For those responsible,
Behind every broken man is a woman, with a smile and a hammer.
“What’ll it be, pal?”
The question shook me out of my fog. More than that, I felt a deep, stabbing depression at the realization that it had been the first time all day, in many days in fact, that anyone had asked me about my needs. God, I could use a drink.
“What do you suggest for a man who has nothing?”
I lobbied the question at the bartender standing in his natural habitat. He fixed me with a friendly smile. I didn’t return it. “I suggest taking a second glance at your life, for nobody truly has nothing.” I let out a little pffft sound and smirked, taken aback by his smooth, quick retort. If it wasn’t for the warm smile on his face, I’d probably hate him.
“You got me there, Sam,” I said. He looked like a Sam to me, and he didn’t fight me on it. “So let me rephrase. What would you suggest for a man who is dating a heartless banshee slut?”
Sam, to his credit, didn’t look shocked or taken aback by my words. He just simply began grabbing some things, not even looking while he did so. His movements were fluid, smooth. Spider-like. “For you pal, I have two suggestions,” he said as he professionally poured one ounce of bourbon into an Old Fashioned glass. “First, I’d say take a second glance at your love life, and realize that sometimes it’s best for a man to have nothing in that category.” Sam’s eyes twinkled as he spoke, and his left hand added a dash of Angostura Bitters while his right hand snuck in a teaspoon of lime juice. “Secondly,” he went on as he shook all of the ingredients, save for an open can of chilled ginger beer, “I’d suggest for you a drink that’s a classic for all men in your particular category. It’s called the Suffering Bastard.”
For the second time in about a minute, the bartender got me to smirk and snort.
“A Suffering Bastard sounds perfect. Thanks, pal.”
“Not a problem, buddy,” Sam said, as he slid the whole thing over to me, garnished with a mint sprig and an orange wedge. I tipped my glass. “Bottoms up.”
Before you start to judge me, let me clear something up right away. I know that Buddy’s Bunch is a television show meant for children. I know that I am not their target demographic, I get that. I get it for sure.
I’m thirty f-, well, let’s just say thirty. I’m old enough to be bitter and make a noise when I get up from a prone position, but young enough, and young looking enough, to still deserve a hot twenty year old girlfriend. The sweet spot, I call it. Anyway, that’s what got me into trouble.
So I start dating this young thing; I won’t name drop her here but her name started with a vowel, so you know she was a psychopath. She was the kind of crazy that really turned you on at first, got you heated and passionate, but you knew was going to really piss you off later down the road. She was fun though, the young ones always are. Full of life. Life, bullshit and secrets, as all women are.
About a month in she drops on me the fact that she has a kid, I forget how old. Old enough to use the bathroom without help, thank god, but too young to be left in the car with the window cracked. The sweet spot of inconvenience.
Still to this day, no matter how fixated I got on the show, no matter how life-altering that night became for me, I still have no idea how I got roped into watching her kid for her. Girls night, she said. Bullshit, I assumed. Last time she had a girls night she came home with a mark on her neck that was from “the hair straightener” but I’m not the kind of person to push the issue.
I put up with a lot from her. Maybe she was wearing those little plaid shorts when she asked, I’d agree to take out the president if she wore those when she asked. Those shorts were…never mind, getting distracted. Like I said, don’t know exactly how but she talked me into watching her brat for her one night.
Okay, actually brat is harsh. She’s really a good kid, a great kid. I just, I’m really stressed out. This whole thing has me rattled and I’m just trying to get it out there, get someone to understand. Maybe I’m not coming across smelling like roses but I’m trying real hard to save you. You, the reader. You and your family. The world. Everyone. I’m trying to save you jerks so please, please bear with me.
So little miss psycho goes out for girls night, dolled up like she didn’t have a man or a child. Like she did when I first met her. Beautiful. Deceptively beautiful. Once that door closed, it was me and the kid alone for the night. Vowel name said not to wait up but promised us she’d be back that night. Neither of us were young enough to buy that one though.
