Archive for September, 2020


Whoopsie. Looks like Stitches was also arrested at the Whole Foods. To be fair, some handicaps you can’t see…

So—there’s a lot going on here. This will involve some work on the part of the reader. Suffice to say, the rapper Stitches had four young women on stage to do coke with him and his wife was deeply unhappy about it. This story also features flour, his wife screaming “I’m going to fuck that bitch up!” off camera (yes, there is evidently video somewhere), and a mosh pit (obviously). Stiches is renowned in some circles for his cocaine doing and selling, as immortalized in the song, “Brick in Yo Face.” Definitely look into this incident—visualize the scene, view photos of Stitches, and then I strongly urge you to look up the lyrics to “Brick in Yo Face,” which I desperately wish I could reproduce here in its entirety. Preview: It’s very repetitive, but not in a meditative way, including a short refrain somewhere in the middle of “I love sellin’ blow!” (as cited in the article). When it’s not repetitive, it’s name-checking Dade County, referring to the AK-47 tattooed on his face (definitely view photos of Stitches), and, well, this: This gun will not reload/cause bitch I got extendos/bitch I got extendos/don’t play with me boy/don’t play with me boy/go play your Nintendo! It should be noted that, as a layperson, I’m not sure if by “extendo” he means an extended magazine clip, which would seem obvious, but “extendo” also refers to two blunts stuck end-to-end and packed with weed to form an extended super-blunt. I’ll assume the former, but the latter is reasonable as well. Whatever the case, well worth looking into.

Lavitt, John. “Rapper Stitches Invites Women to Snort Cocaine On Stage.”The Fix. Clean & Sober Media, LLC. November 3, 2014.

Read Florida Man: Battle of the Five Meth Labs: A Love Story here.

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Bathroom Meth

Nothing too flashy here, unless you count the meth making. Justin Spencer Hill attracted attention to his grand scheme of one-pot public restroom meth cooking, when a construction worker called the Five-O upon seeing chemical- and acid-smelling smoke wafting from a Detwiler Park men’s restroom. He also saw Hill running from the scene with a bag in his hand. According to Volusia Country Corrections, he was apprehended no fewer than five times in 2014, culminating in this epic arrest which included two separate charges of possession of paraphernalia, felony battery, burglary of an unoccupied conveyance, possession of a schedule IV substance, possession of cannabis not more than 20 grams, battery on an emergency medical care provider, and the contribution to the delinquency/dependency of a minor—it sounds like there was more to this incident than reported.

Associated Press. “Man Set Up Meth Lab in Park Bathroom: Police.” NBC Miami. NBC Universal Inc. November 26, 2014.


Read Florida Man: Battle of the Five Meth Labs: A Love Story here.

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In Manalapan, Jonathan Restrepo apparently left his girlfriend’s car and decided to hitch a ride on other peoples’ cars. Several, actually, including—for a brief stint—a convertible. There’s video of this as well—he told police he was on crystal meth and was convinced he was being pursued. He was charged with public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and criminal mischief. He caused over a thousand dollars’ worth of “criminal mischief” to two cars. After his arrest, he was obviously taken to the hospital. Fun Fact: The video is no longer up, but MSN posted this under “Health and Fitness.”

Hait, Ari. “Caught on Video: Man Allegedly High On Meth Surf’s On Strangers’ Car in South Florida.” WPBF News. Hearst Television, Inc. April 30, 2015.


Read Florida Man: Battle of the Five Meth Labs: A Love Story here.

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Pradelles, Langogne, Sagnerousse,

Fouzilhic/Fouzilhac, Cheylard, Luc,

Our Lady of the Snows

“You know nothing of men if you don’t know how they can be beasts,” Fanny said as she made tea. The apartment at Grez was small and he could hear her clearly though she was around the corner. Louis blinked his eyes slowly. The bed in which he lay was curtained off in an alcove, though the drapes were open and he wished them closed. The sun was too bright. “Nevada is where I learned to shoot, in a mining camp. My husband left me there and I learned to shoot. Because men are beasts. They are like wolves.”

            Louis could not respond. He was exhausted and too many words could potentially trigger another coughing fit, which at this point, was too agonizing to risk. And his father had taught him to not argue with the fairer sex, thought he didn’t want to argue. He wanted only to say that a man that is a beast is no man, but merely, always, only a beast.

He wanted, also, to beg her, again, to refrain from reminding him of her husband. And that he was hot, and could she please uncover his legs?


Louis had risen in the dark in order to do his washing up well before his fellow travelers awoke, so that the wife could perform her own morning rituals in as much privacy and leisure as the situation allowed. He fortified himself with a bowl of milk and then set off to explore the environs of Bouchet.

There was really little to it: the inn, a loose grouping of familial houses, and a narrow stone church that seemed to grow upwards rather than at all out. Unlike the heat that exacerbated his agony the day before, this dawn was wintery and grey; the clammy mist, carried swiftly by a glacial wind, sped across the streets and fields, pushing the early-rising shepherds and their flocks to their business.

Louis trotted from one point to another with his hands thrust into his pockets. The laborers stared at him—they were the same people he’d walked into town with the previous evening. Life here seemed less complicated than anything Louis had encountered, and the inspiration to stay and live out his productive years here came and went like the wind that tore at his hair. The local faces were ruddy and tough, like their hands. While Louis was in the middle of a spate of good health, he knew by experience that it would hardly last, and that a life in the field would kill him faster than any wolf in the wood.

When he returned to the inn, the hostess was up and about the kitchen and the young herdess prepared herself to take their cattle out to pasture, seemingly having gotten over last night’s trauma and no longer believing she was now the property of this strange, thin foreigner. She ignored Louis, probably angry at him for having fooled her. Her mother set a plate of hard fish and omelet—breakfast being the same as dinner in these parts—and Louis sat down for as proper a meal as could be expected.

“And where is monsieur this morning?” he asked, taming his moustache with the side of his fork.

“The master of the house is upstairs,” she said. “Making you a goad.”

The donkey goad, it seemed to Louis, was one of such incredible and useful inventions that he could not understand how he hadn’t heard of it, despite his absolute remoteness from the donkey race prior to this trip. A more simple design could not exist—a wand of local wood tipped with a metal pin about an eighth of an inch in length.

When his host emerged from the stable and put it in Louis’s hand, it transformed itself into a holy crosier, and himself an honorable prelate, ready to lead Modestine along the righteous path. Or, at least, he will poke the beast into submission until they arrive at day’s end.

Louis gathered his pack and possessions while the family with whom he’d bunked made their way downstairs and to their own repast. Before they departed, his wife and son atop a slightly sway-backed mare, Benoît handed his wife the reigns and sat with Louis for a moment on the bench beside the door. The wind still swept over every worn façade in the village, so the man’s words were likely inaudible to all but Louis, who leaned in to hear.

“You are heading south?” Benoît asked.

“I am,” Louis replied. “I intend to next camp near Cheylard l’Évêque.”

“You will do what you want, and as I said last night, I am not a superstitious man, but . . .” He glanced back at his wife, who merely gazed off in the direction of their journey, her handless arm wrapped around the belly of her son, the fingers of her remaining hand wrapped around the strip of leather. They were sinewy and strong.

“Stop at Pradelles, but do not stop at Langogne,” Benoît went on. He described the region as being downright infested with the feared family of legend and warned Louis against stopping most anywhere, particularly as he approaches his destination. There would be a handful of communes that were hardly big enough to be called anything but the shared space of a few families. He mentioned two in particular, the names of which were similar, almost twins, to be exceptionally wary of. And with that, he was gone. Louis watched the family become smaller as they made their way down the main thoroughfare and eventually veered off on one of many cattle trails that led away from Le Bouchet St. Nicolas. By the time they were gone, he had already forgotten most of what Benoît had said.

* * *

Louis made his goodbyes to his hosts and neatly hurried Modestine out of the stable and down the street, prod by prod.

