‘Cage Your Sloth!’

I issued a challenge on Facebook yesterday. I wanted to give away a copy of my first book, Muscle Memory, so I proposed this:

“A signed & personalized paperback copy of my first book will go to the first person who writes a NEW Amazon review of one of my other books. The review must be at least 243 words long, be partially written in a foreign language (different from your own normal language, that is), contain the chorus from your current favorite song, and it MUST utilize the following words in any sequence: CONSTABULARY, SLOTH, PORTICO, TOOLBELT, JEFF, PACZKI.”

I figured no one would take the time and the post would quickly be forgotten. Sometimes, I throw little giveaways out like this without much fanfare or buildup, mostly because I’m bored at work and need to do something to keep my brain from slowly oozing out my ear. But I figured wrong. Within an hour, Scott Pratt responded with this masterpiece, which I would like to reproduce here, with a couple added images.

I present to you, an amazing impromptu review of my book, Samurai vs. ROBO-DICK:

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read! Cage your sloth!, April 24, 2013

By
Scott L. Pratt

This review is from: Samurai Vs. Robo-Dick (Paperback)

sloth and copAs I was reading “samurai Vs. Robo-Dick I looked over to my friend, Jeff the Sloth and smiled gently. He was eating a pazki and jelly had dropped from his mouth onto his toolbelt. I was sitting on the Portico, as the Constabulary walked by. Jeff seemed upset at their presence, and yelled out to them, “Carry on my wayward son There’ll be peace when you are done Lay your weary head to rest Don’t you cry no more”. The constabulary lead halted and stared for a brief second before saying, “Sobald ich stieg über den Lärm und Verwirrung Nur um einen Einblick jenseits dieser Illusion Ich wurde immer höher steigenden Aber ich flog zu hoch Obwohl meine Augen sehen konnte, war ich noch ein Blinder Obwohl mein Verstand denken konnte ich noch ein wütender Mann Ich höre die Stimmen, wenn ich trauma Ich kann hören, wie sie sagen”

I was upset that Jeff confronted the non-military police officers, and told him to tighten his toolbelt and go inside. He obliged, and I continued to read. I was upset that he was being such a robo-dick and distracted me from reading. As I read, I realized that I was wearing a brown shirt and had a stack of junk food at my side. Was the author writing about me? I was more intrigued. Did I mention that my wife is a redhead? Anyway. All was silent after Jeff disappeared into the house. I was able to finish the magnificent book. I highly recommend it to anyone that loves the bizarre. The book is really well thought out, and amazing. Just make sure your talking pet sloth is locked in his cage when the constabulary walks by.

sloth cage

* * * * * * *

I loved this so much, I decided to offer up two more copies of Muscle Memory to anyone willing take on this challenge. If you can match what Scott did, I’ll send out a personalized copy of Muscle Memory to YOU. Tag me on Facebook, or email (lowe435@gmail.com) me the link to the review when it’s posted on Amazon.

And as luck would have it, to aid you in this task, my collection Mio Padre, il Tumore is free for the Kindle until Friday, April 26th.

OPERATION COATTAILS

In case you weren’t aware, Chuck Palahniuk has a new Kindle single out for $0.99. It’s called Phoenix, and I just snagged it for my Kindle iPad app. I would like to suggest you do the same. CLICK HERE TO BUY PHOENIX.phoenix

Here’s the part of the post where you realize this is not a completely altruistic request. While you’re of the mood, CLICK HERE and snag a Kindle copy of my book KING OF THE PERVERTS as well. I’m hoping to create a little algorithmic magic on Amazon. If enough people buy copies of both, KOTP will begin to show up in the Customers Also Bought This Item area. Hence the title, Operation Coattails.

Help me ride Chuck’s best-selling wave like a remora on a great white! You’ll get a weekend of fun reading for $4, and you’ll also be able to say you’re friends with a bestselling author! Total win for YOU!

prunty1Hopefully, Chuck won’t mind because people are buying his story. Double win. And maybe now that you’ve worked yourself into a complete spend-crazy frenzy, consider a couple of these awesome titles as well. Click the pictures to be magically whisked away to Amazon!Let’s start with Andersen Prunty’s THE DRIVER’S GUIDE TO HITTING PEDESTRIANS - “A pocket guide to the twenty-three most painful things in life, written by the most well-adjusted man in the universe.”

You can also click any of the links on the front page of this site. I wouldn’t, you know, mind or anything.

cameron1No list of anything, regardless of subject, is complete without including Cameron Pierce. Whether you’re a fan of Bizarro or not, every fan of original fiction should be reading this guy.

“The bacon storm is rolling in. We hear the grease and sugar beat against the roof and windows. The doughnut people are attacking. We press close together, forgetting for a moment that we hate each other.”

JRJ1From the man who brought us “The Scatological Elitist Obsessed with Lightning Bolts”, more horrifying stories of things that invade our bodies and minds. Or, as the Scatological Elitist Obsessed with Lightning Bolts might snarkily say, “Oh, look, another story collection about parasites, because you didn’t already drain that well seven years ago. Good job pushing your limits, I’m sure WE SHIT INSIDE YOU was well worth the wait. Excited to see what you come up with next in 2021.” But that guy’s an asshole, so don’t listen to him. Go snag this book.

gabino1“He has a mouth in his gut. An obnoxious, toothy, foul-mouthed, pig of a mouth. Luckily, his girlfriend doesn’t seem to mind. Marie, the one-legged stripper and cyber-prostitute love of his life is very accepting of it. And then a little too accepting. What would you do if your girlfriend cheated on you with the voracious yapper under your belly button? If you live in Gutmouth’s world-a bleak city where gruesome, spontaneous mutations are no big deal, klepto-roaches take anything not tied-down, drugs turn pain into pleasure, consumers are tortured for growing food, and your best friend is a misogynistic rat-man-you might do something crazy. And what if you got caught?”

