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Chapter 1

     The Story The Authors
The cold air rushed up to greet him, slapping him on the face as he pushed open the glass and metal door. A flyer on the window pane reminded him of "bxxr hour", a weekly event he used to look forward to. In the old days it was held on the roof of the seven story building he worked in. One could watch the sunset, and look around the bay from Oakland to San Francisco while drinking beer with all the other people in the department. The flyer would have been illegal if the xxs were ees. Occasionally an angry administrator would tear down all the flyers prior to the popular friday afternoon ritual. Chris
He remembered one such floor manager who was a recovering alcoholic. The woman seemed incapable of or unwilling to converse upon any topic other than Recovery, and her ever-more-scandalous-each-time-she-told-the-story Drinkin' Days, and the evils of the demon rum but to Monty, beers on Friday evenings were just another forum in the endless search for a girlfriend. Philip
The floor manager in question, one Barbara Ginchell, used to shake her head at them as they left on Friday evenings. "Have fun, kids," she'd drawl. "Enjoy those livers while they last. Get drunk. Get so drunk that in the morning you won't remember all the fun you have. Get drunk and go home with some random stranger as godless as you and have chaep, meaningless, unprotected sex. Catch AIDS. Die. See if I care."
I wish I could get me some of that chaep, meaningless sex, thought Monty.
Philip
"Oh well, at least I've got beer."
"Did you say something?" asked Debra, one of Monty's co-workers and co-beerdrinkers.
"Umm..." stumbled Monty, realizing that he had spoken his thought out loud. "I just said, this is good beer." He raised his bottle to his friend.
"Mmm, yes." said Debra, deflated. She was more than a little disappointed that he hadn't said 'Hey, sexy, come here.'
cuddles
Monty peeled nervously at the label of his Pete's Wicked Lager. It was early March and he, along with many of the others, was in training for a most unusual yet exciting event that takes place every March.
Monty asked her, "So, are you going to run in the Urban Iditarod?"
"The what?"
"The Urban Iditarod. You know, it's March. The iditarod is in March. A bunch of us gather in San Francisco on a Saturday morning, dress up like dogs, strap ourselves to shopping carts and run from watering hole (i.e. pub) to watering hole (pub) in a 3 mile race. There are six stops in all. The first team across the finish line wins."
Chris
She looked at him with a mildly skeptical smirk. She always thought of herself as the adventurous type, but that didn't sound like her idea of adventure. Now, if he'd wanted to dress up like a dog and get whipped by a musher in her bedroom, that would be another matter.
"Hmmpph. Sounds fun.", she said. Though he could see they wouldn't be running drunk through the streets of San Francisco barking at tourists anytime soon.
pH
This must be what happens, she thought to herself. I mean getting old... How does one evolve the amusement of oneself? In college there was no question how you had fun, it was all spelled out for you parties, boys, rock concerts, happy hour, and those contests to see how many of me and my sorority sisters could fit inside the microwave oven at the 7-11... Now it's so much more complicated... Look at Monty, he's only just turned 30 and he's already dressing up like a dog... What'll it be in five years? Tantrism with penguins? He does have nice shoulders, though... Good hands... And what about me? Twenty-seven next month, what'll become of me? I haven't had a boyfriend since that fink Roger Weaver almost a year ago... Broke my heart in six hundred pieces and scattered them like chaff... Philip
In the background, the 'ding' of the elevator sounded. Barbara Ginchell stepped off looking uncomfortable as she waded through the crowd of what she thought of as careless socialites. Hobnobbing butterflies all fluterring with each other over an evil beverage that at one point controlled and almost ruined her life. Everyone knew she was the person who disliked the informal event and was the one who would tear down the flyers. People would smile coyly as she passed. Chris
Silently she asked her Higher Power if she would ever find a positive social setting involving something other than weekday evening church basements and bad urn coffee... "You're just making excuses for the fact that what you really want is a drink!" replied her Higher Power. "A gimlet best described as arctic. Triple-distilled Siberian vodka poured through the shavings of a glacier. The veryest dash of lime juice. Consider it, baby..." Inwardly she began to weep and curse while her Higher Power (whose name was Joselito) commenced another of his painfully off-key acapella renditions of 'Free To Be You and Me...'
