As the morning gave way to another hot Texas day,
Specialist E5 Glockneeb Graymatter performed his
daily ritual of meticulously crossing off another day
of military service on the calendar. He was just three days
from receiving his honorable discharge from the United States
Army’s elite fighting force, the U.S. Strangers.
The U.S. Strangers trained alongside the better-known
U.S. Rangers, but due to certain abnormal psychological
traits that characterized these men, they were segregated into
a stand-alone force. Most of the men were loners who suffered
from delusions of grandeur of their persona. All his life,
Glockneeb had suffered from Anti-Social Syndrome, more
commonly referred to as A.S.S. This malady made him feel
right at home with the U.S. Strangers.
Though he had never served in actual combat, Glockneeb
carried himself as a hero, a man of the world, and a man that would
seldom take “no” for an answer. His decision to leave the military
had been a difficult one and was based largely on a disagreement
with his commanding officer’s refusal to award him a Medal for
Valor. This wounded Glockneeb and cut deep into his inner soul,
causing him to question his manhood. While his company was
on a training mission, a sergeant was instructing a new recruit on
the proper method of throwing a grenade. Following the sergeant’s
directions, the soldier pulled the pin and then panicked.
Unbeknownst to the sergeant, who had been distracted for a moment,
the soldier’s nervousness and sweaty palms caused the grenade to
slip from his hand and drop to the ground. The recruit just stood
frozen in fear and unable to speak.
Glockneeb, instinctively and without hesitation, threw his
body onto the grenade to protect his fellow soldiers. As he lay
there on the grenade, his brain slowly replayed his life toward
what he thought would be a heroic end. At some point during
the replay he realized that five minutes had passed and
nothing had happened. He thought that was odd, since a grenade
usually has about a five-second timing fuse before it explodes.
The one thing he knew for sure was that he hadn’t been
blown into oblivion and was still alive. He was also relieved
that he would still have the opportunity to accomplish the
many important objectives of his complicated yet simple life.
He slowly and carefully lifted his body off the grenade and
rose to his feet. As he was dusting himself off, he could not
help but notice the tears streaming down from his sergeant’s
and fellow soldiers’ eyes. He took that as a quiet sign of
appreciation for his valor. No one had the nerve to tell Glockneeb
that the grenade was only a training device, and not an actual
live round. The tears in their eyes came from stifled laughter.
Glockneeb was about to close his locker and report for
duty when his eyes lingered on the two photos hanging on the
door. One was a picture of his fanny, which he was more than
proud to display in all of its beauty and bareness. The other
was a photo of his childhood sweetheart and the love of his
life, Fanny Tushbottom.
He couldn’t imagine life without Fanny. She was the only
person who had the ability to turn his manliness into mush
and make him cry like a baby. He was looking forward to
going home to be with her, but something was really troubling him.
Her last letter to him had ended abruptly in midsentence, which
he thought was unusual. He tried calling her several times,
but she never answered. He feared for her safety
and knew that finding her would be one of his first priorities
upon returning to civilian life.
He pulled the letter from the top shelf of his locker where
he had placed it into a plastic bag to preserve any trace evidence
that might prove to be useful in locating her. He snapped
on a pair of latex gloves and carefully removed it from the
bag. Normally he would spend several minutes just sniffing
her letters; the aroma of her sweet perfume would melt him
like butter as he imagined holding her in his muscular arms.
However, this letter was different than previous letters. This
letter smelled like the men’s cologne, Stinky Pitz, making it
difficult for him to dream about the good times they shared
together. He opened the letter and began to read:
My Dearest Neebie,
As I lie here alone tonight, waiting for your return, I long for
your touch. I miss the feel of your guitar-string-calloused fingers as
they gently stroke my face and hair. I miss the smell that emanates
from the heat of your magnificent, perfectly-marbled body as it wafts
into the air and tickles my nose. I want you to handcuff me and put
me under house arrest the way you did the last time we were together.
I promise not to make bail next time. Your thorough strip search was
enough to make me shiver with excitement and made me want to be
naughty all over again. You are what I live and breathe for. I am the
diamond, and you are the rough. I want to play circus again where
I am the tigress to be tamed and you are the whip-cracking tamer.
