An Udderly Ridiculous Story
Here's a story that got a lot of laughs on the old site...
And now for something completely different...
Pete Granholm was tired, dead tired. Six hours on the road, and he was still in Nevada. From his estimate, he was somewhere near Las Vegas. No time to stop for gambling, however. Once across the state's southernmost point and he'd finally be in Utah with his shipment: six Jersey milking cows and one Black Angus bull, specially ordered from Central Califonia--fresh breeding stock for the DairyMaid company in Brightonville. Still, it was a long way to go, especially with a thousand-pound bull; from his rearview mirror, Pete could see that it was beginning to get restless. Shoulda shipped them by train, he thought. It'd been safer that way.
Hungry, tired, and in need of a toilet, Pete turned off the freeway to a truck stop he knew well from previous trips over his eighteen years as a driver. A quick trip to the men's room, a sandwich and a cup of coffee, and he'd be on his way again. It was a pity he couldn't do more for the poor cows inside the trailer, cooped up like that since they left the stockyards six hours ago. True, he couldn't simply turn them loose to let them stretch their legs, but still.
It was still early in the morning, but the truck lot was already full, their drivers getting their morning cup of joe for their own trips up and down America's highways. Pete found a spot farther back from the diner and parked his rig carefully so as not to upset the animals in the trailer too much. The strong stench of urine hit him in the face as he climbed out of the cab; that trailer was going to need a good hosing down once he reached Brightonville, he figured.
Pete walked stiffly toward the diner, glad to be out of the driver's seat. The smell of cow urine mercifully gave way to the welcoming aroma of fresh-brewed coffee and frying eggs. To hell with the sandwich; Pete was going for the breakfast special: two fried eggs, three strips of bacon, home fries, buttermilk biscuits and black coffee. That should hold him until Brightonville.
While the cook in the diner was busy preparing his breakfast, Pete retired to the men's room to relieve himself of his last thermos of coffee during the trip. Meanwhile, out in the truck lot, the Black Angus was getting claustrophobic after six hours being cooped up in the trailer with six cows. It kicked against the metal doors in the rear with its powerful back hooves. The securing bolt held firm. It kicked again, and again. The rivets popped loose, but the doors remained shut. Knowing freedom was close at hand, the Angus gave them one last angry kick. The doors flew open, and the Angus bull charged out of the trailer, free at last. The six Jersey cows followed one at a time, bewildered but happy to be free from their confinement.
The cattle trotted around the lot, looking for water, grass or anything else familiar to them. Instead they encountered noisy trucks and cars, their hooves landing on hot concrete and asphalt instead of the soft earth to which they were accustomed. In desperation, they trotted away from the truck stop and across the desert, southeast toward Las Vegas.
A single motorcycle cruised down the long stretch of desert highway, the dull roar of its engine breaking the natural silence. Criss Angel, Las Vegas' famous illusionist, was enjoying one of his rare days off from performing, taking in the stark beauty of the Nevada desert as he rode his customized Harley along that lonesome road. It was good to get away from it all: the ringing phones, the cameras, the demands on his time from both producers and fans. Nothing but the sun on his face and the open road beneath his wheels--that was bliss.
He had been born in suburban Long Island, New York, almost an entire continent and virtually a world away from the arid desert of Nevada. Even in the oasis of Las Vegas (Spanish for "The Meadows" for its lush greenery among the dry scrub), there was precious little rainfall, about four inches a year: less than a single summer's worth of precipitation compared to the Empire State. But at least he didn't have to get up before dawn and shovel snow from the driveway anymore as he had in his early youth (there were extremely rare snowfalls coming from the mountains north of Vegas, but they melted away within a day or so), and he could count on clear weather for outdoor shooting of his television series, MindFreak. Despite the triple-digit temperatures in summer and the constant threat of flash flooding from the mountains, desert living had its advantages.
Criss rolled on, savoring his freedom and privacy. The chaos that had become his life had blown off his shoulders in the cloud of dust and exhaust he left in his wake. This was his moment, and his alone, to enjoy, and nothing was going to spoil--
A flash of white caught his eye. He slowed his Harley down to clarify whatever he had seen, if only for safety's sake. It could have been a white car, or a person walking along the shoulder, or--a cow?!?
Criss halted in the middle of the road, unable to believe his eyes. He removed his goggles to get a better view. Yes, it really was a cow, black and white, with an udder and everything. It glanced in his general direction and trotted away; from his point of view, it looked as if it was heading toward the city. Criss removed a bandana from his back pocket and rubbed his dusty face. "I must be losing my mind!" he said to himself.
Fearing for his sanity, he turned around and headed back toward Vegas. I did not see a cow in the desert, he kept repeating to himself firmly, I did not see a cow in the desert. I did not see a cow in the desert. I did not see a cow in the desert...
While Criss was trying to convince himself he had not seen a cow in the desert on his way back home, another driver traveling the same highway to Las Vegas was about to have a bovine encounter of his own.
Geoge Strumpolis, cousin to the very same Criss Angel, was driving his SUV with his new girlfriend, Angela Honi, a first-grade schoolteacher, beside him. They had met purely by accident in the atrium of the Luxor Hotel when Angela's narcissistic sister, Bianca, had thrown her over the railing from their twelfth-floor hotel room in a fit of rage after she had won the Lucky Million Slots in the casino. Poor Angela had landed right on top of George, who had been taking a break from a planning meeting for MindFreak Productions. Bianca had been arrested for attempted murder and was taken into custody. Angela and George became better aquainted during the investigation and began dating right from the start.
School was closed for Columbus Day, so Angie, as George liked to call her, had the day off, and since George was also free that day, they decided to spend it together. George had planned to formally introduce Angie to the family that evening at dinner; he was confident they would take to her like ducks to water. This morning, however, Angie and he had visited her only surviving relative: her sister, Bianca, currently incarcerated in the Clark County Detention Center women's wing. It was not the most pleasant start to their special day, but Angie felt it was only fair since she would be meeting George's family that evening, an event she looked forward to with eagerness and not a little apprehension.
After an sullen, awkward, ten-minute meeting in the Visitor's Room (the regulated time limit for family members of prisoners), with Angie apologizing to Bianca (again) over not being able to post her bail, the pair left the CCDC quickly and quietly. Bianca was taken back to her cell, muttering curses under her breath. Now the happy couple were on their way back to Vegas, relieved to be outside the grim concrete fortress and back in the real world. Before them, the splendor of the Nevada desert stretched out as far as they could see, a postcard-perfect setting for a morning drive.
