I was just sitting there, taking up space, contributing nothing to the Universe other than not plotting its destruction. I was studying the concept of wrath as dispensed by cyber-mobs, and I arrived at the conclusion that those who frame witches do so to forestall winding up bound and tossed into the river themselves. Hardly a revelation, but the truth seldom wows. When you get down to it the words of the prophets are found on the subway walls, tenement halls and in stupid tweets, old chum.
My Imaginary Friend and second in command, Renfield, popped into my office and told me that the billygits wanted to see me.
I snapped out of my philosophical cogitation. “No, they don’t,” I said. “I passed them off on Hezopatha. She’s now Herod to the little jeebuses, not I.”
Renfield smiled a smile that informed me what she had said wasn’t a request. Like it or not I was going to see the billygits. Renfield whistled and the four billygits flew into the room. Then she departed, closing the door behind her.
The billygits eschew capital letters. So, there’s no disrespect when I list them by name: mothball, weasel, pinto and flounder. Your basic billigit is eighteen inches long, winged, androgynous (but I like to call them “guys” or “boys”–sue me), orange skinned and they all wear blue polo shirts, khaki pants and tiny hemp hard-sole slippers that are always falling off. Except for slight variations in their faces, billygits are identical physically, but they do have differing temperaments. Unlike only Renfield and myself, the billygits are among the Fictional Characters (FC’s) in our realm of make believe. They were created two productions ago; and in the publication which precedes this (if this current one makes the grade) I had given them to a powerful FC named Hezopatha the Witch as minions because I discovered having four winged little orange dudes around the office is highly irritating. I played the role of “Satan” in that story, thus sealing the deal in hellfire, scorched scrolls and smoldering wax seals.
“What do you guys want? You’re Hezopatha’s problem now,” I said, wishing for a trap door like that in Mr, Burns’ office on The Simpsons. In this realm, you never know when wishes will come true. And sure enough a trap door appeared under the billygits. But since they fly, it wasn’t a useful wish; wasted wishes are the only kind that come true around here.
“Magnificent Master sent us,” said mothball, who was to my far left. I then noticed that Hezopatha had given the boys name tags.
“The Magnificent Master desires another billygit,” weasel, next in line, added.
“For the Magnificent Master’s O-C-E-A-N, Ocean Project,” pinto chimed in, all haughty like, as if I knew what he was talking about.
“And what is ‘O-C-E-A-N, Ocean’?” I asked when it became evident that no one was going to expand on the subject.
I knew that Hezopatha was up to no good, being a Witch and all. Although I had created her, I had also given her Free Will, as I do all FC’s–even the billygits. “Hezzie’s” Free Will usually manifests itself in mayhem and missing persons. But since those who turn up gone are not actual human beings, just actors playing chunks of peasant stew, I stay out of her way. Hezzie is also a sociopath, thus highly creative. Ambitious too. And her latest scheme for upward mobility was underscored by what the billygits then told me.
“The Magnificent Master…“ flounder started, but I interrupted him.
“Now that all you guys have called Hezzie ‘Magnificent Master’ feel free to stop kissing her butt. I won’t tell.”
“Magnificent Master told us you’d say something of that flavor,” flounder said.
“She said to ignore it and any attempt you make at wishing for a trapdoor,” said weasel–no, mothball.
Renfield had been eavesdropping over any one of fifteen ways to listen in, and she sent me a Googled definition of the acronym OCEAN, which appeared on the screen of my open laptop. As I’d somehow sensed, it was New Age claptrap devised by smart people over-educated to the point of uselessness.
“My bullshit detector tells me that OCEAN is a patchouli reeking, personality labeling acronym that stands for Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism, sometimes called CANOE–What the hell is Neuroticism? Is that what Woody Allen experiences as he creeps to the girls’ room?”
Silence. Sour expressions were on the winged pests’ faces.
“Hannah and Her Sisters fans, eh?–well never mind–how about telling me what OCEAN has to do with placing people upside down on meat hooks?”
“Magnificent Master requires a fifth billygit to complete her greatest spell,” I forget which one of the little dudes said it, but I know one did.
“Each one of us represents a letter,” flounder–I think, said.
“Ah,” I said (fairly sure about that). “And you need a fifth for the N, being there’s only four of you. Still, what precisely is the aim?”
The four just fluttered, exchanging confused glances.
“Just pulling your chains, boys–Everyone knows that Hezopatha never tells anyone but her Rats what she is up to. Could be, in the greater scheme of things, that she only devised this OCEAN plan just to get me to make the awful Woody Allen joke. Hezopatha moves in mysterious ways. Who are we to question her? Yet I’m willing to bet my eye of newt futures that she’s planning to raise some sort of passive-aggressive New Age Demon. You see, guys, the Magnificent Master is the type of individual who is only happy when Coyotes are digging up the bones of those who crossed her from unmarked graves in the desert.”
I sent Renfield a message: SUMMON TEAM G.O.A.T.
She replied: WHAT’S THE MAGIC WORD?
My retort: RIGHTFUCKINGNOW.
I smiled. “If I greenlight a fifth billygit, you guys promise to go and stay away?”
For the first time since our little conference began, the billygits behaved as though they approved of my existence. They assured me that I would not see any more of them if I granted their request. (This assumption turned out to be wrong to the nth.)
Renfield sent me a message. (And yes, she was in the next room.): IT’S DAISY’S SPA DAY. SHE’S GETTING HER HOOVES PAINTED.
Me: THAT’S OK. PEETY WILL DO. GET HIM.
Renfield sent me a middle-finger emoji.
Renfield: HE’S IN THE GUTTER.
Me: I’LL SEND THE BILLIES TO HIM.
