Violet Ajambo’s 5th mug o’ coffee shook as she raised it to her mouth to drink, only for it to spill half o’ its contents onto her lap when their bottle hit a particularly rude iceberg on its rough aquatic path.
“Tabarnak!” she cursed as she stared down @ her lap & slammed the cup onto the table. “You would cogitate that they would contrive a manner in which locomotive phials would not vibrate from the interior!”
The black anthropomorphic cat ’cross from her, who called herself Felix Spero, nodded. ’Course, she had no idea what Violet was talking ’bout;—she was always confused by those big words Violet always used—but since Violet was so smart, she was sure Violet was being smart in whatever argument she was making now.
’Sides, Felix didn’t want to be rude to her new work friend, ’specially since she was so nice as to invite her on this nice giant bottle ride, with its marvelous view o’ the dark-gray seas, lit @ the edges by the sun peeking ’bove the horizon, & the sky full o’ pink cotton-candy clouds. @ 1st, she worried that her body’s rude shivering due to the cold might ruin everyone else’s time; but then she heard Violet complain ’bout it being “hyperborean” & saw her wrapping her arms round herself & shivering, so Felix figured ’twas OK for her to find it cold, too.
Violet looked back @ the paper before her, staring down @ it intently with her cheek buried in her upraised fist. That was also something she was always doing—staring stern-faced into a piece o’ paper or book, which was apparently from some college for smart people Violet went to.
Once while @ work, when Violet went up to use the restroom, Felix had snuck a glance @ one o’ her books to see if maybe she could learn the secrets o’ wisdom it might hold; but when she looked @ all the words inside, she realized she could hardly make chutes or ladders as to what any o’ it meant. She could understand a lot o’ the words as English; she just couldn’t understand what these particular words put together were s’posed to mean.
Also as usual, Violet’s hand shook o’er the top o’ the table, her knuckles repeatedly tapping it. She constantly readjusted her sitting position in various ways, none o’ them seemingly just right. Felix, who didn’t want to be rude, had ne’er built up the nerve to ask her why she did this.
Then ’gain, it’s probably some secret I’m not smart ’nough to understand, like the books she reads. Like most people did, Violet deeply fascinated Felix; & though she knew it’d ne’er work out, Felix secretly held onto the hope that as Violet’s official apprentice—so confirmed Violet herself—she would ’ventually learn all o’ her secrets & perhaps be a pretty cool person herself.
“I am incapable of comprehending the feasibility of my studying such arduous compositions when the presentiment of assailments by purloiners inclines above my cranium akin to cinereal billows,” Violet complained as rapidly & with as much jitter as usual. “You have perceived the extrapolations concerning the infamous Captain Springer, correct?”
Felix nodded—a task in which she felt she was truly becoming adept.
Violet’s eyes widened. “You do not adumbrate her aiming her vehemence on moi, do you?”
Hearing her cue yet ’gain, Felix nodded.
Violet clutched her erratic heart.
“Please do not manifest such inauspicious augers! You are familiar with my cardiovascular enervations. Oh, Arschloch! It is conclusive that I will acquire a round embedded into my cranium before this disconsolate nautical peregrination has terminated.”
This time Felix didn’t nod. She may have had no idea what Violet was saying, but she could recognize the difference ’tween informative facial expressions & fearful facial expressions. Violet was always fearful, & it made Felix sad that she wasn’t capable o’ actually doing anything to help her. E’en the 1 thing she was good @—nodding politely—would be useless here.
Felix ducked her head & said, “I know I’m not good @ anything, but d’you need me to help you with anything?”
“Do not be so egregious,” Violet said with a wave o’ her hand. “You are optimal at performing affirmative vertical oscillating gestures & substantiating every intimation I conceptualize.”
“O, I’m sorry,” said Felix, dipping her head e’en lower.
“You ought not be,” said Violet. “Uplifting such superlative apperceptions should nourish your endorphins.”
Felix shook her head. “It’s OK: you don’t need to waste your valuable time & air trying to make me feel better. I’ve come to accept my loserness, anyway,” Felix said with a tiny nod, a flash o’ pride flowing briefly from her face.
“Oh, but I quite—”
Violet was interrupted when she felt a violent shake—or, as she called it in her head, “an intemperate vibration”—causing her cup to spill o’er the side o’ the table. She gripped the edge o’ the table as if she were ’fraid she’d fall elsewise.
“Oh, mierda! That is the defalcators, I would parlay! They will indubitably ambuscade us from crepuscular crevices extensively!” Then she clutched her heart ’gain & cried, “That is, on the condition that my hypertension does not invalidate my vivacity antecedently.”
From the table ’head o’ them, a red-caped, pale-faced young man with golden blond curls jutting under his black top hat had been conferring with his golden-tuxedoed, drama-masked associates, as well as intrepid reporter Thursday O’Beefe, who just waltzed into their table unasked & spent the next half hour praising him—which was, in addition to O’Beefe’s promise to let him fix any problems with quotes O’Beefe recorded from him, the only reason he let O’Beefe stay.
However, when they felt the bottle rumble, Lance Chamsby stood & rubbed his white-gloved hands together with a Muttley grin.
“That must be Captain Springer now, ready to loot our fine bottle ship,” he announced. “Well, we’ll see ’bout that, won’t we?”
