The first clue when I woke up that day was the terrible state of things. Every lived-in room has its own certain rhythm, like a fingerprint. And what I woke up to was not the particular chaos I was used to.
The place had been ransacked, tossed like a veritable Caesar salad. Cracked door frames and stair rails, broken picture frames, book shelves shattered. Tiles smashed, windowpanes with gossamer spider webs glistening in the moonlight. Half my books were gone, and all my porn, though what was left was neatly alphabetized. My periodicals weren't gone, but parts of them were missing. Paragraphs and even whole sections had been cut out from my magazines and newspapers. And whoever these phantoms were, they’d taken my entire firearm collection, my swords and assortment of medieval weapons, and my Body Count CD, first edition.
A few of my son’s video games were missing, as well. But only the best ones, marked “M for Mature.” And so were my daughter’s birth control pills. In their place were pamphlets and bumper stickers. Their schoolbooks were also missing, though there were applications in their place. It seemed that McDonald’s was always hiring.
But I had been left with a bullet-proof vest, a lifetime’s supply of Viagra, an old back copy of the Village Voice, and a brand-new leather bound bible.
Strange burglars, indeed.
I donned the bullet-proof vest and stepped outside. All my neighbors were out, watching the house. A few had brought out grills, and were cooking steaks. To one side, a game of frisbee had started up. At once, I began my interrogations. Had they seen anything? What did they hear? Could anyone give a description? They mostly shrugged, though a few pointed and laughed.
“Serves you right,” I heard one shout from a safe distance. “How could you sleep through all that, anyway?” I had to admit, that was a fair question.
I called Officer Obie to check the place out, but he just looked and shook his head. “Nothing to do, young fella,” he said, “Your garden variety crook I could handle, and for the Mob we’ve got the FBI. But you’ve been hit by the Ferocious Beasts. There’s nothing to be done about that.”
The Ferocious Beasts? My mind spun. There had to be some mistake, those two hated each other. And anyway, there was no trace to be found. I looked again, but no: not so much as a track. But Officer Obie just nodded. “Oh, they’re clever, but sure it was them.” He showed me what I’d missed before: the hoof marks in the garden I’d taken for oversize deer tracks, the foot prints in the peanut butter. “You’re not the first they’ve taken this way,” he told me, “and sure as gravity you won’t be the last. They’ll fight in the daylight like George and the Dragon, while their followers curtsey and wave. But at night they split the profits by two, and laugh themselves to sleep.”
“Well, then, what are we waiting for, Obie?” I said, “Come on, let’s bring them in!”
But Officer Obie just laughed gently, in that oh-you-poor-kid kind of way. “Nothing to be done,” he said again. “I’d help you if I could. But if it was the Ferocious Beasts, well son, it ain’t even a crime. Still,” and here he got all thoughtful, and his eyes got a strange kind of look. “It’s how you slept through it all that beats me.”
After Obie was gone, I took an inventory of my own. Maybe I’d been pushed too far at last, or maybe I was just angry at myself. Regardless, I loaded up on what was left. I’d seen all the movies. I grabbed a bear trap and a couple of kitchen knives. Magic Marker to camo up my face. Boots, shades, breeches and belt, gusseted pants and a spare cell phone . . . and my great-grandpappy’s harpoon gun that I kept around for “just in case.” Not much to work with, I grant you. But I had a killer’s eye. And with my mission branded on my soul, I headed out after my prey.
It’s an easy thing, actually, finding Ferocious Beasts. For one thing, once you know how to look, their spoor is unmistakable. For another, well, it wasn’t exactly like they were hiding. They were playing Watch Me in a railway shed, money on the table, and five aces in every hand. When I opened the door they became stock still. But actually they were pretty relaxed about the whole thing. That should have warned me. “Now, you two freeze, or we’ll settle this here and now,” I said. “Cards on the table and your hooves held high. You, with the ivory – nice and slow. That’s right. And you – you’d better cut out that braying crap. This thing’s liable to go off.”
That last part got their attention, and from then on they were more cooperative than I’d ever have believed. Not that I blamed them. It’s one thing to be threatened by a stone cold killer. It’s another to think some squirrely amateur is waving something in your face that might go off by accident. First we found all my things in the back room, and then we sat tight and I made a few calls: news stations, cops, the works.
Everybody got there within around twenty minutes. And with them all working together, they were able to get some wonderful footage for the ten o’clock news of me in handcuffs, being led to the police truck by Officer Obie. He drove me to the local hangout of the Goddamn Gendarmes and dropped me off, shaking his head all the while. There, I was stripped, hogtied, tossed into a wicker cage, poked with sharp bamboo sticks, covered with powdered sugar, paraded on talk shows, and ultimately used for a one-hour documentary on the antisocial mind, available on DVD and Watch It Now. The Ferocious Beasts are nowhere to be seen in the film, of course. Out of respect for their privacy, and their families.
So, now it seems I’m a terrorist. Funny. I’d have thought I’d have to chain myself to something for that kind of recognition. There’s some debate between the Ferocious Beasts as to whether I should get a trial or not, and the public is just eating it up. The good news is I did finally get a lawyer, and he haggled them down to lethal injection if found guilty – originally, there had been talk about crucifixion. Well, one takes the little victories where one can.
But even on camera, Obie spoke kindly as he took me away that night. “Sorry, kid,” he said. “I warned you, or at least I tried. Anything done by the Ferocious Beasts, well, it ain’t even a crime. But still,” he said, and he got that look again. “It’s how you slept through it all that beats me.”
Beats me, too.
(Elephant art by Daniloco, courtesy of designcrowd.com; donkey art courtesy of libertypundits.com; Elmer Fudd is (c) Warner Broters. All rights reserved by original creators where appropriate.)