Wilma scratched a flea behind his left ear absent mindedly as the farmer’s wife approached. She covered her mouth and a slow, keaning moan rose up from between her fingers as she dropped to her knees beside the dusty husk of her husband.
“Minion. You had best address the human. Let her know that I, Mister D..”
“..I’ve got this boss..”
The woman fell sideways away from Wilma’s voice and the orb with shock and surprise bringing fear into her mind finally. She scrabbled backwards crab like till she rose, grasping the nearby shovel as she did.
“Who said that?” She half cried half moaned, her eyes wide and wet.
“..I believe she needs to be calmed. Perhaps if you..”
“..all good boss, hold on. Hey, lady, thanks for the berries and sorry for all the tunnels. This is Mister Dee. He has a message to pass on, oh and sorry about your mate, anyway, look just calm down and stay back from..”
The woman threw the shovel in the general direction of the voice, not registering that it was a groundhog let along the specific one she had been debating poisoning earlier that morning.
“You do not have a way with words minion.”
“I thought you preferred Wilma.”
“I’m on the fence.”
“I see no fence.”
“I don’t even know what that means.”
“More humans are coming.”
A pickup came into view turning from the chip and tar rural side road into the long dusty driveway. Clouds of dust rose into the air as it sped toward the house. The woman after falling at least twice, ran to meet it.
“Oh great. Those ones.”
“You know of them?”
“Yeah, they have guns. They show up once in a while and go with the dead monkey here and hunt in the woods.”
“Will they listen to my message?”
A puff of dust rose from the ground beside the orb, then another. The cracking of gunshot followed a few seconds later. Chuck jumped into a nearby hole, swearing as he did.
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He twisted his head, and moved to the side
And he peered in the cupboard door crack
There in it he saw a brown blinking eye
Angrily staring right back
He flung open the door, expecting a child,
Perhaps his small dog or his cat
But nothing was there ‘cept boxes and cans
So he shut it and straightened the mat
Turned off the lights, he grabbed his warm milk
He thought to bring his walking stick
Made it to the landing, flicked off the last switch
Then heard the cupboard door go click…
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Frank ignored the phone. He was tired of the constant calls from the “Ufonuts” . He was a licensed private investigator but truly only used that designation for hunting down clients, they being C and D grade celebrities, primarily former child actors, when they went native.
He pulled into the parking lot across from his office building, a brown, shabby, almost dusty, brick building constructed he assumed by slaves of the Pharaohs after they completed pyramids and had nothing else to do. It was an odd building. Doors that didn’t open, stairs in stairwells that seemed to be just a little too small, a basement that was surprisingly clean and inviting, completely unlike offices and apartments elsewhere in the structure.
With a deep sigh, he extracted his lunch and briefcase from the trunk of his four-door, old-man car, the one he used for work so his clients didn’t think he was shanking them with fees. Locking it with his remote, he trudged toward the back door and headed up the too-small stairs to the fifth floor, room 512 (another anomaly as there was no room 500-507 nor a 513 yet there was a 514-520). He stopped with another deep sign and looked at the frosted window on the door to “Frank Meteor, Talent Management”. The font was comic sans. Comic sans. Nobody used that but secretaries and middle schoolers. He wanted Times New Roman. Another sigh and he entered the waiting room scanning the chairs to see who he would have to deal with today.
Smiles all around, he noted two complete strangers, a well-known E-grade, washed out comic, a guy he vaguely remembered from that show about the blended family on the space station from Nickelodeon a few years back and surprisingly, Marla Robert’s daughter Jane. She was with the former TV astronaut.
Briefly glancing at his phone, he pretended to open something on its screen and said “I believe you are up first” as he nodded toward Marla’s apparent beau. “Give me five to grab a crappy coffee then meet me in the room over there.” He finished with a smile and walked into his office.
The adjoining door to the receptionist’s room opened immediately and Kelly gave him the usual withering glance as she pointed at the real schedule silently mouthing words his way.
“You know by now I don’t read lips Kelly. Make it work please.”
