Busto With Gusto

“I put Busto to sleep.”


“Busto... I put Busto to sleep.”

“Okay,” said Judy, and then- looking up from the New York Times crossword puzzle: “Wait- what?”

“I put Busto to sleep today. And then I stopped at the grocery market for basil.” Tino put the brown paper bag of groceries on the counter, tossing the receipt in the trash barrel. Judy looked over at him from the living room,  sitting on the couch, pen in her hand and magazine on her lap. She was frozen.

“Why? Why did you do that?”

“I needed it for the pesto, babe”

“No!” Judy said, uncrossing her legs from their Indian fold, taking her eyeglasses off. “Not the pesto!”

“Not the pesto?”

“Busto, not the pesto! Where is my dog?”

“I put him to sleep, babe…” Tino unpacked the groceries, stacking the tomatoes in alphabetical order.

Judy blinked. “Why did you do that?!?”

“Do what?”

“The pesto! I mean Busto! Why did you put Busto to sleep?”

“Babe…” Tino look at her from the kitchen, spoke as if it was understood. He pulled a jar of black olives out of his bag, unscrewing the cap and flipping one into his mouth.

Judy stood up. “'Babe?!?'”

Tino, chewing, pointed at his mouth in the universal symbol for ‘I’m chewing.’ He said with a mouthful of olive meat: "Yeah, babe?!?"

“Why did you do that Tino? Why did you put Busto to sleep?”

“He had some good years…” Tino pulled a plastic bag of fresh-ground Romano from the rumpled brown paper, “but nothing lasts forever.”

“He was two!”

“Babe, that’s at least 35 in dog years…” Tino pulled out a sack of fresh pasta from the bag, adding, “Busto lost his gusto.”

Judy marched to the island counter: “Is this some sort of joke to you?”

Tino could barely hide the smile on his face: “No… Not at all. I’m laughing at something completely different.”

His grin spread wide like cracks in the ice.

“Why did you kill my dog? Why did you kill Busto?”

Tino bite his tongue. “It was completely humane, babe… the vet gave him the shot and he was out in a rush. Never felt a thing.”

Judy swallowed the sob. “You’re a monster. You're a hot shit, Tino. I never trusted you, you dirty son of a bitch. I should have trusted my instincts.”

“Just think how much you’ll save in chew toys, babe…”

“I want you out of here,” Judy folded her arms. “I don’t know you anymore. I don’t want you in my house.”

Tino paused, a bulb of wild garlic in the palm of his left hand. He gestured to the groceries on the counter before him. The smile was gone. “You don’t mean that, babe. You see, I forgot to tell you that -”

“I mean it. Get out. I don’t ever want to see you again.”

Tino on pause, the light going out of his eyes.


Tino took a deep breath, air full of oxygen actual, lungs adjusting to the atmosphere of planet Earth. His could feel his heart pounding, in his chest, his temples. Finally he cocked his eyebrow, an all-knowing grin of the know-nothing man, raised his head up and asked her: “Who’s gonna make you pesto?”

Judy felt her heart swell, a surge of courage rush her body like electrocution, like sticking your finger in the electric socket for the very first time-  not because it tasted good but because it was good for you. She felt the stutter. She was charged, positive.

“I’ll make my own goddamn pesto.”

Tino looked at her for a long moment, eyes dulling embers behind broad smile, before he saw that his woman felt nothing, that she had already made up her mind. Judy made him taste stone-cold sober. He didn't like it. He put the garlic down on the counter.

He searched her eyes for a trace of why.

Tino, the organics of his shopping trip laid bare before her, opened his mouth to speak, and realizing there would only be tears he closed it again.

He pulled his cell from the wall charger, turned and walked to the apartment door, stepping outside softly before closing the door behind him.

The latch make click.

Judy closed her eyes, shaking her head. She looked at the ingredients on the counter in front of her. The tears were sharp. They made pain. She moaned through the salty discharge: "Busto..."

She took a knife from her utensil drawer and began to chop the garlic slow.

Busto ran out from the bedroom, sniffing, his tail wagging playfully behind him. He panted as he looked up in love at his owner, licking warm and wet at Judy’s ankles.

In Praise of Andy Rooney

You never made me smile
. You never made me think. You never made me curious, and you never entertained me.

You sat, you moaned, you whined on television. You spent thirty-three years humiliating yourself on Sunday night in front of the American viewing public, clunking like a tuba out of tune, stealing valuable airtime on perhaps the most intellectual news magazine in the history of the medium.

