Off the Deep State End (a Playlet about Your Fox News-Watching Uncle Phil)

The front yard of a middle class home. GLADYS, a woman in her sixties, is pruning flowers. HERB, an elderly mailman, enters with his mailbag.

HERB: Morning, Gladys.

GLADYS: Hi, Herb, how you doing?

HERB: Fine. Looks like it’s going to be a hot one.

GLADYS: Looks like it.

HERB pulls some mail out of his bag and offers it to to GLADYS. Just then, PHIL, GLADYS’ husband, also in his sixties, stalks out of the house with an AR-15 rifle pointed at HERB.

PHIL: All right, step back from the lady unless you want a new AR-15 ventilation system!

HERB raises his hands in the air and steps back.

GLADYS: Phil, what the hell are you doing?

PHIL: (approaching HERB cautiously) He’s an agent of the Deep State.

GLADYS: Deep State? It’s Herb, the mailman.

HERB: Phil, it’s me, Herb.

PHIL: Shut your mouth, you goddamned socialist!

GLADYS: He’s been delivering our mail for twenty years. What’s wrong with you?

HERB (offering PHIL an envelope) I’ve got your social security check here, Phil.

PHIL: You see that, Gladys? He’s Deep State all the way!

GLADYS: (to HERB) He’s been watching that Sean Hannity.

PHIL snatches the envelope from HERB.

PHIL: I don’t want your socialist hand-outs!

PHIL tears up the envelope and throws the pieces on the ground.

GLADYS: We need that money!

PHIL: We are rugged American individualists, Gladys! We will no longer participate in that utopian socialist Ponzi scheme.

HERB: Listen, Phil–

PHIL: Shut up, Herb! I don’t want any more of your goddamned socialist mail delivered here either. You tell your storm trooper buddies that will be the last letter they ever deliver.

GLADYS: Calm down, Phil. Remember Dr. Ghorbani said you shouldn’t do anything that raises your blood pressure.

PHIL: And that’s another thing. We are through with that Deep State boondoggle called Medicare! From now on, it’s home remedies and chicken soup around here.

GLADYS: You’ll be dead by the end of the month.

PHIL: Good, I’d rather be dead than a mindless, entitlement-sucking slave in the Deep State gulag.

HERB: Phil, don’t you think you’re being–

PHIL: Get off my property, you lazy bureaucrat! Unlike you, I worked for a living instead of sponging off the taxpayers all those years.

HERB: Sponging off the taxpayers?

PHIL: I worked hard, put myself through college–

GLADYS: With the help of the GI bill–

PHIL: Worked in the aerospace industry–

GLADYS: Which thrives on government contracts.

PHIL: I bought this house–

GLADYS: With a low interest, government-sponsored Fanny Mae loan.

PHIL: What is your point, Gladys?

GLADYS: My point is that if you really want to free yourself from the Deep State, you should give up your pension and your house because it’s all tainted with filthy, dirty Deep State government money.

PHIL: (looking ominously at GLADYS) Oh my God, Gladys…You’re…you’re…(an epiphany) You’re right…I’m Deep State.

PHIL stares at the ground and lowers his gun.

HERB: Take it easy, Phil.

PHIL: All these years I thought I was a bold Fox News freedom fighter, and in reality, I’m just another dupe in the socialist Deep State conspiracy.

GLADYS: Honey, we have some excellent counseling services available through our plan. Maybe we can–

PHIL: No, no, I don’t want some Ivy league commie shrink to brainwash me into being a compliant stooge of the Deep State.

HERB: I thought you said you were already a compliant stooge of the Deep State.

PHIL: (raising his gun) I said I was a dupe, not a stooge!

GLADYS: (trying to usher him back to the house) Honey, let’s get a nice cup of tea and–

PHIL: (pulling away from her) No, there’s only one thing for me to do…I’m going to turn myself in to Sean Hannity.


PHIL: It’s the right thing to do.

GLADYS: But Phil–

PHIL: My mind’s made up, Gladys…

PHIL turns and goes back to the house, his head sagging in shame.

HERB: I thought he turned himself in to Sean Hannity last week.


Nazi Mini Golf Kingpin Laundered Millions Through Dietrich’s Miniature Golf Valhalla

Dietrich’s Miniature Golf Valhalla laundered millions of dollars for the Mafia and Neo-Nazi groups.

After a nine month undercover investigation, police in New York have arrested miniature golf magnate Dietrich von Holst for money laundering and racketeering. The mercurial von Holst has been charged with using Dietrich’s Miniature Golf Valhalla, his Wagnerian Opera-themed mini golf chain with courses throughout the country, as a front for laundering millions of dollars acquired through the drug trade, prostitution, extortion and elementary school magazine subscription sales.

Von Holst initially raised suspicions because his chain seemed to be the preferred mini golf option for a cavalcade of organized crime figures in recent years. In 2014, a meeting of the five families took place at von Holst’s New York flagship mini golf course, and a Gambino crime family associate was killed during an altercation at the difficult 12th hole known as “Brunehilda’s Berm.”

