A cheap room and an expensive suit, what more could you want?
A Dream of Winter
by Joyce Melton
The aisles of the warehouse store wound around like a worm committing self-abuse. High up on one shelf sat a fifty-five gallon drum. All frosty white and silver on a midnight blue and black background, letters spelled out “Winter” like that was the name of a new energy drink.
“Why would anyone want a can of Winter that big?” asked little Jodie.
“Suppose you wanted to make it winter all over the world, all at once?” asked his father.
“I think you’d need a lot more than one can,” said Jodie’s older sister, Minerva.
“Well, yes,” said their father. “You’d need a lot of cans all over the world, hundreds or thousands of them, probably. Then you could open all the cans at once.
“Normally, it’s only winter at the north end of the world, or the south. But if you had enough cans of Winter, you could make it freezing cold, north and south, and even in the middle.”
The children nodded. Their father was wise, if a little strange. They remembered when he had taught them how to use tiny demolition charges to blow up their toys. Little pieces of Transformers and Bratz blown sky-high, while they watched wearing their safety goggles behind barriers made of steel-reinforced Legos.
Then he’d shown them his collection of extra-terrestrial lifeforms in plastic polymer solutions that carried more oxygen than water ever could. The tiny, teddy bear flower fish had been Jodie’s favorite, so cute and pretty, all mauve and gold and raspberry. Miranda had preferred the bigger dart fish, pulling in its prey on a poisoned needle at the end of a line it shot out of its own body. When it ate the teddy bear flower, of course, little Jodie had cried.
But now, the idea of winter all over the world, all at once, had them fascinated and horrified all over again.
“How cold would it get, Daddy,” asked Jodie.
“If you kept opening more cans of Winter,” said his father, “it would just keep getting colder. Cold enough and the air would begin to freeze. First the water vapor would fall out as snow, several feet deep. And the oceans would freeze from the top down, though there might be liquid under the ice for a long time.
“Then the carbon dioxide would freeze, a layer of another kind of snow on top of the water ice and frozen oceans. Then the nitrogen would freeze out, making a slush mixture with liquid oxygen. And aliens would come in big ships to buy the frozen air, taking it away in cubic-mile-size snocones.”
“What flavor?” asked Miranda.
“A sort of salty raspberry, I expect,” said her father.
I didn’t get the fourth color page up last night, maybe later today. But I did get something done. I wrote this, this morning.
I had a weird dream about working on a series of kid’s books. They were illustrated and I wish I could draw like that. Some of it looked a lot like Brad Guigar’s art on Evil, Inc.
One of the books was about a young owl discovering things. It was called, “Nobody Really Likes Liver.”
The back cover had an illustration of the owl holding one wing over his stomach and making a face. Along the end of the branch are two other owls doing the same thing. It was like a poster and the title of the book was the caption.
Another part of the book was about the negative emotions adults never tell you about. The little owl says, “They always want you to understand and believe about things like Love and Hope and Faith. But, they don’t talk about the negative emotions like ‘poH which is that feeling you get when you realize that not only is Mom serving liver again tonight, she’s going to go on doing that every Thursday and nothing you can say or do will stop her.
“You’re going to have to eat liver for dinner on Thursdays for the rest of your life. That’s ‘poH. It’s Hope spelled backwards but with an apostrophe because you don’t pronounce the e.”
Part of the book was about superheroes. One of them wore a costume that was sort a cross between Fighting American and Nova. It had FG on the chest plate in sort of squishy letters. He was called “Fightin’ Guy” by the other heroes but he should have been called “Whingeing Guy”.
All he did was complain. He complained that he had to keep fighting the same villains over and over. “What’s the matter with the court system? Can’t they keep these guys locked up for more than two issues? Are there no prisons, no concentration camps built inside of hollow mountains? Why can’t we send these guys to the Negative Phantom Zone? Nobody ever escapes from there.”
He complained about his costume. “I used to have a costume, it had little shorts over the leggings. It was really comfortable, man. This new costume is tights all the way up and I’m a T-14 hero so when they say tights, they mean really tight, man.” He makes a face and tries to pull his pants out of the crack of his ass. “Some of those guys in the Max and Piranha titles, they’re rated M and they get to wear some cool stuff. And some of the girls don’t hardly wear no costumes at all!”
He complained about the superhero games and how he could never seem to get ahead. “I thought I had enough points to upgrade my punch so I could knock Cockroach Man over a building instead of just through a wall, that would be cool. But it’s just like Green Stamps, you always need another 1000 points.
“I’ve got 40,021 points and an upgrade from Atomic Punch to Thermo-Nookyular Punch costs 50,000!”
And this girl dressed like Miss Match from Evil Inc says, “That’s almost 10,000 points, not 1000 points.”
“It’s the principle of the thing I’m talking about,” says FG. “Not the math.”
“Well, let’s look in the catalog and see what you can get for 40,000 points. Hey,” she says, “You could get flight, you can’t fly now, you could get a level of flight and then you could fly twice as fast as you can run. Wouldn’t that be cool?”
And FG holds his stomach with the same expression as the owls who don’t like liver and says, “No thanks, I get airsick.”
He looks over her shoulder. “How much does it cost to upgrade to Cosmic Punch?”
“That would be cool, I could knock Cockroach Man into orbit if I had Cosmic Punch. And you know what I’d say to him before I hit him?”
“I’d say, ‘To the moon, Alex! To the moon!’” He thumps one fist into the other glove. “To the moon, Alex!”
“Is his real name Alex?”
FG shakes his head. “No, it’s Manfred. He always ruins my best lines.”
She turns a page. “But that’s not Cosmic Punch, that’s Satellite Punch. Cosmic Punch is the one where you knock the guy into next Thursday.”