You failed to find the funny in fast food and supermarket checkout lines. You missed the gravity of Cobain’s suicide. You let your eyebrows grow into giant fluffy clouds of befuddled futility. If you had been a dog we would have put you down.

Andrew Rooney: you will surely forgive me if I toss you into the toilet bowl of history and pull the handle. Twice. You see, we’re all getting together and going out for beer and pizza.

And you’re not coming with us.

The Films Of Egg Begley, Jr. (Pt. 5)


In this film Egg plays Hack “Hassler” Hassleton, an aggressive tennis instructor who provides third-act excitement by kidnapping Goldie Hawn and sexually molesting her in the middle of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Test audiences loved Egg but despised the brutal sequence which was quickly cut from the film. Sadly the only line of Egg’s dialogue that found its way into the finished picture was, “Let me rub your shubdubs.” Gobble-gobble, Egg.

Get Crazy

If the sensitive portrayal of a rogue garbage man was an Olympic Event our Egg Begley, Jr. would be a lock to bronze. Here he plays Colin Beverly, a clinically depressed sanitation worker who dumps garbage cans onto neighborhood lawns and throws ice cubes at stray cats. Showbiz legend has it that Egg improvised the Jello sequence and nailed it on the first take. A series of promotional T-shirts was ordered to advertise the film, featuring a grinning Egg in his character’s grey jumpsuit with the catchphrase “I Ain’t Cleanin’ That Up!” Unfortunately the box of tees got lost in the mail and the movie was dead on arrival. One size does not fit Egg.


Egg guest-starred on the legendary detective series as Bill Guilterson, a seemingly-innocent man who may have forced a bus full of elderly people over the edge of the Golden Gate bridge just to hear the splash. Egg manages to remain blank-faced and hollow for the next forty-eight minutes as Columbo furrows his brow and tries to poke holes in his alibi. Insiders say that actor Peter Falk despised Egg, blowing cigar smoke in his face and sticking his finger up Egg’s nose between takes. Egg responded with a series of well-timed bladder accidents. Just one more question, Egg…


If your Father was a superhero would he look and talk like Egg Begley, Jr? The answer is no. Still, producers hired Egg to put on a cape and run around in fast motion for some reason. The film’s climactic scene, which features Super Egg rescuing children from an evil waterslide, was almost as instantly forgettable as the rest of the movie, which I’ve already forgotten. If the behind-the-scenes rumors are true Egg was verbally and physically abusive to the children on set, with production shutting down for six weeks so the boy who played Egg’s son could heal his broken collarbone. Spare the rod, Egg...

 7th Heaven

Egg guest-starred on the wildly unpopular Christian TV series as Dr. Hank Hastings, the abortion doctor who “makes good girls problems go away.” Egg nailed the role by wearing his white lab coat and not doing or saying anything, but producers were infuriated with him after he arrived early to the set one day and ate all of the marshmallows out of the cast’s box of Lucky Charms. The actors retaliated by dumping a box of snakes in Egg’s trailer, but he had the final laugh when he clogged their toilets with corkscrew pasta. Egg is magically delicious.


Nothing says made-for-TV like our Egg, and he proves it here in this small screen film by playing Yokus, a jaunty Anthrax deliveryman who dies accidentally when his motor scooter is struck by an intercontinental surface-to-air missile. America was devastated by Begley's death scene, and the following day many businesses were closed in memory of his performance. Egg does manage to slip in one classic Begley line of dialogue before his obliteration though: when asked by the beautiful ice cream vendor what flavor cone he wants, Egg takes a beat and says, “Vanilla.” We all scream for Egg Begley.

Batman Forever

Holy Cackleberry, Batperson-who-happens-to-be-played-by-a-man! Egg takes a role in a major Hollywood action spectacular, and he gives a performance that failed to seriously offend anyone in any significant way. Here he plays Fred “The Stickman” Stickley, an evil villain who repeatedly hits Batman with a stick until Batman simply pushes him off the top of the building. Egg’s haunting delivery of the line “Aaaaagggggghhhhhhhh...” is surely one of the defining moments in the history of American cinema. I think I’m falling for you, Egg…


“Feel the rainbow vibration of the movie Sensation!” That would have been the promotional tagline for this Egg Begley movie- had there been any- which of course there wasn’t. In fact, there was no promotion at all. Producer Michael Mandaville recalls: “Egg was an artist in every sense of the word, trying to re-write his lines at random and listening to horse racing over the radio between takes. One day we asked him how he took his coffee and he started to cry and take off his clothes. [I can’t get that] image out of my head.” Cream and sugar for Mr. Begley, please.

