Jingle and Mrs. B
Several Entries this week. I have news to catch up on. Or there should be. The Flu kicked me ten ways to Sunday, so we will see. Let’s start by finishing the past. I was supposed to post this months ago but after talking to Watchface, I thought it best to do now. Don’t worry, I’ll explain GTI soon. Also I’m told that I need to explain things more. That there are those who are not as obsessed as I about the supers. I’ll start introductions soon, to give people an idea of what I’m talking about. This will also add to the Dossier when I can. Job and all…
I met Jingle, again, through Bobbi, though this time I wasn’t at the Grog. I was killing time while the Yarn Crawl gave my wife one of the few thrills of the month.
For those who don’t know or don’t have an equivalent in your neighborhood, it is a marathon shopping session as hordes of mostly women rush from the various knitting shops in town to see special deals. They also include classes, signings, tastings, and other surprises along the way that those of the hook and needle set find delight. Each shop, to show that you were there, hands out a button or badge. When you have all 18, you can take a selfie of yourself with your trinkets to prove you did the Crawl. Winners are then entered in a lottery for a Special Uber Massive Happy Happy Fun Fun prize. No, I have no idea what’s in it. Even if it was dropped in my mildly amused lap with instructions and a diagram like a box of covered chocolates I wouldn’t have a clue. I love my wife and thus I’m willing to help her in her passions. Besides, she puts up with my superhero/scifi/action figure obsessions so, you know…. Fair is fair.
On the East side of town, the old houses line the streets cramped against the limited yards, a hold over from a time when Bridgeton was little more than a blue collar town where extravagant housing situations not only wasn’t expected, it was frowned upon. However, among the strange roads that forbid left hand turns, suddenly become one way and just and suddenly revert to double directionality, there are places like the Broadbrush district, known for its exotic restaurants and one of the best Tiki bars I have ever been in.
Note: Pele’s peak is probably worth a mention for a later blog. No supers work there that I know, but the feeling of falling back to the 50’s/early 60’s with fun alcohol and flaming drinks make it a nice stop after a long day of work, should one be so inclined. Also, if you have seven other friends, the Spider Venom Lava bowl is both amazing and packs a kick like speedster to the crotch! Trust me, you want the other friends, and a taxi to take you all someplace to lie down afterwards. You might want a written agreement that anything that happens after that is in fact a dream and should never be brought up again. Just saying.
Nestled between a gluten free bakery and an overpriced all organic Mexican restaurant run by people that, as far I can tell, have never been to Mexico, can’t identify Mexico on map, or have ever had a conversation with anyone who has set foot south of the border, stands Skein. Skein, capped by a blindfolded mother fate weaving destinies from a frumpled bag, boasts the greatest selection of yarn of every variety “west of the Pecos.” Again, I wonder who looked at what map. I will admit the place is huge and fully stocked, at least from the point of view of a person who has absolutely no interest in fiber crafts beyond the appreciation of costumers. So what do I know? I’m just grateful the duly maintained “Spouse Seating” which I’m fairly certain is a strategic obligation for any store also sports a limited coffee bar. There I sat waiting patiently as Kay shuffled through a blithering selection that made sense to her and her alone as far as I can tell.
I was finishing my third short story on my phone (reading not writing… who writes short stories on their phone? I can barely get my note pad to work on the thing…) when the familiar chime of the door opened. In walked one of the most famous costumers in the world: Mrs. Katherine Biggles, but that’s Mrs. Biggles to you. Behind her a young man strode in listening to Mrs. Biggles discussing fabric and color as far as I could hear.
My eyes shot opened and I suppressed my immediate geek reflex to leap out of my seat and launch myself on my knees to the great woman asking for an autograph. Just trying to be polite, you know. It seemed the whole store thought the same. Even the music system came to a halt, pausing a little long after the Dynamic Beauties rendition of Rocket Man. From under her grey felted hat, her kind eyes peering through her spectacles perched on her nose, under she waved at the store. “Oh, please go about your business.”
The room as one did so. In unison. Though if you asked me, then the room vibrated with a restrained politeness and sweaty eagerness reserved for the celebrity alone. She immediately found the closest clerk and asked questions about materials and colors. Though she motioned for her follower to take a seat at the Spouse section, though she called it the “Knitting corner.” The woman did as the clerk showed Mrs. Biggles a selection of hand dyed, all organic, whatevers. The sound system returned started up again, this time with Sneaker Pimps “Six Underground.”
