Tag Archives: books

Toilet Gator – Chapter 27

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Big Ray’s House of Fancy Fun Bags was by far the best strip club in all of Sitwell. The joint didn’t earn this credential because it had the most beautiful dancers, or even the most classy adult entertainers. No, it was basically because it was the only nudey bar in town. Thus, Big Ray wasn’t very particular about who he hired. Toothless, overweight, stretch marks, C-section scars, old – it didn’t matter. If you were a woman and were willing to show what God gave you in exchange for sweaty singles pried out of the hands of desperate lechers, Big Ray was happy to hire you.

Even though it was noon on a weekday, there were plenty of perverts lined up by the main stage to check out the next act.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” came the voice of the club’s resident tune spinner, DJ Home Slice. “She’s hot. She’s on fire. No, literally, she’s been reporting a burning sensation when she pees. She’s fifty-five years young and still shaking her money maker. Give it up for Roxy!”

Stank Daddy’s hit rap song blew up the house speakers as Roxy took to the main stage. She was old, much too old for stripping, but she showed up to work on time and Big Ray didn’t have the heart to tell her to take a hike. She trotted down the runway with a cigarette dangling out of her mouth, a palette of clownish makeup slathered on her wrinkly face, and a nicotine patch stuck to her arm.

“Stank Daddy in the house, gonna smack a bitch…”

Roxy grabbed the aluminum pole in the center stage and twirled around and around. She then attempted to climb it, only to huff and puff and fall on her ass. She immediately jumped right up.

“And she’s ok!” the DJ announced. The assorted perverts clapped and tossed dollar bills onto the stage.

One of the perverts looked way too familiar. “Momma!”

Embarrassed, Roxy folded her flabby arms over her giant saggy knockers and leaned in to talk to her son. “Buford! How many times have I got to tell you to never bother Momma while she’s at work!”

“Daddy kicked me out of the house, Momma!” Buford said.

“He did?” Roxy asked. “Why’d he go and do a thing like that for?”

“He said I play too many video games,” Buford said. “Said I gotta grow up and be a man and start making some money.”

Roxy frowned. “Oh son.”

A random pervert was none too pleased at the display. “Hey! I threw a dollar on stage and I expect to see some geriatric titties!”
Roxy let the pervert have it. “Pipe down, ya’ puke! Can’t you see I’m trying to do some parenting here?!”

The stripper ran her hand through her son’s hair. “Baby, maybe you’re Daddy’s just doing what’s best for you.”

Buford started to cry. “Oh sure. Take his side.”

“I’m not taking his side,” Roxy said. “Lord knows your Daddy can be as stubborn as a mule and dumber than a pig but he knows how to make money and, well…”

“Well, what?” Buford asked.

“Look at yourself, son,” Roxy said. “You’re twenty- eight. You got no skills. You got no girl. You’d never be able to support yourself if something happened to your Daddy.”

Buford sniffed. “Momma, I don’t need a lecture. I need a place to stay.”

Roxy appeared startled. “You want to stay with me?”

Buford shook his head up and down. “Uh huh.”

“Oh baby…”

The random pervert squawked again. “Hey, Toots! Either shake that dumper or get off the stage!”

Roxy turned and faced the pervert. “Shut your suck-hole or get ready for a high heel shoe up your ass, pecker head!”

The pervert walked away from the stage in a huff. Roxy returned her attention to the young man. “Honey, we gotta wrap this up. Your costin’ Momma money.”

“I know, Momma,” Buford said. “Please, just let me stay with you.”

“Oh sweetheart,” Roxy said. “I want to and it’s gonna break my heart to say no…”

“Then don’t say no,” Buford said.

“But I gotta say no,” Roxy said.

“Why?” Buford whined.

“Because your Daddy is right about this,” the old stripper said. “You’ll never become a man if you don’t learn how to take care of yourself.”

“But I was meant for something bigger!” Buford said.

Roxy sighed. “Buford Dufresne, you were not.”

“What?” Buford asked.

“Oh I know, it’s a shock, baby,” Roxy said. “Every little boy and girl grows up, thinking they’re special, thinking they’re gonna be all rich and famous when they grow up. You think your Momma thought she’d be dancin’ on stage for a bunch of Looky Lou’s when she was just a little girl?”

“No,” Buford said.

“Well, you’re wrong,” Roxy said. “Because that was my dream when I was young and I achieved it. But not everyone is as lucky as I am, Buford. You need to take all your dreams about becoming famous and stuff them down deep inside your soul and never speak about them again. You need to get out there and work a regular job and be a regular person just like every body else.”

“I can’t believe this,” Buford said.

“There comes a time when every young person lets go of their dreams and settles for less,” Roxy said. “You held onto yours a lot longer than most, and you were able to because your Daddy coddled you but it’s time, Buford. You got to learn how to fend for yourself.”

“But Momma!” Buford said.

“No,” Roxy said. “Besides, you know Momma does extracurricular work at home, entertaining interesting gentlemen and such.”

“I know,” Buford said.

“You get on, now,” Roxy said. “Scoot. And don’t come back until you can fend for yourself, you hear?”

Buford looked sullen, defeated. “I hear.”

“You’ll thank Momma and Daddy for this one day,” Roxy said.

Buford stormed away from the stage. “No I won’t.”

The Stank Daddy beats continued.

“Smack a bitch with a tire iron, smack a bitch with a wrench, smack a bitch with a club until her ass starts speakin’ French…”

“OK, you degenerates,” Roxy said as she twirled around the pole. “Time for Old Roxy to put on a show for you and…ergh!”

The old stripper grabbed her back. She seethed with pain. She looked at the DJ and ran her finger across her throat, in a gesture he took to mean that he needed to cut the music.

“Fuck me,” Roxy said as she stumbled off the stage all hunched over. “Take five, everyone. Old Roxy needs to take her Glucosamine Chondroitin pill.”