1 o’ his associates, Agent Purple Mountain’s Majesty, took out a pad & pencil & took a second to scribble out some figures ’fore answering, “Well, let’s see… I’d say there’s a 48% chance o’ success with a 2% margin o’ error.”
“I enjoy those odds,” said Lance. “Now, let’s stand purposefully so we can intimidate the vile looter ’fore we defeat her.”
They did so, standing in the middle o’ the aisle with their arms akimbo & their chins raised. Agent Granny Smith Apple, who was still new @ this whole helping capitalist vigilantes, had to fumble for a few seconds to get it right, & then spent the next few minutes despairing o’er how the others must be mocking him in their heads.
When Violet saw them stand so, she pointed @ them & cried, “Here they materialize to accomplish their dishabille enterprise!”
“You need not worry, dowdy shrieker,” Lance said with an index finger raised. “We shall protect you from the scourges o’ socialism!”
Violet’s eyes widened, but she didn’t reply. ’Stead, she leaned in closer to Felix, who had been looking round herself indecisively as if she were dropped into a Martian colony, & whispered, “It’s incrementally deleterious than I originally perceived: they’re reactionary bedlamites, just as visualized on television.”
Lance aimed a positively negative finger @ Violet & said, “Hey, I heard that. You think I can’t hear you devising your deviously grandiloquent words gainst me? ‘Cause I can.”
Violet raised her own index & shouted, “Bulwark me, Felix!” ’fore hiding under the table.
This is it, thought Felix. Time to finally do something great.
Then she thought, O, but how I do that? Then she froze like an ancient computer trying to load a Flash website to think.
Grumpywhile, Lance turned to Agent Granny Smith Apple & said with a mouth distorted by annoyance, “This isn’t how it went in rehearsal.”
Granny Smith Apple shrunk a li’l & said, “Gee, I’m sorry, Sir. I—”
“Yeah, yeah, you,” Lance wrapped his arms together. “I hate to be harsh, but I must be stern if I’m going to raise you all well: I’m cutting your kibble by 1/4th.”
Agent Granny Smith Apple didn’t say anything; he merely stared down @ the dusty ground, shamefaced.
“’Scuse me, Sir, but you’re standing in the middle o’ the aisle…”
Lance turned & saw a clean-chopped man in a white uniform look @ him with pleading eyes.
“Are you daft, man?” Lance said as he puffed his shoulders. “Captain Springer shall strike any minute & drive us all into the work camps. Do you want that? Do you like work camps?”
“Do they provide health care?” the steward asked with eyes widening in sudden interest.
“Most definitely… the scoundrels,” said Lance, his eyes contrastingly wincing in hatred.
“Well, uh, gee… I’m sorry, Sir, but I don’t think I can just let you do this, ’less you can a’least provide evidence that this ‘Captain Springer’ will show up.”
“I have witnesses that will attest to my claim,” said Lance. He turned to his associates & O’Beefe & saw them all nod.
“I don’t think logic works that way, I’m ’fraid, Sir,” said the steward.
Lance rolled his eyes & then riffled through his pocket for a handful o’ golden coins, which he handed to the steward.
The steward looked down @ them as if they were a tiny Martian colony.
“Will a couple KG o’ gold make logic work that way?” asked Lance.
“Sir, these are doubloons.”
“Yes, I know that.”
The steward scratched his head. “I don’t think these count as currency in Boskeopolis.”
“Right; they’re better,” said Lance: “these will keep their objective value e’en after Captain Springer has conquered & soiled your flimsy currency with her vile inflation.”
“O,” the steward said casually, still staring @ the coins. “Well, OK then.” He pocketed them, turned, & left.
“Now that that’s settled, we can return to our work,” Lance said as he turned back.
So they stood in their akimbo position once mo’, staring expectantly @ the door—an enormous cork in the mouth o’ their bottle ship—’cross the hall for Captain Springer to burst in any minute. After 10 minutes, their purposeful stance gradually deflated: keeping their shoulders up started to tire, maintaining their chins’ upward tilt began to hurt their necks, & the ennui was becoming so unbearable that they could picture the tumbleweeds blowing inside—probably ’cause they had nothing better to do with their minds.
“Um, ’scuse me, Sir…”
Lance turned & shouted, “What now?”
The steward squirmed. “Well, it’s just that… she’s been taking an awful long time to get here. Are you sure you weren’t mistaken ’bout something?”
“’Course, I’m not mistaken,” snapped Lance. “I’m ne’er mistaken ’bout anything. If I were, I’d change my ideas to those that aren’t mistaken, duh.”
“I don’t think logic works that way, Sir…”
Lance turned to Agent Purple Mountain’s Majesty.
“Rough him up.”
Purple Mountain’s Majesty glanced ’way from Lance uncomfortably.
“Isn’t that kind o’ illegal?”
“Not if it’s for justice,” Lance said as he crossed his arms.
“I don’t think the law works that way, Sir,” said the steward.
Lance turned back to him & said, “I’ve had just ’nough o’ your rude interruptions. If I hear 1 mo’ peep, quibble, or neigh out o’ you, I’ll have O’Beefe write a scathing review o’ your business.”
The steward scratched his head. “But I don’t have a business.”
