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ATLAS: Vienna, AT– Some Most Excellent Graffiti

Sunday, January 13th, 2019

 

by Paul-Newell Reaves

 

Along the Danube Canal, some most excellent graffiti painted.  The composition appears against a black background.  What seem like letters, though in no recognizable alphabet, are written in silver, bordered with lines of topaz and white.  Perhaps these are not letters, but long, intricate arrows.  Across the canvas zig-and-zag streaks of orange and red, broadening at the center till they dominate the work.  Dead middle, a sole patch of yellow.

 

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ATLAS: Vienna, AT– Where the Danube River Meets the Danube Canal

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

by Paul-Newell Reaves

 

Outside the main city— some three kilometers North— the canal rejoins the river.

The Danube is mighty, flowing North West at Vienna, wind rocking waves.  Yet this is only half the waterway.  Otherside of a grassy, densely tree-populated island, the New Danube was built.  Less wide, and it is straighter.

A thin peninsula reaches into the old river, dividing the canal.  A green, iron bridge spans the channel: atop it, two lion statues, both the same, green, and on the peninsula side a white house, with thin lines of the same green color.

A tugboat docks above the canal, rusting but brightly painted, green and red stripes above and below a white cabin.

Two stone staircases descend into the canal.  On the peninsula— a thinner case— a young girl talks on her cell phone, hand tucked to her ear beneath a furry hood.  The mainland side steps are four times wider, but a sixth the height.

An older woman in a slim black coat resembles her tiny dog, who scrambles down the steps to drink from the canal.

The canal meanders towards the city center.  Much more direct is the D train.

 

 

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Of Candles, Salt and Owls: Athena

Monday, January 7th, 2019

by W.F. Lantry

read it in the correct order

 

In Persia, owls were not like ours. There was no Athena, no concept of wisdom. They had other birds for that. It was bad luck if an owl perched on the roof of your home, and even worse if it were near the threshold. They were visitors from the underworld, the afterlife, and since they flew when no other birds were in the air, they knew only the darkest secrets. They knew where the rings were hidden, the rings the lost soldiers wore into battle, where the coins of the fallen lay, only revealed in moonlight. They knew where the lover fell, when her beloved failed to meet her in the forest. They knew where her jewels had lodged between tree roots.

And on the most difficult nights, filled with open eyed languishing and lament, when the half moonlight danced through your window and onto the wall of your chamber, you may have seen the shadow of the owl perched outside. You had to confess everything to the form, your worst secrets: how you wandered through the silent alleys of the town in the heat of the day, and every thing you learned there, how you looked across the river and saw a woman washing clothes on the bank, how you longed for her, desired her, and how you dared not swim across the stream, fearing nothing worse than drowning, fearing the owl would come for you in the daylight, to escort you back to his home of shadows, where he kept all the gold he’d gathered from the fields of ancient battles.

I never made those confessions. Owls are different to me. When I looked out my window on those nights, I could sometimes catch their silent wings descending between the dark trees of my garden, falling on mice and small rabbits, carrying off snakes in their talons. They are able to do all the things I cannot, they see what I miss, and sometimes they perch on the various limbs, calling out, reminding me.

Somehow I make it to the dawn, and the garden has been emptied of snakes. No rabbits have broken delphinium stems, and mice have not carried away the seeds. Small records of struggles can only be seen by the most careful eyes: a tuft of fur on a rose thorn, a whiptailed stalk. Gardens are more savage than we know.

I was sitting on my back porch with my coffee, overlooking the night’s events, when I heard the front door open at her hand. Celeste swept through the rooms and to me. “And whither,” I said, “are you rolling, little apple?” “To the countryside,” she said. “Wear sturdy shoes!”

We went outside the Beltway, and started rolling through Maryland, heading North. “I was up all night,” she said, “just thinking. I need to clear my mind. Things have gotten so complicated, and I’m used to clarity. I feel uncentered.” I didn’t ask why she thought the countryside would make her feel more centered. The hills were just a jumbled course of rocks and stones and trees.

“I know just the place,” I said, “Lily Pons.” “That’s not a place, that’s a Soprano!” she said. “It’s named after her,” I said. “It’s best at midsummer, there are more flowers, but it’ll be quiet, and we can wander around for a while.”

I’d only been in July, when the lotus held their tremendous pink blossoms well above the leaves, and the water snowflakes crawled out along the banks, escaping the riot of tropical blooms. We got out of the car, and it looked like a different place. The valley was covered with ponds and small lakes. Here and there a bridge guided us across a marsh. Where the paths disappeared, the earth nearly swallowed my steps. The flat soles of her boots were her only concession to nature, and being lighter, she didn’t sink as far into the mud. We saw the last migrating herons stopping for a quick meal. The Canada geese were arrows above our heads, and redwings turned above the trees. Nothing else was moving. It was exactly the quiet she desired.

When something turns, there’s always a point in the middle like this one. A still place, unmoving, as everything else spins. Her clothes were the only colors around, jewel tones of green and gold. I watched her watching the surfaces, waiting for a moment I’d pictured for weeks.

But not there, on that curved bridge in November, with the world gray around her and the geese moving off. She was moving with them, and I followed her back to the car. “There’s a mountain I’ve heard of,” she said.

There are no mountains in Maryland. I’m used to the Sierras, granite knives far above timberline, alpine meadows and snow. You don’t climb there without thinking, you don’t climb in a jewel tone dress. I knew she just meant a hill. The locals call it Sugarloaf.

There’s a parking lot halfway up. We reached it at mid-afternoon. It’s only a few hundred feet to the summit. Trees blocked the view to the east, but we could see the river far in the west. This seemed a much better place.

In 1862, a few Union soldiers saw the Confederates coming, exactly from this spot. They tried to run, but they were caught in the forest. Only the owls know exactly where. I thought it best not to mention the incident. There we were, a small wind blowing her hair, the late sun brightening jewel tones, a few tardy hawks riding the mountain’s lift south. “Now,” I thought to myself. “Certainly now.”

But not then. The earth, the wilderness, had turned her around. She was persuaded the way back was south. I knew the car was northeast. Once, my life had depended on knowing topography, but I let her lead and wander. It was turning to evening when we found the car. I could hear the owls, calling already through the dark.

