Thursday, December 29, 2011

Paleo Diet: the Murphy version

Most of you mugs probly heard about old Doc Massey’s revolutionary improvement on the Paleo Diet.  Me and Joey we been paleo from way back;  but now the Doc says it’s okay to add red wine to your haunch of venison:

So me, Murphy, retired now, got time on my hands to get into the act;  so here’s my new and improved version of Doc Massey’s fine diet.

(1) For the meat part -- AOK as it stands.
(2)  Red wine -- You may substitute Mickey’s Big Mouth.
(3)  Finish up your dining experience with some long deep drags on original paleo unfiltered Camels -- a richly unique blend of domestic and Turkish tobaccos !

Monday, December 26, 2011

You Can’t Tell a Man by his Mug

As a private eye, I dealt with some plug-uglies in my time;  heck, I’m not much to look at  myself.   But take it from Murphy -- you can’t tell a man by his mug.  Some of the smoothest operators have cheeks as smooth as a baby’s rump.
Take Michael Douglas -- good-looking guy -- but as Gordon Gecko, he played Satan.   And right now, there’s a fellow running for President, might almost be Gecko’s twin.  Handsome man, gorgeous wife, photogenic kids … and deadly poison for the working-man.  Dr Justice has got his number here.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Free Stuff

You want to go take a gander at my drinking buddy Dr J -- who is  by the way  the Designated Linguist for this very site, and not nearly as dumb as he looks -- plus read some free Murphy stuff  plus other goodies, just click here:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cash On Deliverance

[A brand-new Murphy story -- Read it for free -- Then buy some of the items on offer]

Cash On Deliverance

Getting late-on in the morning; sunlight slanting through the blinds.  Murphy’s hands tremble as he lights his first Camel of the day, cupping the match in his hand.  They often do that until he’s had a couple of smokes, a cuppa java, and maybe a beer, and a prayer.
He freezes as he hears a light knock at the door -- the one that says “Murphy Brothers -- Private Investigators -- Discretion Assured”.  Still says that even though Joey died a while ago.  He hasn’t the heart to take it down.
He pauses and listens, the cigarette still in his mouth but unlit, and mouths around it, gruffly (needing that smoke)  “C’mon in”;  then finishes lighting up and breathes in a deep and soothing plume.

Standing on the threshold, in bobby sox and Mary Janes, is an unaccompanied young girl.  Murphy raises an eyebrow.

“I have come to you,” she says, gravely, with hornbook correction of articulation, “about an important case.”

Murphy nods:  Go on.

“I need you to find a missing person.”

Murphy shrugs.  Him & Joey, only kinda case they used to get.  “And that missing person would be … ?”

She stood up a little straighter, her voice precise and clear:  “Me !”


Murphy took another drag and cast his eyes Lordward.  “Why do you keep sending me cases like this?” 

“Unfortunately I can’t pay you,” the little girl went on.  “I don’t have a dime to my name.”  Illustratively, she turned out the large patch-pockets on her pretty gingham dress:  they were empty but for some tissues and a tiny teddy-bear.

Murphy mumbled, “I know, I know,” and waved her narrative on.

“But I am fully prepared,” a bit primly, “to write you an I.O.U.”

“Hm, right; backed by your full faith and credit. -- Okay, so you’re a missing person.  Tell me about it.”
“Well as you can see for yourself, I am all alone, and of tender age --“
“How tender?”
“Twelve. -- … of tender age, and left entirely to my own devices, thrown upon the mercy of an unfeeling world.  Free to roam the streets at will, to take up with bad companions, exposed to all the vices of a modern metropolis, to the rude stares of men who are no gentlemen --“
“Yeh, yeh, write a novel,” Murphy cut her off.  Sheesh, everybody wants to be a writer these days.   “Do your parents know where you are?”
“They do not; nor do they seem to care.  But more to the point -- “ here becoming rather pert-- “I don’t know where they are; and it rather seems I ought to.”
Now Murphy was perplexed.  “So -- in what sense are you missing?”
“I am missing from my parents’ lives.”


They sat down together at the kitchen table -- Murphy reluctantly snubbing out his smoke, after taking one long final drag -- and discussed particulars.  Lisa -- for that was the young girl’s name -- had brought with her one photograph each of her mother and her father, a bit grainy  but sufficient for identification.  She knew their names including their middle names, what brand of car both of them drove, and a few of their favorite haunts -- though these, only by hearsay.  Murphy said he’d get right on it, and Lisa said to meet her back, so soon as he should have new developments, at the soda shoppe in the next street over.

And then -- well, why bore you with the details.  All of these missing-persons deals are sort of the same.  You do some looking-up in the files, and some legwork, and pretty soon -- unless your quarry is both trying to hide and very skilled at doing so -- not the case in either of the present instances -- you find your man.  Heck, most of you reading this are probably private eyes yourselves, just like me  -- done your share of chases down alleyways, and dodging the slugs from a .45 as they ricochet off the bricks -- you all know the drill.

And so, after a bit of nosing around and calling-in a couple of markers, Murphy found the address he wanted:  Jezebel’s Pinkynails, between the hairdresser’s and the boutique for ladies’ shoes.
He recognized her immediately from the photograph, despite the mudpack and the curlers.  She was being fawned-over by creatures neither woman nor man as she held out her hand like Cleopatra, asp and all;  it was enough to make any normal man sick.
He walked up to her without preamble.  “I am here on behalf of your daughter.”
She scowled and glared over at him.  “What -- you gonna ask for her hand? Prevert!  She’s only eleven.  I’m calling the cops.”
“Twelve,” murmured Murphy, to no-one in particular.  This did not look promising, and he started to leave;  then turned at the door.  “Can you tell me where I might find your husband?”
“How the hell should I know -- am I my husband’s keeper?  Probably out drinking somewhere.”
Hmm, thought Murphy;  I would be too.


