Action Men with Duct Tape, Part 4 (Mystery Comedy Serial)

Photo by Geraldine Lewa on Unsplash

I could breathe a little easier knowing that the superfan had left the building … or, at least, the food court.

“So, what did you buy?” I asked Jack and Dec.

“A camera drone,” said Dec, “and a GoPro.” He pulled two boxes out of a BestBuy bag.

If you want to check out previous episodes, you can find Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

“A camera drone and a GoPro?” I looked at Jack and not Dec, with raised eyebrows, thinking he was spoiling the kid to a ridiculous degree.

Dec seemed to sense my unspoken thoughts. “Uncle Jack didn’t buy them. I’ve been earning money, and I saved up.”

“So, you’re into filming?” I asked him.

“Well, filming and … tech in general.”

Like uncle, like nephew. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the … branch that’s connected to your mother’s tree.”

Now, it was Dec’s turn to raise his eyebrows at me. “Huh?”

“That made much more sense in my mind before it came out my mouth,” I said. “You’re like your uncle.”

“Ah. Right,” said Dec.

“Well, maybe I didn’t buy gifts at the mall,” said Jack, “but I do have gifts for both Dec and Bronwyn, but they’re waiting back at the condo. They’re too big for my pockets.” He patted his overstuffed trenchcoat pockets.

If the gifts were really too big for his pockets, that was saying something. Jack wore that trenchcoat everywhere, rain or shine, and he must have had the equivalent of the contents of three women’s purses in there. Well, when I say that, I am talking in terms of storage, not that he was carrying lipsticks and powder puffs. No, Jack carried an interesting assortment of junk that seemed completely unnecessary … until it was, and that roll of duct tape came in handy for a makeshift fix or that magnifying glass could help with reading the fine print on a box of vitamins while shopping in the pharmacy.

After Jack and Dec joined the sugarfest that Bronwyn and I had started, and we split a giant Cinnabon the size of a small island nation four ways, we did head back to the condo.

pingping, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Once back in the condo, we made ourselves comfortable. I got very comfortable, lying flat on my back on the couch, with George, the beagle, lying down on my stomach. I could take up all this space, because the two kids were content to sprawl on the floor in the floor cushions. Jack perched on the edge of his chair. “I suppose you two are too old for action figures.”

“I’m not,” said Dec. This was an interesting remark, because at 15, he was the oldest of the two.

I shrugged. “I’m not either.” I mean, Jack owns a toy business, and I’m his right hand man. I expect I will never grow up.

Bronwyn said, “I guess I’m not too old to display them … like with my Pop figures.”

Jack smiled. “Well, I think you are going to like these, because they are very special. They’re tied with the Blaze comic series. We’re going to release them to the public at the toy fair tomorrow.” He pulled a box from a bag. Through the cellophane panel, you could see a pre-teen girl figure with double French braids in her strawberry blonde hair. In separate compartments, a plastic backpack and other accessories were on display. Jack handed the box to Bronwyn.

Bronwyn rested the box against her raised knees and stared at it for several moments. “She looks like me,” she said.

“Well, as you know, you and Dec were very inspirational to my characters,” said Jack. “This is Farryn, Blaze’s niece.”

She then looked over the accompanying accessories. “A hoop, pins, ribbon … rhythmic gymnastics equipment and … nunchuks? I do rhythmic gymnastics and martial arts. She practically is me … but like in a parallel universe.”

Minerva97, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“Wonder Woman has her magic lasso. Farryn has her ribbon of doom,” I said. That wasn’t quite the way it was written in the comic series, but I thought I’d be dramatic.

Jack presented a box to Declan next. “This is Hunter, Blaze’s nephew and Farryn’s trusty sidekick.”

“Wait, I’m her sidekick?” said Declan, as if he already completely identified with the character.

“Let me reword that,” said Jack. “Partner.”

The teen boy figure had a dark wavy coif just like Declan, although the figure’s hair was in molded plastic. The figure’s accessories included a drone, strangely similar to what Declan just bought himself, a smart watch, walkie talkies and a remote control car, all in miniature.

“Wow,” said Dec. “Bron and I are superheroes. You are the coolest uncle, Uncle Jack.” Dec turned to me. “And, Uncle Andy, you are the coolest uncle by association.”

