Chapter 4 A Different Kind of Style

The reef, and the white sand, and the sparkling water, and the Caribbean trees were almost enough to forget death. Horse racing and polo punctured the air. It was a big island. Gregson knew he wouldn’t be murdered in the sunshine.

“Care for a picnic?” He asked Tiffany.

“Yes,” she smiled.

They walked down the dock to the arena.

“Horses,” Gregson said. “Two.”

“Dos Caballos,” a boy yelled.

“Your fittest, if you have ’em.”

“Si, Senior.”

Gregson looked half cowboy, maybe Hawaiian cowboy. His hula shirt and tan shorts didn’t go well with his sombrero, but the benefits of being a life-time bachelor were that he could be whomever he wanted to be.

“You don’t wear clothes well,” Tiffany said.

“Uh, hu,” Gregson grunted.

“A hallmark of a man’s style is his watch and his shirt. You can tell a lot by how a man dresses.”

Gregson looked at her.

She was a young woman and he was much older. He admired her hooks and screws. Younger men were probably tortured by her advice and they changed. She turned them into ideal men.

Gregson smiled a deep smile that penetrated his insides. He had style; a different kind of style.

“I know you,” Tiffany said, “but what are you smiling about?”

“The trail is long and the adventure is near,” Gregson said. He kneed his horse and the galloping began. His shirt blew in the breeze and Tiffany spotted a silver six-shooter fastened to his hip. Their horses followed island trails, churning up dust, and breathing volcanic fire.

Chapter 3 Die and Find Out

In death, a man knows who he is, or maybe not; the only way is to die and find out.

“I won’t talk,” Gregson said.

“Then out the window,” the skeleton sneered. A silver Derringer pointed at Gregson’s chest.

Gravity or the gun? Gregson had to choose. He dove, hoping to see blue.

POP. POP. He felt red.

When he hit the water, he used up one of his nine lives. Cats don’t like water and Gregson shook himself off. There would be no cat naps this evening. Midnight turned into morning.

Voodoo Sands was advertised as a pleasure cruise full of comfort and mind-expanding serenity, but Gregson felt half dead. He staggered past pot smoking halls where fogged up windows looked like confused brains. His crimson blood dripped on the white carpet when an arm grabbed him from behind. It was slender and strong. Tiffany led him to her bed and he flopped on it like a beached whale.

“You’re lucky,” she said. Scissors cut his suit and alcohol sterilized his wound. “It went straight through. You’re lucky.”

“You keep saying that,” Gregson said.

She closed the hole.

“Now, how are you mixed up with that skeleton?”

“You’re better off if you don’t know.”

“Really? I was just thrown out of a five-story window.”

Gregson felt a hypodermic on his neck. “Tell me the truth.”

“Drugs and death don’t influence me and what I know is only a smoke screen.”

“Tell me.” He felt the prick of the needle.

“I’m hired for security on this diamond cruise, but I don’t think the skeleton is planning a jewel heist. He’s far more subtle, in an unsubtle way, if you catch my drift.”

“Possibly; so, what’s your next move?”

“Play it cool; we’ll let death deal the next hand.”

Chapter 2 The Game Begins

Gregson dried himself.

“Poker is a game best played at night,” he said. He toweled up and went to the locker room. “I’ve got to lose weight. I can’t even see my junk.” Gregson walked to the deck. A runner ran past. “Why do people obsess about health on vacation?” He smelled fresh onion rings and stopped.

Gregson was in communist waters, the house picked his pocket, money couldn’t buy happiness, but none of that mattered. The food was good and he longed for the roll of the dice. Risk. The battle of wits. Life can’t be won, but he could win before he lost. He walked to the casino. The game was just getting started. Gregson eyed the players. They looked like the typical sort, crabs without shells, wearing gold chains, with beady eyes, and cocaine courage. One man stood out. He had Caribbean skin, but his dark pallor had a pale quality. His eyes were red, not blood shot, but laser like; they could see past your face and into your hand. Uncommonly tall, he was like a skeleton wrapped in flesh.

“Does poker amuse you,” he asked in a baritone voice.

Gregson glanced at his top hat. “We’ll see,” he said. “Deal me in.”

The game went slow. Flop. Turn. River.

“Fold. Fold. Fold,” Gregson said.

“You are not a risk taker. You must take risks to win.”

“Poker is about players,” Gregson said. “I think you know that.”

The skeleton smirked and the game continued.

“Raise,” Gregson said. The skeleton’s laser eyes looked across the room.

“Re-raise,” it said, grinning. The skeleton puffed smoke like hell was letting off steam.

