The Philosopher Red Stimulates my Reptilian Core

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting-

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting- (Photo credit: hira3)

Great…I finally get home, and I have had to make a strategic move back to the Ghost Hotel.  I’ve heard rumors of three gringos in town, very white-toned skin, wearing dark blue pants, serious expressions, and asking questions – which is bad form in a community of refugees from the “real” world – too many with too much to lose from answering questions.  Then, there’s that terrifying AA of American Airlines on the patch sewed onto the breast of the trio’s equally dark blue jackets.  I think this has something to do with my outburst in O’Hare after being delayed three times, missing a connection, and being re-routed to Chicago where thunderstorms had us grounded for three hours.  Look…I really had nothing to do with the disappearance of that snaggly woman at the Missed Flights/Distressed Passenger counter.

Any Way…I thought I could sit this out in peace here with the Philosopher Red at the Ghost Hotel, but he wasn’t around, only a dozen or so empty Impeial beer bottles and a messy pile of clippings from magazines to even suggest he had been here in the last month or so since I’ve been gone.  The clippings of word combinations were a bit disturbing, since I lean toward gallows humor and conspiracy theories.  Here’s what I found:

Sometimes, coming home can be a battle in itself.

TE ESPARA (you wait, in Spanish)

Black Magic


Stay Comfortable, Stay Connected

No more business as usual

Donde estan los ninos?  (Where are your children, in Spanish)

Robotic revolution

Heroes among us

Prefiere sus reuniones cara a cara a las 7:30 (you want to meet face-to-face at 7:30, in Spanish) with the “7” inked out, and a “9” scribbled above it.

Brilliance.  Proximity.  It’s all Here


A Costa Rica Wilson

While sifting through this debris I noticed a few marks on the fence Red and I put up to discourage any outside examination of our life in the Ghost Hotel.

Lifting a candle up to the marks I found this.  Wilson…  Yes, Wilson in Costa Rica.

I was getting the fear.

The more optimistic types – those who don’t know the history of the Philosopher Red – might take these clippings for an exercise in found poetry…the image for an innocent blot left after a day of painting – but I do know his history.

Now, I’m not sure about anything any longer, but the purpose for these clippings, and the paint blot?

I’ve  watched enough television cop shows to know the beginning of a ransom note, or a warning to the Rude Red Dude’s perceived enemies when I see one.


pilsen girl

pilsen girl (Photo credit: w rollins)

A young surf bum on a stool at a beach club bar (or, an apparently young surf bum) with an Australian  accent, leaned into me and whispered, “They hijacked an Imperial truck two days ago,” to me while I was yelling – I mean asking – the local Pilsen Girl why the only cold beer they had was Pilsen.

Imperial is the “Beer of Costa Rica” as the advertising says.

Just then the local miriachi band started playing Hotel California for the 137th time since I’ve been here, but there were no tourists paying them, and the singer was  staring directly at me.  The rest of the musicians were looking at their instruments, the ground, the palm trees, anywhere but at me.  Something in that Reptilian core of my brain began to itch…the fight or flight center which has always served me well.

The Aussie beach bum slipped me a local magazine called The Howler, opened it to the editor’s page, and said, “I’d read this if I were you.”  He left immediately, without finishing his Pilsen.  I did too.

It seems that some researchers have been snooping around, trying to connect the way children learn language with the way baby birds learn to make bird calls.  One of their bodies was found in the estuary of Las Baulus National Park, the favorite dumping ground for Nicaraguan and Columbian – I’ve got to go.  I’ll explain later, when I can…if I can.


Philosopher Red Proposes War on Mississippi, Elvis, and Blogistan

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting-

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting- (Photo credit: hira3)

So I wake up on the cold, unforgiving concrete floor of the Ghost Hotel this morning, again, to a scream of rage, again.  The Philosopher Red was shaking me violently, the gargling, guttural sounds of a gut-shot animal rising in his throat.

“Have you seen this,” he said…way too loud for my throbbing head.  He helped me up off the floor and forced me over to my laptop computer.  He pointed at the screen.  “Read that !”

I read what was on the screen.  It was a page with a story I had pulled up the night before, not expecting the Philosopher Red to be searching through my search history, or even be interested in the news of the day.  The story was about the ricin-laced letters some nut job from Mississippi had sent President Barack Obama, some senator named Wycker, from somewhere, and a Justice Court judge in Mississippi.  A copy of the letters was prominently displayed.

