David Perlmutter - Red Rover
David Perlmutter is a freelance writer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. The holder of an MA degree from the Universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg, and a lifelong animation fan, he has published short fiction in a variety of genres for various magazines and anthologies, as well as essays on his favorite topics for similar publishers. He is the author of America Toons In: A History of Television Animation (McFarland and Co.), The Singular Adventures Of Jefferson Ball (Chupa Cabra House), The Pups (Booklocker.com), Certain Private Conversations and Other Stories (Aurora Publishing), Orthicon; or, the History of a Bad Idea (Linkville Press, forthcoming) and Nothing About Us Without Us: The Adventures of the Cartoon Republican Army (Dreaming Big Productions, forthcoming.)
Red Rover by David Perlmutter
As the sun rose, Jack and Madge stirred in their beds and soon arose. It was time, as Madge had promised Jack, to give him the lay of Winnipeg’s land. Jack would need it, since, as an American, his knowledge of Canadian culture and customs was, as he would have been the first to admit then, slim to non-existent.
The main thing as Jack saw it, though, was learning how to adjust to living in a much larger community than he had been used to, since Winnipeg was considerably larger than either Grand Forks or Fargo. He was afraid, of course, at first, but after Madge introduced him to her friends as her newly acquired “ward”, as well as pointing out the areas in the city where it was best that he not venture, at least not without the company of Red Rover, he became confident of his new place in life. By afternoon, he was coming around to the idea that perhaps Canada was not so bad a place to live, as it had most of the amenities of the United States as well as some more beneficial elements of its own.
But there were still some elements of this new society that bewildered him, as Madge discovered when she caught him looking with horror at a Coke machine, shaking, with an American $1 bill in his paw.
“Where’s the slot?” he said with fear as he grabbed her shirt, shirking away from the machine as it were satanic evil incarnate.
“What slot are you talking about?” she asked, not comprehending what he meant.
“They always had slots for our dollar bills in the machines in America. You would just push it in and the soda comes out. But there’s no slot! No way at all that I can see to get the money in there! How can I get a drink now?”
“I knew this would happen,” said Madge, gently pushing him away from the machine. As she suspected she would have to, it was now time to introduce him to one of the biggest differences between Canada and America- the difference between the forms of money that they used.
She reached into her pocket, opened up her wallet, and retrieved two small, round coins, one made entirely of solid gold, the other with a silver outline surrounding a smaller gold piece that formed the interior of the coin. The gold coin had a picture of a loon on it, while the silver/gold one had a polar bear on its front. On the back of both was a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, the long deposed human former head of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a political entity no longer existence in this new and strange world.
“I figured you’d get confused by the cash,” Madge said. “We have enough trouble with it ourselves. But since you Yankees still have that paper money stuff, it must seem even more confusing to you to see us paying for everything with coins, since all of your coins aren’t worth very much! We still have the bills above $5, but we junked the $1 and $2 bills a long time ago, back when the humans were still around. They thought it would make life easier for everyone, and it does since we don’t have to be weighed down by so much paper anymore, but we still get weighed down by all of these silly coins sometimes! You see this one?” she added, pointing to the gold one. “That one we call the ‘Loonie’. Stupid name, huh? Well, the humans came up with that, so go figure. And this one…” pointing to the silver/gold one “…is called the ‘Toonie’. Another bad name. Well, we haven’t come up with anything better…yet. So that’s what they’re called and what they mean. Any questions?”
“No,” he answered, comprehending fully her little lecture. “I got it all.”.
“And for this machine, there’s a little disk on the side over here.” Madge added, putting a ‘Toonie’ on a small but noticeable rim of steel and plastic that was located on the upper right side of the machine. “You probably didn’t notice it ‘cause it’s not where you usually see it on your machines. That’s the way they fool the tourists!”
Both of them laughed. It was another way in which Madge was showing her devotion to taking care of Jack. He would soon be able to do so for her, but not exactly in the way he had hoped and planned for.
It wasn’t long after that particular incident that Jack was able to show his mettle to Madge as a superhero sidekick. And she would need one.
The event that triggered this need for a display of superhero and sidekick activity was a convenience store holdup. On the surface, it was a convenience store holdup like all convenience store holdups, but unlike most of these acts of urban blight, the felons this time would be punished. Also, the felons were not of the ordinary kind, or at least what now passed for “ordinary” here.