Discouraged, Murphy nonetheless kept his date with his client, whom he found at the shoppe, sipping a chocolate malted.
“I thought you didn’t have a dime.”
“I didn’t, and don’t.”
“So who bought that for you?”
“Michael.”  No further information being volunteered, Murphy plowed on.
“I… found your Mom.  She’s -- all right.   She didn’t ask about you;  I’ll tell you about it later.  Right now I’ve got a lead on your dad.”
“Good luck.”


He finally found the guy at one of those bricked-in saloons where it looks like four in the morning any time of the night or day, lit mostly by illuminated beer-signs.   The man was sitting alone at one end of the bar, boring a bartender with his maudlin stories.
Murphy came right out with it.  “Your daughter --“
“Daughter?  I have no daughter.  How sharper than a serpent’s tooth! -- Barkeep, another one.”  And he stared into his glass, looking very sorry for himself.


Grimly, Murphy went back to the shoppe  and did what had to be done.
“Sister, I’m gonna lay it on you straight.  Your parents have both drowned -- in vats of their own narcissism.  There’s nobody there for you, kid.”

She nodded, with a little frown, that only involved the space between the eyes, and briefly pursed her lips.  “I know.”

“I wish I knew what to do, I really do,” he went on, helplessly.  “Anybody you need me to shoot for you?  I’m better at that.  Some gangster type, extorting your lunch money, I could scare him off?  Or -- some love somebody left in a dumpster somewhere:   I could find that dumpster, I could seek it out.  I could dive in and swim and dive deep till I found the buried love, and bring it up, wrapped in a blue blanket, and bring it to you, and lay it at your feet …”

Lisa was silent.

Just then an angel walked into the room.
Lisa did not seem surprised.
“Oh, hi Michael.  This is Murphy, by the way, the man I mentioned.  Murphy, meet Michael;  Michael, meet Murphy.  I have him working for me on a little case.”
Murphy stared at the newcomer.  “You’re not…the Michael?”
A modest nod.  “In the flesh -- so to speak.”
Murphy could not believe the evidence of his senses.  “The angel ? ! ?”
“Archangel, actually, but let’s not stand on ceremony.  You may call me Mike.”
Not quite knowing what to say, Murphy just stammered.  “I guess I’m just .. a Michael, myself. Michael’s my name too.”
“I know; you’re my namesake. -- Parents should be aware, by the way, that it actually helps to give their children good Christian names.   We can’t help being influenced -- we’re only angelic.  I intervened in this case when I heard you were involved.  Been watching your work, some, there, over the years.”
Murphy just did not know what to say.
“You know,” the angel continued, on a more serious note, “this case, and a million others like it in this country today, is among the toughest you have ever had or ever will.  In fact, it’s time to break it to you:  This one is utterly beyond your powers.  This one can’t be settled by a gat, or a sockdolager to the midsection.   The moral desertification that has parched this land, has spread so far, not even all your tears could water it back to life.   Nothing, in fact, short of divine intervention, can avail at this point.  So, as the FBI says when they move in on a scene:  Thanks for your help;  we’ll handle this case from here on out.”

Murphy knew not what to think.   Without knowing what to say, still he said it, spluttering:  “This is nuts !  No but -- how’m I s’poseta -- What self-respecting P.I. winds up a case this way?!  This is worse than those trick endings out of Agatha Christie.  It’s a freakin’ deus ex machina!”
Angelus ex paradiso,” Michael corrected.

Then he and the girl left together, forever out of Murphy’s life.


Back at his walkup -- dim and undusted  ever since his brother had died -- he found waiting for him, in the center of the kitchen table, an envelope stamped SPECIAL DELIVERY, though without postage.  Inside it were a pair of twenty-dollar bills, in appreciation for his time and shoeleather.  Which, Murphy reflected, understanding it all at last, made it one of the most profitable cases he had ever had.

Monday, October 17, 2011


9-9-9 ?  -- For reactionaries.
6-6-6 ? -- For Satanists.

8-8-8 ? -- Check *this* out:

You rock, doc !

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Murphy on Hitler and Huey Long

Bums, both of ‘em, but in a lot of ways  with similar styles.
Heard the Kingfish orate once, and it was plain how a fellow might be taken in -- specially if he had mush for brains.  Hitler he just sounded like a maniac to me, but if you grew up German -- probably sounded a lot like Huey Long.

… Now take Bob LaFollette.  Now, there was a man …

[workingclass hero] 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Murphy on “Philosophy porn”

Me I’m mostly a pickle-barrel philosopher:  no schooling to speak of, I just do my best.  And I’m not bragging about the common-man angle either;  I wish I were smarter, I really do.   But even if I can’t quite crack the Meaning of Life, I do bear in mind what the man said to the doctors, quite some time ago:
Do No Harm
Now, some philosophers seem to have forgotten that.  And old Doc Massey calls ‘em on it, over at his booth in Magnalia Square.  Check it out.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Murphy on the Prince of Lies

