No. 8 - Field Tactics for Urban Recluses

THURSDAY, Mid-Afternoon.

The shared house's living room is relatively clutter-free. Mudman watches on as a cloud of cigarette smoke bends and dances to El Humidor's fumokinesis - a rather impressive fully animate model of the solar system. Aecca/Decca slouches in a chair, half-listening to someone on the phone and half-watching Jerry Rig count through and organize a pile of one, five, and ten dollar bills.

"Hey, yeah, still here" says Aecca to the phone, pauses," yeah? Awesome! Okay. See you then!" He hangs up. The other three housemates glance at him.

Decca slaps his hands together, then spreads them out palms up, "we have a keg tap."

"Excellent," says Rig, patting the sides of the pile of cash into a neat rectangle, "with the money we save from not having to rent a tap, we can totally afford two kegs!"

"Two kegs?" monotones Mudman.

"Up front?" says El Humidor, his solar system spinning away into puffs of dissipating smoke. "I know not if like this idea..."

"Yeah, Jer," agrees Aecca, absently toying with phone cord, "I mean, I think the party'll be a success what with the flyers and all, but we might as well just wait til the first keg kicks and do a collection to get a second, then we're not out the cash up front. 'Sides, Humidor's good at buggin' people for money."

"My life's truest calling," confesses El Humidor with a slight nod.

"Okay, okay, fine," says Jerry Rig, then snaps his fingers three times. From beneath sofas and behind tv-stands his brood of miniature robotic furniture scramble across the room to him. El Humidor appears visibly terrified, and assumes a decidedly guarded posture. A three-inch tall Louis XIV chair jumps up and down at Rig's left foot. Not even looking, Rig lowers his left arm to a few inches above the floor, and the little chair scurries up his sweatshirt sleeve to his shoulder, where it perches.

Rig pulls the coffee table closer and begins setting his animate doll furniture atop it, "but first, I would you hear me out," he sets down the largest of the 'bots, a six inch tall wardrobe, "for I have a plan!"

El Humidor scoots his chair back a few inches, "does this plan involve the destruction of these unholy furniture familiars?"

"For zillioneth time, Humidor," sighs Rig, "they certainly can't hurt you! They aren't out to get you! They do not steal your cigarettes, lighters, or spare change! They do not spy on you in your sleep!"

"I do not like the way they look at me," states El Humidor, "their eyes are filled with devious contempt for me."

"Ugh," Jerry Rig runs his hands across his face in exasperation, "to the extent that the furnimicrobots have 'eyes,' they certainly can't be filled with 'devious contempt.' Seriously, what does that even mean?!"

"Get on with it," says Mudman.

"Huh? What?" says Rig, somewhat shrilly. His seemingly never ending defense of the innocence of his tiny furniture automatons has gotten him somewhat worked up.

"Your plan," explains Mudman, "get on with it."

"Oh, right," Jerry Rig arranges himself, claps his hands twice, "Furnimicrobots! Command Pattern: Pongo-Alpha-Redneck-Tiberius-Yankee!!" The robotic furniture freeze for a split second, then appear to scurry chaotically, quickly followed by the clear taking up of predefined positions. At one side sits the little five inch long sofa. At the other sits the wardrobe, the Louis XIV chair, a 3½" x 3½"

kitchen table, and a high-backed upholstered sitting chair.

"For the purposes of this demonstration," explains Rig, "let us say that," his hand dart about the clutter of the coffee table, "this lighter, and this pack of matches are our two kegs of beer," holds them up for illustration. "Now, before the party, possibly tomorrow, El Humidor and Aecca/Decca will take the Battle Wagon to the bar to get..."

"Battle Wagon?" says Aecca.

"We have a wagon?" asks Humidor.

"For battling?" further postulates Mudman.

Jerry Rig sighs, "El Humidor's van."

"Oh, the Valiant, you mean," says El Humidor.

"The what-now?" asks Aecca.

"The Valiant," repeats El Humidor, "my van."

"You call your van the Valiant?" Aecca says.

"And a fine ship she be," beams Humidor, "I won her in a game of cards."

"But you suck at poker," says Mudman.

"It was a game of Magic," explains Humidor.

"You don't know how to play Magic," says Mudman

"Sometimes, in a the best of knowings all," says El Humidor with a philosophical flourish.

"That. That really doesn't make any sense," says a bewildered Mudman.

El Humidor brings his hands together at the fingertips, "and yet I am the one with a van."

"Okay, guys! Fine! El Humidor and Aecca/Decca will take the Valiant," pauses, glances at El Humidor, who nods approvingly, "to the bar to get the keg." The Louis XIV and the high back walk over to the sofa, and the three pieces move to the far edge of the table, where Rig positions the lighter and the pack of matches on the sofa.

