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Chris McCartney
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boganvilla.jpg
Art by Lee Kuruganti 2015

Bogan Villa

 

By Chris McCartney

 

 

 

           

          I was hacked ‘cause I couldn’t get famous when Raymond Scroggins pawned my VHS movies at the Cash Connection and bounced me early out the county jail. I never got ahold of no TV station to explain my rights was violated and I was profiled just for being a Bogan. People didn’t know they was supposed to make ‘Cozy Never Done It’ signs and march around or riot and take free stuff from stores. Plus, I never got to fill out no lawsuit application against that ball-scratchin’ deputy for false entrapment. But after Ray guaranteed me that soon the whole world would know who Cozy Bogan was, I almost filled my drawers.

          I got jailed because me and my family honored America on the Fourth of July with a party at the Bogan Villa. Made me feel special when people called my place the Bogan Villa ‘cause who gets famous for livin’ in a double-wide named especially after theirselves?

          Every patriotic boozer for fifty miles showed up with fireworks, whiskey, extra ammo and chili. By midnight we was all drunk enough for target practice when some jackass emptied his .45 into a sack of Roman Candles in the kitchen. Before anyone could notice, the place got burnt to the ground. To this day I don’t know which buzz-killin’ Bogan fired them shots, but I do know a landlord is up a creek if no renter’s insurance ever got paid.                

          About twenty minutes later, this blowgut deputy sheriff come flying up our road with lights flashin’ blue and red. Jumped out with a 12-gauge. Yelled for everyone to drop their weapon and get on the ground. He didn’t see me ‘cause I was a hunnert yards away, knee deep in that greasy cattle trough, peeing out Old Crow like I was a busted faucet. 

          If I just minded my own business, that deputy sheriff couldn’ta slammed my head against the hood of his patrol car. He arrested me for tossin’ sparklers into his front seat. If deputy dumbshit didn’t want his computer fried, he shoulda been smart enough to keep his windows rolled up. I swear he didn’t see me with no sparklers. Or when I keyed his car.

         

          After Ray sprung me, we hitched to his cousin’s place. None of Ray’s three girls – Cleo, Zella, or Bernice was in that sweatbox, so I done what comes natural. Started to get undressed. Got down to my bra and panties when he told me to stop.

          His right eye started twitchin’. Got me curious. “What’s the matter, Ray? You switch teams when I was locked up?” 

          “No, I didn’t, Cozy. But hold your horses. Put your clothes back on.”

          “Why you actin’ so strange?”

          “I’ve got something I want to run by you.”

          When he said ‘run’, I knew he was countin’ on a chase. You know, like sex would be a reward for him tacklin’ me. “You know I’m faster than you. You cain’t catch me unless I want you to.”

          “Later.”

          I knew he was tryin’ to throw me off because he’s so friggin’ romantical. But I seen right through him. He wanted me fully dressed so’s we could play strip poker. I gave him a wink and said, “We don’t need no cards. I’ll pretend you’re winnin’ big and…”

          “Stop with the games, Cozy. You have to hear me out on this.”

          “Holy Jesus. You leavin’ me?”

          “No. I’m trying to help you get you to a place you deserve to be.”

          “I ain’t pole dancin’ no more.”

          “That’s not what I’m talking about. Look sweetie, you have to admit you’ve been rolling a lot of gutter balls lately.”

          “You got no right to make judgments against me.”

          “You’re missing the point. I’ve got a plan. A way for you to gain respect.”

          Emotionals hit me. I teared up. Respect was a word nobody never said about me, but that old Raymond Scoggins was smoother than Velveeta. “That’s never gonna happen. Take a good look at me. You think all of a sudden I can make chocolate outta shit?”

          “If you’re willing to take a gamble.”

          “Bogans invented gamblin’.”

          “That’s a fact, but this is something different. No scams. No cheating.”

          “You’re scarin’ me, Ray.”

          “I want you to run for that vacant school board position.”       

          When you’re thirty-one and the best job you ever got fired from paid seven dollars an hour, the last thing you don’t think about is politics. “You got snakes in yer head?”

          “I’m serious. You don’t have enough experience to run for the House or Senate. Or County Commissioner. But nobody has filed for the school board. We’ll start you at the bottom of the food chain and gradually move you up. I call it reverse Darwinism.”

          “What’s that?”

          “Doesn’t matter. You don’t even have to campaign. Just file and you’ll be voted in.”

          “Hell Ray, I never finished sixth grade. Nobody’s gonna vote for me.”

          “They won’t have a choice. Before long, you’ll be running the show.”

          “How much does it pay?”

