by Art Arduous




Any kind of road trip has a magical effect on Muk McKaylee. The long views and open skies magically refocus his perspective. Wide worries narrow to slim on the horizon line. Resentments are left behind, growing smaller in the rearview. A road trip makes and loses distance. Yin and Yang.

Muk had just spent the afternoon with some old friends, family really. He was still swimming in the warm glow of a long friendship over time. To be loved and to be needed are essential human desires. Muk had been reminded that he was both. It was a good feeling that he often forgot, as if he had grown afraid of it. Emperor Muk McKaylee

He knew he would be arriving to bad news at Silver Rio. Great things never last long. The previous nine months had been a vacation, a retreat against our dark and stormy times.


The sun was about to touch the horizon and the shadows were long when Muk drove up Encanto Drive in Los Feliz. He rounded the tight curve at the top that comes upon Silver Rio.

Muk slammed on the brakes and the dogs flew forward. The whole middle section of the mansion had been burned in what must have been a big fire. A wall had caved in. Part of the roof. "Fuck!" Muk was out of the car before the dogs could pick themselves up off the floor. His heart was racing. Blu. Pedro. Shit. This was devastation.


A fireman was uncurling a hose. Another was approaching, signaling Muk to 'keep moving.' Muk yelled, "What happened? What--?" The fireman was Blu. Blu was in a firefighters suit. She was smiling, giggling actually.

Muks blood was pumping and his adrenalin juicing.

Blu explained, "The realtors drove up, saw the damage and just keep right on going. Will was in the car. The look on his face was pretty funny."

Muk interrupted fast, emotionally, "But what!?"

She saw how upset he was. "We fooled 'em!" Blu was twisting side-to-side, nervous, hoping she had done the right thing. "We started painting the crack in the foundation and we just kept going," she laughed, "Think big! That's what you always say!" She poked his chest.


Muk was trying to take it all in. Looking closely, he could now see where the colors were off but it was amazing. This was a fire scene with massive damage.

"And look," Blu pointed up, over the roof, "We even put some smudge pots on the roof with real smoke. It added motion and perspective."

 Muk was impressed and speechless. The fireman up the street turned and waved. It was Pedro. Muk was glad to see him. He asked, "And they just kept on driving...?"

"Yep," answered Blu, "Stopped for a few cell phone photos and they split. Never got out of the car. Of course, if they had, the jig would have been up. We were going to explain it was a movie shoot if we got busted."


Muk laughed loudly. Pedro turned on the garden hose and adjusted the nozzle to a hard stream. He aimed it at the wall that had collapsed in brick and charred wood. The brick started to dissolve and melt, turning into red streaks. Blackened wood began to drip and run in dark colors. Three-D became flat. The trump l'oeil, a masterpiece of set painting, was now washing away. Muk asked, "Anyone talk to our realtor friend?"

"Yeah. Totally freaked out," laughed Blu, "He thinks there are fire and police going through the damage in the house. He's flipped that the stuff in his room could bust him with his wifey."

Muk was laughing. "Does he know?"

"Know? No. He is still under the impression the place has burned to the ground."

Muk laughed. "I gotta say, Nice job."

"Yeah. Might buy us a few months." Blu grabbed a brush on a long handle and left to scrub the tough spots that were not dissolving. The fire scene was becoming the Silver Rio once again.


"Might buy us a few months," Muk chuckled to himself. He yelled to the duo, "Hey. Good news. Tomorrow night. Crew Booty. Musso and Franks. Blu, can you call Tricky Vicki and get her there. I think we have more than enough reason to celebrate."

"We got the Freemani check in today."

"See. All the more reason! Pedro, how's the mouth?"


"Can you eat a steak tomorrow night?"

Pedro nodded, "With a blender."

Muk clapped, "We're on at Mussos. Crew Booty."

Blu was excited, "Crew Booty. New shoes!"



"Ruben, should you be leaving the bar unattended?"

"Manny's there," said the wide bellied, red-jacketed bartender, "I invented the Muktini and I serve the Muktini." Ruben set a beer down in front of Tricky Vicki and rolled his eyes for a laugh. Muk, Pedro and Blu each received a small frosty glass decanter. Ruben poured half of each into their own chilled martini glass. "Enjoy! You know, when I heard my old friends were coming in, I started marinating the olives immediately. Que sabor!" Emperor Muk McKaylee

"Marinate some more!" said Muk. Rubens Muktini officially contained no vermouth. The much-discussed recipe was that the vermouth took up too much space and was therefore eliminated. However, the olive (any style) was marinated in vermouth for at least two long hours.

The crew of four was dressed to the nines. Tonight was a special evening, a celebration that had not happened in a long while. Musso and Franks is the oldest and one of the most expensive restaurants in Hollywood. New menus are printed every day. Everything is a la carte. Salad has a price and so does the dressing. Mussos and a Muktini are reserved for very special occasions only, like Crew Booty or a birthday.

Muk raised his glass and toasted his comrades. Each word was spoken with great meaning. "Friends. Family. We have been sailing on very rough seas. We have not had a night of celebration, like tonight, in a very long time. Let us sip to the hard effort." Muk took a gulp of the steely liquid. "Our ranks are thin. Our reserves are low. This crew has less than we have ever had before. Three cars, all beauts, have been sacrificed. Let us drink to the fallen Woodie, the Westphalia and the Cougar." Muk took a bite out of his olive and a very large sip of his drink. So did the others. Muk continued, "The winds are changing, blowing stronger. I feel a new swing is in store for us. Maybe not great, great prosperity, but a change in direction and a better life." He raised his glass, "To kinder, more gentler lives." They all clinked glasses.

"Hear! Hear!" said Vicki. Everyone was in agreement. There was much to be grateful for. The Silver Rio had been saved for a while longer. Money had come in. Pedro got his wisdom teeth removed. Everyone had their health. Knock, knock. Luck, luck. Life seemed like it was finally slowly getting better.

Muk pulled three envelopes from his pocket. "We should be doing this weekly! Not yearly." He handed an envelope to Tricky. "For services rendered beautifully." He passed one to Blu. "To the hostess with the most-ess. And a very talented painter. And chef. I'm very sorry we had to give your, I mean, the jewels back. They looked swell on ya."

Blu nodded thanks and pretended to wipe away a tear.

Muk gave Pedro an envelope. "Pedro the Torpedo! Faster and more lethal every day." Muk stood, "On this ships crew, booty shared by all, according to Captain. A toast! To Luck. To the great island Valihi! To the Continuum. To us! To Beauty! To Life!" The four touched glasses. It was a beautiful moment. Emperor Muk McKaylee

Muk was hoping it was a graduation and a new direction. The world was changing and so must they. Adapt or die. Stay free.

The gang ordered everything they wanted. Steaks were complimented with peppercorn and béarnaise sauces. Lamb was glazed with mint jelly. The fish was lighter than air. All of the great side dishes were served. Baked potatoes exploded with butter, chives and bacon. The tomatoes were broiled with parmesan. The corn was creamed. Muktinis kept swirling. The fruit was fresh and the crème was heavy. Everyone celebrated very well.

The cab driver, who got a big tip for driving the loud, rowdy gang home safely, was very patient and very brave.



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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