Monday, April 2, 2007

Sam Louden

Sam Louden, primarily a gardener, also writes poems, short stories and other ridiculous foolishness.

“This is my idea, see?” said Lenny. Lenny was always pitching something. Sometimes it was softball; sometimes it was the hull of a ship; usually it was a deal or a scheme—depending on one’s perspective. He could sell lonesomeness to Ekalakans. He could talk the pants off a nun. He could negotiate with terrorists. He was smooth and persuasive. He was also ugly as all hell.

“I don’t want to hear it,” said Virginia, grabbing a firm hold of her pants.

“Musicals! People love musicals. They love to make fun of them. They love to gag at their ridiculous sentimentality. They love to point out the absurdity of people breaking out into song — in harmony, with dancing. People love to pretend they hate musicals, but they can’t get enough of them,” he said.

“I’m skeptical,” she said, debating if he looked more like a javalina or a road kill.

“Of course, I’m just beginning!” said the man, who in truth resembled a severe laboratory accident in progress more than javalinas or road kill. He expounded on the need for Butte to have yet another blue ribbon tourist attraction. He continued with how the glorious city needed — deserved — an emotional pick-me-up. He concluded with the saliva of sincerity dripping from his malformed mouth at the climax of his argument eloquently tying the entirety in one beautiful whole. “Yes, Butte, whose history begs for the honor it long ago earned in sweat and blood and has so long been denied; Butte whose people—strong, pulchritudinous, and hospitable magnify its glory in too humbly mute of tones; Butte whose best days are yet to come; this Butte, my Butte, our Butte; our majestic, beautiful Butte is the miracle it has waited for!”
Virginia, enthralled, wordlessly begged for the miracle. Her wide eyes, doublewide with excitement, implored Lenny for the clarification he paused to make. He clarified magnificently, explaining how a musical play about the Mining City, performed there would attract tourists, employ locals, boost the local self-esteem, and reestablish the Richest Hill on Earth as the preeminent cultural force in the Inter-mountain West.

This would take organizational skills Lenny lacked. Virginia, however, was practically made of organizational skills. She had developed a formula to determine anyone’s personal sock needs. She was ridden out of Helena on a rail for demonstrating shortcuts through red tape that could eliminate hundreds of state bureaucratic jobs. She trimmed out nearly fifty percent of her own useless DNA. This was why Lenny needed her. Holy Butte would rise from the ashes, borne by the silk of Virginia Sullivan’s networking and Lenny Crenshaw’s hot air.

Lenny neglected to go into the devilish details of his plan. The specifics were in some cases too sensitive to leak for fear of Anaconda beating them to the punch. Other details, namely the Screaming Panda bit, were sensitive for other reasons. Some things simply need the context of the entire Butte the Musical experience to even comprehend. In minutes Virginia had secured two theater venues, acquired the necessary permits from her cousin Eddie in City Hall, and enlisted the support of the unions. Now Lenny sat gaping in awe of the presence of excellence.

“Can you find me producers?” he asked.

“There isn’t enough loose capital here to float a Sunday school skit. There’s no way we can scrounge up the scratch around here for the epic production we’re talking about,” said Virginia, as yet unaware of the obligatory Hungarian contortionist or the expensive yodel chorus.

“Do you know anyone in Bozeman?“ he said.

Liz McRae

Liz McRae, poet, is currently putting the BIG in Big Sky, where she nests, recreates, vocates, and is (at the time of writing) extremely pregnant - due tomorrow!

Virginia closed her eyes and imagined a floating Rolodex before her. Lenny watched, mesmerized as she raised up her arms and flicked her fingers in front of her face like some sort of off-the-hook administrative assistant. She feverishly flipped through her 400 nonprofit connections in Bozeman. No, she thought, we need cash, not the under-funded, liberal crowd.

And then she hit ‘F’. Virginia opened her eyes, looked Lenny as straight in his crooked face as possible, and said, “I think I’ve got our man.”

For his part, Lenny was taken. Not only did this woman have some organizational skills, she was a magician. Maybe he could write in a part for her in the musical, or maybe just be her manager. He wasn’t sure whether to take off her now-steamy glasses and kiss her, or sit down, shut up and listen. Although it was not in his nature, he sat in awe.

When Virginia hit the ‘F’ section of her Rolodex, she quickly came to Irwin Finklestein. The image of this eccentric, Jewish New Yorker flashed before her as she last saw him. He was standing in front of a window fan in his Manhattan apartment, long gray hair blowing in all directions, leopard skin briefs - whoa. The image wasn’t all that appealing. A down-side to channeling contact people was that you always got that last vision of them… Irwin was a scholar of ancient Tibetan script, specialized in growing rare orchids, and was Virginia’s former lover. He lived between his apartment in downtown Manhattan and an old, renovated grain tower outside of Bozeman. Like many Tibetan scholars and rare orchid growers, Irwin had a sizable trust fund and was highly connected in NYC. Also notable, she explained to Lenny, was his production of the very popular Oklahoma performance in Lhasa - the only western musical of its kind performed entirely by Tibetans for Tibetans.
At this point, Lenny’s mind was scheming like a whirling dervish. Visions of Virginia as the next David Copperfield blended with saffron-robed monks yodeling and dancing across his Butte stage. People would come from China, New York, hell, maybe even from the Yellowstone Club, to visit and fall in love with the land of pulchritude and plenty, Butte! He nearly
was in tears with visions of fame, money and people bursting into song.

Seeing Lenny’s reaction to the mention of Irwin, Virginia realized she was going to need to call him. This would be a little awkward in lieu of their last meeting, but she just had to rise above it. After all, cross-dressing had never been a crime, and even though she felt very uncomfortable with the reptiles, she just had to remember that not all people were brought
up with the strong family values she was - thank god - instilled with as a young girl.

Heidi Lasher

Heidi Lasher is a freelance writer and editor with a knack for saying yes to fun, time-consuming projects. She is a mother of one, and is currently incubating number two.

