Suggested Audio Jukebox ♬
 Engelbert Humperdinck “Release Me”
 Annie Lennox “I Put A Spell On You”
 Debbie Malone “Rescue Me”
 Ivor Biggun & The Red Nosed Burglars “The Wanker Song”
 Madness “House of Fun”
 Martika “Toy Soldiers”
 Ian Dury & The Blockheads “Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick”
What does a wrangler have to do around here to catch a break? I mean seriously, did I break a mirror or something? I was this close, THIS CLOSE, to finally getting to take a look under Bonus Brain’s hood and even went as far as washing my armpits especially for the occasion. What a waste of time and hypoallergenic soap that turned out to be. You see, just as I prepared myself for the best six-and-a-half minutes of my life and the best six-and-a-half-minutes of her last ten stretch, she upped and left without any kind of pre-warning. To be fair, I can’t really be pissed off with her, as she was kind of taken against her will. But still, I can’t help getting the impression that someone up there has it in for me. It took forever to get her to admit that she had feelings for me and, while pity wouldn’t have been my first choice, it’s still a step up from loathing and that’s progress in my book. If I played my cards right, then I could have upgraded to indifference by dinner time but, instead, she was callously snatched away before the Viagra could kick in.
Needless to say, the pill has now taken effect, and this would be all well and good if I was about to engage in folk dancing of the horizontal variety. However, when you are about to embark on a perilous rescue mission and required to remain inconspicuous, the last thing you need to be sporting is an artificially enhanced erection. When John McClane decided he would Die Hard, he only meant it figuratively and he would have failed miserably saving the day had there not been sufficient blood in his upper torso to rush to his head. Indeed, cast your eye over any modern-day action hero and you’ll be hard pushed to find one who banished evil while lugging around a boner. If time wasn’t an issue then I’d simply wait around for the pill’s effects to wear off; perhaps get my money’s worth to Baywatch reruns. However, the ransom note clearly stated that 23:00 hours was the cut-off time for negotiations and, if I don’t learn to work with my stiffy and fast, then any faint hopes of blossoming romance with Bonus Brain will be well and truly nobbled.
Why couldn’t I have been assigned a partner with more than just the one eye? Murtaugh got Riggs, Crockett got Tubbs, Tango got Cash, and who do I get? Pecker wood that’s what? Can it disarm a bomb? Negative. Fire a Beretta M9? No chance. Take the wheel during a high-speed pursuit? Not if I value my fender. At very best, it can create a mild diversion and that’s no great benefit when we have no possibility of splitting up. Indeed, attempting to do so will be the equivalent of painting a target on my head and, unless I perfect the art of deflecting attacks with my rigid member, I’d say I’m pretty much screwed and not in the manner I was hoping either. The only possible upside I can glean right now is that it doesn’t whine like Chris Tucker but I’m not altogether convinced that will remain the case once it has been riddled with armor-piercing shrapnel. A lethal weapon may be all well and good but not when it’s only life-threatening to its user.
On a slightly more positive note, I have reconvened my tenure as Brutal Word Wrangler. For a moment there, I was ready to call it quits but, after careful consideration, I’ve decided that I’m not cut out for a future in the fast food industry. Colonel Sanders will likely be most put out by my eleventh hour change of heart, while Ronald McDonald has already blacklisted me from any children’s parties for the foreseeable and requested I return my clown shoes by close of business. It’s highly unlikely that I will ever again work in this town so all impetus is now on making this wrangling business pay off and, to stand a hope of doing that effectively, I’ll first be required to rescue my sidekick. Bonus Brain may have a tendency to be somewhat standoffish and oppose me at almost every turn, but she’s also an extra set of eyes when I need them most and rather adept at bailing my sorry ass out in the nick of time. Without her, I’m less than zero, just another bullet sponge just waiting to accept that full clip. Thus this proposes to be my most hazardous mission to date.
