Marian the Contrarian

Marian the contrarian loved to answer “No”.
When someone said to hurry up, she always went real slow.
When people wanted change, she’d defend the status quo,
‘Cuz Marian thought that she was better than the average Joe.

Marian the contrarian saw life as debate.
It didn’t matter what you said; she’d always altercate.
She’d argue ten was less than nine though number is innate,
‘Cuz chats were competitions and she had to dominate.

Marian the contrarian thought the world was dumb.
Where we saw a utopia, she saw a mindless slum.
There must have been some cortex in her brain that had gone numb.
How else can you explain having an outlook that’s so glum?

There’s lots of Marians in the world, a hundred million two.
They change beliefs from day to day to oppose the pop’lar view.
And if she doesn’t sound familiar yet, here’s a clue:
If you don’t know a Marian, I bet all your friends do.

The Redressers: Part 9

Mia, Dwayne, Kathryn, Carl, and Frankenstein looked from the three-story demon in a tuxedo to their infernal surroundings.

Kathryn shook her head. “Ha! I did not expect this.”

The demon twirled his walking stick and let it rest on his shoulder. “I suppose I ought to get the tour out of the way so we can begin your eternal torment. My name is Skranenflon and I’ll be your attendant while you’re here. Anything you need, just wail and gnash those pearly little whites. You’re all here because you did lots of nasty things up there like breaking out of jail and eating shellfish. Ooooh, He hates that! (It’s a texture thing. They’re so chewy!) Anywho, up there is a limitless void separating us from the mortal plane and everywhere around you is a burning lake of fire. Any questions?”

“So is there like, sex stuff here?” Carl asked. “Lotta pervoids? Where do you keep them?”

“In the boiling lake of fire like everyone else,” Skranenflon said. “We used to specialize the punishments to match the crimes — you know, starving the gluttons while showing them food just out of reach and beating the greedy with bags of gold — but we’ve had such an influx of sinners over the last five thousand years and their sins are so varied and intermingled that we had to simplify everything. I tell you, some days I don’t know why I show up at all. Long story short, if you’re looking for perverts, you’ll have to ask around while the flesh melts off your bones.”

“Hmm. Well, it’s an icebreaker, anyway,” Carl said.

“That’s the spirit. Now, before we get started, there’s a technicality to take care of. We give all newcomers the option of either serving as minions of evil or being tortured for eternity with a chance of parole in a few million years, give or take based on your case. It’s a very difficult decision and–”

“We’ll do it,” Dwayne said.

“Are you sure? Everyone else has chosen the torture and hope for eventual redemption rather than doing evil.”

“Nope. No, thank you. We’ll do it.”

“Does that go for all of you?” The Redressers shrugged and nodded. “Wonderful! I’ll get the paperwork started. Hey, Adolf! We’re going to need a few badges over here!”

Before long, they were outfitted with black leather outfits of varying degrees of coverage and were reading the user manuals about their new satanic powers. Mia was now a cyborg with a robot arm, a laser eye, and a spiky red metal mohawk. She also had the ability to interface with any technology and take it over. Dwayne had grown into a gravelly-voiced muscle man with throbbing veins, a face tattoo, enormous guns, and lots of pouches. An inordinate amount of pouches. Kathryn had the power to transmute materials from one substance to another. Her new uniform showed even more cleavage than her old one, but she didn’t mind anymore since she was working for the devil. Carl had the cosmic power to transport people anywhere and create special “survive in space” bubbles if necessary, Finally, Frankenstein could now shoot beams that could kill and other beams that could bring stuff back to life. It was pretty impressive, honestly.

“What do we do with this incredible power?” asked Kathryn.

“You’ll be working with the terrestrial reclamation team,” Skranenflon said. “The main focus is spreading as much evil over the Earth as possible in order to drive more souls down here. We made some great strides in the 20th Century, but these darn millennials just aren’t taking the bait like their parents did. Do you know how many twenty-somethings killed someone because of their race or religion last year? Two million! When you say it out loud, that sounds like a lot, but it used to be much higher! So you need to stir up the hornets’ nest. Spread fear. Destroy some buildings. Blame it on some kind of group. Have fun with it! And don’t worry about the morality. You’re already in Hell. Okay, Genghis. Let ‘er rip.”

Genghis waved a glowing sword and the Redressers disappeared. “Boy,” Skranenflon said, “I thought they’d never shut up.”

The Redressers appeared in the alley where the Sand Witch had killed them. Their bodies were still there. Frankenstein tried out his new abilities by re-animating the arm of Dwayne’s body and making it wiggle around. “Yoo hoo, Dwa-a-ayne,” he said.

Everyone had a good laugh except Dwayne. He growled, “Cut it out!” and shot Frankenstein’s legs off. Frankenstein made the arm flip Dwayne the bird and then de-re-animated it before making his legs grow back.

“Well,” Mia started, “what do you guys wanna do?”

Carl said, “I guess if we’re supposed to spread fear and violence, I’ve got a pretty good idea.”

He waved his arm and a vertical disc of blue light appeared. “Step in. This’ll be fun.”