# # #

 

 

 

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Of Candles, Salt and Owls: Cowrie Shells

Sunday, January 6th, 2019

by W.F. Lantry

read it in the correct order

 

Pomba Gira came walking through the village one day, wearing a long, flowing dress. The cloth on her left side was scarlet red, the cloth on her right was emerald green. Her hair was jet black that day, black as any night, so the cowrie shells woven into her braids looked like a sky full of stars.

At first, no-one noticed the color of her dress, because the hem was slit nearly up to her thighs, and the neckline plunged almost to her waist. It was only after she’d passed that people started arguing. One faction held her dress was all red, red as the orchids blooming just then in the forest, red as the wings of birds, red as blood just beginning to flow. The other side argued strongly for green, the color of crops and of leaves, the tail feathers of parrots, fresh harvested coffee beans. Both sides were so sure of themselves they nearly came to blows. “We know what we saw,” they all said.

That’s when Pomba Gira came walking back the other way, softly singing to herself, her bare steps light on the earth. The crowd was arguing in the middle of the road, and now they blocked her way. She told them how foolish they’d been, being so certain they knew what they saw. “You were all so busy arguing, you barely noticed the cowrie shells in my hair!”

And it’s true those shells were brilliant in the sun, translucent as porcelain, they looked like an object of love in themselves. Every man thought of love as he gazed at her, and even some of the women. And why not? Shells come from water, they are born of the ocean. They remind us of the moon, drawing the tides. So women wear shells when they want to draw something towards them. They’re woven into skirts and blouses, worn in necklaces against the skin. Mothers present them to their daughters, without saying a word of their meaning.

They’ve been used as money for four thousand years: it’s hard to counterfeit a shell. Most of them came from the Maldives. The locals would tie palm fronds into pairs, and anchor them in the sea. After a few weeks, they’d brave the sharks to retrieve them, shake all the shells into sand pits, and bury them for a month. When they opened the pits, the shells were perfectly clean and still polished, ready to be strung together. The further they got from the Maldives, the more those shell strings were worth.

In Yoruba, twelve strings were almost worth a brideprice. Every man owed the king one string in taxes each year. They were used in palace ceremonies, for conjuring and divination. They could reveal the truth and predict the future. But mostly now they’re used as a charm, and men have no idea of their worth. They can help draw whatever a woman desires.

Miranda and I were strolling through town. The evening’s performance had left her energized and thirsty, she was looking for a place to wind down. We were walking along 18th Street in Northwest, DC, where the cars park diagonally. We noticed a four story mural, a topless woman with red hair. There was writing all over her ten foot breasts. “Madam’s Organ restaurant and bar,” the right one read. “The Heart of Adams Morgan,” the other one said.

There were wagon wheels on the balcony beneath her. We went inside for a drink. I always get a Rusty Nail, she likes a Sex on the Beach, but can never bring herself to say its name. I had to tell the waitress what she desired. The music was almost too loud to speak over, so we drank them almost in silence. It was awkward to move from Fauré into bluegrass. We decided to move down the block.

There are people from every nationality on those streets, the less-wealthy embassies aren’t far away. And for every inclination there’s a store: a Burmese food market, Peruvian clothes. Rugs from the Uzbek, Brazilian spices. Sex shops and strip bars, used bookstores and basement fortunetellers. One of these last caught Miranda’s eye.

“Why would you want to go in there?”

“I’m just curious,” she said. “Why, are you worried she’ll tell me all of your secrets?”

“I already told you all my secrets? Besides, it says on the window half an hour would cost twenty bucks.”

“I’m worth it!” Miranda said, and down the stairs we went. It wasn’t at all what you would imagine. A bell rang us in to a small quiet room. Yes, there was incense, but no skulls or crystals. Hand-patterned Batik was draped on the walls. We sat down at a small table and waited in silence.

When the woman came in, I was even more surprised. She was cedar slender and looked Balinese. Her English was perfect: a Somerset accent. She asked for something small from each of us. I thought she meant money, and placed a twenty on the table beside her. She just smiled gracefully. Miranda knew better: she looked through her purse. In the bottom, she found a small loose shell. Maybe it had been a button that had come unthreaded, or maybe part of a sweater pin. She held it in her hand until it was warm, then placed it on the table in front of her. The Balinese woman touched it and looked up.

“Someone suspects you of something,” she said to Miranda. “Something you didn’t do. The unforeseen end of all this will astound you. There is a man who doesn’t wish you well. But another man, this man sitting right here, the uncivilized one: he loves you. You can always trust a man who loves a troublesome dog.”

I was too embarrassed to speak. I wondered how she knew about Brisi? I bet right at that moment, Brisi was chewing on something she shouldn’t. I picked up the white cowrie shell.

 

 

 

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Of Candles, Salt and Owls

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

by W.F. Lantry

 

Whirlwind 

You don’t believe in witches. Neither do I. It’s hard to blame you, really. All the old stories are silly: Hats and broomsticks and flying around, strange rituals in the forests at midnight. Orgies in a moonlit clearing. Let me tell you something: I’ve been in plenty of nighttime forests, and they aren’t mysterious or romantic or even scary. They’re kind of quiet, actually, tree trunks and a few wings overhead and the occasional bear, who doesn’t want any part of messing with you. If you hear one breathing nearby just hold still, and after a while he’ll lumber away, breaking sticks as he goes. Bears are really clumsy.

I only tell you this because someone may have sent you out into that forest, looking for witches. You won’t find any. It’s the wrong place to look. After all, if you could cast spells and whisper incantations, if you could bend the energy of the earth to your will, would you be spending your time tramping around in some damp cold forest full of bears? Of course not. You’d be home, safe in your warm bed, with your love in your arms.

That’s the problem with covens. People get dressed up as if they’re going to a Renaissance Fair, complete with swords and hats and pentangles, and pretend like they’re doing some ritual. Most of them couldn’t channel the lightest seabreeze, or even call up a small whirlwind. Have you noticed how often they dress in black?

The best one is when they’re out in the forest at midnight with torches, and the high priest is holding a knife, that he’s given some funny Latin-sounding name, as if he had any idea about the true names of things. And the priestess is holding a cup while she lowers her head, and he puts his knife in the cup. Then everyone’s supposed to take off their clothes and have wild moonglow sex. Seriously, it’d be less trouble just to rent a large room. Then no-one would get their hems muddy.

You’d be far better off just looking around you. Sweep all your preconceptions out of your head. That’s what the brooms are really for. Witches seldom wear black. It’s mostly jewel tones. Gold and amethyst and peacock blue. Watch for Hermès scarves. They named them that for a reason.

