Part 6


Shell Out

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“Chapter Title”

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“Why do you think I’m not happy?” Sammy asked. “I swallowed the pill, too.”

Nippy jiggled his throat with his thumb and forefinger and took in a deep gulp.

“The Happy Fun Land pill is meant to be taken like candy, not like a real pill. Sucking on it prolongs the joy, while swallowing it only brings you here. Although the candy method is guaranteed to make you happy, the pill method is unpredictable.”

Sammy stared at Nippy for another moment. Nippy shied his eyes away.

“Maybe your happy pill is the one that sucks,” Sammy said, thin-lipped and with narrowed eyebrows. He held his focus to allow the moment to sink in. Then he cupped his fingers into a fist and tapped the edge of the table to break the tension. “Do you know what puzzles me most about all of this?”

Nippy slowly shook his head.

“Of all of you ridiculous rehashed rejects, the one I can’t find anywhere is Bubby the Bear. Where is he?”

A moment passed before the cat spoke.

“You’re Bubby,” Nippy whispered.

Sammy glanced at his arms to discover a carpet of inky red fur covering him. He also realized for the first time that he could see the world minus the impaired vision from his set of eyeholes. He felt for his head to learn his identity matched Bubby only up to the shoulders. Uncertain how this must’ve appeared to the Wacky Fuzzies, he stood up and allowed himself to look down on Nippy. Nippy could not hold eye contact with him.

“Am I some kind of freak—a human head walking around with a red bear’s body? Why did you trick me into taking that pill?”

“No one tricked you. You wanted to laugh and be happy.”

“But how did I become Bubby? All I did was put on the suit. How did I actually become him? And where’s my head? Or his head, rather.”

Nippy raised his eyes and looked into Sammy’s.

“We needed someone to replace him. We thought the one who put on his suit would be the one perfect to take his place in the Wacky Fuzzies universe. Anyone who took the Happy Fun Land pill would be up to the task because they would be happy to take the position. Everyone else who took the pill but didn’t replace Bubby wouldn’t mind that he became something different because they would still be happy. And your head is being drawn down the street at the factory as we speak.”

Sammy felt above his neck again to make sure the head was, in fact, getting drawn at the factory and not on him. Touching his actual nose relieved him.

“But why replace him?”

“He wasn’t doing his job the right way anymore.”

Sammy sat down on the table and folded his hands over his lap.

“Is that right?” He let the moment sink in. “You’re saying he wasn’t acting like a professional?”

Nippy nodded as his lips puckered into a pout and his eyes glanced anywhere but at Sammy the mostly bear.

The cheetah waitress skated into the dining area with a red drink in hand and passed it to Sammy. Sammy took the glass and twirled the inky liquid around. The waitress skated off again.

“You know,” he continued, “there was a time in my life that I would’ve tolerated your crap. I certainly would’ve given you a chance to entertain me, at least. But any tolerance I might’ve had for your entertainment value diminished when you, and cartoon characters like you, proved your incompetence as role models for children.”

“We’re not incompetent role models for—”

“I am not finished. You assault their senses with your loud horns and flashy colors, and you poison pop culture with your uncreative jokes. You’re the reason the world no longer aspires to think for itself or achieve any kind of personal pride. But that’s not what makes you dangerous. You attach your names and faces to products that children and their parents use, stuffing yourselves inside boxes for hamburger meals that kids will eat, branding your gross lack of professional quality across the world, suckering these very same people you’ve brainwashed into thinking that what you’re selling them actually holds any superior value. You do this without shame. And how could you feel shame when your entire shtick is to entertain through a checklist of clichés?”

“But that’s—”

“And here’s the bitter truth: I tried to watch one of your television shows a while back when our company first discussed investing in the park, just to see what was so special about it, just to see if you had evolved from a carbon copy of everything else into something worthwhile. And, judging by what I saw, and by what you’re telling me now, I can honestly say that you’re still full of crap. A lack of professionalism has nothing to do with Bubby disappearing. And don’t lie to me about having any ounce of professionalism in your inky, rinky-dink body, either. I think you want to get rid of him because he’s the only character in this Wacky Fuzzies universe that’s actually original. Am I right? He’s not the honey-eating, winter-sleeping formula character that the rest of you are, is he?”

Nippy shook his head.

“He’s a rock star who speaks Australian, right? Not some stupid bumbling bear that you probably opted for—he’s the heartthrob of the Wacky Fuzzies universe, isn’t he?”

“Was,” said Nippy. “He was getting his own market. The creators were going to give him his own toy line. They even wanted to create die-cast metal versions of him to overshadow the plastic figures they’ve made of us. He was on the path of ruining everything we know and love. We thought we could shake things up a little and strike gold if we got rid of him and brought in one of our fans instead—someone who would be happy to be a part of us and make other people laugh.”

“Yet you got me, didn’t you?”

“We thought the one who wore the Bubby suit would suck on the Happy Fun Land pill and then be happy to take his place. What did we know? Why won’t you just laugh with us? We really are funny.”

“No, you’re not. Everything you do I’ve seen before. You’re a phony and a pathetic excuse for merchandising. And your company produces garbage products. And bring back Bubby because no one else deserves to be ridiculous in his place.”

Nippy grabbed a bright red bottle of ketchup from the table and massaged its neck as he lowered it out of sight.

“We are not phonies. We are cartoon characters. What we do is who we are.”

Sammy leaned hard over Nippy’s body and breathed deeply into his inky face.

“But you’re not funny, so stop making the public think you are.”

“Don’t you think if the public thinks we’re funny, maybe that means we’re funny?”

Sammy looked at him with harsh eyes, an intensity that he hadn’t had in weeks, an intensity that Bubby the Bear had likely never felt, and growled under his breath. Even if he were channeling his inner animated Australian bear, he was still very much the professional businessman who did not take crap from anyone or anything. His eyes were turning to fire; he could sense them burning. Then he stuffed his hands in his pockets to stop himself from becoming violent. Even in the cartoon world, violence was not professional in his line of work.

“I think the public will buy anything if you spin them the right way,” Sammy said. “Give them a moment and they’ll see the truth. The fact is that I’m a part of the public, and I don’t find you the least bit funny.”

“Then kiss my wacky fuzzy butt, you scoundrel.”

Nippy swatted Sammy hard on the head with the ketchup bottle, breaking the animated glass in half. The ketchup poured from Sammy’s head at a steady pace as yellow stars spun above him. His eyes rolled backward, and he blacked out as he pitched toward the floor.