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The Muddled Ages - part one

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Joined: 31 Mar 2004
Posts: 272
Location: NYC
The Muddled Ages - part one  Reply with quote  

“The Muddled Ages”

“Welcome to the Hotel California….” Toni slammed the snooze
button hard enough to knock the clock radio off her nightstand.
Toni found it harder than usual to summon the effort to drag
herself out of bed. Funny thing, she usually would have been
woken earlier by the endless stream of traffic that rumbled by
her basement apartment. It was an eerily quiet morning, nothing
but birdsong and what sounded like the distant rumble of garbage

As much as she would like to roll back over, Toni Templar had
things to do today. Untangling herself from the sheets she got
up to start the coffee. With the first of the three food groups
Toni was living on taken care of, she fumbled to find her
cigarettes and lighter. Toni figured that she’d quit soon but
not quite yet, not with her schedule right at the moment. As she
surveyed the street outside her window Toni was still struck by
the lack of traffic. She tried to recall if there was any
notices posted about street closings but still couldn’t shake
the feeling that something wasn’t right.

The first meeting she had today was with her engineers - the
Siege of Troy client wanted a real working trebuchet (she hated
when they got ideas from Nova.) The engineers were doing
feasibility studies and Toni wanted to know if they could bring
this one in under budget. Despite the fact that she was on a
first name basis with some of the richest people on earth,
historical reenactments really didn’t make you any money. Why
else would she be living under the New York City sidewalk?
Generally even though a run of the mill World War Two
reenactment cost more than the gross national product of the
some her clients’ countries, she never seemed to have anything
left at the end of the day.

Toni wondered how of all things that a smart single woman living
in NY could do she ended up staging elaborate fantasies for men
(mostly - there was the woman who wanted to stage Catherine the
Great’s infamous encounter with a horse but Toni drew the line
at the reenactment of mere innuendo) with a less than firm grasp
on reality. If she hadn’t been drafted into coordinating that
medieval festival for the Parks Department she might still be
ignorant of not only what a trebuchet was but also whether the
Siege of Troy actually occurred. Dr Melinda Cosmo had approached
her through mutual friends; Toni thought the woman quite out of
her mind but the challenge appealed to her. It had been years
since the last festival – Toni had a vague memory of banners,
horses and men in armor. The plan was to reach out to inner city
kids; this was too much of a hook for Toni to ignore no matter
how weird she thought Dr Cosmo and her role playing friends

“Now would be a good time for the traffic to become unstuck,”
Toni thought as she walked up the steps of her brownstone to
hail a cab. With the synchronicity that only taxis have one
arrived as she stepped off the curb. “Kennedy Airport?” the
driver asked. Toni could only nod because that was exactly where
she was going.


