Comic Stripped (P.2)

A Step in the Possible Wrong Direction

It was the next day and Max Pine nervously watched the clock. He hoped the transgender cartoonist would not return, but a few minutes before he was set to close the gallery, she walked in.

“Hi, hi, hi there,” Christine LaBrush cheerfully sang as she swiftly approached the counter. “I’m back with some new drawings. Would you like to see them?”

“Not really. I’m about to close.”

“But you said you would.”

“All right then, what do you have?”

Christine carefully pulled the new comic strips out of her portfolio case and spread them out on the counter.

Max put on his groovy glasses and intently looked over the new work. He immediately saw something that greatly upset him.

“Hey, is that supposed to be me?”

“Yes, it is. Pretty good, huh? I think it is a fabulous likeness of you.”

“But you’ve drawn me as being in odd sexual positions with, with… You!”

“I know!”

“And why is that squirrel watching us?”

“Isn’t that a nice touch? Look, he’s got nuts in his mouth!”

“There’s no way in hell I’m displaying this in my gallery,” Max snapped.

“Why not? I think it’s totally awesome.”

“It’s inappropriate and highly offensive… And besides, I’m not queer like that!”

“It has nothing to do with being queer, and besides, I don’t believe that for one second. I think you’re very queer.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Do you have a girlfriend?” Christine asked.


“And how long has it been since you’ve been with an actual woman?”

“That’s none of your damn business!”

“You are so snippy!”

“I think you should leave.”

“Wait. I have a proposition for you.”

“I doubt that I would be interested.”

“Just hear me out.”

“What is it then, eh?”

Christine looked around the place and then got close to Max’s face.

“I’m not dumb. I know you dig it.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I have a whole bunch of cocaine packed up nice and tight right here between my intelligent breasts and you can have it all in exchange for one night of hot love in the sack and a place for my dirty comics on a wall in your gallery.”

Max’s mind started salivating at the prospect of getting some blow. It’s been a while. He had thought he had gotten over it, pushed the addiction to the back of his mind, but now it has opened the door just a crack and peeked out — peeked out from between Christine LaBrush’s giant boobs.

How bad could it be?” he started to rationalize in his own brain. I’ll just close my eyes and pretend he’s a girl. No wait! He is a girl! What am I thinking? This is beyond even me!

“Let me see the goods,” Max suddenly demanded.

Christine began to unbutton her blouse.

“No, no, no. Not those goods! The dope, baby.”

Christine retrieved two eight balls wrapped in plastic from her bosom slot and threw them down on the counter.

“That’s about $400 worth of blow, buddy. It’s good stuff, too. Blow for blow. How ’bout it?”

Max stared at the dope. He wanted it so bad. He reached out to touch it, but Christine snatched it away.

“No, no, no. First things first.”

Christine came around the counter to where Max was standing. She got down on her knees and undid Max’s pants and let them fall around his ankles. She reached in, pulled it out, and went, “Wowza!”

Max relaxed on the bed beside her and smoked a ciggy wiggy.

“Where are you from, anyways?” he asked her.

She snuggled up closer to him.

“Bakersfield, California,” she answered.

“That’s a fine town. Reminds me of a big Roswell.”

“Roswell? Roswell, New Mexico or Roswell, Georgia?”

“New Mexico.”

“That’s where I had my operation. Operations.”


“Yes. There’s a ranch hidden deep within a big, old pecan orchard there. They do really strange stuff with people and robots and animals and aliens.”

“Why didn’t you go to a regular clinic?”

“I was desperate and didn’t have the money for a proper makeover. This was a full-blown underground and dark operation.”

“Are you sure they got everything in the proper place?”

“You tell me, baby. So, what’s your connection to that fascinating, far out place?”

“I used to live there,” Max explained. “I taught creative puppeteering for the school district until I got in trouble for assaulting a minister.”

“Why on earth would you do that?”

“His damn kid was in my class and this boy really, I mean really, sucked at puppeteering. I mean his voice was all wrong, he was always moving his lips like a big goof, and he just didn’t have any damn coordination. Let me tell you, it takes a bit of coordination to work a puppet. Anyways, the preacher father was always giving me grief because I wouldn’t put his shitty kid in any of the shows we had. One night he came backstage and started bitching at me and I had enough of his harassment and punched him right in the face.”

“That’s wild, baby.”

“Well, they fired me after that, and I wandered a bit and then ended up in Mankato, Minnesota running the Fist Gallery. So, do you mind me asking why you did it?”

“Did what?”

“You know. Trade in the yarbles for a taco salad.”

“That’s a bit insensitive.”

“Well, I’m king of the insensitives. But honestly, it’s a bit of a train wreck down there.”

Christine suddenly threw the covers off and stormed into the bathroom and slammed the door. Max grudgingly climbed out of the bed and lightly tapped on the door.

“Hey, I’m sorry. Don’t mind what I say, it was stupid. Why don’t you come out of there and we’ll finish up this blow.”

Christine opened the door and brushed past him. She picked her clothes up off the floor and began to dress.

“Are you leaving?” Max asked.

“Yes, I am you bastard. I can’t believe you said that. Don’t you realize I am already emotionally compromised? A little support and compassion would be nice.”

“Look, I’m a degenerate cokehead with a penchant for Swedish meatballs and sometimes I can be just plain mean. My appypolly loggies, but this is pretty damn weird for me too.”

Christine wiped at the tears running down her face and looked at him.

“Can you do something for me then?”

“What’s that?”

“Go on the bus with me to Minneapolis and have dinner with my parents.”


“Look, they’re really freaking out about me being a woman now and think that I will never have a normal life ever again. If I show them that I’m in a serious relationship, maybe they will be a bit cooler with the whole situation.”

