No. 4 - Blues Dragon

A ranger, a thief, and a dwarf cautiously make their way down a stone corridor. The light of the torch carried by the thief flickers upon the walls, textured as if of hand-hewn clay.

"We must proceed with caution," whispers the dwarf, who is revealed to bear the very semblance of Jerry Rig! "The runes at the entrance were of ancient vintage..."

"Yes, I keep my bow at ready," affirms the ranger, Aecca Decca.

"Why can't I get this lighter to work?" queries the thief.

"El Humidor! You HAVE to stay in character!" chastises Jerry.

The setting changes to reveal the housemates arranged around the living room coffee table, acquired from the curb on garbage day. One leg, broken, is duct taped in place. Decca is cross-legged at one end, slouching, sheets of paper in front of him. Rig is upright on his knees, waving a pencil demonstratively at El Humidor, who sits on a stool opposite of Aecca, hands on his knees, elbows out, like a feudal daimyo. Across from Rig, El Humidor furiously clicks a lighter repeatedly.

Aecca, sighing, "just use a match, man..."

Humidor continues striking the lighter, brow furrowed in concentration.

"I swear, we've been making our way down this corridor the last 45 minutes!" complains Jerry, "its either 'hold on, I have to go the bathroom' or 'let me getta beer' or 'I have to go the store to get more smokes.' Can we JUST play??"

"A'yup! Got it!" puffs El Humidor victoriously, "Dungeon Master Mudman, you may continue!"

Mudman looks down behind his DM screen, "Okay, you're going down the corridor..."

"With caution!" Jerry reminds.

"Yes. With caution."

The band of three move down the corridor. They reach a fork, two paths before them. The dwarf attempts to read ancient runes carved in the stone. The ranger examines the dirt to see if anything has passed through here recently. The thief takes a big drag of his cigarette and looks for an ashtray.

Back in the living room, Mudman sighs, pinches the bridge of his nose, "For the last time, there are no cigarettes in ancient Nammud. You may smoke a pipe, but not cigarettes."

"Huh? Well, okay, I'll take my pipe tobacco and verily I shall swaddle it in parchment in the manner of a small cylinder and I shall FUCKING SMOKE IT, then!"

"Jesus, Humidor, take it easy," mutters Aecca.

"Yeah, let his thief smoke his giant rollie, Mudman, I don't care," concurs Rig.

"Okay. Fine," Mudman snarls.

The thief ashes his oversized hand-rolled tobacco-filled parchment cylinder on the ground and says he thinks the stolen treasure they'd been hired by the nearby town's Assassin's Guildmaster to retrieve is down the right-hand corridor. The dwarf shrugs and the ranger says "whatever" and cracks open a can of beer he has retrieved from his satchel.

"There are no beer cans in Nammud," Mudman tells Aecca.

"If Humidor the Thief here can smoke while dungeon crawling," Aecca counters, "then Aecca Decca, Ranger of the high plains of Saot Rettub," Decca gesticulating wildly, slowly rising to his feet, beer in hand, "can drink a beer from a, uh, a wooden mug with a, uh, a waxen sealed top, magically cooled and preserved with a, um, okay, a cold-air cantrip!"

Decca remains standing, beer held aloft like a grail. Rig and Humidor (ciggie dangling from lower lip) look at Mudman, awaiting the passing of judgment.

Mudman scratches his forehead. "Okay."

Aecca fist-pumps, proclaims a "yes" through a grin, drops back into his sitting position.

The ranger, bow in one hand, mug of magically-cooled beer in the other; the thief, lighting another one of his parchment-rolled pipe-tobacco cylinders; and the dwarf continue cautiously down the corridor on the right, which leads to a spiraling set of stairs. After descending 40-50 feet, the party enters masive hall carved from the living rock. A cyclopean throne sits at the opposite end of the hall, upon which rests the dusty bones of a giant forgotten king, his crown dusty on a bleached skull.

"There it is, the crown of Noisilloc, Ancient King of Ayancilot!" exclaims the Ranger, cracking another brewskie.

"Our quest is at an end!" concurs the thief, adding, "can you hand me those matches?"

The dwarf tosses some matches at the thief, "you need to slow down, man, you smoked 10 of those in the last 20 minutes."

"Whatever," Thief says, "hey, Ranger-danger, gimme a beer, there."

