Premium Service

A COMIC SHOP. THE SHOP IS LITTLE MORE THAN A NEWSSTAND LOCATED IN THE CLAUSTROPHOBIC LOBBY OF A BUILDING OTHERWISE OCCUPIED BY ALL SORTS OF VERY REAL, VIABLE BUSINESSES IN IT.

A SINGLE, WHOLLY APATHETIC CLERK SITS BEHIND THE COUNTER, HARDLY PRETENDING TO WORK.

CUSTOMER ENTERS.

CUSTOMER: Hi. I called about the (INCOMPREHENSIBLE COUGH).

CLERK: Got it right here… (PULLS OUT A SMALL BOX) Feel free to take a look before you pay.

CUSTOMER CONSIDERS THIS FOR A MOMENT, OPENS THE BOX, THEN SCREAMS A LITTLE SCREAM.

CLERK: Something wrong?

CUSTOMER: Is this what I think it is?

CLERK: If not, I suppose we’ve both committed a felony for nothing.

CUSTOMER: What, a felony? I didn’t come here for this!

CLERK: You didn’t?

CUSTOMER: No, of course not.

CLERK: I’m sorry. What did you come here for?

CUSTOMER: I called about an hour ago about the (INCOMPREHENSIBLE COUGH).

CLERK: Oh, yes, the (INCOMPREHENSIBLE COUGH).

CUSTOMER: Yes, that’s right.

CLERK RETRIEVES A SIMILAR, YET WHOLLY DIFFERENT BOX FROM BENEATH THE COUNTER AND SETS IT DOWN BESIDE THE FIRST.

CLERK: Anything else?

CUSTOMER: No. No, I don’t think so.

CLERK: Would you maybe like what’s in the first–

CUSTOMER: No.

CLERK: No judgment.

CUSTOMER: No, thank you.

CLERK: (SHRUGS) Suit yourself. (MINDLESSLY RINGS UP A SALE) Can’t believe anyone would want something this stupid.

CUSTOMER: Wasting money is a guilty pleasure of mine.

CLERK: And mine to take it.

CUSTOMER: Yes. Right. Well. I was admittedly a bit upset when I heard they were going to adapt this into a live-action movie after all these years.

CLERK: Is that right?

CUSTOMER: I mean, how do you even begin to translate something like this to a movie, ya know?

CLERK: I certainly do not.

CUSTOMER: And you know they’re going to mess it all up.

CLERK: I do?

CUSTOMER: Of course. The studio is probably handing over the whole thing to some incompetent, visionless parasite who will suck the fun and color out of everything.

CLERK: The son of a bitch.

CUSTOMER: What can you do, right?

CLERK: (CONSIDERS THIS) Follow me.

CUSTOMER: Excuse me?

CLERK WALKS OVER TO A SMALL DOOR JUST A FEW FEET AWAY, PULLING OUT A SMALL RING OF KEYS.

CLERK: I think you might be interested in our premium membership.

CUSTOMER: I’m afraid I don’t live in the area, and I really only came out all this way for that. Kinda surprised anybody–

CLERK IGNORES THIS AND UNLOCKS THE DOOR ANYWAY.

CLERK: Follow me.

CUSTOMER: What? No, I just want the…

CLERK DISAPPEARS THROUGH THE DOOR WITHOUT ANOTHER WORD.

CUSTOMER EVENTUALLY FOLLOWS, BUT PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVELY COMPLAINS ABOUT IT UNDER THEIR BREATH WHILE DOING SO.

CUT TO:

A BASEMENT BENEATH THE SHOP.

A SWEATY LARGE MAN IN A TATTERED SCREENPRINT TEE AND MATCHING BLAZER IS PREOCCUPIED WITH THE VIOLENT BEATING OF AN EQUALLY SWEATY, YET MUCH SMALLER MAN IN SOME SORT OF COSTUME.

CLERK AND CUSTOMER ENTER.

CUSTOMER: What the hell is this?!

LARGE MAN STOPS WITH THE BEATING.

LARGE MAN: (TO CLERK) Hey, I’ve still got… (CHECKS HIS WATCH) …ten minutes.

