Paup Fiction: The Botched Kidnapping

Part 1 | Part 2

“Look, officer, casual passers-by were understandably distraught by what they were seeing – Don Shula drooling uncontrollably on an oatmeal raisin cookie isn’t exactly the image you expect to see when you walk into an Ikea home furnishings store,” store manager Curtis Enis said while nervously stroking his chin. “The fact that a couple young ruffians took it upon themselves to wrap his body in a giant black bag and carry him out of the store with no protest whatsoever from Ikea management COULD actually be considered a public service instead of aiding and abetting a criminal. At least,” he said with a slight nod of his head, “that’s the way I like to look at it.”

Officer Shannon Sharpe furiously wrote notes down on his notepad, shaking his head disapprovingly.

“Curtis, I been in this business a long time – two months, in fact – and the number one thing that I have learned personally in all my days of service is this: you GOT to TRUST your GUT. And, right now, my gut is telling me that you are full of wickedness and deceit. You keep company with the vermin of the greater Fort Lauderdale suburban metroplex. Slime oozes from your every entrail. COWARDICE and DUPLICITY are your breaded butter. Now I don’t have actually have any physical proof to back up these feelings of mine. But I’m pretty sure I can find some if I dig hard enough. And let me tell you, Curtis – you do not want me to be the one digging up your backyard and finding all the crazy bones you got buried down south in your back entrance. I own two different shovels, Curtis. That ought to tell everything you need to know about the situation. One of those shovels breaks, BOOM! I got a backup ready to step in, do the job. Next shovel up. That sorta deal.

“So what’s it gonna be, Curtis? You want to take your chances with my two different shovels and hope that both of them break before I uncover anything unsavory in your past? Because I doubt that would occur – they are both still covered under the warranty period and that suggests to me that the manufacturer does not believe that they are in immediate danger of breaking. After all, why would a company offer a free warranty for providing a service that it is actually likely going to be necessary? That’s not sound business right there, Curtis. You extend your warranties too long, you gonna get people not buying enough shovels from your company and you’re gonna be out of business within six, eight months, tops. My good friend Qadry Ismail – he had this same problem when he started his ferret rental business, oh, I s’pose it was six, seven years ago at this point. I told Qadry, ‘Qadry, this is a great business idea on paper. But if you don’t raise your rates another $10 to $15 a day, I don’t see how the bottom line ends up out of the red.’ I love Qadry, but he didn’t have the business sense to pull that sort of entrepreneurial spirit off. Out of business in three months. It’s a real shame. Now, Trent Dilfer’s retail chain of used toupees? THERE’S some business acumen for you right there! I tell you…”

Sharpe continued to talk for another twenty minutes before realizing that Enis had walked away and left the store. Depressed that he had missed another opportunity to use his two shovels, he walked back to his squad car and slowly drove back to the station.

******************************************

“Yo, Curtis? Look, we got a problem, man.”

“Oh, YOU’VE got problems?” Enis said into his cell phone, barely able to control his voice. “YOU have problems? Rashaan, don’t talk to me about problems right now, okay? The cops know, alright? They know.”

“They know? About the backyard?”

“Exactly, Shannon Sharpe was spitballing and talking all sorts of nonsense about shovels having a warranty period and Qadry Ismail starting a ferret business, but he knows, man. He knows we’ve got something buried back there and if he ever realizes that I’m not standing in front of him anymore and stops talking about sound business practices, he’s going to dig that crap up, Rashaan. So I need you and Stenstrom to immediately turn around, get back to the Pizza Hut and we’ll figure out what to do with Shula later.”

“See, but that’s what I’m trying to tell you, man, we’ve got a situation of our own going on right here.”

“Look, Rashaan, I’m gonna be honest with you,” Enis said pointedly while swerving around a slow driver in the left lane. “I don’t really give a crap right now. As long as you’ve got Shula safely secured, everything else can wait, as far as I’m concerned.”

“That’s actually the issue we’re facing right now, though, Curtis. Shula isn’t, uh, safely secured at the moment.”

Enis nearly drove off the road but steadied the Kia Rio in time.

“Well, that’s wonderful news, Rashaan. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I paid you and Steve Stenstrom 20 G’s each to lose a geriatric football coach who was freaking unconscious. That’s money well spent right there. Where’d you lose him?”

“Well…we never really lost him. In fact, he’s standing in front of us right now. Issue is, he’s got a glock pointed at the both of us. And I gotta be straight with you, Curtis, he don’t look real happy right now.”

