This scene from the novel SHARK FIN SOUP occurs during November’s Full Beaver Moon.


                 Interpol agent Bernie Benedict and his tall, magnificent, bestest friend, Artemis, the tired-of-being-a-virgin Goddess of the Moon and Hunt, are in a suite at the Milwaukee Flamingo Arms Hotel. Both are ‘bursting’ with generous holiday spirit and anxious to don (or undon) festive apparel. The two are about to exchange their heartfelt ‘gifts,’ and spread holiday cheer all over the goddamned furniture, when ….

                Suddenly, their private party is invaded by the three wise men, Jesus, Mary, King James, and Santa among other self-invited guests…

 We join them five minutes into the party….


“Do you have any soft drinks?” asked Gaspar.

“There are some Cokes,” said Bernie (the human). “Those are three bucks each.”

“How about cognac? I’ve got plenty of gold here,” said Gaspar. “I’m good for it.”

* * * *

“You’re being awfully generous with my money, Gaspar!” said a voice that boomed from the drawer of the nightstand.

“Is that you, kid?” asked Gaspar. “Hey, look guys! The kid is here!”

The kid? Oh, no, thought Bernie.

The nightstand drawer opened. The Gideon Bible stood on end and flipped open. “I mean it about the money, my money, Melchior.” said Jesus glowing on the copyright page. “Awwww. You all came to celebrate my birthday! Early! What did you get me?” The messiah then saw the magnificent legs beneath the table across the room. “Wow! Gee, fellas. Holy Christmas! You shouldn’t have! I was going to ask for one of those for my…” Jesus finally looked up at her face above the legs. “Oh. Hi, Artemis!” Then he added with disappointment, “Oh… Hi, Bernie. You’re naked. Put some clothes on, sinner.”

“Don’t flip your pages, J.C.,” said Melchior. “It’s about time that you found a goddess of your own.”

Bernie jumped from the bed, dropped the brochure and slammed the cover on Jesus. “That’s it! Everybody out!” he screeched. “I mean it! Everybody!”

“Wait a second!” said Gaspar. “Are you telling us that we can’t stay for your little party after we’ve traveled halfway around the world? Let us at least have a drink with our home boy Jesus while he’s hangin’ in your crib. “Christ. Put some clothes on, Bernie.”

“Mnfphnphhh!” said Jesus from inside the bible.

“No!” snapped Artemis. Her dark eyes flashed. “Next time, and I don’t give a poop who you are, you call or text first!”

“We were following the star, Bernie. Just doing our wise men thing,” said Balthazar, who was eating the complementary mint off of the pillow. “By the way, helluva finger trap, Bernie. I haven’t seen anything that cruel since the Spanish Inquisition.”

(Bernie has been imprisoned in a chastity device given to him by the Shark Goddess Dauna. Artemis is helping his wiener become range free.)

Bernie grabbed a pillow to cover himself up.

“Artemis, your SOB, you star of Bethlehem is a faux star!” said Jesus, who was now sitting on the bed.

“I know that.” Artemis looked up from the room service menu. “That’s what I was telling Bernie until you damned saints came marching in.”

A new voice  — from the bathroom — chimed in. “Yes, Bernie. The mortals need a real King James Bible. The critics called my bible faux just because the cover is plastic! Genuine plastic! You can’t tear it! It’s not made from cheap plants. My books are covered with hydes from cellophane fed naugas. And every word in the so-called Faux King James is true. Mostly.” The toilet flushed.

“Who’s in there?” shouted Bernie.

“Could it be? I’d know that voice anywhere! Truly a voice from the past. It’s King James!” said Gaspar. “Hey, King!” he yelled toward the bathroom. “Make sure you spray after you get off the throne!” Gaspar pinched his nostrils. Melchior and Balthazar laughed.

“Another fuggin’ king? The plaze is filthee with um,” said the wobbly Melchior.

Balthazar whistled and called, “Here, King! Here, King!”

King James, in crown and robe, entered the bedroom, bowed and announced, “Now that’s what I call a royal flush! Melch, Balthazar, Gaspar! I, uh, well, I was, uh, yeah, I was just visiting the Flamingo Arms Hotel to replace the Gideon Bibles because, uh, yeah, old man Gideon left out the dinosaur section.” James saw Artemis reading at the desk and leaned toward Gaspar. “Hey, Gaspar,” he whispered, “who’s the dish?”

“Artemisisisis the moon goddesh,” said Melchior. “She’s an authentic virgin and a dangerousus hunterish. Don’t mess with her. For some inexsplishable reason she likes the hooman.”

“That figures,” said King James. “Let me quote Luke 6:38, ‘Hot babes always go for assholes.’”

“Hey!” protested Bernie.

“Amen,” said King James. 

The wise men nodded in agreement. “Ah women.”

King James continued, “My official bibles are the real deal.”

“Don’t thou sweat it, James,” said the Savior, with infinite patience, as he moved his image to one of the couch cushions. “We all think that you’re doing a bang-up job.”

“Except I left out the aliens by mistake,” said King James. “I’ve added a little dramatic license to the new version, Your Holiness. It’s much funnier than the first, and I’ve added shape-changing robots and zombies. They’re so cool.”

“I have to ask,” said Balthazar, who was filling up on Folgers. “With all of the divine talent in this room, someone should be able to answer me. Is there any real Mexican food in this town?”