“But we’re not in a serious relationship,” Max pointed out.

“You can at least pretend to be. I’ll get you more drugs.”

“I’ll do it,” Max promptly pronounced, and he wrapped his arms around faux Christine, hugged her tightly and then kissed her.


The Puppets of Kudzu (1)

Franco Dellaronti dreamily looked out the window while scrubbing and rinsing dishes. He whistled while he worked, but then suddenly stopped when the clouds went away, and the sky bloomed with sun like a fat piñata giving birth to a glimmering candy store, and the damaged Earth greened with slithering kudzu right before his very eyes. The end of time had ended, and somehow prosperity had returned.

He rushed to his bedroom and grabbed his favorite puppet, a beloved remnant from his days at puppetry school down in New Orleans. The puppet’s name was Cheise Karn Mouise (pronounced SHAYSS CAIRN MOOSAY), and he was an old-time French bastard with a very pale and gloopy face that looked like he had been whitewashed in grease paint. He had thin white doll hair atop his head and Kia Soul taupe-colored eyes that never blinked. Franco impaled the puppet on his arm like rough sex and they rushed outside together to see the new, green world.

“Would you look at all that kudzu,” Franco said. “I have a great idea that’s going to make us filthy rich.”

He worked the puppet’s mouth to make him mumble something in a strange high-pitched voice. “What’s that? I hope it’s safe.”

“Of course, it’s safe. I would never endanger your life. You’re Cheise Karn Mouise, and you’re my best friend and I love you.”

He rotated the puppet’s head, so it was looking right at him. Franco tried so hard not to move his lips when he made the puppet talk, and it made him sound stuffed up, restrained, unable to completely annunciate the words.

“You’re my best friend and I love you too. So, what’s this grand idea of yours have to do with all that kudzu?”

“We’re going into business,” Franco said with asserted determination. Then he made the puppet explode with excitement — like an ice cream truck that swallowed dynamite.

“Awesome! I’ve never been in business before. What are we going to do?”

“I’m glad you asked, Cheise Karn Mouise. Now get this. What does one do with such an abundance of kudzu?”

“I have no idea.”

“One makes kudzu pie!”

Franco Dellaronti moved his hand slowly toward himself and soon the puppet was so close to his face they almost bumped noses. “That’s a terrible idea. Who ever heard of kudzu pie?” the puppet said.

“It’s a fabulous idea. I’m going to be rich!”

He worked the puppet to make him show a troubled concern for his master.

“Now hold on there, Martha Stewart. Do you even know how to make kudzu pie?”

Franco became flustered. “Of course, I do. I mean — how hard can it be?”

He made the puppet hit him in the side of the head.

“You better get down to the library right away and do some research before you make a total ass of yourself!”

Then Cheise Karn Mouise hit him again.

“Would you stop hitting me,” Franco scolded. “Okay, I’ll go to the library. Do you want to go with me?”

He made the puppet tip his head in a gesture of judgmental parenting. “Are you going to be embarrassed this time?”

Franco thought about it far too long. “I’ll be okay. I think the psychiatrist is really beginning to help me see things on a deeper level.”

He made the puppet grow tense and serious. “I don’t trust him.”

“What? You’re the one who suggested I go see him. I don’t understand.”

“I haven’t seen any improvement in you at all. And now you’ve got some crazy idea about selling kudzu pie!”

“I think you need a time out Cheise Karn Mouise,” Franco said, and he popped the puppet off his arm and let him fall to the ground before going back inside to take a shower.

It was an aluminum-colored day with a blinding sun stinging the yard where he had set up his kudzu pie stand. Franco Dellaronti made his very own sign and set it out and it read in big green letters: KUDZU PIE – $5 per slice. Whipped cream extra. A car came down his street about every 10 minutes, but no one ever stopped. He sighed and took a bite of pie for himself, then chased it with a big squirt of the canned whipped cream until it ran out of his mouth. He looked down to the ground and saw that Cheise Karn Mouise had suddenly come to life, real life, and the puppet jumped up onto his feet and swayed a bit before getting the hang of standing on his own.

“Whoa, that’s fun. But why so glum, my friend?” Cheise Karn Mouise asked.

“I haven’t sold a single piece of pie. I might as well just shut down. I’m nothing but a failure.”

Cheise Karn Mouise shook his once wooden head, now real flesh and bone. He was disappointed in his master. “You can’t give up already. Have you done any marketing?”

Franco looked at the little lively puppet that stood no more than three feet tall. “Marketing? What’s that?”

 “You have to let people know about your product! You big goof.”

Franco looked around the yard and pointed. “I have a big sign out front.”

The puppet shook its head in frustration. “You have to think a lot bigger than that if you want to sell enough kudzu pie to generate sustainable income.”

It was then that a car slowed and stopped in front of the house and the driver activated the window. “Hi there!” said a woman full of perfumed perk. “I’ve never had any kudzu pie, but I’d be willing to give it a try. Do you give out free samples?”

Franco turned to the tray where he had laid out small servings of his kudzu pie for people to try before they buy. “Yes mam. Give this a taste,” and he went to the car, and he handed her a small cupcake cup with a piece of the pie inside it.

The woman sniffed at it and then gingerly pushed it into her mouth and began chewing. Then her face scrunched, and she gagged a little bit, and then spit the half-macerated sample at Franco’s shoes. “That’s horrible, mister. You should be arrested for trying to sell that shit! You’re going to poison someone!” The woman gave him the finger and sped off.

He looked to Cheise Karn Mouise for comfort. “See. I’m a failure!” Franco went to his pie stand and kicked it to pieces and scattered them all over the yard in a disturbing fury as the puppet looked on in disbelief. “Fuck kudzu pie!” Franco bellowed, and then he huffed his way back into the house and slammed the door.