Suggested Audio Jukebox ♫
 Chris Isaak “Wicked Game”
 SSQ “Tonight (We’ll Make Love Until We Die)”
 Mel & Kim “That’s The Way It Is”
 Offspring “Come Out Swinging”
 Earth, Wind & Fire “Boogie Wonderland”
 Kenny Loggins “Footloose”
 Bad Manners “Return of The Ugly”
 Jerry Goldsmith “Life Is A Dream”
 Patsy Cline “San Antonio Rose”
I could never quite wrap my head around the term “no rest for the wicked”. Unless I’m misguided, to be wicked suggests that you indulge in iniquitous behavior, and I make a conscience effort to do the precise opposite. From smiling politely at strangers, to assisting frail old ladies home with their weekly groceries, I’m always looking to make a good impression and could count the bad bones in my body with no need for an abacus. So why then does it appear that I’m doomed never to unwind? Since commencement of my tenure as the Brutal Word Wrangler, there have been an incessant stream of obstacles placed on my flight path, each callously designed to snuff out any faint hopes of luxuriating. Just once I’d like to wallow in my own seasoning, as opposed to being constantly spit roasted by the fickle finger of fate. I’m not asking for the moon on a stick here or even a wedge of its delightful cheese; simply a dash of downtime to consolidate after all the injustice I’ve faced. Besides, my junk is beginning to invert after a spell of sexual inactivity so lean that I’m left wishing only to order my Johnson a Big Mac.
Take my recent expedition to Monsieur Heureux’s dubious dollhouse for example – I barely escaped with either sanity or life force in tact – and the news was even more disparaging for my faithful sidekick. Bonus Brain suffered a torrid time at the hands of this malicious maisonette and was returned to factory settings for accompanying me on my thankless journey. Usually whip-smart and deeply sardonic, she is now the neuroscientific equivalent of Playdoh and lacking anything whatsoever resembling a mind of her own. Being the eternal optimist, I’m assured that a little R&R will see my associate good, and perhaps then, we can pick up where we left off back at our rudely interrupted bath time seduction late last night. However for the time being, I’m on my Jack Jones here, but still it would appear I’m not destined to master my own destiny. You see, rather a lot can transpire in a 24-hour period, and regrettably that includes a full-blown zombie apocalypse. What started centuries ago in Haiti has finally reached my zip code and this is no time to sit on my hands and cock a deaf ‘un.
My first mistake on returning to base was to switch on the funny box and there was nothing even vaguely humorous about the news report populating every last channel. According to reports, the entire free world is balls deep in pandemic, with the dead reanimating willy nilly at a rate even Uncle Sam can’t keep tabs on. They advise remaining in our homes, barricading all available entry points, and waiting it out until such time as the military can form a workable contingency plan. This pestilence can be transmitted by a single bite and there is no known antidote to fall back on once the undead have sunken their teeth in. I half expected Crazy Ralph to pop up on my screen and give it the old “you’re doomed!” chestnut but was too busy soiling my smalls over the prospect of going stir crazy while attempting not to see my barracks breached by dithering dead heads. Patience may well be a virtue, but in troubled times like these, it also sounds suspiciously like a death wish. Thus I’m overruling my better judgement and shipping out dagnabbit. Inaction may suit the masses but it’s a darn sight more eventful being in the minority. Famous last words perhaps? I guess the only way to know for sure is to puff out my chest, suck in my gut, and take this fight to the streets.
Before I get ahead of myself, it would be shrewd to take a peek outside and see exactly what I’m up against. Thankfully I’m pretty well versed on the undead and their attack patterns so I needn’t be too disheartened by the fact that I’m likely to be woefully outnumbered the moment I step out into the fray. On the plus side, I have a number of advantages at my disposal to assist in shoring up the odds some. Superior intelligence, agility and stamina should see me good; that is unless I manage to get myself cornered by the incoming horde on departure. At times like these I like to consider what the A-Team would do in my situation as they were nothing if not resourceful. If only I had a slab of bubblicious, a sheet of perspex and a badger’s snout at my disposal, I’d be able to construct myself a formidable battle tank. Alas, badger season wrapped up last Thursday and I’m all out of sodding bubblegum. Looks like I’ll have to raid the cupboards for suitable bludgeoning tools and bank on these twinkle toes of mine to tiptoe through the tulips out of this war zone. It’s a good job I’m domesticated. Leaving nothing to chance, it would probably be wise to run through the checklist and make sure I’m suitably equipped for skirmish before deserting.
