Saturday, September 26, 2009

"The M.S. Conspiracy"

A HoseMaster of Wine Pulp Fiction Classic

Chapter 1 Strange Path

I'm a dick. A private dick, but a dick nonetheless. I make a living as a dick, if you call digging through people's trash for private information about them living. You should see what people put in their garbage. It's disgusting. You can tell a lot about a person sifting through their garbage. You see everything that fills their rotten insides, all the filth and refuse they fill their lives with. In fact, life is like a garbage pail, you fill it with useless and stomach-turning stuff and then pay people to haul it away. But not before the putrefying smell of it sickens everyone. I'm the dick who gets paid to sift through life's disgusting garbage. Which is how I got involved in the worst case of my career, a case that nearly got me killed, a case that led me to depths of inhumanity I didn't know existed, which is like Sean Hannity discovering a whole new level of stupid. I thought I knew about garbage, about conspiracy, about evil. But then I got involved with a group that changed me, that filled me with a loathing for people I'd never felt before. Where do I begin?

I don't know how these people find me. I've got a rundown shithole of an office in the sleepy little wine country town of Healdsburg, a town so dull the main hobby is going down to the local hospital to watch folks having contractions. And those are at the proctology ward. Healdsburg is a tourist town now. Once upon a time it served the farmers in the community, now it serves expensive wines and fancy meals. Healdsburg has more tasting rooms than Dick Cheney has condos in Hell, but I like it here. The landscape is beautiful, and when the urge hits me it's the easiest thing in the world to find a drunken tourist in a see-through cotton dress to come home with me and learn how to spit. I see it as a public service.

I'd just wrapped up my recent case involving the Illuminatti, the Freemasons and the Osmond Family, having successfully foiled their plans to prove Michael Jackson was married and had fathered several children and primates and that the titles to his greatest hits were actually an anagram of "Diana Ross is Mary Magdalene's daughter with Thomas Jefferson," when she walked into my Healdsburg office. She smelled dangerous with a pinch of crazy, but I like that smell. It's like Ann Coulter farted on Lou Dobbs--you get the same smell in a good vintage of Silver Oak. But she was gorgeous--blonde and busty with the kind of legs you get in Tokaji Essensia--long and oily. I've seen puttonyos before, and she was way more than five.

"Are you the HoseMaster?" she asked.

"Sure," I said, "how can I help you?"

"I'm told that you know people in the wine business, important people." I was having trouble looking her in the eye. I hadn't seen jugs stacked that high since I bought my wine at a gas station.

"Yeah, I know some important people. Who is it you're looking to meet? And don't say James Laube. I killed him two weeks ago. It was self-defense. He threw his 100 point scale at me--it was banged up, utterly useless, but it damn near killed me. So I plugged him. Just heard they're giving me a James Beard Award for it."

"No, you misunderstand." She sat down across from me and when she crossed those legs I'm pretty sure I got a glimpse of the Sacramento Delta and most of its tributaries, but it was hot enough to be Lodi. "I want to hire you to help me join the secret society of M.S."

I'd heard those evil bastards were going to be in Healdsburg. Recruiting. Their rituals, their "tests," were secret, and they were very careful about who they allowed to pass, who they allowed to join their putrid ranks. But I'd heard stories, horrifying stories, stories that revolved around ritual disemboweling, waterboarding, and Evan Goldstein lectures. Why would this babe want to be an M.S.?

"From what I know, Ma'am..."

"Call me Veronica."

"From what I know, Veronica, the Master Sommeliers don't like women, don't really want women in their ranks, make the whole thing a nightmare for a woman to join. And that's if I can even get you in the door. Do you have the faintest idea what it's like to be an M.S.? Do you really know what evil those people are capable of?"

"I know more about it than you can even imagine, HoseMaster. I have no fear of them, I know exactly who they are and what they stand for. Now, can you help me or not?"

"Oh, I can help you alright, but it comes with a price."

"My friends and I are willing to pay any price to penetrate the M.S. society. Name it."

I paused, took another sip of my Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc, noting the lovely Musque fragrance. Or was that Veronica? "Let's just say I want to dredge the Sacramento Delta when all this is through."

