Ryan O’Shaughnessy is standing in a dim, airless courtroom. A glint of light falls through its solitary window. Dust is dancing in the light.
Judge Dryballs, a shriveled old fart too skinny for his black judicial robe, is reading a report from Ryan’s caseworker. Meanwhile, the court reporter is eyeing Ryan’s crotch. She’s just Ryan’s type: a supple redhead with tits like musk melons. The bitch looks ready to tear off his pants—and why the hell not? With his broad shoulders, walnut-sized knuckles, and Popeye forearms, Ryan is a damn fine hunk of beefcake. Ryan wishes he had a dollar for every court reporter he’s boinked. He could buy himself a mansion in Darling Point.
Ryan winks at the bitch and shrugs apologetically; she’s gonna have to wait until he’s out of custody. But, judging from the judge’s expression, that may not be much longer. Ryan has been in the Paddington Facility for the Insane long enough to know how the game is played. For that matter, he’s been in-and-out of loony bins most of his life. Loony bins and jails.
“Hmmmm,” the judge says finally. His voice is all throaty like he’s smoked too many cigarettes. Or maybe he’s jacking off under his robe. “Hmmmm,” the judge repeats. “You’ve come a little way with your therapy, sir. A long way for a man with fifty arrests. Most of them for disturbing the peace.”
The judge squints like an owl then starts reading out loud. “Paranoid schiz, Napoleonic complex, antisocial personality.” He wags his old head. “And yet you have been a model resident.”
Prying his eyes off the bitch, Ryan grins. His erection is at full staff and ready to explode. A year without pussy will do that to a man. That’s how long he’s been at the Paddington Facility for the Insane. Ever since the cops arrested him for discharging a handgun within city limits. Ryan was really trying to cap himself a snitch—a meth head that dropped a dime on him. But the court don’t need that much information. Thank god, the fucker was too whacked out to press charges.
Ryan bows his head. “Thank you for sayin’ so, mate,” he replies. Ryan knows from long experience that he’s gotta act humble in a courtroom. Gotta act like a law book applies to the streets. Like the streets ain’t got their own set of rules—such as keeping your rep intact and killing off snitches. Ryan has iced over a hundred snitches. Blew out their brains with a .44 Mag then cut off their heads and used ’em for bowling balls. That makes him the enforcer—not that dry-balls judge.
“Mr. O’Shaunessy,” the judge says boldly; the fucker acts like his nuts ain’t all shrunk. Like maybe he’s still got some juice in his spruce. “I trust you’ve been taking your meds, sir.”
Ryan grins like a rattler. “Every day, yer honor,” he says. He’s fibbing of course; he’s been tossing his meds. Sticking them under his tongue then spitting them into a toilet. That’s why his hard-on is fourteen inches and rising. That’s why jacking off is easy again. Ryan doesn’t even need the meds. Those damn hallucinations—evil looking clowns and a hovering, stone-faced nun—haven’t bothered him in months. After forty years of fucking his mind up, his spooks have gone away.
“Ummm hmmm,” says the judge. “You keep your room tidy. You help the nurses out. You have even read to catatonic patients. And I see you have taken up the ukulele.”
Ryan beams. “That’s me, yer honor. I’m tiptoeing through the tulips.”
The judge chuckles deeply, like he’s trying to cough up a hairball. After a five- minute pause, he sets the report aside. “Mr. O’Shaughnessy,” he announces. “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I want you back here in one week with another report and a placement plan. If all is in order, I will release you to a year’s probation, which you will spend in transitional housing. It does appear age has caught up with you, sir. It’s hard for anyone to be a criminal all his life. Even a derelict like you.”
Ryan’s grin is so tight he can feel his face cracking. Is this how it’s gonna end—his forty years as an outlaw? A life of breaking into cars, popping meth, and icing snitches. Is it gonna end in a halfway house where maybe he’ll get himself a state disability pension?
Well, the judge is right about one thing. Even misdemeanors are getting harder to commit. Ryan is fifty-six years old now. He’s got himself a heart murmur. And his street instincts are shot—otherwise the cops would have never caught him after he dumped that handgun. Only his tallywhacker—a foot and a half of bleating catfish—is still up to snuff. He’s spoiled a thousand women with that beauty—ruined ’em for other men. And the court reporter is gonna be next.
The judge is rubbing his hands together like maybe he’s trying to warm them up. “Mr. O’Shaughnessey,” he says. “I will see you back here in one short week.”
Ryan clicks his heals and salutes the judge. “I won’t let you down, yer lordship,” he says.