Of course, you need more clues than that. If you’re lucky enough to be invited into her house, look first for candles. On the dining room table, in the kitchen, anywhere. And while you’re in the kitchen, look for salt. Rough sea salt, the coarse kind. In a small bag or open dish. If there are candles nearby the salt, all the better. They make these little altars all around the house, without even realizing it, with candles and water and salt. Look in the kitchen, look near the bath, if you get the chance.

But the real clincher is little trinket boxes. They love those things. Limoges, Halcyon Days, Faberge: there are all sorts of different kinds. Delicate and fine and permanent. She might have a few out in the living room, or a collection in a backlit cabinet. Maybe some on her vanity, next to her jewelry case. Not that she always stores something inside. She just likes having them around.

But accoutrements don’t make the witch, and neither do possessions or affirmations. If she tells you she’s one, she isn’t. You have to ask her flat out. And here’s what she’ll say: “I’m just a normal girl.” “I’m simply a regular mortal.” And if you talk about anything out of the ordinary, she’ll warn you away from such things. “It’s best to not mess with things like that. It’s dangerous.” Seriously, would an ordinary person talk that way?

The only certain way to tell, though, has nothing to do with what she says, or what she has, or even what she does. What matters is the effect she has on you. How do you feel in her presence? We all know this, we have words for this kind of thing. Have you ever described a woman as “attractive?” What did you mean when you said it? That you felt yourself being pulled closer to her, almost against your intent or your will, as if you were some powerless scrap of iron, and she was magnetic?

Or say you’re at a formal party, and you’re introduced to a woman. And instead of simply nodding and saying hello, or shaking her hand and saying “It’s nice to meet you,” it occurs to you to draw yourself up to your full height, take her hand deftly in yours, and bend down to lightly kiss her hand — well, not her hand actually, the air a few centimeters above her hand — and then straighten back up, look into her eyes, and then say, in a soft but clear voice: “Enchanté.”

What in the world did you mean? That she had enchanted you, cast some sort of spell, to place you into her power? Do witches even chant? I know you think they do, but have you ever actually heard one do it? I haven’t. After all, a spell is just a wish, a desire, formed in the mind, it doesn’t need to be spoken. Just held in thought for a moment. It doesn’t even have to rhyme. A real witch can just look at a man, and think to the goddess “Thy will be done.” Asking for something specific always leads to trouble.

You’ll only realize a spell has been cast on you when she moves away. Attractive means just what it says: you want to be closer to her. You’ll forget what you were doing, or what you’d meant to do, and just wish to be near her. You’ll think about her, all the time, when she’s not there.

The way I think about Odile now. The way I’m drawn to her, almost against my will. Maybe I should light a few candles?

 

Cowrie Shells

Pomba Gira came walking through the village one day, wearing a long, flowing dress. The cloth on her left side was scarlet red, the cloth on her right was emerald green. Her hair was jet black that day, black as any night, so the cowrie shells woven into her braids looked like a sky full of stars.

At first, no-one noticed the color of her dress, because the hem was slit nearly up to her thighs, and the neckline plunged almost to her waist. It was only after she’d passed that people started arguing. One faction held her dress was all red, red as the orchids blooming just then in the forest, red as the wings of birds, red as blood just beginning to flow. The other side argued strongly for green, the color of crops and of leaves, the tail feathers of parrots, fresh harvested coffee beans. Both sides were so sure of themselves they nearly came to blows. “We know what we saw,” they all said.

That’s when Pomba Gira came walking back the other way, softly singing to herself, her bare steps light on the earth. The crowd was arguing in the middle of the road, and now they blocked her way. She told them how foolish they’d been, being so certain they knew what they saw. “You were all so busy arguing, you barely noticed the cowrie shells in my hair!”

And it’s true those shells were brilliant in the sun, translucent as porcelain, they looked like an object of love in themselves. Every man thought of love as he gazed at her, and even some of the women. And why not? Shells come from water, they are born of the ocean. They remind us of the moon, drawing the tides. So women wear shells when they want to draw something towards them. They’re woven into skirts and blouses, worn in necklaces against the skin. Mothers present them to their daughters, without saying a word of their meaning.

They’ve been used as money for four thousand years: it’s hard to counterfeit a shell. Most of them came from the Maldives. The locals would tie palm fronds into pairs, and anchor them in the sea. After a few weeks, they’d brave the sharks to retrieve them, shake all the shells into sand pits, and bury them for a month. When they opened the pits, the shells were perfectly clean and still polished, ready to be strung together. The further they got from the Maldives, the more those shell strings were worth.

In Yoruba, twelve strings were almost worth a brideprice. Every man owed the king one string in taxes each year. They were used in palace ceremonies, for conjuring and divination. They could reveal the truth and predict the future. But mostly now they’re used as a charm, and men have no idea of their worth. They can help draw whatever a woman desires.

Miranda and I were strolling through town. The evening’s performance had left her energized and thirsty, she was looking for a place to wind down. We were walking along 18th Street in Northwest, DC, where the cars park diagonally. We noticed a four story mural, a topless woman with red hair. There was writing all over her ten foot breasts. “Madam’s Organ restaurant and bar,” the right one read. “The Heart of Adams Morgan,” the other one said.

There were wagon wheels on the balcony beneath her. We went inside for a drink. I always get a Rusty Nail, she likes a Sex on the Beach, but can never bring herself to say its name. I had to tell the waitress what she desired. The music was almost too loud to speak over, so we drank them almost in silence. It was awkward to move from Fauré into bluegrass. We decided to move down the block.

There are people from every nationality on those streets, the less-wealthy embassies aren’t far away. And for every inclination there’s a store: a Burmese food market, Peruvian clothes. Rugs from the Uzbek, Brazilian spices. Sex shops and strip bars, used bookstores and basement fortunetellers. One of these last caught Miranda’s eye.

“Why would you want to go in there?”

“I’m just curious,” she said. “Why, are you worried she’ll tell me all of your secrets?”

“I already told you all my secrets? Besides, it says on the window half an hour would cost twenty bucks.”

“I’m worth it!” Miranda said, and down the stairs we went. It wasn’t at all what you would imagine. A bell rang us in to a small quiet room. Yes, there was incense, but no skulls or crystals. Hand-patterned Batik was draped on the walls. We sat down at a small table and waited in silence.

