Friday, October 9, 2009

A Twist Of Noir 212 - Robert Crisman


This is about a mescaline trip that went wrong.

It happened back in the '60s and I know, the '60s have been done quite to death and nobody ever gets the trip right but--you'll like this one.

Joey and Danny decided they wanted to deal psychedelics, like everyone else in '69 now that the slide downward from high times had started. They went to see Zig, a wholesale mescaline dealer on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Zig had a house next to the laundry on Belmont and Howell, Capitol Hill's ass-end at the time. This was way before yuppies moved in and drove the rents over the moon. If you ever spent time on the Hill back then, chances are good that you knew the house. It was the one with the boarded-up windows and winos either dead or asleep in the postage-stamp yard with the grass all chewed up.

Joey and Danny hopped up the stairs to the second-floor rooms where Zig kept his shit. Zig ushered them in and sat them down on the couch.

Okay, descriptions. I'll make it easy. Joey? Steve Buscemi in Reservoir Dogs, down to the last snaggled tooth. Ugly as toads but his squeeze was a fox, like Nicole Kidman when she played that bitch in To Die For. Doesn't that piss you right off?

Danny looked better that Joey, but so did most bipeds. Remember The Usual Suspects? Stephen Baldwin, the short, stocky blond guy sharing the sheets with Benicio del Toro, the Queen of New York in the movie? That's Danny.

Now Zig, who could have maybe starred in cartoons. Spongebob or something like that. He was short, blubbery, blond, and clowned out in top-to-toe tie-dye, with thick horn-rim glasses. His hair stuck straight up in spikes.

Zig was all business. He brought out a baggy, full of what looked like an ounce of white flour. Mixed in were 100 hits of the Good...

"So, Zig," Danny said, "one hundred bucks, but you front us this batch, we double our money, there's more where this came from?"

"Yes!" Zig enthused. He loved the trade...

Joey looked up from the baggy. "What's this shit cut with?"

"Milk sugar, man," Zig said. "Makes it all go down smooth. You want a dip, start this thing on a high note? There's straws on the table, my man, go ahead."

Joey thought for a moment, then shrugged. Why not?

He picked up a straw and bent toward the table. He stuck the straw in the baggy and horked a good blast.

He sat back and blinked, shook his head...

And his eyes went way wide! He sat as if pole-axed...

Two seconds flat! The shit had kicked in—like with stomp boots or something! He started to see stuff in all sorts of colors, millions of midget-like, shape-shifting monsters—tap dancing wombats and all sorts of weird shit like that—tumbling and knifing through deep inner space! The wombats turned into something by Coltrane, then into cheese-dip, and then into ten million Goofys and Plutos, all of them dressed up like cub scouts!

They whirled and spun and jumped in slow, waltz-like rhythms, a kaleidescope, pulsing... They started to chant just like Zulus...

Then BOOM! Air raid sirens ripping the azure! A blast out of ten million mouths! The kaleidescope splayed, became bullets, reached warp speed—and shot for the exit, right through Joey's eyes and into the room and then out the window like tracers!


Except even faster than that!

This wide panorama below! Speeding by, blinding and—bombs! Berlin—destroyed in six seconds!

"Wow, man," Zig said, "straight out in space! I never saw nothing like that in my life! Check it out!"

"I am!" Danny said. "Fuckin' weird! The fuck you put in there, blastin' powder or some goddamned thing?"

"Just the Good, brother, and then the milk sugar. Stirred it around and—Wow! Check him out!"

Joey's eyes, like balloons, stared out in horror at—something... He started to babble. "Bullets, man, bullets... Quacking like ducks! Billins and billions and billions and billions...!"

A long, drawn-out moan. "Do you guys read birds?"

Danny and Zig stood there and stared. Zig cleared his throat.

"I think I fucked up the mix."

Well, Zig ate more cactus than Manson. He stayed in space. Yeah, the shit was fucked up; Joey'd horked like 10 hits. He was lucky Zig hadn't put socks in the mix...

Joey jumped up and broke for the window. The window was open, thank God! Joey leaned out and retched like Godzilla.

Projectiles of puke! Stuff that he'd eaten that morning! Stuff that some other guy ate! Stuff that had never been eaten at all!

Puke sprayed the street! A car swerved to dodge it and bounced off a wall!

Joey reeled himself in. He whirled, gasping and vomit-splotched—screaming! "Captain Zeep! Eeep eeep eeep eeep! And the jackboots, the bullets! They're holding my markers! I've got to get to the clinic!"

Joey started eeeping around like a chimp on some pretty good speed. "The bullets! The bullets! Eeep eeep eeep!"

He scared the shit out of Danny and Zig. Backed in a corner, they gaped at Joey hopping around and—

Joey gaped back! Their eyes became beady rats' eyes...

Zig's voice was Darth Vader's! "He makes too much noise. We must kill him and bury him in the backyard."

"It shall be done, Lord." Danny! Darth, Jr...!

Joey shrieked like a Wagner soprano and blasted on out of that room. Danny just stared. Zig said, "I fucked up the mix."

"No shit," Danny said.

Joey heltered and skeltered pell-mell up the street. He came to 15th, the Safeway on John. A phone booth right there in the lot!

He gasped his way to the booth, grabbed the phone, which said, "Hey!" Joey said, "Clinic!" The phone said, "Okay!"

Joey stared at the dial. "I know the number, the number, the number..." His voice was a whisper, awestruck at lightshows that danced through his ancestors' graveyard—in Norway? What the fuck happened to Florence? He heard castratis singing some opera—off-key!—and knew then and there he was doomed.

And then the clopping of hooves! A horse is a horse! Of course, of course! Would the gods understand?

