MANTULA Part Thirty-Two: The Cussing Quail

Doug has a potty mouth on his hands.

“Mother f@#ker!”

My eight eyes fluttered open. I wasn’t prepared for telepathic shouting in my head so early in the morning.

“God f@#king Sh#t!”

I stretched out on the couch and looked around for my dead-but-not-anymore friend. I could hear him, but with our mental link, it was hard to hone in on his location. His cussing, on the other hand, had found that sensitive part of my brain and stomped on it. I wished the bird would lower his voice.

“F@#king f@#k!”

“Everything okay, buddy?” I called out. Things didn’t sound okay, but I’ve never been dead as far as I know. I’d been turned into a tarantula, one that was growing larger thanks to the weakening curse, but I don’t think I’d been killed when my body went from human to arachnid. For ManQuail, Glenn, being dead might have had some off effects. For all I know it might have been the meth talking too, though I was pretty sure Saint Dymphna cleared all that out of his system.

“Sh#@t,” he replied. He might have been talking to himself, however, and not replying. I sprang off the couch, now fully awake, and went in search of my roommate.

He wasn’t in the living room, nor kitchen or bathroom, but I finally found him in his room. He leaped and fluttered around the space like a bird gone insane. Feathers floated everywhere. Glenn launched himself straight up from the floor as I walked in. He bounced from the ceiling and splatted once more to the carpet.

“Sh#t sh#t sh#t!”

There was something else about my friend as well. He’d grown larger. Like me, he was at least three times bigger than when I saw him last night. The vinegar worked well it seemed, or maybe it was Dymhna’s dainty touch, but we were changing and changing quickly. It still wasn’t fast enough for me (I wanted to man up again now), but any change is better than nothing I figured.

I approached the quail as he lay in the middle of the spartan bedroom. Being the room was no longer used much, I wasn’t worried about him hitting any furniture other than the bed. Before all this happened to me I cleared most of my belongings out, given them to Goodwill and other local thrift stores, and had very little left, save a few clothes and stuff, to call my own.

“A$$h@le!” Glenn flapped his wings on the floor. Feathers and down rose up like a mist around him.

“Are you calling me that or what?” I put my leg on his shoulder and exerted a bit of pressure to stabilize him a bit. Having my human-sized strength made it easy to keep him down. He panted a little, huffed and puffed, cussed a lot more, but he seemed to be calming. I kept up the pressure, hoping I wouldn’t be keeping the quail in check all day. It was weird, being that I’m an ugly tarantula, but I had a massive craving for coffee. I know I had some in the cupboards and I was resolved to make a little for myself. I wouldn’t need much, considering my size, but I really wanted some.

I let up the pressure just a bit. “C@#ks&cker bastard sh#th%ad.” He mumbled now, but it still came off pretty filthy-sounding. I was thankful he’d lowered his voice a few notches.

I reassured the bird as best I could. He stared at me as he always did and didn’t seem terrified that a large spider had a leg-hold on him. I was pretty sure he knew me, that he hadn’t lost his memory, but for some reason his recovery came with a crap-ton of cussing.


ManQuail meme!

Trying to sound light, yet comforting at the same time, I mentioned how much I wanted to brew a pot of coffee and get the day started off right. It had already started off wrong, mind you, but I didn’t want him to think that. Kolbe told me to be supportive and take care of him. I suppose if that meant holding the bird down all day then so be it. “Maybe you could go for a bit of coffee too. We could make a pot and sit on the table checking email. How does that sound?”

ManQuail nodded, seeming to understand, and began cussing up a storm once again. Only this time he didn’t flap around like a damn maniac. His cursing came off softly now, conversational really, but I had no idea what the topic of the conversation could be besides sleeping with my mother. I wondered if the two Catholic saints had any idea this would be the result of Glenn’s resurrection. He wasn’t cussing last night. He only sounded drunk. Today all he could speak were curse words. It was a little weird, and would probably crack my son up if he were here watching my predicament. I’d think it was pretty funny myself if it wasn’t so messed up. Not only were we suffering from a curse, but we’d dealt with a lot in recent days, and it appeared we had more to deal with on the horizon. On top of that I had a quail for a friend that only knew how to cuss.

