THE TANK LID ABOVE BANGED and down through the hatch came the head of a slack-jawed scumrunner, his lank hair dripping yellow with pissrain. He tossed a snaggle-toothed grin.
"Head toadsucker requests wildman with lone star sobriquet at whole lot of main headquarters mucho pronto post haste in a damn big hurry!" He grinned again, slung the pissdrizzle from is hairroots with a quick shake of his head and disappeared.
"That friggin frogsucker's gonna make sure i have to get out in this mess!" Texas Bill Garver grumbled, scratching his bullbag gonads.
"Well run along honey, and when you get through jawin with the jizzlips, we'll get it on," Melody J. J. Badbox said, shaking her slinky ass.
"Ah, Tex my good man, sorry to have to disturb you on such a dastardly day," the wartlips said expansively, waving the dripping Texan to a seat in the corner of his small, stinking office. "As it were."
Tex skimmed runners of pissdrizzle from his forearms with the heels of his hands and thanked whatever that Grovenor's shoestrings at least weren't doing a bad Dylan imitation. "What's goin down, Grove?" he asked. "Why call me out on a friggin duck day like this?" "Again, sorry my good man...fact is, I am forced to transfer you up on the North 40 suction field for a few days, as it were." "What the shit for?" "The lone skimmer up there, jolly good fellow by the name of Tyson Tyson, has been having a few problems, Tex, seems to be losing the handle on reality--or what passes for it." Grovenor took a hit from the fresh cuplegs frog clutched in his right paw before continuing. "I wouldn't ask you Tex, were it not absolutely essential."
"Well hell, when do I haul balls?" Tex sighed. "I guess it's part of the job, whatever the hell THAT is."
"I shall have a scumpacker in front of your tank in the by and by...give you time to, shall we say, wind up any pressing affairs of the moment?"
"Right on, toadlips!"
Melody J. J. Badbox was not overjoyed at the news of Tex's imminent departure for the North 40.
"What'n hell is that frogfaced fucker up to anyhow?" she asked, putting her hands on her hips in that sexy fashion that drove Tex wild, her violet eyes flashing. "I just get here and already he's pullin some kind of jive!"
"Don't get all bent out of shape, baby, it's only for a short short I'll be gone," Tex said.
"Not a long long, you're sure?"
"Sure enough, sweetlegs." "Well hell, Tex darlin, how's about one for the road then?"
Tex was balls deep in some good hot woman funk when he heard the roar of the scumpacker as it slid through the muck outside his tank.
"Gotta run, mama," he said, backing out with a wet PLOP.
"Hell's bells, baby, I didn't even get off!"
"So didn't I," Tex replied. "Save it on the back burner, hotlips, til I return."
"You know it, you righteous twatsplitter!"
"Pile yore ass aboard!" the scumpacker pilot hooted. He pulled shit-stained goggles back down over his bloodshot peepers. "Hang loose to boogie!"
He tromped the power pack into double overdrive and tossed a spray of shitdripping 300 yards out behind the machine in a roostertail of getdown motion. Sliding between a row of shittanks at near full tilt he hit the open muck and jammed his foot clear through the firewall.
"Lookit 'em friggin oozeplants whippin by like a fuckin picket fence!" he yelled at Tex, a big leer across his chops.
He wasn't shitting, Tex noted. The only vegetation that grew in Emerald Shitland, the oozeplants stood like acid-freaked saguaro cactus with green slime dripping from their stem ends, giving off a smell worse than death taking a bad crap. They were indeed flying by with a rapidity verging on disaster.
"You always jam this boogie?" Tex yelled in an effort to make himself heard over the roar of the nitro engines. The funk injectors were sucking up cubic yards of airborne fecal matter and jamming them through the massive 1,000 cubic inch cylinders which ate the shit like a Baptist preacher at a table full of fried chicken.
"You fuckin aye, feller!" the pilot hooted, reaching forward to turn up the boost on the scumblower, milking another 500 or so horsepower out of the 20,000-horse monster. At a speed of about 400 mph, the tracks broke loose in the scum as they attempted to catch up to the churning powertrain. "I was a race driver in 'nother time and place!"
"I don't doubt that," Tex screamed back, trying to find a new hand hold on the slimy surface of the roaring monolith in order to keep from being left behind in the smoking trial cut by the wailing scumpacking sumbitch.
The crazed pilot slowed down to about 50 and advised Tex to jump for it--seems the scum was so deep up on the North 40 that if he ever brought the monster to a complete halt it would quickly mire out of sight. Tex held his nose and jumped, covering his flopping scrotum with the other hand.
The sounds of the scumpacker's motor had alerted the lone resident of the tiny slime tank, who at first peeked up through the hatch, then came out and dismounted. He was a tiny little fellow with a fringe of gray hair around his ears and a huge pot belly, beneath which tweaked a tiny little penis about the size of Texas Bill's pinkie nail.
"You must be Tyson Tyson," Tex said.
"And you're surely Texas Bill Garver, the wild western plains sumbitch," the little man replied. "Your fame has spread wide and far."
"Please to meet you, Tyson," Tex grinned, his rows of ultra-white chops lighting up the metallic blue gloom of North 40 land. "Tell me, what's it like up here? This is my first assignment up on the North 40."
"Shitty, just like it is everywhere else around here," Tyson replied. "I've been here since I don't know when, or I got here, whichever comes first."
"Toadsucker said you had a few problems, something about losing the handle," Tex said.
"That rotten wartlipped motherfucker!" the little man spat. "He's all bent out of shape because I've been asking some questions and he doesn't have the answers. Some mighty strange things going on in this place, Tex, in case you ain't noticed."
