Action Men with Duct Tape, Part 5 (Mystery Comedy Serial)

User:Lar, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Early, the next morning, after loading Lars, Jack’s Volvo, with boxes of product and display banners, I woke the kids. Bronwyn had taken up temporary residence on an air mattress in Jack’s home office.

I knocked and opened the door. “Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey,” I said.

For what seemed like several minutes, she stared at me through the slits of her eyelids without saying anything. Finally, she said, “Is there eggs and bakey?”

This is part of a series. You can just jump in and try to follow as with a movie in progress or you can go to the links for previous episodes. You can find Part 1 here, Part 2 here, Part 3 here and Part 4 here.

“Uh … no,” I said. Jack and I do not cook. “We have cereal and toast … or, rather, we have bread with the potential of becoming toast. I’m not sure I’d risk it though. Sometimes, the toaster spits out bread that has failed to become toast and, sometimes, it spits out charcoal.”

Photo by Leti Kugler on Unsplash

Bronwyn fell backwards onto the air mattress like a toppling domino and did not move.

“No!” I said. “Clothes on body.” Somehow, I spontaneously adopted a kind of cave man language, as if this was easier for the half-asleep mind to understand. “Outside go.” I pointed out the window. “In car drive.” I pantomimed this also, with my hands on an imaginary steering wheel. Somehow, I had created a language that was halfway between a now politically incorrect Tonto talk and Yoda speak.

The domino righted itself again. “Food in stomach.”

“Fine. Hurry. Get dressed.” I looked at my watch. “We have time to take you and Dec out to the place that keeps Uncle Jack and I alive, before heading into the city. You can get eggs and bakey and … other things Jack and I are incapable of making for you.” I then realized I had to remove myself if I wanted my instructions followed. I walked out and closed the door, trusting that some action other than sleeping would take place.

Dec, thankfully, was already up and dressed, sitting on the couch, reading. Jack was standing nearby, in a squinty-eyed state similar to Bronwyn, a mug of coffee in his hand. He had dressed in clothes … of some sort.

“This is your ensemble?” I asked Jack, looking him up and down.

“Sure. Why not?”

“You know, I’m not even going to argue with it,” I said, “because if there’s anyplace in which this outfit would be appropriate, it’s the New York Toy Fair.”

It is an understatement to say that Jack’s fashion sense is different than mine. He dressed nearly every day like a signboard — a loud, neon signboard — for the toy industry, but, perhaps at the fair, it would be tolerated and possibly appreciated. At the moment, he was sporting a straw trilby hat with a Twister spot hatband, a cobalt blue dress shirt, black and white checkerboard suspenders, a black tie with a design of colorful, floating Tetris shapes and customized Converse shoes printed with Steamboat Willie puffing around the perimeter. A pocket watch dangling from a belt loop featured the faces of Woody and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story.

I found this on Etsy. This is not an affiliate link. I just thought you might like some visuals of the idea. 🙂

“I can’t decide if you look like you are about to go perform at a children’s party or at a ska festival,” I told him.

“Thanks, Andy,” said Jack.

He would go and take that as a compliment.

“I have an idea for the kids too,” said Jack. “Since Bronwyn was so concerned about being recognized at the event. You were actually onto something yesterday when you mentioned something about a costume for a disguise.” Jack wagged a finger at me.

“I mentioned a hot dog costume … as a joke,” I said. “I think if you are serious about that one, Bronwyn’s eye rolls are going to escalate into actual violence. I believe she knows how to use her powers for good, but keep in mind this is one kid who is wickedly skillful with a pair of nunchuks.”

“Andy,” said Jack. “I’ve been meaning to tell you that you’re a little too prone to hyperbole.”

“Say what?”



Instead of addressing my question, Jack sat down on the couch beside Dec and pulled out a cell phone. After dialing, he muttered some unknown sounds into the phone. “Hej. Har du et par kostumer, vi kan bruge?”

I’m not an expert linguist, but I can usually at least identify the sounds of Italian, French, Spanish or German. These were sounds I could not even place.

After a few more seconds, Jack said, “Mange tak.”

“What were you just saying?” I asked him. “Please, tell me that you weren’t just talking in Klingon or Elvish to one of your geek friends.”

“No,” said Jack. “If I were talking in Klingon, it would be, ‘nuqneH. vaj, chomaw’chugh, vaj tugh ‘e’ DaHar’a’?’ and then, ‘qatlho’qu’. tugh qalegh.’”

I did a face palm. “I should have known. Does your geekdom know no limits?”

