March 20, 2004
Are you a fan of Sir Zymogen? Are you key to Sir Z, also known as the Blue Knight, because of his blue-tinted armor and deep blue eyes that set girls’ hearts a-flutter?
I am, most definitely. I have stood by him through thick and thin, from the fierce Revenge of the Cloud People of Ish 151 to the terrifying Lizard Death March of Ish 196. I even liked the last story, and nothing was quite as hokey as that. It’s supposed to take place in Zymogen’s home town back in the middle ages, but everyone speaks like rap musicians. The worst is when Sir Z grabs Brockbert’s sword and outduels Count Dog-A-Long. I mean, we already are supposed to believe that Sir Zymogen is this hot-shot knight from the 1400’s who discovers time travel and steps into the present day to become a botanist, airplane mechanic, physicist, chess player, juggler, philosopher, historian, and brain surgeon, and now he’s also a rap artist? C’mon! The guy has to be ordinary at something—I don’t care how much time radiation he absorbs. Are the days long enough to study all that shit?
My favorite issue is the one about those killer aliens that looked like giant blood pressure cuffs. It began with that stupid Nurse Darla innocently examining some poor patient, then she screams her guts out as the cuff quadruples in size and swallows her whole. That was great! I was hoping that Sir Z would just leave her there—I mean, Darla’s such a pain—but I guess he had to rescue her. I suppose if you’re not going to act heroic, you can’t go calling yourself a hero, can you?
Nobody, but nobody I know is into the Zymogen world like I am, which is damn annoying. For a while I tried for those pen pals they advertise at the back of the comic books, but that proved a major exercise in pointlessness. Usually I got some pre-teen jerk-off who barely had enough brains to address a postcard, let alone write a worthwhile sentence. My only remotely interesting Z-pal was this guy Dave, who was marking time in the Alabama state prison. Dave wrote this long letter about the Zymogen adventures as a stand-in for man’s struggle against sin and temptation, or some shit of the sort. Once he was inside the pen, Dave picked up on Sir Z as his hero and role model, and he wrote how he never would have robbed that gas station if only he had discovered the blue knight sooner. That’s asking a lot out of a comic book, in my opinion, but Dave was making sense to himself and I wasn’t going to argue. I wrote back, but I was kind of put off when he asked me to come visit. When I said no, he asked if I’d send a naked picture instead. That’s when I broke it off. I mean, c’mon. Give me a break.
My name is Sheila, and I live here in Wyola, Kansas. I don’t exactly have a career, but these days I work at the Comics Palace, which is Wyola’s one and only comic book store, not counting the shelves at the Piggly Wiggly and Shop Rite. My job is to sort comic books, sell comic books, accept returned comic books, and in general be an apple-cheeked hostess to all the dip shit teenagers who visit us.
Eric is the owner and my boss. He’s also a little touched, I think. He started the business because he inherited about a thousand comic books from his Dad’s used bookstore in Wichita, plus he got the building for next to nothing. The building was a bankrupt Texaco station. In Kansas, this is as about as nothing a building as you could want. But Eric spent a small fortune on decorating. He came up with the name first—the Comics Palace—then dressed up the ex-gas station into a phony-baloney fairy tale palace, if you can believe that. We’ve got a tower and a moat, plus a drawbridge that actually raises a foot or two when you turn the crank. At first we had these Japanese goldfish swimming in the moat. But they all died, so Eric put in some minnows and a couple of plastic ducks. Inside the store, TVs poke out of holes that are supposed to be turrets or balconies, and the comic books and other merchandise sit on shelves that look like they should hold Cinderella’s underwear.
Running the place makes Eric happy, and I guess that’s something. I don’t meet too many happy people. Eric says that he is the king, the customers are the peasants, and the comic books and board games and Pokemon cards are the bounty that we share with them. Once he called me “his damsel in distress” and I nearly bopped him one. I’m nobody’s damsel, and I sure as hell am in no distress. At least not now.
