Suggested Audio Jukebox ♬
 Billy Ocean “Red Light Spells Danger”
 Aerosmith “Back In The Saddle Again”
 Alice in Chains “Check My Brain”
 Charlie Clouser “Dead Silence”
 Prince “Let’s Go Crazy”
 The Spencer Davis Group “Keep On Running”
 Graham Gouldman “Now That We’ve Made It”
Do you ever get the feeling that you’re doomed? I only ask because that’s precisely the vibe I’m on currently as I head towards my reckoning, involuntarily I might add. When I first stepped foot inside this dollhouse I had a plan, that being to save my associate Bonus Brain from the clutches of Monsieur Heureux, easily the most despicable piece of perished plastic ever to drop off the assembly line. While under no illusion that this would prove immensely challenging, the Brutal Word Wrangler doesn’t enter into such an endeavor half-baked, and I’d prepared myself for the very worst that my nemesis could throw at me. Or so I thought. You see, Heureux has never been one for abiding by the rules, when playing dirty is a far more rewarding proposition. Long story short, I fell for his trickery hook, line, and sinker and now find myself in a situation one beyond ominous and well over halfway to FUBAR. For all my very best efforts, he has emerged the victor from round one and this doesn’t bode well for an eleventh hour triumph, my specialty up until now. So let’s see how Bonus Brain was doing when I last left my significant other shall we?
Not well I see. I’m guessing that isn’t split-pea soup bubbling away in that colossal vat and the flailing tentacles aren’t exactly filling me with hope either. The rescue deadline has now come and passed and, unless Heureux’s timekeeping is as lousy as his hosting skills, it may well already be all over and my mission well and truly failed. Ordinarily I would be overcome with guilt at this point but charity begins at home and my own circumstances are hardly worth sounding the celebratory bugles over. Currently I’m spark out, flat on my back, and being dragged down way too many flights of stone steps not to result in bruises. Indeed, were it not for my inner monologue, then I’d be little more than a lamb to the slaughter here and I’m banking on my subconscious alone coming up with some kind of workable plan of action. This is all fine and dandy in theory, but my woefully short attention span keeps tossing me curveballs and I’m finding it increasingly difficult to focus on the task at hand. The bottom line is that I’m at least eight tenths of the way to royally screwed and, short of a spot of divine intervention, will likely be pushing up daisies by midnight.
On the plus side, it would appear that my journey is now complete, and that I have finally reached my destination. Judging by the foul stench of decay down here, I’d say a few hands of Texas Hold ‘Em is off the menu, and it’s far more likely that I will be tortured to within an inch of my sorry life before being tortured some more for the sheer hell of it. Monsieur Heureux has been the constant thorn in my side since I was a mere whippersnapper and only operates on one setting, that being evil of the most pure and unadulterated variety. There are no niceties, no easy rides, no last-ditch attacks of conscience. Just bitter pain and suffering and not even necessarily in that order. In addition, he has made it his life’s work to know every last one of my weaknesses and isn’t afraid to use every last one of them against me either. Anything to fuck me over to the nth degree is deemed kosher to this pint-sized piss puppet and, now that he has the upper hand, his next priority will be making things as uncomfortable as inhumanly possible for the last few sniveling moments of my life. However, he has underestimated his opponent as I have absolutely no inclination towards goin’ out like dat.
I’m the Brutal Word Wrangler dagnabbit, not some chump with change. I’ve battled all manner of monstrosities during my tenure, from unruly xenomorphs, to ill-tempered genies, and even the nefarious Trump Demon. While not always assured in my methodology, I’ve come through each acid test with head held high and feel that I’ve more than proved my worth as a champion for good in the process. Granted, Bonus Brain may have bailed me out on occasion, but I’ve certainly not been a spectator when the chips have been down and my wits and fierce resolve have seen me through the worst of it relatively unscathed. So why break the habit of a lifetime? Who cares if I’m staring down the barrel of defeat as it ain’t over until the fat lady takes centre stage and she’s presently in her dressing room nursing her swollen ankles so there’s still sufficient time to turn things around. My faithful sidekick may be simmering away in a cauldron being melted down into slag as we speak, but Bonus Brain’s death need not be in vain as long as I conjure up a plan B pronto.
