Writing: What I Know

Creative writing is an art, and like all artistic disciplines, consists of two distinct fundamental aspects, the practical and the creative.

Teaching the practical is relatively simple, as the practical method of becoming a good writer is the same as becoming an accomplished ballerina or a plumber; foundational education and constant practice. A writer learns the rules of grammar and sentence structure and how colloquialism bends and breaks them in dialogue and narration. A writer learns the visual flow of paragraph blocks and slashes of dialogue on the page, the makeup and length of chapters and story beats and the usage (or exclusion) of prologues and epilogues and how these rules, adhered to by the academic writer, may be bent and broken by the artist. Like a karateka, or perhaps more appropriately, a monk, the novice writer must learn the seemingly oxymoronic physical discipline of sitting down; that, to paraphrase Joe R. Lansdale, writing is like a muscle which must be regularly exercised; it defines and improves with repetition and it atrophies and withers with disuse.

Instruction in the creative aspect of writing is more radical, and my personal theory about the act of reading and writing fiction is where I may come off as a bit new age-y, but you’ll forgive my indulgence, as it works for me.

It is tapping into the collective unconsciousness of the whole of shared human experience and funneling it through the filter of personal perception, hoping beyond hope that we might transport a total stranger into a shared dreamscape. Writing is communion. Fiction stems from all that a writer experiences in their lives, all that they read and hear and see, run through their own personal cultural awareness, inscribed on a page with as much honesty as one can muster in the act of lying.

The old adage of writing what you know, like the commandment against killing, is often misinterpreted (the original commandment is against murder – killing is permissible in defense or self-defense). What a writer knows is not necessarily their personal experience. A writer may have been a grocery clerk all their lives. It is what dwells in their hearts and dreams that summates what they know. A person may not know the day to day experience of being a warden at Saharan game preserve, but all of these things may be studied and learned.

A person does know the loneliness of isolation, the sorrow of inhumanity, the frustration of day to day life. These disparate elements may be married with research to produce art that resonates and stirs the dreams of others.

Writing is just printed words on a page. To a reader, it’s a spell, and every book is a grimoire brimming with an almost incomprehensible magic – the magic of empathy. To learn to tell stories is to learn to inscribe poetry in the blood of the eternal heart which all people share. You can move a total stranger to tears, make their skin prickle with excitement, titillate, uplift.

Creative writing is the cartography of our common ground; we build our own dream countries and invite each other to stay in their fantastic capitols.

Bernie Wrightson
Published in: on April 28, 2023 at 10:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Happy San Patricio’s – The Grey God Passes By Robert E. Howard

My earliest knowledge of Gaelic folklore was probably the same as anybody else’s, St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland, which we were taught in Catholic school.

But my first and fondest taste of Irish storytelling tradition probably came through one of its modern scions, and one of my most revered writing influences, Robert E. Howard.

At the age of thirteen or so, heavily into Conan and Solomon Kane, I was heading to my local used bookstore and combing the spinner racks and the ‘H’ section shelves for anything with his name on it. I took home this book, Marchers of Valhalla, whose first story, The Grey God Passes, is Howard’s fantastical take on the Battle of Clontarf, in which Irish High King Brian Boru died defeating a Norse-Irish force.

It centers mainly on Conn, a Gaelic slave/outlaw turning on his masters, and has some pretty stirring battle descriptions and an appearance by Odin himself. I recommend it if you’re looking for something to make you wanna swill (and I do mean swill) Guiness and put your knuckles up. It made me wanna, and I’m a Polack.

Conn reached Murrogh in the upheaval of slaughter. “Melaghin says he will charge when the time comes.”

“Hell to his soul!” cried Black Turlogh. “We are betrayed!”

Murrogh’s blue eyes flamed. “Then in the name of God!” he roared. “Let us charge and die!”

The struggling men were stirred at his shout. The blind passion of the Gael surged up, bred of desperation; the lines stiffened, and a great shout shook the field that made King Sitric on his castle wall whiten and grip the parapet. He had heard such shouting before.