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Toilet Gator – Chapter 26

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The top of Professor Elliot Lambert’s head was bald and oh so shiny, but the sides of his head had yet to get the message. The hair on the back and sides of his head was brown, speckled with gray. He’d grown it down to his shoulders, perhaps out of some misguided belief that this would prove that he actually had hair.

Standing in front of his class at Sitwell Community College, the scholar was engaged in a lecture on the mating habits of the Antarctic penguin. He found it riveting, even though no one else did.

“And so, the male penguin will perform a seductive dance, which culminates in the female to bend over and expel the feathers surrounding her hormonal glands,” Professor Lambert said. “It’s truly an amazing sight to behold. I swear, kids, if you ever get up to Antartica, you must check it out.

The professor couldn’t help but notice that something was off. Normally, his class room was packed to capacity. Although no one on campus had a particular fondness for Animal Biology 101, Professor Lambert was a notoriously easy grader, an educator who would gladly stamp an A on a paper as long as a student regurgitated something halfway legible. Further, the course satisfied a science requirement.

However, on this morning, only three students managed to show up: Connor the Hipster, Kate the Goth Chick and Mackenzie, a girl whose eyes were permanently riveted to her phone.

“Is there something I don’t know about?” the professor asked.

The three students remained silent.

“Big party last night?” Professor Lambert asked. “Everyone back at their dorms, sleeping it off?”

“You don’t know?” Declan asked.

“I don’t know what?” Professor Lambert said. “That’s a ludicrous question, young man. How could I possibly know what I don’t know? The point of asking a question is to determine what one does not know and then to persist in obtaining and answer to what one does not know, thus to facilitate an answer that can added to the mental reservoir of what one knows.”

“Chad Becker died on the toilet last night,” Ann said in her Goth monotone.

“It’s been all over the news,” Mackenzie said as she stared at her phone.

“True,” Connor said. “Although personally, I prefer not to obtain my information from corporate outlets like Network News One as most mainstream channels simply whore themselves out to big business. Instead, I prefer low key, self-sponsored blogs produced by independent owners and operators. In fact, the Bookshelf Battle Blog just reported that Countess Cucamonga may have been an alien from outer space. Now that’s an angle you’ll never hear from the bought and paid for corporate media.”

“The Bookshelf Battle Blog?” Mackenzie asked.

“Oh, you wouldn’t have heard of it,” Conor said. “It only has 3.5 readers.”

The Professor threw up his hands. “Slow down children. Are you telling me that Chad Becker is dead?”

“Deader than disco,” Mackenzie said.

“His soul is the property of Azaglotz, Keeper of the Demon Realm, now,” Kate said.

The professor lowered his head into his hand. “This is terrible. So terrible.”

“I’m sorry, sir,” Declan said. “Were you two close?”

The professor lifted his head up and blurted out. “I bought my weed from him!”

Connor and Kate appeared shocked. Mackenzie was too glued to her phone to care.

“Um,” Professor Lambert said. “That is to say, yes, he was one of my favorite students. He took this class seven times.”

The professor picked up a remote control and punched a button. A blank, white screen rolled down in front of the dry erase board. Next, the Network News One channel was projected onto the screen. Kurt Manley was reporting, as usual.

“Witnesses on the scene report that Russian President Anatoly Verashenko pulled out his penis, plopped it down on the podium in front of the entire United Nations General Assembly, and dared the President of the United States to do the same,” Kurt Manley said. “The Russian President openly doubted that President Stugotz would accept the challenging, saying, quote, ‘Everyone knows that in an international dick measuring contest, Russia will win every time!”

Kurt shuffled some papers. A photo of Chad Becker wearing a bra on his head with a beer on his head appeared on screen. Kurt spoke in a voice over. “In our ongoing coverage of the bizarre series of toilet murders that has gripped the state of Florida, we’ve talked a lot about Countess Cucamonga. But what about the other victims? We’ll talk about retired history teacher Hugh Hogan in the next hour, but first, a retrospective on the life of Chad Becker, who, some say may hold a world record for the longest amount of time ever spent in pursuit of a two year degree. We’ll look back on Mr. Becker’s life after this commercial break. Also coming up in the next hour, could this brand of frozen pizza cause you to hallucinate and believe that you are the Second Coming of Ethel Merman? We’ll tell you which brand after sports and weather but first, a word from our sponsors.”

The Network News One announcer came one. “Network News One. The Hottest Blonde Chicks. The biggest titties. Oh yeah, and occasionally we report the news and shit.”

The professor turned off the television. “Awful. Just awful.”

“Professor,” Kate said. “I don’t mean to be a downer…”

The professor and Connor looked at Kate, surprised she would say such a thing.

“…I mean, no more than usual but…I just don’t think I can concentrate given the fact that some psycho is running around murdering people while they shit.”

“I should be safe,” Connor said. “I have decided to stop using toilets as I have realized that every flush just puts another dollar into the pockets of Big Toilet.”

“Big Toilet?” Kate asked.

“The toilet industry,” Connor said. “They keep us subservient by making us believe that the only way to shit is through a toilet. I checked out a book on how to compost your own shit from the library and I’m going to do that from now on.”

“Wow,” Kate said. “That sounds hella woke. Can I join you?”

“Of course,” Connor said. “Maybe we could even, um…”

“I already told you I’m promised to Azaglotz, dirt beard boy!” Kate said.

Mackenzie yawned. “All I know is I got no sleep last night because my roommate was too afraid to shit in the bathroom after what happened to Chad, so she shit in a coffee can and stunk up the entire room.”

Professor Lambert scratched his long beard. “Hmm…yes. I suppose under the circumstances, it would be appropriate to cancel class.”

All three students jumped up to their feet with eager anticipation.

