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The Trouble with Bricks, Second Installment

Chapter Three – Evil Circus, Part Five

 

For years now, Suzie had awakened Cleotus in all sorts of vile and disgusting manners because she either delighted in torturing him or because she was incredible bored: perhaps a combination of the two.  Occasionally, Cleotus would be brought back from the depths of dreamland to find his pants smeared with jello, a mosquito taped to the side of his face, or, and this was one of Suzie’s favorites, with his shirt set on fire.

So, it came as really no shock for Cleotus to awaken half in and half out of a tent, with a strange organ with arms and legs kicking him in the stomach and a halibut sticking out of his mouth.

At first, he couldn’t remember quite where he was. Whether this was the result of an old football injury or simply because his brain didn’t automatically kick in after a prolonged period of being on standby, Cleotus didn’t quite know. He did know one thing, though, and that was that the organ kicking him in the stomach was seriously getting on his nerves.

“Cut it out!” Cleotus cried as he backhanded Frank’s Colon , sending it flying over the campsite and into the nearby woods. Lazily, he rose up, and scratched himself like a bear just coming out of hibernation.

As he looked around the campsite, he noticed his sister sitting next to some sort of dwarf. The dwarf was crying and blowing its nose furiously onto its own sleeve as Suzie attempted to look uncomfortable.

“Hey, Suz,” Cleotus said, “what’s going on?”

Suzie took the opportunity and jumped to her feet.  “It’s about time. I thought we’d be here forever.”

“What do you mean?” Cleotus asked. “Where are we?”

Suzie turned toward Frank. “That’s a good question. Where are we, Frank?”

“Well, now,” said Frank, “you have fallen into The Land of The Misbegotten Woe, or as residents around here call it, Smellyburg. Just over that ridge to your left flows the Great River of Lard. Some say that the Great River cuts through the entire land, from top to bottom, or starboard to poop deck by ship. Why, you could take the Great River of Lard all the way from The Vale of Goobers down to Wassahotamie Proper, if you wanted to.

“Past the River lies the mysterious forest of blue toupees, where, deep within its borders, hides the bloated Gum Gums, said to be the fiercest pastry chefs this side of the Chickpea Mountains. And on the other side of the forest lies your destination: The Kingdom of Frosty Delights, where Mr. Wilson, the magical accountant calls home.”

“That sounds complicated,” said Suzie, “Do you have a map?”

“As a matter of fact I do,” answered Frank, as he reached again into his front pocket and pulled out a large flat rock, covered in childlike scribbles. “I made it myself.”

“Oh, great,” said Suzie, “This should be worth something.”

As Frank brought the rock nearer, Suzie and Cleotus bent forward, only knocking their heads together once.

“Now here,” Frank pointed out as his finger traced along what looked like upside down letter v’s, “this is the Great Chickpea Mountain Range. And do you see this here?”

“The moss?” Suzie asked.

“No, on the other side of the moss,” said Frank. “This dark patch that looks like dirt. That’s the Blue Toupees Forest.”

Cleotus pointed at a part of the rock that was labeled with a large skull and cross bones and the word “Death” in big, black lettering.              “What’s this part?”

“Uh, you don’t want to go there.” Frank said quickly.  “Now, over here…”

But Cleotus was not so easily daunted. “Is it a good place to go? Do they have ice cream there?”

Frank gave Cleotus a look he usually reserved for animals that were big and dangerous but could also be dizzy or mentally disturbed. “No, usually a skull and crossbones is a bad thing. In this case, it’s a very bad thing. That whole area is ruled over by the insane, smooth jazz player, Bricks.”

“Why do they call him Bricks?” Suzie asked.

“It’s what he beats people with,” Frank answered.

“Well that’s terrible,” said Cleotus, absently scratching himself.

“I didn’t say it was the feel good story of the year,” Frank said. “Look, if we get the chance, and we may, there is no way that we’re going anywhere near that place. You don’t want to go there. You don’t ever want to go there. Not now. Not no how.”

“Okay, we get it,” said Suzie. “So, are we ready or what? I’d like to get a move on while we still have daylight.”

“Just let me get my stuff tidied up and we’ll move on out,” replied Frank joyfully, as he rose up and began to pack up his stuff.

