I lack drive and focus. Help. I have many ideas. Pasted below are the things I'm currently working on (in that I've started them and hate them and don't have the desire to finish them but need to finish something in order to justify having this blog) you tell me which seems to be worthwhile and I"ll go with it. They are listed in no particular order, Amulet, Sharpshooter, Sherpa, and The Middle of a Pulp Detective Story. Not shown are: Censorship (ten pages worth of one bad joke) , Lenny (focus on Lenny the Frogman, which feels like a half step away from fan fiction) or Accidentally Implying Eternity (which is a relationship story that features the words "The wounds they create are healed" and is about feelings) which are now dead because they are unbearable.
Have a gander, share your thoughts. It's both unhelpful and not funny to suggest Censorship, Lenny or Eternity.
Number One: Amulet.
Mitchel Howard is having a bad day. He is walking home, reviewing the day, having imaginary conversations with real people. Incessantly running through the possible permutations that would have allowed him to keep his shoulders back and his head high. What if I said this. What if I said that. What if this happened. What if I said the same thing that I said it but I said it like this. Unending. It's been a bad day and he just stepped in gum.
Mitchel Howard waddles on the outer edges of his shoes into the street, just far enough to put his foot on the curb and drag his foot against the edge. Scritch. Scratch. Scrape. He is polite enough to do it over the mouth of a sewer so that the gooey bits of used gum fall down into where this gum won't bother anyone ever again.
It is a cloudy day and as the last of the gum falls from his heel, the clouds part for just a moment and the sun blares through, and as he looks up he'd swear he heard an angel's trumpet blaring. It is the horn of a late model, blue sedan. It nearly hits him and it's frightening enough to knock him from his awkward one footed, head tilted, stance. His arms flail wildly and he knows that he is going to fall and that everyone walking by is watching him fall. He twists his upper body to regain his balance, but just succeeds in throwing his weight into the fall. He makes a pitiful sound and lands on his right side, on his elbow and shoulder. He is still regaining his composure when he catches the glint of metal in the sewer. A flash of gold.
Mitch shifts his head back and forth, side to side, trying to catch the light again. When he does he is happy that he has already fallen down.
It's a gold coin. It's a golden amulet. Holy shit it's a golden amulet. Holy shit it's a golden amulet. Holy fucking shit.
"My amulet! Remember the amulet, boy! Remember!"
His grandfather had whispy white hair, unkempt nostrils and an air of disrespectful living. He had a flask and soft pack cigarettes, worn down slippers and a house covered in yellowed maps and charts and photos. He had a globe that was covered in pins and spun open to reveal a cashe of whiskey. The pins marked places where he had drank whiskey.
The maps covered every surface. The walls looked like they were peeling, yellow, lined skin flapping in his open windows, the heat billowing in and making the edges of everything curl, his wild hair frizz and his whiskey sweat.
Charts and maps on each wall, from floor to ceiling, up the stairwell and presumably, into his locked bedroom wall. Up to the atic where he had a scale model of somewhere, buildings and trees, a lake, a motionless model train, a church at the center, it looked spanish, adobe, friendly waving churchgoers, a round headed yellow person that Mitch suspected represented his grandfather was the lone traveler on the map, the only moving piece. His little round head be in a different little place each time Mitch got the nerve to sneak upstairs.
The basement was a garage, occupied by Mitch's Grandtaher's old red pickup a few scatershot maps and more tools than Mitch had ever seen before or since. Mitch would put nails in a vice, end to end and squeeze them until they shot from the top and stuck in the ceiling. His grandfather caught him doing this once and beat him worse than Mitch had ever been beaten before or since.
His grandfather's desk was in the dining room and was the only organized surface in the house. Small sketches of a medalian. A charcoal rub of a medalian. Photos of medalians. A brochure for the Museum of History in Prague with a big, indelible marker X on it. A single brew coffee pot. A picture of his son. A picture of his grandson. A picture of his father's mother with a big, indelible marker X on it. Bifocals and a magnifying glass. They all had a place around the center of the desk, a large world map, with thin, delicately drawn lines that flowed from innumerable cities, islands, four unmarked spots in the middle of the ocean, each corner of the world.
Locked, in the bottom right hand drawer was a pistol and roughly twenty amber bottles with white, child-safe caps.
Mitch's grandfather had told him all about it. Had told him about the Temple of the Gods deep in the "godforsaken jungle". Had told him about the time that a jungle cat, "Big as a volkswagon" jumped out of the bushes, lept across the trail and disapeared with his guide before he knew what was happening. Said that he heard the man screaming for miles, that "Jungle cats would rather eat you alive because your meat stays warm longer". Mitch remembered not eating meat for months after that.
He rememberd mostly that his Grandfather was crazy, that his family was glad to be rid of him, that his mother had started to cry when he screamed "My amulet! Remember the amulet, boy! Remember!" It seemed like everyone though that his grandfather would give it up at some point, maybe if we make him move back into his house, maybe if we stop giving him money, maybe if we have the Green Pastures Mental Facility sent two lumbering goons to drag him backwards from his apartment and watch as his nails dig into paper, paint, drywall and furrow an exit map in the wall. Surely, then, he'll collect himself and say "Alright, enough already" and get back to the buisness of being a grandfather, pat our heads on the bus to the ballgame.
