They say that trouble arrives in threes. That old bit of nonsense came to mind when a trio of my home grown Fictional Characters (FC’s) came to my office on behalf of an alien FC, also of my creation.
The petitioners were Renfield (my lead human FC), Daisy Cloverleaf the Pygmy Goatess and a Siamese Cat named Boots the Impaler. The creeps either walked, trotted or sauntered in, each one via her, her and his natural mode of locomotion. I just sat there and watched as Renfield gently hoisted the small animals onto my desk and sat on the corner of it herself.
We all sat in silence, save for Boots, who was purring. It worried me that the chocolate-point fink was content about something that I was unaware of. For I’d designed his personality to be “like Genghis Khan in an Angora sweater–soft and fuzzy, but don’t touch him.”
My nerve broke first. “What?”
“Pie…,” Renfield said.
“Eyed…,” Boots added.
“Pee-tie,” Daisy bleated with special emphasis.
“What about him?” I said. “He’s no worse than you guys. In fact I’d say his stock’s higher since he isn’t here disrupting my artistic muse.”
“We don’t have a problem, darling,” Renfield said, “but the billygates have finally caught Peetie, and are holding him for deportation.”
“Got him in the hoosegow,” Daisy added as only a goat can say.
“Goddam billygates always sticking their noses in,” I said. “I suppose I’d better go bail him…”
“No bond,” Boots said. “The only way out is through extreme violence.”
“That’s always your first and only solution, little psycho,” I said, wanting to pat the fiend on the head, but not doing so upon remembering what happened the last time I tried to do it. I petted Daisy instead.
“You shouldn’t have created him in Microsoft O.S.,” Daisy said.
I couldn’t defend myself there. Everytime I create an FC in Word, this sort of thing happens. Chrome doesn’t give a shit about anybody I make up, but the intrusive Microsoft Secret Police (aka “the billygates”) are an especially snoopy bunch.
“What did Peetie do this time?” I asked.
“He was just being Peetie,” Renfield said.
“Just more so than usual,” Boots added.
“He peed on Bill’s statue,” Daisy chipped in.
I whistled. The way the blue shirt and khaki dorks saw things, peeing on Bill Gates’s statue was worse than Ozzy Osbourne whizzing on the Alamo.
“Tell you what,” I said, “let’s go to the hoosegow and straighten out this debacle.”
Two of us walked the Yellow Linoleum Road that leads from my office to the hoosegow. Our departure was delayed because neither of the four legged creatures were willing to walk that far. Renfield wound up carrying Boots the Impaler in one of those goofy-looking baby backpack things, while I pushed Daisy in a shopping basket that was once property of the Walmart corporation.
Guess what? Something odd is about to happen, that’s what. Since I was pushing the basket and wanted this piece done up as we went, I gave Daisy my Chromebook and asked her to take the story home, in compliance with the submission guidelines. We have done this before, and despite having hooves Daisy is an accomplished typist–for Pygmy Goats are known as “Nature’s Stenographer.” Besides, I needed some time away from keying, for I was in a typo slump. For the last month or so I’d been keying “aslo” instead of “also” and mysteriously writing “Renfiled” instead of the proper item. So, I now turn you over to the literary stylings of Miss Daisy Cloverleaf, the Pygmy Goatess.
Thank you, Leila.
Renfield carried Boots, and Leila pushed me along in the cart with the sticky wheel that the object of our adventure, Pie-Eyed Peetie, had boosted from a parking lot, somewhere. The inhabitants of our realm are not known for participating in prolonged silences. It wasn’t long until someone had to make noise.
“Is it time to artfully, seamlessly and adverbally fill in the backstory yet?” Trouble-making Boots the Impaler asked Renfield.
“Yes, darling,” Renfield said, “I await it breathlessly.”
“And hopelessly,” I added.
“Har dee har, guys,” Leila said. “Just keep on pushing the A.M.I. [Adverb Mass Indicator] until we all get rejected, rejectionally.”
“That Pie-Eyed Peetie the PDQ Pilsner Pigeon is surely a special case,” Renfield said, hintishly.
“Why, how so?” Boots the Impaler asked, inquisitively.
“You guys do know that successful Kamikaze pilots weren’t able to tell their grandchildren what they did in the War, right?” Leila said, apparently noting the onslaught of intentional adverbs.
“I have a big idea,” Renfield said. “Let’s do this in a Canterbury Tales sort of way. A loosely based on it sort of thing, anyway–since no one living has read them other than a loose sort of way. We’ll all take turns selling the backstory, one piece at a time. I vote for Leila going first.”
“I second that, as long as I can go last,” I said.
Leila growled as she does when something isn’t her idea.
For some reason going second became a badge of honor between Boots and Renfield. Rennie suggested that the two of them play Rock, Paper, Scissors for it. Boots said all right as long as he could claw her when he wanted to make scissors, him not having fingers and all. That was when Renfield suddenly saw virtue in the third slot.
After that was settled, I turned to face Leila and said, “I’m waiting.”
“All right. Fine. Whatever,” she said. “Anyway, a while ago–at a day further back than a month of Sundays but not as far gone to be classified as a Once Upon a Time–the esteemed employer of this humble Penname, invented a place called Other Earth while detoxing from any one of the five or six substances she is addicted to. Anything she’s on, I’m on as well. Moreover, anything she envisions I envision, yet better–You’re up, Bootsy.”
“That was neither informative nor terribly interesting, Leila,” Boots the Impaler said, snottily.
“Hey,” Leila said, “I said I’d go first. I didn’t promise to go well.”
“All right. Fine. Whatever,” Boots said, responding exactly as the Great Authoress had, now that it was his turn. He began to speak in the “mid-Atlantic” accent they use in old movies.
