What do we do with the art of monstrous part-time hot dog vendors? I demand the media to just come clean and get it straight, tell the truth about the most important incident in Lionheart’s rich history.
The United States is a melting pot. Canada is like a salad bowl. Sometimes, we really don’t know what happened to the croutons. Salad gets tossed in every direction. We eat off the floor. Crickets gather outside in a field and devour a CD of “Lies” by Guns N’ Roses. Did I imagine this?
Christine Kofan politely listened to November Rain in her parents’ bathroom, and she was looking into the mirror. She remembered back to the first encounter with Ottis, before the edge of disaster and grooming. They were in a library. Ottis had stumbled in after drinking a case of Brewington. He was rambling about Buddy Holly and The Crickets and something about the Peggy Sue lyrics. At first, she felt sorry for him. She went home to sit in front of the computer to study crickets. That’s when she decided she wanted to be called Cricket. She was just a teenager, but she knew. It just felt right. It was before she started calling herself Danielle, let her metal hair down, singing her heart out as the vocalist of a metal church band. It was going nowhere and sometimes she cried about it for hours at night. She sobbed into her pillow, then pulled out a dildo, fucking herself, crying, moaning even louder.
“The Batgirl saga is truly heartbreaking,” she wept, but the dildo felt so good. Cricket jammed the dildo harder inside her vagina, then thought about him. Ottis belonged in doggy daycare. He was a lot of work.
She stood there, alone, daydreaming in the bathroom.
Fuck it. Cricket gave Ottis the opportunity of a lifetime. She knew Ottis loved every song by Guns N’ Roses, but the truth was she had her insecurities, and he didn’t give a shit about her Spotify playlists, her underground band, or her life, and she thought he was using her. It just wasn’t fair.
The graduate from the Iroquois Institute, a junior agent with a heart of gold. She stared down at her long nails; a broken nail reminded her she could never look at Ottis the same way again. The mirror revealed a big zit under her cheekbone. The zit had a heartbeat and needed to be popped. She popped the zit, and it exploded onto the mirror and made a disgusting mess on what was once a clean piece of glass. She was waging a war with acne and losing the battle. But what really sucked was having acne for so many years, and all the hard drugs and all the best moisturizers couldn’t fix her problems. She made a mask out of Greek yogurt, honey, avocado, coconut oil. All her secrets; anything to look fifteen again.
Genetically cursed and dirty with bad nails. The nail polish fell off the counter and splattered all over the floor next to the tub. She put fresh chewing gum in her mouth, smiling a fake smile in the mirror, showing off a wad of gum. It tasted funny. She could’ve chosen not to help Ottis. Then the texts. Johnny wanted to see her in his basement garage. She looked into the mirror. It wasn’t a natural smile. A lunar earring down the drain. She glared deeper into the mirror. There was a crack at the bottom of the glass. Smudge marks impeded her skeleton’s face. She thought she looked prettier, sexier, disappointed with the reflection. She cried, sniffling, wanting more coke.
Social media and Facebook Lite could wait. A dull light was coming from the window. Dreary looking out of the small window. It was raining outside, and she felt like sexting Mike or snorting up to release more bad feelings, just to powder her nose and look pretty for the dudes. Just to smell like a daisy, she would clean up her act, but some promises had to be broken. She’d listen to Post-Soviet Blues in the headphones attached to the iPod. She noticed grey hair. She pulled out the hairs and fixed the rest of her crimson locks into cute pigtails, darkening the eyebrows to look smoking hot. Then turning back at the mirror, deep into the grungy bathroom mirror, she was thinking how she didn’t look cute anymore. She snorted a fat line of white cocaine on the sink cabinet, snorted hard. It felt good, but it was only temporary. She wore a tiara and almost nothing but a cheap pink-lace nightie. She thought about the man she loved. It wasn’t Ottis. She put on an act for Ottis. She imagined Mike Rogers dressed in a tight Queensrÿche T-shirt with a bulge in the long-fit jeans. It was her choice to desperately want that thing inside of her.
The blue jeans were a warm thought. She imagined a giant grin on his face after sending naked selfies. Fuck the emoji hearts, he always sexted her back his enormous erect penis, and typed a greater-than symbol with a three below and sometimes the greater-than symbol with a nine, just because, God, he was wonderfully long. Mike left her to do the math for measuring the length and girth of his penis. Mike once horrified TikTok by flashing his monster cock. It was so hard to help him leave his wife, but when he finally did, to her it felt like the holiday season was starting early. His latest sext used straight acronyms showing he wanted her to tie him to the bed like he was the next monster in a movie starring the best monster cocks in the business. She wanted to see Mike, but she already had plans. She was already way late for her meeting with Johnny. There was another text from him waiting on her phone and there were several unanswered texts from Detective Peekachu. She was dodging the detective of police. Unlikely a real detective, but definitely a dick, she would have to get back to him, avoid the risk.
