by Charles M. Bonanno
©2000 Charles M. Bonanno -- all rights reserved
And I woke up inside a lizard.
One second I'm watching Gabriel beat the pants off Mephistopheles in the unlimited heavy-weight trials, the next I'm watching through a lizard's eyes as it hangs upside down on a leaf while munching the huge cricket in its mouth.
No doubt about it, a nice spicy plate of Fettuccini Alfredo has live bugs beaten hands down in the flavor department, not that the tiny lizard swallowing something larger than its head seemed to care. My mental gag reflex was well into overdrive before the bug's mashed remains slid down its gullet and it scurried off in search of another.
For what felt like an eternity, it jumped from leaf to leaf looking for another disgusting insect to chomp. What it did find, or should I say what found her, was something completely different. After its second or third trip around what was apparently a large terrarium, she literally climbed straight down a sheet of glass and came to rest upon a broad plastic leaf. Suddenly another lizard of the same kind dropped out of nowhere and landed beside her. That's when I learned how little interest reptiles have in sexual foreplay.
Without the slightest offering of a cheap golden trinket, or even a box of chocolates, the amorous newcomer scooted sideways until his green and yellow-scaled body was pressed against and slightly over the lizard whose body I was sharing. Seemingly satisfied with his amorous advances, her tail went up, his tail curled in, and I became an unwilling voyeur and co-participant in reptilian reproductive practices.
Needless to say... I'VE NEVER BEEN SO HUMILIATED IN MY ENTIRE #$%#-ING LIFE!
Just how long she -- we -- would've remained locked in this position will never be known. Just when I thought Loverboy had died, leaving me stuck like this for all eternity, a shadow passed overhead and he disappeared under a rock dragging his unmentionables over the gravel-covered floor.
I sure hope it hurt like Hell, 'cause it felt like he'd torn my insides out when he left. That's probably why my host was too slow to escape a human hand the size of a jumbo 747 that swooped down and caught her. Crushed between fingers the relative sizes of telephone poles, it could neither comprehend the nature of, nor protect itself from, the sharp blade rushing towards its throat. I returned to consciousness atop an operating table screaming my guts out.
What? You don't believe me? Listen to this; it gets worse. Every time I'd wake up after one of Doc's treatments, and I do mean -- EVERY DAMNED TIME -- I'd find myself screaming whatever my deceased host's teeny weenie brain had been thinking just before it died. Usually it was some variation of the following: MY TAIL! FOOD! MY FEATHERS! HIDE! MY SCALES! SEX! MY FUR! TOO HOT! MY CLAWS! TOO COLD! SEX! HUNGRY! MY EGGS! SEX! MY BEAK! FIGHT! MY MATE! THIRSTY! MY BROOD! WHERE IS EVERYTHING?
The script never changed. I'd open my eyes to find myself thinking their thoughts while images of their flesh covered my body. Like an out of control merry-go-round, my mind would race around in circles until Doctor Merit brought his inimitable old-fashioned medical training to bear...
There's nothing like a sharp blow to the groin to bring a guy back to the here-and-now.
"Thanks, Doc!" I'd groan through clinched teeth. "I needed that!"
"My pleasure," he'd invariably reply with a straight face.
Sitting down beside the operating table, he'd spend the next few minutes giving me the third degree and taking notes.
"Let's go down the list, shall we? Please tell me how many you can remember this time. Did you get any impressions from the hamster?
"How about the gold fish?"
"Fish? Gold fish? I thought ya gave up on fish."
"I still had a couple left. Well?"
"Sorry, not even a nibble."
"Quite droll, Mr. Morton. How about the groundhog?"
"Nada. Not even his shadow."
"The kangaroo rat?"
"Nothing hops to mind, Doc."
"How about the goat?"
"Too baaaaaaaad! Nothin' there!"
"Ah... just a few images. Nothing concrete, but I've got this powerful urge to take a crap on a statue. Does that count?"
"You're asking for it!"
"Sorry! Keep going!"
"How about the sheep?"
"Not a bleatin' thing."
"They're disgusting! You promised!"
"I lied! I repeat, did you get anything from the mole-rat?"
"No! And I wouldn't tell you if I did."
If you haven't made it clear by now, let me point out the obvious. Doc Merit's bedside manner could've used some improvement.
"Ugh! Not... nothing... nothing from... the... the... mole-rat!"
"What's the matter, Doc? Running low on relatives?"
"Okay! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Put the clipboard down!"
"Lets keep going. There's only one more to go anyway. What about the anole lizard?"
"Yeah. That one worked -- again!"
"Just the reptile?"
"Sorry, that's the only one that came through clear."
"Tell me. What do you remember?"
"I'd rather not talk about it. It's too personal."
"I see," Doctor Merit said as he scribbled something on the clipboard.
"And how long would you say the total experience lasted?"
"Maybe two hours, maybe two and a half."
"Really? That long? Marvelous! That's twice as long as the first one!"
"I'm... so... happy for ya Doc!"
"So I assume you can recall what the lizard was doing when I collected her?"
