Hell’s Chronicles XIV: The Rum Crisis

“Hey Amy! Does Hitler still work down at that comedy club?”, Hemingway bellowed, a little more gruffly than intended.

What a sod! Why does ‘e do that? Use the bloody intercom! ” I dunno, guv. Wotcher want with ‘im?” Amy noted that Papa seemed a little grumpy today.

“Bah! Fuck it! I hope you were one hell of a singer Amy because you just plain suck shit as a secretary! I’m going over to Tupac’s crib!”

“Yeah!? Well wha’ ’bout ‘itler, then?”

“Fuck Hitler.  You know what an Austrian is Amy? An Austrian is an inbred, low IQ German with a penchant for fucking goats.”

“Oi! Wha’ crawled up yer arse t’day guv!?”

Ernie drew in a deep breath and exhaled very slowly. He willed his pulse to slow. Get a grip on yourself, man! You’re on edge. “You’re right, Amy. I do apologize.”

Suddenly she understood what was going on. She had seen him like this on one other occasion. ” Outta rum again, are we?”

Ernie just growled and headed out, saying something vaguely sounding like “see you later” as his footfalls carried away into the hall beyond. Yes. The rum was gone. This did not bode well for any, least of all himself. Of all the times to run out too. The boss had gone to Hanoi to look in on the summit. At first Ernie had been relieved to hear that the meeting had ended abruptly. That was until he learned that the boss was driving the bus back to North Korea with L’il Kim. Ernie wasn’t the least bit concerned with Kim or the NorKos. There were weightier matters on his plate.

Most of the residents of Hell are blissfully unaware of the goings on of the overworld. They are either contented in their damnation or too consumed by their own miseries. As a part of the management team, however, Ernie and a select few others within the organization were privy to reports from above.  These were unfiltered, raw data just to tell what was actually happening without any judgments or blame: something within reasonable proximity of the truth.  This information was vital to the smooth and uninterrupted operation of the domain, if for no other reason than to gauge what level of human (and beaver) volume was in the proverbial pipeline. This was epitomized in a plaque hanging in the boss’ office, a gift from Plato actually and carved in the original Greek: Kaneis den skopevai na apotychei, apla den borei na schediasei. Etsi eimaste edo. Ernie did not know Greek, but understood this to translate roughly as “No one plans on failure, only fails to plan, and this is why we are here”.  He had never stopped to ponder if Plato had reached this conclusion pre or post Hell.

Among the current set of reports there were two “hot spots” worthy of continued close attention.  First there was the mounting crisis in Venezuela. Any day now a desperate plea from Maduro to cut a deal with the Devil was anticipated. Until then the tide of Venezuelan entries continued to rise. The other more recent, and potentially much more disruptive situation to develop, was the escalation of the ever present tensions between India and Pakistan. He shuddered to think what Kinison would do with the sudden influx of brown people, a demographic segment which already weighed heavily on their resources. These were but “big picture” matters, those which might be shared or discussed with any member of Hell’s administrative team. As chief of staff Ernie had access to secret files that ordinarily only the boss would see. In the midst of this latest rum crisis some very concerning reports of this nature fell into his possession.

When Ernie had first arrived in Hell he was like most new arrivals: not horribly surprised at finding himself there, but utterly clueless as to how things might unfold. Arriving in Hell is different for each individual, all bringing with them the assumptions and prejudices attached with their place and time on earth. Like most contemporaries of the 20th century Hemingway had formed some fairly strong opinions concern Herr Hitler. This was one of those extraordinarily rare instances when a case of moral superiority would raise it’s ugly head in this, the domain of eternal damnation. Given his life experience it was natural for him, as a new arrival, to surmise that while he might be in Hell for his own sins, surely these paled in comparison to those of der Fuehrer. Imagine his shock then, to discover that Hitler had ascended within the hierarchy of the underworld to the rank of Chief of Staff.

Ernie had made the necessary adjustments. He learned to have a feel for how things operated and found that he was quite capable of navigating this afterlife comfortably. He’d never had any ambitions for this position, nor had he harbored any real ill will to his predecessor. Hitler still disgusted him, to be sure, but he had long before accepted the fact that he and the once supreme leader of the Third Reich were on a completely equal footing here: they were each just one more lump of shit in the Devil’s menagerie. Now he found himself in the uncomfortable position of needing to confer a level of professional courtesy to a man he must regard as a peer. Ernie’s authority to view the most secret of files further permitted him to dive deep into the backgrounds of those identified. It was this, a most obscure discovery while examining recent reports, that forced his hand to this most lamentable of duties. In the absence of rum to steel the will he sought the pharmacological services of Tupac.

