Canes pugnaces, Schrodinger's Dachshund

The Danzantes of Monte Albán

Would its victims find comfort from knowing it became a tourist spot?

One glimpse above Monte Albán reveals a Copernican revolution of the idea that the moon is a light in the darkness. A slice of dead tissue clings to the black hide of an omnipresent being. Like some curio forgotten in an attic, a temple molders on a hilltop. Its ornate construction stands as a reminder of how little the past can teach the present. Between fits of mad laughter it calls, “Someday you and everything you love will be as irrelevant and forgotten and unfathomable as this.

The Mantis wanders the ruins by day, treading the same ground where priests in fish and bird masks once adjured gods more humanlike than one of love and mercy: gods sadistic, gods insane. Per his secret instructions he studies mysterious carvings, the Danzantes, templates of the human heart to which all literature and philosophy and art are footnotes.

“They weren’t dancin’ for fun,” she told him. “Look at the ones holding their guts in their hands. You didn’t want to get caught alive by the Zapotecs. They were into some wild-ass shit back then. Check out the altar. That wasn’t for sacrificing chickens. Don’t worry, we’ll be checking your thoughts so you don’t have to do nothin’. This is a total promotion. And quit wearin’ green.”

With polite obstinacy he spurns vendors who offer “authentic relics” made of baked manure. “No gracias,” he says, waving a bony finger. Not lost but found in the silent majesty of this crypt of a civilization he spends his days in pursuit of phantoms, guided by a phantom map and at the behest of connections linked by the unrelenting velocity of phantom logic. But his joy is real. Amid dark stains of misery, smeared within a pastiche of solemnity, hilarity, and tedium, the newfound purpose adds a streak of gold to the collage of his life. And like all men he mistakes the fleeting nuance for the color of the underlying canvas.

Free on Kindle May 25 – 29

Meme researcher Delores Locascio writes, “Some memes brush against reality. How many have we seen involving Monte Albán? Princess Nica is the latest of many. This ceremonial altar has several hundred carvings known as Danzantes. The first archeologists to discover the site assumed the figures were dancing. In a sense they were. The Zapotecs depicted rival chieftains being tortured to death, many castrated. That wasn’t a symbolic flower carved between the legs of one figure; it was blood gushing from a hole. Several of the stones depict women with strange objects protruding from their eyes. Archeologists assumed from their vestments and jewels that they were priestesses. As we’ve seen, others claim they were entities the Zapotecs encountered in mirrors and made sacrifices to (until they ran out of victims).”

Schrodinger’s Dachshund is more like a collection of mysteriously connected stories than a conventional novel. Jablonski’s lyrical prose turns creepy during the second-person POV parts. What’s it about? You find yourself in the Bosch-like parallel universe of Cudahy, Wisconsin. Good luck. Jablonski doesn’t hold your hand. It’s like he’s sharing as much as he can, hoping you’ll figure it out because he can’t. This has a way of making these characters come alive. Highly recommended, but this taste is acquired. Not to be mistaken for genre espionage or sci-fi (or anything). This is plain weird! Magic anti-realism? Backhanded compliment time. It’s a showcase for Jablonski’s freaky powers of description. It’s a dark, funny, bizarre book with disarmingly vivid prose.” Goodreads

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Who is Maestoso and Why is He Following You?

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Schrodinger's Dachshund

Serial Killers Who Worked Security

A Mysterious Link Explored

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Why are there no paralegals moonlighting as Grim Reapers, no librarians driven to carnage by inquiries about Dan Brown? Security fields a disproportionate number of the empathy challenged. Practitioners of this noble calling succumb to dark nights of the soul, wondering if the property they defend requires blood to sustain its existence. Why is it always the loners? What happens in the cold vacuum of solitude, time spent with the ultimate stranger?  Consider ten instances of this cruel occupational hazard and wonder why “going rent-a-cop” never joined the lexicon.