The kid, her name is Kara but I always called her Dimples. She had a big smile and bigger personality, it was charming when you had the energy, a nightmare when you didn’t. That night I was riding the fence between the two. In a bid to slow things down a while, the constant whirlwind of games and activity changes wearing me down, I suggested we watch some good old television.
Her eyes lit up. Her mom told her she couldn’t watch any that week, apparently she was being punished about a failing grade in spelling. “You know what I think about spelling grades?” I asked her. “F them.” She giggled and ran for the remote, the devilish smile on her face telling him that her friends on the playground would hear that one soon.
Remote accounted for, snacks stockpiled from the kitchen, I asked the question that would forever change my life. “What do you want to watch?” She giggled again, her mischievous smile spreading. The excitement in her eyes spilled out into her high voice when she spoke. “Have you ever seen Buddy’s Bunch?!”
At first I wasn’t paying much attention. I feigned interest when she told me about who was who in the cast, but I was busy on my phone stalking my girlfriends social medias, trying to catch a glimpse of any dudes in her photos. I thought I had her dead to rights for a moment on Snapchat but it was a false alarm, just her friend Cathy who had the face and the build of a linebacker who beat their wife.
Not sure how much time passed, the episodes seemed neither long nor short, my distracted ears not taking in too much. It all seemed to be one long continuous drone, a low level adventure in kiddy purgatory.
Billy Swivet was trying to get to the circus but Buddy, who was his ride, called to say he had a flat tire and wouldn’t make it. I’m not sure how it panned out, I gave up my stalking momentarily to check my banking app and internally scream for a while. When I looked up again, it seemed like it was another episode. I didn’t hear end credits. Come to think of it, I didn’t hear a theme song either. Maybe it was the same episode, I don’t know. But now Billy Swivet is nowhere to be seen and there is just a plain rocking chair on the screen, the rustic wood creaking lazily in the gentle breeze.
I look back at my phone, checking for updates and scowling to myself when I see that my last message was read and ignored over three hours ago. I scroll the news, delete spam emails, fiddle around. I’m sure it didn’t take long to do all that but, to be fair, I felt that enough time had passed that the view on the screen should have changed. When I lifted my eyes, however, it was the chair. Rocking. Creaking. Dimples giggled. I asked her what was funny, wondering as I did so if she was going to grow up to be as unbalanced as her mother. “Nothing,” she said. “It’s just funny. No one sits in that chair because it’s Buddy’s.” I asked her where Buddy was. I didn’t get the joke. “I don’t know,” she answered, suddenly very serious. “I never know.” I don’t think she meant for that to be creepy, but I shivered anyway.
A short blast from a car horn violently jolted me from my sleep. I looked around, momentarily confused about where I was. The car was on the television. Apparently Buddy got his tire fixed as, replacing the empty chair on the screen, I see a lavender Rolls Royce pull onto the screen. Another short horn blast. I jump again, although not nearly as high as last time. I look to my left. Dimples is passed out, curled up asleep next to me and pinning my arm to the sofa.
I search around quickly and sloppily with my eyes for the remote, giving up fast and settling for blinking the dryness from my contact lenses. I squint at the clock in the other room but can’t make it out. Whatever hour it is, I’m shocked that there is still a kids show playing at it. I sigh and accept that it’s what I’m going to be watching, Dimples was too cute to disturb. Besides, if Miss Crazy came home tonight after all and saw us asleep together on the couch, that’d be big time points for me. Or a big time guilt trip if she was up to no good. Either way, I was settled for the night and I decided to see what Buddy’s Bunch was all about.
The lavender Rolls Royce was tinted. Way past the legal limit, I might add. It drove to the far end of a dirt road and blasted its horn again. Whoever this Buddy was, he sure was impatient. After a moment, I saw movement from the right side of the screen. A whole assortment of characters came tumbling out from what appeared to be a patio door, perhaps to a farmhouse. One by one they came out, single file mostly but a few characters were paired off. They all began a slow shuffle towards the waiting car.