Her thoughts were about Mike, of course, Ottis, The Rude Native, and the boys, but it was hard to forget how scary it felt when she first had to say no and stop them from hitting on her. No meant no, but also was a major regret that sometimes it meant, maybe. She, too, thought Ottis, Mike, and Travis didn’t understand. She knew Ottis deserved a chance. After something bad happens to you, you either over-dramatize it or underplay it, exaggerate the wrong parts or ignore the important ones and ignore those who care. Ottis was stuck in a rut and needed a fighting chance, at least something. She started getting dressed. She was moving slowly.
Her phone was ringing. She picked it up. “Yes, Mr. Electric,” she said, “I’ll be there soon.” She put the cell phone down, quickly put on her dress. She listened to the dripping tap water in the sink. Annoyed, closing the tap tightly, then looked away from the mirror and walked out of the dingy bathroom. It was one of five bathrooms in the house. Down the hall, down the stairs, she grabbed her daddy’s car keys, then rushed out of the palace. She lived with her parents, but it was only temporary until she found a place of her own. Daddy allowed her to borrow the sporty white Mazda for work. Everything was super cool out the door.
She was driving to meet Johnny Electric for the very first time. The Black General Zod waited patiently, watching Netflix. His big black feet up on the leather sofa with another new Superman gracing the big screen, before he turned it off, waiting in a fortress where he did business. It seemed everyone knew about the underground garage. He would sometimes hum a Civil War tune, then sing show tunes about a “baby girl” or the “white man” down on his luck, but he was always off key. It was silent in his “office” until he took a hammer and nail, just started pounding on a slab of wood for no reason. Soon everything was quiet again.
Cricket never actually met Johnny before. She was an agent for the company and she recruited Ottis to work for Lionheart under Johnny’s tutelage. The doors closed on Ottis many times, but one door finally opened for him. Cricket practically saved his life. Ottis owed her. As for Johnny, he was practically the CEO of everything.
The music was playing loud, and she was listening to Tina Turner’s What’s Love Got To Do With It before switching it over to WRICH Radio 109.9 FM because she was super excited. She sped faster down Barley Road, past the Dairy Queen, around the corner, past the Subway, where she used to work part-time, and then she slowly drove into the half-renovated house of a new residential complex.
The house had a garage where she was instructed to meet him for real. She parked the car in the driveway, looked around, quickly locked the automatic doors; she thought about the new opportunity. Cricket wanted to make a big impression, but she was terrified. She had to suck it up and get a grip about seeing him one-on-one, seeing him live. It wasn’t on Skype this time, not a usual video call. Everything was different. She was different. She was Hole again.
Cricket knocked on the door leading into the garage. There was giggling. She thought she heard a monkey. Then a deep voice said, “Come on in, girlfriend.” It sounded like Johnny. The CEO had a modest office in a basement garage, his secret safe place where he conducted business. She walked through the doorway wearing a figure-flattering super-revealing white dress and expensive red knee boots.
It was cool and damp in the garage, but it didn’t bother her. She wanted to impress and she must have because when she first met Johnny in his office, he smiled, and she knew there were sparks. The automatic garage door was on lock and the metal door was closed. Instantly, from the moment they first made eye contact, she knew that there was something magical about him. Jigga definitely related to crickets.
The Negro with a thin mustache, maintained, and a voice, practiced, smooth as a bandleader’s with his thoughtful chestnut eyes, almost appearing remote, confidently stared deep into her anxious eyes and she knew she could never lie to him. “Agent Kofan,” he paused. “Christine,” he stopped himself again. Johnny whistled, then singing a lonely ballad, a rehearsed show tune about a desperate white man, he suddenly stopped, then smiled. “Cricket,” he finally said, leaning into her, gently asking if she wanted to sit down and this was probably going to be a whole thing. “I know everything. Everyone is different,” he said, and told her he knew all about her private online dating profiles. It was overwhelming as she stood there, enslaved to vulnerability and a wound to desire. His eyes were dark and sexy, and she almost wanted to cry. Instead, he told her everything that she wanted to hear. “I can give you more. Baby girl, I know you’re hurting inside, but I can give you more. Lionheart needs a girl like you. You’re going to listen to me good. You listen to Daddy. I got you.” Everything was one big lyric.
