The Gypsy's Address
“We waste nothing. He’s dipping organs unacceptable to medicine in an exquisite batter. But, come! You’re going to like this, Makin’!” The Popsicle Man opened yet another door for Makin’, now weak with famish, and the Punc, now barely able to conceal his contempt for the psychotic bore he now endured, to pass through:
“This is where we dip and package our new confections line of Insides Out. But any delay you can do without.” The Popsicle Man pulled a gold foil box from a shelf and opened the lid to reveal a half dozen prettily packaged chocolate eyes and eardrums. He offered one to the Punc:
“Thank you. Wish I could. I’m allergic to chocolate,” the Punc declined.
Makin’, however, nearly swooned, hand to breast, upon romancing one of the delectable treasures with her tongue: “Oh! Popsicle Man! I’m feeling groanly and moanly! For a treat like this all my life I’ve been lonely!”
The Popsicle Man now smiled for the first time since Makin’ and the Punc’s arrival, it always good to be appreciated. He pulled the handle to another refrigerator door: “And now my claim to fame. You may remember, Makin’, how the media danced when the cops found my freezer full of them.” Makin’ and the Punctuator passed into the next section to view several corpses being bled by tubes leading into large vats separated by blood types:
“Each has its own distinctive flavor,” the Popsicle Man explained. “Though we mix it up with our juicy Berserk Bar. . . Hither, to the last stage of our tour,” as he tugged the handle to yet another freezer door, swinging his arm to invite his guests to enter:
“That’s right!” Makin’ nearly shouted, remembering the headlines in the papers years ago: “You were arrested with a freezer full of popsicles.”
“What used to reap shrieking and hollers now brings me many dollars,” boasted the Popsicle Man as he reached for a box: “Variety pack. All four blood types. Sure you can’t use a little desert?” he offered the Punc.
“What the heck?” thought the Punc, then aloud, “Why not?” He removed the wrapper from a deep red frozen delight and gave it a lick: “Hmm. Not bad. . . In fact, it’s delicious,” genuinely surprised.
“Think Something Strange would make a good Popsicle?” Makin’ suggested with poor manners, speaking with her mouth full of a chunk of Popsicle.
Penny and Strange compared dilemmas for perhaps three minutes when both heard hard rapping against their driver doors. The pygmies at their driver windows had disappeared, replaced by men in white ball caps on the ground pointing rifles at their heads. They motioned to Penny and Strange to step out of their trucks. Which they did, to be roughly seized and thrown into the reefer of a white box truck.
Alias, however, wasn’t about to call it fate. She couldn’t help the situation captured or dead. So she pushed the button on the panel of Something’s Ken. As the door opened it forced the pygmy at the passenger window to leap away. Another pygmy began to jump up to grab Alias out of the passenger seat. But Alias flew over his and another pygmy’s head, then immediately beneath Something’s trailer for cover, then instantly out the other side and into the dark jungle beyond. There were bright explosions of rifle fire as Alias sped away, one killing a dispensable pygmy haplessly standing in the way. Alias could hear darts penetrating the water to her left, then thunking into the trunk of a tree as she sped past it. She dared not chance the jungle, staying on the road as she ran several miles at a speed no pursuer could hope to match. She could hear the squeals of Cuddly a mile behind, mixed with the shouting and laughing of pygmies, as a pygmy discovered Cuddly beneath the sleeper bunk and pulled him out of the truck.. Cuddly didn’t stop struggling even as he was wrestled into a basket, its matching lid securely fastened. He was then placed in the truck at the feet of Penny and Strange, their arms manacled above and behind their heads. Three armed guards sat on the bench opposite them. One of them spoke as the truck began to jostle forward:
“That cash pig of yours might see another sun. As for yourselves, I hope you’ve had fun because life, for you, appears to be done.”
“If that’s the best you can rhyme . . .” Penny led.
“. . . we suggest you become a mime,” Strange finished.