The man grabbed a cup of coffee and sat across from me, looking around. He wore the grey and blue sweatshirt I knew well.
“Going to Quantum Academy?” I asked. Normally when I see someone wearing the Quantum jumper as they are sometimes called, with one of the older “Q” logos on the front, I try not to start a conversation by stating the obvious. So rarely does one get a good conversation from “Good morning, did you know that rain is wet?”
Thankfully, rather than giving me a look, he smiled this huge Cheshire cat grin. “Oh, man!” He said. He might have yelled it and whistled it but he spoke like a library attendant telling his friend how he got lucky last night. “I can’t believe it either, you know, man? You go there?”
Thanks to the Unicorn Blight and the after effects of that energy that some scientists have labeled Xeroscape Energy, it wasn’t uncommon for people older than high school kids to suddenly manifest powers and abilities. The oldest I know of was a 53 year old tornado creating woman who mentioned that her 85 year old weather controlling grandmother didn’t want to be bothered. This lead to people of all age ranges being asked if they “Just got theirs.” Though the majority start getting inklings of their new abilities as between 13 and 21. Most but by no means all.
I smiled. “Sorry. Just a fan.” I pointed out his shirt and asked him if I could ask him a few questions about his experience. His first words made me guffaw.
“Are you a cop?” He asked his eyebrow shot up.
The gut laugh I stifled after the gun crack of laughter brought the store's attention at me suddenly. I quieted quickly as if nothing was the matter and they returned to the sale racks. “No, not a cop or a reporter or anything like that. I’m just a fan. I have a blog though if that’s what you are asking about.”
I assured him that, yes, I was a writer and that anything he said would be kept confidential if he wanted to and, no, I wasn’t a jackass or a perv or anything like that. He interrupted me.
“A blog? Wait, like Bobbi’s thing?”
“Bobbi? From the Golden Grog?”
He started laughing almost silently. I almost wanted to find the remote on him and turn up the volume. “Yeah, that’s her. Are you Penelope’s and Bobbi’s friend?”
“I guess.” I wasn’t sure if I could be counted as a friend. Friends were deeply connected people who shared a history, but I was friendly with Bobbi and I met Penelope that one time. However, if they counted me as friends, who was I to argue. Can’t have too many, right? You be quiet, Semper.
He stuck out his hand. “Jay Margoles, but everyone calls me Jingle.” I shook his hand and found it solid and welcoming.
“Jingle, yeah!” I said. “Bobbi talks about you a bunch.”
He leaned back and seemed to fill up the chair, to be in the entire space but not in a massive way, just opened and sprawled. “I bet she does. She follows me around like a stray cat sometimes. Every since I met the Mark and became an Untouchable, you think I just won an Oscar or something. I don’t mind. She’s nice enough, good with people. She really helps with my history homework.” He motioned for me to come closer, a confidence best unshared with the knitting community. I leaned in. “And you see that butt on her?”
[Edit: still deciding what rating this blog should be, so for courtesy, chivalry, and politeness, I’m omitting him espousing Bobbi and Penelope’s… many virtues. I can say it went on longer than I was prepared to deal with at the time but ‘guy time’ is important to some people. Suffice it to say that Jingle very much appreciates your company, girls. Do with that info what you will. ]
He looked away at the windows, lost in thoughts that are best left undescribed for the moment. When this becomes a Mature Audiences Only blog, I’ll give it a shot. “Man oh man.” He whispered into his hand appreciatively.
“I have to know.” I asked starting to feel myself blush. “Why do they call you Jingle?”
He shrugged. “When I was a kid, you know, like 6, I found I had a talent and a passion. I could sing. Not great, but who can when they are 6, except for those wonder kids on that talent search show. I noticed this when I started singing everything I heard, mostly it was commercials. So I would be humming for Bee’s Might Honey Flakes, or that annoying tire commercial, you know that one. I’m not going to mention it aloud or I’ll start singing it. Now my family was pretty poor so they didn’t mind the entertainment most days. It was cheaper than a movie and we didn’t have many CD’s to listen too. There was one, though. The other thing I loved was this older album my parents had. John Denver and the Muppets Christmas album. If I had a nickel for every time I took time to listen to that thing… yeah… Xander Scope, that’s me.” He took drink to resettle his thought, especially in light of what people knew of Xander Scope and the blood he technically had on his hands. Talk about dodging a metaphorical bullet in a metaphor.
