Category Archives: Free Books

The Golden Outhouse, Part 4 of 4

This is the conclusion of The Golden Outhouse, from my book, Go West or Go Weird. For earlier parts, click on the links below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


 

The Golden Outhouse (Conclusion)

 

The old man hadn’t budged a single muscle. He was still where he lay on the table the night before. And he was hard fast asleep, snoring louder than a hurricane.

Philander Crook stood up and got dressed. He rolled up his bedroll, then sat on the miner’s bed (which he had used, since his host had already decided on the table) and pondered.

An idea had come to him in the middle of the night. He had spent the rest of the night kind of half-awake, half-asleep, mulling over this idea.

In the freshness of the morning the idea still made sense, so he decided he’d give it a try. He knew that the old man wouldn’t want to give up his gold, but he also knew that he couldn’t murder him. There were probably too many miner friends of his living in the area, and they wouldn’t take kindly to one of their friends coming up missing under suspicious circumstances.

And it wasn’t a matter of just shooting Hargrove surreptitiously, then fleeing with the loot. He would first have to spend considerable time extracting and separating the loot from the excrement in the outhouse hole. This would give the miner’s friends plenty of time to organize a necktie party, with Philander as the guest of honor. So murder was succinctly out of the question.

But Philander did have an inspiration he thought would work. He picked up his saddlebags—that he had been keeping next to him in bed—and opened them up. He then dumped all of his 4,716 dollars in remaining dowry money on top of the bed. Then he waited.

It was late in the morning when the somnistreporous old man finally stopped snoring and woke up. He was a bit slow crawling off the table, and looked a bit confused about his choice of a bed. He put the palm of a hand to his forehead and rubbed hard. Trying to relieve the pressure. And speaking of relief, he walked outside without even noticing Philander on his bed, and sought out a prospective bush.

But when he came back inside he saw Philander. And he saw the packets of banded cash piled next to him. He put his hands on his hips.

“Good morning,” he said, but he had a perplexed look on his face.

Philander looked up and smiled. “Good morning, Grover,” he said. There was expectation in his eyes.

The old man looked around the cabin, then back at the cash. He pointed his finger at it, then said, “What’s this about, young man?”

Philander stood up and crossed his arms, tobacco-store Indian style. And his expression was just as woody. “This is an offer,” he said, cocking his solemn head toward the money. “It’s an offer for gold. All that gold you’ve got rotting in the bottom of your outhouse.”

The old miner appeared startled. His eyes opened wide as a frightened frog’s. He croaked, “How’d you- – – -,” then he saw the empty whiskey bottle lying on the floor next to the table. He looked back into Philander’s gloating face. “Damned!” he yelled.

Then he proceeded to cuss himself up one side and down the other. He cussed his stupidity for getting drunk. He cussed whiskey. He cussed the sellers of whiskey. He calumniated the makers of whiskey. He cussed the idea of whiskey. Then he turned on Philander and yelled, “No! I’m not sellin’ out all my gold to some young whippersnapper! Now you jist pack all that money back where it came from and get the hell out of here! You’re not welcome here. You’ve got five minutes to leave, mister stranger—whoever you are.”

Philander just smiled and brazenly said, “No, I’m not leaving. You don’t want me to leave.” Hargrove looked confounded. “You don’t want me to leave, Grover, because if I do I’m going to tell every living, breathing human soul on this river about your outhouse full of gold. And they’re going to descend upon your claim like grasshoppers in a garden. And if you don’t have the stomach to take that gold out, they will. Believe me, Grover, they will. I might even tell the Donkling Gang.”

The old man’s face turned a dark, carnelian red at the mention of the Donkling Gang. He began to stutter. He began to stammer. He was over a barrel, and Philander knew it.

“I’ll give you an hour, Grover. I’ll give you an hour to think about it. But you better think hard. Long and hard. I’ve got 4,716 dollars in cash here, so you better consider that that’s worth it. You’ve got an hour.”

The old man bent his head down and slowly trudged out of the cabin. He had an hour to think, but already he knew he was defeated. He disappeared into the woods, his head bent down, his hands in his pockets, and his spirit somewhere in the snow-covered ground below.

An hour later he relented and a deal was struck. He wrote a bill of sale for his claim, making it out to the stranger who called himself “John Smith.” He reluctantly accepted the 4,716 dollars and stuffed it into his own saddlebags. Then he packed up a few of his personal belongings—some tools, some clothes, some food, and some odds and ends—and threw them onto a packhorse.

By mid-afternoon he was off. Abandoning his claim that he had worked so hard. Abandoning his cabin, that he had built himself. And abandoning his golden outhouse, that contained his life-dream’s fortune. His shoulders were sagging. His head was bent low. And his horse and packhorse were taking slow, doleful steps—away. Farther and farther away, down the pine-shadowed trail.

But about five miles down the mountain his sad shoulders began to take on new spirit. His low-bent head began to rise and look alertly about. And a bit of suppressed laughter began to filter out from between his once-melancholy lips. And the laughter began to catch hold of him like sparks taking to punk. It started to come out in punctuated drumrolls. His whole body began to rock back and forth and shake like a Quaker with the Spirit.

He fell off his horse and lay helpless in the snow, laughing like a delirious maniac. For about ten minutes he was paralyzed with this seizure of hilarity. But finally he regained control of himself and climbed back onto the dismayed horse. He nudged it forward and continued down the trail, packhorse in tow, still twitching now and then from minor eruptions of the powerful mirth.

A few more miles down the trail he came by an abandoned old buckboard wagon. It was lying, collapsed from age and weather, off the edge of the path, abandoned long ago by some luckless pioneer. But its iron-rimmed wheels were still in place, and they were covered with a thick coating of orange rust.