Now, as Murrogh leaped forward, the Gaels awoke to red fury as in men who have no hope. The nearness of doom woke frenzy in them, and, like inspired madmen, they hurled their last charge and smote his wall of shields, which reeled at the blow. No human power could stay the onslaught. Murrogh and his chiefs no longer hoped to win, or even to live, but only to glut their fury as they died, and in their despair they fought like wounded tigers -severing limbs, splitting skulls, cleaving breasts and shoulder-bones. Close at Murrogh’s heels, flamed the ax of Black Turlogh and the swords of Dunlang and the chiefs; under that torrent of steal the iron line crumpled and gave, and through the breach the frenzied Gales poured. The shield formation melted away.

At the same moment the wild men of Connacht again hurled a desperate charge against the Dublin Danes. O’Hyne and Dubhgall fell together and the Dublin men were battered backward, disputing every foot. The whole field melted into a mingled mass of slashing battlers without rank or formation. Among a heap of torn Dalcassian dead, Murrogh came at last upon Jarl Sigurd. Behind the Jarl stood grim old Rane Asgrimm’s son, holding the raven banner. Murrough slew him with a single stroke. Sigurd turned, and his sword rent Murrogh’s tunic and gashed his chest, but the Irish prince smote so fiercely on the Norseman’s shield that Jarl Sigurd reeled backward.

Tholeif Hordi had picked up the banner, but scarce had he lifted it when Black Turlogh, his eyes glaring, broke through and split his skull to the teeth. Sigurd, seeing his banner fallen once more, struck Murrogh with such desperate fury that his sword bit through the prince’s morion and gashed his scalp. Blood jetted down Murrogh’s face, and he reeled, but before Sigurd could strike again, Black Turlogh’s ax licked out like a flicker of lightning. The Jarl’s warding shield fell shattered from his arm, and Sigurd gave back for an instant, daunted by the play of that deathly ax. Then a rush of warriors swept the ranging chiefs apart.

“Thorstein!” shouted Sigurd. “Take up the banner!”

“Touch it not!” cried Asmund. “Who bears it, dies!”

Even as he spoke, Dunlang’s sword crushed his skull.

“Hrafn!” cried Sigurd desperately. “Bear the banner!”

“Bear your own curse!” answered Hrafn. “This is the end of us all.

“Cowards!” roared the Jarl, snatching up the banner himself and striving to gather it under his cloak as Murrogh, face bloodied and eyes blazing, broke through to him. Sigurd flung up his sword – too late. The weapon in Murrogh’s right hand splintered on his helmet, bursting the straps that held it and ripping it from his head, and Murrogh’s left-hand sword, whistling in behind the first blow, shattered the Jarl’s skull and felled him dead in the bloody folds of the great banner that wrapped about him as he went down.

Now great roar went up, and the Gael’s redoubled their strokes. With the formation of shields torn apart, the mail of the Vikings could not save them; for the Dalcassian axes, flashing in the sun, hewed through chainmesh and iron plates alike, rending linden shield and horned helmet. Yet the Danes did not break.

On the high ramparts, King Sitric had turned pale, his hands trembling where he gripped the parapet. He knew that these wild men could not be beaten now, for they spilled their lives like water, hurling their naked bodies again and again into the fangs of spear and ax.

Kormlada was silent, but Sitric’s wife, King Brian’s daughter, cried out in joy, for her heart was with her own people.

Hold Onto Your Potatoes: I Always Wanted To Be Short Round

I don’t often gush about celebrities or take much interest in their personal lives (I only ever went to water over two I met in person – Keith Carradine and Ernest Lee Thomas), but I’m so genuinely happy in my heart for Key Huy Quan.

When I was a kid Temple of Doom was (and still is) one of my favorite movies.

Besides being a standout in the series in terms of being entirely unlike the other entries, it’s a deliriously paced machinegun volley of jaw dropping action sequences that begins with a dive out of an airplane in a rubber raft and lands (if you can call it landing) on a split rope bridge, with racing mine cars, kung fu, and heart rips in between.

