Sunday, January 29, 2012

Chapter 5

An unspecified time after the previous chapter, Edguy Dithers came into Daffy Braggart's office holding a newspaper and looking sad.

Daffy didn't notice at first because Ed looked sad so much now and it's not like she ever bothered with the feelings of others. Because only hers were real.

"Uh, Daffy?" he said after a while. "I don't know if you've read this. It's about the d'Ano mine."

"Franky?" Daffy perked up. "Give it here!" and she snatched the paper out of his hands.

Expecting to read that the looters had nationalized the mine, Daffy was shocked - shocked! - to see instead a report title "Copper Magnate a Total Fraud" which detailed for several pages how one Francisco Domingo Carlo Banana Fana bo Binko d'Ano The Third had falsified records and shipments for years, swindling both clients and investors out of millions of dollars.

"I guess Tim was right," Ed said meekly.

"The hell he was!" snarled Daffy. Shaking the newspaper in her hand, she declared, "This is clearly a smear campaign! The looters found Franky had moved everything of value out of the mine and now they're trying to discredit him!"

Ed said placatingly, "I suppose that makes sense..."

No it doesn't.

"Call his hotel in New York!" Daffy ordered. "I want to speak with him as soon as I'm done with my 10:15!"

Her 10:15 being another hour or so of ogling buildings, fitting them into the sort of convoluted and overwrought fantasy view of the world that only a goddamn idiot could appreciate.

She also took the time to muse on what she knew of Franky, how he unlike so many others was deserving of a fortune because he'd wanted it. And he'd look past petty meaningless things - like DUIs - and instead focus on the bigger picture of Great Things. And other longwinded stuff that flattered Daffy's solipsism.

...Though there is that insistence of hers that the two hadn't spoken in years. Have to do something with that - and also since this chapter won't actually advance the plot, just delve into the sordid sex fantasies of an ugly chick.

The Braggart's had known the d'Anos long before Daffy and Franky ever met. We're retconning here, but they met as pretentious teenagers who would talk high-mindedly to each other, usually with Tim off to the side wasting time with another economics textbook. They crafted adorable pet names for each other - "Hi, Frito!" "Wuttup, Slag?" - and would skip rocks across the foreheads of poor people.

In Franky, Daffy had found what she would call a kindred spirit if she weren't so literal minded about everything. The brother she should have had, maybe. Or the boyfriend she desperately craved. He had all the best qualities of a man - angular cheeks and nose, finely manicured fingers, fabulous fashion sense - but most importantly, he joined her in the most important of life's vocations...

Pissing off Tim.

"I'm gonna buy my way into Heaven, bitch!" Franky would always say. Tim sure hated that - he'd launch off into a ponderous explanation of things like "centuries of philosophical investigation" and "That's assuming there's anything such as Heaven, and that it would take your currency."

"I'll pay in gold," Franky replied dismissively. "All those old saint people love the tacky shit."

Daffy adored these exchanges because she was much too stupid to understand the nuances.

Still more? Okay - Daffy and Franky kept up their awkward, non-romantic friendship well into college. Daffy had no patience for all the professors with their insistence on "study" and "critical thinking" so she frequently found aggravatingly platonic relief in Franky's presence. He was a man who understood Greatness was an intrinsic quality, not something developed through arduous work along the course of a lifetime. No, one could just have lots of money. And money equals Great.

And then one day, they just stopped talking. It happens but Daffy always assigned unnecessary layers of significance to anything that happened in her petty, vacuous life - so she let out a girlish squeal of delight when Ed called from the other room, "He's on line 1!"

Daffy snatched up the receiver and delivered a stream of joyful nonsense before noticing she wasn't connected. Punching the button for the line, she could finally say, "Frito, is that you!?"

"Sure is, Slag!" came the flamboyant voice of Franky. "Wanna come out for dinner? I am in some fabulous Manhattan digs!"

"Oh, of course Franky!" Daffy said.

So she travelled to a hotel in New York. What, you're still expecting real transitions?

Daffy met her long lost - friend? acquaintance? awkward romantic interest? - in a fabulous suite in one of New York's most expensive hotels. Truly the mark of a Great Man with Great Things that he could potentially stick in Daffy.

But now we're getting ahead of ourselves...

"Wuttup, Slag?" he greeted as Daffy entered the suite.

"Oh Frito!" she exclaimed because that's an exclamation point. "I heard about your mine. Clearly it's a smear campaign by those dirty looters and -"

"Oh I'm not sweating over that," Franky said, sauntering across to the well stocked bar. "What's your poison? Don't be shy, this and more is all paid for."

"Oh, I'll have whatever you're having."

"Cosmo it is!"

No, she didn't get it.

As he mixed the drink, Franky continued, "I've got some killer plans lined up, Slag. Just killer! You should really think about ditching that ho-hum railroad and joining me."

Daffy was torn - leave Braggart Big Damn Rail? It was her life! Or it was the only thing in her atomized life she could point to as self-validating. That and Franky.

She sunk into a luxurious couch - because luxury indicates intrinsic worth - "I could never do that. Even having to fight Tim to get anything Great done it's all I've ever wanted..." she let the "Besides you!" hang unspoken, hoping Franky would get the hint.

"Sweety, you work too hard," Franky said obliviously as he handed her the fruity drink. "Take a holiday! Take several!"

"But if I don't have the railroad, what's my purpose?" Daffy asked, a leading question.

And it worked. "You don't need all that, Daffs. You're awesome just the way you are!"

That's why Daffy felt such fondness for Franky - his constant stream of hollow validations. "You're a good friend, Frito," she said, the "And more?" hopefully implied as always.

"Well, just so you know you can drop that anytime and come find me. I don't expect it'll be hard."

And it wasn't. Because after the abrupt end of that scene, d'Ano was all over the gossip pages for some time afterwards - since time in this ridiculous tale is handled so clumsily. Just go with it. Daffy read article after article about the flamboyant hedonism now indulged by d'Ano on his roivate yacht in international waters, stories of cocaine and sodomy so absurd one would think they were concieved in the feverish mind of a narcissistic dweeb with no friends.

"It's a trick," Daffy said to no one who cared. "Franky's playing a trick. He isn't really a playboy squandering his family fortune, he just wants everyone to think he is!"

Keep telling yourself that, Daffs...

Seriously, nothing fucking happened in this chapter! You can't have character development when your characters are just mouthpieces for two-dimensional moralizing!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chapter 4

Daffy stared at the building before her, wondering at the great motive power needed to keep it unmoving. Not sure if that's "motive" in the sense of human desire or "motive" in the sense of motorized energy to produce movement. For an unmoving building... It all makes a sort of sense if you're an idiot.

She'd just returned from a train car factory not important enough to warrant a joke name where she'd spent the better part of two hours with the executive. Not that she remembered much from the two hours. He'd been saying something that didn't answer the questions she didn't bother to ask. The one moment that stuck out her memory was when they'd passed some rotting piece of machinery. At that point she'd made up her mind to hate both the factory and the executive because only their lack of will could account for the condition of this particular machine. Because in Daffy's view of the world, entropy doesn't exist.

Back in her office, Daffy found her staff had left for the day - except for Edguy Dithers, as always. She made a mental note to harangue the rest of her underlings for their blatant lack of will-to-please-her.

Dithers was in poor spirits. "McNam quit!" he wailed, looking up at Daffy like a child that just discovered Santa Clause was both a fraud and passed out drunk under the Christmas tree again.

"What's that?" Daffy asked, being too preoccupied with herself to really hear him.

"McNam, our contractor," Dithers explained. "He just up and quit!"