I’m awake now and that is a distinct plus as I can scan my surroundings for intelligence and work out my best course of action accordingly. It doesn’t help that it’s so bleeding dark down here and my movement is still limited after taking such a severe pummeling at the hands of Stretch Armstrong. The way I see it, I have three options at my disposal right now. Either I attempt to make a dash for it while the coast appears to be clear, wait around for my sworn enemy to put in an appearance and do battle to the death with him, or catch up on my grossly overlooked masturbation duties and see where that leads me. While I have a sneaking suspicion that I should be plumping for either A or B, I’m in drastic arrears with the wank bank already and feel it would only be right to start working off some of that debt. Does that make me a bad person? Judging by the sea of raised hands, I’m guessing that’s a yes. Fine, if that’s how it’s going to be, then I’ll tow the line for now but, the very second I get out of this hell hole, I’m polishing the mahogany like a Stepford wife and that’s all there is to it.
For now I shall have the courage of my convictions and sit it out until our guest of honor arrives. If there’s one thing I can bank on with Monsieur Heureux then it is that he won’t keep me waiting as the sum of his lifetime ambition is to snuff out his most enduring adversary once and for all. Therefore I shall use this free time wisely, gee myself up for his inevitable entrance, and remind myself of just how far I have come to arrive at this juncture. When I first decided to dedicate myself wholeheartedly to the wrangling cause, very few people gave me a chance of actually making something of it. “You’re deluded” were the cries, “go back to cloud cuckoo land and don’t return until you’ve grown a pair” rang in my ears as I questioned whether I had the minerals for this wrangling business and received precious little correspondence to corroborate my belief. Yet I didn’t throw in the towel (and believe me, the thought did cross my mind on occasion), instead sticking to my guns and doing everything in my power to prove the doubters and myself wrong in the process.
Then Bonus Brain showed up on the scene and my first thoughts were far from encouraging. Should I say that something was black, then he’d swear blind that it wasn’t and make such a decent case for his presumption that I’d struggle not to see his logic, no matter how skewed that might have been. However, while seemingly intent on derailing me whenever the chance presented itself, he wasn’t without his uses and had a tendency to weigh in with a nugget of wisdom right around the time I rested my weary head on the chopping block. It was then that I realized something vital. You see, beneath that mask of indifference was at the very least a token of respect. Bonus Brain and I may not have always seen eye to eye but, every time tragedy prepared to strike, he pulled something out of the bag and this helped me turn the tide in my favor. Dare I say that we started to grow close over time; although I’m sure that would be contested by my cross to bear. I’m not suggesting that this was anything other than platonic but it was true, real, clear, and sincere, at least from where I was stationed. Group hugs all round then? Stall those stallions my little chickadees as something came to light which altered that particular dynamic in a hamster’s heartbeat and here’s where things begin to get a little thorny.
Bonus Brain is a chick. I know right? I was just as flabbergasted as you but, while the layout of one vagina may vary wildly from the next, I’d still fancy my chances of picking one out in an identity parade. The eyes do not lie and my peepers had plenty to say as I feasted both of them on the hooded platter before me. Suddenly it all began to make sense in my mind, the strange stirring beneath my loin cloth every time my significant other bent over to pick up the mail, the sexy lingerie that kept sneaking into the laundry basket on wash day, the Dean Cain poster in pride of place above Bonus Brain’s hammock. I’d been utterly hoodwinked and had every right to feel cheated, but couldn’t ignore the intense feeling of relief that the cat was finally out of the bag. Moreover, the awkward chemistry we shared now began to make a lot more sense. Unless I was growling up the wrong oak here, the entire exercise had been little more than foreplay.
The line between love and hate may be a slender one but it also keeps the two connected right? I felt like Hercule Poirot just after he worked out that it must have been the eleventh little Indian doing all the killing. Yet we were some way from being poster children for love’s young dream at this juncture and my attempt to breach the subject with the other party involved was met with the kind of fierce resistance I’d long since come to expect. Nevertheless, I think it would be fair to assume that my charm was working a treat, either that, or I was wearing this dame down with my incessant pleading.