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“I hate guards who fall asleep on the job and don’t perform their duty”

With an honor code familiar to samurai and superheroes, Bangkok guard Wittaya Jaikhan snuck away from his post to hunt slumbering comrades, killing seven, becoming the Watcher of Watchmen, Guardian of Guards, Slayer of Sleepers. Our motives are never as pure as we believe. He also took their chocolate and phones. We are not justified in assuming that madness is the best explanation. The West has had no understanding of Honor since WWI. Only historical myopia hides Jaikhan’s perspective from us. By bringing shame to his vocation, the snoozing guards brought dishonor to him. You may be okay with that. Don’t speak for others.

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Dennis Lynn Rader, the BTK killer, worked for ADT 

The acronyms will give you PTSD. He was as poor at coining them as his company is at informing guards of alarms. Was the B necessary? This is minutia, not substantive information. We assume some means of incapacitation was used, that his victims did not transcend their hard-wired response to pain on his behalf. That leaves us with TK, which is little better than Chokey or Hurty. (It’s not clear he needed the K either, since we can see the final result.) This narcissistic diva distracted attention from the QWERTY killer, UTI killer, and FDDBBFTBH killer, who struggle in vain for their fifteen minutes.

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Corporal Urinalysis

A grain of sand irritates an oyster to create a pearl. With humans all bets are off. Andrew Urdiales killed eight women and counting. In the Navy they called him Corporal Urinalysis and wouldn’t follow his orders. They called him Corporal Urinalysis. He had facial tics and less than awful social skills. If you believe all God’s creatures have a purpose you’ve got your work cut out for you. Most of these men were slated to be recipients of ridicule and conduits of fury. Did you ever make a conscious decision not to become a serial killer? Those philosophical head-trips about free will have obscenely physical instantiations. If you don’t choose your thoughts you don’t choose anything. You don’t choose your thoughts. Were Uriales’ security shifts a fortress of solitude or a hall of mirrors where Corporal Urinalysis leered from every direction? How long before you’d smash the mirror?

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Tiago Henrique Gomes da Rocha killed thirty-nine people to treat his anxiety

Proceed with caution when judging a man poisoned by cortisol and deprived of its antidote. This could have been prevented by a script for Klonopin: vitamin of Stoics, Viagra for stiff upper lips, pink slip for Mr. Gives a Shit, spinach for nervous guards. Not incidentally, the wicked stereotype of alcoholic guards comes from self-medication for a constant state of fight or flight.

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Ted Bundy 

He blamed his urges on pornography. It’s always hidden beneath the Soldier of Fortune, next to the handcuffs you aren’t supposed to use, atop the SECURITY MANUEL, across from the half-eaten bag of Fritos no one has touched for three years but you hope the new guard does just to see if he survives. Like Bundy, security guard Neal Falls had victims who all looked alike. They say routine is the anchor of life.

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Steven Alexander Hobbs, the large red-headed guard

What vicarious sacrifice did the fifteen prostitutes represent? Were they substitutes for cubicle-dwelling women who treated him with disdain, like his job was a Wiffle job, his life a Civil War reenactment? Ginger-themed taunts do not recede on the horizon of Time, where it’s always third grade. The discovery that atonement cannot be attained is bitter. The indignities guards endure come with compounding interest. The harder you try to catch up the further you fall behind.

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Kenneth Bianchi, Simon to Angela Buono’s Garfunkel

The Hillside Stranglers toured California in 1977 with a van that may as well have had FREE CANDY painted on the side. Bianchi attained the Holy Grail of security: an in-house position at a jewelry store, free from polyester uniforms and reliefs who don’t show and companies who make $20 an hour while paying you nothing. But he gave jewelry to girlfriends and paradise was lost. Many who pursue careers in this competitive field are forced to trade dreams of in-house security for sweatshop lives of rent-a-cops. Bianchi had to settle for the Whatcom Security Agency. The mysterious springs of the heart are unwound by less. Some said he had company in the attic: Multiple Personality Disorder was the flavor of the day. Here’s a secret. All guards do. Their exquisitely honed instincts become distinct and incompatible like Greek gods. The most ruthless prevails.