Climbing into the cab, Toni was immediately engulfed by a thick
cloud of smoke--reefer, by the smell of it. Waving one hand in
front of her face while she pulled the door closed with the
other, she asked the cabbie, “How did you know where I was going?”
“He didn’t,” a female voice said. “I did.”
Toni jumped and let out a little squeal.
Crushed up against the far side of the cab sat an elegant
middle-aged woman. Toni, squinting through the smoke, instantly
recognized her as Dr. Melinda Cosmo.
Startled, Toni asked, “Wha...what are you doing here, Doctor?
I expected to meet you in--“
“There’s no need to be alarmed, Ms. Templar.” Dr. Cosmo
replied. “But there’s been a change of plans. I’ll explain on the
way.” She leaned forward to tap on the bullet-proof partition
with a long dangerous-looking blood-red fingernail. “Move it,
Juan. Time is money.”
The cabbie, merely a shadow within the smoke, nodded and the
cab lurched forward with an impressive screech of tires.
“What do you mean, ‘a change of plans’?” Toni demanded. The
whole situation was very weird. Why was Dr. Cosmo here, in New
“Put this on,” the doctor said and thrust something white
across the seat.
Frowning, Toni picked up the object and found it was a Marie
Antoinette type wig. “What?”
“You’ll need it to be admitted,” the doctor told her, as if
that explained everything.
“Admitted? Admitted to what?”
“Just put it on!” Dr. Cosmo suddenly snarled. “And for God
sake, hurry!”
Unaccustomed to being snapped at, Toni was just about to snap
back when the cabbie took a corner fast enough to slam her hard
into the door. “Jesus!” she cried, her face mashed against the
grimy glass. It was then that she noticed the streets were empty;
no other cars moved anywhere. The sidewalks were barren of all
Straightening up, Toni turned back to the doctor. “Is today a
“You could say that,” Dr. Cosmo replied. “Now put on the wig!”
“Why? What the hell is going on?”
The doctor screamed, “Put on the wig!”
Toni yelped in fear and instantly pulled the huge wig over
her hair. “Okay, are you happy now? I put on your stupid wig!”
“It’s backwards.” The doctor sounded extremely impatient.
Mumbling expletives, Toni fixed the wig just in time to be
flung to the opposite side of the cab, doing a face plant into
Dr. Cosmo’s lap.
“Heavens to Betsy!” the doctor yelled. “Damn you Juan!”
Pulling herself out of the doctors crotch, Toni was seriously
considering rolling down her window and screaming for help. But
had she been kidnapped? She didn’t know for sure, but it was
certainly beginning to look that way. On the other hand, Melinda
Cosmo was an extremely cherished customer and most likely would
not take kindly to Toni hollering, “HELP! I’ve been abducted by a
rich crazy woman who makes me wear wigs!”
Instead of rolling down the window, Toni decided to give
talking to the doctor another shot.


Dr. Cosmo reached out and adjusted the crooked wig on Toni’s
head. It clicked into place. “There, there dear girl, there’s
no reason to get your panties in a bunch. We’re just going to
attend a little soirée on Park Avenue.”
“What kind of soirée is this?” asked Toni, gritting her
“It’s more of a rendezvous really, a costume party of
sorts. You won’t even be required to perform tonight.”
“This isn’t a re-enactment?”
Melinda Cosmo took a deep hit off of her joint, held the
smoke for a bit and then exhaled through the left side of her
frown. “No, but I’ll be introducing you to some very influential
friends, some of whom may require your services in the future.”
Smiling, Juan altered the rearview to get a better view
of Toni and her slight cleavage.
“Look Dr. Cosmo, I appreciate your sending business my
way, but I was under the impression that I would be needed
tonight for...”
“Stop worrying Toni, you’ll be paid your regular fee.”
Toni took a deep breath and sighed. “Ok, that’s fine.
So, who are these influential friends of yours that I’ll be
“Have you ever heard of Dr. Casper VanBlunk?”
Toni took out a Virginia Slim and Dr. Cosmo lit it for
her. She took a drag and said, “VanBlunk, why does that name
sound familiar?” Toni had no idea who this guy was. “Let me
guess,” she said, “Dr. Casper VanBlunk is the head of the Hell’s
Angels, Santa Cruz chapter.”
“The choreographer for The Rocky Horror Show on Broadway?”
“Uh uh.”
“An ex-roadie for Jimi Hendrix?”
Toni threw her hands up. “I don’t know... ...He
invented Prozac?”
“Miss Templar! Phenomenal guess. As a matter of fact,
he’s formulated a drug called Xynal, a similar antidepressant.
That is but one of his many remarkable accomplishments in the
world of science. I‘m sure you‘ll find him a delight to chat
“I’m sure I’d rather drink a can of motor oil.” said Toni
in a barely audible mutter.
“I’m sorry dear, I didn’t quite catch that.”
“I said: I’m sure I’ll be looking forward to it.”

The wig was not an ordinary wig. Dr. VanBlunk designed
it to fit Toni Templar’s head exactly. Melinda Cosmo had given
Dr. VanBlunk plaster molds of Toni’s head. Dr. Cosmo had made
the molds based on various masks and wigs she’d had Toni wear
from past re-enactments. All of these masks and wigs were lined
lightly with a unique molding putty designed by VanBlunk. Dr.
Cosmo constructed a fairly accurate plaster mold from the
impressions left in the putty. Dr. VanBlunk constructed this
tremendously astonishing wig directly from that plaster mold.

