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The last projector, p.1

The Last Projector, page 1


The Last Projector

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The Last Projector

  Praise for David James Keaton & The Last Projector

  “The Most Anticipated Book of 2014. Hell, it’s the most anticipated book since this podcast has existed.”

  –Booked. Podcast

  “Imagine Harry Crews’ grit-filled world head-butting William Gaddis’ dense, rollicking literary hopscotch and you’re firmly entrenched in David James Keaton country. His thrilling debut, THE LAST PROJECTOR, is the bubbling, epic story of how wonderfully screwed up America is.”

  –Patrick Wensink, author of Broken Piano for President

  “That thing called ‘voice’ authors are said to have? Keaton’s are legion. That ‘Tap, tap, tap’ you may hear issuing from this book? I wouldn’t open it up without a quick ‘Klaatu barada nikto’ for good measure.”

  –Jedidiah Ayres, author of Peckerwood

  “David James Keaton is a monomaniacal genius, splicing words together in the tailmost room of your movie-saturated snakebrain, and THE LAST PROJECTOR is his masterpiece. It is insane, anarchic, and fucking brilliant. I can’t wait to read it again.”

  –Benjamin Whitmer, author of Cry Father

  “Quite simply, David James Keaton is a twisted genius, and you read his work at your own risk, risk of a neural or moral melt-down... Keaton’s stories are like secret maps to murder swamps where the bodies are buried by the serial killers who comprise Keaton’s fan clubs... Say you are a mad scientist and you want to make a monster writer of the future, well, first you dig up the corpse of Kafka, get some DNA, then you do the same with David Foster Wallace, then toss some Stephen King and Woody Allen into the mixture. Add a pinch of Poe and Robert Parker, shake the test tube with vigor and presto you have David James Keaton. His writings are as sickly exuberant and gargantuan as gothic dirigibles, tall tales of teleportation into urban myth and mystery, post-truth, anti-reality, they break every rule of regular fiction and good taste.”

  –Chuck Kinder, author of Honeymooners

  A Broken River Books original

  Broken River Books

  10765 SW Murdock Lane

  Apt. G6

  Tigard, OR 97224

  Copyright © 2014 by David James Keaton

  Cover art and design copyright © 2014 by Joel Vollmer

  Additional design by Matthew Revert

  Interior design by J David Osborne

  Scenes from The Last Projector were originally broadcast in drastically different form in Dogzplot, Indiana Crime Review, Dirty Noir, Pulp Metal Magazine, Shotgun Honey, Slut: Pure Slush Vol. 1, Yellow Mama, A Quick Bite of Flesh, PANK, Uncle B’s Drive-In Fiction, Grift, and Hell.

  All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written consent of the publisher, except where permitted by law.

  This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination. Where the names of actual celebrities or corporate entities appear, they are used for fictional purposes and do not constitute assertions of fact. Any resemblance to real events or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

  ISBN: 978-1-940885-14-8

  Printed in the USA.




  David James Keaton

  To my mother,

  for her ceaseless encouragement and love, as well as her tremendous patience when I always wanted to watch a movie

  “She has a view of Niagara that nobody has

  And Basin Street, known as the birthplace of jazz

  And on a clear day you can see Alcatraz!

  You can learn a lot from Lydia…”

  -Groucho Marx “Lydia the Tattooed Lady”


  Tap Tap Tap – Doing Everything but Actually Doing It – Captain Redbeard Waves the White Flag – Dreamcatchers Equal Dogcatchers but Daydreamcatchers Save Lives – No Sleep till Krypton – The Oldest Tricky Shit in the Book Is Her – Double Wishbone Suspension – Larry Catches Something – Three Minutes

  “A black eyed dog he called at my door

  The black eyed dog he called for more

  A black eyed dog he knew my name

  A black eyed dog he knew my name

  A black eyed dog, a black eyed dog

  I’m growing old and I wanna go home

  I’m growing old and I don’t wanna know”

  -Nick Drake “Black Eyed Dog”

  Larry was late to the porn set as usual. He blamed that stretch of road near the baseball diamond. He would slow way down, drive with one knee, elbow hanging out the window as he combed the unruly white hairs of his beard with his fingers to start the day with a bit more confidence. His morning routine typically peaked with him spraying mouthwash out the window of his car at the same four-way stop, then tearing ass down the on-ramp to valiantly joust some morning traffic, pointing a finger over the lip of his Styrofoam cup to pretend it was a lance.

