Ghost Country Las Vegas


We were slumped deep in the Circus Circus’ bar, when the drugs began to wear off.  1pm – early morning by Vegas time.  My amigo Samo was taking the effects of the previous night hard.  He looked angry, bestial, yet defeated, like a coyote road-killed while mating.  We’d just returned to base after recovering his wallet from the southern strip’s Luxor Casino; his ID and credit card from downtown’s Girls of Glitter Gulch gentleman’s club.  His watch and one shoe were still missing.

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‘Oh my God!’ he suddenly yelled, red-eyes directed hatefully toward the omnipresence of casino ceiling security cameras.  And then, head in his chewed-fingernail hands, muttered something like: ‘I lost enough money to put a deposit down on a high class brothel.’  Then he started sobbing like a recently divorced, impotent insurance salesman.  ‘And where’s my watch!?’  His missing shoe apparently gone unnoticed thus far.

‘He ok hon?’ asked the ex-call girl weary barmaid serving our breakfast bloody marys.

‘He’s fine,’ I replied, levelling my own night white light bloodshot eyes at hers.  ‘My friend has suffered a death in the family.  A murder.’  I looked at him and sighed.  ‘Gang violence, you understand.  He’s a foreigner.  Probably Columbian.’  I threw what paper money I had left on the table and the floor, in front of her.  ‘Are you prejudiced?’ I questioningly accused through clenched teeth.

‘No, I, er, I’m not. . . .’

I interrupted by waving her away and she scuttled off with a fistful of assorted cash.  ‘Get it together, you miserable bastard,’ I muttered.

Hiccupping sobs were his only reply.

I lit a cigarette, drew, exhaled and said, defiantly: ‘We’re not done yet.’  It was about this time an enormous man of Pacific islander appearance emerged, stumbling, bellowing like a castrated bull, from behind a row of poker machines; wearing a two-man-tent-sized pink bowling shirt unbuttoned to his bulging stomach revealing a thick rug of jet black chest hair.  He was followed by a shorter, slighter, balding man wearing aviator sunglasses, a Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts and sneakers, smoking swiftly from and chomping feverishly at an ivory cigarette holder that slid between grinning teeth; beneath wild, lighthouse eyes.  The pair sat at the bar.

‘We can stop here,’ I began, shaking Samo’s shoulder.  Who looked up in the direction I was.  ‘This is freak country,’ I finished.

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The big man at the bar suddenly stood erect, waving oak branch arms around, screaming: ‘AAAAAAAAAAUERRRRRRRRRGAH!  Why are female sports journalists’ voices so deep!?’

‘You fool!’ the little man yelled while jumping up, his stool hitting the floor behind him.  ‘Most of their colleagues and bosses are men.  They mostly cover men.  They’re infected by the natural testosterone and brutishness of the proverbial Big Game.  They’re fellow beasts at the atavistic competitive feast.  How else do you think they avoid being treated like the dessert bar at a police convention?  Now sit!  Down!’

The big man complied.  His partner left his original chair lying fallow.  Took another.  Samo put something in his mouth.  I made my wary move to yet another stool close by.

‘If only old Dick Nixon was here,’ the little man continued, leaning over his partner who’d resorted to short, muted screams and, with his head in his folded arms on the table, looking around in fear at the air above him.  ‘He’d put you right.  He’d march a couple of his goons right up to you, and they’d stomp the bile from your stomach lining before dragging you off to some medieval-esque torture dungeon for democrats, hippies and foreigners.’

‘What about Trump?’ I ventured.

‘TRUMP!?’ he yelled, so much as he could with the cigarette holder between his lips.  Then he grinned at me, the holder clenched in the corner of his fiendish mouth and its ember whipping into the air.  ‘If Nixon is a whore beast, Trump is his and the devil’s mentally enfeebled hate child.  If Nixon rolled back the tide of the American Dream, and Reagan funnelled it into the hands of a privileged, bloated few – Trump will drink the dregs and then piss it into the mouths of his insanely moronic followers.’

Then suddenly, his knees drew up into his hands.  ‘The muck!’ he yelled, looking at the floor.  ‘The steaming, stinking liquid refuse of this unholy election year of our dark lord satan two-thousand and 16!  It’s everywhere!’  He jumped on to the bar stool.

‘Hey!’ the barman yelled, his attention pulled from merely shaking his head while cleaning a glass with a filthy rag.  ‘Get down from there!’

‘Impossible to walk!’ ignored the little man, who started jumping from stool to stool along the bar.  The barman came around to give chase.

‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!’ the big man groaned, standing up and knocking over his stool – which the barman fell over at speed, knocking himself unconscious.

‘You wretched sonofabitch!’ the little man yelled a few stools down, perched on it like a cat.  ‘The floor is contaminated by the rotting carcass of western democracy!’

The big man scrambled on to the bar, stood and smashed his head into hanging wine glasses.  He screamed once more, ran along the bar collecting and destroying more glasses with his large head and kept running off the bar and out of the room.  The little man followed, gingerly coming down from his perch and walking away as if in thick mud, holding his nose from the imagined stench.

Samo came and sat next to me about when I heard screeching tyres and a woman’s scream from the street.  ‘The fuck was that?’ he asked.  He was chewing his bottom lip and looking around the now empty bar, except for us and the motionless barman, as if surrounded.  Sirens blared from outside.

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‘That?’ I started, reaching over the bar for a bottle of Johnnie Walker and two glasses.  ‘I’ll have two glasses of whiskey, neat,’ I said, looking at the barman’s unconscious figure.  ‘That was nothing.’  I poured the drinks.  ‘Just your imagination.’  I took a sip.

‘Didn’t look like nothing.’  He took a sip.

‘It was literally nothing.  The fuck’s wrong with you?  You took too much man.  Too much too much.’

‘Maybe.’

‘One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small,’ I said, turning to look at him, my head starting to swell up.  Samo stepped back off his stool.

‘And the ones that mother gives you, don’t do anything at all.’  My head doubled in size, turned orange.  Samo started screaming.

‘Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall.’  Quadrupled now, topped by a golden retriever sized, combed forward wig.  Samo raked his face and continued screaming.

‘And if you go chasing rabbits, and you know you’re going to fall.’  My eyes caught fire, dripped lava, and a forked, purple tongue emerged from between my eggplant-sized and coloured lips.  Samo backed against the wall, howling in agony.

‘Remember what the doormouse said: feed your head.’  Samo’s screams reached fever pitch as my orange head exploded and horse manure flew in all directions.

‘Feed your head.’

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