"Did you experience total sensory input again?"
"Did you like it?"
Snickering quietly, he scribbled something more before putting the clipboard away. Reaching up he touched a small button on his helmet and spoke into the miniature microphone hanging in front of his lips. A second later Smiley and Broken Nose stomped into the room. I was clearly in no condition to offer any resistance as they lifted me off the operating table and carried me to my quarters.
Did I forget to introduce Smiley and Broken Nose?
I'm still trying to figure out whether they should've been classified as belonging to the animal, mineral, or vegetable kingdoms. As to their intelligence, for lack of a better term, I'd place them both somewhere between quartz and granite. I don't have a clue where Doc found 'em, but I'd lay odds that at one time a Dumb n' Ugly Henchman Emporium nearby was having a two-for-one sale. Personally, the notion that I might've shared even a single chromosome with this pair of evolutionary throwbacks was too horrible a thought to contemplate. There's definitely a shortage of chlorine in the gene pool if quasi-simians like those two were still being born.
With all the tenderness you'd expect from guys who scrape their knuckles on the ground when they walk, they loosened my bonds and carried me bodily to my room. The fact that I could walk just fine, and I have been able to do so for several weeks, just never seemed to sink in.
There was one positive factor. I've never had to smell them.
Just like the good doctor, they never came anywhere near me without dressing up like space shuttle astronauts. Was it my breath? Somehow, I didn't think so. My proof? Well, just listen to this. It must've been about a week after I woke up in this Mad Scientist's Romper room. Doc was preparing to pump his latest batch of memory Drano into my skull when Smiley entered the operating room with his face piece open.
And Doc went friggin' ballistic!
Man, oh man! Let me tell you! I've had more than my fair share of opportunities to watch the wrong kind of people get seriously ticked off -- and I'm taking body bag serious -- but I've never seen anyone's face turn that shade of purple before. A real Kodak moment I tell ya.
Before you ask, my silent and attentive audience, Smiley was the younger of my two guards slash male nurses. He's the one that had fewer teeth in his mouth than a hockey goalie. Broken Nose on the other hand looked just like the name I'd given him sounded. Someone in the distant past had gone out of his or her way to re-arrange his most prominent facial feature with something heavy. From the extent of the damage I could see through his helmet, I'd say his attacker used a sledgehammer. A really BIG sledgehammer.
But getting back to Smiley, I almost felt sorry when Doc marched him through the airtight glass doors and made him strip naked. With a nylon brush that'd take the hide off an elephant, he ordered Broken Nose to scour Smiley raw and drench him with gallons of reeking reddish muck. Just in case you're wondering, almost is the operative word.
From my usual resting spot atop the operating table, I got to watch the entire floor show from start to howling finish and I must say I would've clapped my hands like mad if I weren't tied down when it came time for the grand finale.
I doubt if it was really necessary, but Doc finished whatever he was doing to poor Smiley by having a bottle of medicinal alcohol emptied over what little skin the poor guy had left. Somehow I doubt if he'd ever make that mistake again.
So it goes without saying that they both took their revenge upon me at their earliest opportunity. As Doc left the lab that evening to do whatever it is madmen do in their spare time, Smiley and Broken Nose came to escort me to my palatial accommodations.
Yes, that's right, I'm being sarcastic. I'd like to see you keep your sense of humor after a few weeks down there. Ever since I'd woken after Doc's vitamin shot, I'd been folded, spindled and mutilated by these three clowns on a daily basis.
It was a real laugh-riot wondering who'd kill me first. While Doc seemed to get most of his jollies by pouring his home-made brain soup into my skull, Twiddle Dumb and Twiddle Dumber got their chuckles by seeing how many times they could drop me onto the floor or slam me into another doorway.
Just in case you're interested, let me describe my new digs. Like all mad scientist wannabes Doc had this thing for working underground. Most likely just another union rule crackpots have got to follow in their line of work.
Anywho, it must've cost him a bundle to move the furnace somewhere outside and turn the entire basement into something that'd give the original Doctor Frankenstein a massive hard-on. Basically, the entire basement had been divided into four inter-connecting rooms. The largest was filled with animal cages. I'd only seen the insides in a virtual sense ya understand, but it was easily half the floor space of the entire basement. Trust me, it wasn't the kind of place any animal lover would care to visit.
The next two rooms where roughly the same size. The first one you'd see upon walking down the basement stairs was Doc's laboratory. It was roughly the size of two Holiday Inn® guestroom suites and filled with enough shiny scientific Tonka Toys® to reach the ceiling. I'm just glad I didn't have to pay the electric bill to keep all those doohickeys running.
The room next to the lab was the operating theatre. I spent most of my waking moments in there with every piece of shiny medical gear you'd care to imagine -- and most of it was very, very sharp. You'll all please forgive me if I leave it at that. I don't have many fond memories of that room.
And last, and definitely least, was my humble abode. Way in the back, in the darkest and dankest corner of the basement, they'd built a room roughly the size of a small closet. Its main features were a canvas cot, a chemical toilet, a radio and a box of old magazines. Home sweet home.
