Project: Mulligan

To add some context to the story below.  On Monday night, I was invited to participate in Write Club, a monthly event at the Bootleg Theater.  Basically, there are three rounds, two writers each round are given topics to compete with.  The audience chooses the winner, and money goes to charity.  My round was Time vs. Space.  Mine was about Time.  And there’s a 7 minute time limit.  A limit I totally bumped up against.  Sigh. 

So, as you read, imagine me up on a stage, with a microphone, and you in the audience, drinking a beer.  And there’s a man screaming at me, “ARE YOU READY?”  I reply, yes.  And he turns to the audience and screams, “ARE YOU READY?”  And you shout, YES.  The bell goes off… and I start to read…

PROJECT: MULLIGAN

SPOILER ALERT. I am, in fact, dying. My body, as I speak, is sliding inevitably and irrevocably from order, such as it is, into chaos.  As is the rest of the Universe.  As are, in fact, all of you. Some of us faster than others. Drink up, the prices here are reasonable.

And this is all because of the forward march of Time.

As Delmore Schwartz will one day say to Captain Picard of the USS Enterprise: “Time is the fire in which we burn.”

We curse as we burn. As regrets pile up. As opportunities never come again. As erections begin to fail.

We have created all sorts of means to fight back. Plastic surgery. Diet. Skinny jeans. Taylor Swift.

Some succeed better than others.

The other day, I saw Barry Manilow on TV. His face pulled tight. As tight as the moment he came out of his mother’s womb.

But. Alas. This is merely illusion. A game we all agree to play.

But, what if… what if, we could halt time. Or better yet, turn it back?

As we all know, our experience of Time is linear. This happens. Then this happens. That happens, then, oh, shit, THAT happens?  Damn right that just happened, and you can’t unhappen it.

We move effortlessly through Space. Forward. Backwards. Left. Right. Even vertically. The three dimensions of space have been easily conquered by humanity.

Unlike Space, we have no control over our journey through Time. We move relentlessly in one direction.

But, over in Pasadena. Something is being done about that. Project: Mulligan.

Through a combination of dark government funds, monies from tech companies in Silicon Valley, and a Mysterious Benefactor, two scientists are working in a secret lab. Their task: to unring a bell.

But, as Albert Einstein, having seen his research used to build the atomic bomb, declared, “You can’t unring a bell, mother fuckers. You just can’t do it.”

Currently, Dr. Theodore Gilmore and Dr. Sharon Cartwright work side by side in a simple lab trying to crack the problem.

A large open space. Work tables. Chairs. A few computers. Down the street is a Starbucks.

Of course, there is a bell. Sitting atop a wooden stool in the center of the lab, it is the sort of bell you find at the front desk of a hotel. An easy tap leading to a clear sharp DING.

With a triple shot latte cooling in her hand, Sharon says to Theodore, “Should we shoot the beam of tachyons at the bell?”

Theodore sighs, “I was thinking we could place the miniature particle accelerator around the bell, pushing the particles past the speed of light.”

Sharon likes to stand before the bell. Arms crossed. This is how she does her best serious thinking. Though, sometimes, her thoughts drift to her past. One moment keeps coming back. That one moment when she had a chance to make amends with her mother, for all the things that had been said, for all the cruel things that had passed between them. She thinks about that one moment in the hospital where she chose to walk away as her mother lay dying of ovarian cancer. And that moment to make amends slipped away forever.

Meanwhile, Theodore sits in a chair, a chair that spins. He sees the bell, and then it’s gone. He sees the bell and then it’s gone. His thoughts drift back, and he tries to stop it, but his thoughts drift back, he tries to stop it, but his thoughts drift back to that phone call he let go to voice mail from an ex girlfriend, who was calling to tell him that she was pregnant. Too freaked out to call back, he found out later she got an abortion.

Each week, the Mysterious Benefactor bursts into the room demanding an answer to one simple question: Have you unrung the bell?

His face is covered with a beard, sunglasses and a baseball hat pulled low.

And each week Sharon and Theodore have to report, no, they haven’t unrung the bell. But, they are making great progress.

The Mysterious Benefactor holds up a finger. A warning. And then he’s gone.

Sometimes, as they stand in line at Starbucks, Sharon and Theodore often discuss who the Mysterious Benefactor might be.

“He’s wearing a disguise,” Sharon pointsout.

“Yeah,” Theodore replies. “But, why would he wear a disguise?” They shrug and return to the mystery of the bell in the lab.

