All posts by Andy Rausch

About Andy Rausch

I am the author of nearly thirty books, including novels, novellas, short story collections, and works of non-fiction. I am also the screenwriter of the film DAHMER VS. GACY.

“Kind of Blue”

trumpet

by Andy Rausch

It was a hot night in The Blue Room, and Junior was really going to town on the trumpet, having his way with his audience. Drenched in sweat and enveloped in thick cigarette smoke, he wrapped up his set with a largely-improvised version of “So What.” The moment he finished, the audience erupted with cheers and applause, making him remember why he had gone into this profession in the first place. Not every night was like this. Hell, most nights weren’t. But tonight was, and Junior wanted to bask in it for as long as he could.

He made his way down off the stage, trumpet in hand, and headed back to the bar. Junior nodded at Jimmy the bartender, and Jimmy fixed his a drink. Junior edged up to the bar, grabbed the shot glass, and downed the thing. When he sat it down, he realized he was being flanked by two of Red’s goons.

“Boss wants to see you,” said Smoke Daniels, a big mean sonofabitch, putting a meaty paw on Junior’s shoulder. Unfazed, Junior looked back at Jimmy, who was watching all this with a look of amusement. “Gimme another drink,” he said, and Jimmy did. Junior downed the shot just as he’d downed the previous one, and turned toward Smoke. Seeing no way out, he said, “Let’s go for that walk.”

The three men made their way through the crowd and out of the bar. The men led Junior to their automobile, and pushed him in the backseat. The other guy drove, and Smoke sat beside Junior.

A few minutes later they were outside The Cuckoo Cock, a rundown old bar that now functioned as Red’s base of operations. “Leave the horn in the car,” said the other goon. Smoke snatched Junior up, pulling him out of the automobile, and dragged him inside the place.

Once inside, Junior saw Red sitting there majestically, like a king on high. He was surrounded by a few underlings, who were playing Spades. They all stopped and looked up when Junior and the two goons walked in. Red had a big shit-eating grin plastered across his mug, and he chuckled the way a young boy might after having just killed a cat for fun.

Smoke pushed Junior down into a wooden chair facing Red.

“It’s good to see you, Junior,” said Red, still grinning. He raised his cigarette to his lips and took a drag.

Junior sneered, but said nothing.

“Do you know why I brought your ass here?”

“Is it ’cause I’m so damned pretty?”

“Well, kind of,” said Red. “The thing is, I know all about you and Georgia.”

Junior tried to play it cool, but he was certain he looked startled. “What about her?”

Red chuckled again, looking around at his men. “This man thinks I’m a fool.” He turned to Smoke. “Tell me, Smoke, am I a damn fool?”

“Nah, Red,” said Smoke. “You’re not a fool.”

Red looked back at Junior, their eyes locking. His smile fell away. “Then why the hell are you trying to talk to me like I’m an idiot?”

“That’s how you see it?” asked Junior.

“That’s how I see it. Tell me, is there any other way to see it?”

Junior smirked, and Red’s eyes got big. He sat back in his chair, and turned towards one of his goons. “Charlie, do me a favor and knock the grin off this motherfucker’s face.”

Charlie, a big muscular dude in a cheap suit stepped towards Junior. He pulled back and slugged him in the jaw. The blow knocked Junior back in his chair, turning his head in the process. Junior rubbed his jaw and tried to make his blurry eyes refocus.

Charlie asked, “We good, boss?”

“Nah, I don’t think we are.”

“You want I should give him another one?”

Red nodded, and Charlie stepped forward, slugging Junior again.

As Junior was trying to find his bearings, Red asked, “Why you gotta go around behind my back and screw my lady, Junior? That type of thing is uncalled for. How exactly did you think I was gonna react to this news?”

Junior shook his head, still trying to clear it. He looked up at Charlie, still standing over him menacingly. He looked at Red. “You got it all wrong.”

Red looked around the room at his men. He started to chuckle again, and they followed suit. He looked at Junior. “Then explain it to me, my boy. Tell me how I got it all twisted up.”

“Me and Georgia, we’re just friends. There ain’t nothin’ there, nothin’ at all. We ain’t never been like that…”

“I think you’re a damned liar,” said Red, nonchalantly taking another drag of his cigarette.

“No, no, I swear,” said Junior, pleading now. “It’s not like that.”

“Oh, but it is. You know how I know?”

Junior just stared at him, saying nothing.

Red turned towards one of his goons. “Show him.”

One of the guys reached into his pocket and pulled something white out. He tossed it onto the table in front of Junior. It was a handkerchief. Junior opened it and felt sick, knowing at once what he was looking at—it was a human finger.

Red grinned. “You recognize that nail polish? Georgia gets her nails done by the Jap broad down the street. Does good work, that broad.”

Junior stared at the finger for a long moment before bursting forward out of his chair and reaching out for Red. He came fairly close to grabbing him before one of the goons snatched him from behind and pulled him back down into his chair.

Red looked a little rattled by this. “What do you think you’re doing, boy?”

Junior stared at him. “What have you done with Georgia?”

“That’s none of your concern,” said Red. “But what is your concern is that she told me you and her were planning to take off in the middle of the night and head for New York City. Is that right? Were you planning to set up shop and play house with my woman?” Red caught himself getting overly serious and forced another chuckle. He waved his arm dismissively. “Silly boy, don’t you know? You can’t turn a hoe into a housewife.”

Junior glared at Red, wanting nothing more than to kill the dude, but he said nothing.

Red stood, plucking the cigarette from his lips. He looked to Smoke. “Hold him down.”

Red moved forward, cigarette in hand, and pressed it into Junior’s forehead. When the cherry from the cigarette touched the sweat on Junior’s brow, it hissed a little. Junior wriggled beneath it, letting out a piercing scream.

Red looked past Junior to one of his men. “Go get Tiny. Bring him out here.” He looked down at Junior. “You’ve done it now. I’m assuming you know Tiny.”

“Only by reputation,” said Junior.

Tiny was a heavyweight fighter who lived in the neighborhood. A real big, tough, mean sonofabitch. Everyone knew he was in Red’s pocket. In addition to boxing, Tiny also worked as a collector for Red, roughing up whoever the boss said needed to be roughed up.

Junior’s head was throbbing now. Everything was hazy. He was trying to make sense of everything, and Red just kept laughing maniacally, making his head hurt even worse. Where was Georgia? Was she still alive? For that matter, would Junior have any chance of making it out of this place alive?

“Where he at?” came the monosyllabic caveman voice from behind. Junior had never heard Tiny speak before, but he knew at once that it was him.

Red just stood there in front of Junior. He looked down at him. “This here’s Junior. He needs to be taught some manners. He needs to be taught not to disrespect me. He needs to learn to keep his goddamn hand out of the cookie jar.”

Junior looked up at Red, opened his mouth, prepared to say something smart, but the blow to the back of his head knocked Junior forward, his forehead striking the edge of the table as he went down.

Now Junior was on the floor and everything was really hazy. It took Junior a few seconds to realize why—there was blood in his eyes. He turned to look up at Red. The room was moving, his vision blurry.

“Get your ass up,” came Tiny’s voice from behind.

Junior opened his mouth, his cheek still pressed against the floor. Before Junior could move or formulate any sort of plan of attack, he felt Tiny hoisting him up from the ground. He felt himself arc back just before Tiny thrust him crashing down on top of a table.

“Goddamn, man,” said Red. “You gonna kill the boy.”

“Is that what you want?” asked Tiny. “You want me to kill his dumb ass?”

Red chuckled that sickening chuckle again. “Nah, I just want you to play with him a bit.”

Junior was lying on the floor, his head and ribs hurting like hell. He was staring at the floor, unable to move. Then he felt Tiny’s hands on him again, lifting him up. Junior mustered up a bit of strength and swung his elbow back hard, surprised when it actually struck Tiny in the face. Junior, still being held at chest height, felt Tiny stagger back a bit. Then Tiny growled an awful gutteral growl and he raised Junior up over his head, hurling him down onto the floor again.

Junior landed hard, crumpling like papier-mâché. Junior looked down, seeing his blood all over the floor before him. Still face down, he pulled his arms back and adjusted himself on the palms of his hands, trying to push himself to his feet. He raised himself a little bit, but fell limply to the floor.

Junior couldn’t see him, but he could hear Red. “Why’d you do it, boy? Surely a talented young man like yourself could find another woman without having to go sneaking around trying to steal my woman…”

Junior was going to try to stand again. He pressed his palms down against the ground, stretching his fingers out. Just as he did, Red came forward and stomped down hard against his hand. He did it again, and again, and again, finally squishing Junior’s broken fingers around beneath his heel.

Through his own screams Junior could hear Red taunting him. “I guess you won’t be able to play the trumpet anymore, huh, boy?” Red laughed heartily, as did his goons. Junior felt tears welling up in his eyes, and soon saw them falling to the floor before him. He spread out his broken fingers and tried to push himself up again.

“You got heart, boy,” said Red, sounding genuinely impressed. “Don’t he got heart, Smoke?”

“Yeah, boss,” said Smoke. “He gots a lot of heart.”

Junior lay there on the floor for a long beat, trying to push himself back up to his feet. As he did, he heard Red say, “What do you think I should do with a young buck who got heart? Should I let him live?”

There was a moment of silence before Charlie spoke up. “I don’t think that’s a good idea, boss. What if he comes back someday?”

“Ain’t nobody give a good goddamn what you think,” growled Red angrily. “I’m the boss here, not you.” There was another moment of silence before Red said, “Say it. Say I’m the boss.” And Junior, still looking down at the blood-covered floor, heard Charlie sheepishly repeat, “You’re the boss, Red.”

“You’re goddamn right, I’m the boss!” After another long moment of awkward silence, Red said, “Get that boy back up on his feet.”

Junior felt hands reach around beneath his arms, lifting him up. Junior found himself on his feet again. He was wobbly, and he started to fall, but the goon held him up until he regained his composure enough to stand without toppling.

Red got up in his face, the smell of collard greens strong on his breath. “What if I let you live, boy? What you gonna do? What if I let you live, but I told you I never wanted to see you in Kansas City again, so long as you live? What would you do?”

Junior just stood there, swaying, but said nothing.

“You’ll do nothing, that’s what you’ll do,” said Red. “I’m gonna let you live out the rest of your pathetic miserable life with nothing. You’re gonna be a testament of what I’ll do if anyone crosses me. I messed up your hand so you can’t play that horn no more, and I took away your woman… The love of your life, huh, Junior? Do you know what her last words were?”

Junior looked up at Red, trying to convey an expression of hatred.