A few years back, I left high school to marry this guy that got me pregnant. Everyone told me I was stupid to get pregnant, and no argument from me. But what was I supposed to do after it happened? Nobody came up with a good answer to that one, not Aunt Selma or Uncle Bertram, who had no children of their own, and not Pastor Vintner, who once tried to feel me up behind the altar, although he insisted it was an accident. (Lying bastard.) I wanted no part of any of those people, and still don’t. Even so, getting knocked up earned me a truck load of scowls and snarls all over town, and I thought hitching up with Chuck would put an end to it. We had enough money for two bus tickets to the Ozarks, which is where we got hitched.
A few months later, the baby came out stillborn. I still can see picture that kid in my mind. A little boy. A little, frozen human popsicle. I insisted on burying him. In the family plot, too, next to Grandma.
One week after the funeral, old Chuck split for Mexico. Over the course of one summer I spent more money on a wedding, a funeral, and a divorce than I had spent altogether until then. Thank God, Moms helped out. As for Uncle Bertram, he gave me his tut-tuts and his wicked-ways speech, but not one of his not-hard-earned dimes. I remember deciding right then to take men and their bullshit with a grain of salt. And I definitely knew I wasn’t going to get another surprise baby.
Well, at least I was half right.
April 12, 2004
My all time favorite adversary for Sir Zymogen is “The Atterwald.” Geez, I hope they bring him back. What better enemy could there be but an insane malpractice attorney out to destroy the universe? The problem is they wrote the Atterwald into that horrible corner. In the last frame, the mutant court clerks—set free by Sir Z, naturally—were stabbing the Atterwald with their killer steno pencils. I hope they can save the Atterwald, just like they always save the Blue Knight, because the Zymo-world is just too dull without him. I’m going to write Amazing Club Comics and tell them so.
I got a question for you. About three, four times a week, the Moms’ been getting junk mail from all the real estate agencies in the county, each trying to promote themselves as the best to sell the house.
Yeah, they’re onto something—-Moms is thinking of selling the house, and she doesn’t have a real estate agent—but how the hell do these people know that? I mean, do mind readers work in real estate? Does house paint turn a funny shade when the owner wants out?
What none of these letters say is where she would move to. Or where I would move, I guess, to be more precise about my worries. I’m living with Moms right now. In fact, give or take a bad marriage or two, I’ve lived with Moms all my life. But I’ve got no plans to get married again, and I can’t afford a place of my own, so where am I supposed to go next? Christ, I hate thinking. Thinking never gets me anywhere.
Moms is not much help on this subject either, at least not at the moment. I used to be able to talk to her about anything, but now whenever I bring up the future—hers or mine—she just shoos me away. Sometimes we’ll talk over a couple of Budweisers, but never about anything important.
Six months after I divorced Chuck, I met this guy named Ed Scoins. One thing led to another and I married him. Ed wasn’t much to look at—he was about 20 years older than me and about half a ton heavier. He also smoked up a storm, which I hated. But he had a steady job hauling semis for Lionel Foods, which impressed me. If you haven’t heard of Lionel Foods, they’re a big grocery store chain in these parts. They’ve got cute commercials starring cartoon radishes, carrots, and cans of beans, all singing about how you should come down to Lionel so you can buy them, cook them, and eat them. I’d shop at Lionel but it’s more expensive than the other stores, and farther away, too. Ed didn’t get me pregnant, thank God. He did prove to be a real professional bullshit artist, though, and I swallowed his line like the stupid little fish that I was.
Ed hauled semis like I said, so of course he was on the road a lot. He kept claiming he was due for a promotion to the dispatcher’s job, assuming he kept putting in the road hours. When the promotion came through, he’d move us to Tulsa and buy us a house. Until then, he had me staying at this shithole of an apartment in Wyola and he came to see me when he could.
For a while it was all right. Ed would show up once a week or so, and he’d throw me a few dollars. We’d go out for pizza or a movie, and we’d fool around until the TV stations signed off. But after a month or so Ed turned kind of nasty. He started asking me for money instead of giving it out, and sometimes he wouldn’t even spend the night. He’d say he had some ice cream or turkeys or hot house tomatoes that had to be God knows where by morning, and off he’d go. Once he showed up drunk—which scared me, because driving semis is pretty dangerous even when you’re sober.
