Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Sheet of Graph Paper

At the top right a date: June 17th, 1991.

Three columns.

correct horse

a buffalo nickel
a frailing banjo
a Ms. Pac-Man cabinet
a box of Grape Nuts with Froot Loops inside
a letter from the Office of the President

loyalty, obviously
green-dyed hair
a Super Mario tattoo
the ability to do calculus
mild retardation

Scrawled across the bottom: pay phone -- said would disconnect Tuesday

Friday, August 26, 2011

Show And Tell

It was twenty years earlier, and the golden age of coin-op video games was only just now fading. Leaning with style on a Ms. Pac-Man cabinet, Joe glared at Cody Standing Bear as Cody gestured for another quarter. "You just suck, Ovation. Another quarter's not going to help."

"Do not call me that, Joe."

"You know why I call you that. Get used to it. Hey... you know how to keep a secret, right?"

"I break secrets. I do not keep them. And I think you do not want to keep one. Share."

"Share. Yes, share. With the right people. At the right time."

"So I have little to tell you. But we can ask the Great Spirit."

Joe scowled disgustedly. "Great. Spirit... great."

"Come to the sweat lodge in two weeks. Many will help. But they cannot help without you."

Joe frowned and accepted.

Joe remembers little of what he experienced in the heat of the steam and haze of the rituals in the ramshackle lodge in those days, but he remembers the important part: "The Great Spirit has watched the makers of the secret-keeping thinking machines in your grandson's time, and says you must make sure your secret can only be understood if the hearer has a thing, knows a thing, and is a thing. The thinking machines will make this easy to arrange in many years. Already they can ask for something you know -- a "passing word," I think they call it. It will be longer until they can demand something you have, and longer yet for something you are. For now, it will be difficult to lock your secrets with these spiritual locks. Work with thought, wisdom, and diligence to hide-reveal your secret."

"I'm gonna have a grandson?! Ooh, am I gonna make babies with Mandie? It's Mandie, right?" Joe shouted, and pumped his fist."

Erstwhile Joe

It was twenty years earlier. Joe Eawest was slicker, less and simultaneously more sure of himself, and he hadn't begun to play the tenor banjo yet. Things were quite different. He had not even been to spy school yet.

Joe's youth was spent running from his father, who was not an easy guy to run from.
Of course, it is on purpose that you and I do not have a clue who Raymond Eawest is, and what his role was in American History. It would be beyond our imaginations to know that Raymond Eawest was the head of a corporation that supplied certain parts of the government with certain types of labor and services. To be frank, a black ops-intelligence mercenary force. Ray Eawest was there pulling the strings when the U.S. Military and the C.I.A. invaded Laos and Cambodia. Ray participated in corporate dealings that hid funds that were responsible for coup de-tats and illegal drug seizures in Central America and Mexico. It is safe to say that Raymond Eawest had little conscience and less restraint when it came to inflicting collateral damage. His men were trained to be worse than Nazis.
Since the first war in the Persian Gulf, EaWest Corp. had been a powerhouse in the halls of the Pentagon and with the industrial military complex. The amount of money that Ray Eawest received as acting CEO during these years, you don't wanna know.

Anyway, so Joe grew up both hating the money with which his family provided for him, (because when he realized what his Dad had done for the money), and later becoming obsessed with the idea of combatting his father's world-view by getting as much of the money as he could and using it for good. This is where the need for the idea of the song originated.

Enigmas and Codes

"--cause the translation's never quite right!"

Katryn had already contacted her Navajo friend from middle school, Cody Standing Bear, regarding the One Hundred and Fourteenth Verse and it's possible implications regarding translation and codes. Cody was 90 years old now. He had been one of the army's secret code talker/translators in World War Two, and Standing Bear had some interesting things to say about the entire Dillinger Sang document.

"There is an obvious flippant defiance in these word choices in many sections, especially the last verse. Use of terms like Severus, Gandhi, and Volga, clearly indicate that the writer knows advanced cryptography, almost like he's playing with us, and I almost think that I am keeping blinders on while listening to this. I am afraid of what I might find if I really try to decipher this."

