“Can I open my eyes yet?” Julian mumbled, spreading his fingers a fraction only for Albert to swat them shut again.
“Not yet- Just one secondddddd, alright. You can open them.”
“Oh wow! What am I supposed to be looking at,” Julian squinted, “This piece of paper? Jeez I know it’s traditional but I was, expecting a little more-”
“It’s cruise tickets!”
“Ohhh, the paper is tickets. Okay. I love you again I guess. Where’s the cruise to?” Julian cocked his head.
Albert gesticulated grandly, “To an exotic Caribbean getaway, I mean really you spend most of your time on the ship so the destination is kinda just a bonus thing since after a day you have to pretty much turn around and go back home. But a boat is a pretty cool vacation anyways, this ship should be a really relaxing break from spending all our time on buses and planes; I’ve already packed our bags.”
“Oh Al, I don’t know how I feel about this, aren’t cruises usually places where a bunch of old people die?”
“Yeah I guess,” he shrugged, “But we’re not mondo old, soooo we probably won’t die.”
“It’s not that- I mean we all gotta die eventually but, what if it’s HAUNTED?”
“We’ll request a not haunted room.”
“Welcome to Jimmy Buffett’s Return To The Escape From Margaritaville Booze Cruise ™ ! Come aboard!” a hired Jimmy Buffett impersonator and or animatronic double, or possibly Jimmy Buffett in the same way there’s always a chance the Santa at your mall in suburban Ohio is the real Santa Claus and not just your cousin’s alcoholic uncle the one time a year he actually works, smiled, waving them towards the gangplank. Julian smiled weakly, adjusting the sunglasses resting uselessly on top of his head and checking if his other pair hanging from his collar and the ones in his breast pocket were still redundantly there. Albert held up an 8th pair to show him he still had his back just in case. He was sweet that way, Julian squeezed his hand and they climbed aboard.
“Can I see your tickets?” the conductor looked up from his clipboard, a tall man with thinning hair but a friendly looking face that reminded Albert of the same warm emotion he got from eating mashed potatoes. Looking back down and studying the paper he bit his cheek contemplatively, “You must be the couple who paid with a Groupon… Sigh, come aboard.”
“I am the first mate here on the S.S. The Lawyer and The Asshole,” Albert and Julian giggled, the first mate raising a wispy wait does Trevor have eyebrows lemme check… well I guess but ehh there’s not really much there to work with ok. Eyebrow at them, “Anyways I am first mate on the S.S. The Lawyer and The Asshole so I’m in charge of all the passengers; if you have a problem, just ask for Trevor.”
“I’m Trevor.” he continued in a softer voice,” Most of our patrons are older so I will ask that you keep it down in the evening and not go poking around places you shouldn’t on my Asshole-”
They burst into a fit of barely stifled giggling again, Trevor giving them a sharp look. “Hereareyourroomkeyshaveanicestay.”
As they walked away Albert leaned in close to Julian, still giggling, “Hey Jules, go back and tell him where he can stick his keys.”
“Hehehehe- In his Asshole.”
“Hahahaha! In his ASSHOLE.”
Trevor stamping another customer at the boarding dock gritted his teeth, trying to compose himself. “Thank you, everything seems to be here. Is there any other questions you two have?”
“Jah,” one of them scratched his scalp, brows knitted, “About the pool, there is a pool on deck, the rooms are underneath it? I am concerned about the leaking in the ceiling, I don’t want a wet Asshole.”
“Nein,” his partner shook his head, “Even when your Asshole is surrounded by water, I do not think it would be very comfortable to have that water inside the Asshole. That can’t be healthy.”
“No the structures are very well sealed there are NO leaks inside the S.S. Lawyer and the Asshole. There are no cracks whatsoever in my Asshole. But thank you for your concerns, enjoy your cruise.”
“Keine Risse in seinem Arschloch? Wie scheißt er?”
Finally in their private cabin which only smelled a little bit like cadaverine and week-old shrimp scampi, Albert threw himself back onto the bed spread which was charmingly reminiscent of the 80s in a way that was popular and socially acceptable now, knocking his suitcase back onto the floor where it exploded open. Julian glanced over and a wide smile crept across his face picking up his partner’s clothes, “Oh my Albert, how risque,” he stretched a tiny red speedo between his fingers, Albert covering his face and batting his eyes playfully, “Tell me you’re not trying to seduce some sugar grandaddies with that adjective behind of yours!”
“Nope, those are just for you, but I don’t mind if a few wandering eyes get a look teehee. You should see what I bought for you, open your bag.”
“Gasp! Oh you shouldn’t have!”
“Happy anniversary babe,” he leaned down kissing Julian, holding his face close in his hands as the scene conveniently changed.
“Finally we get a chance to get away,” Kasim sighed deeply, cuddling up to his hunky boyfriend, “Just the two of us.”
“Correction, just the four of us,” Todd pointed out, Greg and Roger poking their heads out at Kasim whose dreamy expression flattened into abject unamusement.
“Right… just the… four of us…” he agreed through clenched teeth, the others blissfully going back to fawning over the musician. “Todd- a moment with you please, alone.”
“Alrighhht,” he stood, walking into the bathroom and locking the door behind him, “Hit me.”
“Todd, when you said Michele wasn’t coming because this was a slashfic and this ship had a strict no hets allowed policy, I thought this vacation was going to be for us!” Kasim held out his hands in frustration, “What are those two doing here!? I mean, I’m glad to see Roger again and I’d love to spend some time with him but, I thought this was going to be special…”
“Kasim,” Todd held his chin between his forefinger and his thumb, raising it to look him in the eye, “It is special, but Roger is special to me too you know that. And ever since he can’t play with us anymore, it’s hard for me to find the time to show him that he is to me still.”
“...Then why is Greg here,” Kasim sneered, expression souring.
“Haha, I like Greg. He’s cool,” Todd smiled polyamorously. “Just because I have feelings for other people and chose to act on them when they return those feelings doesn’t mine mine for you are any less strong or important. Damn I thought you would’ve gotten used to this after 40 years you demanding little babyman crydevil.”
“I’m needy!!! I need constant direct attention or I will die!!! Do you want me to die Todd!?”
“I never said you couldn’t get attention from other people, this is a mutually open relationship. You signed a contract Kas,” Todd clarified, ready to stop regaling the other and get on to getting shitfaced at the waterpark and making out with a handsome stranger or maybe a handsome octopus. “Let this be a good experience for you, or maybe you’d rather go back to Meatloaf, no way he’ll ever let you leave him again for the rest of your life, probably take you away… probably make you his wife-”
“NO! I would do anything for love BUT THAT!!!”
“Suit yourself… What a way to pick your friends,” Todd shrugged, leaving Kasim to his flashback montage, “I’m gonna be at the pool if you need me. Something about lying in a body of water while surrounded by a body of water always appealed to me. That’s why I’m bringing my floating pool floaty with me. I’m gonna make that terrifying asshole the ocean soooo jealous, look who’s enjoying a body of water AND IT’S NOT YOU!,” he thought out loud.
//“Why are we here Flori, you know I hate these things, I cannot even ride my bicycle on deck without some old man in a lab coat telling me ‘there’s a time and place for everything but not now’. Wouldn’t let me ride my bike on the SS Anne, wouldn’t let me ride it here- I have never been happy at sea. Bunch of overrated wet nonsense.”//
Florian frowned, upset that Ralf wasn’t having a good time, but unable to do anything about that given they’d left port and he couldn’t very well bike back to land. Maybe there was a time and a place for that. //“I accidentally clicked a box that said I won a free cruise thinking it was going to be a fun virus but it turns out it was just a free cruise after all. And well I felt bad if I let it go to waste. There’s got to be something you’ll enjoy doing here,”// Florian attempted to cheer him up, touching his arm gently.
//”Maybe there’s a standing bike in the exercise room,”// Ralf hypothesized desperately, numb to the world.
“Oh boy that sure was something something by which I mean sex which we just had we are gay. And in love,” Julian panted sitting up, “Do you think we should get ourselves cleaned up down the hall?” Their groupon hadn’t included a bathroom, that kinda shit: bathrooms, towels, cabin service, windows, furniture- all that cost extra. It was their first anniversary not their billionth, Julian wasn’t too good for mattress on the floor glamping.
“Pshh, nah, let’s just go to the pool, it’ll wash off there. No one will notice. Public pools are nothing but other people’s piss and cum anyways. Mmm swampy.”
“Nghhh, I don’t know. I’m gonna take extra care in practicing correct sexual hygiene, densely populated closed environments like cruise ships are breeding grounds for disease.”
“So what,” Albert gave him a look, acquiescing, “You want me to use two condoms?”
“No, the friction actually increases your chance of them breaking, as well as each party’s discomfort. You should however use another condom when engaging in oral sex! STDs, especially bacterial ones can be contracted and spread orally as well.”
“Wow! I didn’t know that. Thanks for educating me, I feel more comfortable knowing I’m practicing safer habits. If it’s just you and me though and we both are well informed and honest with each other’s sexual history, is that necessary?”
“Not necessarily, condoms are primarily for the prevention of STDS- though it’s not always 100% so it’s still important to regularly get checked if you do think you may be at risk, so if you know you are not in any risk it comes down to personal preference. Many people actually prefer wearing them out of theirs or their partner’s personal comfort and the fact it makes less of a mess.”