Irwin leapt from his chair and twirled with delight. “My Pangolin! She LIVES!” he exclaimed. His index finger circled his iPod, landing quickly on “O What a Beautiful Morning,” by the dashing and flamboyant Jengbu Lakhpa. He shook his hair loose from its rubber band, and held the Bozeman Daily Chronicle to his cheek. Wearing nothing but his leopard-skin briefs, he pirouetted in front of the picture window and giggled in anticipation.

For nearly 12 days Irwin had scanned the Bozeman police blotter for news about the rare and scaly anteater he’d rescued from a Chinese restaurant in Lhasa. He shuttered, remembering how the poor creature had been dying a slow death in a cage, losing up to six scales a day to greedy customers eager to enhance their sexual performance by drinking tea spiked with her potent scurf. Moved by the animal’s dismal existence and the sense that he could provide a better life for her (and perhaps a more lasting sexual state of arousal for himself), he devised a plan to rescue her like he’d done for so many other reptiles in the past.

Under the cloak of darkness, Irwin and his thespian friends liberated the animal from her cage and ran to a local monastery for cover. The following morning, Irwin bid a tearful adieu to his friends and smuggled the terrified and slightly odorous creature over three borders and past a suspicious TSA agent who was tipped off by a 6 ounce tube of hair gel floating in his carry-on bag without the protection of a Ziplock baggie.

Fortunately, the scaly creature hiding in Irwin’s saffron robe did not catch the agent’s eye.

For the past month, Irwin safely harbored the Pangolin in his renovated grain tower apartment in Bozeman. With love, plenty of fresh, local, organic ants and water, her scales grew back to their God-given glory. Irwin, too, began to heal the emotional scars of his previous relationship, pouring his pain and humiliation of their last sexual encounter into a deep and soulful song called “O Virginia.”

Then, one night, without warning, the reptile vanished. Her plush cedar bed from L.L. Bean still bore her outline, but she was nowhere to be found.

Every day since, Irwin had combed the neighborhoods, calling her name. His devout prayer was that a neighbor would spot her and call the police. And today his prayer had been answered. The Pangolin was spotted by the dishwashing staff at the Panda Buffet, scuttling across the parking lot.

Irwin pulled a saffron robe over his head and grabbed his Sorels. Just as he was walking out the door, the phone rang.

Craig Kenworthy

Craig Kenworthy is a poet, playwright, comedy writer and sports columnist who is known for his single-minded focus.

After three hours, Irwin finally gave in and bought the mortgage disability insurance.

Fortunately, he had call-waiting and spent fifteen minutes of that time talking with Virginia. That girl had nerve, calling him for a favor after what she’d done to him in Des Moines. But any show that included two different troupes of blind acrobats reenacting a mining disaster and the exhumation of the body of the late Bob Keeshan, a.k.a. Captain Kangaroo, was a show he wanted to be a part of. He hit 666 on his speed dial and called his former partner, Squids Guggenheim.

Squids’ nickname had nothing to do with his penchant for seafood and everything to do with the fact that he bought only cheap ballpoint pens. The good news was that Squids loved the idea of a musical set in Montana. The bad news was that he loved it so much that just the week before he’d sunk all of his money into a new play called “Custer slept here… forever,“ by an up and coming Native American playwright.

“The guy is brilliant. He wrote that Shakespearian drama set in a tribe’s casino.”


“No. Taming of the less than Shrewd. Listen, Irwin, I can’t help you but I know a guy in Big Timber who might. His name is Still Bottled Water. Runs a small family foundation that supports the arts. Some of their standards for grants are a little strange. You don’t happen to have an anteater, do you?”

After a quick trip to Panda Buffet and three Diet Cokes with oat bran later, Irwin finished perusing the foundation guidelines. He figured Virginia could care less about the requirement that the male lead weigh no more than 150 pounds, have all of his toes and speak fluent Mandarin, but this part about using only compact fluorescent bulbs in the footlights? Still, he thought his proposal had merit, based on the digital photo of the anteater Irwin emailed to him, although he wasn’t really clear on why the man insisted that the animal be wearing only high heels and a pioneer bonnet.

Three Diet Dr. Peppers with spinach and a Vodka Collins later, Irwin finished proofreading the grant application and clicked “Send.” He went downstairs to look in on his cold-blooded guest. As he entered the reptile’s room, Irwin smelled moderately priced perfume and felt a damp breeze. Looking up at the shattered glass of the skylight, he spotted a woman’s leg disappearing through the opening. He leaped up to grab it, then remembered he was only five foot four and should never have put a vaulted ceiling in the laundry room. By the time he returned with the extension ladder, the foot was gone, but he found a note lying on the floor. His palms adrift in sweat, Irwin read it over and then read it again. The note contained only ten words, but they were words that no sane person ever wants to see.

Rebecca Kinman

Rebecca A. Kinman is a spoken-word artist, herbalist and blossoming freelance writer who continuously celebrates and seriously concentrates on holistic, authentic endeavors that create positive change for all.

"Take the garbage out and unclog the bathroom drain."

Irwin felt a moment of remorse for allowing his mother to live in the PVC pipe tree-house outside. He also regretted connecting the two houses with a swinging bridge. To Irwin's further dismay, he found that the lizard's swimming pool, cappuccino machine and hair-rollers had yet to be used, and the Pangolin herself, Sweet Banana Tail II, had vanished once again.

Irwin paced the house, calling her name to the melody of Rain Drops Falling on My head, but then jumped into his hot pink helicopter and searched Peete's Hill and Beyond for his Precious Darling.

In the meantime, Still Bottled Water read Irwin's proposal, jumped from the bed of nails that he was meditating nude upon, and emailed an excited "YES" back to Irwin, exclaiming that this was just the type of production he had wanted to be a part of.

Irwin stopped searching for his Precious Darling for just a moment to call Virginia with the latest news.