Glenn followed me back into the living room and made himself comfortable on the kitchen table while I set to work making coffee. I could hear him typing on the keyboard at the computer while I filled the carafe and dug a helping of coffee grounds out of the can. The coffee had been there for a while, but I didn’t care. It still smelled like coffee and that was all that mattered. I dumped the grounds into the reusable filter and poured in the water like a mad scientist, excited for my caffeinated creation to be born. I hit the start button and stepped back, listening excitedly for the bubbling gurgle to begin. It sounded heavenly when it did. While it percolated, I join Glenn at the kitchen table. I could see he’d opened a document and written something. Glenn nodded toward the screen, urging me to take a look and said, “F@#k.”

I scanned the computer screen quickly and felt the blood rush from my body.

“I can’t seem to talk at the moment. But I want to tell you something. I saw your son, Doug. I saw him in heaven,” Glenn wrote.

MANTULA will return.

Shazam the Toyfriend

It’s easy to see why these two were the idols of five-year-olds everywhere.

Death, divorce, creditors, court struggles, alcohol, what-have-you; these things happen to almost all of us. But we don’t all have a Shazam doll stolen right out from under our noses. Those truly bad things stack up no doubt, but there’s always that first bad thing that teaches us to be on the lookout for the next bad thing. For me it had to do with Captain Marvel. Back then, and for this story, I refer to him as Shazam.


That most incredible DC Comics (originally Fawcett Comics) super hero, played in the 1970s by Jackson Bostwick, filled my mentor cup in nearly every way. From his killer cape to the Winnebago Billy Batson tooled around in righting wrongs every Saturday morning on CBS, there was nothing about him I wasn’t eating like cake. I was five or six at the time. I even watched the Secrets of Isis just in case Shazam made a cameo.

And then I got him. My very own MEGO doll of Shazam! Back then there were no action figures as there are today. They were still a year or so away I think (thanks Star Wars). I ate those up too of course, G.I. Joe, He-Man, the original Star Wars trilogy, Trek, etc., but prior to that we had MEGO dolls. I had Thor, Conan, Spider-Man, Batman, Cornelius from Planet of the Apes, Captain Kirk, Kiss dolls and Chips dolls. But my first love, my greatest accomplishment, was Shazam!

All is right with the world – so says my new Shazam doll.

So much so that I brought him to show and tell at Juan Cabrillo School in Seaside. And I showed him off alright, probably too much. Some other kid obviously felt he needed him more than I. Perhaps he thought I came from a family with more money than his family, where I could simply jaunt out and find a replacement. In either event, I returned from playing in the school yard during the lunch break to find him gone. As I did the whole day, I looked in my desk for a quick reassuring peek of my favorite “toyfriend” only to find him missing. I made a fuss to say the least. I was inconsolable. They had to call my mom. I remember feeling as if the world were crushing around my ears. I wanted to find whoever stole him and pound their little five-year-old face into jelly.

I never saw my Shazam doll again.

Take that, thief!

Whether or not my mom tried to find me a replacement I’m not sure. We drove around in a beat up Volkswagen bug with a wooden back bumper and ate TV dinners most nights. I never felt the need to steal at that point in my life, not that I didn’t dabble in it (all young children do), despite living in a neighborhood with a hooker on the corner, but we were not in the haves category either.

This is why, almost forty years later, I get all giddy and childlike at the thought of a new Shazam! Not a new TV show or movie, although I hear that’s in the works, but because those old MEGO dolls are back on the market – aimed smack dab at aging nerds like me with their own mess of issues, children they want to share a second childhood with, and a general distrust for society.

But we all hit that age where we step back and rethink our own negative outlook, where we seek to rebuild from the bottom up, and find what makes us happy in life before it’s too late.

Is that what I’m doing with my brand-spanking new Shazam doll? Beats the hell out of me. Do I feel like I can finally tell that thieving five-year-old bastard to suck it, that I have a newer, better one now?


NOTE: I am redefining the definition of toyfriend from that found in the Urban Dictionary because it’s within our power, all of us, to do just that.