Funny Drama Friendship

LALA’S FLESHY MEAT HOOKS were squishing my face, and I was assaulted by the high-pitched screech of her voice that hummed thunderous, the way we think of the Big Bang as loud. “You’re back MontyEEE! So glad to seeEEE you!” Lala’s special touch is forgetfulness, and it took a minute for me to anchor in on my name after her embrace, but nothing could make me forget that voice. 

Going around the church basement of the “Hands-Off” meeting, each night we met: This is Sammy; this is Herman; this is Hamilton, whose long stringy hair looks like dripping molasses—it just looks like it smells bad. Daphne has the aspect of a Tim Burton character: long frizzled hair, oversized baggy bug eyes, gangly limbs, and turn of the century (the last one) formal wear that looks like it was hand-picked from the pages of a Dickens Novel, rather than picked-up at T.J. Maxx. She’s more Cruella de Vil than a Wednesday Addams. She is attractive in the morbidly fascinating way a dead bird is attractive—in that can’t look away sense—in that sense that standing on the far side of the room you already know a dead body is cold to the touch.

“It will be alright,” Lala says, “hopefully we got it early enough. Maybe it’s just animism. With animism there’s almost a one hundred percent cure rate.” As I back away, slowly, to take my seat, Lala hits me with an arpeggio scale of smiles, each inflected with a head tilt, striking the next note with an accent—all the notes accented—like a child slamming on the keys of a piano, but what they are making is noise, not music. Far from being comforting, it is creepy. Creepy, creepy—like an old man saying a young girl is “lovely” more than once.

Formally, we are known as T.A.S.A. which stands for, “The Tacomania and Scopomania Association Support Group.” But we call ourselves “Hands-Off” or “The Hands-Off Support Group.” Our slogan is B.C.W.W.F. “Be Careful What You Wish For.” This is useful advice.

Lala sits in the chair closest to the Dunkin Donuts Box ‘O Joe and the Munchkins Bucket. There are flakes of powdered sugar on her black blouse from the white powdered ones, just below the clavicut of her wig, drawing attention to the turkey wattle protruding from her mid-neck.

“Let’s go around the room and name our heroes as today’s ice breaker,” Lala says in a voice that fills the room, and the next room—and these are auditorium-sized rooms. “Monty, why don’t you start.”

“Rambo,” I say. “I’m thinking of Machine Gun Rambo from First Blood Part II with a hanging bandolier of ammo from his ammunition belt, T-ing off shirtless with a mounted M-60 and shooting up the Hi-Tech Equipment in Murdock’s Command Center as a payback for the shit mission he was sent on.” That’s kind of how I feel about my touch ability—a shit mission. Anything I touch comes to life. Which at first, might seem like an opportunity to play God. But let me assure you that the movie “Mannequin” got it completely wrong. When I touch a mannequin, I do not get a twenty-something Kim Cattrall as a fully formed female supermodel who I have all to myself for lovey dovey time in an empty department store—I get a walking two-year-old with solid plastic paws—intent on whacking me in the face. Much less fun. And no, I can’t bring back the dead. That’s Jesus. That ain’t me.

“Frankenstein,” Sammy says. Sammy turns anything she touches into a friend. Might seem like a smashing talent, but it turns out that if she doesn’t wear gloves, she attracts a throng of followers like the pied piper. You’d think she’d be a hit at parties but turns out she hates them. She’s got some pretty bad PTSD from birthday parties as a kid where she inadvertently turned the whole place into a stampeding flash mob. She’s also got some latent claustrophobia from being crowded after soccer games as a little girl when each side had to shake the other team’s hands out of sportsmanship.

“Eeyore,” Herman says. Herman turns anything he touches into chocolate. This is great in the winter but not so much in August. Chocolate has a melting point of eight-six degrees. Imagine placing your hand on the post of a traffic light by accident and watching its structure deform and plop into the middle of the street, slowly oozing into a brown puddle as it melts. Plus, how much chocolate can you really eat? After all, you can’t use it on people or animals. The HWSAA and all. And PETA and the ASPCA are trying to expand that to plants and insects—good Lord! But in a weird, Willy Wonka way, turning someone (or something) to chocolate is actually murder.