"Irwin, that's great but you KNOW how those scaly things always take off whenever you mention my name,” said Virginia, rolling her eyes. This reminded Virginia of the time that Irwin had tried to take her to the Bistro wearing a polka-dotted boa and cat-eye glasses. The pet at the time was so jealous that she skipped town immediately and was found three days later singing karaoke at the Owl in Livingston.

The current situation wasn't all that different. This pet was one pissed Pangolin. Sweet Banana Tail II was fed up with Irwin's lack of decency to forget their twelfth anniversary (in Pangolin years).

She scurried west on 1-90, sensing that somewhere — in that direction — she would somehow come closer to achieving her dream. She didn't need Irwin any longer, she had her strength and her trusty book entitled "From The Cage to the Red Carpet: How to Succeed as an Exotic Pet Actress". She confidently ran down the highway as semi-trucks and multicolored Hummers with ski racks wailed past her.

But just then, snow began to flitter down around her double-jointed ankles and soon, she was covered in two feet of slush. She gradually moved slower and slower down the Interstate until she came to a complete, cold-blooded stop, right next to the NASCAR track in Belgrade.

Hours passed. But then, even though Sweet Banana Tail II was almost completely frozen, she managed to spot a large mass in the distance slowly approaching.

Sid Gustafson

Sid Gustafson is a novelist, veterinarian, and professor of equine studies at UM-Western, where he manages the Natural Horsemanship Program. he was born in Montana, as were his parents and children. His latest novel is HORSES THEY RODE. He hides out in Bozeman.

Before she could see what it was, Sweet Banana had identified the crawling creature with her vomeronasal gland. It was none other than her old nemesis, the dogwoman from the Heel of the Valley Animal League. Evidently someone had reported what they perceived to be a dazed, lost Lhasa waltzing down I-90, but then Banana did have her Tibetan roots.

Sweet Banana had dealt with righteous riff-raff of the dog-catching sort on a previous animal-at-large escapade. Banana belted the control officer good with her powerful tail, up one side and down the other. By the time the dog-catcher had Banana bagged and in the trunk, she’d taken a real beating. In the quarantine ward at the pound the bruised animal officer scanned Banana and, sure enough, picked up a bleep under Banana’s mange-riddled hide. She subsequently traced the electronic ID to Irwin’s address at his silo flat. They called Mr. Irwin Finkelstein, but to no answer. The League conferred, finding it in their hearts to sedate and deliver Banana to her rightful owner. Next thing Banana found herself in the treehouse with a bowl of maggots, and Irwin’s mommy was back fermenting in the silo with her dandered son.

The following morning, after serving his mother an oatmeal-and-raisin breakfast in bed, Irwin checked his email and found another message from Bottled StillWater, (his real name, in the proper Absaroka order). Irwin called the Native. Bad news. Apparently, StillWater had checked out the Lenny play under consideration and discovered it had been written to good affect by a failing horsedoctor, and previously produced at High Horse University in Dillon, sell-out cowboy crowds for a three-week run. “Stole the thunder plum away from Butte.”

“Couldn’t be,” cried Irwin. “Virginny swears her pal Lenny wrote it all his self.”

“Nope,” said StillWater , “that Lenny’s a literary thief with a faux bibliography long as Pangolin tail. The horsedoctor had himself a hit in Dillon, and later in Dell on the Red Rock River.”

“How’d you know about Pangolin?” Irwin asked.

“Oh, I have my informants in Bozeman. Police and the like. Plainclothesmen.”

“Are you sure it’s the same play?”

“Same play, same clowny, cowboy plot,” said StillWater.

“What about the music?”

“I didn’t hear the music. Can’t read music.”

“Well, can’t we just change the music, if that’s the case?” asked Irwin.

“Well I suppose we could. We could change the words too, as long as we were at it. Then we wouldn’t have to worry about a thing.”

“Well jeez, let’s do that. Change the words, write the music.”

“Any ideas who might accomplish that?” asked StillWater.

“No problema. There’s enough deluded writers hanging about the Seed and Bean coffeehouse to have a circus, and all those ring-nosed musicians strumming away just outside the door, I’m talking tattoo talent.”

“Well, let’s get down there and see what kind of creativity we can resurrect, see what kind of music waiting writers can conjure up for us. See if they can dance the words. Maybe we’ll find some actors sipping lattes to script in, too. Maybe we can turn this keyboarding charade into something real, a real play, with live music and actors. Something like art.”

“Things are coming together, and o so sweetly. We’ll have those Willson and Main juggernauts write a play, find some strummers to strum in, drag actor folk off the street and turn this into a real production behind a real script, a story with a morality and resonance? Something people will watch and be better for it,” declared Irwin.

“See you down there in an hour.” StillWater, Montana-CoffeeHouse-AmericanIndian-PlayProducer he was, fired up his Pontiac and headed to BozAngeles.

Irwin blipped off his phone, did the silo dishes, kissed Mom on the top of her head, fed and slopped the anteater, hopped on and pedaled his ten-speed through the slush to meet StillWater at the Seedy Bean…

Marjorie Smith

Marjorie Smith is a freelance writer and editor who likes participating in Foolish Words because you don't have to finish what you start.

Donna Lou deChris hurried to the Seedy Bean immediately after work, as she did every day. She ordered her hazelnut latte, put on her shades and slouched into her regular chair at her regular table with the insouciance she knew marked her as very experienced.

She wished there were mirrors on the wall of the Seedy Bean so she could check to be sure that the experience she evinced was as an actress, and not as a typist in a yogurt brokerage, her day job. Bozeman was full of filmmakers – not just students from the university but authentic Hollywood types eager to cash in on the Big Sky on the Big Screen. One day soon someone would spot her and catapult her to stardom.

She recalled her childhood naiveté when she had spent every daylight hour in the front yard looking cute, waiting for Samuel Goldwyn Mayer to drive by and recognize her as the next Shirley Temple. She had learned a great deal about geography in the interim.