The entire walk to Pradelles was lonely save the occasional convoy of women on horses and two post-runners. Louis thought he might fall asleep mid-stride, but was soon distracted by the tinkling of a bell. He looked about himself to discern the sound and beheld what but a fine looking, spindly-legged foal, the bell strung around his neck. He’d charged up from the bordering field, stopped near the traveling pair, and sniffed the air, buoyant with self-confidence. Modestine snorted without interest and Louis could only look on, smiling. The foal’s assertive manner melted sweetly into the universal timidity of a child, and the boy turned and ran back from where he’d come. Louis laughed and poked Modestine’s rump as she’d thought to slow and dine at the side of the road.

“Not until Pradelles, woman,” he said to her, still smiling. And for some time following, he would hear the bell and see, a little in the distance, the head of the foal prick up over whatever brush or hill lay between them.

Above the river Allier, surrounded by meadows, Pradelles perched along a hillside. The smell of hay permeated the air as laborers worked to slash the grass that had sprung up after the last harvest. Telegraph wires spread like a web from the distant buildings of the town, towards and past Louis, down the road on which they walked. On the opposite bank of the Allier, the terrain lifted skyward, up and up, layering over itself to the horizon. The peaks and valleys traded cyclically shade for sun, deep shadows of purple mist and low-glowing golden outcrops of stone and brush. It struck Louis, in all its sublimity, both beautiful and full of sadness, as these visions often do. There was, though, a particular stabbing point to this melancholy that needled him like the goad to the donkey, and it took him several steps to place it.

The most immediate landscape—what could be seen with the eye from the edge of the town—was completely, and deliberately, deforested. What should have leant a natural mystery to the scene was nothing more than a field of stumps and hacked verdure. Nothing was left to the imagination, and instead of the thrill of what unknown things the forest keeps, there was left only the bare and ragged eeriness of a land blighted.


A chill zipped up Louis’s spine like the crack of a pistol. Again, like the difference between listening to the rambling of drunken locals and witnessing the tragic deformity of a young woman, seeing the physical consequence of the fear of an entire population—the magnitude of the resulting act—brought with it a better sense of dread. Modestine stopped abruptly and sniffed the air, as if they’d both concluded the same at the very same moment, and Louis didn’t prod her with the goad. He let her process the feeling as he did.

Quite suddenly, Louis saw a figure striding a little ways up the road, just before the final rise. The skirt of his cloak danced about his ankles; surely, this was the figure Louis had spotted in the shadowy valley before Bouchet. But how did he manage to get ahead, or, if he was always ahead, how did Louis not see him until now? And with that, the figure was gone over the low crest.

There was a tinkling of the foal’s bell, and Louis looked up gratefully to see the boy looking back at them. Then, with a flourish, he kicked his hooves, knocking his round knees, and trotted off over the last hill between them and the town of Pradelles.

Louis tapped Modestine with the side of the goad, not wanting to shake her so violently and perhaps prematurely from the roadside reverie, and to his surprise, she took up the expected pace without argument. These little things adorned the day like jewels—the cooperation of a reluctant companion; the wide-eyed, youthful enthusiasm of a joyful stranger, whether on two legs or four. Louis thought that, with these two things, he could lay his head down this night and still grin.

The final low crest that stood between him and a hearty lunch was a little distance—the foal had disappeared over it much faster than he and Modestine would, but indeed they would get there.

“We’re coming!” he half-shouted to the foal, who was too far to hear and too equestrian to understand. The pair continued toward the town.

The wind with which he’d begun the day at Bouchet had never let up, and the lifeless cold followed throughout the morning. Louis pulled the collar of his coat closed around his throat and made a note to unpack his fur hat after lunch when he heard a cry from just over the hill he was fast approaching.

His first instinct was to run towards it, to see if he could be of assistance. He picked up his pace a little and goaded Modestine enough to convey the urgency, and a minute or two earlier than they would have, they crested the low ridge and saw immediately a loose gathering of laborers slowly pulling together to form a knot around something on the ground. Louis let go of Modestine’s reins and she drifted slowly off to the side of the road to take up some weeds there. He ran to the group, both from curiosity and a genuine desire to help.

As he approached, he could make out some of the panicked chatter that ricocheted between them.

“But how?”

“Still warm.”

“No one saw?”

“Still fresh.”

“Is he yours?”

“Not mine. Down the way.”

“Who will tell him?”

“Not me.”

Louis pushed through the crowd as politely as he could and finally broke through to the center, which he immediately regretted.

His poor foal lay slaughtered in the yet-cut grass. His throat was savaged, his guts lay strewn, and his eyes had not yet glazed over. So recent was this attack, the blood still trickled wet a little ways from the carcass. The twine that held aloft the bell that announced the boy from the fields was embedded in the gaping wound of his neck; the bell was gone.

“How could it be so?”

“How did no one see?”

It didn’t make sense. The forest edge, that used to lie so close, was, through the work of the men of the village, now some distance off. The wolf would have had to lope across the long, bare terrain in order to make this kill.

“He is either too fast, or we are too blind,” someone said, and Louis pushed himself backwards through the group, his chin trembling. The pitiable thing had been his lively companion all morning, and now he was dead. Louis said nothing to anyone, turned, and sniffling, walked back to Modestine.

At once, he recalled the cloaked figure and very nearly injured himself, so violently he looked about the landscape. But there was no one of that description to be found, only an empty, wasted wood and fields nearly ready for winter.

A few prods and they were making their way to Pradelles, where Louis ate a light lunch, and only then because he knew he needed to in order to make decent time. He made notes for his writing hurriedly, but was back on the trail with Modestine within three-quarters of an hour, winding their steep descent along the Allier, towards Langogne.

Past field upon field, past laborers solitary and in pairs, past teams of oxen ploughing the rich soil. The wind carried alternating scents of dry straw and wet earth, the fact of which would have normally delighted Louis’s senses, but now, today, could not lift even an agreeable thought in his head. One of an ox team, his large ponderous head set firm to the yoke, turned his dark and faithful eyes towards the pair, with a look that alone from the surrounding world conveyed a message of commiseration. As if the beast knew the departed and wanted to, at least, join hearts in grief. Louis refrained from walking off into the field and embracing the enormous coffee-colored ox and merely nodded to it and continued along his way.

The highlands of Gévaudan towered before him, frowned down upon him, and for a moment, he’d almost forgotten why he was here at all. He saw Fanny’s features, but it only provoked more sorrow. He saw Colvin’s image, his friend and editor, but he feared the words he’d eventually have to write would never come. He saw the faces of his parents and they wept for him. And though his mind wasn’t in the disposition for a true and thorough contemplation, his soul began to acknowledge that he could not be out here for any other reason than to search for something larger than these small troubles that tormented him. These quandaries that, in the comfort of his own bed in Edinburgh, or even in Paris, seemed all that there was to everything, out here, with the wind tearing at his eyes and ears, with the smell of the blood of that innocent in his nose, seemed the dilemmas of someone else. As painful as this discovery was, he hoped that when he was back in more comfortable climes, he would be able to call it up, but knew that he was easily piqued and would likely fall indulgently back into another storm of self-pity and worry. And with that knowledge, he sunk deeper into despair.

Two rivers he’d have crossed in two days—the Loire and now the Allier. At the bridge coming into Langogne, the rain that had threatened them all day began to fall. A young girl of about eight stopped before the bridge as she was about to run past him and stared for a few moments before addressing him.

D’où’st-se-que vous venez?” she asked, for he must have looked strange.

“I do not know,” he answered, because, at the moment, he really wasn’t sure where he had come from, nor if he was equipped for where he was going.

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FM10 (5.2)

They turned into a plaza parking lot after passing fifteen identical plazas (with the exception of those bedecked with various menacing fiberglass sea creatures) and pulled into a space right in front of The Gorge (Fine Men’s Clothing). Rupert had had enough time to compose himself. Jesus dialed his cell phone and waited a moment.

“Yo, I got someone I want you to meet.” Pause. “I don’t know.” Pause. “I don’t know.” Pause. “You can ask.” Pause.

Jesus put his phone to his lap and sighed.

“Have you seen a movie called Splatter Farm?”

“Polonia Brothers? Yeah. It’s been a while, but—”

Jesus put his cell to his ear again.


Pause. Then he hung up, said “come on,” and climbed out of the car.

