READ BOOK 1

stop the war cover final

1 – STOP! HAMMER TIME

A pretty peculiar picture, a penguin pecking at a cell phone, don’t you think? Now, ponder, please, who in the whole wide world was the portly penguin attempting to communicate with? Was he ordering a pizza pie packed with Parmesan and piled high with pickled purple peppers? No, no, silly rabbits, he was calling those mischievous merry-making mercenaries of mayhem, the magnificent merchants of mirth, the ridiculously adorable ragamuffin rascals, the rambunctious rapscallions known as Riff n Raff, who were, as usual, up to ‘no good’.

At that precise moment, Riff stopped moving, smiled and said, “Stop! Hammer time!”

Raff laughed, “You gonna bust a move, white boy?”

Riff laughed, “No, home girl, I’m not. I’m gonna bust a lock. Hand me the hammer.”

“What do you mean, ‘hand me the hammer’?” Raff replied. “You were supposed to bring the hammer.”

Riff had just applied liquid nitrogen to the lock on the back door of the monkey cage at the zoo. Ever since their science teacher had taught them that liquid nitrogen is so cold that it makes steel brittle enough to be shattered with a hammer, Riff n Raff had been plotting. Now, just as they were about to let loose 99 monkeys, which would have been their greatest caper ever, they were foiled because someone forgot the hammer. What was worse was that they were about to get busted. Worst of all, they were going to be busted by Mimi Money.

Track List

U can’t touch this – MC Hammer – Please Hammer, don’t Hurt ‘em – 1990

2 – (SHE’S GOT) LOOKS THAT KILL

“Everyone is looking for you. What are you doing?” Mimi asked.

“Who, us?” asked Riff.

“Doing?” asked Raff.

“We’re not doing anything,” said both of them at the same time, not for the first time in their lives.

“You are so,” said Mimi. “You’re up to no good, as always, and I’m going to tell Mr. Mumu.”

“Okay, go ahead and tell Mr. Mumu,” laughed Raff. “We’ll tell him, and everyone else, that we were trying to figure out which one of these monkeys is your uncle.” Thinking quickly, Raff pulled up a picture of Mimi on her tablet and said, “See? We’re showing all the monkeys this picture to see which one of them recognizes you.”

Raff laughed uproariously. Mimi was livid. If looks could kill, Raff would be dead. Knowing that she would be humiliated in front of what was left of her friends, Mimi, a very, very vain little girl, shrieked in horror and fled.

Remembering what the mysterious vanishing girl had said, just minutes before, Riff yelled, “Mimi, wait! We’re sorry. Really we are.” It was Raff’s turn to be livid. If looks could kill, Riff would be dead, but Raff managed to resist the temptation to say, ‘I’m not sorry.’

Mimi stopped, turned and said, “Really?”

“Yeah, we’re sorry,” said Riff, as Raff steamed.

“Okay, I’m sorry, too,” Mimi said.

“Really?” asked Riff, hopefully.

“Yes, I’m sorry,” Mimi said with a smile. “Sorry you’re so shtoopid.” And with that, Mimi turned and began to skip away, laughing maniacally.

Just then, Riff’s phone rang.

“Who is it?” Raff asked.

“It shouldn’t be anyone because I turned my phone off an hour ago. And this is even weirder… it’s Mimi,” answered Riff, with a puzzled look.

“It can’t be Mimi, dumb-dumb. She’s right there and she’s not holding a phone.”

Riff showed his phone to Raff. Sure enough, it said Mimi was calling.

Well, we know it wasn’t Mimi calling. But how did the penguin get Mimi’s phone? Let’s go back a little and find out.

Track List

Looks that kill – Motley Crue – Shout at the Devil – 1983

3 – THE BATTLE OF EVERMORE 

There was a horrible war brewing in the world. All the kids were more than a little anxious about it. Many of them had older brothers and sisters who would have to go and fight the war. Riff n Raff’s socials teacher, Mr. Mumu, thought a class trip to the zoo would take their minds off the looming war, but it was not to be.

As the class was watching the penguins plunge into pools of icy water, Raff asked Mr. Mumu, “Do animals ever have wars?” Raff, of course, knew the answer to the question. The only reason to ask it was to set up Riff. It was game on.

Mr. Mumu looked at the pair knowingly. He had a deep affection for Riff n Raff and admired their keen and cunning minds. “Animals? No. Not really.”

Riff pounced, “So, we’re the only species on the planet that has wars? I thought we were supposed to be the smart ones.”

There was no need for Riff n Raff to even look at each other for signals. They knew how to play the game, they played to win, and they usually did. They never argued about things they didn’t know much about. If there was a discussion, or argument, on a subject they were ignorant about, they either shut their mouths and listened, or asked questions. They did their homework. Their understanding of each other allowed them to communicate almost telepathically. “Why is there going to be a war, anyway?” asked Raff. “What did they do to us? What did we do to them?”

“War is a lie,” Riff said. “Politicians always have to lie to start wars. They lie, lie, and lie, and innocent people die, die, and die. War is a lie, a dirty, stinking lie.”

Mr. Mumu smiled. He loved to watch the pair work together. Usually. Sometimes things got ugly. Sometimes the kids who dared to take the bait offered by Riff n Raff got hurt. But he wanted to see where this was going, so he said, “It’s complicated.”

Riff pounced again, “And we’re shtoopid, or something?” Mr. Mumu smiled again, and started to say something, but not before Riff followed up. “I’ll tell you why there’s going to be a war. It’s because people are greedy. They want our stuff, and we want their stuff. Whether it’s gold, oil, land, water or anything else that’s valuable, greedy people want more of it, and they are willing to start wars to get it.”

No one noticed, but the penguins had stopped their gamboling and were listening to Riff intently. Their eyes got as big as frisbees. Their beaks dropped open. When Riff stopped speaking, the penguins winked at each other and high-fived.

“So, war is all about money?” asked Raff.

Mimi, who had once been good friends with Riff n Raff, took the bait. “War is good for the economy. It creates jobs.” she said. Mimi liked to play, too. She could thrust and parry with Riff, but Riff still felt some affection for her. Riff may have even had a ‘kind-of-crush’ on her, so he never turned it all the way to ten when they would argue.

Raff, on the other hand, had no trouble bringing her A game against Mimi. Raff and Mimi hated on each other in that special way that only girls are capable of. “Yeah, it creates jobs and makes people like your dad even richer,” Raff sniped at Mimi. “Some rich people,” Raff said, addressing the rest of the class, “like Mimi’s dad, can never get enough money.” Mimi’s dad was the President of the Wicked Weapons of War company, commonly called WWoW!

Mimi was reluctant to engage in word battle with Raff. She instinctively sensed that she was exposed, vulnerable on this subject, at this time, especially with her merciless enemy, Raff. So Mimi turned on Riff. “Riff, you’re just jealous because your dad’s a clown and you’re poor,” said Mimi, barely able to contain her anger. Unable to resist, Mimi took aim at Raff and fired a secondary shot, “And you and your father are no better, Raff.”

Riff was not completely disinclined to mess with Mimi, especially if Mimi started it, and if Raff was staring daggers at him, as she was at that moment. “Yeah, Mimi, we are poor and my dad is a clown, but he makes people laugh. Your dad builds weapons that all us poor people use to kill each other in wars. Wars that are waged so people like him can get richer.”

“The only reason people laugh at your dad is because he’s a drunk,” Mimi fired back. “They’re laughing at him, not with him.”

Raff didn’t bother to mask her contempt for Mimi when she volleyed back, “Your dad should be in that cage down there, not the penguins. And you should be in the monkey cage with the rest of your relatives.” The class laughed. A few of them made monkey noises.

Mimi lost it and threw her phone at Raff. But Mimi didn’t have a very good arm, so the phone flew over Raff’s head, into the penguin cage. “You see?” said Raff. “That’s a thousand dollar phone and she doesn’t even care because her dad is going to make so much money off the war that he’ll be able to buy her a hundred more of them.”

Mimi laughed, smugly, and said, “He doesn’t have to, because I have another one, right here.”

All of a sudden, the sky, which had been battleship grey and threatening rain, turned sunny. All the boys and girls had lollipops in their hands, and a sparkling little girl appeared, from out of nowhere, in front of Riff n Raff. Her eyes shone like diamonds in the dew. She smiled a 10,000 watt smile at them.

Riff n Raff looked at each other, then back at the girl. The girl said, “You should be nicer to Mimi.” She floated up high enough to hug Riff, then Raff, and then she disappeared as quickly as she had materialized. When she did so, the sky turned grey again.

Riff n Raff were stunned into total silence. The other kids never saw the girl, but they were glad for the lollipops, even if they had no clue where they’d come from. Mr. Mumu decided to take advantage of the silence and confusion to stop the battle of words and wits between Riff n Raff and Mimi, and move everyone along to another part of the zoo. As the rest of the kids went to see the giraffes, Riff n Raff stole away to liberate the monkeys.

Track List

The Battle of Evermore – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV – 1971

Thrasher – Neil Young –  – Rust Never Sleeps – 1979

4 – RUN TO THE HILLS

Staring at Riff’s phone, Raff said, “I don’t know, dude. Just answer it.” Riff answered the call.

“What you’re trying to do is very funny, but you and Raff better get out of there before you get caught.”

“What?” said Riff. “Who is this?”

“My name is Sidney, but never mind that. Just get out of there before you get caught,” said the strange voice. “Go now, and I’ll call you later to explain.”

Riff put his phone in his pocket and said to Raff, “We have to rocket. Right now.”

“What? Who was that?”

“I don’t know, but we have to go. Right now! Come on!”

Riff n Raff bolted from the back of the monkey cage and scampered away, adrenalin pulsing through their 15 year old bodies. Even when they were afraid of getting caught, in this case for a caper they hadn’t even managed to pull off, Riff n Raff laughed like chimpanzees and ran like gazelles to avoid capture, and this was no exception.

Riff n Raff lived up in the hills on the edge of Thunder City, where the roads stopped and the forest began. When they were twelve years old, the two of them built a log fort in the forest, a quiet little hideaway where no one would bother them and their friends.

The kids found their friend Taffy at the fort. Taffy had Gypsy blood in her and was being schooled in all sorts of strange witchcraft by her grandmother. She was flipping through a deck of tarot cards when Riff n Raff came laughing up the path. “Excellent! I was hoping you two would show up. I need someone to do a tarot reading on,” said Taffy.

“Me me me me me,” said Raff.

“You you you you you it is,” laughed Taffy. The three of them sat around a small table and Taffy began. Raff flipped the first card. “Uh oh. The chariot,” said Taffy.