He had ventured out this day in possession of a cane. Not that he actually needed it, more of an affectation really. It was a smart accessory to balance his white hat. Strolling up to the entry of Tupac’s suite Ernie extended the cane to rap violently on the door, bellowing ” Yo Tupac! What up my nigga?”

From the other side of the door returned, ” It’s open, motherfuckah! Bring your sorry white ass in here!”

Ernie chuckled to himself, reached the door and stepped inside. There, around a felt topped card table, sat Tupac, Kurt Cobain and Dr. Louis Leakey. Dr. Leakey was shuffling a deck of cards and absently looked up to acknowledge his entrance.

“Da OG in da house! What up OG?”, Tupac cried out.

Ernie just smirked slightly in response and eyed the table as Dr. Leakey continued shuffling the deck. ” What are you fellas playin’ for?”

Cobain lifted his head in a thick cloud from a large, cobalt blue bong in his lap. ” Not playin’ for anything man. Just chillin’ out.”

Leakey finally set down the deck of cards, leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs. He nudged his eyeglasses up to the bridge of his nose and addressed Hemingway. ” Ah! Ernest! Good to see you again. I was just sharing an account of one of my early anthropological studies with these gentlemen.”

Hemingway’s head was really throbbing now. The rum deprivation was taking its toll. He was not well acquainted with the Doctor and in his current condition he was finding him rather off-putting. He had never had much of an ear – or stomach – for academic types. The two of them stood eyeing each other in an awkward silence for a few tense moments until Ernie moved to take a seat at the table with them. Once settled he placed his cane between his knees and, while the three others looked on in a nervous silence, he began to turn the handle of his cane counterclockwise until it detached roughly four inches from the top. He then let the shaft fall to the floor, popped a cap off of the end of the handle and placed it on the table directly in front of Tupac.

“Why don’t you go ahead and load me up there, Tupac. As far as social calls go this one is going to be brief.”

Tupac eyed Hemingway with some skepticism. It would not have been the first time that the OG had come up in his crib frontin’ some bull shit and then laugh at your sorry ass when you didn’t see it comin’!  He examined the cane handle more closely and discovered that it actually encased a very finely crafted pipe. Recessed below the threads where it came unscrewed from the shaft there rested a screened bowl large enough for at least a gram of fluffy green. The end of the handle where Hemingway had removed the cap was a stainless steel pipe stem; at the opposite end of the handle was a small hole which served as the carburetor. It brought a grin to his face as he nodded appreciatively at the craftsmanship.

“Yo, G….I gotcha back. You get this motherfucker made down here?”

“What, that? No…I picked that up in Key West on my last trip. I’m sorry Dr. Leakey, please go on with your story.”

From across the table Cobain pushed his bong with a butane lighter to within arm’s reach. ” Here man, go ahead and take a few hits off of this while Tup gets ya fired up.” Ernie accepted this without a word and as he applied a flame Dr. Leakey resumed his narrative.

“Yes, now as I was saying”, continued Dr. Leakey, “I was in the Pacific Northwest to aid in the analysis of a discovery made by a team from the University of Washington. They had found what appeared to be a previously unknown offshoot of the Mahkah tribe of the Olympic peninsula. A dig had uncovered the remnants of a small Amazon community, an exclusively female settlement. In almost every other respect they seemed to exhibit all of the traditional hallmarks of the Mahkah, including their reverence for the whale which was central to their culture. The university team had interpreted the totems found at the site as being a celebration of the whale as a deity. I found that they were not far off of the mark, but that the expression was a bit more nuanced than this. This particular branch of the Mahkah had evolved an interpretation of the spirit as a gradual ascension, rising through the cycles of life again and again until attaining purity in the highest form of life: a being with a twelve foot tongue and the ability to breath through a hole in the top of it’s head.”

If Ernie had but drawn a little harder upon Cobain’s smokeware he would have done a spit take. Choking smoke he half coughed, half laughed.  “Judas Priest Doc! I never figured you for a jokester. You people usually have such a stick up your ass!”