GUTMOUTH is one of the juciest, slimiest, sleaziest things I’ve come across. Dripping black noir set in a world you can practically smell thanks to Gabino’s excellent descriptive passages and wonderfully whacked imagination. One of the best New Bizarro Author Series books I’ve read.
Those are but a few. Now, what say you? Will you help me make Operation Coattails a success? Go now, consume! Read! Incredible delights await!

Birthday Follow-Up Post: The Best Gift I Got

My birthday was three days ago, but I want to share with the world the best gift I got – this birthday card from Vince Kramer:

Vince Kramer, for those who may not know, is the author of the fantastically over-the-top New Bizarro Author Series book Gigantic Death Worm. If you think this picture is funny, then I guarantee you’ll find Gigantic Death Worm funny. To read Gigantic Death Worm is to know Vince Kramer. It’s a whacked out roller coaster ride of the absurd and hilarious and the hilariously absurd. I promise you, none of this is exaggeration. It would be impossible to embellish the craziness of that book because it goes beyond pretty much anything. And my copy has a personalized drawing of a McDonalds by Vince himself, which is braggable.

The Versatile Blogger Award + Two Announcements

Let us begin this post with a disclaimer: I don’t normally do chain mails things. Not if it’s blogs or Facebook status updates that read “… I bet most of my friends won’t copy and paste this to their own status…” Even if it’s about cancer or kitties, or kitties with cancer, I don’t give a shit. I just don’t do them and generally despise reading them.

SAVE TUMOR CAT - Pass this along or you'll go to HELL!

However…

I’m going to break that vow right here, in the name of promoting fellow authors and other shit I like. All of that being prelude to this: my good friend A.J. Brown has bestowed upon me, for reasons that can only lead to a conclusion of brain damage on his part, the Versatile Blogger Award. If it had come from anyone else, I might have just ignored it as Internet nonsense, but I do love me some A.J. Brown, so the exception has been made. Now, let’s get it on.

What the fuck is the Versatile Blogger Award? Dude, click the link above for more info.

What does one do once they’ve won the award? Besides holding a party in their own honor, getting totally shitfaced, and passing out facedown in the bathtub, they’re supposed to do this shit:

* Thank the award-giver and link back to their blog in your post. (check)

* Include a link to the original blog, The Versatile Blogger Award. (checkerino)

* Share seven things about yourself. (I’ll always talk about myself. See below)

* Pass this award along to fifteen blogs you enjoy reading. (er, no)

* Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award. (still undecided about this part as it seems pretty lame…)

* There is no deadline for responding, although I would imagine that being “fairly prompt” would be the polite thing to do. (DON’T YOU FUCKING TELL ME TO BE POLITE, I GOT POLITE RUNNING OUT OF MY ASS, I’M SO OVERSTUFFED WITH POLITE YOU SONOFABITCH!)

Before we go further, I already know I can’t name 15 blogs I enjoy reading, whom I would also pass this thing along to, nor would I do that anyway. That would be the chain-mail aspect about this that makes me break out in a rash. But I will contact the person whom I name as my Versatile Blogger (if I end up doing that) and let that person do with this as they wish. And besides, most of the blogs I like have a large readership and are probably inundated by similar stuff all the time, and I have no interest in spamming them with this. But I will link to them and spread the word and the love around like it was fucking peanut butter. Oh yeah, baby, peanut butter love…

First, I’ll share seven things about myself that you, Captain Reader, may not know:

1. I hate oranges. Hate those fuckers. Can’t stand the taste, can’t stand the smell, don’t like orange juice or orange soda or orange candy or orange julius. Add some vodka and make it a screwdriver? You just ruined perfectly good vodka. Nice going, ass.

2. In January, I self-published a novel under a pen name. I’ve been trying to decide how to market the thing since it’s, you know, published under a pen name, but I might as well announce it here. It’s most decidedly not bizarro, which is why I didn’t put it out under my own name, and I confess to being curious about the whole self-publishing deal. I thought I’d try it myself, if for no other reason, than to get a better idea of a different facet of the publishing world besides just the writing side. The novel is Mr. Flashback by Son Porter (and it’s $0.99 for the Kindle here on Amazon). Don’t ask where the name came from, there is no real significance to it. It’s just easy to remember.

3. Speaking of books, I will have a new one coming out soon. Grindhouse Press will publish my novella King of the Perverts sometime this summer. I can’t tell you how stoked I am about this book, and also about working with Grindhouse. They put out great pulp horror and bizarro and their books look, and are, utterly fantastic.

4. For you horror fans, I make this admission: I absolutely hated Richard Matheson’s book Hell House. Just hated it. I found it to be dumb, cheesy writing and not at all scary. I spent the whole book yelling at the idiot characters. Flame away.

5. That’s two things I hate, so I better list something I love: severe thunderstorms. It doesn’t matter if the tornado sirens are going off, branches are flying through the air, rain is pelting my face, lightning is exploding all around – I’m that dumbass who stands out in the middle of a thunderstorm, hoping to glimpse for myself a tornado. If I had the money, I would take one of those tornado chasing vacations in Kansas or Oklahoma.

6. The first thing I ever wrote was a fully-illustrated fanfic of my favorite cartoon when I was about 6 or 7, Battle of the Planets (G Force). I loved their spaceship, the Phoenix, and always wished I could have found a toy version of it. I never did, but it apparently does exist.

7. I spent nine months of my childhood inside an iron lung.

OK, that last one is not true. I’m actually just a big fat liar.