George reached over and drew Angie toward him. "You okay, babe?" he asked, caressing her skinny arm.
"I'm fine, George," Angie replied. "I'm just sorry about Bianca's...'reception' of you, that's all."
"Ah, don't sweat it," George said dismissively. "I knew she wouldn't welcome me with open arms."
"I think she's still mad that I didn't share the jackpot with her."
"I think she's still mad that she's sitting in jail while you're out here with me."
Angie sighed heavily. "I'll never understand her," she said sadly. "Never. Ever since we were little girls she always had to have the upper hand. If I got something nice and she didn't, she either stole it, tricked me out of it, or bullied me into giving it up. I was too weak to fight back, and she manipulated Mother and Daddy like a con artist. Children can be selfish as a rule, especially when they are toddlers and preschoolers, but they eventually grow out of it when they develop a sense of empathy for others by the time they start school. Bianca, however, seemed, well...."
"What you're saying," George said, "is that Bianca is still a child."
"I would say more in a state of arrested development," Angie said. "I learned a lot about child psychology when I was in teacher's college. When we got to early childhood development, the more I learned about possessiveness in three- and four-year-olds, the more I drew parallels with Bianca."
George shrugged. "Like I said, she's still a child."
"But very cunning," Angie added. "She's very intelligent, but she's used that intelligence against me and anyone else who crossed her. Like there was the time when she--"
Suddenly, George slammed on the brakes. "HOLY (BLEEP)!" he cried out.
The SUV screeched to a halt, nearly sending Angie and George through the windshield if not for their seat belts. A shaken Angie looked around herself wildly. "Wh-what happened?" she gasped.
She glanced out of the windshield and recoiled in terror. There on the highway was a large black bull standing defiantly before them. Despite George's frantic honking, the huge animal made no move to clear the way for them.
"How did it get there?" Angie wondered aloud, still terrified at the sight of the bull.
"I don't care how the hell it got there!" George fumed. "I want it to move its ass right now!"
He leaned on the car horn. "Come on, you (bleeper)!" he shouted through the driver's side window. "Move it or lose it!"
"Maybe we should back up?" Angie timidly suggested.
"Oh, no," George disagreed. "No way. I'm gonna get this (bleeper) to move one way or another."
He picked up an empty plastic water bottle, got out of the SUV and positioned himself between the bull and the driver's seat, shielding himself behind the car door. Angie pleaded with him to get back inside, but George was determined to show this oversized hunk of hamburger who was boss. He cocked his arm back and flung the plastic bottle at the bull with all of his might. "Beat it!" George shouted.
The flimsy plastic container bounced harmlessly off the bull's head, but it was enough to incite rage: the huge bull bellowed furiously and charged straight at the SUV. George, realizing his mistake and its consequences, jumped back into the driver's seat and threw the trucklike car into reverse. "We gotta move!" he cried, terrified as Angie cowering beside him.
The SUV sped backward, away from the charging bull, then one-eightied around the shoulder and tore off in the opposite direction. The huge animal chased after them for a while, then gave up the pursuit, exhausted from the desert heat. George sped on, too scared to look in the rearview mirror.
Angie turned and looked back. "It's okay, George," she said. "It's gone now."
George slowed down and glanced in the rearview mirror on the driver's side door. "Man, that was close!" he sighed with relief. "That (bleeper) was gonna do me in!"
"Well, if you hadn't thrown that bottle at him--"
"Well, if he had moved like I told him to, I wouldn't have thrown it!" George argued back.
Angie kept silent. She didn't want to jeopardize her relationship with the first man who had shown an interest in her by fighting, even if she was right. The important thing was that they were alive and well, she rationalized, and they had escaped unharmed. Besides, she couldn't help but admire George's courage to stand up to that bull like he did, idiotic though it was.
George slumped in his seat. "Okay, I admit it wasn't the smartest thing I ever did," he conceded, "but I got him to move, anyway."
He drove to the nearest exit and took the long way back to Las Vegas. "They're never gonna believe this when we get back," he said.
Criss pulled into the motorcycle lot and parked his Harley in its designated spot. He removed his helmet and goggles, stored them away in the saddlebag, and walked toward the Luxor Hotel, craving a Martini from the lounge. Note to self, he said to himself, No more biking in the desert during midday!
He entered the air-conditioned comfort of the Luxor Hotel's famous atrium, the largest in the world. Around him, life went on: guests came and went, staff carried out their duties, the shops and restaraunts lay open for customers. Not a single cow in sight.
He did spot his mother, Dimitra, leaving one of the few boutiques that catered to women her age, her arms laden with shopping bags and shoe boxes. Laughing, Criss strolled up to her. "Whoa!" he exclaimed peevishly. "Someone's been doing some major shopping here! What'd you do, Mom, buy out the whole store? You're gonna bankrupt me at this rate!"
Dimitra looked at her famous son, annoyed at his facetiousness. Taking the nonverbal hint, Criss gathered up some of the bags. "Here, let me help you with those," he offered.
"Thank you, Christopher," she said, pleased with his change of tone. "You can just carry them up to my room."
Criss carried the plastic garment bags of new dresses and suits to the elevator bank. Dimitra followed with the shoe boxes tied together with white string. As they rode up the elevator to her suite, Dimitra asked, "I thought you were going riding today. What made you change your mind?"
Criss hemmed and hawed, not knowing how to explain what he had seen--or what he thought he saw--out in the desert, yet he didn't want to outright lie to his mother. "Well, y'see, Ma," he hedged, "it's, well, kinda hard to explain."
The elevator doors flew open. Criss was thankful for the brief distraction of carrying the bags into the hotel room and hanging them up in the closet. Once that task was done, Dimitra turned to him. "What is hard to explain?" she pressed.
"Well, uh, y'see, uh..." Criss made some helpless gestures, as if trying to conjure an answer. "I was out riding my Harley in the desert, see..."
"Yes, and...?" his mother prompted.
"Well, I looked to one side, and I see...something...out there that, well, looked pretty wierd."
"What was wierd?"
Criss drew a deep breath. "IthoughtIsawacowinthedesert," he blurted.
Dimitra was puzzled. "You thought you saw what in the desert?"