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They don’t sport horns or a scarlet SK

Rodney Alcala was “the devil. He’s very personable, good-looking. It’s easy to get in with this guy. He likes women with good shapes. He convinces them to let him take their photos.” A serial killer’s success is a function of camouflage. Remember that. Putting victims at ease by appearing to be something else is a screwdriver in Nature’s toolkit, like the hungry fish that looks like a rock. Primates do it too. A high IQ sans moral radar acted like a turbocharger for Alcala. His victim count remains unknown. And he brought a popular hobby among guards into disrepute. Don’t take your Nikons to work anymore.

It depends how you define “self-defense”

Louis van Schoor erred on the far side of caution when killing thirty-nine burglars in South Africa. He may have shot more than 100. Trigger happy? More like finger spasms. It also depends how you define “serial killer.” Van Schoor considered himself a crime fighter. He had no idea how good he had it. Guards in the states have to be clean-shaven.

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Britain’s worst serial killer may have been a guard

And Scottish. Jack the Stripper killed a parliament of prostitutes. His suicide note said he was “unable to take the strain any longer.” A recent study may shed light on his sorrows. “They found that shift work was associated with impaired cognition, and the impairment was worse in those who had done it for longer.” It ages the brain. Remember your grandfather’s obscene tirades when he lost his dentures? Imagine that frame of mind transplanted into a young man. Don’t judge him until you’ve slouched a mile on third-shift.

It’s not the news that any shift worker wants to hear. Not only is working irregular hours bad for your social life and likely your health, but it has a chronic effect on your ability to think, a new study has found.”

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Misfortune comes in threes

A lady guard broke Joseph Ferguson’s heart. Then his rent-a cop slavemaster fired him while he grieved. Then he missed the serial killer list because he didn’t pace himself and became consigned to the footnotes as a lowly spree killer. Where would we be without profilers and their arcane taxonomy, without men who keep a straight face as they inform us the profile is a white male in his twenties, as if we would have assumed an elderly Asian woman was to blame.

***

What crimson thread links these men? Does an aptitude for solitude predestine one to infamy? Silent shifts are petri dishes where life’s indignities mutate and grow. Theories about postal workers suffering from “golden handcuffs” are no more plausible. Unarmed security is the most dangerous job in the United States. The authority it gives is not proportionate to its perils. The authority is an illusion. A guard has no more legal power than a common citizen. They’re sitting ducks and accountable for everything that occurs on their watch, the worst of both worlds. What are the long term effects of cognitive dissonance? To begin a campaign of social justice for guards, to stop the killing, begin by addressing them as Safety Technicians.

“The final total for workplace homicides in the United States, from 1990 to 1999, stood at 508 security guards slain in the line of duty and 495 police officers, and detectives, slain in the line of duty. In just one decade private security guards had surpassed even law enforcement officers in the rate of workplace homicide – an ominous occupational indicator for all those in working in the private security field. In the year 2000, the dangerous trend in violence would continue with another 46 security officers murdered in the line of duty. The same year witnessed an occupational homicide rate for public police officers and detectives of 35 killed by criminal assault or ambush.”

Incoming: Khalil Wheeler-Weaver, Guardian of Grocery.

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For more on the sorrows of security guards, read Schrodinger’s Dachshund: A Novel of Espionage, Astounding Science, and Wiener Dogs.

Petronius Who?

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Great Irish Writers with Polish Names

GIWWPN found Celtic Consciousness in likely places. Turn on, plug in, pass out, and see how it’s clovers all the way down. (Regrettably, GIWWPN found no other Irish writers with Polish names. 2017 has been a lean year.)

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GIWWPN salutes Jim Morrison for Land Ho! Hear him discuss his proud heritage.  Humor is the key to our survival. And dancing.

