CAUTION: Spider In Baggie In Freezer is a comic fantasy about finding resolve in middle age and courage in the Middle Ages.
Picture this: it's 1990 and two buddies - Mike and "Wiz" are dealing with mid-life crisis. Mike is a 42 year old part time "Mr. Mom" and professional voiceover actor. His best friend, "Wiz," is an 800-year-old dwarf/gnome (product of a mixed marriage) who has nearly unlimited supernatural powers. Wiz often uses his powers to create short adventures for them both as well as to teach Mike lessons about life.
This (short) comic novel opens with Mike being turned into a duck, all because he told Wiz he wants a change, "something out of the ordinary," and he gets kidnapped by three Runyanesque burglars. It’s a comedy so, of course, everything works out eventually, but not before Mike is sent back to thirteenth century England and is nearly drawn and quartered. Does Wiz have an ulterior motive in sending Mike back to that point in time? Will Mike find a way to use his wit and intelligence to save himself? Then there’s that vengeful fairy who has been causing trouble for Wiz since the twelfth century. Will she have her revenge and destroy a middle aged wizard’s hope for happiness with the girl next door? Though all this, Mike learns there are no such things as ”coincidences.”
Chapter One: Sure, Just A Typical Day In The Suburbs
I’m a duck!
I told him, "a buck,” as in tall, proud, handsome male deer. A buck. Simple. Concise. And I know I pronounced the words very clearly because speaking correctly is how I pay my damn mortgage and feed my family. So I’m sure that I very clearly told my friend, “a buck!”
But now I am a duck. And my supernatural buddy’s fucking nowhere to be found.
Do I sound annoyed? This isn’t exactly what I was planning.
But he got distracted when he received a text.
It all happened very quickly. “Incoming!” his phone barked. He looked at his phone while waving his hand in my direction and mumbling the incantation.
Then he left. In his case that means vanished because that’s how the guy gets around. In fact, in all the years that I’ve know him, I’ve never seen Wiz use a door. Ever. He’s more the appearing and disappearing type.
So, now, he’s gone to handle something else and I'm a duck.
Lucky fucking ducky!
“There’s something I must handle,” he told me as he disappeared.
Great. That’s just great. He’s got something he’s gotta handle so I’m left waddling around our suburban country kitchen wondering just how in the world I’m gonna explain my appearance to my wife when she comes home.
Things are tense enough between us right now.
“Is that really a productive use of your time?” she’ll ask, trying to sound sincere in that passive-aggressive zap-him-in-the-short-hairs-way of hers.
“No,” I’ll very mildly answer, trying to sound indifferent to her criticism. “But,” I’ll add, attempting to deflect her insinuation, “a guy’s entitled to a little ducking around every once in a while, isn’t he?”
Of course, she’ll sidestep the pun and pointedly comment that it would be more productive if I were “ducking around” at the sound studio. “At least at the studio there’s always the chance you might pick up some paying work.”
And, as usual, the imagined confrontation between the couple inside my head will escalate from one hateful accusation to another and, for the ten millionth time, I’ll wonder where aliens have hidden the woman I married and why they replaced her with this argumentative female.
Then again, right now, duck that I am, I just hope that she doesn’t arrive home until I am transformed back into ... if I am transformed ... I mean ... oh hell, I don’t want hop on that train of thought now, do I? What has Wiz done to me now?
At the moment, I just want to get the out of here. Maybe if I just inhale a deep breath ... focus and then exhale.
I repeat the breathing exercise a few times then I look up at the door that leads from the kitchen to the back porch and the open yard beyond. That door is immense! It is also closed and locked. Through its curtained window I can see the clear blue midday sky.
Now I’m thinking, great, what good is being a duck if I can’t get out of the house and fly around? Wiz could have given me some means of exit.
“Could have” is becoming the story of my life. “Could have” and “but.”
I slowly scan the room as my mind races. I’m secure in one thought at least. This is me, Michael Philips, as a duck. I’m not a duck entirely or I wouldn’t be able to remember the human things. My birthday is December 19th. I was born in Rockville, Maryland in 1971 and today is Thursday. It’s 2013 and Barack Obama is still the President of the United States. If I was totally and entirely 100% duck, I wouldn’t know those things, right? I would only know duck things and only have duck memories if ducks have such things.
