Lisa the Vegetarian’s boathouse was still anchored off the west coast of New Island, but she had failed to find her brother, just like Wendy (one of ’em, perhaps the right one?) did before her. She’d heard of Picturetown by now and 102. She knew that the number stood for a game of roshambo, otherwise known as rock paper scissors, like the first 3 chapters of the red book and something to truly contemplate why this is so. Biff Carter might know. After all, he’s in it, but not the first 3. Instead the 4th, where triangle turns to square. He is just as dirty (in the book) as the doctor, the main character of the 4th. Instead of a private dick, he is a restaurant owner, perhaps of the Red Dress Diner if we mix up and combine realities again. But Biff Carter has been revealed — there — by his wife of all people, to be the same as Axis and may not reappear in this here photo-novel (24 in a series of 20; getting close to the end!), his story seemingly resolved but we’ll see. Maybe he leaves his cherished red book in a special place (Red Dress Diner again?) for someone else to find, perhaps Barry De Boy, or maybe one of the Wendys who seem destined to be a mate to him, like Biff-as-Axis has been paired off with… Wendy? Wheeler? We need to combine more characters, it seems. Have them play the triune game as well to whittle downward.
Axis is not Barry De Boy. I do have that much.
I wonder what chapter she’s on?
I figured a major part of my job now was to figure out who 102 actually is. Or was. This Maebaleia or Satori horned demon highlighting DANGER could be a clue. I know Danger also equates with Dead: Dead Cat Soap, etc.
It’s Bart Smipson but it’s not Bart Smipson. Another ragamuffin of the streets.
It was that t-shirt. He was covering up the t-shirt with his arm. He didn’t want the passing camera to see (!). Or he was indicating the shirt to… me; crossing it. Blood on his… shirt. We’re entering ghost territory (again). He disappears behind a telephone pole. A dead end (in Picturetown). We’ve seen enough. ENOUGH. Gates closed. Text begins again as Barry X. Vampire takes over.
We lie in a pool of blood as Bart Smipson towers above us, Giant for a day.
I think I’ll bring Biff Carter back into the picture. He was the one to let it happen — was on his watch. Demoted to private dick he was after that, no better than a Moby Prick consigned to swim the Southern depths of hell below aerial, pie in the sky Heaven. He was in dark toned, ironically named New Eden. Sometimes he was back on the beat thanks to a shortage of personnel in the local police department due to all those pills. But what of Orkley Andy who was probably the same as Oakley Annie the Ohioan gunslinger? Let it pass, let it slide, Cpt. Henry said as history repeats itself. 3 dead is pretty good numbers for that kind of escapade. We got away with something. Let him get away with it too. Say it was his dog hiding under his couch; go with his story. Hunter the dog — a good story, a *true* story. And so Biff Carter wrote that particular slant in his report, not mentioning the bodies (soon carted away by the ever-present zombies) or the red dress smiling on the ground before him (soon carted away by a female zombie or perhaps a male one experimenting with his sexual identity). All evidence gone and taken care of. He heads down to the Red Dress Diner to talk about all of it with Phyllis at the time…
“Wanda, hi. Where’s Phyllis? I thought it was her shift — just spoke to her over the phone.” Where’s your red dress? he thought.
“Axis. We really need to talk now.”
He had a good look at the back of the bartender from his seat but she wasn’t his type, a bold bodied Jessica Rabbit sort from the Roger Rabbit movie franchise, a mixture of cartoon and caricature. The person actually sitting at the bar nearer him was more interesting, but not necessarily in a sexual way. More like she had information he needed to know — he didn’t know how he knew this but he knew. He *knew* he knew. He was becoming aware of who he was. And this dame — woman — was going to help him over the edge. Back to Canada and Picturetown and the alley with the 102 signature and Charlene the Bigfoot punk and all the other stuff. She was reading — he liked to read, at least the red book. He asked what it was; this was her cue. She turned to face him, scars and all.
“Axis,” she requested. “It’s time to give up the gig.”
Axis? Wendell “Biff” Carter thought. Was this role play? Okay, he could go along. “I’ll give up the gig, then, if you tell me what you’re reading.”
“I’m reading the book you have read. I’m reading the book you have *written*.” She showed him the cover, emblazoned with an inky black swastika as big as an alternate 3rd Reich that actually won WWII. Still didn’t mean anything to him. This was 1939 after all. The big switch hadn’t happened yet.
