Post-Apocalypso

Hank didn’t want business cards, didn’t think he needed them.


So, in the last chapter of GRAVE DIGGER BLUES, my novella in progress, which I have submitted to a few publishers and am now waiting to see who comes out the winner in this cynical sweepstakes, protagonist Hank Zzybnx tackles the case of the missing husband, Tim T. Morney (a name that you might recognize as being an anagram of some shit bird who is currently the topic of a great deal of media attention), and this turns into a “cold” case, in a bad way. Hank has acquired an assistant, an artist, who goes by various pseudonyms, such as Garcia Lorca, Picasso, Salvador Dali, Arthur Cravan, Max Ernst, etc., and Alias. The wise among you may sense a pattern there.

Who is this guy working for you, Hank, asked Biff the Bartender. Every time I see him he gives me a different name. Doesn’t the guy know who he is? Hank said, I like the kid. He does good work.


Being that it was the last summer before the end of the world, going to the trouble of having business cards printed seemed as necessary to Hank as tits on a snake.


Alias produces some proofs of his business card concepts and gives them to Hank at The Morgue, the bar where Hank does most of his drinking, the bar being so named because in its previous incarnation, it was the city morgue. Having an industrial strength cooler is a plus for a bar. This also proves advantageous in the chapter titled “You Can Run But You’ll Just Die Tired,” in which Hank regains consciousness on a street corner after the events described in Chapter One (The Last Detective @ the End of the World, which I posted online, free, here ) and is pursued through South Town by a giant grizzly bear.

Hank’s complete address would read “Liberty, USA, Inc.”, since his office is in the city of Liberty, and what’s left of the US after the Republican coup known as The Big Flush is governed by a board of directors, from the top corporations still left after the drone wars and terrorist strikes, but there’s no need for the name of a state because nobody cares about state lines anymore and there’s no USA, just USA, Incorporated. Sad times, but the end is at hand, so who gives a fuck.


Post-apocalyptic fiction seems to be all the rage now, along with zombies, vampires, werewolves and rabid right wingers who hate government, nonwhites and the environment, and whose idea of a small-government utopia is apparently Somalia, or perhaps some rude, Black Plague encrusted feudal kingdom in the Dark Ages, when all scientific knowledge not derived from the bible could have been printed in a child’s pop-up book, which would still be far too intellectual for them to digest.

Hank Zzybnx was literally the “last detective” in the last edition of the Yellow Pages ever printed in Liberty city.


One of the outstanding elements in this last chapter which I have mentioned, the case of the missing husband, Tim T. Morney (who, in a strange, almost unbelievable coincidence, was almost christened Williard by his parents at birth), is the character modeled after fetish novelist Ulrich Haarbürste, who, as you may know, writes stories about Roy Orbison being wrapped in cling film (in the West we call it cellophane, but Ullie is an eastern European and they call it cling film over there). I remember reading Ullie’s stories on the Internet about ten years ago, and I loved them, and I saved about a half dozen of them, intending to use this strange perversion some day in one of my crime novels. That day arrived this summer with this chapter which is called, by the way, “Heartbreaker.” And so, after writing the chapter, I looked up Ullie on Google was delighted to find that he actually published an entire novel of these stories. The reader may discern a distinct pattern to the narrative; i.e., in each chapter, Ullie encounters Roy Orbison, who is always attired in his trademark black outfit and black sunglasses, and in each and every scenario, there is some urgent reason that Roy must be wrapped in cling film from head to toe. Actually, Ullie always starts at the feet. And once the job is finished, Ullie is compelled to say: “So, you are completely wrapped in cling film, Roy.” Oddly enough, the novel is titled Ulrich Haarbürste’s Novel of Roy Orbison in Cling-Film. Go figure.

Alias (the artist, who that morning decided that he wanted everyone to address him as Pablo Picasso) insisted that Hank needed business cards. Why a fish? Hank said. It’s surrealism, said the artist, it’s a symbol, a subliminal message. You’re a surrealist at heart, Hank.


So you can imagine my surprise when, after using so many of the brilliant photographs by Ricardo Acevedo (who doubles as the pictorial manifestation of Alias, the Artist) and the bursting-with-beauty-and-talent Mona Pitts (who also represents a number of female characters in the novella, including Liz Wantone, the wife of Tim T. Morney), this happened: I finished the Heartbreaker chapter, which uses images of Mona, dressed in male drag, including a pencil thin mustache (which I advised her to wear on an evening out), and after finishing I check Mona’s Facebook page and I find a brand new photo (new to me, anyway) in which she is wearing nothing more than a cling film mini dress, as she plays a tiny white piano. By “tiny” I mean about the size of a bread box. One of my favorite photos, probably of all time.