Like all the other rooms, its walls were made of this incredibly thick shatterproof glass and the only way in or out was through even thicker glass and steel doors. Even if by some miracle they'd left the door to my room unlocked, my palm print wouldn't open the other three electronic locks that stood between freedom and me.
Yeah, right. Like I'd really want to escape into my grave.
At his advanced age, I seriously doubted if Doc's mental elevator still climbed to the top floor anymore, but I had to give him his due. He certainly had all that wacky science fiction stuff down pat. You should've heard him bragging for hours while he worked on me. In the grand tradition of crazed megalomaniacs throughout the ages, he never seemed to get tired of listening to himself talk -- and talk -- and talk.
I'd hate to bore you all, but I can't even begin to repeat what he said he was trying to do.
Before I got sick, I use to cook books for a living. Plain and safe work -- you get me? If you needed to squirrel away suitcases filled with cash, I'd personally hand carry 'em to one or more of over a hundred offshore Caribbean banks I knew. Clean, simple, and no questions asked. I'd even come back with a killer tan to show ya.
You say that Government tax agents are sniffing around your mansion? Big deal! I knew all the right palms to grease and I could guarantee that they'd never bother you again. Having trouble with mountains of dirty money? Big whoop de do! My connections could bring it back in a few weeks smelling like a rose for only a small up-front fee.
But please, don't ask me to explain all 'em big words Doc liked to throw around like dirty laundry. What the heck are DNA, RNA and Bipolar Memory Pattern Fractal Transference anyway? Just 'cause I never took them egghead biology science classes in P.S. 38 doesn't give him the right to talk down to me. As a City boy, born and bred, I don't take kindly to that kind of disrespect. I'd like to see him spout those twenty-dollar words in my neighborhood, and that goes double for my old homestead on Montgomery Street.
What? You really want me to try? Oh, all right, it's the least I can do after you've all been so kind as to listen to me bellyaching all night. There's still some time before sunup anyway. Going out in the dark to eat breakfast can be real dangerous in these parts, but I'll have to finish soon; I've got a long trip back home ahead of me.
Now, where was I? That's right -- Doc's grand plan.
If ya ask me, Doc's bag of mental marbles was more than a few short, and it'd been that way for a long, long, time. You're not going to believe this, but he'd spent most of his life searching for the fountain of youth and for ways to turn people into animals! Now the live-forever part I could understand, it's just the fur and tail bits that I never could wrap my brain around.
Oy vey! What a fruitcake! He wanted to be a dog! I fool you not, old Doc Merit wanted to turn himself into a bow-bow. Now stop laughing, I'm trying to be serious here! Once he even showed me some computer artwork he'd paid some kid on the Web to draw. Get this, he wanted to make himself look like some kind of two-legged Great Dane! Funny! From what I could see, the pictures showed him looking like a mutt after someone had shoved most of a human skeleton up its ass. He had to hit me three times before I could stop laughing.
He'd tried everything. You name it and Doc had done it: chemistry, surgery, transplants, cross-species breeding, brain swaps and on and on and on. I wouldn't have been surprised if he hadn't tried a little black magic and voodoo too. Yet, in the end, all he'd actually done was to rid the world of a couple dozen guinea pigs the Mob had been all too happy to provide.
From what I could gather, the Families paid him with human patients in exchange for his medical expertise. A little plastic surgery here, a little fingerprint alteration there, not to mention hundreds of bullet holes discretely patched up in one hour or less and the Bosses rewarded him with all the warm bodies he could ever need.
Think about it. Could any would-be Doctor Frankenstein luck into a sweeter deal? Frankly, I couldn't see Smiley or Broken Nose in the role of Mary Shelly's Igor. Neither one of those two mental giants could find their own butts with both hands and a GPS, let alone empty entire cemeteries to obtain corpses or collect live volunteers for Doc Merit to play with. In the Doc, the Mob had finally found a solution to one of its worst long-term business problems, namely, how could they safely dispose of all the dead, and soon to be dead, bodies cluttering up the place? After Doc finished his little experiments there was little chance that the cops would ever trace the leftovers back to them. Like I said, it was a match made in Heaven.
While it was true that Doc had managed to create some rather spectacular looking results over the years, even his best work never lived long. Despite the most expensive cutting-edge anti-rejection drugs he could buy, or have stolen, his patients soon died after their skin was replaced with animal pelts, or a seemingly endless variety of tails and other less mentionable animal parts, were sewn onto their butts and groins. He just never seemed to get tired of trying, though. No sooner than one guy died after a horse's muzzle was glued and screwed into his mug, he'd carve someone's feet into bird claws and make their knees bend the wrong way. What a guy! Dedication like that is... so... hard to find.
If those two brain-dead Boopsie twins had even a single IQ point to share between them, I would've told them to picket Dr. Merit for unfair labor practices. Hauling all those bodies to the incinerator behind the building must've been damned hard work for minimum pay. Did I fail to mention that Doc was a cheap penny-pinching slave driver too? I know it sounds kinda trivial when compared to his other personality faults, but I'd hate to leave out even a single one of his sterling qualities.