One of the felons, an animated cartoon character, emerged nervously as bullets began flying inside the building. He was in the physical form of a spider monkey, and, based on the expensive and heavily tailored suit of clothes he was wearing, he was obviously a member of the Hammond Weed, since only they could afford garments and accessories of that kind. The spider monkey came out of the store, fear clearly in his eyes despite his small but menacing physical presence, a bag of comestibles over one hairy paw and a .38 gun clutched in another, waiting for his associate to finally finish the terrible actions he was now performing within the store’s interior. Beads of perspiration formed and fell down the spider monkey’s face onto the collar of the white shirt he had selected to accompany his black suit. His companion, a dwarfish looking elephant, emerged soon after, with smoke still emerging out of the barrel of his small pistol and powder burns evident on the breast pocket of his own yellow colored garments. The monkey took one look at the smoke and began chattering excitedly, for this was an interruption that the two career criminals did not need nor require for their itinerary of the city, and had occurred only because of the elephant’s lack of patience and caution, or at least the spider monkey seemed to think.
“What the hell?” he finally said, with some violence. “You shot him!”
“He gypped me!” snapped the elephant, in a deceptively mild mannered East Indian accent. “Can you believe that they call this a dollar? This is not a dollar bill!” He displayed the gold coin he had received as a form of payment. Upon seeing this, the spider monkey raised an arm up and smacked his associate hard across the face, so hard that the slap was heard across the neighborhood and a deep impression of the spider monkey’s hand made a prominent impression on the elephant’s face.
“You IDIOT!” he screamed. “That’s what them Canadians use for $1! They don’t use bills for their chump change no more! Didn’t you know that?”
“Excuse me for not knowing anything and everything about Canada, unlike you!” the elephant replied. “I cannot POSSIBLY, as a dumb animal, possess the lively wit and intelligence of a semi-human being such as yourself!”
“Watch it with that “semi-human” crap, buddy!” the spider monkey answered. “We don’t particularly care for those knocks at our intellectual ancestors!”
“Why do you think I said it?”
“Watch what you say, Packy!”
“DO NOT CALL ME THAT!”
“Ha! Now you know what it feels like!”
“You are IMPOSSIBLE to work with! Do you know that?”
“Am I? Or are you?”
This argument continued with increasing vitriol in that convenience store parking lot, as the felons forgot their status- and the loud alarm the proprietor had rung to alert the police- and stood there out in the open, just waiting, begging to be arrested. But it wouldn’t be the police who nicked them.
For who should have been walking past on the opposite block but Jack and Madge. Jack, who was scared of loud noises, immediately ducked behind his friend, but Madge’s heroic instincts had kicked in, and she knew they had to intervene.
“It’s time!” she told Jack. “Don’t be worried. Just hold on to me and you’ll be fine.”
She shifted the top of her ring, and Red Rover emerged after a cloud of smoke disappeared. With a long stride, and holding onto Jack’s paw as she did, she jumped across the street and confronted the two hoods, who now ended their fight with each other and went for their guns.
“Mind telling me exactly what you’re doing?” demanded the Rover.
“This ain’t none of your business, lady!” said the spider monkey.
“Oh, I think it is!” said the hero. “I’m Red Rover, and everything that happens in this town is my business! Especially if it’s of an illegal variety!”
“Why is it you are calling yourself Red Rover?” said the elephant. “Your suit seems much more of a maroon color. And as for your pelt…”
“I didn’t choose the name, okay?” answered Red Rover. “Just get out of here before I get tough!”
“What does your “getting tough” actually involve?” the spider monkey demanded.
“How about THIS!”
Breaking her grip on Jack, who continued looking on, Red Rover bopped the spider monkey in the chest with a powerful fist. She was about to do it again when a shot rang out. The elephant, having fired that shot and then another into the air, had moved around the combatants and instructed Jack to put his paws up by gesturing with his gun. The situation had now become one involving a hostage.
“Step forward,” the elephant ordered Red Rover, “..and you will find a bullet inserted into the corporeal cavity of your friend here!”
“Please!” said Jack. “Do what he says, Rover!”
This allowed the spider monkey to cover Rover from his vantage point, leaving her at a stalemate.
“Yeah!” he said, mimicking Jack. “You better do what he says!”
