Hero! (or How I Got Run Over by a Moped)

“Hello there, Audience; it’s me, Thatcher, again. As if you had any doubts; you probably read the title and knew right away that I was back at my old shenanigans again. It’s been a while since our last adventure. There is a damn good reason for that, too. I kind of wound up in the hospital.

“You see, not long after my last bit of excitement, I was in need of a little cash. You know what, this story is much better if The Narrator tells it; he saw the whole thing. Narrator, take it away.”

Thank you, Thatch. Now, as he told you, Thatcher was in need of some money. Believe it or not, he is not able to steal electricity or heat, so naturally, he has to pay for those things. Also naturally (this is Thatcher the Great and Terrible we’re talking about), he didn’t want to spend his own money on these things. He finds it is much more rewarding to steal the money. Or as he puts it, to “have some kind soul pay my bills.”

So he went out and started turning out people’s pockets. Pickpocketing is a difficult business these days; you can’t just steal someone’s watch and pawn it anymore. The police have gotten wise, and go straight to the pawn shops, pulling the records of any items that fit the description of the thing that was reported stolen. And since pawn shops keep meticulous records of items bought and sold, as well as buyers and sellers, pawning stolen items is pretty much a no-go.

That leaves just cash. I mean, he could use someone’s credit card, but that would get him caught even faster, and Thatcher very much enjoys his ridiculous life outside of prison. So he steals cold, hard cash. the day in question had been going quite well. He was up several hundred dollars after just a couple of hours. People really are oblivious to what is going on around them; some of his picks were so blatantly obvious that he should be ashamed of himself. yet, the people continued on with their day, completely unaware that he had just robbed them blind. (That reminds me; I should really tell you about the time Thatch pretended to be blind while getting away from a crime scene. He wound up playing piano at an elementary school talent show; it was a real fiasco.)

Anyway, so there he was, making one hell of a living in a very dishonest manner, when he saw what should have been a very easy mark. An elderly lady was crossing the street, and her purse was hanging onto her shoulder by only one strap. It was flopping around, wide open, just asking for him to put his sticky little fingers into it. I mean that in a very literal manner; his hands are very petite (they make for great piano playing, apparently), and he had just lifted a cinnamon roll off of a street cart several minutes before. He had literal little, sticky fingers…but, again, I digress…

Thatch saw the opportunity before him, and walked up to the woman.

“Ma’am, woud you like some help crossing the street?” he asked her.

A wide smile grew on her face, and she replied, “Oh, yes; you are so kind.”

Thatcher took her arm and supported her as she crossed the street (yes, he actually helped her; he’s a thief, not a monster.) As they neared the curb on the other side, he slipped his hand into her purse and grabbed her wallet. At that moment, he heard a high-pitched sound, and suddenly, he was lying in the street.

A moped slid to a stop several feet away, and his arm hurt like hell. Looking down at it, he understood why.

“Well, I’m pretty sure it’s not supposed to bend that direction,” he said to himself.

People poured out into the street, with several helping the old lady to her feet. One of them called an ambulance. A police squad rolled up seconds later, and the police propped Thatch up against the front tire.

“What happened here?” the officer asked.

The old woman stepped forward, clearly shaken. “That young man there was helping me cross the street, when that MANIAC on the scooter tried to run us down. He pushed me to safety, but the driver still hit him.”

Someone in the crowd chimed in. “Yeah, he’s a HERO!”

“Crap,” Thatcher thought to himself. “The last thing I needed was a reputation as a hero. I can’t have people recognizing me; I’ll starve. Or I’ll have to get a real job…yeah, I’m gonna starve.”

Thatch attempted to stand, and the officer held him down.

“You’d better stay seated til the ambulance gets here, son.”

Thatch shook his head. “No, I’m fine. I’ll just walk it off.”

The people around him laughed.

“Not only is he a hero, he’s tough as nails, too! What a guy!” someone said.

With his good arm, Thatcher waved off the statement.

“I’m not a hero; I just got hit by a moped. It’s no big deal, really.”

Thatcher was suddenly struck with a thought. “Are ALL the heroes on the news just small-time criminals who got hurt doing something illegal? Man, there really are no good people left in the world. What scoundrels.”

“I wasn’t pushing her out of the way, I was st…oh, yeah, that’s what I was doing. I was helping her across the street, and then I pushed her out of the crazy driver’s way,” he said aloud.

