8FOLD: Journey Into # 18, "This Man... This Rutabaga!"

Tom Russell joltcity at gmail.com
Sat May 17 16:29:03 PDT 2014

 _|     |.-----.--.--.----.-----.-----.--.--.
|       ||  _  |  |  |   _|     |  -__|  |  |
|_______||_____|_____|__| |__|__|_____|___  |
                ITS 111TH PUBLICATION |_____|
 __         __                 ____   ______
|__|.-----.|  |_.-----.       |_   | |  __  |
|  ||     ||   _|  _  |     #  _|  |_|  __  |
|__||__|__||____|_____|       |______|______|
           ~~BY TOM RUSSELL~~


- Max Lang, the world-famous Human Zeppelin.
- Julie Ann Lang, nee Justice; Max's wife.
  (Still uses her maiden name professionally.)
- Peter Sampson, the fiery Fahrenheit Man;
  Max's second-best friend, after the wife.
- Tina Wazowie, the Princess of Polish Punk;
  front-woman for freeze-powered band Zero Below;
  Earth's ambassador to the Pulse Collective;
  also, Peter's girlfriend.

"Are you sure you'll be alright?" says Julie.
   "What kind of question is that?" says Max. "It's you and Wazowie
that are going into Deep Space. I'm not planning on leaving the
apartment until you get back."
   "Yes; but I'm an adult."
   "Sweet wife, are you implying that I'm a child?"
   Julie twists half of her lower-lip. "Remind me of your plans for
tonight, husband?"
   "Me and Peter are going to make a triple-decker pizza..."
   "That's three pizzas stacked on top of each other?"
   "Yes. And, we're going to watch Nicholas Cage movies."
   "But bad ones."
   "Yes, of course, the bad ones. Oh no, not the bees, et cetera."
   "And you're pretty sure you can handle that without me here?" says Julie.
   "Yes," says Max, a little indignantly. "I'm going to miss you, of
course. I always miss you. Not just when you're in outer space. When
you're in a different room, I miss you. When I'm in the bathroom, I
miss you."
   "I know," sighs Julie. "You know how I know? Because you whine."
   "I keen. The word is keen."
   "When you're in the bathroom."
   "When I'm alone in the bathroom," corrects Max. "Because you're all
the way over there, too far away. This would not be a problem once
society has accepted my new invention."
   "Don't," says Julie, facepalming. "Please don't."
   "The Tandem Bathroom," says Max, spanning his hands apart, for how
else can one contain the grandeur? "Two toilets, side-by-side. His and
Hers. Or Hers and Hers, if that's your thing. We can sit next to each
other, and go to the bathroom, and hold hands."
   "And this is why I worry about leaving you alone for more than ten
minutes," says Julie. "I better not come back from deep space and find
you all over the news talking about tandem toilets."
   "Tandem Bathrooms," says Max. "Tandem Toilets sounds gauche."
   "Yes, we wouldn't want to louse up all the high class inherent in
the concept."
   There's a knock at the door; it's Wazowie.
   "Where's Peter?" says Max.
   "Hello to you, too," says Wazowie. "Yeah, man, we was supposed to
grab a bite together before coming over to pick up Jules, but I had
this thing and the plans went all wobbly-bobbily, man. He'll be here
in a hot second.""
   "What kind of thing?" says Max.
   "Suspicious!" says Wazowie. She turns to Julie and crooks her thumb
at Max; little pellets of ice spring from her thumb, as if for
emphasis. "Get this guy, huh?"
   "I got him," says Julie. "Boy, do I got him. What kind of thing?"
   "Rutabaga, man. Frickin' mutant rutabaga. Sentient. Had to
exploderize him. I hate rutabaga, man. Least favorite vegetable, no
question." She purses her lips. "Second least, anyway. God-damn
   "Max is allergic to rutabaga," says Julie.
   "Am I? No, I'm not."
   "Yes, you are."
   Wazowie scratches the top of her head. "How can you be allergic to rutabaga?"
   "He just is," says Julie.
   "I'm not," says Max. "It just makes me itchy, and I swell up, and I
get hives."
   "But you're not allergic."
   "No, it doesn't make me sneeze. Now, feathers, feathers make me
sneeze; feathers I'm allergic to. But not rutabaga."
   Julie throws up her hands. "You see what I have to deal with?"
   "I'm seeing it, man," says Wazowie.