Now, on to the blogs I regularly check out:

1. AJ Brown’s Type AJ Negative: Lots if introspective stuff about writing and fatherhood, being a husband, and juggling all those things. And as I mentioned, AJ and I have a little long-distance bromance going on, so… (blush)

2. John Skipp is Yer Pal Skipp!: No, this has not been around long, but the few posts Skipp has up so far have been so inspiring and helpful over the past month that I find myself checking regularly to see if he has a new post up yet. That’s why it’s here.

3. John Scalzi’s Whatever: I can’t not read whatever Scalzi posts, because more often than not, he writes exactly what I’m thinking about a particular subject. GET OUT OF MY HEAD, SCALZI!

4. The Cubs-centric baseball blog Bleacher Nation: I’m gonna throw a change-up here (PUN!) and add a sports blog, because goddammit, I gots me some roots in sports writing. And this is my list, so blah.

5. The something of Andersen Prunty, Lowered Expectations: Not exactly updated regularly, but when it is, it is always interesting and entertaining. Currently, he’s holding a contest for readers to create a cover for his upcoming book, Fill the Grand Canyon and Live Forever.

6. Nathan Bransford: More of an occasional read for me, but regularly updated with interesting news and insights into publishing and writing. Worth the time.

7. JA Konrath’s A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing: The always interesting but equally annoying Konrath expounds on sticking it to the man through self-publishing. I like his transparency and willingness to share numbers and info, but am equally enraged by his insistence on posting in the third person. That just bugs Lowe.

8. Caris O’Malley’s Hipster Librarian: There is never a time when Caris fails to make me laugh. A great majority of that time, I’m laughing at him, but still, you can’t argue the results!

9. Kirk Jones’s bizarrojones: Kirk likes to examine bizarro and horror art and literature through a scholarly, professorial lens. I like to read Kirk and pretend I’m smart like him.

10. Redneck bizarro robot genius, David W. Barbee: Goofy fun from a bizarro son of the south. God Save Us, George W. Foxworthy!

11. College football fun from EDSBS: OK, one more sports blog. If you’re not a college football fan or observer, you probably won’t get much of what’s here, but if you are, and you do, then this shit is gold, more often than not.

12. Um… hmmmmmmmmm… There are other blogs I occasionally read, but I think I’ll stop this list here. I will reserve the right to come back and add to this list when I inevitably remember the ones I forgot to include.

If you made it all the way through to the end of this, then I now have one question: why? If you can answer that question in no fewer than 200 words, I will email you a free copy of Son Porter’s dynamic debut novel Mr. Flashback. Send your essays to: lowe435@gmail.com

OK, bye bye!

Why I do this – a sincere blog post (for once)

I woke up at 2:30 AM today and really couldn’t get back to sleep, so I’m feeling a bit philosophical right now. If the following makes it seem as though I’m under the influence of some mind-altering pharmaceutical, it’s not that. I’m just a little punchy. But I promise, every word of this post is completely sincere…

I’ve been thinking a lot about the future lately. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about my future as a writer. I’ve spent the past year marketing and selling my first book, focused almost to a fault on reaching a specific goal. After spending so much time among the trees, now that this year has passed, I’ve had occasion to step back and look at the forest again. I won’t know for certain what the future holds until next week when I head out to Portland for BizarroCon, but until then, I’ve been able to refocus on and reaffirm a number of things.

I’ve also put to words what I want. What my goals are. I wrote some of those things down, and those words have been stuck in my mind since. It’s easy to think you know what you want, what you’re about, what your goals are, but it’s another thing to actually put those ideas to words. To crystallize them in your mind and lay them down on paper, as if you’re making it official. Until then, you’re subject to change, maybe a little unsure of the specifics, that what you think you want might turn out to be different from reality. I thought I’d share these with you because the more I read these words, the more firmly I believe in them, and the more resolute I am to prove them true.

First, some thoughts on what I try to accomplish with my writing:

I tend to focus my writing around interesting characters, first and foremost. I think strong characters trump everything else when it comes to what makes a book entertaining and memorable. I understand and agree that title, cover art and concept play a huge part in catching a reader’s eye and opening their wallets, but if you don’t deliver a story that holds their attention, gives them characters they can believe are real, and entertains them, then you don’t gain fans or build a readership that will run out to buy your next book. Story and characterization must be as strong as concept, otherwise a writer’s readership won’t grow.

That leads into the next point, the specific reply to something I’ve been asked many times, and perhaps never given as succinct an answer as this until now – What are my goals as a writer?

My main goal as a writer is to entertain and connect with readers in a meaningful way. I want readers to come away with something that stays with them after they’ve finished reading my stories. I want them to remember the characters and wish their time together did not have to end.

Pretty simplistic, really. But there’s not a whole lot more to add, at least not at this point. People change, life has a funny way of altering your opinions and perceptions, but at this point, it really all boils down to that statement for me. If you believe in what motivates you, what drives you to succeed at whatever it is you’re going after, it doesn’t have to be a long-winded dissertation. Goals can be simple and clear. At least mine are. No extraneous bullshit needed. I want to write books that you have to read, and I want them to be books that you will remember.

I hope to continue doing this for a very long time, and I look forward to sharing the experience with all of you. To everyone who has read my stories, bought my books, told people about my work, and especially, told me personally about what they took away from it, I want to again thank you.

You are why I do this.

Obligatory ‘Writer Blogging About NaNoWriMo’ blog post

Am I doing NaNoWriMo?

No.

Well, sort of, but not really in the technical sense that I’m following the rules and all that shit. I am writing, but I have no clue if I’ll finish my story this month. What I do know for certain is that it will not reach the mandatory 50,000 words and therefore will not be a true NaNoWriMo book. Because the NaNoWriMo snobs will rebuke me.

