The Gun Shop

26310958929_63cc24269e_o

Instruments of death that fit snugly into the palm of your hand were gleaming dully in their showcases lovingly caressed by blue velvet. Oiled wooden handles jutted from solid blue back bodies. There was a faint odor of oil and metal lingering on the air conditioned atmosphere of the room. The soft sounds of creaking leather reverberated through the reverential quiet as the clerk tenderly, ever so gently, eased a delicately balanced, but heavily weighted .357 magnum out of its holster

“Listen to this action,” he whispered to me imploringly.

Firmly, but gently, he gripped the butt of the gun in his right hand. He placed the web of his thumb over the hammer of the awesome black revolver and slowly began to exert pressure on it. The man’s hands trembled slightly and he closed his eyes. Small beads of perspiration began popping over his upper lip. A little metal clicking noise emerged from the gun as the hammer went through its first cocking phase. A slight smile appeared on the lips of the clerk as he continued to pull back on the heavy hammer and another click emerged — the gun was half-cocked — the clerk began breathing heavily now and rapidly  his face grew flush. He slid his thumb to the edge of the hammer and applied the tip of it to the ridges cut deeply into the top edge. He pushed down hard and fully cocked the revolver. A tiny tear drop appeared in the corner of the clerk’s eye.

The gap between the ridged head of the steel hammer and the body of the gun was a chasm. It looked like the jaws of a primordial reptile. It was powerful, and it was frightening — the stored-up energy of that hammer begged to be released. He pulled the trigger.

Snap!

I jumped. The hair on the back of my neck prickled and a shiver ran down my left arm. The clerk placed the gun back into the showcase and hung the holster back on the rack. He lit a cigarette, inhaled deeply and blew out blue clouds of smoke across the room. He had a distant look in his eye. I turned on my boot heels and walked out of the store into the bright afternoon sun. I squinted my eyes and shuttered with relief to be back in normal time and space again. Just to-make sure I kicked out at the base of a red white and blue mail box standing at the edge of the sidewalk. It hurt sufficiently to be convincing. I began the three block walk back to my office still in a bit of a stupor.

Little Sister

Top 10 Best Lines from Raymond Chandler’s Little Sister

wp-1499803664182.jpg

  1. She had a low lingering voice with sort of a moist caress in it like a damp bath towel.
  2. She looked almost as hard to get as a haircut.
  3. She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight.
  4. She picked a cigarette out of a box, tossed it in the air, caught it between her lips effortlessly and lit it from a match that came from nowhere.
  5. “Shut up, you slimy, blackmailing, keyhole peeper!”
  6. She put a couple of cold blue bullets into me with her eyes.
  7. She looked as if it would take a couple of weeks to get her dressed.
  8. She reached up and pulled a fingertip down the side of my cheek. It burned like a hot iron.
  9. Marlowe, a private detective. Not the brainiest guy in the world, but cheap. He started out cheap and he ended cheaper still.
  10. It could have been a beautiful friendship. Except for the ice pick, of course.

Bonus Dialogue

“Do you always wear black?”

“Yes. It is more exciting when I take my clothes off.”

“Do you have to talk like a whore?”

“You do not know very much about whores, amigo. They are always most respectable. Except of course the very cheap ones.”

 

 

ORANGE BLOSSOM SPECIAL

The day I met Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash At Newport

One evening in the bleak December back in the 1970’s I was sitting in one Louisville’s famed dens of iniquities, Rhiney’s Go Go Bar and Lounge. The Rick Hipple Duo was playing for our listening enjoyment. Rick Hipple was on the the organ and sang vocals while his partner Lou Stanfield played the drums. I was there with my girlfriend, Lynn of the pretty green panties.

The band had just finished playing a rousing version of Dixie, Of course back in those days whenever a band played Dixie everyone stood up took off they hats and put their hands over their hearts.

Lynn and I had just re-seated ourselves and I was trying to get the waitress’s attention for another round of drinks when the door of the establishment flew open and out of the cold night a man dressed in black and a whole entourage of people trailing behind him filed into the bar.

The man in black approached the bandstand and wrestled the microphone away from ole Rick Hipple and said into the mic with a bit of a slur, “Hi, I’m Johnny Cash, how do you do!”

He looked back at the astonished face of Rick Hipple and said, “Orange Blossom Special,” which Rick commenced to playing.

