Paper Covers Rock
If you're ever driving along the coast of the state of Calpurnia, you may find it mandatory to poke your bite-sized noses into the quaint seaside town turned overpriced yuppie haven known as "San Narciso." Just halfway between Corralberg (renowned for its sprawling Platinum Plate Bridge, historical rail trolleys which were built by the denizens of its Little Luxembourg district, and some dubiously kosher canned treat called There It Is, There It Is!) and the frankly unlivable metropolis of Brixton City —that's where San Narciso awaits! If nothing else, you have to check out their spiced rum gardens, where millions of university students get shotally titfaced on the earthly delights those overworked migrant laborer gardeners grow (despite the fact that Rum Ginny, the weathered yet Botoxed octogenarian borderline millionairess who recently regained control of the facilities due to her three sons' premature deaths from not following her advice, repeatedly tells all newcomers to spit their spiced rum into one of the seventeen Sexauer spittoons lined up on the back porch).
"But wait! There's more!" a number of all-American twenty-something volunteer tour guides will shrilly holler at you as your teetotaler front passenger whines at you to continue driving north so he can loot a quick ginger ale from his favorite Bosco's Inconvenience Store, located in a seemingly undesignated area he calls "Humpleton." It is at that inopportune moment that they will alert you of the Marakadonaldo Prison and other pleasures I personally have never experienced, bless my heart…
And to tell you the truth, I have never been to San Narciso. I have never been to any place called "Humpleton" either, and I can assure you I made that name up, even if I didn't. In fact, this story takes place in an average town quite dissimilar from San Narciso, where everyone has to work for a living, and those who don't work have nowhere to stay. I am talking of course about the aforementioned Brixton City, a human swamp which rivals Our Nation's Capital.
You know, one thing nobody who lives in Brixton wants to admit about Brixton is that the only ones whose wallets are getting fatter are the countless talentless hypocrites who run the Brixton Police Department. If its postmodernist architectural design truly resembles a jungle gym attached to a monkey bars as I believe it does, it is only another of a series of reminders that the city's law enforcement are Cercopithecines, though not specifically baboons as one could definitely not live after receiving a heart transplant from a heartless Brixton police officer. But while I am not at all too harsh on the scummy Brixton PD, I cannot cease my constant praise of the city's freelance police and detectives. And vigilantes as they are, their unsung tenure would not linger as long as it should have due to legal complications. I once partook in the lost art of vigilantism myself but left it due to my admiration for Sam, Max, and their underappreciated neighbor, Flint Paper.
If you are one of the eighteen (and growing!) unfortunates who haven't heard of Sam and/or Max by now, you are less than unwelcome to simultaneously read, play, or watch up on the anthropomorphic aminals [sic] in one of the franchise's various comic books, PC games (those still exist, right?), and cartoon episodes. If this sounds like product placement to you, you can rest assured that I am not making a ha'penny from this text and may in fact lose trillions of ha'pennies in litigation if this text ever sees the light of publication due to copyright infringement. And speaking of legal matters…
At Brixton Police Department, even the lowest-ranked officers make $300,000 a year. Take for example one Officer Nick Palmhair, an ex-roadie whose office secretly stashed an oversized Steve Miller Band shrine in the valley between several empty cartons of Duncan Donuts and no less than four padlocked drawers conspicuously labeled "Dead Urbanite Storage," a questionable phrase with a meaning I have not yet completely deciphered but am convinced was derived from an obscure pulp fiction novel starring my old vigilante detective friend Flint Paper, who is currently the central character in 634,263 novels by 39,993 novelists (not including this one or myself). And as irony would have it, this Officer Nick Palmhair was determined to rip Paper to shreds despite the fact that at least one of his favorite quotations was derived from a Flint paperback.