“When I went into kindergarten, here is this boy, not the nicest clothes, not the nicest back pack and bargain basement crayons, not the most athletic. I even had these corrective lenses, I can’t even call them ‘Glasses.’ They were those military grade frames that could never break my mom got from an army surplus store so she would never worry about me getting them replaced. Ugly as hell. So yeah, that was me. Most kids are kind enough not to torment me like some, but I don’t earn any friends right off the bat until they learn of my little talent. Suddenly, if you want to hear anything said on TV in the isolation of the classroom or on the courtyard where electronic devices were forbidden, or around holiday time when you can’t remember how many maids a milking were there or how the Muppets laughed it up, there I was. Not much to sell my notoriety on, I know. I’m pretty sure I was like some kind of freak act for them. But I got them to smile. After that, it got easier. From then on, for 15 years, people have called me Jingle. I tried to be James or Jack when I got to college but the name followed me. Thankfully, so did the vocal coaches.”
“And now you aren’t even a singer.” I pointed out.
“Actually I am.” He smiles. “I have a little internet band. We rework 80’s tunes as big band torch songs. My version of “Whip It” got almost half a billion hits.” He mentioned a website to look up his demo reel. ”But it’s not my career now.”
“Now you are an Untouchable.” I smile and leaned back. “One of the fated five. Can I ask which of them are you?”
“Number five on the dot and I doubt that would be changing any time soon.” He drinks his coffee to hide paradoxical pride and frustration. “Forever the ‘new kid’ until one of them retires. But that’s ok. It’s still the big leagues.”
“So how does it work?” I asked, leaning forward. “I heard that the Mark chooses who gets his power and which one.”
“Honestly, I’m not entirely sure.” Jingle thought about a second before saying another word. “The power is there, always. I had a touch of it most of my life. The Mark just makes it part of the whole. Each of us, the Untouchables I mean, are quicker, harder to hit. Some of us more so. But when we merge.. man! It’s like being in speed and like a Matrix Agent, if you don’t mind that someone else might be driving.”
“That’s how it works?” I thought I had the idea he was saying but like a simple math equation or the strange spelling of a work you know is correct but doesn’t look right, the idea just kept scratching at me for resolve. “I like a hive mind of power that everyone holds that the Mark just taps and amplifies.”
“We also volunteer it, you know.” He joined in my conspiratorial tone and posture. “We share it willingly, and take it willingly. But no matter what, the whole is greater sum of the parts. Most good groups are like that. Besides, have you seen Untouchable 2? When we merge…”
[Again, I have to stop his conversation here as he discussed what it was like to be inside another compatriot when merged, sharing power and other implications there in. It gets a little graphic. If you have to ask why, you are obviously too young for this blog even with my restrained telling.]
“So what power do you have when you merge?” I asked right about the time he started grabbing his own chest in a way more appropriate after seven or eight beers at a scantily clad sports bar rather than Skein. Anything to change the subject. “I know that the mark is fast.”
“Well most of us are fast in one way or another.”
“But 4 has that force field, 3 is a levitator, 2 has that danger sense, and you are all called ‘Untouchables’ for a reason. What is your Untouchablity.”
He leaned back like the cock of the walk. I need a better phrase after this guy….”The best and rarest of them all. Only the Mark himself is better at it and I couldn’t ask for a better teacher. Man!”
There is a pause in the conversation where he obviously expect me to bask in his glory or assume some awestruck posture. This goes on for almost a full minute before he finally says, “You don’t know, do you?”
I shake my head and shrug. With a laugh he stands up.”Watch this, Captain Blogger.”
