I woke up and didn’t know where I was. This isn’t anything new to me, and although it startles my brain a little bit every time it happens, I generally just hang around until my memory gets back from breakfast or whatever and decides to fill me in. This time, though, my memory seemed almost as confused as me. I looked around at the puke-green room I was in, and hoped that something would give me a clue.
Maybe I’ve become old, I thought, Rip Van Winkle-style. Maybe I’m like ninety years old, and I’ve lost it and I just think that I’m still twenty-whatever, still dressing up as Portly Boy every night and going out to get my ass kicked. I had to discount that theory pretty quick, though. Considering all the crap I put my body through, there was no way that I was going to make it to ninety years old.
The door opened and Arnie walked in with a McDonalds bag. He didn’t notice that I was awake. He sat down on the chair next to my bed and started talking.
“Man, buddy, I wish you could wake up. I got some sausage McMuffins from down the street. I’m never up early enough to get these things, I almost forgot how good they taste. If only you could be here to eat them with me.”
“Give me one.”
Arnie gave a startled jump, and kind of glanced at me. Then the mournful expression climbed back onto his face and he started talking again. “The doctors say that you’ll probably wake up soon, old friend, but it’s not soon enough for me.”
“I’m awake now, Arnie. Give me a sausage McMuffin.”
“If only I had been more vigilant, you wouldn’t be in this mess.”
“Hey! You’ve got like four of those there. Give me one!” He had already finished off one of the McMuffins, and was opening a second.
“I’m not sure how much you remember. You somehow managed to take out the rest of the thugs—five of them—and burn down their SUV. The cops arrived shortly after you passed out. We tried to revive you, but even when the ambulance came, you wouldn’t wake up.” He finished off the second breakfast sandwich, opened up a third. “The local news is already gearing up for their death of a hero bit, they’ve been calling nonstop.”
“Arnie, you heel, I see you wolfing that down. You know it’s only a matter of time before I trick you into talking, so you might as well just give me that last one.”
He crammed the fourth sausage McMuffin into his mouth and tried talking some more, but his mouth was all full and I couldn’t understand anything he was saying. I resigned myself to just waiting around until he had swallowed. After he had finished off his orange juice, I said, “You’re a real shithead, you know that?”
He jumped again, kind of like when I had startled him the first time, only this time he over-acted a little bit. “You’re awake!”
“Of course I’m awake, you jerk. I’ve been awake since you came in with that bag of McDonalds and wouldn’t share any of it.”
“You must have dreamed it all. But no matter! You’re awake now, and that’s the important thing.”
“Go get me some McMuffins, you bum.”
“I don’t think they’ll let you have any.”
“The doctors and stuff. They say you need to lose some weight.”
“Of course I need to lose some weight. Everybody knows that. I mean, look at me. That’s just a given. Now go get me a couple McMuffins.”
“I think I should tell the doctor that you’re awake.”
“It didn’t seem so important to tell the doctor I was awake while you were sitting over there eating your own McMuffins.”
“You weren’t awake then.” Before I could call him all kinds of harsh words, he was up and gone, out to get the doctor or whatever. I tried to flip him off as he left the room, but I had a plastic tube sticking out of my forearm, and it freaked me out.
I don’t like having tubes and things sticking out of me. It just seems wrong. I’ve got my designated holes in my body, and I’m fine with that. I don’t like people making more, especially without my permission. Looking at the tube sticking out of me, I had to suppress both my rage and the urge to throw up. I tucked my arms back under the blankets and decided to wait for the doctor.
It was something like twenty minutes before Arnie and the doctor showed up. The doctor was some kid that looked to be about my age, only in much better shape. He was skinny, his bloodshot eyes had big dark circles under them, and his hair was sticking out all over the place. He looked like he had been awake for about two months.
“You’re my doctor?”
“Yeah. Don’t let my age bother you.”
“It’s not so much your age that bothers me as the fact that you look like a crackhead.”
“That’s kind of harsh.”
“You want to see harsh, you should check out a mirror.”
“This coming from a guy that dresses in bright yellow Spandex and runs around trying to fight crime.”
“First of all, it’s not Spandex. Spandex is a brand-name, and I have to wear the generic stuff. Second of all, I don’t try to fight crime—I just try not to get killed.”