The old man recognized a habit of his, that had made him plenty of good money in the past. He jumped off his horse and fetched an old tin can from the saddlebags of his packhorse. He pulled out a carving knife, then trudged through the snow, over to the broken buckboard. And for the next half hour he spent his time patiently scraping the thick coat of rust off the iron-rimmed wheels and into his tin can.

He only filled the tin can up halfway, but it was a start. In a few more months he would probably have about a dozen or so cans, full of rust, in his new rust collection. For there were plenty of other old, abandoned metal things by the sides of trails that he could scrape lots of corroding rust from in the future.

He looked down inside his half-full can of rust. When the sun hit it, he gave a sinister snicker. He noticed how it gleamed and glistened and glittered in the sun’s rays. And he noticed how it gave off a golden aura.

That’s a funny thing about rust. When it’s way down inside something, and light hits it, it gleams. It gleams and glistens and glitters just like—well—just like gold dust would gleam and glisten and glitter. And with the same golden color, too. Yes, the miner reminded himself. The rust certainly did gleam and glisten and glitter just like gold dust would. He cackled diabolically. Just like gold dust would.

Yes, just like gold dust would.


Endnote:

Perhaps now you can guess what I saw that night, when I shined my flashlight down the hole of my outhouse. Of course one thing I saw was a tall pillar of dried up excrement. That wasn’t the glorious part. The glorious part was all the rust that had flaked off the bottom of the water tank and into the hole.

The light from the flashlight made the rust gleam and glisten and glitter. It was a beautiful sight to behold, as it coruscated and sparkled and twinkled back at me. And it reminded me of gold dust. So much so, that I felt tempted to jump right down there with my pickax and start mining. Until I realized that it was just rust, and had a laugh at my own expense.

And that’s when I was hit with the inspiration to write this story.

The Golden Outhouse, Part 3 of 4

This is Part 3 of 4, of The Golden Outhouse, from my book, Go West or Go Weird. For earlier parts, click on the links below:

Part 1

Part 2


 

The Golden Outhouse (Continued)

 

The loquacious stories continued on into the night, while the old man got drunker and drunker and Philander got sicker and tireder. Crook hoped Hargrove would soon pass out from drunkenness, but all that happened was his speech just got more and more slurred, and his stories got more and more preposterous.

There was a pause when the old man went outside to answer one of nature’s calls. After a few minutes of droopy-eyed waiting, a lantern lit up inside his head. Philander seized the opportunity and decided to go outside, himself, and fetch his bedroll off his horse. He hoped it would give the geezer a definite hint. But as he walked out the cabin door he noticed something strange. He caught sight of his host just stepping out of the bushes. And he was fastening his belt buckle.

That was peculiar, since his outhouse was right there in plain sight in the front yard. But Philander pretended not to notice. Instead he went back inside without his bedroll and sat down at the table. He remembered how he had been warned not use the outhouse himself. So what was it about that outhouse, that not even the owner would use it? He decided the geriatric might be drunk enough to pry it out of him. Curious things sometimes hide huge rewards, so he figured it might be worth a try.

When the old man sat back down, Philander casually brought up the subject of the outhouse. He smiled sideways at him, chuckled, and said, “Well, I hope you didn’t freeze to the seat.”

Hargrove looked perplexed. Then he said, “Well, no, ah, heh, heh, oh yeah! No—ah been dringkin’ du muj red-eye t’freeze. Ha! Ha!”

Philander pointed at the whiskey bottle. “How does a poor old gold miner like you afford all that whiskey, anyway?”

The miner concentrated on the bottle. “Thiz?! Shood, ah don’ min’ thiz. Pennies! T’aint nothin’. Ah gods da dringk cuz yure mah guest!” He snapped his head up, gazed at Philander, laughed, then crookedly hoisted the bottle up and drank straight out of it.

Then he started talking about butterflies and dogs and prostitutes and rainy days and anything else that came up to his inebriated mind.

Philander yawned again, deciding it would be best to make another attempt at going to bed.

But then the old man stopped talking, and looked Philander straight in the eye with a face that, for an eyewink, looked sober as an owl. Then he breathed a low alcoholic whisper and said with a surreptitious but still slurred voice, “Lemme tell ya a story, John Smit’. A goddamned drue story. Druer’n fried chicken on a church bicnic. Ah swear d’God it’s d’druth.”

Philander leaned forward. Could this be the secret to the outhouse? He would listen. He would find out.

The old man pointed his finger at the cabin wall on the far end. “Raughd oudside dere is m’river. Mah river! Ah stagked a claim on id an’ buildt dis cabin las’ Spring. Ah panned d’river, after dad. Mah river! An’ ah god color. Jis’ a liddle bid, but id was color. A few months an’ a few hunnerd dollers an’ ah was magin’ a good livin’.” The old man pointed again. “But raughd oud dere un’er a bangk of dirdt ah god some color lahk no miner has god color in all miner hist’ry. Ah mean, ah god color!”

Philander’s eyes were gaping green, and he was leaning forward into the old man’s pointing finger. He was suddenly wide awake with an alert interest in all the miner was saying.

“Color!!” yelled the old man. He poured himself another shot of whiskey and quickly threw it down his throat. “Color,” he gasped through the last droplets of falling red liquid. Then in a painstaking monologue he described it with reverence. “Id was thigk as a blizzard a bullets. Id t’was gold. All gold. Ah jis’ dipped m’pan in d’river boddom, sweeshed a leedle—an a cloud a gold dus’ floadin’ ‘roun in dere. Ah god an ounce a gold adatime. A whole by-God ounce. Ah dipped an’ sweeshed, an’ dipped an sweeshed. Didit fer a weegk. God a hunnerd poun’s a by-God gold dus’ in’a weegk. A hunnerd poun’s a pure gold! Know wuz tha’s wurth? Forchins! A forchin a forchins! Ah was richer’n all mah frien’s on d’river dad weegk. ‘N all mah inimies, doo.”