The party arrives at the throne. They pause as they make an awareness roll. The dwarf inspects carvings on the throne. The thief approaches the skeleton and eyeballs the crown,

the item they'd been hired to retrieve. The ranger steps back and sips his beer while keeping a lookout. The ranger makes another awareness roll, which he evidently fails as he doesn't notice anything.

The dwarf concludes the carvings are not majickal, just plain old runes. The thief doesn't think he sees any traps that will go off if he lifts the crown. The ranger makes yet another awareness roll, which, again, he apparently fails

"Another friggin' 2? What's wrong with these dice!?" shouts Aecca.

Suddenly, the ground quakes, and the very rock by the Ranger bursts open! A toothed maw, then an entire scaled head, and a long, sea-blue neck emerges. The Ranger fails his initiative roll.

"GOD. DAMN. IT," curses Aecca.

The blue dragon summarily snaps down and clamps its jaws around the ranger's midsection. It shakes him once to the left, once to the right, and then dive-burrows, Ranger still in mouth, back into the rock from whence it came.

"Blue dragon?" exclaims Aecca, "Blue dragon! AKA the lamest dragon? What's its breath attack? Smooth jazz?"

Mudman: "You should know."

Decca takes another hit off his beer, "What? Jazz?"

Mudman: "No. Electric."

Decca, now up and pacing: "Electronic music?"

Mudman: (sighs) "Electrical breath weapon. And it burrows."

Rig: "That's why it just grabbed your Ranger and disappeared down a hole in the ground."

Decca, kicking at an empty beer can, "A burrowing dragon!"

Rig: "I actually like blue dragons as a DM. Electrical breath weapon and burrowing ability. Also, because it lacks in intelligence and magical power as compared to others, it has pumped armor and strength. Adventurers always forget it can burrow (travel in ground almost as good as it can on ground or in the air) and when buffing for elemental protection, people only think of cold and fire and never electrical (or sonic for that matter)."

"I'm a fucking ranger" screams Aecca, "how do I, of all people, not notice a dragon BURRROWING UP BENEATH MY OWN TWO FEET!?"

"You failed your awareness rolls," shrugs Mudman.

"Three times, I recall," adds El Humidor. "In the parlance of Nammud, that would be 'thrice,' I believe, yes?"

Aecca Decca, icicles stabbing from his eyes at Humidor, in a low growl, "but I have a 17 awareness."

"Then you failed your initiative," continues Mudman.

"Seven. Teen," Aecca now staring blankly at the wall, sipping his beer.

"Jerry, what's your dwarf doing?" asks dungeon master Mudman.

"Charting the shortest route back the way we came."

"Humidor, your thief?"

"Snatched Noisilloc's crown, running as though there's the beer is free at the brewery."

"17. Three tries."

Mudman rolls a die behind his DM screen. Looks at his graph-paper map of the dungeon, "okay, make awareness rolls," the 2 surviving members do so, Mudman inspects results, "okay. The thief's probably 15 feet in front of the dwarf, and the 2 of you are almost all the way up that spiral staircase when you notice faint rumbling in the rock."

"Guess ranger-meat's not very filling, no?" says El Humidor, grinning impishly, looking at Aecca, taking a long, languishing drag of his cigarette, a slow exhale. The cloud of smoke, as if with a mind of its own, centers over the table, takes the shape of a dragon lounging on its back, picking its teeth with some longbow arrows.

"Fucker," murmurs Aecca.

"Aecca," says Rig, brows furrowed, "are you... crying?"

Aecca/Decca, staring absently at a corner, "no."

"Indeed, yes, you are," says Humidor.

"Me and my Ranger have been through a lot, ok!" snaps back Aecca. "I mean, I've leveled him up to 26 over, like, 9 sessions the past 7 or so months. He had a seventeen awareness! SEVENTEEN!" Sobs, continues, "he could put an arrow through a goblin's eye at 100 paces!"

"Jeez, Aecca," consoles Jerry Rig, "you wanna make an omelette you gotta break a few eggs, right? Party members die. It happens. We all knew the risks when we took the job."

"Yes. The risks. Think of the risks," El Humidor, nodding.

"Whatever!" retorts Decca, "that dragon swallowed me up and the first thing you guys did was grab the crown and run out of there!"