He walked over to Mrs. Biggles who was in animated discussions about how to properly handle Newro-Fiber. He whispered something into her ear. She turned to look at him like he sprouted antlers, and not even good ones. He nodded his head pleadingly. She sighed and bought a hand up to pat his face, like a child of her own. Mrs. Biggles twirled her finger and Jingle turned around. She then pulled a scarf out of her breast pocket of her trademark grey sewing vest. This tactical vest didn’t just conceal her multitude of tools and materials, but the scarf she pulled, a full 18 feet of autumn colored wool. I started to laugh myself. I’m a huge Doctor Who fan as well and to see her pull a full Tom Baker…wow. Anyway when the massive accessory finally pulled free of her vest she started wrapping it around his head in quick easy strokes. I thought for a moment she might pull the scarf back and Jingle would just spin around the room like a top, until she tied the back and asked the now fully obfuscated head of Jingles, “There, Blind?” He gave a thumbs up and turned towards what he thought was the crowd. It actually was magazine rack. She then turned to the crowd, Kay among them.
“Listen up, ladies.” Mrs. Biggles then noticed me. “Oh and gentleman. I have a wager for anyone here. Grab a skein of whatever you don’t like and throw it at my young friend here. The one that actually lands a shot, I’ll sign whatever they want. Deal?”
No quarter was given.
The yarn went flying in a blizzard of Technicolor fiber. Whatever they could grab, handfuls of yarn and twine sailed in every direction, particularly towards then now enshrouded Jingles, though several were really bad shots. Jingle moved, not quite like a dancer or a martial artist monk, but something different. Each yarn ball sailed past him as he contorted his body this way and that. I watched wall after wall of plush, frilly, or hearty fiber miss. Where ever they were he simply wasn’t. One woman got desperate and threw her whole knitting bag at him, which he ducked. Then the purses went flying.
Mrs. Biggles immediately called for calm as even the store owner and clerks threw whatever they could, headless of the mess.
I walked towards the fray trying to be of some help. I thought that if I got him to stop, admitted that this ability was indeed great, this might come to a stop. If nothing else, I might distract him long enough for someone to tag him. (Yes, I was hoping for Kay. I’m a good husband after all.) “OK, I think I get it. That's enough.” I yelled. I had to yell. The cacophonous noise around him barely penetrated his head wrap and he heard neither my voice nor anyone else. So I tried slapping him on the shoulder, a simple tap.
Nope. His shoulder wasn’t here when my hand came down. I tried again and again while yarn balls assaulted me. Nothing. I simply couldn’t hit him. He was like an Agent from the Matrix with a Cheshire smile and his head wrapped in woolen geekery.
Mrs. Biggles finally screamed, “OK that’s enough! Offer rescinded.” She blocked Jingle with her body, a motion that made him stop moving. It was over and everyone knew it. The groan that followed will haunt me for weeks.
“Thanks Mrs. B.” The muffled voice. “But I can go for a while.”
“But my scarf can’t.” She countered pulling it off his head. “Any more crazy and they would ruin the thing. AND they threw the Sprialhair I was hoping to pick up. Lord knows where it ended up.”
Once his face emerged, he smiled at me. “See, that’s what it means to be an Untouchable. I’m the Man who can’t be hit.” He snapped his fingers at me
“You are also the man who is hard to shop for a good uniform for.” Mrs. Biggles chided as she rolled up her scarf. “Just be thankful you aren’t like your fellows in that Sentai group in San Niebla. You might have gotten stuck in color and then where would you be?”
“Rocking that color, Mrs. B!” Jingles laughed then rocked a superhero pose. Gotta give it to him, the man had confidence, if nothing else.
“Says you, Pink Ranger!” She stuffed her scarf back into her tactical knitting vest with one hand and pulled out a card with another. She passed the card to me. “I sent you a request to be on your blog?”
“Yes, I was honored.” I said back to her taking her card. This is was the costumer of the gods for all intents and purposes.
“Sorry about that. You know how this game goes. First you have dreams and ambitions, then you have a mountain of unfinished patterns and a world devastating plague that gives a percentage of the population superpowers. These things do happen I suppose.” She shrugged if talking about the price of tea. “Anyway, I wanted to say sorry about that. Here’s my card. You might need it or know someone who does. Don’t worry itself replicates, you should have enough. Just don’t overdo it, ok? I have enough business at it is.”
She then fuzzled my hair like I was a kid. She gave me encouragement about my blog, signed a book for my wife, and shuffled out of the door, her charge with her.
For a few moments, I wondered who I was more proud of meeting, the new all star hero or the greatest costumer in the world. Seconds later I came to my senses and knew the answer to this one.