Von Holst, 72, was born in Buenos Aires, where his father relocated from Germany at the end of the Second World War. He moved to the United States in 1969 and found work at the Babylonian Gardens Putt Putt Course in Buffalo, New York. He quickly learned the business and set out to start his own. Dogged by rumors of his father’s Nazi past, von Holst built and ran his miniature golf empire with an iron fist according to many former employees of the organization.

Von Holst courted controversy in 2017 when he hosted the “You Will Not Replace Us” Miniature Golf Tournament, a competition between the best “alt-right” miniature golfers in the country, some of whom were accused of being Neo-Nazis. Von Holst later claimed he did not know what “alt-right” meant, but former employees have said his National Socialist leanings were apparent to them.

Investigators discovered that von Holsts’ chain was raking in hundreds of millions of dollars more than its nearest mini golf rivals and that night couriers had been delivering large bags of cash to various franchises around the country. The money then went into shell companies co-owned anonymously by mobsters, Neo-Nazis, and elementary school magazine sales gangs.

Quarterback’s Primitive Religion Boosts Cougars’ Title Hopes

At first his teammates and some of their parents were alarmed by the primitive religious rituals quarterback Mark Shroeder was performing in the locker room before Winfield High School football games. And then they started winning. And winning some more.

Cougars quarterback Mark Shroeder invokes the ancient sky deity Karpinthicus.

The Cougars are 7-0 and seem to be a lock for the state championship game in December, and Shroeder’s play has been stellar so few are questioning his pre-game practices now. The ceremonies, which involve the two hundred and ten pound duel-threat sophomore QB chanting an eerie, guttural and nearly incomprehensible incantation while shaking a carved bone rattle and wearing a frightening ceremonial mask made from animal hides and festooned with feathers and seashell amulets, are performed in honor of Karpinthicus, an ancient sky deity Shroeder insists is the true creator of the universe.

“We were all a little freaked out about it before,” tight end Billy Lefleur noted. “I mean, I was raised Catholic, and we’ve got some pretty weird stuff with the Latin chanting, the incense and bells and all that. But this is a whole other level.” Some other players have joined Shroeder during his rituals, and at least a couple now consider themselves acolytes of Karpinthicus.

Some Christian parents of players on the team have complained that prayers for victory in football are the exclusive province of their God and have asked the coach to put a stop to what they see as Satanic activity. But Coach Ron Altieri said that he won’t interfere with players’ locker room pre-game rituals, especially with the streak the team is on. “As long as he doesn’t bring his mask and rattle out on the field, I don’t care. If he keeps firing those bullets on third and nine, he can paint himself purple, do the sacred mongoose dance and sacrifice a goddamned chicken in the locker room as far as I’m concerned.”

Jane Austen-Henry Miller Collaboration to Be Published

A manuscript discovered in a London attic in 2016 confirmed the long rumored literary collaboration between Jane Austen and Henry Miller. After the resolution of legal disputes between the heirs of the Austen and Miller estates, the work is finally to be published this year. Dangerous Neighbors presents an exclusive excerpt published for the very first time of Pride and Plexus.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of some action. Thus it was that Mrs. Bennet prevailed upon Mr. Bennet to invite Mr. Bingley, the new resident of Netherfield Park and recent winner of the most eligible bachelor poll in the Arrogant Aristocrat, to dinner, hoping that one of her daughters would catch the young gentleman’s eye and one day become Mrs. Bingley.

Naturally, she was disconcerted when an answer arrived from Mr. Bingley to the effect that he was obliged to be in London on account of a very important puppet show and therefore could not attend. Lady Lucas put Mrs. Bennet’s fears to rest, however, assuring her that while Mr. Bingley was perhaps exceedingly keen on puppet shows for a grown man, he still had a lot of money and that he was also probably planning to attend the upcoming ball where her daughters would have the opportunity to meet him.

When Mr. Bingley’s party entered the assembly room at the ball, it possessed six people: himself, his two sisters, the elder sister’s husband, his friend Mr. Darcy, a handsome but somewhat dour young man, and an odd, fortyish bald man of unwholesome disposition wearing peculiar round spectacles who straggled in behind the group and brazenly eyed the women in the room as he went.

Bingley, good-looking and of pleasant disposition, soon acquainted himself with everyone in the room. He was friendly and courteous, danced every dance, and apart from a strange habit of periodically holding his nose with his fingers and pretending to plunge under water as he danced, made a favorable impression on everyone.

Bingley also possessed an acute social sensitivity, so when he noticed several of the Bennet women grumbling to one another and looking angrily toward one corner of the room, he assumed that his friend Mr. Darcy, who was often somewhat aloof, was being his usual self. He approached his friend, who was leaning over the table and helping himself to hors d’oeuvres.

“Come, Darcy,” he said, “you must dance a number or two.”

