David Tilker is a brewer located in San Antonio, Texas, and he hired me last spring to write his biography. During his vetting process he read some of my work, including two stories here at X-R-A-Y about a character named Jannick Meisner. In the second of these stories, “I Was Married By A German Expressionist,” Jannick officiates a wedding for two close friends and orchestrates a violent and spectacular confrontation with a guest during the ceremony. This guest is actually Jannick’s secret lover. Jannick’s antics intrigued David Tilker and he asked, in a hopeful tone, if the events of that purported work of fiction were based in truth and whether Jannick Meisner might actually be a real life individual.

Jannick Meisner is real, I admit. His audacity is real. The danger he once posed is real. I met him first in Lake Charles.  We were drinking buddies. And we had many mutual friends and I too was a guest at that infamous wedding, on the bride’s side. I witnessed the whole fight. For his own amusement, Jannick had fisticuffs at a wedding he was presiding over. Tilker’s immediate reaction was: you have got to find this bastard, this iconoclast, and bring him to San Antonio. David Tilker was getting married and he wanted the Jannick Meisner treatment.

The finder’s fee was considerable, enough to keep me in single malt scotch for a year, so I agreed to the preposterous task of drawing Meisner out. I first traveled to Lake Charles to search for Meisner at his usual haunt, Pappy’s Bar and Grill. According to the regulars, he had gone to New Orleans to join the Merchant Marine. So I then went to New Orleans and endured the hipsters and tourists and confederate flag wavers and the lousy goddamn smell of the place. I found Meisner’s ship, just back from Kolkata, and his captain complained that Jannick had abandoned the crew in Ho Chi Minh City, to trade in exotic birds.

That night I phoned Tilker to give him an update. He became excitable, “Yes! Follow the goddamn Bavarian to the ends of the earth, if you must.” David Tilker had become infatuated with Meisner and had even started taking German lessons at Texas State University.

So I went to Vietnam. It is a vibrant country. The people are remarkable. Meisner had gotten into trouble with the local authorities and had fled across the border into Laos. And from there he had gone to Myanmar, all the while traveling with a contingent of small, colorful, rare birds he had captured and trained to circle above him and terrorize any who might reproach him, or show any unkindness to children or defenseless women. In point of fact, he became a sort of myth on the Indochinese peninsula, protector of the innocent, that sort of mawkish thing. But like all lawgivers he had flaws, in his case an obsession with orgasm control. His partner would have to bring him to the threshold and stop, and repeat and stop, all day. The criteria for loving Jannick physically was simply burdensome. According to the people I interviewed, ranging from simple villagers to high powered businessmen in Bangkok, he never reciprocated.

In Singapore, exhausted, I confirmed Meisner had chartered a flight to Brussels, and in Brussels I tracked down an apartment he had rented. I went there armed with whiskey and diazepam, only to find that the apartment had been recently abandoned and that it contained the corpses of six murdered Interpol agents. Jannick was the target of an expansive investigation into the smuggling of endangered species.

“Jesus fucking Christ” I said volubly at a cafe afterwards, and they scoffed at me as if I were yet another Ugly American.

“I’m coming home,” I told Tilker in an email. He was not amused but he understood. Meisner had gone completely unhinged.

I flew back to the States in August of 2018, after months away. In early September, I was reading all the local Texas newspapers for the sports pages. I’m not proud to admit it, but I’m a bit of a gambler and I like to bet primarily on high school women’s bowling. And yes, there is a sexual element to it, if we are being frank. Out of Marathon, I happened to glance at the Life & Culture section. There was a photograph of Jannick Meisner, though the caption read Jeff Coolbody, standing next to the sculpture of what appeared to be a deformed giraffe.

After Brussels, Jannick had come back to the States and settled in West Texas. Every day huge shipments of animal feces were carted to him on the Missouri Pacific or some other rail line and he would take the feces and shape them into the animals which produced them. This was an artistic medium that began in Russia, Jannick told me. He’d sold the birds and in turn had received enough money to afford the logistics of his art, the cooperation of the railroads and zookeepers, et cetera. I went to visit him and he welcomed me with a five course meal.

“This is my dream. I dreamt of this since I was a boy in Munich,” he said.

“And what of Tilker’s wedding? He’ll pay you handsomely,” I said.

“But I’m happy. I am at peace,” Meisner said to me and I believed him. He bid me Gute Nacht, reminding me of the spare room and the full liquor cabinet and the Wi-Fi password before shuffling off to bed.

Perhaps this will surprise no one, but the death I speak of is not literal. It is the death of an idea: the insane, cornered, malevolent, discerning German. He is no longer that person, and he can no longer be properly embellished, at least by a serial abuser like me. His artistic conceit is odd, very odd,  but he is earnest about it, like a young child coloring. Nothing to disparage there, though certainly nothing to lionize. And there is no twist, by the way. I promise you. Were this one of my usual accounts, Jannick would have died while working on an elephant. Its torso would collapse on top of him.