Just one more week in the loony bin. One week more of kissing ass. One more week of reading to stiffs. And Ryan will be a free man.
Handcuffed and chained, with a constable on either side of him, Ryan shuffles out of the courthouse. The leg irons and waist chain seem kinda funny ’cause Ryan ain’t really a crook. He’s only broken into Bentleys and Rolls Royces—cars whose owners are ripping off the working stiff. He’s only robbed porno shops—places where drug money gets washed. And he’s only iced the scum of the earth. None of this is crime when you think about it. It’s justice. That’s something the courts ain’t too good at.
At the bottom of the courthouse steps, the meat wagon is waiting to take him back to the loony house. A mob of riff-raff—prostitutes, pimps, junkies—are milling about on the sidewalk. They gaze at him as he walks down the steps, but their eyes are deader than stones. They look like living garbage.
Slowly, painfully, Ryan eases himself into the back of the meat wagon. His joints are howling, his breathing is ragged. And his heart is pounding like a bill collector at the door. Once the security locks are set and the van is rolling along, Ryan stares wistfully through the screened window.
The van is passing through Kings Cross, the red-light district of town. He can see his favorite hotspots: The Whiskey A Go Go, The Pink Panther, and Les Girls, where he’s rolled his share of faggots. Even bashing those poofters don’t make him much of a crook. He never beat ’em up bad—just enough to teach ’em a lesson. And, after rummaging through their wallets, he always left ’em money for a cab.
This afternoon, the Cross is as still as a morgue. The strip joints and nightclubs haven’t opened up and there ain’t no pussy in sight. Not unless you want to count a mob of transsexuals on the corner of Darlinghurst and Roselyn. Fuckers who ain’t real women.
Ryan’s hard-on relaxes as the van rolls along and the fence of the loony bin comes into sight. Beyond the barred fence, some patients are playing cricket on the lawn. The fuckers are so full of downers that they look like they’re in a slow-motion film.
As the van pulls up to the gate, Ryan’s pants become flaccid and loose. Like a tent that’s folding down. By the time the checkpoint guard unlocks the gate, his willie is smaller than a grub.
Hours later, Ryan is sitting in his room in the loony house. A room that he don’t share with no one. It’s a six-by-ten-foot chamber with an iron-back bed and a chest of drawers. The room is his reward for being a model resident. Otherwise, he’d be stuck in one of the dorms with a bunch of crazies.
The window to his room is small and heavily screened, but Ryan can see out of it just fine. He can see the flower beds outside, the acres of manicured lawn and the eight-foot barred fence with spikes on top. The place looks like a goddamn cemetery.
His caseworker, an old Irish fucker with a bulbous, red nose, has already given Ryan his afternoon check-in. His caseworker’s name is Patrick O’Leary, but Ryan calls him Abraham. That’s ’cause the fucker is older than dirt. But that don’t stop the jerk from collecting porno mags. He’s got a stack of ’em that’s taller than Ryan—gay stuff mostly like Ploughboy and Broads with Rods. The dude needs more help than Ryan does, the way he keeps raving on like a sot. Ryan’s ears are still ringing from his afternoon check-in.
Ryan, me boy, the old fucker muttered. To let go the past you must first admit it happened. Or those ghosts will never go away. And so, you must raise the dead, dear boy—remember what you seem to have forgotten. Admit that you were born in a crack house, that you were raised in a youth lockup, that you were probably abused there. Admit that you suffer from grandiose daydreams—that you have seen too many adventure movies. Admit you’ve been pond scum all of your life—a drug addict, a jailbird and a petty thief. Admit these things, lad, in order to let them go. Forty years of crime is enough for any man.
Gestalt therapy, that’s what ol’ Abraham calls that crap. Makes him sound like a goddamn Nazi. But that dude wouldn’t last a day on the streets. A man can’t be thinking too much on the streets or the streets will eat him alive. But there’s no way a therapist fucker—a dude who hides in an office all day—can know stuff like that.
Ryan wanted to say he ain’t raisin’ no dead—that the only thing worth raisin’ is a stiffy. But he smiled like a fat cat and didn’t say nothing. Gotta play by Abraham’s rules if he wants to get out of this mausoleum.
Ryan rises from his bed, goes to the window and looks out over the grounds. It’s dusk and the moon is rising—the biggest damn moon Ryan has ever seen. It’s larger than a medicine ball and as orange as a jail-issued jump suit. It seems to fill the whole fucking sky.
A Harvest Moon—that’s what the Indians call it. Ryan saw such a moon in a movie once—a movie about settlers and redskins. It’s also called a Hunter’s Moon. That’s ’cause when the corn is high the Indians go out hunting. Gotta bag themselves game for the winter.
