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May 19, 2012

I Hraet You (6)

Beat 6: Is He a Genius, or an Idiot?  (You Should Bet on the Latter)

Whew.  It looks like I finally made it, Lloyd thought.  He pressed his hands against his knees and took a few deep breaths.  I should definitely start doing more cardio.  Running from women on a regular basis doesn’t provide nearly as much exercise as I thought it would.  As he regained his breath, he stood upright once more, and stared ahead.  Now then.  Let’s see if my guess was correct.
As if he’d refused to learn from last time -- or just wanted to try his luck against the bleak laws of causality -- Lloyd stood across the street from High Tide Park.  But to his surprise, the coastal world he’d come to love had changed so quickly.  The boardwalk went beyond just being empty; yellow tape stretched from one end of its entrance to another, and orange-striped barricades stood sentry just a foot before it.  Construction workers and suited men alike rambled on before it, pointing at the now-motionless rides within.  A trio of heavy machines, dirt-caked and big-wheeled, looked primed to tear through anything in their way, like the toys of some titanic toddler.  As Lloyd looked inward, he spotted the wreckage at the broken edge of the park -- warped metal and snapped planks, melding into a mess of salt-splashed petals.  On the plus side, the beach on the park’s left had more visitors than it had in months; onlookers gathered and pointed at the mess, taking pictures all the while.
“Wh-what on earth?”  Lloyd -- in spite of just returning from the hospital -- stomped across the street, and glared furiously at the first construction worker within slapping distance.  “Now see here, sir!  What’s the meaning of closing down a fine establishment such as this?”
The construction worker -- with a half-foot and at least eighty pounds on Lloyd -- turned towards him.  “Park’s comin’ down,” he answered, shifting his hard hat a bit.  “Cryin’ shame, but it can’t be helped.”

“Can’t be helped?  Are you mad, sir?”
“Name’s Rosco.”
Lloyd smiled politely and shook his hand, resisting the urge to comment on his Neanderthal-styled face and brow.  “A pleasure to meet you.  I’m Lloyd B. Hoi- ARE YOU MAD, SIR?  This place is a treasure, a valued part of Porbeagle that pumps its lifeblood through every stony pore of this land!  And you and your cohorts would do something as short-sighted and corrosive as removing the park from our lives?”  He pointed a damning finger at his adversary’s heart.  “For shame, Rosco.  FOR!  SHAME!”
“I’d put that finger down if I were you, or I just might break it,” Rosco warned.
“Good idea.”  Lloyd rubbed his head apologetically.  “I tend to get a little carried away at ti- DAMN YOU AND YOUR PERSUASIVENESS!  I’ll not fall prey to your siren song!  For you see, my constitution forbids it!”  He stroked his chin, his eyebrow raised as he scanned Rosco’s body.  “Not to mention you lack the coquettish looks necessary to enact a swoon upon my fragile heart.”
“Do you always talk like that?”
“Yes.  But I wouldn’t expect a plebian like you --“ He pointed at Rosco once more.  And this time, Rosco grabbed his finger and started bending it backwards.
“It’s not nice to point,” said Rosco.
Lloyd fell to the ground and cradled his finger like a crying baby.  “Arghrabagh!  Bones aren’t supposed to bend that way!  And who goes around bending fingers like that?”
“The same person who goes around pointing fingers like that.”
“Okay, I deserved that.” 
Rosco cocked his head toward the park.  “Look.  I’m just doin’ my job, you hear?  This park’s time is done; even if that Ferris wheel hadn’t fallen, the park lost jobs and money left and right.  So it’s gonna get torn down and replaced.”
Lloyd rolled over and stared up Rosco’s nose.  “W-with what, might I ask?”
“The higher-ups say it’s gonna turn into a pile of logs.”
“That’s it?”
“It’ll sure save Porbeagle a hell of a lotta money.”
“Well, I’m sure that’s sound reasoning for some cold-hearted businessman, but surely you have a heart and mind of your own.  Don’t you feel as if destroying High Tide Park is an action that will incur the wrath of heaven and earth alike?  The gods AND mortal men?”
Rosco shrugged.  “Worth it.  I like money.”  And with that, he ended the conversation, and abandoned the grounded Lloyd to talk with a few more suits.
Blast you, Mammon.  Does your desire to corrupt the hearts of men have no end?  Lloyd climbed to his feet.  Wretched arch-demon!  You may plague the minds of so many, but by the light of the very sun, your malicious voice shall never find solace within the temple of my soul!  It was a bold boast indeed -- and one that probably would have had more impact if Lloyd wasn’t still sucking on his finger to ease the pain.  But, details.
Lloyd headed away from the park and trekked down to the beach, keeping his eyes peeled for Trixie.  The culprit always returns to the scene of the crime, he thought, shifting through the crowd and sweeping his head to and fro.  Well, she may not be guilty of any crime, but the principle still holds.  If she came here once of her own volition, doubtless she’ll do it again -- even if the circumstances are less than ideal. 

