May 5, 2012
Terrence Barnett stood in front of an enormous computer. The reddish brown hair on Terrence’s head is in the midst of some serious recession and thinning but when I look at him, I couldn’t imagine it any other way. He’s tall and incredibly slim and looks like a combination of Bruce Dern and James Rebhorn. Everything about his look is fastidious. His pants are always crisp and partnered with shoes that are nice but not of this era. He often has a lab coat although none of us are sure why; there’s never a threat of any organic substance being cast onto his clothing. Terrence is British and stiff. He’s not stiff because he’s British (or vice versa). His stiffness is due to what seems to be a severe, on-going, and self-imposed harsh self-assessment.
The computer in front of him appeared to be outdated but was not. It looked like a slightly less silly version of the TroubAlert computer found in the Hall of Justice in the Super Friends or Teletraan 1 from the Transformers. Terrence is easily the smartest person on our team but his greatest enemy is most certainly himself. He tends to over-analyze things and perceive them in terms that are less human and more machine-like. This is no surprise since Terrence is a computer warlock.
I know little of computers but I knew I needed someone that was not only an unsurpassable IT resource but someone who took it to the next level. I needed someone who had an artistic approach to computers. I needed someone to innovate. Terrence did just that. With instruction from me that was little more than, “I want Teletraan 1”, he made something that will someday be celebrated in Boston’s Museum of Science. If you don’t know what Teletraan 1 was, it was the master computer found in the Autobot’s headquarters in the cartoon Transformers. It was such a wonderful computer that you have to put the word “super” in front of it, making it a supercomputer capable of monitoring all types of vital information all over Earth. This information was used to help the Autobots with current missions they were on or to alert them to new ones.
Being an avid Transformer’s fan, Terrence needed little instruction after that. The only part he felt uncomfortable doing with a computer this big was making an attractive housing for the screen and components. I told him I would take care of that. To the best of my abilities, I built a custom wood cabinet around his handy work.
Terrence was rightfully proud of this computer. It was custom fit for our needs and we could all stand around it and enjoy it as its proud captain navigated it through an ocean of information. And it spoke! That’s right, this computer spoke. The voice was Terrence’s but it still spoke. Most of the time the speaking was a pre-recorded message but sometimes it would put individually pre-recorded words together into messages for us. This really wasn’t necessary but I could tell Terrence really wanted to make something that was as close to Teletraan 1 as possible.
You can imagine that after all of the love, sweat, time, and knowledge that he poured into this computer, he was very annoyed when we all started calling the computer “The Geek”. Ripps was actually the one that came up with the nickname and who kept taping a poorly written sign on top of the computer that said “The Geek”. Terrence would always let out a professional sigh whenever he saw and eventually take it down (with the help of a step ladder) but magically, the morning after, the sign would reappear.
Terrence and The Geek
The author of the sign, Ripps McCoxen, walked into the kitchen and then over to the large dining room where The Geek was located. His hair is a very light brown and I believe he is 31. Ripps stands about 5’11” and carries around a slightly larger-than-average muscular build. If a shirt he’s wearing has sleeves (short or long), it is a very rare thing. It’s peculiar to admit but I don’t know what Ripps’ real name is. Maybe that is his real name although I hope not. All I know is that he signs all official documents as “Ripps”. Although my last name was somewhat rare and existed in the last name of Ripps, we had no relation. Ripps was from Revere. When things get intense, he likes to say “It’s time to start Rippin’ it Revere style!” I never asked him if he capitalizes the “r” in “Rippin’” but I think it’s safe to assume he does.
Ripps is literally the muscle of our team. If our team were instruments, Ripps would certainly be the hammer, or some similar blunt instrument. You wouldn’t want to use him for surgery or defusing a bomb but he would be irreplaceable for demolition. Everyone needs a hammer at some point. For this reason, I asked him to join our squad.
Ripps was basically a poor shy kid that wanted to be muscular so because he couldn’t afford weights and was too shy to lift at the school gym, he lifted anything he could get his hands on. While the other guys were lifting weights in gyms, Ripps was lifting things like air conditioners and radiators. Even during the second half of high school when he had overcome his shyness and had a job that would afford him a gym membership or a decent set of weights, he chose to stick with his odd yet effective routine. One thing that did bother him about his system was that it was hard to quantify and therefore compare his strength to his lifting peers. He remedied this by going into a gym once or twice a year to see how much he could truly lift. Although he wasn’t a very big guy, it turned out he was quite strong. His borderline absurd regimen gave him very good core strength since he was never isolating some ridiculous muscle whose only purpose was to look good.
