Posts Tagged ‘ICWU’

Yeah the Russians are here. I mean, they’re everywhere, but especially in Nashville.

– Layla Santana Crow


Paranoia is a cottage industry in Tennessee where there exists a strange stew of Revelators, Second-Comers, Doomsday-preppers, bootleggers and coonskin-capped militiamen cooked together by the overhead high-voltage power lines running roughshod through the hinterlands. None of the above characters, however, have cornered the Russophobic market in these foothills like Texan native, Layla Santana Crow. In short time, Layla has become an urban myth in Nashville; spoken of, yet rarely seen and when seen, the witness is left dumbstruck enough to be certified as a hysteric. The going wisdom is to not seek out Layla Santana Crow because, sooner or later, she will find you.

I flew into Nashville beside a rhinestone and sequin-bedazzled woman who smelled like a duty-free store (a mélange of perfume samples with a splash of spilt single-malt) who had heard of Layla Santana Crow. Legend had it, or so conveyed my partner-in-transit, Layla had two wolves smuggled from Siberia who could smell Russians from a mile away.

If you ask the pit-boss behind the counter at the airport pork-rib depot, he will tell you that seeking out Layla Santana Crow is akin to dressing up a possum for Sunday service, which meant, amongst other things, updating my last will and testament and grabbing a shovel to bury good intentions.

If you weave your way through the Papists and Baptists of Sunday morning (do avoid the dressed-up possums) while inquiring laypersons of the aforementioned Layla, more than one will ask if your head had been touched without specifying by whom. “Touched by God, son.” One wizened miser clarified while a spinster spoke in condescendingly sympathetic tones, “Bless your heart.” They once knew of a fella like me, more or less bearded, who went looking for “Leah Crow” and when he laid eyes on her he burst into flames. Spontaneous combustion: one moment pyrophoric hipster, the next – poof – ashes. Dust to dust, etcetera.

And yet, into the foothills of Tennessee I sought her, this Layla Santana Crow…

Layla Santana Crow confronts Vic, "were you followed?"

Layla Santana Crow confronts Vic, “were you followed?”

Assuming the identity of my alias, Bucky Swoon, Esq., I tracked down Layla Santana Crow’s whereabouts to a jazz club this side of Ghost Creek where she was holding court amongst the homegrown moonshiners and imported bourgeois from the Atlantic seaboard. The Ghost Creek Jazz Club was a cigar bar which practiced ventilation via osmosis (absorption through the cement walls) and it wasn’t until I kneeled somewhere between sax and trombone before I had any visibility beyond four inches. Scanning the knee-scape, I found a high-density of sophisticated man-slacks near the bar and rightly assumed it to be the compilation of Layla Santana Crow admirers. Betwixt the sophisticated slacks, I deduced, sat the spy-huntress, herself. Her entourage of admirers, asthmatic and arrhythmic (bouncing in-and-out-of-sync to the jazz), was easily dispersed when I began accidentally lighting their silken neckties afire instead of my own cigar. While the fog refused to clear and her face wasn’t quite visible as I neared, the sheer radiance of Layla Santana Crow created a halo in the suspended cigar smoke, providing her more of a celestial quality than even I was accustomed to.

“Hey Vic.” She spoke non-committal, stoic-even, seeing through the smoke and past the Bucky alias in spite of the mustache I had groomed for the occasion. “Were you followed?”

Russian Spies in America

The trial of Igor Sporyshev, the Russian banker in New York who was attempting to funnel financial information back to the Kremlin, reminded Layla Santana Crow of the unearthed spies of her youth. Specifically, Layla was reminded of Anna Chapman, circa 2010 (aye, Layla is a bit younger than us Cold War kids), the sexy spy who had infiltrated New York high society prior to being outted and who has become a celebrity in Moscow after the United States performed a spy-swap with Putin.

Anna Chapman and Igor Sporyshev: Neo-Cold War Russian Spies

Anna Chapman and Igor Sporyshev: Neo-Cold War Russian Spies

“Anna Chapman is an example of how the Kremlin is attempting to spy on America – by infiltrating our social crème de la crème. Yeah, so this guy Igor, the banker, was a fat a-hole, but he was still trying to get American coeds to act as spies for Russia.” Layla Santana Crow explained. “Russia is going straight to the well for their intelligence: they are spying on the housewives of Washington and New York. I bet they have analysts in Havana watching North American television for TMZ and every reality show just for the gossip.”

