In this story, dated June 2, 1985, I focus on two recurring characters,
Roland McDownal and the Burper King, whose mutual hatred is the focus for much
destruction. Based on Ronald McDonald and the Burger King (from the TV
commercials), these guys first showed up in The Great Poppy Street War,
and are always great for adding mayhem to a story. You'll see them again in
Revolution in Poppy Street.
Copyright © Harold Reynolds, 1998.
Oscar the Grouch was swimming along about thirty feet offshore of Poppy Street Beach when he spotted Bob, the dictator, prancing over the hot sand and cursing furiously so, out of the goodness of his heart, he decided to help end the pain. He withdrew his Beach-Brand waterproof and sandproof Magnum .45 from the holster strapped to his chest and blew Bob's head to gory pieces with two quick shots. Nobody paid particular attention to this because first of all nobody cared much for Bob and secondly because many Poppy Streeters were discovering that the beach had been mined the previous night and only now, at 10:00, were the charges activating themselves.
Bob, because he was sick and tired of the city, had decided for a change in venue, so he declared a holiday and said they could all go to the beach for some fun. Of course by now we know what a Poppy Streeter's idea of fun is. Also, by some strange coincidence, this was the day that Roland McDownal and the Burper King manifested themselves.
Roland was always dressed in a clown's garb (short for garbage), with bright red frizzy hair which wasn't a wig, a large, bulbous red nose that was only partly fake, large, baggy yellow coveralls with numerous and mostly secret pockets, red and white candy-striped socks and enormous flat orange shoes for his feet. The Burper King was dressed nattily in a chocolate brown uniform with red, orange and yellow piping, combat boots, a cheap-looking crown fastened securely to his wavy brown perm by hatpins and a short brown cape that looked suspiciously like a garbage bag.
Both were more or less regulars on Poppy Street Island; they popped in whenever the people on their own planet of Earth were able to catch them and conjure them away because of their mutual hatred and tendency to have violent, destructive battles. These were precisely the same reasons the Poppy Streeters didn't want them either. But it was a nice day and they were busy doing other things like watching the miniature volcanoes of blood, gore and sand formed by the unlucky ones who discovered the land mines.
"How can I possibly get a suntan with all these silly Muppets blowing themselves up around me?" demanded Susan querulously as Kermit the Frog, who was gawking at her in her skimpy bikini, blew up suddenly, blowing away her sunglasses and hat and coating exposed parts with a gritty layer of bloody sand. She was forced to get up and jiggle her way to the water, attracting lewd comments and stares from the men and bullets from the less well-endowed women. Most of the latter missed.
"How much for a chocolate milkshake?" Guy Smiley asked the Burper King at the booth the latter had magicked up. Roland had one at the opposite end of the beach ten miles away. For whatever reason, their stoolies hadn't shown up.
"Oh, nothing at all," replied the King, "especially since you clowns don't use money anyway." He plunked on the counter a waxed cardboard cup full of a disgusting brown sludge which rumbled, bubbled and smoked dangerously, but subsided.
"GAAACCKKK!!" Guy gagged upon sipping it from a metal tube that served as a straw and vomited copiously into a nearby garbage can. When done, he grabbed the cup and winged it at Big Bird, who was busy shaking down some "innocent" kids. All of them were destroyed thunderously, leaving a large, sopping crater. Burper King beamed, especially since Guy had been brained by a chunk of Big Bird's thigh bone.
Now that the mines had finished blowing themselves up in the traditional opening to any Poppy Street event, the fun began. Everywhere from out of the large and unusually long picnic baskets ghetto blasters were produced that promptly began spewing forth all sorts of noise. This was useful because it made it easier to ignore the acts of more or less random violence that occurred.
"Hey kids, want a few laughs?" asked Roland McDownal, approaching some "innocent" kids who were seeing how close they could come to their 50-megawatt ghetto blaster without getting vibrated apart, as the one who'd turned it on in the first place had been. The Burgerman wrapped his arms around the shoulders of two of the nearest ones, unfortunately for them because it exposed them to his armpits. Roland cursed as they melted into a greenish-yellow slag because some of it got on his clothes and was eating them away. He then laughed heartily.
"Just watching you operate is a laugh in itself!" jeered a kid named Morton. Roland ignored him.