He shook his head and cursed himself. He had actually almost said, out loud, that he was a thief. What an idiot. He had to be more mindful of the things coming forth from his mouth. Haha. He loved a good double entendre.

Suddenly, right in the middle of the story, Thatcher interrupted the Narrator; rather rudely, I might add.

“Thanks, dude. I’ll take it from here. No need to tell the Audience that I was running my mouth at the hospital, and they gave me a surprise prostate exam. So, anyway, I wound up in the hospital for a few days. Haven’t been able to use my arm much lately. Thankfully, I snagged enough money that day to pay my bills for a couple months.

“That’s pretty much it. I get the cast off in a few days. After that, I’ll be back to normal.”

Now, Thatcher; don’t you want to tell them about the T.V. interview you did?

“Oh, yeah, that’s right. So, after my surgery, the news crew came to my hospital room and did an interview with me for the story. I was still REALLY high on the pain meds, so I said a lot of things. They never aired it, though. Apparently, they frown on lots of swearing and dirty jokes being played during the nightly news. I didn’t really tell them anything about the incident; I was just real obnoxious.

“One good thing did come out of this, though. When they did the story, they showed my picture on the news. One of the guys from one of the Families in the city saw it and recognized me. I guess I pulled a heist and accidentally botched an operation of theirs. I thought they would be angry and would want revenge, but that’s not the case at all. They said I impressed them, and they invited me to a dinner party where the local crime bosses get together and plan stuff out. They said they want to avoid having different jobs intersect like that. We’ll have to go together; you can be my plus one. You can come too, Narrator.”

Thank you. I enjoy a good dinner party.

“Yeah, don’t mention it. I figure they will either try to kill me, or this will be absolutely hilarious. Either way, it should be entertaining. But that’s not for a while. I need to get some rest; I’ve been playing Mario Cart all day, and I’m all tuckered out.”

And so Thatcher went to sleep, leaving the Narrator to awkwardly end the story with the Audience. He couldn’t think of anything else to say, so he simply bid them good day, and faded away.

Not-So-Smooth

Thatcher sat at a comically tiny table that came up almost to his knees in a chair that was equally tiny. The table was set for tea, with a light blue kettle in the middle and three miniature tea-cups set around it. Thatch gingerly reached over and picked up the tea-cup closest to him. He sipped loudly and then set it back down on the saucer. He folded his hands across his knees and looked across the table. There sat a balding middle-aged man in a pink, fluffy tutu; he had dark makeup and a red clown nose on his face.

Thatch giggled excitedly. “Now, Mr. Landlord, how would you feel about lowering my rent?”

Mr. Landlord waved his hands frantically over his head. When he responded, his voice sounded high and squeaky, like he had inhaled a bunch of helium. “Lower it! We’re gonna lower it by three thousand percent! I’m going to be paying YOU to live in my rat-and-roach infested apartments from now on! And every day will be your birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!”

Balloons appeared overhead and a cake slid across the tiny table towards Thatcher. Suddenly, it exploded; Thatch’s eyes snapped open, and he was awake. His eyes swam for a moment, and he chuckled as a song came to mind; “back to reality, oh, there goes gravity…” he said quietly. His head throbbed, feeling like a herd of elephants was dancing a vigorous salsa inside his skull. He found himself lying on the ground, on his back, looking up at a very attractive, and very angry, woman.

Believe it or not, this is not the result of any criminal activity; this is what happens when Thatcher tries to flirt. He’s not very good at it; he can pick pockets, but he can NOT pick up girls.

Several minutes before, Thatcher had seen the woman in question from across the street. Realizing that he had the night off and had some scratch in his pocket, he decided he would ask her out for a date. He imagined himself smoothly walking up and saying something like, “Hey baby, I lost my number, can I have yours?”

He walked across the street with all the swagger he could muster, and when he got half way, his common sense went to sleep. His mind went blank, and he started yelling at the top of his lungs.

“Hey! Yo! Hey, yo, girl!”

She, along with every person within earshot stopped and turned towards him. He took this as a good sign and gave her what he thought was a sexy nod. It wasn’t even close, and looked kind of pervy, to be honest.

“Can I smack your ass and call you mama?” He shouted as he came closer.

A look of disgusted shock came across her face. “What?!”