Indeed, contemporary Russian spies might have a different modus operandi than former generations, but do not doubt their malice for a modicum of a second as their Grand Master is still Vlad “the Paler” Putin, formerly of the KGB. Today’s Russian spies might be educated on episodes of Saved By The Bell, but they are raised on deception and sabotage from the first day they suckle upon the vodka-infused milk of the teat of Mother Russia. It may be a mafia state which governs the Russian people, but its spies are nostalgic for the old Soviet Empire and eager to fulfill a vendetta against the West, regardless of the different ideologies at play during the chilling 20th Century schism. Whether you believe the Cold War was Democracy vs. Totalitarianism or Capitalism vs. Communism or the Establishment vs. Populism, you could boil the fat out of the whole brouhaha into being nothing more than an imperial gun show. 2015 or 1965, it makes no difference.

Russian Spies in Tennessee?

Russians love Country Music and they see Nashville as the gateway to the soul of America. There is nothing more American than a sorrow-drunken cowboy dancing in his boots and there is nothing more Russian than a bare-chested Premier riding a bear as he invades the Ukraine. The second-most Russian thing, however, is a sorrow-drunken Cossack dancing in his boots.

Cossacks are just Cowboys born of another  mother

Cossacks are just Cowboys born of another mother

“For Russian spies whose first language is not English…” Layla Santana Crow told me over lunch at a fashionable East Nashville burger bar. “They can hide their Caucus accent if they enunciate with a southern drawl. It is a lot easier for a spy to acclimate into the Country Western scene, than say, Hip-Hop or Hipster, because the twang accent is easy to emulate and the music lyrics describe exactly how a countryperson must live: a steady dose of religion, alcohol, good times and sorrow.”

“Country music lacks the ambiguity of alternative hipster shit.” Cyrus Lee Hancock, Layla’s head of security, chimed in. “Whether it is a song about drinking liquor before beer or a song about falling in love at night school while pursuing your GED, country music gets to the point. If a Russian spy has to lie about where he was on the night of August 5th at approximately 2200 hours, he can just quote his favorite country song, ‘I was shooting Fireball while lying in the bed of my pickup truck, looking at a picture of Rhonda Sue who was known as being good for uhhh luck.”

“In short, Russians are already half-hillbilly and it is easy enough to fake the rest.” Layla concluded.

Spy-Hunting in Nashville

Layla Santana Crow was neither raised by wolves nor does she own any. Instead, she has a pair of German Shepherds (one is named after a Top-Gun character, another after a salad) who, allegedly, can smell borscht at a hundred yards. It helps her sleep at night.

“Potential Ruby at twelve o’clock with the shaven head and bear-tooth necklace.” Layla spoke between bites of gluten-free biomass as we lunched at the recycled pharmacy on the eastside. “His front teeth are fake, which is common among Rubies who spend their youth getting head-butted and/or falling on their face after draining too many vodka bottles.”

“Or he’s just a dirty hipster with a smack problem.” Security Chief Cyrus Lee pitched-in. “Heroin isn’t good for the chompers.”

“What about the goon sisters over there?” I mentioned with a head nod. “These guys are a pair of ‘Rubies’ if I have ever seen one.”

“Doom and gloom.” Layla Santana Crow named the untoward thugs. “And they’ve pancake batter on their faces to disguise the burst blood vessels in their noses. Another sign of a Ruby. Vic, take a picture of us and be sure to frame the image with the goon sisters in the background so I can add to the database.”

Cyrus Lee and Layla in the foreground with the Goon Sisters in the background

Cyrus Lee and Layla in the foreground with the Goon Sisters in the background

One of the surefire ways to out a Ruby (Layla’s codeword for “Russian Spy”) is to approach one on the sly and engage them with a joke in Russian. Neither Layla nor her head of security speak Russian, but they can sound out the words. For example, Cyrus Lee Hancock will follow a potential Ruby into the bathroom and while poised before the latrines quip, g’p-ka nush-nee which often gets a chuckle out of anyone who understands Russian and who agrees it smells like horse stables are near. At high society events, Layla, dressed to the nines without doubt, will approach a Ruby at the bar and order a double-vodka tonic. She isn’t the greatest fan of vodka, but the order alone will perk up the ears of any Russian. Layla will then take a sip and mention how it tastes like home, but instead of speaking English, she’ll mumble f’vus ga doma. When the Ruby’s eyes light up, the trap is snared.