12-gage shotgun – check; ceremonial broadsword – check; hunk of 2×4 – check; hedge trimmer – check; cordless drill – check; six-inch serrated hunting knife – check; meat tenderizer – check; baseball bat – check; molotov cocktail – check; bleach bomb – check; makeshift squirt gun flamethrower – check; detached shower head – check; ming vase – check; incomplete set of bone china crockery – check; half-eaten chicken drumstick – check; cheese and chutney sandwich that has been marooned at the back of the fridge for six months now – check; fire extinguisher – check; nine iron golf club – check; frisbee – check; boomerang – check; bowling ball – check; well shaken can of cream soda – check; tin of spam – check; chair leg – check; bottle of methylated spirit – check; selection of projectile animal-themed cookie cutters – check; pregnancy testing kit – check; grab stick for when I’m too lazy to reach for the remote – check; wall-mounted elk head antlers – check; rusty nails duct taped to a feather duster – check; soldering iron – check; potato masher – check; alloy egg timer – check; electric hand whisk – check; frying pan – check; colander check; Sony Walkman complete with Kenny Loggins’ greatest hits compilation – check; pair of bashed up Doc Martens boots with steel toe caps – check; wife beater and thermal Long Johns in case it’s nippy out – check; Bonus Brain’s steel-cased Melrose Place DVD box set – check; Polaroid camera – check; Game & Watch Donkey Kong plus spare lithium batteries – check; rubber ducky for any half-time pep talks – check; rolled up copy of Hustler magazine dipped in goose fat – check; and last but not least, my lucky pair of Daffy Duck socks – check and…check. Bring it meatbags!
Hold on just a cotton picking eighteenth century house honky, I’m never going to be able to carry this lot without first befriending a pack-horse and asking him to puke out his intestines to clear some space. This is where Bonus Brain would ordinarily have come in handy. I’m no dummy (quit that snickering) but I am but a mortal man, albeit rather adept at the art of wrangling. This will take some prioritizing but I’m not about to put you through the rigmarole and instead shall meet you by the evac point in around sixty seconds give or take. To keep things industrious during the interim, I’ll even bust out my lute and serenade you by way of affectionate ode, how does that sound? Is that you groaning by the way or the thirty or so famished zombies congregated on the front porch? Judging by the word “braiiins” reverberating through my ear wax, I reckon I know the answer you know. See, no dummy.
Less Dither, More Wither
Fear is the mindkiller, at least that’s what they say
But what do those braggarts know anyhoots?
I’ve survived George’s night, plus his dawn and his day
Thus one more’s no great stretch without any troops
All I need is my wits, flat refusal to quit
even when odds stack up all around me
That reminds me I really must take a quick shit
as soiled breeches would no doubt soon ground me
Don’t think me a runt, but do I wipe back to front?
