Peter Lewis sat on the couch in his favorite Action Pony Girls t-shirt. His pale, doughy stomach peeked out from underneath like rising bread, hanging over his glossy green shorts.
Yes. That’s right. Action Pony Girls. Fondly invoked by fans as APG.
The Saturday morning cartoon was largely pitched at girls of an age where picking your nose at tea parties is socially acceptable and sort of expected. Peter was a male, sixteen year old disciple of the cartoon. He was in front of the television every Saturday as faithfully as a serial adulterer was at mass every Sunday. Dressed in the color of his favorite pony girl, Green Apple Warrior. He sat in the pale glow of the television like a Buddha devoted to all things pertaining to friendship, harmony, and kicking the crap out of bad guys.
He always sits at the far left of the couch. As the show runs, in the back of his mind, he’s fantasizing that someone in particular is watching the show with him. Penny Fuller. Before ninth grade, Green Apple Warrior Pony was the sole romantic interest in his budding puberty. But then ninth grade happened and Mrs. Wade’s fourth hour English put him in the presence of who he would come to see as the very avatar of Green Apple Warrior. Penny. Her eyes. Those spellbinding Emerald eyes. Just like Green Apple’s. He loved the show as much as ever, but now part of his attention was always on the space beside him on the couch. She was there. Holding on to his “muscular” arm. After each episode she would listen to his philosophical commentary on what they just watched. It was a bittersweet euphoria. He sighed deep and sad sighs during the show now… and only he knew why.
The more the fantasy of fulfillment hung over his shoulder, the more another idea gestated in his pumpkin squash cranium. Like a spider on one’s cheek, or an abrasive lump of lint in one’s buttcrack that the nerve endings can ignore no more.
How to get Penny’s attention. How to get Penny’s affection. It was the most far flung idea in the world, but the concept grew by the day. Green Apple Warrior was thoroughly alien to the realm of reality. Even if there was an inflatable version of the Pony Girl somewhere, she would never be real. Like the DVD, like the action figures, she would remain plastic. Unable to love Peter of her own accord.
Penny? She was real. She had emotions that could be bent in Peter’s direction, assuming there was enough passion, poetry, and/or alcohol and Mary Jane on the planet. However remote his chances with her, they were real.
The fact that Penny had a boyfriend should have been the logical death knell to Peter’s romantic notions. But ah, the affairs of the heart. How they urinate down logic’s unwilling throat.
What did she see in him, anyway? William Burris. That long girly hair of his. Those muscles of his that had no protective padding. Physical strength of any worthy accounting needed ballistic protection, you know. And nothing could be more manly than growing your own. The biggest sin of Penny’s boyfriend was the lack of any indication that he was on the couch in front of his TV at the same time Peter was. If he didn’t have any place in his life for Action Pony Girls, Penny may as well be dating a paperweight.
But she didn’t see things that way. They way she let William drool all over her at the bus stop made that clear.
There had to be a way.
Peter had been losing sleep trying to find out what that way might be. The right poem? The right wit-showcasing small talk? The right achievement at school? For every vague solution, Peter had a concrete problem.
One Saturday, like any other, Peter slouched in the left zone of the sofa. The imaginary skin contact on his right arm. The imaginary breath in his ear. The imaginary dialogue. Which was especially vivid for some reason, he actually muttered under his breath in conversation.
You’re still looking for answers.
Where did you find answers before?
“I don’t know. I don’t think I ever really did.”
Where did you find answers to your loneliness before? To coping with being without friends? To putting up with the burden of school? To putting up with your mother?
His eyes widened as round as his buggy spectacles.
It had all been the show. School. Friends, or lack thereof, Mom’s tirades on his directionless life. The answer had always been the show. Action Pony Girls.
So the answer to making Green Apple Penny a reality…
Peter was attentive as the episode wore on until Raspberry Plum Pony was all that stood between Ricky Mortis (undead archvillain extraordinaire) and a remote control comprised of a single red button that would make all sorts of bad things happen. Ricky Mortis, laughing maniacally, had one arthritic finger raised to push the button, but Raspberry Plum had galloped swiftly to the evildoer and shoved him down with such force that he dropped the remote. The End. Happily ever after.
“Hey, babe,” William said as he came up behind Penny Fuller.
“Hey,” she turned and fawned. He was dressed in that ‘grunge’ manner that made her heart pitter-pitter. Acid-washed jeans. Faded flannel shirt over an old t-shirt. As usual, as per evey ding dang morning, she kissed him. He put his hands in her raven black hair as if to anchor her. Peter put up with it every morning.
