Archive for the ‘The Write Stuff’ Category

The following is a fictionalized account of a true story.  I first heard the story of the Edens-Madden Massacre from fellow writer Pat Haddock and I thought she was putting me on. I did some research and…turns out she was right.  This is my version of Lucy Madden’s story, a Texas pioneer woman and survivor of the Edens-Madden Massacre, San Pedro Creek, Houston County, Texas.

Survivor

~~~

October 28th, 1838

Frost rimed the banks of San Pedro Creek on that blackest of moonless nights.  Screams echoed through the forest of evergreen sentinels, shrouded with needles and indifferent to the blood soaking their roots.  Blazing pyres soared, illuminating the pines with a flickering orange glow, before subsiding to embers and returning the forest to darkness.

~ ~ ~

Stuffed in one room of drafty dogtrot cabin, fifteen women and kids slept.  Their menfolk had gone to answer President Lamar’s war cry.  Lucy, along with her sister-in-law, Nancy, moved to John Edens’ house to fort up with the other wives and children.  Four men, asleep on the opposite side of the dogtrot, protected them from the angry Kickapoo war parties.

Creak…

Lucy stiffened at the sound.  Her skin crawled as though covered in spiders.

~ ~ ~

Inkinishit’iti, so-called Little White Man because of his mixed parentage, detailed four men to guard the room where the white men slept.  Inkinishit’iti towered over his fellow Kiikaapoa warriors, his face hacked from mahogany and his eyes imbued with the spirit of Nenemehkia, Thunder Beings.

He commanded respect.

His remaining warriors gathered close, muscles flexing, weapons honed, teeth gleaming, breath quickened by the promise of blood.

A solid kick splintered the door, sending it crashing open to swing from broken hinges.

~ ~ ~

Mary Sadler died first.

“No,” Lucy screamed.  She scrambled from the floor, hands extended.  “Not my children!”

Women’s shrieks and Indian war cries battered her ears.  A tomahawk split Lucy’s collarbone and she collapsed.  Sarah Murchison implored her with dead eyes, her face in a pool of blood, her hair cut away.  Lucy tried to get up.  A blow to her back knocked her down again.

A devil from Hell, maybe Lucifer himself, loomed in the door, arms braced to the frame, legs spread.  He laughed while women’s screams called the tune and murder danced a jig.  Blood splattered the walls, soaked the floor.

Another powerful strike slammed the back of Lucy’s head, setting off an explosion of white light behind her eyes.  Sounds came and went, blurred scenes flashed through her eyes, but none of it penetrated the ringing in her head.  Mercifully, she didn’t hear or see the Kickapoo hacking apart her sons, Seldon and Robert, or witness the infant, Sophia Sadler, gutted with a butcher knife.

Like a wounded animal, Lucy crawled through the gap between the devil’s legs.  His booming laugh vibrated her nerve endings, more felt than heard.  If he saw her, Ol’ Scratch gave no indication.  Maybe he let her go, knowing her time was short.  Lucy made it outside, then to the fence, where she buckled.

Cold.  So very cold.

~ ~ ~

Lucinda Edens Madden survived that night and lived to the age of 77.  A broken collar bone, split ribs and a massive head wound caused severe blood loss, and it was likely Mrs. Madden passed out, but she was often heard saying she’d never had a better night’s sleep than after she crawled between the Devil’s legs and escaped from Hell.

***A short story I dug out of the archives; Hard Reset is modern riff on Noah’s Arc.***

Journalists jammed the conference room, a wall-to-wall crowd of tweed, denim and khaki writers intermingled with blow-dried, razor-sharp, tailored TV people.  Cameramen lined the back and sides, while a gaggle of photographers sat cross-legged at the front, hi-tech cameras resting in their laps.

