Ray & The Warthog

This is why I never take things for granted.

This time last week, I’d thought my life was pretty rough. My main point of misery centered on the contents of my tobacco pouch. The supply had dwindled, and what remained was dry, crumbling, and tasteless. My papers weren’t much better, being pages ripped from an old Bible I’d found in Silver City. Guess that’s karma. When you’re reduced to smoking Bible pages, maybe it’s time to rethink your life choices.

But oh, how things change. I’m getting some much-needed perspective. Cowered in a dry creek bed watching that damned A-10 circle back around, my cigarette-rolling prospects are the furthest thing from my mind.

If only Motia were here.

“I’ll send help. I promise,” she’d yelled over her shoulder. “Besides, it’s Earth. What’s the worst that could happen?”

Oh, it’s Earth, all right. One of ‘em. But it’s not just the where, as I’ve discovered in our travels. No, it’s the when. And seeing as how there’s an A-10 Warthog trying to raze the mining town about half a mile away (and, by virtue of proximity, me) I’m guessing I’m not the only person here that’s outside their original timeline.

It’s the damnedest thing, though. Seeing that flying anachronism, I think of the old Native American legend of the Thunderbird. Suddenly, shit makes sense. The Winnebago thought of the thunderbird as an omen of military victory. If you had a vision of one of the loud, lightning-hurling raptors, you were destined to become a great warrior. As I listen to the “BRRRR-R-R-R-R” of that thirty-mil and the throaty roar of the turbines as the thing flies low enough to send up a rooster-tail of dust and debris, I can imagine that the only way your run-of-the-mill War Chief in the 1800’s aboriginal population could even conceive of something like this would be through some sort of induced state.

And yet, here it is. No way this is a coincidence.

Footsteps, coming fast, crunching the dirt and rocks. I spin, the Navy revolver in my hand…and immediately aim it to the ground.

“Fuckin’ what is up, man!?”

Ray. It’s goddam Ray, here. Now. This is who Motia sent to help. And as he throws himself to the ground next to me, he reaches over my prone body to smother me in a huge hug.

“Good to see you, man! Sounds like there’s a lot going on. This looks interesting, no doubt. Dude, check this shit out…”

He pulls back, away from me, into a sitting position. I notice his garb for the first time. Ray’s pale blonde hair, the color if the inside of a banana peel, is back in a ponytail. His face and arms tanned so deeply that it’s hard to make out the detail in his tattoo sleeves. He wears what I can only call a pirate shirt…not the puffy, frilly, Captain Hook kind, but the roughspun beige linen sort with an open neck and billowy sleeves (which he’s rolled and pushed up over his elbows.)

“I shit you not, I’m first mate on a fuckin’ sloop of war! Check it!”

He turns his right arm over to show me a large swath of puckered, pink skin which runs from just over his wrist to about an inch below the crook of his arm.

“Cannonball burn. Know this: cannonballs are fuckin’ hot, son. This one nearly took my fuckin’ arm, and wiped this one dude out right at the knee, no joke. Dude stood there for like a microsecond, and then ‘fump!’ Over he goes. Unreal, dude. Oh, and—“

“RAY!” I shouted, louder than I intended.

“Right. Gotcha. Thunderbolt. Please explain.”

Thunderbolt. Or more accurately, Thunderbolt II. Damn, I’d forgotten. That was the official designation of the A-10. At least, in our timeline. In our universe. Ray seemed to read my thoughts, as he sometimes did.

“This is some real Dark Tower shit, my friend. Fuckin’ score.”

“That’s one way to put it. But the fact remains, that flying hunk of death is sort of in our way.”

Ray stares, and his hand absently tugs and strokes the tuft of corn silk on his chin.

Here’s the thing about Ray: he is fucking brilliant. Some people forget that. They lose sight of the fact that the guy could build an entire computer server and IT network from scratch, or that he’d spent two years in a Shaolin monastery or that his so-called “Superposition Drive Theory” was being seriously discussed (in an alternate timeline, anyway) as a viable means of interstellar, faster-than-light travel…an expression that he abhorred, because “You’re not traveling anywhere. You’re already there, you just aren’t aware of it!”

The other thing about Ray is that he’s totally nuts.