***

Right now, at this moment, Theodore is explaining to Sharon an idea that he just had.

Moments ago, it came to him. What if they were doing this all wrong?

He turns to Sharon and says, “What if we are doing this all wrong? Instead of ringing the bell, we wait for it to ring.”

Sharon frowns.

“We’ve tried everything else. Radiation. Particle acceleration. Beam weapons. If we wait for it to ring, perhaps that will lead to a breakthrough.”

Sharon shrugs. Why not?

The door BURSTS open. The Mysterious Benefactor. Theodore stops spinning, Sharon looks. He’s sweating, there’s something wrong.

“Have you unrung the bell?” He sounds desperate.

Sharon says, “No. No, we haven’t, but–“

“We’re trying to something new,” Theodore finishes. “We’re going to try waiting for the bell to ring.”

The Mysterious Benefactor screams. “You are doing WHAT?” Sweat from his face releases the glue attaching his beard, and it pops, flaps and swings away. Revealing his true face: Barry Manilow.

At this point, I would like to say, I am no longer responsible for the narrative. What is about to happen, cannot unhappen, and it is all because of Barry Manilow.

Sharon whispers, “I adore you.”

Barry Manilow turns, his tight face tighter with rage, and plunges his fist into Sharon’s chest, plucking out her heart. She manages one word before she dies. “Guh.”

Theodore screams and jumps out of the chair, running for the door. Barry Manilow leaps on him and wraps his boney fingers around his throat. And he squeezes.

“I am an idol to millions of people. I have sold millions of records.”

He squeezes harder. Theodore’s eyes begin to bug out.

“But in order to get there, I have done so much wrong. I regret. The people I fucked. The bodies I left to the mountain lions in the Hollywood Hills. The secrets I sold to the Soviet Union in the 1980s. I shot Kurt Cobain. I was at Benghazi. I need to go back, my soul, my soul, I want to unring that bell, I want to unring that bell!”

Theodore is dead. He falls to the floor lifeless. Barry Manilow looks at his hands. Thinking… Again?

And just then, at this moment, something happens that makes Barry Manilow realize he has made the gravest mistake he has ever made.

In the silence of the lab, punctuated by his breathing… untouched by human hand… a bell… sitting on a stool, softly, clearly… RINGS.

Now. Here we are, waiting for the bell to ring, none untouched by Time. And we have a choice in how we go forward. We could go kicking and screaming into the night, like Barry Manilow. Or, we could choose to embrace our scars, and go with the flow.

!!!

Sadly, I lost.  But, it was a lot of fun, all the writers were great, and the money went to charity.  I’ll be there again, will I see YOU there?

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I, Bad Guy: Origin Stories–Part Six

PREVIOUSLY:

Robbie had scoped out the Community Center that will be holding a fundraiser for the Greatest Generation.  Mary came over to tell him to abandon his plans of being a supervillain, but ended up telling him how he could make his caper work.  He just needed one more person to pull it off.  Robbie rushed to find that one person.

VILLAINY!

imageedit_1_2901772730The Old Woman stared at Eric. Her eyes pierced deeply into him. Her voice was firm as she asked, “Are you here to serve me?” Eric swallowed. “It says right there, on your name tag, ‘Eric’, that you’re here to serve me.”

Eric nodded, “Yes, ma’am. I’m here to help.”

She countered, “To serve me.”

Eric cleared his throat. “Yes. To serve you.”

She smiled grimly, “So serve me. I want to see the charcoal frame.” She pointed with a withered finger to the top row of frames.

The Old Woman had demanded Eric’s attention now for over twenty minutes. She had already looked several different frame options. None had satisfied her. None were going to work to frame a picture of her beloved cat, Meow Meow.

Eric got on the step ladder and reached up. Why they put them up that high, Eric didn’t know. He was going to reorganize. He could do that, since this was his domain now. Pens, markers and frames.  Woo hoo.

The frame came off, but his fingers didn’t get a hold of it. CRACK. It smacked his forehead before–BANG–it hit the linoleum flooring.

The Old Woman looked up. “Well, I can’t buy THAT one. You’ve dented it.”

Eric sighed, rubbed his forehead and reached again. Then… a voice…

“Eric?” Eric looked. Down at the end of Aisle 4 was Robbie, breathing heavily. A large crumbled piece of paper in hand.

“What are you doing here?” Eric asked.

Robbie strode towards him, filled with confidence. “I’m looking for you.”

