Up in Smoke
Francis Hornbuckle hated his name. He had often thought about changing it, but he hated paperwork and bureaucracy even more than rather unfortunate nomenclature, which could actually be pretty funny if it wasn’t happening to you.
He had moved around a lot since graduating from high school, and made damn sure everywhere he went, he provided his own nickname. He felt his name proved such an easy target for folks that he always immediately introduced himself by what he preferred to be called. Francis Hornbuckle learned at an early age that it was best not to leave people to their own devices.
He was also of the life philosophy that if you can’t beat them, work out like a mofo, so that one day you can beat them, if they happen to be stupid enough to give you a reason to. Also, if a beefy dude tells you his name is “Daisy Pillowfeathers” or whatever, you’re gonna to call him whatever he tells you to call him or suffer the consequences.
He had spent his formative years getting by as Frank, a gangly, but menacing lad, who listed frowning and growling at stuff as two of his favorite pastimes. Frank always felt he was destined for bigger things than small town life in Iowa had to offer.
When Frank was a senior in high school, he read Captain Tullis’s novel for a book report for English class. He even went the extra step and went to the book signing, which just happened to be passing through nearby Des Moines.
To say the book changed his life was an understatement. The day he graduated, he bid his mother farewell, paid his respects to his father’s grave, and kicked the dirt of Iowa off his boots for the last time. This was good because his mother had been telling him for three weeks to knock the dirt clods off his filthy hiking boots before walking on her brand new carpet. It was his way of saying that he’d listen to her, no matter where life took him, because deep down, Frank was every bit the mama’s boy one would expect a Francis to be.
Frank didn’t end up in Scurvytown right away. He moved around from state to state for awhile, acquiring a history rife with sin and situation comedy, the kind of stories that typically get told in due course.
When he arrived on the island, he was delighted to discover that Captain Tullis lived there. After an awkwardly painful episode of fanboying, Frank learned the valuable lesson that most celebrities, even minor ones, are crazy. In this case, the stuffed monkey pinned to the shoulder should have been the dead giveaway, but Frank had been too overcome with Fanboy-itis to notice it.
Frank’s heart leaped as Captain Tullis lined up behind him at the start to this year’s Moonshine Festival. It always made him a bit nervous to talk to him, but that faded the second the Captain slapped him on the back with a warm greeting.
The two spent the first few hours getting plastered, and when the Captain got beaned by a dodge ball, Frank dragged him over to a nearby tree and left him. The Captain was a bit unpredictable, and Frank certainly didn’t want to be around when he came to, in case he came to with a case of the mega-crazies.
“Heya Smoke,” his best friend Poke said, suddenly, distracting him from his reverie. “Check out that girl over there.”
Now is probably as good a time as any to mention that the people of Scurvytown, like the people of so many other towns, do not know Frank by that moniker. Rather, to the Scurvitans, he is called “Smoke.” To earn that nickname, he took up pipe smoking at the age of twenty-nine. Frank, or rather, Smoke, was a big believer in playing the part, even if it was to the detriment of his own health.
His friend Poke’s name was actually Pokemondius, which was actually the third most common name for boys born that year on the island. Also, Poke totally was right about him needing to check out that girl. She must’ve been new to town because she didn’t even have a welcome center bracelet on.
“Wanna go mess with her?” Poke asked, but Smoke was already three steps ahead of him.
He marched up to the girl and offered her a drink.
“No thanks,” she replied, dismissively. Her mother had told her to never take drinks from strange men at parties, and this guy definitely had a strange vibe about him.
“What’s your name?” He asked, making small talk.
“Capelli,” she replied, as she tried to make heads or tails of the map she held in front of her.
“That’s a weird name,” he replied.
“Thanks,” she said, sarcastically, “and what’s your name?”
“People ‘round here call me Smoke,” he said, proudly.
“That because you smell like you woke up in an ashtray?” She replied, sniffing.
Smoke was not too pleased with the way this conversation was going, as most people tend to be when conversations don’t go the way they planned them. He was struggling with what to say next when Poke piped up for the save.
“You’re under arrest,” Poke said, gruffly, pointing a flare gun at her.
She turned pale and dropped the map.
“You’re joking,” she said.
“No, he’s not,” Smoke said, smugly. “You’re on Scurvytown property without a permit, and that’s a jail-able offense, so I’m afraid you’re going to have to come with us.”
“On whose authority?” She asked, not believing them in the slightest.
“Scurvytown citizens arrest. If you’d read the by-laws, you’d know this, but as you’re here illegally, having not even bothered to go to the welcome center, you obviously haven’t read them,” Poke said, gesturing menacingly with the flare gun.