“Well then, I’ll just have to offer to fund an upstart o’ yours & then have O’Beefe deliver it a nasty review in The Boskeopolis Times. Don’t think they won’t put up his work; they have absolutely no standards.”
But rather than grovelling to Lance’s feet, “No, please, anything but that!” the steward couldn’t keep his mouth from widening into a grin or his eyes from sparkling just a li’l.
“You truly mean it?” he asked breathlessly.
“You think I won’t do it, don’t you? Well, I will. I’m willing to be strict when I have to. Right, Agent Granny Smith Apple?”
He turned to said associate only to see him wildly devouring a red plastic bowl full o’ dry brown kibble. When Agent Granny Smith noticed Lance’s eyes on him, he slowed to a stop, his wide guilty eyes staring @ Lance.
“Granny Smith Apple! Bad boy! It’s not dinnertime yet!”
Lance extracted a newspaper from his pocket o’ cartoon convenience—everyone who is fashionable has 1—& began lightly whacking Granny Smith Apple on the head with it.
“That’s it: you get no kibble tonight,” Lance said as he returned the newspaper to his pocket.
Since she had hid under the table, Violet had been shaking under said table, hugging her knees—both out o’ fear & ’cause all o’ the caffeine she consumed made her unable to sit still—while she contemplated how she could use her superlative apperceptions to protect her from the implausible & jejune profligates invading the ship. Other than possibly boring them by reading them A Shape of Things to Come, she could think o’ nothing.
Magkantot mine ineffectual erudition. I envisaged that attaining academic proficiency would leave me tactically impecunious.
Minutes later, she gently nudged the bottom o’ 1 o’ Felix’s jean legs to get her attention.
“Felix,” she whispered. “Have you formulated an operable stratagem for dispersing our obdurate beleaguerers?”
Felix blinked @ her for a few seconds ’fore nodding & saying, “Uh huh.”
“Consummate. Promulgate it to me.”
Felix nodded ’gain. “Uh huh.”
“Well? What is it?”
Felix’s eyes widened in surprise. “What is what?”
After a short pause, Felix asked, “What’s a proposition?”
“You know: a projection, a procedure. Oh, what is the noun?” Violet shut her eyes tightly & held her straining head. “You know: a program.”
“Aren’t those things you make with computers?” asked Felix.
“Yes; however, cognitive organisms are capable of concocting them, additionally—utilizing their cerebrums.”
“What’s a cerebrum?” asked Felix. “I’m sorry. I’m kind o’ dumb, you know.”
“This,” Violet said with mo’ strain in her voice as she tapped her forehead.
“O, you mean my head? Gee, I’m not very good @ thinking…”
“It is imperative that you endeavor.”
Felix turned to Lance & said, “Um, ’scuse me, Sir Monopoly guy…”
Lance turned to her & said in an exasperated tone, “What? Can’t you see I’m doing something very important?”
“Um, do you think you & your friends could… leave for a while, please?” asked Felix.
“Most certainly not. As a passenger, I have the right to use this ship as I wish just like anybody else—& I want to use it to destroy the vile looter. Don’t judge me.”
Felix looked back down @ Violet.
“Inquire him regarding the inexorableness of his positioning himself in such proximity to our installation.”
Felix’s voice shook in a slight panic. “I don’t know what that means.”
Lance aimed a negatively positive index @ Felix & said, “I can still hear your secretive li’l whispers, & I don’t like them. Trying to find a way to trick me into causing ‘unmediated’ aggression, huh? Well, try ’gain, ’cause the only aggression I shall be causing will be the justified version gainst the vile looter, Captain Springer.”
“Did you hear him?” whispered Felix.
Lance leaned closer to Felix with a snarl & said, “You tell that communist spy hiding under there to come out & show himself so I can report him to the proper authorities.”
Violet whispered, “You may elucidate to him that if he does not cease molesting us, we shall inform the ‘proper authorities’ of his legal perfidies.”
“Ah, so now I’m committing sex crimes, huh?” Lance said loudly with his arms akimbo. His associated ’hind him looked round the room nervously @ all o’ the stares he had attracted—all ’cept O’Beefe, who was too busy scribbling out the conversation in his notepad as if his pencil & hand were a spreading flame.
“Do you have no honor that you would try such pathetic—& obviously untrue—libel gainst me?” said Lance.
Violet whispered to Felix, “Presently, you may elucidate to him that he is an imbecile who does not even apprehend authentic terminology of the English language.”
Their argument was knocked out by yet ’nother rumbling o’ their bottle ship, accompanied by the sickly sound o’ scraping glass.
Lance practically jumped ’way from Felix.
“That must be the crocodilian Captain Springer now!” he exclaimed. “Come, henchmen, we’ll cut off her entrance from the beginning,” he added as he strode for the front cork.
His associated all stumbled forward in a messy herd, with O’Beefe scrambling blindly ’hind them, his eyes & hand still on his pad, scribbling every event down to its last detail—including the bald man near the back blowing his nose noisily with a pink handkerchief & the woman slurping her soup a li’l mo’ loudly than was customarily polite.
When she heard the cork close ’gain, Violet whispered, “Have they withdrawn?” as she peeked out from ’hind the table curtain. When she saw that they were, indeed, gone, she closed the curtain ’gain & said, “Exemplary execution, Felix. I surmised that entrusting my preservation in your adroitness would be efficacious.”