Not today. He knew what he was going to do.
He acted as soon as the embrace was broken.
If William had not been so transfixed on his girlfriend, he would have seen ten tons of human passion, love handles flapping like a jellyfish, wearing an Action Pony Girl shirt and bike helmet charging at him at full speed.
If Peter had not been so focused on the moment he would barrel into William and try to woo Penny, he might have spent some thought on the significance of how the bus stop was a street corner, and shoving William would — intentionally or unintentionally — launch him into traffic on a busy street. But the bigger picture was lost on both young men that day.
William didn’t see Peter when he struck him like a great bowling ball of friendship and magic and world harmony. William was in flight, horizontal to the ground, when he held out his hand to deflect an oncoming SUV. The SUV plowed its bumper into William’s mouth and the driver didn’t apply the brakes in time to avoid the double kiss of ba-bump as William went under the tires. The drivers behind the SUV slammed into the halted vehicle, further complicating William’s situation.
Peter had rehearsed his lines for hours. Yet the expression of shock on Penny’s face cast a winter spell on his tongue, and the words were instantly snowed in.
Peter thought about what else the show had taught him.
Sometimes the Pony Girls were outmatched, and they would run.
He ran with just about as much passion as 30 seconds prior. Just for different reasons. Where was he running to? Anywhere. As long as it was somewhere far away from here. Run, failed hero, run.
Peter sat by the creek, his ample rear spreading out over the rock he perched on. He cried a waterfall into the stream. He was the true portrait of ruin. He made his move and he failed. After so much planning and so much anticipation and so much… investment… his moment came and he ruined it. And when the law would inevitably find out, things were only going to get worse. Would they withhold television from him on Saturday Morning? Every other cell would be able to tune in to whatever but not him, no sir. There would be no escapism for a murderer. There would be no forgetting the look on Penny’s face.
He contemplated the creek and wondered if the thin stream got any wider — or deeper — at some point. If there was a high enough cliff that it fell off of where he could reliably break his neck.
“Peter, please don’t kill yourself,” came a voice from behind him that electrified his bones. He knew that voice like he knew his own breath. But there was no way it was possible. He looked. Standing over him was none other than a fully formed, living, breathing, Green Apple Warrior Pony Girl. Shining green eyes. Watermelon green hair. Tail gently whipping at the air.
He deemed himself going bonkers.
“Peter!” she said, “it’s me! You look like you’ve seen a ghost!”
“I’ve been watching you. I’ve seen how much you love me,” she said shyly, brushing a stray shock of green hair from her eye.
“You have no idea,” he said, his heart palpitations putting a quiver in his voice.
“I would–” and he stopped short.
“You would what? Kill for me?”
“I know. In a way you already have.”
“You were watching.”
“Like I said, I’ve been watching you for some time.”
Her eyes casually roamed up and down his body. He felt his face getting warm.
“If you would kill for me one more time. Just one more. I can promise you that we’ll go somewhere where they’ll never find us, and we’ll be together forever.”
She sat in his lap. Sproink!
“W-w-w-why would y-you need me to k-kill anyone?”
She leaned in and whispered in his ear.
“I’m trapped in your world by the magic of an evil sorcerer. He’s from your world, so he has a power over me I can’t stop. But you’re a part of this world, so you would be able to stop him.”
“And the only way to stop the magic is to kill him.”
“The only way.”
Peter’s rational mind was screaming at him, but something else was putting duct tape over its mouth. If William Burris was still alive by some strange twist of the odds, it wouldn’t change the fact that Peter was bound for jail. Imprisoned in a world where he was always a prisoner to begin with. Here was the prospect of leaving it behind for good and going someplace where nobody he knew would ever find him or see him again. Pony Girl Land, with his favorite Pony Girl. All those warm, tender, and somewhat shameful nights of longing and desire for the very girl that was in his lap now, warm and alive and all over him. Crazy about him.
“Alright,” he said. “Who is it?”
Wesley & Gable Office Building
The only thing more tragic than Albert Woods kicking the living crap out of his elderly secretary as she tried to crawl away was the dumbfounded expressions on the faces of everyone watching. Gopher-like faces poked up from a maze of cubicles and gawked.
Albert’s veined bald dome was wagging with the effort, like a testicular bobblehead in a fit of demonic possession. Sweat stained his white dress shirt.
