SoGoth Mansion Act Deux

SoGoth Mansion
Act Deux

By Dennis J. Cummins III

“Is there a problem?”

The man’s eyes, already large, oval, opaque little moons, squirmy like fish eggs, bright, in the nocturnal glow of the fluorescent lighting, grew even larger, comically so. Then, slowly, blinked, twice. His head leaned forward, just a tad, as if it had a volition of its own, apart from its owner, or perhaps like those unconscious zombies, under the guise of a supernatural religion to whom homage is paid some forgotten deity, vodun priestesses control men’s lusts for their whim, it was truly not his own will controlling his own actions. And yet how strange, unless it is like the Greek’s thought that the soul or “brain” or thinking organ was the liver, which is why in both Greece and Roman doctors doubled as barbers, oh a little blood letting is good for you, Ouí! But of course! How strange that one’s own head could have a mind of its own! On the other hand, the Orisha of corn-rows, one of those forgotten vodun goddesses, helps one find one’s “inner-head” and ‘camino’ or way or path, so go figure.

He was short and fat, rotund however in a rather pleasing, ball like shape, very neat. Fastidious like a cat, with whiskers to match, in his little pin-striped suit he cut a perfect picture of a man so out of time, so removed from place and comfort, with nary a feather ruffled, he fell perfectly back into place, as if his time had come again. He was so thoroughly unfashionable, out of date, what not to wear, that he was also suddenly haute, just so very this minute.

“You were saying?” led the doctor scientist, still waiting for what came next, politely so, so politely in fact that his tact was forcing him to act rather tactlessly and impolite, holding the food on fork while the contents, glacially slowly, pulled by gravity, moved towards the jumping off spot, about to drip, or drop, as the case may be. He was still waiting. And so, for a moment or two, everything stopped.

“Well, if you won’t, then I will,” replied Jack, and he summarily did, just that. He passed the buttered rolls to Dal.

The Inspector Générale was aghast. A dog, eating at the table! What manners did these people have.

“If you think that’s awful, you ought to see him in the sack!” Continued the doctor. Though no one seemed to pay any attention to the comment. Jack, after snapping his fingers several times in front of the face of their guest, proceeded to pass the rolls, over him, and then to go right on stuffing his face. Scrimpy was still in a phased-out drug-induced trance. Candy was still missing. And Dal was trying, not very well mind you, to pretend he hadn’t heard the last comment. So the doctor went right on and repeated it again. Still no response. “The sack!” He tried once more.

“We heard you!” Shouted Jack, at the far end of the table in the ballroom, before continuing to stuff his face.

“Honey, should we show him on the… on the… whadayacallit- video replay machine? Ya, I bet he’d get a-”

“No!” She snapped out of it for a moment.

“Oh! Whadayaknow about video replay anyway, honey, besides, you’re the star, you’d- Now Candy, Candy knows a thing or- hey where is she?”

“You just noticed? She’s been missing for days,” Dal, looking around, surprised by the surprise, went right on buttering his rolls.

Jack stopped everything. Eyed him, suspiciously, with a smirk which was half frown, or perhaps a frown which was half smirk. Scrimpy looked at him, stunned, though still from behind the cool vapor of serpentine, cyan mystical smoke which hid her true intent behind the mask of protection through which the hazy aura filtered the splintered fractal sacramental refracted light, which, like shimmering fish in an Egyptian blue lotus bath were mirrored, as in the fabric, at once sterile, cold hard, in corrupted, chipped stone representation and yet also supple and graceful none-the-less, as art is in one sense material and in another merely ephemeral, like the light through which we gaze at it.

But the Inspector just sat back with a happy air, frowned delighted, wiped the corners of his mouth, held his chin high, started to play at twirling with his whiskers, let out a loud, “Ahem!” directed at Dal, without looking at him, perhaps out of the corner of his eye only, and continued nodding, with great, delighted satisfaction.

Dal continued to look around, almost but not quite nervously. “What? What? Well someone had to tell him, it’s been almost three days! Fine, fine, I’m the bad guy… whatever!”

Jack went back to eating.

“What the!” The doctor stammered, nearly choking on his food.

“Yes, yes, a talking dog, what the fick indeed,” the Inspector said under his breath to no one in particular.

“Ah, dipshit motherfucker, the word is ‘fuck’ not ‘fick’ first off, and secondly-” Dal said, also under his breath, while continuing to butter his roll.

“Ah, I believe that-” the Inspector, now insulted, started to reply, ignorant, to whatever degree, that he was now indeed arguing with a talking dog.

“Why doesn’t anyone around here tell me anything?” The doctor was irate.

“But…you’re the one who called the Inspector-” Jack began.

“Inspector Générale,” cut in the Inspector.

“-in the first place, aren’t you?” Wondered Jack, contemplating it while he was asking, almost but not quite thinking aloud, while he continued to chew his food, though momentarily had stopped shovelling it into his face.

“Well, as I was saying, that’s how I recall it, well, at least most of it, perhaps I’m, oh what’s that expression, editing it… oh come on, you know, editing it…”

“Yes yes, editing it…” the Inspector offered, timidly at first.

“Oh! What the fuck! Why can’t I think of it? My mind is always else where, I sweat it must be the crystal meth, but I’ve been cutting back on it lately, I swear,” Scrimpy looked stately in her green lace bra, neon pink corset, hoop skirt and doc martins.

“Yes, yes, cutting back, very good,” the Inspector was nothing if not a good listener, in the exact same outfit, it was tough to tell if he’d slept in it, and was wearing the same outfit as on the previous day at the dinner they were trying to recall, or if he had a fresh suit, tie and shirt, all exact replicas.

“But I’ve been trying to, you know, substitute, wean myself with, oh what’s that stuff all the kids are doing, the bath salts-”

“Oh, um, the bath salts? Yes yes, very good-”

“Yes, yes, the bath salts, so, we’ll see how that goes, but anyway, what’s this all about?”