“I’m not sure I can,” she said, feeling trapped like she couldn’t get away. She started thinking of Ottis, staring at the door, hoping the Easter Bunny would save her.
“I can show you how, sweet angel. I want to give you the riches,” Johnny said. She had envisioned the scary moment hundreds of times in only some of her worst nightmares. She wanted to see him, but she almost didn’t want to hear the hypnotic voice. There was a well of tears building deep inside of her, but she wouldn’t start crying again. All she wanted was a knight in shining armor to make her feel good when she felt like it, on her watch. She looked straight at him, deep into his darkly handsome face, then down at his diamond-studded watch, and she knew he was rich, but she really didn’t want Johnny controlling her life. She would be a junior agent and nothing more.
She sat directly across from him, staring up at him, dressed in a business suit, a well-groomed mustache, a bald head; she knew he was checking out her body. Johnny wouldn’t have gotten away with it, but he mentioned he hired Vivian Ecstasy. He appointed her mom’s friend as VP of Lionheart, but she wasn’t sure if it was fact or fiction or horribly worse. She was even more scared when he smiled when her eyes lit up because she wasn’t dumb; and she knew that deep down, underneath the good looks and expensive business suit and jewelry, Johnny had the heart of a professional porn star. Damn him, taking advantage of her with lustful eyes.
After he took a deep breath and cracked his knuckles, the man stood up, checked the lock to the door to his garage hideaway, winked, and said, “I know you’re self-conscious about your body, but you’re beautiful. You know, Vivian was talking to your mama just last night. You know…” he said then paused, cracked his neck, smiled and continued, “your folks are gonna get away. You need some alone time. You need some time for yourself. It’s time to think about what’s really important. You can be our star agent. You don’t have to be a junior agent anymore. I can move you up in the company.” He winked.
“I know. It’s exciting,” she said, and she felt her panties sopping wet. Johnny obviously knew everything about her. He took out a small bag of crystal meth and dumped a small amount of the crystalized bits of glass on the desk. God, it looked so sweet. Johnny slammed his head down and snorted. He snorted long and heavy, then glaring up at her, he smiled that sexy smile.
“Sex opens the door to power… God’s truth.”
“I want some,” she said slowly and vulnerably.
“Come on, girl. I know you do,” he said. “You can’t tell your parents,” he said. “Sure you want some?” He stared deep into her pretty eyes, a glare of nervous excitement.
“Maybe,” she said, but it should’ve meant no instead of thinking about the possibility of allowing him to take advantage of her weak inner-self caught in the moment.
“I can give you new wheels to drive. And I’m planning to see Ottis at the hut. This underground company is building from the ground up. Real fast.” He winked. He paused and said, “How about a Hummer?” Cricket didn’t respond. “Hmm?” he said, but she still didn’t answer. She gathered thoughts.
“I know what you’re doing, Mr. Electric.”
“Call me Johnny. Do you want some?”
“Yes.” She walked over to his desk, bent down, and snorted the line aggressively, as he just nodded and smiled. The high was instantaneous. A rush to the head.
“Yes, bitch. Yes!”
“It just feels so good,” she said softly.
“But I’m not Johnny Depp, you hear?”
“Yes, Johnny Electric,” she said.
When she was finished, she looked up at him. “Friends?” Johnny said, but he already knew he had her as the rising star agent of the company. There was a special place in her heart when she first met Johnny, but she couldn’t let the detective know and he would never find out.
“When will I get my promotion?” she wondered.
“I know you want to be the star, Cricket,” he said, rubbing his nose, gently snorting the last remnants of meth from his nostrils. He snorted again. Smiled again. “What can you do for the king?”
“Audition for Pocahontas… I can do it.”
“You have the voice.” He thought about it.
“I would make a good Pocahontas,” she said.
“No,” he said, “I already cast Petra.”
“What?” She was upset “Why?”
“We needed a trans-prostitute.”
“I can be a whore.”
Johnny thought about it. He glanced over at his mini-fridge in the garage. He jammed the fridge with food, a label and packaging stuck out; the door was closed forcibly. Cricket stood in front of him. “Ottis gets hungry. We need to store food somewhere where he can find it. Come a little closer.” He stared down at her, examining her cunt. “We need to put some food in your panties. Something Ottis would crave. Let’s see now. What can we do? Maybe a hot dog, a wiener, or sausage, but nothing too hot. I think something sweeter, a double-stuffed Oreo cookie between those legs; a cookie in your snatch. He’s going to want your store-bought red muff. Believe me. I know what’s right.” Johnny winked. She was nervous, scared.
