*Equus Press is proud to announce the planned publication (for April, 2017), of THOR GARCIA’s new novel Pink Alligator. Why does the pink alligator choose YOU? That’s the question Chip Walkner and his wife Jaycee must confront when Crunchie the pink alligator appears on their doorstep. The growing, always-hungry gator adds excitement and adventure to their flagging marriage . . . and some very powerful entities want to know what it’s all about. As immense forces coalesce around them, the life the Walkners have worked so hard for comes crashing down. They say you’ve got nothing to fear if you’ve got nothing to hide. But what if you’re trying to hide a giant pink alligator? Excerpted here is “Weenie-Wagger”, chapter 12 of the work.
*Author photo by Robert Carrithers.
Recently, owing to great advances in fabrication technology, we cannot distinguish at a glance a prosthetic hand from a real one. Some models simulate wrinkles, veins, fingernails and even fingerprints. Though similar to a real hand, the prosthetic hand’s color is pinker, as if it had just come out of the bath. One might say that the prosthetic hand has achieved a degree of resemblance to the human form, perhaps on a par with false teeth. However, when we realize the hand, which at first sight looked real, is in fact artificial, we experience an eerie sensation. For example, we could be startled during a handshake by its limp, boneless grip, together with its texture and coldness. When this happens, we lose our sense of affinity, and the hand becomes uncanny. In mathematical terms, this can be represented by a negative value. Therefore, in this case, the appearance of the prosthetic hand is quite humanlike, but the level of affinity is negative, thus placing the hand near the bottom of the Valley in Figure 1. This example illustrates the Uncanny Valley phenomenon.
- Masahiro Mori, “The Uncanny Valley”
Originally published in Energy, 1970.
Night of the Weenie-Wagger
I was at work on Friday, feeling pretty much O.K., when my mother called. She was crying. Everything was terrible. She’d been threatened again the night before by Doughie Wreagles, a drug addict and former flagpole-occupation professional to whom she had been engaged for four years.
In the latest incident, there had apparently been screaming and a bit of violence and the police were called. Doughie had punched his fist through Betty’s front window screen, but my deadbeat brother Earl hadn’t bothered to do anything about it. He had continued to lounge on Betty’s couch, staring at the television and pushing buttons on his phone. The police arrived after Doughie had already given up and left, and the investigators claimed they had been unable to pinpoint his whereabouts (though almost everyone in town knew Doughie parked his truck by the nature reserve and slept there). My mother was scared and angry. Even though she had obtained a restraining order against Doughie, the police said they didn’t have the manpower to post a guard at the house because 75 percent of the force was on Diego Garcia receiving anti-terrorist/anti-protester training from the Israeli military.
“Don’t worry, mom,” I said. “Jaycee and I will drive out tonight. We can stay till Sunday, no problem. We haven’t seen you for ages! We’ll take you to brunch and make sure everything’s all right.”
“Oh, that’s great,” said my mother.
My mother still lived in Yerba County, where she had raised my brother and I. It was a 70-minute drive away, but we usually saw her only once every three or four months. Jaycee and I worked all week, of course, and we usually spent the weekends drinking, fighting or searching around for junk at secondhand stores with whatever money we had leftover from the bars.
After I got home from work, we packed Crunchie in a little green suitcase and threw a few other things in a shoulder bag. Jeez, I thought, maybe it had already been around six months since I’d seen my mom. The last time, it seemed like she was breaking up with Doughie for good. It had been another demented fight, and it seemed this romance might’ve finally run its course. Doughie had clawed himself in the forehead with a rake and had threatened to bash my mother’s skull with the metal fire extinguisher he kept in his truck. Further bloodshed was averted only because Doughie, while driving to the corner shop for smokes, overdosed on illegal tramadol, lost consciousness, crapped his pants and rolled his truck into a school bus at a major intersection. He woke up a minute later and ran into the street, claiming he was being pursued by a giant spider that was being driven by a squad of red-eyed mummies. The police, when they finally arrived, were forced to take him into protective custody. No one was injured, thankfully, except for Doughie, who suffered multiple facial contusions and had to get his stomach pumped. His dignity should have suffered several blows as well, but I was of the impression that this had already died years ago.
