by Art Arduous





Muk plodded into the kitchen with a sarong tied around his waist and nothing else. He drank a little more than he had expected last night because he had several good reasons to do so: the band was good, the world might end tomorrow and he was very worried about money problems. Muk and his crew had not been able to retrieve the missing jewelry from rocker Ali BeeDee. Later this morning he would have to explain his defeat. He would plead to save a much-needed sculpture sale and installation.


            Pedro was at his laptops, corralling the day's news. Blu stood outside on the terrace with a cup of coffee. She was smoking her single daily cigarette. In her method of quitting, the daily grit was getting shorter. Today it was cut exactly half the length of an American Spirit; tomorrow it would be one-thirty-second of an inch less. Muk poured himself a coffee.

Pedro looked up and reported, "The SCOPE Show in Basel is a Russian-Arab orgy. Big money is going down."

"Yah. Tricky Vicki left me a message. She said we need to think 'oil.'

            "Maybe she's right..." Pedro let it dangle. He wanted Muk to get back in the game but he knew it was not his decision to make.


            Muk ignored the comment and escaped into the living room. The dogs trotted after him. The furnished mansion was huge and Muk had turned the main salon into a storage area. It could be a regal place to show artwork. Zorro would approve. Woven tapestries and silver Coats of Arms hung from the walls. Ornamental Spanish galleons sailed around three massive wrought-iron chandeliers. Thick carpets covered the Barcelona tiled floor. A bunch of Muk's smaller paintings were stacked against a red velvet couch that swam the length of an Olympic pool. He began to leaf through the canvases. He needed a 'hat-in-hand', a gift of apology in hopes of sweetening the deal.

Making this kind of decision was always difficult for Muk. Already anxious and edgy, he unconsciously lit a joint. The dogs zipped up on the back of the wide couch and perched like a pair of vultures. Muk wanted to give the Freemani's something good, a nice piece of art. But not that good. Muk always has had a very hard time parting with his work. It's hard to say goodbye, especially for Muk. He picked three pieces that he liked. Then he chose the one he liked least, an eighteen by twenty-two inch abstract. It would do nicely.

Nick started to growl, low and quiet. He hopped to the floor and ran from the room. Nora stayed with her master.


In the kitchen, Muk set the painting on the chair next to Pedro. "Wrap this up for our Freemani meeting. Brown paper. Red twine. A nice card. Grateful thanks."

Pedro nodded but Nick took their attention. The dog hovered at the door to the West hallway. He was growling a warning.


A laughing cocktail waitress blasted into the kitchen. She was adjusting the tight waist and short flouncy skirt of her colorful uniform. Nick yipped with surprise and retreated fast with his toe nails skittering on slippery tile.

"Howdy, y'all!" The twangy waitress smiled brightly and waved her hand widely. The crew had met her once before but none could remember her name. Especially Will Steppinshire.

Will followed the waitress into the room. Snorting and giggling, he was tucking the tail of his button down shirt into his belted suit pants. When he looked up, he sang, "What the fuck, lucky Muk?! A happy Good Morning, double-Hi-Ho-Dee-Ho to---" When Nick the dog attacked, Will screamed "You!" in a very high falsetto with his hands throwing higher. The dog had snuck up behind the preppy and howled like hell, scaring the bejesus out of the tall man now standing on one leg like a khaki-colored flamingo. 

"Nicky!" commanded Muk. The dog ran over and crouched behind his boss.

Will grabbed the waitress to catch his fall. Catching his dignity, Will adjusted his blue and gold tie and continued, "Well, whoa! Good morning, good morning! What's for breakfast, gang?" He clapped his hands together like a sales manager at a company picnic.


Muk was cheery without laughing. "We've got something cooking! Hey Blu!"

The girl sailed in, grabbed a tee shirt off the back of a chair and tossed it at the bare-chested Muk. "We got company, Tarzan!" Muk slipped into the red shirt with a white Fortunate emblazoned across the chest. Muk had designed the tee as a reminder to be grateful for everything and everybody. Muk always needed a reminder. So did everyone else.


Muk had known Will Steppinshire for many years. They had one of those friendly acquaintances that had long lost its origin and meaning. Their scenes had momentarily crossed many times over time. A cocktail party handshake defined the depth of their relationship. Steppinshire was a lead realtor for Trans-Luxe Properties. He had the listing on the Silver Rio and was working very hard to foil its sale. To him, the Silver Rio was a glorious playpen, an Eastside retreat from his Westside wife. He kept a room at the mansion, a princely fuck pad hosted by his "best friend Muk McKaylee the internationally famous artist." It was a line that worked most of the time. In return for breakfast and light housekeeping, he allowed Muk and crew to squat in the Spanish palace.  


"You were so quiet last night," snarked Blu, "I didn't know you were here." She was overly enthusiastic, "We have plenty of Scottish Eggs, thick cut bacon and a deep-fried French toast that will clog every artery." This was not her menu but she hoped to gross him out and get rid of him with a fast cup of coffee. Blu had a very short patience for philanderers and hypocrites. So did the dog Nick.

Will asked the cocktail waitress, "Honey? Breakfast?"

"Do you have any cereal?"

"Sure! All kinds!"

Will offered, "I'd like to try the French toast!"

Blu replied, "You got what's coming to ya!"


