"Mystery Meats McMulligan!" I was in shock.
"Mr. Mystery Meats McMulligan to you," responded my bane glibly.
"And you have a job?"
"Yes." MMMcM tipped back his head and issued a laugh, then a belch, then that made him laugh again. "I am the new superhero for this city."
"The only but I wanna see is yours as you walk out of this town." Mystery Meats pointed to the big letter M on the front of his sweater. "As you can see I have a superhero costume and everything."
"There's something at the bottom of this," I fumed, stomping off. I went to use the payphone.
That day had started normally, with me going to the mall to look for hot chicks and crime. I had found none until I ran into Mystery Meats, my old foe from college.
I quickly ran to a payphone and dialed the Mayor's number.
He answered. "Joe's pizza parlor," he said.
"What? Is this a wrong number?"
"Oh, Pismo, it's you. I thought it was going to be somebody else."
"Who?" I challenged. "Mystery Meats McMulligan?"
"Well, yes. He's a much better superhero than you."
"But he's stark raving evil!"
"Yes, but he can fly."
"So can I! I just prefer to walk most places because flying makes my muscles sore."
"Mystery Meats has a letter on his chest."
"But I've got a cape!"
"There is that." The Mayor put a hand to his chin. "I have it. A contest."
I was eager. "Horse shoes? Skeet shooting? Bareback burro riding? Ice cream preparation? Blackjack? A 50-yard backwards race? Football trivia? Competitive poetry recitation? Computer Wheel of Fortune? Indian wrestling? Pie-eating contest? Quilting bee? Chugalug?"
"No, none of those things. You must catch some criminals. Whoever catches the most after 24 hours wins."
"Criminals?" I whined. "But that's my big weak spot."
"Ah know," drawled the Mayor.
I hung up the phone. How would I find criminals.
I felt whiskey-laden breath on the back of my neck. Sure enough, MMMcM was standing right behind me with a stethescope on the phone so he had heard everything.
"Ready to catch some criminals, idiot?" he said.
"Sure. Where are you starting?"
"Me too. Want to split a cab?"
The cab ride was long and painful. MMMcM kept recalling things about College. "Remember when we were roommates?"
"Freshman year," I breathed. "Otherwise I never would have been so foolish."
"Remember how I tore down all your posters and said the walls were my domain?"
"Yes, and I still don't understand what you meant."
"Remember how I put up disturbing prints of half-dressed children on motorcycles?"
I chimed in. "Remember when you brought dates over? You put a sign on the door that said Pismo is a Reject and that was a signal that I had to go sleep in the bathroom."
"Remember how I--"
Suddenly the cab came to a halt. It was a red light. Then the light turned green, but the cab didn't start up again. The cab driver, who was a midget, was too busy locating the gas pedal.
"Halting at a green light is against the law," I said. "I'm arresting you, you vile fiend."
But before I could grab the criminal midget cab driver, Mystery Meats was already flying out of the cab with the very same criminal midget cab driver.
While Mystery Meats was away booking the driver, I decided to find some other criminals.
As I was walking down the street, a little man in a big solid gold coat came sidling up to me, scuffing his elevator shoes on the pavement. The heels were glass and there were two guys in them. One was reading the newspaper. The other was smoking a pipe and wearing a dressing gown. I wondered why the shoes weren't fogged up with smoke. (Because he was smoking.)
He looked at me with hard, quick eyes, a slow grin spreading across his gaunt, pudgy face. "Looking for something to do?" he asked. "Or should I say someone?" He laughed. I wondered what he meant, then decided he probably thought I was looking for someone.
"Yeah, I'm looking for criminals."
"Oh, so you like the dangerous type? Too bad. I just got a new girl. She's blonde and this time she won't beat you up and take your wallet. But if you like the dangerous type, Lily's always available..."
"Lily?" My face twisted in confusion. "Oh, no, I'm not looking for anyone in particular. Just criminals in general. You know any?" I asked anxiously.
He laughed again. As his shoulders shook a bunch of diamonds that had been resting on them fell off. He scooped them up and arranged them back in their pyramid formation. As he did, he said, "Yer all right, kid. Come back if you need anything."
"Uh, sure." As he walked down the sidewalk, his hair sparkled. I realized it wasn't actually red hair, it was ruby plated. That must be heavy, I thought.
Then I found a girl on the street picking up a penny.
"Find a penny, pick it up," she recited, holding up the shiny coin.
I walked up. "So that's public property?" I demanded menacingly, menacing her with my muscles and cape and general demeanor.
