by Starsky Hutch 76, adapted from The Big Lebowski, screenplay by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen
Ambush Bug stared at his reflection in a large silver plaque. The plaque, from Variety Clubs International, read In Honor of Irwin Schwab, Achiever of the Year.
“And this is the study,” a nearby chipper voice said. “You can see the various commendations, honorary degrees, et cetera.”
“Yeah, uh, very impressive, Brandt,” Ambush Bug said to the young man.
“Please, feel free to inspect them,” the young man said, smiling broadly.
“I’m not really, uh…”
“Please! Please!” Brandt said, beaming as if they were his own awards.
Ambush Bug panned the walls, looking at various citations and awards.
Brandt noticed the award he was looking at. “That’s the key to the city of Midvale, which Mr. Schwab was given two years ago in recognition of his various civic, uh–”
“That’s a Metropolis Chamber of Commerce Business Achiever award, which is given — not necessarily given every year! Given only when there’s a worthy somebody, especially–”
“Hey, is this him with Nancy?” Ambush Bug asked, looking at a picture of an old man in a wheelchair next to Nancy Reagan.
“That is indeed Mr. Schwab with the First Lady, yes. Taken when–”
“Schwab on the right?”
“Of course. Mr. Schwab on the right, Mrs. Reagan on the left, taken when–”
“He’s handicapped, huh?” Ambush Bug said.
“Mr. Schwab is disabled, yes,” Brandt said.
“And this picture was taken after Mrs. Reagan became First Lady of the nation, yes? Not of California?”
“And, in fact, he met privately with the President, though unfortunately there wasn’t time for a photo opportunity.”
“Nancy’s pretty good,” Ambush Bug said.
“Wonderful woman. We were very–”
Ambush Bug noticed several photos of children of different ethnicities. “Are these…?”
“These are Mr. Schwab’s children, so to speak,” Brandt said, smiling proudly.
“Different mothers, huh?” Ambush Bug said, nodding.
“No, they–” Brandt said, startled.
“I guess he’s pretty, uh, racially pretty cool–”
“They’re not his, heh-heh,” the young man laughed nervously. “They’re not literally his children! They’re the Little Schwab Urban Achievers! Inner-city children of promise, but without the–”
“I see,” Ambush Bug said, winking.
“–without the means for higher education, so Mr. Schwab has committed to sending all of them to college.”
“Jeez. Think he’s got room for one more?” Ambush Bug said.
“One…? Oh! Heh-heh. You never went to college?”
“Well, yeah, I did, but I spent most of my time at various, um, social gatherings,” Ambush Bug said.
“And bowling. I’ll tell you the truth, Brandt, I don’t remember most of it.”
His gaze continued to drift down the wall until he came to a framed Life Magazine cover that bore the headline, “Are You a Schwab Urban Achiever?” Oddly, Ambush Bug’s face was on it. It took him a second to realize that under the magazine’s logo and headline, the display was mirrored.
He heard the door open and the whine of a motor. Ambush Bug, wearing shorts and a bowling shirt over his costume, turned to look. So did Brandt, who was wearing a suit and had his hands clasped in front of his groin. Entering the room was a fat, sixtyish man in a motorized wheelchair — Irwin Schwab.
“OK, sir, you’re a Schwab, I’m a Schwab, that’s terrific. I’m very busy, so what can I do for you?” he said gruffly as he wheeled himself behind a desk. Ambush Bug sat facing him as Brandt withdrew.
“Well, sir,” Ambush Bug said, “it’s this rug I have. Really tied the room together.”
“You told Brandt on the phone,” Irwin Schwab said, annoyed. “He told me. So where do I fit in?”
“Well, they were looking for you, these two guys, they were trying to–”
“I’ll say it again, all right?” the elder Irwin Schwab said in irritation. “You told Brandt. He told me. I know what happened. Yes? Yes?”
“So you know they were trying to pee on your rug?” Ambush Bug continued.
“Did I urinate on your rug?” the elder Schwab asked.
“You mean, did you personally come and pee on my–?”
“Hello! Do you speak English? Parla usted Inglese? I’ll say it again!” the elder Schwab exclaimed in exasperation. “Did I urinate on your rug?”
“Well, no, like I said, Woo peed on the rug.”
“Hello! Hello! So every time — I just want to understand this, sir, every time a rug is micturated upon in this fair city, I have to compensate the owner?”
“Come on, man, I’m not trying to scam anybody here. I’m just–”
“You’re just looking for a handout like every other — are you employed, Mr. Schwab?”
“Look, let me explain something. I’m not Mr. Schwab. You’re Mr. Schwab. I’m Ambush Bug. So that’s what you call me. That or Bug. His Bugness. Or El Buggerino, if, you know, you’re not into the whole brevity thing.”
“Are you employed, sir?” the elder Irwin Schwab asked again.
“You don’t go out and make a living dressed like that on a non-holiday,” the elder Irwin Schwab sniffed.
