The thing about victory is it just doesn’t last long enough. If you’re an overweight balding guy dressed up in florescent colors, you’re going to enjoy any victory you can get to the fullest, but it still doesn’t last long enough. Also if you’re an overweight balding guy dressed up in florescent colors, you aren’t going to be getting many victories tossed your way.
I was kind of gloating, I guess. I was standing with one foot on the unconscious guy’s chest, pointing my finger at his slack face and saying things like, “Not so tough now, are ya?” Believe it or not, this is actually one of my prouder moments. I’m not the kind of guy that’s too familiar with success of any kind, so I guess I get a little carried away.
By day, my name is Howard McKay. I drink too much, I smoke too much, and I hang around being a shiftless lay-about too much. Other people say I do these things too much, anyway. I’ve never felt like there’s really a “too much” point for any of these categories, which is probably a character flaw, if you want to be all judgmental about things.
By night, my name is still Howard McKay, but nobody calls me that. From six in the evening until twelve midnight, I have to go under the name Portly Boy. As if that isn’t bad enough, I also have to dress up in a florescent yellow bodysuit, and hot-pink, knee-high boots made out of plastic. I have a pair of powder-blue running shorts to keep innocent bystanders from getting too intimate a view of my shrink-wrapped crotch, and a little face-mask to match. And if you like powder blue, you’ll love the fanny pack that I’m forced to wear. It’s what passes as my utility belt, but there’s nothing in there but a can of really weak pepper-spray, a rape-whistle, and a few packs of cigarettes.
The reason I even have this wimped-out version of a utility belt, and the reason I have to dress up like an escaped lunatic with severe sexual issues is because I went out drinking with my friend Arnie. And then I mooned this lady. And she ended up being a judge. An evil judge. Who got to sentence me the next day. Something like two thousand hours of community service, every agonizing hour spent dressed as Portly Boy and supposedly fighting crime.
The thing that people may not realize is that when you’re a crime fighter that dresses in a bright yellow bodysuit, most of the crime you end up fighting is directed at you. I had not only survived my first encounter of this sort, but actually come out of it victorious.
Arnie, my irritating alcoholic of a best friend had decided to come along as my sidekick. The Drunkard. He got to pick his own name, believe it or not. He said it was because he felt bad for getting me into this whole situation in the first place, but it’s really because he never grew out of his boyhood dream of being a superhero. Arnie drinks all the time, so it’s hard to say if he burned out the good sense part of his brain a long time ago, or if he’s always just been stupid. Oddly, this works out for him most of the time. He got rich once, lost his fortune, and then made another one. It’s almost enough to make a guy think that life as a bumbling chucklehead is a good career move. Unless you know Arnie. He’s not good at much, but he’s a hell of a deterrent.
Anyway, so I’m standing there, enjoying my win, when the door of the Copper Gate Pub bursts open. As civilized as the name sounds, the Copper Gate Pub is actually one of the nastiest dive-bars in the city. Most of the guys who frequent the place call it the Crapper Faint Pub. I’m not sure exactly what that means, except for this is not a nice place by any definition.
In my previous battle, I had encountered one guy, a drunk with no drink in him. He was meaner than me and stronger than me, and more inept than me. I ended knocking him out with my car, believe it or not. Okay, maybe you’d be wiser to not believe it in this instance. In actuality, I was curling up to minimize my surface area, kind of waiting for the pain, but I hit the ejector-seat button and knocked the guy out with the chair.
I didn’t think I would have the same kind of luck with the drunken madmen that poured out of the bar. They were actually running out to see me get beat to death by the guy I had just bested, which made it even worse. You don’t want to deny a drunk maniac his chance to be a spectator of a violent beating.
“What the hell?” That’s what one of the guys asked. He looked surprised and angry. I decided to use his surprise to my advantage, and ran to the Portmobile.
“It’s the amazing Portly Boy!” Someone screamed. In the back of my mind, I realized that I recognized the voice of the screamer.
