64 – SEX IN A CANOE, ANYONE?

 

Stephen was not gonna try to keep up with the Staal brothers, but he did put back his first Mr. Canoehead in under five minutes. “That’s a fine red ale,” he told the boys, and I do like a healthy head on my beer, so the extra hops are good by me.”

The brothers nodded, and Eric asked, “So, coach… where’s Mrs. Coach?”

“Madge is sleeping. She was up reading all night. She did tell me to say hello, and assure you that she will see you again.”

The brothers were visibly disappointed, but their disappointment disappeared instantly, when Kitty and Lance bounced into the lobby. No, the brothers did not even notice Lance.

“Hi, guys, I’m Kitty. Kitty Kaboodle!”

“Yes you are!” said Marc.

“Hello Kitty!” Jordan enthused

“Nice to meet you, Miss Kitty!” Eric chuckled.

“I have to tell you, I love what you’re doing. I read about it in the Star Trib, when we were rolling through Duluth.”

Eric the elder responded on behalf of the troika. Forgetting that it was actually Stephen’s idea, he said, “Thank you, Miss Kitty. It’s Madonna’s idea, so it’s a no brainer.” Kitty laughed at the mangled compliment, but didn’t bother to point it out. “I mean, we have so much money.”

Stephen weighed in, “Yeah. Between the three of you, you’ve made a couple hundred million, rigt?”

“Yes, give or take,” Marc confirmed. “By the time we are all retired, we will have made a quarter billion dollars, or more. It’s just ridiculous. To not contribute, when so many are hurting so bad, would just be…”

“Unthinkable,” Eric said.

“Evil,” said Jordan.

Kitty clapped her hands, and asked, “Have you decided where the money will go?”

“We have,” Eric replied. “Half of the fifteen mill will go directly the people who need it most in New York, Raleigh, the Twin Cities, and rigt here in Thunder. Buying supplies for frontline workers, and food and medicine for those who can afford neither.”

“Good allocation of funds,” Stephen said. “What about the other half?”

Eric looked at his brothers. All three grinned. Eric answered, “It’s just wild! But we’ll let Margot explain that. It’s her idea. You’re gonna love it!”

“Margot would be Thunder Babe, I take it?” Kitty asked.

“Oh, yeah!” Marc laughed, “Margot is Thunder Babe, alrigt.”

Holding up a Beaver Duck, Jordan toasted, “To Thunder Babe!.”

“Wait,” Eric interrupted, “Miss Kitty doesn’t have a beer.” That correction was quickly made, with one being handed to the silent Lance, as well. “Now,” said Eric the elder, “To Thunder Babe!”

All the boys took healthy swigs, but Kitty guzzled hers. Kitty knows how to make an impression, and the brothers were in awe, doubly so when she pretended she was gonna heave ho a mighty foghorn belch, then puckered up and blew a sweet little Kitty kiss at the brothers.  Eric swooned, but cautioned, “You best be careful, little Kitty, that aIn’t no sex in a canoe beer.”

The guys laughed, but they all shut up when Kitty grinned and said, “I’ve never had sex in a canoe. Have you? Is it a Thunder thing?”

“It sure is,” Marc answered. “It’s best when there’s a storm blowing, ‘cause the black flies don’t eat you alive.”

“Yeah, and because no one can hear you scream!” Eric added.

The guys all laughed, but they all shut up when Kitty smiled, and asked, “And what’s the forecast for the rest of the day?”

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63 – THE GOVERNORS OF GIVIN’ ‘ER

 

One must maintain a twisted sense of humour in order to live in a place like Thunder Bay. No, wait. There is no place quite like Thunder Bay, so that sentence has to be corrected. One must maintain a twisted sense of humour in order to live in a place like Thunder Bay.

Although they only return to the mistake by the lake for the off seasons, the brothers Staal demonstrated that their twisted fraternal sense of humour was fully functional by showing up at the Valhalla Inn dressed as the Hanson brothers. Stephen, who had been alerted to their arrival by the manager, laughed as he strolled through the lobby, looking out at the boys, who were still in the parking lot. Having seen Slapshot a dozen times, Stephen got the joke, and liked it. The boys were sitting on the pavement, playing with their remote control toy cars and trucks, laughing like gas huffing short bussers.

Happy to play along with the gag, King walked out and yelled, “Hey!” The brothers stopped the fun and games, and looked up. “You guys the Hansons?”

“Who are you?”

“Reg Dunlop, the coach.”

The brothers cheered, and the oldest, Eric, said, “I told you he’d get it. Pay up!” Marc and Jordan grinned as they handed Eric a hundred bucks a piece. Jordan smiled at Stephen, and said, “That’s mighty impressive, Mr. King!”

Mr. King moved quickly to put an end to the formality, “Please, call me Stephen. Or anything… but not mister anything.”

“We can call you Reg,” Marc offered.

“Or coach,” said Eric.

“Sure guys, whatever you want,” coach chuckled. “I’m not gonna argue with the Hanson brothers!”

The boys threw their toys in the back of their six door 4 x 4, and they all moved into the lobby. With the NHL schedule brought to a full stop by the virus, it was unofficially off season. And the clock had just struck noon, so the boys decided it was time to get their beer on. They summoned Daisy, who knew them all by name.

“Hi guys! The usual?” asked the waitress.

“No,” Eric replied, “Thunder Babe says we have to support the local economy, so give us something from Sleeping Giant.”

“Excellent,” Daisy said, “You want a Mr. Canoehead?”

Before she could continue to list the selection available from the fine craft brewery, all three brothers answered, “Yes, please. Two each!”

