The Kingdom of the Cats
Dave Berg just couldn’t imagine “himself” appearing on the cover of FAART, or AARP or whatever the goddamned magazine was called. The slick advertising had lain in his mail box since last Monday.
He was not a 6-foot tall, trim, WASPy guy, with a slightly greying hottie for a spouse. Nor did he ride a mountain bike or wear a Land’s’ End sweater tied around his neck.
Dave stood only 5′ 2″ in shoes — with lifts. He weighed two-hundred and eighty pounds. He did not have a full head of executive hair, or perfect teeth—more hair grew from Dave’s ears than on the top of his scalp.
His smile? With teeth that only an Englishman or a hillbilly would envy.
Perhaps an English hillbilly.
“Crap!” he said, remembering Linda.
Linda Berg, Dave’s wife, would never be the woman with a “healthy, active lifestyle” on the cover of a senior citizen magazine. Linda, the slug, was long gone. She’d run off with Dave’s psychiatrist.
Both Linda Berg and Dr. Mel Tishman had to get away from “that black hole of a human being.” Mrs. Berg and Dr. Tishman had only met for the first time, and fallen in love ten minutes before their plane lifted off for “anywhere-else-but-where-Dave-Berg-is, USA” Dave never heard from either of them again.
After his “healthy, active” walk of twenty feet to his mailbox, Dave was even more depressed than he had been earlier in the day, when he’d awoken to discover “Mr. Decay” looking back at him. Mr. Decay lived inside Dave’s bathroom mirror, and this morning he looked like a plucked turkey. Not the little one, but the big prize turkey hanging in the window of the butcher shop on Christmas Day.
Who’s this guy? What is he doing in my mirror? thought poor, poor Dave.
The photo of the handsome bike riding couple on the cover of FAART or AARP was the last straw.
So again, Dave had left the magazine in the leaky mail box.
“Let’s see who rots first, Mr. Magazine!” he said while grinning at its mold spots.
Sunday, July 10 was a “day of hurt.” Dave had once been a reasonably handsome and successful lawyer. Divorce law had worn him down and depressed him until one day he’d tried to strangle attorney Gloria Allgood in front of the judge and the court.
A bad day it was.
That day wasn’t as bad as this day. Dave was sure that this day would be his very last day on Earth.
He decided to crawl beneath his paid-for house, dig a comfortable shallow bed in the sandy soil,
Like many of the brave cats that he had known, he would leave this world without causing a mess for his famil…uh…
“Crap!” he said.
Dave didn’t have a family. There hadn’t been another human in his life for nearly ten years.
Even the cats were all gone.
Under the house—they had died there. Nearly all of those cats. A few of his “old” friends, notably Coco and Spook, were among the last two cats to disappear beneath the house four years ago.
He’d last seen them, staring at him, patiently waiting for death, out of reach.
His last cat (What was her name? Foo-Foo?) may have ended up under the house as well. She’d disappeared only two months ago, before she’d even been given a proper name.
Dave had read, “When a cat’s health fails, it will often crawl away, to a dark quiet spot where it can be alone with ‘its maker’ and perhaps, without any muss or fuss, it can calmly and nobly accept death— to gracefully ‘move on’ to wherever it is that they ‘move on’ to.”
Dave could vividly remember the eyes of Coco and Spook, reflecting the beam of his flashlight when he went to look for each of them. Regardless of bribes, they had both refused to come out from beneath the house. He was sure that he’d never see them alive again. They had passed on without any complaint, nor odor, beneath the area of Dave’s living room.
In his later years, two or three of his other cats had probably done the same, when they too went missing. Dave was just never able to spot those sick cats when he searched with his flashlight through the wooden skirt around the home’s perimeter.
” Crap!” Dave had a very hard time bending down these days. As for wanting to peek under any skirt, he thought…
“Crap!” Dave paused. That thrill was gone as well.
Show’s over. Drop the curtain.
A handful of the Berg cats had been buried in the backyard years ago. Too many of them became the victims of cars as they raced across the busy street nearby.
Cars. Ten years ago, Mr. Fuzzy committed suicide beneath the tires of “his Dave’s” own Toyota station wagon, as he backed out of his own driveway. All that Dave saw was a black flash in the car’s rear view mirror.
The very old and sick Mr. Fuzzy had used his last burst of energy to dart behind, and end his life, beneath the car’s right rear tire.
Mr. Fuzzy had become one of those souls buried in the backyard, among the other pets. He was buried beside the various fishes, birds, and iguanas, and directly on top of over $700,000 dollars in gold coin. The gold had been buried in Dave’s backyard by Mr. Alvin Raymundo, the home’s previous owner.
Dave always lived with the definite knowledge that he’d missed out on everything good in life, so of course he knew nothing about the buried treasure in his yard, or Mr. Raymundo.
By day, Mr. Alvin Raymundo was a solid citizen and a “respectable” businessman. By night, Mr. “R.” was just a crazy bastard who enjoyed burying gold in his backyard.
* * * *
(Sorry. I was talking about cats’, wasn’t I?)
Together, about twenty cats lay around and under Dave’s house. Most had lived pampered lives within the long decaying downhill slide of Mr. Berg’s miserable life.
Pili, Meshugellah, Seven-Toes, Gravity, Sylvester (Bubums), Felicity (Flisky), Maui (Mr. Kitty), Einstein, (crazy) George, Coco, Fart, and Spook were among the personalities interred beneath the Berg’s home.
All were loved. All were missed.
It troubled, no… it didn’t surprise Dave that he could no longer remember all of their names.
The rest of Dave’s human family had moved out of the old man’s life long, long ago. Either they too had passed on, or left the house because of Dave’s bitching. Most just couldn’t listen to him anymore, and were jealous of the attention showered upon the cats.
On Monday, July 17, Dave paid his bills, closed his bank accounts, and completed and signed his will, leaving most of his money as a gift to a few animal shelters. He cleaned the house, removed the food from the refrigerator and cabinets, and when he was done, he left a goodbye “to whom it may concern” note on the front door, as if anyone, anyone at all, would stop by to say “hello.”