From the open side door, Sal Raza paused, leaned close to his wife’s ear and cupped a hand over his mouth.  “Did you know why journalists sleep longer than lawyers?”

Toni shook her head.

“They lie better.”

His wife of twenty years rolled her eyes and gave him a gentle push in the back.  “Smartass.  What are you so afraid of?”

“This is a very big thing to me.”

“Go on.  They won’t bite.”

“No, but they might sting.”  Sal dug a finger under his damp collar and tugged.  He resisted the urge to wipe his face, straightened his suit and strode to the lectern like he owned it.  Although, considering he owned the hotel and convention center in which it resided, technically he did own it.

The room quieted.

Sal held the lectern in a white-knuckled grip and said, “Good . . .ah, good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  I will make a brief statement then take a few questions.”  Why am I so nervous? I’ve done a thousand pressers and make high-priced attorneys pee their pants.  This should be a cakewalk. 

The flashes popped and made his eyes water.  “Today I am announcing the greatest undertaking this planet has ever seen.  In an effort to populate worlds yet undiscovered, Raza Industries will begin construction on a 450,000-ton spacecraft.  Construction will take place in orbit, built by a crew living in our privately-owned space station.  The modules of this station have already been lifted into orbit by Raza Industry rocket boosters.  The station will be assembled over the coming twenty-four months by a team of contractors, former NASA engineers, and astronauts.  After that, we begin work on the ship itself.”

He paused to sip water from a bottle under the lectern’s top shelf.  A babble of voices broke out and Sal held up a hand.  Would they notice the tremble?

“Further,” he continued, “Raza Industries medical divisions are collecting the DNA of every . . . species . . . on the planet.”  A rustle of excitement moved across the room.  “With our patented process, Raza can generate living creatures from a tiny sample of their DNA.  This has allowed us to consider, for the first time, how mankind might propagate the vast reaches of space and spread throughout the galaxy.”  He stopped for a moment; the journalist waited, silent but for the whirr-click of the cameras.  “I intend to build the first interstellar voyager, complete with the DNA of the entire planet—or as much as we can reasonably obtain—and set out on a mission of discovery.  Human fate should not be at the mercy of one global catastrophe.”

Into the stunned silence of the audience, Sal said, “I will now take questions.”

The room erupted.  Sal pointed at random, from journalist to journalist and let the questions fly.

The first reported asked, “Why does Salvador Raza, the eighth richest man in the world, want to build his own space ship?”

“Why not?  Next question.”

“What’s the ship’s name?”

A New Hope.”

“Isn’t that from Star Wars?”

“Yes.  Next.”

“How long will the construction last?”

“Two years for the station.  Fifteen to sixteen years for the ship.”

“What’s it going to cost to build it?”

“What will it cost if we don’t?  Next.”

And so on until Sal had had enough.  “Last question.  Yes, you.  With the striped shirt.”

A thin kid, barely out of college, who looked to Sal more like Shaggy from Scooby Doo than a real reporter, stood and asked, “Is it true that early on, before this project began, you told some friends that, uh, that God had spoken to you and told you to build this ship, the same way He instructed Noah to build the ark?  And for the same reasons?  That God was going to bring down another flood and you were to preserve life on Earth?”

Sal blinked in the harsh light and heat crept up from his neck.  “No.  That is categorically untrue.  I have no idea where you’d get an idea like that.”

“From—.”

“Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.”  Sal exited, stage left.

