| The Corpses Cantina
By Judson Michael Agla
There wasn’t a hell of a lot to do on the island but the most dangerous and consequently the most fun
was “The Corpses Cantina”.
It got its name from the body counts at the end of the night. There was a “no gun rule”, however, nobody
trusted anyone so the crowd was always armed to the teeth.
The elixirs and potions they served were all concocted from strange flowers and fungi from the
surrounding jungle, and on occasion believed to be mixed with animal blood (what animal is anybody’s
guess). Any drink there would knock you out of your head and usually leave you hallucinating for a day or
I staggered up the dirt road to the cantina and grabbed my usual seat, which was the stool closest to
the door (always plan for a quick exit).
I carried my usual munitions to ensure my leaving on two feet or crawling, semi-conscious and with all
my blood. So I arrived with my burlap sack filled with angry rats over my shoulder (always seem crazier
than you are, it helps prevent confrontations) and my floral bucket hat (the rim was low, to avoid eye
contact when necessary). It was always best not to look at anything for too long, especially if you’re tripping
balls, all fights ended in bloodshed at the cantina.
I was pretty much dressed in rags which upped my weirdness level and prevented my being marked for
robbery, kidnapping or other atrocities. I wasn’t there long when an acquaintance walked in and took the
stool next to me. “Dub”, he called himself. I really got a kick out of this guy. He would sit there guzzling the
day’s special while tossing these little homemade sticks of dynamite out on the road at any tourist he saw
walking by. They were too small to kill, but I did see him blast some poor fuckers hand off once.
Distracted by the fireworks display, I didn’t see another one of the locals crawl onto the stool on the
other side of me. It was “Tinker Bell”, a very well-known prostitute and fixture at the cantina. She was nice
enough I suppose, there was an ongoing bet about which language she spoke. Constantly on opiates,
speed and the swill that came out of the cantina, she was never seen sober enough to bring any
discernable words together, let alone a full sentence. She was also infamous for being the only human with
a tail that I’ve ever heard of, 3 inches of skin and bone that she could actually wag.
The three of us sat drinking glass after glass staring out at the street beyond the cave like entrance of
the cantina eyeballing people as they came and went, trying to dodge Dub’s little barrage of dynamite
sticks. Dub eventually ran out of his bag of tricks so we were subjected to listen to the garble coming from
Tinker Bells mouth (she never shut up).
It was one hell of a fucking heat wave these last few weeks and right in the middle of tourist season, the
cantina in all its infamy was also built on aboriginal burial ground with the bodies still entombed in the earth
underneath. There may or may not be aboriginals down there but sure as shit there were also plenty of
bodies that needed to disappear for whatever particular reason; bodies either involved in politics or gang
related killings, with the possibilities of some high rolling tourists that went missing after a night out at the
During the tourist season the cantina opened its kitchen and the scarcity of meat on the island left
everybody who knew better to open there eyes on the back of their head. In the off season there were all
sorts of stray beasts crawling around and due to the nuclear testing off shore in the seventies most were
unidentifiable. As tourist season approached you would see less and less of these monstrosities, so the
locals who knew better would stock pile any canned goods available.
As the hot sun began to set, the cantina began to fill up with bandits, perverts and tourists with heat
stroke and dollars to be reaped. Tinker Bell had managed to get her first hook up of the night, so off she
went, leaving Dub and I to fend for ourselves.
As we were making fruitful attempts at conversation, another regular staggered off the street and in to
greet us. It was “Black Beard”, dressed in the highest of pirate fashion; he used to be an actor or
something until he completely lost his shit (the details are only speculative) and ended up here. He had a
different swashbuckling suit for every day and actually believed that he really was a pirate. He had no boat,
no crew, a horrible pirate accent and carried a battery powered lightsaber where ever he went (the red
Darth Vader kind). At first we all thought it was a scam to get change from the tourists, but we soon found
out that he actually was bat shit crazy when a cruise ship anchored off shore. He paddled out in a children’
s dingy to meet them, screamed obscenities and demanded their surrender. His dingy flipped over
eventually and he was forced to swim back to shore, holding his lightsaber above the water screaming
more obscenities. That was the day that Dub and I started hanging out with him.