The note read, “I have gone to take a long nap. See you in the next life! Signed Dave.”
No one would even notice that he was gone. Sad, but true.
Across an open field, just upwind of his house, stood the ugly rusting three-story Royal Tallow Glue and Rendering Company. Since 1945, they’d “boiled down” dead farm animals and pets into liquid, later to be made into bars of luxury bath soap. Therefore, nobody would notice the inconsequential smell coming from beneath Dave’s foundation, even if he were to rot like that moldy AARP magazine in his mailbox.
* * * *
On Tuesday morning, July 18, Dave Berg squeezed his flabby frame beneath the back porch of his home. Then he dug a shallow, comfortable indentation in the sandy soil, lay down on top of his new sleeping bag, ate an entire two pounds of See’s triple-chocolate fudge, and a lethal dose of Seconal, which he washed down with his favorite Dr. Brown’s cream soda as he waited for death.
His cell phone lay by his side…. You know, “just in case.”
At two a.m. on Wednesday, July 19, a giant roach ran across his arm. He went back to sleep.
Not dead yet.
Six a.m. Friday, July 21, Dave dreamt about various “cat noises” and a short, violent cat confrontation.
Not dead yet.
Two a.m. Thursday, July 27, he felt a cat sleeping on his feet.
One hour later, at three a.m., he dreamt about a cat purring on his chest and occasionally batting his nose with a soft closed paw.
Five a.m. Sunday, March 30, Dave opened one eye to see what looked like a catnip mouse and a bowl of milk next to his head. The phone was missing. Still in a haze, Dave thought that he’d heard “almost human” voices around him. A few of the catlike, but familiar voices discussed whether to let Dave “stay dead as planned,” or “join the group.” They voted, unanimously, to “let him live with them in this place” (wherever “this place” was) and “teach him the law” and “the responsibility of nine lives,” when he finally “woke his lazy fat ass up.”
Suddenly, he was looking into the bright green eyes of his ex-tabby cat Felicity, her striped head tilted in her familiar upside-down posture and with her tail tapping impatiently. Felicity stared her comic stare as Dave lay on his side nose-to-nose with the fuzzy girl. Dave was having trouble focusing.
Around them, the frame of the house floated as if it were only a vague outline above a sunny field of grass, surrounded by flowers, trees and hundreds of chattering birds. Mice raced by. A small patch of blooming catnip stood by Felicity’s musical tapping tail. Some trees in the area had grown with ready-made platforms and scratching posts.
Felicity, smiled and then turned back toward the two cats behind her.
Dave immediately recognized the other two. “Gravity? Seven-Toes? It can’t be!”
Felicity turned and asked the two cats, in perfect Human-ese, “Should I?”
They both nodded affirmatively.
Should you what? thought the groggy old man.
The Kingdom of the Cats
(A Children’s Book)
Note: This chapter was originally printed in large, easy-to-read type for children — Yeah. That also means you “four eyes!”
“Felicity? Where am I? Is that really you?”
“You know, Dave, she said in perfect human-speak, that you cannot tell anyone about this place. Any… one! We mean it. If you do tell someone, I promise you, you will be sent to bed without any dessert.”
“We? Who’s we? What place are we talking about? We’re under my old house for Christ sakes!”
She quickly held a paw up to his lips. “Cool it with the language, crusty old dude! We’re in a children’s book. Notice the big type font?”
Dave had no idea what-the-Fu… Fuzz Felicity was talking about.
“So, think ‘cute,’ Dave. You’re in an alternate universe discovered by your old cat Einstein.”
“Think ‘cute’? Einstein?”
“In the ‘Kingdom’ everything is cute,” said Felicity. “Really fuh … I mean really, really cute. Got it?”
Dave turned over onto his stomach, and lifted up his head. He’d spotted his old friend. Oh my God! It’s Einstein! That IS Einstein over there. What a smart, handsome cat he was. “Flisky. Do you know Einstein? Hey! Einstein!”
“Finally voke up, did chu!” said Einstein. “Feeeeeeed me! Ach! Sorry Dave. Just kiddink!” said the brilliant blue-eyed Burmese kitty.
“I’ve known Einstein for ages!” said Fliskers (another name for Felicity).
“Of course I know zee Flisky!” said Einstein. “‘Her Fliskyness’ ist funnier zan shi … uh schnitzel … I mean a vounded rodent. Vee are ALL here David. All uf your old cats are here. Ve’re all alife undt vell In zis place. Efery cat zat anyone has effer known liffs here.”
“Some of us only have a few lives left,” said Felicity.
“Too many of us haff to stay inside ze community because ve haff used up all uf our 9 lifes. Zhen zhere are many cats here who are about to start new lifes as kittens, vhere zhey vill go out into ze first three dimenchunts again. Vould you like a sniff of this mighty fine catnip dot I haff been vorking on?”
“Mr. Einstein, this dialog is becoming a little too complicated for a children’s book,” said the Flisk.
“Thanks Fliskers,” added Dave.
“Where vas I?” Einstein continued. “Oh yeah! Just a few days ago, vee were talking about you, Dave. Normally ve vould just let a human die. Insteadt, vee decided to take a vote, and offer you an honorable place in our vorld. Though you vere depressing to every human that came near you, you vere very good to us. Felicity iss right. You haff to keep zis place a seechret. You liff here now. You can leaf soon, if you like, but you cannot bring anyvone, any ozer human, back in here viss you. It’s alvays been a cats-only place.”
Sylvester, looking dapper in his permanent tuxedo, spoke next. “Tally ho, old bean! All the chaps here agreed that—you deserved a better ending than crawling under a house and dying in utter loneliness. We can only offer you one more lifetime, Guvnor. George gave you one of his own lives because – pip pip – You, Dave, cared enough to scrape him off of the pavement while he was still toasty warm… even though his eyes were hangin’ out and shi… stuff. Be careful my lord. George’s lives are action packed.”