I love the way you look at me while you play your guitar and softly
sing “Muskrat Love” to me; you make me feel like a real woman.
As I write this letter I am rubbing my…
The letter ended abruptly. Glockneeb couldn’t help but
wonder why she was rubbing her eyes. Was she crying? Was
someone there with her? Had she been forced to stop writing?
Had someone taken her? If so, then who mailed the letter and
paid for the postage? All of these questions were more than
he could bear. As he slipped the letter back into the plastic
bag, he noticed that the envelope had been postmarked in Los
Angeles, California. This clue would give him a starting point
in his quest to locate and save his beloved Fanny.
Glockneeb’s discharge came and went without any big
fanfare. Having Anti-Social Syndrome meant that there were
no friends to say goodbye to, so he just packed his duffel bag
and took a taxi from Fort Bliss to the El Paso Airport for the
trip back to California.
He arrived at Los Angeles International Airport a little
after noon. With his Fanny missing, there was no one there to
pick him up or to welcome him home. He retrieved his duffel
bag from the baggage carousel and immediately went to the
rental car counter. After some tense moments with the agent
over color availability, he finally settled on a baby-blue subcompact car.
He left the airport and headed to Orange County where
Fanny lived in a small apartment. The hour drive seemed to take
forever. When he arrived at the apartment complex, he skidded
into a parking spot and simultaneously threw the gearshift into
park. He then ran to her apartment and banged on the door, but
there was no answer. Fortunately, she had given him a key, so he
unlocked the door and went inside. “Fanny, Fanny, Fanny!” he
cried out tearfully. The silence was deafening. She wasn’t there.
He decided to look around to see if there was anything
that would indicate where she had gone. He noticed the
blinking message light on her phone and pushed the playback
button. There were five heartfelt messages to her from him.
Just listening to himself eloquently expressing his feelings for
her made him pucker up and bawl like a baby.
After about ten minutes, he regained his composure
and continued to search for her. He entered her bedroom and
found everything in order. There were no signs of a struggle.
He opened her closet door, and it appeared that nothing was
missing. However, her extensive shoe collection caught his
eye, especially a pair of six-inch-high black stilettos. He was
quite familiar with this pair of shoes because Fanny would
always wear them for him when she wanted something. He
reached down, picked up one of the shoes, and sniffed the
inside. The smell of his Fanny brought a lump to his throat.
He loved the smell of his Fanny (not his fanny, but his Fanny).
He took another deep breath of the inside of her shoe.
He inhaled so deeply that a piece of paper hidden deep inside
the shoe dislodged itself and clung to his nostrils like a wet
blanket. Suddenly, Glockneeb couldn’t breathe. Desperate for
air, he panicked and stumbled backwards, flailing his arms
wildly. The room was beginning to fade to black. Just as he
was about to lose consciousness, his survival training automatically
took over his reflexes, and he opened his mouth. He gasped
several times while his lungs filled with air. After
his head cleared, he realized what had happened and carefully
peeled the piece of paper from his nostrils.
When he attempted to discard the piece of paper into
a trash basket, it stuck to his clammy fingers. While trying
to extricate himself from the paper, he noticed that it was a
bar napkin with what appeared to be Fanny’s handwriting on
the back side. The corner of the napkin had been torn off, so
part of the message was missing. Glockneeb silently read the
message: …something G Talent Agency, Los Angeles. Take me out
to the ball game, three stripes and you’re out! The reference to three
stripes was confusing to Glockneeb.
He wondered, How many drinks did Fanny consume before
she wrote this note? What’s the meaning of the message? Why do they
make wool socks?
Knowing Glockneeb’s penchant for smelling her feet, could
Fanny have hidden this clue in his favorite pair of her shoes? He
tucked the note into his pocket and drove back to Los Angeles.
In order to save cash, he returned the rental car to the airport and
grabbed a cab, telling the driver to take him to the nearest cheap
motel. After checking into the Dirty Sheets Motel, he sat alone in
his room and pondered how to proceed with finding his Fanny.
He considered calling the police, but immediately dismissed that
idea because he could do a job better than anyone else. With time
running out, and only the letter and the napkin from the shoe for
clues, he wondered if a little help from someone might be useful.
But who would help him?