Now, at 25, she knew that a front yard in Absaroka, Montana, was no place to be discovered. The Seedy Bean on Main Street in Bozeman – that’s where producers hung out.

Donna Lou carefully wiped foam off her slightly lopsided lips and reapplied lip gloss before continuing to sip, projecting her image – bored, sophisticated and glamorous. Perhaps it was just as well that there weren’t mirrors on the walls - it was
easier to feel glamorous from inside her face rather than from the outside where she would be confronted with her single eyebrow, mismatched eyes, and cheekbones buried in mounds of pudginess – to say nothing of her bulbous nose. But hey, with talent, anything was possible.

In the Rolodex of her mind, she flipped through memories of her stint as a film actress three years ago when she had been approached at this very table by an intense young man who needed to replace a cast member in his junior film. “I originally saw this part as being for an old man,” he told her, “but I think I can use you.”

It had been the most wonderful experience of her life. The whole thing – the days of filming on snowy Bozeman streets wearing soggy bedroom slippers and ugly knee high stockings, the student makeup artist patting powder on her fevered brow, the hours spent huddling in a huge pile of fallen leaves while someone crashed through it driving a car much too fast
whereupon she would pop out, usually unbloodied, providing the comic relief the story required. And of course, the intensely passionate if brief love affair with the author-director, whose name was Gary Geek.

“Ah, Gary,” Donna Lou sighed, closing her eyes, reliving scenes of unbridled passion. Oh, why did she have to be such a nitpicker! For the thousandth time she recalled that final argument. She just couldn’t let him go through life under the mistaken impression that anteaters were reptiles. But why had she made such a big deal of it? She’d screamed at him right out there on Main Street, “Tits, Gary! They have tits!”

Gary Geek had strode away from her, never to return. She knew he had gone on to graduate and hightailed it to Hollywood where he would one day be famous, or at least employed, and here she sat, at the same table in the Seedy Bean, waiting to be discovered.

A large tear oozed out of her brown eye and plopped into her latte and she opened her eyes to search for a Kleenex. And there, standing beside her table were two men: a strange-looking little man and a tall, handsome man of the Native American persuasion... or so Donna Lou assumed since he wore his hair in long black braids.

“Excuse me,” said that smaller man. “Are you by any chance an actress?”

Ryan Cassavaugh

Ryan Cassavaugh is a member of the improv comedy troupe Equinox Comedy Deathmatch and a writer for the "Pizza Show," as well as an award-winning playwright. He is happily married with three cats and a baby on the way.

The question sent Donna Lou’s mind reeling back thorough the years, to when she had first been asked that question. She was on-stage in a high school production of “Annie Get Your Gun…Again!” an ill-conceived and short-lived sequel to the popular stage musical. The question had been posed by her drama teacher, Mr. Wilberforce, as he flung a toasted sesame-seed bagel at her head.

“Are you an actress?” he had asked. “Because you give the impression of a tone deaf cow in high-heeled slippers having a seizure!”

The question confused Donna Lou, since she was, in fact, playing a tone deaf cow in high-heeled slippers having a seizure. To this day she was still unsure if the comment was a compliment or an insult.

“I think she’s deaf,” the taller man said, staring at Donna Lou with a look that straddled the fine line between pity and annoyance.

“Pity,” said the small man. “She would have been perfect for the part of the mining pit.”

The Native looking man smiled a pleasant smile and nodded; the two men moved away both shaking their heads.

Donna tried to yell, “Wait, come back!” but the words didn’t come. She tried to say anything. Nothing happened. She was paralyzed with anticipation. This was her big break, she knew it. This is what she had always dreamed of. Why couldn’t she say anything? They were leaving. Worse… they were going to another table. To Patti Ponderfund’s table. Patti was Donna’s arch nemesis, or at least Donna thought so. She doubted Patti even knew her name. Patti was the lead in all the local productions. She had even been in a commercial. A national commercial for a line of vegetarian pet food. She had a line. An entire line! She said “Cats don’t know it’s not real fish!” She said it directly into the camera. The thought of it made Donna Lou queasy. Patti was going to get Donna’s big break. Patti was going to be a star. It wasn’t fair. This was Donna’s break, not Patti’s. She had to do something! Why couldn’t she speak? Time almost stopped. Donna watched as the two men inched closer to Patti’s table. In an instant she would see them and smile that million dollar smile at them and it would be all over. It was now or never, Donna had to act… that’s when it hit her.

Of course! There was only one thing she could do…

Michele Corriel

Michele Corriel is a freeelance writer, poet and originator of the Poetry Dispenser.

Donna opened her mouth, and her exceedingly large capacity for air intake as well as her humongous set of tonsils began to whirr. The room became cavernous. As she reached deep inside herself for a word or a sound, anything that would get the attention of the small man and the tall producer (she just knew he was a producer, he had that special slicked back quality) her mouth opened wider. People were hanging onto the overstuffed, comfy chairs and under-upholstered couches. But it was almost too late. The vacuum effect had begun.

It did however get the attention of StillWater and Irwin. Holding their hands over their faces, careful to avoid the flying chai, they made their way over to Donna, who thankfully had the good sense to close her mouth.

“My God, she’s perfect as the Berkeley Pit!” Irwin said, finding his footing. “How do you do that?”

Just then who should walk into the Seedy Bean but Virginia herself. Not only that, but she was accompanied by none other than Sweet Banana Tail. And they were laughing.

Irwin, bewildered, said, “But I thought, I mean, you said…” his finger wagged back and forth between the two of them. He knew Virginia’s history with reptiles and this wasn’t making any sense.

“Anteaters, even giant pangolins from Uganda, are not and never were reptiles. So don’t even start with me. Besides I’ve found I have a soft spot for mammals that can roll themselves into balls. Me and Sweet Tail have a lot in common.” And they both made noises that no mammal should ever have to listen to.

