Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dig Infinity

The following excerpt is from Dig Infinity by Ben Shakey. It will be published by Digital Books in April 2009.

Digger pulled off his socks and placed his left foot on the chopping block. He gripped the axe in his hand.

He curled back his Big toe. He curled back his little toe. His still thought of it as his pinky and he tried to correct his thinking to the more mature phrase of ‘little toe’. He really wanted to call it the little piggy that ran wee, wee, wee all the way home and then call for his mommy and his blanky as he was terrified into childlike state where he might actually wet his pants.

He looked at the three remaining toes that were not curled back and resting on the chopping block like French aristocrats before the guillotine.

Digger had three options.

He could become a conscientious objector and someone would be sent to Viet Nam in his place.

He could dodge to Canada and never see his family or country again.

Both of those options seemed oddly cowardly as well as ineffective.

Nobody ever talked of the third option.

The U.S. Army stated that anyone missing three toes on the same foot was not physically fit to serve.

He knew other guys that tried to fail the physical on purpose by claiming to be bed wetters or queers. The draft board saw right through them and they were shipped off the South East Asia, possibly that afternoon.

Well there was no seeing through this.

Nothing cowardly either.

The axe fell and Diggers toes slipped off like a pair of dirty socks.

They called him Digger because he dug everything, but after the ‘accident’ he didn’t dig surfing as much since his balance was off but he still hung out at the beach with his surf buddies.

He didn’t work but he managed to collect a little extra on his welfare due to his disability and he used that to buy extra drugs so there was usually someone willing to let him couch surf which wasn’t exactly surfing in the Pacific but it was good.

Eventually everyone got married, or jobs, or kids, or even rehab and he became the old guy on the beach looking for a place to crash. He moved on to straight up dealing since the only reason people wanted to hung out with an old toeless hippy talking about the old days on the beach was for the drugs anyways.

He finally found a place to crash for 4 years. The state penitentiary.

He was eventually evicted and was then even less employable and more addicted.

He curled fetal on the sidewalk, placed an empty cup in front of him and stuck out his damaged foot for passersbys to see. He wrote on his cardboard sign: WOUNDED IN THE VIET NAM WAR

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Bird in The Hand (Part 2)

The following is the second of two excerpts from A Bird in the Hand by Ben Shakey. It will be published by Will Jordan books in April 2009

The police were waiting for me when I got home.

“Mr. Rogers?” said the cop.

“Please call me Ian,” I said “I know you mean it as respect but it’s impossible to say Mr. Rogers without sounding sarcastic or like a children’s show puppet.”

He didn’t even smile when most people would give me at least a courtesy laugh at that line.

“Mr. Rogers” he said and ignored me “where were you last night?”

“I was doing surveillance on a client form 9 pm until the morning.”

“Was there anyone that can confirm your exact whereabouts? A witness to this?”

“I hope not. It’s pretty hard to do surveillance when people can see you”

“And who were you watching?”

There was a pause. It was long enough to consider if I wanted to continue with this and long enough for the police officer to move into what is called the interview stance where he tries to look like he is casually and thoughtfully placing his finger on his chin but is actually move his hand so that it can quickly block a strike or reach for his weapon. I didn’t like that he was considering that I might feel the need to strike or force him to draw.

“Uhhm Do I have to tell you this?” I asked “Is there like, client confidentiality or something?” I knew that there wasn’t but I wasn’t sure if he knew.

“That only works for lawyers and priests.” He said

“Her name was Jill Flynn.”

“So you were watching Jill Flynn. All night.” He said, recapping the conversation. “Did you enter her house?”

“No, I’ve never even met her.”

“Never met her once? Gave her a business card? Anything like that?”

It was pretty clear where this was going.

“Is Jill Okay?” I asked

“Was she okay last night? You were watching her from 9 pm until morning. Did she seem okay then?”

He moved on. He never answered my question. Which meant she was dead. He was waiting for me to say it first. It was an old cop trick. Act like he said that she was dead but never actually say it and maybe later I would slip up. Maybe even mention the way the she died and therefore admit prior knowledge.

I knew better than to act like I knew it but it was safe to say that Jill Flynn was murdered and my business card was in her house and I just admitted to being outside her house as long as the night shift at the mill.

“Who hired you to watch this woman?” asked the cop.

“Some guy named Ken.” I said

“Does Ken have a last name?” He opened his notebook and he was poised with a tiny wooden golf pencil to write down the name.