“Indiana Jones,” Hamilton says. Hamilton B. Urglar turns anything he touches into a missing person… well, missing thing, more like… he’s never tried to actually use it on people. That would violate the Human’s With Special Abilities Act of 2038 (“HWSAA”). That’s a no, no. Any use of an ability that would count as assault is punishable by death. Just the same, there are thousands of donuts and pizza pies and Budweiser twelve-packs that have disappeared without trace because Hamilton forgot to wear his mittens. He was from Florida originally, and there are school buses and ubers and taxis all over the panhandle which are vigorously being searched for by small town cops with nothing better to do but source missing cats.

“Mike Ehrmantraut from Breaking Bad,” Daphne says. Daphne turns anything she touches dead. For this reason, she keeps a healthy distance and sits to the back outside the main circle. Like most of us, and contrary to the tale of King Midas, most of our powers to manipulate objects do not work on human beings or at least have never been tried on them. But one can never be sure, as our powers are triggered by our emotions and have a range of amplitudes. Daphne though is a hit at a bonfire. She can clear a swamp full of mosquitoes or a swarm of gnats like nobody’s business.

* * *

AFTER THE MEETING, I rush outside into the brisk December breeze that cuts up West 31st Street like a bomb cyclone to catch up with Daphne. I grab her by the shoulder of her lambswool duffel peacoat. She shrugs in terror, pulling her arm away and lights up a Newport cigarette, saying, “you have a death wish?”

“Sorry, uhh. I figured it was safe to touch clothes,” I say.

“At your own risk,” she says morbidly and pulls a long drag off the cigarette. “What do you want, anyway?”

“Want to meet up tomorrow at the Winter Market in Bryant Park,” I ask her.

“What for,” she says.

“Hot chocolate I say,” looking into her dead bug eyes. “The peppermint kind. You can’t say no to that.”

“It’s your funeral,” she says.

But it turned out it was Jiminy Cricket’s funeral, not mine.

* * *

JIMINY CRICKET! MURDER AT BRYANT PARK, the New York Post Headline read. This was possibly the worst “touch police” incident of the year and it was all my fault for pressing Daphne for a date. I felt responsible. But who can account for a stray camel cricket diving for some apple cider?

We were in Bryant Park for the Tree Lighting, hanging out at the Big Apple Cider stand. Daphne opted for a hot apple cider instead of a hot cocoa. Some kid was filming the place for a podcast. It all happened in a moment, a stray camel cricket popped out of nowhere and landed on Daphne’s exposed wrist. This meddlesome kid was filming us getting our cider, and the cricket twitched, clicked and fell over dead on the pavement with a little Pffewwtttt sound. I didn’t think anything of it at the time but come to think of it now that pesky kid had PETA and ASPCA stickers on his camera. He was an undercover “touched and gifted” NARC.

Daphne and I had a nice time walking around the Winter Village, took a spin on the merry-go-round (she: careful not to touch on any passersby, me: careful not to graze a plastic horse unintentionally and bring it to life), and we even picked up some Warm Cider Donuts for the road. 

But before the evening presses had even run, Daphne had been served with a summons for criminal court down at 100 Centre Street.

This was the buzz at “No-Hands” that night. Everyone was talking about what would happen when Daphne strolled in, looking like death itself.

* * *

“FOR TONIGHT’S ICEBREAKER, everyone is going to drop a fact in this top hat, and we are going to pull them out and see who each refers to,” Lala said in a deep, gravelly baritone that sounded like Michael Clarke Duncan on Estradiol.

Daphne pulled out a piece of paper from the hat and said, “I like Budweiser. Ok, Mr. Urglar.”

I went next. “My favorite flower is a forget-me-not. Lala. A bit obvious, don’t you think?”

Lala took the hat next and barely glanced at the strip of paper before looking in my direction and saying, “Ohh MontyEEE! ‘I’m a big fan of Claymation?’ What a hoot! I love Gumby myself.”

Then Hamilton pulled out a paper from the hat. “My favorite TV Show is Friends.” He just pointed at Sammy in disappointment. These clues were a little too on the nose.