The old man got silent and placid all of a sudden, so Philander shot in a good question. “Well, what did you do with all that gold?”

The old drunk snickered. “You won’ bahlieve id. Bud you asgked! So ah’ll tell ya.” He paused and cogitated. Then he rubbed his forehead and said, “Ah wanded da dake’id d’Sagramendo ‘n deposidit in’a bank. Mage it safe ferm robbers. Bud ah was worried ‘boud robbers on da drail, doo. So ah dicided ah’d bagke da gold ub inda loaves a bread an’ dake id inda down dad’away.

“So ah bagked da bread. Mixed gold dus’ in da flour an’ bagked da bread.

“Bud ah din’d figger on da Donklin’ Gang.”

Hargrove pounded a finalizing fist on the table and stared at Philander as if that was the end of the tale.

“Who’s the Donkling Gang?” Philander asked. For once, he wanted to keep the old man talking. This was sounding like it could be true. And if it was there could be a treasure nearby. A treasure of gold just waiting for Philander.

“Das raughd, you ain’ from here,” the old man said. He hunched his head between his shoulders, craned his neck at Philander, and proclaimed, “Da Donklin’ Gang is’a bunja dieves ‘n robbers. Dey wanded a hide-oud blace, so dey rode on ub an’ said ‘Well, we usin’ yo’ cabin now.’ Dere was ten uv’em. Ah had da agree.

“Din dey saw m’bread, an’ dey was a-a-a-l-l-l a’hungry. Dey made me cud d’bread ubp an’ serve id du ’em. Ah din’d dell’em wud dey was eadin’, bud dey all said id t’was da riches’ dastin’ bread dey evah ade. Bud if dey only knew jis’ how rich id t’was.” The old man chuckled, then began to sob drunkenly. “Dey ade all mah gold!” He put his hands over his face and cried some more.

Philander leaned back in his chair and thought about the ridiculous story he had just heard. He didn’t know whether to believe it or not, but the damned dotard sure seemed to be sincere when he told it. Then a thought struck him. So he asked, “Well, why didn’t you just shoot ’em all and cut the gold out of their bellies?”

The drunk opened up his wrinkled hands and looked out between them at Philander. Then he guffawed so hard he teetered backward and almost fell out of his chair. He said, “Thad was d’Donklin Gang, boy! Ah’m jis’ one man. How do ah go an shood d’Donklin Gang?”

He got a straight look on his face then, and said, “Bud ah god mah gold bagk. Oh, yeah. Alluvid. Ah goddid raughd bagk. Y’see, da whole month dey stayed here dey all used mah oudhouse. Alluvem. Ah god mah gold bagk.”

The old man swayed up out of his chair with a grunt in his breath and a look of victory on his face. Philander looked up at him, his mouth gaping open. He steadied himself with hands fumbling on the table, and leaned over, peering straight down Philander’s throat. “Ah god mah gold bagk,” he said, with a supreme drunken smirk on his face. “Ah god alluvid. All hunnerd poun’s uvid. Id’s all raughd down dere in d’boddom a mah oudhouse. So you dell me, Misduh John Smit’. Now how d’hell do ah gid all dadt gold bagk oudt?”

The old drunk collapsed face first on the table with a whump and a rattle. He was floodgate drunk, and all that sudden exertion of standing up made him pass out. He began to sleep as sound as a dead pine tree.

Philander shook his head. He didn’t know what to believe, but the story sounded so different from anything he’d ever heard before, he decided that it just might be true. He decided that it just might be worth looking into. A hundred pounds of gold dust. Now that right there was quite a temptation.

There was a lantern on a shelf, so Philander decided he would check the story out right then. The drunk was so intoxicated and so sound asleep that there was no chance he would wake up and catch him.

He lit the lantern and exited out of the cabin. The outhouse was only a dozen steps away. The door was unlocked and swung easily open. Philander stepped inside, holding the flickering yellow flame in front of him.

He held the lantern over his head and peered down the commode hole. But there were too many mingling shadows, and he could not see well. So he unstrapped his belt from his waist and wrapped a leather loop around the lantern handle. Then he lowered the lantern down the hole, feeding it into position with his hands on the other end of the belt. Now he poked his head down the hole for another view.

This time he could see it well.

And it was scintillating.

The gold dust was down there, gleaming and glistening and sparkling up at him, like a host of smiling angels.

It was covered with dust! Gold dust all over the bottom of this outhouse! It looked like a miniature night sky, with millions of glistening golden points of astral light reflecting off the yellow flame of the lantern.

It was a dream-fortune in gold! Lusty, levitating, luscious gold!

Gold! The icon of the civilizations! Gold! The philter of the females! Gold! That sweat-inducing, prosperity-producing, humanity-reducing mineral of the moguls! Gold! Enamoring gold! Hypertensiating gold! Tempting gold! Sin-seducing gold!

Gold!

And all in the bottom of a drunken miner’s outhouse.

And all thoroughly mixed with human excrement.

Philander caught a sour whiff from the bottom of the hole, wrinkled his nose, and almost retched.

He quickly whipped his head out of the hole and lifted the lantern out with him. He couldn’t take that kind of smell. But it was gold! A hundred pounds of gold! There must be some way, he mused, to get it out.

His mind started rambling. How could he get all that gold out? But he couldn’t make any ingenious ideas come to him.

Well, he was tired. So he reasoned the best thing to do was to sleep on it. In the morning perhaps some fresh thoughts would come to mind.

He glanced back down the hole and made a vow. He made a vow to recover every last glistening dusty speck of gold that was down there. He would recover it and become a prosperous man. Far, far more prosperous than he was even now. He would make his fortune in gold off the bottom of an outhouse. And then he would begin living in opulence. But first he would sleep, then wait for any ideas to come to him in the morning, when his mental powers would be fresh.