Felix nodded, still looking out @ the hall through which she had just watched Lance & his posse leave. “Yup, they left.” Then she looked down & said, “I think it’s safe for you to come out now.”
Violet poked her head ’bove the table & glanced round herself to ensure that the estuary was transparent. When she saw that ’twas, she sat up & looked down @ her paper ’gain.
“I recall, now: this assignment abides. Presently, I hope that I may have the tranquility in order to appropriately complete this undertaking.”
She moved her hand for her pencil, only to see that ’twas nowhere on the table.
“♣%♫#₤¢®, it must have cascaded onto the, this… the floor. Mallkuar, I am maladroit at educing incomplex words. You could not conceive of the covetousness I possess for your proficiency in breviloquence.”
She ducked under the table ’gain, only to rise & bonk her head when she heard a loud voice nearby shout, “What’s with the delay? I’ve got important places to be.”
She poked her head back up just ’nough to see a puffy white snowman in a green top hat, red scarf, & mittens holding a cigar just before his carrot beak. Though his eyes were large & egg-shaped, they had thick black lines under them indicating tiredness or bad health.
The steward ran up to him & said with breathless supplication, “I’m sorry, Mayor Sunday, Sir, but it seems a group o’ ruffians have stopped us to prevent this alleged ‘Captain Springer’ from o’erthrowing you & turning Boskeopolis socialist.”
“What?” grunted Herbert Sunday. “So are they drug addicts, or something?”
“I could check their urine if you want, Sir. Would you like me to do that, Sir? Would you like me to check their urine?”
Herbert waved his hand round him irritably.
“No one’s checking anyone’s urine. I just want you to get this bottle moving as quickly as possible. I have an…”—he aimed furtive glances to both his sides—“engagement to fulfill.”
By that time Violet had already ducked back under the table—not to hide from the mayor, but from his cancer stick, whose danger Violet had read much literature on. She yanked on Felix’s pants ’gain.
“Psst, Felix. Would it be feasible for you to inform the mayor that this is ‘No Smoking’ territory?”
Felix turned to Sunday & said, “Hey, uh, Sir Mayor, Sir?”
“I’m always delighted to meet 1 o’ my beloved constituents,” Herbert said with a strained smile & a mittened hand reaching out for Felix’s; “but I’m mightily busy right now, if you haven’t seen, so please make this quick.”
Felix was staring down @ Herbert’s hand as if it might strike if she went to touch it. Finally, she slowly met his hand & asked, “Uh… Thank you, Sir Mayor, Sir. It’s just that, uh, my friend wanted to tell you this is a ‘No Smoking’ zone.”
“O, right…” Mayor Sunday said in an awkward halfway ’tween pleasant & embittered as he stowed his cigar ’way in a li’l black box. “Is there anything else you need, Madame?”
Felix looked down @ Violet & whispered, “Anything else?”
“Negatory,” whispered Violet. “Only demonstrate my gratitude for his endeavoring on behalf of proper salubriousness & hygiene.”
“Uh… I’d like to… demonstrate my gratitude for—”
“I heard your li’l friend down there just fine, Madame,” Herbert said with a polite tilt o’ his hat & then quickly went ’way ’fore that stupid cat woman could disturb his peace any mo’.
Ugh, what is with these people? They always want to talk to me ’bout their problems, as if any o’ it had anything to do with me.
Just then, Lance & his crew galed in ’gain. Lance paced forward with his hands tied ’hind his back & his puzzled eyes staring down @ the ground.
“I tell you, she must be hiding somewhere. She’s crafty that way…”
Herbert noticed, to his pleasure, that the ship had started dipping & rising ’gain, indicating that its travel had resumed.
He was ’bout to turn & leave, only to be interrupted by the steward turning to him with a hand pointing @ Lance & saying, “That’s the nutjob I was talking ’bout.”
Herbert’s eyes widened as he noticed Lance look up @ him with consternated eyes.
“Uh, hello, Sir Chamsby,” Sunday said with an uneasy chuckle. “I see you are up to some very important business…”
“You bet I am, & I’m glad you’re here, Mayor,” Lance said as he strode o’er to Herbert. “I’m sure you know that that looterish socialist Captain Springer plans to invade our bottle ship & suck us dry o’ our valuables.”
After a short pause in which Herbert’s brain tried to confirm the message it retrieved from his ears, Herbert nodded & said, “’Course. &, uh… what am I s’posed to do in this situation, ’gain?”
Lance raised a gloved finger with a stylish swoosh & answered, “You must prove yourself to be able the other cronies in parliament & offer your legal support for my just venture.”
“Right…” said Herbert. “& this will just require me to sign a piece o’ paper, right?”
Lance nodded. “You can leave everything else up to me, Mayor.”
Herbert smiled & clasped his hands together. “Excellent. I will do just that.” Then he turned & headed back for his table near the back, where he would resume gazing @ the sunrise while he mentally prepared himself for all o’ the constituents he would have to meet later that afternoon by flooding his throat with Le Désespoir.
