[All pictures, above, are used without payment or permission and with blatant intent to annoy. Alleged Angels, left to right: Angel’s portrait is by his beloved Lua, photo is of talented lad Josiah riffling through a day’s take of Gents’ Room wallets, Jamie’s portrait is the paint-by-numbers his devoted Mum did up for his birthday, and the defaced Angels Inflangranti was swiped from the infamous Icaria-Bel Ami Artbook, banned on three continents and now in its forty-ninth reprinting. Photos at far right are of WBMS, long, long before his Hiatus and of TR publicly lighting a Turkish Blend Camel in callous disregard of both his health and local ordinance.]
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forums (Part Two)
-an AwestruckDude.com Adventure-
We now rejoin our intrepid heroes Angel de la Torres (from
BON’s serial Drama Club) and Josiah Jacobus-Parker (from an unnamed
East End boys’ reformatory) in the smoky, dimlit back corner of the
AD Writer’s Forum…
"Fuck that, too, TR," snapped Angel, "Have you seen His Dudeness or not?"
"Uh…" TR’s voice sounded a trifle confused, "Uh, not, I should think. I haven’t been out of this Forum for days, I’m nearly out of Vanilla Pepsi. Hey, Angel, I don’t suppose you could--"
"No, I couldn’t." Angel interrupted, annoyed. "I’m busy."
"Right, right…" TR said, his voice trailing off vaguely. Angel didn’t wait for more, he grabbed Josiah’s arm, patted his pert bottom for luck, and hustled him briskly toward a red door along the connecting wall, the secret back entrance to the Reader’s Forum.
If Blue was right, as sometimes happened, the Dude might be having some fun at the front door in there, and, if he was, Angel wanted to, ah…surprise him. Angel just prayed that el Jefe would be dressed when he did, or the new kid would get a bigger surprise than he’d expected. Much bigger. The big guy wasn’t called The Boss for nothing.
Angel turned the knob and pushed open the door to the Readers Rule Forum, Josiah at his heels. A blast of stale smoke, vintage smells and loud Abba music hit them in the face like a wet towel. Strobe lights illuminated the huge room by sections, which left far too many corners completely dark, and several distant voices were arguing above the noise. Angel patted his left pocket without thinking. Yeah, his pepper spray handy.
Readers Rule smelled like the Friday night backroom at a Hong Kong bathhouse and looked cheaper than Paris Hilton. The writers loved it. Big farking surprise, thought Angel dourly. Writers. Rejects from real life, more like. Not one of them could remember to pick up after themselves, let alone to put the toilet seat down. Plastic Reality filled the complaint box pretty regularly on that subject, never once noticing the industrial-strength paper shredder that sat beside it. Chicks only saw what they wanted to see, Angel knew, which was quite frankly a blessing here at AD.
Angel peered through the smoke.
Near the door, Write By Myself perched on his Hiatus looking vaguely stoned, like a psychedelic Alice in Wonderland Caterpillar. No hookah, but he did have a rather professorial-looking pipe. Bluish smoke rose up to ring his receding hairline.
Behind him was a full-length oil portrait, entitled Angst Away, of Dewey wearing a Burger King paper crown and a figleaf.
Seated beneath it, WBMS wore a faded ‘Hobbits Do It Barefoot’ tee shirt and dungarees.
The Hiatus was looking a little worse for months of constant wear, Angel noticed. Its fabric was shabby, several springs poked through and an overwhelming, and no doubt fortuitously masking, scent of patchouli emanated outwards. Still, WBMS didn’t look inclined to get up off the damn thing any time soon. WBMS nodded once to Angel, then raised a bushy eyebrow at Josiah, who was, once again, huddled up close to Angel’s perky backside.
"Who are you?" said WBMS, in a languid, sleepy voice. His eyes were dilated behind his spectacles.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Josiah replied, rather shyly, " ‘ell if I know, guv, ‘is place is peculiar. Got me muddled, it does."
Angel stared at him; maybe it was the fumes. He resolved to hold his breath. Fat chance. And it was no use, Angel knew, asking WBMS where the Dude was, he hadn’t been off his Hiatus in ages. Writers. Talk about drama.
"What do you mean by that?" said WBMS sternly, startling the Brit fish. "Explain yourself!"
Before the cringing kid could formulate an answer, Angel pulled Josiah away from the moldering Hiatus and further into the cavernous room.
"Don’t pay any attention, honey," Angel told the newbie, "ever since Wibby sat down on his Hiatus, he’s been acting weirder than usual." And now WBMS complained that no one took his Hiatus seriously. He’d probably sat down on a strategically deployed tack, thought Angel. People could be so cruel and WBMS wasn’t exactly the local Prom Queen. All those attitude-laden pronouncements, not to mention overt author suckups, were just a tad bit off-putting to the AD hoi polloi. His strong aversion to showers would never have, all by itself, accounted for it. Not at AD.