As he was packing, Frank’s Colon returned, bearing with it many strange tales of adventure and woe, most of which went unheard.

Four hours later, they were off.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *

Frank was right about one thing: the Great River of Lard was just over the ridge to the left. But nestled between them and the River, like a large mountain tick, lay a large circus, seemingly built up over night.

Cleotus, of course, was immediately excited. “It’s a circus! It’s a circus!” He clapped his hands and danced around, like a kid at Christmas. “I wanna go. Can I? Can I? Can I?”

“You don’t want to go to that circus, Cleotus. It’s a bad circus.” Frank said.

“What do you mean, bad circus?” Suzie asked.

“That’s the Circus of Everlasting Boredom. It pops up here and there around the country and no one knows who runs it. Some say it was the last trick of the Great and Mystical Phlarynx before he left on his journey of a thousand bursting corpuscles. Others think that it was created by a mean-spirited fairy or as a joke by Bricks. Wherever it came from, it’s bad news.”
“But it’s a circus,” said Cleotus.

“Yeah,” said Suzie, “how bad can it be? Could it kill us?”

“No,” Frank answered quickly. “But it’s really annoying and a complete waste of time. I’ve known people who wandered in there and when they came out later, they were really unhappy. They acted like someone who was forced to watch sponges migrate, if you know what I mean.”

Cleotus took this opportunity to run down the hill, screaming, “Circus! Circus!”

Frank looked over at his Colon , which was currently rolling its eyes. “So,” he asked Suzie, “I guess we’re going to the circus?”

“Looks like it,” she said. And they headed down the hill after Cleotus.

Frank’s Colon stayed up on top of the ridge for a moment after they had left, plotting on how to take out Cleotus and make it look like an accident.

*                      *                      *                     *                     *                     *

The Circus of Everlasting Boredom was actually created by Bricks, the evil jazz player and leader of the Foofarillos.

He designed the circus to spy out the land for him. Being an evil dictator, Bricks was always interested in the sort of folks who were dumb enough to actually enter a circus called the Circus of Everlasting Boredom. Those were the kind of people that would make good future minions.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *

Cleotus, of course, didn’t know or care who had designed the circus nor would he have cared if someone had attempted to take the time to explain it to him. When Cleotus got a thought in his head it would take the Jaws of Life to get it back out again.

As he ran toward the circus, fell, then got back up again, he noticed that although this circus had all the right elements, the big tents, the flipping banners and the strong aroma of elephant dung, certain elements were way off. For instance, there were no bright colors. Every little article from the tents to the banners was colored a mottled gray.

This circus was deathly quiet. Usually, circuses were big, noisy affairs, where kids laughed and threw up cotton candy, animals made funny noises, and acrobats tried to sell you used socks. But this circus had none of those familiar sounds. The only sound running through this circus was a funny creaking noise, like the one a fat man would make if he attempted to ride on a small red wagon down a water slide.

However, these thoughts went immediately through one side of Cleotus’ brain and out the other. It wasn’t a very long trip.

He burst onto the main thoroughfare and headed straight toward the first attraction, which was oddly named “Stinky Shoes”. In place of the usual carny, dressed in overalls and smelling of cheap aftershave, was a large blank screen. As soon as Cleotus approached, the screen lit up with the following message:

GOOD AFTERNOON SIR AND WELCOME TO THE CIRCUS OF EVERLASTING BOREDOM. HOW MAY I ASSIST YOU?

Cautiously, Cleotus approached the screen and said, “Uh, yeah. I guess I’d like to go into Stinky Shoes.”

The screen took a moment to register his comments and then flashed the next ominous words:

SIR, CAN YOU SPEAK DIRECTLY INTO THE MICROPHONE AND ATTEMPT TO ENUNCIATE BETTER?

Cleotus looked around until he located the microphone at the top of the screen and repeated his question loudly and slowly, like he was trying to communicate with someone who spoke a different language. After a moment, the screen responded.

AH, GOOD CHOICE, SIR. IF YOU WOULD JUST CARE TO APPROACH THE DOOR AT YOUR RIGHT, YOU ARE FREE TO ENTER AND EXPERIENCE THE WONDER OF STINKY SHOES.

Cleotus reached up and spoke directly into the microphone again. “Did you say it was free?”