Enis was silent on the other end for a couple heartbeats. Then he pulled the car off the freeway and onto the shoulder. “Put him on.”

“(muffled voices in background) I don’t know who this is, but I have to say that I’ve had a pretty rough afternoon so far and sending Rashaan Salaam and some stiff backup quarterback whose name I can’t remember to stuff my unconscious body in a body bag REALLY wasn’t something I needed. So I’m going to give you approximately three minutes to adequately explain what you’re doing before I shoot enough bullets in these boys’ butt cheeks to seriously impair their ability to sit comfortably for the rest of their lives.”

Enis wanted to slap the steering wheel in anger, but held himself in check and took a deep breath.

“First of all, Coach Shula, I just want to say that I’m impressed you wormed your way out of the body bag. At your age, that’s…that’s quite an accomplishment.”

“Accomplishment, my keester. These two Ivy Leaguers left the zipper open. I’m not dead, you dumbasses. I just take a lot of naps! That’s what all 83-year-olds have to do to stay alive.”

“I hear you, Don, I hear you,” Enis said, rolling his eyes over his henchmen’s stupidity. “Look, I’m gonna be real with you, Don. If it were up to me, I would have let you just drool in peace in the Ikea cafeteria for the rest of your life if you wanted. But I’ve got a boss who makes some very irrepressible demands, a bank account in desperate need of the income this admittedly sordid career provides and three hundred donkey skeletons buried in the back of a Pizza Hut parking lot that are about to be dug up by Shannon Sharpe. It’s not as if I can just let you run free right now. I will have to hunt you down, I will have to return you to my boss and I will most definitely have to dig up those donkey skeletons before Shannon Sharpe gets there.” Enis paused to take a breath, then exhaled. “Those are just the facts right now, Don. I wish things could be different between us.”

“I wish that too, sir,” Shula said with a slight grin on his face. “It’s a shame that you’ll never live long enough to experience the difference NutriSystem makes on your diet late in life. It truly is a sight to behold.” And with that, Shula hung up, shot Salaam and Stenstrom four times each in the buttocks and reached inside the pockets of both men to steal their wallets.

“Thanks for the information, boys!” Shula said, climbing into the driver’s seat of the pair’s silver Mercury Cougar. “That address’ll come in handy when I eventually need to find the Big Man!” Turning the key and shifting the gear into drive, Shula revved the car back onto Highway 595 and sped off in search of answers.

To be continued…

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Paup Fiction: The Limo

Part 1

“Look, JaMarcus,” Dick Butkus continued with a quiver in his voice and drool dripping down his chin, “I know we’ve had our disagreements in the past and Lord knows I hate Lane Kiffin as much as the next guy. But what you just did to Don Shula gives me significant worry that you may pull a similar stunt to my noggin. And I am but a poor and helpless senior citizen who has no method of defending himself and am currently as vulnerable to attack as Sevastopol was to the allied forces during the Crimean War. I beseech you, JaMarcus, show some mercy to a doddering old fart such as myself!”

JaMarcus Russell slowly unwrapped the outer plastic wrapping off of a candy cane, stuck the candy cane in his mouth and began to cackle with glee.

“Richard, Richard! It’s truly unfortunate that my reputation seems to have preceded me. Come now! I do not mean for my sudden appearance in this seemingly quiet and unmemorable Fort Lauderdale Ikea and subsequent merciless beating of a Hall of Fame coach to be taken as a show of hostility. Far from it, in fact. I was rather hoping you would be available to sit down for a lovely chat over some tea, crumpets and sizzurp – I’ve had the sizzurp flown specifically from the East Bay, you simply CANNOT trust the quality of the sizzurp you find anywhere else to be at an acceptable standard. Can you believe that there have been occasions where I’ve found a LEMON Jolly Rancher included with my purple drank? My heavens, sometimes I don’t know if I can bear to live one more moment among these Philistines! Anyway, Richard, please say that you are available to converse – it would mean ever so much to me…”

“Well,” Butkus said with a slight grimace, “okay. You’re gonna have to give me thirty minutes to change my pants, though. You gave me quite a start there when you entered the room all Rambo-like.”

“Mmmm, yes,” JaMarcus said with a discerning eye in between licks of the candy cane, “I can see the rather unfortunate stain in the midsection of your trousers.”