~~~~~

George Grilli snapped the television off and threw the remote into the sofa cushions as hard as he could—it was the only remote he had; he wasn’t stupid enough to break it.  The sour milk in his bowl of soggy corn flakes sloshed out, drenching his other hand.  George set it on the coffee table with a curse.  Dried his fingers on the carpet.

Marco, his black Guess-a-Dog mix, got off the floor and stuck his nose in the bowl and lapped the last of George’s food.  The last food he had left in the house.

“You know what, Marco?” George said, “Salvador-Frickin-Raza is building his own private space yacht.  I’ll bet he builds it then fires all the people who worked on it.  Fires ‘em all and gives ‘em two week’s salary.  Two week’s.”  He held up two fingers to illustrate, in case Marco was confused about higher math.  “That’s it.  And you know that’s why she killed herself, right? Sharon.”

Marco ignored him, intent on chasing the last drops of Borden’s finest.  The bowl scooted across the table as he nosed it along.

“Mechanical engineer,” George muttered, head down, staring between his feet.  Hunched over.  Beaten.  The white-spotted dog, who’d heard it all before, licked his chops and studied the bowl, waiting for more tasty milk to appear.  “Sixteen years at Raza Aerotech.  Two week’s severance.  It was the last straw.”  George snorted, shook his head.  Stared at the picture of Sharon in her wedding dress on the coffee table.  “You know what I ought to do, Marco?”

George stood and hitched his boxers up.  The green plaid ones.  His afternoon attire.  He headed for the toilet.  “What I ought to do, is get hired on there with Raza’s people, wherever they’re building this thing, right?”  The last he said louder, in case Marco couldn’t hear his reasoning.  He didn’t bother lifting the toilet seat when he unlimbered the tackle and aimed it more or less at the bowl.  “Ahhh.  Anyway, I get a job there, you know?  And I bide my time like a good little Do Bee.  I go deep undercover.  Do a little of this, a little of that.  Then, when the time comes—BAM!—I take out old Sally and his ship of dreams.  Serve the bastard right.”

He shook off and padded back to the living room, where the dog had curled up in his spot on the sofa.

“What do you think, Marco?  A good idea, or not?”

Marco opened one eye and agreed with a half-hearted woof.

~~~~~

Sal pressed his nose to the tiny window of the shuttle Skywalker and held his breath to keep it from fogging the glass.  “There it is!” he squeaked.  His throat was so tight, he sounded like a cartoon squirrel.

“Calm down, Sal,” Toni patted his back.  “Your heart.”

“It’ll last a while longer,” Sal said without peeling his face away from the sight drifting into view.  “I happen to have that from a very good source.”

“Oh, please.”  He could hear the smirk in her voice.  “Not again.”

Sal mentally shrugged and let it go.  The sight of A New Hope, tethered to the space station, left him too excited to fight.  The starship gleamed, brilliant white against the contrasting blackness of deep space.  Eighteen years in the building, four trillion dollars of expense, with a fully-loaded mass of more than a pocket cruise liner, A New Hope was ready to assume her duty.  The hand-picked crew of one hundred scientists, doctors and engineers were aboard.  DNA samples, sometimes multiple samples, of millions of plants, animals, insects, birds—all the flora and fauna of Earth, including mosquitos though Sal had argued against it—were carefully labeled, checked, frozen, double-checked, stored and triple-checked in a filing arrangement more complex than that of the Library of Congress.

Final goodbyes had been said.

It was time to go.

“And not a moment too soon,” Sal murmured.

“What was that?”

“Nothing, dearest one.”  Sal pushed off and floated back to his seat.  Toni was, of all the damnedest things, knitting a sweater.  Knitting.  In zero-G.

A week after her 75th birthday party, his wife could still make his heart thump with desire and generate a tingle in regions farther south.  Sal grinned so wide, he thought his cheeks would split.  He looked “up”—at least toward the shuttle’s ceiling—and winked. I told you I’d get it done.  Didn’t I?  How long ago was that?  Twenty, twenty-one years ago?

~~~~~

Sal’s office aboard A New Hope wasn’t nearly as opulent as the one he’d left behind.  Functional, but not austere.  Wood appointments wherever practical—for who knew when he’d ever see real wood again—furniture fixed to the floor as well as other accommodations for a metal building orbiting the Earth.  Until they got under way and were able to spin the ship, they had to tolerate zero-G.

Sal strapped himself into his desk chair and turned on the computer.  His reflection in its black screen made him chuckle.  With his hair floating around, he looked a little like those pictures of an old Albert Einstein. Would that we had him here!

A knock at the open portal and Sal’s head of security, Gordon Dixon pushed off from the frame and floated to the desk.  He hooked his feet in loops so he could stay more or less stationary. Dixon’s hair was clipped to molecule length; he had no problem with Space-Head.

