Story Go Round 02/18/2003, round 1, #2

The Man in the Tattered Jeans


The Claw of Vengeful Order


The Adventures of James Madison McElvish

The man in the tattered jeans said, "Hey Lisa, where's my wallet?" Lisa sidled up to him from the shadows looking drugged, and said, "Huh?" before dropping down wearily onto the couch.

His face colored instantly. "The protest is at noon, and you're lying around like a slug taking a nap. Get the ski masks and let's get going."

They tromped down the dim stairway, and hopped into the VW van outside. James chewed at his lip like it was a piece of Juicy Fruit. Lisa turned to him, slobbering slightly, and said, "Eeww! You're bleeding! You'll give us away, man."

But it was too late - they heard a thumping sound on the outside of the van. James looked out his side window in time to see a long claw reaching down. He laughed because he knew there was nothing else he could do.

Attempting to crawl under his seat, James noticed the stuffed bear Lisa had given him not 20 minutes earlier. Quickly, he laid hold of its pudgy paw and offered it up as a scapegoat. The sacrifice was mauled, but its chunks of indigestible polyurethane bought him time enough to kick out the sidepanel he'd installed in the VW for situations just like this. He'd had a message from beyond one night with some good weed; Lisa might not know it - she was about equal to a turtle on the sentience scale - but James knew: the Claw of Vengeful order was onto him. It was coming. Apparently this was the day, and the claw would brook no opposition. No way he was going to let the claw stop the Major Cure they'd planned, though. He stomped on the accelerator, having given up on trying to fit under the seat. But nothing happened. He couldn't get enough leverage going thru his wrist to the pedal - maybe I oughta sit up and drive he mused to no one in particular.

It never occurred to him to turn the key. "James? What are you doing in there?" came the voice of his mother.

Rats! The mother trick! They were known to use that inscrutable maternal child link - he couldn't even remember his mother actually, but he knew with cold certainty that this was her voice, and no other. He grabbed Lisa's purse strap - she'd never let go of that and slung her out the side panel like the teddy bear earlier. Survival before love.


He froze in spite of himself, his childhood conditioning responding to the full name and the demanding tone, even though his adult brain knew it was a trick.

"Carl, its your turn to punish the boy," the voice shouted as if over a long distance. Talk about a downer - dad was probably pulling out the leather belt...

"Carl, its your folks!" Lisa slurred. She rubbed her needle-marked forearms, absently. The vehicle they were in, or were they? swerved violently to the right - or was it to the left? "Come out of there," Carl shouted as he rocked the bus again. This time it almost came off the blocks it had been sitting on. He peered in the gaping side panel, and staggered back at the intense, pungent aroma pouring out the opening.

Just then, the claw struck. His hand clamped down and lifted Carl a full two feet off the ground. Carl's legs kicked helplessly.

Yes, Another sacrificial victim interposed itself between him and destiny! He wondered if, with this kind of celestial favor, this might be the day he got 'magic missile' to work, at last.

"Go to the light, Carl!" he howled, in too good a mood not to be charitable. "Chug on down that tunnel, man!"

He started the engine in glee. They rolled down off the blocks, cruising down the street on nothing but wheel hubs. Sparks flew. Cops pursued. Carl's body nodded like a wind sock as the claw waved him cruelly. They merged with the train of protesters. They ran over a whole bunch of them before becoming separated from the main body of protesters and getting onto I5.

"You bought that stuff from Darryl, didn't you?" Lisa asked him. They were reclining on the couch the next day, slowly recovering from yesterday's experiences.

"Huh?" murmured James, who was taking a slug-like nap. "Who's D'rryl?" came from the kitchen a minute or two later, along with the sound of a soda can opening. "Roll the dice to see if I'm getting drunk!" An enormous, scaly, horned creature poked its head through the kitchen doorway. "Where's the cheetos?"

(token roll) "Yes, you're getting drunk." James just couldn't get over what a trip it had been.

But the bear knew: it kept a vengeful gleam in its plastic eye for weeks after,

Amber is purple; John is pink; Alan is blue; Terry is orange; Habeeb is grey