“Read chapters thirty through thirty-five in your textbooks,” Professor Lambert said. “And don’t forget there is a quiz on the anal cavity of the East Himalayan Snow Leopard next week. Good day, students.”

The students left the room. The professor sat down behind his desk. “How the hell am I supposed to get my Supersonic Chronic now?”

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Toilet Gator – Chapter 25

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Sharon took the seat behind Cole’s desk. Freddie was placed in the visitor’s chair on the other side. Gordon took a menacing stance in the back corner of the room, watching Freddie’s every move.

“Mr. Milton,” Sharon said as she flipped through some papers in a file. “Do you know why we’ve brought you here?”

“What?” Freddie asked. “Do I look like I just picked up a plus five psychic powers card?”

“Plus five what now?” Sharon asked.

Freddie scoffed. “Clearly you’ve never been blessed with a good game of Magicians of Montazor.”

“Clearly not,” Sharon said. “Cut the bullshit.”

“Cut the bull-what?” Freddie asked.

Gordon grabbed the nerd by the back of the neck and slammed his head down on Cole’s desk. “How’d you off Countess Cucamonga, geek?!”

“What?” Freddie asked.

Gordon lifted the nerd’s head up then slammed it down on the desk once more. “The fat ass pop star! The old man! The college student! You killed ‘em all and we want to know how!”

“But I didn’t…”

Wham! Before Freddie could finish his sentence, his head was connecting with Cole’s desk again.

“Is this even legal?” Freddie asked.

Sharon sat back. Gordon kept his hand on the back of Freddie’s head, ready to strike at any moment.

“It’s a gray area, Freddie,” Sharon said. “Abuse of a scumbag like you only becomes a problem if a) the public finds out and b) the public cares about you. But let me give you a little piece of advice. Countess Cucamonga’s songs about her big butt were universally loved by people of every race, color, and creed in the entire world. Ergo, people want her killer found and won’t give a shit about what happens to him in the process.”

Wham! Another head slam. “That means you start talking now, bitch!” Gordon said.

“You think I killed Countess Cucamonga?” Freddie asked.

“Stop restating the obvious,” Sharon said. “My colleague has no patience for it.”
“I didn’t do it!” Freddie shouted. “Why would you think I did?”

Sharon perused Freddie’s file. “You were harassing and stalking her several years ago.”

“I was harassing and stalking her with love!” Freddie said.

Wham! Down the nerd’s face went yet again.

“You were caught red handed,” Sharon said. “You broke into the Countess’ mansion and she walked in on you while you were wearing one of her dresses and singing one of her songs. You even had a pillow stuffed down the back of your underpants to simulate the Countess’ fat ass. You left her so traumatized that some speculate you were the cause of her Japanese Moki fish huffing addiction.”

“OK,” Freddie said. “You got me. Yes, I did that. But I was in a bad way back then. I just got out of college. I was depressed to discover that there weren’t that many career opportunities for sociology majors. I mean, who would have known that, right?”

“I knew that,” Sharon said.

Gordon slammed Freddie’s head into the desk. “Everyone knows that, nerd!”

Freddie’s forehead turned bright red. “Could he please stop doing that?”

Sharon looked at Gordon and nodded. “Cut him some slack.”

Gordon growled like an angry Rotweiller.

“I plead guilty,” Freddie said. “They let me off with probation. I got a job at Tasty Burger. I moved in with my Grandma. I joined the local chapter of Magicians of Montazor. I turned my life around.”

“You call living with your Grandma while you flip burgers and play kids’ games turning your life around?” Sharon asked.

“It was better than before,” Freddie said. “I used to have a problem with bath salts.”

“Shit,” Sharon said. “That’s a serious addiction. A lot of junkies do bad things after they ingest them.”

“Ingest them?” Freddie asked. “No. I’d just sprinkle them in my bathtub and take long, luxurious baths while lavender scents filled my nostrils. It relaxed me so much that I lost control and did, well, you know what I did. To this day, I feel so terrible that I caused the Countess so much pain.”

“Lies,” Sharon said. “You would have killed her right then and there had her security detail not pinned you to the ground and beat the ever loving shit out of you.”

“No!” Freddie said. “I would never hurt the Countess!”
“Then why’d you break into her house, freak?” Sharon asked.

“Because I wanted to know what it was like to be her!” Freddie said. “I listened to her songs in the bathtub whenever I felt down. Big Time Booty. Booty Funk. Asstravaganza. Around the World in Fifty Cheeks. She was fabulous and I guess for once I wanted to know what it would be like to be a beautiful woman with a corpulent keister that was loved by millions.”

“Right,” Sharon said. “So you cooked up a bizarre scheme. Figured you’d kill her and replace her and no one would notice? You were caught then but you went back to the drawing board, spent the past few years devising a new scheme to kill the Countess and you finally did it!”

“No!” Freddie said.

“Just admit it!” Sharon said.

“Never!” Freddie said. “I love the Countess too much!”

“How do Hugh Hogan and Chad Becker figure into this?”

“Who?” Freddie asked.

Sharon looked to Gordon. “Do it.”

“With pleasure,” Gordon said as he slammed Freddie’s head into the desk.

“I don’t know those people!” Freddie said.

“You’re on thin ice, Freddie,” Sharon said. “And it’s about to crack.”

Tears streamed down Freddie’s face. “I didn’t do it I swear. I could never hurt a fly!”

Sharon sighed. “That’s too bad, Freddie. I thought we could cut some kind of a deal but now you’re going to do life for this. You know who else loves Countess Cucamonga? Prison inmates. Her fat ass songs helped them get through their dreary days and you took that away from them. They’ll make short work of you.”

“No!” Freddie said. “Please, you’ve got to believe me.”

“Why should I?” Sharon asked.

Gordon loosened his grip on Freddie, allowing the nerd to sit up and dry his tears. “I have an alibi.”