“Sir,” the security officer reported.  “We have uncovered all of the engineer’s sabotage.  All his devices have been found and neutralized.”

“Good.  And Grilli?”

Dixon hesitated.  “Still at large.  He made it back to Earth before we figured out who was responsible.”

“Well, don’t worry about him.  His fate is sealed.”

“Uh, yes, sir.”

“Thank you, Gordon, you may go about your duties.”

The man nodded in a formal, precise, military manner and pushed off for the door. Dixon, like the other crew members, tolerated Sal’s biblical pronouncements and treated him like a loopy uncle.  No doubt Dixon would share tight smiles and eye rolls with the other crew members when they thought Sal wasn’t looking.

No matter.  The promise of a fresh, unspoiled planet, where the human race could get a universal mulligan, a big, whopping Do-Over—a hard reset, as his techies said—had been an easy sell for the crew.  No matter if they thought the owner was a little goofy, if it bought them a ticket to the biggest ride in human history, so be it.  Even being put into a medically-induced coma for hundreds of years hadn’t deterred millions of applicants seeking a shot on Raza’s mission.  Sal chose who went, and he hoped to God he’d chosen right.  Grilli, obviously, had been a mistake.

“Well,” Sal said, “they’ll get a fresh, new planet.  Just not the one they think they’re getting.  This’ll be the longest round trip to nowhere on record.  The floods will come and wash everything clean down below and the human race gets another shot at life on Planet Earth.”

The intercom beeped and Sal pushed a button.  “Yes?”

“Mr. Raza,” the ship’s captain said.  “All systems nominal.  We are go for launch.”

Sal glanced at the clock.  “Right on time, Captain.  Please . . . how do you astronauts say it?  Light this candle.”

“Roger that.  We will ignite main thrusters in T-minus ten minutes and counting from . . . mark!”

There were no portals in the office.  No portals anywhere, in fact.  So Sal closed his eyes and pictured Earth in his mind.  “Don’t worry, old girl.  We’ll be back soon.”