“It’s super cool, Uncle Jack. Thank you so much.” She began to open her box. “Only … only … I think the superfan we met in the mall knows I’m her. I think he recognizes me.”

There was a pause. “Well,” I said. “Don’t worry about that. Tomorrow, at the toy fair, we’ll sneak you in wearing a hot dog suit. People may want to eat you, but no one will recognize you.”

I was beginning to lose count at how many times Bronwyn could roll her eyes at me.

Later, after the kids went to bed, Jack asked me, “Did I make a mistake … making the characters so similar to the kids?”

“Well,” I said. “You wouldn’t be the first to do something like that. Look at A.A. Milne and Christopher Robin. Milne made a character based on his kid.”

“Yeah,” said Jack. “But it was a different world back then, don’t you think?”

© Susan Joy Clark 2021

To be continued …

Action Men with Duct Tape, Part 3

2

Continued from Parts 1 and 2.

As we got into the line at Starbucks, Bronwyn told me, “But I want a coffee drink.”

“You’re a little young for coffee, aren’t you?” Her parents would be thrilled at the way we were spoiling the kids, filling them with sugar and caffeine. “Don’t you want a Pokemon Go drink? It’s purple and pretty, and I’m pretty sure there’s fruit in there somewhere which means it may have a vitamin or two.”

“I want a caramel coffee frappuccino.” She looked up at me with twinkly eyes.

How could I say, “No?” “Have whatever you like.”

“Aren’t you cheating on your barista friend at the Salvador Deli by going to Starbucks?”

“I won’t tell her if you don’t,” I said.

Bronwyn traced a finger across her mouth. “My lips are sealed.”

We got to the front of the line. “I’ll have two caramel frappuccinos,” I told the cashier.

“I thought you took your coffee black,” said Bronwyn. “It’s that barista friend of yours. She’s getting you to try new things, isn’t she?”

“Yip.” It seemed, apparently, that I didn’t mind.

My butt vibrated. Let me rephrase that. The cell phone in my back pocket vibrated. Jack was calling. I picked up. “Hey Jack,” I said.

“Hey Andy. I’ve got Declan. He just finished up at Best Buy. We’ll meet you at the food court.”

“Great. Should we pick you up a couple of Cinnabons?”

“A couple of …? If we keep this up, we’re going to have Cinnabon buns, not to mention Pillsbury doughboy tummies. I am taking that krav maga class tomorrow. Pick us up one. We can share it.” I thought I heard muffled protests from Declan that he could handle his own. He was 14, had hit a growth spurt and could probably stand in for the host of Man v. Food with no problem. Jack sighed. “Make it two.”

“Okay. See you soon.”

Bronwyn and I headed next to the line at Cinnabon. “Let’s face it. We’re all going to be roly poly.” I looked down at my gut, at the little bit that hung out over my belt, and gave it a pat. I started to sing, “Watch it wiggle, watch it jiggle …”

Bronwyn stared at me strangely.

“Jell-O brand gelatin,” I finished. “Guess you’re too young for that.”

She shook her head at me. “Speak for yourself about getting roly poly. I’m going to way burn off all of these calories.” She swung out her right arm, showing off her pink Fitbit. “I take twirling on Mondays, gymnastics on Tuesdays and tae kwon do on Fridays. What you need, Uncle Andy …” Here, she gave me a side hug around the waist. “Is to hire me as your personal trainer.”

“Twirling. That’s a good manly sport for me to take up at my age. What muscles does that work?”

“Your arm, of course, and your core.”

“Core? What am I? An apple?”

Bronwyn smiled and then stuck out her tongue. I picked up four monstrous Cinnabons, then Bronwyn and I settled down at a table with our healthy snacks. I had the odd almost paranoid feeling of eyes at my back. I turned around. I whispered to Bronwyn, “Is he still there?”

Bronwyn answered back in the same whisper. “Who? The superfan?”

I nodded, and she looked over in the superfan’s general direction.

“Yeah. He’s kind of a creeper, isn’t he?”

I nodded again, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on what made him a “creeper.” Just then, I spotted Jack and Declan coming towards us, waved and motioned them towards us. They came over to our table.

Declan sank into a chair and took a Cinnabon. “Great! I’m starving.”