When the woman came in, I was even more surprised. She was cedar slender and looked Balinese. Her English was perfect: a Somerset accent. She asked for something small from each of us. I thought she meant money, and placed a twenty on the table beside her. She just smiled gracefully. Miranda knew better: she looked through her purse. In the bottom, she found a small loose shell. Maybe it had been a button that had come unthreaded, or maybe part of a sweater pin. She held it in her hand until it was warm, then placed it on the table in front of her. The Balinese woman touched it and looked up.

“Someone suspects you of something,” she said to Miranda. “Something you didn’t do. The unforeseen end of all this will astound you. There is a man who doesn’t wish you well. But another man, this man sitting right here, the uncivilized one: he loves you. You can always trust a man who loves a troublesome dog.”

I was too embarrassed to speak. I wondered how she knew about Brisi? I bet right at that moment, Brisi was chewing on something she shouldn’t. I picked up the white cowrie shell.

 

Athena

In Persia, owls were not like ours. There was no Athena, no concept of wisdom. They had other birds for that. It was bad luck if an owl perched on the roof of your home, and even worse if it were near the threshold. They were visitors from the underworld, the afterlife, and since they flew when no other birds were in the air, they knew only the darkest secrets. They knew where the rings were hidden, the rings the lost soldiers wore into battle, where the coins of the fallen lay, only revealed in moonlight. They knew where the lover fell, when her beloved failed to meet her in the forest. They knew where her jewels had lodged between tree roots.

And on the most difficult nights, filled with open eyed languishing and lament, when the half moonlight danced through your window and onto the wall of your chamber, you may have seen the shadow of the owl perched outside. You had to confess everything to the form, your worst secrets: how you wandered through the silent alleys of the town in the heat of the day, and every thing you learned there, how you looked across the river and saw a woman washing clothes on the bank, how you longed for her, desired her, and how you dared not swim across the stream, fearing nothing worse than drowning, fearing the owl would come for you in the daylight, to escort you back to his home of shadows, where he kept all the gold he’d gathered from the fields of ancient battles.

I never made those confessions. Owls are different to me. When I looked out my window on those nights, I could sometimes catch their silent wings descending between the dark trees of my garden, falling on mice and small rabbits, carrying off snakes in their talons. They are able to do all the things I cannot, they see what I miss, and sometimes they perch on the various limbs, calling out, reminding me.

Somehow I make it to the dawn, and the garden has been emptied of snakes. No rabbits have broken delphinium stems, and mice have not carried away the seeds. Small records of struggles can only be seen by the most careful eyes: a tuft of fur on a rose thorn, a whiptailed stalk. Gardens are more savage than we know.

I was sitting on my back porch with my coffee, overlooking the night’s events, when I heard the front door open at her hand. Celeste swept through the rooms and to me. “And whither,” I said, “are you rolling, little apple?” “To the countryside,” she said. “Wear sturdy shoes!”

We went outside the Beltway, and started rolling through Maryland, heading North. “I was up all night,” she said, “just thinking. I need to clear my mind. Things have gotten so complicated, and I’m used to clarity. I feel uncentered.” I didn’t ask why she thought the countryside would make her feel more centered. The hills were just a jumbled course of rocks and stones and trees.

“I know just the place,” I said, “Lily Pons.” “That’s not a place, that’s a Soprano!” she said. “It’s named after her,” I said. “It’s best at midsummer, there are more flowers, but it’ll be quiet, and we can wander around for a while.”

I’d only been in July, when the lotus held their tremendous pink blossoms well above the leaves, and the water snowflakes crawled out along the banks, escaping the riot of tropical blooms. We got out of the car, and it looked like a different place. The valley was covered with ponds and small lakes. Here and there a bridge guided us across a marsh. Where the paths disappeared, the earth nearly swallowed my steps. The flat soles of her boots were her only concession to nature, and being lighter, she didn’t sink as far into the mud. We saw the last migrating herons stopping for a quick meal. The Canada geese were arrows above our heads, and redwings turned above the trees. Nothing else was moving. It was exactly the quiet she desired.

When something turns, there’s always a point in the middle like this one. A still place, unmoving, as everything else spins. Her clothes were the only colors around, jewel tones of green and gold. I watched her watching the surfaces, waiting for a moment I’d pictured for weeks.

But not there, on that curved bridge in November, with the world gray around her and the geese moving off. She was moving with them, and I followed her back to the car. “There’s a mountain I’ve heard of,” she said.

There are no mountains in Maryland. I’m used to the Sierras, granite knives far above timberline, alpine meadows and snow. You don’t climb there without thinking, you don’t climb in a jewel tone dress. I knew she just meant a hill. The locals call it Sugarloaf.

There’s a parking lot halfway up. We reached it at mid-afternoon. It’s only a few hundred feet to the summit. Trees blocked the view to the east, but we could see the river far in the west. This seemed a much better place.

In 1862, a few Union soldiers saw the Confederates coming, exactly from this spot. They tried to run, but they were caught in the forest. Only the owls know exactly where. I thought it best not to mention the incident. There we were, a small wind blowing her hair, the late sun brightening jewel tones, a few tardy hawks riding the mountain’s lift south. “Now,” I thought to myself. “Certainly now.”

But not then. The earth, the wilderness, had turned her around. She was persuaded the way back was south. I knew the car was northeast. Once, my life had depended on knowing topography, but I let her lead and wander. It was turning to evening when we found the car. I could hear the owls, calling already through the dark.

# # #

 

 

 

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Canis Latrans: Coyote’s List

Friday, January 4th, 2019

by Levi Andrew Noe

read it in the correct order

 

The list raced through her head. Water—they had that—a pinch of dirt, that’s everywhere. But where was she going to get a live rabbit or a feather—of what kind of bird? And she needed the paw of a prairie dog. She did not want to think of where she was going to get that, not yet. First, the rabbit.

Meg looked up pet stores on her phone. Furry Fiesta was the closest, just three miles away. At a stop light, she finally had a chance to think. What the hell was she doing? She had done plenty of strange things for patients. For Glenda, she had dressed up like Dorothy and brought in her ex-boyfriend to play the cowardly lion. For Paul, she had crooned him to sleep nightly in her best off-tune Doris Day impression—she had learned the artist’s entire discography. What she was doing now was beyond crazy, beyond any reasonable scope of her job as a hospice caregiver.

