I decided to give Mister Know my absolute what’s-what words of wisdom straight out. It’s nuts to being a nice guy, and to the blazes with the entire business. So I shouted at him, “You’re a hopeless case! I taught you everything I know about how to become a fantastic pulp hero, and you still can’t do anything right! You don’t even do a decent chilling, sinister laugh that every pulp hero must have to create ultimate terror among the criminals he’s about to shoot dead. You’re not ready to become a save-the-world-type pulp hero, and what’s more, you will never be. Look, why don’t you forget about becoming one of those courageous, never-dying pulp heroes, which is what I was before I got real old, real careless, and killed, and remain old Mister Know, that obnoxious individual nobody could possibly ever like?”
I decided to give Mister Know my absolute what’s-what words of wisdom straight out. It’s nuts to being a nice guy, and to the blazes with the entire business.
So I raised my voice and shouted at him. “You’re a hopeless case. I taught you everything I know about how to become a fantastic pulp hero, and you still can’t do anything right You don’t even do a decent sinister chilling laugh that every pulp hero must have to create ultimate terror among the criminals he’s about to shoot dead. You’re not ready to become a save-the-world type pulp hero and what’s more, you will never be. Look, why don’t you forget about becoming one of those courageous, never-dying pulp-heroes, which is what I was before I got real old, real careless, and killed, and remain old Mister Know, that obnoxious individual nobody could possibly ever like?”
Although Mister Know’s usual bilious expression remained the same on his forever sour-looking kisser, I surmised he was more than likely seething inside, and in bad need of several ounces of antacid pills.
“No one is supposed to like me, Mr. Mike Johnson. We don’t do ‘like’ here.”
“You can say that again. I’m sure you have your reasons for not doing ‘like,’ and spare me those reasons why. For me, ‘like’ is easy to do. I’ve actually said it to bad guys, mere seconds before I presented them with several forty-five caliber slugs in their gullets.”
“Mike, that’s exactly why we don’t do ‘like’ here. It’s a meaningless word that I’m sure helped get you killed. You were shot dead, then you plopped face-down right in the middle of a filthy street gutter.”
“Okay, okay, so during my old age I became careless. I got the Tommy-gun treatment, machine-gun bullets slugging their way into me and everywhere else. My granddaughter, Alicia, was helping me cross the town’s busiest street at the time. She was shot through the spine and relegated to a wheelchair during the day. At night, thanks to you, my dear Mister Know, she’s able to walk and become a pulp hero, much like what I used to be. I was the original Apparition. Now she’s The Apparition. So what? Quit changing the subject. I said you won’t ever be ready to become a pulp hero.”
Even though Mister Know still spoke in his normal, superbly controlled voice, I figured inside his oversized gullet he had to be like a pressure cooker with a tied down safety valve getting ready to explode.
“You must tell me why I am not ready.”
“I already gave you some reasons why. If I tell you more, you could lose your control to where you just might do something drastic to me.”
“Me do something drastic to you? Don’t be silly, Mike. Try to remember that you’re dead and can’t be hurt. However, there is your granddaughter. I could confine Alicia back to that wheelchair on a permanent basis instead of allowing her to walk at night so she can become ‘the pulp hero known and feared by criminals as the Apparition.’”
His last sentence was said with all the horror I dealt with when I was the aforementioned pulp hero. I knew without a doubt he meant every word he implied. I gulped down fear as he continued talking.
“Now you really must tell me why I’m not ready to become a pulp hero. You owe me. I hope you remember that.”
I sighed. “How could I forget? Every time we bump into each other you remind me of what you did for my granddaughter. Why couldn’t you have taken Alicia all the way out of that wheelchair? Okay, okay...stop giving me that look… I’ll tell you. All right, here it is…you’re not ready to become a pulp hero because a pulp hero is usually over a foot taller than you, and much more physical than that three hundred pounds of weakness around your size fifty-five waistline that causes varicose veins in your overworked legs. I’ve observed you lurching about, here, there, and everywhere. Don’t try to deny it. That’s why you sit down often. And it’s your fault. You caused your weakened legs by being too lazy to take the long walks needed to strengthen them.”
“How do you know all that? Has someone told you? It’s all so…accurate.”
“For decades I remained alive, and was able to terrorize the underworld, by knowing things. I can read you like a book, every page, and every sentence, including the correct punctuation.”
“I’ve tried the exercise bit, Mike. Honestly I have, but this particular environment we endure happens to be a very boring walk. Have you noticed anything else wrong with me?”
“Yeah, and this, I fear, is your worst and deadliest trait. You wheeze and puff loud enough to be noticed by people a block away, which means you would undoubtedly be heard by the badasses you’re after, and more than likely that trait would get you killed about a minute after you wheezed your first wheeze.”
Mister Know laughed. “That’s silly, Mike. I’m already dead. I have been for many decades.”
“You wouldn’t be. It’s a standard requirement that all pulp heroes must be alive.”
Mister Know wheezed for a few seconds. A leather-covered chair popped into existence directly behind his oversized posterior, and he plopped unceremoniously into it. The chair made a collapsing noise, but held fast. For a silent moment he just stared at me through his bushy eyebrows. I hate it when he does that. It tells me he has more questions to throw at me.