“She said, ‘Tell Junior I love him.’ That’s what she said.” Red stepped back to get a good look at Junior’s anguish. He laughed, looking up at Smoke. “Take this trash out to the street and leave him there.”

Smoke grabbed Junior, practically dragging him out of the place. As he did, Junior heard Red from behind him. “Don’t ever come back, Junior,” he said. “Not ever. God as my witness, if I see your face again, you’re a dead man.”

Smoke dragged him through the door, tossing him down to the hard pavement, where Junior lay crumpled like a discarded piece of trash. “Don’t ever come back,” Smoke advised one last time before going back inside.

Junior lay there for a moment, broken and pathetic. He thought of Georgia and he considered the fact that he’d never see her again. He could see her face now. “Christ,” he muttered, reaching for the neck of a broken beer bottle lying beside him. He pushed himself up, slowly finding his way to his feet. He stood there for a moment, swaying as if he were standing in a stiff wind. He turned back towards the entrance of the bar.

 He gripped the broken bottle as tightly as he could and walked back into The Cuckoo Cock.

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“The Man Who Hated Pickles”

Pickle photo

The lunch crowd was just starting to die out around the time Marty entered the dingy old diner. No doubt the dive had seen better days, probably before Sputnik caused millions of Russkies to raise a toast to the skies. The joint smelled of greasy burgers and body odor, and The Box Tops were warbling “The Letter” out of small distorted speakers strategically placed around the establishment. Marty had taken two steps inside the door before a twenty-something brunette baby doll in an apron walked out to greet him.

Baby Doll ushered him to a red vinyl booth that seemed to be held together by silver duct tape. Marty slid into the booth and picked up a menu.

“Can I get you a glass of water?” asked Baby Doll. Marty didn’t look up from his menu, but said yes, he would take some water. He scanned the typo-laden menu, which looked as though it had been printed around the time Ronnie Raygun took his bullet, when a small blonde girl clutching a stuffed Teddy bear approached his table.

Marty looked up at her, blinking. “Mister?” she inquired, utterly unfazed by his adultness.

Marty nodded, signaling that she had his attention.

“Do you got a quarter?”

He grinned uneasily, looking around to see where the child’s mother was. He spotted her, standing up at the front counter paying her bill. “Suppose I do,” he said. “What are you gonna do with it?”

The little girl’s eyes lit up. “I’m gonna put it in the gumball machine and get me a gumball. Hopefully it’s a red one.”

“You like the red ones, huh?” he asked, producing a shiny quarter.

The little girl nodded. “Uh-huh.”

“The red ones are the best,” he said, winking as he held out the quarter.

The little girl snatched the shiny coin from his hand. Already turned and halfway to the gumball machine she said, “Thanks, mister!” Marty looked back down at the menu, trying to make the important decision of just what to have for lunch. It was a difficult decision. Should he have the open-faced roast beef sandwich? Or maybe a mushroom swiss burger? Or a double-decker cheeseburger. And then, even once he’d made his selection, there would still be sides to consider; mashed potatoes with brown gravy or a helping of golden French fries?

He was still weighing these options when Baby Doll reemerged with a green, plastic cup of ice water. She sat it down on the table beside the napkin-rolled silverware. Still peering down at the menu, Marty asked, “What’s good here?”

He looked up at Baby Doll, her big brown eyes twinkling, a ready-made howdy-do service smile plastered on her features. “Everything’s good here,” she chirped, her voice annoyingly happy the way only morning people who actually liked Mondays could manage.

“What do you suggest?” he asked, trying again. “What do you eat here?”

She flashed a perfect brilliant-white Weather Girl smile and said, “I eat here every day. Mr. Thompson lets us eat on a discount. It’s not much, but at least it’s something. Every little bit helps, you know?”

Marty showed her a fake smile. “So what do you eat?”

“Oh, I only eat salads,” she said happily. “With little chunks of chicken, French dressing, and extra croutons.”

Marty shook his head. “No, no, that won’t do for me.”

Baby Doll’s face twisted in confusion. “Why’s that?”

“Because I hate vegetables.”

“My little brother hates vegetables, too,” said Baby Doll, as if she was trying to comfort him about something he should be embarrassed about.

“I really hate vegetables,” said Marty. “I hate them more than anything.”

Baby Doll bit her lip. “Anything in the whole world?”

“Pretty much,” he said, nodding. “Pickles are the worst.”

Baby Doll smiled as if she might laugh. “I didn’t think anybody hated pickles.” She said it in a judgmental way that made it sound ridiculous, as if he was the only son of a bitch on God’s green earth that hated the briny things.

“Yep,” he said. “I hate ’em.”

“Why’s that?” inquired Baby Doll, her order pad and pen held steady at her chest.

“Who can say?” said Marty. “I’ll tell you what—I’ll just have the double-decker cheeseburger. Is that pretty greasy?”

Baby Doll looked unsure of what her answer was supposed to be. “I guess… Well, not too greasy. Do you, uh, do you like greasy cheeseburgers?”

Marty laid the menu back down on the table, still looking at the girl’s soft China doll features. “Hell yeah,” he said. “Who doesn’t love a good greasy cheeseburger? Otherwise, what’s the point?”

Relieved, Baby Doll shifted her weight from one foot to the other. “Good,” she said. “Mr. Thompson makes the greasiest burgers you’ve ever seen. The grease just drips off of ’em. They’re real messy. Some people love that, but then others…”

Marty nodded. “They don’t care so much for that.”

“Right,” she said, repositioning her pen to write. “What kind of side would you like?”

“I’ll go with the French fries.”

Baby Doll smiled. “I’ll bet you eat ’em with gobs of ketchup.”

Marty grinned. “Guilty as charged. I drown them in it.”

“I thought so,” she said, nodding happily about her being correct. “I’ll get your order in and it’ll be out in a few minutes.”

He stopped her. “One more thing.”

She looked back at him. “Yeah?”

“No lettuce, tomatoes, onion, and above everything else, absolutely no pickles.”

She nodded in a perky way that made him wonder what she would be like as a sexual partner. “Got ya, boss. No pickles.”

At all,” he said. “Seriously, no pickles.”

She smiled big, flirting just a bit. “Or what, mister?”

He grinned back. “Let’s just say I’ll be really angry.”

“Well, we don’t want that,” she said, still flirting. “After all, I want my tip.”

And Baby Doll turned and walked back to the counter, making a point of swishing her ass as she did. Marty watched her as she went away, nodding his head to some crusty old banjo-laden country-western song about broken hearts and cowboy boots.

About eight minutes passed before Baby Doll appeared at his table again. While waiting, Marty had tolerated the grating music which filled the room, occasionally looking up at a muted soap opera on the old black-and-white TV hanging at the front of the room. Baby Doll sat the plastic plate, piled with French fries, down on the table in front of him. It smelled good and Marty was ready to dig in.

Seeing that he had drained his water cup, Baby Doll asked, “Would you like me to get you a refill?” Already anticipating the answer, she picked up the empty cup before he could even speak, and she turned and walked away.

Marty inhaled the pungent fried potato smell and reached for the ketchup bottle. He unscrewed its lid, dumping a ridiculous amount of the stuff onto his fries. He then lifted the hamburger bun to apply ketchup there, as well. When he did, he was horrified to see three slices of neon green cucumber affronteries to humankind sitting there atop his cheesy burger patty. He forced himself to avert his gaze, fighting back the feeling of impending vomit. He slid the plate across the table, away from him.

“Goddammit,” he said, his stomach still turning from the unexpected pickle sighting.

A moment later Baby Doll returned with the condensation-coated cup, now fully refilled. He looked up at her, their eyes locking, and she knew right away that something was wrong.

“Is there a problem?” she asked.

He nodded, looking back down at his defaced burger. “I’m afraid so,” he answered grimly. He looked up at her again. “It’s all fucked up.”

Baby Doll cocked her head like a puppy hearing a high-pitched sound, wrinkling her brow as she did. “What do you mean?”

Marty raised his hand and pointed at the plate. Her eyes tracked from the tip of his finger to the burger sitting a few inches away.

“Go on,” he said. “Take a look at it. Look under the bun.”

Confused by what was he happening, Baby Doll reached out and pulled back the bun, revealing the nasty little bastards in all their abominable glory. But she still didn’t understand. She looked at him questioningly.

“Pickles,” he said. “They’re all over the damned thing.”

She started to laugh, unable to control herself. “That’s it? That’s the big drama?”

Marty glared at her. “I told you—I really hate pickles.”

And he stood up.

It was just after two when Sgt. Malone pulled his police cruiser into the diner’s parking lot. He switched off the red lights and climbed out of the car, walking over to where the other officers were congregated. They turned and saw him.

“What seems to be the story here?” asked Malone.

“Nine people dead inside,” responded the cop. Malone had never seen him before and figured he was new to the job.

“How’d they do it?”

The cop made a face of disgust. “Shot up the place, blood all over the walls, everywhere. It’s a goddamn slaughter party. It’s like the fuckin’ Wild Bunch in there.”

Malone nodded, letting it all sink in. “Robbery?”

“It doesn’t appear to be,” said the young cop. “There appear to be other motives.”

Malone nodded again. “Any surveillance cameras?”

“No, sir,” the young cop said. “But there was another thing—a really strange thing—that I’ve got to show you.”

“Take me to it,” said Malone, already on the move towards the diner’s entrance. He read a sign in the window as he did. “Their sign says they got the best burgers in town. You figure that’s true?”

“Beats me,” said the young cop, now leading the way.

“I kind of doubt it,” said Malone. “Everybody always makes that claim. Then you get the burger and it’s just a regular old burger.”

“Yeah,” said, not really paying attention. He led the older officer into the blood-drenched crime scene. He walked towards one of the bodies—a young Amish man with a dingy Duck Dynasty beard lying there on the tile—and squatted down over him. “I want you to see this,” said the cop.

Malone squatted down beside him, looking at the bloody corpse. That’s when he noticed for the first time that the corpse had something covering its eyes. “He’s got something in his eye sockets,” he observed.

The younger cop nodded. “All of ’em do.”

Malone reached down and plucked the tiny object from the dead man’s eye. “Well, hell. It’s a goddamn pickle,” he said. “What do you make out of that?”

“I have no fucking idea, sir,” the cop said, trying to parse it all out. “Maybe someone just really hated pickles.” The two cops remained there squatting, laughing at the improbability of this scenario.

