“Come on, man. Just a few clips? I won’t even credit them to you.”
“Shut UP, Arnie!” That first voice, that was Arnie, in case you’re too drunk or brain damaged to figure that out for yourself. The other two voices, they were both yelling the same thing at the same time, and that was me and Mandy.
It had been a few weeks since Mandy went upstate with the guy she thought was her boyfriend. Every conversation between her and Arnie had pretty much been the same since then—he would beg her to let him use audio clips from a personal phone call that accidentally got recorded, and she would tell him to shut up. At first, it was great fun to watch Arnie irritate someone else for a change, but it got old pretty fast, and pretty soon he was irritating me, too.
The personal phone call, in case you haven’t been following the story, was one in which Mandy was describing all kinds of freaky stuff to her boyfriend about what she wanted to do with him, to him, and around him. It was some pretty spicy stuff, really, and I could see why Arnie wanted to use the clips. I could also understand why Mandy didn’t want him to. I mean, stuff like that, it doesn’t matter how anonymous you think the internet is, you put that stuff out there and next thing you know, you have porn movie producers from around the world banging on your door. No pun intended.
It had been a pretty uneventful few weeks, really. It’s a pretty sad point in your life when dressing up in a bright yellow bodysuit and going out to look for crime counts as uneventful, but there you have it. Aside from accidentally stopping a robbery, we hadn’t really had any adventures, and that one didn’t really count as an adventure, if you want to know the truth. Arnie had gone in to a deli to grab a pack of Skittles to mix in some new drink he was trying to make, and he accidentally walked in during a stick-up. I ended up waiting for twenty minutes and then going in to see what was taking so long.
By that time, I was so pissed off at him, I failed to realize that there were a couple of guys with shotguns pointed at him. They told me to stop right there, but came to the obvious conclusion that I was the lesser threat. If you ever saw Arnie in his costume compared to me in mine, you would understand their reasoning. Arnie looks vicious, I look like what someone might toss into a prison if they were planning to film a documentary about jailhouse rape.
Anyway, so the guys were still pointing their guns at Arnie, talking about where could they get some rope to tie everyone up, or should they just kill us all. I grabbed the stun gun out of my fanny pack and took them both out. Arnie and I both got free Skittles out of the deal, even though he just stood there with his hands up, and I did all the work.
Aside from that, about the only thing going on was Arnie begging Mandy to let him use the audio clips on his website.
“At least let me listen to the rest of it,” He said. “I won’t put any of it on the website if you just let me listen to the rest of it.”
“The rest of it” that he was talking about was the phone conversation. We had only heard about the first minute or so of it, and then we had turned it off. There was still another three minutes of secret naughtiness that Mandy wouldn’t let us hear. At first, I figured we would just end up getting drunk and listening to it, anyways, but Mandy hacked into the Drunk Tank and transferred the files. She couldn’t delete them, but she had control over them.
“No, Arnie! Leave me alone about it!”
We were just pulling into the garage, after a night of hard work—driving around and eating Cheetos. Once the garage door was shut, we slid back the top of the Portmobile and I clapped my hands. This is what you do to activate the hydraulic lift that raises and lowers the Portmobile into the Drunk Tank.
The first thing I do when I get home is strip out of my horrendous outfit and dress up in normal-people clothes. You just can’t quite understand how great is the freedom of being able to dress how you want until that freedom is taken away. I enjoy my ratty jeans and over-size t-shirts more than I ever thought possible.
Arnie, on the other hand, has a pretty cool costume, so he generally wears his around the house. Actually he changes from one costume to another. One has cameras built into it, so that every second is recorded to be edited and put on the website. The other costume is exactly the same, only without the cameras.
Our usual routine goes something like this: I climb out of the Portmobile, change into civilian clothes, crack open a bottle of Jim Beam, and turn on the TV. Arnie changes into his non-camera suit, grabs some variety of alcoholic beverage, and sits down to watch a little TV. Mandy usually logs off around then, to do whatever it is that she does. Sometimes, she stays logged on, turns her own TV to whatever Arnie and I are watching, and we all sit around talking shit about television programming these days.