“You sure?” Daisy asked. “Maybe you wanna try the Beaver Duck?’

“Hell, yeah,” the brothers answered, “Give us two each of those, too!”

“And for you?” Daisy asked King.

“Well… when in Rome,” he laughed, “Gimme two of each, too!”

“Yeah, coach! Atta boy!” Eric laughed. “We’ll show you how to drink Westfort style!”

“I don’t know about that,” Marc cautioned. “Coach is Mairkan. I don’t think he’s ready for that.”

Jordan joined in, “Speaking of canoes,” he said to Stephen, “you know what we call Mairkan beer?” Stephen shrugged his shoulders and admitted that he did not. “We call it sex in a canoe.”

“Why?” was King’s one word question.

In unison, the Staals yelled, “”cause it’s fucking close to water!”

King howled, and said, “Well, I’ll do my best to keep up, but don’t wait for me, if I fall behind a bit.”

The boys merrily agreed that they would not, and King came back at them with his own funny. “You know what I’ve always wanted to see?”

“What, coach?” Marc asked.

“Drunk hockey! You don’t get on the ice unless you’re loaded. Goal scorers are breathalyzed on the spot. If they’re not legally drunk, no goal. But they can get the goal back by shot-gunning a beer, and knocking back a shooter at centre ice, then taking a penalty shot. Smoking allowed on the bench only, except for goalies, who can smoke on the ice, so long as they sweep the butts into their nets.”

Eric looked at King and said, matter-of-factly, “That’s how we play in Thunder Bay, coach.”

“Fuck off?” said King.

“Fuck off nothing,” Marc replied. “That’s how we play in Thunder Bay. We start in Tom Thumb.”

“Tom Thumb? How old is that?” asked King.

“Eight,” Daisy answered. “Even the girls, but that was only allowed after the Twins won their first Allan Cup, in 1975. But the boys have been playing drunk hockey here since the Bearcats won their first Allan Cup, in 1925.”

Daisy dispersed the brews, and the brothers got down to business.”One, two, three, go!” Eric yelled, and they guzzled their cans of Mr. Canoehead. Eric won.

“Four point seven,” Daisy declared, stopping her stop watch. Eric threw his hands in the air, “I win again! You guys drink like girls!”

“Hey!” Daisy objected.

“Rigt. Sorry,” said Eric. Then, turning to Stephen, he said, “Daisy don’t drink like no girl. Daisy’s a fucking Finn. Daisy can pound ‘em back like Kiprusoff could!”

“Okay, okay,” said Marc. “Let’s try the Beaver Duck. Mr. Canoehead’s too foamy for me.”

This time Daisy counted them down, “One, two, three, go!”

Once again, the eldest Staal threw his hands in the air, and yelled, “I am the champion of the world!”

“Four point two!” Daisy announced. “That’s close to your personal best. You may beat it before this game is over.”

“He might,” said Jordan, “but probably not. He always wins the first period. He’s too old to maintain through all three, and God help the old man if he has to go into overtime!”

King was astounded. He called Daisy over, as the Staals discussed the quality of Mr. Canoehead and Beaver Duck, based solely on the taste and thunder of their belches. “How many games do they play?”

“Full 82 game season, every summer.”

“And they manage to stay in shape?”

Daisy grinned, “Welcome to Thunder Fucking Bay,” Mr. King. This ain’t no New England hockey prep school town. Those Ivy League dilettantes where you come from wouldn’t make it into July, if they came up here to train in the summer. This is Hockeyhalla. Our boys battle it out on the ice all day, every day, and go hard, like Viking Gods celebrating Odin’s birthday, every night. They give ‘er. And these guys rigt here” she said pointing at the Staals, “these guys rigt here are the governors of givin’ ‘er.”

“The governors of givin’ ‘er! That brilliant.”

Oh, you don;t know. You should see what goes done when it cranks up around here.”

“And are the governors and the other lesser Gods of givin’ ‘er givin’ ‘er with the Valkyries of Hockeyhala?”

“Oh, yeah. No other way to celebrate like it’s Odin’s birthday. The Romans had nothing on these vikings, not even Caligula.”

“No shit, huh? Is this hotel for sale?”

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62 – THE PUCKHEADS ARE COMING! THE PUCKHEADS ARE COMING!

 

“So, did you get any further on KILLGOD! ysternight,” Kitty wanted to know.

“No, I didn’t even try,” Lance admitted. “I was so smugly pleased with myself for figuring it out, even though it was accidental, that I just let my mind wander.”

“And where did that merry mind of your take you?”

The boy looked at the girl with a mischievous grin, and confessed, “My mind was all over Madonna.”

The girl found the confession amusing, and asked, “Were you surfing stepmother porn?”

“There’s so much of it out there. Funny that I’d never noticed it until we got here.”

“So, she’s doing it for you, is she?” Kitty asked, masking her concern.

“Oh, c’mon! She’s old enough to be my grandmother.”

“She is, but granny’s kept herself together very well. Good genes, a lot of working out, a bit of plastic surgery here, a bit of plastic surgery there, and she’s still a desirable grande dame, a fine old fox to frolic with. And she’s still Madonna, and you get a lotta locker room bragging rigts if you can honestly say you got jiggy with her.”

The boy conceded her point, “That’s all true, but it’s not the most exclusive club in the world. She’s been violated more times than the Puritan penal code was in Plymouth.”

“The Whore of Babylon does not adhere to the Puritan penal code, for sure. And why should she? And good on her. I hope she gets stuffed with cock until she goes to Hell.”