“Yes yes, very good, what??” The Inspector’s mind was obviously else where, lost in thought, he seemed to be concentrating on something and was distracted. His attention kept wandering over towards the large, eight foot tall, 16 paned, naked thick glass window, through which copious amounts of sunlight, albeit cloudy on this day poured, fully draining the empty Saturday, foggy, drenched landscape outside, like a pallid invalid, of any of the rich red crimson which paints a happy naughty child’s cheeks with rouge, leaving it, a hilly, pine filled, rock strewn side yard which went off as far as the eye could see, though it was eventually bounded, bereft, forlorn and mournful whilst also bathing the entire fore-pantry, and half of the foyer in soft warm light. “This rude, impertinent dog of yours!” Snapping out of his delirium, through which he could almost quite, then again not, catch the fleeting glimpses of that infernal pair, Jack and Dal, playing outside, just passed the point of clarity in his vision at which point he couldn’t make out the difference, try as he might, which in fact, due to strain made it worse, to tell if what he was seeing was in fact what he was seeing, or what he was merely imagining.

“Impossible! Why Dal’s a doll, I’ll admit, sometimes he’s a bit wary of strangers, but…” and, while quite lucid and cogent in her now sober state, Scrimpy, nee Volly Voluptuous, was no real help in the matter. “Due to unconscious impulses!”

“What?”

“What we edit from our memories due to unconscious…or was it subconscious?”

“What?”

“Unconscious or subconscious, always get those two- well, OK, whatever, whichever. Look! I know Dal can be a real pain in the ass, a real, well ‘dog’ if you’ll excuse the expression, but I mean really, that dog’s a saint, I swear, I can’t tell ya how many-”

“What! This is outrageous! Insulting, I won’t stand here another-”

“Well, then, good, well, don’t! Fine!” Scrimpy, who really needed someone to talk to was suddenly much more upset than she anticipated being, even only a moment before, when their tone was entirely, was really nothing but civil, if not friendly.

“-moment!!” The Inspector burst out. And then stormed out, but not before returning to ask for his umbrella, quite politely, and offering, not so much by way of apology, attempt at rapprochement, but neither as a warning of, or conversely reprimand for, future affronts for past transgressions, respectively, merely perhaps a statement of fact, that this now irrevocably altered his inquiry, which though started at their bequest, was now ultimately changed. the nature of their relationship going from one of concerned parties to adversarial opponents, where, while their guilt was not presumed, neither was their innocence.

After he left, Scrimpy hit the glass pipe in the glass garden.

The next day, being Sunday, was uneventful.

On Monday, Scrimpy drove into town with Jack and Dal in preparation for Halloween. Dal stayed in the car and listened to music. Her skin was now bright green, and her hair a neon golden yellow. At such short notice she had a terrible time finding a coordinated outfit to go with her new look. Jack did not mention it. Neither, for that matter, did Dal. Most of the town’s people appeared to think it was just make-up for the festivities. Apparently it had happened overnight. There was, however, some question, in Scrimpy’s mind, as to whether or not Dal was just being polite, whether or not he could actually see color, or was perhaps color blind, or, being a dalmatian, merely hard of hearing. She wondered whether she should sign him up for some sort of disability insurance. Well, Jack didn’t mention it either.

Meanwhile, back at the house, the doctor scientist took a break from his experiments to bring in the mail. He walked out, down the front steps, towards a little path to the road, where a small replica of the house served as a mailbox. Though he noted it did not have the telescope observatory and faux Crystal Palace greenhouse additions, on a pad like a QB’s on his wrist, which he rolled up his sleeves to utilize, first throwing back his hair.

It turned out he had won several contests. He was also elected mayor. He flipped through the letters, placing those he felt were of value in his back pants pocket, meanwhile discarding into a chute to his left on the stairs the remainder, junk, which were first shredded, then mixed with used coffee grinds (beans grown on the premises in the greenhouse, ground, French press filtered, roast, ground, mixed with store bought Maxwell House, filtered, roast, ground before finally being recycled with the mulch) which would then be mixed with lime (powdered limestone, very basic, as opposed to acidic, also used in painting sometimes) and refuse and added back to the coffee plants.

He went back to his experiments.

The town itself was abuzz, festivities soon approaching, excitement building, everyone on edge, the stars aligning, the doorway to the underworld opening, Lugh, the light one son of Og, namesake of Lyons, France as well as Lughnasadh, golden child of summer, wary, he slips away as darkness beckons. A motorcycle gang drove through the heart of town, about forty hogs with black leather club jackets, old ladies in tow, fat, unkempt, buxom harley mommas, au natural, sagging boobs, like some tired, used Playboy magazine from 1974, all golden rays of sunlight or filtered effect, water-logged and cumstained, used up and tired they were in fact too, but somehow still sexy in a dirty, trashy, disgusting manner- the ambivalence of postmodernism towards a comparison of da Vinci and Rauschenberg. The roar filled the air, a rumble that blocked thoughts in one’s own head as well as all other noise, noise-pollution cancelling noise pollution along with actual pollution, a sort of dark dystopian vision of modern America or our impending future as based on our recent past painted with the thick grease of diesel fumes.

The procession was almost stopped, as the stares, cat calls and propositions rivalled the rumble, the bass, ass shaking rumble of the 3 cycle motors reverberating in tune with the voices of the supplicants, begging for attention. To which Scrimpy, wanton purveyor of sexual vice was not unaccustomed, and which, in her tight fire-engine red vinyl pants, faux-mink leg warmers, six inch platform heels and ruffled, sleeveless pink undergarment, she could not entirely claim, with full honesty, she wasn’t somewhat seeking, almost entirely feigned ignorance of, throwing, finally a mere glance, greeted with hoots, screams, howls.

The motorcade proceeded, without much more fanfare, out of town, Wind blew leaves, high school cheerleaders swapped coats with football players in a yearly ritual, and walked by as if they owned the sidewalk and anyone dare trespass on it at their own risk. Scrimpy smiled politely and kept Jack, wide eyed, within arm’s reach. They stopped first to get him a fresh supply of rock candy. With Candy missing, his outfit was unwashed, and he, a bit ragged at the edges.

