The Henchman’s Party

Lenora hates playing hostess now, trying to stretch out the dwindling supply of booze from their liquor cabinet. They’re down to plastic-bottled vodka and a gin that tastes like nail varnish. Her husband’s coworkers never contribute. Henchmen are notoriously cheap. He expects her to feed them all, as if he was still working steadily with two shows in syndication, back when residuals had them planning trips to Hawaii, to Cabo. Back when villains would drop in and they talked about having to get a bigger place. Now, the villains don’t even RSVP, and only C- and D-List henchmen show up: Space Pirates and Time Creatures, a few ogres from the Gummi Bears, a stream of Scooby Doo extras. Oh, and of course there’s Zorak who hasn’t worked in twenty years, but he usually sticks to a corner where he makes drunken snipes about Space Ghost. The only semi-big names are Beast Man and Destro. Lenora hates it when Beast Man comes. He sheds.

Her husband still talks about that time Skeletor dropped by and they’d all gotten baked and wandered down to the lot, somehow talking their way past the night watchman. They made it into Prince Adam’s dressing room where they took turns trying on his wardrobe and mincing about. Then somebody—and here her husband always pauses with dramatic flair—somebody dropped a turd into Adam’s coffee mug, revenge for when Adam and his hero cronies superglued Skeletor’s staff to the ceiling of Castle Grayskull. Nobody was allowed to get it down until the gaffers cleared it with their union head.

He’s telling it again, but this time Beast Man keeps interrupting, and Destro looks bored, or as bored as one can look behind a metal mask. Now Beast Man’s pushing her husband aside to describe how Prince Adam discovers the mug. Her husband looks hurt; that’s his favorite part to tell—Adam’s cherubic face collapsing and then screwing up in anger before he goes on a steroid-fueled tirade—but he lets Beast Man butcher the story and laughs along with everyone else, his chest and shoulders rising and falling with the others, as if they’re all on set and yucking it up as the end credits roll.

Destro turns to Lenora and asks, “You mind if I powder my nose?” He holds up a small vial that catches the light and shifts it about. It’s a small thing, Lenora thinks, they’re all small things. She shows him where the bathroom is.

When they emerge rubbing at their noses and laughing, Beast Man is going on about how he’s typecast, how his Caliban got the best reviews. He’s on the coffee table, his huge feet knocking over beer bottles and ash trays. Zorak shouts, “Sit down!” and from the balcony comes the sound of someone retching. It’s Mr. Wickles, looking sheepish and miserable and nothing like the imposing knight he once played. Lenora’s husband is on the balcony with him, rubbing Wickles’ back and saying, “There, there.”

“I could’ve been somebody,” Wickles says.

“There, there.”

“If it wasn’t for those meddling kids and that stupid dog.”

Lenora joins them and says, “I hate that dog.” Her hands shake. She looks across the balcony into the empty night. Wants to run with head tossed back in a chase montage, to streak across the horizon. “I hate all of them!”

Behind her, Beast Man roars in Shakespearean cadence, “If thy greatness will, revenge it on him!”

“Sit down!” Zorak screams.

She doesn’t remember how they got into the Mystery Machine, just that they’re driving down the 405 chanting “Mexico! Mexico!” with her husband behind the wheel and Mr. Wickles hanging his head out the passenger window getting sick again. Destro’s given them all another bump and is rummaging around for Scooby Snacks. The van lurches from lane to lane, and Lenora can’t stop smiling.

From the back, Zorak screeches, “Floor it! It’s the cops!” and Beast Man retorts, “Thou liest, thou jesting monkey, thou!”

But it’s true, there’s a wail of sirens and blinding swirl of lights streaming through the back glass. “Aha!” Destro cries and holds up an almost full box of Scooby Snacks. Everyone cheers.

When they crash, Lenora doesn’t feel a thing, can barely hear the officers’ shouts, garbled over their megaphones, as she untangles her limbs and stumbles out of the van. In front of her, the looming shape of Beast Man, his head turned to the sky. “I am subject to a tyrant…no more!” he cries and leads the charge into the red and blue night, the henchmen all behind him, pumping their cartoon legs over concrete barriers and chain link fences. Gunfire crackles overhead and they shout “No more! No more!” as one by one they are wrestled to the ground and cuffed, each of them grinning with elation as their faces are pressed to the dirt.

Joshua Jones lives in Maryland where he works as an animator. His writing has appeared in CRAFT, The Cincinnati Review, Pidgeonholes, Split Lip Magazine, Monkeybicycle, SmokeLong Quarterly, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter @jnjoneswriter.