After he was securely locked in Green Pastures and after the head psychaitrist put assigned his best man to the job, and after the best man for the job quit the job, and after the head psychiatrist took on this special case, and after the head psychiatrist presented his findings to a special board, and after the head psychiatrist had enough and took a leave of absense from Green Pastures, and after they denied his grandfather pen and paper, and after they denied him visitors, and after they'd gotten the straight jacket on him, and after he had busted his teeth falling down, and after he'd scrawled a bloody amulet on the floor with his feet, he died alone and was quickly forgotten by his family, his memory sealed in a box of embarrasment and revulsion and tucked under the stairs. He was never spoken of again, except when his grandson sheepishly asked about him, about his project, about his past, about the amulet.
And here was now, a grandson again, playing in the dirt and looking down at the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. He couldn't fit his arm through the bars, and even then, he wouldn't be able to reach. It was a good ways down.
"Are you ok?" From above.
"Are you ok? Are you hurt?" She was on her haunches, asking gently, she wanted to help. She was wearing a blue pantsuit, white sneakers and carrying a khaki jacket in the crook of her left elbow. She set his heart in terrified motion.
"I'm fine. I fell. I'm fine. I'm fine. Thanks. I'm fine."
"Oh. Ok. Are you sure? You're bleeding."
"No I fell, there's nothing down there. I fell, I'm what?"
"Bleeding. You're bleeding"
"Oh Yeah. Absolutely. You sh—I should go. I should go. I fell. I'm sorry."
"Ok." She was looking at him in the way that he worried people looked at him. Confused and a little afraid. He was bumbling. His nerves were firing, his adrenaline was up, he had just fallen, just found treasure, struck oil, eureka! She backed away and let him pass, started to ask him a question but stopped and backed away some more. He was bleeding.
His apartment wasn't far from there. Two streets down, one street over and up the hill. The hill usually killed him. Mitch is out of shape and the hill is exhausting. The excitement carries him through and up and over, and into the bathroom where he vomits. He had run most of the way, his heart is pounding, his elbow is bleeding, he has not had so much excitement in a long time.
Mitch’s hands are shaking as he runs a paper towel under the faucet and dabs it on his elbow. He hasn’t had a skinned elbow since he was a child. His mirrored smile was unfamiliar and beautiful. He was out of breath. The amulet! The amulet. There’s no way that was the amulet. The amulet doesn’t even exist. My grandfather was locked away forever. The amulet was supposed to be in the jungle someplace. That couldn’t have been an amulet. It was in the sewer.
Christ. You fat fuck. Idiot. He punches his hand against the mirror, his elbow stings and he’s happy. Fat fuck fell down in the gutter, cut yourself open, good, you deserve it. You fat fuck.
Mitch’s refrigerator has a calendar stuck to it that his mother got him for his birthday. She sends him a calendar every year, one for his birthday, one for Christmas. They collect dust. Inside the refrigerator there is little more than cheap beer and old take out. When the door shuts, the fridge rocks back and forth, one of it’s castors had rusted away and now it wobbles like a diner table. It’s wobble is eased by the weight of one beer.
Mitch thuds down in a brown recliner, and turns on the television. An empty beer can is placed on the floor next to him after each show. He watches a lot of television and falls asleep.
His grandfather lived like a poor man. He had always been poor. But he was a man of means. He was young once. An adventurer. A man who found treasure. A man who knew the ports, knew where to find ancient maps, knew beautiful women who pet his ears with secrets. He knew the back alleys, the passwords, the secret passages and the escape routes. His guide didn’t speak English, and he only spoke English, but they had an understanding and someone would show him the way.
As an older man, he visited the museum of ancient history three times a week and never had enough money to pay for a ticket. He’d swindle his way in, sneak in, until he could chat up an older lady who worked there. Museums were full of old ladies, and he’d date them in the museum on their work hours and more often than not, run away when they went around a corner. “I got lost” he’d say if they got mad. Old men are forgetful, prone to misplacing things, even people.
There were still things to be learned from each piece in the museum, each piece a puzzle. Such a smart old man. How disappointed he would be in his grandson.
Mitch wakes up because he’s supposed to. He wears a navy blue suit. He wears it three times a week. He wears the gray suit twice a week. He wakes up too late to walk to work and sometimes misses the bus. He’s late to work about as much as he wears the gray suit. Nobody notices. Even if they did, he’s a fixture. He’s worked there longer than anyone. Seniority has certain privilages. Showing up late. Sexually harassing the secretary. Mitch feels that he’s grandfathered his way into these things. That his tenure there has allowed him the occasional, even twice weekly snooze button, the occasional even twice monthly ass swat. Ginger. He had a secretary named Ginger. She had a voice like rusty swings. She wore pink skirts and high heels. She was thirty two at the latest and insisted that she was twenty nine. He figured that she was made in a laboratory that made secretaries for lecherous bosses. They have had sex in his office five times, once a year, every year since she’s been here, each time he has worn a santa hat and she has eaten a half dozen martini olives.