“And his booze-stealing sidekick, the Drunkard!” I screamed over my shoulder. “Standing right behind you!” I jumped into the Portmobile, almost clearing the welded-shut door. My treacherous gut kind of grabbed the top edge of the door, and I ended up toppling down into the passenger-side floorboard. I fully expected to be beaten to death before I regained my senses, but I was miraculously untouched as I blubbered myself into sitting position. After I had righted myself, and after I had scooted over to the driver’s side, and after I had slid the hatch of the Portmobile closed, and after I started up the engine, I checked to make sure that Arnie was okay. It was him that ratted me out to the drunks, by the way.
Maybe he hadn’t yelled out that crap about the amazing Portly Boy to be malicious, but still. Maliciousness or admiration, it’s all the same when it’s going to get your ass kicked, you know? So I looked over, and saw him surrounded by all the angry drunks. Arnie, although he’s for sure a drunk, he’s never been a mean drunk. A nice drunk or sometimes a sad drunk, but never a mean drunk. I mostly expected him to be dead, which was too bad because he was always buying me drinks. Oh, yeah, and he was my best friend.
It was the day for miracles, I guess, because not only was he not dead, he was holding his own. His strategy, as far as I could figure, was stumbling around, spilling his drink on people. Arnie always has a fresh drink, no matter what, but it’s never really seemed to work out in his favor, in the grand scheme of things. Nobody knows how or why the guy always has a drink, and if you think about it too long, it makes the spot just behind your eyeballs start to throb in pain. Instead of thinking about it, I generally just grab his drink and gulp it down. Hell, he’s always going to have another one.
The thing is, most anybody, if you spill a drink on them, they’re going to flinch back and check out the damage. They usually say something like, “Oh, man.” What Arnie had going on was that every time somebody rushed him, he would try to dodge and he would trip, spilling his drink. The attacker, he’s stepping back, “Oh, my new shirt, why didn’t I take it off?” And Arnie lives to “fight” for another second or two. The element of surprise was fading fast, though. You spill enough drinks on a guy, he’s not going to care about his shirt, you know? And the drunks, whether they knew it or not, they were getting too saturated to care.
The thing about me is, I’m a coward. You might think this would be a bad thing, but you would be wrong. I’m fat, I’m slow, and I’m weak. Being a coward, that’s about the only thing that years and years of evolution have given me to survive in the natural order of things. My point is, best friends or not, there was no way that I was going to get out of the car to go help Arnie, even though he was mere seconds away from getting beat to a pulp. I like to think I did the next best thing, though.
What I did was, I threw the Portmobile into reverse and backed over all of Arnie’s assailants. I mean, I didn’t like crush anybody or anything—for Pete’s sake, I was already doing something like two thousand hours of community service—I just sort of hit the mob hard enough to knock everybody down.
“Get in!” I screamed to Arnie.
He gave me the thumbs-up, and took a drink of the beer that he was holding. He couldn’t hear me, see, because of the bullet-proof glass. I looked around the dash, and there’s a really good chance that I was looking for the button to open the hatch of the Portmobile, allowing the Drunkard and all of his assailants access to the inside of the vehicle. But then I noticed one that was labeled, “SPEAKER.” I hit that button and yelled something like, get in, to Arnie, a.k.a. the Drunkard.
Instead of getting in, what he did was fall to the ground, clutching the sides of his head, a.k.a. his ears. It looked like he was screaming, but maybe he was laughing. With Arnie, it’s always kind of hard to say.
On the positive side, which I only take to rationalize my actions, it incapacitated all the drunk attackers, as well. They were doing the same thing as Arnie, which was basically just rolling around on the ground, clutching their heads and looking like they were in pain.
As a rule, I don’t function well in high-stress situations. I don’t know. Like I said, it was a day of miracles. What happened was, there were all these thoughts going through my head, and my brain just happened to grab the right one at the right time. I was thinking about how to save Arnie without exposing myself to violence, I was thinking about how he had pretty much tailor-made the Portmobile to fit the needs of an alcoholic crime-fighter, I was thinking about how he knows that at any given time I’ll ditch him unless there’s an easy way to bring him along as I flee.
“Car?” This is me talking, and I feel like a goofball talking to a car, but I know that it will respond because Arnie would want to talk to the car, but there’s no way he could remember it’s name. No answer.
