Contrary to Elmer’s nature he’s ignoring his younger brother’s instructions and is trying to do something clever.
This rarely ends well.
Dude had told me not to come back to the school, and not to play with time again, but as glorious as Dude was, not to mention his mop, I had more information now. After all, Dirk bargained with Dude. Maybe I could too. I had the greatest power of human creative power working in my favor.
The power of Desperate Male inSecurity DMS™.
That didn’t tell me how I was going to sway Dude, but I had hints, like a fish stick in my fanny pack, and the origin of my fanny pack as well. As I surfaced into the school of amazing stuff, I headed right for the kitchen. There was only one way I knew to call Dude. I wasn’t at all surprised when after twisting the knob, that I saw fish sticks come out the spigot. I filled my fanny pack with fresh, and wholesome fish sticks, and watched as hundreds more cascaded onto Dude’s once clean floor.
The sticks started to pile up. Maybe this wouldn’t work.
I tried a fish stick. It was good. Was that cilantro and basil? Who ever thought of adding that to a fish stick deserved to live in the Celestial realm. I could probably skip Dirk’s gold-digging trip and make plenty of money making fish sticks with cilantro and basil.
I had a couple more. Oh yes, there were all sorts of things to learn in the school of amazing stuff.
“A-hem.” I’d never heard a-hem put so eloquently. I shut off the knob. I was up to my knees in fish sticks.
“I’m waiting for it.”
“My excuse?” I asked.
The custodian nodded regally.
“I need your help,” I said, “and you didn’t tell me how to contact you.”
“You need my help.” Dude pulled two of his magic silver squares from his back pocket, vigorously swung them in the air, and they became shiny silver bags. He handed one to me, and I gladly began gathering fish sticks, though I was careful to only take the ones that weren’t touching the floor. “I remember banning you from the school until you were old enough.”
“You did,” I agreed, “and you were really convincing, but that was before I heard the moral law of something-or-other, and heard a story about a tobacco thief named Dude.”
“Dirk!” said Dude in a vaulting tone full of grace and frustration. “It’s the moral code of causation.”
“That’s the one,” I said.
“I don’t see how that helps you,” said Dude, filling his bag, also from non-floor-dwelling fish sticks, handing me the bag, and then flicking his mop of glory at the ones that remained eliminating them instantly. “According to the code, you just caused the waste of many high-quality fish sticks.”
“Yes,” I said, “but how did that come about?”
Dude stared through me as if I was made of glass and shook his head. “Dirk said you were stupid,” he said forthrightly. “It’s the only reason I agreed to let him introduce you to the school.”
“You never should have let him give me the fanny pack.”
“He told you?”
“I guessed,” I said as smugly as I could manage. “I didn’t know for certain until you just confirmed it.”
“What do you know?”
“I know that my fanny pack doesn’t follow all the other laws of this world. I couldn’t pick up this mixer,” I said, trying and failing to pick up the mixer, “and take it with me back to my world. But if it was in one of your silver bags, or in my fanny pack…”
“I’m not telling you anything,” said Dude.
“And you’re also not stopping me.”
“I am going into the nurses’ office, and I am going to twist that dial of second chances.”
“No,” said Dude, but it was no longer the melodic authoritative voice he used before, but a melodic pleading and desperate voice. “You have more moral feeling that Dirk, even if you aren’t very bright. Try to see how much moral trouble the dial of time could cause.”
“I’m just trying to go back and save my friends.”
“Save your friends? You’re not going ahead in time to get tomorrow’s race results?”
“I wasn’t planning on it, but…”
“No!” shouted Dude, and the sound of his voice was like a chorus of pissed and anxious angels.
“I know I can do this, Dude,” I said. “There was a day-old fish stick in my fanny pack this morning. I don’t know how this pack works, but I believe it means I can succeed in going back in time and saving my friends.”
Dude hung his glorious golden head. “It is the fanny pack of possibilities, so yes, it is possible to go back, but there is no guarantee that you will save your friends.”
“You could help me.”
“Why should I do such a foolish thing?”
“Because if you help me, I will promise not to do two things.”
“What are the two things?”
“I will not go ahead in time to see tomorrow’s race results.”
“And I will not tell Dirk about the dial of time – or second chances which is what I call it.”
“Dirk!” squeaked Dude in a squeak that only a heavenly mouse or Celestial Custodian about to pee himself might make. “With the dial of time, Dirk might…”
“Do anything,” I finished in not nearly so glorious a tone as Dude might, but sometimes you have to nail down your bargaining position.
