According to unnamed but reliable sources, The Beverly Hills Rat was the big brain behind the burning of Big Sur in December. He had his reasons, plenty good reasons. No surprise there. According to the tight schedule mandated by his big brain, he had waited long enough. What better reason than that? His other reasons were monumental and epic as well. He needed his losses to become gains once again. And pronto. Nothing wrong with that, right? That remains numero uno with a bullet. You can bet on it with the same so-so odds any two-bit sucker can get on any corner. That much was confirmed for the record.
Off the record, meanwhile, and on the obvious sly, he enticed an unwitting suicide bomber into battle with a package of junk bond leftovers on a Tuesday, for delivery on a Thursday, a nut brown mole who preferred to be kept in the dark when he was strapped into an incendiary vest studded with gooey space aged napalm. It never mattered that the mole became delirious when strapped. The mole never saw the light or knew what hit him. He never had to understand the reason why. Good way to go for him.
By that time, The Beverly Hills Rat was lolling with a number of deniably plausible pals down the road in Pebble Beach. He was the first, naturally, to smell the smoke. The estimated number of pals was classified information. Feverish, all-out competition demanded no less. Success clung to their ad hoc brotherhood like blown-in fiberglass insulation. The Beverly Hills Rat pointed his nose into the browning air and the others followed his lead. The melting ice tinkled in their murky cocktail glasses.
The Beverly Hills Rat was serving as co-host of an annual religious gala for major property owners from most credible denominations, none more so than the clenchable greenback dollar. Clearly, his alibi was asshole tight. These were well known to be all men at all times who understood what he had to be going though, the acute sense of loss and betrayal he was feeling, men who had stroked and fondled the tuxedo hem of stand-up comic Ronald Reagan in his pre-Alzheimer’s role. No such credible man, naturally, even an early onset Alzheimer’s aficionado, would allow the insufferable prospect of losing property previously paid-for and delivered to exist long term. And not just any old property, either. Perish the fucking thought. This was a Pebble Beach affair. Some of these properties were epic, some trophies, a few cutting edge, and edgy. All of his cronies consumed every bite of their filthy rich dirt with big gusto. Big guts and big balls, too. The properties were lush, colorful, frothed, and creamy. They were multiple leveled and hued. Many wives were included, contemporary, vintage, rococo, and mid-century. They overlooked domains of vast stucco.
But, no property was comparable to the property of the Beverly Hills Rat. No property breathed like his, smelled like his. No other property could see in the dark like his. Only his property possessed the potential to soar to the same pinnacle of feeling as a former Soviet missile. The loss of his property still gnawed at his shrunken balls when the fleas were feeding after midnight. While his unrequited need remained great.
The Beverly Hills Rat twirled his cane hypnotically, and in an aside to a major black marketer of sub-machine gun and shrapnel futures, spat, “No property of mine is going to escape from me and get away with it. How would that appear on my ledger? Look at the points on these claws. That says it all.”
The gun man nodded in agreement and squawked, “Haw.”
A third man known for monetary spunk and faux moxie, interjected, “Who’s gonna match up in a dark stinking alley with that?”
The Beverly Hills Rat added, “Fuck ’em.”
The Beverly Hills Rat danced eerily to his wayward side and wriggled his unsightly ass. Snidely, he sipped from his small glass. What was in that drink anyway? His drooping whiskers shimmered like an oil slick in a shallow swale. Perhaps, he mulled, I should have another. He could feel the payback beginning to turn retrogressively assward, his way. It was going to hurt so good when it hit so hard. There were still many untapped advantages of slave ownership he was certain he could exploit with impunity. He fondled the whip at his side, and oozed a gummy substance that was best left alone. On a need-to-know basis there was no more useful information to know than that.
Not for the last time, he repeated, “Fuck ’em up good.”
The fucking property lost, temporarily, by the Beverly Hills Rat, or more accurately stolen from the Beverly Hills Rat, also temporarily, or else what would be the fucking point of the very sharpness of the claws and the payback which was now past due, had come at a duly devalued price. He still had the fucking papers to prove it. That made it his. It would remain his until a better deal came along. Only a fucking Communist could assess his stylish portfolio any differently. Why else do you think those fuckers lost? The Beverly Hills Rat did not climb highest on the backs of all the other rat assholes in the alley only to become a fucking loser. Fucking woe to whatever scum sucking fucker stands in the fucking way of The Beverly Hills Rat when he shits. No rat shits truer. Whoever the fuck they think they are. If you don’t think so, fuck you too.
