Randy’s name hit me like a Bat to the ass.
What should have been bliss—my new friend Tom and I enjoying a soak in the hottub—had turned suddenly sour. Just what in the sweet fuck was crappening?
My head spun, and I clutched at my Batface-mask. It felt like I had taken a Bat to the face.
I was reeling—the epicenters of both my upper and lower bodies throbbing as though they had each had a Bat taken to them, too. In effect, they had. And I don’t say that lightly. But fuck it (and the situation). This was too big a load to bear with my usual bat-like stoicism… This was monster-load shit…
Shuvelback. Shneider. All of the pieces were coming together.
But everything had fallen apart.
I felt betrayed. Even more so than the time with my formerly trusty Bat-Bat and she-who-must-not-be-named (I’m talking about the Dryad, FYI). Which, need I remind myself, is the whole reason I reconnected with Randy in the first place!
Ah, the clusterfucks of fate…
When would peace be mine, I wondered?
I gazed around my dominion like a king of old, my weathered brow furrowed in perpetual contemplation of a thousand crappy, Bat-related cares.
Hello Z-track riding Bat lawnmower.
Hello Tikki-Bat Hawaiin-style firepit.
Hello old Battire swing.
Hello Batfruit tree.
Hello Battree house, where I dreamed a thousand dreams, a thousand lazy afternoons.
Hello shitty old Battree root, which I fucking tripped over and ate it because of one day.
Were they really mine, I pondered? These material things?
I sighed. Then, as man has done since the beginning of time immemorial, I looked to the heavens for guidance, for some kind of Bat signal, perhaps.
I stared into the impassive sky above. It glowed a sinister, starless red, probably due to the outsize arc-lights I use to illuminate my gigantic compound.
“Master of crap,” I bellowed, “hear my plea!”
Then, incapable of further words, I beat my chest, tore at my Batvision tub goggles and yanked piteously at the empty space where, had I possessed a wispy, careworn beard, that beard would have been.
It was terrifying for me to imagine what seeing such a spectacle unfold would appear like to your average Joe. Imagine the hottest man you know, in his prime, at the height of his masculinity, just going to town on himself with anger and self-loathing and sheer, unabashed pissed-offedness, and tell me you wouldn’t either be in tears, or on the next train out of there, buddy.
Lucky for me, it wasn’t just some average joe beside me that night.
Through the bleary haze of my grunt-filled raging, I felt, as though from some other plane, the warm and friendly touch of a gentle-strong male hand upon my surging forearm.
“Batman” a calm voice soothed. “Come back to me, slugger.”
Of course… I had nearly forgotten!
I clutched at my new friend’s hand like a life-preserver.
“Help me, Tom,” I pleaded. “Help me to understand what happened.”
Tom held my hand firmly and squeezed my shoulder with his other, easing me down from the heights of my delirium into a sitting position. The jets of the tub soothed my anguished lumbar, heavy with the weight of the impending doom that I felt like a mill-wheel ‘round my corded, bulging neck.
I realized I didn’t actually know anything, and had allowed my redoubtable powers of speculation to set me adrift amidst a sea of enraged paranoia.
I must have still looked kind of out of it, because Tom gave me a light slap on the cheek. It stung, and under normal circumstances I would have slammed him with a quick head-butt in reply—but these were hardly normal circumstances, and in fact, it did help.
He made a fork with the index and middle fingers of his free hand (the other still firmly grasped my shoulder) and pointed with them, first at my eyes (though he didn’t poke them as might be expected) then his own.
It was a hypnotic sort of gesture, and I quickly read the meaning of the spell, a meaning that was reinforced by Tom’s subsequent words of “eyes on me, alright big guy?”
I nodded my assent.
“Judging by your reaction, I’d guess that you have some prior knowledge of Mr. Randy Shuvelback?”
The words fell like hammers onto my nuts.
I felt the red rage rise inside me again.
“Prior knowledge!” I burst out. “I would fucking hope so. Randy Shuvelback is my business partner!!”
Tom whitened—his ruddy, tub-toasted complexion blanching like a piece of searing tunafish.
“P-Partner?” he stuttered, “no, that… There must be some mistake. Randy is—was—my business partner…”
I shook my hoary head, grizzled now beyond its years with the addition of this new stress dump-trucking down on top of it.
“Impossible!” I croaked, almost to myself, unable to comprehend what I was hearing. “Randy had an exclusive agreement with me on the Wooden Pussy project… We shook on it!”
Tom’s eyes flashed, he gripped my shoulder harder, almost as if out of fear.
“Did you say, ‘Wooden Pussy’?”