“Oh? What do you mean, you people ?”

“Ah, you know what I mean. Doctors, Scientists, all of you academic types.”

“I see. And what type are you, Ernest?”

“Me? I’m just a drunk who tells good stories.”

Tupac broke in to this discussion here, fearing the two were warming up to some sort of throw down. ” Yo, it’s all good Cuz. We cool. I gotcher Kronic on, G, here ya go!”  The cane handle pipe was returned with a very finely haired bud tamped full into the chamber. “That’s summa dat Carlton Milhouse shit, G. Shit’ll fuck you up, know what I’m sayin’?”

“Well that’s good, Tupac, ’cause let me tell you I could really use this right now.”

From across the table Cobain chimed in, ” Outta rum again, huh?”

Hemingway glared sidelong at him. “Have you bathed since you’ve been here? Bah! Fuckin’ hippie. Yes, we’re out of rum again. I’m pretty certain our shipments are falling prey to piracy. Those sons-a-bitches better hope the navy or coast guard gets to them before I do!”

This was in fact true. The latest shipment had fallen prey to the most brazen and bloodthirsty band of pirates upon the seven seas: the scourge of Tasmania, Miles Cowperthswaite and the crew of The Raging Queen. Some among you may recall their brief appearance on American television in the late 1970s.

“Yo G, spark summa dat shit up. It’ll gitcha feelin’ right, know what I’m sayin’. I take summa dis fo rum any motherfuckin’ day, know what I’m sayin’.”  When the chips were down Tupac always knew the right thing to say. Ernie had never taken that much time to dwell on it before, but he now found himself wondering just what this young man was doing here. He was no trouble, he was well liked….and that was it, wasn’t it? He was just too nice to be here. He took his pipe and flamed the chamber for a deep draft, then as he felt a succession of minor blood vessels burst in his eyes Tupac carried on. ” Tell you what OG, whyncha hang here at da crib, yo? Bing and Bob are comin’ over later wit some coke! We gonna be kickin’ it!”

Ernie barely made out what Tupac was saying. His eardrums were swelling like from a rapid descent in an airliner, the pressure everywhere inside his head expanding. Finally he unlocked his lungs and gradually expelled a plume of smoke, the pressure slowly abated. The sound in the room suddenly changed pitch and volume as though he had just emerged from a deep pool of water, in time only to hear the words “kickin’ it” in the clear.

“Damn, Tup! That is some good shit! Judas Priest! What’d you say this was?”

“Private selection from Carlton motherfuckin’ Milhouse, bitch!”

“Nice.”

“So how ’bout it, OG?”

“How about what?”

“You gonna hang?”

“Oh…I wish I could Tup, truly I do. Unfortunately I have a rather distasteful task I must perform. It’s uh, it’s a protocol thing, really. Not an official duty, more of a professional courtesy.”

“Hold up! Hold up, dat shit right there! That sound like some o-ficial shit to me! I don’t wanna know nothin’ ’bout it. Niggas be gettin’ they junk shot off steppin’ in dat shit, know what I’m sayin. Ya’ll go do what you gotta do, OG. You know where my crib at.”

“Thanks Tupac. You’re a man of sound character, my friend. Dr. Leakey? Cobain? A pleasure, both”, Ernie offered in parting while removing his hat, sweeping it in a broad arc before them as he offered a curt bow. He collected and reassembled his cane, returned the hat to his head and parted without a further word.

Hemingway had found that bearing the responsibility that came with authority was a singular burden: a path that one may only walk alone. Consciously or not, this mindset moved him to take this in it’s literal sense. He often walked alone throughout the realm, usually going completely unnoticed. Rum and walking were the elixirs that helped him attain mental clarity. He was now embarked upon a very lonely walk indeed.

He was discovering that cannabis, or at least this particular iteration of it, was a more than adequate substitute for rum. He had never heard of this “Carlton Milhouse” character and made a mental note to look up his dossier upon his return to the office. Hell has a dossier for every human being that has ever breathed air on planet earth, with one notable exception. For reasons never really made clear there is no file on the American film actor Clifton Webb. Ernie could recall the man and his films and concluded that the only conceivable reason for this omission was just a complete lack of interest: aside from being an answer to a question in some versions of the game Trivial Pursuit, Mr. Webb’s life and career were entirely unremarkable.