"But he can't do that!" protested Daffy. "I need him for the Rio Norte line!"

Dithers just looked at her with that pathetic quality of his - what she'd seen in him that one time she hit his pet turtle with a croquet mallet. At least this time he was upset over something important...

Daffy was beside herself with grief. First broken machines and now this? It was turning into one rotten day. The sort of day when she needed buildings, needed to look at their great unmoving motives and such, thrusting deep into the sky...

"Uh, Daffy?"

She'd been staring off into space again. "Never interrupt me, Ed!" she snapped.

"Sorry but... you weren't actually doing anything."

"I'll tell you if I'm doing something or not!"

And now holy shit elipses!

.    .    .

Yes they are.

Daffy walked the streets, posters and billboards depicting narratively convenient movies and books along with a drunken couple who were clearly having a blast with life but not in the way Daffy would prefer, which made them bad. Daffy didn't want to look at another woman's heaving bosom because it was too debased, too confusing, and too starkly reminded her of the fact she wasn't getting any tonight.

Arriving home, she put on a Dick Holey record to soothe her nerves. It was music of Greatness, very individual Greatness because Holey had not been constrained by such diminishing things as "rhyme" or "meter" or "carrying a goddamn tune." The apartment filled with the sort of caterwauling so celebrated by people without musical skill who still want to feel special on the topic.

Dick holey had once given a performance. Only the one, it had been sold out months in advance and when the curtains rose, Holey stood on stage surrounded by the many instruments he abused in the studio... and did nothing. For three hours. The unscrupulous lice had been so astonished by such a Bold and Great move! "Dick Holey is an overrated, untalented dickhead!" declared every music critic in every publication for about a week before the world collectively lost its patience with the antics of another hack hiding behind "avante garde" and dropped the story forever.

But Daffy knew better. She knew all those lesser people couldn't appreciate the Truth and Beauty of Dick Holey's music. And Holey had known it himself, that's why he hadn't bothered performing. The audience had just paid extortionate ticket fees to see his one and only concert - what did he owe them anyway?

And he'd just up and disappeared not much long after that. No more Dick, no more concertos... except that tune Daffy could've sworn she heard in the first chapter.

Putting it out of her mind - an exceptionally easy task! - Daffy opened up a newspaper. And promptly threw it across the room like a spaz. Why would she do such a thing?

Because emblazoned across the cover which she hadn't noticed until just now despite it sitting out for quite some time was the face of Francisco Domingo Carlo Banana Fana bo Binko d'Ano The Third!

Picking it up again, Daffy read that Franky was up in New York this week. Some high society type was suing or counter-suing for divorce because she claimed they'd been having affair. Why the hell would anyone want to travel across the country to bear witness to that!?

That's just what the reporter had asked d'Ano, who answered, "Honey, I'm just here to watch the fireworks! Want some popcorn?"

Daffy found that sort of childish frivolity so very admirable. It's what had drawn her to Franky so many years ago in the first place... That and the desired qualities she projected onto him because she lacked the social awareness to read people properly.

It was one of the many things Tim was considering about his sister the following morning - oh hey, a real transition!

Tim Braggart sat in his apartment, too tired to do anything because he'd been too worried to properly sleep. After Daffy had slipped into one of her characteristic nombrilismeRearend deal.

To his shock and horror, he found Daffy had not only sealed the deal from every legal angle - she displayed annoying savant-like skill at causing these problems - but also that the Mexican government had "nationalized" the Sanspantalons line.

Talk about a bad joke - nationalized! The Great Recession had been global after all, and some countries were less ruled by governments these days than by whoever could buy off the most police and army officers... like d'Ano. Tim couldn't shake the irrational suspicion Daffy had conspired with him to get rid of something she'd always hated for seemingly no reason.

Tim had a meeting with the board that day. Not just to determine how they would recover the proprietary electric technology - being much too early in development to be released to the general market - but also how to handle Daffy. Tim found it more and more difficult to cover for Daffy's blunders and a few on the board were pressing to have her removed outright.

Rationally, it was the correct thing to do. Ethically, Tim just couldn't justify throwing his own sister under the bus in such a way...

Herman Doyle was waiting to meet Tim Braggart when he arrived later. Yes, we're again dispensing with proper transitions.

"Jesus, you look like hammered shit!" exclaimed Doyle.

"Good to see you too," Tim said. "I would ask why but I think I already know..."

Doyle looked away, embarrassed. "Just heard there was gonna be a vote on your sister today -"

"I'm not mad at you, Herman," Tim explained patiently. "But whoever leaked that is gonna have Holy Hell to pay."

Doyle didn't have anything to say to that. He couldn't remember ever having seen Tim Braggart angry.

Tim didn't add anything else, just entered the office and began the long elevator ride to his own office. Herman Doyle, upon further consideration, did not follow.

The board meeting proved to be a messy affair, more so than Tim had expected. Three hours of back and forth - "She's a Braggart and has every right to direct this company!" "She has no right to crash everything for the rest of us!" "How does someone end up a co-CEO anyway!?"

The pro-Daffy camp offered weak arguments, all of them reliant on the stipulations of the Old Man's will. The anti-Daffy camp countered that she'd been the cause of every major loss over the past seven years. Which was absolutely true. Tim, as reluctant leader of the few moderates, found himself counseling not to keep Daffy in her position but rather not to reprimand her too harshly.

"She is still a part of this company," Tim argued, though with little conviction.

"And what if she destroys this company?"

"Have you seen the press release for this 'Spankmeum' crap? 'A Spankmeum toilet seat is the least icy to the posterior on a brisk morning.' Who even thinks of things like that!?"

And on and on. When the vote finally came, it split down the middle between leaving Daffy in her place or ejecting her immediately. Tim, the future of the company weighing heavily on his mind, found himself casting a vote in his sister's favor. He could feel new grudges forming among the board, against each other and against him in particular...

The Sanspantalons matter was a little easier to resolve. Thanks to Braggart Big Damn Rail's good relations with both Federal regulators and Congress, they were getting unprecedented assistance form the State Department not only to recover their property but to also ensure the financial security of their Mexican employees. Tim would've liked to press for some means of getting them across the border, get them proper jobs and green cards, but some things were sadly outside the range of possibilities.

Elsewhere in the sprawling Braggart offices, Daffy went about her usual bullshit in total obliviousness to the difficulties she was causing for everyone else. Not that she would care of course - what were the pragmatic concerns of others when measured against the Great and Bold daydreams of Daffy Braggart?

Well, sometimes the plot interrupted her... She learned that a certain regulation she didn't entire;y understand had just gone into effect - and shut down a rival railroad. While usually Daffy would cackle with glee at the thought of a competitor closing their operations, she remembered this one as a man with a square jaw and angular crotch, so she dropped what little she was actually doing in the office to run off and see him.

I think I got a defective printing because this is seriously how bad the transitions are...

Daffy arrived in the office of Fingo-Dingo Rail's owner Danny Conman, a man she'd looked up to for years because of his brilliance at managing a railroad. Sure he didn't know the first thing about history, science, math, or ethics but those trains of his were always so shiny - he had to be doing something right!

Until this latest regulation. Suddenly it was against the rules to run a train without routine maintenance! Did those lice in DC think Great Folk like Daffy and Danny were made of money!? Sure, a few Fingo-Dingo trains had derailed and burst into flames but Danny Conman had made some record profits!

"Dan, you've got to fight this!" Daffy declared as she burst into his office.

Conman was in the process of shredding incriminating documents and stuffing cash into a suitcase. "Who the fuck are you and how did you get past security!?"