“Yeah, well, that’s the old man’s job, not mine.”

“It is,” Kitty agreed, “but you could exact no small measure of revenge on him by stealing her away, even if just for one night.”

“No doubt. But I’m not looking for revenge.”

“Really? It sure looks like you’re trying to punish him. I think he is sincere when he says he wants to talk.”

“Oh, I am punishing him, by denying him an opportunity to explain himself. To plead his case. If he thinks he’s just gonna bare his soul to me, and be forgiven, he’s got another thing coming. I plan to make the fucker stew in his guilt for a while. I don’t wanna hear it. Not rigt now, at east. If I have to listen to whatever bullshit he’s going to spew, when I give him a chance to spew it, I might just walk away from this, and this is bigger than me, or you, or us.”

“That’s impressive, Lance. It really is. You’ve got you big boy pants on.”  Lance shrugged, and gave her an ‘It’s no big deal’ look. Prying a little more, Kitty suggested,“Well, you can always fuck her, and keep it a secret, knowing it would drive him nuts if he found out. Guys are like that. ‘I fucked your bitch, she called me daddy.’”

“That’s funny! Her calling me daddy. Very funny. I’ll keep it in mind. But, if you have to know, I wasn’t really thinking about Madonna last night. I was thinking about Old Leather Pussy.”

“Ole Leather Pussy!” Kitty shrieked.

Old Leather Pussy!
Old Leather Pussy!
Rah rah raw!

Old leather Pussy!
Old Leather Pussy!
Sis-boom-bah!

“Love it!” Lance Lear laughed. I may work that in.”

“Work that in?”

“I started writing a treatment for an Old Leather Pussy vs Bond, James Bond screenplay.”

“Ah ha! That’s what you were laughing about when I knocked.”

“It is. It’s funny.”

“Tell me!”

“No.”

“I command you!”

“No.”

Kitty flashed the titties.

“Oh!”

Kitty shook the titties.

The boy reached for the titties.

Kitty put the titties away, and slapped the boy. And laughed. “Easy, tiger. Not yet.”

“When? When, when, when?”

“When the time is rigt, lover boy. All good things come to those who wait.”

“And wait, and wait, and wait?”

“And wait a little more.”

“How long? How long you make me wait, and wait, and wait? Why for you make me wait, and wait, and wait?”

“I’ve told you; until the time is rigt, and this ain’t then

“Well, then, no Old Leather Pussy for you until it’s hot and ready to eat.”

Kitty quickly feigned a pout, and said, “Besides, we don’t have time rigt now. The puckheads should be here soon.”

Lance gave it up, and moved on. “Did you get to Daffy’s border crossing routine?”

“No. Not yet. Why?”

“It involves the Canuckistani obsession with hockey.”

Kitty smiled, “Canuckistanis! Love it!”

Lance pulled it up.”You know weed is legal here, rigt?”

“I do.”

“Okay, so here’s how Americans are greeted when they legally enter Canada.”

Good day. What’s the purpose of your visit to Canada? You here to smoke marijuana?

Marijuana? No sir. I’m here to do a little fishing.

Which is a lie. He’s going up there to fuck some Eskimos, in one of them massive igloo whorehouses. But no red blooded American will ever admit to that.

Fishing, huh? You ever fired a gun?

Yes, sir.

You own a gun?

Yes, sir.

You a member of the NRA?

Yes, sir.

Hmmmm. You vote for Trump?

Yes, sir.

You a member of the Klan?

Yes, sir.

Hmmm. You ever fuck your sister?

Yes, sir. All three of ‘em.

Hmmm. You like hockey?

Love hockey! I just wish we were as good as y’all are.

Good answer! Welcome to Canada, buddy.

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61 – OKAY PARTY’S OVER EVERYONE GET BACK TO WORK!

 

Lance fell asleep listening to the sounds of Kitty laughing at his funny. The first thing Kitty heard when she woke up was the sound of Lance laughing at… something. Probably his own funny? Curious girl that she is, she knocked on the door to find out.

“Who’s there?” Lance asked.

Opening the door, and letting herself in, Kitty said, “tis only I, I’m afraid. Just little ol’ me. Who were you hoping for?”

That being a rhetorical question, Lance ignored it. “I take it, by the sounds of your laughter last night, that you are enjoying my book?”

“Daffy Donald is one funny fuckin’ duck, dude! I fell asleep, and just woke up, laughing at his total misanthropy.”

Delighted, Lance launched into the routine:

I hate the unborn.

Every time I see a pregnant woman I want to kick her in the stomach.

Why?

Because I know that parasite in there is gonna grow up to be someone I hate, and I’m never gonna get a chance to show the little fucker how much I hate him.

I hate Christians

I hate Muslims

I hate Jews

I hate Buddhists

I hate atheists

I hate agnostics

I hate Hindus

I hate pagans

I hate butchers

and bakers

and candle stick makers

I hate lawyers

I hate doctors

I hate firemen

I hate cops

I hate bankers,

But I have to admit I have a grudging admiration for bank robbers.

I hate politicians

I hate Republicans

I hate Democrats

I hate Greens

I hate independents

I hate communists

I hate fascists

I hate anarchists

I hate dykes

I hate fags

I hate bisexuals

I hate trannies

I hate straights

I hate asexuals

I hate pansexuals

I hate cripples

I hate numbskulls

I hate nitwits

halfwits

dimwits

and fuckwits.

I hate the rich

I hate the poor

I hate the middle class

I hate the oppressed

I hate the oppressors

I hate bullies

I hate victims

I hate black people

I hate brown people

I hate red people

I hate yellow people

I hate one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eaters.

