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Sample Chapter: 9 - Captain Disaster to the Rescue

No, dude,” Andrew Conner, or Scratch as his friends called him, said to his visitor from his hospital bed in room 256. “It’s like I want to think that this Pizza Head dude is, like, a hallucination but it was way too real, comprende?”

“Oh, Scratch,” the visitor soothed. “I’m so sorry. But are you sure it wasn’t a hallucination?”

“I consider myself an expert on hallucinations,” Scratch boasted. “Last March I was in the half pipe at Breckenridge, going for some tasty air, and I ripped off this 720 and went for the fakie touchdown when I face planted the landing. It was a heinous crater and, for like three hours after that, I saw this fuzzy, green dog with antlers following me around. But that doesn’t come close to Pizza Head. This bugger was the real deal.”

Scratch’s guest reached out her hand and softly stroked his cheek. “I’m sure you’ll be fine,” she cooed. “But you need to rest. Do you want me to go?”

“Nah, I like having you around, but I need to ring up Bingo. Why don’t you hop up on the bed and hand me the phone,” Scratch offered with a grin. The girl giggled, picked up the phone and snuggled into Scratch’s shoulder as he dialed.

“Guido’s. What’cha want?” a voice answered after the third ring.

“Hey, Bingo, Scratch.”

“Scratch! How’s the cabesa, dude? That dog with the antlers come back?” Bingo asked.

“Nah, nothing like that. But I did talk with this psychologist dude, like, an hour ago and I have to tell you Bingo, that guy was a trip.”

“Bummer,” Bingo replied.

“Yeah, tell me about it. He looked like that Lurch guy on the Addams Family. His knuckles almost scraped the floor when he walked. Very Outer Limits, dude. He kept trying to tell me there was some kind of repressed feeling of inadequacy, which somehow relates to food and m mother. What’s my mom got to do with it?”

“Did she order a pizza?”

“Dude, she lives in Seattle, remember? We road tripped out there last year for spring break in the Shroomwagen.”

“Oh yeah,” Bingo said. “That trip rocked! But I sure do miss the Shroomwagen. That was the most excellent Volkswagen ever.” Bingo paused and then asked, “Don’t they have any decent pizza joints in Seattle? Hey, maybe that’s it, Scratch. Maybe your mom is, like, major league bummed that she can’t get a primo pizza like Guido’s delivered and she’s sending you these supercharged brain waves. When they hit your noodle, Whammo! They redline the circuits and the next thing you know you’re seeing this Pizza Head dude.” Scratch said nothing for a long time as he thought through this scenario.

“Scratch? You still there? Scratch?” Bingo asked.

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard you say, Bingo,” Scratch finally answered.

“It could happen,” Bingo said, defending his theory. “I saw this movie once where this guy gets microwaved in a nuclear test and his brain gets this ESP thing going, and... ” Scratch and Bingo bantered on about Bingo’s brain wave theory for several minutes while the girl snuggled into Scratch’s arm and sighed. She’d never been as happy as she was right then, wrapped in the arms of Scratch, the pizza dude.

* * *

Kevin and Tony ran to the nurse’s station. Kevin walked up to the high desk while Tony fidgeted behind him. “Excuse me,” Kevin said in his helpless boy voice to the nearest nurse, his eyes barely peeking over the counter top. “I’m looking for my, um, cousin. My mom said he was in this hospital.”

 “What’s his name?” the nurse asked without looking up.

“Er, everyone calls him Scratch,” Kevin answered, giving the nurse a hopeful look.

“Does, Scratch have a last name?” the nurse said, now looking down her long nose at the two boys.

“Well, that’s just it,” Kevin fumbled. “You see, we’re not that close and he just moved to Boulder to... ” Kevin paused as he searched for the right lie.

“... deliver pizza and go to college,” Tony interjected.

“Ah, yes,” the nurse said, now satisfied. “The Pizza Dude, as he called himself. Room 256. Down this hall,” she pointed behind Kevin and Tony, “and on your left.”

“Thanks!” Kevin said, and scampered down the hall. Tony followed closely behind, his head darting back and forth watching for his mother. Kevin watched the numbers on the doors as he ran, 248, 250, 252, 254 and then 256. He was about to open the door when Tony grabbed his arm.

“I forgot to tell you something,” Tony said.

“Forgot to tell me what?” Kevin asked.

Tony sighed. “We’re not supposed to know this yet, but I overheard my mom talking with your mom the other day. They want us to spend the next week together in Ohio with my folks at my grandmother’s house.”

“But next week we’re going to school camp!”

“I know, but my mom thinks if we spend the week together, without any breaks, we’ll get sick of each other. And if we get sick of each other we won’t get into trouble as often. She said it was something called reverse psychology.”

“That sucks!” bellowed Kevin. Then he stopped and asked, “What’s reverse psychology?”

“Beats me,” Tony answered. “Maybe it’s got something to do with your horoscope. Maybe you read your horoscope backwards all week long and all the bad things that’ve been happening turn into good things. You know, everything reverses.”

“Wouldn’t that be reverse astronomy?” Kevin offered. “My mom reads her horoscope each morning and says it’s got something to do with astronomy.”