“What do you mean, ‘uh oh’?” asked Raff.

“The chariot means danger.”

“Danger? Of what?” asked Raff.

“Of being pulled to pieces by forces we do not control or understand.”

“Uh oh. What else?”

Taffy told Raff to draw and flip another card. “The Empress. That’s better.”

“Why? Why is the Empress better?”

“She is the creator.”

“Creator? Of what?”

“Quite often, romance.”

As Raff looked at Riff and started to blush, his phone rang.

“Hey,” said Taffy. “We have a rule – no electronics at the fort. Phones have to be turned off.”

“It was. I turned it off as soon as we got on the trail,” answered Riff. “It says Mimi is calling, again,” Riff told Raff before fingering the answer button.

“Riff, listen carefully,” the strange voice said. “If you want to stop this horrible war from happening, come back to the penguin cage tonight, after the zoo is closed.”

“Who is this?” Riff asked.

“I told you, my name is Sidney. You need not know more right now. All will be explained tonight. If you want to stop the war, come to the penguin cage. I’m sure you and Raff will have no trouble getting in.” Then the line went dead. Riff tried to return the call, but the phone had been switched off.

After telling Taffy about the first mysterious call, and then telling his friends what had just transpired, Riff turned to Raff and asked, “What do you think?”

“I don’t know, Riff. It’s really weird. One of the workers at the zoo must have picked up Mimi’s phone in the penguin cage.”

“I figured that much out. But how did he get a call through to my phone when it was turned off. And what does he want?”

“Not knowing. It’s kind of creepy. But kind of exciting. Do you think we should go? It could be dangerous. Taffy said there is danger coming. ”

Before Riff could answer, the sparkling girl with the 10,000 watt smile, and eyes that shone like diamonds in the dew, appeared again. The kids all had lollipops in their hands. “Don’t be afraid,” said the girl. “Go to the zoo. There is nothing dangerous in store for you at the zoo.” Then she hugged the three of them and disappeared.

“Dude, this is too weird,” Raff said to Riff. “Who is that girl?”

“Yeah,” said Taffy. “Who is she?”

“I have no idea, but she appeared when we were at the zoo this afternoon, too,” said Raff.

“And she’s really cute,” said Riff.

“She is cute,” agreed Raff. “She’s like some kind of little pixie babe. I guess we should take her advice, then?”

“Well, who are we to ignore the wishes of a little pixie babe? Taffy, you wanna come?”

“No, no,” said Taffy. “I’ll stay here and keep an eye on you.”

“Huh?” Riff grunted.

“Grandma is teaching me remote viewing. I’m starting to be able to see things that are going on far away.”

“Cool,” said Raff. “Okay, Taffy, you stay here and keep an eye on us.”

Taffy nodded, said farewell and flipped another tarot card. It was the ace of spades. “That doesn’t belong in a tarot deck,” she said to herself.  “Where did that come from and what does it mean?”

Track List

Run to the Hills – Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast – 1982

5 – ACE OF SPADES

Taffy’s grandmother managed to conceal the bolt of fear and revulsion that exploded in her head the second she was told about the ace of spades. “Child, tell me, and make no mistake about it: did you select this card, or did your friend?”

“I don’t know. I can’t remember,” said Taffy, with a trace of concern in her voice. “Why? What does it mean, grandmother?”

Taffy’s grandmother knew exactly what it meant, but she wasn’t going to share that information. In all the centuries that gypsies had been divining the future through the tarot, the ace of spades had materialized in a deck and been turned only a dozen times. Every one of those times it meant one thing and one thing only – death.

Sometimes the person who turned the card had been claimed by the reaper, sometimes entire nations had been destroyed. The ace of spades always meant death. Now, it had materialized and been turned for the 13th time.

“Probably nothing, dear,” said Taffy’s grandmother. “Tell me, your friend, she likes to gamble?”

“Gamble? No, Raff doesn’t have money to gamble with.”

“No, no, I mean, take risks. Does she take risks? Sometimes just for the thrill of it?”

“Oh yeah. For sure. Raff and Riff are fearless adrenaline junkies.”

The ancient song played inside the head of Taffy’s grandmother. She pictured the Grim Reaper himself looking up into a microphone and singing:

If you like to gamble
I tell you I’m your man
you win some, lose some

it’s all the same to me

The pleasure is to play
it makes no difference what you say
I don’t share your greed
the only card I need
is the ace of spades
the ace of spades

“Fearless, you say?” Taffy’s granny queried.

“They’re always doing crazy, dangerous, death-defying things,” said Taffy.

And the band played on inside her grandmother’s head, The Reaper laughing as he sang:

You know I’m born to lose
and gambling’s for fools
but that’s the way I like it baby
I don’t wanna live forever…
and don’t forget the joker!’

“Who’s the joker?”

“The joker?”

“One of them is a joker, a jester?”

“Well, they both are, but Riff more so. It’s genetic. He gets it from his dad, BeanO. He’s a clown.”

“I see. And I take it Riff n Raff never know when to quit? They just have to know what’s going to happen next? They like to play chicken? They think they could bluff the devil himself?”

“That’s them.”

The song got even louder and more frantic in grandma’s head:

Pushing up the ante
I know you’ve got to see me
read ’em and weep
the dead man’s hand again

I see it in your eyes
take one look and die
 the only thing you see
you know it’s gonna be
the Ace Of Spades
the Ace Of Spades

“Where are your friends right now, Taffy?”

“I don’t know. I scoped them for a while last night, after they left the fort, but I wasn’t strong enough to stay with them. I’ll call Raff.” Taffy pulled out her phone.

“Put that toy down, Taffy. Find her with your mind. Find them both with your mind. And show me where they are. Both of them.” Taffy tapped into her subconscious mind, kicking down doors and smashing shaded windows. Her grandmother followed her, pushing her along, willing her to find Riff n Raff. And finally, she did. They were both in their homes. Sleeping. Safe and sound.

Now knowing who and where Riff n Raff were, Taffy’s grandmother vowed to herself to watch over them. Then she tried to alleviate Taffy’s discomfort by saying, “Don’t worry about the ace of spades, Taffy. It’s probably just a defective deck. Lousy Chinese quality control, don’t you know? And don’t put those cards in your mouth – the ink probably has lead in it.”

Track List

Ace of Spades – Motorhead – Ace of Spades – 1980

6 – DON’T FEAR THE REAPER

The second Raff woke up she called Riff. “Dude, that was so insane. Did that really happen, or did I dream it all?”

“No, it wasn’t a dream. Not unless we dreamt the same thing.”

“What are we going to do? I think you’d better call BeanO.”

“Yeah? I suppose you’re right. If anyone can make sense of this it will be my dad. I’ll call him and call you back.”

Several hours later on that sunny Saturday afternoon the kids walked into Ye Olde Clowne House, BeanO’s favourite watering hole. The bartender raised an eyebrow and was about to tell Riff n Raff to “beat it,” when BeanO yelled, “It’s okay. They’re with me.”

Riff n Raff sat down at BeanO’s booth. A waiter came along, “What will you have? All you can eat pizza today.”

“Excellent,” said Riff, “I’m starving. Extra large pizza pie packed with Parmesan and piled high with pickled purple peppers?”

“And pepperoni and prosciutto?” asked BeanO.

“No way, meat mouth,” laughed Riff. “Maybe with potatoes, parsnips and parsley, but not pepperoni and prosciutto.” BeanO acquiesced to the wishes of the herbivores, and the three of them gobbled down the monstrous pizza, as Riff n Raff related their strange tale to the clown.

“Penguins from another planet?” asked BeanO. “Who speak English? Their leader is named Sidney? Does he play hockey, by any chance?” The waiter returned and BeanO ordered another pizza.

“He said the name is a complete coincidence, and no, he doesn’t play hockey,” Riff answered.

“And this Sid the Kid says you two can stop the war?”

“Yeah,” said Riff.

“And a super cute little Pixie girl?” the curious clown queried.

“Uh huh,” said Raff.

“You better tell me that story again,” said BeanO.

“Why?” demanded Riff. “You don’t believe us? You think we made it all up? You think we’re lying?”

BeanO laughed. “Oh, no. Nice try, but I’m the one that taught you that something is only a lie if it is told with malicious intent, or if you’re trying to escape responsibility, or if something bad can happen if people believe it.“

“Yeah, yeah,” said Raff. “Everything else is just a story. Like a movie or a book. Movies and books are not true, but they aren’t lies, either.”

“Exactly,” said BeanO.

“But this isn’t a story,” said Riff. “Every word is true.”

“Well, son, you are my son, after all, and you and Raff have earned well deserved reputations for telling some incredible stories.”

“So we have,” admitted Riff. “But we’ve also told some incredible, but absolutely true, stories.”

“That you have, son. So, you’ll have no trouble telling me the whole thing again, will you? If you didn’t make it up, you can repeat the whole thing easily enough, can’t you?”

And so they did, while BeanO devoured yet another extra large pizza pie packed with Parmesan and piled high with pickled purple peppers.

“Okay. I believe you,” said BeanO, after the kids had told the tale again. “But I need to meet these penguins, and the pixie girl. And I need another one of those pizzas! Waiter.”

The waiter came over and said, “No.”

“No, what?” asked BeanO.

“No, you can’t have another pizza.”

“But you said it was all you can eat,” BeanO pouted, indignantly.

“Yeah, I did. And that’s all you can eat. Now get out before you put us out of business.”

Riff n Raff burst out laughing. “What’s so funny?” BeanO demanded.

Raff smiled and replied, “I don’t think you’re in shape to do what has to be done to get into the zoo after hours, old-timer, big guy. As for the pixie girl, we have no control over her. We don’t even know how to summon her. She’s a pixie, not a genie.”

“Okay, so let’s get to the zoo, right now. I can talk to Sid on the phone, but I have to see them actually talking.”

“Because you don’t believe us?” asked Raff.

“No, I believe you. But how often does a guy get the chance to see a talking penguin,” laughed BeanO. “Come on, let’s go.”

“I’m afraid, BeanO,” said Raff.

“Afraid? Of what?”

“Afraid the reaper is coming for all of us.”

“Me too,” said Riff.

“Don’t fear the reaper, kids,” BeanO laughed, as he waddled to the door behind the kids. “Don’t fear the reaper. Clowns laugh death in the face. The reaper doesn’t like being laughed at. The reaper thrives on fear, and laughter makes him disappear.”

