Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bluto Pippy

Bluto Pippy asked Minerva "Sizzler" Plankton for her phone number and she handed Bluto Pippy a business card. "If this man can't help you, you're hopeless, brother." Bluto looked at the card--on heavy ivory cardstock was printed in a stark typeface: STORCH and an address and phone number. "You think you're wise, Minerva, handing out phony phone numbers? Couldn't you just tell me 'no' if you wanted to give me the air?" Minerva chuckled. "Here I am trying to help you out, and you get all huffy on me. That happens to be the number of the greatest relationships guru in the solar system." Bluto crumpled the card up and slipped it into his wallet. "I'll say this for you, 'Plankton,' you sure know how to let a guy down easy." Minerva gripped Bluto's forearm. "I'm not kidding you, pal, that's a regular high-dome character there--a real intellectual! He can look deep into your mind like it's some kind of atom or molecule or something. He'll figure out why the ladies don't like you, and he'll tell you--he'll tell you straight." Minerva glanced at her watch. "Look, I gotta run. I'm expected in a marathon in five minutes." Minerva sprinted out of the bar, leaving Bluto with a bottle of light beer and a heavy heart. Why hadn't Minerva wanted to accompany him to the Unveiling? Did he, Bluto Pippy, suffer from that syndrome that had been going around, that Nice Guy Syndrome? Maybe that Storch fellow had the answers. Bluto reached into his wallet and uncrumpled the card. Storch. His office was on Syndrome Lane. Very appropriate.

Bluto Pippy parked his car on the side of Syndrome Lane and walked to Storch's office. The office was housed in a pebble-covered, one-story building along with a number of other medical professionals. Bluto found Storch's office number on the directory and entered the office. A receptionist who looked like her job was to calm down out-of-control porcupines looked up from her copy of a book called Rate My Cocoa. "So how do you rate my cocoa?" Bluto asked the receptionist. She shut the book. "Are you here to see Storch?" Bluto picked up the book and leafed through it. "You don't look like the type who goes in for the avant-garde poetry scene. I took you for more of a trochaic tetrameter type." The receptionist pushed a button on the desk. "Storch, there's somebody here to see you." An amused voice said to send him in. "Storch will see you now." She snatched the book from Bluto's hand, opened it, and went back to her reading. "Hey, don't get sore," Bluto said. "I dig the egghead scene too, you know." The receptionist turned a page. "Down the hall, second room on your left." Bluto said, "I wasn't asking for directions to the men's room."

"Ah, yes, Minerva 'Sizzler' Plankton." Storch gazed at Bluto Pippy, eyes twinkling over steepled fingers. "She has sent me most of my most desperate clients over the years." Bluto's eyes drifted from Storch's bearded, salt-and-peppered face to the weird and mysterious nude chess set on Storch's desk. "Do you play?" Storch asked, and laughed, the laugh growing louder and louder, more and more animalistic by the moment. "If Minerva sent you here, Mr. Pippy, I venture to guess that you don't play. That you aren' they say...a player." Bluto blushed. "I do OK, Storch. I was just curious about what kind of racket you're running here. I thought maybe I could get a piece of the action." Storch looked at Pippy as though he were a ridiculous invention that nobody would ever want but had somehow been patented anyway. "A piece of the action? My goodness, Pippy, you have such a way with words." Bluto jumped out of his chair. "All right, wise guy. What gives. I ask Minerva out on a date and she hands me your card. I tell your secretary I'm here and she's too busy reading some kind of longhair literature to give me any notice. Then I come in here and you've got a naked chess set and a smart mouth." Storch shook his head sadly. "Sit down, Mr. Pippy. If this is your typical behavior, no wonder you're lonely. Minerva referred you to me because she is your friend and is tired of seeing you fail with the opposite sex." Bluto picked up a chess piece--the red queen. "There's a new chemical tank being unveiled in town. I wanted Minerva to accompany me to the unveiling. I told her so and she laughed in my face. I wanted the earth to swallow me up right there, but instead it stayed as seamless as before. Only now, I was feeling about two-feet tall and Minerva was handing me one of your business cards." Storch gestured to his couch. "I can help you, Pippy. I promise you that."