This show sucked. Granted, I was tired and it was late. Maybe insomniacs and stoners aren’t as big of critics as I am, but come on! Literally nothing seemed to be happening. I was beginning to contemplate moving Dimples so I could find that stupid remote, but my ears finally picked up on some chatter. Shaken from my thoughts, I looked back at the screen.
In the back of the pack, only a step or two onto the screen, a motley pair of abstract characters are muttering quietly amongst themselves. One of them I was pretty sure I’d seen before, Dimples said he was one of her favorites. Percy, uhh, Percy Pringle. No, no that isn’t right. Percy Poppins? The hell with it, I don’t know. I’m fairly sure Percy was the first name though. Percy P, as much as I recall from the type of excited biography only a happy kid could give, was a dental assistant who dreamed of running his own practice one day. It wasn’t directly stated, since this was a kids show after all, but it was obvious that good ol’ Percy also had a thing for laughing gas. His jittery mannerisms, his constant nervous fits of laughter, the fact that he now and then would take a little tube from his pocket and turn his back to the camera, his body obscuring his activity but always hearing the loud onrush of giggles that followed immediately after. To Dimples they always sounded funny, she laughed along with him. To me, this late and with nothing else to fixate on and breakdown to the most basic creepy levels, to me it was borderline freaky.
Percy was a dental assistant. I know I already mentioned that. I also mentioned that first for some reason, so maybe you already started to draw an idea in your head of what he looked like. Overweight, middle-aged. Maybe a bald honky with glasses and ill-fitted teal scrubs. Am I close? If so, you couldn’t be more wrong. That’s my bad. Like I said, I don’t know why but I mentioned his occupation first. I guess it’s because to me that’s a really weird field to push kids towards, but I guess we can’t all be scientists or astronauts or influencers. So yes, Percy P-something was a dental assistant. He was also a human animal hybrid, looking to be almost equal parts person and hyena. Tussled jet black hair was moussed into an emo swoop, covering one wide eye and ending just above his jawline, which was extended and populated with sharp fangs, which glistened and dripped drool into his coarse facial fur that he styled into muttonchops and a goattee. He did wear ill-fitting scrubs, great job guys, but they were bubblegum pink, not teal so you’re still completely wrong. The scrubs were dirty and stretched taught, styled in the normal human fashion which, of course, didn’t work well with his elongated forearms and haunched back. He walked as upright as he could but his human clothes and clumsy child-sized feet made his gait clownish in nature. When he spoke, it was his voice I recognized. It was his voice that caught my attention amongst the muted scene. The weird high voice pocked by pockets of barely suppressed laughter.
“We’ve been w-walking for hours, HAHAHAEEE, what do you think we’re supposed to do when we get there? Has heHEHEHE told you yet?”
The question was aimed at his walking companion, who was taller and green - oh wait! If Percy is a hyena, that explains the laughter! So what’s in the tube then? Is the laughing gas thing an inside joke to explain his laughter? Do they even keep laughing gas in tubes? Am I reading too much into this? Never mind.
His walking companion was tall and green - NITROUS OXIDE! Sorry, that’s what laughing gas is called. I couldn’t remember til just now, I swear I didn’t google it just now. Crap, I’ve done it again. Were you starting to picture his companion as a big green giant, maybe like a doodled version of the Jolly Green Giant who, for some reason, sold us all peas back in the 1900s? If so, my bad once more. I meant to say that his companion was tall and green shirted, the crisp lines of a freshly pressed shirt hugged tightly around the ample midsection hiding beneath. Above and to the left of the strained row of buttons was a pocket, stuffed to capacity and then some with shelled peanuts. In a steady blur of motion, three pink and purple hands all took rhythmic turns grabbing peanuts by the fist full and shoving them into a gaping mouth, which never chewed or swallowed, or even stuttered when giving a response, yet the peanuts kept disappearing into it. The pocket, pillaged steadily, never seemed to decrease in size either.
