Thursday, January 22, 2009

A bad afternoon

So I'm out and about this afternoon on a little errand and I leave Jared in charge of the shop. His mom wants to boost his confidence or whatnot. That's how it is today, always tryin to boost the confidence of the kids. But in my day, my ol' pappy taught me that confidence ain't gonna get no oil changed and, unless you're some sorta public speaker or carnival barker or somethin, confidence ain't gonna put food on the table. Not that I got anything against carnival barkers. My great uncle Astrid was a carnival barker when he was young, or so the story goes. He was known far and wide for bein able to separate any sortsa penny pincer from the pennies he or she was pinchin. One time, an old lady on a pension came to the carnival to get herself a candy apple and nothin more, but Astrid was havin none of that. He lured her in with every trick in the book, he started out with the 'hear ye, hear ye', then moved smoothly into the 'step right up', then he started convincin the woman of the relative merits of seein the bearded lady and aligator boy, pointin deftly at their pictures with his cane and finally convincin the woman that, if she were to part with her immortal soul that very evenin, she could do so secure in the knowledge that she did not pass up on seein even one of God's miracles of show business. She did not budge, however. So Astrid starts talkin to her about the candy apple she was eatin and was told that she wanted to have just one to remember her dear, departed husband who perished from a military fever those many years ago. Tearin up and sobbin, Astrid explained how his very own pappy had also died of a military fever shortly after defeating the kaiser, leaving him, Astrid, as the sole provider for his bizarrely shaped family, including his unusually hirsute sister and his brother whose eczema was so bad he had to sleep in a tub full of calamine lotion with a straw stickin out of his mouth so as to breathe with. He went so long and so deep into the bait that he may really have believed what he was sayin, despite the fact that he knew his father was alive and well, travelin the rails in order to learn the fine art of whimsy carvin. Well, the old lady begins weepin over her apple and soon they're just collapsed on the ground in each other's arms carryin on and cryin so much they form a lake around them and have to swim to safety. Their tears flowed so profusely that they flooded the entire state of Mississippi in the middle of the dry season and it resulted in the largest bumper crop seen in them parts for 100 years. Afterwards, the old lady was so grateful for the catharsis, that's the word she used (I don't know what it means, but I've always figured it had somethin to do with swimming), that she paid him the nickle without even tryin to see the bearded lady. In the end, Alligator Boy's eczema was completely cured by the flood of tears and he went on to become so successful in business that he cornered the brick market in Peru for 20 years and had himself a palace made out of gold and emu skins. What I'm tryin to say here is that confidence in itself ain't gonna harm a person, unless you're one of the 30 people drowned in a tear flood, but havin some skills to back up that confidence may be better for a lot of people than bein a carnival barker. That bein the case, I figure I'd help Jared get some of the skills he's gonna need before goin off to college along with the healthy dose of confidence he's gonna need if he wants to deal with elderly women carryin candy apples, or if he wanted to be a faith healer. I'm not sayin he does, but I wanna hedge my bets just in case.

With this in mind, I was on my way to the Wal-mart in the next town to pick up some spark plugs, wires, an oil filter, a case of 10w-40, some windshield wiper fluid, toothpaste and a spark plug gapper, all of which I thought I'd use to show Jared how to tune up a car, using the Continental we towed in as an experiment. Well, that's not exactly true. The toothpaste I was gonna use to brush my teeth and I thought I'd pick it up while I was out. For a week or two now I been nearly out of toothpaste, but I never remember when I'm anywhere toothpaste is so every day I gotta squeeze that little tube harder and I get less and less for it, kinda like a boa constrictor tryin to suffocate a troll about sunup time, just as the troll's turnin to stone. This mornin, I had to set up a contraption in my front yard so I could back Mable Lou up over the tube of toothpaste and have a drop no bigger'n a pea forced out onto my brush. That's why I'm finally breakin down and buyin toothpaste. That and I got a cupon in the mail yesterday, which I found in the pocket of my overalls this mornin. Ok, I'll admit it, the trip was largely a ruse in order to convince myself to finally by that toothpaste I needed. There, I said it. In the meantime, though, since I was travellin all that way and risking life and limb on the county roads out here, I thought Jared might as well learn how to tune up a car.

I'm stopped at the side of the road on 15, havin myself a little "me" time. I'd drunk a mess of coffee this mornin and some of it was ready to be released back into the wild, if you know what I mean. So, there I am, enjoyin the outdoors in the way it was meant to be enjoyed (steadily more satisfying), when I see a black figure crawlin up towards me in the grass. Now I figured that it was either a) another robot ninja who just picked the wrong time or b) Hammish's shadow which had torn free from its master and come to seek its revenge on those who did it wrong. With the array of choices before me, I found myself surprised at hoping that I would be fightin a ninja. I wouldn't even begin knowing how to fight a shadow. I suppose you could shine a light on it or somethin, but I don't know if that would be effective at all, not to mention that what I was currently holding in my hand was not a flashlight, nor was it capable of shining light in any way. I highly doubt that a shadow is defeated by spraying it with a little ammonia. Lucky for me, though, it turned out to be a ninja and I didn't have to resolve that particular confuddlement right then. I did have to return to a civilized state before readying myself for some more punching and head popping and possibly fire that seems to happen when I fight these things.

