Whiskey Sez: We’ve all read a bit of little Chucky Dickens, right? He made a bit of lettuce as a writer back in the day. And the better part of his Iceberg Wedge Salad, if you know what I mean, came from a yak-inducing redemption story of one Ebenezer Scrooge. Well, I’ve been speaking to my own personal connection to The Underworld and, turns out, Chucky got it all wrong, or at least took some liberites. I guess he was under the sway of big C-Mas, cause his story makes everyone want to sing about peace on Earth and good will toward men and that sort of shit. But, according to my guy, the source material for this yarn is a bit different. It goes a little something like this:
TANG! Hephaestus brought his mighty hammer down on the glowing red piece of steel. TANG! Twice. TANG! TANG! Three, four times. He held up his handiwork to examine the progress. The scythe-to-be was starting to take shape. He nodded, causing the muscles in his neck to bulge. Actually, all of his muscles seemed to bulge. All the time. The Blacksmith of the Underworld had the kind of muscles that looked like they worked out in order to grow muscles of their own.
As he was poised to resume his assault on the helpless steel between his tongs, he heard the electronic, sing-song, “Bing-Bong” alerting him that someone had crossed the threshold of his forge. The simple act of turning his head to see who produced a chain reaction of flexing that made Schwarzenegger in his prime look like a sickly waif. It wasn’t anyone important, just that loser For-Cor (Underworld lingo for Former Corporeal), what was his name? Marley?
“Hey, Big Dick Swingin’,” Hephaestus called out.
“Oh c’mon,” said Jacob Marley. The random compulsory dick-measuring contests in the underworld had left Jacob with an unwanted reputation. He was understandably chagrined and somewhat sensitive about the subject. It wasn’t enough that he was a scrawny bean-counter surrounded on the daily by thieves, murderers, rogues and scalawags of every description. The Underworld felt it necessary to subject him to this extra phallic humiliation on the regular.
The big blacksmith wiped an expansive brow he figured to be at least three times as wide as Jacob’s dick was long. “Sorry, man.” he put down his tongs and picked up his cold water bottle. He took several huge gulps, beads of condensation trickling along the outside of the bottle. Then he poured some over his head, “Aahhhh!”
As one of the founding, upper-elite entities of The Underworld, Hephaestus was completely untroubled by the heat or the sweat. The water bottle trick was something he kept up his sleeve just to yank the For-Cors’ chains. He shook his head, causing an explosion of water droplets and muscle pops. “Okay, Jacob. What can I do for you today?”
Jacob tried to ignore the water spraying just out of his reach. Maintained his focus, “I want to order a set of haunting chains.”
The mighty blacksmith motioned the specter toward the desk in the far, back corner of the forge. When they were both seated, he took out a standard consultation form. And a pen. He licked the tip of the pen and asked, “Is this your first haunting?”
Hephaestus ticked a box. “And, whom will you be haunting?”
The blacksmith muttered as he wrote, “Scrooge, comma, Ebenezer.”
“He’s my former business partner,” said Jacob.
“Let me guess, standard scared straight haunting, then?” Hephaestus set the pen down. “You want to warn the one you care about not to follow in your footsteps. Nudge him down a different path from your own. And so on.”
“Fuck, no!” Jacob nearly leapt out of his seat. “That guy’s an asshole! I hate him.”
Hephaestus shrugged, putting his two huge mitts palms forward. Said, “Okay, okay.” Picked up the pen, licked it again. “What is the purpose of this haunting?”
“Ebenezer’s got a bum ticker. I figure, if I can give him a good scare, he’ll probably just keel over. Why should I be down here all by myself? He was twice as bad as I ever was. Besides, he’s got the tiniest dick ever.”
“Hmm, we’ll see about that. So, for purpose of haunting, would you say, ‘Inducing Cardiac Arrest’?”
“Fuck yeah!” Jacob stabbed at the form with a bony forefinger.
“If he doesn’t succumb to the intended consequence, is there a secondary objective?”
“Um, he could shit his pants?”
“Excellent choice. Very achievable.”
They went through a couple more pages of forms, user agreements, waivers, Terms of Service and such, Jacob Marley becoming increasingly impatient by the moment.
“Now, for the specs,” Hephaestus said, flipping the page. “How long a chain you want?”
Jacob shrugged, threw his hands in the air. “I don’t know. It’s my first haunting. Why don’t you call on some of that infernal expertise I’m paying for and make a suggestion?”
The hulking blacksmith sat his pen down with the patience of a kindergarten teacher. “I’ve got standard sizes; small, medium, large, extra large, and ‘fuck-me-that’s-a-huge-chain.’ Doubt you could lift the last two, so I think in this case we should go medium just to be safe. But the next question is the crucial one. What size links?”
The For-Cor rolled his index fingers like a soccer player requesting a sub, indicating that Hephaestus should just continue.
“Medium chain, medium links it is.”
“Done,” said Jacob, rubbing his hands together, imagining his medium chains with medium links, anxious to give that fucker Ebenezer the business.
“Would you like some assorted skeleton keys and lock-boxes with that?”
“I recommend them. They bang and rattle real good. I mean, cardiac arrest is a tall order for a first haunting. But a bunch of rattling accouterments, properly employed, will get an old guy to shit his pants every goddamn time. Even you can pull that off.”
Jacob couldn’t contain giggles of delight. He’d spent two years in The Underworld, sustaining tortures and indignities on the daily, his only succor the thought of getting Scrooge. But two years also happened to be the minimum residency requirement to qualify for solo, targeted haunting activities. So here he was. He didn’t want to waste a day.
Hephaestus regarded Jacob Marley with low-level contempt, as he did all For-Cors. Still, he almost smiled at the giddiness with which the scrawny accountant rocked back and forth rubbing his hands over each other, muttering, “Yes, yes, yes.”
The blacksmith flipped through a desk calendar. “I can have these ready by December . . .”
“December? Like, tomorrow? This week?” Jacob said, unsure of being able to mount his first haunting on such short notice.
“No, not this December . . .”
“A year from now?” Jacob said.
“You didn’t let me finish. December, 1843.”
“Five years?” the shriek transformed into a crestfallen voice completely devoid of frivolity.
“You’re a second year For-Cor, not exactly priority. Besides, where you going? Nowhere, that’s where. You gotta wrap your head around this eternity concept, brother. You got nothing but time. Besides, you can go ahead and start working this off. A quality set of haunting chains ain’t cheap.”
Jacob, resigned, tried to put on a brave face. “Okay, December of ’43. I guess that’ll have to do.”
“I guess it will,” said the blacksmith.
“As to payment . . . ” Jacob started to broach the subject.
“Yeah, we might as well start right away.” Hephaestus rubbed his chin thoughtfully, “Let’s see. Down payment. Drop trou and give me your best helicopter.”
“Oh, for fuck’s sake.”