She calls it his christmas bonus. Any further advances after the christmas party are quickly dismissed, but she allows the occasional pinch, the occasional pet, and she provides him with the occasional glimpe, the occasional gander. “My oh My.” he’d say so she knew that he had seen down her shirt or up her skirt. She was the only woman in his life, and had been for more than five years. He was a horrible failure with women, she was a horrible secretary. Mitch figured it was better than most marriages. Better than hers anyway.
Louis. Louis her husband. Louis was a six foot five monkey wrench. Mitch thought he seemed like a nice enough guy. He didn’t know much apart from how much Ginger hated him and how once a year, for two weeks, he spent Christmas in the Keys fishing with his buddies. Mitch sent Ginger home with a bottle of booze every year. “For Louis, for fishing” and she’d wink and wiggle as she walked away.
My oh My.
Ginger brought him coffee in the morning. He pulled her inside and shut the door. Abruptly. Forcefully. He grabbed her shoulders and held her against the door. Coffee spilled down her arm and onto the carpet. Dot. Dot. Dot. She was frightened. “I have to tell you something.”
“Mr. Howard?” She looked at his hands, and he pulled them away. “Ah, jesus, I’m sorry Ginge. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Let me -- here.” He took the coffee and went for his handkerchief, he wiped the coffee from her arm and caught himself staring at her. It was August. “Shit. I’m sorry. Did it burn? I’m sorry.”
She put her hand on his, and he blushed and put his handkerchief away. He went behind the desk, and paced, motioned for her to sit. “Do you want me to take notes?” No. None of that. I found something, Ginger.
“I found a thing. A thing that I thought – What if you think you saw something and it wasnt there? What if you saw something only once and it turned out not to be there, does that make you crazy? Would I be crazy if that happened? What happens if that happens, Ginger? What then? Do you think I should go away? Is that something that happens? I don’t know – Hows your arm. Are you burned? We could get some calamine.”
“I have an aloe at my desk”
“Sure you do. Absolutely you do. I got you that, that’s right. I got that. What if it isn’t there, Ginger? Huh?”
“Mitch, honey, slow down.”
“Ginger. What if I found it? Do you see? Do you see what that means, if I found it? And what if I didn’t. What if I didn’t find it and it’s not there and what does that mean? Do you understand that?”
“The goddamned amulet, Ginger. Big as a goddamned tomato.” He took a moment to explain, frantically explain. By the end of the story he was sitting on the floor with his head tilted back into her lap, she had a cold compress on his head and was humming. She wanted to put bactine on his elbow, but he wouldn’t let her.
“If it’s not there, will you think I’m crazy?” She shook her head no, and pulled his head back onto her lap, and hummed louder. She thought about the sewers and the time Maggie McCleary got her heel caught on a sewer lid and knocked out her front teeth and how everybody laughed until they saw all the mess. “I don’t think you should be messing around with the sewer, hon. Lord only knows what’s down there” Except teeth, she thought. There were at least two teeth. “My friend Maggie – “
“I should go.” He cut her off, he was always cutting her off. A lot of people cut her off. “If Davidson calls, you call me on my cell. No, fuck Davidson. If Davidson calls you tell him I had a family emergency. That my cell phone is off because they don’t let you have it on in the hospital. No phone. No calls. I’ll be back when I can be back.”
The amulet is four inches in diameter. Solid gold. It was heavilly ing
(The following is also a part of this story but not yet inserted anywhere, just wanted to play with the old man some more)
He was old already. He'd pretended to be a sickly old man, wrapped in blankets in a hundred degree heat. His guide told the guards that he was crazy, that he was sick and could not speak. His guide told them that he just wanted to pay his respects. He'd make an offering to the pit. He offered gold for proof, for payment, for passage.
The jungle was kept at bay by hordes of slaves. It required daily upkeep. The path from the gates to the pit was three miles, maybe more. Each inch of it was being beat back by sickly thin men with machettes. Each man was hunched over and curled, every back had scars from lashes, each of them dying right there, losing the fight against the jungle. God, how it grew. At sunset, they would retreat to their homes and sleep, tend to their families, their sons would tend to the fathers wounds. Rub their hands in rainwater, mend the sores with Uurdo Root, bathe their blistered backs with the leaves and wait for the days when they would continue the fight, have sons of their own who would mend their wounds and bathe their sores and pray to The Master, quietly wish for his death and their salvation. And in the morning, back to the
For miles just the sounds of slashing and hacking. Singing had been outlawed, it was said to disturb The Master. That it would make The Master rise from his chambers, that he kill them all. It was said that he would make the very ground boil under your feet, that he would turn the sky to smoke and that just a trace of his breath would kill a man.
Number Two: Sharpshooter
He once shot an apple off a damsel's head from a hundred yards with a six-shooter he stole from a pistolero he'd killed in the ages. Back turned. Quick draw. Cored Apple. The damsel, she fainted.
The trip has gotten dustier. By rail now, carriages loaded on the back. Easier trip, but louder, but dustier. He'd had a wind storm creep up on him, pelted the windows with sand for hours. Took him by surprise. Never would've happened on the wagon.