          “Nothing.”

          “Will I still get my welfare money?”

          “Yes.”

          “Food stamps?”

          “Of course. But you’ll get something new.”

          “A belly tattoo?”

          “No. What you’ll earn is respect. And power. You’ll be the most influential woman in the whole county.” 

          “Could I fire that deputy sheriff?”

          “Forget him. He was just doing his job. Your job is to get elected to the school board.”

 

          Ray falsified a crapload of documentations to get me on the November ballot. He instructed me to go to a school board meeting. Get familiarized with how they done things. Blend in with the audience, but don’t say nothin’. So, there I was, all dolled-up, caked with eyeliner, boobs floppin’ out the armpits of my Champion Mustache Rider tank top and leopard-skin spandex tights. Every fingernail was painted green and blue – the school colors.

          After ten minutes I couldn’t take it no more. I stood up and interrupted the proceedings. The Chairwoman, Mavis Ackerman, gave me an evil look. Said there was paramilitary rules to be followed. I wasn’t on no agenda and was supposed to keep quiet. But I didn’t care.

          “I’m school board candidate Cozy Bogan and I have a few suggestments to make. Number one, the security system at this school sucks. Them doors is always locked in the morning. My girls cain’t even get inside the buildin’.”

          “It’s a district policy we adopted after the latest school shooting,” said Mavis. “A safety measure. When first period begins, all outside doors are automatically locked.”

          “It’s yer fault for not lettin’ me know.”

          “No, attendance is the responsibility of parents. You need to get your children to school a bit earlier.”

          “I ain’t got no kids. I’m talkin’ ‘bout the Scroggins girls.”

          “And your point is..?”

          The point is, I was pissed. That flat-assed bitch was tryin’ to make me look stupid. Started tuggin’ my hair, which was slatherd with gel. Looked like porcupine quills was stickin’ out.

          I loved Ray’s girls with all my heart. They wouldn’t even be in school if I wasn’t beatin’ on their butts. The only time I wasn’t watchin’ out for them was when somebody bribed me with alternatives the nature of what I won’t disclose.

          Since I couldn’t gain no traction on attendance, I switched to money. “I want to know why kids have to take them college classes when they’s in high school. Each one costs $25. Isn’t education supposed to be free?”

          Mavis asked some piss-ant board member, Enoch La Rue, who looked like a sex offender, to answer my question. He stood up real slow to alert me he was a bigshot. His gut plopped over the table and his arms was gyratin’ like he was a carnival hawker. “AP courses are intended to help defray expenses when students enroll in college.”

          “I ain’t talkin’ about college. I’m talkin’ about high school, you stupid a-hole. Why don’t you stop wavin’ them dick beaters and explain why kids have to pay to play sports?”

          “There are many non-budgeted expenses necessary to run a first class athletic program. However, Mr. Scroggins does not pay. His children are scholarshipped. If you want to know the truth, Ms. Bogan, most parents pay more than is required which allows us to waive the fees for those with financial issues.”

         “Well, I got a big wave for all of you.” I flipped off the whole room.

          “Why are you here, wasting our time?” asked old lady Ackerman.

          “Because you jackasses ain’t got a lick a sense.”

          “And you do?”

          “Damned right. Ray says once I get on the board and take yer place, I get respect and power. I can fire bad teachers and get rid of them overpaid principals.”

          “And which teachers would you fire?”

          “I’d start off with that lazy assed Spanish teacher. He only works afternoons.”

          “Are you aware he is contracted to teach a half day? His mornings are spent at another school.”

          I felt like I was underneath a pig pile. It was obvious they was tryin’ to discredit me so I wouldn’t get elected and be in charge. What they didn’t realize was there was no quit in a coiled-up Bogan. “Why was it illegal for Bernice to play volleyball last week?”

          “I think you meant ineligible,” said another bottom-feedin’ board member, who everyone know’d got booted out the Mormon Church for having a bushel of kids from about ten different men.   

          “That’s what I said. Guess you ain’t listening. You should get yer tubes tied instead of flappin’ yer old whore gums.”

          “I think you’ve interrupted this meeting for long enough,” said Mavis. “I’m going to ask you to sit down and be quiet – or you may step outside until we’ve finished our business.”

          Nobody tells me to shut up. I ran to the front table. Grabbed that old boiler by the throat. “See if this keeps you quiet.” Piffed Mavis square in the Adam’s Apple with a right jab.

          Don’t remember much after that. People punched and kicked me like I was a pit bull bitin’ one of their mangy chickens. Next thing I knew – I was back in the bucket.

