Author's Notes: Just a fun little story that will be updated periodically whenever the muse strikes me. Lucky and Miranda are both to be featured in this story. Enjoy!
"I'm thinking a dusky orange this time, with just a hint of burnt sienna to highlight my cheekbones and a twinge of persimmon to offset my irises, perhaps rounded out into a smooth shade of gamboge beneath my chin. What do you think? Too rock 'n roll?" Bonkers asked, studying the color wheel in front of him carefully. He rubbed his chin. "Maybe just tennè on the cheekbones. Burnt sienna might give the impression that I'm an insomniac."
Marilyn Piquel shook her head knowingly and dug out a large pen from the bottom drawer of her mobile ink-and-pen cart. "You know, the classics never go out of style, Bonkers."
He considered carefully for a moment and then declared, "You're right. Good old fashioned orange it is!"
That settled, Marilyn grabbed a bottle of orange animating ink and began mixing it carefully it in the tray before her. It seemed they had that same conversation each time Bonkers came in for a touch-up, or when he came in for a repair after running afoul of the kind of trouble only an animator could fix. While humans went to doctors for medical attention, toons needed animators to cure what ailed them. Unbeknownst to most humans, toons could and did get injured from time to time; if a toon knew a blow was coming, they could prepare themselves for it and thus remain unharmed. However, if someone took a toon by surprise, they were as susceptible to injury as any human. That was why on screen, anvils could fall and safes could be thrown at toons and they were no worse for the wear – but if those things happened when a toon wasn't expecting it, or when it was completely unscripted, it could spell disaster. Luckily for animators like Marilyn, this meant job security.
Now in the latter portion of her mid-twenties, Marilyn had followed her passion for cartoons to animation school. She dreamed of someday animating her own characters and shows that would be watched by little boys and girls as eager as she had been for animated entertainment, but had quickly found upon graduation that the job market for animators was a tough one, and thus had taken a part-time job with the Hollywood division of the LAPD as an animator technician. Now that the Toon Division was comprised of at least a few dozen toon officers, she had a steady stream of clients who were always in need of a repair job after particularly rough cases, or less commonly, for re-inking sessions. Toons needed a complete re-inking every few years or so, to keep them from looking faded and washed out; poorer toons, down on their luck, sometimes found it difficult to pay for this and thus there was a reason they were called "washed-up": they often looked as though the color had started to wash right out of them.
As the bright orange color pooled in the bottom of the tray, Marilyn listened cheerfully as Bonkers continued to excitedly explain the reason for that day's session.
"It makes perfect sense now!" Bonkers exclaimed, throwing his hands into the air in his excitement. "All of the required overtime, all of the cases I've wrapped up without a word of thanks from Grating – he was preparing me for this promotion! Why, I was half of the original Toon Division! Didja know that, Marilyn?"
"Sure. My dad was the other half, remember?" Marilyn answered, giving the toon across from her a measured grin.
"Of course I remember!" Bonkers burst. "I remember when you were just a pint-sized tot in your mama's sweaters. And just look at you now! All grown up and workin' for the thin blue line, just like your Daddy!"
"If not exclusively," she said with a shy smile. Marilyn was still trying her best to break into animation – real, actual animation, she always told herself – but until her big break came, her current job certainly had its perks…like getting to hang out with certain favorite cartoon stars of her childhood.
"I've been with the force for over fifteen years!" Bonkers had continued to rally as if speaking to an invisible audience, standing on the small stool reserved for toons needing inking. "Fifteen years of busting hardened criminals, breaking up crime syndicates, risking life, limb and tail, rolling with the big boys in blue!"
"I don't think it's been quite like that," a lazy voice called from the doorway. Marilyn and Bonkers turned to see Barney Klyser, Bonkers' partner for the past year, standing apathetically in the doorway, his wide girth taking up the bulk of it. He munched languidly on a donut. "Far as I can tell, it's mostly been cats up trees and jaywalkers."
"That jaywalker was obviously on his way to commit a major crime, if the length of his stride was any indication," Bonkers retorted, folding his arms in front of him haughtily. "You can tell a lot about the criminal element by the pace of their perambulation."