“The Dinner Guests”

meat

by Andy Rausch

It was just after two in the morning when the idea first came to Troy. To his knowledge, he had never had a craving for something he’d never actually tasted before, but now he did. He was curled up on the leather sectional inahling plumes of smoke through his bong—the fancy red one he’d gotten on Spring Break that one year, when he had hooked up with that Puerto Rican girl who liked it in the ass—and watching Plan 9 from Outer Space. This is when the craving struck. “What would human flesh taste like?” Maybe it was the weed, maybe it was just the relaxed state of mind he was in, but the thought didn’t seem the least bit gross to him.

He wondered if human flesh would taste salty. He figured it probably would, basing this on his once or twice licking his own arm as a dumbass kid. He remembered that tasting salty.

Troy supposed these thoughts were coming to him as a result of a recent conversation he’d had with his best friend Chunk. In that discussion, Chunk had talked about all the different kinds of meat that tasted like chicken; frog legs, snake, alligator, bear. “They all taste like chicken.” To this Troy had asked, “Then why not just eat chicken?” Chunk didn’t have a good response for this, but Troy supposed it was the thrill of eating something exotic.

Well, he thought, human flesh was pretty fucking exotic. Almost no one ate that—at least not in Tulsa where Troy lived. And if they did consume human flesh, no one was really going around bragging about it. After all, no one would understand such a thing, and on top of that, he was pretty sure it was illegal.

So yeah, he thought, what would human flesh taste like? Would it be salty? How would one go about eating it? Would you slice it thinly and eat it on Ritz crackers with little quarters of pepperjack cheese? Or would you put it on Wonder Bread and make a grilled flesh-and-cheese sandwich? All of this begged the question of what condiments might taste best with flesh. He didn’t know exactly why, but Troy had a suspicion that deli mustard might be the way to go.

But what if you put strands of human flesh in the trusty old Foreman Grill? That could be good, especially if you seasoned it right. Maybe a little bit of seasoning salt, a few drops of Louisiana hot sauce…

Troy licked his lips, finding he had a real desire for human flesh. It occurred to him that this was strange—not because he would be eating a person, but because he generally didn’t like to try new foods. But flesh sounded really good to him.

Troy got up and grabbed his socks. Formerly white, they had turned pink when he’d thrown them in the wash with a red towel. He held the socks up to his nose and sniffed them to make sure they weren’t too odorous to wear. After all, he’d been wearing them for a few days now. He figured he could get another day or so out of them, so he pulled them on his feet. He then put on his raggedy old sneakers.

It was time to go hunting so he could satisfy this crazy craving. When he stepped outside his front door, he was surprised to discover that it was still warm at this ungodly hour. Then he realized he hadn’t left his house at all the previous day. Instead he had passed the time playing video games, watching TV, and smoking pot. Well, there were worse ways to spend a day, he thought.

So where would he find a person he could eat at this time of night? And if he did find someone, he then had to get them back to his house, so he couldn’t really venture too far. He walked a few blocks in the darkness, but encountered no one. Finally he opted to just return home. He was really in the mood to eat someone, but this was turning into a big pain in the ass. It was just too much effort. He would have to wait until the following day to capture someone and drag them home. It was at this moment that he wondered how Jeffrey Dahmer had managed this. Hmmm, he thought. He would have to do a Google search and see what he could find out.

When he got home, he found Chunk inside the house, eating the last of his Chocolate Brownie Fudge ice cream with a plastic fork and sitting there watching Plan 9.

“Dammit, Chunk,” he said. “What the fuck are you doing?”

Chunk looked at him dully. “I’m eating ice cream.” He thought for a moment and then added, “It’s pretty good, too.”

Annoyed, Troy said, “I know it’s good. I’m the one who bought it.”

Chunk nodded. “So what’s going on?”

Troy looked at him. “It annoys me when you just come into my house without knocking.”

“How do you know I didn’t knock?” asked Chunk. “Maybe I did. You weren’t here.”

Fucking Chunk. He was right, but still… fucking Chunk.

Troy plunked himself down in the old Lazy Boy and stared blankly at the TV as a thought came to him—what if he just ate Chunk? That could work. Doing this would accomplish two things simultaneously; he wouldn’t have to put up with Chunk’s stupid shenanigans anymore, and he’d have a person he could eat right here in his living room, making the whole process a lot easier. It seemed like a pretty logical solution.

But the question was, did he really want to eat Chunk? Chunk didn’t bathe properly. Troy wasn’t sure he would taste all that good. But hell, he thought, animals don’t bathe either and we still eat them. Maybe Chunk would taste okay once he washed the meat under the faucet. And if the meat was gamey, he could just smother it in steak sauce and the problem would be solved.

And it would really cut down on the cost of groceries. Troy didn’t eat much—mostly microwaveable burritos and PB&Js, but even that cost money. Troy could now see no real reason why he shouldn’t kill Chunk and eat him as leftovers for the next week or so. Sure Chunk was a big dude, but Troy had a deep freeze where he could store the meat. Right now it was filled with old, long-forgotten packages of meat he’d been given years before, which was now covered with a thick layer of ice. But that stuff could be disposed of easily enough.

So now came the million dollar question: how would he do it? He didn’t like the word “murder,” so he preferred to think of it as “taking care of” Chunk. But how should he go about it? Troy had never killed a person before, so this was a foreign concept to him. He’d never intentionally killed an animal before. One time he accidentally ran over someone’s labrador, but that had been a mistake and he’d felt like shit. There was no malice there.

Malice, he thought. Was there malice in his wanting to murder Chunk? He turned this over in his mind for a moment and then decided there was not. After all, it wasn’t like he hated the guy or something—he just wanted to eat him. Who could fault a guy for that?

But he needed to figure out a way to do it without making a big mess. And then a method came to him.

He stood up, causing Chunk to look at him.

“Chunk, could you do me a favor and come with me to the kitchen for a moment?”

Chunk didn’t hesitate. “Sure thing, boss.”

Troy made his way through the dirty-clothes-strewn living room and into the kitchen, switching on the light when he got there. Chunk followed closely behind.

“What do you need me to do?” asked Chunk, trying his best to be helpful.

Troy motioned towards the sink. “I need you to put your head down over the sink.” Most people, having any sort of intelligence whatsoever, would ask why Troy needed them to do this at three in the morning. But not Chunk. He just did as he’d been instructed, never once stopping to consider the reasoning behind the request.

“Now what?” asked Chunk, his head leaned down over the sink.

Troy was rifling through the drawers beside the sink, looking for his ball peen hammer. Coming across a steel meat hammer, he considered using it. But no, he wanted the ball peen hammer. That really would be best. So he continued looking.

“What you lookin’ for?”

“I’m trying to find my hammer,” said Troy, still searching.

“What kind of hammer?”

“The ball peen hammer.”

“Oh,” said Chunk dully. He thought for a moment and said, “Hammer time,” laughing at his own joke.

“Yes,” Troy said non-commitally. When he came to the third drawer, he finally located the hammer. “Aha!” he said, pulling it out.

Chunk was grinning like an idiot, still feeling pleased about the unfunny joke he’d made. “What now?”

Troy turned to face him, the hammer down at his side. “Hammer time,” he said. He then mustered up all the strength he had and brought the hammer swooping up and then down towards Chunk’s rotund head. When the hammer struck the skull, it made a sickening thunk sound. Chunk immediately stood upright and started thrashing around.

Shit. The strike had failed to kill Chunk, now flailing around with his hand on his head, blood seeping and spraying out everywhere. Troy raised the hammer back behind him and brought it swooping down hard onto Chunk’s head a second time, accidentally striking Chunk’s fingers. Chunk staggered back, really wailing now.

Dammit, Troy thought. He hadn’t anticipated any of this. The fucker wouldn’t die. But then Chunk always had been a pain in the ass.

Troy pulled the hammer back a third time and brought it down hard against Chunk’s bloody, battered head. Again there was that grotesque thunk sound, and Chunk staggered back against the counter, blood going everywhere.

Now he had him. Chunk wasn’t dead yet, but he was no longer here with him. He was conscious, but not by much, and he clearly had no idea where he was or what was happening. Troy struck him in the head a fourth time, finally bringing the big bastard down to the tile floor.

Troy looked at all the blood covering the walls, the sink, the counter, the floor, and the hammer. Fucking Chunk, he thought. He’d made a much bigger mess than he’d expected. “You’d better taste good,” he muttered angrily.

Troy felt overwhelmed, unsure where to begin. What should he do first? Cut up Chunk’s body and relocate it to the deep freeze or begin cleaning the kitchen? He stood there for a minute considering his options. Then, finally, he dragged Chunk’s heavy ass through the house, leaving a thick trail of blood on the green shag carpet, and into the bathroom. It took him a few minutes to do it, but finally Troy managed to get the corpse into the bathtub where he could cut it up later.

He went back to the kitchen. He got out the limited amount of cleaning supplies he owned and squatted down to the floor, wiping up Chunk’s blood as best he could. He’d never really been very good at this kind of thing, but he kept at it for a good long time until he was finally convinced that the kitchen could get no cleaner.

Exhausted, he went to the fridge and took out a cold bottle of beer. He twisted it open and downed the thing in three long swigs. Damn, he thought. Killing someone really takes the energy right out of you. He went to the utility room and rummaged through the overhead cabinets until he located the old handsaw. He wasn’t really sure why he had a handsaw in the first place, but he’d seen it up there a time or two, pretty sure it was something the house’s former residents had left behind. Who knows? Maybe they had used it for the same purpose.

Troy walked back through the living room, following the trail of blood on the carpet, and went to the bathroom.

Several days had passed by before Chunk’s brother, Rich, came by to visit. Hearing the knock on the front door, Troy left the frying pan where he had strips of Chunk’s flesh frying. He answered the door and found Rich standing there, smoking a cigarette. He said, “Come on in.” Rich flipped his cigarette off the porch and followed him inside.

“Have a seat,” Troy offered, motioning towards the sectional. “You can watch Wheel of Fortune here for a minute while I finish up supper. I don’t want it to burn.”

Rich nodded. “Sure thing.”

Making his way back to the kitchen, Troy turned and asked, “Have you eaten yet? I could make you some, no problem.”

Rich smiled. “I haven’t eaten, but don’t worry about me. I don’t wanna invite myself to dinner.”

“No, you wouldn’t be. I’m asking—would you like me to fix you a plate?”

“Since you put it that way, sure,” said Rich, turning back towards Wheel of Fortune. “What are you making anyway? It smells good.”

“Venison. It’ll be ready in about five minutes.”

Troy returned to the kitchen, happy to find that Chunk hadn’t burned up yet. He pulled some more of the meat out of the fridge and replaced it in the frying pan. He then proceeded to prepare sandwiches with Chunk meat, spicy barbecue sauce, and sliced cheese.