“I don’t know his last name. At first I thought that he was George Bush but I just found out that he is only some guy from Staples.” I didn’t realize how insane that sounded until right now.

The cop bit his lip for second and thought about how to word his next question.

“Okay,” he said “Why would the president come to you?”

“I know this sounds crazy but he wanted me to find Osama Bin Laden.” I said. I realized that also sounded crazy - and not crazy like ‘look at that guy krunk’ but crazy like a legal defence.

I tried to elaborate more “You see it wasn’t like he said that Osama was at her house or anything. He told me that she was sending messages from Osama on cassette tapes.”

“So George Bush told you that she had cassette tapes that contained messages from Osama Bin Laden?” He asked. I should have shut up. I was making myself sound more and more unstable.

“Kind of” I said. I didn’t want to but I let a nervous laugh slip. I’m sure the cop here a maniacal laugh.

“Were you aware that two weeks ago Jill Flynn called from that house saying that a man of you description was parked outside here house photographing her?” He put the note pad away. He didn’t really seem to care what my answer was.

I didn’t even bother answering the question. There was no point. Anyone could make that call two weeks ago and make me look like a stalker. Anyone could hire a Bush impersonator and make me sound delusional. Anyone can hire a private eye and stake him out at the scene of the crime.

The set up was complete. Wheels were set in motion.

“I think I want to talk to a lawyer” I said

“We can set that up at the station” Said the cop. He pulled the handcuff from his belt.

First thing was asking my lawyer to do was to see if Jill Flynn was recently divorced. I should have known along that this would never be about terrorism. People only see me about unfaithful marriages.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Bird In The Hand (Part 1)

The following is the first of two excerpts from A Bird In the Hand by Ben Shakey. It will be published by Will Jordan book in April 2009.

Private detective work is basically sitting in a car and taking pictures of cheating spouses.

There is no jumping from bridges onto ferries. No screaming “Don’t you die on me!” at a fallen partner.

A more important skill than shooting a moving target is the ability to drink enough coffee to stay awake with having to go to the john.

There isn’t even any suspense. Once someone feels the need to hire a private detective it’s likely that their spouse is playing in the off season.

All the suspense I encounter is in Ross MacDonald books while sitting in a car up the street and feeling my ass grow wide with drive thru food.

So he seemed like any other schlub when he entered my office in the strip mall.

He wandered in through the back alley entrance that was open due to the lack of AC.

“Hey there,” he nodded once and sat down with an air of comfort like he was sitting in his living room.

He looked like any other retired guy old enough to remember black and white TV. He wore a windbreaker and an old Texas Rangers baseball hat. He wore sunglasses that made him self conscious and blue jeans that didn’t fit right in either the waist or leg or possibly both.

“Do I know you?” I asked.

“Yes, “he said “You probably do but I am not sure if you are Ian Rogers.” He reached over and picked up one of the business cards of my desk. “Yep, guess you are.” He said and put it in his pocket.

“You still haven’t told me who you are.” I said

He took off his hat and glasses, raised his eyebrows at me as if posing a question and smiled at me.

He was George W. Bush.

“You’re the President.” I said.

“Was the president.” He said “and I got some unfinished business. Just between you, me, and the wall, the mission was not accomplished.”

“So you’re hiring me?”

“Yep, to find Osama Bin Laden.”

“This is ridiculous. Quit wasting my time. I work hourly so get out.” I’ve seen enough YouTube clips of Borat and Howie Mandel making someone look foolish because they didn’t want to appear rude. I swore if it was me I wouldn’t play along.

“So if you don’t believe me maybe some other presidents will do.” The line sounded over rehearsed and he seemed very pleased with himself. He tossed a brown paper bag on the desk.

“There is $4000 there. I can offer you whatever amount you need to finish this job. This rat has been off the leash too long. I can’t use intelligence anymore and I was close. No offense, but I can’t even use the best P.I. for the job. Gotta go mid level or it will draw too much attention to me. Hell, the fellas think I’m eatin’ at the Fish n’ Chip place next door. Had to sneak out back and then into here.”

I wanted to ask why a rat would be on a leash.

“I don’t know what someone like me can do.” I said “I can’t really start tailing some guy that lives in Afghanistan.”

“No I want you to follow this woman.” He handed me a piece of paper with the name Jill Flynn and an address on it. “She is believed to be distributing Osama messages in the U.S.A. on cassette tapes. Very old school.”