"See that stand down there?" he asked, pulling out his binoculars and indicating the Burper King's joint. They got a look and nodded. "I want you to hit it for me. If you do, I'll give you six burgers each."
"So what?" asked a rather comely girl named Roslind. Roland merely removed a Big Muck from a pocket, spotted Mr Hooper floating lazily on his back in spite of the rather large waves and flung it at him. There was a loud bang and a tall column of rather red water rose to replace the target. The kids suddenly remembered grudges against Muppets who may or may not have been guilty of them, grabbed the supplied burgers and ran off.
By a coincidence, which is very important for this kind of story, the Burper King had just worked out a similar deal with some Muppets after demonstrating the uses of Gloppers as hand grenades. About an hour passed before the Burper King's dive was replaced by an expanding ball of fire and smoke that was visible without binoculars. Roland could even trace the remarkably fast progress of the shock front by the way the Poppy Streeters were ripped apart as it passed. Within half a minute it hit Roland and threw him twenty feet into the water.
"Ha! That'll show him who's boss around here!" he coughed and spluttered gleefully, hastening out of the water as fast as he could waddle. He hated water because of its tendency to remove his protective coating of scurf and grime. He then looked towards his own place, somewhat damaged by the force of the blast, and saw several Muppets running away from it. "HEY! What the (toot!) do you think you're doing?" he bellowed, infuriated by such gall.
Then his restaurant exploded with the same force as the Burper King's and doing an equivalent amount of damage. Roland's clone reappeared six feet over the water's surface and fell onto Bob's air mattress. Its proprietor was knocked off and drowned because he didn't wake up fast enough. He appeared ten feet away and only five feet above the highest crest of a wave. As he fell, he spotted the cause of his death, lazing on his mattress.
"YOU!" he yelled explosively after recovering from his splashdown. "What the (honk) are you doing back here?" Roland blew a fruity raspberry, made an insulting gesture and began paddling furiously away. Bob grimly swam after him, caught up and expertly dumped the Burgerman into the water. Roland screamed in agony as the corrosive liquid stripped away the layers of crud, cleaned his clothes and removed 20 pounds from his weight. He died shortly after and so did all the sea life nearby from the pollution.
No more major events occurred on the beach until after lunch. Only the usual rash of thefts, bloody reprisals, rubouts and counter-rubouts and the occasional accidental detonation of a burger or related products occurred. The latter always wasted a good deal of nearby Streeters as well as the holder. Roland McDownal and the Burper King had re-established their joints, avoiding the deep craters of their predecessors, and were doing brisk business, mostly to Muppets.
It was round about 2:00 when something untoward happened.
"Shark!" screamed an "innocent" kid named Fanny, spotting the something untoward moving towards her in the deep section and swimming furiously for shore. She never made it, for the main reason that the huge white monster bit off the lower half of her body, followed shortly by the rest. The cry was heard, however, and passed on very rapidly as the others saw them and began swimming faster than they ever had before.
"A whole school of great white sharks is attacking!" gabbled another kid named Karen to Bob on the beach.
"WHAT? How dare they? I'm the only one around here who's supposed to kill people!" raged the dictator. "Kill them! Kill them all! Get the boats! Get the anti-tank weapons! This is war!" He chugged a 48-ouncer of 180-proof rye and staggered off towards the docks while Karen turned on the siren and ran off for a gun.
The beach here has an interesting underground profile in that the first ten to fifteen feet are gently sloping to a maximum of 4.5 feet, after which there is a steeper dropoff. This was true everywhere except near the pier where six 20-foot boats were tied. This was close to the Burper King's hamburger hovel and he had a sudden upswing in trade.
The sand became a hive of activity with Adults, "innocent" kids and Muppets racing about after either emerging from the water or being cloned after being eaten. All were unloading surprising quantities of light to medium-heavy weaponry from their extra-long picnic baskets (suitably equipped with clone machine receivers). Most of these were hand grenades, grenade launchers, bazookas or large-calibre recoilless rifles. Soon all the boats had been launched, jam-packed with blood-thirsty Poppy Streeters.