“I guess.” Cricket was reluctant, stepped back, but thought about it some more, then smiled. She wanted to be wanted. “Whatever you say, Johnny.”
“Ottis will eat you in a heartbeat.”
“What else can I do?” she said.
“Be yourself,” Johnny said.
“Yes,” she said, “a good agent. A whore.”
“Yes, indeed. You’re not a travel agent. Not anymore. You’ve got a special role.”
“I know,” she said smugly.
“And keep a tight lip,” he said.
“Yes, sir,” she said. “Thank you, Mr. Fantastic. I’m sorry, I mean Mr. Electric. Fuck.” She was embarrassed. She didn’t mean to get his name wrong, but she was high. The tingling and burning in her nose felt so good. She wanted more, but she simply smiled and backed away from his desk. She felt her heart rate go up. “Thanks,” she said. “I have to go.” As everything started speeding up, she tried to slow down, then said, “I can write to Vivian tomorrow. E-mail her my heart.” The last vision of Johnny she saw that afternoon was his dark, sexy smile and soul-wrenching eyes. Johnny crashed early that night.
It was a cloudy evening outside as she was leaving Johnny’s property. She knew she had to sober up. She texted the dick that she would be there, but she was running late. She had the balls to go to the police station high as a kite, listening to the radio. She wouldn’t be seeing King Pencil Dick. But nothing would stop her. A bottle of carbonated water, and she started drinking one bottle, and then another. It was a long drive. She urinated in one of the empty bottles. She carefully drove over to the police station, across the street from the hospital. It was late. She needed the hospital more, but she had plans to see Detective Peekachu and she was up for performing. Cricket loved to act. She did some stage performances as a kid, but nothing would top this one. The main headquarters handled the grisliest inner-city crime. The station was close to the bridge where she rescued Ottis and across the street from the hospital. She walked in with quiet confidence. She was determined to pull off appearing like a professional agent with her head above the snow. Elegant and white, she walked swiftly through the doors like she was special.
She walked inside. There were dozens of rooms, most of them private.
Cricket didn’t stagger. She walked confidently. A smudged sign on the door. A room shared by Constable Harris and Detective-Sergeant Peekachu. Constable Harris opened the door. In the corner was Detective Peekachu, cracking a canister open with his hook that used to be a hand. There was a prosthetic arm sitting on the ledge. They were working overtime. They had done their homework.
Cricket was smiling, light-headed, but showing off perfect white teeth. She had a cool voice that could get fresh. The other officer was standing with capable hands and he shook her hand firmly. Her hair was red and flowing down, but she had dressed down into professional attire of a skirt and a cut-off shirt. “Ottis is part of my business,” Cricket said. “He’s on a short leash,” she paused. “He’s on my leash. I’ll deal with his puppy dog eyes. He’s sort of like my Black Forest Hound. And it’s International Dog Day,” she said. Cricket reasoned in her own way, because she had been to Germany, and she thought fucker was actually raised in the Black Forest. She listened to the Heartbreak Radio Series on 109.9 and heard Tuesday Alvarez reciting a noble poem about a dog. It was really about Ottis.
She smiled at both of them, but they didn’t appear convinced. The constable went by the name of Officer Harris. He was slightly smaller than the detective with a short build. He coughed before he started talking. She sniffed. Her nose was runny. She was coming down from her high but felt in control of the situation, yanking on the cut-off she was wearing, raising her skirt, and she knew she was getting into the power she had over Ottis. “Mediocre white guys who think they’re exceptional are exhausting,” she said. A light-headed feeling got worse. She put a hand to her head, just to be overdramatic.
“Enough is enough. Agent Kofan, we want no more problems,” Officer Harris said.
“Honestly, I’ll take good care of him,” Cricket said.
“His neighbours have been complaining,” he said. “No one is above the law.” He was awkwardly sweating. It was embarrassing and uncomfortable.
“I know,” she said, “but he’ll be working again.”
“I never want to see O’Toole on the edge of a bridge again.”
“He’s going to be too busy,” she said.
“I hope so,” he said. “If this blows up, it will have major implications on this task force.”
“Look,” the officer said, standing up, almost stretching, talking ridiculously slow, “I used to be an agent for the force, and you’re a talent agent; I know it’s ‘slightly’ different, but is there anything you have to say about your friend?” Harris stared directly into her dry eyes. He wiped away a lingering bead of sweat. “Anything?”