Below the well tailored shirt there seemed to be nothing at all, aside from a circular shadow following beneath. No legs contained in well pressed pants, no squirming tail, no footsteps or peanut shells left behind. Just air. Hovering, so technically maybe she wasn’t tall after all, just floating above her friend. The shirt was definitely green though don’t worry. In appearance, she seemed like a cross between a potbellied pig and a floating millipede. The space between the buttoned collar and a bowler hat tilted smartly to the right was occupied by her face which was, despite how you may now be picturing the rest of her, really not that bad. Besides the gaping mouth that never shut or stopped taking in peanuts, she was kinda cute actually. Just a little bit off. Like if Jennifer Tilly was homeless for six months had an anvil dropped on her face, but not from a very great height. Exactly like that, actually. I could get past it if she gave me chance, I always loved Jennifer Tilly.
Anyway; on her clean green shirt, safety pinned above one of her pairs of breasts, was a name tag that read Fiona, ASN. I vaguely take note of how apparently you now need a medical degree to work on a kids show, or at least be working towards one. Fiona, the floating butterface, begins to answer Percy but instead shuts her mouth quickly and fiercely. I could have sworn it even had a metallic clank to it, like a bank vault clicking shut. A salty cloud rains peanuts onto her face, which still looked kinda fine, as her fists continued to hurl nut after nut at her face, no longer disappearing but bouncing off of her clenched jaw and clattering to the dirt road below her.
One of her arms bent at the elbow and, without slowing down or grabbing any less peanuts, flew out in a flash and nudged Percy in his side, getting his attention. In a tiny nod, almost imperceptible, she indicated toward the screen. Toward the viewer. Toward me.
Percy’s eyes go wide. He turns his head and laughs loudly and maniacally, a tube clattering to the ground and bouncing away before it could be saved. He seemed to sweat. His chuckles seemed nervous, scared, guilty like he had been caught. Like he didn’t know they were on screen yet. Like he didn’t know they could be heard. He laughed once more before he got control.
“Heh heh hyAAHAAHAA not that I’m complaining. I know we’ve gotta get Buddy his new tire.” Percy’s long left arm reached into a shallow breast pocket and pulled out a navy handkerchief, and he began to blot at the sweat making his muttonchopped mane droop. Fiona, with her fine non-existent ass, he shot him a look. Again, small. Imperceptible. An untrained eye wouldn’t have caught it, but luckily I’ve been on the receiving end of such a look numerous times, I’m an expert on it. It was a look that said to shut up, and that you were an idiot.
I squinted at the clock once more, once more not being able to make it out. I know I’ve been out for a while though, I had to have been. How is this still the same episode? Was it a two-parter? Are flat tires really that big a deal in this world? Or does this moron need a tire every episode, like a running gag? I guess he would be running a lot if he keeps getting flats, ha! I should be writing this crap, they need to hire me and I’ll write better episodes than empty chairs and flat tires. And I’ll see if there is a Mr. Fiona while I’m on set.
Percy laughed, bringing my attention back to the screen. He sweat more, his doglike tongue reflectively licking at the beads as they rolled to his chapped flapped lips. “Tire? Did I say tire? HAhahahAHAHAha, just a little callback humor. That was a while ago, right? What are we doing now?” He looked at Fiona, the begging clear in his one exposed eye. If the eye wasn’t clear enough, a tiny audible whine emitted from him next, a dog in need of assistance, to be thrown a bone.
Fiona didn’t budge. The peanuts piled up beneath her. The procession behind them was halted, the front part of the pack getting closer to the car and farther from the two of them. I couldn’t tell what was the saltiest thing on screen. The pile of nuts, the profuse sweating that only amplified in her stoney silence, or the look on her tight face, her plump lips pulled taught and haughty. He giggled and sweat, sweat and chortled. He was drowning, in more ways than one.
“Or, or maybe he needed two tires?”
Silence was his only answer. “Yeah, yeah that’s it. Two tires, two or three. That’s why he wasn’t around earlier, remember kids? Remember?” The second time he asked us to remember it seemed desperate, like he was fishing for help. He yelped and chuckled and sweat some more. “Yup, that’s why he wasn’t around alright. Otherwise he would’ve been. He’s our buddy, right guys?” Silence. Only silence.