With Bonus Brain now warming up the bath tub and my special purpose glowing like E.T.’s finger in a power surge, it was on like Donkey Kong and I was all set to commence leaping some barrels. That was until the whole banana skin incident and, as I dimmed the lights and dipped my toes in the tepid water, it dawned on me that I’d be bathing alone after all. Had I known this then I would have called on the services of my rubber ducky but nobody saw fit to tell me that I’d been jilted. I recalled a painful memory from my childhood, whereby I somehow managed to procure my very first girlfriend, spent the last of my milk money on a box of deluxe praline chocolates to deliver to her before she could have come to her senses, slipped on a pile of strategically placed dog excrement during transit, and turned up at school smelling like a spaniel’s asshole, only to find out that she had indeed arrived at her senses. I was aware that my window of opportunity would be slight, but no bugger told me that the thousand or so doors around it led directly to Benji’s colon.
Anyhoots, I could’ve brained J-Lo as love evidently did cost a thing and the ransom note pretty much made that one crystal. If there was a bright side to be gleaned from this snatching, then at least I hadn’t been snubbed. Business would resume as usual once I’d rescued my fair maiden from the vile clutches of her kidnappers and returned parity to the good kingdom I serve so doggedly. That said, I was under no illusion that the path would be fraught with great peril as, with Monsieur Heureux pulling the strings, the Dollhouse in question would be rigged to the rafters with all manner of deviously devised challenges. And so it has proved as I’m staring at a whitewash here and the sound of shuffling in the shadows to my right suggests that it’s just about time for that swift K.O. It’s best out of three right?
“The Brutal Word Wrangler. Well it looks like all my Christmases just came at once”
“Monsieur Heureux. I had a feeling you’d be showing your face soon”
“Couldn’t disappoint you now could I?”
“Always the thoughtful one”
“You know me”
“That I do Heureux. That I do. So I’m guessing this is a mixture of business and pleasure then?”
“Something like that”
I will need to tread decidedly carefully from hereon in as this little bleeder is unlikely to donate an inch to proceedings and the all-important sucker punch could arrive at any given moment, should I fail to engage him through banter. If he has a solitary frailty, then it would be his need to soundly demoralize before moving in for the kill and I simply must not let on that he’s getting to me for a picosecond or all will be lost and I’ll be plastered all over the side of milk cartons. In my favor, I’ve danced with this devil previously, more than one waltz to boot, and can shimmy around minor pratfall with an ease that’s all too relative. Clearly he wishes to play a game and I’d hate to disappoint him with so much at stake. Thus I shall raise his sportsmanship with a little A-game of my own and let’s get this show on the road. I believe that Double Jeopardy is on the cards and that’s twice the reason to position my finger firmly over the buzzer.
“I’d first like to congratulate you on your performance thus far sir. Kudos for the sneak attack”
“You know me. You’ll not hear me fumble, you’ll not hear me creep and all that”
“Indeed. You really pulled a number on me back in your workshop. Didn’t see that one coming”
“I appreciate the sentiment, although I have to say I’ve found your own display rather pathetic. I’d expected more from you than to go down with one well-placed right hook”
“I needed the lay down”
“And how has that left you feeling?”
“You know. Older. Wiser. Galvanized. The usual”
“That’s good to hear as I wouldn’t want you to curl up into a ball and die or anything self-imposed like that”
“I understand. That’s where you come in right?”
“Old habits die hard”
“Tell me about it”
“Still spanking that monkey then?”
“Actually not so much of late. Been a bit of a lean spell if I’m honest”
“Really? You? This from the guy that used to rush home from funerals to knock one out?”
“I know right. I guess certain old habits can’t live forever”
“And what about your equally gormless companion? Doesn’t she chip in for the cause?”
“You mean Bonus Brain? Well things are a little complicated there”
“How so? I mean, she’s clearly a woman and you just about qualify as a man. Surely that’s a match made in heaven or am I out of touch with current affairs?”
