Inches Nitely and the Lizard’s Id by Tim Rocks
Inches apologized sheepishly for the reconnaissance, started on some rambling explanation, but Batterson brushed it all off with his zen-like indifference. Was it all an act? Maybe this wily little ninja was just toying with him, getting him relaxed to find out what was up, before he strung him up and flayed him in some sadistic slow-death backwoods ritual. One of those psychopaths whose emotional effect was all out of whack with their elaborate torture games.
But inside the yurt (“Come into my yurt,” Batterson had said, “Take a load off, stranger”) Inches felt serene and calm to the point that he’d probably cooperate in his own stringing up and flaying if requested to do so. He didn’t normally go in for a lot of New Age crap, but he might have to reconsider that policy . . . At least when it came to yurts.
Batterson ladled out some kind of stew into a rustic ceramic bowl and handed it to Inches. Who suddenly realized he was starving, and dove in gratefully.
“What’s in it?” he said, through a mouthful of delicious lumpy vittles.
“Oh, heck if I know. Squirrel, opossum, I just keep adding to it. Whatever I can catch.”
“Well it’s fantastic,” said Inches, who would now have to reconsider his policy on eating small woodland creatures as well.
They sat Indian style on either side of the small cooking fire, smoking from a long tobacco pipe, as Inches explained his situation and his request. Batterson seemed amused, possibly even open to the idea. Acted like it was perfectly natural that this bagman thug wanted some spiritual guidance on his quest to revive an old comic strip.
But Inches was a fan as much as anything, so much of their talk was Batterson sharing stories and anecdotes about his ‘Calvino and Hobson’ days.
“I had one editor,” he said, puffing on the pipe for dramatic emphasis “who wanted me to dumb it down, stop using big words. Stop having them pontificate like little philosophers.”
“But that’s what the strip is!” said Inches. “What an idiot!”
“I know,” said Batterson. “He thought it could be even bigger, have more mass appeal if I just stuck to gross-out humor and simple gags.”
“How can people be so clueless? And this guy was an editor?”
“Yep.” Batterson exhaled a big cloud of smoke.
“So that’s what I’ll be up against,” said Inches. “These damn editors . . . Maybe, maybe I should get to somebody at the syndicate. You know, make sure they’ll play ball.”
“That would be one way to do it,” Batterson said, with an expression of Hobson- like irony.
Outside it grew pitch black as they talked on. Batterson rose at some point and opened a little wooden cabinet. Inside were jars and bottles. He drew one out, of dark-tinted glass with no label, and unscrewed the lid. “I want you to see something,” he said.
He dipped a brush in it and then painted some of the gelatinous oozes onto Inches’ forehead. Inches in such a relaxed and trusting state that he didn’t flinch or anything.
“What is it” Inches started to say, but a tingling sensation drew him up short. He was drifting, drifting . . . . Batterson was wavy like the flames and the yurt was dissolving into blackness. A loud ringing in his ears. Then, after what might’ve been minutes or just a few seconds, Inches was in the Lizard’s Id comic strip . . . Sort of. It was all a black void and one lizard had Bobby’s face.
“It’ll never ever work,” said the Bobby lizard. They were driving on some loopy roller coaster track and Bobby kept saying “never ever, ever never ever ever” again and again.
Now beautiful music was playing, a full symphony orchestra, and they drove up onto a giant white mountain. The mountain was full of twists and turns, valleys and great looming overlooks. Far above them in the clouds, he began to make out a craggy face of an old man. The Great One! He had tubes coming in and out of his nostrils, his mouth coiled all around him, and the sucking sounds were deep and monstrous.
“Oscar!” he boomed. “Oscar Oscar Oscar!”
Until it turned into a nonsense sound. They were driving through the tubes now, right up into one cavernous nostril, into the old man’s brain. It was a control room filled with lizards in white lab coats. Holding clipboards and checking their glowing red instrument panels, twisting dials and looking grim.
Lizard-Bobby said “Hey Inches. Get a load of this.”
When Inches looked over, Bobby was on an island, banging some exotic native girl lizard. “Wish you were here, buddy,” said Lizard-Bobby, then went back to banging the lizard chick.
And on it went. All through the night. Mostly he couldn’t remember it. The most vivid dreams he’d ever had, intercutting periods of bliss like calm, with pulse-pounding nightmare visions. He awoke the next morning with a mild headache, totally exhausted.
“Well pardner,” said Batterson with a dopey grin “How was it?”
Inches grunted and spit up some thin clear liquid.
When he pulled himself together and stumbled out of the yurt, Batterson was standing there in the early morning light, his suitcase packed and ready to go.
Actually it had not been that hard to track down Oscar. Guy had a little mini cult of personality going down there on those sun-drenched islands. The first native Bobby showed his picture to grinned broadly and said “Oh yes, Senor! I know this man… He no ‘Oscar’ though . . . He Papa Gordo! Have island spirit big time, si Senor . . .” and pointed across the beach towards a distant outdoor bar.
As Bobby approached, grumbling about the sand filling his imitation Versace loafers, the bongo drums grew louder and the tiny specks turned into people milling around a weathered outdoor bar. Oscar wasn’t fat really, but he was a big guy with a respectable gut, and clearly the “Papa” to these island honeys, plus a ragtag assortment of Western expats of various nationalities.
Bobby had waited around, drinking lightly, brushing off most of the prostitutes except for one, just to get it out of his system, until nightfall. He watched them help a staggering Oscar to a nearby straw hut, then phoned some associates he had down there, part of a cartel loosely connected to El Racha’s stateside operations. They showed up in a dune buggy and laid Oscar on the backseat like a big ocean catch of some kind. Flew him out in a drug-running plane. When he woke from his hangover the next day he wouldn’t act reasonable, so Bobby tapped him out again and threw him in the trunk of his rental car.
Inches calling to say Meet him at the cartoonist’s house, and did he have Oscar?
Well yes, he did . . . In a manner of speaking…
Great! He’d see him there.
Bobby looking back over his shoulder, towards the dull thuds of a confused,
supremely disoriented man banging the inside of the trunk at distant intervals. His muffled voice growling threats and incoherent rambling.
“So you’ll be there? Bobby?”
Bobby said yes he’d be there.