“You look like your father neglected you, and now you need…”

Thatch never got the chance to finish that horribly offensive sentence, because at that exact moment, the girl swung her purse at his head with all her might. There must have been a brick inside it, because the second it connected with his temple, Thatch was is dreamland.

Waking up and seeing her staring furiously down at him, Thatch smiled. “Can I take you to dinner tonight?”

“UGH! What a PIG!” the woman shouted as she marched off down the street.

Thatch sat up and shook his head. “Is that a no?” he shouted at her as she walked away.

In response, she lifted both arms over her head and lifted a solitary finger on each hand.

Thatcher watched her walk away for a second, when suddenly, a light bulb clicked on in the attic of his mind.

“Wait! I’m a thief, let me steal your breath away!”

“Damn,” he thought, “why can I never think of the good stuff in the heat of the moment. Ha, heat of the moment. I love Asia. Hmm…I wonder if Canton is open yet…”

He checked his watch. It seemed he would be eating cheap consolation Chinese food by himself. Again. Like I said before, he’s really, REALLY bad with women…

Water Fountain

Thatcher sat in the security office at the mall…

“Uh, excuse me, Mr. Narrator? I think I’d like to tell this one in first person for a change.”

Very well, Thatch. Have at it.

“Thank you. Okay, so like The Narrator told you, I’m sitting in the security office at the mall. It all started about an hour ago, when I walked into the food court…”

So I had the day off from thievery, and I decided a trip to the mall was in order. When I got here, I was feeling a little peckish, so I walked over to the Pizza-By-The-Slice. There was a bit of a line, and as I was waiting, my mind began to wander. Adhd can be a fun little condition sometimes…anyway, while I was standing there, I saw some people standing by the fountain tossing coins in. At the time, I was unaware that the fountain was considered a wishing well, and I simply assumed this was some sort of take-penny-leave-a-penny program.

At this point, I realized I was short about six cents for my food, so I left the line and walked over to the fountain. I saw a bunch of coins lying in the water, being totally unused and unspent. I didn’t want these poor coins to think that they were unwanted, so I did what any caring citizen would do and I reached in and scooped up a handful of them. I came up with about a dollar in change, and, I will admit, I got a little greedy. I reached in for a second handful, when a kid not too far from me saw what I was doing. He started tugging on his mom’s sleeve and pointing at me.

Before I go any further, I have to tell you that while I am not proud of what I did, I am rather proud of what happened afterwards.

Without thinking, I cupped my submerged hand and splashed a bunch of water at this kid. He was more than a little shocked, but the little bugger quickly recovered. His face went from a look of shock to a mischievous smile. He ran over to the fountain and while looking me straight in the eyes, he leaned over, reached his hand into the water, and splashed me back.

Not one to be outdone, I immediately splashed him again. At this point, all the kids whose mothers had left them in the food court with their fathers while they went shopping in all the boring stores started to notice what was happening and slowly made their way to the fountain as well. Within about a minute, there were thirty kids edging their way to the water.

When they all realized that no one was paying attention to what we were doing, they began jumping into the fountain and splashing each other. All hell began to break loose; it was beautiful. It quickly became a water war of epic proportions, with teams and alliances being made, battle lines being drawn, and casualties were had.

With all the commotion, mall security soon realized what was happening, and began making their way to the fountain. I saw this, and made an executive decision. I jumped high into the air and cannonballed into the water, sending a tidal wave all over the security guards who had surrounded the fountain during the skirmish. I quickly stood and shouted, “Scatter!”

Just like that, we all took off in separate directions, me and my army of water-logged munchkins. Being the only adult in this mess, I knew I would be the primary target, and I sprinted up the stairs to the main shopping area, followed by a dozen or so security guards, each radioing for back up.

Do you remember that scene in The Blues Brothers (the original, not that sad-excuse for a sequel), where they drive through the mall during the car chase? It felt a lot like that. As I ran, I toppled over cell phone carts, tables full of perfume and remote controlled helicopters, and dashed through carts of stuffed animals, sending beanie babies everywhere (seriously, who even sells beanie babies anymore; what year do they think this is?)

I made it halfway around the main floor before they cornered me. They had me surrounded, and I knew I had to make a choice. I could either go out like Butch and Sundance, or I could surrender and live to cause havoc another day. Considering I was slightly out of breath by this point, I got sat down and crossed my legs.