End of Part 3. Come on back tomorrow, for Part 4, and the conclusion to this tall tale.

The Golden Outhouse, Part 2 of 4

This is Part 2 of 4, of The Golden Outhouse, from my book, Go West or Go Weird. For Part 1, click on the link below:

Part 1


 

The Golden Outhouse (Continued)

 

Philander made sure that the engagement was of short duration. Lucinda was just so repulsively filthy and ugly, as well as so lacking in the finer mannerisms of most wealthy ladies of the day, that Philander didn’t think he could bear to keep up the dissimulation of romance for very long. He had to marry her quick.

So, after just four months (four lifetimes for Philander), a wedding took place in the finest church of Portland. Philander and Lucinda became attached together in marriage. Or perhaps it was the slimy grime of her body that attached them together, when they hugged upon the altar.

And Ardmoore Bruckles did what Philander had dearly hoped. That fine, magnanimous father-in-law gifted his daughter with a dowry more astronomical than all the pimples that had ever popped upon her blemished chin. He greased her palms with a package of packets containing 5,000 dollars in bundled up banknotes.

It was money that Philander coveted.

There was a honeymoon planned, to Tillamook Bay. The newlyweds were going to travel to the coast and spend some time together by the sea. And they were going to travel alone, by surrey. Kind of a novel approach to honeymooning, but most thought it would be very romantic. And no one was suspicious.

They should have been. It was Philander’s idea.

The night of their wedding they camped together in the mountains, partway through their journey to Tillamook. They pitched a tent beneath a pine tree, and rolled out a bed inside. A bed for them to spend the night together, to consummate their marriage. It was a sacrifice Philander was reluctantly willing to make.

But the next morning Lucinda woke up in the tent, and she was all alone. Her husband was gone. Philander had deserted her from her bed.

It took her two days and two million tears before she was able to traipse back to Portland and alert her doting dad. But by that time Philander was well down the trail, southward to California. And in his saddlebags was 5,000 dollars in beautiful green spending cash.

Sacramento was a fine looking town to Philander, so he decided to stay awhile and live it up. He checked into one of the most opulent hotels and began to frequent the restaurants of the affluent. And he started having a glorious good time.

But glorious good times have a way of coming to some glorious quick endings. And when Philander spotted three of Ardmoore Bruckles’ henchmen in town, he knew that some kind of quick end to the good times was just about to arrive. So rather than die, he decided that he would pull the curtain down on Act One first.

Soon he had checked out of his hotel room and was aboard a fleet-footed horse out of town. He carried with him 4,716 dollars in remaining unspent dowry funds.

And now he was way up in the Sierra Nevada mountains, heading for the silver-mining boomtown of Virginia City. The wind was blowing, and the snow was falling, and all Philander could think of was that warm hotel room that he had left back in Sacramento.

But turning back would be suicidal. At least one of Ardmoore’s henchmen would be waiting. And he would be eager to enforce the law upon him. Of course, not the law of the land, but the law of the lumberman, Ardmoore Bruckles. A far more menacing and deadly law for any man to face.

Up and into the white-bedecked Sierras his horse plodded. Knifing through the snow, through the wind, through the shivering cold.

And the white stuff was getting deeper. At first there were just a few inches covering the trail. But then there were six inches. Then a foot. And it was drifting even deeper in some spots.

Philander’s horse was having a harder and harder time of it. Sometimes it would stumble over rocks and branches beneath the snow, that it could not see. Several times already his mount had fallen to its knees and had to struggle back to its feet.

Darkness was coming. It would be a long night. Perhaps the last night. Philander shook the despairing thought from his head. No, he would make it, he vowed. All he needed was a place to hole up. His eyes began to search for a cave or an overhang to camp, out of the blizzard.

The trail got darker and filled with tenebrous shadows. And the shadows made it even harder for the floundering equine to navigate down the trail. Philander felt a shock wave of panic pound his midsection. But he quickly fought it back. He would not panic—he could not panic. Or he would die. There had to be a place to hole up. He had to keep searching.

Then he came around a bend in the trail and saw something that looked better than the gates of heaven to a lonely lost soul. It was a cabin. A cabin with lantern light gleaming through a window. A cabin with life in it. A promise of a warm place to spend the night and, hopefully, of a warm meal, too.

A senescent man opened the door of the cabin and glowered at him. “Who are you, and what the hell do you want?!” he yelled.

Philander Crook felt desperately cold. Too cold and numb to yank his revolver out and use it on the man. So he had to talk his way into the cabin.

“I’m jus’ a friendly stranger passin’ through, old man,” he smiled through freezing lips that almost made him wince with pain. “I don’ mean no harm. I jus’ need a place to spen’ the night ’till this storm passes through. I’ll pay you for your trouble.”

The old man looked at the horse, glanced at the bulging saddlebags, then steadied his eyes on Philander. He finally smiled. Slightly.

“Well, light and set. You don’t have to pay me nothin’. Go tie your horse up and come on inside.” The old man turned around, then turned back. He pointed a propelling finger at Philander and said, “But there’s one rule you have to follow here. I don’t want you usin’ my outhouse. I don’t let no strangers use my outhouse. You’ll have to use the bushes out there.”

It seemed kind of weird, but Philander wasn’t going to question it. He was just grateful to have a nice warm place to get into. He’d use the bushes anytime, as long as he could sleep under a roof.

He tied his horse and did, indeed, use a bush before going inside. Maladroit, fumbling work when all your extremities are half frost-bit. But Philander was able to accomplish this necessary task of nature without too many inappropriate places on his clothes being soiled.

The old man was waiting for him when he came in. He was sitting at a table with a bottle of whiskey and two glasses. An empty chair invited the worn traveler to rest, at the other side of the table. He poured a shot of whiskey in a glass and placed it in front of the chair. “Siddown an’ drink up,” he smiled like a cherub. “This stuff’l warm you up right quick.”

