The Job: Wrestling with Myself

A PODCAST, THE SORT WITH NO BUDGET AND SOME WELL-INTENTIONED, PASSIONATE HOST COMPLETELY OUT OF THEIR ELEMENT. MARK JOBBERSON IS SAID HOST.

MUSIC: A FRUSTRATINGLY LONG, ASSINGLY ANNOYING MIX OF PUBLIC DOMAIN FAUX ROCK AND ASSORTED PRO WRESTLING-RELATED CLIPS AND SOUNDBITES. UP, UNDER.

MARK: Coming to you live from The Crow’s Nest, I’m “Mild” Mark Jobberson, and you’re listening to Wrestling with Myself, the number one professional wrestling podcast according to people who exclusively listen to this podcast.

MUSIC: OUT.

MARK: This week, we’ve got for you a full review of “Isn’t This Depressing,” the latest monthly live event from It’s Not a Hobby, It’s a Business Championship Wrestling; a look back on the life and career of the five-time Car Wash and Hot Wax Champion, Nipples McSweeny; my Top Ten list of the best places to buy discount, oversized bootleg pro wrestling tee shirts; and an exclusive interview with my neighbor, Terrold, about the time he almost became a pro wrestler, but didn’t.

But first, a message from this week’s sponsor – Joe Bear’s Pro Wrestling Ring and Gear Rentals. (READS) Do you have too much money? Have you watched professional wrestling a time or two? Don’t you wish you could spend all that money you should save for rent and necessities on your own professional wrestling show? Well, with Joe Bear’s Pro Wrestling Ring and Gear Rentals, even the biggest sucker can afford to put other people’s health and safety at risk for the chance at making a buck. Joe Bear’s Pro Wrestling Ring and Gear Rentals, because why should trained professionals with any degree of knowledge and experience with this sort of thing have all the fun?

CUT TO:

A BUMPER. SOMEHOW OF EVEN WORSE QUALITY. STOCK MUSIC UP, UNDER. 

PLEATHERDADDY: I’m The Pleatherdaddy, and you’re listening to this guy’s podcast.

MARK: (OFF) It’s the “Wrestling with My–”

PLEATHERDADDY: (OFF) Look, I already said what I said. Can I get my five bucks, or is this going to turn into a thing?

CUT TO:

THE PODCAST. SORRY.

MARK: Moving on to our first segment this week, an in-depth review of “Isn’t this Depressing”, the latest monthly event from It’s Not a Hobby, It’s a Business Championship Wrestling, live at the public indoor basketball court at Glockenspiel Park. While originally scheduled to begin at two in the afternoon this past Saturday, some minor technical issues ultimately delayed the show until eleven o’clock that same evening. Once the police dispersed and the show was allowed to continue, the first match of the evening finally took place, featuring Dilby Largebottom and Fatty Tightshirtandsweats in a Gluten-Free Bear Claw and Jellyroll Deathmatch–

SFX: A KNOCK ON A WINDOW.

SFX: MARK LITERALLY CRANKS HIS WINDOW DOWN, HARD, FAST, AND LOOSE.

MARK: (OFF) Hello, officer. What seems–

OFFICER: (OFF) We’ve had some complaints about someone publicly pleasuring themselves in this parking lot. You wouldn’t happen to know–

SFX: MARK STARTS CAR, SPEEDS OFF.

The Art of Business

A LOVELY STRETCH OF BEACH. A PAINTER PAINTS ON THE BLUFFS OVERLOOKING THE SAND AND WATER. A GRIFTER JOINS THEM.

GRIFTER: What is this you’re doing?

PAINTER: (GESTURES) I’m painting that couple having sex on the sand over there.

GRIFTER: (LOOKS, SEES) Ah, to be in love again. Do you do this often?

PAINTER: What, paint strangers’ public sexual exploits from a relatively safe distance?

GRIFTER: Yes.

PAINTER: I get around.

GRIFTER: Mmm, I thought you might. Now, Mr. Willoughby…

PAINTER: I’m sorry. Do we know each other?

GRIFTER: No, no. I just follow you around for hours, even days at a time, listening in on your most private moments until I’ve gathered enough personal data on you so as to feel comfortable acting familiar.

PAINTER: Amazing.

GRIFTER: Is it?

PAINTER: Yes, because my name isn’t Willoughby.

GRIFTER: Are you sure?

PAINTER: (CONSIDERS THIS) Pretty sure.

GRIFTER: Well, do you mind if I call you “Mr. Willoughby””

PAINTER: I’d prefer you call me by my real name… but, sure, go right on ahead.

GRIFTER: Wonderful. Mr. Willoughby, would you like to start a business together?

PAINTER: A business? 

GRIFTER: Yes, a business.

PAINTER: A business, you say…

GRIFTER: I do.

PAINTER: What would I have to do?

GRIFTER: You make your sexually depraved art, of course.

PAINTER: And you?

GRIFTER: And I make the money.

PAINTER: Yes, but what exactly would you do to make us money?

GRIFTER: (LAUGHS PSYCHOTICALLY, POSSIBLY FOR TOO LONG) That’s not important right now, Mr. Willoughby.

PAINTER: Seems like it might be a bit important, actually.

GRIFTER: Let’s agree that you’re wrong, hmm?

PAINTER: Oh, alright.

GRIFTER: Good, good. Now, what is important is that we get you right to work.

PAINTER: (PUZZLES THIS) But I am working?

GRIFTER: You call this work?

PAINTER: Yes.

GRIFTER: Don’t be daft. You’re hardly doing what I’d call work. Have you even turned a profit since we started talking, you lazy little bastard?

PAINTER: Well, no. But I’ve hardly had time to paint since you started talking to me.

GRIFTER: Oh, making excuses already, are we? Blaming others for your financial shortsightedness, hmm? You’ll never get ahead in this market with an attitude like that.

PAINTER: I don’t know what to say.

GRIFTER: What, no witty retort? No sarcastic jab directed at the shallow, half-formed attempts of grifters such as myself to take advantage of desperate, talented artists?

PAINTER: Nope.

GRIFTER: Why not?

PAINTER: Honestly?

GRIFTER: I would hope so, yes.

PAINTER: I couldn’t think of any way to properly end this sketch.

GRIFTER: You’re kidding.

PAINTER: I wish I was.

A PAUSE.

GRIFTER SMASHES THE PAINTING, WALKS AWAY.

PAINTER: (TO AUDIENCE) I suppose that works, don’t you?

No, I’m Sorry. It’s Too Hot.

STEVE ADDRESSES THE AUDIENCE DIRECTLY, AS IS HIS FAILING.

STEVE: Good evening, you heartless, demanding strawpeople of pure, unbridled anxiety I’ve conceived entirely in the cold, damned void that is the space between my ears. I regret to inform you that our next piece, “Please Don’t, It Doesn’t Go In There,” has been canceled on account that it’s too damn hot. And before any of you can even think to ask, yes, I am fully aware that I had more than enough time to complete my work before this very moment. It’s not as if I put much care or thought into anything I do, obviously. But I’m afraid I really couldn’t be assed in this heat. Sure, I could have a huge, steaming pile of my usual aneurysm-inducing attempts at… whatever the Hell it is I do. I could have such a pile. But I don’t. Because I’m a moron. But more than being a moron, I am also a very hot, sweaty moron contemplating whether or not it’s worth expediting this whole process by sticking myself in the oven and having my dog set it to a relatively pleasant and relaxing temperature. I’m not proud of my incompetency or my utter lack of foresight, but I am proud of it. Thank you, and please, remember to give me money.

Digital Streaming Services

MISS HANDCRANK IS FAST ASLEEP IN HER BED. SUDDENLY THERE IS A RUDE KNOCKING AT THE DOOR.

MISS HANDCRANK: (STIRS) What in the… (ROLLS OUT OF BED) I swear, if this is another person from the cable company here to ask about my provider…

RUDE KNOCKING CONTINUES.

I’m coming, I’m coming!

MISS HANDCRANK OPENS THE DOOR. MR. COPPAFEEL AND MR. IMMATOOL STAND THERE HOLDING CLIPBOARDS.

Do you have any idea what time it is?S

MR. COPPAFEEL AND MR. IMMATOOL EXCHANGE A LOOK. MR. IMMATOOL SHRUGS.