He picked the chart up from the foot of my bed and looked at it. “You need to try harder, hoss.”
“Hoss? You think you’re Little Joe or something? Where are you from?”
“Great. A crackhead doctor from Texas. I’m surprised you haven’t tried to barbecue up my flank or something.”
“There’s enough there to feed the children’s ward.”
“Yeah, I just look tired. You actually have sedatives pumping through your body. You probably don’t want to match wits with me right now.”
“You win this time.”
“Good deal. Listen up, hoss, you’re dangerously obese.”
“It wasn’t dangerous until I had to start trying to run away from people who were out to kill me.”
“You’re lucky you didn’t stroke out while you were trying to run away. You need to eat healthier, you need to quit drinking so much, and for Pete’s sake, man, quit smoking. Haven’t you heard about how it kills you?”
“I think that was about the only thing that saved my ass last time.”
“He’s got a point,” Arnie said. He pointed at me with a bottle of Grey Goose, and gave me a wink.
“What did I tell you about that?” The doctor said. “You can’t be bringing that in here!”
“Honestly, I can’t help it. It’s just there.” As if to prove a point, Arnie brought out a bottle of Jim Beam from behind his back.
“Can you go stand in the parking lot or something?”
“I’m not leaving,” Arnie said defiantly, and took a hefty swig from one bottle and then the other.
“Well will you at least not drink in here?”
“Can you take this crap out of my arm, please?” That was me. I was beginning to feel a bit left out, plus the tubes sticking out of me were starting to itch.
“There are standard operating procedures here, man. I can’t just take it out.”
“Arnie, hit him with that bottle.”
“Which one?” Arnie asked.
“Empty one and hit him with it.”
“Wait, wait, wait,” the doctor said. Watching Arnie tip the bottle of whiskey had sent him into a mild panic. If you didn’t know Arnie like I did, you might get slightly worried about him drinking an entire fifth of whiskey in a matter of seconds. If you’re a brand-new doctor that’s going to have to explain how some dude got alcohol poisoning while standing in the same hospital room as you, you might be a little more than slightly worried. “All right, I’ll take the crap out of your arm. But you have to make him stop drinking.”
“Doc, the only thing that’s going to stop Arnie from drinking is his liver when it finally realizes that it’s a lost cause.”
“You’re both insane,” the doctor said.
“Tell me about it. Now take this thing out of me and seal me up.”
“Do you understand that you’re probably a much healthier human being with this stuff stuck in you?”
“It’s bad for my brain.”
“Whatever. Hold still.” He messed around with my arm for a few minutes, doing I don’t know what—I had my eyes closed and was concentrating on not puking. “There. All done.”
I looked down at the little square bandage on my arm and felt much better. “Thanks, doc. I guess Texans aren’t as bad as everyone says.”
“We’re just misunderstood.”
“Must be the accent.”
“Hey, that’s funny. Maybe I’ll have to keep shootin’ you up with sedatives to make sure I can stay on top of the game.”
“Just send some pills with me, man, I’ll make sure you stay way ahead of me.”
“I reckon I know better than that.”
“How does one go about ‘reckoning?’”
“That one wasn’t so funny—I guess the drugs are still working.”
“Everybody’s a critic.”
“You’d be surprised. Stay in here, I’ll check back in with you in a few minutes.”
He left the room and I stared at the TV for a few seconds before I realized that his last statement had been kind of cryptic. “Hey, what did he mean by that?” I asked Arnie.
“By what? Was he talking about a chicken or something? I don’t know, man, I was watching TV.”
“You’re a buffoon.”
“I bet you don’t even know what a buffoon is.”
“Nobody does,” I said. “It’s just one of those things you say. Anyways, why don’t you run out and grab me some of those McMuffins like you were munching down on earlier.”
“Sorry, dude, they already quit serving them. It’s after ten.”
“Do you live to ruin my life, or what?”
“Nah, man, I’m here to help. But the doc says you’re going to die if you keep going at the pace you’re going, and we can’t have that.”
“You know how I’m going to die, Arnie? Doing this stupid Portly Boy crap, that’s how. I mean, this is serious business. That guy from last night, he wasn’t some brain-dead bouncer with a grudge.”
“Yeah, what happened with all that? I’m getting dressed and I hear you open the door. Next thing I know, you’re nowhere to be found.”