But there was something in the old man’s eyes, crazy as all this was, she almost believed him. Or at the very least, it seemed like he believed himself. And so, she walked through the doors of Furry Fiesta.

The pet shop smelled like fermenting piss and cockatoo crap and the shriek of birds summoned monsoons of migraines.

“You got a rabbit?” Meg asked.

“Sure, what kind you want?”

The pet shop guy wore a white t-shirt with yellow sweat stained armpits and looked like he curled up in a cage with the lizards after closing shop.

“I don’t know—just a rabbit.”

“We got mini Rexs, dwarf Hotots, Holland lops and one Netherland dwarf.”

He spoke like he was talking about his favorite Playboy playmates and Meg tried not to cringe.

“Just a rabbit. The cheapest one.”

The man frowned, muttering under his breath. He sulked toward the rabbit cages and came back with a tiny virgin white rabbit with black rimmed eyes that made it look like it was wearing mascara.

“You got a cage?” he asked like he already knew the answer.

“I—sure. Just give me the rabbit.”

Meg paid and got back into her LeSabre, the rabbit in the passenger seat. What was next on the list? A feather? Of what? Something black, that was the image she had in her head. Blackbird? Crow? She drove around scanning power lines and trees, windows down, even though the blistering New Mexico sun was turning her car into an inferno.

Meg screeched, crossed two lanes of traffics and nearly drove straight into the desert when she heard the discordant caws. And then she saw the dark birds in a distant tree.

The bunny bounced, seizing over the pockmarked washboard dirt road. She came to the tree, a lone cottonwood beside a parched creek. She scanned the ground, assuming that where there were birds there were feathers. And…bingo. One crow feather, or were they ravens, blackbirds? What the hell was the difference?

She ran back to her car, of course, painted in bird droppings. Now, the prairie dog. She actually had to consider where she’d find a paw. It wasn’t the same as a rabbit’s foot. She looked at the poor creature beside her with pity. She started to back up, no room to turn around. It was slow going but she was almost out when she felt a resounding thump through her old Buick. Ordinarily she’d chalk it up to yet another stubborn New Mexican rock, but this felt pretty damn big. And the old girl was barely getting by on her ancient struts. Meg decided she should check it out, just to be safe. She circled around to the passenger side and—

“Well, I’ll be damned.”

She had run over a prairie dog. She weighed out her options: carry back the carcass, oozing intestines, or… She reached into the car and got her pocketknife.

“One prairie dog paw comin’ up!” she said to the rabbit, who was catatonic with fright.

When she burst back into Mr. LaTrans’ apartment at the assisted living center with an armful of carnage and soon to be carnage, she barely suppressed the primal scream that bubbled up inside her.

“What the—!?”

Cain LaTrans had the bedsheets thrown off him, obliviously nude, shuffling his age-spotted shoulders to Iggy Azalea

“What? Girl can spit,” he stopped mid-side-step. “I mean…Oh, ow, Ohhhh, Meg!”

Meg threw the bunny on the bed and shoved the severed prairie dog paw in his face.

“Aw, save it, you old hack. I should’ve known. Fool me once…”

“Wait, what’s this?” he ignored her. “You mean, you actually did it!? Well Woo-fackin-hoo! And good goddamn! Now we can have ourselves a ceremony!”

“You’re still gonna carry on with this shit?” Meg fumed.

“Water! Get it in a cup and go scoop up some dirt. I got a lighter for the fire. And—what’s this? Puh! It’s a crow feather. But it’ll have to do. Get a bowl for the rabbit blood, too!”

Coyote chanted in a forgotten tongue over “Murda Bizness.” He laboriously turned his body toward each corner of the apartment. Prairie dog paw in his mouth, crow feather in the left hand and the rabbit, hanging by the scruff of its neck in his right. He looked like a wild thing, a hidden power pouring through him.

“We’re gonna git that fackin prairie dog yet.”

 

 

 

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Canis Latrans: Coyote in Hospice

Thursday, January 3rd, 2019

by Levi Andrew Noe

read it in the correct order

 

“When I get out of here,” he huffed, “First thing I’ll do is take a shit under the moon and howl till the stars shake. And ain’t nobody gonna wipe my ass.”

“Mr. LaTrans, Mr. LaTrans, please, just hold still. No one likes getting their ass wiped, but if you can’t do it yourself, someone has to do it for you.”

Meg loved her job, but it was things like this that made her question why. And in questioning this, she would begin to question her own sanity.

The feces was so encrusted that it was like trying to scrape graffiti off brick. But in some ways this work was better than his sponge baths, and his unapologetic erections.

“Ow!” Coyote howled, “When I get out of this body, I am coming straight for those fackin’ prairie dogs. Little rat bastard shit stains! I hate being human! You people are disgusting! Why I ever helped you and brought you fire is a mystery to me. Ungrateful, sorry sacks of skin.”

“Mr. LaTrans,” she gasped, “The more you move, the longer this is going to take.”

Coyote finally settled down and let Meg do her job. It was over in a few moments. Meg snapped off her gloves and threw them in the trash. They both sighed with relief and relaxed, Meg into a chair and Coyote into his bed.

“So what were you saying about prairie dogs?”

She handed him a glass of water. He took the straw and slurped with his mouth open, tried to lap at the water with his tongue.

“I’m gonna kill that fackin’ varmint,” his voice was a vicious growl. “Kill him and his whole goddamn family. Kill his whole clan. Might just wipe out every last little yippin’ bitch on the whole damn planet.”

“Wow, that’s harsh,” Meg was remembering why she loved her job. “Never met anyone who hated them so much. What did prairie dogs ever do to you?”

Coyote’s entire body clenched, his hands in tremors. Meg rose from her seat quickly, ready to deal with a seizure.

“Little bucktooth bitch stole my medicine,” Coyote spoke low, but there was blood on his breath. “Took my medicine, took my breath. Built a cage for me in this body. Made me human, like—like—this. This toothless sack of puss. This…”

Coyote’s anger was decomposing into despair and self-loathing faster than a fallen popsicle on July asphalt.

“Mr. LaTrans,” Meg softened, “Cain. Listen, you’re not a—”

“A rotting pile of meat? Don’t go all soft on me now, girlie. You tell it like it is, that’s why I like ya’. This body’s being torn asunder like a wake of vultures was picking at me. It’s coming fast, and it can’t come any faster.”