Well, that’s not completely accurate, either. He’s just…an unstable molecule. He’s chaos incarnate. When you scrap with him, the scary part isn’t his muscles or his training or anything, but the completely unpredictable, wild nature of his aggression. He and I scrapped once doing a thing on some damn world chasing down some quarry of Motia’s or whatever. It was a frustrating trip, and the trail had gone cold. We spent the night, all of us, drinking a whole crap-ton of this godawful booze punch we’d come across, and things got ugly. Everyone was cussing and punching, just pissed at everything out of general frustration and exhaustion. It bloomed into a full-on brawl, every creature for itself. Ray had thrown a good left cross at my head, one that I narrowly avoided. I countered by kicking him in the sternum. He grabbed my ankle and then did the unexpected. He could’ve twisted my leg, could’ve thrown me, could have done a lot of things, but what he did was to slam his forehead into the meat of my thigh. Hard. Yes, the fucker head-butted my leg. And that sounds crazy, and maybe even ineffective, but shit…imagine someone throwing a bowling ball, hard, and having it impact about three inches above your knee. My entire limb went numb. In all honesty, I couldn’t even stand on it when I came-to the next morning. The black, bone-deep bruise lasted weeks. It was horrible. Of course, when Ray saw it, he just laughed. Laughed and laughed. He cried tears of mirth and squeaked out “Oh, dude! Oh, shit! That’s why my neck hurts so bad! I tried to snap your leg with my skull, dude!”

Then a few days later, he’d saved my ass when we were ambushed by some Skinnies. That’s just Ray.

So he looks across the stretch of sand and rock and dust, through the waves of heat distortion rippling and blurring the horizon. And he concludes “That is definitely a jet airplane.”

Yes, it sure as fuck is.

“So, here’s the thing about jet airplanes. They need fuel. Lots of it, I’d imagine. So, this fucker is either hooked up with an alternate power source, which seems unlikely, the way it sounds and smells. Can you smell it? That oily, diesel-and alcohol smell? It’s on the wind. I think it’s him. It’s Mr. Buzzy. Or he’s got a refinery or some stash of fuel nearby. Not sure the range on these guys, but it’s gotta be finite.”

I stare at Ray for a second, then back to the grey-green terror swooping low again, strafing whatever it’s trying to kill in the town.

“Ammo, too…” I murmur. “Can’t have inexhaustible rounds, right? And it’s surely shooting projectiles. Those aren’t beam weapons.”

“Correct. So, ol’ boy there has a stash somewhere, hoss. I say we got find it and maybe end up getting us a flying machine. Dude, can you imagine? Ima take it back to my crew, back in the Caribbean.” Ray begins to cackle. “They will literally shit themselves, no doubt. CAW! CAW! DEATH CROW! CLEAR THE FUCKIN’ DECK!”

One thing at a time. It’s going to be dusk soon. And this strange quarry is going to fly off in one direction or another, I’m guessing. And we’ll track it somehow. And we’ll take it out somehow. And then I’ll double back to the mining camp and continue my quest. Maybe finally link up with Motia again. Jesus. Motia, the Indians, and now Ray. If we can just keep this crew together, we might just have a shot. We might just get things sorted.

And then, just maybe…maybe I can go home.

 

 

 

 

String Theory, Gun Control, and How it All Really Doesn’t Matter

Well, now that right there is a title.  Ain’t it grand? On Facebook I solicited ideas for blog subjects, and my buddy and occasional teammate and verbal sparring-partner Luke gave me that one.  I thought it pretty much summed everything up, so here we are!

But, of course, it does matter.  Not going to delve too much into a discussion about the multiverse, but here’s the thing about time/space: it’s constant and already there.  Imagine a map of the United States, and straight railroad line from New Jersey to California.  The railway itself is time, carrying us towards some future destination.  We see the landscape pass by and that how we perceive or measure time.  But here’s the thing:  just because we leave New Jersey behind (and for good reason.  I KEED!) doesn’t mean it ceases to exist.  It’s still right there, but our train is going full steam ahead.  All the States we pass though are like days, weeks, years that we’ve traveled through.  They still exist, right where we left ’em.  The trick is getting the train to stop and backing ‘er up.  Is it possible? I think so.  But in order to do that you must lay down some new tracks and leave the old railway behind.  And when you do that, you’ve just created another new set of possibilities.  This happens anyway, every time you make a choice.  Every time you decide to go back to sleep instead of getting up, order Dr. Pepper instead of Coke, watch the rerun of The Jeffersons instead of going for a walk.  There’s an alternate timeline where you kissed your high school crush at that dance instead of chickening out.  And in that reality, you ended up getting married to your crush and having two kids before seeing your marriage fall apart and within that reality there’s also one where you reconcile and end up being married for 60 years and seeing your grandkids go to college.  And one where you murder your true love.  Damn.  Thanks, Luke…you’ve just brought everyone down.  Asshole.  I love you.  (Even though this section really didn’t deal with string theory or gun control.)

He looks so cute when he's all victorious and stuff.

He looks so cute when he’s all victorious and stuff.