"Perambulation, eh? Thank goodness he wasn't jogging then, or he'd been brought up on murder charges," Barney drawled, shoving the other half of the doughnut into his mouth and chewing noisily. He wiped his hands on the vast expanse of stomach in front of him. "Getting re-inked for the promotion announcement this afternoon, hm partner?"
"A toon needs to look his best," Bonkers said proudly, rolling up his sleeve and holding out an arm towards Marilyn, who was readying her inking pen. "A little touch-up here and there, every now and then, once in a blue moon, to keep the colors bright and the gentleman in sporting shape is all, Barney. Humans could learn a thing or two from us toons, you know."
"Right. I know I always feel better after I've been slathered in orange ink," Barney said sarcastically as he stretched his hands upwards, still groggy from his afternoon nap in their office. He yawned, scratching his sides. "Although, if you want my opinion, you're gussying up for a whole lotta nothin', partner. Grating'll never promote a toon to lieutenant, even if it is just the Toon Division."
"Hey, hey! I don't like your tone, mister man!" Bonkers scolded, bounding over to Barney and sticking a disapproving index finger into his chest. "The Toon Division is an integral part of the Hollywood PD! Grating said so himself!"
"He said it's an irritating part, and I have to say that most days I agree with him," Barney retorted, swatting Bonkers' hand away. "If toons could just behave themselves and not cause so much ever-lovin' trouble in this town, this department wouldn't be necessary and you wouldn't have a job – and that goes for you, too, Miss Pickle," he said as he pointed at Marilyn, who scowled. "Toon cops are more trouble than they're worth."
"Then why do you even work for the Toon Division?" Marilyn asked sharply with an icy look on her face.
"Because it's the easiest department to work for," Barney answered with a shrug, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Anyone can get promoted in this place."
Bonkers tsked. "Well, that's where you're wrong. Not just anyone gets promoted around here, you know. My stapler has never been promoted. Neither has my trashcan. And neither have I. Doesn't have anything to do with the caliber of the officer necessarily – of course it doesn't – it's just…you have to wait for the right position to open up. It has to fit, like a really old shoe you've had for a long time. Know what I mean?"
"Look, all I know is that I've spent the last ten years sitting on my butt munching donuts and still managed a promotion to detective and even sergeant a few years ago. Give me another few years and I'll be captain!"
"Barney? You forgot lieutenant," Bonkers whispered helpfully into his partner's ear as he perched on Barney's massive shoulder. "See, the police ranks go officer, detective, sergeant, lieutenant, then captain!"
"Well what on earth do you think today's promotion hearing is all about? You don't really think it'll be you, do you?" Barney grabbed Bonkers by his collar and set him gently on the floor.
Bonkers' face fell slightly but he tried to mask it with a petulant glare. "And why wouldn't it be?"
Barney sighed and sank down onto one knee, no mean feat for a man of his size. He put a sympathetic hand on Bonker's shoulder. "Look, Bonkers, you – well, I don't know about a good cop, but you – well, you got a lot of heart. A lot of…drive. And I know you only want to keep this town safe, for toons and humans. And hey, you've been around since the beginning, right? Back when it was just you and that Pickle guy – "
"Piquel," Marilyn piped up in a cross voice.
" – but look kid, the guy Grating picks today is going to be in charge of the whole Toon Division. Every single last officer in this department is going to report to him. And the only guy who's above the new boss is gonna be Grating. So the guy Grating picks – well, it's about more than just wanting to be a good cop, or trying to be. The guy he picks has to be…reliable. Steady. Dependable. And Grating has to like working with the guy he picks, and you and Grating…well, you aren't exactly his favorite guy in the department. And, not to mention, you're still just an officer. A promotion from an officer to lieutenant is...well, it's a big leap, usually only for guys who have busted a huge case or something." Barney sighed. "And if it weren't for the punishment and temporary demotion stemming from being caught sleeping on the job, you and I wouldn't even be working together," he reminded himself with an annoyed look on his face.
"You mean…you don't think I'm going to get it?" Bonkers asked softly, wringing his hat in his hands with huge tears brimming in his eyes dramatically. He threw himself on his partner, sobbing at the top of his lungs. "Say it ain't so, Barn! I can take a hundred anvils to the head, a thousand safes to my big toe, but this promotion means more to me than all the play or pay contracts in the world!" His sobbing stopped momentarily. "How'm I doing? Heart-wrenching enough?"