"It was a...a cow."
"Yeah, a real cow. You know, like in those TV ads? Black and white spotted--that kind of cow. Or, at least I think it was a cow."
Maternal instinct immediatly took over: Dimitra reached up and felt Criss' forehead. "Lie down," she told him.
"But, Ma, I feel fine, really," Criss protested.
His mother guided him to one of the beds in the suite. "Lie down!" she ordered, pushing him down on the mattress. "You've given yourself heat stroke from being out in that sun all day."
Realizing the futility of arguing, Criss lay down on the bed. Dimitra went into the bathroom. He could hear water running for a second or two, the his mother reemerged with a damp washcloth folded lengthwise. She laid the cool, wet cloth on his forehead. "There," she said. "Now you just lay there and get some rest. I'll get you something to drink. What would you like: water, juice, a soda?"
"How about a Martini?" Criss suggested. "Dry."
"No alcohol," his mother old him sternly. "That will only make it worse." She patted his hand and crossed over to the minifridge to find a bottle of water. "I'll get you some water instead. That's the best thing for you right now."
Criss lay on the bed watching his mother fetching a small bottle of water for him. So loving, he reflected, and so devoted. She was a mom's mom, that was for sure. Still, all this fussing over him wasn't really necessary. Okay, so he had a brief hallucination out in the desert--so what? It's not like he was going crazy, right? He didn't feel like he had heat stroke as his mother surmised; in fact, he felt fine. He removed the damp cloth from his forehead and sat up. "Mom, I'm fine, really I am," he insisted. "I don't have heat stroke or anything like that, so you can stop the Florence Nightingale routine, okay?"
Dimitra crossed back with the bottled water. "Here," she said, handing him the small plastic bottle. "At least drink this down. I don't want you sick tonight."
"Yes, tonight we're having dinner with George's new girlfriend, Angela, remember?"
Suddenly, Criss remembered. "Oh, oh, yeah, that's right! Yeah, sure, Mom, don't worry, I'll be fine." He leaned conspiritorially to her. "Just, well, don't mention this to anyone, okay? I don't want people to think I'm going crazy or anything."
Dimitra smiled. "I promise."
She took his face into her hands. "But you go back to your room and rest, okay? I don't want you going out into the sun again. You'll make yourself ill like you did before."
"Fine," Criss agreed. He gave her a peck on the cheek. "Love ya," he said, rising from the bed.
"I love you, too, honey," Dimitra returned, hugging him.
Criss hugged back. "I love you more."
Meanwhile, at the highway truck stop, two police cruisers surrounded the demolished remains of the cattle trailer in the truck lot. A police photographer took pictures of the bent, torn metal doors ripped from their hinges, the heavy steel guage bolt dangling from its bracket like a broken arm. The driver, Pete Granholm, paced nervously back and forth, protesting his innocence to the police sergeant and two other officers.
"Gawdalmighty! I just stopped for five minutes to take a leak and get some breakfast, wasn't gonna be long at all, and this happens! Boss is gonna hand me my (bleeps) on a platter for this! If they'd shipped them by rail, none of this woulda happened."
"Where were you taking the cattle, sir?" the police sergeant asked.
"Brighton, Utah," Pete replied. "DairyMaid company. They needed new breeding stock and milkers. I told them to ship 'em by freight train--they got their own rail, and it would've been safer that way--but nooo, they wanted to save money and have 'em delivered by truck! Damn pencil pushers! Don't know nothin' about livestock!"
"All right, Mr. Granholm," the sergeant tried to placate him. "We'll get the cows back somehow. They couldn't have gone far. We'll have Animal Control out looking for them."
"I made damn sure those doors were bolted shut!" Pete fumed. "I mean, that's solid half-inch steel there! I can't believe that bull would bust it down like that! I mean, he just kicked those doors all to hell!"
"You're not to blame for this, Mr. Granholm," the sergeant reassured him. "From the look of that truck, I'd say those cows wanted out pretty bad."
"It was the bull that did it," Pete told him. "Meanest son of a (bleep) you ever saw. They had to load him on last, he was so ornery. He was still kickin' when I left--thought he was gonna bust out right there in the middle of the road."
"Don't worry, Mr. Granholm, we'll find him; him and the rest of the cows. Animal Control will round them all up with no trouble at all."
"The cows ain't no trouble," Pete said. "It's the bull you should be worried about. It's gonna take more'n Animal Control to take him down. Hell, nothin' short of the National Guard is gonna bring down that (bleeper)! I'm tellin' you right now that bull is mean--one thousand pounds mean!"
On his way back up to his suite, Criss decided to head for the lounge for that much longed-for Martini, his mother's orders notwithstanding. Maybe later he'd play one of his electronic arcade games in his suite, or go for a swim in the pool. He realized he hadn't gone swimming in a long time, at least not for pleasure; the few times he had been under water was during his escapes. Yeah, he thought, maybe he would hit the pool later. Wouldn't hurt.
He went into the lounge and ordered a Martini. Fran, the bartender, a woman almost as old as his own mother, mixed a Martini that James Bond himself would be proud of: easy on the vermouth, shaken, not stirred. Criss took the glass, paid Fran, and settled back to watch the local news on the large-screen television mounted on the far wall of the lounge:
Good morning. Our top story: seven cattle escaped a delivery trailer this morning after the truck driver who was shipping the animals stopped at a local diner. Police investigation revealed that a six-hundred pound Black Angus bull kicked out the doors of the trailer and escaped toward the metropolitan area along with six Jerssey milking cows.
(cut to shot of demolished trailer)
Pete Granholm, truck driver: "I just stopped for a quick bite to eat when they got out. I made damn sure that trailer was bolted shut tighter'n a drum! But that bull kicked down those doors, and they all got out."
Clark County Animal Control is on the alert to round up the cattle and send them to the DairyMaid company in Brightonville, Utah. The Black Angus is reported to be extremely dangerous. Citzens are advised not to disturb the animals in any way, and to report any sighting of them to the local authorities.
Criss almost dropped his Martini glass in shock. So it is true! he said to himself. I really did see a cow in the desert! I'm not going crazy!
He bolted out of the lounge and headed back up to his mother's suite. Wait'll I tell Mom about this! Now she'll know I wasn't having heat stroke!
Up the elevator, down the quiet hallway and to the door of his mother's hotel room. "Mom!" he shouted, pounding on the door. "Open up! It's me!"