Ten minutes later, the world went white and A New Hope evaporated in an expanding ball of plasma, eliminating every trace of life aboard the spacecraft.  No warning, no mercy, and no second chance.

~~~~~

George Grilli shouldered his pack and stuck out a thumb, but the sleek new Cadillac didn’t slow.  Its wash of cold air blew over him and he shivered.  Forty miles outside of Memphis, Grilli hiked over the pea gravel and busted bottles alongside a two lane state highway.  He had a few bucks—enough for a meal in a fast food joint—the clothes he wore, and the odds and ends he’d taken from Raza’s space station.  Nothing else.

He grinned anyway.  Threw back his head and laughed aloud.  “Who gives a shit!” he yelled at the sky.  “I have the best gift of all.  Fuck you, Raza!”

Grilli pointed a two-fisted double-bird salute at the overcast clouds.  Too bad he couldn’t be near a TV right now.  All the news shows had been running up-to-the-instant coverage of Raza’s Boldly Going Where No One’s Gone Before.  Unfortunately that meant they were also showing Grilli’s picture every time they ran out of gushing metaphors and hyperbolic adjectives.  George Grilli, the known saboteur, the fly in the ointment, the monkey in the wrench.  He laughed again, remembering the sober face of that prick Dixon staring into the newscaster’s lens.

“The suspect, Grilli, is on the run.  We have found and dismantled all of the explosive devices he planted, thereby neutralizing the threat to this crew and this ship.”

“No you didn’t, jackass.  You only found the one’s I wanted you to find.”  As an engineer assigned to metal fabrication and fitting, Grilli could roam the ship at will.  He also discovered a way to roll thin sheets of plastic explosive—mixed in the tiny kitchen sink of his locker-sized room on the space station—and sandwich them between certain critical metal plates.  And hide them in places where they’d do the most good.  Like near the O2 containers.  Wiring those special plates to the main ignition breakers had been a real pain in the ass.

“No way they’ll find my little surprises.  They’d have to dismantle half the ship to get to the O2 tanks.  As soon as Captain Twit toggles the ignition switch . . ..”  Grilli cackled and threw his head back.  “Kablooie! A New Hype will be blown to shit.”

The wind blew stronger, flapping the tails of Grilli’s coat.

A fat, baseball-sized dollop of rain splattered on his bare head.  A dozen more fell around him, sounding more like pistol rounds than raindrops.

Then more came.

And more.

Robotic Animals Televisions Which Reveal Alternate Universes Inanimate Objects Brought to Life People Struggling to Survive in Apocalyptic Wastelands Sentient Cutlery and much, much more. Desolation: 21 Tales for Tails is a collection of dark speculative fiction whose stories all focus on themes of loneliness, isolation, and abandonment. Enter into strange worlds envisioned by some of the most inventive authors writing today. A portion of the proceeds of each sale of Desolation: 21 Tales for Tails benefits the Last Day Dog Rescue Organization.

My short story, Government Waste, is the last one in the book.  (What can I say?  They saved the best for last.)

There’s a link to the book on the left.

Word Worry

Posted: October 14, 2014 in The Write Stuff
Tags: , , , ,

While I’m busy changing the name of the Columbus Day holiday, there are some other words I need to fix.

The name of the planet Uranus is one. Who can say Uranus without at least an internal snicker? Even pronounced correctly—You-ran-us—the name simply aches to be changed. (Uranus aches…get it?) See? It’s impossible. We need another name for the eighth planet. Since it is a cold, distant body, with an axial tilt at 99-degrees from the norm, I suggest we call it Hillary.

Uranus copy

Penis is another one. Can anyone take a penis seriously? The name of the male sexual reproductive organ should have something more dignified than PEE-niss. I know we have more than a few slang terms, but we need a reference that doesn’t sound like a chicken, or a children’s book on toilet training, i.e. cock or pee-pee. I’m thinking maybe magnamus. That, at least, has some authority, some weight, some heft to it. For older gentlemen, the magnamus would be renamed the sleepy-pee-pee.

Wednesday comes up next. (Since I write this Tuesday, I am correct.) I want to know: What genius screwed up the letters. We pronounce it Wen’s Day, but we spell it Wed-nes-day. (It’s like the English and their butchery of Leicester and Worcestershire, slopping the words into Lie-ster and Wuss-ter. Their excuse was they wanted to confuse the Germans in case they invaded…”Vat is de vay to London?” “Well, Guv, go to Lie-ster, take a right on Wuss-ter, and Bob’s yer uncle.”) Wednesday needs a simple spelling fix and we’re done. Wensday.

Do I even need to mention Worcestershire sauce at this point? Can we all agree on Wusster sauce and make it official?