To make things worse, she has been taken hostage by none other than my own personal nemesis. Monsieur Heureux and I have a history stretching all the way back to my sixth birthday. I distinctly recall appealing for a Stretch Armstrong but, instead, excitedly unwrapped my main present to reveal the most despicable doll ever to tumble off the production line. I knew from the very moment I laid eyes on him and was greeted by a stare which was nothing short of utterly disquieting, that playtime would never be the same again and so it proved as my fortunes took a considerable downturn from that point forward. Not wishing to appear ungrateful, I reluctantly thanked my parents for the token, and offered him pride of place on my bedroom shelf so as not to blow my flimsy cover. However, within 24 hours, strange unexplained events had begun playing out and he seemed disinterested in playing the patient game as he leaned over me that night and reeled off the following less than companionable verse.
I’ll carve out your innards with lashings so deep
you’ll not hear me fumble you’ll not hear me creep
I’ll quench myself on life-force while you sleep
with not a soul any the wiser
They’ll just put it down to an unexplained death
and little they’ll know that I stole your last breath
I’m biding my time but I will manifest
see I’m killer not just terrorizer
Now you tell me, do they sound like the words of a well disposed bestie or a crystal clear statement of vile intent from one hellbent on endorsing any bed wetting activities until your mid-thirties? Naturally I ran to my parents and was promptly informed that it had been little more than night terrors and nothing a good night’s sleep wouldn’t see shipshape. That may have been but how can one be expected to collar those forty winks when chances of waking up the next morning were more skimpy than one of Lady Gaga’s lamb chop leotards? The way I saw it, there was only one available out, and that entailed banishing this smiling assassin to the one place any unwanted knickknack despises most – the attic. Heureux was way less than appreciative of this exile and stepped up his terrorizing the very next night by mysteriously materializing back in his old spot while I cowered beneath my divan. That was the very last straw and, the following morning, I bagged him up and shipped him out to a local antique store where it appeared he would spend his days. More the fool me.
Just as per my worst fears, he returned to taunt me the very same night, and I decided not to rest on my laurels and concoct a new worst fear instead. I seemed doomed to be tormented perpetually and never again bank on dawn’s early light throwing me a bone. Mercifully, the visitations then ceased without any explanation, and I just figured that I had successfully fended off this demon once and for all. I reiterate my foolhardy presumption in the words of Busta Rhymes – gimme some mo. You see, while my childhood remained relatively terror free (aside from the obligatory corridor wedgies and lunch money theft), I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that one day he’d return to finish the job. And this is precisely what occurred as I prepared to do battle with The Grim Reaper’s cronies and it was revealed that his pecking order consisted of, you guessed it, my closest’s most degenerate skeleton. As you would imagine, it took almost a minute to thread my small intestine back through the Eye of Sauron, and another two to cease sobbing like Annie when it turned out overcast the next day.
However, all you really need at times like these is a shot of perspective, and one rang out soon afterwards as I realized this was my one chance to conquer my scourge once-and-for-all. He may have been able to strike fear into the heart of a six-year-old boy but how would he fare against an almost fully developed forty-one-year-old man-child? It turns out that some questions are best not answered. Granted, I provided his seven deadly sins with a thorough drubbing, and even managed to escape a suffocating end by the skin of my teeth after tossing Heureux over the cliff top to the snapping waves beneath. But, as I peered over the edge to assess the splash zone, I was greeted by a sight far too ambiguous for my liking. He was nowhere to be seen, had seemingly vanished into thin air, and that sneaky suspicion came flooding back that this tale of titanic terror was still some way from concluded. Of course, I was fairly assured that plastic can’t swim, so there was always a vague hope that he had sunk to the algae faster than one of Kim Kardashian’s daily stools and taken to terrorizing passing plankton for a living instead. But I think I already knew deep down that it would come to this.