Ryan’s spine starts to tingle as he looks at the moon. It’s as smooth as a tit and brighter than a headlight. He ain’t never seen it this close to the earth.
The following morning, Ryan is sitting in Abraham’s office. And Abraham is picking the wax from his ear. He acts like he’s only pinching the lobe, but he’s sneaking his pinkie right into the hole. The sight is disgusting, but Ryan don’t care. That’s the only hole ol’ Abraham’s gonna penetrate. Not even a goddamn tranny would bend over for a fossil like him. A dude so old he calls everyone “Me boy.”
“Me boy, me boy,” the ol’ fucker mumbles. “The judge wants you to make a wee statement. He wants you to admit the error of your ways before he gives you probation. He wants to know your plan for the future.”
Ryan shakes his head. So they want him to jump through more damn hoops. Tell a bunch of lies. Admit to the error of his ways. But it ain’t no error to ice a snitch or bash a poofter or give a woman what she’s begging for. What kinda crap is this?
Ryan looks at the floor and pretends to be thinking. “I’m one baaaad dude,” he finally bleats. “And that you can take to the bank.”
Ol’ Abraham arches his eyebrows. “It’s your plan the judge wants to bank on.”
Ryan’s whanger expands as he thinks of his plan. Namely, he’s going to nail that horny court bitch who’s starvin’ for his marvin. “It’s the straight and narrow from here on out, pops. That’s gonna be my future.”
“Mr. O’Shaughnessy,” ol’ Abraham says—the fucker’s getting pissed off. “I’m aware that you suffer from Alzheimer’s. I’m aware that your brain is holier than Swiss cheese. But what do you remember from your past? What significant things?”
Ryan pretends to be thinking again. His favorite memory pops into his head. “I remember when meat pies cost just a nickel, pops. And a quarter would get you a pitcher of beer.” Ryan smacks his lips. “There ain’t nothing holier than meat pie and a beer.”
Abraham sighs like a tire losing air. Like maybe he was hoping to hear something profound. His gnarly hands shake as he opens Ryan’s file. The file is four inches thick. “Mr. O’Shaughnessy, I’ve decided to read you something. This was prepared by our psychiatrist a month after you were committed here.”
Ol’ Abraham peels a report from the file. He clutches it carefully, as though it might burn him. Slowly, he begins to read.
“After much testing and interviewing, I believe Mr. O’Shaughnessy to be the purest type of sociopath. He exhibits cunning instead of intellect, libido instead of love, and narcissism instead of introspection. His life, a forty-year continuum of street mischief, is not a life he seems to regret. To the contrary, he sentimentalizes his deeds with bizarre exaggerations and a macho image. If Mr. O’Shaughnessy regrets anything, it is that he has not accomplished greater crimes. Of further concern are Mr. O’Shaughnessy’s hallucinations, a byproduct of long-term drug abuse and homelessness. As he ages, and the strain of maintaining his street persona increases, so too will his hallucinations.
“All in all, Mr. O’Shaughnessy is utterly lacking in remorse, perspective or even memory. As such, his capacity for self-renewal is abysmal while his potential for recidivism is high to the point of inevitability. In summation, he is an aging mugger who thrives on his ego the same way a camel might live on its hump.”
Ryan folds his arms. He ain’t sure what all that language means, but he knows a frame job when he hears one. But that’s what shrinks are for—to cut a man down to size. Make him fit where he ain’t supposed to fit. That’s why they call ’em shrinks.
Ryan cracks his knuckles. “Money used to be worth something, pops. Meat pies once cost a nickel. A quarter would buy you a pitcher of beer. Can’t beat numbers like that, can you, pops?”
Ol’ Abraham frowns and shakes his head. “There’s another kind of inventory, my lad. The kind a man takes when his number is up.”
Ryan covers his mouth and buries a chuckle. ’Cause deathbed confessions don’t worry him none. He heard too many of ’em back when he was collecting for the loan sharks. Back when he was beating up deadbeats. But he always let the fuckers talk before smashing their noses or cracking their skulls. Can’t risk killing a man until he’s had a chance to bare his soul. Plead his case to Jesus and all. That wouldn’t be right.
Ol’ Abraham frowns then wags his pinkie—the same hoary pinkie he stuck in his ear. “May I tell you a story, me lad?”
Ryan shrugs. “I’ve heard enough stories, pops—they bore me.”