Meanwhile, remember the monkey who ran away a few segments ago? She was hanging out on a fire escape, eating a cantaloupe she found in the trash, when a chubby old man approached on the ground below. She shrieked and jumped up.

“Hey, up there. Don’t be startled. I’m a friend.”

The monkey squatted low, then slowly raised her head to look at the potential threat.

“Here, this will help us get to know each other.”

The old man wiggled his fingers in the air and the monkey suddenly felt like her brain was exploding, but without any pain. Just expansion. She gasped and then made a few vocalizations.

“Puh! Puh! Fuh! Muh muh muh. Oh, wow! I can talk!” She clasped her hands over her mouth. “This is amazing! What did you do? Who are you?”

“No biggie. I’m Buddha. Nice to meet you.”

“Wow! Like, THE Buddha? You’re a big deal.”

“Oh, I do okay, I guess. I try not to let it go to my head.”

“Oh, right. That’s kind of your thing, isn’t it? Wait, how do I know that?”

“You’re wise, little monkey. I just made you a little wiser. Speaking of, along with speech, I went ahead and gave you Sun Wukong’s other powers. Crazy strength, somersaulting halfway around the world, changing shape and size, all that. I threw a couple of extra ones in as a surprise. I figured you could use them.”

“Use them? For what?”

“Well, you know those people you used to hang around with, the Redressers?”

“Yeah.”

“Old Scratch has given them superpowers. He wants to wreak havoc, drown the world in blood, yadda yadda yadda.”

“That’s, uh, not great.”

“Right. And since you know them, it seems like you’d be a good one to stop them.”

“Yikes! That’s pretty heavy stuff, sir.”

“I know, but the finale’s coming up so we have to make sure things are set up for the big battle.”

“Okay, I’ll do my best. But isn’t fighting kind of antithetical to your teachings?”

“You’ll find a way. You’re a pretty clever monkey. By the way, you should think up a name. ‘The monkey’ is pretty impersonal.”

She thought for a minute. “How about Donut?”

“Donut! What an excellent name. Something that brings you immense childlike joy. Very good, Donut.”

“So what do I do now?”

“I’m sure your former colleagues will make themselves known before too long. Then just go to wherever they are and do something about it. You good?”

“I think so. Hey, there aren’t any sexual politics underlying a female monkey getting powers from a semi-divine male, are there?”

“Probably. But I think you saving the world from weaponized masculinity makes up for it.”

“Okay, good.”

“Come back when you’re done. We’ll grab some churros and empathize with whatever’s around.”

“Sounds like fun. Thanks!”

It was about that time that the Redressers blew up the Statue of Liberty. News crews in New York started broadcasting live footage immediately, and Donut saw the the images on a TV in a sports bar she was passing in Big City. She planted her feet for a somersault and took a deep breath.

“Time to fling some righteous poo.”

One Day, In Hell

This is a bit from my second collection of humor, Pity the Slug! I really love that book. It’s one of the few things I’m unabashedly proud of. You can download it on your kindle or nook or whatever.

Here’s “One Day, In Hell”:

 

Part One

Hi, everyone! Welcome to the Q2 team meeting. Lucifer’s going to come up in a few minutes with the quarterly report, but first I’ve got a few notes to go over. And stick around after the big presentation because we’re awarding a prize to the colleague with the most souls under contract!

All right, ha ha, let’s settle down. Settle down, now. First, where are my false witness crew? Hi, guys. I’ve got some clarification for you. They’ve determined that yes, eye witness testimony is usually inaccurate, but because it’s an honest mistake, it does not count. We’re finalizing the draft of the apology letter. Those will be distributed very soon. Any questions on that? Yes, Urmazel? On average, they will get about two and a half million years off their sentence.

Speaking of divine clarification, on behalf of myself and the entire Board of Tormenters, I’d like to apologize for the influx of souls who worked on the Sabbath over the past couple of millennia. We’re working on getting the word out that the Sabbath is in fact Wednesday, but since that is already regarded as “hump day”, there’s been some difficulty. Plus, let’s face it, people have been less prone to listen to prophets after the mix up about circumcision.

And yes, we are very close to wrapping up that issue with the supposed 72 virgins loophole regarding murder. That was a sting operation from On High to try to root out the pedophiles. There was a joint session between the forces of Light and Darkness and we all agree that it was a severe miscalculation. We’ll be working together to correct this in a partnership unseen since before the Great Fall. It’s very exciting.

And finally, there’s a big push to ramp up punishment for old school sins. Classic sins. With homosexuality and fornication practically benign, we’re looking at a big drop in future soul collection. But don’t worry, we’ve still got our greatest hits: murder, theft, and worshipping false idols. Those three will never go out of style. And I think if we all work together and use those noodles, then we can recoup those losses with some of those lesser-used sins. Tattoos are more popular now than ever. Let’s tap that market! What about men shaving their beards? Let’s tighten up on that! Be creative! Use your imagination! And study up on your Leviticus and Deuteronomy. You’ll be meeting with Shabelleh this week to review those two books.

