LNH: Easily-Discovered Man #47
dreadpirate72 at netzero.com
Sat Aug 12 14:29:49 PDT 2006
Doused with microwave radiation, Theodore Wong gained the ability
to glow and be detected at great distances by anyone with a Geiger
counter. Together with his sidekick Lite, his intern Cynical Lass,
and fellow hero Substitute Lad, Wong wages a constant battle against
the forces of corruption, chaos and common sense as the fabulous
-----Previously on "The Adventures of Easily-Discovered Man"----------
After defeating the G.L.U.R.G.E, a creature built out of living
syrup at the command of the Waffle Queen, Easily-Discovered Man Lite
and Cynical Lass have a falling out over Lite's relationship with
Summer Meadows. Lite boards the subway, encounters a ghost with a
cryptic warning, and finds himself face-to-face with Professor
Perhap of the Brotherhood of Net.Villains -- a man he believed to
Dead or alive, however, neither the good Professor nor our
narrator is going anywhere for a while, which gives us the
opportunity to present this public service announcement:
"Says here she made three calls last week to 'Dial-a-Lumberjack,"
I said, as Cynical Lass walked into the room. "Better make a note of
that. It could be important."
"What could be important? Why are the two of you dressed in suits
and sunglasses?" Cynical Lass asked, looking from me to Substitute Lad
and back. "And why are you doing whatever it is you're doing in my
"Lite wants to get to know his girlfriend better," Substitute Lad
said, using his best Edward R. Murrow monotone. "So we're looking
through her phone records for clues that will help him understand
"Look at this!" I said, holding up a document. "She checked
_Cucumber: Nature's Most Erotic Vegetable_ out of the library for
three weeks straight! I never knew she was into gardening."
"Ow! Ow!" Cynical Lass said, holding her hands over her eyes.
"Never... rolled... eyes... this... much... before."
She sighed. "So you two idiots are trying to get to know
Summer by stalking her and going through her private
"Not entirely," I said, passing the letter opener to
Substitute Lad. "We're also planning on surprising a couple
of her best friends after work, and taking them to a restaurant
so that we can ask them questions. I'm thinking Lukashenko's Deli."
"And I suggested Yuschenko's Bar and Grill," Substitute Lad
said. "Hey, Lite, has Summer been sick? She keeps calling a
'Dr. Drew.' "
"Listen to me!" Cynical Lass thundered. "You two obviously
don't know anything about women!"
"Well, obviously," I said.
"There's still a lot of data to go through," Substitute Lad
"Relationships are supposed to be based on trust!" Cynical Lass
said. "When you want someone to trust you, you don't go through
their phone records, or check on what they've been reading at the
library, or haul them off to some Eastern European place for
"You think Cuban might be the way to go?" I asked.
"No!" she screamed. "My God! You'd have to be some kind of
megalomaniacal fascist to even think that way."
"My guidance counselor did mention something about that,"
Substitute Lad said.
"If you want to get to know a woman -- really get to know a
woman-- you can't just collect all of her most intimate
information from her private records," Cynical Lass said. "You
need to read about all of it on her MySpace, FaceBook, Friendster,
Livejournal and Blogspot pages, the way everyone else does."
Both Substitute Lad and I slapped our foreheads with our hands.
"Now," Cynical Lass said, "would you mind explaining to me why
you had to bring all of this crap into _my_ room?"
"Oh that's easy," Substitute Lad said. "There's these two
Polish girls whose apartment is across the street from yours,
and they're due to get changed any minute now. Hey!" he added,
as Cynical Lass grabbed each of us by the throat.
"But this was all in the name of security," I gasped.
"Let this be a lesson to you," Cynical Lass snapped, as she
threw both of us from the room. "You can't expect to run a good
campaign if you spend all of your time watching the Poles."
And now, we present episode #47 of "The Adventures of
Easily-Discovered Man," "The Life You Wreck May Be Your Own,"
containing 88% more truthiness than the latest James Frey memoir.
