Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Walrus of Death - Chapter Five: Happiness is a Warm Gun

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I HAVE ONLY EVER had to fire a gun in my house twice.

The first time was back in 1967. There was a Bigfoot involved. It was this whole thing. I’m not prepared to get into it just now.

The second was in 1982 when I shot and killed a werewolf in my bathroom. I don’t recommend it. They bleed a lot. I went through a lot of towels that day. In the end I wound up redoing the entire bathroom; floors, paint, the whole nine yards.

I didn’t really feel like shooting anyone today. I don’t like killing things. I won’t hesitate to do it if it needs to be done, and with some of these monsters it’s your only real option. But I take no joy in it.

Well, that’s not entirely true. Taking out a vampire can often make me smile. The thought of putting a bullet into Abner Lemonzeo warmed my heart as well.

But the Walrus, well, he was just doing what he’d been paid to do. I’d rather see him in chains. Besides, I couldn’t afford to redo the kitchen like I’d done with the bathroom.

“You keep working that tape and I’ll have to put you down, son,” I said, my pistols zeroing in on his face.

He ignored me.

I took a quick glance behind me at the front door where Pat had fled just moments before. It wasn’t like her to run from a fight, and that had me concerned. Turning back to the Walrus I struggled to try and explain to myself just what Pat had done. Surely she hadn’t run. She must have gone for back up. That was the only logical explanation.

Meanwhile, the thick layer of tape that surrounded the Walrus’s wrists looked to be reaching their breaking point.

“I’m warning you,” I said, then reversed the pistol in my right hand so that I held it by the barrel. I leaned in close to the smelly beast and rapped him a smart one across the top of his head with the butt of the revolver.

If I’d hurt him, he was good at hiding the pain. Instead of groaning or shouting he just swiped at me with his hands. Lashed together as they were, they made one big fist, which took me fully in the shoulder. My arm went numb. I didn’t notice this right away, my attention had instead been drawn to the fact that I was flying through the air.

I landed on my back in the middle of the upturned table that lay in my living room, but I still held on to my guns, and that’s what really matters. It took me a moment to get up, and as I stood, a sharp pain lancing into my spine, the front door flew open and Pat walked in.

In one hand she held a pump-action shot gun. In the other was a small battering ram with a shoulder sling, what they call a One or Two Person Forcible Entry Ram. I’m sure you’ve seen them on TV. They’re employed by police forces the world over to knock in doors.

“Catch,” she said, and tossed the shot gun my way.

I holstered my pistols and caught the shot gun in its downward trajectory. Pat, in the meantime, had taken the ram by the two flexible handles that looped out of its side.

The ram was about forty inches long and weighed fifty pounds. It was made to be used by one to two people, hence the name. Pat swung it like a pro. As the tape around the Walrus’s wrists began to tear, the ram connected with the side of his head with a thick, meaty sound. Like hitting a side of beef with a sledgehammer, if you can imagine.

The Walrus dropped. His eyes rolled into the back of his head, he let out a little sigh of pain, and just fell back like a sack of bricks.

“I thought you’d run out on me,” I said.

She just laughed.

“Cover him with that scatter gun while I call this in,” she said, pulling a phone from her pocket. “He should be out for a while, but I’d like to get a couple deputies out here as soon as possible.”

I pumped a round into the chamber and stood watch over the Walrus while Pat called in to the station. I noticed that blood trickled from a small cut on his temple where the ram had him it. The blood was a dark gray, almost black. The fridge impacting with the top of his head had only left a lump. I wanted to find that curious, but frankly I just couldn’t make myself care that much. I just wanted him out of my house so I could get dressed and have my morning coffee.

“Everyone but Tim and Lyle are on their way,” Pat said as she pocketed her phone.

“So two guys then?” I said.

“No, three.”

“You hired a new officer?”

“I did,” Pat said. “She just started today.”

“She’s going to have quite the initiation then,” I said and smiled.