"Fuck you, then!" she hissed. "I'm having that drink."
"You'll be soo-rreee!" giggled Joselito, continuing: "In a land, la la, where the shining sea, la lee, in a land, where the horsies run free, le loo, in a land where they endlessly play Carole King's Tapestry, and you and meee are free to beeee, loo la, you and meeee..."
By that earplitting point, Barbara had beaten her way through the crowd girdling the bar. "Absolut gimlet!" she spat at the bartender like a threat. "In fact, make it two."
Philip
Barbara sat down at a table with Monty and the other guys from Beer Hour. "So who's running in the Urban Iditarod?" asked Claude Clayton, the head of Beer Hour, presently.
"Me!" yelled Monty.
"You need a team to go with you," said Claude.
Monty gave Barbara a strange pleading look from across the table. It was so heart melting that she realized, to her shock, that she was actually considering going with him. And it might be fun after all... Barbara was very fit... No! thought Barbara feircely.
Before she could remind herself of the reasons she couldn't go, the Bartender plopped down a double martini in front of Barbara. Before she could protest that she had wanted two gimlets, Joselito knocked the martinis over.
"That's five dollars extra on your bill," remarked the bartender, "so we can clean up the stain on the rug."
Carolyn
"Alright, Joselito -- that one's on you!" She complained to the Bartender, who wasn't sure if any of that martini had passed by her lips on the way to the rug.
"Babs, baby, you know you're too good for one of those alcoholic indulgences," quipped Joselito. "How about a nice Shirley Temple? Mmm, they really quench your thirst!"
"Fuck off, Josefrito! Who died and made you god?"
happy boy
"Who are you talking to?" asked Claude.
"Oh, just my higher power who is a little too high for his britches right about now." Barbara said, glaring at Joselito.
"So, Barbara, are you going to join us in the Urban Iditarod?"
"Bartender!" Barbara called, pounding on the bar. "Two double gimlets! And make it snappy!" Barbara turned to Claude. "You know what? I think it's time I let my hair down. Yes. I will join you on the Iditarod."
Claude, Monty and all the others cheered her decision.
cuddles
Inwardly Monty was a bit uneasy about it. He wasn't exactly sure he wanted to see Barbara Ginchell, his direct superior, with her hair let down. She was in recovery too. The wild stories that she liked to tell (and tell and tell...like the one about "borrowing" the Corvette from the valet parking, driving drunk down country roads, crashing in a cornfield and then trying to call a tow truck. The cops had not been amused.)about her drinking days while fairly amusing (the first few hundred times you heard them) did have a certain pathetic quality about them. And the Urban Iditirod was his baby and mainly involved the comsumption of copious amounts of intoxicating beverages. Although it was ultimately her decision to make Monty wasn't so sure he wanted to be the organizer of her downfall. He eyed her nervously as she lifted the first gimlet to her lips and winced as she sipped. Lanark
It Was One Hell Of a Gimlet. The Vodka Was Frigid With Just a Hint of Rose's Lime Juice. As She Sipped It She Thought About the Times She'd Gone Hunting With Her First Husband Bobby. They'd Sat Up In the Duck Blind Drinking From the Thermoses of Martinis She Had Packed, And Taking Aimless Pot-shots At Any Duck That Had the Misfortune Of Flying By. It Was Freezing Cold Out, But Once They Wre Drunk He'd Insisted She Undress Anyway. He Got On Top Of Her Up There In The Duck Blind And Was Grunting Away RFor Kingdom Come When The Game Warden Arrived. Duck Season Was Long Since Over And They Had To Pay a Fine For the Two Mallards Bobby Had Bagged On the Way In As Well As The Fine For Indecent Exposure. Well, Barbara Had Had To Pay. Bobby Was Broke. Poor Bobby... Six Months Later He Drove His Car Off The Pacific Coast Highway Above Santa Barbara And Into The Ocean With A Blood Alcohol Level Of Just Over 3.7. Jesse Hemingway