“I don’t know why I keep working for you.” She flung into the air as she turned and fled to her room, attempting to shut the cheap six panel lightweight door as she did and failing miserably.
Frank walked over, opened it slightly and whispered “because your cats would die of starvation if you quit..” and shut it quietly.
Dropping his things in the far corner of his dark office, he flicked on the lights, hung his jacket and opened the blinds. People liked bright places and he needed to wake up a bit. In the street below, shaved apes milled about, doing their usual Friday morning slog to work, yelling, laughing, driving. His coffee cup was right where he left it and was as usual, unclean. Looking into it, he saw a few drops of residual brown from the day before, shrugged and walked over to the coffee maker to pour himself a cuppa Joe. “Joe” he thought. “Why Joe?”. He mentally set aside some time for Wikipedia later on to research this knowing it would result in a few hours of connected side searching.
Sitting down at his large glass topped desk, he shuffled the papers around to seem less disorganized, put a copy of Variety on the other side facing away from him and pretended to read emails. If Kelly was good for anything it was attempting to organize his meetings, answering the phone in a completely
bitchy way, fabricating his shitty morning coffee and turning on his computer. She pretty much refused to do anything else. He would keep her around.
The silhouette of Marla and “Tom” (was that the twerps name?) appeared on the glass of his door and a brief girlish knock announced their arrival.
“Come in, come in.” he rose from his chair and put on the new client smile.
“Hi Uncle Frank!” Marla said quietly. Frank responded with a finger to his lips as if being her pretend Uncle, the friend of her mother and enemy of her father was a state secret.
Walking around the desk, he shook the nervous hand of “Tom”, Tom, what was his frigging name. He should know. He marathoned his way through that stupid show one afternoon when he was home with some bizarre cold he caught from that singer who drank from his cup when he wasn’t looking. “Nice to meet you in person, please sit down, how do you know Marla and how can I help you?”
Everyone took their place and Marla flipped through the magazine as they began to speak. As suspected, she was just there for moral support.
“Mister Meteor, I’m..”
“Frank, please, just Frank..”
“Yes, of course, thank you..”
“Polite kid” thought Frank. Looks clean too. No track, no black bags under the eyes, no signs of hangover, frig, Scientology?
“I need some help getting back into some work. My agent bailed on me a year ago, I’ve pretty much given up. Marla said you help people out.”
Frank sipped his coffee. Bitter, too much coffee not enough water. The next admin will have worked as a barista AND have a nice bum. “Well, that depends. I’m not a traditional agent, I’m talent management.” He did the air quotes thing. “As in I manage you, like I make sure you get to the set, I find you when you wash up on a sidewalk, I point you in the right direction.” Marla gave him a sad, sad cat look. “..But seeing as you are friends with Marla, I can help you maybe find some work too.”
Marla and Tom (Tim?) exchanged smiles and clasped hands, somewhat secretly, below the edge of the desk as she dropped the magazine back on the table.
Tom (Ted?) looked like he was about to speak but Marla cut in “There is another problem Uncle Frank..”
“Oh? What’s that?” Frank slugged back the rest of his coffee and grabbed a pad of nearby paper and a pen.
Tom shut his mouth and deferred to his girlfriend. “Tom hears voices.”
“Not all the time and not crazy voices telling him to kill people or start fires or anything. Just this one guy, Mister Dee.”
Frank stood and walked to the coffee pot. He hoped this kid or his parents had a lot of money. Sitting back down, he raised an eyebrow and asked the obvious question. “And what does Mister Dee talk about?”
Tom looked around, looked nervous, looked like he had to pee. “Well, mostly he is talking to himself but lately he is talking to someone else but I can only hear him. He talks about death, dying, vegans and how he really wishes he could try surfing. And the other guy, he’s a groundhog.”
Frank sipped the bitter shitty coffee and wrote the word “Wonderfuckingful”, dropped the pen and stared at Tom.