Unbeknownst to Scrimpy and Jack, however, they were being followed, by a mysterious stranger. Scrimpy kept turning around, not sure of what she was looking for. Jack seemed to question her with his eyes, looking up for confirmation, unsure of how to proceed. She figured she was just being paranoid, with the change in her skin tone, so sudden, overnight in fact, she wondered if maybe she shouldn’t have cut back so quickly, so drastically on her crystal meth intake. She looked back again. This time Jack’s eyes followed hers, to no avail.

Just at that moment, standing in front of them, right in front of the Good Will, a young bright thing, golden locks down to her ass, completely, totally without garment, that is to say, with not a shred of clothing on, save for her trusty sandals, classic leather Birkenstock, and white braided hemp bracelets on either wrist, and a garland of wild flowers in her hair. Jack continued walking, head turned, mouth agape. Scrimpy, not one easily shocked, tried to cover his eyes. However, the young hippie was staring at the two of them, which Scrimpy found oddly reassuring, as if saying to herself, “Finally, someone else gets it right, I’m hella weird, I know.”

Out of the store, the proprietor shoed a similar young girl, screaming, “You dirty, unclean, cheap ass filthy hippies, go back to your fucking dirty colony and take a fucking bath, you make my skin crawl.” The girls, though of questionable age, were, in their own way, quite attractive, and the owner’s repulsion seemed as odd as the fact of the two naked girls. It seemed the town’s people tried to ignore them, as if they were literally invisible or didn’t exist.

“Wow!” Jack said.

“Yes, indeed, wow!” Replied Scrimpy.

“I know, right? Wow! Wow!” Jack continued.

“Yup, unbelievable!” Scrimpy agreed.

“Must be very cold, though,” Jack thought on second thought, looking back for one more unrestricted glimpse at the girls trying to offer some form of barter, woven items, perhaps drugs, maybe even sexual favors, in exchange for food, though what they would be doing shopping for food at a Salvation Army would have been anyone’s guess. “Wow! Oh the places you’ll go!”

“Indeed young man, indeed!” Scrimpy shook her head, laughed and rolled her eyes.

Jack continued licking on his thick stick of semi-translucent purple plum rock candy, marbled and bumpy with a rough surface, broken off at one end, ending in a sharp, stalagmite like point, with a happy contented countenance, full of childhood wonder, satiated lust and pure delight. And Scrimpy, as confused as she currently was, drug addicted, paranoid, undergoing some sort of transformation, basked in the glow and warm aura, almost sensuous, like a mermaid covered in kelp in the shallow pool formed after high tide.

They had in fact made a circle of the town and had, arriving back at the car, in a town parking lot, at first unawares, like one searching out new adventures around every corner, upon finding something both familiar and odd in the new scene, like fucking an ex-lover when, trying out what has now become a routine move, one remembers it was she who taught it, one feels momentarily sheepish, but then soon, correcting the mistake, finds the newly familiar both reassuring and yet still somewhat exciting, decided all at once it was suddenly time to go. And only then realizing just how late the hour was, and just how little they’d accomplished.

But as they were preparing to leave, it was they who had inadvertently snuck upon their stalker, it was none other than the Inspector, dressed in frock and cap, making quite a dashing, if odd, anachronistic figure. He jumped, upon seeing them, try graciously to bow to them and step from their way, but they ignored him, with a nobility he could not muster, try, repeatedly, as he might, they merely continued talking to each other as if he didn’t exist. He fulminated, ground his teeth, gripped his fists, finally, before flying into a rage, threw his cape around him, in a grand gesture, turning at once, but peeking behind himself before retreating to the bicycle rack and his Vespa scooter.

Back home, the new French maid dusted with a feather duster, black fishnets, garter, short black skirt, hair tucked into a white, cotton hat, elastic sewed into the bottom in sections, like a fitted sheet, puffed up at the top like a cheese casserole, known ‘in-the-trade’ as a Victorian School Day’s white lace barmaid’s mop cap or, rather, more succinctly, as simply a barmaid’s cap. She spoke not a word of English, was indeed an exchange student au pair without a proper green card, lightly tan, with freckles. She poked through the mail, always wary she might find something addressed to herself. Outside, the nosey, inquisitive, talkative, taciturn, shy Spanish mailwoman, a dowdy, Down Home small town version of a Carmen Electra or Sofia Vergara poked about as well, only with her eyes, straining to see into upstairs bedrooms or make sense of all the recent activities at the residence, which she, being superstitious, it having long been abandoned, was neither eager nor joyful to have added to her already full route, she being the only mail carrier in that quadrant of town, after recent cut-backs to an already overworked, underpaid stretched-to-the-limit staff.

The maid stared at her, through the quiet, well ordered interior of the home, waiting. She stared back, unable for a moment to move, her heavy bag now somewhat lightened, still aching her back and feet, and the pants of the U.S. Postal Service, standard issue blue, which she provided herself and had tried to have altered by her brother-in-law, a shiftless makeshift tailor who sometimes sewed stitches, unbeknownst to her, in exchange for drugs, for a local chapter of a cartel, after gun or knife fights with the local motorcycle gangs, were riding the uncomfortable string of her string bikini underwear up her ass. She decided to turn and go.

Scrimpy tried to shake the Inspector, but every turn they made he made. They stopped at the blinking light in the center of town. Jack, unaware, sat in the back reading his comic and a book from the library, both at the same time, while licking his rock candy, and, looking up, somewhat absentmindedly from time to time, watched the goings on outside the car, a microcosm repeat of their day, like a sort of fast forward review, the cheerleaders and library and candy store, nudists, in front of them the tail end of the motorcycle gang and behind them the Inspector. He was happily oblivious and yet not completely totally unawares, as if in noticing and making an abstract comparison, his mind was forming a relationship of these items like a list of collected footnotes at the end of a chapter, skipping through them and yet in the skimming, aware by being unaware. In the similar manner Zen Buddhist monks use to observe without awareness, the manner in which the footnotes somehow like coffee grinds are the object and yet give birth to the subject, when the coffee is finished and one is left with only the grinds, these point to that which was, and yet, still is. But time itself is the ultimate false construct, one which we unconsciously impose on reality.

Scrimpy kept looking in the rear view, driven ever on, she followed the last biker and lost track of direction. Jack kept licking his candy, the Inspector kept following, it was now getting dark. Suddenly the town dropped away, Scrimpy eyed about, her heart starting to race, the surroundings did not look familiar, the road became unpaved, she saw the Inspector turn off to the left behind her, and yet for some reason couldn’t bring herself to turn the vehicle around, she pressed on, growing more and more worried.