“Oh, no,” said the Old Woman, stepping in-between. “This ain’t no disco. You find your rough trade somewhere else. He’s mine.”

Robbie looked at her. “Lady, he’s my cousin. What is wrong with you?”

The Old Woman huffed. “You haven’t heard the last of me. I’m getting the manager,” she declared and then waddled away.

Eric came down the step ladder. “You’re going to get me into a lot of trouble. They don’t take complaints lightly here. They honestly believe the customer is always right.”

“I’m here to liberate you, Eric. Liberate you.”

“Eric?” Robbie and Eric turned. At the other end of the aisle, Agatha.

Eric said, “He’s here to liberate me.”

Agatha took a step towards the pair. “He’s here to what?”

Robbie stepped towards Agatha. “Liberate him. I need him to be my henchman.” Eric sucked in a breath. Robbie turned to Eric. “That’s right. I need you, Eric. I get it now: you were just looking out for me. You were just trying to protect me.”

Eric took Robbie’s shoulders. “It’s what a good henchman does. For his supervillian.”

Robbie embraced Eric.

“Take your damn hands off him,” Agatha said. “Eric, honey, you aren’t going off with him.”

The two men separated. Eric turned to Agatha. “Honey. I’m sorry. I love you. But, the man you fell in love with, the man I want you to be with, well…” He reached for his tie and pulled if off. He held it out to her. “That man is a henchmen.”

Agatha blinked. Looking between Eric and his tie. She crossed her arms. “Um. No.”

Eric took her hands. “Let me do this. Let me follow my heart, because, it will always lead me back to you.”

Agatha melted into him. “Promise me that you’ll come back every night in one piece.”

Eric touched her face, and said, “I will do my best.” And he kissed her. A kiss that could move mountains.

Robbie stood next to them. Looking. Awkward. He tapped on Eric’s shoulder. “Uh. Wrap this up. We have a fundraiser to villianize.”

***

The next night, Robbie and Eric sat in Agatha’s hybrid. Across the street was the Community Center. They could see a few of the Greatest Generation heading towards the building, everyone dressed in their best suits.

Eric was at the wheel, he checked his watch. “You ready” Robbie was lost in thought. “Robbie?”

Robbie snapped out of it. “What? Right. Ready. Yes. Let’s do this.” Eric started to move. Robbie didn’t. Eric sat back.

“Are you… having second thoughts?” asked Eric.

“What? NO. Of course not. I’m not having second thoughts. Why would I have second thoughts? This is the beginning of my meteoric rise. Tonight, I rob the Greatest Generation and then tomorrow the world.” He knocked on the dashboard. “Hello, success knocking.” But, he didn’t move.

Eric licked his lips. “So. We’re doing this?”

Robbie looked at Eric like he was insane. “Of COURSE we’re doing this. You. Me. We’re doing this.” Robbie took a couple of short breaths, then, launched himself out of the car. “VILLIANY,” he shouted as he ran towards the building.

Eric grabbed an empty shoulder bag and ran after him.

***

Robbie burst into the event room. “EVERYBODY KEEP YOUR HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM.”

The room had been decorated since he was last here. A banner welcoming the Greatest Generation. A table with a silent auction. And some balloons. Off to the side was the 20 Something DJ, who wore sunglasses to hide his boredom as Glenn Miller played.

The Greatest Generation were filling the room, dancing their hearts away. Slowly. But, dancing.

Eric leaped behind the DJ and karate chopped him in the neck. The DJ crumpled to the floor. Eric paused the music. The Greatest Generation turned and looked. Eric pointed to Robbie. They turned and looked at Robbie.

He gave them his best glare. “This is a robbery.”

An shrill voice came from the dance floor. “A brobbery?” Murmurs from the crowd.

Robbie shook his head. “No, no, a robbery, a ROBBERY.”

The Old Woman came out of the crowd. Yeah, that Old Woman. Eric gasped. “You’re going to rob… us?”

Robbie strode forward, “That’s right. Fear me. For I am… the TEACHER!” Robbie took what he felt was a very powerful pose.

The Old Woman was confused. “The Bleacher? That’s a strange name. The Bleacher–?” Murmurs from the crowd.

Robbie shook his head again. “No, no, it’s the. You know, what? It doesn’t matter. Cash, watches, jewelry. All of it.” Robbie nodded to Eric who leapt over DJ table. He opened the shoulder bag and headed towards the crowd.

A woman’s voice cut through the crowd. “I think I’ll have to give the Teacher a failing grade.” The Greatest Generation parted, revealing: the Damsel. Step by step, she walked towards Robbie.