Tiffany walked by the table in a poisonous green dress. Her tanned skin popped. Most women can’t wear clothes like that, Gregson thought.

“Excuse me sir, the bet is 50,000; do you want to call?”

Gregson’s mind returned to the game.

“Call,” he said.

“Cards,” demanded the dealer.

“A full house from the man with the top hat. And you sir?”

“A strait flush, Jack high,” Gregson said.

“The pot goes to you.”

“Another game?” Asked the skeleton.

“The trick is to quit while you’re ahead,” Gregson said. He walked out of the room with a smile on his face.

He ventured under the Caribbean stars that had seen pirates and lonely PIs.

Gregson strolled to his room. There was Tiffany, half-dressed in black panties. But he wasn’t looking at her skin. It was her eyes. They were terrified.

CRACK. He got hit from behind. BLACK OUT.

When Gregson came to, a thick beast was preparing to push Tiffany out the window.

“What brought you here?” The skeleton demanded. It walked out of the closet.

“Booze, women, and dice; what else?” Gregson asked.

The skeleton nodded and the beast pushed Tiffany out the window.

Her screams pierced the night. SPLASH.

“Nice shot,” Gregson said.

“I wasn’t aiming for the swimming pool.”

“Now tell me what I want to hear,” the skeleton demanded.

A Forgetful Library Turtle

I walked into the library and never walked out.

Moms chase their children.

Bums come in from the cold.

Dregs plug in.

Some have opiate stares and tired alcoholic eyes.

Anonymous philosophers pick books off the shelves.

It’s humanity brought down to size.

“I believe I have a book back there.”

“Let me check… Yes, you have Bukowski back here,” the librarian said.

“Well… bring ‘im out.”

“I’ll need to see your card.”

I hand it to her.

“Oh, you’ve had this since you were a baby. 00 is on the account.”

I carry places with me,

like a library on my back.

It gets heavier,

until I have to let books go.

My library gets bigger,

but I shrug off the weight

and keep hauling words;

they’re precious to me.

I’ve had this personality,

that doesn’t believe in finality;

it lingers on people and places.

One day, I’ll shrug off my shell.

And amnesia will take me…

somewhere else.

The “Something” in Writing

There is something in writing.

You can tell when someone does it to entertain

or does it not to be bored,

or does it for love.

There is emotion there.

Maybe there is emotion in paint too.

It’s a joy to read someone’s joy

or sadness,

something real.

It’s a frightful bore

to read anything else.

The greats know this and learn to love their craft.

A writer must learn to love themselves

if they want to do it

for a career.

Sure,

there are pretenders,

some even make it big,

but the greats

who become legends

find a quiet room

and type.

God… they love it!

If you’ve met one,

that’s all you need.

Ambition gets in the way

of everything else.

Chapter 1 Caribbean Hustle

Gregson watched the park from his apartment window; the fog rolled in and the fog rolled out. Chess pieces were getting rained on; the players had left. Gregson smiled. He sipped his coffee and watched from a distance. Reality needed him, but he didn’t need reality. Deep down, Gregson wanted to be fooled. Most crime was too commonplace. He crumpled the advertisement for the Caribbean Cruise.

“I guess I’ll go,” he said.

The flight was tedious. The people were impatient. Boredom was killing him. If the ship lacked intrigue, he didn’t know what he would do. Gamble. Drink. Eat Seafood. What else was there? His flight landed in Texas and he boarded Voodoo Sands for Haiti. It was five stories of entertainment. He stripped down to his speedo, soaked in a hot tub, and drank Budweiser. It was hurricane season, but he didn’t worry about that; the winds favored him.

“Are you here for the tournament?” A girl asked.

Gregson popped out of his daze like a sunflower seeing the light. “What kind of tournament?”

“Poker; what else?”

“I guess this ship is too small for golf.”

“They have that too, but not until Island 3.”

“Maybe this cruise was worth it,” Gregson said.

“I’m Tiffany; will you spot me 50?”

“What the hell.” Gregson slipped her the bill.

“What’s your room number?” She asked.

“Oh… 665. Why do you ask?”

Just that you might have a surprise waiting for you later this evening.”

Gregson smiled and Tiffany walked away. She had more hustles to make.

Poker took balls to win and Gregson was ready to play.

Epilogue

Gregson didn’t make it past round two. Some overzealous white belt put his arm in a cast. He was in paradise and he couldn’t golf. It was hell in paradise. If he couldn’t golf, he would fish, he would drink like a fish, he would blow smoke and skipper a boat to some godless shore where the sand was warm and his ass could appreciate it.