“Vic, discreetly take a picture of our beers and be sure to focus on the tracksuit.” Layla said. “Only a Ruby would wear a tracksuit that expensive and have such a horrid taste in foot attire.”

The Speakeasy

We parked somewhere downtown, or so I judged by the street traffic I heard. It wasn’t until Layla whispered the password du jour to the doorman and we were safely in the basement (or the attic, I was a bit dizzy) before Cyrus Lee Hancock removed the blindfold from my gourde, granting me sight. We were in a speakeasy. Despite the hordes of desperate dipsomaniacs begging for a seat, there was a table already reserved for Layla and her plus 2. There was nothing on the menu necessarily verboten and we weren’t here for the $12 Dark & Stormy. This speakeasy was a hub of clandestine activity: political hitmen extracted bribes beneath table tops, a Rosicrucian proselytized a defrocked priest, a guitarist sold his soul to the agent who picked him up at the crossroads and some half-naked pagans prostrated themselves before a boar’s head. It was here, Layla Santana Crow surmised, the Russian sleeper agents would meet their handlers over nefarious naval-strength rum drinks.

Some might call Layla’s spy-hunting senseless fear-mongering. She calls it proactive counterintelligence. All it takes is a few firebrand Neo-Soviets to become embedded in Nashville’s Country Music scene and then if there is ever a Russian invasion (perhaps through Canada once the Arctic melts), Putin’s conquerors will have a Nashville fifth column of sympathizers at the ready. As we finished our drinks at the speakeasy, I mentioned to Layla my opinion on the greater threats of American-bred spies hired by the Qatari Royals and, even worse, the largest intelligence network in the world according the late Kyril Bonfiglioli – the International Chinese Waiter Union.

Layla Santana Crow, in the unsettling way in which she comes out of her thousand-yard stare to refocus locally upon your face, tilted her head ever so slightly before finally responding to my comments. “Really, Vic? Paranoid much?”

See also…
***Layla on the Illuminati’s influence of Hip-Hop***



Across the tracks there exists an oversized barnacle which was converted into an oyster bar at some point while Truman was in office. Inside the barnacle and over the commotion of shell-shucking, I was barstooled and attempting to follow the logic of Erasmus insofar: he wasn’t listening to me and if he wasn’t listening to me he couldn’t hear my questions and if he couldn’t hear my questions he certainly wasn’t going to fucking answer them.

“What’s this broad to you, anyway?” between grumbles.

“What’s she to you?”

Oysters are meatier when harvested in months with an

Oysters are meatier when harvested in months with an “r” somewhere

Erasmus, stoic and chilled as the Apalachicola oyster on his cracker, glared into my skull. It was apparent he fancied Viv and he growled when I mentioned her name as if it were too sacred to be spoken within ear-range of the salty characters surrounding us. He asked again. I told him: Vivien Escobar was the cruise director for the Lake Osceola Cocktail and Leisure Society. What of They? This of They: according to my source, the Lake Osceola Cocktail and Leisure Society happened to be a clandestine club of elites who secretly ran Orlando.

“Who’s your source?”


“Have you ever heard of the Bilderberg Group?” Doc Kelly winked at me over something which qualified as a sandwich only in taxonomical terms – it was built between boundaries of bread, but this is where the similarities ended and where the slaughtered pig, pineapple slices, crushed peanuts, granola and a pint of the house barbeque sauce suggested something more abstract than sandwich.

the word barabicu derives from the Timucua People native to Florida

the word barabicu derives from the Timucua People native to Florida

“Of course I have heard about the Bilderberg Group!” And I had. It was an annual rendezvous of the world’s most influential bankers and politicians where world policy was allegedly set. It is Conspiracy Theory 101, every paranoid worth his caffeinated hand-tremors knows about the Bilderbergs.

“Well, these guys…” Doc Kelly went on, using an entire roll of paper towels to wipe a shmear of greasy pig tears from his left cheekbone. “Are like the Bilderbergs, but worse.”

