Feel free to steal this idea.

I want to write a werewolf story with this in it:

Werewolf (charging at hero): Kill! Kill! Eat!

Hero throws frisbee

Werewolf: Kill! K– Oooo! Chase! Chase!

Perhaps the ultimate weapon for fighting werewolves would be the silver tennis ball.

A morning of tough women

I’m sitting at a café/pizza joint in my neighborhood that I have long been meaning to drop in on, but until now I never have. Today was the day, though, as it had one key attribute that no other place had. It was open. It’s a pleasant place indeed, with nice music playing, good ventilation, and a very pleasant staff. My pesto was yummy and reasonably cheap, as well. Overall, a nice place to be on a Saturday morning.

There is a television in here, and I made the mistake of sitting facing it. Yesterday I had had an urge to watch sports on TV, and here was a TV playing sports. On first was the Women’s Field Hockey World Cup match between Germany and India. It was fun to watch, and I can say that field hockey does indeed qualify as a real sport. India led 1-0 at the half, but Germany’s better ball control carried the day, and a goal with little time left on the clock gave them a 3-2 victory. It was a scrappy game, and hard-fought. I haven’t the slightest idea whether I was watching contenders or also-rans.

Next up, and playing right now, are the wrestling world championships. It took me a match or two before I realized that I was watching the women’s matches, but there you have it. I can now offer expert gambling advice for anyone out there looking to wager on women’s wrestling: bet on the woman in red. I’ve seen perhaps ten matches, and blue has emerged victorious exactly once.

It was interesting to watch as the Japanese 51kg contestant beat the crap out of her Canadian opponent for the gold and then cried like a schoolgirl. She is a schoolgirl, so it shouldn’t be too shocking, but the transition from killer athlete to human was fun to watch. During the medals ceremony (US took bronze, along with a Russian — they give away bronzes like candy at this event) the award-hander-outer approached, followed by a train of silk-clad bearers. Hander-outer put the tournament medal around her neck, then awarded her the world championship belt. Then he gave her a leather folder with a certificate of some sort, and a box with an unknown object. While she was juggling these things he handed her a bouquet of flowers and to top it off a crystal vase. Then the award-hander-outer offered his hand in congratulations. This girl, overcome with emotion, who had bowed politely and humbly with each and every trophy presented her, managed to find a hand for this guy to shake. This is a time when you would think that a Chinese man congratulating a Japanese with her hands completely full would recognize that a sincere bow might be a better gesture.

Ah, well. Today’s action is over, I believe, a sweep by the Japanese (the only blue-clad winner was Japanese). By the time they got to the 59kg class, there was definitely a few wrestlers whose gender was by no means obvious. The hander-outer shook the hands of the other winners before loading them down with trinkets, and tonight the twenty-seven Japanese who follow women’s wrestling will be celebrating. And I? I will be repairing to another venue, one with electricity readily available and no sports on television.

Episode 20: Nest of Vipers – Part 2

Note: To read the entire story from the beginning click here. Continuity issues are nearly certain with this episode.

One way or another. That’s what I’d told Cello and I meant it. There was a war going on, and I was in the middle of it. That’s all right, it’s what I’m paid to do, but now they had Alice, and good secretaries are hard to come by in this town. Lola Fanutti was stewing out in the boondocks and I knew she wouldn’t stay put forever, but I’d deal with that later if either of us were still alive.

My meeting with Bernie the Trigger was brief and businesslike. He was a nice enough guy, and he had once shot someone for my benefit, and soon I had an address. “It’s the Italians,” Bernie said, pronouncing it EYE-talians. “They’ve been coming over from the old country for about thee months now. They’re becoming a problem, if you know what I mean.”

“Yeah, well, I’m about to be a problem for them.”

“Yeah, well, good luck with that.” Bernie didn’t try to disguise his skepticism.

“Thanks.” I had an extra shot of scotch to steady my shooting hand and stepped back out into the night. It’s supposed to get cooler at night, I thought, but the air was 96% water and held the heat of the day the way a woman retains water after too many pretzels. There was something different about the air that night, however, something pent-up, waiting to explode. A storm was coming. I patted my pocket and was reassured by the weight of my gun.

It was only a few blocks to where the Italians were holed up, but I took my time, sticking to the shadows and trying not to think about rifles taking aim between my shoulder blades.

The two toughs on the doorstep to the apartment building didn’t even bother trying not to look like guards. They’d pumped a lot of cash into the local police retirement fund, and expected to be left alone. Bernie had been disgusted with the cops. “No loyalty, you know?” he said. “They’re your best friends until someone offers them more money. How can you do business with anyone like that? Take away their uniforms and they wouldn’t last a minute.”