Whether spoken or unspoken, Barbara carried these sorts of reveries with her everywhere. Her eyes were shot and ringed with them. Someone a former lover, Jim Winkens, an abstract paint, sadly now gone from this earthly plane as well had once told her she had the Saddest Eyes in the Whole Wide World. Philip
Dear Jim. Dear, dear Jim. At times like these she missed him terribly. Those beautiful hands of his and that pathetic attempt at a goatee he wore. It really was laughable. The shy sheepish little boy lost look he would give to her when he was feeling randy. Those six foot by six foot swaths of black and red that were his calling. His art. (Now fetching astonishing amounts of money thanks to the art crowd ghouls who spat on him while he lived and fawned over his memory after his suicide.)"The Saddest Eyes in the Whole Wide World"
She like to remember those wonderful late autumn days just before it all fell apart. laying on the ratty couch watching him paint. Wearing an old shirt of his with his scent still in it. Watching his hands paint and daub the canvas with life. And in the end it was her that had driven Jim away. Her and the booze, anywise. She liked to think he really loved her. She certainly loved him. But always there was the booze between them, bringing out the worst in both. The screaming fights, the name calling. And later on the fists. So eventually she left him. She found her higher power and he sunk deeper into the bottle.
She'd heard about his last days from a mutual friend shortly after he'd hung himself. He'd been broke. His Abstracts were not selling. He couldn't afford any more big canvases. He was being evicted for failure to pay his rent. What little money he could scrounge from his remaining friends went to the liquor store. And he'd been forced to pay his bills by painting on velvet for the money. Pictures of small children and puppies and kittens. All with huge sad eyes. Her eyes. The Saddest Eyes in the Whole World.
Lanark
"Stop feeling sorry for yourself, you old boob!" That was Joselito, Barbara's Higher Power, chirping in. "Look at yourself, will you? You're drinking again. Hanging out with the soda-jerks from the office. It's Friday night, Barbara just think! You could be playing miniature golf!"
And with that final pronouncement, Barbara shut her Higher Power off. Just like a television set. She looked across the table at Monty, without the faintest paranoid suspicion that he'd been somehow able to watch her little internal dramas. But Monty was still just Monty. Nursing his beer and lighting a fresh cigarette.
Philip
Little did Barbara know that after Joselito got turned off like a television set, he had called his understudy, Kerry. Kerry was really mean. He was meaner than Joselito. The first thing he did was to smash Barbara's face into her martini (the butler had gotten the order wrong again). Barbara almost broke her nose and she had lots of cuts from the broken glass. Then the table flipped over. Barbara could tell from the angry looks on her friends' faces that she was in big trouble. Carolyn
But she didn't care. Her hair was let down and her spirit was freed. She was so tired of playing the school marm fuddy-duddy. She wanted to be free! Free from the strict confines of polite society. Free from the corporare code of conduct. Free to express herself, her true self in all her creative and sensual glory. She climbed up onto the bar and tore off her blouse.
"I wanna be loved by you, just you and nobody else but you. I wanna loved by you, alo-o-one. Boop boop-a-doop."
cuddles
Monty's jaw dropped with an figurative thud onto the table in front of him. These were the first real live three dimensional nonpixilated breasts he'd witnessed in months. And on top of that they belonged to his uptight senior administrative boss. And on top of that they were a rather stunningly nice pair. And then on top of that she was waving them in his sex starved face and singing directly to him.
It really must be true, he thought to himself as Barbara stumbled off the table and began drunkenly leading him towards the stairway by his tie, the reformed librarian types are always the wildcats. Surely he was going to hate himself in the morning for this, either way, but there seemed no turning back right now.