Bingley was startled when the man leaning over the table turned around and looked at him. It was not Mr. Darcy, but rather the odd, fortyish bald man with the strange round glasses. He was vigorously masticating a cracker with a slice of ham on it, a large pink shred of meat hanging out the side of his mouth.

“Darcy took a powder,” the man mumbled, wiping some crumbs off his chest with his hand.

His face flushed with indignation, Bingley queried, “May I inquire as to who you are and precisely what you are doing here?”

“Keep your pants on, Bingy,” the man replied with a heavy Brooklyn accent. “It’s me, Henry.”

Flabbergasted, Bingley shot back, “I had no intention whatsoever of removing my trousers, sir, nor have I had any occasion to make the acquaintance of any Henrys. Furthermore, I should be very glad if you refrained from referring to me as ‘Bingy.'”

“Miller. Henry Miller. Don’t you remember, Bingy? Last summer on the Champs Elysees? You loaned me a few francs. We had some drinks. Talked some literature. You said if I was ever in England, I should–“

“Mr. Miller,” Bingley began, trying to keep his voice down so as not to attract attention,” even supposing what you say is true, this is hardly the time–“

“I went to your estate–quite a joint by the way–and your maid told me about the ball. I thought I’d come down, get a meal under my belt, make a touch and maybe tear off a piece, what? But all I’ve seen so far are these upper crust English bitches. And that pal of yours…Darcy. He’s a bad egg that one is, rotten clean through. He has all the charm of a boa constrictor. I told him to beat it.”

By this time Bingley was in a perfect rage, and was at pains to maintain his composure. “Now see here, Mr. Miller,” he sputtered,” I must tell you that your behavior and language are entirely insupportable and to be frank, perfectly horrid. You barge in here quite uninvited, help yourself to refreshments, insult my friend and offend the ladies in attendance with your vulgarity. Furthermore, your presence in this century and literary genre are not only impossible, but wholly inappropriate.

“I could say something about a time warp,” Miller shrugged, “but who’d buy it?”

“I am afraid I shall have to ask you to leave,” Bingley pronounced gravely.

“You didn’t think my presence was so inappropriate last summer when you were touring the Parisian whorehouse circuit with my consultation, did you?” Miller asked, cracking a wry smile.

“I was young and foolish, and I have since paid the price for it.”

“Ah, a little touch of the syph’ now and again is good for you,” Miller remarked, slapping Bingley on the back.

Just then Elizabeth Bennet, who had been sitting nearby, approached the two men.

“What’s all this about the syph’ then?” she inquired, her lovely, intelligent eyes on Bingley.

“Oh, uh, no, you misunderstood, Elizabeth,” Bingley stammered. “Mr. Miller noticed me sniffling and he said, uh, ‘a touch of the sniffles now and again is good for one.'”

“Bingy here’s got himself a nasty dose of the syph’,” Miller chimed in with a feigned look of concern on his face. “He looks fine on the outside, but underneath he’s like one of those health textbook photographs.”

“That’s not true, Elizabeth,” Bingley blurted out in a panic. “The chancres have all healed.” Bingley abruptly covered his mouth and his eyes were agape with horror and humiliation. “I…I…if you’ll excuse me,” he mumbled, his body seeming to shrink as he stumbled away.

Her eyes flashing with anger, Elizabeth turned on Miller. “Now see here. I don’t know who you are, sir, but your behavior is beastly–“

“The name’s Miller,” he cut in. “Will you excuse me for a moment while I assume the narrative? I can’t operate in this kind of prose…You understand.”

Having filled my belly with those lousy English hors d’oeuvres and made short shrift of that sanctimonious prick Bingley, I set about tackling Elizabeth Bennet, a tall order considering the ugly scene I had just created. She was no dumb tart, I could see that at a glance. I knew I’d have to do some pretty fast talking. She was standing there glaring at me with that unparalleled English indignation, but underneath it, I knew there was a sultry wench just waiting to have her ticket to the Land of Fuck punched. It hit me on the spot that the only thing to do was come at her from the sincerity angle, spill my guts as it were, make a clean breast of it.

“Listen,” I began, “I don’t have to tell you that I’m a worthless bastard. I can see that you’re pretty good at sizing people up. There’s no nobility in this mug, and there’s no family fortune or name behind me. I’m bald, obnoxious, penniless, and the critics think I’m a pervert. A lot of broads would be turned off, but I can see that you’re different.”

“I’m turned off,” she said without batting an eye.

“Surely you can’t find me less appealing than that Darcy stiff,” I replied.

“While Mr. Darcy is admittedly in want of social graces, he does possess rather pert buttocks.”

“True,” I conceded.

“And he has an enormous estate which is rumored to have at least two ping pong tables so there’s never any waiting.”

“That’s tough to pass up,” I let slip, nearly losing my grip on the situation. But I was not about to lose a first class piece of tail like Elizabeth Bennet to a couple of ping pong tables. “Listen, I hate to have to call your attention to this, but don’t you notice a certain…joie de vivre about me?”


“It’s French.”