Philander walked on over, and the old man stretched his hand out. “I’m Hargrove Hinsterman—gold miner. All the folks ’round here just call me Grover.”

“I’m John Smith,” Philander shook hands, “travelin’ up to Virginia City.” Philander could care less that the old man was a gold miner. The gold strike had petered out pretty bad in California, and most of the few small-time miners who still had claims were just barely scraping by. By the looks of the tiny little cabin, it seemed like this miner was no exception when it came to penury. It was just a tiny little dugout in the side of a hill, with three walls of dirt and one wall of pole logs.

And there wasn’t much furniture in the cabin. Just a rusty little woodstove, a wood frame bed, a table and two chairs, and a few slabwood shelves and cupboards.

Philander scowled at his destitute surroundings. This place seemed unfit for a rich man like himself. He vowed to move on just as soon as the storm quit and traveling got easy again. Philander deserved the favors of a city hotel room, not the hardships of a rickety little miner’s cabin.

“John Smith, John Smith,” said the old man. “Say, you wouldn’t happen to be related to that feller who was saved by Pocahontas?”

The old man tilted back in his chair and cackled. “All right,” he said, “you don’t have to tell me what your real name is. But I’d choose a better fake alias than John Smith. These hills are full of all kinds of bad varmints by name of John Smith. Someone may mistake you for one of ’em.”

The old man chuckled, but Philander wouldn’t join in the humor. Philander was fatigued, and all he wanted to do was go to bed. But the senior citizen wouldn’t pay any attention to his yawns and other hints of somnolence. He wanted to open his mouth and talk, and this was the first person he’d seen in a month of Tuesdays. So he started to yak at him.

And he talked and he yakked, and he gabbed and he chatted. Philander was squirming in his chair, literally aching to just get up and unroll his bedroll and stretch out on the floor for some deep, fatigue-killing slumber. But the old man would have none of it. He made Philander sit there and listen to his garrulous monologue about life in the mountains, the art of panning gold, beautiful women of his past, where he was born, his life story, where he wanted to retire after he struck it rich, and other such stale, sentimental ribaldry.

About the stroke of every ten minutes the old man would pour a shot of whiskey for himself, and offer one to Philander too. But Philander usually declined. He liked to keep his wits about him when he was carrying 4,716 dollars in cash in his saddlebags. It was no time for imbibing.


End of Part 2. Come on back tomorrow, for Part 3.

The Golden Outhouse, Part 1 of 4

This is Story #1, from my book, Go West or Go Weird. Each tale in this series will begin with a backstory, followed by the main story.

It can get wearisome, reading long posts, and I want to make sure you don’t sleep too much while reading my book. After all, you may be at work, or driving, or doing something else where you’re supposed to stay awake.

So my goal is to keep my posts from exceeding 2,000 words. That means I’m going to have to break this yarn up into four separate posts, since it’s over 6,000 words long.

I’ll try to break it at parts where you’re just getting into it, and can’t wait to see what happens next. And then maybe I’ll include a link to an ad. Just to keep things real.

What follows is the beginning of Part Won: Go West. And Part Won begins with Part 1 of Story #1. And if you now feel confused as hell, don’t worry. So do I. I think the best thing to do is just start reading, before our confusion escalates into insanity.


Backstory:

When I was 29, and fresh out of the military, I bought a 3-acre parcel in a remote area of the Mojave desert. I wanted to get back to nature, live off the land, and most importantly, put up my feet and rest for awhile.

I built an underground log cabin. And without a building permit. Building underground helped insulate this cabin from the weather. It also helped me maintain a low profile, out-of-sight from the county building inspector.

But I needed a place to shit, and I couldn’t very well build an underground outhouse. Underground is where the shit goes, not the ass. That’s Outhouse Engineering 101.

So my problem was, how to build an above-ground outhouse that would go unnoticed, whenever the building inspector made one of his routine drive-bys.

I resolved this problem by buying an old, rusty water tank, for about $50. It was round, about eight feet high and six feet in diameter, with a peaked roof that looked like an upside-down funnel. The seller warned me that it leaked, and that the bottom was rusting out. Which may have been how I talked him down to $50.

I took that water tank home and cut a square hole through its ferruginous bottom. That’s where the toilet would go. I also cut a door-sized rectangle out of the side. I took that curved, rectangular piece of metal and riveted a piano hinge to one of its long sides. I then reconnected the piece of metal to the water tank by riveting the piano hinge to the tank. That provided a curved door that blended with the tank when closed.

Unfortunately, I never took a picture of my outhouse. But here’s a photo of me standing by my underground log cabin. I’m looking toward the outhouse, about 30 feet away from the cabin.

The Mojave desert is dotted with derelict water tanks, on abandoned jackrabbit homesteads. So my old, decrepit tank was just one of many. It looked like an ordinary, normal fixture of the landscape. No one could have dreamt of its true purpose, unless they were standing just a few feet away and noticed its strange door.

So I was able to live two years in my cabin, while never being cited by the county for having an illegal privy.

One night, I traipsed to my “water closet” to do my business. I opened the door and shined my flashlight down the hole, and was greeted by a glorious sight. And that sight inspired me to write this short story. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll fill you in on the details later.

For the time being, I hope you’ll enjoy this Wild West tale about an unscrupulous villain, an old gold miner, and a very intriguing outhouse.


 

The Golden Outhouse

 

Philander Crook rode straight into a big white mess. On purpose. But only because the fear blowing and drifting in his heart was thicker than the blizzard blowing all around him.