“You haven’t seen the backside yet. It’s like the start of World War III down there.”

******************************************

After a lengthy delay, the gentlemen reconvened in Russell’s purple limousine in the back alley of the Ikea. Butkus took one last long swig of cough syrup and shook his head in amazement.

“I still can’t believe you were able to flip that two-bedroom condo in East Oakland over for $800,000. The people who bought that place are aware there’s a high likelihood they’re going to die in that home, right?”

“Mmmm,” JaMarcus pondered while stroking his chin and reaching inside his coat pocket for another bottle of cough syrup, “it’s in the best interest of a real estate broker such as myself to keep those unsavory nuggets of knowledge under lock and key. I simply accentuated the positives of the property to the couple: a wonderful opportunity to get on the ground floor of an urban renewal that may or may not ever come to the area. A prime ‘buy-low’ market, if you will.”

“I’ve only been to Oakland once,” Butkus said, leaning back on his seat. “Last game of the ’72 season. Wore my helmet and cup the entire team I was in the city – Doug Buffone always told us this horror story about some poor schmuck on the Oilers who had his head and gonads cut off during a road trip back in ’65 and couldn’t ever play again because of it. Doug always loved telling tall tales, but that one always had too many kernels of truth to it for me to shake off.”

“Oh dear, I fear Oakland’s perception has perhaps gotten a bit too detached from reality,” JaMarcus said while shaking his head sadly and finishing off the bottle of cough syrup. “No, it doesn’t have the picturesque scenery of San Francisco. No, it doesn’t have the wealth and prestige of the Silicon Valley yuppies. If you know where the safe places are, though, and you avoid the bad neighborhoods, it’s a perfectly pleasant place to call home! Did you know that there are over 260 days of sunshine per year in Oakland? Or that the city is the #1 municipality in the country for getting its electricity from renewable resources?”

“I did not!” Dick responded with awe and wonder.

“See, that was my assumption,” JaMarcus nodded while reaching into his pants pocket to grab another bottle of cough syrup. “The vast majority of individuals I speak to on a daily basis don’t know these amazing facts about the city or that there’s a 97% chance that they WON’T get murdered while visiting. That’s the problem, though, isn’t it? Everyone is so fixated on the bad, unsavory aspects of life that they can’t let properly enjoy all the joyful, mirthful and downright whimsical qualities that Oakland has to offer.”

“It’s a shame – a damn shame!” Butkus said angrily, punching the empty leather seat next to him while shaking his head helplessly.

“It truly, truly is,” JaMarcus said with true sadness in his eyes and voice. With that, he finished the bottle of cough syrup and reached into the crotch of his pants to grab another. “While I’ve got your rapt attention here, I’m sure you’ve noticed that the limousine has been moving for the past twenty minutes.”

“I did not, but go on,” Dick said with wide eyes, his head held up by both fists supporting his chin.

“Well, as I’m sure you know, I am not just the third-leading real estate agent in the greater Bay Area. I also run an underground stuffed animal trafficking ring that puts more than 10,000 plush bears and lions in the hands of devoted junkies every day. Unlike my real estate exploits, however, business on this front has not been going so dandy. Lately, we’ve been forced to take the rather regrettable tactic of breaking and entering ordinary civilians’ homes and stealing every fuzzy doggy and lambie that’s in plain sight. Unfortunately, we haven’t had much luck in this regard because my henchmen consist of former Raider teammates. And though I love Ronald Curry and Johnnie Lee Higgins dearly as brothers and as men, they simply don’t strike much fear into the hearts of anyone, including four-year-old girls. This is where you come in, Richard. Your mere presence as the most fearsome player in league history will override the fact that you’ve turned into a weeping bucket of mush and will allow us to obtain the contraband we so desperately desire from unsuspecting homes all across America. Starting,” he said while rolling down the window as the limo slowly came to a stop, “with this one.”

Butkus peered out the window with confusion, not able to make sense of what he was seeing for a few minutes. Then the light bulb came on.

“WE’RE STEALING FROM GRUDEN?!”