The door swung open, revealing a surprised and irritated Dimitra. "What?" she demanded. "What's wrong?"
"Quick!" Criss cried excitedly. "Turn on the TV! Try to get the news!"
Dimitra turned on the telvision set. "What is it?" she wanted to know. "Another terrorist attack?"
"Remember when I told you I saw a cow in the desert?" Criss said.
"Well, it's true! I really did see a cow in the desert. I saw it just now on the news."
Mother and son faced the television set tuned to the local news. "See?" Criss exclaimed, pointing to the screen, "Right there!"
The anchorwoman behind the desk read from the teleprompter the story of the seven escaped cattle, a small insert of a cow's head to her left on the screen. "...animals were reported heading for the metropolitan area. Citizens are advised not to disturb the animals and to report any sighting of them to local authorities." "I told you I wasn't having a heat stroke," Criss said.
Dimitra could not help but laugh. "Cows in Las Vegas," she said, shaking her head in disbelief. "Oh, my."
Criss' cell phone went off. He pulled it out of its holster and answered it. "Hello?" he said.
There was a brief pause. "Oh, okay," he said drily. "Thanks."
The cell phone went back into its holster. "Who was that?" Dimitra asked.
"Oh, that was the animal hospital," Criss replied. "Hammie's ear infection cleared up and he's good to go. I gotta go pick him up." He gave her a peck on the cheek. "Later."
He turned to leave. "Don't forget we have dinner tonight," his mother reminded him as he walked out of the suite.
"And watch out for those cows out there."
Criss' knees buckled under him as he laughed. "Like I need reminding," he said.
Wabeek Veterenary Hospital was a squat, square building sitting several blocks from Fremont Street, far away from the electronic extravaganza that was the Fremont Experience, with its overhead projection screens and dazzling light show. The only color the nondescript stucco cube was its sign posted out front, its logo accented with a picture of large South American macaw, its rainbow-hued feathers forming a forward-facing bracket around it.
Criss wheeled his Harley into the parking lot of the clinic. Behind him was a specially designed pet carrier, customized to fit on any of his motorcycles in case he wanted to travel with his cat, Hamlet, known affectionatly as Hammie. The gray and white tiger-striped tabby was beloved by Criss' fans, the Loyals, as much as Criss himself, so much so that his furry feline face was a favorite subject of online banners and fan signatures. Hammie was Criss' surrogate child, his main object of affection next to his mother; he was always cuddling him, giving him little treats, and giving him the run of the suite so long as he didn't scratch up the furniture and regularly used his litter box.
Two days before, Criss had taken Hammie into Wabeek Hospital for a routine check-up, only to discover that the cat had developed an ear infection that required treatment and observation. "We're glad we found it in time," the vet had told Criss. "If it had been left untreated, it could have damaged the inner ear." The infection would require regular doses of some special medication, he said; if it didn't clear up within forty-eight hours, surgery would be necessary.
A worried Criss had handed over Hammie, kissing him good-bye. "Take good care of him, Doc," he had said. "He's really special to me."
Now, forty-eight hours later, Hammie's ear had healed completely, and Criss was free to pick him up. He walked into the clinic, signed the release papers, paid the bill, claimed his cat, and walked out again, all within the space of five minutes. He slid Hammie into the carrier, mounted his Harley, and rode off.
On his way back to the Luxor, he noticed some sort of disturbance on Fremont Street. There wasn't any smoke, so it wasn't a fire, and there were no screams, so it wasn't a fight. Just some laughter and squeals from the crowd circling something. Criss pulled in closer to see what it was that held everyone's interest. He removed his goggles to get a clearer view--and nearly dropped them in surprise.
There, in the middle of Fremont street, was a black-and-white cow, just like the one he had seen in the desert that morning. It merely stood there bemusedly, its large head swiveling slowly from side to side.
Bystanders gathered around the cow, but kept a safe distance all the same. They took pictures of it with digital cameras, camcorders and cameraphones, telling themselves and each other that "they'll never believe this back home!". Criss, meanwhile, made his way forward, trying to identify the cow as the same one he had seen in the desert that morning.
"Hey, cow!" some wannabe comedian among the gawkers shouted. "Got milk?"
This brilliant bit of clever witticism was met with resounding silence. Of greater interest was a curious little girl, not more than four years old, who stepped up toward the cow with wide-eyed wonder. She pointed at the giant bovine and said, "Mommy, moo-moo!"
Mommy, a slim brownette in a baggy cardigan, swept up her daughter in her arms. "Yes, dear, it's a moo-moo," she confirmed. "But don't get too close to it--it might hurt you."
"Ah, it ain't gonna hurt her!" an old man of about sixty or so spoke up loudly. "Cows are herbivores; they don't bite anything living."
"How do you know so much about cows, mister?" the young mother asked.
"Been around 'em most of my life," the old man replied. "Born and raised on a dairy farm for thirty years. And from the looks of 'er, I'd say she needs milkin'. That udder of hers is full to the brim." He turned to the crowd. "Anybody here got a bucket and a stool?" he shouted.
No one could fulfill the old man's request. No one, that is, except Criss, who spotted a nearby restaraunt, and, siezed with a sudden brainstorm, dashed in and asked if they had any plastic buckets in the back room. The restaraunt owner, recognizing the famous magician and thinking he needed it to perform one of his illusions, happily obliged and fetched a large commercial-sized pickle bucket, complete with plastic lid.
"Is it clean?" Criss asked.
"Just washed it this morning," the owner proudly replied.
Criss thanked the man and dashed out with the bucket. "Here's a bucket, mister!" he called out.
The sight of Criss Angel dashing to the rescue elicited rousing cheers from the bystanders. Criss waved to them while he handed the old man the bucket. "This big enough for you?" he asked.
The old man nodded. "Plenty big," he replied. "All I need is somethin' to sit on, and I'm ready to go."
A plastic milk crate was found somewhere. The old man sat down, positioned the bucket under the cow's swollen udder, reached under and began to draw milk. Criss stayed at the cow's side, offering comfort to the animal: "It's okay, he knows what he's doing. You're gonna be okay."