“Yes,” I replied “the Wooden Pussy—a new generation of self-pleasure toy for maverick men who don’t have the time or the patience to pull the old fashioned way. It’s made out of real, unvarnished wood to accommodate men of any size, and since it’s made out of wood, it conceals easily, or can be the focal point in a mantelpiece setting depending on your taste. But what does that have to do with Randy? I mean, it was partly his idea—well, mostly I guess, though my shitty experience with the Dryad and my Bat-Bat did pretty much lead directly to the inspiration for the project in that it created a subconscious desire in my psyche to reclaim wood as a site of sexual mastery. I mean, Randy just sort of gave me a push in the right direction—we were totally on the same wavelength about this, which is why I paid him billions of dollars and made him the president of Frontier Solutions, the Batcorp subsidiary I created specifically to promote, manufacture. and distribute the Wooden Pussy. And let me tell you, he did a fine job! Those pussies were ready to ship in days—I’ve never seen anything like it!”
Now it was Tom’s turn to cover his eyes and groan. The groan started low and then sort of twanged up into the middle registers before erupting in a sudden wheezing, high-pitched chuckle. It didn’t seem like any time for laughing, but it was kind of hot all the same, and did sort of soothe me down.
“Batman” he snorted through half-sobs, half-guffaws, “I hate to say it, boy, but we done goofed.”
“Goofed?” I bellowed.
“Yessir,” Tom went on. “You and me, we done got ourselves hosed.”
“Hosed?!” I roared.
What was this fuckin’ shit?
Then it clicked.
“Tom Shneider…” I started “I knew I knew that name from somewhere. Are you telling me you’re…?”
“The very same Tom Shneider who used to run with Rudolph—a mixed-up kid from the upper Midwest who came to Quest College with nothin’ but a beat up Trans-Am, the Molly Hatchet shirt on his back and a head full of ideas about how to bang cash out the traps of this great nation? Yeah, that’d be me… It’s been a long time since Rudy started calling himself Randy, but ain’t nothin’ changed. I guess I thought I could change him, thought success would cool him, but Batman, that Randy rod’s hot, and ain’t nothin’ going to chill the flow a’ magma, a wellin’ up from within until the fire of his charred heart flickers out on its own. And Batman, lemme tell ya, he’s got crude to burn.”
I felt dizzy. I reeled and retched, but I held it together. Tom continued:
“This Wooden Pussy idea of yours, that ain’t nothing but Randy trying to unload some damaged merch on your butt, and if he gets away with it, like it sounds like he done, it’s gonna turn around and bite ya.”
Tom took a long swig from his Michelob and smacked his lips. He was getting pretty worked up, and that twang of his was coming out something fierce. Despite the fuckedupedness of the situation, I couldn’t help but feel another swell of attraction. What can I say; I can’t resist a man with an accent, whether that be your classic “bippity-boppity” style British, or a good old down-home one like Tom’s.
“Just one thing, Tom,” I broke in, “how do you know so much about the Wooden Pussy, anyway? It was supposed to be top-secret, and I clicked around online and shit before we decided on doing it and there’s definitely never been anything like it on the market before.”
Tom laughed again, flashing me those fluoridated chiclets of his.
“Aint’ been done before ‘cus there ain’t nothin’ to it, Batman. Dollars to dicks says those Wooden Pussies of yours is just a box a’ old hollered out train whistles.”
Train whistles!? Hadn’t I thought that very thought when I first saw Randy’s concept drawing?!
“I don’t understand, Tom.”
Tom took another pull on his longneck, his eyes gleaming.
“That’s Randy for you, Batman—you can’t understand the mind of a lunatic. Or is the right word genius? Sometimes, I don’t even know. But what I do know is that Randy has been trying to unload a couple shipping containers worth a’ train whistles since the time when Bush One were in office. He done bought up the lot, discount like, from an insurance company when the train carrying the train whistles done derailed itself down in Pensacola. It’s how come Randy and I and my then girlfriend Tammy headed down Florida way after finishing out school.”
Of course, I thought, the fabled tale of Randy’s trip to Florida with Tom and Tammy!
“Tom,” I interrupted “just what happened down there in Pensacola between the three of you? I thought there was supposed to have been some big real-estate deal that went sour and/or intrigue involving some sweaty love triangle?”
Now it was Tom’s turn to sigh.
“You ever hear the expression: a little from column A, a little from column B?”
I shook my head, but Tom didn’t seem to notice. He was lost in the murk of the story; and I was lost in his eyes.
“Randy, he has this way of telling people what they want to hear, of knowing what to say and when to say it to get folks to go along with him. For me at that time, the magic words were ‘wetland easement buyups,’ and for Tam, well, it was straight-up ‘I love you.’ We was charmed like snakes, the two of uns… Little did we know that the charmer was a snake hisself… We ponied up all the cash we had in the world for what promised to be the deal of the century; partnerships in business, and perhaps in life as owners of the biggest swampland development project in sunshine state history, and what did Randy do? He bought a trainwreck full of train-whistles and hoofed it to California.”
I was stunned. How could Randy have done such a thing? It just didn’t fit.
“Why train-whistles, Tom? What about that particular item held such fascination for him?”
Tom stared into space for a long time.
