Read an Excerpt
The He-Man Women Haters Club Volume 4
By Chris Lynch
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1997 Chris Lynch
All rights reserved.
They were already hating women by the time I showed up. So I didn't make the rule, I just followed it.
In those days I was a follower, not a leader.
Mothers aren't women anyway. So they are exempted. You do not have to hate your mother to be in the He-Man Women Haters Club.
You can if you want to, though. It is up to the discretion of each individual member.
I choose not to.
The woman-hating end of it is covered anyhow, by some of our other troopers. He-Man Steven, for instance. Now there's a front-line, hand-to-hand-combat-ready soldier in the girl-hating theater of operation. Especially when it comes to this person named Monica.
No, I mean except when it comes to this Monica person.
Wait, no. It is especially when it comes to Monica. At least that's how Steven tells it. It can be very difficult to tell exactly what the story is there if you just go by his actions. All I know for certain is that she must be coated in some secret sinister chemical that Steven's allergic to, because without fail every time she makes an appearance, he behaves as if he's been abducted by aliens, taken to their ship, beaten over the head with a rubber mallet, injected with central-nervous-system-disabler syrup, and then dropped back out of the ship from a height of maybe five thousand feet.
That could be hate, I suppose. So if he says he hates her, he hates her.
There is no mistaking He-Man Jerome's commitment to the cause. If Jerome was stranded at sea on a boat for a month with no food and no drinkable liquids and suddenly a delicious lobster jumped up on deck, with an unopened can of Seven-Up in one claw and a jar of cocktail sauce in the other, if that lobster happened to have long eyelashes and a ponytail, Jerome would throw himself over the side.
At first I thought it might be that Jerome—who's awfully small and a He-Man only by virtue of his membership in this club—only hated women because they hated him first. But then when we became rock-and-roll superstars, Jerome was the first one to attract a groupie named Vanessa. She seemed like a perfectly normal girl to me—if such a thing exists—but Jerome reacted to Nessy as if he'd drawn the Death card from a fortuneteller.
Jerome really doesn't like 'em.
Wolfgang does, though. He-Man Wolfgang likes girls and he loves Monica and he doesn't care who knows it. So why would somebody like that be in this particular outfit? Because that's what Wolfgang's all about. That's his personality. If he hated guns, he'd join the National Rifle Association. If he hated dogs, he'd go to dog shows just to be close to everybody who completely disagreed with him. And to be the only person in the world to boo dogs.
We don't get rid of him for a couple of reasons. First, even though he's in a wheelchair, he is the toughest He-Man we've got, so not only is he very handy to have around, no one else is quite He-Man enough to tell him he's out. Second, when it came time for us to go up onstage, it was Wolf who was the front man, all fearless and hammy. Nobody else here could have done that job.
Not even the guy the band was named after. Scratch and the Sniffs's lead guitarist, Scratch, was with us for only a short while, but he made a big impact. He showed up at the same time as Cecil, a very nice fellow from Alabama who calls himself The Killer because he once killed an alligator, which actually turned out to be a big frog, which actually turned out to have been already dead when he killed it. We call him Cecil. Cecil stayed.
Scratch, though, didn't stick. He was a homeless kid, and dirty, and he'd eat anything. He sort of showed up out of no place, took us on a fun rock-and-roll ride, made everybody's life faster and louder and more exciting. He made me a star. But he didn't want to be one himself. And in the end, just before he left us, he came up big, defending the honor of the He-Men, taking on the sinister forces of sleazy adult outsiders and giving them a good whipping.
And then he vanished in the night.
We never had anyone like that here before. He was a hero, a legend. He was a real He-Man. He was an inspiration. Scratch left a big hole when he left, and only I among the He-Man Women Haters can fill a big hole like that.
Which brings me to me. My name used to be Ling-Ling.CHAPTER 2
A Little Problem with Reality
"You can't be serious," Jerome said grimly.
"God, I hope he is serious." Wolfgang laughed.