Peter arrives after a while. "Where are the ladies?"
   "Getting dressed," says Max. "Some kind of ceremonial thing."
   "Yes, my friend," says Peter. "To the Pulse Collective, we humans
are so strange-looking that they cannot tell us apart except by our
   "More than that," says Wazowie, entering the living room. The dress
is hideous, with too many buttons, in all the wrong places. "This
little number lets them know who I am and who Jules is, but it's also
kind of a group costume, y'know? Us and a million others. Their
Celestial Council of the Countless meets only once every ten thousand
years, so I guess they like to dress up, and I guess for them, this is
really rocking it, y'know?"
   "I guess so," says Julie. "Certainly this ensemble would be more
flattering if I had an extra arm."
   "Or breast," says Max helpfully.
   "Three? You barely know what to do with two."
   "I'd think of something."

Soon, the girls leave for deep space, and Max and Peter set to their
sacred task of building their triple-decker pizza. But Peter's heart
doesn't seem into it; it seems like something's on his mind.
   "Peter," says Max, "it doesn't seem like your heart's into it; it
seems like something's on your mind."
   Peter nods. "You know me well, old friend. From you, I have no
secrets. For such is the bond we have forged in the fires of facing
down danger and narrowly cheating certain doom."
   "Yep," says Max.
   "But now I am readied to embark upon an adventure more sublime than
our most cosmic confrontation, yet quieter, and seemingly bereft of
danger and doom alike."
   "You're getting married," says Max flatly. Then, as if it was just
occurring to him: "To Wazowie?"
   "Of course to Wazowie," says Peter. "If sweet Tina will have me. I
have yet to ask her hand. I was going to ask her over dinner, but of
course life, or at least a giant rutabaga monster, got in the way.
Though I confess I am glad, because I still don't know how to ask
   "Well, I'd stay away from the 'adventure more sublime' stuff. She
doesn't seem to go in for the mushy stuff."
   "As well I know," says Peter. "She prizes honesty and openness
above all. And yet, the words I speak are honest, springing forth with
every beat of my warrior's heart. I have always burned passionately as
Fahrenheit Man. But she causes the flames of my soul to burn hotter
and brighter."
   "Yeah, again, I don't know so much about that. Honest or not, she's
going to feel like you flipped your lid. More than usual."
   "What do you suggest?"
   "You got to be direct and unadorned. Like with me and Julie."
   "How did that go?"
   "It was, 'Hey. Guess what?' 'What?' 'We're getting married.'"
   "I have a hard time believing that worked with Julie."
   "Oh, no, I didn't say 'We're getting married.' I'm the one that
said 'What?' Can't you tell? I did my Julie voice..."
   Peter shakes his head in despair.
   "I got it!" Max snaps his fingers. "Here's what you say. It's
honest, straightforward, even appeals to her hero side. Ahem. Look,
   "You know, you're the only one who actually calls her Wazowie. And
she doesn't really like it."
   "Okay. Look, Tina. My body is a furnace. If I have sex with anyone
but you, they'd get burnt to a crisp. And if anyone but me has sex
with you, their genitals would freeze and break off. Obviously, we
should keep having sex together, for the rest of our lives, so we
better get married, since you're Catholic and horny. For the good of
all mankind."
   Peter rubs his face with his hand. "Max, dear friend, comrade in
arms. I love you like a brother. But that might literally be the
dumbest thing you've ever said, and I am not forgetting the tandem
   "Bathroom. Tandem bathroom. And I got another idea."
   "Thank you, but..."
   "A better one. Wait here."

Meanwhile; or, more accurately, elsewhile, for time is quite different
in Deep Space. Julie and Tina are en route to the Council of the
Countless within the confines of the cosmic rhombus, its
two-dimensional exterior allowing it to travel at incomprehensible
   But Julie and Tina, content in their three-dimensionality within
the rhombus, aren't trying to comprehend the mysteries of time-space.
Instead, they're trying to comprehend the itinerary prepared by the
Pulse Collective. The Rosetta Paper on which it is written translates
all the words into English easily enough, but the non-linear grammar
gives it considerable more difficulty.
   "Diplomat escort Earth Pulse," says Julie.
   "Oh, that part I figured out," says Tina. "When we arrive, we'll
meet the escorts, they'll show us around. That's why I'm not so
worried about it, man. We'll get where we need to go. And if we don't,
wherever we are, maybe that's where we need to be, y'know?"
   "But 'Diplomat escort Earth Pulse' is before 'Diplomat Earth Pulse
arrive'. Which sounds like us getting there. Maybe they were supposed
to pick us up?"
   "I don't know, man," says Tina. "Maybe. Probably."
   "Probably?" says Julie. "They're traveling all the way from Deep
Space to come to Earth to pick us up, and we're already on our way?
And you say, I don't know, maybe, probably."
   "Joy is the journey, my friend," says Tina. "So chill, right? Not
my fault they got funky grammatical constructions. Cosmic rhombus,
man. Mother-effing cosmic rhombus, for the win."