“So-o,” began the interviewer, casually checking his briefing notes.  “We understand that you actually… believe in the Devil.”
            Murphy shrugged, and took another sip of beer.
            “I’ll take that as a ‘Yes’,” said the interviewer, making a check-mark in a box.  Such an attitude, the notes said, is quite typical of those whose formal education does not extend beyond the third grade.   “But for the benefit of our readers -- can you prove that he exists?”
            Murphy looked upon the prideful little man with something like alarm.  The fellow seemed dangerously close to offering an in, whereby he might learn the answer first-hand.   But all he said was:  “Why would I want to do that?”   He gestured vaguely at the cityscape surrounding them -- the desolation, the ravaged faces,  all the detritus of our frequent encounters with that insinuating liar, throughout history
            “A man of few words, I see,” said the interviewer, pursing his lips.  This was like pulling teeth.   Why had he been given this stupid assignment?   Mindy had somehow managed to snag a choice sit with the lastest fifteen-minute celebrity.   How’d she do it?  Probably blowing the boss.  “Anyhow, I’ll put you down as a God-fearing and Devil-fearing man.”  And he made a couple of check-marks.
            Murphy made a No-no gesture as he swallowed.  “Wrong adjective, man.”   He seemed to space out awhile, thinking.   The interviewer grimaced at the seconds ticking expensively by inside his Rolex.   At last the t-shirted detective resumed.   “I mean -- I guess you could say that, same way I fear pie-trucks, that could squash me flat.  But I’m not … afraid of pie-trucks.”
            Again he paused.   The interviewer fretted how to wrap this thing up, but his object’s last utterance seemed to offer no way to proceed.   He couldn’t very well continue, in the usual newsperson’s manner, with “And so, Michael -- how do you, personally, fee-eel, about pie-trucks?”  -- That minx Mindy, she’s probably rocking back and forth right now, sharing a laugh with her complicit interviewee, her foot forward under the table in case his own foot might want to seek it out.
            Speaking slowly, Murphy resumed.  “I’m… wary of the Devil.  You can write that down and quote me.”   Now reduced to taking dictation, the interviewer did.  “But see… the Devil’s not a boxer:  any one of us could knock the stuffing out of him, in a fair fight.   He’s more like jiu-jitsu-- use your own strengths against you.”
            The interviewer was startled -- interested in spite of himself.  “I thought he preyed upon people’s weaknesses.”
            “Oh sure, sure, he’ll do that, he got nothing better to do.  But them’s small potatoes.   He goes for the strengths -- the strengths that are pointing the wrong way.”
            This made no sense, but the interviewer wrote it down anyway.  He would obviously have to go over his notes later.  And Mindy had finally gone away from his mind.
            “I mean… it’s not like he grabbed the apple, and shoved it down Adam’s throat.  All he can do, really, is make these stupid little lame suggestions.   Really pitiful, you start to think about it.   Not a patch on a cougar, or a pie-truck.”
            The interviewer now dropped his pen, and began to listen instead.
            “They call him the Prince of Lies.  And he can lie, all right.  But he can’t even make a decent speech -- he can barely form a coherent sentence.  He lets you do the talking.
            “Like, you’ll be saying to yourself?  What a blast it would be, to try heroin, or to cheat on your wife.  And he’ll say,  eyes glowing, ‘Yes, yes, go on!’   And  you’ll say, ‘That Gladia bitch -- I think she fancies me.’   And he’ll nod vigourously, ‘No more -- no less than you deserve!  Man like yourself!’ -- Heck, any flack on K Street could do better than that.”
            Now it was the interviewer who spoke slowly.  “And have you… personally… ever had any dealings with the Devil?”
            This was the sort of juncture at which the interviewee was supposed to break down sobbing and Reveal All, to the delight of the home audience, wiggling their fannies on the Barca-lounger.  Yet Murphy seemed surprisingly unconcerned. 
            “Yeh, we’ve had a few run-ins.  And he’s won a round or two, on points.  Never a knockout, though.  But yeh, he generally puts in an appearance at some point, pretty much every case I’ve ever had.”
            Now it was the interviewer who was strangely afraid.  “Okay, time to wrap things up.”   He glanced hurriedly at his Rolex -- or tried to:  wrong wrist.  “So, sum up, your attitude to the Devil is just basically, ‘God-damn him to Hell’.”   A weak smile, hoping that the object would return it, and they would be back on the familiar ground of collusion.
            No such luck.
            “No -- no!”  said Murphy, leaning forward.  “I mean sure -- I guess you could say I despise the guy.  But I… pray for him -- I pray daily -- praying that he, even he may repent, and be saved.”

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Unpardonable Sin

Poor Murphy, underinstructed, faced this problem with humor and terror.
The real story behind what was bothering him is explained here by Dr. Keith Massey, a philologist and an expert in Canon Law (and, at one time, a bit of a private detective himself, tracking down Ben Laden’s gang).

I showed Dr. Massey’s essay to the Murphy brothers, and all they could say was, “Whew!”

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Berkeley Background (A word from Dr. J)

In case you think I’m fantasizing, or slumming, or making fun of them, when I talk about how the Murphys live -- just two rooms, crates for furniture, TV in hock -- that’s exactly how I lived in Berkeley, for several years. Actually in just one room, and I couldn’t hock the TV because I didn’t even own one. Didn’t own a phone. Didn’t own….I dunno, What? What do people own, anyway? I owned one pair of shoes, and two pairs of socks. Had a radio for a little while, left over from the relative affluence of college, but it was soon stolen; then no radio for a long time after that. Of course no car; transport was by a one-speed bike I bought, used and abused, for ten dollars. -- Actually very practical for Berkeley. Anything fancier got stolen. This thing I didn’t even have to lock. (Not that I owned a lock.)
No medical care, no dental. And if you think the Murphy penchant for pizza is down-market, think about it: they get a large, with everything on it. Me I couldn’t afford so much as a slice. Lived on brown rice and carrots, period, for the longest time. (That was partly a would-be spiritual thing in any case; I was in mourning for a lost girlfriend. And it is myself I am mocking, in that story about Murphy becoming a vegetarian.)

And… How did I feel about all this? If you imagine you detect a note of resentment here, that’s a misreading. My mind was simply elsewhere; I was thinking, intensely, about other things. And if anyone had pointed to the boring issue of material conditions, I would have looked around, puzzled, then said: I live like kings. In the Middle Ages, nobody owned as many books as I owned, used-paperbacks though they were. No one owned a typewriter (ah yes, I’d forgotten that, that I did own, in fact an electric: but that was not a possession, it was more like owning hands.) And as for gathering acorns and thistles in the snow, as our forefathers did -- heck, this was California. Fresh carrots! I -- Lived -- Like --- Kings..