“That fucking creep,” said Dal. Scrimpy jumped, lit a clove cigarette, while Dal fiddled with the radio dial, she’d forgotten he was there, both he and Jack had become so silent, “that monkey motherfucker wanna be Inspector phooey phoney was eyeing me the whole time you two were out shopping, leaving me alone in the car by my lonesome!”

“That’s impossible!” Replied Jack.

“He was following- wasn’t he following us?” Scrimpy turned her head to the back seat momentarily, at the very same moment they hit a big bump in the road, two lanes of mud carved out with a patch of green running down it in the middle, the big boat of a car bumping along, actually a mud puddle hiding a large, black, somewhat pointy, somewhat flat, but very hard rock and they were all thrown into the air, though for less than a second. “Owww,” Scrimpy felt her tush, banging it as she fell back. She slowed the car and eased the transmission, looking around, finding they were at what appeared to be a biker road house bar.

“That fucking creep though,” Dal continued, ignoring their plight, as if nothing had happened, “I bet he doesn’t even care about what’s-her-face.”

“Who?” Jack asked, while still reading.

“You know, what’s her face, the one who’s always feeding me? WHAT’s HER FACE,” Dal was growing perturbed, Jack continued reading, Scrimpy was lost in thought looking at the bar, itching her arm.

“Your sister! Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten about her too, now?” Dal reprimanded him.

“Candy?” Scrimpy was still contemplating the bar but the conversation brought her back to the present momentarily.

“Diane?” Jack inquired.

Then correcting herself, ashamed she’d forgotten her given name, Scrimpy uttered, “Diane?”

But just at that moment, Jack, who all the time continued reading, nary even looking up, also corrected himself and asked, “Oh Candy?” at the very same moment so that Dal had trouble understanding them.

He looked back and forth between the two of them, distrustful of humans to begin with, although he had already decided these two were basically OK in his book. He growled in disgust. They both stopped what they were doing and looked directly at him giving him their full attention.

“Candy, yes, my sister, Diane,” Jack stated as plainly as he could, but Dal was having trouble grasping the concept of a person with two names.

“The…you know! The one who gives me the food!” Dal’s frustration was evident and his desire to communicate this feeling he couldn’t quite describe paramount.

“Hey, I feed you too, don’t I?” Scrimpy felt guilty again, went back to smoking, scratching her arm absentmindedly, staring out the window at the bar, now grinding her teeth back and forth, her eyes got a far away look in them, like Aladdin viewing a far off oasis, with unheard of treasures, uncountable harem sluts in untold colors of silk veils, perhaps Scheherazade herself, dream dreaming the dreamer.

“What?” asked Jack. He literally didn’t know that Scrimpy fed Dal, which he did as well, and wasn’t questioning the veracity of her claim but was rather, in his youthful sagacity merely allowing his own ignorance to show forth plainly instead of blindly hiding this deficiency in his awareness, thus with hubris actually exposing it. But… she attacked him anyway.

“Hey! Yes, I do!” She was insulted.

He squirmed, she scratched, Dal panted.

The tension was growing in the cramped, what seemed previously luxuriously spacious vehicle.

“Say, by the way, are you fucking her??” Jack eyed Dal suspiciously.

“No!” Scrimpy looked horrified, but Jack ignored her and continued eyeballing Dal, in the front seat, who pawed at his neck.

“Then what was that on that videotape I was watching, that looked an awful lot like…” Jack let the thought hang, implicating the two of them worse by feigning a non-judgemental pose and not accusing them of anything immoral or illicit or unnatural, though in fact they were both quite unnatural in and of themselves at this point, though in truth, to some extent so was Jack himself, though he was not yet aware of it.

“Look, kid, do your fucking homework, aren’t you supposed to be reading some-” Dal took another tack from a different angle.

“I am. I am reading,” and he wanted to add, “not like you’d know the difference you stupid fucking illiterate mutt,” but he was doubly afraid of offending his canine chum, whom he felt, though he was not quite sure, might have some doubts to his lineage, siring, pureness and, perhaps fetishistically, perhaps not tendencies from psychological inadequacies, real or perceived, associated therein. But his look said it all and couldn’t hide his thoughts.

“I’m getting a fucking drink,” Scrimpy stated as she got out of the car, awkwardly in her heels into the mud, trying not to break her fingernails while slamming the door shut, the classic polished steel rectangular door handles sometimes sticking when shutting, like those buttons on table jukeboxes at diners, once stuck tough to get unstuck, her arms nearly bloody messes by this point, stamping out her half finished cigarette on the ground.

“Wait, you can’t-” Jack launched into his protest, but she was already gone. “Nice fucking mother, unbelievable that,” he shook his head in dismay in the backseat, looking for sympathy, condolence, affirmation, camaraderie or agreement from his pal Dal.

“Hey, watch your fucking mouth kid,” Dal responded, however.

“What, it’s true, she is. And… and… And I didn’t say ‘motherfucker’ I said ‘fucking mother’ OK? OK?” Jack was upset and speaking his mind, which, glib as he could be, was unusual.

“Oh. Hmm. OK I guess? Which one is bad? Are you sure? Hmm, that sounds reasonable,” Dal hesitated and wasn’t sure of himself, and you could see he was sounding it out in his head, going back and forth. “Hmmph, well,” Dal went back to fiddling with the radio, but this time she’d taken the keys and the radio didn’t work, “Well don’t that beat all, what a fucking pussy cunt that bitch is, right, I mean right?”

“Hey, that’s my fucking mother you’re talking about,” reacted Jack too quick to catch himself not fully appreciating the irony.

Dal eyed him, suspiciously, squinting at him now, his doubt on full view, “Yeah… I guess…”

“Wait, what? What’s that supposed to mean,” Jack was stunned, to his core.

“Oh, nothing, nothing,” Dal whistled, or attempted to whistle and looked off, then looked back at Jack and attempted to change the subject, “what are you reading back there anyway, seems awful engrossing…”

“Can you read? I didn’t think so, why don’t you mind your own fucking busi-” Jack blurted out.