I’ve forgotten in all the confusion
I know what you’re thinking – this guy’s a right cunt
and I’d say you’re some way from delusion
But the fact still remains that I’ll need to refrain
from stowing surplus to requirement
You can stick Melrose Place in your hole Bonus Brain
as I’m granting it early retirement
Need to work out what’s best, get a load off my chest
as I’ll need to be dainty to flourish
Should I weigh myself down then I’ll be dispossessed
and I’d rather these punks stay malnourished
I’m assured they’d not care for the taste of my meat
but it’s best I provide them a recap
While the sign clearly states that it’s all you can eat
I’m as lank as a blue finch’s kneecap
No.72 throw a nice barbecue
and their mixed grill is simply to die for
I’m sure if you form a nice orderly queue
They’d knock you up something delightful
Well the time has now come to escape this humdrum
as I don’t wish to wind up chopped liver
feel free to act glum as you bang on your drum
better yet, why not fuck off and wither
Right then, let’s crack some skulls shall we my little chickadees? Fret not as I fully intend on taking the lead and have plentiful tricks stowed away up my wizard’s sleeve, in the eventuality that we get flanked or bum rushed. You’ll be relieved to learn that I’ve versed myself well on our opponents prior to mission start and have many stolen afternoons on Plants vs. Zombies to thank for the delightful spray of rhododendrons currently being trounced into the topsoil. The undead may be unruly in sufficient numbers but I won’t be sticking around for no group photos. Besides, the Polaroid camera missed the cut by a negative. Come to think of it, perhaps you wouldn’t mind snapping some quickies on my behalf. Scratch this wrangler’s back and he may just tag you on Instagram. Selfie sticks are for saps, get right in amongst it and click away to your heart’s content. Meanwhile, I shall protect your honor most gallantly right up to the point where mine becomes more important. Teamwork right? So what do you say? Do I have myself a co-pilot? Good. Remember that you’re ultimately expendable and one of us may still get through this nightmare. Say “cheese” you festering fucks.
Digging on your shot composition. That said, I’m a little disconcerted by the sheer wealth of photo bombing stiffs clamoring for my coordinates at this precise moment. I do believe it would be a good time to hit myself some sixers to clear the way to second base. I may be less Babe Ruth, more Babe 2: Pig In The City, but do know how to swing thanks to Chuck Berry’s in-depth explanation of his ding-a-ling many moons back. Three strikes seems like a generous enough cushion; especially when my hard targets move at a similar rate of knots to sun-baked phlegm in a front-facing greenhouse. Gentlemen, place your bets and start those engines. Time for the Brutal Word Wrangler to grab himself that all-important home run. Or die trying. I see you’ve had a flutter on me being whittled down to marrow in less than a New York minute. Word to the wise any non-believers, this ain’t The Big Apple, and this one fully intends on rolling far from the tree. Bat her up bitches.
Jesus wept, they’re flaming relentless this lot. For every head I put lovingly to bed, another three show up on the scene like homesick poptarts and I’ll wind up with a severe case of tennis elbow at this rate. Time to raid the mobile weapon cache methinks, and have myself a rummage. Of course, I know precisely what the doctor ordered and will even give you a clue. It’s round and shiny, has three holes, and can be devastating when tossed with enough force and side spin. And no it’s not The Fat Boys. That’s right, in the words of the great Walter Sobchak, “Fuck it, Dude, let’s go bowling”. What better way to clear a path than the All-American 7–10 split right? So tell me stiffs – gut or balls? Geddit? Gutterballs. Hmm. Tough audience. I’ll soon win you over after my third strike in swift succession. The elusive turkey may seem a long shot but this lane is getting shorter with every passing second and these shuffling goons are having enough trouble as it is simply remaining upright. Get ready to mark it.
Strrrike! Suddenly I’ve got myself some breathing space and this buys me time to get a touch more creative for my next trick. I’m not Greek but have always fancied crashing one of their weddings so sacrificing my incomplete set of bone crockery would be one off the bucket list and save on washing up. And they say I’m not pragmatic. To make things even more authentic, a fully outfitted zombie bride is currently making her painfully slow way down the aisle and I’d love to be the one to give her away on her special day. By the power vested in me and in a state of considerable excitement – take that you ropy rotter. This plate smashing business is bloody terrific, I don’t know why I never thought of this before. Now I know why Gordon Ramsay feels so empowered. And there was me thinking it was a mixture of Scottish blood and under-the-counter fucking barbiturates. When this fucking ordeal is finally over, I’m having myself a fucking kitchen nightmare of my own dagnabbit. You call this Michelin Star standard cuisine? You’re a fucking disgrace. Get out of my fucking sight before I fucking back hand you. You make me sick to my fucking stomach.
