Well! As told in great detail in our previous post, Simpson & Lynch have permanently cut our ties with the WTF. They've threatened a lawsuit for breach of contract, but we're not worried. As the Skipster says, "If those cats try to, like, sue us, I'll just go back in and like, blow the entire place up, daddy-o!"
What a little joker.
Anyway, Kato is back "home," safe and sound. He's even leaving Orson the Cat alone! He has been eying the perky Tara King and myself a bit uneasily, probably wondering why the Skipster has so readily allowed us back into the fold.
Yes, that's right! Skip and I decided to compromise, and since Kato is back at SnL Studios, so is the perky Tara King, my girlfriend and my -- I mean, our -- intern. Skip suddenly seems surprisingly open to the perky Tara King's return. By the way, he's been spouting a lot of stereotypical beatnik jargon lately -- as illustrated by the above quote -- which I originally assumed was his way of teasing the perky Tara King and myself about our shared love for jazz, Beat poetry & literature, and the like. I say "I originally assumed" because... well, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Everybody here loves Gretchen! (And I've also grown quite fond of her family, a/k/a "The Kris Von Grüber Happy Oompah Band!") Her knowledge of English is increasing at an unbelievably rapid speed, I must say. She and the perky Tara King have an especially tight friendship, which obviously began very soon after Skip hired the two of them, while I was away from the fold.
After realizing recently that our partnership had entered a period of financial hardship, the Skipster and I began wracking our collective brains for a solution, and came up with... nothing. (I hope this doesn't extend to our future writing endeavors!)
Anyway, I suppose it was a good omen that Skip and I approached each other with the same idea at the same time. In so many words, we both suggested that we assemble the entire staff in our newly redecorated second-floor studio.
As we talked, I couldn't help noticing what I can only call Skip's "new look." He was dressed... well... like I usually dress, in a long-sleeved black turtleneck shirt, with matching black slacks, and black sunglasses. Skip, however, also wore a black beret, and what I'd originally thought was merely careless shaving of his chin in days gone by was now unmistakably a budding goatee. "Hey, Skip, I know you admire me and all," I joked, "but do you really have to dress like me?"
He looked at me like he didn't even know what I meant!
I made the announcement calling our staff together on the studio intercom. Skip had vanished. I was the first to arrive in the second-floor conference room. I fired up the coffee-maker, looking at the large photos of Skip, myself, and the others which adorned one wall. (And how many employers do you know that actually post pictures of their entire staff on the walls of their conference room?)
Kato was the second to arrive. "Kato," I said, nodding in greeting.
He nodded back, and replied, "Mr. Foxster." I was about to suggest he call me "David" instead -- I rarely expect, or want, anyone to call me "Silver Fox" in a real conversation -- but instead, I just thought, Whatever, and didn't bring up the matter. I suppose that little by little, that silly "Foxster" name has wormed its way into my consciousness. After all, I certainly don't mind it when Gretchen's Uncle Kris and the rest of the band call me "Herr Foxster." (Of course, they also often feed me delicious German culinary dishes, and give me more than enough extra to feed the perky Tara King, Orson the Cat... and a small army. But I digress.)
Kato and I sat down at the beautiful glass conference table with our cups of coffee, and waited for the others to arrive. Before they did, however, Kato looked me directly in the eye and said, "Mr. Foxster, I have a question."
"Sure, ask away."
"Mr. Skipster told me you tracked down the Honky Tonk Man, and thrashed him soundly. Why did you do that?"
I'm usually pretty good at staring people down, but I had great difficulty returning Kato's piercing gaze right then. "Umm... I don't like it when people don't play fair. He cheated during the match, and broke a guitar on Skip's head!"
"He also was complicit in my kidnapping. That didn't influence your actions at all?"
"Uhhh... not really. I... I did it for Elvis!"
Kato smiled wryly. "I'm not sure I believe you, entirely."
Then Gretchen and Skip entered the room, followed by the perky Tara King, who was carrying Orson the Cat. The others took their seats, after obtaining cups or mugs of coffee. We would need coffee for this meeting. After all, as a great mind once said, "A writer without coffee is half a writer."
Skip stood and faced the rest of us. "Dig this, cats," he began, "The Foxster and me, we're like, totally busted, man! I mean, like, persona non grata with the greenback cats! Not even, like, three coins in the fountain, dig? Like, it takes clams to make clams, and the ocean is, like, drysville! This combo needs to find a gig to, like, scrape up some shekels, and I mean, like, yesterday!"
I stood. Skip was carrying this "beatnik" thing too far. "What Skip means is that we're broke, and we need to find a way to generate some income." All three members of our staff had no expressions on their faces. (Orson, meanwhile, merely alternated between nuzzling the shapely ankles of the perky Tara King and lapping coffee from his own coffee mug.)
Pressing on, I added, "Unfortunately, and unavoidably, this also means that while we're in this financial bind, your salaries will be put on hold." I looked at Gretchen, Kato, and the perky Tara King. Still, no emotion showed. "Under these regrettable circumstances, if anyone wants to leave and find other employment, there will, of course, be no hard feelings."
Kato spoke first. In a voice which was soft but firm -- much like the perky Tara King's... umm... never mind! -- he said, "I will not leave." As if in appreciation for Kato's loyalty, Skip snapped his fingers enthusiastically.
Gretchen looked lovingly at Skip, who seemed sadly oblivious to her adoring gaze. "Nein..." she whispered, shaking her head. The Skipster did his finger-snapping again.