The security guards, who were also quite winded, grabbed my arms and pulled me back to my feet. They escorted me to a little room in the back, and that’s how I wound up in mall-cop jail. They put me in a room with three chairs and a wooden table. Two of them (the top dogs, I’m assuming) came in and started to interview me. They had hungry smiles on their faces, like they hadn’t had this much excitement since the Carter administration.

The older of the two (or at least the most world-weary of the two) leaned across the table and got in my face.

“Do you know how much trouble you’re in, mister?”

I crinkled my nose. “I don’t mean to be rude, but have you considered brushing your teeth this decade? Seriously, buddy, I can smell three different kinds of coffee that they don’t even make anymore.”

The other one turned beet red, clearly angered at my response.

“Listen, punk; we get punks like you in here all the time. Causing trouble, ruining merchandise…you’ll be lucky if we don’t press charges against your punk ass. You little punk.”

I laughed.

“I bet I can guess what your favorite insult is. Look, guys, I’m not trying to tell you how to do your jobs or anything, but if you’re trying to pull the whole ‘good cop/bad cop’ routine, you’re going about it the wrong way. You’ve got everything else almost perfect. The dimly-lit interrogation room, the yelling, the insults…”

“Shut up, punk!” They yelled in unison.

I put my hands up. “Hey, sorry; I was just going to say if you want your own buddy-cop show, one of you has to be the nice guy. Maybe you could flip a coin, or play rock paper scissors to decide. I could pick for you, but it’s probably best if you make that decision yourselves.”

They grunted and left the room. I chuckled to myself and walked around the room for a minute. I quickly got bored of the whole game, and turned to face the camera in the corner. I waved goodbye and left the room. They really were horrible at their jobs. They left me unguarded in an unlocked room, first of all. Second, they couldn’t have locked me in there in the first place, since the door locked from the inside.

I paused briefly in the doorway, wondering if I should lock myself in and cause more mayhem, but I soon remembered that I was still hungry. I left the interrogation room, and finding the next room vacant, left the security office altogether. I stepped out into the shipping area and made my way over to a pallet marked “Game Place.”

I rummaged through the package until I found the game that I wanted, snagged a box of Snickers at I left, and walked straight out the back door. I shook my head in gleeful disbelief. I couldn’t believe it; the last time I did this, I walked out with a whole new wardrobe and a brand new t.v. You would think they would have at least put my picture up on the wall. Maybe next time I’ll hit up the photo booth and leave them something to remember me by…

Chicken Suit

Thatch looked up to the ceiling momentarily as the now-all-too-familiar presence was felt in his brain.

“Well, hello there, Audience. Let’s have a little adventure, shall we? You see, there’s some sort of vegan parade in town this afternoon. Now, I have nothing against vegans; I don’t have anything against people’s lifestyle choices at all, really…unless that lifestyle choice is to not let me have the things that I want. When choices like that are made, I tend to make the choice to relieve them of something. Anyway, so the streets are going to be full of vegans.

“I have about  An hour to do what I’m going to do and get downtown to cause either mass mayhem or become the life of the party…er, parade.”

Thatcher was in a party and decorations store. Rather, he was in the storage warehouse BEHIND the party and decorations store, where they stored everything that wasn’t on the shelves. Thatch, having worked at Parties Plus when he was in high school, knew that there were certain Halloween costumes that were always on-hand in the back; things like ninjas, two-person horses, gorilla suits, and most importantly, chicken suits, were stored year-round in the stock warehouse.

With this information, Thatcher had decided he would pick up a chicken suit, put it on, and make his way downtown to the parade. Of course, he was going to steal it; his life wouldn’t be anywhere near as exciting and entertaining if he paid for things like a normal human being.

So Thatcher found himself browsing through the warehouse inventory, looking for a very specific item. As he wandered around, an employee happened to see him and approached him.

“Excuse me, sir; you can’t be back here. This area is for employees only.”

Thatch looked up and smiled, then went back to browsing as he replied. “It’s okay, kid, I work for the distributor. I’m here to bring back a defective suit.”

The employee, a young man of about seventeen who was clearly doing his best to hide his acne with his mother’s cover-up, squinted at Thatch; he was not convinced.

“Oh, really? What’s the name of our distributor?”

Thatch sighed. He knew he was busted, but he decided to make up a company name anyway.

“We-R-Costumes…Incorporated.”

The kid’s expression changed immediately. “Oh, wow…I am so sorry, sir. I thought you were pulling my leg. Before you leave, I am going to need to see the ticket for the item you are taking back. You know, for inventory purposes.”

