I never realized how difficult it was to get the attention of a woman you no longer had the number for. However, I have my ways. Thursday, those ways consisted of hanging out a car window and handing out food to the masses. Like fish, tomatoes, and pies. It’s good to go out and be charitable like that. It endears me to people. Probably not to the person who got a faceful of Sea Bass. It’s not my fault. I couldn’t resist shoving something into that basshole.
I’m just kidding. I wouldn’t give someone fish to eat. It exploded shortly after hitting that guy from the explosive hidden in its gut, just big enough to create a cloud of smelly mist.
There still weren’t as many cars on the road as there used to be, so I could just zip all over the place. A couple of cop cars pulled up behind me and tried to pull me over. You ever see what bacon does to a car windshield? Cool, greasy bacon. I laughed when they started the windshield wipers. One right turn and they started chasing another black car because they couldn’t see through the windshield properly.
You know, here’s a good time to add a tip regarding crime, and really, for life in general. See, most cars are the same few colors. Red, silver-blue, black, and certain dark shades of blue and green. Some white ones, too. Stuff like that. These are prime targets for theft. Why? Because they all look the same. You steal that car, you’re going to have cops looking for that car in the middle of a whole mess of identical cars.
The counter to this is a car with unusual coloring. Banana yellow. Bright orange. Purple with pink flames on the side. Those are the cars people don’t want to steal unless they contain some seriously high-end parts, because they’re so much easier to keep an eye out for. Since so few people generally go for cars that stand out, they also sell for less.
Sadly, no visit from Venus. I figured I needed to talk to her before I left. Throw her a bone. Maybe ask her how big a lady boner she got from stabbing me in the chest. Plus, I suppose I was a little grateful that she saved my life. Which is odd, considering how much I’ve tried to get her to kill me. Dammit, why do interpersonal relationships have to be so complicated? Don’t you just hate that?
With her being so difficult, I figured I’d get started on my vacation at least a little early. On Friday, I gathered up Carl and Moai, had them pack a cooler, folding chairs, and fishing poles. The boys were going fishing.
“You think we can actually cook anything we catch here?” Carl asked me from his chair. He had his hook in the water and a worm wiggling around underwater.
In its own way, fishing is like a study of- hold up, let me put the answer in here first before I go off on a tangent. “No, Carl. Because these animals are fish. Fish are inedible, as anyone with taste buds could tell you. They exist only to stink. They stink in life, and the smell only gets better when they die.”
“Just because you don’t like them doesn’t make them inedible, boss. Pass me a beer?” Carl responded.
I opened the cooler and tossed a foamy beverage across the water to him. He caught it and opened it, getting a taste of spewing foam as it shot into his face. It was truly refreshing for me to see.
See, fishing is like a study of society. You have forces opposing each other. The fisherman wants to nab the fish. The worm doesn’t want to be stabbed, drowned, or eaten. The fish wants to make sweet, scaly love to other fish and pee in the fluid it breathes. Truly, they are majestic.
And this explains society. Somehow. I couldn’t finish the comparison after I got a bite on my line. I jumped to my feet. “I got a big one here. This one’s going on the mantle with a button you press to make it sing!” I gave it a big haul, causing a flopping wet mass to fall onto the concrete next to me.
The walrus I’d hooked rolled upright and snorted a bunch of water all over me. I grabbed a net. “Alright you bristly bastard. Time to go straight-up Ahab on your ass.” It horked at me and hopped. I dropped the net over its head, then bent down and lifted it in my arms. I bodyslammed it on the ground. “You gotta do better than that. To be the man, ya gotta beat the man. Woo!” I jumped up and dropped an elbow, causing it to vomit out fish guts and a hook. It slapped me away with its flipper and rolled over, racing for the water.
I grabbed it by its tail. “You ain’t getting away from me, Wally. I’m the International Waters Champion of the Woooooorld!” I whirled, dragging the walrus around on the ground before I generated enough lift. I yelled. The walrus yelled. I think Carl yelled, too. It was hard to tell. With all the spinning, I was a little off. I almost hurled. Instead, my hand slipped off the wet walrus and it flew into the pool.
I tripped over my own feet and nearly cracked my skull. Good thing Moai was there to pick me up. I steadied myself on him as I got my balance. “Well, well. I guess this one got away from me…or did it? Moai, my trident.”
I held out my hand and felt the cool leather grip of the three-pronged weapon settle into my grip. I took a running leap into the water, trident held close. Those reading at home with less adrenaline in their systems may have put a few clues together to determine that it was a bad idea for me to go swimming in the Empyreal City Aquarium. During March in Empyreal City, New York. With all my clothes on, including my trench coat. Yeah, I abandoned the trident in a hurry just to carry myself back to the surface and catch my breath from the wet clothing trying to squeeze all the air out of my body.
I treaded water and looked around for Carl. “Carl! Did you see where it went? I lost track of it. It might have my trident.”
“Duh duh. Duuuh duh. Duh duh, duh duh, duh duh,” he said, mimicking the theme from Jaws.
“Not helpful, Carl. Where’s walrus?” Then I felt something clamp on my ankle and pull me under.
