by Starsky Hutch 76
When a health nut goes nuts over all the unhealthy sugary candies one Halloween, it’s up to the Ambush Bug to put a stop to the rampage of Trim Fitbody!
The grizzled old man wearing a dirty raincoat sat down in the chair next to the fireplace. As he crossed his legs, dried mud dropped to the plush carpet.
“Hello there… (hic) You’re probably wondering what I’m doing here,” he slurred drunkenly. “Usually, if it’s a Halloween story, you’ve got guys like Cain, Abel, or even Dest’ny narrating. Well, they were all asked. And when they found out this was an Ambush Bug story, they all refused. So that just leaves me, his guardian angel… (hic) … to… to introdoosh our next tale.
“It’s the story of a man driven to the limits. As he sees his life’s mission coming to naught, he feels he is forced to acts of desperation the likes of which no one has seen before. It’s a tale I like to call, ‘Health Crazed.'”
He pulled a flask from the inside of his raincoat, unscrewed it, and held it up before taking a swig. “Here’s mud in yer eye…” he said, chugging it back. “So we’re done? I was told I’d get five bucks for this.”
It was the night before Halloween, and Trim Fitbody, the self-appointed defender of health, had another captive audience of kids as he spread his message. He remained blissfully oblivious to their glazed expressions as he finished one of his songs about healthy diets.
“Junk food’s bad,
Junk food’s bad;
It’ll make you fat,
It’ll make you sad.
With a rooty-toot-toot,
Eat a piece of fruit;
That’s the best kind’ve Halloween loot!”
Instead of the cheers and applause he was expecting, he was greeted with slack-jawed expressions from the kids. So unlike his studio audience. Of course, the kids from his studio audience had the benefit of a sign telling them when to cheer and applaud.
From the nearby puppet stage, Fitso the health dog broke the awkward silence. “Say, Trim! I bet the kids here have a whole heap o’ questions about staying healthy during Halloween!”
“Right you are, Fitso! Who here has questions about the song I just sang?”
A little girl raised her hand and said, “You said eat a piece of fruit, but my mommy always throws out the fruit in my trick or treat bag. She said it’s dangerous. We threw away three apples last year.”
“Threw away… apples?” Trim Fitbody said, dismayed. “That’s just… wrong! Apples are good for you! It’s all that sugary candy you should be throwing out!”
“Mr. Fitbody is just joking!” the librarian blurted in a nervous, horrified voice as she forced a smile. “He doesn’t really expect you to eat the unsafe treats your mother took out of your bag.”
“I most certainly–“
“Thank you for coming, kids!” the librarian interrupted. “Your teachers are waiting for you in the snack area!”
As soon as the kids stampeded out of the room, the librarian turned to him and said, “Are you nuts? How could you say that to that little girl?”
Trim Fitbody’s jaw dropped in shock. “But apples are healthy!“
“Not if they have razor blades stuck in them, or God knows what else! Are you still living in the ’50s or something? Mr. Fitbody, I think this will be your last appearance here.”
Fitbody was still in shock when he stepped out into the snack area. The sight that greeted him there did nothing to improve his mood. The kids who had just been in his assembly were now busy stuffing their faces with the sugar-laden snacks that they raided from the vending machines.
“Kids, kids!” he exclaimed. “Did you learn nothing from my show? Put that garbage down!”
“Stuff it, Fitbody!” one fat kid said through a spray of cheese curl crumbs. “You kept us in there forever. We’re s-t-a-r-v-i-n-g!“
Trim Fitbody gritted his jaw as sugar-hyped kids ran back and forth. He stormed through the group toward the nearest pay phone and put a quarter in the slot. “Hello, Mannheim? Tell your boss that I’ll be needing that package we talked about after all.”
The beaten-up Yugo hatchback pulled up in front of the grocery store. While the car itself looked inconspicuous, its passengers appeared just the opposite.
“Sure you don’t want me to go in with you, Bug? Don’t need any help?”