I’m going à la carte slags and this blight-ridden cheese and chutney sandwich ought to come in handy right about now as it reeks like one helluva face melter. The issue here is that I’ll need to force feed this killer yeast directly and that means prising open a set of snapping jaws; something I’m reasonably assured could end in tears. There has to be another way to get this fungal finger food to its intended destination without risking “the dreaded bite”. I know, this is a long shot but every bit crazy enough to work. Remember that detached shower head? Well here’s my thinking. If I plunge that bad boy deep into the cranium of the zombie about to lunge and twist it clockwise, I reckon we may well have ourselves a grue geyser. The undead are easily captivated and I’ll simply wait until it opens its maw in awe and cram in the cheese and chutney sarnie while it’s temporarily out of commission. Genius! Just think, this one could earn me a spot on the cover of Time Magazine if I pull it off with the requisite swagger. An everyday douche probably wouldn’t fancy his chances but I’m an exceptional douche and the Brutal Word Wrangler to boot. Janet Leigh, you may wish to look away for the next five seconds or so. Uno, dos, tres… erm… four, five.
Something from our wine list sir? How about a bottle of meths for a palate cleanser? Thirsty work this flesh-eating lark. While we’re at it, it’s happy hour on the cocktails and I like to call this one “The Flaming Zombie”. I reckon it’s high time we have ourselves a disco inferno, don’t you? You clambered out of the earth, the wind blew you in my direction, and I’ve got your fire right here. Any straggling maggots may wish to vacate the premises as it’s time to turn the heat up and I fancy this particular sirloin well done. I’ll leave it to my glamorous assistant to capture the moment and I’m thinking a before and after shot would look rather purty hanging above my mantle.
This is all far too easy. Not that I’m complaining but a little challenge wouldn’t have gone amiss. I mean, they’re literally lining up to be publicly humiliated and I almost feel bad for them. Almost. That said, after the last few perilous missions I’ve faced, it’s nice to kick back and take things easy for a change. It would take a monumental slip up to halt this run of dominance and I still have plenty of weapons available for the next phase of my outing. Speaking of which, how about we mix things up a little? You see, around 100 yards from my current position is a damsel in considerable distress and she’s done for unless a knight in shining armor bails her out soon. Clambering atop her Renault Clio for respite must have seemed a good idea at the time , but with approximately two dozen reanimated corpses advancing from all angles, things are rapidly turning FUBAR for this pretty young thing. The going rate for rescuing a babe in the wood from almost certain death was one hand job the last time I checked and I’m far too nice a guy to even think of overcharging her. Everybody wins when you think about it. She lives to see another day and I halt my woefully dry run in the process. And they say chivalry is dead.
“Fear not my little sugar tits. The Brutal Word Wrangler is here to save the day”
“Please hurry. I can’t hold them off for much longer”
“Do I look like the kind of cad who would see a beautiful young starling such as you perish?”
“Sooner rather than later would be just grand. Thanks terribly”
“Don’t mention it. I’ll make short work of your new friends”
“We’re hardly on first name basis. Fancy getting a wriggle on?”
“Indeed I do but first I must work out my weapon of choice”
“I’ll just hang in grimly then shall I?”
“You do that. Be there in a jiffy”
“Could I suggest maybe sooner? Just putting it out there”
“To tell the truth, I’m a little torn between frying pan and soldering iron. Which would you opt for?”
“HELP ME YOU BRAIN-DEAD MORON!”
Well that’s no way to make friends and influence people. I have half a mind to leave her to fend off this wave on her own. However, it just so happens not to be the 50% wired directly to my throbbing plums and I don’t exactly relish the idea of requesting a walking corpse jerk my gherkin in the dark alley behind In-N-Out Burger. There will be plentiful time for apologies once she’s out of harm’s way and I’d hedge a bet that was just blind fear talking. Besides, I love a bit of neurological foreplay to get me in the mood. They say the line between love and hate is a decidedly slender one and there are few delights more gratifying than the good old-fashioned angry wank. I’m getting a semi just envisaging it. Do me a favor will you? Make sure you capture my facial contortion during the very last throes before I shoot my mayo will you? That would make a splendid profile pic for my Twitter account.