“Here,” she held out her hand. “I’ll take the shot gun so you can go put some pants on.”

“I could try and say something witty about you and my pants, but I am more than a mite tired of standing around here in my skivvies.” I handed over the shot gun. “Thanks, I won’t be long.”

In the bedroom I pulled on a dark gray suit and tie, adjusting the tie carefully in the mirror. I figured I’d need to pay a visit to Lemonzeo. I can’t have people just sending folks out to kill me without some form of retribution. He needs to know that doing something like that just ain’t in his best interest. But that could wait until I’ve had my coffee.

I looked myself over in the mirror. I buttoned up my vest and adjusted the tie a few more times. Since I was going out to mix with the public, I’d tossed aside my gun belt in favor of the shoulder holsters. I strapped that on over the vest and sat on the bed. I checked each of the Peacemakers, rotating the cylinder as I slid each shell out, and then back in. Some may consider it obsessive, but I always like to check, double check, triple check, and then check once more before I check the last time. You really can never be too careful when preparing for a gun battle.

Was I going into a gun battle?

Not likely, but I didn’t think I’d wake up to find a killer walrus in my kitchen either, so I felt it prudent to be somewhat prepared.

I stood, slid into the suit jacket and snatched the trench coat and hat, a fedora, from a hook on the wall near the door. I threw the coat over one arm and placed the hat on my head as I left the room.

I’ve been told, all too often, that I look like one of them FBI fellas from the 1930’s. And I suppose I do. Once I find something I like, I tend not to let it go.

I found Pat still standing over the Walrus and I tipped my hat to her.

She smiled in return.

We remained in silence for a few minutes, both of us watching the unconscious form of the killer mutant. The blood that had oozed from the wound on the thing’s head had stopped flowing and had congealed on the skin. The wound itself looked less shallow and not as long. It appeared to be closing, meaning that the Walrus, like me, healed with a quickness.

“You going to tell me why this thing was after you?” Pat asked, breaking the silence and interrupting my thoughts.

“Abner sent him,” I said.

“Lemonzeo?” she said. “I knew he’d gotten out, but what’s he got against you?”

“He’s still a little sore that I got him arrested in the first place, I guess.”

“Talk about holding a grudge.”

“I know, right?”

“You planning on doing something about it?” she asked.

“I haven’t decided,” I lied.

“Come on, Norman. We don’t lie to each other.”

“I might go have a talk with the man,” I said.

“Talking’s fine, Norman,” she said. “It’s the shooting that’s going to get me involved.”

“I ain’t never shot no one that didn’t deserve shooting,” I said.

“Regardless, we still have laws, Norman. You go downtown and do something stupid like shoot Abner Lemonzeo, well, I’m going to have to deal with that.”

“I have no plans to shoot the man, Pat,” I said.

“Good, keep to those plans.”

But, as I looked down at the Walrus and thought about what Lemonzeo had done, as I wrapped my mind around the fact that were it not to the lyrics to a Beatles song I might be dead, another Beatles song began to slide through my thoughts.

Happiness is a Warm Gun.

I couldn’t help but smile.

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Platitudes #20 - Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Thursday, April 16, 2015

My Super Midlife Crisis - Chapter Thirteen

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“THE SHADOW FOX?” OLIVER said. “But, I’ve seen him on television and he’s . . . well, he’s . . .”

“Young?” Mr. Farnsworth suggested.

“Well, yes,” Oliver said. “And black.”

Oliver sat on the edge of the couch, nearly falling off. Next to him was Elyse, who practically lounged, her legs crossed, one arm on the back of the couch behind Oliver. Mr. Farnsworth remained as he was, sitting across for them, his cane between his legs, his hands resting atop the cane.

“Besides,” Elyse said. “Beyond the obvious racial difference, you really do look nothing like him.” Oliver could feel the skepticism rolling off of his wife. “I mean, sure, he wears a mask, but you can’t really hide a mustache like that, and his physique, well—”

“Yes, yes,” the old man said, waving a hand in the air dismissively.

