Monday, September 9, 2013

DIAL M.W. FOR MURDER--The Wine Ecdysiast


Chapter 11 The Wine Ecdysiast

It must have been a root day for Biola Dynamic. She was urging me to plant my seed, anyway. My office was a mess. I hadn’t had sex on a desk since my last appointment at the DMV. I was confused about Organ Donation. Biola was something of a wildcat. Her claws left scratches on my back that looked like Chinese tasting notes of counterfeit Margaux. Her screams of pleasure set off the smoke alarm. Her sexy lisp saying, “Oh HosthMaster, oh HosthMaster, you’re so thick…” briefly confused me. Then I remembered--I can be sick.

A few hours later when it ended, Biola lay in a puddle on the floor. Damn, I needed to see a urologist for that bladder thing. As she slept, the trace of a smile on all her lips, I sat at my desk and stared guiltily at the photograph of Avril Cadavril. Where was she? And what would she think if she found out I’d buried my testosterone horns in Biola Dynamic? Would she know the truth? That I’d done it for her? I knew that in order to get inside the murders of MW candidates, I had to get inside MW candidates. Judging from Biola, I’d passed the service part of the exam.

It was time to go looking for Tiny. I tossed my coat over Biola to keep her warm while she slept. I’d gotten what I needed from her, a free ride on the sommelier Slip ‘n’ Slide. From what she’d told me, people were out to kill Mallory O’Lactic; and it was probably the same killers who’d put Crystal Geyser in an early recycling bin. Biola would be safe in my office. I locked the door behind me, and headed down the stairs.

When I came to at the bottom of the stairs, having forgotten that my pants were still around my ankles, I tried to figure out where Tiny might have gone after leaving Avril’s office with some of her paperwork. He couldn’t have gone far. Tiny moves about as fast as Lodi Zinfandel by-the-glass, and with the body type of a concrete egg, I knew he’d find a place to stash those mysterious papers as quickly as he could. So I knew that even if I found Tiny, and that wouldn’t be hard, about like finding a haystack in a needle, he probably wouldn’t have Avril’s papers on him. And he’d most certainly lie about it. But Tiny knows just about everything that goes on in the underbelly of Healdsburg. His own underbelly provided shade for six Mexicans on a hot harvest day.

There was a time when Tiny was one of the most powerful wine critics in the country. He didn’t talk about it much now. But twenty years ago, a high score from Tiny meant your wine would sell out quickly. As it turned out, Tiny would sell out quickly, too. In his newsletter, The Wine Ecdysiast, Tiny awarded wines from one to five Pasties. Five Pasties guaranteed a wine would become highly collectible. Two Pasties? Well, two Pasties were for boobs. At first, Tiny had been incorruptible. He paid his own way, he was completely independent. He tasted every wine he rated completely blind. He worked sixteen hour days tasting wine—he put the “fat” in indefatigable.

But Tiny got greedy. He was working long hours and not really making that much money. Yet everywhere he went, he’d see people selling wine off his reputation. Pasties were everywhere, but Tiny was still broke. The Wine Ecdysiast began to sell advertising. At first, it was just for wine novelties. Wine gizmos, wine vibrators, wine ben wa balls, wine ticklers, things like that. Then the big boys started advertising in The Wine Ecdysiast. Spending thousands of dollars for full-page ads. A busty woman working the pole with the caption, “We think you’ll like our Treasury chest of wines.” A shot of the night sky over Napa Valley, only the stars were sparkly Pasties, and the caption just read, “Constellation.” And deep in his congestive heart, Tiny must have known that the big boys expected tit for tat.

It wasn’t long before an intrepid investigative reporter working for Juggs uncovered the whole scandal. Tiny was taking money for Pasties. When the news broke, The Wine Ecdysiast was finished as a wine publication. Tiny had a big following, and a loyal fan base. They spent most of their time on Tiny’s chat room, colloquially called eBoob. At first, most of them refused to believe what was apparent to everyone. Tiny was corrupt. Pasties inflation had been growing. More and more wines were getting four, and even five, Pasties. Wines from Constellation. Wines from Treasury. Even Bronco had to change the nickname of their biggest selling wine to “Three Suck Chuck” to honor its Pasties. But Juggs brought Tiny down. He put on weight, and a lot of it. He wasn’t welcome at any winery in the world. He became a figure of scorn. So, normal stuff for a wine critic. It had been twenty years since The Wine Ecdysiast folded. Tiny was bitter and defeated. He still drank wine, but, as far as the business was concerned, he no longer stayed abreast.