Thatch blinked. He couldn’t believe that had worked. He reached into his pocket for his to-do list. Luckily, all that was written on it was “get chicken suit.” He handed it to the young man, who looked at it briefly.

“This is a little unorthodox…but I know right where these are.”

He beckoned for Thatcher to follow him, and turned around sharply, leading the way to the three remaining chicken suits in stock.

“Here they are; now, which one did you need?”

“Uh, that one,” Thatch said, pointing at one randomly. “I was told it was defective, but they don’t know what’s wrong with it. I have to wear it so that when I get back to headquarters, I can tell them what the defect is.”

“Uh, okay. That sounds weird, but okay.”

The Parties Plus employee grabbed the suit off the shelf and handed it to Thatch, who immediately put it on over his clothes. Once he put the head on, he honked the beak.

“Thanks, dude. I’ll make sure the guys at the top know just how helpful you’ve been today.”

The teenager was ecstatic. “Wow, I really appreciate it, man. I just started working here a few months ago, and something like that would go a long way with my boss.”

Thatcher gave him a thumbs-up, and proceeded to walk into the store and out the front door. That’s right, ladies and gentlemen; not only did he get an employee of the store to help him steal a product, but he then wore it as he walked right through the store and left.

Checking the time, Thatcher realized he had to get downtown within the next fifteen minutes if he was going to join the parade. He ran down side streets and back alleys until he arrived at the lineup. Given that Thatcher had an intense need to be on center stage at all times, he found himself a spot on the very first float. Climbing up, he realized that people assumed he was someone else.

“Conner, that is fantastic. We thought you weren’t coming today, but this was definitely worth the wait. Andrea, help Conner to the front of the float. People need to see this.”

A young woman in a bright-red tee-shirt that read “Vegan is Pleasin'” grabbed his arm and led him to the very front of the float.

“Now, just wave at the people and get them excited and riled up as we drive by,” she told him.

Thatch gave her the thumbs up. He couldn’t resist saying something as she walked away.

“Vegan is pleasin’, huh? You know that doesn’t rhyme, right?”

She looked at him, quite puzzled. “You sound funny; do you have a cold? And don’t you dare complain about the shirts now; this slogan was your idea in the first place.”

Thatch clamped both hands over his beak and Andrea walked away. Within moments, the parade began. Thatcher started waving at the first people he saw, and the crowd went wild. His pride swelled within his chest, and he began making wild, enthusiastic gestures, and as the crowd got more and more excited, Thatch became more and more animated.

At some point, someone placed a bucket of fun sized candy bars at his feet, and he dug both hands in and started chucking candy into the crowd. He laughed to himself at one point.

“I am one Artist-Formerly-Known-As-Prince song away from being Jack Nicholson.”

The afternoon went on like that, and at the end, Thatcher quietly disappeared before anyone could ask him to take off his mask and eat a tofu burger. The next day, the front page of the paper had a giant picture of him in his chicken suit, arms spread wide, throwing candy to the masses. The headline? “Vegan Parade Hands Out Candy Not Vegan Friendly.”

How is that even possible, you ask? Well, I’m afraid I don’t have an answer for you, but I can tell you that Thatcher laughed until he got the hiccups when he saw it.

The Warehouse Cliche

As Thatch walked into the warehouse, he felt the tingle of a familiar presence.

“Oh, good; you’re back,” he said out loud to the empty air. “It’s been a few days, and I was beginning to wonder if you’d come back. I’ve been kinda busy since your last visit. I’m actually on my way to a business meeting right now.”

Inside, there were dozens of pallets, all piled high with the newest video game consoles, still in their boxes, ready to be shipped. In the middle of the space were four men, standing in a tight circle, smoking cigarettes as they waited. Thatcher walked up and greeted them enthusiastically.

“G’morning, gents! How’s everyone doing today?”

“You’re late,” one of the men said gruffly.

“Where the hell have you been? We’ve been waiting here for you for two hours. We were just deciding if we should pack up the rest of the shipment and leave without you,” exclaimed another.

“Ah, well, I do apologize for that. You see, there was a bit of a traffic jam on my way over here, and I had tacos for dinner last night, so my tummy wasn’t feeling the greatest. I had to stop a few times for that, and then I got hungry, so I pulled into the Burger Hut over on 63, and they were packed, so I was in line there for about twenty minutes…”

One of the men held up his hand and flicked his cigarette away. “Enough! I don’t care where you’ve been. The boss won’t be happy about the delay, but there’s nothing we can do about that now.”

