“You gotta be kidding me,” I said. I’m standing there with a bag of athletic crotch-protection gear in one hand, and a cup of cherry-syrup-flavored Coke in the other, and I just can’t believe what I’m seeing. And when you’re a fat guy running around in a fluorescent body suit, you get used to believing what you’re seeing quite a bit—and you see some pretty messed up stuff. I mean, just looking in the mirror will throw you off a little.
Arnie and I had made it to Target without incident. I don’t like going out in public dressed up as Portly Boy, but there was no way I was going to spend my personal time taking care of Portly business. People looked at us when we walked into the store, but in this city, you’re always seeing all kinds of crazy shit, so after their initial shock of seeing a fat man in Spandex and a drunk man in molded body-armor, people went about their business. Arnie and I found the sporting goods section, grabbed as many testicle-guards as we could find, and went to check out. I decided to grab a cherry Coke because Target has those big jugs of flavor-syrup and you can add as much as you want to your drink, and that stuff tastes pretty good. Arnie got some nachos and a hotdog.
It was when we were almost back to the Portmobile when I saw the thing that I couldn’t believe I was seeing.
“What the hell is that?” I asked Arnie.
“It’s a miniature Spider-Man guy. He’s got magnets on his hands, so he sticks to things. I figured we could put him in the Portmobile for good luck. St. Peter Parker, the patron saint of super heroes.” I had no idea what he was talking about, until I looked over at him and saw that he was digging through his own bag of Target purchases, which consisted mostly of toys.
“Not that, Arn—um, Drunkard. I mean, what’s that over by the Portmobile?”
He looked up from his bag of toys. “Don’t know. Looks like some kind of futuristic nun.”
Yeah, it kind of did, too. The face was covered by a shiny silver mask, kind of like Destro from G.I. Joe, and the hands looked like they were metal, too. It was a chick, though--you could tell because the tight black bodysuit she had on seemed to press her boobs together, up and in, making them look pretty great. Pretty nice body, all in all. She had these black boots on, knee-highs made out plastic or leather. They were almost as shiny as her face. Covering all of this was a flowing black robe, open in the front, and blowing in the wind almost like a cape.
Yep, she kind of looked like a futuristic nun—I mean like if in the future nuns had to start dressing sexier because they finally realized that Catholicism is a pretty tough sell, and they needed some better advertising. A nun or a…
“You gotta be kidding me.”
“No jokes here, Portly Boy!” The robot lady yelled at me. “This is the sober truth, this is your fate! I am the JUDGE! And I sentence you to DEATH!” She pointed her fists at us, and two bolts of electricity shot out.
I would like to tell you about how my jungle cat reflexes were the only the thing that saved me from being fried right there, but I think we all know better than that. What saved me was her bad aiming. One of the bolts hit the trash can behind me, the other hit concrete pillar to my left. The pillar was fine, but the trash can exploded, covering me with garbage and all kinds of burning nastiness. I extinguished the flames with no problem, but the smell was terrible.
Arnie dropped his bag of toys and pulled a vial from his utility belt, moving with a speed I had never seen before—unless you count how fast he falls down stairs. I had never really had a chance to examine everything on his belt, but it looked like there was some pretty cool stuff attached to it. The vial he threw landed at the Judge’s feet and broke open. A bunch of white pills rolled across the asphalt.
“Crap!” Arnie yelled. “Wrong one—those are my aspirin.”
“Take cover, you idiot!” I ran behind a Toyota Camry and ducked down. Arnie executed a diving roll behind a Ford Focus, throwing another vial as he flew through the air. He practices his maneuvers all the time around the house, but he never gets very good, in my opinion. The dive-roll thing seemed to work out pretty well, though, and looked pretty cool, too. His throw went wide, and the second vial ended up landing on the ground in the middle of a group of bystanders that had gathered to see what the hell was going on.
It exploded on impact, fogging an area of about six feet with a thick gray fog. The voyeurs immediately began coughing, dropping their bags, and one lady with about ten bags from the Discount Shoe Warehouse started throwing up on herself. In a matter of seconds, they were all unconscious.