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dead Men don't smoke Camels

No -- nothing -- sorry. The phrase just occurred to me, and I figured I'd post it, as a sort of mantra or proof-text or theme for meditation.
Also -- just in case someone happens to google this telling phrase -- well, it'll take'em right here, where they belong.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Murphy: The Early Years (Finis)

As Murphy neared the end of his time in reform school, he had acquired a reputation as -- paradoxically -- both feckless and fearless; keenly intelligent, in a rough untaught sort of way; and above all observant -- people would joke that he might have made an excellent Private Eye. Yet to all appearances, he nursed, neither that, nor any other ambition.
One day the head of the entire reform school -- Director Miller himself -- unexpectedly called young Murphy to his private office.
Murphy knocked; heard nothing; knocked again; let himself in.
The Director, hands clasped behind him, stood before the broad expanse of windows, his back to the room, his dark shape a shadow in the light. The blinds were down, though slightly canted; whether he was peering out through the slits, or sightlessly consulting his own private reflections, was not readily apparent. In any event, he now turned.
“Door behind you please.”
Murphy shut it.
“You may sit down.”
He remained standing.
Not pausing to take notice, the Director launched into what he had to say. “So, Master… Murphy: you have been with us for some time.”
“Sentence almost served, sir.”
“Yes. Right.” He frowned, and consulted his thoughts. Murphy stood silent.
“Bit of a weakness for automobiles, eh?” resumed the Director, attempting to strike a jovial note.”
“Yes sir.”
“But you won’t go ‘borrowing’ any more of them, once you are out.”
Murphy was silent. The Director looked up sharply; then resumed his discourse. “You’ve built a certain reputation here, during your stay.”
Murphy did not contradict.
“Deserved, I have no doubt.”
Again silence. Commentary seemed uncalled-for.
“Pluses and minuses, the good with the bad. But on the plus side -- a keen eye.” The Director himself fixed a gimlet orb on the young man standing there; Murphy shrugged.
The Director went on.
“There is always call -- always a market, for a keen eye.”
Murphy said nothing, yet considered this well; the idea was new.
“Keen enough -- plus perserverence -- name your own price, y’know?”
Murphy did not know; but he would learn.
“And the fact is -- the fact of the matter -- I could use a keen eye, just about now.”
Murphy said nothing: but now, not from reticence, or tact: he truly had no idea what this man could possibly mean.
“A keen eye and a good observer: who observes, without being observed.”
Murphy could not really parse this. As part of the furniture, he had never been really observed, or taken notice of; though, occasionally, nabbed red-handed.
“Who can observe, yet who, observing, can keep his own counsel: sharing his observations only with the appropriate employer.”
These words meant nothing; Murphy’s mind was alive with moths.
“Who knows the value of observation, and of discretion; for observation is of no value, unless discretion can be assured.”
Moths crazed by the echoes of reflections of flame.
“You are, I suspect… such a man.”
“Yes -- a man, I say -- for you have outgrown your short pants! You are coming in to a man’s estate: and there, there are those who would befriend you.”
“Further your career.”
(Now leaning forward confidentially.) “Lend an ear, lad. I have -- your Director -- as your Director: I have concerns.”
“About, well, for instance: the teaching staff. Your teachers. Competence and preparation and -- all that. Personal matters, too -- personnel, matters, ” correcting himself; and, meeting no response, he continued with grim light-heartedness. “Staff and all that. Custodial, and, as remarked… educational. Your…geography teacher, for example. Mrs. … what is her name, now…” And, meeting no help, he himself supplied the answer. “Mrs. …. Miller. I believe that is her name.”
“Yes, sir; Mrs. Miller, sir. Geography. -- Any relation, sir?”
Suddenly flustered, histrionically outraged. “No! No relation. None at all. Common name, that -- Miller. Common as … dirt…” The expression seemed connected with bitter reflections. “Common as… the dirt in the courtyard. Anyone might be named that.”
“Yes, sir.”
Forcing forward. “Anyhow -- this Mrs. … Miller … she is good friends with the mathematics master, I believe -- is that not so?”
A certain suggestion about the shoulders, though they did not actually shrug.
“Exchange -- the occasional joke, the old office gossip, that sort of thing; and perhaps, the occasional box of candy? Or flowers?” And, getting nothing: “The occasional… kiss?”
Murphy was now the bronze statue of Murphy, standing unseeing unhearing forever, where pigeons might nest.
Suddenly both practical and conspiratorial. “There’s something in it for you, Murphy. And -- by Beelzebub! -- you need a bit of something, you do.”
“Nothing to it, really; just keep your eyes peeled.”
Massively nothing.
“Of course -- got to back it up, you know; can’t go on just your say-so; wouldn’t stand up. But I’ve got a… little present for you, which you may keep, when this job is over. A tiny camera.” Nothing. “Fits in your palm.” Nothing, nothing. “And a little dictaphone….”
And suddenly that Nothing burst, like an ulcer, like a bubo -- like the original cosmological bubble that gave birth to the world. As Murphy, rearing, roaring, leapt over the desk, his arms suddenly strong with the strength of ten -- straining and screaming and strangling at the throat of this man.
I don’t do divorce cases! I don’t do divorce cases!!!”

It took all within earshot, to pry the lad off.
For this, he was not beaten, nor even admonished; but summarily escorted from the premises, and expelled, legally a week short of expiration.
Municipal records are silent on his further career.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Murphy: The Early Years (Part XII)

So Murphy, so Murphy: do you then remember, when first you learned, to play the clown?
And indeed, in very deed he does.
That afternoon -- the day long dragging -- in the ill-lit classroom: where learning was a stranger, and the long rod ruled.
A sudden whim, or inspiration -- he crowed, he clowned.
And by the class was -- crowned. For all his classmates laughed, and clapped, at this unanticipated bright bird of paradise -- or purgatory -- appearing suddenly in the grey sky; and joy was unconfined.
He was the toast of the reform school. Several inmates, previously near-strangers, offered him a fresh or only half-smoked butt, in appreciation.
For all that, he was severely beaten. But it was worth it. -- After all, he was beaten daily, in any event; but for one brief instant, life had been… swwwwweeeeeettt ………….