Once you got to know Ripps, you would like him. There was a bit of a meathead veneer to get through but once you did, you found a man with a big heart that was fiercely loyal. His upbringing was not the best. His abusive father furnished him with an abundant amount of psychological landmines but thankfully his loving mother was able to barely keep his soul in the light. His ability to defend himself was a product of necessity. If he wasn’t busy fending off lunatic toughs in his neighborhood, he found himself in prerequisite sparring sessions with his father at home. As they so often do, these experiences developed not just the right amount of attitude and skills to survive for Ripps but an overabundance that led to ridiculing people that were innocent of any wrongdoing. Ripps was unusually threatened by smart people, “geeks” as he liked to call them. He took this perception of a threat to an extreme I found a little strange until I discovered that his father was a very intelligent man whose greatest abuse on Ripps was done not with his fists but with his mind.
Terrence looked over as Ripps entered. “Good morning, Ripps.”
“What’s up?! You need to get off The Geek so I can check my email.”
“This is not a geek, Ripps! This is a supercomputer capable of life-changing complex functions.”
Ripps pointed to the sign above the computer. “I could put the same sign over you. I know a geek when I see one. They’re always sticky and they smell like math.”
“Quiet Ripps! I’m trying to analyze data so I can brief you all on today’s mission.”
Ripps strolled back into the kitchen. He took out his blender and assembled the necessary components for his protein shake. With almost comical care, he measured and dumped each ingredient into the blender. Absorbed in this process, he failed to see Stever Paté who was sleeping on the top of the upper kitchen cabinets.
Stever is a motivational speaker with a medium height and build in his late 40’s. His hair is at that point where I am unsure if one would call it by its original color: dark brown, or it’s more recent color: gray. In a couple years, it will unanimously be called gray. Stever likes the grays. He feels they give him authority. They remind him of the passage of time and how important it is to achieve as the “Achievement Clock” is slowly winding down. Stever is almost always in a red turtleneck or “scarlet” as he would say.
Stever comes across as quite a ham and in many ways he is. But many make the mistake of misjudging him and writing him off as some out-of-touch boob. He is much more humble and in control than most people realize and I’m of the thinking that many of his apparent foibles are in place so no one sees his magic. This may seem deceptive but his magic is used for good. He uses his magic to help people and from what I’ve experienced, many people don’t want to know they’re being helped so it all seems to work out for the best. Besides, most of us subconsciously put up some sort of personality smokescreen that allows the real us to achieve our goals.
Stever’s negotiation and PR skills are second to none. He’s wonderful with people. He knows how to implant a wonderful spirit in almost anyone. I usually detest motivational speakers but there is something absolutely genuine about him and his methods. Thankfully, we encounter many problems that can be repaired with is soft touch.
Like Ripps, Stever has had his share of adversity but his came later in life. His upbringing was a happy one that included good grades, friends, playing keyboard in a band, a cool dad, a caring mother, a brother he got along with, and a sister he got along with. After graduating from a meaningful college experience that did not put him in debt, he entered the corporate world and eventually became a corporate trainer. His specialties were in sales and marketing. It sometimes bothered him that certain aspects of sales and marketing could be a tad sleazy at times (as could the entire corporate experience) but he remained a loyal soldier.
When he was 34, the glass of milk that is life turned abruptly sour. His marriage had been already heading for an unwanted showdown. For the previous year, Stever had been increasing his pressure on his wife to have children. She had always told Stever that she wanted to have children with him but now that the time came, she balked.
On his 34th birthday, he found out that he was being laid off since his company decided to outsource all of their training needs. On his way out to the car that day, he carried a box filled with his impersonal effects. As he went for his car keys with his right hand, he dropped the box and everything scattered all about him. He continued to search for his keys and looked underneath his car where he saw something that looked like his keys so he lied on the ground and reached for them. He finally reached the object that turned out not to be his keys and as he tried to back out, realized he had become wedged underneath the car. He struggled for a bit but it only made things worse. He stopped, closed his eyes, and pondered his predicament. That’s when tears flowed out of his eyes like the lava from an erupting volcano. His frustration got the better of him so he started kicking his legs and screaming. The first coworker that saw him took one look at the entire scene but did nothing to help him as she could not overcome a feeling that was a mix of awkwardness and fear. Her name was Susan, a person Stever often worked alongside with. Finally, a face appeared on the opposite side of the car, next to the front right tire. It was James, the maintenance man. Stever had never spoken a word to him.
James got the jack from his truck and gently lifted Stever’s car up so he could get out. He helped Stever to his feet. A pain shot through his chest. James thought Stever may have broken a rib so he brought him to the emergency room. Stever thanked James and told him to leave since his wife could collect him. X-rays showed a rib was cracked. They showed much more too. They showed he had some sort of rare lung infection. In layman’s terms he had what was essentially herpes of the lungs. It was killing him and he had no idea. Follow up tests the next day concluded that he had about two months to live. The infection had spread too far too fast.
His wife never showed at the hospital. After the taxi dropped him at his house, he went inside to find his wife and several of her things missing. She left.
