Friday, October 21, 2011

Bathroom Monologue: Possible Origins for Him. 18.

I’m not myself. People say that and mean they’re in a mood. I’m a person and I mean it when I say it. All hosed down and medicated like this? I’m suffocating in simulated normalcy. The haircut and restraints amount to a costume. Feels a little liberating to not be me. I sold them, you know.

Not me’s, silly. I sold costumes. There’s something about costumes, isn’t there? Store-bought or homespun. Face paint or a plastic expression with an elastic band that slips over the ears. A bikini made from leaves. Green long-johns punctuated with question marks. Straw bursting out of seams and sleeves to form a scarecrow in dire need of a Dorothy. Little Draculas and King Arthurs wearing the same brand of tumble-dry-only cape.

I sold him his first cape, you know.

I thought he was there for someone else. He was too big, too broad-shouldered, too bitter in the eyes as he stalked along the racks. Surely he was a bodyguard, there to pick out a costume for some trust fund brat. Or – he was a little old. Maybe he’d ducked out between hostile takeovers to shop for his kids. Despite our military contracts, we did sell to a lot of private sector jackasses. Rich people buy weird things for their kids, especially in October.

He wanted a weird thing in a non-child size. And had to be fireproof.

“Well sir,” I told him. “This is bulletproof.”

A joke. No laughter. No one laughed at my jokes; my cousins said I lacked execution. I looked into his face and he refused to reflect the smirk. He pulled the cape over his tailored elbow. He pulled the material so taut, like he wanted it to fight him. I never even thought of dressing up in my own stuff before he did that. Only went down into the basement, sometimes with a call-girl, for a weekend or two, and...

I took him to the rear chamber and showed off our laser. Such resilient material requires very specialized tools to cut, mend and process. His eyes reflected the beam. His checkbook was out before I powered down the device.

“No sir,” I told him. “The device isn’t for sale. It’s unique.”

But the check wasn’t for the machine. He wanted everything.

“No sir,” I told him. “The store certainly isn’t for sale. And a check couldn’t cover it if it was.”

A joke. No laughter. His check wasn’t for the store. It was for my tip. He had other people, broad-shouldered and bitter in the eyes, to buy companies for him.

I went out to lunch and fantasized over this check. Was this a gag? How badly it would go if something this large bounced in my account? I laid it out on the formica table while eight-year-old wizards emptied fast food pales in preparation for trick-or-treating. How funny it’d be if I signed the check over and slipped it in a goody bag.

Do you know how much can be accomplished in a lunch hour? Apparently a company can be seized, and an entire floor of a building can be emptied. I didn’t even see the moving trucks, though those do blend into cityscapes.

There were no racks left. No cables. No bolts of bendable titanium mesh fabric. I still fantasize over how they got a two-and-a-half-ton laser through a six-by-three-foot door. None of the people who helped me move it in there are still alive. Most of them are in my basement.

I squatted for a while in a rectangle of immaculate linoleum where a shelf had once laid. They took my shelves, too. I admired just how filthy the floor outside my shelf-sheltered rectangle had gotten. It all looks so clean until they take your storefront away.

They left the filth. A box of pens. The purple garbage can. A few jars of flame-retardant face paint, ones I had open for demonstrations. Picking up a jar, I remembered him pulling that fabric across his elbow. A grown man imagining a costume into military-grade materials, and doing so outside of his home. I felt him pulling it taut while I drew two fingers over my cheeks.

Halloween and a check of that size. You can really do whatever you want. You can disregard the warning label and slather yourself in chemical whiteness. You can go home, go to the basement, and put on that tacky bulletproof tuxedo you’ve been working on, and the squirting flower that melts metal, and all that stuff – and you can keep it on when you come back upstairs. Dressed like you want to be, you can go door to door, a magnum in one hand and a pumpkin pail in the other. You might feel too nervous to take your subterranean act abroad, but it’ll pass. It’ll pass when you recognize his cape on the evening news. Then it all bleeds into a long Halloween.


  1. Another great take on him. Never pictured him as a military supply contractor.

    There are a couple of uses of the word "pale" instead of "pail". Typo, or reference to his skin?

  2. This is fabulous. I love that he hadn't had the courage to dress up like he wanted to until that jerk stole his store. Guess he never role-played in college, he would've done it a long time ago.

  3. I want to know how many zeros were on the check, and how you knew I'd made a bikini out of leaves.

  4. Ha, wow. They really did make each other who they were, didn't they?

  5. Hmm, I liked the voice in this one. I have the feeling I've stumbled into something already mid-flow from the look of the comments.

    Think I'll delve around for more of these...

  6. Since I seem to be short of praise today, consider this huge. I really liked this piece. I don't know enough about the batman series to know who this is, but I don't care because I like the voice and I want him to get his revenge. Also, some of the lines you had, like, "It all looks so clean until they take your storefront away."

    This is for sure a finalist in my little best Friday Flash of the month deal!


  7. I think I must be you..what does that mean??

  8. If the cheque is large enough, everything is for sale, the dust is thrown in for free.

  9. Yay for halloween themed origins. I like how this one solidly places the blame on the caped crusader. I don't quite trust him, and I like that.

  10. I love the cycle of hate here, how the bat makes it financially possible for the joker, even though he poorly executed his gags at first (that part made me smile). As Tony noted, this is another plausible take on the origins of him.

  11. Another great -- and I think plausible -- entry in the canon.

  12. I loved how this takes us to the time when he decided to dress up like he wanted to - a new him was born!

    I loved your reading of it - you should do more of these!

  13. Great continuation of this story...Like others, enjoyed the twist that Batman helped the Joker find his look!

  14. I really don't want to sound like I'm repeating myself but yet another fantastic take on the myth and I'm sorely tempted to start campaigning to have to write for DC.

  15. Brilliant as always, John.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  16. Fantastic, and I loved listening to it instead of reading it after a long day in front of two different computers. First time I've taken advantage of this feature on your blog, the occasional recorded story, and I'm sure it won't be the last. Thanks for reading it to us! Very original take on the Joker's story, it progresses so nicely.

  17. LOL Never pictured the joker as a military supply contractor before, but I like how the bat creates the joker.

    also: fast food pales?


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