Carolyn donned a long wooly sweater as she got out of the car, this despite the heat of the day. It hung well below her knees and was so bulky that even on a specimen like her it wasn’t entirely clear which gender was hiding under its lumps and folds.

“You’re punishing me, aren’t you?”

She sniffed. “It’s to protect me from the rats and roaches, since you won’t take me to a reasonable dining establishment.”

I didn’t bother to argue. The 5-star rumbling in my tummy would have done it for me had Carolyn been listening. She wasn’t. She was too busy crinkling her nose at imaginary spots on the table and demanding that someone in authority sandblast the bench she would have to sit on.

“Carolyn,” I said wearily, “you’re making a scene.”

She smiled that ghastly sweet smile again. “Nothing to the one I’ll make when I collapse from breathing the fumes of anthrax that are wafting from whatever is beneath this…seat.”

I groaned. “It’s just a diner, Carolyn, not the pestilential core of a New Jersey landfill.”

She glanced at her surroundings, a nice little chrome-and-wood diner from the age of art deco. “You could have fooled me.”

I sighed. “Not nice, Carolyn. Not nice at all.”

She stuck her tongue out at me, an act which removed 20 years from her age and reminded me of nothing so much as the times in my childhood when I had dearly wanted to brain my sister with a brick. The hope of a chance to do the same to Carolyn kept me going through an indifferent hamburger (though it was still way better than the Legal Eagle’s since all traces of actual sawdust were absent) and a salad Carolyn picked apart lettuce leaf by lettuce leaf.

“There are snails hiding under here somewhere,” she explained, “and I intend to see them assassinated.” Snails being one of the beasties for which she had no use whatever.

I shook my head and left her to it while I began the story.

***

Killer Mike McCoy, the Pukin’ Nuke, and I had met several years ago when he was just starting out. In those days, he was plain Mike McCoy, a women’s hygiene product salesman who turned beet red and stammered every time he had to show his line. The word “fresh” nearly always came out sounding like “fish” by the time he managed to utter it, and he broke into a cold sweat if there was an actual woman closer to him than the next state. Once when a female pharmacist, for a joke, asked him to demonstrate the proper method of attaching the Super Jumbo Slim Pad With Baking Soda, he keeled over in shock and woke up three days later at Mrs. Ernestine Gaskill’s Home for the Terminally Embarrassed.

Mike was, to put it mildly, not a success at selling feminine hygiene anything, and his career as the Tampon King was therefore suffering a decided setback. He couldn’t even pronounce “Tampon”. He always started out with a good, solid “T” that made you think this time would be different, but by the time he reached the “m” the word had suddenly and unaccountably acquired seven or eight extra syllables and was beginning to resemble a medical term that might have been used by a dermatologist for a particularly nasty skin disease found only among the Welsh. “Tymdd-dgnallynm-hmpifftipighnon” comes pretty close to describing how it might have been spelled had anyone been foolish enough to try. Consequently Mike was what you might call “in search of a new career change opportunity.” In a nutshell, fired. Sacked. Given the old heave-ho. Pink-slipped. Chucked into the snow with the pigeons to scratch in the dirt for a pieces-of-old-dead-mouse dinner.

I happened on him shortly after the boot had landed unceremoniously on his nether regions. Mike had a single distinguishing characteristic aside from his monumental blush (a blush that had been known to start a fire at six paces): he was big. Actually, I take that back. Mike wasn’t “big”, he was BIG. Gargantuan. When I saw him standing at the frankfurter cart in the park that afternoon, my first thought was that Mount Surabaya had had a sudden urge for a dog with the works. He was…imposing, shall we say.

I was going to go around him and continue on my merry way when, just as I passed in front of him, two women walked by and one of them said, “So there I was just sitting there, in the middle of a meeting, when suddenly–Whhhoooosh!–like a goddam gusher, my period starts. No warning, no cramps, no nothing, and there’s blood running down my leg….”

Mike tottered, turned a fiery red–Mount Surabaya had just become a volcano–and dropped to his knees, his eyes rolling around in his head like a couple of pinballs looking for a bumper to bounce off and not finding one. His mouth opened like cave, his belly rumbling like the unhappy volcano he’d come to resemble, and before I could get out of the way, chunks spewed from the cave of his mouth like garbage shot from a cannon.

We’re not just talking about your random projectile vomiting like you practiced off your roommate’s balcony in college. That would have been considered bush league compared to the endless flood of puke that slammed into my ankles as if it came from a pressurized fire hose. In seconds I was bathed in puke from the hips down.

I said something like “My God!” and was starting to get out of the way when it stopped as suddenly as it had started. Mount Surabaya’s eyes rolled up into his head like marbles and he toppled like the statue of a politician nobody had ever liked. When he landed, the ground shook and people grabbed at each other thinking it was an earthquake, or maybe the end of the world as they knew it.

Maybe it was. It sure looked like it was.

Advertisements