By Douglas Kent,
On the web at http://www.whiningkentpigs.com – or go directly to the Diplomacy section at http://www.whiningkentpigs.com/DW/. Also be sure to visit the Diplomacy World website at http://www.diplomacyworld.net. Check out http://www.helpfulkitty.com for official Toby the Helpful Kitty news, blog, and links to all his available merchandise!
All Eternal Sunshine readers are encouraged to join the free Eternal Sunshine Yahoo group at http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/eternal_sunshine_diplomacy/ to stay up-to-date on any subzine news or errata.
Quote Of The Month – “I don't know. I felt like a scared little kid. I was like... it was - it was above my head. I don't know.” (Joel in “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”)
Welcome to Eternal Sunshine, your monthly peek into the disaster area that is my brain. I think it is time to consider getting it condemned. Water leaks, septic tanks overflow, mold and mildew are everywhere…and those roaches, ugh, how do I get rid of the roaches? Hmmm, maybe the roaches are the source of all those voices. I’m just not sure. Like Emo Phillips says “I used to think that the human brain was the most interesting part of the body. But then I realized, wait, look who is telling me that!”
Not much to say this issue, I’m so tired lately from work and life in general. My Texas Rangers are playing a bit better now, but I am caught between the desire for them to win games and the fear that if they are at or above .500 Tom Hicks and Jon Daniels might be stupid enough to be buyers instead of sellers as we approach the trading deadline. Oh well, nothing to do but wait and see.
I’ve closed the Balkan Wars game for the moment, and added a new Diplomacy opening. I’m going to try a different variant soon, just not sure which one. If you have suggestions let me know. And don’t forget to check out all the Toby, Sanka, Whining Kent Pig, and Diplomacy World designs available at http://www.cafepress.com/helpfulkitty - I don’t much care if anybody buys any of them (we only get $1 for each item sold anyway) but I’d like to get more feedback…and more ideas for Diplomacy slogans.
That’s it for now. Take care, enjoy your June, and I’ll see you in July!
My First Day – Conclusion
Back in the general population, I met my bunkmate and tried to keep to myself while I waited for dinner. A few inmates made it a point to say hello. One very friendly guy named Jorge kept telling me how quickly my time will go. “It’s crazy!” he kept telling me, with a big smile on his face. “It’s crazy!” He was also the first inmate who asked me a question which I would hear repeated over and over again until my time as an inmate was finally completed:
“What’s your out date?”
I didn’t know what that meant, and even if I had known, I wouldn’t have known the answer yet. But that question was on the lips of everyone I met. “What’s your out date?” “What’s your out date?”
I have since learned that this sort of question is completely out of bounds in any higher-security facility. But when you are somewhere which offers the Residential Drug and Alcohol Program (RDAP), it’s all anybody cares about.
This is the way it works: in the Federal system, you’re sentenced to a specific number of months. You’re then credited with an assumed 15% off due to good behavior and good conduct. You can lose that time off, but you’re given it in advance as far as computing your estimated release date. That estimated release date is your “out date.” You might be released from prison before then, but only if you’re sent to a halfway house. Time spent in the halfway house counts as time in prison, because you are still under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Prisons. But the “out date” is the day you are estimated to no longer be under their jurisdiction. Most Federal inmates still have to serve a term of “supervised release” (known as “paper” among the inmates, which is overseen by the Probation Department).
Generally, you never ask another inmate how long they’ll be incarcerated, because it’s the last thing they want to think about. The only way to make it through a sentence of even a moderate length is to live day by day, build a routine, and let the days turn into weeks, and the weeks turn into month. If you think about the time, you’ll go crazy. Or if not crazy, at least you’ll be constantly miserable.
However, in an RDAP facility, your “out date” is priority number one. That’s because there is always a waiting list for inmates to be admitted into the drug program, and that list is ordered based on who is going to be released first. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been an inmate, and it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been on the waiting list. What matters is how much time you have left. A new class of inmates is selected every two months, and they then begin the nine-month drug and alcohol program. As each class of twenty to twenty-five inmates is chosen, those qualifying inmates with the shortest amount of time left on their sentence get in…the rest have to wait.
The reason this is so important to people is that you can receive up to a year off of your sentence for successful completion of the program (although if you “violate” in any serious way while in the halfway house, you have to serve the time off that you earned, and you’re sent back to a prison facility). But how long you ACTUALLY get off is determined by how much time you have left when you graduate. For example, let’s say you have an “out date” of January 1, 2010. Regardless of your sentence length, for completing the program you are eligible for six months in the halfway house (instead of the standard 10% of your sentence UP TO six months). As in most cases being in the halfway house is preferable to prison, that’s a good thing. Anyway, if you completed the program with no time off your sentence, you’d be eligible to go to a halfway house around July 1, 2009. How much time off you receive in addition to that depends entirely on when you graduate the program. If you graduate on June 1, you’re saving about a month. If you graduate on March 1, you’ve saved four months, and so on, up to a year. So the idea is to get into the drug class as quickly as you can…the sooner you get in, the sooner you graduate, the more time you get off your sentence, and the faster you get home.
What happens in one of the RDAP facilities is that everybody makes it their business to stick their nose into everybody else’s business. As the time for a new class to start approaches, they’ll run around, collecting information, trying to figure out if they’ll make it into the next class or not. The nervousness grows, the tension builds, and anxiety becomes overwhelming. Some of these inmates are trying to hold their family situation together, working feverishly to get their wife or girlfriend to stick by them and wait until they get home. So it isn’t uncommon for promises to be made; “I’m going to be home by July. I promise!” But if the inmate doesn’t make it into the next class, those promises instantly become broken.
If you promise your wife and kids that you’ll be coming home, and suddenly it looks like it will be another two (or four) months, that can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. An inmate may find out he’s got an empty house to come back to…or no house at all.
I learned all of this later on. Having just arrived, and not understanding anything going on around me, all I could do when people asked me about my out date was say “I have no idea.” Not surprisingly, that was met with a great deal of skepticism by some of the inmates who approached me. They’d look suspicious, and sometimes almost hostile, as if I had some secret I refused to share…a secret which could stand between them and their freedom. No wonder it takes a while to settle in!
