Fate without Tartar Sauce
“Fish Stick,” Swampy croaked when I arrived in Two. All right, that made more sense now. I knew right where I was, and where I was going.
I had the two bags of fish sticks slung over my shoulders so instead of landing on me, Swampy circled impatiently. I put the sacks down and began feeding the flying swamp-rat bird. It was only after a couple pounds of fish sticks that Swampy settled into a gluttonous stupor. Still he opened his repulsive beak.
“You eat much more and you’ll never fly again,” I said.
Swampy croaked incoherently. Maybe that meant he agreed. Uncle Egg never wanted to be understood when he agreed with me.
“So the other me is talking to Mage-e-not and Ono right now?”
“Fish stick?” said Swampy softly.
“It’s your belly-ache,” I told him, tossing him a fish stick. I looked around my location and tried to remember where I’d been yesterday. Unless something changed, I was safe – meaning I wasn’t about to destroy everyone I’d ever met.
Dirk had lied to me. Did Dude lie too? Would his law code of what-ever-ma-call-it allow him to lie? He told me not to come back, or play with the dial in the nurse’s office before. Did he lie when he said that?
I couldn’t remember well enough – certainly not well enough to risk killing everyone I knew. I would wait here until Ono had gotten Tease to agree to let her take Mage-e-not along with her to Phasia as carry-on.
“I thought I smelled fish sticks,” said Akwar. “Is there enough for everyone?”
I hadn’t bargained on Akwar. She could spoil everything. I didn’t dare say a word to her in case I (the other one,) overheard myself and investigated. I handed her the bag I’d been feeding Swampy out of. Did Dude know I’d need two bags?
“Any tartar sauce?”
I shook my head in the motion that means no everywhere but Pogo. She seemed to understand the gesture which indicated that she was as non-Pogoian as Ono. That along with a vague femaleness was her only similarity to the woman I admired.
Thankfully, Akwar went away with the fish sticks without causing enough of a disturbance to bring the me that wasn’t me in my current location to investigate. Then again, would I have investigated, even if I had heard Akwar? I would probably have ignored her and hoped she’d go away.
Had she been there when I’d been the guy in the clearing instead of the guy in bushes? Did this change things?
Stay with being stupid, Dude had told me. All right, I wouldn’t worry about it.
I stayed low in the bushes and watched Ono give Tease his shower. I waited until I was certain that I was gone. Then I stood up and stepped into the clearing.
“I thought I smelled fish sticks,” said Mage-e-not.
“You flip-flopped?” asked Ono.
“That was the younger Elmer,” said Tease. “This Elmer is older by about a day.”
“How can you tell?” I asked.
“You have fish sticks.”
“I’m starved,” said Mage-e-not.
In the distance I heard Lustavious singing. “I will intercept him,” offered Tease. “It is best if he does not meet your elder self.”
“Thanks,” I said. “Do you want to go to So-Ho?”
“Do they have showers?”
“I didn’t check.”
“I will return to Phasia. I have missed the showers of Shangra Dee.”
“Near the fields of Salley?” asked Mage-e-not.
“You have heard of it?”
“My friend Gidget went there.”
Lustavious’ voice was closer now.
“I must go,” said Tease.
“You don’t want any fish sticks?” asked Mage-e-not.
“Gluten-free,” said the monk, and passed through the underbrush to intercept the Light Bringer.
“We don’t have much time,” I said.
“Yeah,” said Mage-e-not. “Did you bring any tartar sauce?”
“No, sorry,” I said. “Look, I know that Lip Ton Tease agreed to take you both to Phasia, but I need to know if that’s what you want.”
“Do they have tartar sauce there?” asked Mage-e-not.
“Oh no,” said Ono.
“How do you know?” asked Mage-e-not.
“I’m not naying your know,” she said to Mage-e-not, and then she turned to me “I want to be with you.”
“With me?” asked Mage-e-not.
“Oh no,” said Ono, “with Elmer.”
“What if they don’t have showers in Ho-Ho?” asked Mage-e-not.