Actually, I kinda like them, because, like me, they don’t discriminate. They just fly around eating anyone and everyone

I hate white people

I really hate albinos

If we’re gonna blame everything on white people, why can’t we narrow it down further and blame it all on albinos?

Who’s more white than albinos?

Boil it down a little more, and blame it all on Albanian albinos.

Worst fucking people on Earth, I swear.

I hate women

I hate men

I hate children.

They’re just retarded midgets who can’t handle their alcohol, or pay their bills.

Bring on the Martians, so I can hate those green assed motherfuckers, too!

Did you catch that, all you self rigteous, self appointed guardians of the galaxy?

Or, do I have to repeat it all for y’all?

I am the most misanthropic motherfucker in the history of the human species.

I hate everyone.

And everything.

I hate the birds,

I hate the bees,

I hate the flowers,

I hate the trees,

I hate the air,

It makes me sneeze.

I hate everyone and everything.

So, you can stop pouring over every word I say, and write, and everything I do, searching for micro aggressions, tracking my social media history, like Inspector Javere tracking Jean Valjean through the sewers of Paris, looking for a reason to pounce, and denounce,

‘I’ve got him!’

You don’t have to expose me in front of the social media inquisition, braying for blood.

A witch!

A witch!

Burn him!

You don’t have to waste one second of your pathetic lives doxxing me, you humourless meat sticks, you pious pieces of excrement evacauated from a canine’s anal cavity, because I admit it.

I make Stalin look like the Dalai Lama.

I make Hitler look like Jesus Christ.

So, now that we’re all perfectly clear on that, perhaps we can have some fun, before we’re all dragged off to the torture chambers of the politically correct, for having the balls to laugh out loud at the inanity of the world in a public place.

The bodacious pixie’s bottomless black eyes sparkled like diamonds in the sky as she howled through Lance’s performance. Wanting more, she said, “Yes, I love how he hates! And I love his idea for job creation!”

Happy to oblige the girl’s obvious wish, Lance got into that.

“It’s simple stuff. Bury people in alphabetical order. It makes even more sense now, with the tax slaves of the world demanding their freedom to get back to being oppressed by the oligarchs and overlords. Give them what they want. They want jobs? Let them dig their own fucking graves. The kinda good, old fashioned Jobs for life that the old timers get nostalgic about. An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, before the Ministry of Eternal Taxation takes it’s pound of flesh, which will, heretofore and forever more, be two pounds of flesh, because someone has to pay for all that magic money that’s spitting out of the magic money making machines, and it sure as fuck ain’t gonna be the rich. Oh, no, the rich are here on Earth to be bailed by the poor.

“So, yes, bury everyone in alphabetical order. And as soon as you have, someone else dies and you have to dig everyone up and move them into their rigtful place. And when one of the luckily employed starts coughing, and hacking, and wheezing, just brain him in the back of the head with a shove, and push him into the grave he’s been digging, and hope it’s the rigt one. And, if not, no problem, because that’s just more work, and there’s always gonna be some poor slob lined up to take his job.”

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60 – HAIRWAY TO HEAVEN

 

“Wuhan? He sells bunk Viagra that is made in Wuhan?”

Before Stephen had a chance to respond to Kitty, Lance came running into the dining room, laughing and pointing at their table. “You! You are a genius! That is absolutely brilliant!”

He was pointing at Miss Kaboodle, who smiled, and explained to Stephen, “I do believe your clever boy has figured out the secret to KILLGOD!.”

Pulling up a seat at the table, Lance looked at his father and said, “This girl is the Dorothy Parker of gaming.” Then, turning his attention to the Dorothy Parker of gaming, he said, “It’s so smart. So simple. So profoundly simple, that it’s simply profound. But you’ll never make any money from it. As soon as someone else figures it out, they will tell the Internet, and everyone will know.”

“I told you, I am not a money worshipper. The point is not to make money. The point is to make the point. Before the game even goes public, the Internet will be all about it. All the phony baloney religious nuts will be braying like drunken donkeys. They’ll be screaming for it to be banned, demanding legislation to stop its release, accusing me of being a hate criminal, sending death threats by the thousands, tens of thousands. Then, when someone finally figures it out, and no one will do so as quickly as you did, all those lunatics are gonna have to eat every one of their words. But, wait a minute. How far did you get? Did you actually get to Heaven and KILLGOD!?”

“No. No, I just figured out the first level. I had to come and find you as soon as I got it. But all the rest of the levels have to be the same. If not exactly the same, then pretty much the same, rigt?”

“Kinda, but not really. Certainly not for the Vatican, and Heaven levels.”

Stephen interrupted to ask what the Hell they were on about.

Kitty explained, “The purpose of the game is to KILLGOD! You have to kill him, before he kills all of us, or forces us into submission, mindlessly worshiping him, at the insistence of his oversized, and voracious ego.

“One of the archangels has discovered that God is going to unleash Armageddon on Earth. He is tired of people not worshiping him 24/7, and has decided to kill us all.

“The archangel, who may, or may not be part of a fifth column, tells Satan about God’s evil plan. Satan says that’s enough of God’s shit. It’s time to kill the narcissist, once and for all.

“Satan calls Jesus on the carpet, and tells him the job falls to him. Satan explains the mission to Jesus. Jesus says, ‘Jesus Christ, what an asshole!’

“Jesus is all for killing the old man. So, the player’s character is Jesus. In order to get to the old man, Jesus must first go back in time to his birth, and avenge the deaths of all the people who have been killed in his name.”