Josiah shrugged. "Migh’ ha’ ta do wi’ ‘at funny tobacco ‘e’s smokin’."
Angel narrowed his eyes, but said nothing. Darn this pesky language barrier with the Limeys. Maybe MacMillan could translate later, he always brags so much about his British tongue. Of course, he’d maybe meant something else by that remark. God only knows, with the AD crowd. Speaking of crowds, Angel looked around, trying to pick out the awesome Dude through the smoke, disco lights and general funky miasma.
No luck finding the Dude, but there was movement to their right, a scurrying down low. Cautiously, Angel approached, Josiah clinging to his arm, wide-eyed and worried. Even so, his other hand was wandering again, Angel noticed. Yeah, this Cockney fish was gonna fit right in around here. And people say the English are reserved. Reserved, my ass, thought Angel. Nothing a cold shower (or a hot guy) couldn’t cure, as the Dude so often said. Riiiight.
As they approached, the form kneeling on the ground slowly became visible through the murk. It was James, crouched and rooting around inside an open cabinet. He was freckle-faced, wearing cut-off jeans that bared hairy legs, a tee shirt and his faded 70s letterman jacket. Football, duh, what else would a gay athlete letter in? Where else in high school could you slap butts, feel guys up and enjoy so many post-game, pre-coital group showers with impunity? Well, there was always the drama club, but that would require a minimum of social skills. And a basic ability to accessorize.
Angel smirked to himself. Jocks. But James wasn’t so bad, not if you could get past the down-home Mississippi twang that tangled up his so-called English. Damn, maybe MacMillan could translate from Yeehaw, too. No telling what all David’s ‘tongue’ talents were. Angel shuddered. Ick. That’s all he needed, more writer trouble.
From inside the cabinet came a tinkling sound. Angel frowned.
"What are you doing in there? That’s supposed to be locked." Angel said. James glanced up at Angel, surprised but nonchalant, Southern. Very Southern. He opened his mouth.
"Jus’ lookin’ fer seer-ee-ayl, yanno, fer d’ Boss." James drawled, his eyes raking lazily up and down Josiah as he spoke. Judging by those cut-offs, he was liking what he saw. Writers were such pervs, Angel thought silently. So what else was new?
"You’re looking for what?"
"CEER-ee-AL. Fer d’ Doood." James said carefully, annoyed and rolling his eyes, "Cain’t you Messicans talk Inglish fer oncit?"
Angel stamped his booted foot. "Hey Huckleberry Finn, I am not a Mexican. Remember what happened the last time you called me that?"
Using Rustic Monk as an enforcer hadn’t been as completely effective as Angel had hoped (James returned unscathed), but something worked because after that late night ‘rap session’ with Chief Hooded Snake, James had sworn to be good. Though it might have been Gabe’s buffet-breath that was the real deterrent. Or maybe the damned drum music.
That cheap buffet up in the Green Room sure had its downsides but the Dude, as Graeme often said behind his back, could squeeze a nickel till it screamed. So the crummy buffet and watered-down drinks bar stayed on. Hard to know which was scarier up there: the musak and florescent lighting, the rubbery cheese cubes and tiny onions, or the PC tofu mini-weenies.
Speaking of mini-weenies, he really resented how TR never backed him up with the other writers. He shouldn’t have to ask RM for favors. And TR really should start picking up his bar tab. None of Elecivil’s characters ever had to buy their own Mai-Tais, dammit.
Mexican, my ass. Angel glared at James.
James flushed and looked at the floor. "Uh, sawrey. Yer, ah…Pour-Ta-reekin’." Angel rolled his eyes heavenward but nodded.
"Now don’t you git all riled agin, sugah pie," James added, looking up and (cautiously) winking. Josiah giggled. James grinned and wiggled his eyebrows at the newbie, who giggled again. Angel slapped him, but not too hard. He might like it.
"Okay, James, you’re looking for what, now? Cereal?"
James nodded. He reached into the rucksack behind him and pulled out a box, holding it up for Angel’s inspection. It was a somewhat dented container of Count Chocula vitamin-enriched breakfast cereal. Angel stared. James reached back and pulled out more boxes: peanut butter Captain Crunch, Froot Loops (always in demand around AD, of course), an ancient box of Wheaties with Michael Jordan on the cover, and an unopened fifth of Scotch.
"Ya-uh?" James shook the Froot Loops box mournfully; it was obviously half-empty. Or half-full, depending on the color of your mood ring.
"That’s serial that The Dude’s been looking for. Serials, you know? S-e-r-i-a-l. Stories? With chapters?"
James frowned at Angel. "He ain’t lookin’ fer this here?" he asked, lifting up the rainbowed box. Josiah sputtered, Angel elbowed him.