“Okay” I said and suddenly agreed to this without realizing it.

“I have a cell phone number. It’s the only way to contact me. It’s a pay as you go thing I bought at a 7-11. I’ll pitch it when we are done. Totally untraceable. I can’t let anyone know I have a connection to this. Understand.”

“Yep.” I said. I was starting to talk like him. We were like two comedians doing bad impressions.

“I’ll meet with you every morning at the MacDonald’s across the street. People will think I’m jogging.”

He got up and walked out to the back alley, never looking back once.

That night I parked down the street from Jill’s house. Nobody came or went but she looked out the windows a lot, almost like she was watching for someone.

I read a Bob Woodward book, eyes straining to grasp some light from a street lamp while realizing I missed a lot over the last two terms. It was easy to forget that this guy was more than a collection of mispronunciations.

In the morning I followed her to the call center she jockeyed the phones at. Then I went home, shaved, and drove to Mickey D’s.

The President was sitting in a booth looking like any other senior grabbing free refills. The Mayor MacCheese statue seemed more presidential than him.

I gave him a few details picked up over the night but nothing that could make her look like a terrorist mastermind. He was impressed anyway.

“You are a regular Magnum P.I. there, I gotta be careful you don’t tail me.”

I thought about that after as he was jogging away.

Maybe I would see if I was good enough to tail the President.

He ran two blocks to a parked Volvo. He then drove across town to a duplex townhouse with an above ground swimming pool in the back yard. I parked up the block. There were no secret service men about.

He returned after the news, sports, and weather on the radio. Listeners called in very upset that on Sunday a man dropped a football and they had seen this. He was now wearing black pants and red vest. He drove to large stationary box store.

I waited in the parking long enough for the morning DJ duo to announce the celebrity birthdays today and then sing a Doors parody called “Drivers on Cell Phones”. Then I went in.

“Can I help you?” asked a kid in vest.

“Uhmm, I’m looking for George W. Bush?”

“Oh,” he laughed “You must be looking for Ken.”


“Ya, he works part time as a George Bush impersonator.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Old Man Cooper

The following is an excerpt from Outlaw Poetry: a collection of poetry about outlaws by Ben Shakey. It will be published by F & J Howard Books in April 2009

Old Man Cooper

Never spent one dollar

So Relaxed
The stewardess thought he was flirting
not taking hostages

The plane landed and took off again

Hands didn’t shake once
as he drank scotch
smoked cigarettes
counted money
checked parachute
stepped into the loading bay doors

Hands didn’t shake once
as he tightened the necktie blown loose in the wind
and leaped

“The F.B.I. reports that D.B Cooper most likely died in the descent.”

He lived
brought no attention
worked empty jobs
told boring jokes
kept the lawn even
and hung up flashing Christmas lights

Never spent one dollar

Drank scotch
and his hands shook
“What did die in the fall from that plane?”

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Deep Joke (part 2)

This is the second of two excerpts from Deep Joke by Ben Shakey. It will be published by Mark Katz Press in April 2009

I ate dinner at home. Beans on toast. This month I spent a lot of money that was coming in from the Johnny Dillon article. Then he goes and kills himself. Why does everything happen to me?

Oh ya, and Johnny too. I guess he is the real tragedy in this story. Him and the beans on toast.

I ate dinner and hung out for a while thinking about the video fanboy showed me.

It didn’t prove Johnny was murdered.

It did prove that Johnny knew someone in the administration that was feeding him insider information.

Maybe it was an intern trying to impress someone on television and didn’t know very much.

Maybe it was someone that knew much, much that could get someone killed.

Maybe he jumped.

I thought about it till the Daily Show came on and after that drove to the Joker's Wild Komedy Club. I wasn't sure if the Comedy with a K meant it was extra wacky or if it meant this stuff couldn’t legally be referred to as comedy.

It was amateur night and the owner said he couldn't talk till after the show. I wasn’t going to hang around until then watching new comics tell old jokes downloaded off the internet.

It is mandatory to mention Johnny’s early club days in any profile. Johnny started out as a prop comic.

In the hierarchy comedians, the props comics are an untouchable caste. They hover somewhere below pedophiles and just above mimes.

Johnny spent four years working the comedy club circuit, pulling stuff out of trunks and telling puns. Then the President was elected. According to Johnny, nobody else addressed that a war criminal, poon hound, and general moron was in office so he to. Overnight he channelled his rage, dressed in black, paced the stage like a chain smoking panther, and told elaborate jokes about the Monroe Doctrine. His only props were obscenities and the first amendment.