Nepotism has always been abundant at Brixton PD, and Officer Nick was the seventeenth Palmhair in the decades that span its legacy. His late father, Sergeant N_ Palmhair, would have been pleased to know that his formerly flower-powered only son had finally given in to the temptations of a police force to be reckoned with. But that old misogynist Sarge would roll over in his grave if he knew that his reviled illegitimate daughter Laura had become the first female officer in Palmhair family history. And whenever Officer Nick called for his half-sister to assist him with anti-Paper casework, she was nowhere to be found. Across town in a cramped detective's office in a former boarding house, she was taking her daily lunch break and much like Reaganomics, looking great on Paper.
Not that she didn't look good otherwise, though. The overwork of Brixton PD only made her more athletic and unconventionally beautiful, with marvelously strong teeth, naturally cherry lips, and near-ebony Semitic curls she had inherited from her mother who died when she was three months old. She was a 10 in the hourglass department too, not that Flint paid much attention as the beast with two backs laughed like a hyena in momentary pleasure on Flint's faux leather couch while four hoodlums' frozen bodies sprawled across the ground underneath. Today Flint's kill count was uncharacteristically low, and he wondered if his partner's employers were finally beginning to get shit done regarding legitimate crime. Rarely was a truly threatening criminal arrested by Brixton PD instead of sniffing its final whiff of the Lucky Strike smoke and sex that marked Flint's territory before eternally collapsing with lead on the brain. And while Flint was willing to do whatever it took to outrank the authorized cops in crime and punishment, he first had to keep his coveted ass off their radar. Hence the tryst with Laura, though this was the fourth intimate encounter between the competitors. The first three were during Flint's college days, five lost years in San Narciso that amounted to the associate's degree in music journalism which currently hung in a picture frame underneath Flint's honorary law degree from the Church of the SubGenius, which only cost him $35 plus shipping.
After sensing a fatigued look on her face and being reminded that her lunch hour must have ended thirty minutes ago, Flint pulled out of Laura, placing one of his lifetime supply of Lucky Strikes he had won back in '87 into the woman's hand as compensation.
"Flint—that was quite the experience," she wheezed, taking a mild puff.
"You've improved," Flint said, smiling. "Once you quit the force, I'd like you to come and work for me. Though nobody ever asks, not even the most desperate recent English grad, Flint Paper, PI is always hiring."
"I can't quit the force," admitted Laura as she approached the door. "But I'll try to put in a good word about you to my brother. Nick is about as gullible as Brixton men get, and that's saying a lot."
"You will not speak a word about me to the true Palmhair bastard!" roared Flint, but Laura pretended not to hear him as she slid down the staircase below the legendary office. "Well, if she won't be part of my team, at least I've got some non-treacherous cohorts already…"
A three-inch nose peeked out from the peephole of Flint's broom closet. "Is she gone?" asked Bernard, dusting off his unstylish white lab coat and cleaning his oversized eyeglasses with his own saliva.
"Yes, and I'm afraid she was of little use," lamented Flint. "Once she tells Nick of virtually anything in the next minute or two, my little slice of heaven in the hellish apple pie of the American legal system will be devoured and regurgitated without a liberal thought. Bernard, please approach the little guys down the hall. I know I've given them a hard time in the past, especially Bunny Boy—for a while I've been sick to death of him forcing his 50,000 word fanfiction about me through my face while I'm fighting off a couple equally expendable hooligans with my bare hands—but they've got a great crime-stopping story of their own, and I'd sure as hell hate for them to meet my fate in the infancy of their careers. Bernard, you've been like a son to me." The slightest tear appeared in Flint's eye, which he instantaneously fought off by shooting a wasted bullet into one of the corpses on the ground. "Good thing I got a billion of these."
"Flint, I'm quite flattered, to say the least," said the blushing Bernard. "But I can't help but point out your neglectfulness toward your own son, Brock Paper. I think it's high time you gave the boy another chance."
Flint flashed a momentary smirk of rage which he quickly curtailed. "As far as I'm concerned, Brock's not a part of my story, much less yours. But I like you, kid. How's about we head down to a restaurant of your choice before Nick and Laura give us a run for our money?"
"Do you really think the bodies are concealed enough for us to leave?" asked Bernard, struggling to shove a bare blue foot underneath the leather couch.