Irwin, on the other hand, was intrigued. But Virginia, ever the organized human Rolodex, got back to business before the next batch of milk was steamed and no one would be able to hear anything.

“What’s this I hear about changing our script?”

“It’s true. We here in BozeAngeles decided to find us some talent, rewrite that piece of crap you sent us, and get the show on the road, so to speak,” Irwin said, now staring at Donna, who had stolen his heart. He was done with reptiles. His life was now all about a woman who had the lung capacity of a submarine.

“Just hold your damn horses, there,” Virginia said, unwillingly removing her eyes from Sweet Banana Tail. “I checked the Internet’s Suburban Legends site and that failing horse doctor in Dillon is nothing but a big Myth. He never wrote anything except a boring account of breach horse births at the turn of the century. The guy’s as phony as an Indian arrowhead found at the Buffalo Jump. As a matter of fact there isn’t even a High Horse University…”

Just at that moment who should walk into the Seedy Bean but...

Soren Kisiel

Soren Kisiel is the Executive Director of the Equinox Theatre and an award-winning playwright. He is the co-author of Broad Comedy, which last year completed a three-month run in Boston and showcased in New York.

A Plumber.

Plumber by day, that is. Plumber through the cracked-pipe frozen January mornings below the streets of Butte. Plumber through the soul-stealing corroded-copper afternoons of Butte’s sweating August. Plumber by day, but Irish Fairy by night.

The Irish Fairies, the toughest ethnically-based street-gang in Butte since the “Uptown Danny-Boys” of the 1950s. The Irish Fairies, who once threw one of their own into The Pit just for mentioning that he was also Scottish. The Irish Fairies, so tough that no one in all the years of The M&M’s existence ever once cracked a joke about their name. Yep, those Irish Fairies.

The Plumber popped his thick knuckles, the forward motion of his hands straining the shoulders of his green polyester blazer. Across his chest “Kiss Me I’m Irish” leered like a threat. He held his wide hands out in front of him like an invitation, and revealed teeth inlaid with golden shamrocks.

“Which a’ ye is Irwin?” the Plumber asked. He had never been to Ireland, but his grandmother’s accent had moved though his umbilical cord and deep into his soul. His voice was high, scraping the roof of Irwin’s brain with its fingernails.

Irwin, Virginia and StillWater looked to one another. Fear rising in his throat, Irwin shook his head quickly, imperceptibly. Virginia and StillWater both looked around the room, noticeably scanning for where this “Irwin” could be.

“Which a’ ye bastards is selling Butte’s heart to Bozeman?”

Silence spread through the Seed and Bean. Even those with earphones plugged into their computers looked up.

“Which a’ ye is it that believes that the bold, wild, unruly soul of Mother Butte - the finest city west of Galway - needs these leather-furniture-buying-fleece-wearers to help it stand on its own two damn feet?”

Donna saw her chance. Whatever this artist’s, this genius’ – this IRWIN’s – past: oddly-reptilian mammals, fraudulent claims of plagiarism, Native American grant-makers… she knew she was his future.

She stepped forward, drawing air into her greatest asset. The air poured out, lovingly, bravely: “I’m Irwin.”

Irwin’s head snapped around. His first thought - “I get to keep all my teeth” – was quickly swept away by a surge of emotion. Could this be it? Could this be what he had been looking for in those cold semi-reptilian features for so many years? How could he have been so blind? At first, when he'd looked at Donna all he could see was that lumpy nose, those mismatched eyes, that unibrow.

Now all he could think of was things he wanted to do with that gaping mouth.

A voice spoke behind him, “No, I’m Irwin.”

He turned. There Virginia stood, gently stroking the pangolin’s scales, eyes defiantly holding the Irish Fairy’s.

“No,” spoke a male voice. “I’m Irwin.” StillWater’s braids danced around his shoulders as he held his head
Silence fell over the Seed and Bean, all eyes on the Plumber.

“So that’s the way is it then, is it? Ya bunch of bleedin’ tossers. You think you can beat the Irish Fairies do ya? You don’t know of us here, do you? You don’t know how we beat the fish-and-chips out of the Great Falls Leprechauns, or the way we pounded the Gilette Pennywhistle Gang all the way back into Wyoming for stealing Fergus’ mushy peas recipe! You
Bozeman Irwins are nothin’ compared to them!”

Delight danced in the Plumber’s green eyes as he scanned the room. “You’ll not get away with this. No one will produce a musical about my beloved Butte – no one that doesn’t live there, breathe her air, drink her water. No one will make a feel-good family experience out of dearest Butte without including among its theatrical delights a bit of its history: the
Screaming Panda bit.”

Irwin’s nerve rose in him like fire. He looked to Donna – my Lord, that MOUTH – and found bravery in her
eyes. He stepped forward.

“Sir, my name is Irwin. And while I happen to live in Bozeman, I actually was planning to include the
Screaming Panda bit.”


Polyestra is the author of many stories and poems and screenplays and novels, and is the owner of the Independent Media Room bookstore in Livingston.

Irwin's mother sits alone in her tree house. She puts her cigar out in the “80” written upon her birthday cake with bleeding red icing.

"Foolish boy," she says.

She moves along the rope ladder like a whip snake into the vaulted laundry room. Hanging from her knees she rifles through the fancy pants in the dryer until she retrieves her special "going out" turban. Back in her one-room treehome, she sits before a candle. Her eyes close half-way and she begins to levitate.

"Foolish boy spending my money on this overpriced Bozeman dump," she hisses, hovering a good two feet off the floor. Her astral body peels off and shoots like a bolt over the land to the Berkeley Pit.

"Hello little lovely," she says to the angry wound below. The bright red stinking liquid filling in the massive void stares back at her with words emanating from its burned mouth like: arsenic and sulfuric acid and pH level of 2.5. "Soon, it will be soon."

Her stiff little body hovers along above the road to Uptown, where she meets her friend for lunch.