Now these were the days before Johnny was acquainted with June Carter which is to say he was still a pretty wild character. And that character was on full display that night. He was all liquored up on that roadhouse corn and he stood there swaying in the spotlight slurring his words and trying his best to get through that song.

“Well, I’m going down to Florida and get some sand in my shoes…”

Well, that was the night I met Johnny Cash. A night I will never forget.

 

 

 

 

Islands in the Stream

Islands in the stream

 

Ernest Hemingways’s novel, Islands in the Stream, published posthumously, is the perfect counterpoint to his novel, For Whom the Bell Tolls, which was of course published during his lifetime. Hemingway takes his title, For Whom the Bell Tolls, from the poem of the same name by John Donne. The first line reads, “No man is an island entire of itself, every man is a piece of the continent a part of the main.”In both novels the protagonists die fighting for a cause larger than themselves that each believed in and that each felt he had a duty to fulfill. This is the Hemingway code of action that has lived with me so many years, ever since the first short story I read by him many years ago, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. Hemingway comes full circle with this novel. From no man is a island to every many is an island. An island in a stream.

In the first case Robert Jordan is fighting fascism in Spain during the Spanish Civil War . In the other, Thomas Hudson is fighting fascism in Cuba during WWII. A German submarine has been damaged and the crew has come ashore and massacred a village of Indians and commandeered their turtle boat. The German crew are hiding out in the mangroves on the Cuban island. It is the duty of Thomas Hudson and his crew to hunt them down. This brilliantly written action sequence takes place in act three of the novel.

The novel is divided into three sections but the reads like three acts in a play. The first section is entitled Bimini. Here we are introduced to the isolated main character Thomas Hudson  who is a painter and lives in a house on the island of Bimini which is part of the Bahamas. It is summer and his three children, two by one wife and one by his first wife, come to visit him for the summer.  This is the happiest section of the book as the happy family interact and reminiscence with one another and go deep sea fishing together.

After the children leave, Hudson learns of a tragic car accident that has taken the lives of his two youngest children and their mother. This section ends with Hudson on a boat trip to Europe to attend their funeral. The tragic accident had a profound impact on Hudson driving him deeper and deeper into himself.

The next section of the book is entitled, Cuba. Most of the action in this section takes place in a bar in Havana called the Floridita. Hudson is knocking back frozen Margaritas (without sugar) and talking to a variety of motley characters who inhabit this world including an aging prostitute called Honest Lil. The conversations are often hilarious and the characters are well drawn and fascinating. Lil asks Hudson when was his happiest day? Hudson replies: “The happiest day I ever had was any when I woke in the morning when I was a boy and I did not have to go to school or work.” In this section Hudson learns of the death of his eldest son who was killed in action while flying over Germany. This was just about the last straw that does him in and he retreats further into himself. He soon receives his orders and goes once more back out to sea. He traded in his remorse for another horse that he was riding now.

The only thing Tom now has left is his duty. “Get it straight. Your boy you lose. Love you lose. Honor has been gone a long time. Duty you do. Sure and what’s your duty? What I said I’d do. And all the things you said you’d do.”

In this last section called, At Sea, Thomas Hudson does is duty. He is in pursuit of a German submarine crew whose submarine has been destroyed. They are hiding out in the mangroves of a Cuban island. The writing in this section is some of the best action writing I have ever read. At the climax there is a showdown between Hudson’s crew and the German crew. Hudson’s crew wins but Hudson gets shot it the process. As his ship cruises back to home port he realizes he is going to die. He thinks about sorrow. If it is cured by anything other than death, chances are that it was not true sorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Bridge Too Far

Ghost Dog

DSC_0124Last night, Governor Chris Christo appeared on Billo Riley’s television show, Fear Factory, on The Fox Force Five Network. What follows is a partial transcript of the interview:

Billo Riley: Governor Christo, you have been described as a prince of a man and that there is no way that you would have done anything so sinister as to order the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge. Can you tell us what your view on life is in general and on politics in particular?

Chris Christo: Sure, Billo. That’s a great question. Thanks for asking. My view is this: A man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruination among so many men who are not good. Therefore, a prince, such as myself, if he wants to keep his authority, must learn how to be not so good.

Billo Riley: And Governor, if I…

View original post 495 more words