It was approaching the dinner hour, so I knew Tiny would be hungry, and probably headed to one of his usual places to eat. I started walking around the Healdsburg Square glancing into all the restaurants to see if I could see Tiny taking up a table for six. Hell, he was a table for six.

When I’d first moved to this wine country town, the restaurant scene was pretty dismal. None of them had any Michelins, though they almost all had skid marks. Now the place was overrun with fancy eateries featuring organic local ingredients, extensive wine lists, sommeliers, and other rodent infestations. I knew Tiny wouldn’t go anywhere near those joints. He couldn’t afford them. He’d be at a more local hangout, or maybe one of those new, trendy Food Wagons. Food wagons. Where I come from, food on wheels is called a dumpster.

Across the square I spotted Tiny. There were four men around him, and they were gesturing frantically, and it appeared angrily. Tiny was just shaking his head. I watched for a few minutes, ready to intervene if the discussion became violent. Just as it seemed the argument was beginning to escalate, a limo pulled up to the group. A woman got out of the limo, her long legs first, a brief flash of panties as she emerged from the limo hurriedly, without the help of the invisible driver. Everything began to move in slow motion, like the service at a Napa Valley tasting room. With my eyes locked on her panties, I almost missed the gun she was holding.  I screamed out a warning. Two shots rang out, a bullet whistled past my ear, and I took off running toward the woman.

She glanced at me as she got back into the limo. She seemed to recognize me. I shouted for her to stop, but the limo was already speeding off. I was momentarily in shock.

Whoever she was, she had a beard.


Samantha Dugan said...

Dunna Babe, I wouldn't have your protagonist feeling too...cocky about passing that "service" exam, if we know anything about Biola Dynamic, it's that you can prove nothing about...her. Love the cliff hanging and I love you!

Dean Tudor said...

Given our touch phones and cell phones, at some point it is going to have to be "Push M.W. for Murder"...just a thought, don't want to cause a meme...

Sommeliere said...

Ron, only you could come up with the almost obsolete word- Ecdysiast!

This was a great piece and it cracked me up from the beginning. "I hadn’t had sex on a desk since my last appointment at the DMV. I was confused about Organ Donation."

Thank you for brightening my day, which really needed some yucks!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,
Well, it's Avril Cadavril the HoseMaster really wants, but, hey, any fortified wine in a storm.

Dial MW always gets the least response, but, hell, I don't care, I'm just having fun.

I love you!

Well, actually, maybe "Finger M.W. for Murder" is more accurate, and foreshadowing. As for memes, I hate it when they do that thing where they pretend they're in an invisible box.

Marlene Darling,
"Ecdysiast" was actually coined by H. L. Mencken, but it's such a great word, and sort of sounds like "Enthusiast," which was coined, I think, by H. R. Puffenstuff.

Glad to brighten your day!

Marcia Macomber said...

I started reading early today and couldn't get back to the page until now! (At least I had the anticipation!)

Loved the slow-mo at the end. Will be on pins and needles awaiting the next post!

Thanks for the fab chuckle. I love these even if they get the fewest comments.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Marcia Love,
It's actually a nice break when I publish a chapter of Dial MW. I never have to worry about the comments piling up. I don't particularly care about how many common taters show up for every piece, or about stats--I'm popular enough. I do care about the fun of writing this stupid Pulp Fiction novel, and the characters--Tiny, Avril Cadavril, Larry Anosmia, and my alter ego the HoseMaster. What's weird is how real Avril is to me in my own head (as is Lo Hai Qu). So writing a chapter every month gives me a chance to be in their weird and splendid company.

I think most folks come here to read whatever insulting, satirical, cynical thing I have to say about the wine biz, and the buffoons who run it. Not read Dial MW, or my wine reviews. But I do write all of this for fun, and for my own amusement and mental exercise. And I know when I publish another chapter of Dial MW it will be greeted with a universal yawn. So it goes. I kind of like the quiet--makes me feel like a regular Poodle.