I can’t be rebuked. Not right now. I’m fragile. My psyche is much too frail. I have house issues, you see. Major house issues. Along the lines of several-thousand-dollars-worth-of-absolutely-necessary-repair-work sorts of house issues. And once all that repair work is finished, I will still be left with cleaning up and rebuilding about 1/4 of my dwelling, both inside and out. Flooring has been ripped out. Concrete is being jackhammered. Trenches are being dug. Landscaping is being raped. Walls have been skeletonized. It’s a fucking mess.

This will be me. Admire my matching sweatsuit.

 

So, yeah, I’m writing, but I’m also going to be insulating and drywalling and mudding and chopping and painting and tiling and wood-flooring and shower-installing and all of this sort of thing for the forseeable future. Trying to force out 50,000 words this month just ain’t gonna happen. And BizarroCon will have me in Portland from Nov. 17-20. That will be a much-needed break from my real life Money Pit.

I may just wear my teal sweatsuit all four days out there and do nothing but sit and pour beer down my neck. That would be perfectly acceptable, right?

Something Wicked This Way Flops

Note: The following was originally posted on June 26, 2009. No names have been changed to protect the innocent, because there was no innocence to be had in this butchering.

I received this weekend, as a well-intentioned gift for our garden, a bucket of dead fish, courtesy of my sister, Sara, and her burgeoning brood, Nathanael and Cassidy. The fish were intended to be planted. No, dear reader, not to grow more fish as I initially mistook, but to be buried as fertilizer to assist in the abundant growth of our vegetation, a tradition, my elder sister assured me, dating back to the American Indians. As a history major (and apparent good student, though details remain sketchy), I took her at her word.

In advance of this new gardening task, as I was not familiar with theproper way to prepare and bury dead fish in the ground, I placed the offering, bucket and all, into our chest freezer for a later date. With Tuesday’s rain washing out the sporting contest I was scheduled to cover, I seized the opportunity to plant my fish, but first, like any good journalist, or gardener, or responsible home, pet, car, and child owner should always do, I turned to the Internet for research. My findings were shocking.

Like a latter-day soothsayer bewaring me the Ides of March, the Internet showed me a sinister world where fish are not our friends, or mere morsels of delicacy or even fertilizer, but rather a race poised to attack us at our weakest moment, when we least expect it. Long have we known of gilled creatures that prey on human flesh, but until now, these attacks have occured mainly in maritime settings. However, led by fiends the likes of which many of us can hardly imagine, the day is coming when fish will take to the land and reap their revenge upon us. In this hour, it will be every man and his family for themselves. All the more reason to plant your garden now and await the coming apocalypse. Therefore, I took this as an opportunity to prepare.

I retired to the yard with my bucket of frozen captives, an axe, my children armed with the camera, and our morbidly obese beagle to prepare the carcasses for internment in our yard. I will save the more faint of heart in the crowd the specifics, other than to note that within 10 minutes, my bucket was filled again with an assortment of thawing fish hunks. Holes were dug around a foot deep in three separate areas of the garden. Fish parts were tumbled in and covered over with soft, packed Earth. Each spot was marked with a pile of rocks. While I toiled, the obese beagle scoured the grass for any overlooked remnants of the axe-wielding carnage that I wrought. I would like to say that I took no pleasure in this gruesome task, but that would not be truthful. You see, these desiccated interlopers from the sea have more than one purpose. As fertilizer for our garden, yes, but also to serve as a warning for the future invading hordes:

Abandon hope, all ye fish monsters who enter.

With this task complete, I must now go bathe said morbidly obese, and smelling awfully of fish, beagle.

NOTE: Over two years have passed, and Northern Indiana has not had a single recorded incident of dryland fish army attacks in that time. I do not consider this a coincidence.

News, Links and other filler in between posts of Muscle Memory 2

Catching up on some recent news and reviews that I forgot to post here:

1. Muscle Memory is part of the Amazon 4-for-3 deal – buy four books that qualify for the deal and you’ll get one of them for free (CLICK HERE). Also, there are tons of Eraserhead Press, Lazy Fascist and Deadite Press titles that qualify. Good time to stuck up on summer reading material. (SEE SOME OF THEM HERE and also HERE)

2. The awesome image up above of the raccoon playing a tuba was created by Kirsten Alene for my story “Varmits!” which you can read over on Unicorn Knife Fight. CLICK HERE to read it.

3. Karl Fischer posted a flattering review of Muscle Memory on his new tumblr site Electric Bazaar. READ IT HERE

4. If you snag a copy of William Pauley III‘s book THE BROTHERS CRUNK (attention NES lovers, attention!) and message Chris Bowsman that you have done so, Chris will send you a free PDF ebook of his own book A LIFE ON FIRE, an excellent little nightmare about a man slowly devolving into insanity. I’ve read and enjoyed them both, and this is a hell of a cool deal. CLICK HERE FOR SOME CRUNK

5. I’m on Google+ now – COME SAY HI

I think that’s all. I just finished reading ROBOPOCALYPSE, which started a little shaky but turned out to be a decent read. Now I’m starting Patrick Wensink’s BLACK HOLE BLUES which, after one chapter, has started out very strong. If it’s as funny and enjoyable as his blog DEATH TO KENNY ROGERS then he has a winner here. So far, so good. At the end of August, an interview of me by Mr. Wensink should find its way to WE WHO ARE ABOUT TO DIE,  so definitely mark your calendars and cancel all of your other plans for that exciting event.

OK, that’s definitely it. Unless you want to share something with me. Whatcha reading these days?

Muscle Memory 2: More Muscle, More Memory! (Part IV)

Image by Martin Roberts

(NOTE: The following is a continuation of my debut book from Eraserhead Press, Muscle Memory, picking up the storyline on the day after the first book ended. If you read the book, then I hope you enjoy more of this story, which I will post on this site for free over the next four weeks. If you haven’t read the book but want to get in on this fun, you can find it on Amazon.com: CLICK HERE. Thanks – Steve)

Part IV

Well, That Didn’t Work

Woo, boy. OK, deep breaths here. Deep breaths… Where to begin? Edgar’s machine. Welp, it did and it didn’t work.