“I don’t know how I can pay you, Hank,” said Liz. “Let’s call it a freebie,” he said. “I can do you a favor, Hank,” she said. “Can we do something about that mustache first?” he said. [Photo: John Paul]

I’ve always thought it was bad luck to talk or write too much about one’s current writing project before it is completed and published, but this is a much different book than I’ve ever done before, and so much of it has drawn from my relationship with people in my so called social network, perhaps it won’t prove to be bad luck this time. I guess I’ll close here by posting an mp3 of one of the songs for this chapter of the book.

Click to play, or use the music player, below right.
Sleepwalking Blues 2012 2tx4

[Lyrics appear at the end of this post, just below the Mona-as-unfaithful-astronaut pic]
Ironically, I guess, it’s a post-apocalyptic song I wrote about 3 years ago, but have only performed live a couple of times, one reason being that I needed to get a little better at accompanying myself on guitar. Well, that day has arrived, or shall we say, the end is at hand. In any event, I plan to perform it at my next couple of gigs. First up is NOIR AT THE BAR, sponsored by Mystery People / Book People, hosted by Scott Montgomery, at Opal Divine’s Freehouse on West Sixth, October 25, 7 PM. In honor of Halloween, it will be a horror fiction edition of Noir At the Bar, with some noted horror writers reading their work, Lee Thomas and Shane McKenzie, and me performing some of my horrible songs. Next after that I’ll be playing at 3 PM Sunday October 28 in the Music Tent at the Texas Book Festival. I’m sure you thought the Texas Book Festival was exclusively for West Austin ladies of leisure and people who write coffee table books about barbed wire and barbeque, cows and useless political hacks, but that’s not quite true. In fact this year the awesome Robert Caro will be appearing, promoting volume four of his LBJ biography, a great, great, very noirish read; along with Robert Draper, Sarah Cortez, Jan Reid, Kip Stratton, Suzy Spencer and some other good authors. I’ll just be doing my little minstrel show, accompanied by my terrible self on upright bass and guitar.
Hope to see you there.

The corpse was completely wrapped in cellophane, with the fly unzipped, from which the man’s erect penis stood at attention, purple and perpendicular. “Was your client into necrophilia, as far as you know?” the Lieutenant asked Hank. The junior detective chuckled. “A dick sickle?”


Hank gave her the card with the lidless eye on it. She unzipped his pants.

If I wore a hat, I would take it off to my awesomely talented pals, Ricardo Acevedo and Mona Pitts. And, by the way, their work also appears in another story from this serial novella, which I posted here recently, also free, called STARS IN HER HAIR. (I made the collage of Mona as the faithless astronaut lover), see below.

That was the day the space shuttle exploded. Every night he would look up at the sky and say, Hey baby, how’s it going up there? [Photo: Mona Pitts]

SLEEPWALKING BLUES

What you gonna do when the going gets tough
when the wolf’s at the door & he’s out for blood
you can’t text ‘cause your fingers are frozen
the night so scared, the wind won’t blow
What you gonna do when the going gets tough

Where you gonna go when the word comes down
& the black SUV’s plow through the crowd
When they ring the bell & the rabbit dies
The fat lady sings & the virgin cries
Where you gonna go when the word comes down

When you wish upon a star
Just look the mirror,
This is who you are

Where you gonna be when the lights go out
It’s a world of confusion no doubt about it
You keep on fighting gonna lose the war
You kept on fighting & you lost the war
Where you gonna be when the lights go out

What do you see with your eyes swollen shut
You’re playing the game but it ain’t no fun
What do you say with your teeth knocked out
Every dog has his day, every one has a blog
What do you see with your eyes swollen shut

When you wish upon a star
just look in the mirror
cause this is what you are

What you gonna do when the Lord comes back
Got a line on heaven but the rope went slack
If He needs a ride would you loan him your car
If he wants to jam, give him your guitar
What you gonna do when the Lord comes back

What you gonna wear to the second coming
What’s He gonna do to a world so dumb
Put on your alligator shoes & stingy brim hat
The Man’s gotta see that we’re all cool cats
What you gonna wear to the second coming

When you wish upon a star
just look in the mirror
cause this is what you are
When you wish upon a star
just look in the mirror
cause this is who you are

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