“I can’t stick around tonight,” Arnie said. You could tell he wanted me to ask why couldn’t he stick around tonight, but I wasn’t biting. I just told him okay, and finished changing clothes.
“I’ve got a big date tonight.”
“Okay,” I said, and opened a bottle of whiskey. It was Friday, which meant that I didn’t have to got out as Portly Boy for the next two days. If you ever think that you love Friday night because it means you don’t have to go back to your job for a couple of days, you might think that you understand my relief each time that the F-Day rolls around. You don’t.
I mean, if your job requires you to dress up in some skin-tight suit and go out to the worst neighborhoods in the city and look for crime, then I guess you might understand where I’m coming from. But unless you’re a hooker, I doubt you do things like that. And if you’re a hooker, you probably have to work weekends, so Friday doesn’t matter much, anyway.
What I’m saying is, I love Fridays more than the average Joe.
“Okay, dude. Good job. You’re talking over Letterman’s Top Ten list.” We don’t get back until midnight, so we have to record David Letterman. Technically, I could have paused the Top Ten list, but listening to Arnie just isn’t worth hitting the “pause” button.
“She’s having some friends over.”
“Should be fun. You’re still talking over the Top Ten.”
“They agreed to try out some of that stuff we heard Mandy talking about.”
I hit the “pause” button. It was then that I realized that Arnie hadn’t changed into his non-camera suit. “Why aren’t you changing into your practice suit?” That’s what he calls his suit that doesn’t have any cameras on it, is his practice suit.
“They said that I could put it on the site.”
I generally have just about zero interest in Arnie’s website. I’ve heard that it has some of the craziest porn that you can find in the world—all of it very high-quality—but I hate the idea of supporting Arnie’s business endeavors. This had me interested, though. Some of the stuff we had heard Mandy talking about, I thought maybe it was just exaggeration for excitement purposes—I didn’t think that all of it was even physically possible. Plus, I couldn’t think of any way to mention you would be interested in that kind of thing without getting the cops called on you.
“I’m not. I mean, that part with the penguin, we’ll just have to see if you can even do that in this country, but they’ve given me green-light with most of the rest.”
“I hate you so much.”
“You’ll thank me some day.”
“You will. I gotta go—they’re picking me up at the gas station down the street.” He ran up the stairs and out of the Drunk Tank—he didn’t even fall down.
I watched a little TV, drank a lot of whiskey, and waited to pass out.
“Where’s Arnie?” That was Mandy. She had ditched the voice-disguise thing, since we knew what she sounded like now, and all the mystique was gone. I still hadn’t seen her, yet, tough, so I guess there was still some element of mystery. Arnie had seen her, but one night when he was really drunk, he confessed to me that he had actually forgotten what she looked like.
“Let’s not talk about Arnie,” I said.
“I can’t figure out what he did to these files, man. I’ve tried everything, but they still won’t delete.” I don’t know much about computers, so I generally stay out of things like this.
“Have you tried hitting the ‘a’ button? I’ve heard that works sometimes.” Complete bullshit, of course, but I was getting a pretty hefty buzz-on.
“Really? I’ve never heard anything like that.”
Mandy yelped. “That just duplicated the files.”
“Oh. Well, live and learn, I always say.”
“You don’t always say that. ‘Die and leave me alone,’ is what you always say.”
“They’re practically the same thing.”
“You suck. So where’s he at?”
“Out on a date. He got some girls to try some of that stuff he heard you talking to Captain Pizza Guy about.”
“Dirty son of a bitch!” This was still a very delicate topic. All the stuff that Mandy had talked to Captain Pizza Guy about, they had done most of it that weekend up at his parent’s cabin, before she found out he was our arch-nemesis.
“Arnie or Captain Pizza Guy?”
“Both of them. I assume he’s out with that skanky Rachel chick?”
“Yeah, man. Who else do you know that would agree to do that thing with the ski goggles?”