“What if I like the mess?”
“You should still always pee after sex and wash to reduce possible infection, now I’m headed to the showers, at least try to clean up a little.”
“Sigh, fine,” Albert nakedly followed Julian down the hall since towels were not included in their room on this Jimmy Buffett I Am Not A Hobophome Would Someone Who’s Homophonic Do This? Charitable Trust approved LGBTQ+ -S friendly cruise. Weird. Swabbing his belly button with Lysol outside Julians’ shower while guarding him from possible ghost attacks when he invariably dropped the soap, Albert noticed a ruggedly handsome older gentleman walk out of the stall next to his. He ran his sausagey fingers through his long wavy hair that smelled like a field of daisies, or, nice smelling chemicals depending on how insecure customers’ masculinity was for the brand. “You’re very attractive for your age,” Albert blurted, drawing the attention of the nonthreatening stranger, “Not that I am hitting on you, I am married and respect the wishes of my husband that our relationship remain exclusive.”
“Oh, why thank you. That’s fine, men should be able to compliment each other’s physical appearance freely without being interpreted as sexual. You don’t make my eyeballs roll back into my head and melt like that one scene in Raiders of The Lost Ark that made it the first PG 13 rated movie for sheer gore factor either.” He thanked him and walked over to the hand dryers where he noisily attempted to dry himself off.
“Okie dokie, nice and clean. You still wanna head to the pool?” Julian pulled on his new speedo which read ‘Love’ and ‘Hate’ on each cheek.
“Nah,” Albert stared somewhat distantly still, “I’m kinda hungry now. Lemme get some clothes on, I hate being seen eating naked. Makes me feel like I’m some kind of wild animal.”
“I understand, I feel the same way whenever I go to Arby’s, that’s why I always have to call ahead to rent out the whole restaurant whenever I’m there.”
Over the ship intercom, the daily announcements rang out: “-Yoga classes will be held at 4:00 pm today instead of the customary am due to violent protests which claimed the lives of dozens, all other workshops will occur at their regularly scheduled time as shown beside the classrooms and on the website, which is accessible to anyone on our wifi package, available for three affordable payments of $19.99. Help yourself to the Jimmy buffet, brunch today is cheeseburgers in paradise, gumbo, mangos, grapefruit, dreamsicles, peanut butter, fruitcake, bananas, coconut, shrimp, lobster, crab, spongecake, french fries, pineapple, sweet potatoes, black eyed peas- *gasp* please don’t make me look up more lyrics- perrier, wine, gin, champagne, beer, rum, tequila, margaritas, and all the cocktails your corroded livers can handle you geriatric dipsomaniacs- and like... probably cereal or apples or whatever but we can’t put it on the menu unless there’s a Jimmy Buffett song that goes with it or there will be a lawsuit. Remember, we all wish brunch could last forever, but I guess our cooks’ labor union demands that they sleep or something- so buffet hours are 5 o’clock to 5 o’clock and 12 am to 1 am when chef Rick gets hungry in the middle of the night-”
“Can I get some muenster on my cheeseburger?” Albert smiled at the cook, who gave him an empty glare and dropped the burger from his tongs directly into his bowl of cheerios. “Uh, okay I guess thanks.”
Sitting down beside Julian, he looked over at his plate, “Whadja get on your cheeseburger?”
“Oh man, same! How wild is that?”
Around the room the ship’s antediluvian population were complacently having brunch while an early-afternoon tier soft rock band played onstage. An angry hoard of maybe 6 or 7 who had been expecting a rookie magician or partially staged improv were vandalizing their equipment already whipped into a frenzy. “Donald-” their guitarist hissed, “I thought you said this was gonna be an easy gig! You know these guys aren’t used to playing live, Michael McDonald’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown and he’s gotta play again in an hour and a half with the Doobies while wearing a different shirt so the audience thinks it’s a totally different band. How do you think he’ll be able to perform if he’s been traumatized? P-T-S-D man, it’s fuckin seRIOUS! Marines get that shit!”
“I don’t know what you expect me to do? I’m playing as smooth as I can man, you can’t reason with these people! Give them drink tickets or something!”
“We can’t just give them our drink tickets!” Walter’s recording of himself played the drums cried, “That’s our salary for the week!”
“I’ve got a point,” he sternly said, “Don, you gotta offer yourself to them as a human sacrifice-”
“Okay that’s it I’m takin’ 15. Show’s over, acclaimed solo artist Donald Fagen don’t gotta put up with this malarkey.”
Walter held his face in his hands and groaned as an audience member gnawed through his power chord, frothing at the mouth. “Ooohhhhhhhhhhhhh,” Michael McDonald warbled nervously as the crowd got closer, clawing and groping at him. He glanced panicked from Walter to Don, disappearing out the door, and his slightly flat quavering grew more frantic and out of key for this song.
“Michael McDonald,” Donald’s recording sighed defeatedly, “You’re demoted from backing singer.”
“I mean you’re fired.”
“From… backing singer?”
“Yes Michael McDonald,” flesh Donald snapped, popping his head back into the room and shutting the door behind him.
Julian munched on his turnip and parsnip burger watching a man in an electric wheelchair ram the stage repeatedly, amps falling off with horrible screeches and shrieking feedback. “Wow, I wasn’t expecting much from these kids but I. Am. Loving this.”
“Eh, it’s no Jimmy Buffett,” Albert waved his hand dismissively.
The was a harsh rapping at the office door, Captain Squire reluctantly got up to answer, wondering who on earth could it be. This person knew the secret knock, which was actually just a normal knock but a real tool would try and play it cool and identify themself as such, but they either didn’t know better than to disturb the captain’s me time or simply didn’t respect it- another identifying symptom of a tooool. “Who dares disturb my me time?” he bellowed with what he hoped was authority.
“I need to see the ship psychologist,” Kasim demanded, “I’m having a major emotional crisis right now and I need constant intense attention and genuine caring…. Or I’ll die. -It’s a very rare medical condition but it’s very serious and very not made up.”
“We don’t, have a ship psychologist… I can send you to medical,” the Captain suggested.
“No- I need trained skilled psychological assistance, someone with at least a 4 or higher on Yelp. This is an emergency I don’t think you understand. I could DIE.”
“People die on cruise ships all the time, eh, no big,” he shrugged indifferently. Kasim fumed back in what he hoped was a persuasive yet attractive manner.
“Wellll… I’ll see what I can do. Hey Jon! C’mere!”
“Zoom wee, whoosh. What seems to be the problem?”
“Are you the ship psychologist?” Kasim stared skeptically at the odd little man, “Can I see your license.”
“Oh hoho, I for…got my license. In my wallet. On land. You don’t need a license when you’re at sea silly!” the man chuckled mirthfully, “Here, here sit down, please. Have a biscuit. Oh no an American, let me translate- have a cookie. They are a delicious chocolate coated shortbread unique to England, I’m sure you have nothing like them in America but English food is a true delicacy you should be glad to experience anyways!”
“We do,” Kasim said humorlessly accepting the cookie, “I need medical help. My boyfriend is ignoring me.”
“Oh no, that is quite a problem. Do you think he might be cheating on you? It’s very common when husbands go on cruises to be unfaithful.”
“I like how you automatically jumped to that, but no. He’s in a committed relationship with two of his more twinky and submissive keyboardists which I like as individuals and admit to finding attractive myself but-“
“Buuuuut I want him to pay more attention to me. By which I mean all of it. Those other guys can watch.”
“Chasm,” Jon warbled, “I think your dependence on your partner is a lit-tle unhealthy, you sound like your insecurity about your relationship or rather yourself is manifesting in a forme of borderline disorder, as characterized by this need.”
“Oh, sorry. Kahseem, I feel you need to resolve your personal confidence issues before you can have confidence in your love. Ocean. Movement. Future.”
“Ka-zim. Ka-zim. Are you tellin’ me Todd abusing me through neglect is actually MY fault?”
“All suffering stems from want,” Jon nodded sagely, “Now have you tried yoga, or the marriage a juanas? If that doesn’t work, convert to veganism or Buddhism and see me this time again next week. That’ll be $180 thank-you!”
“You can’t be serious,” Kasim blinked incredulously.
“I could try to kiss it better. Smooch!” Jon beamed and patted him on the spot on his crown chakra where he’d just kissed him.
“Thanks...so much. I feel bettah already….” Kasim turned and left forever.
“Is he FINALLY gone GOd,” Chris exhaled dramatically, spinning his chair back around and reopening his browser to check on his neopets, “I thought he’d never stop talking. Honorary doctor of the arts Jon Anderson, you, are a miracle worker.”
“Oh thank ye, I’m certainly not a medical worker.”
Roger laid out his moth-eaten official merch Utopia beach towel on the pavement of the Jimmy Buffett The Dead Gays Memorial Would a Homonym Do A Thing Like Dedicate The World’s Only MOGAI Friendly At Sea Waterpark To A Bunch of Randos Who Died Huh I Bet Not Got You There Waterpark, relaxing in the shadow of Todd’s junk. “Don’t you wanna go in the water Rog?” Todd asked, crouching down to grab another bottle after already emptying one himself to coat his boyfriend’s disgusting pale body in sunscreen.