“This dude knocked me out with a frozen—he knocked with out and then hauled me of in the back of a van.”
“Vans always gave me the creeps,” Arnie interjected.
“Yeah. This one was covered floor to ceiling with that black plastic like you see in gangster movies. I woke up, I was all tied up, and the dude was taking me to the rest of those jerks who were trying to kill me.”
“Who was he?”
“Nobody, man, that’s why this is getting so serious. He’s just some guy, he decided to cash in, he pulled his ass up off the couch and came and kidnapped me. I gotta figure out how to stop this nonsense, man, before I get killed.”
“Man, you aren’t going to get killed.”
“Arnie, please listen to me, okay? I would have died if you hadn’t shown up. And the last time, I would have DIED, Arnie. Before you sit around saying stupid crap about how we can handle it, why don’t you take a couple of seconds to think about life, okay? Think about how life would be after I had been killed by some dumb-ass thug for reasons I don’t even know. I mean, I realize it wouldn’t be a great loss to the world, man, but just think about how you would wander around your house, and I’m not there because I’m dead. Think about how you’ll never talk to me again, dude, because I’m dead. Just think about that, okay?”
I’m not sure if it was the drugs or the fear that gave rise to this little speech, but it seemed very important to get the point across to Arnie, and if I had to get all melodramatic about things, then fine with me.
“Dude, I don’t think we’ve had a talk that deep since you told me there was no way I could take your mom to prom,” Arnie said.
“That talk I had with you about not taking my mom to prom had absolutely no effect on you.”
“She was hot, dude. But listen, man, yeah, you would have been in serious trouble if I hadn’t shown up. But I DID show up, man. And I think that’s what you’re always over-looking when you get into your doomsday mode. Me and Mandy, we got your back, man.”
“Yeah, dude, that’s a great team to have behind you—an alcoholic and a computer entity. She can cheer you on as you drunkenly dodge traffic.”
Arnie got all serious-looking. He also looked like I had really hurt his feelings, and although that would usually cheer me up, it didn’t work this time. Probably all the drugs they had been filling me up with.
“We’re your friends and your teammates, man,” Arnie said. “There is no way in hell we would have let you get killed.” He stood up and started to the door. “Maybe it’s time you started having a little faith.”
“You aren’t the one they’re after, Arnie. When your life’s on the line, then you can start lecturing me about faith.” He left and let the door close behind him.
“You’ve got some good friends, seems like.” That was the Texas doctor again, and he was already starting to get on my nerves.
“Yeah, any better and I’d have to be suspicious about whether they had a life insurance policy on me.”
“That Arnie, he really admires you.” The doctor looked at me for a second and shook his head a little. “For the life of me, I can’t figure out why.”
“Because he’s a brain-dead idiot with way too much time on his hands.”
“He says that you’re an alright guy, deep down, but I’m failing to see that aspect of things.”
“Well good thing you’ve taken the Hippocratic oath, then, isn’t it?”
“Besides, you’re just supposed to fix me, not lecture me.”
“Yep.” He stuck me with some sort of a shot, a little harsher than I thought necessary, but whatever. I mean, it’s really not a good idea to talk shit to a guy who’s supposed to be healing you, so if the worst you get is a little pain with your injection, I guess you’re getting off pretty light. “You should be grateful. Most people don’t have friends like that.”
“Most people are pretty lucky, then. My friends are always getting me almost killed. And if you’re feeling sorry for yourself, Doc, you can go ahead and take my friends, okay?”
“I got everything I need, but thanks.”
“What do you got?” I asked, imitating his accent as best as my vocal chords would allow.
“I got a woman who loves me, and who I love. I got a nice family back home in Texas, I got a roof over my head, food to eat, and a job that I look forward to doing. But you know what?”
“I’d still take your friends, if I didn’t think you needed them so much.”
“It’s like you work for Hallmark or something. Can you please get out of here?”
“Yep.” He stood up and started towards the door. “You know, your buddy Arnie is here.”
“Tell him that I’m sleeping, would’ja? Tell him go home.”
“Can’t do that, hoss. He’s not ready to be released yet. He’ll probably be able to go home tomorrow, same as you.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about he’s in here because of a gunshot wound. Which, frankly, is a lot more serious than a little smoke inhalation, in my opinion.”