One of these had Ernie, Bert, Cookie Monster, Gordon and an "innocent" kid named Harold, among others, all with weapons at the ready. About twenty feet from the shoreline they passed through a rich tomato soup full of nice, raw chunks of Snuffelopagus and shark meat. Immediately, all but Harold and Bert dropped their weapons in the bottom of the boat, bent over the side and began scooping it up greedily.
"Whoops," said Bert, "slipping" on a bazooka so that a foot had a direct impact on Ernie's butt. Ernie fell into the bloody water with a screech and a splash and the recoil caused Gordon on the other side to do the same. Suddenly, two sharks appeared and ripped them apart with great gushes of blood. Terrified at the sight of the horrid beasts, a volley of explosives was let off by the remaining eight that converted the sharks to chemical stew.
As the killings increased in rapidity for both predator and prey, those on shore who hadn't gotten a boat were busily creating some of their own using air mattresses, driftwood and rope. On one such contraption, consisting of six mattresses piled three wide by two deep, were Oscar the Grouch and Grover. Because of an accident, Grover had become the new leader of the Muppets, much to Cookie Monster's chagrin and anger. The anger was due to Grover's refusal to give up the leadership. Anyway, since the water was crystal clear, save for the murky spots where someone had been killed and carelessly polluted the water, the sharks were pretty easy to spot and blow up, creating more murky spots.
It was in one of these that one of the smarter ones had hidden himself and, as the Muppets were carefully skirting it, lunged upwards out of the water with several thrusts of its powerful tail in front of their makeshift raft. Grover saw the fifteen feet of white, organic killing machine shoot out of the water like a cork from a champagne bottle with crimson water streaming off its sides and gaping mouth before Oscar did.
The many years of quick-draw training were not wasted as the furry blue Muppet fired his 3-inch recoilless rifle into the beast's mouth, the shell of which was a half-second before Oscar's 2-kilo rocket-propelled grenade. The giant fish exploded a moment later, with its teeth ripping several holes in some of the air mattresses and Oscar, who fell overboard. The splash that the more or less undamaged tail section made near the raft nearly caused Grover to go too, but he hung on to both his rifle and the one undamaged air mattress. He then pulled out his ever-present Bowie knife, cut all the ropes and paddled, shaking, for shore.
The eleven people on board another boat were Bob, Susan, Mr Hooper, Guy Smiley and some "innocent" kids named Annie, Jason, Mork, Anna-Bella, Jamie, Lucille and Betty. They witnessed the attack on Grover and Oscar with laughs and jeers, save for Jason who was eating a giant squid and Betty, who was being sea-sick. Then they hit rough water of their own.
"All right Bob, this is it!" said Mr Hooper, drawing a .75-calibre recoilless pistol from its shoulder holster. "It's high time the Adults had a new leader and a new outlook!" he stated, cocking the hammer.
"Yeah, just one dictator for another," sneered Mork, pushing from behind. Mr Hooper toppled into Bob.
"Haven't I already had enough happen to me for one day?" yelled the dictator furiously as he lost his balance and fell into the water with a splash. Lucille gave Susan a shove too, but made the tactical error of pushing her rather ample bust. Susan staggered and waved her arms about trying to keep her balance and knocked Jamie overboard. The bra strap on her bikini then snapped under the added strain. The long end with the buckle whipped around and zapped Mr Hooper's left eyeball, which burst with a spray of juices and gore. Screaming, the attempted coup leader fell off the boat when a particularly large wave passed under them. Susan also lost her already precarious balance and fell into the centre of the boat on top of a box of refrigerated nitroglycerine crystals as all the red-blooded males ogled her near-nakedness. Alas, however, the refrigeration unit had failed, the nitro had melted into its far unstabler form and it promptly blew up, taking out Susan and all of the "innocent" kids save Jason and Anna-Bella, who dove into the water.
"(Bleep!) (bleep!) Mr Hooper anyway!" snarled Jason, who was allergic to exercise and shark bites, as they swam away.
As for Bob, Mr Hooper and Jamie, as luck would have it, they ran into a school of four sharks who went into a feeding frenzy, tearing the hapless humans to shreds. Their clones materialized nearby and received the same treatment. The next time they were luckier and reappeared near the shoreline. Oddly enough, those sharks who had partaken of Bob's flesh (that is to say, all of them) died about ten minutes later from acute food poisoning and floated belly-up in the water as an abject lesson to the rapidly diminishing number of other sharks, who were too stupid to learn from it anyway.
