I woke up again, and was much more comfortable with it than I had been that morning. I had a headache, for one thing, and it was mid-afternoon, for another. These two factors made the whole waking up process seem a little more routine. I’m a big fan of routine, because I’ve pretty much tailor-made my schedule to allow maximum laziness. Any change of this routine, it just flat-out screws me up.
I walked groggily to the coffee pot, remembered how the evil thing had betrayed me that morning, and went instead to the stairs. I figured I should probably find out if Arnie had managed to spend all our money on his stupid fortress idea.
Let me throw in a little about Arnie right quick. He’s an idiot, as I think we all know. On top of that, he’s a delusional moron. He takes this hero thing pretty serious, which is probably going to get him killed. In the meantime, though, his delusions of hero-hood are a constant pain in the ass, if you’re not dealing with him trying to spend all of your money on a fortress, you’re dealing with the issue of flagpole to slide down, Ghostbusters/Old-school-Batman-TV-show style.
At some point in our lives, more than likely during a pretty serious absinthe binge, Arnie had decided we needed a cool way to get from the first floor down to the Drunk Tank. He wanted a fire pole to slide down, but I had convinced him that it just wasn’t physically possible, due to the way the house was built. I had recommended an escalator, but he would have none of it—he said that no hero would ever be caught dead on an escalator, and my arguments that we weren’t heroes had absolutely no effect whatsoever. In the end, he had apparently installed a hydraulic handrail. I don’t understand how this could be considered cool, even for a second, but whatever.
Arnie considered this handrail some sort of compromise—a mixture of the fire pole idea mixed with stairs. It starts up automatically any time you touch it, and sometimes it will run for a couple of hours by itself. The thing is, he never got the stairs to move along with the handrail, so what generally happens is, you grab the handrail and are instantly dragged up about fifty feet of stairs to the top. During this dragging, you end up bumping just about every sensitive body part you can imagine. Not in a fun way, either. Arnie swears that once he made it all the way to the top without hurting a single part of his body, but I think he’s lying—he’s always trying to justify dropping thirteen grand on a freakin’ automatic handrail.
Anyways, what we ended up with is a stairwell that’s too dangerous to use. We use it quite a bit, anyways, because we aren’t too bright, and we’re generally all screwed up out of our gourds on one thing or another. I didn’t feel like being pummeled by the steps, and was considering actually walking all the way to the top, until I saw a sled under the pool table. It was one of those cheap plastic things: round, with a couple of crappy handles that always seem to break off just as you’re flying down a snow-covered hill at about two hundred miles an hour. I figured it would serve my purpose, though.
I grabbed it out from under the pool table, leaned it against the stairs, sat down on it, and grabbed the handrail. It felt like my arm was pulled right out of it’s socket, but that was suddenly the least of my problems. It took me about three seconds to reach the top of the stairs, but what I hadn’t figured on was needing brakes. I launched out of the stairwell, flew trough the kitchen, and crashed into the hallway ceiling. The ceiling sent me into an evil spin before bouncing me back towards the floor, assisted by gravity. I smashed into the carpet, getting a pretty nasty friction-burn on my nose and my hands. I sat up, dazed, in pain, and pissed off. Arnie was sitting there in the living room, watching TV. “What’s up, dude?” He asked me.
“Not much. Hey, I figured out how to use the handrail.”
“Yeah, man. Sit down on this sled—works like a charm.” I tossed him the sled.
“Cool, I’ll have to remember that.” But I knew he wouldn’t.
“Try it right now.”
“Okay.” He finished off his beer, grabbed the sled, and took off down the stairs. No matter how good he is at diving around under all kinds of enemy fire, one thing Arnie just can’t seem to figure out is stairs. I heard him tumble to the bottom, like some weird percussion rhythm that just couldn’t quite get the beat together. I sat down in the living room and waited for the show to begin.
After about five minutes, I realized that he wasn’t coming back up, so I went down to find him. I sort of wondered if maybe this time he had landed at the bottom of the stairs with a broken neck, and I wondered if maybe I could get out of this Portly Boy gig if Arnie died. Emotional stress and all that.
He was still alive, though, nowhere near the staircase. I found him sitting on my futon, watching something on TV.
“What are you doing?” I asked. “You were supposed to be trying out the sled.”