THAT IS CORRECT, SIR. ALL ATTRACTIONS AND RIDES AT THE CIRCUS OF EVERLASTING BOREDOM ARE FREE. EVEN THE FOOD IS FREE. TAKE ALL YOU WANT, BUT EAT ALL YOU TAKE.

“Oh, okay then,” said Cleotus, confused, but always eager for a free meal.  When he hesitated for a moment, the screen flashed:

JUST GO ALREADY!

Once inside, Cleotus noticed a strange looking cart, and being the simple-minded oaf that he was, he swung open the door and hunkered inside. Once seated, the cart magically began its ride.

Afterwards, Cleotus explained to Suzie that the ride wasn’t especially exciting or even scary but was more like an inconvenience. The cart swung around cardboard cut-outs of generic terrain, while shoes dropped randomly from the ceiling on wires. The shoes would inevitably smell bad and then they would just as mysteriously rise up again.

Near the end of the ride, a cardboard cut-out of a pixie popped out from behind a cardboard bush and a pre-recorded message exclaimed, “Stinky the elf says that all bad children will endure his stinky shoes forever. If you would like to not smell the shoes again either do not ride this ride or enlist in the army of Bricks. Go Bricks!”

Afterwards, he ran across Suzie and Frank as they were wandering the main midway. All around them, screens yelled out strange and arcane phrases, such as “PLAY COUNT THE HAIR” or “RIDE THE LAZY STREAM OF BACTERIA”. Almost none seemed very enticing, but Cleotus found himself still drawn to almost every available booth because they were free.

At the game “Count the Hair”, Cleotus was required to unravel a ball of human hair and count all the hairs. When he finished, several hours later, he had guessed the correct amount of hair. As far as the Carnival was concerned, if he guessed any answer, he was a winner. For his prize, Cleotus won the ball of hair, which he placed in his front shirt pocket for later.

After Cleotus, Suzie and Frank wandered away to another gruesome attraction, Frank’s Colon stayed behind, entranced, as only a colon can be entranced.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *

Several hours later, Cleotus, Suzie and Frank sat down at a rickety picnic table and sampled the fares of the circus, which consisted mainly of cold vegetables and warm water.

“Alright Cleotus,” said Suzie, “you’ve had your fun and now it’s time to hit the road.”

Cleotus, who really didn’t have any fun, said, “But I haven’t tried the last attraction yet. I still want to see what’s in the House of Meat. Maybe it’s something cool.”

“Yeah, or maybe it’s just as boring as everything else.” Suzie said.

“Hey, look folks,” said Frank, “I don’t want to be a spoil sport, but this is the most excitement I’ve seen in twenty years. We can hang out here for the rest of the week if you want.”

It was at that moment when Frank’s Colon wandered up to the table. Carefully, it laid a packet of staples, three slices of very old corned beef, a signed photo of Bricks, a wad of pre-chewed bubble gum, a rock shaped like the head of Bricks, two stuffed handkerchiefs, and one very annoying bat, whose name was Spim. Frank’s Colon ate the bat.

“Well, here we are,” summed up Frank, who then began to twiddle his thumbs, whistle and make very loud swallowing noises.

Suzie turned to Cleotus. “Alright, let’s get this over with. You want the House of Meat, then go get the House of Meat. But just get it done so we can get out of here.”

Cleotus, no longer with a look in his eye reminiscent of many an all-night bingo player, staggered away from the table and headed toward the fabled House of Meat, which rested at the end of the Fairway.

If the witch who had enticed Hansel and Gretel had made her house out of meat instead of gingerbread, it would have looked like this one. Its windows were cleverly shaped like sausage patties. The pillars at the front of the house were made out of sausage links and the roof was covered in shredded hamburger.

It would have been quaint if it wasn’t for the fact that whoever had designed it had made it out of meat and not just wood cleverly designed to look like meat. Thus, it smelled like several tons of beef laid out on the side of the road for a few days.

Cleotus had to shake off his gag reflex in order to enter. But enter he did.

There wasn’t much to the inside of the House of Meat besides shelves and shelves of meat, uncleverly displayed, and meat by-products placed on paper plates. There was a meatloaf shaped like a rock, a meatloaf shaped like a three-legged fish and one shaped sort of like a dog, if you looked out of the corner of your eye and tugged on your left ear. There was a pillar at one end of the room with a mound of ground beef thrown on the top, which the placard identified as “Ground Beef ala Dryad”, whatever that meant.

