Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem

BOOK: Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem







Bad Juju & Other Tales of

Madness and Mayhem



by Jonathan Woods



Published by New Pulp Press

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Copyright © 2009 by Jonathan Woods


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Bad Juju & Other Tales of

Madness and Mayhem



by Jonathan Woods





The Dilapidated Isles


Jeff Walberg set down his bags and gazed out along the dilapidated dock. Across the looping water of the bay a line of picturesque palms was etched against the sky. Off the dock a figure splashed in the calm surface of the water, churning out a rapid if erratic Australian crawl.

Walberg squinted to make out the details. It’s a naked woman, he thought. A stark naked woman. Her round white buttocks rolling from side to side recalled the hump of Ahab’s famous whale. Or something less profound.

Reaching into the pocket of his seersucker jacket, he found the crumpled handkerchief and mopped his brow. The humidity was at 99 percent. He had a hard-on.

The swimmer finished her constitutional in a final violent lap and climbed up a rickety ladder onto the dock. Her nude body arched cat-like, as she shook off the water.

Leaning down, she swept off a white bathing cap just as the sun popped above a snarl of mangroves to the east. The new light burst on her blonde curls like a revelation. As she turned, it shimmered on an equally golden tuft of Brillo sprouting between her legs.

My god, thought Walberg. His mouth was as dry as a sand trap.

The unnamed goddess scampered across the dock and disappeared inside the giant silver-clad bird that rocked gently on the ebb and flow, its man-made wings spread in supplication to the newly risen sun.

When his erection had subsided, Walberg picked up his bags and walked down the ramp and out along the dock to the waiting pontoon plane.

Boxy and fish-scaled with shimmering aluminum plates, the aquatic aircraft suggested a simpler, but no less desperate, time. Walberg wallowed in a wave of retro-fantasy: Bogart looking sleazy as usual amid the flickering images of
Beat the Devil
; Hemingway aboard the
hunting Nazi subs; Ava Gardner and Howard Hughes flashing their pearly whites for the paparazzi.

Walberg, an accountant, was going insane.

As he approached the plane, a man holding a wrench aloft, stepped from the shadow of one great wing. Walberg took two steps back.

The man looked at Walberg, then lowered the tool and began wiping it with a rag.

“Snuck up on me, pardner. You can’t be too careful these days.”

“Yes, you’re right.”
What is he talking about?
wondered Walberg.

The man thrust his hand forward, capturing Walberg’s in a sissy grip. The hand was damp as a corpse.

“Ed Stone. People call me Eddy. Edie on the weekends. You doin’ alright?”

Walberg grimaced.

“Too early for that question.”

His teeth felt filthy. He quickly closed his lips.

His almost attacker’s clean-shaven face was oblong and angular as a piece of heavy machinery. Threadbare khakis as soft as silk and faded almost to oblivion clothed him from head to toe.
Vargas Moving & Storage
was written across the front of his sweat-stained cap.

“You Smith?”


“Ah. The last-minute booking. Susanne was taking bets on whether you’d actually show up.”

“Why did she think I wouldn’t show?”

“Well, pal, this ain’t Club Med. Sometimes things can get a little dicey in the Islands.”

“I’ve got lots of life insurance,” said Walberg. “Where do I stow my gear.”

Stone flicked his head in the direction of the bird.

“Suzanne’ll give you a hand. And a handjob.” Ed winked. “But sometimes she bites.”

Teetering across the narrow undulating board stretched between the dock and the seaplane’s open hatchway, Walberg wondered:
Did he actually say handjob or am I dreaming

The blonde, who at that moment appeared framed by the gunmetal edges of the doorway, left no doubt as to the answer. It was the same full-boned woman Walberg had caught sight of during her morning physical. Now she was dressed in a washed-out Betty Boop T-shirt, shorts that nibbled at her crotch and white Topsiders sans socks.

She grabbed Walberg and yanked him the last several feet through the hatchway. Taking his bags, she began to stow them in an overhead compartment.

“You must be Smith.”

“Actually, it’s Walberg.”

She threw a flirty gaze back over her shoulder.

“I’m Suzanne, your air hostess. You want a hot towel? Or a handjob? How ‘bout a drink? I make a mean Tequila Sunrise. Or we’ve got Mimosas. Daiquiris. We might even have a little ganja.”

A torrent of words before Walberg could get his bearings.
Or did you say “sea legs” on a pontoon plane?

“Coffee would be great,” he faltered. “And the
Wall Street Journal

“Coffee coming up,” she said brightly. “They cut off our
subscription at the knees. For nonpayment.” She pretended to bite the air. Her teeth looked sharp. “You’ll have to check out the views. Or polish your social skills interacting with us fellow fliers.”

As Walberg took his first steaming sip of java, the prune face of an ancient mulatto appeared in the hatchway. He wore a white suit and Panama hat.

“Smith?” Suzanne asked, her head popping forth from the mini-galley.

The dark-skinned geezer seemed to nod in affirmation as he shambled to his seat.

Assisting him was a black-haired woman too young to be with such an old man.

Her skin was as pale and mottled as a clam sitting in its shell on a bed of crushed ice waiting for the hot sauce. Dark filaments fringed the upper lip of her oddly pretty face. The plunging V of her navy blue dress revealed an elaborate hieroglyph of tats across the tops of her breasts.

As she passed Walberg, her eyes looked straight ahead, avoiding his analytical stare. He wondered if she was also a Smith.

Three minutes later Ed Stone and another man, who stumbled and slurred his words, passed through the cabin into the cockpit. Suzanne slammed and secured the hatch door

“Seatbelts, everyone,” she trilled. “No more drinky drinks till we’re airborne.”

