Rocky de Leon
“Mr. de Leon? Carlos de Leon?” A brown uniform, mustache, and aviator sunglasses under a wide brimmed hat stared through Rocky’s living room window. Rocky pressed the button on the arm of his sofa to lower the glass.
“Yes, officer? Was I speeding?” Rocky put the couch in park.
“No, sir, you’re being served.” A tan muscular forearm slowly crossed the vinyl window threshold holding out a rubber chicken. Rocky took the chicken and squeezed it.
“WHO’S YOUR DADDY? BAWWWWWWK! WHO’S YOUR DADDY?”
“Oh no. Stu?” Rocky turned to look at his laptop. A pair of eyes peered back at him, and a tight lipped mouth rested where the space bar should be. “I have to go meet the lawyer.”
The mouth opened and a scroll of paper rolled out, revealing a spreadsheet. The numbers in the cells rearranged themselves seemingly at random. One cell blinked green. The paper ignited and was gone as quickly as it had appeared.
“Yes, I think you’re right.” Rocky stood and brushed ash from his lap. “I’ll take the soup. ATTORNEY will need to be paid.”
Leather, mahogany, and brass invaded Rocky’s nasal cavity. His body felt cushioned and supported in ways he had never previously experienced, and he could sense that this was a piece of furniture he could never acquire for himself. The vaulted ceiling seemed to stretch upward to the heavens, neverending, the window trim displayed bass relief of various forms of currency, and the walls were filled with leather-bound books. In front of Rocky stood the evidence of the murder of an ancient tree. The desk, approximately twelve feet wide, sat empty save for a fountain pen, an ink well, and a large slate bowl.
“Mr. de Leon.” Three hundred pounds of barrel chested flesh encased in wool and silk sat behind the desk. A meaty finger pressed spectacles slowly up into a pair of steel gray eyes. “How may I help you today?” Elbows bent, the suit creased, and a long sharp nose rested atop tented fingers.
“I’ve been served, ATTORNEY, and I require representation,” Rocky held out the rubber chicken which flapped its wings, carrying its rubber husk over to the desk before once again falling inanimate.
“Yes. Yes, I see. Most serious. Do you have the requisite funds?” Eyes behind spectacles angled toward the slate bowl.
“Oh, of course.” Rocky stood, approached the desk, and pulled from his trousers a can of chicken corn chowder. He popped the lid off the can and poured it into the slate bowl. An arm extended from a suit, strained the fabric with which it was bound, and the hand at its end inserted itself into the tasty liquid.
Steam roiled from the soup and bubbles began to pop. Rocky watched as the bowl slowly drained until it was empty, and the hand continued to absorb soup until it was clean.
“Most excellent. Thank you. Now then…” The hand squeezed the chicken.
“WHO’S YOUR DADDY?” The chicken wheezed gently as it reinflated.
“Yes. I see. It appears you are being sued for child support.” The hand turned the chicken over as the bespectacled eyes examined it with great interest.
“WHAT?! By who?”
“By whom.” The chicken was placed upon the desk, and a letter opener pulled from a drawer.
“Who is Whom?”
“Gertrude Rosenfeller is whom.” The letter opener slid across the chicken’s breast, the exhaling air released a faint squeak as a mild white powder puffed from the deflating body.
“How can Gertrude be Whom? Gertrude is Gertrude.”
“That is a tautology.” A hand reached within the chicken and extracted a small black key.
“WHO IS SUING ME?”
“Whom. Enough of this, we must go to court.” The suit approached the bookcase, and a hand inserted the key into a copy of The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow.
The room dissolved. Rocky found himself seated at Respondent’s table with ATTORNEY to his right. Before them upon a 10-foot dais sat a young blonde woman wearing half-rim glasses without any lenses, a black robe, and a tiny hat in the shape of a powdered wig. A puff of powder blew from a compact as she renewed her makeup, and the glow of the ring light to her left ensured the cell phone held in the middle of it captured her at the perfect level of exposure. Somewhat below her and to her right sat a far more elderly lady wearing a nightgown and nightcap, holding a small dog in her lap.
“HEY FRAAAAAANDS!” White teeth flashed toward the cell phone camera, “Like, we’re here today to find out whether the FDP got this old bat preggers!” A hand with pink glittery nail polish gestured toward the witness while the body and face attached to it remained perfectly angled for ideal stills and screen shots.
“Now madam,” ATTORNEY rose and aimed his beak toward his geriatric opponent, “Surely you cannot have born a child. You appear to be 86 and two-thirds years old. It is a near biological certainty that you have experienced menopause.”
The witness shook so badly her nightcap fell off, revealing a head of luscious hair as blue as a choking toddler. “This is MY BABY, and HE MADE IT!” Her bony veined finger stabbed the air in the direction of Rocky.
