Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Kool-Aid Man

The Kool-Aid man sat slumped in an alleyway, a mix of his own brand of cherry-flavoured drink and vodka sloshed together inside him. Some of it he had vomited it up into a puddle between his splayed stubby legs.You could see the decayed brickwork behind him through his glass smudged with the filthy fingerprints of the all the winos who had drank from him in the alleyway, the same kind of brickwork that he could've easily smashed through in his younger days. But things hadn't been the same since the Jonestown thing, even though it was actually a different poisoned powdered fruit drink everyone drank but no, whenever there was talk of the massacre, people brought up his name. And then it became a catchphrase-"Don't drink the Kool-Aid." Regardless of the fact it was some  half-assed copycat offshoot called Flavor-Aid that did the dirty deed. Truth be told, some empty Kool-Aid packs were found on the compound grounds but it was torn Flavor-Aid envelopes that were scattered like confetti all over the place.
He remembered sitting in front of a Senate House committee, beads of perspiration running down his rotund glass body as they pestered him with questions about the Jonestown tragedy.
"Why, Mr. Kool-Aid, knowing your propensity for breaking through walls, both brick and wood when protecting people from the evil Thirsties, didn't you do anything about the Reverend Jim Jones as he was poisoning his poor followers with the spiked juice from your body?" asked a Senator from Wyoming.
"Mr. Senator," Kool-Aid had coolly answered, although the ice cubes in his body rattled with his unease. "I was traveling overseas at the time doing some promotional work with our European trade partners before continuing on to introduce Kool-Aid to some Third World countries and help those poor, underprivileged children enjoy a nice fruit-flavoured beverage for just pennies a day, when I heard the news. Needless to say, if I had been on this side of the Atlantic at the time I would have hopped right on down to Guyana, broken down the compound walls and whooped Jim Jones' Commie ass."
"Mr. Jones was not a communist but he certainly was a demagogue," corrected the Senator from Nebraska.
"Mr. Senator," Kool-Aid replied. "It behooves me to disagree with someone from my home state-us corn huskers need to stick together after all-but as far as I'm concerned that Jim Jones had some very socialist leanings and anyone who could do what he did was obviously no God-fearing man. Communist more likely using Jesus and his teachings as a cover for his nefarious atheist practices and sexual perversions that would make even the Marquis de Sade blush like an innocent altar boy. Where were our South American allies when all this was taking place and, if I might reiterate to the esteemed members of the committee, where was the Kool-Aid Man hotline that I proposed two years earlier that would summon me at a moment's notice to any fruit-flavoured beverage themed disaster that might threaten the good citizens of our country or citizens of any other Kool-Aid drinking country for that matter?"
This brought some "here here's" from a few of the Senate House committee members but it was too little too late. Jonestown had sealed Kool-Aid Man's fate. Even that Tom Wolfe twit with his Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test book proved to be only a minor setback to Kool-Aid Man's career ten years earlier, though it did take some advertising tap-dancing to separate the book from the brand name but spiking Kool-Aid with LSD instead of cyanide made Tom Wolfe and Ken Kesey look like saints compared to Jim Jones. And truth be told, Kool-Aid Man did do a little experimenting with the hallucinogenic himself, resulting in a few commercials he wrote and insisted on directing and which he'd just as soon forget. He still felt bad that The Monkees didn't know he'd spiked their drinks on the set of three of their commercial shoots.
The final blow came a year after Jonestown. Kool-Aid Man was relaxing in his five-bedroom 10,000 square foot penthouse apartment on Park Avenue playing some Atari Super Pong when the call came in.
"Oh Yeah," Kool-Aid Man answered with his signature trademark phrase.
"Oh no is more like it," answered the voice at the other end. It was his agent, Hal Strombowski and the news wasn't good. "The board of directors wants to see you and I got a bad feeling about this."
