The Adventures of Root Beer Float Man
My name is Sparky Nonpareils, and I'm a reporter for the Daily Sun. I also moonlight as Root Beer Float Man, supreme crime-fighting machine. I get my name from the cold, frosty treat from which I get my powers, kind of like Popeye with spinach, if you didn't already get that correlation.
Among my powers are super patience, X-ray belching, and the ability to scream like a little girl. I can also make a really good quiche. My story begins…well, I don't actually have a story. No one at the ice cream parlor ever needs my help, and I can't even replace the toner in the printer at work without breaking into tears. The only story I have is my editor threatening to fire me because my stories always contain "misspellings" and they're always "torn out of a notebook" and "written in colored pencil." I try to tell him "I am Root Beer Float Man!" He usually replies with something like "Well, then float yourself across the street and get me an onion bagel. Extra cream cheese." I may have to kill him. Then what will they think of Root Beer Float Man? They know a prison cell cannot contain me. It couldn't contain me with all those stalking charges. It couldn't contain me when they arrested me for indecent exposure in 1997, 2001, and again in 2007. It couldn't even contain me for that phony animal necrophilia charge.
Oh, now you're judging me? This is the end of my story. I'm going home.
The Story Begins…
I received word from the obituaries section in yesterday morning's Sun that my childhood friend Jackie Paper had died. I knew that, once again, Root Beer Float Man was needed. I had to go to Honalee to investigate. I used my super crying to show my co-workers how sad I was over the news, and told my boss I needed some time off.
"Well, you know, Sparky," he said. "You don't really work here anymore. I fired you three weeks ago. You have no training in journalism and you creep everyone in the office out."
So I was free to investigate my suspicions that Jackie was murdered. I took the train, as I always do, being afraid of flying. As I did, I thought of the times we shared as kids: the time I got those third degree burns when Jackie left that flaming bag of poop on my doorstep; the time he pushed me down a flight of stairs while those other kids threw what turned out not to be water balloons at me; or the time he kicked me in the testicles so hard I thought they were torn clean off. Good, clean fun.
When I arrived in Honalee, the natives looked at me strangely. Apparently a man in a blue and red superhero outfit, complete with cape, mask and root beer float emblem, dragging along a giant barrel of root beer and another of vanilla ice cream, was not very common in these parts. I started by asking questions, but all the answers were snide. "Go back to Krypton, you Nancy boy" or "What are you, some kind of retarded pro-wrestler?" I wasn't really getting anywhere.
Then I saw it: the danger every superhero comes upon eventually. It was a giant dragon. The people of Honalee were in great peril. It was up to me, Root Beer Float Man, to save the day. I sneaked up on the beast. He was sound asleep, so I had to act fast, but not wake him. I grabbed for the sword I bought off of eBay and got him right in the heart. I heard the scream of the mighty dragon; then felt him die right in front of me. I was a hero. Or so I thought. The screams of the natives were not those of joy and thanks, but of uproar. They told me I had killed Puff the Magic Dragon, the sweetest, kindest animal in Honalee. I told them they were insane and didn't know the danger they were in. They threw vegetables at me and drove me out of town. The following week I read that there was a warrant out for my arrest. But the court system of Honalee will never catch Root Beer Float Man!
The Story Continues…
The disappearance of mobster Frances Antonucci, known as Frankie the Fin, is a puzzle police are still trying to put together. It was four years ago that officials say Frankie came out of a Boston nightclub on the way to his limo, and was greeted by a man who kissed him on both cheeks and said, "Bye now, Camille. Take care of yourself." Frankie looked at the man quizzically and got into the limo. That was the last anyone saw of Frankie the Fin. Police have never identified the man who, many say, gave the Fin this kiss of death, nor do they know why he called him Camille.