"Daffy Braggart!" she declared, taking a moment to pose. "Co-CEO of Braggart Big Damn Rail and I'm here to help you fight this -"

"Waitaminute, you're from Braggart Big Damn Rail? The bastards who took my Rio Norte line?"

Daffy paused in mid-monologue. She'd forgotten all about that... "Uh, er, that's different. Somehow."

Conartist shook his head. "Fuck it. That's your albatross now."

The wheels slowly turned in Daffy's head. That was how they'd acquired Rio Norte in the first place, government redistribution of the Fingo-Dingo lines. Which made Daffy one of the looters! Oh no!

"Unclean! Unclean!" Daffy wailed, fleeing from the office.

Danny stared after her. "Man, bitches be crazy," he said to himself. Making one last look around, he snatched up the suitcase full of the profits he'd made from rampant downsizing and murdering his own company. As he fished a bottle of Cialis out of his desk, he said, "Thailand here I come!"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Chapter 3

The room resembled a cellar - low-cielinged and somewhat dank. It sat atop the roof of a skyscraper. Within were four men in red leather chairs at a wide table.

"What jackass designed this place anyway?" asked Doyle. "I feel like I'm in a urethra!"

"Braggart Senior went a bit eccentric in his later years," conceded Tim Braggart. "I've been trying to have this place renovated - or just walled off - but Daffy really does have equal say in every single company decision. And she seems to like it."

"No offense Tim," Doyle said, "but that sister of yours is a goddamn liability in every sense."

"I do take take offense," Time replied stiffly. "Daffy and I may not get along some times - or most times - but she's still blood. Never forget that."

Also at the table were Saul Snarkin and Mister Not Appearing In This Parody. "Well, she is why we're all here," said Snarkin. "Okay, so now I have a place in the narrative?"

Yes you do. And please stop breaking the fourth wall.

"Right, the metals situation," Tim said. "I don't mind telling you all, I'm very uncomfortable with Daffy's insistence on shifting all of Braggart Big Damn Rail's rails over to this untested alloy, this - What's it called again?"

"'Spankmeum,'" Snarkin said with visible discomfort. "And please, Tim - please! - don't make me explain that word..."

"Is it at least safe?" Tim asked. "That's what I'd like to know. My trains will be running on it and all, I think I have a right to know some technical details."

"Spank still won't release it for third-party testing," Saul explained. "He says other people 'wouldn't understand.'"

"What is he, a fucking twelve-year-old!?" demanded Doyle. "Tim, I'm sorry for overstepping before but I have to say again - and I say this as your friend - you're sister's inviting disaster!"

"And it won't be the first time," Tim explained evenly. "She put the company through much worse and we're still standing."

"Luck don't always last..." Doyle muttered to himself.

"Saul, is there anything you can do?" Tim asked, pointedly ignoring Doyle. "Any way your friends in Washington can... I hate to say this..."

"They can't put the brakes on this," Snarkin explained glumly. "Rearend's not taking his ore from the government surplus anymore. At least not for this."

"Then how the hell is he making it?" Doyle asked. "Iron veins don't just grow back overnight - and everything not already owned by the Feds or, er..."

"Or you?" prompted Tim Braggart, just a little judgementally.

"Or me, right," conceded Doyle. "Everything else was sold off to the Saudi's during that Shrub guy's term. Little pssiant traitor, auctioning off the US of A while no one was lookin' -"

"Herman," said Tim, using Doyle's first name for the first time in the narrative, "as much as I enjoy your rants, it doesn't really resolve this situation."

Rearend building a "wonder metal" that prompted one to wonder if it even worked... Daffy tying Braggart Big Damn Rail to this "Spankmeum" in flagrant disregard of the board and her own brother... And all in a dicey economic environment. They'd all just survived the last Great Recession and now these people were coming in and risking everything over what struck Tim and the author as some overblown ego trip.

"At least you still have your interest in the Sanspantalons mine," Snarkin offered.

"That doesn't really cheer me up, " said Tim. "The numbers coming out of there... I don't know. It's just fishy that this place that's been occupied for over half a century could still have so much copper. The Mexican government never bothers to investigate this sort of thing, they're all too busy fighting the Zetas."

"Hey, that reminds me!" broke in Doyle. "I was down on your Sanspantolons line recently and it was the weirdest damn thing but the train was near silent."

Tim brightened for the first time that evening, "Oh, that's our new electric model! No oil, no emissions, and about thirty-three percent faster."

"That's some hot shit!" declared Doyle.

"Thanks... I think," replied Tim. "It's not in full production yet but I've been putting together a five-year plan with the board to go all electric with our trains. It'll bring down our maintenance and fuel coasts exponentially." Then, losing a little of this good mood, "If Daffy doesn't run us into the ground first."

The other men nodded in solidarity. A waiter - because this was apparently a restaurant - brought them drinks.

"Well, here's to family," offered Doyle, raising his highball. "Can't live with 'em, can't kill 'em."
Snarking and Braggart raised their drinks as well - a mojito and club soda respectively.

"I gotta say, Tim," Doyle said after sipping his drink, "I can't believe you never hit the sauce, dealing with that sister of yours."

"Our father was a pretty serious alcoholic," explained Tim. "I don't ever want to go down that road - especially since that's probably why he left half the company to Daffy."

The men had a good laugh at that. A small one but in difficult times one takes what one can get.
As they left the building - whether a restaurant or bar or whatever - Braggart stiffly buttoned his coat and said. "I should really go back to the office. Maybe talk some sense into Daffy."

"Best of luck," said Snarkin.

"You'll fuckin' need it," added Doyle.

Tim nodded and began the long walk back to Braggart Big Damn Rail's offices. He liked walking - it felt honest - and it gave him time to think. Tim couldn't help but wonder about his sister Daffy - if she would have devolved into such a brutish, narcissistic freak if only Father had been more affectionate. He'd doted on her, but only in the most disconnected and material sense. Or maybe not even any parent's love could've saved Daffy from what she became. A psychological mystery that ached Tim to his core.

And now for a different scene!
Even as little girl, Daffy Braggart knew - just knew! - that one day she would own a railroad herself. Her father's to be exact. She'd read his will. "Someday, this shall all be mine!" she'd declare, standing on the tracks and shaking her little fist. Then one of her many high-priced caretakers would have to snatch her out of the way of an oncoming train because she also believed at the time she could stop them with her mind. She'd mostly given up on that part.

She had always liked the railroad and not just because she could order everyone around, being the boss's daughter and all. No, she'd liked it for the much higher and sublime aspect of how everyone had to do what she said. As she grew, she drew closer to the mighty trains thundering through tunnels, going chugg-chugga-chugga and every blast of the whistle an ejaculation of joy! Of, uh, man's progress and stuff. That sorta high-minded philosophizing. The fact that Daffy became fond of having her own private car in her pubescent years is entirely coincidental...

Though not all happy memories. Others, not recognizing how special she was, had said at times "You're a self-absorbed little brat, you know that?" And worst of all, Daddy couldn't always fire people who said such things! No, Daffy had to endure the slings and arrows against her perfect character from these much more limited "teachers" and "professors" and "truant officers" who so clearly just envied her will to claim the spoils promised in Daddy's will.

And claim it she did. The last words her father spoke to her were, "Where the fuck's my vico -" and then there'd been some coughing and wheezing and he'd slumped over. Daffy spent fifteen minutes looking for whatever that "vico" was before calling in a servant to find it for her. Said servant then broke the news to her of Daddy's death.