The rest of my first day was a lonely game of Follow the Leader. Nobody knows who you are, but everybody knows you’re a new arrival because of how you’re dressed. The only people wearing the shoes and off-color clothes like the ones I had are new inmates, or inmates who were just released from “the hole”…and obviously, they’re known by everyone. So in a way, you’re wearing a sign around your neck identifying you as a newcomer (unless you’ve been transferred, in which case somebody in the new facility has heard about you in advance through the grapevine). Being singled out as new is both a good and a bad thing. You’re generally ignored, which is lonely but gives you time to get your balance. And, as a newcomer, provided you try to stay the hell out of everyone’s way, you’re given the benefit of the doubt if you do something stupid or disrespect someone unknowingly. Screw up, and you’ll get a warning and an explanation. Provided you take both politely and with an apology, there is no harm and no foul.
I hung around my bunk for an hour or so, taking occasional walks through the halls and reading material on the bulletin board. I had showered that morning at home, and didn’t have any toiletries to use or clean clothes to change into, so there wasn’t much else for me to do. Around 3pm they had mail call, which was a bunch of inmates crammed into one of the larger TV room/Classrooms as a CO shouted out names. I knew I wasn’t going to get any mail yet, but I watched anyway just to get the feel of how it worked, and to kill time.
Back in my bunk a bit later, I heard a CO shout “Stand Up!” Everybody else stood and kept quiet, so I figured that’s what I was supposed to do too. Sure, enough, this was my first encounter with the daily “Stand-Up Count.” At this time every day, every inmate is to be counted and accounted for, standing in his living area. The only exceptions are inmates who are working at their assigned job during that time, and they are also counted standing but by their work CO instead. If the numbers don’t add up, they recount. If they STILL don’t add up, they come through with their inmate books and do a true census, one inmate at a time, until they figure out who is missing. If you’re not in your living area, or if you move from that area before the count is cleared, you could be in for a heap of trouble, ranging from sanctions and extra duty to going to the hole for who knows how long. You don’t screw with a stand-up count. There are other counts during the night, but they’re not stand-up. But this count, once a day (with an extra stand-up count on weekends and holidays around 10:30am), is deadly serious with the staff.
Of course, it depends on the staff and the inmate. Sometimes an inmate might be asleep, and if he doesn’t wake up and stand in time, he might get in trouble, or he might just get a warning of some kind. You’d expect an inmate’s bunkmate would watch his back and get him up, but sometimes they hate each other, or sometimes the bunkmate is such a piece of crap that he won’t do anything to help ANYBODY. But you just never knew. One hard-ass CO was famous for severe punishment when somebody messed up his count. He came through one day, and saw an inmate was sleeping in the top bunk. He kicked the bed to wake him up, moving on with the count. I assume he planned to come back and yank the inmate out afterward. But this inmate woke with such a start that as he tried to climb down from the top bunk he lost his footing (there is no easy way to climb down) and fell face first onto the floor in a terrible crash of body, metal chair, and other items. The CO finished this section of the count and walked over to find the inmate groggily trying to recover. All the CO could manage that day was a semi-sympathetic “Dude, are you okay?” Seeing the inmate wasn’t bleeding, he moved on. I guess busting your ass (or face), to the amusement of the CO and other inmates, is sometimes punishment enough.
Dinner came next. I was pleasantly surprised that the food was not as terrible as I had feared. The portions of protein were somewhat limited, but there was plenty of lettuce and some other items on the salad bar, water or soda from the dispenser, a dessert item, and a side item. Desserts or other limited items could be traded among the inmates, or simply given away to friends if you didn’t want them (I don’t like bananas, so those I always gave away freely). Unfortunately, the quality and quantity of food served would decline as I continued by prison experience. I was told by a staff member late in my sentence that the amount of money spent per inmate per day on food within the Bureau of Prisons had dropped from over $3.25 to close to $1.00 between when I arrived and when I went home. Believe me, you could tell the difference. Growing populations, budget limitations, and rising food costs took a heavy toll. In fact, as more and more crimes became Federal crimes, the rapid growth in population would take a toll on just about every aspect of prison life by the time I left.
Overall, my first day was tolerable, and helped me accept that I could survive this experience without killing myself or being killed by others. But the night had one last surprise for me. This was early November, in the Pennsylvania countryside, so it was bound to get quite cold at night. Lucky me, as it turned out, the heat in our living quarters had not been working for a day or so (I felt cold all day but figured it was just me). So we had to sleep with no heat. For most inmates this wasn’t a huge problem; they just slept with long johns and maybe two pairs of socks. Not me! I didn’t have any long johns yet, and the one pair of socks I had been given were old, thin, and had holes in them. Even my blanket was thinner (and you only get one blanket). So I had the pleasure of spending my first night in prison freezing my ass off, listening to the sounds of 60 men sleeping in the same room. I did get some sleep, in between the snoring and the farting and the coughing…and the chattering of my teeth. A nice reminder, if nothing else, that there would be surprises waiting around every corner!
The Counterfeiters – This German film is based at least partially on true circumstances. During the late stages of World War II, Nazi Germany seizes upon a plan to print tremendous quantities of counterfeit British Pounds and U.S. Dollars, in an effort both to finance their own war efforts and to cripple the economies of the opposition.
At the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, a group of hand-picked Jews is segregated from the general population to work on “Operation Bernhard.” Among them is Salomon Sorowitsch (Karl Markovics), regarded as one of the greatest counterfeiters of his time. The film explores the motivations and desires of the Jews, and the struggle between collaboration in exchange for survival, and the need to resist in order to maintain some principles and dignity. It’s a very strong film, but one which does not attempt to pull at the heartstrings in a Hollywood fashion. Instead, it simply lays the story out, these privileged Jews who are reminded by the world all around them how close they themselves are to the gas chambers and obliteration. It may not be around theaters much longer, but look for it, or watch it when its available on DVD.