Rupert’s back was sweaty, but again, the cool air inside The Gorge (Fine Men’s Clothing) proved that something was malfunctioning with the AC at the Royal Courtyard Econo-Regency Chalet. Neither Jesus nor Rupert looked like the type to shop here, but Jesus whispered: “Act natural.”

I don’t even know what that means.

It was improbable that a single item in this store would fit Rupert. Maybe a pair of socks. For one foot. But the salesman didn’t appear to notice them. Jesus looked at some expensive shirts of some NASA-like light, breathable material, then moved on. Rupert ran his hand over the material as he followed. They moved toward the back and then tried to look nonchalant as they prepared to enter the men’s restroom of The Gorge (Fine Men’s Clothing).

“Wait thirty seconds,” Jesus whispered before he disappeared into the restroom.

We’re going to get arrested, Rupert thought.

He waited.

. . . twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty . . .

The bathroom was too bright, brighter than any room designed for the disposal of human waste should be. There were four stalls, the third door closed.

“Welcome to SIKildo Industries,” Jesus whispered.

“Sounds impressive,” Rupert leaned down and whispered back. “Why are we in a retail bathroom?”

Then the stink hit him. The foundation was a hospital smell, but Rupert couldn’t tell if that was the bathroom’s regular aroma, or if it came from the third stall, as a thin, brownish plume blossomed up to the ceiling from inside. That did not look like a good thing. The identifiable odors were that of wet diaper, fertilizer (or perhaps someone had recently used another stall), paint remover, cat piss, and a fermentation process. Submerged way beneath was a faint citrus scent. Just then Rupert jumped at the sudden, loud hiss of aerosol spritzing the air by his head. It was the store’s effort to make their bathroom smell not quite so much like urine and excrement. And whatever the hell was happening in Stall Number Three.

Jesus tapped on the door. Inside the stall, someone jumped and knocked something over. A bottle of Drainü drain cleaner rolled out and Jesus picked it up between his thumb and forefinger, trying to avoid touching whatever might have been coating it.

The latch clicked back and forth a few times, as if it was difficult to open, then Jesus pushed in. It was a tight squeeze, and Rupert and Jesus fought with the door for a moment before they were able to close it again. A man with his back to them said: “Lock it.”

Rupert was closest so he did. It clicked over without a problem.

“Hang on,” the man said. He wore saggy jeans, with blinding-white sneakers and a white t-shirt that looked three sizes too big. On the back of the toilet was what looked like a self-contained Bunsen burner on which a glass beaker boiled some pungent liquid. He stirred it. Surrounding that were bottles of things Rupert was pretty sure shouldn’t be anywhere near a flame.

Jesus didn’t look nervous, so Rupert tried also to not look nervous. Being nervous was different. It wasn’t so much the possibility of being set on fire in a men’s restroom as it was being squashed into a small, enclosed space with two other people. And potential explosives. Rupert was so tall he could see into the stalls on either side of them.

“So,” the man said as he turned around. He had a long, horse-like face and dark, unruly hair that looked factory-made, although Rupert could see that it did indeed sprout from his scalp. It looked wet, but wasn’t. He had a large scar across his forehead. His shirt had a big red and black, pointy cartoon explosion that took up most of it with “WHACKOUT!” printed diagonally in the middle. Rupert had seen the brand before. And he might have missed the next thing had the guy not said: “Who wants to burn?”

Rupert’s eyes went straight to the glass pipe in the man’s hand. In the other was a small torch-like lighter, but it was the pipe that made Rupert’s mind submerge into a land of pistachio and cream, of the pulsating sound of chanting natives, and the sensation of being surrounded by a thousand shuffling, stepping, kicking feet; plaid and fondu. His throat closed and Rupert slid down the corner joining the door to the stall. The door rattled back and forth, and he heard Jesus in the distance say: “Chále!” Rupert gasped. It was beyond him to do anything but sink and then his mind focused on taking a breath, as by now, his lungs had decided to take the predictable long break on the exhale.

“What the fuck, dude,” the guy said, more statement than question.

Rupert squirmed, legs straddling the toilet, shaking the little box lab the guy had set up. Soon, he pounded his chest open-handed, his usual last-ditch effort to get his lungs to work.

Jesus tried to act casual.

“I’m thinking he’s a salesman.”

The guy looked at Jesus as Rupert struggled for air. Behind Rupert’s eyes was all pistachio- and cream-colored swirls, growing darker, darker, the chanting receding with it. This was always the scariest time, because Rupert’s biggest fear was to pass out like this, afraid he’d never start breathing again. He’d never wake up.

The guy now stared down at Rupert and took a long, slow hit off the pipe.

“I don’t know, MeeMaw,” he said, smoke escaping his mouth and nose.

A tiny, wheezing voice deep in the back of Rupert’s mind asked, Did he just call Jesus “MeeMaw?

“He needs to work on his spin, but I appreciate a fellow B-boy throwin’ down like that.”

The guy leaned down to Rupert and yelled like he thought Rupert was deaf: “This place is too small. But it’s cool.” He straightened up and looked at Jesus. “Yeah, it’s cool.”

When Rupert thought he might be turning blue, and the chants and colors had gone dim, his lungs curtly—just like that—kicked into gear and he sucked in a huge, desperate dose of oxygen and the vestiges of the secondhand smoke.

Jesus helped Rupert up and the guy had turned back around, managing his cooking, the pipe stashed somewhere out of sight. Rupert noticed now that the man in front of him, in such close proximity, had what looked to be an 18-inch sparkle-pink, semi-transparent dildo sticking out of his front pocket. He wasn’t sure how he hadn’t seen it right away upon entering the stall. There was something written on it in Sherpie marker, but Rupert couldn’t read it, his eyesight still a bit blurry from the attack. His breathing, though, was returning to normal.

“This, Rupert, is Bill,” Jesus says. “Bill, mi pana, Rupert.”

“Rupie,” Bill said, extending a filthy cooking hand, but Rupert didn’t feel in a position to refuse. He avoided the flopping dildo and shook Bill’s hand.

“Hi. How are you?” Rupert’s hands were sweaty now, not from the attack but from this whole experience compounded by the customary trauma of meeting someone new and completely unrelatable.

“How am I, brother?” Bill asked. “How am I?”

Bill then launched into a shambolic salad of words and rhymes:

One, two, three and to the fo’
Kanye Herbert West and Tree-Two Cent is at the do’
Ready to tell the story ‘bout Splatter Farm
(Despite Cent’s shattered arm)

“Shattered . . .” Rupert interrupted.

“This is a rhyme from last year, yo, shortly after Fulva busted Osceola’s arm.”

“Ah . . .” Rupert had no idea who Osceola was.

“Fine now.”


Gimme the mic first, so I can start with Aunt Lacey
Alan and Joseph goin’ to see her, and you know she be cracy
Ain’t nothin’ but hicks in the farmland!
Old Bag Lacey and the farmhand!
Skull fuckin’, horse killin’ in the heartland!
Don’t interrupt me or you’ll dis-a-rupt my lymph gland (Hell yeah)

“Whoa, don’t want that.”

Bill just looked at Rupert—he’d interrupted. Again.

Concerned for Bill’s one lymph gland, Rupert motioned for him to continue.

But uh, back to the tale we’re tellin’
Al and Joe be talkin’ on the way to Auntie’s dwellin’
Joseph says Lacey thinks Alan’s lit
but they gotta get there quick, he’s gotta take a shit

You never know she could be druggin’ her man
And huggin’ her man, next thing you know she’s fuggin’ her man

Now you know Alan ain’t with that incest shit
(Till she serve him up that cuppa with the roofie innit)
(Yeah) but we’re getting ahead of how it goes
And now we gotta get back into the flow
before we get to the pitchforks and the fistin’
and the golden showers, yeah, you just keep listenin’

It’s like this and like that and like this and uh
It’s like that and like this and like that and uh
It’s like this and like that and like this and uh

            Bill tapered off, smiling. Rupert was transfixed in a sort of stunned silence until Jesus moved his foot over Rupert’s and pressed down hard. Rupert hardly felt it.

“Wow,” Rupert managed to get out. “Just . . . wow.”

“Right, Rupie,” Bill said. “I’ll put the kibosh there, since it better when Cent is up in it. I was doin’ both parts, ya see . . .” He was so self-satisfied that Rupert felt sorry for him.