Tony stopped and thought about this. “Yeah, that could be it. But I thought that was psychology. Or maybe it was astrology?”

“No,” Kevin said convincingly. “Astrology is that artificial grass they have down at the football stadium. Its Astrologyturf but they call it Astroturf because it’s easier to say.”

“That’s ridiculous, Kevin,” Tony said. “It’s not Astrologyturf, it’s just Astroturf. You must need a brain transplant or something.” Tony stopped suddenly and pointed down another hall.

“Hey, Kevin, look. That’s Dr. Harper down there being interviewed by that television camera. You think he’s talking about us?”

“Nah, he’s probably talking to them about some stupid car accident. Come on, we’ve got to hurry.” Without knocking, Kevin silently pushed the door open. He heard a voice talking quietly behind a curtain pulled around two sides of the bed. Kevin walked quietly into the room as Tony followed close behind.

“Hey, look,” Kevin whispered, pointing to a table. Kevin reached over, opened the flat box and saw a large Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza sitting next to an untouched meal from the hospital’s cafeteria. “Pizza, cool. Maybe we’ll get a slice if we’re nice to Scratch,” he whispered. They turned from the pizza and tiptoed next to the curtain and reached out and yanked it and yelled, “Hey Scratch!”

“YEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!” Scratch and the girl screamed in unison.

Tony stumbled backward at the explosion of screams and tripped over the table which held Scratch’s dinner of Salisbury steak, mashed potatoes, and overcooked peas. The plate of food scattered through the air in all directions. The gravy-slathered steak flew across the room and stuck, momentarily, to the wall above the bed, then oozed downward like a giant, brown slug. The peas went straight up, bounced off the ceiling, then rained down on the room like green hail. The mashed potatoes disintegrated as if a firecracker had exploded from the inside of the pile, and small specks of potato stuck to nearly everything in the room.

Tony, embarrassed by the accident, began skittering around the room cleaning up the mess.

“Kevin!” Betsy yelled, jumping from the bed and ignoring the storm of flying food. “What are you doing here?”

“What am I doing here?” Kevin returned. “What are you doing here? And what are you doing with Scratch?”

“How do you know Scratch?” Betsy asked in astonishment. “Did you tell Mom about him? I swear I will give you the biggest wedgie of your miserable little life if you so much as whisper to Mom that we’re going out.”

“You two are going out?” Kevin laughed. “Oh, this is great. What a riot. My sister and Scratch in smooch mode.” Kevin puckered his lips and danced in circles as he kissed the air. “My sister’s first boyfriend is Scratch, the Pizza Dude.”

Betsy stepped toward Kevin and shoved her face inches from his nose. “I’m not kidding, Kevin,” she growled. “Not one word, or they’ll have to clean you up off the floor with a stick and a spoon.” Betsy glared into her little brother’s eyes in an attempt to make her point stick.

“Lighten up, Betsy,” smirked Kevin. “Tony and I met Scratch today when I knocked him out as he was trying to deliver a pizza to our house. That’s probably why he’s in the hospital right now. He was moaning about some guy with a pizza for a head.”

Betsy turned to Scratch who was watching the Salisbury steak slide down the wall. “How come you didn’t tell me you got knocked out at my house, Scratch?” she asked.

“Huh?” Scratch answered still watching the steak.

“Scratch,” she said more forcefully. “Kevin said you got knocked out delivering a pizza to my house. Is that true?”

“Oh yeah,” he acknowledged. “Did I forget to tell you that? Sorry. Well, you weren’t home anyway.”

Tony hurried around the room picking up a pile of peas and ignoring the conversation.

“So how long have you two been going out?” Kevin asked coyly. “I thought Mom said you couldn’t have a boyfriend until you were 16, and the last time I checked you were only 15. She’ll blow her top when she finds out about this.”

“Were you listening to me a minute ago?” Betsy hissed, glaring at Kevin again. “If you want to make it to your teenage years, you’d better keep your germ-infested mouth shut. And tell your stupid friend, Tony, the same goes for him.” Betsy glared at Tony as he began cleaning up peas from under the bed.

“I heard you,” came Tony’s muffled reply.

“Don’t get your undies all in a bind, sis,” Kevin snorted. “Your secret is safe with me. Of course, I tend to say things I shouldn’t every now and then. I sure hope that doesn’t happen with you and Scratch here.”

Betsy rolled her eyes. She knew where this was going and realized she couldn’t stop it. “What do you want?” she asked flatly.

“It’s really a small thing. You’ll hardly notice it. Who knows, maybe you’ll actually enjoy it. I just want you and Scratch to take Tony and me to the movies each weekend for a month. And by taking us I mean that we pick the movie, Scratch drives, and you pay for the tickets and munchies. Now, we’ll take it easy on you with the munchies. That can be a tub of popcorn, the really large one that you have to crawl into and eat your way out, and a large Dr. Pepper. Deal?”

There was really no way of getting out of it. Betsy knew if their mom found out about her and Scratch she wouldn’t be allowed out of the house for months. “Okay, you little leech, deal. But I don’t have to sit with you, right?”