"I figured, at least the dragon's occupied," shrugs Jerry.

"Hey, and more of the bounty for me!" explains Humidor, then glimpses at Rig, "I mean, uh, US, more bounty for US!"

Decca looks at Rig and Humidor, who return his gaze, nonpulsed. Aecca turns to Mudman, the Dungeon Master, an look of last appeal on his face. Mudman stares expressionless, his face behind a mask of sweat-wet dirt, rolling a 20-sider betwixt his thumb and index finger.

"Sooo..." says Aecca Decca.

Mudman renders his judgment, "Humidor, Jerry, roll for initiative. You can see the exit of the dungeon ahead of you."

"Right, see you fuckers at the bar," Aecca stands abruptly, tosses his empty beer can on the floor, turns, and heads for the front door. Humidor and Rig toss their dice on the table.

"Until later this evening, my dear Aecca!" cries Humidor, "Eureka! A TWENTY!"

"A seventeen!" says Rig, "we might get out of this by speed of foot afterall!"

Aecca-Decca slams the door behind him.

"Okay," says Mudman, "the dragon bursts from the ground behind you, what are you doing?"

With fleeting feet, the thief, crown in hand, runs into daylight first, hanging a hard left. Behind him the dwarf chugs a furious pace, a roaring, trundling Blue Dragon right behind him, its teeth and jaws still stained with the Ranger's blood and guts. The thief practically slides into a crouch by a tree and tinkers with some rope and a wooden stake.

"Awesome, Humidor!" says Rig, "great idea setting a trap ahead of time! This dragon's not going to know what hit it!"

"Make a dex roll, to see how quickly you get it armed," commands Mudman.

"A 16," reports Humidor.

"Okay, just tell me when you want to arm the trap. Your discretion."

"I arm it instantly," Humidor orders, fishing another cigarette out of a crumpled softpack.

"Uh," says Rig.

"Roll for awareness, Rig," says Mudman.

"Shit. An eight," curses Rig, "El Humidor, why didn't you wait?"

The dwarf, dragon on his heels, runs through the entrance of the cavern. And trips over a well-camoflaged wire. As his face hits the dirt, his left foot is drawn up behind him, followed by the rest of his body, up into the air. The blue dragon storms out of the cave to find his prey dangling upside down in front of him from a high tree branch. Already a good 50 yards into the woods, the Thief faintly hears the dwarf cursing the thief's ancestors, the roar of the dragon, the cawing and fluttering of the woods' birds in response, then silence.

"El Humidor," says Rig, sullenly, "you fucking traitorous son of a bitch."

"The thief," intones El Humidor, lighting his cigarette, leaning back against the sofa, "looks out for the thief," takes a drag, "No one else. Yes?" Smirks. Exhales.

Words & drawings by D.D. Tinzeroes

No. 3 - The Cold Beer War

The house was empty, queerly unoccupied. Early afternoon's sunlight lit stale tendrils of smoke, as flies cavorted around the ruined kitchen to a soundtrack of a rattling, buzzing fridge and a shrill squall from the answering machine. A tense, clipped voice, a woman's voice, stalked flatly through the desolate rooms.

The message ran:
"You see, what's been done here--and it's really quite clever--is that Thucydides has been dragged out of the Peloponnese and shoved roughly into the bodies of four dreary myths living out their lives behind the scenes of an ill-omened millineal nexus. City-states once were actors, bodies, bounded willful entities making decisions and taking action. Over time, the locus of intentionality, deliberative causality, has shifted (in)to individuals. This change is more apparent than real, however.

Real change is impossible.

Thucydides knew this when he sought to understand and explain the war between Athens and Sparta: He knew understanding of that war would be an understanding of future wars. Not all, perhaps, but some.

Later, Hegel claimed history repeats. Marx then said history repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce. The question posed by no one nonetheless remains: Is the tragic event the first event or the first repetition?

I leave this matter for the schoolmen and the brutal pedants.

What I require from you is the resolution of another element at sea here in this muffled syntax. Put most starkly, gentlemen, it is your charge to determine whether we live in tragic times, or farcical ones.

Good luck, four gentlemen. May the force prosper long."