CLERK: (SHAKES HEAD, GESTURES TO CUSTOMER) Potential member.

LARGE MAN: Is that right? (TO CUSTOMER) Honest opinion? The premium membership is totally worth the extra money.

SMALLER MAN: (SPITS OUT TOOTH) I’m sorry. Was this beating canceled like some hack comedian with shit opinions masquerading as attempts at humor? (SPITS OUT SEVERAL MORE TEETH…) Or are we simply out of gas, like Lucas Stevensberg after the original Celestial Border Dispute trilogy?

LARGE MAN EAGERLY RESUMES THE BEATING.

A BEAT. THEN…

CUSTOMER: (TO CLERK) Okay. We have to call the police, or something. Right?

CLERK: Nah. (GESTURES TO SMALLER MAN) He does this for a living.

CUSTOMER: You’re pulling my leg.

CLERK: No, really. Poor guy’s some kind of unemployed actor. It’s a shame, too. He’s actually very talented. Really stirs our Premium Members into a frothy rage.

SMALLER MAN: (SERIOUSLY HURT) Children’s programming isn’t for you! Superheroes have always been political! You can joke about anything so long as it’s actually funny!

CUSTOMER: Oh, he is good. But couldn’t he just get a real job – slow-roasting children, building bears, recycling blood? Anything but this

CLERK: (SHRUGS) Seems he prefers getting the shit kicked out of him for money.

CUSTOMER: (NODS) This can’t possibly be legal, though… (PUZZLES THIS) Can it?

CLERK: While we do like to keep our premium services on the down low, I assure you everything is on the up and up. In fact, every comic shop is legally required to be built over a basement for this exact purpose.

CUSTOMER: What? No. No, I’ve been to plenty of shops that weren’t…

CLERK GESTURES TO A FRAMED CERTIFICATE ON THE WALL.

CLERK: See for yourself.

CUSTOMER: (READS) “This certificate of authenticity hereby, thereby, and whereby certificates the authenticity of this comic shop, video rental store, and/or slot-car racing facility…” (TO CLERK) This has to be some sort of joke.


CLERK: A joke, is it? And I suppose the First Great Fanboy War of 1945 is a big bowl of laughter with a side of toasted hilariousness and a refreshing glass of freshly-squeezed silly.

CUSTOMER: No, I didn’t–

CLERK: No, of course you didn’t. (SCOFFS) It never even occurs to people like you that such a bloody rampage – scores dead, hundreds emotionally wounded, countless more in dire need of a shower and antiperspirant – might demand some degree of government intervention and oversight.

LARGE MAN STOPS WITH THE BEATING…

LARGE MAN: Uh-oh… (INSPECTS SMALLER MAN’S POSSIBLY LIFELESS CORPSE. He’s gone all limp…

CLERK: No refunds!

END SCENE.

Soggy Feta Fries

A fartingly pretentious burger joint.  TEDDY waits at a table. HOST stands nearby, but still sort of in the way.

HOST: Welcome back to, “I Can’t Be Assed”. Our next story this evening is a flaccid tale of fickle fast food.

Vincent Raginghardon, better known to his friends as, “Bill,” wasn’t very well-liked at all, thus nobody really cared nor noticed when or even how he died. Meanwhile, Billy’s half-brother, Teddy Nippleblaster, continues to be missed to this day.

Teddy waves to the audience.

TEDDY: Hello.

HOST: Not now.

TEDDY: (pouts) Sorry.

HOST: Oh. Fine. Here.

Host gives Teddy a box of crayons.

Teddy perks up, scribbles all over the menu in crayon.

HOST: As I was saying…

Teddy was coincidentally eating at his half-brothers second-favorite burger joint on what also happened to be the anniversary of Bill’s death.

WAITER brings Teddy a sloppy mess of a burger. Teddy takes an equally sloppy bite, smiles and gestures approvingly to Waiter.

It was the sort of fine ground beef establishment that emphasizes presentation and comically large and wholly inedible brioche buns over trivial things like taste, price, or a respectable amount of aioli that doesn’t leave your burger a soggy mess before you’ve even had a chance to taste the damned thing.