Seen on DVD – The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom (B-, quirky and fun but didn’t hold up quite as well as I’d hoped. Still, very accurate in its depiction of small-town Texas life). The Brady Bunch Movie (B, worth watching again after all these years. I remember WAY too much from the original episodes). Fur (D+, which is being overly generous. Just terribly boring, mediocre acting, no emotion. Nothing). The Shape of Things (D, we chose this on the strength of Neil LaBute’s awesome In the Company of Men. But the dialogue, along with everything else, seems forced and has no ring of truth. Skip it). Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (B, pretty good tale of the “perfect crime” gone horribly wrong.). Going in Style (B+, a classic movie, Heather had never seen it). No Country For Old Men (B, as bad-ass as the villain was, I still much prefer Fargo).
Natural Law by Joey W. Hill – A great story about one woman’s complete dominance of an alpha male. I wouldn’t want to do it myself, but it makes a great story and an orgasmic read! 5 pumpkins.
Lucinda Darkly by Sunny – Story about a kindhearted demon Princess . It actually works better than it sounds. She still has lots of good evil moments. 4 pumpkins.
Not in Kansas Anymore by Christine Wicker – Subtitled “A Curious Tale of How Magic is Transforming America.” One reporter’s quest to discover true magic in America. Even though she is a nonbeliever, she keeps an open mind. Ranges from serious to silly. I liked it! 4 pumpkins.
Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder – It was decent. The first two in the series were much better. I had to force myself to read the last ¼ of the book. 2 ½ pumpkins.
The Painted Kiss by Elizabeth Hickey – In the beginning it was a very interesting fictionalized story about the relationship between Gustav Klimt and Emilie Flöge (the model for his most famous piece, The Kiss). At about halfway through it ran out of steam. 3 pumpkins.
The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold – The idea behind the story was good, about a woman who kills her mother. But since she killer her in the first chapter, after that it went nowhere. 2 pumpkins.
Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer – The first two books in the Twilight series were great. Unfortunately, this one was definitely not. I looked forward to it with much anticipation, but I only made it through 1/4 of the book, and I cannot force myself to go any further. 2 pumpkins.
The Greatest Movies You’ve Never Seen – Chapter One:
“In the Company of Men”
Besides talking out movies from my childhood which I’m just now rediscovering, I thought it might be good to use this column to introduce the uninformed to some terrific movies that might have slipped through the cracks. This month, I’d like to call your attention to Neil LaBute’s dark film “In the Company of Men.”
Unlike “The Shape of Things” (which is listed in the Seen on DVD section), “In the Company of Men” is filled with delicious dialogue which sounds and feel honest and realistic. The acting is well-done, but not overplayed. In fact, the whole film carries with it a sort of everyday, low-fidelity weight. Like the drudgery of life when it falls into routine, the settings, direction, and cinematography pull you into a mundane world of small offices, middle-management jerks, and everything else you find in the part of the corporate world populated by those without keys to the executive washroom.
The plot is built around two junior executives, travelling to an out-of-town office to work on a project. Howard (Matt Malloy) is a semi-nerd-nice-guy who is tasting his first bite of authority. Chad (Aaron Eckhart) is working under him. During the journey from home, the two discuss recent betrayals by women. Chad points out that at this new location they can basically be whoever they want to be…they’re known by name only. He devises a scheme to both occupy their free time and to regain their feelings of power and control over women. Evil and simple, the plan is to find a typical woman at the office who has low self-esteem; one who has given up on the idea of a Prince Charming. Then, supposedly without the other one’s knowledge, they will both court her, with a focus on romance – flowers, dinners, ice shows – rather than sex. As Chad describes, they will build her up and build her up until the very end, when as they leave town again they will pull the rug out from under her. As she crashes down, Chad says they will from that point forward always be able to take pride in knowing they “got one of them way worse them they ever got one of us.”
How the plan plays out, who the select, and what else is at stake will all be left for you to discover. The film is available on DVD and VHS, and most on-line services like Blockbuster and Netflix have it in stock. I should add that I frequently suggest this film to any younger women I am friends with (between 18 and 28) as a must see, sort of a lesson in what many men are all about and how truly evil some of them can be.
If you’ve never seen it, let me know what you think. And if you HAVE seen it, drop me a letter and tell me if you agree with my recommendation.
Paul Milewski: [on downloading the subzine] I tried the first link [to the ES Yahoo Group] but the new upgraded security here at work has it blocked as an "entertainment" URL. However, I was able to get through to whiningkentpigs.com oddly enough. I guess our security software assumes that whiningkentpigs is a name for a division of Microsoft or something. I will look forward to reading it.
Bureaucracy at its finest! Now let me tell you a little something about TPS reports…
Babcock: Regarding Kevin Wilson’s search for the source of a quote, I don't know which
quote exactly Kevin is thinking of, but the sentiment is the theme of 'Variable
Star' by Heinlein and Robinson. The novel, of
course, repeats that wisdom in numerous pithy statements placed in the mouths of its characters. I would be surprised if it wasn't in there.
Jérémie LeFrancois: Since you love cats, take a look at my mother's website www.chatterley.fr - she breeds Birman cats and there are nice pictures there. Most of the site is in French (I helped setting it up), but as a retired English teacher she will probably translate it one day...
Andy York: The bit about your introduction into the federal prison system doesn't surprise me. Large, decentralized, institutions have parts that take on a life of their own sometimes - and, then have those quirks known to a third party (the judicial system) is almost impossible.
I’m still a bit shocked though at how completely wrong they can be between two agencies that have to deal with each other on a daily basis. Oh well, par for the course.
Berend Renken: Some brief movie reviews (most recent releases listed first): The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (B+, quite engaging, true story about a man left completely paralyzed after a stroke, filmed from his perspective; it bugged me that he seemed more upset about loss of speech than about loss of mobility); Cloverfield (C+, nice little piece of entertainment but not more than that, made for a young audience); American Gangster (A, beautifully made movie on the rise and fall of Frank Lucas, innovative drug lord of the 1970's); The Last King of Scotland (A, Forest Whitaker does stunning job through nuanced portrayal of a human monster (Idi Amin, former dictator of Uganda), accompanying role & story (of a young Scottish doctor getting ever more tightly involved with Idi) very well done also); Who Killed the Electric Car? (A, a documentary you should see on how public demand does not determine public consumption); The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (D, incoherent piece of crap with isolated bits of originality and good acting, unfunny while made after one of the funniest books ever written, how did they do that?); The Machinist (A-, very well made, a dedicated Christian Bale did not eat for almost a month in order to accurately portray the lead character, great story but perhaps slightly moralistic when all has been explained); Chronos (B, nonverbal with beautiful photography, reminiscent of "Koyaanisqatsi" but without the depth of message).