“I’ll try not to bore you,” says Abraham coolly. “We lost a patient a few years ago—a street goon just like you. Congestive heart failure, he had. I thought his heart was made of stone, but the bloke started blubbering like a baby one day. He said he could see a dark visitor in his dorm. He said he wanted to light a candle to the Virgin.”
Ol’ Abraham swallows and draws a slow breath. “Well, I said all the right things to him, lad. I told him he still had time. I told him the Virgin would answer his prayer and help him turn his life around. But I was lying like a sinner. The reaper took him that very night, and he probably went straight to hell.”
Ol’ Abraham smiles uneasily. “Mister O’Shaughnessy, you too are running out of time.”
Ryan hangs his head and tries to look humble. A chuckle escapes his throat. “A meat pie and a pitcher, pops. That’s as close to heaven as a man needs to get.”
As he sits in Abraham’s office, Ryan feels his chest thumpety-thump. His brow sweats beads; his life flashes before his eyes. And what a life it was: dodging cops, stalking snitches and bashing fuckers in street brawls. A life only brave hearts can handle—men with iron knuckles, lightning reflexes, and the instincts of a wolf. Men who hunt jungle cats under the moon. Men who bust cherries with only one thrust. Real fucking men—not slackers like Abraham. Dudes who sit in an office all day and jack themselves off to gay porn. Yet fuckers like Abraham are the law.
Ryan scratches his head like he’s thinking real hard. Gotta stroke that old fucker if he wants to get out of here. Judging from all that porn on his desk, ol’ Abraham can’t get enough strokes.
“Pops,” he says, “I’m a hell-bound dude. You’ve read me like a book.”
Ol’ Abraham shakes his head. “In your case, sir, it’s like reading a pamphlet .”
“Waddaya gonna tell the judge?”
Abraham frowns and starts tapping on his desk. The old fucker wants to get back to his porn. “Mr. O’Shaughnessy,” he says, “you still have time. A wee bit of time if you don’t strain your heart. Either you straighten out your life, sir, or you will die. Whichever way it goes, there will be one less thug on the streets.”
“You’re supposed to be curing me, pops,” Ryan jokes. “Makin’ me a better man.”
Ol’ Abraham flushes and bows his grizzled head. He looks like a drunk that’s drooling into his grog. “Mr. O’Shaughnessy,” he mutters. “I will tell you what you already know. Here, we cure no one. We warehouse our clients and keep them doped up. We confiscate their street drugs and dirty magazines, which somehow they keep smuggling in. But we cure nobody. I do admit, lad, that we’re making them even worse.”
Ol’ Abraham pauses then heaves a deep sigh. Like he’s blowing the foam off a beer. “So I’m telling the judge that it’s time to let you go.”
The Hunter’s Moon is rising as Ryan strolls the grounds—a privilege he has earned by kowtowing and ass kissing. So every evening at sunset, he is allowed to roam the grounds for half-an-hour. Nature therapy is what the nurses call it. Like he’s supposed to get a hard-on by sniffing flowers, hugging trees and tiptoeing on the grass. Fuck that crap. But it’s good to get away from the crazies for a while because a full moon stirs them up. And Ryan needs some peace if he’s going to see the error of his ways—his despicable life of crime. But the only real crime is how much things cost now. That’s gotta be inflation, but fuck it—who cares? The only inflation that matters is what’s rising in his pants.
Ryan’s blood starts to pound as he looks at the moon. He can make out the mountains, the craters, the seas. And it’s shinier than a stripper’s ass.
Ryan should have been thrown onto a desert island—like that Robinson Crusoe fucker. The islanders would have taken one look at his schlong and made him a fertility god. They would have built him a shrine and brought him their virgins for deflowering. Boom ba ba, boom ba ba, boom ba ba—that’s how the drums would sound. And Ryan would shimmy his hips to the drums, his rod throbbing with every beat. Before that whanger even wilted, he’d have busted fifty cherries.
The moon is now bright enough to read by. Not that Ryan reads. Reading is for geeks and Nancy boys. But the moon also darkens his powerful shadow. Ryan can make out his hulking shoulders, his bulging biceps and the panther-like grace of his stride. What a magnificent savage he is.
“Hunh unh,” someone laughs—a familiar voice. Turning his head, he sees her: an elfin teenage girl with dirty bare feet. She is sitting on a bench with a handkerchief in her hands and she’s polishing a cucumber. Ryan has known her for forty years and the bitch never ages a day. All she does is giggle, talk bullshit and piss him off. Still, she is the most harmless of his hallucinations, so the sight of her doesn’t bother him. Not until she hops off the bench, titters like a sparrow and throws the cucumber at him.
The cucumber sails towards his head. Ryan ducks.
“Missed you,” she laughs.