No one wanted to listen to me before.

There are still ‘Missing Pieces’

Maybe I have your attention now

Even if that means someone must die

This must stop.

To see a wrong and not expose it,

Is to become a silent partner to its continuance

I am KC and I approve this message.

“What kind of people are we if we let these kinds of attacks go unanswered?” Red raged.  “We got to teach these terrorists a lesson – blow them all to hell,” he said, slamming one fisted hand into the palm of another.

“Like that’s going to scare him,” I said, looking to see if Red had left me any coffee in the pot, “The guy’s from Mississippi.”

“I’d say a couple of drone strikes would do them some good,” Red growled.  “And if a couple of surgical strikes don’t straighten them up, we’ll send in the Marines…or the Navy SEALS…then blow them all to hell…hell, I tell you…HELL !”

The Philosopher Red was working himself into a self-righteous rage, which is never very pretty.  I tried to calm him.  I told him that the letter-sender was a nut job, an Elvis impersonator.

09 TN State Fair #174: Elvis Impersonator

09 TN State Fair #174: Elvis Impersonator (Photo credit: (aka Brent))

“Another Elvis follower,” Red said.  “The last Elvis impersonator I saw looked like Saddam Hussein.  We got to start taking these kind of troublemakers out.  How do these people spread this crap around,” he nearly screamed, pointing at the computer screen.  I told him the suspect, a Kevin Curtis, was a blogger…a frustrated writer.

“A what?  A Blogger?  Who let’s these people in our country?” Red raged.  “We ought to send his ass back to Blogistan where he belongs.  Don’t these damn A-rabs get CNN in Blogistan…just what about Shock and Awe don’t they understand?  They just don’t get it ’til they’re swinging from the end of a rope.”

His outraged threats echoed through the empty concrete chambers and hallways of the Ghost Hotel.

“You could have left me some coffee,” I said, tossing some grounds into the pot…cowboy coffee again.  This was starting to seem like one of those Philosopher Red type of days.


The Philosopher Red…Employed?

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting-

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting- (Photo credit: hira3)

So, on my way back to the Ghost Hotel this morning I met two tourists, I think…I hope they were passing through.  They were both whiter than the average tourist, and wearing black, which must have been murder in this heat.  Young wizards, I thought.  Just what this town needs.  They handed me a flyer advertising a spiritual retreat, and there, among several small pictures along the bottom…was a equally small picture of  the Philosopher Red with the title staff following his name.

He was in the Ghost Hotel, splayed out on my bed, when I entered our cavernous flop.

“Tell me you didn’t get a job at this joint…” I said, letting the flyer drop onto the bed next to him.  I was imagining the hubble-bubble toil and trouble being brewed up for me.

“Custodial staff, for now,” he said, ignoring the flyer, “but they have an adjunct medium position opening up in a month.”  He handed me a full-color, glossy brochure from a stack on the floor next to my candle.

I was right…trouble.  El Rancho de Los Milagros, right there on top.  It means something like Miracle Ranch in English.  Maxie Kahn’s wife, Miss Shari, runs the place.  Miss Shari and the El Rancho had both earned “colorful” reputations among locals, and in a small town, “colorful” is not always a good way to be thought of or described.  What comes to mind?

The first thing I noticed on the brochure was the photo of Maxie and Miss Shari, arms awkwardly intertwined, standing before a condo along the El Rancho de Los Milagros golf course.  Opening the flaps of the brochure…advertisement…advertisement and advertisements, mostly for somewhat related businesses…mostly known Kahn-owned operations.  There was a section for first-time visitors, listing gate fees based upon daily, weekly, and seasonal rates – parking included.  How magnanimous. Home and condominium prices were also listed, providing a buyer was approved by a board of directors, whoever they were, and became a member of the El Rancho de Los Milagros Assembly, whatever that entailed.  It didn’t sound like a healthy mix to me, but what could I –

El Rancho Rides Again!

El Rancho Rides Again! (Photo credit: Miss Shari)

“El Rancho de Los Milagros is the oldest community of spiritualists in Cost Rica,” Red began reading from another brochure.  “It’s a community of like-minded believers connected by the premise that the human soul has a continuous existence.  Our licensed and bonded spiritualists share a common belief  that it is possible to communicate, aided by their mediation and guidance, with the spirits of those who have passed from the physical world into the next.  They also offer property management seminars…” the Philosopher Red added, as if such an attraction would concern me…a guy who squats in a Ghost Hotel.