After clearing a narrow section dedicated to living quarters Hemingway entered a broad, brown plain reeking of sulfur. With some variations in elevation along his path he was able to view across this expanse. These were the fields of Karmic Regurgitation, where heroin dealers and socialists were suspended under tension by their four quarters above boiling sulfur pits while that which they most desired was dangled before their faces, just beyond reach. For all eternity these souls would know the bitter taste of unfulfilled promise. The worst cases would endure this condition with the added burden of having families of Rhesus monkeys to nest upon their backs. It was indisputably one of the gloomiest quarters in all of Hell.

As Chief of Staff Ernie had certain liberties, among these were the very nearly 100% unfettered access to the domain’s audio/video library.  It was a tool available to him, he was familiar with it’s use and up until only very recently he had admittedly made far less use of it than he could have. Under routine circumstances he would review the day’s “hot files” with the boss, who normally did not require any A/V support for his evaluations. When left on his own to perform these Ernie found that the A/V files were indispensable when confronted with subjects for which he had no context. When he first caught sight of the name recorded on the tab of the day’s action folder it made him think of the famed poet: Ginsberg.

When first lifting the folder he’d had no intent of diving so deep into this file. There was a part of him now that wished he’d never seen any of it. The file contained only a single page, bearing only these scant details:

 

Ginsberg, Joan Ruth (nee Bader)

Associate Justice, US Supreme Court

b. 1933

Date and location of pact:  12 April 1954  Ithaca, NY, USA

eta 6-12 months

VIP class, case critical

 

It wasn’t a lot to go on, but enough to further pique his curiosity. He wasn’t familiar with the name at all. He could easily understand why the imminent demise of a Supreme Court Justice might warrant being placed on the watch list, but case critical? What was so damned special about this old broad? The best clue would be found in the A/V file recorded for the pact. That would not be hard, simply enter date, location and subject name. Within an instant of inputting this data the holoscreen chirped to life, displaying the scene of a smoky suite inside of the Grand Hotel on Cayuga Street on that April night long ago. There was the young Ruth Bader, stripped down to her altogether and contorting herself to accommodate no less than four young black men simultaneously….

Bader:  Come on you schwarzes! Give it to me! I’m not made outta glass!

Musician #1 (in rear entry):  Damn, Ruby! Ya’ll just a little jew girl from Brooklyn! We gonna break ya baby!

Musician #2 (in front entry): Cletus! You ain’t doin’ nuthin’ but standin’ there chokin’ yer chicken while we’s doin’ the work! Git this bitch mo’ o’ dat reefer!

Some of the audio was weak and scratchy. Thank the Devil for closed captioning. The next several minutes of the display had no dialogue, the closed captioning displayed only “panting and grunting sounds”. Then the young Bader dismounted.

Bader: So you think I’m just some little jew girl from Brooklyn, huh! I’m a bad ass jew bitch, that’s what I am fellas! Guess you boys aren’t man enough for this! Some day I’m goin’ down to Hell and I’m gonna find that little prick Hitler and you know what I’m gonna do?I’m gonna rip his nutsack off then I’m gonna stuff both of his balls up his ass!

Aha, thought Hemingway, there’s the rub. That explained the pact. Sort of. The record did not seem complete here. He checked the file and found there was no additional content. At first glance there seemed to be nothing here to support the designation “case critical”. He cued it up again, skipping through the opening. Watching some skinny little jew girl from New York getting plowed in every orifice by coal black dicks the size of billy clubs really wasn’t doing anything for him. He played and replayed the audio several times until something struck him. …then I’m gonna stuff both of his balls up his ass! Could that be it? Were the rumors true? As much as he didn’t want to, he had to find out.

At the end of the fields of Karmic Regurgitation the pathway separated into a fork. To the left a lane entered a gradual descent and a long, slow curve sweeping further left. Ernie recalled this entry as the terminus of a service road leading to the delivery entrance in the rear of No Respect, Hell’s now famous and still only comedy club. His plan was to arrive in advance of peak hours and secure a spot from which he might discreetly observe.  He knew that he would find Hitler there eventually. Finding and approaching him would be no matter. As far as gaining discovery of the information needed, well, that was a detail he had yet to work out.  If Ernie had learned anything at all from his years in Hell it was one thing: in Hell your best bet is always to play your gut.