All I can say is that Jannick was alive and happy and real when I left him. He works under aliases obviously. He cannot stay in Marathon forever, since he is still a wanted man. He’ll be moving soon, I imagine, but follow the smell and look on his works.

Continue Reading...


Lake Charles, Louisiana

Expressionist is probably not the right term, but Jannick Meisnner was a German male in his mid-30s. He claimed to be the German embassy’s cultural attaché at large. He was making a study of the Satsuma fruit and its impact on life in southwestern Louisiana.

My wife and I met him at a bar down the street from the university where she taught. This was right before we were married. My wife holds several fine arts degrees. She liked Jannick and we had him over for pulled pork sandwiches. He ate and drank lustily. In fact, he won me over by the amount of Satsuma rum he could drink in one sitting.

We probably saw Jannick every day in some capacity. We took him crabbing. He had us over for schnitzel. He would attend a reading with my wife. He and I would drive down to Vinton to go to the strip clubs. The three of us watched every Saints game together. On my wife’s 30th birthday she bet a hundred dollars on black at L’Auberge. Jannick was there to console us after she lost.

He counted cards and split his winnings. Jannick Meisnner was the prince of thieves.

A few weeks before the wedding Jannick offered to be our officiant. Why not? We did not belong to a church. So Jannick married us at the Trahan homestead down in Cameron Parish, in front of my father’s gun cabinet.

We had set up chairs for about 30 guests. Jannick’s speech was actually quite beautiful. It had my wife and my mother in tears. He even wrote our vows: Jenn, will you accept Glenn as a man bound by worldly limits, whose love for you is nevertheless boundless?

Then, after the vows, he asked if anyone objected to our union. He followed this with a joke about the guns in the cabinet not being for show. Nearly everyone laughed at this, except a tall, thin man in black denim I hadn’t noticed before. He stood up suddenly and began shouting at Jannick in German.

Priester, du machst keinen Edikt gegen das Erziehen und das Tragen von Kindern. Die Weltbevölkerung ist zu viel. Die Erde wird verbraucht sein. Unsere Flüsse trocknen aus. Du bist kein Mann Gottes! Sag ihnen, du musst ihnen sagen, dass sie nicht züchten können. Ihre Orgasmen werden ihre Kinder sein und sie werden Tausende von diesen vergänglichen Nachkommen genießen. Informiere sie über diesen neuen Bund. Diese neuen Kinder werden den Sternen zahlenmäßig überlegen sein. *

Jannick responded by taking off his jewelry and charging at his abuser. They started kicking and punching their way through the house, eventually spilling out into the back. They ended up in the turtle pen. A brief aside: my father once raised turtles to sell to the Chinese. Turtle meat is a delicacy in Mainland China. The man in black denim began throwing turtles at Jannick and bashing him with turtles. Jannick deflected the turtles with other turtles. He improvised a smart cuirass of turtles and a lance of turtle. Jannick took deadly aim at the man in black denim but before they could finish their sweet melee (the meat of the soft-shelled turtle is sweet, not savory), my father returned from inside with a shotgun. He fired a warning shot then leveled his shotgun at the skirmishers.

In all, thirty turtles died from massive internal trauma. The police arrested their murderers but were gracious enough to let Jannick sign the marriage certificate. Apparently Jannick and the man in denim were lovers and they spent the night in Cameron Jailhouse doing loverly things. Of course, we don’t mind. The marriage certificate is valid and Jannick reimbursed my father. It was in Deutsche Mark and I believe we came out ahead in the currency exchange.

*When you spiked my vanilla ice cream with the cheapest amaretto available, it gave me an upset stomach.

Continue Reading...


Nacogdoches, Texas

Jannick Meissner claimed to be from Eastern Bavaria. He spoke theatrically, e.g. “I will revenge myself upon Castro.”

Castro had slighted Jannick by not inviting him to an ongoing, Sunday afternoon table-top role playing game. Jannick was livid.

“I am an excellent storyteller,” he told me. We were drinking on Jannick’s front porch. I sat and he paced back and forth in a very tortured manner. “I will revenge myself upon Castro,” he repeated.

“You don’t even like role playing games,” I pointed out.

“This is accurate,” Jannick conceded. Jannick was a very cultured, seemingly intelligent German male in his early 30s. He did not like games. He preferred to drink whiskey, listen to Wagner and talk about the demise of Western culture. It was his favorite topic of conversation. Then, when he was very drunk, incredibly drunk, -- which was often -- he would make a solemn display of his sexual impotence, even in mixed company, and then stumble into the kitchen to cook you these extraordinary chicken quesadillas. I don’t think he even played cards.

Still, it was a matter of principle. Jannick felt like he was being ostracized because of his superior wit and charm. It was a matter of envy on Castro’s part. Castro is admittedly a bit of an ass, but the reality is Jannick could be very unpleasant. And his penis smelled horrible.


