Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sample Sunday: Excerpt from "Bowling With The Big Dogs" by Tim Matson

Back during the summer I was asked to take a look at Tim Matson's Bowling With The Big Dogs and provide some editorial guidance. Not that it really needed much input from me. I enjoyed the book immensely. I simply LOVED this book. It ranks up there in my top five of the year as I think it is an incredible read. I offered to Tim that if he would like to submit something for Sample Sunday I would be glad to run it. He agreed and sent the long sample below which follows the Amazon Synopsis…..

Drinker. Smoker. Detective. Smartass. Psychic?
The often sarcastic Moon Mullen isn't your average overweight detective who drinks to forget the past. Not that Moon Mullen doesn't drink--- he does and is very good at it. But, instead of drinking to forget, Moon Mullen does it to control the voices in his head because he hears thoughts and emotions. Being psychic has advantages in the detective business, but Moon Mullen's gift can be a curse as it is anything but consistent. A warped sense of humor allows him to survive, and a drive to catch a serial killer threatening his small Minnesota town gives Moon a chance to bring justice to the people in his past.

Chapter One


The guy with the shaker was beginning to make my teeth itch.
While I’m sure that his parents had been ecstatic when he showed some interest in music as a child, they probably didn’t envision this in their wildest nightmares. He was holding it in both of his hands, caressing it and shaking it like he had a secret he was just dying to tell. From the looks of him, I think I knew what it was, but wish I didn’t.
The bar had a typically backwoods Minnesotan name: The Deer Head Bar. This was owing to the stuffed Monster Buck head that was mounted on an age-darkened plaque that looked almost petrified. The story that goes along with the taxidermist’s work was equally old, and had magnified to epic proportions. Apparently the old guy that shot the Monster Buck just grazed a slug along the deer’s head, stunning it, and he was so afraid that it was going to get away that he ran across the fifty yards that separated them, jumped on his back, and stabbed him with his hunting knife, somehow finding the massive heart. The scar on the head of the buck was still visible, so I guess it was worth talking about. When I first moved here, I innocently asked, “Why didn’t he just load another slug in his shotgun and blow his brains out?” Obviously I’m not the hunter type, because the sneers and gasps from the crowd nearly blew my head off.
“His gun must have jammed! And besides which, you asshole, he had to save the fucking rack!”
Didn’t make any sense to me, but I don’t get off on blowing woodland creatures away. When I have a craving for meat, I’ll get it from the butcher, where I’m sure it would have said “moo” a few times before it meets its demise. In any case, I found out later that the story of Roger the Monster Buck was somewhat less than true. What really happened was that the hunter was driving back home after a heavy night of drinking, hit the deer with his rusted Ford Escort and somehow managed to rope it on what was left of the car’s roof. He then hid it in his barn for two days until Deer Opener, the holiest of holy days, and brought it out to the accolades of his peers. Not as Tarzan-like as the first tale, but much more believable.
The bar itself was typical in its Midwestern style. Along with Roger the Monster Buck, the place had the usual assortment of neon signs advertising beer and liquor, a long bar with a brass rail on the bottom to rest your feet, and several long-legged stools with stools around them so you could eat your greasy bar food and wash it down with the beverage of your choice in comfort. The bar was shaped like a boxcar, long and thin, with a flyspecked picture window in the front overlooking the main street through town, and bathrooms in the back, each marked, appropriately, Bucks and Does. I knew enough about animals that I didn’t screw that up. I also didn’t ask how the monster buck got the name Roger. Sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone.
It was well enough into the evening that the Twins were playing on the nicotine-smeared television, Radke on the mound, and the sounds of the game were interrupted by the reverberations of heavy feet clomping over the dirty carpet. A herd of plus-sized women were stampeding in, followed by a short, thin guy holding a shaker.

Oh yeah, remember him?