After completing his walk Hemingway arrived at the rear of the club and easily gained entry amid the comings and goings of vendor deliveries. Coca Cola and Pepsi, Lays, Anheuser Busch, Stolichnaya, all of these. Alas, rum was not among them. Blending in with this activity he was able to wander freely and unnoticed until he entered the back of the bar. After passing through the swinging kitchen doors into the bar proper he found that the front of the house remained empty, save for a robed man at the bar polishing glasses.

“Cal? What are you doing here?” It was indeed none other than Caligula.

“Why hello young man! How are you Ernest? What brings you here today? We’re not open for a while still, but you are certainly welcome to anything you’d like. How’s the new job?”

“Er….the job. Yes, that’s fine. I guess. Wouldn’t have any rum would you?”

Caligula rolled his eyes. ” Well, I don’t know, Ernest….. I might have a bit of some Jamaican stowed away here someplace. But you didn’t hear that from me, okay?” He smirked as he uttered the last while setting a glass and a bottle of Appleton Estate upon the bar.

“You’re a savior, Cal! I had no idea you were here. So, uh, you got any kind of word on when we see the next shipment from Cuba?”

“No idea. I’d have thought you’d know before I would. I don’t actually work here, you know. I just help out sometimes with special events. We’re featuring a drag race tonight.”

Hemingway had already knocked back his first glass of the dark Jamaican rum and began pouring his second. “A what?”

“You know. It’s a drag show. Female impersonators?”

“Oh! That. Huh. You get a good crowd for that in here I imagine.”

“Indeed we do.”

“So Hitler is still around then, right? He works here, doesn’t he?”

“Well, if you want to call what he does here work, then I guess he does. He’s usually in around noon.”

Noon. Well, that wasn’t too long to wait. If the club remained this sparse he might just be able to confront this problem directly. “Noon, you say. Hmm. Cal is it alright I take this bottle and set up shop in one of those booths up on the back wall?”

“Mr. Hemingway, mi casa es su casa. Sit wherever you wish and enjoy the bottle, our compliments.”

“Gracias.”

Already beginning to feel the soothing effects of his second glass Ernie sauntered across the main floor of the club until he located the booth to his liking. With his bottle, a glass, some cigars and some of Tupac’s green he settled in and proceeded to get thoroughly crunk. It was in this state that he pondered over his task here. He knew Hitler would be here and it would be hours before the place filled up. That presented what would likely be his best opportunity. Hitler might not be overjoyed to see him, but certainly not alarmed. He just needed to get him in the right place for just a moment. As he grew more and more intoxicated a slideshow of horrific scenes ran through his head showing all of the ways this could go wrong. When he finished cooking the bowl of his cane pipe he resolved to erase those pictures and chided himself for overthinking this. The hour was drawing near.

As promised, at just a few minutes past noon, Hitler arrived. He was not alone. Der Fuhrer was traveling this day with an entourage of starry eyed and ruddy cheeked Hitler Jugend. The oldest of their little troupe appeared to have been no more than 14 when he bought it, most likely in those waning days of winter 1945. They were spellbound, their eyes exhibiting an adoration bordering upon the sickly infatuated gaze of a schoolgirl at a Justin Bieber concert. (Yes, Hemingway does know all about the Biebster. Hell has a very special reception prepared for his arrival).

Ernie watched this sad procession with barely restrained amusement. Talk about pouring salt in the wound! First, to die in service of Hitler, then go to Hell and as the topper have to wear those ridiculous lederhosen for all eternity! Poor bastards, trapped forever in a pubescent pissing contest from a culture that gives urine five stars for pornvergnugen. Yet sadly, it seemed to him, they were enjoying this. All of them except for one. There was one lad, a little on the porky side and zit faced, who seemed to hang back from the pack just a step. He had that wary look in his eye, like a dog who’d seen the whip a few times too many. Once he caught sight of the boy Hemingway kept an attentive watch on him.

Hitler was prattling on about the Sudetenland, as he was often wont to do.  Ernie’s ears were more acclimated to tongues of the Latin family. To him German sounded something more akin to an expectorant than a language, but with Hitler it didn’t really matter what he was saying: the tone was always the same. Whatever it was his little coterie of adolescents were hanging on his every word. There was something different about whipped dog boy. The body language Hemingway read from his stealthy perch was that the entire little Bund were Hitler’s butt boys, but the tubby one must be his very special pet. This presented a resolution to his problem that he could never have foreseen. Up until that moment the best idea he had arrived at was to, against all better judgment, enlist Caligula as a confederate to arrange a tete a tete between der Fuhrer and one of their impersonators made up as Eva Braun. Hemingway had for years assumed that Mrs. Hitler was somewhere in Hell and that the couple was merely estranged. He was later quite astounded to learn that she was classified as mentally retarded and thus had earned her pass to the other place.