Sammy went next. She just looked up and said, “I know it is going to be you Daphne. Can we just get down to it already—what are we going to do about the charges against you? Huh? This concerns all of us you know.”

“SamEEE!” Lala screeched, “Don’t be rude-UHH,” she bellowed.

“If you must know, I am due at 100 Centre Street to meet with Judge Marcus and Prosecutor Melvin Thumbtack tomorrow at 9:30 am. I’m being charged with a violation of Title 1024.41 of the HWSAA: ‘Unauthorized touching of a living organism,’ and Penal Law 120.01, sub (x), Assault in the eighth-degree, disturbance of the genus Gryllidae. At this rate, cockroaches will run this town.” Daphne announced.

We all huddled and considered our options. But I felt just as helpless as I had when I made a microwave come to life at my job in Midtown and nearly caused Sandra’s Burrito to become a fire hazard.

* * *

JUDGE MARCUS’S COURTROOM had high ceilings and a long set of pews. The bar separating the judicial area was a rope. In the side of the courtroom was a box which apparently was used for prisoners. It was nearly 10:00 am and the Judge had not taken the bench. Uniformed officers strolled back-and-forth doing very official looking things. Lala was eating powdered munchkins from the bucket like she had to finish all of them before the world ended—which was happening imminently.

Melvin Thumbtack strode in. He was a diminutive black man in his late twenties of unknown origin. His suit was clearly a slim fit, but he was still swimming in the thing. His facial hair was distinctively English and he had an English sense of style but was not aptly named. He should have been named “Post-It” from the look of the folders he carried which were adorned with Post-Its covering every square inch.

The Judge took the bench on cue, banged her gavel, and said, “Court Part N is in Session, call the first case.”

The Bailiff called Daphne’s case and read the charges.

Daphne waltzed up and Melvin pulled back the rope bar to let her up. For a second, I thought she was going to reach out and grab him and maybe we’d be dealing with some new charges. But she just stood up and said, “not guilty” in a low voice that cracked on the “y”.

“I understand there is a video of the attack,” Judge Marcus said in low tones as she poured over a sheath of papers.

“I know this is unorthodox Judge,” Melvin said, “but given the gravity of this incident, the People move for immediate trial of the cause.”

“Very well,” Judge Marcus said. “Call your first witness.” Daphne looked back at me in shock. I had to do something. I had to do something fast. I racked my brain, but I think sitting so close to Lala was having an effect on me because I couldn’t come up with a damned thing.

“The People call Daphne Racjavik to the stand,” Melvin said in a loud booming voice that hovered on the word ‘stand’ like he was actually saying ‘guillotine.’

Daphne walked up to the stand like a gallows prisoner and sat down, with scary doll eyes like the character M3GAN in that new horror flick that was out.

“One question, Daphne—was that cricket alive before it landed on your arm,” Melvin said.

Daphne looked back-and-forth, focusing her eyes on mine, feeling trapped. “Yes,” she said.

“No further questions, your honor. It is apparent that Daphne, as a touched individual, as is marked on her casefile, used her abilities to render an innocent cricket lifeless. The People submit the case as proven and move for the death penalty,” Melvin said.

Raising her hand, Daphne jumped a bit in her chair. At first Judge Marcus ignored her, then turned “What?” and Daphne said, “Is a spider guilty for catching a bug in its web.”

“Anything you say may be used against you, young lady. I advise you to watch it when you present your defense. Very well. Any motions?” Judge Marcus said, bored and reading from a Harry Potter novel as if we couldn’t see it up on the bench, poorly hidden in the cover of a LaFave’s Hornbook.

“I don’t know what that means Judge,” Daphne said.

“Very well. You can step down and present your defense.” Judge Marcus said.

Lala was elbowing me. Daphne was looking at me. Then she said, “I call Montague Remsen to the stand.”

As I walked up past the rope that separated the well of the Court, I took the glove off my right hand.

“Swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” the Bailiff asked.

“I do,” I said, grabbing a pen off the desk. The pen leaped into the well of the courtroom and started dancing around by Melvin’s feet. Startled, he jumped in fright, as the pen made a V-line for his Prada brushed leather laced Oxfords. Unthinkingly, he lifted a foot and stomped it down on the pen, causing a gush of ink to go shooting out on the floor.