Track List

Don’t Fear the Reaper – Blue Oyster Cult – Agents of Fortune – 1976

7 – EVE OF DESTRUCTION

A couple hours later, back at Ye Olde Clowne House, BeanO and Riff n Raff discussed their options. Sid had answered all BeanO’s questions to the clown’s satisfaction. They had come to Earth, millennia ago, from their own frozen planet, which had become terribly overcrowded. So overcrowded and noisy that the penguins found it difficult to concentrate hard enough to solve their problems. So their government was dispatched to the South Pole of planet Earth.

A nice, out-of-the-way corner of a nice, out-of-the-way planet was exactly what the penguins needed. Complete isolation, perfect peace. The penguin government meditated on their planet’s problems and found solutions to all that came up… except the overcrowding. Penguins, it seems, are a little too feisty for their own good, and thus their leaders were doomed to govern from exile. Which, all things considered, wasn’t such a bad thing. Until the humans came, bringing with them a disease that debilitated the birds.

“Your species did horrible, horrible things to us,” Sid had told BeanO and the kids. “We simply could not comprehend the barbarity that was visited upon our quiet, harmless selves by humans. After suffering at the hands of the humans for a time, we were finally left mostly alone. We cured the disease the humans brought with them, and cancelled plans to exterminate your species,” Sid told the clown and the rascals.

“It was decided that we would attempt to better understand humans, so we allowed ourselves to be captured and put into these zoos of yours. We have the capability to monitor all your communications, and we do when we are bored, but we can learn more about you by being up close and personal. Obviously, we can’t just go wandering the streets, so, while you are watching us, here in these zoos, we have been watching you.

“When we heard Riff n Raff telling it like it is, we knew we’d found the right kids for the difficult job that lies before us. Fortunately,” Sid said, looking at Riff, “when Riff’s girlfriend threw her phone at Raff and it landed in our cage, we had a simple way to communicate with you.”

“Girlfriend? Shut up! Mimi’s not my girlfriend, dude,” Riff protested.

“As you wish,” said Sid.

“Shut up! She is not my girlfriend. I can’t stand her.”

“Me thinks thou dost protest too much,” BeanO said, and he and Sid had a good laugh at Riff’s expense.

Raff was agitated and jumped in to put a halt to the proceedings, “Mimi is not Riff’s girlfriend.”

“Okay, enough teasing Riff. We have dire business to tend to,” said Sid. Your species stands on the brink of self-extinction as a possible result of this insane war, that may be just days away. We believe that the war, if it begins, will quickly escalate, and nuclear weapons will be used. That will mean the end of life, as you know it, on your Earth. And we would be forced to look for a new planet upon which we can meditate.”

Raff inquired, with a fair degree of excitement, “Will the dinosaurs come back?”

Before Sid could answer, BeanO intervened and said, “Let’s not let it get to that point, yeah?” All were in agreement.

“We are preparing to depart your planet, and will do so, if need be. However, we think we can help you avoid the extinction of your species, and all the other totally innocent species that share this planet with you,” said Sid.

The penguin proceeded to lay out the plan he had discussed with Riff n Raff the night before. It was a good plan. It was an excellent plan. It could work. It would work. But only if Riff, Raff and BeanO could come up with an incredibly clever solution to the one massive problem with it. Unless the troika could do so, the penguins would leave and the entire planet was doomed. It was upon that problem that the three of them ruminated at Ye Olde Clowne House, on an early Saturday evening, as time was running out.

“Oh, no,” said BeanO, as he eyed a drunken clown stumbling his way toward the table. It was Cheery Cheney, a dumb and mean clown with the most disingenuous clown name ever. Cheery Cheney and BeanO had argued over and over and over again about the looming war.

“BeanO, my friend, what are you up to?”

“Trying to stop the war.”

“What a stupid idea,” said Cheery Cheney. “Can’t you understand that they’ve gone too far? They have to be stopped, and if that means war, I say bring it on. We’ll destroy those heathens.”

BeanO’s head sank and he tried to control the rage he felt. After a few seconds, BeanO raised his head and gave it to Cheery Cheney:

Don’t you understand what I’m
tryin’ to say
can’t you feel the fears I’m
feelin’ today?
if the button is pushed
there’s no
runnin’ away
there’ll be no one to save
with the world in a grave
take a look around ya boy
it’s bound to scare ya boy
and you tell me, over and over and over again
my friend
ah, you don’t believe
we’re on the eve
of destruction

Thoroughly castigated, Cheery Cheney looked down at the floor and said nothing, while BeanO continued,

Yeah, my blood’s so mad
feels like coagulatin’
I’m sitting here just
contemplatin’
I can’t twist the truth
it knows no regulation
a handful of senators don’t
pass legislation
and marches alone can’t
stop annihilation
when human respect is
disintegratin’
this whole crazy world is just
too frustratin’.

and you tell me
over and over and over again
my friend
 ah, you don’t believe
we’re on the eve
of destruction
no you don’t believe
we’re on the eve
of destruction

“I gotta get another drink,” said Cheery Cheney.

“Yeah, you do that,” replied BeanO, shaking his head.

“When do you think the war will start, BeanO,” Raff asked the clown.

“Hard to say, kiddo. Neither side has set a deadline for their terms to be accepted, but that could change any minute now. On the other hand, this sabre-rattling could go on for weeks or months even.”

“I don’t think we can count on that,” said Riff. “The penguins were right when they said we can be a very violent species. There are monsters disguised as human beings who really do want to ‘Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!’”

“What?” asked BeanO.

“It’s Shakespeare. Julius Caesar,” Raff answered

“I know what it is,” said BeanO. “What do you think, I’m shtoopid or something? When did you two start reading Shakespeare?”

“After I read about four pages of that Harry Potter drivel,” laughed Riff.

Raff cringed, “Pffftttt! Harry Potter.” Then she shook her head and said, “Never mind that. We have work to do. The penguins have given us the answer, but how do we convince the rest of the kids? We’re not responsible for this insanity. I don’t want to have to save the world.”

“Nor do I,” said Riff. “But we have to.”

“Well, what would Bugs Bunny do in this situation?” asked BeanO, pointing at Riff’s favourite shirt.

Riff laughed, “Bugs never had to deal with anything like this. Even when he was in danger, Bugs was having fun.”

“Riff!” exclaimed Raff. “That’s it! That’s it!”

“What’s it?” Riff and BeanO asked.

“Fun!”

“Fun?”

“Fun. Kids just wanna have fun.”

“And?”

“Listen, this is how we’re gonna stop the war, and save the world,” said Raff, laughing hysterically.

When Raff couldn’t stop laughing long enough to explain herself, BeanO checked her glass to make sure the bartender hadn’t slipped her some hooch. “You just never know what a clown bartender is capable of when he’s bored,” said BeanO, before handing Raff her glass back.

Eventually, Raff calmed down long enough to spell out her scheme. Neither Riff nor BeanO found it nearly as funny as Raff did, but they agreed it was worth a shot, so Raff pulled out her tablet and went to work. Within an hour their Facebook group had more than a million kids in it. It just might work, but the clock was ticking.

The clown pulled out his phone and called Sid. “Don’t ask why,” BeanO told Sid. “Just tell us you can do it and do it.”

“The first part is easy,” Sid said. We already have that technology. The second part… I don’t know, but we’ll start right away.”

Track List

Eve of Destruction – Barry McGuire – Eve of Destruction – 1965

8 – I HEAR YOU KNOCKING (BUT YOU CAN’T COME IN)

The group had more than ten million members, every one of them 16 years old or younger, when Raff woke up on Sunday morning. “Holy macaroni, dude, it’s working!” Raff exclaimed to Riff over the phone.

“Has Mimi joined?” Riff asked.

Raff had made sure Mimi couldn’t join. She’d isolated Mimi’s IP address and blocked her arch enemy’s repeated attempts to join the group using numerous accounts that she had created after first attempting to join using her real name and account. Mimi was a bit of a techtard, so she didn’t think to try using a public wifi, or a VPN.

“No,” Raff told Riff, with a trace of fury in her forlorn voice.  “You don’t seriously think she’d want anything to do with this, do you? Are you crazy? She’s no good. Why can’t you see that?”

Riff remained silent for a spell before finally saying, “Okay. So be it. What do we do now?”

“I don’t think there’s much else we can do. The group is going to keep growing by itself, I’m sure. The rest is up to the penguins.”

“I guess so,” said Riff. “My dad says they’re still working on it all, and Sid asked him not to bother them while they are.”

“Okay. Do you want to hang out later today?”

“I do, but my dad wants to drag me to church.”

“And you’d rather eat an Ebola omelette?”

“Pretty much. And I need to paint today. I’ll call you and let you know what happens.”

“Do that, Raff. I’ll be jamming with the guys early afternoon, so if I don’t pick up right away you know why. ”

Track List

I Hear You Knocking – Smiley Lewis – single – 1955

9 – SHEEP

The last thing Raff wanted, just then, was to get into a fight with her father, a man who always played by the rules, never questioned authority, and believed prayer was the answer to every problem.

Even though his wife, Raff’s mom, had been killed, along with nine other members of her army platoon, in a training exercise, testing a new weapon, he was 100% behind the war,  and he would remain that way, even if President Pudd’n’head ordered his army to stand down. He wanted war, and he wanted it now.

Conformity to every social expectation, he repeatedly told his daughter, was the secret to his being able to climb the corporate and social ladders to become the manager of a Best Buy electronics store. Thus, he’d tell his daughter, they were able to avoid taking up residence, next door to Riff, in the housing project.

But a fight seemed inevitable when Raff walked into the kitchen and he said, “Raphael, I want you to attend church with me this morning,”

Raff laughed, sarcastically, “I believe you.”

“Reverend Phelps is here… “

“Fred Phelps? The hate monger from Kansas who pickets funerals?”

“Those people were vile sinners who blasphemed God before they died the deaths they so rightly deserved. Reverend Phelps’ sermon is about the coming Armageddon. I thought you’d be interested.”

“Armageddon, huh? The final battle between good and evil? Revelations? Ezekiel?”

“This has all been prophesied , Raphael. Jesus is coming.”

“I’ve got news for you, dad: your Jesus never existed.”

“Blasphemy, child. Sacrilege! How can you say such things?”

Raff was well prepared for this argument. Weeks earlier, Mr. Mumu had told his classes how Jesus was an almost identical carbon copy of the Egyptian God Horus, who, legend had it, lived long before Jesus.

“No, dad, it’s not blasphemy. It’s simple deductive reasoning,” she said pulling out the list of remarkable similarities between the alleged holy men. “Whoever concocted the Jesus story stole it from the Horus myth.

“Look: Jesus was the light of the world, Horus was the light of the world.

“Jesus said he was the way, the truth and the life, Horus said he was the truth, the life.