"If those ruddy PD have any common decency, they'll know one of Brixton's Most Wanted when they see even the filthiest of his toenails. Good thinking, Bern." With an effortless prod, Flint finished his extraordinarily frail assistant's job of sweeping each corpse directly into the broom closet, where an amateur cleaner, a rodent the size of a wolf cub, would certainly complicate matters for the police department.
"I'm surprised at you, Flint," said Bernard as they went out into the hall where he locked the door. "You're usually so organized. Before today, I don't think you've ever forgotten to clean out the office before leaving, have you?"
"I'm just sidetracked," explained Flint, lighting a Lucky Strike while tearing out a newly placed sign reading "NO SMOKING" from the wall, which he also quickly burned. "Glad to see my little furry buddies next door already took care of that 'NO PETS' sign."
"Oh, that was me," chuckled Bernard, stepping outside with Flint. "You know how I am with my hamster, I love him to bits. My love is like a microwave, but it doesn't kill him, it only makes him stronger."
"Hamster, eh? Why even bother with those little freaks? What can it do that my flesh-eating capybara can't?"
"I decided where I want to eat," said Bernard, changing the subject while awkwardly giving the collar of his white lab coat a tender tug.
"It isn't Weenie Wednesdays, is it?" asked Flint. "I don't think I could stomach another kraut dog, especially if they smother it in watery mayo like last time."
"While I don't care much for mayonnaise myself, I actually was planning on giving the Double W another chance," Bernard whined.
"Ah, that's okay, Bern," said Flint, giving his assistant the weakest pat on the back he could, as normally his unrivaled strength would make Bernard a quadriplegic with the slightest touch. "You like little rodents and I like oversized flesh-eating ones; let's just call the whole thing off and gain a second collective freshman fifteen from some delectably inedible wiener dogs!"
"Oh shit, there's the cops!" shouted Bernard, pointing a skeletal finger toward the Brixton PD's approaching wagon, accompanied by a cacophonous siren.
"Bernie, it's impolite to point and to swear. But we'll have a whole laundry list of impoliteness once we're finished with these guys."
"You're not suggesting we k-kill the BPD cops, are you?" asked Bernard. "Are you out of your mind? Have you been playing with my chemistry set again? I told you even though one of my chemicals looks like cinnamon tequila, it isn't! Oh, this is just great." Bernard ran his fingers through his thinning prematurely grey hair. "Haven't you heard of the Corralberg Kid? Killed three cops last summer and they sped up the Death Row process just so he could receive an early lethal injection."
"Don't be silly, Bern. He was never on Death Row to begin with, for I was the one who shot him. And I have zero interest in fooling around with your little potions, for I am currently too busy working with my own chemistry," spoke Flint as Officer Laura Palmhair stepped outside of the vehicle, a pencil on her ear and notepad in her hand. "Why, she looks just like a waitress. I wonder how their kraut dogs compare. Maybe we can get them to go, or maybe we'll just have to order in the court…"
"Silence, Paper," muttered Laura.
"That's funny, you weren't giving me much silence when we were sweating in heat on my leather…"
"Look, that was my lunch hour but this is my job, okay? So don't give me any of your usual smartass shenanigans, okay? I talked to my brother for you."
"Oh, for me?" Flint swooned in a completely smartass manner that had Laura sighing impatiently. "Right after I specifically instructed you not to tell him anything so that he might drop the case? Oh, you shouldn't have!"
"Shut…up," Laura grunted through her bulky incisors. "Thanks to my shared bond with Nick as half-siblings, you are not under arrest as long as you promise to quit your so-called 'detective work' and choose a more reputable, less illegal career path."
"And what's the catch?" asked Flint, finally realizing that the often cowardly Bernard had fled the scene in fright nearly two minutes before.
Laura silently whipped out her mobile phone and zoomed in on her contact list, placing a stubby index finger one millimeter away from the words "Nick – cell."
"Uh-huh," said Flint. "Any recommendations?"
"I know ex-cons usually excel in jobs within the realms of telemarketing and tech support," advised Officer Laura.