A few minutes passed and finally Troy was finished. He placed sandwiches for each of them on separate paper plates, garnishing them with potato chips. He carried the plates out into the living room, where Rich was attentively watching Wheel of Fortune.

Rich looked up as Troy handed him the plate. “Dinner is served, my good man.”

Rich smiled gratefully. “I just came by to see how you were doing with it all. With, you know… Chunk’s disappearance.”

Troy nodded, putting on a good show. “I’m not gonna lie,” he said. “It’s been really difficult.”

“I can imagine. You and Chunk have been best friends for a long time.”

“Twenty years if you can believe that.”

“I’m sure he’ll turn up eventually,” Rich said, taking a bite of his sandwich. He chewed for a moment before saying, “This is really good. What kind of barbecue sauce is this?”

“Store brand. I don’t get too fancy.”

Rich stopped eating for a minute and piled some of the potato chips onto his sandwich. He then went back to eating the thing. He looked up, talking through a mouthful of food and said, “I’m sure Chunk’ll turn up. I’m sure he’s still around here somewhere.”

 Troy grinned. “He’s probably even closer than you would imagine.” Rich nodded in agreement and went about scarfing down his brother’s flesh.

An Interview with Larry Bishop

by Andrew J. Rausch

Larry Bishop was born into show business royalty, the son of Rat Pack member Joey Bishop. At the age of eighteen, Bishop was a member of the improvisational comedy troupe known as the Session, which also included Richard Dreyfuss, Rob Reiner, and Albert Brooks. He made his acting debut in Wild in the Streets in 1968. He soon became a contract player with American International Pictures and became synonymous with the motorcycle movie genre. He is perhaps best known for the film The Savage Seven. He also appeared on numerous television series, such as Laverne & Shirley, Kung Fu, and I Dream of Jeannie.

In 1996, he wrote and directed the film Mad Dog Time, which featured Ellen Barkin, Gabriel Byrne, and Richard Dreyfuss. That same year he wrote and starred in the film Underworld alongside Denis Leary and Joe Mantegna. In 2004, he appeared in Kill Bill: Vol. 2. He later wrote, directed, and starred in the Quentin Tarantino-produced film Hell Ride.

When did you first become aware of Quentin Tarantino?

I became aware of Quentin when Reservoir Dogs opened. I brought my oldest son with me to the movie theater. He was in his late teens at the time. He had actually typed up some of my scripts, and he was really worried that Reservoir Dogs was going to affect what I was doing. He was a little bit worried that whoever this Quentin Tarantino guy was, it was going to affect me in my attempts to sell my own similar projects. I said, “No, let’s just see the movie.” So we went to see Reservoir Dogs at the Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills. I remember it as if it was yesterday. There were twelve people in the audience for that movie. My son kept saying, “It’s funny, it’s violent, it’s a lot like your stuff. Do you think this is going to get in your way?” I said, “Let’s just relax and watch the movie. If the guy is talented, he’s talented. What difference does it make? If he hits it big before my scripts hit it big, I’ll just deal with it.” But my son was very concerned.

I always sit in the back of the movie theater. Besides watching the movie, I want to see how people are responding to the material. We both really liked the movie, so that wasn’t what was at stake. When we finally left the theater, my son said, “Well, it’s funny and it’s violent. There are real similarities.” Then he said, “But there were only twelve people in the theater.” I remember this very clearly. I never root against anybody who’s got talent. I said, “Yeah, but we both really liked that movie.” Besides that, I watched the audience. There were only twelve people in that theater other than us, and they were all guys, sitting separately. I said, “I got news for you—this Tarantino guy’s gonna go places, because those twelve people were really engaged in watching that movie.” I watched their body movements. They were really riveted. Nobody went to the bathroom, nobody got up for popcorn… Those twelve people were really engaged. So when I left that theater, I knew that Quentin had himself a career. I didn’t know what kind of career he was going to wind up having, but I knew he wasn’t going to have to work on any other kind of thing except movies. I knew he could do this for the rest of his life. It was actually exciting to see somebody who was that talented.

How did you wind up meeting Quentin?

What happened was, I got a phone call back in 2001. I got a call from my friend Laura Cayoutte at midnight. She said, “I’m standing next to Quentin Tarantino, and he’s your biggest fan.” That’s the first thing she says to me. I assumed he was a fan because I had just done a bunch of gangster movies—Mad Dog Time, Underworld… I said, “He really liked the gangster movies?” And she said, “No, no, no. He loves the motorcycle movies you did in the late sixties and early seventies. He loves Savage Seven.” So he got on the phone and he said, “Do you want to see a mint print of Savage Seven? Come to my house and we’ll watch it in my theater.” I said, “Yeah, when?” And he said, “Let’s do it tomorrow night.” So that was the beginning. That was like a real big kick, because no one in show business liked those motorcycle movies. No one.

In all of the time since—from 1967 to 2001—not one person had ever said a nice thing about the motorcycle movies. But he flipped for them. He loved The Savage Seven. It’s one of his favorite movies, so he really got it. He liked the grindhouse movie ambiance. They were not part of the mainstream, which was what I liked about them. Because I had been raised in a Hollywood setting. Because of my father and the whole Rat Pack thing, I had been around show business from the time I was two. That was the top of the line in show business, with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. You couldn’t get any bigger in show business than they were at that period. But that wasn’t me. I liked rebel movies. I like Marlon Brando in The Wild One. I like James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. In a way, they were the opposite of what I had been exposed to. I made a decision at nineteen that I was just going to make movies and wasn’t going to do nightclubs. I wanted to separate myself from all the show business stuff I had experienced previously. The motorcycle movies weren’t seen as a respected form of show business. But this was purposeful on my part. I didn’t think it was a good thing, psychologically speaking, to follow very closely in the footsteps of my father. But no one had ever complimented me for those movies before. No one. So Quentin was completely separate from anybody I had ever met in show business. He appreciated those movies for what they were.

So Quentin said, “Come on up to my house.” So I went to his house the following night. He’s got a fifty-seat movie theater in his house, and it’s beautiful. He’s got a little lobby before you enter the movie theater, and he had posters of all my movies on display in his lobby! They used to tell you in the late sixties that if you ever took LSD, you’d have flashbacks later on. It was unpredictable. Well, that was the first thing that hit my brain, because my brain started to go very surreal on me. It was so unusual, just totally unexpected. So my first thought was, “Uh-oh, they were right.” This was the acid kicking in from forty years ago. [Laughs.] My first thought was, “Are these posters always in his lobby? Or did he do this for me?” Either way, it was like wow, he’s really doing this. This was really generous of spirit.

Then when we got into the movie theater, he said, “You’re in for a surprise now.” Before The Savage Seven started running, he had seven trailers of my films put together. I hadn’t even seen these trailers. He had put them together. I said, “I know there’s no official Larry Bishop package of trailers. How did you do this? Where did you get all of these?” And he said, “Just sit back and enjoy the movie.” So I still don’t know why I’m up there outside of the joy I’m getting. The movie ends, the lights come up, and I thank him. I said, “So what do you want to do?” I knew there had to be something else he wanted to say to me. And he said, “I think it’s your destiny to write, star, and direct the greatest motorcycle movie ever made.” That was his line—that it was my destiny to do that. So I said, “I’m in.” And that’s how Hell Ride began.

So I started writing, and about a week later he said, “I wrote a part for you in Kill Bill.” I said, “Of course, I’ll do it.” I didn’t even ask him what the part was. He just said my character was someone who was going to give Michael Madsen’s character a very, very, very hard time. “You’re gonna be totally sadistic with him. You’re gonna cut him off at the knees.” So I said, “Perfect.”

What was the experience of working on Kill Bill like?

It was fantastic. First of all, I didn’t know he was going to call the part “Larry.” That was really interesting to me. That excited me. There wasn’t going to be any doubt in anybody’s mind that he really wrote that part for me. That was exciting.

We never talked about the role, Quentin and I, because he went off to travel all over the world making this movie. We never said anything about the scene one way or the other. The only communication we had was through the wardrobe people. They told me, “Quentin said, ‘Bring your clothes.’ We’re not giving Larry clothes. I want him to go into his closet and wear the clothes that he always wears.” That was cool. So when I showed up the first day, this was the first time we ever said anything. He said, “Why don’t we have a run-through? Not for the blocking, but let’s just go through it.” So it was just me and Michael Madsen going back and forth with the dialogue. When we did it the first time, I had a very specific idea of what I wanted to do. And Quentin says, “That wasn’t exactly what I thought you were gonna do.” He wanted urban New York fast-speak, which is what I do. But for me, I thought I had to slow things down for this character. I knew I was going to play it with a lot of ego. I felt like in his world, he’s like Frank Sinatra. This is his world, where he’s as big as Frank Sinatra. I wanted to express that.

So instead of rushing into the dialogue, I just held for twelve seconds looking at Michael Madsen. I felt like it would be more uncomfortable for Madsen’s character for me to just stare at him. It’s a sadistic move. It’s cruel to do it. But I felt like it sets the tone for the power dynamic we’re working on. So every time Quentin said, “action,” I hold for twelve seconds. And Quentin held for twelve seconds on the cut! I didn’t think he’d do that, but I knew he’d understand where my mindset was at. I felt that was important. I figure there’s no way in the world he’s going to use all that when he puts this together, or maybe he’ll use a couple of seconds… But he used every single bit of it. And Quentin told me, “You know how to hold those pauses.” That was really cool to me. I mean, I wondered, could my presence hold those pauses? It’s always a little bit of a gamble.

After we did that, Michael Madsen walks over to me and said, “Larry, the scene’s all yours.” That was a pretty generous thing to say. So I was thinking of him for Hell Ride, but now he had consolidated it. I found him to be a compatriot of mine. Even though we could have conflicts on Hell Ride, I wanted him to be on my side. I figured a biker would appreciate someone backing them like that. That was an unusual thing for an actor to say. But I think the more I dug in with how I wanted to play the part, the better it was for Michael. I think it’s a great scene for him. We know his character’s background—he could cut off my head in a second. But no, he’s gonna take it. There’s a reason he’s gonna take it. If you watch the movie a couple of times, I think it benefited him. I wasn’t taking the scene away from him, I was enhancing a different way of looking at his character.

Also cool, Robert Richardson, the cinematographer, turns to Quentin Tarantino and says, “Who the fuck is this guy?” He knows nothing about me, except that he can’t get over what he just saw. He was sort of watching it just to get a sense of the lighting and the coverage, but he said, “Who the fuck is this guy?” That tickled Quentin. I didn’t want to interrupt him because it was so beautiful; he went on for ten minutes about who I was. Robert Richardson knew absolutely nothing about me but what he’d just seen.