When Dr. Melinda Cosmo adjusted Toni’s wig and
it ‘clicked’ into place, four miniscule electrodes from within
the wig attached themselves to Toni’s head. The electrodes were
monitoring Toni’s brain activity and sending the information to a
tiny transmitter also strategically placed within the wig. The
data uplink went directly to a computer in a certain penthouse on
Park Avenue. At the same time, plastic tubing within the wig was
releasing minute excretions of super-glue every couple of
minutes, thus fusing the wig to Toni’s skin and hair.

Casper VanBlunk was eyeing his computer monitor with a
sickly grin. His database was engaged in an import process from
an uplink in a NYC taxi only a half mile away. “Ze vig is on! Ze
vig is on!” he said loud and proud with a thick German accent.
Dr. VanBlunk began waltzing through the room singing “Ding dong
ze vig is on! Ze vig is on! Ze vig is on! Ding dong ze vig, ze
vig is on!” to the tune of ‘The Witch is Dead’ from ‘The Wizard
of Oz’. Dr. VanBlunk was ecstatic because all of this meant that
tonight he was going to test his theories of time travel for the
first time. His guinea pig, Toni Templar was going to be in for
quite a ride.


When Taco Bob was finally released from high school, he was
informed that his aptitude tests had shown that he should pursue
a career in either ranching or cab driving. He went into possum
ranching, and was quite successful. Unfortunately, there seemed
to be a nearly continuous stream of natural disasters that
hampered his ranching endeavors.

Just last week, the winds from an approaching tropical storm
whipped the latest wildfire up enough to burn out a good portion
of the ranch in record time. Soon after they got the fire out,
the tropical storm came on through and blew down most of the
trees and buildings. Then of course, it rained constantly for two
days and the floodwaters washed away most everything that hadn't
already burned up or blown away.

This would have been terribly discouraging to most people. But
since it seemed to happen to Taco Bob's ranch on a regular basis,
he just cleaned up and salvaged what he could, and went off to
give cab driving a shot in order to make enough money to start up
the ranch again. TB's old friend Juan wasn't using his cab much
since his latest conviction for vehicular homicide, so they
worked out a deal on the cab, and TB was off on his first
day driving in the big city.

It being so quiet this morning, TB was glad to have a fare. He
kept glancing at an old photo of some of his possums that got
lost in the latest flood, and was getting a little teary-eyed. He
also kept looking in the mirror at the two women in back,
especially the young woman named Toni with the funny wig and the
interesting cleavage.

Suddenly Toni yelled, "LOOK OUT!" and TB slammed on the brakes
and came to a screeching stop just inches from a short rat-faced
man and a big guy with a cowboy hat. Pounding on the hood of the
cab, and spraying spittle on the windshield, the rat-faced man
screamed, "HEY, I'M WALKING HERE!"

Taco Bob and the two men then had a brief, but heated, discussion
using colorful language that seemed appropriate for the occasion.
They finished the exchange with a flurry of hand gestures and a
few parting oaths. In the meantime, Toni was rubbing her head
from the impact with the bullet-proof glass partition, while
pounding a red -faced Dr. Cosmo on the back, who was coughing and
gagging from having just swallowed the last of the still-lit

TB found a half-pint bottle of 'shine under the seat and slipped
it over the partition to Toni and said, "Give that gal a snort a
this!" Soon there was a new round of coughing and gagging, and TB
made a mental note to stop at a service station after he let
these ladies off and wipe down the back seat area.

TB continued driving and looking at the picture of his beloved
possums. Things finally quieted down in back, and TB checked the
mirror and thought he saw a wisp of smoke come off the place
where Toni had been rubbing her head.