Lance took it from there. “And I was thinking Jesus has to kill all the people who have killed in his name. But I get to the first level, and Jesus really sucks at fighting. He keeps getting his head chopped off by his blood thirsty disciples who are trying to convert the heathens.”

“That’s funny,” Stephen interrupted briefly.

“Yes, it is,” lance admitted. “At first it is frustrating, because you wanna get into the action. You wanna kill, kill, kill.”

“To stop the killing,” Kitty added.

“Yes! So you can get to the next level, and kill some more!” Lance laughed. “So, it’s very frustrating, because Jesus is just so inept. Like, comically inept. The more times he fails, the more comically inept he gets. And then, after about fifty tries, Jesus accidently drops his sword, trips over it, and falls onto one of his murderous followers. He throws his arms out, and ends up with his arms wrapped around the guy. And then he hugs him! That’s when all the fighting stops. All the others killers stop killing each other.”

Stephen bowed down to Kitty, and said, “Because violence is not the answer.”

“No. Of course it’s not. Love is the answer. That’s the whole point of the whole stupid game. I came up with the idea after the first time I read Riff n Raff.”

“Of course you did,” King smiled. “The whole point of the book is that love is the answer. And it inspired you to make this game, which brings the same point to a lot more people, because more people game than read. It’s contagious.”

“Love is contagious,” agreed Kitty. “It’s the virus that has to go viral.”

“Okay, so I do need to work my way through the rest of the game,” said Lance. There’s more to be learned.”

“There is,” Kitty confirmed. “But, remember, it’s a beta. I am looking for ideas about how to improve the game. How to drive the point home, over and over again, on every level, until even the most violent miscreant understands. So, bear that in mind as you’re playing. It is a work in progress.”

“I love it!” Lance said, offering a high five, which Kitty took him up on, with a satisfied grin. Then the boy grinned maniacally and asked, “Wait! Do I get that cookie now?”

The black eyed tart laughed, “You don’t get no cookie, you don’t get this cookie,” she corrected, pointing at her cookie, “for that, kid.”

Disappointed, the boy asked, “So, when I KILLGOD?”

“Not exactly, but do let me know when you do KILLGOD!, and I’ll see if I can come up with an appropriate reward for you.”

Liking the sound of that, Lear said, “Okay. I’m on it like white on snow.”

As he rose from the table, Kitty said, “Wait. I’ll come up with you. Stephen, what’s your plan?”

King looked at the almost empty bottle of riesling, shrugged, and answered, “I am gonna finish this off, get another, or another two of these, and go see what trouble Madge has gotten into in my absence. Care to join us?”

Kitty laughed silently, thinking, ‘In your dreams, old man!’ but replied, “No. I have a headache. And need to wash my hair. When I’m done, I am crawling into bed with a good book. His,” she said, pointing at Lance.

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59 – GOTCHA!

 

Mr. Macabre, the King of Horror, was correct when he said Daisy had the mind of a ten year old, but the girl was discerning enough to understand that Stephen and Kitty were engrossed in conversation, and polite enough to resist the temptation she felt to flirt some more with Miss Kaboodle, when she delivered the goodies to their table.

“So, tell me, what are you and I going to be busying ourselves with, while Lance and Madge are off in Vancouver attempting to conscript the royal runaways?”

King responded with a single word, “Gotcha!”

“Well that remains to be seen, but self-flattery is a form of confidence, and it’s always good to be confident”

Smiling, Stephen explained. “Gotcha is the moniker used by the loose affiliation of conspirators I am loosely affiliated with. My friends in weird places.”

Gotcha! I like it. It’s catchy. What about them?”

“We are going to see The Man from Gotcha! The mind at the centre of the grind.”

“And who, pray tell, is that?”

“I call him Gotcha.”

“Gotcha! It really is a catchy name! Who is he?”

“Gotcha is all you get.”

“You don’t know who Gotcha is?”

“Yes, I do, but you don’t need to.”

No, that kinda stonewalling was not gonna work for Kitty. “Oh, yeah? Well, then, I’ll stay rigt here, and take some cooking lessons for Daisy. Maybe get to know Thunder Babe, and the Staal boys a little better, too, pal.”

“No, that won’t do, I’m afraid. He wants to meet you. In fact, he insists on it. He’s a big fan, you see.”

“I don’t care if he’s an industrial strength air conditioner. He’s not blowing me unless I know who he is.”

Clearly, Kitty Kaboodle had him by the short and curlies, so King caved. “Okay, you have me by the short and curlies, so I cry uncle.”

“Silly boy. I’m not your uncle. You’re my daddy!”

“You’re really good at this game, girl. Especially for someone your age.”

“Baby, I was born this way. I gotta a license to thrill. Or kill. So… spill; who is he?”

“He likes to bill himself as an international dealer of shade.”

“He’s a shady dealer. Very clever. Is he?”

“Clever? Yes. He’s tougher than translating Dr. Seuss into Mongolian, and trickier than going down on a leper.”

Kitty loved that! “He should be a character in one of your books, with a description like that. Is he shady?”

“He operates from the shadows, yes. And he offers shade to those who have the money to pay for it.”

“So, why are we dealing with him?”

“He’s not purely a mercenary. He seems to have a conscience. He’s a fixer. He’s connected. And respected, by those who play big league, transnational geopolitical hardball. Those who don’t know, think he’s just a back room hack, an apparatchik, a go boy.”

“And he uses that dubious reputation to cloak himself, while pulling strings from behind thrones and curtains?”

“Correct.”

“What’s his name?”

“What does it matter? You won’t find anything worth knowing about him on LexisNexis.”