In the movie, I say, “That fucking hat.” That was like code words for everybody. That went on for the rest of the shoot. Everybody was saying, “That fucking hat.” That wasn’t in the original script. When I got there, Quentin handed me three handwritten pages. He said, “I’ve got to get Michael Madsen to take this fucking hat off. He won’t stop wearing that hat in the movie. So you’re gonna be the one who tells him to take the fucking hat off.” So that was the inside joke of the whole thing. “Let’s get Michael’s hat off.” And the handwritten pages… I took that idea later on. When I went to do Hell Ride, I thought it was beneficial that the director took the time to write these extra things in his handwriting. It made me have a different feeling when I was looking at the pages. I never forgot that. So I did that myself during Hell Ride. I think it changes the tenor of the way you see things as an actor.

Working on Kill Bill set the tone for how much I trusted Quentin when I worked with him. It couldn’t have worked out better. Even to this day, when I’m at a newsstand or Rite-Aid, there’s always somebody who’s staring at me. I’ve gotten to the point where I can recognize a Kill Bill look. I get different looks for different movies. But this one was out there, and it plays everyday on cable. There could be a Kill Bill channel as much as it plays! I get that kind of attention all the time because of this movie.

What was Quentin like to work with on Hell Ride?

He was a doll. We had two meetings at the very beginning, just to make sure we were both on the same page. I said, “What do you think I should call my character?” So I let him anoint me with the name. He said, “Pistolero is a good name for you.” So I said, “Perfect. I’ll be Pistolero.” We were in sync on all this. We both loved Sergio Leone, and that’s where the humor and the violence came into play in both of our films. Quentin and I have different senses of humor, but it’s a strong sense of humor. I knew we were making a biker movie with kind of a spaghetti western vibe going on. That was our meeting point in terms of what we were going to do. I was happy to see that everything I wrote wound up in the movie.

Here’s what Quentin did. He was going to leave me completely alone during the shoot, which was very cool. The last thing he said to me after our second meeting was, “I’ll see you in the editing room.” That was it. So I went off to make the movie, and then went into the editing room. He came in for about three weeks after I did my cut. He was brilliant.

I had written the script so graphically that when I had made the deal with the Weinsteins, Bob said, “What kind of rating are we gonna get on this?” I said, “I’ll get you an R-rating.” He felt that it was written so graphically that it wouldn’t even get an NC-17. They were going to have to invent something for us. But I said, “No, I’ll get you the R-rating.” And that was the end of the issue. When we were going to the motion pictures ratings board, everyone was sending me notes for what to say when it didn’t get the R-rating. There was pages of this stuff. But we passed on the first screening. Everybody kind of fainted. It was really crazy, but it was really Quentin. He knew how to get an R-rating. He knew how to do it without hurting what I was interested in—the eroticism mostly. I felt that was important to the picture.

“AmeriKKKa”

by Andy Rausch

Uncle Sam beat me and raped my mama

Spit on my sister and raped my mama

He said that I looked like that man Osama

Or maybe I resembled Barack Obama

Nobody said shit, said that’s how it goes

Put me to work out amongst the corn rows

Was it my speech, could it be my corn rows?

Gave me a forty, a gun, and some hoes

Forty acres and a mule, as if that made us square

Just two-thirds of a man as if that shit was fair.

 

My ancestors helped to build this nation

Maybe they were African, maybe Haitian

Uncle Sam helped me to get an education

And kept on reminding me I wasn’t Caucasian

He pissed in my face and told me it was water

He killed my father then he raped my daughter

Told me I was equal but chuckled as he said it

And misrepresented the Bible when he said it

He sent me to war, put my finger on the trigger

Smiled and said, “You’re welcome, you nigger.”

 

He put me in the ghetto, said this is your place

You belong here along with the rest of your race

The rest of your kind, your people, you coloreds

Porch monkeys, spics, faggots and dullards

Divisions abound but they say that it’s equal

Still lock us away like it’s Slavery the Sequel

The cops abuse us, kill us just for the sport

Cause they know they’ll get acquitted in court

AmeriKKKa says don’t speak up, that isn’t polite

AmeriKKKa the free, just so long as you’re white.

“Rachel in the Moonlight”

by Andy Rausch

His Rachel had been gone almost two years now, and James still couldn’t wrap his head around it. Every morning when he awoke, he turned, expecting to see her lying on the pillow next to him. And every morning was the same; the pillow was empty and the horrible reality would then set in. Rachel was gone, and he would never see her again.

But that wasn’t entirely the truth. He saw her everywhere. He saw her at the supermarket. He saw her driving by in cars. He saw her walking in the middle of large throngs of people on the sidewalk. But mostly he saw her in his dreams. There she would come to him as if she were still alive, and he would hold her hand and kiss her once more as though there was still a sunny tomorrow.

But there were no more sunny tomorrows in James’ life. Not anymore. Now there were only overcast and rainy days, a constant reminder of all he had lost. Not that he had to be reminded. Rachel was all he thought about. In fact, he probably thought about her more today than he had just following her death.

Every day, weather be damned, he went and visited Rachel’s grave, flowers in hand. And every day he cleared away the leaves and debris, the flowers from yesterday’s visit, and propped up the new bundle of orchids to honor her.

One day he was making his daily walk to the flower shop when a store selling adult movies caught his eye. He walked past it everyday, but he’d never paid it any mind. Despite his mourning, James still had the normal male urges. He didn’t own a computer and was interested in obtaining a couple of smut magazines to help satisfy his cravings. He walked inside, the bell over the door ringing as he did. He didn’t consider himself a prude, but he was still somewhat shocked by the plethora of dildos and outlandish sexual devices which lined the store. He looked around at them with more than a small bit of curiosity. He eyeballed the devices, amazed by how many there were.

That was when he noticed a sign which read: “CUSTOM SEX DOLLS MADE HERE,” with a smaller sign beneath that read “MADE TO HER EXACT SPECIFICATIONS.” Somewhere deep down inside this piqued his interest, although he didn’t know why.

James made his way up to the man behind the counter, and said awkwardly, “I was wondering about the custom-made sex dolls.”

The man’s face lit up. “Would you like to see some?”

James nodded.

The man led him through an open doorway in the back of the store. They walked through a hallway adorned with posters of adult movie stars, some of them autographed. James thought the floor felt sticky, but figured that was probably his imagination. The man led him to a big room filled with ultra-realistic sex dolls. These were not the simple inflatable women he had imagined. These dolls were beautiful. There was a doll made to look just like Marilyn Monroe; there was a Scarlett Johansson; a Sarah Palin; and so on. Most of the dolls just looked like normal, beautiful women.

“What are they made of?” James asked.

“Silicone.”

“Who makes them?”

The man said, “Kyle, but he’s not here today.”

“The dolls are made to the exact specifications of real women?”

The man nodded. “We got a very detailed questionnaire you have to fill out when you order one. It asks questions like areola size, pubic hair length, height of the woman, foot size, things like that.”

James asked, “Could a guy just give you some photographs of the woman he wanted the doll to resemble?”

“Oh, Kyle will want those, too. But you still gotta fill out the questionnaire.”

James stared at one of the dolls, unable to believe how realistic it looked. “The hair looks so real.”

“Yeah, they’ve got real human hair,” the man said, grinning. “Up top and down below, too.”

“How much does something like this cost?”

“It varies, but the average one costs about $6,000, give or take.”

“That’s pretty steep,” James said.

“But trust me, it’s worth it,” the man said. “It’s the next best thing to having the real woman. If you can’t have her, you’ll want this.”

James took out his wallet and requested a questionnaire.

Fourteen days passed before the big wooden box arrived at his house. James scooted it inside, into his living room. He knew what was in the box, but now felt overwhelmed by a multitude of emotions at the thought of opening it. So he just sat there in his favorite chair for some time, staring at the damned thing.

And he thought about Rachel. He remembered the way she felt in his arms. He remembered the way she smelled. He remembered the taste of her hair in his mouth.

He had to know.

He went to the utility room and got a hammer, bringing it back to open the crate. He went to work on the box, and its lid was off in a matter of minutes. He fished around amongst the packing peanuts, and located the doll. He brought it forward, sitting it in the upright position, packing peanuts falling all around it as he did.

He looked at the doll and found himself amazed by how realistic it looked. It was his Rachel, right here in front of him. She looked just like the real deal; so much so, in fact, that he didn’t move for several minutes. He just stared into the doll’s glassy blue eyes, and they seemed to stare back.

He considered kissing the doll’s lips, but decided against it. No, he would wait until the right time when the doll was ready.

James lifted up the naked doll and found it to be quite heavy. It had to weigh a hundred pounds or so. He carried it up the stairs to the bathroom. Once there, he washed its hair with Rachel’s shampoo. He then applied her favorite perfume and lotion to the doll, and the scents immediately brought her back to life in his mind. Wanting to make the experience as realistic as possible, he even put Rachel’s lip balm on the doll.

He then took the doll to his bedroom, where he dressed it in Rachel’s slinky red lingerie. He tried not to look at the doll’s body as he did this, wanting to keep the forthcoming act as special as possible. He put Rachel’s ankle bracelet and toe rings on the doll’s feet.

Tonight would be a big night. Tonight he would reunite with his Rachel for one last sexual encounter, giving her the proper send-off he had never been able to.

That night, James lit scented candles all around the dark room. He left the curtain cracked just a bit so the light of the moon could fall gently down on Rachel’s body. He lay down on the bed beside the doll, gently caressing its hair. He kissed at its temples and nibbled on its left ear. He stuck his tongue in the doll’s ear and moved it around. He caressed the doll’s neck, finally kissing at the doll’s mouth, the familiar taste of Rachel’s lip balm in his mouth. He stuck his tongue into the doll’s tight mouth, wagging it against its limp tongue, forcing it to come alive and wag back.

For the briefest of moments, James forgot where he was.

He forgot this was a doll.

This was his Rachel, here once more, and they were reunited. Once more they would share their love as they had so many times before.

He moved his hand along her back, kissing his way down her neck towards her big, full breasts. She tasted of lavender lotion. The smell of her perfume filled his nostrils, driving him crazy. He moved the top of the negligee with his nose, his mouth finding her nipples, playing with them, flicking at them. He cupped her breasts together with his hands, kissing between them, moving his tongue all around them. As he did so, he felt himself harden. He was throbbing; pulsing. His desire was consuming him, and he wanted to eat her up.

He moved his hand down between her legs and touched her sticky wetness with his fingers, caressing her clit. He thought he felt her buckle in his arms, and he pulled himself closer to her, his hand moving with ever-increasing speed. He thought he felt her climax on his fingers. Her back arched, and her head went back against the pillow.