Thatch nodded in agreement. “True; now that I have arrived, what do you say we get this show on the road?”

The four men laughed softly, and as one, they all drew their weapons. Thatcher raised his hands and gingerly touched the end of the barrel of each .45 pointed his direction. “What’s this all about?” he asked.

The tallest man raised an eyebrow and replied, “It seems you are no longer needed. The powers that be have decided that you have worn out your welcome, and they don’t believe you are worth the money we are paying you. Obviously, we will be holding onto your last paycheck; it won’t do you much good where you are going.”

Thatcher’s signature smile fell into a scowl immediately. “I highly advise against this course of action, gentlemen. I’m not sure you understand what you’re doing.”

The four men laughed again. “I’m pretty sure we can handle a simple elimination. It’s basic subtraction.”

Thatch cracked his neck. “Alright, then; let’s get this over with.” Looking behind him for a moment, he said, “Folks, this might be a good time to put the kids to bed, or at least cover their eyes. And kids, make sure you brush your teeth before you hop into the sack.”

The four men glanced at one another. “Who the hell are you talking to?”

Thatch snapped back to looking at his assailants. “The Audience; duh.”

With that, he ducked down low and swept the men’s legs out from under them. They all instinctively squeezed the trigger, missing their mark by a mile. Thatch dove over to where the first man had fallen and slammed his head into the slick concrete. The man’s body went limp right away. “Nighty-night,” Thatch said gleefully.

He quickly got to his feet and spun towards the other three. He rushed the closest man and tackled him, driving him into the next man. The three of them tumbled to the ground, and the attacker who was still standing attempted to get a bead on Thatch. He fired off a couple rounds, with one of them becoming embedded in his associate’s shoulder. Seeing an opportunity to take control of the situation, Thatch drove his fist into the wounded area repeatedly. When the man’s arm went limp, he rolled onto his back and put his opponent into an arm bar, quickly popping it out of socket and tearing the ligaments as he did so. The man cried out in pain, and Thatch let go of his arm as he drove his heel into the man’s temple.

“This is where things get tricky,” Thatcher said as he stood up. His other two attackers were both on their feet by now, and had trained their guns on him. The three of them stood there panting, staring at one another. Suddenly Thatch started laughing. Confused, the two gunmen looked at each other.

“W-what are you laughing at?” one asked, trying to sound tough, but his confusion and worry clearly ringing through in his voice.

Thatch wiped a tear from his eye and attempted to compose himself. “Oh, nothing. I just remembered a joke one of my bar buddies told me a while back.  A huge guy walks into a bar, approaches a little guy and karate chops him in the back. When the little guy gets up, the huge guy says, ‘That was a karate chop from Korea.’ A little later, the huge guy walks back over to the little guy and karate chops him in the back. The huge guy says, ‘That was a karate chop from China.’ The little guy leaves the bar, comes back and hits the huge guy on the back. The huge guy lies unconscious on the floor. The little guy tells the bartender, ‘Tell him that was a crowbar from Sears.'”

The two men were even more confused. The joke wasn’t all that funny. What they had failed to realize was while Thatch was telling the joke, he had been inching closer and closer to them. Once he finished telling the joke, he took another step, jumped into the air, and landed a roundhouse kick to the side of the first man’s head. The man slumped to the ground, out cold. With one opponent left, Thatch dropped to his knees and broke the last man’s left knee, snapping it backwards with a swift palm strike.

The man fell, and Thatch swatted the gun out of his opponent’s hand. He kicked the man in the chest lightly, putting him on his back, and he stepped over him. Thatcher grabbed the man by the lapels and pulled him close.

“Now, I told you not to fight me. I happen to be rather skilled in the martial arts. Toot-toot!”

“What?” the man asked.

“That was me tooting my own horn. I used to actually carry a bike horn around with me wherever I went, but it was a little cumbersome. I sat on it one day, and the guy whose house I was robbing woke up and chased me out with a baseball bat. It makes me a little sad that I can’t actually toot my own horn anymore, but saying ‘toot-toot’ gives me a chance to tell that story to people, so I guess it all works out…”

The man coughed nervously. “So…are you gonna kill us now?”

