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#302 :: Lionel Engine

December 6, 2004

symptoms drug ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Smoky night. Junior was taggin’ and baggin’ ’em, one pigeon after another. He chainsmoked, fiddled with the chalk, had this wild, irritating laugh that cut through all the chatter, the clack of balls, the jukebox blare, the chatter of the barflies and the dull, beer-sodden roar of league play in the bowling alley outside the billiard room. Junior was an asshole. No one took him seriously. Even when they lost. He’d play the hophead klutz: scratch on break, sink the 8-ball, drop the stick a split-second after the pigeon shot – some little gimmick every couple of losing games or so, then rope the guy in with a sudden streak of luck and write it off with that giggle that could etch glass as he nervously eyed the loser and offered – all embarrassed – to let him have that game because of some technicality. Then he’d take the money. He’d rattle on about how he needed to go get his knob polished or get a massage or some lowlife patter, and they’d take him for some idiot horndog who got lucky, and he’d take them for their paychecks, five or 10 bucks at a time. Fresh greenbacks straight from the mint to the defense plant cashier’s office to the guy’s wallet to Junior’s bony, bunched fist in his sweaty pocket before it ever got spent. Junior never punched in. Philly got this slick new Calculagraph timeclock – solid nickel face where you’d slip the card in, two big Bakelite pull handles you’d yank down to punch your times in and out so Jennifer the freshman from the technical college down the road could charge you the right amount at the end of the night. Junior never touched the card she handed him. Just bullshitted her and sweet-talked and told knock-knock jokes and bought her Shirley Temples, then talked shit about her with the guys at the table, sotto voce so they’d ogle her, which always made her blush, and he’d come over and tell her all the horrible things they were saying, and promise to defend her honor if any of them got too snakey, and she’d just wave his card at him (on the sly so Philly couldn’t see) and say, “No charge, sweetie.” That was, until one of Junior’s marks – an ex-Marine who saw action at Midway – dragged him out back by the collar and dented his skull a few times against his Pontiac’s running board. The jarhead then strode back in and told her exactly what Junior had been muttering about her all night. Every word. She contemplated pulling the clock down from the wall, lugging it out back and dropping it on Junior’s head – it weighed a good 15 pounds, she had to help Philly unpack and hang it. But she just quit that night – got work at an ice cream joint nearer to campus, and Junior never saw her again when he got out of the hospital. He quit laughing so loud, too. Just this weak little heh-heh-heh. He quit hustling. Philly let him take her job out of pity. He’s still working there until about 1973. Just keeled over right there at the cash register, clutched at something as he went down, and the clock yanked the molly bolt right out of the cinderblock, and fell on his face. They had to have a closed casket.
site ‘popup’, viagra sale ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>Biological engineering made this ornate clot of bone. The curved incisors, the high zygomatic arch, the thick molars. Let fundamentalists and scientists haggle over its niche in God’s grand plan versus whatever mysterious purpose evolution could have for developing a furry submarine that gnawed down trees to dam rivers for easier swimming and fishing. Ignore the reason and admire the bone fact: Sharp front teeth grow constantly. Thick, white pillars anchor bulging jaw muscles that drive the bite diligent enough to fell saplings and rotting old-growth timber. Eyes and nostrils ride high at top and tip, respectively so they can peer above still water while splayed paws churn below, driving the sleek, hollow-haired body forward to its next task. Brutish and coarse, not so fine and sharp as the inside of a raccoon’s head, but elegant, and true and humbling in its beauty.

It’s also affordable. Beaver skulls (as with many others you’ll find in curio shops) tend to come from the fur trade. You can order them (and dozens of equally astonishing bits of bone) from places like Maxilla and Mandible in Greenwich Village, or pick them up for about 30 bucks at Wacko/Soap Plant in Los Angeles.
there ‘popup’, this web ‘width=500, viagra buy height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>After hours of construction, the track – all trestles and handmade buildings and elaborate switches and sidings – was wired up to a heavy, black transformer the size of a cinderblock. I eased the control lever forward, and the engine lurched, hauling the hodgepodge train of eight cars we’d collected over a handful of Christmases. It churned around with a cogged, grinding whine – throwing sparks where we had failed to connect the sections tightly enough. Hollow, the boxcars resonated as wheels click-clacked across the gaps – never too fast, or the derailment would force you to spend a minute and a half chewing your tongue trying to set all the wheels back in line – and your mind magnified the sound to a bootsole rumble. The burly little beast’s headlight glowed yellow. It stunk of ozone and fresh machine oil. It’s a Lionel.

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