Stubborn Town is a story of seven chapters, posted serially by me, your foreshadowing host, Cheeseburger Brown.
While this is the end of this tale it is not the end of Mr. Mississauga. Our stalwart, limping detective will return.
Today, a preview of the current case:
Sky Mississauga focuses on taking deep breaths as the shadowy, lupine predators bark and yip, challenging one another for the right to take a mouthful of his exposed intestines. The top dog already has a loop, and he gnaws it with relish with his offal hot breath wafting up Sky's nose.
"You should scream," says the beast, long jaw flapping wetly around the words.
"Everything is shifting," says Sky. He surveys scene calmly: the other dogs are dressed in parkas and mukluks now, and they're all racing together through a landscape of giant erotic chess pieces. "I'm crossing over," says Sky. "You'll be gone."
"I'll see you soon," promises the dog.
Mr. Mississauga blinks. It's very quiet. He's lying in a bed, gazing up at a sun-splashed poster of Courtney Love straddling her guitar, sawing it between her legs as she snarls. In the bottom right hand corner someone has tried to pick off a willful orange sticker that says NORTHMART $9.99 + TX.
As he shifts a clammy washcloth slides off his forehead.
His clothes and his coat hang over the back of a chair. He's naked under a thin sheet, cool with dried sweat. Leaning up against the closet door are his legs and arms, rooted in a chaotic pile of dirty laundry that includes torn denim and bright pink panties.
His mouth feels full of sand. "Aglakti?" he croaks.
He's surprised when she sits up from a pile of blankets at the foot of the bed, her face puffy and her gaze vague. She pins a quilt against her chest absently as she looks around, trying to focus. "Mom?" she mutters.
"No," says Mr. Mississauga.
She smiles vaguely, then knuckles her eyes. "Mr. Miss," she says. "You're alive." Then she swallows and adds, "Holy shit my mouth tastes like total ass."
"Yes," agrees Mr. Mississauga. "Mine too." He lets his head drop back on the pillow, contemplating Courtney Love's thigh. "Did I...what happened to me last night?"
"You passed out. You had some nightmares."
"I hope I didn't disturb..."
"No one's back from the old site yet," says Aglakti, glancing at her clock-radio. "Nobody heard you but me and the dog."
Mr. Mississauga shivers. "Thank you," he says.
"Did you just thank me, Mr. Miss?"
"I didn't think you thanked anybody for anything. You sure as hell don't say 'please.'"
"Please and thank you."
"You see?" she says, smiling again. "You keep that up you just may end up with some friends. It's not so hard. You start being polite and sociable you never know what may happen -- and you're off to a good start, having a slumber party after getting trashed."
"I think I may vomit," says Mr. Mississauga thoughtfully.
"Waste basket, right next to you," she says, pointing.
"The feeling is passing."
"Well, stay sharp. I don't want my pillow smelling like bile."
Mr. Mississauga belches quietly. "I'd like some water," he says, "please."
"Yeah," she agrees, ruffling her bramble of hair, "sure thing...me too. Hold on." She drops the quilt and pads out into the hall, leaving Mr. Mississauga to mediate on the image of her youthfully smooth brown bum. When she returns he turns his head modestly toward the wall.
"Oh shit, what're you so squeamish about?" he hears her say. "I thought you said you were gay."
"Um," says Mr. Mississauga.
"Are your ears turning pink?" she says, giggling. "This is rich -- the great detective, utterly imperturbable, veteran of unspeakable night terrors, brought to his knees by the sight of a naked girl!" She pauses to chuckle. "I mean, that's if you had knees."
"You delight in causing me discomfort," he mumbles into the wall.
"Damn straight," says Aglakti brightly. "I like it when you have feelings. Now don't work yourself into a knot -- I'm putting on a T-shirt."
"Another 'thank you' -- you're a new man this morning. Next thing we know you'll announce you're going for the Olympic gold in sprinting. Turn around: here's your water."
She holds his head and helps him sip. When he swallows he says, "As a rule people don't mention my arms and legs, let alone make fun."
"It's a stupid rule," says Aglakti carelessly. "I don't believe in taboo subjects. So you're handicapped -- so what? I'm native. It's almost as bad."
"I'm not handicapped."
"Oh, shut up. Yes you are. I don't care if you don't use that word -- you've got no arms and no legs, you're fucking handicapped. The last thing you want in this world is to be forced to ask for help, so out of respect I won't make you ask...but out of respect for my help don't ask me to play games. Fair?"
Mr. Mississauga can't help but laugh. It's a real laugh, too -- from deep in his throat. It turns into a coughing fit at the end, so he accepts another sip of water. He says, "I like you, Aglakti."
She smiles, sitting on the edge of his bed. "I like you too, Mr. Miss. Are you hungry?"
He considers it. "Yes," he says.
"So let's get some limbs on you and get our asses down to the Hot Foo before it gets crowded."
They're too late. Aglakti has her own key but she doesn't need it because Bonnie River is at already at her post, igniting the burners and setting the coffee makers to drip. She nods to them cheerfully. Lyle is reading yesterday's newspaper in his designated booth, Errol is practicing pool as he waits on French toast. The pilot smokes a cigarette while watching the Weather Network on the Hot Foo's old black and white set while the taxidermist stuffs himself from a bag of potato chips, too impatient for the hot menu. They each have a wave or a friendly grunt for Aglakti and Mr. Mississauga...
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