Previously on The Erotic Adventures of Batman, Batman and the gang assembled in Batman’s well-appointed conference room to discuss the future of Batcorp Enterprises with Batman’s new management consultant, Randy Shuvelback. Things got off to a rough start when the charismatic Shuvelback, a veteran of the new-age movement and creator of the self-help technique known as “The Psychological Advantage,” offended Batman’s friends with his animalistic manners and unorthodox presentation style, but also piqued their interest with his no-bullshit attitude and mention of the word “prosthetics.” Will Shuvelback’s ideas about prosthetics prove to be the shot in the arm that Batman and his company need, or is Shuvelback just blowing smoke up everybody’s ass? Is Batman really over this Dryad thing? Is there something going on between Shuvelback and Rob? Just what are prosthetics? Read on and find out.
Silence once again filled the room.
I looked around, trying to read the faces of my friends. Stanley seemed perplexed, his brow furrowed deeply and his hand going back and forth across his chin like there was a stain on it that he was trying to buff out. Alfred was clearly disgusted, his nostrils flaring and thin lips pulled back in a mask of British revulsion. Rob, for his part, looked intrigued and even a little turned on—a tanned, well-manicured hand framing his face between his thumb and forefinger as he swiveled rhythmically in his chair, regarding Randy with renewed interest and respect.
I decided to ask the question that I knew was on everybody’s mind.
“What are prosthetics?”
The guys sort of stared at me but, fuck it, this isn’t some piss contest grade school bullshit. I learned the hard way a long time ago that if you want to have an adversarial thing with your sensei, he’s just going to come back at you with an ass kicking every time and the only thing you’re going home with is a sore butt. My attitude is, you might as well chug your pride shake and get back to work. Besides, it’s not like the fellas were exactly clamoring to prove that they knew what the fuck he was talking about.
Randy, to his credit, didn’t miss a beat.
“I’m glad you asked, Batman,” he said. “It takes balls and a backbone to ask questions and you just proved what I already suspected: that you’ve got ’em both and aren’t afraid to use ’em. Unlike some people…” He smirked.
Catching his meaning, I smirked back, then looked at the others sternly.
Randy strode to the whiteboard and picked up a green marker, then turned his back to us, and started drawing. I craned my neck a little and tried to peer around him to get a sneak peek at whatever it was, but I couldn’t make anything out.
“Just what is that old wolf up to this time?” I said to myself.
Randy capped his marker and turned around, clasping his hands behind his back and rocking on the balls of his feet.
“When I step away, I want you to tell me what’s missing from this picture.”
“Hm. A game,” I thought. “I could get into this.”
“Everybody ready?” asked Randy.
We all nodded. “Alright,” said Rob. “Show us your stuff.”
Randy stepped aside and we studied the picture.
It was a crude, stick-figure style drawing of a human figure, with one important difference.
“It’s a man,” I pointed out. “But you didn’t finish drawing him. He only has one leg.”
Randy unclasped his hands and pointed at me with the marker.
“Precisely,” he said. “A man with one leg. A man who is missing his leg. A tragedy, certainly, but also, if you’ll pardon me, an opportunity.”
I considered this, for a moment, trying to weigh both sides of it. It was hard to get over the tragedy part, but I thought I could see where Randy was going with the opportunity bit.
“So,” I began. “You’re saying that it’s an opportunity cost for the man. Like, he made an investment in losing his leg so that he could learn how to do without it. Efficiency. Cutting out the dead weight.”
I looked at Stanley and pantomimed a scribbling motion on an imaginary pad of paper to indicate that he should be writing all this down.
Randy did one of those sideways head tilt things, first to one shoulder and then the next. I think it might have been part of his routine, stretching or popping his neck muscles. Then, he clapped his hands, bent his knees and did a little jump of excitement.