“Anosser zing,” said Einstein, “If you fuh…mess up this last chance for a happy life, you are Kaput! Finished!”
Einstein stopped to lick his paw and then resumed, “Did you know zat humans, according to Tac, are just not cool enough for multiple lives. Two lifetimes, max.”
“Tac? Who’s Tac?” said Dave.
“Tac is who you must thank for bringing you here,” said Einstein. “First, we must find George.”
“Well, then,” said Dave, “where is crazy George? He was such a punk. Please tell me Einstein, is this Kitty Heaven?”
“No. This is (dramatically, with reverb-turned-up-to-ten) The-Kingdom-of-the-Cats!” said the white and yellow striped Meshugellah. Meshugellah was the crazy huntress who had disappeared into a farm field during a hurricane, over 20 years ago.
Meshuggi continued, “We cats call our home ‘Meow.’ Then again we call everything ‘Meow.’ In human-speak, you can call this place (dramatically) ‘The-Kingdom-of-the-Cats,’ but ‘Meow’ is a helluva (Oops, sorry kids) lot simpler, huh?”
David sat up without banging his head on the vague outline of the house frame which was now just a ghostly line.
“So I’m in ‘Meow?'”
“We will call you ‘Meow,’ which, of course, means David, or ‘Meow,’ which means Dave… and about two million other things,” said The Meshug.
“Remember,” said the beautiful black Seven-Toes, another victim of hit-and-run, “you can leave through the outline of the back porch opening, but you cannot bring in other humans. They’d have to die under the house just like you did and stay dead. You’re the first human that I’ve known to be ‘voted in’ to our exclusive Kitty Club unanimously. Other humans’ admittance to our Kingdom would be highly unlikely. Well, maybe if they bring us magic treats….”
“Especially Tuna Crunchies,” said Felicity.
“We are quite happy here and self sufficient even though we had no ability to open a can of food, until Einstein showed up. Little paws can now operate the ‘Professor Einstein’s Cat CAN Opener.’ Have you seen his design for Kitty-wings? It’s called ‘Professor Einstein’s Cats CAN Fly!’ His submarine design? ‘Cats CAN Fish’…. You people certainly picked the perfect name for him. As you see, we have plenty of fresh birds and mice to eat and fields of wild catnip to play within,” said little brown Coco. Coco had vanished from Dave’s house by falling asleep in the back seat of a visiting vehicle on Dave’s street.
“There’ll be plenty of fresh fish soon! Thanks to Professor Einstein!” said the beautiful orange Gravity.
“What kind of shape is crazy George in these days?” asked Dave. “The crazy assho…. I mean, puah wittew kitty! Last time I saw him, he was flat as a pancake, and his eyes were all popped….”
“Hey! We’re supposed to be living in a children’s book! Remember?” said the Fliskers, who was busy scratching her way through the latest issue of “Amazing Tails.”
“I’m fine!” said the very-in-tact, grey and white George as he dropped down from a tree and stepped forward from the group. “I’ve only got two lives left. Guess what Dave? The good news is, I’ve gotten over my car-chasing obsession with the help of a three step program and my belief in ‘Tac.’ I’m so confident of my own actions, that I’m giving one of those two lives to you!”
“Okay, George. So, who’s this Tac person?”
“Dogs spell the word dog backwards to name their creator. Cats spell cat backwards to name theirs. Of course, we just pronounce our creator’s name….”
(He points to Dave as if to cue him for a line.)
“Oh… uh… Meow,” said David.
“Verrry good! You catch on quick,” said Mr. Fuzzy (Pili).
” Yah, I’m anosser Einstein,” said Dave.
“The Human God is called ‘Tihsbmud,'” said big fwuffy orang-y Gravity. Some of the cats nearby broke into applause. Applause by cats is very quiet due to padding on the paws. Some of them thought that the joke was a real “tail slapper.” The others just kept their cool and acted bored.
“We may be ready to let you run around outside of the Kingdom if you behave,” said Mr. Kitty, who, these days, was wearing a gold diamond-studded crown and matching collar. He stepped out of the crowd framed by his bodyguards, the big black Mr. Fuzzy (Pili) and another giant grey one-eyed tom cat named “Broozer” that Dave did not recognize.
“By the way,” said Mr. Kitty, “isn’t it generous of George to give you one of his two remaining lives? Thanks, George.”
“Don’t mention it. You can bring me back a bag of Mouse-sicles sometime. We can’t get those here. Did they go out of business in the first three dimensions?”
“Probably,” said Dave with a trace of his old negativity. “Thank you, George! So what do I do with this great gift of another life? Should I just get old and sick and kill myself again?”
“This IS your last chance. So use it thoughtfully. Sleep. Eat. Chase stuff. Lick your bal—”
“STOP!” said Flisky.
“Oh, Mr.Kitty! It’s so amazing to see you again,” said Dave.
Mr. Kitty said, “Peasant, I’m only to be addressed as ‘Lord Kitty.’ You can call me ‘Your Lordship’ or ‘the Divine Meow-meow’ or ‘Your Highness.'”
“There’s no need to go outside of (dramatically) The-Kingdom-Of-Cats! However, we still cannot get and cook chicken livers. So, if we do let you out, this one time, and remember, this is the ONLY time we’ve ever considered letting a human out, can you go to Safeway could you pick up some? … You know and….”
“Ix-nay on the iver-lay,”said Gravity. “Remember, Your Lordship, we’ve got other big plans for old Dave here.”
“Hey! Gravity, cut out the ‘old-ay ap-cray,'” said the Buby Cat (another name for Sylvester).
Mr. Kitty continued,” Yeah and… uh…. Oh, by the way, Felicity went online and converted your bank accounts into stock in cardboardboxes.com. They make our furniture. Aaaaaannnd… let’s see… nothing but junk mail aaaaand… uh… only one gal came sniffing around the house looking for you. She saw the note that you left on the door.”
“Who was it?”