Red Rover had never been in this situation, never having had to take into consideration the life of another as well as her own in the discharging of her super heroic duties. But she was hardly stupid, and she knew exactly what to do. Besides, what could their bullets do to her- kill her? She was invincible.
“I’m not doing what you say, you dirty little scumbags!” she said. “You can’t order me around like that!”
“Rover!” Jack said fearfully as the elephant tightened his grip around him. “What are you doing?”
“Play along with me, pal!” she whispered to him. “I got a plan!” Then she winked, and he responded likewise.
“What you talkin’ ‘bout, Dog?” demanded the spider monkey. “You want to possibly SHARE it?”
“Only if you tell us about who you are!” said the Rover.
“All you need to know is that we’re with the Hammond Weed, and we’re gonna bust down your town tomorrow night!” replied the spider monkey. “And you won’t stop us ‘cause we’re gonna take you out right now!”
“I knew you guys would get here sooner or later. But we’re ready for you.” answered the Rover. “Right, Jack?”
“We are?” said her friend.
“Sure,” Red Rover answered, nudging him. “How ‘bout that ‘toon killing machine we got stashed up on Portage Avenue?”
This made the two hoods stagger in their shoes. Obviously, Winnipeg was better prepared to resist the Hammond Weed than had been previously thought. And they knew they had to get out of these two before that ‘toon killing machine, whatever it was, got to them.
“A t-t-toon, k-k-killing, m-m-machine?” the elephant stuttered.
“That’s right!” said the hero. “And if you don’t want to be dragged down there and exposed to it, along with the rest of your cronies in that would-be world domination society of yours, you’d better get the hell out of here!”
They did as they were instructed, running away screaming before getting into a car and driving away for parts unknown.
After Red Rover turned back into Madge, Jack asked her about the “toon killing” machine.
“I bluffed.” she said. “Nothing really like it in the world. But you can still just kill those ‘toon people by burning them up. Just light a match and they’re gone. That’s probably what they figured it was.”
“I know that.” Jack said. “But I’m scared. The Hammond Weed is in town now. It’s not safe here for me now!”
He tried to run off, but Madge held his paw hard.
“The hell it’s not!” she said sharply. “You got me, right? And what about that stuff I showed you today? You forget it already?”
“No,” said Jack.
“Then you’ll be fine,” Madge said softly. “I promise. You and I are a team now, and we won’t be broken up that easy. Not by the Hammond Weed or anybody else!”
And, with Madge rubbing the top of Jack’s head, they walked back to the safety of Woodrow Place.
It wasn’t to be nearly as safe as either one would have imagined.
By noon, Jenna, Barbara and Burlap had finally managed to get out to Woodrow Place after having been unavoidably delayed following their departure from the Hotel McLaren. Specifically, Burlap found that the dog who ran the garage where he had deposited his motorcycle had overcharged him for this privilege. This angered Burlap to no end, and he promptly placed a bullet in the leg of the garage owner as his form of “payment”. Thus, it wasn’t long before the little machine was surrounded by half the police cars in Winnipeg. Only through Barbara’s use of a “portable hole”- a flat hole that created a gaping, seemingly bottomless hole in the earth wherever it landed- were they able to ditch their pursuers.
“Damn it, Burlap!” said Jenna. “Why do you keep making things difficult for us?”
“Hey, long neck!” Barbara answered defensively. “It ain’t his fault he got overcharged! Not all of the crooks are in the U.S.A.!”
“Don’t fight over me, ladies!” Burlap said sarcastically, his voice distorted by his helmet. “We’ll be there right away!”
He pulled the motorcycle down Portage Avenue and made a swift turn down Maryland Street, following the beeping of his GPS tracker. Finally, he arrived at the small corridor near the Maryland Bridge called Woodrow Place, and parked his motorcycle in the great, deserted open plain across from it, which long ago, before the chaos, had been known as Mulvey Elementary School. Across from this stood three lofty apartment houses, one of which was the likely home of their targets.
“So, which one is it?” Barbara demanded of Burlap, who had now removed his helmet.
“How the hell would I know?” he countered in exasperation. “The GPS don’t pick up exact addresses!”
“Never mind.” said Jenna, biting her lip. “They’re obviously here somewhere. We just have to wait for them.”