"He forgot my birthday because he's trying to make another stupid Montana movie," Irwin's mother says to Bob, who is astrally visiting from Jackson Hole.

"The pit is going to breach," Bob says.

"Yes, soon," Irwin's mother says, placing another french fry in her mouth.

"That stretch of track in the mine was especially steep," said a man at the next table. “A panda like that didn't have a chance."

All the dishes in the restaurant began to tinkle and vibrate and tip over edges. The astral travelers shot out of the roof and over to the pit.

"It will melt all the inhabitants of Butte," Bob said.

"We can divert it," Irwin's mother said. "I'll use my turban."

Laser-like rays beamed from the two elders' eyes, lifting a wave of red acid up onto I-90. Ducks and geese flocked from all directions to try to land on the heavy-metal-saturated liquid, but as they watched the Hummers pop and dissolve like effervescent sugar cubes, they turned north to land on the asbestos piles in Shelby instead.

As the last drop of red digestive juices joined the tidal wave heading east on I-90...

Keith Suta

Keith Suta writes movies, acts, and is a founding member of KGLT's "Coffee Show," for all of which he is handsomely unpaid.

....Lenny sat in front of his computer, studying the final draft of his musical masterpiece. He appended a few essential endnotes and parentheticals – his reasoning being that no musical masterpiece to date had included a section of endnotes and since so few musicals were truly masterpieces, surely the missing element was a comprehensive historical bibliography.
He had finished annotating the Screaming Panda Incident (including the Time Magazine coverage and Edward R. Murrow commentary) and sat back to pour himself a hearty glass of Midori as a treat for a job well done.

As so often happens when one is just about to enjoy a full pint of green melon liquor, Lenny's cell phone rang. Lenny could barely make out Virginia's voice amongst what sounded to be considerable hub and bub.

"I'm sorry, Virginia, you'll have to speak up..." The call was on the verge of being dropped when the Bozeman City Council hurriedly erected another cell phone tower in the vicinity, raising both everybody's connection bars and metastasis rates.

"...cannot believe they don't serve termite lattes here," was how Virginia's statement concluded.

"Termites?" inquired Lenny. "Aren't you kosher?"

Virginia set Sweet Banana Tail II down on top of a high table and pressed her newly free hand to her ear.

"Of course I am, Lenny, but pangolins are notoriously finicky in their dietary needs." The rest of their conversation was lost in a sudden scream from Irwin's direction.

Irwin and the Plumber from Butte had agreed to settle their dispute via a game of Scrabble; the winner of which would receive the right to stage the play wherever they saw fit. Not three minutes into the game, it became apparent that the coffee house's
Scrabble set was lacking three D tiles and no end of vowels. The Plumber stared forlornly at a rack holding F, N, X, P, Z, and L as Irwin placed down letters spelling "perspicacity" for a Triple Word Score of 69 plus a bonus of 50 for using all eight of his tiles. Seeing as how "perspicacity"contains twelve letters and Irwin had not been working off of "city," the Plumber began to suspect that the fix was in. He picked up his rack and flung it square at Irwin's solar plexus, screaming, "I've a moind ta smash yer face into that display of attractive and reasonably-proiced gift oitems fer such fourberie!"

Irwin leapt to his feet, thundering, "I'm sorry you're a sore loser! I'm declaring this a win by default!"

The rage in Irwin's manner lessened somewhat by his rubbing his sore belly as he shouted.

Virginia was caught between the chaos of the abandoned word game and Lenny blathering on about some woman called Stagecoach Mary and some guy named Bishop Filbus N.E. Berwanger.

"They lived in Great Falls," Virginia scolded, "Would you concentrate on the matter at hand, Lenny?"

Lenny would have, of course, but that particular moment was when the acidic tidal wave wiped out Montana's Central Cellular Phone Communications Center in Whitehall. All phones in the state, roaming or non-, went out in a blink. Pizzas were suddenly half-ordered, rendezvous were only partially completed, and untold thousands of public conversations of what should have been of a private nature to begin with were suddenly silenced. Virginia closed her phone, looking around at other customers tapping and shaking their useless communication devices. Sighing, she sat down, wondering how any
creative project can take form without a cell phone. Sweet Banana Tail II waddled over to share her ant latte, which, fortunately, had been on the menu.

Katie Goodman

Katie Goodman is the creator, writer, and director of Broad Comedy, as well as the co-artistic direcor of the Equinox Theatre Company; is a founding member of the nationally touring improv comedy troupe Spontaneous Combustibles; and her piece on authenticity appeared in the March 2007 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.

“A musical?” Adonai, The One Who Cannot Be Named, asked.

“Yeah,” Jesus said, thoughtfully. “It’s worked before. Look at what Menopause The Musical did for Orlando.”

“Orlando already had a few things going for it, financially speaking,” Shiva said smugly, always the one who had to be right.

“It might work,” Adonai said, popping a piece of pickled herring into his mouth.

“Yes, let’s not judge too quickly,” Jesus said.

“You always say that,” White Buffalo Woman snapped. She was tired from recent appearances.

“I thought we were just going to write off Butte,” Shiva sulked. “Let the damn thing destroy itself and fall away to dust. That’s such the obvious answer.”

“Look, they need a hand,” Adonai shrugged his shoulders, palms up, eyes squinting like his grandmother used to do. “They asked. Their intentions are pure… Plus I owe Finkelstein.”

“For what?” Buddha perked up. He was so damn quiet. It was unsettling. Everyone preferred it when he spoke up

“Um,” said Adonai. “I’d rather not say.”

St. Patrick was taking all this in. He was chewing on some road kill beef jerky White Buffalo Woman had brought for everyone. The stuff got stuck in your teeth like nothing else.

“I don’t think we should get involved,” he said.

“We’ve got several warring factions here and it’s getting hard to tell them apart. We don’t want another Middle East.”

“Or middle west!” laughed Baccus, lamely trying to lighten the mood.