“Look at this.” He motioned with his drink at the TV. His drink was in an obscenely tall glass, which led me to believe that it was a Long Island ice tea. As far as the TV, I didn’t know what was on, and I didn’t intend to find out. Anything that had captivated Arnie’s attention so completely was nothing that I wanted to see.
“No way, dude. I’m going back upstairs to watch golf or something.”
“You don’t even like golf.”
“Nobody likes golf, man. The only reason people even feign interest is to seem elite.”
“Are you guys watching the news?” That was Mandy. Technology’s nice and all, but sometimes when I’m hanging around computer geeks like Mandy, I just wish for the old times. Like how Batman and Commissioner Gordon had that big, stupid, red plastic Bat-phone in the old TV show. How long do you think their friendship would have lasted if the old Commissioner could have just tuned in on Batman any time he wanted? Like, “Batman, this is an emergency! Bruce Wayne? What are you doing taking a dump at Batman’s house? Again?”
I don’t think it would have lasted very long.
“No,” I told her. “I’m watching golf.”
“Why? You have to go out on patrol in two hours. You start watching golf, you’ll fall asleep. Besides—turn it to the news.”
“No way,” I told her.
“I’ve been watching,” Arnie told her. “I was just trying to get him to watch, but he won’t.”
“Just look at the news,” she ordered me.
I sat down on the futon, wishing I had never tried to get Arnie to practically kill himself on the stairs. Or at least waited until later.
On the news was some building. It wasn’t even time for the news to be on, so I had to assume that this was one of those stupid Special News Bulletins that they’re always throwing up, like any time the President speaks or whatever, and no matter which channel you turn to, it’s the same crap—some old guy talking about how his decisions are really important, when really it just means that you’re missing The Simpsons. This wasn’t an old guy, though.
This was some building—I didn’t recognize it, but you could tell it was downtown—and it looked like it was on fire. “Turn it off,” I told Arnie.
“Turn it up,” Mandy told Arnie at the same time. He turned it up, because he’s a bastard.
“—nd are demanding that their demands are met at once. We don’t know exactly what the police are going to do to resolve this situation, but we will keep you informed as the events unfold.” That’s what the chick on TV was saying. She was standing in front of the building, and there were a bunch of teenage guys standing behind her, waving and making faces at the camera.
The picture snapped back to the guy sitting in the studio. “So, Judy, has anyone heard from the Amazing Portly Boy so far?”
“He hasn’t contacted anyone yet, that we know of, Tom. But an insider has revealed that he is still sitting around in his underwear, watching some golf.”
“Arnie, you whore.”
“It wasn’t me, man, I swear.”
“Okay, so it was me. But I only did it because I thought you would like to keep the world informed. Plus, they called me, and I was caught off guard. I was just getting ready to try out that sled idea, the phone rang, they asked me what was Portly Boy doing about all this. I didn’t know who it was, man.”
“So some stranger calls up and asks what I’m doing, you tell them I’m sitting around in my underwear, watching some golf?”
“I thought that’s what you were doing.”
“That’s not the point, you idiot. We have to get an unlisted number.”
“So what are you going to do?” Mandy asked.
“Put some pants on, I guess.”
“Excellent idea. What I meant, though, is what are you going to do about the newest fiasco that constitutes your life?”
“Beats me, man. I don’t even know what’s going on.”
“Tom, it seems like there is a new development here. The woman is coming back outside, it looks like she’s holding a monkey.”
I looked back at the TV and saw the Judge standing on the roof of a building, holding a monkey. “What the hell is going on?” I asked, before I realized that I really didn’t want to know.
“Apparently, the Judge and Flixxx have taken over a monkey production plant,” Arnie said. “Like, where they make super-intelligent monkeys. I bet they’re going to start producing an army of super-smart monkeys. With wings. Just like that movie.”
“The Wizard of Oz?” I asked him.
“That wizard was a freakin’ genius, with his flying monkeys.”
“They weren’t his monkeys?”
“You think they have places that rent out flying monkeys in Oz?”
“They were the evil witch’s monkeys, you dolt.”
“I think we’re getting a little sidetracked here,” Mandy said. “Would you two shut up for a second so that I can hear what they’re saying?”
“Tom, I can’t really tell what’s going on up there, we have a news helicopter on the scene, we’re switching live to that feed.”
The screen switched to a close-up shot of the Judge, really big, still just holding that monkey. The monkey seemed to be comfortable with the situation, holding on to the Judge with it’s arm around the back of her neck, eating out of a bag of Skittles.
