Sunday, December 31, 2006

Strike Me Down, Big Man: A White Trash Vignette

Strike Me Down, Big Man
James Robert Smith

There were seven of us: Scot, Robert, Brayboy, Tina; and Brayboy's sister, Reddog. And there was Phil, a garbage scow of a guy we all called Fat Bastard when he wasn't around to hear. At nineteen, I was the oldest, so I had dropped into the liquor store and bought the rum. The rest had brought coke; and me and the other braves were gulping the cheap, shitty rum and chasing it with Coca Cola. It tasted truly awful, but we were feeling good and drunk. I wasn't as high as the rest of the boys, since I weighed in at better than two-fifty, so I held my rum pretty good, and Phil didn't drink (the pussy). But Brayboy weighed one hundred thirty pounds, and even though he was only sixteen years old he was already a boozer who loved the stuff. He was going to make a sloppy drunk. Some of his teeth were rotting from too much booze and not enough food. He was drunk enough that I think he'd forgotten how much bigger I was than he, so I'd already had to tell him to shut up a couple times.
The girls weren't drunk, at all. Maybe a little. They were fifteen year olds, but they had plenty of experience when it came to males chasing after them. They well knew we were hoping to get them drunk enough so that we could talk them into lying down for us. Reddog wasn't a problem. She loved dick and everyone but her brother and me had had a taste, and I really wasn't so sure Brayboy hadn't had a go at her. But I just didn't think she was attractive with that pale skin and all that red hair. No thanks. Tina, though, was another matter. She was short, maybe not even five feet, but she was well built. She had great tits, and her hips flared out from a narrow waist and her legs weren't bad, either. If you bothered to look, she had a cute face framed with short, brown hair. All of us wanted to fuck her.
Earlier that day, I had stopped by the Brayboy house, and Reddog and Tina had been in the back yard. I went back to talk to them, and noticed Brayboy's barbells sitting in the dirt. Sandspurs had started to sprout around the concrete-filled plates; it had been so long since the little guy had used them. I bent down and picked them up, figuring he had about one-twenty on the bar. I was wearing a tank top and began to curl the weight easily, pumping up my biceps.
"My gosh," Reddog said. "Look at his muscles!"
I smiled and curled the bar a few more times, getting the desired result. But Tina looked up for a minute and said nothing. Shit.. I tossed the bar back to the weedy ground.
"How did you get so strong," Reddog asked.
"Heck. I'm not that strong," I lied. I was as strong as a fucking bull. I was so strong that nothing less than a gun scared me. Truly, I loved beating the shit out of other men. I had the lackonooky disease, so I walked around pissed off all the time. Tina was standing there wearing a halter-top and very short cutoffs so my dick was hard just looking at her. I did my best to hide my erection. I’m a gentleman.
"Where's Steve," I said. I rarely called her brother by his first name, but since I was on Brayboy property, I figured I should show some respect. I liked Mr. Brayboy, the father. Too bad his daughter was a slut and his oldest son was a rummy in training. He had four other kids stuffed into that five-room house, but they were all young ones and I didn't even know their names. Didn't give a damn, either.
"Him and Scot are off doing something," Tina said. I knew she really liked Scot. If any of us was going to get any action from Tina, I figured it would be Scot. She seemed to perk up a little at the mention of his name. Damn.
"Well, when they get back, tell them that I want to get up a bunch and go to the cemetery tonight. We can all smoke weed and get drunk and raise hell. You tell em for me, okay?" And I vaulted the chain link and trotted to my pickup.
So. We had all ended up in the Port City Cemetery, right in the middle of it at eleven at night. The rest of the boys were too drunk to notice the mosquitoes eating us alive, and I was too intent on trying to figure out how to get Tina alone and on her back to worry about the little bloodsuckers. We had come to the cemetery in a brand new 1978 Chevy pickup, just purchased by Scot and Robert's dad. It was a beauty: shiny white with four wheel drive and lots of polished chrome. I hadn't asked them how the hell they had talked their dad into letting them drive off with it. He must be out of town, I figured. Right then, it was parked out on Mane's Bluff Road, in a little turnaround area shrouded in by a couple of old live oaks and a line of scrub. The cops hardly ever came down there because the washboard road was hell on your suspension. Cops do love a smooth ride.
"Let's go look at that mausoleum Brad keeps sayin he gonna bust into," Scot said.
"God, that's one crazy fucker."
"He scares me."
"He scares you? You mean you ain't fucked him yet, Red?"
Reddog made a savage grunting sound and clawed at Scot. But he was too quick and danced away from her, bounding lightly over half a dozen graves. I could see his blond hair, even in the dark.
"You shouldn't do that, Scot." It was big, fat Phil. He stood, as usual, behind the group, watching us.
"Shouldn't do what?"
"Walk over the graves like that." Phil pointed, his fat paw kind of pasty looking in the half moonlight.
"Why the fuck not," I asked him.
"You should have more respect for the dead. You should fear God, man."
I laughed. Scot laughed. "Fuck that!" Both of us.
Scot hopped to a granite slab all polished and carved with the names of some family. We couldn't read it in the dark. He began to do a jig. "I'm dancin' man! I'm dancin'." He hopped about while I laughed. No one else was laughing. "Strike me down, Big Man. Strike me down!" Nothing happened, except that Scot and I began to laugh: big belly laughs while we made fun of everyone's religious beliefs.
"Hell," I said, pointing to the starry sky. "He ain't even got a cloud to pop some lightning out of." Scot looked up, thought that was especially funny, and laughed some more.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Night I Missed Iggy.