“He doesn’t need help from Kamala the Ugandan headhunter or any of your social-working giants. I already got Ottis lined up for a gig. My company is on board to take him on. He’s on probation. I’ll make him good,” she said.
“This is ridiculous. I can’t trust you.” The officer shook his head.
“I use Tide pods to do my laundry.” She winked.
“Ottis won’t be on the streets?” he said.
“Ottis is mine. Johnny will meet with him at Pizza Hut.”
“Why not Johnny’s basement garage?” The officer was already onto Johnny and his business. There was sarcasm in his tone. “It’s where Johnny does his best work. Jigga really knows his shit.” Harris wondered, “But how do you really feel about Ottis?”
Cricket hesitated. “I love him,” she finally said, and it wasn’t a total lie because she didn’t know true love and loved all of her boys. Her mind was on Mike Rogers, but Ottis had a special place in her heart, and she still felt the meth high.
Officer Harris nodded, walked into another room. It was a small dark room. He shut the door. Detective Peekachu glanced up from the corner of the room. He was middle-aged, older than Officer Harris. Medium build, a really thick mustache, thinning hair. Cricket didn’t have to explain that Ottis was off welfare and out of trouble. He walked out of the corner, towards her, and he was flashing his hook for an arm. “But that’s not the reason we brought you in,” he said and concealed his hook. Peekachu had about as much expression as a gas tank on empty.
Detective Peekachu had been tracking the business dealings at Lionheart. Ever since Lionheart Incorporated changed its name to Lionheart Enterprises, there were suspicions. The roaring beast tamed, but what about the heroes, all the caged animals? And was Detective Peekachu really a legitimate detective? The so-called detective lowered his head. The dick sighed, admiring the features of Cricket’s body. What about Mother Russia? What about the network? Just how much did the dick really know?
The Brewington police station had a spacious back room used for interrogating. Painted white tiles with fluorescent lighting. Cricket was calm and wasn’t smiling anymore. She felt anxious. “So, what do you want to know?” she said.
“Johnny Electric is busy these days,” he said. Cricket nodded, knowing Johnny was a real dick, and she couldn’t look Peekachu straight in the eyes. “Johnny is importing from Russia. I’m seeing more Russians than I want to see in Brewington. And I don’t like it,” said Peekachu. “When the last Russian sold his property on Barley Road, he was breeding skunks. Do you see where I’m going with this, Christine?”
“Please, call me Cricket,” she snapped.
“And Electric isn’t really Johnny’s fucking last name. Is it?” Peekachu said. “Is it?” He leaned in. He secretly smelled her with flaring nostrils. With a rush to the head, Cricket was feeling woozy, a side effect of coming down too much, too fast.
She shrugged like she didn’t care, but she was acting. “It’s Johnny Egnatius,” she said nervously.
“Precisely,” Peekachu said, not at all satisfied. “Alright, Cricket. I want you to report to me every move that Johnny Egnatius makes. I’m sorry… I should say report every move by Johnny Electric and his henchmen. You know, Boris F. Zukoff, Sergei Poutine and Grigori Rasputin. I need your private cell phone number?”
“Fucking give it to me!”
She burped rudely, then belched. “It was the Chinese food last night,” Cricket blurted. She took out a pencil from her purse. She wrote her work number down on the back of a fortune cookie and handed it over to the detective. She did it quickly, then slid anxiously toward the exit.
“We’ll be in touch,” he said, stepping back behind the desk, lowering his tired head, rubbing his eyes. Still aroused, but more lethargic. He needed to take his pills.
She left the creepy room, got out of the police station, and rushed out to the parking lot where she got into the sporty white Mazda. She closed the door of her daddy’s new car. She was madder than hell. She was fuming. She sniffled from upset and sniffed feeling the come-down of a lifetime. Then she bawled her eyes out. Her makeup was running. Parked in the police station and crying madly inside the car. She pounded her fists on the steering wheel, then turned on the ignition and sped away. Her thoughts turned sober, but she was furious. Mad as fuck.
Almost sobbing, it was a very bad night. Watery eyes, mostly from allergies. But who would want to oversee a company crumbling to pieces? Sure, King Pencil Dick might have known, but I, Richard Tattoni, hadn’t seen I, Claudius, and had to do it my way and learn the poetic injustice. It was worse than I thought. Far worse.
Turning the dial down really low and it’s the heavy metal station before it’s off to bed. I couldn’t spend five minutes on Buck Rogers’ dating profile. Dude loves hairy armpits. A magical dream-world where everything slows down.
It could’ve been The Buck Burger Show, but it wasn’t. Some of us have to live with the blemishes. Sweet dreams.