Empowered by such official sanction, Lance puffed his chest out like a bear & searched round the area for a proper table to use as a high point in which to send his message to the rest o’ the ship. His eyes stopped on the emptiest table, which had nothing but a few papers on it. Then he turned to Agent Purple Mountain’s Majesty wiggled his eyebrows & then turned back to the table.
Agent Purple Mountain’s Majesty waited, expecting Lance to lead them o’er to the table he was staring at. After a few seconds, Lance turned to Purple Mountain’s Majesty with a glare.
Purple Mountain’s Majesty scratched his head. “Um, what do you want me to do, ’gain?”
Lance threw his arms up. “Isn’t it obvious? Clean that table off so I can use it as a standing place. Didn’t you see me wiggle my eyebrows?”
Agent Purple Mountain’s Majesty quickly nodded & said, “O, yes, ’course,” ’fore rushing for the table.
Violet was so sedulously scrutinizing her story for literary devices such as alliteration, point-o’-view shifts, & dramatic irony, that she hadn’t noticed till ’twas too late the tuxedoed & masked man walk up to her table & sweep her papers off.
Violet jumped back in her chair & shouted, “Oye!”
“Sorry, Madame. Boss’s orders,” mumbled Agent Purple Mountain’s Majesty.
Violet leapt under the table & yanked on Felix’s pants.
“Felix, communicate to the gilt-tuxedoed personage that he has scurrilously contravened my human & individual rights, por favor.”
’Fore Felix could say anything, Lance had already climbed up onto the table & began announcing to the rest o’ the ship, with hands bordering mouth:
“Acquaintances, Boskeopoleons, citypeople, hand me your ears.”
A man @ 1 table grumbled, “They always want us to pay. Whatever,” just ’fore clutching his ear & giving 1 mighty yank, ripping it right off. Then he stood up, stumbled o’er to Lance, & slapped the ear down ’fore turning back for his table. The rest o’ the passengers groaned & then lined up with bloody lobes in their hands.
As they placed ear after ear onto the table, Lance scooped them into the inside pocket o’ his cloak.
“Thank you, thanks, excellent,” he said as he saw passengers come & go.
When he had pocketed the last auricle, he stood straight ’gain & cleared his throat.
“OK, now let’s get to the real reason why I am addressing you all—”
“What?” shouted someone in the crowd.
Lance paused, aiming an irritable stare @ the interrupter.
“As I was saying, the real reason why I’m addressing you all is—”
“What?” the other passenger shouted ’gain. “I can’t hear you ’cause I lost my ear & I can’t find it.”
Lance put his arms in jars—which was rather difficult, since he had to pick them up with his mouth.
Then he said, “Sir, that is not my problem. Perhaps you should do a better job keeping track o’ your possessions ’stead o’ expecting everyone else to do so for you?”
The interrupter stared down, shamefaced. “I’m sorry.”
Lance paused for a second mo’ to see if anyone else would interrupt him, only to feel a yank on the back o’ his pant sleeve.
He swung round & glared @ Felix, who shrunk into her chair.
“What? Can’t you see I’m busy here?”
“I’m deeply sorry, Sir. It’s just that my friend here—under the table—she says you, um…” She looked down under the table. “What was it ’gain?”
From below, Lance could hear a tepid voice whisper, “Explicate that he has violated my individual & human rights—”
“Lies! Odorous lies!” Lance shouted as he bent down toward the table with a shaking fist. “I have ne’er violated anyone’s individual rights in my life, & don’t plan to in death.”
“Felix, communicate to this specimen that his subordinate recently transported my documents distant from my possession and then he himself had absconded with our table to be utilized for his factitious propaganda.”
Lance crossed his arms—having already returned them to their sockets, ’course. “You are, indeed, correct that my ’propaganda’ is based purely on facts, & thus it is warranted, as well as my temporary use o’ ‘your’ table, which you are actually just borrowing with limitations.”
Lance stood up & turned back to the rest o’ the audience.
“Now, if I may continue without interruptions—”
“Sir, I did not desire to implement this immoderate reaction, but I witness that you are destitute of civility, & thus I am compelled.”
Lance turned to the source o’ the sound & saw a face covered in bangs poke out from under the table, a shaky hand grasping the edge o’ the table.
She lifted a book whose cover depicted a shining white Roman statue holding up a sphere.
“If you do not grant us our solitude, I will read the bromidic grotesqueness that is Atlas Shrugged.”
Lance’s minions’ eyes ballooned, & they began vigorously shaking their heads & hands, silently mouthing, “No!”
Violet, the fire—OK, mo’ like cinder—in her eyes quenched, turned with confusion ’way from the minions & @ Lance’s face, only to see with horror a wide smile.
Lance materialized a chair out his cloak & scooted it in closer to the table, resting his eager clasped hands o’er the top.
“Well, I guess Captain Springer can wait. Could you start @ the part when they’re waiting for John Galt to appear? That’s my favorite part.”
Violet began flipping through the book’s pages with an ill frown.
“Are you referencing the first seven hundred pages?”
“Uh, very well… We shall initiate upon the first page then, I suppose…”
Violet set the book down & took a pen from her pocket while fretting o’er how much o’ her precious time he would waste on this procedure.
“This is the part where we learn ’bout the treachery o’ bums asking for quarters, if I remember correctly—1 o’ my favorite parts,” Lance said as he leaned back in his chair.