I very slowly turn my slender... hummm ... and long ... neck to scan the room. My thoughts are going a mile a minute. I marvel how two different parts of my body can move at entirely different speeds. It was just the opposite this morning when I went for my morning jog. When I’m jogging, my body moves so much faster than my mind. Maybe that’s because the one thing that is mentally restful for me nowadays is exercise. My mind is more relaxed, too, when I’m working out on my weight bench. During bench work, my arms are moving at a pace, but my thoughts come much slower. Come to think of it, both the body and the brain have slowed down during bench work now that I’m reached 42.
I continue scanning the room with my little duck eyes in my little duck head atop my slender duck neck. Those cabinets look so big from down here! That trash can is huge! Everything in our early American country kitchen is big!
Now I’m thinking, okay, Wiz, I got a new perspective. Thank you very much. Now how do I get out of this?
Mick gets kidnapped by robbers. They take him to their "office" so their leader, a woman named "Eddie" can decide how they can best exploit a talking duck. When left alone in the locked office, he decides to practice his flying. After several trips around the room Mick decides to get adventurous.
I'm going to fly to the top of the file cabinet the long way which means flying up over the trash can beside the desk, above the chair behind the desk, arc away from the window and around over the desk top towards the door, and then swoop up to the file cabinet across the room. I plot this figure eight pattern mentally a couple of times prior to taking off. Looks pretty good, I decide, nodding my little duck head. After one more review, I am certain of my route. Certain? I am downright cocky.
I put my game plan into effect.
I get off the ground really well. I swoop over the trash can, around the desk and toward the window, bank turn away from it and then glide past the desk with the ceiling only inches from my head. I gracefully turn and begin gliding down to the top of the file cabinet.
I get no indication that it's coming.
No warning whatsoever.
Suddenly, I’m a duck no more. I'm human once again. And humans, no matter how hard we flap our arms, just cannot fly. Ever.
My graceful duck flight becomes a naked human cascade. I land with one leg across the file cabinet and one leg down the side straddling the file cabinet and crushing a very tender part of my anatomy.
“Sonofabitch!” I scream as I grab my junk and pull everything close in hopes of easing the pain.
Of course, cupping my privates instead of holding onto the file cabinet allows gravity to do its job and, before I even catch my breath, the wooden floor and I quickly become close friends.
Umph! That shoulder is gonna be sore tomorrow.
I do not now, nor have I ever had any tolerance for pain. So a fetal position is the only option. Vasectomy or no vasectomy, it still fucking hurts!
For a while, it’s difficult to breathe. I must have laid there holding myself for some time with nothing better to do than cope with the pain and wait.
Sure, I tell myself, there's a lesson here to be learned, but I'll just be short-sighted for now thank you very much.
I curse Wiz under my breath. And wait.
After what may or may not have been a short while, my anger subsides and I'm starting to see the humor of my situation. Why is it, I wonder, that I hardly ever appreciate a situation until it's over? I actually start missing being a duck. I want my duck abilities back. That option is, however, out of the question, so I sit in the wooden chair, absolutely naked, and wonder what the hell to do next.
My thoughts are interrupted by the sound of the door being unlocked. A tall, attractive, denim-clad, red-headed young woman who looks a lot like Jamie Lee Curtis walks into the room.
"I'm waiting for Eddie," I say with a smile as she stands there staring at naked me with the most peculiar look on her face.
"I'm Eddie," she snaps. "Where is your clothing and what did you do with the duck?"
“Could you describe this duck you’re looking for?"
Billy and Errol suddenly peek around the door jam. Billy's saying, "See, I told you he could talk just like ... where's the duck?
There’s a lull in the conversation as they stare at me and I stare back. Then I break the silence with a heartfelt confession.
"I'm the duck.”
"That's his voice!" Billy cries.
"That’s not the duck," Errol insists.
"That's the duck's voice, Errol. I know it,” insists Billy.
"Listen, guys, I was the duck, okay? I was the duck but now I'm not the duck, understand?” I get no reply. So I continue, “Can I borrow some pants or something so I can go home?"
Again they just stare. Seconds that seem like minutes pass.
"Can you do other animals or just ducks?" Eddie asks.
"Duck -- singular," I tell them, "but only with the help of a friend."
"Can you do a bunny rabbit?" Billy asks.
"Only in shadow animals. Listen it's chilly in here."
"Do the duck again," Eddie commands.
"I can't do the duck again. It was a fluke, all right?"
"Fluke's a fish. Do the duck!" she demands.