We were crossing the Straits of Colchis when Jannick rang the doorbell. Castro’s wife let him in and showed him to the game room, unaware of the fact that Jannick was not an invited guest. We all greeted him sheepishly. Castro managed to ask him how his day had been.

“Very good, Castro. I was walking through the neighborhood and thought I would stop by and say hello. What is it you are all doing?”

Castro explained impatiently that we were playing the Knights of New Corinth.

“May I observe the game for a little while? Would anyone care for a touch of mineral water and blended scotch? Castro, do you have a lemon and a sharp knife with a wide bevel?” Jannick sat down next to me and produced a flask without waiting for a reply.

Castro sighed audibly but we continued the game. I was never really worried that Jannick would revenge himself that afternoon. Traditionally, the man had never followed through on anything.

He was still overweight and still a drunkard, despite vowing tearfully on numerous occasions to give up cheeseburgers and highland single malt, his favorite pairing. But I did not realize then that Jannick’s vengeance that afternoon would be swift and costly.

We had made landfall on the Troezen Coast and were hiking to the caves further inland to mine for Adamantine, which was not a very glamourous undertaking, but necessary in order to defeat the Troll Wizard Pandonia X. This did not please Jannick.

“You’re miners, now?” He was incredulous. “This game is a fantasia, no? Why aren’t you fighting and pillaging? Kill the men and sexually humiliate the women in front of their children. Then sexually humiliate the animals in front of the clergymen. Then kill the clergymen. Let God watch this tapestry of devastation unfold.” Bear in mind that all of this was uttered unsmilingly, in a thick German accent.

“Jannick, right now we’re mining for Adamantine. You’re free to leave,” Castro said.

A pained expression crossed Jannick’s face. “Castro, Castro, I am sorry. I am not being a good guest. I apologize. Would you like some mineral water and scotch?”

Castro ignored him and kept narrating. As we were mining for Adamantine, a Praxis Dragon entered the cavern, attracted to the smell of our smoked whitefish.

“What’s the plan?” our buddy Stan asked.

“Well, fuck, I think we’ve got to make a run for it,” Castro opined.

Based on our diminished stores of magic and the abject state of our weapons (hence the visit to the mine), a retreat was a logical course of action. Jannick, again, objected.

“Stay and fight! Cowards!” “Goddammit, Jannick.”

But Jannick had a plan. Apparently, he’d done his research. “Use the Nabulus Vestibulovus spell to flood the cave with gas. Then shield yourself with the Adamantine you’ve unearthed. When the dragon releases his fire, he will blow himself up and you will be safe.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” Stan said.

Castro, to be fair, acknowledged as much. “Alright, not bad, Jannick. Want a beer?”

Jannick happily accepted a beer. For the next two hours he was polite and inquisitive. He and Castro seemed to be getting along. When Castro’s kids came home from the park, they were introduced to “Uncle Jannick.” Jannick insisted on ordering pizza for everyone.

It happened after his third slice of mushroom and sausage. Jannick stood up abruptly and raised his fist. He was trying, I think, to make a serious declaration of his enmity, but before he could he leaned over the table and projectile vomited over everything, the seas, the mountains, the small village we massacred Sunday last, the sacred brothel of the elves. He kept vomiting for several minutes. When Castro ran back from the garage and offered Jannick a bucket, Jannick pushed him aside and kept willfully throwing up on the game table.

“Jesus! What the fuck, Jannick!” Castro cried as he tried to forcibly remove Jannick from the tableside. But Jannick gripped the table for dear life and kept vomiting.

When he was finally done, Jannick took a swig from his flask and wiped his mouth.

“I am an excellent story teller,” he said to Castro. Then he collapsed. I rode with him in the ambulance.

He was severely dehydrated. Jannick had eaten a big meal at home before he walked over to Castro’s, and he drenched his last pizza slice in syrup of ipecac, the well-known emetic. Wisely, he was put under psychiatric observation for 24 hours. I visited him, but Castro, understandably, refused.

Jannick complained, “Where is Castro? Why does he fail to visit me?” “He’s busy trying to repair the damage you caused.”

“Well, I think he is rude, and I shall, once more, revenge myself upon Castro,” Jannick declared.

The next day Jannick checked himself out of the hospital against the doctor’s advice. A few hours later they arrested Jannick for setting fire to the play structure in Castro’s backyard, then attempting to extinguish the flames by urinating on them. Despite a jubilant effort, he was not successful.

“I am no longer dehydrated. That doctor is a fraud,” Jannick declared as he was led to the police cruiser.

Some towns have their resident drunks and fading beauties. Ours has Jannick, arguably a synthesis of the two but so much more, eternally aggrieved, openly vain and routinely impotent by his own hand and bottle. His notoriety survives ice storms and the yearly lice and handjob epidemics at the middle school. Of course he seethes and bitches that Castro has yet to attend to him in prison. When they release him, any day now, Jannick tells me he will find another town, with more personable adversaries and perhaps a more sympathetic biographer.

Continue Reading...