Peddle Paddlewink stood before me with his smug, bespectacled, roguish face while his three daughters busied themselves with stealing baked goods at the end of the aisle. Paddlewink was the most notorious criminal mastermind of the Island Nation of Zoic. If he wasn't blowing things up just for the hell of it, then he was releasing wild animals from the local zoo just for the hell of it—all in the name of his evil organization the Mashed Pudding Syndicate, whose sole initiative was to do things just for the hell of it.
We were at a supermarket and he was buying more eggs than anyone could possibly eat in a year. They filled his shopping cart to the brim, some overflowed and spilled out onto the floor.
“Why hello, Chip,” he said.
He had recently escaped jail and was wearing a fake, drawn on mole that could only have fooled the most foolhearted of the Zoicterranean Police—which was all of them. It fooled all of them.
“I've got an idea, Chip,” he said.
“What's that?” I asked, fully prepared for him to jump me.
“I'm turning over a new leaf,” he said, eyes brazen with conceit.
“What's that?” I asked.
“I'm going to be honest. I'm going to do something new. The wife, she’s told me that I should try something good for a change. That I shouldn’t just go and do things just for the hell of it. She said to me—she said, ‘You shouldn’t just go and do things just for the hell of it.’”
Recently, Paddlewink had gotten married and had stayed out of the limelight, trying to get used to balancing being a husband and running an evil organization. It seemed like troublesome work.
“Turning over a new leaf,” he repeated.
“And that’s why you’re buying all those eggs?” I asked.
Paddlewink winked at me and he paddled off, using his large legs to propel him and his large cart back towards his devious little trifecta of trouble-making daughters. “Look to the papers, boy!” he called back to me. “For you’ll see more than just mashed pudding, you’ll see the dawn of a new age! What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”
“Who’s the gander?” I asked.
“Why, all of you!” and he winked sinisterly and was on his way.
And I was gone, leaving my toiletries behind. Anyone who got themselves mixed up with the Mashed Pudding Syndicate surely got themselves into a whole slew of trouble. On my way, rushing down the road, I bumped right into her—the wonderful actress Winifred B. Baines; Peddle Paddlewink’s new wife.
“Oh, Chip!” she said, looking down at me. I had fallen to the ground pretty hard due to our collision.
She helped me up.
“Hello, Winnie,” I said.
“Why are you in a hurry?” she asked. She was wearing a large, red trench coat and carrying a large, red duffel bag.
“I just ran into—” I paused, thinking it probably best not to tell her who I had run into. She wasn't fond of her husband condoning his daughter's shoplifting.
“You know, Chip,” she said to me. “I’ve been thinking. You know my husband, don’t you?”
“Uh—” I began, which said everything.
“Well, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been too rough on him lately. I think I’m going to turn over a new leaf.”
“Oh,” I said, thinking that her husband had just said something quite along those lines. “No. I can’t say that’s a good idea,” I cautioned her. “Maybe you should continue your ways. Keep telling him all that terrorizing is wrong.”
“No, I think he should continue his ways. It’s what makes him tick. It’s what makes him happy.”
“But think of all the people who’d be happy if he was unhappy.”
“I’ve got to change.”
“Into new clothes?”
“No. Into someone who can understand him and his ways. I’ve got to give it a go myself.”
“I’d advice against that.”
She smiled at me, but she didn’t listen. She trudged off with her large trench coat and large duffel bag with a large smile on her large face.
I hid myself away and thought an awful lot about Winnie and Peddle. Most thoughts turned into daydreams; and daydreams, they followed into the night and became nightmares; nightmares, which always ended with me meeting my end. I didn’t get much sleep for the next few days. So when I woke up from these hazy nightmares, I felt it best to go out into the world and stop hiding and just have a nice cup of coffee.
Cool Catz Coffee Club—Or C4, as it is more commonly called—was right down the street from where I lived and they had one of those terribly good cups of coffee that hit you right in the right places to kick your senses into hyper-drive—and I needed my senses back to their tip-top shape. So I went in expecting to have a good morning. But what I found was anything but that.
“Give me everything you have!” a tough, feminine voice yelled at the man behind the counter who looked anything but tough. He had his hands in the air and was holding a cup of coffee, which was leaking on his head.