Lanark
Barbara's friend Emmie watched her in disgust. Emmie was always the one who went to beer hour to be part of the "in" group, but never really drank beer, just a Coca Cola or two.
"Barbara," she called, "put your shirt back on. You look disgusting."

Barbara thought she heard Emmie telling her to put her shirt back on. No, Emmie couldn't have been calling to her. She didn't look disgusting. Besides, she found Monty really interesting.

Emmie saw that Barbara wasn't listening to her. She had to do something. Barbara was about to do something she would really regret once she was sober. "Hey Barbara," she called again, "I bet if you put your shirt back on and came back to the table, some even better man will admire your self control!" It wasn't exactly the truth. But hey, thought Emmie, some things are worse than lying.

Carolyn
Barbara paused for a brief moment to stare deeply into Monty's reddening face and without looking away yelled. "Hey Emmie, Go Fuck Yourself !" and with a butterfly toungue in Monty's ear whispered lasciviously "Fuckin' prude" She was down to only a pair of high heels by the time they made her office. Lanark
The door shut behind them with a resounding thuddd followed by a sharp, almost painful klik!
From the edge of the milling Happy Hour crowd, by craning her head very far to the left, Emmie could just see the door to Barbara's office. She stared at the door with undisguised hatred for the next five minutes while Duncan Grueber, the buck-toothed, carrot-topped Swiss guy from Accounts (who, rumor had it, had been demoted after he tried to cop a feel off Nugie Wall's unwilling secretary) blathered in her ear about his recent acquisition of a lawn-gnome. "That's great, Dunc. Give the little guy a big wet one for me." She blew said kiss at the uncomprehending Duncan, tossed back the rest of her vodka-cranberry, and making sure no one was following her tip-toed out into the darkened foyer and down the hall to Barb's office. She slipped down to her knees, put her ear to the dark mahogany, and listened.
The first thing she heard was Monty's howl a sound not of sultry Friday evening pleasures but of shock, surprise, and pain.
This was followed by a palpably bestial grunt from what she assumed was Barbara.
Next there began a low, metallic, vibratory whining kjjrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr as of a mosquitolike band saw which rose up in pitch each time it seemed to encounter resistance.
A female voice (not necessarily Barbara's) howled "RIDE IT! RIDE THE LOVE TRAIN! UNH UNH UNH UNH UNHHHHH-GAH!"
Monty's voice chittered like an electrified monkey, blubbered and begged and sibbed and then was silent.
Jesus, thought Emmie. Some people hide it so well. You look at them and you'd just never guess. Poor Monty. I wonder if I should call the cops? The paramedics? A priest?
She put her ear to the cool wood surface of the door and began to listen again at the precise moment the door was opened from within.
Philip
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!" screamed Emmie as she was thrown across the room by the force of the door. When she looked up there was Barbara holding Monty's bloody head like a prize. The rest of the room she had been listening into was covered with gore. Oh my gosh, thought Emmie, Barbara's a psychotic killer maniac! Is she really crazy? Or is it just the beer and it will wear off and she will have this bigger-than-Jupiter guilt trip along with her hangover? Will she kill herself? Will she kill me? I should have made her put her blouse back on and sit at the table. Heck, I should have made her put away her martini in the first place. And now - "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!" Emmie screamed again as Barbara howled something I'd rather not repeat here and started towards her. Carolyn
Joselito, who had realized that he'd lost control of his charge and left the party long before Babs decapitated Monty, found himself in a dark hole-in-the-wall bar that was decorated in a tiki motiff drinking a pina colada out of a coconut with a huge spear of pineapple sticking out of it with a paper umbrella. He sat at the bar, comiserating with a few other failed higher powers who were drinking mai tais, blue hawaiians and pink ladies.
"People just don't fear God the way they used to." complained Merv, the one drinking the mai tai.
"I blame advertisers." said the higher power named Bernice with a touch of bitterness. "They make everyone look so smart and sexy when they drink. It's seductive, I tell you."