"Which of us is the fancy chair?" asks Aecca/Decca.

"It doesn't matter," replies Rig, struggling to get the lighter to stay on the little sofa.

"They are both sort of fancy..." opines Mudman.

"I mean that one," says Aecca, leaning out of his seat and pointing the Louis XIV.

"It really doesn't matter, got it!" Rig wedges the lighter and the matchbook on to the sofa securely.

"Its Humidor, isn't it?" Aecca says accusingly, with a little hurt in his voice.

"Damn straight it is," says El Humidor smugly, momentarily forgetting his disgust of the miniature animatronic furnishings.

"Yeah, it is, Aecca, okay?!" Rig snaps with a hiss, "because Humidor's good at wooing people from their money, like you said yourself! And Louis XIV chairs are good at wooing people from their money, in their own way!! Is that alright!?"

Aecca leans back in his seat, crosses his arms, sulks, "yes."

"Okay," continues Rig, composing himself, "so, we have two kegs in the van, and we come back to the house," the sofa and two chairs click and clack their way back to the sofa's starting point. "And this here, this is the crucial part, okay? We take a keg and bring it in the house, put it on ice, tap it, everything," Rig takes the pack of matches, lays it suspended between the highback and the Louis XIV. With surprising agility, the two chairs then carry the matches over to the table and the warbdrobe, then walk away from eachother, dropping the matchbook between them. The four little robots then arrange themselves in a semicircle around it. Seated in a semicircle around the coffee table, watching the semicircle of Lilliputian robotic furniture set around a matchbook, the four housemates sit in silence.

"Then what?" asks Mudman.

"Oh," says Rig, snapping to, "we leave the second keg in the van."

"The Valiant," says El Humidor.

"We leave the second keg in the Valiant," says Rig.

Aecca/Decca's face is creased in illumination, "so..."

"We bring the first keg in, and let the party at it," as Jerry Rig speaks, the robots do a sort of stilted approximation of drunken mingling, as understood by robotic furniture. El Humidor's white-knuckled left hand clutches and claws at the arm of his chair. "When that first keg kicks," continues Rig, "we'll have Humidor go about and do his money-collecting thing," the little Louis XIV proceeds to walk in a tight circle like a bug with all its left legs pulled off. El Humidor's life appears to be flashing before his eyes.

"Then, when the money's collected," Jerry Rig's voice rising, as he works to his conclusion, "Humidor and Aecca get back in the van," the pair of chairs clatter back to the diminutive sofa, "go and just drive around for 10-15 minutes," the three pieces of furniture move around their side of the coffee table in a tiny procession. "Then, they come back and just unload the keg that's been in the back of the van," Rig transfers the lighter to the two chairs as he did with the matchbook earlier, "I mean, the Valiant, the whole time! And no one's the wiser!" The two chairs carry the lighter back to the other furniture and drop it, stop moving.

The living room in silent. Rig looks to and from the other housemates with an expectant look on his face. The other three sit with thoughtful looks on their faces. The demonstration programming apparently complete, Jerry Rig's miniscule furniture go back to their apparently-aimless wanderings.

Aecca breaks the reverie, "so... by pretending to not already have the second keg, we essentially guarantee that we'll raise the money for the second keg...."

"Exactly!" says Rig, "see, if we just had both kegs sitting out the whole time, there's no way we'd raise enough in donations to cover the total expense! People will donate towards a keg based on two things: an initial gesture of thanks to the keg providers, and blind, brutal necessity!"

"And if there's two kegs, people will only make that first kind of donation, once," says Aecca, nodding his head in understanding.

"And if they think there isn't a second keg, they're much more likely to make a second donation!" says El Humidor, relaxed now that the little chairs and such have moved along.

"And when the second keg arrives..." says Rig.

"... it will be welcomed as if a victorious conquerer," concludes Mudman.

"Good plan, Jer," says Aecca.

"Yeah. Good plan,' agrees Mudman.

"I concur," says El Humidor, "and I must say, the outlook of this party continues to improve!"

"Then the plan is approved?" asks Aecca.

"Did you cut your hair?" asks Mudman, gesturing at Aecca's scalp.

"Huh?" Aecca touches his palm to the top of his head, "oh, yeah. Since it always sticks up I figured I'd just cut it short. Took the scissors to it last night."

"Looks good on you," says Mudman.

"Uh, thanks," says Aecca, blushing slightly, "so, right, all in favor of Rig's plan? Say aye," then followed by the reply, from all four housemates, in unison.

Words & drawings by D.D. Tinzeroes