Hitchhiker was a terrible disappointment. How can a book that great be a film that bad?
Diplomacy (Black Press): Signed up: Nobody, takes seven to fill.
I may offer another Gunboat 7x7 soon, so keep your eyes open. Other options are a game of Youngstown or some other map variant. If you have requests please let me know.
Diplomacy “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” 2008A, Spring 1902
Austria (Kevin Wilson): A Budapest – Rumania, F Greece - Bulgaria(sc) (*Fails*),
A Serbia Supports A Budapest – Rumania, A Trieste – Budapest, A Vienna - Trieste.
England (Jérémie LeFrançois): F London - English Channel, F North Sea Convoys A Yorkshire – Denmark,
F Norway – Skagerrak, A Yorkshire - Denmark (*Bounce*).
France (Alexander Levinson): A Brest – Picardy, A Burgundy – Ruhr, A Paris - Burgundy (*Bounce*),
F Portugal Hold, A Spain - Gascony.
Germany (Graham Wilson): A Belgium Supports F Holland, A Berlin - Munich (*Fails*),
F Holland Supports A Belgium, A Kiel - Denmark (*Bounce*).
Italy (Don Williams): A Munich - Burgundy (*Bounce*), F Naples - Ionian Sea, F Rome - Tyrrhenian Sea,
F Tunis - Western Mediterranean, A Venice - Piedmont.
Russia (Melinda Holley): A Moscow Supports F Sevastopol, F Sevastopol Supports A Ukraine - Rumania (*Cut*),
F Sweden Supports A London – Denmark (*Fails*), A Ukraine - Rumania (*Bounce*), A Warsaw - Galicia.
Turkey (Brad Wilson): A Armenia Supports A Constantinople – Sevastopol,
F Black Sea Convoys A Constantinople – Sevastopol, A Bulgaria - Rumania (*Bounce*),
A Constantinople - Sevastopol (*Fails*).
Austria: A Budapest, F Greece, A Rumania, A Serbia, A Trieste.
England: F English Channel, F North Sea, F Skagerrak, A Yorkshire.
France: A Gascony, A Paris, A Picardy, F Portugal, A Ruhr.
Germany: A Belgium, A Berlin, F Holland, A Kiel.
Italy: F Ionian Sea, A Munich, A Piedmont, F Tyrrhenian Sea, F Western Mediterranean.
Russia: A Galicia, A Moscow, F Sevastopol, F Sweden, A Ukraine.
Turkey: A Armenia, F Black Sea, A Bulgaria, A Constantinople.
Fall 1902 Deadline is June 24th 2008 at 7:00am
“Nice! Ya no good varmint. I got half a mind to show you ‘nice’. Take you outside and whoop yer ass!,” said Deadeye Wilson, loudly, as was his wont.
“Whut was that?”
“An old joke, getting’ older,” grumbled Tried and True Wilson, one of the other card-players, and dressed to look the part. His wide brimmed black riverboat gambler hat, his shiny brocade vest, and his polished knee high boots projected an image of someone more at ease on a sidewheeler than in the saddle.
“Wull, he is right about one thing,” opined Cookie, “ he does have half a mind. Hark, spoit,” he spat his tobacco juice into the hay on the floor.
“Don’t get started Cookie, or you’ll be number two on my list.”
“Didn’t rightly know you could count that high,” said Cookie. The words came out low and quiet, further muffled by the mop of grizzled white beard, tinged with tobacco juice and coffee stains. The old Cook enjoyed these little soirées into town, to let the boys cut loose and get the burrs out from under their saddles.
“Ever time I play you cards, you cheat,” bellowed Deadeye, “always got a pair o’ eights, or a pair o’ deuces, two pair…”
Wandering Eye Wilson, one eye slightly askew, retorted, “isn’t my fault I got the double vision.”
“It don’t work that way!” yelled Deadeye, “it don’t mean you can put more cards in the deck!”
“Yer just jealous of my good fortune,” said Wandering Eye Wilson, “ever since that night after the last drive, you have just been one envious galoot.”
“What happened after the last drive?” asked Tried and True Wilson, leaning forward in his chair.
“We wuz here at the Heart of Darkness, me and Deadeye here. We wuz flirtin’ up some of the dance hall girls,” answered Wandering Eye, “and I got the twins to go upstairs with me. And he didn’t…it’s that simple. Pure…D…green…envious…jealousy.”
“I keep tellin’ ya. It weren’t twins!” said Deadeye. “It was one girl!”
“THEY WUZ SISTERS,” shouted back Wandering Eye with a pout on his face. He pointed his finger at Deadeye, “yer just a sore loser.”
“Ah’m about to make you a sore winner,” retorted Deadeye, “take you out on that there verdana and fix yer wagon.”
“I believe you mean the veranda?” said Tried and True.
“Not in this here szine. He only prints in verdana,” said Cookie, “hark, spoit,” he spit into the brass spittoon next to the table.
“Why don’t I just shoot you down in the street,” said Wandering Eye Wilson menacingly.
“Har, har,” Deadeye replied slowly, emphasizing the sarcasm, choosing to mock the archaic form of laughter that Wandering Eye Wilson had used just lines above, “you wouldn’t know which one of me to shoot at.”
“Oh, I’d just close one eye and shoot at what’s left, or I can keep ‘em both open and shoot at what’s right,” replied Wandering Eye, “either way, you’d have a bug tussle o’ trouble.”
Deadeye stood up and loomed over the table. “You sayin’ you can shoot better’n me?!! Boy, I shit bigger than you!”
“He is a big shit,” muttered Cookie.
“Keep it ta yerself, Cookie,” Deadeye shot back.
“Wull, I’d say it ‘sot-to voce’, but I don’t speak the ‘eye-talian’,” muttered Cookie.