He remained in silence to watch their little ensemble for some while. They had taken possession of one of the round tables on the main floor, in the row closest to the bar. There were cigarettes and cocoa served all around and Hitler proceeded with his harangue walking about, slowly rotating the entire table as he spoke. He seemed to dote on each boy in their turn as he passed, with a little special attention reserved for the pudgy runt each time. By the time Hitler had completed his third rounding of the table and come to rest at the back of the boy’s chair he was sporting half a chub, which he proceeded to brush not so discreetly upon the lad’s neck. It was time to make his presence known.

Caligula had remained toiling behind the bar, completely ignoring the little assembly just a few yards distant. Hemingway was halfway across the floor in a stiff legged, halting gait before the noble Roman even caught sight of him. This was his shitface drunk walk, which apparently generated some mild alarm amid the junior brownshirts at his approach. Hitler instinctively moved into a prohibitive stance to shield his little pet. Sensing a potential confrontation Caligula rescued the situation.

“Ah! Mr. Hemingway! I thought you had left, sir. Is there anything else we may get for you?”

This caused both Hemingway and Hitler to pause in their tracks. The two eyed each other and exchanged curt greetings.

“Ernest”, clucked Hitler.

“Adolf”, Hemingway replied. He noted that Hitler had wet his trousers. Not right at that instant, but obviously some time in the not too distant past. Ernie looked away from Hitler to reply to Caligula. Out of the corner of his eye he detected Hitler’s quick effort to turn away.

“Ah! Cal! I might take some ice, but you know what I could really use? How about a bottle of that Cerveza Bohemian? Got any of that cold?” He completed the remaining strides to the bar and leaned into it to support himself. From now on it would be dope or rum, not both!

“I believe I could find a few of those cold for you. Care for a glass?”

“Nah! Bottle’s fine.” Ernie craned his neck around to look back on Hitler’s table. He saw that the Jugend were sitting at attention in their seats, heads erect like well trained hounds awaiting their master’s command. Hitler and zit boy had disappeared. He turned back casually to the bar and leaned across to speak with Caligula sotto voce.

“Cal….hey! What’s the story with der Fuhrer and the little plumpcake boy, huh? Are they, uh…..”

Caligula planted an uncapped bottle of Bohemian in front of him. ” Oh, them? Oh most definitely!”

“No shit. Huh. Well, guess I shouldn’t be surprised.” Ernie took a long, generous swig from the bottle. Damn that was good! “Say Cal….which way is the head?”

Caligula eyed him very soberly for a moment. A little glint in his eye betrayed that he could see to Hemingway’s intent. He cocked one eyebrow and then with a jerk of his head motioned in the direction over his left shoulder. He said not a word but could barely conceal the smirk growing at the corner of his mouth.

Ernie took a deep breath and stood straight, with the aid of his cane, to gather his bearings. The dizziness had passed. He found clipping the cane in a regular pace kept him propelled forward with some greater stability. It was like regaining his sea legs. Oh to be in Key West now, he thought. Before he knew it he had arrived at the men’s room. Again he drew a deep breath and stealthily drew the door open. He choked up on the cane to avoid any errant clicks upon the linoleum floor and stood just inside the door to ease it closed silently behind him. He made no sound and listened carefully.

From one of the stalls there was clearly muffled movement and an occasional hissing sound. He inched forward, listening intently and directing his gaze to the gaps beneath the row of stall doors. There was a sudden thump against one of the stalls and then he heard a hushed voice. That was the source of the hissing!

Ach, ja….heil mein Schwanz, Putzi! Schlucken Schlampe!

Ernie didn’t understand a word, but the impassioned tones were the same in any language. That was the sound of a man about ready to get his nut. He bent at the knees slightly to look a little closer below the doors while sliding sideways upon the soles of his shoes. There at the third stall! He drew himself erect squarely before the door and in one vicious thrust kicked it open. Hitler was knocked forward, but recovered rather quickly for a man with his trousers about his ankles.