Also, I really love the surrogate family dynamic.

Seriously. It was the biggest appeal to me as a kid.

My parents used to take me all over the country on mini-adventures…camping, white water rafting, climbing at Starved Rock, poking through caves and museums and hiking over Civil War battlefields…on road trips they used to let me scan the Rand McNally map for weird little side trips and I got to shout out the brown historical marker signs for potential detours. I got to thinking of those signs as chocolate chips in the cookie of America.

I used to imagine us as Indy, Willie, and Shorty (I named my middle daughter after Willie Scott).

Every kid wanted to be Indy, but I identified the most with Short Round, living in the shadow of a heroic, larger than life father. In my mind, Shorty was the coolest kid sidekick in all of moviedom – certainly one of the few who isn’t just played for laughs. He’s practically an equal partner in the adventure and literally saves the adults’ asses at one point. It was years before I ever learned the character and the movie was not well-regarded, and I’m just as baffled now as at the time of my initial revelation.

Shorty’s the best. I wanted to BE Shorty.

For that reason alone, every couple of years I’ve looked Quan up just to see what he was doing, and excitedly told my friends – ‘The dude who played Short Round did the fight choreography for this!’

I may be naïve, but the fact that he’s experiencing this renaissance at 51 after years of slowly crushing defeats still gives me a little bit of hope. Never too late for the universe to align in your favor if you maintain a positive attitude and foster a child’s wide open heart. It’s clear from the interactions I’ve seen him in lately that’s the case here. The guy’s enthusiasm is infectious, and I love the affirming little stories coming out about him, that Spielberg has sent him a Christmas present every year since 1984, that Jeff ‘Chunk’ Cohen and him have remained friends, and that he’s the entertainment lawyer who brokered Quan’s deal for Everything Everywhere All At Once.

Sometimes kindness and perseverance are rewarded.

I just pray once the Oscar buzz dies down nobody forgets him.

I sure won’t.

As a kid I wanted to be Short Round. Now I hope some day to be Key Huy Quan.

Published in: on March 11, 2023 at 1:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Conquer’s Golden Case in Occult Detective Magazine #9

Cathaven Press has released their latest issue of Occult Detective Magazine, and my 1970’s Harlem sleuth John Conquer returns to the pages from whence he came in CONQUER’S GOLDEN CASE, a new story set after the events of the full length novel CONQUER: FEAR OF A BLACK CAT, which should be out later this year. Don’t worry, no spoilers in this.

In this outing John tries to unload some gifted tickets to the King Tut exhibit at the Met and winds up accompanying a foxy lady inside, where her overriding lust for all things Ancient Egyptian gets him in a supernatural fix.

Here as always, is an excerpt –

It was the biggest thing to hit New York City since Mr. October and it was selling out every day.

It wasn’t The Isley Brothers or Bob Marley at the Garden. It wasn’t The Stones or Blondie at the Palladium. Even though it was a gray, drizzling Christmas Eve and a frigid thirty four degrees, the line of hopefuls at the main entrance stretched down the front steps and way up 5th Avenue; a long snake of humanity bundled in wooly winter coats, huddled beneath umbrellas, all there to attend the final stop in the celebrated two year U.S. tour of a bona fide African superstar.

King Tut.

The Treasures of King Tutankhamun exhibit at the Met had somehow, like a weird retro-fad throwing it all the way back to 1922, become the hottest ticket in town. That goofy King Tut song from the dude on Saturday Night Live was all over the radio again, and girls were painting their eyes like Elizabeth Taylor and hanging cartouches from their ears.

John Conquer had read somewhere some psychoanalyst had theorized that viewing this stuff for some was like owning it. Every chick wanted to be Cleopatra, and every dude Yul Brynner.

Others said the treasures of the boy king’s arrival were emblematic of the rejuvenation of the NYC. Nixon was out (the Democrats still liked to remind you, two years on), Koch was in, and the city was on the upswing, or so the headlines said.