"Don't worry about it, Hal, they probably just want me to do some more promotional work. You know, kissing babies, rollerskating, throwing Frisbees, giving good-looking moms a squeeze and breaking down fences and shit. If I say yes let's make sure they cut us a nice big fat royalty cheque."   
But in the boardroom it was business of a different matter.
"Look, Kool-Aid Man," the CEO said. "I respect you too much to pussyfoot around the matter so I'm going to give it to you straight. This Jonestown thing was a massacre on all ends and we're bleeding money like a shotgun victim. We need to revamp our image in the marketplace and, well, we have a replacement for you, a new kid on the block so to speak demonstrating a more youthful and stronger personality to represent our brand name."
"Wait, gentlemen, let's not be so hasty. I've made you a goddamn lot of money. And I've been working out, hitting the gym, I could knock down the Berlin Wall with one hit of my fist. Let's not jump the gun here and besides, people always say I look young for my age."
"Yeah, well, this new kid looks even younger and he can bench press 350. Plus he doesn't have the aura of the Jonestown Massacre hanging over his head. How are you going to argue with that? If you were in my shoes you'd do the same."
"What's this prick look like?"
The CEO showed him a picture and Kool-Aid Man said, "But he looks just like me."
"Well, technically yes but he's in better shape and he's wearing pants, something we could never convince you to do."
'Hey, they're binding. Can't break down walls or fences or ceilings if your legs are all constricted."
But as much as he pleaded his case the decision had been made.
"But it was Flavor-Aid, Flavor-Aid," he kept screaming as security dragged him from the building.
And then, in the blink of an eye, it was all gone. The penthouse apartment, the adoring fans, the money, the traveling to far-off and exotic destinations, the five-star dining, all out the window before the ice had time to melt in his belly.
These days it was just endless alleyways that he called home or the odd stint in a detox centre or some flophouse on skid row. His only fans were the winos who scoured the streets to find him and drink from his vodka-laced Kool-Aid-filled body, that is when he could scrounge up enough change to buy a fifth or a mickey to dump into it. The only legacy left over from his years as the Kool-Aid spokesman was all the Kool-Aid he could drink for free for the rest of his measly life.
Occasionally someone would spot him lying in an alley or slumped on a park bench and yell, "Hey, don't drink the Kool-Aid," as some kind of sinister joke.  
All he could do was show a bitter smile and give his vodka or gin-soaked innards a slosh and mumble, "Hey, it's the only thing keeping me alive right now."


Thursday, 14 November 2013

Cap'n Crunch

"Stubing. Captain goddamn Stubing!" Cap'n Crunch cursed that name. It was Stubing who got him into this situation in the first place. Once, he had sailed the seven seas battling evildoers like pirate Jean LaFoot and Neck-Goiter Pete and now he was steering this crappy Love Boat cruise ship full of horny singles and divorcees hopped up on Viagra and pain killers from the most recent plastic surgery. Some of the older guys looked to be two beats away from a heart attack on the shuffleboard court and the ladies, especially on the Cougar Cruise, looked like their bony ankles would give way under the weight of all the gold jewellery they were wearing. Not to mention their penchant for yoga pants made it seem as if they were going to pop the silicone sacs in their breast implants from the pressure applied to their nether regions. It was rutting season on the high seas and Cap'n Crunch peered off the bridge into the tequila upchuck sunset washing over yet another souvenir-spattered port-of-call looming off the bow, the natives restless for American dollars as he tried to imagine his life before all of this horribleness went down.
With his loyal and trusty crew of runts and brats that he bought from a white slave trader on the Black Sea, saving them from a life of child labour mining ore in the Ural Mountains, Cap'n Crunch trained them in all the necessary skills of the entertainment industry, preparing them for a life of singing and dancing and trading quips in the face of terrible cartoon adversity (the worst kind since this medium knows no boundaries in the multitude and relentlessness of punishments it can mete out upon the unsuspecting and innocent body), and successfully selling his delicious sugary cereal to households across North America. And they were rewarded generously. Children practically drooled at the TV screen on Saturday mornings as Crunch and his crew, in their adventurous commercials, won over the pickiest eaters and most villainous cheaters with his never-soggy-in-milk crunchy recipe. But that was then and this is now, which is how Cap'n Horatio Magellan Crunch came to be a Captain Stubing lackey, or for want of a better word, a wannabee.