“Okayyy.” He calculates how to further advance this strange conversation. It had been a strange day. First he was awoken at 5 in the morning and asked to fill in for Philburg down at the station, who was sick on pill. Then during his beat (back on the beat!) he encountered a highly dangerous criminal named Orkley Andy — so close to Oakley Annie! — but turned out to be a sweet guy who had lost his dog Hunter who was just hiding under the couch because of all the gunshots. Never mind the cat stench and the almost cleaned up blood stains. Never mind Phyllis down at the Red Dress diner. Orkley Andy had him phone her up on his phone. She’s okay! Orkley Andy wasn’t a bad sort, just a gun sort. Biff had to ask. “Are you related to the famous gunslinger Oakley Annie?” “Never heard of her,” Orkley lied through his gold capped teeth.
How blind could Biff be? He refocused out of his thoughts and onto the stranger’s face again. So familiar. “Don’t I know you?” — making her huff and leave the place. She’d have to try another time.
Wendell “Biff” Carter was going to run away as far as possible, leaving danger and possible death behind. But he stops when he sees the red dress. He hovers over it. Phyllis, he realizes. He turns toward the hangout. She must be inside. In danger!
But the red dress was actually Phyllis’ co-worker Wanda’s who’s the sister-in-law of Philburt’s 2nd cousin Ethel. Philburg’s revenge continues into yet another post, and perhaps yet another and another. This goes beyond danger into the great beyond. If only he could smell the cat stench all about the place. Soap, the new, extra gritty stuff bought at the local Hurdy Gurdy to wash out all the crime stains.
Orkley Andy had stopped shooting a while back, with everybody dead that was hot on his trail. In this way he snuck up on Biff. He looked over, understanding the red dress bait had glued him to the spot, heh heh heh. He laughs aloud: “Heh heh heh.”
Biff Carter was filling in for Philburg Johnson Jones, sick with the pill. Back on the beat for the first time in a while. Cpt. Henry needs to get these boys a new set of wheels, Biff thinks while staking out a rough joint and catching up with his red book, the one with him in it (the *other* Biff Carter). Paper, he ponders while rereading chapter 2 for the 17th billionth time. Sure glad it beats scissors or we’d all be in a fix.
Suddenly: gunshots in the distance. The City was a tough, rough place, he knew. He was not a cop now but a private dick, forced to retire from the force after the Oakley Annie debacle. Gun selling was illegal in the Great Black Swamp and Biff Carter well knew it. He just let it slip, like all those dickhead cops before him. He was just unlucky enough to get caught. Oakley Annie gunned down a bigger gun this time: the mayor of Swamp Fox. And now he’s stuck in this ruddy city of all places. New Eden, pheh. But now: a possible opening. Philburg has a history of illness and may not make it this time, with the pill harder and harder to get over. Phyllis the waiter told him this down at the Red Dress Diner. She’s popped enough; she should know. More gunshots. Should he go check? Nah, not his responsibility. He may not even remember how to fire his pistol after all this time. What was it: Alcatraz? Or maybe Gettysburg. Yeah, the latter. Philburg would know. He was the one who got hit in the foot by the stray shot. This started the pills. Ahh, it all goes in a big circle. He shot Philburg, Philburg shoots pills, Pills shoot… ahh, he’ll work on it. Point is, he may get Philburg’s job because of an accident that happened a number of years back now. Last time he filled in on the force. He could work up to 30 hours a year per his early retirement agreement. And this is 10 of ’em today. Now’s his chance, he senses. No more shooting people (or himself!) in the foot.
The gunshots get closer. At a certain point, it’s obvious they are heading his way. “Shoot and darnit,” he cusses, trying to start the old police jalopy in order to run away from danger. But the tires had gone flat in the meantime. He’d have to face whoever was causing all the trouble head on. Most likely this was their hangout. Was Philburg behind this? he suddenly guesses. Was he… getting back at him? As soon as Biff Carter thinks this, he knows it is truth. This is…
“It’s a landscape tile, perfectly square and I don’t think it could be here by accident. Just thought you’d like to know, Baker Bloch.”
“Well um, *thanks* Biff Carter.”
“I have an office set up already in The City to start examining the oddities of this area. This — New Eden.”
“That’s great. I wish you well. Let me know what you find.”
“I’ll send you a report daily.”
“Er, what about Cassandra City? I thought that was your base? Did you have a falling out with the guy in the trench coat? Wait — I suppose *you’re* that guy, or the replacement. Comedy over gravity and the like.”
Biff Carter thought about this for a change before replying. He didn’t want to become totally stream of consciousness. I realized who he might be tonight.
“We have a mutual friend.”
Thought so. But what of the square landscape tile? It *was* here. And he was right: ’twas a strange phenomenon and I don’t think it could be accident. Must be the work of Carrcassonnee again. I understand she has a car now that she can steer around. CAR.
“Don’t get to close to it,” peering Biff Carter warned once more. “Could be radioactive; could be a plant.. er, planted here by Umbrella.”