It was just before Christmas that I got this letter in the mail. “Give me a call, we have to talk,” it said, and it’s signed Louella Scoins, and there’s a phone number. Taped to the letter was a picture of Ed with his arm around a fat, dirty blonde in a red party dress, and a three year old girl between them. Right then and there I figured out what was going on. I didn’t even need to call that number—-which I did anyway, of course.
Ed turned out to have a different wife in six cities. There was Vicki Scoins in Tulsa, Penelope Scoins in Joplin, Violet Scoins in Omaha-—I think you get the idea.
“I never meant to hurt any of you,” Ed said at his trial. But “big hairy deal” was what I told him. I even said it on the witness stand.
What a piece of crap that guy was! You’d think that after Chuck I would have learned my lesson. These days, the only thing that amazes me about men is the degree to which some women will go on believing them. Of Ed’s six wives, four defended him to the judge. There’s no limit to the shit some women will put up with.
Now I’m living with Moms again. If I looked at the calendar I could figure out exactly how many times I’ve come and gone from this house over the past eight years. I keep throwing myself into the world, and the world keeps throwing me back. At least Moms’ cool about it, and that helps. She’s been cool about everything ever since my father got himself killed in a construction accident, and that was fifteen years ago.
I guess that’s another story.
May 25, 2004
All Hail Sir Zymogen, and other good things! Did you hear the news? They’re bringing back the Atterwald! (“The Atterwald Comes Back” is the title.) Arrival date sometime this summer. I can’t wait!
Whatever they do with the Atterwald, it has got to be better than this current issue, which features Princess Zeona. The Princess is this tough-as-nails, hard-ass ruler of Planet Zigma. She pays a visit to the Blue Knight, just to see how he’s getting along, and wham—just like that—she falls in love with him. I mean, get real! These writers aren’t much on women’s lib, are they? Princess Zeona has to be real cheesecake, too—an ugly chick would never get to polish the good knight’s broadsword. Still, I like how the episode ends: Sir Z sternly telling the Princess to go home and fulfill her duties to her people. You can always count on Sir Zymogen to stand up for the right thing.
As for my own life, well, I think I’ve found somebody again. His name is Brian, and he’s a mechanic down at the Goodyear. I met him at the Comics Palace, where he’s one of our regulars. I won’t tell you what kind of comics he buys, but one day he was saying how he didn’t have anyone to read them with, and since it was one hour before closing…….
I’m strongly considering getting serious with this guy, if you’ll pardon the dumb-ass high school expression. I haven’t been serious with anybody since Ed. I know I got a poor record with men, but Brian’s different. Don’t ask me why, but he is.
My friend Kari did my hair up the other day, and you wouldn’t recognize me! It’s now all spiked up, and it’s got red and blue streaks and even a hint of green. I’m also wearing these great earrings, real big ones that look like gerbil skulls.
Eric signed up Kari on staff at the Palace about a month ago, and she and I hit it off right away. Kari had me over to her house a few nights ago, and while we were guzzling a couple of brews we got to daring each other to do stupid things. So Kari dared me to punk up my hair, and the next thing I knew Kari was leading me into her basement, where she had this big sink and a supply of weird-ass hair dyes.(Kari went to cosmetology school for a while, I think.) Well, Kari didn’t let me look in the mirror until it was over, and when I finally saw myself I screamed like a mad chicken. But Kari said I looked great, and after a while I decided she’s right. And then it was my turn to do the same hack job on her! I’m no hairdresser like she is, but I managed to recreate most of what she did on me. The big problem I had was with the green dye, which dribbled down the side of her head and onto her neck. Aside from that, Kari and I are now twins, which is kind of neat.
When we showed up at work the next morning, Eric’s eyes bugged right out of his head. But by the end of the day he said he dug us. As for Brian, he hasn’t been saying too much about my hair, but he acts as if he’s embarrassed to be seen with me. Now he’s insisting that either him or me will come to our senses, whatever he means by that. It’s my Moms who really hates it—she says I look like a tramp. But these days Moms is too down on herself to really take much notice of anyone else. The money is getting tighter. Apparently, Dad’s insurance wasn’t as lifetime as it was supposed to be. So she really does have to sell the house, but she can’t force herself to choose one of those dorky real-estate agents and put the place on the market. Which is fine with me—hey, I need a place to stay, at least until I get married again.