It got so bad for a bit, everyone made them stop the train. Said they couldn't see the tracks, that they were in cattle country, the cattle wouldn't see them either, they'd wind up in a heap. Got everyone real nervous about it. About wrecking the train, about missing the show. Every inch of the strong man was shaking about falling into a ravine. Said he didn't know it could go off the rails. They got him from someplace in Europe. Lifts huge weights. A barrel of ladies. Bent steel bars. Keeps a close eye on The Cannonball. A little guy. He gets fired from the cannon. Lands in a big net. Wears a helmet he stole from the locker room from his private school. He got teased a bunch and ran off to the circus.
A few months ago, they'd given him his own sleeper cabin on the train. Said it was out of deference to his tenure with the show, made a big deal out of it, tipped caps and clapping. Had a little ribbon at the entryway. He'd noticed they'd also given him his own table in the diner car, his own section of the smoking lounge, his own conversation to keep. He'd take his meals in the cabin now, stopped trying to talk to the Strongman, stopped teasing the Cannonball. He couldn't keep quiet during the storm. He got bored, got behind the bar when no one was looking. Got drunk and mean. Called for the train to start. Said he'd kill the engineer. Called them all cowards and liars. The strongman dragged him into his room and tied him into his chair, and was kind enough to set a magazine on his lap. "We could die if we go. We wait instead. You wait too." He'd already read the magazine, screamed at The Strongman to come back. Said he'd killed bigger men. The Strongman came back, his body too big for the door, had to duck and step in sideways, his elbows knocked trinkets from the shelves; arrow heads, bullets and medals. "You sleep. I know how you don't sleep. You should sleep now." The Strongman patted his head and ducked out of sight again.
Arthur "The Gunman" Pistolero. A titan. Shot out the lights in nine counties. Killed more men than he had hairs on his head. Had two guns on his hips and one in his boot. Shot the eye teeth from a rabid wolf and the belly button from a warden in the same day. Was a drunk old man tied to a chair in a sandstorm in the middle of god knows where. Screaming.
He changed his name. For the warrants. Wouldn't do him any good to perform from town to town under his real name. Someone was liable to see him, someone he owed money or the brother of someone he'd killed, any number of sheriff's in any number of towns could put the screws to him at any given time of day. Wouldn't do him any good to get hauled off right in the middle of a show. Have a duel right then and there. The whole crowd watching, right in the center ring. Just Arthur The Gunman Pistolero and maybe Dale Nechas from Dwight Country from out of the stands. Have it out right there. Wouldn't do. Kids in the audience. No sense in all those people seeing Art gun a man down like the wrath of the Almighty.
Changed it from whatever it was. He'd changed it so much he didn't remember now. Had different names for different counties and towns. His companion at the time was a man named Shooter Willis. Had a mind like a damned trap. The Ringmaster came up with the name at the end. Said they'd needed a sharpshooter. A trick gunman. Said that they had one at The Webber Hilliard Circus. Said they had some man that could shoot the frost off a snowflake. Arthur told The Ringmaster that he could do just that, in fact, when he was done, a man could light his cigar from it. They shook hands. Years ago.
He started appearing regularly as The Vigilante. He'd come out in a hood, to protect his identity. Shoot metal mock-ups of men up and down a phony Old West street. All done with wires. They'd pop out from behind door ways and windows and Arthur would put a bullet in them. Front door right, second window, water trough, chimney, stagecoach, stagecoach, hangman's gallows, saloon. Two guns. Twelve bullets. Four misses, or five bullets into the saloon for the big finish. Spin the guns and take a bow. Easy money. Like stealing.
They cancelled that bit after a few months. The town was a lot of setting up and taking down and transporting. The whole set up needed it's own car on the train. Needed a crewman behind the walls to run the wires. First The Cannonball and then Dave Stanton. Dave was about the only man Arthur talked to in those days. Dave liked the road for his own reasons. Nobody remembers where they'd picked him up. He kept to himself when he wasn't drinking with Arthur. Never mentioned where he was from or where he was going, just a drifter that got taken in. Earned his cot and his meals. Spent about a year with the show before they buried him just North of Clarksville on their way up to Trinchero for the Solstice. He caught a stray in the neck when The Gunman was about halfway through the Metal Man Town. Missed by a foot and a half, went through to the booth where he pulled the wires and caught him just under the chin. Made the finale of The Gunman's show difficult, no more men to kill. The Gunman found Dave. He'd gone up there to shout at him for falling asleep, made a hell of a fuss, disrupted the Cannonball's introduction.
That night as they were set to leave The Gunman arrived hours late, drunk. He stopped back at the train for his hat and some things. He threw him into the bathroom and kicked him in the face. The spurs left a gash across his right cheek. It's deep, jagged and purple. You can't see it under the helmet. The Strongman lurched towards Arthur, cramped, his shoulders cracking the wall panels as he ran. Arthur tried to run but stumbled. He threw Arthur down the hallway, over the railing, onto the tracks. Arthur landed unharmed, his fall broken by the whiskey. The strong man was leaning over the railing, shouting in German and crying. The broken toilet was pouring water on The Cannonball, unconscious and bleeding.
It would be the first time he quit. It was the last appearance for Arthur's The Vigilante.