The cow's presence on Fremont Street had attracted the local news crew. A van with a large satellite dish on top drove up to the scene. Cameramen, sound men and the roving reporter, a fashionably dressed woman of about thirty-five armed to the teeth with microphones and radio equipment, burst out of the van like a commando unit on a raid. Meanwhile, a young Loyal approached Criss. "I think Hammie wants out of his cage," she told him.
Criss looked over the cow to the old man on the other side. "I'll be right back," he said.
The old man simply grunted, carrying on with his work. Criss strode to his motorcycle and retrieved Hammie from the carrier. "C'mon, Hammie," he said, hoisting the cat onto his shoulders. "Let's go."
He returned with Hammie, to the delight of his fans. Rarely had they seen Hammie in real life, and for Criss to bring out his beloved cat in public was a real treat. When he returned to the cow, however, he noticed the news reporter interviewing the old man while he was still milking.
"Good afternoon, sir," the reporter said politely. "I'm Amber Wakely, from Channel Six news."
"How do," the old man grunted, still milking away.
"And you are...?"
"Clarence. Robert Clarence. Call me Bob."
"Okay, Bob, uh, can you give our viewers some information about the cow you're milking?"
"Sure, I can talk while I work."
"First of all, how do you know so much about milking cows?"
"Well, I'd been a dairy farmer for the first thirty years of my life. Had to sell the farm, though--wasn't turnin' a profit as much as it used to. Went into machine repairin' to make ends meet."
"And here you are, milking a cow right here on Fremont Street!"
"Had to," Bob replied. "She was full to the brim, and if a cow goes too long without milkin', she'll get sick and die."
"How much milk does the average cow produce?" Amber asked.
"Well, a good milker can go as high as ten or twelve gallons in one milkin'. Cows are milked twice a day, so we're talkin' twenty, twenty-four gallons. Of course, depends on the breed. This here's a Jersey--real good milker. They can fill up this bucket here easy."
"Well, thank you, Bob," Amber said. "And I'm sure the cow here appreciates your hard work."
"My pleasure, ma'am."
Amber turned her attention to Criss Angel. "So, Criss, what's your take on all this?"
Criss smiled sheepishly. "Well, first of all, this is my second cow sighting," he said. "I was riding my Harley out in the desert this morning, and I saw this cow--well, maybe not this particular cow, but it was a cow."
"And what did you do?"
"I rode back to the Luxor, and I'm like 'I did not see a cow in the desert, I did not see a cow in the desert.' I got back and told my mom about it."
"And what did she say?"
"She thought I was having a heat stroke."
"But you really did see a cow in the desert."
"Yeah, I did. Bugged me out, though."
While Criss was granting an interview to Channel Six News, Hammie slipped off his shoulders and padded to Bob. Criss looked down. "Hey, Hammie, where you goin'?" he said. "Hey, my cat's getting away from me!"
"Maybe he smells the milk," Amber suggested.
Criss trotted toward Hammie, who sat beside Bob. Bob turned and saw the cat sitting beside him. Amused, he said "Well, hello, there, kittycat! What's your name?"
"His name's Hammie," Criss answered for his cat. "He's mine."
"You want some milk, kittycat?" Bob asked Hammie good-naturedly. "Here."
He pointed one of the cow's teats toward Hammie's face and squirted out a steady stream of milk. Hammie lapped it up as soon as it hit his mouth. Criss doubled over laughing, as did those who saw it. The little girl who had first approached the "moo-moo" laughed and pointed at the kittycat getting a drink. Hammie merely licked his jaws and miawed.
"Oh, you want some more?" Bob said. "Here ya go!"
Again the stream of milk splattered in Hammie's gaping, lapping mouth. The cameraman with Channel Six News made sure to get a close up of the cat's milk-clotted face. The bystanders took their own pictures of Hammie's afternoon milk break to send over the Internet. Criss was still laughing over it all. Hammie, having had his fill of fresh milk, retired to wash his face in the manner of all felines: lick the side of his paw, rub it over his face, lick the paw, rub the face, and so on until it felt clean. Fascinated fans took more pictures: a few with camcorders taped it for posterity, vowing to send the footage to YouTube and other Web video sites.
Bob stopped milking and rose stiffly to his feet. "Well, that oughta do it," he announced. He turned to Criss. "Hand me that lid over there, willya, son?"
"Oh, sure," Criss said, handing Bob the plastic lid.
Bob clamped the lid on the bucket, leaning all of his weight onto it. "We got a good nine or ten gallons out of this one," he said proudly. "But my back is killin' me!"
"Good job, Bob," Criss congratulated him. "So, what're you gonna do with all that milk?"
Bob shrugged. "Goes to whoever owns this cow," he replied simply. "How the hell it got here beats my pair of jacks!"
Criss explained to Bob about the cow trailer that a bull had broken down, leading to the escape of half a dozen cows like the one he had just milked. "It was on the news," he said.
Police and Animal Control officers arrived to take the cow away. Bob, being the only one present with any experience with cattle, assisted them with loading the cow into the trailer. "C'mon, bossy," he encouraged the cow, "c'mon, bossybossybossy." The pail of milk was hoisted into the Animal Control van with instructions from Bob to get it into cold storage as soon as possible. "Don't let anyone drink it," he told them. "It's gotta be processed."
Criss had retrieved his cat and was about to leave, but the crowd would not hear of it. He and Hammie had to pose for pictures, then he had to sign a few autographs, and then levitated Hammie as a finale. It was a full hour before poor Criss could finally go home with his cat. With Hammie secure in his carrier, Criss strapped on his helmet and goggles (resulting in more photos for the fans), and took off, still amused over what had happened. Nice guy, that Bob, he thought. He really knows his cows. Funny the way he gave Hammie that milk! Can't get any fresher than that!
He arrived at the Luxor tired but happy. He couldn't wait for the local news segment on the cow on Fremont Street. Family's gonna get a kick about seeing Hammie and Bob, he laughed to himself as he lifted his cat out of the carrier. He turned to go into the hotel, but a loud mooooooo halted him in his tracks. He turned around and saw Carrot Top, the outrageous comedian and his good friend, standing behind him. "Got milk?" Carrot Top quipped.
"Hey, CT," Criss hailed him. "What're you talkin' about?"
"Saw you live on the news just now," Carrot Top said. "You and that cow on Fremont Street."
"Oh, that," Criss said dismissively as they strolled to the hotel entrance. "Well, hey, it was Bob who was the real star of the show--he did all the milking. I just stood there laughing when he fed Hammie."