As far as Conquer was concerned, the lives of the people whose stories made up the back pages hadn’t changed too much. Sometimes it felt like the city had died on the night of the big blackout, and now they were all dwelling in its afterlife. Whether it was hell or heaven remained to be seen.

The fools lined up outside the museum looked content, even so close to closing, when the chance of them getting in was as slim as a smack head’s arm. Sure, they did. They had the option to go home any time they wanted. They weren’t sleeping out here on the icy slabs with a streetlamp buzzing over their heads and the end of some flatfoot’s billy club for an alarm clock.

John Conquer bopped past them all, his cop buddy Ron’s tickets tucked into the inside pocket of his toasty oxblood coat. A bomb threat down at the 12th precinct station house had cancelled all the cops’ holiday plans. Conquer never would have dropped the bread on the tickets otherwise, and he damn sure wouldn’t stand out in the drizzling rain waiting for it to turn to snow, not just to bump along a dusty museum with a bunch of out of town cattle pressing their muzzles up against the glass to see shiny shit a lot of dead rich folks had buried three thousand years ago.

He knew the difference between viewing and owning all too well, and how viewing could put a hunger in a poor man.

But Ron had been in a bind, and Conquer didn’t have anything much to do anyway. The year was winding down. He had no pretty secretary to induce him to hang around the office anymore, no family to visit, other than his late uncle’s old boyfriend who shared a house in Crown Heights with a bunch of lively transvestites. They’d invited him to dinner, but he’d played Ebenezer, not wanting to deal with a lot of noise after what had been a noisy year.

Honestly, he’d ridden the #6 down from St. Marks Place with the idea of unloading the tickets on some tourists in front of the museum and treating himself to a nice Christmas dinner someplace expensive, maybe somewhere with an ‘oli’s’ or an ‘etti’s’ on the sign.

 He walked up the steps, eyeing the crowd, picking out the other scalpers furtively flashing their wares to those in line, seeing the latter shake their heads or pay the fare, then break out of line and head for the door. Conquer gave each seller his due space, but tried to overhear their going prices. He didn’t want to undercut any brother out hustling, but he didn’t want to stand out here much longer either. As long as he made back what he’d paid Harris plus maybe ten bucks, he’d be happy.

“Excuse me,” came a musical, accented voice behind him, accompanied by a light touch of his sleeve. “Are you selling tickets?”

He turned, and got an eyeful of one of the loveliest women he’d ever seen.

Only her face showed from the tasteful swaddle of a white cashmere scarf and a long white wool hooded cape gilded with gold accents, but what a face! He first noticed the largeness and depth of her dark eyes, which dominated her smooth, light skinned features.  Her unblemished cheeks swelled and cascaded down into a tapered, delicate chin, above which her full lips, painted the shade of pomegranate rind, slightly parted to half-reveal an achingly sweet snow-white smile.

Conquer saw her eyes flit up and down him, and her smile widen, and he felt a warmth low in his belly the biting air couldn’t hope to chill.

“I got two tickets,” he said, drawing them out of his coat and fanning them out with a confident grin to match hers. “But they ain’t for sale.”

“Oh?” she said, disappointed now. “You’re waiting for someone then?”

That accent. She was from out of town. Way out of town. Out of this world, even.

“Didn’t realize I was till just now,” he said.

She laughed, a high, trilling sound behind her fine porcelain teeth.

“Are you making a pass at me, mister….?”

Still smiling, though. Brighter than before, if that was possible. More warmth now, responding to the tickle she was feeling, he knew.

“My name’s John Conquer,” he said. “And you better believe I am.”

Watch the skies for CONQUER: FEAR OF A BLACK CAT this year.

In the meantime, pick up ODM #9 here –


AI Art Is Visual Hip Hop

Just a thought.