Alias eventually slowed to a trot, then to a silent but wary walk as she mulled the situation. She’d walked a good hour to reach stretches of land clear of forest and swamp. Her figure could now be seen in the moonlight as she perked her ears: “Music,” she thought. It came faint from far off. Alias began to trot in its direction, then stopped to listen: “I know that song!” she thought again, her thinking voice sounding a little like Sigourney Weaver. She listened more intently to identify the tune of a rockabilly band with which Strange liked to sing along while Alias howled with the chorus: “Well, I’ll be a salty dog, truckin’ everywhere a truck ain’t supposed to be, including Lake Michigan, big as a sea. That’s Stray Cat Strut!” Alias could barely make out the words in the distance:
“. . . I’ve got cat class and I’ve got cat style. . .”
Alias began to hum, or purr, the simple and wordless, but catchy, chorus as she began to lope in rhythm toward the source of the music:
“. . . ooo
ooo . . .”
“I just love those Insides Out!” Makin’ complimented, after she and the Punc had discussed the situation concerning Penny, Strange, a dog that only looked like one and a psychic piggy bank that could talk. After which the Popsicle Man readily dispatched one of his lieutenants to see to their capture. Makin’, the Punc and the Popsicle Man had been strolling beneath the trees up the well-guarded, lamp-lit path alongside the warehouse.
“Thank you. Eyes are an exquisite delicacy in a salad as well,” answered the Popsicle Man.
“What about the heads?” the Punc asked.
“Unfortunately, brains don’t enjoy much market value. To find one at all I have found to be profound. What looks like a brain but doesn’t act like a brain makes most skulls clear, from ear to ear, of what brains are, though brains appear. After scavenging what we can from human heads we generally just toss them out to the pygmies. There are, however, certain heads which command me to add them my own collection. Come. I’ll show you.”
The Popsicle Man led Makin’ and the Punc up the rear steps to his mansion and opened the screen door for his infernal guests. He then led them down the wide hall from whence they’d come, stopped at a door to tap a code into a digital pad on the wall, opened the unlocked door and invited his guests into a large room. He turned on a switch which suddenly illumined a good number of aquarium tanks lining the walls from floor to ceiling, all preserving human heads yet complete with eyes. Each tank was labeled with the name of the victim.
Makin’ Wind walked up to a tank on the third tier and read aloud: ”‘C.L. WERNER’.”
The Punctuator walked up to another tank nearer the floor, one along a wide row of IT executives: “’WILLIAM GATES’.”
“Yes,” sighed the Popsicle Man. “I almost saved the world. I didn’t know he had been cloned two years after birth.” At that moment the Popsicle Man’s beeper sounded. He pulled a small walkie-talkie from his suit pocket, flipped its cover open and held it to his ear. . . “Very good.” He snapped shut his walkie, giving Makin’ and the Punc a smile: “Two Happy Meals with a piggy bank are en route. Am I not the Popsicle Man?”
“And the dog?” inquired the Punc.
“The dog has eluded us. Punitive measures will be met by those responsible. It is unlikely, however, that it has survived the rainforest this long.”
Alias now approached the music so close that she could see through the trees to a great house, its eaves and pillars lined with neon lights. Perhaps a hundred feet apart from the mansion might have been a circular stage so large that pillars supported its roof, all likewise bearing neon lights. Scores of felines of every variety surrounded the stage, some dancing, others doing as cats do: a number sat with a detached air, looking about in a cool, calm and composed manner, appearing as if any nearby disturbance would be too beneath them to bother watching. Others did back flips off the stage or from the porch of the huge house. Some in the trees all about leapt from limb to limb like monkeys while others on the ground playfully patted the sand to herd large insects as they might. From alley cats to yawning jaguars to blue-eyed puma kittens, it seemed every kind of cat was present which knew its stealthy way through a jungle, be it concrete or friendly.