"No, James. Uh, James? What’s with the bottle?" Angel asked, pointing warily to the Scotch. It looked like a decent label so it definitely could not have come from El Jefe’s liquor cabinet. James lifted it up, hefting it thoughtfully. Angel narrowed his eyes.
"Wayull," James said slowly (how else?), "I was…rootin’ aroun’, askin’ folks fer…breakfas’ food…an’ them thair angels…"
Angel raised his hand, palm out. "Say no more." James nodded absently, peering into the Froot box, the Scotch in his other hand.
Angel grabbed the bottle, pretending not to notice the deathgrip James had on it, then stomped with it and Josiah over toward the strobing red lights in the far, dark corner.
Angels. Flyboys. This was always so embarrassing.
The red lights converged onto an open door, out of which warm steam and distant laughter drifted. A big glass bowl of many-hued condoms and lube packets rested on a doorway table, beside which a stunning masculine figure huddled in a recliner. Belgian travel brochures featuring apple-cheeked farm boys lay discarded at his feet, their crumpled colour pages stuck together with enthusiasm.
His long, bare, muscled legs extended outward and enormous, elegant silver-white wings were drawn close together across his torso, concealing his upper body and face. Silver lame hotpants just barely managed to peek out from beneath those draped silken wing tips, and framed the tops of his manly thighs. His glossy soft hair above the iridescent feathers seemed alive in the low light.
Josiah gasped at the sight, in awe and, for once, subdued.
Angel came to a stop and thrust forward the liquor bottle, a frown on his face. He glared down at the recumbent beauty before him. A soft sound wafted upwards, like tiny golden fairy bells.
Jamie of Icaria was snoring.
Angel took a deep, stagey breath before speaking.
"Jamie, Wizard of Icaria," Angel intoned, his voice suddenly a lot more basso-profundo (it’s a drama thing). Josiah watched, mouth agape.
Feathers rustled, briefly revealing flawless skin, then settled. Angel continued, wielding the Scotch like a magical wand of power, "Lord Protector of the Realm, Defender of the Back Gates of Justice (a shiver from the winged one), Vessel of the Orbs of Don Ho (a soft groan escaped) and (a muffled squawk) Guardian of the Tower of Moviefone…"
Wings fluttered, pinfeathers flew…
"What? What? What the flying fuck d’ya want, you asshole?" thundered Jamie. Josiah paled.
Jamie stood, spreading his majestic white wings up, up, upward, and over their heads. He was gorgeous, he was breathtaking, he was tremendous, and, even better, those skimpy silver shorts could have been spray-painted onto his substantial flesh. His eyes were bleary and rather bloodshot as he glowered down at the skinny little drama student. Jamie folded his arms across his chest and regarded them.
Angel smiled. Josiah swallowed hard.
Jamie’s eyes were slits. He flexed the rock-hard muscles on his forearm. He clenched his jaw dramatically. Around them, the low lights flickered ominously. Probably a short, thought Angel uncharitably.
"Hiya, Jamie, you busy?" Angel asked, all innocence.
Jamie glared, statuesque, imposing, staring his awesome steely gaze deep into Angel’s mascara-laden eyes. Josiah fainted dead away, unnoticed, head hitting the floor with an audible thunk. Angel fluttered his eyelashes at Jamie, just a bit, for effect.
Jamie sighed, closed his eyes, and, very ostentatiously, farted (but it smelled divine). He opened his luminous eyes, looked down and, finally, sighed, defeated. Score one for drama kids, Angel told himself, trying not to smirk.
"Yeah, yeah, okay Angel, ya woke me up again, hurrah for you," Jamie said, at a perfectly normal volume. He reached down to pick up a fruity looking umbrella-ed drink from the table, and took a sip. "Want a Mai Tai?"
"No thanks, honey, but I do have a couple questions."
"Shoot." Said the winged one, as he leaned back (gracefully, with grace) against the doorway.
"I’m looking for The Boss. You seen him lately?"
"Nah. Did you check the Throne Room?"
"Second place I checked." Angel told him wearily.
"So you already looked in the--"
Angel nodded. Jamie gazed placidly at the fallen Josiah, lying crumpled alongside them.
"Say, Princess, who’s the kid?"
"Name’s Josiah. Just off some cloud," Angel watched Jamie’s eyes lost some of their ethereal disinterest as he spoke, "and here to see His Dudeness."
Jamie examined Josiah. "Cloud, huh? He’s registered?" Angel raised his eyebrows.
"Ah, you know, registered." At Angel’s baffled look, Jamie sighed and recited in bored, albeit lovely, tones. "All heavenly bodies must register said bodies with Divine Service before age 25 or risk fine, imprisonment and damnation."
