Tuesday, February 7, 2017

A Twist Of Noir 005 - Preston Lang

The Bold Colon by Preston Lang

It started with a meeting—a three-and-a-half-hour meeting. The whole department was there, with eleven execs teleconferenced in from around the country. We talked about whether the colon in a heading should be bold or not.

When we write an internal report, the heading might be Funding or Departmental Interface. That’s in bold. No controversy there. But after, say, Funding, there’s a colon, right? Some people were putting that colon in bold, some people weren’t. And everyone got very worked up about the issue. There were factions: pro-bold-colon faction; anti-bold-colon faction. You want to know what faction I was in? I was in the extreme don’t-talk-to-me-don’t-look-at-me-because-I-don’t-even-give-a-walrus-fuck faction. But I was the only one in that faction. Everyone else had really strong views and saw nothing wrong with sitting around talking about it for three-and-a-half hours.

Fine, you say. One meeting, and then it’s settled. No. The meeting just served as a kind of opening salvo to what would become an all-out war. It spread to all other departments. There were email chains, conflicting style guides, appeals to the writings of Michel Foucault, Steve Biko, David Hume, Martin Luther King, and Enid Blyton. Seating arrangements were completely overhauled, canvas partitions were set up, and there were post-work meetings—well-attended and completely voluntary—where officers were elected and minutes taken. Leaders emerged.

“I can’t believe Henry,” Janis said to me one morning. “He knows he’s wrong. It’s all just ego at this point.”

I saw Henry later that day.

“Man, can you believe those people? It’s like Salem 1692 with them.”

He drew comparisons to inquisitors, Maoists, Dickensian villains, and of course Nazis. All because they wanted to put a colon in bold. No. Wait. He wanted the colon bold. Sorry about that. Henry and his cohort wanted the bold colon.

One day it all came to a head in the breakroom. Henry and Janis screaming, throwing things, people backing their champions with chants and handclaps and hysterical insults. Butchers of decency. The harsh punctuation of terrorism. Two dark dots of hegemonic wrath.

Great, then. Have we gotten it out of our system? Can we go back to being humans? No, we’d just fortified the armies, drawn the battle lines a little clearer. No one was going to back down. This was going to tear us apart. Well, someone had to do something. In a world gone mad—as you may have heard—a hero must rise. 

That Monday evening I went to the library, created a new email account, and wrote to Janis:

If you do not agree to boldface the colon I will reveal everything. I have access to your computer. I’ve seen it all.

I sent the same message to Henry, changing bold to unbold. Then I waited. Janis came in early the next day, surly and unkempt, but she sat down and did her work. Henry didn’t show.

“Sick, I guess.”

The next day he was still missing. The day after that the Boss called us for an all-hands meeting.  

“It is my sad duty to inform you that we have lost a friend and a colleague. Henry Porter took his own life on Monday evening. There will be a memorial service on Friday.”

There were gasps and inane expressions of disbelief. And crying—real genuine sobs from the folks in his faction. They were rudderless, bereft without their sage and seer. Even the women in editorial who were against him on the colon started tearing up a bit. The Boss worked the room—pressed a few shoulders, murmured a few sensitive words. Finally, Janis spoke up.

“Sooooo. No bold on the colon, then?”

A Twist Of Noir 004 - Tom Leins

The Last Dog And Pony Show by Tom Leins

They say you always remember your first fight.

Your first fight and your first fuck.

I sure-as-shit remember mine. I was at the carnival, watching the kootch show, when Alvin Lupus broke his right wrist and four fingers on his right hand trying to shatter my jaw. I didn’t blame him – he had just found out that I had fingered his older sister up against the Crippled Civilians’ clothing donation box the previous Saturday night.

I was only 14 at the time.

The carnies dragged him off and beat him with cut-down baseball bats in the woodland behind the wrestling tent. A few people said that they murdered him, and buried him in a shallow grave along with a couple of rabid dogs, but I later found out that he had hitched down to Mexico in search of a wrestling promoter with deep pockets and lax moral standards.