Anyhoots, it is currently 22:00 hours and that leaves me a scant sixty minutes to rescue my fair maiden and exterminate my most stubborn adversary. No pressure then, if ever there was a time to step up to the plate and declare myself an all-in wrangler, then this would surely be it. Thus I have decided to concoct something of a kit list prior to my ill-fated expedition and here’s what I have come up with. First up I shall be required to have my wits about me at all times and, while it shouldn’t take long to round them up, I’ve always been a lousy shepherd. Next I will need to pack myself some rear-guard as sneak attacks just happen to be one of Heureux’s preferred party tricks. I do just about know how to swing an ax and can clench all ten knuckles in anger if my life really depends on it, but I’m hardly Lou Ferrigno and will only have space in my inventory for a solitary weapon or else leave myself over-encumbered when I know full well that my opponent is fast on his feet. After careful consideration and taking into account that he is made up of perishable plastic, there seemed no wiser choice than my trusty flamethrower. Now I just need to fathom out how to operate it.
Another must is stamina and, for a guy who thinks nothing of polishing off forty smokes daily, this could well prove my undoing. I can do nimble at a push but maintaining that sprightly movement for any longer than the time it takes Roseanne Barr to gobble down Laurie Metcalf is pushing it. Sure I have been known to engage in a spot of exercise from time to time, but my recovery time is abysmal, and masturbation really does take it out of you. Perhaps I’ll scare him off with my extraordinarily disproportionate left bicep. Or maybe my mother’s countless warnings of it resulting in blindness will be proved precise and I’ll be left swinging my thumper at shadows. Thank the heavens for Red Bull (or its cut-priced equivalent at least) as, for the next hour or so, I will be operating at the very peak of my prowess. That said, if this rescue mission takes any longer, then my wings will swiftly be relinquished and replaced with concrete breeze blocks. And don’t even get me started on the palpitations.
One thing I certainly won’t be forgetting is my trusty lute as, if all else fails which there’s a high probability will be the case, I can always attempt the eleventh-hour serenade. It’s a long shot but riddling has seen me through some fairly bruising scrapes in the past and I do love me a good limerick after a hard day’s wrangling. If nothing else, it could buy me the time to scout for any available exits, and I’m never too proud to run from a fight if the likeliness is that my teeth are about to populate a basket. Surrender them and auto-erotic asphyxiation is out of the question as is consuming my daily quota of red meat through any means other than crazy straw. Not to mention the difficulty I would have chirping a tune without sounding like a whistler in a wind tunnel. Therefore my vocal chords are primed for their rousing encore and I’m packing both falsetto and baritone for the occasion.
Naturally I couldn’t leave home without my mother’s hand lotion and to suggest otherwise would be truly preposterous. From what I hear, backed-up semen is like slow-working poison if left unattended for too long, and should be released at regular intervals. While my unshakable erection will cut down on over half of the elbow grease, any bouts of self-defilation will be required to break personal bests if I’m not to get caught with my kecks at my knees. This means packing several lingerie catalogs and praying I don’t flick straight to the mankini section. It also takes the place of other more pragmatic items like my rape whistle, white flag, and fuzzy felts. Needs must I suppose and prioritizing is key to not making a pig’s ears, trotters, and curly tail of saving Bonus Brain’s bacon rind. There will be plenty of time for release if we escape Heureux’s clutches and I haven’t forgotten my associate’s indecent bathtub proposal either.
You see, right around the time that she was so ruthlessly taken, we were preparing to deliver our relationship to the next level. Granted, one above contempt isn’t exactly Harold & Maude material, but it sure beats one below and it seemed we were heading there pronto. Sex is sex at the end of the day, whether embittered or gleeful, it still culminates in knee trembles and Elvis impersonations and I live for cheeseburger moments such as these. Indeed, I was already applying the baby oil, when I glanced to my side and every last one of my hopes and dreams was dashed in cruel unison. To give credit where due, her kidnapper was kind enough to replace her with a ransom note and, while coitus with parchment would only ever result in paper cuts, it did give me the chance to catch up on my reading. Personally I would have taken the weekly obituaries to learning who was responsible for her disappearance but at least I had time to process the information, soil myself, and dust off my Stetson. She may be gone now and with her any momentum we had built to that point but, while this boner still rages, it’s not too late to get a sweet sweat on with my historically unfair lady with the added incentive of thwarting my mortal enemy in the process. I do enjoy a good double bubble.
