I was about five, maybe six years old. My brother who was three years older had his buddy from school staying at the house for the weekend, and the three of us decided to go down to the lake and go fishing. Now my brother’s friend is a city kid, and we figure out that he’s terrified of snakes. We get down to the lake and there’s crawdad holes all over around the edge of the lake. He didn’t know any better so we told him they were all snake holes. He was three years older than me, but I still had him on his toes all morning calling out snake and putting sticks by his feet. It was fun.
It was on the walk back that it got real interesting. I’m walking back behind him and my brother. My brother is carrying the poles and his friend is carrying his shoes over his shoulders, walking in the grass. He must have stepped right over it, because I’m walking behind him and look right down to see a big, big garter snake in the grass right along the road. I’d handled snakes and had never had any natural fear of them. My father always said that when I was barely old enough to know what a snake was I’d yelled at him to stop the tractor while he was mowing a field, ran out in front of it and flopped down on a little snake. I just never had that natural fear. So I do about the same thing here. I just reached down and grabbed it. “Snake!”
I look up just in time to see my brother’s friend break the sound barrier running away. Snake is literally longer than I am. Holding it by the neck over my head (don’t do this without supporting the body) its tail still dragged on the ground. Huge garter. Well, long story slightly shorter, it turns out to be a Western Garter, known for being just about as mean as snake can get. That little bastard struck at anyone that ever got near it. Most snakes will get used to you after a while. Black snakes will calm down in about five minutes usually.
That little bastard bit me right on the wrist when I put it in a big jar. Then bit me again on the hand when I tried to transfer it to an aquarium. Bit me square on the nipple the one time I tried to hold him. Right through a sweater, dead on the nipple. That one hurt. So after a few days I just let it go. He was just too mean to keep. But having him for a first snake, I think I just never worried about it, and as a result I’ve ended up getting bit sooner or later by all my snakes, and a few of my friend’s snakes. Once even by a lizard. Ever been bitten by a Golden Tegu? That hurt like hell, they’re truly vicious. And that’s the story of my first snake bite.
I can’t believe I didn’t think to tell you about my cat. He’s one of the best stories about when I was living down there. Okay, so the story starts off the way a lot of my stories do, with me drinking a bit more than prudent. It was a great, sunny day and me and some friends went to a local beach bar to kill some brain cells. It was early afternoon and it the place was pretty packed. They served a good seafood menu and a lot of tourists were about. So me and my friends are chatting and drinking and up comes this kid. He’s probably 11 or so. He asks us “Hey, do any of you guys want a kitten?” Cute right? Well at that point most of us were sharing an house and we had never discussed getting a pet. I think most of us assumed it was just a bad idea with that many people and with our general lack of responsibility.But everyone had a few drinks in them and most of them knew I came from a bit pet family. Honestly at times it was like growing up in a zoo. Cats and dogs everywhere.
Well everyone is feeling no pain, so they start trying to talk me into taking a kitten. I have no idea why they wanted me to, but I assume they thought I’d do all the work and they’d get to play with it. So after some cajoling, I ask the kid where the kittens are. He says “There right over there” and points to a bunch of Feral cats rummaging through the garbage. These are the hobos of the cat world. Living around the tourist traps feeding on trash and whatever they can catch. The area is overrun with them. Now I know that these cats are totally wild. They’re young and fast, and used to being chased. There’s no way in the world this kid is going to catch one. So, being a little drunk I look for the fastest, sleekest looking cat I can find. I spot a little black tom, maybe a month old. Nothing but wiry speed that one. I say to the kid, knowing I’m being oh so clever “If you can catch that black one, I’ll take it.” He agrees and goes running off. I turn to my friends with a big grin and say something like “See, I.” “Mister, here’s your cat.” Shit.
So I turn around and the kid is standing there with a Sysco box from the restaurant. My friends are all laughing hysterically at me. I take the box from the kid and me and a friend set it on a stool. We open the top of the box as if it might contain explosives, ever so slowly and peer down inside. What do I see? The cutest little hissing, spitting, angry ball of dirty fur, teeth and claws I’ve ever seen. Imagine a tribble from the very bowels of hell. This cat hates me and everything I stand for. Shit.