“No you’re quite right. But she seems less willing to throw caution to the wind as I”
“Either that or she finds you nauseating. That could have something to do with it”
I’m not falling for this blatant attempt to ruffle my feathers. Low blows are no less than I’d expect from one so shrouded in terror. Lest I not forget that he was hatefully carved with the blackest of souls, and never one to follow any other protocol than his own. Time for a dash of self-effacing methinks.
“I know what you mean, sometimes I nauseate myself. Just for the record, how is Bonus Brain getting on anyhoots? She’s had a little longer to get acquainted with the hospitality from what I gather”
“You could say that”
Remaining cagey I see. This will require great tact on my part as I’ve seen stones more willing to hemorrhage and I reckon I’m all out of freebies.
“Actually the last time I saw her, she was hanging perilously over a giant vat of what I would presume to be some kind of toxic goo”
“Don’t care to elaborate then?”
“What do you want me to say? That I freed her from her shackles, patted her on the back, and gave her ten bucks for the cab fare home?”
“I could but then I’d be breaking our honesty clause wouldn’t I?”
“So she’d dead then?”
“Not dead. More returned to factory settings”
“My dear boy, have you ever known me to bluff?”
“Well then you may wish to rethink your last comment”
“It’s out there now. Listen, if you expect me to take that news with a shrug of the shoulders and a “meh!” then you obviously don’t know me at all”
“I know you. Better than you know yourself, I know you”
“Then what am I thinking right now?”
“That you forgot to set Better Call Saul up to record before you set out”
That was a cheap fucking shot. While that wasn’t in fact what was going through my mind, I just remembered I did forget to set Better Call Saul up to record before setting out and I’ll lose the whole gist of it now. Moreover, Bonus Brain has been lobotomized and I believe that is what is known as a double downer bubble. The truth is, I know only too well that Heureux wouldn’t bluff about something like that and my heart positively bleeds for my felled companion. That said, I cannot allow this heartbreak to define me. Doing so would make me every bit as pathetic as every other Tom, Dick and Harry who got ideas above their station. That’s not enough for someone who aspires to becoming even more pitiful an excuse of a human being, not when there are new depths to be plummeted, fresh obstacles to fall headlong over, up to the minute ways of making myself look truly vapid. I believe that is what Bonus Brain would have wanted.
“You know me well Heureux”
“Hardly my finest achievement. I’ve read postage stamps more cryptic than your simple mind”
“What can I say? I’m a loser baby so why don’t you kill me”
“While that is an admittedly succulent proposition, who would play with me then?”
“I dunno. Barbie? Three stems of Babycham and I hear she’s fair game”
“Andy Pandy? He’s always up for a spot of osmosis”
“Well how about Andy’s favorite space ranger Buzz Lightyear then? He strikes just the right balance between manly and gagging for a fisting. I reckon he’d turn his laser from kill to cum if you ask him nicely enough”
“Sounds too much like Tim Allen”
“Actually you may have a point there. Well I’m stumped if I know”
“Would you like to know why you’re so short on inspiration?”
“I already know you’re going to tell me”
“It’s because we were made for one another wrangler. It was always supposed to be you and I. It’s written in the stars”
“Is it though? I can just about make out the faint outline of a water buffalo if I squint my eyes but I don’t recall reading anything about being your bitch or have I being looking up into the wrong clear night sky?”
“You see what you want to see and that’s your failing”
“Well forgive me for ignoring the part that says it is my destiny to be tormented by you perpetually but it really isn’t all that attractive an end goal”
“Think of the fun we could have together”
“O-kay. Sorry bud, not a great deal coming to mind right now. Any chance of a recap? Just bullet points will do”
“I’ll go one better. I’ll explain each pleasure in vivid detail. First I shall pluck out both of your eyes and any surrounding nerve tissue before replacing them with a couple of vexed blowfish. Then I planned to remove your spinal column via your left earlobe and use it to shatter your fibula. After that I’m up for suggestions but thought perhaps a spot of limb switching could prove enjoyable for both parties. You know, an arm for a leg, penis for a nose, the customary shenanigans”
“You sure know how to woo a wrangler don’t cha? I mean, how could I possibly resist?”