“Who’s Dre and who’s Snoop?” Rupert asked despite himself.

“I’m Dre,” Bill said as if it were obvious. “My stage name is Kanye Herbert West. When I’m not cookin’ for Fulva, I’m rappin’ with my homie, Osceola.”

“Osceola, the primary chief of the Seminole tribe, a branch of the Creek, who lead an organized resistance against the American Government in 1836?”

Both Bill and Jesus stared at him.

“I guess not?” Rupert said, and smiled his apology for knowing things. “Is Osceola his stage name?”

“No,” Bill answered. “It’s 32 Cent.”

A moment of silence.

“We do HPSP—Horror Performance Slam Poetry; you heard of it?” Bill continued unfazed.

“I don’t think so.”

“But you seen Splatter Farm.”

“I have, a very long time ag—”

“This year, Kanye Herbert West and 32 Cent are curating a new exhibit. We’ve adapted the Polonia masterpiece to the dope-ass melodious odyssey that is Dre and Snoop’s ‘G-Thang’.”

“As in, Nuthin’ but a . . .” What is happening to me? Rupert had hit a threshold of improbability for, not so much the day, maybe, but at least since he’d walked into this store.

Bill nodded approvingly and Rupert fell yet again into stupefied taciturnity.

He felt Jesus’s foot on his toes and he laughed. He laughed and laughed. He laughed so hard he snorted, and then he stopped, feeling slightly exorcised.

“Is that legal? Copyright and all . . .” Rupert asked, not joking.

Bill slapped his own knee to indicate something funny had been said.

When he recovered: “We perform all over Sarasota County. Soon, though. Big time. Fulva manages us, and she’s pretty smart for a hippy.”

Jesus looked at his own feet.

“She pisses me off sometimes.” Bill went on, “like that time she shut down that one show. Jesus, you remember that?”

Jesus conjured an emphatic, but measured nod that said, and it was a shame, too, because that was a good goddamn show.

“Man, there was almost a riot,” Bill said, excited. His glassy eyes got both brighter and glassier. “The people went crazy. Not like I haven’t been in that situation before. Fulva said it was because Osceola was handing out coke to the mob, but I know it was my crunk-ass rhymes.” Bill rubbed the scar on his forehead to draw attention to it, and then he waited, but Rupert was quick.

“Whoa, wow,” he said. “Did you get that in a riot?”

“A riot? Naw, man, in a regular fight. Gang fight.”

“I’m sure the other guy came out much worse,” Rupert added.

“Well, what can I say? You don’t mess with K. H. West, naw’ mean?”

Rupert couldn’t help but notice how white Bill was, virtually bluish in this regrettable light.

Someone walked into the restroom, paused, and went into the stall furthest from Bill’s methamphetamine stink box. Bill and Jesus were nonplussed, so Rupert tried to follow their lead despite the fact that he could see directly into the now-occupied stall. He turned his head in the opposite direction, not concerned with being recognized now—he didn’t know anyone here—but perhaps with being recognized at a later date. Laws were clearly being broken here. The occupied stall was quiet, and an unspoken rule had gone into effect decreeing that there should be no talking until the interloper had left. Then, the smell of whatever silent holocaust evacuated the intruder’s bowels made it to their stall, and with no sound to accompany it, Bill’s horse face twisted, K. H. Westese for: No, he did not.

Not for the first time in the last fifteen minutes, Rupert wanted to be out of this stall, this bathroom, this store, this city, this state, this country if he could swing it. It occurred to him that he had—just moments ago—spent a good three-to-four minutes doing a simultaneous slowed-down/sped-up horizontal version of the Watutsi straddling a toilet on a men’s room floor. He hated everything.

Finally, the intruder, abandoning his stench for the benefit of those remaining, left and they were free to speak again.

“Maybe we get down to business, eh Bill?”

Bill looked at Jesus for a moment as if he either didn’t know what he was talking about, or maybe he didn’t know where he was, but then replied.

“Right. Crack Planet. Free crack.” Bill turned, looked up at Rupert, and yelled, “FREE FUCKIN’ CRACK!” And then he laughed and bounced twice on his toes. “I can’t believe they fall for that shit. Whatever, man. Gets us that Crack Planet long green.”

Who says “long green?” Rupert thought.

“Okay,” Bill said to Rupert. “You know the game? Jesus filled you in?”

Rupert nodded. Then Bill held up his index finger to Rupert and tilted his head to one side, as if listening. Bill’s other hand slid over the dildo in his pocket. Jesus shook his head almost imperceptibly.

“Okay. Okay, MeeMaw,” Bill said, hand gripping the dildo.

Rupert still couldn’t read the Sherpie on it.

Then: “Jesus, MeeMaw says to take Rupie here to meet Fulva. Right now.”

Fuck, Rupert thought. He wanted to go back to the Royal Courtyard Econo-Regency Chalet and take a shower. He’d had enough for one day.

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The inn at le Bouchet St. Nicolas was two stories of irregular red brick joined by a copious amount of grey mortar. Its roof was of the same orange clay tile as in Monastier; a weathered bench stretched along the wall beside the door. The stable and the kitchen shared opposite ends of the same space; the floors were of the earth. The furniture was perhaps the plainest Louis had ever sat upon. There was one sleeping chamber for travelers and it held two beds and nothing more.

Louis took his meal—here, of hard fish and an omelet—at a solid, scoured table. The place setting was a glass, a slice of bread, and a fork. To cut, Louis used his jack knife, which the host much admired.

“This must have cost you,” the man said, “no less than five francs.”

“No less than twenty,” Louis confided. The man’s eyes grew wide.

Louis offered him some brandy, but the host refused.

Merci, but I am too inclined. I will leave nothing for you.”

As Louis stabbed a bit of dinner with the knife and prepared to lift it to his mouth, something rubbed against his leg beneath the table. He leaned at an angle to see a fat sow routing about his feet, and when he saw that this was, apparently, no unusual activity, he declined to mention it.

The man, while friendly, seemed not particularly bright, though the wife could read and spoke with a sharp tongue, indicating that there was but one sovereign here.

“He knows nothing,” she referred to her husband as she entered the room, as if the conversation between host and traveler could only be of one breed—to obtain information—and to ask her husband would benefit no one.

The man shrugged and nodded. In another household, amongst other people, this display might have seemed ugly, but the tone in the room was one of familiarity and acknowledgement. Louis’s hostess was the brains of the operation, his host the brawn, and both seemed perfectly comfortable in the situation.

Over the course of his meal, the woman asked about his travels and why, which he explained as best he could. That anyone would wander many miles for no reason other than to write it down seemed strange to the couple, but they enjoyed Louis’s tales of misfortune thus far and Modestine, whose chewing he could hear in accompaniment to his own, their quarters were so close, punctuated his story with the occasional stomp of her hoof.

They had been joined by one of the couple’s daughters, a young herder, and the mother patiently pulled a comb through the girl’s long golden hair, untangling the knots of the day. When she complained of the roughness, the mother tsked her.

“You are lucky,” the father said. Apparently, the girl was not yet the best herdswoman, and a few head of cattle had been misplaced and required wrangling earlier in the day. “Some knots in your hair are the least of your troubles,” the man winked at Louis. “For I’ve sold you to this gentlemen.”

Louis saw the man’s game and joined him eagerly. Nothing blotted out real-life hassles than engaging in boyish behavior, and a good joke fell squarely into that realm of being.

“Yes,” he responded. “I paid ten halfpence; it was a little dear, but . . .”

“But,” the man finished. “Monsieur was willing to make a sacrifice. You will leave with him on his journey in the morning.”

Louis winked at the girl, who had been eying him suspiciously, but when her father said she’d be leaving with him, her doubt vanished. She stood without a word and walked into the stable area. Modestine acknowledged her with a snort. Soon, her sobs floated over the straw and into the warmth of the kitchen. Louis’s smile drooped with his mustache. The wife slapped her husband on the arm and left to console her daughter. The man shook his head.

“Tomorrow,” said the man, “I will fashion you something better than that switch.”

Louis’s only remotely effective tool in moving Modestine was beginning to fray and proved less successful than it began. He expressed his gratitude and guiltily slipped upstairs to the sleeping quarters.

