Sunday, March 23, 2014

it isn't only crocodiles that cry, part 3: voices in the wind

original story by horace p sternwall

originally appeared in the may-june 1945 through the jan-feb 1946 issues of throat grabbing tales

adapted for the 21st-century by chuck leary and roger "peg leg" wilson

illustrated by konrad kraus and eddie el greco

part three of thirteen

to begin at the beginning, click here

for previous episode, click here

if you were like me you were probably brought up as a human being and taught to believe all the crap that humans are taught to believe.

maybe you were brought up to believe in the bible and the second amendment and the confederate flag and nascar and cake sales on saturday afternoon.

or maybe you were brought up to believe in darwin and global warming and feminism and diversity and killing babies and survival of the fittest.

or maybe you were brought up to believe in peace and love and john and yoko and pete seeger and sunflower seeds.

or in bill gates and andy warhol and fifteen minutes of fame and satan in the bathhouses in san francisco.

or in buddha or hitler or nancy pelosi or chairman mao or nietzsche or joshua fought the battle of jericho or who knows what?

because it's all the same. all the same big pile of steaming shit, with different colored bows and ribbons on it.

because in the end there is only one thing certain.

something that's easy to forget when you are sitting stuck in traffic or on the bus watching mad men or game of thrones on your smart phone and sipping your peppermint mocha coffee from dunkin donuts.

we are all going to fucking die.

and now it was doreen's turn.

doreen, do you know you are going to die? not in some far off time when space ships fly through the sky and mad men and how i met your mother aren't even on any more but right now.

because i have the contract from mr and mrs fernwood to terminate your pathetic existence.

which i have reason to believe may be almost as pathetic as mine.


there was no use waiting around.

the fernwoods didn't have doreen's phone number. but i had her address, which mr fernwood had written down on the napkin in mcdonalds.

mrs fernwood had suggested i memorize the address and throw the napkin away, because it had mr fernwood's dna on it.

i didn't think so.

i would have enough trouble remembering to keep the napkin.

865 main st.

there didn't seem to be any mystical or astrological significance to the numbers that i could see.

i was a mage and an astrologer in another life. but that's a story for another day.

i got to the 800 block of main street before the sun went down.

before the sun went down over the lonesome city.

the rain had finally stopped around noon.

but the streets didn't look clean or anything like that.

somehow i had in my mind that the buildings would have the kind of high steps you could sit on like you see in the movies and i could sit and wait for doreen on them.

but they didn't.

there was a pizza shop that i could probably sit in if i wanted to buy a cup of coffee but for how long? besides i didn't really want any coffee and i didn't want to spend even one cent of the hard earned money i was getting from the fernwoods on anything i didn't really want.

so i just sat on the sidewalk. like a bum.

nobody was going to come along and say, why is that guy sitting on the sidewalk like a bum? because i looked like a bum.

i was sitting on the opposite side of the street from doreen's address at 865.

there wasn't much traffic. or many pedestrians.

after a while my knees and back started to get sore and i started to get a little sleepy , and i was afraid i would fall asleep even with the soreness.

so i got up and stretched a little.

i heard a voice behind me say "it's tough, isn't it?"

for a second i thought it was mr fernwood checking up on me but it wasn't, it was a gentleman i had never seen before.

i say gentleman because he looked kind of distinguished. not real distinguished, just kind of.

about as distinguished as anybody can look in the 21st century. he was wearing a tie, and he was old.

"it's tough," he went on, "being a bum in a world of bums."

i nodded politely. then he laughed. "what? don't you recognize me?'"

i just looked at him .

"randal, isn't it?"

i started to say, no, i wasn't randal, but then i thought - hey, maybe after i kill doreen and if the police bother to investigate, maybe this old timer will come forward and say randal - whoever he was - was hanging around.

it couldn't hurt. and too bad, randal.

so i said, "yeah, yeah, and you are - "

"colonel chapworth. you remember me, from division headquarters."

"oh, of course -" i glanced down the street, in case doreenwas approaching. "so, how's it going?"

"shabby, shabby, just like everything else."

"isn't that the truth?"

"but those were the days, weren't they? splendid times, splendid times."

"they certainly were," i agreed.

"but we played the game, didn't we?"

"indeed we did."

he cleared his throat as if he were about to say something more at length. but he just looked at me and said "well. carry on."

"you carry on yourself," i told him.

he moved on. i watched as he disappeared up main street toward the boulevard, but he never looked back.

i wondered if maybe i had not actually met him, in some former life…

he looked familiar.

but after awhile everybody looks familiar.

because there are not enough faces for all the streets in the universe.

then i thought, maybe everybody he passes on the street is "randal" and he goes through the same routine. looking for someone to buy him a drink, maybe?

i thought, maybe i should try something like that sometime. like i told the fernwoods, i had never been too good at out and out panhandling…

then i saw a figure coming toward me on the other side of the street.

a short, round figure.

it had to be doreen!

the figure came closer. it was a short, round female carrying a big paper bag in her arms that covered half her face. yes, i thought, it must be doreen.

i stepped in front of her. my mind went blank. i couldn't remember where i was, or what century i was in.

she stopped and looked at me with the left side of her face, the side not hidden by the bag.

"are you doreen?" i asked her.

she just stared at me. mrs fernwood was right about one thing - she wasn't going to cure me of being a faggot.

"who the fuck are you?" she finally asked.

"death," i answered. i just blurted it out.

"fuck you, asshole. get out of my way."

i knew i was back in the 21st century. where people said things like "fuck you, asshole" and not "we know not the day nor the hour" or "play up and play the game".

i had told doreen she knew not the day nor the hour. but she didn't seem to want to hear it.

"there's a cop car coming down the street, asshole. why don't you just get out of my way."

but i was too old for that trick. i just stepped aside and let her pass without turning around.

i looked over my shoulder and she had put her paper bag down and was opening the door to number 865.

and a police car was in fact coming down the street.

i turned and started walking up toward the boulevard.

i felt better. i had given her a chance - sort of.

and i didn't like her looks anyway.

a wind started blowing in my face.

a cold wind.

part 4

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