The Arc of Triumph
A Tale of the Cartoon Universe
By John Pirillo
Bad luck is all he was having this day.
The whirrrr of the coco balls caused him to duck. They whipped past his head, nicking one of the curls from one of his sideburns, and heating up his left ear a tad. Close call. Any closer and the thing would have latched onto his ear, then crawled into his ear canal, made its way into his brain and sucked him dry. Nasty death. Nasty, painful, excruciating way to die.
He threw himself up into the air, whipping his badminton, which was supersized for the job, and batted a new batch of coco balls back at the monster who was flinging them. Coco Kid he was named. He had hatched from a giant coco ball rolled in from Cartoon’s world in a war that was going on there at the moment. He never knew until that day that wars existed anywhere else but earth, but obviously he was wrong, and if not for his Comic Book Commando skills, he would have been dead…wrong.
The Coco Kid holstered his weapons and eyed Johnnie warily. “Okay, kid, I get it. You’re not going to die.”
Johnnie settled into a batting position with his badminton. “Not really for petunias and orchids yet, thank you.”
The Coco Kid barked with laughter. Barked, because he had a dog head with a human face. Long ears that drooped to his elbows and eyes that would have even made a puppy sad. It gave him its best idea of a smile, which revealed canines the size of knives, and razor sharp.
“There’s only one way this can end, you know.” The Coco Kid told Johnnie, as he took out a pouch of tobacco, and began to roll a cigarette in some paper he also pulled out of his chest vest. “You see, it’s this way, Johnnie. We like you. We really do. You’re a bonafide hero…”
“Words are cheap.” Johnnie shot back.
“Yeah. Kinda. But in this case, not so much.” The Coco Kid said, finishing his cigarette. “Have a light?”
Johnnie flicked his thumb and a flame burst from it and shot towards the Coco Kid. He leaned into it, caught the flame on the tip of his cigarette, dragging at the same time, and then pulled back and took a deep draw. He sighed happily a moment, then blew some smoke rings, which he broke with his right forefinger, which was clawed and leathery.
“Don’t mention it.”
The Coco Kid nodded. “Sounds like a good idea.”
“So what now? I kill you or you kill me? Or…”
The Coco Kid took another long draw on his cigarette, then flicked it to the ground, and stomped on it with a silver boot whose flaps came up to his knee caps. “Sounds bad, no matter which way it comes out, doesn’t it?”
The Coco Kid nodded, eyed Johnnie a long time with his cute eyes, then batted his lashes, and said. “Well, I’m an all or nothing kinda guy.”
“Sounds like it.”
“Yeah. Well, this is a big zero.”
The Coco Kid spun on his heels and headed towards a huge bird that resembled a prehistory pterodactyl. “See you, kid.”
“Doesn’t this mean it’s over?”
“It’s not over until it’s over, but mostly. Yeah. For now.”
The Coco Kid hopped onto the back of the bird, spurred it, and it shot skywards.
Johnnie followed its flight across the Sacramento River a moment, and then threw his badminton down. It dissolved back into the levy ground and vanished from view. He sat down at the edge of the levy and watched the river for a time. It was Sunday morning. Not many came out that time of day, except for fishermen, who would probably have one whopper of a tale to tell at dinner time if they saw the fight or the bird.
He put his elbows on his knees, rested his chin on his palms and took a deep breath. He was tired. When he had first begun his work with Cartoon, it had been smaller fights. A few zombies here, or there. Maybe a wolf man or a vampire. Sometimes a rampant dragon, but now it was getting more and more bizarre as the more extreme samples of the cartoon world began to materialize for conquest and dominion over the Earth.
He felt a warm hand touch his shoulder. “Johnnie.”
She sat next to him, her glowing skin matching the warm sun’s light against the levy sides. Cartoon was a Princess. From another world. Another universe where all the living creatures were cartoons. Mostly created by the minds of man in his world and similar ones. He used to be vain enough to think that Earth was the center of it all, but once he began fighting monsters that had originated on other worlds, the concept of humanity being the center of the universe quickly evaporated.
It’s easy to get locked into that belief when you’re young, and even when your old because most people don’t really want to think about much except where to work, what to eat and maybe a little loving now and then.
“No. Tired.” He answered.
She snuggled her blondness against his shoulder and sighed. “Your world is so beautiful this time of day.”
“I used to think so.” Johnnie answered. “Now, I just wonder when the next thing is going to attack me.” He looked into her face. So beautiful and mysterious.
“So what am I a hero for? Run that by me again.”
“No, I’m serious.”
She sat up and looked him fully in the face with those gorgeous mellow eyes of hers that could melt a man’s heart in ten seconds flat. Monsters took a bit more time.
“Because you care.”
“Oh.” He replied, feeling let down.
“And because I love you.”
He brightened a moment, and then lapsed back into silence.
She touched his hands. “Don’t give up on me.”
He shook his head. “It’s not you. It’s….”
She gave him a gentle kiss on his lips. He melted into it for a few moments, and then pulled back. “Does it ever stop?”
“No, the madness. Does it ever stop?”
She didn’t answer, which was an answer in itself.
He stood up and stretched, then gave her a hand up. “So now what?” He asked.
She gave him a cute smile. “We fight more monsters.”
He laughed. “That’s what I like about you. Always shoot straight from the hip.”
“I never miss that way.”
He took her into his arms and pressed her glowing body into his.
“I don’t know how. I don’t know when, but I swear one day this will all end.”
She looked into his face. He was serious.
“I know you should probably be the one telling me that, but you don’t have to. I know my job now. I just have to accept it.”
She didn’t answer him, which was an answer in itself.
That night he hopped over a burning car to rescue a pedestrian who had been attacked by a Bumble Dragon. They’re these weird shaped masses of fur and antenna that look like a huge coffee mug with bug feet and a bee stinger. Deadly as you could ever ask for. He grabbed the Bumble Dragon by the back of its neck, slammed it head first into the burning car to blind it, and then flung it as hard as he could against the nearest skyscraper, which happened to be the Bank of America.
Employees working late ducked and ran for cover as the dragon struck the building several stories up, then exploded into flames.
Johnnie turned around to discover the Coco Kid standing there, with six Bumble Dragons on his left and right. “That time again?”
“Yup!” The Coco Kid said with a grin. “Happy dying, kid!” He yelled. “Kill him!” He ordered and the Bumble Dragons threw themselves at Johnnie.
As Johnnie swatted them with a gigantic flyswatter he manifested from his plastic form. He was carrying a Plastic Man comic book in his back pocket, he thought, “Two of one, five of another. Who’s gonna die? Ask me tomorrow.”
WHAM! He smashed the first two Bumble Dragons to kingdom come and waited for the next four to close in. Life was sure great, wasn’t it, he thought with a grin as he prepared to swat the next batch of Bumble Dragons