Casper VanBlunk sat fidgeting in his office, staring a hold
through the door. When he heard the voices in the hallway, he
leaned purposefully back in his leather roller, striking what he
thought to be a CEO pose. Feet stretched out on the walnut desk,
he began to examine his nails, rubbing them every few seconds on
his white labcoat.
The large door opened, “Why can’t I take this thing off? It
feels weird.” Toni said trying to be polite, but wondering if the
money she was promised was worth the humiliation.
Melinda Cosmo ignored her question and smiled warmly at VanBlunk.
Blunk rose from his desk a bit too eagerly, and raced to
introduce himself. “Vell, Miz Templar, Itz zooo niz to meet you!”
Toni started to reach out to shake the doctor’s hand, but
VanBlunk surprised her by giving her a bear hug. Her arms forced
to her sides, she stared blankly at Melinda Cosmo, who just
shrugged and lit another cigarette.
VanBlunk grinned like schoolboy and tugged quickly at Toni’s
wig, before releasing her. “Ouch!” Toni grabbed her hair and
stared in disbelief at VanBlunk.
“Zo, zorry. Must be done.” He smiled with his arms crossed,
nudging a wink at Melinda. “Zo, ve are apparently ready?!” He
clapped his hand together and jumped slightly. “Zo you are
probably wundering why, ve have appropriated your servizes?”
“Uh, yeah I thought you needed…
“Vell, you have been chozen to be ze first to have the
opportunity to travel back into zime, and …
“Wait.. back in time?” Toni said staring gape mouthed at the
small German in front of her.
“Yez, This is what I said, ‘back in zime’, izn’t it wunderbar?!”
“What makes you think, I will do this for you anyhow?”
“Vell,” VanBlunk rolled his eyes over to Melinda, who was
browsing through a magazine, “You have the vig! You cannot remove
it, only I can, and I vill not until you have completed your
“And what might this task be?” Toni said pulling at the wig,
doubling over and rolling side to side in the effort.
“Vell, zu must return to me DNA zamples I require in order to
clone certain personalities.”
Toni shot bolt upright, “HELL NO, I am not bringing back Hitler
for you, you, you….
“Noooo I do not vant to bring back that particular…” but the
doctor couldn’t think of what to say, so he just spit on the
floor for effect. “Just some ozer smaller, species, if you vill.”
“And what if I don’t agree?” Toni said, blowing the hair out of
her face.
“Vell, that would be very zad. Ve would have to activate ze
electrodes to full power, and I believe would be zapped, and you
don’t want to zee that.”
Toni plopped down in the leather chair at VanBlunk’s desk. “Ok,
maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. I wouldn’t be hurting anyone right?
No evil people, or you can fry me. I ain’t doing any evil people!”
The doctor grinned, “Of course not! Just step into the inner
office vit me pleaze.”
He ran to open the door for Toni. Inside the inner office was a
huge guillotine.
“Hey! You said…” before Toni could finish, VanBlunk held up his
hands and calmly said, “No this iz it! The device. My creation.
Ze Zime Machine!”
Toni looked at him blankly.
“I have a zing for Marie, what can I zay?”
Toni examined the blade, and found it was actually a hologram.
Where the blade would have fit into the wood, sat a variety of
lasers and some strange glowing purple substance.
“So, I just sit here and … poof?”
“Poof!” VanBlunk beamed.

Two hours and several hits off some funny cigarettes, Toni laid
down on the guillotine, as VanBlunk adjusted the equiptment and
prepped her once again.
“You have ze list and ze bag. Just collect ze items on ze list
and push ziz little button on ze vig. Ve will monitor your
progress here. As you collect ze items, I vill move you on to
your next location. If you do not collect zem,
ppzzzzzzzPPPppzzz!” VanBlunk shuddered and rolled his eyes back
to illustrate his point.
“Yes, got it. Just let’s get it over with.” Toni stared at the
ceiling and the purple goo. She figured it wouldn’t work, and she
would be home within the hour. New York was known for it’s
strange populace.

Strange light filled her eyes, and she flew through a wave of
liquid colors. It felt like a couple of seconds, and then
blackness. And… it smelled funny. Like Chinese food, and old
spice, with a hint of cat litter. A loud crash sent her jumping.
Her head made solid contact with metal.
“Shit! Don’t tell me… it worked?”
She reached up and pushed. Light filled her eyes and revealed
the source of the stench, a dumpster. She was torn for an instant
between delving into this new unknown world and just closing the
lid and hiding.
She pulled the slip of notebook paper out of her pocket
reluctantly. She scanned the first item on the list, Abbie
Hoffman’s nose hair. “You have got to be shitting me!” she said
aloud to herself. “His nose hair?”
She looked around the dumpster and found a New York Times at her
feet. She smiled in spite of herself, she knew where to go. The
date on the paper read, April 1967. The New York Stock Exchange
was where he would be.