          For three days I was locked up and Ray wasn’t returnin’ none of my messages. I worried about the girls. They needed me. My public defender said I got zero school board votes ‘cause my name got scratched off the ballot on account of all them assault charges.

          I paced my cell for hours, havin’ bad recollections about my future. Heard a racket in the hallway. I’ll be go to hell if it weren’t Cleo, Zella, and Bernice – skedaddlin’ my direction like they was cut cats. Turned out they scraped together my bail money by askin’ other kids at school to pitch in.

 

          I heard it takes a village to raise Bogans, but we’s doin’ great by ourselves. After Ray left me, I became a single mom raisin’ three girls and a grandbaby. You can strut around like you almost got famous or barf-up opinions ‘til yer lips crack – but I learnt respect comes from examples you make of yourself. Everyday stuff you don’t even know you done ‘cause you wasn’t pretendin’ to be somebody you wasn’t.

          Like usin’ my income tax refund to pay rent before we had to find a new Bogan Villa. The pride I felt when Cleo wanted me in that delivery room when she got to be a teen mom. Or when Zella begged me to chaperone at the Junior Prom and everybody wanted to dance with me – even though I was wearin’ a ankle bracelet.







ym75howiescell.jpg
Art by K.J. Hannah Greenberg 2019

Howie’s Cell

By Chris McCartney

 

I knew Howie was a science fair reject with bottom shelf instincts, but the little shitweasel was one of my oldest friends. By the way, his real name is Daniel Wolsborn. I started calling him Howie when we were about ten years old because he’d always say, “How we gonna do that?” or “How we gonna get home?” or some other “How we…” rubbish.

Howie and I–in addition to an entourage of cup checkers from my college days in Tacoma–had coagulated near the strip mall town of Belfair, Washington, for our annual July weekend golf tournament at Zeke Brown’s beach house. After a long day of bogies and beer, I pulled my silver Beamer into the parking lot of the town’s only motel, a no breakfast rent-a-dump for pensioners and scratch ticket winners. It was just after midnight. I shook Howie by the shoulder. Alerted him the booze scooter had landed.

          “Hey, dickhead, wake up,” I said. “We’re at the motel.”

          Howie twitched and yawned. Gave me a confused look. “Where’d you hide my cell?”

          “I didn’t. But I’ll call it.” Didn’t hear a thing after five rings. Then a voice answered.

“Hey, what’s up?”

“Who’s this?”

“Todd. Been waitin’ all day for someone to call this damn thing.”

          “You’ve got my buddy’s phone.”

“Well, ain’t you the smart one? Found it by the side of the road this morning. Wasn’t sure it even worked, but I’m willin’ to give it back. If I lost my phone, I hope whoever found it would do what I’m doin’. How much your buddy willin’ to pay? Could use some cash,” said Todd.

“How’s twenty bucks sound?” I asked.

“Doesn’t sound like much. Gonna cost more than that.”

“How about forty?”

“You’re gettin’ closer.”

“Let’s meet somewhere. Where are you?”

          “Key Center.”

“That’s twenty miles from here.”

“You want the phone or not?”

“Yes, he wants it. Can we meet you halfway?”

“I ain’t wastin’ no gas. How about in front of Butch’s Smoke Shop?”

“Smoke shop? In Key Center?”

“Can’t miss it. On the corner by the traffic light. They’s closed now, but the place is all lit. I’m five minutes away. Call me when you get there and I’ll head right down with the phone.”

“Okay. We’re on the way.” I hung up and looked for Howie. He was leaning against some duck hunter’s camper, taking a serious pull from the flask of bourbon he’d dug out of my golf bag. “Were you listening?”

“To what?”

“Some guy named Todd found your phone. We’re going to meet him and get it back.”

“Forget that. I’m sure I left it in my room.”

“Your phone is not in your room, Einstein. It’s in Key Center. I’ll GPS Butch’s Smoke Shop. Get in and buckle up.”

My brain gurgled a million scenarios as I navigated the rocky canals and extraterrestrial fingers of Puget Sound in my X5. I’m fifty-four years old and I’m driving a drunk to a rendezvous with a guy who broke into Howie’s motel room and stole his cell phone. Or maybe Todd was in cahoots with the housekeeping crew? Maybe the motel owner was in on it? I relaxed my knucklegrip on the steering wheel, rolled down my window, and inhaled a globe of salty air. “We need to pull over for a few minutes.”

“Why?”

“Weapons. I need my shotgun. You grab a five-iron.”

“Five iron? I can’t hit shit with that club and you know it. How about one of my hybrids? Better yet, give me the rifle. I’ll blow ReTodd halfway to Mars.”