The Adventures of Easily-Discovered Man #47
"The Life You Wreck May Be Your Own"
Rob Rogers Rob Rogers
"So you're Easily-Discovered Man Lite," Professor Perhap said,
walking in a slow semicircle around my subway seat. "There's not
much of you, is there?"
"Good question," I said, standing up. "I'll check in the back.
Maybe there's more of me in stock."
Professor Perhap closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. "You
smell of cigarettes and cheap perfume," he said. "You know, Adolf
Hitler couldn't abide cigarettes. He forbade his men to smoke
them, chastised them when they did. He thought they were
degenerate. Myself, I believe a person is entitled to a few
I found myself wishing that Easily-Discovered Man was around.
Not so much for protection -- the Prof was never really much for
protection -- but because this was exactly the kind of
super-villain banter he hated to miss.
"Adolf certainly had his quirks," I said, edging toward the
doors of the subway car. "Tell me, do all professors talk this
way? Because I'm thinking about going to college next year, and
if it turns out I can just skip it, that's $80,000 I can spend on
stereo equipment and Red Sox tickets."
"I see that you're one of those modern types. You don't
believe in the costume," he said, continuing his appraisal of
me. "Or is that postmodern? I've always disliked the term.
So dismissal of the moderns, without really coming to terms
with any of the questions they posed."
"Yes. Well, I'm sure that your students find all of this
terribly, terribly boring, but I'm afraid I have to..."
"I wonder," Professor Perhap said, "if things would have been
different for you if you'd worn the costume."
As he spoke, I felt the sleeves on my They Might Be Giants
T-shirt creeping down the length of my arm, saw the fabric
blanching and brightening to the color of radioactive split-pea
soup. I felt a mask on my forehead -- as thin and clammy and
insubstantial as the skin you lose after a sunburn -- and
heard something rush down my back that was either a cape, or
the worst case of dandruff I'd ever had.
I saw my reflection in the subway window. I looked like
a miniature version of Easily-Discovered Man: too-tight
neon costume, smiley-face insignia, and that heroic grimace
that comes with the loss of peripheral vision. At that moment,
I understood why people like Batman, Captain America and the
first George Bush traveled around with dorky-looking kid
sidekicks. Anyone who saw me at that moment would have
thought the Prof looked downright dignified by comparison.
"Well," Professor Perhap said, drinking the sight of me in.
"Perhaps not." And with that, the costume was gone.
"You know, the prom is in two weeks," I said, turning back
toward the Professor. "You have anything in a 32 regular?"
Tsar Chasm -- this guy who'd been a world-conquering super-
villain, then a hero, and last I heard was consulting for
Wal-Mart -- once told me that confrontations between heroes and
villains were less about powers, weapons or strategies than they
were about who was able to take control of the situation.
"It doesn't matter if he's stronger or faster or able to
summon twenty demons with the flick of a finger," Tsar Chasm
said. "Once you've established that you're in charge, you'll
be able to determine how the rest of the script is going to go."
Normally, I was pretty good at this. I'd surprise the
villain, make a few terrible jokes, and keep him off balance
long enough to... Well, usually, at that point, the villain
either shot himself in the foot, or another super-hero showed
up, or something else happened that kept me from having to
deal with the situation any longer. But the point was, I
was in control, even if it was for a little while.
Professor Perhap seemed to think otherwise. Maybe he'd
shared a locker with Tsar Chasm back in the day, or maybe he
was just smarter than most of the villains I was used to facing.
Or maybe Cynical Lass was right, and I had to start thinking
about people besides myself for a change.