“Is this a — what day is this?”
“But I do work, so if you don’t mind–”
“No, look. I do mind. The Bug minds. This will not stand. Nosirree, this will not stand, Schwab. I mean, if your wife owes–”
“My wife is not the issue here. I hope that my wife will someday learn to live on her allowance, which is ample, but if she doesn’t, sir, that will be her problem, not mine, just as your rug is your problem, just as every bum’s lot in life is his own responsibility regardless of whom he chooses to blame. I didn’t blame anyone for the loss of my legs. Some China man in Korea took them from me, but I went out and achieved anyway. I can’t solve your problems, sir. Only you can.”
“Ah, to hell with it,” Ambush Bug said, rising from his chair.
“Sure! To hell with it!” Schwab scoffed. “That’s your answer! Maybe you could make that the emblem on your costume, there, like the guy in the funny papers with the Fair Play slogan! Your answer to everything!”
Ambush Bug headed for the door. He waved his arm disdainfully behind him.
“It’s time you hippies with your outlandish clothes and lackadaisical ways learned your revolution is over! Condolences! The bums lost!”
As Ambush Bug opened the door, the elder Schwab called out, “My advice is do what your parents did! Get a job, sir! The bums will always lose — do you hear me, Schwab? The bums will always–”
Ambush Bug shut the door on the old man’s bellowing to find himself in a high-coffered hallway. Brandt approached. “How was your meeting, Mr. Schwab?”
“That’s Ambush Bug. It went OK. The old man told me to take any rug in the house.”
A house-man with a rolled-up carpet on one shoulder stepped down a stone walk that wound through the back lawn past a swimming pool to a garage. Brandt and Ambush Bug followed.
“Manolo will load it into your car for you, Mr… uh… Bug,” Brandt said.
“The Bugmobile is over there,” Ambush Bug replied. “It’s the green LeBaron.” His gaze drifted toward the pool, where a young woman sat facing it, her back to him as she leaned forward to paint her toenails. Beyond her, a black form floated in an inflatable chair in the pool.
“Well, enjoy, and perhaps we’ll see you again sometime, Mr. Bug,” Brandt said.
“Yeah, sure, if I’m ever in the neighborhood, need to use the john,” Ambush Bug said. His gaze arced around the woman’s foot as she finished painting her toenails emerald green.
The young woman looked up at him. She was in her early twenties. She leaned back and extended her leg toward Ambush Bug. “Blow on them.”
The Bug looked down at her foot. “Huh?”
She waggled her foot and giggled. “G’ahead. Blow.”
Ambush Bug tentatively grabbed hold of her extended foot. “You want me to blow on your toes?”
“Uh-huh… I can’t blow that far,” she giggled.
Ambush Bug looked over at the pool. “You sure he won’t mind?”
The man bobbing in the inflatable chair was passed out. He was thin, in his thirties, with long, stringy blond hair. He wore black leather pants and a black leather jacket that was open, and he was shirtless, exposing fine blond chest hair and pale skin. One arm trailed off into the water. Next to it, an empty whiskey bottle bobbed.
“Dieter doesn’t care about anything,” she said. “He’s a nihilist.”
“Practicing?” Ambush Bug gulped.
The young woman smiled. “You’re not blowing.”
Brandt nervously took Ambush Bug by the elbow. “Our guest has to be getting along, Mrs. Schwab.”
Ambush Bug grudgingly allowed himself to be led away, still looking at the young woman. “You’re Bunny?”
“I’ll let you have your way with me for a thousand dollars,” she said, gazing at him seductively.
Brandt released a gale of forced laughter. “Ha-ha-ha-ha! Wonderful woman. Very free-spirited. We’re all very fond of her.”
“Brandt can’t watch, though,” she added. “Or he has to pay a hundred.”
“Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! That’s marvelous,” Brandt laughed nervously, continuing to lead Ambush Bug away.
The Bug looked back over his shoulder. “I’m just gonna find a cash machine.”
The sound of bowling pins scattered by a strike filled the air as Donny called out from the bench, “Grasshopper, Bug! They’re dead in the water!”
As Ambush Bug walked back to the scoring table, he turned to another team in colorful bowling shirts — Mystery, Inc. — that shared the lane.
“Your maples, Shaggy,” Ambush Bug said.
Scabbard, just arriving, carried a leatherette satchel in one hand and a large plastic carrier in the other. “Way to go, Bug. If you will it, it is no dream.”
“You’re twenty minutes late!” Ambush Bug exclaimed, his gaze moving to the plastic carrier. “What the heck is that?”
“Theodore Herzel,” Scabbard said.
“State of Israel. If you will it,” Scabbard said, “Bug, it is no–”
“What’re you talking about? The carrier. What’s in the freaking carrier?!” Ambush Bug exclaimed impatiently.
“Huh? Oh — Cynthia’s Pomeranian,” Scabbard said. “Can’t leave him home alone, or he eats the furniture.”
“What are you–?”