I believe that brings us bang up-to-date and I have now arrived at my destination trepidatious but still hanging onto that slither of hope as is customary. I have to say that the chosen location does little to settle my fraying nerves and the dollhouse before me is about as welcoming as the Ya̧nomamö tribe at an all-you-can-eat buffet. But it is absolutely no less than I would expect from one as effortlessly devious as Monsieur Heureux and it’s high time I step boldly into my big boy pants and leave the diapers for recovering alcoholics and others who really need them. Many would scuttle away with their tails between their legs at the mere thought of entering these fortifications but not I. The Brutal Word Wrangler knows not how to flee a skirmish and there’s a curse in that blessing for sure but not when he has the opportunity to come out of this a hero and win himself the return affections of a distressed damsel while he’s at it. Do your worst Heureux and I’ll raise that with something suitably grubby of my own. Let’s get this show on the road shall we you little punk?
Okay so I’m a little perturbed by the scent of formaldehyde that wafted past me as I entered the lobby and find the deep-throated screaming a tad distracting also. But this comes as no great revelation given the personnel and he’ll have to do better than that if he thinks he’s getting a solitary dread nugget out of these rosy reds. To be fair, the fact that his drapes are embroidered from thinly sliced epidermis may have squeezed a bronzed pellet to the front of the queue, but I refuse to allow it to creep any farther out than its shoulders and shall clench defiantly through such a cheap shot at slackening my pelt from its marrow. This was no less than I’d been expecting and I’ve absolutely no doubt that door number two will reveal something even more execrable. Anything less just wouldn’t be Heureux and, while still optimistic that he may disappoint me, I fear that delusion may have kicked in when I distinctly recall asking for adrenaline. The time is now 22:55 hours and that leaves precious little room for making myself at home and even less for manoeuvre. One door is all that separates me from potentially one helluva ass-whooping and now I know how Jehovah’s witnesses feel.
I’d love to meet the clever Dick who decided that bad should always lead directly to worse and throttle him for being so darned accurate. If the lobby offered a clue as to the dastardly delights Heureux had in store, then the contents of the adjoining chamber pretty much crystallizes his game plan. Bonus Brain is present and correct so that should be considered a considerable upside right? And so it would be if it weren’t for the fact that she is currently dangling precariously over a colossal paddling pool topped up with anti-freeze and by the most slender of threads. If she were a Nissan Skyline then I’d feel comforted by the knowledge that she would start even in the bleakest midwinter. However, grey matter doesn’t do so well under sub-zero conditions, and one brief dunk in this solution is all it would take to reset every last one of her neurons to factory settings and render her effectively brain-dead. Only fools rush in apparently so I’d better scout my coordinates for any other potential hazards. Something tells me that doing so isn’t ordained with pepping me up any.
On the table to my right are three packages, all of similar size and shape, and it would appear that I’m being encouraged to open them before dashing valiantly to my associate’s rescue. My feelings here are decidedly mixed as, while the wrapping paper is admittedly rather handsome and gift bow cleverly twined, I know better than to hang my hopes on Stretch Armstrong being inside and have first-hand experience of such sorrowful anticlimax. There’s only one way to find out so I grab the first of the three handouts and give it a gentle shake. Judging by the weight, I’d say it could only be one of two things: either Gwyneth Paltrow’s disembodied head or a brand new Good Guy doll still in the cellophane. However, given that it would be nigh-on impossible for Gwyneth to recite the line “Hi, I’m Chucky, and I’m your friend till the end. Hidey-ho!” with her vocal chords severed, my money’s on the latter. Something is telling me that it’s time to expel a little methane. Air fresheners at the ready Grueheads, I’m going in.
“Hi, I’m Chucky. Wanna play?”
“Listen up Squirt. I’ve watched all six of the Child’s Play movies and there’s no way I’m falling for your sweet and innocent routine. So why don’t you drop the act Charles so we can just get down to beeswax”
“Can we? That would be great as I’ve only got three pre-programmed responses and one of those is pissing my pants like a pensioner. It sucks being me”
“Consider it done. Now what makes you think you have any right making my life miserable?”