He thought back to JP’s words, and how Porbeagle -- in spite of its famous waters -- had never been a popular site for surfing.  If his words held even a kernel of truth, then what was Trixie doing here?  As he stepped across the sands, scouring each grain for a glimpse of her, he stroked his chin.  Methinks that something is amiss with that young woman.  If I’m to harness this power, and make it my own, then I’d best start by finding her again.  He winced for a moment.  What if I can only access that room if she’s around?  If that Ferris wheel crash was the impetus, then maybe we both were affected -- she WAS there, by virtue of saving me.  He laughed to himself.  A magic Ferris wheel.  Imagine.

Lloyd barely noticed that he stood thigh-deep in the water until some stray seaweed brushed against him.  He slipped off his shoes and socks, and threw them back onto the sand.  I’d assume that Trixie is of an aquatic persuasion, he thought as he rolled up his pants.  Therefore, I should show that I’m of the same mindset.  Forming a connection is the first step in winning a fair maiden’s favor!

He stared at the water.  He started to sweat.

Now then, how does one go about doing this “swimming” that I’ve heard so much about?  Lloyd thrust his hands forward and then fanned them up and down on his sides; he looked more like a brain-dead sparrow than…well, whatever kind of fish he was trying to mimic.  Hmmm.  I seem to have run into a bit of a problem.  Maybe this will work better if I’m actually in the water?  He clasped his hands in prayer for a moment, and flung himself belly-first into a carpet of waves.  Naturally, he sank to the bottom. 

Hmmm.  It would seem this is not going as well as it could have.  Perhaps if I thrash my legs about a bit…
Lloyd tried kicking as fast as he could, with little success.  Then he snapped his legs in and out.  Then he tried moonwalking.  All of them failed -- though to be fair, he just wanted to see what would happen if he tried moonwalking underwater.  Hmmm.  It appears that I lack the means to propel myself through the water.  Fascinating.  Also, I seem to have ingested a dangerous amount of sand and salt water.  And run out of air.  This could be a problem.

Lloyd would have kept his head buried in the sand to gather his thoughts, but something clutched his shirt -- and then, tugged him out with one fierce motion.  As his head broke through the water’s surface, he took a deep breath, and shot sand out of his mouth like a cannon.  “Haaaaaaaaah!  Oh, wow, I forgot how good it feels to breathe!” he declared.

“Hey, are ya always getting into trouble like this, pal?”

Lloyd gasped.  “Gasp!  That voice!” he cried.  He turned to face his target at last -- the southern savior, Trixie Walters.  “Ha ha!  We meet again!”

Trixie raised an eyebrow.  “That’s the second time I’ve had to bail ya outta the water, pal.  Yer not doing this on purpose, are ya?  Like, suicide and all that?”

“Heavens, no!” Lloyd cried, pressing a few dainty fingers against his heart.  “Although, I would gladly throw myself into the halls of Poseidon’s lair if it meant meeting you again!  Why, I daresay that --”

He cut his latest rant short; Trixie had left him there, and headed for the waters below the boardwalk. 

“Hey!  HEY!  I’m not done talking with you yet!” he wailed, running and splashing towards her.

“Eh?  Ya sure?  ‘Cause it looked like ya were just talkin’ to yerself back there.”

Lloyd shook his head rapidly, as if he’d turned back into some preschooler trying to impress his teacher. 

“Don’t misunderstand me, my dear.  What I do, I do because I have an inclination to the dramatic.  Surely a performance like my own -- when it has reached its zenith -- will be enough to move any viewer within my zone of influence to be moved to tears!  For that, you see, is the power of the theater arts!”
Trixie cocked her head.  “So…ya talk like that on purpose to impress people?”

