Monday, November 17, 2008

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 105: staccato

In our previous chapter, Daphne’s extra-terrestrial father -- "Mac" MacNamara -- began to present our heroes (and our not-quite heroes Frank and Brad) his apologia pro vita sua.

Scene: the bridge of one of the beautiful new 1969 flying saucers -- the ones with the mahogany trim and built-in chrome ashtrays -- in an alternate dimension somewhere between the Earth and the Moon. Next stop: a town called Disdain…

Mac ignored this last remark.

Dick came up from the refrigerator with a can of Pabst, turned and picked up the two fresh martinis with the splayed fingers of his left hand.

“Sorry, Mac,” he said. “Excuse me.”

“Not at all, Dick. I think I’ll just have one more splash myself before I have to take the wheel again.”

Dick went past Mr. MacNamara with the drinks, and Mac reached for the bottle of Cutty.

“I wanted to be in the casino to meet you all,” he said, pouring his splash, well, two splashes. “I begged the Home Office to send me out.”

He re-capped the bottle, picked up his glass, swirled the scotch while Dick handed the beer to Harvey and a martini to Daphne, who was half-sitting in Dick’s vacated seat. She started to get up but Dick waved her down.

Mac went on:

“I was afraid of what’d happen with this mook in charge.” Mac gestured toward Frank with his glass. Frank shrugged, and Mac paused, taking a drink.

“But they wouldn’t let me go,” he said. “Said I was too emotionally involved.”

“Q. E. fucking D.,” said Frank.

“But I knew I had to come,” said Mac. “Something didn’t smell right. Especially you, Frank. You didn’t smell right.”

“Ah, dry up.”

“But --” said Daphne, “how did you get back, Papa?”

Buddy answered her question while flicking a couple of switches:

“We hijacked this damn saucer is how we got here.”

“Oh my God,” said Daphne, “look at you two!”

“And ain’t it a beauty,” said Buddy. “I been working on this baby personally for the past five years. State of the art. Travels like a shot through four different dimensions. Man, I couldn’t wait to get this scooter on the road.”

“Buddy,” asked Daphne, “if you don’t mind my asking -- are you human?”

“Sure am, miss,” said Buddy, turning one of several small wheels just a smidgeon back and then forth. “Y’know, I first met the Major back in ’42, when he recruited me for the OSS. Now normally I fuckin’ hated officers, y’know? But the Major was different, he was a Joe. Only later did I realize how different he was. Anyways, we went through the war together, and I been with him ever since on the QT. Everybody thought I was just an easygoing mechanic in Cape May, New Jersey, who liked to go off on fishing trips whenever he felt like it. But actually I was off with the Major someplace helpin’ him out while he headed off some war or revolution in some goddam exotic clime or other.”

“Couldn’t have done it without you, Buddy,” said Mac.

“And so you went back to this other planet with him?” asked Daphne.

“What the hell,” said Buddy. “It was innerestin’. Although I gotta say it’ll be nice to get back to the Earth, get a real hot dog, a real cheesesteak -- a real dame -- hoo boy, just wait’ll I get my hands on a hot --”

“All right, Buddy --” said Mac.

“Sorry, Major.”

“Anyway,” Mac went on, “the truth is, Francis Albert here never wanted to bring you people in on the deal. I don’t know what he told you, but I’ll lay eight-to-five he offered you what looked like one sweet package all tied up with a pink ribbon.”

“I offered ‘em what you wanted to give ‘em all along,” said Frank, “-- power.”

“Yeah, I’ll bet you did,” said Mac. “But who would be the power behind the power, Frank?”

“Hey,” said Frank, “with the Sailor knocked off, it’s my job to, to oversee operations --”

“And for how long have you been trying to get the Sailor out of the way, Frank?”

“What? What?” said Frank. “The sailor and me, we go back, way back -- why, we were makin’ our bones on the Alpha Centauri caper when you were in short pants, pal. I’d’ve given my right arm for that little guy. On my mother’s grave. On all five of my mothers’ graves, may they rest in --”

“No kidding,” said Mac. “Then why’d you arrange for Hans Grupler to get involved in that heroin deal in Saigon?”

“Wha’?”

“Just when you knew Dick and Daphne would be there.”

“Hey,” said Frank, getting up off his seat, and taking a step toward Mac, who was leaning back against the bar, “it’s called coincidence, Mac.” He held up his empty glass. “Hey, Mac, ya mind if I --”

“Coincidence,” said Mac. “Like it was a coincidence that the Sailor left the ramp down on his saucer.”

Not bothering to pick up Brad’s empty glass, Frank took another couple of steps toward Mac and the bar.

“Hey, look,” he said, “do not blame me for the fuckin’ Sailor’s mistake. I told him once I told him five hundred fuckin’ thousand times, do not leave the fuckin’ ramp down. I’m just gonna help myself here, okay, Mac?”

Mac stepped away from the bar, watching Frank closely. Keeping his hands chest-high, Frank sidled past Mac to the bar.

“I knew the Sailor, too,” said Mac, as Frank poured the rest of the Gordon’s into the cocktail shaker without bothering to add more ice. “And the Sailor might’ve been a little screwy but he did not make rookie mistakes like that one. The Sailor took me down my first trip to the Earth, Frank. And the first thing he told me was, ‘Do not ever leave the ramp down.’”

Frank poured the slightly chilled gin into his glass, holding back the ice with a finger, spilling gin onto the counter.

“Hey,” he said, “everybody has their off-days, even the Sailor --”

“Especially,” said Mac, “when somebody else uses remote control to lower the ramp so somebody who doesn’t belong on a saucer can get on a saucer.”

Frank took a gulp of gin, then wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Fantasy,” he said. “The merest and wildest fantasy.”

“But your plan hit a little snag, didn’t it, Frank? ‘Cause Grupler and Marlene bumped off the Sailor and his buddies, but they didn’t finish the job. They didn’t bump off these three here. You’d underestimated these kids, Frank.”

“You’re fuckin’ nuts, man. You been watching too much earthling TV back home. Too much M Squad, fuckin' Johnny Staccato --”


(Go here for our next thrilling chapter. And please feel free to consult the right hand side of this page where you will find an up-to-date listing of links to all other published chapters of Larry Winchester’s A Town Called Disdain™, as featured on The AIG Amazing Adult Fantasy Playhouse, hosted by Walter Pidgeon and starring Edward Arnold, Joel McRae and Frances Farmer.)

Junior Wells and Buddy Guy, unfiltered:

4 comments:

Manny said...

Dan, did you know I'm from Chi-town?
Used to see those cats on Maxwell Street, six in the morning.
Good drinking music!

Dan Leo said...

Manny, I am so retroactively jealous!

kathleenmaher said...

I suspected Sinatra had something to do with the Sailor's death. Go back and see my comment then.
And it's nice to learn how the Saigon business fits.
Veritas! (I think that's what I mean. Truth, right?) Anyway, think "Wow!" in Latin.

Dan Leo said...

Y'know, Kathleen, I think it's about time Larry started picking up some of these loose plot threads that have been lying around here for months now.