“Plus, he’s black,” Oliver repeated.

“Yes, Oliver, thank you.” Mr. Farnsworth said. He sighed and shook his head. “The youth of today,” he said to no one in particular. “Everything that is new makes that which came before it forgotten to the winds of time.”

“Look,” Elyse said, snatching up a copy of yesterday’s newspaper where it lay, unread, on the coffee table.

She held up the paper, and there on the front page was a picture of a man in a burgundy and gray suit with cape and mask. The man in the suit, though his face was almost completely obscured by his mask, looked younger than the man on the couch before them, more athletic, muscular. Above the image was the headline:


“That is not you,” Elyse said.

“You are correct, Mrs. Jordan,” Mr. Farnsworth said. “That is, in fact not me. That,” he tapped the picture with his cane, “is my old sidekick.”

“Foxy?” Oliver said. “You know, now that I think about it,” he said, looking over at his wife, “The Shadow Fox I remember as a kid did have a big busy mustache. As a matter of fact, I can picture him now, standing next to Captain Might at the press conference in ‘91 when Captain Might retired.”

“Yes, dear boy. That was me.”

“And you’re here to . . . what?” Oliver said.

“I am here to guide you. To show you the ropes as it were. In essence, to teach you how to be Captain Might.”

“Well that just makes no sense,” Elyse broke in. “Why would we need the Shadow Fox to teach Oliver to be Captain Might. Why wouldn’t, I don’t know, Captain Might teach Oliver how to be Captain Might?”

“Peter gave up being Captain Might many, many years ago, my dear. He wants nothing more to do with it.”

“What qualifies you to know how all this works?” She asked.

“I don’t often find it necessary to explain myself to people,” Mr. Farnsworth said.

“I don’t often find it necessary to trust the life of my husband with someone I’ve just met,” she said.

“Point taken,” the old man said. “Then allow me to help you understand. I’ve not only fought alongside Captain Might for decades, I’ve studied him. I have always been his best friend and most trusted confidant.”

“And?” She said.

“And nothing, girl. You want my help? Here I am.”

Oliver glanced over at his wife. She frowned, yet cocked an eyebrow at him as if to say: What do you think?

The thing was, he didn’t know what to think. To be a Mighty was every kid’s dream. It was in the Top Three List of future career choices for kids everywhere: Famous athlete, famous entertainer, or famous Mighty.

“Okay, let’s assume for the moment that we believe you are who you say you are,” Oliver said. “What can you really do for me?”

“Well,” Mr. Farnsworth said. “For starters, I can teach you how to transform.”

“I’ve already done that.”

“Ah, but can you do it again?” the old man sat back. “Go ahead, give it a go.”

Oliver gave Elyse another look and she nodded to him. Encouraged, he closed his eyes and sat quietly for a full minute. No one said a thing, and nothing happened. Finally, he opened his eyes and shrugged his shoulders, feeling the heat of embarrassment rise on his face.

“I couldn’t do it,” he said and Elyse gave him one of those looks that he knew meant she wanted to hug him.

He would have let her too if Mr. Farnsworth hadn’t been in the room.

“Of course you couldn’t,” the old man said. “You don’t know how.”

“I did it last night,” Oliver said.

“Yes, Peter told me about that. Last night you reacted with great emotion. General Ruin had threated to find and murder your entire family, yes?”

“Yes,” Oliver said, looking at Elyse, his face once more feeling the heat of embarrassment.

Elyse, a tear forming in her eye, smiled and kissed him softly on the lips.

“See,” she said. “You are a good man.”

“It is possible to trigger a transformation simply from great emotional stress,” Mr. Farnsworth continued. “General Ruin knows this, thus the threat.”