“Please, don’t hurt me!” he pleaded.
I was about to high-tail it out of there when the robber turned to me and said:
“Where do you think you’re going, Chip!”
The voice sounded so familiar. But she didn’t look familiar at all. She was all in red. Red shoes. Red corduroy pants. Red sweater. Red cap. Red mask. And a red ball cap that rested on red hair. She spoke to me out of a mouth that had red lipstick smeared all over it. She was holding a red fishing pole that was apparently intended to be used as some sort of weapon.
“Who…?” I asked.
“The name’s the Red Herring. I’m the cities new Super-Villain.” And she winked at me. “I’ve come to rob this joint.”
“Oh,” I said. A little lost as to why I got winked at.
“Oh,” the barista said. “If that’s all.” He placed the coffee down and opened up the register. “Do you have a bag I can put this all in?” he asked.
The Red Herring handed the barista a large, red duffel bag. And that was when it clicked.
“Winnie?” I asked.
The Red Herring turned to me and put her finger to her lips and winked.
“I’m getting closer to my husband,” she said softly.
“Oh,” I said.
“Now put it all in the bag!” she yelled at the barista.
“I know. I know. It’s not like I haven’t been robbed before,” the barista said.
“And all of you!” the Red Herring boomed. “All you looking at me in terror.” She looked around at the two other people in the coffee shop who were sitting at the counter sipping their coffees and watching in wonder (they didn’t look the slightest bit scared). “Keep being scared! Because I’m bad! I’m the Red Herring, not the Red Kipper! And I’m here to scare you!”
It wasn’t an all too believable speech. Winnie was a wonderful actress, but only when others wrote her lines. She just didn't come off as a real super-villain. But there was one person who did believe she was authentic.
“Not so fast!” I heard someone from behind me say. I turned and saw that during the Red Herring’s concise speech someone, along with three shorter someones, had entered the shop. This first someone was just as goofily dressed as the Red Herring.
“Who are you?” the Red Herring asked.
“I’m the Golden Goose!”
The Golden Goose was dressed in a white one-piece that looked like it was once a down-blanket that had been turned inside-out. He had a white mask on and had painted the lower half of his face orange so it could look like the bill of a goose. Behind him were three short girls dressed nearly identical to the Golden Goose, except they were all in yellow.
“What makes you Golden, Goose?” The Red Herring asked. “You’re pale as a—”
“Pale as a feather!” he said. And the Golden Goose pulled out of a satchel that was strapped to his side a golden egg. “This!” he said, flinging the egg at the Red Herring.
The egg struck the barista in the head, instantly knocking him unconscious.
“Crap,” the Golden Goose said. “I’ve got to work on the aim.”
“Thanks,” the Red Herring said. “You helped me out, bub.”
“My eggs are golden,” he said. “That’s what makes me the Golden Goose.”
“Did you lay those eggs yourself, goose?”
“No. I’m a male goose.”
“You’re a male goose? Isn’t that a gander?”
“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!” the Golden Goose boomed. His three little companions popped little kazoos in their mouths and began kazooing. This must have been his theme song; it lacked rhythm.
“Is that your catch phrase?” the Red Herring asked, unimpressed.
“Well—Okay, girls, you can stop the kazoo-ing!—Well yes. I know it needs to be worked on. I haven't gotten the melody down, yet.”
That was when the Golden Goose turned to me. He smiled and winked; his small, drawn-on-mole disappearing into the black hole of a dimple.
“Very nice meeting you,” the Red Herring said, donning the satchel. “But I must be going. I’m sure I’ll be seeing more of you,” she said. And she whacked the Golden Goose with her red fishing pole, dashed passed the three geese, and bolted out the door.
The Golden Goose picked himself up, dusted himself off and then dashed off in hot pursuit with his three little companions flapping after him.
“What was all that about?” the barista asked, regaining consciousness. His ears were pried open and ready to listen to anything I said.
“That,” I said. “That was a family affair.”
“Really?” he asked, still listening.
He handed me a cup of Joe.
“Yeah.” I said. “You know what?”
“Thanks for listening.”