Remotely Controlled 2
Samantha was very hard at work in the back kitchen at Flanannigans with a tray of ribs when Jeb came in. It wasn’t that she disliked Jeb, but being the owner’s son, and not really a contributor to the fine establishment that people flocked to for their family outings, he was really more of a distraction than anything.
And not the good kind of distraction.
“Hey, Jeb. How’s it going today?” Sam asked amicably, through clenched teeth.
Jeb, who always had a huge perpetual smile on his face, like he was going to a kegger soon. He nodded and rubbed his rather prominent buck teeth and adjusted the backwards hat on his frat boy head.
“Well, well, well, not bad, not bad. You know. Just makin’ rounds, you know.” He laughed at nothing in particular. “So uh… really, okay, why I came here. I uh, I heard you were totally needing a place to stay and as it is I am in total capacity. For like, people. To stay with me. We uh, got us an apartment and you are more than welcome to stay with me and my buds. You know, it might be kind of cramped but we’re totally willing to accommodate you.” He said that last part in a really sleazy way while getting way too close to Samantha’s face, leaning over her while he balanced himself on an overhang while she reached for some of Flanannigans special Rib Seasonings Flavor Blend Spice Substance. Jeb licked the air, indicating that he really appreciated either her or her cooking and neither was a good thing.
“Oh. DARN. You know, I just found a place.”
“Aw, sucks! I mean, not for you. You’re totally cool,” Jeb said again, laughing at nothing. Sam stared at him, not knowing what to say, and her eyes wandered back to the food.
“So who are you living with?”
“A friend of mine.”
“What’s her name?”
“His name. His name is Garrett,” she said, in a way that indicated she felt very fondly for said male friend.
“Oh, I getcha. So you and him are like together, huh?”
“Garrett? Oh no way, Garrett’s gay as a henhouse!” said Sam’s co-worker Joanne. Sam’s eyes flew open with rage and darted back and forth between Joanne and Jeb, not knowing which one she wanted to slap more.
Note to self: give Joanne’s address to local perverts.
“Well I guess you WILL see me later then,” Jeb said, taking off his cap and slicking back already greasy hair. At this point he slapped Samantha’s ass and smiled, thinking that she really expected, wanted, or somehow appreciated such a gesture.
Samantha clenched her face and body in rage and shut her eyes, waiting until he left the room.
“What are you doing now?”
“Jeb I need you to go now!! Please? I… I really need to get back to work. Okay?” Now that she was on the verge of using potential weapons conveniently located near her, Jeb got the idea, but only barely.
“Oh, right. Bye, Sammy!”
As the door shut behind him, Sam clutched her hair in gobs as she lay her head on the counter and thunked her head a few times, making garbled sounds of emotional pain.
“Ain’t he a cutie? I’d like to wrap him up in sandwich paper and put dressing all over that,” Joanne said, chewing gum and putting her hands on her hips.
“By all means, go for it.”
“Oh, I’m too old for him. You should go for some of that while it’s still around. Let him take you out.”
“NO!” Samantha replied in the most appalled voice she could muster. “Oh God, I feel like showering.”
“Eh. No accountin’ for taste,” Joanne said, moving back to her mozzarella sticks.
Mr. Mooney, Samantha’s boss, came in with a huffy expression on his face that indicated he had maybe too much bourbon and too little tips that night.
“Get your ass in gear. What do you think this is? A theme park? You want me to dress up as Goofy for you and do a little dance?”
Yeah, like you wouldn’t fall over, she thought and laughed picturing a drunk Goofy horrifying groups of children. Uh oh. Big mistake.
“You think this is funny? This is serious business!”
“No, sir. Yes, sir. I mean..I… I… I completely understand.”
“Good. Make sure that you do. Food. Be quick. We have people waiting out there! And don’t think I don’t know you’re making moon eyes with my son while he’s in here just trying to mooch some free food. You keep your mitts away from him, he’s got a baseball scholarship and I don’t want some hippy distracting him with her passion and oils.”
“You heard me!” Mr. Mooney said, letting out an enormous belch. “You know in some cultures that’s a compliment. You like compliments?”
“Uh… I suppose?”
“You suppose! You young people have no idea how good you have it! When I was your age I was in a jungle! Picking leeches off myself!”