"I guess all that stuff about you being dead was just an
ugly rumor," I said. "Are you letting the world think you
are dead, until you can find a way to calm the raging beast
that dwells within you? Or is this one of those situations
where there's an all-powerful entity from another dimension
punching the walls of reality, and I'm not supposed to
"Oh please," the Professor said. "Even I couldn't come
up with a plotline so ridiculous." He looked thoughtful for
a moment, and I wondered if he was going to try to come up
with a plotline that ridiculous. That sort of thing
generally worked in my favor.
But he didn't. "I always wondered what my thoughts
would be in my last moments upon the earth," he said.
"Me too," I said. "And I've always hoped they would
involve Molly Ringwald. And that they wouldn't be awkward.
Even though Molly Ringwald always seemed to do well in
awkward situations. That's part of her appeal."
"True," the Professor said, looking distracted for a
moment. "Too true. In my case, however, I found myself
wondering: what if worlds beyond this one existed? What
if it was possible for me to see them all -- to know them
all? What if I could stand at the very nexus of
space and time itself?"
I thought about that. "I'd still take Molly
Ringwald," I said.
"You're only saying that," Professor Perhap said,
"because you think if you keep repeating the words
'Molly Ringwald' over and over, I'll inadvertently
use my powers to make her appear in front of you."
"I did mention that the prom is coming up," I said.
"Besides, I already know that you're going to tell me
that you ended up at the nexus of space and time, and
that for whatever reason, you decided to leave there
and ride around Net.ropolis on the subway."
"Not quite," he said, sliding his hand up and down one
of the thin metal subway support poles. "Actually, I
ended up in the Apocryphal Universe."
"Sounds familiar," I said.
"I'll refresh your memory," Professor Perhap said.
"Once upon a time, there was a super-hero called Immortal
Ken, who became so powerful that he was a threat to
creation itself. Your Legion of Net.Heroes felt they had
to defeat him, once and for all."
"So they created Immortal Barbie?"
"They created an Apocryphal Universe, an inescapable
prison at the center of space and time," he continued.
"Ken's reign of terror had laid waste to the Looniverse.
Countless thousands had died at his hands. But once
he entered the Apocryphal Universe, it was as though
he had never existed. His deeds were erased, and even
his captors are unaware that he ever lived to challenge
"Wait," I said. "I feel like... I know some of this."
I scratched my head. "How do I know this?"
The subway slowed as we approached a station. This was
probably the best chance I'd have at making a break for it.
But part of me wanted to hear what the Professor had to say.
"No one can know of or remember the Apocryphal Universe
unless they've been there," he said. "And then, their memory
of the place remains cloudy, shrouded by half-remembered
"That do not involve Molly Ringwald," he said.
"Damn," I said. "But if the Apocryphal Universe is an
inescapable prison, how did you escape? How did I?"
"There are always portals between worlds," Professor Perhap
said. "This subway car is one of them, as your encounter
with the ghost should have illustrated."
"But why was I trapped there in the first place?" I asked.
"Am I that important that somebody would stick me in the hardest
place in all of creation to escape from? Other than Route 93
during rush hour?"
"Hardly," Professor Perhap said. "In fact, you have at last
hit upon the reason for my visit to your dimension. For you,
Easily-Discovered Man Lite, are the single least important being
in the whole length and breadth of creation."
The doors of the subway slid open, revealing a small apartment
with uneven floors, one tiny window, and a faded, framed They
Might Be Giants poster on the wall.
"Would you like me to prove it?" the Professor said. "Or
are you still dwelling upon the reality of your vast
"I'm checking the list of stops," I said, examining the
brightly-colored, cheerfully-incomprehensible map above the
subway doors. "There doesn't seem to be a listing for 'dreary
flophouse' on the Russell line."
"Behold your future, Easily-Discovered Man Lite," Professor
Perhap said, stretching one arm toward the apartment. "Despite
all of your efforts, all your minor achievements, _this_ is where
you end up twenty years from now."
