Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dying Pet Sounds

Fort Braggart, East Carolina. Starbucks. 0900 hrs.
Well, shit. When I'd heard there was a "Starbucks" opening downtown, I naturally assumed the place had something to do with the guy from Battlestar Galactica. I realized I was wrong as soon as I joined the crowd packed inside for the grand opening--I was the only guy there dressed as Count Iblis, and what I first mistook for a Cylon turned out to be an espresso machine.
I decided to stay anyway. I could use a coffee, and I was pretty sure some chicks would want to explore the interior of my mysterious space-vampire costume regardless. I spent my thirty minutes in line deciding which woman would win a fantasy date with me, and had decided on the fat one when my turn came up.
"Welcome to Starbucks!" He was skinny and pale in the way that liberals and junkies are. "I'm you're barista, Zane."
"You ain't gonna be my barista in this state, Zane," I told him. "We passed an amendment banning that sort of thing."
I eyed the menu but couldn't make sense of it. "I don't speak German," I said, "so I'm gonna order in regular english like I do at Big Jim's Breakfast Barn...I'm here for coffee, not some fancy shit."
"Sure," Zane said, recognizing a dangerous mercenary when he saw one.
"Right, then...Gimme a venti quad mocha valencia with soy. And make it quick, son."
I checked the place out while I waited for my order, and noticed they sold subversive CDs from punk-rock acts like John Mayer. I made a mental note to report it to Homeland Security.
"McFab!" A worker handed me my coffee, and I spat my wad of chewing tobacco into the spittoon on the counter. Jesus, I thought, looking where I had spit. Some idiot put money in their spittoon. Oh, well. You can't outlaw dumb. I was headed for the door when the bulletin board caught my eye.
Stand up and fight!, the flyer read. I looked around me. Just who in here wanted to fight me? I didn't spot an obvious threat so I took a closer look at the poster. Join PETTA tonight at the Fort Braggart Public Library, it read, and bring your self-righteousness.
I had heard of PETTA and their desperately unattractive leader, Ingrid Oldgroddy, and I actually agreed with a lot of what they said. I knew, for instance, that they were against testing drugs and chemicals on animals-- and I am, too. Why test on animals when we have criminals and Mexicans available to us?
I decided to attend the meeting and find out more about this group. If they were on the up and up, I could maybe do some mercenary work for them, take out some of their rivals. If they were anti-American, I would do what I always do with those types...I'd take them down. Take them right down to Hell.
I sipped my mocha, careful not to burn my mouth.

The McFab compound. 1800 hrs.
I had spent the afternoon researching PETTA, and I hadn't liked what I'd found. They were a splinter group of PETA, the terrorist group that tries to disrupt the American economy by slowing down sausage and mink production. Apparently the difference between the two groups was that PETTA felt it was okay to eat kidney beans whereas PETA still insisted the name sounded "too much like viscera" to be humane. The split didn't matter to me anyway--they were one and the same in my book and if I didn't like what I saw at the meeting they'd have one angry mercenary too many on their hands.
Still, though, I love animals, and was willing to keep an open mind. Besides, its a known fact that activist chicks are easy...and I was long overdue.
I started getting dressed for a night with the ladies.