Okay, next we have Joe Schultz (whose own idea to crowd-source his blog was the inspiration for this one.)  He says to write about the band Rush.  Dude…did you even read the last paragraph?  Tell me that wasn’t basically the blog version of “Freewill?”  Or maybe “By-Tor and the Snow Dog” since the ORIGINAL story concept had Snow Dog losing.  Plus, By-Tor shows up  in “Caress of Steel” and kills the Necromancer so that the three travelers can escape, which means he’s the hero of the story. See, who knows if he would’ve made that sort of decision if he hadn’t been literally taught a lesson by the defeat at the hands of Snow Dog?

I swear to God, this is one of the top-8 images for "By-Tor" on Google.

I swear to God, this is one of the top-8 images for “By-Tor” on Google.

Jesus, this thing is turning out to be a lot geekier than I had planned.  Okay, how about we hear from a lady?  Kellie wants my thoughts on crispy bacon v. chewy bacon.  Dude.  I don’t know what chewy bacon is all about because I won’t eat the filthy motherfucker.  That shit better not even make it to my plate less’n you wanna feel my PIMP HAND.  (I am 100% legit, folks.  No brag.  Just fact.)

Who the hell would ever even try to market "chewy bacon?"  Makes no goddam sense.

Who the hell would ever even try to market “chewy bacon?” Makes no goddam sense.

Brandin’s question is whether “liking” your own status is the same as laughing at your own joke.  It is.  It totally is, and Joe Schultz does it ALL. THE. TIME.  Then again, Joe needs me to explain to him when things are funny.  True story.

This is actually Joe's profile picture.

This is actually Joe’s profile picture.

USMC and Royal Marine air-traffic controller and all-around officer and gentleman Rob (true story: he’s so bad-ass that he’s actually commanded Marines for two different COUNTRIES.  You’ll never be that awesome, so don’t even try) wants to ponder “Crazy dreams about having to pee because your body is trying to wake you up to go before you wet the bed.” This would really be a good question for Dream Analyst Lauri Loewenberg.  It’s hard for me to really speak about with any sort of experience, because I usually just pass out and wake up in a pool of my own piss and blood. Often, upon awakening, I discover that I’m clutching what seems to be some sort of scalp or pelt.  Weird.

Uh-oh!  Gotta go potty!

Uh-oh! Gotta go potty!

I also had some more musical suggestions, so I’ll cover them all at once.  Joseph (not Joe Schultz) said to write about how excited I am for the Social Distortion show at Piere’s in Ft. Wayne on June 29th.  Extremely.  I’ve seen them before, but to have a legendary band like that playing in our backyard is so wonderful.  Darryl suggested that I wrote about the differences in various styles of Heavy Metal.  The problem is, I’m really not a big “metal” fan.  I prefer punk.  Or Rush.  Plus, as a guy who’s never really followed the genre, I don’t know whether some things I like actually are considered “metal.”  Five Finger Death Punch certainly seems like metal to me, but is a lot more enjoyable than much of what Drew Cage plays on Bear Metal every Saturday at 10m on 98.9 the Bear and online at 989thebear.com!  Sure, there are several bands I can get behind…old-school stuff like Slayer and cheeseball stuff like Manowar…Atreyu seems pretty rad for a more modern band…but, yeah.  That’s pretty much it.

This.  This I know.

This. This I know.

Honorable mentions:  2-ply v. 3-ply toilet paper (see also:  crispy bacon v. chewy bacon), my friends Nick and Shannon getting married, how much fun I had at the last FWDG bout, how I resist the societal pressure to “grow up” and act like a 42-year-old, and the Boston bombings.  Some of these things make me happy, others make me sad, and (other than the toilet paper thing) all deserve more time/space/respect than I can afford at this point.  So, go enjoy the weather and we’ll catch up later, mmmkay?  Thanks!

Wayback Interview: Charles Holland Duell

As many of you know, I have a fully-functioning time machine.  I use it all the time to give people the heads-up on things like the Miami Dolphins’  2015 Super Bowl win and so on (congrats to Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning!) But I thought it’d be nice to really see what this thing could do, so I decided to pry the minds of some of history’s giants.  Okay, maybe “giants” is a bit of a stretch…let’s say interesting footnotes to our societal timeline.  Grand.

First up: Charles Holland Duell. Who is he?  Only the most famous head of the United States Patent and Trademark Office EVAH!! Why is he famous? Because of something he said.  A statement that seems ludicrous today, and incredibly short-sighted. He once recommended that the Patent Office be discontinued because “Everything that can be invented has been invented.”  Dumbass.