There was a curious silence on the street, as if the residents knew that something was brewing and hid away in their apartments, or, more likely, got the hell out of town. I had no idea how to get past these goons, and the others sure to be inside. I had no idea what I would do, even if I did make it inside.

I held my gun in my pocket and walked past the doorway, trying to act casual, hoping the thugs wouldn’t recognize me. They eyed me warily as I approached. I pulled out a cigarette and asked the first one, “Got a light?”

“Beat it,” he said.

At the same moment a voice came from a window upstairs, and echoed up the deserted street. Alice, belligerent frightened. “He’s coming for me, you know.”

“I said, beat it,” said the goon. I started walking.

“For the love of God, shut up,” replied a voice above with a heavy Italian accent.

“Come near me and I’ll bite you again. You think he’s going to come in the front door and say ‘how do you do?’ You think he’s that stupid? Not Mr. Lowell. He’ll find a trap door on the roof or—” It’s lucky my back was to the guards so they couldn’t see my face when I heard the slap echo down the street. “Close the window,” the Italian said. “I don’t care how hot it is.” The window slammed shut with a bang, but not before I didn’t hear Alice crying. A dame who’d cry over a run in her stocking swallowing her teeth without a peep. Sometimes, I guess, you have to light someone on fire to find out what they’re really made of. I decided to go find the trap door before the Italian chose to listen to what she said.

* * *

The top floor was dark and deserted. The next floor had a few people but with patience I managed to look around a bit, springing myself into the rooms along the quiet hallway. One place stood out, furnished lavishly and smelling of the perfume of a dozen dames. This was the lair of the man I was here to meet. I moved an overstuffed chair into the darkest corner of the bedroom and put my gun in my lap.

While I waited I juggled names and faces, trying to make sense of it all. Nobody knew everything, that was obvious, or they’d have the Blood of the Saint by now and the rest of us would just be corpses. But some people knew more than most. My life — Alice’s life — rested in the hope that I knew more than the Italian. Or, at the very least, the Italian thought I knew more than he did.

At the center was one name. Fanutti. One name, two people. One feeding the eels at the bottom of the East River, the other holding the key to fantastic wealth, a treasure beyond imagining. Fanutti. An Italian name.

The outer door opened. There was a patch of low conversation I didn’t catch that ended with, “I am tired. When I wake up in the morning, I expect to hear that you have found him.” He said something else in what I assume was Italian and the outer door closed. The Italian spent some time in the kitchen while I exercised all the will at my disposal to stay put. The greatest advantage goes to the hunter who waits for his prey to come to him.

Finally the Italian’s silhouette was in the doorway to the bedroom. “Don’t even twitch,” I said as he reached for the light switch.

He froze, then slowly moved his hands away from his body, where I could see them clearly. “Mr. Lowell, perhaps?”

“Perhaps.”

“I have been looking forward to speaking with you. My name is Fanutti.”

“Like hell it is. I killed Fanutti myself.”

He chuckled. “Luckily for both of us I know that you are bluffing. I know who killed my brother, Mr. Lowell. If I thought it was you this conversation would be over. My name is Paolo Fanutti, and I am here to recover what rightfully belonged to my brother. I would like to secure your cooperation.”

“Ah-ah-ah!” I said and Fanutti number three lifted his hands back up to an acceptable level. “Abusing my secretary is hardly a way to win my heart.”

“I find that people like you respond much better to threats than to promises.”

“Oh? Well if people like you respond to promises, here’s one for you. For every bruise on her, you get two. For every tooth missing, I knock out three of yours. If you run out of teeth, I’ll start on fingers. That’s a promise. I keep my promises.”

Paolo Fanutti was silent for a moment. “What do you propose? If it is her safety you are concerned about, then you need me.”

I stood. I’m not a small man and I loomed over Fanutti. “I propose a trade.”

“What sort of trade?” His question was just a formality; he already knew the answer.

“I walk out of here tonight with Alice, get her safely away, and I’ll give you Lola Fanutti.”

He made a face. “Don’t call her that. She stains the family name.”

“Stain removal is your department.”

He smiled. “It seems we can do business after all.”

“In the end, it’s all business.” I shrugged. Lola was going to cut him to shreds. I just hoped she left enough so that I could keep my promise.

Tune in next time for: Cold Water!

Programming note

It occurred to me that Jer’s Software Hut is a pretty big part of my life, and Jer’s Novel Writer is slowly developing into a piece of software that will long be remembered for all the ideas that all the other word processors eventually copied. As such, I have created a new category here at MR&HBI devoted to all the advancements going on in the hut’s secret bunker, chilly and drippy, buried deep beneath the impassible mountain range that passes through this quiet Prague neighborhood. Security measures are extremely tight here (had to boot Dick Cheny a while back; the dude could could not keep his big yap shut), but every once in a while we allow carefully calculated information to leak to what we euphamistically call the ‘outside world’.