“It’ll break her,” Mandy said.
“Yeah, man. I was wondering how you could bend the-“
“Can we talk about something else?”
“Oh. Yeah. Sorry.” Arnie and I had been talking, thinking, and speculating about what we had now dubbed ‘The Mandy Tapes’ so much that you could almost forget that the sick puppy that thought up all this stuff in the first place was actually a friend of ours. With real feelings and embarrassment and stuff. “So, um…what’s up?”
“Not much. Trying to delete these files.” That was pretty much Mandy’s new hobby. That and trying to get Arnie to tell her how to delete them. It was pretty ridiculous listening to them try to have a conversation these days. It usually went something like:
“Please, Mandy, please, please, PLEASE!”
“No. Tell me how to delete them.”
“Never. How about if you let me use them, I’ll tell you how to delete them?”
“No deal. Just tell me how to delete them. You’re supposed to be my friend.”
“You’re supposed to be my friend, too.”
“Being your friend does NOT mean I let you share my most intimate moments with the entire world.”
And blah, blah, blah. It can go on for hours, if you don’t get irritated and make them both shut the hell up.
“You know what you should do,” I told Mandy, “Is get real drunk.”
“You think that will help, do you?”
“You should try to think like him, and the only way to do that is to get wasted. And even if it doesn’t work, you’re at least drunk, so it won’t matter so much, anyways.”
“I think you need to seriously consider your approach to life, Howie, and I think you should change it drastically, for the sake of your kidneys and the sake of your liver, if not for the sake of society as a whole.”
“Tell you what: I’ll take that into consideration, once I get into the right mindset.” I took a deep swallow from the bottle of Jim Beam.
“You’re hopeless,” she said.
“I’ve got plenty of hope.” I held the bottle up to the webcam above the giant monitor on the wall. “It’s in here, probably close to the bottom.” I took another big drink.
One thing I love about whiskey is that nice burning sensation you get when it rolls down your throat and into your stomach. And then it warms up your entire body in waves. That warm wave feeling is kind of what I’ve always heard true happiness described as, and I’ve never really argued. I don’t get that kind of thing from puppies, though, or children’s smiles. I get it straight out of the bottle, which suits me just fine.
“Why don’t you go out and make some other friends, or something?”
“Because I don’t like people,” I answered. “I mean, Arnie’s my friend, and you can see how much I like him.” I don’t like Arnie much at all, really, even though he has been my best friend for more years than I care to remember. “Why bring more people into my life for me not to like? I don’t need to invite people into my life for that, man—I can not like them just fine when they’re standing in front of me at the grocery store.”
“Maybe you should get a hobby.”
“Got one.” I lifted the bottle again, and took a big drink.
“They way you drink isn’t a hobby—it’s a sickness.”
“I like to think of it more as a lifestyle. Come on—have a drink with me, and we’ll try to decode Arnie’s computer eraser-blocker thing. Whatever it is.”
“Fine. I’ll have one drink with you, but that’s it. I have things to do tomorrow, and I can’t be sleeping through the entire day.”
At this point, I was already about half a bottle down, so I don’t remember much of the night. At one point, I remember Mandy saying that she had to go to bed. It seemed like the sun was up at that point, but it’s hard to say for sure.
I woke up because the phone was ringing. I didn’t like that at all, so I turned off the ringer and went back to sleep.
The next time I woke up, I felt pretty good, which can be frightening on so many levels that I can’t even get into them all. Just so you’ll know, though, I’ll tell you about a few reasons why waking up feeling fine can be scary.
For one thing, it might mean you’re in the hospital. Generally, people wake up in the hospital feeling worse than they did before, or at least almost as bad. When you live your life like I do, no matter what they do to you while you’re unconscious, it can’t be as bad as what I would be doing to myself if I was awake. Cut me, take out vital organs, and sew me back up—I’d still be doing more damage to myself if I was up and at ‘em.
