Episode Two

May 23, 2010

The Welcome Center

“Weclome to Scruvytown” proclaims the giant banner stretched across Broad Street in Scurvytown. It wasn’t that Captain Tullis was that drunk when he emailed the banner company, as he had only had nine beers that particular morning. The problem was that he was simply that terrible at spelling.

Broad Street, formerly Ho Alley, gets a bad rap for a lot of reasons, but most of them are not what you might think. It was a bit confusing to folks having a Yo Street, a Ho Avenue, and a Ho Alley all in the same vicinity, so it was voted in a town council meeting that the Alley Ho would become Broad Street, as it was much wider than the Avenue, and not much of an Alley anymore after the newspaper plant spontaneously combusted.

At the corner of Broad Street and Land Boulevard, there was an empty office building. One side of it was a bit scarred from the newspaper plant incident, but no one seemed to pay that much mind.

It was here that the town council set up the welcome center for all tourists who came to visit Scurvytown. Because it was stop one for all incoming visitors, it was the cleanest place in the entire town.

The floor was so pristine you could eat off it, though that wasn’t recommended, unless you happened to bring your own snack. The walls and chandelier were washed weekly. The receptionist/janitor for the center was quite good at her job, and seemed to take pride in her work. She was also the only female inhabitant of Scurvytown, other than relatives, who hadn’t bedded Captain Tullis, though the Captain remembered it differently.

A trip to the welcome center was mandatory for all visitors to Scurvytown. If you were found wandering the streets without your visitor’s bracelet, even if you’d lived there for forty years, which no one had because the town hadn’t been around that long, the offense was punishable by either a night in jail or a visit to the welcome center. One guess which experience was less painful.

Captain Tullis didn’t often stop by the Welcome Center unless he was really super bored. On this particular day, that was the case. The town had just gotten their new TV in that day’s shipment, which was great and all, but it was almost impossible to book any alone time with it since so many people were still tweaking from idiot box withdrawal. Soon enough, all that madness would die down, but the first few weeks were going to be rough on everyone.

If only they could figure out who kept smashing the town TV, life would be much simpler. Alas, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to it, and each time it happened, the events seemed to be further apart, so by the time it happened again, people had all but forgotten the previous incident. It was a vicious cycle.

So, without his typical evening distraction, Captain Tullis found himself wandering down to the pier for awhile and watching the boats and fisherman. Five minutes later, he turned back towards town and stumbled over to the Welcome Center, which was weird for him because he didn’t usually go there without hitting the bar first.

As the bell jangled in the doorway, the receptionist dropped the island’s latest issue of Cosmo, which was actually a back-issue from two years ago, and was halfway through her saccharine greeting when she realized it was just the Captain.

“Oh nevermind,” she grumbled, as she swooped down to pick up the magazine. She thwacked her head on the desk on her way back up and uttered an impressive array of swear words as a response.

“Best welcome ever, Janet!” Captain Tullis said, grinning like a jerkfaced jack-o-lantern.

“Oh shove it up your arse!” Janet replied, following up her comment with a rude gesture.

“Quit hitting on me, Janet,” Captain Tullis said, overdoing a sigh for emphasis, “Or I’ll have you shipped back to the main island.”

Janet pursed her lips and went back to reading her magazine. She wasn’t sure if the Captain was kidding or not, but there was no point in taking any risks when going back to the main island was mentioned. After all, they had rules there, and curfews and all those disease ridden corpses lining the streets. Oh, and all those zombies, who could possibly forget that?

“Seen any interesting newbies today?” The Captain asked, realizing he’d hit a sore spot with her. It was a low blow and he knew it, but he had always been such a fan of those, he couldn’t help himself.

“Yeah, we had a couple of hot girls on spring break, and their stupid boyfriends,” Janet replied.

“Oh, I hate couples,” Captain Tullis said, shuddering.

“Hey!” Janet said suddenly, noticing for the first time that something was missing from Captain Tullis’s usual attire.

“Where’s Hopewell?” She asked, concerned.

“Oh, he’s being laundered,” Captain Tullis said, his shoulders sagging. “Things got a bit messy last night, to say the least, and I don’t really recall so I can’t say more.”

“Don’t you feel sort of naked without him?” Janet asked.

“In a way,” the Captain admitted, “but as I woke up butt naked in the fountain this morning, I’d say this is better. Poor Hopewell, though, he was in the middle of the road and covered in sick.”