OK, first off, obviously, I woke up. Wasn’t expecting that to happen. Man, I had it all worked out in my head, too. I was all ready to pass on to the Great Beyond. It’s a messed up thing to prepare yourself for death, but death don’t come. I guess I just assumed it would go that way, big blue flash, whoop-de-do switcheroo, Tina comes back and I’m off to feed the grubs under Tucker’s rust bucket Ford.

Not quite. I wake up to find that:

A. The sun is up and the birds are chirping outside and I’m clearly not dead; and

B. Tina’s not back after all, but I’m not Tina no more, neither.

I’m looking up at Little Rico’s mobile right now. It’s dangling above me and the sun coming through the window is glinting off the little mirror right in my goddamn eyes, and I gotta tell ya, it’s making me just a little cranky.

But not as much as the smell. There’s a stench in here that would choke a fuckin’ billy goat. And then it really starts to hit me. Mobile overhead, white metal crib bars rising around me like I’m in some damn Disneyland jail cell. The smell of my own crapped-in drawers.

Son.
Of.
A.
Bitch.

And that’s when Little Rico wakes up. He’s lying on the floor next to the crib, where I was last night when I finally passed out. He’s gotta be absolutely ravenous right now ‘cause I sure as hell don’t remember eatin’ nothing yesterday.

He’s just kinda layin’ down there, thrashing around. He kicks the crib a couple times and it feels like a damn earthquake. Half a dozen rattles and bells shake and clang in my face. It’s enough to scare the shit outta you, really. No wonder the little dude is always in here crying. We got him pent up in a demented funhouse.

I try to roll over but it takes a couple tries and makes me dizzy. Gotta relax for a sec and get my bearings here. I’ve got a 37-year old mind trying to tell a five-month old body what to do and we’re having a failure to communicate here.

Little Rico’s in full-on meltdown mode. Tina had herself a set of lungs and she could whoop it up when she wanted, and right now Little Rico’s got her cranked up to eleven. The phone’s ringing, too, but I can barely hear it over the screaming.

Now, what the hell do I do here? I have a baby in an adult body thrashing on the floor, liable to do God-knows-what to himself (herself?) if he discovers he can walk, and the best I can do is hold my head up off my chest and look around.

That’s when Julia comes in. I can see her through the bars of my baby jail, clomping into the room in big, loping Tucker strides.

“Holy shit, dude! What’s wrong? Why’re you screamin’?”

I try to say that I’m over here, in the crib, but all I can manage is a garbled mouthful of slobber.

“Oh, wait.” Julia leans down on a knee and looks at Tina’s writhing, crying body on the floor. “Oh, damn. Tina? Is that you in there, Tina?”

I forgot about the switcheroo. That ain’t Julia, that must be Tucker again, back in his own body. Lucky bastard.

“Yo, Julia! I need some help in here! I think Tina’s back and she’s goin’ apeshit!”

Yeah, that’s definitely Tuck.

“What’s wrong?” Julia, back in her own body, rushes in and drops down next to Rico-Tina. She looks at Tucker and says, “Is it really her?”

“Shit, I don’t know. I heard her screamin’ from our house and came runnin’. She ain’t said word one yet, just kickin’ and carryin’ on like this. Billy usually just passes out when he gets all worked up.”

I do not! “Aburdababullba.” I tried to say it, anyway.

“Tina?” Julia grabs hold of Rico-Tina’s shoulders and says real calmly, “Tina, honey, it’s me. It’s Julia. I need you to calm down.”

Rico stops crying and sits there looking at Julia, sniffling and dripping snot.

“Tina. You’re back now. It’s over.”

Rico just sits there watching her. He always liked Julia. She seemed to have a way with him that calmed him down. Meantime, I’m laying here in the crib trying my damndest to say something, but the old vocal cords just aren’t quite up to snuff. In my head I’m yelling Tucker’s name, but all that comes out is a burbling mess of gibberish.

Tucker looks at me and says, “Hey little dude, everything’s gonna be alright. You just hang on a minute and when momma feels a little better she’ll whip ya up some titty.”

Julia swats him on the arm. “Stop talking to him like that, dummy. I swear, between you and Billy, that poor kid’s first word is gonna be a curse word.”

I say, “Murflburbulburbis.” That ain’t what I’m trying to say.

Rico’s just looking around kinda stunned. Something’s firing up there in his head, but he don’t understand any of it. And just imagine if I start crying right now and Tina starts leaking again. And what if he sees it? Would he try to feed himself?

Holy shit, I can’t think about that. Bad image! Bad image!

“Tina, if you understand me, say something.”

Julia gets only a blank look in response.

“Something’s not right here.”

“Well, shit no, it’s not right,” Tucker says. “She’s just spent the past twenty-four hours dead inside Billy’s head. What if she was awake the whole time? What if she was in there and could hear all of it? Think about that. She heard all the crap with the FBI guys. She listened to us stuff her into the freezer, and sat there turning into a Popsicle, only to be yanked out and tossed into the ground…”

They sit there looking at each other and contemplating all the horrible things that dead Tina might have experienced. The whole time, I’m trying to tell them what’s really going on, but it’s no use. My mouth is like mush.

“Dugberberbah.” That ain’t “Tucker” but it’s getting there. And I got drool running all down the front of me. I kick my feet and jabber like a fool, but they act like I’m not even there. Then Little Rico says something in the neighborhood of “motherboard”.

Julia says, “What? Did you just say smorgasbord?”

“I think she said muddy toad.”

Little Rico says, “Apusampie.”

Tucker snaps his fingers in front of Rico’s face. “I think she’s insane. Or she wants to give somebody named Apu some pie.”