When Cleotus could take the boredom and smell of old meat no longer, he turned to go. Suddenly, a slight movement caught his eye.

Could the meatloaf shaped like the dog have moved or was it just the meat fumes going to his head? Before he had too much time to wonder, however, another movement from the meatloaf dog caught Cleotus’ eye. Yes, it had definitely wagged its tail. Cautiously, Cleotus approached.

“Hello?” Cleotus asked cautiously.

And the dog, upon hearing Cleotus, sat up, turned towards Cleotus and spoke in a faint British accent for some reason.

“Good day, guv’nor.”

“Hey,” said Cleotus, “you can talk.”

“That’s right, guv’nor.” The Meat Dog said, extending a paw. “My name’s Flippy, Flippy the Meat Dog, at your service.”

Through habit, Cleotus reached up to shake hands with the dog, accidentally ripping off the extended appendage. “Whoops.”

Flippy was not so easily daunted. “That’s alright, guv’nor. I can grow another one, I can.”

And Flippy the Meat Dog proceeded to grow a new paw, which was an entirely disgusting process and one that will never be shared. Suffice to say, he had four paws again when it was done.

“There, see now guv’nor. All’s well indeed.”

Cleotus, who usually had to be prodded to produce manners, came up with a few on his own this time. “It’s good to meet you Flippy. My name’s Cleotus.”

“Quite a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Cleotus. Now, if you could do me a favor and lower me to the ground, I would sincerely appreciate it.  I would.”

Cleotus, who was always ready to do a good deed when pushed, obligingly lowered the dog onto the floor, where it proceeded to rise on its two back legs and do a little dance.

“Hoo wee,” Flippy squealed in delight, “I’m free. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Gottoa love me! Oh, yeah.”

A few minutes passed and Cleotus got tired of watching the dancing meat dog spectacle.  He turned to go.

“Wait up, there guv’nor,” said Flippy. “Where are you off to now?”

“Oh,” said Cleoptus, “my sister’s waiting outside with Frank and Frank’s Colon and we’re off to see Mr. Wilson the magical accountant. Hopefully, he’ll send us home again on account of this green fairy cursed us and sent us here.”

“Here now, guv’nor that must be quite a story, it must. Why don’t you tell Flippy alls about it?”

“Okay,” said Cleotus, “But let’s get out of this smelly place first.”

“I don’t smell a thing, guv’nor.” Flippy said, but followed Cleotus out the door before it shut him in.

Once outside, Flippy sniffed the bountiful air. “My word, guv’nor. It does smell different out here. Why, I feel like a whole new meat dog, I do.”

Jauntily, they returned to where Suzie, Frank, and Frank’s Colon sat basking in the sun.

Frank, alarmed, sat up and pointed immediately at the meat dog. “Cleotus, watch out!  There’s something following you.”

“I got it!” Frank’s Colon shouted as it lobbed a bubble gum covered rock, and managed to strike Cleotus in the head, knocking him over.

“Here now, gov’nor,” said Flippy, “I won’t harm anyone. I’m just innocent old Flippy the Meat Dog.”

“You don’t look so innocent to me,” said Suzie.

“I agree,” said Frank. “Anything made out of meat is suspicious, I say.”

“Oi,” whined Flippy. “I won’t hurt no one, I won’t. I’m made out of three kinds of sausage, so’s I can’t be all that bad.”

Slowly, Cleotus rose to his feet, with a welt on his head the size of Mount Rushmore . “It’s okay. Flippy’s with me.”

Frank’s Colon immediately wadded up the slices of corned beef and prepared to throw them.

“No, wait.” Frank said. “It could be on the level.”

Frank’s Colon reluctantly lowered its throwing arm.

“Look,” said Flippy, “can I come with you? I’ve been trapped in this circus for the last five years. And then when Dopey here came along and set me free, I got me a new lease on life. Maybe that Mr. Wilson can help me as well.”

Suzie looked angrily at Cleotus. “Good job, blabber mouth. How much else did you tell him?”

Cleotus shrugged and Frank’s Colon let fly with the corned beef, which splattered across Cleotus’ forehead, knocking him down again.