Frances Guiseppe Antonucci was born in the kitchen of a pizzeria in Watertown, Mass. in 1943. He began running errands for the mob at the age of six. By his teens, he was making hits. He was a regular in the Boston and New York party scenes throughout his twenties and thirties. In his forties, Frankie became very involved in Boston sports, especially with the Red Sox. He was a suspect in a murder plot against Jack Hamilton, the pitcher who hit Tony Conigliaro, as well as in the plane crash that killed Yankee catcher Thurman Munson. In 1992, Frankie the Fin met his match in a bumbling, pseudo-superhero named Root Beer Float Man. The masked man was peeping from a tree when he lost his balance and fell right on top of the Mafia man. A fight ensued, and when police arrived they found two bags of cocaine in Frankie's briefcase. He spent twelve years in prison. At the end of his sentence, he made an arrangement with police and snitched on his former mob cronies. He got out of prison in 2004 a marked man.
It's assumed that, in 2008, the mob finally caught up with Frankie the Fin. One person, in particular, has been investigating tirelessly for two years: thirteen-year-old amateur detective Joe Hollandaise.
"I'm looking for him, but I don't know where he is," the young boy said.
No one knows what happened to Frankie the Fin Antonucci, and we can't imagine too many people really care.
The Adventures Never Cease…
In New Hampshire, someone, some sick, twisted puppy, had stolen the body of poet Robert Lowell right out of his grave. A week later there was another story, this time in Rhode Island. The corpse of Nick Colasanto, who played Coach on Cheers, had been stolen. I, the brave Root Beer Float Man, wondered if the two cases were connected. Both occurred in New England a week from each other. But why travel from New Hampshire to Rhode Island to steal corpses and not pick any up in Massachusetts? Little did I know it was Massachusetts that would be hit the hardest.
Soon it was a corpse every other day: Emily Dickinson in Amherst, Milton Bradley in Springfield, Jack Kerouac in Lowell. The media cleverly started calling this cocky thief "The Celebrity Grave Robber." Cemeteries all over the state increased security. Somehow this hardly mattered to this mastermind. One night the Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain was robbed of the bodies of Anne Sexton, e.e. cummings, and Eugene O'Neill. I thought long and hard about this case. Soon the grave robber had struck the Granary Burial Ground in Boston. This time he got to Ben Franklin, John Hancock, and Mother Goose. I knew I had to solve this case, if for no other reason than to return the body of Mother Goose.
I studied the cemeteries in and near Boston, and which famous people were buried there, and predicted his next attack to be on Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. I hid out there for two nights. He tricked me. The next day there was a front-page story that Lizzie Borden's body had been stolen in Fall River. It was time for this punk to get his.
I camped out again at Mount Auburn, where Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Winslow Homer were all buried. I stayed at B.F. Skinner's grave, thinking a criminal like this wouldn't know of Skinner. I was right. There he was, digging at Homer's grave. I watched, making sure to catch everything on videotape. When he left, I followed. I would have confronted him at the cemetery, but there's this fear of confrontation I've been discussing with my shrink.
I followed him to his house and waited. After thirty minutes, he left again, and I broke in. What I saw shocked me. There were fifteen skeletons posed in the living room, most standing up. Some were holding champagne glasses, others looked to be dancing, and one was sitting at a piano. I called the police. When I hung up, the grave robber returned. I screamed like a little girl and hid. All I can say is this was one cagey criminal. He saw me hiding behind the sofa and proceeded to kick my ass all over the house. Yelling, "I am Root Beer Float Man!" didn't stop him. When the police arrived, I was badly beaten, but the grave robber, whose name was Sigmund Rathbone, was now captured.
"Why'd you do it, Rathbone?" I asked him, after getting a few punches in while the cops held him.
"I wanted to create the greatest piece of art ever made."
"And what would you have called it?"
"I would have called it 'Root Beer Float Man is a big Sally-ass, Nancy-boy bitch bastard.'"
"That's a catchy title," I said. "Let me ask you something, Rathbone. Do you have any regrets?"
"I regret that Sylvia Plath is buried in England. I really wanted her in my piece."
"Oh, she'll be in your piece." I didn't know what those words meant, or why I said them. I just knew I was bleeding pretty badly and needed to be taken to the hospital.
I learned a few valuable lessons during that case. Number one: if you're a famous person, be cremated, preferably after death. Number two: never hide behind the couch of a man with fifteen skeletons in his living room. And number three: finding a notorious grave robber, notifying the police, and being beaten up by said grave robber while waiting for the police won't get you a purple heart, a green clover, or immunity from those unforgiving jackals in a land called Honalee.