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Murphy: The Early Years (Part XI)

In later years, he would recall that day: the man’s red blood, mingling with the boys’ pale tears, yielding something much better than either.
He still did not know, what thing it was; but he would speculate, and contemplate: as he drew the rich dense smoke, now deeply into his hungering lungs. These same sweet smokes, for which he used to be beaten, which he used to either filch or do without out: a pack might now be had, for little more than a quarter, with a respectful tip of the hat from the shopkeeper; decorated, to boot, with the tinted image of a dromedary, and a pyramid, so pleasing to the eye; progress, of a sort.
(Meanwhile, offstage, out of sight: other boys, and other orphans…)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Murphy: The Early Years (Part X)

After that, there were no more visits for a long time.
And yet one day, a friar appeared, in rude monk’s robes, uninvited.
And proceeded to the courtyard (past staff too astonished to effectually protest); where the boys were glumly going through the motions of their half-hour court-ordered fun.
And beheld them and -- with a moan, fell, splat, down flat upon his face, upon the cobblestones; words failing him. He could not preach; could barely pray.
For-give us….!” he cried; and was perhaps somehow injured in that fall: for he bled from his hands; from his feet did he bleed; and he bled from his rib, from a ripe red gash… rivulets among the stained sad stones… bleeding like brooks, like… like bubbling, trout-stocked streams… where the fishermen stride, in boots hip-high -- beaming, laughing, hoisting their catch -- like fountains, like spindrift, like waterfalls … As the boys, knowing nothing, knew something yet better than ever they’d known…
And as that small seed -- smaller than a mustard -- was planted, amid the tares, amid the trees ….

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Murphy: The Early Years (Part IX)

This cheerful visit having somehow failed of its intended effect, the institution finally, and reluctantly, went for “the strong stuff”, and invited a priest.
He was a small man, with apple cheeks. And a strawberry nose; and ruby lips. -- Not nearly so distant as his Protesting predecessors, he seemed to feel a real and genuine rapport with the boys. Well -- with some of the boys.
He spoke, in a general way, of -- this and that. All the while scanning the room.
And his words, indeed, though not memorable, were at least, by the echoes of tradition that still lingered in them -- said, whether or not meant -- still somehow encouraging: and some of the boys leaned forward; and some, their lips did part.
These, the priest noted particularly. As did he the auburn curls; the well-turned calf; or the dim-filmy-glittery eye…
You; and you; and you. “Come see me; by all means, drop by and see me; in my private quarters. Stay as long as you like. Discretion assured …”

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Murphy: The Early Years (Part VIII)

Somewhat embarrassed -- for, even though the taxpayers were not out a penny, the church having waived its usual fee, still the effect on the wards had not been all that might be wished -- the orphanage called in a substitute: this time a man from that soft and molded body, that the Anglican persuasion has taken on our shores.
“Well well well!” he said, pleasing his plump pink lips, as the shivering wastrels huddled beneath his gaze. “What a fine collection of young gentlemen we do have here!” He beamed, pleased; expecting their reflected pleasure; but met only bewilderment. -- In somewhat sharper humor, he went on. “I have -- very good news, for you all here. Your future is -- quite bright.” (Bewilderment among the boys.) “We are all finally emerging from very hard times -- a terrible great Depression, that has left many of your fathers -- well, many of your betters -- seriously on the downside in their brokerage accounts. And some people are actually…. “ (his lips pursed a bit, as he pronounced the unpleasant vocable) “…unemployed. And on the dole; which the better people pay for. -- But that… need not be your lot.”
The boys supposed this must be good news; but were not sure. They were unfamiliar with the concept of “joblessness” -- never themselves having held a paid job.
“Good news!” he proclaimed, regaining his joviality. “Good, very good news indeed. The nation is reviving. Like flowers in the spring, investors are once again raising their hopeful heads. The wheels of commerce are spinning once again -- banking, insurance, financial instruments of every variety and kind. We see evidence of this in our own congregation, on every side. Why -- to venture no further than the sales of yachts…. Mmm, in any event: There is a very great need, boys, a great need indeed, spreading throughout the land. A need that you -- and only you -- can well fulfill. The servant problem is -- “ Here he frowned, and seemed to recede into private, incommunicable reflections. “… frightful; simply frightful. -- But our trial and tribulation, is your benefit and boon! Be it doorman -- footman -- bootblack -- butler … why… the possibilities are endless! -- Indeed,” leaning confidentially forward, “some of my… Predestinarian friends….” (a private joke, beyond the ken of present company) “some of them might even spy in one or the other of you --“ -- and here indeed, he suddenly looked around, as though calculating -- “one destined or predestined for such higher office as chef, or major-domo, or concierge in one of the better hotels…”

Monday, July 11, 2011

Murphy: The Early Years (Part VII)

            Murphy’s period in the orphanage  antedated these dark days of political correctness, by many years.  Hence it was comparatively uncontroversial, to invite to that institution, a man of the Christian cloth,  without inviting, for equal time, likewise a rabbi, and an imam -- nor a Buddhist, nor a Hindu, nor a Zoroastrian, nor a Wiccan, nor a devil-worshipper (of the latter sect, City Hall already was well-staffed).  Yet we must confess, that the results were not  in every instance  happy…

            The municipal authorities arranged for a Protestant divine -- the choice seemed least controversial -- to drop by and give a little lecture to the boys.
            The man that was sent, by rights should have exceeded expectations.  No mere hedge-preacher, nor street-corner hawker of Bible bits:  he was an ordained minister, with an advanced degree from a respected seminary, of Calvinist inclinations, where he had imbibed and absorbed  the hard high truths  of Predestinarianism;  who regularly held forth, of a Sunday, from the high carved pulpit of a splendid church, to the unanimous and murmured approbation, of bevies of successful businessmen, and their well-dressed wives.
            He curtly nodded acknowledgement to the servants who admitted him, and was reverently ushered to the main hall;  where the boys waited, respectfully, anticipating they knew not what -- such a visit was unprecedented.
            The man approached the lectern;  adjusted the microphone;  tapped his notes into alignment  with a gesture that, many years later, Murphy would recall with rueful irony, as he slowly tapped his Camel-pack;  cleared his throat emphatically, re-set his spectacles… and gazed around the room.
            And… continued to gaze, but…
            “I am sorry,” he said, hastily turning to the now whispering employees, and packing up his notes in confusion.  “I have nothing to say here.  These boys are all damned.”