Percy looked around, frantic. He looked at the screen, at us, at Fiona, at his moist handkerchief that he nervously wrung out, a disgusting squishing noise followed by a few soft plunks in the dirt. His one eye darted this way and that, rolling madly around in his skull. “You, you may be, you may be wondering why we don’t have any tires with us. Or, or maybe you see that the car is moving okay right now. Well, that’s because that’s a different car, I think. Right? Yeah, I think. That’s not Buddy, I don’t, right?” He sweat so much he could probably slide all the way to the car like a slug. “In fact, it’s not. It can’t be. Buddy doesn’t even drive a car, because, HAHAHhahHhah because it’s BAD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT!”
The last part was shouted out, Percy was paralyzed and flailing all at the same time. “I mean, yeah no he doesn’t drive. But he did need a tire, a tire or two. So, hahheheeee, hehe, HE RODE A BIKE! THAT’S RIGHT! A BIKE!” Percy whipped his head back and forth, seeking help, flicking flecks of perspiration everywhere.
Wordlessly, Fiona began to float the other way, reversing her course. The people behind her grumbled but they all stepped back in time, a few steps later and Percy was left alone in the road. The front of the bunch were already gone, I didn’t notice where they went. The car rumbled back to life, the tires inching left and right, like a foot trying to wake its sleeping toes. After a moment of vehicular contemplation, it drove away as well. Percy stopped sweating, perhaps his body was all out of moisture.
A large shadow crept in from the side of the screen opposite Percy, growing in size and increasing in speed as it made its way towards him, obscuring all in its path. Percy sat down, his one eye closing. “Yup, just needed a tire or two. I’ll sit here and wait, if they need me they’ll let me know. Because we all need each other, right?” He looked up, pleading with the shadow for a moment before closing his eye again, the begging in it replaced by defeat before it closed. “I’ll just rest here a while, I guess I’m two tired myself. Two tired? Too tired? No?”
A single tear crept down his cheek, or maybe that was sweat again. I couldn’t tell. The shadow crept on, almost at his side now. “I, I think I’m just going to close my eyes and rest. How about we all do that? Are you with me guys? Guys? Buddy?” That last name he said came out as a whispered squeak. I assumed he was afraid, very afraid, but I don’t know for sure. I picked that time to close my eyes as well, and I kept them that way until morning.
I’m not sure how much time passed by after that, could have been just hours, may have been a day or two. It was all hazy. I was tired a lot, distracted. My mind kept on coming back to that show, it unnerved me. Yet I also accepted that it was late, that my imagination sometimes runs away with me. I was stressed. Maybe I wasn’t awake fully, my groggy mind fusing my dreams with the crap we had playing on the TV in the background, I don’t know. It didn’t sit right with me, that’s all I knew for sure.
I didn’t get many points that night with the lady friend, and I do use both of those terms loosely when referring to her. I forgot that gratitude doesn’t exist with child minded lunatics. It’s okay though, I still scored points with Dimples, who now informed me very helpfully and innocently that I was her favorite of all the guys that her mom had over. How many she didn’t know, she tried counting it out when asked but got confused when she ran out of fingers to count on. It was adorable and gut wrenching at the same time. The emotional sore spot.
I was over there for dinner one evening. Vowel name was making her usual, which was making everything difficult. I decided to give her some space, leaving her in the kitchen to clang a few pots and pans while vague posting about me to her friends, then just ordering some takeout. Which is fine with me, she’s not much of a cook and neither am I.
Dimples was in the living room, her little feet dangling over the edge of the sofa and kicking out absentmindedly while she did her homework. I sat down heavily beside her and peeked at what she was working on. It appeared to be more spelling homework but she was doodling in the margins. There was a decent little crowd she sketched out and I picked out a familiar face or two. She was in the center of it, of course. Her smile and dimples drawn to huge proportions to accentuate her favorite features. I saw myself in there too and smiled, happy that I made the cut. Above the gathered crowd was the carefully spelled out title Buddy’s Bunch.