Meg tried to hide her face, buried her eyes in charts. It only took a moment for her to regain control, but that was a moment longer than she ever took.

“Well, I just want to make you as comfortable and happy as I can while you’re still with us. Don’t be so quick to run straight towards it. And let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”

“Anything?” Coyote inquired.

“Well…”

Coyote didn’t let her finish.

“Go out now. I need a rabbit. Alive. A raven’s feather. And a prairie dog’s paw. We’ve got the water, and just a pinch of dirt. Oh yea, and then we need a fire.”

“Cain, I—”

“Go, girlie! Now! The eagle’s beak is opening. If I ain’t prepared when I go, that prairie pussy’s gonna take my medicine into the next world!”

Meg had never seen Mr. LaTrans like this, so convicted, so lucid.

“Girlie…”

Coyote looked at her with ages of trickery and wisdom in his eyes. Meg let out a gasp. She saw it. She knew.

“You gotta do this. One last thing for me. You’re the only one who can save me. Please.”

He fell faint, wheezing, gasping.

“Mr. LaTrans,” Meg put her hand on him. He did not respond.

“Cain…” She touched his face.

Meg’s heart beat and throbbed like a powwow. She stood up, stumbled about for keys, shoes, knife. She ran out of the house, leaving the door swinging wide.

Coyote peaked to make sure she was gone.

“Heh, heh,” he chuckled to himself, “I’ll get that rat bastard yet.”

Then he turned his head, his face soured.

“Damn. I shoulda had her write a list.”

 

 

 

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Canis Latrans

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

by Levi Andrew Noe

 

Coyote Dances with the Prairie Dogs

No regrets. That’s what I always say. But that don’t mean I wouldn’t go back and change anything. In the past I was careless, cock-sure, and thought I was goddamn invincible. Send me back in time and I’d give myself a few warnings. Send me back in time and I’d a killed every last damn prairie dog on the planet. Rat bastards.

You want to know how I got to be like this, in this old fart-mouthed, saggy-balled human form? Well, it starts with a trick I pulled. Surprise, surprise.

You happened to catch me on a good day. A day when I feel like telling the truth. And so, since you ask, I’ll tell you the story that set this whole end of days, apocalypse shit-show into being. And I’ll also tell you from the get-go, which is very rare for me, that I ain’t blameless in this. I coulda done better. I coulda followed something other than my dick or my stomach for once. But goddamn! If ya got a problem with the way I was made, take it up with my creator. Lord knows I’ve tried.

Anyways, I might as well get on with the story. Everyone knows I’d try to talk the sun outta setting, but we ain’t got time for that. Sun’s already setting.

So there I was, back in the good ol’ days. Actually, shit, that wasn’t the good days, that was right when the good days was just getting the sour taste of piss on the back end. Time’s hard to reckon when you been around for millennia, and this whole sorry state of affairs has just started in the last few hundred years. So, let me start again.

There I was, back in the days when you could tell shit wasn’t quite right by the wafts of death and coal you’d get every now and again, but it wasn’t yet bad enough to call it a massacre, or a genocide. Some of us still underestimated the white man’s greed and his heartlessness. But we’ll get to that in another story. This is the story of how I facked myself by not killing every last shit-licking prairie dog in existence.

I was out walking about. Probably just came from a dance, or tricked some poor guy outta his whiskey, just another normal day. Then I see a soldier’s jacket hanging from a signpost at a crossroads. I saw that there uniform and I knew I just had to do something with it. Didn’t take me long till I came up with a plan, never did quite know where those ideas came from or why. After several thousand years, I still had the impulse control of a hound in a harem. One of the only things being one of you stinking puss sacks has taught me: a little restraint, a little humility. I guess you can teach an old Coyote new tricks.

So, I saw the uniform and I knew there was the great prairie dog village right nearby. And I also knew I was hungrier than a bear after winter. Oh yeah, and I remembered the last time I tried to get me a prairie dog feast and that sack-o-stink, the fackin’ skunk, stole my meal. I still owe that bastard, too. But anyways, what else could I do? I hung that uniform up on a stick and carried it to the prairie dog village like a flag. I got in and started shouting.

“Hey! Hey! Hey! Come out! Everyone. Your ol’ pal Coyote’s here and guess what? He’s done and gone killed all your enemies for ya. Took this uniform as a souvenir. You won’t have to be worrying about no soldiers comin’ in and takin’ your land and killin’ your people. So, what do you say? Let’s have ourselves a little dance in my honor!”

Stupid little bucktooth bastards didn’t even think twice about it. They was all set to sing and dance and eat their own shit in my name if I told them to. I told them to make a big ol’ fire. They kept bringing sticks and I kept shouting for more. We danced and danced. I had them singing hymns about my greatness and my power. It was one of the best dances I ever been to, come to think of it.

That went on for hours before I told them I was tired and needed to sleep. I made sure they kept on dancing, though, and kept building up that fire. While I pretended to go off and sleep, what I actually did was cover up all their holes so they wouldn’t be able to get back in. Dumb rodents never suspected a thing, probably woulda just thrown themselves on the fire if I told ‘em to. Ya ask me, an animal that stupid, only purpose is to be my dinner.

I came back a little while later, said I was all rested up. Then I started to show them how I killed all those soldiers. I picked up a big stick, started swinging it around, showing them all my best moves. I made to pretend like I was gonna hit ‘em, but just barely missed. Just messing with the little idiots. I had them all gathered closer and closer to the fire and then I let loose. I started smacking ‘em down, one by one. They tried to run back to their holes, but there weren’t no holes to run back to. It took a little time, but I thought I had killed all of them. Must’ve missed one, and that’s the little shit that sold me out. Day a reckoning’s comin’ for him soon. Let me tell you.

There I was, with a pile of prairie dogs and a big ol’ fire. I put those tasty little varmints into the coals, separating the juicy fat ones, from the little scrawny ones. It had been a long night, dawn wasn’t far off, so I took myself a good rest. Knowing that when I woke I’d have myself a feast.

And that shoulda been the end of that story. ‘Cept I missed one of them prairie dogs, and I wasn’t looking around to see who might be looking at me.

 

Coyote in Hospice

“When I get out of here,” he huffed, “First thing I’ll do is take a shit under the moon and howl till the stars shake. And ain’t nobody gonna wipe my ass.”