All right, we’re gonna bring out Lucifer in just a minute. But first, are you ready to laugh? This can’t be Hell because I can’t hear you! I said are you ready to laugh? Then bring out the sinners and get those plastic sheets ready because it’s time for Pandemonium’s favorite splat-tacular comedian, the eviscerater of evil, the hammer of hedonism, the malicious masher of mankind’s moral misfires: Galgeron!

 

Part Two

Thank you for holding. You have reached the Disputes department. My name is Azbineth. How may I help you today? Yes, I can assist you with your claim. For verification purposes, may I have your name and the number marked on your forehead? Thank you. How may I help you?

Okay, ma’am, it sounds like you’ve been judged unclean and have gone into collections. Tell me, are you a priest? Good, then we can skip those chapters. Any history of leprosy or plague? Good.

Now, this action is usually taken due to either food or genitals. Let’s start with food. Tell me, have you ever eaten any of the following, beginning with water creatures: Shellfish? That includes anything that has an exoskeleton or shell. Yes, I’m afraid shrimp do count. That’s okay, it’s not too terrible; you’re just stuck with their carcasses in abomination. Okay, moving on to birds. Eagle? Vulture? Raven? Owl? Hawk? Little owl? Yes, they are different. Okay. Great owl? I know, it’s an odd distinction, but an important one. Swan? Pelican? Gier eagle? It does fall under eagle, but we try to double check the gier eagle restriction. It’s more commonly known as the Egyptian vulture. Does that ring a bell? Right, it is distinguished from other vultures. No, I don’t know why. That’s above my pay grade, ha ha. Yes, anyway. Stork? Heron? Bats? Yes, I’m aware that bats aren’t birds. You’re not the first to point that out to me.

Okay, moving on to bugs. Have you eaten any bugs besides locusts, beetles, or grasshoppers? Good. No, we don’t care that you don’t eat any bugs. Right. Uh huh. Well, things were different back then, I suppose. Yes. Let’s try to stay on track.

Last up is land animals. Have you eaten weasel? Mouse? Tortoise? Ferret? Chameleon? Lizard? Snail? Mole? Camel? Coney? Hare? Pig? Yes to pig? Okay, how many times? Can you make an estimate? I see. Well, it may not count. Tell me, when you finished cooking the bacon, did you destroy the stove? Right, every time. I see. Oh dear. Let me just make a note of that on your history. One moment, please, ma’am.

Okay, let’s talk about your genitals. I’m assuming you had a normal, healthy menstruation cycle throughout your teenage and adult life until menopause? Excellent. Now, when you had your monthly cycle, did you remove yourself from society for seven days? Ha ha, yes, I bet it would have been nice. That’s fine. Very few women do that anymore. I’m assuming you showered? Okay, good. And you took the two turtledoves or two young pigeons to your priest for sacrifice? Oh dear. Okay, let me make a note of that, too.

And finally, did you have any children? A daughter, okay. Did you continue in the blood for 66 days after she was born? It’s for purification purposes. Yes, I’m sure they were as clean and sterile as possible at the hospital, ma’am, but this is a divine uncleanliness, you see. 66 days, that’s right. No, it’s only 33 for boys. I understand, ma’am, but there’s nothing we can do about that now. So is that a “no” for continuing in the blood for 66 days? Okay. And I’m guessing you didn’t sacrifice a lamb and either a young pigeon or a turtledove? I see. Well, I may be able to help you. Can you sacrifice a lamb and a young pigeon today? How about a lamb and a turtledove? What if we put you on a sacrifice plan? You could sacrifice half a lamb today, half a lamb next month, and either a young pigeon or a turtledove the month after that. Is that something you would be able to do? Yes, I’m afraid they’re pretty strict about young pigeons or turtledoves. I don’t know why. No, ma’am, I haven’t. Asking questions like that is what sent me down here in the first place. Now these are pretty typical sins, so your dispute might still go through. Would you like to stay on the line or have the results sent to you via burning bush? Okay, hold please.

Ma’am? Your dispute has been processed and I’m afraid it’s not good news. It seems you had also sowed different kinds of seeds in a field and wore mixed cloth of wool and linen, so you’ll need to report to Hell immediately. One of our trained specialists will be there momentarily to escort you to your nearest Hellmouth. Ma’am? Please control yourself, ma’am. This was all covered in the terms and conditions. I understand this is not the ideal outcome, but it’s not all bad. Well, I guess it is.

The Redressers: Part 8

Wanted for two jailbreaks and destruction of public property, the Redressers were hiding in Dwayne’s one-bedroom apartment, going over their options.

Dwayne picked up the list. “Alright, what have we come up with? Get jobs under assumed identities. Okay. Lean into crime. Not super enthused about that one. This one just says ‘Dark Web’. Carl? Can you expand on that?”

“You know, like on the internet. But, like, untraceable.”

“Doing what?”

“I’m not sure yet. The library was closing, so I had to stop reading the wikipedia page.”

“Okay. Now, there seems to be an option missing from this list. One that I think we ought to look into. Can anyone guess?”

Carl peered into distance, racking his brain. Frankenstein drummed his fingers on the table in thought. Mia continued trying to ignore the whole conversation. Kathryn woke herself up with her snoring.

“Znxx, wha? Where are we?”