MR. COPPAFEEL: No, I’m afraid we don’t.

MISS HANDCRANK: Oh. Well, neither do I. But I assume it’s too late for someone to come knocking at my door and waking me up when I have a long day of crippling unemployment and existential dread ahead of me.

MR. IMMATOOL: My apologies, Miss… (CHECKS CLIPBOARD) Alyssica Handcrank?

MISS HANDCRANK: That’s right. What’s this about? Why do you have my name written down there? Does this involve you giving me money somehow?

MR. IMMATOOL: I’m afraid not, Miss Handcrank. I’m Mr. Immatool, and this is my associate, Mr. Coppafeel. We’re here to inform you that you have been specially selected for a very special, very important matter.

MISS HANDCRANK: Oh? What sort of very special, very important matter?

MR. COPPAFEEL AND MR. IMMATOOL EXCHANGE ANOTHER LOOK. MR. IMMATOOL GESTURES TO MR. COPPAFEEL.

MR. COPPAFEEL: Well, as you know, it’s very special…

MR. IMMATOOL: And very important.

MR. COPPAFEEL: And very important, yes.

MISS HANDCRANK: Have you been drinking?

MR. IMMATOOL: Have we been drinking?

MISS HANDCRANK: That’s what I asked, yes.

MR. IMMATOOL: I was afraid of that.

MR. COPPAFEEL: (SCOFFS) Well, of course we’ve been drinking, Miss Handcrank. It’s not exactly everyday you’re tasked with knocking on strangers doors at strange hours to inform them they’ve been selected for death.

MISS HANDCRANK: What do you mean, “selected for death”?

MR. IMMATOOL: As you know, Miss Handcrank, we are living in unprecedented times – plagues, war, an overabundance of mostly well-priced digital streaming services.

MISS HANDCRANK: Yes, of course.

MR. COPPAFEEL: Then you must also be aware of the poor quality and limited choice of telecommunication infrastructure in this country.

MR. IMMATOOL: Our internet speeds are terrible. Simply terrible.

MR. COPPAFEEL: I mean, how can anyone be expected to watch an endless buffet of programming these days without a consistent, full 4k resolution and the sexual delicacy of High Dynamic Range color palettes?

MR. IMMATOOL: Impossible. Simply impossible.

MR. COPPAFEEL: Sacrifices must be made, Mr. Handcrank.

MISS HANDCRANK: I see.

MR. IMMATOOL: So, my associate and I got to talking…

MR. COPPAFEEL: And drinking.

MR. IMMATOOL: And drinking, of course. But we eventually came to the conclusion that the only way to ensure our way of life continues would be if a not-insignificant portion of the local populace were selectively killed off…

MR. COPPAFEEL: A “culling,” if you like.

MR. IMMATOOL: But a humane culling, of course.

MR. COPPAFEEL: Oh, most certainly a humane culling.

MISS HANDCRANK: Well, I’m sorry. I know we all have to do our part, but I don’t feel like being culled today.

MR. COPPAFEEL AND MR. IMMATOOL EXCHANGE A FINAL LOOK.

MR. IMMATOOL: We were afraid that might be the case.

MISS HANDCRANK: (CONSIDERS THIS) Well, you might want to try Mr. Scrotum down the hall.

MR. COPPAFEEL: Do you think he might be interested in a humane culling?

MISS HANDCRANK: No, but that sonnovabitch keeps parking in my assigned spot. You’d be doing me a favor.

Adia: An Unwashed Grill

A WAREHOUSE SOMEWHERE IN THE CYBERPUNK-LIKE PORT CITY OF ADIA. NEON-LIGHTS. CHEAPLY MADE SCI-FI WONDER MACHINES, VEHICLES, AND OTHER NEEDLESS EVERYDAY THINGS. ALSO, IT STILL LOOKS OLD AND ABANDONED FOR SOME INEXPLICABLE REASON.

SIBIL: (COMMS) Night. A cluttered warehouse along Toader Cola & Weapons of Minimal Destruction Incorporated Harbor.

CUT TO:

THE CRAZED, CLUTTERED INTERIOR OF A WAREHOUSE SOMEWHERE IN THE CYBERPUNK-LIKE PORT CITY OF ADIA. GUN FIRE, LASER FIRE, FIRE FIRE, AND THE PAINED, FRIGHTENED SCREAMS OF HIRED GOONS.

GOON #1: This way! She’ll never find us–

PEW-PEW! GOON #1 DROPS DEAD FROM SOME SCI-FI PEW-PEW WEAPON.

SIBIL: (COMMS) January Embers, cloaked in a cloaking device, violently plays with her prey, completely unseen…

GOON #2: (POINTS) There she is!

ENTER JANUARY, CLOAKED, YET COMPLETELY VISIBLE FROM ALL THE ICKY STUFF COVERING HER FROM HEAD TO TOE.

SIBIL: (COMMS) …yet totally visible ‘cus of all the blood and such.

GOON #3: How many of us has she killed?!

PEW-PEW! PEW-PEW! JANUARY SHOOTS THE OTHER GOONS DEAD WITH THE SCI-FI PEW-PEW WEAPON.

JANUARY: Sibil, if you’re going to narrate everything, you can at least do it from the beginning.

SIBIL: (COMMS) I forgot.

JANUARY: You forgot?

SIBIL: (COMMS) Look. It’s not every day I get out to the harbor. I was absorbed by all the lights and trash reefs.

JANUARY: Why didn’t you bother narrating our drive out here? Or, oh, I don’t know, the last two hours we’ve been here?

SIBIL: (COMMS) I thought it was unnecessary exposition.

JANUARY: Whatever. Is that all the hired goons?

SIBIL: (COMMS) Not yet. The last one is currently attempting to…

AN ALARM ALARMS, AS IT DOES.

SIBIL: (COMMS) …activate the security alarm.

JANUARY TURNS TO…

GOON #4 STANDS AT A SECURITY PANEL, FINGERS ON THE SCREEN.

JANUARY: Hey! I see you!

GOON #4: Uh…

JANUARY: I was going to let you live, dude.

GOON #4: Really?

JANUARY: Guess you’ll never know now, huh?

GOON #4: (SHRUGS) Yeah, I guess so… (SIGHS) Go on, then.

JANUARY: Not gonna run or fight?

GOON #4: What for? I’m not getting paid enough for this.

JANUARY: (SHRUGS) Suit yourself.

JANUARY AIMS, READIES THE SCI-FI PEW-PEW WEAPON.

A PAUSE.

JANUARY: Ugh… You’re really taking the fun out of this.

GOON #4: Oh, I’m sorry. Is murdering me and my coworkers with some sci-fi weapon of minimal destruction not fun anymore?

JANUARY: Hey, you’re the ones working for a weapons manufacturer making a fortune from these things.

GOON #4: Whoa, whoa. A job is a job. Not like I have much choice of employment around here. It was this, or repossessing organs for some home electronics store.

JANUARY: That’s awful.

GOON #4: Tell me about it. Louie over there only took this job for the insurance. Poor guy is diabetic.

JANUARY: I mean, not anymore…

GOON #4: Sure, make jokes.

JANUARY: You’re not going to let this go, are you?

GOON #4: Nope.

A PAUSE.

JANUARY: (SIGHS)

JANUARY SHOOTS GOON #4 WITH THE SCI-FI PEW-PEW WEAPON.

SIBIL: (COMMS) Wow.

JANUARY: This place looks and smells like the underside of an unwashed grill, and this is what got to you?

SIBIL: (COMMS) No.

JANUARY: What is it then?

SIBIL: (COMMS) I just went over the job order again, and this idiot put the wrong address.

SOMETHING EXPLODES NEARBY.

JANUARY: (SIGHS) (SHAKES HEAD)

Meteo’kar vs The Promoters of the Universe

CHAPTER TWO

METEO’KAR VS THE PROMOTERS OF THE UNIVERSE

SFX: DING-DING! A BELL RINGS.

MUSIC: METEO’KAR: CHAMPION OF SPACE THEME. UP, UNDER.

ANNOUNCER: (VOICE-OVER) Watch! Right over there! It’s not an Eagle! It’s not a helicopter! No, you pencil-necked geek! It’s… (ECHOES) Meteo’kar, Champion of Space!