“But supposing the G.E.P. wants us and we’re not there?” Barbara protested.
“We wait,” Jenna said, unmoved.
“But we need to…” Burlap began.
“I SAID WE WAIT!” the giraffe growled. “You say ANYTHING ELSE and I take a shot at DECAPITATING YOU!”
Her companions said nothing else for the time being.
Fortunately, they did not have to wait long. In just a few minutes, Madge and Jack entered the frame, laughing, from a brisk walk up Maryland Street. Jack was immediately scared, for he knew who they were- and they he. But, as Madge promised, she would protect him as best she could.
The villains rushed towards the pair as soon as they were spotted. Madge stretched out her long frame in front of Jack to block the path of the others, but they were hardly intimidated.
“Well! Jack Mongrel!” Jenna said, hooves on hips, having already spotted him from across the road. “We meet again! How’d you like that little bit of performance art we pulled on your mom? ‘Cause we intend to do the same to YOU pretty soon!”
“Not if I can help it!” said Madge, blocking Jenna’s path.
“Who are you?” the giraffe demanded.
“I’m his guardian!” Madge snarled, balling fists. “He needs one from the likes of you!”
The giraffe’s eyes became tiny orbs of fire.
“Oh, it’s on!” she snapped.
Using her neck as a crane, Jenna gave Madge a powerful blow with her head that knocked the Red Rover ring off her paw, among other things. Quick thinking Jack scooped up the thing, placing it in the pocket of the new shirt Madge had given him, but there wouldn’t be time to tell her that now. Or for a few hours, for that matter.
Fighting back with her own non-super heroic strength, Madge punched Jenna powerfully in the face, so hard that a tooth was dislodged from the giraffe’s mouth. Wanting to end this nonsense once and for all, Jenna suddenly and unexpectedly increased the size of her neck until, magically, it took on serpentine proportions. This she wrapped around Madge’s own neck, and strangled her just enough to knock her out but not to kill her. Madge fell limply to the ground as Jenna’s neck resumed its former shape.
Jack was stunned, but he was unable to say anything. Thus, he did not protest when Burlap and Barbara knocked Madge’s unconscious body into a bed sheet with holes poked in it for air and pointed him in there at gunpoint as well. With Jenna holding the bag over her shoulders, not unlike Santa Claus and his toy bag, they made their way back to the Hotel McLaren to await further instructions.
“Let me out of here!”
Once everyone returned to the villains’ room at the McLaren, it immediately became a hive of activity. Consequently, this cry, from Madge, was ignored, except for a sharp cry of “Shut up!” from Barbara, the rabbit, guarding the bathroom door behind which Jack and Madge were imprisoned.
Outside the door, Jenna and Burlap each had a cell phone cocked to their ear, the one receiving orders from the soon to arrive G.E.P., the other giving them to his minions, who were now out of Grand Forks and streaming towards Winnipeg as he spoke. Both finally signed off at the same time and looked questioningly at each other. Barbara added her eyes to the stare soon after.
“You first,” Burlap said, with deference acquired from recent experience.
“She’s here now,” Jenna answered. “I told her we got the Mongrel brat and the dog lady guarding him, and she was way pleased. I could hear her smiling over the phone when I said it, and she never smiles. Anyhow, she wants us out by the Assiniboine when night falls. We’ll be able to perform the ritual now that we’ve got the captives.”
“The ritual?” asked Burlap.
“You know- the ‘toon ritual!” Barbara cut in. “Where we sacrifice the dogs so we can fuel ourselves with their blood. The G.E.P. said we had to use the Mongrel kid’s blood since he’s immature and more fresh. Also, we kinda had a grudge against his mom for all that protest activity she was doing against us.”
“Understandable,” Burlap replied. “Just so long as you don’t try doing it with me and my boys.”
“We won’t, as long as you quit pissing us off!” Jenna replied curtly. “Are your “boys” on their way?”
“Yep,” said Burlap. “But I’ll have to tell them to come to the Assiniboine. Is that the thin one that flows east?”
“Far as I know,” said Barbara.
At this point, Madge hit the bathroom door in an attempt to knock it open. Barbara opened the door from the outside with great force. With astonishing power and agility, her ears wrapped themselves around Madge’s neck. Just as before, the would be superhero found herself tossed violently upon the ground.