Eventually, after nearly forty years of unmitigated failure, Doc decided to try a new tack. I said he was smart, I didn't say he was fast on the uptake.
In essence, since the mountain didn't want to come to Doctor Merit, Doctor Merit would go to the mountain... and dissect it. Or to put it into other words, since everything he'd tried had failed to make people look like animals, he'd do the next best thing. He'd make people think like animals.
Did I mention that he was nuts? I did? Good. I'd really hate to under-emphasize that point.
That having been said, again, it will soon become obvious how two seeming unrelated events conspired to make his decision a roaring semi-success. It will also go a long way toward explaining how I've come to be stuck in this unfortunate predicament.
Oops! Sorry. I almost got ahead of myself. I'd hate to spill the beans before I've told you, my honored and appreciative audience, the entire story as it pertains to my current situation. Yes? Don't worry, Miss. I won't forget. Just keep that baby quiet and I promise to mention all of you. Is that all right with you? Great!
Okay, as I was saying before I rudely interrupted myself, two seemingly unrelated factors conspired to change Doc's plans and send him off on a wild tangent.
The first was the relentless march of science. Over the course of the last two decades of the twentieth century, the exponential growth in genetic and computer sciences showed absolutely no signs of stopping or even slowing down.
For ludicrously small amounts of money, any whacko with a petri dish and a grudge could buy whatever data and equipment the Human Genome project and the Intel Corporation were dumping on the market. Guess who was standing first in line with a check in his hand? Bingo! You've won a cigar.
It's kind of ironic when ya think about it. Just 'cause you might want to waste some soon-to-be-deceased jerk you've caught porking your wife -- or maybe you're feeling just a bit terminally depressed -- those cry babies in Washington make the gun shops wait a week before they'll hand ya a gun. Yet, without batting an eyelash, they'll give anyone sensitive medical information that potentially threatens the health and safety of every human on the planet for a few bucks. To think that a District Attorney once had the balls to say what I did for a living was criminal.
The second factor was far less obvious. Roughly twenty years before my face and a slab of NYC pavement became intimately acquainted, a whole bunch of cows -- and a few people too -- started dropping like flies in England. Without warning a new disease had moved into the neighborhood and was thumbing its nose at the entire medical community. So it goes without saying that Doctor Merit would read all about dying and get interested.
Normally, as any rational person would expect, doctors get all hot-and-bothered when some new bug pops up out of nowhere and starts killing. Kind of goes with the job description, don't ya think? But good old Doc Merit saw things through glasses of a different color. Blood red. He'd finally found something that affected the brains of humans and animals!
Soon he made plans to make money doing what he normally did for free. It must've been nice to have a hobby that pays too. Quicker than a city councilman can stick out his palm for a little campaign contribution, Doc sent in his request for funding and samples of infected tissue from the NIH. And, lo and behold, their overstuffed cornucopia tilted in his direction and he was instantly awash in germs and cold hard cash.
Guess what? Now ya know where he got most of the money to modernize his basement playroom. It's a little late to break this news to you now, but I'm sure all you former tax paying wage slaves would've loved to have known where some of your hard-earned money wound up.
Hey! Ya can't blame me. Heaven knows the government couldn't buy a single tongue depressor on what I mailed in with my 1040's. Damn! I sure loved filling out those things, but, then again, my favorite form of literature has always been science fiction.
They never did catch on to his scam. Since he never seemed to waste a cent on himself, and he never did, a government lab inspector would come around to examine his books each year and walk away happy. As much as I'd hate to say it, Doc's skill for creative writing rivaled my own tax form filing abilities. Maybe I should've felt jealous? Lucky for that inspector's peace of mind he never did find the real lab. If he'd taken just one glimpse of Doc's basement wonderland, and the crap he was cooking down there, I'm sure the poor guy would've run away gibbering like a blue assed baboon.
Nah. Enough of that. Lets get back to what he was doing with all that cash. Like I've said before, please bear with me since I never did understand all the scientific mumbo-jumbo going on. From what little I could gather from Doc's hour-long rambling lectures, the Brit's had screwed up royally. Like Father Pastorini liked to say during Sunday school classes, "There are THINGS man was NOT meant to do!"
In addition to the usual warnings against eating meat on Fridays or marrying a close family member like a sister or a first cousin, he'd pop ya besides the head to emphasize the biblical no-no's of playing with yourself until ya went blind. Ya just had to love the guy, at least that's what a couple of the younger altar boys said during his trial.
Damn! Off track again. Okay, enough about him, lets get back to those crazy Limeys.
Somehow they'd broken an even older rule than those Father Pastorini liked to warn us about. And wouldn't ya know it, this one was written in another Good Book -- the Farmer's Almanac actually. It boiled down to something really simple, "DON'T SCREW AROUND WITH THE FOOD CHAIN!"