The name that Mr. Farnsworth had used for the creature from last night reached inside him and grabbed a fistful of Oliver’s memory and gave it a quick, sharp tug.

“Wait a minute?” Oliver said. “General Ruin? You mean, the guy that nearly killed Captain Might a month after he retired? The guy that leveled half the city just to get Captain Might’s attention? The guy who—”

“Yes, my boy,” Mr. Farnsworth interrupted him. “That General Ruin.”

“And that’s the guy that attacked me last night?” Oliver felt faint. The room began to spin and his mouth dried up.

“Yes,” the old man said. “At least, we think it was him.”

“Water,” Oliver said, his voice a dry squeak. “I need some water.”

“I’ll get it,” Elyse said and left the room.

“Do, uh,” Oliver said once Elyse left the room. “Do you think he’ll be back?”

“It’s possible,” Mr. Farnsworth said. “He knows where you live and he knows you have the ring.”

“But I sent him packing? He ran from me.”

“We think you surprised him. Peter’s theory and I agree with him, is that General Ruin wasn’t prepared for the ferocity you threw at him.”

“What’s he been doing all this time?” Oliver said. “Why wait till now to get the ring back? Why does he want it?”

“That’s a lot of questions, Oliver, and they will be answered in due time. The important thing at this point is that we get some training into you in case he does come back.”

“So he might not?”

“Peter thinks he won’t.”

“And you?” Oliver tried to swallow.

“He wants the ring Oliver. I think he may have given up on it, but when you put it on, he knew. He also knew that it wasn’t Peter that had activated the ring. I think that’s why he took the shot. He must have thought you inexperienced. In my opinion, I think he figured that taking the ring from you would have been like taking candy from a baby. And frankly, it should have been.”

Elyse arrived with his water and he gulped it down in three big swallows.

“You threw him last night, Oliver,” Mr. Farnsworth continued. “You are inexperienced, he was correct in that assumption. But the love for your family, the fear that his threat inspired, it gave you considerable power. But I believe he will be back for that ring, and he will allow nothing to stand the way of retrieving it.”

Oliver brushed a hand across his face and it came away wet. He looked to Elyse. She met his eyes and he could see fear in them. Fear, yet strength. She was always the stronger of the two. He remembered what General Ruin had said to him about his family, what he would do to them. He made his decision.

“Okay,” Oliver stood. “How do I transform?”

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Walrus of Death - Chapter Four: Act Naturally

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WAITING FOR THE POLICE with a walrus unconscious in your kitchen is an exercise in patience. I could only stare at the thing for so long before my eyes grew heavy.

I tugged on the tape that bound his arms and legs and felt fairly confident that they would hold, but I wasn’t prepared to take too many chances. So I jogged back into the bedroom at the other end of the hall. On the bed were my clothes for the day along with a pair of Colt Peacemakers, revolvers of a bygone era when the West was wild and untamed.

The Peacemakers were custom built and given to me by Sam Colt himself and I’d grown quite accustom to them. Sure, nowadays there’s a literal smorgasbord of shooting irons to choose from. But I like to stick with what I know. Besides, I like old things.

When I’m out in public, I have to keep them concealed—I have a permit to carry, I just can’t be flashing them about, so I use a shoulder rig that tucks each one in under each arm. This was lying next to the revolvers. I passed it up however, and opened the trunk at the foot of the bed. I pulled out a belt with a pair of holsters and strapped it around my waist over the robe. The guns would hang low on each hip, ready for a quick draw. This was how I preferred to wear them.

I’m sure I looked every inch the dashing hero in my robe, but I didn’t want to be caught with my pants down when the authorities arrived, so I ignored the clothes for now.

Once back in the kitchen I realized that the Walrus had begun to smell, or maybe there had been a stench to him the entire time and it just took me leaving the room for a moment to notice. Either way, I decided to wait for the police on the front porch with a glass of water and a comic book.

