When I was a kid, I loved to go to summer matinees at our local small-town theater. One of my favorite parts of the all-afternoon-movie-bonanzas was finding out what happened next in the Flash Gordon serial. [image: Wikipedia]
Much like those Flash Gordon serials, an awesome group of writer friends started a round-robin adventure story in which each of us contributes a chapter to the story, picking up where the last person left off.
The talented Laird Sapir provided the title and graphic for our tale: Lather: The Twinkle Jackson Story.
WARNING! If you don’t like to laugh and are easily offended by anything clever and fun, stop reading and RUN AWAY NOW!
If you’re the adventurous sort that enjoys a good chuckle, then I highly recommend you read ALL of the previous chapters. However, if you’re in a hurry … the remarkable S.M. Hutchins created a terrific summation that I’m carrying forward here (with a spoiler alert advisory!)…
Here’s what you missed…
- Chapter 1 by Tami Clayton – In which we meet Twinkle, his father Geraldo, and his mom Juniper Jackie who leaves to pursue her passion for tree climbing acrobatics. Twinkle is summoned by the Sparkle Sudz Soap spokesmodel (The Golden Goddess) through his television.
- Chapter 2 by Mike Schulenberg – In which we meet arch nemesis Lord Lobstar, his army of Shrimperators, and a cloaked figure named Jupernia.
- Chapter 3 by Liv Rancourt – In which we learn that The Golden Goddess is Jupernia’s sister.
- Chapter 4 by Ellen Gregory – In which Jupernia goes to Twinkle’s house for help, but Lord Lobstar lands his crustaship in the garden and Twinkle is captured.
- Chapter 5 by Richard Monro – In which Twinkle is tortured by the Shrimperators but manages to ward them off with Sparkle Sudz Soap.
- Chapter 6 by Kim Griffin – In which Jupernia tells Twinkle that soap won’t work against Lord Lobstar and we learn that Jupernia is actually long-lost Juniper Jackie.
- Chapter 7 by Jodi Lea Stewart – In which we learn Jupernia is from a planet of trees and Lord Lobstar plans to ruin her planet as well as earth. He’s a little angry ever since SpongeBob stole his girl.
- Chapter 8 by Cora Ramos – In which Jupernia explains to Twinkle and Geraldo why she really had to leave and devises a plan to thwart Lord Lobstar using paprika, soap, and lavender. Alas, Twinkle has run off.
- Chapter 9 by S.M. Hutchins – In which we meet Twinkle’s girlfriend, Surnia and her ducks, and discover that Twinkle and Geraldo secretly harbored cell phones. Twinkle learns the Golden Goddess is his aunt, and the two sisters are cooking up a plan with Sparkle Sudz Soap, paprika, and lavender.
Now for the next installment of the riotous saga…
Lather: The Twinkle Jackson Story
The roar of rocket engines ripped through the sleepy town, drowning out the quacking ducks, and the yelling the sisters too. The sky above the Surnia’s cottage glowed branding iron red. Lord Lobstar’s battleship had arrived.
“Just in time,” Geraldo mumbled, glancing over at his wife and her sister. He didn’t need to hear what they were saying to know they didn’t have a clue. The waving arms and their tense expressions said it all. His throat tightened at the poignancy of the scene. All these years and she never guessed the truth. I did it for her … I did it for my boy.
Geraldo’s shirt pocket fluttered, a vibration pulsed against his heart signaling the beginning of the end. No time for sappy sentiment.
Geraldo pulled out his trusty carving knife with military efficiency. He’d taken his knife everywhere and nobody ever looked at it twice–certainly not his wife or son. It was how he was able to keep his secret all of those years. The top of the knife handle flashed red. The corners of Geraldo’s mouth turned up in a smile. Everything’s going according to plan.
The engines of Lobstar’s space ship idled to a hum, just as Geraldo pressed a button on the knife handle and spoke into the blade. “Yes, Mr. President. Operation Lobstar Bisque is a go. We’re set to frappe.”
Geraldo flicked off the device, slipping it back into his pocket. Then he turned to the group with their wide eyes and open mouths. “What?” Geraldo asked, trying to hide his satisfaction. He’d finally prove to his wife and son that he wasn’t a half-witted whittling hoarder. No. He’d been deep undercover on a ulta-top secret mission to defend the nation and the world from its deadliest enemy.
“You were talking into your knife? To the President of the United States?” Jupernia asked, the words sounding stranger outloud than they had in her head. “Are you insane?”
“No, m’ am, he is not,” a deep voice boomed from the silent gray shadow that hovered over head, the stealthiest of aircraft. “For your safety and the well fare of this planet, follow agent Willis’ orders. NOW!”
Jupernia sucked in a deep breath, as if she’d been sucker punched. Geraldo’s face flushed with pride at the respect that sparked to life in his son’s eyes.
“You’re a secret agent?” Twinkle asked with awe. Geraldo nodded. “That is so cool.”
“Agent Willis?” Was all Jupernia could muster.
“Bruce Willis,” Geraldo corrected her, pulling off a wig to show off his clean-shaven head, then pointed to the still hovering aircraft. “We’ve got to move, or even they won’t be able to save us.”
Agent Bruce Willis (a.k.a. Geraldo) barked the orders. “Surnia, get the duck militia into a flying wedge formation at the edge of the clearing where Lobstar is landing. Jupernia, you and your sister take the paprika cans to the opposite side of the clearing. Twinkle, you come with me.”