“That’s the thing. You see, I’d want you to resist if only to ascertain whether there’s any fight in you whatsoever. I think we both already know how it will turn out, but the journey could be downright golden if only you locate those tiny little balls of yours”
“So what you’re saying is that you want a challenge?”
“Please and thank you awfully”
“Okay then try this one on for size. How about we play a little game of hide and go seek?”
“You’ve piqued my interest. Go on”
I can’t believe he’s actually taking the chum line. Monsieur Heureux may be a well-regarded terrorizer but, when all is said and done, he’s still just a fucking puppet. I’ve got to come clean, I anticipated a dash more from my lifelong nemesis but there’s a gift horse grazing to my left and I have no intention of looking it in the mouth. I’ve had a ball here at the Dollhouse and will be sure to recommend it to all my worst enemies, but the time has come to spread my wings, fly the nest, and pray that it isn’t duck season.
“So here’s what I was thinking. I’ll go find a hiding spot, you count to one-hundred, then come and sniff me out. I’ll even tell you when you’re getting warm just to ramp up the intrigue”
“Sounds doable. And when I find you? Because I will find you just to be clear”
“Then you do with me as you wish”
“As I wish?”
“Did I stutter? Yes, as you wish. You have my full and unequivocal blessing to go to town on my sorry ass”
“Where do I sign up?”
“No need. Just turn your back and commence the timer”
“And you won’t attempt a last-ditch getaway?”
“Would I lie to you?”
“I guess not”
“Remember absolutely no peeking is allowed”
“What about the 1000 eyes I have dotted about the mansion watching your every move?”
“Power them down. It’s only fair. This is all about you and me. It’s always been that way right?”
“Finally you’re coming round to my way of thinking. Took long enough”
“I’ll be seeing you then Monsieur Heureux. So long and thanks for the hospitality”
“Yeah whatever. Let’s just get this over with shall we?”
“As you wish”
If it weren’t for the fact that every last one of my childhood nightmares was populated by him, I’d actually feel a little bad for that gullible sap. Hide and go fucking seek, I still can’t quite believe he took the bait on that one. From what I’m assured was a position of tremendous power, he has somehow relegated himself to the land of the bottom feeders and been outwitted by an adversary who has exhibited all the cunning of a bona fide wrangler. I’m free of his filthy grasp, around two hundred steps from releasing myself from captivity, and the only thing that could possibly stop me now is if I get carried away with my inner monologue and overshoot my deadline.
There’s still a shit ton of time for reflection and, in case you’re unaware of your volumes, that equates to over three times the tonnage. I reckon I could do it in fifty at a push and a job’s not worth doing today if it can be put off until tomorrow. That’s why they call it a job. I wasn’t placed here simply to clock in, do anything other than the bare minimum required of me, and endeavor to land myself that elusive apple from teacher. Unless I misread the instructions, that’s what shit heels do, not fully licensed word wranglers. Besides, I’ve been crying out for some excitement and running things right to the wire constitutes a fair old wedge of that.
I’m not even perturbed by his shocking numeracy skills or tendency to bend the rules on occasion as he’s well within his rights to do whatever comes naturally to him. Likewise, I’m more than permitted to dilly-dally as that’s always been my most preferred pastime. All figured out you see? Hold on just a minute, something just dawned on me. Somewhere in this steaming cess pit is Bonus Brain, potentially now a vegetable, but still very much a dependent unless the terms and conditions of our agreement have changed. How could I even entertain bolting when my fair maiden is sprawled out on a slab somewhere, confused and fearful? Curse my wretched loyalty, things would be so much easier if only I were an utter bastard as opposed to entry-level bastard.