It was said that the President was such a failure that if he didn’t exist comedian would invent him. In this case the president invented Johnny Dillon.

By the time I arrived the last comic took the stage. The MC said they saved the best for last. I was glad I waited at home. I guess some things are sadder than beans on toast.

The owner took me to his office.

“You want a drink” He waved a beer at me.

“No Thanks”

“Oh I guess you missed the show,” he said. “If you stayed you would want a drink.” He took a swig. “Some people drink to forget their misery. I drink to forget my comedy. New Talent Night. Uggh!” He took another deeper swallow.

“What can you tell me about Johnny when he was here?” I asked.

“Well, he always ranted about the truth so I’ll give you that. When he was here, he was average. Not terrible. Not great, but average. Jokes weren’t clever, nut they were accessible, if you know what I mean. You always got them . He had some presence. Nice guy. But I had no idea he would get so good. I normally have a good eye for potential but he snuck past me.”

I wrote notes as quickly as I could.

“I have some old tape if you want to look”

For come reason he still had a VCR in his office. I wondered how much longer the Joker would be open. He put on the tape.

On the TV screen a younger, paler, awkward version of Johnny bound on the stage. He wore khakis which was an offence punishable by death according to the older Johnny Dillon.

“This is a Driver’s Licence for when you cash that giant check after you win the lottery.” He pulled a huge cardboard I.D. out of the trunk on his stage.

Neither of us laughed. The club owner took another swig of his beer. Johnny left the stage. “That’s my time, good night.”

“Where is the remote? “Said the owner and he searched the office while the next comic on the tape stepped up to the mic.

He was skinny and wearing a bow tie and a wine coloured sweater vest.

His eyes were gunning and he clenched his jaw like a boxer’s fist. In many ways being that young and wearing a bow tie was more rebellious than a room full of tattoos and faux hawks.

“Let’s talk about the recent reform to separation of church and state regarding our school system and the teaching of evolution,” He spat.

He was like a pissed off Mark Russell.

“First they came for Twain and I said nothing, then they came for Darwin and I said nothing, then they came for Copernicus—"

“There!” Said the owner. He found the remote and shut of the screen.

“That last dude, you get many guys telling Copernicus jokes in here?” I asked

“Oh no,” the owner shook his head “Just Jack, even his dick jokes were smart. He was guy I thought would make it long before Johnny did.”

“What’s he doing now?” I asked

“He’s got the greatest day job in the world. He’s the President’s joke writer.”


“When he doesn’t want to answer something at a press conference, avoid strait answers, Jack feeds him the lines. I hear Reagan had 50 of them working for him.” Explained the owner

I just found Johnny’s source.

When I told Jack Bird that Entertainment Journal was calling for an interview he responded immediately. I didn’t mention Johnny Dillon.

The interview was scheduled for before breakfast. He needed to meet the President later. It was great for me. Normally I had to wait for dusk to meet a club comic and even then they would still be groggy as they drank their morning coffee.

Jack was bit older than on the tape. His hair was a bit thinner and his face a bit wider, but he still had his bow tie.

“So” I said “You were Johnny Dillon's man on the inside.”

He smiled and leaned back and then took a sip of his coffee.

“I guess someone had to put it together.”

“Ya, you sent him the inside information, he wrote the jokes, and when the government found out they had him killed”

The coloured drained from his face. He leaned over and turned on the tape recorder on the tape recorder on the table. “I want to make sure you get this” he said “#1, fuck you. #2 Johnny wrote nothing. I wrote every one of those jokes. Everything you laughed at, everything you told co-worker about at the water cooler, that was me.”

“So why didn’t the government kill you too?” I asked

Jack threw his arms up in frustrated defeat. “The government doesn’t kill late night comedians.
What kind of journalist are you?”

“I’m not a journalist.” I was an entertainment writer.

“I’m not really a killer either. I can defend my property and those jokes were my property. More valuable that my car or wallet. They were beautiful. You should lay them out on a piece of black felt like a diamond and Johnny would get all coked up and tell them wrong. It was like seeing someone hit your god damn kid. And then he wanted to drop my stuff and start telling his own political shit. He thought Nixon was one of Santa’s reindeer. ”

“Johnny was pushed?” I asked. It sounded sarcastic, like it was reading it off one of those t-shirts but I was sincerely shocked.