I scanned the rest of the crowd. I saw Fiona, whose je ne sais quoi wasn’t quite captured in my personal opinion. There was some blob thing, a furry creature that looked like a bumble bee dipped in tar and chewy caramels, a unicorn with a horn that splintered into a candelabra candy cane, all sorts of weird stuff that, if I didn’t know better, would have made me think this kid accidentally got into my shrooms. “Which one is Buddy?” I asked her.
She frowned, her pencil stopping for a split second. Then both the drawing and the smiling resumed. “What do you mean?” Her question, so sweet and innocent, it took me aback. What does she mean what do I mean? Was she an idiot, like her mom? I tried again. “I mean, which one of these guys is Buddy?” I point at random, my index finger jutting towards what looks like a banana tree, but instead of fruit it appears to be growing human ears, all gathered together in bunches. “Is this monstrosity Buddy? Or this?” I move my finger, this time pointing at a rectangle, which was a light salmon color and wearing a polo t-shirt, the sleeves hanging empty and loose at its side, the neck hole perched dead center across the straight top line. It hung more like a curtain than a shirt, the displayed text across the chest reading ‘there is no cow on the ice’.
Dimples looked at me, a blank stare on her face. I sigh. “What don’t you get? I’m just asking which one of these is Buddy, is this him?” I point again and she smiles. My finger is pointing at a square dinner plate, laying on top of which is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the grape jelly spread to look like a smile on the open faced wheat bread. She giggled. “That’s a sandwich.”
I roll my eyes in a big exaggerated gesture to make her laugh, which she does. Her laughter, it reminds me of something. I quickly scan the picture again. I frown, changing my question. “Where is that giggly guy you like the most, the fuzzy dental assistant?” She looks at me with wide, questioning eyes. “You know,” I push on, “the shaggy dog guy that wants to be a dentist? Always laughing and sucking on tubes?”
She blinks. She doesn’t ask outright but I can read her little expression perfectly. It was asking me if I was alright, or if maybe I had gone insane. I shake my head. “Never mind, it must have been a dream. Who do we have here?” I point at someone else to change the subject. This one is actually pretty normal, I assume he had to be Buddy. He was off towards the back of the crowd, but he looked like a leader, like he ran things. Chiseled muscles, as handsome a face as a kid could draw. No fur, no wings, no gills. Two arms and two legs. Actually, he looked out of place amongst the rest of them.
Dimples smiled. “That’s Artemis Sneed. His dad was a minotaur and his mom was a mermaid. He got their good halves.” I study him for a moment longer, no longer finding him so out of place with that context. Next to him, looking like a science experiment gone wrong, was his foil. The bottom half was slimy and shimmering with translucent scales that appeared wet, the detail she put into her picture was incredible. The red tail was bent at an unnatural angle, the weight of the massive upper body causing it to almost buckle. The scales ended in a rough fur line, the bristling hairs leading up to a snotty and drooling snout, two wonky and heavy horns sitting atop it all. “His brother?” I ask. She nods. “He got the bad genetics. He’s studying to be a radiologist though.” I grit my teeth. Of course he is.
She puts down her pencils and looks over her shoulder, smiling at him conspiratorially when she knew the coast was clear. “Do you know what I think of my spelling homework?” I pick up and hand her the remote, smiling when she has to use one hand to keep her giggles in as she takes the remote in the other. She sits back and turns the television on with the push of a button. She looks over her shoulder one last time before answering. “F it!”
Laughing and kicking her feet, she settles in next to me to watch her favorite show until dinner gets ordered and delivered.
This time, I made sure that I watched the show with my full and undivided attention. I was almost as wrapped up in it as she was. Oh who am I kidding? I was for sure. When the TV kicked on, Buddy’s Bunch was already playing. Is it just me or is this show always on? I decide to ask the expert.