To make more money, always a laudable goal I'd say, them British farmers had decided to fatten their livestock with processed sheep byproducts instead of expensive hay. Oops! Sorry! Bad idea!
While it was true that their animals packed on tonnage faster than Oprah on hiatus, Mother Nature had clearly never intended for cows to eat sheep. Hell! Can you picture a cow chasing after a herd of sheep like a hungry wolf? I sure can't. So it should've come to no surprise that HER opinion mirrored the immortal words of my favorite standup comedian, Kevin Meany, "THAT'S NOT RIGHT!"
It wasn't long before the old gal turned into the Mama of all PMS'd bitches.
With nothing better to do, I spent over a couple weeks piecing the story together from Doc's senile ranting and the dog-eared AMA journals he let me read. In the end it wasn't all that had to figure out how they'd screwed up.
Don't look at me that way. It was either his magazines or listening to radio reporters droning on about the latest foreign diplomatic crisis. Frankly, I'd rather sneeze my nose off reading dusty old magazines than bleed from the ears listening to stuffed shirts on the radio. Who cared that China and Russia were threatening war over our new military protection pact with stupid Taiwan? Like the good old USA would really take a chance of getting into a fight over some island halfway around the world.
Despite all that reading, I must confess that most of what I know about Mad Cow Disease came from an old PBS video special. Every so often Doc would run the tape while getting me ready for another one of his little experiments.
If ya must know, most of Doc's reading material put me under faster than an elephant gun could drop a charging chipmunk, but I never could take my eyes off that television screen when he played that tape. It's not often ya get to see a herd a cows dancing the Mambo 'cause something had turned their brains into Swiss cheese.
Nevertheless, I never did like watching where they filmed those sorry shits dying in a hospital beds with their brains chewed to pieces. Those images kinda hit too close to home, if ya get my drift.
Then, ya should've seen the looks on those eggheads' faces. Most of them guys in the white lab coats were so far gone into a state of denial they'd need a passport just to get home. Not a single one of 'em wanted to believe that little buggers called "prions" could give anything but a sheep a bad day -- a terminally bad day that is.
Without the smallest amount of that genetic whatever that living cells need to grow and multiply, they said it was impossible for tiny pieces of inert proteins to become brain destroyers and infect anything that had the bad luck to eat 'em. Boy, were they wrong!
By the time they contained the problem nobody would touch British beef with a ten-foot pole. Make that a twenty-foot pole. Of course, there was more than enough finger pointing and screaming going around to make ya think World War III was around the corner. Hysteria was the order of the day as England's trading partners closed their borders to foreign beef imports, and you wouldn't believe how many cows they had to destroy just to calm everyone down.
Unfortunately, like I said before, a really bad mistake had already been set in motion.
Doc had learned a whole bunch about them screwy proteins before they finally got a handle on the problem over there. With all those fancy gizmos those dim bulbs in Washington kept giving him, he soon set about making them a whole lot better -- or worse, depending on your point of view.
You'd think those little suckers were tough enough already. Even before Doc started playing with 'em they were practically indestructible. Ya could burn them to ash or fry 'em in a nuclear reactor and they'd barely notice. Bury 'em in the ground and they'd pop up like Count Dracula years later just as good as new.
Now that I think about it, they remind me a lot of my first wife's mother. I never did manage to get rid of her either. No matter how far away I sent her, she kept coming back like a little lost kitten. Oh, well. Maybe I should've tried harder.
Hey kid! How about putting that ball away until I'm done. Didn't your folks teach ya to pay attention when people are talking at ya? I'll be done soon enough, and then, for all I care, ya can keep playing with that damned ball for all eternity.
Well? Great! Be that way! Give me the silent treatment. I hope ya bounce that thing into the damned river. I sure as Hell ain't gonna going in there to get it back for ya.
I don't believe it! I let myself get sidetracked again. Sorry folks. I've got the attention span of a mosquito sometimes. All it takes is one stray thought and I zoom off into another direction. Lets get back to the lab, okay?
Like I was saying, Doc's enthusiasm was a wonder to behold. I watched in awe as he imitated my late uncle Mario "The Lush" Morton. In just a matter of a few days he began to fill the basement to the rafters with scores of huge metal kegs. However, there was a slight difference. In the end Uncle Mario had only managed to bottle the worst tasting hooch Prohibition had ever seen, while Doc's bathtub gin was a real killer in every sense of the word.
I didn't discover until a couple weeks later why he'd felt the need to cook-up so damned much. Even on a good day, he'd never use more than a tiny super-diluted drop experimenting on me, so I suppose I could've just chalked it up to another example of his growing senility. While it was fairly common for people his age to start collection stamps and other junk in their Golden years, Doctor Merit was anything but common. He gets old... something that must've happened while Indians were looking for a buyer for Manhattan... and he starts collecting liquid death. Go fig!
But don't ya get the idea that I'm complaining.
