Zane Sickle, Comic/Adventurer For Hire
CHAPTER 1

The Meeting

**********

In Zane’s last exciting episode we left him sitting outside on a fake beach, drinking frozen rumrunners, under the artificial straw umbrella of an artificial outdoor tiki bar. His adventures had led him to Florida, where his hapless booking agent, Frodo the Worthless Fred Bingman had committed him to do a roast of an upper management sales executive for a well known cellular phone company.

The gig went well, the custom jokes leaving the audience in fits of animated laughter. His subsequent attempts to seduce one of the female executives of the company did not. The first slap to the left side of his face stung, the next one came too soon after the first to properly register, but it was the loud invectives mixing discordantly with the ringing in his ears that left him feeling rejected.

Now, almost a full week later, we find Zane in familiar surroundings; sitting outside on a fake beach, drinking frozen rumrunners, under the artificial straw umbrella of an artificial outdoor tiki bar..
Three empty glasses, a mountain of cigar ashes, a straw hat with an igloo patch affixed to the front, a battery-operated bullhorn, a pen, a yellow legal pad, a pair of rotted false teeth he wore to discourage the masses from engaging him in idle conversation, some loose dollar bills, a tin of sardines in habanero sauce and a package of crackers was scattered about the table before him.

A beautiful woman in a colorful sundress ending about six inches above the knee of a very shapely, tanned, pair of legs approached his table. She set a fresh rumrunner in front of Zane.

“Mind if I join you?” she inquired.

“Yeah, I do. You’re interrupting my reveries on the vagaries of life. I was just contemplating what I would do if a beautiful woman walked up to my table with a fresh drink and a desire to talk. I mentally decided I would openly and unabashedly admire her fine form, then inform her of my fervent desire to lay tongue trails from her toes to her cute nose. My thoughts were just getting pleasantly arousing when you interrupted. So go away.”

“You are Zane Sickle, the comic adventurer for hire?” she asked, unfazed.

She brushed cigar ash from the chair next to Zane and slowly sat down, making a show of crossing her legs. A show Zane studiously ignored.

“Nope, I’m a stand up comic. My adventuring days are over. I lost my enthusiasm after being bit by a sea monster last month.” Zane said, rubbing his shoulder as if disconcerted by the memory.

“I heard it was a jellyfish.” the woman said.

“A jellyfish is a sea monster. Have you seen those things? Are they not monstrous? Translucent, wobbly and insubstantial like a ghost: hideous, barbed tails undulating beneath them. Just waiting to deliver a dose of poison to the unsuspecting swimmer. They’re monsters, I say.” Zane’s voice rose several octaves as if he were delivering a poignant line in a play. “The whole ordeal has elicited the development of a deep seated phobia vis-a-vis entering the ocean.”

“My name is Morgan, Morgan Etheredge. I’m a producer for RealityTV.com. and we want you for a new project set in South America.”

“Keep wanting, I’ll sleep better knowing I’m wanted. Saves me from robbing a bank.”

“You’ll be playing a wisecracking guide to a team of real scientists investigating tribal reports of a spaceship hidden beneath the dense jungle canopy. It’s a great role and will lead to bigger things.”

“I had a great roll. Stumbled into this French pastry shop in Chicago. A giant croissant, at least a foot long and eight inches tall. So light you could squish the whole thing down to the size of an M&M. I used to get them fresh from the oven, still warm, and when you bit into it, the hot, moist air was redolent with the fragrance of the clover honey injected into the dough. Best damn roll I’ve ever had. I dream about those rolls. I remember the lovely lady who baked them; had her proportions been more to my taste, I might have gotten married. The thought of those rolls available for the rest of my life still tempts me. Crap, lady! Now I’m hungry. Time for a sardine repast.” Zane reached for the tin of sardines.

“Please don’t open those while I’m here,” Morgan asked.

‘What, you don‘t like sardines? All sharks love sardines.” Zane pulled the tab on the tin container, then untwisted his package of crackers.

“We won’t make this offer again,” Morgan said, turning away from the sight, and smell of the open sardine can. “The production staff have all agreed you are perfect for the part, but, we do have alternates.”