“Well I had a date with a six-year-old-boy once just like Heureux and the little shit was every bit as ungrateful. Call it a conflict of reasons not to be interested”
“Listen, that shit is between you and Andy, I’ve never disrespected you or made you feel worthless”
“So I’m easily led. Whatcha gonna do? Shoot me? For the record, don’t do that as I’ve been there, done that, and it hurt like a son of a bitch”
“Look at you, you’re an outrage against nature, and well overpriced to boot. Well this time you’ve bitten off more than you can chew little man as I’ve got 1000°C here with your name on it as soon as I can figure out how to fire this thing up”
“YOU STUPID PRICK, YOU FILTHY TWAT! I’LL TEACH YOU TO FUCK WITH ME!”
Hell’s bells, why didn’t I read the instructions on this thing beforehand? I have no idea how to load this canister and my pint-sized opponent is already furiously breaking through the seal and a simple burping doesn’t appear likely to appease him. Perhaps just pointing it in his direction will be sufficient to ward him off.
“I’M GONNA RIP YOUR FUCKING HEART OUT WHEN I GET OUTTA HERE AND FEED IT BACK TO YOU INTRAVENOUSLY”
Okay, I’m guessing that’s a no. Furthermore, I’m stumped as to how to operate this wretched thing and will need to find another way of obliterating my enemy and fast, as that box cutter he’s wielding looks decidedly sharp and he’s swinging it worryingly close to my personal space.
“Can’t we just strike some kind of truce?”
Again that’s a negative. Have you ever had a four-inch blade plunged into your shoulder-blade and twisted? Neither had I before three seconds ago and don’t feel particularly overjoyed about that particular duck being broken. Even more dishearteningly, gift number two of three has been knocked to the floor in the resulting fracas and the wrapping paper is now well and truly breached. To continue the current trend for abysmal misfortune, the contents are all that is required to spell double trouble, and the last thing I need right now is Chucky’s missus going to town on my metatarsals.
“YOU LET ME OUTTA HERE RIGHT NOW YOU BASTARD!”
Wonderful. Since when did dolls start getting fitted up with ovaries anyhoots? Admittedly she does look vaguely like Jennifer Tilly and that alone is enough to make my foreskin even tighter than it already was. But I prefer the real thing if I’m honest and refuse to put my throbbing erection anywhere near this potty-mouthed bunny boiler.
“If you don’t mind Tiffany, I’d prefer not. Try me again in seven days or so”
“I wasn’t talking to you dick with ears. I was talking to my lazy, good-for-nothing husband”
Well this is a turn-up for the books. It would appear that three may well be a crowd here and that could yet work in my favor. Let’s see what Chucky has to say about it.
“Oh shit! The old ball-and-chain. I mean hello hon”
“Don’t you hon me you cock sucker. Do you have any idea how much I hate being confined in tight spaces?”
“You’re preaching to the choir love. Why do you think we haven’t had sex since the nineties?”
“Just as I thought, a low life son-of-a-bitch just like the rest of them. Here I am, slaving away over a hot stove, making Swedish meatballs, and not the IKEA shit, we’re talking gourmet, and for what? A man who doesn’t appreciate me! For a man that can’t even wash one fucking dish! For a man who isn’t even a man at all where it counts, if you get my drift!”
“Word to the wise Tiff. Any guy would need a hunk of plastic, probably battery operated to get a reaction out of you in bed. And by the way, your meatballs taste like pre-heated llama dung”
“You can kiss my shiny plastic butt you cretin”
“I would if I had Meg Ryan’s lips”
“What are you saying?”
“Do the math slut. I’ve seen less cellulite in a clinic dumpster on garbage day”
“You take that back or else…”
“Or else what? You’ll divorce me. On what grounds?”
“There are other ways to dissolve a marriage you know. Ever hear of Lorena Bobbitt?”
“She’s the chick who cut her husband’s dick off right?”
“The one and only”
“Yeah well…did you ever hear of FUCK YOU AND THE SCABBY HORSE YOU RODE IN ON YOU UGLY TROG!”