“Order! Order!” Judge Marcus crackled.

I touched my finger to a piece of paper which had the charges under the HWSAA scrawled on it. The paper promptly folded itself into a paper airplane and went flying directly at Judge Marcus’s faux permed hair. She swatted her hand to the right side, but the turbidity of the air caused the paper plane to bank and then turn back on her, this time coming straight at her forehead. She opened her jaws to reveal some slimy black teeth with deep coffee stains. She croaked in horror “Ahhhhkk.” With both hands, she reached out and crushed the paper plane into a ball.

“Order! I will have Order in my Court,” Judge Marcus said and banged the gavel multiple times until it seemed like the top of the thing would come flying off.

“Very well, Mr. District Attorney. Pro-ceeed,” the Judge ordered.

“Mr. Remsen, were you present at the time of the attack?” Melvin asked.

“I wouldn’t call it an attack,” I said.

“Were you present?” Melvin asked.


“Did Daphne kill that cricket?” Melvin lead.

“No,” I said.

“No?” Melvin said.

“It was just a toy that I brought to life—you can’t kill something that wasn’t alive to begin with,” I told him.

Daphne stood up like Tom Cruise in a Few Good Men and said, “Move to dismiss for lack of probable cause!”

“Mr. District Attorney?” Judge Marcus said.

“HWSAA requires a living organism be disturbed and 120.01 sub(x) too… uhhh… uhhh… People move to dismiss all charges, under the circumstances. But this is not over!” Melvin said. What a thespian.

“Very well. Dismissed. Dismissed. Court is in recess.” Judge Marcus said and left the bench in disgust.

She turned before going back into chambers. She pointed at Lala, Daphne and me. “All of you, listen to me and listen well. If you ever find your way back into my court room, which would be a grave error of judgment—you will comport yourselves with decorum and respect for this Court. Any shenanigans or tomfoolery and you will all be held in contempt. Contempt!!! You understand me!” And she stormed out.

* * *

QUEEN OF DEATH ESCAPES THE REAPER! The New York Post Headline read.

“For tonight’s icebreaker, we are going to go around and say the three items we’d take with us if our house caught on fi-REE,” Lala roared. But no one was listening.

Sammy had smuggled in a bottle of peppermint schnapps. This wasn’t any peppermint schnapps. It was Fugit Crème De Menthe. The good stuff.

Everyone was giggling and high-fiveing – as if that couldn’t be a fatal act where we were concerned.

I had always wanted to be normal. But what I had really needed was somewhere I fit in. Looking around, I thought – these are my people. Daphne especially. Especially her.

Daphne smiled at me, and I thought, we make a good team.

August 31, 2023 05:02

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Michał Przywara
20:35 Sep 07, 2023

Ha! Great take on the prompt :) I wondered what people would fill the blank in with, and you made it a whole support group :) A story of fitting in, of finding one's place, of fighting against bias to earn acceptance, and of love. Looks like life and death go hand-in-hand :) A fun, creative story - thanks for sharing!


Jonathan Page
20:37 Sep 07, 2023

Thanks Michal!


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Marty B
22:08 Sep 06, 2023

A strange and , touching, collective of personalities! I like how Montague Remsen used, what other people saw as his disability, as a strength to free Daphne. Also he could have pointed out that the Judge and Melvin both took the life of a pen and paper (Rather significant, the bad guys are against reading and writing). The moral is find the people who value you, in all your unique ways. Thanks !


Jonathan Page
22:24 Sep 06, 2023

Thanks Marty!


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Mary Lehnert
03:35 Sep 01, 2023

Being a rookie writer myself, Jonathan I applaud your effort. It didn’t lack in enetgy characters or humor. Could I suggest you edit severely sentences such as …..she stood to? her feet. Condense your material . Keep your paragraphs much shorter. Otherwise you craft a good tale. Congratulations.


Jonathan Page
10:23 Sep 01, 2023

Thanks Mary!


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Mary Bendickson
13:00 Aug 31, 2023

Such a cast of characters!😜 Thanks for liking my touchy story.


Jonathan Page
10:24 Sep 01, 2023

Thanks Mary!


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08:59 Sep 05, 2023



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