“That is sooooo not the middle west, you moron. It’s the West,” chided White Buff, as her girlfriends called her.

“It’s all the West, out there,” Shiva snipped. “West, west, west.”

“That is so like an easterner,” White Buff shouted standing up. “What, you can’t tell us apart?”

“All right, all right! Enough!” Adonai shouted, shushing everyone into a shamed silence. He was good at making them feel guilty enough to shape up. “So, what should we do? Consensus says…?”

Everyone got very quiet.

Then, the one who hadn’t spoken yet, sat up:

Liz Allen

Liz Allen is a massage therapist who thrives on tele-skiing, writing, and spreading her pitbull Tigger's message of peace.

“We cannot interfere. I have to admit these mortals are damned entertaining,” Ullr quipped. “Besides, I don’t feel like snowing.”

Not wanting to further the argument or make another dreaded appearance, White Buff nodded silently, and from their repose on rainbow-colored velour love seats all simply gazed back into the circling blue orb:

“Blixseth development hour on XM radio?” Lenny’s cousin murmured.

Jane wrinkled her brow in the alpenglow glare that graced the dustless windshield of her motorcycle. She wasn’t supposed to be listening on the job, but she despised giving speeding tickets more than eating Lenny’s mother’s tuna casserole –- it was entirely possible she mixed up the Frisky’s cans with the Natural Value “tuna in water,” on purpose.

Jane’s rebellion within the Montana Highway Patrol was sparked by an incident near Bridger Bowl. Reminded of the brief encounter, her belly smoldering, Jane sensed in her core an unlikely kinship with geologic time. Uncannily, Jane’s spiritual growth had recently burst forth, like so much Burning Man apparel riding a Nevada dust storm. Her secret admirers at the station had watched in awe as she patiently fanned these writings, these pontifications, if you will, into a firestorm of a not-unpleasantly-fulfilling “way-of-being.” Jane had a following.

“No one insults Cormac McCarthy!”

As Jane handed out the expensive ticket she queried, “Who’s long-winded now?” Reliving these utterances shocked
Jane. This girl-next-door, Mama’s little-angel, Daddy’s sugar-lump was spewing these horrible, righteous, and assuredly judgmental statements.

“I must sit in my zendo for at least 4 hours tonight. I will cleanse.”

Just then, Sweet Banana Tail II jetted across I-90, bee-lining for Jane’s parked motorcycle. Sweet Banana was suddenly in Jane’s surprised arms.

“What the… Who are you?” Jane managed to sputter.

Her preoccupation with her own filth blinded Jane to the arrival of Sweet Banana and the first blast of light that eerily licked the edges of the aforementioned yellowish-orange putrid soup. It seemed to be pouring out of the dusky sky.

“What the bejesus? Sweet lord…” With the reflexes of a newly trained CIA Official Guantanamo Interrogator and more than five times the mental prowess, Jane fired up her ride and started the horrific flight east with Banana riding sidesaddle, toward Whitehall. The full moon’s giddy belly suddenly lit up like a psychedelic tribute to Furthur, and its usual suspects.

Jane’s motorcycle squealed to a stop on the newly tarred roof of Bob’s Auto Barn and took quick note of the hungry toxic stew’s work on the Montana Central Cellular Phone Communications Center.

The soup hissed and bubbled encircling its next victim –- an 8-foot-tall knapweed fence safeguarding Shady Boulders trailer park. As the knapweed smoked a fiery purplish haze, Deputy Max joined Jane on the roof.

“Sweet child of mine, is that a free-flowing river of ferredentin?”

Max swallowed the lump in his throat and relived the gag reflex he had endured nightly as a child.

“My evil thoughts created this river of bile!” Jane swooned. The 20-odd quantum physics books sitting on her pink, quartz crystal-studded shelf quivered - in unison.

“Is this meth?” Max’s eyes grew wide, he recoiled.

“All this time, I was creating my own reality… I didn’t even get it…” Jane trailed off.

Deputy Max meekly pondered, “Is there more scripture transcription tonight? I don’t feel so well, with that medical lookin’ river comin’ at me.”

“I’m gettin’ out of the force, Max, starting right now!” Jane ripped her silver badge from her bullet-proof vest. She glanced at it one more time, and remembered her inspiration – her cousin Lenny.

“I’ll play a cop in his new play, and meditate in my time off,” Jane decided.

Sweet Banana Tail II approved. With her highly tuned telepathic powers – owing to the relationship of her scale shape and size (not surprisingly correlated with Mitchell Feigenbaum’s universality theory in chaos – 4.6692016090) – her silent call vibrated out to Virginia, her new love, and a request: ant latte –- with soy.

A mixup in her telepathy - possibly a quantum leap - produced an odd result: with all the power of pitbull protecting a trailer, a sudden dust storm blew in the Irish Fairies. Their fists clenching and unclenching signified a grave situation....

Ray Sikorski

Ray Sikorski is a freelance writer and the author of Driftwood Dan and Other Adventures, who likes participating in Foolish Words because he has to finish what everyone else starts.

…and their toes tapping and heels clicking signified an authentic sense of rhythm.

They had not come to Bozeman to rumble. They had come to Bozeman to audition.

They intoned, from high to low, and went into their redition of “It’s a Long Way From Claire to Here.” A hush fell upon the Seedy Bean. Those Irish Fairies could harmonize. They even had matching outfits. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

“You guys are in!” yelled Lenny. Irwin and Bottled Stillwater grunted their approval.

“The male lead shall go to me,” demanded the Plumber. “For I am the most charming Irish Fairy in all of Uptown Butte. I can dance the Riverdance, and I can sing from me heart so sweetly, why, the fair Lady of the Rockies herself would come down for a listen.”

Mumblings arose from both the over- and under-upholstered seats of the Seedy Bean. “Prove it!” the crowd yelled.

“It would be me pleasure,” said the Plumber. “I shall sing this song as a tribute to me plumber’s helper, Danny.