“Don’t play me for a fool, Freddie,” Sharon said.

“I do!” Freddie insisted. “Talk to my fellow magicians. Talk to my Grandma. I was home all night.”
“Sounds pretty flimsy, Freddie,” Sharon said. “How do I know a bunch of nerds and an old lady wouldn’t lie for you?”

“You don’t,” Freddie said. “But please. I’m telling you the truth.”

“You gotta give me something, Freddie,” Sharon said.

“Give you something?” Freddie asked.

Gordon slammed Freddie’s head down on the desk. “Give her something!” the enormous man shouted.

“OK, OK!” Freddie said. “I may have something.”

“Spill it,” Sharon said.

“Well,” Freddie said. “I may have…kind of…sort of…committed a crime to get this info, so that’s why I never told anyone.”

“No surprise there, weirdo,” Sharon said.

“So I don’t want to go to jail for this,” Freddie said.

“Depends on how good the information is,” Sharon said.

Gordon tightened his grip on the back of Freddie’s neck. “You’re not in a position to bargain, little man.”

“OK,” Freddie said. “When I broke into the Countess’ mansion…I may have…kind of…sort of….”

“Stop beating around the bush,” Sharon said.

“I’m not saying I did this,” Freddie said. “But hypothetically speaking, I might have, in theory, hacked into the Countess’ personal computer and found some troubling files.”

“Troubling files?” Sharon asked.

“Her agent was robbing her blind,” Freddie said. “I was hoping to find, you know, photos of the Countess in the buff…”

“Because you’re an insane pervert,” Sharon said.

“I’m a reformed insane pervert,” Freddie said. “But back then, yes, I was out of my mind. But instead of nude photos, I just found a bunch of emails to the Countess from her manager, Irving St. John. Concert ticket sales, merchandising rights, TV special deals, album sales…none of it added up. Her cut of the take was supposed to be one thing, but the money being deposited into her bank accounts was another…”

“You hacked into her bank accounts?” Sharon asked.

Freddie blushed. “In theory.”

“Jesus,” Sharon said.

“You want a suspect,” Freddie said. “I’d look into that guy. Maybe the Countess finally figured out Irving was skimming off the top and he rubbed her out to keep her from going to the cops.”

“Did you save any of this evidence?” Sharon said.

“In theory,” Freddie said. “I might have a flash drive I could turn over…that is, if it gets me turned loose.”

Sharon nodded at Gordon. Gordon pulled the nerd up onto his feet. “Let’s go, nerd!”

“Wait!” Freddie said. “What about my deal?”

“We’ll see if your story checks out,” Sharon said. “Until then, you’ll be cooling your heals in a holding cell for awhile.”

“I want my lawyer!” Freddie cried.

Gordon dragged the nerd out of Cole’s office. “You’ll get nothing and like it you little dweeb!”

Once alone, Sharon leaned back in Cole’s chair and rested for a few moments. She spotted a turned over picture frame on the desk. She picked it up to find a photo featuring much younger versions of her and Cole, embracing on a beach. Cole’s lips were playfully pressed up against her cheek.

“Oh Cole,” Sharon said.

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Eleven Weeks of Toilet Gator Sundays!

3.5 readers, I truly believe that a thousand years from now, students of English literature will be studying this excellent book:

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Analysis – Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

In case you missed it, Professor Horatio J. Nannerpants is the Bookshelf Battle Blog’s professional simian literary expert/semi-professional poop flinger.  He’ll gladly tell you everything you need to know about the classics.

Just be ready to duck, as he has been known to make the poop fly.

In this column, he discusses Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.  Come for the commentary.  Stay for the poop.

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Toilet Gator – Chapter 24

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An army of FBI agents, computer experts, lab technicians and forensic analysts poured out of the RV and into the Sitwell Police Department building. They quickly made themselves at home. Maude found herself fielding all sorts of questions to which she had no answers.

“We’re going to need at least seven high speed, fiber optic connections and a designated multi-port router hub,” one computer tech said. “What’s your port to port ratio?”

“I know how to dial a phone, son,” Maude said. “That’s about it.”

“How are you set up for invasive, anthropometric, post-mortem inspections?” a forensic analyst asked.

“I was born when Eisenhower was president,” Maude replied.

“Oh,’ the forensic analyst said. “My condolences.”

The techs and agents went to work – moving desks and office furniture around, installing computer equipment, drilling holes and installing wires, and so on.

Burt perked up out of his slumber. “Should we be letting them wreck the place like this?”

“Well,” Maude said. “Cole said to let them do whatever they want.”

Sharon entered the room. She saw Maude and smiled, then went in for a hug. Maude graciously accepted it, but she had to fight back a yearning to punch Sharon in the face.

“Maude!” Sharon said. “It’s been so long.”

“Yup,” Maude said. “Sure has.”

“How have you been?” Sharon asked.

“Oh, you know,” Maude said. “Everyday I wake up, check to make sure I’m not dead yet and if I’m not I come to work.”

Sharon said. “Same old Maude. You still haven’t lost your sense of humor.”

Maude rested her hand on her oxygen tank. “Nope. Just everything else.”

The old lady watched as the Feds tore the office apart. “Looks like you’ve moved up in the world since you left all of us country bumpkins.”

“Yeah,” Sharon said. “I’m sorry about all the commotion. We’ll be out of your hair as soon as we can.”

“Agent Walker,” one of the computer techs said. “We should be all set up for a video conference call with Quantico within the hour.”

“Very good,” Sharon said.

Freddie Milton was escorted into the department by Gordon and two other agents. Milton was all decked out in an orange jumpsuit, with his hands bound together by a chain wrapped around his waist.

Maude was startled when she found herself staring up at Gordon’s gargantuan, bald head.

“You got an interrogation room?” Maude asked.