Accident Crushes Construction Worker's Skull

AP- A Highway Department construction worker had his skull crushed yesterday in a crane accident in Pawling. Dick DeBlasio, 44, reportedly bent down to tie his shoe on the construction site when the wrecking ball being used to demolish Highway 41 broke loose and pulverized his head. DeBlasio was rushed to County Hospital where he was pronounced headless, and then later dead on arrival. DeBlasio had worked for the Highway Department for fourteen years. Before his head was crushed.

According to onlookers at the scene of the accident DeBlasio’s decapitation was swift and almost entirely pain-free. “He was there one minute,” said an anonymous witness, “and then the next minute he was still there but his head was just a puddle on the sidewalk.” DeBlasio had no comment after the accident.

Friends and family remember DeBlasio as a loving husband and father. Before the head-crushing incident. DeBlasio coached his son Biffie’s church little league team and officiated the Special Olympics in which his special-needs daughter Bevel participated each year. This was before yesterday’s crane accident which demolished his skull and popped it clean off his body.

Recent accidents such as DeBlasio’s cranial obliteration have raised a spotlight on the Department of Transportation's safety standards. DOT Spokesperson Michael Samperson spoke yesterday about the incident: “We are unwavering in our commitment to employee safety… we just need [more] orange cones.” He had no immediate comment about DeBlasio’s shattered melon.

“If Dick was alive today he would petition the DOT and the Mayor’s office to make roadside repairs more safe and fun for the entire family,” said DeBlasio’s tearful wife Deluca, “and he would also want his head back.”

Services for DeBlasio and his liquefied coconut will be held on Tuesday at the Greenfield Rest Home in Goshen. In lieu of flowers please send donations to the Center For Cranium-Free Living. The memorial service will feature a closed coffin.

You know... because of the head thing.

Off The Menu

I just work here. I cook. I clean. I listen to the conversations. People talk.

People are talking all the time.

They order food. Lunch is a big thing this year. I make tuna salad. And egg salad. Wraps don’t sell like they used to. People forget about salami. Everything comes with fries.

The cheese steak, it never fails to delight. It's bigger than your head. I make it so it looks like it's smiling at you. It's sticking its tongue out at your lunch choices.

My daughter died. She was nine years old. The driver hit her crossing the street and she was gone. She’s not coming back.

I can make you an omelet. An omelet for lunch will sometime hit the spot. Reset your internal clock, make you feel like it’s morning again?

The quesadilla is great too. Too many vegetables. You’ll never finish it. Plus you get the sour cream, the salsa, and the guacamole.

And when was the last time you had an egg cream or a milkshake or a root beer float? That's what we're here for. That's what diners do.

So. What will it be?

Letter of Recommendation

To Whom It May Concern,

It is my pleasure to offer this letter of recommendation for Emma Purvel, a wonderful employee and dedicated co-worker who will surely improve both the environment and efficiency of any workplace she graces. I didn’t have sex with her, if that’s what you’re wondering.

Emma brings a dedication, a curiosity, a natural wonder for the world into every aspect of her daily routine. She has a sweetness inside, an innocence about her that is as magnetic as it is unforgettable. When you talk Emma listens. And when she listens she leans her head to the side. And she nods. Sometimes to get your attention she will touch your hand, and you will feel electric tingles up your arm to the back of your neck.

Emma has a perfect attendance record in her time with my office. She has tirelessly sought to improve every aspect of this business, from productivity to employee morale to customer service. She wears short skirts that will drive you crazy- sometimes with no stockings. Just the sight of her inner thigh at a sales meeting or the scent of her natural perfume will be enough to make your day, to keep you high long after the work day is over. Emma’s energy level is unflagging and her attention to detail is second-to-none.

Her social skills and ability to interact well with others will make you want to sit her on your lap and whisper poetry into her ear for hours on end while stroking her hair softly. Unfortunately Emma will not allow this because she is all business. That level of professionalism is a rare quality indeed.

I bought her a Valentine and a box of chocolates but she wouldn't go out with me. Her job came first no matter what and every day Emma taught all of us the meaning of commitment and responsibility. She gives wonderfully engaging presentations and communicates her ideas warmly and effectively and when she leans down you can see the little bow on her pink bra. Emma’s mastery of Mac, PC & publishing software is jaw-dropping, as is her smile when you make her laugh first thing on a Tuesday morning by putting a muffin on her keyboard.