Ex-cons, thought Flint angrily, many a vein emerging on his forehead. The only ex-cons I know are the ones getting scavenged by my closet's capybara on a day to day basis, not that you PD pricks give me any appreciation for their demises.
"I've got to run," Flint told Laura. "I've got a cowering St. Bernard to attend to."
God, I can't believe you'd assign such an inane mind to such a fantastic body, thought Laura as she put her keys in the ignition. Where are all the intelligent men in Brixton? 30 million people and not an XY chromosome with a triple digit IQ. C'est la vie, Laura, c'est la vie.
Bernard was back in the broom closet when Flint opened the door. "Jeez, Bernie, for a guy who sprints halfway across Brixton City from the slightest mouse, you have no problem being alone in the dark with my flesh-eating beast."
"Calling Mr. Capps a beast is disrespectful to the entire animal kingdom," whined Bernard. "And calling it 'flesh-eating' is also considerably erroneous because it's only a scavenger. Its maw has no desire to penetrate the flesh of the living."
"Mr. Capps? He's Mr. Capps now?"
"How can you have a pet and not give it a name?" asked Bernard. "It's only one of the mainstays of the culture of the domestication of animals."
"A word to the wise: scavengers aren't domesticated, Bernie. And is it just me or are our conversations getting more and more long-winded and pointless? We have zero time to lose. We have to clear this entire office out."
"Are we getting arrested? I can't bear to part with Mr. Hams, but if I must…"
Flint groaned in disgust. "We are still free men, Bern. But I fear that my days as Flint Paper, Private Investigator are no more, not that I used that title much in the first place. It was an incredible 27 years, from my capture of the city's only vegetarian vampire who was tainting all the produce at Farmer's Market to the unforgettable siege at the Church of Scientology's headquarters in South Central Brixton City which took place last Thursday. Though we have our continual quarrels, we have ultimately remained pleasant colleagues in the two years I've known you. With my brains and brawn and your mere brains, you enriched my capabilities as a so-called vigilante. Now then, where the hell do we go from here?"
"Back to chemistry, I guess," said Bernard. "After all, I had expected to have already outperformed Madame Curie at my ripe young age of 42."
"42? It seems like just yesterday you graduate d maxima cum laude from the Corralberg University of Nuclear Technology."
"Sorry, 24. We little professors can be so absent minded at times that we even make little screw-ups within the most familiar of subject matter. If you don't believe me, this one time, I took a quantum mechanics class, and I only got 101 percent on it! I could have gotten 103 percent, but I slipped up on a couple of the extra credit questions!"
Flint gave a sad, green-eyed smile. "The only times I ever got B's or better were when I cheated off the cheerleaders who sat next to me. Did you know Officer Laura was a cheerleader at my high school?"
"No, but that wouldn't surprise me. While it's obviously no business of mine, I thought she was one of the better looking women you brought back to your office."
"My office," murmured Flint, looking at the hallowed walls which surrounded him. "But is it even an office anymore? Without my detective agency afloat, it's really just—my apartment now. The fact that it's on a commercial property will undoubtedly complicate matters if I begin to use it for strictly residential purposes. Dear God, my God, what have You done?"
"Leave the Lord out of it!" snapped Bernard. "It's not His fault you decided to enter an illegal profession and murder hundreds of guilty criminals!"
"While you may be a religious man, Bernard, I happen to believe in predestination. I guess you could call me an agnostic, but I've never been one for labels, except ones that read 'Flint Paper, Private Investigator.'"
"You just told me a few minutes ago that you never used that phrase much in the first place," said Bernard.
Flint chuckled slightly and pulled a wooden badge out of his khaki pants with those exact words on them, before lighting it with his cigarette lighter, after which Bernard extinguished the flames with a vial from his chemistry set. If it hadn't been for Bernie, I'd have gone to jail for arson long ago, thought Flint. "True, I never used that phrase much. But I wish I did. Hell, I have too many regrets to list. But I never regretted not joining the Brixton PD. Their idea of detective work is disposing of harmless minorities for the pettiest of offenses, and perhaps shockingly, that never sounded useful to me. It was quite a legacy I had, but I must look towards the future, whatever that may be. Any of your usual brilliant suggestions, Bernie?"