“Ya Bernstein” He rolled his eyes.

“But why confess?” I asked “I didn’t put it together.”

“I think I finally deserve some credit here. The one guy that gets close is an idiot that wants to give Johnny all the credit. Johnny was a prop. He told the jokes that the President’s joke writer could never tell. Imagine being the only comedian in the country that couldn’t make fun of that clown.”

“Well, you're going to be out of a job now.” I dialled the police on my phone.

“Thanks,” he said “That’s my time.”

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Deep Joke (Part 1)

This is the first of two excerpts from Deep Joke by Ben Shakey. It will be published by Mark Katz Press in April 2009

I am not a journalist.

I am an entertainment writer.

I ask questions like “How did you prepare for being a pirate?” or “What was it like filming in Canada?” or “What makes you laugh?”

I don’t ask for the truth and don’t even want it.

I forgot that I even went to school to learn to ask questions until Johnny Dillon threw himself off his hotel room balcony and onto the valet sandwich board.

My interview regarding Johnny’s stand-up special was scheduled for that morning I arrived about 3 lines of coke and 30 odd floors too late.

“If you arrived 15 minutes earlier it would be his last interview” bitched my editor.
Entertainment Journal love dead people. There are so many dead people on the cover it ought to be called Entertainment Graveyard. “We need to put together a career overview to fill the space. You got all the notes on him. See what we can pull from this shit pile.”

When writing a tribute piece you need comments so gushy and soft they can barley fit between quotation marks without pouring down the page. The moderator of his official fan page would be a good start.

The fan boy was a college kid. Most of his fans were in college. They were just figuring out the world and what they were figuring out is that it wasn’t fair.

Johnny announced that the world wasn’t fair in the most caustically funny way possible without actually throwing a temper tantrum.

“Johnny was like, the perfect journalist” said the fan boy. “ He could give you the fact but he could say that this is fucked up. If Tom Brokaw could end the evening news by saying ‘everything is fucked, trust no one’ we wouldn’t need a Johnny Brokaw.

Johnny’s career was based on him telling the truth, I guess. He mostly just complained about the President. The President was a comedian’s wet dream. He was embroiled in an unwanted war, a financial crisis, and a sex scandal. He had a bizarre Boston accent that made impressions of him very easy and he had no control of his hands. At least once at every public appearance he would drop something or trip. He was sworn in with a mustard stain on his shirt.

Johnny moved beyond the superficial attacks on the Presidents appearance though. He made intelligent political observations and then wrapped them up in dirty jokes.

There was a reason that a young activist poli sci student was running his fan page.

“Johnny never backed down. He was afraid of nothing” said the fan boy.

“He was afraid of something. Not heights, but let’s not glamorize this. He was afraid of living.”

“He never jumped. He was murdered.”

Of course, here we go. A guy like Johnny kills himself and the conspiracy theories explode. By this time tomorrow the head shops will be full of “Johnny was pushed” t-shirts.

“I saw the hotel room. I was there to interview him. It was covered in half snorted lines of blow and empty vodka bottles, and the weirdest thing was a stack of porn the height of me.”

“But you didn’t see this.” Said the fan boy “he turned to his dorm room computer and loaded a video clip. “This is his last performance.”

Johnny staggered around the stage like he was tacking on the deck of an America’s Cup entry. He was dressed all in black, like a jester Johnny Cash, with the dark colours trying to hide a beer gut. He held the mic too close to his mouth and I could hear him breathing into it.

“The president has announced that schools should not only teach an alternative philosophy to evolution but to Copernicus as well. I think in his version it’s not just earth, but actually America, that’s the center of the fucking universe.”

I guess it could have been funny if he didn’t slur the punch line. So far the footage supported my theory more than fanboy’s.

“So,” I said “You think that the creationists killed him.”

“That performance was 3 days before the President announced his terracentric policy. Johnny knew too much.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Like a Drown’d Man, a Fool, and a Madman

The following excerpt is from Like a Drown’d Man, a Fool, and a Madman by Ben Shakey. It will be published by Oldcastle Books in April 2009

“Hello my name is Falstaff and I have been sober for a fortnight.

This isn’t long to most people, not even the length of a moon’s phase, but it is the longest dry spell in my memory.

I remember my first drink though. I carried a bucket of ale to my father and his friends roasting fish on the shoreline. People rarely think of me as a fisherman’s son and even then I was out of place. I was an awkward, chubby lad and they teased that I would fall in the other fishermen would think I was a fatty seal stealing their catch.