“You guys,” Dwayne said. “I think it’s obvious what we’re meant to do. We’re back together as a team, operating outside of the law, each of us with their own specialty. Frankenstein, you know what I’m thinking, right?”

“An agricultural commune?”

“No! Let’s be outlaw vigilantes! Let’s be supers. Fighting crime. Hunted by the very police who we’re helping in our mission to protect the streets. It’ll be great! We can have secret identities and everything. Well, those of us who aren’t blue or undead. No offense.”

“Hey, it’s catching on in Scandanavia,” Kathryn said.

“Which one? Never mind. I don’t want to know. So let’s talk powers. The old lineup was flawed, which we saw after a couple of excursions. Frankenstein, you’re good as the muscle. Mia, I like you as the brainy tinker. But the rest of us need new skill sets since none of us are actually magical or godlike. Carl, I like the blue. It’s a good initial distraction. Can we build on that? Make you a dark elf or something?”

“I learned to juggle flaming sticks in the freak show. Can we use that?”

“Okay, okay, I like what I’m hearing. Fire, blue skin, maybe a devil theme? A demon? An imp? Let’s put a pin in that and come back. That leaves you and me, Kathryn. I’m kind of the leader. The general giving orders. So you–”

“Hang on,” Kathryn said. “Why do you have to be the leader? My TED talk ratings are just as high as yours. And I think a female leader would be a good change. Good publicity, too. Think of if we made the news. If people see a man grandstanding about vigilanteism, they’ll get scared. But if a woman does it, that could be empowering. Inspirational, even.”

“Then what do I do? Carl’s got fire covered, so my only other skill is inspiration. Could we use a bard? Is that a thing outside of RPGs?”

Kathryn thought for a moment. “The nearest I know of would be a hype man. Like Flava Flav or Bobby Byrd. You could stand off to the side and cheer us on or repeat what just happened to amp us up. How does that sound?”

“Ifrit!” Carl said.

“Ifrit as in the fire demon?” Kathryn asked.

“Yeah! I could make my hair crazy and twirl fire and be really scary. Ifrit! What do you think?”

“Well, Carl, I must congratulate you on your knowledge of Islamic mythology. Ifrits are a kind of fiery jinni that appear in the Koran as well as more secular works like the 1001 Arabian Nights.”

“Oh. I just knew it from Final Fantasy IV. Rydia summons them and they do damage to all the monsters. It’s especially powerful against–”

“Okay. Thanks, Carl. Good job. So we’re good? We’ve got Ifrit and Frankenstein. Mia, you can make another costume and be the tinker or engineer or whatever. Dwayne, you’re Hype-Man (hyphen included). And I’ll be Professor K the psychic and keep my boobs inside my damn shirt. We can use earpieces to simulate telepathy like televangelists do. I like this plan!”

“She likes that plan!” Dwayne said. “How’s that, fellow outlaws?”

“One question,” Frankenstein said. “How do we make money doing this? We still need to eat and presumably pay the rent.”

“Once we get a name, we can sell merchandise,” Dwayne said. “Until then, we work on commission. If we stop a robbery, we get half.”

Mia stared ahead blankly and muttered, “We’re doomed.”

A few nights later, an alarm went off in downtown Big City. The Sand Witch ran out through the employee entrance of Adjectiveless Carl’s Pawn Shop with her sand blaster in one hand, a bag of jewels in the other, a tank of sand on her back, and a big, floppy hat on her head.

As she turned a corner into an alley, she found herself face to face with a flame-twirling blue man, a woman in a steampunk outfit, another woman pressing two fingers to her forehead intently, a man in a neat suit and skinny tie straight out of 1983, and, well, Frankenstein.

“What is this?” she asked.

“We’re the Redressers,” Kathryn said, “and we’ll let you choose WHICH of us beats you up first. No PAWN intended.”

“No pawn!” Dwayne repeated.

“That’s right!” Carl said. “We’re outlaw vigilantes and you’re about to regret doing all that crime!”

The Sand Witch put down the sand blaster, pulled out a gun, and shot all five of them. She then picked up the bag and ran home.

~   ~   ~

Mia stirred. The last thing she remembered was getting shot. She opened her eyes a crack. She seemed to be in a giant cave with high, red walls that disappeared into darkness. The ground was hot. She sat up and saw Dwayne, Carl, Kathryn, and Frankenstein on the ground near her. They were rousing as well.

Now that she was awake, she noticed the acrid, sulfurous odor in the air. She stood up to get her bearings. Fire and lava seemed to be everywhere. “Guys?” she said. “How did we get inside a volcano?”

“Oh, it’s not a volcano,” said a voice behind her reminiscent of Frank Nelson. She spun around and saw a bright red man in a tuxedo leaning on his walking stick. He had small horns on his head and a long, forked tail. “I’m afraid you’re in Hell.”

The Redressers: Part 7

~ Ten Months Later ~

Some people find religion behind bars. Some see the error of their ways and vow to reform. Some are made more violent. The Redressers had been awaiting trial in jail for fifteen months and Carl had a sudden burst of insight.

“Man, jail sucks!”