“Nah,” he adjusted his prescription sunglasses and turned to where he’d left off in his book, “You go have fun in the water.”
Todd sighed, his shoulders sinking, “Kasim always loves to go to the pool with me. I guess I shouldn’t have made situationally appropriate Meatloaf jokes at him. I hope he knows I didn’t mean it. My sarcasm and bitter wit is part of what makes me so endearing,” he kicked the water, splashing weakly.
“I’ll play with you Todd,” Greg chirped, “I see some guys over there who look like they’re trying to find someone to challenge to a game of Chicken.”
“Oh well let’s get over there and make it Gay Chicken before someone else doesn’t,” the taller man brightened, lifting the other onto his shoulders and charging towards the other team. “Aw,” Roger smiled, lowering his shades to stare at the vague shapes and fuzzy colors frolicking merrily, “See I knew he’d perk right up.”
“Get ready to go down Tears for Queers!” Todd smirked engaging the couple.
“Kurt you better not fucking wimp out on me this time,” Roland snapped getting in position.
“I’m not gonna wimp out godddddd, it was your fault we lost last time anyways, you always lift with your back instead of your knees. Idiot.”
“Hey watch what you’re s-blflgllglglglgg,” he sputtered at Todd splashed him in the face. “Hey! That was really rude!”
“Yeah? And what are you gonna do about it, shout? Shout?” Todd splashed him again, Curt shrieking as a drop of water got on him.
“STOP spLASHING ME! That was a really weak attempt at referential humor AT best, I’m gonna make you eat those words!”
“Make me!” And the four of them locked lips making out passionately. Something about that overused and overly simplistic trope just seemed to work every time. There was a reason he was undefeated Chicken but Gay champion.
“Wow, you’re pretty hardcore,” a voice spoke impressed from behind Ralf. He couldn’t bother to turn his neck to see who it was because they would’ve increased his drag, although he was on a stationary bike so that really wasn’t a thing.
“Do- I know- you,” he huffed, pedaling harder now he knew he had an audience that thought he- him! Was hardcore.
“Well you should, I’m Kenny Loggins, the K Logg.”
“Ah yes, I know of you, I had your cereal for breakfast this morning! It’s very edible.”
“Unless it can be tracked by Google Analytics the means of which you know my greatness is of no importance. However, if I may have a moment of your time, I have an opportunity for someone as extreme as yourself.”
“How long of a moment are we talking?” Ralf continued to stare straight ahead pedaling, “I am only on my 60th kilometer for today, I can’t be going soft just because my foolish but loving husband entrapped me on this vacation of his.”
“Wow- you really are hardcore,” Kenny gushed not knowing what a kilometer was, “Take the job please, you’ve already gotten it. I was initially looked for back up dancers for my performance tomorrow night but then I thought that’s not really representative of my brand, and then I saw you and your amazing drive and commitment- That passion truly reflects the Kenny Loggins creed of being truly extreme. I think you- what’s your name?”
“My foolish but caring husband wrote it on the inside of mein underwear,” Ralf stated, undeterred.
“Hm… Flar. Well Flar, I think you’re perfect for the job. See you tomorrow super star.”
“Okay, wie auch immer.”
“Let’s take it from the top again, Michael McDonald. Michael McDonald?” A member of the Doobie brothers who isn’t Skunk Baxter glanced over at Michael McDonald, the backing singer’s eyes glazed over in horror as the events of an hour and a half ago played over in his head. Getting fired in cold blood, and like Walter Becker getting eaten alive by old people or something idk tbh it was a bit of a blur. “Michael McDonald, what’s wrong? We can’t play if you’re just going to stand there.”
“I- I got fired,” he choked out.
“Fired!? By who? Nobody fires Michael McDonald and lives to tell the tale!”
“Donald Fagen,” Michael McDonald mumbled unassertively, staring at his feet.
“Ooooh I’ll show him! Where is the bastard?”
“Iduhnuh,” Michael McDonald shrugged.
“Well-,” the other man bit his lip, “Where’s Becker then? I can talk some sense into him.”
“He uh, kinda got eaten alive I guess.”
“Typical Becker. Well I guess I’ll go look for Fagen then. I’ll tear apart the whole Asshole to find him if I have to!”
Skunk watched his bandmate run out of practice and glanced over at Michael McDonald, “Well he’s fired for skipping rehearsal. This is all your fault Michael McDonald. Now let’s take it from the top again.”
“What do you wanna do next Julian? Ooh- there’s a shuffleboard tournament at 3:35, and here there’s bingo! Bingo! Just can’t get that kind of entertainment back on land.”
“I was hoping we could kinda see another concert since the last one got cut short after that one guy left and the other one was eaten. It says The Doobie Brothers are playing at the Jimmy Buffett Dead Gays Memorial Waterpark stage, maybe this time we’ll get to hear Michael McDonald sing!”
“Don’t you think that name is, I don’t know, kinda offensive,” Albert cringed, much rather preferring to go one on one at some heart pounding shuffleboard than listen to some Scooby Doo cover band. Michael McDonald didn’t strike him as either a Scooby nor a Scrappy. His encyclopedic knowledge of Scooby Doo ended there. Maybe if he knew more things about Scooby Doo he’d be more interested in seeing this band, and would know how to protect Julian from ghosts better.
“Michael McDonald? No way, that’s a perfectly normal name,” Julian shook his head.
“No I mean, the waterpark… Dead Gays? Sounds really homophobic to me.”
“Al,” Julian put a hand on his shoulder, “I know where you’re coming from, but Jimmy Buffett meant it as a way to honor those who have lost their lives to intolerance and neglect- The Jimmy Buffett I Am Not A Hobophome Would Someone Who’s Homophonic Do This? Charitable Trust has contributed millions towards proving Jimmy Buffett is not a homophobe, or homophone… or homo...nym? Jimmy Buffett, a homophobe? That’s What A Fool Believes!”
“...The way you said that last line capitalized make me think you’re trying to reference something.”
“The Doobie Brothers,” Julian frowned, “Dammit it’s the only one of theirs I know Albert, I thought the rest of them were Steely Dan songs and that “China Grove” was actually “Whoa-oh Domino”, which made me think that was by Derek and The Dominos, who apparently have songs other than “Layla” but not many, and none worth listening to. Is “Wonderful Tonight” on that album? I will never forgive Eric Clapton for writing that, or really anything he’s done. But especially that. Is he dead? I think he’s dead.”
“Oh good, then I still have time left to kill him for that. Oh look- they’re starting!”
“Hello everybody, I’m Jeff Skunk Baxter, former member of The Doobie Brothers- hey hey! No splashing! We’re a little short staffed tonight because someone decided he had to seek revenge-”
“Understandable,” Julian nodded.
“-So we’re asking on you, our… sigh… fans, to come together to help us out. Who thinks they have it in them to play with us for this one special show?”
“OOH OOH OOH, ME M-M-M-MEEEEE Me ME pick- PICK ME!” Julian waved his hand frantically jumping up and down.
“You thereeeee you, chipper one in the candy red bikini bottoms. You. Come on up son.”
“EEEEEEEEEEE,” Julian glanced at Albert excitedly, holding his hands to his mouth unable to contain his excitement. “Go get em tiger,” he patted him on the back, ushering him up towards the stage.
“What’s your name son,” Jeff pulled the mic towards Julian. “Julian Casablancas, I’m a huge fan, I mean, I’m a huge Steely Dan fan but I thought all your songs were actually Steely Dan songs so I liked them then but I guess they’re still okay even if it turns out they’re actually not.”
“Okay, so you think you can help us play them?”
“Sure can! I’m in a band of my own I-”
“That’s cute, everybody applaud for the little guy. Alright, let’s take it from the top- oh, and Michael McDonald? Don’t fuck it up, you wouldn’t want to end up like your friend Walter. If you thought that was an accident, well that’s What A Fool Believes.”
Greg wrung out his ponytail, wading out of the pool while Todd went down the waterslide for the 22nd time. “How’s your book Roger? Any good?”
“Almost done actually, ‘Pioneers of Electronic Music In The 20th Century’. It’s all about people who paved the way in technology and the arts like Suzanne Ciani, Delia Derbyshire, Laurie Speigel, Clara Rockmore, Laurie Anderson, Daphne Oram, Else Marie Bade, and Bebe Barron. This last chapter’s all about Wendy Carlos.”
“Oh wow, she’s my hero. I wanna be just like her when I grow up.”
Roger squinted over his shoulder towards the concert going on, “I think these guys should take a lesson from Wendy Carlos. They’re alright, but their music is too smooth, it could really benefit from some bleeps and blorps.”
“You said it brother, after all, without some nice squared waves, isn’t a keyboard just a piano without parents?”
“I can’t help overhearing your conversation,” a fellow sunbather comment, lowering his newspaper, “I too, am an aficionado of the electronic arts.” He approached them, extending a hand, “Florian Schneider.”
Greg stared at his hand and slowly fist bumped it, “Ker chowww.”
“Roger Powell. I’ve since left the darkened bowels of the EA, but I still dabble here and there. One does not give up electronic wizardry and soundcrafts so easily once lured in by it’s siren song-”
“Which sounds like bleeps and bloops.”
“-Exactly. So are you two planning something perhaps mischievous here?”
“That depends, are you in?”
Florian hesitated for a second, wondering what Ralf would say in this situation ‘Don’t speak to me until I’ve gotten in my 100 km for the day’. “Oh… Yes, I am.”
“Are you dumb motherfuckers ready to Listen To The Music? I’ll take your screaming as a yes, I don’t really care what you think, I’ve already been paid,” Skunk shouted over the crowd, “Alright Julian, Tom’s busy trying to restore Michael McDonald’s honor or something so I need you to take the reigns on this one, think you can keep it together?”
“It’d be an honor Guy Who Is Not Walter Becker,” and they charged into the song with the passion and confidence of a middle aged drunk person at a cruise karaoke, but with the talent of someone who was paid to be there. Julian had never sung so intensely on his own music, but he found a well of emotion deep within him founded upon the love of what he had initially assumed was a Steely Dan song. Albert, towards the back of the crowd, touched his face, discovering it was wet, tears of awe streaming down his cheeks. “It’s so b-beautiful…” Yes, he’d certainly heard it before, but for the first time in his life it seemed, he was truly Listening To The Music.
Nothing could ruin this perfect moment, everyone completely spellbound by this Doobie Brothers song sung with the ardor of of a Steely Dan cover. That is of course, until the noises started. “Bleepblorp BOOP beep bwarhhhhhhhhhhh-” Julian froze in cold sweat, “What was that sound?” The noises continued, their unearthly music creeping through the band’s playing. “STOP STOP Where are those noises coming from!?” he panicked, frantically looking around for their source. Nobody seemed to notice but him, but he knew for a fact none of those otherworldly acoustics were part of any of this song he knew by heart except for the bit where it was actually by The Doobie Brothers. As the sounds grew louder and more obtrusive, he dropped to his knees screaming (it was an instrumental section, no one cared what the singer was doing even if this stage show stuff wasn’t really very Doobies, they had to give the new guy a chance before they eviscerated him in their Yelp reviews) and began tearing up the floorboards, the noise, the noise! Blorping ever louder in his head until it became an earsplitting din and he bolted off the stage, the sounds stopping almost immediately as he did.
“Well good to know the Powell Probe’s still good for something,” Roger leaned back satisfied. Florian and Greg threw off the curtains covering their set ups and attempted to shake hands/hi five/fist bump. “Wait- I think I hear somebody coming! Hide!”
As Julian trepidatiously attempted to return to the stage in time for the last verse, he eyed the tarped over equipment backstage suspiciously, trying to reason with himself that maybe those sounds were actually part of the song after all, that he’d merely just been listening to the Steely Dan version this whole time. Greg tried to stifle his laughter as he made out the shifting shape of the singer from behind the mesh of the fabric, and his hand accidentally slipped from its knob, making quite possibly the spoooookiest sound he’d ever managed, sending Julian leaping six feet back screaming about ghosts. He never made it back in time for that last verse. Neither had Tom. They’d finally made the last step into transitioning to some kind of jam band. Having fallen so far, they were no better than the Grateful Dead now, and there was no turning back; All of them were going directly to hell.
Oh wait no I forgot about Michael McDonald, he was there too. And he even sang a little.
“Jules, Jules are you there? Come on out, it’s okay, it’s just me, there’s no ghosts to worry about,” Albert softly called. Julian pulled back the sheets on his mattress on the floor, staring at the other waiting in the doorway, “Did you hear their ghostly wailing? Did you witness their phantasmagorical forms? Feel the beating of the old man’s heart beneath the floorboards???”
“Yeah, not really, maybe?” It was hard to say, but obviously some yahoos thought it’d be funny to interrupt the concert with their synthesizer noodling, which it was but he had to be supportive of his husband to. He supposed. Whatever. “Listen, I made sure on Travelocity I got the non haunted room, but remember, as long as you’re with me, I’ll make sure you’re safe. I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghost!”
“Oh gee Al, thanks, it really means a lot to me. You must be so embarrassed having to deal with me and my totally logical fear of ghosts all the time, I wish I could make it up to you. I wish I wasn’t so scared,” Julian nestled close as Albert sat down with him.
“You don’t have to, I love you. I’ll bust a hundred ghosts if it means you’re okay.”
“Aww… …. What about a hundred and one.”
“Oh no that’s goin’ past me limits there.”
“Would you rather fight 100 small ghosts or one really big ghost.”
“The small ghosts for sure, I could take on a little one no problem but I’ve got no clue what to do when a ghost scares even me. You’d have to take it out for the both of us, otherwise we’d be screwed. Ghost food.”
“Well…. Let’s not let that happen.”
Don sipped on his Jimmy Buffett sanctioned cocktail in the comfort of the crew bar, relaxing in the relative peace afford to him by $1 beers and people who’d long since been washed of any novelty a cruise had. “You know Donald, you’re pretty alright. I had my doubts about someone with more than one charting single but I’ve had a great time talking with you,” one of the senior officers wearing his shirt with the sleeves rolled up and the topmost buttons undone in a way that said ‘I’m a professional but I too like to have a little fun with a wine cooler by the pool with my second wife’.
“Why thank you Bill, I’m glad you enjoyed hearing me complain about the modern music industry and everyone younger than forty as much as I enjoyed you detailing the life and times of some obscure delta jazz musician whose name sounds like either a regional dessert or a sex act.”
“It’s actually both.”
“Well anyways, I’ve got to get back to the engine room, Steve’s keeping watch for me right now but he’s only staff if you know what I mean.” Ship hierarchy was a very serious thing apparently, the caste system regulated their parochial little lives, officers being akin to the lords of old, the staff, the serfs and villagers of their retainer, and crew, wait were crew even human? Maybe? Mr. Mister certainly was even if everyone knew he was actually a seal, he had two misters in his name. That was tantamount for personhood. They weren’t allowed to fraternize with the public, a privilege reserved only to ranking officers, as was edible food and sleepable beds and liveable checks.
Donald settled back, waiting on his early dinner, enjoying himself finally- until of course, the initially ignorable screaming in the distance grew louder and Tom Johnston attacked him with a deck chair. “THIS IS FOR MICHAEL MCDONALD!” he yelled at Donald’s unconscious body.
Down in the din of engine room, Steve glanced over his shoulder and slipped around the corner. “WE CAN’T KEEP MEETING LIKE THIS,” he shouted to his secret lover, John Wetton, who was about 6 inches away.
“I’M SORRY BUT I HAD TO SEE YOU AGAIN! I HAVEN’T STOPPED THINKING ABOUT YOU SINCE WE MET BACK IN THE EIGHTIES. ISN’T IT DOPE HOW THEY’RE BACK IN FASHION, I CAN WEAR MY OLD PASTELS WITHOUT BEING LABELED A HARLOT.”
“YOU MAKE ME FEEL LIKE A HARLOT WHEN I’M WITH YOU.”
“THAT’S SO SWEET YOU DIRTY SLUT,” John leaned in and kissed Steve’s purplish lizard lips.
“I NEED TO HAVE YOU IN MY ARMS, I KNOW OF AN UNUSED ROOM WE CAN ESCAPE TO TONIGHT. I’M SICK OF HIDING IN THE CLOSET- IT’S REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE, I’D MUCH RATHER HIDE IN A DIRTY ROOM INSTEAD. COME TO ME IN ROOM 666 AT THE STROKE OF MIDNIGHT.”
“HAHA, THAT’S THE SEX NUMBER I GET IT.”
“NO, THAT’S 69.”
“OH YEAH. HAHA, I’LL STROKE YOU AT MIDNIGHT.” And they kissed again, embracing within the belly of the beast.
“Dangit, where’s Steely Don, he should’ve been half an hour ago to rehearse,” First Mate Rabin paced back and forth backstage while the others were still setting up, “He nudzhed and kvetshed until we agreed to let him perform solo and the guy doesn’t even show up!”
“Well Fagen could be mourning, you know Walter Becker was eaten alive today,” Bosun White suggested eyeing over the scene.
“Donald Fagen, you were just complaining about him,” Alan pointed out.
“Then who’s Steely Don?” Trevor was now thoroughly puzzled, he’d seen the man’s name written in his passenger logs just this morning. Was Steely not even on the ship? And who was this Fagen guy.
“Walter Becker and Don Fagen are Steely Dan.”
“Wait, both of them!? Well then it makes since why their fusion can’t be here if one of them was shattered,” Trevor pieced the situation together in the only way he could- Steven Universe references.
“But this is Donald Fagen’s solo show, I need to know where he is.”
“I asked you first.”
“Well I asked you second… Have you had a steward go to his cabin yet?”
“I don’t know what cabin he’s in, I don’t have him on my logs,” Trevor showed his board to Alan who scanned through it coming up with nothing, “You’re right, he’s a ghost in the system. We need to find him, the Jimmy Buffett Smooth Sailing Booze and Cruiseline has already had enough bad press! Another incident like this and we could be out of business for good!”
“What about Walter Becker being cannibalized?” Alan noted concernedly.
“Show me where he had a successful solo career and I’ll care.”
“Guys,” the stage manager popped his head back to check on them, “Show’s gotta be on in twenty Steely Don or no Steely Don.”
“Wait- lemme look at something,” Alan ran out onstage and looked up at the banner hanging overhead, “You even put it on the sign Jesus Christ Trevor.”
“That wasn’t my job, go tell it to Pat.”
“You can’t tell Patrick anything Trevor, I’ll go change it myself, I’ve got a magic marker in my desk…”
Trevor turned to the stage manager, Trevor, and pinched the bridge of his nose, “Donald Fagen’s gone missing and nobody can find him, flip the banner over and put someone else on. Go grab Kenny Loggins, I just saw him walking past the gym on my way here. Come with me Alan, we’ll go search for Fagen before anyone else gets news of this. Have you got the $25 ‘sorry you got murdered/stabbed/robbed/assaulted/the wrong variety of bread on your sandwich’ drink certificates on you?”
“Always do,” Alan pulled a fat stack of them out his breast pocket.
“Excellent, we’ve got some sleuthing and mediating to do.”
Kasim rested his head in his arms, staring sideways at his virgin Shirley Temple. There wasn’t much exciting to do on a cruise for a recovering addict who was married and incredibly attractive without his man. Sure the touch of another had been nice, but it seemed increasingly obvious that honorary doctor of music Jon Anderson wait let me check- whoops guess not- was not in fact a doctor of anything. “Why the long face partner?” a voice asked from beside him.
“Oh nothin’ it’s just my boyfriend is too busy payin’ attention to other losers to pay attention to me,” Kasim groused, stealing another cherry out of the jar while the bartender’s back was turned.
“Sounds like he’s really missing out, you’re a real catch. Since he’s not in the picture, maybe you can come back to my room.”
“You know what, I will,” Kasim faced the stranger with vindictive confidence, “Wha- Todd!?”
The other man laughed at his confusion and facile gullibility, brushing off his irritable pinches. “Todd you cuckold. Where were you all day?”
He looked down at his damp sun burnt body, feeling it should have been obvious, “I told you I was gonna be at the pool, cucking the ocean. I thought you would’ve joined me at some point, you love it whenever our hotels have a pool. I went down the waterslide soooo many times- I’m banned for life!” Todd announced proudly, “It reminds me of being reborn. Long, fast, dark, terrifying, then suddenly you’re thrust face first into the light, leaving the water of the womb.”
“Then I look at my disgusting body and remember I’m still an old man and I have to try again. All in all it’s good clean fun even if it cannot rinse the years and sins from my earthly vessel.”
“Aren’t public pools full of piss and cum though,” Kasim wrinkled his nose.
“All bodies of water are full of piss and cum, it’s just refined at different levels. The ocean however is the worst of the worst. Nothing but fish shit and deadly microplastics, the ocean is a terrifying place.”
“Todd you live on an island.”
“And I live in fear of it every day of my life.”
“Some things… I’ll never understand about you,” he shook his head, twirling his novelty drink umbrella between his fingers contemplatively.
“I’m a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma, swaddled in a ‘why did the chicken cross the road?’ joke.”
“Todd you to stop makin’ knock knock jokes,” Kasim rolled his eyes but couldn’t help but smirking, “I made that one up on the spot.”
“That’s pretty good.”
“Thanks,” Kasim leaned in and hugged him, ignoring the dampness seeping into his clothes, “Where’s Roger and Greg? You didn’t have to leave them behind just to try an’ please me.”
“Oh, they didn’t want to join me on my spiritual journey, I think I last saw them at a concert this afternoon from my view in the heavens- at the top of the waterslide- but my third eye’s closed since I left an ambient water temperature of 87 degrees fahrenheit. That’s 30.5 C for ya’ll foreigners.”
“Oh… well I hope they’re having fun… Were you serious about taking me back to the room for some adult entertainment?” Kasim raised the question again, his gaze dropping to his banana hammock, which was covered by a censor bar in the film adaptation of this fanfiction.
“I would never joke about our love.”
And then they f***** (fucked).
“Ah, another marriage saved by Dr. Jon Anderson,” Jon smiled watching the couple head back to their cabin, hands affectionately in each others’ pants. “All in a day’s work…. But I’ve still gotten no one to sign up for my yoga class, I guess I’m simply too good at my job.” He frowned and took down the sign for his class tearing it in half and chucking the pieces sadly into the ocean, adding to the sea of microplastics to be biomagnified in non-autotrophs, ultimately poisoning all marine life that don’t care about yoga. The defeated little man slunk back to the captain’s quarters to self-medicate with step 2. Frodis may not be able to fix his career, but it sure fixed everything else. Wheeeeeeeeeee(d).
“Captain we have an emergency-”
“H-wha-gET OUT GET OUT!” Captain Squire feverishly covered the screen with his big meaty hands. Trevor held his breath for a moment, waiting for his boss to come to his senses before continuing.
“Our headliner for tonight has gone missing, we don’t even have him in our logbook for passengers so I don’t even know where to begin to start trying to track him down.”
“Well it’s clear isn’t it, he’s been erased from history!” the Captain stated precipitantly. Trevor sighed heavily.
“We need you to keep this under wraps, we can’t have the rest of the crew or passengers finding out about this. I’m only informing you because it is my duty to my commanding officer.”
“Oh Trevor,” he grinned warmly, “You’re such a goody-goody boy.”
He tried not to smile and bowed his head blushing, “Me and Boatswain White are taking full responsibility of this search, but I will need your master key, just in case.”
“Fine, take it,” Squire pulled his necklace out from under his shirt and relinquished it to Trevor, “But don’t lose it! The only other one belongs to Bill in engineering and if that one goes missing, we’re sailing with our life in our hands!”
“You need not worry, I won’t let you down,” Trevor nodded, donning the key around his neck and heading towards the heavy metal cabin door, “Oh, and Captain? Can you at least try and close your Neopets tab when you have guests in here, it’s a little unprofessional…”
“It’s not Neopets!!!” he scrambled to hide more of his computer, red in the face.
“Fine fine, porn, whatever.”
Chris waited until he heard the lock click shut again before logging back into Insaneaquarium. “Grumble grumble, idiot wouldn’t know Webkinz from Club Penguin…”
Donald wearily opened his eyes, blinking as his vision slowly came to focus. A blurry figure standing over him, hard to make out their features against the comparatively harsh light behind them. “Ughhhh, where am I OW!”
“I ask the questions Donald Fagen! Or should I say, Donald FAGEN!
“Wait whu- who are you again?” he squinted, reaching to rub his head where he’d been hit again by a folded deck chair as if this were a WWE beach episode and his kidnapper was the heel to his bruised face, but discovered his hands were bound behind his back.
“Tom Johnston of The Doobie Brothers, the guy before Michael McDonald? You should know who I am, Steely Dan and The Doobies are practically the same band!” Tom threatened with the chair again, casting a shadow over his face from the bare lightbulb that swayed overhead precariously close to its legs.
“We are nothing alike!” Donald spat, inviting the +2 strength improvised weapon’s bite again.
“Oh I think you’ll realize we’re more alike than you can possibly imagine!” Tom Johnston lifts up their shirts to reveal matching birthmarks. Donald is frozen in shock and awe. They have a weird reunion and decide to put their differences aside and focus on what makes them the same, Michael McDonald. “You do remember Skunk Baxter was also in your band don’t you?” Tom knitted his brows in bemused concern.
“Wait, he was?”
“Yes he was a founding member, god dammit Donald.”
“To be honest the extent of my familiarity with him comes from a few Doobie Brothers songs and watching a concert of an extremely short-lived and humble super group called The Best from when I was super into John Entwistle. Don’t worry I’ve since gotten over that and am back to stanning Pete Townshend even if his politics are questionable and he’s a bit of an ass.”
“A bit? Listen I know this is an author self insert blurb right here but you can be totally honest with me, most of us are total assholes and our fans will forgive us for it anyways, or more often, totally overlook it. In fact I’ve already forgiven you for firing Michael McDonald, I didn’t know Steely Dan had gotten back together as a live band.”
“Oh, we’ve disbanded again, Walter was eaten alive.”
“Oh, that’s sad to hear. I’ll send his family a set of The Doobie Brothers greatest hits in consolation. Friends?”
“Loose, foot loose. All of your feet are loose. Feet, loose feet, you’re going to lose your feet.” Kenny was hard at work jazzercising in front of the studio mirror whisper-singing to himself again when the door abruptly swung open with a clatter, “Lease, loose feece, everybody’s geese loose feets. Feet, foot feet, get on your feet skeet skeet- What is it CAn’t you see I’m busy PRACticinG?!” He tore off the headphones to his walkman furiously.
“Oh I’m sorry it’s just, we need you onstage in 15 minutes, there’s been a change in scheduling and we want you as our headliner for tonight,” Trevor bumbled.
“Headliner?” Kenny’s rockstar eyes gleamed, “Out of my way nerd, Kenny’s got a show to save! Get my assistant Flar right away!”
“I- I don’t know who that is… Sigh, get back together with the band Trevor, expand your horizons Trevor, what the hell was I thinking,” he trotted out, now apparently in search of some person named Flar. Not knowing where to start only given 15 minutes notice to discover this mysterious being, he starting shouting their name Marco Polo style. How had a multi-multi platinum producer fallen to these lows? Friendship. ‘Friendship is tragic’, he’d once heard on a talking horse show, but nary he believed it then, disregarding it as mere words designed to disenhearten youth and darken their spirits, but now here he was. Trevor was finally starting to believe in it, and to think, he had heard it straight from the horse’s mouth.
“Flar. Flar… Flar? Fla-ar…”
“Ja, I am Flor,” a man approached him holding a synthesizer and a vandalized bedsheet.
“Oh you are?” Trevor’s eyes brightened from behind his enormous glasses, shocked this person even existed, let alone that he’d found him so quickly.
“Well, Flor-ian.” his brow wrinkled, “I didn’t think I know any Flar.”
“F-L-A-R,” Trevor enunciated, refusing to give up what may be his only lead, “Kenny Loggins told me to go looking for his partner to perform with him up on the main stage, I could really use your help. Anything would be of assistance at this point, I’m practically begging.”
“Flar… Hmm, still no one comes to mind. Strange name, reminds me of Ralf in a way. Wait- did this man mention anything about this Flar? German man, more interested in bicycling than spending a soothing vacation with his husband?”
“No,” the shorter man tapped his chin, “He didn’t really mention anything about them, I just walked in on him jazzercising and he started yelling at me. It was really unprofessional.”
“Halt- Was the stationary bike empty?”
“Why, yes it was, but what does that have to do with anything-”
“freilich! I know just where he is!” and Florian darted off, in hot pursuit of the orphic Flar, or should he say, Ralf.
Albert zipped up his pants, finishing up at the urinal and turned his head, only to notice a handsomely distinguished seasoned sportsman beside him and was overcome with a sudden emotion. “You have a beautifully cultivated body for your advanced years,” he blurted.
“beglückwünschst du mich?”
“-Ralf!” Florian barged into the restroom panting, “Put your schwanz away and leave that young man alone, you’re needed on stage right now!”
“On stage?” Ralf retorted as Albert tried to sneak away embarrassed at himself.
“Ja! You and the Kenny Loggins man- are headlining!”
“Hello my friends. I hope ya’ll are having a bodacious first day on our Jimmy Buffett’s Return To The Escape From Margaritaville Booze Cruise ™,” a hologram of Jimmy Buffett flickered at the microphone, “We’d like to invite to the newly rechristened Jimmy Buffett AIDS Memorial LGBTQIA is for Ally I Am A Woke Bae And That’s Tea Hunty At Sea Waterpark Stage, Donald Fagzzkklltttblrpzzzzztk Kenny Loggins!”
There was a brief murmuring in the audience but that was curbed by Kenny breathlessly sprinting out onstage and launching into his most top hittiest song, with Ralf climbing onto the bicycle mounted on a pedestal behind him and beginning to pedal to the beat- if it were a nightcore song, which was almost exclusively all he listened to these days. It was like doing harder and harder drugs, after a while, dubstep and EDM just didn’t quite cut it.
Roger squinted up at the stage trying to figure out what the hell the other guy was doing while Loggins pranced about losing his feet. “Greg, what’s goin’ on with that guy? I don’t remember the 80’s well but I don’t think that scene with ET in the basket was part of Footloose.”
“No, no you’re right, it’s some dude on a bike… weird,” he craned his neck, ignoring whatever stage show Kenny was attempting, putting his interpretive dance lessons to work as he acted out a medley of movies he did soundtracks for. Slowly, at first, the platform the bike was locked into began to move, spinning and torturing Ralf as he embraced a never level of extreme cycling.
“Wait! Dude! He’s stealing Willie’s thing! Stay here, ohhhhh I gotta go find Todd and Kasim!” Roger put his hand on the other keyboardist’s shoulder and navigated his way out of the crowd.
Back in their room, the two were bare naked booty ass fuckin’ and raised the rating on this story from PG-13 to straight up NC-17 with their nasty vanilla grandpa sex. Sure the water slide thing had failed to rejuvenate Todd’s wrinkly old ass judging by his slight programmer’s paunch and the way his forehead just kinda yeah, but they were banging with the vigor of men half their age. And when Kasim faced away from Todd’s sweaty sagging face, he could always pretend it was still the sexy svelte minx who’d made him question his unwavering heterosexuality all those years ago- or himself, more often than not.
“TODD TODD TODD TODD!” Roger slammed the door open, “You gotta get upstairs right now Kenny Loggins is stealing our thing!”
“Stealing our thing?” Todd barked, “Well we can’t have that! Kasim, greg my stuff, we gotta go see this in person and then end up doing nothing about it because we’re a somewhat obscure alternative band whose ambitious contributions and exploration of styles are overlooked by generations of critics and music fans alike save for a small dedicated following of fans who would probably die for me or drop me like a sack of hot shit as soon as I voice my opinions in plain language despite having done that for the entirety of my more than 5 decade career!”
And the two of them left post haste, Todd shoving what he could into his skimpy bathing suit and Kasim laying on the bed flaccidly like a stranded jellyfish for several minutes until he worked up the nerve to figure out what the hell they were going on about that was so important Todd had to stop paying attention to him.
Flying head first into the Danger Zone, Ralf found himself holding onto the handles of his bike for dear life as it gyroscoped at worrying speeds, propelled by the kinetic energy of his pedaling. He could always stop, and slow its frantic motion to a manageable level and get off- but that would be admitting weakness, no, he would best this machine! Man was still indomitable! He would never be defeated by a mere object, and he raced on.
“Wow… that dude sure is hardcore,” Jeff gazed in awe behind his rockstar shades, forgetting his notes for a moment. He’d been sent here on assignment from the agency to do a full analysis report on Buffett’s notorious cruise line, but he didn’t know he’d find himself acting as a talent scout as well. Mostly these sort of deals were your typical corral of no name performers and dated easy listening oldies. It was rare indeed when a true talent was discovered out here on the high seas. He had to find out who this Evil Knievel was, unlike actual racing, in rock and roll, people actually preferred if you were on drugs. Now to simply cut out the middle man, somehow he’d have to catch him alone to offer him a contract without Loggins’ interference. He didn’t know the potential superstar he was dealing with here. Jeff looked down again and added another note to his journal, ‘also the shrimp scampi was bad. What’s the deal with all the root vegetables? Hippies I swear’.
“Out of the way, pioneering artist coming through, wizards only fools,” Todd shoved his way past the hoards of casual fans who vaguely recognized this singer’s name, Roger and Kasim in toe, each of them trying to process just what exactly they were witnessing. “Awh man, you’re right, that is kinda like the Trapparatus on a superficial level, but like, cooler, but with less drums or any musical skill involved.”
“It-It wasn’t doing this earlier,” Roger argued, “Is he okay in there?” It was hard to tell, the gyroscope was spinning so quickly now, the figure inside was but a blur, the gravitational and momental forces compounding faster and faster. The G forces inside could have been tearing the man apart for all they knew, which wasn’t all that much about physics, being mostly musicians, writers, programmers, and electrical and acoustic engineers by trade. Physics were for nerds, you know, real nerds. They were the kind of nerds who still scored smokin’ hot babes. With their personalities. And also their popularity and subjective good looks.
Evaluating the crowd’s reactions, Roger noticed a familiar face, one of the few looking more afraid than wowed or actually paying attention to Kenny’s rhythmic frolicking, and shifted closer. “Florian! Isn’t that your husband in there?”
“Ja, I don’t know why he would do this, because if he’s trying to impress me, it’s not working,” he huffed, lying to himself.
“Is there any way you could get his attention?”
“No,” Florian shook his head sadly holding his hands to his breast, “When he’s riding his bike, it’s like nothing else in the world exists to him. All I can hope for is that he doesn’t push himself too far. Hopefully there’s still some part of him in there, right now he’s mehr Maschine als Mensch.”
“Alright, for this next song I’d like to invite to the stage a near acquaintance of mine who co-wrote a song I! originally released, Michael McDonald, “What A Fool Believes”.”
“Oh my gosh oh my gosh, Albert they’re actually gonna do it!” Julian gushed, shaking him.
“I’m so happy for you,” he rested his over his, watching Michael McDonald wonder what to do with his hands while he and Kenny sang. The most definitely had been one of the nights of their lives.
“https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/kennyloggins/whatafoolbelieves.html,” they sang.
“Wow, so beautiful,” Albert wiped a tear from Julian’s eye as they finished out the song. And then Ralf’s bike exploded.
“Oh- guess there’s no encore then huh. Well let’s go get some dinner, I know the kitchen closed at 5, but it’s 5 o’ clock somewhere so they’re legally required to serve us under jurisdiction of the Buffett loophole!”
“I don’t know any Johnny Bouffant songs but I appreciate your effort,” Julian looped an arm around him.
“Bill!” Trevor shouted, spotting their chief engineer down the hallway, “Have you seen this man but ravaged by the winds of time?” He held a Steely Dan gatefold photo up for reference.
“Why… Are you asking me?” he squinted, “Yeah I think so, we were having adult beverage in the employee lounge a couple hours ago. Haven’t seen him since he was being kidnapped out the back door of the bar.”
“What!? Kidnap- that’s ridiculous whotoldyou. Where is he now?” Trevor panicked.
“Probably down in the engine rooms, it’s where kidnappers have given the best Googlemaps reviews in the past and kidnappees the worst. Too loud, dirty, it’s all the same crap over and over again really, you’ve read one review you’ve read them all,” he shrugged and carried on his way. Alan and Trevor stared at each other and bolted towards the stairwell, hoping they weren’t yet too late.
“We should’ve gone here first argh, of course they’d be in the deepest dankest part of The Asshole, god knows what sort of unclean goings on occur in there. I feel nasty just thinking about it,” Trevor shuddered.
Alan struggled to keep up beside the long-legged man, “I’m not saying he is, but IF we find him and he’s dead, can we use the drink certificates instead?”
“I think we should burn them out of respect personally.”
“That’s dumb!” Alan huffed, turning another corner, “We should at least use them, then say we burned ‘em!”
The two of them skidded to a stop too late, colliding with another unexpectedly and ending in a heap on the slick steel floor. “Watch… cough… where you’re going,” Trevor groaned, closing his eyes.
“Oh, I’m so terr’bly sorry, you see I was very high and wasn’t watching at all.”
“Jon?” he opened one again. It was in fact the other man, bouldered out of his gourd; it would’ve been unlikely he would have noticed a train coming around the corner. “What are you doing down here? This is nowhere near medical.”
“Whale, I sometimes come down here for a little bit of a smoke y’see. Take me mind off things.”
“Jon I’d love to stay and spend some thyme with you but you see we’re very busy right now, we’re trying to solve Don Fagen’s murder.”
“Alan!” Trevor hissed.
“Oh sorry, kidnapping, suspected murder.”
The first mate palmed his face. “Oh! I’ve seen him!” Jon piped up, granted this was to be taken with a grain of salt usually when he said he saw something, “he and some other feller with a beach chair just went up the E stairwell, if you go now I think you can still catch them.”
Alan and Trevor scrambled upright and bolted without another word. “Hmm,” Jon sat still and tapped his chin, face in deep concentration, “Or was it B… E, B, they’re both so similar, but they’re different. Oh look! I’m in the basement!”
“Stop right there!” Trevor shouted, throwing the metal doorway open side, “By the authority invested in the United States Coast guard invested in the Jimmy Buffett Return To The Escape From Margaritaville Booze Cruiseline ™,” he stopped to catch his breath, Alan popping up beside him and raising a single finger to do the same, “invested in Captain Christopher Squire invested in me, First Mate Trevor Rabin, you are hereby placed under custody for the kidnapping of Donald Fagen.”
“Actually, we’re friends now, it’s cool guys,” Donald piped up, waving down at them.”
“...God dammit!” Trevor cried, stomping his foot.
Todd, Greg, and Kasim stared dumbfounded at the smouldering remains of the Trapparatus knock-off but not really. “Well I guess some problems just solve themselves, let’s go get some bread kings.”
Graced by the most uproarious applause of their lives, Kenny and Michael McDonald gazed in amazement at each other, then made out. Meanwhile Trevor charged on stage, frantically spraying his fire extinguisher, “Oh my god oh my god my Asshole’s on fire!” Florian shoved past him, knocking the smaller man to the ground with a clunk, hitting his head against the canister and passing out as it rolled away, spewing foam uncontrollably like a lockjaw bubble bath in the washing machine full of dish soap of life. “Ralf!” he shouted, frantically searching through the haze for him, worry growing more and more every second he couldn’t see him. “Ralf? Gasp-” he spotted his prone form, leaned up against the twisted form of his broken bike, but who was the other person? “Ralf mein gott! I was so worried!”
“Oh great! Just who I was looking for!” the other man beamed, straightening a stack of papers on top of his slightly singed briefcase, “I need a witness for this contact signing, do you mind?” He clicked his pen and held it up for Florian whose momentary relief was replaced with confusion.
“Wha- Contract? What are you talking about? Let me see my husband, is he okay?”
“He’s better than okay, he’s just been offered the opportunity of a lifetime! Just sign on the dotted line and I’ll leave you alone,” Jeff pointed.
Florian’s eyes darted back and forth nervously and went ahead and signed it. Jeff offering to shake his hand then being ignored did as he promised and packed up his briefcase, leaving the two of them in peace. “Pleasure doing business with you!” He called through the mist of CO2 and soot, and was gone. “Oh Ralf! Speak to me,” Florian dropped to his knees, cradling his body.
After a long second, he coughed, opening his eyes towards him, ”//Flori? What happened? Cough cough. I was riding my bike and then-//”
“//Sh, save your strength. Let’s get you washed off in the pool.//”
“//Uegh, aren’t pools all full of piss and cum?//” he wrinkled his nose at the thought, his partner helping him upright and looping Ralf’s arm over his shoulder to support him.
“//Oh so this is how it is now, you have a tiny brush with death and now you’re Herr I’m too good for a little water. What shall you have me do? Lick you clean?//”
“//Wow, really? I thought you’d never offer.//”
“//Actually I’ve got a moist towelette in my back pocket now I remember it.//”
“//You’re no fun.//”
“Alright Donald, let’s see how Kenny’s managed to hold the fort down for y- Oh my god,” flames reflected in Trevor’s horrified eyes, and he turned heel and walked away, “I’m just so done with this shit.”
“Oh- finally, someone responsible,” Joe Strummer, one of you said you liked Joe Strummer so I guess he was there and stormed up to them noticing Alan’s uniform, “I came here expecting some smooth music and my senses have been bombarded with this heavy metal pandemonium. Why hasn’t your captain done anything about this madness, I demand to see him right now.”
“Oh, well, I can’t quite just get the Captain you see, there’s a hierarchy and First Mate Rabin is my commanding officer I have to report to him and he reports to the Captain,” Alan hemmed and hawed.
“Then get him so he can get the captain, so I can call the captain a shitty little bitch,” he snarled through clenched teeth.
“I probably wouldn’t do that,” Alan advised nervously, “Captain Squire’s known as the Fish of the ocean for his fish-like fierceness, he has Rabin in his pocket. He wouldn’t say anything against him.”
“The First Mate.”
“Which one’s the first mate again?”
“The one who reports to the Captain.”
“Your captain’s a fish?”
“...I’ll just go get First Mate Rabin…”
“Excuse me excuse me!” another person waved to try and get Alan’s attention, “I need to speak to Mr. Rabin, he told me to talk to him if I had a problem.”
“Well I’m Boatswain White but I could probably do something about your problem too,” he knitted his fingers trying to keep it together.
“Hmmmmmm, I’m not sure I shouldddd. My mother told me not to talk to strangers but I guess I’m already talking to you so it’s too late,” Albert tapped his chin, “We were trying to go to the Jimmy buffet for something to eat but when we got there, it was closed! I tried talking to someone there explaining it was always 5’ o clock somewhere and they legally had to serve us but he didn’t seem to care.”
“So we tried to break in but Julian thought he was being haunted by the ghost of Walter Becker-”
“Yeah about that-”
“And now his hand is trapped in a vending machine, can you get him out?”
“...That uh, sounds like a job for engineering. I’ll go get Bill or- Steve! Steve! Come over here, we have a task for you to do. Another guy got trapped in the vending machine.”
“Again? That’s like the third time this day,” Steve groused, stomping off.
“Don’t worry,” Alan tried to be reassuring, “Julian will be okay.”
“Boy, I sure hope so,” Julian mumbled eating a Charleston Chew. “...Hi.”
“Up and down up and down, all day long,” Trevor grumbled to himself getting in his cardio. Taking the master key off his neck, he unlocked the portal, inviting himself back into the captain’s chambers, “Chris I have some good new and bad news; the good news is we found Donald Fagen and he’s not dead yet. And he made a friend, he wanted me to tell you that. The bad news is Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald brought down the house tonight.”
“And how is that a bad thing?” Chris replied, not looking up from his virtual pet game.
“They literally brought the house down. I think the stage is still on fire.”
“Fire?” he intoned skeptically, “Shouldn’t that be Trevor’s problem Trevor?”
“I didn’t see him when I was up there, granted it was very smoky. And he’s very short.”
“So now you’re trying to make it my problem.”
“The passengers are panicking, at least make an announcement over the intercom or something! They don’t listen to me, I’m just a lowly First Mate. Please, it’s the only thing I’ll ask of you for the rest of the day. Just, say something about everything being fine and totally under control. For me?”
“...Aw, well how could I say no to that face,” Chris smiled bashfully and pushed the intercom button, “Attention passengers of the S.S. The Lawyer and The Asshole, this is your captain speaking. Chill the fuck out dudes, go smoke a bowl or something, haven’t you ever seen fire before or are you a bunch of Australopithecus? If you haven’t seen fire before, again, return to your cabin in a calm and controlled fashion and go light up a bowl. Peace out. Laters.”
“You know what, you’re right, I should just relax. I’m clocking out, bye,” Trevor retired, el done-o with this caca de vaca. He’d go find Jon hiding in the air ducts or something and buy a couple grams then dutifully follow Captain’s orders. He was right, this shit was Trevor’s problem and if he was truly MIA then there would be another strike on his record and they would easily find another tiny man with a high tenor to replace him.
In the interim, Trevor was busy playing the old unconscious violin while Rome burned. Kenny and Michael McDonald would have done something if the word fire didn’t rhyme so good with desire, they were already embroiled in the flames of romance, thinking of new songs to make together then release separately. Donald didn’t want to come across as desperate, so he waited until they were done macking on each other to attempt to finish what he came here for. “-Michael McDonald, we need to talk.”
“No Donald Fagen. We don’t! I’m not doing this to try and make you jealous, I’m doing this because I’m in love!” “Yeah!” “So leave me alone, you’ve already made up your mind and now I’ve made up mine: I’m never singing backup for you again, I’m my own man now, Kenny’s man!” and he got down on one knee and pulled out his wedding ring he took off whenever possible in order to hook up with people who believed in nonsense like the sanctity of marriage, “Kenny Loggins-” “K Logg.” “-Will you marry me?”
“Oh Michael, I Scooby Doobie Do!”
“What the fuck honestly,” Donald decided not to bother and left.
As Captain Squire’s voice reverberated throughout The Asshole, the addled audience gradually dispersed leaving the crew to handle the mess. Since Julian was no longer imprisoned in a vending machine forever, he and Albert decided to retire early for the evening after one last sunset walk around the artificial beach designed to cuck the actual beaches they happened to pass in their hebetudinous travels. Alan took out his magic marker and added onto the back of the banner where they’d written Kenny Loggins ‘The Wedding of _ and Michael McDonald, tomorrow 8 o’ clock in the Jimmy Buffett Gay Marriage For All 2k15 Would Someone Who Hates Gays Have A Chapel For Them Take That The Court And Smoke It Non-Denominational Ceremonial House of Worship and Crabshack ™ ‘.
Julian sighed dreamily, “Really makes you believe in true love all over again. The reception better have unlimited crab legs or I’m rioting though.”
“Wanna watch a movie?” Greg asked, kicking his feet behind him as Todd braided his hair.
“No I do not want to watch a movie,” the other stated.
Aw Todd, why not,” he pouted, half rolling over to face him.
“Every time you suggest to watch a movie all you ever wanna watch is Cars.”
“I DO not!”
Todd glared. “Roger tell him how suddenly all of our DVDs go missing and the internet’s out so we somehow end up with nothing to look at- but oh wait, what’s this? My copy of Disney Pixar’s 2009 CGI animated film starring Owen Wilson as racing superstar Lightning McQueen with a valuable lesson about selflessness and community to learn, Cars!??”
“It’s a good film,” Greg mumbled irritably.
“Yeah Todd, just let him watch his movie,” Roger gently thumped him, “You’re not gonna pay attention anyways. Put some headphones in here.”
“Fine, we’ll watch the dang movie again. But just know I’m using this as a bargaining chip when you complain you don’t want to go to another museum- even when they’re super educational and really fun. What does this movie teach you?”
“-A valuable lesson about selflessness and community Todd.”
“Yeah. Shut up and learn from a master Todd.” Kasim threw a pillow at his head and dialed room service again, “Roger what do you want on your half of the pizza again?”
“Oh, the usual, onions, mushrooms, the heart of a child.”
“Todd said we can only get toppings from the one dollar sign section,” Kasim covered the mouth of the receiver.
“Fine, just mushrooms and the heart then. What about you Todd, Greg?”
“When you say half do you mean we’re getting 2 pizzas or do you just not know the word for quarters?”
“Don’t get all higher education and mighty with me, I know what I said. Todd if you’re gonna get pineapple on your pizza then get your own.”
“I don’t eat carbs.”
“J-then fucking fine! Just get a whole fucking pineapple and fucking eat that!”
“I want pepperoni^2, ricotta, and microchips on my half.”
“One dollar sign only,” Todd interrupted.
“Pepperoni...1.” Greg sighed.
Roger threw his pool shoes at Todd, “Let’s just watch Cars.”
“And make out during the scary parts.”
“The scary parts.”
Steve, finding no one lodged up inside the vending machine trying to gnaw both of their armses off like a stuck coyote for once, took this rare opportunity to steal away to his secret rendezvous. Even though relationships between the crew and their passengers were forbidden, he knew here, he would be safe, within the austere walls of the economy cabins. It was a little known fact that they’d made budget saving measures down here, cutting almost all electricity save for the emergency lights that cast the halls in a sickly green that truly made you feel you were underwater or soon to be. This protective darkness however, was not so much to keep prying eyes out, but to prevent himself from being seen.
It was high time he come out of the closet, if only because he felt he’d been getting too much competition from the brooms and mops inside. If John could see him now, there was no way he’d still love him. There was no disguising the fact he wasn’t the same man he’d fallen for all those years ago. But for a brief beautiful moment, he would be safe in the shadows, and the two of them could be together again like old times. Resting alone in the dark gave Steve plenty of time to think and reflect on these things while he waited for his mister of the night. ‘Maybe one day I’ll feel confident enough about my body to show it to Johnathan. I’ve been doing a lot of yoga lately in the staff lounge, I feel it’s really been boosting my core’.
John gave himself another once over with a healthy spritz of Axe, repeating the room number over and over in his head as he studied his reflection for any remaining imperfections. Albert tried not to notice him so much this time, quickly glancing away when he felt the man almost caught him staring. Whoever he must’ve been getting ready for was a lucky guy, Albert had already done as much as he could to clean up and snuck back to his room where his own lucky guy would soon await him.
Opening the door just a crack as not to disturb him, John slipped into their room, staggering towards the bed where his lover await. Kneeling down on the somehow simultaneously too hard and too soft Goldilocks nightmare they called a bed, he reached out to touch his face and gently pulling him into a kiss. His lips were so soft, it was almost like- wait! He backed away, “You’re not Steve!”
“Who’s Steve!?” Albert shouted, feeling around uselessly for a lightswitch. The both of them clumsily stood, heading for the door, then colliding and knocking each other to the floor again, now feeling around for the wall or anything to support themselves and grope for a way out. After grabbing what was definitely someone’s moob, Albert twisted the knob (door) and gasped as the two of them stumbled into the hall. “The handsome stranger!?” he stared wide-eyed recognizing the man from his robust dad bod.
“The guy who ogles me in the bathroom?”
“... … No?”
“Oh, sorry then. You looked familiar under those bruises.”
As a beam of light filtered into the room then disappeared again as the door clicked shut, Steve sat up on their mattress. “I thought you’d never get here, please, I need you now. I’ve decided I can’t accept myself as I am if I keep living in the past, John, neither of us are getting any younger, so let’s make the most of what we have while it lasts. I’m ready for you!”
Julian, still too transfixed with his Charleston Chew to possibly think about anything else felt something grab for him, closing around his pleasantly soft thigh. Cold and hard, bony fingers gripping ever tighter with need. His blood ran cold, panicking as this thing drew itself nearer, it’s undead moaning growing louder. “AhHH S-SCARY SKELETON!!!” he screamed, flailing blindly at the monster, struggling to get away. Rattling the door frantically, he finally opened it and bolted, leaving Steve squinting at an empty room, empty inside, his burgeoning confidence shattered. John would never love him. “Skeleton? He thinks I’m.... Scary?”
As John left to find his partner, deeply embarrassed by the mix up, Albert sat forlorn in his room. Where was Julian? Had he seen what had just happened and left heartbroken that his husband should cheat on him with a rugged older man? It was just a simple mistake! But he couldn’t argue he didn’t have a wandering eye, what with so many beauties on board, it would be like telling the world’s greatest chef to stop eating all the free samples. The couple next door started screaming and he banged on the wall yelling at them to shut up. He should be the one wailing, knowing how badly he bungled things up this time.
Meanwhile Julian was busy screaming about ghosts and the ship being haunted or something.
Finding a shred of strength in him to leave his room, Albert slunk outside, only to stumble across an extraordinarily handsome man leaving the room next door. “Oh my god, you’re the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen in my life!”
“Don’t mock me, I already know-” Steve grumbled defeatedly.
“No, it’s true. That bone structure, your girlish figure. The way you kinda look like Doc Brown and the Cryptkeeper, it’s really sexy- not that I’m trying to come onto you I am married… although I can’t find my husband and now I’m afraid I might’ve done something to scare him away.”
“You don’t think I look like a scary skeleton?” Steve asked trepidatiously.
“Oh no, only a sexy skeleton! Hubba hubba. Are you having body image issues, here, let me show you something that always helps. Let’s go to the bathroom, my room doesn’t have a mirror. Or lights.”
“See that man in the mirror? If you saw him on the street, would you say something nasty to him? Or would you brighten his day by maybe mentioning his lovely dress sense, or perhaps the alluring way he has all his skin? I’ve got a secret for you pal, that guy is you! Now if you treated yourself the way you would others, maybe you won’t feel such a need to hold yourself to impossible standards. It’s easier to accept the flaws of others, but it’s just as important to accept what makes us great.”
Steve stared at his reflection, eyes starting to water, “Thank you I d-”
“OH MY GOD IT’S THE SKELETON, IT’S COME BACK TO LIFE!” Julian shouted then ran back outside.
“Oh no, now Julian thinks I’ve hooked up with you too! This is a disaster! I can’t imagine how this possibly could get worse!!!”
To be continued… in chapter 2: And Then It Did