Jack took a chair beside him. “You just ate … an hour ago,” he said, “one of those Taco Bell box meals, the Bell Box or the Big Box or the Big Bucks … one of those things, plus some restaurant breadsticks you found in my coat pocket and a box of Raisinets you found in the car on the ride over.”

Restaurant breadsticks might seem like an oddity to carry in your coat pocket, but Jack’s trenchcoat pockets were full of oddities: plastic forks and toothpicks from restaurants, small toys and toy parts from creations he was working on, plus every other small gadget imaginable. I was surprised Declan didn’t find a four course meal in Jack’s pockets.

I turned to Declan. “A man after mine own heart,” I said. I held out a hand, and he slapped it low.

“What can I say?” Declan shrugged. “I’m a growing boy.”

“I wish I had that excuse,” I said, right before shoveling a mound of gooey bun into my mouth.

“You’re growing,” Bronwyn told me. “Just in a different direction, outwards instead of upwards.” She tapped herself on the chest. “Personal trainer.”

I was beginning to seriously consider taking her up on that offer, but, first, I had to digest. I turned to Declan. “So, did you find anything cool at Best Buy?”

“I found a model of drone I like, but I can’t afford it. I’m going to have to watch a lot more dogs and mow a lot more lawns before I can,” he said.

“You don’t need a drone from Best Buy,” said Bronwyn. “Uncle Jack can make you a drone from popsicle sticks, a bread twist tie and a paper clip.”

Her brother stared across the table at her. “That makes no sense, Bron. You didn’t list a single electronic part.”

“It’s called exaggeration,” she said and poked out her tongue.

I was on Bronwyn’s side. I’d seen Jack splice together such interesting gadgets that nothing would surprise me anymore. I turned to her, “Jack could build a car out of … “ I picked up my frappuccino straw wrapper. “This straw wrapper, a balloon and a couple of toothpicks.”

Declan shook his head at me. “You’re as bad as she is. Uncle Andy, you’re a bad influence.”

“Thank you,” I said.

Jack sat silently rubbing his chin. “Well,” he said. “I was going to wait until tonight or tomorrow, but I hate to see Declan disappointed. I have gifts for both of you, kids.”

“I knew it!” said Bronwyn, bringing down her fist and crooked elbow in a kind of “Chaching” motion. These kids had hit the jackpot in having a toy inventor for an uncle.

Jack began to reach into the interior pockets of his trenchcoat.

“Don’t tell me you have them in there?” I said.

What Jack pulled out first was not a toy but a Blaze comic book. “Well, I think you both know that when I created Blaze as an adventure hero and his niece and nephew, Angel and Hunter, as his helpers in adventure, that they were somewhat inspired by the three of us,” Jack said.

“A more adventure-y version of the three of us,” said Bronwyn.

She didn’t know her uncle very well if she didn’t understand yet that Jack could be pretty danged adventure-y.

“So now,” Jack said, “you not only have an adventure hero alter ego, your alter ego also has its own action figure.” Jack brought out the two action figures, and they did somewhat resemble the real life kids that inspired them. “Hunter,” he said, handing the figure to Declan, “And Angel,” he added, handing the other to Bronwyn.

Hunter had Declan’s dark brown hair, and Angel had Bronwyn’s strawberry blonde hair. Both were dressed like regular teen kids but were equipped with backpacks.

Bronwyn opened her figure’s backpack first. She pulled out the miniature items one by one and laid them on the table: a twirling baton, some rhythmic gymnastics clubs and a pair of nunchucks. “Cool,” she said.

Declan opened his figure’s backpack and pulled out miniatures of a camera, a GPS device and, last but not least, a drone.

“The drone really works too,” Jack explained.

“Really cool,” said Declan. “Thanks Uncle Jack. You’re the coolest uncle ever.”

Bronwyn popped out of her seat like a jack in the box and hugged Jack’s neck. Declan attacked Jack’s other side in a sort of wrestle-hug. While the three of them engaged in this cuddle fest, I turned around and looked for the superfan. He was still there. It might have been my imagination or it might not have been, but it seemed that he’d been looking at us too and had to look down just as I turned around.

To be Continued …

© 2018 Susan Joy Clark