It was really coming down in the Sierras. And he knew things would probably get worse. Winter storms in these mountains that killed the Donners don’t just sprinkle a few inches of powder and mosey on out. No, they set up a work camp in the sky, then shovel down a few feet of the cursed crystals upon the minions hunkering down below. To add to the few dozen feet that might already be there.

Soon it could be nigh on impossible for the fearful Philander to make progress.

A tongue-lashing of wind whipped up the hair on the back of his head and made it levitate. The whistling ice put goose bumps on his raw neck. He shivered like a mine blast, and felt every bone rattle. He fumbled at his coat collar with numb fingertips and frozen-stiff knuckles. Try to get that up higher. Higher, and stop that wind. Stop that killing cold.

Philander glanced around back into the wind, toward the west. Should he rein the horse around and take his chances? Could the enemy shadowing his back be less deadly than the enemy burying his front?

No. They’d be expecting that. And they’d be waiting with loaded rifles. The men who worked for his father-in-law were well-paid, and well worth every ounce of the gold the patriarch had put into their pockets.

And there was not a poltroon amongst them. No they were loyal, professional and courageous killers. So there would be at least one waiting in Sacramento where he had left them. The rest would be on his trail.

But he hoped they had fallen for his ruse and headed down to Los Angeles. That’s where he’d made it seem like he was headed.

A few miles south of Sacramento he’d turned off the trail on a rocky place, where his tracks wouldn’t show up to give him away. Then he had headed straight into suicide. Straight for the Sierra Nevada mountains.

By the next morning he was in the foothills of the Sierras, aiming for Carson Pass. From there he planned to head north for Virginia City, then catch a stagecoach for Salt Lake City. His final destination would be Denver.

He doubted the old man would send any men to Denver. So there he would be safe while things cooled off on the coast for a few years.

As his horse slogged through the snow past a half-dead, gnarled, twisted, parasite-infested oak tree, he was reminded of his wife. And he inwardly cringed at the mental image this festering tree conjured up. For Lucinda was just as ugly as any of its half-dead branches, peeling bark, or rotting roots.

Her hair was greasy black. Looked like an old saloon mop that someone had dipped in lard before mopping out a coal bin. Her nose was as protuberant as a palomino’s proboscis. Nostrils just as wide. Strands of black nosehair hung over her upper lip, half-covering her black, greasy mustache. Actually, her hair was brown—on the rare occasions she took to wash it.

She had a pimply chin, that was usually sopping wet with the oleaginous complexion of her skin. Two droplets of oil perennially dangled from the point of this volcanic mandibular apex, gradually collecting enough oozing grease to slowly dribble to the ground.

She might have made up for some for her natural ugliness through developing habits of hygiene. But Lucinda was a slob. Her only habit of hygiene was to clean herself up once a year for Fourth of July festivities. But then she’d declare her independence from bathwater for the twelve months that would ensue, and allow filth and grease to cake up on her skin and within all the little nooks and crannies of her body.

This made her the ugliest, amongst ugly women in Oregon. Or possibly anywhere.

No male, foolish or wise, would debate that. In fact if there was anything all men residing within the newly established state of Oregon could agree upon, it would be that Lucinda Bruckles had staked out a vast claim upon the word “ugly.” And she was its rightful owner.

But she wasn’t the only one in her family with a vast claim. Lucinda Bruckles was the daughter of Ardmoore Bruckles—who was one of the greatest lumber magnates in all the state. Ardmoore Bruckles was a rich man. And a powerful man. And a very feared man.

Ardmoore had taught all his habits of hygiene to his daughter. Which weren’t much, because he himself also maintained a mucky year-round filth, caked upon his own complexion.

And he was filthy in character also. In fact, the dirtiness of his body served as an asset to him. For it reflected his reputation of a mean, unscrupulous bully. Which is exactly how he wanted others to see him.

That’s how he had come by his success in logging. He had terrorized and intimidated most of his competition right out of business. Ardmoore was deadly. He was a man most intelligent men were afraid of. And most stupid men too. He was egomaniacal, martinetish, and wielded authority like a grizzly bear wields a swat.

He squashed anyone who made him angry.

But then came Philander. Philander Crook was willing to chance that anger. He thought it might be worth it.

But Philander was young. And immature. And very greedy.

So when he met the Princess of Ugly—Lucinda Bruckles—and found out who her father was, his heart did an immediate swoon-dive. Or at least, that’s how he acted.

His script was that of a man enamored. He made a show like it was love at first sight. And he played like he was deeply fascinated by her. Like he just had to get to know her better. He made all the moves of a bedeviling adolescent who was competing for his first belle’s attentions and affections. Even though there really was no competition.

And Lucinda fell for his charms like horseshit falls from an equine’s ass. Her heart fairly plopped steaming right before Philander’s feet. But it was easy to charm the likes of Lucinda. She was just so scrofulous that it was rare for any man to show any affection toward the desperate young debutante.

So Lucinda felt flattered by Philander’s feigned attentions. And her heaving heart within her pinguid little heaving breast launched into the heavens and soared up to the stars, then burst with euphoria.

Ardmoore was even more euphoric. In fact he was beside himself with ecstasy. So far, no man in the entire American West had yet to show any interest in this female product of his loins. But now there was a man who seemed to be in love with her. To actually be in love with his walking grease-stain of a pigsty daughter!

And a handsome man at that.


End of Part 1. Come on back tomorrow, for Part 2.

Go West or Go Weird

Cover image: Ghost Rider 1984, sculpted by Charles Albert Szukalski, Goldwell Open Air Museum, near Rhyolite ghost town, Nevada.

Strap on your hiking boots. Today we begin a long, loooooooooooooong, journey through my book, Go West or Go Weird. I’m posting it in its entirety, through a series of installments. Yep, I’m going all in here. I’m gambling on either gaining more followers, or losing every last one.

This is a collection of short stories I’ve written over the course of four decades. The oldest was written in 1978. And the newest came to life this year.