“Not impress…well, not directly.  No, my aim is to impel a motion upon one’s heart by my own hand -- by the emotion in my words, carried unto --“

“I have no idea what yer going on about, but that fancy talk is starting to get real old, pal.”  She turned her back on Lloyd and stared intently at the waters sloshing around her.  “So if ya don’t mind, how about ya go play Romeo somewhere else?  I’m kinda busy here.”

“Doing what, might I ask?”

Trixie glanced over her shoulder for a minute, and then looked back at the water.  She ran her hands through some white whorls, unmoved by the sunlight spilling through the boardwalk’s cracks.  “My surfboard.  I lost it yesterday tryin’ to save ya.”

“Ah, I see.”  Lloyd covered his mouth and turned aside for a moment -- in spite of JP’s claim, she certainly seemed dedicated to that surfboard of hers.  “Well then, how about this: what if I helped you look for it?”


“Well of course.  It’s the least I can do for the one who saved my life.  Besides, what sort of man would I be if I abandoned a woman in need?”

“The kinda man who drowns in about four feet of water.”

“Aha.  Clever girl.” 

Trixie didn’t even bother answering him, or even acknowledging his presence.  She just started running her hands through the water, her eyes staring intently at the salty froth.  “Gotta be here somewhere,” she mumbled. 

Lloyd started to speak, but stopped himself.  What exactly should I say to her? he wondered.  Historical precedents suggest that I have no idea how to talk to women.  Instinct and reasoning alike don’t seem to serve me at all.  He glanced at Trixie’s hands, just barely visible as they sifted through the water.  Come to think of it, I entered that room when I touched her hand.  Maybe all I need to do is make physical contact?

“Miss Walters!” he called out.  “May I see your hand?”

“What for?”

“Uh…well…”  Lloyd looked up at the boardwalk and rubbed his hair.  How to put it delicately?  Sure, he COULD have gone for a lie, but then again, that would have been the smart thing to do.  “You see, making contact with you allowed me to tap into some latent ability of mine that permits me to -- potentially -- perceive and interact with one’s heart on a level thought impossible by mortal men for ages.  Given that, I’d like to take your hand on the grounds that I can develop this power, and use it to fulfill my ultimate goal of creating my super-sexy bosomy island harem paradise.”

Trixie stared blankly at Lloyd.

“I still haven’t decided on a name yet.”

Trixie kept staring blankly at Lloyd.

“…This is the part where you kick me in the testicles, right?”

Trixie shook her head.

“Ah.  Then is it time for the pepper spray?  A Taser, perhaps?  Or will you opt for the indirect approach and file for a sexual harassment lawsuit?”  He puffed out his chest.  “No court will convict a seventeen-year-old; my crimes are merely crimes of passio-”


Lloyd’s body corkscrewed through the air a full three feet before splashing face-first into the water.  In spite of that -- and the fear that his head might have done a full one eighty atop his neck -- he clambered to his knees and clutched his face.  “Okay, I deserved that.”

“What the hell is wrong with that head o’ yers?!” Trixie demanded.

“You mean before or after you punched me?  Because I can think of a solid argument for either.”

“What d’ya think?”

“If I say ‘after,’ you’re going to punch me again, aren’t you?”

Trixie popped her knuckles.  “Looks that way.”

Lloyd nodded tersely; he wasn’t in much of a mood for any additional southern hospitality.  He held up his hands in surrender.  “L-listen.  Just hear me out.  It may not make much sense to you now, but given an opportunity, I intend to use this ability for great things!  Truly, incredibly, legendarily great things!”  He clasped his hands together and smiled.  “Don’t let the name fool you, my dear; my harem paradise is as virtuous as it is legitimate!”

“Are ya trying to make a business outta saying stupid crap, ya crazy ki-” Suddenly, Trixie’s eyes widened, and she held a hand over her mouth.  “W-wait a sec.  How old did you say you were?”

“Seventeen.  Why do you ask?”

She let a small gasp escape from her open mouth.  “Y-yer four years younger than me?  I figured we were at least the same age.”