Max re-enters the living room, having changed into the costume Wazowie
left behind.
   "No," says Peter.
   "Hear me out, dude. Role-playing, right? I'll be Wazowie. You
propose. I'll react. And together, we'll find the one that will work."
   "You look nothing like her!"
   "I don't know, we're about the same cup size."
   "And you certainly can't react like her."
   "Come on, man. Man. Man! Y'know? Man! Like, I don't make plans or
anything, because I'm Wazowie, man, so you just got to flow with the
   "Go with the flow."
   "What are you now, Petey, the Idiom Police? I don't need your
rules, man! I'm a free spirit unfettered by your social norms!"
   "Max, are you... are you using your powers?"
   "What? No, man!"
   "I know Tina's put on a few pounds, but this really isn't funny."
   "I'm not, man, I'm menganiminum."
   "Max, stop mumbling. It's not just your body that's zeppelining.
It's your face and hands, too! That's never happened before!"
   "Rurarara! Rurarara!"
   "Max, control yourself! At the rate your body is expanding, you'll
destroy your apartment!"
   "I don't understand what you're saying! Have you been possessed by
a Japanese demon?"
   Max opens his mouth to try it again, just as his face inflates
against the window. He feels his stomach press uncomfortably against
the living room sofa. His left arm fills up the adjacent kitchen; one
of his fingers, now six feet long and wobbly, upsets the knife block.
The knives spill out, but they cannot cut his invulnerable zeppelin
body. He's glad for that, and glad that Wazowie's outfit is made up of
expanding molecules.
   He feels something hot against his right elbow. Peter! Being
squished! Max's body is likewise impervious to flame, but soon he's
going to squeeze out all the air. He has to do something!
   The Big Red Button! If he can find it and push it, he can open the
ceiling and float out of the apartment. He visualizes the room in his
mind, and soon finds the Big Red Button pressed against one buttock.
One wiggle later, and the Button is pressed, the ceiling is opened,
and Max is floating out of the apartment.
   Peter turns on his flame and flies to follow as the apartment
closes beneath them. "Max! Your face! It's all red and swollen!"
   "Rurarara!" cries Max. "Rutabaga!"

The nearest emergency room.
   Peter rushes in. "Excuse me..."
   The nurse squeals like a little girl. (His name is Bob.) "You're him!"
   "Yes, citizen, and I am in dire need of..."
   "Tina Wazowie's boyfriend."
   "Fahrenheit Man," says Peter, taken aback. "Of the Seven Wonders.
Quite famous in my own right."
   The nurse is skeptical. "And you're in dire need...?"
   "Yes!" says Peter. "My friend is having an allergic reaction."
   "Where is he?"
   "He's outside! The Human Zeppelin! Perhaps you've heard of him?"
   "Yes, of course," says the nurse. "He's famous."

Soon, the doctors come outside with medication.
   "Um, Flame Man?" says Bob the nurse.
   "Fahrenheit Man," says Peter. "I've saved the world at least
thirteen times. Been on the news. Medal of Freedom."
   "Why is the Human Zeppelin dressed like your girlfriend?"
   "It's a very long story," says Peter. "And I'm, wait, what are you
doing with your phone?"
   "I'm putting this on Twitter."

At long last, the twin Escorts sent by the Pulse Collective arrive on
Earth. "Diplomat finding?"
   "Unfounded coordinates check departure prior?"
   "Departure coordinates prior affirmed!"
   "Temporal sooner mixed?"
   "Heads Escorts platter lateness Diplomat Countless Council!"
   "Waiting saved! Coordinates near visual Diplomat seeing!" He points
near the hospital.
   His twin is skeptical. "Seeing, designation faulty? She-visual... um... fat?"
   "Earthling, Earthling, Earthling, same. Attire Wazowie."

"Max! Max!" cries Peter. "What's happening?"
   But Max is gone in a flash of twenty-two-dimensional light.