  But today, something big was blocking his way.

  Larry stomped the brakes, then peered through his steering wheel, cup squeaking between his teeth, a drop of coffee stinging his nose, finding himself staring down some red-faced, steel-worker-looking bastard. Just standing there, right in the middle of the road, actually squeezing Larry’s hood ornament in a furry fist the size of a catcher’s mitt. Larry assessed the serious muscle mass on this beast by the way his car creaked under the weight, and, squinting harder over the wheel, he could make out what was either the end of a Marine Corps anchor tattoo or a devil’s pointy tail peeking out of the sleeve of his sweat-stained flannel. Larry should have revved the engine, stabbed the horn, done something, anything to coax the man out of his way. But he was paralyzed. Larry felt like this fucker was gripping his necktie instead of his car, like he was frozen in his own headlights.

  He waited, waited, nervous foot hovering over the gas.

  Larry hated it when he locked up like this. It wasn’t uncommon, and quite a liability at his job. It always made him think of hitting pause on a videotape, and how, if left unattended, the tape would begin to stretch and tear, forever marking the spot on the movie with an EKG ripple of white static across his television screen. He sometimes had to visualize his finger pressing “play” on an imaginary VCR in order to start moving again.

  But this time, the man hit the magic button for him. As if grabbing his goddamn vehicle at an intersection and stopping it dead didn’t already have Larry’s attention, the monster was now knocking on the heavy glass of his headlight with the knuckles of his other meaty paw. Larry felt the sound deep in his chest.

  Tap, tap, tap.

  Then the red-faced bastard released the steel hourglass logo on his Grenada’s nose and came around to Larry’s window with whatever bullshit he was gonna bark already working around his mouth like too much bubblegum.

  “Can I help you?” Larry tried, all friendly.

  What came out of the man’s mouth was a riddle for the ages:

  “Why the fuck you spit green on my fuckin’ grandma every day, cockfucker?” bleated the red bastard.

  “Huh? What? No, I just...” he bubbled out of the corner of his mouth, drooling a little green.

  “Every day she says she watches you spit on her house.” Impossibly, the bastard’s face grew even redder. “What the fuck you got against my grandma’s house, motherfucker?!”

  Larry looked at the house in question and stifled a laugh. No way he was spitting that far and hitting grandma’s house. No way. Wait…

  Oh. That house. The one with the Virgin Mary statue in the front yard.

  The sculpture was a skinnier representation of Mary than
the ones he was recently starting to notice on the bodies at work, a serene visage turning up regularly on more and more tattoos, creeping dangerously closer to the naughty “bathing suit areas.” But those renditions were pink, plump, usually bowing and bending with the movement of the muscles below Mary’s noble form. This statue was a different kind of Mary altogether. Hard, sinewy, as if the sculpture had been crafted to be a weapon, kind of like an unexploded bomb that had stabbed the ground decades earlier but never went off, never even tipped over. Her body was triangular, broad-shouldered, coming to a point at her feet, probably in order to jam her into the hardest soil and still maintain maximum stability. Looking at her now, he was suddenly struck by her profile. She reminded him of something else he’d seen at work lately: smaller, plastic Marys that his crew would roll out on a TV tray when the men’s tanks were exhausted, like orderly rows of pink and purple Fisher Price surgical tools.

  Yes, Stone Mary’s silhouette was exactly like a vibrator, specifically those bunny rabbit deals. There was no denying it. In his business, where the band played every possible “instrument,” Larry had seen some crazy dildos before: Hello Kitty, Strawberry Shortcake, Cthulhu, Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, chainsaws, revolvers, coffins, even one molded after the Pope, big pointy hat and all. He’d even seen a line of Virgin Mary urinals once at a rinky-dink Creation Museum in Alabama, palms out like they were daring you to piss on them. Few people believed him about the urinals because he couldn’t wrestle one loose from the wall, but it was true. He was seeing her everywhere.

  But he’d never seen a Virgin Mary vibrator before. It was a shame, too, because, built to the right dimensions, those clasped hands locked forever in prayer were positioned perfectly for clitoral stimulation.

  If he ever got past this sputtering tower of asshole blocking his path, Larry was honestly considering a call to the U.S. Patent Office.

  Today, however, he noticed Mary was leaning a bit, and he suddenly remembered why. Larry had gotten drunk a few nights back and left his car at the neighborhood bar to hoof it the short three blocks back home. And on the way, when he saw her growing in the distance all righteous and proud and stone-faced, head tilted forever in reverence, he couldn’t help picking up his pace until he was at a dead run. Then, before he could talk his buzz out of it, he lowered his shoulder and uprooted the statue from the yard. Tucking her under one arm and never slowing, he circled every base at the baseball diamond across the street, then shamefully ran back to screw her into the wet earth from where he’d snatched her, positioned under that umbrella of pink flowers where she seemed to grow taller every day, finally saying good night with a gentle, first-date kind of kiss on the gray stone apple of her cheek.

  He’d always tried to show Stone Mary the utmost respect, even that night. Any other drunk fuck would have smashed her ass on the street like a Halloween pumpkin. But not Larry. Just who does this orangutan think he is?

  Mouth still dribbling, Larry decided to ask him.

  “Listen, just who do you think...”

  And that’s when the red bastard punched him in the mush. Not particularly fast, but hard and heavy, like a lumbering freight train with no caboose any time soon. Larry’s mouth ballooned like he was blowing a fish face on a window, then it helplessly rode along that prodigious big fist until it eventually ran out of arm. Larry squawked when the force of the blow popped his bottom lip against his teeth like a hot dog left boiling too long in the pot.

  The last bit of green mystery mint foam sprayed the steering wheel, and for a second Larry thought that’s what his blood looked like, though yellow would have seemed more appropriate. Then things started to clear, and the world began to straighten itself back out. Until a screech like a strangled cat came from deep in the dash.

  Did he punch my car, too? Larry wondered.

  That’s when he saw the black tape curling into the ashtray like a submissive puppy’s tail and realized that the red bastard had actually hit Larry so hard it had somehow made his stereo choke on his brand-new cassette, The Cult’s Sonic Temple, his recently anointed, unofficial soundtrack to morning commutes. Not even a week old, he’d only been able to listen to “Love Removal Machine” 47 times. Only approximately 984 “baby, baby, baby”s.

  You can’t say “baby” that many times without catching one, Larry laughed to himself, rubbing his face way too hard and remembering something his ex-wife once said. And you can’t talk with mouthwash in your mouth, so you better get some more.

  But the bastard was long gone before Larry’s eyes stopped watering, and he forgot about his vomiting dashboard and focused his anger on Mary instead, wishing he’d spiked that bitch on the asphalt like a touchdown that drunken night he kissed her, wishing he’d watched her detonate between his stumbling feet, on the faded binary code of lines and reflectors that divided the highway.

  Larry stared into the dead eyes of the statue another minute or two, heartbeat eventually slowing in his fish lip, waiting to see who would blink first. Then he checked his watch and headed to work, twisting a bit of blood into his beard and slipping lower, lower, lower in the driver’s seat with every turn.

  “I’m gonna honk at that cop.”

