Friday, July 21, 2006

And That’s The Way It Was

“Get out of my way, I’m commentating tonight!” I screamed, plowing my car through the screaming crowd. If they didn’t want to get out of the way in time, it was their own fault; they had all been warned at admission that once they entered the battledome, all their lives were forfeit.

“Sir? Sir, you can’t- ahhhhh!” cried an unfortunate usher as I crushed him under a whirlwind of spokes and rubber.

Get out of my way! I’m commentating!” I yelled as I squeezed my air-horn out the automatic driver-side window. After driving with reckless abandon for a few minutes, I found the perfect parking space between two large potted trees. They might have been plastic, I don’t know; all I knew is, I wanted a spot with shade. So what if it was over a taco stand? There were dozens of them, all over the promenade!

“Help me... my legs! My legs!” a pathetic fluid-filled voice called from the crushed wreckage of tacos and plywood. I saw a middle-aged man in a blue uniform sticking partway out of the mess, covered in cheese and other assorted sauces.

“You! Puny human of taco origin! Where is the commentating booth?!” I growled into a megaphone right in his pudgy face. What? I wanted to make sure he heard me.

“Up those stairs...” he gestured with a bent and cheese-coated finger to a door about ten thousand millimeters away. It had a white sign with red letters on it: “Commentating Box.”

“Your assistance will be noted!” I praised, crushing his left arm as I walked to the door. “Now to see who my broadcast partner of mystery is.”

“Arghhhhhhh!” the fallen taco-man screamed. “So... painful! But... I’m comforted by the fact that... you’re commentating...”

***

“Well, well, well... hello, Uncle Walter.

“That’s what they called me,” a confused Walter Cronkite said, sipping a cup of cold, bitter coffee. His lips were the color of dusty chalk; his eyes were like frozen olives.


“Silence your witty banter!” my voice boomed, permeated with melodrama (and a tad of regular drama, to keep things fresh). “I came here to do minute-by-minute commentary of tonight’s grudge match, not knit quilts with some... punk rocker.”

“Do you have any idea who I am?” Cronkite asked sarcastically.

“I really don’t. Who’s up tonight?”

“It’s, uh... you?”

“What?!” I squirted soda out my nose and all over Cronkite in surprise. “No, I’m commentating. I’m not fighting.”

“But it says right here...” the old man pointed to a program schedule as he reached into his pocket for a handkerchief, and proceeded to wipe the cheap soda from his expensive and tasteless clothes.

“Foolish Walter, that’s not me!” exhaling in relief, I pointed to the little “m” next to my name. “That’s a clear indication of ‘mirror double.’ One of tonight’s fighters is my mirror universe double,” I laughed, spraying him with bits of pretzels I had begun to pig out on.

“That’s... great.” Cronkite got up and tried to move his chair. Alas, the weight of the seat combined with his frail 90-year-old frame conspired to keep him in place. Curse my trick knee, thought the crusty anchor.

“Testing, one two three... testing...” I quietly whispered into the booth’s left-side microphone as Walter slid into his ergonomic booth lounger. I waved a box of cheese and meat chunks at the avuncular icon. “Yo, fatboy! You want some nachos?!

“Um... no,” he said, looking a little green in the gills. I failed to see how such an incredulous man could have captivated the hearts and minds of the American people for so long... then again, he was pushing the century mark. Who was I, a poor chimney sweep of unstable constitution, to question the society I had scorned for so long?

“Those people down there sure are cheering loudly,” I remarked.

“Yeah... why don’t you go join them? I think I can handle the match... alone... from up here.”

“Sure are cheering loudly,” I continued, oblivious to his subtle hints. “Hey, when does this thing start, anyhow? I’ve got an appointment with the Prime Minister of Russia, we’re plotting.

He pulled a gold pocket watch out of his velvety sleeve, squinting his nervous eyes to make out the time... if only the fool had gone digital!

“Ladies and gentlemen!” he yelled, flipping the microphones on at full power, “are you ready for the fight of your lives?!”

The crowd went wild, throwing fries, chips, and flaming mice. As per the nondisclosure agreement I signed with the Intergalactic Gladiating Federation, I’m forbidden from saying whether the mice were optical, scroll, or biological.

“Tonight we have a real torch march,” I announced into my microphone, misreading the script. “We’ve got, in this corner, the sultan of the summer solstice, your grind and mine, Alternate Universe Gyrobo!

I was quite pleased by the reaction; several of the spectators began doing “the wave.” I was markedly less impressed when the wave reached the section of the audience reserved for the morbidly obese.

“And in this corner,” Cronkite read, “standing at .89012 meters, the ultimate arbiter, fresh from her inner tube-themed road trip with Karl Rove, Oregon Trail!

The audience may have been impressed; nay, they were thrilled. But I knew better. Oregon Trail was Borg, and therefore would handily defeat my impish double.


“Walter!” I hissed, covering my microphone, “I need you to cover for me while I cancel the dinero I’ve got riding on my alternate self.”