“I know–I just never heard it with a Brooklyn accent before.”

“You see, it’s my belief that the guy with the fewest needs is the best off. Take myself for example. I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I’m the happiest man alive…except when I want to order a pizza. But you see my point. Most people spend their whole lives in lockstep with the death machine, preoccupied with petty concerns like food and shelter. Personally, I am much more interested in roaming Europe with a perpetual hard-on and a bottle of Pernod, a cockamamie Columbus in reverse, exploring the fucked-out, extinct crater of Western Civilization while Oswald Spengler dances the dance of death beneath a firmament sagging with blackened stars and filthy angel-whores crawling with crabs. Sounds juvenile, I know, but the great ones have often had to take strange detours in their journey to the self. Christ, Buddha, Gandhi, Dostoyevsky, Jack Dempsey–who knows what sort of cockeyed stunts they pulled on their way to enlightenment? Not that I’m comparing myself to those birds, mind you. No, I’m just a Brooklyn boy and maybe the last true genius to have the sense to step off that monstrous, steaming turd of a country called America and decamp for the jocose fecundity of Paris. My point is that while I don’t have a pot to piss in, I’m a millionaire in spirit. I have a lot of joy, Elizabeth, and I’d like to share some with you, preferably in a quiet, discreet location, but any available space will do. With me you’ll feel as light as a corpse floating in the Dead Sea. No, I can’t promise you limitless ping pong, but I will take you around the world, and when I’m done with you, lassie, you’ll be a real woman! Perhaps you think my overture too crude, but you know, the French have a saying. Le tabaciste a sali son pantalon. Beautiful, isn’t it? It means “the tobacconist has soiled his trousers” or something like that…Its presence significance escapes me, but it’s one of the few things I understood down there. Did I mention that I’m a surrealist?…Oh, let’s stop toying with one another, Elizabeth. From the moment I saw you, I fell for you like a condemned man dropping through the gallows trap door. I knew that I’d never be satisfied until we were fused like a couple of love sick amino acids, humping and thrashing about in the primeval soup. The world is a slaughterhouse, Elizabeth, and if we can dodge the flailing cleavers long enough to make a little whoopee amidst the gore, then what the hell! I realize this may not be your idea of a romantic courtship, but you’ll get past that tripe. You’ll soon see that in this world it’s fuck or be fucked and the Devil take the hindmost. And yet life becomes beautiful when we say ‘yes’ to its indignities and injustice, yes to humiliation and deprivation, yes to the gobs of spittle rained down on us by the hordes of sneering Judases who live only to crush our feeble life force and refuse our perfectly reasonable requests for a little pin money. Aye, we must take a blind leap into the dark, we must hurl ourselves headlong into the stream of life, though it be a putrid river of vomit, blood, semen, bile, absinthe, camphor balls and Pepto-bismol coursing through the filthy gutter of existence. Aye, we must plunge into the crepuscular melange of mad generals, beguiling taxi dancers, monochrome businessmen, bedraggled vaudeville performers, lesbian nuns, and the red-haired albinos of the Zuni region. Aye, we must say yes with our loins, Elizabeth, yes to the blood surging in our groins! What is it the French say, Cherie? La tabaciste a sali son pantalon!

Throughout my impassioned plea, Elizabeth’s expression had wavered somewhere between revulsion, fear and hatred. Clearly she was intrigued. Although I think I struck a couple of wrong notes, my seductive use of French had apparently stripped her of her defenses. Now was the time to make my move. I embraced her suddenly and–in a flash my arm was locked in a vice-like grip, and I found myself whirling through space like a rag doll caught on a propeller. I hit the parquet floor just as suddenly, and a blinding pain shot up my back and head.

Standing over me, poised and ready to strike, was a snarling Elizabeth Bennet. “Have you been studying judo long?” I asked casually, as though the textbook perfect, highlight film quality flip she had just executed was nothing more than a simple misunderstanding. In response she shrieked, wheeled around, and with a devastating, lightning-quick side kick, split a cinder block held up by a butler who appeared out of nowhere. “Oh, karate,” I marveled. “And in a hoop skirt too. Very impressive. Listen, you’ve got me all wrong…”

The next thing I knew, she was expertly handling a pair of coal black nunchucks, a dizzying blur of terror crazily encircling her as she let loose a war cry that would have sent chills down Bruce Lee’s spine. I sprang up in spite of the pain in my back and lit out of there like a motherfucker, making sure to worm a little carfare out of the butler as I left. “Christ,” I said to myself, “who’d have thought these late 18th century era trollops knew fucking kung fu?

Copyright, Bill Burman 2020

Trump: All Republicans Must Roll in Shit to Prove Loyalty

President Trump insists all Republicans writhe in fecal matter while he watches.

Washington D.C. A memo from the White House has been circulating among Republican members of Congress as the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry ramps up. The memo, leaked to reporters by an unnamed Republican, demands that “all Republicans roll in shit in the presence of the Commander in Chief to prove their loyalty to him during the Democrats’ latest rigged witch hunt-coup d’etat attempt.”