I was halfway listening as the other half was in the bag. I was quickly quaffing pints of the house draft in an attempt to build up enough Dutch courage to make an assault on my own sandwich whose girth qualified, uniquely, as a First World Problem.


“Yeah, well they golf and they don’t pay their taxes like everyone else, but these guys are evil.”

“Evil? How is the Lake Osceola Cocktail and Leisure Society evil?”

“They built the Eyesore of I-4.”


YAKISOBA SUPPER CLUB, undisclosed location somewhere in Fla

Doc Kelly infiltrated the Lake Osceola Cocktail and Leisure Society. If either of us were to get in, he’d be the surer bet. I have the social graces of an asthmatic cat having just licked itself clean whereas Doc… the man can sell. He can walk into your living room and tell you fifty-three ways your home is a tinderbox just waiting to roast you alive and oh!, by the way, he happens to have a trunk full of fire extinguishers if you’re in the market. Doc has the smile of a buzzard at a roadside buffet and the determination of one of those golems of Jewish lore (you know the ones – the clay robots you put magical scrolls inside and they do all of your bidding, not that Doc is a robot or made of clay or even circumcised for all we know, but he’s damned persistent). Doc Kelly isn’t even a physician; he is just a salesman of snake oil and other acne-reducing, libido-enhancing, baldness-correcting formulas where the nickname of ‘Doc’ comes in handy. Between his golemic tendencies, his moniker and his carrion charm, Doc Kelly was able to will his way into one of Central Florida’s most illustrious secret social clubs.

Which brings this narrative to the close of the latter year: Doc Kelly’s newfound elite caste status is how we found ourselves at the Yakisoba Supper Club on New Year’s Eve.

The Yakisoba Supper Club is not the sort of establishment you look-up in the yellow pages. It was founded by a bunch of World War II Marines who returned from the Philippines with a shit-ton of Japanese/Nazi gold and needed to find a place for the bastard sons they brought back to valet park cars. Or so reads the Zagat review… Today, Yakisoba Supper Club is an underground sushi den of intrigue with an exclusive VIP reservation chart. It is rumored hostess Vivien Escobar whittled down the list of those invited by way of Ouija board.

NYE Yakisoba EventAh yes, Vivien Escobar, the gate-keeper. While Doc Kelly may have gained entry into high society based on good breeding alone, his bearded sidekick (your narrator) would have been left outside the velvet ropes if not for Erasmus of Otter Dam persuading Vivien Escobar into accepting both beastly heathens into her New Year’s Eve bacchanal brouhaha. Vivien Escobar, as it seems, is at evens, when not at odds, with the mercurial lothario, Erasmus, a semi-permanent resident on happenstance sabbatical leave from Otter Dam Military Academy where he lectures on Cold War etiquette. Vivien’s strange inclination towards Erasmus served, if you will, as my entry fee into the realm of relevance. Of course, I still had to pay the nominal cover-charge to get inside the Yakisoba Supper Club: a second-born son, a $23 money-order made out to Renaldo Hammerstein and a virgin on layaway worthy of sacrificing.

GPS directions will not lead you to the Yakisoba Supper Club. In fact, satellite navigation systems tend to go debunk this deep in the bayous of Central Florida. Fortunately, I am an esteemed member of the Pizza Delivery Guild and thusly educated with celestial navigation, but, unfortunately, the valet car attendants (Filipino-American great-grandsons of the WWII Veteran founders of the Yakisoba Supper Club) upon arrival take your keys, then your shoes, then your sight (via blindfold), spin you around in a circle, tickle your abdomen and push you down a garden path to be picked up by a trolley car and dumped off in a cemetery, still blinded, mind, where St Bernards are present with casks of champagne for refreshment before, finally, you are given back your keys and your car and provided a map of evaporating ink illustrating where to find the Supper Club of lore.