MUSIC: THEME FADES.

SOUNDSCAPE: SPACE. LOTS TO SEE, LITTLE TO DO.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) On our previous adventure, the alien being known as Kur’tahn J’kar relieved Buzz Aldrin of his head to become the new Champion of Earth. Meanwhile, Johnny “Twin-Beds” Joblonski defeated Tony “Two Thumbs” Pulcini, via failure to appear, for the Fountain Valley World Championship, which upset Kur’tahn quite a bit, if we’re being honest. In fact, it upset Kur’tahn so much that they teleported down from the moon to Fountain Valley, attempted to claim the Fountain Valley World Title for themselves, only to then be relieved of their own head when Johnny shattered it to pieces with a single, supernaturally powered punch. Fascinating stuff, really. You should have been there. But before Johnny could celebrate his unification of the Fountain Valley World Championship and the literal championship of the world, he found himself spirited away by a strange, annoying light…

SFX: JOHNNY WARPING THROUGH SPACE AMID A STRANGE, ANNOYING LIGHT.

For several months, Johnny cut across the planets and stars amid the strange, annoying light. Though, thanks to the warping of space and time and what have you, this inexplicably forced tour of deep space only felt like a few, long, agonizing hours to Johnny. Not too bad, all things considered. And just enough time for Johnny to reflect on how it all went wrong.

JOHNNY: I really shouldn’t have gotten out of bed.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Any day in particular?

JOHNNY: No, just in general.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Fair enough.

JOHNNY: I also probably shouldn’t have taken that booking from Medium Pete. Though, I did become World Champion.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Yeah, of Fountain Valley.

JOHNNY: And on a technicality… But at least I made enough money to cover the gas to the venue and back.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) That hardly seems to matter if you’re lightyears away from your car.

JOHNNY: Also true.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) But when he really thought about it, it all came down to the moment he witnessed “Crippling” Ed Diction throw Coconut Swallows into an on-coming car outside Classy Lou’s Erotic Dancing Emporium in Fontana.

CUT TO:

SOUNDSCAPE: A STRIPMALL IN FONTANA.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) You see, one morning, some thirty-seven years earlier, more or less, Johnny’s Uncle Swallows decided to take a little detour to a stripmall rather than to Johnny’s school.

SFX: A RICKETY PICKUP TRUCK PULLS INTO THE LOT.

YOUNG JOHNNY: Uncle Swallows, are we here for bowling or pool supplies?

UNCLE SWALLOWS: (LAUGHS AND LAUGHS AND LAUGHS…)

SFX: UNCLE SWALLOWS STEPS OUT OF THE TRUCK, CLOSES DOOR, WALKS AWAY.

YOUNG JOHN: Uncle Swallows?

UNCLE SWALLOWS: (OFF) (LAUGHS AND LAUGHS AND LAUGHS…)

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Fifteen minutes later, Uncle Swallows was escorted out of that strip club by aforementioned Mr. Diction…

SFX: MR. DICTION DRAGS UNCLE SWALLOWS OUT OF CLASSY LOU’S.

…and thrown into the path of an oncoming car.

SFX: MR. DICTION THROWS UNCLE SWALLOWS IN FRONT OF A MOVING CAR.

And as he witnessed some sort of criminal act in progress, a young Johnny “Twin-Beds” Jablonksi took note of how Mr. Diction was a rather large man capable of hurting a man much smaller, fatter, and drunker than him with both great ease and immense pleasure.

CUT TO:

SOUNDSCAPE: THE JABLONSKI FAMILY KITCHEN.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) The next morning, Johnny waited and waited for his ride to school.

YOUNG JOHNNY: Mom?

MOM: Yes, Sweetie?

YOUNG JOHNNY: Have you seen Uncle Swallows? I’m going to be late for school.

MOM: Who the Hell is Uncle Swallows?

CUT TO:

SOUNDSCAPE: A LARGE ARENA FILLED TO CAPACITY OF THOUSANDS. BUT IN SPACE.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Many years later and even more lightyears away…

SFX: THE STRANGE, ANNOYING LIGHT FADES IN, OUT.

…the strange, annoying light faded, and Johnny found himself standing in the middle of a wrestling ring in the middle of a large arena somewhere not even remotely close to the middle of space. The arena was filled to capacity with a live crowd of thousands, and trillions at home watched this unfold on one of several illegal streams on the space-internet. And a holographic projection of three teeny-headed, large-bellied men in oversized robes–

BOOK’URR: (PA SYSTEM) Who the Hell do you think you are?

JOHNNY: I think there’s been some sort of mistake.

PEN-CIL: (PA SYSTEM) You’re damn right! You’ve interfered with forces beyond your comprehension!

BOOK’URR: (PA SYSTEM) Look. We appreciate our independent contractors taking the initiative and blah-blah-blah, but we simply can’t have someone succeeding on their own merits.

PEN-CIL: (PA SYSTEM) What Book’urr means is that, while we love – while the fans love you…

THE ARENA ROARS TO LIFE, THEN IMMEDIATELY SILENCES.

JOHNNY: What the Hell?

PEN-CIL: (CONT’D) (PA SYSTEM) …we simply can’t afford to abandon our plans now.

JOHNNY: Your plans?

BOOK’URR: (PA SYSTEM) He knows of our plans? Pen-sil, he knows of the plans!

PEN-CIL: (PA SYSTEM) Who are you?

JOHNNY: No one of interest, I swear!

BOOK’URR: (PA SYSTEM) Did Phil send you? That sonnovabitch knows he can’t run shows here!

JOHNNY: I don’t know who Phil is!

PEN-CIL: (PA SYSTEM) (SCOFFS) You dare play games now, Boy?

JOHNNY: Seriously. I’m just… just some mediocre nobody who won the World Championship of freakin’ Fountain Valley.

PEN-CIL: (PA SYSTEM) (BELLOWS) Meteo’kar!

JOHNNY: Wait. Who?

PEN-CIL: (PA SYSTEM) I don’t care if you are your World’s Champion…

JOHNNY: Of Fountain Valley. I feel like it’s very important right now that I emphasize that, again, I am World Champion of Fountain Valley – a city known for a bowling alley, a park, and existing. In that order.

PEN-CIL: (PA SYSTEM) (IGNORES JOHN) …but if you insist on unraveling our handwork willy-nilly…

JOHNNY: I don’t. Really, I don’t. Also, did you just say, “willy-nilly”?

BOOK’URR: (PA SYSTEM) Enough! Nobody uses such language with the Promoters of the Universe!

PEN-CIL: (PA SYSTEM) What say you, General Manager? Your silence is… annoying.

GENERAL MANAGER: (PA SYSTEM) For your transgression, Meteo’kar…

JOHNNY: John. My name is “John”, not…

GENERAL MANAGER: (PA SYSTEM) (ALSO IGNORES JOHN) you are to compete one-on-one with “The Overseller!

THE ARENA ROARS ONCE MORE. ONE MAN IN PARTICULAR SQUEALS WITH A BIT TOO MUCH DELIGHT.

GENERAL MANAGER: (PA SYSTEM) (SMILES) Beseech me, Contestant!

MUSIC: METEO’KAR: CHAMPION OF SPACE THEME. UP, UNDER.

ANNOUNCER: (VOICE-OVER) Who is The Overseller? Who are these Promoters of the Universe? Where exactly is Johnny anyway? Will his car still be waiting for him when he gets back? Find out next time, maybe, on the next installment of… (ECHOES) Meteo’kar: Champion of Space!

SFX: DING-DING! A BELL RINGS.

FADE OUT.

Turgid Storage

STEVE: That last one was, “A Rather Distinct Lack of Talent,” from Luis Bowel-Movement. Still to come, the latest hits from Samanda, Warm Sensation, and Brennifer Lackluster. But first, a word from our sponsor, “Turgid Storage.”

STEVE PULLS OUT A LETTER.