Who was drinking?
wondered Walberg. Surely neither Smith nor his goth companion was an early morning tippler. Then he realized there was liquor in his coffee. A lot of liquor.

That and the drone of the seaplane engines sent Walberg headfirst into the deep end of dreamland.

He awoke with Suzanne’s lips on his.

“Oh! Mr. Walberg,” she said. “Time to bring your seat up. We’re just landing in the Islands.”

The silver bird passed over a wide bay, then the docks, where a single tramp freighter was offloading containers, and finally above the rusting corrugated rooftops of Puerto Greenberg. In a moment they were above impenetrable rainforest, before curving back to the bay for landing.

The Smiths… Walberg had made them plural. The Smiths were met at the pier by a motorcycle with a sidecar. The orangutan-like driver wore a maroon zoot suit and pointy black shoes. His eyes peered from dangerous slits; his visage resembled a hillside torn by mudslides.

They stowed the old fart in the sidecar; hired a man to bring the luggage. Then Smith the younger hoisted herself up behind, hiking up her leg for Walberg to catch a glimpse of her black thong undies.

As the bike sped away, the muffler shook loose and clanked to the pavement. The engine roared and the motorcycle disappeared in a cloud of burning oil.

“We’re staying in the Islands for a few days,” said Stone to Walberg, grabbing his hand and pulling him across to the pier. “We’ll see you around.”

“Yeah, sure,” Walberg mumbled distractedly.

Gazing shoreward, his eyes had come upon a young woman in a tight school uniform. She lolled on a bench at the crumbling seawall, her bare legs crossed, reading a novel in the shade of a scrofulous palm. Her cherry-red lips moved silently as she parsed the words.

Walberg had meant to ask Ed or Suzanne where they were staying, get a recommendation. But when he looked up, they were gone, including the palsied co-pilot, leaving Walberg on his own.

Walking both ways on the main street until the cheesy stores and bars gave out and exploring several side venues, Walberg determined there were only two hotels in Puerto Greenberg. El Hotel Miami and Hotel Paradiso. Someone had thrown a rock through the Paradiso sign, leaving a jagged hole. Taking this as an omen, Walberg checked into the Miami.

A sign on the front desk read
Management is Out to Lunch
. But when he rang the bell, which was broken and made a scratching sound, a paper-thin addict blew in from the back room. He unhooked a key and with his gray fingers slid it across the counter to Walberg. A mildewed leather tag read: room 13.

“It’s the only room with a shower. Shiter’s down the hall. $10.00 a night, $60 a week. Paid now. Let me know if you need some company.”

In the room a pair of copulating geckos clung to the ceiling. Walberg lay on the bed for a while, but couldn’t get a hard-on.

When he stood back up and started to arrange his stuff in the bureau, one of the knobs came off. He tossed it in a drawer. The ashtray on the table by the window was full of old butts. Some with lipstick. He decided he was hungry.

A crowd of raucous drinkers filled the
Cantina Esplendido
. Walberg stood at the bar with a rum punch and read the handwritten menu on the wall.

Suddenly Miss Smith appeared in the open doorway of the bodega. When their eyes met, she looked startled. A mutant sniffed out by the thought police. Blithely she walked over to him. They shook hands.

“You’re Walberg, from the plane.”


“I’m Always.”

“Always what?”

“Always Divine.”

“I’m getting confused,” said Walberg. “Are you on valium?”

She scowled at him.

“It’s my name. Always Divine.”

Walberg wanted to say:
Are you a Bond girl?

“Would you like a drink?” he asked instead.

“I can’t,” she said, placing her hand on his arm. “But come tomorrow for a barbecue.” She hurried out.

?” he shouted.


She was gone before he could ask the location.

On the way back to the hotel after a plate of beans and sausage, Walberg bought a bottle of local rum. Several attractive hookers paraded past, but he passed them up for a drink in his room. He felt flushed.

Sitting on the sagging bed, he put a finger in his mouth, moving it along the gum line until he found the point of inflammation. The tooth moved; it was as loose as an old man’s bowels.

What was going on?
He’d just been to the dentist! Everything had been cool.


It was 11 a.m. when Walberg awoke to the sound of a hubcap clanging in the gutter. He lay for a while in the trough of the bed, trying to remember who he was. On the far wall a serious-looking inch-wide crack had opened in the night, running like a lightning strike from one corner of the ceiling down to the floor.

On his way out he mentioned the crack to the Chinaman sitting behind the check-in counter. The Chinaman rolled his shoulders in a dramatic shrug.
Probably doesn’t understand a word I said,
thought Walberg.

He spent the day wandering the streets of Puerto Greenberg. The place was falling apart. Parallel and perpendicular had ceased to exist. Crumbling concrete, rusting sheet metal, insect-ravaged wood siding. Everyone he passed looked hot or angry in rayon shirts and tight pants.

A toothless Chihuahua bolted from a doorway and began humping Walberg’s leg. When he tried to kick it away, the owner started a ruckus. A crowd gathered. Walberg fled.

He stopped for a cold drink and a shave in the main plaza. Afterwards, he saw himself in the barber’s mirror: an uptight
in a button-down shirt. On the way back to the hotel, he bought two rayon shirts with aggressive prints in leftover colors.

Two notes had been left for him at the hotel desk.

One read:

Come at 9. We’re roasting an entire pig. Tell the cabbie: World’s End, on the South Road. Always

The other, from Ed Stone, said they were drinking beer at the Stoned Iguana, if he wanted to drop by. Walberg changed into the shirt decorated with out-of-focus Havana street scenes in orange and verdigris.

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