“Things tend to get destroyed when you try to help, Scabbard,” Ambush Bug said.
“Hey, I can be helpful,” Scabbard said. “Remember how I helped you find that photographer when you needed a new passport?”
“The photographer was Robert Mapplethorpe. I’m still smarting from that bullwhip. Besides, it’s gonna take you a while to park. Everyone and their mom are making a last-minute run on Halloween candy.”
“Should’a gotten all the stuff for the Halloween party sooner, Bug,” Scabbard said.
“Hey, I didn’t think Shaggy was going to be able to make it, but now that he is, we’re gonna need more food.”
“OK, Bug. I’ll park and then meet you inside.”
Ambush Bug was greeted by blaring muzak as he entered the Metropolis Super Saver. Since this was Metropolis, the other patrons only gave a cursory glance at the figure in the bug suit with a Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts.
He struggled to free a grocery cart from its pack and then attempted to wheel it down the snack aisle. “This thing could use a front-end alignment,” he grumbled in a shaking voice.
A ringing suddenly issued from the pocket of his shorts, and Ambush Bug pulled out a cell phone and hit the talk button. “Yello?”
“All right, Bug! Why is Scabbard still on Earth-One?!” a shrill voice said from the other end.
“Because he’s my roommate, Jonni,” Ambush Bug said.
“Well, he was trying to patch things up with his ex, so he moved back in with her. But then she kicked him out again, so he needed a place to stay. Actually, I shouldn’t be telling you all this. It’s kind of personal.”
“Not to mention completely beside the point!” Jonni DC said. “He’s not a mainstream character!”
“I really don’t think a guy who walks around in a red leather mask with a sword sheathed down his own back is worried about being mainstream.”
“Whatever,” Jonni said. “Let’s move on to this guest list for your party. I see several violations…”
The conversation was interrupted by the manager speaking over the loudspeaker. “We have a clean-up on aisle three.”
“What?!” the continuity cop exclaimed. “Are you on that cell phone again? I don’t have enough on my plate that I have to start worrying about anachronisms? Five Earths Project stories take place in the 1980s!”
“The prop guy tried to give me an ’80s model. It was like talking into a shoebox.”
“I don’t–“ Jonni started. Her angry tirade was drowned out by a scream from the front of the store.
“Sounds like the antagonist has arrived. Gotta go,” Ambush Bug said, ending the call.
With a pop, Ambush Bug disappeared and then reappeared near the front of the store. He froze when he saw the figure standing in front of the sliding-glass double doors.
“Don’t anybody move!” Trim Fitbody yelled. “In the name of good health, I find this store guilty of crimes against nutrition!” In addition to his tights painted to look like the muscles and organs of the human body, he now wore a brain-shaped helmet with a chin strap, his curly mop of hair poking out from underneath. He wielded an enormous blaster that hung from a shoulder strap.
Ambush Bug stared at him with his jaw hanging open and began to snicker. “Heh-heh…” He clutched his stomach as his laughter grew. “Ha-ha-har-har…” And then he dropped to the ground with his legs kicking in the air. “Bwaw-haw-haw-haw! Oh, jeez! Bwah-ha-ha!“
“Don’t laugh at me!” Trim Fitbody screamed, hefting up his blaster and firing. Unused to the recoil, the blaster fired and hit the snack display near one of the registers. There was a boom of wrappers exploding, followed by a shower of corn, sugar, coco beans, and other ingredients as the candy was reverted to its natural components.
Several women screamed as Fitbody brought up his blaster again, preparing to fire. “Run, bug-dude!” one of the bag boys exclaimed.
Ambush Bug jumped up and ran in the opposite direction down the cereal aisle. “Woo-woo-woo-woo!”
Fitbody fired, and Ambush Bug disappeared just as the blast hit the spot where he would have been. Instead, it hit a row of boxes of a popular kids’ cereal. The boxes exploded in a shower of wheat, corn, and sugar — mostly sugar.