Some hours later, an image e'en more startling than an empty house. In the bicycle graveyard, less rubble than normal. Mudman sat in a comfy chair, a light-blue sheet stretched and tacked upon the wall behind him, with a vague butterfly emblem in browns and reds. Candles flickered, shadows danced across Mudman's smoking jacket. Glints gleamed in his swirling wine.

Mudman's soliloquy: "Rob't Heinlein has one of his mouthpieces opine that all wars are the result of population pressure. Unconfused scholars and anybody with an actual feel for history will understand that there is no such
thing as population pressures. There is only, always and ever, always already, competition for resources."

Akka/Dekka stormed in from the kitchen and, predictably, ruined the spell by demanding "What the hell is a 'subscription'?"

Jerry, following, began an impossibly dull and lengthy exposition, moving Akka/Dekka and himself into the living room, so as to marshal his army of ambulatory, doll-sized furniture into a sort of three-dimensional Power Point presentation. Rig has been way out front on the trend of pedagogical puppetry.

Humidor, smoking again, remained in the kitchen, sighing heavily, over and over. Mudman heaved himself from the chair, and approached Humidor, speaking in his slow, nearly impeded way. Asked what goes on.

Humidor: "These dishes, they are covered in filth! Yet here they sit...upon the rack of drying! As though to have been cleaned!!"

Mudman: "Silt."

Humidor: "What?"

Mudman: "That's silt. Not...filth."

Humidor: "And...can you tell me what might be this swampy mess where I do remember one sink?"

Mudman: "I uh...I did...the dishes."

Humidor: "Aha!"

Humidor: "Mudman...may I ask of you an question?"

Mudman: "Yes."

Humidor: "Is this puddle the result of you standing before the sink, on one mission of cleanliness?"

Mudman: "What puddle?"

Humidor: "The puddle in which I very stand!!"

Mudman: "Why are you standing in a puddle?"

Humidor: "DON'T DO THE DISHES!!"

Akka/Dekka and Rig have come into the kitchen.

Akka/Dekka: "Damnit! Dishes need to be done! Why not let the 'Man take care of it?"

Rig: "He's MADE of MUD, moron. Only two things argue against him cleaning things...

Akka/Dekka: "..."


As Dekka went into his pre-rant routine, equal parts pro-wrestling mugging for the audience and Dragon-Ball style charging for a special move, he was jarringly deflated by a Loud BEEP from somewhere in the bicycle graveyard.

Akka/Dekka: "What the hell was that?"

Humidor: "What?"

Akka/Dekka: "Oh. Answering machine message."

Humidor: "We have a phone?"

Rig: "We have an answering machine?"

Mudman: "We have a message?"

They decamped to what in a normal house would be the dining room. In this house, it's primarily a graveyard for bicycles. But it's where the phone jack is...and the beep certainly signaled a mystery of no small note.

Upon the message's emplayment, Rig tossed in a nigh-instantaneous "I don't get it," which met with grudging agreement. Standing around, the four, in a sort of motionless milling. Humidor, galvanized, ejaculated "That's Sarah!"

Much guilty shifting of feet, avoision of eye contact with a woman who wasn't even there.

The mood soured. Everybody grumpied up.

Rig (nastily): "Hey Kevin, got that fiver you owe me?"

Humidor: "I blush to confess that this...fiver of which you speak is as unknown to me as successful breeding must have been of your parents."

Rig: "I didn't give you five dollars. I loaned them to you. And I didn't do it to hear you flip me a load of smart talk!"

Humidor: "Nor did I take your money in order to be bullied, sir!"

A pause.

Humidor: "Did I just admit to taking your money?"

Akka/Dekka, Rig (unison): "Yes."

Humidor: "Does that mean I owe you this money?"

Akka/Dekka, Rig (unison): "Yes."

Humidor, bafflingly, swiveled to face the empty living room, and began speaking, quite as loudly as normal. "A tactical error, to be sure...but perhaps not such a grave one as it may seem before the grim-jawed eyes of history. A brief alliance...this I require above all else!"

He swung back around, with his least ingratiating smile rolling queasily across his chiseled features. "Akka/Dekka, my ancient comrade, do you recall the thrilling days of our shared youth?"

He was met with a flat, clear stare.

Humidor cleared his throat, rallied for a second effort: "Long and profitable has been our partnership, has it not?"

Dekka left to grab a beer from the fridge.