Carrying the Ale, I drank some, and was smelling drunk by arrival. I told my father I spilled most of the bucket. He laughed and said I spilled most down my throat. My mother started wailing that father was leading me down his same crooked path and then he yelled at her and I cried and then she cried and we all staggered about drunk and the others at the meal yelled that we were all here for merriment and then I sang and danced and everyone said my good cheer and entertainment saved the evening.

So that was that.

Alcohol opened the curtains to drama and comedy and song and attention heaped on me. It was everything found in one of those Shakespeare plays I appeared in but in convenient elixir form.
Or used to appear in. I don’t see Will much anymore. He used to talk to me and set my tales in his plays.

I don’t see the people I used to. I used to be friends of royalty and upper crusts but lately the people I see on a regular basis are not the people I call friends. The people I see are not even people I particularly enjoy being around. They are merely people that will drink with me.

But I didn’t care as long as there were drinks. I once brought life to the tale of the Merry Wives of Windsor but by Henry V I am barely a passing reference. I didn’t even care to meet Will and load him with tales for that one. I preferred to be drinking.

Nor was I missed. I was ale itself. Liquor embodied. At first lively and celebratory but soon sickening and making your head splinter. I was not a provider the way that water was.

Just ask my son.

I knew for a long while it was time to stop.

I woke with my chest heaving under my own weight and my head cleaved open like it was set on an anvil.

But exiting my house, I didn’t know where to go. Every day I visited the public house. I sang there and joked there. What else do I do? I am Falstaff and as if to confirm this fact the moment I entered the Tavern people shouted my name and thrust drinks in my open hands.

One day you’ll wake up dead I thought but drank anyway.

Waking up dead is not just a turn of phrase. Physician often pronounce men and women dead as they are still and unresponsive and even blue long the lips when they are only ill and in a deathlike sleep. They revive in their coffins and scream and scratch at the wood. This is why gypsies and other superstitiously inclined people tell tales of vampires.

I awoke in a coffin. It was dark as death’s cloak and due to my girth I could not move my arms or legs more than a few inches.

So many people are buried alive due to this mistake that corpses are suppressed with a string tried around their wrist so that as they struggle the string will pull a bell tied to their tombstone and alert the gravedigger to release them.

I felt the string and pulled and pulled. The bell was surely ringing. Nobody came.

I pulled more and more but there was no noise from above. Perhaps my large size filled the coffin so much that I could not move enough to ring the bell.

I tried not to panic but started swinging my arm wildly and tore my skin against the wooden box.

All I thought was, I need a drink.

Finally I heard the shovels move through the dirt above me and I was saved by the bell.

“Where were you?” I asked the digger “Were you not on graveyard shift listening for the chimes?”

“I was sir,” he said “But you being Falstaff, your death seemed so probable that I monitored other portions of the yard.”

I couldn’t argue.

I walked home. It was a beautiful English morning. I had not seen morning for some time and lying in the darkness of the coffin I assumed it was blackest midnight.

Songbirds sang. The sunlight fell with an almost physical, tangible weight.

I was granted the gift of a second life. I returned from death. This of course, meant that I could get a drink. Lazarus was buying.

I entered the darkness of the pub.

“Well, you look like the departed Sir Falstaff!” said a regular at the bar.

“Just like him,” I said “A real dead ringer” and we cheered in laughter.

“Then let me buy you a drink!”

I told the story of the coffin several times as more drunkenness arrived. I must say that the tale improved as the liquor contributed to its construction.

“My funeral must have been something. What did Shakespeare say?”

“He never attended” It turned out the King did neither. Only wife and my son, who cried and I that point still thought me dead. I went for a drink without even thinking to inform him of my resurrection.

“What did you fellows say?”

“Oh we never attended either. We came here and drank a toast in your honour.”

Everyday there was something to toast. I knew that toasts and often lead.

No one attended my funeral. No took a day of the drink for my death. Not even me.

I had the gift of life and spent the morning drunk.

I looked around the pub.

Outside were sunshine and green trees and in here was as shadowed as in a coffin.

The regular’s eyes were as lifeless as vampires.