“Portmobile?” This is my second guess because I figured Arnie would forget what he had named the vehicle.
“Yes, the Amazing Portly Boy?” That’s the car talking, and I’m half-tempted to get into an argument about how my name is Howard, not Portly Boy, but I don’t want to waste any more time. The voice of the Portmobile is nice and horrible at the same time, I can’t really explain it. Like think about all those after-school specials, where the teenage girl finds out about beer and then weed and then heroin, but then imagine that instead of being a crack-ho and dying of some STD in an alley, like all those specials suggest, she ends up finding a sugar-daddy that refines her into the perfect inebriated love-slave, complete with the sexy voice. Yes, I actually DO understand how twisted that sounds, in case you’re wondering, but who has sat inside the Portmobile, you or me? Until you’ve been there, don’t judge me. I’m just telling you how the voice sounds. If you want to blame someone, blame Arnie—he’s the one that picked the voice. Hell, man, I just work here.
“Grab Arnie and let’s roll.”
“What’s the magic word?” Doped and sexy, and really annoying.
“Do it, or we’re all going to die!” I didn’t really expect this to work. Like I said, I don’t function well in high-stress situations.
My ears were filled with drumbeats, my head was filled with drumbeats, my entire being was filled with drum beats. I call this sort of thing torture, but Arnie calls it our theme song. The Portmobile revved her engines, and a robot hand—it looked a lot like the one that functioned as a drink holder when Arnie was actually inside the car instead of rolling around in agony outside—shot out and grabbed my sidekick by his ankle. It tossed him into the back to the vehicle, in between all of the shiny metal contraptions back there, and another robot arm shoved a barf-bag towards his face.
“Drive,” the car told me.
“I’m too freaked out,” I said. “You drive.”
“I can’t drive, Portly Boy.” That’s what the car told me. “I’m only a car.”
“That’s exactly why you SHOULD be able to drive.”
That’s when I heard Arnie’s voice. It said, “I couldn’t figure out how to make it go by itself, man, so just stomp the gas pedal.”
Arnie, he was still damn-near unconscious in the back of the Portmobile, so I knew it wasn’t him talking. What he had done was, he had programmed a recording of his voice to play at this point in the conversation between me and the car. I was sort of relieved, because all I had to do was stomp the gas pedal and blame Arnie for the outcome later, but it was still really disconcerting to know that he had managed to think this far into the conversation.
I slammed my foot down on the gas pedal, and the Portmobile peeled out all over the place, throwing rocks and dirt all over the drunks who were still looking pretty hostile and pretty dangerous, even though they were totally incapacitated, rolling all over in the dirt.
There’s this guy named Pete, he’s the owner of the Copper Gate Pub, and he’s generally a pretty nice guy, especially if you’re one of those drunks who has chosen his bar to drink your life away in.
Show up in a fluorescent yellow bodysuit, though, and wipe out all of his regulars with a pimped-out El Camino, though, and he’s not so nice.
Show up in a fluorescent yellow bodysuit and wipe out all of his regulars, and what Pete does is, he comes running out with a shotgun that’s the size of England and he shoots at you. Not just once, either.
You know those old Schwarzenegger movies, where Arnie (the buffed up action hero, I mean, not my drunken sidekick) just keeps blasting away with his shotgun, at everybody, just BLAM! Shuk-shik, BLAM! Shuk-shik, BLAM! Shuk-shik, BLAM! Over and over and over again, he’s just blasting and pumping until even a three-year-old kid is sitting there going like, “Where the hell is he getting all of these bullets from?” That’s Pete when you’ve run over his regulars.
Arnie (my drunken sidekick, I mean, not the buffed up action hero), who has no business being able to talk at this point, he sits up in the back of the Portmobile, he’s kind of laughing, and he says, “Look at Pete.”
“Get down, you idiot!” That’s what I yell to Arnie, and he instantly falls down into the bed of the vehicle, holding his ears and yelling in agony.
Because I’m not a complete idiot, and because I kind of understand that I’ve been hurting people with my voice, I say, “What’s wrong, the Drunkard?”