So we take him home. We’re all pretty good and drunk by this point, and the cab drivers all know us well enough that they let us bring a wild animal in the cab. I set the box down and go into my room. I tell everyone “Don’t let the cat out. I want to let him out in my room, and let him get used to me before we freak him out okay?” Sure, they all get it. I go in to prepare my room. I flip the bed up so he can’t hide under it. I close all the doors and windows so he can’t get out or hide, and then set up a genius little place where he can hide until he gets comfortable.
So then I go out to get the cat and put my plan into action. The box is open. “What did you do?” I look around the room and nobody is as ashamed as I know they should be. “Your cat’s in the couch.” …..”What?” “Your cat’s in the couch. We let him out and he ran into the couch. We can’t get him out.” Shit. So for the next few days the cat lived in the couch. It was a fold out, but we were afraid we’d kill him if we tried to open it. He’d come out when we weren’t there to eat and use the litter. Little bastard knew how to do that right off. And little by little we coaxed him out more and more when we were there. He eventually learned to trust me, but never anybody else. He’d only let other people touch him when he was in my lap, otherwise he was as good as wild. He once jumped from a second story balcony to get away from my roommate. And he never became fully house bound either. He would disappear for as long as a month sometimes, and show up fat and happy like he never left. I had him for years, and then one day he just didn’t come back. I never knew what became of him. And that’s the story of my psychotic cat.
Thought I might throw a few chapters of fiction out here. Let me know if you like them. Writing them on the fly, so forgive any poor grammar.
It was raining when I pulled into the lot. It’s always raining on Horizon. The building was one of the old office style that had been put up on the outskirts of the Venture City back when Horizon was the gateway to a new frontier. Now it stood like a reminder of the failure that the dark planet represented. Four stories of glass and steel, designed for another world. I put on my hat and stepped from my car out into the night.
As I walked through the lobby doors I took a second to adjust to the light as I shook the rain from my hat and overcoat. The lobby was far from what I had expected. Most of the old outskirt buildings were either owned by the gangs or were hovels overrun with addicts and squatters these days. This one still looked like a legitimate business. The tiled floor and wooden front desk threw me for a minute. Something made me feel out of place, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. As my eyes adjusted to the light I spotted Ugly Benny at the desk. For once I was glad to see him. Whatever it was that was putting me off, he brought me back to reality. Benny ignored me as I walked across the lobby. He had his boots on the desk, dripping water on some stranger’s work space, and he was watching what sounded like the fights on his hand held.
“Where?” I asked him. Benny didn’t do chit chat, so I wasn’t going to bother. He might not have acknowledged me as I came in, but he was here for a reason and he damn sure knew that I was here and why. Benny was a type of person that has likely been around since man first climbed down from the trees. He was nothing much to look at, a squat five foot nine with shoulder length, lank black hair a scraggly beard. His pudgy belly drew the attention away from his broad shoulders. His long arms and big hands looked almost apish. He was the kind of person that most people would dismiss as a thug at first glance. But as I said, his kind had been around for a long time, and there was a reason for that. Benny was the right hand of Jackson Smith, which said something in and of itself. He wouldn’t be in that position if he didn’t have a good head on his shoulders. And I’d seen him in a fight. He was brutal and efficient. People like Benny were artists of destruction. They weren’t leaders, but they were smart and capable. People like my old friend Jackson cultivated them for their loyalty and trust. Benny would kill or die for his master and the only thing that would change that was if he was thrown to the wolves. In a place like this, that’s worth more than gold.
“Three” was Benny’s response. I decided to try for a little more info. “How’d you know I was coming?” Benny gave a half snort. He saw right threw it. “I smelled pussy.” I wasn’t getting anything from him. I found the elevator on my own.
The third floor was a continuation of the first. Carpet had replaced the tile, and the desks were metal, but the feeling was the same. Warm, but professional. Bright lights in the ceilings banishing the shadows that one grew so used to on Horizon so quickly. Dark windows covered the outside wall directly across from the elevator door. I could see my reason for being there halfway across the room. I would have said hello, but he was busy being dead.