Most guys I knew who fought in Mexico came home in a box or in a wheelchair, but Alvin was different. He came back tougher, meaner. Every time he got suspended, for some infraction or other, he wound up down south: dick-deep in senoritas and wrestling like his life depended on it. His hook-up down there was a fighter known as Gringo Starr – an old juicehead who liked to get drunk and slash faces like some men slash tyres. Those two boys were tighter than a nun's pussy.

On my 17th birthday Shriek Watson told my father that I was too short to be a wrestler, so Daddy bought me a crate of imported Metandienone for my birthday, and had me chopping logs and digging drainage ditches for a full year. I don’t know if the ‘roids helped, but by the time I was 18 I was as tall as any boy in Testament.

Shriek still wouldn’t train me, but by that point I didn’t give two shits – I was earning real coin fighting men twice my age in parking lots and abandoned factories. 

I didn’t cross paths with Alvin again until we met in prison. He had been convicted of a stabbing and a shooting, although nobody died. I was just passing through jail on a vagrancy collar. By 1989 I was back fighting, and got my big break in the Deep South Wrestling Association, fighting under the name Tiny Diamonds. I was a big man, obese, but not morbidly so, and I still knew my way around the canvas.

When Alvin got out of the Big House he looked me up. He was meaty with prison muscle, and looked fucking dangerous. My weight had ballooned by this point – underactive thyroid, my physician said – so I was grateful for a tag-team partner who was willing to work up a sweat on my behalf. We had a good run, even picked up a couple of belts along the way. We earned a reputation as men who would go the extra yard for a promoter. Blading was commonplace, and by the end of our first summer working together, Alvin’s face looked like a roadmap of hell.  

Not long after, we joined the Testament Wrestling Alliance – as a result of a hostile takeover. When people ask me what a hostile takeover is, I tell them it is just like a regular takeover, but the guy signing the papers has a sawn-off shotgun barrel between his teeth. Our new boss was a guy named Fingerfuck Flanagan. Never liked the man, personally – he walked like his balls were too big for his fucking pants.

I was mostly used as a jobber, but Alvin was a headline draw. By this point he was using the name The Jazz Butcher, and Fingerfuck had him wearing more make-up than a deformed hooker. Alvin hated gimmicks, hated costumes, and he especially hated wearing face-paint. One evening – shortly before he was due to fight Freddie Regal in a Punjabi Prison Match – he put on his duffel coat and walked right out of the auditorium, past the ticket-taker, past the queue of fans, and drove away in his shit-coloured jalopy.

Fingerfuck called me into his office. He was twitching – sweating like a rent boy in church. I thought he was having a heart attack, until I saw a cut-price hooker under his desk, working him with her misshapen mouth. I was worried that he was going to ask me to fill in for Alvin in the Punjabi Prison Match, but he had other plans for me.

“Tiny, you will never eat lunch in my canteen again, unless you track down that creepy bastard Lupus, and bring him back to Testament.”

I spent a month trawling carnivals and bareknuckle fights, slaughterhouses and dive-bars. I drove as far north as Hellbelly, as far south as Crooked Timber. When I eventually tracked him down he was working as a bouncer at Short & Sweet, a midget strip club in a shit-hole town called Small Pond.

The alleyway behind the strip club was piled high with discarded appliances. Alvin was sat atop a rusted A/C unit, wearing a bomber jacket and a bolo tie. His lank hair had been scraped back with its own grease. He grunted when he saw me, and flicked his half-smoked cigarette toward my face.

“I’m not going back, Tiny. I fuckin’ like it here.”

A couple of the midget strippers were watching from the fire exit, cigarettes dangling from their tiny painted mouths.

I rolled my shoulders, and Alvin was all over me like a cheap leotard. He reached between my legs, hoisting me into a powerslam, and upended me onto a pile of rubble.

I felt something give way inside of me, and a brief bubble of pain evaporated on my chalky lips. 

The midgets started to applaud, and Alvin took a bow.

I looked down at the jagged shard of metal embedded in my fat gut as my shirt started to turn crimson.

Lousy fuckin’ Alvin. He always was a Goddamn crowd pleaser…