“Spurious, spurious, spurious,” Violet said as she shook her head. “You cannot simply contrive inferences so brusquely; the quintessential aspect of literary analysis is that one perlustrates the text for literary devices and then surmise the author’s intent from them. In exemplar, if an author utilizes S’s in a character’s locution, that author is communicating that character is untrustworthy, or if the author depicts every female character as iniquitous or promiscuous, that author presumably possesses psychological issues.”
“Such insipid, absurd asininity,” said Lance. “Ayn Rand doesn’t sneak her ideas in like some creepy propagandist, but tells it straight as it is, like a bold propagandist.”
Violet shook her head ’gain.
“That is precisely what is erroneous with you reactionaries: you possess no sense of subtlety. One need only examine the extreme extents you perpetrate solely to neutralize this ‘Captain Springer.’ Why cannot we have a balanced solution? You desire for her to be eliminated, she does not desire to be eliminated; why cannot we merely render her paralyzed from the waist down so that she is half-deceased, or traumatize her to the extent that she is deceased on the inside, but living on the outside—a hollow shell?”
“Such depravity,” said Lance. “Only half good is just as bad as evil—worse, e’en, since it’s not e’en consistent.”
By this point, Felix had already fallen to sleep, her mind o’erloaded by so much grandiloquent diction & tedious prose. Drool dribbled down the side o’ her mouth & onto the table—which will be a vital detail later in this story.
Just then O’Beefe burst in through the cork door.
“Sorry I took so long, guys: I wanted to tinkle, but the dolphins kept watching me & made me feel self-conscious, & then I had to spend a few minutes thinking ’bout what my purpose in life is.” He turned his head left & right. “I wrote some handsomely wondersome poetry, if anyone wants to read it.”
Nobody turned from their tables to look @ O’Beefe, as if he were a mere ghost.
“Did… Did you hear me, guys?”
Lance, who laid his head on his arm while staring down @ Violet’s copy o’ Atlas Shrugged grunted & said, “You’re still in this story? Don’t you know when you’re not needed anymo’?”
“No. May I see the rubric?”
Lance rummaged through his pocket o’ cartoon convenience, pulled out a sheet o’ paper, & held it out ’hind him.
O’Beefe snatched it & held it up to his face, his eyes gliding left & right as he scanned it.
“Hmm… so if I can be completely written out o’ the story without affecting the plot @ all, that is proof that I am a pointless character. Intrig—Hey! What’s going on?”
O’Beefe noticed that his hands were gradually becoming mo’ transparent. He dropped the rubric & looked @ the rest o’ his body & saw that the same applied all o’er him.
“Everyone, help! I’m disappearing!”
O’Beefe’s voice tapered out, just as his appearance dropped to total invisibility. Though only abstractly, one could say that he was still present; ’twas just that any effects he might have on anyone else’s senses or the material configuration o’ the environment were neutralized.
Nobody paid any attention to O’Beefe’s disappearing act. Most had already seen other bit characters vanish in the same manner a’least 3 times, 50 attentions apiece. Science could easily explain this phenomenon: when a story’s setting held too many characters, the world’s memory began to run out, o’erloading its sprite limitations--that is, the limitations o’ the fairies whose magic keeps all these stories ticking on time, 30 LPS (letters per second). The Programmers programmed Boskeopolis to handle this the same way most stories handle it: by making impertinent sprites disappear. The only alternative is to allow characters’ appearances to flicker, which is annoying to read.
“Where were we in the story since we’d been rudely interrupted?” asked Lance, head still lying on arm as an elementary school student indulging in story time.
“Permit us to visualize…” Violet said as she held the book up. “While promulgating her intentions for operating the John Galt Line atop a table to a coterie, Dagny Taggard fortuitously slips on the sputum Felix secretes onto the table after succumbing to slumber. This represents an exemplary example of a literary device christened ‘Chekhov’s gun,’ wherein the author establishes a detail, which will be rendered pertinent subsequently in the story.”
Lance slammed his fist on the table. “That doesn’t happen in the story! I’ve read it half a dozen times, & I sure don’t remember that dumb cat being in it. For gold’s sake, this book was written mo’ than 50 years ago! What, did Ayn Rand have a time machine? Did your stupid cat friend?”
“It is notarized precisely in this page,” Violet said as she turned the book toward Lance, a finger pointed @ the passage in question.
Lance crossed his arms. “Well then, you must have a tampered copy, ’cause I sure as Sweden know there aren’t any anthropomorphic cats in Atlas Shrugged.”
“Look, 1 side says that Atlas Shrugged has anthropomorphic cats in it, the other side says it doesn’t,” said O’Beefe. “That’s what the issue is.”
Lance swung round in his chair with a petulant wince.
“I thought you were gone.”
“Only my appearance left,” said O’Beefe. “I can still interact with the world, like invisible Koopas in terrible Super Mario World rom hacks.”
“This represents an exemplary example of a literary device christened ‘allusion,’ wherein the author references other works,” said Violet.
Lance put his fists to his sides. “I must say, I am quite impressed by such in-depth knowledge o’ such an obscure subject you have, Sir O’Beefe. It’s truly consistent with your characterization. By chance, do you spend your free time scurrying round the forums, downloading your precious Kaizos & discussing the merits o’ glitch-exploitation requirements for level victory, or do you merely watch videos o’ others playing these games? I’m truly curious.”