“‘Meow’ was the name. All that Sylvester, our Defense Minister, could see were the decidedly shapely female legs sashaying up to your front steps. He didn’t see much else. ‘Real swell gams’ he said. Bubums (Sylvester) is NOT easily impressed!”
“MEOWWW!” said Vester (another name for Sylvester) from a nearby self-cleaning litter box. It was one of “Professor Einstein’s CATS Cans.”
The rest of the cats laughed. That was a very disturbing thing to see and hear two dozen cats laughing.
“Did you know…,” said Felicity, “that we have twenty-two billion cats living in [dramatically] The-Kingdom-Of-The-Cats? Our residents are always allowed to play outside of the first three dimensions and use up another lifetime whenever they please. So Dave, aren’t you proud of our Mr. Kitty? He is a wonderful King! He marked the entire kingdom’s borders all by himself! Our great leader!”
All: “Hail to Mr. Kitty! Our King!!!”
“I always knew that Mr. Kitty was the ultimate in coolness,” said Felicity. “I had a dream that he invented the shower. That was in another incarnation, of course.”
“I like that! ‘The Ultimate in Coolness!’ You can all call me that too!” said Mr. Kitty.
“Wait!” Dave said. “Back up! Please, Please sir, tell me more about the girl who stopped by.”
“Well, she was definitely tall, Caucasian, long hair,” said Sylvester.
“I thought that you only saw her legs?”
“Yeah. Long white hair on all of her legs.”
“Why don’t you just shoot me, Sylvester? Stop being such a total assho… oops … sorry, I mean, baaaad kitty!” said Dave. “That girl that you saw was probably my last ‘missing’ kitty named FooFoo or whatever it was that I called her. Awww that must have been her… I hope that she found a good home.”
All (in shock): “Did you say ‘FooFoo’?”
“You named her… ‘FooFoo’?” said Fart, who had stopped chasing a flying fish, with his good friend Spook. “I will never forgive you for naming me Fart. You deserved to die back then. Gimme a Fuc—sorry. Gimme a… a… uh…oh, just gimme a FREAKING break! You named her ‘FOOFOO’?!”
Spook said, “She, ‘FooFoo,’ whose real name is ‘Meow’ is still enjoying her first life. She has already adopted a family of gluttons. She’s not allowed to come down here yet. Not until she finishes her work in the first three dimensions… hack! Hack!” (Hair ball.)
“You’ve got plenty of work to do, Dave. You’d better get some sleep,” said Mr. Kitty.
“What work, Your Highness?” Dave said, as he drifted off onto another long sleep….”
* * * *
On Friday, May, whatever, 2008, Dave woke up, feeling rather spry, as a ninth tier fluffy orange, long-haired domestic kitten. He could finally scratch his own back with his rear foot.
A ball flew by Dave’s face and caught his attention. He could not resist following it outside of the borders of the Kingdom.
“Ball! With catnip! Simply irresistible!” Of course, he ran like lightning, out from beneath the house and into a brand new morning…It was a brand new meow.
“Remember to bring back our treats [pronounced Meow Meow]!” yelled a chorus of kitties.
The last thing that Dave heard was Mr. Kitty saying, “I think that we’ve made a BIG mistake, Einstein. He will destroy everything.”
“Yeah,” said Felicity. “Old Dave usually manages to fuck everything up. Uh… Sorry.”
“Don’t you vorry. You are vitnessink a great experiment,” said the professor. “Mr. Dave Berg iss goink to prove my theory about ze existence of mini-black holes.”
* * * *
On that morning, Dave, once a depressed and battered “old guy,” was adopted by the family of a sweet little girl with bright red hair. Her name was Mia. She welcomed her new kitty to her home with a warm bowl of milk.
On Friday, after an agonizing bubble bath and a giant warm fluffy towel, Dave was given the embarrassing name of “Angel Puff,” along with a sparkly gold collar and a cute bell.
He accomplished all of this by eight p.m. that evening.
He was feeling good. Of course, being Dave, feeling good would never last.
One day, Dave/Angel Puff would become the most seriously depressing son-of-a-queen that you ever could imagine. All because of his new home.
“If we eat stupid brains, we get stupider.”
After five years of rotting in prison, any day on the outside was a beautiful day to Henry Wayne Druid. He figured that he’d paid his dues. Five long years of sitting in San Quentin for the brutal beating and murder of a young immigrant. Who cared if she left behind five children? She wasn’t even legal here, guys!”
Heck, even the parole board agreed that made it all “hunky-dory.”
Today, his name was Denny. “Denny Joyce,” the latest name on Henry Wayne Druid’s bogus driver’s license.
Denny stood at the motel room doorway, smoking. He tried to concentrate on the beautiful night outside after another sweltering August day.
The three other members of the new “Joyce” family lay bored, sick, and hungry, stretched out upon the king-sized bed.
Denny’s spouse Ruby had been too high and depressed to work the boulevard tonight. The kids, Mia and Johnny, ages seven and nine, would never be able to earn or be sold as long as their mother was still kicking. She just wouldn’t allow herself to stoop that low, even though Mia and Johnny “just got in the way” when it came down to the two model parents enjoying their inactive and unhealthy lifestyles.
* * * *
Before his life of crime, when he was a musician using the stage name of “Hank Druid,” he’d been a minor local Hollywood personality. A‘barely been.’
Denny was the only surviving member of the almost-famous 80s musical duo called “Short and Curly.”
Short and Curly’s claim to fame was starting fist fights, on stage, wherever they performed. In most cases, the fights were simply between Denny (Hank Druid) and his partner Jerome Horwitz, who was called “Curly,” in response to his shaved head.
Short and Curly’s band played Country Rap Music, which one critic abbreviated and addressed as “Crap music.”
* * * *
Behind Denny, the TV in the Flamingo Arms Hotel was showing commercials, which were only occasionally interrupted by a TV program. The program was the zombie classic movie, Day of the Driving Dead which had been filmed in the fast lanes of Honolulu’s H-1 freeway.
Ruby and the two kids had already forgotten what they were watching.