Though happy to see he had a bed to himself, he was dismayed to find a man, woman, and child, crawling into the other. Louis had never been in the position to have to share sleeping arrangements with anyone other than his cousins in childhood, let alone a man and his barely-clad wife.

Pardon,” he said hardly above a whisper. He slinked to his bed, his back to them, and sat there stiffly for a few minutes.

The man was not yet in bed and still undressing.

“Where are you from?” he asked.

“I’ve just come from le Monastier-sur-Gazeille,” Louis answered quietly.

“But you are not from there.”

Non, I am Scots.”

There was no answer. Louis rightly assumed the man was nodding an acknowledgement and began to relax a little.

“I must apologize again for intruding,” Louis began, and then it came to him to make a peace offering. He reached into his knapsack and produced the bottle of brandy.

“There is nothing to apologize for,” the man said. “These places are what they are.”

But Louis was already twisting around from his bed and lofting the bottle toward the man.

“For your troubles,” he began, but try as he might to keep his eyes on the man—to be the gentleman he was—they ultimately fell to the man’s wife, who lay in the opposite bed, her face to the wall and her small son at her back. He couldn’t tell if she slept naked or wore a slip, but the arm that rested languidly over her shapely hip was bare. Though the wayward glance must have only lasted a fraction of a second, the scene had imprinted itself behind Louis’s eyes and his face became warm, for many reasons.

Her shoulder was pale and without blemish, a smooth curve from her neck, and it ran into an arm that, even while resting, denoted a graceful strength to the elbow. But there the beauty ended, as beyond the joint, the flesh distorted and seemed to pull at itself. It was a rough topography of scars, dark in the valleys and a pale pink across the ridges, the border of which was the wrist, for there was nothing after.

Louis’s embarrassment was replaced instantly with shocking revulsion and he struggled to hide it from the poor woman’s husband. Still reaching the brandy bottle toward the man, Louis made eye contact. Where he expected to find anger, he instead found a deep melancholy. The man took the bottle, drank from it, then wiped the rim and handed it back to Louis.

“Where are you traveling from?” Louis asked, attempting to diffuse the moment.

“I am from Alès,” the man said. “We are coming from there. I am a cooper and there is a dearth of work. We are heading to St Etienne to see if our situation can be improved.” He went on to explain that when he wasn’t making barrels, he was making matches—a dangerous occupation, as working with the white phosphorous used to produce them led to “phossy jaw,” a necrosis of that part of the anatomy.

“With one of us already injured,” he continued, “it would be wise to avoid us both being debilitated.”

The man moved to Louis’s side of the room and sat down beside him on the bed. They passed the bottle back and forth, taking tiny sips. Neither wanted to be drunk, but the motion between them facilitated a comradery that denoted some sense of sympathy.

“My name is Benoît. Aurélie comes from Langogne,” he said, low. In the following pause, the two men could hear the wife’s breathing, deep and steady—the sound of slumber. “As a girl, while herding her family’s cattle, she was attacked. A wolf.”

Louis’s reaction was one that he had not expected. True ambivalence—on one hand, if he’d heard another word of wolves he felt he might thrash someone, and on the other, with the image of the poor woman’s pink stump stamped into his brain, his blood tingled cold.

“The locals, all through this region, talk of monsters,” Benoît went on, but shook his head. “The stories are the basis of family feuds, of bad politics, but mostly, I think, of instilling fear in the children. In my wife’s case, her family swears against another family. And she . . .” He looked over at her for a moment, his eyes heavy with grief. “She was only one of many, over many, many years.”

Louis gently insisted he go on, now curious.

The family of Aurélie had lost a number of members, mostly as children, though the occasional grown woman might also be taken. Though she had two aunts, she should have had four. Though she’d had a sister, she now had none. And so on, back generations. There were quiet but constant rumors that when Jean Chastel had slayed the second Beast of Gévaudan the killings did not cease; only the story changed.

That the killing of the first beast didn’t stop the attacks fell upon the King as an embarrassment, for it was his man who had done the job. And when it was a local huntsman that killed the second, that the attacks continued turned the humiliation of the small town politicians a degree even greater than that of the king, and all further attacks were hushed. Bullying tactics and threats were used to keep villagers silent when their loved ones were bloodied and eaten in the fields and forests; they gathered up what they could of their dead, buried them, and proceeded to sink, generation after generation, into a miserable complacent certainty that the people of their region were indeed cursed. God had abandoned Gévaudan.

“You said there was a feud,” Louis, now fascinated, prodded lightly.

Oui,” Benoît continued. “Although my wife is like her family—and it is hard to find fault in that—I have never believed the stories. I cannot recall the name of the family, but they are spread out all over the land, from Le Puy to Alès, and in every village they inhabit—they say—there are attacks and death.”

There was silence between them. Everything that could be said on the subject had clearly been said and both men felt the weight of sleep pressing upon them.

Benoît handed Louis back his bottle of brandy, hardly emptied, and shook his hand.

“You are kind,” he said. “We should turn in.”

“Agreed,” Louis replied. “Long journeys for all of us.”

Benoît nodded, finished undressing, and joined his unfortunate wife and innocent son in their own bed.

When Louis had first entered the sleeping chamber and saw the family he was joining, he expected to spend the whole of the night in dark contemplation. What was Fanny’s situation? Where was she sleeping tonight—her own bed, or her matrimonial bed? That her husband himself lived openly with his own mistress made no difference. The idea that, upon their foolish attempts to make their abortion of a marriage appear legitimate, Fanny’s husband might still insist she perform her wifely duties was like a knife through the heart of the young Scot. He expected to spend this night willfully distinguishing his breath from the breath of the couple beside him, if only to keep from feeling like a third wheel and a fool.

Instead, the small sounds of the couple retreated behind a veil of secrets and legends, of sharp white teeth and ragged grey fur, of blood and bones. It was one thing to tolerate the warnings of a handful of superstitious villagers—to charitably entertain the ravings of a parish peddler—and quite another to actually see the terrible evidence. Granted, it was proof of nothing otherworldly—only the poignant fact of civilization and wilderness co-existing too closely side by side. But somehow this new and awful presentation of the legend of Gévaudan transformed the story from a silly irritation to a living example of the romantic lore that grew amongst these fir-covered mountains like a silver moss over its stones.

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FM9 (5.1)


In Jesus’s beat-ass, rusted-to-shit, powder-blue 1979 Lincoln Town Car, the ample legroom allowed Rupert to recline with uncommon comfort.

“I didn’t know they made these in this color,” Rupert noted.

“They didn’t.” Jesus grinned, indicating that he’d chosen and paid for this color himself.

They had just left The Buttery Mollusk, an unglamorous joint, but the seafood was great and Rupert was now stuffed with shrimp, scallops, and pasta, all lovingly slid down his gullet with a hardy helping of butter, as advertised. He felt better. C-A-R-B-S spells comfort.

“I don’t know how far we are, but if you could drop me off at the Royal Court—”

“Ah, no, ese. I’m taking you to meet my associates.”

“Your bosses.”

“My associated bosses.” He grinned again. “Here’s what you need to know.”

Jesus then gave an articulate and informative lecture on Crack Planet, the Golden Tickets, and his employers.

Crack Planet is the tenth planet in our solar system.

“Tenth?” Rupert asked.

“Yeah, tenth.”

“Is Pluto a planet?”

“Yeah, it was, then it wasn’t, but now it is again.”

“I must have missed that issue of Discover.”

“Dawg, you gotta read. Do you mind?”

“Go on.”

It lies way, way past Pluto, and a little to the left. Jesus theorized that it was the “little to the left” part that had kept it off astronomers’ radar so far, which was good, because you know the human race couldn’t rest until it figured out a way to kill it and everything and everyone on it.

“Crack Planet has everythings and everyones?” Rupert asked.

“Well, we don’t need to get into the everyones, but I can tell you about the everythings.”

The sell-line is that Crack Planet is a planet made entirely of crack. And if that doesn’t get your water boiling, the crack on Crack Planet? It’s free. Free crack.

“You’ve never seen a Tweaker’s high beams flick on faster than when they hear the words ‘free crack.’” Jesus steered the massive boat of a car right, then left.