“We’re not heading to a gun fight. Just do what you’re told and everything will be fine.”

“I don’t take orders from you.”

I slowed the car. Had to smile. It would be fair to say he took the wrong fork on his journey from childhood to manhood as indicated by his steadfast loyalty to the fuckbag doctrine. “It’s not an order, just common sense. How drunk are you?”

“Drunk enough to piss in your car if you don’t let me out pretty soon.”

I whipped into a public boat launch. Popped the back hatch, scooped out my Remington 1100 semi-automatic, and loaded it. After a five-minute piss, Howie produced a Nike three wood. “How much cash you carrying?” I asked him.

“Two hundred bucks.”

“I’ve got five hundred. We’ll each keep forty and I’ll stash the rest under the back seat.”

“Are we going thru customs or something?”

“No, but I’m getting a bad feeling about this whole deal. Could be a set-up. I’m going to call the cops.”

“Don’t do that,” groaned Howie. “There must be a half-dozen warrants out on me for stuff I don’t remember doing.”

I gave him a curious look. Wasn’t sure how baked he was. After all, he did drink a rhino’s dosage of booze and puffed his share of pot before passing out in Brownie’s backyard a few hours ago. “You okay?”

 “Just keep me out of jail.”

“You’re not going to jail. But I am going to call the sheriff.”

We settled back into the Beamer with weapons between our seats. I made the call. “Is Sheriff William Anunsen working tonight? That’s great. I’d like to speak with him. Okay, can you get a message to him? I’m an old friend. Please tell him Captain Jacobs called and said to meet him at Butch’s Smoke & Beer Shop on Ninety-second Street in Key Center ASAP. What’s that? Captain Jacobs. Don’t worry; the message will make perfect sense to him. Thanks so much.”

“What are you Captain of? A row boat?”

“Anunsen and I spent some time in the sand box during Desert Storm. Light Armored, 1st Marines. Billy was a crazy son of a bitch, but the best shooter I’ve ever seen. Spent more time at the range than anyone south of Baghdad. I bailed out his ass one time in Kuwait or they’d have sent him stateside and locked him up for good in Leavenworth. He grew up fast, reenlisted, and did a couple more tours. Got out after twenty and joined the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. I know his story because I ran into him at a Seahawk tailgate party a few years ago.”

“Is that why you missed our tenth high school reunion? You were playing army?”

“Marines, not army. Remember the photo I sent you of me in full battle rattle?”

“Of course. I thought you faked the whole macho warrior thing so you wouldn’t have to show up.”

“Howie...sometimes I think you’re the dumbest son of a bitch I ever met.” We rode in silence for the next twenty minutes. “There’s Butch’s. Up ahead, on the right.”

“Pull in close to the entrance. I could use some Pork Rinds.”

“The place is closed, but the last thing I’m going to do is pull headfirst into a parking spot.” I did a quick assessment of the area. Decided our best option was on the shoulder of Ninety-second Street, facing out.

“What kind of idiot would park here?” asked Howie.

“Me. In case we need to make a quick getaway. I’m calling Todd right now and tell him we’re here. You stay in the car until he shows up. I’m going take a stroll up the hill and wait behind that big cedar tree. It’s so damn dark he won’t see me, but I’ll be close enough to hear your conversation. Oh, by the way, here’s another forty in case he gets greedy. When Todd arrives, get out, and offer him forty bucks. If you have to, give him the extra forty. He gives you back your cell phone and we’re out of here. Got it?”

“We’re not in Iran, sarge. I’ll do it my way.”

“Whatever. If Todd turns out to be a Good Samaritan, we’re gold. If he’s the goatsack I think he is, don’t worry. I’ve got your six.”

“Six what?”

“It means I’ll cover you.”

I disappeared into the midnight blue. When I looked back, I saw Howie had gotten out of the car. “You dumbass,” I groaned. He fumbled for one of his smelly clove cigarettes and I thought he’d fall over trying to fire it up. Out of the corner of my eye, about a hundred yards out, I saw a white Toyota backing away from Uncle Westy’s Steak House. The car spawned directly to where I was hiding. Weird or by design? Every twenty feet or so the driver would stop, flash the brights, and rev the engine. Then creep forward again. Straight at me.

A grimy Ford Bronco came bowling down Ninety-second and squealed to a stop behind my rear bumper. Why not park next to Howie? Weird or by design? I swung my rifle toward the Bronco driver as he exited his vehicle. Tracked him as he strolled over to my little buddy.