“Hell,” opined Tried and True Wilson, “ I shoot better than the both of ya’ sad saddles.”
The other two Wilsons slowly turned their heads and looked at Tried and True. He sat there leaning his chair back on its hind two legs, a self satisfied smile on his face.
“Whut did you say!” bellowed Deadeye.
“He said that he could shoot better’n than the two o’ ya,” said Cookie, “hark, spoit.”
Deadeye turned his glower to Cookie. “It was rhetorical Cookie, I didn’t really want to know.”
“I smell a bet,” said Wandering Eye Wilson, he picked up some of the coins in front of him on the table and let them clink back down into a short pile. Tinck…tinck…tinck.
“Oh, that hadn’t crossed my mind, perish the thought,” said Tried and True, as his smile widened.
“I bet it hadn’t,” replied Wandering Eye.
“Now, that’s two bets,” said Cookie.
“COOKIE!” said all three Wilsons in unison.
“Outside, and we’ll just see who can shoot better’n who,” groused Deadeye Wilson. He stomped toward the back door of the saloon. Wandering Eye Wilson nodded toward Tried and True Wilson and got up to follow. Tried and True set his chair down and went after them. All the other Wilsons and patrons sensed something was “happening” and followed suit. A current of bodies moved through the back door and The Heart of Darkness poured its contents into the alley. Bruno looked up from the piano into the suddenly quiet and near empty saloon. He stopped playing and shook his cramping fingers; “good time for a break.”
Cookie sat alone at the table. All the other chairs were empty. The stacks of coins sat lonely, undisturbed in little piles around the table. Undisturbed…and unattended. Cookie looked at them and a slow grin spread across his face, and his gold tooth gleamed in good cheer. He rubbed his hands together.
“Well, well, well.”
The saloon being practically emptied out in the tumult gave S’ym an opportunity to pick up empty beer mugs and dump ashtrays. Most of the tables were empty, and many of the dance hall girls were unoccupied, almost bewildered by the sudden lack of customers. S’ym went by a table that had a cowpoke sitting in his chair with both Patrice and Synda sitting in his lap. They had been paying the cowpoke a great deal of attention and had not noticed everyone traipsing out the back door. S’ym picking up the empty beer mugs and shot glasses off the table brought the three out of their reverie. They slowly looked around the bar.
“S’ym, where did everybody go,” asked Synda?
“The boys are having a pissing contest,” answered S’ym, “they’re betting to see who has the biggest dick.”
Abruptly the cowpoke jumped up, practically dumping the two girls onto the floor and hurried for the back door. Patrice and Synda regained their feet, one pouting, the other angry.
“What’s his hurry,” asked S’ym.
“That’s Three Legged Wilson,” answered Patrice, “he probably figures that’s a bet he can win.”
Upstairs, getting ready for the Revue, Miss Kitty suddenly looked up; “what’s that noise?” Elana, who was helping Miss Kitty pour her sumptuous form into her corset, much akin to squeezing two piglets into a ditty bag, cocked her head to one side, “I don’t hear anything…”
“Exactly,” said Miss Kitty.
The alley behind the Heart of Darkness was a sparsely written description; it was an almost empty portion of the szine littered with detritus from the bar and little used words. Notions were stacked across two sawhorses, maybe to be used in further plot construction, but for now all but forgotten. But overall it was ill-kept; participles dangled from the eaves and the whole thing just sort of trailed off into the distance into a vaguely detailed landscape of blank pages. The only notable part of the landscape was the desert foliage. But the hardened ranch hands and heavy drinkers from the bar paid scant attention. They were focused on the Wilson boys having it out.
“I’ll show you whut shootin’ is,” said Deadeye. He pulled his revolver from its holster and spun the cylinder. It whirred about with oiled efficiency and he brought it up and leveled it’s barrel pointing into the desert. “Ya see that there cactus, the one with the its arms up, looking like it’s giving a hoshaiah and singing in church?”
Wandering Eye Wilson, squinted one of his eyes and peered at it, “ya mean the one that looks like it’s in the middle of a holdup at the First Trust?”
“Naw, not that one,” grumbled Deadeye, “t’other one.”
“He means the one that looks like he’s holding up the rafters…like when the mine collapsed up in the Warmos Hills,” opined Tried and True Wilson.
“NOOOOOOOO,” said Deadeye in frustration, “the t’other t’other one. On the left.”
“You mean the one that’s going ‘Can I get a what, what,’” asked Soul Brother Wilson, motioning his hands up and down in the air.
”NOOOOO!” yelled Deadeye, “Not that one. How many dang cactus can you get?”
“It is a desert,” drawled Gabby, one of the dance hall girls who had followed the crowd outside to see the excitement.
“Oh, now you’re the smart one,” remarked Deadeye.
“Enough to know that the plural of cactus is cacti,” retorted Gabby.
Deadeye waved his hands frivolously in the air, the revolver wobbling dangerously and spoke in a high pitched feminine voice, prancing his boots up and down, “Lookit me, lookit me. I’m a smart tart! I have brains bigger than my tits! I kin think on my feet AND on my back!” Gabby glowered at Deadeye. “If’n yer so smart,” continued Deadeye, in his regular voice, “how would you describe that there cactus for everyone?”
Gabby squinted one eye at the assortment of cacti, giving the question some thought, “I’d just say it was the one that was showing how big Miss Kitty’s rack is.”
“OH, that one,” said a voice from the crowd. “Oh, I was lookin’ at the wrong one,” said another voice. “Well, why didn’t you just say so Deadeye,” another voice. “Oh, yeah. I see it,” said another. “O’course, don’t look nuthin’ like the others.” “That’s the one.” “I know which one he’s talking about now.” A murmuring wave of ascent passed through the crowd.
“Alright, alright,” shouted Deadeye. “Thank you Miss Smarty Pants,” to Gabby. She curtsied in reply with a smirk planted firmly on her face. “AS I WAS SAYIN’,“ continued Deadeye, “that there cactus has a fly sitting on the tippy top of it.” He quickly whirled the revolver about his finger, brought it up in one smooth motion and
“No more fly,” concluded Deadeye. The crowd looked across the desert to the cactus, where a hole had replaced the spot where the fly had been.