Stever lived about a mile or so away from a cranberry bog. He thought that would be a good place to kill himself. He wandered into the bog like a zombie, drunker than he’d ever been, drunk enough, he hoped, that he could drown himself without too much effort. He sat down. He looked at all the cranberries that seemed to run away from him. He allowed himself to fall face forward into the acidic water. In his drunken state he had a hard time realizing he was drowning. The horrible taste and feeling of the water rushing into his lungs seemed to be part of a horrible dream. Without warning, two strong arms pulled him out of the water and dragged him onto dry land. It was Maxwell Lassidorf, the owner of the bog and a motivational speaker.
Although he didn’t realize it at the time, a miracle had happened that day. His lung infection was gone within a week. From what doctors could tell, it seemed to be linked to his near drowning in the bog but they were unsure as to exactly why. Some doctors thought it had something to do with the high acid levels of the bog water that filled his lungs while others thought the cranberries, which are high in antioxidants are to be credited in positively affecting the water he ingested.
Once Stever fully recovered, he took Maxwell out to dinner to thank him (and to apologize for almost killing himself in his nice bog). The two quickly became good friends and Maxwell helped start Stever on his new path as a motivational speaker.
A cranberry bog. It had been so good to Stever. It gave him his life back, it gave him a best friend, and it gave him a new purpose in life.
At the very moment the blender came to life, Stever’s head popped up. Sensing movement above him, Ripps quickly looked up and saw Stever. Just as suddenly as Ripps was scared by this unexpected and odd-placed presence, he became upset with himself for allowing himself to get scared.
“Good morning, Ripps! What time is it?”
“Seven forty. Why the hell are you sleeping up there?!”
“Seven forty?” He exhaled and put his head back down. “Darn it. I overslept by five hours. I’m sleeping up here because I like to sleep in precarious places.”
“Well find somewhere else to catch your geeky z’s.”
“No worries, Ripps. I never sleep in the same place twice so it’s a non-issue.”
As Stever awkwardly got down from the cabinets, Danny Morsel came in from the back stairway, behind Ripps. Although Ripps didn’t see Danny, he knew he was coming. The back stairs were strong but they creaked even if a ghost floated over them.
Stever made it down to the floor and saw Danny. “Hi there Danny!”
“How did you sleep?”
“I was asleep so I don’t really remember how it was.” Danny did not mean that as a joke but Stever laughed generously.
“Ha haaa! That is beautiful, Danny! I’m going to use that one, with your permission.”
Danny’s expression did not change. “Sure.”
Stever started to make his usual breakfast: green tea, half of an organic grapefruit, and gluten-free muesli with blueberries, chia seeds and plain Greek yogurt (or “Geek yogurt” as Ripps calls it) mixed in. If it was the weekend, Stever might even mix in a little honey to his muesli mix. From the moment he awoke, Stever was unbelievably chipper. He wanted to talk to everyone. He wanted everyone to share in his happiness. Danny awoke on the opposite end of the morning spectrum. His early-morning disposition was that of a Clint Eastwood western character that woke up in a jail with a hangover and a small, non-lethal knife wound in the leg. He was best left alone.
Stever took his breakfast over to the kitchen table, near the window. He started to whistle. Each note stung Danny like a wasp. With his back turned, Danny’s head dropped, he stopped spreading butter on his toast, and held up the butter knife to his side so Stever could see it. In a beseeching and mildly menacing tone, Danny said one word: “Please.”
Stever stopped whistling. Or more accurately, he stopped whistling out loud and whistled in his mind which was made clear with his music conductor-like head movements.
Danny took small bites from his toast and drank black coffee as he waited for his two eggs and Canadian bacon to come to fruition. Even when the remainder of his meal completed itself, he would still stand at the counter as he ate it. If he was in a hurry, he would stand over the sink and eat so all the crumbs would fall into the sink, voiding the need of plates or cleanup. This move so impressed Stever that he included it in his seminars in his section on efficiency.
Danny was also the muscle of the group although his was of a different variety from Ripps. I met him in the popular and expansive tree-rich Arboretum nearby. The sun had just set and I was running alongside the train tracks on a well-worn path on the back side of Peter’s Hill. The Arboretum is safe but like any city park, it’s a good idea to avoid it after dark. When I reached the top of a bluff, I stopped. Down below and on the other side of large, natural bowl-shaped valley was a peculiar scene.
Three punkish young men were approaching a man dressed in a red tank top and black pants who looked to be practicing some sort of martial arts. What made it more bizarre was that his movements were in time with music playing from a humble boom box. Next to the boom box was what looked to be a ventriloquist doll that, from what I could tell from this distance, was dressed exactly like its owner. This martial art was a combination of dancing and fighting, making it similar to capoeira. However, the dance moves were quite different; they seemed to be on a family tree whose ancestors included Michael Jackson, Mikhail Baryshnikov and John Travolta.