"And I'm not going anywhere, either!" stated the perky Tara King decisively, looking into my eyes pointedly. What a doll.
More snaps from Skip, who had sat down and was writing on a yellow legal pad. He always had one at hand during our story plotting sessions. He looked up at us, and murmured "Groovy, cats. Like, ultimate coolness."
Kato spoke again. "Perhaps the five of us could begin some sort of business, even as Mr. Skipster and Mr. Foxster work on some new creative project, or projects? With my humble cooking skills, perhaps... a restaurant?"
At the word "cooking," Gretchen's full and expressive eyes flashed. She excitedly rattled off a sentence or two in German. My grasp of the German language is tenuous at best -- mostly what I gleaned from reading Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos comics as a boy -- so I dearly wished at that moment that she had resorted to her customary communication via flash cards. I had caught the word "Kato," but not much else.
The perky Tara King smiled at my confusion. "She said that we could open a German-style biergarten, or 'beer garden.' That is, if Kato wouldn't mind having help in the kitchen, for a change."
I looked at the perky Tara King curiously. "You speak German?" She shrugged. "Sorry, I didn't know."
She grinned impishly. "You never asked."
Kato actually laughed, and said to the perky Tara King, " 'You never asked?' Perhaps we should start calling you Wolverine?"
Wow. An obscure comic book reference to a minor catch-phrase from the X-Men -- a bit of characterization which I also "got," of course -- from Kato? That was interesting.
"I'm not sure," I said, hating to put a damper on the others' enthusiasm. "By the time we applied for and got a liquor license, if we got one... Well, we all might be living on the street!"
"Never again!" muttered Kato.
The perky Tara King looked sympathetically at Kato, and I wondered what she knew that I didn't. (A lot of things, apparently.) She held up her coffee mug, and looked directly at Skip. "Then how about something simpler. Like... a coffee shop?"
Skip's eyes grew wide, as did his smile. With a finger-snap that sounded like a rifle shot, he literally jumped up into a standing position on his chair, howling like a deranged wolf and knocking his yellow legal pad to the floor! "That idea is the ginchiest, kittycat! Like, endsville! I say yes, yes, and most affirmatively, yes!"
As Gretchen and Kato smiled in mute agreement, I added, "Okay, we'll try it! Now all we need is a name for this coffee shop..."
"Really? You really want to use my idea?" said the perky Tara King, gleefully, rising out of her chair.
Skip, Kato, Gretchen, and myself all replied in one variation or another of "yes" -- Skip's version was merely some more damned finger-snapping -- as the perky Tara King sat back down, giggling like a schoolgirl. "Kewl beanz!" she exclaimed.
Oh, Lord, I thought, there's that cutesy little catch-phrase of hers again, the one that always makes me cringe.
From either end of the table, Skip's eyes met mine through the darkened lenses of our sunglasses. We both smiled.
Skip looked at the perky Tara King with the utmost gravity, and said, " 'Kewl Beanz!' it is... Tara." As he jumped off of his chair and made a dash for a nearby computer, he said "Groovy, man, groovy! I'll whip up a ginchy logo, like, right now!"
Sensing the magnitude of this moment, I called a halt to the official meeting. Kato and Gretchen left the conference room, but the perky Tara King and I...
Wait a minute. Time out.
Ever since Skip had hired her to be his intern, Skip had referred to my now-girlfriend as "the perky Tara King." And ever since I'd met her, I'd done the same. But now, finally, Skip and I were finally accepting her as a viable, contributing member of the Simpson/Lynch Studios team. From now on, "Tara" will suffice. She's come into her own, as it were.
Giving her this small token of respect is the least I can do for the woman I... that is... for my girlfriend.
Besides, the "perky Tara King" bit was getting tired... wasn't it?
After brainstorming solo on the computer and coming up with a... *ahem*... "ginchy" logo, the exhausted Skipster left to go downstairs and "pile up some Z's." I noticed that his yellow legal pad still rested on the floor beside his now-vacant chair. I picked it up and casually glanced at what he'd written.
I stared at the pad that he usually fills with pages and pages of copious notes and doodles during our meetings. By then, Tara was working across the room on her own computer. I called her over, and we both stared at the only thing Skip had written for the entire one hour meeting:
Hopingly, pantingly, squallingly...
Outward thrusting in pain and shock and disbelief...
Hopingly, graspingly, aspiringly...
All interest cancelled...
WTF (and I don't mean the wrestling federation)?!? Tara and I looked at each other for a minute in stunned disbelief. Finally, I broke the silence. "Wow! I knew he was upset about losing the SnL One, but I didn't think he was this upset!"
"David, think about this! It's much more than that. I think we're seeing the true effects of that bump on the head!"
Tara and I looked at each other and simultaneously said "Oh, my God!" (Actually, I could have sworn that Tara said "Oh, my gods." Funny, that...)
"Strange, isn't it?" I said, as Tara and I left the conference room, followed by Orson the Cat. "This started out as a meeting of employers and employees, but it turned into a meeting of... friends."
She smiled at me perceptively. "I know why you said that."
"Because being with you these last few weeks has re-awakened the long-dormant, sensitive side of me?" I suggested.
"Well, that would certainly be nice, but... no."
"So you could shoe-horn this story into fitting with Theme Thursday's 'friends' theme."
"Well, there's that, too," I admitted.