“Hey, ReTodd. I’m Howie. Nice to meetcha.”

“It’s Todd.”

“That’s what I said. You should have your hearing checked.”

“Fuck you.”

“So…uh…I guess you found my phone?”

“That’s right.”

“I can’t believe it still works. I haven’t paid Verizon for months. Been gettin’ prices from Sprint and Frontier to see–”

“Shut up,” Todd roared.

“Take it easy, pal. I thought you wanted to sell me back my phone?”

I saw Todd dig into his pocket. I assumed he was reaching for Howie’s cell. Instead, he pulled out what looked like a Beretta pistol. Pointed it at Howie’s whistlers. I was about thirty yards away. “I got a better idea,” said Todd. “Why don’t you give me the keys to that X5?”

          “You gotta talk to Artie about that. It’s his car. I just want my cell.”

“I was gonna let you buy it back for a hundred bucks. But not no more. Once I seen that Beamer, I changed my mind. How about them keys?”

“I don’t have them,” said Howie.

“How’d you get here if you ain’t got no keys?”

“That’s not the issue here, ReTodd.”

“What is the issue, you fat fuck?”

“Artie’s not going to give you his keys. He loves that car. Know what he calls it?”

          “I don’t give a rat’s ass. So where’s this Artie I gotta talk to?”

          “Right here,” I said, revealing my hiding spot. The business end of my long gun ready to blow a hole between his nipples. “Why don’t you give my friend back his phone and we’ll go our separate ways.”

          Todd was rattled. He put his left hand above his eyes to cut out the glare from the streetlight overhead and squinted into the darkness to get a better look at me, but kept the Beretta pointed at Howie. “Where the hell you come from?”

          “His mom’s womb,” said Howie.

          “A coupla fuckin’ clowns,” said Todd. “Why don’t you be a smart old man and set that rifle on the ground? Then back away. Slowly.”

Before I could reply, the driver of the Toyota punched the gas and beelined straight for me. I saw a muzzle blast from the passenger side and a round whistled past my ear. I swiveled and fired four times. The first one shattered the windshield of the Camry. I placed the second two inches above the steering wheel and the third about where the gunman’s head should have been. The fourth blew out the front left tire. The car veered away from me and accordioned into an industrial sized dumpster.

The crack of a gun refocused my attention. Oh my God, that redneck turd just shot Howie! I spun around. Saw Todd reach for his throat. Blood squirted out like a busted fire hydrant. The Beretta clanged onto the asphalt. Todd’s knees buckled, he pitched forward, and face planted into the pavement. I yelled, “Howie, you okay?”

          “No. I got blood all over my golf shirt.”

          “He’s fine, Captain,” said a familiar voice.

“Jeezus, Billy,” I said. “That was a helluva shot. I had no idea you were here.”

Billy let out that goofy cackle I’d heard so many times. “Wouldn’ta gone down like it did if anyone knew I was.”

 “You know them?” I asked.

“Hell, yeah. Been after those shitbirds for about a year. Trust me, the world is a better place without those four.”

I scanned the parking lot. “Where’s the fourth?”

“In the Salal, about fifty yards from your position. That old snake eater, Ricky Bob Kucher, thought he had plenty of time to set up his shot.” 

“All this for a freakin’ cell phone. Well, Billy. Where do we go from here?”

“You two hit the road. I’ll call it in as soon as I see taillights.”

“Here, take my shotgun. I’m sure you can figure out why you had to use it. By the way, the serial numbers accidentally got filed off.”

The sheriff cackled again. “Always a step ahead. We’re even now. Right, Captain?”

“We are.” I shook his hand and walked over to Todd. Rolled him onto his back with my foot, reached into his coat pocket, and removed Howie’s cell phone. “I see you’re still using a flip phone, you cheap bastard.”

“Screw you. It works.”

I moved toward him and stopped. “Howie, tell me you didn’t–”

“Duh.”

“You’re not riding in my car smelling like an outhouse.”

“No worries,” said Howie. He opened one of the Beamer’s rear doors. “You’ve got some butt wipes in here and I’ve got clean clothes in my suitcase. How we gonna make it back to Belfair if we’re not stoned?” He produced a pipe and a vial of what I assumed was killer pot. “Hey Artie. You and your deputy friend wanna smoke a bowl before we head out?”






Chris McCartney has had several short stories published, in ‘zines like The Story Shack, Squawk Back, BareBack Lit, Spork Press and Yellow Mama. His short story, “Slider,” is currently available on Amazon Kindle and his international thriller, Blowers, is waiting for publication. More info can be found at: https://www.chrismccartneyauthor.com

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