“I believe that even then he was formulatin’ an idea. Or, should I say, reformulatin’ one. He and I, well—it was college Batman—we were roommates, see, and as such were inclined to talk often and frankly as young men will do, about matters of a sexual nature.”
Sexual? I liked where this was going.
“I recall making a certain joke to him one day, after he had expressed some of his sexual frustrations—inability to pull as frequently as he might have liked with the female cohort at the town tap and whatnot—and I believe I said something to the effect of: ‘well, you could always do as my uncle Terry Shneider done and whittle yourself a little woman out of wood.’ There was an apocryphal story see, of my uncle having engaged in some such nonsense, but the way I seen it, there warn’t no sense to it.”
I laughed. The idea did seem ridiculous.
“But Randy,” Tom continued “Randy, soon as I said it, his eyes started in to shinin’ and his lips they started in to droolin’ and he got that sorta scheming, doggin’, wolfin’ look he get about him when he’s hashing up a real granddaddy of a sandbaggin’ for someone. And Batman, I think in that moment, the idea of the wooden pussy was born. And you and me—we both been sandbagged by it.”
What could I say? Tom was right.
I had been sandbagged, and now Randy was gone.
All I knew is that Rob and Stanley had gone with him, along with a metric crapton of my father’s hard earned cash.
And there I sat, a fifty-nine year old man, with nothing to show for my troubles but fifty mill in the bank, a diverse and innovative company with “extensive” capital holdings and a private estate with a designated British manservant.
I felt a tear roll down my cheek.
“What’s this…?” I said to myself, in disbelief.
Nevermind, I thought. Let it fall. Let it all come down. This was the fall of the house of Batman…
For the umpteenth time that evening, Tom placed his hand on my shoulder. This time though, it like, really did mean something.
“This is you,” said Tom. “This is my new buddy, Batman. And Batman,” he said, looking into my tear-streaked eyes, “it’s ok to hurt, buddy—old Tom? He been there, too.”
I smiled, in spite of myself. I must have had a piece of swordfish in my craw from earlier, because my voice broke slightly as I said:
Tom’s eyes twinkled, his sly old grin returning to replace the more serious ‘heart-to-heart’ face he had affected in my moment of weakness.
“You know Batman,” he drawled “I think this is the beginning of a real beaut of a long old friendship.”
And goddamnit if he wasn’t right.
Although it should be pretty obvious at this point, I’ll go ahead and say it: I’m not a man who gives up easily. Not the type to take the easy route in favor of the right one.
Tom and I? We talked awhile and decided that, on top of wanting to give that rapscallion Randy a pretty good non-sexual pounding (ie, we wanted to fight him and win) we had a pretty good legal argument against him, too. In fact, Tom had come to Gotham in the first place to plead his case against Shuveldick to some hotshot lawyer he’d seen on Dateline. The guy wanted a fat fee, but I didn’t much care for his haircut, so I did old Tom one better and bought a whole ball team’s worth of counsel—even bought ‘em uniforms with the words “Batman’s Bats” embroidered across the chest and butt areas. Hey, next best thing right?
Anyway, my Bats got to work right away, hiring private investigators and bounty hunters to track down Randy and his goons and building a rocksolid bodyslam of a suit against them—I even paged D.A. and told him I’d give him like a million bucks if he just kept that sexy nose of his to the ground for me (a proposition he immediately accepted).
It all got to be pretty expensive, as you might imagine, so, in order to save money, Alfred and I moved in with Tom and his family in Peoria.
It was hard at first—for one thing, Tom’s wife Tammy (yes, that Tammy, they ended up getting hitched after all!) wasn’t the biggest fan of the idea—but after Alfred started helping out around the house and I started to tutor the kids in hapkido and other esoteric eastern teachings, as well as some of the ancient gnostic wisdom of our own storied western canon, we pretty much made ourselves indispensable. Through it all, Tom acquitted himself admirably as a leader—a smile forever in his eyes and with words of wisdom from the Shneider tradition always ready at his lips. Although he is twelve years my junior, it’s hard not to think of him as a sort of father figure, and it seems like these days I’m as likely to call him “dad” as “buddy.” Tom, to his credit, takes it all in stride.
For their part, the little brats aren’t bad either. I can’t remember their names at the moment, but they’re little blonde kids, you know, one boy, one girl. Pretty cool, I got to admit. Sometimes, (and I know it sounds like a load of horse, but hear me out) I think they teach me as much as I teach them. Pokey-man, angry bird, Beeper and Yoolio. I don’t know, crazy times—sometimes it’s hard to keep up, but I do what I can. And, if my newfound in touch-ness with contemporary pop-culture has taught me just one thing, it’d be this: do not go chasing waterfalls. And, if life with Tom and the other people in our family is any indication, sticking to the rivers and the lakes of scenic Peoria is not as shitty as it might sound. At least, until I get my hands on that Randy rat, that is.
But who knows—it’s like those hot mods always said: “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”
; – )
Seth Blake is a writer from New Hampshire.