“Arnie got shot? When?”
“When he was saving your sorry ass.” The Texas doctor nodded at me all meaningfully and left. Jerk.
“How did you find me?” I was quizzing Arnie in his hospital room, which actually looked even more depressing than mine.
“I have a tracking device sewn into your fanny pack. The Portmobile can track you down just like it tracked me down that time Flixxx had kidnapped me.”
“You don’t drive when you’re drunk.”
“Nope.” He was trying to be mad at me, but I knew it wasn’t going to last. When Arnie has a story—one that he can actually remember, I mean—he gets all excited to tell it, and it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t want to talk to you or not—you’ll get the story.
“So how were you able to hop into the Portmobile and track me down?”
“Man, you really WERE out of it, weren’t you?”
“Apparently. Now are you going to tell me the story, or are you going to sit there and try to be sullen until you break down and tell me the story?”
“Mandy came over and she drove us to where you were.”
“You’re shitting me!”
“I shit you not.”
“You saw Mandy?”
“What did she look like?”
Arnie looked down at his hand and I saw his fingers move as he counted something out. He leveled is eyes at me before he spoke. “I only have…” He looked down at his fingers again. There were three of them sticking up. “I only have three words to say to you, my friend: she’s extremely hot.”
“Like we had imagined?”
“Better. But that’s all I’m telling you.”
“She came over and picked you up?”
“So she’s driven the Portmobile?”
“Who was a better driver? Her or me?”
“I would rather not get into the middle of that kind of thing.”
I was jealous, I admit it. Arnie had seen Mandy, and I hadn’t. I had missed my chance, which—although pretty much par for my life—was really irritating. If she had been some fat, ugly chick, I could get over it. But she was hot. Not only hot, but EXTREMELY hot. And she had seen Arnie get shot.
The thing is, I never want to get shot. But if you have to get shot, you should probably have some extremely hot chick hanging around to see it and be all impressed. Of course, it doesn’t do you any good if you’re just going to scream like a little girl or die. Somehow, Arnie had managed to get shot, take it like a man, and do it all in front of this extremely hot chick, all while I was on the ground, being passed out like a chump.
“How did you manage to get shot?”
“There was one of the guys, he came staggering out of the smoke as I was dragging your inert body out of the chaos, and he was all coughing and cussing. He saw us, and he said something about he might as well get his money, and he aimed his gun at you. I jumped on top of you just as the shot rang out, and managed to catch the bullet.”
“Arnie, you idiot! A Frisbee, that’s the kind of thing you catch. A baseball, a football, even a set of keys. These are the things you try to catch. You DO NOT try to catch a bullet. What the hell is the matter with you?”
“If I hadn’t, it would have hit you.”
“That’s no excuse! Arnie, if it had been a few inches up, that would have been your heart, man. Do you understand what happens when you get shot through the heart?”
“Yeah, dude. And if I hadn’t dived onto you, that’s pretty much where you would have been hit, so why don’t you quit your bitching and just say thanks.”
Stupid Arnie. Maybe he did know something, after all. Even when he’s saving my life, he pisses me off, I swear. He threw himself into the path of a bullet, risking his own life to save mine. And he got to do it all in front of an extremely hot chick. “Thanks, partner,” I said. “Listen, I have to go back to my room. I feel all weird.”
“That’s gratitude,” Arnie said. “It makes you feel all messed up for a while, but you can get used to it.”
“Ech. I don’t think I’d ever want to.” I went back to my room.
And that’s your sappy Portly Boy story. We got out of the hospital later that afternoon. I felt as good as ever—which isn’t really that good, but what are you gonna do—and Arnie did, too. He was all excited that he would get one of those handicapped tags that you hang on your rear-view mirror, even if it was temporary.
In case you’re wondering, he just got nicked. I mean, if you want to get all sentimental about things, yes, he took a bullet for me. But come on—it just barely got his ribcage. The bullet bounced off his bone, leaving him with a couple of cool-looking scars, but no real damage. Of course, being shot is so much more macho than getting floored by smoke-inhalation, so he came out looking all rough and tough while I came out looking like a fat man who smoked too much.
And that’s our story for now, kids. Join us next time. SAME FAT TIME, SAME FAT CHANNEL.