"You're a strange one, HoseMaster," Veronica said, leaning over my desk and giving me a view of the Cote Blonde and Cote Brune, making me think of Guigal and his Bodacious La-La's, "but I like you."

To Be Continued

Or Not.


Marcia said...

OMG. HMW, you've done Dashell Hammett proud! My fav line: She sat down across from me and when she crossed those legs I'm pretty sure I got a glimpse of the Sacramento Delta and most of its tributaries, but it was hot enough to be Lodi.

Charlie Olken said...

OK, this is brilliant stuff.

Now, the question that has been bugging me since I read it a few hours ago is where does it go from here.

I have a couple of answers, and you are not going to like them.

Option A. Keeping up the satirization of the Maltese Falcon is going to be impossible so let it lie as is unless you are able to satisfy Option B. below.

Option B. Walk away from it for a couple of days and see if your brain responds with a way to actually turn this into something longer and a real work of art.

As you and I discussed a while back, comedy is hard work.

Short spoofs can work out, it seems to me. Longer spoofs get harder and harder, and I have never been able to pull them off with my own little fun and games.

Part of my inability is that I have not ever had a start as brilliant as this one. Can you keep it going without it getting silly? Can you find a plot line that is at least somewhat plausible underneath the satire? If yes, please, please go for it.

Parts of this had me rolling around in laughter. Now you have my sympathy. You have started something, and you know how hard it is going to be to keep it up.

Good luck. And if we never see another chapter, this was a great read on its own.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Marcia,

Thank you. I was kind of aiming more for Raymond Chandler, but I'll take Hammett.


I have no idea where it's going. My twisted brain has been pleading with me to do this sort of serial "killing" ever since I saw that the new Dan Brown piece of crap was being released. That combined with the wine business and my alter ego as HoseMaster and this popped out.

I have learned over the many years I've been writing comedy to trust my subconscious with the material, to simply be the Comedy Channel and put the words to paper, follow the process. If I'm having fun with it, it works. Otherwise it gets dreary and forced and reads like Vinography.

I'll just add a chapter every so often, whenever the spirit moves me. I honestly didn't have "The Maltese Falcon" in mind when I wrote it, but Hammett keeps coming up so it's in there somewhere.

I certainly was not aiming for "brilliant," nor can I live up to that. Luckily, I do this for free so I don't have to worry about it. HoseMaster of Wine is worth what you pay for it.

Marcia said...

Perhaps Charlie and I came up with Hammett’s work first merely due to a) proximity (San Fran-to-North Bay-Hammett vs. Chandler’s association with L.A.), and/or b) your classic intro of the femme fatale walking into HMW’s office: “I'd just wrapped up my recent case involving the Illuminatti, the Freemasons and the Osmond Family… when she walked into my Healdsburg office. She smelled dangerous with a pinch of crazy, but I like that smell.” Made me think of Sam Spade instead of Philip Marlowe. …Or maybe the mind just blends together Bogie playing both roles. Sorry. My bad. Of course, Chandler! He was Hammett’s successor in the genre, after all.

Waiting for Chapter 2 when the inspiration strikes….

Ron Washam, HMW said...


I was really doing nothing more than parodying the whole convention of detective novels from Hammett to Chandler to Spillane. I had no one in particular in mind when I sat down to write this, what I had in mind was to do something odd for a wine blog and have some fun doing it. Honestly, when I finished it I nearly didn't publish it because I hated it, but, then, that's nothing new, so I published it anyway.

I'm thinking I'll try to make it sort of a Saturday serial. Seems appropriate.

It's also a great forum for taking cheap shots at whatever wine targets I want, which is really the entire point for me.

Thanks for the encouragement. Hey, at least you and Charlie liked it! Even if I'm no Steve Heimoff...

Marcia said...

There's plenty of room in the bloggesphere for you AND Steve and Charlie and Samantha and Tom, etc. I read all of you for different reasons and to hear different voices. Thx.

Ron Washam, HMW said...


I couldn't agree more. There's lots and lots of room in the blogosphere for unique voices. And all the not-so-unique voices too. I hope you didn't think I believe otherwise.

And thank you so much for reading my nonsense. It's nice to hear from you always.