WTFridays will bring you the most bizarre moments from a variety of bizarro books, the moments that make you look up from the page and say, “WTF?” So dig into this week’s offering, provided, for your enjoyment, completely without context.
Puppy had driven into the little town of Monroe a few hours prior, truck coasting on fumes, meter on E. He was half-starved, too. He hadn’t eaten in two days. It didn’t have to be that way, but he couldn’t take any chances. He’d lostlast time and didn’t sit well with humiliation. Those lowlifes had treated him like spoor tweezed out of boot treads with a twig.
The sign above the wood-bordered tavern door read The Golden Bough. Everyone in town called it The Boog, though, since they found it easier to abbreviate booger than do something abstract like assign a color to a formal gesture. On the flickering, backlit marquee, black letters read:
3RD WED DOG FOOD EATING CONTEST 9PM WIN $50
The prize was a lot more than what hadn’t slipped through the holes in the pockets of Puppy’s pants.
The Boog was warm inside, but too crowded. Puppy knew how it felt to sleep all in a pile on a cold winter night, fighting damp drafts with the heat of shivering bodies. But awake on the verge of summer, this was overwhelming. Nowhere to go without brushing some biker’s belly, some barmaid’s behind, or dropping a drink in a feisty farmer’s lap. Puppy wound his way to the sign-up sheet, scratched his name in pencil stub. He poured himself a mug of Oly and settled into a corner to wait his turn.
The jukebox throbbed with a Harryhausen beast battle of charging guitar tussling with writhing saxophone. Both bled each other to death over the march of drums and the crackle and burl of blown speaker blight. Puppy didn’t let his beer grow warm, but neither did he fill the gnawing hollow in his belly. A clock on the wall in the shape of Mount St. Helens before it blew read 9:42. The bartender had one long arm and one short one, just like the clock. He used them to upend and pour a bag of Alpo into a police line-up of colored plastic bowls.
One by one, bikers of all sizes, some vested, some bare- chested, took their turn snuffling face first in the dog bowls. They chugged pitchers of beer to choke down the muck. Some dumped the suds in first and ate it like cereal. Others swallowed handfuls like pills. One guy produced a bottle of homemade barbecue sauce from a shoulder holster. When someone called foul and confiscated it, he lurked away, grumbling in surrender. Another guy clamped a clothespin on his bulging, hair-infested nose. Puppy just watched and waited and sipped. He felt his hunger burble and grow.
A vast man named Willie strode up to the bar. Puppy remembered him. Willie was the winner this time last month. The room got quiet. Someone pulled the plug on the jukebox and angled a lampshade like a spotlight. Embroidered on the back of Willie’s denim jacket was a harp with angel wings. On the front of his shirt was a black and white cartoon mouse steering an old wooden ship wheel with his squiggly arms. The shirt didn’t stretch far enough to cover Willie’s navel. His exposed belly hung well past his fly.
The great man picked up a full bowl with both hands. He held it aloft like a crown. After he’d surveyed the crowd, he dipped in a finger, licked it and smiled. Then he slammed the bowl on the bar and took a stool over which his fat ass sagged. He buried his face in one, then a second dog dish until each shone clean. Willie licked his lips when all three bowls clattered empty. Then he reached over the bar and dug into the bag to shove a final fistful into his mouth. When he’d chewed and swallowed, applause erupted around the room. Someone plugged the jukebox back in and blew a quarter on “Eat It,” which was still a big hit in Monroe.
The bartender reached into the register and started counting out ten five-dollar bills. Willie reached for them. Just as his pudgy fingers swept them into a stack on the counter, Puppy’s hand came down to pin him. Puppy’s other hand flagged in the bartender’s face, fingers splayed in the universal gesture for “four.” The crowed cheered even louder and Puppy lapsed half an inch toward a smile.
The bartender didn’t bother to wash or change the bowls. The three that Willie had licked still sat on the counter. A fourth that someone squeamish hadn’t been able to finish came back soggy from the sink. The bartender topped them all off with the rest of the bag, then dumped dust crumbles from the bag’s bottom over the top. It looked like brown sugar topping but smelled of dirt, hair, and horsemeat. Puppy was too hungry to care and he needed that fifty to make it home.
Halfway through the third bowl, he coughed. The crowd grew silent, then exhaled when he went back to eating. He held his empty mug out and someone overfilled it ‘til it spilled. Puppy chugged and chewed. Tears streamed from his eyes. He dug back in, by now doubled down and then some. By the start of the fourth bowl he was full to bursting. His body was in a fit over the cruel trick he’d played on it. And still more pellets scraped down his throat to stack in a pile that reached from intestinal pits to esophageal maw.
Puppy set the fourth bowl upside-down on the bar like a shot glass. A long, gassy belch erupted from his mouth. He reached for the money and slid it into his rumpled shirt pocket. The room was still dead quiet. He took one step then another toward the front, picking his way around statuesque bikers that flexed in silent judgment. Puppy had just reached the exit when he heard the creak of an old floorboard, saw a shadow engulf his own, and felt Willie’s weight behind him.
To make sense of all this, you can click here to learn more about the book or check out the video below.