“I even signed you up for part-time and on-call work,” the Philosopher Red went on.  “I’ve vouched for you, said you’d…strive to provide an encouraging atmosphere for mediums and guests to talk about and experience the process of spirit communication.”

He was reading straight off a brochure, and the veins in the temples of my head were beginning to throb.

“It’s going to be great,” he said, oblivious to me rubbing my clenched fists into my eye sockets.  “It’ll be regular work…they’ve promised me staff openings at the Healing Creek, the Inspiration Stump, and the Waves of Woe Grieving Cove.”

“We’re screwed,” I said, looking further into the text of the brochure.   The special events planned by the Medium League of Los Milagros were notorious around Tamarindo…something to be avoided.  Sometimes they had Bingo, other times, karaoke, and –

“Forty dollars,” I said, pointing at the bottom of the brochure where “suggested donations” were listed for specific services, events, and souvenier spoons available to members and non-members, residents and aliens. “Someone’s going to give you forty dollars an hour to commune with them on the Inspiration Stump…or wail with them at the Waves of Woe Grieving Cove?”

The Philosopher Red was saying something to me, but I was reading, and re-reading, the final line…the one with the asterisk…the discaimer…

*Price and quality are not necessarily related.

“They’ve also got their own police force and volunteer fire department,” the Rude Red Dude was saying, as if some sense of safety were an issue.

This set me to thinking about how a psychic police force would work,,,a police department with nothing but psychics and seers and prognosticators.  I thought about squads of police rushing to the anticipated scene of a crime…cornering…beating…cuffing a perpetrator, before the crime was even committed.  A psychic court?  Does anyone need show up?  A psychic jail?  Hmmm…

This led to the consideration of how a volunteer psychic fire department would operate.  Did they need to be called if there were a fire?  Were they allowed to stop a fire before it started?  Or, did they have to wait, with hoses and tools at the ready, for the fire to start?  This could be amusing for a while…and, it had been a while since the Philosopher Red had prophesied anything, at least from what I remember.  He has been through some changes since he was last expected to do anything esoteric or cosmic, or even responsible.

Some days…I just feel like a guy about to be…

Señor de los Milagros

Señor de los Milagros (Photo credit: chosicarelax)

The Philosopher Red Takes on a Sufi Ghost

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting-

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting- (Photo credit: hira3)

The Philosopher Red was up early this morning and out looking for work.  Good for him.  I went out all day taking pictures, keeping up with the local happenings with Big Wave Billy as he gave lessons to  two Slovakians without an ounce of balance between them.  I’ve never seen two people so defeated…at odds with their bodies, and I felt they could be me, or I could be they…although wonderous happenings were in the works.  I just didn’t know it until later that night.

I heard the Philosopher Red come in.  He was talking in a severe way with himself, and he’s not a person to be interrupted when he’s arguing with himself.  He made a hell of a noise, the clinking of glass, the popping of the cork, a distinct gurgling, and then all was silent.Soon he was talking to himself again, but this time his voice seemed to change from his usual growling complaints to a slow, melodic drone, followed by his raspy and world-weary voice.


I crept over to the doorway separating our living spaces to hear more clearly.  If he was going to go over the edge again, I wanted to be one step ahead of the Rude Red Dude.  He was complaining about the image he had created around Tamarindo, and how he would never be able to find a job, and how dangerous he felt it was squatting in the Ghost Hotel.  A deep, calm and dignified voice replied:


“Forget safety.  Live where you fear to live.  Destroy your reputation.  Be notorious.”


“Easy for you to say,” I heard Red reply.  “Living out here on the edge of nothingness is driving me nuts.”


“I have lived on the lip of insanity, wanting to know reasons, knocking on the door,” the deep, calm voice replied, “It opens.  I’ve been knocking from the inside.”


“But I hear things…you’re just some guy from a book,” the Philosopher Red whined, “I’m talking about my reputation here.”


“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others,” the calm voice replied.  “Unfold your own myths.”


“Stooooooop,” Red said, raising his voice until it echoed through the empty concrete caverns of the Ghost Hotel.