“I have an agent, well, he passes himself off as an agent. I am contractually obligated to have you present this wondrous opportunity to him first, before I turn it down.” Zane dug out his wallet, a thick wad of bulging leather chaos, and removed a sweat-stained business card announcing: Fred Bingman—Agent to the Stars. He tossed it on the table next to a tooth-mangled cigar stub. “Call Frodo the Worthless and make your pitch.”

“It’s fifty-thousand for two weeks, with all expenses. You’ll get to see the Amazon basin, again, free.”

Zane rose from the table, he was big. Well over six-feet and two-hundred-fifty pounds. His upper body was large, with a round chest and a wee bit of excess midsection. Dressed in an unbuttoned white shirt, a pair of garish swim trunks, and cheap flip-flops, he took two steps to the next table and snagged a dirty fork from a plate of half-eaten chicken, then returned to his seat.

Morgan watched, disgusted, as he jabbed the tines of the fork into the sand beneath him, gave two good twists and brought it back to his shirt, which he used to clean off the sand and polish the fork.

“Heh! Sanditized for my safety.” Zane looked at Morgan. “SANDitized, get it? Man, you need to loosen the cranks on your butt cheeks, lady.”

“I’ve talked to your agent, and he is excited about your participation, but, he said you were currently on-location out of the country and he was unable to contact you at the moment. Your agent is about as good a liar as you are at impressing women.”

“Lady, if I were trying to impress you, your ankles would already be behind your ears. Women have two responses to me, repugnance and worship, I’ll gladly list you under the repugnated column.” Zane ate a forkful of sardine and chased it with a stale cracker. “I’m sure Frodo is excited, he gets fifteen per cent. Cheap bastard has the first nickle he ever stole from his mother’s purse: had it encased in amber, like a bug fossil. How’d you track me down?”

“It’s no secret,” Morgan said. “As soon as Fred, your agent, said you were out of the country, I knew he was lying. Comics of your standing are lucky to breech their own state, so I looked at your website, a pitiful waste I might add, and it said this was the locale for your last gig, a roast.” She laughed. “What’d you get, two, three thousand? You’ve been here a week, and drinking at your rate, I’d guess you were already in the hole.”

“Lady, I knew I wasn’t going to like you as soon as I spotted those pink, painted toenails. Anyway, I’m busy working on new material; find the next available sucker.”

“You’re much better at this than your agent,” Morgan said.

Zane smiled.

“Let’s put our cards on the table,” Morgan looked at the mish-mash of junk scattered on the table and added: “If we can find room. You’re forty-five-years old, your bank account is a running joke all the tellers are in on. You pay everything late and have managed to accumulate twelve-thousand dollars of credit card debt—all of it bar tabs. Your expenses are on the cusp of exceeding your hit-and-miss income, and the prospects for improvement are, to put it generously, fifty-fifty. You have a good routine; that whole adventurer-comic shtick. You spend any excess money taking trips to exotic places and then write jokes about it. Your size and your smile make it work for the audience, but your career is stuck. You need a jump start, and we are offering that now.” Morgan paused to look Zane in the eyes. “We can go eighty thousand, tops.”

“You got a deal,” Zane said, taking another bite of sardines. “Want to seal it with a kiss?”

“You should save some of that charm for the show,” Morgan said. She had to admit, as disgusting as he tried to be, he was an interesting man. His large brown eyes were expressive and twinkled with an inner amusement. He had a nice smile, big, full lips. Shit! She thought, quit daydreaming about this brute and get back to civilization. “I’ll have the contracts forwarded to your agent this afternoon. We’ll need them signed and returned by the end of the week. I’ll email the itinerary in the morning. Sober up and get ready for the big time.”

“Yes, sir. Now go away, I just thought of a funny routine about how to approach women who think they’re beautiful.” Zane said, grabbing his pen and legal pad.

Morgan stopped, then turned back around. “Oh really,” she said. “Try this routine out on me. I produce for a living, I’ll tell you whether it’s funny or not.”