Trim Fitbody screamed in frustration. “I won’t let any of you costumed freaks interfere with my mission!”
“Says the guy dressed like the Visible Man!” Ambush Bug said, slapping a hand over his mouth.
“Ah-hah!” Fitbody exclaimed, running for the aisle from where the voice had come. He arrived just as Ambush Bug was nearing the end of the aisle.
“Eek!” Ambush Bug cried, looking over his shoulder. He disappeared just as a blast hit a shelf of bread, which exploded in a shower of wheat, soy beans, oats, and honey.
Ambush Bug reappeared and leaned on his knees, huffing and puffing. “Man, that guy’s in good shape.”
“That’s because I eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise,” Fitbody said, rounding the corner. He fired a blast that passed through the glass doors of a freezer case, causing the ice cream cartons to explode into milk, sugar, coco beans, vanilla beans, strawberries, and other assorted flavor items.
“Gaaa-aaa-aaah!” Ambush Bug exclaimed, disappearing and reappearing again across from the end of the aisle.
“Hey, Fitbody! Over here!” Ambush Bug jeered, punctuating his statement with a raspberry.
“Why, you scrawny…” Fitbody snarled. He sent another blast toward Ambush Bug.
With a pop, Ambush Bug disappeared and reappeared a few feet to the left as the blast hit the case directly behind the spot where he had been standing. He smiled and pointed to the sign above the case that read Meat Department before disappearing again.
“Oh, no,” Trim Fitbody groaned, lowering his blaster.
The aisle was suddenly filled with stampeding cattle, chickens, pigs, and turkeys, all headed in Fitbody’s direction. He gave a girlish shriek and then ran, dropping his blaster, which was quickly crushed beneath the hooves of the rampaging beasts. “I’m a vegan, I swear!” he wailed.
Once out of the aisles, the animals went their separate ways throughout the store, but Fitbody continued to run toward the exit. He collided with what he thought must surely be a brick wall, only to look up and see the red-masked face of Scabbard staring down at him.
“Y-you’re a big drink of water,” Trim Fitbody stammered. “I bet you must eat really healthy.”
“Naw…” Scabbard said. “I got this crazy high metabolism. I pretty much have to eat like a pig just to keep any weight on.”
“That’s so unfair!” Fitbody said with a frown.
“Ain’t it, though,” Scabbard said. He brought his fist down on top of Fitbody’s brain helmet with a crack, and the crazed fitness guru slumped to the ground.
Twenty minutes later, the police were finished questioning Ambush Bug and Scabbard. They stood watching as frazzled animal-control workers tried to round up the cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys that were running amok through the parking lot.
“I can’t believe the cops were able to pull me up on their computer,” Scabbard said. “That Crisis was somethin’, huh?”
“At least I won’t be getting any more calls from Jonni…” Ambush Bug said, “…at least not about you.”
Scabbard suddenly gasped. “The snacks! We forgot the snacks!”
“The manager said we can take whatever we want,” Ambush Bug said, “as a reward for saving most of his inventory.”
“Aw, man,” Scabbard said, “if I’d’a known that was gonna happen, I’d’a brought somethin’ bigger than my ex-wife’s Yugo. I guess it’s too late to rent a U-Haul.”
“Make sure we get some healthy stuff, too,” Ambush Bug said. “After getting chased around by that nut-job, I realized that I’ve really got to get in better shape.”
“Then I win!” a voice called out. They turned to see Trim Fitbody, bound in a straitjacket, being loaded into the back of a van by two men in white coats. “My message was heard! I win after all! Ha-ha-ha-ha!“
“Yeah, pal, you’re a real winner, all right,” Scabbard said as the doors slammed and the van drove off.
“Something tells me his show’s going on a long hiatus,” Ambush Bug said as a flapping rooster flew up and landed on his head. The rooster crowed loudly as if in agreement.