She was heart-broken, sure, but now the railroad was hers!

...And Tim's. She'd never understood that. Tim had no will and he was always fussing with boring stuff like "finances" and "administration." She suspected he didn't even properly love trains!

Such heresies might be exceptable though - if Tim and the board hadn't tried to block her every endever! She knewknew what was right for it. If given a free hand, she would build rails all the way to the stars. Literally - that was one of her proposals but it was shot down over such fussy, cowardly excuses as "impossibly expensive" and "physics doesn't even work that way."

So she'd been relegated to the background for so very long, ver voice ignored and her great ideas dismissed by clearly weaker intellects. How she had seethed and cursed them until the fateful day she encountered another so like herself in inherent greatness - Francisco Domingo Carlo Banana Fana bo Binko d'Ano The Third! Franky for short.

Daffy first met him when Braggart Big Damn Rail acquired the Sanspantolons line. It ran through the territory owned by the d'Ano family, right by their old copper mine and Tim had suggested someone go down there for a meet and greet. Daffy naturally leapt at the chance and was halfway to the d'Ano estate before anyone could tell her about the unanimous board decision she be kept home so as "not to fuck anything up this time" as it said under the company letterhead.

The d'Ano estate rested on a hill not too far from the mine and high above the fecund slums of its workers. Daffy had fretted when she saw such squaler but brightened up when brought into the shiny expanse of Franky's home. He'd greeted her in a gold trimmed suit because gold is important. They'd runk themselves silly that night, bonding over their shared rightness in all things - such as the necessity of Great Individuals with Great Ideas and the inherent Greatness of shiny things.

So the Sanspantolons deal had gone swimmingly and now Braggart Big Damn Rail owned substantial stock in the d'Ano mine - though Tim continually expressed reservations. He'd met Franky of course, he should've been more confident! All the reports showed considerable stores of copper were being extracted from the mine, even if it did seem to go missing quite often in transit. "That's just Mexico, " Franky had reassured them.

And then Tim had to go and run his ridiculous science experiment along the Sanspantolons line! His precious electric train with it's "low carbon footrpint" and "low maintenance costs" and "unrivaled dependability." And it just hummed along like a giant roomba! How could it even be considered a proper train without a steam whistle?

Well, she'd show Tim. And the board too! She'd reasoned out a fantastic rebirth of the Rio Norte line, all thanks to Spank Rearend's new alloy. Now there was a Great Idea Man. He'd understood Daffy's own Greatness and promised her the first batch of Spankmeum for her rail. She was lost in thought of how Great all this combined Greatness would be when her brother came into her office.

"Daffy," he said carefully. "I'd like to talk to you some more about this deal with Rearend."
She didn't look at him. She was too busy admiring the huge train time-table that dominated the wall of her office.

"I'm still not comfortable with this. The board's not comfortable. And I'm not sure who leaked this to our engineers but they sure as hell aren't comfortable."

"I am not concerned with the comfort of others," Daffy declared.

"But you are concerned with the company, aren't you?" pressed Tim. "Our company?"

She glowered at him. He'd struck a nerve and he knew it. Tim undertsood his sister felt resentful at sharing the family business. Why he didn't know but it had certainly caused conflict in the past.

"I let you play with that electric train in Mexico," she said in a huff. "So I'd say it's my turn to make a decision."

"Play with? Daffy, that prototype could revolutinize our whole industry!"

"It's dumb," Daffy flatly declared.

"And you thought Brave New World was dumb because you couldn't finish it," Tim replied, more sharply than he'd intended. He knew better than anyone how insecure Daffy was of her own intellectual capabilities and he wanted to kick himself for stooping so low.

She didn't rise to it though. Instead, she absently mused, "I suppose we could use it to run some of the d'Ano copper."

"If it ever gets delivered..."


Tim, ever the patient brother, tried to explain, "That's another thing. I know you're fond of Mister d'Ano -"

"Franky and I haven't spoken in years!"

"...Right. But I'm really starting to wonder about his business. It's doing well on paper but half of that is insurance for 'stolen' shipments."

"Well, Mexicans don't want to work," Daffy said.

"Stealing a couple tons of copper sounds like plenty of work," Tim replied. "But that's just it - I have my doubts that copper was even there to steal in the first place."

Daffy shot him a glance, "What do you mean!?"

"I think, and this is just a theory," Tim said slowly, "but Mister d'Ano might be 'cooking the books' as they say."
Daffy stared at him blankly.

"Falsifying reports?"

Still not getting it.

"...Daffy, he's lying. He's not producing any copper."

Now she was scandalized! "That can't be true! Franky wouldn't do such a thing!"

"Honestly, I always had my suspicions of his operation," Tim explained, settling into a chair opposite Daffy's desk. "And that's all it is now but I've been looking into hiring a PI firm to take a closer look."

Shocked, saddned - and angered - Daffy moved to dismiss Tim's allegations. "Hmph, If he's not reporting everything clearly it must be to throw the looters off when they nationalize his mine!"

Tim couldn't help breaking out in laughter at that. "He owns half of Mexico City, Daf'. I think he's safe."

He had more to say but Daffy couldn't hear him. How could he doubt Franky's clear Greatness? Why, the same way he doubted Daffy's own Greatness at every turn. Not being Great himself, her brother clearly envied the Greatness of others and obsessed over how to bring them down. She was just about to tell him so when she noticed he'd left fifteen minutes ago and she was staring off into space again.

After puttering at her desk - looking busy but mostly rolling over how she totally would've told off Tim earlier - Daffy left the offices of Braggart Big Damn Rail, pausing by the office of Edguy Dithers just long enough to get him flashing her that dopey grin.

She liked Edguy. He knew his place.

Outside, she passed the huge bronze statue of the company founder - Big Bob Braggart. She'd never met him of course, he'd been long dead by the time she was born into the Braggart family, but she couldn't help feeling they were kindred spirits. That Big Bob had been the sort of Great Man who builds railroads with underpaid immigrants. That he put his Great Ideas into practice without any stupid brothers getting in the way of his Greatness. That he - ooh, a penny!

Daffy also stopped in her favorite convenience store for a pack of smokes. She liked the feel of slumming and paying less. She also really liked smoking because it made her look cool. Sure, all those government scientists said it was bad for you but what did scientists know anyway?

"Ring this up, peon," she said to the clerk.

"Yesss, Misss Daffy..." the clerk, the same stooped and oily man who alwasy worked this store replied. "Ohh, such a good choiccce... I jussst love cccigarattesss... 'Cause of the fire!"

"Yes, it's a perfect symbol of Man's mastery over the elements," Daffy said, oblivious to this guy's creepiness. "And it looks really cool."

Elsewhere - because transitions are hard so fuck 'em - Edguy Dithers ate his dinner in the office break room. He'd stayed late for... Well, to get a look at Dafy of course. Sweet, sweet Daffy...

He sat across from one of the many mechanics who also stayed late, working on the Braggart engines. Dithers had questioned Tim's insistence on such generous over time pay but had to reluctantly admit it paid off. Not all of these workers stayed late but the ones who did put in one hell of an effort.

"Are you as excited about the Rio Norte as I am?" Dithers asked the worker.

The worker scowled. "You mean the one they're laying with that whackadoo metal? I thank Christ I won't be on it!"

Edguy was surprised at this. Did this worker not know it was Daffy's plan? "Well, I'm sure Da - uh, Miss Braggart wouldn't have bought the Spankmeum without good reason."

The worker just scoffed.