"Like why aren't we wearing clothes? Like why don't we eat or sleep? Like just where in the hell are we...do you remember where you were before you came to this place?" Tyson was all excited, his jaw muscles jumping like frightened rabbits.
"Yeah, I think so," said Texas Bill. "I was a famous air ace and hero of the Caustic War best as I can recall...led the shitstorm on Mexico City and a bunch of other shit, had more decorations than a fuckin birthday cake."
"You think all that's true?"
"Damn right I do, cause it is."
"I'm not so sure," Tyson replied.
"Well, what the hell were YOU?" Tex asked, getting just a tad pissed at the little fellow because he didn't particularly like to have his heroic past questioned and especially not by some little knothead with a peter little as a redworm.
"Oh, I have a 'past' if that's what you chose to call it," Tyson replied. "Just like everybody else here has. According to what I remember, back in the other I was a producer, a promoter...perhaps entrepreneur would be a better word. "For one thing I produced 'The Suicide Show' for television. It was a weekly series and the premise was we'd find people who wanted to kill themselves and then sign them up to do it in front of our cameras--of course they didn't get anything but a few moments of fleeting fame, but we DID pay their survivors well, perhaps too well. A Congressional sub-committee investigated us and determined that we were exerting undue influence on some of these people...In short, people were killing themselves on national television for the fifteen minutes of fame a fellow named Warhol once mentioned. There were riots when we were canceled, because the viewing public loved nothing more than sitting down with a big pan of hot buttered popcorn and watching some poor fool blow his brain out or hang himself...Those were the two most popular forms, although on one occasion we had this oriental fellow who insisted on disembowelling himself in living color. We pulled a 79 share that night, it broke all records for one night including Roots and the last M.A.S.H. episode!
"After that fell through, I started something called Wheelchair Boxing. We'd take these paraplegics and tie a glove on one hand and put them in the ring. They'd roll around and really beat shit out of one another as best as they could. You know how that kind of crap goes, a guy racks up a few wheelchair wins and he thinks he's ready for the real world champion.
"That's what happened with Irish Ironsides Murgatroyd, a paraplegic and brain-damaged war veteran. He signed a contract to take on the world middleweight champ, a Ugandan named Mooloolie who had two good arms and legs and a punch like a goddamn mule. The Kansas Boxing Commission sanctioned this farce, and Irish Ironsides appeared on every morning TV show across the country, bragging about how he was going to rip Mooloolie apart in less than three rounds. The fight got a lot of international attention and with closed-circuit and ancillary rights from straight TV, the gate for the big fight topped $34 billion--an all-time record.
"They held the fight in a big field in the middle of Kansas, because of the crowd. In fact, fifteen million ticket holders crowded onto that field to watch a fight that lasted about six seconds. It was pathetic. Irish rolled out to the center of the ring and pawed at Mooloolie's left kneecap with a right stick. Mooloolie slipped it naturally and then delivered a series of combinations that not only separated Irish from his wheelchair, but almost separated his head from his body--the coroner figure later he was dead before is head ever hit the canvas.
"The fucking crowd went nuts. Tickets prices ranged from twenty-five grand ringside down to a minimum of five-hundred bucks--those were about five miles from the ring and you had to furnish your own binoculars. The crowd tore the ring apart, killed all the judges and the referee and several guys from a television crew...Mooloolie managed to escape somehow, but don't ask me how! Several hundred spectators were trampled to death and more than a hundred thousand required medical treatment. It was really something to see!"
Tyson Tyson shook his head sadly. "You know, Tex," he continued, "normally as a promoter I'd been right there at ringside, but I had a bad feeling going into the thing, I knew something was going to go wrong. I didn't think the fight should even take place, but hell, since it was I figured I might as well make a buck or two off of it, somebody was going to. But I watched it from a chopper that day, hovering over the melee. It was a sight, Tex, you can't possibly imagine what fifteen million pissed off fight fans look like until you've seen them with your own two peepers!"
"Yeah, it must have been a mess," Tex said, fascinated by Tyson's tale. "Go on."
"Well, they finally got the riot under control by threatening to drop a hydrogen bomb right in the big middle of the crowd...flew over in choppers and warned them to disband within one hour, or it was all over but the shitting and the shouting. The rioters knew they weren't shitting and they split like the legs on a two-dollar hooker.
"Needless to say, that was the end of Wheelchair Boxing, Inc. and, sad to say, Tyson Tyson Sports, Inc. I faced four hundred lawsuits, my wife left me and my former best friends wouldn't have pissed up my ass if my guts were aflame.
"And those are the memories of my life, Tex--except I don't believe one goddamn word of it!"
Tex shrugged. "Shit, it all sounds reasonable enough to me. Why don't you believe your own mind?"
"Because I don't think it IS my mind...it's like all of a sudden I'm one person in one place and the next thing I know I'm that same person somewhere else. And yet I don't remember coming to this place. It seems like I've always been here, that the things I think are memories are not real remembrances of things that actually happened but more like something fed into my mind. Do you see what I'm getting at?"
"Yeah, no wonder Grovenor was worried about you, you ARE losing the handle."
Tyson Tyson screwed up his face in a grimace of utter disgust.
"WHAT fucking handle, huh? We're always hearing some bullshit about 'keeping the handle,' but what handle are they talking about?"
"Well shit, you know, THE handle," Tex replied.
"There AIN'T NO FUCKING HANDLE, TEX," Tyson yelled. "It's all a big game!"
"Man, you're fucking SICK! There's GOT TO BE a fucking HANDLE, because without it there's NOTHING!"
Tyson nodded and smiled, a pleased expression spreading over his pale, smooth face.
"Ah, Tex m'boy, you're beginning to get it finally," he said easily.
Are You Afraid?:
by Jeffery Crouch