Ryan waves her away. “Get out of here, Dolly—beat it. They’ll lock me back up if they see us talking.”
The bitch shakes her head and starts clapping her hands. “What do you want me to beat?” she pipes.
Grinning mischievously, she skips up to Ryan. Ryan strokes her hair. “Hit the road, Dolly,” he says. “I ain’t going to tell you again.”
Brushing away his hand, she laughs—a sound like a babbling brook. “Missed you,” she giggles. “Missed you. Missed you.” Her voice fades away as she scampers towards the gate.
Ryan shakes his head. She’s gotta be dumber than a box of rocks. But at least she obeyed him when he told her to haul ass. Can’t be having her kind around if he wants to get out of this place. But the bitch ain’t as bad as the rest of those fuckers: jaundiced-looking clowns, hump-backed dwarves and an eight-foot-tall, glowering nun who’s the scariest of the lot. Not that Ryan can’t stare down a spook or two, but he’d just as soon save himself the trouble. Gotta save his swagger for cops and drug dealers.
Scanning the grounds with his eagle eyes, Ryan resumes his walk. The shadows are shrinking; the trees stand alone. The moon continues to climb.
“Tomorrow,” says Abraham. He is looking at Ryan from across his cluttered desk. It is five o’clock in the afternoon and tomorrow Ryan goes back to court.
“Mr. O’Shaughnessy,” ol’ Abraham mumbles—the dude smells of whisky and lint. “Once the judge sets you free, you will have to make a choice. As God is my witness, you will have to make a choice. What goes around comes around—remember that, lad. Our blessed Lord always evens the score.”
Ryan squirms in his chair. His nerves are like hot wires, and he could use a hit of meth. That’s ’cause he’s putting in hard time now. “Gonna score me a choice piece of ass,” he remarks.
Ol’ Abraham wiggles his eyebrows like he’s trying to shake ’em loose. The dude needs a weed whacker to keep those fuckers trimmed. “Mr. O’Shaughnessy,” he says. “You’re a man pushing sixty. The walls of your heart are paper-thin. So be very aware of the choice you now face. It is not a choice to break the law. It is not a choice between jail or the streets. It’s a choice between life or death.”
Ryan scrunches his brow like he’s thinking real hard. “I’ll listen to my heart, pops.”
“Listen to your Maker,” snaps Abraham. “Make peace with the Holy Ghost.” Ol’ Abraham wheezes and shakes his head. “Is there anything more you would like to say, sir?”
Ryan clenches his fists and tries not to scowl. He’s heard enough Bible thumpers in jail. Sallow faced nuns trying to humble real men. Goddamn soul suckers—that’s what they are. The bitches give him the willies.
“That ain’t how it happened,” he finally says.
“What are you saying, lad.”
“That fucker who got his candle snuffed. Deathbed confession. Angels took him straight to heaven.” Ryan grins like a ghoul. It’s too easy to mess with fuckers like Abraham—civil service burnouts sucking the taxpayer’s tit. You just gotta know what button to press.
“You think that it’s really that simple, lad.”
Ryan shrugs. “It is to the Bible thumpers. Ain’t you a born-again Christian, pops?”
Abraham flushes and Ryan grins broadly. He’s gotta be careful with that old Irish pervert. Can’t be confessing his sins to him. ’Cause Ryan’s gonna go to Valhalla like Kirk Douglas did in The Vikings. In Valhalla you get to drink beer all day. And get into sword fights. And meet Odin, the war god. The only way to get there is big time sin—killing off villagers, looting their churches and raping their wives in the bargain. Ryan should have been born a Viking. Ragnar O’Shaughnessy—that’s what they’d have called him. He’d have filled up a barrel with looted gold.
Ryan cracks his knuckles and laughs. “Ain’t it a bitch to be born too late?”
“Mr. O’ Shaughnessy,” ol’ Abraham croons. The dude has had enough. “I believe our conversation is over.”
It’s seven p.m. The sun is going down. Ryan strolls the grounds for the final time. The sky is beet red—redder than ol’ Abraham’s face when Ryan told him a story of his own. About how he already met his Maker. Happened last year, pops—during an overdose. My heart stopped for a whole damn minute. And that’s when I saw him waitin’ for me. He was wearin’ flip-flops and had a big G on his sweatshirt.
And what did he say to you, Mr. O’Shaughnessy?
He told me to keep my pecker up.
That part was a lie, but the rest was true. Ryan really did leave his body when a huge cap of meth froze his heart. And all he saw was some dude in a sweatshirt. That was a damn sight short of Valhalla, which was kind of disappointing. Ryan may have to kill someone for real if he’s gonna get into Valhalla. Unless there’s something to that reincarnation shit. And he can come back as a stripper’s pole.