That was the secret to survival on the island; make sure your friends were fucking crazy, it was the only
way you could trust anyone, no matter what sort of madness was afoot, nut jobs would always be bound to
whatever illness they had and react accordingly.
The sun finally set and moonlight creeped in; the three of us began to forage for ideas for some type of
destructive and semi illegal activities for the evening. The cruise ship was anchored in the bay and aside
from Black Beard’s failed attempt to board her, Dub and myself had done so on numerous occasions, and
was quite easy if you weren’t screaming with a lightsaber in broad daylight.
We would swim out and climb up the anchor line with bagged dress cloths. Once aboard, we’d change
into the formal wear and act like guests, drinking and eating ourselves into a full on consumption
Unfortunately we were too fucked in the head with hallucinations to successfully pull off such a cerebrally
guided exercise, so we decided to go up and see “The Coronal”.
The Coronal was the unofficial President of the island because he was a rich, murdering drug lord with
a lot of guns on his payroll and a dangerous obsession with impalement. Aside from his little quirks
however, he wasn’t all that bad (on a social level) and he through the most outrageous parties in his
mansion/fortress on the top of the hill.
We were all in real good with the Coronal. I think mostly because like him, we were all on the island to
disappear and couldn’t return to our own particular places of origin due to some tumultuous reason.
The only issue was transportation. We could only get there over the water across the bay and I
happened to be the only one of us that actually had a boat. It was a single person canoe and defying all
logic and with a loosening grip on whatever survival instincts we still had, we headed out, hallucinating and
falling down drunk towards my shack by the ocean.
It was just that, a shack. It was 12x12, made of wood, palm leaves and cow shit. It was placed in a
precarious position in that when the tide came in, the shack was partially submerged. The fishermen used
to use for stowing fishermen stuff when there were fish to catch. The fishermen moved to the other side of
the island for the season and I had a two dollar a week place to crash.
A ten minute walk turned into an hour long pilgrimage; staggering, getting roped up in sea weed, all of
us drifting off the path chasing various hallucinations. By the time we arrived, the three of us forgot why we
came in the first place, so we sat down on some ripped up old lawn chairs I had liberated from one of the
hotels and cracked open a bottle of rum I had. Submerged in sea water up to our ankles, passing around
the bottle, I caught a glimpse of my canoe and sequentially recalled our previous mission (the Coronals
The rum had somewhat of a clarifying quality as my partners in crime began to come down off their
astral-planes and began to exist in the here and now. The first problem was obvious; how to successfully
get three men into a single person canoe without sinking. Second, how to successfully navigate to the
other side of the bay through shark infested waters while pumped up on hallucinogens and booze. Third,
how to execute the first and second tasks without dying.
We opted out of the concerns that physics and rational thought that would apply to the situation and
loaded the canoe with; oars, two bottles of rum, a snub nose revolver (defense against sharks) and my
sack of angry rats. Pushing out was a bitch because of the tides but we soon made it out to calmer waters.
With extreme difficulty, we all made it into the canoe soaking wet, unbalanced and about an inch above
water level, so, we grabbed the paddles and set out on our way.
Arriving at the Coronals was directionally easy as his mansion/fortress was well lit. The crossing
however was going to be pretty much based on luck. I was in the stern, Black Beard in the center and Dub
in the bow, neither of the two had ever been in a canoe before and consequently there was no unison
between us. We set out in a snake like direction, going left and right and me not able to compensate with
my fruitless steering.
The waters around the island were filled with all sorts of radioactively manipulated creatures that would
attack at a moment’s notice (I should have brought my shot gun). We were about half way, the boys were
finally paddling in a straighter direction and we were making good time. We busted out the rum but
unfortunately it wasn’t the only thing that busted out; the rats had eaten their way through the burlap sack
and were running around the canoe like their asses were on fire.