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Murphy: The Early Years (Part VI)

            It was one of Murphy’s clearest memories of the school.
            It was Lady Day;  and a plate of seed-cakes had been set out on a table in the drawing-room for the boys, who were soon to file in, under the guidance of the Mistress, and each gratefully take just one.   Displayed and waiting, in the empty room:  yellow in the sunlight  slanting, through lozenges of green and amber glass…
            But that Murphy, nimbly and previously, had managed to slip in through the window  and gorge on them, famished and ravaging, stuffing his hunger, jamming into his pockets such pieces as he could not rapidly dispatch before detection.   The sweetness of it, the lunging hunger;  and the shame.
            -- So bogus.  The place was state-run -- they were lucky if they ever got Christmas, let alone “Lady Day”.   What “seed-cakes” even were, he couldn’t tell you;  probably read about them somewhere in a book.   The place had never any library, let alone “drawing-room”;  and as for the windows, they were grey and dusty, and (for obvious reasons) always locked.
            It was one of Murphy’s clearest memories of the school.

Murphy: The Early Years (Part V)

            Murphy, small of shoulders, bowed of head,  shuffles up to the office.
            “Ma’am I?  -- ‘scuse me, ma’am.”
            (Looks up sharply.)  “Murphy!  Young rascal.  What brings you here.”  (Softening a bit, though;  the boys seldom show up spontaneously, voluntarily.)
            “Well I -- no-one else to ask, ma’am.  I just got nobody, no, not one person, in the whole wide world.”
            Definitely softening, and settling back -- almost reflective.  “So… What’s on your mind, young Irish scamp?”
            Awkward;  fumbling for words -- then finding them.  “Well I -- I just wonder what --  what it is, really:  that makes me so bad.”
            She frowns;  is silent;  purses her thin lips.  “I reckon it was just… a bad seed…”
            “Bad seed, ma’am?”
            She purses further.  “There are two seeds in the spirit -- two of them, and don’t you forget it.   You just happened to get the bad one. “
            He is silent, not understanding;  and yet, and yet … yet beginning to understand.
            She decides to level with him.  “You know -- you were conceived in iniquity, by a very bad woman, with a very bad man.  But bad as she was -- he still should have stuck by her;  made an honest woman of her, or near as anybody could with material like that. -- But he skedaddled, soon after soiling your young mother’s bed.  He was a coward, and a welsher, was your dad.   And the apple does not fall far from the tree.”
            Had he ever known the man, this might strike Murphy like a blow;  but he had never known the man.   “So… I guess I was just -- born to sin;  that right?  Just plain -- simmered in it, ‘fore I was ever even born.  That so?”
            (Somewhere  her heart smarts her;  yet she must be stern in the truth.)  “That is so, Master Murphy.  You were born in sin, like a squid in ink;  and will certainly be damned.”
            Since this prognosis seems only to confirm the daily burden of his present life, it daunts him less than one might think.  He simply verifies.  “So:  no hope, is there.”
            “No;  none.  -- Well… there is… Jesus;  but he is not for the likes of orphans, or reform-school boys…”

Murphy: The Early Years (Part IV)

            Sometimes, by himself in a room,  his eyes would turn inwards;  thoughts would buzz around his head like flies.
            He did not belong here;  so it seemed.  And yet -- he definitely belonged here.  They had sent him here, and he was not allowed to leave.
            He was in the place, but not of it.
            Slowly, he began to leave it, through a tiny hole in the back of his brain.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Murphy: The Early Years (Part III)

            “You been thinking those bad thoughts again.”
            “Better tell ‘em to me Murphy.”
            “Better tell me or I whip you good.”
            “Yes’m.  Reckon you’ll whup me either way.”
            (The keen and screwed-up eye.)  Was that a smart remark?!  -- Why I’ll--“ (reaching for the switch.)
            “No’m -- not smart.  A really dumb remark -- I see that now.”  (Trembling as he spies once more, the instrument of his sharp distress.)  “But a true one, ma’am. -- Can’t help it, ma’am.”  (Wincing, wincing;  shriveling beneath the blows.)  “Can’t half help it.”  (Wincing deeper now -- wincing even beneath the wincing skin.)  “Gotta find some’n, someth’n, help me help it….”
            (Furious)  I’m helping you!”
            (More in sorrow)  “No’m.  All respect, ma’am, but -- no, you’re not helping, not helping at all.”
            (The blows fall thick and fast -- herself almost at liquefaction, as in a dream -- while young Murphy shrivels, dwindles, to but a tiny remnant of his former self.)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Murphy: The Early Years (Part II)

            Murphy was never alone in the empty corridors.  Always there was the echo of his footfalls:  sometimes on the heels of his steps, sometimes slightly in anticipation, leading him on.
            “I know you’re there,”  he said.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Murphy: The Early Years (Part I)

[Here begins a memoir  of Murphy’s Golden Memories,  a time-capsule of boyhood,  from his hazy lazy crazy days at the reform school.]

            “You been bad.”
            “Yes’m, I know’m.”
            “You know what that means.”
            (Incredulous.)  “ ‘No-ma’am’?!  You don’t know by now?  --   It means you get whipped.”
            “Yes’m.  I know’m.   Reckon that’ll happen.  Happens alla time.  But I -- just don’t  -- know what it -- means….”

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bristol topless ...

... is not as hot as these dames:


Take it from Murphy -- the man who's done it all.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Free stuff !

Free -- stuff?  Hey, y’r readin’ it!   Anyhow, if you want more Scully, or more Mailbag, or more wise Crackerbarrel ® musings, let alone more Murphy stories (which are already written and just pawing at the gate), hows about y’all buy some of these fi-i-ine products on display here, huh?  I mean, I’m fine with writing some things for free -- and old Scully, he never charged a dime in his life -- but a man’s gotta eat  -- and drink -- and fornicate; and pageviews won’t buy any of that that, nor wooden nickels neither.