Now that’s just not on. Even Mongo can count better than that. Speaking of which, I make it high noon for getting those saddles a blazing. Sayonara saddo, I’ve got a rescue mission to conclude and I won’t rest until either I track Bonus Brain down or the count reaches around eighty, whichever comes first. Now if only I had the vaguest idea of where to find her. Perhaps the smart money would be on retracing my steps back upstairs and scouring the area for clues as to her whereabouts. Yes that’ll do me for starters.
Good lord and all that’s holy, there are a lot of stairs. I’m starting to regret not taking the clearly signposted elevator right beside them now. However, if nothing else, this is supplying a much-needed cardiovascular workout and my calves will be like dolphin heads by the time I reach the summit if I just…keep…pushing.
I don’t suppose anyone has a spare pair of lungs knocking about do they? One lung? Fuck it, an inhaler? Nothing doing huh? Not wishing to come across a dick but why did I invite you lot along again? What’s that? You invited yourselves? Couldn’t resist the sight of me coming a cropper I’m guessing? I amuse you do I? A constant source of glee you say? All at my expense? Well pardon me for speaking out of line but…you rotten bastards! Never before have I felt so hard done by, seldom has it been so clear that I’m a patsy, and only once previously have I felt so much like my lungs are about to implode in my chest. Three speed wanks in swift succession is something I wouldn’t recommend by the way but that’s neither here or there right now as I’ve got to catch that second wind and pronto. Just a few more steps and I’m there. If only I’d prepared myself a montage. Damn hindsight and its rude awakening.
I did it. Two hundred and thirty-nine steps have been conquered and if that doesn’t count as upper tier wrangling, then I’m evidently in the wrong game here. Credit I believe is due and I’m half tempted to make you cough up but it’s not going to find me a Bonus Brain is it? With great power comes its equivalent in responsibility and I’ve never once left a damsel distressed without first inserting a well lubricated finger into her poop box. It’s time for me to lift her up where she belongs, you know, where the eagles cry on a mountain high. Or failing that around three inches above shoulder height which is pretty much all I can currently muster. But the sentiment will still stand. One last check of how Heureux is getting on and it’s very first on my to-do-list.
Bollocks. If Roger was here now then I’m reasonably certain it would be a good time for him to grab the cat. Running for my life would be most shrewd right now. It worked for O.J. didn’t it?
“COMING READY OR NOT!”
Not Heureux, not. Nevertheless, I’m outta here as the hourglass is no longer my friend and I’m about thirty seconds and one short elevator ride from the most agonizing end imaginable. Bonus Brain, please forgive me for what I’m about to do but I’ll never forget you if that’s of the scantest of consolation. But wait, what is that I spot mere yards from the front entrance, in an oversized petri dish marinating in its own cranial fluids. It couldn’t be could it? It only bloody is. Bonus Brain. My sweet, precious little Bonus Brain. Just to be clear, I never doubted it for a second, I was just working the audience.
“I CAN SMELL YOUR LIVER WRANGLER!”
She looks so angelic writhing around in her own coulis, blissfully unaware of absolutely anything whatsoever. Heureux was right, she has been wiped clean like jizz on a toilet seat, her identity relinquished, and the ability to communicate terminated. All that I can do now is cradle her in my arms and just pray that some of that shit is backed up. If not, then at least I’ll save on chloroform.
Well would you believe, all’s well that end’s well after all. Thank the heavens for good old cliché, I knew it wouldn’t let me down in a pickle. Talk about a close shave though, a few more seconds in the firing line and I’d have been nabbed for damn sure. Regrettably it isn’t all good news as Monsieur Heureux is still very much at large and will no doubt add this latest deception to his ever-growing list of personal grievances. Whatever may come, I’ll be ready for him, as I’m the Brutal Word Wrangler and no man but yours truly shall put this particular prose jockey asunder. I’ve no doubt that further adventures lay ahead and will be no less than half-primed when they do. But for the time being, I wonder if that bath water’s still warm. The first step in your rehabilitation Bonus Brain will be thorough defragmentation and I have a USB stick here that I can categorically assure you has been backed up in advance and then some. See you in the recycle bin city slickers.
Truly, Really, Clearly, Sincerely,
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of the Crimson Quill
Copyright: Grueheads Films 2016