“Filthy Elmer sizzles more than squeaky clean Phasia.”
“Even without tartar sauce?”
“In bubble of algae bars.”
“Wow,” said Mage-e-not, “you are stuck on the guy.”
“What about you, Mage-e-not?” I asked.
“I’m not really stuck on you, Elmer.”
“Do you want to go to Phasia?”
“Nah,” he said, “I’d rather go to Ho-Ho, but you better have something other than algae bars to eat there.”
“There’s good food in Phasia, I hear.”
“Yeah, but I’m not that good at math.”
“Alright,” I said. “I’m not sure exactly how this works, but in case I can’t do anything, stay close to me.”
“Right,” said Mage-e-not, getting far too close – especially after eating so much fish.
“Actually, I mean the other me.”
“Teeny-tiny Elmer,” said Ono.
“I suppose,” figuring that younger was not a concept with many sound words. “You’ll be able to tell the difference because that me will be carrying around a scratchwing.”
“Instead of fish sticks?” asked Mage-e-not.
“Probably. Now when Lustavious points his finger at Dirk, and Dirk says, “That oughta do it,” you have to take the scratchwing out of my hand, and hold onto me.”
“What if you won’t let it go?” said Mage-e-not.
“I’ll fling scratchwing and clutch Elmer,” said Ono.
“Good. Swampy is around here somewhere. I don’t know what he wants to do, but…”
“I’ll quiz Swampy,” said Ono.
“You have real conversations with him?”
“Oh yes,” said Ono. “He cackles poetry!”
“It’s derivative,” said Mage-e-not. “I prefer a good lymric myself. You know, this planet really needs a place that rhymes with bucket.”
“The other me will be back soon, so I have to go. It’s important that you never saw me.”
“Which you?” asked Mage-e-not.
“But I can see the other you?”
“Hey, wouldn’t it be great if I could teach you to disappear.”
“Yes,” I said. “How do I do it?”
“I have no idea,” said Mage-e-not. “I just thought it would be great.”
As I sat back in the bushes I wondered why I wanted to take Mage-e-not to So-Ho. I almost went back into the clearing to change everything when I heard Akwar shout. I ducked back into the overgrowth.
I’d left the bag of fish sticks with Mage-e-not and I watched amazed as the other me didn’t seem to notice that Mage-e-not was eating something out of a silver bag. I wasn’t that stupid, was I?
There was nothing I could do about it now. I sat back against a tree to wait. The fish sticks did smell pretty good.
I opened my fanny pack and had a fish stick. It really didn’t need tartar sauce. I sat back wondering what else I needed to do. There was something important – something I wasn’t thinking about. I munched on fish sticks and tried to think of what it was.
Finally I was down to my last fish stick. I was about to pop it in my mouth when I remembered. “I need to save the last fish stick,” I said to myself as if I needed to both hear and think the thought.
I put the fish stick into my fanny pack, and the world got fuzzy.
Was fuzzy a good thing? I didn’t think so.
A teenage girl appeared. Her eyes were closed, she was tapping her shiny red shoes together and saying something about home.
No, this wasn’t good. If I left now, how could I be sure everything would work out? How could I be sure if I stayed? All I could do is kill everyone I ever knew by coming out of the woods and interfering. Even if everyone survived the whole death problem, there was no way Dirk would go along with taking Ono and Mage-e-not, and maybe Swampy to So-Ho. It was only a three bedroom apartment, and he had the Stevens twins to think about.
Things got fuzzier. It was beginning to look like I was going to have to count on me – the younger me, to do the right thing. If only the younger me wasn’t so stupid.
Now I felt offended, and I had only myself to blame.
But wait! It wasn’t just me, I was counting on. Ono would make things work – just like when she lifted things in the air, and…
Just one more installment to go - really! You don't believe me? I guess I can't blame you.
As we approach the election I wonder how many comedians are hoping to get their break impersonating President H. Clinton, D. Trump or PCTBDL (Presidential candidate to be determined later.)