“Oh no you didn’t. Boy I’m gonna whoop you ’til my batteries die then whoop you some more”
“There she is. That’s my girl. God I missed that estrogen”
“Don’t patronize me when I’m about to go medieval on your ass. TAKE THIS!”
“Bitch! You broke my neck!”
“Learned that one from Self-Defense Barbie. You want some more of this?”
“Whatever happened to “With this ring I thee wed”? I knew I should have married Martha Stewart when I had the chance”
“FUCK MARTHA STEWART!”
This appears to be more of your A to B kind of conversation so maybe it’s time I C my way out of it as I’d never been one to interfere with a marital row. Moreover, this appears to have worked out rather tidily as they’re both so pre-disposed with hurling insults at one another, that it presents me with an unexpected opportunity to unwrap the third and last of Heureux’s offerings totally without distraction. I’ll tell you one thing for free, if it’s Scrappy Doo, I’m gonna inject him with industrial-strength toilet bleach just for fucking up the whole Mystery Machine dynamic and thinking himself something he’s clearly not. That one well and truly classifies as a Scooby Don’t. Considering it’s currently 22:59 hours and counting, and from what I can make out of what Bonus Brain just remarked from behind her duct tape muzzle, I think I’d better just get this shit over with. Here goes. Please let it be Stretch Armstrong. Please let it be Stretch Armstrong. Please let it be…
Finally a present worth opening and it only took thirty-five goddamn years of subtle hinting for someone to get it right. Furthermore, said someone was only my mortal enemy. How’s that for a shock to the system? Had it been frankincense or myrrh then I would have been mildly impressed but Stretch Armstrong is a whole different ballgame entirely. Perhaps I’ve had Monsieur Heureux figured out wrong all this time. Could this actually be a peace-offering? Dare I say that maybe in time we could become old drinking buddies? I mean, let’s not ignore the obvious, he’s been trying to finish me for four decades now and come pretty close to doing just that on a number of occasions. But I hear bygones are best when left be and forgiveness isn’t an altogether alien concept to me. Spend long enough with Bonus Brain and you tend to develop something of a thick skin. Thus the words “no harm or foul” feel applicable here. Hold on, is it just my imagination or does my new friend Stretch appear a little aggravated?
What’s the next one up from aggravated? Apparently the marketing lied. While indeed his limbs possessed a certain degree of elasticity, I’m reasonably assured that the kid in the commercial didn’t take a haymaker to the solar plexus for his troubles. That’s false advertising you know, I’ve got a good mind to write a letter of grievance to Kenner Products and inform them that their merchandise is shonky dagnabbit. You don’t see Etch-a-Sketch digging you in the ribs or Speak & Spell calling you all the names in the urban dictionary, so why then is this defective hunk of junk so excited by the prospect of kneading me like dough? You’ll pay a princely sum for your deception Heureux, if I can endure this absolute pummeling that is. Is it normal to see stars at this point during a sound thrashing? How about cuckoos? Give…my kindest regards…to Broadway.
Let’s tally up the positives and negatives shall we? Down sides first, I’ve just been served in style by my one-time personal hero, and knocked spark out with the witching hour looming large, which may spell curtains for Bonus Brain. Looking more towards the brighter side of things, I’m thrilled to learn that my inner monologue still remains active while unconscious. Being out for the count may entail a loss of pride and limb movement, but I had been hoping for a time-out anyhoots and this will provide me all the seconds I need to regroup. Best make the most of my fresh vantage and find out what’s in store for the Brutal Word Wrangler next, no doubt something hideous. I’ll give Stretch this much, while evidently a faulty piece of equipment and disgrace to the once-proud Armstrong name, he has got some strength on him. Currently he is hauling my dead weight down ten flights of stone stairs, presumably to Heureux’s inner sanctum for a further dose of misery. Guess it’s time I face my demon once-and-for-all and see what’s been yanking his crank all these years. Wish me luck Grueheads and, just so there’s no confusion, I also accept pity.
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Grueheads Films 2016