“Oh, shit,” was all Robbie could muster before the Damsel punched him in the nose. He stumbled backwards. “Ow,” was all that he could muster before she kicked him in the chest, sending him flying into the dessert table. Dazed, Robbie nodded at Eric.

Eric took a fighting stance and charged the Damsel, who swung at him. Eric ducked and her fist went over his head. He punched up and the Damsel stepped back, and then put a boot in Eric’s face. He feel backwards as his nose exploded.  The crowd went “Ooooo.”

The Damsel turned to face Robbie. He stood up. He cracked his neck. She said, quietly, “Don’t make me do this.” Robbie took a step forward. She took a step back. “Because I will hurt you.”

“Oh. WILL you?” Robbie began chuckling. Then crackling. Then bwah hah haying. An evil laugh is hard to come by.

The Damsel frowned. “Why don’t you do the right thing and just turn around and go home.”

Robbie put his hands on his hips. “Why don’t you do the right thing, turn around and go home?”

“Because.  I’m the hero.”

“That’s right, and I’m the mother fucking bad guy.”  He grinned.

The Old Woman shouted, “Take his head off, Damsel!  Beat his body bloody with it” Robbie and the Damsel looked at the bloodthirsty Old Woman.

The Damsel turned her attention back to Robbie. “Alright, let’s do this.”

Just then, Eric jumped onto her back. “Get her, Robbie!” he shouted, as the Damsel reached up to grab him.

Robbie took the opportunity. He swung.

A flash from a cell went off.

The Damsel and Robbie were blinded. Shutting their eyes.

Robbie’s fist collided with the Damsel’s jaw. And she dropped to the floor.  Out cold.

Eric stood up. Robbie’s eyes were wide open. He looked at his fist. He pumped it. “VILLAINY!”

Epilogue

Robbie sat in the living room, staring at the headline on his laptop.   “BAD GUY SMASHES THE DAMSEL.”  Below it a picture of Robbie punching the Damsel, credited to DJ Rock Rock.   Her eyes were closed, face distorted.  His eyes were closed, face in pain.  It hurt punching her.  His hand still throbbed.  And as much as he tried, he couldn’t get excited about taking down the Damsel.  She was the biggest hero in the city.  And he had succeeded where  no one else had.  Singlehandedly.  Sure, Eric was there.  But, he was just a henchman.  Robbie had done the real work.  But, for some reason, he felt bad.  Was this guilt, he wondered?

“Where’s the money?”  Agatha was standing behind him.

Robbie snapped the laptop shut.  “I’ll have you know, we didn’t get the money.  The Greatest Generation turned on us.  Eric wanted to stay and take them on, but, I’ll have you know, it was my idea to retreat.  I saved his life.”

“Mm.”  Agatha wasn’t convinced.  “So, you like totally failed.”

Robbie stood and faced here.  “We didn’t fail.  This was quite a success.”

“You didn’t get the money.  I think that’s a failure.”

Robbie walked to his Inner Sanctum.  “I’ll have you know, I got two things better than money.  Street cred.  And a new name.  Fear me.”  He paused for affect.  “For I am, The Bad Guy.”

“Yeah, well.”  She crossed her arms.  “The rent is due.  I need your share.”

Robbie said nothing, but closed his door.

Eric stepped into the apartment, carrying take out Chinese.  “Did I miss something?”

!!!

NEXT: Bad Guy Rises

 

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The Afearing of Mr. Bibbles… a short play for Halloween

CLOWN!Recently, I finished a short play.  I was asked to submit for a festival here in LA.  Sadly, they have chosen to pass on it.  Their loss is YOUR gain.  I give you my newest short play, The Afearing of Mr. Bibbles.  A lot of people are afraid of clowns.  One such person is the hero of our tale.  Melissa.  She has lived her life in fear of clowns.  Ever since that faithful birthday party when she was four years old.  And now, she’s decided to do something about it.

It’s a bit of a horror play.  I wouldn’t take my two year old to it…  Just right for a Halloween Festival of short plays perhaps….

 

I’ve put the whole thing up.  If it’s something you want to do, contact me.

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I, Bad Guy: Origin Stories–Part Five

PREVIOUSLY:

Robbie, our struggling supervillain  just met Mary, possibly the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. Except he has met her before, as the Damsel, the city’s hero. Mary mistakenly encouraged Robbie to rob a fundraiser in order to solve his resource issue. And over at PaperClips, Eric has accepted a new career path.