“Son, we don’t even have a break room,” Maude replied.

The old gal pointed to the door to Cole’s digs. “I suppose the Chief won’t mind if you use his office.”

Gordon opened up the door to Cole’s office and pushed the prisoner inside. “Move, maggot!”

“He seems charming,” Maude said.

“Oh,” Sharon said. “Agent Bishop may be a knuckle dragging caveman, but he has his own ways of getting things done.”

Sharon was about to enter the office when she stopped and turned around. “Maude?”

“Yeah?”

“How is Cole?” Sharon asked.

Maude sighed. “You want me to sugar coat it?”

“Since when do you do that?” Sharon asked.

“For Cole?” Maude said. “All day long. I take his words and put them into diplomatic terms to the assorted morons in this town who live to drive him nuts.”

“Right,” Sharon said. “But you always talk straight when you’re among friends.”

Suddenly, Sharon spotted a glare on Maude’s face that gave her a sneaking suspicion that she and Maude might not be friends anymore.

“He’s about as well as you might expect,” Maude said. “All things considered.”

“That was very diplomatic,” Sharon said.

Maude took a seat at her desk. “That’s what I do.”

Sharon entered the office, closing the door behind her. Maude got on her computer and live streamed Network News One. Kurt Manley’s face popped up on Maude’s monitor.

“Our wall to wall coverage of the death of Countess Cucamonga continues with an in-depth look at the pop diva’s life,” Kurt Manley said.

A photo of an eight year old girl with two missing baby teeth appeared on screen. Kurt’s voice continued. “She was born Sally Ann Dubawitz, just a simple girl from a simple backwater Florida town, although no one can seem to pinpoint which town that was…”

Maude squinted at the photo. “I’ll be damned…”

Irving, the Countess’ manager, appeared in a pre-recorded interview segment. “The Countess was very guarded about her past. She grew up around hayseeds and hillbillies but once she became a star, she cast that all aside to become the regal princess-life figure we all came to love and admire.”

Maude paused the stream, then picked up her phone and dialed.

“Bernice?” Maude said. “It’s Grandma. How are you? Uh huh…yeah…really? Oh, that’s wonderful. Yeah….yeah…isn’t that something? Wow…uh huh…well, listen girl, I need you to do your Grammy a favor. You got your high school year book? Yeah…no I know but it’s important….sweetheart, I wouldn’t be asking if it weren’t important….yeah…go find it and send it overnight delivery to me…oh holy shit Bernice you make three times what I make but if you want to quibble then fine, I’ll pay the charges…what? Just a little something I’m working on, never you mind. Yeah…yeah…ok darlin’ I love you too. Talk to you later.”

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99 Designs Expands Its Book Business

Hey 3.5 readers.

Came across this interesting PR Newswire press release.

99 Designs has been providing authors with the ability to hold book cover design contests for a long time.  Now they’re branching out into book layout, typesetting, interior book design, basically.

Could be a boon for self-publishers.  I know I tried Adobe one time, gave up on trying to figure it out, and came to the conclusion that if the inside of my book was ever going to look good I was going to have to hire someone to do it.

What say you, 3.5 readers?

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Zom Fu – Chapter 62

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“Aaarrrrgggh!”

Junjie screamed as he came to his senses. He looked around. He was back in the Emperor’s throne room. The ghostly apparition of the Infallible Master stood before him.

“He…he killed my parents?”

The master looked away. “Yes, my son.”

“You knew!” Junjie shouted.

“I did,” the master said.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Junjie asked.

“Because a mind locked in rage can never be truly focused on a higher purpose,” the master said. “You already despised Dragonhand for turning your beloved Mei-Ling into stone. You would have lost control had you learned that he killed your parents as well. You would have fought with fury, rather than skill…with anger, rather than cunning. You would have…”

“I would have known the truth,” Junjie said.

“You would have died,” Junjie said. “Dragonhand would have defeated you. Of that, I am certain.”

Junjie stood up.

“I intended to tell you,” the master said. “After…all of this.”

Junjie wiped a tear from his eye. He leaned in to hug the master, put his arms passed through.

“I forgot,” Junjie said.

“I know,” the master said.

“Dragonhand never realized I was the child?” Junjie asked.

“An undead man’s brain is a swirl of confusion,” the master said. “Most of the time, Dragonhand believed he was his own man, separate from Longwei. That is true, for Longwei’s soul resides in Diyu. However, Dragonhand possessed Longwei’s brain and with it, his memories. At times, the creature was perplexed and puzzled, confident that he was a champion, free from a sense of right and wrong that a soul provides and yet, burdened by all the petty jealousy and aggrieved feelings that were stored away in Longwei’s mind. He claimed he was better than Longwei and yet, a part of him longed to prove to me that he was my best student.”
“Am I your best student?” Junjie asked.

“Well,” the master said. “I’ve never had a student who defeated a foe such as Dragonhand, so I’d say yes.”

A few seconds of silence passed.

“Don’t let it go to your head,” the master said.

“I won’t,” Junjie replied.

“And now you know my great shame,” the master said. “I could have destroyed Dragonhand all those years ago, at the very instant he became one of the undead. I could have saved everyone – the kung fu clans, the masters, the soldiers, so many innocent villagers – I could have spared so many so much pain had I just brought myself to extinguish him but I could not.”

“Why couldn’t you?” Junjie asked.

“Because every member of the Clan of the Sacred Yet Inscrutable Tiger Claw is my child,” the master said. “Their pain is my pain. Their suffering is my suffering. A father doesn’t stop loving a child just because he has done wrong. I loved Longwei too much to snuff out Dragonhand, but I realize now that I selfishly put my own emotions over the lives of so many.”

“I don’t know that I can blame you,” Junjie said.

“We all make mistakes,” the master said. “For centuries, the master of our clan has been called, ‘the Infallible Master,’ but I assure you, your master is very much fallible.”