He laid there, trying to look at the sun. Isolated moments made him feel good. The trees talked to him. He glanced at a fiddler crab. Gregson had things in common with the shore. It was an island unto itself. If he stayed, nothing mattered. If he left, the wants of the world were waiting for him. He got up.

“Where are you going old man?” He felt her naked skin on his back. “Stay here with me.”

Gregson didn’t look. His purpose was his own; some things can’t be given away.

Women won’t wait and neither will the world, even though everybody seems to be waiting. Waiting to live and waiting to die.

Gregson left the shore. He wouldn’t wait a second longer.

THE END

Chapter 7 Fooled by a Woman

Inside Gregson’s mind there was a switch. It seldom got used; most people doubted it was even there, but when that switch got pulled, he became something not even he understood.

“More hotdogs…!” The fry cook screamed. “Ready on my mark… Go!”

Gregson put those dogs into his food chipper and watched the Sumo-child doing the same. They smiled at each other, as one belly grew larger than the other. It was a race for space or a space race inside their tummies. Gregson’s second mind was in his gut. He used it constantly. When it got stretched, he became creative. When it was full, he could solve crime. Insights were flooding through his body as the dogs chased each other, looking for space.

“Ruff…ruff,” Gregson chortled.

“What’s wrong with you?” The fry cook asked.

“You become what you eat,” Gregson said.

The Sumo son looked confused and then he got it. He laughed and laughed until the dogs ran out of his mouth.

“Okay…you win!” The fry cook said. “Nobody take the title from my son until now.”

Gregson wiped his mouth and shook his hand. Then he entered the arena.

Jackson was throwing contestants like rag dolls. Gregson looked for familiar faces from Muscles and Thongs. They were all there, competing. He decided to do the same. Gregson had some weight on the first chap, complements of the hot dogs. His opponent tried to take him to the floor and Gregson sat on him.

“You’re out!” The referee said. Gregson progressed to the next round.

Suddenly, he heard sirens. “That’s the bank from upstairs,” a security guard said. Gregson couldn’t figure it; all suspects were accounted for. He rushed to the fire escape to get to the roof. A figure in black jumped and he recognized her sensuous curves and curly brown hair.

Liz flew away; she was lighter than air; a woman fooled him again.

Chapter 1 Career Crash

I didn’t know what I was doing. I went to Hollywood to be a screen writer and had success. They were shipping us up to Alaska, the great wilderness that old men wanted to go to and consequently stayed away from. Why was I going there? I was letting the career do the talking or so I hoped. I went from large plane, to small plane, to even smaller plane. One guy looked like a bible salesman. I was surprised to see him reading Fredrick Nietzsche. A rock star was sitting next to me with a bible open. I guess the spiritually sick need God. The woman across from me was fine. Must’ve been a stunt double for the lead actress, but she didn’t talk.

I’m a nice enough guy, maybe a bit insecure, but I like conversation every once and awhile. I like to see who’s around me, but nobody was saying anything, so I pulled out my own book, Surviving the Outdoors. It seemed appropriate since I was headed for “The Bush.” It could get light and dark for 24 hours. It was an unnatural place seated in the heart of nature. Something curious; I’ve always liked to be prepared, though I was never a boy scout.

Our pilot was taking us between mountains where the air was insecure. We kept falling two or three feet. Then we dropped like a rock through a swarm of seagulls and the engines blew up. The girl’s eyes were rolling up inside her head; they’d done that before, I was sure. The bible salesman didn’t look like a superman. His head was between his legs. The Rockstar was praying out loud. And the pilot was dead or at least I thought so. There were guts on the windshield, but they could have belonged to the birds. I noticed the sky turning into green and brown; we were going to crash.

I Became My Drive

Sometimes we get empty

like a battered car

without gas

My first car was a truck that belonged to my depressed dad

Before he owned it,

it belonged to my Aunt

who is 92.

When I got it

my friend told me

“This truck is so you.”

“Really?” I said. “It belonged to my Aunt who is 92.”

SILENCE.

It’s true. You can tell a lot by the cars people drive,

especially if they’ve owned them for a long time

It took years for me to fall in love with my truck

Maybe arranged marriages can work

I cursed it for years

My dad got a truck from his dad

just like me

And if I complained, my parents said

“This is just the way it has to be.”

“We didn’t have it so great either, so…”

“But what about progress?” I asked.

As time went on

I came to love

the smashed bumper

broken taillights

lock that wouldn’t open

and

rotten smells

inside

“Nice truck,” a man said.

He saw me step out

in professional clothes

“Thanks,” I offered.

His sarcasm

stoked

my rebellion

like gasoline

and I realized…

my imperfections

gave me power

like my truck

and

I became

my drive.