The ninja's just crawling along, trying to be stealthy, so I decide to be helpful by yellin', "I see you there in the grass, you might as well stand up if you're here to fight me."

And he does. He stands up out of the grass like an afternoon shadow gettin longer. For a bit, he tries lookin' around all innocent like, sorta like when a cat runs into a glass door and then pretends to clean itself, hopin you'll just ignore the fact that it walked into a door that's always been there. The only difference is that the ninja in this case does not clean itself. Also, the ninja is not a cat and there's not a door in sight. Another difference is that, after you see a cat run into a door, it rarely jumps at you in a spinning double roundhouse kick aimed at where the coffee goes in and also where the coffee comes out. Rarely, I've noticed, do you have to jump backwards from said kick and then jump forward and, with both fists, punch the cat, or in this case, ninja, directly in the stomach and solar plexus while he or she or it is in the air. It is also very uncommon for the cat, or ninja, to be more yielding than previous robots that you have fought, leading you to the conclusion that this is, in fact, not a robot. Furthermore, cats do not often, in my experience, have small platypus stitched into their chests. So, except for the fact that I was now fighting a real ninja, and a member of clan platypus, it was just like that cat thing.

The ninja was down on his face for a couple of seconds and I took the time to apply my alligator wrestlin skills. I jumped on his back and covered his eyes with my hands. Unlike alligators, ninjas do not fall asleep when you cover their eyes. I learned just today, in fact, that they are far more likely to kick you in the back of the head and then put you in some weird arm-lock while you are down than they are to fall asleep. In my experience, that happens 100% of the time when fighting actual ninjas. Luck, and invisible zeppelins, were on my side, though. Just as it felt like the ninja was ready to turn my arm into several thousand toothpicks, he was attacked by a half dozen or so squimonk. They raced up his back, legs and arms, biting and scratching the entire time. He let go of me to focus on his smaller enemies.

From above, I heard, "Quick, Pat, Run!" And so I turned and headed for the truck. I threw Mable Lou into drive and looked back to see how the fight was coming along. The ninja could barely get his hands on one squimonk when another would stand on his hand and pry his thumb back. He was thrashing around like a bearded lady trying to swim in a newly formed lake of tears, but it didn't seem the squimonk were making any headway. I was gettin ready to drive off when I started thinkin about all the good things them squimonk have done for me in the past couple of months. They're always protectin me and makin donuts for me. They fixed Mable Lou twice. They introduced me to Charles Lindbergh who has always been a hero of mine, even if he is a little nutty and his breath smells like brine. With all of that, I couldn't take the risk that one of those squimonk, one of my friends, could get hurt or killed while I just ran away. Somethin rose up from deep inside me and I yelled out, "No ninja hurts my friends!"

With that, I slammed the truck into reverse and drove it straight at the evil covered in fur in the middle of the road. Just before impact, I yelled "Squimonk, clear out!" They did without a moment's hesitation. It looked as if a yeti had exploded, leaving only a burnt husk behind. Then I hit him. I was goin pretty fast, but he still tried to jump into the bed. He missed the jump by only an inch or so and so he flipped around and landed face first on Mable Lou's heiny. He stood up and I could see that his nose had been bloodied but he was still ready for action. Just as he was pullin his fist back to punch through the glass, I hit the brakes and he was thrown clear. It's a good thing I stopped when I did because he was thrown right back into the black hole that's out there on 15. He got all stretchy for a bit and then just sorta disappeared. I know he's in there right now being all swirled around with the light and the time and all, like when I put my light-up watch in the blender by accident that once.

When he was taken care of, I drove forward to where I left the squimonk. They were dusting themselves off and getting ready to reboard the stealth zeppelin when I pulled up.

"What was that?" I asked.

"I don't know, Pat," said one, "I just don't know. We'll have to check with Alistair to get a full report."

Once I got back to the shop, Alistair started grillin me on what happened. He said he got back this afternoon and the shop was empty except for a Clan Platypus throwing star left blithely on the counter. That and a whole tray of Boston Cremes was missing. I guess ninjas love Boston Creme. Then it struck me.

"Jared," I said, "Where is Jared?"

Alistair looked around but none of the squimonk met his eyes. "None of us have seen him," he said.

His mom called me about an hour ago and I told her that he was out back fixing the car. I don't know what I'm going to tell her next time she calls. Hopefully, by then, we'll have found them. Until then, we're all hoping for the best. Wish us well.


Brunhilda said...

See! I told you he was trouble. Good luck saving Jared.

gandy said...

'I gotta squeeze that little tube harder and I get less and less for it, kinda like a boa constrictor tryin to suffocate a troll about sunup time, just as the troll's turnin to stone.'

Your metaphors are my favorite thing in the world.