Charlie Olken said...

First of all, poodles don't yawn. They whine. Except maybe Thomas P.'s.

Then there is the whole MW vs MS thingy. Maybe we need a scorecard.

Interestingly, this chapter pretty much stands on its own. Biola D jokes, Tiny jokes. Plenty of knee slappers.

Who needs common potaters when you have us?

Thomas said...

Yes, Charlie, mine yawns, especially when I'm talking to him. I have to work on that.

Forgive my lack of response to the DMW posts--maybe I ain't literary enough. But I like the pictures!

Samantha Dugan said...

For what it's worth, which I'm sure is little, I think, much like any good book/chapter these pieces leave little opportunity to add commentary. More often than not we just want to move on to the next chapter. Outside of doing that dorky, "My favorite line was" ala that guy you hate that stands in your grill after you tell a joke, laughing and then repeats it to you, as if you hadn't just heard/said it. "That guy" bugs the crap outta me but there are times here, when you've written something so completely that "that guy" is all I can be, and I'm sure I am far from alone. I know these have got to be so damn hard to write Ron, and you can go on and on about how you don't care about comments, just wanted to share why I often find myself at a loss as to what to say on these ones. Your talent often renders me speechless...

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Puff Daddy,
You're one of the main reasons I keep writing the Dial MW nonsense, you've bugged me the most about finishing it, which is annoying, but I'm grateful. The series is stupid, it's pointless, and, in a lot of ways, that makes it a reflection of the wine business. From another perspective, it's fascinating, inscrutable and complex. So, it's like wine, and like life.

Knee slappers, though, that's what I'm really after.

I don't really want comments. I just play to that as a counterpoint to the thousands of blogs that are lucky to get one comment. I know you read my foolishness, and that's incredibly flattering. I just hope it brings you a few cheap laughs. You're one of the good guys.

My Gorgeous Samantha,
Truthfully, for me, these are easy to write. The less I try to say something important, the easier it is to just let it rip, just be stupid funny.

I'm not surprised Dial MW gets only a few comments, and just from my loyalest common taters. Actually, I know that only my most faithful and favorite readers will chime in. So, for me, it's almost more intimate. You and Charlie and Marcia and Thomas and Dean and Marlene--you folks are like family. Sometimes others butting into the Dial MW conversation is just plain rude.

I love You!

Samantha Dugan said...

Speaking of family business I think it only fitting that we all wish our beloved Puff Daddy, Sir Charles, Mr. Olken as very happy birthday. Love you lots Charlie and hope all your wishes, least for the day, came true.

Thomas said...

Happy Birthday, Charles, if you haven't yet reached the point where you don;t want to be reminded...


It's difficult to comment on the noir stuff, as it is indeed a familiar genre and so I can't imagine what I can add to the conversation about it, except to recount the times I slapped my knee, which is about as interesting as talking about the times I twisted my meniscus--which was recently, in fact.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Puff Daddy,
Happy Birthday! Have you even reached a high enough number to get One Star in CGCW? Or are you still just the down-turned glass? May you live to be Three Puffs old!

Is "twisting my meniscus" a metaphor for something? Sounds dirty. Maybe that's just me.

Matt said...

Started at the beginning, read my way back at work this week. It's like reading dirty Chandler. Love the homage to 'The Big Sleep.' If anyone finds a cellphone in a door of their new Chevy, please email me.

By the way, those Sommbies you sent up are doing just fine, however, I'm sending back the writers, that wasn't part of the deal.

Hope I'm not being a pest,


Ron Washam, HMW said...

I'd say it reads more like lousy Chandler, but I'll take dirty. The obsession with death and sex, betrayal and corruption, are what make those fictions work. The lonely dick, tired and cynical, but still fighting the good fight, adhering to his own moral code in the face of society's crumbling--it's comedy!

Thank you for going back to the beginning, though none of it makes any sense. I just adore the Voice of the HoseMaster character in Dial MW, and the improvisational approach I use to write each chapter. It's stupid, and it's fun. For me, at least.