Our door is chained shut in this hotel by the sea. We are watching a show about drunken volcanoes. There is a velvet bed in this room, a table and two steel chairs. Tangier is a haze of smoke this time of year, but we’re mind-juiced on coffee and plums. Outside, two saxophones twirl loops of clouds, draw birds out to mingle chaotic. We’re suited in neckties and black alligator skin. It’s almost time. Check your watch. Someone’s turning the knob on the door and I can hear three goons rasp gravel in the hall. Twist the silencer into place. It sounds like a fizzle, like fire.
We are not superheros, not cobras. No venom tonight. There are no bullets in the pistol, either. And my partner is in the bathroom, smearing pomade on his mustache. He tells me to prepare the texts for the hand-off, to signal the pigeon, to grab the motorcycle keys and prepare to burn rubber back to the airport. I ready the parachute and sit on the bed. The men bang on the door in steady fist beats. I try to shut it out. The saxophone sputters a series of seven shrill notes, blasts those notes red and green, different than the rest. My partner steps out of the bathroom, just stands there. He’s shaved his head and grown a beard. He nods like a goat.
“Who are you?” I say. “Who the hell are you?”
“Danger Slater,” he says, but when he replies it’s not his voice. It’s that saxophone and it’s a stuffed water drum on fire. And my legs are paralyzed on the velvet. “Stranger Danger,” he says. “DangerRAMA.”
He pours two shots of gin and we drink them both. “Why are you doing this?” I say.
Suddenly, a fist slams through the door, leaves a ragged hole. Three faces in the hall, smoky and shadowed. We turn our heads. Bullets rattle in my pocket. The gun’s on the table.
The men speak in turn. I should have known they’d know. I should have seen it all coming. One at a time, I hear them explain the deal. One at a time, my skin bubbles on the bed.
“This stuff reads like Kurt Vonnegut meets Douglas Adams meets Tom Robbins meets Carlton Mellick III. Something like that.” – Douglas Hackle
“The existential ponderings and searches for self in DangerRAMA were so God damned deep that I was writing shit down like this was some kind of college literature assignment. Also, a dude fucks his finger-clone in space and who doesn’t love that?” – Eirik Gumeny
“Killing me won’t bring back your god damn honey!” – Nicolas Cage
This is when Danger slaps a gob of pomade in my ears and snaps his fingers. The pomade hardens and I fall back on the bed. This is how it happens. I am being tucked in and whispered to by a ghost. The men stand around me, but I can’t see Danger. I hear thunder. The room spins orange like Easter. Was it something in the pomade? A pill slipped in the gin? Maybe it’s just Tangier this time of year.
But, no. Danger has the texts in his hand and he’s shaking his fist at the television like a reverend. From where I lie, he’s full of static, no longer crisply human. Cage slaps my forehead and pulls me to a sitting position, sits down beside me and commands me to listen.
I do, Cage. I listen and Danger speaks those secrets we worked so hard to protect, but he’s unstoppable now, a monster with the voice of a saxophone. Listen, reader. These are the revelations he reveals:
Okay. I didn’t actually read this book, but look how goddamn sexy Fabio is on that cover! His chest is so chiseled. Look at those pectoral muscles! Babes love him. My chest is all nippley and gross. I have to spend all this time pretending I’m this genius author to try and attract chicks, and even then, it barely works. If I were Fabio, I wouldn’t bother with any of this writing bullcrap. I’d be too busy scoring hot poontang like it’s going out of style! This book inspires me to be a dumber and better-looking person.
Back in the days when bookstores still existed, I went searching for Carlton Mellick books over at my local Barnes & Noble. A month earlier, I had order a book for the very first time from this cool website called amazon.com
(turns out, I thought I was buying the paperback of Survivor by Chuck Palahniuk, and I accidentally ordered the audiobook version of it…ON FREAKIN’ CASSETTE TAPE!) and it had suggested a few new authors I might enjoy. I started “clicking” down the rabbit hole. I made a list on a notepad of all the authors whose names would come up. Eventually, Mellick’s name popped up too. I was intrigued. Afraid I didn’t know how to work the goddamn internet properly, I drove to my brick and mortar to check his shit out. When the local B&N didn’t carry his stuff, I drove to the BIGGER Barnes & Noble over in Wayne. Still no Mellick. So then I drove to the EVEN BIGGER Barnes & Noble on Route 3 in Clifton. Still NOTHING! And so, finding the backbone I didn’t know I had and conquering all the fear that lurked within my heart, I logged back onto my laptop – and this waaaaaay back in 2009, so my laptop was a massive, hulking machine that took up 3/4ths of my bedroom and could easily have sucked me into it alá Tron – and ordered the Bizarro Starter Kit Orange along with a few of the other bizarro books that piqued my interest. Borders went out of business not too long after that. Coincidence? I think not!
I got this book from Brentano’s (BRENTANO’S!) in the Rockaway Mall when I was 7. The book was written for kids who were 3. My mom never let me read “baby” books when I was little. I think she thought they were stupid. Instead, I ended up reading a lot of teenager books when I was really young. I learned about what menstruation was before I even had my first period! 31-years-old and I’m still waiting for my first period. Some nights, I’m like “Are you there God? It’s me, Danger?” Anyway, my point is, at 7, I felt like I had been missing out on something by skipping the stage when I got read all these little baby books. So at Brentano’s I threw this huge temper tantrum, until my mom relented and bought me Spot’s First Easter to shut me up. As it turned out, she was right. The book was fucking stupid. It was, like, 20 pages long. And the plot sucked. They go looking for Easter eggs, they find them, and then it just kind of ends. A total waste of time. But I’ll be goddamned if I didn’t read that book 100 freakin’ times. Just to spite her.
My eyes are not shut. There is a lamp on the table beside me. They’ve pried my mouth open and left the television on. The window is still open. I feel the bullets in my pocket and someone passes me another drink. “Straighten that tie,” Cage says. “Danger’s waiting.” But I can’t see anyone else in the room.
And I hear that saxophone outside, the birds made of plums. I step onto the veranda and look down at the smoke and the people passing by. So small. They have no idea. I don’t even hear the bullet, didn’t know I could fly, become a note in the night.
But I do. It’s dangerous
out there, dear reader. It’s stranger than you think.
If you enjoyed today’s contribution, be sure to read on: R.A. Harris
, Grant Wamack
, S.T. Cartledge
, David C. Hayes
, Bix Skahill
, Dustin Reade
, Amanda Billings
, Daniel Vlasaty
, Andy de Fonseca
, Tiffany Scandal