It was a tragedy because, for the most part, Doughie could be a super guy and had mostly treated my mother well. It had been a long and loving courtship that had included ski trips to the Norwegian fjords, a boat ride through the Panama Canal to Mazatlán, a month’s stay at the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, and windsailing off the San Jacinto Monument. For most of their courtship, Doughie seemed to enjoy nothing more than lying in the shade of the umbrella, leisurely smoking a Corona del Ritz, while my mother hummed Doris Day and Judy Garland numbers and painted her toenails. They’d share an early dinner of boiled squash and strawberry waffles (for health reasons, mainly), and Doughie would play bartender for the rest of the night, serving up mint juleps and mai-tais, vodka cucumber coolers and mojitos. They usually rounded out the evening by retiring to bed to watch The Wizard of Oz or The Trouble with Harry for the umpteenth time (my mother was a big Shirley MacLaine fan, and The Trouble with Harry was one of her all-time favorites. MacLaine, in her big-screen debut, indeed appears very fresh and lively throughout the film.)
However, from my father all the way through to Doughie, my mother had a comprehensively egregious history of winding up with drunks, drug addicts, weaklings, control freaks and other seamy self-promoters and scam artists. Betty was just that kind, I guess. Perhaps it was because of her mother, Mudgie, who for most of her life followed her morning coffee with her first beer of the day. Or maybe it was because of her father, Carl, a buzz-cut ex-military type who liked to drive around Los Angeles’ Skid Row at nights and whom my mother once said may have been a serial killer – you know, the kind who kills bums and prostitutes when no one’s looking? In L.A. it happens all the time and generally only the big cases get attention (in fact, sometimes the killings don’t even get reported).
And of course, make no mistake: My father was a boozer, lapsed Catholic and sometimes violent bully. Bernie had liked to brag about it – until he started to like bragging about “regretting” all those good times. My virgin mother had sized up Bernie and thought it should work out perfectly. Betty’s second husband, it should almost go without saying, was a boozer, porn addict and Evangelical Christian (three things which seem to naturally go together). When he met my mother, Lenny was in a phase of denying the boozing. Of course, he always claimed he strongly opposed pornography too, but after a few secret drinks, he would admit to looking at the magazines in order to “educate” himself and “see what they’re trying to sell to the kids these days.” A few times, I remember him coming home and giving Earl and I a copy of Big Black Titties™ or Cooze Cuties™ and telling us we should “check it out” so we wouldn’t “waste time on this crap” later when we were grown up. “It’s tits and ass,” he would add. “It’s normal. Everyone’s got ‘em.” After about ten minutes, he would rush back into our bedroom and grab the magazines, saying Betty might get upset. “Don’t tell your mother,” he would say, and we never did. Afterward, Lenny could be found weeping in a dark room. Betty married him after a few months of dating.
Doughie had made his once-prodigious fortune as a flagpole-sitter for Achalasial Industries Inc.™ – and apparently, if bank balances were anything to judge from, he was quite skilled at this elite, high-end kind of work (which, it should be noted, is similar, but quite different from, the cousin disciplines of fence-sitting and face-sitting, which have their own specializations and quirks). But as has been well-established in numerous studies, there are the inevitable falls, the fractures and concussions, the inclement weather that plays havoc with the senses and depth-perception. Many flagpole-sitters wind up turning to substance abuse when they become outpaced by younger competitors (usually around the relatively young age of 40-45) and must suffer the subsequent harrowing plunge in prestige and earning power. Doughie was surely no different – but I had long disagreed with his method of taking my mother on hot-air balloon trips around the world, followed by his threatening to pull her brains out through her nose with sewing needles. There really is no justification for such tomfoolery – no matter how one, perhaps even legitimately, believes they have been mistreated by the system.
I remember thinking that people, after they reach a certain age, probably around fifty or so, should finally quit the stupid pursuit of love. To begin with, it rarely, if ever, works out, even under the best conditions. “Tolerable” relationships may indeed endure for years, but this is not proof of anything. There are no such things as “soul mates” or “best friends and lovers,” or anything resembling such imaginary constructs. People are in it only for the status or money, for the comforting ennui or the decent sex, or some temporarily workable combination of the above.