James moved closer to her, softly taking his hand away from her wet pussy. He then took his own manhood in hand and stroked it, bringing it to maddening hardness. He made his way on top of her, kissing her lips as he did, and moved his cock around, softly searching for her wet pussy. He found it, rubbed at it gently, and entered her. He moaned as he did, and gently thrust himself deep inside her. He put his right hand behind her back to support her, moving himself in and out of her slowly as he did.

But he knew what she liked. She didn’t like this slow stuff. It made her crazy, made her want it faster and harder. She liked it when he pulled her hair. So he gently tugged at it, thrusting his cock harder and harder into her tight, wet pussy. He pulled her tight against him as he did, swearing he could feel her heartbeat against his chest. He pushed himself up on top of her, swiveled his hips slowly, rotating his cock inside her, and then pulled it back to its tip, finally plunging back inside once more.

The moonlight fell against the right half of her face.

She was beautiful. Looking at her blond hair lying across her full, pale breasts, staring at the wonders of her exquisite face, James grew hornier and hornier, overcome with passion and desire. He now fed off what he perceived to be her sexual energy, as well, and he pulled her close, pumping himself in and out of her as hard as he could. He held her legs up over his shoulders, and they swayed hard with each thrust.

He kissed her mouth again, moving his tongue against hers, pushing his cock into her harder and harder as he did. Finally he felt himself climbing, escalating, reaching towards an unreachable high, and he came hard, feeling their juices intermingling as he did. He pulled her up close to him, holding her tightly, and the two of them lay silently in the moonlight in the afterglow of good sex.

Interview with Omar Doom

omar doom image

 

by Andrew J. Rausch

Omar Doom is an actor, director, musician, and artist. After meeting Quentin Tarantino, the filmmaker convinced him to shorten his birth name (“Omar Makhdomi”) to the shorter stage pseudonym. The Reservoir Dogs helmer also persuaded the young musician to consider acting. “Quentin told me I’d be great in movies,” Doom would later say in a press junket. “He really pushed me. I decided to go for it. I took his advice and I studied acting.” This would ultimately pay off for the would-be actor, who landed his first role in Tarantino’s Death Proof as Vanessa Ferlito’s love interest. Tarantino would later cast Doom a second time as Private First Class Omar Ulmer in Inglourious Basterds.

Tarantino and Doom remain good friends, and Tarantino often invites him to his home for movie marathons. One year Tarantino threw the actor a birthday party in which he screened cartoons and movies, including Hammerhead and The Mack.

When did you first meet Quentin Tarantino?

We met through mutual friends around 1998.

Were you a fan of his work prior to meeting him? Did he influence you as a filmmaker?

I was and have always been a huge fan of his work. I still watch his movies pretty regularly. Everything I’ve learned about making movies I learned from watching him work. You’ll be able to see what I come up with in the near future.

I understand that Quentin actually came up with your stage name, “Omar Doom.” Tel me about that.

When I was twenty-three, I was having lunch with Quentin at the restaurant Toi on Sunset in Hollywood. I was telling him that I was thinking of shortening my name from Omar Makhdoomi to Omar Makhdoom. He said, “Why not just be Omar Doom?” I had never thought of that, and at first I thought it was a little too ridiculous, but after a while I was convinced. I was like, “Fuck it, I’m gonna do it.” And I’ve never regretted it.

What do you see as being Quentin’s biggest strengths in terms of directing?

People normally praise him for his writing, but I think he is also a phenomenal director. He has a very artistic way of blocking his scenes and framing his shots. As with everything he does, he shatters any rules or conventions. Also, he has very strong convictions. He was so adamant about doing real non-CGI high speed car chases in Death Proof that he built a supercharged camera truck that he sat in, driving over a hundred miles an hour to get those amazing shots.

What’s the most interesting conversation you’ve ever had with him?

That’s a hard one, because there are so many. I don’t know which is the best, but one that stands out in my mind was about his meeting Bob Dylan. Apparently Bob Dylan boxes and has his own boxing ring. And Quentin and Bob Dylan actually boxed. The thought of that happening just blows my mind.

How did you become involved with Death Proof?

I got ahold of the script and basically begged him to read for it. He may have already been planning to bring me into the fold, but I didn’t waste any time making sure it happened.

What were your thoughts on the script the first time you read it?

It was like reading any of his scripts for the first time. They’re always read in one sitting because they’re just impossible to put down. And the endings always make the hairs on my arms stick straight up and I get chills down my neck. But with Death Proof in particular, knowing that he names characters after his close friends, and then seeing that he’d named a character Omar was just an incredible thing. I was basically in the movie before I was in the movie.

What was that cast like to work with?

We were mostly all the same age on that set, so we hung out a lot. I made some lifelong friendships on that movie. That doesn’t usually happen on movie sets. But something about Quentin’s sets makes it really feel like everyone is part of a big family. There’s no set like a Tarantino set. Everyone knows that the next movie set experience you have after working on a Tarantino movie is gonna suck, no matter what the movie is. Quentin told me that himself. Except it turned out that he was all wrong because my next movie ended up being Inglourious Basterds. I remember asking Quentin, “Remember telling me my next job was gonna suck? You were wrong.”

I’ve heard that he screens movies for the cast and crew sometimes. Did he do this on the two movies you worked on, and if so, what were some of those films?

Usually they have something to do with whatever we’re shooting or the actors we’re working with. For example, during Death Proof we watched Used Cars with Kurt Russell. That was quite an experience. Kurt got a real kick out of that, just as we all did.

What was Kurt Russell like to work with?

He’s a very humble guy who, like the rest of us, really felt that working with Quentin is just really something special. He didn’t treat it like it was just one of the hundreds of movies he’s worked on. For me personally, as a big fan of his work, it was an absolute joy just to be around him.

You worked pretty closely with Eli Roth on that picture. What’s he like?

I worked on both Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds with Eli Roth, so we had already become friends. He’s a great guy. Before meeting him I saw Hostel with Quentin opening night in New York City, and I was just blown away. It’s such a fun movie. Eli and I have a lot of similar interests film-wise. We both love a lot of the same horror/Giallo films and he has introduced me to some great ones I had never seen. Eli and the rest of the Basterds all formed a brotherhood on that picture. We would all hang out on and off the set. It was a great time. Filming Basterds in Berlin is one of my fondest memories.

What are your thoughts on the final film Death Proof?

I love Death Proof. Quentin can pull off any genre, and it was a real treat to see his take on grindhouse horror/car chase films. I don’t think anyone could have done it better. People have very short attention spans, so they weren’t really ready for such a long double feature in theaters. But it’s become a cult favorite since then. I get recognized a lot for that movie even though my role wasn’t all that big.

How did you end up working on Inglourious Basterds?

I didn’t go through the same audition process as I did for Death Proof on Basterds. Quentin just called me two weeks before I got on the plane and gave me an enthusiastic and bloody description of what I’d be doing—that I would be scalping and slaughtering Nazis left and right with Brad Pitt. He finished by saying, “Basically I want you to come to Berlin and be a Basterd.” I just said, “Quentin, I’ve been preparing for this role my entire life.”

What was working with Brad Pitt like?

Brad Pitt is a great example of how actors should conduct themselves. He’s the chillest, most humble actor I’ve ever worked with. Some of the other big names showed up with a thick entourage of men in suits, while Brad just showed up with a six pack for the Basterds, saying, “You guys want a beer?” He was very encouraging to me during a lot of scenes with him, telling me that I had really come into my own throughout the film. It meant a lot to me. I hope I get to work with him again sometime.

Were you at all nervous going in to act in a big film like Basterds, where you’d be working alongside so many talented performers?

I actually wasn’t. Working on Basterds was a pure joy. I was excited to get up and go to the set every day. Even when I was working in front of three or four hundred people, it was nothing but fun. Something about the way that Quentin works makes acting for him easy and such a thrill.

You were quite good in that film. Do people come up to you and recognize you from Inglourious Basterds?

I do get recognized for Basterds more than anything else. People ask me to do the Italian hand gesture for a picture, or say the Dominic DiCocco line. Depending on how many drinks I’ve had, I just might do it. I’m more proud of the work I did on that film than on anything else in my life, so it’s nice to be recognized for it.

What was your favorite scene on that film, and why?

Busting through the door and killing Hitler and Gobbels with Eli would have to be my favorite day on set. When is someone ever going to have a chance to say they killed Hitler? In a Tarantino movie, no less! Well, I can now. I feel like I should make a business card that says “OMAR DOOM. I KILLED HITLER.”

“Snow White and the Seven Bastards”

snow white image

by Andy Rausch

As they sat together in Joe’s Tavern, Prince Charming couldn’t take his mind off Snow White’s past. It had been weighing on him a lot lately. Sure, she was beautiful, but he also felt she was white trash. She was beneath him. They were from different stations in life, and their differences were becoming ever more apparent. Despite her claims that she had never really slept around, Prince Charming was having a difficult time taking her at her word. She had drank her fair share of tequila tonight, and the other drunks, obviously men from her past, were talking to her as if they’d once been intimate. The worst offender was an inebriated cowboy in a camouflaged ball cap who kept making remarks about her breasts.

Being the gentleman that he was, Prince Charming defended her honor, but it became more and more difficult to do so as horny drunks continued swarming out of the woodwork to make lascivious remarks. She was his wife, goddammit. Why didn’t these men respect that? Even if they had slept with Snow White, why would they be so cruel as to rub it in his face now? And Snow White herself was no help here, either, because she was just drunk enough to flirt back with them.

Prince Charming drank from his gin and tonic and excused himself to the restroom. Inside, the urinals were nasty and overflowing, so he was forced to urinate in a stall. As he stood there pissing, he glanced down and noticed a sentence scrawled about two feet off the ground. It read: “Call Snow White for a good time.” Her cell phone number was written there. It was an outdated number as she’d just recently changed calling plans, but it was a number he recognized.

“Goddammit,” he muttered. The scrawling was down low to the ground, just at the height of a dwarf. Prince Charming’s mind started to race. She’d insisted that she’d never slept with any of the loathsome little sons of bitches, but this written statement seemed to tell a different tale. Jealous, Prince Charming could feel his face turning flush with embarrassment. He walked back to his table to find another redneck leaning over and flirting with his wife. When Prince Charming reached them, the man staggered away.

“Another friend of yours?” asked Prince Charming.

“Just a guy I used to know,” said Snow White, taking a drag from her cigarette. This was another sore spot with Prince Charming—he didn’t smoke and he absolutely loathed the stench of her Pall Malls.