SHUT UP

“I wish you would stop judging me,” Mary said to her car, as it wove around the slow moving traffic on the highway.imageedit_1_2901772730

The car was a little offended, “I didn’t say a word.”

Mary said, “That’s how I know you’re judging me.”

The car took an exit and headed towards Downtown. “Ok. Fine. Mary, honey, you always do this. You always fall for the wrong guy. You always fall for the bad boys, the guys that need help–“

Mary rolled her eyes. Sometimes she regretted using the brain engrams of her best friend. She felt the need to defend herself, “Listen, I fixed it, ok? He’s not going to be a supervillian. I put him on the straight and narrow.”

A moment, then, the car replied, “Really? Did you really ‘fix’ him? Like the others?”

Mary sighed. “Fine.” The car turned right, into an underground parking garage. “Let’s keep an eye on him.”

***

The fake mustache itched. But, Robbie didn’t dare touch it. He didn’t want to break character. This was deep cover and he didn’t want to blow it. He and a Supervisor were standing in the middle of the Community Center’s event room. The Supervisor was in her early 30s, straight red hair, wore business clothing that made her look older. She asked, “Who are you with again, Mr…?”

“Smith.” Robbie smiled to himself. Good luck trying to find this identity on Facebook. “James. Smith. Fire department. I got wind that you were doing a fundraiser–“

The Supervisor nodded, smiling politically, “For our Greatest Generation, God Bless.”

“God Bless,” Robbie added. He loved improvising. It made him really feel like the character. “I just wanted to come down, check out the layout, the room.” He touched her arm. “I would hate for something to happen that would put the Greatest Generation in any sort of danger.”

The Supervisor nodded, with great political earnestness.

Robert held up his smart phone, “You mind if I snap some photos?”

***

Eric was exhausted. Training had started right away. He didn’t realize there was much of a difference between 20 lb paper and 40 lb. But, the Manager was really excited about it. Eric’s thoughts kept drifting back to the Professor’s Lair and what trouble they might be getting into. But, then he would be snapped back to PaperClips because the Manager wanted to talk about pens. Pens, pens, pens.

Pens were Eric’s new domain. Certainly not as exciting as breaking into the City’s art museum and holding a priceless work of ransom. But, it was all his. And it depressed him.

Agatha was very excited about the first day. She felt good, really good, that for the first time she wasn’t worried about whether or not he’d make it home. She smiled at him as she drove. He smiled back.

They walked into the apartment to find Robbie, pacing in front of a giant blank piece of paper with photos of the Community Center all around the floor.

Agatha groaned. Annoyed.

Eric asked, “What’s going?”

Robbie turned, looked Eric up and down. He spotted Eric’s name tag. Right below the name it was printed: Here to Serve. “Sell out” he said.

Agatha hurumphed and headed to the kitchen. Eric rolled his eyes and took off the name tag. “Robbie, come on.”

Agatha poked her head out, “You are looking at the new manager of Aisle 4. Pens, markers and frames.”

“Oooo,” Robbie replied sarcastically.

Agatha grunted and headed back into kitchen. Pans started to bang around. Eric folded his arms. “You’re not being cool.”

“No. I’m not. I’m not being cool, Eric,” Robbie snapped. “Maybe I’m having some issues processing what happened.”

Eric frowned. “Is that supposed to be an apology?”

Robbie’s eyes narrowed, “Did it sound like one?”

Eric let it go. He looked at the photos on the ground. “What’s all this?”

Robbie started snatching at the photos. “You don’t get to know what all this is.” He yanked the giant blank piece of paper down. “This, all of this, top secret. For villains only. Not managers of Aisle 4.”

He headed towards his room. He turned, looked back at Eric. “Seriously, I’m having issues processing your betrayal. You’re still family.” He turned to go into his room. He turned back. “But, a stranger. A total stranger. A really attractive total stranger, she told me to go for it.” He nodded and went into his room, slamming the door shut.

Eric sighed.

***

The next morning, there was the expected tension around the breakfast table. Robbie paid a great deal of attention to his bowl of Cheerios. Agatha read the news and Eric desperately tried to find something to stare at as he ate.

Twenty minutes later, Agatha was at the door, waiting for Eric. “Are you ready?”

From their bedroom, Eric shouted, “I’m trying to find my tie. Have you seen it?” A moment later, “Found it.” He walked out struggling to tie it.