“Would you listen to this guy? It’s ninety degrees outside, he’s wearing sixty pounds of military grade latex and he’s still running circles around us brainwise. Always six steps ahead, Batman, that’s why I fuckin’ love you.”
Randy sure knew how to sweet talk a guy, but I could tell I hadn’t exactly nailed the point.
“Alright, enough with the rim work, Randy. I can tell when I’m on the bullseye, and judging by the level of your correction, I’d say I damn near shot in Rob’s eye.”
I winked at Rob, who gave me a look.
Randy chuckled and raised his hands to regain control of the room.
“Ok, big shots, other than Alfred’s sense of humor, what’s missing here? What’s wrong with this picture? Think simple. Batman, I promise, after I get the answer I’m looking for I’ll pivot back to your original question.”
Clearing his throat, Alfred drily put in, “The man, if, with all due respect, that’s what you call him, Mr. Shuvelback, is missing a leg, that at least has been pretty well established.”
“Correct-a-mundo,” said Randy. “And now, leaving the man’s private life out of it, what kind of opportunity does his lack of a leg present us with, as a business, a manufacturer?”
This time, Stanley chimed in.
“The opportunity to provide him with a leg.”
Randy pointed to Stanley and shook his marker.
“What kind of leg is that Stanley? A chicken leg? A leg of lamb, maybe?”
“A human leg. A prosthetic one.”
Randy snapped his fingers.
“Thank you Stanley, now we’re getting somewhere.”
Randy turned to me.
“Prosthetics, Batman, is the science of replacing lost or worn out body parts with new and better ones. It’s a cutting edge, largely untapped field that’s projected to grow at a phenomenal rate and with your company’s capital and profile, I’m confident that we can convert some of your existing capacities from dead wood to gold ingots.”
Randy was salivating a little bit as he spoke and a small amount of drool escaped the side of his mouth and plopped on the marble floor when he said the word ingots, but he didn’t seem to notice or care. I respected him for that.
I was excited to see Randy so excited, but I had a few reservations.
“I’m impressed, Randy. It’s not a direction that I would have considered taking, but I’m intrigued. Before I agree to anything though, I’d like to know a little bit more about prosthetics. I’m surprised that almost nobody’s heard of them—can this really be the kind of cash cow you claim it is, if it’s such an underground thing? I mean, I’m all about playing the long game, but just how long would I have to wait to see a return? Batcorp needs help now.”
“Actually, Batman,” Stanley chimed in. “Prosthetics have been around for quite a while and there are a handful of companies that pretty much have the business on lockdown. There are a lot of government regulations and red tape, international laws, medical supply firms that would need to be lobbied for contracts. We might have some capacity that could hack it, but ultimately we’re looking at a major facilities overhaul if we want to make this a competitive division, not to mention poaching a lot expertise from rivals and training costs… Frankly, I’m not sure now’s the time.”
I looked at Randy, my head already starting to throb with the gibbering pulse of Stanley’s words.
Randy had his head down and was shaking it slowly. When he raised it, his eyes were burning with intensity. He stalked slowly towards Stanley, his back hunched, his head and neck thrust forward, his tie dangling under his chin. He was growling, growling and occasionally yipping out and snapping his teeth. I could see the hair on the back of his neck standing up. Stanley was sliding back in his chair in fear.
“Batman, this guy’s rabid!”
I quickly got up and with a few lightning quick movements placed my body between those of my two advisors.
“Randy,” I soothed. “Easy, boy. Easy, big fella.”
I raised my arms and met Randy’s eyes, trying to communicate to him telepathically that I meant no harm but still demanded his submission the way I’d been taught in the wolf encounter class that I’d taken the previous summer in Basel.
The fire faded from Randy’s gaze under mine and he resumed his hominid posture.
“My apologies gentlemen,” Randy breathed. “I have an… animal side that comes out when I feel like my ideas aren’t being heard.”
I patted Randy on the head and tousled his slick shock of jet black hair to let him know that all was well.