“I didn’t know you were in the war.”
“I wasn’t. I was in Florida! But it was hell!” Mr. Mooney yelled, belching again and staggered off back outside, falling into the side of the door on the way.
“Well, this night doesn’t suck.”
“Hey at least you still got your figure,” Joanne said. “Me, I’d be lucky if Mr. Moonface looked at me twice.”
“You don’t… like him?”
“Ha! Like him? I can barely tolerate him. You haven’t been here long enough but that man is the scum of the earth.”
“Oh no, I have been here long enough to notice that,” Sam said agreeably.
MEANWHILE, AT A SMALL ACCOUNTING DEPARTMENT ACROSS TOWN…
I had just finished calling a good appraiser friend of mine when I had finished my stack of paperwork at the bank. He’d agreed to come over that night and look at all of my garage sale Jackpot Day finds. I had never been so excited! I clapped my hands and rubbed them together, picturing myself on a bed of moolah and Chippendales dancers, fanning me with palm fronds.
“Garrett the Ferret!”
“So we’re gonna have an employee meeing soon. It’s gonna be about getting along and you know, all that fluffy garbage.”
“Just wanted to give you a heads up, it starts in front of my office.”
“Hey, Garrett! Guess what! I found a copy of the Little Mermaid that has the error in it where the priest has a-oh hi boss!”
“Preston. Employee meeting in an hour. My office.”
“Sure thing! Anyway, Garrett, you must know how much it’s worth.”
“About $300 dollars if it’s in good shape.”
Preston clapped his hands together like a Japanese schoolgirl and patted me on the chest. “That’s great. We’ll talk later. Bye!”
After he’d left, Brent took me aside in a confidential manner.
“You know Garrett, I have something to tell you. I don’t want you spreading this, because it’s gossip, but… I have a pretty good feeling that Preston might be… ya know,” Brent moved his hand in an effeminate gesture, then made sure no one saw him.
“I know, it’s a bit of a shock, but I put it together after time.”
Wow. I have to hand it to my boss. Those deductive reasoning skills don’t come along just every day. As I looked at Preston he was talking with Gladys from filing and throwing his hand up in the air and swishing it around. Let’s see, thin as a rail, suspenders and a lavender shirt, pieced ear, immaculately groomed with short hair.
“I find that rather hard to believe, Brent. I mean… just look at him.”
“Garrett, as you go along in life you’re gonna realize the signs. I mean, I sort of realized it when he started talking about Madonna in the break room. But it wasn’t like a straight guy likes Madonna. He didn’t even talk about her tits.”
“That is pretty sure sign. I promise I won’t tell anyone.”
I could tell them, but then I’d have to give other big secrets away about how dogs bark and trees make air.
My boss left and I wondered just how long it would take before I could quit. I hated to leave Preston here as the only flamer here with a parade of old ladies and Brent, but I had to think about things logically.
At the staff meeting, Brent had everyone gather round in the hallway.
“Okay everyone, now, I have a few announcements. Number one, there will be no more piles of information casually left about the local school cookie fundraiser. Just leave it on the bulletin board from now on. Oh and also I spilled coffee on it. Number two, we will be doing employee evaluations next week, so everyone will be interviewed by a senior bank official who will be called in from headquarters. No need to panic, just don’t say anything stupid. Number three, whoever is leaving little splashy messes in the women’s toilets… at least I’ve been told to pass this information along, you need to not do that. I mean it’s like the toilets aren’t a plaything. I mean, maybe to some sickos, but not here. Lastly, next week we are also going to have a presentation about how we should all be nice to one another for productivity reasons. They’ll bring an expert motivator in or some such. Okay, that’s all, have a good day team! Go Bruins! Tonight’s the uh, the game.”
Brent’s excitement was met by many old women nodding their heads and me rolling my eyes.
“Ya gonna watch the game tonight?”
“Would I ever miss one is the question,” I replied happily.
LATER THAT EVENING…
“I really hate my boss. I mean, I mildly hated him before this past month it’s like a drunken catastrophe. He’s the Britney Spears of back kitchens.”
“How was his comeback?”
“He doesn’t really get my jokes. Here,” Samantha said, setting down fried tempura prawns and rice with accompanying sauce and fresh dim sum.