“Oooooooh”, “Awwwwwww”, “That’s some shootin’,” ran through the crowd.
Wandering Eye Wilson stepped up next to Deadeye, “That was some mighty fine shootin’ Deadeye, but I rightly figger I can beat it.” He reached for the two guns at his belt, but Deadeye halted him with a hand to the chest.
“Don’t you go telling me you shot two flys,” groused Deadeye, “I won’t be hearing it.”
“No, not two flys,” said Wandering Eye. Deadeye took his hand off the other’s chest and stepped back.
“Ya’ll see the cactus there, with one arm up and the other one down,” asked Wandering Eye?
“The ‘Walk like an Egyptian’ cactus,” asked Gabby?
“That’s the one,” affirmed Wandering Eye, and the sounds of the crowd confirmed they knew which one too. He pulled his two Remington double actions from their holsters, the one in his left hand steadily pointed toward the cactus, the one in his right wavered in his grip, moving about like the snout of a dog trying to get a scent in the wind. The crowd on his right gingerly edged away from him. He fixed both his steady and his not so steady gaze upon a lone, large, fat horsefly, that steadily buzzed about the head of the designated cactus. He aimed and his pistols spat twin gouts of flame and smoke;
There was a collective intake of breath in the crowd. A gasp here and there and a clearly heard; “Now that is some shooting!”
Atop the targeted cactus, sat the big fat juicy horsefly. It was walking around befuddled and disoriented, both of its wings had been blown clean off.
“THAT is quite some shooting,” said Tried and True Wilson, stepping forward, “quite some shooting. It would take quite a shot to beat that,” he started drawing his revolver. It was a buntline Colt with the extended barrel and he drew it slowly from his holster. The blue steel metal of the barrel glistened a little in the sun as he slid it up and into the daylight. The barrel, so long that it took near to three sentences to draw the gun completely out of the holster cleared leather…finally. He leveled the sights up toward the horizon.
“Y’see that cactus?” Everyone paused. “Gabby?”
“Y’mean the one doing ‘the roof, the roof…the roof is on fire’, “ said Gabby.
“Yeah, that one,” nodded Tried and True, and sure enough, there, buzzing about it was another big, fat horsefly doing slow, lazy circuits between the arms of the cactus. It’s persistent buzzing almost sounding like ‘letttttt the motherrrrrrrrrfuckerrrrrrrrr burnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn’.
Tried and True drew a bead; slow, steady and deliberate….BANG!
There was no hole in the cactus, and the horsefly continued to fly about. Tried and True calmly put his Colt back in its holster.
“Har! Ya missed,” said Deadeye.
“Nope,” answered Tried and True.
“Ya, didn’t get the wings,” said Wandering Eye Wilson, “it’s still flying around that cactus.”
“Yep,” answered Tried and True and he turned to go back inside, “but he’ll never have children.”
Deadeye and Wandering Eye and all the other Wilsons, and the crowd all leaned forward in hushed silence, heads turned sideways, ears cocked straining to listen…and sure enough, they could barely hear it, but it was there.
The buzzing of the big, fat horsefly was four octaves higher and it seemed to buzz;
‘it burnnnnnnnzzzzzzzzzz, motherfucker, it burnnnnnnnnnnnzzzzzzzz’.
Heart of Darkness Saloon - Miss Kitty smiled and leaned over the balcony railing as she watched the saloon fill up as the sun went down. Waving at the men who hooted in appreciation, she observed the Three Stooges (aka the Wilson boys) huddled at a table in the corner. Well, two of them were huddled together. The other sat leaning against the wall cradling his left arm with his right. Word was the boy had gotten a boo-boo.
Leaning further over the balcony, she saw Ducky...Dukey slowly dealing the cards. Catching the smirk on his face, she chuckled. Then she heard the band tuning up. Raising her voice, she shouted, "IT'S SHOWTIME!"
“WHAT?” Tin Ear Wilson yelled from the end of the bar. He picked up the tin ear horn that gave him his name and stuck it up next to his head.
S’ym could barely believe what he was seeing, a cowboy had just pushed through the swinging wing doors of the saloon. He had a large ten gallon hat, and the widest chaps S’ym had ever seen outside of a gay bar, and everything the cowboy wore was a pristine, dust free, stain free, eye searing white. He had bangles, and spangles and bits of leather that didn’t seem to do much more than dangle. His vest was adorned with decorative tin stars, and his guns were pearl handled. He had a guitar strapped across his back and shiny spurs with big rowels.
“Look like he’s selling ice cream,” muttered S’ym.
“YOU DIDN’T SCREAM…I WOULDA HEARD YOU IF YOU SCREAMED,” said Tin Ear.
“Howdy stranger,” said S’ym, “you part of the Revue?”
The cowboy walked up to the bar, “no, why do you ask?”
“No reason,” said S’ym, shaking his head, “you just looked….new…in town.”
The cowboy stuck out his hand to S’ym, “Cimmaron. Bolt Cimmaron’s my moniker, glad to meet you.”
“HE’S GOT CINNAMON ON HIS MONACLE? HE’S NOT WEARING A MONACLE,” yelled Tin Ear.
“You might want to sit down there a little ways,” said S’ym, nodding toward the bar further away from Tin Ear.
Cimmaron smiled, a very white smile with perfect pearly white teeth, “oh, he won’t bother me none.” He nodded genially to Tin Ear. S’ym poured him a shot of whiskey.
“HIS BROTHER’S A NUN?”
“So what brings you into the Heart of Darkness?”
“The worst day of my life,” said Cimmaron, “the absolute worst. The only thing that made the travails any easier…were my thoughts of the women of the Heart of Darkness.”
“Do tell,” said S’ym, intrigued. He leaned forward and put his elbows on the bar.
“I was out on the lone prairie,” said Cimmaron, and slung his guitar around to the front, and placing his hands on the strings started strumming, “me on my trusty destrier.”
“DID HE SAY HE TOUCHED SOMEBODY’S REAR?”
“I could see off in the distance, a cloud of dust. Dark and moving fast, it could only bode ill will,” struumm, strumm. “There topping the last page, silhouetted against the header I could see them…commancheros. “ Bruuummmm, brummmm went the strings of the guitar.