“Why?  Clearly you’re my senior.”  Lloyd held a hand a couple of inches above his head.  “You’re even taller than me; you must be at least six foot two, by my estimate.”

“Hey, shut up about that for a second!” Trixie snapped.  She turned aside, and pressed a hand against her temple.  “Oh crap.  I punched a minor!  If word gets out, then I’m in some serious trouble…that’s the last thing I need right now!”

Lloyd raised his eyebrows -- and then, for a moment, he could have sworn a light bulb hovered over his head.  A smirk teased his face; Trixie had given him everything he needed to succeed.  “Oh my,” he said, holding a hand beside his face like a nobleman, “so you’re concerned about the legal consequences, are you?  That could be a problem; were I to make even the slightest mention to the authorities, doubtless you’d be facing some real penalties.”


“Yes indeed, my dear.  You’d best be more receptive of my actions, lest the right hand of justice will strike you far harder than you struck me.”

“Ya wouldn’t!”

“I wouldn’t dream of it -- IF you lend me your aid.”  Lloyd thrust his hands onto his hips, and stuck his chest out.  “Serve me well, Miss Walters, and I swear upon my regal soul that you’ll not meet the executioner’s axe!”

“No -- wait, axe?  Do they chop people’s heads off in Porbeagle?”

“It’s a figure of speech.”  He stroked his cheek, his lips curled into a smirk, and his eyes a-twinkling.  “But it’s been a while since I’ve learned about Porbeagle’s judicial system.  Who’s to say that beheading isn’t the it-penalty these days?  Certainly it’s one of the most crowd-pleasing, right behind a hanging from the gallows.”

Trixie’s face soured.  “T-that’s not funny, pal.  Look, I don’t want any trouble, so let’s just…let’s just talk things out.  Here, I’ll even take ya back to the hospital -- maybe they’ll give ya some nice meds.  Do somethin’ about that head of yours.”

Lloyd cast out a hand.  “The only affliction I have is that my heart aches; until this world knows love on an unprecedented scale, I shall not rest.  And whether you agree with me or not, I’ll have you spring me towards my goal.  Now, Miss Walters.  Take my hand, that I may act as the herald of a new paradise!”

“Dammit.  Can’t believe I’m getting’ blackmailed by a weirdo like this,” Trixie muttered from a corner of her mouth.  Nevertheless, she held a quivering hand in the air.  She couldn’t afford to get caught now; if she made even one slip-up, then --

“HRAAAAAAGH!  I…I CANNOT do it!” Lloyd cried, slapping one hand to his forehead and the other to his heart.  Before Trixie could stop him, he threw himself face-first into the water again; bubble after bubble burst from the surface as his head splashed within.  “For shame, Lloyd!  For SHAME!” he said through garbled waves. 

“H-hey!  Cut that out!”  Trixie reached for Lloyd, but he managed to flop away before she could catch him.  “Are ya trying to kill yerself?!”

Lloyd -- doing something that would have been called swimming if his belly didn’t drag against the sand -- stuck his head out just enough to speak.  “I have shamed myself!”

“Yeah, I figured that much.”

“To think that I would even think of stooping so low as using blackmail!  Threatening the fairer sex with arrest…this should not be!  This is not how a man, and an ally to all women, should conduct himself!”

“So you’re gonna kill yourself?!”

“Yes!  Maybe!  Potentially!”  Lloyd dunked his head back underwater -- and five seconds later, pulled it back out.  “Oh wait, no.  School starts tomorrow.”

Trixie groaned and shook her head.  “Are ya always like this?”

“Generally speaking, yes.”  He rolled onto his backside and sat up.  “I find life much more interesting this way.  If I can put a smile on a fair maiden’s face with my antics, then I would gladly play the jester.”

“Yer a damn idiot,” said Trixie.  In spite of that, she stepped towards Lloyd and held out a hand.  “But I guess I can see why people might start to like ya after a while.  Ya know, once they realize ya got less sense than an old mule.”

Lloyd stared in shock at her hand.  “I couldn’t.  I shouldn’t --”

“Save it.  Ya came all the way here for me and put on a show.  This is the least I can do for ya.”  She pulled back her hand for a moment and looked at the sky.  “Even though I’m probably gonna regret the hell outta this later.”  With that said, she thrust her hand into the water, and grabbed Lloyd’s.




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