The Yakisoba Supper Club existed, at least on this night, in a Cuban Missile Crisis concrete bunker resurrected as an early-post-(post-modern) Japanese dojo. The front door lied behind a complicated maze of bamboo forest, tiki torches, a giant phallus of some Norse deity, a pond of koi feeding off of indiscernible human waste, a few rusty Cambodian landmines for good measure and a waterfall façade. We opted for the kitchen entrance. Within the Supper Club, we were greeted by anglicized geishas with angular mascara and a proneness to fits of courtesy giggles. I was handed a Kemosabe Crawl (a martini glass filled with two fingers of gin, a finger formaldehyded, a splash of vermouth and a cherry pit) which I passed along to Doc. Doc fed the Kemosabe Crawl to an unsuspecting bonsai and ordered himself a Wasabi Ruin (two fingers dry gin, one finger vodka, a spit of vermouth and a gumball of wasabi) to clear up his sinus allergies, which is what he claimed was responsible for the rash he picked up during his last trip to Ybor. I opted for Florida-brewed ale adequately hopped and malty. From behind a Golden Buddha (which I believed was a statue until I realized it was just another fat dude spray-painted into performance art) emerged Vivien Escobar with her hair tied-up in Alpine golden pigtails and her fingernails manicured by indentured Vietnamese exchange students. Ever the gracious hostess, Vivien fawned over the regality of our appearance. Being of noble birth, herself, by way of Pittsburgh, she tended to speak in the plural and use the fullest extent of first names, so I was always “Victor!” and Doc was always “Doctor!”

Vic Neverman sipping nigori, photo-bombed by Vivien Escobar

Vic Neverman sipping nigori, photo-bombed by Vivien Escobar

“Victor, you appear so dashing!” Vivien feinted to faint. Then she pretended to find consciousness. “We love the irony of your outfit. We’re unsure if you are being facetious-chic or fascist cat-fancier. Either way: LOVE!

“And Doctor, Darling!” Vivien swooned, kissing either of his cheeks, “We’re inspired by the multilayered patterns of black. You’re a living expression of a canvas void enough to fill with your sophistries and oyster-oil miracle cures. And let us just tell you, your datil pepper cream has done wonders on our athlete’s foot.”

Vivien Escobar guided us to a table near the platform where drummers and juggling unicyclists and contortionists would later hold the stage. At the table, sat Vivien’s endeared Erasmus, he of Otter Dam Military Academy, who held court with an audience of Kip Jurgenson, the “Realty Queen of Winter Park”, and a quartet of Royal Dutch snooker players. Vivien blew kisses and evaporated into the champagned humidity.

Set to the rhythm of maniacal drumming by five-foot Japanese girls, our feast began. Doc and Kip were downing sake in quarts and though the Realty Queen was bellowing laughter vaguely reminiscent of the Late Permian Extinction Event, her thin lips tightened like a jealous husband’s handshake when I asked of the secret dealings the Lake Osceola Cocktail & Leisure Society was involved in. Breaking the awkward silence which followed, I turned to the geisha at our threshold and ordered a few more bottles of sake and a sushi roll called Widowed Mantis which involved a Bahamian lobster tail stuffed with shrimp tempura, all bound in eel skin and topped with fried kale flakes.

“Okay, I will tell you something.” She offered. “Just don’t use my real name. Call me ‘Kip Jurgenson’ and say I am ‘the Realty Queen of Winter Park’.” We agreed to terms. Kip went on, “Here it is, my big reveal: ‘Life is a sexually-transmitted disease.’” Kip then burst into laughter which killed off the last of the Royal Dutch snookers and none too soon as I never trusted the Dutch, let alone snookers.

“Who are you calling ‘hooker’?” Doc Kelly winked at me as Kip Jurgenson fell into epoch-ending guffaws before the two of them broke into a duet rendition of Jimmy Buffet’s Come Monday.

Yakisoba SushiI was eating pickled-ginger by the handful to wash the taste of paranoid angst from my palate. The radioactive spicy tuna, courtesy of fucking Fukishima fallout, wasn’t helping the bilious humors either. Kip Jurgenson’s message was more than meaningless – she was quoting (“life is a sexually-transmitted disease”) a message on the wall of a Yakisoba Supper Club’s men’s lavatory stall etched fifteen minutes prior by the unsteady hand of yours truly, Vic Neverman. This brought to my mercury-laden mind a few essential questions:

  1. Was Kip Jurgenson quoting my random graffiti as a means to let me know she knew what I was up to (sniffing for conspiracies)?
  2. Or was it dumb-fucking luck she happened to find the graffiti I scratched into the wall using the screwdriver I hid up my sleeve from the Supper Club bouncers?
  3. What was she doing in the men’s room anyway?
  4. Or was I so lost in a sake fog I wandered into the ladies’?
  5. Could that have not been a urinal, but rather a French horn left by the unicyclist from the last juggling act?
  6. Where did Doc Kelly find a cheeseburger?

