Saturday, February 21, 2009

The History of McClawenstein

Three squimonk came into the shop yesterday carryin a folder fatter than a former linebacker with a knee injury who eats burger king once a day. They'd been diggin through Amelia Earhart's records and were compilin doss-ee-ays, whatever that is, on the higher ups in clan platypus. Now, I ain't sure what a doss-ee-ay is, but this thing didn't look like nothin fancy like that, it just looked like a big pile of information. They told me they'd collected all the information they could find about the regional leader, McClawenstein. I ain't gonna tell you all the sordid details, but this guy's got an interestin history, even if he is evil beyond all imagining. So, I'm just gonna try to hit the good bits. I may fill in details the way I think they may have happened because that's missing out of the folder. I promise you, though, at least half of what I'm about to tell you comes straight out of that reading.

There ain't much about McClawenstein before September 5 of 1982. I'm gonna say that he grew up fairly normally, liked playin with cap guns and GI Joe, but there was somethin wrong with him. He wouldn't play those games like normal kids would, but he would take his GI Joe and put its wee little head inside the cap gun, hoping to deafen the doll. He would always play alone because of this and also because he was known as the stinky kid in class. This wasn't his fault, his parents were German and Scottish immigrants who could only agree on one type of food; boiled cabbage. In McClawenstein's house, there was always cabbage boiling; sometimes it was boiled in water and sometimes in vinegar. At school, the kids couldn't get within 10 feet of McClawenstein before they fell down chokin with waterin eyes, overcome by the vinegar and cabbage smell. Even his teachers had to wear special protective suits to grade his homework, which always smelt like cabbage and sadness. This turned McClawenstein into an isolated kid who never got to go to the swimmin hole with the other kids or watch Thundercats at his friends house or have a sleepover or any of the other things normal kids do.

With their cabbage cloud of depression hangin around them, McClawenstein's family had a limited number of things they could really do on the weekends. They spent a lot of time hiking far away and downwind of any other people, at the request of the city and under penalty of exile. Once a month, the local charity for stinky kids, Helping Hand With the Other One Plugging the Nostril (the HHWOOPN, or hwhoopin', for short) would meet and take those poor stinky kids on events. They'd arrange for places to be empty of people and for the area to be cleaned after the stinky kids left. They were kind of like the boy scouts, except for stinky kids. They also didn't have uniforms. They didn't need them because, when you're around a stinky kid, you are well aware of it. During these weekends, McClawenstein and his family felt like they belonged somewhere. HHWOOPN always started the meeting with a chant, called the HHWOOPN Cough, and then let the children run free in pairs. McClawenstein usually teamed up with his best friend Chuck, who smelled like old cheese and socks because his parents were dairy farmers and overactive footal sweat glands ran in his family, and they'd go do whatever exciting thing there was to do; ride the roller coaster, pillage the dump or even work together to corner the goats in the petting zoo so they could pet them before the goats passed out.

Then, on September 3, 1982, the unthinkable happened. HHWOOOPN was taking a tour of the aquarium, which was scheduled to be closed for six months for remodeling and a thorough cleaning anyways. McClawenstein and Chuck were playing their usual games when, due to an error in paperwork or possibly a vengeance complex against stinky kids, the cleaning and remodeling contractors showed up a day early and began unloading supplies. What neither of them knew was that they had leaky supplies. The cleaning agents slowly crept out of their buckets and mixed with the grout and tiling supplies the remodeler had brought, causing a tragic chemical reaction. The entire aquarium exploded, killing all but one survivor; McClawenstein. He was standing in just the right position behind a pillar and leaning close to the crustaceans exhibit. He didn't take the full force of the explosion, but the glass he was looking through exploded and cut his face up real bad. It didn't help any that the lobsters he was looking at got out and started cutting the rest of him up. It helped even less that he was covered in a previously unknown mixture of grout, bleach, tile cleaner, anti-algae powder and nacho cheese, because the contractor had stopped on the way to the job to pick up some nachos and was going to enjoy them before he got down to work, as contractors have the right to do. The mixture performed some sorta weird reaction on him and he began to absorb the lobsters that were crawling all over him. With each lobster he absorbed, he grew stronger and harder. He waded his way out of the aquarium, no longer man or lobster, but some combination of each. And not in the way that you become a part person/part lobster when you eat lobster, or if lobster eats you. This was somethin different. He was surrounded with a red carapace, his eyes were up on stalks and he now had claws for hands. The real sad part, despite the mutation, is that he still smelled like cabbage, but now he smelled like fish, too.