“I’m saying, Cynthia’s Pomeranian. I’m looking after it while Cynthia and Marty Ackerman are in Hawaii,” Scabbard answered.
“You brought a Pomeranian bowling?!” Ambush Bug exclaimed.
“What do you mean brought it bowling? I didn’t rent it shoes. I’m not buying it a beer. He’s not gonna take your turn, Bug,” Scabbard said irately. He let the small, yapping dog out of the carrier. It scooted around the bowling table, sniffing at bowlers and wagging its tail.
“I don’t believe this. If my ex-wife asked me to take care of her dog while she and her boyfriend went to Honolulu, I’d tell her to go to Hell,” Ambush Bug said. “Why can’t she board it?”
“First of all, Bug, you don’t have an ex because you walk around in a freakin’ bug suit. Secondly, it’s a freaking show dog with papers. You can’t board it. It gets upset, its hair falls out.”
“Hey, pal, if I had a sword down my back, I wouldn’t be cracking on anybody’s looks.”
“OK, OK. Point taken. What I’m saying is, the dog has papers, Bug,” Scabbard looked over Ambush Bug’s shoulder and yelled, “Over the line!”
Shaggy Rogers turned from his last roll to look at Scabbard. “Huh?”
“Over the line, Shaggy!” Scabbard chided. “I’m sorry. That’s a foul.”
“No way, man! Eight, dude,” Shaggy said.
“Excuse me! Mark it zero. Next frame,” Scabbard said firmly.
“No way, Scabbard!”
“This is not ‘Nam,” Scabbard said. “This is bowling. There are rules.”
“Come on, Scabbard. It’s just — it’s Shaggy,” Ambush Bug said. “So his toe slipped over a little. It’s just a game.”
“This is a league game. This determines who enters the next round-robin. Am I wrong?”
“Yeah, but…” Shaggy gulped.
“Am I wrong?!”
“Yeah, but I wasn’t over,” Shaggy said. “Gimme the marker, Bug. I’m marking it an eight.”
Scabbard unsheathed his sword and waved it menacingly. “Shaggy, my friend, you’re entering a world of pain.”
“Hey, Scabbard!” Ambush Bug exclaimed.
“Mark that frame an eight. You’re entering a world of pain.”
“Zoinks!” Shaggy gulped. “I’m not–”
“A world of pain,” Scabbard repeated.
A manager in a bowling-shirt-style uniform ran for a phone. Ambush Bug tugged nervously on Scabbard’s sleeve, to no avail.
“Look, Bug,” said Shaggy. “Man, I don’t hold with this. This guy is your partner. You should–”
Scabbard gestured with the sword and shouted, “Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one here who gives a damn about the rules? Mark it zero!”
The Pomeranian excitedly yapped at Scabbard’s elbow, making high, body-twisting, tail-wagging leaps. “Scabbard, they’re calling the cops. Put the sword away,” Ambush Bug cried.
“Mark it zero!”
“You think I’m playing around here? Mark it zero!”
“All right! There it is! It’s zero!” Shaggy yelled in a frantic, high-pitched voice, pointing frantically at the score projected above the lane. “You happy, you crazy @#$&?”
“This is a league game, Shaggy!” Scabbard said.
Scabbard and Ambush Bug walked to the Bug’s car. The Pomeranian trotted happily behind Scabbard, who toted the empty carrier.
“Scabbard, you can’t do that. These guys’re like me. They’re pacifists. Shaggy was a conscientious objector.”
“You know, Bug, I myself dabbled with pacifism at one point,” Scabbard said. “Not in ‘Nam, of course.”
“And you know Shaggy has emotional problems! He eats doggy treats by choice, for crying out loud!”
“You mean — problems beyond pacifism?” Scabbard asked.
“Have you seen the way he puts it away? I think he might be bulimic! He’s very fragile!” Ambush Bug exclaimed.
“Huh. I did not know that,” Scabbard said as they got into the car. “Well, it’s water under the bridge. And we do enter the next round-robin, am I wrong?”
“No, you’re not wrong.”
“Am I wrong?!” Scabbard said loudly.
“You’re not wrong, Scabbard,” Ambush Bug sighed. “You’re just an idiot.”
They watched a squad car take a squealing turn into the lot. “OK, then. We play Sam and Elmer next week. They’ll be pushovers,” Scabbard said.
“Just, just take it easy, Scabbard,” Ambush Bug said.
“That’s your answer to everything, Bug. And let me point out — pacifism is not — look at our current situation with that camel-humper in Qurac — pacifism is not something to hide behind.”
“Well, just take it easy, man,” Ambush Bug said.
“I’m perfectly calm, Bug,” Scabbard said placidly.
“Yeah? Wavin’ a sword around?!” Ambush Bug exclaimed.
“Calmer than you are,” Scabbard said smugly, irritating him further.
“Just take it easy, man!” Ambush Bug snapped.
“Calmer than you are,” Scabbard repeated, smiling smugly.