When Hip Hop originated in the late seventies, it was decried as inartistic and unoriginal (and some still think it so) because one of its core elements involved the sampling of pre-existing music created by other artists. It is painfully obvious that those who continue to turn their nose up at the art of DJing and think of it as talentless and uncreative work have never attempted to marry disparate elements via a mixing board and turntables and produce a new and infectious piece of art.

The pre-existing elements come together and form a third and interesting new creation, just as a child is made up of the genetic elements of its own parents. This is a sacred and universal truth. In this, art and life imitate each other.

As Hip Hop spread, some said it would kill the demand for original and traditional musicians. Yet today, we have Hip Hop and traditional artists and musicians not only coexisting, but collaborating.

I know a major concern of illustrators and artists are the legalities of visual sampling. People want to get paid. I get that. But I’m pretty sure in the early days of Hip Hop, kids from the Bronx weren’t sending royalties to James Brown. Things will change, things will evolve. They always will. They always should.

I just don’t think the advent of AI art should be so harshly denigrated as I’m seeing. I also think it’s pointless to resist. It’s here, and it’s going to continue and evolve.

I have messed around with Midjourney and not turned up much of anything worth posting. I don’t seem to have a talent for it. Yet, I have seen other ‘visual DJs’ plug word prompts into the same app and bring forth truly staggering original images.

When a non-artist creates art, they become an artist.

And a world with more artists is OK by me.

Mixed by Me via Midjourney, 2-3-2023
Published in: on February 3, 2023 at 9:09 pm  Leave a Comment  
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It’s Black History Month: Read Some Black History

Art T. Burton’s Black, Red, and Deadly: Black and Indian Gunfighters of The Indian Territory 1870-1907 is a fascinating and indispensible look at African American gunfighters on both side of the law, including Cherokee Bill, Rufus Buck, Dick Glass, and the legendary Bass Reeves. I also recommend his Black, Buckskin and Blue, an indepth look at the Buffalo Soldiers, African American cavalrymen in the Indian Wars.


The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley – The story of one of the most important voices of the Black Civil Rights movement, and one of my personal heroes, delineating his early life as a hustler in Harlem on up to his involvement and eventual break with the Nation of Islam.


Zora Neale Hurston: A Life In Letters by Carla Kaplan – Collected personal correspondences of the Queen of the Harlem Renaissance, ethnographer, folklorist, author, and Hoodoo initiate, the great Zora Neale Hurston. There is no greater insight into the lady then reading her own unadulterated words.


The Confessions of Nat Turner, the Leader of the Late Insurrections in Southampton, VA: As Fully and Voluntarily Made to Thomas R. Gray – Essentially the ‘death row’ confession of the Black preacher who led a violent slave revolt in 1831.


A Voice From Harper’s Ferry by Osborne P. Anderson – First hand account of John Brown’s failed raid on the Federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virgnia, which was intened to incite a widespread insurrection of slaves in the South and lead to the forming of an independent Black state in the Adirondack Mountains, by the only surviving Black participant.


When The Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc And The Creation Of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill and Theodore Taylor III – I discovered this children’s book about Kool Herc at the library when my daughter and I were searching for a book for her Black History Month project. Colorful, appealing illustrations and a neat primer on 1520 Sedgwick.


David Walker and Marcus Kwame Anderson won the Eisner award for The Black Panther: A Graphic Novel History, tracing the roots, rise, and eventual fall of the grassroots black power political organization.


On The Occasion of Robert E. Howard’s 117th Birthday

The Assuaging Of The Waters, John Martin

The Tide

Thus in my mood I love you,

In the drum of my heart’s swift beat,

In the lure of the skies above you

And the earth beneath your feet.

Now I can lift and crown you

With the moon’s white empery;

And I can crush and drown you

In my passion’s misty sea.

I can swing you high and higher

Than any man of the earth,

Draw you through stars and fire

To lands of the ultimate birth.

Were I like this forever

You’d but too little to give,

But here tonight we sever,

For life loves life to live.

And the further a man may travel

The further may he fall,

And the skein that I must unravel

Was never meant for all.

What do you know of glory,

Of the heights that I have trod?

