SpongeBob walked down the street, away from Squilliam's mansion. He wasn't paying attention to where he was going; his eyes were focused on the camera is his hands.
"Can I really do this?" he asked himself. "Can I really humiliate Squidward for money?"
He didn't like that he entertained the idea. It would be simple — one quick trick, and his problems would be over. Squilliam would toss a few moneybags his way, and he'd get his house back, his friends back, and everything would return to normal.
But what would he do? SpongeBob thought hard, practicing out loud what he might say: "Hey Squidward, I need your band to play at my five star restaurant? No, wait — say Squidward, whaddaya say we all eat dinner at my fancy home show — no, I mean — Squidward, I'm calling to rub my mansion in your bubble bowl — BARNACLES!"
SpongeBob couldn't think of a good plan because he was not the vengeful type. His brain could only recycle (and butcher) the old plans of Squilliam.
He shook himself. "What the …? I can't do this! Squidward is my friend!"
There was a dumpster nearby. SpongeBob held the camera over it, preparing to drop it in. "It would be wrong to hurt another to help myself!" he said. "Farewell, camera!" He let go, and the object fell onto the garbage heap below.
SpongeBob walked away, head lowered. He slowly sulked a few steps. Then he stopped himself.
"WHAT WAS I THINKING?!"
He raced back to the dumpster and dove into it. After rummaging through crusty pizza boxes, week-old Chinese food, and what appeared to be medical waste, he found the camera. In actuality, it was on top of the other things; there was no need to literally dive into the dumpster. But SpongeBob didn't think that through.
"This thing is made of gold!" he said as he wiped the dumpster filth off of it with his shirt. "I can scrap it for cash!"
So SpongeBob was off to the pawnshop.
Squidward stared at himself in the mirror. It was a well-kept secret of his that, like Squilliam, he had a natural unibrow. The difference between the two octopi (aside from the fame, fortune, and overall better quality of life for one) was that Squidward plucked every day to keep his from being noticeable.
He raised the tweezers. "Steady, Squidward …" he told himself. He always hated doing this; it was a painful experience.
Just as he was about to pluck, the bathroom shook. He froze. "What was that? … no, don't get distracted! Back to work! No pain no gain! Wait … that doesn't fit—"
Any excuse to procrastinate the pain was a welcome one, so he went downstairs to answer the door.
When Squidward opened it, he saw a short, squat fish standing outside. A bulldozer was directly behind him, motor running.
"Are you Squidward Tentacles?" asked the fish.
Squidward didn't reply at first. His eyes were locked in disbelief at the bulldozer. "… yes?"
"I'm here to seize your house."
Squidward finally looked back to the fish. "What?! You can't do that!"
"Sure I can. It's called eminent domain."
"Isn't it obvious? Your house is the only one left on the whole street. We're going to tear it down and build a stoplight."
"What would anyone need a stoplight for?! There's no intersection here!"
"There will be once we build a stoplight."
Squidward just then realized something the fish said. "Wait … did you say I'm the only one left on the street? That's not true, there's …" He started to point to SpongeBob's house, but trailed off when he saw that it was just the leftover pineapple skin. "Oh, well, there's Patrick's house over there!" Squidward pointed to his right.
"That? That's just an abandoned rock."
Squidward then remembered Patrick had been gone. The bank had seized him due to his drinking of SpongeBob's pineapple.
"Here's a check for reimbursement," said the fish, handing it over.
Squidward took it and widened his eyes. "Hey! This is hardly a fraction of what I paid! My house is worth way more than this!"
"It's amazing how much ugly, neighboring structures can decrease property values," said the fish.
"This is a real load of bull-shrimp! Are you really from the government? What's your name? I ought to report you!"
The fish hesitated. " … my name is Emmett Doughmane."
"What?! You just made that up!"
The fish was unfazed. "You have thirty minutes to pack, which is the same amount of time it's going to take for my pizza to arrive." He flipped open a cell phone and dialed.
"That's all?! I need more—"
The fish held up his hand, gesturing Squidward to be quiet. "Yes, Pizza Castle?" he said to the phone. "I'd like one large pizza with pepperonis and anchovies. Yes, I said anchovies. What? Look, I don't judge you."
Squidward raced inside to hurry packing. The clock was ticking.
SpongeBob skipped merrily up the street. He was feeling rather good about himself, having taken the high road instead of stooping to Squilliam's level. He was also quite pleased to have a check in his pocket from the pawnshop. It wasn't enough to pay off his debts, but it was certainly a step in the right direction.
As he neared his home (or the place where his home used to be), he spied Squidward frantically carrying a box out, with others stacked nearby.
"Hey, Squidward! Whatcha doing?" he chirped as he approached. "Ooh! Are you having a Repo Party?"