He stared at me in horror and disbelief, like when you see a guy mopping up the floor at a restaurant, and you walk right in front of him and drag your dirt-covered shoes all over the reflective surface. It was that kind of look.

“You’re honor-bound as a commentator to not place bets...”

“Oh. That’s good, because I didn’t place any.”

“You just said-”

“It looks like Oregon Trail is taking the lead!” I screamed through the speakers, cutting Cronkite off at the pass. Down below, the throngs of Intergalactic supporters cheered and hooted as the behemoths squared off. Oregon Trail began to move forward, servos buzzing; my mirror copy just stood there.

“State our designation,” Oregon Trail demanded of the mindless automaton. Curses! It was over now... all over...

“Leave him alone! He’s just a little boy!” I cried, banging on the protective blast shield of the commentary box.


By the shimmering light of the battledome, I could see Mirror-Me shift to meet Oregon Trail’s gaze.

“You are not an authorized user,” the brave battle droid output with the force of a thousand runtime compilers.

“State our designation.”

“You are not an authorized user.”

“State our designation.”

“You are not an authorized user.”

“State our designation.”

“You are not an authorized user...”

45 Minutes Later

“State our designation.”

“You are not an authorized user...”

I handed Walter Cronkite another box of nachos. It was the fifth one I was on, and the third that we had shared.

“...Kennedy. And to this day, they still won’t let anyone in to see what really happened.”

“That was the greatest story I’ve ever heard,” I said, piling another empty cheese-covered box onto the stack. “Hey... is it getting quiet down there?”

We both listened, hearing only the exchange of computer-generated phrases with no conscious thought in sight. The audience had been completely demoralized, to the point where they had lost the drive to even leave the stadium. The piteous souls! I thought, bringing a touch of melodrama to my brainpan.

“Oh dude, did you just see that?!” I hollered into the speaker. Everyone down below jumped a little, and I’d say about half of them were jarred from what would otherwise have been a restful nap. “Mirror-Me just spin-kicked Oregon Trail! Right in the head! I’ve never seen such... carnage! Now it looks like she’s coming around for another pass, folks!”

“What are you- what are you looking at?” Walter grabbed the edge of our Plexiglas table, watching the stationary fighters as they proceeded their repetitive banter. “What are you looking at?!”

“And there you- oh! That’s gonna sting in the morning, folks! Wow, Oregon Trail just sucker-punched Mirror-Me right in the kidneys! I had no idea robots had kidneys, people! Oh, but she’s... don’t get overconfident, Oregon Trail! Just look at her, strutting around the rink, shameful!” The crowd booed the Borg prizefighter, shaking their fists in utter futility.

“Hey,” Walter whispered. “What do you think you’re doing?!” he nudged, grabbing my arm with his clammy, clammy paw. “They aren’t moving.”

“And now it’s Mirror-Me with a chainsaw! Wow, I don’t know if nano-probes can repair chainsaw wounds!” I laughed. The crowd ate it up. Looking over to the ratings meter, there was a visible spike. The viewers at home must be enjoying themselves, I socketed away in my head. This kind of psychological phenomena would come in handy once I begin my campaign to conquer this world.

“I can’t believe it, folks! Oregon Trail just grabbed the chainsaw away from Mirror-Me, and she’s using it to maximum effect!” I paused. “Now she’s going for the fire escape! If she sets it off, this match is over... and there she goes!” I screamed, trying to outmatch the legions of yelping fans; but they were many, and I, with my stadium-wide sound system, was a single individual.

“COME ON!” Walter boomed. He hit the microphone away from my hands, and started yelling into the one on his side of the desk. “He’s not even making sentences that make sense anymore! They aren’t moving!

The crowd began to die down, their team spirit replaced by the bitter ectoplasmic residue of defeat.

“And you...” he pointed an accusing finger at me. “You... I want you out of this office!” he was almost in tears.

“What’s your problem?” I fired back. “I’m just trying to have a little fun. Lighten up, Mondale.

I think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Cronkite’s face began to tense up; little wrinkles died and were born again by the rims of his eyes. His whole body shook, his clenched hands reminding me of a paint shaker I saw at a lumber supply store one time, when I was a child. Veins bulged out of his neck and eyeballs.

“Get-”

He blinked a few times, widening his eyes with each clap of the lids. The shaking stopped as he reached for his chest.

“Auhhhhh!”

“Oh, ho ho, uh-oh.”

“Help... me...”

My army training not kicking in, as I was never in the army, I did the only thing I could. I picked up a box of nachos, shoveled some into my mouth, and ran for the microphone, stopping only to straighten a pile of old newspapers Walter had knocked over as he fell to the floor.

“Uh... hello? We have a situation here!” the microphone felt cold this time. So very cold.

“Who won?” asked a faint voice from the bleachers. Others followed suit, and soon spectators were arguing, yelling, throwing flaming mice again.