OK, we get it:  you want more Free Stuff.
Here you go.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Death of One Tooth Scully

Now that was one sorrowful day.
Powerful sorrowful.  That he died; and the way he died.
Make you most want t’bust out crying, right there on the range.

(So how’d it happen?  ask the hoboes, with respect,
their faces softly lit by a dying fire.)

(But Murphy can’t hack it.)
No -- can’t tell it today.  Just too sad.
Just too … dang … sad ………………….

[In memoriam:  You can view a portrait of old One-Tooth here, wearing one of his many disguises.]

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

De profundis

“Say, Scully?” ventured Murphy, as they lay on their backs beneath the winking stars.  “You ever wonder wonder what it might be like  to have two teeth?”
A pause;  then, softly:  “Sometimes I do.  It must be … beautiful.”
Deep ponderous pauses on both sides for a while;  then Scully asked in turn:
“You ever wonder what it would be like to be Forgiven?”
Something between a moan and a sigh.  “All the time, Scully, all the time.”

[Pronunciation note:  day-pro-FOON-diss.
It's from the Latin translation of one of the penitential Psalms:
"De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine".]

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Secret Truth Revealed at Last

So for a time they rode the rails together, followed their feet and the setting sun.  There was that time in Denver (someday tell y’all about that), that business with Chicago (less said the better), and as for Frisco -- well, that much has passed into legend.
So after a time, Murphy felt they’d knocked around enough that he could pop the question.
“Temme, Scully.  How’s it come y’only got the one tooth?”
Now Scully bridled at bit at that.  “How’s it come you got only the one head.”
Taken aback.  “Never needed but the one.”
“Well me neither.  Damme, I never lost a tooth in my life.  This’ the only one that growed.”

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Pub-Crawl

Beneath the pavement of Broadway, a bit above Bleeker, lay Pfaff’s saloon.
Taking Murphy by the arm, Scully steered him  down some narrow steps and into the beer cellar, already loud with drinkers densely wreathed in smoke.  Sand strewn on the deal floor; patrons' drawings  tacked to the walls.  Mostly all male, the exceptions being what are known variously as grisettes or demimondaines. The lighting was dim, such illumination as existed  proceeding largely from the ends of cigars.
“B-but” Murphy  objected.  “This place is sixty eighty years before my time!”
“Don’t you worry,” said Scully.  “Old Pfaff won’t mind.”

They made their way slowly through the crowd, Scully nodding to acquaintances as they passed.  Scully seemed to know almost everybody there.  Murphy’s glance was arrested by the sight of a well-bearded fellow of some three score years, his collar open over a broad chest, a brimmed hat raked down to the right.  He nudged Scully with an enquiring look.
“That’s Walt Whitman, the People’s Poet.”
“Whoa!  I am out of my element here.”
“Here, no sweat, I’ll introduce you.”

Whitman nodded slowly, sizing him up.
Murphy felt uncomfortable, amid the ring of stares.  Finally he threw a punch, just to show he had one.
The poet looked thoughtful as he picked himself up, fished out a loosened tooth and wrapped it carefully in a blue handkerchief, which he then placed in a flapped pocket of his overcoat.
“Quite a punch you got there; shades of Fitz-James O’Brien.  Drink?”   And without waiting for an answer, the bard signalled to the barkeep, who, without waiting for an order, slid swiftly-silently over  with a tray of three tall ones, a trio of frosty schooners  bright with beer.  Then with a toast to the left, and a toast to the right,  the three comrades drank one another’s very good health.

“So what’s your grift?”  said Murphy when he had drained the best part of the glass.
“Bard.  Yourself?”
“Private Eye.”
The poet nodded.  “A fair number of gents would bear watching, in this place.”
Murphy surveyed with a professional eye.  “Thieves?”
“Mostly more like fences.  Though they do steal one another’s epigrams and that quite shamelessly.”
Murphy shrugged.  “Any mug what steals my purse, steals trash; but some guy swipes my one-liners...”
Whitman pursed his lips, and hastily wrote something down on the back of a napkin.

And so the talk went round, as the earth whirled, and the hourhand crawled the clock, and the stars pursued their distant stately orbits.  Friends passed through and sat awhile, till he could scarce collect their names -- Bill Howells, Hank Clapp,  Sam Clemens, Ed Poe, Steve Crane,  trailing a train of Eastern Jews and  Irishmen, some but recently arrived from Castle Garden, and calling each other “comrade” and “Brother Brush”:  all hosted and toasted in bumpers of beer and ponies of brandy.

Yet when, at length, dawn lifted sleepy eyelids in the east, Murphy found himself alone, back on his own three-slat bed, his soul aswarm with fleeing memories, his mind as clear as a crystal bell.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Blood Brothers

“You know, Murphy,” said Scully,  “If you’n me are to be friends, we prob’ly hafta fight.”
Murphy, sick at heart, could not but acknowledge the wisdom of this.

And so they squared off, beneath the unwinking all-knowing  noon-high sun;  bare-fisted, hide-breeches, with not a spoken word.

Long, long  did the fists fly, whirling, round and round:  patient and graceful as the planets in their appointed rounds.  Till at length and at last, they lay each full-length in the dust, their blood-specks spattered like stars.