"Naw, it's peer pressure." lamented Stew, who knew Joselito from way back when they went to Higher Power school together. "How can we compete?" They all nodded their heads sadly and sipped their drinks.
cuddles

A sound came from the silence that had engulfed Barbera in introspection, like a knocking at the door that caps the end of a dream, and Barbera realized that someone was talking to her. "Barbera? You ok? Barbera?"
Emmy was looking into Barbera's eyes and holding out the scarf that Barbera had mistakenly left in the office. "You ok honey?"

pH
Barbera's attention snapped back and she smiled embarassingly. "Oh yes I'm fine", she said as she took her scarf. "Thank you."
She knew she couldn't for a moment consider taking a drink, for it would transform her into a beast of uncontrolled wantoness. From the momenet her tongue touched the sweet liquid her personality would begin a transformation. She would hear the sound of herself being unleashed from solid ground. She would begin to soar, she would laugh, she would fall into the hands of the nearest smiling person, she would do things she wouldn't remember. She would wake up feeling sick and full of regret at another black out. Joselito had done well to show her what would have happened if she'd had that drink.
pH
Feeling back in control she knew she had to leave. She walked through the crowd and with a passing glance at Monty wondered about something she'd heard on the radio during her lunch break. A study had shown that women have an average of four to six sexual thoughts a day. That measure seemed congruent with her own experience. Although the study didn't mention men, she had heard somewhere that the frequency of men's sexual thoughts was measured in seconds, not days. Even if men had only one sexual thought per minute, the difference in frequency between her and Monty would be 250-fold! Monty was such a good natured looking fellow, like the kind of person who would get a giddy look of satisfaction on his face simply after poaring his cat a saucer of milk. Did he really have 250 times as many sexual thoughts as she did? pH
She made her way out of the building to find her car. The day hadn't been sunny. In fact it had been a little overcast and chilly. But when she found her car, unlocked the door and sat down, she savored the warm feeling of the black vinyl against her legs, as it had absorbed the sun's heat even though the sun had been obscured by the clouds all day. She savored the sudden silence that was present after she shut the door. She was away from all those people. She started the car, popped in a tape of Madonna, and looked over at the little stack of tabloids on the seat next to her. Chris
"Tiny Elvis Found Growing in Iowa Man's Left Testicle!" screamed the headline of the Weekly World News at the top of the stack. Philip
With A Savage Squeal Of Tires, Barbara Pulled Out Of The Parking Lot. It Was Still Early. A Friday Night. No One Could Be Trusted. Not Even Joselito, That Miserable Excuse For A Higher Power, Snoring Away Inside Her Right Now, Sleeping Off Another Tropical Drunk. The Fucker! "Get Into The Groove Boy You Got To Prove Your Love To-oo Me" Sang Madonna From The Tape Deck And "Git Antu Tha Greeve Bay Yi Gat Tuh Preeve Yar Leeve Tay-ay Moo" Sang Barbara, As Deliberately Off-Key And Glossolalial As She Could Make Herself. Keepin The Windows Rolled Down Allowed Her To Frighten And Torment The Last Rush Hour Commuters Paused In Their Idling Vehicles At Red Lights Just Waiting For The Journey Home To Be Finished. "Fuckers," She Hissed. "I Hate You All." Jesse
To her left she could make the space-age hulk of the new Gubernatorium rising from what had once been the seedy Gomorrah of the Castro district. Now, the vice-laden streets where Barb had whiled and whored and cat-fought and skin-popped and vomited away her drinking/drug-taking years the tender alleys she'd passed out in on verminous mattresses smelling of old vegetable-ends and cheap mozzarella revealing a bevy of secret ingredients not mentioned on the label only after three or four days to ferment in the hothouse of the bottom of a dented trash-can the curbs with their foul-mouthed prostitutes of undeterminate gender and ability the fleabag roominghouses, the crazy street preachers calling the weight of heaven down upon us all, the pimps flashing their diamond teeth, and the rickety combination tattoo-blowjob-pizza