I initially offered this book for sale on Amazon in the year 2010. It sold three copies. And now that I’m rich from all my royalties, I’ve decided to become a philanthropist and offer it for free.

I’ve taken out a few of the original stories, because maybe they weren’t that good. And I’ve replaced them with a few that I hope are better. But I hope you’ll enjoy them all.

My book starts with an Introduction, so this is where we’ll begin. I now introduce to you, the book that just missed the New York Times bestseller list by only about a million copies. Please enjoy Go West or Go Weird.

 

 

 


Introduction to
Go West or Go Weird

Most of my short stories have fallen under one of two genres. They’re either Westerns, or they take the reader on a journey through the strange and Weird. This never occurred to me until I decided to gather my best short stories together, and publish them in a book.

So what’s the connection? Certainly there must be something going on in my head, that attracts me to these two themes. What’s the common denominator? Why do I usually go West or go Weird, when I confabulate a story? I had to cogitate for awhile, to try to figure this out.

I think it boils down to my love for freedom. The West offers wide-open spaces. And an independent spirit fills the uncrowded voids of the West. There’s much adventure to be had, and when you’re independent, you’re on your own to explore as much as you want, in whatever way that you want.

It couldn’t actually be due to the wide-open spaces in my head, could it?

The West connects to the Weird through that same freedom. To be truly free, you must overcome your fears enough to explore the dark side of the human heart and mind. Those places where you usually dare not tread. You must enter these Stygian realms, to learn about the demons that lurk there. That’s the only way to conquer them. Stories of the Weird can help us do that.

It couldn’t really be because I’m a weirdo, could it?

Adventure is to be had in both realms. You can go West, or you can go Weird. Either way, all you must do is spread your wings and fly into freedom. In other words, just open your mind, suspend your disbelief, and trust that the wind of my words will sustain your flight. And if they do, they will carry you from one adventure to another, as you soar from tale to tale across the pages of this book.

With each story comes a backstory. I preface every one of my yarns with a brief recollection of how I cooked up the tale. I hope this will enrich your experience, by giving you some idea of what the hell was going on in my head when I composed my prose.

This book is divided into two parts. Part Won takes you West, and Part Too makes you Weird. It matters not which part you read first. And so the decision is now yours. Which part will you turn to?

Will you go West, or will you go Weird?


Well, since I’m posting this book seriatim before I start selling it in my Free Bookstore, you’re going to have to go West first. So come on back tomorrow for Part Won, and my short story entitled, The Golden Outhouse.

Creative Writing Class

I was lured into the hellish, hardscrabble hobby of writing when I was 16 years old. And due to brain damage, I’ve stuck with it.

In my junior year of high school I attended a creative writing class. My teacher’s name was Mrs. Utt. But we called her Mrs. Nutt. And sometimes, Mrs. Butt, and a few other things. She had a name we students could get very creative with. But I preferred Nutt, because I thought she was nutty for teaching creativity. How can anyone teach anyone to be creative?

She’d give us assignments to write about this, that, or the other thing, and I’d always turn them into something nonsensical. My purpose was to get laughs, while showing how much fun it is to break the teacher’s rules.

Mrs. Nutt would always dock my grade for straying from her assignments’ guidelines. And I would argue that you can’t be creative if you stay in a box. She never saw it that way.

I think there are two different kinds of writing: creative writing and journalism. And I think Mrs. Nutt was mixing the two up.

One day she asked, “Tippy, do you think you have a talent for writing?”

What a stupid fucking question. And I wish I had responded that way. I thought at the time that this was a matter of taste, so only the reader could make that judgment.

But I wondered if she was finally willing to admit she was wrong for docking my grades. So I answered, “I dunno.” But she just dropped the subject.

Looking back, I think a good answer to Mrs. Nutt’s question might be, “Hell yes! Everyone does.”

This is kind of nebulous. So let me put all my bullshitting skills to work, and explain what I’m trying to get at:

I believe that anyone who opens themselves up and bleeds all over their keyboard, has a talent for writing. Or at least, creative writing. And by bleeding, I don’t mean getting all emotional. That’s possible, but too much sentiment can make readers nauseous. What I’m really getting at is life. Creative writing is about finding your life within, and letting it gush forth.

It’s that which interests, intrigues, and excites you. It’s the life that is at the cutting edge of the progress of your soul. It’s the next step through your path down the vast unknown of eternal existence. You must capture this, and figure out how to articulate it.

And anybody can do this. Creative writing is not about skill, except perhaps the most basic of skills. If you can write, “See Spot run. Run Spot, run,” you can be a creative writer. Because it’s about talent, not skill. A talent we all possess, deep inside.

It doesn’t much matter your depth of vocabulary, grammatical skills, or syntax ability. So fuck you, Strunk and White. It’s about getting inside your heart and breaking it open. This is hard to do, but I believe when you accomplish this, you have as much talent at creative writing as anyone can ever possess.

Mrs. Nutt finally answered the question herself. She gave me a B in that class. But my fellow students gave me an A. The A came from all the laughs I got, whenever I was asked to read one of my short stories aloud. They might have been laughing at me, rather than with me, but that A was enough to lure me into the hellish, hardscrabble hobby of writing. Because all you have to do is laugh, to encourage me. Be warned.

A few years later I enrolled in another creative writing class, as a college sophomore. I expected this experience to be different. I was looking forward to a professor who would give me free rein to write whatever and however I wanted. A real pro, who knew creativity couldn’t be taught, but who could teach me a few techniques that might help express my creativity more effectively. After all, she was a college professor, for gawd’s sake.

Mrs. Mushroom. Or a reasonable facsimile.

But no. I got Mrs . . . Mrs . . ., aw hell, she had a very forgettable name. But she had a fungiform shape, so I’ll call her Mrs. Mushroom.