The moon is now high. Although barren and cold, it looks like a huge living face. The face of some fucker who never turns his back on you.
Ryan’s skin starts to crawl as he cases the grounds. The shadows are empty; the lawns are smoother than a carpet. Not a single blade of grass is out of place.
Tomorrow, at this very time, Ryan will be nailing that red-haired court reporter. He’ll take her to the Zebra Hotel where he’ll show her his dagger-straight rod. And after he’s busted her cherry, he’ll tell her to hit the road.
Ryan’s nostrils flare as he strolls along a pathway. He smells something like pussy already—a stench like rotting fish. In front of him, the source of the smell is taking shape. He can see a head with a pair of devilish horns—both of them taller than a hard-on. He can make out an enormous girth, draped with the shadow of a sword. The face, which is slower to assemble, is sporting a bushy red beard. Even for a Norseman, the fucker is hairy.
The dude folds his arms as Ryan approaches him. Although he reeks of dead crabs, he looks like he’s made out of stone. He don’t even seem concerned that a battle axe is planted deeply in his skull. Nor does he seem alarmed by the porridge of brain matter clinging to his wooly shoulders. The dude grunts as he speaks—his voice thick with mead.
“Traveler,” he slurs. “Dip your saber in blood.”
The dude unsheathes a long gleaming blade, balances it in his hand then starts sharpening it with a stone. Ryan’s scalp prickles; his heart pounds with excitement. When he gets to Valhalla, he’ll have to swordfight that spook. And the fucker looks ready to run him through.
But at least the dude died with his sword in his hands—the credo of all Vikings. So Ryan salutes him and hustles on back to the loony bin. The fucker stinks too much to hang around with any longer.
The loony bin is silent as Ryan returns to his room. The dorm lights are off and the door to the day room is closed. There’s no one around but a fat ol’ night watchman who’s sleeping in a chair in the hallway. The watchman ain’t even made his rounds yet. He ain’t even locked down the building.
After closing the door to his room, Ryan looks out the window. He sees only the shadows of well-trimmed trees; the Viking dude is gone. But the moon now fills the whole damn sky. It looks ready to fall on the earth.
Ryan knows he will not be able to sleep. Thank god, he’s getting out of this place tomorrow. Thank god, he can play some music now. Ryan, a born musician, has already mastered the battered ukulele he stole last week from the day room closet. He’s gonna take it with him when he’s discharged—so he can play for change in the coffee houses. And score himself some pussy. There ain’t a bitch alive that won’t spread her legs for a musician.
Ryan grabs the ukulele from under his bed then peeks through the door of his room. The hallway is quiet except for the ragged snores of the night watchman. Ryan is supposed to check in with that dude, but fuck it. He don’t need that fat slug’s permission to play himself a tune. Clutching the ukulele in his fist, Ryan walks on down to the day room. The door to the day room is always unlocked. And the acoustics there are to die for.
Ryan slips silently into the day room. The room is empty, but the lights are still on. A tiny stage sits at the far end of the room where lecturers come to bullshit. A damn good place to practice up for the coffee houses. After selecting a chair on the stage, Ryan sits down and starts plucking the ukulele. And then he starts singing in his rich tenor voice
And if I kiss you in the garden
With a hard-on, would you pardon me?
And tip-toe through the tulips with meee.
Ryan concentrates hard as he plays, keeping his eyes on the strings. And so, he does not see the procession of people drifting into the room. Not until he pauses to catch his breath does he notice that he has an audience. A cloud of seedy-looking fuckers is standing around the stage—prostitutes, pimps, meth heads. It’s the same crowd of losers that watched him last week as he walked down the courthouse steps.
The crowd looks like a cast from The Living Dead, a movie he saw before the cops locked him up. And it’s clear from the dead fish glaze in their eyes that they ain’t come to hear his music. The only thing their faces suggest is that he will soon be walking among them.
Ryan’s skin crawls like it’s covered with fire ants. His heart starts kicking like a trapped animal. But he feels his jaw clench with a warrior’s resolve. Fuck all this! It’s bad enough that he’s gotta live in a mausoleum. It’s bad enough that he has to put up with a dude like Abraham—a drunken sot hiding behind the law. Now he’s being badgered by dead-eyed freaks that ain’t come to hear him sing. Stiffs who are acting like maybe he owes them money. Ryan may be a hell-bound dude, but this ain’t the hell raising he had in mind.
