too, and I saw a man. Just a man. A man who didn’t testify on his own behalf, but who is clearly insane. And they never knew. They let homeless people speak on your behalf. If you had testified, they would have known that you were crazy."

"I want a Whopper for my last meal. You think they’ll do that?"

Ilka nodded. "Do you have running dreams?"

Hochner smiled. "Yeah, I do. They’re great. I dream I’m running on the beach."

"I dream I’m running into your arms."

The guard came around and put his hands on Hochner’s wheelchair. Hochner strained his neck to the receiver as the guard started to pull him away.

"Are they warm, at least?"

The guard pulled the wheelchair back and Hochner threw the receiver at the glass. Ilka jumped and yelled, "LIKE HELL! HOT LIKE HELL!!"

Jessica E. Lapidus is a writer from Jersey City, NJ.

Maggie's Flight... Another Miami Story

By Tenzin McGrupp © 2004

28 Dec 03... I had been in Miami less than two days and had already found enough material for a new novel. I got a feel for the city... the city of sunshine, palm trees, plenty of neon, hordes of Cuban exiles, and those old folks 'just waiting to die'... a city cut off on one side by the thunderous Atlantic Ocean and the swamps on the other side, which led to an odd mix of freaks and miscreants. I wondered whether or not that would seep into the minds of Phish during the show. I knew the night would be interesting after I pulled out of Jerry's driveway and three blocks later, I found myself at an intersection with some asshole shining a spotlight at me. That asshole was a Miami Dade Police cruiser and the guy was checking me out. He pulled up and we were face to face. He looked like a bad ass. It was dark outside and he still wore sunglasses.

"Your lights are too high. You didn't like it when I shined my light at you. So lower your high beams,” he barked.

"Gee whiz, Officer. This is a rental car, my first time driving at night. I'm sorry. But I don't think the high beams are on."

"Well you better get the company to adjust the strength of those headlights. It's blinding drivers."

"Yes sir,” I obediently agreed.

And that was it. It's always interesting when you are out of your tits stoned and are semi-interrogated by law enforcement figures. Those were the same night stick wielding yahoos who had been beating up protesters weeks before. I knew what I was up against and I wanted to play it safe. All I had to do was blurt out, "I'm heading to Phish," and I would have been royally screwed and thrown into jail with some real criminals.

Spooked from my run-in with the cop, I carefully made my drive from Miami Shores to downtown Miami via historic Biscayne Blvd. and drove past the truly infamous Vagabond Motel. I drove through a couple of shady parts of town. I eventually saw small pockets of Phisheads walking to the venue. Traffic began to build up and I found myself right in front of the American Airlines Arena, a huge new building with plenty of neon and concrete, that reeked of corporate sponsorship. A traffic cop forced me to go left and I found myself pulling up to the arena parking lot. I drove along side the arena and saw thousands of kids trying to get in the front door. The lines were long, the security checks were tedious, and everyone was restless trying to get to their seats. I followed the arrows to the parking garage and was relieved when I saw a sign "Parking $15" which to me was not too expensive considering I parked underneath the venue in a slightly more secure spot than some empty lot run by a surly ex-Vietnam vet with a huge flashlight and a cooler filled with warm MGD. I found a back gate to enter the show and avoided the huge surge of people up front. Security was taking too long and my bladder shrunk while I was in line.

The venue was fan friendly with plenty of space to walk and tons of vendors and bathrooms. I had a seat behind the stage and the security was lax. Instead of going to my seat in row 34, I walked right down to about fifteen rows behind the stage. Phish usually throws together a no-frills setup, and aside from lights, there are no other props. The view was clear, and I was very close. The best part... I sat right behind Page. I could see him play all night, which was my plan. I hoped I would not get kicked out of my seat.

A few minutes later, a hot chick wearing a Superman shirt sat down.

"This is my seat" she said and pointed to the empty seat next to me. I nodded and smiled. From her accent, I detected she was a Boston native. Sure enough, she introduced herself. Maggie was a school teacher from Boston. Just like me, she had a single ticket and her friends were randomly dispersed throughout the arena. Her mother worked for American Airlines and had hooked her up with a first class ticket. She told me an interesting story about her flight to Miami from Beantown. She sat next too a woman who was coked up the entire time. When Maggie went to the bathroom, she saw the leftovers of a sloppy cokehead... not just a couple of grains sprinkled here and there... but a shitload of poorly cut cocaine was all over the counter and the floor of the bathroom. Maggie was not happy because for the rest of the flight, the chick yapped her ear off the entire time. She told her about her husband who was 25 years older and complained the entire time about him, despite the fact he sat in the seat in front of them! They had also two kids back in coach, whom she described as "little monsters". Maggie was bumming!

When the cokehead trophy wife headed to the bathroom, Maggie pulled her sweater above her head and pretended to fall asleep. I laughed for a few moments and I was happy with the people in my section. Maggie was cool and I had no problems with her. Usually I always got stuck next to the "passed out kid", or the "drunk girl”…

Tenzin McGrupp is a writer from New York City.

What A Long Strange Trip It's Been...


From the Editor's Laptop: Another issue is complete and I must say that each month Truckin' is published, the quality improves with each new step. April's issue is packed with some stellar stories. I could never fully thank the writers who shared their bloodwork this month. You guys are my inspiration.

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