I grew up thinking mayonnaise was spelled mannaize. We should agree to call it by its real name: Miracle Whip.

Lemming. This word is too cute for a creature that blindly follows his or her fellows in a suicidal dive from a cliff. We need something harsher, that more accurately depicts the kind of moronic, slavish devotion to destructive group-think…Umm…Democrat? No, too obvious. How about morahnas? Like piranhas, only for stupid creatures. Like a bunch of morahnas, the nightly news broadcasters repeated the same talking points as their colleagues in public office. We could shorten it to moranhs as a mnemonic.

What have I missed?

Gud Ritin Sells Buks.

Posted: October 8, 2014 in The Write Stuff

What makes a Good Story?

Ask a hundred people and you’ll get a hundred different answers. Character.  Plot.  Compelling prose.  Action.  Tension.  Conflict.  Danger.  Theme.  Out of those hundred answers, every single one is correct, for there is not a defined model at which everyone can point and say, “Yep, that’s it.”

There are examples, of course. Each classic from Steinbeck’s or Hemingway’s or Shakespeare’s collection can demonstrate one way of creating a good story.  Best selling authors like James Patterson or Dean Koontz have developed their own model, and yet neither are so universally loved that they can represent the archetype of a Good Story.

Two of the most successful works of the modern era, Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey, were so poorly written—from the standpoint of compelling prose—as to be all but unreadable, however each has sold millions of copies and have been spun off into movies and action figures and t-shirts.

Author Matt Hilton writes action scenes the way a monkey paints a wall, and yet he has six or more novels on Barnes and Noble shelves. The writing of James Patrick Hunt is so bland, the ingredient list on a can of soup holds more tension, but Hunt has over a dozen novels published through a mainstream house.

They found the magic formula.

I take great pains to craft every sentence. I make use of symbols to create a sense of mood.  I “play act” dialogue in my head until the speech becomes as real as speech can be in a novel.  I find ways to spark up descriptive sentences to avoid bland vanilla writing.  Point-of-view is examined in depth.  Adverbs are hunted down and killed with extreme prejudice.

And then I see the commercial success of a head-hopping, adverb-abusing, weak-voiced, was-describing piece of shit and I just want to go ber-SERK.

Where’s that secret formula? Somebody needs to fork it over because it would sure save me a lot of time.

The Writer Stuff

Posted: March 10, 2014 in The Write Stuff

Fair warning: This article is all about me.

As I’ve expressed publicly to only a few, I’m working on becoming a fiction writer.

Being a novice writer is something you do in the dark, by yourself, making sure to wash your hands afterward, so talking about it in public is faintly embarrassing.  There’s a fear of “coming out.”  People who thought you were ordinary will cross the street to avoid you.  Your friends and family will develop a panicky, glassy-eyed look when you show up, manuscript pages clutched in your sweaty hands.

“Well, what do you think?” you’ll ask them.  “Did you like it?  Huh?”

A nervous twitch takes the place of a smile and they say something like, “Oh, gosh, this is really good.  I like the way you use punctuation to define your sentences.”

However, my virtual writer-friend, Katie Stephens, convinced me to Embrace the Light.  She tagged me for a blog-hop (which sounds like something you do to avoid getting your shoes mucky), where we writers and wannabe writers (me) speak of our addiction in public.

“Hello, my name is Scott, and I’m a writer.”

“Hello, Scott!”

“It began for me when I wrote a school fiction assignment.  I wrote a story of the apocalypse with guns and death and marauding bands of unhinged rioters…My teacher loved it, thus creating a Writing Monster that lay dormant, gibbering in the basement of my mind, rattling the cage door and testing the lock with torn fingernails.”

Q:  What am I working on?

Writing.  Every day is a writing day for me, whether I’m in front of a computer with a blinking cursor causing me to be a blinking curser, or just thinking about plot, story arc, scenes, dialogue, conflict and tension as I shower, eat, or drive a motor vehicle.  (Never operate heavy machinery under the influence of writing.)  Current WIP (that’s Work in Progress for you non-writer types) is the third in my modern-day Texas Ranger novels featuring Sam Cable.  Sam’s a cross between Mike Hammer and Spenser, with a Southwestern flair.