If it weren't for Doc's brain lemonade I would've been fertilizing the lawn at some cemetery by then. While his methods were a little to the left side of rational... now there's the ultimate understatement of all time... he never really needed Smiley or Broken Nose as bodyguards. I would've gladly wasted anyone unlucky enough to stumble onto the lab or lay a single finger on that old quack. No doubt about it. He was gonna be number one on my Christmas card list if I survived.
Isn't it amazing how self-interest shines a new light on almost anything?
Was I crazy you ask? No? Yes? Maybe? I wasn't really sure towards the end. How do you judge yourself when most of your brain has been replaced by something else?
What am I talking about? Very well. Since we're getting towards the end anyway, I'll tell it to ya straight.
What Doc had done would've easily gotten him a whole pile of Nobel Prizes, or, at the very least, something like a half-dozen eternities in jail for crimes against humanity. Take your pick. Even now I find it hard to be impartial.
In the simplest terms, he'd finally won. He'd discovered a way to turn a brain-destroying protein inside out and create a lifesaver. And, from his warped point'a view, there was a fantastic bonus. Not only could his new toy miraculously repair a damaged human brain, it could encode and transfer memories between brains with lightning speed.
That's between animals and humans if ya haven't figured it out yet.
You should've seen him. He was dancing on Cloud Nine for days after he saw the first x-rays of my brain. Believe me, it wasn't a pretty sight. I'm talking about my brain, actually. For a guy his age, Doc wasn't half bad as he pranced around the lab screeching like a banshee with the x-rays in his hands.
As for me, I felt $*@#ing great! No shakes, tremors, or the slightest sign of the mildest headache. Except for being as mentally hyperactive as a twelve year old without his Ritalin, I hadn't felt so sharp in decades. Without the slightest bit of effort I could recall forgotten highlights from my childhood as I easily passed every physiological or psychological test Doc cared to give me.
But my poor brain looked like a hunk of meat loaf after my second wife, Mercedes, the universe's worst cook, had finished cremating it. There were so many new brain cells crowded together that I was amazed Doc didn't jam a bolt through my neck to keep my head from blowing off my shoulders.
It was at this point, as he prepared me for the final test, that I got wind of his plans. All those metal cylinders filled with toxic goop were going to make him richer than Bill Gates! Forget marijuana. Forget heroin. Forget cocaine. Forget alcohol. Doctor M's Furry Brain Pills, as I overheard him bragging to someone over the phone, were going to hit the country like a ton of bricks!
At a markup that'd embarrass Colombia's greediest drug lord, the Mob was going to sell Doc's special sleeping pills to anyone who wanted to wake up with an animal's lifetime of memories in their melon. Holy freaking shit! Can ya believe it? I never was much of a country boy myself, but having the memories of the goings-on inside a horse stud farm might've been interesting. Just how interesting is my business.
Yet, despite his best efforts, he still had two hurdles to jump before his junk could hit the streets.
From marketability standpoint the first was the most serious. Despite a couple hundred test-trials, Doc's wacky juice still hadn't managed to give me much more than the memories of a few unremarkable birds and a slew of tiny reptiles. From my long experience with the finer points of the drug trade... don't ask... I doubted if this limitation could be understated.
Simply put, I couldn't see a lot of repeat business. Most birds and lizards just don't have all that much going on between their ears. The lights are definitely on, but there's no one home is ya get my drift. Reliving their memories was like watching an excruciatingly long, pointless, artsy, black and white soundless movie with foreign subtitles. A real yawner.
In comparison, one of the few exceptions, a cute little white mouse, proved to be a dynamo of strong emotions and thoughts. That deceased little rodent knew fear. It knew lust. It knew hatred. It knew it was friggin' alive right up to the bloody end! Despite having a brain the size of a pencil eraser, that little sucker's memories hit me like a Brinks armored truck!
Man... what a rush! I was wired for days! And talk about weird side effects! How'd you like to break out into a cold sweat every time Doc's pet cat walked by?
The second problem was more straightforward. He was running low on supplies.
As you can easily imagine, there isn't a single catalog company that caters to mad scientists. And, what's worse, there's no telling how many promising careers in unorthodox science have ended prematurely because a clear trail of evidence led government agents straight to a supposedly secret laboratory.
Ah, yes. Buying tons of bio-warfare grade materials and equipment does tend to attract unwanted attention.
Doc had thought he'd solved that little problem shortly after the end of WW and two.
After providing a fairly large group of temporarily unemployed Japanese and German colleges with less recognizable mugs, he joined 'em in partnership to share the cost of obtaining supplies from several discrete exporting companies located on Mainland China and Taiwan. It's true ya know. You really do get a better deal when you buy in bulk and share it among your friends.
So happy were these exporters with this profitable arrangement that they'd deliver whatever Doc wanted for a nominal fee without bothering a single US customs or immigration agent. Just think of all the cost in paperwork they saved the American taxpaying public. Makes ya feel all warm and tingly... don't it?
And to think that some people say only Americans understand free enterprise!
However, as the big day approached, things on the other side of the planet were going down the toilet fast. That little territorial tiff between China and Taiwan had gone from bad too much worse. And guess what country couldn't wait to stick its big nose in the middle? Bingo! That's another cigar you've won! Not that I gave a rat's ass by then.