“Jesus was the good shepherd, Horus was the good shepherd.

“Seven fishers board a boat with Jesus, seven men board a boat with Horus.

“Jesus was the lamb, Horus was the lamb.

“Jesus is identified with a cross, Horus is identified with a cross.

“Jesus was baptized at 30, Horus was baptized at 30.

“Jesus was the child of a virgin, Mary, Horus was the child of a virgin, Isis.

“The birth of Jesus was marked by a star, the birth of Horus was marked by a star.

“Jesus was the child teacher in the temple, Horus was the child teacher in the temple.

“Jesus had twelve disciples, Horus had twelve followers.

“Jesus was the morning star, Horus was the morning star.

“Jesus was the Christ, Horus was the Krst.

“Jesus was tempted on a mountain by Satan, Horus was tempted on a mountain by Set.

“Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave, Horus raised Osiris from the grave.

“Jesus healed the sick and walked on water, Horus healed the sick and walked on water.

“Jesus was crucified, Horus was crucified.

“Jesus was crucified beside two thieves, Horus was crucified beside two thieves.

“Jesus was resurrected after three days, Horus was resurrected after three days.” Raff looked at her father, as if to say, I rest my case.

As was his habit, when he could not come up with answers to his daughter’s probing questions, Raff’s father had stuck his fingers in his ears and begun to pray fervently, in an attempt to block out what his daughter was telling him.

This never failed to enrage Raff and she barked, “How do you explain all that, dad? Huh? How? Do you think that’s all a coincidence? Are you crazy?”

As her father ignored her and continued to pray, Raff shook her head and fell silent for about ten seconds before continuing, “And based on this elaborate hoax, you and the rest of your brotherhood of sheep are actually praying for this war to start. That’s sick. Sick, sick, sick. The whole world is going to be destroyed and you’re cheerleading for it.”

Raff’s father got up from his knees, crossed himself several times and walked to a small wooden case sitting atop a mantel place. He pulled a key from his pocket, unlocked the box and pulled out a Smith and Wesson  9 mil. He fell to his knees, placed his hands together in front of him, in the fashion of prayer, with the gun jammed directly under his jaw. He screamed, “Jesus is coming and you will burn!”

Raff had seen and heard it before. “Pray for the best, prepare for the worst,” was one of her father’s mantras. Raff was not alarmed but she was enraged. She screamed over top of her father’s continued prayers:

What do you get for pretending the danger’s not real?
meek and obedient you follow the leader
down well trodden corridors
into the valley of steel

What a surprise!
a look of terminal shock in your eyes
now things really are what they seem.
no, this is not a bad dream

Raff’s father got to his feet, glared at his daughter and walked to the door, never hearing a word the girl was saying. He put the gun in his coat pocket and said, solemnly, “I will pray for you, Raphael. May God have mercy on your soul.”

“Jesus Christ!” Raff exclaimed.

Track List

Sheep – Pink Floyd – Animals – 1977

10 – MOTHER’S LITTLE HELPER

Meanwhile, Riff was not fairing any better at home. His mom had gone into a depression after her divorce from BeanO, eight years earlier, Her English lit degree got her nothing more than a job at the Amazon warehouse, where she worked like a slave under the company’s abhorrent, Dickensian labour practices. She resorted to anti-depressants to keep from killing herself

The judge awarded full time custody of Riff to her, reasoning, “A professional clown, with an appetite for liquid self destruction, is not fit to raise a child.”.

Riff’s brother, who was 10 years older, had run away a month after the divorce, and was never heard from again. Riff’s mother made herself sick worrying that Riff would, one day, follow his brother out the door, to who knew where. She engaged herself in a relentless, but ultimately futile, effort to ‘normalize’ the boy, as a means of preventing such a tragedy.

Every time Riff got into trouble, at school or anywhere else, his mom would over react wildly and try to send him to see a psychiatrist. But BeanO, a brilliant clown, whose genius was seldom recognized, would have none of it. The clown argued that Riff was a whip-smart kid who knew right from wrong, and dared to think for himself. Yes, he said, the boy has a wild imagination and an unquenchable curiosity, before adding that he was proud of those facts, and that he would never allow anyone to transform his pride and joy into some kind of automaton. Eventually, BeanO was always able to dissuade his ex-wife from packing Riff off to see a shrink, who would, almost certainly, prescribe some kind of happy pills to cure ills that simply did not exist.

Even through the blinding artificial sunshine produced by the chemical cloud busters that she gobbled like candy, Riff’s mom could see that her son was deeply troubled about something. “Riff… you seem very… very… sad… and… agitated. What’s wrong?”

Knowing, from past experience, that his mother simply could not deal with dark and heavy issues, Riff didn’t want to get into it with her. Riff had learned that reality is not for the squeamish, and his mother was very squeamish, so he said, “No, mom, I’m fine.” But his mother pressed Riff, saying that he could tell her anything. Frustrated, Riff replied, “No, mom, I can’t. If I tell you something is wrong, you can’t handle it. You just reach for your happy pills.”

And she did exactly that. Riff’s mom pulled her bottle of happy pills out of her purse, shook two of them out, and down the hatch they went. Having no idea how to communicate with her son, she shook out two more, and offered them to Riff,  “These can make the pain go away, son. They really can.”

Disgusted, Riff said, “Your shrink should be thrown in jail for getting you hooked on those damned things. He doesn’t care about your well being, mom. All he wants is another free golf trip to the Bahamas, which he gets from the pharmaceutical company for turning people into drug addicts. Before they came up with all those happy pills, people used to deal with their problems, instead of just wishing them away with pills.”

Riff’s mom started crying. “Things are different today.”

Riff replied, “I hear every mother say.”

“Mother needs something today to calm her down.”

“Yes, but you’re not really ill.”

“Just one little yellow pill,” she said, again offering the drug to her son.

“Please stop running for the shelter of your mother’s little helper.”

“But they help me on my way, get me through the awful days,” she sobbed, gobbling two more.

“And if you take more of those, you will get an overdose. Please stop running for the shelter of your mother’s little helpers.”

And then there was a knock at the door. Riff’s mom instantly stopped sobbing and busted out a shiny, plastic smile. Her latest paramour – there had been scores more, before – was at the door. Hope for love and real happiness washed over her again. “Riff, honey, mommy and Tommy are off for a cheery picnic in the park,” she smiled. “I’ll see you tonight. Be a good boy.”

Riff shook his head and mumbled, “What a drag it is getting old.”

Track List

Mother’s Little Helper – Rolling Stones – Aftremath – 1966

11 – (MONEY) CAN’T BUT ME LOVE

Having been unable to join Riff n Raff’s STOP THE WAR group, yet again, Mimi threw her tablet across her room in frustration. Then she went to the kitchen, where she found her father eating breakfast and counting piles of money. ”Father, Riff n Raff are up to something.”

“I don’t doubt it, Sunshine. Those two are always up to something.”

“They’re trying to stop the war.”

“Hahaha! Fat chance of that happening.”

“They’ve started a Facebook group. They have more than ten million members. All of them kids.”

Mimi’s father stopped counting his piles of money. He looked worried. He was a scientist. He’d made a fortune by inventing new, horrible, wicked weapons of war. He didn’t care who he sold his weapons to, so long as they paid top dollar. He’d made so much money, and was so in love with money, that he’d changed his name to Money. He was known far and wide as Mr. Money, and he loved it. The thought of the war being stopped was deeply troubling to Mr. Money.

“Show me,” he demanded. After examining the work of Riff n Raff he whistled and admitted, “That’s impressive. But they will never be able to deliver on their promise. What they are promising is impossible. And nobody listens to kids, anyway, honey, so don’t worry. The war will happen, and it will drag on for a long time. And I will keep selling weapons to both sides, and become the richest and most powerful man in the world!”

“Why do you want to be the richest and most powerful man in the world?” Mimi asked.

Mr. Money looked at his daughter like she was insane, before answering, “Because that will make me happy. Don’t you want daddy to be happy?”

“But can’t you accomplish that without a war?”

“Mimi, honey, there have always been wars, and there will always be wars. Humans are animals. I’m just making the best of it.”

“But animals don’t have wars, father.”

“No, I don’t suppose they do. But humans do, and nothing can change that, Mimi.”

“Not even love? Why can’t we love each other, instead killing each other?”

“Mimi… honey, what is love? Does it even exist? There is not a single university in the whole world where you can get a degree in love. Doesn’t that tell you something? Scientists don’t believe in love. If we did, we would study it and understand it.”

Mimi looked like she was going to cry. Mr. Money hated it when Mimi cried. He did not know how to deal with it. His brain froze, and then was thrown into complete turmoil when Mimi cried,

“So, you don’t love me?” Mimi asked.

“No, Mimi, of course I love you.”

“But you just said… “

“Oh, never mind what I just said. I love you. Maybe love is just happiness. And money makes me happy. Here, have some money,” he said, handing Mimi a fistful of moolah. “See? See how much I love you?” Mimi smiled and snatched the cash, greedily. “See? See how happy that makes you. Money is happiness and happiness is love. Now, run along and have some fun. Daddy has work to do.”

Mimi skipped away, gleefully, singing, “Money, money, money! Money, money money! I love money and money loves me!”

Mr. Money went back to counting his piles of money. But he kept losing track. His mind was distracted. He understood that Riff n Raff were very clever, and wondered if they had a trick or two up their sleeves that would actually stop the war. He decided not to take any chances. He picked up the phone and made a quick call.

Track List

 (Money) Can’t But Me Love – The Beatles – A Hard D ay’s Night – 1964

12 – WAR PIGS

Riff found Raff, under a bridge, about five minutes before the cops did. After her father had stormed off to church to pray for the war to start, Raff packed her paints and her tablet into her backpack, and headed off to transform her rage and frustration into art, or as some would have you believe, vandalize public property.

For five hours since then Raff toiled under the bridge, in the industrial area of town, putting a final personal touch on her favourite painting by her favourite painter. “Wow!” said Riff, when he beheld Raff’s 12’ x 6’ work. “What the Hell is that?”

Raff, mentally exhausted, laughed, “You’re right. It is Hell. It’s war. It’s Picasso.”

“Yeah? Really?”

“It’s called Guernica. I’ve been working on it for a month. It’s Picasso’s interpretation of the first time civilians were targeted in a war. Guernica is the name of a town in Spain. During the Spanish Civil War the fascists got Hitler to bomb the town. The town square was bombed from the air, on market day, when everyone was shopping. Guernica had no military significance. The only reason to target it was to murder and inflict terror on innocent civilians. It changed war forever. Made war even worse than it had been.”