"Eh…yeah," Barney whispered. "But look kid, you're still not going to get it."
Bonkers stood up to his full height (which still wasn't particularly full, or particularly high) and slammed his hat back down on his head, cocking it at an angle. "Bonkers D. Bobcat has overcome plenty of obstacles in his lifetime. Being unemployed. Being homeless. Not having enough fingers to wear fancy gloves. But here I am – gainfully employed and locked into a lease at least through June. And the fancy glove shop down the street from that other fancy glove shop sells customized gloves. Smashing down barriers, destroying the walls of injustice, a trailblazer through and through – that's me!"
"Well, the smashing and destroying sounds about right," Barney said as he stood back up and turned to leave. "But you forgot the part about police work being a quagmire of bureaucracy and rank. Good luck, Bonkers. Just don't get your hopes up too high, all right?"
"Hmph!" Bonkers muttered, slamming the door after Barney had sauntered away. "What my dear sweet partner doesn't seem to realize is that real police work is the antithesis of a quagmire! It is a well maintained freeway! A freeway of justice!" After this outburst, Bonkers stood for a moment, looking at the door. "Right?" he asked weakly with an uncertain shrug.
"Don't listen to him, Bonkers," Marilyn said encouragingly from behind him. "The fact that you were the first toon cop in history has to count for something, doesn't it? The Toon Division is full of toon officers now, and that's all thanks to you."
"Sure! They all look up to me!" he said as he sat back down on the stool, trying his best to appear upbeat. "I'm a hero, a pioneer, an iconoclast! Why, I'm – I'm – I'm…I'm still just an officer," Bonkers broke down, laying his head on the table in front of Marilyn. She patted his head kindheartedly. "Not so much as a measly promotion to detective in all the time I've been here. Surely I deserve at least that?"
"Hey, look, they need a toon who can pound the pavement, right? They need guys who aren't afraid to really get out there and get things done. All those guys – like Barney – who just sit in their offices answering phones all day aren't doing the kind of police work you're doing. They aren't out there getting their hands dirty."
"But I hate dirty hands," Bonkers protested weakly, looking at his pristine white gloves. "Do you have any idea how long it takes to get dirt out of white gloves from the fancy glove shop?"
Marilyn laughed softly. "Your time is going to come, Bonkers. And in the mean time, no matter what Grating or Barney says, you've done a lot of good for a lot of people, humans and toons alike. That's what really matters in the end. Not rank. Not pay grade. It's making this city safer for the people who live here – that's what's important."
"You're right. But when you've seen as many cops promoted over you as I have, well…" he trailed off, not looking her in the eye. "Guess how many partners I've had. Just guess."
"Not even close."
"Uh…surely not over twenty?"
"Thirty four," Bonkers answered with a sigh. "Thirty four partners."
Marilyn raised an eyebrow. "How is that even possible?"
He shrugged again. "Some got promoted. Some requested a different partner – though I can't for the life of me imagine why – some quit, some transferred. Your dad and Miranda were the only partners I've ever had that made me feel like I was part of a team. Like we were out there doing some real good in this city."
"And the others?" Marilyn asked as she began to ink Bonkers' arm.
His fists clenched slightly as he mimicked the voices of his past partners. "'Just stay put in the car, kid, I'll handle this'…'Let me handle this one, partner, you stay here…'What would a toon know about crimes being committed by toons?'…'Hey Bonkers, how about you stay here and do nothing because you're a toon, and I'll go out and bust the criminals because I'm a human and only humans are real cops – '" Bonkers stopped abruptly and looked over at Marilyn, who was giving him a strange look. He laughed nervously, unclenching his fists. "I might have made that last one up."
"I can see how that would get a little old. Why didn't they ever just pair you up with another toon officer?"
"Thought we'd never get the job done. Thought we'd just be goofy all day. And as much as I love Goofy, there are certain things that are just more important. But not after today. Today Bonkers D. Bobcat enters the ranks of the law enforcement elite, to claim his due! To show the world what toon cops are really capable of!" he proclaimed heroically, once again on his feet. Marilyn clamped her hand over his shoulders and shoved him back down onto the stool.
"Not until you're looking your best, officer," she said with a warm smile as she got back to work.