” Was im Gotterdammerung! Wer ist…..” is as much as he could get out of his mouth before Ernie cold cocked him. Adolf’s little struedel, who was still seated upon the toilet, voided his bowels in a very loud and wet eruption. The stall was instantly fouled.

He didn’t waste any time. With a hand over his face to abate the stench Hemingway turned Hitler’s unconscious slump about until he could examine the goods. His worst fears were realized: there was only one nut. Now it all made sense! He hastily got back to his feet and stepped as far back from the stall as he could. The frightened boy just stared, mouth agape and chin wavering as he fought against tears. The sobbing would begin any second. Ernie knew he needed to get out of this place as soon as possible or this scene could only grow uglier and fast.

In the distressed state he began this day he had forgotten to take his phone with him. He despised the infernal contraptions, yet here was an instance where it was sorely wanted. He wasn’t even sure if he could reach the boss, but he didn’t want to wait any longer to find out. The shock of this revelation had, much to his chagrin, sobered him up. He found his equilibrium restored and quickened his pace. After snaring the bottle of rum from his booth he bid a hasty farewell to Caligula as he passed through the back of the bar and out the same path he had entered. Upon exiting the rear of the club Ernie spotted a laundry truck idling outside the deliveries door. In the overworld a man might have taken a moment to look about to insure that there were no eyewitnesses. In Hell there is no cause for such caution, especially when one carries rank. In this respect Hell is little different from life on Earth.

After leaping into the driver’s seat he ground the stick into reverse, hit the gas and dropped the clutch. The boxy van lurched in reverse with a bark of the tires and with the engine still at 3/4 revs he crunched into first gear with a bang, then squealed off of the lot with the unsecured rear doors banging wildly. Time was critical. The shape that old broad was in? She could expire at any time. Ernie did not want this shit hitting the fan on his watch. He had already thought through many of the possible repercussions. Whether the boss was here or not it could get ugly. Ernie preferred that it be when the boss was present, but if this were not possible? He needed some contingency plans that he sure as Hell wasn’t going to craft without old Scratch’s guidance.

He just drove. It was completely unconscious, as though the van drove itself through the shortest route back to the central core command center all on it’s own. Hemingway’s mind was focused on playing out all of the plausible scenarios in order to mentally prepare himself for the worst. He failed to notice on his route that he passed Nabakov and Kerensky seated together at a cafe, fondling each other as they shared some kiddie porn. A recreational lot where Reagan and Brezhnev played horseshoes in ugly bermuda shorts, black TED hose and sandals. On a park bench nearby Margaret Thatcher and Anita Bryant cheered them on while swilling sangria. Following a series of turns that he didn’t even recognize the van coasted through what appeared to be a Parisian quarter. Blind to it all, he passed Edith Piaf at a baker’s barrow, entertaining an enthusiastic crowd of dark, young Mauritanians with creative uses for a baguette. There was poor old Sartre, continually dousing himself in petrol and dropping the matchbox. A little further on there was Jean Cocteau and Picasso talking up whores on a street corner. These were all things that ordinarily would have captured his imagination. But not now.

The van rolled on, pressed so hard the pistons were beginning to knock. Hemingway was sweating profusely as he stuffed a fat Cuban into the corner of his mouth. He knew it was almost time. He had descended into a near fevered delirium as the van slammed to a halt in front of a large service elevator cut out of the wall of the great onyx mass of central Hell. This elevator was reserved for direct delivery to central command. He grabbed his rum and leaped to the ground, keyed the down button outside the doors and paced as he awaited them to open. Within minutes he was marching down the final hall to his office suite. He found the door open, his secretary Amy still at her desk looking half-pissed as ever. As he went to speak he was a bit startled to find that he was still catching his breath.

” You alright guv?”

“Yes Amy, I’m fine….thank you, by the way….for asking. You, uh….haven’t heard anything from the boss, have you?”

” No’ a word. Everything alright?”

“Yeah. Yes, Amy, everything is going to be fine. I do need to get in touch with the boss, but I’m not sure our cells are going to connect.”

“Right. You’ll be needin’ yer ‘ellivision app then.”

“My what?”

” ‘ellivision! It’s an app. You load it on yer phone, yeah?”

“What the fuck are you….”