The conversation between master and student was cut short by the sounds of the Whirlwind, struggling under the strain of a massive weight. He entered the room. Niu had come to and he was in his feet, but resting most of his bulk on the Whirlwind’s shoulder.

“Hergh!” cried the Whirlwind as he eased his hefty charge down onto the steps.

Once free of Niu, the Whirlwind choked and wheezed as he caught his breath. “It’s nothing but vegetables from hereon out for you, baldy!”

The Whirlwind collapsed on the steps next to Niu. “I will hurl myself from the highest cliff in all the world before I carry your giant ass around, that I can guarantee!”

Junjie and the master rushed to Niu’s side.

“My son!’ the master said.

Niu was speechless.

“That bag of filth took his peepers,” the Whirlwind said. “But I bravely carried his carcass all the way here, putting myself…and my back…in great danger.”

No one appeared to be all that concerned with Niu’s well-being. Junjie ripped a strip off of Dragonhand’s robe and handed it Niu. The big man held it over his eyes to sop up all the blood.

“Niu?” Junjie asked. “Can you hear me?”

Slowly, Niu nodded his head up and down. His voice was hoarse. “Yes.”

The master turned around. “Watch over my son, Whirlwind. Junjie, come, we must save the Clan of the Mediocre Yet Effective Club Bonk.”

As master and student walked towards the door, they were met by Rage Dog. His hair and clothing were sopping wet from rain. He held up a big, brown sack. Inside, a little boy wiggled around and whimpered.

Rage Dog gazed upon Dragonhand’s corpse. He thought about this development for a moment, then laughed hysterically.

“I suppose I should thank you for dispatching my master,” Rage Dog said to Junjie. “Now the Emperor’s brain will be mine!”

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Ten Weeks of Toilet Gator Sundays!

The time sure does fly when you’re having fun…

toilet-gator-book-1

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Toilet Gator – Chapter 19

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At sixty-three years young, Maude Fleming was Cole’s trusty right hand. She typed, dispatched, took messages, cooked, cleaned, sewed – she did it all. She was never without her old, tattered gray sweatshirt. She wore that mess for so long that no one was able to remember her wearing anything else. Meanwhile, she’d given up the battle with her hair a long time ago, opting to wear a blue baseball cap instead.

Maude was live streaming Network News One’s wall-to-wall coverage of the Countess Cucamonga murder and crocheting a mitten at the same time. Knitting mittens was one of her favorite pastimes. In theory, it made her happy. In reality, the mittens were useless. She had hundreds of pairs at home. Occasionally, she’d give them out as gifts but seeing as how she lived in Florida, no one really had any use for them.

A cigarette dangled out of Maude’s mouth. Pieces of ash fell into her yarn but she didn’t pay them any mind. She just kept working her needles.

Around dawn, an exhausted Cole stumbled through the door of the rundown Sitwell Police Department building.

“Long night, Chief?” Maude asked with her raspy smoker’s voice without taking her eyes off of her mitten.

“Ergh,” Cole grunted.

“That bad, huh?” Maude asked.

“Harumph,” Cole replied.

Cole walked on over to the coffee machine and fumbled with the filter. Maude jumped out of her chair, put down her mitten, and gently guided her boss away from the machine.

“I’ll get that,” Maude said. “You take a load off.”

Cole rubbed his bloodshot eyes and headed for his office. “Thanks.”

Walking into the Chief’s office was like stepping into a rustic hunting lodge. High up on the wall behind the desk were three mounts, the heads of a grizzly bear, a large antlered buck, and a lion that he bagged while he was on a safari vacation.

Cole put both legs up on his desk, then turned on his radio. The dial had been set on one and one station alone for twenty years – WRDNK aka, “The Redneck – Grover County’s Number One Country Western Station.”

As luck would have it, Cole’s favorite song was playing again:

“Will I drink myself to death?
Because without her, I got nothin’ left.
Will I ever rev my life up to full throttle?
I doubt it, cuz without her, all I got is the bottle…”

Cole opened up an old cigar box on his desk. He pulled out a good stogie, chomped off the end, then spit it into the trash barrel. He lit up and puffed away.

The Chief relaxed in his chair, allowing his personal sense of ennui to flush through his body. He’d learned long ago it was easier to embrace the sadness and let it run its course rather than try to pretend its not there like the rest of the world usually does.

Minutes later, Maude bursted through the Chief’s door. Her appearance startled Cole, because for the first time ever, there was a plastic tube up her nose. It was attached to a small, portable oxygen tank that the old lady carried by a handle held by her left hand. In her right hand, she carried a cardboard box with a notebook balanced on top.

“What the hell?” Cole asked.

“What the hell, what?” Maude asked.

Cole pointed to the tube in Maude’s nose. “What the hell, that!”

“Oh,” Maude said as she set her tank and cardboard box down on the Chief’s desk. “My doctor says my lungs are no good. I’m not getting enough oxygen, on account of all the smoking.”

Cole puffed on his cigar, then pulled it out of his mouth. “Then what the hell are you smoking for?”

Maude shrugged her shoulders. “What? I’m going to quit down? Screw that. The time to quit was twenty years ago. Now I might as well enjoy it until I die.”

Cole coughed and choked at the same time when he heard that news. “You’re dying?”

“We’re all dying, hon,” Maude said. “I can’t imagine I’ll be around a whole helluvalot longer with this condition but no one’s put an expiration date on me yet.”

Cole breathed a little easier. “Thank God.”

“Why?” Maude asked. “You’d miss me or something?”

Cole flashed a rare smile. “Nah. It’s just, who would get my coffee?”

“What I wouldn’t give to have a time machine so that I could go tell my younger self to give up smoking for good,” Maude said. The old lady and the young man then had a stare off, until Cole gave in and stumped out his cigar into an ashtray.

“Anyway,” Maude said as she flipped open her notebook. “Enough sentimentality. The phone’s been ringing off the hook. You’ve gotten so many calls that I have half a mind to ask for a raise.”

“That sounds like a good idea, Maude,” Cole said. “See if the town will give me one while, you’re at it.”

“Apparently everyone has flipped their lids over this Countess Cooky-Booky, Wooky-Nooky, whatever the hell her name is. The famous girl with the fat ass,” Maude said.

“Right,” Cole said.

“I’ve got a call from the Mayor asking for a status report on the investigation,” Maude said.

“Tell him to look for it up the deepest, darkest regions of his cavernous asshole,” Cole replied.

Maude jotted repeated a more diplomatic response as she jotted it down in her notebook with a pencil. “The Chief is working diligently on the matter and there are no new developments at this time.”

The old lady read another message. “The Sheriff would also like an update.”

“It’s also up his ass,” Cole said.

“The Chief is always happy to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies and will gladly update you when he has new information,” Maude said as she jotted the reply down.

“Come on, Maude,” Cole said. “Time’s a wastin’.”

“Tell me about it,” Maude said. “It seems like it was just yesterday I was able to shit without three different medications.”

“TMI,” Cole said.

“I’ve got a bunch of messages from wackos claiming to have tips on the killer,” Maude said. “One guy insists the killer is a space alien, but he sounded like he was calling from a bar. One guy says Elvis is alive and well and murdering people on the toilet. One woman who sounded like she was abusing one substance or another is sure that this is the handiwork of the government and that they’re trying to scare people into not using toilets. Something about a vast conspiracy against the toilet industry.

Maude tore out several pages of her notebook and plopped them on the Chief’s desk. “I don’t know. I’ll let you sort through all that B.S. I just take the messages.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Cole said.

“Thirty calls from various federal officials,” Maude said. “Lab technicians, forensics analysts, investigators and so on. They’re all calling to let you know that they’ll be setting up shop here.”

“Yeah,” Cole said. “The FBI’s taking over. Just give them whatever they want.”
Maude closed her notebook. “Umm…”
“What?” Cole asked.

“I couldn’t help but notice they all said that if you have any questions, you should refer them to Agent Sharon Walker,” Maude said.

“Yup,” Cole said.

Maude shook her head. “God. That’s not good.”

Cole clasped his hands together behind his head and leaned back. “Eh, it’s no big deal.”

“No big deal?” Maude asked. “You nearly drank yourself to death when she left. Why, if I see that dirty, no-good skank I have half a mind to…”

“Just pay her no mind,” Cole said.

“Pay her no mind?” Maude asked.

“Ignore her,” Cole said. “I already saw her tonight.”

Maude gasped. “You did?”

“Yeah,” Cole said.

“I hope she got old and fat,” Maude said.

“Nope,” Cole said. “Looks better than ever.”

“Damn it,” Maude said.

“It was hard seeing her again,” Cole said. “But I got through it. I was a professional. I listened politely to her FBI bullshit. I’ll soldier through her being her until this thing is over and that’s all there is to it.”

“If it were me I’d tell her to go to hell,” Maude said. “What with everything she put you through.”

“Nope,” Cole said. “I didn’t mean anything to her. I’m not about to let her know she means anything to me.”

Maude sighed – loudly and discernibly, almost as if she were asking Cole to ask her about her sigh.

“What?” Cole asked.

“It’s none of my business,” Maude said.
“You’re right,” Cole said. “It isn’t.”

“But women always know,” Maude said. “Men try to hide things, but women always know, and sometimes a woman will use that to a man’s disadvantage.”

Cole smiled again. Most of his smiles were reserved for Maude these days. “I will try not to let that shatter my faith in the female of the species, Maude.”

“Good,” Maude said as she opened up the cardboard box. Inside, there was a homemade cake. It appeared to be the product of several hours’ worth of work. The white icing had been meticulously applied, with blue trim around the sign. Written in red icing on the top were the words, “Happy 40th, Chief.”

“Oh shit,” Cole said as he glared at the cake. “I was hoping no one would remember.”

“Why the hell would you hope for that?” Maude asked.

“Because I don’t want to remember,” Cole said. “Jesus Christ, Maude, I can remember being a young buck like it was yesterday. Thought I’d be on the top of the world by now but here I am, babysitting my ex-wife while she investigates the murder of some girl with a fat ass.”

Maude laughed. “Well, you know they say life isn’t about the destination. It’s about the journey.”

“Yeah,” Cole said. “Find the guy who put that in a fortune cookie and tell him to…”

“Shove it up his ass?” Maude said. “Got it.”

Cole looked at the cake again. “It’s very nice, Maude. Thank you.”

Maude headed for the door. “Yeah, well. Taking care of you is a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. I’ll get your coffee.”

Cole took another peek at the cake. As he looked closer, he noticed little pieces of cigarette ash in the frosting. He chuckled, then closed the box. It didn’t matter. He wasn’t going to eat it anyway. The fewer reminders of his forty years on the planet, the better.

Along the right hand side of the wall, there was a tall metal gun cabinet. Cole found the key for it on his ring and opened it. Shotguns. Rifles. Handguns. He was well stocked.

He reached into the bottom of the cabinet and pulled out a bright orange box. He set it on his desk and unlocked it as well. He then opened it up to reveal one of the biggest revolvers on the planet, the Angry Barracuda .500 Caliber. Better known as, “the Hunter’s Helper,’ it was heavy, but the weight felt good in Cole’s hand. The barrel was long. The bullets were enormous.

The piece had been designed as a backup sidearm for hunters whose rifles had jammed. No one wants to be staring down an angry beast with a bum rifle and not another gun to reach for. The force it brought was so powerful that it knocked Cole on his ass the first time he used it at the local gun range years earlier.