"She's really very smart," Edguy protested. "All she thinks about is the railroad. When she's not here she's just at home, listening to records." His eyes glazed over, "A highball in one languid hand, a perfect cigarette in the other, knee cocked just so over the sofa..."

"No offense pal but you're fucking creepy."

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Chapter 2

A long, steel-ribbed train thundered through the dusk, panting its steam into the dim light while far in the background - as though this were a movie or something - one would be able to see the great forges and thrusting, uh, stuff of Rearend Metals!

Within the train sat an economist and a reporter not important enough for names. The economist, one of the rare few who could actually do math and wasn't enamored with the stuffed suits of the business world, mused to the reporter, "Why the hell is he converting over to this new metal? It's untested, it's unknown, it could have all the construction applications of aluminum!"

The reporter, another rarity among his breed as he did not feel compelled to repeat the lies of the powerful without commentary, replied, "Because a sucker's born every minute."

The two not-named voices of reason commiserated as such as the train thrust - er, drove through yet another yielding tunnel and out of sight of the narrative which is much more concerned with the hot flashes and oozing money shots of Rearend Metals' nifty new product in the forges. The men working said forges, many of them dedicated and supporting families, are also not worth commentary beyond the window dressing they provide for the impressively industrious picture we paint here of their boss, a very very tall man in a trench coat with a harsh face. Ugly but in a sexy way. Yes, we have come to Spank Rearend!

He stood rigidly, overseeing all with his very deep and important scowl. Occasionally the men doing the real work would look up but he would not look back. They didn't deserve it. No, they were only forging his brilliant new metal. They didn't think of it in the first place!

And Rearend did. He distinctly remembered a cocktail party he'd been at some time ago when he'd declared, "Wouldn't it be awesome to make a metal that could do anything? And was really shiny!?" He'd vomited on a fern not long after that and the rest of the evening was hazy... But not much long after, his extensive R&D team had presented him with a new alloy they'd produced by accident one night when mixing together scrap for the hell of it. Rearend knew that this here was the Great Metal his Great Mind had conceived of after all those highballs.

Because it was shiny. Rearend had gazed upon himself, reflected in its shinyness and declared, "I shall call it... Spankmeum!"

And there below, his peons were butting his Great Big Idea into production. Spankmeum forges as far as the eye could see! Rearend would be grinning like an idiot if he weren't busy looking all somber and important.
His R&D team had protested - as those who lacked vision always do. "Sir, we don't fully understand its properties!"

Well rot them, because Rearend understood. He had consciously decided this new metal, this Spankmeum, would revitalize the flagging Rearend Metals and conscious decisions were more than enough to produce material results. Oh, how those of lesser intellect had been crying that he would fail from day one. How Rearend Metals would collapse any day.

Rearend had shown them! He and he alone - with the help of some generous government subsidies - had put the lowly peasants of this town back to work in his forges and factories - which he'd inherited from his father and grandfather as the metal industry hasn't been known as a place for start-ups in sixty or seventy years. And now, with them doing all the work, he would unleash his Spankmeum across the country!

But poor Spank felt just so tuckered out from being so up in himself. Turning about purposely, he walked out of his poorly set office or factory scene and strode purposely down the sidewalk to his purposeful house with purpose.

But Rearend felt all that purpose perturbed as he reflected - "Oh right! I have a wife!" Not a woman he loved but simply "a wife" as that was just such a conventional and icky sounding word. Why couldn't he have something more like a "lover" or a proper "sub"? Not that his wife didn't do her wifely duties... but Spank couldn't help feeling she didn't appreciate his greatness. None of the common rabble really did. Why, were he do march up to one the many faceless nobodies he found himself among and demand "Look at me!" they probably wouldn't grasp the significance of him, Spank Rearend!

Inside his not so purposeful anymore house, Spank was surprised to meet not just his wife Lily but also his mother, brother Bill, and British author Philip Larkin - what the hell is he doing here!?

"You read that wrong. I'm Paul Larkin."

Well, alright. How 'bout we call you "Snarkin"?

"Fuck you, buddy!"

Snarkin it is.

So - Lily, Bill, Snarkin, and Spank's mother had all been sitting in the living room having a deep philosophical discussion about plumbing when Spank came in to give them something much better to talk about. Himself.

"Dear, we were worried about you," his mother, or maybe Lily said. Spank never good differentiate between concerned womanly voices because women don't really matter.

"Oh, I was just at the factory. Or maybe it's the forge. We were pouring..." and here Spank trailed off, mind too caught up in the image of that hot, molten Spankmeum splattering all over the yielding molds...

"Well you could've called," his mother - he was sure this time - protested. "Could've called, could've called..." she muttered mostly to herself.

"Mom, how did you get out of the home?" Spank demanded.

"She's just visiting, dear," Lily said, trying to calm him. "So is Saul," because that's Snarkin's first name now.

"Really?" asked Rearend with genuinely hurt surprise. "You're not here for anything else?"

"Nope. Just came buy to say 'hello' to everyone," Snarking replied. "And I don't care for that name."


Rearend felt ill. The grand day of his grand new project and none of these people - who didn't really matter that much to him of course, that would be irrational and non-individualy - they didn't seem to care.

It put him in a funk, which Lily tried to draw him out of - "Have you eaten? I'm so sorry but you missed dinner here."
And she was sorry. Lily tried to be a good and devoted wife, even doing the chores and the cooking so Spank wouldn't have to "soil their domicile" as he put it with hired help. Which they could afford in spades.

"I wasn't hungry," Spank replied. Or maybe lied - no, martinis didn't count as a dinner, even if he'd had enough to constitute one in volume.

"You spend an awful lot of time at the factory," Bill said.

"Because I like it!"

"I'd like just watching other people work too," Bill retorted.

Fighting anger, Rearend told himself that this was Bill's form of solicit... solicin... of being a jerk-face!. They were all trying to show concern for him but concern is for the weak and Spank Rearend wasn't weak!

But he wished they'd ask him something important - like how fantastic was his fantastic new Spankmeum? Couldn't they look past their petty concerns and focus on his achievement?

"You could have called," his mother continued to harp. "You could have texted. Hell, even I know how to do that! Then you wouldn't have missed Mrs. Beeker. She's been running a metal-working class at the local middle school and so wanted to talk to you, get you to come around and talk to her kids. They all really look up to you for some reason."

Spank scowled - because scowls are sexy! - and pondered what his mother said. A woman doing metalwork? Absurd! "Well I'm sorry I missed her," he said without a shred of sincerity.

"No you're not," his mother grumbled. "You're never sorry about anything. I bet you're not even sorry your own wife had to plan everything for the tenth on her own."

"Tenth? Tenth of what?" demanded Rearend. Something that involved him? Finally, a topic that mattered!

"It's nothing, really," Lily protested. "I didn't want to bother him with it because I know he's only concerned about business and it's non-commercial."

"Non-commercial? Than what's the point?"

"...It's our anniversary," Lily said softly.

Now this, Spank suspected, was certainly some sort of guilt trip. She clearly wanted more shiny baubles and hoped to shame him into providing them in front of others. She assumed the repressive social norms of marriage and how human beings show affection to each other would force him into it! Well, he didn't feel shame. He didn't feel anything, except a little gas, but still produced something for her from his pocket. "Here! I made you a chain! Happy annunservicey!"


"That too!"

As she accepted the shiny chain - shiny because it was made with fantastic Spankmeum - Lily softly asked, "Is... Is this for later?"

"Of course."

Her shoulders slumping, her eyes dropping to the floor, Lily said with great resignation, "I'll get out the KY and the leather chaps."

"Oh, that's just nasty!"

Shut up, Snarkin.

