Name This Story

Antoine left the bar in a random stagger. His head was spinning. His stomach was churning. He knew he shouldn't have had so much beer.

Suddenly, a leather-clad youth approached him. "Die, French scum!" yelled the hoodlum, as he smashed a bottle over Antoine's head. Clutching his bloody scalp, Antoine gasped, "Just because my name is Antoine doesn't mean I'm French." Wait a second, Antoine thought -- how could that guy have known my name?

Jump to thirty seconds earlier...

"Damn, this leather outfit chafes!" thought Jeff, as he took another swig of his Mad Dog and continued toward home. "I guess this is what Halloween is all about. Can't wait to get home and...Wait a sec. I know that guy. That's that French fag that used to steal my brother's lunch money."

"Die, French scum!"

Jeff realized his mistake quickly. "Wait, that guy who used to beat up my brother wasn't French; I just thought he was French because he was named Antoine."

"My mistake, little French man," he yelled back and the prone and bleeding figure. "You look a lot like someone else. Sorry for the misunderstanding." Then he let out a magnificent belch.

Geez, thought Antoine as he bled. The least you could do was call an ambulance. It's not very pleasant to see and feel one's own blood leaking onto the pavement. Luckily for Antoine, someone else was watching the whole scene. Perched high above (well, as high as you can get on a 2-story building), was the man that politicians worried about, that reporters investigated, and that housewives ignored. And he saw it all.

Paul, the unearthly intelligent, multi-lingual, abnormally large and beautifully plumaged parrot had seen the whole scene from his (literal) perch. Usually very reclusive and unconcerned with the human population, this very odd scenario unfolding on the street below perked Paul's interest. Unfolding his unusually large (and beautiful) wings, Paul gracefully glided down and landed on the street next to the bleeding Antoine. "Hey Bub. Paul wants some answers," squawked Paul.

"Blimey," said Bert, as he looked through the telescopic sight. "That parrot's going to ruin everything. I'll never get that housewife's attention. Well, here goes nothing."

But a fraction of a second before he squeezed the trigger, a sharp noise made him twitch, and badly misfire.

I think a bit of review is in order. I'm confused, and I'm one of the narrators. So here's a recap of the characters to appear thus far. Antoine, who claims he isn't French, is currently bleeding. He is the hero of our story, although that's far from obvious so far. Jeff is the leather-clad thug who caused Antoine to bleed. He claims that he's wearing leather because it's Halloween, but we know better--this is July, after all. And it wasn't mentioned that part of his leather ensemble is pants with no ass. Bert is the British sharpshooter, obsessed with attaining the love and admiration of housewives, especially those who always wear a housecoat. The setting of our tale is of course the exotic city of Istanbul. Didn't you know that? You may have noticed that I didn't mention Paul. That's because he is no longer a character. You'll see why as we rejoin our story. A shot rang out above Antoine; it ricocheted off a lamp post and embedded itself into a brick wall. What the hell? thought Antoine. I'm already seeing things with a friggin' parrot coming down to see me; now I'm hearing things too. Blood loss does funny things to a person. A second shot rang out, and this one found its target. A tangle of blood and flying feathers hit the ground next to Antoine with a dull thud. Paul was now an ex-parrot.

Suddenly, the opening bars of "Rock Me Amadeus" ring through the Latin Quarter of Istanbul. "Damn," thinks Bert, "I have to change the ringer on my cell phone." "Hello?"

"Hello, Bert? Did you kill the Frenchian without alerting the Turkians to our plans? I mean, I hope everything went OK, and I'm just calling to check on you."

"Lay off my case, W."

Geez, thought Antoine, I've got to get the hell out of here! Someone just shot at me! At least they got rid of that irritating bird.

Bleeding does strange things to a person--it screws up one's balance and strength mightily--so Antoine got up gingerly to test himself. The legs seem to work, he thought, as he began moving towards the shadows as quickly as possible.

I need a hospital, he thought. Damn this Latin Quarter! Not enough taxis!

A bout of wooziness swept over him; I'm going to pass out, he thought.

And pass out he did.

The next morning, he awoke in the hospital. The first thing he noticed was that his right leg and both of his arms were in a cast. "How the...well, better not to ask questions." "Nurse?! I've got an itch on the right side of my back!"

