Joe Lansdale: Captains Outrageous

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Joe Lansdale Captains Outrageous
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    Captains Outrageous
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Captains Outrageous

Joe R. Lansdale


I made a last round and met Leonard in the break room. He had his security guard cap cocked at a jaunty angle and was standing in front of the soda machine, counting out change.

When I came in he said, without looking up, “You got a quarter?”

I gave him a quarter.

“Any chickens try to break out?” I asked.

“Nope. None tried to break in either. How about on your side? Any trouble?” Leonard pushed the button on the soda machine and a Dr. Pepper dropped out.

“No chicken problems. I saw a suspicious wood rat out by the trees, but he didn’t want any part of me.”

“Well, I can see that.”

I went over and made myself a cup of free decaf because I’d just given Leonard my last quarter. I put lots of free creamer in it. The coffee at the chicken plant needs lots of creamer so it doesn’t taste like something dead.

I stirred the coffee in the Styrofoam cup with a plastic swizzle stick and sipped it. It still tasted like something dead, only with creamer in it. I dropped the full cup in the trash and we went out to Leonard’s pickup.

We had been working at Deerstone’s Chicken Processing for about six months, and it wasn’t so bad. We had the three-in-the-afternoon-to-midnight shift. Mostly you just walked around and made sure there weren’t any holes in the fence and nothing was out of place and you didn’t see workers packing their car trunks with frozen chickens.

It beat one chicken plant I tried to get on at. They didn’t want me as a security guard, but thought I’d be great out at their farm, masturbating roosters for sperm to impregnate hens. No joke. They really did that, or so they said. I tried to imagine if they had you do it with tweezers and gloves, or if you had to do it with a naked thumb and forefinger. Perhaps it was better for the chickens that way.

When you spent a lot of time walking around outside a dark building and inside where chicken slaughter was going on, you thought about all kinds of possibilities. And in the middle of the night, edging on toward the big twelve, a lot of dumb ideas seemed reasonable.

The guard job had come through an acquaintance who was quitting and said they needed two. I had to get gun-certified, way it’s offered in Texas, and Leonard, who already had the certification, got the job with me. We were the last hard bastion between the chickens inside the processing plant (most of them already dead, headless, defeathered, and on hooks) and the outside world who wanted them.

Let me tell you, these chicken people aren’t messing around. They’re serious about their fowls. They got all kinds of processing methods they hold dear and don’t want stolen.

Processing plant across town, the one wanted me to jack off chickens, lived in mortal fear of spies from Deerstone’s. So fearful, in fact, Leonard and I liked to imagine they would send their own chickens over for secrets. You know, dressed in black ninja outfits, going over the fence and the wall, with metal cleats on wings and feet, climbing through ventilation shafts, ready to pluck out secret information after formidable nunchaku battles in elevators and dark places with Deerstone’s own chickens.

Yes sir, sort of made you feel proud when you went home at night, put your dark green guard suit, hat, and holstered handgun on a chair, lay down in bed, smelling of chicken, knowing you kept the world safe from meat processing thieves. That and the fact you got a decent check every two weeks and a sexy uniform to dazzle the female population.

Well, decent money depends on what you’ve been doing before. Bouncing sometimes paid better, but you had to hang out with a bunch of drunks in a smoky joint full of naked women, and after a while the naked women were just bothersome. You wanted them to put clothes on. I can’t explain it. It’s just one of those strange things in life. You start to think you wouldn’t have to bounce in the first place, throw drunks in the parking lot, if they didn’t serve alcohol in there and have naked women running around shaking their tits and sticking their bush in everyone’s face.

Then you realize if the place wasn’t like that, you wouldn’t have a job. It’s a bit like being a preacher. If there wasn’t any sin you’d be hosing down oil at a filling station. Which, come to think of it, in either case, bouncer or preacher, was sure to be a more honorable profession.

Way I felt lately, naked women were one of life’s miseries. I hadn’t seen my woman, Brett, naked in some time. Fact was, I wasn’t sure she was my woman anymore. And what I had done for her had changed my life, made me blue and sorry and sad about the needs of the flesh. It was my feelings for her, both emotional and physical, that had got me in some business that had resulted in deaths. I dreamed about those people at night. They came to me in bursts of gunfire, powder smoke, and screams. Their faces were huge and they howled at me with mouths open so wide I could see fillings in their teeth, and beyond that, the abyss into which we all go.

What I had done had a certain justification, but certain justification and justification aren’t the same thing. I had been on the edge of violence before, and had acted in self-defense before, but in this case I had gone in with the full understanding and the design that I might have to take human lives, and had. I had left there wounded with blood on my shoes.

Since Leonard had been with me on this horrid escapade, I asked Leonard if he had the same problems, the same dreams. His answer was simple. The dead people were assholes.

As for dreams? No.

After it was over, me and Brett kept in touch, made love a few times, had dinner together, went to movies. But there was something missing. Like a hamburger without the fixings. Part of it was the fact she was trying to bring her daughter, Tillie, back to normalcy.

Problem was, Tillie liked being a whore, just not a whore against her will. I guess it beat wanting to grow up and work as a politician.

Truth of the matter was, Tillie was one hell of a good whore. She was pulling down big change over in Tyler, where the Baptists liked sex good as anybody.

I liked sex too, but Brett wasn’t for it anymore. Not really. Last few times I had felt as if I were having a kind of desperate aerobic workout. You do it ’cause you think you’re supposed to and it’s good for you, but you don’t like it, and you end up sweaty for little to nothing.

I felt as if Brett ought to have a light on, be reading a magazine, have a pair of scissors at hand so she could clip coupons. Making love to her was kind of like I was trying to beat something to death with my pelvis that was already dead.

Frankly, it wasn’t the kind of loving made a man feel hard as steel, or even firm as Greek Age bronze.

Unspoken, we bled sex out of our relationship, and pretty soon we bled the relationship out of it. I had talked to her by phone a few times. She dropped by the plant at dinner break with Kentucky Fried Chicken once, but it was all pretty uninspiring. If I remember correctly, we talked about KFC’s biscuits most of the time. They’re good biscuits, by the way, but they can’t beat Popeye’s, and neither’s biscuits quite match up to a loving relationship.

After that, I saw her once more. Then all went quiet on that front, and I had pretty much decided from here on out it was the bachelor life for me.

Sex and chicken processing. Two of life’s great mysteries.

Leonard drove me around the big chicken plant lot to my car. We did this every night. I parked on one side, he on the other. If we went out the front door, he gave me a ride to my car. We went out the back, I gave him a ride to his. We could have parked side by side, of course, but we liked to add a little adventure to our lives. And it gave us a few minutes to talk about whatever we felt like talking about. Most of it just stupid stuff about the chicken plant, a quick survey of our present lives.

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