Posted on: July 18th, 2010 Grudge Match

by Jason S. Ridler

The champ was sleeping off his victory in the crushed lazy boy throne, his robe rising and falling with his medicine ball gut, while the Palooka recovered in his corner, the champ’s words beating a path through two black eyes and a soft skull.

“No pain, no gain, son.”

The Palooka shuffled from his seat, pain etched in every nerve. Dead soldiers named Bud and Miller clanked at his feet. The Champ stirred, then settled.

The TV silently blared a movie from the only channel they had: a Sunday afternoon black belt theatre extravaganza. Thank god the Champ was asleep. He called those chop suey types fag-fu fairies, but the Palooka thought they were Shaolin super heroes.

On screen was a rage-faced warrior, hands covered in metal spurs, punching with piston strength as the tacks flew off, fighting against killer odds.

A comeback hatched in the Palooka’s head.

With an old beer crate, he ignored the pain and collected bottles, one by one, ninja quiet. Each time he laid the bottles down with a soft clank, the Champ snored a little louder, until there was one dead soldier left . . . in the Champ’s closed, meaty fist.

Brave as a samurai, the Palooka grabbed a Coke bottle from the table, gripped the longneck sprouting from the Champ’s fist, and did an ol’ switchero-

The Champ grunted like a gagging walrus . . . then settled down.

The Palooka exhaled slow, gripped the crate, and tip-toed out of the room. He stopped in the kitchen, looking for anything sticky, but all he found was molasses older than God. He grabbed it, slipped on his third-hand combat boots, and took his bounty to the garage, pulling down the door and snapping the lock. In a metal trash bin, he dumped the bottles. Then he stepped inside, jumping and crushing them under his boots.

Bellows and screams erupted from house. The Champ was up. The Palooka crushed and crushed. Hammer fists gonged the garage door. “Quit that racket, you sneaky shit!”

The Palooka climbed out. The bottom of the can was rife with brown and green shards, a million tiny spurs, each a painful snowflake. “Make me,” said the Palooka.

There was a jingle of keys. The Palooka covered his hands in molasses, took a deep breath, and dove his hands in the bin. The door rolled up as he screamed.

The Champ’s robe flapped in the wind. He pushed his combover back in place, then saw the Palooka. “Jesus,” said the Champ. “What kind of freak are you?”

Blood ran down the Palooka’s arms as thick as the red robes of a Shaolin warrior. The fresh pain was slick and bright, clearing the old bruises from his head. “What is it you say, Champ? No pain, no gain.”

The Palooka charged, throwing fists instead of putting up his guard, driving punches and kicks and watching the Champ’s blood fly for a change. No more waltzing backward to the beat of another man’s knuckles. He was gunning forward, a savage dance that turned the concrete red and slippery. The Champ did a hangover shuffle and fell on his back, dodging like a fairy-fag-fu-master.

But the Palooka picked him up, fists meaty red and brown and sparkling with shards. “Who’s smiling now, champ? Who’s smiling now!”

He cracked him with a combo he’d seen a thousand times in reverse and the bone and glass tore the Champ to shreds. All that was left was an ugly mug, torn and frayed, lying at his feet.

Dripping with victory, the Palooka stumbled outside and slammed the garage door shut. Inside, he fell into the victory throne and jammed the remote with his mashed hand. Sound crackled from the TV. The Black Belt movie flooded in as blood flowed out. He sank deep in the chair, a bright river stretching out to meet the TV. Before him, a shirtless master of the arts appeared in black and white and spoke to the Palooka.

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless – like water. . . .” Already there, boss, the Palooka thought. “Now water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”

The Palooka nodded as the chair waved in the brown and red sea of victory, and he drifted off to parts unknown.

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Posted on: July 4th, 2010 H.P. Lovecraft’s Stellar Seafood Chowder

by Alexander Lumans

1.    Buy 1 Cthulu.  When buying, check for green pulpy head, prodigious claws, rudimentary wings.  Between 14 and 19 tentacles.  Store in large cooler.

2.    Buy 1 six-pack of Samuel Adams Boston Lager.  Remember: it’s your birthday.  You’re a big boy now, H.P.  And you can go by “Howard.”  Go back inside the store and buy another six-pack.  Place in cooler with Cthulu.

3.    In medium skillet, sauté 2 tbsp. diced onions and 2 garlic cloves in butter over medium-low heat.  Add flour.  Set aside.

4.    Turn on Dutch oven.  Realize that you do not own a Dutch oven, nor know what one is.  Castigate yourself for not planning ahead.  Substitute large, dingy soup pot.

5.    Peel and dice three potatoes.  Cut your middle finger.  Complain up the staircase that you wouldn’t have these problems if Mother would share the cooking duties every once in a while.  You don’t mind cooking, but why are you the only one around here who buys groceries anymore?

6.    Mother is dead.

7.    Remove 8 oz. imitation crab meat from refrigerator.  Sigh.  Next year: real crab.  Drain into bowl 1 cup clam juice from 3 cans.

8.    Peel, de-vein, and decapitate 12 large shrimp.  Cringe while de-veining.  Set shrimp meat in bowl with crab.  Place shrimp heads on your fingers.  Put on a puppet show.  Sigh again.

9.    Stare at cooler in the corner as cooler’s top rises of its own horrific accord.  1 tentacle slithers out and drops 1 bottle cap on the carpet.  Consider making Bagel Bites instead.

10.     Turn pot to medium-low heat.

11.     Drink 1 Sam Adams.  You’ve earned it, Howard.  You’re a Lager Man now.  Find 3 bottles missing in the cooler, 1 Cthulu slightly inebriated.

12.     Pour into pot 1½ cups of milk and 1 cup heavy cream.  This is going straight to your hips, Howard.  How are you ever going to find a girl?  You will look like the town blob.

13.     Add 1 cup water, diced potatoes, clam juice, 1 tsp. ground tarragon, 1½ black pepper.  Salt to taste.  Add onion, garlic, and flour mix.  Stir madly.

14.     Let cook for 25 minutes.  Drink 2 Sam Adams.

15.     Test potatoes for doneness.  Add salt.  Drink 2 more Sam Adams.

16.     Suffer from night terrors.  Gamble with sanity.

17.     Add shrimp and crab to pot.  Fold into the agglutination.

18.     Fetch 1 Cthulu from cooler.  Stumble with its bloated corpulence.  Feel drunker than you should be, but that’s what you get for only eating Lucky Charms today.  Ask Cthulu, “May I huve dis danzes?”  Dance with equally inebriated Cthulu into kitchen.  Drop Cthulu into pot.  Secure lid with C-clamps and bike lock.

19.     Wait.  Cook until screaming stops.

20.     Drink (the last?!) 2 Sam Adams.  Cry.  Wish Father had not died of syphilis.  Be glad your parents cannot see you now.

21.     Prepare ½ cup sour cream and ½ cup diced chives for topping.  Find neither in the kitchen.  Substitute Cool Whip and breath mints.

22.     Remove clamps and lock.  Your chowder should resemble a green, sticky spawn of the stars.  Let cool.

23.     Set table for three.  Ladle chowder into bowls.  Add toppings.  Sit down, say grace, gaze into bowl.  See Cyclopean shoggoths.  See Elder Things and Old Ones.  The Nefandous Horror of Reality.  Decide that the universe is fundamentally alien, and that you are too drunk to eat right now.  Vow that next year will be different.

24.     Fly to Antarctica.

25.     Never come back.

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