“Really, that’s just swell! If I could cause a wrinkle to appear in that inch-thick slab of makeup you’re wearing, I’ll know it’s funny.” Zane said. He smiled and rose from the chair, grabbed his bullhorn and started pacing back and forth. He held the bullhorn to his mouth like a microphone, but did not turn it on. “Guys, you ever been in a room with a beautiful woman? Don’t be looking over at your wife or girlfriend, this is a comedy show, no need to keep up pretenses. Anyway, I’m talking a gorgeous girl. A playboy bunny girl. A girl who can make an old man tear up his viagra prescription. A woman so stunning, you’ll have to pound your unit down with a wooden meat tenderizer to make it behave. You know what I’m talking about. Well, I have developed a sure-fire approach to being around these gals."

Zane stopped, paced left and right, staring out at the non-existent crowd.

"Ignore them. Completely ignore them. Don’t acknowledge their presence. Now, you’re asking yourself, ‘what’s Zane the Adventurer up to?’ I’ll tell you what I’m up to, I’m lighting the fires of curiosity. That lady is wondering why that man is ignoring me. She’s saying to herself, ‘men never ignore me’. Now, all of the sudden, I’m elevated to the lofty status of 'mystery man'. Pretty clever, huh? That’s my approach to the beautiful woman. Works every time, and feel free to use it. My gift to my fellow man. But wait! That’s not an approach, you say, you’ll never pick up that girl by ignoring her. To which I answer, I never said anything about picking her up, I said it’s a sure-fire approach to being around a beautiful girl. You are not going to date that girl. Don’t set yourself up for a fall from that height. No, after all that ignoring, she’ll leave, and you won’t have to torture yourself daydreaming about how good she looks. ”

“That’s not funny,” Morgan said. "You also need to remember, I am the director, and thus, the boss. You will need to show some respect when we begin filming, and I'm wearing very little make-up."

“It needs a little work, I admit. Not your face, it's okay, if you like that bossy-blonde-executive look. No, first joke drafts always require a little fine-tuning, like first meetings. It’s never too late to make a bad impression.”

“You don’t have to keep trying, you already have,” Morgan said. She sat back down. “What’s it like over there? In Brazil, I mean. In the jungle.”

“Why do you want to know?” Zane asked.

“I’m going: I’m a producer, but I am also the director for this project. My first time directing. I’ve heard going up the river is scary. Like in your stand-up routine, where you say if a bat gets in your hair, just put your hat back on and it will go to sleep. Is it scary?”

“How would I know?”

‘You spent a month there, I checked,” Morgan said.

“I spent a month in a tin shack with a Brazilian gal whose butt stuck out like a rat doing the backstroke in a tub of fresh bathwater. Hell, I was thinking of staying, getting married. Then she started learning to speak English and ruined the romance. I never got close to the Amazon. I sat around drinking with some local’s who went up and down it. Listened to their stories and used whatever I could remember the next day when I sobered up.”

Morgan’s face went from curious, to angry. “You’re nothing but a fraud.” she said.

“I prefer, creative storyteller,” Zane said, laughing. “Fraud conjures up visions of bad checks. Speaking of checks, how about having lunch with me, and putting the check on the expense account?” 

Comments:
 
moonpunter17   moonpunter17 wrote
on 4/28/2008 1:16:19 PM
Wow, that's a great beginning. You have me hooked.

lindsay   lindsay wrote
on 4/27/2008 10:52:01 PM
I love your wit. Your dialogue is snappy, your characters colorful and your story telling ability is dead on!

sphincteria
Novel / Novella
Comedy
writing sphincteria
There is an almost unbearable pain needling my fingers as a result of these overabundant scribblings. I must lay down my pencil, my engine of truth, and bathe my crippled hands in some warm water. Ignatious Riley; Confederacy of Dunces: John Kennedy Toole
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Synopsis
A stand up comic, an australian bodyguard, asian hookers, ninjas,a bevy of nude women, the CIA, the NSA, the PRC, four scientists, a kazoo, a battered bullhorn, the Amazon, Jesus—the Action Figure, various vermin and a hidden spaceship. Zane is an experienced comic who's sometimes funny, sometimes not; determination to make others laugh keeps him at it. When he is approached to host a Reality TV show called Saucer Hunt, things get out of hand.
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