“’Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling…”

The Seedy Bean patrons put down their cups. Even the milk steamer was silent. And way, way off in the distance – 81 miles away, to be exact – one could discern the faint yet unmistakable percussion of massive stone footsteps.
Just then Jane and the rest of police burst in to the coffeeshop. “The Berkeley Pit is coming down the Insterstate,” she cried.

“It’s headed for Bozeman!” she cried.

Tables overturned, coffee went flying. The Irish Fairies urged calm. “The water in the pit isn’t bad for ye,” one said. “Me brothers and me drink it all the time. Keeps ye young.”

The police tried to settle the crowd. “He may be right!” Jane said. “What we need is a guinea pig to go out there and test it. And, if we can’t find a guinea pig, I hear a pangolin will work in a pinch.”

Sweet Banana Tail’s ears perked up at that. She put down her latte, wiping the ant residue off her upper proboscis. “I’ll be freakin’ damned if I’m going out there,” she said.

Off in the distance, the footsteps grew louder. And sploshier.

“Oh, dair, she’s a comin’ all righty,” said the Plumber. “Sounds like she’s walking along the Interstate. She’ll be a’trompin’ in the Pit water, and I fear she won’t be wearin’ her irrigation boots.”

“Sir, let me get this right,” said Jane. “Along with the floodwaters of the Berkely Pit, the giant Our Lady of the Rockies statue is headed to Bozeman?”

“Aye, and she’s hoppin’ mad! Oh, and that Pit water will make her grow, a kilometer if she’s an inch. And that’s no Blarney!”

Half the crowd went into a panic - too much caffeine. The other half, who also had too much caffeine, started brainstorming.

“I know, we’ll fight her with an enormous icon of our own!”

“What have we got?”

“Uh, how ‘bout the ‘M’?”

“But that’s just a big letter m. Can it fight?”

“Comes in handy in Scrabble.”

“I know!” said Lenny. “We’ll film it. It’ll be the greatest new reality show ever – part Cops, part Survivor, part American Idol, and part America’s Funniest House Pets.”

“I resent that,” muttered Sweet Banana Tail, swallowing an ant clump.

“And part Godzilla versus Mothra!” yelled Virginia.

So it was on. The denizens of Bozeman no longer feared being flooded with toxic water and stomped to death by the mighty Lady from Butte, because they would be made famous in the process… with help from the song and dance accompaniment of the Irish Fairies. The producers brandished their cameras – it was showtime.

The drumbeat of stone footsteps grew louder. Darkness fell along Main Street; it wasn’t a thundercloud, it was the massive shadow of Our Lady, now passing the 19th Street interchange, her feet sloshing with poison. Rather than hiding in their basements, Bozeman’s overly recreated came out in their Patagonia hazmat suits, hoping to be on TV.

The Plumber was right: She was a kilometer tall if she was an inch. She approached Main Street, towering above it. Some people screamed. The rock climbers in the crowd desperately searched for their chalk bags and harnesses – opportunities like this didn’t happen every day. It would be Bozeman’s day of darkness; Butte would finally get the respect it deserved.

But the Plumber wasn’t right about everything: Our Lady of the Rockies wasn’t hopping mad. She was concerned.

“That Berkely Pit toxic sludge made my feet itch,” she boomed. “And it’s headed for the North 7th Avenue exit!”

The crowd screamed. Panicking looters broke into Schnee’s and cleared out their stock of irrigation boots.

“No!” boomed Our Lady. “You can be saved!”

“Save us, O Lady!” yelled the crowd.

“I’m not the one to save you. The one who can save you is among you. It’s… Donna Lou deChris!”

A confused murmur went through the crowd. “Who’s she?” someone asked.

“She is an actress,” said Our Lady. “And she will be the true star of this show.”

Donna Lou, who had been moping silently this whole time, suddenly brightened. At last!

“Is she any good?” asked another.

“She sucks,” said Our Lady. “I mean that literally. She has an exceedingly large capacity for air intake… and, hopefully, for toxic Berkeley Pit effluent intake. She is Bozeman’s only hope!”

They all look at her endearingly, Lenny and Virginia and Irwin and Squids and Bottled Stillwater and Sweet Banana Tail and Gary Geek and Patti and the Plumber and the Irish Fairies and the Great Falls Leprechauns and the Gilette Pennywhistle Gang (who had also come to audition) and Irwin’s mom and Bob and Adonai and Jesus and White Buffalo Woman and Shiva and Buddha and St. Patrick and Ullr and Jane and Deputy Max and Cormac McCarthy and Our Lady of the Rockies. They implored: “The show must go on, Donna Lou.”

Donna Lou pondered for a moment. She would have to swallow up the entire contents of the Berkeley Pit. She considered the pros and cons: She’d be famous, but it probably wouldn’t be very good for her complexion.

“I’ll do it!” she said.

The crowd cheered, and carried the exhuberant Donna Lou on their shoulders to the I-90 interchange, just as the toxic stew was bubbling off the exit ramp. “You suck, Donna Lou,” the crowd yelled. “You suck!”

And suck she did. At last, it was her moment in the spotlight – all the auditions, all the humilation was finally paying off… and for something she was naturally good at. She inhaled powerfully, and the toxic Pitwater was vacuumed straight into her cavernous mouth. As gallon after gallon of the gurgling brew disappeared into Donna Lou’s capacious maw, the crowd held its collective breath.

She had done it!

Donna Lou had sucked the entire Interstate dry, and she mopped the damp asphalt with her unibrow.

Bozeman was saved, Butte made it happen, and it would all be on TV. Both towns erupted in glee and merriment, praising Donna Lou, the Irish Fairies, and Our Lady of the Rockies. Even the screaming panda finally got around to doing his bit.
As drunken revelers ascended her flanks to give her big, wet kisses, Our Lady shushed the crowd, for she had one last question before returning to her perch above the Richest Hill on Earth:

“Just what the hell is that reptilian-anteater thing, anyway?’