Bernard adjusted his eyeglasses, a pose he assumed whenever he was about to make one of his said brilliant suggestions. "Well, when push comes to shove, you could always use your degree to its full potential and become a music journalist."
"Christ Almighty!" exclaimed Flint. "I don't know jackshit about music anymore! You think I know Deerhoof from Deerhunter? Oh boy…"
"Well, I assume you must have possessed a decent amount of musical knowledge during the height of your college days."
Flint smirked. "Well, I don't know much about that. I knew which songs were best for lovemaking. Bad Company's 'Feel Like Makin' Love' was a winner. There was also T. Rex's 'Get It On (Bang A Gong),' a tune which, unbelievably annoying and overplayed as it became, had the potential to win over a minx or two in the prime of my swinging years. I couldn't tell you the meaning of the newest Lou Reed album or even what krautrock was—I don't even know what those kraut dogs are good for—but the music of my youth was a constant pleasure, one which lingers in my memory as vividly as every fleeting one night stand, I'll tell you the truth."
"And what about the journalism aspect, Mr. Paper? Surely there was more to your experience as a music journalism undergraduate than listening to music. You actually got to go out and interview bands and review albums, right?"
"Please, Mr. Paper was my father and don't call me…goddamn clichés. Yes, of course I interviewed bands; there were a million of them in the Brixton City music scene, much as there are now. In fact, if my memory serves me correctly, I was the final music journalist to interview Smokie Arlson, the legendary Arkansas-bred folkie and troubadour. Though he regrettably penned the Communist National Anthem, 'What Makes the Red Man Red?,' not to be confused with any Peter Pan Indian-giving, he was best known among my fellow undergrads for the incredible accomplishment of writing nearly two thousand acoustic rock songs on the subjects of the Holocaust and World War II in general. Kids sang those songs in the locker room before the coach would bust our necks for not keeping quiet. 'If yeh ain't got the Zyklon B, boys, if yeh ain't got the Zyklon B, you'd better go back to ol' Warsaw, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Buchenwald, Sajmiste. Auschwitz is extermination, you might live in the others, you see, and believe it or not, the ovens are hot and there's showers with Zyklon B.' And then we'd go in the locker room showers and things would get real intense, because we'd always imagine that it wasn't water coming out of those showerheads but the aforementioned gas."
"That doesn't sound legendary," said Bernard. "That just sounds like this Smokie Arlson was an incredibly offensive and borderline Nazi sympathizing hack of a songwriter."
"He denied said Nazi sympathies throughout his lifetime, cut tragically short by carbon monoxide poisoning, ironically enough," responded Flint. "It was unfortunate the day we all realized that the word would never receive another 'The Ballad of Anne Frank.' But that weekend spent next to Smokie Arlson's hospital bed taught me everything I learned about music journalism, things that those bothersome classes with inept professors lecturing above our heads with irrelevant dates and other factual information never could and never will. Bernie, I thought your suggestion was weak at first listen, but the more I think about it, it's characteristically brilliant. Music journalism is a lot like detective work, which might explain why I succeeded at the latter as much as my unequaled skill at handling a Smith and Wesson 20 gauge shotgun and as the colloquial expression goes, blasting the baddies to pieces." With a eager expression on his face, Flint gracefully strutted over to the picture frame holding his twin degrees in place, and removed his phony (eternal apologies to Reverend Ivan Stang, J. R. "Bob" Dobbs, and the Church of the SubGenius) law school diploma so that his faded music journalism associate's degree was displayed for both to see.
"I wish my university had offered music journalism," commented Bernard. "It would have made a swell minor, allowing me to take full advantage of both halves of my brain. The fusion of nuclear chemistry and the creative aspects of the humanities would enlighten me in ways which my basement dwelling classmates could only dream of as they pulled late-nighters and early-to-mid-morningers in the presence of a series of test tubes and the temptations of the Internet."