I’m sure I’ve mentioned somewhere in previous posts that I’m a New Englander, but unless you’re from here you can’t really comprehend the significance of that statement. New Englanders wear their citizenship like a badge of honor, defining ourselves not by our individual states but by our geographical region, much the same way someone from Scotland or Ireland would define themselves by their family, or clan.
So to help all of you southern, inland and west coasters out there understand the Clan New England, I’m going to break it down with a metaphorical example. Imagine a Thanksgiving day dinner table, and at one end you have:
This is grandpa. He doesn’t do or say much, and he’s been around so long you almost forget he’s there. Oh, and he doesn’t have teeth. Next to him is:
This is the oldest son, the one who went off all gung-ho to Vietnam and came back disillusioned and pissed. He rides a Harley and defends his right to not pay taxes. He’ll school you on the history of any firearm known to man, whether you ask him to or not. When he’s not at Laconia for bike week he’s at a Knights of Columbus meeting. He earns his money either by being a trucker, mechanic or working construction. And his wife is Asian. Always. Next to him is:
No one gets under New Hampshire’s tough leather skin quite like Vermont. Part hippie poser, part Phish fan, all organic NPR listening Vermont. He’s college educated, usually earning a degree in either history or philosophy, which makes him an expert on EVERYTHING. He’ll chastise you for driving anything other than a Prius and is forever preaching the evils of pop culture. The only reason he owns a television is to watch PBS, and he’s married to a girl from:
The oldest daughter of a respectable family, make no mistake she is Vassar bound. When she’s not out shopping for argyle socks she’s sticking a finger down her throat or sneaking out to heavy metal concerts to bang tattooed pretty boys on motorcycles. I’m guessing. Next to her is:
He’s the red-headed step child; New England’s own version of Oliver from the Brady Bunch. Our own personal small ball of “why?” And that leads us to the twins. I say twins because this next state is geographically bipolar. Divided by the city of Worcester (pronounced WOOS-tuh), their personalities are as oppositional as any two children could ever be. And that state is:
The child west of Worcester is the girl twin. She’s well-adjusted and lacking in any definable accent. She knows what she wants and that is to GET THE HELL OUT OF NEW ENGLAND. The twin east of Worcester is the boy twin, the one who calls you at 2 a.m. to come bail him out of jail because he:
A. Gave a Yankees fan a beat down.
B. Defended his position that Manhattan clam chowder is, by definition, not a chowder.
C. Beat someone who said something disparaging about Aerosmith or Godsmack or Denis Leary.
He’s the guy who doesn’t actually live anywhere; he just floats from couch to couch to couch. He borrows your car without your permission, drinks all your beer and steals your stuff. And even though you know he’s going to sleep with your girlfriend you let him in your house anyway because he’s just so damned awesome.
Just like any family we fight and spat amongst ourselves, but heaven help the punk who steps to one of us, because then he steps to all of us. Whitey Bulger wouldn’t be Whitey Bulger if he were from the midwest. Well, maybe Kansas. That place is like the friggin’ Twilight Zone. So the next time you cross the border into New England, roll down your windows and listen carefully; you just might hear our siren song:
The story behind my Super Secret Project begins like any good story begins; with lobster and beer. Or as they say in Portland, Maine where my good friend and partner in crime Tom Elias lives, “Lobstah and a rack a pounders.”
It was during this fateful drunken weekend spent at his beach house with my best friend Quinn and the infamous HR Nightmare that my latest writing project was born. That project, ladies and gentlemen, is a four novella collaborative series entitled:
YEAR: 2012, mainly
POPULATION: 7 billion Human souls and counting…
From Purgatory –
The Grim Reaper and other three Horsemen of the Apocalypse are stretched to their limits reaping souls, and more drop dead every day. With his department near the breaking point, Grim requests a team of five thousand Lesser Angels to serve as Deputy Reapers.
To Hell –
Lucifer is faced with overcrowded prisons and work camps. He petitions the Board for permission to break ground on the 667th level of Hell.
To Heaven –
Gabriel, president of the Board of Archangels, denies both requests, citing budget restrictions. Grim, determined to get what he wants, goes over the Board to the Office of Heavenly Affairs, otherwise known as God. God denies Grim’s request but assigns a Heavenly Liaison to assist Grim, a liaison with a singular solution to the issues facing both Grim and Lucifer.
And back again –
The liaison’s name: Jesus.
REAPERS WITH ISSUES is the first in a four book novella series that chronicles the Grim Reaper’s struggles in middle-management. Click on Grim at the end of this post to visit our companion blog to learn more about the authors and the sequels to be released over the next few months. Don’t forget to sign Grim’s “Death Book” before leaving.
This series is meant to poke good-natured fun at the topics of Chrisitanity, homosexuality, recreational drug abuse and office politics. If you are at all easily offended, we, the authors, will not be offended if you choose not to read our work. Please do not chuck hate bricks through our windows.