Jack looked up and into the upper right corner for just a second. “No, I don’t think so, Andy.” Then, he gave just a hint of a smile.

“So, it wasn’t Klingon, though you are, apparently, fairly proficient in it. Can you enlighten the rest of us on what that was all about?”

“I was just talking to Johan Nielsen* of the Lego company, and he is going to loan us a couple of costumes for the kids to wear at the fair.”

Photo by Ryan Wallace on Unsplash

I still had more questions than answers at this point, but I couldn’t resist teasing and jabbing at him some more. “So, you were talking Danish, I suppose?” Again, I’m no linguist, but I am a toy man, and I know where Lego is headquartered. “You know an impressive smattering of languages, but I am still willing to bet even money that Niels Jorgensen …”

“Johan Nielsen.”

“Whatever … knows English better than you know Danish.”

Jack just shrugged a shoulder. “It’s always good to keep in practice.”

It might be evil of me, but it somehow made me feel better to remember that Mr. Know-it-all was not, in fact, actually omniscient.

Just then, Bronwyn made her entrance into the living room, wearing the new cupcake design T-shirt she had just picked up at the mall.

“So,” I prodded Jack. “You were saying … costumes? Just exactly what and how …?”

“I’ll explain everything over breakfast.” He pointed to the front door. “To the Salvador Deli.”

© Susan Joy Clark 2021

To be continued …

*Although the Lego company is, of course, very real, Johan Nielsen is purely fictional.

I am pinging Danish blogger friend, Le Drake Noir, (check out his wonderful travel photography,) because I used Google Translate for the Danish phrases in this post, and I thought it would be helpful to have a native speaker check it. Google Translate is not always perfect.

Lastly, if you are enjoying this or other posts in this series, I would love feedback or a comment. 🙂

Action Men with Duct Tape, Part 3 (Mystery Comedy Serial)

With links to previous episodes

Photo by Asael Peña on Unsplash

As Bronwyn and I walked over to join the end of the line at Starbucks, I couldn’t help feeling that the eyes of the superfan we’d just met were still following our every move. I resisted the urge to turn around and confirm my suspicions. Besides, if I was wrong, wouldn’t I be the one being the creepy creeper dude by staring at him?

(Ahem.) We interrupt this programming to say that, if you missed parts 1 and 2 of this series, it’s very understandable. The flow of this series was interrupted for a long time. You can find Part 2 here and Part 1 here. You should “start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”

“So, should I get you one of those Pokemon Go frappuccinos?” I asked Bronwyn.

“I want a mocha frappuccino,” said Bronwyn.

“Aren’t you too young for coffee?”

“It’s a frappuccino. It’s practically a milkshake. Uncle Jack lets me have coffee flavored ice cream.”

“Ye-ah,” I said, my voice sliding from a high to low note. “But actual coffee has too much caffeine. It’s my duty as your uncle by proxy to protect you from drugs.”

“Drugs?” said Bronwyn. “It’s caffeine, not crack.”

At the mention of crack, my protective instincts turned up a notch … or twenty. “Crack? Who’s been talking to you about crack?” I asked.

“The police.”

“The police!”

Bronwyn rolled her blue eyes at me. “I’m in the D.A.R.E. program … you know where they teach about drug prevention.”

“Right,” I said.

“Plus,” she said. “I watch TV. I don’t live in a cave.”

“Right,” I said. “Well, caffeine is still a drug … albeit a socially acceptable one.”

In the process of this whole, interesting discussion on drugs, we had worked our way to the front of the line.

“Hi,” I told the barista. “I’d like a cold brew for myself, and she’d like a …”

“I want a mocha …” Bronwyn put in.

At this point, I took Bronwyn into a loving chokehold. Let me rephrase that. I gave Bronwyn a sideways hug that strongly resembled a chokehold. “She’d like one of those unicorn drinks or whatever you have that’s pink and girly and non-caffeinated,” I said. “With a big smiley face on the cup, please.” I myself don’t know why I felt the need to add the last part.

“Okay,” said the barista. “I could do a cotton candy frappuccino. That’s pink. The unicorn one is more colorful.”

I shrugged a shoulder. “I leave it to you.”

“What’s the name?”


“Her name?”






Finally, she nodded, and I paid for our drinks. I was pleased with our results. Mine was dark and beautiful, though I almost questioned my adults-only gateway-to-crack choice of beverage, by way of example. Bronwyn’s was bright purple-pink with swirls of blue and a fairy dusting of pink and blue sugar on top of the whipped cream. The barista had indulged my stupidity with a huge smiley face on the cup right next to the name, “Brooklyn.” I tossed a tip in the tip jar.