After several more instances of savagery like these, the sharks were all killed and everyone was able to breathe easier. They all returned to the beach to rest and begin telling stories of how they fought the sharks, 99% of which were half-truths, fabrications, balderdash and out-and-out lies, as usual. Kermit the Frog and a kid named Bertram were regular publishers of stories and for the rest of the afternoon went around collecting them from the others. If everything that had been said was true, they figured, they had killed off about 3000 sharks when, in fact, there were no more than 30.
"Come on now, kiddies," Roland was wheedling to a batch of "innocent" kids. "If you act now, using my burgers, you could wipe out those foolish Muppets all at once, something neither of you has been able to pull off before."
"Why should we use your burgers?" asked a tall, thin girl named Victoria. "The Burper King's aren't much different."
"Sacrilege!" gasped Roland, horror-struck. "Of course they're different! His are inferior to mine!" The kids were not particularly impressed by this line of reasoning. "Besides," he gabbled, grasping at straws as his audience was leaving, "where are they now? I don't see very many about." They stopped and looked swiftly around them.
"You're right!" said a kid named Harold, deftly interposing another kid with red hair and a large nose named Jimmy between himself and Victoria. "Everyone arm up! They're up to something!" Just then, the kid named Betty noticed something odd about the waves and pointed.
"Hey, what are all those Muppets doing on those boards?" In point of fact, they were surfing, but nobody was going to tell her that. The irregular thing about them was that their neat balancing posture also included an AK-50, an M-20 or a machine-pistol. As they swept ashore all along the beach on their sea-blue surfboards, they opened fire.
At this, there was a roaring of engines and over the sand dunes came armoured vehicles that, on other worlds, might be called dune buggies. Each had a pair of linked M-65 heavy machine-guns on a swivel mount and a Muppet to operate them in the back, a Muppet on the passenger side with a submachine-gun and a driver. There were 23 of these vehicles. The rest of the Muppets rose up from the long grass bordering the ten-mile beach and began raking the area with bullets.
The carnage in the first few minutes was horrific. The sound of the waves pounding on the beach was totally drowned out by the sound of gunfire and explosions. Whole sections became swamped with blood and gore and one of the Muppet buggies was lost after it drove over the area where 30 Adults and "innocent" kids had been slaughtered in killing Big Bird. The vehicle was slurped up in five seconds by the bloody mega-quicksand.
Then the targets got their acts together and began fighting back. Roland McDownal and those near him filled catapults with Chicken McNuggets and scattered them all over their half of the beach. They acted as little minelets, exploding with enough force when trod on to blow off a leg or a wheel. As the Adult and "innocent" kid clones reappeared, they grabbed weapons and began killing Muppets, and weren't lacking in targets.
Then the Burper King got into the action too by conjuring up a rocket launcher, filling it with Gloppers and french-fry spitballs and firing. Roland's position vanished in a cloud of toxic waste, but his clone magicked up a launcher of his own and soon they were pounding each other and everything in between. It didn't take long for the Poppy Streeters to twig on to the fact that they weren't benefiting from the war because they were getting blown up so fast that they weren't able to get off a shot at a target without either it or them getting destroyed first.
"ALL RIGHT! THAT'S ENOUGH!" bellowed Bob, dodging a flying McNugget that blasted a Muppet behind him who was about to kill him by decapitation. "Maybe this will get rid of you for good! Goopa loopa, scum begone! Go back to where you belong!" Nothing seemed to happen. "RIGHT NOW!" he roared impatiently, melting some sand in front of him. As a result, all of the burger stuff in the air reversed direction, flew back to its source and exploded.
To say that the two Burgermen were obliterated would be an understatement, since all of their entrails, gore and loose body parts had been hurled precipitously back to their home planet, where they weren't wanted save by the police for various crimes related to illegal explosives and drugs possession. But to say that the nearby Poppy Streeters were obliterated wouldn't be.
By now, they had had quite enough of the beach for one day, so they magicked themselves home for supper and skin ointment to treat sunburn. Once more the city folk settled themselves down into their nocturnal dormancy, switched on their burglar killers and slept soundly.
Tomorrow would be another big, bloody, beautiful day.
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