Yeah, Brian and I are talking about getting hitched. I know I’ve been around that track a few times, but what Kari says is that you have to take chances in life. She’s right, don’t you think? Kari likes Brian, too, which I think is a good sign. Besides, I don’t want to be just another comic book clerk-—I want to be a comic book clerk named Mrs. Brian Bullock! Ha ha ha!
June 20, 2004
All Hail Sir Zymogen! I’m still his number one fan, even though this current episode is really stupid. I mean, the absolute worst. The idea behind it is OK—mutant vegetables from outer space trying to take over the Earth. But when Mr. Podgorny starts metamorphosing into a giant carrot, well, that is just too stupid.
“The time has come for the truly Green Revolution!” he shrieks. “Plants and Vegetables of the world: Unite!”
How hokey can you get?
I do think the blue knight’s solution to the problem is kind of clever: He puts arsenic in the Head Plant’s fertilizer. Well, I would never have thought of it. Leave it to that dweeb Darla, though, to serve tossed salad to everybody at the end.
In other news……I’m getting married again! Brian has agreed to tie the old knot, and what’s more, his folks are going to pay for a real wedding. Church, preacher, guests, reception, band, cake—=the works! I’ve never had anything like that before. When I married Chuck it was a roadside chapel and a ring from a Cracker Jack box. As for Ed, he insisted we combine the wedding and honeymoon at this funny little place in Las Vegas where the preacher looked like Elvis Presley. Which was fine by me, because Chuck never took me on a honeymoon and I had never been west of Great Bend, Kansas, which is barely west from where I live now.
Brian has put two catches into the deal. Actually he put in three catches, but I already took the crap out of my hair after Kari quit and left town. Last week she showed up at work with two suitcases and a bag of groceries, and she announced that she’s fed up with Wyola and Kansas and was hopping the next Greyhound out of town. That’s just what she did, too! Eric gave her a ride to the bus station down the street, and he came back saying that she was on her way to Houston. Well, this is no biggy—I’m used to my friends kind of coming and going, plus I only knew Kari for a few months. But the night after she left I felt kind of abandoned, so I bleached all that punk stuff out of my hair. That look was getting kind of old anyway, to tell the truth.
So now I only have two hitches to unlatch before Brian will marry me. The first is the easier one: I’m supposed to meet his mother’s favorite minister and get his approval. Otherwise, Brian’s mother will tell his dad not to pay for the wedding. I’ve never understood religion or religious people, so I have no idea why this guy’s approval means anything. I figure I’ll turn on the charm and turn Mr. Preacher to Jell-O. I can be very charming when I have to be.
It’s the second that bothers me: Brian says I can’t wear white at the wedding. I know it’s silly, but when I was a little girl—which was a long, long time ago, I’ll admit—I always dreamed of a big wedding in a fancy cathedral. I imagined organ music and lots of guests and maybe a dozen groomsmen and bridesmaids. The groom was tall and handsome and wore a soldier’s outfit, with lots of medals and braids and maybe a sword on the side. And me, I wore a big white bride’s dress with a white veil and a long train, and as I walked slowly down the aisle everyone watched me and smiled at me and envied me. Do all girls have dreams like that?
I know I’m not getting a cathedral, and Brian sure as hell is no soldier, but I don’t see why I can’t wear white. Brian just shakes his head and says I’m young and stupid and have a lot of learning to do if I’m going to make it with him. Sometimes he makes me so mad I want to rip him a new asshole. Instead I just shut up. The last thing I want to do is jinx this wedding.
Moms has been drinking pretty bad these days. Not just beer, either, but the harder stuff. When I come home she usually is out cold on the couch, an empty or two at her feet, the only light in the room coming from the TV. Both Moms and the house are turning into a mess, and when I bitch at her she tells me to mind my own business.
I don’t know what’s triggered her down like this; she’s had bad episodes but none quite this bad. I guess it all comes down to the house. Dad built it himself, you know. How many people can say they live in a house their father built? But big deal, we’ve got to sell it anyway. In the mail the other day was a package from the county assessor’s office; it seems Moms is two years behind on property taxes. There were also three more brochures from real estate agencies, including one from a town about 70 miles from here.