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GIWWPN features the greatest playwright since Shakespeare. To the Irish, Long Day’s Journey into Night is a comedy about a functional family. Your mileage will vary. (Seeking info about the production with Philip Seymour Hoffman. Any bootlegs?)

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GIWWPN celebrates the greatest novel ever writ, Tristram Shandy,  Joyce’s ladder, Schopenhauer’s favorite: 

“A novel will be of a high and noble order, the more it represents of inner, and the less it represents of outer, life; and the ratio between the two will supply a means of judging any novel, of whatever kind, from Tristram Shandy down to the crudest and most sensational tale of knight or robber. Tristram Shandy has, indeed, as good as no action at all; and there is not much in La Nouvelle Heloïse and Wilhelm Meister. Even Don Quixote has relatively little; and what there is, very unimportant, and introduced merely for the sake of fun. And these four are the best of all existing novels.”

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GIWWPN trips on experimental fiction because we Irish invented it. Visit the Post-modern afterlife in  The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien.

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GIWWPN places Maeve Brennan in the same pantheon as Chekhov.

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GIWWPN finds prophetic descriptions of modern Academia in Gulliver’s Travels: Cucumber Studies.

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GIWWPN reveres a visionary. He was deeper than we’ve been led to suppose.

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GIWWPN embraces the realism of Yeats: “Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy.”

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“The History of Ireland in two words: Ah well.” – Niall Williams  (See these for details.)

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Existentialism, Fatalism, Ontology, Truth

An Odyssey of Historic Proportions and Priceless Treasure of Philosophy

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Jablonski’s writing “employs secrets and intrigue as a driving, page-turning force. … [He] is able to inject a sense of immediacy and intensity in the story by using sparse description that suggests more than it tells. An engaging narrative.”  Publishers Weekly

When his classic Pontiac is abducted by a deity who lives in the depths of Lake Michigan, Petronius Jablonski is offered enlightenment in compensation. To obtain it he must decipher the coded features of an odyssey. He neglects to share these minor details with his longsuffering girlfriend, Sandy, who accompanies him. Home-schooled by an eccentric father, Petronius holds the modern world in contempt, the demise of polytheism and eighteenth century English in general, the plague of democracy and “internets” in particular.

Despairing of his ability to understand the journey and rarely paying attention, he engages the Reader’s assistance. His propensity for digressions complicates the search for a solution while making a mockery of first person narration. He anticipates absurd questions and adds chapters in response, he accuses the Reader of being smitten with Sandy and makes her less attractive, and he attempts to revolutionize Philosophy by superseding overrated concepts like Occam’s Razor and Plato’s Cave with his own inventions: Petronius’s Shovel, Petronius’s Garage, and a demonstration of the validity of circular arguments.

The novel’s mirth has a dark undercurrent. As Petronius subjects the Reader to increasingly demanding prerequisites it becomes clear he is wandering the remorseless hinterland between genius and madness, which raises questions about the accuracy of his chronicle. Sandy’s terrified warning that he’s behaving like his tragic father elicits rage: “What Cato did, and Addison approved, cannot be wrong.” But is Petronius a victim of ancestral fate or wisdom? What if Truth is poison? Perhaps a big sedan is more precious than enlightenment.

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The history of this novel would bring comfort to John Kennedy Toole, Job, and Sophocles. Three agents tried to sell it. One lost his mind sparring with illiterate editors and depraved accounting departments. Then the Sentinels of the Chandelier blocked a Kindle deal. Further hardships will be interpreted as Divine intervention.

Petronius Who?

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Lay with Cudahy?

Petronius Jablonski grew up in this fine city. The defamation of a man’s hometown is no better than slandering his mother. This meme is an atrocity, spawn of ancient prejudice.

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STAND with Cudahy, give the finger to snobbery. The Annals of Petronius Jablonski: An Odyssey of Historic Proportions and Priceless Treasure of Philosophy includes a magisterial History of Cudahy’s taverns, Proustian woolgathering, Tristram Shandy-like digressions, and the revolution of Western thought. Cudahy has a rich Life of the Mind. We just don’t wear it on our jammies. Let the real Cudahy arise.