Although I could not make out their exact words, the approaching men were undoubtedly taunting the man that was dancing/fighting. One of them started to sloppily mimic him. At that exact moment, another charged from behind. The man moved to the side but kept his leg in the same spot. As the aggressor tripped over his leg, the dance fighter took his leg back and jumped on the tripping man’s back, riding him to the ground. I started to run down slowly. The aggressor stayed on the ground with the wind knocked out of him while the dance fighter quickly rolled over to the boom box, turned up the volume, and grabbed the doll by his feet. As a second man charged, his faced was immediately introduced to the hard, unforgiving head of this doll. He moved away. Struggling to stay on his feet and overcome his brand new dizzying pain, he eventually stumbled to the ground. Right behind him was the third man charging. Slightly bent over and with his body facing sideways, the dance fighter found himself in a less than desirable position. With few options, he simply thrust his left hip into the final attacker’s thigh. With the dance fighter’s assistance, the attacker flipped over and landed on his back. All three men staggered to their feet and rapidly limped away. All of this happened before I made it within 40 feet from this mysterious man. And all of it happened as if it were some rehearsed dance.
I approached this spectacle of a man. He had very dark brown hair that looked like an anchorman’s after an hour of racquetball. On his face, the neighbor below was a rough n’ tumble mustache that was bred with the same hostility found in his apology-free shoulder hairs. His eyes were wild but focused, like that of a cat that just killed a squirrel. I judged him to be in his mid-30’s at the time. As he spoke, his voice stationed itself at a slightly lower register. It was a voice that would excite risk-taking women and scare children.
“Are you okay? Should I call the cops?” I asked.
“I’m fine. Thank you. No cops are needed. I have successfully instilled fear into the weak minds of my attackers. I doubt they will again have enough bravery to even attack a comatose farm animal.”
“That was quite an introduction you gave those guys.”
“Yeah, I got a funny way of shaking hands.”
I continued to encounter Danny Morsel in the same spot. I don’t know if you could call us drinking buddies but we did become something like friends from our passing conversations. I eventually found out that his martial art was a thing he dubbed “Combat Dancing”. He created the art quite by accident. Danny was always a good dancer. He won a few amateur contests. He was also into martial arts. He tried several different forms but none of them intrigued him. Then one night in a dance club in Miami, someone picked a fight with him on the floor during one of Danny’s favorite songs, Give It To Me by Rick James. “Even though I was in a fight, I couldn’t stop dancing! It was my favorite song.” Danny instead decided to have his cake and kick someone’s ass too. He carried on with his dancing and worked in some of his favorite martial arts moves. The result was explosively entertaining and violently effective.
As most are, Danny was a self-appointed vigilante. He travelled from city to city, looking for thugs to tame. He would spend anywhere from six months to two years before moving on. His income was the interesting part. After he “crumpled a criminal like a piece of junk mail”, he would take their money or any valuables they had on him. He thought it was only fair. He rendered a valuable service to the community and believed that he should be paid for his efforts. And what better way to be compensated than by the criminal themselves! Beyond this, I know little of Danny’s past.
His little friend was lovingly referred to as the “War Doll”. The War Doll was a weapon of the strangest style I had ever seen. Danny told me it was a good baffling technique. He would often wear it on his chest and hide it under a jacket. When the moment was right and he confronted an enemy, he would rip off his jacket and display the War Doll. The shock and confusion that would follow was something Danny always found to his advantage.
Underneath a thin fabric “skin” was a much thicker layer of wool that was an exact replica of the kind used in the 1700’s for the British soldier’s redcoat. When asked why he used this wool, Danny would illustrate the wool’s legendary resilience and toughness with a brief tale. After fighting the British in Lexington, a Dover militiaman by the name of Jabez Baker got his hands on a British redcoat and used it to dress a scarecrow in his field. The coat persisted out in the field for 90 gnarly New England winters, springs, summers, and falls. Beneath the wool, running through the entire body, were small Kevlar plates woven together. The head itself was indeed a magnificently sculpted and painted piece of Kevlar. The War Doll: a bullet proof vest, a weapon, a dear friend.
I believe we’re clear on why I asked Danny to join us.
Danny Morsel and The War Doll
Someone was coming down the stairs. The sound of the creaking stairs was accompanied by scatting. The two sounds were not only close in volume, they were in sync. The resulting sound was nothing short of jazz. The creaking stairs had now become a sort of percussion. The descending musician had quickly figured out what creaks happened where and masterfully adjusted his scatting to create an odd but respectable sound. With the smoothness of melting chocolate, Barry Tattle spun around the corner and into the kitchen. Barry’s age is a closely guarded secret. When asked his age, Barry responds, “Worry not about my age for my figure is eternal.” He always has a well-groomed mustache for the world to enjoy and his eyes are almost always partying behind some light amber-colored lenses. His receding hair is usually fashioned in one of two ways: almost whiffle-short or like Jack Nicholson’s in The Shining. During the day, Barry is dressed nice but something you could moped in. At night, his dress and manner become more sensual. His favorite nocturnal uniform is a burgundy silk suit that was custom made in Bangkok while travelling through. Since the tailor in Bangkok still has his measurements and his “figure” has remained steady, he has since ordered more suits in different colors and patterns for extremely friendly prices.