When we booked our cruise, one of the drawing points was the promise of visiting four countries. I had already been to the Dominican Republic back in the early 90s however this visit would be to an entirely different coast (the east) and I had never been to the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico or Haiti (where Royal Caribbean have their private island that is not an island…). The first stop was San Juan and I was excited to see such an interesting place where Ricky Martin and scores of baseball players come from (okay, I cannot think of any more exports). Sadly we learned after booking the trip that it was a bit of a ruse. We would not arrive till 430pm. Sun goes down around 530 in late November and anyone who has travelled to the Caribbean can tell you, night time arrives fast.
We disembarked from the ship and wandered off the pier with no plans. I wanted to get a shirt. A fairly reasonable tour person offered us a cheapish ride in an air conditioned bus to see nearby sights including the big castle/fort structure we passed hours earlier on our way into port.
Note, the entering of the port was uneventful apart from a few minor events. First, the side motors stirred up the filth that silts up the harbour of San Juan. Second, some cruise ship had recently smacked into the pier and crushed a metal guard rail. Third, the US coast guard guys did doughnuts and figure eights to the cheers of the single women on balconies along the port side of the ship. I found this terribly amusing as I watched the city loom into view.
We toured, did the photography thing, saw a series of bronze statues of US presidents who “bothered” to visit San Juan, watched huge scary waves crash on a beach near some pricey hotels and witnessed a Japanese traveled give a fellow Japanese ex-pat homeless person about $50. We were also shown the condominium where Ricky Martin lives in the penthouse and told we could stop if anyone knew him. When it was all over, darkness having settled early enough to keep us from seeing the castle/fort, we paid the guide and shopped. Weird niknacks purchased, my wife and kids, frustrated at our inability to get a seat at the only decent traditional food place in the area, went back to the ship while I went on a quest for a shirt.
My Excellent Adventure:
Spouse and boys directed to ship, I turned around and marched off to visit a few shops on a sidestreet that headed east if the main town square. The smell of cigar smoke wafted about as merchants sampled their wares at the end of the say along with rum, black and amber, poured into coffee cups. A woman stood as I passed and tried to convince me to coke over, calling me “honey” in Spanish along with something else I couldn’t quite make out that resulted in the men under her awning to laugh aloud. I smiled, said “no gracias” and waved as I walked on.
I wandered into three shops before I found an acceptable t-shirt for under twenty dollars and decided I wanted some food. Now this is where my plan went a bit astray. I checked out a number of menus, listened to a few girls explain the booze specials and continued on my merry way exactly where we were told to not go. West, into the unlit portion of the city.
Now up until this time, there were cops at every intersection, in flak jackets, armed, big, scary in a Spanish Speaking Foreign Country way. Now, no cops. A few stray touristas, a lot of drunk locals, a number of women that I would peg as being prostitutes. I even once turned around mid street when I spied an open shop down a side road and had a cop look at me and go “uh uh. ” as he thought I was heading toward a small gaggle of hookery looking girls. I laughed and pointed at my wedding ring saying “no, no, no, no. Ha ha!”. He laughed too and pointed me in another direction.
Now, no cops, and no prostitutes, just slow driving cars full of young Puerto Ricans looking warily at me. A few blocks into the darkness, I saw sanctuary. A bar called the Red Monkey. It resembled at best, a movie set. Clean though made to look rough. Xmas lights hanging from the ceiling, strange masks and paintings in the walls interspersed with Spanish and English neon beer signs. Oddly, it was almost empty. I walked in.
At the bar sat one of the aforementioned police. He was eating black beans and rice with chicken from a square Tupperware container ans watching TV as a shaggy bartender chatted with him. I sat, ordered “uno biere por favor” and after paying the paltry one dollar I calmly began to watch tv too. It was, oddly relaxing and I felt safe. The bartender leapt for the remote after seeing it was sieze o’clock. He turned it to channel 25 and turned to the cop and I. “Jumanji!” He half yelled. We nodded in approval and the three of us proceeded to watch twenty minutes of Robin Williams dubbed in Spanish. My second beer finished, I issued a “mucho gracias, buenas noches..” and wandered out into the night.
I quickly made my way to the main street, was again unsuccessful finding a quick but safe looking take out, wandered around a Senor Frogs in disgust, watched a parrot show then got in line to reboard the ship.