“Hey Dimples, what time does this show come on? Is it always on this late?” She just shrugged. “I haven’t learned to tell time yet,” she confessed with a slight shade of red creeping onto her face. “Is AM or PM the late one?” I sigh. “PM,” I answer. “I was just wondering. This was on all night, maybe this channel has a marathon.”
Her eyes go blank again. “What’s a marathon?” It’s at this moment I wonder what the hell they’re teaching these kids in school. Seems like it’s nothing that will help me in this moment. “It’s something your mom should do if she doesn’t want to get fat with all the drinking she’s been doing.” I can tell she doesn’t quite understand my words but she giggles anyway, the cadence of my voice letting her know that I’m joking and I think I’m funny. She’s a good kid.
I let the conversation die out naturally and I put an arm around her as we watch the show, I feel myself relaxing more. It was just a dream, brought on by the fact I wasn’t sleeping well and was playing the role of paranoid boyfriend to perfection. It’s just a kids show. They’re all weird and stupid, Hell, look at Rastamouse. I convinced myself there wasn’t anything sinister to it.
On this new episode, well, I assume it is in fact a new episode. I have yet to see any credits or titles roll by since we started watching days ago. Tonight there is a small gathering at Levin Square, the benches all packed to capacity with excited creatures and people awaiting a parade.
Now, let me preface this by saying that I watched a lot of episodes. I mean, a lot a lot. And at the same time, I’m not sure how many I watched at all. Eventually I did see credits and once or twice I heard the theme song, but it was the strangest thing. I didn’t take a break, I didn’t leave the room or glance at my phone. I just watched and it seemed, as long as I was watching, they were performing.
This episode, if it could be called that, was eerily similar to the others. For as much activity as there was on the screen, for as many creatures and monsters stirred about, nothing really seemed to be happening. Everything and everyone was strange, but that was the only difference between that and reality. It was the same as if I had wandered to the airport and just sat around, watching and taking in all the weirdos around me.
I turned, wanting to try once again to see if a child’s perspective on the show could offer anything new. I half turned around, let out a choked off cry of surprise, and then I turned around again, this time a full rotation as I crawled backwards like a crab, retreating until I felt the cushioned but stiff arm of the couch halting my progress, holding me in place. When I looked over, it wasn’t Dimples occupying the cushion next to me. Not anymore.
I felt ice shoot through my veins. I was petrified, like the ice had bled out into my extremities and locked me, frozen, into place. Next to me, the short and squat figure eyed me up and down. Cooly. Soullessly. I had never seen anything like it before. I couldn’t look away, yet I couldn’t seem to understand or make sense of a single thing I was seeing. Like no part of it was able to be to be perceived with human eyes, or seared into my memory. It could only be seared onto my soul.
I opened my dry mouth, peeled apart my cracked lips. I asked it a question, one word only. Not even a word, but a name. A name that I knew; belonging to a figure that I didn’t.
As soon as the name was uttered, it hung in the air and froze. Time stopped. My heart stopped. My head pounded. I watched as it turned to me. I watched as it moved liquidly, uncomprehendingly. The response that it uttered, I wasn’t sure if I heard it with my ears or in my head. Or in the darkest depths of my being, the words bouncing in and around and off of everything inside of me, my body no more than a pinball machine that was suffering.
More parts moved. More darkness shifted. Within the mists and shadows, I didn’t see as much as I perceived, that it was smiling.
“I’m not your buddy, Pal.”
My heart dropped. First from my chest, down through my churning and knotted guts, down past my quaking knees, and then from my soles into the unknown outside of me.
Behind me, I heard the credits playing.
The Suffering Bastard
- 1 oz/30 mL bourbon
- 1 oz/30mL gin (use a dry style for best results)
- 1 tsp. lime juice
- 1 dash of Angostura Bitters
- approximately 4 oz/118 mL of chilled ginger beer
Shake all ingredients with ice except the ginger beer for 15-20 seconds. Pour unstrained into a double Old Fashioned glass, Stir in ginger beer. Garnish with mint sprig and an orange wedge. Most importantly, enjoy! It's a good drink for when you want to really lose yourself in a show.