Barry’s purpose was similar to Stever’s but if Stever was the day, Barry was the night. Stever had a soft touch but sometimes a touch so soft was needed that the recipient did not even realized they were being touched. Barry is a great spy without realizing it or attempting it or wanting it. People, ladies especially, open up to him. He’s warm and charming and absolutely free of any unsavory elements brewing beneath the surface. Barry is truly jazzy. It’s not an act. People enjoy his presence because they feel like they’re on vacation. And when you’re on vacation, you tend to let your hair down – and Barry knows just what to do when your hair is down.
Barry is from Bermuda. It’s funny because before I met Barry, I had never actually met someone from Bermuda or “Bermy” as he often calls it. His father was from France and his mother was from Ireland. They met in Ireland and moved to Bermuda and began a business building the type of sailboats known as “Bermuda sloops”. Barry never took to boat-building but he did take to the jazz that his father always had playing in his shop. Barry loved to emulate Louis Armstrong’s scatting and ultimately developed his own bossa nova scat style. For a laugh one night at a party, he started singing and scatting while a jazz band lightly played in the background. The bystanders’ reactions were the same as that to seeing someone throw a baseball 90 mph for their very first pitch of their life. Fast forward a few years, Barry was making a decent living performing at parties and clubs in Bermuda.
Barry carved out a most envious lifestyle in Bermuda. He partied often, entertained and fell in love with ladies. Even after a romance had expired, the love between Barry and his “lady guest” would continue. A woman might get sad when it ended (as would Barry) but somehow she realized that Barry was meant to be shared with the world. His positive impact was not meant for just one person; it had to be felt by many. Barry was not a slut – he loved every single woman he interacted with. Barry had an understanding and appreciation for women that was unparalleled (think Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman but more pure).
Eventually he scored some gigs in the states and found himself with a faithful following in Boston. I used to see him perform at various spots: Johnny D’s in Somerville, The Good Life downtown (before they wrecked the place), Lucky’s and even the occasional jazz brunch at the Beehive. I became a big fan and was happy when he would invite me to drink afterwards. As I would sit down and watch him in his post-show habitat, I started to realize it was nearly a better performance than his normal show. He worked a room without effort. What amazed me most was when he interacted with a group of folks he had never met. It was like he was some kind of can opener that could open even the most difficult of containers. He would then sit down next to me and proceeded to share with me an indescribable volume of personal information on his new close friends. Barry only shared these juicy tidbits with me after he got to know and trust me.
One of his skills, I noticed was that he could drink a lot. While his fellow revelers started to dissolve, Barry remained intact. He loved chardonnay but I’ve never seen it get the better of him. He loves it so much that he even designed a moped in his father’s shop that runs on it. That reminds me, Barry is an enormous fan of mopeds and endeavors to use them for all his transportation needs (he even designed one with a sidecar and more powerful engine so he can transport two ladies should the need and desire arise).
Barry dumped some cereal into a bowl. Danny’s attention was brought over to Barry when he heard the sound of a bottle being uncorked. Danny watched in disbelief as Barry added a few ounces of chardonnay to his cereal. Barry caught his eye, smiled, held up the bottle and said, “Even in the morning, this is a flavor that my body must savor!” Danny’s eyes followed Barry as he walked out of the kitchen, scatting and carrying his bowl of chardonnay-soaked cereal into the dining room area.
I walked into the dining room to the find the cast members of this odd, great play we were in. In a few moments they would meet our final actor. With the exception of Terrence who was at the keyboard, they stood in an arc around The Geek. I had my back to the screen as I spoke, “Good morning folks. Terrence, has The Geek assembled our first mission?”
“I wish you would stop calling it that but yes, it has.”
“Excellent. Gentlemen, we’ve been together for a week now. You’ve all been chosen because each of you brings a unique skill set that, I believe, will make help make an incredible team. Barry, I chose you because of your charm and tenderness. That plus the fact that you know your way around a bottle of chardonnay make you the perfect spy. We can’t rely on The Geek for all of our data collection needs. Some will require a more seductive and deceptive approach.”
Barry took a hearty gulp from his cereal bowl. “I’ll drink to that, hombre! And please don’t call me a spy. I prefer the term ‘hush man’.”
I smiled. If it was later in the day, I would have laughed. Danny and I must have had a similar ancestor for I too struggled with mornings. “Stever, you will be our first line of offense. You will be the first one to resolve any missions through negotiation and diplomacy. Your years as a motivational speaker make you perfect for achieving our goals through peaceful means.”
