>>> Bang for Your Buck
By staff writer David Nelson

September 9, 2007

Essential New Word of the Week: dirty bird / skinbag (definition hint: finger lickin' good!)

From time to time, my colleagues here at PIC abandon humor like an unwanted prom baby and venture into the world of fiction. Without being specific, the results have ranged from unintentionally hilarious to pretty fucking good. I never really considered doing it myself, but this week I’ve decided to take the plunge…sort of.

You see, I work in an office, and like all offices, we have days of sheer insanity, when the workload is so high, you’d gladly light a small fire in the kitchen if only to enjoy a respite in the ensuing chaos. But there are also days when the workload is so infinitesimally small that you feel reasonably sure you’ve seen every site the internet has to offer, so you start to look for other ways to stave off boredom.

It all started when the girl next to me, a recent hire, announced that someone had sent her a short story. It was one of the guys on the overnight shift, whom she’d never even met. It was a bizarre thing to do, so naturally we assumed that this story must be some kind of elaborate harassment, and therefore filled with all kinds of dong references that would have to be referenced in the ensuing memo from HR. But this was emphatically not the case. It was just a bad story.

It got everyone nearby talking about the kind of fiction that’s so bad it’s good. Soon after, we decided we were going to collaborate on the greatest novella of all time! A gritty detective story with twists, turns, and a plot that hurdled along at 200 miles an hour without stopping to take a piss. And that reminds me, it was also going to contain as many ridiculous metaphors as we could cram in.

There were about 5 or 6 people in all, taking it in turns to write a chapter. At the time it was just a goofy way to make one another laugh on a slow day, but somewhere along the way, it became something more. A testament to the power of boredom? Perhaps. A reminder of our languishing talent? Definitely. A brilliant piece of satire? You be the judge. I’ll finish up with some comments later, but for now, prepare yourselves for…

Color Me Bloodly


The sun was beating down on me like a tom drum, the daytime glare squinting at me like an unfed cat.

“Christ, I thought, a dead child on my hands, a pounding hangover and a dry-cleaning bill.”

You see, I wasn't used to being up this early. I'm by all accounts a detective, or at least that's what my bartender tells me.

Lately though, the biggest investigation I've undertaken is finding out what's at the bottom of my whiskey glass.

Suddenly, a shot rang out. I checked my trench coat for blood and then hit the deck.


I forgot to mention that there was already blood on my trenchcoat. It now mixed with the blood of the child beside me. She wept like a willow as her soul faded from her eyes like a wet kiss fading before the credits start rolling.

“Cut and print, kid,” I quipped. “That's a wrap.”

I gripped my sidearm, gritted my teeth, squinted my eyes like a second unfed cat, and braced for the onslaught like a load-bearing wall.


Through squinted eyes, I could just make out the shooter before he slipped out of sight. He looked like four pounds of mean stuffed into a two-pound bag. With my heart hammering in my chest I drew my Colt Peacemaker level with my line of sight.

“Bartender,” I called. “Better pour a shot of your finest. And while you're at it, pour another shot.” It's funny what pops into your head when you're standing over a murdered child, and not just any child. A daughter.

“Guess you won’t be making that family reunion.”


I scanned the parking lot of the Home Depot for the possible suspect, but I only saw cars. Rows and rows of cars.

We ran down an alley faster than a neutrino in a particle accelerator.

Who wants me dead?

The thought rolled around and around in my head like a loose marble.


Then it hit me like a punch in the gut in the face. Whoever’s daughter this was was going to have to pay for my dry cleaning…in spades. But who? And why? I mean, when?

I lurched across the hood of SUV after SUV, and as I barrel-rolled under the pick-up trucks, I could see a pair of feet—a pair of dastardly feet—scuttling across the asphalt like a hermit crab on crystal meth.

“Bartender,” I muttered, “you better make another drink to go. I think I left the iron on.”

And with that, I bolted like a rivet towards the assailant.


I squeezed off a few rounds as my would-be murderer rounded the corner of a Rogers Video store, but the bastard got away.

Christ, I thought, a dead child on my hands, a pounding hangover and a dry-cleaning bill that ain’t going to come cheap. Hell of a way
to start a morning.

Me and the bartender headed back to my office for some scotch and sodas. If I was going to catch the murderer, I needed time to think.


My office was across town. Of course. The bartender wanted to call a cab, but even the bastards at Diamond Taxi don’t deserve my blood on the upholstery. We hoofed it, all the while considering the identity of the unknown assailant.

“It couldn’t be Smitty. Just couldn’t,” I told myself. But deep in my heart of hearts, I knew better.


