Part 5

A Real Rip-off the Old Block

Shell Out

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Sammy dangled behind Nippy’s speedy body, bobbing up and down against the gray pseudo dust beneath him, as brown and green mountainous landscapes with white-covered tops raced by in the distance and massive dust clouds rose from the soles of his feet. He forced his chin to the air as he arched his neck backward for a better view of the cat and the horizon hurtling toward them, hoping to gain some early secret about their destination. But little of the scenery changed. As mountain after mountain passed, Sammy was certain that he saw the same range return to view, over and over, as if part of a loop. Nippy, meanwhile, blazed across the landscape at a speed five times faster than a cheetah, blurring part of the immediate surroundings into a kaleidoscope of color, and G-forcing his fur about three inches behind his clenched jaw and eye sockets. Sammy was surprised by the rush of air he felt; he figured the cartoon world was void of any real physical earth substance. So far, he found that he could touch things, as well as to see and hear them. But it was a shallow touch, like the feel of thin cellophane plastic on his fingertips. A repeating sheet of cellophane plastic.

The only thing to surprise him more about this place, however, was his willingness to accept its existence. Must’ve been a side effect of the happy fun pill. If it couldn’t make him happy, then it would make him numb to reason.

Nippy came to a stop in front of a yellow diner with bright, red, flashing lights, but Sammy’s inertia kept going. The force of his flying body stretched Nippy’s arm about a mile to the west before he finally stopped. Nippy reeled him back in.

“Here it is,” said Nippy, doing a quick shuffle as he straightened out his coiled arm. “The Wacky Walnut. This is where we all come to eat.”

Nippy pulled Sammy through the front doors and revealed to him the busiest place in the whole Wacky Fuzzies universe. It was a place where cartoon characters danced, ate, drank, laughed, got sick, and tried to one up each other by telling the stupidest jokes. Sammy noticed that all the characters that had surrounded him earlier were now sitting at the booths. This time none of them paid much attention to him.

“Are you happy yet?” Nippy asked.

Before Sammy could give an effective answer, Nippy dragged Sammy over to an empty booth where a female cheetah in a blue waitress uniform skated up to them, holding her notepad in hand.

“Would you fellas like to try the Chef’s Dynamite Chicken special?” she said.

Nippy broke into an uncontrollable mating call, complete with wolf howl and throbbing heart that literally pounded at the table. He rolled out his tongue and panted. Sammy, patience wearing thin, stared at him with no amusement showing in the corner of his lips.

“What are you doing?”

Nippy ignored him as his animated lust continued to escalate. Sammy waved his palms inches before Nippy’s face, but it didn’t do any good. Nippy found himself treading water in his own puddle of drool.

“I think I’m gonna skip lunch today, ma’am,” Sammy said to the waitress.

“And the lovely gentleman?”

“I think his brain is off right now. A really large elephant in a tutu should take care of that problem.”

“I’ll see what I can arrange, sweetie.”

The cheetah waitress completed a one-and-a-half turn before heading back to the kitchen. As the doors closed behind her, Nippy regained his senses and smiled a toothy grin.

“Wow, that was more fun than batting yarn.”

“What’s the matter with you? Don’t you ever look at yourself?”

Nippy contorted his neck to examine each angle of his black and white body. He shrugged as he checked under his armpits and probed his belly button.

“What am I looking for?”

“Look at you, you’re a rip-off.”

Nippy pulled out a poster of a bigger, older cat who fit the same profile as he. He postured himself next to it.

“Yep,” he said, “a real rip-off the old block.”

“That’s my point. Why do you think that’s funny? You and your kind are ridiculous. You weasel onto our television sets, make the same lame jokes I’ve seen on every other stupid cartoon show since time began, and you get a theme park and faulty products designed after you? You’re a rehash of old, cheesy ideas, and I think it’s stupid. And maybe even dangerous.”

Nippy leaned in for a better listen. Sammy could see an empty channel running through his head from one ear to the other. The sight of it made him want to reach out for Nippy’s head and beat it into the ground.

“And you’re still doing it, even now. What is so funny about empty space between your ears?”

“Because it’s dense,” Nippy chuckled.

Sammy looked around the room again. Much of the same carrying-on with the Wacky Fuzzies he had come to expect was happening now: them hitting each other with mallets and falling anvils; dopey characters talking like jabbering fools and acting like children; some throwing pies or dynamite at each other in a twisted game of catch or dodge ball and laughing about it. Sammy shook his head.

“You are all so unoriginal. I just can’t laugh, so quit trying to make me. You don’t deserve your fame. I wish I could take an eraser to your existence.”

“Well that’s kind of harsh,” Nippy said, a little less joyfully.

“Yet the world seems to love you and your stupid Wacky friends. I don’t understand why.”

“Because they like to laugh, and we make them do it.”

“Not in the real world. I spend more than one hundred twenty hours of my week in the real world, and no one talks about you or finds you amusing. Yet for some reason the visitors of your park fall in love with your contrived world. It must be that crazy happy pill you trick them into taking. Except, the pill I took didn’t make me laugh or have fun. Could it be that I swallowed a dud? Maybe I’m just immune to your attacks. I don’t know what your game is, but you can’t have me. The only thing you can do is aggravate the hell out of me.”

Sammy stared at Nippy dead in the eyes. Nippy remained speechless. Almost two minutes went by before a tumbleweed rolled across the table, stopped, and exploded from existence. Nippy rose from his booth. By now the whole diner was watching them, as were the characters sitting inside of it. Silence befell the eatery.