“Boys,” I said, “you know Pie-Eyed Peety the PDQ Pilsner Pigeon?”
They all shook their heads yes.
“I need one of you not to know who he is for the sake of the backstory.”
pinto took the bullet. “My, who is this Pie-Eyed Peety the PDQ Pilsner Pigeon?”
“Glad you asked,” I said, lighting a cigarette. “He’s a two dimensional cartoon beer mascot from Other Earth, a place created by our Creator–the reckless fool I’m Penname to, that talking bratwurst who gave us Free Will. Peety, via the out and out breaking of all the physical laws of the Universe and then some, now also exists in this realm and carries a bottomless can of PDQ Pilsner, a piss-like brew which used to exist only at Other Earth. Peety is also the sidekick to the G.O.A.T.–whose true identity as meek and mild Daisy Cloverleaf the Pygmy Goatess cannot leave this room or they’ll be finding pieces of you guys in dumpsters from here to Mars. Anyway, the only way a new billygit can be created is by Peety baptizing an extant billygit with PDQ Pilsner–You fellas know where the Gutter Bar and Grill is?”
“Should we?” mothball asked.
“It would be helpful.”
Fortunately, weasel knew where the Gutter was.
“Cool–go there and ask Peety to do his magic.”
I was dozing at my desk a few hours later, dreaming of hail falling on the roof.
I awoke and saw a smiling Renfield standing in front of my desk. Yet the sound of hail followed me into unwanted consciousness. I again wished for a trap door–which happened, but this time it appeared under my chair.
“What’s that noise?” I asked, half wondering how long she’d been standing there. The sound of the hail increased by the second.
“It’ll be easier if you look out the window.”
I slowly swiveled my office chair and looked out the window. Thousands upon thousands of tiny hemp slippers were falling from the sky. And I saw several flocks of bright orange, blue and khaki birds flying overhead. But they weren’t birds.
“That’s a whole mess of billygits,” I said. “I probably should have seen this coming.”
“Right?” Then Renfield took my laptop and downloaded footage taken by the security camera at the Gutter. Security cameras in this realm are very good. They record sound and even pan from one speaker to another. Could say they’re the same as magic.
Pie-Eyed Peety is a gregarious little fellow and always a pal. He used to speak his own words, but for a long time now he has only communicated by quoting the popcorn flicks and slob-coms of the late seventies through the eighties. Stuff like Slap Shot, The Terminator, Caddyshack, Porky’s and so on. And he has a big thing for Animal House. He knows it better than Satan knows the fiddle.
And it was a good thing that Renfield and I knew our Animal House. For what played out on the magic security camera would have made little sense without the knowledge.
Although Peety is loaded around the clock, he tends to get drunker when he’s in the Gutter. Who knows why. Just another one of those mysterious things that makes poets shrug their scrawny shoulders.
Renfield had to turn up the volume so it could be heard over the steady drumming of billygit slippers hitting the roof. We watched the four billies fly into the Gutter and interrupt Peety’s foosball game.
“Shit,” I said, “should have told them not to bother Peety when he’s got his foosball on.”
Peety reacted to the pests in his normal-for-Peety way. He approached flounder and saw the nametag Hezopatha had given him and bellowed: “Redo those buttons! Dress that belt buckle! And damn it, tuck in those pajamas!”
“Double shit,” I said, “Peety only quotes Neidermeyer when there’s gonna be trouble.”
“What’s that on your chest, Mister?” Peety said, his face inches away from flounder’s.
“Um, it’s the name tag the Magnificent Master gave me–see it says…”
“A Pledge Pin!!!”
Peety then shook his bottomless can of PDQ (which sometimes appears as a bottle or a mug–but is always present and bottomless) and sprayed the four billygits, who reproduced exponentially, a line formed behind all of them. And Peety just kept spraying and spraying, begetting more and more billygits.
I closed the laptop.
I heard a loud bell chime in my desk and the sound of slippers falling on the roof immediately ceased. I opened the drawer and pulled out the crystal ball that is my direct line to Hezopatha. Her lovely, yet evil visage filled the orb.
“What’s up Hezzie?”
“Just calling to thank you for the minions, darling.”
I saw movement in the curves of the ball–orange and blue swirls.
“Are they all with you?”
“Yes, the last flock passed over your little shack on their way to me just seconds ago.”
A quick glance out the window confirmed that. Not a billygit in the sky, but there were endless mounds of hemp slippers lying around.
I smiled. “I’m guessing that the ‘OCEAN’ project involved Peety spraying an ocean of PDQ, as to provide you with an endless supply of minions. I’m guessing you knew Peety would fuck things up somehow and give you what you really wanted.”
Hezopatha laughed. Always laughing.
“Well, that was then,” I said, “and this is now. I need you to send out a battalion of billies to come and get these goddam slippers–must be a yard deep in some places.”
She didn’t reply, but I heard her echoing laughter as her face faded in the darkening ball.
“Hey! I’m serious! This is my job!” I yelled at the crystal ball. But Hezopatha was offline.
“Professor Jennings, Animal House,” Renfield said.
“Peety ain’t the only one who can quote scripture,” I said. “Goddam Hezzie went Rat bastard on me. Maybe the slippers will dissolve in the rain. “
Renfield was mixing a pitcher of martinis at the bar. “According to the computer model, Hezzie has something close to a quarter million billygits at her disposal–there would have been more but someone challenged Peety to another game of foosball.”
“Wow,” I said, whistling. “That’s a lot of pledge pins.”
I noticed that the trapdoor was still under me and pushed the button. But goddam reality had either followed me down the hole or was running simultaneously at an even lower level of expectation.
Renfield poured the martinis and I wished for rain.