Another thing is, it might mean that you’re dead. I don’t know much about the afterlife, but I know about the current one, and I rarely wake up feeling good in it. So if I’m feeling all good and healthy when I open my eyes, there’s a good chance it’s because I’ve died in my sleep.
Reason three: there’s the possibility that my body has adapted to the horrible things I put it through, and I just don’t phase it anymore. This is the most terrifying of all the reasons, because if my body gets to where it’s fine with what I do to it, I might as well be dead.
The last reason that I’ll mention is this: if you stay up all night drinking and destroying your body, then you wake up feeling good, there’s a chance that it’s not just the next day. Every time I feel good when waking after a bender, I’ve lost at least one day of my life to unconsciousness, and sometimes up to nine.
I heard someone shouting my name, telling me to wake up, and basically just ruining my sleep.
“What?” I asked. “What do you want?”
“I want you to wake your lazy ass up!” Mandy yelled at me.
“No. I need my rest.”
“Dude, you just slept for something like thirty hours. You get any more rest, you might as well be dead.”
“I probably am—I feel pretty good this morning.”
“Oh, right. So why are you waking me up?”
“Arnie’s in trouble.”
“Dude, you say that every time he goes out with that Rachel chick. Are you sure you aren’t just jealous?”
“Don’t be absurd. I know things that would make even super-skank blush.”
“Yeah, I don’t doubt that for a min-“
“Shut up. Listen, I was going through the website today-“
“You look at that? Dude, you really are a pervert.”
“I wasn’t looking at the pictures, you jackass. I was looking at the code, the stuff that Arnie used to build the website. I was hoping I could find something in there that would help me delete these stupid audio files.”
“Why would there be something like that on the website?”
“People don’t always write their own code, man. A lot of it is just cutting and pasting. I was hoping that he would have left a clue somewhere on the site, but I found something else.”
“Porno? Was it porno? Because that’s what most of the site consists of.”
“It was an e-mail. For you.”
“Odd. What did it say?”
“I’ll show you.” The giant monitor on the Drunk Tank wall flashed, and suddenly the wall was covered with a sentence. It said “FILES ATTATCHED.”
“What files?” I asked Mandy. She seemed to be in the know about all of this, and I hadn’t even had my first cup of coffee. I walked over and started making some coffee.
“Movie files, my man. Dig this.” I saw the little arrow move over and double click on the file icon, and suddenly there was a picture of Arnie, naked except for his mask, tied to a bed. I dropped my coffee pot and it shattered onto the floor.
“Turn it off!” I screamed. “It burns! Turn it off!” I thought about asking what horrible things I had done in my life to deserve this, but then thought better of it and just screamed for her to turn it off again.
“Hello, Portly Boy,” A female voice said. “I’m sure you’re wondering why your sidekick is naked and tied to a bed.”
“He knows me pretty well,” Arnie said in the background, “So he’s probably not wondering much at all.”
“You shut up!” The woman yelled. Then, in a more civilized voice, “We have taken him hostage.
“Who has taken him hostage?” I asked Mandy.
“I don’t know. Looks like a bunch of chicks that were too sleazy for Hustler magazine got together and started some rock group.”
“Can you still see Arnie all naked?”
“Nah, she’s standing in the way.”
I turned back to the monitor and saw a woman dressed in a purple mask. It looked kind of like a peacock, in my opinion. I’m not a big expert on peacocks, though, so I guess it could have looked like pretty much anything. It was a purple mask with green and orange feathers sticking up all over the place. That was about all you could see of her at the moment. Without trying, you could tell it was that Rachel chick.
“We’ve been talking to the Drunkard, and he has let it slip that you have access to quite a bit of money. So what we propose is this: if you ever want to see him again, you will hand over fifty thousand dollars. We will be contacting you again at five o’ clock on Sunday evening. Have the money ready, and be ready to roll.”
“Don’t do it, Portly Boy!” Arnie screamed from behind her. “Don’t give in! We cannot let evil triumph!”
And then the message cut off.
“What the hell was that all about?” I asked Mandy.
