Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Memories at the Monkey-Hog Saloon

by Cap'n Neurotic

Genre: Western
Pop Culture: Tickle Me Elmo, MTV, Rosie O'Donnell

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“Well tickle me Elmo and call me Spanky!” slurred the drunk who had just collapsed at Ford’s feet. The gunslinger did a double-take, shaken by the sot’s turn of phrase.

“You okay, pardner?” the dealer asked, and Ford waved the concern away.

“Just need to stretch my legs for a minute,” he said, pushing away from the card table. He knew the other players in the saloon would assume he was answering the call of nature again, but that was fine; better they think he had the bladder of an octogenarian spinster than they realize that the ramblings of the town drunkard could put him into such a state. He quickly strode out of the Monkey-Hog Saloon, so named for the rare creature rumored to live in the badlands surrounding the town of Chadwyck, although Ford suspected that its name came less from the fact that the creature was fabled to resemble some weird hybrid of a chimp and a sow than the fact that the whole idea was monkeyshines and hogwash. Still, the usual cynical thoughts which would flash through his mind at shenanigans like the obviously fake stuffed monkey-hog topping the saloon’s entrance were nowhere to be found, drowned out by the tumult conjured by his encounter with the drunk Pacing down the dusty street, he struggled to purge his mind of the images from that night 15 years previous when his youthful quest for enlightenment had led instead to nightmares.

As a young boy, Ford had always felt that he had a special destiny awaiting him, and after the massacre which had robbed him of his family he had set off to discover what that destiny could be. He eventually followed tales of a nomadic Indian tribe whose true name was unknown to all and whose shaman possessed the power to pierce the veils of time. It had taken him months to find the tribe, and then over a year of living with them to prove himself worthy to consult the shaman for guidance. The ceremony itself was cloaked in the fog of memory, with brief snatches surfacing from time to time: he remembered the sweat lodge; remembered the strange incense whose smoke flooded his lungs; remembered the rhythmic chanting which lulled him into a trance; and then, more than anything else, he remembered the visions that followed, terrible visions of another place and time: a shivering, red-haired monstrosity with its deafening high-pitched giggles; a box filled with images of young girls decked out in skimpy clothes and performing lewd gyrations that would have made Ms. Posey, the local madam, blush; a loud-mouthed harridan assailing a handsome mustachioed man about his right to bear arms; these sights and sounds filled his mind, and did many more, some more horrible than others.

When he had regained consciousness, he had found himself alone, abandoned in the middle of the now-deserted field where the tribe had last encamped. Even with the considerable tracking skills he had learned in his year with them, Ford was unable to find a trace that they had ever been there; indeed, in the many years since then the mysterious tribe had remained as elusive as their ineffable name. His only souvenirs were the frequent nightmares fueled by the strange visions, and the odd stares from many a companion over the years who, after having to listen to a night of his restless mumblings, would ask him questions such as “What is this ‘emteevee’ and why do you want it so bad?” or “I hope I never meet this Rosie O’Donnell of yours, boy, it sounds like she hurt you but good.”

After a few minutes, Ford was able to shake the uneasy feelings the drunkard had inadvertently caused, and he returned to the Monkey-Hog Saloon to reclaim his place at the card table and, he hoped, reclaim some of his money as well.

“Feeling better, friend?” asked Blonde John, the dandified card sharp to Ford’s left, whose faux geniality failed to conceal the condescension which dripped from every syllable that dropped from his mouth. From the instant Ford had met Blonde John, he had detested him; the slick-haired so-called gentleman’s clothes reeked of too much privilege, his vocabulary reeked of too much education, and his tendency to use both to intimidate others reeked of too little class. Having to play against him had set Ford’s teeth on edge earlier; now that his concentration was shaken, he was afraid he was going to need to swipe a horse tranquilizer off of the doc just to keep from losing his cool.

“So, what is it you do?” Blonde John asked, absentmindedly fingering his daffodil cufflinks as the next hand was dealt.

Ford had witnessed the cocky player weasel his way into the heads of the other players over the course of the evening, and decided he wasn’t going to provide the forked-tongued devil any ammo to shake Ford’s game. “Me? I’m just a student of the human condition,” Ford said with an air of distraction.

Blonde John snorted. “Oh, yes, I see, I haven’t just stumbled into any old saloon,” he snarked. “Why, it’s really just a psychiatric experiment in disguise, and you’re part of its Byzantine ruse.” The snobbish dandy grew more agitated as Ford studiously ignored his ribbing. “So, let’s see-- you’re a ‘student of the human condition,’ disguised as a pugnacious scofflaw, with no one the wiser. I’m sure our dealer here is a trained alienist, using our betting habits to write his thesis. And Ms. Posey over there, well, obviously she is secretly an erudite sexologist, and not just a common tram--”

His comment was cut short as Ford’s fist shot out, knocking the loudmouth backwards onto the ground; dazed, Blonde John reached for his gun, only to stop when he realized that the barrel of Ford’s revolver was inches away from his forehead.

“You really need to watch your mouth,” Ford said in a toneless voice.

“Ah, yes, in retrospect, I suppose I should,” Blonde John said carefully, obviously reassessing his position and not wanting to exacerbate the situation. “I suppose when I reminisce about this with my grandchildren one day, I shall describe it as the day a student of the human condition taught me something, eh?” Ford recognized the battered man’s feeble attempt to save face, and slowly put his gun back in its holster; there was a small corner of his mind that still hated resorting to such behavior, but over the years as his quest for a greater purpose in life had brought him nothing but pain and misery, he had come to accept that such actions were the only way to get along in this world.

“Hahaha, that tickles!” The voice of one of Posey’s girls flirting with a flush prospector sent chills down Ford’s spine as he was once again plagued by the high-pitched echoing cries of a strange creature from another time and place.

1 comment:

Redneck. Diva. said...

I LOVE it. Love it!

I, too, have heard Elmo's (Or "Momo" as Abby used to call him) maniacal giggles in my nightmares... She's 10 1/2 and her Tickle Me Elmo still cackles like the day he was first tickled.

(shudder)