I went back and found some episodes that belong in this category, and along the way I was continuously surprised by the close proximity of events that in retrospect seem far apart, and the distantness of things that seem like yesterday. Most of all, I feel the time. It was a long time ago now that I was exploring the small roads of North America. It was a long time ago that I flirted with bartenders in Montana, and watched a thunderstorm on my cousin’s patio on the Fourth of July.

Whoops! Almost did a retrospective episode, there! This is about the future. ‘Rumblings from the Secret Labs’ will be the outlet for carefully controlled propagana concerning all that is good about Hut products. That is all you need to know.

We have the technology…

I got the Mini back from the shop yesterday, and now everything is rainbows and unicorns once again. Colorful butterflies flit from flower to flower while the birds sing in four-part harmony. The bunnies are tap-dancing, the foxes are doing the rhumba (you would have expected the fox-trot, but they’re crafty that way), and the squirrels have decided to live another day. Why this great joy among the creatures of the forest? Because future releases of Jer’s Novel Writer will run natively on Intel-based Macs, that’s why. Among mac users, forest creatures were some of the first to adopt the new technology.

Because I’m in a jolly sort of mood, I’ve prepared this exclusive peek into the secret labs high atop Hut Tower, perched on its windswept crag, clad in a permanent cloak of storm clouds while lightning crashes all around it, in a quiet Prague neighborhood.

The Secret Labs high atop Hut Tower

The laptop pictured is, of course, my old one, now serving as a very large hard drive enclosure. The captions are thanks to a program called Cartoon Life that came with the Mini, and makes the layout and typesetting of comic book pages extremely simple.

It will take a bit of getting used to having different machines for different jobs (photos on mini, blog on PowerBook), but I am ready for the challenge. The one fly in the ointment (flies, it seems, do not share the joy of the rest of their fellow creatures), is the uneasy fear that the external hard drive which holds all my music somehow caused the earlier demise of my computer. The drive has a chip set that has been branded “not very good at all”, but I’ve never heard of a firewire device damaging a computer. Still, I most certainly do not want to take the machine in for yet another logic board.

Now, of course, it’s time to move on, to persevere, to take up the mantle once more and leave no thesaurus unplundered. Code must be writ, words must be script, and although the clock in Hut Tower has not had the teremity to tick in an unknown amount of time, elsewhere the laws of space and time reign uncontested, sweeping opportunity along with them in a mad rush to oblivion. I sure don’t want to miss that bus!

Pit stop

I spent a long time at the Little Café Near Home today, and as I result I am more than just a little wired on caffeine. Even at one tea per hour, you stack up enough hours and things get a bit on the twitchy side. It seemed like a beer was called for, but I was done with that place. I bought some water and some wine to go and turned my toes toward home.

I didn’t get far. One street up from Little Café Near Home is the Budvar bar even closer to home. On Tuesdays all the staff wear shirts, so I figured conditions would be tolerable. (“Conditions”, in this case, meaning air, and “tolerable” meaning breathable.) I stopped in and grabbed myself a desitku.

It seems that Tuesday night is card night. There are a couple of games going, and fortunately for me people are too busy playing cards to smoke. There are however, several very, very drunk people here. Walking is a dicey proposition for some of these folks, which means the delay the stroll to the relief station as long as possible. I have now witnessed two distressed marches across the room, picking up speed as they go, the pilgrim leaning progressively farther forward and hoping his feet will somehow stay underneath. It is a terrible race, feet handicapped, bladder insistent, and there can be no true winner.

On the TV there is a documentary of some sort. It’s about a festival, and large women in peasant garb have formed a disassembly line to render chickens into chicken parts. Cleavers are flying and you do not want to reach for the wrong bird.

The chemicals, it’s the chemicals. I forgot to post this when I got home. Here it is, (marginally) better late than never.

Don’t get mad, get Glad!

I had an audition today for another commercial. I really, really, don’t think I’ll get this one, but it would be nice if I did. Why? Because this ad would play nationwide in the good ol’ US-of-A, that’s why. I’d never see it, but anyone over on that side of the puddle who watched daytime TV would get to see me robbing a bank in order to sell plastic bags. For the same reason, the gig would also pay a lot. One day of work would pay the rent for half a year, minimum.

Alas, this gig will not come to me. We auditioned in pairs, and while I was not particularly sparkling, my partner was particularly flat. Now, in hindsight, I know exactly what I should have done to make the situation work, but that’s what hindsight is all about.

Many of you will see this commercial, and I will not be in it. Oh, well.