“Mr. LaTrans, Mr. LaTrans, please, just hold still. No one likes getting their ass wiped, but if you can’t do it yourself, someone has to do it for you.”

Meg loved her job, but it was things like this that made her question why. And in questioning this, she would begin to question her own sanity.

The feces was so encrusted that it was like trying to scrape graffiti off brick. But in some ways this work was better than his sponge baths, and his unapologetic erections.

“Ow!” Coyote howled, “When I get out of this body, I am coming straight for those fackin’ prairie dogs. Little rat bastard shit stains! I hate being human! You people are disgusting! Why I ever helped you and brought you fire is a mystery to me. Ungrateful, sorry sacks of skin.”

“Mr. LaTrans,” she gasped, “The more you move, the longer this is going to take.”

Coyote finally settled down and let Meg do her job. It was over in a few moments. Meg snapped off her gloves and threw them in the trash. They both sighed with relief and relaxed, Meg into a chair and Coyote into his bed.

“So what were you saying about prairie dogs?”

She handed him a glass of water. He took the straw and slurped with his mouth open, tried to lap at the water with his tongue.

“I’m gonna kill that fackin’ varmint,” his voice was a vicious growl. “Kill him and his whole goddamn family. Kill his whole clan. Might just wipe out every last little yippin’ bitch on the whole damn planet.”

“Wow, that’s harsh,” Meg was remembering why she loved her job. “Never met anyone who hated them so much. What did prairie dogs ever do to you?”

Coyote’s entire body clenched, his hands in tremors. Meg rose from her seat quickly, ready to deal with a seizure.

“Little bucktooth bitch stole my medicine,” Coyote spoke low, but there was blood on his breath. “Took my medicine, took my breath. Built a cage for me in this body. Made me human, like—like—this. This toothless sack of puss. This…”

Coyote’s anger was decomposing into despair and self-loathing faster than a fallen popsicle on July asphalt.

“Mr. LaTrans,” Meg softened, “Cain. Listen, you’re not a—”

“A rotting pile of meat? Don’t go all soft on me now, girlie. You tell it like it is, that’s why I like ya’. This body’s being torn asunder like a wake of vultures was picking at me. It’s coming fast, and it can’t come any faster.”

Meg tried to hide her face, buried her eyes in charts. It only took a moment for her to regain control, but that was a moment longer than she ever took.

“Well, I just want to make you as comfortable and happy as I can while you’re still with us. Don’t be so quick to run straight towards it. And let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.”

“Anything?” Coyote inquired.

“Well…”

Coyote didn’t let her finish.

“Go out now. I need a rabbit. Alive. A raven’s feather. And a prairie dog’s paw. We’ve got the water, and just a pinch of dirt. Oh yea, and then we need a fire.”

“Cain, I—”

“Go, girlie! Now! The eagle’s beak is opening. If I ain’t prepared when I go, that prairie pussy’s gonna take my medicine into the next world!”

Meg had never seen Mr. LaTrans like this, so convicted, so lucid.

“Girlie…”

Coyote looked at her with ages of trickery and wisdom in his eyes. Meg let out a gasp. She saw it. She knew.

“You gotta do this. One last thing for me. You’re the only one who can save me. Please.”

He fell faint, wheezing, gasping.

“Mr. LaTrans,” Meg put her hand on him. He did not respond.

“Cain…” She touched his face.

Meg’s heart beat and throbbed like a powwow. She stood up, stumbled about for keys, shoes, knife. She ran out of the house, leaving the door swinging wide.

Coyote peaked to make sure she was gone.

“Heh, heh,” he chuckled to himself, “I’ll get that rat bastard yet.”

Then he turned his head, his face soured.

“Damn. I shoulda had her write a list.”

 

Coyote’s List

The list raced through her head. Water—they had that—a pinch of dirt, that’s everywhere. But where was she going to get a live rabbit or a feather—of what kind of bird? And she needed the paw of a prairie dog. She did not want to think of where she was going to get that, not yet. First, the rabbit.

Meg looked up pet stores on her phone. Furry Fiesta was the closest, just three miles away. At a stop light, she finally had a chance to think. What the hell was she doing? She had done plenty of strange things for patients. For Glenda, she had dressed up like Dorothy and brought in her ex-boyfriend to play the cowardly lion. For Paul, she had crooned him to sleep nightly in her best off-tune Doris Day impression—she had learned the artist’s entire discography. What she was doing now was beyond crazy, beyond any reasonable scope of her job as a hospice caregiver.

But there was something in the old man’s eyes, crazy as all this was, she almost believed him. Or at the very least, it seemed like he believed himself. And so, she walked through the doors of Furry Fiesta.

The pet shop smelled like fermenting piss and cockatoo crap and the shriek of birds summoned monsoons of migraines.

“You got a rabbit?” Meg asked.

“Sure, what kind you want?”

The pet shop guy wore a white t-shirt with yellow sweat stained armpits and looked like he curled up in a cage with the lizards after closing shop.

“I don’t know—just a rabbit.”

“We got mini Rexs, dwarf Hotots, Holland lops and one Netherland dwarf.”

He spoke like he was talking about his favorite Playboy playmates and Meg tried not to cringe.

“Just a rabbit. The cheapest one.”

The man frowned, muttering under his breath. He sulked toward the rabbit cages and came back with a tiny virgin white rabbit with black rimmed eyes that made it look like it was wearing mascara.

“You got a cage?” he asked like he already knew the answer.

“I—sure. Just give me the rabbit.”

Meg paid and got back into her LeSabre, the rabbit in the passenger seat. What was next on the list? A feather? Of what? Something black, that was the image she had in her head. Blackbird? Crow? She drove around scanning power lines and trees, windows down, even though the blistering New Mexico sun was turning her car into an inferno.

Meg screeched, crossed two lanes of traffics and nearly drove straight into the desert when she heard the discordant caws. And then she saw the dark birds in a distant tree.

The bunny bounced, seizing over the pockmarked washboard dirt road. She came to the tree, a lone cottonwood beside a parched creek. She scanned the ground, assuming that where there were birds there were feathers. And…bingo. One crow feather, or were they ravens, blackbirds? What the hell was the difference?