“They were behind me,” said Cimmaron, brummmm, brummmmm, “there was no going back to the last episode. I could only move forward, so I said to my trusty steed; Ride Destiny, Ride!” Brummmm…..brummmm, brummmity, brummmm. He fingers flew over the strings.
“HE DID THE DIRTY DEED?”
“So we rode,” brummitty brummmm, brummmmity brummm, brummm, brummm-brummmm, the fast paced strumming of the guitar quickened the tempo of the story. “All day we rode, down gulchs and through salt licks, across the desert sand…but they stayed with us. If anything, they drew closer,” brummitty brumm, brumpp, brumpp, brummpp.
“HE SOLD LICKS AT A DESSERT STAND?”
“We found a narrow pass through the badlands when I wasn’t sure there was a way…” strummm, strummmm.
“DID HE SAY HE WASN’T SURE HE WAS GAY?”
“But it opened onto a narrow pass, so narrow I wasn’t sure I could get into it,” strummmm, strummm, “much less out.” Brummity brummmm.
“IT’S ALWAYS LIKE THAT THE FIRST TIME.”
“The walls of the defile closed in like the hoary grip of death, right up against my chaps and the saddle of good ol’ Destiny,” strummmm, strummm. And his hand stopped on the strings, bringing sudden silence, “we were stuck in the defile.”
“They were stuck in the defile,” said S’ym.
“YOU ALWAYS FEEL DEFILED THE FIRST TIME.”
“I knew the commancheros were coming,” stru, stru, stru, stru, stru, “so I had to get behind Destiny and push, and Destiny strained. We pushed the two of us together against the sides of the narrow canyon…until,” STRRUMMMMM, STRUMMMMM, “we came out the other side.”
“YOUNG LOVE, AIN’T IT GRAND?”
“No, no. It was his horse.”
‘HE’S DOING IT WITH HIS HORSE?”
“But the injuns were riding ponies, with no leather,” strummmmm, strummmm,. Strummmm, strummmmm! “They came right through.”
“HE’S INTO LEATHER?”
“That’s when poor Destiny threw a shoe, and those commancheroes were on us,” strum, “we fought and fought, but we were outnumbered. They captured us and took me back to their village, and they told me ‘white man, we’re going to kill you!” Strummpp, strumppp. Bang, he slapped his hand on the guitar, bringing sudden silence. Everyone jumped in their seats. “But, these were noble savages!” Low, soft; strummmmittty , strummm, strummmm, “they said we were honored by your bravery and how tirelessly you rode through the hot sun across the desert. We will kill you in three days, when the sun is high in the sky…but on each of those three days we will grant you one request in the morning.” Strummmpppp, strummppp, strummmpp.
“WE’RE GRILLING FRITOS?”
“So the first morning, they brought me out of the teepee I was prisoner in, and asked what I wanted,” strummmm, strummmm, strummmm, “and I told them to send for my horse, faithful Destiny.”
“FARTS OF DUST?”
“I whispered into Destiny’s ear, and he turned and galloped across the desert,” strummm, strummm, “right here to the Heart of Darkness Saloon! And just as quickly, he returned but he was bearing a beautiful blonde dance hall girl.” Strumm, strummm. “So I took her into my teepee and we spent the rest of the night together.” Strummittty, strum. Strum, strum, strum .
“HE STUCK HIS PEE PEE IN A BLIND BEAR?”
“The next morning the Indians asked me what I wanted. They said I must be a brave man to be facing certain death and to want to spend my last days in the arms of a beautiful woman, but what did I want now, on this, the second day.” Strumm, strummm, strummm, strum.
“I said send for my faithful horse,” strum, strummm, “and when he came, I whispered in his ear so that the chief and his warriors could not hear me.” Strumm.
“HIS HORSE HAS GOT GAS SO HE’S NOT DRINKING BEER?”
“Faithful, not fartful and he didn’t want the Indians to hear,” explained S’ym.
“THEN HE SHOULDA GIVEN ‘EM ONE O’ THESE DAMN THINGS,” said Tin Ear, shaking the horn angrily in his fist.
“And Destiny rode across the plain, like the great steed he is, as if one with the wind and again he shortly returned….and this time with a beautiful red headed dance hall girl, and I took her into the teepee and we spent a torrid evening together.” Strummm, strummmm. Strumm, strummm.
“HE TORED UP HIS PEE PEE?”
“The next morning, the indians brought me out of the teepee, and they said ‘brave and lascivious white man, today is your last day on earth,’ strummmmmmmmmmm, “what is it that you want today?”
“I said,” strummmmmmmm, strummmmmmm, strummmmmm, “send me my horse. And they brought me my faithful Destiny, and I took both his ears in my hands, looked him straight in the eyes and I yelled; POSSE! Bring me the POSSE! How many times do I have to tell you?”
“WHAT HAPPENED NEXT,” yelled Tin Ear.
“Well, true to their word,” said Bolt Cimmaron, “they staked me out in the desert and killed me.” He took the shot of whiskey off the bar and downed it in one swallow.
“That is a bad day,” said S’ym, nodding.
“I see you got yer ice on special today, a bag for eight bits,” said Marlow, “hark, spoit.” He spit tobacco juice into a spittoon by the door.
“Yep, that I do,” answered Grampus.
“You know the Mercantile has it fer four bits, yer Avariciousness,” said Marlow.
Grampus didn’t stop sweeping, “Well, you should by it there then.”
“Cain’t, they’re out o’ stock,” said Marlow.
“Those greedy bastards, when I’m out of stock I sell it for three bits,” answered Grampus.
Marlow squinted one eye at the old man but continued to browse among the aisles. He picked up an item off the shelf and looked at it. It was a metal tube with a plunger on the end, when you pushed on the plunger little arms extended and spread out, as you released the plunger they closed and retracted, “Why on earth do you sell this?” asked Marlow, “I haven’t seen one o’ these since I worked at the Heart.”
Grampus looked up, “that’s a pickle picker. Ya use it to get pickles outta the bottom of the barrel.” He stopped sweeping, “I didn’t know you sold pickles at the Heart of Darkness.”