“What the hell was that?” I yelled across the parking lot to Arnie.
“Knockout gas! Worked good, too, did you see that?”
“I saw about six lawsuits waiting to happen, is what I saw.” Another bolt of electricity burned though the air, and the paint on the Camry started bubbling. “Throw something else at her!”
“Just about everything else is for making drinks!” He pawed at his belt until a bolt of electricity hit the Focus and started melting the windows. He rolled away from the car and barely had time to take cover before it exploded.
The Judge wasn’t saying much, just firing her lighting bolts at us, no witty banter, just trying to kill us. She was a pretty un-fun villain, in my opinion, but I guess they all were. I threw my cherry Coke at her, and it hit her right in the face. She screamed with fury and pointed both her hands at me.
The thing is, I’m too fat to be doing all that crazy jumping and rolling around like Arnie does. Even when my life depends on it, I can only run about ten feet before I have to stop for some deep breathing exercises. I tried to hide behind a VW Beetle, realized that I might as well be trying to hide behind a light-post, for all the good it would do me, and changed course for a Suburban. I heard the crackling as her fists powered up again, and knew that it was going to be close. I dove for cover, just like they do in movies, and landed horribly short of the Suburban. I saw Arnie stand up and throw something else, and then the world exploded in white light.
I thought I was dead at first. Then I realized I was still lying in the parking lot. The Judge was screaming all sorts of curse words, and Arnie was yelling something like, get up, get up, this is our chance. Then he was pulling me to my feet.
“I can’t remember what those things are called. Mag-something. Magnesium bombs, maybe? They burn real fast and real bright. I call them blinders.”
“Am I hit?”
“Nah, she hit the futon place across the street. Come on, we have to get to the Portmobile.”
It dawned on me how ill-prepared I was to fight any sort of crime. I usually just jumped in the Portmobile and drove away. It works fine when you’re dealing with some goofball like Jimmy Flicks and you can just knock him out with the hood, but the Judge was a little different. She had ambushed us, making sure we couldn’t get to our car and escape. And she hadn’t screwed around too much, telling us how we were going to pay for what we did for her, how we ruined her life, blah, blah, blah. Just that one remark about a death sentence and then open fire. Sheesh.
She was still staggering around, holding her face, a little too close to the Portmobile for comfort.
“What the hell is it with these people?” I asked Arnie. “Were they just waiting around for someone to start dressing up in tights so they could come out and play villain?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“It’s because you’ve ruined our lives, Portly Boy!” That voice came from behind me, and it was one I recognized all too well. Arnie glanced over his shoulder, and he suddenly looked very shocked. I glanced over my shoulder, too.
As I’m not very athletic or even moderately coordinated, I tripped as soon as I looked away from the ground, and almost fell down. I managed to catch my balance, but the whole running-real-quick-to-the-Portmobile plan was shot. I turned and looked at the newest arrival to this nightmare.
“What’s up, Jimmy? You get a corporate sponsor, or something?” It was Jimmy Flicks, but it wasn’t the Jimmy Flicks who had appeared in the middle of the street wearing his pajamas and with a towel wrapped around his neck. This Jimmy Flicks had a backer.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
You know how just about every young female pop/movie star in the nation starts out all young and innocent looking? And then they get famous, go away for a summer, and come back all slutted-out and with breasts roughly the size of Kansas? They always tell the media about how it was all natural, they just “developed,” but everyone knows that these are just lies, lies almost as big as the new rack.
Jimmy was the bad-guy equivalent of that. One of the first cars he had used while attempting to do battle with us was a hatchback that he had stolen from his sister. He had also tried to confront us on a bicycle, once.
Now he was leaning against a fire-engine-red Mustang, it had a giant “F” painted black on the hood. His outfit was an upgrade, too. Instead of wearing whatever crap he could find in the dumpster or the mental institution, he had on a real costume.