“I’ll make sure everyone I deal with comes down with a ‘Stever Fever ‘! Ha!” Stever laughed confidently but upon looking around at predominantly unchanged faces, added, “…that means I’ll do well.”
Barry interjected, “I’m not sure it makes any difference but I’m from Bermuda.”
“Thanks Barry. Now, our missions won’t all be peaceful. Some will be downright dangerous which is why I made sure we had muscle. Ripps, we’ve all heard tales of your strength. I hope it’s there when we need it most.”
With a small but entertaining puff of the chest, Ripps assured us all, “The god of hugeness didn’t give me these guns so I could knit sweaters.”
“Damn it, I love sweaters. I like to wear them.” Barry said genuinely with no intention of being a wise ass.
“Our other muscle comes in the form of Danny Morsel. He’s the world leader when it comes to Combat Dancing…which I’m sure you all have seen before. Right guys?”
With arms folded, Ripps gave an incredulous exhalation. “You kidding me?”
Stever politely tried to pretend to search his mind for a response but then shook his head. “I’d be lying if I said yes.”
Feeling it was his turn, Barry looked straight ahead and delivered a negative response in his special style, “This moment belongs to ‘No’.”
Danny was mildly disgusted. “Well that’s fine because most people haven’t experienced death either before it happens yet they learn fast when it does.”
Stever tried to wrap his head around that thought. “So Combat Dancing is just as important as death?
With the cool yet dangerous authority of Clint Eastwood (sorry but I’ll be making Clint comparisons to Danny a lot – their voices are different but their brooding energy is almost identical), Danny answered his temporary student, “Being a motivational speaker, Stever, you should know that only Combat Dancing and death are needed to motivate someone.”
“There’s one other Jambassador you haven’t met. Now I’ve tried to prepare you for this. I know you’re sick of me saying it but what you’re about to witness may scare you but please understand that this power is friendly in nature. Terrence, does The Geek have a fix on Future Queer yet?”
Ripps looked nervous. “Future what?!”
Terrence kept alternating between typing and reading data on the screen. “The COMPUTER is locating him now…a few moments more…there he is and he should be here in 3…2…1…”
Coming from what sounded like the upstairs, a loud sizzling noise, as if something was being fried by electricity, joined with distinct pops and snaps was heard. They could not see it but a source of bright light started to form in the highest room in the house, the only room on the fourth floor, the top of the tower. Powerful bursts of light and non-lethal bolts of electricity charged out of the four windows going north, south, east, and west. Even in the bright morning, one could still detect this other-worldly light. The tower now looked like an odd lighthouse with four lights set in opposite directions that and instead of just shining light, were emitting a futuristic blast of energy. But this blast of energy was not destructive. Yes, you could feel something pass through you if you were close to it but it did no more harm than a strong wind.
The Arrival of Future Queer
The sound stopped. There was silence for a few seconds which was followed by footsteps coming down the ladder from the top room of the tower. Everyone knew that all members of the household were standing in that one room. The stairs from the third floor now came to life. It was interesting to look at the faces of everyone to see how they handled this rare moment. Even though they searched for an explanation, all of them knew they were about to encounter something that would change the way they saw the world from this point on. Ripps was masking a bit of fear with an exaggerated version of a bouncer’s stance. Stever seemed to sink into some well-rehearsed, meditative technique designed to control a sudden rush of nerves. The top of the final staircase was now speaking out. Barry stroked his mustache, almost smiled and gave off the air that he knew what was coming. Danny had a poker face that would put Doc Holliday to shame – his thoughts were unreadable to me.
As the old floorboards sounded out, we all stared at the doorway leading into the kitchen. There was a black curtain there that was about to inadvertently become part of a dramatic stage entrance. A hand from the other side of the curtain pushed it aside and the recent cause of speculation presented itself.
With a bold, almost authoritative voice sharing qualities of one found in a 1950’s educational film, he spoke. “My name is Future Queer! I am from the future!”
There before us was something that took most if not all of your breath away. This “Future Queer” was a man of average height and build but after that, nothing was average in his appearance. His outfit was somewhat athletic (except his footwear which resembled black dress shoes). His black pants were like running pants and his top was a lightweight, polyester-looking red vest that was either by itself or partnered with a long sleeve shirt, depending on the weather. So minus his shoes, it kind of looked like Future Queer ran here from the future.
And Future Queer’s head? Unmistakable. His hair was some sort of thick, silver rubber wig that looked a kin to the hairstyle of an Oompa-Loompa. It was as if that people in the future reverted to the 1700’s practice of wearing wigs during important events. He also had a mustache which looked fake but I could not be sure – its shape was like that of a Victorian-era bartender and its color was gray.