“Don’t be too sure of that. Maybe I’ll see things you overlooked. And, if you and Gotcha didn’t know that I’m a vegan, which you didn’t, I have to wonder about your sleuthing skills, so maybe you need me to do a little more due diligence on whoever else you’re keeping tabs on, and playing footsie.”

Stephen pondered that. Not knowing that Kitty is vegan was a glaring oversight. And he had trusted Gotcha for collecting intel on the girl. So, maybe Gotcha wasn’t as good as he thought he was. Stephen was never 100% sure he could trust Gotcha. Conversely, he was 100% certain that he could trust Kitty. And it was dead obvious that the girl was much better at this game than he was, and he needed her. So, he coughed it up. “His name is Kinsella. Warren Kinsella.”

The name triggered something in Kitty. A memory. Something her mother had told her, a long time ago. Something about her father, and his mysterious assassination. She couldn’t retrieve it from her onboard database, but it would come back to her.

“Warren Kinsella, huh? International dealer of shade.”

Stephen laughed, “International dealer of shade, and Chinese bunk Viagra.”

“What?”

“Seriously. It’s some kind of perverse joke with him. He makes a small fortune, which he doesn’t even need, peddling bunk Viagra around the world.”

“Bunk Viagra made in China?”

“Yes. Even better; it’s all made in Wuhan.”

60 – HAIRWAY TO HEAVEN

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58 – NOT KEITH RICHARDS

 

“Tell me about the Staal brothers gambit,” Kitty asked her dining companion, as they savoured their wine, and awaited their meals. “Why them?”

Stephen put his wine glass down and answered. “We were gonna be here. They are from here. Not very often you get a three brothers act in a major sport, so that’s always of interest. Jordan and Eric have both won a Cup, and Eric won Olympic gold in Vancouver, so they are genuine stars. And Marc may be the best pure hockey talent of the three.

“Thunder Bay is a hockey factory. Pound for pound, it’s the best hockey town in the world. Even in the Tarasov and Tikhonov era, the Soviets couldn’t create an organic hockey academy that could rival this place. There may or may not be something in the water here, but when it freezes, it comes to life, and magic is made. The hockey Gods summon the kids to the ponds to play, all day, every day, and the ghosts of Pentti Lund, Edgar Laprade, and Smokey Harris teach them the joys of dipsy doodle, backhand peanut butter, and the open ice, low bridge, freight train hip check into the cheap seats.”

Kitty marveled at the scene King painted in his last paragraph. “Wow! It’s criminal that this pandemic didn’t hit us in the dead of winter. I’d pay money to see what you just described.”

King smiled, “I think you’d make a great little puck bunny.”

Kitty smiled a coy smile, and her eyes twinkled at the thought. “Okay, I get all that. But what’s the bigger play? How does this ploy fit into the master plan.”

“It was never part of any master plan. There really isn’t a master plan. It’s gonna be a lot of run and gun. I just came up worth the idea when I decided we were coming here, where we have to be. Happenstance. I came up with the idea, and ran it past Madge. She loved it, so I tracked down Eric, and asked to meet. There was nothing to lose, so we just put it in front of them.”

“You said they didn’t buy in rigt away?”

“It all happened at the first meeting. I proposed the idea. They looked interested. Madonna did the rest.”

Kitty wasn’t gonna pussyfoot around it, so she came rigt out and asked, “Did she fuck them?”

King laughed his ass off for thirty seconds, before finally saying, “Do you seriously think she has to fuck a guy, or three of them, to get them to do what she wants them to do?  Look, guys are hard wired, through millions of years of evolution, to want to fuck beautiful girls. It comes with the dick. And let’s not get sidetracked by the queer thing, please. All you have to do is exist to have power of guys. The hope of fucking you is all the inspiration they need to do what you want.”

“Oh, c’mon, I understand that. But as well maintained as she is, she’s not what she used to be.”

“She’s still Madonna, kid .”

“Fair point. I’d still fuck Keith Richards.”

“Would you?”

“Oh, yeah, in a heartbeat. But you know what I would not want to hear him say while we are thrashing each other?”

“What?”

“I’m not Keith Richards.”

Stephen doubled over in hysterical laughter. When he composed himself, he assured Kitty, “I really am Stephen King!”

Kitty doubled over in hysterical laughter. When she composed herself she said, “Oh, daddy, you’re so funny! But you didn’t answer my question. Did she, or didn’t she?”

“Why don’t you ask her yourself? Better yet, ask them, when they come for lunch tomorrow?

“Maybe I will. What are they gonna do with the fifteen million they are gonna give up? Where’s the money going?”

“That’s what they’re coming to talk about. They’re bringing their spiritual adviser with them.”

“And who might that be?”

“I don’t know her name. They call her Thunder Babe. And you’ll like this; she’s a vegan.”

Kitty loved it. “Leave it to a pack of puckheads to call their spiritual guru Thunder Babe!”

“Welcome to Thunder Fuckin’ Bay, babe.”

59 – GOTCHA!

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57 – PUSHING UP DAISY

 

The waitress had been yoking it up with the cook when Stephen and Kitty walked into the dining room, and she still had an absurdly amused smirk on her face as she made her merry way to their table, taking her sweet time.

Kitty greeted her by putting out the same energy the girl was broadcasting, “Daisy is a happy girl!”

The girl started giggling again, prompting Stephen to ask, “Care to share the hahaha?”

The waitress hesitated, then started laughing, “Um… well, it’s your President.”

“Oh, dear,” said Kitty, “What has the chucklehead done now?”