Well, actually, he didn't want to be anything except captain of his own ship again but he needed the money. There had been talk in the Quaker Oats boardroom about Cap'n Crunch's fate. Investors and the board of directors were worried. Kids were eating healthier these days, or at least their parents were concerned about the stuff they shoveled down their throats and it seemed sugary cereals were going the way of the swashbuckling pirate. Not completely but revenues were down and the Cap'n, his royalties cut almost in half, had fallen on hard times. He couldn't even afford to pay his crew anymore and sold them as child labour to a Malaysian factory owner who made oven mitts and penis enlargers, both on the same machinery amazingly. Such is technology these days. 
And then there was the Crunchberries fiasco where the Crunch Berry Beast mascot was arrested for drunk driving, illegal possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) and an unregistered handgun during a Superbowl weekend in Miami. Unfortunately the Cap'n had been in the car with him, asleep in the back seat after a long day of commercial shoots and that little episode had almost ended both their careers. And cost him a lot of moolah to boot.
So, here he was now, standing on the bridge of a ship that could pretty much run itself. He was about as useful as an albino at a sun tanning salon and they even took his Napoleon hat away, the cruise line insisting on him wearing a proper captain's hat. And where was Stubing now, he wondered. Off on some Tahitian island counting his coconuts and shtupping some native chick. Still, he shouldn't complain. If it wasn't for Stubing putting a good word in for him with the cruise ship, he would be piloting a dinghy right now, ferrying people between fishing docks for two bucks a pop. He was woken from his depressing reverie by his first officer who said, "We're getting close, sir. Shouldn't you make the announcement."
Cap'n Crunch sighed and reached for the microphone to the ship's intercom.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. If you look off the starboard bow you will see we're nearing Cabo San Lucas. We will be docking in about twenty minutes. All those going ashore be aware that the ship will be in port for two hours. Please make sure you return to the ship at least fifteen minutes prior to departure. Also note that those shopping for souvenirs should try Cabo Wabo Willie's Emporium where cruise ship passengers receive a 20% discount on all merchandise. Just show your cruise ship billet and tell them Cap'n Crunch sent you. Thanks and have a wonderful time." After he clicked off the mike Cap'n Crunch turned to his first officer. "You take the bridge, Dierhorf, I'm going to my cabin."
"Aye aye, captain," Dierhorf replied. It wouldn't be long, Dierhorf imagined, before Crunch keeled over from a stroke or heart attack or aneurysm and Dierhorf would become captain. Maybe he should start poisoning Crunch's food and hasten the process. Nobody would miss him, that's for sure. All the officers laughed at him behind his back and he was depressing the passengers. And his mustache hairs were always stuck to the ship's control levers.
In his cabin Cap'n Crunch bent down to pat his mangy mutt. At least the cruise line company had let him keep his dog, as long as it didn't roam the ship. He adjusted the dog's little sailor hat on its bony head, rearranging the elastic that ran under its chin. The dog looked up at him with rheumy eyes, its forlorn expression a sympathetic sign of days gone by when together they sailed the ocean waves, were lashed to masts by pirates or made to walk the plank into the deep, dark sea but how in the end they always won over friend and foe alike with their delicious crunchy cereal treat.
"Never soggy in milk, never soggy in milk, never soggy in milk," Cap'n Crunch repeated over and over again like a soothing mantra, laying on his bed and he soon drifted off into a deep, dream-filled sleep where the clashing of sabres and the crunch of cereal between milk-coated teeth brought him an untold joy that his waking life would never ever know again.