Julia scrunches up her face and taps her teeth with her fingernails. “Grab me that rattle over there.”

Tucker plucks a baby blue plastic rattle from the toy box next to the crib. Julia shakes it in front of Little Rico and he grabs it with Tina’s hands and shakes it himself. I’m pitching a fit now, spittle flying around in long strands and running down the bars of the crib.

“Duggah, Jewaha, Duggah, Jewaha.” I got a weird Hebrew-sounding chant going on over here. Julia finally looks at me and gets it.

“No… flippin’… way.”

I bob my head up and down at her and say, “Jewaha, Jewaha.”

“What?” Tucker looks at me too. Takes him a minute longer. He’s gotta look back and forth between Rico and me before his fried synapses finally make a spark.

I look him in the eyes and say, “Duggah.”

When he gets it, his face goes dead-fish white and he passes out cold.

And he calls me a fainter.

* * *

So here we are again. Sitting at my kitchen table, looking around at each other, wondering what the fuck is going on. Little Rico’s slamming down a bottle, his second one already. Julia found some powdered formula in the cupboard and mixed it up for him. She tried to give him a graham cracker, thinking since Julia had teeth and such that he’d be able to eat regular food, but he nearly choked on it. Chewing ain’t real high on his list of motor skills yet. Of course if it was a nipple, he woulda ripped that sucker to shreds.

I’m in Rico’s high chair. Unfortunately, chewing ain’t exactly in my repertoire right now, either. They’re trying to give me my own bottle, but there ain’t no way I’m drinking that shit.

“C’mon Billy.” Julia tries to shove it in my face again, but I give it a ninja chop and send it spinning to the floor.

“Dammit,” she says. “You need to eat something.”

I wanna tell her to get bent and fetch me a grilled cheese or an omelet or something. But then I remember that teeth would be required to eat those, so instead I just cross my chubby little arms over my chest.

“Billy, this isn’t for you. This is for Rico. You need to understand that this little situation you’re in can be fixed, but until that happens, everything you do right now affects your son. And your infant son needs the vitamins and nutrients that are in this bottle.” She snatches the bottle off the floor and sets it on the tray in front of me. “Now drink, you little brat.”

She’s right, of course. But that shit is so awful. Just the smell of it makes me wanna upchuck. Give me the natural stuff any day. Of course, that tap is not in service at this moment. Not gonna sidle up to my infant son’s breasts and catch a snack. Jesus, if I wasn’t already going to hell for everything that’s happened, just the thought of that should punch my ticket.

Fine. I nod my head. Julia picks up the bottle and shoves it in my mouth, a little rougher than need be, I might add. I suck out some formula and spit it at her.

“Hey, watch it jerk.”

Tucker says, “Easy, Julia. He’s just a little baby. He don’t know what he’s doin’.”

“Tucker, he’s a grown man in there. He knows exactly what the hell he’s doing. And right now, he’s acting like a baby, which I guess is only natural for you guys regardless of how grown up your body is.”

Tucker takes the bottle from her. “Here, I’ll do it. You go make sure Baby Momma over there doesn’t discover what his topside lady parts are actually for. Be kinda like having your cake and eating it, too.”

He looks at me and gives me one of those Oh Shit faces. “Yikes, sorry. That comment was just all kinds of inappropriate, wasn’t it?”

I cock my head at him. Duh, ya think?

“I know, I really didn’t mean that. This is just so messed up. First you’re your wife, now you’re your own kid, and your kid’s your wife. Even West Virginians would say that’s fucked up. I don’t even know how to begin to figure out what to do next.”

You and me both, pal.

“Well, at least you’re not a sheep.”

Edgar. I forgot all about him. And his machine.

“Oh damn, Edgar,” Tucker says like he’s reading my mind again. “We need to get over there and check on him.”

“You guys go on,” Julia says. “I’ll make sure Billy, er Rico, doesn’t go anywhere. Man, this is getting confusing.”

No shit. And speaking of shit, I really have to take a crap and I have no choice but to do it in my pants. Tucker’s not gonna be real happy with me in a couple minutes.

He scoops me up with one hand and we head over to Edgar’s. Nobody answers the front door. I try to tell Tucker that he’s probably in the barn.

“Bawbah.”

“What’s that, dude?”

I point at the barn and say, “Bawbah.”

“Ball bat?”

No, dummy, barn! You try to say it with a soft palate that feels like pudding. “Bawbah, bawbah.”

Tucker looks around. “I don’t see a ball bat, dude. Besides, I don’t think it would be cool to bash in his front door with a baseball bat. He’s probably in the barn, anyway.”

Now you got, genius. I clap my fat little hands for him. He doesn’t quite pick up on the sarcasm.

“Aw, you havin’ fun little guy?” Then he tickles me under my chin. His fingers feel like sandpaper, but I can’t help but let out a little giggle, as if this wasn’t creepy enough already. I shake a baby fist at him and promise him in slobbery gibberish that the second I get back to normal, I’m kicking his fucking ass.

“Well, right back atcha little fella.”

We get to Edgar’s barn and Tucker bangs on the door.

“Yo, Edgar! It’s Tucker. You in there?”

Silence for a second, then a sad sounding, “Yeah.”

“You still got your wool sweater?”

The door swings open and Edgar shuffles out on four sheep hooves.

“It didn’t work,” he says. Then he looks up and me and Tucker. “Wait, Tucker? That’s actually you in there?”

“Yeah, it worked for me and Julia last night. We’re back, baby. But what about you?”

He shakes his sheep head. “I came in here last night, uncovered the machine and got it all turned on, and that’s when I remembered the Feds took my body away yesterday. I’m probably off in some government bunker somewhere with a prod up my butt and wires stuck to my boys.”

Tucker grins at me and says, “Sounds like a typical Saturday night for you, Edgar.”