“Well, speak up, Flippy,” said Frank. “How do you think Mr. Wilson can help you?”

“Well, guv’nor, if he really is magical, then maybe he can reverse my curse. I wasn’t always a meat dog. Once, a long time ago, I was made out of manure.”

“And you want him to turn you back into poop?” Suzie asked.

“Heck no, guv’nor.” Flippy said. “But I wouldn’t mind being a real dog.”

“Oh, well that’s okay then,” said Frank. “Maybe Mr. Wilson can help you too.”

“Well, whatever,” said Suzie. “Let’s just get out of here.”

And off they went, leaving the Circus of Eternal Boredom far behind as they headed toward the Great River of Lard and other places beyond.

*                      *                      *                     *                     *                     *

After the company had departed for places as yet unseen, a single pigeon, made of spam, was released toward the kingdom of the evil jazz musician Bricks. The message tied to its leg stated, “You need to check this one out.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four – I Was a Teenage Melvin

 

 

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As soon as they left the outskirts of the carnival, the travelers caught sight of the Great River of Lard. Actually, they could smell the Great River of Lard a few feet before they could see it. Suzie was the first to catch its pungent odor.

"Oh, man," she said, "what is that funky smell?"

And suddenly they topped the ridge and could see the source. The Great River of Lard spread out before them like a massive wound. As they could now see, it wasn’t made up of lard, but of bacon grease, while huge clumps of lard, floating like giant icebergs, spotted the river’s canvas.

"Where did all this bacon grease and lard come from?" Suzie asked.

Frank reared himself up and said, "Well now, that is a tale. Some say that the giant raccoons that live among the Chickpea Mountains have an abnormal yearning for bacon. They eat it night and day, day and night, and sometimes on the weekends. Well, obviously, all that bacon grease and extra fat has to flow somewhere, so it flows out of the mountains and becomes this giant river. Of course, that story’s just made up."

"Oi, that’s right, guv’nor," cut in Flippy. "Me mum spun a different tale, she did. Whenever me or me brothers would do something bad, like tell a lie or not eat salad with the proper fork, she’d tell us that all bad meat dogs are sent to the lair of the meat-eating Sasquatches. They’d fry you in your own juices, and you didn’t want that. No, sir. And they’d eat you right quick and all they’d leave was your bacon grease and any stray clumps of lard you’d happen to drop. Then they’d throw that in the river and wait for the next meat dog to come their way."

"That’s terrible," said Suzie. "Your mom told you that if you weren’t good, she’d let monsters eat you?"

"In a way, guv’nor, in a way. I don’t know about terrible though. I mean, she could have just hit us in the head with a stick or kicked us."

"Yeah, anyway, as I was saying," said Frank, "it doesn’t really matter where the thing came from. We’ll have to cross it to get to the other side."

The other side was a distant line, several miles away.

"So, how do we cross it?" Cleotus asked.

"Well," said Frank, "I reckon I don’t know. I guess we’ll just have to jump from clump to clump."

"But that grease looks like it’s really hot," said Suzie. "If we fall in, won’t we be killed instantly?"

"I don’t know about instantly, guv’nor. I mean, I wouldn’t be killed. And I’m pretty sure the colon would be okay."

"Well, good for you." Suzie said. "So, the colon and the meat dog make it across but everyone else is fried? That’s just great."

"Come on, Sis," said Cleotus, joyfully. "Where’s your sense of adventure?"

It was at that moment that the group heard a loud thumping noise echoing from the direction of the circus, like the footsteps of a forty-foot Captain of Industry. It was getting nearer and, occasionally, they could hear loud meowing noises.

"Okay, Frank," said Suzie, "What is that?"

"I really don’t know. And, if it helps, I just wet myself." Frank said.

"I don’t think it helps anyone that you wet yourself, Frank." Suzie said.

The thumping noise grew louder until, just over the ridge behind them popped up the head, or heads of a gigantic two headed cat.

"Aiyee," yelled Frank, as he took off at a run towards the edge of the river. "It’s Barry and Mr. Fluffkins!"

Everyone else was a step behind him.