And, as I’m sure you’ve witnessed somewhere or other, folks can become mighty annoying with their mouthing about how they’ve “finally found” what they’ve “always been looking for” in the one already over-the-hill person they’ve just met for two hours who seems like they’ll indulge them for a while. There’s just too many open wounds and scar tissue from childhood and teenagerhood and previous relationships for it to make sense, let alone be viable on a long-term basis. The tall tales about couples going on and on for decades “in love” usually masked the reality that one of the people had succeeded in wresting total control and the other had decided to give up and just cruise along in low-level misery because the alternatives – i.e., leaving or getting a divorce – seemed like too much work. If sex was what you still wanted, there were always prostitutes or Internet™ masturbation or jumping on the screw-a-strange-sad-old-lonely-person carousel that Grolemund had discovered. I could see some value in companionship, from time to time – but a controlling, vindictive, settling scores sort of companionship, greased with a thick coating of lies and emotional extortion? It seemed better to just die alone. Because, everything – everything – that involves people is ultimately about control, no matter how it might appear in a particular light or on a particular night. Nobody ever “gives” anything for “free” – there’s always a self-interested calculation or hidden agenda (and the person doing the “giving” or “receiving” may not even realize it themselves).
I had also dealt with enough old people to know that the hoped-for wisdom of old age never arrives. Such “wisdom” is, at best, merely a healthy disinterest in the state of the world, or at worst, a more complicated tissue of lies that the cleverer of the oldsters manipulate to bequeath unto themselves a fraudulent veneer of enlightenment and foresight. The overwhelming evidence is that folks never really change – they’re just as knuckleheaded today as they were 30 or 40 years ago, and usually more nutty. And with second- or third- or fourth-chance relationships, it was the same old shtick: People sniffing around for other people’s money to waste; people mucking around in other people’s business because they have nothing else to do . . . basically, all the insanities built up over a lifetime coming out in a final, grotesque hurrah. And there’s having to deal with the new partner’s dope addiction (“mood” drugs or otherwise) and their imbecile children and exes, the family holiday parties and hospital visits and having to listen to some distant new “relation” yammer about their political illusions or the new pyramid-scheme they just joined. . . . No, the better bet was to simply enjoy the (not insignificant) charms of prosties or cheap dates with the vast population of lonely-hearts who no longer expected to be loved, and to meanwhile waste your hours getting involved in a major, unachievable project – like searching for fossil evidence of the long-lost water buffalo of the Greater Mojave, or trying to download your “consciousness” to a computer server, or discovering the truths of the Human Individual Metamorphosis™ (HIM) as contained within the tail of the Hale-Bopp™ comet – and wait for death to come get you.
My mother was holding up pretty well, all things considered. We hugged and sat around the kitchen table, drinking tea and smoking cigarettes, leaning against the several dozen cardboard cases of dental floss Betty had recently started hoarding (believing there would be a shortage of the stuff if a nuclear bomb hit or a massive earthquake knocked out the power grid for a few years). My shiftless brother Earl, who was already into his third box of wine for the day, peeked in to meekly say hello before limping off to eat muffins, watch World Series of Cake-Baking™ reruns and play his new favorite phone game, Gridlock IX™ I think it was called. (Earl had never done much. He tried to start a band once, the “Hep Stares” he called it, but his guitar strings kept breaking. He’d also tried his hand at tennis, but the racket strings broke. I believe my father also came close to killing Earl, much as Bernie had tried to kill me, but that story will have to wait for another time. )
My mother inquired briefly about developments in the Intelli-Sock™ business, and whether I had heard lately from the Baltimore Madhatters™ about a basketball contract. She was very proud of me, despite the evidence. I lied and told her everything was going tremendously, that Kruger-Dunning™, part of the Zucker-Kochs™ family of companies, would soon be controlling the world through socks. And yes, I lied, the Madhatters™ were still hoping I’d come for the next tryout, but I had a lot of things to consider before making such a decision. We also had a brief debate about whether my father had been “worse” than Doughie (this was one of Betty’s perennial favorite topics). My mother said yes, Bernie had been worse. I countered by explaining that offering a judgment was of little use. They were both violent cretins, and likely criminals, in my view.
It had started to get late, so I removed the window screen Doughie had destroyed and drove over to Home Selfies™ to get a replacement. After I installed it, Jaycee and I decided to head out for a little bit. Betty locked all the windows and doors and promised to call us, along with the police, if there were any disturbances from Doughie or anyone else. I loaded Crunchie into the breast pocket of my Dark Pea-Green™ corduroy blazer, and Jaycee and I set off for a night in my hometown of Yerba.