Mom and the kids were no longer complaining about being hungry or about how they were going to be tossed out of their tiny motel room tomorrow by the manager, a biker named “Thug.” It didn’t seem to matter to them that they would be living on the filthy, hot, smoggy pavement of Sunset Boulevard by check-out time, tomorrow.
The Joyces were months beyond caring.
The four “Joyce” family members remained slack-jawed, ill, drugged, and depressed. Their lifeless eyes watched the television and waited for more disappointment. There was that knee slappin’ commercial announcing the new season of Putz, the crude golf comedy.
Their newly adopted kitty, afraid of being smoked or eaten, was pacing behind the couch. Hungry.
Denny was doing “jes fine” today because he had a dream about “God’s Plan.” The plan: “We ONLY exist to feed our cats.” This dream revealed itself to Denny, in Prison, after he’d been “saved.”
He prayed that the rest of humanity would come to know the true and noble reason for man’s existence in the cosmos.
Denny’s wife, Ruby, high and delirious on bath salts of all things, was planning to put herself and her little munchkins out of their misery.
That, and eating or smoking the damned cat.
That horrible soul sucking creature that her half-witted daughter had brought home a year ago.
Things are really getting El Fucktorino in this, the land of dreams that we all know as Hollywood, Ruby thought.
The beer and Cheetos were gone. The uninsured 1959 Chevy that the family lovingly called the “Taco Wagon,” with its fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror, had been stolen a month ago. They had no more money for Denny to gamble away. It was over. This was probably as Fuctorinoed as things would ever get.
Reminder to the Joyce family: This time tomorrow, you will all be enjoying the great outdoors, while living on the glamorous sidewalk of the world famous Sunset Strip!
We’ve Got A Winner!
* * * *
Denny stood at the ground floor motel apartment door of Room 21, trying to come up with another scheme, crime or whatever it would take to get himself back on track, or better yet, as high as the space shuttle. Denny was also waiting for the rest of the motel’s inhabitants, roaches included, to go to sleep. He considered delivering the rest of his own family into the motel’s dumpster before taking off at sunrise. Denny stood by the room’s door, focused on the cool night air and the quiet of the hotel’s parking lot.
* * * *
The Flamingo Arms Hotel was a faded pink, early 1960s art-drecko monstrosity whose neon sign faced the Sunset Strip. The sign sported a twenty-foot high pink top-hat-topped flamingo that never stopped flapping its neon human arms. It flapped spasmodically 24-hours-a-day, as if to air out its hairy armpits (thanks to spray painted hair beneath its arms by the graffiti artist known as “Stinko”).
The ugly bird had been flapping his pits to fan the smog off Sunset Strip for twenty years.
* * * *
A long black limousine slid out of the oily night and pulled up to the curb in front of the depressing eyesore of a hotel.
The Cadillac Behemoth limousine slid up to the motel curb and appeared to sputter and die there. The driver, in silhouette, pointed its long index finger at Denny who was smoking in the doorway of Room #21.
Denny thought, What’s a limousine doing in front of this hell hole?
A town that snorts people up and pukes them out. Probably just another rich drug addicted sleaze-ball looking for a thrill.
The Flamingo Arms was a popular drug stop for the legions of the LA law firms, and the half-dead rock stars.
The car sat idling for nearly twenty minutes. Black exhaust caused the rare evening stars to disappear over Hollywood.
The limo gave forth its last wheezing breath and after a long pause, the chauffeur, Grieves, seemed to struggle with the limo’s heavy door. He unfolded his long frame and very slowly stepped out into the street. He wore an old-fashioned chauffeur’s outfit and cap. He adjusted the brim to avoid the light and keep his face hidden in shadow.
He seemed weak and barely able to keep his balance.
Denny’s watched the man and thought of his eighty-pound crackhead buddy Jeff, who looked more alive than this loser.
Grieves stepped slowly around the vehicle and opened the back door of the bus-sized limo that faced the hotel. Two large muddy brown shoes appeared out of the darkness of the open door. A large, white-haired gentleman dressed in a dusty, ragged tuxedo stepped out onto the sidewalk with great difficulty.
Behind the big guy, but remaining in the limo, Denny glimpsed a ghostly platinum-haired female in a white dress.
The portly old man swayed weakly on the sidewalk and shielded his dark eyes from the faint glare of the flickering street light above his head.
Perhaps, the weak lamp post still burned brightly in another dimension.
The rail-thin Grieves grabbed the bigger gent’s elbow and with some effort, steadied them both. Humming a slow dirge, he escorted the larger man up the walkway. Grieves let go of his passenger who continued on his own.
The big man’s large gloved hands carried a large piece of cardboard. Alone, he “shambled” toward the curious Denny who stood in the doorway of Room #21, leaving his chauffeur behind.
Denny did not look at the big man’s face at first, but at the cardboard poster that he held in his filthy white gloved hands: a two-foot by five-foot-long humungous check made out to Mr. Denny Joyce. Dated two weeks ago and signed by Charles “scribble scribble” from the Publisher’s Clearing House. The amount written on the check was for “One Million Dollars.”
The thing at the door uttered a rasping “HEY HO!”
Denny looked up at the maggot-filled mouth that omitted the unearthly sound. The face was slack and it looked slightly decomposed with its teeth drawn back and bits of skull showing beneath the thick white hair and cracked glasses.
The corpse spoke to Denny through creaking jaws, with a voice and breath that could only have risen from the rotting bowels of …well, almost anywhere east of Lincoln Boulevard.
“Denny Joyce! You’ve just won the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes! You’re now a millllllllllionnnnnnnnaire!”
After his initial shock of both seeing the walking corpse of the fifteen-years-extinct Ed McMahon and hearing that he had suddenly became a millionaire, all propelled by a blast of fetid (you-call-that) breath?… all Denny Joyce could say was, “Aren’t you… Ed McM… Mc—”
“Hey Ho!” said the corpse. “Dennyyyyyyyyy it’s yourrrrrrrr luckkkkky dayyyyyy.”