"The penalties for noncompliance are pretty harsh these days, ya know, after that big stink at the Holy See." Jamie said, shaking his handsome head, "Not to mention that whole Virgin Mary on the slice of toast thing." Jamie sighed, perfuming the air. "I still say that wasn’t one of us, registered or not registered."
"Well, is he registered?"
"How the fuck should I know, flyboy, I just picked him up at the train station." Angel said crossly. Angelic politics always gave him a major pain. That was supposed to be Josiah’s thing, dammit. And what kind of cloud dwelling wuss fainted anyhow?
"Chill, little one, there is no sweat. We’ll just, ah…ask him." Jamie said, and upended his frosty cool drink down onto the supine body of said small Limey fish quam angel (registry status unknown). The ruckus thus created was notable for both volume and kinetic activity, resulting in one wet Brit eventually seated in the vacated La-Z-Wizard chair beside the door and wearing a eensie pink paper umbrella in his blond locks. He sputtered, glaring up at both of them. Jamie lanced into him with his steely, Bouncer at the Gates of Justice, seriously macho (and pretty gosh darn sexy), narrowed eyes.
Josiah swallowed reflexively. "Wot?" he managed to squeak, in those dulcet East End tones.
"Hey, kiddo," Jamie asked, with a great show of boredom, "I hear you live on a cloud. You registered?"
Josiah gulped and looked over at Angel. "Uh…"
Jesus, the little shit was undocumented, on top of everything else, thought Angel in annoyance. The Dude would not be pleased. AD had enough trouble with the Feds as it was.
Angel frowned; this wasn’t going like he’d planned. Not only that, he’d forgotten to ask his other question. El Duderino would never forgive him if he let it slide. Wasn’t like this was the first time. His Dudeness had strong feelings about contributing to the delinquencies of adult persons, he’s always felt that corruption is best practiced on the willing. That and his lawyer’s outrageous hourly fees (and padded drinks tab) kept him on the paths of righteousness. Well, within earshot anyhow.
"Hold your whiz, Wiz, I have a second question. Very important." Angel said, holding aloft the bottle of Scotch. "I confiscated this. James says it was you angelic guys’ idea of a breakfast cereal. Or maybe just breakfast. Of champions, I assume," Jamie coughed discretely and began examining his perfect fingernails. "So," Angel continued, "Any thoughts on that, O Winged One? Comments? Alibis? Ancient Icarian sayings? Stream-of-consciousness angst-ridden no-caps poetry, maybe? Anything?" Angel paused for breath. "Well?"
His features elegant and immobile as a Greek statue, Jamie switched from nails to wings and began preening his pinfeathers. It looked a lot more elegant than it sounds, honest. Under Angel’s determined, irritated gaze, he finally looked up, his calm and perfect smile revealing nothing, well, nothing more than those regular Botox injections and some pretty nifty dental work. When the smile failed to produce immediate results, Jamie sighed. Angels might be long on patience, but you sure couldn’t tell it by this crew.
"Look, Princess, Nic just happened to have that bottle—"
"God damn it, you know what the Dude said last time."
"Hey, that wasn’t our fault. How the hell were we supposed to know Nick Nurse just got his first year pin from AA?" Jamie said, in tones of injury, "He said he was celebrating. So we celebrated. Shit, Angel, it’s not like anyone put a sword to his head."
"The Dude’s just got it in for me," Jamie’s voice turned bitter, "because of what happened to Luc. Like it’s my fault The Bad Guys used Luc’s head for a Christmas tree topper." Angel winced. Ick.
"That’s not it and you know it." Angel insisted, "El Jefe is all about artistic license, or maybe that was licensing so-called artists, but, whatever, he’s really into letting writers do their own thing, however weird, however tasteless."
Jamie raised a sardonic eyebrow.
"Not that Scrolls is tasteless, Angel added hastily, "But quit distracting me. About this handing out of hard liquor to Our Tom Sawyer over there—"
Josiah snorted, turning both their heads briefly towards him. He blushed crimson as Jamie’s eyes examined the front of his sodden jeans, then shifted in a way that somehow managed to display his endowment more prominently.
Either that, or he’d moved the sock around.
"Not you, Josie." Angel said, vaguely. Jamie returned his attention to the slim drama student. Josiah pouted.
They pretended not to notice.
[End of Part Two, tune in next weekend for Part the Third!]
Disclaimer:A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forums is a work of fiction, that is, it is a complete and total pack of outright lies and bears no resemblance to anyone living, dead or writing at AD. That said, TR cannot be reached for comment, so don’t try. He’s disabled all email addresses, phone numbers, and IM contacts, installed burglar bars and is wearing his tin-foil hat religiously. So no matter what Shakespeare and the Klingons say about revenge, don’t even think about it. Just suck it up, kid. The story still belongs to TR, though, so no stealing. Seriously.