We ended up having a splendid time at Wallflowers™. We hadn’t been there for a few years, and we danced, drank and ate pizza rolls to our hearts’ content. Every nibble tasted delicious; each note of pop music sounded simultaneously decadent and frivolous. The deejay played “Heart of Glass,” “Heart of Stone” and the always excellent “Hand to Hold On To” by John Cougar Mellencamp. Next came “MacArthur Park,” “Bang a Gong” and “Heard It Through the Grapevine,” the Marvin Gaye version. In between songs, Jaycee and I would huddle in the corner and I would open my blazer. Crunchie would pull himself up with his front claws and peer curiously at the dance floor and whirling lights. The pink baby gator seemed fascinated by the goings-on, but remained as calm and polite as one could hope.
The evening, indeed, produced plentiful bounties of buttercups and daffodils – save for one messy scene. At around ten, a girl of thirteen or fourteen came out running out of the ladies’ room, saying a strange man had come in and started shaking his penis at her. Tears cascaded down the poor girl’s cheeks, she seemed horribly frightened. The restaurant manager and some of the dishwashers rushed into the bathroom to corral the pee-pee purveyor, but he squirmed away and the melee spilled into the corridor with a fearsome shouting and banging against walls. What a clamorous din! Wallflowers™ was suddenly filled with the terrified screams of women and the confused hollering of men.
I saw the brutal bologna-baiter toss one of the dishwashers into the wall, smashing him against a majestic black-and-white framed photograph of Old Faithful. When I saw him swivel and karate-kick the manager in the head, it seemed things were getting out of control, and I had no choice but to spring into action. I sprinted across the crowded parquet, maneuvering around the stunned standers-by, and flung myself into the air. Twisting and stretching myself to the limit, I succeeded in slamming my forearm into the weenie-wagger’s neck just as he was turning in an apparent attempt to flee for the exit. The force of my blow knocked him to his rear, and the bratwurst-boosting buffoon laid there, one of his hands on his throat, the other on his suddenly disheveled wee-willie winkie. Dishwashers and busboys swarmed in, battering the blank-eyed bearded longhair about the head, face and groin. Eventually, they zipped the meat-stick mangler, flipped him on to his chest and sat on his back and legs until police personnel arrived about twenty minutes later. The sausage-snapper whimpered something about “assault” and “pressing charges,” but the officers ignored this pathetic scurrilous slander and led him out to their cruiser in handcuffs. He would eventually be charged with 31 counts of Sexual Assault of a Minor, Indecent Exposure, Assault & Battery and Destruction of Private Property, and sentenced to 18 years in state prison Without Chance of Parole.
The grateful Wallflowers™ manager, holding a cloth to his bloodied lip and brow, said the restaurant would gladly cover our bill. He called over a waitress and, when we said beers, whisky and pretzels might be nice, sent her off to fetch them. The manager added that our drinks and snacks would be on the house until closing time.
A dozen or so patrons came over to high-five and congratulate me for taking out the penile-pervert. The girl who had been terrorized by the sociopathic shlong-strangler gave Jaycee and I hugs and did a small tap-dance of appreciation while singing “I Wanna Dance with Somebody.” Cute, buck-toothed girl in purple-and-yellow pantaloons, doing jumping jacks and shaking to Whitney Houston. What a vibrant, innocent voice! Well, I remember thinking, sometimes you get around to seeing nearly everything. Well, and I was glad I could help the waif find some redress, however momentary it might’ve been, for her trauma. The girl’s parents stood to the side, smiling with tearful, unabashed love and adoration at their daughter, while Jaycee and I held hands beneath our table.
When the girl and her family moved on, I removed Crunchie from my coat pocket and set the little croc on Jaycee’s lap. He stretched himself and looked up at us, his tiny pink torso throbbing in unison with his heartbeat, his golden eyes glistening. He seemed hungry, I thought. I grabbed a handful of popcorn and a few pretzels from the table basket and sprinkled them on to Jaycee’s thighs. The croc swished his tail and ambled over to devour the salty goodness. Jaycee smiled, kissed me and squeezed my hand.
The waitress arrived with another round of drinks. Wow, what’s that? she said, pointing at Crunchie as the mini-croc gobbled the popcorn.