Meanwhile, in Panama City..."Miriam, I've told you a thousand times -- just because you bought that hat in Panama, it is not automatically a 'Panama Hat.' As if."

Back to our hero who has just finished getting his third sponge bath of the day...

"This is the life," thought Antoine,"I may have to look into getting beat up once a month or so. Ah, and now I see that my dinner has arrived. I've always heard that hospital food is terrible, but this dinner smells great. Funny, I've never seen this nurse before and she has awfully hairy legs. Oh well, this is Istanbul. And now she is fluffing up my pillows. Not a very bright nurse either. The pillows are supposed to go behind my head not smashed over my face the way it is now. I guess I should let her know since it is getting a bit hard to breath. Damn! I can't even talk with this pillow in the way. Oh well, she'll realize her mistake in a minute."

"Hee Hee Hee," chuckled Bert. "In another minute or two, my mission in this stinking hell-hole will be complete and I can return home. This is odd, though. This Frenchman is awfully stupid and relaxed for a secret agent."

Jeff peered down the hospital corridor. He hated this place; he always got lost. He also hated this place because whenever he came here, it was because one of his brothers had gotten beaten up for his lunch money by one of his co-workers again. Some things never changed, sighed Jeff to himself.

Aha, he thought. I'm pretty sure this is Toby's room. But wait -- why is that hairy nurse suffocating him? Without a second thought, he picked up a syringe from a tray in the room and plunged it into the assailant's back.

The so-called nurse crumpled to the floor. Damn, that's some good shit, thought Jeff. My brother is a lucky SOB that I'm around.

Wait a minute, he thought--that's not my brother! Geez, I went to all the trouble of saving some guy I don't even know.

Wait a minute, he thought--I do know that guy! It's the Frenchy! What the hell?! I keep running into him.

Wait a minute, thought Antoine--why is this nurse wearing leather pants with no ass?

At that very moment, the real nurse returned. "Security!" she yelled. Jeff turned and ran. "I've got to get out of here before they nab me for that unpaid parking ticket back in Jersey in '87!"

"Nurse, nurse, I just had the strangest dream. This big hairy nurse wearing leather pants with no ass was here, and wanted to give me a sponge bath. I think I've been taking too much medication."

The nurse looked at him uncomprehendingly. I wish people in this hospital would speak Turkish, she thought.

"You know, I think I'd better get out of here and find some friends. People seem to be trying to kill me! I don't know why" thought Antoine. Unless . . . unless it's because of Operation Vaduz . . . but that couldn't be it--could it?

Meanwhile, in Panama City...

Miriam looked irritated. But she's one of those people who looks cute when irritated. So she also looked cute.

"Listen, Al, we're not here to discuss my hat. Stop delaying. Why did you call Bert? I thought we were only supposed to call him in emergencies. And I hardly think some French guy in Istanbul counts as an emergency."

"Bert? Who's Bert?" (Flips through story.) "Oh, yeah, sorry. It's been a while. I called Bert to warn him about Operation Vaduz. If we don't do anything that ship over there will be the last one ever to go through the Panama Canal."

Miriam winced a bit. "I hate working for the pro-free trade globalizing capitalist conspiracies. Every time something could disrupt trade--like a bomb blowing up the Panama Canal--we get stuck fixing it. And no one ever thanks us for our efforts." Al just smiled. I really like her, he thought.

"I know, Miriam," Al replied dreamily. "That's why I've arranged for us to switch sides. Let me introduce you to our new leaders."

Slowly, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan stepped from the shadows.

Meanwhile, back in Istanbul . . . Things in the hospital were looking grim, thought Dr. Hofstader. I really hate the full moon--it brings out the crazies, and there are so many stab wounds to deal with. Give me a good old-fashioned OD any day. Hey, what the hell? he thought. That guy has assless leather pants on--that's against hospital regulations!

"Hey, buddy. Your pants are against hospital regs."

"What? No, I haven't seen the new rules. Um, why, thank you."

Dr. Hofstader pored over the rules. "Crap. Now I have to wear assless leather pants? Who's running this hospital anyway?"