Ethel Riverton, brave soul, pushed on through the lake of hot coffee that her dress was mopping up. Ye, though I walk through the valley of death…
“Two creamers! Two!” he shrieked, kicking with each syllable. “Two creamers for every eight fluid ounces! The new cups are obviously twelve! Basic arithmetic! Fundamental chemistry! Entry-level alchemy! Just a step above apprentice cotton-picking! Why…”
“Get it right?!”
Kick, kick, kick.
The last kick was actually a shove, business wingtip in wrinkled rear end, that made a broad brush stroke of coffee across the floor.
Ethel couldn’t really follow her boss’ line of reasoning. She was too busy making a sound that sounded like a constipated zebra. It was, in truth, a visceral prayer.
A lanky teenaged intern dared to stand in the gap between the two bodies. He held up his big hands.
“Sir, this behaviour is neither professional nor ethical.”
It worked. By golly, with charisma like this as an intern…
Albert grabbed his leftover banana from his sports coat. “I’m going to violate you with this vegetable!” he roared.
“No you’re not,” somebody else said.
Albert wasn’t sure which detail was more arresting. The fact that a young man stood before him in gaudy clothes and a bike helmet with the logo of that stupid cartoon his daughter loved…
…or the fact that said young man was holding a gun.
This was one of the few times in his life that Albert “Bulldog” Woods was intimidated.
“It’s okay, son. We can talk about this.”
“Your lies won’t help you. I know who you are. Who you really are.”
Albert mouthed the word what? Shook his head.
“Sorcerer Wilkinstickle. Your power over the Pony Girls ends today.”
“Can someone please tell me how a crazy fat kid got in this building with a gun?” he shouted at the deer-in-the-headlights group of staff.
Peter tightened his lips. “I took it from your security guard. He didn’t have any hands.”
“Can someone please tell me who hired a security guard without hands??”
“Sorry!” someone called out.
“I’m not,” said Peter, as he aimed at the one olive-coloured eye that was slightly wider than the other. He pulled the trigger. Everyone cried out except Albert Woods.
The show was right about running after all. Peter barrelled past body after body curled up on the floor and nobody tried to stop him. There was no way anyone wouldn’t be able to describe him to police, dressed like that. But it didn’t matter now. This wasn’t his world anymore. Where he was going, nobody could come looking for him.
He found his way back to the elevator, the one with the potted palm tree. He pushed the call button. Nothing happened. Again. No light, no ding, no nothing.
Somehow, somebody down below found out and they locked the elevators. Crap. Directly to the left was the stairwell. He hadn’t counted on that door being operated by an electronic lock. How many floors had he taken up? Ten? Fifteen? Enough to make jumping a problem. Unless one particular thing was factored out…
He felt the small tube of chapstick in his pocket.
“Remember,” she said. “If you can’t run, you can fly. Just twist the tube, and you’ll have your own set of Pony Girl wings!”
He had laughed. “You mean Pony Man wings, right?”
She leaned in and kissed him. “Stallion wings more likely.”
Green Apple, I’m coming. he mused, as he reviewed what he knew about the building. The stairs weren’t going to take him to the top of the building where he could get outside, and even if they did, all exits were probably locked down. In minutes, the lower floors would have policemen with hands with guns in them.
He needed a window.
As he raced around the floor, he realized how precious few windows an office building actually has.
Green Apple, what do I do?
He fought off a pang of panic. Stay calm, old boy. Remember. The show has the answers. The show always had the answers. Running worked. Dishing out justice to the bad guys worked. The second time.
Sometimes he enjoyed reruns of the show as much as he did a brand new episode. He couldn’t realistically take in every detail on the first pass.
That’s it. Reruns.
He tromped back to the scene of the crime. Cubicle cattle screamed all over again and ran and crawled out of his way.
“Pardon me. Sorry. Excuse me…”
Albert Woods lay like a swatted fly, glasses to one side with a missing lens. There were windows here. Big windows.
Hang on, Green Apple, Love. Your Stallion is coming home.
Using the pistol, He shot out the closest window and glass tinkled amid distant cries for help.
Then the PA system came to life.
“This is the police! We have the building surrounded! Come out with your hands up!”
Okay, Peter smirked to himself. He ran. He jumped. He fell.
With all the faith he ever had, he reached in his pocket and twisted the tube of chapstick.
Either the wings were invisible, or they just weren’t there, or Both. Peter splattered on the pavement below like a watermelon.
For all the insights he had gleaned from his favorite show, there was the one no devoted fan wants to confront.
Sometimes the season finale is the finale.