  “Don’t do it.”

  “Why not? He won’t know it’s me. Look at all these cars.”

  “He might.”

  “Nah, it’ll be like in the movies when someone in the crowd yells, ‘We will never yield!’ and the villain is all like, ‘Who said that?!’”

  “That was never in a movie.”

  “I’m gonna honk.”

  “Don’t do it. Honking is an imperfect weapon. Lots of collateral damage.”

  “What the hell is he doing blocking both lanes?”


  “Look, there’s a trailer with the construction arrow on the left, so why is he matching speed in the middle lane? This is idiotic.” Pause. “I’m gonna honk at him.”

  “Have you ever honked at a cop?”

  “Nope! But now’s my chance. I’m in the middle of five fucking cars. It’ll be like shouting, ‘I am Spartacus!’ He’ll have no idea who did it.”

  “I’m just saying…”

  He honked.

  The noise caused every car near the flashing arrow to hit their brakes simultaneously, including the cop. Then the cop was slowing, slowing, slowing until he was right next to them.

  “Isn’t it amazing how a cop behind you makes you automatically itemize everything in your trunk?”

  Then he was behind them. With the flashers on.


  “What was that all about?” the police officer asked them after they’d all pulled over.

  “Wasn’t me,” the boy said.

  “Where are you going?”

  “What does that have to do with anything?” the girl asked.

  “Step out of the car, please, sir. You, too, ma’am.”

  The big bear buster of a cop peered over his sunglasses at her.

  “So, where are you going?” he sighed.

  “To get a desk lamp.”

  “License and registration, please. You, too, ma’am.”

  The cop looked at their photos a while.

  “This doesn’t look like you, Mister... Gray? Adam Gray? Or do we got an ‘Adam Henry’ here?” he laughed. “How old are you in this picture?”

  “Huh? 23.”

  “And now?”

  “What? It says it right there.” Awkward silence. “29?”

  “And you, Miss Blue?”

  “And me what?” she muttered. Then, “Wait, what did you call me?”

  “How old are you?”

  “Did you say ‘Blue?’ My name’s not ‘Blue.’”

  “Oh, sorry, ‘Amber.’ I was looking at ‘eye color.’ But wouldn’t that be interesting if your name was Blue and his was Gray?” he laughed.

  “My name is Gray,” Adam mumbled. “Why would that be funny?”

  “You know, like the Civil War! Match made in hell…”
  The cop studied them as their engine ticked away the seconds. Then he moved in close, and Amber smelled a cloud of something around him like piss and strawberries.

  “I’m 21,” Amber finally said, nervous now.

  “Sir, what’s in that bag in your back seat?”

  “Cat food.”

  “But her shirt clearly has a dog on it.”

  They both looked at each other then back at the cop.

  “It sure does, ‘Detective,’” Adam said with a sprinkle of smartass.

  “I have five dogs of my own,” Amber said carefully. “You know, the little yappy kind.”

  “I see. Good luck with that.”

  The cop handed back their licenses, then stood back and waited until they noticed he’d given them each the wrong one. It took a minute.

  “Next time, yield.”

  The cop started walking away.

  “And stop sticking your tongue out when they take your picture, boy!” the cop barked suddenly, startling them both. “Oldest trick in the book! Right up there with dogs on your shirt.”

  “The oldest trick in the book was when the caveman pulled his dick out of a hat,” she mumbled. “The very first hat, of course.”

  Then he was gone.

  The boy and the girl gave each other’s fake I.D.’s an extra long look. The boy thought their tiny plastic cards suddenly seemed like a list of reasons why they would be an unlikely match, and he was angrier than he thought possible. The girl didn’t think this at all and simply waited for the boy to give her license back. They’d picked the names for a joke, and she loved how they sounded out loud in the mouth of a cop.

  And if anyone checked the video on the officer’s dashboard camera, they both mouthed the words at the exact same time:

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