“Oh my God, how did you make this so fast?” Stuart said, digging in. Stuart, who in a previous lifetime was probably royalty and made the transition quite nicely into this one, turned his attention back to me.
“So what did your friend say?”
My friend Manfred (yes that is his real name), the appraiser, said a lot.
“He said, okay, the Greek and Roman stuff I thought was Greek and Roman is actually mostly Renaissance copies.”
“Booo!” Stuart booed.
“No, that’s… still a good thing. See, the replicas themselves are still valuable. Most of the furniture is 19th century, most of it worth more than everything I own put together.” I stopped my speech to do a happy dance. “And everything combined, once he makes the right contacts and takes a percentage for being my seller, I’ll most likely wind up with 1.2 million.”
Stuart and Samantha did a simultaneous spit take.
“Buh… hah… mabahah.” Sam said, eloquently.
“That’s like SO much money,” Stuart said, ever using his deductive analysis.
“I know! But here’s the deal, I won’t get the money for probably another two months. Manfred says he might have certain clients who are interested but we have to be patient. There have to be registrations, verifications, a bunch of legal paperwork to fill out-“
Sam lurched over and grabbed me by the shirt.
“Tell me that you’ll take me with you!”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“Promise me anyway!!!”
“Okay, Ivana, calm down.” Sam let go of me.
“One point two..mi uh guh!”
“Yes, it’s a lot of money. But I’ll have to be really smart with this. I can quit my job once I have it but we can’t all go crazy.”
“Right. Not go crazy. So when can I quit my job?”
“As soon as you find a new one?” Sam made a face to that. “Oh come on, in the next few months I’m sure you can find something to substitute The Flan Can.”
“You’re right. I’m a good chef! I can find something else.”
“You can totally use my father as a reference.”
“Stuart, your father sells used lawnmowers.”
“Yes, but he’s really good at it.”
“Okay, well, if you don’t mind, I’m just gonna kick back and watch a little TV,” I said, picking up a remote out of the bowl on the shelf. I clicked the TV on but nothing happened. I hit the remote with the back of my hand.
“Um, Garrett, I think that’s one of the garage sale remotes.”
“Oh, yeah,” I said, pushing numerous buttons that didn’t do anything. “It’s kind of funny looking though. Have you ever seen a remote like this?”
“Let me see.” Sam walked over and evaluated it. “No, that is weird. It’s really flat, but then there are these weird raised ones. Holy shit that’s a lot of buttons. They’re all so tiny. What do you think it’s for?”
“Probably a satellite dish.” At that point my cat Mr. Chelsea Clinton Peepers III (yes that is his full name) hopped on top of the TV. “Mr. Peepers, you know you’re not supposed to go up there,” I said, hitting the blue upper right button. At this point my story stops being normal and starts being an episode of the Twilight Zone. Well, actually more like a mix of the Twilight Zone, Saved By the Bell, the X Files, Project Runway, and an episode of Maury all sort of smooshed together.
Mr. Peepers froze. A slight layer of what looked like TV snow covered him.
“I don’t… think he’s… moving.” Sam said. I looked at the remote and pressed a couple of buttons, and then my finger slid on the long black rectangular one near the middle top. At this point the light in front of us changed and became blue tinted, like an aquarium light. Holographic charts appeared in succession, and small numbers underneath them.
“What is it?” Sam whispered, barely breathing. She looked scared out of her mind.
“I…” I stood there gaping at them. Mr. Peepers didn’t seem to be phased. “The remote…”
“Hey Garrett, do you have any Goldfish crackers?” Stuart yelled from the kitchen.
“Oh yeah, top left cabinet from the fridge!” I said, reverting to overfriendly host mode. What? Like I’m supposed to take up all my time gaping when I can help people to snacks? What am I, some kind of monster?
I went back to the remote. Mr. Peepers was still frozen. I tried to undo it but my finger pressed the wrong button. I had meant to push the blue one but I pressed a different blue one and the next thing I know a chart that said “weight” popped up.
“Okay Alice, we have just crossed over the looking glass.”
“Looking glass nothing, this is major WB teen drama shit.”
“All those shows suck.”
“Fuck you!” Sam replied.