“Raise your words, not voice.  It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”


“Whoooa,” the Philosopher Red taunted.  I heard the distinctive pop of a cork from a wine bottle.  “I thought you were going into some god thing, bringing in reinforcements, or something.”


“Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”


“Sure, easy for you to say…you’re a fragment of my imagination.”


“Sit, be still, and listen, because you’re drunk and we’re at the edge of the roof.”


I looked through the door.  All I could see was the red-robed back of the Philosopher Red sitting on an unfinished ledge of a concrete balcony.  He held a wine bottle in one hand, and an open book with an ornate, oriental design in the other.  I considered trying to pull him in to safety.

Jalal ad-Din Rumi gathers Sufi mystics.

Jalal ad-Din Rumi gathers Sufi mystics. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Either give me more wine or leave me alone,” the calm, resonate voice said.

There was no other person in the room.

The Philosopher Red took his bottle of wine and poured a small stream of the red liquid on the open pages.

“There, what’s your god have to say about that?”

“Knock, and He’ll open the door…Vanish, And He’ll make you shine like the sun…Fall, And He’ll raise you to the heavens…Become nothing, And He’ll turn you into everything.”

“Sounds wonderful,” the Rude Red Dude said, then taking a long draw off his wine bottle.  “This is all…”

“But listen to me.  For one moment quit being sad.  Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you.”

The Philosopher Red took another drink off his wine bottle, then poured a good draught over the pages of the book he was holding open, and turned the page.

“Don’t you have some place to be?” Red asked…a sarcastic tone.  “Some other souls to save?”

“My soul is from  elsewhere, I’m sure of that,” the resonant voice answered, “And I intend to end up there.”

“Yeah,” Red said.  “Everybody’s got something to hide except me and my monkey,” he sang, not sounding a bit like Paul McCartney.

“Be like melting snow – wash yourself of yourself,” the calm, deep voice said, assuring.

“…like melting snow…wash myself of yourself…”  The Philosopher Red slurred, putting the book down on the ledge of the balcony and taking a long drink, finishing the wine bottle. “I’m either going to throw up, or pass out…it’s a toss-up.”

“The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you,” a disemboweled, resonant voice intoned.  “Don’t go back to sleep.”

I watched as The Philosopher Red slid clumsily from the balcony, lie down on my bed, and roll over on his back.

“The breeze has secrets to tell me,” he slurred.  “I can’t go…to…slee…”

And he was out cold.

I picked the book up and looked it over.  A poetry book…the name on the cover –  Jalaladdin Rumi.

I slept the light sleep of a dancer that night…spinning, white-clad whirling dervishes twirling their way around and around the stage floor of my dim dream



The Philosopher Red: A Popeless Night in the Ghost Hotel

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting-

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting- (Photo credit: hira3)

Another night banished to the Ghost Hotel, hiding out from Maxie Kahn.

I’ve liberated electrical service from the bed and breakfast next door, and The Philosopher Red lies around all day watching television while I try to hustle us up a new place to live. I have inquired about the Rude Red Dude’s new listless lifestyle, which is very similar to his former listless lifestyle, but even more so.

Without taking his eyes off the television, he replies:”There’s a new Popelessness in the air, and I can’t seem to shake it.” As much as I prefer he get his red-robed rear end up and out of the Ghost Hotel, I decide that it’s better to be kind than right.

I take a walk to the local bookstore and find two films that might be appropriate for these trying times.  When I get back the Philosopher Red is wiping the salsa from his fingers onto my sheets.

I toss the DVDs on my bed for his consideration.

We Have a Pope (film)

We Have a Pope (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“How about “We Have a Pope.” I ask him.  “It’s an Italian comedy -”

“Appropriate, so far,” Red replies.

“…originally titled Habemus Papam, the Latin phrase used to announce the election of a new Pope.  Written by Nanni Moretti, directed by Nanni Moretti, and starring Nanni Moretti.”

“Sound wonderful,” the Rude Red Dude sighs, “Couldn’t get any one to join him in this work of genius?”

“Give it a chance,” I say.  “It’s about a Cardinal who is elected Pope against his wishes, and the therapist brought in by the Vatican to help him overcome his panic.  It played during the Cannes Film Festival in 2011,” I add, trying to instill some enthusiasm.

“Played where…Toledo…Des Moines…Caracas…the Vatican,” he says, followed by a snort.

“Jerzy Stuhr is in it too,” not knowing any Jerzy other than Kosinski, but hoping for the best.

