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03.18.03


  Viper Wire by Richard Kadrey

 

 

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The Night of the
Drunken Heart

  

In Mexico, they have Dia de los Muertos: the Day of the Dead. In China, they have the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. In the old Navy yards in India Basin in the San Francisco's hidden industrial zone, they have Blue Moon Sunday: the Night of the Drunken Heart. On that night, losers rule that lonely patch of decaying warehouses, railroad tracks and creosote-stinking piers.

The Night of the Drunken Heart isn't so much a procession as a wandering mob. The dead bike messengers and decapitated skate rats lead the spirit caravan, spinning their wheels and grinding concrete, performing the impossible handstands and aerial flips that only the already-dead dare attempt. The bag ladies come next, scouring the Navy-yard weeds for discarded cans and smokable cigarette butts. Along the route, they get into wrestling matches over not-quite-empty Four Roses bottles with the winos who stumble behind them.

The schizophrenics are next, scouring the sky and the ground for secret messages from Jesus or their dead pets. The gangsters follow, heckling and speaking in tongues, laughing and throwing rocks at the schizophrenics. The gangsters were all wasted in mob hits or drive-bys. A strange mix of old school Mafiosi, gangsta wannabe white boys and buff B-boys, they're united in this one moment, playing school boy tricks on the lunatics ahead of them. The obsessive-compulsives trail behind, crawling on their hands and knees, scrubbing the asphalt clean of the blood that still leaks from the gangsters' bullet wounds.

At the end of the Night of the Drunken Heart comes Danny the Mook. LikeSanta in Macy's Thanksgiving parade, he is the thing everyone has been waiting for. Of all the spirits wandering the ship yards that night, he's the easiest to spot. Danny the Mook arrives and leaves in style, in a burning 1975 Cadillac El Dorado. He closes on the soul parade from a distance. An orange speck at first, he bullets toward the ghost revelers like a shooting star, Roy Orbison's voice high on the radio, "I'm going back someday to Blue Bayou..."

Asphalt bubbles as Danny's flaming Caddy scalds its way along the parade route. Danny might be the last to join the parade, but he's always the first to finish. He has places to go, people to see. In life, Danny was said to have been a whirlwind of energy. That's why they had to burn him. When the a rival dealer shot him, Danny refused to die easily. The dealer and his boys doused Danny and his car with gasoline and lit them up like New Year's Eve before pushing the flaming mess into San Francisco Bay. But even death couldn't slow down Danny the Mook.

As he speeds down the ghostly parade route, Danny leaves a trail of scorched netherworld porn and afterlife betting slips behind. This is why Danny the Mook is the Emperor Norton of the losers: he's too dumb or too crazy to know or care how truly dead and damned he is. Even in limbo — and especially in Hell — desire is constant, but unfulfilled. Danny the Mook is the Good Humor Man, the Tooth Fairy on the Other Side. His flaming car always damages the merchandise, but in Hell, it's a seller's market and Danny the Mook is a closer.

It's rumored that, just as the Tibetan Buddhists believe in preparing for your inevitable death, in certain quarters of San Francisco those in the know come down once a year to the ship yards to leave dubious pints of cut-rate vodka and soiled girlie magazines for Danny the Mook to snatch as he passes by. No one knows if this really gets you any credit in the afterlife, but it's a reasonable investment when you think that one night in the not too distant future you're destined to be here in the ship yards — not as an observer, but as another ghost on Blue Moon Sunday, the Night of the Drunken Heart.

 

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Richard Kadrey is a member of a small group of innovative writers, including William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, John Shirley, Pat Cadigan, Tom Maddox, and others, who changed the face of science fiction in the 1980s. He also creates art. He lives in San Francisco.

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