Bluto Pippy still wasn't convinced that Storch was on the level. But he thought that if he stuck around for Storch's sales spiel, he might learn a thing or two about Storch's racket. It turns out Storch was like a factory for turning milquetoasts into lotharios--at least, that's what Storch claimed in his brochures. Storch offered an easy installment plan that would mean the end to a fellow's loneliness. As Bluto sat there taking in Storch's sales talk, he felt himself being almost hypnotized, and crossing that line between cynicism and faint hope. What if this guy was on the level? What if he really could help him, Bluto Pippy, make time with goddesses like Minerva "Sizzler" Plankton? Maybe he should pay for Storch's course. He couldn't lose, really. If it turned out to be a scam, he could learn enough about it to either shut Storch down, or start his own competing business in the advice-to-the lovelorn department. And what if--just if--Storch had a real gift for helping out a guy with women? Then he, Bluto Pippy, might finally have a chance with the marvelous Minerva. Anyway, why would she have given him that card if she hadn't been interested in him in the first place? Maybe she hoped he'd go through Storch's program and become a real man, the kind she, Minerva "Sizzler" Plankton, liked. Maybe she only sent guys to Storch that she wanted to date herself. It was kind of like a finishing school for men--the men that Minerva was secretly hankering for. Storch nodded sagely, looking as though he could read Pippy's mind, as though he knew that Pippy was about to agree to signing up for Storch's course in male-female relationships. "You will thank yourself, later, Mr. Pippy. Congratulations!" Storch thundered. "You've just made the most important decision a man can make for himself. You've made the decision to learn from me, Storch, how to become a winner in this universe." The receptionist entered the office carrying a large scroll. She unveiled the scroll. Written in an elaborate script was Storch's contract. Pippy read a few lines. Pippy's eyes were blearing and the words were meaningless. At times they seemed to make sense, but when he read a sentence more than once it disintegrated into complete nonsense. There were normal words used in weird, highly-specialized technical ways that he didn't understand. The writer of the document seemed to assume that the reader knew what all the terms meant already. And the math! Maybe he shouldn't sign it until he had somebody look it over. "My friend," Storch said, "you aren't going to get all legalistic on me now, are you? Are you some kind of weasel that reads the fine print in contracts looking for loopholes, looking for ways to twist my words? And twist my mind? A written contract is like a handshake between men, Mr. Pippy. If you shook a man's hand, would you analyze his palmprint? Would you have the sweat sent out to the authorities in a crystal ampoule to be identified and analyzed? I think not. So why are you poring over that contract as though there were some nefarious clause hidden there to trap you? Don't insult me, sir!" The receptionist handed Pippy a green marblized fountain pen. "Sign it, Pippy. Sign by the X. Don't be petty, Pippy. Don't be a fool!" The receptionist rubbed Pippy's shoulder. "Everybody's a little scared at first, but the course really works wonders. The guy I'm dating now took it. That's why I was so impressed with his confidence. You've got to sign it, Bluto." Pippy, sweaty fingers grasping the fountain pen, scrawled his signature on the contract.

After he signed the contract, Bluto Pippy met his friend Morty "Botanical" Sherbet at our favorite watering hole, the Health Inspector's Retreat. "I advise you not to enter into any kind of arrangements with that gentleman," Morty stated. Bluto stared at the brochures, which depicted a man ascending a sparkling staircase, at the top of which sat a queen-like figure who much resembled Minerva Plankton. "I know this will help me, Morty, I just know it." Morty smacked the brochure with his hand. "Minerva sits in the Raspy Puppet waiting for guys to hit on her. She gives them Storch's card and sends them to Storch. They pay the exorbitant fees for Storch's course and Minerva gets a cut. Don't you see how she operates?" Bluto put the brochure away. "Once I take this course it'll be impossible for Minerva to turn me down. You're going to see me walk into Algae & Elegance at the Raspy Puppet with Minerva 'Sizzler' Plankton on my arm, on MY arm, Morty, not some other guy's." Morty said, "You've got to walk away from this, Bluto. It's a trap. You cannot take this course. You cannot put your hopes in this man. Storch is nothing but a mountebank. Tear up that business card and forget you ever saw him. Forget about Minerva too and settle down with a nice girl." Pippy said, "It's too late, Morty. I've already signed the contract. I'm committed. Tomorrow's the first day of the course." Sherbet pointed and waggled a warning finger at Pippy. "You will regret that, my friend.You will regret that. Storch is bad news, and Minerva is bad news, and together they make a Sunday paper full of trouble."

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