“Here.” Agatha took the tie and very quickly tied a perfect Windsor. She smiled at him. “So handsome.”

“Ugh.” Robbie was sitting on the couch. “Get. A. Room.” He was sorting through the photos.

Agatha rolled her eyes and was gone. Eric lingered. “You sure you don’t want my help?”

Robbie shook his head. Eric nodded and left.

***

Hours later, there was a knock on the apartment door. Or it was Robbie pounding his head against the floor? He wasn’t sure. So, he stopped pounding. Yeah. It was a knock at the door.

It was Mary. Holding two cups of coffee. Sunglasses on her head, a cute leather jacket. “Brought coffee!” she announced and stepped into the apartment.

Robbie wasn’t sure what was happening. “How did you… find me?”

Mary turned to him. “Um. Uh. You know. Asked around.” She smiled. “It’s not like I have a super computer in my car that I used to find you.” Her smiled faded. Then she started to laugh nervously. Her laughter faded. Mary asked, “Do you live alone?”

“No. Why?”

“You’re not wearing any pants.”

Robbie looked down, sure enough, he was just in his underwear. “I was trying to think. I was doing some work–“

“And you work better without pants?”

“You know what?” He started towards his room, “I’m just going to throw on some pants.”

“You don’t have to.” He stopped. She stopped talking. Silence. Then, she continued, “You should totally put on pants.”

He disappeared into his bedroom. She shook her head, rolled her eyes. “Focus on why you are here, please,” her car whispered to her by way of the two way communication device she had implanted in her tooth.

“Shut up,” she said quietly and headed over towards the crude drawing on the giant piece of paper.

Robbie walked out of his bedroom. “Shut up?”

“What?”

“You said ‘shut up.’ I have extraordinary hearing. It’s almost like a super power.” He picked up the coffee and drank.

The car whispered, “You’re going to have to say something.”

Mary opened her mouth. Closed it. Then. “Yep. I did. I said shut up. I was looking at your plans. Here.” She thumbed the pictures. “Because they were so great.  Like.  You know.  ‘SHUT UP.’”

“Hm,” was all the car could muster.

Robbie’s eyes lit up. “You think so?”

Mary looked back at the drawings. “I’m no expert on committing crimes, but, if you’re going to knock over a fundraiser, this will do it.” She smiled, awkwardly. Robbie frowned. She drank her coffee.

Robbie was confused. “I thought… I thought you were in the life. That’s what you were saying. Yesterday.”

The car whispered, “Abort, abort. Chop him in the neck and get out of there!”

“No. Yes. Yes. I am. I just.” She leaned in. “I am just so used to talking to civilians, and you know… hiding my true identity.”

Robbie nodded, smiled. “I totally get that. So you like my plans?”

She looked back, again, at the drawings. “If you want my expert opinion–,” she turned back to him. “And I am an expert.” And then back to the drawings. “There are several weak points. Here, here and here. You’ll barely get in, and I’m not sure if you’ll even get out.”

Robbie turned to the plans. His face fell. Then his heart sank. And then his stomach gurgled. “Shit.” Robbie flopped onto the couch.

“Hey, hey, hey, it’s ok.” Mary sat next to him.  Close.

The car piped in again, “Ok. You’ve done it. Now get out.”

Robbie’s head was pounding. “It’s not OK. I quit my JOB for this. This is everything to me. This is my first real shot at the big time, and you’re telling me I blew it before I have even tried–“

Mary put her arms around his shoulders and pulled him to her. She closed her eyes and held him.

“What. Are. You. DOING?” asked the car.

Mary whispered, gently, “It’s going to be ok, Robbie. You’re plan doesn’t suck.”

The car gasped. Robbie looked up at her.

“It doesn’t. There are some good bones in it. It’s just. Well. You can’t do it alone.” She pointed at the plans. “If you had one more person, you would totally get away with the money.”

Robbie stood.  He looked at the plans.  And then, back to her.   “You’re right. I could kiss you.”

A moment between the two of them. Oh, shit, Robbie thought. Did I just say that? Should I kiss her?  Does she want me to kiss her?  Mary didn’t move. She was holding her breath. She didn’t want to make the first move.  Finally, Robbie said, “I gotta go.” And he was gone.

Mary finally breathed again. And a voice whispered in her ear. “Bravo, Damsel. Bravo.”

“Shut up.”

!!!