“Apparently, this kidnapping thing is quite the fad.”
“At least he knows he’s been kidnapped.”
“Shut up. So, what’s the plan?”
“Why are people always asking me that? Do I seem like the kind of person who knows what the plan is?”
“Not really. But isn’t it kind of like your job as leader and all?”
“I’m not the leader, man! I’m a fat guy who is forced to wear a tight yellow costume! In what way, shape, or form could that ever be a qualification for leader material?”
“Maybe it’s just your absolute unwavering respect for responsibility.”
“I bet that’s it. Listen, I’m going to go back to sleep. If they call again, or whatever, see if you can handle it. I’m sure they’ll get sick of having Arnie around and either kill him or let him go.”
“You are NOT going back to sleep. You’re always bitching and moaning about how your ass is on the line. And Arnie’s always been around to help you. Now he needs you, and I’m not going to let you drop the ball.”
“You know what would be relevant right now? A little peek at reality. When my ass is on the line, it’s big gangsta bastards with lead pipes and guns, and they’re trying to kill me. Arnie is tied to the bed by a gorgeous woman. Do you see the difference here?”
“First of all, she’s not GORGEOUS. Kind of cute, maybe, but not gorgeous. Second of all, there were three of them. Third of all, you don’t know what they’re doing to him right now. They could be cutting his dick off, for all you know.”
Ouch. She wasn’t pulling any punches. I mean, you can poke out his eyes, tear off his fingernails, or catch him on fire. But when you start talking about cutting off parts of a guy’s bathing suit area, that’s when it gets serious.
“What time is it?”
“Almost five. I’ve been trying to wake you up since noon.”
“Nobody’s up to cutting off penises before lunch. Besides, if they start torturing him, he’s worth less. Let’s just wait and see what they have to say next time.”
I could tell she was gearing up to tell me what a bastard I was, but then the computer started making a strange beeping noise.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“It would take too long to explain it to you. Just put on your costume and sit down on the couch.”
I pulled my uniform down off the hood of the Portmobile and pulled it on, cussing the entire time, just like I always did when I had to put the damn thing on. I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down on the couch.
“Ready?” Mandy asked.
The screen lit up, and there was the peacock lady again. “Hello, Portly Boy.”
“I’ll tell you what’s up. We have kidnapped your sidekick.” I was kind of surprised that she could hear me, but I tried to hide it.
“Right, right, got that part. And you want some money.”
“We want fifty thousand dollars, to be exact. And we want it delivered to-“
“Where’s Arnie?” Mandy interrupted.
“Who’s that?” Peacock Lady asked. She looked all startled.
“That’s part of our team,” I said. “My accountant.”
“How do we know that Arnie’s still okay?” Mandy asked.
“I’m fine!” Arnie yelled from somewhere behind Peacock Lady. “Don’t pay! We can’t give in to evil!” He didn’t sound much like a guy who has had his genitals threatened, and I thought about how I was missing out on a nap right now.
“Shut up back there!” Peacock Lady screamed. “He’s fine…for now. But that can—and will—change very quickly if you don’t meet our demands. But I’m getting ahead of myself.” She backed up, so that you could see her whole body on the monitor. Aside from the mask, she was dressed in a skin-tight fishnet bodysuit. It was purple, too, but even though it was a bodysuit, it didn’t cover much. That thing about leaving something to the imagination, apparently she was adamantly against that. She wanted you to use our imagination for other things, I guess, like maybe what all she could do with those feathers on her mask. She wore spike heels, hot-pink, something like two-foot heels on the back. Rainbow Bright gone dominatrix, I guess.
“I am Seductress!” She yelled. “And you will bend to my will!”
So many dirty jokes popped into my head that I have to end this segment. But join us next time, kids. There’s more nudity, and not just Arnie’s ugly ass. Plus, we meet the rest of Peacock Lady’s team. Oh, sorry…Seductress’s team. So there’s that, AND MORE! So chant along with me, little zombies: SAME FAT TIME, SAME FAT CHANNEL!