"Ling?" Steven asked, staring at me with a palms-up gesture of complete bafflement.
Bafflement is good. A superhero should be baffling.
"Don't call me that," I said to Steven.
"Ling. Don't call me Ling. Ling is dead."
"Thank god," he responded. "Finally we get to learn what your real name is. So if Ling-Ling is dead, who's alive in there, might I ask?"
Steven swung around, looking away from me to address the other He-Men gathered around the 1956 Lincoln that was our headquarters. "He isn't getting any better," Steven said, exasperated. "I think his condition is deteriorating. We should call somebody."
"Don't do a thing," Wolfgang said, wheeling my way to lend me some moral support. "I think ol' Ling here—"
"Bolt," I corrected.
"Bolt. I think ol' Bolt has the right idea. I believe that what he's thinking is just the—" He interrupted himself, leaned closer to whisper to me, "What in the world are you thinking, anyway?"
Before I could enlighten him, He-Man Cecil came loping in. Long-striding from the front of Lars's garage to the back where we hung out, Cecil's movement spoke of hope, enthusiasm, fresh blood running through the operation, readiness to meet the challenges of the new day.
He stopped at me. He frowned his familiar dead-lost look as he took me in.
"Aw, now look at this, I'm all confused all over again," The Killer moaned. "I got to start right back at the beginning here."
It was probably my new look that had him disoriented.
Ling had been a kid. Bolt was a man, more than a man even, a superhero, but beyond a superhero. Bolt Upright was a whole different kind of being and, as such, had to look like one.
I wore a form-fitting long-sleeved black thermal undershirt that clung to my frame like moss to a rock. I wore Lycra running shorts—black and shiny with gold lightning bolts running down the legs. I wore white golf gloves and white tennis shoes and white socks that came up over my knees because I heard a baseball player once say that if you feel fast you are fast, and that white shoes made him feel faster. He was right. I was going to be a blur. I wore one of those aerodynamic, teardrop-shaped bicycle helmets and wraparound sunglasses that made me look like a machine rather than a mere person.
It is important never to appear to be a mere person.
I wore no cape. Capes are for fools.
"I am Bolt Upright," I announced to Cecil. "I am what this organization has been sorely in need of."
"Hey," Wolf said, "why don't you call yourself Nuts instead of Bolts?"
"This is not funny," Jerome said. Jerome often says that. "He can't be out there on the street, looking like that, embarrassing the club."
"Think he'll damage our rep?" Wolfgang asked. Then he laughed, but I wasn't sure why. "Don't you listen to these guys, Bolt, you look just stunning. The shoes are a little bright, but ..."
"White is the color of swiftness," I informed him.
"Ya?" Steven asked. "Well, what's the color of mental illness?"
"I can tell you are making fun of me," I informed him.
"Really?" he said.
"Yes, but I don't care. Real individuals, heroes and visionaries, they have always been mocked because they are misunderstood by the common folk. I say let 'em. Let 'em all laugh at me."
"Hey, Ling," Jerome joined in. "Check out any old movie. You know how you can tell right off which character is insane? It's always the one who says 'Let 'em all laugh at me.' And guess what? They all do. "
Wolfgang laughed and laughed. At least one of the He-Men was having a good time.
"I get it," Cecil piped up.
Everyone turned to look. We had forgotten about Cecil.
"You get what?" Jerome asked.
"Bolt. Bolt Upright. I get it now. I see what he means. I see what he sees."
Jerome started waving at him. "Good-bye, Huckleberry. Have a nice voyage out there in space. Send us a postcard ..."
"You need an assistant," Cecil said to me.
I knew this already, of course. It had kept me up all the previous night. But I never considered Cecil.
"I'll call myself The Killer," he said.
I shook my head at that. "Can't. That's your street name. You're known. Your new name has to be mysterious."
"El Matador," Wolf announced loudly. "It means 'The Killer' in Spanish."
"Wow," Cecil marveled. "You do know all things. Are you a superhero too?"