The lights of the city glowed as I stood on the balcony of our suite and I took more than a few pictures as drumming, whistles and cheers erupted from Senor Frogs back on shore. I wandered off with my wife to get some long awaited food as the boys played PlayStation. St Thomas USVI was the next day, early, and I needed to prepare for more fun.
I think I like San Juan.
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Well, aren’t I a terrible traveloguer. The last time I went on a cruise I bored you all to death with 7 days of shipboard adventure over a period of five or so days and what did I do this time? I went and finished a book and filled up your feed with ridiculous haikus and poetry. My apologies.
I shall therefore continue
Day three, second full day on ship (from memory):
It got warmer. It got warmer and the bad weather for the most part vanished from (snicker) the horizon. Okay, not completely true, but it got warmer as we passed through Cape Hatteras area and into the warmer gulf air. The day previous, I lashed myself to the upper deck (where I wasn’t allowed) and rode out an amazingly fun storm as the family huddled in the cabin playing Assasins Creed three on the complimentary PlayStation that those of us who overpaid for a Rich Bastard Cabin received. The storm was by far the largest I had ever been in on a ship and although the lightning and thunder was sparse, the waves were spectacular and the wind was strong. I found an area where people had been banned and stood at the very peak, eleven decks up, overlooking the bow of the ship. Wrapped my wrists with rope used to tie down deck chairs and watched the storm roll in. When it finally hit, rain was near horizontal and stung my wind and sun burnt face. I lasted almost half an hour until soaked and happy, I went downstairs too ready for dinner.
The following day, though warmer as noted, was less exciting as the next involved arrival at the island of Puerto Rico. We ate, lazed about, watched some shows, had a few drinks, swam in the pool and generally waited. The ship, the Explorer of the Seas, is older and shows it in places, however it is if anything well decorated. Every corner where the mid deck areas meet the exterior ring of halls, has two display cases containing materials gathered from different areas of the world. Artwork decorates the walls at every stairway landing and along the halls between cabin doorways. If anything, even in a storm, you have a few hours of exploration on the ship without paying a dime. Note, it will cost more than a dime for pretty much anything that you wish to purchase apart from the free food (“free”) available all day long at a few locations in the midship downtown type street. Bottle of allergy medicine? $17 US. Decent beer? $9. Etcetera. We attended a small “street patrty” celebrating the 70s. I can note that a good portion of the persons at said party were definitely in their adult years during the 70s. I also note that based on their actions, they were in comas, living in an ultra religious commune where music was outlawed or incarcerated. We did things with the kids, filled in as much time as possible and went to bed, excited to awake the next day in Peurto Rico. Sadly, we were not arriving there till approximately 4:00 pm.
The next day, we wandered, ate etc. Note, almost everybody on the ship was a gargantuan Hutt of a human who ate HUGE plates of food all day. My children must have looked to these folks like we had retrieved them from their schooling in the Beijing Opera School because they were thin, pale and fit. We didn’t socialize much and didn’t partake in the only other thing these people partook in, excessive day long boozing. It was obvious that these folks were more concerned with quantity of food and booze versus quality. We were not unhappy nor impressed with the food and as we are not ones to eat three plates full every meal, we were in our seats and out again before most had started their multiple desserts.
We decided to temp fate on the afternoon before we arrived and skated on the ice rink in the bowels of the ship. Chatted a bit with the staff (all young kids from the UK and eastern Europe) and being Canadian, skated round and round, faster and faster, as Americans held the boards and stumbled about. Okay, that’s a lie. Neither of my boys skate well and my wife hasn’t done so since before I ever met her 17 years ago. I skated around and around, backwards, forwards, trying to show my youngest what to do (he caught on) and trying to not openly tease my middle boy or my wife, who eventually fall flat on her ass. After an hour, we went back to the room and got ready to disembark in Puerto Rico.
Sean’s Awesome Wonderful Adventure in San Juan!
(Beer! Beaches! Babes! Bars! Cops! Prostitutes! Ricky Martin! Robin Williams!)