Ryan’s fists clench. His nostrils boom like wind tunnels. FUCK ALL THIS! It’s time—high time—he broke out of this place. And if those stiffs want to stand in his way, he’ll beat ‘em to death with his tallywhacker.
Leaping off the stage, Ryan snarls like a wolf. “HAUL ASS!” he bellows. He could use that Viking fucker right about now. They could cut down these assholes together.
The freaks let him pass as he bolts towards the door. Their expressions are passive—their heads bowed. They know a real man when they see one. Only the night watchman, a wanna-be cop, is standing between Ryan and the doorway.
“I say,” the man stammers. “I say, I say.”
Ryan don’t let him say nothing. Realizing his ukulele is still in his hand, he slams it into the fucker’s midriff. “Ooof,” says the watchman. He falls on his ass, hugging the ukulele like it’s a baby. Quick as a cat, Ryan jerks it away from him and brings it back down on his head. The ukulele smashes into a dozen pieces.
“Umph,” the dude says then he don’t say nothing more.
Ryan moves efficiently. After checking the dude to make sure he ain’t dead, he rummages through his pockets. Since the ukulele’s busted now, Ryan’s gonna need some cash.
When he finds the fucker’s wallet, Ryan opens it up. The wallet has a condom in it and a wad of twenty-dollar bills. Ryan leaves the condom in the wallet—his own schlong would burn it up—and pockets just one of the bills. ’Cause Ryan is used to traveling light. Meat pies once cost a nickel—no more. And a quarter was good for beer.
Ryan stumbles through the front door of the looney bin. His chest is kicking, his heart is in his mouth. Out on the lawn, the Viking is waiting for him. And the fucker is jacking off—slamming his ham with a beefy fist. Don’t they have virgins in Valhalla? Or did the Arabs in Paradise get ’em all?
As Ryan runs past him, the dude calls out. “Traveler,” he barks. “Traveler. Traveler. Dip your saber in blood.”
The Viking’s shouts fade as Ryan sprints on. The meat wagon is parked near the front gate. Like it’s waiting for Ryan to grab. Ryan has hot-wired a thousand cars, so it ain’t gonna be no problem.
Ryan can hear a police siren now. It mingles with the shouts of the guard at the checkpoint. The guard is waving a can of pepper spray at him. “Don’t hurt me,” the fucker shouts. “Don’t hurt me.”
Ignoring the guard, Ryan dashes to the meat wagon. Screw him—he ain’t worth Ryan’s time. ’Cause Ragnar O’Shaughnessy don’t fight chickenshits.
Snatching a stone from the driveway, Ryan aims at the driver’s side window. With a mighty hurl, he lets the stone fly. The explosion is louder than a bomb going off. Bulls-eye.
Glass litters the seat like a carpet of jewels as Ryan ducks under the dash. Within seconds, he has removed the access cover, located the starter wires and stripped them with his teeth. A few seconds later, the van gives a roar—a roar like the fires of hell. Clutching the steering wheel, Ryan hits the pedal. The van gathers speed as it hurtles towards the gate. The tires are squealing like banshees.
The gate is almost upon him—a tall row of bars clamped up tighter than a hymen. Ryan hears the guard holler as he peels towards the gate. “Code Red,” the dude’s shouting. “Code Red. Code Red.” He’s pressing a hand radio to his mouth like maybe it’s his mama’s tit.
The van strikes the gate like a battering ram. Ryan’s head hits the windshield. Lights blanket his eyes. As the flashes diminish, Ryan lets out a whoop. The gate has been knocked clear off its hinges. Ryan can make his escape.
The steering wheel is now slippery with blood, but Ryan holds onto it tight. He again hits the pedal; the van gives a roar then fishtails into the street.
Ryan clenches his teeth as the van careens sideways. The tires are shrieking; the air stinks of rubber. The chassis is bucking like a bitch.
The steering wheel steadies. The tires stop smoking. And Ryan is tearing down Oxford Street. The street is full of poofters, but Ryan can’t deal with them now. After he’s ditched the van, after the heat is off, he’ll come back and bash a few. But first, he’s gotta make it to Kings Cross.
The wail of the siren is louder—the cops will soon be on his tail. But Ryan is more worried about what’s in front of him. At the intersection of Oxford and Darlinghurst, a police car is blocking the road. And three goddamn cops are standing beside it. Cast in the cherry-colored sweep of the flasher, they look like they ain’t of this world.
“PULL OVER.” The voice is full of iron—like maybe it came from his Maker. “PULL OVER,” it repeats. “PULL OVER. PULL OVER!”
