Friday, December 05, 2008

Pac-Man: Connecting the Dots (a Nano-Novel) Part III

Part I | Part II

Disposable Cell Phone

Seven digits were dialed into a disposable cellular telephone. The line on the other end rang four times before someone answered.

"Hello," said Ms. Pac-Man, her voice low and filled with sleep. It was two o'clock in the morning. "Hello," she said again when there was no reply.

The sound of someone breathing was all she heard.

"If this is you, Pac-Man, you're a sad pathetic asshole!" she yelled, her voice breaking. "You had your chance and you blew it! Fuck off and leave me alone!" She slammed the phone down.

The caller clicked off the cell phone and dropped it into a nearby trash can. Then he walked off down the dark, rain dampened street.


The little shit hadn't changed in the seventeen years since he'd last seen him. Slac-Man sat on the edge of a fountain busking with his polished steel Dobro guitar, singing "Heartbreak Hotel." Pac-Man adjusted his sunglasses and approached his former best friend.

He wanted to kick the little shit's ass, but since reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, he reminded himself, I am in pursuit of Quality. Ass-kicking is satisfying, but it does not bring me any closer to Quality. That could only be found when he informed his former best friend that he, Pac-Man, was taking back his life and that included his wife and child. If Slac-Man didn't like that, well, he was free to pursue Quality in whatever way his life directed. Better yet, he could go fuck himself—

—a sudden, small whoosh slashed the air by Pac-Man's left ear, tearing the sunglasses off his face. There was a metallic gong sound. He instinctively fell into a crouch and rolled to his right. When he looked at Pac-Man, Slac-Man sat there, motionless, gaping, and what looked like a bullet hole in the body of his guitar. His startled gaze slowly turned to Pac-Man. As recognition came into his face, he said, "Pac-Man?" Blood poured out of his mouth. He fell backward into the fountain.

Pac-Man dove into the fountain and brought Slac-Man behind the statue. He eyed the area for the shooter. Two more shots chewed up fragments of the fountain's ledge.

Running footsteps approached from behind. Pac-Man whirled around as a man jumped into the fountain. The man wore a driver's uniform, and a cap that read: DEUS EX MACHINA TAXI. "I'll help him," the man said. "You gotta get outta here! The shooter's after you. I'll make sure he gets help." Taking Slac-Man in his arms, the driver nodded in the direction from which he came. "My taxi cab is over there, running. Take it! Get outta here!" Pac-Man paused, but knew the man was right. The driver grabbed Pac-Man and shouted in his face, "The highest form of human endeavor is the pursuit of Quality! Now, go!" Pac-Man broke from his grip and sprinted for the taxi.

Road Warrior

The streets in this area were organized in a series of one-way thoroughfares that forced Pac-Mac to drive around the front of the park where the shots had come. He glanced up at the top of the storefronts in time to see a blue blur. A moment later, there was a thump on the roof of the taxi cab. A ghostly blue hand slap at the windshield before Pac-Man's eyes. He had not seen such a hand since—

"Inkey?" Pac-Man said.

"Turn left in point-four miles," said the GPS in a calm British voice. Pac-Man did so.

The butt of a sniper rifle cracked the windshield.

"Turn right in point-two miles," said the GPS.

As Pac-Man careened through traffic, the passenger side window suddenly imploded. Inkey bounced off the seat and threw himself at Pac-Man. Still following the GPS's directions, Pac-Man fought Inkey off until the ghost produced a K-bar knife and sunk its bladed into Pac-Man's thigh. Before Inkey could pull it out and continue stabbing, Pac-Man straight-armed him into the passenger foot well.

"Ease left in point-one miles," said the GPS.

The pain in Pac-Man's leg was seismic. When Pac-Man finally focused again on his driving, he saw that he was leaving the road and heading into the brick wall of a mansion's front gates. It was Graceland.

Inkey regrouped and made a lunge at Pac-Man just as the taxi jumped the curb and smashed through the gates of Graceland. The jolt launched Inkey through the already-damaged windshield. Pac-Man hit the accelerator pedal with his left foot, taking the taxi cab right over top of the ghost. The vehicle rocketed up the drive and collided with one of the stone lions guarding the front steps.


Stunned, his ears ringing, brain misfiring like microwave popcorn, Pac-Man stumbled out of the crashed taxi. A woman ran up the drive. Pac-Man couldn't focus on anything. The moment he put weight on his injured leg, it erupted with pain that dropped him to the ground. He blacked out.

Ms. Pac-Man stood over Pac-Man. She removed her trademark red ribbon from her hair and made a tourniquet around his injured leg. Moments later, Pac-Man opened his eyes. "What're you doing here?" he muttered. Ms. Pac-Man was about to explain that she arranged to meet Slac-Man here so she could break up with him; that the taxi cab Pac-Man had commandeered was from the same company she had called to take her to the airport—

—she felt cold steel pressed against her temple.