“I’ve had enough from you, you stupid putz!” Barbara roared, kicking Madge into the toilet as Jack fearfully watched from the bathtub. “You try anything else STUPID like that and you’ll be sorry you did!”
The door slammed shut and was locked again.
Jack rushed to Madge’s side, and she moaned and held her back in pain.
“God!” Madge ejaculated. “These Hammond Weed people are stronger than I thought. Or am I just weaker?”
“Please, don’t assert yourself against them,” Jack said. “This is only a fraction of what they can do. In Fargo, some of them tore apart buildings with their bare paws, or hooves, or whatever they had. And in Grand Forks, some of them could do it with their minds. You and I haven’t got a chance against them.”
“We’ll see about that!” Madge answered. She looked down to find her ring and twist it, but it was no longer on her paw.
“Crud!” she ejaculated softly. “My ring! It’s gone! No wonder I can’t do jack squat now! We gotta find it!”
“Don’t worry,” Jack said, pulling the ring from his shirt pocket. “I got it.” He gave her the ring. She placed it on her paw and hugged him affectionately.
“We’re gonna get out of this!” Madge said determinedly. “I got a plan!”
She spent a couple of minutes whispering a plan into his ear. He listened attentively and nodded.
An hour later, the bathroom door was once again opened, and Barbara, pointing her gun, ordered the captives to crawl back into the bed sheet in which they had arrived, with no funny business. Jack and Madge did as they were told, for the time being.
At the banks of the Assiniboine River in the neighborhood of St. James-Assiniboia stands Omand’s Creek Park, named for the creek which divides the park into two sections as it meets up with the river. A baseball diamond dominates most of the territory, with a bicycle path running through it. A small bridge links the two parts divided by Omand’s Creek, while an orange railed cement foot bridge, connected to an ancient metal railway bridge showered with graffiti, provides an easy connection to River Heights across the river. It is here that the final act of our drama plays out.
Because it is bordered by Portage Avenue on the north, and the Assiniboine River on the south, Omand’s Creek Park was and is difficult to access by any form of advanced automobile transportation. Thus, there was some concern expressed in the negotiation process of the Hammond Weed how everybody was to get to the park. But the G.E.P.’s decision was final, and so the members of the Hammond Weed and Burlap’s gang were forced to make their ways through various means of transportation, including (gasp!) walking.
Jenna, Barbara and Burlap, with Jack and Madge uncomfortably in tow, rode down the crowded artery of Winnipeg commerce that was Portage Avenue, parking in the lot owned by the oddly named electronics store “Advance”, and then walked the rest of the way down towards the park, which required them to negotiate a white colored bridge spanning the park’s eponymous creek. At the clubhouse opposite the baseball diamond, the bed sheet was dropped on the ground and opened. Jack and Madge were promptly released, still in a state of bondage despite their lack of physical restraints.
“On your feet!” Jenna ordered. “This is a big deal for us, so just do your parts and keep your big mouths shut!”
The two dogs did as they were told. They were marched at gunpoint down towards the banks of the river, where several animated and non-animated animal beings were waiting. But for what?
“She here yet?” Burlap asked one of his men.
“Not yet, boss.” his underling replied. “How’s she…”
“She’s coming up the river. In a boat.” Jenna answered with typical terseness. “Should be here any minute. That’s all you need to know for now. And I do mean ALL.”
Nobody said anything else for the next little while, on pain of getting a fist shoved in their face.
Soon afterward, she arrived, coming up the river in a small wooden boat being rowed by what looked to be a small human boy and an animate skeleton. The boat made a stop on one of the giant “islands” of mud that dotted the river, the one closest to the foot- and railroad bridge, in fact. Once it arrived, the boy and skeleton took turns working as personal walking bridges for the G.E.P., so that her feet never once touched the water, and soon they were on the shore with the assembled company.
Despite the high level of her position and reputation, the G.E.P. was not large on a physical scale. Clad in an ermine robe and a suit of purple, with a jewel encrusted crown atop her blond page boy haircut, the G.E.P.’s dark eyes displayed and reflected power beyond the likes of which people her age and size were designed to command. But no one dared question her authority, for she ruled by right of force since her election to the position. Burlap and his men were not under her command but, still, they understood she was not to be messed with. So, too, did Jack and Madge, who were now being bound tightly to a wooden pole under which separate small piles of kindling were laid at their feet. Just like Native people had once done in the movies- and, presumably, in real life long before on this very ground- Jack and Madge were to be burned to death!