“Huh?” Dal was hurt.

“Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t mean- …I mean just because you can’t read, I mean…” Jack was looking beyond Dal, out the car window, at Scrimpy disappearing into the bar, beyond the lined up motorcycles, a ramshackle shack, all rotted out planks of wood, rusty porch, one flat level, tin-roofed roady of a road house, obviously home to many a brawl.

“No, no, it’s OK, you don’t have to-” Dal was choking back the tears and it sounded like a cough choking on a sob with something between a growl and a suppressed bark tossed in for good measure.

“Well, this one’s a comic, called Archie, and this one is, well, kind of hard to describe, it’s about, well, um, well, ya see, there was this guy Aristotle and he wrote about, well lot’s of things, but this one is about well, drama, but-”

“Oh boy! That sounds interesting,” Dal rolled his eyes in the front seat and went back to fiddling with the dial of the radio.

“What? Shows how much you know, it is, it is interesting, as a matter of fact, it’s very-”

“No kid, listen I’m sure it’s great but-”

“Yes, you’re right it is great and-”

“Fantastic, but maybe we could have a little quiet now and hey, how about, you could go back to you know, reading your little books and-”

“Holy fucking shit,” Jack couldn’t believe his ears.

“Whad you just say,” neither could Dal.

At that instant a bar brawl spilled out onto the ‘lawn’ of the establishment and interrupted their argument at either an awkward or opportune moment and they then both remained silent, staring out different windows, not talking to or looking at each other.

Back in town, the Inspector was now thoroughly lost and confused as to what to do with his free time, keeping to a rigid schedule both for work and his various and sundry other activities which included but were not limited to spirited constitutional walks at both morning sunrise and dusk, the occasional trip to the art gallery, and, as proficient as he seemed on his little mod motorized bike, even more rarely went about motoring. Luckily for him the two young nudists were now camped out on the curb in front of the Salvation Army and he issued them two citations, for loitering and public indecency, though he was sorely tempted to issue them a third for solicitation upon hearing the good owner’s loud complaints, though which, after a few moments of listening to, let them off with only the warning, whence he succeeded to instead berate the owner for his lack of common sense and good decency, the owner now having turned his griping upon the offices of the Inspector. The inspector implied though did not state that the proprietor should have killed two birds with one stone, by bartering with the girls for their sexual services, which they seemed to be quite willing in offering, for clothing, thereby solving everyone’s problems. The proprietor, for all his lack of tact, was taken aback by the Inspector’s frankness, or what he perceived, since the Inspector never quite came right out and stated this was his intent, to be the Inspector’s frankness and candor, going so far as to question the investigator’s integrity or perhaps his morality. Which to the Inspector was not only uncalled for, abhorrent, beyond the pale, shocking, but also not, in his view, at all acceptable. The girls meanwhile had driven off with his Vespa in all their naked splendor, honking all the while, leaving the proprietor with numerous citations and the Inspector high and dry.

It was at that moment, that, behind them, went flying by a red and purple Shark Caddy, driven by a walking talking dalmatian, a scientific medical experiment gone wrong, apparently, or very right, with a small boy, dressed in a ragged English school boy’s outfit, cap nearly flying off in the rushing wind, his tongue hanging out and waving back and forth, the Inspector, his back turned, nearly missing the spectacle, only informed of it by the blank expression of incomprehensible stupor on the face of the owner of the Sally’s whom he was then writing up. Turning to catch a last glimpse, reaching for his scooter, finding none, he never-the-less jumped onto it, finding nothing there, something amiss, his shock was perhaps as great as the shopkeeper’s, who was still stuck in rigid, uncomprehending morbidity, struck dead where he stood, as it were, who, momentarily, like Lazarus risen, continued on with his little speech, about the nudeness of the hippy girls and the impropriety of what he felt the Inspector, of whom he was now begging his pardon, seemed to be suggesting. Startled, he looked to the ground to see the Inspector, legs splayed out in front of him, revving a non-existent motor with his hands, only to find himself pointing at the now passed vehicle, which was itself honking, loudly, drawing even more attention, which then, drawing his arm down, willfully, it not at first seeming to respond, he used, with his other, as he bent down to help up the poor hapless man.

Back in the road house, Scrimpy was playing craps with dice with some bikers on a beer stained crooked pool table, losing badly, and considering stripping, right on the pool table, and was unaware the boys had stolen the car right from under her. The billiards game itself seemed to have either been interrupted, put on pause, or ruined, depending on whom you talked to or asked about it, apparently many having varied and sundry opinions on the topic, some having no knowledge of it, others with knowledge of it but no opinion one way or the other, and seemed in fact to have been the, or one of, there being many, the fights all ongoing and continuing, causes of the bar brawl which had previously spilled outside. Which might have, in a meta-sense, been part of the game, a larger game, as well, whence the combatants were finished testing each other with fisticuffs, to enter again therein where in to continue the billiards, whence the side-betting craps dice which had taken center stage might be pushed off again to a side court.

The boys for their part were nearly halfway home, it turning out that Dal had far less trouble teaching himself to drive, almost by instinct, by observing both Scrimpy, the doctor scientist, as well as studying the many passerby’s in traffic, and by the mere act of confident imitation was, well, halfway home. As for getting lost, like Scrimpy or the Inspector, he had an innate homing mechanism which he hadn’t lost in the transformation, involving his sense of smell. Which, as it turns out, he was contemplating as he stared out the driver’s window, adjusting the driver’s side window with his paw, one hand on the wheel, perfecting

“You know, dog’s licks can be healing, you, you read about that in one them,” he fiddled with his right paw with Jack’s things, in between the two of them on the front bucket seat, as Jack had moved up before they left, mostly just returning the way they’d come.

Just at that moment a squirrel shooting out into the road nearly caused him to swerve, placing both paws back on the wheel, looking in the rear view, readjusting himself, he seemed to blame the minor disturbance on Jack, somehow.

