“For whom is the funhouse fun? Perhaps for Mysterons. For Captain Scarlet it is a place of fear and confusion.” -me channeling Brian Griffin channeling John Barth.
There is a part of me, impervious to self-criticism, that would take this opener and run with it. It wouldn’t matter that I am no more familiar with Barth’s story than Brian Griffin is with any of the literary works he references in “Family Guy.”
The story “Lost in the Funhouse” was assigned reading for some class I had in college. I liked the title, but I found the whole metafiction thing annoying. I was a frat boy with a hard on for jazz-age writers at the time and had little interest in experimental wankage of this sort. Consequently, I never read beyond the first page and regurgitated a paraphrased version of the lecture when exam time came. You could get away with that at San Diego State in the early 1980s. You could get away with a lot of things back then.
So who the fuck is Captain Scarlet, or the Mysterons for that matter? I’m sure a lot of you are asking yourselves that. A quick google search that will tell you that “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons” is the entry in Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s oeuvre directly after “Thunderbirds.” The interwebz will tell you everything you need to know so there is no point in my bringing it up here.
What it won’t tell you (current web page excepted) is my interest in Captain Scarlet and what would possess me to write a story about him, regardless whether or not I include a pretentious allusion to “Lost in the Funhouse.” The answer to that lies in the yawning chasm between human potential and human nature.
I work in tech. What that means (other than making more money than most people whose work has genuine value) is that the office shuts down over the holidays. There are people on call who have to mind the store in case anything blows up, but the rest of us have a week or more to do as we please.
Most years, Becca and I go out of town (usually to Portland) where we would spend money and bitch slap our livers with wild abandon. She had to work this year so we stayed in SF over the break.
Great, I thought, I’ll gave some time to clear my head and get some writing done. I could either knock out a new story or work on making one of my novel drafts suck less. Either way, it would be a welcome change from the stagnation I’ve been experiencing in recent months.
I just didn’t think that would mean fan fiction about a TV show full of puppets.
The funny thing about free time is that there is never as much of it as you think there is. The first PTO was spent procuring obscene amounts of food with Becca and on those days when she was at work, I was mostly motivated to nap after eating obscene amounts of food. When she was home, we ate obscene amounts of food together and watched Gerry and Sylvia shows together. These included “Stingray,” “Thunderbirds,” and “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.” All together, it added up to a lot of hours watching puppets.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable time, but not a very productive one. My remaining PTO quickly dwindled down to nothing. I knew I would soon be back at work having accomplished no writing at all. The best I could hope for was to come up with a story idea, something I could keep in my head until motivation returned.
I lay in bed on the night on January 1 trying to find inspiration while the hose from my CPAP mask hung from my face like an elephant’s trunk. All I could think about were those shows with the puppets. That’s the problem with binge watching. If you feel the need to get creative, your brain is pretty much limited to fan fiction. For a moment, I thought this was beneath Poison Spur. Then I remembered “Kung Fu Hospice Nurse” and realized that I really have no standards at all.
My first idea was to write a story about Lady Penelope from “Thunderbirds.” I loved her patrician malevolence beneath her memorized social graces and how it appeared (Becca will back me up on this) she was positioning herself to jill off as she ordered her chauffeur Parker to open fire on another vehicle from a machine gun mounted on her pink Rolls Royce. It would not have been out of character for her to give Parker a jolly good pegging with her pearl-studded strap on and then use it on the 19-year old Thunderbirds pilot Alan Tracy without bothering to wipe it off first.
Alas, Trey Parker and Matt Stone already did amusing puppet sex in Team America: World Police and even had piss and poop in the DVD release. Any tale I could weave would be an inferior imitation of their genius.
With “Thunderbirds” soured for me, I turned my attention to “Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons,” a show with darker themes and more proportional puppets than its predecessor. In a nutshell, it was about a bunch of color-coded captains defending the planet from the extraterrestrial Mysterons. The titular captain had been made indestructible for reasons that never made much sense. Few things do in the Anderson universe.
Like most TV programs, the show ran its course and ended without resolution. However, it’s a safe that humans prevailed because we a as a species have a habit of doing just that (for example, our war with the Dodo was a complete blow out). After their victory, it is safe to assume that most of the captains resigned their commissions and picked up their lives where they left off.
But what of Captain Scarlet? Indestructibility is a valuable asset so I doubt his bosses would let him just quit. They would no doubt keep around whether he liked it or not, finding some way make him useful until the next alien menace rolled around.
The words started to come to me.