Fort Braggart Public Library. 2000 hrs.
I was ready for action, decked out in my mauve BDU trousers, All Merc and No Play T-Shirt, and a good quarter-cup of mustache wax. The ladies would be on me like ants on an old, dead grasshopper.
I was ready for another kind of action, as well. I had a knife hidden in one combat boot, a sharpened spork in the other, and a urine-filled watergun tucked down the back of my pants. If I needed any other weapons, I could use my training to improvise. I had once made a working crossbow out of an empty beer can, a hot dog, and two handfuls of my own pubes...and that weapon had nearly blinded me. I'd be ready, no matter what.
The PETTA group wasn't hard to spot. They had commandeered a round table over by the Hobbies and Vivisection shelves, and they were dressed like typical liberals. Lots of sandals, no mustaches, and hemp where a gold chain with an eagle or anchor should be. I counted eight of them, six broads and two people. I liked my odds should it come to a fight, and the weight of the water gun reassured me. I had enough urine to go around.
"Howdy ladies," I smiled, approaching the table. I gave the guys a look that let them know the term "ladies" included them, too.
"Hi," one of the girls said. "I'm Morningflower. Please, join us."
I took a seat between a girl with a purple high-and-tight and a guy with what appeared to be long, braided feces growing out of his head.
Morningflower introduced me around. Besides her, there was a chick named Oracle Goat and four broads named Dawn. The guy with the braids was Colt, and his "partner," as he put it, was a black guy named Hondo who had decided to be deaf and mute as a form of protest when pancake-wrapped sausages were first introduced into the frozen breakfast foods market.
"Pleased to meet you freaks," I said. "I'm Randy McFab. You might know me from various media accounts...The failed hostage rescue ..." Blank stares. "The assault on Lane Bryant?" Still no recognition. Christ, did these people ever get out? "American mercenary prosecuted in subway groping?"
"Oh, yeah!" They knew me, and I admit it's an ego boost to be famous.
"Welcome, earth brother," Colt said, and his partner Hondo waved his hands around in a peculiar pattern. "He's signing 'welcome'," Colt explained.
"That's funny," I said, "I know ASL, and it looks to me like Hondo just signaled in a double steal."
"Well..."Colt got a little defensive. "Hondo hasn't had time to learn ASL since his protest. He's just using what he learned in the minor leagues."
Holy dogshit. It dawned on me. "Hondo" was Hondova Mojito, the Dominican slugger who had been a top major-league prospect before he spent a weekend with ex-Dolphins running back Ricky Williams in Amsterdam and came back insisting no strike should be called when one hits the "imaginary" ball. He was out of baseball shortly thereafter, and hadn't been seen since.
I wasn't going to embarrass him, so I just signed for him to lay down a bunt and concentrated on the ladies.
"Randy," Morningflower said, "we were just talking about what we can do to stop the cruelty going on at Fishco."
"Fishco?" I knew Fishco, it was the store out at the mall where they sell tropical fish, aquariums-- all the stuff you need if you're too cold and impersonal to own a dog or cat. I certainly hadn't seen any cruelty there.
"Yes, Fishco," Oracle Goat said. I noticed she was kind of hot, and stroked my mustache at her. "Fishco," she went on, oblivious, "are modern-day Nazis. They intern fish and then...then..." She broke down.
"It's okay," One-of-Four Dawns said, holding her. "What they do Randy, is...They sell them. They sell the fish."
"They sell the fish, man," Colt said, and Hondo added an indignant "take the next pitch."
"So..." I was a bit lost.
"They sell them," Morningflower said, regaining her composure, "into slavery!"
"Slavery?" I was against some forms of slavery, but had no idea the institution could involve tetras.
"Slavery, Randy," Oracle Goat said. "Just like the white man selling Africans to the highest bidder. That's what pet stores do."
"So...Let me get this straight," I said. "Selling pets is the moral equivalent of enslaving human beings?"
"Yes!" They all nodded agreement, except for Hondo, who tugged his left ear and brushed an elbow.
"That would be ridiculous," I said, "if you weren't kind of hot, Oracle Goat. So what do you want me to do?"
"Well..." She batted her eyes at me. "I see you're a..."
"Man of action?" I suggested.
"Yes...I mean, Colt here obviously can't do anything. No offense, brother Colt."
"None taken."
"And Hondo," she continued, but didn't need to. Hondo was chasing an imaginary fly ball down the third base line behind his eyes.
"So you need a real man, a mercenary...You need me."
"We need you, Randy."
With the way she looked right then, there was no way I could say no.
"Tell me what you need, my sweet, sweet goat."

Debtor's Square Mall. 0200 hrs. The next day.
The mall was pitch-black, deserted. I had infiltrated by crawling four hundred yards through a pipe filled with raw human sewage, exiting in the parking lot. I then used the key to the entrance door I had from when I worked at Taco Bell. The lone security guard never heard me coming--he smelled me, but by the time he turned around I had swung a sock filled with Hummel figurines at his skull and dropped him where he stood. I left him unconscious outside Hot Topix and headed for Fishco.
It was an easy break-in. I'd done so many black ops, gaining entry to the gated fish store was no problem. Four hours with a hacksaw and a pound of C-4, and I was in.

Fishco. 0600 hrs.
The tanks glowed blue in the darkness, the captive fish casting shadows on the walls as they swam back and forth in their tiny prisons. I pulled some plastic bags out of my combat pack and began filling them with water.
"Free at last," I whispered in the darkness. "Free at last."

The McFab compound. 1900 hrs. The next day.
I had gotten Mama out of the mobile home by telling her the dollar store was having a 99-cent sale, which left me and Oracle Goat to ourselves.
I lit the candles on the table, and noticed that she, like most women, looked even better in dim lighting.
"Randy, " she said, "freeing those fish was so brave...You're my hero, do you know that?"
"Of course I am," I said. I took her salad plate away and headed for the kitchen for part two of our romantic dinner. I was gonna get laid, and this time I wasn't going to pay for it or find out she was a dude.
I returned with the platter and pulled back the silver cover with a flourish.
"Dinner, my dear, is served."
She squinted at the entree. "What--what is that?"
"Ah, it's french, my angel. The cychlids are sauteed in garlic butter, while the mollies are lightly breaded and--"
"OH MY GOD!" She appeared to be turning green.
"What is it?" I said. "You don't like garlic? The goldfish are steamed, very light. They'll go great with the frogs..."
Oracle Goat threw back her chair and ran out, crying.

The McFab compound. 2100 hrs.
I still couldn't figure it out. She wanted the fish freed, I freed them. There's two kinds of animals, eatin' and pettin', and if those fish weren't meant to be pets...
Oh, well. I had done my job, that was all that mattered. A merc can't help it if his clients are crazy. I took a last bite of gourami and headed for bed.