“What cheeseburger?” Doc Kelly licked his fingers. “You’re talking to yourself again.”

Not only that, but fifteen minutes had passed unaccounted for, which typically only happens when I am drinking French Canadian Canadien beer, which is why I don’t do Montreal or at least I cannot account for ever having done Montreal. In this particular unaccounted fifteen minute span, a new sushi roll was delivered, appearing innocuous despite its name Fist of God.

“Yeah, it is imitation crab.” Erasmus admitted.

“Err, krab. You mean ‘krab’.”

“That is what I said. But instead of your standard fare California roll, there is sprinkled on top a particle recently discovered inside an Illinois hadron collider.”

Cue Doc Kelly to sing the chorus of a Dave Matthews song, “Crash… into me, bay-be…

Erasmus ignored Doc and began an interrogation of my intent, “What is your obsession with the Lake Osceola Cocktail & Leisure Society’s involvement in the Majestic Tower?”

Majesty Tower north of Orlando

Majesty Tower north of Orlando

“First, I have spoken to psychics in Cassadaga who believe the Eye-Sore of I-4, your Majestic Tower, is built on powerful magnetic lay-line vortex for the purpose of pulling in a lot of bad vibe energy. Perhaps the Eye-Sore was never intended to be occupied, perhaps it is meant as a portal to whichever dark shit the Orlando Illuminati is trying to summon.”

“Illuminati and bad vibes?” Erasmus smirked. “Groovy, man.”

“Second, the dishwashers of the Yakisoba Supper Club are playing a Cantonese dice game in the alley by the dumpster. This is supposed to be a Nipponese joint, why are the staff playing a Cantonese game and smoking cheap Chinese cigarettes, unless, of course, they are a part of the International Chinese Waiter Union*.”

“Which you believe to be the most entrenched intelligence network in the world.” Erasmus rolled his eyes without ever moving them. Maybe the earth just revolved around his pupils, but there was an eye-roll in there somewhere. You see, dear reader, he was familiar with my ICWU rants.

“Exactly. Chinese restaurants, and by extension waiters, are everywhere. And if the Orlando Illuminati is in cahoots with the ICWU*…”

“You’ve been packing too much jimson weed in your pipe.” Erasmus interrupted.

@ which Doc Kelly piped-up, “You know what jimson weed is good for?”

“If the Orlando Illuminati is in cahoots with the International Chinese Waiter Union*, we could be at the epicenter of a global CIA plot to fund Black Ops through distribution of heroin.”

“Which you infer because the dish boy is smoking cheap imported cigarettes…” Erasmus spake cynically.

“Jimson weed, also known as Devil’s cucumber or moon flower or Datura in India or Toloache in Mexico, is great in salsa…”

The Eye-Sore of I-4. Ground was broken in 2001. This picture is current as of 2015.

The Eye-Sore of I-4. Ground was broken in 2001. This picture was taken by Vic January 2015.

“Third.” I continued. “The Christian Right in town have blamed the failure of the Majesty Tower on a New World Order conspiracy to bankrupt the local Born-Again movement. The Eye-Sore was supposed to be the headquarters of a new evangelist cable network instead of a hollow monolith built to pagan gods…”

“Or guacamole, I mean, within limits. Jimson weed is toxic in doses too large.”

“So you are chasing the paranoid beliefs of psychics and Bible-Thumpers while interpreting the playing of Chinese craps by Japanese dishwashers smoking ChiCom cigs as some great plot by the Orlando Chamber of Commerce to deal heroin?”

“Or mixed drinks, the Brits in Bombay would garnish datura in their gin & lime-juice rickshaws…”

“Well, yes.” I affirmed. “I mean, it is a working theory.”

And suddenly, the clock struck midnight and we all turned to pumpkins.

*NOTE: the International Chinese Waiter Union intelligence network is the paranoid supposition of the late great Kyril Bonfiglioli, who I believe was onto something.