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The gloomy, taciturn Dr. Harris, glaring at us through bifocals and removing them to intensify his sulphurous gaze, stroked his unkempt beard and shook his head when we proposed a joint independent study titled, A History of the Cudahy Taverns: Packard Avenue. We returned the following day to plead our case, wielding the deadly argument that his dismissive reference to Cudahy as “some small, blue-collar abutment of Milwaukee” was no less contemptuous than describing the Temiar of Malaysia (his dissertation subject) as a group of uninteresting savages with absurd religious beliefs. A twenty-minute session of furious beard stroking ensued, probably infested by the realization that we had actually perused his dreadful, meandering doorstop.

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Sheridan Park 1984

“Alright boys,” he whispered. “Three credits. Due at the end of the fall semester. I will not give you an incomplete. I will not extend the due date.” After a brief but intense session of beard stroking, he removed his bifocals and fixed us with his legendary disintegrating stare. “Don’t disappoint me.”

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Packard Avenue in the Olden Times

I emerged from his office like Trajan returning from Dacia, but Buzzcut expressed reservations. Though in possession of an uncharacteristically athletic mind for a member of our generation, a congenital diffidence often restrained him from ambitions of heroic proportions. “Petronius, what if there aren’t any records at city hall or the historical society?”

“Records? We are starting ex nihilo. The historian who relies on books is no more than a glorified plagiarist. We are poised to become the primary source to which posterity, in humble gratitude, shall turn. For this we must go to the primordial, oracular sources themselves.”

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Where Does Time Go?

The vintage Schlitz globe above the entrance to Otto’s tavern, was it not an atlas of dreams, radiant with the light from a better world? “Bottle of Pabst,” I commanded, my voice a crash of thunder. Though billions of nights had preceded this one, and billions would follow, I detected a singularity, a hand-woven weave in the strands of Fate. I beheld the label on my bottle as Edmund Hilary must have looked upon the flag he planted atop Everest.

“I think we’ll need to present this thing as a horizontal tree, the trunk being the first tavern established,” said Buzzcut. “Branches multiply over the course of the century.”

“Will we wear cute matching dresses when we present our little chart? Will we invite our mommies? Will we serve cookies?”

“We have too much data to put in a simple paper,” he said, squeezing a slice of lemon over a gin and tonic.

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Second car belonged to the Cudahy Kid

“No doubt Boswell warned Johnson not to put too many words in his dictionary.”

“Different old-timers are giving us different names and dates. We at least need a thesis.”

“Please remind me, what was Suetonius’ thesis? Did he use a mulberry or chestnut tree to coalesce the staggering volume of data he worked with? A great historian does not theorize; he installs a window where none existed, he provides a clear view of what has been obscured.”

“Gibbon theorized.”

“I am aware of that great man’s shortcomings,” I snapped, “all of which are more than redeemed by his pinnacling prose. Now, while we gather data unrelentingly, tonight we must address the question of whether to begin with a prologue, a prolegomenon, or a preamble. I contend that a prolegomenon is the proper choice, prologues being the filthy denizens of science fiction and fantasy novels. And given Harris’ modest scholarship we can safely assume he has never before encountered a prolegomenon. The very word will strike terror into his black heart, an overture of the awe that will send him to his knees long before our addendum to our prolegomenon.”

A Mesmerizing Excerpt

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Petronius Who?

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Climbing, Existentialism, Fatalism

Mount Silenus

A Vertical Odyssey of Extraordinary Peril

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Jablonski’s writing “employs secrets and intrigue as a driving, page-turning force. … [He] is able to inject a sense of immediacy and intensity in the story by using sparse description that suggests more than it tells.” Publishers Weekly

When novice climbers Trevor and Gaspar attempt Mount Silenus they discover that inspiration from a famous book makes a poor substitute for experience. Accuracy is important on mountains, especially one darkened by legends of a prehistoric sloth — the Abominable Unau — and the indigenous people who make sacrifices to it. As the text bears less and less resemblance to the terrain, squabbles over its interpretation become a battle of faith vs. reason. Those are best fought on flat surfaces.