I’ve seen my share of dead bodies. In fact I’ve seen my share and two or three others shares. For some reason this one bothered me. Not the strangeness of it, though it was strange. It wasn’t the fact that the man was young. I’d seen much younger. Something was pulling at the side of my mind.
He was sitting at a desk almost directly in front of the elevator. The desks were lined up in an almost classroom order, all facing the same direction, away from the windows. The only concession I’d noticed so far to the perpetual twilight of Horizon. People got depressed staring out into the darkness every day. Danny was laying face down on his computer, dried blood congealed on his face and the desktop. He seemed to have been shot through the eye. A gun was in his hand.
“It reminds you of Earth.” That was Jackson. He’d hit the nail on the head. I looked over just to see him walk out of an office to the right. Jackson had been here longer than I had. He was the only one. He’d also named exactly what had been bothering me since I walked in the building. It must have occurred to him as well. After all we were both from Earth. On Horizon nobody built open, window filled buildings. They did everything they could to create light filled little caves that made you forget you were on a world that never saw its tiny sun. This house of glass had reminded us both of the buildings we’d known in our youth, so long ago. Jackson and I weren’t’ enemies, but due to our interests we couldn’t be called friends either. We did however have a dance that went back for a long time. I owed him the acknowledgement of having seen through me so well. “Hmph” That’ll do.
This happened to me about a month ago, and I just thought of it when I was responding to a thread on reddit. It was an interesting exchange.
So I went to meet a friend of mine for lunch. It was an old co-worker that became one of my closest friends over the years. We had decided to meet up at a Chinese buffet, he’s nuts for them, and I got there about fifteen minutes before he did. He lives in a bubble of his own time that doesn’t seem to be related to the rest of the universe, so I was not expecting him to be there when we’d arranged. I had planned ahead and brought a book. As I came into the restaurant there was an older woman in line ahead of me. She was having a rather confused conversation with the hostess that was not made easier by her by her lack of direction in her thoughts and the hostess’s somewhat limited English. I half listened while the woman eventually negotiated a meeting with someone higher up the food chain. I was then seated and proceeded to read my book.
A few minutes later I looked up and noticed that the woman had been seated nearby, and was eating a large meal from a to-go container. Not from a plate mind you, but a to go box. Odd, but I didn’t concern myself. Soon enough my friend arrived, and as usual we did the straight guy friendly half hug/half handshake greeting and sat down to talk for a few minutes before getting our food. Now I’ll describe myself and my friend a bit here, because I think it contributed to her mistaken initial opinion of me. I’m a thirty something, average size white guy, with very short hair and that day I was wearing jeans and a plain brown, collarless shirt. My friend is a sixty something six foot two black gentlemen with impeccable, if flashy taste and style. He was wearing black jeans, with a black shirt and a black overcoat. Very sleek. He also has a bit of a thing for gold jewelry. Needless to say he catches the eye. Together we make slightly odd lunch companions. We really get attention when we go to movies together.
So then it happens. My friend and I get up to go fill our plates, and he runs into friends. He’s one of those people that knows everybody. You can’t go anywhere with him in our small town without him ending up in a ten minute conversation with somebody, and it happened here. So I end up back at the table first. Before I take a bite the woman says to me “Excuse me sir, are you a minister?” I’m an atheist, but weirdly it’s not the first time I’ve been asked this question. So I smile and say “No ma’am.” Now I expect the matter to drop, but she was apparently interested in some lunch conversation. Sooo, I spend the next half hour nodding along, trying to eat some of my meal before it gets cold while she proceeds to tell me the story of her life. She tells me about her horrible family situation. She tells me about how she’s going to win her daughter’s love back by buying her a beauty salon. She tells me about her divorce from her husband and how he’d want her back if he knew how good she looked now. She tells me about how she’s going to start a homeless shelter. She tells me about what stores in town will give food to the homeless. She tells me about how everyone thinks she’s only twenty something when she’s really forty something. Sadly little of this could have possibly been true, outside of the stories of the stores helping her out and probably her shaky relationships with her family. My friend came back about halfway through the conversation, and told me later that when I went to get more food she continued to tell him about the same things she had been telling me. After about an half an hour of non-stop talking she says goodbye and leaves without much fanfare. I’d have bought her meal, but the restaurant was obviously feeding her for free. And that’s how I ended up having lunch with a homeless woman.