While the White House has refused to comment on the memo, some Republicans have dismissed it as “fake news” while others downplayed its significance. “I don’t think it was a real request,” Senator Marco Rubio said. “He just does that to get you guys worked up, like any other normal president would do.”

Other Republicans claimed there was nothing unusual about the president’s request and they would happily comply. Senator Lindsey Graham, who President Trump once described as “one of the dumbest human beings I have ever seen,” said he had “already flung myself face-first in the feces,” and that while it was disagreeable at first, he felt “a sort of exhilaration I find difficult to describe.” Pausing a moment to catch his breath, an emotional Graham continued. “You can’t imagine the sense of freedom you experience when you abandon any pretense of independent thought and surrender yourself body and soul to a stern, authoritarian father figure like President Trump. There’s almost a sexual sense of release. It’s so overwhelming you don’t notice the foul odor or texture of the fecal matter you’re rolling in. And the president’s gratified smile makes it all worth it.”

My Spiritual Awakening at the Doghouse Sports Bar

My dark journey to spiritual death and rebirth began with a series of seemingly minor setbacks. I lost my job as a carnival ride operator when a mechanical malfunction entirely beyond my control maimed some people, who, it later turned out, had purchased discount tickets. My employers pinned the blame on me simply because they found a few empty beer cups at my station, and I had been observed frenetically twerking and bellowing the lyrics to “Hot Blooded” moments before the accident.

Author Dennis Pendergast leaves the Doghouse after his epiphany.

That same week my mother kicked me out after the police came to our house to arrest the drummer of my surf-punk-alpine-tejano band for alimony default during a rehearsal, and he panicked and took mom’s book club hostage for a couple of hours. Nobody was hurt, although one of the ladies suffered a minor stroke and now can only read Tom Clancy novels. It was ruled that my drummer Skip had a diminished capacity because he had been snorting Wite-Out before rehearsal so he got off with fourteen years.

It was really too bad because the band had just been hired to play at a mass wedding for a secretive religious organization called the Kindred. So I drafted my friend Hector, who looked like a drummer and was unemployed, to play drums, and we played one of the strangest versions of “We’ve Only Just Begun” since Julio Iglesias did it on Phenobarbital at Liz Taylor’s last wedding.

The newlyweds seem to like us well enough though. The members of the Kindred struck me as a bit odd at first, but after I had quaffed a couple glasses of special Kindred Church punch, I suddenly realized that their charismatic leader Maxwell Ben LeCrois was in fact the one and only door to salvation, and as there were seventeen no-show grooms, I married an attractive young Kindred girl who had flung her panties onto my alpenhorn during my solo on “Free Bird.”

Our connubial bliss was short-lived, however. A few weeks after we tied the knot, I returned to our hut after a long day of washing Mr. LeCrois’ Rolls Royces to find my father standing there. Before I could even ask what he was doing there, someone grabbed me from behind and wrapped a chloroform-soaked cloth over my mouth. When I regained consciousness, I found myself strapped to a chair in a Cozy-8 Motel room somewhere with my entire family surrounding me.

Apparently I was to be deprogrammed, but it seemed more like a family holiday gathering. There were hors d’oeuvres and a cake, all the men were watching a football game, and my Aunt Phyllis insisted on reading everyone’s tea leaves. At half-time of the game the deprogrammer got up, made himself a drink and began firing questions at me. I did well with sports and TV trivia, but stumbled when he turned to Broadway musicals. Then suddenly he fixed me with a pair of eyes like smoldering coals and asked me how long I had been a Scientologist. I tried to explain that I was a member of the Kindred, and asked him to please not deprogram me from the wrong cult as my life was already complicated enough, but the TV volume was up too loud and he never heard me.

After administering an assortment of pharmaceuticals, including a cold medicine that made me hallucinate not one but several forty-foot Christs outside the motel window, and using interrogation techniques perfected at Abu Ghraib, the deprogrammer had me right where he wanted me. I renounced L. Ron Hubbard, Maxwell Ben LeCrois, David Koresh, Tony Robbins and any other cult leaders I could summon to my addled mind. I wept profusely and begged my family’s forgiveness, and during one of the commercial breaks, they gave it to me.

I later became friends with the deprogrammer. His name was Chad Mercer, and he was himself the veteran of several cults. After a drug-crazed youth, he had done the cult circuit, joined the National Guard and done two tours in Iraq, then found Jesus and become an ultimate fighting champion. A jagged scar left conspicuous by his shaven head testified to some of the epic brawls he had survived while fighting under the moniker “Jesus’ Jedi.” Forced into retirement by his vicious head injury, he drifted into deprogramming, where he met his wife Bonnie, one of his first clients. Chad’s love and her renewed passion for metal detecting had eased her passage out of an abusive sex and quilting cult.