“Euro-trash rejects,” the red-robed one replies.

I have to remember, The Philosopher Red is not a foreign film fan…he’s the only person I know who has fallen asleep watching Run Lola Run, and who could fall asleep watching that frenetic film?

My answer…I’m looking at him sprawled across my bed.

Cover of "The Pope of Greenwich Village"

Cover of The Pope of Greenwich Village

“How about an American film then,” I ask.  “I also got The Pope of Greenwich Village with Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts, Daryl Hannah, Geraldine Page, and Burt Young.”

“This is what you bring me to assuage my Popelessness? And…”

“…and,” I go on, reading from the back of the DVD case, “Page won an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for a two scene role, and -”

“Fitting,” The Philosopher Red replies.  “Popes sightings are rare these days.”

“The movie centers around Paulie, a schemer who -”

“Not a documentary,” the Rude Red Dude whines.  “Wasn’t there already a Pope Paulie, or did I miss a decade or two?”

Pope John Paul II,” I tell him.

“Pope John Paulie II,” he says.  “Wasn’t he the bass player in Led Zeppelin, or something.  How about cutting the crap and nominating Keith Richard for Pope…I’ll get behind that campaign. Does the Pope have to be alive?”  I wonder what kind of smoke would be coming from the Vatican chimney if Keith was elected Pope.

“It wouldn’t seem like it, sometimes,” I say, considering the options that would open up.  “How about that guy Bentham you’re always going on about…or Thomas Hobbes…he had the answer – don’t feed the poor…no more poor.”

“How dare you bring Jeremy Bentham into this mess.  The King of Utilitarianism?  He wouldn’t keep such company…anything else?

“…a schemer,” I carry on, reading from the DVD cover, “who finds himself out of work…criminal activity…no way to support his pregnant girlfriend…expensive tastes but not much money…”

“Sounds like reality television to me,” Red says, “Snookie in this farce?  Snookie…the first Pope from New Jersey…I like that.”

The Philosopher Red gets up, takes the DVD out of my hand, picks up the other one, and throws them both out of the broken window.

“I think the season premiere of Dancing with the Stars is on tonight,” he says.  “I’m not missing that for this pap.”

I’m satisfied if The Philosopher Red is satisfied.

The Philosopher Red and the Value of a Dollar

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting-

達磨 Dharma-Zen Painting- (Photo credit: hira3)

I had been considering The Philosopher Red’s absence from my life as a sort of vacation, but it has become a minor concern over the past few days.  There’s no telling what he could have gotten himself into, or, what kind of trouble he could be bringing to my doorstep.  Maria, La Negrita de los Muertos, and her band of so-called revolutionaries, Los Monos Locos, have taken over my apartment, and as far as I’m concerned, the Little Dark Lady of Death and The Crazy Monkeys can have it.  I have gotten my guitar, computer, flip-flops, t-shirts and books out, so no big loss.  The rent was due last week, I think…let them worry about that.

But The Rude Red Dude…he’s been with me for a long time, and one of my faults is loyalty, despite the distress or disruption it brings into my life. We could patch things up…maybe make some amends…or just duke it out in the street like a couple of drunken sailors on shore leave.  There’s no telling with him.  But, anyway, I won’t wax on about my problems and from whence they stem…they stem from me, I know.

A Walk SignSo, it was a bit of a relief to see his name on a handbill tacked to a telephone pole I passed on the way to the market this morning.  The handbill, just beneath another one announcing a performance of Aladdin at the amateur theatre, was promoting:

An Evening of Enlightened Release from the Mystical – The Tao of the Dollar

I found this a bit odd, considering Red’s chosen occupation as philosophical mystic.  And the handbill was of high quality, not some scrawl on the back of one of my manuscript pages, like I would expect from him.  A promise of professionalism.  Then I noticed where the Enlightened Release was to take place…a run-down restaurant operated by a family of Columbian refugees.  Everyone in town calls it “The Place With No Name” and…everyone also knows who owns it – Maxie Kahn, the largest gangster in Tamarindo.  A money-hungry thug financing a spiritual speech by a crazed monk?  Nothing surprises me around here.

Regardless of who was financing The Philosopher Red these days, I had to see if we could get our heads together, on the same page, to use an ugly cliché from Maxie’s vocabulary of deadly entrepreneurial opportunism.