Time passed. At eleven he graduated from a prestigious East Coast University. The feat made all the papers as he was the youngest person to ever graduate with honors from Howitzer University. The last time a child had successfully graduated from the esteemed university was some years prior. A boy by the name of Pak Hidoshi graduated at the tender age of fourteen in 1967. Mr. Howitzer proceeded to fire the entire staff of Howitzer University and accused Pak of being a communist spy. Pak was deported a short time later to whereabouts unknown. His parents, New Jersey natives Carol and Allan Hidoshi, refused to comment at the time of this writing.
At age twelve William Howitzer III was hospitalized for a brief period of time for a bleeding ulcer and “exhaustion.” It was rumored that William Howitzer III had fled the hospital against doctors orders sighting his desire to watch cartoons in his tv room. “No fucking Jetsons.” was sited on his release form under “Reason for early departure.”
The following year William Howitzer III began his lifelong love affair with the entertainment business. His first television show “Howitzer Brand Cereal Flakes Presents: Bears!” was an early attempt to explore the medium and exploit bears. The show was difficult to follow and it’s ratings poor. It’s rumored that young Howitzer would repeatedly call the station and demand more challenging and risky tricks to be performed by the bears and their trainers. A former station employee was recently interviewed by Insider Weekly, the entertainment trade magazine. A quote from that interview is listed below:
“Four or five times a show I’d get a call from the kid demanding better tricks. They were all crazy. Once he told me to have Dave [David Batson, Bear Trainer -ed.] hit Bingo the Bear with a pie and then squirt it with water. ‘Like the stooges,’ he said. Another time he wanted to have Bingo the Bear hold the ring of fire while Dave rode the unicycle through it. It was like that every night.” David Batson was fired the following year for being mauled by Bingo the Bear. His family sued unsuccessfully on his behalf.
At the end of his thirteenth year he was readmitted to Cedar Sinai Hospital for stomach complications. The unconscious William was brought to the hospital via black limousine and remained in the facility for approximately three weeks following his admission. A legendary paparazzi photo captures a gaunt William Howitzer III being wheeled out of Cedar Sinai by a male orderly named Louis Amentine. Mr. Amentine is currently Head Orderly at Cedar Sinai, he had this to say. “That boy was damn near dead when they wheeled him out of here. Still don’t know what the hell got in him, but it damn sure wasn’t good.” Nearly twenty five years later, the details of Mr Howitzer’s stay are largely mysterious. Common belief is that was connected to an announcement made the following spring on “Howitzer Brand Cereal Flakes Presents: Bears and Elephants.” Elephants had been added.
The announcement came at the start of the program and occupied the majority of the telecast. The thirteen year old William Howitzer sat at a large oak desk and read slowly from a paper held in front of his hands and would at times obscure large portions of his face. The company maintains that he wrote the speech himself, though it’s been suggested that he had commissioned a writer despite his impressive college education. It was very much his decision however that the Elephants and Bears be featured in a small sub-screen in the bottom right corner throughout his urgent announcement
A transcript of the telecast has been provided by The Foundation for The Hearing Impaired, who provided subtitles for those in need. Our thanks to The Foundation for allowing us to reprint the following transcript of the night’s telecast:
[Announcer] Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls. Welcome to Howitzer Brand Cereal Flake’s Presents Bears and Elephants! Tonight, we have a Howitzer Brand Treat for you. Howitzer Brand Cereal Flakes Presents, child owner, William Howitzer The Third!!
[William Howitzer III] Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is William Howitzer the Third. I apologize for the interruption to tonight’s broadcast. At my request, the usual program will continue during my speech in the lower right hand corner of your screen.
I would like to thank everyone for enjoying Howitzer Brand Cereal Flakes. We love that you love Howitzer Brand Cereal Flakes. We thank you for making Howitzer Brand Cereal Flakes the number one breakfast cereal in the nation. This announcement may frighten some and I ask that all children be accompanied by a parent or gaurdian at this time. Howitzer Brand Cereal Flakes will not be held responsible for unattended children witnessing this urgent bulletin.
subset [Bear] Loud growl.
[William Howitzer III] Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, as I speak, boxes of Howitzer Brand Cereal Flakes are being pulled from the shelves of every store across the nation and will no longer be sold by our company.
subset [Elephant scream] [Bear growl] [Trainer whip] [More growling and screaming]
[William Howitzer III] It has been reported accurately that I have been recently hospitalized for a serious condition. It was during this time that I have realized that we are not offering a wholesome product, a family product, a product safe for children.
subset [Trainer] Up, Bingo, up!
[William Howitzer III] After my realization, I decided to discontinue Howitzer Brand Cereal Flakes, the number one breakfast cereal in the nation. It came at the distress of my board members, many of whom are in need of work. I wish that you, the home viewer, are not angry with my decision, and will allow me to explain to you and your children, if they’re still in the room, and I hope it does not cause too much distress.
subset [Bear growl] [elephant scream] [Trainer] No no, Bingo. No. Zambezi, down. Down Zambezi!