Mia, Kathryn, and Frankenstein glanced at him and settled back into their own interior monologues, which were immediately interrupted by Carl again.

“Seriously! This place is the worst.”

“Prison is worse,” Mia said. “When we’re found guilty and sent there, this is gonna seem like a vacation. From what I hear, the gangs are a lot more dangerous.”

“The lockup gangs may not be violent,” Frankenstein said, “but they’re so incredibly irritating! They’re either having episodes because they stopped taking their meds or they’re just sloppy drunks.”

Kathryn rolled over on her bed, threw up, and fell over the side into the vomit. She sat up, barely noticing the filth. “D’you say drunks? ‘Sthe Toilet Winos comin’? Those guys’re great.” She fell sideways, back into the land of blacked out slumber.

“She’s gotten worse,” Carl said. “She swears she’s just investigating the Toilet Winos undercover, but jeez.”

Mia sighed. “This wasn’t the plan. We were supposed to network with the minor league gangs here to get intel on the guards so we could expose the institutional abuse. We may be stuck waiting for our trial, but we can do some good in the meantime. But our spokeswoman is just–” Kathryn farted in her sleep. “Yeah.”

“I still think one of us could do it,” Frankenstein said.

“Oh, come on. The public won’t take the charges seriously coming from a Latina, let alone a blue guy or a corpse quilt, no offense. We need a white lady, and ours has John Bonhamed out.”

“In her defense,” Carl said, “have you tried the toilet wine? It’s only kind of terrible.”

“Our trial starts soon,” Mia said. “We’re running out of time. We need a plan.”

 

~ ~ ~

“All rise,” announced the bailiff. “The honorable Judge Natliss Yebajuge presiding.”

“Be seated,” the judge said. “I’ve got a fundraising dinner to get to, so let’s try to hurry this along, okay? Prosecution, start your engines.”

“Thank you, your honor,” said District Attorney Gary Dean Stanton, no relation. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we have here a pretty straightforward case of four people wrecking a store so the owner could file a false insurance claim and walk away a rich man, and then attempting to break the owner out of jail, causing quite a lot of public property damage and getting caught red-handed in the act. Okay, so it’s not that straightforward, but it is a solid case. We have security camera footage and sworn testimony from the jail personnel, as well as the testimony of the owner, who was more than happy to rat out his friends in order to cop a plea bargain.”

“What?!?,” Frankenstein cried, slamming his massive hands on the table.

The judge banged the gavel again. “I’ll have order! Go on, Mr. District Attorney.”

It didn’t get much better after that.

 

~ ~ ~

That evening, they were put back in their cell. Mia started off the panicking session. “This sucks so bad! I can’t believe I stuck with you idiots! Now I’m gonna go to prison and my career is toast, not that it ever started off to begin with, and I’m gonna end up in some stupid gang explaining to everyone how tasers work or something. Ugh! I hate all of you!”

After a moment of awkward silence, Carl spoke up. “Heh, isn’t it weird that they put us all in one cell? They didn’t even separate the men and women.”

The others stared at him.

“It’s just weird. Heh.”

“L’you plizz step tlkng?” Kathryn felt like a steamroller was crushing her head and all of the gloppy chunks were splattering into her bowels. “‘M ne’er drinkin’ toilet wine ag’n. Mean it dis time.”

“Shall we attempt an escape?” Frankenstein offered. “I bet if we put out heads together we could figure out a good plan.”

“I appreciate the thought, Frankenstein,” Mia said, “but I wouldn’t suggest putting people’s body parts together if I were you. Just saying.”

“Psst!”

The Redressers looked at each other.

“Psssssst!”

They raced to the window, which took like a quarter of a second because it’s a jail cell. Outside, they could barely make out a figure waving in the dark.

“Guys,” the figure said in a stage whisper. “It’s me, Dwayne! Where are you?”

“Over here!” called Carl.

Dwayne ran up to the window and pressed his face to the bars. “You’re all clear, kid! Now let’s blow this thing and go home!” He waited for a reaction. It didn’t come. “Get it? Like Han? It doesn’t matter. Just stand back, okay?”

Dwayne took a few steps back and pulled a small bomb out of his jacket pocket. He hurled it at the jail cell and it exploded in flames. The flames began to spread across the cheap paint that the jail was coated in, but the actual bricks weren’t harmed.

“Huh,” Dwayne said. He scratched his head. “Any ideas?”

Frankenstein pushed on the wall. It collapsed outwards, creating a giant hole. The others stared at him, mouths agape.

“What? We needed a hole. Come on.”

The alarms blared as they ran out of the cell and into the open air. Dwayne was watching the fire spread over the jail. It was getting near the government center now.

“Should we tell someone?” Dwayne asked.

“Sorry,” Mia said. “I left my phone in the evidence locker.”

They ran a few blocks before taking a rest. Mia stuck her pointer finger in Frankenstein’s face.

“You could have done that at any time?”

“Um…yes?”

“Why didn’t…I’m so…This team sucks so bad!”

Kathryn knelt down and threw up. “Ohhhhh, tha’s better.” She spat and stood up on her wobbly legs. “Okay, lez go.”