So, I fluff and shake my cleanest t-shirt, buff the dust off my flip-flops, and set the clock on my microwave to make sure I’m aware of the time.  Once all is in order I take a siesta…this could be a rough night.

Marie F.U.S.S. III arrive at The Place With No Name early so as to get a prime seat.  My first surprise is finding Maria, La Negrita de los Muertos at the door taking “donations” and checking names against a list of about twenty VIPs.  I ask her about my apartment.  She asks me about a donation.  I ask her about her gang of revolutionaries, she tells me they’ve “found their peace in the jungle” and repeats her request for donations.  Being as she’s dressed in her best camouflage, and sporting an assault rifle, I find exactly the equivalent of one dollar in Costa Rican change.  She doesn’t seem pleased, but does give me a seat near the toilets, but downwind.  Small favors are appreciated, and I start telling her so when she bangs the butt of her rifle on my table and tells me to –

“Shut up, prole…the Great One is before us.”  She sits beside me, her rifle on the table.

And, there he is…hefting his Red way onto a makeshift stage in the center of the room.  Two of Maxie’s Columbian thugs sit off to the side.  Shiny brass bowls placed at the four corners of the stage emit coiling wisps of incense smoke that smell like….money?  No, not just money…Dirty Old Money.

“Thank you so much for joining me tonight,” Red begins, his voice a murmur.  “Let me remind every one of you in this room that each of us is full of energy.  Together we can change our worlds.  The first thing you must understand in order to utilize this energy is to understand that we are nothing…NO THING,” he says, modulating his voice like an evangelical preacher.  “You are temporal, mortal…a small black decimal point in a universal bottom line that defines the value of this life.  The second thing you must understand is that we exist in two systems of immortal accounting…either you are consonant with the universe as we know it, or you are dissonant…unacounted for.  How do you know which state you’re in?”  The Rude Red Dude stands up to his full height, shaking the wrinkles from his red robe, and smiles… “You just do.

“The modern world has given us a most detailed methodology of finding our place in it, a methodology which has been shattered in  hedonistic Tamarindo, and similar  shanty towns.  SHATTERED…FRAGMENTED…and, the results are bewilderment, estrangement.  This brush with nothingness…enumerated dispair, can only result in cynicism, empty gestures of defiance, anger, violence…you name it.  BUT – there is a way to get yourself on the right side of the ledger of life…MONEEEY,” he wailed, rubbing his thumbs and forefingers together.

“Dissonance is simply the lack of money…and the corollary…consanance, is the abundance of  money.”

I am in shock.  I can’t imagine what the past few days spent with Maxie Kahn have done to the fragile mind of The Philosopher Red, I need to…

“When we have money our pathways are lined with rose petals, our underwear smells lemony fresh, and we love everyone we meet, and wake to the sound of song birds…when we don’t have money we listen to heavy metal music, we smell like musty socks, have infrequent bowel movements, and awaken to sounds of alarm clocks.  The paradox of the rose-petaled path can only be solved by the Tao of the Dollar…to fully realize the multi-layered dividends offered unto you, you must enumerate the divine toll, then PAY !  The world offers an overflowing bounty of goods, services and status symbols to straighten out the most hopeless cases of uncapitalized constipation. Many are those that will lie to you…tell you that the good life is there for the taking – all you have to do is reach out and it will be handed to you.  No, my friends…that results in dissonance, penalties accruing on a descending scale of -”

I grab Maria by the collar, grab her assault rifle, force her head to the table, and point the barrel right between her eyes.

“Nobody move,” I shout, trying to sound like an actor in an action movie.

“Terminate,” Maxie Kahn says to the two thick-bodied thugs fronting the stage.  They both rise, bringing pistols out of the waistbands of their sweat-soaked leisure suits.

I let go of Maria and point the rifle toward Maxie’s prominent belly.  The Philosopher Red stands stiffly, eyes lizard-lidded.

Maxie lets out a heavy sigh.  “You’re forfeiting your admission fee, I hope you know.”

I move to the stage, grab The Philosopher Red by a baggy sleeve and pull him behind me, moving toward the door.  The Rude Red Dude pulls me to a stop, plucks a dollar from Maria’s pocket, and asks me exactly the question that’s been on my mind since I started this idiotic action:  “Do you think the busses are still running?”

I have so little experience with this sort of thing, but I’ll figure it out as I go along.