I snort and spit up a little formula on his arm. And I’m pretty sure I sharted. He looks at the white stuff on his arm. “Aw, man. That’s gross.”

You don’t even know the half of it yet, dude.

“Always with the jokes,” Edgar says. “Even in a situation as serious as this.” He looks at me. “So if the machine does work, then that means… Oh no. Billy’s gone, isn’t he? And Tina? Did Tina…”

“Well, about that. Kind of a snag.” Tucker looks at me and says, “You wanna tell him or you want me to?”

I’ll handle it, dude. I say, “Hi Egger.”

As royally screwed as this situation is, I must admit it’s kinda fun to see the reactions here. Edgar’s sheep eyes get all wide and his sheep mouth drops open.

“Wa-a-a-a-ait a second, did Little Rico just talk? Did he just say ‘Edgar’?”

“Yeah, he did. But he ain’t Little Rico. Wave to the nice sheep-man, Billy.”

I wave my chubby little hand at Edgar.

“What the f-u-u-u-u-u-“

“Excuse me, folks.”

Tucker spins us around to face Agents Tim and Joey. “Jesus, guys,” he says. “You scared the shit outta me. Stop sneaking around like that.”

They stammer and shuffle their feet and look at each other nervously. Agent Tim rubs the back of his neck and won’t look us in the eyes. Neither of them seems to be himself this morning.

Agent Joey says, “Folks, we, uh… We have a situation here.”

Tucker sniffs the air. “You smell that?” He looks down at me and sniffs again and takes his typical Tucker-minute to figure out the obvious. “Aw, man! No way you just did that!”

* * *

“You might as well learn to do it now.” Julia’s standing next to the changing table grinning like crazy at Tuck. He’s got a fresh diaper in one hand and a bottle of baby ass powder in the other.

“You said last night the first thing you want to do when this all gets fixed is start a family, remember.”

Tucker looks down at me and says, “Yeah, and I do, but I don’t think this is quite the same.”

“Baby shit’s baby shit,” she says. “Besides, he’s your friend.”

His shoulders drop and he edges a little closer to the table. The smell hits him again and he looks like he’s about to toss. Any other day, I wouldn’t let Tucker near my kid with a diaper in hand, but that was before yesterday. Now, I just want somebody to get this shitty rag off of me, I don’t care who it is. I clap my hands and jabber something in the neighborhood of, “Let’s get this show on the road.”

“Alright, alright.” He takes a deep breath and dives in.

Now, I’m a proud poppa and I like to brag on my son all the time, but you gotta believe me when I say that the kid is packing some serious heat. That ain’t some big fish tale, either. I’m talking John Holmes, Jr. The little dude may never walk straight with the poundage he’s haulin’ down low. Tucker peels back the diaper real slow, like radioactive waste is going to leap out at him.

“Holy shit,” Tucker says. “This kid’s a carnival freak. Congrats, Billy. If you’re half the man your son is, I’m jealous.”

Julia says, “Alright, enough of that. Let’s get this over with and find out what the hell the FBI guys are crowing about.” She stands next to him and tells him what to grab and where to use the disposable wipes. The second that cold, wet thing hits my ass I lose all control. Tucker’s got no chance and I hose him down. Looks like a water cannon shooting into the air, like Mentos in Diet Coke. I think I even get some in his hair.

“Dude! Aw… Dude! That was NOT cool!”

Sorry, dude.

No, not really.

“Your first diaper change,” Julia says with a huge smile on her face. “I think this is a moment we’ll never forget.”

* * *

“What I’m about to tell you does not go beyond this room.” Agent Tim adjusts his tie and clears his throat. We’re all seated at my kitchen table watching him as he tries to be as professional as a guy who slept in his suit last night can be. “I’m sure you know there was another incident last night. More switches have occurred, including…”

He looks at Agent Joey, who nods his head. Tim says, “Including us.”

Tucker stops drying his hair with a towel for a sec and says, “Wow. Ya know, I never would have guessed. You guys really do act quite a bit alike.”

Joey says, “We are trained to handle most stressful situations with calm, but this one has us a bit… on edge.”

Tim says, “I’m freakin’ a little over here.”

Rico knocks over the bottle in front of him and farts, a good, loud ripper. The noise surprises him and he giggles and says, “Abu Dhabi.”

Joey looks at him and says, “Mr. Gillespie, are you feeling OK?”

I say, “Goey. I Biwwie.”

Tucker says, “Wow, you’re getting’ pretty good, dude.”

“Tanks.”

Agent Tim, whose only real difference is the fact that he’s now a black guy, says, “Is that baby talking?”

Joey, now in the skinnier, taller body of Agent Tim, leans forward to get a closer look at me. “Oh no. You didn’t sleep in the baby’s room last night, did you?”

“Ya. Iwasa assigent.”

Joey looks at Julia. “What did he say?”

“I think he said it was an accident.”

“Yeah. That seems to be going around lately.”

Edgar trots into the middle of the room and plops down on his haunches. “I wanna know where my body is. I could be back to normal right now if you a-a-a-assholes didn’t kidnap me yesterday. My civil rights are bein’ violated here.”

Agent Joey seems to be quite a bit calmer than his partner, who’s just standing there staring at me with his mouth kinda open. Joey says, “Mr. Winter, we apologize for the inconvenience, but your body was removed as a matter of national security. We’re trying to figure this out as fast as we can.”

“Lot of good you guys are. You can’t even keep it from happening to yourselves.”

“Yes, that was unexpected. We were not informed of the signal’s reemergence in time.”

Edgar says, “Um, signal?”