"And they say you can't get anywhere on public transit," I
said, taking in the room. Beneath the poster was a small rounded
television set showing a baseball game. Across from the television
set was a greyish lump that I'd originally taken for a pile of
blankets. Upon closer inspection, however, I realized that it was
me: balder, larger, and squatting on a cracked leather La-Z-Boy
recliner with a Mr. Paprika in one hand and a remote control in the
"Fehhhhhhhurgh," Future Me grunted.
"This is my future?" I asked. "I never upgraded to flat-
"It's not a bad future, all told," Professor Perhap said.
"In this vision of the future, Cynical Lass discovers her own
beauty at last, and becomes a highly-sought after fashion model,
as well as a college professor. Even Easily-Discovered Man
has a building at Dave Thomas Deluxe University named after
him, long after he's been shuffled off to a home for the
"You said this was one vision of the future," I said,
watching Future Me bury his face in a bag of Frigid Ranch
Flavored Blubber Chips. "Are there others? Is the future
"In many ways," said the Professor, as the doors snapped
shut and the train lumbered on. He had opened a battered
brown leather satchel and taken out a copy of the _Lonely
Planet Guide to the Multiverse_. "Let's see," he said, as
the subway reached another stop. "In this version, Cynical
Lass becomes leader of LNH Europe, while Easily-Discovered
Man becomes Speaker of the House of Representatives. Oh,
and Kid Rock marries Britney Spears' daughter."
"This ought to be interesting," I said, as the doors
opened again. "What the hell...?"
The scene before me was exactly the same as the one I'd
just left: fat, balding Future Me, watching baseball,
eating chips and making disgusting noises. My eyes searched
the room -- same poster, same cracks and cobwebs in the
ceiling. I was even wearing the same T-shirt, an older,
more threadbare version of the shirt I was currently
The doors closed again, and the train lurched forward,
forcing me to grab one of the ceiling straps.
"What was that all about?" I asked. "I looked exactly
the same as in the first version."
"In this next vision," Professor Perhap said, as the train
slowed again, "you never make the decision to become a
sidekick. You go through life as... let's see," he said,
thumbing through the well-worn pages of the book. "Ah yes.
Well, you do something in sales for a while, and then you end
up running a pawnshop a couple of blocks from here."
"And how does that affect the rest of the universe?"
"Well, Cynical Lass never leaves England, but ends up
becoming the leader of LNH Europe anyway, sometime after the
second Crisis of Infinite Sidekicks," the Professor said.
"Easily-Discovered Man takes on a different sidekick, and
has a long and storied career as... Ah. Here we are."
The doors opened to the same scene as before.
"Brrraaaap," Future Me said, sounding satisfied.
"I'm beginning to get the picture," I said.
Being a professor, however, Professor Perhap was unwilling
to let the lesson stand until he'd shown me another 15 or so
examples. In some of them, I made the decision to become a
super-hero. In others, I hadn't. The results were always the
same, whether I was in a vision of the future in which the
Chinese had won World War III, the vision in which President
Powell had brought the Palestinians and the Israelis together
for a lasting peace, or the vision in which Emperor Keanu
Reeves, having survived an assasination attempt by members
of Congress, consolidated his rule by ordering the conquest of
"Thank goodness Queen Cynical Lass saved them," I said,
as we prepared to arrive at another stop. "I'd hate to think
of what would happen if all of Montreal were forced to speak
"Cynical Lass does well in almost every vision of the future,
except for this one," Professor Perhap said.
The doors hissed open, and I saw the same scene as before,
except that Cynical Lass was seated beside me, in an identically-
broken down chair, with her hair in curlers and an enormous
orange cat in her lap.
"Mmmmegggh," Future Me said, stuffing his mouth with chips.
"Piss off," Future Cynical Lass said, reaching for the bag.
The doors closed again.
"I thought you said I was the least important being in all
of creation," I said.
"Do you remember 'Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins?' "
"You are infinitely more insignificant than a yard-sale copy
of a Betamax tape of an edited-for-broadcast-television version
of that film," Professor Perhap said.
