Mario approaches the back door of the Burger Barn, his two lackeys, Lawrence and Anton right on his heels. He wrinkles his nose at the smell of the nasty grease drifting out to meet him. Even the thick concrete walls can’t contain the revolting odor. Putting his key in the door, he can feel the bile rising in his throat.
Jeezus, I hate coming to this dump! Why does Uncle Carmine keep this joint? Profits! How can this place show any profits?
“Joseph! Are you here? Joseph!.” Where the hell is he? He was supposed to be here at six to meet The Banker.
“You’se guys go see if he’s in the front.” As Mario’s flunkies scurry off, he turns to the soft drink machine. He needs something to get the nauseating taste out of his mouth. Knocking a roach out of his way, Mario fills a cup with Sprite.
”Hey Boss, you’se better come in here,” Lawrence said.
”Can’t you’se guys do nothin’ on yens own? Jeezus, Mary, ‘n Jos…What the hell?” Mario looks around the empty room. Except for poor, stupid Joseph with a knife in his chest, nothing seems out of place. The blinds are still closed. No one can see in. The chairs still upturned on top of the tables and only a small light is burning over the register. “Where’s The Banker’s case?” Mario asks his men.
”It ain’t here, Boss.”
”You’se two move him back to the freezer and get that grinder set up.” Mario shakes out of his shiney coat and rolls up his sleeves. Grabbing a rag and tub of soapy water, Mario sets about the task of cleaning up the blood. Carefully he inspects every surface making certain to get every drop.
Mario looks over his shoulder and assures himself he is still alone in the room, before opening the register. The key is gone! The Banker did this. Uncle Carmine ain’t gonna like it. There’s sure to be a war.
When Mario hears the grinder fire up, he goes about the chore of getting the store ready to open. Starting with flipping the chairs over and placing them in nice straight rows, like Uncle Carmine likes it. Heading over to the condiment counter he fills the cup holder, the salt and pepper bin, the napkin box, the straw dispenser, the catsup bin, and mustard bin.
Next he moves into the kitchen, fires up the grills and starts the smelly grease heating for the fries before turning on the heat lamps that will keep the disgusting food warm.
Hearing the grinder shut down, Mario calls out, “How you’se comin’ in there?”
”All ready,” says Anton, stepping out of the freezer and looking a little green.
”Well, let’s get these patties made before them pimple faces get here. They ain’t gonna make themselves.” Mario says as Lawrence pushes the wheelbarrow full of meat out of the freezer.
After Mario and his men finish getting all the meat formed into patties, Anton put the first batch of the Joseph burgers onto the preheated grill. Lawrence stood by ready to wrap the burgers as they finished cooking.
Just then, the first pimple face stepped through the door. Sheb was shorter than many of the other pimple faces. His green pimples stood out in great contrast to his purple skin. His single eye looked suspiciously around, his one horn pointing to each man as his head turned. Removing his jacket, he stretched his small wings. “How come you guys are here? Where’s Joseph?”
”Joseph’s around somewheres.” Mario told Sheb, looking at the men preparing today’s lunch. “You’se just worry about yen’s own job.”
”Well, we better step it up. We need to open the doors in a few minutes. Why didn’t anybody drop fries? Who wants a burger without fries?” asked Sheb reaching for the potatoes.
Quickly moving through the task of stocking the bin under the heat lamp with the day’s fare, Sheb watched Mario open the front door. That big eye locked on him made Mario nervous; he didn’t like the pimple faces. He was sure they were a dangerous breed.
Mario was surprised to see a line had already formed out front. “Come in. Come in.” he told the pimple faces waiting for their lunch.
”Uncle Carmine, what’re we s’posed to do? It was just a fluke, a one-time deal. It ain’t like we have a wealth of Josephs out theres to turn into burgers!”
”I don’t care what you do, Mario!” Carmine yelled at his nephew. “The protests are killin’ me. The pimple faces fly, blowing their horns day and night. It wouldn’t be so bad if they only flew around Burger Barn, I could squash that. But, they are outside every establishment I own! Now git out there and harvest more meat!”
“What about the Banker, Uncle Carmine? What you’se want I should do about him?”
“Isn’t his name Joseph?” asks Uncle Carmine.
“Yes sir, yes sir,” says Mario as he makes his way to the door. Now Mario has a clear plan; find the Banker, get the key, and get the hell off Palulasphere.