(READS) “Hi, this is Tomathon Turgid, owner of Turgid Storage for the last thirty years. This message is to inform the locals and bitter former customers who knew me for the greedy, cold, heartless bastard that I was, that I have finally taken that vacation you lot have insisted on for years, flown myself to Hawaii, and thrown myself headfirst into an active volcano. Please, make no attempts to alert officials or to collect your belongings from your storage units. By the time whichever idiot they pay to read this on the air realizes what they’re doing, I will have already been consumed by the beautiful lava flows of Mount Kilauea. Also, I already auctioned off everyone’s units. Tickets aren’t cheap, and neither is bribing a pilot to fly me straight over an active volcano with the explicit purpose of throwing myself out of the moving airplane and into the aforementioned active volcano. You’re probably all wondering why I’ve done this, and it’s because I found Charlie Oralfixation dead in his unit the other day, alone, surrounded by the dried corpses of several cats, his rather impressive, if incomplete collection of Masters of the Universe action figures, and more bottles and bags of urine than I care to remember. So many, I suppose, that I’ve decided to throw myself into an active volcano from the sheer sight of it all. Goodbye, and please, someone remove Charlie’s corpse from his unit, or he will be auctioned off at the end of the month.”

Zeroes: In Loving Memory of Paulie Oldperson

BIG CITY NEWS. INTENSE MUSIC, NEWS ANCHOR, DESK, NEWS OF SOME FLAVOR. MELODRAMATIC AND OFFENSIVELY OVERPRODUCED.

NEWS ANCHOR: I’m Hugh Man. Tonight on Big City News, The Open-Micer, notorious, foul-mouthed supercriminal known for their deep-rooted insecurities, lack of self-awareness, and penchant for crossing lines with all the grace of a beached manatee, hijacked a local softball game this afternoon. After brutally murdering seventy-five year old Paulie Oldperson, the beloved voice of the Big City Little Peoples for over fifty years, The Open-Micer took control of the announcer’s booth and proceeded to torture the several hundred in attendance with a new thirty minute set. Eyewitness reports state that the set was arguably their best yet, but still relied heavily on dated racial humor, misogynistic undertones, and funny voices that weren’t very funny at all. By the time Nightshift arrived and put a premature end to The Open-Micer’s set, eighteen people were already left with severe brain damage, seven had torn off their own ears, and at least forty known fatalities. After thousands of dollars in property damage, the Open-Micer is currently in BCPD custody. But the question remains: why did Nightshift not kill this sadistic monster when they had the chance?

CUT TO:

THE DANK, HEADQUARTERS OF THE VIGILANTE NIGHTSHIFT. REALLY JUST A LAZILY CONVERTED MOTEL ROOM. NIGHTSHIFT BROODS IN A CHAIR. THE NIGHTWATCH (PECKER, NIGHTGIRL, AND DOUG) WATCH BCN.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Meanwhile, back at The Dank, the secret headquarters of the mysterious vigilante, Nightshift, crafted from the rodent-infested remains of an abandoned motel under a freeway, our hero broods in his favorite chair while The Nightwatch – Pecker, Nightgirl, and Doug – loyal friends and allies in an unending existential crisis, watch tonight’s broadcast of Big City News.

PECKER: He has a point, ya know.

NIGHTSHIFT: We don’t kill, Pecker.

PECKER: I know, I know. But hear me out…

NIGHTSHIFT: No.

PECKER: I’m going to say it anyway.

PAUSE.

NIGHTSHIFT: I’ll allow it.

PECKER: I get that, as a rule, you don’t kill…

NIGHTSHIFT: We don’t kill. If you work with me, we do not kill. Right, Nightgirl?

PECKER, NIGHTGIRL, DOUG LOOK AT EACH OTHER.

NIGHTGIRL: Yeah, sure. No killing. Just lots of serious, often permanent, life-altering injuries and brain-damage.

NIGHTSHIFT: Doug?

DOUG: I mean… not that I can confirm with any degree of certainty at the moment?

NIGHTSHIFT: Works for me.

PECKER: But The Open-Micer has killed hundreds of people over the years. He killed two of your last four Peckers!

NIGHTGIRL: I really miss Pecker #2.

DOUG: I still talk to #3.

NIGHTGIRL: Aww. How’s he doing?

DOUG: He’s still a bit bitter about not being able to ever walk again, but they’re adjusting.

NIGHTSHIFT: Look. There are certain lines you can’t cross and still come back. If I kill, I’m no better than The Open-Micer, Questionnaire, Ostrich, Murdering Mike, or any of the countless other costumed criminals and maniacs roaming the streets of Big City.

PECKER: Yeah, but even the police use lethal force.

NIGHTGIRL: The military, too.

NIGHTSHIFT: I didn’t become a vigilante working outside the law, enlist orphaned children and my neighbor as soldiers in my one-man war on crime, or squander my family’s vast fortune on an impressive selection of themed gear and equipment just to be compared to the police.

DOUG: You did beat up that homeless guy, though.

NIGHTSHIFT: Vagrancy is a crime, Doug!

NIGHTGIRL: Only because you paid off a dozen people to help pass the “Evict the Homeless” bill last year.

NIGHTSHIFT: (FAKE YAWNS, STRETCHES) Man, what time is it? Oh, wow. Is it that late already?

PECKER: We’re not done talking about this, Bruno.

NIGHTSHIFT: Yes, we are. (HANDS THEM SHEETS OF PAPER) Here are your assignments for tonight.

NIGHTGIRL: (READS) High-risk parkour across the skyline and security detail for Creme Yourself Donuts. Cool.

DOUG: (READS) Water the lawn.

PECKER: (READS) “Keep The Open-Micer company tonight in his cell at Big City Minimum Security Criminal Daycare for Costumed Criminals”?

NIGHTSHIFT: You’ve been slacking off lately, Pecker. There. I’ve said it.

My Way, Or the Hemingway

A PRESS CONFERENCE IN AN APARTMENT. A PODIUM AND MICROPHONE. VERY PROFESSIONAL, YET UTTERLY NOT. A CROWD OF JOURNALISTS, “JOURNALISTS”, AND OTHER ASSORTED PASSERSBY GATHER.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) In our previous misconceived attempt at humor, Steve, local recluse and man without money, finally managed to leave his apartment. He then immediately cocked it all up by choosing to talk to people. We now return to his apartment for an important-to-him press conference.

STEVE ENTERS, SPEAKS. HOW UNFORTUNATE FOR US. 

STEVE: Hello. I think we all know why we’re here.

RORY: (RAISES HAND) I don’t.

STEVE: Someone remove this man.

RORY: What did I do?

RORY IS BEATEN, DRAGGED OUT.

STEVE: Right. Look. We can stand here all day, blaming my wife for what’s transpired. And while I certainly won’t stop you all from doing just that, I also think it best we move on from her misplaced faith in my ability to, uh… well, to do much of anything, really.

Was this a mistake? Probably. But I’ve made mistakes before. And I’d much rather make mistakes than never make anything at all.

That said, I can only promise you that I will only continue to defecate into the void, creatively speaking. I will not be stopped. I cannot be stopped. Not until I’ve grown bored with whatever it is I’m doing and move on to something else entirely, which is what I plan on doing right. Thank you.

STEVE EXITS.

Is It Hot In Here, Or Is It Just Me?

AN APARTMENT. EXTERIOR. PLEASANT-ENOUGH DAY. A DOCILE, AMORPHOUS ZOMBIE HORDE IS.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) You would be blessed to have forgotten our last episode, in which Steve finally managed to leave his apartment under threat of sister-in-law. Why this was enough to finally overcome fractured time and space, a pleasant, yet violent man named “Melvin,” and a literal zombie horde, I’ll never know. Whatever the case, Steve eventually made his way through enough of the aforementioned zombie horde…

STEVE PUSHES HIS WAY THROUGH THE ZOMBIE HORDE, TO A CLEAR-ISH PLACE THE SIDEWALK.

…to reach the sidewalk outside his apartment.

STEVE: What’s with this zombie horde anyway? There’s a billion of them, but none of them seem particularly blood-thirsty.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) You almost sound disappointed.

STEVE: A bit.

STEVE LOOKS UP, DOWN, AND ALL ABOUT THE PLACE.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) As he looked every which way but within, Steve saw the horde stretched on and on, seemingly without end.

STEVE: I can speak for myself, ya know.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Fine. (WALKS AWAY) (OFF) No. No, Brixby. He said he can speak for himself, so let him do it. I don’t need this today.

A PAUSE.

STEVE: What was that about?