"Also? This telphone nonsense is complete bullshit." - C. H. Duell

Charles agreed to let me interview him in the office he used after he was chosen to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals in DC.  It was March 3rd, 1904 and as I entered, Judge Duell sat in a leatherbound chair, smoking a pipe and sipping brandy.  I politely declined his offer of a drink and sat opposite him in a similar armchair to begin the interview.

ME: So, Your Honor.  Do you mind if I address you in a more…familiar manner?

DUELL: Not at all.

ME: Can I call you Chuck?  Or better, Chuckie?  See, in the future there’s this awesome series of movies about a killer doll named Chuckie, and what happens is–

DUELL: You may call me Charles.

ME: Fair enough.  Speaking of the future, do you know if you have a great grandson named Doug?  Because he was my defensive partner when I played hockey in Evansville, and…well…you know.  Same last name.  Small world and all that.

At this point, Charles Duell glared at me in the way that only old judges with bald heads and white mustaches can glare.  He re-lit his pipe and took a long drag.  As he exhaled the blueish smoke, his eyes never so much as blinked. He was a tough customer, this Charles Holland Duell.  And his middle name was a country, so I knew I was in for a challenge.

ME: Well, let’s get right to it.  This quote of yours.  What were you thinking when you said “Every–

DUELL: Nonsense.

ME: Pardon?

DUELL: I never said that.  I never said anything like that.

ME: But…the interwebs…

DUELL: The which?

ME: It’s…it’s this thing that allows computers and mobile devices to…share…um, you can look up, uh…stuff.  I mean, it’s like…

More icy staring. I wondered how to explain Reddit or Wikipedia to someone that barely knew how steam engines worked.  I decided to move on.

Seriously, it's like a bunch of Dwarves got together to find a way to totally fuck the environment.

ME: So you’re saying that this quote that has been attributed to you for, what? Over a century?  You never said that?

DUELL: Correct. I know of this ill-attributed “quote” [editor’s note: at this point, Charles Duell may have given the first-ever “finger-quotes” in American history]  And if you would use your fancy Webnitron or what-have-you to do better research, you would realize that I actually implied quite the opposite.

Me: Oh.  Okay, when I get Back to the Future, I’ll look that up.  But…then, if not you…who?  I mean, are you suggesting that perhaps someone completely made that statement up?

DUELL:  Sir, you have a time-travel device.  Certainly you’re not so vacant and insipid that you believe everything you read.  You can read, can you not?

ME: Oh, I read good!

DUELL: But of course.  Young man, if I may…

ME: Young?  Dude, I’m forty-one years old!

DUELL: Wow…you look really good for forty-one!  I bet you work out, huh?

ME: Oh, yeah!  And you know the real secret? Clean living.

[editor’s note: none of the events from the last three lines ever happened.  Ever.]

DUELL: The truth is, I was and continue to be impressed with the breadth of creativity this great nation has spawned.  Here at the turn of the century, we marvel at splendid advances in the sciences and the arts.  Would you like to hear something that I wrote a few years ago on the subject?

ME: Yes, sir!

Charles Duell then produced a folded piece of good parchment, put on a pair of rimless reading glasses, and read his statement in an authoritarian baritone.

DUELL: Ahem.  In my opinion, all previous advances in the various lines of invention will appear totally insignificant when compared with those which the present century will witness. I almost wish that I might live my life over again to see the wonders which are at the threshold.

He folded the paper lovingly and placed it back inside his jacket.  He then removed his glasses, took a long pull of brandy, and folded his hands in his lap.

DUELL: Have you any further questions?

ME: No, sir.  And thank you for enlightening me.

Charles Holland Buell’s mouth hinted at a smile, and he stood and firmly clasped my hand with his.  His hands were very warm, probably because the dude had spent all day chugging brandy.

DUELL: I envy you.  The things you’ll get to see, the music you’ll hear, the wonderful Velodrome Racing advances you’ll witness. [editor’s note: Velodrome bicycle races were fucking HUGE in the 1900’s]

As I turned to leave, I considered how badly I’d probably messed up the space-time continuum already, but couldn’t help myself.  I had to tell him.

ME: Your Honor, one piece of advice.  In about eight years, say you happen to be in Europe for any reason, do NOT buy a ticket on a boat called the “Titanic.”  Gonna sink, bigger’n shit.  The White Star line will brand it as “unsinkable.”  It ain’t.

DUELL: Another reason you shouldn’t believe everything you read.

ME: Oh, also?  Keep an eye on those Krauts.  Just sayin’.

DUELL: Duly noted.

 

VE ARE NICHT ZE KLAN! ALZO, ZIS IS NICHT EIN SUPERSOAKER!!