I tried. I really tried. I think I asked her out a dozen times. Emma was even sweet about turning me down: she would smile and talk soft in that milky/scratchy voice of hers. She would let me down gently, affectionately, and she always boosted my self-esteem in the process. It just made me love her more… made me want to take her someplace tropical and watch the sunset through her eyes.

I guess what I’m saying is: Emma is the best. You’re lucky she’s considering your company. Take good care of her and remind her that she can call me anytime.

Ms. Purvel is a marvelous employee and a valuable asset to any office.


David Marvin

Morning Punk

The donuts, fresh fry in deep fat, dusted for sugar and sprinkled for cinnamon, grease the baking paper lining the cardboard box, stain the tissue transparent. Dana broke the string and opened the case in the parking lot, rest his steaming coffee on the United States mailbox shining in the morning sun. He pulled out a raspberry jam, jam the confection entire down his mouth, chew with his throat while the kid in the front seat of his car watched him in awe.

‘Good,’ Dana thought, ‘gotta learn ‘em early.’ He coughed, a gust of sugar smoke visible in the air before he wiped his mouth, tightened his black tie and straightened his hat, grab up his coffee and jump behind the wheel.

He turned to the rookie beside him: “Let’s do it.”

*                           *                            *

“Part of the policeman’s job is to make promises he can’t keep:

‘We’ll find your wife and daughter.’

‘Your husband will be back in the morning.’

‘Most missing kids turn up safe and sound.’

Dana shake his head. “Most missing kids turn up inside out. There is no safe and sound.”

Eugene Stone, the rookie cop beside him, nodded. Nodded as if he understood.

Detective Dana Cable, he liked this, he liked breaking the kids in… it brought out the beat poet in him, the only chance he got to talk tough, like the cops in the dime-store paperbacks. The kids needed to hear it anyway. The two men drove through town, headed toward the border. Dana let his hard boil boil over.

“Promises you can’t keep… it sounds nicer than lies. Because that’s what they are: ice cold, liquid lies, like a punch to the gut in the dark, like a knife in the night, like never knowing who put out your candle or why. That’s what you gotta learn, kid. Fifty percent of the job is lies, saying what you have to say to get the body over the blow. Someone is dead, someone is always dead, and it’s your job to lie to their loved ones. Time and drink take the victim’s family the rest of the way home.

“The family are the true victims.”

Geno nodded again, uniform of cool blue, marinating in the bright of black and white.

“Now the other fifty percent of the job…” Dana pulled the car to a stop slow, suddenly stop talking, and not just because of the red light. The Ford idled big like a quarter horse waiting at the gate, and Dana took this moment to cast his gaze into the front seat, at the young recruit sit beside him, this Geno Stone, his schoolboy haircut and a head full of picture shows. He caught the kid off-guard because that’s how he wanted to catch him, to see the look in his eyes before he could steel himself. Stone looked back at him: he was a kid. He wanted to be a hero. Right now he was naked… afraid.

Good. The fear just might keep him alive.

Geno spotted Dana watching and his eyes got hard again, made cowboy, just in time for the light go green.

The car was Dana’s unmarked cruiser, full with the AM aroma of black coffee and brand-new bright color donuts, full of jams and jellies and frosting and lard and enough sprinkles to make Liberace blush. The sugar and caffeine were full of the vitamins needed to do the work. The trick was keeping it down.

“The other fifty percent of the job is… jazz you don’t learn in the academy. Footwork. Logic. Heart. You can beat a confession out of a guilty man. The innocent will strike you back. And only the guilty fall asleep.”

Dana, feeling especially fine today, feeling the clean of his colon after the clockwork of his morning movement, the aftertaste of the fresh coffee made sweeter with every drag he took on his Lucky.

The kid Geno, his head beneath the surface of the water, paddling, doing his best to keep afloat, grab his pad out his shirt pocket and begin taking notes directly. He knew this was a clinic, a lesson special.

Dana let the kid catch his breath. He was almost out of words, knew he was laying it on heavy but he loved talking punk. He thought: ‘Maybe I have a head full of picture shows too.’

“You think you can handle homicide?”

Geno look out the front window, staring far away, and Dana had to turn his head from the road twice while he was waiting for Geno’s answer.

The kid exhaled, a confession: “Yeah.”

Geno was five months and nineteen days out of the academy, write his fair share of traffic tickets to drunks fall asleep in the crosswalk, made his application for homicide loud and clear by making an appointment with the Chief of Police, showing up without approval and waiting to be seen. When he finally got inside he shook the Chief’s hand and volunteered his services.

The kid had balls.