"Bull," Carrot Top said.
"No, really, I didn't do anything."
"Bull!" Carrot Top repeated, louder this time.
"CT, what the hell is the matter with you?" Criss demanded, turning to face him.
His irritation faded as he saw the orange haired comedian's pale face paralzyed in terror, his finger pointed straight out in front of him. "Buuuullllll!" CT cried out.
Criss turned to where Carrot Top was pointing. There, right in front of the main entrance of the Luxor Hotel, was a giant black bull.
Criss froze, clutching Hammie tightly to his chest. Carrot Top slowly drew himself closer to Criss, his eyes fixed on the bull's long white horns. The Black Angus stood there before them, staring them down, its huge nostrils flaring. "Don't make any sudden moves," Criss murmured to CT. "Just move real slow toward the entrance."
Carrot Top replied with a barely perceptible nod. Criss stroked his cat to keep him calm as both men inched their way toward the hotel. "Steady," Criss murmured quietly, "steady..."
Step by step, they made it just a few feet away from the Harley. The hotel entrance was several yards away, but in their predicament it seemed several miles distant. The bull didn't budge an inch from where he was standing, but kept watching the pair warily, as if waiting for the moment to strike. "We're almost there," Criss said encouragingly. "Just take it slow and don't run."
"Tell that to the bull," Carrot Top retorted.
Criss shushed him and kept on inching his way toward the hotel entrance, still stroking Hammie in his arms. They had reached the halfway point, but unfortunatly that particular spot left them wide open for attack. The bull seemed to sense this, for he broke into a trot toward Criss and Carrot Top, a prelude to a charge. Hammie suddenly shrieked and leapt out of Criss' arms.
"Hammeeeeee!" Criss screamed after him.
Hammie streaked for higher ground, in this case the top of the MindFreak Hummer. The cat deftly jumped onto the hood, then the roof of the tanklike vehicle, peering over the edge at the giant black bull below. Criss tried to make a dash to save his cat, but Carrot Top grabbed his arm to stop him. "Are you crazy, man?" he cried. "That bull will make hamburger out of you!"
"I gotta save Hammie!" Criss shouted.
"Never mind Hammie!" CT shouted back. "We gotta save ourselves!"
Heedless of his own safety, Criss bolted toward the Hummer. The bull spotted him and ran toward him, his horns lowered for the kill. Instinctively, Criss yanked open the driver's side door and dived inside, slamming it shut just barely in time to avoid impact from the angry bull. The Black Angus collided with the huge vehicle, causing it to shake on its giant tires. Where's Hammie? Criss thought frantically. I gotta save Hammie! He's on the roof--how do I get to him?
He looked around the interior of the Hummer. Passenger door, driver's door, rear door, all no good. Wait! The sunroof! He clambered into the back of the truck and fiddled with the manual latch of the black tinted glass dome (specially designed for emergency exits after accidents). "Come on, come on," he muttered impatiently.
Finally the glass dome released itself, and Criss climbed out through the sunroof. "Hammieeeeee!" he called out. "Where are you?!"
A flash of white caught his eye. He saw Hammie perilously perched too close to the edge of the Hummer. One good knock from the bull would send him toppling to the ground. Criss boosted himself up to the roof and began snaking himself toward his cat. "Come on, Hammie," he called to his cat, trying to control the terror in his voice. "Kittykittykittykittykittty! Come on, Hammie. That's a good kitty."
He reached out to grab the cat, but the Hummer was suddenly jolted by another blow from the bull. It took all of Hammie's feline skill not to fall off the roof: he hunched down on all fours, keeping his balance. Criss could only hang on, praying for some sort of deliverance for himself and his cat. With one desperate lunge, Criss grabbed Hammie by one of his rear legs and dragged him through the sunroof into the Hummer. Once inside, he slammed the sunroof window shut and secured the manual latch as securely as he could. "Safe at last!" he panted.
But how safe were they? There was still a six-hundred pound bull crashing against the half-ton Hummer. How long the armored vehicle could protect them was anybody's guess. He peered through a window and watched as the bull turned away and headed straight for the hotel. "Oh, my God!" Criss exclaimed.
His cell phone was out of his pocket in record time. "We got a bull out here at the Luxor!" he cried into the phone to the emergency dispatcher on the other end. "And he's (bleeped) off royal! Send the police! Send EMT! Send everybody!"
Meanwhile, Carrot Top had escaped into the hotel, screaming for help at the top of his lungs. "Mad bull! Mad bull outside! Somebody call nine-one-one!"
Felix Rappaport, the president of the hotel who just happened to be in the lobby, spotted CT. "What's going on?" he demanded.
"Listen!' CT cried frantically. "You gotta get help! There's a raging bull out there, and I ain't talking about Robert DeNiro! He's got Criss trapped in his own Hummer!"
Rappaport was incredulous. "A bull?"
"Swear to God, a real bull!" CT shouted. "And Criss is in the carport in his Hummer with him!"
As if to confirm the danger, several guests and hotel staff members came running into the lobby, screaming in terror. A large black object tried to break through the tempered glass dividing the hotel from the carport, causing it to spiderweb on impact. Sizing up the situation, Rappaport turned to the terrified desk clerk. "Call emergency," he ordered. "Tell them we got trouble."
The clerk snatched up the phone and pressed the emergency call button. "Please hurry!" she pleaded. "We've got a mad bull trying to break into the Luxor!"
Meanwhile, Rappaport tried his best to restore order out of the sudden chaos. "Everybody calm down!" he shouted over the din. "The safest place right now is in the Grand Ballroom. Please, everybody, move to the Grand Ballroom in an orderly manner."
The crowd moved to the Grand Ballroom, but not in an orderly manner--panicked, they stampeded into the large, windowless room, protected only by two heavy wooden doors with its gilded Egyptian carvings. Rappaport sent word to the rest of the guests and staff to take cover in the stairwells until the "emergency", as he put it, had passed and the all clear was given. Security personnel were to secure all exits and wait for furthur instructions, and in no way were they to try to engage the bull in any confrontation. "Leave that to the professionals," he ordered.
Outside, the Black Angus trotted around the main entrance, sending pedestrians and drivers fleeing in all directions. He could not chase them all, so he just remained where he was, laying siege to the hotel with his mere presence, almost daring anyone to approach him.