Barry and Mr. Fluffkins was one of Bricks most insane creations. Barry, the head on the right, was a grey tabby that could speak English. The head on the right was just as enormous, but couldn’t speak, unless you count cat-speak and most people don’t. That head was Mr. Fluffkins, a Siamese. It was extremely inconvenient to Barry that he shared a body with a regular cat. After all, the conversation was pretty much one sided and if Mr. Fluffkins got bored, he usually started licking himself or coughing up hair balls.

"There you are, me hearties," cried Barry, in a booming falsetto. "I’ll avast ye landlubbers and boil your bodies in oil from the mizenmast.

Frank, meanwhile, had already scrambled aboard one of the floating clumps of lard and was riding his new lard ship out into the middle of the river. Frank’s Colon and Flippy had jumped aboard another, smaller clump, along with Suzie.

Only Cleotus remained on the shore as Barry and Mr. Fluffkins approached. He had attempted to jump on one of the floating clumps of lard, but had quickly over extended himself and slipped back off. His shoe had fallen into the boiling bacon grease and been consumed with a heavy plop, fizz, and galumph.

Barry and Mr. Fluffkins drew closer. "Aargh, ye sun-drenched potato wagon. Why, I’ll skin ye alive and haul ye off to sea. Aargh."

Cleotus, looking back, noticed that Barry and Mr. Fluffkins were only a few yards away from him, so he took a mighty leap, smacked into the side of a clump of lard and bounced back to shore.

Suzie yelled from her lump. "Cleotus! Jump! Jump for your life!"

"I’m trying!" Cleotus screamed.

But it was too late. Before Cleotus could rise off the ground to attempt another leap, a large paw swept him up and plopped him into the mouth of Mr. Fluffkins.

Frank’s Colon was secretly please. "All right." It whispered.

Suzie, however, was horrified. "Cleotus! Noooooo! You let him go, you big bad two headed kitty!"

"No!" Barry said. And, with that, the giant two-headed cat clumped away back up the ridge, from whence it came.

"Oh, great." Suzie said. "Now what am I supposed to tell mom and dad?"

"You could tell them he got eaten by a two-headed cat," said Frank’s Colon .

"How’s about this one, guv’nor?"  Flippy asked. "You could say he was captured by aliens. Now that’d be a right smart approach."

"You’re both no help."

They rode their lard boats in silence for a while, each remembering Cleotus in their own special way. Suzie recalled the times she had bounced baby Cleotus on her knee and then, for fun, had dropped him onto the floor, where he lay, screaming. Suzie had told her mother that he was just being fussy.

Frank, for his part, was remembering the first time he had set eyes on Cleotus. Cleotus had been barreling into his tent and was eating all of his food, like a runaway bear cub.

Flippy was recalling the time when Cleotus had let him down off the shelf and saved him from another five years of boredom.

And Frank’s Colon was playing a game of Canasta with Frank’s business cards.

Suzie was yanked from her revelry by a warning from Frank. "Um, I think we may have a problem."

Suzie looked over at Frank and immediately noticed the problem. They were not drifting anywhere nearer to the other side of the shore. Instead, the clumps of lard were floating down stream.

"Hey Frank?" She asked.

"I know," said Frank. "I guess I didn’t think about how we were going to get across. I was just trying to get away from the big mean cat. Okay, we gotta think. What if we just jump from clump to clump and try to make our way across that way?"

Seeing no other option, they began slowly leaping from lard clump to lard clump. After a few such leaps, Suzie stopped to re-assess the situation. Oddly enough, they were still the same distance from the shore.

"Frank, this doesn’t seem to be working." She said.

"I realize this," screamed Frank.

Then Suzie noticed a fairly thick stick, covered with bumps, bobbing slightly out of the grease. As she peered closer, two of the bumps on the stick opened to reveal a pair of eyes. And a large bump underneath the eyes opened to reveal a mouth.

"What are you looking at, Bub?" The stick asked.

"What are you?" Suzie said.

"Why I’m a French fry, ain’t I? Sheesh."

Quickly, Suzie conceived an idea. "Frank, grab one of the floating French fries and use it as a paddle."

Frank obeyed as Suzie reached down and grabbed the French fry closest to her.

"Hey lady, get your mitts off me." The French fry yelled.

Suzie ignored the fry and proceeded to use it as a paddle to push her lard boat closer to the opposite shore.

