Several years ago, a number of genre authors banded together for ‘KILL JACK HARINGA ON YOUR BLOG DAY’. The results were collected in an anthology. Last year, the gang did it again for ‘KILL BRIAN KEENE ON YOUR BLOG DAY’. This year, we’re going for something a little different: ‘THE SECRET LIFE OF LAIRD BARRON’. For complete links to all of the stories as they appear throughout the day, see John Langan’s LiveJournal.
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We were twenty miles north of British Columbia, racing toward Ketchikan, Alaska on a runaway dog sled while Sarah Palin, a mange-ridden Wendigo, and a dozen angry Canadians gave chase, howling obscenities in our wake like a pack of un-medicated Nickolaus Pacione clones, when I realized that I was out of whiskey.
“Do something, Keene.” Laird gritted his teeth as he struggled with our mutinous dogs. “This whole thing is your fault!”
I stared mournfully at the jumble of empty Knob Creek and Basil Hayden bottles at my feet, and then began tossing them overboard. Palin and the Wendigo dodged, but the Canadians stumbled and fell, as their kind normally do on any given Friday night. Canadians drink Moosehead, a horrendous, mind-rotting swill that that makes you post nonsensical drivel on Shocklines, but also eradicates your equilibrium, which I was very grateful for at that moment. The Canadians picked themselves up and shook their fists, receding into the glare of the sun on the snow. Laughing, I gave them the finger and unleashed another barrage.
“Don’t do that,” Laird hollered. “You’re littering. Do something else.”
“Sweet Jesus,” I cried, wishing I had brought Mamatas, Lansdale, Wrath, or Coop along on this caper instead. Like myself, all four were professional writers and handy in certain unorthodox situations, and I currently had need of their abilities. Mamatas could have used some of his didactic debate Mojo on Palin. Lansdale could have beaten them up with nothing more than his eyebrows and perhaps one pinkie finger. Coop could have put a grouping of six holes through the Wendigo’s chest at seventy-five yards with a Kimber .45. And all Wrath had to do was walk up to our pursuers and say “Hello”, and they would have run away in fright. Instead, I’d been saddled with our generation’s version of Robert E. Howard. Not that Barron’s literary style was anything like Howard’s. His influences ranged closer to Klein and Straub and Jackson. But Barron’s physical presence — his primal maleness — certainly rivaled Howard’s. Laird was a pugilist. A bodybuilder. A third-degree brown belt. An ex-fisherman. A writer. The general consensus among our fellow professionals was that Laird Barron would eat Robert E. Howard for breakfast, were Howard still alive and Laird was inclined toward cannibalism.
But never mind that, because speaking of cannibalism, the Wendigo was gaining ground, close enough that its rancid breath seemed to lap at the back of our careening dog sled. Or maybe that was Palin’s. I couldn’t be sure, because my head was still full of the ecstasy and acid tabs I’d eaten back in Prince Rupert, partly for research purposes but also to get the taste of Palin out of my mouth. In hindsight, Barron had been right, urging me to try tantric sex instead of simply letting the former Vice-Presidential candidate sit on my face, but I’d ignored him at the time, since Laird often says silly things like that.
I looked around for some kind of weapon, while Laird stared straight ahead, focused on the dogs. The man had raced the Iditarod three fucking times, but none of those skills were helping us now. Gone was the action hero, the two-fisted editor of The Melic Review, the hard man of letters who’d been forged in the very landscape we now raced across. In his place was just another person who blamed me for everything.
“All your fault,” he shouted again. The icicles in his beard dangled and shook.
I considered reminding him that this whole thing was, in fact, Ellen Datlow and Paul Tremblay’s fault. It was Ellen who had invited me to yet another one of her goddamn anthologies — for which I’d probably receive another customary rejection letter. The theme for this one was ‘Canadian Folklore’ and I’d decided that I was going to get into this anthology come Hell or high water, and to do so, I would need to research the Wendigo — to wallow in its lair and smell its shit and fish around inside its guts and find out the score. To do that, I needed a guide. Paul had recommended Laird, but in hindsight, I should have known better because there is nothing more wretched than a sexual pervert or a Winger fan, and Tremblay is both.
I reached for another empty bottle, but Laird suddenly whipped the sled sideways. We rocked on one runner and I screamed, expecting us to tip over on our side, but instead, we slid to a halt, sending up a fine spray of ice crystals.
“You brain-damaged bastard,” I shouted. “What are you doing?”
“The only thing I can.” He leaped from the sled and ripped his parka off. His clothes and undergarments followed. Then he held up his hands, palms out, and took two steps forward. Both Palin and the Wendigo slowed, frowning in confusion.
“You should have listened to me earlier, Keene.”
Then he proceeded to engage in a marathon six-hour bout of tantric sex with the Wendigo, while Palin and I took turns licking the insides of the empty whiskey bottles, desperate for a drop, a taste, a remnant that would block their frenzied cries of twisted passion from our minds.
Months later, Laird and I both appeared in an anthology called Jack Haringa Must Die. Flipping through it, I noticed that while his bio mentioned his appearances in a bunch of magazines and his collection from Night Shade Books, and the fact that he is an expatriate Alaskan, it said nothing about his predilection for Wendigo fucking. I hope that future editors will correct this oversight.