“His own?” Janet asked, muffling a giggle with her hand.

“Suck it,” Captain Tullis replied, unamused.

If there was one thing Captain Tullis loathed, and there were a great many things he hated, it was people poking fun at Hopewell. Okay, so maybe it was a little strange for a grown man to have a stuffed monkey pinned to his shoulder. And stranger still for him to hold conversations with him, but it wasn’t hurting anyone, really, so it wasn’t right for people to joke about it, at least not to his face. Captain Tullis didn’t stand up for the rights of many things, but he truly believed in a person’s right to consider a stuffed animal their best friend.

“Anyway, the couples are scheduled to be back in two minutes if you want to take them on the tour,” Janet said, offering an olive branch.

Captain Tullis perked up immediately at that notion, and nodded.

“Just one thing missing,” he replied, excitedly, “I gotta run across the street and see if Hopewell is out of the dryer. He would kill me if I did a tour without him!”

Janet nodded and waved him away. Some things would never change. Captain Tullis would always be crazy, and as much as she hated to admit it, a part of her would always have the tiniest bit of a crush on him.

She pretended to read the magazine article in front of her, but her mind quickly drifted from “10 sexy things to say to snag a man,” to “10 salty things to say to ensnare your sailor.” She sighed deeply, mentally cursing the editor in her. Oh, to be back on the main land before everything got crazy, editing the holy frigdazzle out of epically boring manuals on jet engines, and on the weeknights to supplement her paltry editor’s income, answering pornographic letters to the editor for a non-disclosed publication.

In a rather cruel twist of fate, Janet Tor actually had a twin sister. Having a twin wasn’t the cruel twist of fate, it should be noted. The problem was nomenclature. Her name was Edi, and she was the true custodian of the family. Wow, could that girl not get enough of scrubbing bathroom floors with bleach, it was like an obsession!

It was rough having a sister like Edi. Janet found it difficult having to explain to everyone that no, they were never conjoined twins at the shoulder, and yes, her sister really did have a hump, and no, please don’t call her Quasimodo or make any references to a certain song by The Black-eyed Peas, especially not in front of Edi, who was as ridiculously strong as she was simple.

Life had nearly always been kinder to Janet, and now, here she sat working as a receptionist/janitor for the welcome center, which admittedly wasn’t the worst job in Scurvytown, while her twin sister got to stay on the main island and do all her editorial tasks as though she hadn’t herself been banished to Scurvytown. Life was a funny thing, its ups and downs and its subtle and blatant cruelties.

She sighed and put down the magazine as she heard the bell jingle at the door. She looked up, expecting to see Captain Tullis, but much to her surprise, the young couples had returned for the tour. Returning to the welcome center as scheduled was practically an unprecedented event. The Captain was going to be rather annoyed that he didn’t get to hunt them down and scare the crap out of them like was done with most of the newcomers.

“Hey, if you kids would just have a seat, I need to wrangle up our best tour guide,” Janet said sweetly.

The foursome complied, while Janet rang up the Captain’s cell phone.

“Yo ho ho,” he answered after only one ring.

“Hey, the newbies came back for their tour.”

“Oh, bugger, that’s less fun!” Captain Tullis said, disappointed.

“I know, right?” Janet replied, snapping her gum loudly.

Captain Tullis sighed and said, “Alrighty, they’re scrappy youngsters, we’re gonna wait bait.”

“Roger that,” Janet said, smirking.

“Oh, I’d roger that, all right,” the Captain replied.

She rolled her eyes as she hung up the phone, and shoved her magazine into her purse. She stuck her gum under the desk and stood up, raised her hands above her head, and made a soft noise as her back cracked. She was fairly certain the office chair was plotting her demise, but that was a story for another time.

“Well, kids, it’s quitting time for me, but your tour master, Captain Tullis, will be along shortly. Just hang tight.”

“You’re leaving?” asked the doe-eyed blonde girl with the big brown eyes.

“Yup, got a shift at the Bone tonight,” she said, turning her back on them and walking out the front door.

She smiled as she heard the door click shut. Those kids were not going to know what hit them.

*****
This episode went live on Sunday, May 23, 2010.

Stayed tuned for next week’s episode where we learn the fate of some deeply stupid youngsters. Meanwhile, the rest of the town is preparing for the big Moonshine Festival.

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