Arnie, he’s still out there screaming in pain, so I look around for a volume button. It’s right there beside the SPEAKER button, and I turn it way down.
“Is this better?” I ask Arnie. He gives me the thumbs-up, but he’s still looking like the definition of hurt. In the front, I’m sitting there thinking about how his ears must really be ringing, and I start laughing. That’s what he gets for getting me into this jam in the first place.
All of the sudden, the car says, “Auto-brake engaged.” Something like that isn’t so bad by itself, but when the car slams on the brakes while it says something like that, it can tend to be pretty crappy. The thing about the Portmobile is, you have to fasten your seatbelt before it will let you drive away. Generally, that kind of thing is pretty annoying, but in this case, it spared me from breaking my face on the steering wheel.
Instead, it’s like all my organs are put into a James Bond Martini—shaken, not stirred. But really, even James Bond could have a better martini if he would just learn to tell the bartender to put the shaker inside a bootleg hero who is just trying to escape a life of fighting crime.
I watched a kitten cross the street, trying not to vomit on myself, knowing that Arnie had programmed the auto-brake to stop for just about anything. People, kittens, skunks, falling leaves—the car just wasn’t willing to run over anything. That’s when the passenger door opened.
I looked over and saw Arnie’s stupid grin, spread out all over his stupid face. “That was a good bit of crime fighting,” he said. Arnie, he looked all happy, like he had forgotten the last thirty minutes of his life. Sadly, there’s a really god chance that he had.
“No, Arnie, it was crap. You know what it was? It was a terrible piece of story that will never translate onto the website.” Me, I was just pissed off that it was almost midnight on my first night as a crime fighter. I was just pissed of that I had to be a crime fighter in the first place. I had almost been beaten to death, I had seen my friend almost killed, and my tights were starting to itch. I had actually had to risk my life, and what I had was just another annoying part of my life that wasn’t going to make me any money.
“No, man, we’ll edit it. We’ll sell the live-feed for twenty bucks more a pop. People are dying to know the secrets behind the magic.”
“We got no magic, man! We’re screw-ups. Nobody is going to pay to see screw-ups screw up.”
Arnie, he starts trying to look dead serous even though you know he’s just thrilled that the night turned out the way it did. And he goes, “No, man.”
“No?” That’s me, wondering just how much of your brain you have to destroy in order to think that tonight’s events could be looked at in any positive manner.
“Trust me on this one, old chum. We’re gonna make loads.” Listening to Arnie is generally just a bad idea. You start trusting the bastard, and you’re practically begging for someone or something to ruin your life. And I’m not talking about just messing it up a little. I’m talking about irreparable damage that you’ll be telling your fellow homeless people about as you sip antifreeze out of a dirty paper cup while trying to warm yourself by the side of a flaming trash barrel. I mean, I just went out for drinks with him one night and I ended up condemned to something like two thousand hours dressed in tights and fighting for my life. Trust him? I don’t think so.
The thing is, I’m really greedy. And he’s already made two fortunes, you know? The guy obviously knows something about making money as a screw-up.
“Here’s to the future,” Arnie said. He’s holding a bottle of clear liquid, it smells like rubbing alcohol, but I’m pretty sure it’s vodka.
We’re in front of Arnie’s house now, it’s something like ten after midnight, I’m done being a hero for the night, and I’m done with all the evil judge’s rules about no drinking while on duty. I grab the bottle and hold it up. “To the future,” I say.
Arnie, he’s already got another drink in his hand, I have no idea where it came from, but it smells a lot better than the crap I just swiped from him, and he clanks it against my bottle of cheap vodka. I take a deep swallow just as Arnie yells, “To the amazing Portly Boy and his sidekick, the Drunkard!”
I want to spit the cheap vodka out, what with Arnie changing the toast at the last minute and all, but it’s been a rough night, and even cheap vodka tastes pretty good right now.
“Whatever!” I yell, as my contribution to the toast.
And that’s the first real adventure of Portly Boy and the Drunkard. Tune in next time, kids: Same fat time, Same fat channel.