He ran from the scene of the accident and went into hiding on the bottom of the sea for some time. McClawenstein wasn't seen for another 5 years, when he was working for a traveling carnival. He started there in the sideshow, but worked his was up to management through a combination of brown nosing, good ideas and the ruthless murder of anyone who said anything bad about him. Sometime while he was managing the carnival, he made contact with Clan Platypus. They knew he was traveling into rural areas and could help them spread the meth around. They wanted him to make contact, hand out samples to likely customers and then refer them to the Clan for orders. It worked for a couple of years. McClawenstein got meth addiction to thousands of farmers and workers at gas stations in the middle of nowhere that you only ever get gas at because it's one in the mornin and you need a cup of coffee to make it to Tuscaloosa before six and you figure while you're there, you might as well fill up so you don't have to stop for gas again until you have to pee and grab breakfast.

But the early '90s was a bad time for carnivals. The economy was booming after the long, hard '80s and a new president from Arkansas was trying to bring a new era of prosperity, just like the president before him and the president before him and the president before him said they would do, but this time, they meant it. The middle class was more prosperous because everyone started to get into the stock market, which they thought would always go up, and they were happy because of a whole new class of pills that makes people happy that was bein pushed by doctors. That didn't leave much room for the carnival. Who needs to go ride a 50 year old tilt-a-whirl when you can stay at home, take a Xanax and watch Seinfeld? The carnival slowly crumbled underneath McClawenstein's many feet and eventually went bankrupt.

The German/Scottish lobster man was ready to live the rest of his life in the sea when he was recruited by the Clan. They told him that he'd done such a fine job as a salesman that they wanted him in middle management in their organization. He had another offer for middle management at the time, but that was just with Radio Shack and he'd have to wear a tie, work in a cubicle and not make ridiculous amounts of money doing evil. It was an easy choice for him. Sure, Clan Platypus still made him wear a tie, but he got to do the whole money and evil thing, so it was a compromise he could live with. Since the mid-90s, he's been overseeing the production and distribution of meth in this area.

Also in the folder were some satellite pictures of his base and his distribution network. The squimonk are working on a way to get to and defeat McClawenstein. We'll just have to wait and see what they come up with.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cleanin up

We had some cleanup to do once we got back from the antarctic. First, the squimonk had still been makin donuts every day while we were gone. They say they did it because they weren't told not to, but, I tell ya, I worked at a pizza parlor when I was younger and I know we'd sometimes put the wrong stuff on a pizza and tell the manager "What?! They didn't order extra sausage on this pizza? That's weird. I guess we'll just have to throw it out. What's that you say? We can just eat that pizza instead? How generous you are to us peons who make mistakes." That sorta thing is what we around here call "country dumb". I was thinkin that's what they was doin, but then I remembered that they're the whole reason for the donut shop in the first place, so it's not like they was rippin me off or nothin. Plus, squimonk tend to split donuts into four pieces and share them among themselves. They tell me it's a monkey thing and I got no choice but to believe 'em. The long and short of it, though, is that we had about eight thousand donuts with nothin to do with 'em. Douggy suggested we build ourselves a nice donut fort, but I had to shoot that idea down. Donuts are just not good fort buildin materials. First, some are cake and some are raised, meanin that your building material lacking the similar density needed to form good walls. Plus, some of them jelly filled ones would just collapse, ruinin your structural integrity. Not to mention the vermin that it would draw. When I was a kid, my neighbor's kid tried buildin himself a fort made of cake. We was pretty excited about it at first because we thought we could just sneak over and have a bite whenever we wanted, but it turned out all wrong. He got the fort built, allright, but we never got that bite for two reasons. First, he fortified that cake fort like nothin I'd ever seen. He had motion detectors and alarms everywhere. If you got anywhere close, the searchlights would come on, the dogs would be set loose by some sorta automatic sysem we never quite figured out and then the guards in the towers would begin firing at you. They was deadly accurate, too. I saw them behead a squirrel at a thousand yards once. The most amazing thing about it, if you wanna know the truth, is that he made it all, and I mean all including the dogs and guards, out of delicious devil's food cake. While it was bad for us, it was allright for him to have a well guarded cake fort. This kid really liked his cake and wouldn't share it with anyone. That is, until the ants came. You see, ants also really like cake and cake guards don't have a whole lot of stopping power against an enemy that is both tiny and numbered in the millions. They'd swarm over his cake fort day and night, and he made all sortsa ingenious inventions to try and stop them. One night, just before school started, he was worn out from buildin cake aardvarks all day and fell asleep in his little cake workshop. In the night, the ants carried him off and we never saw him again. We do get postcards every once in awhile, telling us all about how he's been made the ant king and he is worshipped like a god in their little underground chambers, but the postcards are always postmarked from Poughkipsie, New York, so we think he really just moved there. After he was carried away, it didn't take long for the cake guards and dogs to run down and stop firin. By then we had lost all interest in the cake fort; partially because it had gotten pretty gross sittin out in the Iowa summer and partly because the maze of cheese had just opened and that was a barrel full of excitement to us small town folk. The point bein that, unless we wanted to be carried off by ants or some other kinda insect, we shouldn't really build a donut fort.