Like a man trying to beat the clock, Doc's operation had gone into overdrive. He was gonna solve the problem of transferring the memories of higher order animals, namely warm blooded mammalian critters, into a human brain. That's my brain for those of you out there that were a bit slow.
Hey, Mack! That's right... the guy standing next to the sign. Can ya tell me what time it is? I seem to have lost my watch. What ya mean ya don't know? You been staring at that wristwatch ever since I got here! Won't tell me, will ya? Screw you! I don't need ya! The Sun is coming up and I'll be warm enough to take off soon anyway.
Getting back on what I was saying. I guess I must've spent a solid week lying semiconscious on that operating table. Before the end I'd been injected with so much crud that I was expecting to see it leak out of my ears. For days on end, Doc tried one formula after another. For my part, I didn't have a clue what or who I was most of the time. I'm just glad he never forgot to keep my feeding tube going or I would've starved.
Ya know, it would've been funny if this crap had been happening to someone else.
For what felt like an eternity, he blasted me with his joy juice and interrogated me afterwards to see what animal memories I'd picked up. Feeling like I was floating miles above my body, I couldn't believe the nonsense that was popping out of my mouth. The following was pretty typical.
"Mr. Morton? Are you awake, Mr. Morton?"
"What can you remember, Mr. Morton? Do you know who you are?"
"Lets try something else. Do you know what your house looks like?"
"My borrow? Burrow deep! Burrow warm! Burrow safe! Burrow smell like me!"
"Good! Now we're getting somewhere. Tell me... what are you?"
"Yes! What are you?"
"No! No! No! What kind of animal are you?"
"What is animal?"
"Forget it! Just tell me what you look like!"
"Me strong! Me jump high! Me run fast!"
"No you idiot! What do you look like?"
"Beautiful! Me beautiful! Fur shiny! Eyes bright! Ears straight! Females like me!"
"Damn it! Just tell me what you are!"
"For crying out loud! You damned Jackass!"
"Me no Jackass. Me rabbit!"
"Finally! Keep going! Tell me what you remember."
"Me...in field. Me eating grass. Grass tastes great!"
"So you like grass?"
"Yes! Yes! Grass good! Clover better! Clover better than grass when eaten again!"
"Eaten again? Please explain."
"Explain? What is explain?"
"Tell me what you mean. What does eaten again mean?"
"Eaten again means eaten again! Me eat until belly full. Me empty belly. Me turn around and eat what came out of belly again. Tastes great!"
"What see? See dog? See cat? Me no like dog! Me no like cat! Me run into burrow! Burrow safe! Burrow deep! Run away! Run away!"
"Calm down! You don't have to run away!"
"Run away where?"
"What ya talking about, Doc?"
"The one and only. Who ya expecting... Elvis?"
"Where's the rabbit?"
"I was talking to a rabbit! Don't you remember?"
"What about the burrow?"
"Sorry, Doc. I may not be able afford a big place after paying all 'em alimony checks, but I wouldn't call my little townhouse a burrow. Ya should come over some time to share a brew. From my porch ya can see the World Trade Center and Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty and..."
"Bite my head off... why don't ya? I was just trying to be neighborly."
"What about eating grass and clover."
"I smoked grass once, but I've never tried clover. How about sharing your stash, Elmer Fudd? I'd like to talk to wabbits and pink elephants too!"
"Sonofabitch! I'll kill you! I'll kill you! I'll kill you!"
WHAP! WHAP! WHAP! WHAP! WHAP! WHAP! WHAP! WHAP! WHAP!
I'm glad I never had much interest in having kids; 'cause by the time Doc calmed down and finished pounding on me I seriously doubted if I'd ever be able to father any.
It wasn't long after this incident that I woke up on the operating table and found myself nose to nose with a four-foot long crocodile. There I was dreaming about being in bed with my third and future ex-wife Lola, when I felt something cold and wet touch my nose. Assuming that she'd climb on top for a little nighttime romp, I lifted my head off the pillow and returned her what I thought was her kiss with a little tongue action.
As much as I moved my tongue around, I couldn't feel her lips or taste her lipstick. And I sure in heck didn't remember her teeth being so sharp or widely spaced. Still groggy from Doc's sleepy time gas, I opened my eyes and discovered that I'd been swapping spit with Godzilla.
Excuse me, my more than generous audience, there's something I've got to do.
Thank you. I feel better now. That memory still gives me the heebie-jeebies.
Laughing like a pair of morons... now there's a redundant statement if I've ever heard one... Smiley and Broken Nose moved aside as Doc entered the operating room and lifted the croc off my chest. After sending those two crowing idiots packing with a wave of his cane, he sat down besides the operating table with that scaly monster resting comfortably upon his lap.
"I see you've meet Lyle."
"That #%@#ing' thing is called, Lyle?"
"That's right. It's short for Lyle the crocodile. Isn't he cute?"
"Yeah, right! Just keep the walking suitcase away from me!"