That was a fortnight ago.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

BEAT MAIL: e-mail from my mother that looks like Beat Poetry

The following excerpt is from BEAT MAIL: e-mail from my mother that looks like Beat Poetry. It will be published by Cut – Up Books in April 2009


Thanks so much for the cute picture of Grandson painting
He is growing toooooo fast! & is so cute
Unfortunately couldn't open the others
Rode route 66 today & went to a place back in time called Oatmen
Wait till you see the pictures, was fun
Wild burro's quite tamed now all over the main dirt street as people can buy carrot's & feed them
Really have to watch where you step
& then there's the gunfight that takes place on the street
Will see you soon Head home Friday
Glad all is well with all of you

Monday, March 2, 2009

Bill Murray In Paris

The following is an excerpt from Bill Murray In Paris by Ben Shakey. It will be published by Jefferson Books in April 2009

A single sheet of paper hung from the classroom door.



The other students seemed happy or relieved.

‘I didn’t come here to impress my parents or to feel grown up. This is for my enjoyment. I’m figuring stuff out. I don’t care about what they think. I don’t care about Hollywood or Box Office or Awards. ‘ he thought.

He stomped down the front steps. Students and pigeons scattered in fear.

He marched towards the Metro. “I’ll study at home then.’ He thought.

The sun was almost directly overhead. There was still half the day left. At the French language class that morning he felt productive but it was the philosophy classes where he really felt inspired.

His French was more functional now.

“Excellent” said the instructor “But there is a slight problem with your accent. Although you pronounce everything correctly, you make everything sound like a joke. Even a plain and straight forward sentence sounds funny from you.”

“No, I have the same problem in English.”

She laughed.

“See what I mean. “ He said.

It was noon and he was hungry, maybe a baguette at the bakery. They cost mere pocket change but when they were fresh and crusty and pulled right off the bakery shelf they tasted better than anything at the fine, fine restaurants he had eaten at and could never have imagined himself in while working through school as a caddy.

No bakery in sight, he sat down at a cafe and ordered a quiche and a glass of wine. It was a spring day in Paris and he was eating rich cheese and mushroom and pastry on the boulevard and Bossa Nova music was playing and a beautiful French woman walked past in capris and a t shirt, swinging her hips like something out of Goddard movie.

Maybe there were worse things than wasting an afternoon in Paris.

On the wall was a photo of Hemmingway sitting at the bar. The first time he sat at a restaurant where Papa drank it was thrilling, like pulling up a chair to the movable feast, but after a few months in Paris it seemed that every bar or restaurant had a legitimate claim to Earnest drinking there.

“That man was drunk” He declared and ordered another glass of wine and contemplated growing a beard.

He read more and basked in the sun. A man in a very skinny tie let his dog crap on the sidewalk in front of him. Here it felt charming yet it would have been disgusting in Chicago.

“Are you....” asked the waiter and his voice trailed off.

“Non” he answered in French. The waiter laughed. Maybe he was funnier in French.

“Well, the owner would like the Ghost Buster to have a complimentary bottle of wine.”

“Mais Oui, then I am him” he said.

He drank and read and left a large tip.

He was not on TV here so he was recognized less which meant there were even less perks which made them fun again.

The wine may have affected his next move.

He bought a beret which on him looked rumpled and hilarious but he enjoyed it and to most people he just looked like an eccentric expat which he was.

In the plaza a silver robot man competed for spare change but the real entertainment began when a couple of school kids ran to the fountain and poured in liquid dish soap and within a minute the water churned it into a mountainous pile of white sudsy foam.

He laughed and decided to sit for a sketch by a struggling artist who drew charcoal portraits of tourists to pay the rent.

They talked about his studies at the Sorbonne and his love of Gurdjieff.

The artist studied in Spain, loved Picasso, but lately felt himself drawn to Dali and frequented the museum of his work here in Paris.

“Realism is less appealing as you get older?” He asked the artist.

“No, as I get older I see that the world is more surreal and this art is therefore more realistic.”
They looked at the fountain of soapsuds and laughed.

The caricature was complete. He was in a beret. His face was round and pockmarked. His bottom lip protruded slightly, not exactly pouting but not really grinning. His blank glassy eyes took in the surrealism of the Dali world.

The artist hung up charcoal drawings of celebrities around his chair in the plaza. It advertised his ability to render people and he used well known faces to illustrate this. There was Chaplin, Elvis, and Marilyn Monroe and in pork pie hats and dark glasses were John and Danny doing their Blues Brothers thing.

He paid for the picture and then let the artist keep it so he could hang it next to the others.

The surrealist cartoon was very realistic.
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