He was ready for something bigger and better, something more filthy and true, tired of patrolling the Pacific Coast highways. This trip was a trial. This morning was a test.

Dana took a chance. “We are the only ones out there. We are the only ones fighting for the good.”

The car bumped, off-road.

Geno was still staring straight ahead. “Do you believe in God?”

Dana crawled the black Ford into the dirt of the roadhouse parking lot.

“Come on… we’re here.”

*                           *                            *

The building was tired- popsicle sticks and school glue- and the bar was dusty and dim, just two small windows to welcome the sun. Geno walked, a step behind Dana, and wondered what kind of person would come to drink at such a sad watering hole on the Arizona border. Truck drivers and assholes, probably. The cops on the scene recognized Cable, gave him a funeral hello and went back to their gathering of evidence. Geno felt invisible to the other officers.

The boy followed Dana, into the tavern, past the pool table with the threadbare felt, not knowing where this tough detective was taking him, doing his best to look like he had done this before, and he suddenly found himself wishing he was back on the freeway watching for speeders. He was suddenly afraid of what was inside. Geno smelled something in the air in this place… it was more than the old dry wood, more than the beer and urine embedded into the floorboards. It was something else… it was the opposite of perfume.

Dana didn’t say a word. There were none to be spoken now. It was time to break the kid’s cherry.

The bar was in bad shape- a couple of overturned stools- a glass pane above the bar shattered by a bullet- but the scene was less horrific than Geno had pictured. He suddenly felt his heart beating, felt a rush of dizzy as Dana stepped away and said hello to a tall man in the center of the room. Geno recognized him: the head of homicide Lloyd Maholm. The two of them were whispering back and forth and at first Geno figured that he just couldn’t hear them. Then, listening more closely, he realized he could hear them just fine: the sounds out of their mouths, the voices from their throats, they were not English or any other language he had heard before. They were inhaling their words, speaking in some sort of babble, a slow language Geno didn’t know. How was that possible?

Dana lower his head and walk away as Lloyd turned to face Geno, to take him the rest of the way. Geno looked into the face of the head detective, white coiled hair that had once been blonde, long narrow face with thin cheekbones, eyes without color. His skin was sand-stormed and weatherworn, his mouth was sealed in a quiet snarl, and suddenly Geno wanted his Mother to come and get him.

Lloyd took the boy in, eyes locked him easy like a handcuff, and he gave no sign of what he saw inside. Maholm made Geno think of a mountain. Lloyd raised his left hand to behind the bar and Geno knew, he understood. He had to go back there and look, it was what he had to do, and he accepted his fate honest and easy, cross to the center of the bar, the buttons on his uniform cuff make clang against the brass rail as he stepped behind, as he crossed through. And when he was on the other side he looked down.

And he could see.

The barkeeper’s body had been mutilated: glass bottles had been beaten into his head, breaking skin and scalp, shattering and soaking the wounds in sour spirits, exposing skull. The blood which covered the man had gone dry and magenta, and the boy Geno got his first look at the human brain. No thinking. The man’s mouth had been sliced up to his ear, unzipping his face like a bowling bag, a row of white teeth up the side of his head in a smile unholy. Two slugs had been planted in the old man’s throat, and his stomach had been slashed wide open, his organs hanging generous and open like a bowl of fruit. The gentleman who had committed this atrocity had sawed the bartender’s hands clean off, leaving vicious stumps of gnarled meat on which the flies had already begun to feast like T-bone. The bartender’s eyes were wide open, and it wasn’t the hollow of their gaze that pushed Geno over the edge- it was the fact that they were looking in two different directions, like a comic character from the funnies dazed by a hammer blow to the head.

But this man was not dazed. This man was dead. And in his own pleasant way he looked up at the boy Geno and said, “Hello.”

Maholm looked away, let the boy face it in private, and Geno felt the vomit rush up like a breaking dam. Somewhere inside he knew he couldn’t, could not make upchuck. He held his mouth so tight that he caught it before it sprayed, swallowing it back down as it came up. He stood there trying to stand. He was shaking. His knees were buckling. A photographer’s flashbulb struck like lightning.

“Hey Maholm!” It was Detective Cable from the back of the bar. Geno exhaled, swallow again, chunks of fresh donut still in his mouth going back down inside, eyes wide and watering.

Dana come up to the stools and stood between the old man and the rookie as Geno tried to steady himself.

Dana was smiling. A smile of rage. He took a breath on his Lucky like it was oxygen itself. His eyes were wild as he turned between Lloyd and the boy. He was amused. He was fury.

“Anybody been in the back room?”