“But I was looking for the welcome center on that map!” She cried, starting to freak out a bit at having the gun pointed at her. As a prissy little thing, she didn’t know from guns, so they might as well have been pointing a plastic toy at her and it would still have freaked her out.
“That’s what they all say,” Smoke said, frowning at her.
Poke grabbed his handcuffs and before the girl realized what was happening, he’d slapped them on her wrists. She let out a scream which resulted in the DJ at the festival cranking up the music a bit.
They lead her to the welcome center, which for the record, she was never going to find on that map. It was a map of Lake Chattanooga, which was the biggest lake in Lost Dakota. It was actually a joke map that the Captain had printed up during his “Where in the World is Captain Tullis?” Sweepstakes. Nothing was funnier to him than maps of bodies of water as though they were land masses. He had learned that from his days as a writer from a fellow on the book tour who liked to write about elves and fairies and crap like that.
The two men lead the young girl inside the welcome center, and made her sit on the pink sofa, which clashed awkwardly with her outfit.
“I’ll find Janet,” Smoke said, as he was always looking for a reason to talk to her.
Smoke was not the most suave dude ever. His method of finding Janet was to whistle for her like she was a missing dog. He found her where he would have liked her, on her hands and knees. She was fighting with a toilet plunger in the ladies’ room, which was not actually what he thought about when he thought of her on her knees.
“Fricking festival jerkwads clogged the toilet!” She grumbled angrily, giving the plunger another plunge. “They’re not even allowed in here!”
“Well, if you want, I can fix that toilet for you, and you can go deal with the arrest that Poke just made.”
Janet hated dealing with arrests, but when given the choice between that and toilet trolling, she happily washed her hands of the bathroom ordeal. As she dried her hands off, she practically ran down the hall to get away from the toilet mess.
Smoke had the toilet unclogged in about five seconds flat, and was practically on Janet’s heels to watch her at work. As classy a lady as she seemed, he would have liked her a bit more if she’d been able to unclog it herself. There was just something about a woman who knew how to use a toilet plunger that reminded him of his mother.
“Okay, what have we got here?” Janet asked, as they reached the lobby.
The small framed brunette girl with pretty blue eyes stood up and whimpered.
Before she could even open her mouth to explain herself, Janet said, “ Save it, Toots, and sit your ass down, I was talking to Poke here.”
Janet really hated hipsters more than anything, and this girl, with her ironic “I’m With Stupid” t-shirt with an arrow pointing in a circle, and her bright orange leggings was not going to win any sympathy from her. And she didn’t even know where to begin with the lime green knit cap the girl was wearing.
“Found this cute little thing loitering at the fairgrounds,” Poke informed her.
“Oh is that right?” Janet asked, her hands on her hips. “Trolling for fairy dust and sparklers, no doubt?”
“Trolling for what now?” Capelli said, utterly confused.
“Name.” Janet said, snapping her gum.
“Capelli Moon,” the girl said quickly.
“Sounds made up, don’t it?” Smoke said.
“Sounds like a whore’s name,” Janet said, chuckling. “You miss your stop to the bordello, sweet cheeks?”
“Not that I am aware of. I’m a writer, doing a book on some guy named Benjamin Tullis. I guess he was a famous writer like twenty years ago or something?”
“Damn,” Janet swore, which wasn’t like her, because usually she used much harsher words than “damn.”
“We get to throw her in the slammer, right?” Smoke asked, rubbing his hands together, and realizing he’d forgotten to wash them after the toilet incident.
“No, I’m afraid she’s legit,” Janet sighed, disappointed.
“Pity,” Smoke said, shrugging.
Poke removed the hand-cuffs, while Janet sauntered over to her desk to grab a welcome packet. She had been hoping to cut out early from work, but new citizen paperwork always took at least five hours of placement tests and the occasional electro-shock therapy. She certainly hoped that at least she’d get to shock the little hipster girl with the silly name.
Poke and Smoke wandered back to the fairgrounds to start round two of drinking. As they walked back to refill their official Moonshine festival flasks, Smoke was a little sad that Janet wasn’t able to join them. He shrugged it off as the burning deliciousness of the drink oozed down his throat, competing with the hot sun of June for discomfort. The Moonshine Festival was in full swing.
This episode went live on Sunday, June 20, 2010.
Stay tuned for next week, when the new girl meets the Captain for the first time, and he accuses her of kidnapping his monkey! Oh false accusations, you so crazy!