“Is there a doctor in the battledome?” I pleaded. Walter had to live... if not, questions would be asked about what had gone on in the commentary box... investigations would begin... rock stars would be discovered locked in basements...

I’m a doctor!” a lone voice called up from the mass of humanity.


***

I opened the “staff only” door, allowing the eager young physician in.

“He’s right this way,” I said as we jogged up the stairs. “Is he having a heart attack?”

“We won’t know until I can examine him personally.”

Walter was sprawled out on the floor, clutching his chest with his right arm as the left dangled uselessly at his side.

“Left arm... so numb...”

“It’s all right, Walter!” I screamed loudly, hoping it would shock him back to normal. “The doctor is here!”

“Okay, let’s have a look at the little trooper...”

“I... taste... copper...”

“My word!” the doctor exclaimed, stethoscope dropping as if by magic. “This man isn’t having a heart attack at all!”

“My whole upper body hurts...”

“Then what’s wrong with him?!” I cried, unable to contain myself any longer. Misanthropic he may have been, but I had to try and save him!

“He’s in labor!” the doctor yelled, sliding his hands around Walter’s ankles. “Give me a hand. If we can get him on this table, I can save this baby!”


“Shortness of breath... increasing...”

“Yeah...” I looked at the pocket watch I- the watch Walter gave me before he collapsed. “Looks like the match is over. See you two later,” I waved, running down the stairs.

“Don’t leave me...”

“It’s going to be fine, sir! I’m fully equipped to deliver your child!”

Cronkite turned to the stairs. “Don’t leave me!”

***

“Eh?” Bill grunted. He was the janitor, working a late (or early, from some perspectives) shift at the Intergalactic Gladiating Federation’s battledome. The fight last night was huge, and there were so many plastic cups and burnt-out mice to be picked up. “Someone there?”

He walked through the ceremonial jewel-encrusted entranceway. There were two people still in the stadium. Fans, most likely, in his experience.

“Get out of the ring!” he tried to shout. But either they couldn’t hear him, or just didn’t care. “Eh, who needs ya...”

He slammed the door shut behind him, and all was quiet. Then, out of nowhere:

“State our designation.”

“You are not an authorized user.”

14 Comments:

Blogger Professor Xavier said...

What a beautiful moment. Cronkite gave birth to a healthy 5 pound baby prune.

Friday, July 21, 2006 1:53:00 AM  
Blogger Jean-Luc Picard said...

Welcome back, Walter!

Friday, July 21, 2006 4:02:00 AM  
Blogger Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

And that's the way it was...

Friday, July 21, 2006 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

Oh wait, you already said that.

Friday, July 21, 2006 11:24:00 AM  
Blogger A Army Of (Cl)One said...

“poor chimney sweep” “handed Walter Cronkite another box of nachos” “outmatch the legions of yelping fans; but they were many” “He’s in labor!”

You strange crazy little clown robot. I would be afraid to live in your head for even an hour. The insaneness of bringing together Walter Cronkite, Dickens, Tom Cruise and obscure bible references impresses me beyond word. You are a scary freak who is brilliant.

I am positive your death will involve falling into a star someday.

Friday, July 21, 2006 1:14:00 PM  
Blogger Gyrobo said...

Star, trash compactor, belt sander... it's all the same to the EMPEROR OF SEDNA!

Friday, July 21, 2006 2:05:00 PM  
Blogger Sniper Kitty said...

erm... interesting. if u dont want me here, I can go.

Friday, July 21, 2006 5:43:00 PM  
Blogger A Army Of (Cl)One said...

Who are we mortals to deny viewing of LGS to a kitten. On the other hand if I find that you are just a very short Ewok, Watch out baby, watch out.

*looks stellaluce with a juandice eye*

Friday, July 21, 2006 6:38:00 PM  
Blogger Professor Xavier said...

That's not a kitten. That's a ferocious Battlecat of Fangor 7. It will rip your head off without breaking a sweat.

Friday, July 21, 2006 7:19:00 PM  
Blogger Gyrobo said...

And yet I'm comforted by its shyness and timidity.

I sent Walter a "get well" card, laced with pine-sol. To reach those tough-to-get-at places.

Friday, July 21, 2006 10:20:00 PM  
Blogger Florence said...

Gyrobo that was great, I realy didn't see that baby angle coming.

Saturday, July 22, 2006 12:49:00 AM  
Blogger A Army Of (Cl)One said...

Florence: do any of us ever really see what angle Gyrobo is ever going to go on. If you do, then may the Maker have mercy on your poor tortured soul. :)

Saturday, July 22, 2006 10:46:00 AM  
Blogger Sniper Kitty said...

Ew, I'm not a Ewok! But I might bite ur head off. Watch out! ;)

Saturday, July 22, 2006 2:47:00 PM  
Blogger Gyrobo said...

The only angle I take is the one that leads directly to the interstellar pipeline.

Go cougars!

Saturday, July 22, 2006 6:30:00 PM  

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