Jenna and Barbara, as the senior members of the staff who were present, were the only members allowed to approach or talk to the G.E.P. This they did, after the fashion of feudal vassals, on their knees.
“Oh, mighty employer!” said Jenna, with unusual humility. “We are at your service…”
The G.E.P. held up her hand for silence.
“Spare me your insincere platitudes!” she said tonelessly and curtly, with no emotion in her voice. “Are the Mongrel boy and his guardian here?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” said Barbara, pointing to the pole.
“And is Mr. Burlap here?” asked the G.E.P.
“I am, Ma’am,” Burlap answered, stepping forward.
“You and your men will secure the perimeter from the baseball diamond,” the G.E.P. ordered. “If anyone, and I mean anyone, comes towards you with the intent of breaching the perimeter, you will shoot them on the spot. In the meantime, we members of the Hammond Weed will burn our captives after extracting their blood so we may reenergize ourselves from its chemical properties. Afterwards, we will dispose of the corpses in the river and go to dinner. We have reservations at Rae and Jerry’s for 8:30.” Here she pointed to the steakhouse opposite the park on Portage Avenue.
“Yay, Rae and Jerry’s!” interrupted the human boy, a big nosed kid named Zippy who was not very bright. “Dey got da world’s best proime ribbbbed!”
The G.E.P. looked at Zippy with a glare fit to kill. Then she turned to her other attendant, the skeleton man.
“Get rid of him!” she ordered. “He’ll ruin the ceremony!”
”Why I gotta do dat t’ing?” said the skeleton, in a distinct West Indian accent.
He soon found out why. She stared at him with grievous intent. Within seconds, he was a pile of bones on the ground.
“Pick yourself up,” the G.E.P. said with monotone simplicity “get him out of here, and get out of my sight!”
All three commands were acceded to promptly, with Zippy loudly complaining about not being able to eat “proime ribbbbeds” as the wooden boat disappeared down the bend in the river.
The G.E.P. now returned her attention to her “vassals”, still kneeling.
“Get up!” she commanded. (They did.) “Is everyone present and accounted for?”
“Everyone except Spider and The Trunk,” explained Barbara. “Seems that super hero freak named Red Rover threatened to pulverize them, and they beat it out of town.”
The G.E.P. turned to the two captives on the pole.
“You two!” she demanded. “Do you know anything about this “Red Rover” creature? More importantly, do you believe that there is any chance she will try and stop us from killing you?”
Jack and Madge restrained the urge to tell the G.E.P. that Red Rover was there, and what she was going to do to her and her crew momentarily (or they hoped she would, at least). Instead, they shook their heads nervously while saying “no”. This satisfied the G.E.P. and she returned to her followers.
“Now, we begin,” she said with typical tonelessness. “If anyone has a lighter, or matches, or anything capable of starting a flame, then we’ll commence. And whoever does it, for God’s sake, be careful! Don’t get yourself- or the rest of us- killed doing it!”
This came from Madge, who, being no friend of the G.E.P., was not under her thrall in any way. The G.E.P. was furious, though her face did not show it too much, other than a slight flushing of the cheeks. She turned around to face Madge, who confronted the mistress of the Hammond Weed while Jack, with the ring in his teeth, managed to slip the Red Rover ring back onto Madge’s paw.
“What did you say to me, mortal?” the G.E.P. demanded, without passion.
“I said to hold it!” said Madge. “This is barbaric! You can’t just practice this savagery like this- in broad daylight!”
“You are in no position to call us savages- or to do anything else, for that matter!” the G.E.P. returned arrogantly. “You dogs have always been more savage than we ‘toons anyhow. It is we who are the rightful rulers of this world- not you!”
“Then why are there more of us?” retorted Madge. “And why do you have to assume the position of “rightful rulers” by force?”
“Silence!” the G.E.P. snorted, though her voice did not rise in volume. “I will hear no more of your insolence!” Then, to her followers, she said: “We will burn the boy first- just to give this sharp-tongued witch the pleasure of hearing him die while she can do nothing about it!”