I’m running shy of stories at this point. I’m sure I’ll think of more as I have time, but I thought maybe I’d list off some of the more interesting guests we had while I was in the business. It was a riot seeing people at their best and their worst. People usually do one of two things on vacation, go nuts trying to keep everything together, or just drop any inhibition whatsoever.
At one point while tending bar at the pool I had an ex-cop spend the entire day at the bar. He regaled me with stories of working decades on the force in a city that I don’t recall right now. In fact the stories couldn’t have been all that interesting, because I don’t remember any of them. What I do remember, is that this guy sat and drank an entire case of beer over the course of my 8 hour shift. 24 MGDs, one after another. At no point during the day would I have been able to tell by his speech or behavior that he was drunk in any way. The only way I noticed was when I rang up his bill before I closed. I spoke to the bartender that had covered the bar for the two days before me, and sure enough this guy had done the same thing all weekend. For three days he sat at the pool bar, in the shade, and drank a case of beer.
The upside of working the pool bar was of course watching the girls in the pool. Now, more often than not it was mostly middle aged women and men, and the occasional younger couple. The pool was technically “European style” sunbathing and because this was in the US there was another pool for families. But every once in a while, you’d get a younger, attractive woman out sunbathing topless. The interesting thing about this of course was the reaction it would get from the other bathers. Without fail you would get complaints. I remember one particular time when a late teen, early twenties blonde girl was out bathing in just her bikini bottom. Within five minutes an irate woman stormed up to my bar. “Do you see what that girl is doing over there?” I’d seen this before so I went with “She’s sunbathing ma’am.” “Well she is not wearing a top, and I want to know what you are going to do about it?” Fun stuff. “I’m not going to do anything about it, topless bathing is allowed here.” She was red in the face at this point. “What if my children were to come in here?!” Now, I want to note here that she didn’t even have children staying with her, and I honestly doubt she had children younger than their twenties. But I was a lackey, so I just went with “Well ma’am, this is the adult pool. Your children aren’t allowed in here.” So here she decides to change tactics. “I find that disgusting, and I want a stop put to it. I am leaving this hotel if that is allowed to go on. Don’t you find that disgusting?” So at this point she’s threatening to leave. And I know damn well what the manager’s response is going to be. She can leave if she wants, but we’re not going to change the rules for her. Plus I know that no matter what I say, I’m going to be listed as part of the problem when she complains. So I go with the truth. “Ma’am, I think you and I have very different definitions of that word. Here’s the phone. Dial zero for the front desk and tell them you want to talk to the GM or the manager on duty.” I won’t drag on here, but she went through the same routine with them, and never backed down. I don’t know for sure that she left the hotel, but then I didn’t follow up. I was too busy watching the topless girl at the pool. But honestly, this happened every time we had a good looking girl get topless. Oddly it never happened when a sixty year old woman was out there topless, which was a lot more often.
Now one of the worst things about tending bar in a vacation resort is the non-drinkers. Anyone that spends a lot of time in a bar knows that most regular drinkers hold their alcohol pretty well. Every once in a while they’ll take it too far and end up telling everyone they love them, or they hate them, or both. But they’re easy to deal with. The non-drinkers however, when on vacation decide that they’re going to get good and drunk for once in their lives. This always goes badly. I have had people falling out of their bar stools, getting up and ordering another. They’re not drunk enough to go down for good, and they don’t have the sense to stop on their own. Bob, who I mentioned in another story, used to call us killer bartenders. Because “We’d serve you booze till you died.” It was that or cut somebody off and get a complaint made against you, which could screw you over even if it was for a stupid reason. I’ve watched sixty year old women make out with men half their age sitting at the bar. I’ve seen more people than I care to think about lose their lunch all over the damned bar, sometimes on the bar. I had one guy wave a fireman’s badge at me pretending to be a cop and threaten to arrest me for serving his “girlfriend” too much when I hadn’t put booze in her drink in an hour. She’d been sitting in the bar for hours hiding from him because she came on the trip on kind of a set up double date with her friend, and the guy turned out to be a total ass. She’d slurred most of this out to me while trying to drink all my vodka. I think he thought she was going to run off with me, and frankly she might have been trying. It was hard to tell at that point.