He looked at her sternly. “It seems that you know quite a few men in here.”

She looked at him. Despite her exceeding level of inebriation, she caught the gist of his implication. “Is there something you want to say? If there is, don’t beat around the bush. Just say it.”

And so he did. “Are you sure you told me the truth when you said you’d only been with five men before me?”

She was visibly offended. “Of course it was true.”

Prince Charming said, “I’m not so sure.”

Anger flashed in her eyes now, and she stubbed out her cigarette into the ashtray. “Why is that?”

“You seem awfully chummy with more than a few men in here.”

“And?” she asked.

“And just how did you manage to convince the Woodsman to release you into the woods rather than kill you?”

“What are you asking?”

He just stared at her, unblinking. “Did you have sex with him?”

“No, he was atrocious.”

At this Prince Charming turned and looked at the other men at the bar in an exaggerated motion. “And these men aren’t?”

“Everyone’s got a past,” she said. “Even you.”

Prince Charming took another drink. “I’m not sure I believe you anymore.”

“What are you saying?”

“That you’re a liar.”

This infuriated Snow White. “How can you say that to me? Where do you get your nerve?”

He just looked at her. “Let me ask you another question.”

“Shoot.”

“Those dwarfs you lived with—are you sure you didn’t sleep with them?”

She threw her hands up, implying there was just no talking to Prince Charming. “Are we really going to have this conversation again?”

“Have we ever really had it?”

She glared at him, fire in her eyes. “And what does that mean?”

“It means we never really had the conversation, because you put an end to it. God forbid you should ever have to talk about something you don’t want to talk about.” Prince Charming took another drink. “You’re a spoiled rotten brat.”

Snow White lit another Pall Mall. “Where is all this coming from?”

“You’re so chummy with all the guys in this bar. Are you really going to try and tell me you’ve never been intimate with any of them?”

She looked at him, but said nothing.

Prince Charming said, “That’s what I thought.”

“What do you want from me?” she asked, fidgeting in her seat.

“I want you to be straight with me.”

“How so?”

He sneered at her. “I think you screwed those nasty little dwarfs.”

“You would think that,” she said, taking another drag from her cigarette.

“There’s a message written in the bathroom,” he said quietly.

She looked up. “What kind of message?”

“It says to call you for a good time.”

“And?” she asked.

“And it has your goddamn phone number on it! And it was written about two feet from the ground—right there at dwarf-level.”

She blew out smoke. “So what are you saying?”

“I want a divorce,” he said, pulling the ring from his finger. He dropped it into his drink. He started to stand, and she reached out to stop him. “Please don’t do this,” she pleaded. But it was to no avail. “I’ll be in touch, Snow White.”

He turned and walked out of the place, leaving her sitting there with her tequila and a half-smoked Pall Mall on a Budweiser ashtray. George Strait was singing on the jukebox, and even though he was her favorite singer, Snow White didn’t notice. She raised her cigarette with trembling hands, tears welling up inside her eyes now.

Prince Charming was the only thing she’d ever really wanted in life.

He was the only man she’d ever truly loved.

And now, as she sat there crying, her tears served as man-repellent, and no one came to her aid. There were no more comments about her breasts. Nothing.

She reached into her purse and caressed the chrome pistol with her fingers, making sure the loaded gun was still there.

Someone was going to pay for what had happened to her.

Someone.

She stood up, George Strait sounding muted in her ears, her balance just a little off. She drank the last of her tequila and turned for the door. She had tears streaming down her face like tiny snakes trying to make their way down to her neckline. Again, no one approached her, and no one spoke in her direction.

She walked out of the bar, surprised to find her Camaro still parked outside. Prince Charming must have walked home—as if home was where he was really headed. And for the briefest of moments, Snow White considered shooting her lover. But no, she knew what she had to do. She knew who had to pay.

She unlocked the door to the Camaro and turned the key in the ignition, Lorrie Morgan coming to life in the speakers. She put the car into drive and peeled out of the gravel parking lot, kicking up a massive cloud of dust behind her. Her hands still trembling, she lit another Pall Mall. She stomped on the gas now, and the car lurched forward towards its destination.

Six minutes later she was there, parked in front of the seven dwarfs’ trailer house. She turned off the ignition and stared at the house, contemplating what she was about to do. She reached into her bag and grabbed the .45, pulling it out. She climbed out of the Camaro and marched up the gravel driveway towards the trailer house. She then made her way up the stairs, flicking her half-spent cigarette out into the fenced-in yard. She raised her right hand, the hand clutching the gun, and banged on the front door. She could hear Megadeath blaring from inside the home.

No one came to the door, so she knocked again, harder this time.

Finally the wooden door opened and Doc peered out through the tattered screen door.

“Let me in, goddammit,” she said, the cold air chilling her bones.

Doc opened the door and let her inside. She raised the pistol as she entered.

Doc raised his arms to show her he didn’t want any trouble. She moved the pistol up to her left, seeing Dopey there snorting a line of crank from an aluminum TV dinner tray.

“What’s the problem?” Doc asked nervously.

She turned the pistol back towards Doc and squeezed the trigger, and Doc was no more. Dopey looked up. He started to run towards the back of the house, but Snow White caught him with a clean shot. The bedroom door to Snow White’s right opened and Grumpy peered out. “What the hell is going on out here?” he asked.

Snow White shot through the particle-board door, catching Grumpy at center mass, and he fell out of the way. She turned and kicked the door open, seeing Sneezy there naked and crouching doggie-style, where he had been waiting for Grumpy to return. She shot Sneezy, painting the blinds behind him with the contents of his head.

Snow White turned back towards the living room, where she saw Bashful standing there with a naked dwarf woman held out in front of him, his big hand-cannon aimed at her temple. “Shoot at me and this bitch gets it,” Bashful said.

“Who wrote my phone number in the bathroom down at the pub?” Snow White asked, trembling with anger. She did not lower the pistol.

“Goddamn Doc,” Bashful said. “I told him not to write that shit, but you know Doc…”

Snow White squeezed the trigger, firing off a round through the female dwarf’s chest and striking Bashful in the heart. They both fell over dead in a heap of flesh and bones. Snow White moved past their fallen bodies in search of the other two little bastards. She peered down the hall, and Sleepy peeked out through the doorway at the end of the hallway. Snow White fired two rounds, splintering the particle-board wall and catching Sleepy in the throat. She made her way down the hallway, past the row of stockpiled Pepsi twelve-packs line up against the wall. She stumbled, momentarily losing her footing, and she fell towards the floor.

She heard the gun cock behind her. She turned around and saw Happy standing there, his nine-millimeter pistol trained on her. She went for her gun, which she had dropped in the fall, and Happy fired a round through her left shoulder.

Unnnngggggg,” she blurted.

“Turn around and look at me,” said Happy.

She turned to her right, twisting a bit, and she looked him directly in his eyes. He had his pistol trained on her, and he was holding his cell phone up to his ear with his other hand. Before the 911 operator could respond, Snow White came up with the .45 and shot a round through Happy’s forehead. The diminutive gunman toppled back into the half-assed trailer house kitchen.

Snow White raised herself up from the ground, her shoulder hurting like all hell. She could hear the police sirens in the distance, getting closer and closer. She raised the .45 to her own temple and squeezed the trigger.

And Snow White was no more.

Interview with Matt Wagner

by Andrew J. Rausch

Pennsylvania-bred comic book writer and illustrator Matt Wagner started his career with a story that introduced the world to the assassin character Grendel. That character would ultimately become the stuff of legends, resulting in not just its own title but two Grendel/Batman crossovers. Perhaps best known for Mage, Wagner has also worked on many established characters, including the villain Two-Face for the graphic novel Faces. Wagner is also responsible for Trinity, a series combining the forces of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. In recent years he has been closely associated with Dynamite Entertainment’s Zorro, in which he reimagined the classic character from the old West.

This led to the Wagner-written crossover comic Django/Zorro, which served as an official sequel story to Quentin Tarantino’s film Django Unchained. Speaking on the crossover, Tarantino told reporters, “I loved the idea. One of the things I liked so much, I grew up reading Western comics and entertainment in general, whether it was the Zorro comics, or the Disney show, or Zorro’s Fighting Legend. What I thought was such a great idea was taking the most famous fictional Mexican Western hero, and putting him together with one of the most famous black Western heroes.”

Were you a fan of the original film Django Unchained?

Oh, fuck yeah. I had a friend who’s a local reviewer take me to a press screening. He told me later, “I’ve got to take you to more of those.” Because all the critics sit there very seriously considering the film, and I was just laughing and howling and clapping. [Laughs.] I just enjoyed the hell out of it. I’m a fan of Quentin’s stuff in general.

How did you become involved with the Django/Zorro comic?

The whole project was put together by Nick Barrucci, the guy who runs Dyamite. He was a long-time friend of Reginald Hudlin, who was a producer on Quentin Tarantino’s film. They just kind of put this idea together, I think half-joking to begin with. Then things started to get more serious, and Nick contacted me and said, “We’re talking about doing this. Would you be interested in writing it?” I just thought, That’s never going to happen, but I said, “Sure.” If the opportunity comes up, I’d love to do it, but it’s not going to happen. So I completely forgot about it and then four or five months later, I got another very energized call from Nick. He says, “I sent Quentin all your Zorro stuff and he loves it. He wants you to come down next week to talk about this.” Even then I was like, really, no, it’s not going to happen. But then, yeah, it all came true. I was surprised, but they pulled it off.

What was meeting Quentin like?

Here again, I was like, “This could fall apart at any minute.” Quentin’s such a famous guy, and I’m sure there are about a million people demanding his time. Even when I pulled up to his house I was thinking, “Something’s gonna fall through.” [Laughs.] But no, he met me at the door. He pulled me in and took me and showed me his comics right away. He has a very unique and cool box where he keeps his comics. If we’re not the exact same age, Quentin and I are pretty close in age, so our cultural touch points are kind of similar. His is of course more movie oriented, and mine more comic oriented. But I know plenty of movies and he knows plenty of comics.

Did you guys talk a lot about other comics?

Yeah. He had just gotten back from this big San Diego con, and he had bought up a whole bunch of the oversized black-and-white magazines that Marvel used to publish in the seventies. That just thrilled the hell out of me, because I had loved those when I was young. Even though they didn’t have very strong subject matter in them, they felt more adult when I was buying them at twelve and thirteen-years-old. I guess because they weren’t racked with the other comics—they were racked at the magazine rack. So he had maybe fifty or a hundred of those, and we just pored through those and reminisced.

I read that Quentin was adamant that Zorro be the same Zorro you had already redefined at Dynamite.