Denny felt his bladder threaten “let go” and he began to feel dizzy.
Something deep down in his fried brain, perhaps a little angel, warned him:
“Don’t ever invite them in.”
“We’re all sick, man… sorry,” said Denny. “This is crazy! Is… is that check for real?” He hurled the last of the Cheetos upon his own shirt and the battered screen door that separated the living from the dead.
Recovering, Denny looked up and asked, “Is… is there anything that I have to do?” Cough, cough. “And just curious pal… are you, like, dead?”
“Yes, Denny. Hey Hooooooohhhh! The last time I looked, yeah! I was very dehhhhhd. The check is reeeeeeeeeal. You are a millionaire! Can I come in? Can we talk?”
Don’t let them in. Never let them in Denny, said the imaginary little angel, now on his right shoulder.
Denny wiped his eyes in disbelief. All of them zeros…. “Uh no, not yet.” As he knew from his prison dream, this was part of God’s “plan.”
“There, of course, is one little catch Mr. Joyce,” said dead Ed. “I need to eat someone’s brains and I need them now! By the way you’re a mess, son, you’ve ruined your shirt.”
“Oh sorry man, er Mr., uh, Mr. McMahon. You gave me quite a start. I’m a smart guy. I knew that there would be some sort of ‘a catch.’ How about my wife Ruby, pal? She has some brains.”
(Ruby used to have a good brain, before she started to date a crack pipe.)
“Come here, Honey. There’s someone that I want you to meet. This is Mr. McMahon. Remember Ed McMahon?”
“Whah” his wife said from the bed. “Who’s there?” She crawled over to the door.
“Holy shid!” she said looking at him through the Cheeto gauze on the screen, and from three different angles in the dim light. “Hey! You used to be the fat guy from the Tonight Show!”
“Hey Hoooooooo! You are correct, sir! I mean Mrs. Joyce! I am Ed McMahhhhhhhon, and you, my lovely woman, and the man that you are married to, are now millionaires!”
Ed bent his creaky frame over toward Denny and then whispered through the screen toward Denny’s ear. “I bet that she did have a good brain ’til she met you and Mr. Dope, huh, Denny?'” said Ed with another putrid blast of his breath that sent Denny hurling away from the door.
“Johnny! Mia! Come here!” Ruby said. The two munchkins crawled off of the bed and “shambled*” over toward the door while moaning. They had just started watching the Walking Dead on the Food Channel and were mimicking the zombies on TV
(*Shambling. That’s what the walking dead do rather than walk. It’s their idea of a good time….)
Only Mia was brave enough to come up to the door. Johnny stood back.
“Oh crap Dad! Mom!” said Mia. “This fucker’s a real zombie!”
“I’m only here to helllllp you sweeeeeetnesssss.”
“Yeah, gang, uh, we got us a real zombie,” said Denny.
“This is Mr. McMahon, kids,” Ruby said. “Mr. McMahon used to be on television, before he … went bankrupt… died … and rotted… and beetles started living in his ears.”
“Okay, Dad. Tell him to go away. He smells like balls!”
“Mia! Use your manners! Sorry, Mr. McMahon. Kids, huh! Mr. McMahon has got a pile of money for us, children. Be polite, you little shits.”
“Those three brains would do fine, Denny… IF they weren’t all high on bath salts. You’ve ruined them all, Denny. If we eat stupid brains, we get stupider. You were always a bright kid. No thannnnnnkssss. Can we seeeeeal the deeeeeal? Can I come in and—seeeeeeal the deal?”
Wow! That sounded too much like seal-a-meal to Denny.
“Wait! N… no, not yet,” said Denny. “How about you just sliding the check under the door?”
“That’s not how we do things here in Hollywood, Denny, sir! We need to shake your hand and capture this wonderful event on video.”
There was another walking corpse behind Ed, holding a moldy broken video camera. It was hard to see the cameraman, as the camera was supporting a blinding spotlight. The cameraman wore Ray-Ban sunglasses. The mysterious camera-guy also sported sideburns and emitted a truly horrible spoiled bacon smell from his a mold-covered black leather jacket.
“I always liked you Mr. McMahon. I don’t want to do this,” said the shaken Denny.
“If I let you in… well… Okay, then. Let me think this over”
“Six zeros Denny!” said the little fire-engine-red devil on his left shoulder.
“How about you meet my son!” said Denny. “Come here, John! Meet Mr. Ed McMahon! Mr. McMahon! HERE’sssssssss JOHNNY!”
Ed hissed like a snake. “Hahhhhhh, hahhhhh, hilariousssssss. You’re a real charmer, Denny.” Looking at little Johnny with worm-filled eyes, Ed said, “Your old man’s a comedian, son. Did you know that you can’t say that, Denny?”
“You can’t say, ‘Here’ssssss Johnny!’ I’ve still got a trademark copyright on that phrase.”
“Waaaaaaay…. Oh, and that word ‘way’ belongs to Mike Meyers. US patent and trademark office, Denny. I can use ‘way’ because I’m a shambling undead fiend.”
“Gee, I wouldn’t have thought!” said little Johnny.
Ignoring the warning from the little fuck-head angel on his right shoulder, Denny said to the dead Ed, “Why you smelly piece of… yeech! Just to make it clear. Are you listening, Ed! ARE WE CLEAR ON THIS? I am NOT inviting you in! This is NOT an invitation. Right?”
With that, Denny wrenched open the Fuckinggoddamnedfuckingsonofabastard door, and grabbed onto the lapels of Ed’s threadbare tux. He then pulled the big smelly fat-ass zombie into the motel room. Denny’s wife and kids, all back upon the king-sized bed, just slid over to accommodate the big stiff, and continued to ignore the real horror show next to them.
Ed struggled and gurgled as Denny dragged him into the room.
Ed McMahon, though over six-feet-tall, was nearly weightless: an empty shell, except for a few shreds of some poor souls whose brains he had feasted on within the last couple of weeks.
A few feeble minds were the only things that had kept old Ed McMahon barely moving along with a very nice shamble these days.