The wail of police sirens accompanied by flashing red and blue lights dazed and confused the beast, enraging him furthur. With a loud bellowing roar, the Black Angus charged at the first squad car he encountered, plowing headlong into the side of LVMPD Squad Car Number 208. Bulletproof glass cracked and splintered from the force, and the driver's side door caved in from the impact. The two officers inside were jostled like dice in a crapshooter's cup.
"208 requesting backup!" shouted one of the officers into the car radio. "We're gonna need a SWAT team to handle this (bleeper)!"
The bull, however, was not finished with Squad Car 208--it plowed again into its side, nearly upending it. Then the beast reared up on its hind legs and charged toward it, colliding with the radiator. The hood buckled upward; oil and radiator fluid trickled like blood onto the pavement. The few bystanders present screamed in horror at the sight of this demonic animal attacking one of Vegas's Finest. Police officers burst out of the other squad cars, weapons drawn but unable to save their comrades from the raging bull.
"What do we do now, Sarge?" a young police officer asked his CO as he witnessed the destruction of the cruiser.
"Tell 'em to fire up the grill and break out the A-1 sauce!" the sergeant retorted. "I want this (bleeper) served up on a platter!"
While the LVMPD held the Black Angus at bay, Carrot Top and Felix Rappaport made a quick dash to the carport to try to rescue Criss. "He's in the Hummer," CT said, running up to the demolished vehicle.
Felix could not believe the damage the bull had inflicted onto the giant truck: the entire driver's side was caved in; long gashes made by the bull's horns streaked across the mural surface; the windshield was a sheet of splintered glass. "God, I hope Criss is okay," he muttered anxiously as he ran toward the wreck.
CT tried to pull open the driver's side door, but it refused to budge. In desperation, he circled to the passenger side, still pristine in spite of the attack, yanked open the door and clambered inside. "Criss!" he shouted. "Criss! You okay?"
There was no sign of life inside the Hummer. The interior with its arsenal of speakers lining the walls had withstood the bull's attack, thanks to the heavy steel body surrounding it. CT looked around for any sign of his friend, but it was empty. Worried, he withdrew and closed the door of the Hummer. "He's not in there!" he called out to Felix.
"Criss?" Felix shouted. "Criss, where are you?"
"Criiiiiiiiiissss!" CT yelled at the top of his lungs.
"I'm right here, CT," came a calm reply.
Felix and CT turned to see Criss standing serenely before them, gently stroking his cat in his arms. Both men were relieved to see him unharmed, though CT could not help but feel a bit angry over his friend's demeanor. "I thought you got killed!" he said.
"We made it out all right, didn't we, Hammie?" Criss said, nuzzling the cat's furry neck. "Soon as the bull left, we slipped out the other side."
Felix shook his head. "Boy, Criss, of all the close calls you've had over the years--"
Criss shrugged. "Hey, this ain't the first time I escaped from a charging bull."
Surrounded by armed officers and squad cars, the Black Angus paced nervously up and down the walkway, growing more enraged by the minute. Beside it, the wreckage of Squad Car 208 lay like dead carrion, its two officers having fled for safety long since. The feeling of entrapment only fueled its paranoia, just as it did when it was confined in the shipping trailer. The figures in front of it were a threat, and all of its bellowing and pacing did nothing to send them away.
From the animal's frantic behavior, the CO knew they were in for another attack. He pulled out his radio mike. "Send Animal Control here ASAP!" he barked. "If this thing charges us, so help me, God, we're gonna shoot!"
The bull turned around and crashed headlong into the plate glass window of the hotel, shattering it with one blow. He charged into the atrium, sending guests and staff running for their lives. The huge snorting bull stamped and kicked furiously, toppling potted plants and anything else in its way. The desk clerk in the hotel lobby took cover under the checkout desk. Upstairs on the casino level, the pit boss rose heroically to the situation and instructed all gamers not to go downstairs but to remain inside the casino while alerting security staff to prevent anyone on the second level from using the down escalator.
The CO turned to his men. "Let's move!" he shouted.
The officers charged into the hotel like an invading army, ready to bring down the bull with all the firepower they possessed. The bull turned around, then suddenly reared up on its hind legs and charged straight at them. Before they could fire a single shot, one officer, then another, were caught between the bull's horns and flung aside like sacks of laundry. Shots exploded from police-issue handguns, but the huge Black Angus fled from the atrium, galloping away from the hotel and toward the Strip. The screech of tires and screams from pedestrians followed in its wake.
The CO got on his radio again. "Officers down!" he barked. "Officers down! Send EMS to the Luxor Hotel. And send backup--the bull is on the loose down Las Vegas Boulevard! Repeat! The bull is on the loose down Las Vegas Boulevard!"
He switched off his radio mike and glared at the carnage wreaked by the bull. The two injured officers lay where they fell, tended to by their comrades. Pieces of window glass lay glittering in the afternoon sunshine. Outside, he could see what was left of Car 208, beyond anything but the scrap yard.
"All right, you (bleeper)!" the CO growled. "You just earned yourself a trip to the slaughterhouse!"
Our top story: The Black Angus bull which had escaped from its cargo trailer has been spotted heading east down Las Vegas Boulevard. Police had cornered the animal in front of the Luxor Hotel and Resort when it attacked a squad car--
(scene of demolished police car)
--crashed through the main entrance--.
(cut to video surveillance tape of bull charging into atrium and attacking police.)
--and then turned on the police squad, injuring two officers. It then ran out of the hotel and down the Boulevard. Citizens in the area are advised to remain indoors until the bull is captured. If you see the bull, do not try to capture it or provoke it in any way, but contact local authorities as soon as possible...
"Didja hear that, dawg?" D'Wan Rollins shouted over the thumping bass to his homies as they cruised the Strip in his pimped-out Camero. "There's some big-assed bull runnin' down the street! C'n you believe that, man?"
"Hey, dawg," Kev Weste spoke up. "I heard it on the news this mornin'. Mother(bleeper) busted out of its cage or somethin' and took some cows with him. They've been lookin' for 'em all day. Found one of 'em on a golf course."
"The bull or the cows?" D'Wan asked.
"One of the cows, mofo!" Kev replied. "They ain't found the others yet."
"Think we'll be able to see it?" Rory "Peep" Armand, a skinny youth in a grey hoodie, spoke up from the back seat.