Moms just throws it all away. I think she’s decided that if the house is going down, she’s going down with it. I wish I knew what to do.
Geez, what would Sir Zymogen do? The Blue Knight never has problems like these, does he? He’s had more serious things to deal with: Saving the world from attacking Caspajians, saving the world from the dreaded Flondorians, and saving the whole universe from the Atterwald, who we finally get to see again in two weeks (I can hardly wait.) But when did Sir Zymogen have to save his mother? And how would he go about doing it?
I’m writing from work, and things are starting to get busy. Eric is peering over my shoulder, and the last thing I want is my boss to see what I really think of him: that no good, four-eyed, bone-headed, slave driving….are you getting all this, Eric? Eric says hi. I gotta go.
July 2, 2004
AHtBK, etc. Cancel your flight to Kansas, the wedding’s off. But don’t shed no tears. I guess in my heart I always knew it would never work out between me and Brian. Sure took me a while to figure that out, though.
The straw broke the camel at Mr. and Mrs. Bullock’s home, where they had us to meet the Reverend Farquart. God what a stupid name, Farquart. How are you supposed to take a guy seriously when his name is that dumb? Reverend F. turns out to be one of these holier-than-thou, fire and brimstone, go-burn-in-hell preachers. Three seconds after the hellos he started lashing into me for a whole jukebox of sins, none of which are any of his business. While I was sitting there steaming I caught Brian’s mom looking very satisfied and smug on the sofa. That’s when it hit me: she was using this asshole preacher to sanctify all her nasty opinions. This woman was like the Queen of England, judging me as if I were some tramp trying to steal away the prince.
I guess I got pretty mad. I yelled and cussed a bit, and I wound up splashing that pompous Reverend with the guacamole dip. “Of all the ungrateful, amoral ingrates I have met,” the bastard said, but I told him to stuff it and I left the house.
I didn’t tell any of them that I was pregnant. I was going to tell Brian, but when he called me later it wasn’t to apologize. Brian said that I revealed my “true colors” to him, and besides he had been seeing a little of his old girlfriend these days, and so-—well, that’s when I hung up.
You’d think I’d learn. You’d think after Chuck and Ed and Dave—-did I ever tell you about Dave? He was this guy in the Alabama state prison who I started writing to—-oh yeah, I did tell you about him. But damn it, I lied. I’m sorry, but I actually did send him what he asked for, a dirty picture of myself. Afterward I never heard from him again. I guess I wasn’t as attractive as he was hoping for. God I never thought I’d admit that. Not even to myself.
Even Sir Zymogen is disappointing me, damn it. If you haven’t bought the new Atterwald issue, don’t bother, it’s pretty bad. They don’t even bother explaining how the Atterwald escaped from last time, they just have him scheming to strip the good knight of his admitting privileges at the hospital. Good Lord, it’s so awful! The visiting surgeon turns out to be a Reyatian from Planet Reta, and Reyatians as we all know don’t have internal organs. The whole thing is such an obvious set-up for Sir Z to appear to be in terrible trouble, only to triumph in the end. But after all the build-up they gave this issue, after all the anticipation, the best thing they can think of for the Atterwald to say is “Ladies and gentleman of the hospital, the time has come to decloak the knight!” Big, banal, stupid deal.
I’m going to Florida. I got this letter from Kari, and she says she’s in Florida working at a big amusement park. Not Disneyland, but someplace like it. She goes around all day in some geeky costume, she’s Minnie Mouse or Dippy Dog or something like that. She says she can get the same job for me! Can you imagine that?
First I got to get an abortion, though. To hell with respectability, and to hell with marriage and with men and the Reverend Farquarts of the world. The only part that bothers me is that the trip costs more money than I have right now, which means I have to steal the balance from my Moms. What the hell, she’d only spend it on booze. I have no idea if Moms is going to be all right after I leave. Right now I don’t care that much.
All hail you, old Z-pal. I won’t be keeping track of Sir Z for a while; maybe you can do it for the both of us. Maybe you can even be that kind of knight yourself, huh? At least I won’t be fretting any more about Brian. Or Ed or Chuck or Dave or Brian’s mom. That much I’m sure of. That much I’ve learned over the years. I’m just a better class of people.