Okay, so this week, we are COUNTING DOWN the last SEVEN DAYS leading up to the publication of my new novel METRO. It drops next Monday, SEPTEMBER THE14th! So every single day up until then, we will have an ALL-NEW entry in this series!
So . . . first up . . .
The original Founding members of The Kingdom are with us to tell an awesome two part tale of the NON-HUMAN compliment that rounded out the “classic Kingdom” lineup. Bryan is back today to begin the tale in spectacular style, and our old amigo Scott Hiles will be checking in tomorrow to wrap it up with sinister savoir-faire. Some of this stuff is really hilarious. And I love these guys. Lots. Today’s episode is illustrated with some of the more awesome collages that decorated the walls of our old house. It’s all fairly random imagery, but we worked hard to make it happen, just like Bryan worked hard to write this awesome remembrance. So without further ado, let us settle in for the epic life story of . . .
THE KING OF THE COOL CATS
by Bryan Geer
Maybe I am wrong, but I feel that the Golden Age lineup at the Kingdom was Scott, Bryan and Stephen. The Silver Age was Stephen, Robert and Joe. As to the Bronze Age, others can say better than I. But before Stephen moved in, there was a sort of proto-community of Scott, Bryan and That Bastard Tom. About That Bastard Tom many stories can and have been told, but not here and now. Fuck that bastard. I will not digress.
(I will, says Stephen. See me after the story is over.)
And before That Bastard Tom, there was that other guy—Stacey.
Stacey was a pretty cool cat. He worked at a nearby popular restaurant, which meant he was always bringing food, wonderful food, into the pad. Stacey was the guy who watched DIE HERD every single day—each and every day, I kid you not—which was impressive to us, and we all learned a lot watching that movie. Like how important wearing shoes is when you are running away from bad people in a room full of broken glass. Shoes are just important in general, I guess. But anyway.
One Thanksgiving, Stacey and Scott and I cooked up an enormous turkey in one of those little R2-D2 style smokers; it took 24 hours of smoking time with the three of us splitting up the clock in shifts to make sure that the smoker stayed both smoky and moist, and I must say that the turkey was delicious as a motherfucker. It was the best motherfucking Thanksgiving ever.
Or maybe only the second best: the following year, Stacey’s divorced mother, who was a hottie (the term MILF had not yet been invented), came into the Kingdom to spend the holiday with her son and, incidentally, to fuck one of her son’s roommates, I will not say who exactly but as the song says Stacey’s mom had got it going on, knowwhatImsayin? Maybe that was the best motherfucking Thanksgiving ever, who can say? I certainly am not saying.
But anyway: Stacey’s mom, Stacey’s smoked turkey, Stacey’s amazing DIE HARD habit (he had a smiler Snake Plissken affliction), and Stacey’s free food were only the smallest part of Stacey’s legacy to the Kingdom. Most importantly, Stacey introduced us to the coolest cat of them all, the one who ended up being the Fourth Amigo for many years to come:
Gaston and Marilyn were two cute fuzzy kittens whom Stacey brought home from work one day. I was not amused by the fuzzy cuteness. “This is no environment for pets, Stace,” I said. “We do drugs and shit. They gotta go.” (Some of you may remember from my previous posting that I was, in fact, the Designated Nervous Guy in this house.)
“I’ll take care of them,” Stacey swore. “They’ll stay in my room and you’ll never even see them!”
Yeah, right. That’s not how cats work.
Soon they were running around all over the place.
The pretty one, Marilyn, an all-white cat with a gray tail and one gray spot upon her face (like Marilyn Monroe’s mole; hence the name), got adopted into a new home pretty quick. But Gaston was kind of funny-looking. He had white legs and a white belly, with a gray back, which made him look like he was wearing a cape. His face was white with a gray cap and mask, like a cowl, plus a big gray mustache. He looked like Groucho Marx disguising himself as the Batman. No one wanted to adopt the funny-looking one.
Well, cats need to be fed regularly and I was always the first person awake, not to mention the Designated Nervous Guy, so I started feeding the cat before going to work, lest this poor creature starve to death. And, well, you know how it goes: the creature tends to bond with whoever prevents him from starving to death. Soon, I was Gaston’s person. I took him to the vet to get his shots, and that made it official.
I remember taking Gaston outside into the back yard for his first-ever glimpse of the wider world beyond Stacey’s room. This blew his tiny little kitten mind, I could tell from the way his eyes boggled and his little pink tongue stuck out. He kinda looked like a cowled mongoloid getting his first good glimpse of fire.
He got his name, by the way, from the cad in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast cartoon. We screened that film for all our friends using a projector TV which blew up the image to the size of our wall. We enjoyed it, and wrote new lyrics to one of the songs for our beloved pet:
No one else naps like Gaston!
Chases rats like Gaston!
Or sits around licking his ass like Gaston!
Yes, he was a mouser. He ate his victims’ heads and hearts, leaving the ass-end behind as a calling card of sorts. In this way, he earned his keep.
Stacey did not earn his keep.
He fell in with a weird crowd and then he fell behind in his rent. In other words, he turned out to be a completely unreliable asshole, and he had to go.
The cat, of course, stayed.