For a moment, Rupert thought that was the end of the story, and he supposed, to a Crackhead, that was all they’d need to hear.

“If you don’t mind my asking,” Jesus began, “what is it you do for a living?”

“I’m an entropologist at the Spliphsonian Museum in Washington, DC.”

Jesus drove in silence for about a half-mile.

“Well, then I suppose you’re qualified.”

“For what?”

“Helping us boost business. We need to sell more tickets.”

“Tickets,” Rupert said. “Oh, tickets. Golden Tickets to Crack Planet like you tried to sell me behind the FFG.”

“Man, I told you I was testing you,” Jesus said, laughing. “Check it. A few months ago, I was behind the FFG, doing my thing, when these two Junkies—I recognized one of them, Tito, used to be a clucker for another organization. I hadn’t seen him for a while, so I figured he’d been down the rabbit hole enough to buy this shit. He had a Tweaker with him, his wife, I think, but she was nice enough. She was more hard up than he was, so I knew she needed a ticket.”

Palm trees and pastel-painted stucco sped by. A pelican flew down between the lanes of cars, worringly close, but it was Rupert’s first pelican sighting, ever.

“So, after a little back and forth, they don’t just want to buy, they want to sell. Get in on the business. And well, I’m the only one out here shilling for these gringos, and I’m spread a little thin. Anyway, shit gets worked out and next thing I know, these two slags are arrested and Crack Planet’s in the national papers. I was like, fuck.”

“I hadn’t seen it.” Rupert consoled Jesus.

“You didn’t know Pluto was back in the Solar System Club.”

“Fair point.”

“So Tito is telling the cops that he didn’t care what they said, those tickets were pure gold, not the cut up two-by-fours them idiots used. Two-by-fours! Painted gold, with ‘Ticket to Heaven – Admit One’ written on them in marker. I mean, that’s pretty much what we do ‘cause these folks aren’t exactly Jack Parsons, but two-by-fours? Come on.”

Rupert was surprised at how much fiberglass marine life populated the store and restaurant fronts here, whether the establishment was marine related or not. Mucho Mattresses had a giant squid on their roof squeezing a mattress in its cephalopodian grip. “Even the Kracken can’t Krack these deals!” was painted across the windows. Rupert decided he’d absolutely buy a mattress from those people.

“But dude even ratted me out—told the fuzz that Geez-zus behind the FFG told him he should sell these ‘tickets,’ get some money, and go to Crack Planet. Then he said he’d met an alien named Stevie, and let me tell you, I don’t know any alien named Stevie. Stevie told him that he’d give this cockrocket and his woman a lift on his spaceship to Crack Planet, and I am telling you . . . that is not how you get to Crack Planet.”

Rupert turned his gaze to Jesus for a moment, studying the side of his face, trying to see what was under the double blockade of sunglasses and bandana.

There’s a certain way to get to Crack Planet?

“Anyway, I never did find out who this Stevie was. I think he was a crack hallucination, but the guy went and blabbed to the cops that Crack Planet was a place you could go and smoke all the crack you want for free.”

“Wouldn’t that be good for business?”

“Rupert, we want to push sales, but we don’t need the whole world knowing about it.”

“Crack’s pretty awesome, huh?”

“Man, crack is whack. Well, some crack is. Crack Planet crack, though . . . primo.”

“You believe there is a Crack Planet.”

Jesus smiled this time, not a grin, and Rupert could see that despite the fact that he looked like he might launch into a rendition of “You Can’t Bring Me Down,: he was maybe a pretty honest guy. But he didn’t answer.

“It gets worse. Tito told the cops they arrested the wrong guy, and that he’d be willing to wear a wire to help them nab this Geez-zus character. Man, dude was gonna set me up! Meanwhile, his old lady, I felt bad for her. She just wanted to leave earth, go to space, and smoke rock.” Jesus laughed hard here. “Then she was like, ‘Tito done sold the damn tickets to heaven. I only watched.’”

Rupert laughed. This was pretty funny if you thought about it.

“The weird thing . . . ?”

“There’s something weird about this?”

“Ha! When they got nabbed, cops confiscated over $10,000 in cash-money, some pipes, and a baby fucking alligator.”

Rupert felt a little queasy at the thought of the pipes, but the baby alligator was peculiar.

“$10,000 in cash. Do the math. That’s like a hundred tickets to Crack Planet. And they never even went!”

Rupert watched Jesus drive a little. Most of the time he didn’t seem crazy. Most of the time.

When they stopped at a light, a wild-looking man came out of nowhere, jumped onto the hood of Jesus’s car, and assumed a wide stance facing away from them. Rupert screamed; Jesus was unaffected. The man bent over and shot them a look from between his knees, waggled his tongue from side-to-side, then straightened and stomped three times with his right foot.

What the fuck?” Rupert yelled.

“Don’t panic,” Jesus watched the Tweaker. “He’s probably just warding off vampires.”

What?” Jesus didn’t seem crazy some of the time. Apparently, only some of the time.

Jesus rolled his head toward Rupert. “I didn’t say I believed in the vampires he’s trying to elude. But he does. Let’s just hope he’s done before—”

The light turned green.

“Nope. He’s a Spoosh Surfer.” Jesus accelerated and the man immediately lost his balance, rolled off the hood on Rupert’s side of the car, and disappeared into traffic.

Rupert craned his neck out the window, expecting to find the man wearing several sets of tire tracks, but he was gone. He pulled his head back into the car but could say nothing.

“Relax,” Jesus said. “It happens.”

Rupert stared at the road.

“Hey,” Jesus got his attention. “Seriously. You might as well reconcile yourself to this now.”

For the first time in weeks, Rupert thought he might cry.

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As Louis considered Modestine and wondered if, indeed, donkeys could smile, a man, woman, and two children had gathered around him in a semi-circle and joined the beast. It was then that Louis fully realized how hot it was. The high southern French sun beat down upon his shoulders like he’d beaten Modestine, and if he wasn’t already in such a state of castigation, he’d have welcomed it as punishment for so mistreating the donkey.

Louis worked to right his pack, sweat burning his eyes and the laughs of this family from Ussel needling his ears, and once he finally arranged it in a position so as to tighten the straps, it fell over the other side and resumed its place under the donkey.

No one offered to assist.

“Perhaps,” suggested the man from Ussel, “your pack should be of a different contour.”

Tais-toi!” Louis snapped. The man smiled and shut up, per instructions.

Ignoring his audience—which he seemed to attract at all stops—he rearranged his pack to take on the burden of some of it, and, much to his abhorrence, alter the shape of the sack to better fit the animal. He removed a cane, the milk flask, the weighted pilot coat, two pounds of black bread (Modestine’s supper), and the open basket of meats and wine. As he devised his own pack and hefted it upon himself, the courageous aspect of his fortitude allowed him some satisfaction. He’d meant to rough it. He’d meant to, in some way, chastise himself for . . . something. For his own weaknesses, for the weakness and moral failures of those around him, for Fanny’s rejection, for something and everything, and this seemed like a good place to start.

And it could only get worse.

As they made their way through Ussel, Modestine insisted on inquiring at every door they passed and Louis, now struggling with his own yoke, was powerless to stop her. As they passed a church in the course of repair, the examining priest and fellow onlookers forgot the Sabbath and offered up a mirthful chorus. Louis imagined his own amusement at the misfortune of others—his natural inclination to schadenfreude—added up over the course of his life had probably amounted to what he received in turn this afternoon, and he imagined, certainly, that he would never laugh again. At anything. Ever.

Leaving the town, Modestine decided to continue their journey on some useless by-road, and Louis decided that it was better to take a break than break down crying. He unpacked a little black bread and gave it to his companion, leaving her to wander to wherever she might roam (which wasn’t far), then he sat down beside the path, rolled a cigarette and quelled himself with a nip of brandy. Passers-by still wound around them, observing and snickering, but Louis was able to ignore them until one man took a chance to instigate trouble.

“Look how tired she is,” he cried, “the poor beast!”

At that, Louis hurled himself at the man and screamed until his face, already red from the sun, grew redder.