And—did Paladin use phones? Too late! Joey stared at that dial. The numbers spit rap tunes! Grandmaster Flash and—Rap? Wait a minute! This was the Age of Aquarius, man! and—Disney's Fantasia, a logical seque! Brooms dancing and shit and—Nude girls! Las Vegas! No clinics there! Where the fuck was that number, that number, that number?

A dialtone now! He'd managed to pick up the phone! A lifetime achievement! Those numbers there on the dial, the dial, the dial, they...hummed!

The humming swelled to a full-throated chrous: Beethoven's Eroica!

And now, in the distance! Holtz's Mars! Romantic, ominous, those coming-to-get-your-ass drumbeats for days—!

A long black stretch limo pulled up. It slowed to a crawl... Inside the limo, six figures dressed up in white ties, black shirts, and fedoras! The Phi Delts! They pointed their Thompsons at Joey!

"Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" Joey screamed. Quick as a flash he grew wings! Wings like a condor's! He flew, flew away!

How's that for some abracadabra?

You might be thinking, where is this fucking thing headed?

As it turns out, to a tree in someone's backyard...

Two in the morning. Joey crouched naked as jaybirds, shivering and shaking, way up in that tree. His hair was a mess.

Two cops entered the yard, looking around like prospecters searching for gold. The lead cop flashed his light at the tree and saw Joey—and then fell down laughing.

His partner helped him back to his feet.

Cop Number One looked just like Joe Friday.

Joe Friday? They cancelled Dragnet and busted the fucker back down to beat cop or something?

Joe Friday's partner—thank God it was Ben Alexander and not Harry Morgan! Harry was great as that colonel in M.A.S.H.—my mother loved him—but cop he was not...

"Well well well well," Joe Friday said. "What have we here? What are you doing up there in the branches, my friend?"

"I need a horse," Joey said, "and a saddle."

"A horse and a saddle. Why do you need a horse and a saddle?"

"To get out of town, what the fuck do you think?"

"I figured you wanted to get back to the circus."

"Well...that's a—Hey! You're Joe Friday! What are you doing here, man?"

"Shining a light on your ass at the moment."

"But how did you get in this story?"

"Look, short version, okay? This neighborhood, right? You're trespassing bigtime, scaring the kiddies, and so forth. And normally they'd bring in some regular blues to snake your ass out of the tree with a net. But the guy who's writing this story? He wants this thing over the top all the way, so, what the fuck, he brought us up from L.A., big TV stars and like that, to keep it surreal or something."

This sort of made sense. Joey loaded and stuck up a tree? Everyday shit. But, Jack Webb? A legend! Spices this horseshit right up, don't you think?

"Well, I dunno..." Joey said. "Whatever's right..."

Friday laughed. "Of course it's right! What did you think all this is? Real life?"

Joey stared down a deep hole toward hell. "Never in one million years..."

"Well, there you go. Now—by the way, where's your partner?"

How did Friday know about Danny? What was this, a plot hole?

Who cares? What mattered was this: the mention of Danny kicked Joey right back into mescaline madness! The horror at Zig's house! Danny—Darth Vader, Jr.! Joey eeep eeeped as the teeth of the madness sunk in! His eyes spun—and almost came out of his head!

Friday noted these changes. "My friend, you are out there!"

"I need a horse!"

"We've been through that, my friend. Come out of that tree."

"I can't! I'm stark naked!"

"I see that now and I sure wish I hadn't. What did you do with your clothes?"

"I mailed them to Lima, Peru."

"You mailed your clothes to Lima, Peru... Why'd you do that?"

"They're tracking me, man!"

"Who's tracking you, friend?"

"Captain Zeep and the Warlords! They're from space! They've got guns and they're holding my markers!"

Webb blinked, stone amazed, and not a little chagrined. Ever since Dragnet got cancelled, he'd been given shit details, reduced to reeling in yoyos like this. Much more and he'd wind up on Cops or Hard Copy. Talk about long falls from grace!

"Hollywood Squares!" Joey yelped.

Webb almost lost it! Hollywood Squares?! Why not a Roadrunner cartoon?!

"Paul Lynde!" Joey said. "He's my hero!"

"Mine, too, my friend," Friday said. "Al Bundy's not her yet. But, getting back. Captain Zeep. Why is he after you this time?"

"You know why."

"I don't."

"Oh, yes, you do!"

"Oh, no, I do not!"

"You do!"

"I do not!"

Joey and Joe—locked in a battle of wills! A battle, moreover, now waged in a sing-song that woke up the neighbors!

Alexander said, "Joe..."

Friday snapped back. With a slash of his hand, he halted the music. "Listen, my friend—"

"He's in league with my mother!"

"Who? Captain Zeep?"

"Who did you think I meant, Timothy Leary? Yes, Captain Zeep!"

"Oh! Yes! Captain Zeep! In league with your mother! Of course! I forgot! But we're here to help! We're going to hide you from all the bad nasties! But first, you've got to come down from that tree!"

Joey stared down at Webb, weighting the offer. "Will you feed me?"

Friday clapped his hand to his heart. "Consider it done, friend, I promise."

"Cheerios maybe?"

"You can eat scampi and steak for the rest of your life if you want! Slathered in ketchup! I hear that's the best!"

"Heinz 57?"

"Oh hell yeah, what else? But first you've got to come down from that tree!"

Joey almost swooned! Heinz 57! Life had suddenly taken a turn for the better!

He decided to come down to the ground.

He got halfway down. Then, of course, he fell the rest of the way.

Turned out Friday lied about Heinz 57. They fed Joey the slop that everyone gets up in County.

Bad trip. When he finally came down, he decided that he'd stick with beer.

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