Joey realizes he just let the cat out of the bag. He thinks for a sec then says, “OK, what I’m about to tell you is classified. You may not repeat this information to anyone.” Joey looks at Tim, but he’s not really with us right now. Joey keeps going. “There were reports of an unknown signal originating from somewhere in this town. A… foreign signal, previously unrecorded. Without getting into too much, I’ll just say that it… interacted with an existing government signal and something happened. That’s why we were sent here yesterday.”

Sonuvabitch. Just like Terry Bradshaw said in my dream last night.

“But we couldn’t find the signal anywhere, it was gone. Then it came back on last night and it happened again. Our superiors informed us this morning that there has been another rash of new incidents all over town, but also reports of reversal of the original mix up, as was the case with the Dentons here. I didn’t inform our superiors of our condition, however.” He paused and stared out the window.

“I don’t know why I didn’t. I should have. Hell, I have a responsibility to do so. But I just couldn’t. They’ve issued a pull out order for every agent and unaffected person and quarantined the entire area. This town is now completely surrounded and the federal government has no intention of letting anyone in or out of here.”

Agent Joey looks at each one of us. I didn’t think it was possible for Tim’s face to be any more serious, but Joey manages it. He says, “Before the signal disappeared again early this morning, they managed to pinpoint it to somewhere in this general vicinity. A containment crew is gearing up right now and they’re going to tear apart about three square miles until they find the source of that signal. We are smack dab in the middle of that search area.” Joey looks at Edgar. “Now that I’ve told you this, is there anything you guys want to tell me?”

We all look at each other. I guess the jig is finally up. Julia nods at Edgar.

“In my barn,” he says. “There’s a machine. The source of your signal. It’s alien technology from the nineteen-fifties.”

Joey doesn’t say anything, just looks real grim and serious. Julia says real worried, “What will they do with us?”

“You will all be detained. As will we. I don’t know what is going to happen to us.”

Tucker says, “Well that’s not very reassuring. You work for these guys, why are you telling us this? Shouldn’t you be lying to us and trying to make us feel better about this situation?”

“Normally, yes, but this is the government we’re talking about. We all have good reason to worry.”

Just then we hear the distant thump of a helicopter.

“That’s them,” Joey says. “They’ll be here soon, before the sun goes down.”

Tucker says, “So what the hell are we supposed to do?”

“Tewwie Bahshaw.”

Tucker looks at me. “What?”

I clear a little baby mucus from my throat and try again. “Tewwie Badshaw.” Alright, got a ‘D’ out.

“Terry Bradshaw?”

Julia rolls her eyes. “God, Billy, who cares about football right now?”

Of course she doesn’t get it, but right away Tucker senses I’m trying to say something important. Any mention of TB gets the attention it deserves in these parts. I’d hug him right now if I could.

“Whatcha trying to say, Billy? What about Terry Bradshaw?”

I take a deep breath. This is gonna take awhile.

* * *

Tucker’s chugging real hard on it. Some of it is sticking, but not all of it. “So, Terry Bradshaw told you what was happening, but he gave you, like, three different explanations?”

“Uh huh.”

“And you think he knows what’s really going on?”

“Uh huh.”

“And you think we need to bring him here to figure everything out because he explained it all in a dream?”

“Eggsactwy.”

Tucker looks at everybody else. “Makes sense enough to me. Let’s go snatch us a Hall of Fame quarterback.”

Julia just laughs, one of those kinds of laughs that sound like they’re spit out of her mouth. “You gotta be shitting me, Billy.”

Little Rico says, “Sitting me, Bibby.”

“Watch youw wangwauge, Juwia.”

“Sorry, Billy, but this is ridiculous. You’re suggesting that we bust through a government quarantine and drive to, what, New York? Or Los Angeles? Do you even know where this guy is at? All so we can kidnap a washed-up ex-football player and bring him here because he told you what was going on in a freakin’ dream? Do you not realize how crazy that sounds?”

Tucker says, “I think they do their NFL show in New York.”

“Juwia, it’s about as cwazy as saying I’m stuck in da body of my five-monf owd baby son.”

Tucker says, “Hey, you’re getting really good at talking, dude.”

“Fanks, Tuckew.”

Julia looks to Agent Joey for some help. He holds his hand out to her as if to say hold on there a sec. “I hear what you’re saying, ma’am, and I understand your point, but…”

“But? BUT? What the hell do you mean, but? You can’t seriously be considering this idea.”

“Well, frankly ma’am, in the past thirty hours, I’ve seen more stuff that hasn’t made sense to me than has. And this idea has as much merit as anything I had in mind.”

“Juwia, what do we have to wose here?”

“How about our lives, Billy? If you try to leave town, they’re gonna shoot you. Don’t you remember ‘Outbreak’?”

“You weawy need to stop watching dose VHS tapes.”

“OK, fine, whatever. I won’t take part in this, so you guys can just go do what you want. Get shot, see if I care.” She gets up from the table and storms out to the living room.

“I guess I better go talk to her,” Tucker says.

Tucker goes out to the living room. I hear the TV click on and the volume go up, drowning out the sound of Tucker’s voice as he tries to reason with her. All I can hear is Matt Lauer.

“The Today Show is live from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania this morning, and joining us in about thirty minutes will be Fox NFL analyst and Steelers legend, Terry Bradshaw.”

Then I hear Tucker. “Whoa, what did he say?”

Julia says, “I don’t frickin’ believe it.”

Tucker comes rushing back to the kitchen. “Dude, they just said on the news Bradshaw’s in Pittsburgh, right now!”

Agent Joey jumps up, a little awkward given his taller, skinnier, pasty white frame. “How far is Pittsburgh from here?”

“It’s ownwy wike firty minutes away!”

Julia stands in the hall watching as three eager faces look her way. She throws up her hands. “OK, whatever. Let’s go to Pittsburgh, I guess.”

Edgar presses his nose against the screen door, munching away at some grass. “Did somebody just say we’re goin’ to Pittsburgh?”

To be Continued…

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