“Judy,” Tom the studio guy said, “We’ve just been passed a note here in the studio.” The image switched from the Judge back to Tom. “It seems like we have been e-mailed a message from the intruders. Let me just check with…yes, it seems like it is television safe. We’ll play that right now.” The image went black for a second, and then my TV was filled with a picture of Jimmy Flicks.
He was standing in an abandoned warehouse, looking all touch—trying to, anyways. Even with all of his bad-ass gear, he still looked like a greasy weasel. He stood motionless for several seconds, until a female voice behind the camera stage-whispered, “Go, you idiot.”
“Is it on?” He asked.
“Are you sure? I don’t see a red light.” He leaned close and squinted at the camera.
“You moron, you’re messing this all-” and then the screen went black again for a couple of seconds. When it came back on, Jimmy was standing back in his original pose.
“This is a message,” He said. “It will be delivered to various news stations, but this message is not intended for the media. This message is for Portly Boy. You have dodged your civic duty long enough. It is time for you to pay your dues.”
“What the hell is he talking about?” I asked no one in particular. “I dress up in that stupid suit almost every night! How much more am I expected to do?”
“Maybe if you would quit whining for a minute, you would hear,” Mandy said.
At some point, I really need to address Mandy’s attitude problem. It seems like she used to be a lot funnier. Anymore, she’s just rude and bitchy. I didn’t feel like this was a good time to bring it up, though.
“What the hell are you talking about?” The voice behind the camera asked. “Just stick tot eh script.”
“Oh. Ummm. Oh, yeah. Portly Boy, you are being called out! You have blundered through life, leaving a wake of injustice and ruin! It is high time for you to pay for the misery you have spread! You have sown the seeds of indifference long en-”
“Oh, shut up,” The Judge hissed. The camera suddenly spun around so that she was centered. “Portly Boy, you will come alone to the place where you first encountered me. You have until five o’clock. If you are not in the designated spot at the designated time, we will begin killing the animals.”
“What animals?” Jimmy asked from off-camera.
“The animals at Scien-Tech Research Labs. One every half-hour. Don’t mess with us on this one, tubby, or the world will know what a cruel, heartless man you are.” The screen went black.
“What dos this all mean?” Arnie asked.
“It means that Jimmy edits film about as well as he does anything else—shitty.”
“It’s like twenty ‘till five,” Mandy said. “If you want to get to the park by five o’clock, you better get moving.”
“I’m not going to the park, are you crazy?”
“What do you mean?” Arnie and Mandy asked at the same time.
“”I mean, I don’t go on duty until six. That evil bitch knows it, too—that’s why she said five o’clock. I’m not going out early.”
“What if she kills those animals?” Arnie asked.
“What if she does? They’re at a RESEARCH LAB, you idiot. Killing them would probably be more humane than letting them live.”
“That’s no excuse.”
“That’s a perfect excuse. Not like I need an excuse, anyways, because I’m not going out early.”
“Do you understand about animal activists?” Mandy asked.
“Animal activists. Do you understand about them?”
“Nobody understands them—they’re a bunch of idiots that can’t make friends with people so they have to be friends with dogs and lab mice and shit. Those people are nuts.”
“You’re missing my point, but you’re sort of right on.”
“Exactly!” Arnie yelled. He pointed his beer at me like he had just proven some ingenious point.
“What the hell are you yelling exactly about? You didn’t make any point.”
“Oh. Yeah, but Mandy did.”
“Shut up. What’s your point, Mandy?”
“My point is, if you let those animals die, you’re gonna have every goofy animal activist in the city throwing red paint and stuff at you every time you leave the house. Not to mention ever dog person, cat person, whatever. Every desperate old woman sitting around with all of her cats, you’ll be on her shit-list. Every moron who is self-deluded enough to think that a dog is anywhere near as important as a human life, they’ll be out for your blood. Every time you see a pet in a sweater, you’ll know that the owner is planning something bad for you. Because just like you said, man: those people are nuts.”
“Dammit!” I hauled myself up from the couch. I grabbed my suit off of the floor and started towards the bathroom. Just before I closed the door, I turned to the monitor and asked, “How many pets you got, Mandy?”
“Two cats and a dog.”
“I hope all four of you get run over by a car,” I said, and slammed the bathroom door.