” ‘ere, guv! Let’s see yer phone a minute.”

” Oh…let me go get it. I left it here at my desk this morning.”

He returned after a mere moment and handed his phone to Amy. She proceeded to download the app onto his phone, save the settings and click the icon to open the app on the screen.

” ‘salright guv! There you are, just ‘ave a look at your screen, say ‘oo yer want t’ talk to an’ ‘hey come up on yer phone. Go on. Try it then!”

Hemingway looked at the screen of his phone and as asked addressed the screen with “Satan”. The screen did nothing at first, then went grey. It remained like this for about half a minute and then the image of the boss was right there on his screen.

“Yes Ernest? I see Amy introduced you to our latest app. What do you think?”

“Uh…pretty impressive. Um, just one moment boss –  Amy? You can go on….home, or wherever you go. I’ll take this call in my office. – Sorry, boss.”

“Quite alright Ernest. So how are things?”

“Well sir, to be perfectly frank, they could be better. I have uncovered a great concern from the daily files….”

“Ah! That would be the Ginsberg case? I should have known you would catch that one. Oh Ernest, what would I do without you.”

Ernie could not conceal his momentary astonishment. Catching him completely off balance the Devil then went on.

“Have you ever rode in a bus full of Koreans for a week? I think we’re going to add this as one of our features.”

“Sir, with all due respect, I called because I was very concerned about what else I discovered.”

“What else? Don’t beat about the bush, Ernest. That’s not your style.”

” Hitler’s right nut, sir?”

“Ah, yes. That. Well you see throughout history we’ve had these types, you know? Almost always it’s gee, I’d give my left nut for…..for whatever it is. So along comes Hitler, I’m overstocked on left nuts, the rest is history.”

“So Hitler gave his right nut to become leader of the Third Reich. I don’t think that’s going to play so well for our franchise if word gets out he had our help. And when that Ginsberg broad gets down here to collect and only finds half a sack you don’t think that’s going to get out?”

“Get out? Get out to who,Ernest?”

“The networks, the papers, all of the usual suspects.”

“I doubt that should happen Ernest. Unless someone should drop the story in their laps. And besides, who the Hell would believe them anyway?”

Ernie pondered this for a moment and realized the boss was right. Who in their right mind would believe anything those assholes had to say?!

“Was there anything else? I need to jet over to San Fran. Seems there’s this asshole….Reverend Fuzznuts and the Mission Vallejo Revival Wagon….really besmirching my good name. I figured I’d drop in and give him a little scare, you know?”

Ernie wanted to ask the boss to be sure and bring some rum home. But he didn’t. He decided that maybe it was time to just lay off a little and smoke more dope instead.

 

The Jar

She was there

just beyond reach

Spinning lazily

in shimmering light

Memory of a faraway beach

everything right

With eyes bright

yet do not see

She floats in plasma solution

A brilliant entity

Imitation of life

and it’s conclusion

Reflected light

turns fluids blue

Reflected feelings

turn this hue

March farewell

Each passing year

the final mile grows steeper

March expires, expelling

his parting sigh of malice

Off in a huff

Frost in the wake

We curse these days

when our chambers are colder

than the air outside

And sun still too pale

to soothe the woes

of Winter’s captivity

 

Wait… what? XXV

All you need to understand human behavior is to understand animal behavior. Human behavior is essentially the same, except that with humans one must begin with the knowledge that each and every one of them are fucked up. There’s your diversity….we are all fucked up in our very own special way.

Road Trip (another one)

For long hours the orange columns

Center line rolls like a slot machine

Houses melt into their mass

Office suites, warehouses, all scatter

Those infernal orbs dissolve in the rear view

Til only poles and fencing

These too absorbed in fog

I am motion

I am light

Racing the sun to nowhere

Can not speak

Can not blink

This road has no end

Urban Equinox

From a perch atop the trees

the symphony unfolds

The march of the dying solar lamps

their chromium splendor tarnished

they tumble askew, mostly dead

One glows dim

One pulses in time

a dying heartbeat

to loosened tailpipes

scraping the brick alleyway

salt encrusted springs groan

with the concussion of every pothole

The earth is dead

carpeted in thatch that will not

waken anew

Yet patches of fresh green tendrils

spring like acne upon her face

Life ever awakens from her sleep

to take back what is hers

No matter how vain the effort

A tree defiled

May still bloom