“I wouldn’t want to do that to him!” says Fightin’ Guy. “The have liver for dinner on Thursday in prison.” He makes the same expression as the owls. “Nobody Likes Liver.”
Then the scene shifted to a sewer and this guy in a black and brown set of tights with padded shoulders and epaulettes is pushing two kids in front of him. The boy looks about 12 and the girl looks about 8, little blonde thing with pigtails. Both kids have their wrists tied together in front of them with red and blue bandannas and the girl is wearing another one like a gag.
The evil guy has a cockroach in a white circle for an emblem on his chest and he’s carrying his helmet with the big antennas on it under his arm. “Where is that Guy? He’s always late,” he says.
“W-what guy?” asks the boy.
“Fightin’ Guy. Who were we talking about? He’s supposed to come rescue you but he’s always late to these things. We used to be in the same bowling league and sometimes we had to forfeit the first game ’cause he’d be late. It’s hard to win the league trophy if can’t win two out of three games ’cause you always have to forfeit the first one.”
“D-do you think he’s coming? To rescue us?”
Cockroach Man laughs his evil laugh which sounds sort of like a fat dog choking on a biscuit bone it tried to eat all at once. “No, he’s not going to come. Why should he rescue you guys? He doesn’t even know you exist!”
“But you said…” starts the boy.
“I expect you’re feeling a lot of ‘poH right now,” sneers CM. “I’m going to feed you to the alligators in the sewer, you know.” He looks at his watch. “Where the heck is he?”
The little girl pulls down her gag and says, “He’ll come. Fightin’ Guy is a hero, he’s not late. He always arrives just in time!”
“Tell that to the other two guys on the bowling team,” snorts Cockroach Man. “You kids are going to be Alligator Brunch in less than two minutes!”
FG is suddenly there. “Those alligators are just going to have to eat liver, like everyone else on Thursday,” he says.
The kids scream for the hero and CM recoils and says, “Fightin’ Guy!”
FG poses and says, “Cockroach Man!”
“Wait, wait,” says Cockroach man as he tries to put on his helmet. “Last time you punched me through a wall I got a neck injury. The prison chiropractor said it was the worst case of neck torsion he’d ever seen in someone who could still wiggle his toes!”
FG waits while sewer workers take the kids up through a manhole cover.
“You still bowl?” FG asks CM.
“Nah, those cocksuckers in the prison league are all cheaters,” says CM.
“This is a T-14 comic book!” says FG. “You can’t say cocksuckers!”
CM has the helmet on but it’s sitting crooked. “Can you–?” he says. “I can never reach that last dog on the right side.”
FG snaps the last fastening which straightens CM’s helmet. “You need to upgrade your costume to an autofit helmet.”
“That costs like, 20,000 points. You know how many liquor stores and ice cream parlors I’d have to knockover to get 20,000 points just for a helmet that I don’t need anyone else to help me put it on?”
“How come you never rob banks? Aren’t they worth a lot more points?”
“They’re never going to let me into a bank wearing this costume!” He waves at himself. “I look like a cockroach! Did you get that upgrade to Thermonuclear Punch?”
FG shakes his head as they get into position. “Nah, didn’t have enough points. And you’re only worth 500 points this week. I’d have to catch you like 100 times for that upgrade, Cocksucker Man.”
CM points at his chest. “Cockroach Man.”
“What did I say?”
CM shakes his head. “I think this issue is going to be rated M for Mature.”
They pose. “Let’s get it on, Cockroach Manfred,” says FG. He punches one fist into the other hand. “You’ve got a date with the prison cafeteria. They’re serving creamed liver tonight just in your honor.”
CM makes the same face as the owl. Which is hard to see since his helmet covers most of his face. “Even supervillains don’t like liver.”
“You should have thought of that before you took up a life of crime,” says FG. “I’m going to make the world safe for ice cream parlors and convenience stores run by guys named Pavel by knocking you through that wall!”
“Oh, man. That’s going to hurt. This wall is three feet of steel-reinforced concrete and we’re under the East River here. I could drown, you know.”
“Don’t kid me, CM,” says FG. “I know your helmet has an oxygen supply built-in.”
“Okay, okay. Look, I already let the kids go, can’t I just give up and let you take me in?” He holds out his wrists like they’re tied together.
“Are you trying to get us canceled? You’re my arch-nemesis, the leader of my Rogues’ Gallery. You can’t just surrender without a fight.”
“I guess I just don’t feel like fighting. I’m feeling a lot of ‘poH here and now, Alex.”
“Aw, Manfred. Don’t be like that. Look, I’ll just punch you down the hallway like fifty feet instead of through the wall. And you can threaten me with a death ray.”
CM looks around. “I don’t have a death ray. I’m just a guy wearing a suit of cockroach theme armor.”
“I can lend you a death ray. I took it off of Liver-Eatin’ Lady.” He rummages in his utility backpack while reaching behind himself and making a funny face.
“Horrible,” says CM. “Does she really eat liver? Like right in front of you?”
FG hands the death ray gun over. “Nah,” he says. “She uses this here death ray. Nobody Really Likes Liver.”
Alistair 2 Zook and Beastly Thoughts are being cut back to once a week, probably for the rest of the month of June. We may have some other features coming on, though to replace them. Perhaps a Sketchbook, or maybe even a new once-a-week strip. Stay tooned!
Also, Quillian will still be twice a week but will probably be Wednesday and Sunday this week, Wednesday and Saturday next week and then Tuesday and Friday and finally back to Monday and Friday, I hope. The slippage was due to outside work cutting into time to do drawings. We had a book cover contract and some commercial art to do, so it was good, not bad.
And yes, there is a sketchbook entry going up.