“What do we do with the paprika?” Jupernia asked, looking to her sister and then back to her husband. The paprika, lavender, and Sparkle Sudz Soap plan had all been so clear minutes ago. Now her mind jingled like the spurs on her boots.
“It’s not paprika, dear. Those cans are filled with gold dust. None of the items on the shrink wrapped pallets in our house are what they seem. I was paid in gold for the sacrifices I made … we’ve made…. all these years. Now we’re going to use some of that gold to lure the greedy Lord Lobstar and his shrimpernators out of their craft, so Twinkle can…”
“We’re rich?” Jupernia interrupted, more surprised by this than finding out her husband is a super-top-secret spy.
“Obscenely,” Agent Bruce Willis replied, with a thrust of his chin. Jupernia was about the throw her arms around his neck and place a big wet one on him, when the ground vibrated beneath their feet.
“Earthquake?” Twinkle asked, grabbing hold of a tree to steady himself. “And my girlfriend … is she a secret agent too?”
Agent Bruce Willis shook his head. His son was a little slow of the uptake at times. “No earthquake. It’s the reverse thrusts of Lobstar’s craft. They’re landing. As for your girlfriend… that’s her story to tell.”
“Come on, Sis,” Jupernia called, jumping into action. “We’d better get kickin’ to give Lobstar his lickin’.” She was determined to take Lord Lobstar down. After all, she had a family and new found fortune to fight for!
“What about me?” Twinkle asked, edging closer. “What am I supposed to do?”
“What we practiced every night before you went to bed. Sing your song, my boy. But this time like your life depends on it. Because it probably does.”
“Sing? Really?” Twinkle asked, with a confused shake of his radiant curls.
Agent Bruce Willis pulled a plain looking wooden recorder out of his pocket, and held it up. All those years I spent carving were to make this, an instrument with perfect pitch. This recorder’s tonal quality, combined with the harmonic resonance of your voice, creates a cataclysmic weapon.”
Twinkle shrugged. “Dude, if you say so… But seriously, I don’t get it.”
“You will son. But not if we don’t hurry.”
Agent Bruce Willis (aka Geraldo) and Twinkle skidded into the clearing just as the engines of Lobstar’s airship went silent. Portals opened, and long, slender ray guns pushed out through the crusty hull.
Agent Willis looked to the left and nodded to Surnia. The ducks were in formation, and Surnia was poised with the duck whistle ready. To his right, Jupernia and her Golden Goddess sister held the paprika tins filled with gold dust. No small feat, since the Costco-size super-value tins easily weighed fifty pounds each. Twinkle stood by his side. Everything was in place.
The silent gray shadow pressed down, like a dingy accoustic ceiling. “Stand down, Lobstar! We’re prepared to make the trade,” General Quackenbush boomed from above.
“You’ll give up the boy without a fight?” Lobstar asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“I’m not a boy!” Twinkle shouted, not that anyone was listening.
“Better. We’ll give you gold,” Quackenbush countered. “We know about your plans to sell Twinkle on the black market. We’ll give you twice his going rate, if you leave in peace.”
A strange and disturbingly disgusting gurgling reverberated from Lobstar’s ship. Twinkle wrinkled his nose in disgust.
“He’s salivating,” Agent Bruce Willis whispered. “It’s working.”
Agent Bruce Willis motioned for Jupernia and her sister to bring the gold into the clearing. And as they did, they removed the lids so the gold dust sparkleed in the sun the late afternoon sun.
Lobstar’s ship door slid open, his claws clanking as he waddled down the ramp. The shrimpernators followed in their master’s wake, eyes fixated on the luminous metal.
“It’s enough to win my true love back,” Lord Lobstar mumbled.
Agent Bruce Willis held his breath until Lord Lobstar reached the overlarge tins of shimmering gold. As soon as Lobstar dipped his gigantic crusty claw into the sparkling metal, he signaled the Attack Quacks into action and yelled, “Yippee frappe mother duckers!”
Surnia blew her whistle sending the gaggle quacking into flight. The volume and pitch of the ducks created severe neuroligical side effects in the crustaceans, causing them to hop and twitch like they had ants in their pants.
But that was just the “one” of the “one-two” punch. Agent Bruce Willis nodded to Twinkle, then raised the recorder to his lips, playing the notes to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. Twinkle threw back his shoulders and belted out the song — his song — with such a rich resonance and timber that it brought tears to Jupernia’s eyes.
“My son’s an opera singer,” she sighed, dabbing her eyes with her kerchief.
Twinkle’s fabulous voice had quite the opposite effect on Lord Lobstar and the shrimpernators. They might have been crusty on the outside, but their delicate nervous systems couldn’t withstand the power of Twinkle’s voice, augmented by Agent Willis’ secret weapon recorder. The crustaceans dropped to the ground and flopped around, like bacon sizzling on the griddle. But just like grease when it gets too hot, the crustaceans exploded in syncopated crustacean combustion .
“Works better than Sparkle Soap Sudz,” remarked Twinkle nodding with approval, just as Surnia threw herself at him, wrapping her arms and legs around him.
“My shining star,” she sighed, ripping off her wig to reveal lustrous curls that only Twinkle’s could rival.
To be continued … we hope…