As she paddled, the French fry raged on. "Look lady, this is some kind of abuse. You can’t just pick up a poor innocent French fry, straight out of his beloved bacon grease and use it to propel yourself and your lard chunk along like a raft. I got feelings, you know. This is unsanitary, I tells ya."

"Quiet guv’nor," said Flippy, "or I’ll bite your bleeding head off."

For good measure, Frank’s Colon stepped forward and kicked the French fry violently.

"Ow," complained the French fry, "you’re damaging my crunchy over-coating, you miserable excuse for a colon. And you, girl with the big head, watch how you handle me. I ain’t exactly made from corrugated steel, you know. This is pure potato, baby. Nothing but the finest."

As if to prove the fry right, Suzie gave a mighty push and the French fry snapped in half.

"Oh, that’s just great," complained the fry. "Look at that. The Amazonian doesn’t know her own strength. Well, good job on breaking me. What do you do for an encore, kill innocent…"

Suzie tossed the broken French fry out into the grease and hurriedly grabbed for another one, which also spoke.

"Oh yeah, that’s just great, lady." The other French fry complained. "Didn’t have enough fun killing my brother, so you’d thought you’d start on me next, huh? Wonderful."

Suzie looked toward the opposite shore and saw that she was finally making progress. Frank wasn’t doing badly either as his lard chunk was only a few yards ahead of hers.

The French fry continued on as Suzie labored. "Hey, how about, after you’re done, you can feed me to the dog made of meat. Would that satisfy your primal urges, lady?"

"I’ll eat it," offered Frank’s Colon .

"Oh, yeah," said the French fry. "That’ll work. Just put me right into the walking stomach. Oh, that’s a grand idea."

Frank’s Colon walked and stabbed the French fry in the eye with its index finger. "I’m a colon, you wiener."

"Owee!" The French fry cried. "That walking stomach poked my eye out. I’m calling my lawyer. I’ll sue, I tell you. I’m gonna sue you so bad. Oh, you’re gonna…"

Suzie intentionally broke this French fry in half and grabbed down for another one. As she reached down to the bacony, greasy mess for another paddle, her eyes happened to focus on the lard chunk they were riding and she noticed something buried deep within.

"Hey, Flippy, Frank’s Colon ," she said, "I think there’s something in this chunk of lard."

The other two gazed intently into the amber, white mess that they were riding on and could faintly make out the shape of some large, hairy being stuck in the dead center.

"Hey, Frank," Suzie called, "I think there’s something in the middle of this chunk of lard we’re riding on."

"It’s probably nothing," said Frank. "Maybe just one of those hard, crunchy pieces."

Suzie looked down before answering. "But it’s shaped kind of like a man."

"So, hard, crunchy pieces can be shaped like men. I guess."

Suzie thought for a moment before turning to her companions. "Flippy, this may sound like a disgusting request, but could you dig down and see what that thing is?"

"Righty-o, guv’nor," said the meat dog, "I’ll do you one better, I will. I’ll eat me way down."

Ooh, I didn’t need to hear that, thought Suzie, as Flippy began to chew his way through the lard. Frank’s Colon, upon seeing the meat dog begin to chew through the fat, decided to casually stroll toward the far side of the lard ship so it could be noisily sick.

After a moment of slurping and chewing, Flippy broke through to the center where a great tuft of hair stood out. From deep within the bulk of the lard came a muffled, yet annoyed voice.

"Get the dog off me or the Colon gets it!"

Suzie knelt down to hear better as Flippy casually jumped out of the hole it had created. "Do you need help," Suzie yelled.

"No," came the muffled reply, "I enjoy being stuck in lard. You just keep paddling."

"Are you being sarcastic?"

"Of course," came the reply, "but not about the dog. Keep it away."

"Not a problem, guv’nor." Flippy said, lying on its back and letting its extended belly flop in the breeze. "Why I’m so full of lard right now, I could just about bust a gut or two."

Frank’s Colon , which had just returned from the far side of the lard, left again…quickly.

Suzie reached down into the bacon grease and grabbed another floating French fry, which she used to dig out whatever was trapped within the lard. The French fry, of course, complained a lot and was being such a nuisance that, as soon as the digging was through, Suzie tossed it to Flippy just for fun.

Slowly, like a turtle crawling out from underneath a giant pile of tapioca, a large, hairy, half-ape, half man thing crawled out of the hole. It had a large grin on its face.

"Hey man, that was great. I’ve been trapped in that lard forever. Name’s Melvin. Melvin the Sasquatch. I owe you, big time. Man, it feels so good to get out of that lard and really stretch my arms. Yes sir."

At the mention of the word "Sasquatch", Flippy gave a little yelp and ran to hide behind Frank’s Colon , which had just returned from another vomit fest. The Colon deftly turned his foot and managed to trip the meat dog, sending it sprawling.

Flippy, full on his belly, and laying on the lard, looked up at the Sasquatch like an after dinner mint would look at a mouth. "Oh, please guv’nor. Don’t eat me. I’ll be a good meat dog, I will."

Melvin peered questioningly at the meat dog, before turning to Suzie. "What’s his problem?"

"Oh, he thinks you’re going to eat him if he’s been a bad meat dog. See, his mother told him that all bad meat dogs get eaten by the Sasquatches that live in the Chickpea Mountains and that that’s where the bacon grease and lard chunks in this river come from."

Melvin looked incredulously at Flippy. "Man, that’s just crazy. Sounds like something your mom came up with just to scare you into being good."

Satisfied, Suzie turned away to look for another French fry. When her back was turned, Melvin pointed quickly at Flippy and then toward his open mouth as if to say, "You just wait till I get the chance and you’ll be riding the back of my throat down to my lower intestine in no time."

Flippy yelped and dashed away to the far side of the lard chunk with its sausage tail tucked between its sausage legs.

Smiling, Melvin approached Suzie, who had finally grabbed a French fry and was attempting to propel the chunk.

"Say there, little missy, what are we trying to do?"

"We’re trying to get to the other side," said Suzie. "Maybe you could do something."

"Yeah, maybe," said Melvin. Quickly, he reached into the bacony deep, grabbed three French fries and started paddling, pushing the lard chunk along at an alarming rate. Everyone was happy, except for the three French fries, which began to complain in unison.

"Oh man," they cried, "You’re killing us. I can feel the strain starting to spread. I’ll break for sure. Listen, hairy, hands off."

Melvin, for the most part ignored them. Soon, they were on the far side of the shore where they jumped off gladly. Frank’s Colon bent down and kissed the dirt, vowing to never travel by lard ship again. For good measure, Melvin broke all of the French fries in half and threw them back into the river.

As soon as Frank arrived, they all had a short celebration, which involved playing limbo with the French fries and eating pieces of Flippy.

*                       *                      *                      *                      *                      *

Now, just so you’re not too worried and can’t sleep at night and have to cry to your mama, I’ll tell you a little secret about Cleotus. The secret is that he wasn’t dead.

See, Barry and Mr. Fluffkins was a real cat, and a real big cat at that. But the two headed-cat, while being a very effective dark minion, was also a portable jail cell. Once swallowed, Cleotus rode around amidst the stomach juices and acids, all of which didn’t really harm him. It would take a lot more than simple stomach juices and acid to put a dent in Cleotus. You’d need some serious firepower for that.

Once inside Barry and Mr. Fluffkins, Cleotus was soon transported to the kingdom of the evil jazz musician Bricks. Now someone who knew a thing or two about geography might question how Barry and Mr. Fluffkins could possibly be going toward the kingdom of Bricks when it was in the other direction. And that’s a fine question. It’s perfectly legitimate.

Well, the answer is that Bricks, who was as evil a jazz musician as you could hope to find, had in his possession certain magical artifacts that enabled his minions to travel outside of the usual modes of travel. For instance, the Circus of Everlasting Boredom, which seemed to be in three places at once was actually in three places at once. It had something to do with ripping a grandma-sized hole in the space-time continuum, and then twisting it around until it was roughly the shape of a log. It’s all very complicated and you probably wouldn’t understand it anyway.

Well, Bricks also had a magical device for Barry and Mr. Fluffkins, that enabled the two-headed cat to travel vast distances. This device basically looked like a toilet plunger covered in rhinestones.

Suffice to say, about the same time that Suzie and the rest stepped off the lard chunk and onto dry land, Cleotus was riding the rails of the space-time continuum, like a well-seasoned motor oil.

 

 

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