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I, Bad Guy: Origin Stories–Part Four

PREVIOUSLY:

Betrayed by Eric, Robbie is alone in his desire to become a supervillain. Meanwhile, Eric has agreed to go to an interview at Agatha’s workplace, PaperClips, an office supply store.  

You Saved My Muffin!

“I don’t want to say it again, Bobby–“imageedit_1_2901772730

“Robbie.”

“Robbie, fine,” The Dealer continued, “No money, no gadgets.”  He was in his 50s, squat, thinning hair and 5 o’clock shadow at 10 am.  He started closing the back door of his van. The Dealer sold ‘gently used’ super gadgets. Leftovers from various supervillains. At rock bottom prices. “I did this as a favor as I know your father.”

Robbie grabbed the door. “Favor? This is a pretty shitty favor. Do you realize how long it took me to drive here?” Robbie saw several pieces of equipment that would certainly kickstart his career off right. “It’s like you asking me for a favor and I kick in you in the balls.”

“It’s nothing like that–“ The Dealer rolled his eyes.

“Yes, it is. I call you, you said you would meet me because you know my father–“

The Dealer nodded, “Good guy, he is.”

“THEN, when I ask you for the neuro-inhibitor, you want three thousand dollars?”

The Dealer slammed the door shut. “That’s a good deal for a neuro-inhibitor.”

“It’s USED. Can’t you just give it to me?”

The Dealer put a finger up. “Gently used. This is a business. If I give you something, then the next guy or gal is gonna want me to give them something. That’s taking food off my family’s table.”

Robbie flapped his arms. “I don’t have three thousand dollars.” The Dealer shrugged and headed towards the driver’s seat. Robbie followed, “What about a thousand dollars?”

The Dealer stopped and turned, “It’s three. I don’t negotiate. My oldest needs braces. Teeth like a rabbit. You know how to get a hold of me.” He climbed into the van.  It rattled to life.

Robbie asked, “Where am I going to come up with that kind of money?”

The Dealer tilted his head. “This is why I only meet with supervillains. Real bad guys. Not wannabes. You get me the money, you can have the neuro-inhibitor.”

Robbie leaned on the van, putting his head close to the Dealer. “And what if I just… steal it from you?” His eyes narrowed.

The Dealer met his gaze. He flipped a switch. Voltage poured through the skin of the van, right through Robbie, throwing him away. The Dealer smiled. “Yeah, you go ahead and try.”

The van roared away, leaving the stunned Robbie on the ground. Still twitching.

***

Sitting across from Eric was the Manager, 40s, thick glasses, sweat stains in his arm pits. He sat behind a desk, taking notes on a clipboard. Eric continued talking, “The Professor’s plan would’ve worked, but, again, The Damsel showed up, and there was some mistimed explosions, which could’ve been my fault.”

The Manager nodded. Then scribbled something, and then looked back at Eric.

Eric smiled, “I’m more about capture and containment, rather than demolition.”

The manager raised an eyebrow. Eric swallowed. Finally, the manager broke out into a smile and a chuckle. He pointed his pen at Eric, “You, my friend, are hilarious. You are going to fit in great around here.”

Eric frowned.

The Manager leaned forward, “I pride myself on keeping things fun and fresh here. Because, let’s be honest–” He leaned even closer. “Office supplies can be BORING.” He chuckled again, leaned back. “You did not hear that from me.”  More chuckles.

“Sam?” Agatha called out. She was standing in Aisle Six. “I got some questions about paper.”

The Manager and Eric were sitting in the office furniture section. A big sign hung above them: All Furniture 20% Off! “I’ll be with you in one sec, Ag.” The Manager turned back to Eric. “You ready to join the team?” He put out a hand.

Eric took it. Dying inside.

***

Robbie tapped his foot. The line at the coffee shop had been three people deep. Outrageous. He finally got to the front and was able to give his order to the underpaid and overly cool Dude behind the counter. “Coffee, black. Lemon poppyseed muffin.” Robbie pointed. “That one.” He handed over his credit card.

“Right on,” nodded the Dude from behind the counter, and he turned to pour the coffee. Robbie rolled his eyes. An Indie rock god was crooning over the speakers.

Robbie asked, “Who is this?”

The Dude handed him his coffee. “Luddite Revolver. You like it?”

“No.” The Dude stopped smiling. He reached over grabbed the lemon poppyseed muffin, put it on a plate and handed it to Robbie. As he reached for it, his arm twitched from shoulder to hand.  He knocked the plate.  It flipped up and over.  The muffin soared.