Many, many years ago I went to a new club where Iggy Pop was supposed to perform. Brand new club. Not much in there but a make-shift bar with cold brews, a bandstand, and many square feet of space where you could stand and wait for Iggy. An opening act came out--some shitty two-chord punk band out of Atlanta Gee Ay. They sucked ass.

As the club began to fill with cigarette smoke I stood and waited for Iggy. That was why I'd paid the cover charge to get into the goddamned place. The shitty fucking two-chord punk band from Atlanta went through their lousy three or four numbers. They finally stopped (thank the rock gods). The club continued to fill with smoke. As I have never smoked (tobacco), the smoke began to get to me. But I waited.

The shitty punk band from Atlanta stumbled back onto the makeshift bandstand and took up their instruments. Oh, the gods. Please. No.
But, yes, they began to play again. I asked around. Iggy was "delayed". I bought a beer. I drank it. The smoke was now so thick that to see you had to cut a space in it with your hand. My eyes were watering. My lungs hurt.

Finally, I went outside.

The air in the darkened parking lot of the new-ish shopping center was cool and mercifully clear of tobacco smoke. I drank it in and tossed the empty beer can into a trash receptacle. Someone else came out of the club and I asked the guy if he knew what the holdup was all about. Where was Iggy?

"Apparently," the guy told me, "Iggy Pop is in the alley behind the club. He won't come on until the club owner pays him his fee, in full, in cash. If he doesn't get the money, he's not going to play."

"Fuck," I said.

After a while, I went back into the club. By this time, the cigarette smoke was so dense the place looked as if it were on fire. I tried to breathe and could not draw a decent breath into my lungs. "To Hell with this," I said to no one in particular and retreated once more to the parking lot.

Four hours had passed since I'd entered the club. It was midnight. I was finished waiting for Iggy Pop. Not that I blamed him in any way for the delay. I wouldn't work for free, either.

The club owner, however, I'd like to have beaten severely. Instead, though, I strolled to my car, enjoying the cool, smoke-free air. I drove home, got into the shower and scrubbed the hideous stench of the cigarette smoke from my hair and my skin.

The next day, I spoke to someone who knew the club owner and asked him if Iggy had ever entered the building. Apparently, the guy had phoned his rich dad who somehow showed up with the cash in hand and gave it to Iggy Pop, who then went into the club and did his show. It started around 2:00 am or so.

The club never opened again. I never saw the guy who'd instigated the whole mess, and that's all for the best, I reckon.

Would have been nice to have seen Iggy Pop perform, though.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Disturbing Popularity of Zombie Fiction.

Some time back I began to have some disturbing suspicions about the enormous popularity (albeit a niche market) of zombie fiction/movies/games. I think one thing that widely appeals to the folk who read and watch this stuff (I have to count myself as a fan) is that the heroes get to shoot other people with wild abandon. Think of it. Like a dream come true for the right-wing survivalist inside us all. A lot of the people who are into this material actually like the apocalyptic ideal. They get to gather up guns and blow the brains out of everyone who doesn't look like them, act like them, think like them. In fact, in these zombie-infested fantasies the bad guys aren't even exactly human, so it's okay to blow their brains out. The entire thing is just a kind of racist, xenophobic wet dream.

I've been able to talk to some of the people who write this material, and I don't think these guys are actively considering that they're writing neo-fascist propaganda. But I see a lot of disturbing parallels in the zombie fiction phenomenon and the rantings of the various racist groups who populate the internet and who often poke their heads up into the mainstream media and among the right wing of our current political system (the GOP).

My own attraction to the form has always been my tendency to look upon myself as an outsider. Thus, my sympathies with characters who find themselves isolated and threatened by the mobs of mindless zombies waiting to destroy them. But with the current popularity of the zombie-fiction media, I tried to take another objective look at it. And I don't like what I see. It's not that the fictions aren't well written or well produced. They largely are. And as I said I don't think the folk who are making this stuff are consciously creating neo-fascist dogma. But with the resurgence of Jew-hating, and racism, and the scapegoating of immigrants and non-Christians, I do see a connection.