They ran off into the night. They stopped six times to convince Kathryn that running away was still a better idea than taking a nap at a bus stop.

When they arrived at Dwayne’s one-bedroom apartment, they got to work planning their next steps.

“So what, we’re outlaw vigilantes now?” Carl asked.

“I guess so,” Dwayne said.

Mia put her head in her hands. “All I had to do was serve coffee and apply for jobs.”

The Redressers: Part 6

Mia, Carl, Frankenstein, and the monkey that they kept around despite her not, in fact, being the fabled Monkey King Sun Wukong gathered in the parking lot of the Big City 2386th Street jail. “Where’s Kathryn?” asked Carl.

With the impeccable timing of a fictional story, Kathryn approached the team at that exact moment! Isn’t that exciting? What are the odds? I mean, seriously. If you factor in the timing of the traffic sig– Hmm? Oh. Right. Sorry.

Kathryn approached the team. She was embarrassed and then immediately furious. “Why didn’t anyone tell me we weren’t doing this in uniform? You know I hate my boobs flopping out of this stupid thing.”

“Okay,” Mia said. “We all know the plan, right? Kathryn, you go in and distract the guards with your, um, yeah. After they’re nice and drooly, the lights will go out and you take the keys. Then we come in as backup and keep them occupied while you free Dwayne. ”

“For the record, this plan sucks,” Carl said.

“I know, but you all lied about having powers so it’s this or no team. Got it, everyone?”

They all said “Yeah” in unison like some stupid 80s Saturday morning cartoon. They might as well have put their hands in the middle and said, “Go Redressers!” Yeesh.

Kathryn made her way to the entrance and Carl crouched down next to the monkey. “Okay, Sun Wukong, listen closely. I’m going to pick you up and put you in that air duct over there. Your job is to get to the security desk and– Hey! Hey, come back!”

Since it was the first time she had been outside in weeks, the monkey they insisted on calling Sun Wukong saw an opportunity to escape and took it. She scampered off at top speed for over half a mile before crawling into a cardboard box and taking a nap. Later that night she would wander behind a grocery store and find a dumpster full of delicious produce that was mostly edible. It was the first night of the rest of her happy, fulfilling life. Bye, little monkey! Good luck! I love you!

Carl watched her run away. “Crap. Uhhhh, okay, plan B. Mia, you’re an engineer, right? Can you disable the security system?”

“Oh yeah, of course,” Mia said. “I’m sure you have the manufacturer, the model, and all the specs of this building handy, right? No? You don’t? That’s okay, because I can just ‘hack’ it like in movies, right? Let me get out my laptop and password-cracking software and I’ll get us in, right? Idiot.”

Mia let out an exasperated sigh and thought for a moment. “Vic, come with me.”

“What do I do?” asked Carl.

“Stick with the plan. When the lights go out, go in and help Kathryn. We’ll be right behind you.”

Mia and Frankenstein walked around the building until they found the building’s power supply. A transformer sat behind a locked chain link fence.

“Okay, Vic. We need to get in and basically destroy that round thing.”

“I know what a transformer is. It bumps the voltage up or down for a neighborhood, office building, or similar pull on the power grid.”

“Ooh, someone has Wikipedia.”

“Actually, Dan’s dad is an electrician and taught him that when he was like eight.”

“Who’s Dan?”

“Um, nothing! Let’s break this thing, huh?”

Frankenstein ripped the fence apart and stomped at the transformer with all his might. It exploded in a shower of sparks and the jail went dark.

“Arrgh!” Frankenstein yelled. “Fire bad! Rarrr! Ha ha, just kidding.”

Inside, Kathryn realized they had made a slight miscalculation going into this little escapade. Of the three guards on duty at the moment, two of them were women. She tried using her feminine wiles anyway — you never know — but the female guards quickly got wise to her scheme.

“You can cut the crap now, lady,” said Sheila the Guard With a Full and Personalized Backstory. “I’ve got to finish an essay tonight since I’m attending college part time to get my degree and pursue my career goals and I don’t have any time for your nonsense.”

Just then, the lights went out. Carl ran in and crashed into Kathryn. He got up and shouted, “What are you doing? You’re supposed to be shaking your boobs at the guards!”

“Ixnay on the oobsbay!”

“What?”

Before Kathryn could respond, three 20 million billion-candlepower flashlights were shining on their faces.

“Don’t move,” said– guess. Go on, guess.

Did you guess yet? Okay, let’s see if you’re right.

Said Louise, the other female guard. (Were you right? Good job!) “We’ve got tasers and guns and this job is super boring so we’ll light you up and post it on cooljailvids.net if you try anything.”

Louise covered them as Sheila and the unnamed male guard who doesn’t get any lines (take THAT, patriarchy!) put on the handcuffs. Mia and Frankenstein then burst in and all three guards pointed their guns at them.

“Aw, crap,” said Mia.

Dwayne perked up as Louise locked the rest of the Redressers in the cell and walked away. “Great! You came for me! So, what’s the plan?”

He looked from face to face. The others looked away.

“This is part of the plan, right?”

Nobody made eye contact for three weeks.

 

~ Five Months Later ~

Dwayne was led back to the cell. He was beaming. “Guys! I’m out! I’m going home!”