Photo by Michelle Oshen on Flickr

We meandered over to a table in the food court then, and I still had this eerie feeling that Mr. Superfan was looking our way. When was I going to let that go? “I suppose I should text Uncle Jack to tell him and Dec to meet us here,” I said. Just as I said that, I spotted Jack and Declan coming through the food court entrance, carrying bags from Best Buy. It was as if Jack and I were so close we could communicate by telepathy, either that or the smell of Cinnabon was like the call of sirens to Ulysses.

I waved them over, and they joined us at a table. Best Buy bags mingled with pastel bags from Forever 13 (or wherever it was) on a spare chair.

“Don’t look now,” I said, “but we met this guy in the food court earlier who’s a mega-fan of our Blaze comic series. He strikes me a bit creepy, but he’s sitting there in the corner. Blondish-brown hair, receding hairline, rectangular-framed glasses …”

“Don’t look now” had the same effect as saying, “Don’t think about zebras in bikinis.” Do you see what I mean? What image just popped into your head? Jack looked to the corner.

“I see him,” Jack said.

“Is he staring at us?”

“I’m staring at him,” said Jack. “Oh, now, he’s looking.”

“Look away,” I said.

Jack did. I thought that our guy might walk over to chat with Jack, now that he had joined us. It wouldn’t be too unreasonable considering our earlier business discussion, but I now had mixed and strange feelings about it.

I fished in my shirt pocket and pulled out the pen he’d given us earlier. “He gave us a pen,” I said. “Apparently, he runs a comic book store and suggested we could go there for a signing some time.”

Photo by Joe Ciciarelli on Unsplash

“Not a bad idea,” said Jack. He looked hard at the pen, at the business name on the side, at first. Then, he began to twist and turn the pen in different angles and stare at it some more. He was so mesmerized you’d think it was one with spinning lighted fiber optics (one of our own products.) I was mostly accustomed to Jack’s quirks by now, the way he would study ordinary things from an engineer’s perspective, but this was seeming ridiculous. It seemed like a pretty run-of-the-mill pen to me.

“Is there something special about that pen?” I asked.

“Maybe not,” said Jack. “It just seemed … well, never mind …” He set it down on the table. “Going to his store for a signing might not be a bad idea, for our writer and artist.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I think he wants you … the big brains, the concept guy. The superfan’s as fruity as a pebble, if you ask me.”

“As fruity as a pebble?” Jack raised his eyebrows. “Pebbles aren’t generally fruity.”

“Some of them are, when they come in boxes labelled Fruity Pebbles.”

Photo by Haley Owens on Unsplash, This is not exactly Fruity Pebbles but was the best stock photo I could find. It has the right idea perhaps.

“The breakfast cereal isn’t made of literal pebbles,” said Jack.

“I’ve known that since I was five,” I said. I sighed. “Don’t be so literal when I am trying to be clever.” I paused. “Is he still there?”

Jack glanced back in the direction of the corner. “No, he’s gone now.”

© Susan Joy Clark 2021

To be continued …

Auntie’s Antimacassar

Chemical Engineer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Emma’s stomach felt like a fish about to do a flip as she sat stiffly on the sofa, watching the door. Her mother sat to her left with her workbox, busy with her fancy needlework, and her younger sister, Grace, sat to her right reading an Oz book by L. Frank Baum.

The doorbell rang, and Hannah, the housekeeper, scuttled off to answer. When Hannah returned, Frank Delaney was in tow with a bunch of wildflowers in his hand.

“Frank Delaney, how pleased we are that you’ve come to call,” said Emma’s mother. “Oh, Grace,” she said. “I need your help to water the flowers in the hothouse.”

“But I’m reading,” said Grace. “They’ve just introduced a new character, a clockwork man named Tik-Tok.”

“Tik-Tok. How interesting. The flowers need watering, dear,” said her mother.

Frank sat down in the armchair and, for a moment, looked like he had something to say on the subject of clockwork men, but the mother of Emma and Grace took her youngest daughter by her hand and pulled her out of the scene … exit left.

“Emma,” said Frank. “Uh … I brought you these.”

“They’re lovely, Frank,” she said, as she took the bunch. “I always prefer wildflowers to hothouse flowers.” She admired the bunch in her hand. “I see you’ve found bread-and-butter.”