That idea set aside, we were lookin around for another one. I suggested we go outside and have a nice, ol' fashioned donut fight, but after lobbin two or three old donuts at each other and nearly takin out an eye or two, we thought that may be a bad idea. I've learned, though, that if you take a bad idea and add goin really fast to it, you sometimes make a good idea. Not all the time, mind you, but sometimes. In this case, takin a fast bad idea and tinkerin with some rubber bands and springs and stuff we had layin around and a couple of 2x4s and I'm pretty proud of the result; the donut gun. We was testin it, and it's strong enough to send a week old donut hurtlin through a metal shed from a hundred paces, leavin a perfect donut-shaped hole. After some figurin and poundin, we made a nice clip for it that can hold a baker's dozen in a little tube thingy which is actually a pair of pantyhose that we added some extra springiness to. You just keep pullin that trigger and them donuts keep launchin off zing zing! They go right through thin metal, boards, some thin trees and even geese if you happen to be standin around admirin the gun while talkin to your friend about how you should probably put a safety on the thing when it goes off in your hands just as the first geese are returnin from their travels to warmer climes. I felt bad at first, but I tell ya, goose killed by donut is tastier than goose killed in any other way. We got some squimonk workin on buildin us a couple more guns because we figured they may come in handy in fightin ninjas. I'm think we'll pull the gun on ninjas some day and they'll tell us "Don't you know ninjas can dodge bullets" and we'll say, "yeah" and then; HA! Donut! Take that, ninja! Someday, it will happen.

So, that was really the first of our cleanup and the only part Douggy and I were involved in. The other problem we had was that Brenda had been kept sedated in the freezer for the week we were gone. It didn't do her any physical harm, and a couple of squimonk dressed up as her to go to work and everything, which got her a promotion and a raise. I think she may be confused about it, but it's nothin we can't explain away with some amnesia or somethin. The biggest problem for us is that she'd missed a week of her soaps, and we didn't know how to make her believe that she'd been asleep for five minutes when all the characters on her shows had found lost twins or shot somebody or made a new enemy or whatever it is that happens of those shows. The squimonk are for broadcastin that week of missed shows directly into her brain as she sleeps. They can do it to each other, and let me tell you how much them little guys know about I Love Lucy, but they don't know if the technology is compatible to humans. For now, they've just snuck a tivo into her house and are showin the episodes daily, but a week behind. I'm just hopin she doesn't come to me when she finds out. I don't know what I would tell her.

The last bit of cleanup isn't happenin here. There's a posse of squimonk who are back at the Antarctic mall searchin through all of Amelia's records to see what we can find about Clan Platypus' plans and secret bases and whatnot. They tell me they're looking into the local head of meth distribution for this area to see if maybe we can't shut it down for now. The only thing they've found so far is that he's named McClawenstein. As soon as they know, though, they'll tell us.

Other than that, I've pretty much just been sittin around and restin, practicin my donut gun. I'm sure I'll be back on the road here soon enough.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Antarctic Volcano Base Assault Final Episode