“What?” Mia asked. “How is that possible?”

“My trial ended. The judge let me off with five months, time served.”

“But you conspired to burn down your store and commit insurance fraud,” Carl said.

“Right,” Dwayne said as he picked up his couple of belongings. “White collar crime. Fraud is all money stuff and conspiracy is practically Wall Street! Good luck, everyone. Peace!”

“Wait,” Kathryn said. “Are you gonna come back to help us? Or hire some lawyers? Or anything?”

Dwayne grimaced. “Ah. Right. Well, the terms of my release bar me from having any contact with you guys, including providing legal aid.”

“So you’re saying you’re leaving and we’re stuck here for another ten months until our trial?” asked Frankenstein.

“Um, yes. Sorry about the whole inequality thing. I was talking to the judge and he was saying how you guys are in for property damage and attempted jailbreak and those are pretty lower class, so your trial isn’t that high a priority.”

“Time out,” Mia said. “You were just chilling out with the judge?”

“Oh. Yeah. White collar defendants get access to the lounge.”

Kathryn shook her head. “Courts have lounges?”

“Yeah. It’s like airports. Fraud and conspiracy are practically first class diamond club.”

He realized he sounded a little too exuberant. “I tried to get you in, but they wouldn’t let me,” he lied. “On the upside, a few months in jail is going to add a powerful new level of complexity and pathos to my seminars!”

Mia, Carl, Kathryn, and Frankenstein were stunned, mouths agape. “Well,” Dwayne said, “I guess this is goodbye.”

He started towards the exit as the unnamed male guard locked the cell.

“But you’ll come back for our trial, right?” Carl asked.

“Can’t hear you! Too far away! Sorry!”

They would never saw him again. They assumed. And so should you. Seriously, what a jerk.

The Redressers: Part 5

Dwayne ordered another beer. After two hours of searching Yelp for dive bars and roadhouses in Big City and filtering the results for graffiti and chairs that are easy to smash, he decided The Heaving Possum was the place to go to find someone to rob his bodega. After sitting at the bar for three hours, though, his enthusiasm was starting to lag.

Just then, a wild-eyed man plopped down on the stool next to him and pulled a few dollars out of a duffel bag. “Gimme a quadruple, Jimmy!” he said. The bartender poured some Drain Cleanser Whiskey into an old fast food souvenir Looney Tunes glass and slid it to him. The man gulped most of it down and set the glass on the bar. As smoke arose from the whiskey eating through the glass and the bar beneath it, Dwayne knew he had found his criminal element.

“Say,” Dwayne nonchalantly began, “Don’t you hate it when other people have stuff you want? I know it makes me want to take it. Right?”

The man looked at him suspiciously. “You’re speaking awfully openly about your antisocial compulsions.”

“Well, it’s a changing world. Openness is the new mystique!”

“I dunno. Sounds like entrapment.”

“Hah! I don’t know the meaning of the word!”

Dwayne pulled out his phone and looked up what “entrapment” means. He turned back to the stranger. “Oh man, I definitely do not want to do entrapment. No, I’m just a big fan of theft!”

The man cocked an eyebrow. “Theft, huh? Yeah, theft is okay. But how do you feel about robbery?”

“Oh yeah, I’m super into robbery,” Dwayne said. “Are you?”

“I enjoy a rob now and then.”

“Right? It’s great! Other people have stuff, you take it, and then you have it!”

“Ha,” the man said, “you’re a real rob head, aren’t ya? The name’s Do-Harm. Robbing Jack Do-Harm.”

“My name is, uh, Nickname Nick. And lemme tell ya, I’ve got a tip on Dwayne’s A-1 Top Notch Elite Fast Quick Diamond Lucky First Stop Mart Shop. It’s very successful and definitely the place to hit. Lots of cash just lying around in piles and a cowardly cashier with a big paunch and asthma and social anxiety.”

“I love this idea! But before I trust you, you’re gonna have to pass the Robbing Jack Do-Harm’s robber’s test!”

“Okay.”

“What the best part about robbery?”

“Getting money, of course!”

Robbing Jack Do-Harm raised his fist. Dwayne cowered and quickly said, “I mean getting other people’s money because we like causing trouble and doing evil so much!”

Robbing Jack Do-Harm lowered his fist. “That’s right. Okay, let’s go rob this asthmatic coward.” He stood up, spread his arms, and shouted to the heavens, “I hate asthmatics!”

As they headed for the man-shaped hole in the wall that The Heaving Possum’s customers used for a door, another surly, downtrodden, crazed member of Big City’s criminal underground stood up. “You heading for a job, Robbing Jack?”

“Yeah. The place is run by a real wheezer.”

“Any chance there’s any of those dirty professeurs there?”

“Probably not. Sorry.”

“Aw, sockla blue,” he mispronounced.

They stepped outside. Robbing Jack Do-Harm tsked and said, “It’s a shame, really. I thought hating asthmatics was a hard criminal ethos. Poor Reggie got stuck basing his entire criminal career on victimizing middle school French teachers.”