Chad often had trouble sleeping so he would spend many a night playing violent video games and drinking heavily at a local 7-11. Since I was looking for a place to stay after leaving the Kindred compound, I sometimes joined him on the nights the all-night laundromat was closed for cleaning. One such night, in the middle of one of our games, Chad turned on me with a malevolent smirk and asked what was going on between me and Bonnie. “You know, just the metal detecting,” I replied nonchalantly.

I often accompanied Bonnie on her expeditions as the metal plate in Chad’s head sometimes set off her metal detector. Whenever she worked the beach, she wore a tiny little bikini that would have awoken the animal in a Formika counter top. Tempted though I was, we never went beyond oral sex. Innocent as our little peccadilloes had been, I sensed that Chad would never understand as he glared at me with cold, glassy eyes and took another swig off a quart bottle of Cobra.

I tried to change the subject, wondering aloud what the Lotto jackpot might be and taking a couple of ginger steps toward the front counter. As I turned away from him, there suddenly erupted behind me a paralyzing howl of wrath, and I heard the sound of a two-hundred and thirty pound maniac with a metal plate in his skull leaving his feet and going airborne. My face smashed into a shelf, the taste of warm blood in my mouth, unmoored teeth swimming in the fresh gaps. Our bodies scattered cans, boxes and bottles and tumbled to the floor.

I found myself on my back, Chad on top of me. He was strangling me, all the while staring down at me with deranged eyes and smiling like a four year-old boy drowning a hamster in a bucket of water. I began to realize that I was going to die. Nothing could save me now. The moment before Jesus’ Jedi had jumped me, I noticed that Rusty the 7-11 clerk had taken his crystal meth’ break as he often did when we came in. The lights began to grow dim. An odd serenity permeated my soul. I surrendered myself to the darkness.

In a moment I was out of my body and floating above the scene and I remember wondering if an out-of-body experience was considered legitimate if it took place in a convenience store. I was moving briskly through a dark tunnel toward a distant but brilliant light, a cool, delightful breeze gently blowing back the hair of my soul. I could hear celestial music playing, possibly a selection from one of the Windham Hill albums.

As I drew nearer the light, I noticed that Rusty, the 7-11 clerk, was floating alongside me in the tunnel. “Chad had gone berserk and killed him too,” I thought. Then I saw that he was motioning for me to go back with him. I explained that I was on the way to the source of all things, and that Earth held no allure for me anymore. Rusty looked at me with a wisdom I had never given him credit for and told me that I still had a lot to live for. After all, didn’t my band have a gig at the Doghouse next weekend? What about all those bottles and cans in my trunk waiting to be redeemed? And didn’t Hector say I could crash on his couch when his girlfriend went into rehab on Monday? As I listened to Rusty I looked more closely at him and I saw that it wasn’t Rusty at all but rather the archangel Gabriel in a polyester 7-11 shirt.

In an instant I was back in the store, gasping for breath and I saw Rusty standing over me with a crude, homemade cudgel with the words “Wrath of God” scrawled on it in felt tip pen. Beside me Chad lay face down, unconscious or dead or perhaps both, and I realized in that moment that the potential for great heroism may lie dormant in the meanest and most insignificant of God’s children. Then Rusty reminded me of the forty dollars he had loaned me during our last visit to the Shanghai Swan Massage Parlor. My offer of a two-for-one meal coupon for the Wagon Wheel restaurant only seemed to provoke him, and he insisted that only an immediate requital of the full balance would spare me the treatment Chad had just received.

I swore on my mother’s grave that I would go forthwith to redeem the bottles and cans in my trunk and return with the forty dollars. Rusty balked at first, but when I showed him the bounty of recyclables in my car, he sent me off with a somewhat theatrical threat to hunt me down like a rabbit if I failed to turn up. I figured I’d cash in the bottles and get a gin and tonic at the Doghouse to soothe my nerves. I’d cool my heels there for a while, then hit the midget race car track and let off some steam.

Well, the recycling center didn’t give me enough for drinks and the race track, so I settled into my favorite booth at the Doghouse and ordered a drink. A couple of gin and tonics softened Rusty’s snarling visage in my mind and a couple more made it disappear altogether. In spite of the earthquakes and tsunamis that had assailed me, I was still standing triumphantly like the Fukushima nuclear power plant. I had died and been reborn in a convenience store, and my spirit was flooded with an entirely new peace of mind. I could tell because I was drinking up what little money I had left, I had to crash on Hector’s smelly sofa, I was being hunted by a crystal meth’ addict with a club named “Wrath of God” and maybe Jesus’ Jedi as well, and none of that really bothered me.

Copyright, Bill Burman 2020

Satanic Barber Shop Quartet Delivers Lucifer’s Message with Harmony and Whimsy

The Jaunty Jackals shocked the world Friday night when they took the Best New Artist prize at the Satanic Music Awards, leaving presumed winner Tiffany Eldridge and her fans fuming in the audience. The Jackals, a barber shop quartet composed of four middle-aged gents with top hats and silken vocal cords, seem unlikely stars, but they have been honing their act at Satanic Temples, county fairs, pizza parlors and Satanic orgies for decades.