Humidor, nearing desperation with Rig grinning menacingly, "Ah, look. Is it true that I owe you a five dollars as well, Akka/Dekka?"

Akka/Dekka, somewhat distracted upon his return. "Yes. Yes it is."

Humidor: "Is it conceivable to you that I might not have this five in dollars?"

Akka/Dekka: "Yes. Yes it is."

Humidor: "Aha! Then cash sing goddess, O Muse of rhetoric, of wretched posey, and pray help me persuade the most noble and notable Akka/Dekka that by the fortune of fate I do I do I do have five dollars!"

Humidor: "And! Dekka! Don't ya get it man, I can't pay you...unless..."

Rig: "Wait a minute."

Humidor: "Yes! Jury the Rig has seen thru to the core of the crux of the nub of the thrust of my very gist! I propose, Akka/Dekka, to pay you!! And not him! Help me, please! Take my money to you, and protect me, for they are my only and last five of dollars!"

Rig: "This is bullshit."

Akka/Dekka (evenly): "I might have known you'd say that, Jerry."

Rig (aggressive): "Because it's the truth."

Akka/Dekka: "Oh? Is it really the bullshit truth, Jerry?"

Akka/Dekka: "Or is it just the latest coverup? The latest distraction from what's really important?"

Rig: "What are you talking about?"

Akka/Dekka fired an empty beer can at Rig's head. It went wide, clattered to the floor. "Does this look familiar?

Rig picked it up, held it before his face, made a show of inspecting it with all his sciencegeneering acument and equipment.

Rig (dripping sarcasm): "Well, speaking scientifically, I'd have to identify this as an empty beer can. Of course, I shall have to postpone any firm committment until the results come back from the lab, but--"

Akka/Dekka: "That was the last beer, Jerry! Last night, you had the last beer. You took it upon yourself to drink the ultimate beer, the final beer, the beer after which would come no more beers." Nobody heard the door open, close.

Akka/Dekka: "And now, as for the fridge, there are no beers at all. No Pabst. No Hamm's. Not even a single breakfast Oly, and this...this was your doing. A conscious act. An adult decision."

Akka/Dekka: "Jerry, we had a pact. We had a league, we had an alliance. Very simple it was between us, between all four of us. He who takes the last beer, it is he who shall cause to be placed in the refrigerator not less than one sixpack of tallboys and preferably one full half-rack of twelve-ouncers!"

Akka/Dekka: "It is he, Jerry, and he is you and I am that that I am and what I am is a man who has no beer and the fault lies with you, man, with you!"

Rig: "It was four in the morning. There was no more beer to be had, for fu--"

Akka/Dekka: "I have no interest in your excuses, nor your lies. Our alliance lies on the barren earth, rent asunder by your late-night piracy. You have made a sham of our pact and you have made an enemy of me in the process. Humidor?"

Humidor: "El Humidor, yes?"

Akka/Dekka held out his hand to Humidor without taking his steely eyes from the fidgety Rig. "Give me my money. Jerry won't be bothering you any more. You see, Jerry, you're not dealing with El Loseador here any more. You're dealing with me now. And there's nothing in this world you can force me to do."

Akka/Dekka: "Have a nice life, Jerry. You'll never see these five dollars."

Rig: "Then it seems you've left me no choice."

Akka/Dekka: "Perhaps not. Perhaps I've left you as much choice as you've left me beer."

A lengthy pause, a tense standoff.

Rig: "I'm calling Sarah. She'll make you pay me. She can make you both pay me. Then you'll be sorry! You two think you're so strong? Well, when Sarah's on my side then I guess we'll be in charge!"

Akka/Dekka: "But why would she side with you? She could as well side with me, you know. I did her a favor once. Helped her kick out a bad housemate. Kinda...reminds me of somebody. You know?"

Rig: "She'll side with me because I have a job! Because I can help pay bills! What can you do?"

Akka/Dekka: "Well, for starters...I can do this."

Akka/Dekka picked up a tiny armoire, and as it squealed horribly, ripped it to shreds. As the remainder of the ambulatory robots fled for the relative safety of the basement, where nobody ever really goes, Rig used the point of a compass to puncture tires all over the graveyard. As Humidor stuffed a shred of his shirt into a fuming bottle and fumbled with his Zippo, Mudman reentered the house, with a full case of beer.