The women all crowded around the karaoke machine, flipping switches and creating feedback from the microphone, getting giggles from all of them. As I listened, I figured out they were all on vacation, tired of the streets and bars of Minneapolis, wanting to go native out here in the sticks. All of them were wearing Doc Martins, and all of them had plaid shirts and blue jeans on. All of them also had multiple earrings, and most of them had earrings implanted in places that would not be considered anywhere near an ear. The leader of the flock stood on the small stage and began to sing My Guy with her tongue so far in her cheek that she could tuck it in her back pocket. The unfortunate pocket was sitting on an ass that was slightly smaller than the city of Duluth, without the benefit of the lake breeze.
The music, and I use the term loosely, all but drowned out the announcers of the ball game, but I watched anyway, trying to figure out how many hits Radke would give up in the first inning. A guy a few stools down from me was muttering, “He’s the ace? Christ! He’s given up four hits and there’s only one out!”
I didn’t know why I was putting up with these fingernails across a mental blackboard. I just stopped up to buy lottery tickets for Saturday’s drawing. Twenty-eight million bucks, and I don’t mean Rogers. Enough money that all of this crap would be a distant memory. But when I asked for my tickets, the thirst for a Seven and Seven came on me like a teenager finding out that it doesn’t grow hair on your palms like Mom always warned. And now the little flashes were growing inside my head, and that usually didn’t start until I’ve drank five or six, not the two that had already found their way down my throat.
The bar owner, Steve, walked by with a “Howza boy?”, but with the prices in this place it should have been “Howza credit rating?” I don’t really begrudge him the price of the drinks; everybody has to make a buck. He’s also a friend of mine, and has carried tabs for me when I’m a little short. He’s also driven me home when I’ve had a few too many more times than I can count; one perk of spending a ton of money in the same bar. Steve is as big as I am, six foot and a bit and about 230 pounds, but his waist has remained at about 33 while mine blossomed to 40. He was a high school football star, but blew out his knee before his senior year. He glossed over his regret by saying that it gave him more time to chase women and drink beer. His sandy colored hair was chopped Marine Corp style, and he has one of those Fu Manchu mustaches that went out of style about twenty years ago. I smiled at him, and saluted the haircut. Semper Fi, baby!
The sound of a cat being skewered on top of the karaoke machine was beginning to overpower the ballgame and my thoughts of how much money I was wasting in this place, so I turned back to our lovely gender-bending star as she started on her rendition of that timeless classic, You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings, the rest of them acting like groupies, their eyes glistening. The guy with the shaker was another groupie, and he had the amazing foresight to bring his own instrument…yeah, right…to this musical slaughter. Copious amounts of hair gel were slathered on his black locks; spiking it up, giving the impression of an instrument of torture I remembered from a PBS special on the Spanish Inquisition. But I don’t think those nasty Catholics bleached the tips a platinum blonde. Long silver teardrop earrings with rhinestones glued to them hung from both of his small, flat ears, and sparkled when he shook his head. And while he didn’t quite keep the beat, he did manage to giggle convulsively at the end of each song, and squeak out, “Wow! That was so good! You are so cool!” His voice sounded like a cross between South Park’s Eric Cartman and Truman Capote. The high, effeminate giggle was a good match for the cold sore on the side of his mouth that stuck out like Mama Cass at a Bulimics-R-Us convention.
Our shining star started to sing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot in a style that mimicked William Shatner…For God’s sake Scotty, beam me the fuck up!...and the groupies, as if on cue, put their arms around each other and began rocking back and forth. One even sparked her lighter, tears glowing in her eyes.
Oh brother.
I didn’t know there was a part for a shaker, but our friend had access to musical information that others didn’t. “Swing low…shaakashaaka…sweet chariot…shaakashaakashake…comin’ for to carry…shakeshakerattleshake…me hoooooome…rattlerattleshake…”
Apparently cats do have nine lives, because this one was being tortured again. Not skewered this time. Maybe a blowtorch? And never a spear handy when you need one. I started to laugh out loud; I couldn’t help myself. They were so…awful. As I looked up, wiping the tears from my eyes, I noticed the glares from the moo camp. It reminded me how out of place an overweight, white heterosexual male laughing at a bar full of overweight butch women and a guy with what looked like radiation poisoning on the side of his mouth can be. Not to mention that poor cat that was being killed repeatedly in the persona of karaoke. If looks could kill, like the man says, they would all be doing 25 to life.
I have nothing against gay people or transgender, or whatever other acronym you happen to be. It seems to me that the world is a harsh place, and finding someone you can love is a rare and wonderful thing, and if it happens to be your nature, then you have the right to be just as miserable as every straight person. Get married. Find out what a thrill a minute that is. But bad talent filled with pretension? That, my friends, opens you up to all sorts of justifiable smart-ass comments and outright laughter, in my book.
My gaze was drawn back to the television as my erstwhile bar mate hollered out that Radke actually struck someone out.
“In the first inning! Unfucking believable!”
A grin spread across my face. Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad night after all, and considering how shitty my life was as of late, it would be a nice change. But, as usual, it wasn’t to be.
The short hairs on the back of my neck were beginning to stand up, and a wave of…gross…started to bounce around the inside of my head. A movement caught my eye, and as I looked over at the herpes-inflamed rhythm dork for my All-American Girl Band, my already twisted brain didn’t quite comprehend what I saw.
He was still sitting there, but something wasn’t right. The irritating shaker thing was on the bar, not in his greasy hands, as it was before. And something else.
Oh. I see. His head is gone.
The body was still kind of slumped on the bar stool, the fingers in the right hand twitching slightly, and the blood from where his head used to be was beginning to spray across the bar, splattering bottles and glasses as his heart kept pumping.
Now, mind you, in the split second I saw I noticed this, I came up with the response that usually pops in my head when I have been drinking: You’ve finally done it and gone absolutely bat-shit crazy. Where’s Elvis? He’s around somewhere…
The next glance confirmed two things: I wasn’t crazy and the vibes I was feeling weren’t false.
But there was a guy wearing, of all things, bib overalls and a long-sleeved flannel shirt with red and black stripes. He had it buttoned to the top, with a black turtleneck peeking up to his jaw line. The trouble was that it wasn’t his jaw line.
It was Richard Nixon’s.
And then the screaming started.

Tim Matson ©2013

By the way, the book is FREE through Tuesday at Amazon.

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