They soon arrived at Dwayne’s A-1 Top Notch Elite Fast Quick Diamond Lucky First Stop Mart Shop. “Well,” Dwayne said, “here we are. Need anything? Ski mask? Glock? Poison gas-spewing gun thematically linked to your modus operandi?”

“No, thanks. I picked the villain name Robbing Jack Do-Harm because I like to keep things simple.” Jack shattered the glass door with his crowbar and walked inside. “Ye-e-es, there’s two things I love to do: rob and do harm. Oh, that reminds me!”

He opened the door to a refridgerated case, pulled out a gallon of milk, and swung the milk with both hands up into Dwayne’s face. He then grabbed Dwayne by the collar and smashed the door on his head repeatedly.

“Ah, yes, nothing fills my heart with childlike glee as much as robbing and doing harm.”

Dwayne spat out his tooth. “Yeth. I thee what you mean.” He shook himself out of the daze. “But you altho like wrecking the plathe, right?”

“Oh, no,” Jack said. “I try to do as little damage as I can. It attracts too much attention. A door here and there is one thing. That’s a necessary evil. But I like to slip in, get as much money as possible, hurt somebody, and slip back out.”

Dwayne froze, eyes wide. “Wait, so you’re not going to cause claim-worthy damage to this property?”

“No, of course not! Besides the undesired attention, it could also lead to the owner of the place winding up with a fat insurance check. That goes against both my taking their money and my doing them harm!” He spat on the floor. “No, thank you. Say, where’s the asthmatic clerk?”

Dwayne was near panic. This was going to be harder than he anticipated. He slyly reached into his pocket. He calmly pulled out his phone. He stealthily typed a mass text to the Redressers to hurry up and come in. He subtly pushed the Send button. He clumsily dropped the phone on the floor. He tensely looked up at Jack. He nervously watched Jack’s eyes as he read the text. He suddenly found himself on the floor after Jack kicked him in the stomach.

Just then, the Redressers ran inside the store in full costume. Jack threw his hands up. “I surrender! Just don’t wreck the place!”

After a moment of confused silence, Azrella picked up the credit card reader, unplugged it, and threw it at Jack before rushing him. He blocked the reader with his arms, leaving him susceptible to Azrella shoving him into some shelves. Jack, the shelves, and about $800 worth of nearly expired canned meats tumbled across the floor.

As Jack struggled to his feet, Dorizan waved his hands, seemingly causing the lottery kiosk to fly through the air of its own volition. After Frankenstein threw the kiosk, he ducked back behind the counter for his grand entrance.

Mia came in next in her steampunk cosplay. She pressed a few buttons, activating the small motors controlling the fans and belts in her suit. It all looked very impressive and distracted Jack for a few seconds while Frankenstein snuck up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. Jack turned around, saw the hulking amalgamated graveyard, and screamed. Frankenstein knocked over a row of shelves and picked Jack up under the shoulders, holding him in the air while Mia tied his arms and legs together.

Meanwhile, Dwayne was outside giving the address to the police dispatcher. A few minutes later, two squad cars arrived and Robbing Jack Do-Harm was off to jail for fifteen months while his case was processed because he couldn’t make bail. The police thanked Dwayne for keeping Jack at the scene. They’d been looking for him for months. As the police drove away, the Redressers celebrated their first bona fide victory / successful insurance fraud.

The next day, Dwayne strolled confidentally into the insurance office. An hour later he strolled out with a fat check. Well, it was a thin, normal-sized check, but the amount on it was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Four days later, two police officers strolled confidentally out of Dwayne’s house with Dwayne handcuffed between them. “Did you seriously think we wouldn’t look at the security footage? That was the most obvious insurance fraud we’ve seen in years!”

The Redressers watched from the basement window. As the police drove away, Kathryn said, “So we’re gonna break him out, right? That’s what a real team would do.”

Mia, Carl, and Frankenstein made quiet, noncommittal noises. Kathryn added, “Come on, guys. He brought us together and is trying to help our careers. We owe it to him.”

Frankenstein had a rebuttal. “Well, he did break the law. Plus with him out of the house, I won’t have to sleep in the basement anymore.”

Mia walked over to Frankenstein’s side of the room. “I told him if he did anything to make me hate him, I’d be out. He got arrested, so I’m fine with walking away from all of this.”

Carl stood by Kathryn. “I hear you, but we all signed on for the robbery and fraud in the first place. It’d be hypocritical to turn on him now that he got caught.”

Mia thought for a moment. Her shoulders slumped. “Ugh, fine. In order to take responsibility for my actions, I’ll help break Dwayne out so he doesn’t have to take responsibility for his actions.”

Kathryn and Carl high-fived. Kathryn asked, “So what do you say, Vic? Are you in?”

“I suppose,” Frankenstein replied in his best Eeyore voice.

“Well,” said Mia, “I guess we’d better start figuring out the intricate details of how we’re going to break Dwayne out. It’ll probably take a really long time to work it all out. Ha, can you imagine if we were in some serialized fiction story that has to have cliffhangers and constant drama? This would make a really dull episode.”

Just then, the wacky neighbor kid came in and said his wonderful catchphrase. Everyone on the recording of an audience had a good laugh.