Published: November 2018
Publisher: Paragraph Line Books
Effete alcoholic Tris Edgar finds a talking raccoon digging through his trash one evening. Tris tells a story of heartbreak, loss and self-defeat, and of his life as an instant celebrity in the internet age. At turns dark and whimsical, Doug Liberty Presents Bandit the Dancing Raccoon is a uncanny fable for the 21st century.
Praise for Doug Liberty Presents Bandit the Dancing Raccoon:
"Sheppard is a hugely imaginative writer, deftly balancing humor, pathos and lyricism." -Self-Publishing Review
When I went to work the next night, Delores wasnât there. She was supposed to be there. She left behind a note on the back of an order pad that said she was returning to Zanesville, Ohio, and that I shouldnât follow her because nothing good could come from my following her to Zanesville. Sheâd double-underlined and capitalized Zanesville in each instance of its use in the note. She helpfully wrote down the address for what she said was her parentsâ place in Zanesville at the bottom of the note.
This is how people get in trouble, you know. Not following directions.
It was an adventure. I took the note, left the restaurant, locked the doors and shoved my key under the front mat. I could have tried to drive my car to Zanesville, but it wouldnât have made it.
I didnât have much money. Iâm not very good with money. This is a problem of mine going way back. All the way back. And all the way forward, too, to the present day. Ask the raccoon, if you can find him. He didnât appreciate my situation.
I walked down to the Trailways bus station with the intention of buying a ticket to Zanesville, or maybe Cincinnati or Cleveland. I was unsure concerning the geography part of the adventure. Ohio was north. I knew that much.
At the bus station, a dude wearing a white, bellbottomed jumpsuit with âFATTUâ spelled out in golden sequins sparkling on his back and sequined flames sewn into the seams from his armpits to his white ankle boots, hired me to ride shotgun with him from Florida to Ohio. I found him pacing around the bus station near the coin-operated TV sets. Iâd been on my way to the ticket counter. I expected him to speak in an Elvis-inspired drawl, but he didnât. His voice was Midwestern flat. There was no musicality to it whatsoever. He spoke quickly, too. âYou want to go to Ohio? Letâs do this. Hereâs two hundred dollars.â He handed me $300 in twenties. I counted it in front of him and tried to give back the extra hundred. âYou keep it! You keep it! Good job! Youâre trustworthy. We have a circle of trust going.â
I was wearing my work uniform. We were quite a pair walking out of the bus station to his waiting car, a mid-1970âs Camaro painted gold, like the car in the Rockford Files, glowing under a streetlight. Or was it a Pontiac Firebird? The engine was running. I could see blue smoke rising out of the tailpipe and up into the humid air. It was the rainy season. Everything was wetâground, trees, people, air. I flung my straw boater onto a palmetto bush growing at the edge of the lot.
Where did I leave my car? Should I have sold my car? It wasnât worth the effort to think about the car, so I didnât.
He produced an glass amber bottle of black beauties. The bottle had been around since the 1970âs, like his car. Maybe heâd found it under the bucket seat. I popped a tablet, he popped four. He told me he was going to dictate his novel to me, and I was going to type it all down. He handed me an Olivetti in a brown leatherette zipped case and a roll of paper from a paper towel dispenser. âThis is going to be my masterpiece. Type it all down! Iâm the new Kerouac!â The speed made me feel like there were invisible live wires under my skin. I kept shouting, âWoop! Woop!â I typed the guyâs masterpiece while he drove. He had an organistâs keyboard built into the dash, and he played it. Bach fugues, mostly, to accompany his dictated writing. There were pipes in the doors. Every note vibrated through them.
âHer lips were pillows for my psionic mind.â I remember that line. I donât remember a lot of the rest of it. Most of it was like that, though.
All the roadsigns that Iâd read from my annual trips north were still there somehow (Stuckeyâs, See Rock City, etc.).
I typed, and the paper kept getting stuck. The ribbon was on its last legs. The paper tore, so I ripped it and tossed it in the seat behind me. I looked back at some point and there were all these curls of typed-upon paper back there.
âIs it done?â he asked me, riffing on the keyboard. âIs it done? Is it done?â
âYes,â I told him. âItâs done.â
âCool,â he said, and drove us off the side of a low bridge in Kentucky, bounding over rocks ten feet down before sloshing nose first into the river below.
âI should have asked for more money,â I muttered as the car splashed down.
âWhatâs that?!â he shouted.
We somehow survived. I rolled down the window, climbed out of the car, swam ashore and looked back. The car was gone. So was the author.
About the Author
John L. Sheppard, a graduate of the MFA@FLA creative writing program at the University of Florida, is a native of Cleveland, Ohio. He lives in Illinois. He wrote a series of books about the adventures of Audrey Novak.