Following the G.E.P.’s instructions, one of the ‘toons produced a cigarette lighter, which he applied to the pile of wood beneath Jack’s feet. In an instant, a small fire was burning underneath Jack, and he yelped in pain as the flames began to lick his body. The G.E.P., humorless and emotionless, moved over from Madge’s side of the pole to confront Jack, keeping as far away from the fire as she could.
“Comfortable, isn’t it?” she said to Jack.
“No!” Jack snapped defiantly.
“Now, we are prepared to let you live if you cooperate with us, boy,” she continued. “That is, if you agree to our demands.”
“Demands?” said Jack, still yowling in pain from the flames.
“Don’t repeat what I said!” answered the G.E.P. “The demands are that you renounce every single anti-‘toon remark your mother made! Then, you renounce your association with this witch [meaning Madge] and concentrate all of your time on helping us achieve our goal of world domination! In return, we will free you- but not her! What is your decision?”
Jack thought for a moment before he spat out a response.
“I say NO!” he said. “And so does my friend!”
Madge heard what was obviously her cue. She turned the top of the ring sideways and transformed into Red Rover. With her strength, she freed herself from her bonds and quickly sped around the corner to free Jack from the still burning flame.
“You!” snapped the G.E.P. “How dare you interrupt our ceremony! I demand to know who you are!”
“I’m RED ROVER!” the hero said. “And you ‘toon freaks had better disperse yourselves from my town!”
“Or else WHAT?” demanded the G.E.P.
“Or else THIS!”
The Rover inhaled a large amount of the burning flames into her lungs, and then belched it out onto a patch of ground where three unfortunate Hammond Weedeans stood. They were unable to move out of the way of the flame in time, and were reduced to a smoldering pile of nitrate.
This stunned the remaining members of the Hammond Weed, but they had allies who were not as vulnerable to fire, and the G.E.P. quickly summoned them over.
“Mr. Burlap!” she shouted through tight lips. “We need assistance!”
Abruptly, Melvin D. Burlap and his gangsters emerged from their idleness on the baseball diamond and surrounded the maroon clad marvel. But she was ready, willing and able to take them all on- and she did.
“You’re out of your league, Rover!” snapped Burlap. “We got you surrounded!”
“Hey, boss!” said one of Burlap’s men. “Why do they call her ‘Red Rover’ if she’s wearing maroon?”
“Because it’s MY NAME!” snapped the Rover, who grabbed the unfortunate gangster and belted him in the stomach. He flew down to the baseball diamond and crashed into the iron cage surrounding home plate.
“Anyone else want to try me?” growled the Rover. “I’ve got the side of all that’s good on me!”
Half a dozen of Grand Forks’ most feared criminals sprang towards Red Rover like the defensive line of a football team. But they stood no chance against the powerful brute. As her fists rang out and her legs kicked, her opponents soon faced certain death from the churning currents of the Assiniboine River. Stunned at his loss, Melvin D. Burlap began firing blindly at the hero, with the remaining members of the Hammond Weed joining him. Red Rover was not intimidated, but she was fearful for Jack’s safety. She motioned him to crawl under the hail of bullets in the air on the ground towards her, to hide behind her as she blocked them with her arms. He did this without hesitation.
At length, the guns ran out of bullets and their owners threw them on the ground, cursing. Their defeat now seemed certain, but the G.E.P. would not give up. Eyes blazing, she cast a devastating glare at Red Rover.
“I’ll take care of you!” she snarled.
She reckoned without the fact that the Rover’s mental prowess rivaled her own in the level of intensity it held. As soon as the G.E.P. telepathically attempted to force Red Rover into heeding her mental commands, the Rover bounced them back with ones of her own. The waves bounced back and forth between them for a few minutes, until finally the G.E.P. gave in, her entire body exploding in the process.
The force of the explosion forced the wooden pole down to the ground, where it was consumed by the flames. A swift gust of wind sent it flying off its moorings and towards the river. The few members of the Hammond Weed not already taken were either bowled over in its path or were burned up by flames that jumped off the pole and attracted themselves to them. In the pole’s path were Jenna, the giraffe and Barbara, the rabbit, who immediately began taking steps towards fleeing it. At this moment, Barbara chose to engage her former associate in airy persiflage.
“I better tell you this now.” Barbara said. “I’m quitting!”
“What the…?” said Jenna. “When did this happen?”
“Grand Forks, ” Barbara said. “Specifically, the Holiday Inn pool!”