“I never should have gathered tobacco on Two that day. I don’t understand why this school is non-smoking!”
“Are you asking me?”
Dude started laughing. I wasn’t sure why he was laughing. I was suspected the joke might be on me, but celestial laughter is contagious so I laughed right along with him.
“All right, I’ll help you. And you can keep the fish sticks; your friends are probably getting hungry in relative time.”
I thought about asking him to define relative time, but instead described my situation, and as he told me to hurry up several times, I won’t relate all that here. I don’t know why people think I go on and on with things. I think I just say what needs to be said, but then somebody calls me a bore and somebody else calls me stupid.
You know what I call stupid? People who call other people stupid, that’s what I call stupid! Maybe I don’t always get right to the point, but that’s no excuse to… stupidify me.
I’m thinking as fast as I can, you know!
When I finished my story, which I didn’t think was too long, or contained useless detail, Dude shook his head.
“You should just give up,” he said.
“I’m not going to give up.” I wished I could think of some way of saying ‘give up’ other than just echoing Dude’s ‘give up.’ I know I sounded like a parrot, and I was feeling sensitive about how Dude was looking down on me just because he was millions of years old and his boots shone like sunlight on a warm spring day.
“See if you can understand what I’m saying,” said Dude very slowly.
I wanted to hit him in the nose, but I just nodded instead.
“You’ve moved progressively through time – the way you ordinarily do. You know about that, right?”
“But you’ve also moved trans-dimensionally. Do you know what that means?”
“I doubt it,” Dude muttered beatifically. Then he shook his head as if he wasn’t going to go on.
“Dirk will love that dial,” I said.
“You can’t go back in your body!” Dude shouted.
“Oh,” I said, trying desperately to look smarter than Dude thought I was. “I’ve heard something about this. It’s called a time paradox, right?”
“A time paradox?” Dude started giggling in an entirely masculine and awe-inspiring way. “How did you learn to read – from pulp science fiction?”
“Don’t try to be smart,” Dude warned me. “You do stupid well. Stay with what you know.”
I wondered what would happen if I hit Dude with his mop of glory.
“You can go back in time, but you have to avoid yourself. You can’t join with the you from before. That’s because of… Just believe me. Think of it as a rule and breaking the rule will cause an explosion that will kill everyone you ever met.”
“Of course not me,” said Dude as if that was obvious.
“Okay,” I said, using that So-Ho expression once again. I could see how that could become a habit. I wondered why we didn’t say, okay on Two. “I’ve got it.”
“You’re worried about us?”
“Actually,” said Dude, “it would be convenient for me if you did kill everyone you ever met. Unfortunately, if I don’t do everything I can to prevent it, the moral code of causation will bite me big time.”
“Well said.” I enjoyed complementing Dude. He obviously hated it, but he couldn’t complain about it. Maybe complements from a lower life form is like receiving mud pies from two-year-olds. You know the gesture is meant well, but the last thing you want is a pile of excrement-filled mud in your hand, and then half the time the kid expects you to eat it.
I considered staying around and complementing Dude the rest of the day. After all, the time dial meant I wasn’t in a rush, but I was also anxious to get this done, and I knew the fish sticks weren’t getting any fresher.
Dude led me into the nurses’ office. “How much time you need?”
“I’ll just turn it until I…”
“No, no, no,” said Dude as he might have to a wet dog about to jump on his bed. “I don’t want your hands on this control.”
“About a day.”
“About a day? You can’t be more specific?”
“Well, it’s mid-morning now, right?”
“In So-Ho, New York City? Yes,” Dude answered. “It’s ten twelve Anti-meridian.”
I pretended that I had an idea what that meant. “Yup,” I said. “About a day.”
Dude sighed and turned the dial.
If I didn’t know better, I’d think Elmer just had a minor triumph. Will Elmer continue to succeed or will he return to form and end up rescuing Swampy or even Youtickubus Akwar (shudder,) instead of Ono? Or maybe this time he’ll end up in the real oblivion that Dirk has been avoiding for thousands of years. Tune in next Friday for the exciting conclu… (don't overstate it,) for the conclusion to Dirk Destroyer’s Less Destructive Brother.
Of course it won’t be the last post of the book because I can never leave well enough alone.
There are those who accuse me of drawing everything I write from The Tick (especially Volition Man.) What libel! (or is it slander?) (Oh, and any resemblance between Dude and Plunger Man is entirely co-incidental.)