Or the shadows grim and hoary

That hide my face from God?

Would you understand my story,

My torments and my hopes?

Or the dark red Purgatory

Where my soul in horror gropes?

Now I am man and lover

Rising with you at side

To peaks where the splendors hover—

But drifting with the tide.

And the tide? It is mine to shake it,

To battle the winds and spray;

To batter the tide and break it

Or batter my heart away.

So I leave you—that you never

The grim day have to face

When I would be gone forever

And a stranger in my place.

Tonight, tonight we sever,

For my race is my own race.

~ REH ~

Published in: on January 22, 2023 at 6:54 pm  Comments (2)  

Cover Reveal: THAT AT WHICH DOGS HOWL (and other Lovecraftian stories)

“We shall see that at which dogs howl in the dark, and that at which cats prick up their ears after midnight.” – H.P. Lovecraft

Coming soon from Raven’s Canticle Press is my second fiction collection, this one focusing on my Lovecraftian output, THAT AT WHICH DOGS HOWL AND OTHER LOVECRAFTIAN STORIES.

Tom Brown has done the cover art and it’s lovely –

The TOC contains a number of my previously published stories, and a couple never before seens…

THE WOODS OF EPHRAIM (from Sword And Mythos) – King David’s Mighty Men pursue the rebel Prince Abasalom into a strange forest.
THE LADY OF THE AMOROUS CITY (from Cirsova Magazine #4) – Sir Kay and his adopted brother Arthur accept a quest to free a mysterious lady’s distant city from the terrors of The Fish Knight.
BY UNKNOWN HANDS (from Shadows Of An Inner Darkness) – A pair of murderous conmen in 1920’s Oklahoma pick the wrong Native woman to bilk for her oil rights.
BROWN JENKIN’S RECKONING (from Tails Of Terror) – The Cats of Ulthar convene to determine how best to deal with the vile creature leading a midnight army of rampaging rats in Arkham.
THAT AT WHICH DOGS HOWL (New) – The events of The Whisperer In Darkness as experienced by its canine protagonists.
IT CAME TO MODESTO (from Atomic Age Cthulhu) – An outcast teenager is rescued from a terrific drag racing accident by a peculiar doctor and his silent granddaughter.
SNEAK PREVIEW (New) – A Hollywood schlockmeister bets on a blacklisted German avante garde director to deliver the horror movie that will fund his passion project.
THE CRAWLIN’ CHAOS BLUES (previously published) – A pair of bluesmen travel to the crossroads to call up the Devil and summon something much much worse.
FIVE TO ONE (from Summer Of Lovecraft) – A fringe professor uses a student riot at Miskatonic University to distract from his occult ritual atop the library.
THE BOONIEMAN (from World War Cthulhu) – A Green Beret unit on a Cambodian forward firebase during the Vietnam War arrives too late to save a Montagnard village from massacre and bears witness to the awesome vengeance of an adopted Tcho Tcho tribesman.
BLACK TALLOW (from The Dark Rites of Cthulhu) – A translator visits the home of an affluent acquaintance to help translate a puzzling book that will grant the ritualist the deepest desire of his heart.
ANAPARAGOGI (New) – Hell Week for the pledges of Miskatonic Unviersity’s most prestigious frat.
THE THEOPHANY OF NYX (from Fading Light: An Anthology of The Monstrous) – The moon cracks open and discharges a cloud which soon obscures the sun.
THE ALLCLEAR (from Return of The Old Ones: Apocalyptic Lovecraftian Horror) – In the far future, a primitive underground society prepares to send its annual voluntary sacrifical offering to the surface….only to have the previous year’s volunteer miraculously return.

Preorder info when it becomes available.

Published in: on January 13, 2023 at 10:51 am  Comments (1)  
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Where Thunder Dwells In SNAFU: DEAD OR ALIVE

Cohesion Press’ latest entry in their long running SNAFU series of action horror anthologies is called DEAD OR ALIVE, is weird western-centric, and includes my story WHERE THUNDER DWELLS, a sorta-sequel to my old short story IN THUNDER’S SHADOW which appeared wayyyyy back in Chaosium’s EDGE OF SUNDOWN anthology.