"But," I said, "if Cynical Lass achieves fame, fortune and a
makeover in every version of the future except the one in which
she marries me..."
"I believe the two of you were merely living in sin."
"...then clearly, my existence has some influence on the
lives of others, even if it's a negative one."
"Perhaps," the Professor said. "In one instance out of
a hundred billion. Even a centipede's sneeze makes the wind
a little colder. But in no universe are you capable of
altering the outcome of your own life. The room behind these
doors is always the same."
The doors opened again. The same floorboards creaked,
the same cobwebs quivered. The television flickered with the
same patterns. But in the crackled leather chair beside me,
looking somewhat the worse for wear, was a face I'd have known
"Molly Ringwald!" I gasped.
"Actually, her name is Betty Brent," Professor Perhap said.
"In this reality, her resemblance to the actress led her to be
cast as a super-hero in a substitute version of Teenfactor.
She was laid off when the original team returned, and her life
has been in a downward spiral ever since. The two of you met on
an episode of 'The Surreal Life.' "
"So I ruin everything I touch," I said. "Even her."
"Let me see," the Professor said, consulting his book. "No,
no. That's not quite true. There's nothing in here that
suggests you ever have the opportunity to touch her. But
otherwise, yes. Your point is quite valid."
"Why did you bring me here?" I asked. "What's the point of
showing me all of this? Just to rub my face in it?"
"That would have been my point once. Before I died. Now,
I've transcended all of that," Professor Perhap said. "I'm
doing this in order to save you."
"Save me from what?" I said, watching Betty Brent scratch
her nose. "You've shown me yourself. In every universe we
visit, in every version of the future we see, I end up in
exactly the same place, doing exactly the same thing, with
the same creepy-old-man smell of old milk and mothballs."
"Save you the trouble, of course," he said, and I was
able, at that moment, to picture the kind of teacher he must
have been: earnest, overeager, willing to spend hours of
preparation in order to impress a single point upon his
"I've watched you across many of these lifetimes," he said.
"I've seen you suffer, struggle, torture yourself, push
yourself beyond the limits of what any human being should
have to endure. And in every case, it comes to this. It
doesn't have to be that way. If you know the results are
going to be the same in any case, you might as well enjoy the
Betty Brent stood up.
"Live it up a little," the Professor said. "Travel. Try
out a few different careers. Experiment. Meet some girls.
Hell, meet some boys. Believe me, there's nothing you can
conceive of in your wildest imagination that doesn't lead
to what you're seeing in front of you. And when that
happens, as it must, at least you'll be able to take some
measure of pleasure in your memories of the past."
"And forget about being a super-hero?"
"Do you honestly see the point?"
"I do," I said. "Have you noticed that in all of the
realities we've passed through in which I decided to become
a super-hero, the Red Sox were ahead by one run?"
It took a moment for what I'd said to sink in.
"You mean... the baseball game that your future self is
watching on that decrepit old television?" he asked.
"You'd consider a lifetime of toil and sacrifice... the
endless discipline, the never-ending suffering... in order
that some baseball team might have a one-point advantage
in a meaningless contest?"
"You've obviously never met a Red Sox fan," I said.
"Every one of us would like to believe that our devotion is
able to affect the outcome of a game. And now I actually
have proof that it works."
Betty Brent began walking toward us.
"Excuse me," she said. "Is that subway that the two of
you are standing and arguing in really capable of moving
between alternate versions of reality?"
"Yes," I said. "But it skips a few stops on Sundays."
"Then I'm coming with you," she said, and stepped through
"This... this is unheard of," the Professor said, flipping
frantically through his book as the doors closed.
"Maybe," Betty said. "But I think I'm making the right
decision. I've certainly made enough of the wrong ones. And
I feel younger already."
