Chapter 1: The Simple Joys... Like Torture
"What? How'd you know my na-- I mean, who's Stu?"
The caller on the end of the phone sighed. "I'm not that dumb, Stuart."
"So who are you?"
"That's not what I'm most interested in. What I'd like to know is your hair care secrets." The caller laughed maliciously.
"Well that's just too bad, pal, 'cause I'll never give away my hair care secrets!"
"Ahah! So you admit to having hair care secrets!"
"Uh... no, I mean, what hair care secrets?"
"I don't have any hair care secrets! I didn't even know I had hair! Oh look, whaddya know, I've got hair!" Stu laughed nervously. "I swear, I've never seen this hair befo--"
"Okay Stu. That's enough. You see that woman outside?"
Stu could see a middle-aged woman standing less than a foot from the back of the booth and staring in at him fascinatedly, and he jumped. "Yes..."
"Do you see what she is wearing on her stylish prune-colored hat?"
"You mean the "Hitler for President" pin?"
"No, no Stu, the other pin."
"...The little pink teddy bear?"
"Yes. Do you see it?"
"Duh. What about it?"
"That little pink teddy bear will self-destruct in five seconds if you don't tell me what conditioner you use."
"But! But!" Stu panicked. "Can't we start with something smaller? Like shampoo?"
"No, Stuart. Don't push me."
Stu could see the little pink teddy bear on the woman's hat lift one arm and make a threatening gesture with one of its fuzzy little bear fingers and he shivered. "Why me? Why not some other guy with nice hair?"
"BeCAUSE, Stu, I like your hair best. Now, your conditioner!"
The teddy's yellow eyebrows slanted inwards, giving its beady eyes an evil gleam.
"Okay! Okay! I'll tell you! It's... it's..."
"Come on now Stuart..."
The teddy frowned and crossed its pudgy arms across its chest.
"Pantene!" Stu sobbed. "I use Pantene ProV conditioner. Now call off your demented pink minion!"
The teddy bear on the woman's had suddenly burst into flame. Like a birthday candle. It melted down to nothing, frowning disapprovingly at Stu through the whole process.
"Scary, huh Stu? You see the people panicking? You see the crazy woman screaming because her hat has caught fire? No! She doesn't care. That probably was her least favorite hat anyway."
The woman seemed oblivious to the fact that her head was on fire, but it must have looked uncomfortable to someone passing by because the observer whipped out her little cell phone and dialed 911, giving her fingers severe cramps from pushing the little buttons and then having to do it over because she accidentally dialed 9121 when her finger slipped. Cop cars were there within minutes.
"Captain Guy! Captain Guy!" One of the anonymous members of the crowd caught the attention of the man in charge. "The man with stylish hair in that booth over there -- he's got a flamethrower! He set that woman's head on fire!"
The rest of the random people passing by gasped loudly and suddenly noticed the flaming mad-woman. One of the cops sprayed her with his mini-fire extinguisher. She seemed fine, and started walking away slowly from the phone booth. She seemed to be muttering to herself. "What's that you're saying, Smoky?" asked the fire-extinguisher cop.
'Smoky' said a bit louder, "The Recruit....Minority Report....Veronica Guerin...."
"Gibberish," the fire-extinguisher cop explained to Captain Guy. "I'm quite fluent in it. She says that guy has a flamethrower." He pointed to Stu and turned back to Smoky. "Uh, SWAT....Tigerland...."
The woman, Smoky, nodded vigorously. "Alexander!"
The fire-extinguisher cop took Smoky off to the side, murmuring, "Hart's War?"
Captain Guy stared at them, then shrugged and turned back to face Stu's phone booth. He grabbed a megaphone and brought it up to his mouth. "Attention! Yes, you, man with the nice hair in the phone booth! We know you have a flamethrower, and if you make any threatening moves to kill us all with it, we will put you on our angry-face list!" He held up a piece of paper with a mad-looking smiley face at the top.
"But I don't have a flamethrower!" Stu called back, still holding the phone in one hand.
Captain Guy smiled and shook his head. "Ah, the ignorant criminals these days," he said. He spoke into the megaphone again: "Well, you OBVIOUSLY have a flamethrower or that woman's head wouldn't have burst into flame!" He explained this to Stu very clearly as he would have a small child, or a lamp post.
"It wasn't me! It was the teddy bear! THE TEDDY BEAR!" Stu cried.
The caller on the end of the line, who had been laughing quite loudly, said in suddenly somber tones: "Don't tell him about the teddy bear, Stu."
"Heh heh! Did I say teddy bear? I don't know why I said that! That's crazy!" Stu yelled at the Captain, who lifted the megaphone to his lips, frowned confusedly, and lowered it again. Stu could see him lean over to his coworkers and mutter something he couldn't hear, and point at the tall buildings.
"This man is obviously insane. Now, I want YOU to go there," Captain Guy spoke quietly and pointed at a nearby building, "and buy me a bean burrito."
Inside the phone booth, Stu decided to give the caller the silent treatment. Unfortunately the man didn't notice since Stu hadn't said a whole lot anyway.
After a little while in which everyone stared uncomfortably at everyone else and the Captain ate his bean burrito, the caller spoke up again.
"Alright Stuart, I think I've got enough information about your hair." Stu sighed with relief. "Now I want to know... wherever did you buy those stylish shoes?"