In my experience, which I'll admit is small compared to someone like, say, the Pope or Superman or especially Superpope, when a talking penguin tells you to run, you do it. You don't wanna stand around deciding which way to run or stop to figure out how fast you should be runnin or wind speed or anything like that. When a penguin says run, you turn around and high tail it outta there. If you don't, one of two things may happen. First, you could be crushed in a flood of penguins who, until 3 seconds before, had formed one giant penguin. I suppose if you had yerself some sorta specialized surf board or somethin, you could prolly ride your way to freedom on the crest of that penguin wave, but, really, who carries around a surfboard in case they have to surf on penguins? And where would you get practice in a sport like that? I mean, it's not like penguin floods happen every day. I guess they might, but I never saw nothin on that there nature channel about penguin floods. Sure, they talked about puffin floods that once, and there was a kiwi flood or two, but I don't know if all small, flightless birds are prone to flooding. It's times like these I really wished I'd kept up in high school biology. I was prolly out galavantin around on "Animals that form potentially dangerous floods" day. The other thing you gotta look out for in this situation, immediately following the penguin flood, is a very angry ice giant queen rushing at you, trying to squish you and your friends like you was bugs on the sidewalk.

My advice, if you ever find yourself in this kinda pinch, is to run into a back hallway where the giantess can't fit in her giant form. I'm not sayin it's the only option or anything, but it did work for me. Of course, I am aware that what works for me ain't always gonna work for other people. Take Jared, for example. He worked for me for them three days or so, sweepin up and whatnot, before he was kidnapped, but that don't mean he's gonna work for you, especially if the position involves heavy lifting or not being kidnapped by ninjas. Those are two things Jared seems to be pretty bad at. Now, I'm not tryin to get down on Jared. It wasn't his fault he was kidnapped by ninjas. But, just to be fair, I've known a load of people in my life, and not a one of 'em was as bad at not getting kidnapped by ninjas as that Jared. In fact, I would go so far as to say that, out of everyone I've known in my life, Jared is the only one who wasn't at least an expert in not getting kidnapped by ninjas. If I were handin out PhDs in "Notgettinkidnappedbyninjology", Jared might be the only one who didn't get one. So, if you want to hire Jared, not that he'd necessarily work for you, make sure there aren't any kidnappin ninjas around that would interfere with his job. In fact, if you've got him fillin out an application, under the area that asks if you have anything that would prevent you from fulfilling your duties to their full potential, you may want to go ahead and add "especially getting kidnapped by ninjas" at the end of that thing, you know, just to cover your own butt.

Like I say, though, I don't wanna be too down on Jared. We ran our way though the hall, that doughy kid leadin the way, sweatin like a balloon filled with ice water in the middle of summer that's just been arrested for killin a drifter but didn't do it but can't say so because he was sleepin with another woman at the time and his wife is the cop interrogatin' him. I snuck a look behind me and saw that Amelia had taken back her human form in order to fit through the doorway and follow us. I was fairly well amazed that her fur turned into clothes when she changed shape. That would explain why all them old pictures of her show she's wearin the same thing. She was wearin them fancy '20s pants that were all big and poofy in the thigh area, like you was smugglin turkeys in your pockets. The drag on these pants must have been slowin her down because she was fallin behind us. It may also have been the wagon full of caged orphans she was pullin behind her, too. I don't know if she loses her strength in human form or what, and I wasn't about to test it, but she might. Or it may be that a giant red wagon with about 50 precariously balanced cages with cryin orphans on it is just sorta naturally tough to pull. I ain't never tried it, so, like I said, I can't give ya much detail as to why, but she was most definitely fallin behind us.

I turn back to see where I'm runnin just in time to see Jared, Douggy and the squimonk round the corner into the open back door of the Build-a-Bear workshop. I get through the opening and they slam the door behind me. We begin looking frantically around for anything to bar that door closed, but the only thing we can see that's heavy enough is the stuffing machine, but that's bolted to the floor and I didn't bring my wrenches with me. As we're lookin around, Amelia bangs open the door, her eyes glowin red and she's all huffin and puffin like the big bad wolf and we're the pigs. That reminds me, I gotta start workin out some.

It looks like we're trapped. on the one side is Amelia Earhart, and she's startin to grow again. On the other, the doors and windows are stopped up with a bunch of psycho penguins that we'd angered earlier.

Amelia starts chanting my name, "Paaaaaat O'Neeeeeiiiiiilllll!!!! PaaaaAAAAAATTTT! OOOOOOOOOO'NEEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIILLLLLLLL!" Her voice is gettin lower and louder as she grows. As her head starts to hit the ceiling and her lower tusks are becoming visible, she grabs an orphan cage off the wagon, rips it open and starts liking the orphan's face, making horrible, disgusting noises like a catfish eating peanut butter.