“The Nazis attacked Spain in flying saucers?” Riff asked, perplexed.

Raff shook her head. “No, idiot, I added the flying saucers. That’s us getting out of here, with the penguins.”

Ever alert to trouble, and always understanding the need to avoid it, if possible, Riff said, “Maybe we should get out of here right now. Here come the cops.” But neither Riff nor Raff had the energy to flee, and there was no escape anyway.

The portly cops emerged from their car. The driver, smirking, asked, “So, what do we have here? Another case of vandalism! Tsk tsk tsk.”

“Vandalism?” Raff laughed. “This is art, you Philistine.”

“Sure looks like vandalism to me,” said the other cop, with a smile. “And you know vandalism is against the law, and we’re going to have to take you to jail.”

Raff, wisely containing her rage and fear, replied, “Jail? Are you out of your minds? Look around you. Look at this nightmare.” All around was a scene that would gag a maggot. Factories belching filth into the air. Dead fish floating on pools of toxic sludge in the river. Garbage  strewn everywhere. The cops looked around, their faces suddenly somber. “This,” Raff said, spinning 360 degrees while flailing her arms and hands, “is legal? And you’re going to throw us in jail for making art?”

One of the cops scoffed, “You call that art?”

Raff rolled her eyes, shock her head and pulled out her tablet. She showed it to the cops, “It’s Picasso. You may have heard of him.”

The cops looked at the tablet, then at Raff’s rendition, then at each other. The fatter of the two finally said, “Yeah, well, maybe, but this is not the time or place to be painting Picassos, kid.”

“Actually,” said Riff, “this is exactly the time to be doing this, although I agree that it should be painted in a more public space. Like on the walls of City Hall. Tell them, Raff.”

When Raff was finished telling the cops the story behind Guernica, Riff grabbed a can of spray paint and marched over to the bridge foundation. “Let me spell it out for you,” Riff yelled at the cops before scrawling STOP THE WAR underneath Raff’s work.

The cops were clearly troubled by Riff’s challenge to their perceived authority. But they were also confused, because they were being lectured on morality and public duty by a couple kids, who, they had to admit, were dead right Before the cops could break from their mental paralysis Raff looked at Riff and said, “Dude!, that’s not helping.”

Riff shrugged, then bent over and opened his guitar case which contained his cherished mini Flying V guitar. He plugged it into the Marshall mini amp, which was attached to his belt and started to thrash,

Generals gathered in their masses
 just like witches at black masses
evil minds that plot destruction
sorcerers of death’s construction

“Riff! Shut up!” Raff yelled. “That’s not helping, either.”

The cops looked at each other, not sure what to say. Riff ignored Raff’s plea and continued:

In the fields the bodies burning
as the war machine keeps turning
death and hatred to mankind
poisoning their brainwashed minds

oh lord yeah!

Sensing that the cops had been conquered, Raff decided to call their bluff. “Oh, what’s the difference?” Raff said to the cops. “We’re all going to die real soon, anyway. Go ahead and take us to jail,” she dared them, holding her hands together in front of herself to be cuffed.

Alarmed, Riff stopped playing and said, “Dude! What are you doing? That’s definitely not helping.”

The cops surveyed the scene of environmental carnage all around them. They looked at each other, not saying a word. Then they got back in their car and left. Raff sighed. Riff laughed and yelled, “Wait. Good cops! I have donuts for you!”

Raff cringed just a little bit, and laughed, “You’re such an idiot.”

Riff smiled and said, “C’mon, let’s go splish splash.”

Track List

War Pigs – Black Sabbath – Paranoid – 1970

13 – SHE AIN’T RIGHT FOR YOU

As the kids made their way to the swimming hole, which was a couple miles from their fort, they discussed their thoroughly wretched morning showdowns with their parental units. Riff told his story, then Raff hers. After a short silence, Riff asked, “Did you tell him?”

“About what we’re doing?” Riff nodded. “No! No way! What’s the point? He’s all down with President Pudd’n’head and his stupid war. If he knew what we’re up to, he’d probably call the cops, and this time they would arrest us” said Raff. “Have you told your mom?”

“I think you know the answer to that one,” sighed Riff.

“Are we really going to leave them behind?” Raff asked Riff, meaning her father, and his mother.

“My mom would lose it the minute she ran out of her happy pills,” said Riff. “Actually, she’d lose it the minute she realized she was going to run out of them. As for your dad, like you say, he’d probably try to stop what we’re doing.” Riff knew that Raff loved her dad, despite their ongoing conflicts, so he tried to reassure her, “But this will work. You’ll see. They’ll finally get it, and no one will have to go anywhere.”

“I hope you’re right. I really, really hope you’re right, Riff.”

By the time they got to the swimming hole the lazy afternoon sun was dipping on the horizon. Riff n Raff had taken their time getting to the river, stopping along the way to chase butterflies and eat berries. The idyllic spot was strangely without children.  Riff n Raff found this curious, but not to their dissatisfaction.

They quickly made their way to the top of a twenty foot cliff that jutted out over a pool at the bottom of a waterfall, and proceeded to hurl themselves into the river, again and again and again, screaming like banshees and laughing like lunatics. They did cannonballs and depth charges. Riff did front flips and back flips. Raff accused him of being a “show off” and Riff responded by doing a double back flip.

Riff encouraged Raff to try a flip, but she said it was too high to try a flip for the first time. She then raised her arms until they were parallel with the ground, and prepared to do a swan dive. Just as she pushed off the cliff, Riff yelled, “NO! Raff, NO!” But it was too late. She was already in the air, as was a big log that was coming over the waterfall.

Raff spotted the log in the water, right where she was going to land. She got her arms out in front of her, but she cracked her head on the log anyway.

Riff was only halfway up the cliff when Raff hit the log. It took him close to ten seconds to get to a safe jumping-off point, dive in, and swim to where Raff’s unconscious body was floating. A half minute had passed by the time Riff got Raff to the shore. She wasn’t bleeding, but she wasn’t breathing, either.

Riff placed Raff on her back, opened her mouth and found there was nothing obstructing the airway. He tilted her head back, pinched her nose closed with his thumb and forefinger, locked his mouth over hers and blew two quick breaths into her. Riff removed his mouth, released Raff’s nose and watched her chest to see if she exhaled. She did not. No air had reached Raff’s lungs. Riff repeated the procedure. Nothing. Again and again Riff attempted to blow air into Raff’s lungs until finally, mercifully, he felt her breath on his cheek as her chest rose and fell.

Raff had no recollection of what had happened. The last thing she remembered was standing on the cliff with her arms spread wide. And now here she was, with Riff, the boy she was not-so-secretly in love with, kneeling over her crying tears of joy.

Riff choked back his tears long enough to explain what had happened. “You saved my life!” Raff said. “You saved my life! Oh, Riff,” she swooned, reaching up to pull his mouth back to hers, kissing him passionately.

Riff n Raff kissed each other again and again, passion rising. Riff had never kissed a girl before, and while he was thrilled, he was also confused. He broke their embrace and said, “Maybe we should get you to the hospital. You banged your head pretty bad.”

“No,” answered Raff. “I’m okay. Really, I am. Let’s go to the fort. I just need to lie down and maybe be snuggled for a while.”

Still confused about the hurricane of emotions that he was trapped in, Riff said, “Are you sure? Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure, Riff.” Riff was stunned into silence, another first in his short life.

Back at the fort, Riff n Raff held each other tight, saying nothing. Raff wanted to kiss Riff again, but she didn’t feel the same energy coming from him, so she could not muster the courage to make the first move. Neither of them knowing what to do, or say next, both were relieved to hear the shrill voice of Taffy. “Riff? Raff? Are you in there?” Taffy yelled, running up the path just as night descended .

“Yes, we’re here,” answered Riff.

Taffy climbed up the outside ladder, opened the fort’s roof door, and climbed down the ladder into the fort, where she found Riff n Raff sitting five feet apart from each other. “Have you two been here all day?” Taffy asked. “I couldn’t scope you and my phone has been cut off again.”

Taffy was filled with excitement, and she was oblivious to the silence of her friends. “Your STOP THE WAR group has more than a hundred million members,” she enthused. “It’s crazy!”

“A hundred million?” said an astonished Raff. “Riff, we’re going to do it! We’re going to stop the war!”

When Riff looked at Taffy and asked, “Do you know if Mimi joined yet?” Raff winced. Her head and shoulders slouched. Her heart sank. She was filled with a pain she could not have imagined possible.

“I don’t think so,” answered Taffy. “I scoped her this afternoon. I’m getting really good at it. She was at the mall all day. She was buying friends, again. Had a purse full of hundred dollar bills and a mob of kids who were happy to help her spend it all.”

When Raff started crying hysterically, Taffy asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Raff’s hurt. She smashed her head on a log at the swimming hole and almost drowned. I saved her life,” said Riff.

Climbing the ladder to the roof door, Raff sobbed, “It’s not my head that hurts, you idiot. You should have let me die.”

Still sobbing, Raff plopped herself down on a bench at a bus stop underneath a sputtering street light. She pulled out her tablet. She waded through hundreds of pictures of her and Riff before coming across an old one of her and Riff and Mimi. She put the pic into photoshop and slowly erased Mimi’s head, singing:

She ain’t right for you
she don’t know you like I do
no matter what she do
she ain’t right for you

don’t you wanna be happy?
baby you should be with me
cause she ain’t right for you
she don’t love you like I do

Raff’s tears rained down. Through her sobs she could not hear the very large, very black SUV that pulled up and stopped in front of her.

Track List

She Ain’t Right For You – Macy Gray – The Trouble with Being Me – 2003

14 – YESTERDAY

Riff was in a foul mood all Monday morning, but his irritability grew substantially when he dragged himself into his socials classroom only to discover that the John Lennon poster had been removed from the wall. He figured some form of treachery was afoot when a substitute teacher walked into the class and announced, “My name is Miss Mengele. Mr. Mumu has been… reassigned, and I’ll be teaching you socials for the rest of the year.”

“And do you happen to know what happened to our John Lennon poster, Miss Mengele?” Riff asked, not bothering to mask his disdain.

“You would be Riff, wouldn’t you?” Miss Mengele asked rhetorically. “It’s been removed. The local riding association of President Pudd’n’head’s party was offended to find such subversive propaganda in the classroom when they made use of it for a war preparation meeting over the weekend.”

Riff was disgusted. “Subversive propaganda? Shut up! ‘Give peace a chance’ is subversive propaganda? Are you kidding? That’s insane! And I suppose Mr. Mumu is in Gitmo right now, isn’t he?”