ZOMBIE #1: Are you in line?

STEVE: (STARTLED) Fucking Hell!

ZOMBIE #1: Is that a yes?

STEVE: I don’t know.

ZOMBIE #2: (GESTURES) Back of the line is over that way. It just snakes back this way.

ZOMBIE #1: Thanks.

STEVE: All of you are waiting in line?

ZOMBIE #1: I don’t know about anyone else, but I came here to take a picture with the new mural on the side of some gourmet erotic edible shop.

ZOMBIE #2: Oral Delights.

STEVE: You’re all here to take a photo of a wall?

ZOMBIE #1: No, with a wall.

STEVE: Oh. Well, that make’s much more sense.

ZOMBIE #1: It does?

STEVE: Not at all.

ZOMBIE #1: Oh.

STEVE: What’s so special about a wall that you’ll wait hours to take a picture with it?

ZOMBIE #2: I’ve been waiting for about three days, actually.

STEVE: (TO ZOMBIE #1) They said, “three days.”

ZOMBIE #1: They did.

STEVE: Why?

ZOMBIE #1: It’s a very popular wall.

STEVE: Popular as it may be, don’t you have anything better to do than to wait three days to take a picture of a wall?

ZOMBIE #1: With a wall.

STEVE: Right. Sorry. 

ZOMBIE #1: You want to take that one again?

STEVE: May I?

ZOMBIE #1: Please, do.

STEVE: Thank you. (BEAT) Don’t you have anything better to do than to wait three days to take a picture with a wall?

ZOMBIE #1: What else am I going to do?

STEVE: Watch a movie? Read a book? Drink some chemical cocktail that will ensure one never has to wait three days so as to take pictures with a wall?

ZOMBIE #1: With a wall.

STEVE: I said that.

ZOMBIE #1: Sorry.

ZOMBIE #2: I’m sorry, but don’t you feel this premise has become a bit unwieldy?

STEVE: Yeah. Sorry about that. Someone’s taken the rest of the day off, and left me to sort this one out on my own.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Oh, is that what happened?

STEVE: Yes?

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) I hate you.

STEVE: Me, too. And the faster you wrap this up, the faster we can both move on for the day.

A PAUSE.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Fine.

ZOMBIE #2: Thank you.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) And it was right about the time some idiot named “Steve” realized he was a big idiot…

STEVE: I’m sorry?

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) …the scene inexplicably came to a merciful, belated end.

STEVE: Wait. That’s it?

ZOMBIE #1: It does seem a bit lazy.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Not my problem.

ZOMBIE #1: Fair enough.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Tune in next time for our next half-assed attempt at entertainment: My Way, or The Hemingway!

The Job: Steakhouse Tony

A MAKESHIFT WRESTLING LOCKER ROOM LOCATED BEHIND A HIGH SCHOOL GYM. VARIOUS ODDLY SHAPED PEOPLE IN ODDLY DESIGNED COSTUMES. A SMELL THAT CAN BE SEEN.

FRANKIE: (VOICE-OVER) Injuries are an unfortunate part of the job. Health insurance, however, is not.

CUT TO:

FRANKIE SIDELINES, A HEFTY, SWEATY MAN IN OVERSIZED, YET SOMEHOW STILL SNUG CLOTHING, HOLDS A MAKESHIFT CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE BELT.

FRANKIE: I’m Frankie Sidelines, and I’ve been in the wrestling business for almost twenty years.

CUT TO:

A THIN, SMALL LINE OF MOSTLY BORED PEOPLE QUEUE UP OUTSIDE THE GYM. SIGNS FOR “TETANUS CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING”, “RUSTED NAILS AND RAZOR BLADES MURDERFIGHT” HANG HERE AND THERE.

FRANKIE: (VOICE-OVER) You hate to see it. Nobody wants to get hurt.

VARIOUS WRESTLERS ATTEMPT, FAIL TO CONVINCE ANYONE TO PAY FOR AN AUTOGRAPH, HANDMADE TEE-SHIRT, PENCIL, OR EVEN A PHOTOGRAPH.

And we do what we can to not seriously hurt each other. This is a competitive sport, afterall. We’re not stand-up comedians.

CUT TO:

FRANKIE IN THE MAKESHIFT LOCKER ROOM, STILL CLUTCHING TO THAT MAKESHIFT CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE BELT.

FRANKIE: In the last two decades, I’ve seen a lot of men and women suffer horrible hospital bills and long-term gaps in their wrestling resumes.

WRESTLER #1 LIMPS INTO THE LOCKER ROOM, BLEEDING INCONSIDERATELY ALL OVER EVERYONE’S THINGS.

One time after a show, Steakhouse Tony needed twenty staples in his head after a woman confronted him in the parking lot, demanded a refund, and then tazed him when he told her he wasn’t even on the show.

WRESTLER #2, BLEEDING AND WITH SOMETHING CLEARLY STICKING OUT OF THEM, IS DRAGGED INTO THE LOCKER ROOM.

“Springboard” Steve Goodknees can’t walk anymore after he broke his back doing a quadruple hickory-smoked dive onto the concrete floor outside of the ring. But those fifteen people who bought tickets, though? They definitely got their money’s worth.

WRESTLER #3 IS WHEELED INTO THE LOCKER ROOM ON A MAKESHIFT GURNEY, FALLS OFF.

And there was that time Two-Timing Tim Philanderer was stabbed in the ring during a match by one of his wives. He lived, but he only has one kidney now. Shame, really.

WRESTLER #4, STUFFING THEIR FACE WITH A CAN OF BEANS, CLUTCHES AT THEIR CHEST, SLUMPS OVER DEAD.

Fortunately, I’ve somehow managed to go all these years without any serious injuries. Probably because I only come to watch and hangout with anyone who gives me the time of day. But I’m doing my part, ya know. Gotta show them it’s all worth it.

Launch Them All Into Space

STEVE: Fact: Every fourteen days, one person dies while attempting to copulate with a shark or lion. One in eleventy succeeds.

Good evening. I’m Not Lying, I Swear, and I come to you this evening on behalf of Launch Them All Into Space. Whether it’s morons feeding themselves to apex predators; creepy, narcissistic, halfwit billionaires; or whichever one of you bastards defecated on my doorstep, Launch Them Into Space is the only nonprofit organization dedicated to sending the worst of us into space with no hope of return. And for only pennies a day, you can provide us with the ammo we so desperately need to swiftly and brutally pelt these self-absorbed, gold-hoarding doorstep defecators into a state of unconsciousness, securely load their bodies onto a rocket, and then, as promised, launch them all into space. Together, we can prove to the world that there is no problem that can’t be solved by strapping it to a cartoonishly large rocket.

Lines are open, my curtains are drawn, and I’ve got a lovely bit of soft jazz playing in the background.

Zeroes: Attack of The Tack Hammer

LOS ANGELES. NOT AN APPLE, BE IT LITTLE OR LARGE. BUT LOTS OF PEOPLE. LOTS OF TRAFFIC. SOMEHOW EVEN MORE ROAD CONSTRUCTION.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Not very long ago, in a less interesting part of Los Angeles…

AN INSULTINGLY EXPENSIVE SHOEBOX OF AN APARTMENT. TIM LAZILY WATCHES INTERNET VIDEOS.

…a rather stupid man named Tim sat at home, watching funny internet videos. But after a video listing the definitive top ten shades of beige…

TIM BECOMES MILDLY MORE INTERESTED.

…Tim soon found himself watching one video after the next on how to become a supervillain. And while he never had much interest in physical activity…

TIM GRABS, JIGGLES, SHRUGS AT HIS PHYSIQUE.

…Tim did like the idea of wearing gaudy costumes all day instead of a gaudy work uniform.

TIM NODS IN AGREEMENT.

By the end of the night, Tim had a solid understanding on the basics of supervillainy.

A KNOCK AT THE DOOR.

By the middle of the week, thanks to Unicorp’s two-day delivery option…

TIM OPENS DOOR, FINDS DELIVERY-MAN STANDING THERE WITH A LARGE PACKAGE.

Tim had his first off-the-rack supervillain costume.

DELIVERY-MAN: Sign here, please.