The Adventure Ends...?
I was still basking in my superb crime fighting/grave robber snatching skills, and rewarding myself with a mini-vacation on the beautiful beaches of Ogunquit, Maine, when two dope head thugs in suits kicked sand in my face and dragged me into their squad car. They told me they had a warrant for my arrest.
"What's the charge?" I said.
"Murder!" one of them answered.
"Of who?" I said.
"You know who," the other one said.
"You know," I said. "That dragon's fictitious."
"Yeah? Well, so are you."
He had me there.
"He's make believe," I said. "How can I be charged with the murder of a damn fairy tale?"
That's just when one of them punched me in the face, knocking me out cold.
When I woke up I was tied to a stake. I could tell I was back in Honalee because everyone around me looked like a damn cartoon. They were all holding torches and screaming at me. My super patience was being tried, and my X-Ray belching and supersonic crying weren't working either.
"Could this be the end of Root Beer Float Man?" I shouted.
I really wished I had a can of Barq's and at least a Klondike on me so I could get out of this. One of the villager kids threw a Coke bottle at my head, but what was I going to do with that? If only I could tell the difference between sarsaparilla root and poison ivy I might have had a chance. There was some type of plant next to the stake, but I had made that mistake before.
Then I saw four figures flying towards us in the distance. At first I thought they were vultures, but it was far too early for that. When they were close enough for me to see their flapping heads I knew it was the Sockdolagers.
The brave Sockdolagers, the fearsome foursome, as I liked to call them, were here to rescue me. Perry, Mikey, Tommy, and Stevie were sock puppets handmade by my dear mother herself when I was just fourteen years old. They had never let me down before (well, aside from when that no good Sigmund Rathbone was pummeling me) and they weren't going to let me down now.
I rejoiced. My super crying kicked in and they were tears of joy. The villagers of Honalee all looked up and couldn't believe their eyes. They waved their flaming torches and shouted obscenities completely uncalled for in an early 60s children's folk song.
When the Sockdolagers landed, Tommy untied me while the others fought the villagers off valiantly. They dodged the torches while getting some magnificent punches in on men, women, and children alike, even my late friend Jackie's brother Wally. When all was said and done, the foursome flew off into the sunset and I took a very expensive cab ride back to a land called Ashland, Massachusetts.
A week later, I entered the doors of the Daily Sun and handed in my story, a feature, I figured, maybe a two or three part special, fifteen pages single spaced. But they all laughed at me once again.
"Sock puppets?" my editor said. "You've gone off the deep end, Sparky. This is a newspaper, not the Fantastical Imaginationland Review."
"But," I said, looking at him, trying again to keep my super crying under control, "I am Root Beer Float Man, and these are my adventures."
"Right," he said. "And I am the editor of a small town paper, and this is my imaginary letter of recommendation for you. Get another job, Malted Milkshake Boy, before I call security."
"Security cannot stop Root Beer Fl---"
He lied to me. He had already called security and they tased me relentlessly with their little magic toys that, quite frankly, I don't think it's legal for them to have as simple, mild-mannered security officers. I went down hard and screamed and writhed on the floor in a tremendous amount of pain. They dragged me out of the building and threw me onto the sidewalk.
So where does a superhero find work? Where does a journalist who's traveled from Maine to Honalee covering so many crime stories get respect and admiration? I don't know, but I will find out. For I am Root Beer Float Man, supreme crime-fighting machine, fugitive from the law of Honalee, and out-of-work office assistant. Evildoers, beware! Hiring managers, take notice! You have not seen the last of RBFM!
About the Author
Michael Frissore's chapbook Poetry is Dead won the Coatlism Book Prize in 2008. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Monkeybicycle, Boston Literary Magazine, Fast Forward Volume 3, Gold Dust's Solid Gold Anthology, Sein und Werden, decomP, Lowestoft Chronicle, and elsewhere. He blogs at http://michaelfrissore.blogspot.com/ and writes for SlurveMag.com. Mike grew up in Massachusetts and lives in Oro Valley, Arizona with his wife and son.