“Welcome to the funhouse, bitches,” Captain Scarlet said, gripping the wheel of the Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle. It was the latest to be designed and so far, the only one in existence.
“Stand by,” said the voice transmitting into his headset. The waiting was the worst part. Sometimes he would sit there an entire day and nothing would happen. He missed the Mysteron War. Sure, there was a risk of global annihilation, but at least it wasn’t boring.
He needed a drink. In fact, he needed a lot of them. One of the drawbacks of being indestructible was that he sobered up at an alarming rate. To maintain any kind of buzz, he had to drink heavily and fast. You run up quite a bar tab drinking like that.
It’s always money. The last was he got out and went drinking, there was the promise of making a lot of cash, more than enough to cover his astronomical bar tab. There would be enough to make his escape and start anew somewhere where Spectrum could not find him, but he could easily find a bar.
All that depended on Betty. Or was her name June? Perhaps it was Betty June? It hardly mattered. She had a lot of money and was ready to part with it as long as he fucked her without a condom. Whether she got pregnant and whether her child inherited his indestructibility was her problem. The fee for services rendered was payable the moment he shot his load of super spooge into her baby maker.
One of the advantages to being indestructible was that he didn’t have to worry about STDs. He could catch AIDS from her and his body would cure itself. Perhaps he would still be a carrier of the disease, but so what? Captain Scarlet had saved humanity and humanity owed him big time.
Yeah, that’s the shit, I thought. All those hours on the couch watching puppets was not time wasted. It was research and now it was beginning to pay off. I was clearly on a roll and did not want to lose this momentum. I handed the microphone back to my muse.
Captain Scarlet had downed the remainder of his pint glass and ordered another round when a security detail from Spectrum came through the door. They marched up to Captain Scarlet as the bartender returned with the drinks.
“Here you go, a cosmo for the lady and 151 neat for you sir,” the bartender said.
“Captain, we have orders to escort you back to headquarters,” the security chief said.
“Can you wait 10 minutes? I need to have sex with this woman in a toilet stall,” Captain Scarlet.
“The orders are to take you back immediately, but I’ll give you a minute to drink your beer.”
“A pint of it? Forget what I said. We’re leaving now. You don’t need to drink that much.”
“Au contraire, have you had a look at her?” Captain Scarlet said, pointing his thumb at his date.
“You’re a bitch and a problem, Scarlet. Do you know that?” the security chief said.
Good stuff, full of antihero grit. Now all I had to do was bring it on home and make that ending count.
After that night AWOL at the bar, Spectrum security was keeping Captain Scarlet on a very short leash. It would be a long time before he would be able to give them the slip. Maybe the opportunity would never come again.
“OK, get ready,” said the voice into his headset. “You’re going to go on three. One…two…THREE.”
Captain Scarlet hit the gas in the Spectrum Pursuit Vehicle. Tires spun on the pavement and he was tearing down an urban street between rows of deserted warehouses. The vehicle accelerated to 100 mph in less than 10 seconds.
The plan was to get to 125 and stay at that speed. Captain Scarlet continued to accelerate. They wouldn’t have put him in the fastest car in creation if they didn’t want him to see what it would do, he reasoned.
He flirted with the possibility that at the end of the test run, he might just keep going. He could leave them in the dust, sell the vehicle to the highest bidder, and disappear forever. None of this seemed realistic, but he liked to pretend. He could at least do that.
This flight of fancy was over when a harpoon launched from a cannon tore into the left front wheel of the vehicle. Captain Scarlet tried to maintain control, but ended up running off the road and into a concrete wall.
The vehicle was torn asunder upon impact. Captain Scarlet was impaled by a piece of rebar. It went in through his armpit, went up through his neck, and came out of his eye socket. The crash did not kill him because nothing could, but it sure did hurt.
As he lay there skewered and bleeding, he could see through his good eye a man approaching on foot. As he drew closer, he recognized him as his onetime friend Captain Blue, now much older, promoted to Colonel and in charge of all of Spectrum.
“That’s OK. Don’t get up,” Colonel Blue said with a laugh. “We’ll try this again with tougher tires, swap out steel belts for titanium. You ought to be all patched up by the time a new prototype is ready.”
“Can’t you find someone else?” Captain Scarlet asked.
“There is no one else. Any other driver would get killed. Besides, we’re not about to let you retire. Your indestructibility means you don’t age. We would have to pay for your pension forever and we can’t have that.”
“Then fire me. You can use a crash test dummy.”
“We already do, Captain Scarlet. We already do.”
The story was done. I grabbed my junk and said “I got your fear and confusion right here” to no one in particular. Then I drifted off to sleep.