I’d have preferred coffee over water, but considering the pot lay in sharp little pieces all over my kitchen, I’d have to make due with whatever else I had on hand. Which was water.

I felt the loss of the coffee deep within my soul; you might even say I went through the five stages of grief as I stood there at the kitchen sink filling a glass from the tap. The logical side of my brain fought back, telling me that coffee wasn’t out of my life for good, I could always make a run into the Quick Shop and purchase a cup. Heck, I had a coffee maker in the office in town. That shone a little brightness into my soul. Once the Walrus was carted off, I’d head on in to the office and partake. Until then, tap water would have to do. The comic would help.

Feeling a little better about the whole affair—going about heeled sure helped—I took my water and comic book and headed out to the porch. I sat in an old rocker and took in the morning: the smell of the dew on the grass, and the sound of the birds in the trees. Once in a while a car would wind lazily down the gravel road past the house. I sipped my water, frowning at the lack of heat and bitterness, and I read my comic book.

A squirrel hopped up onto the porch from the grass below and stood on its hind legs looking at me with its head cocked slightly to the side in the way that animals do, like they are asking you a question.

“You the back up?” I asked the squirrel. “You here to finish me off since your pard ain’t up to the task?”

It just cocked its head to the other side and continued to stare at me, its nose twitching.

"Well?" I said. “You got something to say, then say it. Otherwise, get.”

The squirrel remained. Its little nose flicked up and down. It didn’t talk, and it didn’t move. It just stared at me. I don’t know that I actually expected it to start speaking, but after arguing with a walrus, nothing would have surprised me.

"If you ain’t got nothing to say then get!" I snarled.

I tried to ignore the squirrel, but it wouldn’t stop staring. I raised the comic book, blocking the squirrel from my sight, but after about five minutes, I found myself skimming through the comic instead of actually reading it. I kept looking over the top at the squirrel. The squirrel met my eye every time.

“You best get if you know what’s good for you,” I said.

The squirrel didn’t move.

I sighed and went back to the comic.

I’d actually read three full pages before glancing over the top of the book again. The squirrel was still there, only he’d moved six or so inches closer.

“Get!” I yelled and then I tossed the glass of water at it.

The squirrel stood its ground as the glass sailed uselessly over the thing’s head. It continued to stare.

"Dang it!" I stood. "Quick staring at me you dern tree rat!" I tried to kick the fluffy little rodent, but it hopped nimbly to one side, so I missed and fell off the porch.

I rolled about a bit in the grass, the dew soaking my bathrobe.

That’s when the rage took over. I’m not an easy man to anger, but once I am, watch out. It’s not a quality I’m proud of, but it’s there all the same.

I jumped back up to the porch and did my best to stomp the squirrel into the wood grain. It just danced back and forth, dodging each stomp as I cursed and fumed.

“Stupid tree rat!”


“Get off my dern porch!”


“Don’t make me kill you!”


The squirrel remained. I had but one choice left.

I drew both pistols, thumbing back the hammers as I cleared leather.

The squirrel blinked.

I smiled.

"Norman?" a voice said from behind me.

I turned in surprise. A woman in a Stetson hat and the khaki uniform of a Eudora Police Officer stood at the bottom of the three steps leading up to the porch. She was looking up at me, her face painted with worry and concern.

“Hey, Pat,” I said, trying to catch my breath. I released the hammers slowly and holstered the guns. “Dang squirrel went and got my dander up. Won’t get off the dern porch. Just keeps staring at me.”

Patricia McCrea had been Sheriff of Eudora throughout the last five Presidential administrations. We go back a ways, Pat and I. I don’t have many friends, I used to, but they grew old and died. Pat was someone who was there for me when I needed her, and for that alone she will always have my trust and respect, while I will always have her back.

I glanced over at the squirrel in time to see it bound off the porch and run up a tree, disappearing within its foliage. It was all I could do not to put a few rounds into the tree.

I turned back to Pat, a sheepish smile on my face.