Pleased with himself - as usual - Rearend took off his caught and sat down by the fire place some ways off. He mused how they could all be so blind to what made him great, why they should acknowledge his greatness, and caught bits of their conversation because it directly involved him.

"I can't believe I ever crapped that out."

"Mother! Please!" Lily had a surprisingly good relationship with her mother-in-law. Misery loves company afterall and loving Spank Rearend was a misery on both a physical and emotional scaleEmotionally, he was closed off and dense to her concerns and affections.

Physically, he usually ignored the safe word...

Snarkin left the group to approach Spank. "I have word from your man in Washington," he said. "So wait, I did come for a reason?"

Seems so...

"And what does my man say?" asked Spank.

"That you're not very popular at the moment," Snarkin explained. "It's this new alloy of yours, it's a total unkown and you know how the Pentagon feels about unknowns when it comes to their contracts."

"I'm not doing this to be popular," Spank said petulantly. A transparent lie.

"Sure, right, but you are doing it to make money?" Snarkin asked.

"I'm doing it for the principle of being able to make money!" Rearend declared self-righteously.

"What the hell does that even mean!?"

"Something entirely different from what you said!"

Bill interrupted them, "I hate to bring this up but unlike Saul here, I know perfectly well that I came here for a reason."
Straightening up all important like, Rearend replied, "Of course you did."

"Oh, so you remember your promise?"


"Of your donation to the Prosperity Foundation?"

Spank stared at his brother dumbly.

"Spank, I asked you months ago if you wanted to chip in anything, get a nice tax write-off, and you said 'sure!' You haven't given me anything though. Were you just drunk then?"

Spank was flabbergasted! How dare his brother demand money he'd promised to pay! "Well, I only said that to make you happy."

"So... That means you were drunk and didn't mean it?"

"I wanted to make you happy," insisted Rearend. "I don't care who it goes to."

"Yeah, I remember you said the same thing back when I was..." Bill let his past drug abuse and general misdeeds linger. When he'd been a hopeless junkie, his brother had happily lended him money. Now that he was clean and running one of the biggest private philanthropies in the world he got the damn run-around. "So just so we're clear, you don't feel like donating anything? Because I'm fine either way?"

Rising from his seat, exhausted at dealing with all these lesser intellects. He said ponderously, "I want to help you Bill, if only you could help yourself. I honestly don't know what you're getting at because you clearly don't desire it as strongly as I desire my metals." And he left them there, in the wake of his greatness.

"Your brother's kind of a dickweed," Snarkin said once Rearend was out of earshot.

"You don't know the half of it!" siad Rearend's mother. "Bill, remember when I first started giving him an allowance? The ungrateful little brat said he didn't owe me anything for it! I cut him off when he wouldn't take the trash out, just mucked around with his Play-Doh, and he copped an atitude about how I was opressing his expression or some nonsense!"

While those three commiserated on what an overblown prick Spank Rearend really was, Lily sat silent. Oh, they didn't know Spank as well as she did. She knew he was one of those strong personalities, always working - though how was never really clear in Spank's case. He mostly gave long drunken speeches to his employees. But Lily knew he wasn't the horrible things they were calling him. Really.

And she knew, from how upset Spank Rearend had seemed when he walked out, that tonight was going to sting...

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Chapter 1

"Has anybody seen my pants?"

These words emanated from the cracked lips of the bum. Edguy Dithers didn't know what quite to make of it since the bum appeared to be wearing pants - sort of. More like two burlap sacks stabled together, tucked into his makeshift newspaper shoes. All stinking of urine and the soup kitchen.

"Does the fish touch me from Tuesday?" the bum added, eyes glassy and unfocused.

Dithers assumed he was drunk and nervously handed him some pocket change, hoping it wouldn't be mistaken for a sign of aggression. Bums were unpredictable, so Dithers had learned from third-party hearsay about this homeless guy who totally pulled a gun once. Honest. Dithers didn't question such stories as he supposed any right-thinking person could see bums were just plain evil - lazy and refusing to work and getting their own mental institutes closed so they could be thrown out into the street to subsist on dog food and die of the common cold.
Surely they meant to do all that. If not, then why did they do it?

Dithers wasn't a bum of course - as he insisted to himself on numerous occasions - but a productive man, a man who did The Right Thing when it was convenient. A man who was late returning to the office after one-too-many beers during his lunch break.

Ah, the office! How Dithers loved it! How desperately he told himself he loved it as the years went by and the constant sitting rewarding him with chronic back pain and an ever-expanding gut.

Dithers turned his attention to his surroundings to put away such niggling, unpleasant thoughts. He supposed the cloudy sky overhead resembled some great painting or another - mostly because he'd never really bothered to learn about any great paintings but just assumed they were all similarly dull splashes of blues, grays, browns -

Brown? What sort of toxic smog produces a brown sky?

Anyway, Dithers walked under the toxicly painted sky, through the municipally maintained streets to the huge, arching home office of Braggart Big Damn Rail. He'd been an employee of the Braggarts since childhood, rented out from his lazy maid of a mother who only worked eighty hours a week as a playmate - or really plaything - of the Braggart children Tim and Daffy. Sweet, sweet Daffy...

Dithers had enjoyed a happy childhood - he was sure, somewhere between the beatings and tauntings and being forcibly dressed in a diaper on his thirteenth birthday - and he knew he had Daffy to thank for it all. He remembered how even as children she knew what was best for him -

"What do you want to be when you grow up?" she asked one day while they played with Daffy's unbelievably expensive, imported Lego's.

"I don't know," Dithers had replied. "Something great!"

"But daddy didn't hire you to be great!"

He certainly had not and that stunning insight from the young Daffy had greatly affected the young Dithers. Now, some twenty years later he served his proper role, a glorified secretary for the Braggart children running errands and stirring coffee and always collecting the reports from industrious underlings so that he might receive credit when presenting them to the wonderful, beautiful, brilliant Daffy!

Who unfortunately was nowhere to be seen. Dithers had to resort to going to meet her brother this day, the less impressive Tim Braggart - a wiry, humble man who made a big fuss about paying Dithers "a proper salary with benefits." Dithers felt funny about this of course, though not enough to refuse.

As Dithers entered the office, Tim greeted him with a smile, "Ed! So good to see you!" He rose from behind his desk and strode forward to shake Edguy's hand. "What's the news on the Rio Norte?"

"Uhh..." Dithers had to fish in his briefcase. Rio Norte - Braggart Big Damn Rail's latest contract - had just been approved and they were still in the process of assessing the quality of the track, the upkeep of the engines and - what Tim always seemed most concerned about - the pay and benefits for the many conductors and engineers carried over from the previous owner. Tim Braggart was always heard to say, "Fair wages are what make our trains run on time!" - which they really did. Even at the lowest point of the recent economic downturn, Braggart Big Damn Rail had continued to boom thanks to its well compensated and therefore amicable and committed workforce.

Dithers didn't quit understand why. He knew it wasn't something Daffy would support - spending money on something other than herself. Sweet Daffy, her hair as soft as baby asses, her eyes as bright as Hiroshima, her boobs as -

"Oh this is no good," Tim was saying as he flipped through the documents brought by Dithers. "Not good at all. How could Rio Norte have kept operating so long like this?"

"Well, uh, crashes happen," Dithers said.

"Ed, the last company had a crash on this line every day! And they never thought to improve track maintenance?"

"Well, it is expensive isn't it?"