"Oh...hey, 'Man," muttered Akka. The crisis passed, a silent consensus was reached, to quit the graveyard, and speak no more of five dollars or of robots murdered or bike tires popped. Smackdown! became watched, it was learnt that Mudman had been rehearsing the introduction to his cable access presentation of Galaxy of Terror, and no little time passed.

Somewhere around four, a careful observer would have noted one beer, standing alone in the fridge. Humidor reached into the fridge, and his hand closed 'round the coveted cylinder.

Words by C. Collision, drawings by D.D. Tinzeroes

No. 2 - Poisoned

Jerry Rig and Aecca/Decca lounge in the Super-Hero Shared House living room – Rig absently interacting with one of his Furnimicrobots (the Louis XIV chair, in this case), Decca fishing the last of a few stuffed olives out of a small jar, the newspaper open on his lap, chortling and chuckling occasionally. In the kitchen, Mudman stands slack in front of the open refrigerator, hoping that, if he looks long enough, some long-forgotten can of beer will appear from behind the multitude of condiments or sharpie-labelled fast food paper bags:




"You know," Jerry Rig declares from the other room, "Mudman, in the time you've been standing in front of the fridge, you could have gone to the store, procured a twelver, returned here to the house, and be drinking one of those cans of beer."

Mudman replies, "yeah, you're probably right," and continues to stand in front of the fridge.

Decca laughs again.

Rig extorts "Seriously! Really, now!? Are the obituaries really that funny?!?"

Decca wipes a tear from his eye and begins to respond when the front door is thrown open and El Humidor staggers in, his face ghost-white, his mustache mussed.

"Yeesh," says Rig, "its only 2:00, Humidor!"

El Humidor sways his way into the living room, eyelids fluttering.

"You are SUCH a fucking lightweight! I swear!" says Rig, but is cut short as El Humidor abruptly collapses onto a small dingy sofa.

With grave countenances, El Humidor's three housemates gather about him.

"El Humidor! El Humidor!" cries Aecca/Decca, shaking him by the shoulders.

"Let me try" says Jerry Rig, pushing Decca aside. "Snap out of it, man!" Rig orders, throttling Humidor by the collar.

"No. You're doing it wrong" interjects Mudman, shouldering Rig out of the way. Mudman proceeds to slap the shit out of El Humidor's face.

El Humidor moans. "Just as I thought!" says Rig, "he's been… poisoned!"

"But who would do such a dastardly deed?" queries Decca, clenching his fists.

"Hmm," Rig ponders, "villains with a grudge… against El Humidor…" Rig strikes a thoughtful pose.

The trio stands in concentration.

"I can't think of anyone," Mudman offers, finally tiring of slapping El Humidor silly.

Decca, "nope."

Rig, "me neither."

"Then it must be someone poisoning Rig to get at one, or all, of us!" concludes Aecca Decca, stepping forward and flourishing in a poor attempt at Shakespearean fashion.

"The Pocketeer?" offers Rig.

"Who's that?" Decca retorts.

"The guy who nobody can beat at pool down at the bar," says Rig.

"Oh, god, that asshole? I swear, its like he's not even that good, he just gets lucky every single time at the end of the game. Dick!" rants Aecca Decca.

"How about the Jukeboxer?" posits Rig.

"That chick who can throw a quarter into the jukebox coin slot from across the room? Who fills up the playlist for the entire evening in like 10 seconds? Who plays the same songs over and over over?" asks Aecca.

"The very same!" confirms Rig.

"Hmm. Neither of them seem like the poisoning type," ponders Decca. "Pocketeer's more the bludgeoning type."

"I agree. And Jukeboxer more the ambush-setting tiger-trap type," confers Rig. "But, if not them, then who?"

"The Bureau," says Mudman.

Jerry Rig: "The FBI!?"

Aecca/Decca: "Get out!!"

"No," Mudman says, solemnly, letting Humidor slouch onto the sofa, "Worse. The Water Bureau."

"Gadzooks, man!" exclaims Aecca, slapping his forehead with the palm of his hand. Jerry Rig visibly swoons.

"Oh man, oh man, oh man," Aecca Decca begins to fidget, frantically dart his eyes about the room, "this is big, man, really big. Wayyy outta our league. But jeez, yeah, I mean they're always sending us those threatening letters and spying on us and calling us all the time. The pieces totally fit. And now its time… to pay the piper!!!"

