A little early I guess.
Clark and McCullough were two vaudevillians transplanted onto the silver screen of the Depression-devastated 1930’s. A sort of forgotten (or buried?) Laurel and Hardy, they specialized in Marx Brothers’-style slapstick and screwball shenanigans. Clark went about the picture dressed in a bowler hat, coat and tails, and with a couple of greasepaint glasses drawn creepily around his eyes. McCullough was his seemingly mute counterpart.
They starred in a number of successful two-reelers up until 1933. According to author and filmaker cum black magician Kenneth Anger, the manic-depressive McCullough went, one fine day, into his customary barbershop.
He seemed happy, cheery.
His barber turned his back.
MCullough grabbed the razor out from under his nose. He then sliced his own throat from ear to ear.
Hence, his career came to a rather inauspicious end. I suppose the recent celebrity comedian who decided to end his own life was not, after all, without precedence.
Clark and McCullough are forgotten now, a morbid footnote in the annals of film, a small mini-chapter in Hollywood Babylon. Can anyone watch their films and draw a few mild chortles or guffaws knowing what became of the comic duo’s pathetic straight man?
Mister Gas Tank rides around in a crew-neck shirt, stained, his pointed moustache and floppy ears dogged in the hot Indiana wind.
It is summer. I tell him I once saw my own father drink gasoline.
He hefts a plastic two liter bottle one contained milk (the kind with the little handle, right?) and his eyes already tell me he is half-lit.
“Mad DOG. You know what Mad DOG spells backwards, right?”
“Sure.” I’m already tired of his company.
The cab of the truck is rusted and filthy with used McDonalds wrappers. I notice Mr. Gas Tank hasn’t changed his clothes since the last election. Poe changed his clothes several times on Election Day, and was then rather unceremoniously dumped in a gutter to die.
“I never understood how he could chug the gas straight out of that nozzle like that. Makes no sense at all.”
Mister Gas Tank considers. “It wasn’t really gasoline. It was all sleight-of-hand. Probably just drinking MAD DOG. Yeah, MAD DOG. I said it.”
“You certainly did,” I agree. He swigs another gulp of colored liquid that smells like licorice and turpentine. Out of the milk carton, the empty one.
A skinny, haggard woman crosses the street in front of us. She looks like her ass is in the center of her back, her legs have been painted an off-red, and her hair hasn’t been washed since…Election Day?
He revs the engine. Outside, sunlight-dappled slums rear pathetic, bug-like ugliness to the yawning blue expanse. All Is.
Null was a guinea pig; part of a research study. Null turned over in bed. Somewhere, out beyond the water, were the Chupa. Up the hill, the command center was a lazy, prefab concrete dinosauroid, stretching over the flat expanse of volcanic landscape.
Steps led upward to the glass door mouth. Right now, he was bait for the Chupas. Captain Centrifugo (Spin-Dry?) was somewhere wandering the concrete and linoleum hallways up there, his pock-marked complexion eerily yellow in the perpetual glare of the fluorescent lights.
1. Latin American UFO Abductions
“Señor, what is it you are seeking here?”
He supposed he could have answered, like Roy Neary, and said, “An answer. Is that so crazy.” Instead, all he was seeking right now was sleep. He rolled over in bed, surprised at the cool cleanliness of the sheets, the air-conditioned room. The subtropical temperatures couldn’t touch him here, and he wouldn’t sweat in bed. Outside, he could gaze through the window, imagine the milling throngs of ghosts left over from the mysterious natural disaster that had devastated this island chain nearly ten years ago.
He had seen a video earlier of a tour by an American heavy metal band.
Blastica, or something along those lines. They were huge, enormous, and they had set a gig on the remote island to show they could play ANYWHERE and attract 160,000 fans.
And do you know what?
Their bass player, Mipps Frenzy, who had died in a skiing tragedy in Aspen, was there, wearing an old-fashioned leather coat with a fringe hanging from the sleeves. Or maybe it was just a look-alike. The camera panned across the stage to the place, somewhere in back and to the left, the supporting act (an ancient hard rock ensemble who had eschewed their customary makeup and theatrics and decided to go with their actual faces in front of the audience–which left many wishing for the old days of the makeup again) rehearsed, drunkenly, badly. They knew they were playing second fiddle to a band that had come along long after they had, but, alas! That’s rock n’ roll, right?
The singer/guitarist, Big Jim Wetmore, came to the mic, and was joined by a member of yet another band, a band that dressed in styrofoam costumes and makeup to make themselves look like comic book monsters.
Their shtick was shooting stage blood, as well as other substances, at their audience.
This particular band member looked a little like a Roman centurion. He came to the mic, mouthed something that rumbled across the landscape, looked out over the almost unbelievable sea of faces assembled at the edge of the stage, stepped back, and slowly began to burst into flames from within. The self-immolation gimmick was great for the crowd; how he managed to accomplish it is anyone’s guess.
Big Jim sprouted a curious look on his bearded face as the Heavy Metal Centurion collapsed to the stage, a pile of reeking, blackened bones.