Waiter mutters something to Teddy about leaving a review for free fries.

And the less said about the parking, the better.

Teddy eagerly pulls out his phone, proceeds to write a review.

But as Teddy wrote up a patronizingly positive review in exchange for a free platter of stone cold, yet somehow still soggy feta fries, he suddenly had the urge to vomit and defecate.

Teddy squirms and writhes in his seat.

Perhaps it was the heretical amount of room-temperature garlic and ranch aioli his burger had been swimming in. Or perhaps, it was the bits of bones and globs of thick, runny fat that flowed from the unevenly cooked patty that wasn’t setting well in his tummy.

Teddy is sickened further by Host’s description of it all.

Either way, Teddy was hardly paying much attention to anything else other than the sudden, powerful urge to not vomit and defecate in a public sense.

Teddy asks for directions to the restroom. Waiter gestures, “Thatta way”

Now. There’s something to be said about minding one’s surroundings as one quickly waddles about in search of a toilet or unoccupied sink to relieve one’s self. I’m not quite sure what that might be, of course.

Teddy hurries off, navigates a hallway, pushes through a pair of swinging double-doors, and into a blood-soaked, scream-filled abattoir.

But given how Mr. Nippleblaster failed to notice his being guided down a winding hallway, through a pair of large, swinging double-doors, into a blood-soaked and scream-filled abattoir…

Teddy falls into a giant meat grinder.

…used to butcher and process countless hand-picked cows, chickens, and other assorted animals and rodents for fifteen-dollar burgers…

Teddy is ground up, processed, and cooked up as another sloppy mess of a burger.

…and then served up medium rare to the still-living, non-hamburgerized patrons of a grossly overrated hamburger bar and grill in Huntington Beach…

Waiter serves up the Teddy-Burger to another CUSTOMER.

…it’s probably safe to assume there might be some vague moral or insight to glean from such a careless mistake.

Brown Paper Bag

A MAN sits there, sobbing, drinking from a brown paper bag, pathetically alone. Plucky commercial music plays as a plucky commercial VOICE speaks.

VOICE: (voice-over) Has this ever happened to you?

MAN: I can’t believe I’ve lost my job, the bank is foreclosing on our home, and our sun is only days away from collapsing into a black hole and consuming all life as we know it! How am I supposed to explain this to my wife?

WOMAN enters.

WOMAN: Honey, is this a bad time?

MAN: Yes, actually, it kind of is.

WOMAN: Perfect. Because… well… I don’t know how to say this…

MAN: Oh, no…

WOMAN: But… I’m not really your wife.

MAN: (shattered) Oh, my–! (puzzles this) Wait a minute… What do you mean you’re not really my wife?

WOMAN: (over-dramatic) So, you’ve finally uncovered my secret!

MAN: You’re pulling my leg.

WOMAN: (really selling it) It’s true, all of it! My real name is Debroannah Neener-Neener-Neener, and I’m one of several FBI agents tasked with monitoring you for the last fifteen years.

MAN: But we have three children together.

WOMAN: Agents Brisbee, Torquewrench, and Baby Oliver.

MAN: This is ridiculous.

A phone RINGS, Man answers.

Hello?

CALLER: (on phone) Bradthony, your brother is in the hospital. He was brutally beaten with a five-pound chihuahua named Rufus.

MAN: A five-pound chihuahua named Rufus? Is he okay?

CALLER: (on phone) He’s fine. But your brother’s not going to make it.

MAN: How can this day possibly get any worse for me specifically?

CALLER: (on phone) Oh. Well. I’m also Debroannah’s real husband, Craig.

MAN: I’m sorry?

CALLER: (on phone) Thank you. But we’re working through it. You never realize how important a healthy work-life balance is for a marriage until it’s too late, ya know?

MAN: Yes, Craig… I do know.

VOICE: (voice-over) When the world gets you down, turn to Brown Bag Liquor. Brown Bag Liquor, because sometimes all you’re looking for is an excuse. Now serving the Inland Empire and one guy named David who drives all the way out from Anaheim for some conspicuous reason or another.