“Ma’am,” ATTORNEY apparated by the witness stand to place a hand on the dog. “This is an Australian Terrier in a blue onesie.”
“Yes. My baby.”
The hand held it in the air by the scruff of its neck and displayed it around the room for all to see. “And you’re saying you were pregnant with it… and gave birth to it.”
A sharp nose turned to face her, “And that Mr. De Leon is the father.”
“Yes. Most certainly.” Her sunken features nodded vigorously.
“Your honor, I would ask that this case be summarily dismissed, clearly Mr. de Leon is not the father.” ATTORNEY stared smugly out into the faceless gallery.
“Like, ok, but, like how do we know he’s not the father?”
“Because, as is plain for everyone to see…” Bespectacled eyes scanned the room and paused for effect, “He is NOT Australian!” Gasps and murmurs from the gallery.
“ORDER!” A gavel bangs. “ORDER! Pay attention to me! This is my courtroom, and I will have ATTEN-Order. I will have Order! How can we be *certain* Mr. de Leon is not Australian? We might need a DNA test. Yes, yes, a test for Mr. de Leon!”
“OBJECTION!!!” A pounding fist echoed throughout the courtroom which fell silent in response. “Your honor, this is MOST improper.”
“Pretty sure it’s, like, standard operating procedure or whatever to perform a DNA test to determine paternity, isn’t it ATTORNEY?” Pink-shadowed eyes glared over empty glasses frames as tiny nostrils flared.
“Certainly your honor, that is NOT my objection.”
“Then what is?” Black robes billowed as the judge reclined, her expression softened.
The meaty finger thrust skyward, “We must also test the dog to ensure it is, in fact, Australian Terrier!”
“Oh, yeah, totally, ATTORNEY. Duh!”
“Thank you, Your Honor.”
The judge picked up a black plastic telephone handset, pressed a button, and spoke. Her voice surrounded the courtroom as if in a Kmart announcing a blue light special, “LIKE, BRING OUT THE MACHINE, K? THAAAAANKS!”
Rocky scanned the room as the gallery buzzed. “The machine?” He glanced at ATTORNEY, sweat beading at his brow.
“Standard procedure, perfectly normal,” ATTORNEY wiped his glasses.
The babble of the gallery increased in volume until Rocky realized they were chanting. Louder and louder, they beckoned.
“The machine! The machine! The MaCHINE! MACHINE! MACHINE! MACHINE!”
The sound penetrated Rocky’s skull. The floor split apart and began sliding away to each side with a steamy, high-pitched hissssss.
From the burbling depths it rose to the growing chanting of the throng. Its gaping beaked maw poised skyward, a giant rubber chicken head emerged. Its mouth and eyes lowered to face Rocky and his counselor.
“BEGIN THE TEST!” The judge banged her gavel.
Rocky looked within the chicken and saw a depression on its tongue in the clear form of a human hand. Next to it, a paw print. Naturally, he placed his palm upon the spongy surface and felt the flesh envelop his hand and wrist. ATTORNEY placed the paw of the dog in its intended receptacle.
As the dog’s paw came to rest, such a darkness as Rocky never knew engulfed his hand as the rubber tongue molested his palm. The void filled the worn beak of the chicken, covering his hand, much of his wrist, and nearly the whole of the terrier’s leg within its murky, polycarbonate embrace. A cacophony of whirs, clicks, and wheezes came from what Rocky could only think of as the chicken’s gullet.
Ninety-seven seconds later, the glazed avian eyes turned crimson as the darkness receded, revealing undamaged appendages. DING! Speakers taking the place of the chicken’s pupils proclaimed the verdict:
“HE’S THE DADDY. BAWWWWWK!! HE’S THE DADDY.”
The chanting resumed at its prior volume. A slamming gavel failed to maintain order in the courtroom, and ATTORNEY nervously turned in circles as the crowded gallery fell upon Rocky.
“THE DADDY! THE DADDY! THE DADDY! THE DADDY!”
“Night Owl” blared at eighty percent volume from an iDevice resting on a nightstand. A hand groped the air wildly, slapping at the surface all around the glass and metal slab, repeatedly missing the glowing orange oval which read “STOP.” Eventually, the hand found purchase, encased the phone, and Rocky woke up just enough to ensure the noise ceased.
The Sultan of Skree blinked. Pillows shifted and scrunched as his torso slid up the headboard. A small gap at the base of the nightshade failed to properly ward off the rising sun. A beam slowly crossed the room, widening and increasing in intensity. Rocky sighed, slid out of the covers, and crossed the room to open the window just before the beam hit him in the face. He threw the shade open, pulled the phone to his ear, and “Hey Siri… call Daisy.”