[William Howitzer III] After having my first bowl of Howitzer Brand Cereal Flakes, the number one cereal in the nation, in over three years on the day of my release, I decided that the product is sub-par. I mean, it’s gross. I don’t like it, your kids don’t like it either. It’s like vegetables or something. (Cough) I will not sell such a product. Howitzer Brand Cereal Flakes is officially off the market.
subset [Commotion from Bear/Elephant fight] [Trainer whip]
[William Howitzer III] Your children are foremost in our minds. We wish to give them nothing but the best possible product we can. When you go to the market in the morning, you will note an empty space where Howitzer Brand Cereal Flakes used to occupy. We apologize if this should leave a similar hole your morning routine.
subset [Trainer scream] [Bear whip]
[William Howitzer III] But! We wish to fill your hole again. But not with Howitzer Brand Cereal Flakes, but with Howzies Frosted Crunch! [fanfare.] I would like to welcome you to a new era in cereal refreshment: Frosting. I have been diligently researching frostings for the last six months, ladies and gentlemen boys and girls. It’s like the best part of cake on the worst part of cereal. Those old timey flakes were bland and had almost no sugar whatsoever. Start your day off right with Howzies! Howzies have been miticulously tested and retested and I have been assured by my scientists that it’s the only frosted cereal on the market. Add a little zing to your step with Howzies! Isn’t that right Crunchalumpamus?
[Crunchalumpamus] That’s right Mr. The Third!
Subset [Elephant stomping] [Lense shatter]
[William Howitzer III] Crunchalumpamus is your new friend, boys and girls. He’s a space hippo from Neptune and he just loves –
[Crunchalumpamus] FROSTING! FROSTING! FROSTING!
[William Howitzer III] Crunchalumpamus! Behave! Anyway boys and girls, I’ll let you get back to The Howzies Frosting Hour, but be sure to get up early tomorrow to be the first on your block to try some Howzies Frosted Crunch!
subset [fire alarm] [sobbing]
This peice of broadcasting has been studied by advertising and marketing scholars since the moment it was seen. The innovations were countless. Howitzer, in a single broadcast changed the face of cereal marketing. He introduced frosting to cereal, a breakthrough in breakfast-time nourishment. His was the first cereal to have a cartoon representative who appeared to be painfully, remorselessly addicted to the product he represented; opening the door for the likes of Chester Cheetah, The Trix Rabbit, and Joe Camel. He even changed the very name of his legendary cereal to a more marketable, edgy and memorable one. It was considered a daring move by all industry insiders.
A member of the board who was fired around the time of the announcement, and who wishes to remain anonymous, had a larger insight to offer: “Daring? No. It wasn’t daring. He was taking the company global, starting in Europe.” The correlation may not seem obvious until later in the interview when the illumination is presented: “Lets say you lived in Europe in 1967 and you had to choose between Old Maids Wheat Puffs and Howitzer Brand Cereal Flakes, which would you choose? Would you go for the knitting old woman who fixed you a nice breakfast, or the tank that killed your family and blew up your house?” A crude point, but a very good one. Real estate all over Europe had been furiously renovated by Howitzer Tanks during the Second World War.
With the catchy new slogan and the help of a friendly Neptunian Hippopotamus, the sugary morning meal made the jump across the Atlantic Ocean into eager British teeth.
At home the effect of the broadcast was even more impressive. Many schools were closed due to lack of attendence and lines of eager children errupted out of stores and down sidewalks. In at least five instances riots occoured when the cereal sold out. Store Owner Christian DuMonts recalled: “There was a riot.” When pressed further, Mr. DuMonts recalled: “Because of that cereal, with the purple thing on the front. I don’t know what the fuck it was. You want a bag?” The purple thing was, in fact, Crunchalumpamus.
Time passed. The lawsuits dwindled from children injured during the great unveiling. The cereal entrenched itself as the must-have item of the year. Christmastime was especially easy for Santa Claus as visions of Howzies Frosted Crunch danced in the childrens heads. The factories were running at 200 percent production. Three shifts became incessantly milling in William’s back yard. The Robot Violence Center and Trampoline Island were steadilly swarmed with the workers children. A constant steady stream of frosted production generated an impossible ammount of income for the young owner.
In the two years that followed few innovations appeared. The only notable achievements were the attachment of tiny dynamos to the bottoms of all the trampolines in trampoline island, which nearly negated the factories dependence on the city’s power grid. Up and down, up and down all day long, hundreds of feet pounding, pushing and driving the dynamos winding the gyros spinning and sparking the energy creating the flaky frosting pumped to the tasting of tiny red tongues that would devour the sugar and power the jumping up and down up and down all day long. A constant source of renewable energy had been created for the purpose of feuling the factory that feuled the children and on and on.
The other notable achievement was the Emmy Award granted to William for outstanding acchievement in children’s entertainment at the 22nd Annual Emmy Awards, which were brought to you by Howzie’s Frosted Crunch. In his acceptance speech William thanked Chumpalumpamus, Bingo, Zambezi and the late David Batson. He walked off stage to a smattering of applause and it’s rumored that he left his congratulatory statuette in the bathroom before leaving.
His appearance at the 22nd Annual Emmy Awards was his last public appearance for many long years. His stage right exit that night, was a slow, purposeful walk in which he held a statuette high in the air as his eyes held the floor as he walked behind the red curtain and out of public view for the final time.