Just like Mrs. Nutt, Mrs. Mushroom gave us assignments, and expected us to confine our creativity to the bounds of those assignments. As if we were journalism students. I never did. And like Mrs. Nutt, she always docked my grade for straying out of bounds.

One of her assignments required us to write about a very intense, personal, emotional experience. Boy did I have fun with that one. When she graded my paper, she scribbled her little comments at the top. But before she handed it back, she made the near-fatal decision to read it to the entire class.

During this reading, Professor Mushroom started to giggle. She suppressed it. But a few paragraphs later, the giggling erupted again, a little louder. She tried to suppress it again, but to little avail. It just kept building louder and louder, while interrupting her reading more and more frequently. Suddenly she exploded into hysteria, like an inmate at a sanitarium.

Trying to suppress laughter can be dangerous. Mrs. Mushroom began to choke. Some of her saliva had apparently been sucked down the wrong tube, from the involuntary convulsions of her ribcage.

She choked and coughed and gagged and hacked, while her face turned redder and redder from anoxia. Finally she rose from her desk and rushed out of the classroom.

We got about a 20-minute break, from this tussive medical emergency, as we waited for the professor to apparently search for some water to treat her coughing. Or find a restroom hand dryer, to air out her wet panties. Or do whatever the heck she was doing.

We even speculated that maybe she was choking to death and dying, somewhere outside. But nobody bothered to check. We were too busy socializing with each other.

It was nice getting that break. Her class was usually boring.

Finally she returned, looking disheveled. She composed herself at her desk, the best she could, shakily picked up my paper, and slowly and carefully finished reading it while keeping her face as straight as possible.

Then she handed the paper back to me, with the comment she had superscribed, before her decision to read the paper to the class. The comment read, “Not sure if you were trying to be funny, but if you were, the humor didn’t come across. B-”

I didn’t argue with Mrs. Mushroom and accuse her of hypocrisy, because then I’d have to admit that I didn’t follow the assignment. And that I really was trying to be funny. And if I did that, she might have changed the grade to an F.

This illustrates why I consider creative writing classes to be a joke. To be successful, a creative writing class must be taught by someone who truly understands and appreciates creativity. Someone who doesn’t mistake it for journalism, by meting out rigid assignments.

But how could such a teacher give any grade to anyone, except an A? After all, how do you judge creativity?

If you want to write creatively, don’t attend a creative writing class. Just write. And write and write and write. You’ll probably suck at first, but after awhile you’ll figure it out. Sooner or later, when you penetrate deeply enough into your own heart, you’ll naturally know what to do.

Don’t worry about grammar, syntax, or any other bullshit rules for writing. They’re not necessary. There’s a lot of classical literature out there, whose authors threw those rules right out the window.

Mrs. Mushroom made us acquire Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. We were supposed to read this hallowed old tome cover-to-cover, and that was supposed to make us into great writers. Sadly, most of the students bought that shit and struggled through Strunk and White, trying to decipher the arcane answers to the great mysteries of creative writing.

I even tried Elements of Style, myself. But I found the going to be as thick as that time I tried to force myself through the Book of Mormon. But I still brought it to class every day, and set it on top of my desk, just to impress Mrs. Mushroom.

It must have worked. At the end of the semester she ended up giving me a B. So thank you, Strunk and White. That’s the most you’ve ever done for my writing.

After surviving Mushroom’s class, I kept writing. Because the memory of her laughter and, most importantly, her choking, still echoes in my brain. It’s the greatest encouragement I’ve ever received.

Most of the shit I’ve written has been for no one in particular. Over the years, I’ve occasionally been struck with a sudden inspiration, and acted upon the afflatus by putting pen to paper. And eventually, keyboard to software. And for the past decade, post to blog.

About nine years ago I compiled a collection of what I considered to be my best short stories, into a book. I put it on Amazon. It sold three copies. Yeah, this is what I mean about a hellish, hardscrabble hobby. If I still believed that only the reader can judge talent, I’d have to admit I’m a goddamned lousy writer. Which may be true. But I choose to live in my personal fool’s paradise, by going with the lengthy justification I presented above, explaining why everyone has talent.

I’ve decided to donate this book to the common cause of creativity. I’m going to share it on my blog, in a multi-part series, and make you suffer through it. It’s over 40,000 words long, so this series will take awhile to complete. I hope you’re not easily distracted.

After I’ve shared it with you, I’m going to assign it a Creative Commons license, and give it away to a general public that refused to buy it (except for those three very decent saints with exceptional taste).

Some of my short stories are serious, and others are an attempt to be humorous. I hope you will enjoy them all. But if on any occasion you don’t think I’ve succeeded at being funny, I must warn you. Please, do not read the story out loud to anyone.

Because you may want to live, to read another day.

Reconquering California

It’s been a few months since my Conquering California series of posts. This was a history about how illegal immigrants from America took California from Mexico. Remember? I know, it’s hard. I barely recall it myself.

But now I’ve rewritten history. I proofread all of those posts and made some corrections and other revisions. And I put them all together with some Gorilla glue, and transmogrified them into a small book.

I gave Conquering California a Creative Commons license, and am now distributing it free of charge to any sucker interested person who is willing to take the time to read it. So in case you were sleeping while you read all those posts this summer, here’s another chance to read Conquering California. And to take more naps.

You can find it in PDF format, by clicking on the Free Bookstore page, at the top of this blog. Or, just click any link in this post, entitled Conquering California. You’ll have to search hard for these Conquering California links, because I buried them in inconspicuous places. But I’m sure you’ll find them eventually. Conquering California.

If you decide to reconquer California, by rereading Conquering California, I hope you’ll enjoy the convenience and ease of this book format. And don’t forget, you can also go to www.obooko.com, and find this and some other propaganda I’ve penned, all free of charge.

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