Muk smiled at her and spoke pointedly. "It's a beautiful day. It might be nice to sit out by the pool later. Or play a round of croquet. We're not using the tennis court like we should." He cleared his throat. "I'd like to try the French toast."

"Mais, oui!"

"Hey! Yeah! Croquet!" Will's basset hound eyes brightened, "We should do a Bocce Ball cocktail party kinda thing! At sunset."

Muk agreed, "I like it!"

"We'll get smashed and have a tournament."

"And win prizes!" chirped the cocktail waitress.

Will Steppinshire patted her on the knee with vigor, hoping to pat the invitation out of her head. He had another date in mind. "Prizes? We'll have to see about that!"


Muk rose to help Blu with the breakfast. He didn't want to wait the twenty minutes for the fryer to heat up. He grabbed a loaf of sourdough, aiming to make French toast in the classic Old California way.



"You wouldn't believe who was in last night?" The waitress asked brightly.

Blu was interested. "Who?"

"Johnny Depp! And a wild gang of ten. No, eleven."

"Wait a minute," Muk jumped in, "You work at the Mocambo, right?"

"Yeah. They got me workin' the Circus Room." She pulled at the edges of her skirt and curtsied. Her 1940's era uniform was made of subtle red and creme stripes. "Circus stripes!"Mocambo-Gordy_Grundy

"That's right! I remember now. We met so fast before."

Pedro was all over it. "We should come visit you!" The Mocambo was a big nightclub and restaurant. The new 'It' spot offered a Tim Burton-esque twist on the famous Hollywood club of the Forties. (Burton and his wife were some of the investors.)

"I'll getcha the big booth."

Muk slapped his forehead. "Eh. We met so fast last week, I can't remember your name." He felt bad; he liked her.

"Windy." She said, "Like the wind. With a Y."

Will stepped in, "I'm sorry. I'm so rude! I thought I had introduced..."

Windy waved it away. Will was surprised; he thought her name had started with a 'M'. He pretended to stretch and gave Muk a 'thumb's up' behind her back, thanking him for the save.

"When you come in, I'll put ya where the action is. The Circus Room is def and down! Last week, Katy Perry was in and then comes in Russell Brand. I don't think they knew each other was gonna be there..." She let that scoop melt.

"Really? Anyone call security?" asked Pedro. Pedro used to be a bar bouncer. That was where Muk had found him.

"Didn't have to. No biggie. Just a fire extinguisher for a few sparks," she winked.

Muk laughed, "Geez, if you get us in there, you'll need a fire hose."

Pedro covered his head.

Blu rolled her eyes, "My rowdies."

"Just fun lovin', dancin' fools!"

"Or just fools," snickered Windy.

"Windy, Windy, Windy," Will shook his head and pretended to say her name with breezy affection. In truth, he was trying to commit it to memory.


Blu and Muk served the breakfast plates. Windy jumped into waitress mode and poured coffee while Pedro passed the warmed syrup. Butter melted quickly into the thick sourdough French toast. The batter had been glacéed with vanilla and cinnamon. Any overt sweetness was cut with the sharp spice of Andouille sausage.

Nick and Nora circled the table knowing full well that they would never receive a scrap, yet they remained hopeful. Muk tossed them each a doggy cookie.


Pedro and Blu cleared some plates and refilled the coffee cups. They would not allow the eager and gracious waitress to help them.

With one hand, Will was absently playing with the fork on his plate and fluffing his collegiate striped tie with the other. His mouth was working up words he was not sure how to say. Failing to act casual, he floundered with, "So, pal-o-mine, what's the schedule next week? What's a-happen-in' for Muk-a-Luck?

"Ah, the same old."

Blu rolled her eyes. Never had she had a 'same old' day in the world of Muk McKaylee.

"Well! My big boss is coming into town. Big king Harcourt is a-comin' to the City of Angels. He is a-flyin' in with--- "

Windy interrupted, "You need a reser at Mocambo?"

Will perked up and sat up. This was an advantage he had not thought of. "As a matter of fact, I do! Damn! That'd be swell!"


Muk was suspicious, "Why's your boss coming to LA?"

Will remembered and slouched back down. "Well... He is a-coming to LA with a King of Arr-a-bee. A real potentate. An iron fist. An Islam-a-ding-dong. A camel jockey of many harems. A gusher of world oil..."


"Well, he wants to show the Silver Rio."

Pedro and Blu looked at each other with horror. As Muks crew, they had sailed many storms and lived in many conditions. The Silver Rio was heaven. Now, their most quiet and unspoken fear flowered before them. The hammer hit the nail. The shoe had dropped.

Blu faced Pedro and asked without humor, "Hills that is?"

"Swimmin' pools," answered Pedro.

"Movie stars."

"Shit," said Muk.

Will leaned forward, speaking confidentially to Muk, "This could get sticky."

Muk sat back and massaged his temples. "It already has," replied the artist with a very long and loud sigh. He pointed to the tail of Will's blue and gold striped tie. It was floating in a pool of sticky maple syrup.




Look for the next exciting chapter of Emperor Muk!





Catch Muk on or






For the Love of Muk

Back in the Muk Again

Muk Fast Five



All Muk'd Up





All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.







© Gordy Grundy, All Rights Reserved


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