The taxi had not squashed Inkey, but merely rolled over him. He now stood behind Ms. Pac-Man—lamp of his life, torch of his loins; his sickness, his soul-mate—with the barrel of a Glock pistol held to her head. Pac-Man stirred on the ground. He saw the ghost was injured; one eye swollen shut, the hand holding the gun was bleeding.

"You never wanted her until you couldn't have her," Inkey said in high, wavering voice.

"Are you speaking to me?" Ms. Pac-Man said.

"To him!" Inked squeaked.

"Okay, 'cause it didn't make much sense—"

"Shuddup!" Inkey demanded.

"Who's talking?" Pac-Man said. "You're talking—"

"I said ‘Shuddup!'" piped Inkey, "and I mean shuddup, goddamn it!"

Ms. Pac-Man looked at Pac-Man. Pac-Man looked at Inkey. Inkey looked back and forth from Pac-Man to Ms. Pac-Man. No one spoke. Blood pooled on the ground beneath Inkey's shroud. If we could just keep him talking long enough, Pac-Man thought. Maybe he'll bleed-out or weaken enough so I can get that gun away from him. He caught Ms. Pac-Man's eye and tried to signal her—

"Was it you on the phone?" Ms. Pac-Man said.

"Are you speaking to me or him—?" Pac-Man says.

"Shuddup!" screeched Inkey.

Ms. Pac-Man turned her head toward the ghost, looking at him from the corner of her eye. "It was you, wasn't it?"

"I had to hear your voice!" Inkey squealed.

"And all this time I thought it was him," she said, nodding at Pac-Man.

"Shuddup! I don't wanna hear it! I don't wanna hear anything! You're gonna listen to me!"

A pause hung between them.

"Then say something, goddamn it!" Pac-Man said.

"Shuddup!" Inkey blurted, shrill. "I'm gonna take what's mine," he said. "And she's mine. You shoulda been smart, Pac-Man, and stayed in rehab. But instead, you had to be stupid, an' come down here!"

Inkey began backing away, his forearm around Ms. Pac-Man's neck, the gun still pointed at her head. "Don't try an' follow us, Pac-Man," Inkey said. "You squandered your chance. Now, it's my chance." He backed down the driveway with Ms. Pac-Man.

Watching them go, Pac-Man pulled the K-bar knife from his leg. Amid the almost-unbearable-pain came an even worse flash of agony that made his vision momentarily gray-out. He shook off the encroaching daze, and took aim on his adversary.

Just then a Carp-shaped automobile pulled to a stop outside the gates of Graceland. Two men with Charlie Chaplin mustachios, dressed in silver body suits, got out and approached Inkey. The ghost must have lost enough blood to leave him utterly disoriented, because the two men took hold of him and disarmed him with little trouble. The three of them disappeared into the Carp-car, which promptly drove away.

Post Climax Plateau

Slac-Man survived his gunshot wound to reinvent himself as an entrepreneur, marketing his own brand of steel guitar called the SlacStrum. A sound-hole was fired into each with a hunting rifle by various guest celebrities: Jimmy Page, Buddy Guy, Yngwie Malmasteen.

Following a regimen of cortisone shots, a hip replacement and hairplug implantation, Frogger retired from retirement and left the Institute. His frugal early life and shrewd investments enabled him to not only live comfortably, even lavishly, but provided him the means to finally fight for his lover's freedom.

Renowned psychic medium, Zyng Furmelstaff, was hired to channel the spirit of the late defense attorney, Johnny Cochran. From beyond the grave, Cochran worked through Furmelstaff to exonerate Q*Bert. After seven months of investigation, Q*Bert's petition for a new trial was granted. At the trial, ample evidence of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct were presented—during which, Cochran-through-Furmelstaff, famously exclaimed in closing arguments, "If he ain't done shit, you must acquit!" The jury deliberated for four days before freeing Q*Bert from The Pen. The prosecutor and judge from the original trial were subsequently disbarred with prejudice and sentenced to prison.

And so, with Slac-Man leading an all-star swing band, Frogger and Q*Bert standing up as best man and maid of honor, Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man officially wedded on a Saturday in May on the grounds of Powerscourt Gardens in County Wicklow, Ireland. The Reverend M.C. Hammer presided over the ceremony.

Post Script

Conrad Glibb was killed in a bizarre on-camera mishap while demonstrating the Day-us Ex-Machina hideaway bed. Footage of the accident found its way online and within hours of Glibb's demise, his death-on-video had gone viral throughout the entire World Wide Internets.

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