And with that, Cody backed out of the project, and demanded he not be contacted again regarding it. Something in that song really spooked him.

The One Hundred and Fourteenth Verse

All in all, Dillinger Sang had two hundred verses. Like the Masonic Rites, each revealed new mysteries, so the longer the song went on, the more important it was that the listener either be prepared to absorb the secrets it contained, or unable to absorb them at all. Katryn and Barth had already absorbed about five verses consciously in the last weeks and accepted three as fact. They had also heard the song as far as the hundredth verse while laying half-alive in a thin layer of cat hair, day-old vodka, and fresh whiskey. That had been last night. "I'm not usually like this," Katryn had moaned before passing out.

She was serious. (She was almost always serious.) And she was suspicious. And curious. The first three verses had matched her own theories about Geraldo Rivera's relations with Indira Sousa, Dillinger's bastard great-granddaughter -- and Katryn's godmother. So Katryn had been drinking from her own bottle tonight (apple juice, her favorite!), and counting anxiously on her 30 years of acting experience to pull her through. But her act was wearing thin alongside her patience, and to make matters worse, her curiosity was growing. She could feel the hidden secrets in each verse, but could not understand them, and it was infuriating. The thirteen verses that she had newly heard this night were a sort of "Volume Two," that much she could tell. But  nothing else. A hokey mishmash of allusions to My Little Pony, West Side Story, and War and Peace, she guessed. But no sense, little rhyme, and only a bit more rhythm.

The one hundred and fourteenth verse ran:

"Severus Spike tonight, everybody get drunk tonight,
Pull out your banjo like Dillinger's gun
Gandhi's aces beat a one-eyed jack
And the Volga's gonna rock 'em tonight!
But the lady fooling me is the one being fooled, because --"

Thursday, August 25, 2011

+3 Tenor Banjo

Joe was obsessed with making other people think he was transplanted in the current age (I would call it the modern age, but for all the self imposed de-evolution occurring) from the distant past, i.e. the nineteen-thirties. He came from Jacksonville, Minnesota but lived for a while in Ottowa, Ohio. He became friends with our protagonists while on a hunting trip in Meiggs County.
Joe carried around a banjo case all of the time. He seldom actually played the banjo within, and folks carried on conversations all the time all about whether there actually was a banjo in there at all, or some strange 21st century version of the Tommy Gun... or maybe an evil ventriloquist dummy. Once in a while, however, when everyone was good and plastered, and he was pretty sure noone would remember shit, he'd pull it out and lay something really wicked down on their mostly unconscious spirits. Like the night in question, when, after the fifth round of Green River Cocktail, he played Dillinger Sang.

Found in a Basement

You won't find Ottawa, Ohio on a map. So of course it's not the county seat, or the largest town in Ottawa County. It is the westernmost and the smallest, however, and most people passing through mistake it for an especially large open-air museum when they're in the west end--that's the first five houses--and for a tornado-borne hunk of Xenia on the six houses of the east end. Sprouting off the middle is the only side street, Ottawa Drive, with three forgettable houses, and one basement. That's in the house that's cream instead of white. That's the first reason you might take a closer look; the second is when you discover the meekly-sized scissors-and-magic-marker "Barth Vader" sign glued by the front door.

Ottawa is a good place to get lost, but in Bartholomew Norse's basement you can find many things, even on a good day like this. Today it's Barth's fishy guest Joe Eawest; five sticks of formerly minty fresh chewing gum; a Ms. Pac-man cabinet, functional, but suffering severe burn-in and a limp joystick, a box full of coffee-stained sheets with printouts of Facebook posts on a 1990s dot-matrix printer; a confetti-gilded tinfoil statue of Ganesh; a laptop on the concrete floor running PuTTyTray dialed in to play Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup; and a sawhorsed wargaming table set out with Klingon marine, Latvian Napoleonic-era pikeman, and Louisiana cannoneer miniatures mostly ready for playtesting of the latest Game of Joe ruleset. However, since five seconds ago it is in slight disarray after an assault from the behind of a now-impatient Katryn Norse.