Thatch laughed whimsically. “Hell no. Murder is icky; it’s always so messy and inconvenient. I prefer to beat the tar out of people until the GIVE me what I want. No, what I’m gonna do now is find that little briefcase of yours, take my money, and leave. You can tell your boss that he can keep the shipment, I just wanted my money. If you try coming after me, I will be angry; perhaps angry enough to break the ‘murder is icky’ rule. Are we clear?”

The man shook his head vigorously, and Thatch smiled real wide.

“Good. I’m just gonna grab my stuff, and then you can call your doctor. You’re probably gonna want to get that knee reset today. I would hate to hear people started calling you ‘The Gimp’ all because of our little misunderstanding here today. Tootles!”

Thatcher skipped over to where a briefcase sat on the ground. He popped it open, counted the money inside, and took out a few bundles. He closed the briefcase and walked back over to the only other conscious person in the room. Dropping the cash in his hand on the man’s chest, he said, “You guys overpaid me. I don’t want to get a reputation as a thief among thieves.”

With that, he began to whistle and walked out of the warehouse.

Ice Cream Truck

It was a warm evening, with the sun starting to set, and a pleasant breeze in the air. A man walked slowly down the street, kicking a pebble as he went along. Suddenly, he stopped walking and looked around; he blinked a few times in confusion. He began to speak to no one in particular.

“Well, this is peculiar. I’m fairly familiar with all the voices in my head, but you seem to be a new one. Allow me to introduce myself; I’m Thatcher, but I’d rather you call me Thatch. What’s your name?”

He paused a moment and continued.

“Since you don’t seem to be speaking too much, I’ll just call you ‘my audience.’ Now, Audience, you have found me on a rather dull night. I had plans earlier, but they sort of fell through the floor; by that, I mean I had intended to raid the safe in a nearby mini mansion, but apparently someone got to it before I did, and they dropped the whole thing through the floor, escaping through a tunnel. So now I am simply in search of one thing: some ice cream.”

Thatch continued walking down the street, listening for the familiar jingle of the neighborhood ice cream truck. As he did so, he decided to get to know The Audience a little better.

“So, I’m just going to address the elephant in the room. Yes, I am what some would call a ‘criminal.’ I don’t see it that way; thievery is my hobby, and it pays the bills. The fact that the authorities disagree with my activities just makes it that much more fun. I like to think of it as a game. I have to do my business without gaining the attention of Johnny Law. Remember that game ‘Don’t Wake Daddy?’ I love that game…it’s a lot like that. Now, I can further explain my comings and goings later, but I believe I have found what I am looking for.”

Up ahead, Thatch spotted his target. A few kids were purchasing their frozen treats as he made his way to the open window. The ice cream man smiled at him, and asked “What can I get for ya today?”

Thatch stroked his chin and studied the menu. “Hmmm…I can’t really decide. I think I’ll take all of them.”

The ice cream man was shocked. “You want to buy one of everything I have?”

Thatch laughed. “No, silly; I want EVERYTHING in the truck. Actually, I want the truck, too. It’s pretty slick, and I’ve always wanted to drive one of these things.”

“W-w-what? I don’t understand…”

Thatch sighed deeply and inspected his fingernails. “Look, pal, you seem to be missing the point here. I’ll break it down for you. I never said I wanted to buy anything, meaning I would be eternally grateful if you simply donated this mode of transportation and all of its contents to me right now.”

The ice cream man shook his head and reached up to close the window. “I…I can’t do that. I need to go. You need some help, mister.”

Thatch furrowed his brow and reached up, holding the service window open. Glancing at the driver’s nametag, he continued. “Listen, Chuck, I don’t need any help. I am perfectly capable of shaking you down by myself. Now, you can do this the easy way, by giving me the keys and writing this off on your taxes as a charitable donation, or we can do this the hard way, which involves lots of name-calling and varying amounts of violence. Here, I’ll make it easier for you still: sir, may I have this vehicle? I am in desperate need of this truck right away.”

Chuck stuttered and began to argue further, and Thatch groaned. “Now you’ve done it. This hurts me; obviously not as much as it will hurt you, but just know that emotionally, I am in pain.”

Thatch grabbed Chuck by his lapels and hauled him out of the truck, slamming him down onto the curb. He slugged the poor man a few times, and then froze, his arm in midswing, as if lost in thought.

“Do you have a family, Chucky?”