Mario knows right where he needs to start; The Wooly Cantina. He knows he needs Anton to help him. As Mario steps through the door of the Cantina he has to pause to let his eyes adjust. The purple and red lights flash in bright eruptions, Mario finds it an assault to his senses. When his eyes finally adjust, he scans the room. Pimple Faces blow their horns, shapely Gollywobbers dance and pulse on the stage, and the musical blends are horrific. Peering through the fog-filled room, Mario spies Anton across the bar, a shapely Gollywobber sits on his knee, while she runs all thirty-three fingers through his hair.
“Anton, let’s go I got a job for yens.” Mario shouts over the blaring horns. A rare true smile crosses Mario’s face when Anton jumps to his feet in surprise, the Gollywobber flops to the floor, all six of her shapely legs snake in opposite directions. With little more than a backward glance the two head out the door to the transport conveyor. Mario hates the transport conveyor. He prefers the autotome transport but tonight, he needs no witness; not even a mechanical one.
When Anton and Mario arrive at the back of the Banker’s dome, they quietly slip from the transport. On tiptoes, they make their way to an open window. It’s a nice night and Mario had hoped to find an open window or door. Seeing his hopes realized they carefully slip through the open port. “You’se got a knife?” Mario says quietly to Anton, “I think it’s only right The Banker get’s what he gives. Don’t you’se?” With a nod, Anton produces a knife, removes it from its sheath, and uses it to point toward light that shines from an adjoining room.
“This ways,” whispers Mario as he motions with a pistol he holds in his hand. Mario wants The Banker to die the same way poor stupid Joseph did, but just in case….
“Mario? What brings you here?” The Banker’s eyebrows are raised, confusion on his face when he first sees Mario and Anton. As the realization takes hold his expression turns to humor. “What do you think you’re going to do, Mario?”
“I come to get the key Banker. You’se had no right to do that to poor stupid Joseph, he was just doin’ his job. Yens took the case and didn’t leave any new money. It ain’t right. Now give me the key.”
“I’ve got the key, there’s nothing to get upset about.” says The Banker. He still looks like he’s getting a kick out of Mario’s visit, as he digs into his pocket.
The second they see the key slip out of The Banker’s pocket Mario speaks one word, “Joseph.” Anton plunges the knife deep into The Banker’s chest in one svelte move.
“Anton, get that rug, let’s get him over to the Burger Barn. It’s gonna be a long night.”
Back in the transport, the two men make a b-line for the Burger Barn. Mario is careful to obey all the laws of Palulasphere; he doesn’t want to get stopped tonight. “This here’s the last job for me Anton, I’m goin’ home.”
“Home?” Anton asks wistfully, “can I come?”
“We have the key. I could use a good man back on Earth. A man I can trust. We just needs to get this job done and get out of here.” Mario says as they pull up behind the Burger Barn. Even in the middle of the night, the smelly grease assaults Mario.
The two men work quickly preparing the last batch of Joseph burgers they intend to make. Mario is surprised to see how quickly the grinder works; this is the first time he’s been forced to work the grinder. They leave the next days patties prepared to go when the Pimple Faces open in the morning. Then they hang the ‘Back By Popular Demand’ sign Uncle Carmine gave him and leave the Burger Barn, never to return.
“Do you’se have the co-ordinates, Mario? You’se know the way back to Earth?” Anton asks guardedly
“You’se just don’t worry about me. I been runnin’ this route for 300 years. I knows right where to goes.” Mario points the craft toward the Big Blue Planet and doesn’t look back.
“Mario, I don’t have any Earth money. Do you’se have a plan?”
Mario looks with exasperation at Anton. “Of course I gots a plan. Yens a good man Anton, I’m gonna take care of yens. I gots a little place outside of Jersey.” Mario assures Anton as he pulls his spacecraft into his garage.
First thing in the morning, Mario and Anton set up business as usual, nothing too high profile, just a little bookwork.
Three months of wonderful peace and quiet, Mario knows he can’t ask for better. He’s settled into the peace of Earth and about as happy as he’s ever been.
Mario takes in a deep breath of the wonderful scent of the spring afternoon. Just then he hears the first blast of horns and hears the shout, “A wop bop Palula a wop bam boom!” Mario looks to the sky as it fills with millions of Pimple Faces.
The truth hits him full on; he can run, but he can’t hide.