“Okay okay, let’s see if this is for real.” Trembling, I touched an arrow key. Mr Peeper’s weight, in pounds (for the sake of storytelling and the fact I suck at metric I’ll refrain from mentioning kilograms) went up from 7.5 pounds to 7.7. Sam gasped.
“Is it real?”
“I don’t know. Let’s see.” I made Mr. Peepers go up. Muscle and fat percentages were alongside these figures but remained the same. I put Mr. Peepers at 9.5 pounds. Mr. Peepers, Chelsea to his friends, definitely looked like he hadn’t been finicky. He looked, why, plumper. I shot it up another pound.”
“Do you want your cat to have a heart attack?”
“Okay okay, fine.” I brought it back a pound. I reversed the sequence of buttons and pushed the blue right button. The blue projection diminished and the snow dissipated. Mr. Peepers plummeted onto the ground, sniffing around, and then cuddled up into a fat little orange ball. I picked him up. Yep. He was slightly heavier, and I felt his stomach, his swishy little tail vying for attention as he tried to be petted. I ascertained that the layers around him had definitely increased.
“Do you believe this shit,” I said doing my best Wanda Sykes.
“No. I need alcohol. NOW,” Sam said. She went to get wine and poured herself a glass. Stuart, who was totally oblivious to this entire discovery had happily been helping himself to crackers while he read the newspaper.
“Hey guys, look! There’s a sale down at that used clothing store. You can get good stuff there and they have a fifty percent off sale next week. I bet you can’t beat that discovery!”
“Think again!” Sam snapped.
“What’s up with her?”
“Nothing! Nothing’s wrong! Everything is normal and we’re all sane here, nothing to worry about!”
“Um, have you not been taking your meds or something? Do you have any Kool Aid?”
“No. And you shouldn’t eat so much high fructose corn syrup.”
“I like high fructose corn syrup.”
“Oh, really. It can make you fat you know.”
“Whatever, I have like a really good metabolism.”
At this point the halo over my head cracked in half and fell and devil horns popped up on my head. I took Sam aside and whispered to her. We turned around. Stuart was rummaging through the groceries bin in the fridge. Stuart looked a lot like Archie from the Archie comics. Or that guy with freckles and red curly hair from Super Troopers. Only gayer. Way, way gayer.
“Stuart, I’m going to make you fat.”
“Okay,” he said automatically. “Ew, I think this orange has mold on it.” He picked at it delicately.
I aimed. I shot. Television show wrapped a thin aura around his frame. I took up the same mechanisms as before. Stuart was about 5’10” and weighed 155 pounds. I took the weight up to 225. I used the arrow keys to go to percentages and took fat up to 25% while muscle automatically decreased. I hit save (oh yeah and there’s a save button, now you know) Stuart grew a disproportionate beer gut and his thin little Abercrombie and Fitch T shirt withered upwards. Flabby arms made it look like he was trying the shirt on for laughs or something. I unfroze him.
“When are you going to get a… a fridge that… oh my God! What happened to me!!!”
“Well it serves you right, you called me fat last week and it hurt my feelings and then you did it some more.” Sam said, crossing her arms.
Stuart began to practically cry. “OH my GOD! I look horrible! AHHHHHHHH!” I froze him. I don’t want to make my friend cry or anything. I brought Stuart’s weight back to normal. I unfroze him.
“Holy shit what am I going to do! No one will date me I look like a fat trucker now hey wait I’m back.”
“This is incredible,” I said.
“Holy fuck, what are you, Endora now? Get the fuck away from me!” he said to Sam. He brought up two carrots and put them in the shape of a crucifix. “Get thee behind me, foul demon! In the name of the father and um… Martha Stewart!”
“Yeah, I think you’re invoking the wrong deity, there.”
“O…kay, lemme see this thing,” Sam said. She took the remote and froze Stuart again. “Let’s just try different buttons. Let’s see…”
Toying with different buttons, options came up for height, agility, and awareness. Sam explored that one and three rectangles appeared before us. The Star Trekness of this isn’t lost on me, and I was starting to just think how cool it was that I had animated shapes that moved around in HD, when I read them. They clearly stated: aware, somewhat aware, unaware.
“Hmm. Well he’s usually just somewhat aware, so I will go with unaware.” Sam keyed it in.