“You okay, Norman?” Pat said, stepping up onto the porch.

I must have been quite the sight standing there in my undies, gun belt strapped around my bathrobe.

“Why wouldn’t I be okay, Pat?” I said.

“Well, good Lord, Norman,” she said. “Look at you. I mean, I get a call that a walrus broke into your house and tried to kill you, and now I find you throwing down with a squirrel. I’ve already gone gray, Norman, I don’t need you adding to my stress.”

“Heck,” I said, smiling. “You’re still the prettiest thing within fifty miles.”

“Only fifty?” she said, redness rising in her cheeks.

“A hundred,” I said. “Two hundred. Heck, it if weren’t for that husband of yours, I’da swooped you up long ago.”

“You’d have done nothing of the sort, Norman Oklahoma. You had your chance but chose not to take it.”

“There were extenuating circumstances, Pat,” I said. “That goblin infestation kept me a mite busy for a couple years.”

“Goblins,” she said. “It’s always something with you, Norman.”

“Ain’t no goblins around now,” I said, smiling and putting an arm around her. “Nor husbands, neither.”

“Knock it off,” she elbowed me in the ribs.

I jerked my arm back and yelped.

“One of these days Jim may take issue with your incessant flirting,” she said.

“Aw, Jim don’t mind,” I said, pretending to comfort what should have been sore ribs. “He won, I lost. He and I both know it.”

“Well, I mind,” she said. But then she smiled to show that she didn’t really mean it.

“Did you come out here all by yourself?” I asked, looking beyond her and seeing no other vehicle in the drive but her old Bronco. “You’re gonna need at least two other guys when the Walrus wakes up.”

“Oh yes, this walrus you called about.”

Pat knows what I do for a living, in theory. She’s never come face to face with a monster.

“Come inside and see for yourself,” I said.

As Pat entered the house, I took one last look around the porch, and just as I thought, the squirrel was back.

“You and me ain’t done,” I said, pointing a finger at the bushy tailed monster.

The squirrel continued to look up at me, and for a moment, I could have sworn that it smiled. I sighed and followed Pat into the house.

I found her standing in the kitchen, frozen in place, staring down at the walrus. She tried to look like she wasn’t about to question everything she’d known about life, but I could see the shock peeking out from within her hard shell.

“You know—” she cleared her throat and began again. “You know, I’d heard rumors about a hit man that went by the name ‘Walrus,’ but I’d always assumed it was just some stupid nickname.”

“It is a stupid nickname,” I said. “It just happens to be apt in this instance.”

“Well,” Pat scratched at her head a moment. “I guess I need to call in a couple of the boys to haul this thing away.”

“That’s what I was saying,” I said. “I’d offer you something to drink, but my fridge and coffee maker are both on the fritz at the time being.”

“That’s okay,” she said, still staring down at the Walrus, a finger on her chin. “You think that tape is going to hold him?”

“No idea. He threw my table over there like it was nothing.”

“I’d been wondering about that,” she said, looking over at the table that now sat upside down over the couch in the adjoining living room.

“I’d hoped some of your troopers would show up before he came to and slap some leg irons on him or something.”

“I’ll make a call; see to it that they bring in something sturdy to hold him.”

“Nothing can hold me,” the Walrus spoke, sitting up and smiling.

I drew both pistols and thumbed back the hammers, the barrels pointing at the Walrus, one for each eye.

“Nothing, huh?” I said. “How about a bullet or two?”

The Walrus didn’t reply, instead he struggled against the tape at his wrists.

“Stop that,” I said.

He didn’t.

“I will shoot you,” I said. “Don’t know if it will put you down, but I bet it’ll hurt something awful.”

The veins in his neck stood out as he pulled against the tape. The tape itself began to stretch. It was only a matter of minutes, possibly seconds, before he was free.

And that’s when Pat turned around, and ran out the front door, leaving me alone with the Walrus.

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