In this, a band of bank robbers kidnap an old Apache storekeeper and his daughter and force him to lead them to a secret pass through the Huachuca Mountains, where the old man has previously secreted Bronco Apache outlaws on the run. They are pursued by a murderous Sheriff and his posse, more intent on killing them than capturing them alive. But something up in the pass waits. Something neither of the warring factions anticipated….

Here’s an excerpt.

“Believe I’m ready to settle up,” said Lieutenant Coleson, reaching for his wallet. “Storm’s comin’ in over the Huachucas and I wanna get back to the post.”

Haayashi nodded, her thoughts drifting to her husband, Ves. She hoped he’d seen the thunderheads too and was planning to get back accordingly.

“Think she’ll like it?”

She smiled at the young officer. “Oh I expect she will, Lieutenant. Be a nice surprise.”

Haayashi finished tying up the parcel of gingham just as the lieutenant’s forehead blew open and splattered her shop apron and the counter with dark red brains that quivered like a litter of newborn things shuddering at the cold.

She backed against the shelf, rattling the hard rock-candy jars as the cavalryman, still smiling, slumped to his knees, bashed his chin on the countertop, and tumbled out of sight.

The gingham had been for a new dress for the lieutenant’s wife. He would never see her in it now.

A scruffy N’daa man with a head of curly orange hair stood in the doorway, lowering a big pistol and grinning like a delinquent with a slingshot who’d just busted an upstairs window.

Haayashi rushed around the counter and made a grab at Coleson’s sidearm, but the N’daa headed her off and kicked her in the side so hard she tipped over the medicinal bottles stored there, smashing them to pieces.

She curled on the floor, gasping.

The orange-haired man took Coleson’s pistol, tucking it into the front of his pants.

Nach’aa, her old father, incongruous in his white man’s suit and spectacles with his long, slate grey hair spilling wild from beneath his broad red Apache headband, crept out of the backroom with his Whitney rifle. He would have killed the orange-haired N’daa if a Mexican hadn’t stepped inside and shot her father’s leg out from under him, spoiling his aim. As it was, the N’daa cried out and fell over Coleson’s body, clapping a hand to his side.

“Jesus Christ, Swifty,” a third man said in disgust, pushing past the Mexican. This one had long, greasy yellow hair and a rattlesnake skin hat band. Snaker Pista. He had been in her father’s store a few times, buying bullets and tobacco and trying to bully him into purchasing his rotgut moonshine whiskey. Every time Snaker had come in it had been like letting a wild coyote wander around the store. Nach’aa would lean his Whitney against the backroom door frame at his approach. Only when Snaker left did her father put it back on the wall.

“We need the old man alive,” Snaker said, glaring at Swifty rolling on the floor.

“Pelado shot him,” Swifty groaned. “The old bastard nearly put me under. God, I got a hole in me!”

“That is the aim of a bullet,” Snaker said matter-of-factly. “You sling ‘em around so damn regular don’t be surprised when somebody pitches one your way.” He looked to the Mexican called Pelado as if for an explanation.

“It was just the leg, Snaker.” Pelado shrugged. “He’ll live.”

Snaker tipped his hat to Haayashi and stepped over Coleman’s corpse. “Hello, Haayashi. Good to see you again. Where’s your husband?”

“Out hunting you,” Haayashi growled.

“You underestimate your man. If Ves Payne was after me, why, he’d be right there,” Snaker said, throwing his thumb over his shoulder. He grabbed a fistful of her long black hair and yanked her head up to look him in the eye. “Where is he?”

“Out at the Lazy S, looking for rustlers,” Haayashi hissed. “I just figured it was you.”

“Ain’t no two-bit cow thief, girl. Bigger and better things.” He spat on the floor and dragged her behind him to stand over her father. “Dagotee, y’old bandit. How’s tricks?” He let her go, reached down, and smacked the old man’s face.