Future Queer is from the year 2912. According to him, “the future is gay”. I always find this statement astonishingly broad but it is frequently the first thing out of his mouth when he lands in a certain time and place. Weirdly enough, that is one of Future Queer’s purposes: to inform the past that the future is gay. I thought such sharing of the future would be illegal as it would compromise the future in some way but Future Queer has told me that Lord Fabergé, the ruler of their time, has invested fantastic sums of money researching into this matter and their studies conclude that the sharing of certain data of the future is not only harmless but beneficial. The thing that makes such decisions and that is directly linked to Future Queer’s Thought-Controlled Time Travel Component (TCTTC) is a super computer of epic powers and proportions. Time travel is dicey business. Jump into the wrong coordinates, like inside a tree, you’ll be dead. Future Queer simply thinks of where and when he wishes to jump, the computer analyzes it and responds with a confirmation or a better, safer alternative. This super computer’s name is Juan. It’s not an acronym or anything. They simply named the computer Juan.
Future Queer could have jumped into the room we were standing in but he didn’t for two reasons: 1) he didn’t want to scare the Ripps, Danny, Stever and Barry with a blinding light show and 2) Future Queer prefers not to jump into spaces with lots of people that may be moving around. Once he’s in an action-packed space and can see the lay of the land, than he is more comfortable with jumping around. We both agreed it was best for him to jump into the top room of the tower since I knew no one would be there. If the neighbors ever ask about all the light, we will tell them Terrence, our scientist, was conducting harmless light/electricity experiments.
Juan has incalculable amounts of data pertaining to the safety status of equally incalculable places and times but it is far from infallible. This is why time travelers must go through years of rigorous training in an extremely elite university simply known as Time Travel University. A well-trained traveler with acute senses and sharp instincts and a lucid mind working in concert with Juan is capable of amazing things while simultaneously posing no risk to the past, present or future.
I really shouldn’t call him Future Queer. That’s not his real name. He calls himself that when he’s travelling through the past since he feels that it makes more sense and immediately introduces the fact that he is a time traveler. He does realize the word “queer” can be offensive to some but in his time, the word queer is synonymous with “glorious” and he wishes to show that there is no need to “fear the queer” as he would say. His real name is Fred. “Calling myself ‘Future Queer’ in the year 2912 would be like someone from your time calling themselves ‘Person That Wears Denim Slacks’”, Fred says often.
Fred tells me that almost everyone in the future is gay. After the winning the Gay Wars of 2876, an almost perfect gay utopia resulted. Interestingly enough, from how he describes it, this gay utopia sounds like a conservative straight society. It’s not like the wild partying or artistically stimulating or on-the-fringe scene one might expect. There are banks and offices and schools and people mowing lawns. But perhaps that is to be expected. When one group becomes the majority and maintains power, it seems to become boring. Those at the top quickly realize that stability and predictability are the cornerstones to the preservation of a society.
Fred was fine with the way things are in his time until he started travelling to other eras. He soon saw that something was lost. Gays had so long been oppressed that once they saw a chance to dominate, they did so. They thought it would cure their oppression. Perhaps it did for a time but now the soul of it all was gone. Fred tells me there is a growing movement to somehow create a society with more balance. He realizes that so many of the people that claim to be gay are not. He dreams of a time where you can be what you truly wish to be and suffer no dire consequences. Fred regrets the Gay Armies destroying the Straight Armies to the point that the tiny surviving faction became the “Straight Resistance” and was forced to shamefully live underground like rats. From what Fred can tell, most gay people are secretly unhappy with this utopia and feel more enslaved now than they did before the wars. Fred’s hope is that by being the “best gay I can be!” during his travels to the past, he will perhaps help people change how they view sexual orientation and avoid the bitter Gay Wars of 2876.
Fred answered a craigslist ad I posted in efforts to find members for the Jambassadors. It’s ironic that the only member that the craigslist ad was able to bring in was not even from our time. I had to keep the ad somewhat vague. I made it sound like it was a simple charity we were starting. My hope was that I could get in a few decent people that could interview heavily. Fred was drawn to my cause as he thought he could learn a lot from our society since he would be coming in to contact with very intriguing situations. I’m not going to lie, I not only thought he was nuts when I met him but I was scared shitless when he started demonstrating his time travelling powers. Once I became acclimated with Fred and his one of a kind talent, I decided he would make a wonderful addition.
Stever, Ripps, and Danny were far from using words. Barry was curiously smiling and was clearly trying to figure something out. I could see they were becoming skeptical so I spoke.
“Future Queer comes from the year 2912 and he’s a time traveler. Oh, his real name is Fred so call him that. He’s agreed to use his time travelling abilities to help us. I can already tell you don’t believe he is what he says he is so we’ve designed a little demo. Yesterday, I showed you a page of the Boston Herald newspaper dated July 19th, 1884 that I found in one of the walls in The Castle with an article about Theodore Roosevelt defending Henry Cabot Lodge’s support of Republican candidate James Blaine. I even put a few distinctive marks on the paper with pen. In front of you, I destroyed that article. Now you will see why. Show them, Fred.”