“He’s our little pink alligator,” I said.
“Is it?” she said, peering down for a closer look. “No, oh no. . . . that’s a toy.”
“No, ma’am. He’s very, very real.”
The waitress seemed embarrassed and hustled off. Jaycee and I smiled and kissed again. Crunchie purred, rubbed himself against Jaycee’s thigh, and wolfed down a bite of pretzel.
 Commemorates the April 21, 1836, Battle of San Jacinto, considered the key turning point in the Texas Revolution™ struggle (October 1835-April 1836). In the battle, Texian fighters led by General Sam Houston routed the Mexican Army™ troops of General Antonio López de Santa Anna, supposedly in around 20 minutes. The Revolution led to the creation of the Republic of Texas™, which existed for a decade. In 1845, the United States incorporated Texas as the 28th U.S. state, leading to the Mexican-American War and Mexico’s loss of half of its territory to the U.S. – ED.
 Relatively underappreciated Alfred Hitchcock black comedy, released in 1955. In addition to marking the big-screen debut of Shirley MacLaine, who would go on to win the Best Actress Oscar for 1983’s Terms of Endearment, the film features John Forsythe as Sam Marlowe; Edmund Gwenn as Capt. Albert Wiles; Royal Dano as Deputy Sheriff Calvin Wiggs; and a young Jerry Mathers (known for his portrayal of “Beaver” in Leave It to Beaver) as Arnie Rogers. – ED.
 See, for example, Spatialization and Behavior: A Critique of Decision-Making, Risk-Analysis and Nuance-Culture in the Systematic Flagpole Environ. Bertilsson, Bhaskar, Hirst et al, in the Chronicle of Higher Systematic Flagpole Occupation™, Vol. XLIX (Winter 1998), pp. 131-143. – ED.
 “Hand to Hold on To,” from the former Johnny Cougar’s 1982 album American Fool, reached #19 on U.S. Billboard™’s Hot 100. Primarily known as a singer/songwriter (“Hurts So Good,” “Pink Houses”), Mellencamp (b. 1951 in Indiana, U.S.A.) has claimed he was offered – but turned down – the role of petty crook J.D. in the 1991 film Thelma & Louise (directed by Ridley Scott). The role of J.D., who has a love scene with Oscar™-winner Geena Davis, was eventually given to Brad Pitt, who parlayed it into his “breakthrough” Hollywood performance. – ED.
 “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston (b. 1963, New Jersey; d. 2012, Beverly Hills) went to #1 in 13 countries in 1987 and was Houston’s fourth consecutive #1 single in the United States. In her final days, Houston was frequently accompanied by the singer known as Ray J (William Ray Norwood, Jr., b. 1981 in McComb, Mississippi), brother of the singer Brandy Norwood and a first cousin of the rapper Snoop Dogg. Norwood is probably best known for his appearance in a 2007 sex video with the television actress Kim Kardashian, who is probably best known for shaking and flaunting her large buttocks in the face of any photographer who may be in the vicinity. Kardashian’s father, Robert, was a Los Angeles lawyer, businessman and friend of O.J. Simpson, the former U.S. footballer and actor who was accused of the 1994 knife murders of his ex-wife and her waiter friend. Robert Kardashian, who hailed from a wealthy L.A. ethnic Armenian meatpacking family, became well-known to American television viewers during Simpson’s murder trial (Simpson was acquitted in that case, mainly due to gross incompetence by prosecutors). Some analysts have speculated that Robert Kardashian, who last practiced law in the 1970s, was a mafia “fixer” or intelligence faction operative (or both) in charge of “handling” Simpson before and during the murder drama. Robert Kardashian was reported to have died from esophageal cancer in 2003. According to some analysts, the Kardashian family was rewarded for Robert Kardashian’s “O.J. handling” services by being given a television show and constant media attention, resulting in their worldwide fame. One Kardashian family member, Bruce Jenner, who married the Kardashian matriarch, Kris, after Robert Kardashian’s death, was the 1976 Olympic™ decathlon champion. Bruce Jenner had a sex-change procedure in 2015, becoming “Caitlin Jenner” to much global acclaim. In 2008, O.J. Simpson was convicted and sentenced to 33 years in prison on armed robbery and other charges in connection with the theft of sports memorabilia at a Las Vegas hotel. – ED.