“It’s also called toadflax,” said Frank, “but it’s Latin name is linaria vulgaris.”

Common toadflax, AnemoneProjectors, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“Oh, very interesting,” said Emma. She handed her bouquet to Hannah who hurried off to put them in water.

“Yes, I’m glad you prefer the wildflowers to the hothouse ones. I spend a lot of time in nature, studying. I like science. Toads, for instance …”


“Yes, toads.”

“You didn’t bring any with you?”

Frank reddened a little. “No, only the toadflax.” He cleared his throat. “There are three varieties of toad in the area: the American toad, the fowler’s toad and the eastern spadefoot.”

“How interesting,” said Emma, with more enthusiasm than she felt.

Frank smiled, encouraged, and continued. After three or four minutes of Frank’s speech, it looked like Emma was in for a lecture on the regional toads. It wasn’t true that she wasn’t at all interested in science or the natural world, but if Frank was going to lecture on toads, she wished he would at least speak with some passion in his voice. Instead, his voice droned monotonously, his eyes nervously roamed around the room, and his storytelling style meandered from point to point in a circular rather than linear way.

Eastern spadefoot toad, NSNSD NPS, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Emma’s mind wandered, and her eyes also began to wander, to the antimacassar behind Frank’s head. It was a creation of her Aunt Margaret’s. She was always sending gifts by post from her home in Connecticut, bits of gorgeous handiwork, a crocheted table runner or pillowcase or a bit of fancy needlework. Aunt Margaret was coming this evening to stay for a week. Her mother had Hannah put all of the fancy gifts on display in the parlor with the hopes that her sister would feel they were appreciated.

It was evident to Emma from Frank’s slicked coiffure and his aroma of ylang-ylang that he used a liberal amount of Rowland’s Macassar Oil. Every time he leaned his head back, staring at the ceiling, with a new toad fact on his lips, Emma worried about him soiling her auntie’s antimacassar. It was strange that she should worry about the bit of fanciwork fulfilling the purpose for which it was made, but she, like her mother, wanted all of her aunt’s things to look fresh and clean, yet used all at once.

Soon, her gray cat, Xerxes, hopped up on top of the back of the chair where Frank was sitting, and this gave Emma some distraction and something new on which to set her eyes. This was one of the few times Frank chose to actually make eye contact with her, and he smiled to see her seemingly look at him with such affection.

Shortly afterwards, Xerxes batted her aunt’s handiwork onto the floor, and she had a new worry. She rose to her feet, but before she could even blink, Henry, her Jack Russell terrier, attacked it like it was a groundhog, holding it in its mouth, while thrashing and shaking his head.

Szczenie Jack Russell Terrier.jpg: Siristruderivative work: Wuhazet, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“Oh no!”

“Oh no?” said Frank.

“Auntie’s antimacassar.” She pointed at Henry, and Frank, spurred to action, stood up. Emma stood up too and chased her pet through the parlor and back through the kitchen. Frank followed, and as they raced out into the rear yard, he took the lead.

“Emma!” called her mother. “Why are you running in such an unladylike way?”

Emma pointed at Henry. “Auntie’s antimacassar!”

Henry ran straight into the vegetable garden where he dug a hole and buried his prey just as if he were trying to plant another carrot in the row. Frank knelt beside the naughty dog, but it was too late to stop him. This brought an abrupt end to his visit –which Emma did not regret.

For her and her mother, it brought a frenzied cleaning session. Rather, most of the work fell to Hannah and Emma, while her mother spent the next hour or so on the candlestick telephone, calling half the wives in the neighborhood, inquiring about the best way to wash soiled white linens.

Nuberger13, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Hannah lit the copper in the scullery. Emma filled it with buckets of water to which Hannah added Sunlight carbolic soap and baking soda. Later, Hannah used a five-legged wooden dolly to agitate and mangle the wash. They tried some bluing to it also, adding a bluebag tied with muslin to the wash.

Amazingly, it came out clean and sparkling white, but it barely had time to dry on the line before Aunt Margaret arrived. Emma returned the antimacassar to its spot on the chair while it was still slightly damp and hoped her aunt wouldn’t touch it.

Aunt Margaret didn’t touch it. She did, however, take note of it and how clean it was as she came in with her bags. “I see you’re using the antimacassar I made. It’s sparkling white. I don’t think you ever use it.”

Emma blushed. “Oh we do, Auntie. We use it all the time.”

Ragtag Daily Prompt Thursday: Antimacassar

Word of the Day Challenge: Gorgeous