We passed a Smitty’s Restaurant on the way to my office—damn, I love their pancakes—but my heart knotted tighter than a 4-year-old sheep shank as I thought of how close I came to having my guts painted across some parking lot like Jackson Pollock’s number five. A tap on my shoulder as I stopped to tie my shoe made me jump, but it was only the bartender alerting me to some suspicious action behind the nearest bush. We set off in a slow, meandering jog, trying to act casual, but shooting purposeful glances that were more observant of our surroundings than anyone would have noticed.

Finding the nearby shrubbery emptier than a Celtic promise, we finally made it to my office. Climbing the stairs, I reached into my pocket and discovered my keys were gone—swiped, or lost during the recent scuffle. Arriving at the doorway, I realized I wouldn’t need the keys anyway: the lock had been jimmied and the door was swinging from one hinge.


I kicked open my wreck of a door, and there she was. Gams like pilsners and a rack like a Jetta Touring Edition, she shot me a glance that was dirtier than a dollar bill on Stag night. I trained my Colt at the center of her treacherous face.

“Smitty. You know your kind isn’t welcome here. And by your kind I mean people actively trying to murder me.” I shot the bartender a wry smile. He remained stoic.

“Vic Scurge, you’ve got me all wrong,” she sighed, as she raised her skirt a devil’s half-inch to reveal a gold plated derringer. A sexy gun.


I let out a sigh like a dead man expelling his soul and then leapt into action.

“Smitty, stop trying to sell me pancakes with a side of murder,” I ventured. “You know I like bacon.”

“Vic,” she purred, “you try to be twice as clever as everyone else, but you always just end up being ten times twice as stupid. I didn’t try to kill you … it was BROCK STEELE!”

I gasped. My bartender remained stoic.


A silence hung in the room like the victim of a lynch mob.

“Steele is dead,” I muttered, the words creaking out of my throat as though fighting their way through a room full of rusty nails. “I buried him myself.”

“Poor, naïve Victor…” offered Smitty. “You always did tend to trust your own senses too much. But I’m afraid I really can’t get involved with you and your petty detective work.”

With that, she drew her derringer. I swear, years of pancake-flipping had made her faster than a cocaine-addicted bobcat.

“I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to hand over the child. Where are you hiding her?” she asked, levelly.

I looked at the bartender, who returned my glare helplessly. By god, she didn’t know.


I had no time to explain, and Smitty wasn’t one to have much of an ear for listening.

“Ask your man Steele,” I said. “He’s right behind you.”

She locked me with her gaze. “I’m not going to fall for that old song and dance, Scurge.” I returned her stare and waited for her to falter. This was going to be tougher than a left turn in Chinatown.

The seconds ticked by like cancer.

To be continued…

Some editorial notes in hindsight, for future publishers:

  • The narrator seems to be fixated on local stores and their names. In truth, that was just the writers staring out the window for inspiration.
  • The writer of chapter 3 (me) assumed this was taking place in a bar. Not so, sayeth the writer of chapters 4 and beyond. Now, the protagonist simply has a bartender following him everywhere for some reason. We vowed never to explain why.
  • Likewise, the dead child was meant to be the detective’s daughter, but one writer just decided she was someone else’s daughter entirely. I sure hope that plot thread resurfaces somewhere down the line. Seems like a hard thing to gloss over, even for a hard-boiled detective.
  • The introduction of Brock Steele in chapter 10 was a little weak, I thought. I hoped I could kill him off right away, but no such luck.
  • The “unfed cat” metaphor actually recurred several other times. I don’t know why. I removed all but two of them.
  • Smitty, the sexy gun moll/flapjack queen. Nice touch.

We might never have a day as slow as the one last week, but if we do, rest assured: You haven’t heard the last of Vic Scurge.

Essential New Word of the Week:

dirty bird / skinbag n / n ‘der ti ‘ber rd / ‘skInbæg

Last weekend, I helped a buddy move. To thank me and his two other movers, he bought us beer and KFC. You might think he was being cheap, but he actually bought well over $100 worth of the stuff. Have you ever seen $100 worth of KFC in one place? It’s staggering.

To soften the blow in our minds, if not our colons, we never referred to the product by its actual name. Instead, we just called it “dirty bird,” because, truly, what could be dirtier? Dirty bird is the kind of food you eat maybe once a year, if only to remind yourself why you only eat it once a year.

Everyone who partook of the dirty bird that night fell into an hours-long grease coma, but that wasn’t the worst part. In a misguided attempt to render the dirty bird a little less artery-clogging, some of us diners pulled off the skin and chucked it into a paper bag that was handy. Soon after, the bag was being used for discarded bones as well. So here we have this enormous paper bag, overflowing with dirty bird detritus. It was disgusting. What else could we call it but the skinbag? We toyed with the idea of leaving the skinbag on his new balcony to ferment into some kind of fried chicken liquor, but ultimately decided against it.