“Federico’s on Grand,” said Artemis. “Follow the star, oh wise man.”

Melchior was babbling and crouching in front of the open mini bar. Artemis’ outfit began to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” “Oooh! Do I hear music, my brothers?”

Artemis reached into her coat pocket and turned off the switch, then threw her magazine at the wall. “Everybody out! I’ve got to tend to my Berniekins.”

“Really?” said Bernie, smiling wide.

She turned to Bernie and whispered in his ear, “Dauna asked me for a full report on your health. She moved closer. “I promised Dauna that I’d report back. I’m going to check you for a…a…a”

“Hernia?” asked Bernie.

 “Sure. A hornier?” 


Artemis felt a little flushed. “Yeah, whatever the συνουσιάζομαι

that is.”

“We heard that! C’mon, cough, Bernie!” said Balthazar.

“Yeah! Cough!” a jolly voice bellowed from the ceiling vent above the kitchenette. “Ho, ho, ho. Merrrrrrrrry Christmas!”

“Oh, no,” said Bernie.

Artemis looked up. “We don’t have any cookies, Santa. It’s still only November! Does Mrs. Claus know that you’re here? Naughty, naughty.”

“Ho, ho, ho!”

“Thanta baby! Go play wid your North Pole!” said Melchior from the kitchenette floor.

* * * *

“I’m sorry for their crude behavior, Bernie,” said a new, additional woman’s voice, this time from the left side of the room. “At least they left their smelly camels outside.”

Bernie’s head swung around. “Party’s over. Everybody out.”

“I apologize,” said Mary, who had just appeared on the big screen TV. “Have you seen thine son? Oh, yonder he is! Time for thou to goest home, King of Kings. Hi, Artemis, nice outfit you picked not to wear in front of my little boy!” Mary, popped her head out of the TV screen. “Where is thee remainder of thy frock, harlot?”

“That’s enough!” Artemis picked up her bow and arrow and aimed it at the TV.

“No!” said Bernie. “Stop!”

“Well, then, who invited this insulting succubus?” Artemis asked Bernie. She tried to turn off the vision of Mary with the remote.

“Artie! Don’t start in with her,” advised Bernie, behind his pillow.

“Woo hoo!” said Melchior, turning his crown around backwards. “Oh, boy! Virgin fight! Oh. Oh. Oh. Oh.”

“I know who she is. King James will never let us forget. This was a private party, as. if. anyone. cares,” said Artemis, closing her misbehaving coat.

“That’s it. Just come and go as you please,” said Bernie to the crowd in his room. These clowns are used to being welcome anywhere, anytime. So this time, he stomped his foot and demanded, “It’s time for all of you to go! Artemis was, uh…yeah, uh…going to teach me about, uh…We need to be alone. Do you understand?”

Mary stepped down from the entertainment center with propriety and grace. “So what is going on in here, son?” she asked her little angel. “And what are the rest of you so-called saints doing here with these two…two degenerates in this tawdry motel?”

“It’s a ho-tel, ho!” Artemis stooped down and pointed at Mary. “Listen, pipsqueak!”

“Put some clothes on, stretch. Is that alcohol I smell?”

Bernie slumped onto the bed, defeated. He put his boxers on.

“The miracle of the Shtar of Bethlehemineminem!” said Melchior, who was on his knees emptying another small bottle from the near empty bar.

“Oh you poor, poor weak wretches,” said Mary. “Bernie. Put some more clothes on. Ick.  All of them.”

“It’s okay, mom,” said Jesus, who reappeared on the bed spinning his halo. “The kings were just busting Bernie’s balls…I mean ornaments. And look, mom! More gold!”

Bernie was pissed. “Do ANY of you see a Christmas tree here? How about you, baby Jesus?”

“I suddenly feel like I’m being crucified here,” said Jesus. “I know when I’m not welcome. Did I bring a hat?”

 “Sorry, Mother Mary,” said King James, who had moved to the stuffed chair by the bed. “We were just having a few laughs, roasting Bernie’s chestnuts.” King James found himself involved with a copy of Tragic Lust 17 by Infinity Upton-Downes that had been left in the room. “That Countess Bathory must have been a scorcher,” King James said.

“I did her,” slurred Melchior. “She couldn’t walk for a week.”

“Liar. No, you didn’t, and watch your mouth, Melch,” said Gaspar.

Saint Nicolas, from the ceiling vent, asked the goddess, “Artemis, should I have my elves sew you a new nightie?”

“I think she buys them herself, Santa,” said Mother Mary. “Just the way her human likes ’em—50% off! Let’s go home, Jesus darling. Dinner’s waiting. And the rest of you! It is a week night. Don’t you all have some blissful contemplating or reflecting to do? Something?”

“Sorry, Mrs. G,” said Gaspar who was looking at the TV listings. “Can Jesus stay and watch Downton Abbey with us? It starts in two minutes.”

 “Really? The new season?” asked Mary as she grabbed a five-dollar bottle of ginger ale from the minibar.

“I’m buying, Mrs. G!” said Gaspar.

“I mean it. That’s my son’s birthday money, Gaspar. Don’t be such a big shot.” Mary tapped Melchior on the shoulder. “Scoot over. Make some room, Melch. Ow! Don’t leave your crown there! And move your hand from under my ass before I turn you into a leper and your schmekel falls off.”