“No, it’s not even, it’s, what? No! Archie’s about, I mean, there’s Jugghead and Bettie and, there’s not even a dog, I mean it’s mainly about Archie, well Archie and Veronica and Betty and Reggie and- but, I mean, what? What??!? Dog’s licks, but I mean, what? And, I’m not even going to start on Aristotle with you if you can’t even-” Jack didn’t finish but instead started laughing.

“Oh what? What, because, what, because I’m a dog?!?” Dal turned and looked right at him, while he was still driving.

“Um, could you please, um, you know, keep both hands on the wheel and-” Jack frightened, asked plaintively, with a good deal of fresh fear hidden just beneath the surface of his voice, the sublime, as yet undisturbed waters of which, were yet rippling with some as yet undisclosed origin deep in its murky depths.

“What?!? Ten and two! Ten and two! That’s where they’ve been, they haven’t moved,” and saying the lie Dal truly believed it, though he wasn’t quite sure where he’d come up with the motor vehicle knowledge, picked up in a previous life perhaps, perhaps from TV, maybe from innate dogsense.

“Um, OK, OK, sure, and… eyes on the road?” asked Jack meekly.

“That’s where they are,” which was where they were, but as he was saying it, he momentarily turned towards Jack to confirm it, negating it, yet Jack meekly agreeing, laughing even, a forced little laugh, looking back at his comic, looking back up, the car, now having passed the off-road, in the heat of the moment, they passing the two blokes on the side of the road in to town, Dal, slamming on the breaks as he performed, in one, complete smooth rotation, a skidding u-turn, the back end fish tailing out, back and forth, towards a uniting center, like a diminishing wave returning to zero.

“Ha ha, ha ha, heh, Archie’s, um, ha ha, talking to Jugghead about, um,” Jack tried to sound amused, when he was in fact terrified, looking up, again, meekly, now and again, looking for confirmation from Dal, that things were OK, that Dal had perhaps calmed down.

Dal for his part looked back down with regret, went back to fiddling with the passenger side mirror, keeping his attention on the road, so as to not miss the turn off this time. “So, nothin’ on dog licks, hmmph, knew there was nothin’ good in them, why I didn’t even bother with learnin’ that book stuff. Figures.”

But now Jack ignored him.

Now Jack felt guilty. Looking up, he thought to himself, “Oh, OK OK already, fine.” And he started expostulating on Aristotle’s theory of rising action.

Meanwhile, another brawl had broken out at the biker bar, this time over Scrimpy herself, she apparently, unbeknownst to her, having become the property of one of the bikers in the pool-craps-fisticuffs game and, having on her own, mostly out of boredom, decided to start stripping on top of the pool table, had broken some unwritten rule of the biker credo code, some of which was traceable back to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and thus back to the same Greek origins as, though not confined to, Aristotle, but most of which were just made up as they went along.

The Inspector was hitching out to the doctor scientist’s Southern Gothic mansion on the edge of town, most of the rides high school kids getting ready for the big beer keg barn romping bonfire homecoming Halloween holiday parade, hyped up and convinced, unaware that Scrimpy was whom she was or the doctor scientist whom he was, they being generally aware of their new presence, that the old house was empty and abandoned and perhaps haunted or visited by aliens or both or so the stories went, and certainly the vicinity of at least one murder, recent or not. The Inspector declining, mostly to better inform them, discretion being the better part of valour, wiping his brow with his silk handkerchief, nodding bemusedly and absentmindedly at their ill-informed ill-formed amateur theories, mostly agreeing with them out of sheer politeness if nothing else. Occasionally letting out the mere whisper of a chuckle escape his lips.

After stripping and pulling a train on a bunch of the bikers, she lost count after the twentieth entered her, Scrimpy smoked some crack, brought her own pipe, she thanked heaven, you can of course never be too careful, cleaning it first of crystal meth residue, nearly breaking twice, once first whilst cleaning it and then again overheating it with the metal tip of a newfound friend’s lighter, then discovered, abysmally to her own great dismay, that her car, and her boys were missing, decided to throw in with a particularly kindly, bearded hirsute, leather clad biker, though weren’t they all, more or less, whom it turned out was the clan alpha male.

And so she and the biker led off in the direction of town on his custom ’32 black lightening modded chopfork twin cammed 120 HP Cummins engine Harley with NOX turbo, fuel injection air intake valve carbs, custom paint job and extra cushiony seats. [Editor’s Note: The ‘Vincent’ was not officially built until 1948, & not for Harley-Davidson. There is also some disagreement as to whether a ‘chopper’ motorcycle with an extended front wheel refers to ‘chopfork’ or ‘chopped’ as in ‘it has to be chopped before becoming a chopper’ where the latter is more widely accepted currently.]

Meanwhile, in the opposite direction, the lost nudist girls on the retro mod scooter flew passed them, apparently out of their minds and somewhat out of control, probably due to cold, lack of food or perhaps drugs, maybe a combination of all of the above. The nudist colony was itself down the wrong left turn which Scrimpy herself had missed, and the nudists and bikers had been at war for years, bad blood like an old feud, the hippies resenting the bikers for bringing in the Mexican drug cartels, the bikers resenting the hippies for the hypocrisy, buying the drugs from them which they themselves were supplied with by the very same Mexicans.

“So, that’s basically it in a nutshell, classic comedy involves things starting out well, getting better and better until a climax, then falling off, where as classic tragedy- I mean you can mix it up with plot twists, turns, reveals, all sorts of shit, involves things starting out basically OK well and then you know, tanking, with like a slight resolution at the end which makes you you know all cry and feel like shit and then feel a little bit hopeful, like oh OK everything is in perspective, Greeks called it, um, um…” Jack discoursed, but mostly as he was skimming through it, the miles flying by outside, perhaps mostly to himself, as Dal seemed more concerned with his own image in the driver’s side mirror, which he continued to obsess over and fiddle with, though in truth that was merely a distraction from the thought of his empty food bowl, which he couldn’t quite relate to the horrific feeling somewhere below his chest.

“Sounds interesting,” Dal lied.

“Cath-thar,” Jack sounded it out, reading aloud.

“Excuse me, did you say Cat House, cause I-” Dal interrupted him.