"So are funerals, Ed. So are bereaved loved ones clamoring, and rightly so, for reparations." Tim returned to his desk, not as cheery as when Dithers had entered but hardly in the depths of depression just yet. "This was a real stinker of a deal but it's ours now. Best make the most of it..." He continued to read through the Rio Norte report, brow furrowed in concentration. "Ed," he said after some time, "I'm not seeing much in terms of current manpower."

Dithers nodded, "That's true, the previous owners tried downsizing to keep Rio Norte profitable."

"Jesus Christ, no wonder," Tim muttered. "You can't run a rail without people! Can you imagine where Braggart would be if it was just you and me, Ed?"

Thrilled at the chance to speak her name, "Well, Daffy too."

Tim chuckled. "Oh god, that would be a nightmare! Don't you remember that one Christmas when she got a model train? I'm still not sure how she got it up onto the roof. And on fire!"

Dithers didn't say anything. Oh, he wanted to - how he wanted to say to Tim, "No! You're wrong!" for disparaging the beloved Daffy with simple facts - but Dithers couldn't quite ever bring himself to disagree with someone in a suit and possessing lots of money. It made going to the bank awfully confusing.

"Now what's with these optimistic price estimates?" Tim asked, looking up again at Dithers.

"Well, I assume we can get the new track through Rearend Metals," Dithers explained. "And that super-brilliant guy Enis Buyit has so much oil in those mountains -"

Time held up a hand to quiet Dithers. "I'm familiar with Buyit's little surge. Sorry for the pun but I just don't 'buy it' - those fields were tapped out when I was in grade school and now he just magically finds more oil?"

Leaping to defend the rich guy he'd never met personally, Dithers protested, "He's really smart and stuff! He's clearly discovered some way of extracting more and more oil."

"That's not how it works, Ed," Tim explained patiently. "Oil is finite. I'll give Buyit the benefit of the doubt - that he stumbled on a vein that nobody's tapped in North America for over a century - but how much could he really have? Oil is finite - what happens when he runs out? In business you have to think long-term, Ed. You can't just hop on the latest bandwagon and hope for the best."

Dithers sulked - he'd worked up a great vision of a new Oil Boomtown sprouting out there somewhere. Wells drying up all over the world but in Enis Buyit's little fiefdom the crude continued to flow, compelled by Buyit's intrinsic awesomeness.

Then Tim had to ruin the fantasy with facts. "I guess you're right," mumbled Dithers.

"Oh, don't look so glum!" Tim said. "We're shifting our engines to lithium-electric anyway, cheaper in the long run and cleaner too. No more brown skies."

Dithers just nodded. He'd think up some comeback to Tim's lecturing later, something stirring and Great that would put Tim Braggart in his place about the awesome Enis Buyit or how Daffy could run every train herself with just her amazing rack. He never could think of these things on the spot though, he suspected because he wasn't really all that Great. Not Great like Daffy.

"So what do you intend to do with the Rio Norte?" Dithers asked once it appeared Tim had finished leafing through the report.

"Well, we need to fix it up and re-staff it. Keep the current crew, naturally, but they're not nearly enough to keep an operation this big running. Could be a good year before we start seeing a return on this!"

"But that's so long!"

"But it'll happen, Ed. Rails run more people and merchandise everyday and Rio Norte's got the longest route on the map. Besides, we're staying afloat with all our other interests."

"It just feels like we shouldn't waste time is all."

"Waste time?" Tim chuckled, "Oh Ed! Don't ever lose that adolescent eagerness!"

"But your sister -"

"My sister," said Tim firmly, "is not the sharpest spoon in the pudding. You'd do well to remember that Ed."

Shocked at Tim Braggart's tone - and a little confused at his word choice - Dithers could only stand there for a moment of awkward silence. Then, with a stiff bow, he left the office. Back out in the lobby, he passed the few other employees who hung around late into the evening.

One of the oldest, Mop Darper, sat clacking away at his old desktop computer. "Hey Eddie," he called as Dithers passed. "Know anywhere I can get some good woolen undershirts?"

"How should I know!? Google it yourself!" Dithers snapped.

"I'm just askin', man. Jesus..." and Mop went back to his work.

Edguy Dithers continued outside, out into the great courtyard of Braggart Big Ass Rail. There used to be a tree here - which he really should have remembered when he came in earlier - but Daffy had it cut down for "bespoiling the natural beauty of the buildings."

Oh Daffy. What he wouldn't give for her wise words and tight ass right now...


She lay prettily across the spacious train seat, leg propped prettily up on the armrest in such a pretty way. Pretty stockings wrapped her pretty legs, ending in pretty feet prettily fitted into pretty pumps she bought at the same time as the shockingly not pretty camel-skin coat - surprised by that, aren't you? Ha-ha, range and depth!
Anyway, not to belabor the point but this pretty thing was of course Daffy Braggart, an oh so pretty lady riding in a not too pretty train, her starkly angular face displaying worry in a pretty way. She was worried because beneath the sweet music of pumping train-parts bearing her along she could discern actual music humming somewhere. Music reminiscent of the works of Dick Holey - no, a genuine work by Dick Holey! But not one Daffy, for the life of her, could remember despite her own intimate familiarity with Dick Holey...

Where was it coming from? Daffy looked all around the musty train car, limpid-blue eyes finally settling on the old conductor making his rounds, humming the tune. "Hey you!" Daffy said.

The old conductor turned, startled. He grew even more nervous at the sight of the more unpredictable of the Braggart siblings, "Y-yes ma'am?"

"What's that Dick Holey concerto?"

"...I'm sorry?"

"What you're humming," Daffy said, mildly annoyed that this peon would be humming a Dick Holey number without total knowledge of his catalogue. How could anyone enjoy music without knowing all the obscure trivia of the musician in question? "That's a Dick Holey concerto. Which one?"

"I-I'm afraid I don't know ma'am," the conductor stammered and quickly excused himself.

Well, that was disappointing. Daffy lit herself a cigarette in flagrant disregard of the many NO SMOKING signs on the train - hell, she owned the train so if anyone had a right to smoke it was her! She couldn't quite place that Holey number... She was certain he'd only written four and that they were all conveniently titled 1st through 4th - the possibility that it could be a Holey concerto she wasn't familiar with or something by someone completely different never occurred to her. Sucking long, luxurious drags on her fag she tried with all her cognitive might to recall where she had heard those musical strains before - bumpbumpbump-baaa... bumpbupbump-baaa... Could it possibly be an entirely new, super-secret Dick Holey Concerto? This was quite a conundrum. Daffy would need another cigarette...

As her mind wondered and her lungs blackened, Daffy suddenly realized the train had stopped and hadn't moved for sometime. She checked her watch - the train wasn't scheduled to stop anywhere at this time, what could be the hold up? Just out the window, she could see other passengers getting off, drifting forward to what looked like a red light on the track switch. A man in a Braggart Big Damn Rail shirt was with them, fiddling with the old phone box hanging from the post with the light. Even from her place in the car, Daffy could hear the man declare with agitation, "An hour!?"

Rising from her seat, Daffy strode all purpose-like out of the train car to confront these people. No one particularly paid attention as she approached - shows how much they know - and as she reached the man, she demanded, "What's the hold up?"

The man looked at her, tired and frustrated but keeping it contained with the discipline of a professional. "Don't really know, ma'am. We got a red light on the tunnel up ahead but I can't get a clear answer as to why." Holding up the receiver, "Tunnel plays merry-hell with our radio so I had to try and raise 'em on this."

"So why aren't we moving?" Daffy asked. "We're going to be late. This the Braggart Bombit, it's never late!"