When I went down there, I was thinking we’re gonna have to have a legacy Zorro, since Django occurs so much later than the Zorro adventures. But when we first started talking about it, he was adamant. “I want the old Zorro.” Considering Django’s relationship with King Shultz in the film, where he already had this openness towards having an older mentor-like character, it just fit like a glove. Then we had to talk about what had happened to Django since the film, because this took place about two years after the film. He told me Django’s wife was down in Philadelphia, and that he’d taken her there. He was very much a wanted man. It had taken them a long time to get out of the South. They had fought there way out of there, and Brunhilda was now working with the underground railroad. So he’s gone back to doing the only thing he knows how to do, which is bounty hunting. And he just keeps pushing farther and farther West, because there’s not as much institutionalized racism out there.

Did you get much direct input from Tarantino while working on the project?

Sure. We spent two days with the first go-around. I had already heard this from somebody else, but when Quentin first starts working with you, he likes to screen movies for you. So he had a whole litany of stuff he wanted us to watch in this very cool, very comfortable screening room. So we watched a couple of films, and we watched a couple of chapters of old Zorro serials. We’d kind of watch a little bit and then go up to his porch and chat, working out storyline stuff. So when I went there to meet him, I was down there for two days. It was a very open, very free-form kind of meeting. I didn’t know if I’d need to come back the second day. We didn’t even know if we’d get along. But he said, “No, no, no, you’ve got to come back tomorrow so we can keep working on this.” I went back to the hotel that night and I wrote the first six pages of the script to kick it off and get it started, so I could get direct feedback from him in regards to Django’s voice in particular. One thing he cautioned me about, he said, “Don’t try to write black dialect. Try to write more cowboy dialect.” Of course a few of Django’s enunciations are more black than cowboy, but that was a very cool and insightful bit of direction.

So then I came back and started to work on it, and maybe three months later I contacted him and said, “We need one more meeting. We’ve got the general outline, but now that I’m kind of blocking it out, I have a few more questions for you.” So I went back down for another afternoon, and we got everything accomplished that we wanted to do. He had very quick answers for each of my questions. And it was valuable, because there’s a scene in there that’s a flashback where Django remembers a little adventure with King. That scene was actually in Quentin’s first draft of Django Unchained. He still had it in handwritten form. But he’d cut the scene because he felt it was a little repetitive and that the film was already long enough. He brought this up because I felt we needed some sort of reminiscence about King, because he was such a powerful figure. With this being the first new Django adventure, I thought we needed to see King in some fashion. He had the scene already, and we found a place where it fit in nicely. He pretty much acted the entire scene out, telling me all of it. He kept telling me he was gonna get me his original handwritten script, but he never did because he got started on The Hateful Eight preproduction. And when you start working on a movie, boom, you just disappear into that hole. Since he had acted it all out for me, I just kind of wrote it from memory and just filled in the spots that needed filled myself. I was pretty happy with it. I felt that I hit King’s voice pretty well.

How much freedom did you have in crafting this story? Did you ever feel at all hamstrung, having to answer back to Quentin?

No, he was really open to everything. Again, he really loved my version of Zorro, so… When I went down the second time, the questions I had were very specific. I said, “In all your films, there’s some chunk of pop culture.” In Django you could argue that that’s not there, but it is. Mandingo fighting was a pop culture thing of its time. You could almost compare it to the S&M dungeon in Pulp Fiction. We were determined to examine racism not through black people, but through the local indigenous population. I said, “We need something the Indians do that signifies their despair. A dark, sort of subcultural thing.” So he very quickly came up with the idea of playing chicken with sticks of dynamite. That fit right in and certainly fit the bill for what we were going for. The other big thing was when I told him we needed a significant death of some kind. So I suggested we kill Bernardo, Zorro’s longtime servant and brother-in-arms. And he just thought that was a terrific idea.

What are some of the challenges you faced on this particular project?

The big challenge was that it wasn’t as neat a pairing as I had originally thought it would be. I had thought, yeah, that sounds neat. That sounds cool. But the two characters are very different ages, and they come from very different worlds. That’s always fun to meld, but one operates completely incognito and the other one doesn’t. So I found in writing it, I really couldn’t have the two of them fighting back to back, so to speak, until the grand finale. Otherwise you’ve got one guy in a mask and another guy not in a mask. The bad guys are gonna go, “We don’t know who that guy is, but go get the other guy who doesn’t have the mask on.” [Laughs.] They’re also very different in their approaches. Certainly in the heat of battle Zorro will kill somebody if he has to. But he’s not like Django who will just happily blow their head off. It was a really neat challenge trying to make those work, and I think I pulled it off.

What are some of the challenges to writing for someone else’s character as opposed to one you’ve created yourself?

Both of those are somebody else’s character. Over the years I’ve done a lot of that. I don’t know how familiar you are with the comics industry, but I’m sort of more known for my two indie characters, Grendel and Mage. Over the years I’ve had lots of opportunities to work with other characters for other comic companies. I’ve done lots of Batman for DC. I’ve done lots of stuff for Dynamite, like Zorro, The Green Hornet, The Shadow—all those old cool pulp characters. I’m currently working on the relaunch of the Will Eisner character the Spirit. I find it an interesting challenge to play with someone else’s toys like that. One difference is that with a character like Batman, you have a history of like seventy-five, eighty-five years. You’re kind of free to pick out the stuff you like and toss out the stuff you don’t. But with something like The Spirit or with Django, you’re suddenly working with a character that is closely identified with one particular voice and one particular author. So that’s a neat challenge also—to try and strike that author’s tone, and yet bring something of your own to the table, as well. Ever since the death of Ian Fleming, you’ve seen many officially-sanctioned other people writing James Bond books. And some of them are more successful than others in striking that tone.

What are some of the joys and challenges that came with writing about an older Don Diego character?

Once Quentin suggested that to me, it all sort of made sense. He also brought up another interesting factor in that Don Diego sort of puts on this foppish demeanor to deflect people from his true identity and adventures as Zorro. Quentin pointed out that after that many of years of living like that, wouldn’t he actually become that persona? Wouldn’t he actually be that kind of fussy older aristocrat? And I thought, yes, he absolutely would.

Quentin hints at the beginning of issue one about a possible future Django/Lone Ranger team-up. Is that something we might actually see?

They haven’t contacted me, so I don’t know. I don’t write The Lone Ranger. If they did that, I would think they would turn to one of the regular Lone Ranger authors. I don’t know. Maybe. I wouldn’t say no.

What kind of feedback did you get from Quentin once the comic was finished?

He loved it. I would say for the first half of production I heard from him pretty regularly. Then, again, he started Hateful Eight, and I didn’t hear from him until the end. I would assume with that he’s keeping watch over me with his character, and I’m sure that once he saw that I could handle it he was okay with it. He told me at the end he loved the way it turned out.

What elements of the Django/Zorro comic are you the most proud of?

Meshing these two characters that on my second thought of it didn’t seem to mesh as well as I initially thought they would. I’m certainly proud of having had the chance to work with Quentin. He’s really one of the most vital film directors working today. I’ve enjoyed his work for many, many years. Also, my son colored the book, which was pretty cool. I think it just turned out beautifully.

django cover.jpg

On Quentin Tarantino

I always loved film. Some of my earliest memories involve movies. I still remember watching Joe Camp’s Benji as a young lad. Then I got a little bit older and I started attending the drive-in with my parents to see movies like Smokey and the Bandit and Superman. These were memorable times because my father would have me cover myself with a coat and lie down on the floor in the backseat so he wouldn’t have to pay extra. I wasn’t a very discerning viewer back in those days. As a young man I loved everything I watched, from Salem’s Lot to lesser fare like Porky’s and Super Fuzz.

It wasn’t until October 14, 1994 that I began to see film more clearly. It was on that night—opening night—that I first saw Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. (I’ll admit it, I still hadn’t seen Reservoir Dogs at this point.) When that movie came blaring to life on the screen before me, complete with unbelievably cool music from Kool and the Gang and Dick Dale, my eyes were forced opened for the first time. It was then that I truly came to realize everything that cinema could actually be. This was the first time I really considered that there was a man called a director behind this thing, pulling the strings like a talented puppet master. This movie would forever change my life.

Some time later, I was in Seattle, Washington, trying to convince this really cute girl that she should go on a date with me. We went to a book store (as “friends”) and I stumbled across two books that would almost have as significant an impact on me as that film had. They were Quentin Tarantino: The Man and His Movies by Jami Bernard and Jeff Dawson’s Quentin Tarantino: The Cinema of Cool. These were the first books on the subject of cinema I would ever possess. And that night when I went back to my hotel room alone and rejected by that cute girl, I didn’t feel lonely or sad at all. I had those magnificent books to keep me company. And as I read the two biographies of this man Quentin Tarantino, I started to see the path before me in a new light. I had always planned on being a writer, but I never knew what I would write about. But here in my hands were exactly the types of books I wanted to write. On that night I fell in love with film books and even more deeply in love with the works of Tarantino. That was when I came up with the idea that would eventually result in this book. What if I made a companion book to the films of Quentin Tarantino, rather than a biography? At that time there was no such book in existence, and it seemed like a brilliant idea.

It was then that I embarked upon a journey which would stretch out over the next twenty years. I began researching Tarantino and interviewing anyone who knew him that I could get close to. But somehow the book stalled for a good long time after the release of Jackie Brown. I actually had the opportunity to have a really great conversation with Tarantino at the QTIII festival in Austin, Texas, about the merits of the under-appreciated film Death Collector, as well as the copious deficiencies found in the laughable musical The Apple. I would later have a similarly good time with Pulp Fiction co-writer Roger Avary, in which he detailed the even-longer theory he and Tarantino had conceived about Top Gun containing homosexual subtext.

But after that, the book started and stopped intermittently. My attentions were pulled towards number of other projects. (I published nearly thirty books during that span, none of which were the Tarantino book.) And each time a new (and equally wonderful) Tarantino offering was unleashed upon the movie-going public, I would vow to finally finish my book. But I never did. Then I read Dale Sherman’s terrific book Quentin Tarantino F.A.Q. and quickly realized he had crafted pretty much the same book I had always envisioned. So my dream of twenty years looked as though it were finally dead. Then, not long after the release of Tarantino’s eighth “official” film The Hateful Eight, I had a conversation with Bear Manor Media editor Ben Ohmart. It was in that discussion the book would find new life as a collection of original interviews on all things Tarantino.

And so, after two decades in the making, I present you with Big Kahuna Burgers, Hitmen, Killers & Heists: Conversations on Quentin Tarantino. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed putting it together.