In hindsight, the boy geniuses’ acceptance speech holds some mysterious language, we again thank The Foundation for the Hearing Impaired for providing us a transcript of Willam’s acceptance speech:
[William Howitzer III] Thank you, thank you. I’d first like to thank Bingo the Bear, Zambezi The Elephant, and the late Dave Batson, without whom none of this would be possible.
[William Howitzer III] Howzies Frosted Crunch Animal Hour was an idea I had when I was only 9 years old. I liked bears, and I thought I’d like to see more of them. It’s been a wonderful experience. Thank You very much.
And that was all. He wouldn’t reappear on television for several years. He walked off stage and into his darker and more private years. Little is known of Williams whereabouts for the next number of years.
I would like to take a moment of your time to explain the following chapter. When researching this project, and the monumental characters contained therein, it became increasingly apparent that William’s Lost Years would provide me with a difficult task: How could I write about a figure whose formative years were so shrouded in mystery?
I have devoted many hours of research attempting to divine this information from dozens of sources. Unfortunately, very little information was gathered from these hours. I beg you to keep the following in mind while reading the remainder of this section: William had already graduated college, there are no further school records to assertain. Howzie’s Frosted Crunch was owned privately by William, it did not fall under the umbrella of the former Howitzer empire, which was a publicly traded company. Therefore, little is known of the company’s inner workings, there were no shareholder meetings, stock reports, SEC filings. There was simply William. William’s young, troubled mind.
His need for secrecy was instantly apparent, according to Kevin Rhoades, a former board member who, according to Rhoades, asked too many questions at the board meeting following the 22nd Annual Emmy Awards:
“The kid was out of his mind. He came back, said ‘From now on, what I say in this room goes, and what is said here, stays here. From now on, everything is dead quiet. Or else.’ or something to that effect. So I was just curious about what happened. GO BACK AND MAKE THE EVENT MORE EMOTIONAL. FLUTTERED HECTIC. So I ask him what happened. He says he doesn’t want to talk about it. I try not to press him, but I don’t know what he means by ‘dead quiet or else.’ so I ask him. And he says ‘you’re fired.’ And I was fired. By an eleven year old."
The silence that reigned in the board room was, and remains, legendary. Following Rhoades’ dismissal, the boardroom operated on complete secrecy. It remains to this day. I’ve interviewed several of the former board members, several of the wives of the former board members and several of the surviving children of the former board members and none have been able to supply me with very much relevant information. The boardroom remains closed.
Further complicating the matter of William’s whereabouts during this time is that the American public’s fascination with William quickly faded after his final appearance. Had William made more of a formal statement, a grand farewell, his disapearance would have been as spectacular as his life had been to that point. Interest would have remained high, articles about his current whereabouts would circulate in every newspaper, tabliod print and barber shop across the country. However, William simply slipped past the curtain and out of the limelight for years. His exit was simple, unimpressive and not very memberable. He allowed his audience to watch his exit without their realizing how big of an exit it was.
William’s exit was further aided by the American economy. Shortly after William’s disapearance, the economy began to tumble, jobs were lost, buisnesses failed, homes were mortgaged. William Howitzer was no longer a symbol of opportuninty, he was a symbol of the decadent American aristocracy. A symbol of wealth and good fortune, a fortunate son to be sneered at and cursed. What did he know of the troubles of the working man? That little brat never worked a day in his life. His cereal is overpriced anyway. The working man was turning against him and it’s not known if his disaperance was intentionally timed, or if good fortune was continuing to smile upon him.
These years, then, are difficult to track by even the most diligent of researchers. His company operated from behind closed doors. William’s public persona was tarnished through no fault of his own. His show was cancelled after the public’s fear of Bears and Elephants were replaced with Bankruptcy and Communists.
William carried an interesting image. To much of the public, he was simply an abberation, a young boy who was left a vast inheritance and had become a mascot for his father’s company. To others, a fortunate son, a walking example of the American aristocracy who didn’t earn a cent he had. An undeserving child born with a silver spoon in his mouth. William’s image to the public quickly faded and was soon forgotten.
This chapter, then, shall be devoted to those around him during his quiet years. The chapter that follows shall be devoted to what accounts could be gathered from those closest to him. We'll start in his inner sanctrum, his family estate in Constance, Virginia, "The Howitzer Estate" or "Awesome House", as it was known.
Rose Fetsko is a Czeclosovakian immigrant. She arrived in the united states at the age of five with her parents Olexis and Dalek Fetsko and was processed through Ellis Island with hundreds of other European immigrants. "I can still remember the smell. Thousands of people that had been stuck in tiny steamer cabins for months" she laughed "But it was also beautiful. So much hope in one room all at once."
Rose was born Ruzena, but was anglicized when she reached the states. Her parents retained their names, but were registered at Ellis Island and in all official documents from that point as Anne and Andy. "There didnt seem to be much reason behind it. We became friendly with the family behind us, they were also from Czechlosovakia, two towns over from our family. Their little girl and I sang songs and played games during the voyage. Coming in their names were Krystof, Marta, and Rustika going out their names were Jerry, Jerry Anne and Stinka" said Rose.
Four. Continuing "The Middle of a Pulp Detective Story"
The process always killed him. The process. The processing. The papers. The lights, oh god the lights, too bright and blinding, made him dizzy and tired. The building drained the life from him. He had to be downtown in midday. Hell.