Please to enjoy the following opening of Reapers With Issues:
REAPERS WITH ISSUES
Death killed time rereading God’s memo while he waited for his dealer to show. Semi-baked, he decided, would be the condition necessary to inform his staff that their department would not be receiving the help they so desperately needed and that someone else, an outsider, would be put in place to oversee their operation. As far as Heaven and the Archangels were concerned, the Horsemen were officially on their own.
There had been a time when Death, Grim to those who knew him, could singlehandedly reap his entire department’s quota of souls and still have time left over to indulge in some high quality herbal recreation. The reality of reaping a population closing in on seven billion left Grim no choice but to seek his recreation locally. It didn’t take long for him to discover that local weed, like local Purgatory, was mediocre at best.
Lack of free time and quality pot were merely symptoms of a larger, growing problem. Reaping while short-staffed had robbed his Horsemen of any kind of life outside of the job, and lately Grim had noticed cracks beginning to show.
Pestilence developed a nasty habit of calling in sick with a new exotic illness at least once a week, and an incident over a cage dancer forced War into court-ordered anger management classes. Only Famine had been able to withstand the pressures of the job, although Grim did notice that he’d been shedding copious amounts of hair lately.
It was on behalf of his Horsemen that Grim requisitioned the Archangel Board to reassign five thousand Angels to his department for Reaping duty. A requisition that Gabriel, Head of the Archangel Board, repeatedly denied. Grim’s decision to go over the Board’s head to the office of Heavenly Affairs yielded nothing but a Heavenly Liaison, and God only knew who the Hell that was.
Unable to make sense of God’s decree, Grim stuffed the memo back into his pocket as he scoped out his surroundings which were, at the moment, in the alleyway behind his office building and the home of the Office of Human Death (OHD for short).
Talk about shitting where you eat, Grim thought to himself as he checked for souls milling about. The last thing he needed was for word to get out that the once great Reaper of Death had been reduced to buying sub-par pot behind his office building in the lamest ‘burb of the Universe.
Paranoia getting the better of him, he walked to the end of the alleyway which emptied into Purgatory’s corporate district, a massive office complex comprised of row after row of generic steel buildings, each one an exact replica of the one that came before.
Finding no one, Grim laughed to himself. Total waste of time, he thought. He couldn’t remember the last time anything bad happened in Purgatory. Then again, he couldn’t remember the last time anything good did, either.
Just the same, Grim thought it best to cloak himself in a human disguise, namely the dead body that until an hour ago belonged to the organic hemp farmer that was his latest reaping assignment. “Meat suits,” as the Horsemen liked to call them, were a necessary evil now that the Archangel Board cut the OHD’s travel expense budget, forcing Grim and his staff to reap by bus instead of horse. All it took was one bad road trip on a bus bound for Newark to make him rethink wearing his cloak while on assignment. Mortals, he discovered, were a lot faster and stronger than they looked.
Grim listened as the clock tower in Purgatory Square chimed one o’clock. Pedro, his dealer, was late. Out of both time and patience, Grim walked back to the rear entrance of the OHD just as the door swung open.
“Jesus Christ, Pedro!” Grim shouted. “Scare me to death why don’t you?”
Pedro stepped out into the alleyway, his eyes darting up and down the length of it. “How’d I scare you?” Pedro asked. “You’re the one in the Jesus suit.”
“Jesus? Really?” Grim asked as he smoothed down the late farmer’s long, sandy locks. “I kinda thought he looked like Clapton.”
“Clapton or not that’s some scary shit, man,” Pedro said, looking Grim up and down. “Someone said they saw Jesus walking around here this morning. You know he’d tell my Pops if he caught me dealing again. My old man believes every word that fool says.”
Though he may have been known throughout the Universe as Saint Peter Junior, “Pedro” earned a reputation in underground circles as the prime procurer of black market merchandise. It didn’t hurt that having a Father who manned the Gates of Heaven gave him access to all the best incoming contraband.
“I don’t know what to tell you, kid. Apostles die hard. Now are we going to do this thing or not?” Grim asked, hoping to get back to work before he was missed.
Pedro stepped away from Grim, eying him suspiciously. “First tell me why you’re wearin’ a mortal in Bland Land. You ain’t reaping.”
Grim pointed to his chest and said, “Lungs.”
“Ah…makes sense,” Pedro said, relieved.
Lungs and pockets were two of the three attachments Grim thought made wearing a mortal’s meat suit bearable. The third attachment he hoped to utilize later on that night.
“Are you serious about Jesus being here in Purgatory?” Grim asked, peering over his shoulder. “Because he is the last person I need to deal with right now.”
“Hey man, all I know is what I heard,” Pedro said. “Why? You gonna kick his ass? Let me know now and I’ll give you odds.”
“Thanks, but no thanks. I’ve had enough run-ins with Skippy Christ to last an eternity,” Grim said, remembering a certain spring day two-thousand years ago that didn’t end well for either of them.
“Skippy Christ,” Pedro chuckled. “I’ll have to remember that one.” Once he was sure they were alone Pedro opened his robe, pulled out a baggie and handed it to Grim. “This stuff’s fresh from Mexico. Lucky for you my old man doesn’t shake down nuns. Mother Superior came in loaded.”
