Sunday, May 12, 2013

109. "a sensitive guy"

by Horace P. Sternwall

edited by Dan Leo* 

illustrations by danny delacroix and eddie el greco

*Associate Professor of Speculative and Fantastic Literature, Assistant Checkers Club Coach, Olney Community College; editor of Love Is Like a Sock on the Jaw: The Love Poems of Horace P. Sternwall, Vol. 1, with an Afterword by W.H. Auden; Olney Community College Press.

for previous chapter, click here

to begin at the beginning, click here

click here for synopsis of all chapters so far

Meet Mack Treacher, international tough guy. 

Interplanetary, intergalactic, time-traveling freebooting soldier of fortune. 

Needless to say, an ex-Navy SEAL. 

But nonetheless a sensitive guy. 

Hey, he plays the blues violin. 

He likes to play the deep plangent dark-blue blues, the sad Negro blues of the black night of lost souls everywhere, and he likes to play them late at night in his lonely shack up in the Sierras. 

Also Mack Treacher has, or had, a drinking problem. 

And a teenage daughter who hates his guts. 

And an ex-pornstar ex-wife who double-crossed him by sleeping with what Mack thought was his best friend, Chad Chadwicke, a former Navy SEAL and now an elegant international hit man. And then his bitch wife had screwed over both Chad and Mack by taking off with a traveling evangelist by the name of the Right Reverend Dr. Moses X. Moses. 

The Reverend Moses had gotten dumped too, and then his wife had joined the San Francisco police force and risen quickly to detective and then to head of the Homicide Squad. 

Only in Frisco. 

Mack hated Frisco…

Mack Treacher had brawled and shot and knifed and clubbed his way through wars and insurrections and dirty black-op missions in thirty-two countries, six dimensions, four planets and a dozen different eras going back to the time of the ancient Romans (The Colosseum Caper) to the Seventh Interplanetary Walmart Reich  of the 26th century (The Walmart Insurrection).

His bulky but muscular body was covered in scars, as was his tortured soul, on account of all he had seen, and done, and had done to him.

Mack Treacher was tired. 

Tired of the bloodshed, tired of the machinations of crooked politicians and career-mad generals and admirals. Tired of missions that got so fouled-up and complicated that even he couldn’t follow the plot of the adventure.


Sick and tired.

He wanted to retire, to live a simple life, to play his blues violin and hope against hope that someday his daughter wouldn’t hate him so much.

But unfortunately the only thing Mack was really good at was fighting, killing, kicking ass, and getting into and out of deadly situations by the skin of his teeth. 

Another problem was that Mack was really bad with money. He never knew where it all went. The blues bar he’d tried to start in Beverly Hills, the safari service in Rwanda, the backpacking tour business in Afghanistan, his chicken ranch in the Hollywood hills, they had all gone bust, and so he always had to take that one last job. 

And then another job.

And then another last job.

And so on.  

Yes, Mack’s life was not an easy one, and as he eased his great manly bulk onto a barstool at the Prince Hal Room of the Hotel St Crispian, he thought he could really go for a stiff rum-and-coke, also known as a Cuba Libre, a drink that brought back memories of that fiery Cuban rebel vixen, Pilar. 

“Pilar La Sanguinolenta” the peasants called her, and not without reason. 

It was said that she drank the blood of the enemies of the revolucion, and Mack of course had at first thought this was hyperbole. 

Yes, that was what he had thought at first. Until the time that Pilar decided that Mack was an enemy of the revolucion and had come at him with her razor-sharp machete.

Mack had no recourse but to put a .45 slug through Pilar’s pretty little head, thereby proving perhaps that he was, indeed, an enemy of the revolucion. 

And that was just another bad memory he had to live with.

The bartender came over to Mack.

“May I help you, sir.”

“Yeah, sure, pal.”

"What would you like, sir?”

“What I’d like is a Cuba Libre,” said Mack.

“Right away, sir.”

“But unfortunately,” said Mack, “I am a recovering alcoholic. So instead I’ll have a cup of coffee. What kind do you have?”

“We serve Chase & Sanborn coffee, sir, and also Sanka.”

“No French roast, no Brazilian, no Kenyan?”

“Just Chase & Sanborn and Sanka, sir.”

“Chase & Sanborn. And Sanka.”

“Yes, sir.”

“So I guess some Rwandan Nyamasheke or maybe some Salvadoran Santa Marta Gold is out of the question.”

“I’m afraid so, sir.”

“All right, I guess I’ll take the Chase & Sanborn then.”

“Cream and sugar, sir?”

“No, I like my coffee black, like my women.”

“Ha ha, sir.”

The bartender went away and Mack looked around the bar. He was looking for two aliens, supposedly going by the names of Burgoyne and O’Toole. The Professor had said they would be here tonight, but so far he couldn’t see anyone who looked like the photographs he had studied. 

But they were here all right. Mack could smell them. That alien smell. They were around here somewhere. And when Mack found them he was going to put a .45 slug in both of their brainpans.

Not that he himself had anything against aliens per se, but he had a job to do.

If Mack didn’t stop these two aliens now the entire course of human history might be changed, and maybe not for the better, either.

But after he found these two aliens and plugged them, that was it, he was through with killing, and not just through with killing aliens, but humans, too.

This was the last job. But for real the last job this time.

Not like the last job before this one or the last job before that one, or the one previous to that one, or the five or six last jobs preceding that one. 

This one would really be the last job.

Or so he hoped.

Mack took out a pack of Camels, ripped it open, and popped one into his battle-scarred thin lips. He lit himself up with his Zippo, his lucky Zippo that had accompanied him through all those savage bloody worlds and dimensions and times, and he took a good drag and felt that old familiar almost orgasmic burn in the back of his throat. These things would kill him someday, unless he could survive until the 23rd century, when cancer would finally be cured and everybody smoked happily away like maniacs from morning to night. 

“Your coffee, sir,” said the bartender, laying the cup and saucer in front of Mack.

“What’d you do, go to the steamy jungles of Indonesia and fight your way through a bloodthirsty army of native rebels to get it?”

“No, sir, I was waiting for a fresh pot to finish percolating.”

“Gee thanks, pal. I spoke out of turn. I’m like that. I get antsy sometimes on account of all I’ve seen and done, and had done to me.”

“Of course, sir. That will be a dime, please.”

“Ten cents, huh.”

“One dime, sir, and endless refills.”

“Sweet,” said Mack. 

He reached into the pocket of his gunpowder-blue suit trousers pocket and brought out a handful of change. He picked out a quarter and laid it on the bar.

“Keep the change, pal,” he said. “Take care of me, and there’ll be plenty more where that came from.”

“Thank you very much, sir,” said the bartender, and he picked up the quarter and headed for the cash register.

Mack picked up the cup of coffee and smelled its aroma. To tell the truth he couldn’t tell one cup of coffee from another. His nose had been broken too many times, and he had sinus trouble.

He took a sip, and it was good.

(To be continued. Be sure to tune into The Adventures of Mack Treacher, Tuesdays at 10pm (EST) on the Dumont Television Network, brought to you by the Chase & Sanborn Coffee Company, and hosted by Edward Everett Horton.)

110. a pair of brown shoes

No comments: