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The Trouble With Bricks, Third Installment

Chapter Five – Sock Monkeys in the Blue Toupee Jungle of Death

 

 

The jungle spread out before Suzie, Frank, Frank’s Colon, Flippy and Melvin like a giant sock and underwear drawer, where everything had just been tossed in, was not laid carefully in rows, and the underwear was not folded just so.

“Well, well”, said Frank, “The Blue Toupee Jungle. As I live and breathe.”

“That’s a jungle, all right,” said Suzie.

“Man, I’m hungry for some meat dog,” added Melvin.

“Yipe, guv’nor,” said Flippy.

“What was that?” Suzie asked.

Melvin shuffled quickly to cover his mistake. “I said that I’m really hungry and beat, dawg.”

“Oh,” said Suzie.  She turned to consider the dank of the jungle. “Frank, it looks pretty thick. Isn’t there any way around?”

“Not that I know of.” Frank again consulted his rock map. “Nope. We’ll need to go through here in order to get to the Kingdom of Frosty Delights, wherein dwells the mighty and mysterious Mr. Wilson.”

“Is there anything we need to worry about before we go in?” Suzie asked.

Frank’s chest puffed out and his plumage burst into bright colors as he prepared to share additional knowledge. “Well, now, the Forest of the Blue Toupees is forty miles in diameter from the shores of the Great River of Lard to the carpet-laden plains of the Kingdom of Frosty Delights . It was originally discovered by Frankie the Weasel and exclusively mined for its prestigious amount of pastries.

“Indigenous to the Forest of the Blue Toupees are the Blue Toupees, those aerial hair pieces of the skies. Flying from tree branch to tree branch, the Blue Toupees rarely kill a passerby unless they’re frightened or bored. In addition, the forest is also occupied by the bloated Gums Gums, which, if you’ll recall from my previous monologue, are the fiercest pastry chefs this side of the Chickpea Mountains. Oh, and there are sock monkeys, but we shouldn’t have to worry about them.”

“Why?” Suzie asked.

“I don’t know,” said Frank.

Suddenly, Suzie realized that the sky had been steadily growing darker. “Is it getting to be night time or is something else dumb about to happen?”

Frank tried to look nonchalant. “No, just getting to be night time. Why do you ask?”

“Because the last time it started getting this dark, it rained fish.”

“Oh, that.” Frank said. “That only happens on Tuesdays.”

Soon, they began to make camp. Frank rolled out his tent, which turned out to be a double wide. Suzie sent Melvin out to get some firewood and Flippy left to forage for something to eat. Frank’s Colon sat down heavily and wouldn’t get up even when someone said please.

The night wore on, like Uncle Willie’s hot water heater.

Soon, Melvin returned with his arms full of dead branches gathered from the nearby forest. He also had numerous bite marks all over his legs and knee caps, but, when pressed, he stuck to his story that he had simply fallen down a cliff and onto a giant mound of novelty teeth.

Later, Flippy returned with a bag overflowing with items he had gleaned from the nearby countryside, including a hunk of bark, Frank’s wrist watch, a piece of French fry, and several hundred dead moths. Angrily, Suzie dumped the contents of the bag over Flippy’s head and went out on her own.

She had not traveled far into the forest when she stepped on something partially squishy. Slowly, she reached down and brought the object slowly up in front of her face to reveal, interestingly enough, a ketchup packet. Odd, she thought, that a ketchup packet should be out here in the middle of nowhere. Quickly, she gathered up the packet, and the possum she had whacked in the head with a two-by-four and wandered back to the campsite.

After a fine meal of possum burgers, possum salad, and French fries, Frank and Flippy retired to the tent to get some much needed sleep while Suzie, Melvin and Frank’s Colon hunkered around the camp fire to watch the stars and to swap tales of wonder.

Suzie began with the story of how she and her brother had ended up in this cursed land and how they were traveling to see Mr. Wilson to hopefully get some help. After that story, she told another quick tale about two teenagers that had run out of gas and had met a guy with a hook for a hand, who gave them a lift to the nearest gas station.

“Well, that is a most queer and annoying tale,” said Melvin, as he stretched his long, hairy legs out in front of him. “Mine is only slightly less strange.”

Quickly, Melvin belched and put his feet into the fire on accident. Upon extinguishing the flames, Melvin began his tale.

“We sasquatch live in caves at the foot of the Chickpea Mountains . I live in one of the largest caves with my sister Luther, my grand pappy Turkey Slim, my grandmother Ernest, and a large cube of cheese that I named Mr. Hibiscus. We were moderately happy living in our cave, eating anything that happened to stray too near, and occasionally traveling to the nearby beaches of Scum Pond for our weekly bath and mud treatment. Happy times.

“Then one day, nearly two weeks ago, Turkey Slim returned from a trip to Scum Pond to report a most unusual occurrence. Someone or something had drained the entire pond of scum dry. Not a drop remained. Well, I was angry. I can tell you. So, that day, I set out to journey to Scum Pond to see if I could determine the cause of the pond’s demise. So, I left with just a walking stick and Mr. Hibiscus perched on my back for friendship and possibly a late night snack. Oh, how I miss my cheese.

“Anyway, a few days later I made it to Scum Pond and saw with my own two eyes how low the pool had become. Why, there wasn’t even enough scum to roll around in anymore, let alone any to make scum pies or throw at old people. Something had drained the water. I turned to Mr. Hibiscus to cry on his shoulder, but he was gone too. In my hunger, I had eaten him on the trip. I was all alone and kinda hungry.

“Anyway, I decided to travel up the creek that fed into the pond to determine why all the water had dried up. I got to the top of the creek bed and found the problem. There was a giant slab of lard damming up the entire creek. Well, I soon set about to move that lard so we could have our pond back again.

“Like an annoying puppy, my ignorance soon rose up to lick me in the face. As soon as I had moved the lard chunk slightly out of the way, the waters that had been dammed up were suddenly released and they carried me and the lard chunk far away. I clung to the lard chunk as best as I could, but before I knew what was happening, the chunk knocked into a tree, pushing me into its juicy center. After that, it was straight downhill and into the Great River, where I floated until you saved me.”

Suzie and Frank’s Colon sat back, slowly absorbing the ridiculous tale that Melvin had just spewed all over them like a teacher with a spit problem.

“That’s the craziest dang story I’ve ever heard,” pronounced Frank’s Colon, as it rose to go to bed.

“Yeah, the colon’s right.” Melvin said. “I just made it up. Really, I was just trying to cross the Great River of Lard like you guys, but I sunk right into one of them. I guess I need to go on a diet or something.”

“Yeah,” said Suzie, “or something.”

Suddenly, with a smirk, Melvin leaned forward. “Hey, you want to see something funny?”

“Yeah, I guess.” Suzie, answered.

Quietly, Melvin rose to his feet and crept toward the open tent, where Frank’s snoring face was revealed. Softly, like a cat with pillows strapped to its feet, Melvin bent down next to Frank’s face, grunted and ripped the world’s largest fart directly into the open mouth of the leprechaun hunter.

Frank’s eyes popped open as he gagged for available air and his hands grabbed at his throat.

Laughing hysterically, Melvin managed to scream out, “Oh man, I so got you, Frank. How’d you like that beef stew, buddy?”

Frank, for his part, couldn’t respond, as his face was slowly turning blue from lack of oxygen. His Colon leaped onto his back and violently pounded away until Frank could breathe again.

Meanwhile, Melvin marched around the camp, pumping his arms into the air and chanted the phrase “Frank Sparks eats farts! Frank Sparks eats farts!” over and over again, until Suzie told him that if he didn’t stop, she was going to hit him in the head with a shovel.

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Sometime in the middle of the night, a rather large fir tree fell on top of a sleeping Melvin. It didn’t phase him, however, as he simply hugged his large hairy arms around it and spooned it. Everyone knew that Frank was the culprit, but they just couldn’t prove anything.

After a brief meal of bacon and hash browns, the hash browns came from the river and Flippy produced the bacon and please don‘t bother asking where he got it, the party set off into the Blue Toupee Jungle. Frank, as self-entitled Senior Coordinator of the mission, strode in front, with Suzie directly behind, followed by Frank’s Colon, and Flippy. Melvin brought up the rear, or, as he called it, the rump.

It didn’t take a long time for the party to run into trouble.

They were travelling through a particularly hairy part of the jungle, and that wasn’t just a clever metaphor because there was literally hair hanging from some of the trees.

As Frank used his machete to chop some hair out of the way, he felt a soft slap across his face. He looked around for the perpetrator, but could see nothing. Melvin, however, in the rump of the line, was smiling and whistling softly to himself.

Bending down, Frank’s hands quickly found the item that had assaulted his cheek. He held it up to show to the rest of the party.

“You got hit in the face with a ketchup packet?” Suzie asked.

“Yes,” said a slightly irritated Frank. “Someone threw a ketchup packet at me. Now, was it one of you?”

“Well, it wasn’t me,” said Suzie.

“It was wasn’t me neither, guv’nor,” said Flippy. “Although I do enjoy a good ketchup packet now and then. Just for nibbling.”

Melvin shrugged Frank’s Colon busied itself by throwing firecrackers into the nearby bushes.

Just then, the wild shriek of a monkey was heard and Frank again felt the sting of a well-thrown ketchup packet.

Annoyed, Frank turned to Suzie. “Okay, what is going on?”

Suzie shrugged and was hit in the forehead with a ketchup packet. Immediately, packets came flying from all directions of the forest, immersing the weary travelers in a virtual gauntlet of ketchup packets. Quickly, Frank and company broke into a run.

“Man, they’re all around us.” Melvin yelled.

“Frank,” said Suzie as ran, “what do we do?”

“We run,” yelled Frank.

“No,” said Suzie, “we can’t run forever. Flippy’s in no condition to run. He’s wheezing already and we’ve only gone ten feet.”

Flippy was lagging behind, breathing heavily.

Frank looked back. “I can’t feel sorry for every overweight meat dog I see. Plus, if he falls behind, maybe they’ll eat him and let us go.”

“Frank!” Suzie yelled.

As they ran, Frank and Suzie began to notice certain shapes flitting through the trees and running parallel to the party. From a distance, they looked like monkeys made from large socks. And they were flinging ketchup packets as they swung from the vines of the forest.

“Frank,” said Suzie, “those are sock monkeys. I thought you said we didn’t have to worry about sock monkeys, Frank.”

“Well, that’s what the travel guide said.” Frank reached into his back pocket of hidden treasures and produced a copy of The Land of the Misbeggoten Woe and Surrounding Hinterlands Unofficial Travel Guide. He turned quickly to page 43. “Yeah, it says here that sock monkeys are also indigenous to the Blue Toupee Forest and often accost travelers by throwing ketchup packets. Oh. Whoops.”

“Good one, Frank,” said Melvin, from the rump of the line.

“Can’t you do something, Frank,” asked Suzie. “After all, you’re the leprechaun hunter.”

“What are you, nuts? Those are sock monkeys. I can’t fight sock monkeys. They’d eat my lunch. I’ve only been trained to hunt leprechauns. Now, if those were leprechauns…well, then you’d have a fight on your hands. Let me tell you.”

Suddenly, Frank’s Colon stopped, causing Flippy to flip over and sprawl into Suzie and causing Melvin to expel gas, like he ever did anything else.

Angrily, Frank’s Colon turned around, while several ketchup packets struck it in the arms and chest. “No more running,” it stated slowly.

“ Colon , don’t be a fool,” yelled Frank.

But it was too late. The colon slowly pulled an extremely large firecracker from its bag of tricks and lit the fuse.

Before anyone could yell, spit, or build a small house out of toothpicks, Frank’s Colon threw the lethal firecracker into the surrounding woods, aimed at the last sock monkey it had seen. The resulting explosion blew the entire party to the ground, including Melvin who could usually stand up three out of five times.

As she raised her head, the first thing Suzie noticed was that the air seemed filled with cushion material from stuffed pillows. The second thing she noticed was that she had either gone deaf or it had become really quiet. Of course, the third thing she noticed was that the party was surrounded by the angriest bunch of sock monkeys she had ever seen in her life.

*                      *                      *                     *                     *                     *

They were quickly tied up with hauled off to the sock monkey’s secret lair, which turned out to consist of a couple of over-turned barrels and a coffee machine.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. How did a bunch of sock monkeys capture Frank, Frank’s Colon , Suzie, Flippy and Melvin? After all, even Melvin was thinking, man, I could just rip these guys in half. Well, let’s just say they had a bunch of ketchup packets and weren’t afraid to use them.

Once back at the secret lair, the sock monkeys quickly hung everyone upside down from the nearby tree branches and waited. After an hour, the blood went to Melvin’s head and he began, as sasquatches do when they’re held upside down for too long, to get a little loopy.

“I smell chickenpox,” Melvin gurgled. “An alabaster white tail’s kicking at my grandpa. Somebody, give me a half-eaten wingnut quick. Melon!”

Frank’s Colon lashed out with its foot, striking the Sasquatch in the head and temporarily quieting him down.

“Thank you,” said Suzie.

The crowd of sock monkeys over by a nearby cave grew very excited and began chattering as if the sock monkey Olympics had just started. Suddenly, the crowd parted and a large sock monkey, forged from two leg warmers and wearing glasses, strode toward the group. It looked up at the group from over the top of its glasses like a very disappointed math teacher and produced a ledger made from socks. Slowly, it began to read from the ledger.

“As the party of the first part, hereafter known as the strangers, did lawfully and willfully encroach upon the Blue Toupee Forest, and as the strangers did willfully make annoying noises and smells, and as the strangers did knowingly cause a ruckus, and as the strangers did knowingly blow up Tom…”

A female sock monkey (it had a dress, okay?) began weeping loudly, as the first sock monkey continued.

“And as the strangers were knowingly and willfully ugly, this court has no other recourse but to pass sentence. However, sock monkey trial protocol requires this court to explain, in brief, the proper rights of the defendants. Reggie?”

Reggie, an extremely muscular sock monkey with a bat its hands, broke from the crowd and approached the party.

“You have the right to shut up!” Reggie yelled. “You have the right to not get on my nerves! You have the right die quietly!”

Melvin interrupted, with a quick, “The chips stole my toothbrush!”

Reggie paused long enough to quickly whack Melvin with the bat before continuing. “You have the right to hang upside down! And you have the right to be ugly for the rest of your lives!”

The sock monkey with glasses stepped forward again. “Well done, Reggie. Now, do the defendants have anything to say on their behalf?”

“We was framed, guv’nor,” said Flippy.

The sock monkey with glasses motioned with his hand, which caused Reggie to break from the crowd, walk toward Flippy and whack it with the bat. “You have the right to shut up!” Reggie repeated, before stepping back into the crowd.

“Anyone else?” The sock monkey with glasses inquired.

The rest of the party kept quiet, with the exception of Melvin, who was making grunting noises and blowing spit bubbles. The sock monkey with glasses leafed forward a few pages into the ledger before continuing.

“Then, by the power invested in me by the residents of the Blue Toupee Forest, I hereby pronounce…”

It was interrupted by a loud voice in the center of the crowd. “Hey, what about the clause?”

The crowd took up the chant. “The clause. The clause. The clause.”

The sock monkey with glasses rolled its eyes. “People, really. Do we seriously have to go through this each and every time?”

“The clause.” The crowd replied.

“Okay,” said the sock monkey with glasses, “I’ll read the clause.” It leafed a few more pages forward into the ledger. “Section 2.5, paragraph 4, clause C states: wherein the party of the first part, if it can prove itself on the sock monkey field of battle, may win its freedom.”

“What was that about freedom,” Frank asked quickly.

Reggie strode forward and was halted quickly by the sock monkey with glasses. “Not this time, Reggie, it’s a legitimate question.”

Reggie, looking sullen, wandered back into the crowd, only shaking its bat at Frank once.

“It’s really quite simple.” The sock monkey with glasses answered. “If your champion can beat our champion in a traditional contest of wit and wills, your entire party can go free. However, I must advise you that our champion has never lost a match.”

“Okay,” said Suzie, “and what is this great contest of wit and wills? And why is everyone so eager for us to do it?”

“Well,” said the sock monkey with the glasses, “it’s really quite simple. The two champions stand fifty feet apart, each holding an inflated pig bladder in one hand and a sharpened stick in the other. On the count of three, they throw the sharpened sticks and the one who can pop the other’s bladder first wins.”

“Oh, is that it?” Suzie said.

“What do you mean, is that it?” The sock monkey with glasses asked. “It’s really tough. No one has ever beaten our champion. No one!”

“We thought you had something really tough for us. Not pop some goofy pig bladder. We could do that in our sleep.”

Frank leaned in close enough to Suzie to whisper. “What are you doing?”

Suzie whispered back. “It’s okay. I’ve got a plan.”

The sock monkey with the glasses slammed the ledger closed and turned to the crowd. “The clause has been accepted.”

The crowd of sock monkeys erupted in a loud cheering, punctuated with whooping, hollering and some funky body noises, that quickly died down as the sock monkey with glasses raised its hands. It turned to face the party. “And who do you name as your champion?” It asked, with a grin on its face.

“Melvin.” Suzie said.

In response to his name being called, Melvin’s eyes popped open and a crazy slew of nonsense flew out of his mouth. “Hedgehog hosepie. Dog-licking mama said I crafted a mean whicker. But badger says I.”

Reggie again stepped forward, stopping once to confer with the sock monkey with glasses, which nodded its head. Reggie whacked Melvin good.

*                      *                     *                     *                     *                     *

 

In a little over a half an hour, Melvin was untied and on the ground, while the rest of the party looked on.

Frank leaned forward to whisper to Suzie.  “This was your plan? Melvin gets free and the rest of us are stuck up here?”

“I didn’t say it was a good plan,” Suzie whispered back.

On the ground, Melvin was getting his equilibrium back up and revving along. “Okay,” he asked for the fourth time, “what am I doing again?”

The sock monkey with the glasses was slowly losing its patience. “How many times do I have to repeat the same thing? See that sock monkey about fifty feet over there?” It pointed across the clearing, where a large sock monkey with one button eye stood, holding a pointed stick in one hand and an inflated pig’s bladder in the other. “That’s Sylvester, our champion. On the count of three, you and Sylvester will both throw the sharpened sticks and try to pop the other guy’s pig bladder.”

“Why?” Melvin asked.

“Cause that’s the clause. That’s what you have to do to get your freedom.”

“And what if we pop each other’s balloon’s at the same time?”

“You won’t,” the sock monkey with glasses answered quickly.

“But, what if…” Melvin said.

“Then we’ll have a do-over.” The sock monkey with glasses explained quickly. “Okay, we’re just gonna go. If you can’t understand now, then you’ll never understand.”

The sock monkey with glasses backed up until he was standing directly in front of the crowd. “Okay,” he yelled, “I’m going to count to three. When I say the word ‘three’ then that’s the signal to throw the pointed sticks. Everyone got it?”

At the far end of the clearing, Sylvester nodded. Melvin, looking doubtful, shrugged and held up his bladder and pointed stick.

“Okay,” the sock monkey with glasses yelled, “Ready? One. Two. Three.”

As the word “three” rang out through the clearing, three things happened simultaneously. First, Sylvester threw his pointed stick with such accuracy and such deadly force that it not only pierced Melvin’s pig bladder, but it kept going and may still be in orbit around the earth to this day.

Second, Melvin threw his pointed stick with such total abandon that it flew through the air and managed to impale the sock monkey with glasses directly in the forehead.

And, of course, the third thing was that the sock monkey’s lair was suddenly and viciously attacked by the sock monkey’s natural enemies, the Blue Toupees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six – Cleotus in the Forest of Insanity

 

As you’ll recall, Cleotus was swallowed by Barry and Mr. Fluffkins right on the shore of the Great River of Lard. He was then transported to the kingdom of Bricks, the evil, often insane but never duplicated, jazz musician.

Now traveling inside of Barry and Mr. Fluffkins was not like riding in a limo. There was no wet bar, Jacuzzi (unless you counted the stomach acid), and you definitely couldn’t stick your head out of the sunroof, unless you wanted it bitten off. Needless to say, Cleotus was bored in two hours flat.

After scouring through the dark, dank stomach for what seemed like days but was, in fact, only ten minutes, Cleotus discovered a soda can, five large rocks, the half-digested body of a local mob informant, and Jerome, the unluckiest wallaby in all of the Land of the Misbegotten Woe (also half-digested, but still pretty much alive). To say they formed a fast friendship is a little like saying that Pinocchio had a big nose.

Once they found each other, it wasn’t long before they busied themselves by playing annoying little games, like I-Spy, What’s that Smell?, and the ever favorite What did I hit you with? After a few minutes of such shenanigans, they settled down, in the dark, to swap tales.

“Look mate, me and me pals were hopping along, having a little fun, singing one of me favorite songs, called ‘Hickory Willow, Willow Hickory’, minding our own business really, and alls of a sudden we come up to this circus.”

“Hey,” said Cleotus, “I think I might know that circus.”

“Right mate,” said Jerome, “you already told me about that one. Anyway, me pal Dupo says ‘Why don’t we go have a look see?’ and I thought that was right smart, so we goes in and has a try at the Guess the Hair game. Well, me other pal Rob, well, he keeps eating the hair ball and then sorta coughs it back up again. After doing that about four times, I guess the game sorta got mad and fell on top of him. Squished him flat.”

“Wow”, said Cleotus.

“Yeah,” said Jerome. “So anyway, me and Dupo, we take off out of there like Lenny, the Reaper of Other’s Misfortunes was after us.”

“Hold on a second,” said Cleotus. “Now, who’s this Lenny character?”

Jerome stared in disbelief, which Cleotus couldn’t see because it was so dark, so the way Jerome looked was kind of irrelevant. “Are you telling me, mate that you never once heard of Lenny, the Reaper of Other’s Misfortunes?”

“Yeah,” said Cleotus, “never heard of him.”

“Well don’t that just wing-woodler in your snuff-wagon? Now, where do you come from again?”

“Somewhere else,” admitted Cleotus.

“Oh, that’s right. That’s right. It near slipped me head. It’s just a little hard to hear sometimes on account of me ear being half digested and all. Anyway, there was this wallaby one time, a name of Lenny. Now, Lenny was the sort of wallaby that would laugh whenever bad things happened to other people.

“If your house blew down, you could bet that Lenny would be right there, laughing at you. If you happened to accidentally melt half your face off with acid, there’d be Lenny laughing away. Well, needless to say, the folks of his village got mighty tired of hearing that laugh. So the villagers played a couple of blokes to play this prank on Lenny and the whole village would laugh at him. Teach him a lesson, right?

“They were gonna play a simple trick on Lenny. You know, one of them would get on his hands and knees behind Lenny, while the other one pushed and Lenny would fall to the ground. And that was all fun and games, except, the blokes that they paid weren’t exactly on the bright side of thinking. The two blokes pulled their little trick at the top of a forty-foot cliff.

“Well, one bloke got down and the other pushed Lenny and Lenny fell off the cliff, over some sharp rocks, through some barbed wire, and on top of a land mine, which blew him fifty feet into the air, right through all the branches of one of those thorny trees, down a hill full of broken glass and rusty razor blades and into the shark-infested pond. As the villagers pointed their fingers and laughed at him, Lenny pronounced a final curse on all wallabies.

“With his final breath, he said that he’d be there. He’d be there whenever any wallaby fell down. He’d be there whenever any wallaby banged his head accidentally. He’d be there whenever anything bad happen. And he’d laugh. Oh, how he’d laugh. Even though he was dead, he’d always be there to laugh at the misfortunes of others.”

Cleotus shivered in the dark. “Wow, that’s kind of creepy.”

“Yeah, isn’t it,” said Jerome. “So, anyway, that’s Lenny’s story and all. Now, where was I? Oh, yeah. So me and me mate Dupo were running away from this circus and Dupo, he sees this ride called ‘The Lazy Stream of Bacteria’ and he just has to ride it. Well, I hang outside and that’s when this lightning bolt comes along and slams right into the building. Well, the whole thing goes up in flames and just collapses. I’ve never seen nothing like it before or since. So, I run away and this big, two-headed cat eats me.”

“The same thing happened to me.” Cleotus exclaimed.

Suddenly the stomach gave a strong lurch, knocking Cleotus and Jerome off their feet. One stronger lurch and the two of them were suddenly vomited from out of the stomach, through the windpipe and out onto a cobblestone floor, where it was dank and they were covered in bile.

The room they found themselves in was almost completely dark, except for the light of two torches that adorned the north and south walls. In front of them, three broad steps rose up to a dais, where a large throne rested. On top of that throne, immersed in shadows, sat Bricks.

Now, Bricks wasn’t always insane and evil. He had been a child once. He had pooped in his diaper and said “Ga-ga, Goo-goo” on occasion. As a teenager, he had possessed an unhealthy fascination with jazz, but even that was kept moderately in control. No, it wasn’t until his adult years that Bricks had gone completely nuts.

Barry, standing just behind Cleotus and Jerome spoke. “Aargh. Shiver me poopdeck. We brought the prisoners as you commanded.”

Softly, Cleotus could hear the sound of a poorly beaten bongo. A near disembodied voice spoke from the throne. “Yeah, man, that’s cool. Like, that was fast, man.”

“Aargh,” said Barry.

Bricks reached up and turned on the lamp that stood next to his throne, causing himself to blink rapidly. “Oh, man, that’s bright. Oh, yeah, Barry and Mr. Fluffkins, go get yourself a heaping mound of grub for a job well done.”

Barry and Mr. Fluffkins departed the cavernous room. As soon as they had left, Bricks, after rubbing some jello into his armpits, turned his dreadlocked attention on Cleotus and Jerome.

“So, what have we here, man. You’re like a man and you’re not. What are you, like some kind of wild boar?”

“I’m a wallaby, mate.” Jerome said cheerfully.

“Silence,” Bricks cried out as he grabbed a brick from off the top of a pile near his throne and lobbed it at Jerome, hitting Cleotus in the chest. “No talking until I say so, man. You gotta learn early on that when I talk, you listen. You dig?”

“Whatever you say, mate.”

“Silence!” Bricks threw another brick at Jerome, which again struck Cleotus just as he was rising from the floor. “Guys, or man and boar, like you have been chosen to become part of my army. Congratulations. Now, we’re gonna give you some jobs to keep you right on. You dig? Captain Fritter!”

Captain Fritter, a man-sized beetle, left the darkness and approached Cleotus and Jerome, screaming as he walked.

“All right, you pukes. You’re coming with me and no funny stuff or I’ll smack you good.”

“Captain,” said Bricks, as he stood on his head on the throne.

“Yes sir.”

“Like, don’t berate the new recruits until after you’ve left my presence. It’s really hurting my brain pan, man.”

Captain Fritter saluted with at least two of his arms. “Yes, sir. Right, sir. Very good, sir.”

“Like, you can go, man.” Bricks waved his hand in dismissal, as he jumped off the throne and began pecking the floor like a hungry chicken.

On cue, Captain Fritter gathered up Cleotus and Jerome and ushered them out of the throne room. As soon as they were out of earshot, he started to get his scream on.

“Now listen here, you maggots, I ain’t got all day. Let’s move it before I get really angry.”

“Could you get any angrier than what you are now?” Cleotus asked.

Red-faced, for a beetle, Captain Fritter turned fully on Cleotus and began half-spitting and half-yelling directly into his face. “What was that, you smack-faced bag of meat? Did my ears betray me or did you think about speaking back to your superior officer?”

Cleotus carefully reached up to wipe the thin glaze of spit from his face. “Hey, say it, don’t spray it. Okay?”

Captain Fritter, not entirely sure how to treat Cleotus, turned and began to lead the recruits down the hallway.

“Out of the graciousness of Lord Bricks’ heart, you will each receive a cot, one square meal a day and all the prune juice you can drink. You will be issued a uniform as well as a new job assignment. Private Kangaroo, your new job assignment will be Court Jester.”

“I’m a wallaby, mate.”

Captain Fritter again stopped abruptly so he would have ample time to yell and spit. “You will not speak unless told to do so! Is that understood, you useless sack of ball bearings?”

Jerome, after wiping his face, nodded.

Captain Fritter continued. “And you, Private Big Dumb Goof, you’re new job assignment will be bagger.”

“What’s a bagger?” Cleotus asked. “Is that like someone that bags groceries?”

“No! A bagger is someone that walks through the woods and picks up the bear poop.”

*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *

Cleotus was assigned the North Quadrant of the Ninety-Nine Acre Woods, which basically ran from the Meadows of Fig Newton all the way to the Jackaninny Cliffs.

Cleotus was given a sharp stick and a bag, with instructions to pick up any stray poop he might find. He was paired up with another fellow that looked surprisingly like Bricks in a large rainbow-colored wig. Anyone besides Cleotus could tell that this was Bricks in a very flimsy disguise. Cleotus, however, was completely fooled.

“So,” said Cleotus, “have you been bagging a long time?”

“Oh no, man. Like I just joined up. The Man’s been keeping me down and I needed a change of scenery. You dig?”

Cleotus stopped and looked around suspiciously. “The Man? Who’s that?”

“You know, The Man. It’s the establishment. It’s anybody keeping you down. It’s The Man.”

“No, really.”  Cleotus said.  “Who’s The Man?”

“Oh, man, you know. The Man is the one keeping us regular workers down. He’s the boot of the establishment. Like, if you were digging a hole, The Man would be the one telling you how far to dig. You dig?”

“I don’t get it.”

“Okay, man, let’s just do what we do. Hey look over there. There’s a huge hunk of bear poop, man.”

Bricks pointed over to a tree that held an enormous beehive. Under the branches of the tree, in a lump, lay an enormous mound of poop.

Bricks slapped Cleotus on the shoulder. “Go get it man. Like, it’s all yours.”

“All right,” Cleotus yelled as he charged forward, like a nerd that finally got picked for kickball.

He took a moment to examine the large gooey mess before coming to a conclusion. “Hey, I don’t think this pointed stick’s gonna be much use.”

Bricks, who had been shoving large armfuls of pinecones into his pants, paused to consider. “Yeah, maybe you’re right, man. You need something big and flat. Hey, I know. You need a shovel.”

“Yeah,” said Cleotus, “that would be great. But where could I get one way out here.”

He began looking around desperately for something to use as a scoop, until his eyes rested on the beehive. A smile extended on his broad face.

“I’ve got an idea.”

Bricks slowly backed away. “Yeah, that’s great, man. You go do that. I’m gonna go somewhere else for a second.”

Bricks turned and ran as far as he could. After all, he was crazy, but not stupid.

Cleotus, however, was taking down the beehive. Something, call it fate, kismet, or Mother Nature in a pair of waders, was smiling down on him. The beehive hadn’t been used by any proper bees since the Great Bee Migration of ’63, when all the bees left the Ninety-Nine Acre Woods and went to a pancake house. The only bees left in this particular hive, were a couple of squatter bees, and even they were gone at the moment. That morning, one of them had a real big hankering for beets.

Cleotus, after doing his duty, caught up with Bricks, who was lying in a short ditch and covered in tree bark.

Bricks sat up in surprise.  “Hey, you’re not dead, man.”

“Why would I be dead?”

“No reason,” Bricks said, as he rose from the ditch, dusted himself off, and jumped into a bush. “Hey, do you like jazz music?”

Cleotus scratched his chin in thought. “I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve ever heard jazz music before.”

The rainbow wig, quickly followed by Brick’s eyes popped out of the top of the bush. “Wow, man. Really? That’s cool. Cause I think I’ve got some you could listen to if you want. I mean, I think Bricks has some jazz you could hear some time. You dig?”

“Yeah, okay,” said a very agreeable Cleotus.

*                      *                      *                      *                      *                      *

At roughly noon, they stopped for lunch, or like it was called in the Kingdom of Bricks: Time to eat. Cleotus had to scour through the forest for nuts, berries and the occasional squirrel, while Bricks simply opened his knapsack and pulled out a large roast beef sandwich on rye.

“Hey, I’ve got an idea,” said Cleotus in between bites of squirrel tail. “How about the next time we come across some bear poop, you can pick it up?”

Bricks nearly gagged on his sandwich. “Whoa. Wait a minute, man. Remember, I’m letting you get the valuable training here.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” said Cleotus, as he stretched out against a nearby tree. “Man, I sure wish my buddy Jerome was here. I wonder what he’s doing right now.”

Jerome was actually in his dressing room at that moment coming up with some pretty lame material for tonight’s banquet. And by material, I mean jokes. And by banquet, I mean that Bricks was eating by himself, as usual.  And by lame, I mean lame.

“Yeah, man,” said Bricks, “it’s good to have friends, right? I mean, if I was to have any friends, I’d pick like someone really cool, you know? Like that guy Bricks. He seems pretty cool.”

“I don’t know,” said Cleotus. “He’s seems a little jumpy to me.”

“Jumpy! Silence, peasant!” Quickly, Bricks reached around for a brick, but couldn’t find one. “I mean, like wow. Why do you say he’s jumpy, man? He seems cool to me.”

“I don’t know. He yelled and threw bricks at me.”

“Well, maybe that’s how he shows affection, man. Maybe his dad beat him with bricks as a kid and that’s the only way he knows how to show affection or something. I’m just guessing, man.”

“Yeah, maybe,” said Cleotus. Slowly, he stood and looked around. “Well, are you ready to get going? That poop ain’t gonna pick up itself.” Something behind a nearby tree caught his eye. “Hey, what’s that?”

Bricks quickly sat up straighter and wiped the excess roast beef off his face. “What?”

Cleotus had moved beyond the tree and was grabbing a large furry object from off the ground.

As soon as Bricks got a good glimpse of the bear cub, he began to slowly back away.              “Hey, man, you better put that down,” he cautioned. “You know, mama bears don’t like their cubs handled like…”

But it was too late. A loud roar signaled the approach of the mother bear and Cleotus and Bricks took off at a dash. The mother bear, a little over seven feet and full of muscles and angry feelings, bounded after them.

Bricks glanced over to Cleotus and noticed that the boy still had the bear cub in his arms. “Man, maybe you ought to put that thing down.”

“I would,” said Cleotus, “but I think it might slow me down.”

The mother bear, which was within five feet of Cleotus’ back gave a loud roar and put on a burst of speed. It got steadily closer, so close, in fact, that it could smell the odor of Cleotus’ back hair. Its nose twitched slightly in response, but it continued on.

Bricks, looking ahead, noticed that they were within fifty feet of the Jackaninny Cliffs. “Cleotus, we’ve got to do something, man. Throw the cub over your shoulder.”

Giving a slight shrug, Cleotus followed his advice and chucked the cub up and over his shoulder. The cub rolled a few times in the air before crashing directly into the face of the mother bear, knocking her out cold. Cleotus and Bricks stopped for just enough time to look at each other then they both took off at a run toward the cover of the forest.

*                      *                      *                      *                     *                     *

A few miles into the forest, they stopped and rested on a fallen tree. Cleotus took a moment to wipe the sweat from his forehead and glance over at Bricks. During their brief run through the forest, the rainbow wig had fallen from his head, revealing his now famous dreadlocks.

Cleotus’ mind slowly came to a conclusion. “I think I know you from somewhere.”

“Yeah, man,” Bricks said. “It’s me, Bricks.”

“No wait. Don’t tell me. Do you work at the Gas-N-Go?”

“No, man. Like, I’m Bricks.”

“Oh, yeah,” said Cleotus, like a car coming to a complete stop.

“You know, I like your moves, man. Like, I could really use someone like you on my team. Want to be my second in command?”

Cleotus thought long on hard on the subject before responding. “Sure, why not.”

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