Robbie and the Dude watched as the muffin sailed towards the door. Robbie’s eyes opened wide, he took a breath in. No, no, no, he thought. Not my muffin!

Boom. The muffin was caught. Saved. A young African American woman, 20s, good shape, a t-shirt that just covered her stomach, jeans, flips flops, and short dreads. Totally casual. “I think I just saved your muffin,” she said. Followed by a warm smile.

Robbie’s heart beat a little faster.

***

Robbie stared at Mary, the woman who saved his muffin, who sat across from him, and was easily the most beautiful woman he had ever talked to. “Is your nose ok?” She cradled her mug of chai as she sat cross legged in the big comfy chair.

“Hm?” And then Robbie remembered. “Oh. This. I got into a fight.” A look of concern flashed over Mary’s face. “Don’t worry. I beat him. Them. I beat them.” Robbie smiled. Then his shoulder twitched. “One of them had a taser.”

“Wow.”

“Day in the life.” Robbie nodded.

Mary suddenly got very serious. She leaned forward, almost a whisper. “You’re… in the life…?”

Robbie smelled flowers and sunshine as he breathed in. His words stumbled out. “Well. I just. You know. Started. I just started. But. It’s what I always dreamed of doing.”

Mary nodded, her eyes sparkled. “That’s great.  Wow.  Like.  You’re super trusting.  Right off the bat, you tell me.”

Robbie blushed.  Then, “But, it’s hard, because, you know, I don’t have a lot of resources.” He sipped his coffee. “There’s only so much I can do.”

Mary shook her head in agreement. “I’m lucky. I have a… source of income for my… activities.” She touched his leg.

“You’re…?”

Marry nodded.  Put a finger to her lips.  Robbie nodded.  “Don’t stress the resources thing.  The important thing is your commitment.  You’ll figure out the rest.  You’re a smart guy.”

“You think?”  Robbie was sweating now.

She giggled. “I know. What about a fundraiser?” She pointed to the message board. There was a poster for a dance raising funds to build a swimming pool at a home for “The Greatest Generation.”

A light bulb went off in Robbie’s head. “A fundraiser. That’s a great idea. Lots of cash. Wallets. Jewelry. I should totally rob that fundraiser.”

Mary leaned back. Frowned. “Wait. Rob? Did you say… ROB?  As in steal?”

“Yeah. What did you think–?”

“I thought you were going to hold a fundraiser.”

Robbie frowned. “Why would I do that? It would be way easier to just rob it.” Mary blinked. “It’s what a supervillain would do.”

Mary set her chai aside. “You’re a supervillain? Seriously?”

“It’s been my biggest dream. Ever since I was a kid.” Robbie looked up and remembered. “When you’re the son of the number one henchman in the city, you get to meet a lot of supervillains. All of them were just so cool. There was SuperDeath and Robo-Master… oh, God, Robo-Master, he was amazing. All the ladies loved Robo-Master. I was ten and for a week after the Fourth of July party, I totally dressed up like him. Who wouldn’t want to be a supervillain?” He looked back at Mary to find her standing. “Where are you going?”

“I have to go.” She slipped her feet into her sandals.

Robbie stood. “Was it something that I said?”

She slid her sunglasses down over her eyes. For some reason, she looked familiar. “Listen, you’re totally cute–“

“What?” Did Robbie hear that right?

“But, you should get out of the life. Get out right now. Because it’s not all that.” She was breathing fast.

Robbie wasn’t sure what was happening. “It seems like it’s all that. Fame. Money. Power.”

Mary closed her mouth and squeaked. She said, “Oh, God, you are such a fixer upper, aren’t you? I have a hard time resisting fixer uppers. I totally want to save you.”

Robbie was getting really confused.

Mary waved hands in the air, trying to erase what was just said. “Just. Pretend this never happened.” And with that, she was gone.  Robbie chewed his lip, lost in thought. And then, he tore down the poster from the message board.

***

A jet black Bugatti Veyron, the most expensive street car in the world, sitting next to the coffeeshop, slid it’s door upwards as Mary approached. She stepped in and the door dropped silently into place. A great big sigh came out of her, as she put her face in her hands.  Her head shook back and forth, back and forth.   The car spoke with a male voice and a mid-Atlantic accent, “Is everything ok?”

Mary looked at the dash. “I just met a fixer upper.”

The car was sympathetic. “Oh, honey.”

“What am I going to do?”

The engine purred to life. “That’s a conversation for later,” the car said. “The Mayor needs to speak to the Damsel.”

!!!

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