To be continued…

Paup Fiction: The Cafeteria (Part I)

Don Shula placed the Granny Smith apple on his tray and walked over to pay the cashier at the cafeteria. This, right here, has the makings of a fine, well-balanced lunch, he thought to himself with a wry smile. The Turkey BLT on wheat bread stridently walks the line between satisfying taste and heart-healthy prudence. The apple gives me a little extra joy inside every time I bite into its green, luscious goodness – AND it’s an excellent source of fiber, of which I need plenty of to avoid pain-staking bowel movements. And, finally, I’ve got an oatmeal raisin cookie that I know full well I probably shouldn’t be eating. But it just tastes so gosh darn good! And you have to eat a little something naughty every once in a while – being a full-fledged disciplinarian 100% of the time simply DOES NOT WORK…unless you’re trying to keep Garo Yepremian from drowning in the bathtub, anyway.

Just then, a husky voice called out from the distance.

“That’s a good meal you’ve prepared for yourself, Don…if your entire remaining life’s goal is to end up as an even fatter and bloated corpse than Elvis.”

Don dropped the tray in shock. There was only one man who knew of his secret intense love of The King – and his even more secret and intense fear of dying in the same exact fashion.

“You know full well that a man who has fully bought into the NutriSystem philosophy of life has little chance of dying while sitting on the toilet, Dick,” he said while slowly turning around and reaching his hand for the banana in his pocket.

Dick Butkus slowly ran his hand through his remaining hairs, laughed and shook his head. “Being aware of NutriSystem’s legendary effect on the human cardiovascular system has its benefits, but I didn’t know that curing a senile old man’s fear of constipation was one of them.”

“Well, it is! You should re-read the pamphlet again,” Don said while gazing uncomfortably at his shuffling feet. “What, exactly, is it that you want with me this time, Richard?”

“A moment of your time,” Butkus said with a shrug. “A simple moment where I can let you know about all the dreadful mistakes you’ve been making. You see, when a coach wins the most games in NFL history and gets patted on the back for the greater part of fifty years, there comes a point where he starts getting…sloppy, shall we say, with his personal choices and actions. Maybe you thought you had ascended above the rule of law; maybe you didn’t. The point is, there’s someone who’s seen you commit serious transgressions against mankind for far too long and has finally summoned the courage and wherewithal to buy a Hoveround scooter and track you down in person.”

Shula kept a blank expression on his face, but his pulse was soon doubling its previous rate.

“You saw me hold up all those Burger Kings last month, didn’t you?”

Butkus took a long, slow drag from a hookah and grimly nodded. “At first, I wasn’t going to say anything because those places are insured up the rear and the only people you’re really robbing – other than the employees at the franchise locations you stole from – are a bunch of nameless and faceless scumbags who have more than enough money for three or four lifetimes. But you just kept pushing the envelope further and further. One minute, you’re using a terrible German accent to ask for a cup of iced tea at a drive-through window; the next, you’re wearing a Lindsay Lohan mask and funneling hundreds of dollars into a burlap sack while cocking a glock at some poor assistant manager’s head and telling him you’ll rob his mom’s house as soon as you’re done with this joint. It’s just…reprehensible, Don. It’s reprehensible.”

Shula was used to performing under pressure in the withering South Florida heat, so a heated conversation inside the air-conditioned cafeteria of an Ikea in Fort Lauderdale wasn’t about to cause puddles of sweat to form beneath his oily, tanned skin.

“Fine, Dick. You caught me. I held up 13 Burger Kings in between Pompano Beach and Homestead in the last two weeks of February. Is that what you wanted to hear?” Upon hearing no immediate response, he derisively continued, “No? That’s not good enough? Well, I suppose you came down here with the intention of forcing me to make an apology and making amends for my actions. That’s the only reason you’d drive the 1400 miles from Chicago to Miami on your Hoveround in less-than-ideal spring conditions. But I’m afraid I simply have nothing to apologize to you – or anyone, for that matter – about. The greatest thrills in life are the ones where you take off the repressive shackles that chained on your limbs by society and simply go with your gut. I learned that late in life. Too late, for it to make a meaningful difference in the way I’d wanted my life to be shaped. But once you learn that truth, you simply cannot go back to the days when you didn’t ride through the front doors of fast-food restaurants in a tank and sprayed mace in the face of any drive-through attendant who tried to stop you. Not even for well-intentioned and previously-terrifying gentlemen such as yourself.”

And with that, Dick reached for the banana in his pocket and was about to prime it into action when he was suddenly knocked out by a right hook to the back of his head. He dropped to the floor instantly, his head bouncing twice off the gleaming tile floor. Butkus’s eyes grew wide with fright and a dark, wet circle soon began expanding in the midsection of his trousers.

“G-g-good God, JaMarcus…when did you get here?”

To be continued…