Let the fucker yell—Ryan ain’t gonna pull nothing. Except maybe his willie when he’s made his escape. Gunning the engine, burning the tires, he slams the van into the side of the police car.
Lights are popping like fireworks as Ryan hops out of the van. The cop car is crushed—the air reeks of gas. Miraculously, Ryan isn’t hurt. And a tire iron has appeared like magic in his hand. Ryan clutches the iron—he’s damn well gonna need it. ’Cause the cops are now on him like stink on shit.
The first cop he drops with a punch to the neck. The second one he brains with the tire iron, a blow so hard the dude’s helmet goes flying off. The third cop he staggers with a poke to the knee. As the cop hits the pavement, all the time tugging at his holster, Ryan smashes the iron across his wrist. The bones crack like walnuts; the dude howls in pain. A handgun goes spinning into the street.
Ryan lets the gun lie. The cops are all down, so there ain’t no point in shooting them. But he’s gotta get out of here and quick. Before he has to beat up a whole lot more.
A flutter of voices assaults Ryan’s ears. He clutches the tire iron—puffs out his chest. His eyes dart fearfully about.
When he locates the sound, Ryan drops the tire iron. It’s just a flock of whores on the other side of Oxford Street. The bitches are watching him—checking him out. And they all got lust in their eyes.
Ducking into alleys, hiding behind cars, merging into shadows, Ryan stumbles in the direction of Kings Cross. He can hear the sirens long before the squad cars go zooming past him. The cops will never catch him with their stupid sirens on. When he spots the fluttering lights of the Cross, Ryan feels kind of sorry for the cops.
WooooooOOOOOOEEEE. Another damn siren. Ryan silently chuckles then leaps into an alley. Ducking behind a trash bin, he waits for the squad car to whiz by. Big mistake. Someone has spotted him in the alley. Someone who’s taller than a house. Someone who’s got him cornered. As the creature approaches him, Ryan’s heart leaps. It’s that goddamn soul-sucking nun. And the bitch is squealing like a slut in heat.
WOOOOOOOEEEEEEE!! She’s approaching him slowly, haltingly, like a cat about to spring. Looks like he’ll have to beat her up too. Slap her silly with his two-foot whanger. Don’t matter a damn that she looks like shit—that her eyes are watery, her habit soaked with sweat. Don’t matter that she’s hemorrhaging from the waist down, kinda like a stuck pig. If the bitch don’t haul ass and quick, he’s gonna lay her out.
WHOOOOOEEEEEEEE!!!! Her voice is growing shriller—like icepacks in his ears. And her skin has morphed into the color of tallow. “ARRRGH!!” Ryan shouts—he can barely hear his voice. His heart is aflutter. His senses are failing. The alley grows as dark as a womb.
The nun is gone when Ryan awakes. And he’s sporting a thirty-inch hard-on. But his hard-on wilts fast when he hears a familiar giggle. Can’t stroke his beauty with that bitch around—she’s young enough to be his daughter. Wouldn’t surprise him if she is his daughter. With all the cherries he’s busted, Ryan’s bound to have sired a brat or two. The bitch is sitting on the trash bin, wiggling her toes. And she’s wearing a pair of gold earrings.
Slowly, painfully, Ryan staggers to his feet. His throat is raw, but he manages to speak. “Beat it, Dolly. I’m wanted for mayhem.”
She chuckles like a brook. “Missed you,” she laughs. Pocketing the earrings, she leaps from the trash bin. Seconds later, her arms are hugging his waist. “Missed you,” she pipes. “Missed you. Missed you.” Her teeth are shinier than pearls.
Ryan slaps her on the ass then digs into his pocket. He hands her the twenty-dollar bill. “Hit the road, Dolly. Buy yourself some fries.”
She tears up the money and throws it in his face. “Fries need ketchup,” She laughs.
Ryan shakes his head as she skips from the alley. She’s gotta be dumber than broccoli. But at least she ain’t bugging him no more.
Ryan peaks from the alley. His nerves start to tingle. His heart is now pounding like a war drum.
Once again, he can hear the sirens. Once again, he is on the prowl. Once again, he’s gotta fight crazies and cops.
Thank god for the Hunter’s Moon.
“Hunter’s Moon” was originally published in Red Savina Review and is included in Mr. Hanna’s anthology: A Second, Less-Capable Head and other Rogue Stories.”
James Hanna is a retired probation officer and a former fiction editor. Due to his background, the criminal element figures strongly in much of his writing. James’ stories have appeared in over thirty journals, including Sixfold, Crack the Spine, and The Literary Review. His books, four of which have won awards, are available on Amazon.