"Jeez, you're a sap," Jerome barked at Cecil. "How are you going to go out there and fight evil when you can't even be trusted to cross the street by yourself?"
Jerome always took Cecil's smaller brain as an insult to his larger one.
"Maybe we won't cross streets, Jerome," I said. "Maybe we'll fly."
Jerome grabbed himself by the forehead and began massaging his temples. "This is bad. This is very bad."
"This is great," Wolf countered. "This is very very great."
Steven had jumped behind the wheel of his Lincoln, turned on the radio, and was pretending to drive really fast and far away.
Steven, I'm sorry to say, has a little problem with reality.CHAPTER 3
Patton and HoHos
I have to admit something. The first time I saw the movie Patton, I cried.
There was a time, way back when, when I used to cry a lot.
It was when he slapped the soldier. General Patton got angry, the soldier cried, Patton got angrier, slapped the kid. The kid cried some more. I joined him.
But I rented the video and forced myself to watch it again. Then I bought it, and watched it over and over and over. I love that movie now, and I especially love that scene. I look forward to it. I cheer it. When I'm in an especially good mood, I slap myself along with the movie.
So naturally as part of indoctrination, El Matador had to watch it too.
"Ouch!" he yelped when the time came for me to smack him. He rubbed his cheek and whined at me. "Whatja do that for? I didn't do nothin'. I was just sittin' here, and bap, you haul off and—"
Bap. I had to. He was getting hysterical.
"You do that again, and you're gonna be Bolt, but you ain't gonna be Upright no more."
"Sorry," I said calmly. "Part of the training. You and I have got to be rock hard and afraid of nothing if we want to be feared and respected throughout the neighborhood. Word has got to spread fast that Bolt Upright and El Matador are two hombres who—"
I was interrupted by a knock. "Helloo? Ling?" my mother called. We were in the cellar, where my private video and bumper-pool room was located. Mom wanted to come down from the kitchen.
"Mom, please ..." I said as she came on down without waiting for a reply.
"Patton?" she asked. "Ling, you're not down here slapping yourself ..."
"No," Cecil corrected her. "He's down here slapping me."
"I don't think that's very good either. Remember what I told you, son," she said, setting down a tray on the coffee table in front of us.
"Mother?" I asked. But it wasn't really a question as much as a request for her to go.
"Don't you 'Mother' me. You remember the rule: If I hear any sounds of hitting behind this door—whether it's yourself you're abusing or somebody else—then you will be grounded."
"Whoa," El Matador whispered in my ear. "Would she really keep you in the house?"
"No," I said. "Just on the ground. No flying for a week."
Cecil started laughing. He stopped when he realized I had not made a joke.
"You take this superhero stuff pretty seriously, huh?" he said.
"Fighting evil is a very serious business, mister," I informed him.
"But not so serious that you can't stop for a couple of HoHos and a glass of strawberry Quik," Mrs. Ling said.
"Course not," Cecil answered, grinning broadly. "We ain't fanatics, after all."
"Yes we are," I said. "But we can still have the HoHos."
Even Patton survived having a mother, I figured.
Before long there was another interruption. The doorbell upstairs.
Mom ran to get it. We heard muffled voices, suspicious laughs. Silence.
Then, bumpety bump de bump down the stairs.
"I am so happy about this," Mom said. "I was so afraid that you were never going to have any friends. Now you have two."
"How did you locate my position, Wolfgang?" I asked suspiciously.
"Mat told me," he said, wheeling right past me to get to the snacks.
"Who is Mat? I don't know any Mat."
A hand slowly went up. It belonged to my associate, El Matador.
"Sorry," he said.
"We'll let it slide this time," I said. "But don't divulge our position to anyone else. Remember when Vicki Vale got into the Batcave? That was the worst poss—"
Another set of footsteps coming down the stairs.
"There you are," Steven said. "What, did you guys think you were starting a new club without me?"
"I'll get more HoHos," Mother said.
"An excellent idea," Wolfgang said, with a bitten HoHo already in each hand.