Ed had only been feasting on the brains of the weak and greedy. At this moment, Ed who was very weak and very greedy for a “noggin nosh.” His scam was not working on this hardened punk, who moved quickly and gracefully.
Denny threw the big lug onto the bed.
Hell! That was easy! thought Denny. Maybe I’ll be going out to look for the ex-Elvis and ex-Marilyn later.
“Thanks for the check, Ed,” said Denny. “Money is a good thing and I certainly thank you for it. You still have one very important thing that you’re going to give me tonight Mr. McMahon! You see, Mr. McMahon, it’s time to feed the kitty!”
“Wait! The check will not do you any good. My lawyers will be suing you for one million dollars! Hey Hooooo!”
Denny still held onto the lapels of Ed’s rotting tux and easily held the big weak zombie flat on the bed.
“My lawyer, Denny. I want my lawyer!”
* * * *
Denny whistled for Angel Puff (another name for Dave), while Ed McMahon snapped, squealed and squirmed beneath Denny’s weight,
Denny told him, “THIS is God’s plan. Don’t you know that Mr. McMahon? Angel Puff! Come here, Puff Ball!” (another name for Angel Puff).
Angel Puff had always hated his name, though it served him many fine souls. He licked his paws, got off of his furry butt and slowly walked over to the bed.
With his green eyes, orange fur and sparkly gold collar, the cat leapt upon the bed and sat himself squarely upon the trapped zombie’s chest.
Angel Puff tossed back his handsome mane, focused his slitted emerald eyes upon his prey, and began to inhale his psychic meal. “Meowwwwww.” I’ll start with a little soul food—better than tuna.
Ed, being a brainatarian, was a soul buffet!
The last thing Zombie Ed saw was Denny leaning close.
“The world is full of hungry, fluffy, lovable kitties, Ed. We ONLY exist to feed our cats. Don’t you know that Mr. McMahon?”
* * * *
Angel Puff had inhaled his last tortured soul from the zombie’s empty husk, when all of a sudden:
The room went black as the lights and the TV went off.
When the lights flickered on, the zombie shell of Ed McMahon had crumbled into dust and Angel Puff, the kitty, had changed — dramatically.
A dark-green, short, fat, bald, and naked old man with long hair growing out of his ears sat on top of the pile of McMahon-dust. When the stranger spoke, “Hi I’m Dave!” His family, the Druids, saw that his crooked teeth and the white sclera of his eyes had turned black. His pupils were orange. They family that had adopted him when he was Angel Puff were frozen in place, unable to scream.
Old Dave, no longer cute, caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and said, “CRAP!”
He was looking at a negative image of his fat, ugly ‘old self.’
Then everything in the motel room had begun to suck. Literally. His personal negativity had caused the universe to go haywire.
Light and the electricity were pulled from the wall outlets and the appliances.
The bolts of energy swirled in the air and streamed into Dave’s butt.
Then Dave sneezed … No. He farted through his nose as he became the black hole that his ex-wife had predicted in his past lifetime as a human.
The Druid family huddled together against the bed’s backboard in total horror. They were so afraid that the bed began to shake.
Denny, the father, was speechless and shaking against a wall.
Mia said, “Mom? The room feels like it’s spinning!”
“Help Mama!” said Johnny.
“Think of it as dancing, kids,” said Dave, who knew what was happening to them all.
Dave spoke to Mia who was shaking violently to calm her down. “Mia? When you found me on the street as a kitten, did I have a cell phone attached to my collar?”
“Huh?” said the frightened girl. She knew nothing about his suicidal negative past and his reincarnation as a kitten.
Dear readers: What you are about to witness is an “upside” for a miserable, chaotic family like the Druids.
“Come closer. All of you,” said negative Dave.
The Druids could not resist the pull of Dave’s gravity. The boy, Henry, looked at his new black market watch. It had begun … to… slow… down….
The room began to turn. The closer they moved around Dave, the faster they spun. Soon they all felt as though the universe had flushed them down the crapper…
… which wouldn’t have been a bad idea…
They’d all approached Dave’s inescapable gravity field. This is what the physicists would call “the event horizon.”
Everything went black.
Dave spoke from the blackness. Well, being his old self, he droned on and on….
“Don’t be scared—I used to be your little Angel Puff—but before I was called Angel Puff, I was Dave Berg. Actually, the truth is, no one called me Dave Berg, because I didn’t know anyone. You see, I supposedly committed suicide under my house and ended up in The Kingdom of the Cats—where my seven-times-dead cat George gave me one of his two remaining lives so that I could try to repair my rotten life by going out into the world and improving myself. I’ve learned that we should all invest wisely. Would any of you like to buy the Brooklyn Bridge?…..”
The Druid family were becoming very sleeeeeeepppppyy as Dave droned on into infinity…
“That is supposed to be the reason that we reincarnate – right? To make things better-right? Well, then you assholes came along and adopted me—which was a nice thing to do, Mia— and then you turned out to be dirt bags who made my new life even so much shittier that I had finally changed into a— I’ve become— I think, a Black Hole. Apparently this is what happens when things really, really suck big time. Einstein did say, and I should not be surprised, as objects come closer to me—they would appear to dance and spin around my mass—I guess. I’ll never lose this baby fat. Einstein warned me about the possibility yata yata yata. …”
* * * *
“All Things Being Equal”
The lights came back on.
The Druids relaxed together on top of fresh silk sheets on a brand new California king-sized bed.
The movie came back on. On the new 60-inch 3-D screen TV, the zombies were still shambling, but away from the humans.
A news flash along the bottom of the screen talked about a protest in Washington DC, by the 99% of the US population, the filthy rich, who were marching against the other 1%, the nation’s poor.
When the Druid family finally ventured outside of their room, they followed a passageway leading up to the bright sunlight. They emerged from beneath a beautiful, new, clean house, owned by a family of cats who were naive enough to believe that they were in control of their pet people.