“Apparently, he just signed an Executive Order clearing the way for America to mine the moon.”

King and Kaboodle did what most people did when they heard the news; they laughed. “Yes, of course he did,” said Stephen.

“What do you mean, apparently?” asked Kitty.

“Well, it could be fake news,” the waitress shrugged.

“Yes, there’s a lot of that going around,” King agreed. “But it rings true. No sense starting a space force, unless you’re gonna start a moon mining company to pay for it.”

The waitress thought that one over, and asked, “You think that’s what his space force idea is all about? I hope not.”

“Why do you hope not?” asked Kitty.

“Well, my step brother is planning to apply for space force.”

“Your step brother is American?” Stephen inquired.

The girl nodded, “Yeah. My stepmom’s from Grand Marais, just down the road. But I don’t think he wants to be a miner. He’s imagining something more heroic than that.”

“Fighting off the evil aliens, no doubt,” Stephen smirked. “I hope he’s a real life Luke Skywalker, ‘cause Kitty here says the aliens that are coming are mighty mean.”

“Oh, I think so, too,” Daisy said. “I bet they’re coming here to farm us, just like we do with cows and pigs. Stupid meatsticks, that’s all we are to them. Protein bars.”

Dumbfounded, King and Kaboodle stared at each other, then laughed hysterically.

“What’ so funny?” the waitress wanted to know. “It’s pretty scary, if you ask me.”

“It’s okay, Daisy Mae, Kitty says all you have to do is become a vegan, and the aliens will leave you alone.”

“Oh, I hope so, ‘caUSe I’ve been vegan since birth,” Daisy said proudly.

“Oh, excellent!” Kitty chirped. “No need to worry, then. I will personally make sure you are spared.”

“Really? Thank you!” Daisy gushed.

King cautioned, “But you might wanna tell your step brother to think it over, because he’s more likely to be mining the moon, than he is to be fighting off aliens.”

“I think Stephen is rigt, And I would bet that the moon mining will be done with Putin as a full partner. Except that the Russians will all be political prisoners.”

Stephen loved that, and picked it up, “Yes, the new gulag archipelago, on the dark side of the moon. You better tell your step brother to read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich before he signs on the dotted line.”

Daisy looked at Kitty, and Kitty nodded her head in agreement. “Oh, yeah. There’s a shot ton, Eldorado mother lode of zero gravity, zero calorie Cheetos and Oreos up there. If you listen to Dark Side of the Moon backwards, it tells you exactly were the biggest deposits are.”

Daisy thought it over and decided she really liked Kitty’s black eyes. Like, really, really liked them. Like, a lot, a lot. “Okay, I’ll tell him that. Thank you! Now, what can I get for you?

“I’m gonna try the penne garlic vodka mushroom,” Stephen answered. “Kitty says it is fabulous.”

“Really?” said little Miss Daisy. “That’s great. That’s my recipe. All the vegan dishes are my recipes. Are you vegan,” she asked Kitty.

“I am,” Kitty confirmed.

“I thought so! You’re so pretty, and you just exude rigteousness. Everyone here says so, even my dad.”

“Thank you, Daisy!” Kitty smiled. “You’re very beautiful, too. Who’s your dad?”

“He’s the manager. Scott. He says you’re all so wonderful. And everyone agrees, especially me. And especially you, pretty little Kitty.”

Stephen sat back, entranced. Two tasty tarts flirting with each other was about the best floor show an old man could hope for in a family restaurant.

“I think you should try the falafel wild rice pilau,” Daisy advised Kitty. “I make the sauce myself. Won’t give the recipe to no one. Well, except for you, if you want it.”

“Oh, yes, I want it,” Kitty said, with just the slightest hint of sauciness. “I’d love to let you show me how it’s done, here in Thunder Bay.”

“You just tell me when. I’ve got two tickets to paradise. If you pack your bag, we’ll leave tonight!” Daisy smiled seductively. “Anything else? We have a nice riesling that goes well with both.”

“That sounds perfect,” Kitty answered. “Thank you so much.”

“It will be my pleasure to serve you,” Daisy responded, ignoring the old man’s existence, and sashaying back to the kitchen.

“What?” Kitty asked in response to Stephen’s smirk.

“You’re a shameless flirt.”

“Gotta problem with that?”

“No, not me. But be warned, skanky jailbait is a hard habit to quit.”

“Is that experience talking?”

“A lifetime of it.”

“You think she’s skanky?”

“She hides it well. Putting on airs, for the family, and the patrons, but yeah. Skanky in the good way.”

“Okay, but she’s not jailbait.”

“Maybe, maybe not. But she’s a semitard. The mind of a 12 year old.”

“Oh, whatever. It’s not as if I’m gonna knock her up. I wonder if she fucks her step brother? I’ll find out, and let you know.”

“Just don’t let young Stephen know about all this. He’s got a jealous streak a mile wide. He got that from me.”

“Well, until young Stephen grows a pussy for me to eat, he’s got nothing to be jealous about, does he?”

“Oh, I understand that. But he may not. That kind of thing is learned from experience, and he ain’t got none of that.”

“Don’t you worry about it, old man. I’ll take good care of your bastard bad boy.”

“Yes, I think you will. In fact, I think you’re gonna take good care of all of us.”

“I’m gonna do my best, I assure you. Just don’t stumble around, getting in my way, if you’d be so kind, please and thank you. And don’t worry, if I mess up, you can spank me, daddy.”

58 -NOT KEITH RICHARDS

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56 – XBOX YOU SUCK

 

Madonna announced that she was done for the day. “I’m climbing into bed with Riff n Raff.”