No cape this time, make-shift or not. Instead, he had a small canister strapped to his back. There were tubes running from the canister to various parts of Jimmy’s body—to his arms, to his legs, to his helmet. His helmet looked a bit like a football helmet, only not so bulky, and without the faceguard. There were two cylinders on each side of his head—about where his ears were—that were connected to the tubes that ran out of the thing on his back. The canister, the tubes, the helmet, everything was that same bright red as his Mustang. The rest of his costume consisted of a loose bodysuit—kind of like coveralls as opposed to my stupid body-stocking—that looked like it was made of worn leather. It was red, too. Oh, yeah, and he had these big metal wristbands constructed of several of those little cylinders like on his helmet. And of course, that giant black “F” on his chest. It wasn’t drawn on with a marker this time, though—it looked like it had been screen-printed. Fancy stuff.
“I’m talking about how you can suddenly afford clothes, and a car. What’s the score, man?”
“Quit talking and kill them!” The Judge screamed from behind us. It was a good thing for me that she decided to make some noise, because I had almost forgotten about her, what with seeing Jimmy all pimped out and all.
“Jimmy,” Arnie said, “Be careful who you’re throwing in with. This lady, she’s actually trying to kill us.”
“I'VE been trying to kill you, too!” Jimmy roared.
“Come on, man, let’s just have a drink and talk about this.” Arnie held a beer in each hand, and he held one out to Jimmy.
“Talking about it will only land you back in a mental institution!” Freaking Judge, man, not helping out at all.
“She’s right,” Jimmy said. “You’re okay, Drunkard, but you picked the losing team.” And then he pointed his fists at Arnie. You remember those little cylinders I was describing earlier, the ones on Jimmy’s wrists? Yeah, well apparently they shot out little capsules, kind of like those little paintballs you shoot at people when you’re playing war games. Only Jimmy’s, they don’t just splat you with paint and sting like a bitch. What Jimmy’s little paintballs do is, when they break, they explode into something that seems suspiciously like napalm.
One second, Arnie’s standing there, talking to Jimmy, holding out a peace-offering beer. The next second, he’s covered in flames, knocked off his feet, flying past me in a ball of fire.
I was digging through my damned fanny pack before I knew it, grabbing the can of pepper spray, and pulling the cap off. Originally, I had been issued a crap can of pepper spray, stuff that you would be better off spraying on your tacos rather than trying to ward off an attack. I went through that pretty quick (yeah, I used it on tacos, so what?), and since then, Arnie and I had ordered some high-powered stuff while we were on an absinthe binge. This new stuff, it guaranteed blindness for at least twenty minutes, and it shot out in a fifteen foot stream.
I aimed at Jimmy and pushed the button.
“Not so fast, fatty.” A visor slid down from the inside of the helmet, and the pepper spray splashed uselessly over it. On the visor, I saw crosshairs appear. And then Jimmy started shooting those deadly little paintballs from the barrels on the side of his helmet. At me.
Growing up as the fat kid, I’ve had shit thrown at my face for as long as I can remember—tennis balls, basketballs, footballs, whatever. One of the favorite gags to pull on a fat kid is to throw a ball right at his head, and then right before it hits him, you yell, “Hey fat, boy: catch!” The fat kid turns around just in time to get hit in the face. You get used to that kind of thing, so that when you hear someone yell “Catch!” you instantly dive to the ground. This ingrained reflex embarrasses you on more than a few occasions, especially as you grow into adulthood, believe me.
But another thing you get really good at is ducking. I fell to the ground as the flameballs shot at me, and as the fires erupted all over the place, I rolled behind an old-school Cadillac. Not any of this new fiberglass and plastic nonsense, either. A car that was made when they were serious about making cars—six tons of steel and iron, a gas-guzzling, I-don’t-give-a-damn monstrosity, napalm it all you want, it’ll still be able to drive home with heavenly comfort.
Arnie was leaning against the passenger door, drinking a frothy blue drink. “I don’t know how I feel about Jimmy getting serious about things,” he said.
“How did you get over here? What happened to the fire? What’s that you’re drinking?”