The detective took the trains that he used to navigate the city with, back a few years when they used to run all night. Before some goddamned noise committee popped up and made it illegal to get someplace at three in the morning. Sometimes he had places to be at three in the morning. "Noise committee. Idiots." He thought. A few years back the rich folks moved into the art centers, which used to be poor folks in the poor centers, people that needed the trains to get to their after-dark places, gin joints, hush-hush hotels or their gig cleaning houses or digging graves. Real people.
Dowtown. Midday. Hot as hell. He wasn't used to the sun. He wasn't used to the crowds. The people were chattering away, heads high, quick moving, healthy smelling. He was uncomfortable and afraid, short of breath and sweating, he was anxious for it to be over. The whole excercize would set him back a day, he should be asleep now, he'd wasted too much time at Lucy's pulling information about The Rat. The Rat had disapeared, he'd done it before, establishing an alabi. It didn't matter. He'd still have to let Guns out of the clink to get the rat to talk.
Guns Champlain. Fuck. He knew that Magnus St. Cloud, Jerry "Crumbles" Fitsgivens and Tate Onassis were all cooped up in cell block D, but The Detective knew the only peice of The Rat's dirty little chess board worth a damn, worth a name, a location, or anything regarding The Monk would be Oliver "Olly" "Guns" Champlain. The Detective knew that the Rat knew that the Detective would be desperate. The stupid case has been all over the papers. Hasher leaked to the press, thought it would generate leads. Just tied up the goddamned phones and three good men. The Monk loved the limelight, he traded in fashionable gore, made it interesting for the public, thought people would write books about him someday. That's why the bloody messages, the teenagers piled high in box cars, it's all macabre and interesting, makes the typewriters smoke, the papers fly from the shelves, gets his name on peoples lips.
"I hate this goddamned sun" The detective was walking the wrong way up 32nd street to the D.A.s office, muscling his way past thirty something investment bankers, he counted forty five pairs of sunglasses from the corner of Alabaster and 32nd to now, in the footprint of City Hall. People had stared at him. He could pass for homeless. He looked like a bum and he knew it. He tried to flatten his hair with his hand and some spit but it was no good. She knew he was a bum too.
They'd had a good enough life. It didn't last long. They were hot headed, angry people. He liked to drink, she hated that he drank. They liked to argue about nothing; she'd punched him once for leaving bananas on the counter. Said they attracted bugs, they belonged in the fridge, hauled off and hit him after a half an hour of hollaring . Left cross. Split his lip straight up the middle, didn't hurt much but it bled for two days off and on. It burned out pretty quick, about a year or so in. He was cheating on her with some broad from the southside beat. Barely remembered her name. Darla did.
"Hey Chief." She said
"Don't call me that."
"I don't know. You know I don't know."
"Aw chief, what happened? She call it off?"
"You look like hell, Chief."
"Don't call me that."
She goes on with the ball breaking. He takes it and tries not to look around too much. Everyone knew him. Everyone was watching him. Everyone knew their history. Everyone was listening. Every window in this fucking place is wide open and every goddamned light is on. The Detective is out of his element, he's hunched over, elbows on his knees, looking at the floor. When it seems like she's about done, he interrupts just a little:
"You still smoke?"
"Then lets go burn one and talk. Outside."
She abliges him. She's curious. He's always up to something. Hasher still screams about him from time to time. He heard about beating the whole squad to Monk's hide out, figured out that crazy puzzle Monk put together, even got a special message from the Monk. She's heard people wondering too loudly about the connection, if The Detective is The Monk. Absurd. But she's not stupid. She knows he's here for a favor, he wouldn't come in otherwise. Must be something important.
"No. No fucking way. No. Just not a chance"
"I need this, Darla."
"I know you do, Chief"
"Stop calling me the fucking Chief. Hasher's the chief. I barely draw a check."
"Fine. But theres still no way this can happen, I can't get Guns loose, maybe I can get you Tate, maybe, but even that's pushing it. There's no way. Guns killed three kids a bowling alley."
"Oh jesus, Roy. Yes by accident, he went there to kill two mobsters and killed two mobsters plus three kids, what a boo-boo, here's the key to his cell. You're out of your mind if you think we can get him out."
"I need the Monk. I have to get to the Rat to get to the Monk. I need Guns to get to the Rat."
"Would you listen to yourself? What do you think this is? He killed three kids. He's off limits. End of story."
"If we don't him loose, Monk'll get him loose. Monk's going to round up his crew and they're going to disapear underground maybe for good. If we let him loose, he gives me the information, you follow him for a day and pick him up again for jay walking, say he was violating the terms of his parole and he's out of the sunlight for twenty years. Nobody cares one way or the other, everyone wants the Monk, it's all over the goddamned papers."
"And that's why you want it – "
"No it aint."
"Yes it is, you want it because your name is next to his in all the goddamned papers. They think you're insane, you're obsessed, and you're stupid."
"Yeah, well they gotta be right sometimes. Look, Darla, do this for me, for old times sake."
"Don't give me that shit. That's never going to work."
Choose wisely, Ether.