The boat was tipping left and right as we all stood up to deal with the issue. Dub scrambled for the rum,
being our most precious cargo and Black Beard lit up his lightsaber to attempt to fend off the rats. I tried to
keep the canoe stable during all the chaos, however given the situation, in all likelihood we were fucking
doomed, and after Black Beard switched up his lightsaber for the snub nosed revolver my fears were
confirmed. Black Beard started shooting at the rats and into the canoe, we were going down alright, right
here, right now.
We had to flip the canoe off its belly and ride on top, the other two weren’t so confident about this plan,
but they conceded.
So, there we were; three drunk and drugged up freaks paddling an upside down canoe lit up at the bow
by a glowing lightsaber (I took the revolver off Black Beard to avoid any more life threatening mishaps). All
in all, it took a three hour journey to reach our destination, and each one of us kissed the rocky shore when
we finally landed.
The canoe looked like a corpse that washed up on shore. We did however salvage the rum so we sat
around exhausted passing the bottle. Dub had brought along some acid which we all gladly dropped
before the next shit ass journey we would have to endure. The Coronals place was on top of an inactive
volcano and even with the rocky but somewhat civilized staircase, it was going to be a bitch.
We finally made it to the top with only a few injuries; but as we got closer to the main building, we heard
very strange noises, screams, yelling in some indiscernible language and a lot of gun fire. The gun fire was
expected but something was afoot, things seemed to be a bit off and the acid was starting to kick in just
as we entered the compound.
There were hundreds of men in camouflage running around shooting into the buildings; throwing hand
grenades, spewing flame throwers. I even caught a glimpse of one guy with a bazooka. It was a Coup d’
état unraveling in front our eyes, most likely a competitor of the Coronal.
So, we found ourselves in the worst possible position; drunk, tripping on acid and unarmed in the
middle of a war zone with no conceivable means of escape and no more rum. There was a very
precarious road leading back to town on the other side of the compound but we’d have to make it passed
the world war three type bonanza between here and there. On the other side was our ride as well (if it wasn’
t destroyed). The Coronal kept his unique car collection in a small garage hidden by overhanging foliage
from the jungle. He had a few classic cars but the only one working (as I recall from a onetime tour he gave
me) was a DeLorean.
I believe everyone agreed on the plan but we were tripping so bad I wasn’t totally sure. The guerillas
were moving closer to the main building which gave us a sort of laneway between them and the wall
surrounding the compound. Aside from stray bullets, we could actually make it. I motioned to my two
cohorts and off we were, clinging close to the wall behind the Coronals rose bushes getting ripped apart
by the thorns and occasionally forgetting what I was doing as I was seeing purple bubbles everywhere.
Finally we reached the garage, the door was open and we heard an engine blasting from inside. We
peaked in to check out the scene and were pleasantly surprised to hear “Hey motherfuckers, what the fuck
are you doing here? Can’t you see there’s a goddam revolution?” It was the Coronal attempting his
escape, and he was sure as shit going to fill up that DeLorean. We all piled in and off we went, down the
most precarious road a DeLorean had ever seen.
Safely back at the Corpses Cantina, we all ordered up a plethora of shots of tequila and a glass each
of the daily swill. It was a giant moon that night and we all sat catching our breaths, staring at the sky and
listening to the gun fire off in the distance, a civilized end to a tumultuous day.
|About Judson Michael
As far back as I can
remember I was drawing. I
grew up in the suburbs of
Toronto where I fulfilled
my obligations as a
juvenile delinquent, the
details of which are on
record, lost in some dark
moldy basement which in
all truth is where I’d be
without the unquenchable
desire to see beyond
doorways, beyond the
self, beyond judgement
and beyond the tenuous
paradigms of truth.
Wexford C.I. Visual Arts
Foundation Year George
Brown Chef Program
Capilano College Classical
Toronto School of Art,
various classes I draw;
write, sculpt, carve and
paint my way through life
and have had my
successes and defeats.
Art chose me, it’s my life,
blood and guts, and I
couldn’t stop if I wanted
to. People will either love
my work or hate it, it’s part
of my job to make sure
that they don’t ignore it.
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