“That miserable…” snapped Jenna, now understanding much of the detail hidden from her before. “He wants you as his mistress! And you didn’t brush him off, did you?”
Barbara, insulted by that slur at her character, forcibly stopped herself just inches before the duo reached the churning Assiniboine River, as the flame covered pole edged closer to them.
“What the hell are you doing?” said the panic stricken giraffe. “You’re gonna get us killed!”
“Let’s get a couple things clear, chum!” an unmoved Barbara answered. “First of all, Melv’ and I are a couple and we’re gonna stay a couple. He knows I’ve been wanting out of this racket a long time ‘cause he want out of his, too! And, unlike you, he actually treats with some respect, so get used to that for the short amount of time you got left! I’m not being anybody’s thug anymore, not yours, not Melvin’s, not anybody’s. I’m laying down my gun and my ears and doing something constructive with my life before it’s too late. Second, I never liked you anyway, Giraffe; you’ve been a pain in my ass ever since we got forcibly teamed up that night in Hollywood. You take the biggest shares of everything and leave me squat! So I’m going with a partner who actually knows something about being a good partner! And you and the rotten Hammond Weed can go to hell! Right, Melvin?”
“Yep,” said Burlap laconically, as he sprang up out of concealment behind a nearby bench, grabbed his girlfriend by her arm, and sped off out of the way of the burning pole. Their love would be the only thing among the villainy that would survive the night. .
A fuming Jenna drew her now empty gun and waived it at the fleeing couple, now oblivious to her certain death.
“You rotten BACKSTABBERS!” she shouted. “Leave me here holding the bag, will ya? I’ll be back for you, and when I come back…”
That was the last thing she ever said, except for the scream she uttered as the burning pole made contact with her and roughly burned her to death. This was only a fraction of a second before the pole- and the evidence of all it had wronged and killed- was consumed by the Assiniboine River.
Madge, having changed back from Red Rover, and Jack met with Barbara and Burlap when the slaughter had concluded. The now reformed villains were surprisingly calm in the face of what had occurred, though the heroes were still shaken. But they stopped being that when the pair apologized for their aggressive actions earlier that day.
“M’God!” ejaculated Burlap. “I never should have left Grand Forks. I would’ve been safer there. But I still got something out of the deal I didn’t expect.” He pointed affectionately at Barbara.
“Aw, it’s okay, Burlap…uh, Melvin,” Barbara answered. “I mean, you got me, and that’s all you need. We can just go back there and start up again. Besides, I never had no love for the G.E.P. or for ol’ long neck, either. And most of the foot soldiers in the Weed are pains in the ass, anyhow. I could do for a change.”
“’We’?” Madge asked.
“Yeah, we!” Barbara said. “Girlfriends have got to be by their boys’ sides, don’t they? This thug life never agreed with me, anyway. I could make as much sitting in an office on DeMers Avenue!”
“Or Portage,” suggested Jack.
“Thanks, kid.” Barbara said, patting him kindly on the head, the first such gesture she had given him since they first met. “But no thanks. Me and Melvin are Americans, and we belong there. But you guys can hold the fort up here without us. I mean, that Red Rover chick, whoever she is, is AWESOME!”
“You think so, too, huh?” Jack said.
“Yeah,” said Burlap. “If she were really evil, she could be the new G.E.P. That is, if Barbara don’t want the job!”
“Not on your life!” Barbara snapped. “I told you, I’ve had enough of that thug life! I just want to be a normal gangster’s wife like the other girls. And I don’t care if I am a ‘toon. I can do any job I send my mind to, ya know!”
“Well, before you go…” Madge said, glancing at her watch “…it’s almost 8:30, and I believe somebody owes you dinner.”
“’Somebody’ wants us to invite you two to go with us, for all the trouble we put you through.” said Burlap. “I mean, we were just following orders…”
“Stop it right there, Melv’!” Barbara cut him off. “The next thing you know, we’ll be paying her rent, or mortgage, or whatever it is! Come on!”
And the newly friendly quartet strolled along happily to Rae and Jerry’s Steakhouse, across the street from the park.
Later that evening, according to the Winnipeg Free Press, police unavoidably detained a talking skeleton and a human boy whining about “proime ribbbbeds” on the grounds of the Manitoba legislature.
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