“Because you,” Randy pointed to Stanley around my significant bulk, “didn’t let me finish.”
Stanley started to speak, but I silenced him with a dagger-like glance.
“Go on, Randy,” I said kindly. “Finish explaining your idea.”
Randy snapped his suspenders.
“My definition of prosthetics is a little bit wider than Stanley’s, although, to be fair, he was correct under the limited terms in which he chooses to look at the business. My definition actually has more to do with what Batman said earlier.”
I looked at Randy, puzzled.
“But Randy, until a few minutes ago, I didn’t even know what prosthetics were. How could what I said be relevant?”
Randy’s eyes regained their familiar, somewhat-feral-but-not-balls-out-crazy twinkle.
“It’s your instinct Batman, your killer instinct that cuts through bullshit like that oriental blade of yours. You didn’t have to know what a prosthetic was to realize that what that man lacked in a leg, he could more than compensate for with ingenuity and will.”
I saw his point. We were right.
Randy put his hands on my shoulders. “Batman, can I ask you a personal question?”
I put my hands on his shoulders in return.
“Of course. Anything.”
“You’ve been hurt, Batman, haven’t you? Hurt not just in your wallet, but in your heart, too?”
I furrowed my brow and made a scoffing, dismissive sound as if to say, “yeah right, buddy,” but my throat caught and I knew that it was all over. My eyes started to sting and tickle—moisture welling up in them like they were getting horny or something, only it didn’t feel like that. Not a shitting bit.
Shuvelback drew closer, his beady eyes practically spinning in his angular head as they tried to get a read on my notoriously guarded body language.
I tried to mask my feelings by punching up an emergency face rigidity setting on my Batex wrist command module, which would constrict and freeze the expression evinced by my leather Batface, but it was too late.
I looked away, my cheeks burning as I thought of the Dryad.
“Yeah,” I said. “Got cock-burned a few times…”
Randy shook my shoulders. “Look at me,” he said. “I know there’s pain, but I need you to look at me and tell me about it.”
“Well,” I began, not knowing where to start. “This girl, she…”
“What did she look like?”
“I don’t know. Pretty. Blonde hair I think… Yeah, blonde.”
“What did she like to do? Hobbies, interests?”
I thought about it.
“Well, she was some kind of masseuse or whore or something. I don’t know. My buddy DA suggested I see her.”
“Interesting” said Randy. “Tell me more.”
“Oh, yeah, she lived in this like, big tree-house thing. She was really into it. Really into wood. God, if I could of gotten my wood into that sweet honey cluster…”
Randy laughed and slapped me lightly on the cheek, which under normal circumstances I would’ve responded to with a quick left rejoinder but which this time I let slide because I knew his heart was in the right place.
“I’ve got it,” he whispered. “I’ve got the perfect product. Something that will take both you and Batcorp out of this slump and will prove to the world that you and every other man in this or any country doesn’t need some woman to get their wood wet.”
I grasped Randy’s hand. Behind me, Rob, Alfred, and even Stanley looked on, eager to hear what Randy had in store.
“It’s cheap, it’s low cost, it’s classic, it’s not a medical product per se, though it may have medicinal or therapeutic effects… Gentleman, it’s a new kind of prosthetic, a revolutionary new product for males everywhere, frustrated, downtrodden, beaten and dejected males, tired of lining up to rent it from termite ridden dens of iniquity…”
“Gentlemen…” he continued, going to the board and quickly sketching something on it.
He drew back.
“I give you…”
I rubbed my eyes and looked again. Was that an old train whistle he had drawn?
Wait… Was it a..?
“The wooden pussy!”
I blinked, brought my leather gauntleted hands to my eyes, rubbed them and looked again.
I could sort of see it.
I looked at Shuvelback.
He looked back at us proudly.
“That’s a pussy, gentlemen, one that’s made out of wood. And you can call it your own.”
Seth Blake is a writer from New Hampshire.