“I am not cleared to confirm or deny the allegation contained within your question. I am only authorized to teach you socials,” said Miss Mengele. “However, Riff, I can tell you something that will be of great interest to you. It’s been noticed, you know? Your attitude. It’s been noticed. In very high places. Even in a democracy like ours, there is only so much subversion that can be tolerated, at times like this.”

Riff lost it. “Democracy? This isn’t a democracy.”

Now it was Miss Mengele’s turn to lose it. “Yes we do so live in a democracy, young man.”

“Says you,” Riff mocked. “Answer me this question, then: when does democracy happen?”

“What do you mean, when does democracy happen?”

“When? When does it happen? I’ve never experienced democracy. When I told my mom we should sell one of my stupid brother’s kidneys, so we can order pizza, we didn’t vote on it. When I say the Principal should be fired and replaced by a baboon, you’re not  going to let us vote on it.”

Riff’s classmates were in hysterics. Miss Mengele let the laughter subside before saying, “Riff… Riff Riff Riff Riff Riff, you’re being ridiculous. Riff the Ridiculous, I dub thee.”

“Oh, am I?” asked Riff. “Riff the Ridiculous, am I? Well, you seem to have missed the point, so let me spell it out for you, then. Families are not democratic. Schools are not democratic. When we finish school, and go to work, the boss will be the boss and there will be no democracy. This so called democratic society of ours is nothing more than a plethora of mini dictatorships. We don’t practice democracy in our day-to-day lives. So, back to the question – when does democracy happen? Once every four years, you – not us kids but you adults – get to pick a pack of pathological liars from a larger pack of pathological liars, and hope that they are the lessers of the evils, when it’s more likely that they are the evils of the lessers. And it never matters who gets elected because it’s always ‘Meet the new boss, same as the old boss’. And you call that democracy? That’s not democracy. That’s deMOCKracy. Why don’t they let us vote on whether or not to go to war? Has anyone ever been able to vote on whether or not to go to war? What’s so complicated about holding a referendum on war? Riff the Ridiculous, am I? Nay, nay, I say. Riff the Rationale, am I!”

“Well, Kropotkin,” boomed the incensed teacher, “you little anarchist, do you have a better idea?”

“Anarchist? Oh, no, no. You’re thinking of Raff. She’s an anarchist. FUNarchist, actually. Mirth First. I’m a fan of benevolent dictatorships.”

“With you as the dictator, no doubt,”

“I’m a benevolent kinda guy.”

“By the way, where, pray tell, is your benevolent, too-cool-for-school, FUNarchist friend, today?”

Right then BeanO walked into the classroom and said “Yeah, where is Raff, Riff?”

“I don’t know. She didn’t come to school today. She’s probably at home in bed. She hasn’t slept well the last few days.”

“I hope so. Call her,” said the clown.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said Riff. “She’s mad at me. I haven’t spoken to her since she bolted out of the fort last night.”

“Mad at you?” said BeanO. “Uh oh. What happened?”

Raff sighed and said:

Why she had to go
I don’t know
she wouldn’t say
I said something wrong
now I long
for yesterday

“Hey, listen, clown,” said Miss Mengele, “you can’t come in here and disrupt my class like this.” BeanO ignored her. Riff made the call. There was no answer. Raff’s phone was turned off.

“Come on, Riff. We have to go. They’ve just announced that if there is no agreement by noon tomorrow, war will be declared.” Miss Mengele told BeanO he couldn’t pull Riff out of school whenever he wanted to, to which the clown replied, “You fool! There may not be any school in a week if we don’t stop this insane war.”

“And just how do you think you’re going to do that?” asked Miss Mengele.

“With a lot of luck and  a whole lotta love,” said BeanO.

“And a little bit of larceny,” added Riff.

First defeated by a 15 year old in a war of wits, then called a fool by a clown, this was not a good day for Miss Mengele, and she decided it would be best to just keep her mouth shut.

Riff got up from his seat and marched out with his dad.

Track List

Yesterday – The Beatles – Help! – 1965

Baba O;Riley – The Who – Who’s Next – 1971

Whole Lotta Love – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin II – 1969

15 – (TELL ME WHY) I DON’T LIKE MONDAYS

“We have to find Raff, BeanO,” said Riff. “She has all the passwords for the group. We can’t stop the war without her.”

“The last time you saw or spoke to her was when she bolted from the fort last night?

“Yeah. Around nine.”

“That’s not good. Not good at all,” said BeanO “And her phone is turned off. Really not good.” All day long they searched for Raff, but she was nowhere to be found. No one had seen her anywhere.

“Wait. What are we doing? Call Sid,” said BeanO. “Maybe the penguins can help.”

After a quick and frantic conversation with Sid, Riff said, “Their ships are still at least five hours away. They won’t be able to help until they get here. What are we going to do?” BeanO looked at his son and admitted he had no idea. “Wait! Taffy! I’ll call Taffy!”

“Your little Gypsy witch friend?”

“She’s into remote viewing.” BeanO looked puzzled. “She can see things that are happening a long way away.” BeanO told Riff to call her.

“What? What is it? Where is she?”

“She’s inside the headquarters of Wicked Weapons of War,”

“Uh oh! That’s really, really not good.”

“We have to get her out of there.”

BeanO was deathly afraid. He inquired, “Do we? Why can’t we just wait for the penguins to come. They’ll get her out.”

“If she’s still alive by then. And what if they get the passwords out of her, and delete the STOP THE WAR group?”

BeanO knew his son was right, but fear has a way of making a person less than willing to do the right thing. The clown said, “Yeah, but how can we get her out? That place is filled with all sorts of horrible weapons, and all sorts of horrible people who will be happy to use them on us. We don’t stand a chance, Riff.”

Riff shook his head. BeanO made one last desperate attempt to get Riff to forget about Raff, “Are you still crushing on Mimi? She’s really pretty, isn’t she?”

Riff saw through the clown’s thinly veiled cowardice and was furious. “BeanO! What the… “ Suddenly, the clouds vanished and the sky was filled with sunshine, Riff and BeanO had lollipops in their hands, and the sweet little pixie girl was in their presence, saying, “Do not be afraid. You will find a way.” The she hugged them both and disappeared.

“I take it that’s the pixie girl?” asked BeanO

“Yeah. Told you she’s super cute,” smiled Riff.

“A pixie on our side, and penguins on the way? That’s what we are counting on against all those horrible people with all those horrible weapons? I don’t like it. I’m afraid,” said BeanO.

“Hey!” yelled Riff. “What happened to ‘Clowns laugh in the face of death’? What happened to ‘Don’t fear the reaper’? What happened to ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…’”

“’You’ll be a Man, my son.’ Rudyard Kipling. Why did I ever turn you on to that one? Okay, kid, let’s do it. Let’s go get Raff, stop the stupid war and save the world.”

Track List

I Don’t Like Mondays – The Boomtown Rats – The Fine Art of Surfacing – 1979

16 – TWO MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT

It was two minutes to midnight by the time Riff and BeanO reached the perimeter of WWoW headquarters. It was the blackest night, there was no moon in sight, you know the stars weren’t shining ‘cause the sky was too tight. Everywhere they looked vicious guard dogs patrolled the grounds. “So, where’s that little pixie girl when we need her?” asked BeanO, who was so scared he was trembling.

“I don’t know, but I believe what she said about us finding a way,” said Riff, pulling out his Dremel and sawing through the chain link fence. The second Riff made one cut an alarm went off. Spotlights searched for and found them. The vicious guard dogs barked madly and charged. Horrible people with horrible weapons rushed towards them in armoured vehicles. BeanO froze. He could do nothing more than point at the oncoming agents of their certain demise.

When the agents of Riff and BeanO’s certain demise were no more than twenty feet away from them, night turned to day and our heroes had lollipops in their hands. The pixie girl was smiling as she said, “BeanO, now it’s time for you to be afraid, Be very, very afraid.” BeanO, who was now pointing at the pixie, had no trouble following that order.

“Both of you, plug your noses.” Our heroes looked confused. “Just do it!” screamed the pixie.” Riff and BeanO plugged their noses. “Now, Riff, pull BeanO’s finger! Just do it! Now!” she screamed.

Riff pulled BeanO’s finger and the clown let out the biggest, loudest fart ever. The second he did so, all the horrible people with horrible weapons, and all the vicious guard dogs, fell to the ground laughing hysterically. “Run!” yelled the pixie. “Keep your noses plugged and run! Run and find Raff! Keep your noses plugged and keep pulling BeanO’s finger every time you see someone!”

Our heroes did exactly that, leaving in their wake hundreds of horrible people rolling around on the ground laughing maniacally and uncontrollably. BeanO kept farting and farting and farting as Riff pulled his finger repeatedly. Pull, fart, pull, fart, pull, fart, pull, fart.

They zeroed in on Raff, and found her rolling around on the floor, laughing like a lunatic. “Raff, quick, plug your nose and come with us,” Riff yelled. But Raff could not stop laughing. She laughed and laughed and laughed until BeanO finally plugged her nose.

As Raff got to her feet she said, “Uh oh! Problem.” Fifty or so of the horrible people with horrible weapons were closing in on Riff n Raff and BeanO. This time they were all wearing gas masks.

And then, Riff n Raff and BeanO found themselves surrounded by penguins.

Track List

Two Minutes to Midnight – Iron Maiden – Powerslave – 1984

Titties and Beer – Frank Zappa – Zappa in New York – 1977

17 – (THE GIRL WITH) FAR AWAY EYES

After a very quick physical examination was conducted on BeanO, to determine what had happened to him, and why, the penguin doctor laughed, “It’s laughing gas, alright.”

“I can fart laughing gas?,” laughed BeanO. “Yes! Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! Oh, that rocks! I’m gonna to be the most famous clown in history! Riff, get over here and pull my finger again.”

“It won’t work,” said the doctor. “It only works when you are in a heightened state of fear. I’ve never heard of anything like this in all the universe. It’s quite remarkable.”

“And really funny!” laughed Riff. “That’s one crazy self defense mechanism, BeanO.”

BeanO smiled proudly for a few seconds until a puzzled look spread across his face. “But how did the little pixie girl know that?”

“What little pixie girl?” asked Sid.

“The super cute one!” smiled Riff.

“Does everything go all sunshine and lollipops when she appears? Do you feel all warm and fuzzy and peaceful?” asked Sid.

“Yes,” answered Riff,

“And her eyes?”

“Her eyes?”

“Are they… far away?”

“Yeah. Yeah, far away eyes. You can get lost in her eyes. You can see the universe in them. And she can see right into you with her eyes. She can see right into your soul and there’s nothing you can hide from her,” said Riff. “Who is she?”