Nach’aa made no sound. The back of a hand was like a mother’s kiss to a Mimbreño Apache who had ridden with Victorio.

Haayashi got up on one elbow and strained to watch as Snaker pulled her father up by the shirt front.

“Is it bad?” Swifty whined to Pelado. “Am I dyin’?”

“We’re all dyin,chavo,” said Pelado, disinterested. He had picked a can of peaches off the shelf and chopped the top off with the machete he kept tucked in his sash. “Hey,” he laughed, as he put the can to his lips, “maybe you ain’t so swift, ah?”

“You bastard!” Swifty half hissed, half sobbed through his teeth as he got to his knees and clenched his eyes at the pain. There was a dribbling hole in his side, just above his belt. “Oh Lord, Lord… am I done for?”

“Haayashi’ll plug your hole, Swifty, just don’t get tiresome,” Snaker said, not even sparing him a look. “First, girl, you get on over here and fix up your daddy’s leg. He’s got a long ride ahead of him.”

Haayashi rose and limped over to the boxes of linen bandages, testing the stitch in her side with her breath. Pelado’s eyes followed her over the tipped can of peaches.

Snaker stood back as she knelt and bound up her father’s leg. It was bad. The bone was shattered just below the knee, the dirty bullet still lodged in there somewhere. The lead might get black in his veins and find his heart if they waited too long to treat it or saw it off. She looked into her father’s dark eyes.

He read her prognosis, unblinking,

“I know you won’t talk at me or Pelado, old man,” Snaker said, “even though I know you understand. That’s part of the reason Haayashi’s gonna be goin’ with us.” He idly took out his own pistol, spun it on his finger so it came up cocked, and pressed the muzzle to the top of her head.

She stiffened at its touch, locked eyes with her father. His black irises flared like a pair of gun bores. Haayashi shook her head. If her father made a move, they’d both die.

“This is the other reason,” Snaker said. “You sabe?”

Nach’aa looked up at Snaker and bobbed his chin once.

Haayashi turned her gaze to the outlaw. “Where are we going?”

“I know you ain’t as tame as you let on,” Snaker said to her father. “Just ‘cause you scouted for the yellowlegs and married you a Dutch widow and took to runnin’ this store. I know you funneled them Bronco Apaches up through the Huachucas and down into Old Mexico on the sly. You’re gonna show us the way, old man. You’re gonna do it, or you’re gonna bear witness to the slow death of your daughter. Comprende?”

Nach’aa answered in Apache, even, and without a hint of distress or pain, as if explaining the passage of the seasons to a child. “I will take you, white-eye. I will take you where I took the Broncos – to The Place Where The Thunder Dwells. If you harm my daughter, I will take you there all the sooner.”

Haayashi frowned. Of course she knew her father had helped the renegade Apache, the Broncos who would not surrender to Crook and board the train to Florida. He’d done it for years. Sometimes it was with bullets and feed and bandages from her mother’s store. Other times they had come under the cover of night, half-starved with their bandoliers empty and the hooves of their tired horses wrapped in buckskin, and the white law thirsty for their blood. Some would come asking for the secret way to sanctuary, the hidden stronghold, The Place Where The Thunder Dwells.

After a few low words, Nach’aa would set out with them in the dark to show them the way. Always by morning he would return alone. Massai and The Apache Kid, who were still being blamed for every act of murder and thievery from here to Flagstaff, had been taken to The Place by Nach’aa. He had never spoken to her about it, nor to her late mother, nor to any other man so far as she knew.

“He said he will take you,” Haayashi said. Snaker laughed. “He said a lot more than that, but OK.”

Pick up SNAFU DEAD OR ALIVE here –

Published in: on November 8, 2022 at 11:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Jewish Tradition In Weird Fiction Panel At Necronomicon

…..was recorded by Outer Dark, and I’m on it. You can give a listen here.

Published in: on November 8, 2022 at 11:46 pm  Leave a Comment