“If your donkey can carry more than this measly load,” he gestured at Modestine’s pack as she chewed lazily, “I suggest you keep your observations to yourself! Unless, I say, you would like to help me carry my basket!”

To Louis’s surprise, the allegiance of the people of Ussel had shifted and they laughed at the man, whose turn it was to grow red. A few clapped.

Elle est petite . . .” he mumbled weakly.

Tais-toi!” Louis retorted, evidently his signature phrase of the day.

Slowly, seeing that the winds had changed and this foreigner was clearly finished being toyed with, the crowd dispersed to go about their daily routines. Louis, reinvigorated, set to action. Sacrifices must be made. After downing half, he set aside his flask of milk, his white bread and mutton leg, and finally his egg-whisk, although he suspected Henley’s wife might never forgive him, and he lamented the future absence of his newly-acquired love of egg-and-brandy nog which he enjoyed with his morning coffee. These things he discarded and he readjusted the basket. After applying a cord to it, he slung it over one shoulder and then draped the coat, which trailed almost to the ground, over the top. Now, his load lightened and one arm free, he turned his attention to Modestine who finished her snack and looked at her abuser.

Renewed, Louis set to tapping out a harsh tune on the flanks of the donkey, who finally gave up her indignant refusal to cooperate. Her little hooves scissored back and forth to produce a speed of motion though not as fast as Louis would prefer, certainly miles above their earlier progress. They worked this way until they came upon what seemed to be the last escarpment that would ascend to his final destination. To his misery, it was intersected with seemingly a thousand by-roads so as to form one massive rocky labyrinth with no indication as to which one to take.

Modestine let out a bray of laughter to which Louis responded with his trademarked, “Tais-toi!

Thwack went the switch and as Modestine scurried forward, the straps on the pack let loose like a noodle and Louis’s things made a trail down the path. The sun was already descending and after the half-hour it took for Louis to gather and repack his things, it was coming on dusk. Flustered, he picked a path, and prodded Modestine to follow it. Before long, just when he felt surely he would at length fall into the fit of weeping he’d been warding off all day, two figures strode toward him over the gravel.

The man was tall and dismal, staring blindly ahead and followed by a small older woman. She wore what looked like her Sabbath best, layers of pressed petticoats and an embroidered ribbon decorating a pristine felt hat. From behind this pretty frame, she muttered a vast inventory of profanity that, on the streets of New Town, would have made Louis blush.

Louis hailed the man.

Pardon, do you know the way to Bouchet?”

The man pointed west and northwest, mumbled something inaudible, and stalked past. The woman tacked behind him, still swearing, without so much as a cursory acknowledgment of Louis. Modestine snorted.

He watched them incredulously as they sped along the hillside, and realizing his one chance of reaching any restful place this night was disappearing into the twilight, he shouted after them. Then he ran. They finally stopped once he’d outrun them and, blocking their way, he asked again his direction.

The man, presumably the son, again mumbled uselessly and made to continue, but Louis caught the woman, presumably the mother—who had still not stopped swearing to herself—by the shoulder.

Désolé, excusez-moi,” Louis began. “I simply cannot let you go until you’ve pointed me my way, or I am forever lost.”

“You can follow us the whole damned way, should you like,” the woman answered.

Merci,” Louis said, doubtfully.

“What the hell do you want at Lac du Bouchet?”

Louis didn’t know what to make of this woman’s language and so dodged the inquiry.

“Is it very far?”

“About a bloody hour and a half,” she answered, and with that, the pair turned and continued on their way as if they’d never been stopped.

Louis called to Modestine, who ignored him, and then he ran back to beat her forward.

Twenty minutes put them on the flat upland and Louis paused a moment to look back upon the hills and valleys of the day. Mount Mézenc and that beyond St. Julien stretched behind him, a field of shadow broken only by the light patches of farms and villages that blushed beneath the anonymity of evening. Instead of satisfaction, Louis felt the sting of loneliness and gripped Modestine’s bridle tighter so as to not be tempted to throw himself down the rocky slope in despair.

Then, in the gloom, a silhouette moved far down the ragged path he’d just scaled. Louis squinted, and could make out a cloaked man standing there. His face was masked by the shade of his hood, though he was too distant for Louis to distinguish features at any rate. As Louis made a few steps forward, the cloaked figure moved with him. Perplexed, Louis saw that he was fast losing his guides, and so, cloaked figure or no cloaked figure, he simply must move on so as not to become hopelessly lost in the dark. Resolving to think no more of it, Louis pulled Modestine to follow, and tripped twice before finding the rhythm of his stride along the path again.

He caught up and the group moved along a high road when Louis eventually recognized signs of a village coming into view, which surprised him as he had been told the lake was unoccupied. Soon, he found himself caught amongst the bustling closing of the day—cattle lurched down the road from pasture, driven by children; women dashed past on horses, legs astride and wearing caps.

Louis stopped a dirty-faced, black-haired boy.

Pardon,” he said. “What village is this?”

“Bouchet St. Nicolas,” the child said and moved ahead to rustle his small herd.

Louis stopped abruptly and Modestine followed suit with no questions asked. His shoulders slumped; his chin met his chest which tightened in the grasp of disappointment. The two strange peasants had led him exactly a mile south of the lake. Ahead, the couple had blended with the assembly and would disappear from Louis’s life. The cord of his basket scored painfully into his shoulder and his whipping arm ached heavily at his side. With a sigh, he feebly stopped another child.

“Which way to the inn?”

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The video of this really takes it to a unexpected level of fabulous, but maybe it’s just me because I’m pretty sure this is what I’d look like if I were “living my best life”—twerking atop of patrol car to Hall & Oats, then Supertramp, and being arrested to “You’re the One that I Want” from Grease. Where do the vampires come in, you ask? Christian Radecki informed officers that he was not on drugs, nor had he been drinking, and had no known mental health conditions—and that a fanged woman dropped by his place to let him know there’d be some child sacrifice to vampires, so he did what anyone would do and went to the sheriff’s house to help “save this children.” Can it get better? Of course it can. This occurred on April 7th, and he was released on April 13th, but then taken back into custody on April 23 on similar charges. And here’s where it falls apart and ceases to be fun—my theory is that he was gearing up for the April 29th twenty-two-year anniversary celebration of the adjudication of the assault that earned him his Sex Offender/Predator title in New Jersey. He’s not even a native Florida Man. Also, heads up—according to HomeFacts.com, there are an inordinate number of sex offenders in the Brookline area of Florida. It’s all fun and games until someone is a sex offender.

Cutway, Adrienne. “Florida Man Says He Twerked on Patrol Car to ‘Save Children.’” Daily Press. Tribune Publishing Company. June 4, 2015.

Read Florida Man: Battle of the Five Meth Labs: A Love Story here.

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FM8 (4.2)


Florida Fried Gator is a popular joint with a menu dominated by alligator-based items—there are no fewer than twenty-four in Sarasota County alone. This one was well-nigh empty. As he walked across the blistering asphalt lot and neared the restaurant, he heard a pssssst, but continued walking. It couldn’t have been directed at him, and if it was, he didn’t want it to be. He knew not one single soul in this godforsaken concrete hell.

He entered the building and this time, the AC felt rational. Rupert had changed into a pair of knee-length denim shorts and a t-shirt that depicted a vintage photo of four Native Americans lined up, holding rifles. On top, it read: “HOMELAND SECURITY, and beneath: Fighting Terrorism Since 1492.” It hadn’t gotten too sweaty on the short walk over.

He stared at the menu behind the counter for a while: There were buckets—original recipe, extra crispy, and grilled, in addition to the Family Gator Gut-Buster Bucket which included all the contents of three regular buckets of each flavor. There were gator tenders, popcorn gator, and gator sandwiches of either original, extra crispy, or grilled gator. Sides included coleslaw, biscuits, mashed potato and gravy, swamp cabbage, and much to Rupert’s surprise, turnip greens, unaccompanied by collard or ham (or gator). He contemplated the Gut-Buster Bucket, but figured that might be too much gator. (Is there such a thing?) He ordered an extra crispy gator sandwich, two orders of popcorn gator, some coleslaw, a couple of biscuits, and three servings of turnip greens, thank you very much. Two for him, and one for his mother, whose portion he’d eat in memoriam despite that she was still living.