A brand new limousine (without zombies) waited for the Druid family at the curb. Soon they would be on their way to their new home in the seven-star Dizzy World Waldorf Hotel.
Black Hole Dave had flipped their world!
Einstein, the Cat’s, theory about the mini-black holes was correct; however, an important calculation was missing somewhere. Einstein (the cat) was concerned.
Not everything turned out as Einstein had predicted. For some unknown reason, the children of these positive parallel worlds still declared to their parents that most strangers STILL “smelled like balls.”
The Druids spent most their afternoon riding the boobsleds down Magic Mammary Mountain.
* * * *
“Tie a bow around it.”
(The Seychelle Islands – Three months later.)
He had never slept this well.
Dave found himself waking up facing the prone figure of a well-tanned, full bodied woman whose wondrous topography was barely covered by a very thin white sheet.
Celia!? She was so beautiful at this moment — no longer “shit-faced.” Did I ever call her shit faced? No, Celia called herself shit faced, when she was drunk.
Celia loved to drink.
How could he assume that she’d been drinking when he didn’t even know where they were, or even what day it was?
That’s it! Celia must’ve been wasted, otherwise how could I, fat old inside-out Dave, end up in a bed with her.
Dave found his long-lost cell phone on the night stand beside the bed, and picked it up only to find it lifeless. He was sure that he’d left his phone… under his old house? Cats?
His old house? What old house? What had he been doing beneath an old house? Old house….
To find out the where, when, and why of things, he’d have to get off and out of the bed. Sweet smelling Celia faced away from him and that beautiful smooth, brown behind under the satin sheet gave him second thoughts about unraveling any big deal mysteries of the universe.
Sigh. Celia was so peaceful in slumber that he decided to sneak out of bed and take a peek outside. He tip-toed toward the drapes where the bright sunlight was cutting through, and pulled one edge of the heavy curtains open. The first thing that he’d learned on that morning was that he, sure as poop, wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Outside of his private lanai was the most inviting sky-blue water that he’d ever seen!
The light had illuminated the dresser near the big screen TV and the ‘In A Bunch brand lingerie that hung over it. Looking back toward the door, Dave saw the edge of a paper beneath the opening. This would probably be the information card concerning his check-out time.
He opened the door carefully, and found a “complimentary” newspaper waiting for him. When he picked it up, it turned out to be the Perdido-Bermuda Reporter.
“Holy shit!” He was over 4000 miles away from home. According to the line above the headline, he was also 3 months away from home.
What have I been doing over the last three months? He had to wake Celia up now.
The dresser drawer hung slightly open and the corner of a one-hundred dollar bill stuck out. Dave opened the drawer and found that it was filled with cash and gold coins. He had a vague memory—was it in a dream?— about digging up treasure0 in his back yard long, long ago.
Three of the dresser drawers were stuffed with gold.
Dave looked another time.”Oh my god! Where did this come from?”
Should I awaken the woman in the bed? He needed to find out just what was really going on.
When Dave did turn toward the bed, the sleeping woman’s skin had turned pale and her hair color had become red. It was Arlene. A redhead. Dave’s favorite flavor. Arlene was a girl that he’d known in college, long ago.
He parted the curtains to let more light into the room. When he, with much trepidation, looked a third time, the woman was Kathy, the girl who had shut him down in high school with a cold stare that produced actual spunk icicles in his shorts.
Oh my god! All of this cool stuff! The gold! These beautiful women! Oh no! WHAT HAVE I DONE?
His “dead” cell phone rang. He grabbed it off of the night stand and nearly slammed it through his skull in a rush to find answers.
“I’ll tell you what you’ve done, Dave,” said the small voice from the other end of the phone call. “You’ve done well! Life is good?”
“Who is this?”
“M. K. Is your new world ‘sucky’ enough for you, Dave?”
“Mister Kitty, schmuck.”
“What?” said Dave, who became understandably distracted when he caught a glimpse of himself in the hotel mirror. Looking back at him was an optimistic, bright-eyed, young, healthy, muscular version of himself.
“Sucky? No! You should see this place and who’s in my bed. Holy shit! It sure ain’t fucking Goldilocks!”
“Language, Dave. Remember? You should know that we, down at the Kingdom, were all very nervous about setting you loose with that fucked up attitude of yours,” said M.K.. ” Oops. Fuck. Do you know if we are still in a children’s book?”
“No, I don’t know. Your Highness!” My memories are coming back. “This really IS you, isn’t it, Mr. Kitty?”
“You made your old friend, Einstein, very nervous about his experiment. He always believed that each of us housed one of a billions of universes in our minds.”
“Thanks for that information.”
“You’re welcome. Einstein called you a prime psychological candidate to become a physical example of a mini black hole. Well, Dave, we’re all relieved over here in the Kingdom that you’ve sucked yourself and the Druid family through to a more positive place. By the way, where did you carry your phone? No. Please don’t answer that. Oh… one more thing, Dave.”
“I just found my phone right next to the bed. I’d dreamed that I’d lost it back at the old house. Wow! C’mon, man! Can you guess who’s in my bed?”
“No, I can’t Dave; or would you rather be called ‘Angel Puff’? Hahahahahaha.”
“That’s right, Mr. Kitty. You always were a dick. Hey! You should see the beach over here!”
“I hate water.”
“Is there anything that I can do for you? Your wish is my command, Your Highness!”
“Can you look around for my lost collar with the golden bell and diamond name tag? Professor Einstein says that you may find many lost things in the Triangle. George wants to know if you can pick up some Tuna Crunchies on your way home, that is if you ever find your way out of the Triangle.”
“Crap!” Bermuda Triangle? Dave dropped his phone. Click. Is that garlic I smell? He smelled something delicious and was suddenly starving. He turned toward the bed. Sophia, wearing Pasta Primavera perfume and black lingerie, was just waking up.
Dave never did find Mr. Kitty’s collar, among the other items on the beach as he skipped, with a previously lost puppy, along the shoreline.
Instead, the sand was covered with odd socks, phones, wallets, jewelry and lost car keys.