Aye, dear reader, the conspiracy theorizing has been light of late. Not for lack of controversy, but because I am working on another project for future publishing on this here site. While recently in Portland, Oregon (prior to the current “Sno-pocalyse ’14”), I was asked to put my paranoid skills to task in order to investigate a missing person. Investigation now complete, I am putting my findings into prose to present as an anti-fiction story, “Unbecoming” to be published here this spring.

In the meantime, here is a teaser of a late night conversation with a villain we shall call “Rook”

Chinese Cigarettes: an excerpt from “Unbecoming”

I must have said something comical as Rook let out a laugh that sounded more like a an alpha-jackal barking another wild dog off its carcass lunch. Rook turned towards me, his sleepy eyes the eyes of a man who’d been drinking since nightfall with dawn peaking at the horizon; sleepy, yet maniacal with a crazy energy and something new resembling acceptance. His smile, framed by an impossibly dark beard, gleaned menacingly as the overhead light reflected off of jackal saliva. By now, I was entirely convinced in a past life he had been an anarchist blowing up Franco’s bridges in the Spanish Civil War just for fuck’s sake: shits and giggles as it were.

“I’ve got something to show you.” Rook said and stood up, his balance as wobbly as his words. I followed as he left the den for his kitchen. He paused before the stove and leaned over, steadying himself with an outstretched hand on the nearby sink. He let the oven door fall open with a metallic crash and then withdrew something from within. He attempted to stand upright, the vertical momentum taking him off balance to the point he had to take a couple backward steps in my direction. I waited for the fall; hands ready in case I had to catch him. Rook found his balance and turned towards me to display his prized treasure: a cartoon of Chinese cigarettes. “I present to you, the future.”

Rook and his Contraband

Rook and his Contraband

I chuckled as I imagined Rook as Sir Walter Raleigh returning to England to show a stogie of Virginia tobacco to the Queen, “Your Majesty, I presenth to thou thy futyre.” It was a light chuckle and quickly dismissed when I realized I was playing the part of the Virgin Queen.

“Right.” Rook nodded along to my dreamscape. He was still wearing Elizabethan sea dog garb and I realized I was within a waking dream. Too much sleep deprivation had me hallucinating.

I played along, “How are Chinese cigarettes the future?”

“Right? Okay.” Rook turned back to the box of cigarettes as if his spiel were etched in Chinese Characters. “So they are going to legalize pot everywhere. Marijuana is no longer viable as, you know, a profitable contraband. Cheap cigarettes; that is where it is at.”

“Aren’t cigarettes legal too?”

“Economics, my dear kind sir.” Rook lectured. “Cigarettes are cost prohibitive. Taxed to fuck, what? So.” Rook closed his eyes for a brief cat nap. He erupted in sudden wakefulness, “So cheap cigarettes on the black market is where it is at.”

“You’re going to sell Chinese contraband?”

“Mmhmnth.” Rook hummed through his nose.

“Where do you get your Chinese cigarettes?”

Rook leaned in close to disclose his secret, even though no one else was in the room, “the Chinese.”

“The Triads?”

Rook shook his head and patted my chest with a meaty bear paw. “Nah, the Triads are just the militarized arm of something bigger.”

“Something bigger than the Triads?”

Rook nodded, “The International Chinese Waiters Union.”

“The International Chinese Waiters Union?”

Rook nodded, “The ICWU.”

“The ‘icey double-woo’?”

“Yeah, think about it. Every shit town in America has three restaurants: a McDonalds…” He paused, though held his gaze firmly on my face. “A country buffet.”

“And a Chinese restaurant. Okay, I get it.”

“Who works at Chinese restaurants?” Rook asked before hinting at the answer. “Not some pimple-faced Appalachian white kid. No, who works at Chinese restaurants?”

“Chinese waiters?”

“Chinese waiters.”

“You’re mad.”

“Damn fuck, I’m mad. This…” he held up his cartoon of Chinese cigarettes. “This is what I have to resort to in order for America to be able to afford to smoke cigarettes. I thought this was a free country Vince.”


“It’s not. Not a free country. I’m like…”

“Paul Revere?”

“Paul Revere.” Rook nodded and then walked away to fall asleep in a corner somewhere, leaving his carton of cigarettes on the counter and the oven door ajar with the bounty of contraband kept within.