“Why would I want to sit next to all that kissing and hugging?” Kevin answered sticking out his tongue in disgust. “I’d blow chunks if I had to sit next to that.”

“Ha, ha,” Betsy mocked. “You’re a riot, Kevin. Can you and Tony get out of here now? Does Mom know where you are?”

“Sure, she knows I’m with Tony,” answered Kevin. “Anyway, I don’t want to hang around your little love nest any longer. Come on Tony, let’s get out of here.”

“Later, dudes,” Scratch called from the bed. “Hey Betsy, want to watch TV? I finally found the remote. Some nimrod put it in my clothes.” Kevin whirled around when he heard this and saw Scratch pointing the Influxitron at the television.

“Scratch, no!” Kevin screamed as the television exploded in a cyclone of sparks, glass shards, and bits of metal. The explosion blew the set off its brackets and it fell violently to the floor in another eruption of sparks and glass. Fuzzy gray smoke spun upward from the mangled television and slowly filled the room.

Tony peeked out from under the bed expecting to see a gaping hole in place of the window. Instead he saw Scratch flattening himself into the mattress holding the Influxitron, Betsy cowering in a corner, and the shell of a television smoldering near the foot of the bed. It looked like a scene from the Wizard of Oz and Tony took several seconds to absorb the surreal image. “What happened?” he finally asked Kevin, who was standing akimbo in the doorway. 

“I’ll tell you what happened,” Captain Disaster bellowed. “Gwisher here tried to mushify my brain. Nice try Gwisher, but your reflexes must be going. Good thing you showed up when you did, Lieutenant. I’ll need your help to get out of here.”

Tony, Scratch and Betsy stared in bewilderment as Kevin jumped up onto the bed, grabbed the Influxitron from Scratch’s hand, and leaped to the floor in one motion. As he landed, smoke from the smoldering television reached the smoke detector hanging from the ceiling. A piercing scream and throbbing strobe light blasted out of the cylinder.

“I thought I told you to take out the alarms, Lieutenant!” Captain Disaster yelled above the noise.

“I, er, what are you... huh?” Tony stuttered back.

“No matter, we’ll be going now Gwisher,” Captain Disaster announced. He grabbed Lieutenant DiVietti by the arm and pulled him into the hall. “Let’s get out of here,” he said, looking at his trusted friend with an arched eyebrow.

Tony opened his mouth, unsure of exactly what to say, when Kevin held up his hand and pointed down the hall with the other. Tony turned and saw two men and a woman; one of the men wrestled with something that looked like a large video camera.

Captain Disaster ground his teeth at the sight of the three Floogs slogging toward him. He instinctively scanned the hallway for a weapon. The only thing he saw was a gurney the Floogs used to move their unconscious or dead prisoners. “Perfect,” he muttered, his plan instantly formulated at the sight of the bed. “Get over here Lieutenant,” he yelled. “I’ve got a plan to get us past those three Floogs.”

“Wait a second, Kevin,” Tony blurted. “Those aren’t Floogs, they probably work for the hospital and I think they’re coming to help us. Why don’t we wait for them to get here so we can... Woooooowwwww!”

Without warning, Kevin threw Tony onto the gurney where he landed with a grunt and his momentum started it wobbling down the hall. Kevin tossed the Influxitron onto the bed next to Tony’s head, grabbed the back end of the gurney, and launched it down the hall as he ran behind it.

From the bed Tony saw Dr. Harper running erratically down the hall in front of them followed by the television crew. Then Dr. Harper stopped abruptly in the middle of the hall, turned, and yelled something to the cameraman while waving his arms furiously.

Captain Disaster and Lieutenant DiVietti flew down the hallway, propelled by the micro rocket engines inserted into the heels of Captain Disaster’s boots. He watched with satisfaction as two of the Floogs pressed themselves up against the wall trying to avoid the human missile hurtling toward them. Still, one refused to move and stood his ground defiantly. “Too bad for you, Mr. Floog,” he rumbled, reaching for the heel of his boot and igniting his last micro burst rocket.

“Look out, Dr. Harper!” Tony yelled but he was drowned out by the screaming alarms.

The cameraman re-shouldered the camera and began taping again just in time to see Dr. Harper hit from behind by the heavy gurney and sent flying to one side. The gurney barely slowed from the impact.

“You’ll never capture Captain Disaster!” he yelled as he knocked the Floog out of their path and rocketed past the other two, their puffy mouths hanging open in disbelief. They didn’t even have time to get their blasters out of their holsters.

Tony thought he was doing pretty well just hanging on to the bed as Kevin ran behind looking for things to run into. Then he saw the end of the hallway only a few yards ahead.

“This is our station!” Kevin yelled as he grabbed the back of Tony’s shirt and flung him off the gurney seconds before they slammed into the wall. They tumbled wildly on the polished floor and stopped underneath a large fish tank. Tangled together they looked like an octopus playing Twister.

“Well, that was pretty cool, wasn’t it Tony?” Kevin asked with a huge grin.

“You’re an idiot,” Tony growled back.