"You look younger, too," I said. The lines had disappeared
from her face; her hair had darkened from reddish-gray to a
"When I realized there was a subway car in existence that
actually smelled better than my apartment, I knew that it was
time for a change," she said. "And I like the idea that there's
a reality in which an Easily-Discovered Man Lite actually cared
"So do I," Professor Perhap said. "Lite, congratulations.
You've passed the test."
"I hear that so rarely from anyone in higher education," I
said. "Was it the 'Win a Dream Date With a Molly Ringwald
Look-Alike Contest?' "
"Sorry," Betty said. "I've been down that road once,
"Lite, the Apocryphal Universe is under siege," Professor
Perhap said. "Immortal Ken has teamed with your old enemy,
Can't Get a Break at the Lights, Man..."
"Who?" Betty and I asked together.
"Apocryphal Universe, remember? You won't be able to
recall him in this one," the Professor continued. "Together,
the two of them are laying waste to their universe, which
is in danger of implosion. If that happens, the surrounding
multiverse could collapse upon itself."
"Sounds like a job for Kid Kirby," I said. "Or Continuity
Champ. Or even Ike the Pike. Pretty much anybody but me."
"It's an impossible task," the Professor said. "It's a job
for someone who knows he's doomed to fail before he even begins,
but is willing to try anyway. Your friend Apocalypso seemed
to think that person could be you. But I had to be sure."
"So this whole business was just a test?" I said. "I don't
really end up sad, alone, and mostly bald in an apartment that
smells like old cat pee?"
"Oh no," Professor Perhap said. "That definitely happens."
"You caught it on a good day," Betty added. "Believe me."
"Well, then," I said. "I suppose I have nothing to lose."
"That's the spirit!" the Professor said, clapping me on
the shoulder. "Begin assembling your team. Apocalypso will
contact you in two weeks' time."
"Wait," I said. "You've shown me the future. So that
means it's a given that we defeat Immortal Ken, and we
don't end up dying in the Apocryphal Universe. Right?"
"None of the Lites you saw today was given the chance
to do what you are about to do," Professor Perhap said.
"We are entering into uncharted territory. The best I can
say is... perhaps."
The subway doors opened one last time, showing the
cement platforms, brick walls and purple-crayon graffiti of
the Russell Center station. Betty and I left the train.
"Good luck," the Professor said, as the subway rumbled
"Are you coming?" I asked.
"I already told you," Betty said. "You're a lot younger
and cuter now, but you're still not my type."
"That's not what I meant," I lied. "Will you help me?"
Betty stared at me. "I was never much of a super-hero,"
"Neither was I," I said. "That doesn't seem to be one
of the qualifications. You've heard what's at stake."
"Can I think about it?"
"You've got two weeks," I said, handing her a Legion
business card. "What will you do in the mean time?"
"I've always wanted to see Net.ropolis," Betty said.
"What about you?"
"I was on my way to ask a friend for help," I said.
"Now I'm thinking that she and I may be able to help each
other. First, though, I'm going to buy a new T-shirt."
"Really?" she gasped. "I've been trying to get you to
do that for seven years. Maybe there's hope for you yet."
"We both know that there isn't," I said. "But it never
hurts to try... Oh, crap. I can't believe I forgot."
"I was going to ask the Professor about something a
ghost said to me earlier this morning," I said. "Oh, well.
It probably wasn't that important anyway."
TO BE CONTINUED...
NEXT ISSUE: A major character dies! Another major
character is changed forever! And Lite buys a new T-shirt!
All this, and a few other things, in an episode our
signing statement declares we'll call "Gloomy Monday."
CHARACTERS: Easily-Discovered Man Lite, Cynical Lass
and Substitute Lad are (c) Rob Rogers. Professor Perhap is
(c) Mike Friedman. Betty Brent is (c) Tom Russell.
"If you can't make your mind up
We'll never get started
And I don't want to wind up
Being parted, broken-hearted
So if you really love me
But if you don't dear, confess
And please don't tell me
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps"
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