At any rate, I've decided not to buy any more zombie novels. At least for a while. Until the racist/xenophobic mania that runs through our society abates.

And, dammit, George Romero's directing a new zombie movie that I really wanted to see. A back to basics film where the zombies are all really slow and stupid and totally brainless and waiting to be destroyed.

Bash 'em or burn 'em. They go up pretty good.

Sunday, December 24, 2006


James Robert Smith

My father told me
that our government
had been wrong.
That it has committed
vast crimes:
Murders, genocides,
destruction without
Men and women and
slaughtered because they
lived here first.
Men and women and
enslaved and tortured
because they were
not white.
Forests cut, leveled,
slashed and burned.
Rivers dammed,
dirtied, polluted to death.
Creatures of wood,
and hill, desert and plain,
laid waste.
All these things he
told me,
while schools
and radio
and television
and comic books
told me America
is good, and great,
and beloved of God.
I grew,
pulled by two
versions of America;
one dark and bloody,
one bright and gaudy.
I grew,
and read,
and watched,
and listened,
and compared.
And I tell you,
you who will
Mark Smith
was right.
America murdered
men, and women, and babies
because they were here
America enslaved
and tortured
men, and women, and babies
because they were not
America did, indeed, level vast
polluted great, clear, clean
rivers and lakes;
gutted the forests and plains
and hills of our
wild heritage.
America, listen:
My father,
your son,
knew you well.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


By James Robert Smith

I live in what real estate agents like to term “a town home”.

It’s a glorified way of saying I live in a smallish house jammed cheek by jowl with a block of half a dozen other structures sharing walls, all crammed together on postage stamp-sized lots with dozens of other such structures.

Fortunately, my “town home” is not a flat, and is a two-story building and I don’t have to listen to neighbors tramping overhead.

Unfortunately, I am sandwiched between two other such “town home” owners. The neighbor to my right is relatively quiet and I rarely hear anything out of him. The neighbors on my left had some extreme financial problems when the husband got laid off from USAir and then had the misfortune to subsequently get cancer. He lived, but the ensuing financial hardships caused them to lose the “town home”. I miss them. They were sweet people.

For several months, the “town home” that had once been theirs and was now the property of some bank or investor just sat empty. No neighbor is a good neighbor, when it comes to peace and quiet. It was great not to hear anything at all beyond that sheetrock on the other side of my office.

Then, someone bought the “town home” from the bank/investor/lawyers/whomever.

They moved in. Foreigners of some type. I hear them talking to one another sometimes when I get home and they’re in the front yard. They might be speaking Spanish. Or Portuguese. I don’t now. I’m just an American and can only speak English with a strong Southern accent; and a smattering of German and Yiddish. I don’t know what they’re saying.

My office, where I write, where I labor after carrying the mail all day for Uncle Sam is on the second floor. Right next to the room where my new neighbors have decided to place their amusement room. Big screen TV. Stereo system. Son with geetar. Just about the time I want to get cranking on my novel…

The bass comes thumping through the wall. Every time I get ready to type.

The bass comes thumping through the sheetrock. Every time I try to think of the next sentence, the next paragraph, the next phrase, the change in the plot.

The bass comes thumping through the wall.


I’m a patient man. Really I am. But after some hours of this, after wandering off and waiting for

The bass thumping through the wall to stop.

It doesn’t. It goes on for hours.

And, finally, I grow so tired of it that I feel a need to retaliate.

I have several thousand tunes on my computer. Residue from the heydays of Napster. I conjure a play list of rockin’, rollin’, yellin’, loud, shit-kickin’, hell-raisin’ tunes. My wife bought me some new kickass speakers. The nicest sound system I’ve ever owned. And, suddenly, there I am with Dave Edmunds, Nick Lowe, Bad Manners, Madness, drums, geetars, cranked up full blast, so loud that my feet are tingling and the bones in my legs are shivering.

The bass thumping through the wall.

After a couple of hours, I turn off the music.


Silence from the other side.


I can write.

And you know...I'd almost forgotten what it was like to crank it up to full blast. It was rather nice, actually.


James Robert Smith

Between North and South Korea
tigers and cranes thrive
where everywhere else they are

There, the moose and boar and brown
bear live in
great numbers
where men no longer

The western warlord stood before
the cameras, commenting on how,
from space,
the absence of nighttime illumination
marks the backward nation as something
dark and evil.

But if there were no lights
scarring the night sky
you could see the stars
as we could
once upon a time.

No lights, at night
is not a bad thing.
It’s good.
And so I implore
Mother Nature:
Turn out the lights
for us all.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Cat I Never Saw

The Cat I Never Saw
By James Robert Smith

I deliver mail.