“I guess this is my lucky day after all,” Grim said as he dug the farmer’s wallet out of his back pocket. “How much for the bag?”
“For you? One-fifty. Cash.”
“One-fifty?” Grim asked as he thumbed through the thin wallet. “What can I get for…sixty-five dollars and a condom?”
“Sixty-five’ll get ya’ an ounce.”
“An ounce? That’s it? You do know I’m Death, right?” Grim punctuated his question by slashing the air with an invisible scythe.
Pedro laughed. “Yeah, you keep swinging,” he said. “Everyone knows you work a pen better than a blade now a days.”
“Is that so?” Grim asked, knowing all too well it was.
“Oh yeah it is,” Pedro snickered. “Hey, I got an idea- how ‘bout you write me up? Oh man, I can see it now, ‘Dear God, Pedro wouldn’t cut me a deal on weed, the stingy pendejo. Kisses, Death.’” Pedro doubled over laughing while Grim stood there and seethed.
“Just give me the ounce and shut your piehole,” Grim said, finally.
Struggling to catch his breath, Pedro handed Grim the entire bag. “Throw in the rubber and the bag’s yours. I’m heading down to Lucifer’s club tonight. I’ll put it to good use.”
Grim’s eyes flew open wide. “Are you shitting me? Lucifer’s got a club now?”
“Hell yeah, he does,” Pedro answered.
“Of course…” Grim said in a sigh.
Ever since God in his infinite wisdom promoted Gabriel to President of the Archangel Board, Grim’s budget had been sent to Hell, literally. While he and his Horsemen had to make due with meat suits and bus passes; Lucifer and his crew of demons enjoyed a new office complex with an onsite gym and spa, and apparently now, a club.
Nepotism ad infinitum.
“Hey man, you should come check it out,” Pedro said as pocketed the condom. “Music sucks but the women are hot. Bring a rubber or your pecker’ll burn like Hell for a week.” Pedro dug deep under his robe and scratched.
Grim opened the bag and inhaled. “Kid, if this shit smokes up as good as it smells I’m not going anywhere.”
“Well let’s find out,” Pedro said as he pulled out a lighter and let Grim sample the merchandise.
Grim took a hit and quickly put his lungs to work. In no time the smoke made its way to his brain, filling cracks that had become chasms created by supervisors with agendas and employees with complaints and a Universe dependent on him to hold shit together. Grim took another hit and released the stress of his middle-management Hell along with the sweet smoke he blew out in a slow, steady stream from his lungs. For one perfect moment, Death was happy.
A snapping sound by his ear pulled him back to reality.
“Hey, wake up. You’re vibrating,” Pedro said, pointing to Grim’s hip.
Grim reached down to his pager and saw that he had a message from his secretary. His absence had been noted. Grim paid Pedro in cash as promised, making a mental note to start reaping in more affluent neighborhoods in the future. “Let me know the next time you get another haul like this one,” Grim said, regaining focus.
“Hey no problem. I’ll even cut you a deal if you hook me up with your secretary. That is one fine lookin’ chica.”
“Fran? Sorry kid, but you’re not her type.”
Pedro rubbed his ample belly and asked, “Oh yeah? What’s her type, then?”
Grim stepped through the door and said, “Bony,” just as it closed behind him.
Another urgent page from Fran rolled in as Grim tore down the vacant hallway that led to his basement office. Stopping at the janitor’s closet, Grim pulled the memo from his pocket and then removed his meat suit, swapping it with the cloak he’d stashed there earlier.
Officially in uniform, Grim took a minute to compose himself before he opened the door to his office. Though he knew for a fact he was in Purgatory, Grim couldn’t shake the feeling that he was about to open the door to Hell.
TODAY IS THE FIRST ANNIVERSARY OF MY BLOG! TO COMMEMORATE THIS AUSPICIOUS OCCASION I HAVE DECIDED TO RERUN MY VERY FIRST BLOG POST.
PLEASE TO ENJOY…
So yeah, I wrote a book.
I must have been high when I wrote it because there’s no other explanation I can give for my 120,000 word upper YA novel where the only noun I used more than “boner” was “blood.” It goes without saying that I’m self-published. I didn’t even try to submit it traditionally. Can you just imagine the poor agent who gets my query letter?
“My novel, THE GODS OF ASPHALT is complete at 120,000 words and is the first in a series of five books that for some reason I’ve decided to write out-of-order. Each one is told from the point of view of a teenage male protagonist who has exactly zero supernatural powers (unless you consider perpetual erections a superpower). Oh, and it also has Spanish subtitles.”
On the good side, if you’re like me and are just a little too into music, motorcycles and all around badassery this is the book for you. If you’re not, I’m sure Jodi Picoult’s got a blog somewhere. You can find the opening to chapter one at the top of the page under the tab GOA REVIEWS and you can find my book on line at:
I promise you, this is an actual clue!
Even if you don’t get the clue, you can still enjoy this kickass song.
Have you figured it out yet? This might help: