Chuck Wendig, freelance penmonkey, put a flash fiction challenge up on his blog: Baby Pulp, 1000 words. It isn’t as baby-centered as the challenge demanded but that is alright. It got me to put fingers to keyboard. That is enough. Thanks, Chuck.
Here it is:
Where were you when King Kong fell?
That’s the question they ask us old-timers.
I know right where I was when the great ape was killed because I was born that day. I’m considered by some historians to be the last of the pulp heroes.
We didn’t all wear costumes; some just wore their work clothes, a dapper suit with suspenders and a hat. I always liked the guys and gals who wore their evening clothes, a tux or a cocktail dress, with a little mask over their eyes. That seemed classy to me, though it wasn’t my way. Some survived on their wits and cunning, others found that wits and cunning were accentuated well with turbo pistols spitting bullets at the fiends we called villains.
I was more of cunning mixed with a well timed kick to the precious giblets kinda guy, wearing a newsboy cap, a cotton button-down shirt, trousers with patches in both knees and suspenders to hold it all together.
My mom was in an ambulance, well into labor, when the Beast started rampaging through the city. Traffic became a hot mess as people started to flee downtown to the outer Burroughs and over the river into Jersey. The ambulance team pulled over in front of the Gotham Register. I was born right there, among the news boys huddling for safety in the lobby, Jonesy, newsboy detective.
When Alan Moore wrote about my birth in those graphic novels of his, he made me into some kinda Jesus, with the newsboys as Wise Men. I never liked that, seemed sacrilegious to me. He was spot on in his take on the Doc. No one was ever able to capture his Bronze glories and savage frailties quite like Moore did. Too bad it wasn’t a real book, though. I like the funny pages as much as the next guy but why the pictures?
On a day like Kong Day, my birth was third page news. “Kong claims yet another life: Woman gives birth in G.R. lobby, dies of complications.” The newsboys raised me, taught me the streets they knew. Most were working in the warehouse by the time I came into my detective phase but their street savvy was still fresh and their love meant I had a pack of fathers. The reporters all saw me as their little nephew and taught me about politics and showing up where you weren’t wanted. My brother newsboys taught me the value of a desperate bite to an arm or a well timed kick to the ‘nads.
For a long time I blamed Kong on my mom’s death. I believed what I saw of him in the press, bought into him as a kind of kidnapping monster from a Dark Continent nonsense they were selling us back then.
I collected newspaper clippings about Kong, about the ships and planes filled with desperate anthropologists trying to find Skull Island again, about the rash of suicides among the bi-plane pilots and of course, about Ann Darrow. The press loved her. She got Denham and his cronies investigated for bringing Kong over here illegally and treating him inhumanely but no charges ever held up until years later when I stuck it to him.
From my birth to the end of my career, I always felt the eighth wonder of the world’s shadow over me. You probably didn’t hear much about my earlier cases unless you are a fan of dime novels (I never saw a dime from them, by the way). I thought my last case was going to be Jonesy the Newsboy Detective and the Swashbuckling Spy. Years went by after WWII without a peep from the weird.
By then the Doc had been missing for years, his Empire State Building headquarters still closed up tight, waiting for him to return. The Shadow and his cult faded away, there were whispers of in-fighting, some evil found in those men’s hearts. Lady Domino retired her mask but not her cocktail dress for good after Dorothy Parker died; she remained a classy dame until the very end. Thousands of people showed up at her funeral in Los Angeles in 1982. I was honored to speak at the ceremony..
G-8 and his crew retired after the war, scattered to the wind. They have reunions in national parks and tell stories about spiders that could catch planes in their cloud webs or Viking fighter-aces summoned from Valhalla by some Hun sorcerer. Went with my family to one of their shindigs near Lake Mead in 1974 or so; it was nice, though sad to see those guys get so damned old so fast.
My last case, just before I went away to college, Zombie Kong and the Lightning Zombies. Ms. Darrow died in my arms, still smoking from where the lightning hit her. I shut her eyes and called for an ambulance to dispose of the zombies and take care of her body.
Playing to my strengths, I put two and two together, showed up at the top of the Empire State Building and kicked Carl Denham in the junk, disrupting his diabolical plans. The bastard had brought back magic from Skull Island. Once again, this time on my 17th birthday, Kong fell from the Empire State Building. Just bones hit the streets, a skeleton wired together with blood and will.
I had some time at the top of the Empire State Building before the detectives came to get my statement. They took Denham away in cuffs, coughing blood. I sat there and tried to imagine Kong, fending off bi-planes, just wanting some time with the woman he loved. Looking out over the chaos Denham’s stolen sorcery had wrought, I tried to imagine a woman just a few years older than me, making her way to the hospital in labor as New York City fell apart around her.
I cried for a while, tossed my newsboy hat into the wind. That was the end of Jonesy, newsboy detective.
Dig the pulp stuff here. Zombie Kong!
My friend Robert wrote a story based on this idea when we were in our MFA program together. Its called “Ticks” and has Orson Welles in it.
Rudy Rucker later published it in his webzine Flurb.