Four seconds of a bad recording of “The Impression That I Get” by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones invaded his ear canal before,
Rocky rubbed at his eyes, “I had a dream.”
“Like Marty Luther?”
“No, that’s… no. I got sued for paternity and child support by an old lady and… fuck, man, I think I had another one where I cut a promo against a potato?” Deep brown eyes peered out the window, adjusting to the golden glow of the morning.
“Like, a dude in a coma?”
Rocky put the call on speaker and walked to the bathroom, “No, man, like a vegetable.”
“That’s what I said.”
Water wooshed from the faucet, held in place in the basin by the smallest of rubber stoppers, “No, fuck, man, I mean like the actual tuber that grows below ground and we sell billions of pounds of them in french fry form to make everyone fat. A potato.” An aluminum can went SPRRRRRT and shaving cream fell to Rocky’s hand.
“Sounds weird, man.”
“Yeah, I mean… yeah.” He placed the foam upon his face and stared at his own tired eyes in the mirror.
“So like, what’s up?”
Skrrrrrritch, plop, swishy swishy swish, “I dunno, I guess I thought… do your people analyze dreams? What would they say about these?” Skrrrrrritch, plop, swishy swishy swish.
“That they were fuckin’ weird, man.”
“Dammit, Daisy.” Rocky toweled off his face.
“Sounds like you feel like you need guidance. I mean, you know the dreams were weird. You didn’t need a shaman to tell you.”
“I hate you sometimes. But yeah, feeling a little lost.” A plastic case of waxy thread popped open, Rocky pulled on the end and extracted 40 cm, cutting it off and winding one end around each of his index fingers.
“I got an idea.”
Pop. Pop. Pop. “Ith it ghanna involf draghs?” Pop. Pop. Pop.
He discarded the thread in a small waste bin, “If I don’t bother putting up resistance will you pretend I did if people ask?”
“Alright. Where we gonna do this?”
“Ok, man,” dust filled the air. Rocky could see the horizon in all directions, and the world was brown. “Last time someone sent me a map pin this far in the middle of nowhere, I figured I was gonna get shanked. What the hell are we doing here?”
Daisy sipped at his beer and leaned against a boulder. The top of the boulder was large and flat enough to lie on without risk of falling off. “We’re gonna talk to Mateo.”
“What the fuck do you mean we’re going to talk to Mateo?”
“Exactly that, man,” he hopped up and walked to an open spot of dusty ground. “We’re going to commune with the souls of the dead. Or, well, soul of the dead. Just one dead. Your dad.”
Wind whistled and dust filled the air. A tumbleweed rolled by trope-ically in the background. “Ignoring the how, why on earth are we doing this?
“You need guidance. That’s what daddies are for.”
Rocky opened his wallet. A photo of Mateo de Leon rested behind a couple twenties. He thumbed it for a moment. “Fair enough. What do we do?”
“First take this.” Daisy handed Rocky a thermos lid full of what appeared to be orange juice. The juice ran down Rocky’s throat as he gulped, attempting to ignore the slightly off taste.
“Wait for it to kick in.” Daisy took a slug from the thermos.
“How long will that ta-holy fuck.” The world was a panoply of color, no longer merely barren and dusty.
“‘Bout that long.”
It’s not clear to Rocky whether two hours, two days, or two minutes passed when he remembered why they came. “Okay, man, this is all fun and everything, but how am I supposed to talk to my dad?”
“Hold up.” Daisy pulls out a printed page from his back pocket.
“The fuck? I thought this was a religious ceremony or ritual or something.” Rocky grabbed for the printout. Deft hands yoinked it just out of his reach as Daisy held firm to his lodestar.
“Nah, bro, found it on the internet.”
“Fuck, DAISY!!” Again, hands flail in vain groping for the paper that avoids capture by the FDP.
“Look, just because it’s from the internet doesn’t mean it won’t work!”
Against his better judgment, Rocky acquiesced and the two attempted their necromantic magic in the manner instructed by DarthMollySprinkles from the speakwiththeunalived.com forums.
“Alright, last step is to speak his name three times.”
“Ok, got it. Candyman…” Rocky looked into a mirror his mind manifested for the joke, unaware and uncaring of whether Daisy could also see it.
“Take it seriously, Rocky.”
“Yeah, because this is definitely a serious moment. Fine. Mateo. Mateo. Mateo.”
A blue haze slowly solidified before their eyes as the figure of Mateo de Leon appeared. Just… not THAT Mateo de Leon.
Rocky’s eyes closed, his eyelids squeezed so tightly his forehead was smooth, “Oh god fucking dammit, DAISY. WE GOT THE WRONG MATEO!”