Rig, who's had to sit down, his head in his hands, looks up, "are you crazy!?! Listen to yourself, do you realize WHAT you're saying!?"

An eerie silence falls on the room.

"Yes," Decca mutters, "my friends, I think the time has come… to pay the water bill."

"Guys," says Mudman.

"We’ve been fighting the good fight for a long time," eulogizes Decca, "but let's face it, we were always the underdog: out manned, out gunned, out numbered…"

"Guys!" says Mudman.

"Yeesh, I'm soliloquying here, man!" snaps Decca, "what is it?"

"Look." Mudman holds up an envelope he's pulled from El Humidor's clammy hands. The three gather round to read the ultimatum from their dread nemesis. The envelope's been opened, but lacks addresses of any kind. Mudman opens the flap, and pulls out… fifty dollars and a receipt?

"Where'd Humidor get this kind of dough? He's already sold all but his most valuable and essential possessions," asks Rig.

"Yeah, what's the receipt, say, Mudman!?" inquires Aecca.

Mudman peers at the receipt. Then looks up, looks at Rig, then Aecca, then El Humidor on the dirty sofa, who ceases his moaning, squints through watery eyes, rolls on his side, and vomits violently on the floor.

"He donated blood plasma today."

Words & drawings by D.D. Tinzeroes

No. 1 - Subscription

El Humidor is smoking.

In bed.

At ten in the morning.

With his "fumokinesis," the cigarette smoke drifts and curls into recognizable shapes: a crude, buxom female form, an airship under attack by biplanes, a cowboy fighting a robot. He glances at the clock, butts out the cigarette, and heads downstairs.

At the bottom of the stairwell he glances as Jerry Rig, still asleep on the couch, Cartoon Network droning along on the TV. Rig's miniscule robot furniture gaze back at El Humidor. At least he thinks they're looking back at him, he can never tell. He's always felt that the miniature wardrobe doesn't like him.

Scratching his scalp, El Humidor steps out on the porch, looks around, tries to reenter house. Locked himself out. Shrugs, lights a cigarette and begins to watch Cartoon Network through the front window.

The VCR clock blinks 10:50. Humidor snubs out his cigarette. The clock digitally flips to 11:10, Humidor butts out a out another cigarette, again. Just before noon, Aecca/Decca tiptoes does the stairs (trying not to build up a static charge, he does this by only trying to contact things "point-to-point, no sluffing, shuffling, sliding, or rubbing"), notices Humidor outside the window.

He unlocks the the front door, but blocks El Humidor from re-entry.

"Lock yourself out again?" Aecca/Decca asks.

El Humidor stares blankly at Aecca/Decca.

Aecca/Decca grimaces slightly, "came outside to get the paper, huh?"

El Humidor maintains his expressionless gaze.

"Have we ever gotten the paper?" asks Aecca/Decca, with a tired tone of voice which suggests he's made this speech before.

El Humidor remains unmoved. The two of them stand in the doorway in silence for what seems an eternity. Finally, El Humidor speaks.

"Can I go in now?"

El Humidor passes by Aecca/Decca, and plops down into an easy chair, stares dumbly for a few seconds at what's on the teevee, then looks at Jerry Rig, then back at the teevee, the back at Rig, and excitedly asks, "ooh, ooh, is Pokemon on? I LOVE that show! With the Ash and the Pikachu and the Squirtle and the 'gotta catch 'em all!' and the Brock and the Team Rocket!"

Rig's eyes loll lazily in Humidor's direction, then back to the teevee, "no. Pokemon is on around 8 in the morning. This is twelve-thirty in the afternoon."

"Hmm," ponders El Humidor, getting out another cigarette, rolling it between his thumb and index finger ruefully, "not even on the Pokemon channel?"

"There is no Pokemon channel," replies Rig.

"Are you one hundred percent certain?" asks Humidor, a wry smirk on his face.

"About one hundred percent certain you're about to find out what's on the me-kicking-your ass channel!" says Aecca/Decca as he walks into the living room, a mug of Yuban coffee in one hand, two in the other. He holds the duo out into the space roughly between Rig and Humidor. Both sit up to reach out and grab a cup.