“Her name is Wiwi. She is known throughout the universe. Some species believe she is what many of you humans call God.”

“She’s God? Not an old man with a long white beard?” asked Riff.

“She is what she is, and that is pure love.”

“With a sense of humour,” smiled BeanO

“Yes, that has been reported,” Sid chuckled.

“And really cute,” smiled Riff.

Raff had been furiously working away on her tablet. “We’re good to go on this end, guys,” she announced. “You’re sure everything is ready on your end,” she asked Sid, who answered in the affirmative. Raff fingered the keypad and said, “Thar she blows.” A couple minutes later Raff said, with alarm in her voice, “Sid? You’d better come and look at this.”

Sid did, and this is what he saw, “Warning! You are engaging in behaviour that may be considered annoying or abusive by other users. Facebook’s systems determined that you were going too fast when adding friends. You must significantly slow down. Further misuse of site features may result in a temporary block or your account being permanently disabled. For further information, please visit our FAQ page.” The penguin chuckled, walked over to a console, pecked a few buttons and looked back to Raff.

Raff laughed, “Whatever you did, it worked. We are all systems go again! No. Wait a minute. They’ve blocked us again.”

“We don’t have time for this nonsense,” said the obviously perturbed penguin. “Lock onto those geeks and beam them aboard,” Sid barked at another penguin. Four seconds later every Facebook geek was standing on the bridge of the penguin mothership. “Go over there and sit down,” Sid commanded. “And don’t even think about touching anything.”

By the time the sun came up, 500 million children had vanished from the face of the Earth.

Track List

Far Away Etes – Rolling Stones – Some Girls – 1978

18 – CLOSE THE DOOR PUT OUT THE LIGHT
YOU KNOW THEY WON’T BE HOME TONIGHT

Riff, Raff, BeanO, the Facebook geeks, Sid and all the other penguins watched the shockwaves roll across the blue rock below them, as the adults of the planet realized their children were gone. The entire planet was shrouded in clouds that were produced by the grief. Mothers and fathers wept uncontrollably and demanded that the authorities stop everything they were doing, find out what had happened, and return the children.

“When do we make contact and tell them what’s going on,” Riff asked Sid.

“Soon. When the time is right. Be patient.”

Mr. Money had barely slept after getting the news about what had happened at WWoW headquarters. When he finally was able to quell the overwhelming feeling of impending doom, and slip into a slumber, he had a nightmare. When he awoke, he was filled with dread.

“What’s wrong,” asked Mrs. Money.

Mr. Money stared into the distance and answered:

Last night I had
the worst nightmare
I ever had before
I dreamed the world
had all agreed
to put an end to war

I dreamed I saw
a mighty hall
and the room was full
of men
and the paper they were signing said
they’d never fight again

Before his wife could say anything, Mimi came rushing into the room. “They did it,” Mimi screamed.

Snapping to attention, Mr. Money said, “Who did what, dear?”

“Riff n Raff. They’ve disappeared with all the other kids.”

Mr. Money checked the Internet. His daughter told no lies.

Mimi was the only child on the planet, who had access to the Internet and was capable of using it, who had not disappeared.

“They’ve kidnapped all the kids,” Mimi shrieked at her father. “I told you not to underestimate them.”

“But how?” Mr. Money asked. “How did they do it? It’s impossible. And why? Why would they kidnap all the kids?”

“I don’t know how, but they did it to stop the war, you idiot.”

“Stop the war?” screamed Mr. Money. “They can’t do that,” he scowled. “All my plans will be ruined.”

“But all the kids are gone,” cried Mimi. “Who will I play with?

“Don’t worry, Mimi, I’ll buy a bunch of kids from Africa to be your friends. Apparently there are still lots of kids there and in the rest of the really poor parts of the world.”

“But I just bought some new friends yesterday, and I want them back.”

“Then we’d better find them, Sunshine. We have to find those rotten little brats and get the kids back. The war has to go on or I will be ruined, Sunshine.”

“Well,” said Mimi, “the best thing we can do is to tell everyone who has kidnapped all the kids. If everyone is looking for them, someone has to find them.”

“Yes. Good plan. And I’ll hire the smartest man in the world, Stephen Hawking, to figure out how they did it and where they are.” Mr. Money contacted the media and told them that his Sunshine was still around, and she knew exactly who was responsible for the disappearance of the rest of the kids. Within an hour hundreds of reporters had gathered at WWoW headquarters, and were anxiously awaiting the arrival of Mr. and Mimi Money.

“Go ahead, Sunshine,” Mr. Money encouraged his daughter. “Tell the world who has kidnapped all the children.” Mimi stepped forward. The whole world was watching. And waiting.

“It was Riff n Raff,” Mimi cried, pointing to a large photo of the duo projected onto a screen behind her. “They said they are trying to stop the war but that’s a lie. They just don’t want to be poor anymore. They’re going to demand a million dollars each to return the kids.” But before Mimi could say another word Sid flicked a switch and Riff n Raff appeared on the stage.

“Get them!” Mr. Money screamed. Before anyone could move on our heroes the sun appeared and everyone had a lollipop in their hands. No one moved. “Go ahead” said Wiwi. “Tell them.”

“Your children are all safe,” said Riff. “And happy. But unless you stop the war, you will never see them again.”

Then Raff said, “It’s time for you to listen to us kids, and we say NO MORE WARS! EVER!. If you agree to that, and you agree to stop making weapons of war, FOREVER, all your children will come back.”

Having nothing more to say, Riff n Raff fell silent. When they did, Sid appeared on the stage.

“Your children are all on our ships, which are orbiting your planet right now, and they are all safe and happy. But Riff n Raff are not exaggerating. If you chose to ‘Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war,’ you will never see them again.

“There is something terribly wrong with your species. When you are children, you are wonderful, joyous creatures. A pleasure to behold, so full of curiosity and love. But then something goes wrong in many of you. As you grow into adults, many of you start to lose your sense of right and wrong, good and bad. You become mean, deceitful, selfish. You mutate into something you are not meant to be. Or maybe you are meant to be that way.  We are not sure if you are meant to go through such a transformation, but it does not seem right.

“We think there may be something about your planet itself that causes the mutation. Perhaps something on your planet disagrees with something in your DNA, and creates some bad chemistry when you go through puberty. It would not be totally surprising to us, because something about your planet disagrees with us. On our planet, we can fly, and we have the same gravity as you. Something on your planet does not work for us. We are an alien species to this planet, as you, too, almost certainly are. You may have noticed that you just don’t fit in here. All the other animals on this planet would be happy to be rid of you.

“You are not aware of this, but you are the most fascinating and frustrating species in the known universe. There are species that are born bad. And some that are born good. Some are even born indifferent. But yours is the only species that is capable of mutating from good to bad. Other species study you. Some of them laugh; some cry, some just scratch their heads and wonder what you are, and how you came to be.

“We could stop your war, if we so desired. We could paralyze your technology in a second. But we will not interfere. What you do is none of our business. However, we are compassionate, and we will take refugees. And that is what we have done.

“The war that you are on the brink of could quickly escalate and destroy all life on your planet. All life. Yet you do nothing to stop it. Your complacency boggles the mind. You will sit back and allow your leaders to destroy your planet, and every living thing on it, without any objection. Not only do you not object, many of you cheer them on. Any rational creature can see that your leaders are insane. For you to allow them to do the things they do, you must also be insane.

“Your children, however, are not insane. These two, Riff n Raff, who are being denounced as the worst villains in the history of your species, are, on the contrary, heroes. They have, somehow, convinced your children that you are insane. They have calmed the fears of your children enough to get them to agree to seek safety with us. You consider yourselves so much more intelligent than your children, but you have underestimated them. They have seen very clearly that you were about to kill them all. And so they have come to us.

“If you go through with your insane war and destroy your planet, we will take your children to another, similar planet. And perhaps we will find that we are correct about there being something about your planet that triggers the awful mutation during puberty. Perhaps, on another planet, your species can evolve into the amazing, loving creatures you are capable of being.

“If you are determined to kill yourselves, and your planet, we will not stop you. But we do ask one thing of you – allow us to take the rest of your children before you do so

“If, on the other hand, you are coming to your senses; if the insanity that has gripped your species for as long as we have known of you, is receding; if your complacency is receding; if you are willing to take responsibility for yourselves instead of leaving your fate in the hands of misguided lunatics; if you want to stop this war, it is easier than you think.

“You don’t have to do a single thing to stop the war. In fact, the quickest way to stop the war is to do absolutely nothing, and from what we’ve seen most of you are very good at that. If you all stop everything you are doing, the war will not happen. Just be still. Be quiet. Think. Think, you willfully ignorant, irresponsible creatures. Don’t do a single thing. Let the Earth stand still while you think. Think, humans, think. Shut up, stand still and think.

“As that sage of yours, that prophet of yours, known as Ozzy, so eloquently put it, ‘You’re going off the rails on a crazy train.”

Riff looked at Raff, smiled and said, “But maybe….”

Raff said, “It’s not too late…”

BeanO said, “To learn how to love…”

“And forget how to hate,” said Riff, Raff, BeanO and Sid.

Track List

No Quarter  Led Zeppelin – House of the Holy – 1973

Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream – Pete Seeger – Waist Deep in the Big Muddy – 1967

Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne – Blizzard of Ozz – 1980

19 – THE SOUND OF SILENCE

And the Earth stood still. The penguin ships deployed a space curtain, creating a total eclipse of the sun. There was complete silence. It was a reckoning long overdue. Every human being contemplated the madness of the world and their own contributions to that insanity. Every person contemplated a life without children in the world.

On the bridge of the penguin mothership, BeanO looked down on Earth and sang,

Although there was no light I saw
six billion people, maybe more
people talking without speaking
people hearing without listening
people writing songs
that voices never shared
no one dared
disturb the sound

For ten minutes there was peace on Earth

Track List

The Sound of Silence – Simon and Garfunkel – Wednesday Morning 3 AM – 1964

20 – ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE

Sid ordered the space blanket be pulled back and our heroes beamed back down to the scene at WWoW HQ

As soon as they materialized it was sunshine and lollipops all around!

Sid waddled up to Stephen Hawking and said. “Microbes, huh? Malevolent, huh?” If he was capable of it, the smartest man in the world would have shrugged his shoulders. “Well, smarty pants,” Sid said, “Einstein you ain’t.”

BeanO turned to Mr. Money, who was weeping, and said, “Looks like you’re out of business, Mr. Money. Tough patooties, bub. What ya gonna do now?”

“I don’t know,” sighed Mr. Money. “I’m ruined.”