Rick Stills sat eating his lunch in the dark, listening to the
storm that was raging outside and thinking about how much he
hated his job.
When he had applied for and been accepted into the
Historic Preservation Patrol, Rick had considered himself one of
the luckiest guys in the world. He had imagined himself chatting
with Elvis, hanging out at Woodstock, or maybe even hitching a
ride on the Hindenburg - but this was bullshit. This sucked.
So far this week, he had been sent to the Crucifixion to
wrestle a crowbar away from a disgruntled T.V. evangelist,
traveled to 1800’s France in order to stop a guy from convincing
Frederic-Augste Bartholdi to apply a little more hammer to the
Statue of Liberty’s copper bosom, and he had shot himself twice -
and it was only Tuesday.
Balancing his sandwich on his knee, Rick punched a button
on his watch which lit up his face with a dull neon green glow.
12:50. His lunch break was almost over. A low, echoing moan
coming from the surrounding darkness made Rick flinch, reminding
him that he wasn’t alone.
“Sorry.” Rick said to the dungeon’s only other occupant -
a small, skeleton thin Frenchman who was chained to the wall at
the other end of the vast room. “ I guess Indiglow is a bit ahead
of your time.”
Looking around at his dank and dismal surroundings, Rick
added, “ You people weren’t much on weatherproofing either, were
Rick often spent his lunch breaks in the dungeons of the
1600’s France time period, because it was usually quiet and he
could think. Today, however, it was night time outside, there was
one hell of a storm pounding the castle walls - and to say the
dungeon leaked would be an understatement. In the last twenty
minutes the ceiling had begun to drip, the wall the Frenchman was
chained to had become a small waterfall, and the rough stone
floor had been transformed into an ankle deep flowing river. It
was dark, cold, and water was coming in everywhere. Rick frowned
and shook his head as he took another bite of his sandwich, then
he stood up and sloshed across the room towards the sputtering
Frenchman chained to the waterfall.
“You know”, Rick said as he held the remains of his
Quarter pounder to the Frenchman’s lips, “This reminds me of
one of my past assignments. I was undercover as a third class
passenger on the Titanic. I nearly drowned and froze to death on
that one. The guy I saved was supposed to set the groundwork for
a cure for cancer, but as it turned out, the only thing he
contributed to the world at large was thumb tacks.”
Placing what was left of the Quarter pounder in his palm
so he wouldn’t loose a finger, Rick fed the rest of it to the
starving Frenchman, then rinsed off his hands in the steady
stream of water that was flowing over the man’s head, adding “
There were a lot of Smith’s on that boat, and those assholes
down at Headquarters didn‘t bother to tell me the one they sent
me after spelled his name with a ‘y’ .”
The little Frenchman tried to utter a response, and Rick
did understand French, (he was required to know at least twelve
languages fluently in order to do his job), but it’s hard to
understand someone who is trying to chew with only three teeth
while holding their breath at the same time.
Rick had been using this particular dungeon for his
lunch breaks for at least a year now, but the Frenchman had
obviously been down here considerably longer than that. His skin
was as pale as baby powder from the lack of sunlight, and he
couldn’t possibly weigh more than 90 pounds. Rick figured that a
haircut and manicure would probably drop the scales to about 60.
He felt sorry for the guy, but there was nothing he could do.
Everyone has their place in history.
Wading back over to the other side of the room, Rick
gathered up his trash and stuck it all back in the bag it came
from. If someone wandered down here and found a plastic straw or
paper cup that had been left behind, it could fuck up the world
big time. Littering time travelers were responsible for all sorts
of catastrophes - like Chia pets, bell bottom jeans, and the
Reagan Administration.
As he took one last look around to make sure he had
everything he came with, Rick said, “Take it easy, Pierre - I got
to get back to work. There’s another mad scientist out there who
thinks he’s the first one to invent time travel, so I gotta go
rescue some guy named Tony and set the world right again. I’ll be
back tomorrow and introduce you to chili dogs - you like mustard?”
The little Frenchman responded by gargling rainwater and
rattling his chains. Taking that as a ‘yes’, Rick nodded“goodbye”
and went back to work.
Toni had just finished climbing out of the dumpster and was
picking garbage from her clothes and wig, wondering how you go
about asking someone for one of their nose hairs and why she was
chosen for the job. Unfolding her shopping list, she was shaking
her head at some of the bizarre things she was expected to
retrieve when someone behind her said, “Your not a guy.”
Jerking violently as if a stick of dynamite had just gone
off behind her, Toni whirled around to find a tall, good looking
man standing in the alley. He looked kind of like a thin Fabio,
and the McDonald’s lunch bag he was holding was almost as wet as
his sneakers. He also had a Band-aid on his left cheek. Holding
out his free hand, he introduced himself by saying, “Rick Stills,
Historic Preservation Patrol.”
Not knowing what else to do, Tony shook his hand and
stammered, “You’re a....WHO?”
“Time Cop.” Rick said, tossing his soggy McDonald’s bag
into the dumpster.
Toni was about to loose it. This was way too much shit to
comprehend in such a short amount of time. Looking around the
alley, she half expected Toto, the Tin Man, and a tornado to blow
through. At least it would be something she was familiar with.
Not knowing what else to say, Toni looked at the Band-aid
and asked, “What did you do to your face?”
“I shot myself.”
“On purpose?”
“With what?”
“A pellet gun.”
Now Toni was really confused. “You tried to commit
suicide with a pellet gun?”
“No, ‘mam, it wasn’t suicide. It was self-defense,” Rick
answered, obviously annoyed by the question.
Toni shook her head violently in an attempt to clear her
mind, then asked, “How does a person shoot himself in self
Heaving a deep sigh as he rubbed his eyes with his palms,
Rick said, “Look, lady - we don’t have time for this. I have a
schedule to keep. If you must know, I went back to when I was 10
years old to try to convince myself to learn to play the
harmonica. I thought I was a burglar, so I shot myself.”
Starting to feel a bit woozy, Toni shook her head to show
she didn’t understand and whispered, “ What would make you do
“A bad day at work and a bottle of Jack Daniels,” Rick
answered. “You would be amazed at the things that seem either
profound or funny when your drunk.”
The next thing Toni knew was that she was on her ass. She
had been trying so hard to think, she had forgotten how to stand