Now that’s not entirely encouraging. Quick question – how long does it take to turn once you’ve taken a hefty bite to the fibula? Does metabolism figure into the equation? She weighs around 120 lbs if that helps. Actually it’s more like 115 now. If I close my eyes and imagine Thora Birch in a bat mask, I reckon she could thrash one out of me in around ninety seconds. Fuck it, even if I’m required to finish myself off, at least I come away with both a smile on my face and tweak in my sack. Never one to shirk a challenge, I shall spin the wheel on this occasion, go all in before the flop so to speak. My mother would be so proud of me. Vaguely nauseated and set to disown me; but otherwise bursting with pride. This one’s for you mom. Shit a brick, now my mental screen saver has changed. Better make that a hundred and twenty seconds.
None taken. Anyhoots, where were we? That’s right. The nominees for Best Defense are: Frying Pan, Soldering Iron and pair of bashed up Doc Martens boots with steel toe caps. This is all dreadfully exciting don’t cha think? And the winner is… La La Land… I mean the pair of bashed up Doc Martens boots with steel toe caps. Can I kick it? Yes I bloody well can.
I’d like to thank the academy, my family, the great Allah, Greenpeace, biodegradable plastic, everyone who ever believed in me, those who didn’t, Kevin Bacon for teaching me how to do the mashed potato, Chunk from The Goonies for his mesmerizing truffle shuffle, Doc Marten for constructing such a sturdy pair of shit kickers, He-Man for helping me harness the power of Greyskull, Gary The Goat for his flavorsome lactose, Engelbert Humperdinck for having the name Engelbert Humperdinck, The Beastie Boys for their Paul’s Boutique long player, Pauly Shore and Stephen Baldwin for not making Bio-Dome: The Sequel, Wile E. Coyote for the lend of his ACME Roller Boots, my right bicep for services above and beyond the call of duty, Betty White for being the only golden girl to go platinum, Judge Judy for her uncannily resemblance to Estelle Getty, Reece for his pieces, my dealer for keeping small talk to a bare minimum as I have absolutely no interest in hearing of his exploits in the restroom at Starbucks, The Cleveland Show for all three of the belly laughs we’ve shared together over the years, Nikola Tesla for inventing the vacuum capacitor, and I’d swear blind I’m forgetting someone here. No Bonus Brain, it’s not you in case you were getting any ideas above your station as is customary. You’re skating on thin ice with chubby ankles my friend. Got it! I wish to offer my gratitude to the 24 meatbags I just trounced into the asphalt for being such frightfully good sports.
Better yet, the coast is now clear to whisk my felled fancy away to the rear of In-N-Out Burger and take the weight off this pulsating stiffy of mine. She’s looking a tad shabby around the edges so I’d better do as the lady asked and get that wriggle on. I’m actually somewhat relieved as I negated to pack my rolled up copy of Hustler magazine dipped in goose fat and have required a dash of visual stimuli since accepting that I’m not getting any younger. Mercifully none of those undead wazzocks got close enough to harass her hooters, and providing I remember not to glance down at the gaping cavity on her left leg, there may even be sufficient time on the clock to hit the drive-thru upon exit. How’s that for forward planning? Nuts, I only went and left my fanny pack back at the house. Anyone heading back that way? I’ll shout you a Double-Double. Okay you’ve twisted my arm on the fries but no super size as I just got a whopping tax bill through and Bonus Brain is currently in no fit state to help me foot it.
Well that’s just fan-sodding-tastic. You know full bloody well of my tendency to become distracted from the task at hand at nary a second’s notice, and thanks to you, my formerly alluring lady in waiting now resembles a Spanish grandmother. This particular strain of zombie bacteria evidently doesn’t hang around and I’d be stark raving to jeopardize my Johnson by thrusting it anywhere near her manky manicure. That said, her buxom bosoms appear very much alive and well, and after coming so desperately close to saving her skin, I figure I’m owed a least a parting hoot to fuel me up for later. Enter my trusty grab stick for when I’m too lazy to reach for the remote. What better way to claim myself some well-deserved cup and squeeze eh? It may seem too risky but not when you’re frisky. Expressing milk may be a honk too far but I’ll give her nipples a quick flick just to send her out on a high. Of course, the very second I commit this fast food fondle to the old memory vaults, the hunk of 2×4 in my other hand will need to put this mangy mutt swiftly and decisively out of her misery. All’s fair in love and war after all.