Sitting cross legged on the boulder, Daisy sipped his beer. “This is hardly an exact science, Rock. Mistakes are to be expected. Trial and error and all that.”
Ghostly hands lifted to Mateo’s face and turned for his inspection. “Hey, hey, hey, chill out! Sup, fellas!” Mateo tried, and failed, to pinch himself. “Good to see you Big D, you too Rock Slide. How we doin’?”
Daisy tried to low five Mateo, only to reach the same conclusion regarding his lack of corporeality, “Pretty good on my end, Matty Ice.”
“You know, cuz you’re like, dead. Cold and stuff.”
Laugh lines in the spirit’s face activated, “Hah, good one. How’s my Espy?”
“Oh, she good, man. She good.”
The specter’s eyebrows raised, “How’s her ass?”
“Still phat,” Daisy nodded.
Mateo waved away Rocky’s indignance, “S’cool man. F or P – H?
“P – H.”
Daisy’s eyes opened wide and he snapped his fingers, “Oh yeah, and a stoner pissed on your grave a couple months back or so, too. And barfed on your headstone, shat himself, and passed out”
Translucent teeth spread in a glowing array, “Oh my god, AWESOME! That is so metal!!”
“I cannot believe this is happening.”
The ghost of Mateo tried to ruffle Rocky’s hair. Rocky would almost swear he felt a breeze, “Oh relax, Rocky. What’s got a bug up his butt?”
A beer can crumpled and fell to Daisy’s feet, “Mid-life crisis at 30. Stopped being a journalist, started pro wrestling like his daddy wanted to. Been losing a lot. Feels lost and shit.”
Eyes pierced through Rocky as though looking at a piece of him on another plane of existence, “No shit?”
The Sultan of Skree’s reptilian temper flared, tired of being a non-participant in a conversation about his own state of being, “I am RIGHT. HERE.”
Mateo laughed, “That’s ok. I’m not. So what’s the problem, buddy?”
Rocky’s shoulders fell, his head tilted toward the ground, and the air gently vacated his lungs, “I don’t know, I guess… man, I guess I just don’t know where to go next. I got run through a ringer for three fights in a row with dudes that practically tried to murder me. I thought I was doing awful, but I kept getting pushed up the card, and now… now I have to fight some tweeny bopper internet starlet. I dunno, man, I feel like the work I used to do meant something, and I just don’t know if I can say the same thing about this. And then I had this dream last night that Kennade was a judge presiding over a case to determine whether I gave an octogenarian puppies.”
Mateo blinked slowly for a moment, then looked to Daisy. Daisy shrugged. He looked back at Rocky, “I’ma just leave that dream alone; that’s a lot to unpack and I don’t feel qualified. I don’t know if anyone is qualified, honestly. Also, you know, I can’t tell you if your work has meaning. You have to be the judge of that for yourself, but I can tell you one thing for sure.
A blue index finger pointed only inches away from Rocky’s nose, “There’s no way in hell your papi would let that disingenuous little tart walk out of the ring of her own accord. If she dared to step into it, he’d show her why she should have stayed in her own fake, vacuous world.”
Rocky looked directly into Mateo’s eyes. For a moment, they seemed solid, “Shit. You’re right. You’re totally right. She’s not evil or a blight on humanity like the scum I’ve been fighting, but if she’s allowed to succeed PRIME is just going to go to hell in a handbasket filled with like and subscribe buttons. Dad would never let that happen, even if he didn’t know what else to do.”
Mateo broke the eye contact, “So, yeah, dude, wipe her smug overly whitened veneers all over the mat til she submits! Your papi would be proud.”
A tear slid down the FDP’s cheek, “Were you two close?”
Mateo was not one for strong emotional connection, “Not as close as me and your mama were last night. Heyoooooo.”
Daisy air-fived him, “Nice one.”
Rocky sighed, his lips pursed, and his eyes narrowed, “OK, you can go back now.”
“Aw, don’t be like that. You should go check in on Espy for me. I like to watch,” Mateo’s eyebrows bounced.
“You can DEFINITELY go back now.”
The specter laughed as he began to fade. He left the dynamic duo with a parting thought, “She likes the big diiiiiiiiiiii…….”
Rocky sobered up first, and as such he took the responsibility of driving them home. He pulled into the driveway at Daisy’s house. “You know, if nothing else, I’m glad that I get a second fight in a row with someone that isn’t able to bench press me.”
As he exited the vehicle, Daisy turned around and leaned in the open window, “Say, um, Rock?”
“You know you aren’t actually fighting Kennade, right?”
“You have to take on the 350 pound gorilla she calls her bodyguard. She doesn’t actually fight. It’s their gimmick.”