"Gee," I said to Steven, "why didn't you bring Jerome while you were at it?"
Steven pointed across the room, to a small rectangular window that led up to the street. There was He-Man Jerome's nervous little face.
"He didn't want to come down," Steven said. "He was afraid of your mother."
"Yes, well my mother was supposed to be steering people away."
"On the contrary," Wolf said. "She steered me down here. Strong woman, that mom of yours."
"Why thank you," she said, marching back in with enough snack cakes and Quik to keep the whole club satisfied for the afternoon. "There," she added, as if reading my worst fears. "Now they'll never leave."
How was I supposed to train a new man and defeat all the enemies of mankind if my mother wouldn't even block the door for me?
"Aw," El Matador moaned. "Look at the little feller up there. Can't we let him in?"
Jerome was busy looking like somebody's pet rabbit pressed against the glass.
"Come on down, Jerome," I called without opening the window. "My mother won't hurt you."
He shook his head silently.
"So what are you gonna do?" Wolf asked. "Just hover outside the new clubhouse every time we—"
"Hold it there, soldier. About-face," I commanded. "This is not going to be—"
I was cut off by the sad little screams outside. I turned just in time to see Jerome airlifted from the window, his dangling arms and legs clawing and kicking at the air.
The He-Men gasped.
"What was that?" Wolfgang called.
"I never seen nothin' like that afore," cried Cecil.
"We have to save him," Steven said, rushing to the window to see.
It was as if an unseen hand, from some unknown life form, had scooped our little friend up and removed him from the surface of our humble, primitive planet.
Only I saw the hand. And the life form was not—unfortunately—unknown to me.
"So what are you doing crawling around outside my house?" asked the voice of my sister, Rock.
Steven narrated from his spot at the window. "She's got him lifted right up off the ground!"
"With one hand," I added without even looking.
"Yes. How did you know that?"
"It's my sister, home from boarding school."
"She's stronger than you," he said, stunned.
"She's stronger than everybody, everywhere." I sighed.
"She's carrying him now," Steven went on. "Jerome's stopped struggling. He's hanging there in her grip like a rubber chicken."
We all sat still while we listened to my sister's size-fifteen Timberlands come pounding down the stairs. This time, of course, there was no knock at the door.
"Somebody here lose this?" Rock asked, kicking the door open. She displayed Jerome as if he was something her dog had flushed out of the bushes. "He said he was a friend of yours, Ling, but I told him that couldn't be possible since you don't do the friend thing."
I could have sworn her vacation wasn't until next week.
My hearty assistant, El Matador, slid behind me, shrinking from the mighty presence of Rock.
Wolf, though ...
He wheeled right up to her, looking straight up, smiling.
"I love you," he said. Then he spun toward me. "I love her. She's so big. She's so beautiful."
Wolf was a little confused. If he was her brother, he'd be able to see her more clearly. I wanted to help him.
"She's not beautiful," I said. "She's a big fat beast."
Rock just smiled, as if she found me amusing.
"No," Wolf said, wheeling toward me. "Let me show you. She is a mighty sequoia. This"—I could see it coming a mile away, as he reached out both hands to grab my belly roll with both hands—"is fat."
Of course, they bonded instantly. "You know," Rock said to him, "I've tried. I've offered to train him a million times, but he refuses."
Wolf faked sincerity. "I know, I know, I've tried to train him myself. But we still have to lay newspapers all over the clubhouse floor."
So embarrassing. Even Jerome was laughing, as he dangled five feet off the floor. I froze them all with a fierce glare.
Rock lowered Jerome into Wolfgang's lap, then approached me.
I braced myself for the struggle. It would not have been our first.
"Lighten up, will you?" she said, laughing and slipping around behind me. Then it was my turn as she hoisted me, squeezing me so tight around the waist, I could feel HoHos climbing back up my esophagus.
Excerpted from Ladies' Choice by Chris Lynch. Copyright © 1997 Chris Lynch. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.