“Oh boy,” Maude said as she returned with her oxygen tank in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other. “You’re playing with your big gun. This can’t be good.”

“Everything’s fine,” Cole said. “It’s just at times like these, I feel like shooting something.”

“Well,” Maude said. “As long as you’re not drinking anything, it’s fine by me.”

Maude left the office. Cole put the gun back in its box, then locked it up in the cabinet. He returned to his chair and rolled up the right leg of his pants to reveal a prosthetic leg. The flesh of his real leg ended just below the knee. The stub was secured in a metal socket. The prosthetic itself was metal connected to a hard plastic foot inside his shoe.

Cole removed his stub from the socket and propped the prosthetic up against his desk. He then rubbed his aching knee.

The Chief was exhausted after a long night. He closed his eyes and was about to drift off to sleep when his cell phone rang. He pulled his old flip phone out of his pocket.

“Hello?”

“Cole!” came the surly voice of Mayor Dufresne. “Why in tarnation is my town all over the news? You think anyone’s gonna wanna do business in a town where people are getting killed while they’re sitting on the shitter?”

“Wrong number,” Cole said.

“Don’t you wrong number me, you son of a bitch,” the Mayor said. “Now I wanna have a big pow wow with Floyd and see if we can’t nip this thing in the bud. I been calling you at the station all night and I demand to know why you haven’t been returning my phone calls. I own your ass, Mister, and I will…”

“No hablo Ingles, Senor,” Cole replied. Flip. In that moment, Cole decided that he would never upgrade to a smart phone. Not only did he not need all of that Internet mumbo jumbo clouding his mind, but it was much more satisfying to hang up on an unwanted call with a flip than a swipe.

The land line on Cole’s desk rang this time. It was Maude.

“Chief? Got the Mayor on the line. Should I put him threw?”

“No,” Cole said. “Tell him he’s an asshole, then slam the phone down hard.”

“You’re not in because you’re working diligently on important law enforcement matters. Got it. ” Maude and Cole hanged up.

Ring! Another call on Cole’s desk phone. “Hello?”

“Chief?” Maude said. “Got a reporter on the line from Network News One. She identifies herself as quote, ‘A Hot Ass Blonde Chick with Big Titties,’ unquote. She wants to know if you’ll be interviewed on air.”

“Tell her that her titties look lopsided,” Cole said.

“You’re not available at this time,” Maude said. “Got it.”

Click.

Cole leaned back in his chair. He cranked his radio loud. A new song was on. It wasn’t his favorite, but it was about a man who turned to drinking after his wife ran out on him so it worked in a pinch.

“Drownin the pain away,
Cuz I didn’t get to see my baby today.
Yeah, I’m drownin’ the pain away.
Oh, there’s gotta be a better way…”

Ring!

“Hello?”

“Chief,” Maude said. “It’s Rusty. He’d like a word. He sounds mad.”

“Tell him to blow it out his ass,” Cole said.

“The Chief is indisposed,” Maude replied. “Got it.”

Click.

Cole closed his eyes again.

Ring!

“Damn it!” Cole shouted out as he picked up his phone. “What?!”

“Well, hello to you to, Mr. Snooty Britches,” Maude said.

Cole rubbed his face. “Sorry Maude. Who is it now?”

“Bitchface McGee,” Maude said.

“Who?” Cole asked.

“Sharon,” Maude said.

“Oh,” Cole said.

“She wants to know if she can recruit some of your officers to canvass the college campus for clues,” Maude said.

“Sure,” Cole said. “As many as she needs.”

There was a brief pause.

“What?” Maude asked. “No snappy comeback?”

“No,” Cole said.

“You don’t want to tell her to blow anything out of her ass?” Maude asked.

“Nope,” Cole said.

Another pause.

“I’m worried about you,” Maude said.

“Don’t be,” Cole said.

“Your pushing all your emotions about her down and that’s going to get you started drinking again,” Maude said.

“Not gonna happen,” Cole said.

“So why the kid glove treatment with Miss Prissy Pants?”

Cole sighed. “Because it accomplishes nothing and I’ve wasted as much sorrow as I can on her. She’s a grown woman. She wanted out. She got out. End of story. I’ll treat her like any other suit the Feds want to jam down my throat.”

“Hmm,” Maude said. “OK then.”

Click.

Cole was frazzled. In the lower left hand drawer of his desk sat a flask, half-full with a perfectly aged scotch. It had been sitting there untouched for eight years. For a long time, Cole thought about throwing it away, but after awhile, he grew so proud of his ability to have it around without drinking it, that he just kept it.

But now, he figured he was cured of alcoholism. Surely, one little sip to calm his nerves wouldn’t hurt. He opened the drawer and unscrewed the top of the flask. Slowly, he raised it up to his mouth and then…

Ring!

Cole lowered his hand. He took a deep breath, then answered the phone. “Hello?”

“The Mayor again,” Maude said.

Cole’s face turned bright red as he shouted, “Tell him to blow it out his ass!”

Slam! Cole bashed the phone down on his desk. He looked at the flask in his hand and strongly considered guzzling the whole thing. Instead, he opened up the cardboard box and poured the booze all over the grim reminder that he’d been around for forty years. He then threw the flask and the cake into his trash can.

He needed a jolt. A took a big swig of the coffee Maude had brought him, only to choke and sputter. He coughed and coughed until one of Maude’s cigarette butts popped out of his mouth.

“Son of a bitch,” Cole said.

It was clear there was no peace to be had in his office. Cole reattached his leg and rolled down his pants leg. He returned to his gun cabinet and retrieved his orange gun box. He opened up the door and stormed past Maude.

“Where are you off to?” Maude asked as she worked on her mitten.

“I need to shoot something,” Cole said. “Hold my calls.”

“Will do, Chief,” Maude said.

 

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