He removed the plastic bag containing the letter from his
duffel bag and again sniffed the contents. The overpowering
scent of Stinky Pitz cologne sent him into a sneezing frenzy,
and jolted his brain into remembering the only other person
that he had ever allowed into his inner circle.
He had met Moose in the sixth grade where the two of
them attended Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School located
in Anaheim, California. They became acquainted while being
held in detention after their teacher, Mrs. Skullybones, caught
them goofing off during a study period. As they were being
grilled by the principal, they did a lot of finger-pointing and
snitching against each other, but their efforts to claim innocence
were to no avail. They were both found guilty and sent
home with notes to their parents.
Though their personalities were vastly different, the bond
between them could not be broken. With time they learned to
tolerate each other. Moose could be charming when warmed, but
tended to be lacking in judgment and personal skills, especially
when it came to relating to women. Women usually found him
interesting at first but were quickly left frustrated and in need of
professional help. Moose was unique. He could be an irritation
and an inspiration at the same time without realizing it.
Unlike Glockneeb, Moose was a social animal. He was
everybody’s friend. There were never any strangers in Moose’s
life. Both of them had been in therapy for having delusional
tendencies. Moose always felt that he was relevant while he
stumbled along in life. At times he contributed to society,
but for the most part he was a detriment to all who crossed
his path. He was a man of principle, a man that one dare not
agitate to the point of conflict.
Glockneeb was the only one who had the ability to know
where that “line in the sand” was with Moose. He could tell by
the look on his face and the steely coldness that would appear in
his beady eyes. When he saw what he referred to as the knowing
look, he knew it was time to back away and give Moose his space.
Moose was a man whom you could trust with your life, as long
as your life wasn’t worth two cents. Maybe it was time to look
up the only real friend that Glockneeb had. But there was one
real problem. When they were together, Moose had a tendency
to exacerbate Glockneeb’s delusions of grandeur and superiority.
This always rubbed Moose the wrong way, creating a friction
between them that was hotter than a cheap pair of new brake
pads installed on a high-performance automobile. On the other
hand, there were times when Glockneeb’s firm grasp on the big
picture and common sense had a calming effect on Moose’s
rough, beat-a-man-to-a-pulp, act-before-you-think demeanor.
Their long-standing friendship was living proof that
“opposites” do attract, and that when brawn and brains are
melded together, you get bologna. They were two halves that
nearly equaled a whole.
The more Glockneeb pondered the unpleasant memories of their
relationship, the more Glockneeb wondered if contacting Moose
was really going to be a help or a hindrance to finding his Fanny.
Glockneeb recalled the last time that he and Moose were
together, Moose had mentioned that he was determined to start
his own private eye business. He had mentioned that he had
purchased the game of Clue and spent a year home-schooling
himself by playing it for hours. He then continued with advanced
studies at home by watching and committing to memory all
sixty-nine episodes of the television program Columbo.
Glockneeb’s sarcastic response was, “And this qualifies
you to be a private investigator?”
There was a long stare into Glockneeb’s eyes that came
very close to being that knowing look. “What do you think?”
Glockneeb paused momentarily; he knew better than to
challenge his friend at this point. He remembered how Moose
would get extremely emotional and lash out when he crossed that
“line in the sand,” so he just replied, “Well, of course it does!”
He stared down at the list he had neatly printed on a
yellow pad. He had itemized three important things that he
had to accomplish in a very short time. The first item was
to locate and contact Moose, the second item was to find his
Fanny, and third, he needed to get a job.
He began with the first item on his agenda. Glockneeb
had lost touch with Moose soon after they both entered military service.
Moose had been stationed overseas while Glockneeb divided
his service time protecting the nation’s borders
from being invaded by Mexico and Canada. The last letter that
Glockneeb received from Moose indicated that he had indeed
started his private investigation business in Hollywood, Cali-
fornia. However, the business had fallen on hard times, and he
had been struggling to keep the doors open. Things were obviously
tough because the letter had been written with a crayon.
Also, the letter had been sent in a homemade envelope made
from an old manila folder and had been stamped “postage due
at time of delivery.” To this day, having to pay for his postage
was still stuck in Glockneeb’s craw.
Glockneeb perused the Yellow Pages to see if he could
find Moose under the Private Investigators section.
A fullpage ad caught his eye.