“Catharsis, I think, no no not ‘cat’ but, hmm, well, not sure, but that’s like that feeling I was talking about that-”

“’Cause I don’t like cats, I mean I like, I mean I’m like any dude or any dog of course I like you know ‘pussay’ you know, but like I don’t particularly care for, you know, your garden variety cats, but I mean-” Dal sounded wary of the new concept, especially anything that involved new feelings, which he wasn’t aware of, and in truth, Jack had lost him, he concentrating on the road, his image in the mirror, not really paying attention to begin with.

“But a Cat House is a whore house, anyway, at least I think, which is like, where you get all the ‘pussay’ to begin with,” Jack sounded confused but knew exactly what he was talking about.

“Well, yeah, of course, but I mean, what ‘new feelings’ cause like, well that sounds sort of like-” Dal implied something without saying it.

“What are you saying? ‘New’ feelings what are you talking about?” Jack confronted him.

“So what’s this ‘feelings’ thing with what was it, ca?”

“Catharsis,” Jack sounded it out again, again reading from the book, “it’s like, hmm, you feel so bad you feel good, I’m not sure, I think that’s what it’s saying, I guess,” and he attempted to paraphrase it for Dal.

“Sounds… pretty strange to me, but, well, hey, I’m just a dog,” Dal stated the obvious.

“Ya, ya, there’s that,” replied Jack.

“So then what’s a what was it a-” Dal feigned interest in the subject, as a sort of way to switch the subject and imply he’d been paying attention, always one to not want to appear to have been being rude.

“A…a…not sure? A plot twist?” Jack fished.

“Yes! Yes that was it a… a what?” Now Dal kept his eyes on the road, but also sniffed for home with his keen olfactory sense.

“A…hmm, hold on a sec,” flipping through pages, “a plot twist,” reading, “Oh OK I got it, it’s like, well, you think that Archie, see, Archie likes Betty, right, who’s like basically a ‘good’ girl in the madonna/whore false dichotomy hoisted upon our society which forces women into one of two subservient roles, and-”

“Um, Okayyy, sure…” Dal attempted to whistle again.

“When in reality, well, where as, well, I mean. OK, let’s start over, so like you think Betty can’t make the football game and Archie will have to go with Veronica, but then it turns out that Reggie used Moose to keep Betty studying late, see? Get it,” Jack said it all like it was all so simple, Dal didn’t get it at all, but nodded, as if he were puzzling and comprehending it logically, even faking the ‘aha!’ moment of cognition.

“Yes, yes, oh, of course, sure,” Dal was lost.

“So, ergo, thus, plot twist, right? See, you’re learning, who said dog’s couldn’t learn new tricks, see old boy? Good boy, who’s a good boy,” Jack went back to licking his candy stick, reading, and ignoring Dal, driving, looking up occasionally to make sure he was keeping his attention and eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.

Dal felt cheated, talked down to, patronized, but tried not to let it show. They arrived home only moments before the Inspector, who, hitching was delayed, though no appointment had actually been agreed upon prior. The doctor was finished with his experiments for the day and was in fact upstairs at that very moment, and though, searching the night sky for signs of alien life, though he masqueraded his interest as merely astronomical, taking a moment to rest his strained eyes, and chanced to look down upon them. He was surprised, but not unpleasantly so to see Dal already driving, so much so in fact that he didn’t even notice Scrimpy’s absence.

Jack ran right out of the car, through the mud, ignoring the path, right inside and right up the stairs, staying only a moment to wave hello to the new girl. Dal took his time, polishing the car, strutting on in, looking through the mail, though he couldn’t read, satisfactorily flipping it and nodding all the while, making sure the maid, who could, though fluent in French, also could neither read nor write English and was thus fairly sure he’d made a good impression upon her, though while she seemed fairly impressionable, was anything but.

He went and lay down by his bowl, she filled it. The door rang, she answered it. He growled from the kitchen, behind the pantry, the Inspector peeked his head around, but she ushered him upstairs against his protestations, though fairly petite, she was persistent and the language barrier offered her the double shade of not only feigning ignorance but in some senses being ignorant, being able to read body language but not comprehend most common English phrases. The Inspector, spoke French as his first language, and filled with Gallic pride, kept a house in the Parisian, provincial countryside, overrun by tall grasses. Which might have been a good thing for her, since she was hiding more in her past than just her immigration status.

“Guess what Scrimp, guess who the new mayor is??” The doctor burst into the hallway with the good news.

“I’ve no idea, did they post the-” the Inspector began to say.

“Oh, you’re not Scrimpy, you’re-” the doctor looked around, Jack was in one of the upstairs bedrooms reading Archie and the new maid was exiting down the stairwell, leaving him alone with the rotund, natty little man, now somewhat exhausted looking, though, ruddy cheeked, perhaps slightly less insolent and intolerable than he’d been as an evening dinner guest.

“Yes, sir, the Inspector Générale, may I present to you, um, er, well, myself, sir, the Inspector,” to which he bowed, awkwardly, looking up at the doctor staring down at him quizzically.

“What’s this about?” the doctor inquired of him.

“About sir? About, why, I thought we were on cordial terms, about? Why, murder perhaps, if you choose to be so blunt then,” the Inspector took on an unimpeachable, unassailable, dignified, upright tone.

“Murder? Murder? Of whom? By whom?” the doctor stammered.

“Well, yes, yes, indeed,” agreed the Inspector, “indeed.”

“Is this about my… experiments, is it something more nefarious, political perhaps- this can’t still be about my- well, you know,”

“No sir, I assure you, I don’t, I most certainly don’t,” the Inspector corrected him.

“My, my Candy, this can’t still be about, why-” the doctor was offended by the suggestion.

“I am sure that is exactly what it is about,” though in fact he wasn’t.

“Hey, hey,” the doctor was calling downstairs for the maid, or looking for Scrimpy who was not home, simply wanted confirmation that Candy must have been out and been back by now that surely this happened all the time, it was that age.

“But, as for your-” the Inspector looked for a polite, politic way of broaching the subject of the doctor’s experiments, though he was in point of fact mystified at the suggestion, however implausible, that this man in front of him was his new boss.

The doctor sensing and wanting to steer the conversation clear of the subject of his experiments, into which he allowed no one to pry, was grateful for the appearance at the doorway of Jack, who, momentarily, looking around, returned to his comics.