Why does a man climb a mountain? To taste the distilled essence of life, to glimpse the clandestine maneuvers of his soul, and because he believes everything he reads. For two high school teachers who skipped their climbing classes, a masterpiece advocating spontaneity over skill proves irresistible. Unknown to them, the reclusive author honed his technique scaling barstools and brooding over the unjust fame of Nietzsche. He ignored eyewitness accounts of the Abominable Unau for stylistic reasons. Stories about wrathful apparitions infesting a labyrinth of caves didn’t make the cut either.

During a quixotic journey in the general direction of the summit,  Trevor and Gaspar join a scientist investigating paranormal activity on one of the plateaus. The book fails to warn about traps set by the mountain people to protect the sacred site from desecration. When they fall into icy catacombs they must confront the source of the legends to survive.

“Like a surreal existentialist crisis” PW

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Chapter One

They squeeze between amber stalagmites and squat beside a man whose patience abandoned him before his spirit. An ice axe remains frozen in his hands, its tip slathered with the red lacquer coating his face. The holes in his forehead could be mistaken for spider eyes.

“What was the hurry?” says Trevor. “I heard death by hypothermia is painless.”

“How does anyone know that?” says Gaspar. “Were volunteers assigned different ways to die and asked to rate them?”

Their breath expands and dissipates in the cave, joining frenzied thoughts long ago freed from the ice man’s skull. The flashlight summons forms from the void like a wand brandished by sorcerers. A mushroom of ice towers over them, its oak-thick stem withering below a luminescent rotunda. The shapes on the ground are not rock formations. Not yet.

“Look what some of them are wearing,” says Trevor. “I’ve only seen gear like this in old pictures.”

“They didn’t fall in at the same time. Look what else they have. Does that book look familiar?”

“What an interesting coincidence.”

“I see the beginning of a pattern,” says Gaspar. “I’d say this warrants skepticism of the remaining chapters.”

“What else would they have been reading, a book on beekeeping?”

“They should have. It’s an interesting hobby with few casualties.”

“How could waiting to die be the lesser evil?”

“No accounting for taste. Maybe they came back after going down there.”

The passage descends toward a purple light surging beneath chandeliers of fused crystals and aborted supernovas. Calcite nubs protrude from the path like hands reaching for their ankles.

“Let’s wait for help,” says Trevor.

“My survival instinct says we should be a bit more proactive. Patience hasn’t been an effective strategy here. I’ve heard of waiting rooms but this is ridiculous.”

“Dr. Zardeen was next to us when the crevasse opened. There’s no sign of him.”

“What’s the bad news?” says Gaspar.

“Gentlemen,” calls a distant voice.

“Doctor, did you notice a group of climbers in the passage back here?” shouts Trevor.

“They might need first aid,” says Gaspar, “but take your time.”

“They are quite dead. They were probably too frightened by what’s over here. Hurry, gentlemen. This is what I have been looking for.”

Strange light caricatures Gaspar’s and Trevor’s silhouettes as they approach, as if in mockery, making them appear no less fantastic and alien as the indigenous formations. In darkness the ice men continue their vigil, rebels holed up against the army of time, saved by an intercessor no less ruthless.

“An engaging narrative” PW

Megatherium

Petronius Who?