“We didn’t,” said Marlow and put the device back on the shelf. He wiped his fingers hastily on his pant leg and ambled on down the aisle.
“So you gonna go to the Revue,” asked Marlow? “I never seen you in there.”
“Naw. Mabel wouldn’t like it,” answered Grampus.
“Mabel’s been gone for over ten years…”
“Yeah, well,” Grampus paused in his sweeping, giving it a thought, “she still wouldn’t like it. Sides, too much excitement. I want excitement I read me the Sears & Roebuck.” He went back to sweeping.
Marlow picked up a box of pills and looked at it.
Grampus stomped sweeping again and looked at Marlow. “Ya got gas?”
Marlow rattled the box of pills, “Naw, these are headache pills.”
Grampus squinted, “Don’t be tootin’ up my store. I gets women folk in here!”
“It’s not me. Yer sure it’s not you?”
“I ain’t so old I cain’t tell when I’m cooking my own air biscuits,” said Grampus emphatically. He scowled at Marlow, then they both turned to look out the front window of the Emporium.
“What is that? It sounds far off,” asked Grampus.
Marlow cocked his head to one side and squinted to listen, “Seems to be coming from the next episode.”
By Popular Demand
Credit goes to Ryk Downes, I believe, for inventing this game (although his original version had the GM supply the starting letter as well). The goal is to pick something that fits the category and will be the "most popular" answer. You score points based on the number of entries that match yours. For example, if the category is "Cats" and the responses were 7 for Persian, 3 for Calico and 1 for Siamese, everyone who said Persian would get 7 points, Calico 3 and the lone Siamese would score 1 point. The cumulative total over 10 rounds will determine the overall winner. Anyone may enter at any point, starting with an equivalent point total of the lowest cumulative score from the previous round. If a person misses a round, they'll receive the minimum score from the round added to their cumulative total. And, if you want to submit some commentary with your answers, feel free to. The game will consist of 10 rounds. A prize will be awarded to the winner.
Round 4 Categories
1. A swimming stroke.
2. A color of paper other than white.
3. A type of cloud.
4. A liquid other than water.
5. A famous cat.
Selected Comments By Category:
Swimming Stroke - Brendan Whyte “Breast stroke. and you don't even have to do it while in the water!” Andy York “Others that come to mind are backstroke and crawl. As I'm only good at treading water, I'll take that option.” Kevin Wilson “I don’t think “freestyle” is actually a stroke and I don’t know the name for what everyone calls freestyle so I’ll go with the most suggestive, counting on the juvenile instincts of everyone to kick in a hit a few times.”
Paper – Andy York “Off-white? I guess it is a "pick a color" time as there are as many types of colored paper as there are colors....well, I might go with yellow thinking of the legal pads....Ya, let's use YELLLOW as my answer.” Kevin Wilson “Yes, beige is almost white and I don’t think canary or chartreuse or something similar will hit often. I don’t think beige will either but we’ll see.”
Cloud – Andy York “I almost
went with fluffy.”
Liquid – Brendan Whyte “Urine or beer, urine or beer... one often tastes like the other, so urine it is. Piss easy question this.”
Cat – Brad Martin “Felix the Cat was drawn originally by an Australian.”
General Comments - Kevin Wilson “I really thought Alps would be more popular than it was. My second choice was Rockies so I guess I out-thought myself. I’m embarrassed I didn’t consider NMR being a Diplomacy player. USA was a good one too. I considered USA , UN, NFL and NATO, any of which would have beat what I did choose. Oh well.”
Round 5 Categories – Deadline is June 24th 2008 at 7:00am
1. A sexual fetish.
2. A cartoon character.
3. A grain.
4. A type of drum.
5. Something found in a public bathroom.
By Popular Opinion
In this By Popular Demand variant invested by Allan Stagg, the questions are subjective, e.g. "Who is or was the best rock guitarist of all time?" The goal is to pick something that fits the category and will be the "most popular" answer. You score points based on the number of entries that match yours. For example, if the category is “What breed of cats are the friendliest?" and the responses were 7 for Persian, 3 for Calico and 1 for Siamese, everyone who said Persian would get 7 points, Calico 3 and the lone Siamese would score 1 point. The cumulative total over 10 rounds will determine the overall winner. Anyone may enter at any point, starting with an equivalent point total of the lowest cumulative score from the previous round. If a person misses a round, they'll receive the minimum score from the round added to their cumulative total. And, if you want to submit some commentary with your answers, feel free to; players are encouraged to submit press justifying their choices. The game will consist of 10 rounds. A prize will be awarded to the winner.
Round 8 Categories
1. Worst Beatles song.
2. Best outside temperature (in Fahrenheit).
3. Least-important nation in South America.
4. The luckiest number other than 7.
5. The best year of the 1990’s.
Selected Comments By Category:
Beatles – Jérémie LeFrancois “I choose "All you need is love" since that is wrong; all you need is a computer and internet connection.” Bendan Whyte “I am the walrus. What the hell was that? And who let Ringo near the pen and paper?”
America – Jérémie
LeFrancois “Colombia since they take their time to free hostages.” Brendan Whyte “Paraguay. when was the last
time Paraguay was in the news? 1930?” Andy York “Paraguay is one of the handful that
are least heard about, but it is probably the best known of them.”
Number – Brendan Whyte “9.
Ninety-nine red balloons. Nine lives, Ninepins, Nine-compoops. Nine-tendo. But
in Vietnam is is Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah-nineteen. “Andy York “personally, my
"lucky" number is 8 - an infinity sign turned 90 degrees.”
Year - Jérémie LeFrancois “1998 since France won the Soccer World Cup that year!” Brendan Whyte “1999, cos we got to party like it really was, instead of just pretending.” John Colledge “1990, Thatcher deposed!”
Round 9 Categories – Deadline is June 24th, 2008 at 7:00am
1. Worst color for a necktie.
2. Best flavor or style of donut.
3. Worst family board game.
4. Best monthly magazine.
5. Best book by Stephen King.
Deadline For The Next Issue of Eternal Sunshine:
June 24th, 2008 at 7:00am – See You Then!