Last time on Closing Time, Terri accidentally unleashed “Metaphorplay,” a catchy dance tune that’s been around for thousands of years and refuses to be destroyed. Joe Eschaton calls for some intense memory wiping absinthe, but instead gets a karaoke machine.
Catchy (Two of Two)
Joe Eschaton is wishing that instead of storing things in the “Catering Room,” that he had put the sign on the “Exit” door instead. Like P.T. Barnum advertising the incredible “Egress! This way!” Joe could clear out the entire universe by asking people to go grab him a fresh bag of lemons and never seing them again.
Unfortunately, Joe knows what God would say to that, and another speech on free will is the second to last thing Joe wants to hear right now. It goes without saying that the first to last is another verse of “Metaphorplay.”
A girl with short burgundy hair in a white spacesuit with a checkered purse is singing now, mike in one hand, while she flips a bar coaster back and forth over her knuckles with the other.
“‘Gonna love you like the illusion isn’t time, we’ll meet again when you find the spine,'” she offers before she hands the mike off to an armless tiki head who has brought his own theremin.
“See? Now people are just making verses up!” Joe complains to Terri, who is very busy with as many drinks as she’s slinging to the tables watching the show.
“It’s called enjoying themselves,” Terri chides. “The universe is going to end, what’s wrong with them having a little fun first?”
“Because they’re having fun with the song I’m supposed to be… um… what’s the word for uncreating a song?”
“Decomposing.” Terri giggles and shuffles off with the tray of chromatic drinks.
“I could have gone for a robot waiter,” Joe says to no one in particular. “I bet they’d have a great personality and a logic-based mystery story down the line.”
“Excuse me,” another Joe Eschaton said, pushing past the regular one. “Time traveling here, please clear the–” and then he was gone.
Joe is getting tired of all this preamble and decides that it’s about time that he actually deal with the song itself. For a minute he considers unplugging the karaoke machine, but the song is canny as well as catchy; it would find a head to bolt into or a phone video in which to lie in wait. No, while the song is having its way with the patron’s of Joe’s bar, its not going to be as worried about its long term survival.
The Nataalian absinthe that Kharnyvor is sitting on the end of the bar. It seems like the best chance for success: how do you get rid of an idea? You forget it.
Joe pulls his crowbar out of the lump of destinic concrete he keeps it in (“WHOSOEVER PULLETH THIS CROWBAR FROM THIS STONE SHALL KINGE OF ALL FREEDONIA BE!” Sure, it requires a little extra paperwork each year, but it’s better than letting just anyone with a buzz and a grudge get their hands on a big metal weapon in Joe’s bar.) He pries the lid off the absinthe crate to find–no surprise–hundreds of tiny bottles held in a plastic foam gridwork.
It’s going to take a lot of work filling enough shots for the bar from these miniscule containers. Then there’s the matter of making sure everyone gets home okay despite not remembering anything about the evening. Since Terri’s going to be one of the mindwiped, Joe’s going to have to handle all the normal closing time jobs on top of it. Still, if he never hears another chorus of “Metaphorplay,” it’ll all be worth it.
“It ain’t no kindaaaaa siiiiiiimiiiiiileeeeeeeeeeee!” Terri, who is taking her turn at just the worst time, screeches. “Your liiiiiiiiiiiiike all of those worrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrds–all’a them, baby!–toooooooooooo meeeeeeeee!”
Joe grabs immediately for the first bottle of absinthe, but as soon as he takes it between two fingers, the glass, which is scaled to the same dimensions as the rest of the Nataal import, shatters, emptying the bottle’s contents all over his finger at the same time as it cuts into his skin. We can all see where this is going, right?
THE KARMIC MEMORY ERASING DRUG TROPE
- Accidentally break bottle with memory erasing drug on finger.
- Without thinking, put bleeding finger in mouth.
- Realize half a second too late what you just did.
- Mutter “Oops.”
- Wobble then collapse, unconscious and without memory.
See? Easy and comfortable.
Despite using the omniscient third person, we’re going to bump our story forward to when Joe finally wakes up. He’s sitting in an armchair, probably brought out from storage as well. He’s wearing a paper crown on his head and around his neck is hanging a sign that says “Don’t Ask Me! I Only RUN The Place!”
As his vision clears, Joe can see that whatever had happened during his blackout is being cleaned up by a pair of slowly moving unhappy figures, one big, one small, both fuzzy. Joe is trying to figure out what the last thing he remembers is when one of the figures–the curly-haired one, what was her name again?–notices that he’s awake.
She drops her broom and storms over to Joe, which in the heels she’s wearing, makes an awful tik-tak noise that reverberates through the empty bar.
“Oh, and here’s his majesty, all nice and rested?” Terri (that was her name!) asks in a tone Joe doesn’t think reflects well on either of them.
“I… I don’t remember what happened,” Joe says, as honestly and sympathetically as he can, sensing rightly that when you don’t know why you’re in trouble, it’s best to apologize first and run later.
“What a brilliant plan! You couldn’t have included any of us in it?”
Behind Terri, Joe recognizes the large figure of the Klynthi war god Kharnyvor. For some reason, he’s pulling small bits of metal and circuitry out of the bar walls and dropping them in a trash bag. He looks at Joe with a withering glare possible only to gods.
“Plan? Plan for what?” Joe asks. So far Terri hasn’t either hit him or made him stand up, and he’s trying to keep that the case.
“Your Machiavellian plan to get us to do all the work and get rid of that horrible song for you! Don’t think we didn’t figure it out while you were sleeping off your happy little bender!”
“Song?” Joe asks, but it’s not necessary. Terri is angry enough to give all the details.
“Sure, I mean, at first we were all enjoying it… then Mr. Furry Wrath found the karaoke machine and we all took our turns. After an hour, I couldn’t find you, so I okayed the ‘Make Up Your Own Verse’ contest. It’s a good thing I did, too, because the Caveman broke off the song select dial on the machine.”
Joe looks around again for the karaoke machine, but can’t find it anywhere in the bar until his eyes once more rest upon Kharnyvor and his fragment collection bag and he has one less question to ask his waitress.
“By the second night, everyone had run out of rhyming dictionaries and we still couldn’t turn off the machine. I think that electric being from Achidan-4, Mister Splixx got sucked into it and was keeping it powered… anyway, by this point, even I was getting sick of the song–”
“What song?” Joe asks again, but the glare that appears on Terri’s face indicates that this is not a piece of information Joe is going to get.
“By the time the third night opened, which, Mister Unconscious Boss, you didn’t do, leaving it to me again, which I couldn’t do because I was trying to turn off that awful song from Hell, what was I saying?”
Joe nods but doesn’t even think answering is going to help.
“Right! No one was here! We had a few drivebys, but when they got close and saw me and War Fur trying to turn off the karaoke machine, they didn’t even slow down! It finally occurred to me to use that ray-gun you keep taped to the bottom of your desk drawer, and apparently that was enough to do something to Mister Splixx, because the whole thing blew up into, like, a million pieces. I don’t even know if Splixx is okay, because he just took off running.”
“And you and Kharnyvor have been cleaning up since?” Joe asks.
Terri squints her eyes at Joe and picks up her broom. “If I ever hear that song again, I’m going to put this broom up the end of something other than the universe.”
She turns on a heel and goes back to picking up.
Joe watches, wondering what he did right.
In the end, he gets up, picks up a hand broom and dust tray and lends a hand.
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.