Alias hesitated in the bushes two hundred feet away. She wasn’t exactly an alien specie. But one thing was certain: amidst all those cats licking their fur a lone dog could cause quite a stir. Yet but an instant did that thought occur. Alias was in territory deadly even to her. Strange, Penny and Cuddly were in trouble. They were humans on that stage and perhaps they could help. Alias bravely trotted in. A cat at the boundary, keeping watch in the dark, had observed Alias’ approach with glowing eyes. It had leapt down from its branch and run silently ahead to inform the musicians on the stage who were just finishing their rendition of Stray Cat Strut, setting down their instruments as a young woman approached from the house with a tray of beers. As Alias approached, a great jaguar, reclining in the cool grass beneath a tree, roared. Which inspired Alias to respectfully trot around a good twenty feet distant. All movement that was the perfection of a slinking cat stopped. Every ember-like eye watched the curious foreigner now walk into their midst, nearing the stage. Not a limb stretched. Not a sound was heard but the crackling of a nearby fire, attended by another young woman who stopped to watch Alias cautiously stepping forward. She stopped several feet before the steps leading up the stage, yet panting from her lope. All were not a little taken aback by this sudden odd appearance, an Australian Shepard from who knows where beyond. It could yet be sensed that there was some trouble for which cause the shaggy canine had appeared. Alias, though on a mission such that not a moment was to be lost, could not but experience wonder that she was looking up at whom she considered one of the greatest guitarists on earth. In the Amazon, no less. Surrounded by scores of cats, not a few of the man – and dog – eating variety. In deference Alias waited to be addressed., which Brian presently did:
“May I offer you a beer?” waving a bottle he took from the tray offered him by the girl.
“Looks like he needs one,” remarked Phantom.
Alias gave a subdued woof.
“Anyone here trilingual?” Lee Rocker asked the gathering of felines in general.
A black tomcat, lying about to lick wounds after the last few days of getting beat up who knows where, slowly stood in the grass below the stage, jumped to its floor from the ground and padded its way to stand between Brian and Alias below.
“I know this kind,” the tomcat meowed. “They’re either mad or get bored, so do things bad.”
“Well, then,” Brian regarded, “we’ll get her milk and a juicy steak.”
“It says, ‘The Popsicle Man’,” interpolated the cat.
Now there was a stir and a noise among the many cats about. A great panther several feet to the left of Alias stood and roared: “The pelt of my husband hangs from one of his walls!”
“He uses my father for a rug!” sounded the jaguar Alias had respectfully stepped around on her trot into the village.
“Without their guns they’d be nothing,” spoke a cat rubbing around Lee Rocker’s leg.
“They’re nothing with their guns,” answered a cougar walking up behind Phantom to sit on its haunches at his side.
After the disturbance had somewhat quelled Alias and Brian studied one another for a moment: “What can we do for you, my friend?” Brian inquired upon a swallow from his bottle.
Makin’ and the Punc stepped out the front door with the Popsicle Man. They watched from the porch as two goons with rifles slung over their shoulders removed the basket with Cuddly in it, brought it between the house and the bonfire and set it twenty feet from the base of the stairs. Penny and Strange were then prodded toward the house by the barrels of rifles to their backs, pygmies gathering all about to witness this latest event in the reign of the Popsicle Man. Old Penny and Something were brought to a halt, each to one side of Cuddly’s basket. The Popsicle Man waited for the pygmies to cease bustling about as he looked down on his prey head to toe, much as a cook might regard a couple of trout before chining them. Makin’, standing to his left, wore an expression as cold, not a whit of fondness for the pair below her to spare. The Punc, to the Popsicle Man’s right, had the brains to care to what measure opponents might dare, nor thought of his enemies as good fare. But with his wont of killing as swiftly as forgetting there were none in any world to compare. He’d not vaunt over sending Strange and Penny good-bye any more than one swaggers over swatting a fly.
With Hitler’s ability to create suspense, the Popsicle Man waited several seconds for Penny, Strange and all the others about to anticipate his first action. Then a couple more. Then he did nothing more extraordinary than walk slowly down the steps to stand six or seven feet before Penny and Strange. He let them regard his presence for a good ten seconds as his icy stare penetrated the eyes of first Penny, then Strange.
“Obeisance,” suddenly ordered the maniac in his expensive white suit, looking away as he spoke, that he not seem to honor equals.
Penny and Strange, their hands manacled before them, each maintained a plain expression while peripherally studying the environment for possible routes out of their situation. The Popsicle Man didn’t repeat himself. Instead, he raised his arm, filliped a finger, then turned his thumb to the ground. One of his goons smacked Strange behind her knees with a rifle. She dropped into the proper humble position. Another goon cracked a baton across Old Penny’s back, sending him sprawling face-first into the dirt. He looked at the Popsicle man’s shoes an arm’s length before him, then started to rise. But just as he did so the Popsicle Man stepped on the fingers of both his manacled hands. Gazing blankly into the distance, he quizzed Penny:
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