To be honest, I didn’t remember a lot about underwater unarmed combat, especially against graceful sea predators. The good news is I saw my trident standing upright underwater. The bad news is, the walrus was going to drag me across the points. My poor, vulnerable underside, with its balls. I was attached to my balls. I hoped to stay attached to them. I grabbed the walrus’s tail and twisted, putting us into a tailspin. It threw the critter off enough that we just avoided the trident. It got me close enough to grab the trident, though. I pressed the shaft against my leg and worked it down so it wedged inside my mammalian assailant’s mouth and propped it open enough to escape.
Air supply exhausted, I shot to the surface and swam for the edge. Moai helped pull me out, then slammed his head on my chest. “Ow! Motherfucker, no CPR. Not drowning!” I rolled away from the pool and leaned on Moai to stand up. “Carl, we’re going to have to change fishing spots. It has my trident.”
“Maybe over there?” He pointed to the Aquatheater where they normally do shows. A black, oily-looking fibrous mass grew out of the water and stopped with several bulging, pulsing orbs.
I ran my hand through my wet hair. “Not our problem. Just a leftover from ‘Tingler.”
“Are you sure, boss?”
“I’m not paying you to care about that.”
A third voice joined our conversation. “You’re going to leave that to me?”
I turned to find Venus in watching the scene in her armor, petting a cuddly otter. I pointed to the little beastie. “You shouldn’t do that. Do you know how dangerous that thing can be? Always use basic common sense when dealing with wild animals.”
I heard a splash from behind me, where the walrus swam free with my trident in its mouth.
“Why can’t you give it a break? For a week or two. Even for a day. I understand that you’re fucked up, but why take it out on everyone else?” She crossed her arms.
“Ah, good to see you, Venus.” I flapped my coat, spraying water. “I’m glad I got your attention here. I’ve been meaning to talk to you.”
“That makes sense. You drove around pieing people and then broke into an aquarium because you wanted my attention.”
“Hey boss, I got a big one!” I glanced over to see Carl over by the petting tank, holding up a ray on his line.
“Good job, Carl. I believe they call that one a Pancake Fish. Before the invention of Canada and the exploitation of their underground syrup reserves by the Ayatollah of Rock N’ Roll-ah, nobody could stand to eat the things.” Turning back to Venus, I continued explaining. “Listen, Venus. I understand things got a bit bad there. I went through some shit, you went through some shit. You stabbed me and healed me. Things got wild.” I paused, catching my breath. I still hadn’t completely recovered from my little swim.
“Don’t tell me you did all this to thank me.” I couldn’t read her face with that visor in the way. You really need to see a person’s eyes to get to know them.
What am I supposed to say? She’s as gorgeous as a thousand sunsets? I need her help? I want her to rescue me and care for me? I might as well scream “Poop!” at the top of my lungs. Same difference. “You wouldn’t believe it if I said ‘Thank you’ anyway. You know me too well. I will tell you that I’m getting out of here. Going on vacation. I’m making a few last arrangements before I go, but you’ve only got a few more days and I’ll be some other country’s problem for awhile. This is just a bit of fun before we go. Except for the walrus. I made a mistake and it’s now armed.” I pointed back with my thumb toward the walrus pool.
Venus studied me for a minute, then her shoulders shifted just a little bit. They relaxed. “Good,” is all she said.
“Thinking now you wish you’d let me die?” I asked, testing the waters.
She shook her head. “It worked out. Spinetingler’s dead. I knew you’d kill him. I still don’t know if any of that was for the best.”
“Well, you know what they say. We do what we must, because we can. For the good of all of us, except the ones who are dead.” I saw her lip quiver at least a little bit. She fought back a smile, I thought. The song was appropriate, considering we almost died. “I don’t suppose you heard anything me and the impostor said to one another?”
“I had my own thing. Did you see any of that?”
“Nope. Listen…I guess I should go ahead and say this…I think I owe you.”
She quickly looked down, something in her helmet catching her attention. When she looked back up, she told me, “I’ve got to go. People still need me. You clear out as soon as you can and go. I don’t want to see you anymore for as long as I can help it.” No damn response to me saying that? Or maybe there was.
She turned to go, but then I called out, “What about the next time Spinetingler or some other really mean asshole comes along and you need someone to do evil for the good of everyone? What then?”
“I don’t know, but I’ll do what I can.” She glanced back at me. Good. No omnidirectional display.
“Geez, a hero never quits, huh?” I asked, smiling.
She nodded, then jumped into the air and fired a grappling line.
I turned toward Moai. “Moai, get me a mirror and a brush. If I don’t get this mop into shape now, it’ll look bad all day.” After a quick brush, I looked into the mirror with morbid curiosity. “You’d think I’m as bad as Spinetingler, the way she talks. Problem is, she’s helping to protect the very society that pushes people into becoming like me, and makes it darn near impossible to quit. But isn’t that the point, Spinetingler?” I shifted the mirror to look over my shoulder and caught a glimpse of a smoldering red eye. “Thought so, the way you disappeared like that. Even if we get beat or take the occasional vacation, a villain never stops.”