“So…” the doctor said.

“So…” the Inspector replied.

“Well, would you care perhaps, to stay to dine,” the doctor inquired of him.

“If it’s not too much trouble, I’d be delighted, but only if-” but at that moment Scrimpy entered, drenched, it having suddenly, in only the last minute or two, having gone from a mere drizzle to a torrential downpour outside, she only just missing escaping it by moments.

Later, after a dinner upstairs, a door to the outside was opened, it having cleared up as quickly. The maid sat down to smoke, and the Inspector lit a pipe, banging it out roughly, his hands moving like ballerinas across the stage while his attention was instead concentrated, or appeared to be, upon the young, voluptuous though petite maid, who seemed herself too distracted by a sudden rest to care one way or the other, while his conversation in the meanwhile veered in an entirely different direction.

Dal was, much to his chagrin, locked in the basement. Jack was pre-occupied with his book and comic, going back and forth between the two, and as the doctor luxuriated, reclining, the green skinned fair nymph Scrimpy, now thoroughly dried, lay strewn across his lap, upright, her ass firmly plied into his crotch. She had again changed outfits and was wearing shorts to match her hair, an impulse buy from that day’s outing, with shit-kicker work boots and a striped men’s polo shirt which matched both her hair, skin and eyes, having both purple green and gold with a dominant vertical pattern intersected to form a grid. He held one arm around her and her hand in his other.

They discussed world events, the weather, several times the Inspector made inquiries as to the nature of the doctor’s work, the reason for his moving there into this house, several times he was rebuffed. The conversation remained general, polite. The maid let out a bored sigh, the Inspector noted it, if only in a minor fashion, with a mildly contemptuous peremptory frown with a nod of disapproval, which she ignored, or pretended to, there being very little difference between the two to the French.

Finally, the conversation turned to the town. In the excitement, the doctor forgot to mention his new position to Scrimpy, or to Jack for that matter.

“Congratulations! Why, I didn’t even know you were running. Did you?” Scrimpy asked on second thought.

“Why no, I didn’t actually. It came in the mail today,” the doctor was emphatic.

“Oh, come now my dear- but of course,” the Inspector was not impressed by the spectacle or the facade, which, like the generic western has nothing behind it, of one, a charade put on, perhaps for his benefit.

“OK, I did in truth enter, mail in a form, in actuality it was the reason for the move here, the reason for the purchase of the estate, but I had-”

“Well, yes, that’s more like it, but am I to-”

“Did you know, incidentally, that, in addition to being the site of a previous murder, this supposedly haunted house was in fact home to-”

“You can’t possibly be the-”

“Was the property of the town and the estate of the mayor, it was the mayor’s mansion as it-”

“Why that can’t be that would make you my-” the Inspector blanched without finishing his thought, the horror of it being too much for him at that moment.

“So…you’re really the new mayor?” Jack looked up.

“Ouí?” the maid looked over in the general direction, saying it while puffing up her cheeks, her full lips wrapping around the simple interrogative, the simplest, noticing all the excitement, reading the puzzlement on the boy’s face, but not at all in the slightest aware of what they were talking about.

“According to the letter I received,” the doctor continued shaking his head, excitedly, as if convincing himself as well, he remaining almost unconvinced. “Yes, it’s downstairs with all the contest entries! I almost couldn’t believe it myself!”

Outside the lone menacing roar of a howling, repeating motorcycle engine went back and forth, repeatedly, finally amassing with thunderous ferocity, joined by the sounds of many many more, before departing, with all the solemnity, heart-pounding, pulse palpating orgiastic climax of a 21 gun salute.

Scrimpy had a momentarily wistful look in her eyes, her purple irises distracting one from the drops forming on the surface of her corneas, above her lower lid, pulled down by gravity and the weight of regret, growing plump and pregnant with saline, and almost teared up, before the topic of conversation was changed, bringing her back into their fold, changed in fact to the very subject making her sentimental, which however seemingly contradictory, like those homeopathic physicians who prescribe like for like, hair of the dog, caused its cessation in her.

“Well, they do make quite the-” the Inspector, having politely ignored the roar of the motorcycle gang intruding on their after-dinner conversation, no longer able to hear over the din, finally gave in and recognized them.

“Quite, quite,” agreed the doctor.

“Quite,” Jack, looking back up, now on the ground reading, legs up, lying on his stomach, added, before returning as intently as before.

“Well, dinner was superb, madame, though I’m afraid, the hour is getting late, and I must be-” the Inspector suddenly remembered his lost motor, aghast, could not bring himself to finish the sentence. Never-the-less, a few moments later, he was, with just as much pomp, agreeing to be ushered out, hailing them bravely, cap on, pipe extinguished, cape swept up around himself. Then the light went out, only the maid appeared at the doorway, waiting for him to go away, he making quite the formal gesture with a full bow.

“And I bid you, adieu, madame,” the Inspector, slightly drunk on the dinner wine, he usually a teetotaler, nearly shouted, in the general direction of the house, but only Amí, the maid able to hear.

“Oh! Ouí! Au revoir!” She shouted back at him, waving goodbye to him, he having around turned.

“And stay the fuck out!” Shouted Dal, finally freed from the basement, putting his arm around the maid, she, timid, frightened, wide-eyed, surprised, unable to speak, and they shut the door, turned off the light, and returned indoors before the Inspector had time to turn around. A moment later, it continued raining, again, lightly at first and then in a flood.

Jack went to bed with the maid, downstairs, she not having been formally given a room of her own yet, though there were many, unused, in the home, now fully renovated. The doctor went back to his experiments filming Dal with Scrimpy, though Dal was slightly less enthusiastic for the adventure of it at this juncture, venturing as much he’d have been better off taking that French slice of heaven out back to his doghouse, woodsheddin’ on her ass and showin’ her the real meanin’ of doggy-style, having seen another side to Scrimpy that day, which he’d always perhaps observed on some level before this but had not yet confronted, or had not yet been forced to confront.

Jack had not yet discovered that he was the doctor scientist’s clone, or rather a failed experiment at one, but in truth the doctor had not yet remembered it either.

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