Lead singer Artemas Fletcher says the group is taking their newfound success in stride. “Our music all stems from our devotion to the Dark Lord. We work very hard to get the harmonies just right for him. We don’t push Lucifer on anyone. We want the perfection of our music to be an inspiring example of what Satan can bring to people’s lives.”

Tiffany Eldridge unleashed an angry Tweetstorm after the show, calling the four men “disgusting old farts” and denouncing the Satanic Music Academy as “unprincipled, tasteless, and totally lacking in integrity.” Fletcher fired back on his own Twitter account, chiding her that “We may be disgusting old farts, but at least we don’t have to go out there and shake our tits and ass because we can actually sing.”

Is Country Music Too Intellectual?

Some music critics are growing unsettled by the recent trend in Country Music toward more cerebral themes and elaborate concept albums they fear is tearing the genre from its humble roots. Carter McFarland, editor of Country Music Today, worries that some artists are drifting too far from the fundamentals. “We’ve got some folks out there who are straying from the Six B’s: boozing, brawling, balling, breaking up, believing and bombing. If you don’t have at least one of those ingredients, it ain’t country.”

Indeed, some country artists have plunged into ambitious projects that flout the Six B’s and range into topics previously unheard of in Country. Travis Crowley, a rising star on the Nashville scene, recently dropped a new concept album about the Peloponnesian War in Ancient Greece.

“I was kicking around the ranch reading Thucydides,” Crowley explained, “and it struck me that the war between Athens, which was the intellectual and cultural capital of the Greek world, and Sparta, which was the dominant military state, was an apt metaphor for the perennial conflict between humanity’s higher and lower states of consciousness.”

Crowley’s sophistication does not sit well with some of the more established Country stars. Randy Weatherby, whose latest hit “Tehran Will Pay for Your Cheating Heart” is about an American pilot who drops his deadly payload on the Iranian capital while breaking up with his unfaithful girlfriend online, guzzling Jack Daniels and giving his heart to Jesus, tweeted, “All this fancy talk about the Greeks don’t belong in Country.” In another tweet, he wrote, “If you’re writing a song about war and there are no red, white and blue five-hundred pound bombs lighting up cities full of minarets, you’re doing it all wrong.”

The Smell of the Greasepaint Through the Ages: A History of Western Theater/Part I

An ancient Greek theater in Delphi that was destroyed in 1992 during a bloody riot at a John Tesh concert.

The Greeks

All theater as we know it today is derived from the dithyramb, a ritual dance performed at festivals honoring the god Dionysus in Ancient Greece. The origins of the dithyramb, which roughly translated means “drunken goat dance,” are obscure, but scholars believe it may have evolved from the ritual sacrifice of a goat.

Early priests used the goats’ entrails for divining future events, particularly athletic competitions, and festival goers laid wagers based on the holy men’s predictions. Some priests, goaded by the huge crowds and their own consumption of wine, became increasingly flamboyant in making their prognostications, much like modern day umpires in baseball, and some may have turned their routine into a “drunken goat dance.”

Groups of besotted revelers imitated the priests and soon, performances by bands of dithyrambists were regular features of the celebrations. The bands of dithyrambists over time evolved into the Greek Chorus, and a man named Thespus conceived the idea of having an actor portraying a god or legendary figure act out the tale the chorus told.

Later Aeschylus, the first great tragedian, came up with the innovation of putting a chair on-stage with the actor, but the opportunities for dramatic conflict were limited. Indeed, Aeschylus’ first attempt at tragedy, Agamemnon’s Chair, which explored the fabled king’s ill-fated relationship with his recliner, drew a cool reception. Aeschylus promptly replaced the chair with a second actor, and, after a botched performance in which one actor repeatedly tried to sit on the other, drama as we know it was born.

The Romans

When Greek Civilization ended, the Romans decided to have one. Roman plays were very similar to Greek ones. In fact many Roman plays appear to be Greek manuscripts with the authors’ names scratched out and Roman writers’ names scribbled in. References to gods and places were also altered, but some of the less fastidious Roman playwrights did not bother to work through the whole script. Consequently, in some Roman plays, Jupiter becomes Zeus and Rome becomes Athens midway through the second act. Fortunately for the authors, most Roman playgoers went to the vomitorium or a gladiatorial match by intermission, so only a few overzealous critics noticed.

The Dark Ages

The term “Dark Ages” is something of a misnomer. Although the period so-called was rife with plagues, wars, peasant revolts, religious and racial persecutions, witch burnings, Machiavellian Papal intrigues, assassinations and tyranny, great advances were made in goat husbandry, alchemy and theater.

Graphic portrayals of saints’ martyrdom at Catholic Church festivals proved to be so popular that many parishioners would only listen to the mass if they got to see a saint martyred at some point in the service. Churches vied with one another in achieving new levels of verisimilitude and soon fake blood, severed heads, and pull-away limbs with blood spurting tubes were regular features of church productions. Church officials grew concerned when peasants throughout Europe enthusiastically tried to help executioners carry out the grisly killings of the saints during the spectacles, but there was little they could do beyond assigning more “Hail Marys” at confession.