Q:  How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Too much published writing these days is poor quality crap.  Exposition…telling versus showing…poor use of POV (Point of View)…cardboard characters…weak prose propped up with adverbs and stiff dialogue.  I try to reach for an immersion experience, where the reader forgets they are reading.  I want to carry a story with dialogue and active, snappy prose.  I’m working on honing my skills to approach those of Leonard, Parker and Stephen Hunter.

Q:  Why do I write what I do?

Because it’s fun.  I like blowing shit up, and this way I can do it without incurring criminal charges.

Q:  Who will we meet next week?

First up, Pete Barber.  I ran across Pete while still learning the ropes in an online critique group, called Scribophile.  Pretty quickly I figured out Pete’s a smart guy, so I stuck to him like a limpet.  His first novel, Allah’s Revenge, is a cool, hi-tech thriller that reads a lot like Michael Crichton.  He’s working on another, soon-to-be-released novel in which his characters use some very interesting mushrooms and get more than they bargained for.  No spoilers, but you’ll want to keep your eyes on Amazon.

Next, I’d like to introduce you to Kathryn McClatchy.  You meet some interesting characters at writer’s groups.  Everything from mole-like creatures blinking at the bright light to airy souls seeking their muse.  (W-everTF that means.)   I met Kathryn through her companion and service dog, Gizmo, whose brown eyes and sweet nature will make even a curmudgeon like me smile and do baby-talk.  When learn what a special lady Kathryn is despite, or because of, all the things she’s endured, you’ll be amazed.  Kathryn’s working on the craft of fiction and I expect to see some publication credits rolling soon.

So that’s my coming out party.  You know my secret.

Be sure to run next time you see me clutching a handful of paper with a desperate look in my eye.  If I catch you, I’ll make you read it.

Jiggle Balls

Posted: January 24, 2012 in The Write Stuff

For those who missed it, this is a little bit of drivel I wrote for a contest.  To my dismay, it won.

**************************************************************************

“You stupid red-neck sonofagun! What have you done?”

The fat goober in the fur-trimmed, red velvet track suit screamed right up in Jimmie Don’s grill, like he was about to pop a blood vessel. His face matched his suit for color.

“Wacthew think I done?” Jimmie Don yelled back. “I shot me a deer. Nice one, too, prolly go ‘bout eighteen point.”

“You inbred moron, do you not know who I am?”

“Well, you look like a fa- -“

“I’m Santa Claus, you nimrod!” The fat man stood up on his toes and got right in Jimmie Don’s face, stabbing him with a sausage finger. “St. Nick! Father Christmas! The Jolly Old Elf!”

“Santie Claus, huh? Well, you don’t act like no Santie Claus I ever seen. Where’s the Ho-Ho-Ho and shit?”

“The hoe? I’ll tell you where the hoe is,” Santa said, blowing hard in the cold, still air of the Missouri forest. “Your momma is the hoe and she’s turning tricks for my elves.”

“Hey, now.” Jimmie Don chambered a round into his Remington. “You may be Santie Claus, but you about to be a dead fat man in a red suit, you don’t watch yourself.”

“Well shit, boy. What’d you expect? You shot Blitzen!” He pointed at the team of reindeer, seven still hitched and standing in the hock-deep snow. The lead one on the left in a crumpled heap, fast becoming deer popsicle.

“That were nothin’ but an instink,” Jimmie Don said, then cocked his head and glared at Santa with one beady eye. “Watchew doin’ out here, anywho? Shouldn’t y’all be a-goin’ down a chimbly or sumpin’?”

For the first time, St. Nick started to look uncomfortable. “Well, I…uh, I was…”

The reindeer shuffled around, nervous at the smell of blood, bells jingling on their traces. A small face popped up from the back of the sleigh, sleepy-eyed and yawning. A boy, about nine or ten, with blond hair and rosy cheeks.

“Hey, Santa, are we there yet?” the boy asked. “Remember you promised to teach me how to drive a stick shift.”

“What the heck?” Jimmie Don eased the barrel of his rifle until it indented the fat man’s belly. “So that’s how this is?”

“No, no, wait!” The jolly old elf backpedaled, black boots scuffing at the snow. “It’s not what you think. Timmy there, he’s a…he’s a present! For this guy in Pennsylvania. Sandusky’s his name.”

“Yeah, right!”

XXX

Christmas morning, Timmy woke up to the smell of venison cooking. His new friend Jimmie Don stood in the kitchen, wearing his overalls and nothing else.

“Where’s Santa?” Timmy rubbed his eyes and looked around the tiny, backwoods cabin.

“Santie? Well, Santie is right there.” Pointed.

Timmy saw a row of reindeer heads mounted on the wall. In the middle, the chubby round face of St. Nicholas himself, florid and bloated, stared with sightless eyes from the wall.

“Now,” Jimmie Don said, shucking out of his overalls, “let me teach you how we’uns take a bath out here.”