"I don't see you rushing to the police department to find out its real owner. That was a big mistake, lady. A BIG mistake. 'Cause now you're gonna see a different side of the police department. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. You're going to be doing some serious time, breaking big rocks into small rocks. You're going up the river. A cute little lady like you--you'll make friends there REAL fast. REAL fast. RREEAAAALLLLLL fast."
"Are you through?" demanded the woman.
"Yes. No, wait, I've got more."
But the girl did not wait for me to say the other funny stuff I had seen on NYPD Blue the night before. She threw the penny at me, shuriken-style, and luckily it hit the copy of CAPED CRUSADING FOR DUMMIES I always kept in my breast pocket, otherwise I might have been seriously hurt.
Before I recovered from the shock, she was half a block away, running like the very dickens.
"I wonder how Mystery Meats is doing," I wondered.
That was a very long day. I paced the mean streets looking for crime until at least 6:30. Then I went home to refresh myself. I made supper--reheating the rice pilaf I had made yesterday and treating myself to some Pop'n'Fresh buns and a fudgesicle for dessert. Then I pulled up a card table in front of the TV and watched a little Comedy Central.
Finally it was 8 and I decided that the crimefighting day was just about done so I decided to do a little work painting my lead figurines and go to bed.
The next morning I stood ashamed before the mayor on his red carpet. I had no criminals, but at least MMMcM hadn't even shown up yet!
The mayor quickly finished rolling a cigarette and deposited it into his mouth. As I reached for my matches, Mystery Meats burst through the door, leading a line of twenty people all connected with leg irons! One of the criminals pulled out a lighter and lit the mayor's cigarette.
"Oh damn," I said, counting the criminals quickly.
"Mr. Mystery Meats McMulligan!" mouthed the mayor. "You seem to have caught the most criminals. What did they do?"
MMMcM stepped back and motioned the first criminal forward. The criminal stepped forward, chains clanking, and threw out his chest and raised his hands. "I..." he announced, "I am an embezzler! I gorged myself on the toil of my firm, all the while donning the mask of loyalty. I filled my coffers with lucre I did not earn, all the while seeming to be a model employee. To put it another way, cabbage from my employer purloin'd, handfuls of dimes and quarters newly coined. I am a thief!"
"Ho ho," hummed the mayor. "What did this one do?" He pointed at a short little lady with too much makeup.
The woman brandished a bloody axe. "I slaughtered my parents in cold blood! And I'd do it again! They always hated me! My mother, so bitter and insincere. My father--- everyone always loved him. Such a great man! And always so nice to me. Daddy, no! I don't want to go to the Seattle Mariners game! No... yes, Daddy, I do want a cookie." Suddenly the woman screamed. "AAAAUUUUGGHH!! I--killed--my---father!" She collapsed in a heap and the next criminal stepped up. He was an aging portly man with a silver beard and a round belly and laughing eyes. "I'm an evil dentist," he announced.
Suddenly a bell rang in my mind. Tumblers clicked in place... my thoughts came together with an audible snap.
"This is the best performance of Ben Johnson's The Seamstress of Navarre ever," said Malory Marlowe, the platinum-blonde bombshell who was my date for the evening.
"You said it." I picked up my opera glasses and looked at the stage.
The main character, Prince Leopold, threw back his chest and declaimed, "If then abstruse betokens seem, methinks again verily that maid has been."
Then the comic old servant ran out. He had laughing eyes, a silvery beard, yada yada yada. "Milord! Milord! A plague upon our plans!"
"A curse befalled upon our fair designs. Yonder lady comes, not dressed as a man but in richest finery dressed, coming, perchance, at her fair lord's behest!"
Then a woman stalked out on stage, wearing too much makeup etc. She did a soliloqy which was really mediocre and which I won't repeat here, both because it was boring and becuase there was too much swearing.
Then 17 more people came out and were extras.
"You're the Hillside Fandango performing troop," I accused, levelling a finger at each of the criminals in turn, not in the order they came in the line but in order of height.
"Curses!" cried the lead criminal/actor.
"A plague on both your houses!" cried the actress.
I swivelled my head to look at MMMcM. "You cheat," I accused. "You haven't changed a bit since we were playing water balloons and you kept on using things that weren't water like ketchup and stuff so your clothes got wet but mine were ruined, back in college."
The mayor had been about to give the key to the city to him but hesitated.
"I arrest you for fraud," I said.
"It's a fair cop," said MMMcM.
"Book 'em, Dan-O!" exclaimed the mayor and handed me the key to the city. I smiled.
"It's not easy to be the defender of this city but I manage!"
"Yeah, manage to break wind!" laughed the mayor. "Go stand over there!"
"Too much beans for lunch," I cracked and went out on the patio. Then I flew off, for I was
Hero of The City
Next week: Pismo versus the Matinee Brothers!!!