The Elizabethan Era

Queen Elizabeth ushered in a golden era that saw England rise to world dominance in literature, naval power, and collar size. Theater also flourished under Elizabeth, as did goat husbandry and alchemy. The Elizabethan theater reached its ultimate fruition in the works of William Shakespeare, a man who had struck out in the fields of goat husbandry and alchemy before discovering his genius for play writing in 1584 while recovering from a long bout with foot fungus.

When Shakespeare, who was married and had three children, informed his wife of his newfound genius and his intention of becoming a playwright, she immediately locked up all the alcohol in the house and demanded that he look for another job in goat husbandry. Undaunted, he slipped off to his favorite pub in Stratford-upon-Avon, “Ye Olde Double Vision,” and wrote Richard III on a cocktail napkin. The tragedy told the story of the Duke of York, whose bitterness over his tenacious foot fungus transformed him into a murderous tyrant. One of the Bard’s drinking buddies suggested making the Duke a hunchback instead of a foot fungus sufferer, and Shakespeare never looked back.

Shakespeare immediately went to London, got himself an agent, and began seeking work as an actor. His first few gigs were in the pre-play commercials of the day, and he first became familiar to London audiences as the giant infected toenail in the popular Wiggins Anti-Fungal Ointment ads. It was in this period that he met the other leading lights of the London theater scene, Christopher Marlowe, Ben Jonson and Francis Beaumont.

Marlowe wrote four superb blank verse tragedies before being stabbed to death in a tavern brawl by a drunk who loathed blank verse. Jonson, who wrote scholarly works with annoying titles like Every Man in His Humour and Eastward Ho, narrowly escaped several attempted knifings in taverns by people who had sat through his plays. Beaumont, whose tragicomedy Love Lies-a-Bleeding received a tepid reception in London, was chased out of one tavern and sought refuge in another, where he was stabbed, beaten, drowned in a barrel of ale, and impaled on a stake behind the bar as a warning to other playwrights. Shakespeare avoided taverns altogether, and thus was able to survive to create his remarkable oeuvre.

Restoration Theater

After Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans defeated and beheaded King Charles in 1649, they quickly pushed through Parliament a series of laws that would become known as the “Everyone’s Miserable Laws.” These laws shut down the theaters, but sparked a resurgence in the fields of goat husbandry and alchemy. After more than a decade, however, the “Everyone’s Miserable Laws” inexplicably declined in popularity along with Puritan rule, and in 1660, the debauched son of the decapitated king was brought back from France to restore the monarchy to England.

Charles II was a great lover of ribaldry, and the new theater companies that flourished under his reign catered to his vulgar tastes. Restoration comedies such as My Throbbing Loins Beseech Thee and The Strumpet’s Goat Went Thither delighted audiences with their bawdy language, adulterous amours, voluptuous actresses and crude references to goat husbandry. The appearance of women for the first time on the English stage created a sensation although some complained that the costumes they wore had been stretched too much by the men who had worn them previously.

End of Part I

Copyright, Bill Burman 2020

Scroungy Street Preacher Named Trump’s Conspiracy Czar

Washington, D.C. President Trump appointed veteran street preacher Richard Trumball to be the Director of his new Department of Conspiracies on Friday. Trumball, who has been a disheveled, obnoxious fixture on the corner of 4th and Reed streets in Columbus, Ohio for more than a decade, is well known to locals for ranting about wild theories on everything from the Moon landing to the Illuminati. Most recently he has accused the American Medical Association of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood in a scheme to use tainted vaccines to inject children with a chemical predisposition to the Islamic faith.

The president, in a press conference introducing Trumball on Friday, said he was brought in “for some fresh thinking on the Deep State stuff, the conspiracies, rigged witch hunts and coups.” President Trump bemoaned the fact that his usual purveyors of conspiracies have let him down recently. “My regular guys, Giuliani, Devin Nunes, Breitbart, Gateway Pundit and the Federalist are getting stale. We need some new wrinkles. This guy is the Picasso of conspiracy theories, and he’s going to do a fantastic job. Richie is terrific.”

Trumball, who appeared pale, glassy-eyed and skittish, said he looked forward to broadening the scope of Deep State conspiracy theories to include not just globalists, George Soros and former Obama administration officials, but “wanted to create some texture by bringing back classic antagonists like the Masons and the Catholic Church and linking them with fresh faces like the Girl Scouts of America, Colin Kaepernick, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Rockettes.”

After a brief interruption, in which Trumball whirled around abruptly and muttered incomprehensibly to himself while peering suspiciously behind him, he continued. “A good conspiracy theory is eclectic. Anybody can shout ‘Soros’ or ‘Deep State.’ Giuliani is great but he’s an amateur. I’ve got a lot more colors on my palette.”