“Yeah, been meaning to ask you about that. Who, or what, is Umbrella? Red or maybe red and white striped.”
“Strip, yes.” Did he say strip?
“They lived by a great swamp. Today it would be called a wetland. But it was a textbook swamp. Crystal clear water, sandy bottom. Salamanders everywhere.”
I was waiting for someone wearing a trench coat but instead got Biff Carter, with only a vest. It was a nice vest, though, very retroactive and film noir-ish in a Ray Chandler type of way. I knew the man sometimes inhabiting Biff was a fan, just as *I* was a fan of the man sometimes inhabiting the man. I need to keep READing (his stuff). Honeypot — Pooh pulling. Red Umbrella: Pooh is holding in a corner as far away from centre as possible. The purple and yellow honey pot in a blue cart; noisily bouncing along the grainy, rough-hewed sidewalk of a town also in the Middle of it all. Middletown, US of A, with the Green (City) on one farside and the Gray(s) on another. Farside — another relation to the man inside the man. Fox Island. Swamp — Swamp Fox. It was all coming together. Or completely falling apart — I knew it was one or the other but didn’t know which yet. Biff Carter slid into the booth again, starting over. This was take 21. Director Bob Waffleburg was a perfectionist like his hero Stanley K. but not Stanley Kowalski. He’s different.
“I was — expecting someone else.”
“I know you were, I know you were,” he said. Biff Carter tended to repeat everything twice. At least on this take. He was tired of takes. He was ready to go home to his lovely wife Rowanda and play with his kids Sven and Duplexitous of 7 and 5 years old respectively. Duplexitous especially had skills in reading and math, although Sven was a wiz on the tracks and fields. They all mattered to him greatly. But filming paid for their swanky educations and star studded outfits and costumes. He needed to keep acting. Or at least accin, to use a Jim Jarmusch term. He makes a mental note to return to the Centerville concept and explore it more. But to the acting (or accin).
“I was told something about a trench coat. Did you forget?” Sandy Beech was *acting* offscript now. Bob told him to improvise when the moment felt right. Bob Waffleburg trusted his lead actor in this way. The 35 year old former used car salesman *using* Biff Carter for his arms and legs and torso and head and other bits right now was a bit more of an unknown. *He* was holding them back this time, not Alice Frame playing Wendy O’Donnell or something. Wait, it was Wendy something but not O’Donnell. Not yet — they hadn’t shot those scenes. That was her acting partner in that other film we’re trying to lure her away from. The one with all the Popeyes gathering together to gawk at the splashy, stormy sea. “Burger Wars” was a working name, and involved Alice Frame’s Wendy caught in a love triangle between King Winnifried Orange and Clown Renaldo O’Donnell. Then the hurricanes hit, and, yes, I said hurri*canes*, because there were two at once. (“Burger Wars” director) Chip Wassleboro tended to repeat as well when he got tired. And he wrote that part of the script about 2:01 in the morning before last Wednesday’s Monday’s Tuesday. So it was Thursday.
Then Sugar O’Cotton showed up, 10 minutes late. “Mind if I slide in?” she squeaked to now booth mate Pervimus Rex while doing just that. Pervimus couldn’t reply anyway since he wasn’t real.
“You know these spots on my blouse might look like blood stains but they’re really ketchup.” Still no answer.
(to be continued?)
“Umbrella, huh?” muttered private dick Wendell “Biff” Carter after he’d finally found the correct place to read in his red book. Read book? Anyway, maybe it’s just the correct *place*… to read his book. Paperville. In a coffee and pastry shop with some suspicious design parallels with the recently opened Bake’s Bakery over in Teepot. He can read it here; he can read it there. Hmm (again). Better get over for a shot of those “Umbrella dunces.” *This* is where Dunce Boy aka D Boy aka DeBoy (etc.) went after his hat transformation and acquiring that tracking red tie from either the Pot-D or Pan-Z tracking gang. Probably the latter, unless it is the former. Jeffrie Phillips would know. If we could find him. He’s disappeared too. Another suspicious
To that tell-tale Paperville sculpture:
The Boy is here!
New Nun switched from the red to the gray book in front of Big Dick’s Halfway Inn and realized something was late. Really late, like 20 years. Red across the road was warning from the past, kind of Dixie but also not.
Bullfrog saw the same thing in X City last year. Bullfrog didn’t live long after that, done in by a red hatted crazy chick in the formerly “Mild East” part of NWES City.
Speaking of which…
Hilter sat back down on the couch. He realized he was already chancellor of Germany. The year was 1939. Wendell “Biff” Carter sat beside him reading the red book and starting to figure it all out. He’d skipped twenty pages!
Right after his reading, he decides he’s going to head over to the Tome Raider and buy a proper bookmark.