“Who’s the brain-dead moron now you manky munter?”
On the bright side, I’m positive I just grasped silicone. No wonder they were the last thing to perish. After such a close shave with chicken fillets, I feel more than vindicated in my decision to bust out my selection of projectile animal-themed cookie cutters and top up my kill tally some before calling it a day. What have we got here? Cheetah, zebra, Nile crocodile…curses I must have grabbed the safari pack without realizing. I had my heart set on the Birds of Prey bundle. Never mind, I’m sure the buffalo will cause some mischief. It feels most fitting that Mother Nature stand up for herself, after all, it’s her green kingdom overrun with lunge happy lurkers. It makes no difference to me as I’ve always fancied a stint at agoraphobia and what happens outside my window need not be any great concern. Saving the entire free world is some other poor patsy’s job; nowhere in my wrangling contract does it state any requirement to be mankind’s last hope. If I had any desire to be Obi Wan, then I’d have included a light saber in my kit list and risked alienating all those Trekkies who tune in religiously week after week. Then I’d stand no chance of mounting the thigh highs of Nichelle Nichols when she beams down for her annual Comic-Con gig and that would be highly illogical.
Captain’s Log, Stardate 42073.9. There has been an outbreak of an unclassified plasma plague in the Wrangelis system. We’re on an emergency run to collect specimens of the deadly plague and transport them to Science Station Tango Bravo where hopefully an antidote can be produced. It is only because so many lives are at stake that I’m willing to put this ship and crew at great risk. Meanwhile, Bonus Brain’s pregnancy continues to progress at an astonishing rate. You heard me, that snide Heureux may have fried her circuitry back at his lab, but not before seeding her with that pesky ply wood pecker of his. I would’ve mentioned this benign bomb shell earlier had it not been for the ever burgeoning zombie apocalypse and all. Why else would I carry around a pregnancy testing kit? In nine months or so, I’ll be up to my elbows in funky diapers and projectile purée. I know right? Can you really see that cantankerous swine coughing up alimony? It’ll be muggings here waking up at ungodly hours to cease its incessant whining, yours truly tasked with testing bath temperature when I should be evaluating bed springs. I’m not 100% sure I possess the staying power for such a gargantuan undertaking you know.
Perhaps it would be different if we were in a committed relationship but she’s made it abundantly clear that I repulse her and my best attempts have ultimately amounted to diddly fried squat thus far. Where’s the seduction, the hoochy koochy, the long hot summer of sweaty coitus to Al Jarreau 33s? I feel like I’ve stepped out of the thrift store into Bloomingdale’s on Black Friday opening and with nary two nickels to rub together. However, I’d be doing myself a grand injustice if I didn’t fess up to my true feelings here. You see, we’ve been through too much not to fight tooth and nail for this thing called love, overcome numerous obstacles, battled adversity at every turn, defeated the nefarious Trump Demon, laughed together, shed tears together, flirted outrageously, shared a crazy straw on more than one occasion, watched the first two seasons of Breaking Bad together, sniffed each other’s farts with flared nostrils, flushed the latrine on one another’s behalf when a Bouncing Betty stubbornly refused to sink. Indeed sexual intercourse appears the only logical step after so many oodles of foreplay. My mind is made up now. Ladies and gentlemen, worms and germs, meatbags and minions – this midnight cowboy has some milk to drink before that little bundle of joy calls dibs on the lefty. You’re very much darned in your tooting, the Brutal Word Wrangler is heading off back to the ranch. Don’t suppose I could trouble you for a yeehaw could I? Fuck it, a thigh slap’ll do at a pinch. Guys? Guys? Prairie dogs the lot of ya.
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Grueheads Films 2016