O’Beefe smiled. “You seem footsomely knowledgeable ’bout the subject, Sir Chamsby. It’s truly consistent with your characterization.”
Lance’s eyes narrowed. “Smile wider & I fear your face will rip open.”
“How can you tell I’m smiling if I’m invisible?”
Lance turned back to the table & slammed both fists gainst it.
“Stiglitz! What’s taking that idiotic looter so long to get here? My time’s too precious to waste B-balling with you plebs.”
“I failed to recognize that Professor Joseph Stiglitz was attendant on this peregrination,” Violet said as she turned her head left & right, searching ’mong the other passengers.
Lance rammed a hand into his right eye socket & ripped out its eyeball. He then handed it to Violet while saying hoarsely, “Here. Take this.”
Violet winced as she stared @ it in her hand, blood, pus, & oil dripping o’er the sides.
“It must be elucidated that this oculus is inordinately malodorous.”
O’Beefe twirled a finger round his ear.
Lance swung round & thrust a finger forward.
“I saw that!”
“How can you see when you just ripped your eyes out o’ your sockets? Having portable eyes is truly consistent with your characterization, by the way.”
“I only ripped 1 eye out, asschasm. Pay mo’ attention to the text.”
Violet beamed. “Sir Chamsby! I must elucidate my gratification at your radical development of literary comprehension.”
Lance glared @ her. “I’m no smelly radical; I’m a smelly individualist, & don’t you forget.”
“Give her the flash cards, Chamsby,” said O’Beefe.
“Take these flash cards,” Lance demanded as he slapped a pile o’ cards on the table.
Violet gazed @ the stack with the wonder o’ a scientist who has just discovered a new gene. She hesitantly grabbed the top card & flipper it facing her.
“’Splain the miracle that was Chile under the ’70s’? Was not Chile subjugated to a mass-murdering totalitarian dictator during that interval?”
Lance crossed his arms. “You can’t cook a utopia without cracking a few troublemakers.”
Violet put the card down.
“I fret that I am obligated to be discordant. I can perceive the desirability of a restrained market system and perchance eliminating & torturing a judicious number of dissenters—or conceivably, solely vigorously suppressing the aggregate—however, in my unostentatious inclination, recrementitious liberty and plethoric oppression is excessively radical. Where is the balance?”
The concept o’ balance so illed Lance that he leaned his face o’er the side o’ the table & puked streams o’ blood, pus, & oil.
“Look, 1 side says that murder is necessary, the other side says that it is merely sometimes useful,” said O’Beefe: “That’s what the issue is.”
Lance glared in O’Beefe’s direction, only to remember that O’Beefe didn’t have a direction, since he was still invisible.
“Do you have any authentic opinion o’ your own?”
“Look, 1 side says that I have no authentic opinion o’ my own, the other side says that I do: that’s what the issue is.”
The room was finally filled with silence. Violet twirled her hair in her finger, Lance tapped his fingers gainst the table, & O’Beefe rearranged his internal organs out o’ absentminded boredom.
After a few empty minutes had passed, Agent Purple Mountain’s Majesty asked, “Sir Chamsby, would you mind if we sat down. My feet are getting awfully tired.”
Lance swung round toward his agents, who were still standing in the middle o’ the aisle.
“Gee, well I’m so sorry you actually have to put some effort into your work for once. It’s not as if you get paid or any—Agent Granny Smith Apple! What did I tell you already?”
Agent Granny Smith Apple stopped in the middle o’ his scooping kibble out o’ the red pet bowl & into his mouth, his eyes akin to a dog that’s been caught shitting on the carpet.
“Put that ’way this instant!” shouted Lance. “Now you don’t get to eat for the next 200 years. I hope you’re happy.”
Agent Granny Smith Apple stared down @ his feet in shame.
Meanwhile, Agent Purple Mountain’s Majesty’s feet suddenly reached up into his coat & extracted a handgun each, 1 after the other. They then pointed the guns @ themselves & fired, causing Agent Purple Mountain’s Majesty to fall o’er with a groan.
“Are you e’er quiet?” said Lance.
“Sir, I believe my feet had become so exhausted that they just committed suicide, making it impossible for me to stand, Sir.”
Lance sighed. “If it isn’t sneaking into the kibble, it’s having suicidal feet. Do you 2 e’er cease failing me?”
“I once won a soccer trophy when I was li’l,” said Agent Granny Smith Apple.
“Did everyone win a trophy just for trying?” asked Lance, disgust deep in his eyes.
“O yeah, ’course. Do you know how embarrassing it’d be to win a trophy when everyone else didn’t? They’d all make fun o’ me & my trophy-winning freakishness.”
“Being the only trophy winner’s a good thing,” said Lance. “It’s the only thing that makes you special.”
“That’s not true,” said Agent Granny Smith Apple. “My mother said I was special ’fore I won the trophy.”
Lance was ’bout to begrudgingly agree, but was interrupted by Agent Purple Mountain’s Majesty, his voice still weak from pain:
“Yeah, I once won a trophy once & ’twas a bad thing. In this competition the person who won the trophy gets shot.”
“If that’s true, then why are you still here?” asked Lance.