It was a good night for Tricky. He was diesel tonight.
Cock Diesel. A new bar, a new hunting ground. It was closing in
on ten o’clock and he had already pocketed more than a hundred
bucks. The idiots that packed this joint were about as careless
as newborns on a playground. People thought nothing of wedging
themselves together in an attempt to get to the bar. Loose bills
were put in open jacket pockets while purses hung free and
available to anyone from shoulders of uncaring women. Tricky’s
eyes gleamed like a predator. The worse part was listening to the
fucked up music being pumped through the joint’s sound system. If
he ever got meet this Sedaka cat, he’d punch him in the face.
Trick had written better songs in his sleep, he thinks as
absently fingers guitar chords on his half filled glass of soda
It had taken no small effort to reach this new venue. The
lower side city where he normally plied his trade was a far cry
from the upscale strip in which he dipped his fingers this night.
He had gone out, hocked his twelve-string and bought a jacket (a
dark colored linen thing that snugged his shoulders in a way that
made him feel diesel) that went well with the black Levi’s
(silver rivets lining the back pockets) that had been lifted from
an ex-lovers husband some years ago. The Italian leather boots
were the Crown Jewel of the ensemble. The heels shined like
obsidian blocks while the eye was drawn toward the slim toe and
the silver plate that wrapped the point. The pair were completely
unmarred, pampered and preserved. An expert would be hard pressed
to assess the date of sale though they were four years out of the
store. The boots were a prize possession. Tricky’s brother’s
prize possession. It would mean Tricky’s life if anything
happened to them. But tonight was a night for taking risks. He
was Diesel. The big score was here somewhere. All he had to do
was wait and let his instincts take the wheel.