"Hey, man, they said it was on the Strip," D'Wan said. "If we keep goin', maybe we will."
"What'll we do if we do?" Kev wanted to know.
"Maybe if we capture it, we'll get a reward or somethin'!" Peep piped up eagerly.
"Oh, yeah?" D'Wan scoffed. "How the (bleep) we gonna do that?"
"You got rope?"
"Oh, yeah, like I carry rope with me all the time! What the (bleep) do I look like, some mother(bleeping) cow--"
"HEY, MAN WATCH OUT!!" Kev screamed.
The bull stood in the middle of the boulevard, right in their path. D'Wan slammed on the brakes and skidded to a halt. "(Bleep)!" he exclamed in astonishment. "Lookit the size of that mother(bleeper)!"
Kev turned back to Peep. "You still wanna capture that (bleeper)?"
"(Bleep) that, man!" Peep shouted. "Let's just get the (bleep) outta here!"
The bull began to trot toward the Camero. "Backupbackupbackupbackup!" Kev frantically pleaded with D'Wan.
"I'm tryin', dawg!" D'Wan screamed back, throwing the car into reverse. "I'm tryin'!"
The Camero careened away backward from the bull, heedless of the lamppost behind it. It collided with a sharp bump, jolting it's passengers. "Hurry up, man!" Peep shrieked hysterically. "That thing's gonna kill us!"
D'Wan shifted into drive and floored it, peeling away from the dented lamppost, tires screeching on the pavement. The bull gave chase, galloping down the boulevard with its horns lowered for the attack. Around them, other drivers cleared the road for fear of being the next target. Pedestrians fled, though a few foolhardy souls stopped to take pictures or tape the pursuit for posterity or profit. Exhausted from the chase, the bull slowed down to a walk, then halted in the middle of the road. In the Camero, Kev whipped out his cell phone to call for help.
"Nine-one-one, what is your emergency?" the operator answered mechanically.
"We got a big-assed bull chasin' us down the Strip!" Kev shouted. "And, man, is he (bleeped)!"
Special Arms and Weapons Tactics Captain John Hondo briefed his men as they rode in the black armored truck toward Las Vegas Boulevard. "Our target is a large Black Angus bull," he said loudly so as to be heard over the roar of the engine. "Weight, six hundred pounds, pair of horns that'll punch a hole in you like a bazooka round. Our orders are to try to take him down alive, but if we have to, we shoot to kill. Animal Control's gonna come by with a trailer to ship him to the train yards. This (bleeper's) already taken down a squad car and two officers, and he's just trashed a hotel lobby. Clear the area of all civilians, and bring 'im down. Copy?"
"YES, SIR!!" the SWAT team chorused.
"And if we're lucky," Captain Hondo continued in a more genial tone, "we'll all be having steak tonight!"
The team whooped and cheered at that enticing promise. "Make mine medium rare!" one young officer quipped.
"All right!" Hondo barked. "Let's stay focused! We got a job to do, so cut the bull(bleep) and get it in gear!"
The team fell silent, not daring to comment on their captain's choice of expletive. The crackle of the speaker from the driver's cab drew everyone's attention. "Murray to Captain. Murray to Captain. Do you copy?"
Hondo pressed the speaker button. "Captain here," he said. "What've you got, Murray?"
"Uh, Captain, our target is in sight," Murray said a bit nervously. "In fact, it's right in front of us."
"Stop the truck!" Hondo ordered him.
The truck rolled to a stop. "Everybody out!" Hondo shouted. "Moveitmoveitmoveit!"
With speed and precision, the SWAT team filed out of the back of the van, their high-powered rifles at the ready. One team of four ordered everyone off the street while another team of four went into firing formation in front of the bull. Captain Hondo got on his walkie-talkie. "This is Hondo. We are on eastbound Las Vegas Boulevard and A-- Street; our target is in sight. " he radioed in. "Is Animal Control on the way?"
"Affirmative," the dispatcher replied. "Animal Control is on its way, ETA five minutes, over."
Hondo lowered his walkie-talkie and raised his rifle. The bull snorted and pawed the pavement, ready to charge at the slightest provocation. The first team paired off and flanked it on either side of the street, aiming their rifles straight at the animal's sides. "One false move," Hondo muttered, "and you're USDA prime beef!"
The standoff continued for five long minutes, a near eternity to the SWAT team holding their rifles aloft. The tension was broken by the dull hum of the Animal Control van rolling to the scene, towing a steel-lated horse trailer behind it. The Black Angus heard the noise, about-faced and charged toward the van. There was a loud POP from a single rifle, then the bull jerked up on its hind legs, trotted around in a semi-circle, then stood wavering on unsteady legs as if drunk.
"It's okay, Captain!" an Animal Control officer called out to Hondo. "We just tranquilized him."
"Stand your weapons!" Hondo ordered his men.
The SWAT team lowered their rifles. Hondo crossed over to the Animal Control officer, who was busy pulling out some ropes. "Need help?" he asked.
The AC officer gave him a length of heavy rope. "Here," he said. "Loop this around his neck. Do it quick before the tranquilizer dart wears off."
"How long we got?"
"An hour, maybe. He's a big one, so it might wear off faster."
Hondo took the rope. "A bullet in the head would've been better," he commented.
The groggy bull was lassoed around the neck and pulled into the trailer with little resistance. "Come on, you son of a (bleep)!" Hondo growled at the beast as he tugged and pulled it into the steel trailer. "Get in there!"
At last, the Black Angus was safely in custody. The AC officer slammed the steel doors shut and bolted them tightly, furthur securing it with an industrial sized padlock. Hondo heaved a huge sigh of relief. "Jezuz!" he gasped. "That's a first for me! I ain't never tangled with no bull before!"
"Well, thank you for your help, Captain," the AC officer said, shaking Hondo's hand. "We truly appreciate it."
"Hey, man, no problem," Hondo said. "Just doin' my job, that's all."
"Well, your job is finished," the AC officer said. "We still got half a dozen cows to round up."
Hondo looked up. "Cows?"
"Yeah, they were shipping this bull with six Gurnsey milkers to Utah. They got out when the bull busted out of the trailer." The AC officer smiled reassuringly. "But don't worry, Captain. They aren't nearly as bad as this one in here." He jerked his thumb toward the trailer containing the still drugged bull.
"They'd better not be," Hondo retorted. "I've had enough bull for one day."
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