“W-what?”

“I said DO. YOU. HAVE. A. FAMILY?”

“Ye-yeah, I got a wife and two kids.”

“Damn, just shy of the national average. You should really get to work on having that extra half kid. How does someone go about doing that, anyway? I feel like I know a lot of average people, but I don’t know any with two and a half kids.”

Chuck was shaking like a leaf. “The keys are in the ignition, take the stupid thing. It’s yours; please just leave me alone!”

Thatch smiled and patted Chuck on the cheek lightly. “There, was that so hard?”

Thatch hopped up and dove through the service window of the ice cream truck with a loud “WAH-HOO!” He rushed to the driver’s seat and buckled himself in. Turning to the empty seat next to him, he remarked gleefully, “Always remember, kids: safety first!”

He flipped on the music and the loud speakers, and then reached back to grab an ice cream bar before flooring the accelerator and taking off. He joyfully rode around town, eating his ice cream for a while, and after about twenty minutes, he noticed red and blue flashing lights behind him.

“Uh-oh. I must have been speeding. Better pull over so the nice officer can write me a well-deserved ticket.”

He stopped the truck and the officer walked up to the driver’s side window. Thatch waved emphatically.

“What seems to be the problem, officer?”

The cop took a deep breath. “We have an APB out on a stolen ice cream truck being driven by someone who matches your description. I’m gonna need you to hand me your identification, and then get out of the truck nice and slow.”

“Well, I would, but I don’t have any I.D. on me at the moment.”

The officer took a step back and radioed for back-up, then turned back to Thatch.

“Sir, get out of the vehicle.”

Thatch obliged, and the officer handcuffed him with his hands in front of him. He pushed Thatch face first against the ice cream truck.

“What’s your name?” the cop asked gruffly.

“I am…Floridaman. I’m sure you’ve read about me in all the papers; I’m quite famous.”

The officer sighed. “C’mon, your real name. You’re already going to jail, just give it up.”

“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers; what’s your name?”

“I am Lieutenant Daniels. Now sit down on the curb; my back-up should be here any minute.”

“I can’t do that,” Thatch replied.

“And why not?”

“Well, that requires a short history lesson. Did you know that Billy the Kid had big wrists and small hands?”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“Well, I do too.” With that, Thatch slipped his hands from the handcuffs and rabbit punched the officer. He then kicked the man in the groin and ran back to the truck. He reached inside and grabbed a box of Klondike bars and tossed them to the officer.

Laughing like a maniac, he said, “Lieutenant Dan, ice cream!”

He scurried over to the truck and hopped into the driver’s seat once more and began to drive away.

“That should buy me some get-away time,” he sang.

He started whistling as he raced down the street, watching as more and more police cruisers began chasing him, with lights and sirens going full tilt. He leaned his head out the window and yelled at them. “Turn those stinkin’ sirens off; I can’t hear the music in my head anymore! I’m filing a noise complaint as soon as I get home!”

Thatch whipped around a corner and floored the gas pedal once more. Up ahead, he saw a small convenience store. He began to laugh, and pushed the ice cream truck to its limits. Smoke began to creep out from under the hood, and the cab started shaking violently. As he raced towards the store, he screamed at the top of his lungs, “LUCY, I’M HOOOME!”

The ice cream truck crashed through the brick wall, getting lodged halfway in. Dust billowed all around, and Thatch coughed as he unbuckled his seat belt. He reached back and grabbed another ice cream bar and climbed out of the truck. The clerk stood frozen behind the counter with his hands up and a look of terror on his face. A masked man had a shotgun aimed at the clerk, but he was obviously distracted by the entrance of the ice cream truck. Sirens could be heard coming close, and Thatch started giggling.

“Talk about a deus ex, am I right?” he said.

He tossed the truck keys to the masked man. “Keep it running for me.”

He unwrapped his ice cream bar and took a bite as he strolled out the front door, joining the crowd of people who had begun to gather outside. The police arrived, and in the turmoil of the situation, decided to arrest the masked robber, abandoning the search for Thatch. The police eventually left the scene, and the crowd began to dissipate. Thatch turned and started walking home, when suddenly, he remembered something.

“Dammit,” he yelled, “I wanted one with the bubble gum eyes! Now I have to go through this whole process all over again!”

Thatch turned down a residential street, finishing his ice cream bar and tossing the stick into the road as he walked…