She ran back to her car, of course, painted in bird droppings. Now, the prairie dog. She actually had to consider where she’d find a paw. It wasn’t the same as a rabbit’s foot. She looked at the poor creature beside her with pity. She started to back up, no room to turn around. It was slow going but she was almost out when she felt a resounding thump through her old Buick. Ordinarily she’d chalk it up to yet another stubborn New Mexican rock, but this felt pretty damn big. And the old girl was barely getting by on her ancient struts. Meg decided she should check it out, just to be safe. She circled around to the passenger side and—

“Well, I’ll be damned.”

She had run over a prairie dog. She weighed out her options: carry back the carcass, oozing intestines, or… She reached into the car and got her pocketknife.

“One prairie dog paw comin’ up!” she said to the rabbit, who was catatonic with fright.

When she burst back into Mr. LaTrans’ apartment at the assisted living center with an armful of carnage and soon to be carnage, she barely suppressed the primal scream that bubbled up inside her.

“What the—!?”

Cain LaTrans had the bedsheets thrown off him, obliviously nude, shuffling his age-spotted shoulders to Iggy Azalea

“What? Girl can spit,” he stopped mid-side-step. “I mean…Oh, ow, Ohhhh, Meg!”

Meg threw the bunny on the bed and shoved the severed prairie dog paw in his face.

“Aw, save it, you old hack. I should’ve known. Fool me once…”

“Wait, what’s this?” he ignored her. “You mean, you actually did it!? Well Woo-fackin-hoo! And good goddamn! Now we can have ourselves a ceremony!”

“You’re still gonna carry on with this shit?” Meg fumed.

“Water! Get it in a cup and go scoop up some dirt. I got a lighter for the fire. And—what’s this? Puh! It’s a crow feather. But it’ll have to do. Get a bowl for the rabbit blood, too!”

Coyote chanted in a forgotten tongue over “Murda Bizness.” He laboriously turned his body toward each corner of the apartment. Prairie dog paw in his mouth, crow feather in the left hand and the rabbit, hanging by the scruff of its neck in his right. He looked like a wild thing, a hidden power pouring through him.

“We’re gonna git that fackin prairie dog yet.”

 

 

 

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The Case Notes of P.I. James: The Scene

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019

by John Steckley

read it in the correct order

 

It is dark with many stars and little moon.  A large white van pulls up in a parking lot close to the lone box car. Five men get out of the back of the van.  One of the two in the cab joins them.  Three men have guns raised.  Two guys knock three times on the box car door. Two armed men slide the door open and come out.

They co-ordinate their plans for their prisoners.  A lit bottle with gin and a few quite flammable and unstable substances added is tossed out of the bushes.  It explodes,  bursting into flame as it crashes not far from the men.  Some of them hit the ground; all of them are in shock. 

Unseen in the bushes, James calls the police.  Then he makes a call to someone parked behind a nearby building.

The van driver gets out, worried by the explosion.  In less than a minute, two shots are fired at the tires.  The aim of the shooter, made accurate by many recent hours in a shooting gallery, hits the intended targets.  The tires blow up.  The driver rolls to the ground, readying himself for further shots.  He gets his own gun out.

At the other side of the box car men are firing at the now empty bushes. The gun-less  are making themselves difficult targets.  

In a crouched position unfriendly to his back, James circles the box car far enough away to be invisible to the traffickers.  He is soon at Ruthie’s side.

The van driver stands and fires at them.  He nearly hits Ruthie, who dodges the shots well, like she has practiced.  James, who had neglected to load his gun (Ruthie’s job), picks up a fist-sized rock, and throws it with a high, basketball player’s arch.  It comes down directly onto the van driver’s chest, briefly knocking the wind out of him.  But after a few minutes he returns to his feet ready to fire.  Ruthie beats him to it, hitting his gun-bearing arm.

“We’re even” said James.

“I didn’t know we were keeping score.” replied Ruthie.

“Men always keep score,” joked James in return

She hit him lightly in the shoulder.  He faked a cringe, and said, “Careful.  That’s my throwing arm.  She smiled.

Then sirens are heard.  Two vehicles with flashing lights come screeching into the parking lot.  The police were arriving. He explains the situation to them.  There had been rumours of human traffickers in the area. They had received pressure from high up to produce results.  They act quickly and efficiently.  The men are rounded up, those with guns drop them to the ground.  The police open the sliding door. 

James and Ruthie stand nearby.  They see a group 15 to 20 huddled figures on the other side of the box car.  All are quite young.  None appear to speak much English.  As they are led outside, one remains, crouched in a corner.  James and Ruthie see her.  Ruthie steps into the box car, bends down and extends a hand to the young girl.  After some hesitation, the hand is taken.  The girl comes close to smiling.  Then Ruthie speaks.

“Someone should…we should adopt her.”

“You have to be a married couple to do that.”

“Are you proposing to me?”

“Believe I am.”

“Believe I am…saying yes.”

 

 

 

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The Case Notes of P.I. James: Case Notes

Monday, December 31st, 2018

by John Steckley

read it in the correct order

 

“He told us what he had seen.  Kids in a box car.  Taken to a large white van.  It would be a dangerous case.  These guys were serious criminals.  Signed on to the case anyway.  Needed the money.  Would send a tip to the police, once we got hard evidence.    

Time for the hobo outfit.  Jeans with big pockets to keep my phone in. Shredded at both cuffs.   T-shirt with holes.  No underwear.  Old socks.  Had to get the smell right. A concoction of sweat, pee and cigarettes butts did the trick.  Local sauna and a rim-less paper coffee cup for the sweat.  Watered the mixture down a bit.  Put it in a spray bottle.  Applied liberally to clothes.  Smelled right.  Ruthie kept her distance. 

Found a bench near the tracks for a home base.  Appeared to sleep on it.  Talked to myself when anyone looked and listened my way.  After two days the boys in the rail yard got used to my presence.  Laughed.  One even held his nose while pointing at me. In private investigation, it’s not whether you are seen but how you are that counts.

Have a few props.  Two bottles, one full, one empty.  The full one contained gin and one big surprise.  Took several strategic walks around the place – stumbling steps – empty bottle in hand. Fell twice.  Nothing broken

Third day, a lot of attention to one box car separated soon after the train stopped.  Small engine took it to another track.  Would watch it tonight.  Had my bush hideout picked out as my lookout point.

Had suspicions concerning what would happen tonight.  Called Ruthie.  She is involved with every case now.  Told her what I suspected and what I wanted her to do.  She said she could handle it.  Knew she could. 

 

 

 

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