Squidward, even in his panic, stopped to face SpongeBob. "SpongeBob! You are the last person I want to see right now! This is all your fault!"
SpongeBob frowned. "Huh?"
"Because of you and your money problems, I'm getting kicked out of my house!"
"Gosh! How come, Squidward?"
"I just said why — you! If you had just paid your bills you wouldn't have gotten your house repossessed, and it would still be there, and Patrick wouldn't have abandoned his, and the property value wouldn't have plummeted, and I wouldn't be in this mess!"
"So you're saying … I did something that caused you harm?"
"I caused you great despair, turmoil, and humiliation?"
"Yes, you did! What do you have to say for yourself?"
SpongeBob grinned. "Gotta go, Squidward!" He turned and scampered off down the street.
Squidward watched him leave in disbelief. Did SpongeBob just blow him off?
SpongeBob rushed into the pawnshop. He went up to the store clerk and slammed the check on the counter. "I need to make a return ASAP!"
The clerk looked up from his magazine. "You must really be in a hurry if you're speaking in acronyms."
"That's right! Wait — is it still called a return in a pawnshop? Oh, nevermind! I just need the camera back!"
"Sorry, it's for sale now. If you want it back, you'll have to pay store price, which is more than what I gave you."
SpongeBob needed that camera back. The money he'd received from the pawnshop was not nearly as much as Squilliam was willing to give for a good tape. And the destruction of Squidward's house due to SpongeBob's errors was surely worth plenty.
"That's fine!" SpongeBob figured he'd recoup his loss with Squilliam's moneybags / cushions. He handed over his credit card and bolted out the door before the clerk could realize it'd just be declined.
SpongeBob needed to get back to Squidward's as quickly as possible. He wanted to sprint all the way there, and he started to, but his pace began to slow. Lack of food meant a lack of energy. Since he hadn't eaten lately, he didn't have the stamina to keep racing around.
SpongeBob placed his hands on his stomach as it gurgled loudly. Where was he going to get food without any money? Or more specifically, negative money?
He looked up from his place on the sidewalk and saw a building with a sign that read, 'SOUP KITCHEN.' How fortunate he was to be in just the right part of town.
"Oh, boy!" he said gleefully. "This is perfect! I bet this place has great leftovers in their dumpster!"
He happily rounded the corner and hopped into the dumpster. As he rummaged through, he couldn't help but think about how this was not the first time he'd done this today. In fact, at this rate, it was almost becoming a hobby of his. That was as far as he got to think about the subject, as his hunger was too big of a distraction.
"There must be some soup in here somewhere!" he said, tossing bits of trash aside. Then he saw it, at the bottom of the bin. A brownish, green liquid. Minestrone, perhaps?
Without a spoon he had to lap it up like an animal. After a couple licks, he sat up, grimacing. "This doesn't taste like any soup I've ever had …" he said, smacking his lips. This was because it was actually dumpster juice, but SpongeBob didn't know that.
Suddenly he heard a loud, metallic bang. He poked his head out the top of the dumpster to see what it was. Standing just outside the waste disposal unit were two police officers.
"What do you think you're doing?" said one officer, tapping his baton threateningly.
SpongeBob hesitated. "Uhh …"
"Can't you read the sign?"
The officer pointed to a sign just above the dumpster that read, 'NO DUMPING.'
SpongeBob, in his eagerness to eat out of the trash, hadn't seen it. "I don't understand!"
"This is a private dumpster! Only the soup kitchen is allowed to put anything in it!"
"But I didn't put anything in!" said SpongeBob.
"You put yourself in it!" said the officer.
"I didn't know that counted! I've been dumpster diving a couple times today!"
"What?! Oh, you people make me sick!"
The other police officer leaned into the dumpster and cuffed SpongeBob. "You're under arrest for unlawful disposal." He smirked as he heard SpongeBob whimper. "And if you think our laws on littering are tough, just wait until you see what we do for that offense."
The two tossed SpongeBob, reeking of dumpster filth, into the squad car. He tried to keep himself from crying in the backseat.
"It's so ironic," said SpongeBob. "I had money in my pocket but I gave it up for a chance at more, and now I'm gonna get neither and Squidward's still gonna lose his house."
"Hey!" said the officer in the passenger seat harshly. "No talking about irony in the squad car!"
"Yeah, don't you remember?" began the driving officer. "You have the right to remain silent."
The other officer chuckled. "I think we forgot to read him his rights."
"Did we? Tartar sauce, you're right. I always forget that."
"Am I gonna get fed in jail?" asked SpongeBob hopefully.
"Sure, we'll give you some bread and water."
"And occasionally gruel," added the other policeman. "But I think it's just the bread and water mashed together."
SpongeBob grinned. "Oh, boy!"
To be continued.
A/N: To all y'all Squilliam fans … don't worry, he'll be coming back. In due time.