TIM SIGNS FOR, TAKES PACKAGE, SLAMS DOOR IN DELIVERY-MAN’S FACE.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) By the time Tim eventually opened the package…

TIM STRUGGLES TO OPENS PACKAGE, PULLS OUT A CHEAP DOMINO MASK, CAPE, AND TACK HAMMER.

…and pulled out the small domino mask, a cape, and a tack hammer waiting within… 

TIM DONS THE DOMINO MASK AND CAPE, HOLDS UP TACK HAMMER, AND ENGORGES WITH VILLAINOUS PRIDE.

…he had already mostly decided on a villainous codename.

TIM: I am… “The Tack Hammer”!

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) And five minutes before his shift on Friday, Tim marched on over to Cheap Phones and Smokes…

TIM MARCHES OVER TO:

A CELL PHONE REPAIR AND CIGAR SHOP. A BORED CLERK SITS BEHIND A COUNTER.

…the cell phone repair and discount cigar shop where he was still technically employed…

TIM, ENTERS, EFFORTLESSLY HOLDS IT HOSTAGE WITH HIS TACK HAMMER.

…held it hostage with that tack hammer of his, and demanded a staggering eleventy million dollars.

CUT TO:

A LIMO PULLED OVER ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD. THE LIMBO DRIVER, A MAN IN A CHEAP SKULL MASK AND CHAUFFEUR OUTFIT, SITS BEHIND THE WHEEL. POLICE-MAN STANDS BY THIS.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Meanwhile, in a different, equally less interesting part of Los Angeles, an even less interesting man also named Tim, but known to even fewer as the skull-masked, limo-driving vigilante, “The Limbo Driver,” was attempting to respond to The Tack Hammer’s devious, surprisingly effective ploy, only to find himself pulled over by Police-Man.

POLICE-MAN: Do you know why I pulled you over?

LIMBO DRIVER: Was it because I was going ninety miles an hour in a residential neighborhood?

POLICE-MAN: No, I’m going to let that one slide.

LIMBO DRIVER: Oh, thank god. Another one of those, and I’m going to lose my license.

POLICE-MAN: Don’t celebrate just yet. My telepathic link to the national local crime database tells me your Superhero License expired last week.

LIMBO DRIVER: Shit.

CUT TO:

CHEAP PHONES AND SMOKES. TIM HOLDS HIS TACK HAMMER IN ONE HAND AND A SACK MARKED WITH A DOLLAR SIGN IN THE OTHER. CLERK STILL SEATED BEHIND THE COUNTER.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) And that’s how, with only a tack hammer and one man’s inability to pay his bills even with a thirty-day notice, Tim successfully walked away a true supervillain and eleventy million dollars richer.

I’m Allergic to Selfish, Or Bucket of Artificial Crabs

AN APARTMENT. STEVE SITS WITH HIS WIFE.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) In our last turgid episode, Steve made yet another attempt to leave his apartment, so as to get a bit of sun and hopefully stop smelling so much like the dog. But when he opened the front door, Steve came face to face with a large, but pleasant man named Melvin.

STEVE: (TO AUDIENCE) He really was pleasant.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) As his wife…

WIFE: (TO AUDIENCE) Hello.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) …their neighbor, Rory… 

RORY: (TO AUDIENCE)(OFF) Hi!

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) …and eventually Steve himself…

SILENCE.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Well?

STEVE: (LOOKS AROUND) Me?

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Yes, you. Aren’t you going to say “hello” to the audience, too?

STEVE: What? No.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Really?

STEVE: Seems a bit gratuitous. Besides, (GESTURES) they already did it.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) You’re serious.

STEVE: Deathly.

A PAUSE.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) As these idiots stepped out into the hallway, Melvin proceeded to rip them in half with his bare hands for reasons even Melvin wasn’t entirely clear on.

STEVE: That part wasn’t very pleasant, I’ll admit.

NARRATOR: (TO STEVE) I hate you. (TO AUDIENCE) Anyway. Steve and his wife now sit in their apartment, perhaps a bit confused and inexplicably damned in all sorts of ways, but otherwise fine.

WIFE: Steve… What’s the real reason you won’t go outside?

STEVE: I’ve tried!

WIFE: So you keep saying, and yet… (GESTURES)

STEVE MARCHES TO THE FRONT DOOR.

STEVE: (GESTURES) Every single time I open this door and attempt to leave, something awful happens!

WIFE: There’s no need to be so dramatic.

STEVE: Dramatic? First, I can’t step foot out of this apartment without breaking physics itself by stepping right back into the exact same apartment. Then, a large, pleasant man named Melvin rips us in half in a definitively unpleasant manner.

WIFE: So, you’ve experienced a few negative interactions. You can’t let that color how you see the whole world.

STEVE: Okay. Well, let’s see what absurd Hell awaits us today, hmm?

STEVE OPENS THE DOOR.

A HORDE OF ZOMBIES FILLS THE HALLWAY.

STEVE: Zombies.

ZOMBIE RORY WALKS BY.

ZOMBIE RORY: (WAVES) Hi, guys.

STEVE & WIFE: Hi, Rory.

ZOMBIE RORY: You two thinking of joining the zombie horde?

STEVE: We’re undecided.

ZOMBIE RORY: I hear ya. I wasn’t sold on it at first, to tell the truth. But then I…

STEVE SLAMS THE DOOR CLOSED.

STEVE: Preachy zombies.

WIFE: Steve, they’re people just like you and me.

STEVE: They’re flesh-eating ghouls!

WIFE: We all have our faults. Besides, it’ll do you good to socialize.

STEVE: But I don’t want to socialize.

WIFE: Fine. Have it your way. But just so you know, my sister is coming over today.

STEVE: The one I dislike, or the one I dislike slightly less?

WIFE: The one you can’t stand.

A PAUSE.

STEVE OPENS THE DOOR, STEPS OUT INTO THE ZOMBIE HORDE.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Steve stepped out into the zombie horde, unsure of what awaited him, aside from all the zombies, or that he’d left without his wallet, keys, or phone. Tune in next time for our next complete waste of time: “Is It Hot in Here, Or Is It Just Me?”

The Waiting Game, Or Out of Line

AN APARTMENT. STEVE, LOOKING AS IF HE’S BEEN BEATEN WITH SOME SORT OF BEATING ROD, STARES AT THE FRONT DOOR.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) When we last left Steve, the reclusive man made of dust and despair had been specifically instructed by his wife to leave their apartment for a little sun and a lot of de-mold-ification. But when he finally relented, Steve quickly discovered that while he could look outside his apartment, any attempt to cross the threshold somehow sent him stepping right back into it. Of course, when his wife returned…

WIFE ENTERS, LOVINGLY HOLDS BEATING ROD.

…she proved herself a woman of her very violent word. For his failing, Steve was beaten mercifully out of sight of an audience and left to think about why he was so comfortable smelling like a petulant chihuahua.

STEVE: (TO AUDIENCE) It could be worse, the dog could smell like me.

WIFE NODS.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) After a good night’s rest for his wife, Steve woke the next morning and hadn’t stopped staring at their front door. His wife, meanwhile, stood there wondering why her husband wouldn’t get out of her way.

WIFE: Are you going to stand there all day, or what?

STEVE: Sorry.

STEVE STEPS ASIDE, OPENS DOOR.

WIFE: (WAGS BEATING STICK) You better leave the apartment today. I don’t care how long you’re out, but at least roll around in some dirt or something to mask that awful smell. People are starting to wonder if there’s a corpse rotting away in here.

STEVE: Did anyone else ask about all the pained screaming or sound of a beating rod cracking against bone?

WIFE: Oddly enough, no.

WIFE STEPS INTO THE HALL.

Oh, and I’ll be a little late tonight. I’ve got to take the beating rod in for repairs. I think I bent it on your clavicle last night. (WAVES) Love you!

SHE TURNS, LEAVES.

STEVE CLOSES DOOR.

STEVE: Finally, this plot can get moving.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Indeed! Because only a moment after he’d closed the door, Steve heard a blood-chilling scream come from beyond it!

STEVE: What? No, I didn’t.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Odd, there was supposed to be–

WIFE SCREAMS A BLOOD-CHILLING SCREAM FROM SOMEWHERE BEYOND THE DOOR.

Ah! There it is!