As he finished the words “turnip greens, for my mother,” a three-and-a-half-foot alligator sailed through the drive-thru window and a car’s tires screeched a second before the driver had to come to an abrupt halt in order to make the sharp corner of the drive-thru lane around the building, and then screeched again as it launched onto the highway. The man taking Rupert’s order looked placidly at the gator, now lying on the tile floor in front of the deep fryers. This struck Rupert as ironic and unsettling, here in the FFG. The woman running drive-thru shook her head and picked up the phone.

“Goddamn Crackheads,” she muttered as she dialed. Her conversation with dispatch indicated that this was not the first time this had happened.

“Will that be all?” the man asked. He had a Cuban accent.

The beleaguered FFG employees jumped from the snapping jaws of the small alligator until Animal Control showed up, and once Rupert had received his meal, he sat down at the biggest table he could find, which was still too small, and popped a popcorn gator piece into his mouth. He thought hard about how he could avoid having to think about this study. The D.E.A.T.H. program. Why the hell was he sitting in a Florida Fried Gator 956 miles from home? Rupert stuck a fork into the consolidated pile of three turnip greens servings and noted that he was out in public and didn’t feel too anxious. The place looked vacant, yes, and after the flight and the weirdo at the front desk, it was a relief.

Someone entered, but Rupert didn’t notice. He thought about how his mom had made greens. His grandmother had made greens the way you make greens: spinach and mustard greens, diced onions, a variety of seasonings that Rupert could not recall, and a ham hock, split in two with a cleaver, so it could sit low in the pan and not tip the lid. Her sister—his mother’s aunt—would make hers with turnip greens instead of mustard and nothing but the seasonings, sans pork knuckle. As a child, Rupert’s mother preferred her aunt’s, which, of course, was a betrayal of epic proportions and led to a twenty-year sibling rivalry that bordered on ugly, and pushed a wedge between mother and daughter. At some point, Rupert’s mother was able to rebuild the relationship—as she simultaneously ruined her relationship with her own child, her only son—but it had never been as strong as it was before the day she’d said, “Mama, I like Auntie’s greens.”


Rupert stared at his thus-far untouched gator sandwich, thinking, not for the first time, about how the fabric of his family life had unraveled due to his mother’s early preference for porkless turnip greens and subsequent career choices, then took a bite.


Across the aisle, two tables up, sat a man in tight, flared, dirty jeans (worker dirty, not homeless dirty), cowboy boots, a button-up blue flannel that looked way too hot for Florida, and a tan, suede jacket sporting sleeve and back fringe about a foot long. Rupert stopped chewing and stared at him instead of his sandwich. The man had semi-greasy, long grey hair, about shoulder length and pulled back haphazardly here and there with small braids adorned with birds’ feathers and other trinkets. He looked as if he’d been held hostage in a tanning bed every day of his life—he was deceptively dark, but pinkish. His features looked identifiably Caucasian.

Rupert watched the man get up from his single table, turn around to the garbage bin stationed behind his seat, separate out his recyclables with mindful care, and place his tray atop the bin. He then turned around, smiled a meth-mouth full of dental terror and went: “Pssssst.”

Rupert’s mouth hung open, and when the guy winked at him, then motioned with his head that he should follow, a half-chewed piece of popcorn gator rolled out and landed in Rupert’s half-eaten pile of turnip greens.

Methhead, Rupert thought. Methhead. Must contact Methheads.

Then the man was out the door.

Rupert made to follow him when the Cuban FFG employee bellowed, “Eh, preito . . . ” He pointed at the garbage bin. “Te sueno la cara . . . ”

Rupert had no idea what he’d said, but sensed it might be a little racist. The unmistakable look on the man’s face was an incommodious mixture of threat and condescension, and his gesture indicated that he expected Rupert to clean up after himself. Meanwhile, his Methhead was getting away.

Though Rupert was side-show big, he hadn’t much girth, and considering Newton’s First Law, the distance between them, and the net force of a large thing moving at a certain velocity versus the net force behind the large thing standing still . . . he opted to gather up and discard his unfinished meal. He thought to ask for a bag to go, but the man’s unibrow dipped between his eyes in a way Rupert didn’t think was possible, so he separated his recyclables, stacked his tray on top of the Methhead’s, and ran out the door. He then ran back in, grabbed his cross-body bag from the chair he’d been sitting on, and ran out again.

He looked right, then left, and caught a hint of tan fringe disappearing around the corner of the building to the back. Rupert jogged after him, assuming he couldn’t have gone that far, but as he turned the corner, the guy was gone. A large dumpster sat among an assortment of cigarette butts, fast food wrappers, plastic tampon applicators (?), and worthless, scratched-off lotto tickets. There was also a Hispanic guy standing there. Or Latino. Hispanic, Rupert thinks. Latino?

“Hispanic,” the guy said.

Rupert raised an eyebrow and narrowed his gaze.

“I could see you were struggling.”

“There was a guy,” Rupert began. “Weird. Fringe jacket, feathers.”

“You just described, like, three guys I know, güey.”

“Really?” Rupert shook off the distraction. “No, a man ran back here . . . ?”

The guy shook his head. His sepia skin leaned toward straight-up brown, and he had long, straight black hair hanging loose to his waist, kept in place by an olive green bandana tied tight, covering his eyes, a la Mike Muir circa 1983. He wore what looked like a long basketball tank jersey, but Rupert didn’t know the team, not that he’d recognize any teams. The shorts matched, dark spring green and white, hanging low about shin-length, with white socks pulled up to the hem and black dress shoes. His number was two.

Rupert stood, awkward, sweating, still hungry, his cross-body bag dangling from his hand. He was such shit at conversation, but an abrupt departure seemed rude. The sun back here was relentless and the greasy dead-gator-and-original-recipe-breading stench was overpowering. This guy didn’t seem to mind.

“Hot,” Rupert said. He didn’t like that he couldn’t see this guy’s eyes. “Bright, too.” Where did that weirdo go?

“Yes, it is.” The guy took a pair of sunglasses out of his shorts pocket and put them on, making his eyes more invisible, which made no sense, but Rupert felt the effect distinctly. He also still regretted not buying a pair of sunglasses at the airport.

He squinted at the guy’s jersey.

“Basketball?” Rupert knew nothing of sports.

Qué? Naw, man,” the guy laughed. “The Sarasota Scullers, man. Rowing.”


“Well, technically a youth rowing club.”

Rupert looked at him.

The guy didn’t appear to feel the need to defend this and he put out his hand, which Rupert took warily.

“Jesus Salvador.”

“For real?”

“Man, that’s racist,” Jesus said, offended.

Rupert’s face reddened.

“I’m just messin’, ese. It’s pretty ridiculous. You should see my parents.”

“They clearly had high expectations.”

Jesus laughed, so Rupert laughed and it felt good to. It’d been too much stress, too much weirdness for one day. And he was still hungry, and tired from the Xanax.

“Hey, you seem like a smart guy,” Jesus said.

“Thanks . . . ?”

“Yeah, man.” He leaned closer to Rupert, who refrained from leaning back. “Have you, uh . . . have you heard about Crack Planet?”


“Crack Planet.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“No, it’s like ‘hay-soos’ . . . Sal-vad-or.”

“Crack Planet,” Rupert repeated, not knowing if he was making a statement or asking a question.

“Yeah, man. What I got here, and what I know you want, are tickets.”


“Yeah, man.”

“Tickets to Crack Planet.”

Golden Tickets to Crack Planet, bróder.”

“What the fuck am I doing here?” Rupert said as he hoisted his cross-body bag over his shoulder, about to walk away.

“Eh, eh, eh, man,” Jesus protested, tapping Rupert on the arm. “Man, I was testing you. You seem pretty smart.”

“The test for intelligence here is whether or not someone will buy a ticket to Crack Planet.”

“You haven’t been here very long, have you?”

“Arrived today,” Rupert said. “And I’m hungry, and I’m tired—I watched a three-and-a-half-foot alligator get thrown into a drive-thru window, and I don’t want to eat gator anymore.”

Jesus’s already-considerable smile widened. “Man, you come with me. I’ll fix you up.” 

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