“O, getting shot only takes a second, & it happened such a long time ago.”
Lance’s eyebrows lowered & his voice deepened. “No, why are you still ’live?”
“O, they only shot me in the foot.”
“Then why were your feet so capable o’ shooting themselves?”
“Well, obviously I didn’t stand round with a dead foot for years. I bought a new foot @ the foot store.”
“This represents an exemplary example of a literary device christened ‘exaggeration,’ wherein the author expounds an event that exceeds verisimilitude,” said Violet.
“That’s it,” Lance said as he reached into his pockets & pulled out his phone.
He then punched in a #. Unluckily, his fist was too big & he accidentally pressed all o’ the buttons @ once, so he next made due with simply dialing the #.
He tapped his fingers on the table & glared @ blank space before him while he held the phone to his face & waited for the other side to pick up.
After a few beeps, he heard a click, & then the muffled version o’ a familiar voice say, “Who is this?”
“Why aren’t you heisting the S.S. Bottleneck?” asked Lance.
After a short pause, the other side asked, “Lance, is that you? How the hell d’you get my #?”
“You should keep your attention to your own business. I’ve been waiting here for hours so I could hinder your revolting crimes & finally bring spicy justice gainst you. So why aren’t you here?”
“Who told you I was ‘heisting’ the S.S. Bottleneck?”
“That’s none o’ your concern,” said Lance.
The voice on the other side became gruffer. “& what I do is none o’ your concern, so don’t waste my time.”
Then Lance heard a call-ending click.
“A thief & a social aberrant—why am I not surprised?” Lance grumbled as he glared down @ his phone.
He tried ’gain, only to be led to a message machine. He left a quick demand for her to call & ’splain when she’d arrive & then put the phone ’way.
“Great. Now I don’t know if I should stay or leave. Why am I the one who is always inflicted with such misfortune?” Lance said as he dug his chin into his upraised fists.
After a short pause, Violet said, “We may peruse the residual one thousand pages of Atlas Shrugged, if that is your inclination.”
Suddenly, the ship rocked & rolled on the waves, throwing Violet & Felix round in their booths & throwing Lance completely out his chair.
As Violet regained her composure, she noticed with surprise that Felix’s violent movement had had no effect on her slumber.
“What in Venezuela was that?” Lance asked as he stumbled back into his chair.
They all turned their heads toward the door when they heard a cork pop & saw a woman in a white uniform burst in.
“No need to panic, everybody: we just hit a giant soda can & will soon sink to our seaworthy sepulcher. Everyone use their last minutes ’live as best as they can.”
“What?” 1 o’ the passengers called out. “I can’t hear anything ’cause I seemed to have lost my ears.”
But by that time, the attendant had already left. However, they didn’t need to hear to know what was happening: they could witness it by the rapid increase o’ water in the bottle ship.
Lance slammed his fists gainst the table. “What? The ship can’t sink yet. Captain Springer hasn’t arrived to try plundering it & I haven’t been able to stop her yet.”
“Look, 1 side says that the bottle can’t sink, the other side says that it will: that’s what the issue is.”
“If I am permitted to bequeath my unostentatious inclination,” said Violet, “I am obligated to elucidate that this locomotive phial sinking is excessively radical. Where is the balance? A bisection of this vessel submerging, asphyxiating a bisection of its population or the entirety of this vessel submerging in way that we all merely sense the affliction of evanescent asphyxiation sans the mortiferous repercussions would represent a superiorly moderate solution.”
By the time Violet had finished her wide-winded dialogue, the bottle had already tipped o’er from the weight o’ the entered water & summarily sunk deep into the sea, leaving only a few burbling bubbles as a last remnant o’ the S.S. Bottleneck.
But then, a few minutes later, a figure grasping the flat plastic board o’ a ripped-off table top jumped to the surface. Said figure began to cough the water from her lungs & her eyes slowly opened till they understood their surroundings & then widened in 1 large stretch.
“How did I end up here?” Felix asked as she stared round her. “Violet? Sir Monopoly? Sir Snowman Mayor? Anyone here?”
“Who’s that?” asked Felix, swiftly swinging her head in the other direction.
“Don’t bother looking for me; you can’t see me. See, ’cause I’m technically not physically present anymo’, I didn’t sink with the ship,” said O’Beefe. “It appears that what is mo’ consistent with my characterization than Chamsby’s is having the final guffaw.”
Unluckily, ’cause so many characters had disappeared from the scene, the sprite limitations that had kept O’Beefe invisible had been eased, causing O’Beefe to reappear—& thus fall into the sea.
O’Beefe splashed wildly, desperately trying to keep ’bove the surface.
“Help! I can’t swim! I’m too sexy to die.”
He did, ne’ertheless. Though Felix tried to reach out & grab him, he was a few meters ’way—much longer than Felix’s arms, believe it or not. By the time Felix was able to splash her flotsam ship o’er to O’Beefe, O’Beefe had already sunk under the surface, ne’er to return ’bove.
Felix lowered her face to the table & sighed, her eyes cringing under the heavy heat o’ the sun, which was also sinking into the sea, though @ a distance e’en farther than O’Beefe was.
Though Felix knew she’d have no hope o’ rescuing it, just to be safe, she paddled toward it.