STEVE: That certainly was a blood-chilling scream.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) After wondering whether or not he really wanted to involve himself in someone else’s business, Steve eventually opened the door.

STEVE: (POUTS) Ugh… Fine.

STEVE RELUCTANTLY OPENS THE DOOR.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) But all he found out there was a rather large, but pleasant man covered in blood and viscera.

MELVIN: (WAVES) Hello.

STEVE: Who are you?

MELVIN: I’m Melvin.

STEVE: Hi, Melvin. Did you happen to hear someone scream a blood-chilling scream out here?

MELVIN: When?

STEVE: Just now.

MELVIN: (LISTENS) I don’t hear anything.

STEVE: No, not “right now.” More like “right now, but really a moment ago.”

MELVIN: Oh! Then, yes. I do recall hearing someone scream a blood-chilling scream. Why do you ask?

STEVE: Mostly to keep this show moving along.

MELVIN: Fair enough.

STEVE: Did you also happen to see my wife leave?

MELVIN: Is your wife the lovely woman who stepped out of that apartment of yours?

STEVE: That’s right.

MELVIN: I was afraid of that.

STEVE: What do you mean?

MELVIN: I have a bit of a confession to make.

STEVE: Go on.

MELVIN: I killed your wife. Tore her to pieces, drank her blood. That sort of thing.

STEVE: I thought that might be the case. Any particular reason why?

MELVIN: (SHRUGS) I’m not sure. But I’ve been killing anyone who stepped out of their apartment for as long as I can remember.

STEVE: And how long is that?

MELVIN: (CONSIDERS THIS) Huh. I don’t remember.

STEVE: Fascinating. Well, if you did kill my wife, where’s her body?

MELVIN: Oh, Perry the Corpse Recycler comes along and cleans up after I’m done.

STEVE: Of course.

MELVIN: Perry’s been an absolute life saver. I don’t know how I’d manage to violently dismember every damned soul that made the mistake of leaving their apartment and properly dispose of all the bodies.

RORY STEPS OUT OF THEIR APARTMENT.

RORY: Hey, what’s going on here? Who’s the guy covered in all that blood and viscera?

MELVIN: (TO STEVE) Sorry, I’ve got to get back to work.

STEVE: (LOOKS TO RORY, BACK TO MELVIN) Right. Have at it.

MELVIN APPROACHES RORY.

MELVIN: Hi, Rory. Off to the store again?

RORY: That’s right. Do I know you?

MELVIN: Oh, you’ll remember soon enough.

STEVE CLOSES THE DOOR.

STEVE: Nice guy.

RORY SCREAMS A BLOOD-CHILLING SCREAM FROM SOMEWHERE BEYOND THE DOOR.

STEVE: But I wonder what Melvin meant by all that “damned soul” business. (SHRUGS) I’m sure it’s nothing.

MELVIN: (OFF) Thank you, Perry!

STEVE: Well, I suppose there’s no sense in stretching this premise any thinner.

STEVE OPENS DOOR, STEPS OUT.

STEVE: Hey, Melvin!

STEVE CLOSES DOOR.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) But if he had waited a moment longer, perhaps Steve wouldn’t have been so bored as to willingly throw himself into the waiting, blood- and viscera-soaked arms of a large man named Melvin. Because just a brief moment after Steve stepped out, but also a brief moment before he was torn in twain by Melvin, Steve’s wife returned home in one piece.

DOOR OPENS, WIFE ENTERS.

WIFE: Steve? Are you home? I forgot my…

STEVE SCREAMS A BLOOD CHILLING SCREAM.

WIFE: Huh. I can’t believe he actually went outside.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Be sure to avoid our next meh-tacular episode: “I’m Allergic to Selfish, Or Bucket of Artificial Crabs!”

The Job: Rabid Frenzy

A BIRTHDAY PARTY IN SOMEONE’S BACKYARD. CHEAP, YET OVERPRICED PARTY DECORATIONS. EXHAUSTED ADULTS. UNMUZZLED CHILDREN OFF THEIR LEASHES.

RILEY: (VOICE-OVER) We don’t do it for the money. The Job is about passion. It’s about dedication to a craft. You can’t get into this business expecting fortune and glory. Mostly because the pay is shit.

CUT TO:

RILEY RABID, A HEFTY MAN IN PLEATHER, ADDRESSES THE CAMERA.

RILEY: My name is Riley Rabid, and I am one half of the tag-team “Rabid Frenzy”, along with my partner, Freddy Frenzy.

CUT TO:

TWO BACKYARD WRESTLERS, DRESSED IN TATTERED STREET CLOTHES AND NO PROTECTION, “COMPETE” IN A MAKESHIFT RING WITH MAKESHIFT WEAPONS. SEVERAL PARTY GUESTS WATCH.

RILEY WATCHES THIS FROM A SAFE DISTANCE.

RILEY: Look at those guys. Killing each other for free. That’s the difference between professionals and backyarders. This is our life. This is who we are, every day, all day. We aren’t a couple of “weekend warriors” looking to make a quick buck and a bad joke of the business, ya know.

WRESTLER #2 BEATS WRESTLER #1 WITH A VCR.

I mean, we do work weekends. Almost exclusively, now that I think about it. But that’s only because most shows are on the weekend.

CUT TO:

BACKYARD WRESTLER #1 TEARS OUT THE THROAT OF WRESTLER #2’S, CELEBRATES BY DRINKING THE BLOOD OF THEIR FALLEN FOE. PARTY GUESTS POLITELY CLAP.

RILEY: You’d never catch me doing that sort of thing for free. No, sir.

FREDDY FRENZY, A FLABBY MAN IN PLEATHER, WADDLES UP TO RILEY.

(TO FREDDY) How’d it go?

FREDDY: (HANDS RILEY A FIVER) I talked the mom into paying us half upfront.

RILEY: Nice.

FREDDY: Get ready. We’re up next.

RILEY PUTS ON A BIG, RED CLOWN NOSE.

RILEY: I’m always ready.

FREDDY PUTS ON A COlORFUL WIG AND RED NOSE.

FREDDY: Let’s do this.

THEY HIGH FIVE AND WADDLE OFF TO JOIN THE PARTY, HONKING HORNS AND GENERALLY CLOWNING IT UP.

Poopr

STEVE: Hi, I’m what’s wrong with the world today. If you’re like me, you’ve often found yourself consumed with a persistent sense that someone is waiting to sneak up on you, inject you with some sort of drug or chemical that will render you unconscious, and then spirit you away to some distant warehouse where they will either harvest your organs or simply devour you alive, inch by fleshy inch. And also like me, perhaps you also loathe waiting in line to use a filthy public toilet that looks as if God herself was in a rather bad mood the day she saw fit to damn a shaped bit of porcelain to a lifetime of being on the receiving end of American cuisine. In any case, that’s why I use Poopr. (HOLDS UP PHONE) Poopr is an all-new, web-based indentured servant application that allows anyone with far too much money, and far too little shame, to hire some poor bastard to drive across a traffic-choked city so as to squat behind you with an official Poopr canvas bag and collect your feces. Whether you’re at a coffee shop, a public park, or the changing room at your local department store, Poopr will be there to take advantage of a failing economy and the unloved souls who exist within it. Poopr: life has never been squandered quite like this.

Paper Bag Critic: Contractual Obligations

THE LAST VIDEO STORE ON EARTH. CINEMATICO MAGNIFICO ADDRESSES THE AUDIENCE, AS IS HIS FAILING.

CINEMATICO: Hello, and welcome to The Last Video Store on Earth. I’m Cinematico Magnifico.

Our first movie this week is, “Contractual Obligations,” featuring stand-up actress Brittigail Barbiturates as Tayloria Surname, a recently divorced quantum hairstylist and hobbyist civil engineer struggling with a sprained elbow. But just when it seems she’s found the strength to play tennis again with the local convenience store clerk, Boberto, Tayloria discovers the city will be wiped off the face of the Earth when their town’s poorly maintained sewer system explodes in three days time.

Let’s take a look.

CUT TO:

A CLIP FROM “CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATIONS”.

A CONVENIENCE STORE. BOBERTO, THE CLERK, STANDS BEHIND THE COUNTER, PRACTICING HIS BACKSWING. A WOMAN SCRATCHES AWAY AT A LOTTERY TICKETS AS SHE PURCHASES ADDITIONAL SCRATCH-OFF TICKETS. A LINE OF CUSTOMERS GATHERS, WAITS BEHIND THIS.