El Humidor leans back into his chair, slides his cigarette behind his ear, and blows on his coffee to cool it, "I believe that channel went off the air, for two reasons," raises a finger into the air, "one, low ratings," raises a second finger, "two, it did not exist."

"Low ratings, huh? So tell me, was it a bigger ratings flop than El Humidor trying to hit on the bartender down at the tavern last night?" Aecca grins largely. Jerry Rig chortles.

El Humidor take a big gulp of coffee, set his mug down, pulls his cigarette back out from behind his ear, "Allow me to reply to that comment in two parts: First..."

Aecca/Decca cuts in, snickering "...I mean, we're talking the live action Thunderbirds movie bad here."

Rig becomes alarmed, "Hey hey hey, now! Let's not say things we can't take back!"

"Yes-yes, alright," El Humidor continues, ignoring Aecca/Decca's cheap shots, "first of all, El Humidor will be the first to admit that sometimes he ties one too many on, and that his usually rayzor sharrrp wit will become a wee bit dull, much like an axe that has been chopping for much too long at a stand of bamboo. It becomes chipped and blunt. Very very blunt. And the bamboo? She is tough. She is resilient. But she is tall. And thin. And her bark is so very very smooth, yes. So smooth. But El Humidor? He is blunt. And so his wit, usually so sharp, has become clouded. Clouded as if it had been dipped in a sauce. Some sort of a.. beer sauce. Yes. What can El Humidor say? I did not bring my "A" game to the field that night, eh? Secondly..."

"Um," says Jerry Rig, on his way to the kitchen, follwed by his brood of miniature robotic furniture. "I really don't think its healthy for you to mix your metaphors like that."

Without missing a beat, El Humidor continues on, "... El Humidor would like to offer his sincerest apologies and regrets for getting himself and hees compatriots eighty-sixed from the local public house. But for as long as El Humidor breathes life, he swears he shall seek the redressing of these injustice. It is the way of my people... to seek redress for injustices, and to breathe life. Not to get eighty-sixed."

"Are you done, now?" asks Aecca/Decca, nodding good morning to Mudman, who has emerged from his basement abode. Mudman yawns, nods back, stands by the teevee, staring at the screen, absently scratching his ass.

"Well," replies El Humidor, "at least I try to talk to the women. El Humidor's recollection is that our friend Aecca/Decca over here spent the evening swilling his own body weight in beer and asking Mudman to pull his finger. Repeatedly. Before falling off his barstool."

"Heh. Aecca/Decca fall down," chuckles Mudman, recollecting the night before.

Aecca/Decca stews quietly, staring at the television. Mudman goes in the bathroom and closes the door. Jerry Rig emerges from the kitchen, a freshly micro-waved Hot Pocket clutched in each fist.

"Hey, Humey," he says, between mouthfuls of melted cheesefood and processed ham, "you seen today's paper? Its not on the porch."

From the bathroom, the toilet is heard to flush.

El Humidor concurs, " Yes. El Humidor is aware of that. Tell me about it!"

Aecca/Decca becomes nervous after noticing El Humidor walking on the rug with wool socks on, and hurriedly makes his way goes to the kitchen, as the toilet is again heard to flush.

"Well, you see," Rig explains, " I woke up. And I went outside to see if the paper was here yet." Pauses to wolf-down half of his hot pocket in a manner that makes El Humidor's face contort in shock and disgust. "So I'm outside, and I look around. And its not there. Not on the porch, not on the walk, and not in the yard. Its. Just. Not. There." Rig pauses for dramatic effect, then starts in on his second Hot Pocket.

Mudman emerges from the bathroom, pauses, turns, and closes the door behind him.

"That's not what El Humidor meant," says El Humidor, "not at all."

"Oh," says Jerry Rig, finishing the last bite of his Hot Pocket, "So... Do you have the paper?"

Mudman says, "we don't have a subscription."

Rig and Humidor: "huh?"

Mudman, "to the newspaper."

In unison, again, "what?"

"A subscription. We don't have a subscription to the newspaper."

El Humidor exclaims, "oh, well that explains that, then."

Rig: "scientifically, yes."

Mudman notes, dryly, "another mystery solved, huh, guys?"

High-fives are distributed mightily betwixt the three, followed by each striking various "finishing move" poses of their own design.

Words by C. Collision & D.D. Tinzeroes, drawings by D.D. Tinzeroes