Just then, I hear Jared behind me yell, "Oh HELL no!" I turn around to see him running at, and then straight through, the wall of penguins. They scatter every which way, yellin "MY EGG!!" And struggling to turn themselves towards anyone's personal bits. Now that we have an exit, we all follow suit and run through the Jared shaped hole in the penguin wall.

We're about to pass the jewelery store, you know, that one they have in every mall that you always think is going out of business because you never see any customers in there and you've never heard of anyone who ever shopped there, but, sure enough, every time you go to the mall, they're still there. The employees are wearin ties and just leanin on the display cases, lookin like their souls are dying one failed day at a time and there's always one just comin back from Subway. You know the store. So, we're just about to pass that and avoid making eye contact with the workers when we hear a roar like a thousand tigers behind us and the penguin wall shatters. It's like if the Kool-Aid man were 30 feet tall, covered in white, shaggy hair and had a horrendous under bite and the wall he burst though was not made of brick but was instead made of penguins. Also, if he didn't yell "Oh Yeah!" as he burst through the wall but instead yelled "DEATH TO PAT O'NEIL!" And instead of Kool-Aid, he had a crying orphan in his hand. And, needless to say, it wasn't a happy occasion, but was terrifyin. That'd be exactly what it was like because that's exactly what it was like.

Without thinkin, we turn to run towards the pillow room. I can see Gunther in there wavin us in. He's got the whole room stocked with grenades, dynamite, wooded barrels stamped 'TNT' that I thought only existed in cartoons and little blocks of some sorta clay. He yells, "Hurry!" as I hear from behind me, "PAT WOAH!! WOOOOAH!"

I turn around to see Ice Giantess Amelia sliding this way and that on the stuffed penguins. They're acting as a set of marbles under her feet. She's sliding all over the floor, flailing wildly and heading towards us like a furry freight engine with a rocket on the back. We're headed straight for the pillow door when Gunther yells, "LEFT!"

We all dive left. The 30 foot tall muppet missed us by mere nanometers and crashed into the pillow room face first, crumpling on impact. There was a sort of wet crunch as her face impacted with the wall and she went limp.

I stood breathing for a moment, unable to believe we'd made it. Then we all started whooping. When we'd all finished, I turned to Gunther, who hadn't budged an inch. There were tears in his eyes.

"What's the matter, Gunther?" I asked, "We did it."

He sniffled. "Not yet, we didn't."

"Whaddya mean?" Everything got real quiet. Even the crazy penguins were silent.

"I didn't think she would knock herself out. I thought I'd have to trap her in this room. I...I didn't prepare." He was openly weeping now. "I...I had a minute here waiting for you. I...I could have prepared...I could have grabbed some string or something....I....didn't...I DIDN'T KNOW!!!" He fell to his knees and cradled his head in his flippers.

Douggy cut in, "Gunther. What didn't you know? What can we do?"

He composed himself some. "I thought I'd have to trap her and this door only latches from the inside, so I rigged the explosives to be set off from inside the room. I was ready to die if I had to, but now...I'm scared."

The reality of the situation came on me. "Don't worry," I tried to sound brave, "We'll just run to the sporting good store and get you some string. We can do it, we'll be right back!"

I turned to run to the store when the laughter started. "Too late," said Gunther. I was about to ask him why when the shaggy rug of a giantess hauled herself to her feet yelling, "Death to Pat O'Neil!!!"

Under her yelling, I heard Gunther say, "Goodbye." Then the door clang shut and we heard the latch slam home. Then, there was a horrible roaring that shook the mall to the foundations. It was cut off in mid breath by the explosion. The door to the pillow room dented out and smoked. Then, there was silence.

As we left through the back entrance into the Antarctic morning, the penguins were just beginning their celebration of freedom and they were all making posters of Gunther. They invited us to stay, but we had to get home and take Brenda out of hibernation.

On the zeppelin ride home, Alistair and I were talking about Gunther and his sacrifice. I mentioned that is was sad, but somehow warming that his last word telling us goodbye but Alistair responded, "That wasn't his last word?"

"What?" I was shocked. "It was. After he said it, he closed the door and there was the explosion."

"You and your terrible hearing," he chided. "He said something just before the explosion. I heard it through the door."

"Oh, yeah?" I was curious. "What were his last words then?"

"You're not gonna like it."

"It's all right. I feel like I want to know, since he sacrificed himself for us and all."

"Ok," he said, "if you're sure."

"I am."

"His last words were, 'See the world in...' Oh, I get it! You bas!"