WOMAN: (STILL SCRATCHING TICKETS) Can I get two more of the Broke-and-Desperates, three of the Sunken Costs, and one dollar in quarters?

BOBERTO: Quarters?

WOMAN: (HOLDS UP WHAT USED TO BE A QUARTER) Yeah, I’ve already worn this one down to practically nothing.

CUSTOMER #1: How much longer is this going to take?

BOBERTO: It takes as long as it takes.

BRITTIGAIL AS TAYLORIA STORMS INTO A CONVENIENCE STORE. SHE SPEAKS FROM BEHIND THE GATHERING LINE OF CUSTOMERS.

TAYLORIA: Boberto!

BOBERTO: Tayloria!

TAYLORIA: I have to talk with you!

BOBRETO: I’m gonna need a minute to deal with this line.

TAYLORIA: Boberto, this is important!

CUSTOMER #2: You heard the man. (GESTURES) Back of the line is that way.

WOMAN: Oh, I got a free ticket on this one.

CUSTOMERS: (ANNOYED GROANS)

TAYLORIA: Boberto, we need to leave! Now!

BOBERTO: Leave? I just clocked in.

CUSTOMER #1: Get outta here, lady!

CUSTOMER #2: Yeah! You’re holding up the line!

CUSTOMERS ANGRILY PELT TAYLORIA WITH ASSORTED SNACKS AND DRINKS.

WOMAN: (SHAKES HEAD) Some people just don’t know when they’re being a problem!

TAYLORIA: (GROWLS) There’s a gas pocket building in the sewer system, and if we don’t leave now, you, me, the Gulp-n-Leave, and everyone else in a five-mile radius of the city limits are going to be blown to Hell and back!

A SILENCE.

BOBERTO: (OVERLY EMOTIONAL) You had me at “blown to Hell and back”.

CUT TO:

CINEMATICO, SUFFERING THROUGH IT ALL.

CINEMATICO: Written by A. Moron and directed by an incompetent chihuaua, “Contractual Obligation” is plagiarized dribble from the chin of other, equally terrible films. The three-and-a-half hours I spent locked in a closet, watching it on my phone with a broken screen, were mostly wasted. The resulting brain damage has left me incontinent, insufferable, and utterly incapable of recalling anything other than seething anger and the faint smell of toast. I hate it, I hate you, and I wish I’d never been born. But because this movie was also co-produced by today’s sponsor, Food-in-a-Box, I’m being forced to give it some sort of positive rating on an arbitrary scale.

Up next, we’ll take a look behind the scenes of the upcoming romantic horror dramedy, “Boners.” But first, another complete waste of time.

Hell, Or Something Like It

AN APARTMENT. STEVE STANDS AROUND LIKE THE CLUELESS RECLUSE THAT HE IS.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Our story opens today in a depressing apartment where Steve, amateur professional and local recluse, made the mistake of reading a message from his wife.

STEVE OPENS, READS MESSAGE FROM HIS WIFE.

WIFE: (VOICE-OVER) My love, my sweet, my mold- and dust-infested rock chained around my ankle, for the love of hyperbole, please go outside and get a bit of sun today. Please.

STEVE: (POUTS) Ugh…

WIFE: (VOICE-OVER) I heard that.

STEVE: (LOOKS AROUND) What? How?

WIFE: (VOICE-OVER) Never mind that. Just go outside, or I’ll beat you clean like a rug when I get home. Honestly. You smell like the dog.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) With his wife’s insulting threat of violence fresh in his mind and an insecure whiff of himself…

STEVE SNIFFS SELF, SHRUGS.

…Steve eventually left his apartment and ventured forth into the sun-infested world beyond.

STEVE RELUCTANTLY STEPS OUT OF HIS APARTMENT.

Or, at least, that’s what he would have done…

STEVE INEXPLICABLY STEPS BACK INTO HIS APARTMENT.

STEVE: What the hell?

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) …had he not inexplicably stepped back into his apartment.

STEVE: (TO NARRATOR) That’s crazy, and you know it.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Perhaps. Yet, here we are.

NEIGHBOR: (OFF) Who ya talkin’ to?

STEVE: (STARTLED) Fucking hell!

STEVE TURNS TO FIND NEIGHBOR STANDING IN THE HALLWAY.

NEIGHBOR: Hey, neighbor!

STEVE: Hey… (PUZZLES THIS) You.

NEIGHBOR: You forgot my name again, didn’t you?

A PAUSE.

STEVE: Nevermind that. Can I ask you a question?

NEIGHBOR: Can you tell me my name?

STEVE: No, but I’m going to ask my question anyway. (GESTURES) How did you get there?

NEIGHBOR: Well. The way my mom tells it, it all started when my dad was startled by the sound of my grandparents’ station wagon pulling into the driveway…

STEVE: The hallway. How did you get there, out in the hallway?

NEIGHBOR: Oh… (HOLDS UP BAG OF GOODIES) I stepped out to get myself a drink and some snacks from the corner store.

STEVE: You just… stepped out?

NEIGHBOR: Yeah.

STEVE: And that worked?

NEIGHBOR: Uh-huh.

STEVE: So, you didn’t step out only to then immediately step right back into your apartment?

NEIGHBOR: Nope.

STEVE: I see.

A PAUSE.

NEIGHBOR: I’m going to go back to my apartment now.

STEVE: (SHOOS) Yes, fine. Go.

NEIGHBOR WALKS AWAY, ENTERS THEIR APARTMENT.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) With his neighbor, whose name he totally remembered, back in their apartment and nobody else around…

STEVE STICKS HIS HEAD OUT THE DOOR, LOOKS AROUND.

…Steve leaped out his door…

STEVE LEAPS OUT HIS DOOR.

…and inexplicably lands right back in his apartment.

STEVE INEXPLICABLY LANDS RIGHT BACK IN HIS APARTMENT.

STEVE: Fucking hell!

A DOOR OPENS DOWN THE HALLWAY.

NEIGHBOR: (OFF) You okay there, Steve?

STEVE: Yes… (CONSIDERS THIS) Rory?

A PAUSE.

NEIGHBOR: (OFF) You got lucky.

DOOR CLOSES DOWN THE HALLWAY.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) For the next several hours, Steve jumped out of and back into his apartment…

STEVE STEP JUMPS OUT, BACK INTO HIS APARTMENT. AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN.

…threw canned goods out of his apartment…

STEVE THROWS A CAN OUT INTO THE HALL. IT STAYS THERE.

…that, for whatever reason, didn’t immediately come right back into his apartment…

STEVE STARES AT A NOT-INSUBSTANTIAL PILE OF CANNED GOODS, THE PILE OF CANS STARES BACK.

STEVE: Hmm.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) …and he even tossed his dog out into the hallway, just to be sure.

STEVE TOSSES HIS DOG OUT INTO THE HALL.

DOG WALKS BACK INTO THE APARTMENT, CONFUSED, BUT FINE.

STEVE LOOKS AT DOG, TO THE PILE OF CANS IN THE HALLWAY, BACK TO THE DOG. THEN…

STEVE: Shit-fart-damn-hell!

WIFE: (OFF) What are you doing?

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) It was right about the time someone asked, “What are you doing?”, when Steve’s Wife returned home.

STEVE LOOKS, FINDS WIFE STANDING IN THE HALLWAY.

STEVE: Hello, my love.

WIFE: Don’t tell me you’ve been in here all day again.

STEVE: Okay, I won’t.

A PAUSE.

WIFE STEPS AROUND STEVE, INTO THE APARTMENT.

WIFE: Close the door, please.

STEVE: Yes, my love.

WIFE: (OFF) Oh, and get the beating rod.

STEVE: (SIGHS) Fine…

STEVE CLOSES THE APARTMENT DOOR.

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) But just as he closed the door to their apartment, it occurred to Steve that he never bothered to try the window.

STEVE: (BEHIND DOOR) Farting balls!

NARRATOR: (VOICE-OVER) Don’t miss our next oddly mundane episode: “The Waiting Game,” or “Out of Line.”

TO BE CONTINUED…