“We are brothers forever,” they said.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Saga of One Tooth Scully (Part II)

“Murphy,” I said.
“Scully,” he said.
We locked eyes.
“Truman Democrat,” I ventured.
“Wobbly,” he replied.
I nodded appreciatively.   “Welcome, brother.  You’ve come a long way.” 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Scully: the Saga (Part I)

So the Doc here, he plied me -- plied me and plied me -- till I said some things I maybe shouldn’t have.  (By the “Doc”, I don’t mean the sawbones, I mean the slybones, Doctor J.)  Got me reminiscing about my old stablemate and companion in sin, One Tooth Scully.  --  Mind you, that’s what other folks called him, but I never called him that.  True, he didn’t have but the one tooth.  But how does that define the man?  No more than Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson.  (Funny, though, him having two sheds…)

Now right away you’re saying to yourself:  How did you, a city boy, come to know a wand’rin’ ramblin’ wastrel country-boy like old One-Tooth ?  Well the answer is plain as day, if you’ll all just hold your horses for a sec.   The guy spent his time riding the rails, like the planets rounding round about the sun; and stands to reason, time to time, he’d step off and check out the local soup kitchen, or Salvation Army, or that house where any man not made of wood must (for so we’re made) periodically refresh himself.  And one day he stopped off by my city -- think of it as Newark, just to have an image in your head.

Chance would have it, I was down by the rail-yards myself that day, when I see this geezer roll tumbling out the side of a freight-car -- train slowed but it didn’t stop, and him just rolling and rolling like a tumbleweed.   But then  bright as a bronco  he stands right up and dusts himself off, and he flashes me his signature one-tooth grin…

[Continued here.]

Friday, May 13, 2011

Burning Issues of the Day

            Joey still engrossed in the tabloids.  “Y’know Murphy, says here, Truman ain’t a worthy successor to Roosevelt!”
            Murphy:  “Now which Roosevelt might that be:  FDR or Teddy?”
            “Hey -- enough with your TR fixation, Murph.  You know which one I mean.”
            Murphy, taking in the title of the tabloid:  “Yeh I do.  And I also know that that rag was for Hoover, and that it could hardly say the name of Roosevelt without spitting, long’s he was alive.  So when did they get religion?”
            Joey, genuinely hurt.  “Aw, c’mon, there, Murphy.  It’s me -- Joey, here.  I’m no Einstein but I’m trying to learn a thing or two, okay?”
            “Okay, so.  Just like I don’t diss your moose-head…”
            “You lay off of my--!  -- yeh, right, you don’t diss the moose-head.”
            “…and I don’t diss your pile of tires...”
            (Murphy gets a dreamy look:  the pile of tires…)
            “… so you don’t diss my tabloid, ‘kay?  Talkin’ Joey here.  They got short words and not too many of ‘em;  just right for Joey.”
            So Murphy considered the matter seriously.  “Well… Hard to say how well he’s doing -- best he can, I reckon, for what that’s worth -- and this ‘worthy successor’ stuff, I mean, what does that even mean?  No mama brings her son up to be a ‘worthy successor’.
            “But I can say this.   While Harry was the Veep -- that old bucket-of-warm-spit office -- FDR didn’t do a darn thing to groom him.  How you gonna be a worthy successor if the guy you gotta follow doesn’t even want you to succeed?   Guy dies and the generals and the scientists gotta say, Oh by the way Mr. Truman, Mr. newboy greenhorn tenderfoot cluelessassmister President, sir, there’s this thing you probably oughta know about now, thing called The Bomb.   -- So the way I see it -- worthy successor, couldn’t say;  but in that respect, old FDR -- though I voted for him four times -- was not a worthy predecessor.”
            Murphy fell silent;  and Joey was sad.
            “Yeh but” (Murphy said) “what’re we sittin’aroun’ judging Presidents here, for, you’n me… You’n me… too drunk to get up before noon… What’re we up to… sittina-roun…”
            “Yeh well, anyway” (Joey this time, and speaking from his deep pure heart)  “: God be with our President, anyhow;  needs all the help he can get.”

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Murphy on Dual Citizenship

So, Mr. Murphy, the nation is curious.  What is your position on the issue of dual citizenship?

“Say what?”

Dual citizenship.  When a person is simultaneously a citizen of two different countries.

“I don’t get it.  How can that be.”

Well like for instance the al-Qaeda gentleman, Mr. Anwar al-`Awlaqi:  he holds full U.S. citizenship, with all the rights and privileges that accrue thereto, and simultaneously is a citizen of his country of actual residence, Yemen, where he has greater leisure to plan his terrorist attacks.  Or more recently, these gentlemen, whose nationality swings both ways.

“Dual…but... Isn’t that bigamy?”

Friday, April 22, 2011

Murphy Takes Up an Instrument

Murphy Takes Up an Instrument
A Fable for Triduum

            Ach, er läßt es gehen
            Alles, wie es will;
            Dreht -- doch seine Leier
            Steht ihm immer still.

                        -- old nursery rhyme

Der Leiermann (Anton Piek)

On the corner stands an organ-grinder, grinding his organ round and round.
All day he stands there grinding:  yet the organ makes no sound.

Back and forth the people pass;  and lo, they mock him not;
nor hear him -- for the organ’s silent;  him:  by all forgot.

His shabby cap before his feet, to catch the proferred pence.
It empty lies, the folk haste by, as would they spurn him thence.

Mute he stands, and still no sounds   come forth from organ-barrel.
All still:  but for one surly cur,  that bares its fangs to snarl.


And Murphy stood intently,   listening, all day long;
Until  as dusk fell down like snow -- forthwith burst into song:

            Wunderlicher Alter --  soll ich fuer dich gehn?
            Muss ich deinetwegen   deine Leier drehn ?!  ?!

Then Murphy takes the station, and the old man goes his way.
His eyes shut tight, with heaving sighs, he then begins to play.

The silence that then issued forth,  was like a mighty wind,
sweeping away the grief  of all   that ever wept and sinned.

Great gusts of soundlessness, like thunder, rolled like clouds on high:
Like Sampson dumb and blinded,   cracked  the pillars of the sky.

The welkin fell in fragments,  and crashed into the sea.
Yet still upon his corner, Murphy  did not cease to play.

O Thou who raised the skies, and loosed the birds upon the air:
Do Thou hear the music,  of the old man’s wordless prayer.
[Update 25 Aug 2011:  The link above to Schubert's deep Lied, now seems to lead only to some Japanese sex ads.  Modern culture in a nutshell.
Here is an alternate version: ]