At ten till midnight fortune smiled down on Tricky. His
mark had stepped up to the bar, paid his tab with a hundred
dollar bill and told the bartender to keep the change. Tricky had
to smile. It wasn’t the young man’s slight build and bowl haircut
that made him smile. Nor was it the Harvard sweatshirt and round
wire-rimmed glasses the man wore that amused young Tricky. Even
the roll of C-notes stuffed into the man’s wallet didn’t fully
account for the hungry grin that followed him from the bar. No.
It was an aura of misplaced power that surrounded the guy. An
arrogant confidence and authority that emanated from his round
smirking face. Tricky knew this man. He was the welfare officer
that visited his mother, condescending in his manner and
impatient to be done with her. He was the parole officers that
dogged him, wielding their ball point pens and spouting advice on
how to live in a world that they, themselves knew little of. This
man was every guidance counselors that had ever told him to learn
a trade because higher education would be beyond him.

Post Sat May 22, 2004 10:53 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail

Joined: 31 Mar 2004
Posts: 272
Location: NYC
The Muddled Ages - Part 2  Reply with quote  

Down the moon-lit street, a block and a half ahead of
Tricky the mark moved, staggering slightly. Tricky followed
silently after, slipping from shadow to shadow like spilled
mercury. As he closed the distance, his mind began to paint a
picture of his days to come. I’ll get my guitar outta hock. I’ll
surprise the shit outta Mamma; fill up the ‘fridge with
groceries. All name brands, none of that generic shit. I’ll get
me some real weed. I’ll…I’ll…Tricky stopped for a moment and
raised his chin. I’ll buy me my own goddamn pair of boots.
Fifty feet and closing. Twenty feet. The Beatles haircut is
turning the corner ahead of him. Tricky can tell the street ahead
is not well lit. Ten feet. Time to move, time to close, time to
dance, time-

-someone stepped (outta nowhere?) in front of him. A tall
man with long hair. He smiled and said, “Sorry”, and threw a
right cross that caught Tricky flush on the jaw. The world spun
and the pavement quickly rose up to meet him. Too many thoughts
tried to elbow their way into his fast shrinking consciousness.

Voices. A man and a woman standing over him, talking.

“So, what the hell was that about?”
“Just another job. Damn, my hand’s starting to swell.”

Tricky tried to focus on the fuzzy image of a couple now walking
away from him.

“You were sent to thwart a mugging?”
“Yep. Does that look swollen to you?”
“Who was the guy that was gonna get it?”
“The white guy? He’ll go on to make a big splash in
“Oh. So you keep a computer magnate from getting killed on
the street in order to…”
“No, no. He wouldn’t have killed him. Just knocked him down
and taken his wallet. Maybe roughed him up a bit. Heh. Shame,
“Then why bother with…”
“Our friend lying over there with the cast-iron jaw would’ve
been filled with bullet holes by two cops with eager trigger
fingers and too much caffeine in their veins. They’re parked
about two blocks from here, if I remember the file correctly.”
“Okay, so…you saved his life. Not to sound harsh, but it
seems like a lot to slip time just to keep…”
“NOW, in two weeks his older brother will finger him to the
cops. Can’t remember the charge. He’ll go to the pen for three
years where he will write a blues tune that will eventually be
picked up by a major record label. He’ll follow that up with an
album that will go on to sell millions. In five years he will be
free, wealthy and even own stock in the company of the man he
intended to mug.”
“Oh. I see.”
“What can I say? It’s one of my favorite albums. Look at
that! Tell me that’s not swelling!”
“Quit whining and get us back to…you know…back.”
“’Kay. Now about this Cosmo prick…”

Most of this was a wash of meaningless noise to young
Tricky; lying in heap on the pavement. The dude with the hair and
the chick in the George Washington wig had faded along with
everything else in his head. Everything except the nagging worry
that follows him into darkness. The worry that the boots have
been scuffed.

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