parlors whose only other indigenous environment was the back streets of sundry Rickie Lee Jones songs now all of this was gone, replaced by chi-chi yuppie boutiques, overpriced "family-style" buffet restaurants (steam tables reminded her of nothing so much as a recurring dream where the sterile. orderly interiors of mausoleums suddenly and all at once belched forth all their biodegrading secrets and glub-glun-glubbing anaerobic bacteria-in-action; it was more horrible than the original Phantasm...), bright awful souvenir shops, reduced-fat Soylent Green vendors and their ilk surrounding the indescribably gigantic Gubernatorium, where for the price of a ticket one could watch former governors representing all 67 of these United States battle to the death in ever-inventive ways... Barbara shivered as she recalled the electric ringside tension of the night when George Bush, Jr. vanquished former New York State governor Pataki by systematically stuffing his every orifice with over 50 pounds of gluey, half-cooked Korean sweet potato noodles, before himself succumbing in the next round to a cloud of lethal flatulence from none other than 'Handsome' William Weld, ever a favorite among fandom's elite. Maybe I'll treat myself to a ticket tonight, thought Barbara. She switched off Madonna in favor of the radio and began to spin the dial, looking for a news station which could inform her as to who tonight's contestants might be... Philip
"Let's get rrrrrready to rrrrrrrrumbllllllle!" came the voice over the radio. Surely this was the commercial for tonite's show at the Gubernatorium. "One night only! This Friday! Female mud wrestling with our very special guests Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein in the battle of the Millenium! But that's not all! See Former Governor of Texas Ann Richards take on former wrestler and current Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura! Be there!!!!" Barbara was intrigued. This could be a pretty good show. cuddles
But alas, Barb's presence at that evening's savage Gubernatorium proceedings was not to be... For, so lost in silent reverie of last month's sumo-eggwhites-and-itching-powder contest between two former governors of South Dakota was she, she failed to notice the scrappy brown mutt emerging from a copse of sumac along the roadside. It trotted out directly in front of Barbara's car and she only knew of its presence when she felt the impact of it, and then (slamming on the brakes) the terrifying rise and (ka-thummp!) fall of her car as the right front wheel passed fully over the poor dog's body before coming to rest with a monolithic jolt. Philip
"OH NO!!!!!!" screamed Barbara as she ran out of her car to survey the bloody, mangled, and definetly dead puppy under her car wheel. She burst into tears.
Barbara saw the sign on the restaurant up ahead. "Alano's Therapautic Tea Room". Normally she would think that was way too corny but she was so upset that she decided to go in. Maybe it would help her.
She had a wonderful two minutes in the tearoom. She was about to go out again and walk to the mud wrestling thing when she saw Darth Vader walk into the room.
"AAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!!!!!" screamed Barbara, in a strange contrast to the slow peaceful music of the Tea Room. "It - it - it can't be!"
"It isn't," said the synthesized voice of the being previously assumed to be Darth Vader. "I'm Monty. The paramedics got there just in time to pump oxygen into my brain and save my life. They put me into this life support machine that the Top Secret Medical Research Department just invented. Now everyone screams when I walk into the room. Now it's payback time..."
And off in the distance Barbara could hear Joselito saying, "Told you so."
Carolyn
"I'm sorry, what did you say?" asked Barbara.
"I said 'how do you like my costume?' I thought I'd try something different in this year's Urban Iditarod." Monty said as he modeled his new Darth Vader costume.
"Monty!" Barbara looked at him incredulously. "I've just run over a dog!" She pointed at the dead animal underneath her car.
"Wow, you sure did." They both stared at the bloody mess for a minute. "So now what do you do?" asked Monty.
"I don't know. I guess I should call the Humane Society or something."
"Muffy! My sweet little Muffy!" cried a woman from across the boulevard.
"Oh shit! I'm in for it now." said Barbara.
cuddles