"Come now, you wouldn't want to hurt his feelings!"
Turning my head as far as the neck restraint would allow, I looked down and locked eyes with the cold-blooded monster. Somehow I doubted if anything smaller than a .357 Magnum could even dent it let alone hurt its feelings. If I hadn't been so busy trying to out-stare the little bastard, I might've noticed how strange Doc was acting sooner.
I sincerely doubt if many people could've beaten me at reading body language through those plastic spacesuits. After many weeks of nearly constant practice, I could usually figure out what was going through their minds. While those two simpletons were as easy to read as a one-sentence book, Doc's inner workings were far more complex. Depending on what progress his experiments were having at the moment, his mood swings could've given even Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde the creeps.
As his prized human flatworm, something he called me whenever my name-calling got his goat, I could usually watch his antics with little fear as he oscillated between bouts of homicidal senile dementia and absentminded grandfatherly kindheartedness. Talk about bizarre. One second he'd be threatening to vivisect me with a dull butter knife 'cause I'd crowned him with yet another insulting job title or name, and the next he'd be working frantically to restart my heart after his latest batch of brain flush had made me go flat line.
Today was different.
He seemed lost in thought as he sat beside the operating table. Something was bothering him and it was sending me into a panic all my own. Was he going to give up on me? Was he planning to abandon my treatments and try something new? Was he going to let that thing inside my skull return and kill me? I had to find out soon or I'd go crazy!
"How they hanging, Doc?"
Nothing. Not even a raised eyebrow. Shit! I'm in trouble now!
"Yo, Doctor Dolittle! Don't look now, but that cat-dog thingy you stitched together is climbing up the stairs!"
"What? Where?" he replied in a preoccupied tone. He gave the staircase only the most perfunctory of glances while petting the reptile dozing upon his lap.
"Just pulling your chain, Doc! It's almost noon already. When we starting?"
His mind clearly a million miles away, Doc just kept staring down as he absentmindedly scratched the swollen bump between the reptile's eyes. As you've probably noticed by now, Steve Irwin I ain't. I never did care much for most critters unless my mama, or any one of my three ex's, had a good recipe for 'em. And that went double for those that'd like nothing better than to jump out of the water and bite my butt off. But even I could tell that something wasn't quite right with that croc's head.
It was at this point that I noticed the wire snaking into Doc's right ear. With a little effort I could hear an excited sounding voice escaping from his helmet. I couldn't understand a single word, but it was obvious that the unknown speaker was agitated about something.
Before I could ask what was going on, Broken Nose showed up dragging a huge wooden crate.
"Yes?" Doc replied without lifting his head or turning around.
"Where say you want box?"
After a deep sigh, Doc replied. "For the third time! Put that box into the van!"
The sound of mental gears grinding away was almost deafening. It was really painful to watch as Broken Nose's face twisted into a look of absolute concentration. Finally, just about when I expected him to explode from the effort, his eyes snapped opened and a revelation of cosmic import escaped his lips.
"Box heavy! Can't lift!"
"Then go get Vincent!"
"He upstairs. He listening to pork radio and watching street like you said."
"For the millionth time! That's a Ham radio!"
"Forget it! Just leave that box right there until Vincent comes down for dinner. Until then I want you to keep on loading the other boxes into the ambulance. I want it done before it gets dark! Understood?"
I knew I forgot to mention something! Ya won't want to believe this, but Doc had his own private ambulance. I don't know were he got it, but it was one sweet set of wheels. He could drive it anywhere and the cops never gave it a second look. And there was an added bonus. If the Mob happened to be a little behind on their deliveries, he'd just show up at a highway fender bender and help himself to a few specimens. Makes ya wonder about all 'em missing persons reports every year, don't it?
Where was I? Right... the radio! Like I said, I couldn't hear what the voice on the radio was saying, but it sure had his attention.
"What about 'em Broncos? How's the game going, Doc?"
"What you say?" he asked absently as he continued to stroke the sleeping crocodile.
"How's the game going? Lose your shirt yet?"
Without a single word in reply to my lame attempt at a joke, Doc pressed a button on his helmet and the voice was cut off in mid word. Looking up as if noticing my presence for the first time, I saw his expression change. There wasn't a single doubt in my mind, and it took none of my poker playing skills to read his face: Here was a guy planning to go down to the mat fighting.
"It's nothing that concerns you. We're all going on a short trip upstate in a few days. I've got a small place outside the city and we should be safe there until all this blows over."
Safe? Blows over? Holy freakin' shit! Damn! Damn! Damn! Not now! Not when I'm so close! I might only be a few days from a complete cure and someone had finally caught onto him! Please God! Don't do this to me! I want to live!
It's embarrassing to say, but I pretty much lost it at this point. Screaming at the top of my lungs that I didn't want to die, I hardly noticed as Doc slapped the mask over my face and turned on the gas. As I fell into a very familiar bottomless pit, I heard his next words as if he were standing a thousand miles away.
"Don't worry, Mr. Morton. That is never going to happen."