“I crawled over while you distracted him with the pepper spray. The flames, I don’t know—stop, drop, and roll, man. The drink? It’s a little mix I call Relaxation. Six shots of vodka, two shots of gin, a pack of blueberry Kool-Aid, and three Valium. Really takes the edge off.”
“I thought you steered clear of pills.”
“My doctor gave me the Valium back in the day—he instructed me to take them if I was feeling too stressed out. ‘In case a situation becomes a little too high-stress,’ is how he put it. I feel like today qualifies.”
“You have any more Valium left? I want some.”
“Sorry, dude, I used them all—this is my third Relaxation.”
“Damn.” I pulled a cigarette out of my fanny pack and lit it. I leaned against the door and took a deep drag. “They’re going to kill us.”
Arnie plucked a vial off of his utility belt and tossed it over the Caddy. There was a small explosion and the sound of Jimmy cursing. He tossed another vial in the general vicinity of the Judge. You could hear her mutter a pretty long string of curses, but nowhere near as intense as Jimmy—apparently that one hadn’t been a direct hit.
“What was that?” I asked.
“Beats me, man. I’m just throwing stuff randomly until you think of a plan to get us out of here.”
“I’m coming up empty, dude. I think we’re screwed.”
“You’ll come up with something. Look at this—Jimmy’s fire gave me old lady tits.” He pointed at his sculpted suit. The pectoral muscles had been melted from the heat, and they looked like drooping breasts.
“Yeah. Jimmy’s a real jerk, isn’t he?”
“That’s too bad.” Arnie took a deep swallow from the bottle of vodka he was now holding.
“Where’d you get that?” I asked him.
“That place on the corner of 30th Avenue.”
“No, I mean right n—you know what? Never mind. Give it to me.”
“You can’t drink, man—you’re on duty.”
I snatched the bottle away from him, not wanting to argue about how if we’re both about to die, I could give a damn about the rules. It was a big bottle, one of those giant plastic Gilbey’s bottles made for killing off bums and teenagers who are just learning to drink. I tore off a piece of my ugly pink cape and doused it with vodka.
“Hey, that was a present,” Arnie said. He was the one who bought me the cape.
I ignored him. I stuffed the piece of cape down into the bottle, and pulled my lighter out of my fanny pack. “Do you think this really works?” I asked him, displaying my Molotov cocktail.
“I don’t know, man—I’ve never wanted to waste that much vodka.”
“Necessity, man.” I lit booze-soaked piece of cape, waited a second to make sure that the fire held, and then tossed the bottle in the general vicinity of the Portmobile. I heard a small explosion, and I heard the Judge yell. It was a yell of anger rather than pain, which was too bad, but you work with what you’ve got. I pulled one of the vials off of Arnie’s belt and tossed it where I thought Jimmy was. He yelped, and there was another little burst of flameballs. Then there was a huge explosion, one that shook the parking lot, and another. I stood up, grabbed Arnie, and ran to the Portmobile.
Cars were exploding all over the place, you couldn’t see anything because of the smoke. I hauled Arnie to the Portmobile, typed in my code, and threw him inside. I pushed the button that made the top slide shut, and immediately felt safer. I hit the ignition.
“Please fasten your seatbelts,” the Portmobile said to me. I strapped on my seatbelt, and was about to yell at Arnie to put his on, too, but I saw that he was already buckling himself in. I hit the ignition again, and the car started.
“Where are we going?” Arnie asked.
“We’re getting out of here,” I told him.
“We can’t leave, man, there are still evil doers here.”
“They’ll kill us, man.” I slammed my foot on the gas pedal and we launched from the parking lot at about ninety miles an hour.
“We have to fight evil,” he said. Portmobile?”
“Yes, the Drunkard?”
I thought about grabbing one of the knock-out gas vials from his belt, but decided against it—no way did I want to risk filling the car with gas and waking up in the evil clutches of Jimmy Flicks and the Judge. Instead, I just punched Arnie in the face. It knocked him out cold, which I thought was pretty impressive. And that’s how we rode off into the night.