Fred disappeared in a flash of light that confused, irritated and surprised everyone. A moment later, the light show returned along with Fred. In his hand was the very page I destroyed yesterday. Even though I knew what was coming, I couldn’t help share in everyone else’s awe. It was like being in a Matrix-like computer software program where a genius programmer was doing some real-time editing with the most potent computer graphics program available.
I had planned to go right into our mission but I changed my mind and let them talk to Fred for a couple hours or so. You don’t throw a time traveler at somebody and expect to carry on with your day. I had to make sure they were okay with the idea. All of them were except Ripps. Ripps was cold and kept his distance. He was struggling with the homosexual angle of Fred. I warned Fred of this and he handled it marvelously.
As it turned out, Barry met Fred in Bermuda years ago at a beach party. It was a costume party and everyone was pretty drunk so when a strangely dressed person claimed to be a time-travelling gay man from the future, no one gave it any thought. Fred was actually awarded with a “Best Costume” prize during the party.
The Dunes of Bermuda
Once I felt everyone’s nerves and minds had settled, I asked Terrence to give us our first mission. Instead of telling us, he looked at the computer and ordered, “Computer…speak!” And indeed, the computer spoke but in a voice that sounded much like Terrence’s:
This is the computer speaking…so listen up! I need you to do something for me. The Franklin Holmes Community Center nearby has been vandalized every day for the past three weeks and no one can seem to find out how or why. Police have placed an officer on watch at night but have come up with nothing. Your task will be to investigate this and put an end to these disrespectful acts. You must do this by Friday since the children of the center plan to put on a play. If the vandals have not been stopped by then, the play will be cancelled! Oh, one other thing, stop calling me The Geek. It hurts my feelings.
Danny looked at Terrence, “The Geek’s voice has a gross resemblance to yours.”
Terrence tried to appear oblivious, “I don’t know you’re talking about but your observation sounds like rubbish to me.”
Ripps shook his head, “You hired us to make sure kid’s plays don’t get cancelled? I thought we were going to kick ass and solve huge problems.”
I addressed the entire group, “Gentlemen, remember why we are here: Ad majorem Dei gloriam inque hominum salutem…For the greater glory of God and the salvation of man. This is the Jesuit motto. Perfectly expressed by Professor Harro Höpfl, ‘it is a summary of the idea that any work that is not evil, even one that would normally be considered inconsequential to the spiritual life, can be spiritually meritorious if it is performed in order to give glory to God’. I don’t know if you all believe in God or not. That’s your business. But whether you do or you don’t, the idea of living for the purpose of something greater than yourself is a sound one. Bring joy, light, wisdom, and justice to your every turn, gentlemen, and you will be not just fulfilling your job requirements but you will become enlightened.”
They were all silent. I didn’t mean to get that deep. It just happened. I get that from my father. Absorbed in my speech, I didn’t notice until now that Terrence had videotaped me using the security cameras in the room. When I took notice of my image in a small window on the The Geek’s screen, he sheepishly stopped the taping. I clapped my hands to break the positive and reflective tension. I ended up clapping them much louder than I intended to. “Sorry about that…Ripps, Stever, and I will head down to the center to see what we can dig up.”
Ripps grabbed his 2X4. That’s right, Ripps had a 2X4 he sometimes carried around. But what was really amazing was the fact that he named this piece of lumber “Linda” (he actually wrote “Linda” on it). Ripps really researched this lumber business. He didn’t just enlist some average piece of pine for the important role of his lumber sidearm. Ripps discovered that the strongest lumber was bamboo. It turns out bamboo has a stronger tensile strength than steel. To construct bamboo lumber, strips of bamboo are compressed together with incredible force. The resulting product is immensely strong. Ripps was a little bummed out when he learned bamboo lumber is the strongest. He was hoping it was something like oak or ash. He feels that bamboo is too touchy feely and too European. Not surprisingly, when asked what type of wood Linda is, he’ll often lie and say it’s ash. Linda has been with Ripps for several years. To best explain their relationship, I would have to liken it to the human-wood relationship that existed between Roy Hobbs and his bat “Wonderboy” in the movie The Natural.
Although his shirt was sufficiently tucked in, Stever tucked it in again and then as if to say “Let’s do this!”, he energetically pumped his fists near his hips which I think is an odd place to pump your fists but I wasn’t about to tell him that.
I looked around at the group and smiled. This was the first time they actually looked like a team. They were all very much their own entity but they were all somehow on the same page, oddly. Before I left, I placed a call to one of my friends in City Hall and told them of our intent to help the center. I was told that was fine and that they would call ahead to the director, Lily, to let her know we were coming by. Ripps, Stever, and I left the room and walked out the front door.