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Schrödinger’s Dachshund

A Novel of Espionage, Astounding Science, and Wiener Dogs

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Kindle & Paperback

“Jablonski’s first novel reads like a surreal existentialist crisis, a stream-of-consciousness narrative that employs secrets and intrigue as a driving, page-turning force. We follow blogger Zelda Alpizar, who occupies her time decoding and researching the latest cultural memes and viral sensations. She becomes embroiled in a scheme to turn humans into storage devices for code. Also wrapped up in the plot are two test subjects: security guards Alex Jitney, whose ‘milky pallor and nondescript features might instigate regrets that humans aren’t reptilian,’ and ‘too nice for his own good’ Travis Olkeshevski. And then there’s Maestoso, the titular Dachshund, who moves ‘like some sausage hovercraft.’ These characters go through private trials and tribulations, discussing matters of sex, memes, and science, as they move inexorably toward the endgame. … Jablonski is able to inject a sense of immediacy and intensity in the story by using sparse description that suggests more than it tells. … An engaging narrative.” – Publishers Weekly

“The unusual style packs a wallop, pulls you into its rhythms and edgy approach. There is some bold imagery throughout. The prose is a rich cream. … No words are wasted. … It’s the strong writing that pulls you along. Brief jabs of sentences impart lots of information with a unique sentence and paragraph style. The prose is one-of-a-kind. … You feel interested and curious, and also a bit unwelcome — as if you need to expend lots of energy to decode the secret to unlock the gates. … The pleasure is in the writing.” ABNA 

Jablonski’s writing has been described as “poking fun at literary fiction, science, and Philosophy, in the way Douglas Adams spoofed sci-fi.” He is not convinced this was his intent.

The paperback is preferred. When you position it upright Maestoso’s eyes follow you around the room, anticipating your actions with some canine analogue of foreknowledge, disarming at first then strangely serene. Purchase several as guardians or talismans.

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Who is Maestoso and Why is He Following You?

Spy by night, blogger by day, Zelda Alpizar becomes infected by a contagion known to civilians as guilt, forcing her to choose between following orders or intervening to save two watchmen. Their trance-like lethargy makes them the ideal storage drives for a detonation code. Decrypting it could have lethal side-effects. Though the most important thing Zelda will ever find, the boundary between good and evil is of little value in a place where the only legend reads Here There Be Monsters. 

Security guards, harbingers of dawn, are they not warriors? Beneath the polyester Travis and Alex consist of flesh and blood. A predator stalks them, more implacable than skateboarders. Putting your tax dollars to work, the NSA discovers that human storage devices offer greater security than digital ones. Dead drives tell no tales. Like all their secrets it’s soon available to the highest bidder. When Zelda infiltrates a secret society lending this service to terrorists, she sees how the private sector can be almost as wicked and incompetent as the government. 

They should have chosen a more secure password. “Mary Weatherworth” is also an adult actress beloved by security guards, and an urban legend reputed to appear in mirrors when summoned thrice. Busy lady. This ambiguity entwines discrepant parties in strange ways. Connected to them all by one degree of separation, the sausage link in a karmic chain, Maestoso the Dachshund waddles across this remorseless battlefield, observing the chaos, perhaps resolving it. Avoid eye contact. You don’t want him inside your head.

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Chapter 1: Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Park Here

The equation proves what is about to happen is impossible. George checks it again: New Lexus + first one here = VIP. At a locked door in underground parking he turns his back to a security camera and picks up a phone mounted above an ashtray. Ten rings. Twenty. Fifty. Seventy. He stares at his watch. Is the minute hand speeding up or are its measurements askew in this concrete cave?  

“Lodestar securitah,” says a voice in mock Southern drawl.

“Good morning. Could you please unlock the lower level?”

“Kindly turn and face the camera, sir.”

Window to an infernal soul, evil orb of black acrylic, the all-seeing eye examines George. If only he could clarify the matter by pointing to his car, the way a teacher knocks on the board for emphasis.

“I am not supposed to open it this early, sir.”

“I have work to do.”

“Very well, but I must request a slight favor in return. I could never permit another man to remain beholden to me.”

George leans against the door. His distorted reflection on the dark globe looks back like some doomed foretoken bidding him to take any path but this. “What kind of favor?”