“You do understand how unbelievably weird this is, don’t you?”
“Well I just figured that the scientist guy made it. Or maybe aliens. Anyway it’s in English, so either way I’m happy. I mean, if it were Chinese or something I’d probably just give up and watch Oprah. Oooh, let’s see what else there is.”
Intelligence. Personality. Behavior. Sexuality.
“No way! That isn’t even possible.” I said.
“Well, I don’t know. I mean this thing shouldn’t even exist, Garrett. We have already seen that it gives us the power of a god.”
“Yeah but it still can’t get rid of gayness! Bitch, please. It’s Stuart.”
“I know, that’s what’s so interesting.” Sam went and discovered a Kinsey scale. She put Stuart from extreme homosexual to a notch away from extreme heterosexual. We also visited behavior and found a little side scale from feminine to masculine. Stuart’s masculine level was fairly low so I knocked it up about 3 notches.
“Okay, making Stuart’s parents wet dream come true, now.”
Stuart looked at the vegetable cross he’d made in a confused gesture.
“Thanks!” I said, grabbing the carrots. “Those will be perfect for the soup. Here, Sam!”
“Thanks… so… how do you feel, Stuart.”
“Uh, not bad. You know, you know. Just chillin’.” Stuart rubbed the back of his head, and looked at us. He seemed… sort of less gay. His lisp was noticeably gone for one. His voice was automatically being used differently. It was also deeper. He sounded like he’d grown up in a small town where boys broke bottles and other assorted pieces of junk with beebee guns.
“Um, so… do you want to watch TV with us?”
“Yeah, bro. That’s be sweet. Gonna check out what’s on, maybe we can watch some ESPN… I know the game’s on tonight.”
“We were thinking of watching Ugly Betty,” Sam said, testing him.
Stuart rubbed the back of his head. “I dunno… that show is kinda dumb. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I just always think it needs a little, you know, action or something. I mean, maybe if they made the hot girl the main one.”
“Well then it would be Pretty Betty,” I said.
“Hey man, that’d be okay with me. That blonde chick… hoo! Man, I’d like to get a piece of that. But hey, if you guys don’t want to watch the game, that’s cool. I mean, we got beer, we got chips, we got a party.” Stuart crossed his arms and for the life of him didn’t one time droop his hands at all. It was just downright eerie.
“Hey… so… did you still want to go to that sale over at the used clothing store?”
“What? No, man? I need to shop, I’m going to Sears. They got everything you need. Power tools, watches, pleated pants…”
“Okay I can’t stand this anymore! Change him back!”
“You have the remote!”
“Oh, right.” Sam said, freezing a now confused straight Stuart. We set him back to extremely homosexual and set his masculinity level to what it was.
“Oh my God, do you know what this means?” I asked.
It dawned on her, and her voice almost gave out. “We have our very own gay ray!” We did a happy dance, slapping each others hands continuously.
“Okay, so we should explain all this to Stuart. He deserves it after we experimented on him.”
“Okay,” Sam replied cautiously. “But, Garrett. This is… this is unbelievable. I mean, this is a gift. A gift that we can’t just squander. We have to be careful about this. And I mean, absolutely careful. No one can know about it.”
“I totally agree.” I looked in bewilderment at Stuart’s frozen glance. “This is more power than I’ve ever heard of. It’s just total coincidence that we got it. We should just not use it.”
Sam and me eyed each other from the corners of our eyes.
“You’re going to use it, aren’t you?”
“Well DUH. But I promise to use it wisely and only for good.” I said. “And not a lot. We can’t draw attention to ourselves.”
And if we do, we can always just make people unaware of it, I thought.
Deep down inside, something told me that things might spin out of control. I was Blossom and this was my very special after school episode. Actually this is me we’re talking about so it’s more like my tenth very special episode. Anyway. You get the idea. We unfroze Stuart and took the rest of the night explaining it to him and getting him to promise not to tell anyone (under penalty of me making him look like a Southern trucker with bad acne).
The next few weeks would prove just how much we should not ever be allowed to do anything, ever. (But really I’m exaggerating and it’s a lot of fun to read, so stay tuned)
PS I also brought Mr. Peepers back down to normal. I’m not a monster, after all…