“Leila’s employer sent her to Other Earth to see if there were any good story ideas over there,” Boots said. “Actually, it was a bad idea. Leila went, all right, but she didn’t see the point in visiting a copy of this Earth unless there were interesting differences. To achieve interesting differences she invented a time machine and travelled to Other Earth’s past.”
Boots the Impaler yawned. “That’s all I’ve got. Wake me when we get to the hoosegow.”
“At least the two laziest tale tellers are out of the way,” Renfield said.
And as she gathered her thoughts, we continued on the Yellow Linoleum Road toward the hoosegow. The sky was the color of old paper and the verdant underbrush which more crouched than grew along…
“Couldn’t help but notice that you’re adding descriptions.”
“We’re on a three-thousand word budget.”
I gave her my version of the look. It seemed funny that she should all of a sudden care about the word count, given her past transgressions. And I would have said as much if Renfield hadn’t begun to speak.
“Neither of you guys told just who and what Pie-Eyed Peetie is,” said Renfield, exasperatedly. “At Other Earth he was the cartoon mascot for PDQ Pilsner, which was in business for a few months in the late 40’s. Peetie is a harmless degenerate who wears a fedora and is seen drinking from an endless can of PDQ Pilsner. He is drawn–he is literally two-dimensional and in no way should exist in our or any reality, as a living being. But he does because Leila used a time machine made from an old flip cellular to travel to Other Earth in their version of nine-teen forty something. Naturally, she went to a bar and, to make a long story short, was hoodwinked out of her modern technology and sent back here by the hoodwinker, while she had the master sketch of PDQ Peetie in her hands.”
Renfield took a deep breath before continuing, which came in handy to me because it allowed me to start a new paragraph.
“Two things have resulted from Leila’s reckless adventure: A.) Until Leila went there, Other Earth’s history was exactly the same as our own. But the person who’d hoodwinked her out of the cell was an evil genius. This evil genius somehow linked the yet to be invented integrated-circuit now in her evil possession to the nuclear testing of the era, which resulted in giant monsters in the desert. The exact same mutant ants, spiders, lizards and such and such, who appear only in Science Fiction pictures from our 1950’s are real at Other Earth–and B.) We have Pie-Eyed Peetie; and there are times when the little creep makes me think we have gotten the shittier end of the deal.”
A butterfly landed on my nose. It brought rapture into my heart, and the joyous gift remained long after the butterfly departed….
“Daisy,” Leila said, warningly.
But there really wasn’t much left to tell. That’s when a flock of the billygates descended from the old-paper sky like the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz. They were “winged little shavers” (Leila’s term for them) in identical blue polo shirts and khaki pants and Rockport shoes. Maybe twenty in all, the males were impossibly skinny and sported nineteenth-century era beards, while all the females had long hair, in ponytails, which were dyed in wild colors that expressed individuality, even though they all expressed it the same way.
“I am the supervisor of this region,” one of the little shavers, a female, said. “We require intruders from your region to proceed to orientation so they may learn respect for our leader.”
“Jesus God I must’ve been drunk when I wrote you guys up,” Leila laughed, producing a Microsoft tablet from her back pocket.
The smell of wimpy, small winged creatures awoke Boots the Impaler from his slumber. He began to hoon at them, and appeared to be ready to leap from the carrier. Renfield showed no desire to prevent that from happening.
“It’s like this, ya’ corporate yo-yos,” Leila said, “I’m editing you guys on this tablet in your operating system, while Daisy here is writing all of it on Google O.S. And I’m certain that by now you guys are aware of Boots’ attitude toward you. I’d say about three quarters of you can survive him, because you are slow to take flight–All, if you turn over Pie-Eyed Peetie and then get lost, anon.”
The billygates huddled. As Fictional Characters wrote into a bizarre plot device, they knew they were trapped. But they also knew that Leila had endowed them with (like all her other characters) Free Will. Yet in this regard their Free Will would either lead some of them to the claws and teeth of Boots the Impaler or all to safety. You could call it Free Will with an options menu.
Funny thing is that none of Leila’s FC’s (except me and Renfield), no matter what O.S. they are done in, ever call her on her bluffs–they never question why they are doing things she wants them to stop doing on their own even though she is writing their actions. Free Will seems to diminish intellectual capacity.
The billygates acquiesced. But it really didn’t matter because that was when Pie-Eyed Peetie staggered up the Yellow Linoleum Road.
“Go away,” Boots the Impaler hissed at the billygates, who didn’t need to be told twice. They went. And Leila put away the tablet.
“Peetie, I thought you were in the hoosegow?”
Friend Peetie is perpetually pixelated, thus inarticulate. Leila had endowed him with a voice like that of 1970’s era comedian Foster Brooks, who had a great drunk act. Every word Peetie says is belched out; you can almost smell his words.
“Wha-squawk-wut are–[ loud belch]–you-squawk–talkin’ to [another high volume, gaseous noise]-squawk me?”
“I know how he escaped,” I said, raising my hoof. “Peetie is two dimensional. He probably just stumbled out through the gap at the bottom of the cell door.” That thing I said was a line that Leila had written for me earlier to use at the end of this piece.
Leila picked Peetie up and placed him in the basket with me. “Scan and upload him to Docs,” she said. “It’ll prevent further billygates bullshit.”
I did as asked and by doing so I made Pie Eyed Peetie the PDQ Pilsner Pigeon a citizen of this world.
Then I sat quietly and watched the landscape go by as we headed home. I took a last backwards glance at the land of the billygates and marvelled that the same lucky old sun in our sky also rose and set there, in purple beds of majesty…
Oh all right. Fine. Whatever.