“Maybe not,” said BeanO. “You still have piles of money, right?” Mr. Money nodded. “Well, Mr. Money, I’ve recently become the funniest clown in the world. I’m so funny that I’m thinking of changing my name to Mr. Funny. We could start a circus.”

“But I’m a scientist,” said Mr. Money.

“So? Start inventing things that are fun, and I’ll make sure everyone laughs their heads off. Just fix me up with a pair of fang proof pants, with a fang proof mesh backside in them, and put me in a sandbox full of snakes, and I’ll make sure everyone laughs all night. The Funny and Money Circus of Science.”

“Yeah! The Money and Funny Circus of Science. Clowns wearing lab coats. That’s not bad, clown. I like it. Here’s my card. Call me tomorrow. We’ll do drinks. I’m buying.”

“Now you’re talking my language, Mr, Money,” laughed BeanO, as he took the card.

Mimi sat by herself on the side of the stage, crying. She was sad and lonely and feared she would be so forever. Even the lollipop that suddenly appeared in her hand could not cheer her up, and she threw it away. Through her veil of tears Mimi could barely see Wiwi, but the little girl felt a presence. Suddenly she didn’t feel so sad. She actually felt… what was it? Mimi didn’t know what it was, she’d never felt anything quite like it. And it felt good. Then she heard a voice call her name, “Mimi.

Mimi looked up and beheld Wiwi. Her heart filled with… filled with… what was it? Mimi wondered.

“It’s called love, Mimi,” said Wiwi. “And it’s what life is all about. Money cannot buy you love.

“Seriously?”

“No, dear. Not real love. The kind of love money can buy is a lie. Lies are chains that keep you from freedom and love. The Kingdom of Freedom and Love is the exclusive domain of honest people.

“Lies are bad. I know that much.”

“Lies are bad, dear. Distill lies to their purest form, and you will have a poison called hate. And hate is a horrible thing to hold in your heart.”

“I think you should have this little talk with that liar over there,” said Mimi, pointing at Raff. “She hates me. Then again, I hate her, too.”

“Is that why you made out with her boyfriend last year?”

“That wasn’t me. That was my evil twin sister.”

“You don’t have an evil twin sister.”

“I did. She died at birth.”

“That’s kind of funny, but I’m not buying it. You can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool me ever.”

“Didn’t fool Raff, either,” said Mimi. “Why doesn’t anyone love me. I used to have friends before my family got rich. Riff n Raff were my friends.”

“And you even had a crush on Riff, didn’t you?”

“Can’t fool you ever, is right.”

“Did you start thinking you were better than your friends when your family got rich, dear?” Mimi couldn’t bring herself to reply but she knew the answer was ‘Yes’.

“Mimi, dear, dear girl, love must be learned, like everything else in your world. You can only learn love with open arms. The more you learn love, the more you love. The more you love others, the more they will love you. All you need is love.”

“All you need is love?”

“All you need is love!”

“Love?”

“Love is all you need!”

“Love is all you need!”

“It’s easy!”

“Is it?”

“Yes, there are two paths you can go down, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on. Go see for yourself,. Go down the right path, girl” Wiwi said, nodding her head towards Riff n Raff.

“I don’t know.”

“Love is brave, Mimi. Go. Be brave.” Mimi smiled and Wiwi handed her three giant lollipops.

Mimi made her way over to Riff, looked him in the eye and said, “I’m truly sorry, Riff.”

Raff yelled, “Don’t listen to her, Riff. She’s playing you, again.”

Mimi turned on Raff, “Shut up, bitch! I’m trying to be nice.”

“You’re not capable of it.”

Mimi handed Riff one of the giant lollipops, and hugged him.

“She’ll break your heart, Riff,” Raff yelled. Mimi sneered and planted a kiss on Riff. A wet, lingering, passionate kiss that made Riff’s head spin, his ears wiggle, his toes curl, his knees go weak and his heart beat like a rented mule. Then she spun, smiled and winked at Raff, tossed her the other giant lollipop, and sashayed away like a runway model.

Raff hissed, “No one will ever love you and you’re gonna die all alone.”

Mimi laughed, “Oh, I don’t know about that. Riff loves me.”

Raff burned inside. “How can you kiss someone who drinks from the toilet,” she demanded of Riff.

“I didn’t kiss her. She kissed me.”

“You kissed her back. I saw you!”

Wiwi said, “Oh dear. These children have a lot to learn about love.”

Raff scowled at Riff, “I hate you!”

Riff was hurt. Confused. After ten seconds of stunned silence he opened his mouth and said, “I lo…” but he never got to finish his sentence. A thunderous drum roll drowned out his voice. The earth moved.

Track List

All You Need is Love – The Beatles – Magical Mystery Tour – 1967

Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV – 1971

21 – T’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT (AND I FEEL FINE)

A flock of hundreds of white doves appeared above the WWoW compound. Hundreds of snakes slithered out of the buildings. A fighter jet appeared high in the sky. The aeroplane’s crew ejected themselves, parachutes popping open just seconds before a lightning bolt flashed across the sky and the jet exploded into a fireball. The earth began to rumble. Wiwi told everyone, “Don’t be afraid.”

BeanO said, “Lenny Bruce is not afraid.” Riff was about to ask BeanO who Lenny Bruce was, when every building in the WWoW compound crumbled to the ground, then disappeared into a giant sinkhole

“That’s great,” BeanO sang out, “it starts with an earthquake, birds, snakes an aeroplane…”

“Lenny Bruce is not afraid,” sang Sid.

“What?” asked Raff. “What are you talking about? Who is Lenny Bruce? What’s going on?”

“Your mother has decided that it’s high time to administer a few spankings,” chuckled Sid. Everyone stared at the laughing bird, silently demanding an answer to his mysterious mumbling with their piercing eyes. Sid smiled and said, “Mother Earth. She’s in the process of destroying everything to do with armies, navies, air forces, anything connected to militarism. Earthquakes, hurricanes, tidal waves, lightning bolts, wild fires. It will all be over in a couple minutes. She asked us to beam all the people out of harm’s way, but apparently she has decided to turn a few of them into snakes.”

A TV reporter told everyone, “It’s true. The Pentagon was just strafed by hundreds of lightning strikes. Before the fires could spread, the Earth opened up and swallowed the whole monstrous thing, and then closed up again. The Pentagon is buried more than a mile underground right now.”

It took a few seconds for that to register on everyone but when it did, they all burst into wild cheers, whoops of laughter and thunderous applause.

“It’s the end of the world as we know it,” smiled BeanO, starting up a conga line “and I feel fine!” Everyone joined in and the conga line snaked around the perimeter of the sinkhole singing:

It’s the end of the world as we know it
it’s the end of the world as we know it
it’s the end of the world as we know it
AND I FEEL FINE!

After singing, laughing and dancing around the rim of the sinkhole for a half hour, our heroes broke away from the conga line. Raff flashed back to Riff and Mimi kissing, and her joyous mood quickly started to sour. An extremely awkward silence engulfed everyone until BeanO, sensing what was going on, asked, “So, exactly how did you two convince 500 million kids that their parents are insane and trying to kill them?”

The spell was broken. Riff n Raff looked at each other and giggled. Raff started, “Well, first off, Sid was taking great liberties by passing that fascinating theory off as frightening fact, because we did not convince them of any such things.”

“Okay, but you did talk them into letting you shrink them to the size of ants, beam them up to a space ship owned and operated by penguins, and be taken to another planet where they would live the rest of their lives without seeing their parents ever again, did you not?” asked the clown.

Once again, Riff n Raff giggled. then Riff explained, “Ummm… not in those exact words but, technically speaking, yes, we did.”

BeanO’s look demanded that his son continue, and he did,

“They all agreed to be shrunk, beamed up and taken away, never to return to Earth, if necessary… they just didn’t know it.”

“Huh?” said BeanO

“Raff’s idea to tell them they were all going to Disneyland was brilliant. Every kid wants to go to Disneyland. We told them they could stop the war and get a free trip to Disneyland, where there would be no adults at all.

“Sid insisted that every one of them had to consent to everything, otherwise, the penguins would not take them. Getting all those kids to consent to a free trip to Disneyland was easy. Who doesn’t want to go to Disneyland?”

“And the rest of it?”

“We, uh… we buried it all in the fine print.”

“The fine print?”

“Yeah, the fine print. The ‘terms of friendship’ agreement they had to click to win the trip. When they all added Sid as a friend, they got shrunk, and beamed straight into the mini Disneylands the penguins had built on their ships. No one ever reads those things, they just click ‘I accept’. So we buried all that stuff they didn’t want to know about in there. When the first wave of them arrived we made sure they contacted all their friends and told them it was not only safe. but the coolest, funnest thing ever”

“And none of them even knew where they really were, or what was going on.”

“No way,” said Raff. “If the stupid adults went ahead and destroyed the planet, we’d explain it to the kids then.”

“Oh no,” said BeanO. “That’s lawyer thinking. Please tell me you are not going to become a lawyer. My son cannot become a lawyer. The other clowns will laugh at me. I will never hear the end of it. Please, please, please tell me you are not going to become a lawyer.”

“I don’t know, BeanO,” laughed Raff. Maybe it is lawyer thinking, but we learned it from you.”

“From me?” the clown said, aghast.

“Yes,” said Riff. “Technically, by your definition, we didn’t even tell a lie. No malicious intent; we were not trying to avoid responsibility for anything, in fact we were accepting responsibility, and solving the problem; and nothing bad could happen because of it. We included everything in the contract. If they chose not to read the fine print, that’s not our problem. If you want to dismiss that as lawyer thinking, you have only yourself to blame.”

BeanO knew there was no arguing the point, so he just smiled.

“Besides, BeanO, you could use a good lawyer,” said Raff. “You didn’t bother to read the fine print yourself, before you clicked ‘I agree,’ either. A good lawyer could have saved you a bit of money.”

“But I didn’t get shrunk. And what do you mean, ‘a good lawyer could have saved me a bit of money?’”

“Being shrunk wasn’t part of your contract, but buying us pizza was,” laughed Raff.

BeanO laughed, “Ye Olde Clowne House? Come on, let’s go. Saving the world is thirsty work.”

Riff said, “We’ll meet you there in an hour, or so, BeanO. Raff and I have some unfinished business to tend to at the zoo, first.”

“Some unfinished monkey business,” smiled Raff.

Riff looked at Raff, and asked, “What time is it?

Raff pulled a ball peen out of her bag, busted a move, and said, “Stop! Hammer time!”

Track List

It’s the End of the World as we Know It – REM – Document – 1987

THE END

 

 

 

 

 

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