When I first started I worked at a station that was in downtown Charlotte. A lot of the neighborhoods in which I worked were in very poor neighborhoods. Lots of run-down houses and clunkers parked in the streets. For whatever reason, there were always empty lots filled with junk and scrap wood and overgrown with weeds and sometimes the rusting hulks of abandoned vehicles. In the summertime the rollout garbage cans would be at the sidewalks where I walked and the stench of maggoty food rotting in the heat would be stupefying in its intensity.

Often, I would have to dodge nipping dogs, or wade through mewling kittens, or keep an eye out for trouble of various types. On three occasions I got caught in the crossfire of angry people shooting at one another with handguns. Sometimes the job was most definitely not much fun.

One day I was delivering mail in Wilmore. I’m not sure how the Wilmore Neighborhood got its name. But it was a lovely place, and you could see the old luster of respectability underneath the flaking paint and weedy yards; and through the screams and the odd gunshots, there was sometimes silence.

On a particularly hot and sticky day, I was hoofing it down what I knew was a very bad street in this very tough neighborhood. About one-fourth of the houses on the street were vacant. They’d been bought by speculators who knew the whole Wilmore area was going to be gentrified soon, and they were banking on making a killing once the white yuppies moved in to replace the poor black and Hispanic inhabitants. In fact, Wilmore was the last such neighborhood in the downtown area that had yet to be so gentrified. Houses that were once practically worthless were selling for high five figures, and sometimes six figures for the more well preserved estates.

I was nearing the end of the street, where it intersected with a major thoroughfare when a very old, very thin black woman came walking toward me from her driveway. It was a concrete driveway, probably poured sometime in the late-40s when the residents there had all been white folk. The drive was still concrete, but now it was cracked like glazed porcelain and broken by the roots of a dozen trees, both living and dead.

“Hey,” she said to me.

“Hello,” I replied.

“Would you like to see the biggest rat I’ve ever seen?”

Now, I had expected her to say something. I had expected her to ask me about the mail, or whether I had a package she’d been expecting, or if I’d take some greeting cards to the post office for her. Something like that. I have to say that to be asked if I’d like to see the biggest rat this very old woman had ever seen was not anywhere on any list of things that I would have suspected would be mentioned by her.

So I thought about it for a second or two. Long enough so that she maybe thought I was going to pass.

“You really should see this rat,” she told me. “It’s enormous.” Her diction was very good, and I suspect that she may have been either a teacher or a secretary in her youth.

“Sure,” I finally said. “I reckon I would like to see the biggest rat you’ve ever seen.”

“It’s over here,” she said. And I followed her up the slight incline of the drive to side of her modest brick house. She pointed.

And there it was. Ratzilla. It was, as she had advertised, the biggest goddamned rat I had ever seen. Thankfully quite stiff and dead, and the biggest she had ever seen, she had said. It was bigger than a large puppy. And, no, it was not a muskrat, which we do have in this area. And it was not nutria, which we do not have in this area. It was just a huge freaking black rat. It must have weighed more than two pounds, easily. It was bigger than my foot, not counting the ugly, gray, naked tail.

After being horribly aware of its enormous size, the next things that I noticed were the wounds on its neck. It had a couple of puncture wounds that appeared to have been formed by something the size of a sixteen-penny nail.

“What did that?” I asked her, pointing at the punctures on the neck.

“Oh. That. My cat did that.””Your cat? I’d have thought a big dog bit it.”

“No, that cat’s huge, too. Biggest cat I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t come inside. But he showed up here last year and I feed him.”

I looked away from the rat and scanned the empty lot next to her house, searching for a sign of a cat that had teeth big enough to make those kinds of wounds. My bare legs suddenly felt really vulnerable.

“Well, ma’am. I don’t know what you’re feeding that cat, but I’d keep it up if I were you.” Then I waved to her and wandered on down the street.

I never did see that cat.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Road Trip!

Not exactly "On the Road", but I'm headed up to Greensboro tomorrow to hook up with Mark Rainey to sign copies of our anthology, Evermore (Arkham House Books).

After we sign the books, we're probably going to hit a restaurant. It's been a long time since I've visited the Raineys. I'll probably post some photographs here tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Ray Bradbury Said It.

Ray Bradbury Said It
James Robert Smith

Ray Bradbury once said,
“The most horrible thing in the world is
a twelve-year-old boy.”
I don’t agree.
Not quite.
Twelve-year-old boys get
and stronger
and more clever.
And they learn to shoot guns
and fire missiles
and splash napalm.
And they foul
the water and air,
and despoil the land,
and they kill the animals
for food,
and for fur,
and ivory,
and their blubber,
or just
for fun.
Then they find women
to beat
and children
to abuse,
and sometimes they kill
each other (HAW!).
But they never
grow up.
They’re always
boys.Only worse.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Augh. By James Robert Smith.



Come home exhausted.



More work.

Too tired to write



Thanks the gods