The man tried to calm her. "I know ma'am but sometimes these things come up. There's no scheduled track maintenance so it's likely an emergency job in the tunnel or some other train was coming through and broke down." Indicating the switch, "It's single track up ahead. You always want to know exactly who is where when you move onto -"

"Nonsense!" declared Daffy. "I'm Daffy Braggart, I own this railroad and I know because I've memorized the schedule in my office that there are no other trains on this track right now so we'll proceed forward."

The man was highly annoyed but, seeing as this was his employer tried to explain the complexity of the situation calmly, "Miss Braggart, that's not the only possibility. Like I said, it could be emergency maintenance and with the comms blockage -"

"You're fired!" Daffy shouted.

"What!?" the man dropped the phone, shocked at the suddenness and general madness of it all. "But I'm the engineer!"

"It's okay, I can drive," Daffy said with radiant smugness.

The engineer stared at her dumbfounded. "You're out of your fucking mind..."

Turning about, Daffy proudly announced, "All aboard!" and aside to the engineer, "I always wanted to say that."

Those who'd been milling around outside got back onto the train, save for those who'd been close enough to hear Daffy's conversation with the engineer. A few ducked aboard briefly to grab their bags but quickly joined the rest in keeping a distance from this woman who had decided to play blind choo-choo.

Climbing back aboard herself, Daffy made for the engine with a fresh cigarette stuffed into her mouth. This would be just like that Christmas when she got a toy train! She was so excited, once she got to the engine she jammed the throttle forward without thinking twice - or even once.

The great Braggart Bombit thundered ahead at full speed, charging without fear into the dark tunnel. Of course, this allowed no time for the emergency maintenance crew to get out of the way but by a stroke of unnatural luck - for Daffy - they had finished the repairs, allowing the Bombit to sail on without anymore hindrance then the anguished cries and splatterings of the crew.


Air whistled happily all around the Bombit as it thundered reckless and bloody into its final station. It very well would have kept going if not for the frantic screaming and liberal use of "Motherfucker!" over the radio by the station operator convincing Daffy maybe she should slow down just a tad. Still, she didn't much care for the operator's shrill tone - unprofessional. She made a mental note to fire him later. Maybe give the job to that young go-getter Orrin Kegel...

She stepped out on to the platform, gliding past the many people shrieking in horror at the viscera-caked train. She ignored them with the help of Holey's Fifth - which she was now certain was the tune she'd heard earlier, some super-secret concerto Holey released only for the people who mattered - whistling it to herself. Off key with lots of wheezing.

How Daffy loved being home in the hub of Braggart Big Damn Rail! The slap of concrete beneath her stylish pumps, the tall offices thrusting into the yielding sky above her, the thick stink of train exhaust Tim had wanted to flush out of the terminal with great big fans - a pointless and wasteful expenditure Daffy had derailed with what she liked to think of as considerable personal effort on her part. Which had mostly been pestering her own lawyer to "Fix this!"

Making her way upstairs, she soon came to Tim's office where he waited along with the recently and inexplicably returned Edguy Dithers. We're not too clear on the timing here. Anyway, Daffy liked having Edguy present for these little business meetings so he could see how awesome she was.

As she settled into a chair, feet propped up on his desk, Tim was busying himself on the phone like the fussy old woman Daffy considered him to be -

"Yes, I under - No, no that won't be necessary... Yes, I'll look into it. Just keep a lid on this as long as you can. Goodbye." Tim hung up the phone with a sigh. "Well Daffy," he said, "I just finished the first stage of damage control on your latest stunt. Care to tell me why you drove a train yourself through a red light!?"

Not at all interested in such ancient history, Daffy launched right into, "The Rio Norte is crap! But don't worry, I have the perfect plan to fix it!"

Tim glowered at his sister, "Of course you do... Ed, would you kindly fetch my ulcer medicine?"

Unperturbed as always, Daffy continued, "First we'll need brand new rail. I've already ordered it from Rearend Metals."

"Ed, make that a gun with a single bullet." Addressing his sister, his frustration palpable, "Daffy, Rearend Metals is only producing one alloy anymore and nobody even knows what it's good for! It's certainly never been used for train tracks. And what about our regular supplier, Doyle? What about the Board? You can't just go gallivanting around making these decisions behind my back!"

"Rot the Board and rot Doyle," Daffy declared with petulent superiority. "The Board authorized us to buy new rail thirteen months ago - which I can do since Daddy explicitly declared us co-CEOs in his will - and Rearend is charging less than Doyle."

"And McDonald's charges less than a real restaurant," Tim countered. "But that doesn't make their meat better. This new thing from Rearend, it's a total unknown! It's never been used in anything! We don't know it's durability, it's flexibility - hell, even it's melting point -"

"I know," interrupted Daffy.

"Then please enlighten me regarding the specifics."

"Well I don't know all that," she clarified. "But Rearend has produced the most revolutionary metal on the market - so revolutionary everyone's scared to use it. When I see things I see, I see them. Remember I have that engineering degree."

"That Dad bought for you!" Tim was becoming exasperated with his sister. Hell, he'd been exasperated for quite some time. She always insisted on going by her own "Judgement," facts and empirical evidence be damned. If it weren't for those ridiculous stipulations in the will, Tim very likely would have had Daffy thrown out of the business years ago...

Not that he hated her though. On the contrary, he felt a deep affection and commitment to his sister even when she was at her worst - admittedly a frequent occurrence - and it just made these power struggles of theirs all the more painful. "Look, I'm not opposed to dealing with Rearend but I cannot and will not stake the future of this company on something that very well could be total snake-oil!"

Daffy scoffed at him, "You're always so timid. Lucky for us I cancelled the Doyle order and paid Rearend up front."
"Oh Jesus..." Tim muttered grabbing his head. It would take days to undo all the damage Daffy had caused to the Rio Norte deal - not to mention the continued fallout from the day's earlier stunt. maybe fortune would smile on them and this new Rearend alloy wouldn't crumple or shatter within the first five minutes of operation.

And maybe monkeys would fly out his ass...

Daffy, convinced of her own certain victory, left Tim there wincing. Dithers followed her like a stupidly loyal puppy, happily nattering about how bold and smart she was and how Tim would eventually come around.

"Yes yes, of course I'm always right," Daffy said to him dismissively.

"Oh, and Orrin Kegel from Transportation wants to see you," Dithers added quickly, nearly having forgotten that important detail in all his fawning.

"Excellent!" declared Daffy. "I wanted to see him too. But first I need to place a call to the Music Production Company."

"Uh... Which one?"

"THE Music Production company. Try to keep up, Edguy."

"Okay..." Dithers didn't quite know what she was on about but assumed she knew what she was doing. She was rich after all.

Arriving at her Daffy's office, Dithers left to go about his usual tasks while she Googled "The Music Production Company," instantly annoyed at the many who pretended to the title. This would be harder than she thought.

"Columbia Records!"

"Yes, could you tell me about Dick Holey's Fifth?"

"...This is a crank, isn't it?" And they promptly hung up.

Daffy tried several more - "Never heard of it," "I thought he only had four..." "That's just dirty!"

This went on and on. Daffy came to suspect all knowledge of Dick Holey had been scrubbed from the records - that's why she couldn't find any information on this fifth concerto she'd heard a random train conductor humming! It was the only logical explanation!

And then Kegel appeared at her door so we can rap this up.

"Orrin, good, there's been some -"

"I quit," Orrin Kegel said. He turned around and left without another word.

"What!? Did you get another job? Will you get another job? Is it for money? Health? Sex - because I can promise -" Daffy blathered frantically as the chapter mercifully ended.