Stephen considered his options, and settled on the obvious one, “Wanna go have a beer?” he asked his son.

Lance rejected the offer immediately, but pretended to be thinking about it. After a while, he answered, “No. I’m gonna have another go at KILLGOD!”

Masking the fact that he was disappointed by his son’s rebuff, Stephen asked, “Are you enjoying it?”

Before the boy could answer, Kitty cut in, “Do you game, Stephen?”

King grinned, and replied, “The closest I get to video gaming is computer solitaire when I’m stuck for words.”

“Really?” Kitty asked. “You’ve never even tried?”

“I have a friend. She’s an avid gamer. She got a new Xbox, five or ten years ago. I guess it was the first edition with voice command, whenever that was. She was impressed as all get out with it, and thought I would be too.

“She gave me a demonstration, ‘Xbox, open door. Xbox, close door. Xbox this, Xbox, that.’ I was laughing my ass off. She wanted to know what was so funny, so I said, ‘Xbox, suck my dick. Xbox, get me a beer. Xbox, make me a sandwich.’ Xbox, of course, did none of the above, so I concluded, ‘Xbox, you suck!’”

Kitty found it wildly amusing. “You’re hilarious. You’re a caveman, but a really funny one!”

Stephen was tempted to ask his son if he was rigt about a man’s priorities, but quickly concluded the topic of dick sucking probably shouldn’t be put up for discussion in mixed company. If he was gonna bring up dick sucking with Kitty in the room, she would be the only one in the room with him.

But King, dirty dog that he is, saw an opportunity to milk a little more fawning out of the nubile, black-eyed temptress, so he gave her the ‘Aw, shucks’ schtick. “Thank you, young lady. It’s always heartening to know that something that fired off in this massive, festering mess of looming dementia in my head has triggered a few moments of laughter for someone, somewhere!”

The King of Horror was wording, and little Miss Kaboobdle was impressed. Smitten, almost. And wanting more. “Massive, festering mess of looming dementia in my head! You know, for a caveman, you sure do make pretty words. ”

King grinned, and grunted like a caveman for a few seconds. Kitty squealed delightedly. “Okay, Grog, since our cohorts are going to be otherwise occupied, perhaps you would care to dine with me?”

Madonna was already in bed, and out of ear shot. King stole a quick look at Lance out of the corner of his eye. His illegitimate son wasn’t going to like it, but maybe the boy would learn something about the perils of rebuffing an offer to converse with one of the world’s greatest living authors, so he said to pretty Kitty, “It would be my pleasure, thank you very much. What was that you had earlier? It sounded promising.”

“The penne garlic vodka mushroom. Yes, it’s fantastic. You enjoyed it, didn’t you, Lance.”

Lance, who had enjoyed the dish, but was not enjoying this development, at all, faked a slight smile, and answered, “Yes, it was great. Ask for extra sauce, and garlic bread to sop it all up. I would bet a nice reisling would go perfectly with it.”

“Excellent,” Stephen said. “Honey, Kitty and I are off to forage for food. Do you desire anything?”

Oh, dear, did she ever! “No, thank you, dear. Enjoy yourselves.” The sound of the door closing tickled Madonna’s ears, striking up Tiffany’s diabetes inducing cover of I Think We’re Alone Now! She crawled out of bed to see if her and hardboy Lance were, in fact alone, and was disappointed to find that her prey had slipped away.

57 -PUSHING UP DAISY

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55 – REAL MEN AIN’T AFRAID OF NO FAGGOTY CHINESE PUSSY VIRUS

 

“You’re gonna love this,” Kitty promised. “When I walked through the lobby, the staff were watching the news. Trump’s been playing doctor today.”

“With Stormy Daniels, or the Russian whores who pissed on him?” asked Madonna.

“Oh, no. Much better. With the White House press corps!” The others smiled and waited. “He was advising the medical research community to look into injecting the infected with disinfectants to cure them of the virus.”

King burst into laughter. “Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce you to the new Surgeon General of the United States of America, Dr. Donald Joseph Mengele, aka the Angel of Death.”

“Hey, I’m all for it,” Lance announced. “Dr. Trump, in his white lab coat, POTUS logo on the pocket, experimenting on all his MAGA hat wearing, mouth breathing disciples. Broadcast it live. I’d pay to watch that shit.”

“Love it!” laughed Kitty. “But Trump can’t be wearing a mask, ‘cause real men don’t wear masks.”

Stephen wanted to know, “But can he be wearing Melania’s underwear? I mean, wearing one of her bras as a mask. That’s manly man stuff.”

Kitty agreed. “Agreed. He can wear one of her bras as a mask, although one of Dolly’s wouldn’t be big enough to cover that yapper of his, but never mind that.  And he has to have a gun slung over his shoulder, like Rambo. Like all the Freedom Fries Fighters.”

“I’m not so sure we could get all that many of the Freedom Fries Fighters to volunteer,” Madge declared.

“Oh, Hell, that’ll be easy,” King said. “Goebbels would have them lined up around the block. Trump just has to say that he’s been informed that the Freedom Fries Fighters have been infiltrated by a fifth column of over compensating, closet case Nancy boys. And he don’t want none of those pussies involved in these experiments, ‘cause this is work for real men.”

Kitty managed to stop laughing long enough to say, “He could bring Putin in, by satellite, for that presser. Have him shirtless, and riding around on a bear, in Red Square, performing the same experiments on real Russian men, who ain’t afraid of no faggoty, Chinese pussy virus.”

56 -XBOX YOU SUCK

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