I remember one time getting a table assigned to me right as I walked in the door. The hostess couldn’t get the grin off her face, so I knew something was up. I approach the table and it’s a thirty something Asian woman sitting with a blonde friend in a bright yellow dress. I noticed right off that the blonde seemed rather large. I don’t mean fat, we saw plenty of that, but just big. I get to the table, and I see why. The blonde woman is a 230 pound, six foot tall, middle aged man in a dress and a wig. Now this doesn’t freak me out. I’ve been around. What was really interesting was the conversation I could hear whenever I was away from the table, but close enough to overhear. The woman was coaching this guy on how to do everything. How to hold the silverware, how to drink. I finally decided after the entire course of the meal that this guy was getting coached on how to behave as a woman. I thought at first they might have been a couple, but they didn’t seem that close. I left with the impression that these two had arranged to go on vacation together so he could explore this new side of himself. More power to him. Weird experience for me though.
I’ll have more later. I have to take care of some things.
Okay, one more. I’ll tell you about my friend from Detroit. Let’s call him Bob. Bob was one of those guys that life has beaten down so low that they think they’re looking down from the top again. Had everything figured out, and had absolutely no filter on his mouth. He was a bartender and used to insult guests all the time. For instance people had a habit of asking how big a 9 inch pizza was. He’d respond “Where are you from? Well a 9 inch pizza is the same size in Florida as a 9 inch pizza in _______”. So he was amusing, but you just couldn’t really like him. Anyway one day Bob starts telling us about this girl he met and is having a pen pall relationship with across the country. We all figured she was in prison, but turns out she was not. She came to visit and they instantly decided to move in together. So, she moves all the way across the country by truck. They take all the stuff into the apartment, and while he never said so, I assume they had sex. So then, in a moment of content she says to Bob “This is nice, we should just go ahead and get married.” Now Bob could handle this a lot of ways. Dismiss it as a joke. Tell her to be patient. Whatever right? No. Bob says “You’re fucking crazy if you think I’d marry you.” Yup. She goes outside, gets into her Bronco and proceeds to ram his car, over and over, from every available angle. Destroys the car completely. Now as if this wasn’t enough, she then drives to the marina and pulls the plug on his boat, which sinks the thing into the canal. Only thing she didn’t do was untie the moors, so it didn’t sink all the way to the bottom. The only thing funnier than the story was listening to him tell the story.
Just the contents. I couldn’t stand the guy, nobody could really. He came in as a manager in training, which none of us had heard of before that point. His only experience was as assistant manager at a pizza hut or something, but whatever, nobody wanted a manager job. We made more money on the floor. Anyway, he comes in and immediately starts trying to coach people who have been doing this job for years, decades in some cases. I really tried to like the guy but he was an ass, and I was young enough to take offense. Anyway, I’m totally swamped one night and I’m in the kitchen getting rolls from a hot drawer down by the floor. He walks up and needs to get something so he just bumps me out of the way, practically knocking me to the floor. As I said I was young and hot headed, so I pushed him out of the way, pretty roughly and go back to filling my basket with rolls. I honestly thought it would stop there. I stand up and he steps right into my face. “What are you pushing me for?!” I was stunned. So I said “You fucking bumped me out of your way and almost knocked me down. What the fuck?” I don’t remember what he responded to that, but it was nonsense and I just saw red. Somehow I made the decision not to hit him though, and I just grabbed my half full glass of sprite from the counter, threw the contents in his face and walked out of the kitchen to the floor. I go back inside a few minutes later and he gets in my face again. He says “I don’t think you know who I am, but I grew up in the neighborhood you live in, and I can have my home boys fuck you up if I want to.” Mind you, suburban white boy. So I respond with something like “You’re fucking surrounded by my “Home boys” idiot. If you have a problem with me why don’t you come by my house after work, since you seem to know where I live, and me and you will settle this on my front lawn.” I walked off, and he apologized later. The manager asked me why I threw my sprite in his face and I told him the only real alternative was to knock him out. I never got any formal write ups, but people told me they discussed canning me over it.