“On third shift a man starts to think he’s wandering this vale of tears all by his lonesome. That is a heavy burden to bear. This cruel isolation has robbed me of life’s simplest pleasures. A vicarious taste of your joy would nourish my soul. If you could be so kind, a festive dance will raise my spirits and reconcile me to my duties.”

The parking lot grows hazy. An evil wizard appears and demonstrates to George how two drops of mercury plus two more equals one. But he’s only warming up. Another fundamental truth is questioned: “VIP? Are you sure?”

“I am particularly fond of that Travolta gentleman in Saturday Night Fever.”

“I don’t have to put up with this.”

“Kind sir,” says the voice in perfect semblance of wounded hospitality, “I offer to do you a favor and you insult me. Where I come from one kind deed begets another. Yours will be the pappy to mine, which makes us cousins. Do you see how we are all connected? Your dance will serve a greater good.”

“Travis, unlock this door.”

“Do I have to come down there again?” says a voice devoid of Southern gentility, posing an issue not covered in Dealing with Difficult People seminars. George braves an inner storm. A smokestack of lightning reveals distant shapes on the horizon of Time. Long ago mankind began a game by filling the roles of king of the jungle, beast of burden, and everything in between. Now a lowly watchdog refuses to play make-believe. Unlike the strength of a wild animal, George’s power is dependent on the acquiescence of others. Their consent creates it. And in its absence …

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He points to the ceiling with his left hand and brings it down to his right pocket while performing squats. Endorphins percolate. Explanations vie for dominion. Maybe his car resembles a Toyota on the monitors. Maybe these cruel rites are endured by VIPs everywhere. Maybe this world is the discarded draft of one that eventually turned out better or at least no worse.

“Sir, I regret to inform you that my spirit remains earthbound. I feel forsaken as ever, orphaned from the human family.”

To the routine George adds a move from the Hokey Pokey, incorporating his calfskin briefcase. As though awaiting judgment from the cyclopean ruler of this underworld, he stops and looks up at the globe.

The click of the parking door, is it not the whispered yes of a reluctant lover? He drops the phone and seizes the knob before Travis can lock it, avoiding a scenario that could involve something even less desirable than a festive dance — assuming the predictive veracity of events from last week.

In the elevator, the tireless optimist perched on his left shoulder puts everything into perspective. “Be grateful he’s just a guard. A simple twist of history could have made him an emperor, or a conquering general, or a gym teacher.” The pessimist who once mounted the other shoulder but jumped to his death during the dance offers no counterpoint.

George peels a sweaty strand of hair off his forehead and enters the throne room of Travis the Terrible. A massive boom box broadcasts the roar of demons and the grinding of machines. Clown-sized sneakers tower over the sign-in log atop the desk. George scribbles his name and ID number like some vanquished statesman signing a treaty of unconditional surrender. A ring of cigar smoke halos his head. And another. And another. He coughs and waves them away and looks at four monitors inside the desk. Three are split-screen. One provides a full view of the parking door, his Gethsemane.

On a leather throne suspiciously similar to the CEO’s sits Travis Olkeshevski. Behind Ben Franklin glasses, ravenous green eyes devour all assumptions about the corporate pecking order. “Good morning Mr. Merkel,” he says, stretching. The seams of his shirt threaten to burst in protest. A layer of baby fat rests on a foundation of bone and muscle that makes the Neanderthal appear ectomorphic. “Have a nice day, sir.”

George enters one of the elevators behind the desk and inspects his reflection on the shiny panel above the buttons. His eyes watch his eyes watching his eyes. The regress spirals through a brier maze where gargoyles shield their faces from territory they guard but cannot bear to glimpse. With a world-weary disgust most men need sixty years to develop he kicks the faux gold paneling. “Life doesn’t change after grade school,” he says, as though past, present, and future aren’t descriptions of the same stinking beast from blind men. When the doors open he shuffles down a long bright corridor, immersed in the very important thoughts of a VIP.

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About Petronius Jablonski

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