“The fire is spreading.” The Beverly Hills Rat was soon reading from a pre-packaged statement. “Rats are scurrying to victory. We will continue to flush out our enemies and have our way. Soon I will dig my claws into that bird and fuck him up good.”
For a shitty little rat, his voice, though squeaky, was loud. The many threatening nuances of his speech resounded. There is nothing like a good threat for motivational purposes. No one in attendance disagreed. None of his companions felt the need to comment on the unsightly drool crusting on his lips. No one had to be told when it was best to let sleeping rats lie.
The beautiful high flying bird inelegantly referred to as a slave by The Beverly Hills Rat in his rant, who by no coincidence happened to be the same naturally resplendent owl who had been rescued from his velveteen cage during the chaotic aftermath following the anniversary of The Catastrophe of 1949, was none other than Woodsy Owl. Like…duh. You hardly had to be anyone to know that much.
At that moment, of course, Woodsy Owl was in absolutely no danger from the claws of any rapacious rodent. He was flying under the protection of three bald eagles high in the Santa Lucia Mountains. They were hovering at or above two thousand feet, with ease. They took turns feeding on shitty little rats way down below.
Later the next day, as I was attempting to force my reluctant hips into a wider and more open stance under the redwood tree near my back door, the tawny owl was regaling me with tidbits from the tirade of the foiled Beverly Hills Rat. He was laughing his ass off as he imitated the squeaky rat voice and I only loosely glommed onto the raw nitty gritty. But, it was plenty enough for me. I was glad his scorn for a change was not directed at me. Don’t ever let anyone tell you high flying owls don’t know how to have fun at the expense of an innocent other. But then owls never need much of an excuse to party, do they? I could hear a big band of Northern pygmy owls in The Forest of Nisene Marks tuning up for an upcoming bash. The Forest of Nisene Marks was party central for all the owls who had escaped the fire unscathed. They sounded like Pharoah Sanders working out on tenor alongside Sun Ra. There was another chorus of at least sixty hoots coming from the top of a gnarly oak plopped on a round mound, where the lovely Thee Mrs. was singing deep and low like Nina Simone. Unless that tenor was more like Ornette Coleman on alto.
For my part, I felt inspired. I felt a glow. I felt fucked up by that glow, naturally, but in a good way. I wanted to act, not ponder or observe. Forget more scheming. A big brain only goes so far, right? Then what? Why not now? This was not my first encounter with The Beverly Hills Rat, after all. I will never be able to forget my broken nose that continues to cause respiratory distress from the last time, as well my lingering black eye that tainted my image in the community according to my criminal lawyer, so I had plenty of ready motivation on hand. It is a little known fact yet to be uncovered that it is only through the machinations of human enablers toiling for the secretive Wally Whizney Etching, Earring, Wiping, Drying, Eying, and Imaginary Hearing Aid Society, Ltd. that punk-ass cats who murder beautiful birds come to work for the big boss rats. All I needed to get started and move ahead in my determination to sacrifice for the struggle was food and some directions. I could learn to swallow my liquids on the run.
I ran into the house and climbed into my best big boy pants, fit my elastic white belt through my loops, and pulled on a pair of cordovan clodhoppers that were touted to be good for kicking shit. My big boy pants were too big for me so I pulled the belt tighter. The faux leather glued to the elastic was cracking due to excessive exposure to a large number of periodic elements but I made do by adding a new hole with my trusted and convenient awl. Then I admit I may have flexed into a nearby mirror.
I realize now, though, and not merely in convenient retrospect, that I knew even then that I was too late. It was not the first time. But I simply could not help myself. What about all this yearning? Where is that glow going to end up? I realize I remain a cog in the perennial struggle, not a wheel. But, still. Is that what’s supposed to happen? Do I always have to be wrong about everything? All I wanted was the chance to test my mettle against the dirtiest of rats. Who doesn’t? Why should that be so hard?
After I accepted my loss, I returned to nearly the next best thing, a fresh bottle of foamy brown beer tapped straight from the brewery in my laundry room. Then I had another, just like that. I knew there was a new batch coming along with a bit more spice added, so that was a comfort.
Sometimes I worry, though, that this war has me hooked. Then what?
Later, when the yang twin returned from messing around after middle school, he looked me up and down with that asymmetrical grimace of his that is often mistaken for a no holds barred smirk, and he said, “Nice pants.”