Stephen moved in and the Golden Age began, with a line-up consisting of Scott, Bryan, Stephen and Gaston. Cheers—here’s to Gassie! Gaston and Stephen were already well acquainted, but now as roommates Stephen took it upon himself to teach Gaston a few new tricks. How to do flips. How to do extended inverted elevated back stretches. How to obey, without question or pause, any order given by any human being—since as a mere cat, he was automatically outranked by even the goofiest of humans.
I taught him to come when he was called, and his call was a whistled version of the Universal Summoning Call for Hounds developed by my sister to communicate with her horses. I would stand upon the porch and whistle his call, and Gaston never failed to appear.
My sister visited the Kingdom and, having heard of this magical cat who appeared when summoned, decided to try it out herself in order to see if this were true; and so she stood on the porch and gave the same whistle that she used for her horses—and sure enough, the masked and caped crusader Gaston the Gray came running in from the weeds—
—only to stop short, shocked and confused, when the summoning human turned out to be not Bryan at all but some chick he’d never seen before!
WTF and LOL, as we humans now say.
Good times, but in the fullness of time Scott and I departed for fresher digs. For a minute or two I was torn between letting Gaston continue to live in the Kingdom, the only home he had ever known, or coming with me; but this was a no-brainer. Sorry, Stephen, I am keeping the cat!
(I was way okay with that, by the way—Stephen.)
Gaston and Scott and I lived in the new place for a couple of years; when Scott got married, Gaston and I moved again. And then when I went to work on cruise ships, I relocated Gassie into my family compound in my old hometown with my mother, a postage stamp community filled with wild pyrotechnical good-old-boys who actually celebrated Guy Fawkes Day with gigantic bonfires you could see for miles and amateur fireworks displays cobbled up by raiding every roadside bottle rocket vendor on the nearby interstate, then wiring all these dangerous explosives together in a particular order, and—BOOM, BLAM, HOORAY FOR GUY FAWKES! Another favorite local pastime enjoyed there by my brother Shawn was shooting large potatoes out of enormous jury-rigged cannons made from PVC piping and detonators rigged from cigarette lighters and any sort of flammable arasol spray available. You packed the potato down the pipe, sprayed in the juice at the other end, then sparked the lighter. BOOM! That damn potato usually landed in the next state.
The cat was okay there. He’d been in crazier digs.
Years later, when I had finished sailing the world and was ready to settle down at last, I told my mom that I could finally take that old cat off her hands, but she refused. “He’s too old to move again, Bryan. He’s my cat, now.”
So that was where he lived the rest of his days. He was always happy to see me when I visited my mom on Guy Fawkes Day. He would give me a funny look when I whistled his old call, but he was mostly an inside cat by then—although I did find the ass-end of a mouse out in the grass a time or two, so I knew the old cat still had it in him.
I told him about my new house and my new wife, and I invited him to come live with us and be our cat, but he shook his head. Sorry, Bry, but my place is here. The food is good, the fireworks are awesome and my bones are tired. You will need to find yourself a new cat.
He was 24 years old when he finally kicked the bucket.
We still tell his tales around the campfires from time to time.
God bless Gaston.
Stephen here. I regret that I only have this photo of Old Gaston still handy. It’s part of a collage, as you can see, currently tacked up on my office wall, which is a tribute in itself to the Days of the Kingdom. Um. In case you’re wondering where Gaston is in this mess . . . well, he’s the only cat in the collage, stupid! This one, right here:
And, yeah, that’s me, too.
Oh, yeah, and one last thing. ON THAT BASTARD TOM: When the final day of Tom’s tenure at The Kingdom came around, Bryan actually purchased a coconut creme pie, with the explicit intention of plastering Tom right in the face with the thing. This was how Bryan actually reasoned in those days: Don’t like a guy? HIT HIM WITH A PIE! However, That Bastard Tom, wise to his roomie’s Modus Operandi and too canny for such Stooge-like maneuvers, carefully avoided Bryan and his pie all day long. So Bryan just ate the pie, I think. Or maybe he threw it to the cat? Not sure. We had fun.
Oh, yeah . . . and one MORE LAST thing. ON THE MANY “AGES” OF THE KINGDOM: The two original Gold and Silver ages were just the start, my friends. There was more. Much more. There was also The Time of the Three MuSKEETers (“We have a drunk, a retard and a gay clown; what could possibly go wrong!??”), The Year of The Shared Intestinal Zombies (never EVER live with zombies who share intestines!), The Reign of Saint Christopher (more on this age in a couple of days), The Christmas of Ellie Mayhem (that fucking bitch), The Dark Age of One (in which I was the sole inhabiter of The Kingdom for a maddening four months and nobody came around–it was like being stranded on a desert fucking island!), The Time of The Revolving Door (In which I shared the house with a nice woman named Millie and no less than ten additional guys who came to live with us in rapid succession, one after the other, desiring to stay only marginally more than they wanted to die trying to escape), and what I call The Final Age, which is actually the age that my novel METRO was partially inspired by. That age lasted for three years, much longer than any of the others, and was one of the wildest, most loving, tragic and awesome. I still miss The Final Days of the Kingdom and look at the photo albums fondly. We had fun.