The cosmic rhombus spews the girls forth at the doorstep of the
Council of the Countless.
   "Moving stop!" shouts a guard with a point of his spear. The other
guards follow suit.
   "Whoa, whoa, whoa, man, I'm not super-keen on the pointy-pointy,
alright? I'm Tina Wazowie. From Earth. Ambassador to the Pulse, count
me among the Countless, man. We're about to be inducted into the
Council, so this a big deal, man."
   "Lies speak!" says the guard. He points his spear towards the door.
"Wazowie bigger!"
   "Bigger?" says Tina. "What do you mean, bigger?"

"There's a big misunderstanding," mumbles Max as he is led, floating,
by a rope tied around his waist to the center of the Council.
   The President of the Pulse shakes her head. "Meeting modesty years
unneeded thousand ten."
   "I'm not being modest, if that's what you're saying," says Max.
"I'm just not who you think I am!"
   "Wazowie," begins the President. She concentrates and, slowly,
struggling, tries to use the backwards grammar of English. "Your
civilization has just been inducted into our ranks. Speak and your
words will be remembered. Tell us what Earth has to offer the Council
of the Countless. What new idea do you bring as a gift to all
cultures, for all time?"
   Max nods his swollen, hive-ridden, hideous head.
   "I come to you, friends, with the greatest invention in the history
of the Earth. I call it the tandem bathroom..."

Luckily for Max, the nigh-limitless space within the cosmic rhombus
can comfortably contain his still-swollen form, Julie, and Wazowie.
The latter is, perhaps unsurprisingly, pretty chill about the whole
   "I mean, it's not the first time the Council has banned a planet," she says.
   Julie is, also unsurprisingly, less chill. "But it is the first
time it happened within six minutes of being inducted." She glares at
her husband.
   "Whoa, man," says Wazowie. "It ain't really the Max-man's fault,
right? How was he to know the Pulse don't go to the bathroom?"
   "He's lucky they don't," says Julie. "Otherwise they would have
banned us in three minutes."
   "I don't know, Jules; I can see the appeal. You're doing your
business, hubby or wife or whatever, they're doing their business,
you're both doing your business side-by-side, and maybe if you've got
a tough one, give a little fist bump, solidarity, yo, right? When me
and the torch-man get hitched, we're definitely getting a tandem
toilet installed."
   "Tandem bath--" begins Max, but then Julie glares at him.
   "You and Peter, huh?" says Julie. "Getting hitched?"
   "Well, if he ever asks me," says Wazowie. "We're in love and all
that jazz, right? Besides, it makes sense. He hooks up with anybody
else, it'd burn worse than the crabs. I hook up with anyone else,
their manhandle will freeze and break off. So for the safety of human
genitals everywhere, we might as well, am I right?"
   "You know, Wazowie," says Max, "you're actually a lot cooler than I
give you credit for."
   "That'd be more flattering and less creepy if you weren't ruining
my favorite dress, but thanks, Max-man."
   Julie shakes her head. "Well, at least this can't get any worse."

"Wuxtry! Wuxtry! Human Zeppelin plays dress-up with Fahrenheit Man!"
   "Wuxtry! Tina stands by her man!"
   "Seven Wonders dismisses Zeppelin and Fahrenheit Man!"
   "Wedding announced for Tina and embattled hero!"
   "Fahrenheit Man joins the Daylighters! Talk about a step down!"
   "What they didn't want you to know! Max flushed Council membership
for the human race down the tandem toilet!"
   "Seven Wonders lose their funding over Council scandal, forced to disband!"
   "Zeppelin sued! Dearborn man claims he stole idea for side-by-side toilet!"
   "Penniless Zeppelin and Julie Ann try to sell apartment to pay legal fees!"
   "Pulse Collective declares war on Earth!"


The challenge this time around is "an awkward situation". My immediate
impulse was to do have a situation that would be cause for
embarrassment, but then spiral more and more out of control, akin to a
farce or sitcom. And so, this story, which is probably the closest
thing I've ever written under the Eightfold label to an LNH story.

Regular readers *might* remember the Human Zeppelin, Julie Ann
Justice, and Fahrenheit Man first (and last) appearing way back in
JOURNEY INTO # 2. That took place back in 2006, when the story was
published, and this one takes place in 2014 (note the reference to the
Daylighters, first [and last, but definitely not "last"] heard from in
the Darkhorse story in MIGHTY MEDLEY # 5).

More information about the racc mailing list