Saturday, 28 November 2009


The Man In The Film Noir Hat

by Garrett Cook

His face is like a calavera, mocking all evils with a serpentine smirk. His eyes are beautiful, yellowy catseye green and somehow reflect like a makeup mirror. His suit is white with red stripes like a carnival barker’s, but his hat doesn’t match, that’s the thing. His hat is a wide-brimmed grey fedora like a gangster from an old movie with Edward G. Robinson or James Cagney. It’s just wrong wearing a hat like that with his suit. Where does he get off pretending to be a gangster?

He’s dashingly devastatingly distractingly handsome and when he walks into Beaumont’ s Café, Lucille the pretty young waitress almost forgets her new husband, a wild-looking musician that she’s been married to for three months. She has no clue who the man in the Film Noir hat is, but it doesn’t matter. She wants him to hold her, to breathe his breath (peppermint like his suit) in her hair, to kiss her until she can’t breathe at all. She sways her hips like Mae West and looks at him with thirst in her dark brown eyes. “Hmm” she says with her lips, but in her mind the sound amounts to a voracious “mmm”.

“What can I do for you?’ She says half-suggestively catching a drop of saliva with her tongue before it becomes too conspicuous.

He smiles, but doesn’t open his mouth at first, until he talks, his voice jingling jangling, tintinnabulations of a tambourine.

“Do you run this place?’

Lucille smiles. She knows it’s nothing like the calavera grin, nowhere near as horrifyingly comfortingly lovingly brutally softly warmly coldly seductive. She’s ashamed that she might be trying to seduce him back. What would her husband say? What husband? All there is right now is a man in a candycane carnival barker suit and a hat that doesn’t belong at all. He is what is there, so he is what is real.

“No. My aunt Jess does.”

The smile slides across his face like a blues man’s harmonica. It reveals glimmering gleaming teeth, sharp, but not like an animal’s, no. Like a vampire’s. Teeth to tear and torment.
“Really, that’s a surprise. I took one look at you and I said to myself “this pretty little lady runs the restaurant.” There seems to be an air of authority about you. Your carriage is very…” The word does not come, or else he delays it to make the forthcoming word seem more felicitous. His brow furrows as if he’s deep in thought. “Majestic.”

She blushes and her face turns reddish pinkish frostbitten scarlet. “Do you want me to go get her?”

“If it’s no trouble.” He says it like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood with a hypermasculine inflection. The smile comes back.

She sways her hips again, like Mae West or Peggie Lee or some similarly sultry figure.
Lucille walks into the kitchen where slightly haggard Aunt Jess Beaumont is scrubbing a pan caked with blueberry pie. The smell of Dawn permeates the room yet doesn't get rid of the noxious meatloaf stench around it. “There’s a man to see you, Aunt Jess,” Lucille tells the middle-aged cook and proprietor of the café, “he’s cute, but he sounds like a salesman.”

“Tell him to go away.” Lucille doesn’t want him to go away. She clings to her aunt’s thighs like a child and begins to sob. After the tantrum, Jess does come out of the kitchen, but she’s awfully suspicious. Lucille is usually somewhat calm and down-to-earth, though she does go on and she’s certainly not the sharpest knife in the drawer. There’s some bad juju around this place and she just can’t put her finger on it.

Then she sees the man in the Film Noir hat and she smells the musk of beauty and corruption, of carcasses and violets and dead things and peppermints and…money. She too smiles at him. She too sways her hips, hips supporting her somewhat ample girth. She too hears “mmm” in her mind. Money, violets…she likes him and she can’t tell why. She’d have a worse tantrum than Lucille if he had to leave.

“What do you want?” she asks him. She’s trying to be the consummate businesswoman. She’s trying to sound like one sounds when dealing with a salesman. It doesn’t work on him, he knows she smells the violets and the money and the corpses. He knows she is “mmm”ing at the center of her gold-flecked-grey-flecked hair. Lucille is looking at him in silent worship, eyes as wide as an English girl’s at a Tom Jones concert.

“I’m an idea man,” he says, “I sell ideas.”

Jess’ hand ventures ponderously pensively to her chin. “How much are these ideas?” She asks. She’s only curious. Yes, that’s it. She couldn’t be taken in by some smooth-talking stranger selling something she didn’t want. Violets and money and…mmm.

“A dollar.” He says.

Jess takes out the dollar like one possessed and gives it to him. She mouths the words “I love you” but would never say them out loud. His calavera smile and his yellowy catseye green eyes say “I know you do.”

He stuffs the dollar in the jacket pocket of his candy-cane carnival barker suit. “Your coffee should be a quarter cheaper.” He tips his hat revealing a bald head decorated with pretty patterns like those of a Faberge egg. Each bizarre line and swirl forms the letters of an unwritten novel or the scenes of a film that won’t ever be screened. Lucille and Jess see in those patterns the blinding light of ingenuity and have a headache just from looking at the bare, bald head of the man in the film noir hat. Then he walks out, bathed in a light of pure and unrefined thought and leaving an olfactory trail of money and violets and corpses and peppermints. As stupid as what he suggested might be, it is positively epiphanous to Jess.

Four days pass and he has gone from Maryland to New York on his flying carpet of dreamstuff. He gets a hotdog with Jess’ dollar and walks on to the UN building. He’s about to go in, when he is stopped by security. They stop him, but they don’t. They just don’t dare to make him state his business, because it must be too big to understand. They’re right.

Inside, the world is meeting. Population 200 and something. The man who is China is arguing with the man who is France regarding something neither one cares about. The man who is France took the man who is China’s parking space.

Everything stops when they see the man in the Film Noir hat. They smell the violets and peppermints and money and corpses. They all like the man in the Film Noir hat.
“What do you want?” says the man who is our great nation feigning frustration to obscure his interest in the man in the Film Noir hat.

“I’m here to sell you an idea,” the man in the Film Noir hat says.

“How much?” says the man who is Switzerland.

“A dollar.”

The man in the Film Noir hat takes Switzerland’s dollar and makes his suggestion: “This world is over. I say nuke the damn thing.”

Each one of them stops and thinks about it. And each one of them has to laugh at the absurdities they’ve lived with.

And everyone smiles. The world joins hands, wraps their arms around friend and foe alike…

And there is fire and screaming and crying children and melting cities and a mushroom cloud…

And the man in the Film Noir hat takes a leisurely stroll through the dust, his work done in this corner of reality. He stops and enjoys the voice of his sister Calliope, singing dirges for the slain woven with threads of great operatic sopranos. He basks in the music for a little while, then looks down at his watch. He’s sad to go, but there is promise yet. Other places and other times are calling, other dirges, lament of a thousand bluesmen, hearts that ache to stop to stop the ache.

“Goodbye, blue ball,” he says to this earth, “a muse’s work is never done.”

Garrett Cook is worried. He is worried about when the shit goes down; he is worried about one day finding himself not the man he is supposed to be; he is worried about secret histories, wacky costumes, being pelted with bricks by people when he walks down the street and all manner of other things.

If he didn't worry about these things, you'd have to, but conversely, he might just make you worry about them. He's the author of the Murderland books, Archelon Ranch and the upcoming Jimmy Plush, Teddy Bear Detective now available for preorder.

He is also the Associate Editor of Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens. His website is

It's a good place to buy stuff. Better than Mexico even.

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