“Was that f—— supposed to happen?” he rumbled over the PA, quite unintentionally. The PA was the loudest that had ever been in use since the harnessing of electrical power over a century ago.
A mighty quivering went out about the land. The seas foamed and shook, the ground began to crack open, a massive tidal wave loomed overhead…the screams of hundreds of thousands blotted out the soundcheck.
Gunnar Gustafson, the drummer for Blastika, murmured, “Oh sh-t. I guess this means no deli tray.”
Thousands were buried under the shifting tons of wet water and sand, arms grasping upward in terror and horror as the maelstrom swept overhead. Big Jim looked up at heaven with a beatific smile.
“Lord, I know I don’t deserve it, but…”
Suddenly, the chop-chop of a chopper came chopping skyward, the band’s manager Lupe Garu, hanging out the side with a rope ladder in one hand and a fistful of dollars in the other. “It’s okay boys, I got paid just before the big one hit. Come on up!” Lupe said this through a megaphone, which he was juggling around with the stack of bills, and the edge of the ladder.
“Oh, thank you Jesus,” murmured Big Jim. He ran up to the rope ladder, thinking, mysteriously, about how much Lupe looked like Bob Hoskins in Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” movie, and grabbed it in two powerful, guitar-picking hands.
Hanging there, he was not surprised when Gunnar raced up and grabbed his ankles–it wasn’t the first time that had happened.
Beneath Gunnar, Dave Davey was hanging on to Miggles Martinez, all of Blastika were airborne, and pulled slowly inside the rescue helicopter by hydraulic crane.
Below them, 160,000 fans were swept away into oblivion.
“Easiest gas money I ever made,” said Big Jim.
2. The Chupa are Everywhere
Null rolled around in his bunk. Outside, he fancied the stars were growing bright hot, orange. Had he been dreaming? It was something about the disaster that had struck these islands years ago, rendering a huge section of the population ghosts.
it was all fading now. Outside, the bright orange spots (there were no crime lights in this country) seemed to loom larger and larger; he suddenly realized he was bait, bait for the Chupa, bait for the flying, box-like vampires that sucked the blood of native and ate the eyes, testicles, and other soft organs of farm animals, drained them dry, but left most of their meat and fat mysteriously to rot.
He felt the first few tendrils of fear lick his scalp. It made him feel dizzy. My, but those were bright, bright lights. They floated over yonder hill (really a small mountain) casting their glow upon the dense jungle below.
“Could be anything,” he said to himself. “Could be I’m still asleep and dreaming.”
He got up from bed on wobbly legs, backed away from the window, went out into the short corridor. Here, he was alone. Up the stone steps (which were flanked, on either side, by beautiful flower beds, giving the prefab headquarters above the feel of a sacred temple to those ascending), he pattered, going through the headquarters doors, and looking around for signs of life.
Just as he suspected, it was curiously lax here, as far as security. One soldier sat at a computer terminal, playing solitaire. He hardly acknowledged Null as he came in, a comic little figure still dressed in his pajamas, bare feet slipping on the linoleum.
“What you want?”
Null was silent for a moment, In truth, he wasn’t sure.
“Captain Centrifugo. I want to see Captain Centrifugo.”
The soldier leaned back, stretched, yawned.
He considered Null, who looked like a midget or child without shoes. Like a village boy.
“Okay. I’ll page him. He likes to work late, as you know. Way past your bedtime, amigo.”
It was moments later they were standing on the steps, looking out over the low sleeping-quarters nestled, like a laboratory womb, at the bottom of the hill.
“This place in a dip. So is easy to see over the next ridge, senor.” Captain Spin-Dry (Centrifugo, whatever) stood on the steps, looking expectantly at the mountain beyond. The orange, flare-like lights still hovered there, menacingly, bobbing slightly, as if suspended by wires. Silent, they brooded over the edge of the compound.
“There is a chemical plant out there. Could be the lights from the plant.” Captain Spin-Dry had a heavy accent, a heavy black moustache, a complexion a little like Manuel Noriega, who he faintly resembled.
“I-I am not convinced. Yet.” he sounded intrigued, though. Null didn’t ant to go back to his bedroom; he felt like a dead duck there.
The soft, warm breeze rustled through the palms.
“There is a chemical plant out there…”
Originally posted on Passages:
Once, in the long ago times, a tricky, mischievous Ape was making sport of the noble Lion. He was imitating the Lion’s every move, as Apes are wont to do, and the Lion, looking up at the Ape gamboling and chattering about in the trees, was not a bit happy about it.
“Stop that, you insolent thing!” roared the King of the Jungle. “Stop that this instant, or I’ll make a meal out of you!”
The Ape was not a bit frightened by this prospect, and said, “Hah! What can you do against me, Mr. Lion? I’m way up here in the trees, and you’re way down there on the ground. You can’t climb, and I won’t come down. So, there!”
And the silly Ape continued to make sport of the Lion.
Unluckily for him, though, just then the tree branch he was prancing on gave way, breaking in…
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