by Rich Kabakjian, Joe Bethancourt, Dave Aronson and Scott Malcomson. Written by turns (sort of) on alt.music.filk, with final editing by Joe Bethancourt.

It was brillig, brillig as it gets on a hot summer afternoon, and toves were gyring and gimbaling in the wabe. Business as usual. Not just any toves, now, I'm talking about the slithy ones, slithy as a cat trapped in a fish market on a hot summer day when the smell penetrates the city like a wet fog.

I hate 'toons. A couple of momeraths were out on the fire escape, grabing like there was no tomorrow. A sign on the rusty chain-link fence across the dirty potholed street said 'BEWARE OF JABBERWOCK!'. I had seen those before, spray-painted on walls in the down-side of Toontown, right over the placas of the local homeboys. And the homies were too afraid of the Jabberwock to paint over them.

I turned to the office boy and said, "Ya know son, they're right. Them Jabberwocks got jaws that'll crush yer gun hand in a second, and claws that'll slice ya like a razor." I pulled up my shirtsleeve and showed him how I knew.

"Jabberwocks, yeah. Them and Jub-Jub birds. A good-sized Jub-Jub'll rip th' ribcage right outta yer chest and stomp on it until th' bone meshes with th' sun-ravaged asphalt.

"But Bandersnatches ... Bandersnatches. Oily, slimy, slippery little buggers. You can't catch -them- ... but God in heaven and all His Choir help you if they catch -you-.

"Don't even -think- about Snarks and Boojums. Ever."

The kid gave me a sidelong look that said I'd been hanging around the oil refineries on the south side of town too long. Maybe he was right. Maybe I was just there every Saturday to get high on benzene fumes. Maybe. But right now I hadda warn him ... because he'd just gone to the closet to unlimber his old man's piece ... an honest-to-God Colt Vorpal II.

It was a real slick slicer-dicer ... the kind you use to filet fly wings with ... filet 'em with a crosscut, that is. The kid gave it a few practice swings, and that sleek baby went snicker-snack like there was no tomorrow.

Maybe, for the kid, there wasn't gonna be one.

I thought about it, and then reached for a bottle of Ol' Red-Eye. I dunno where in ToonTown the Jabberwock had come from, but you could bet it wasn't Disney. Probably one of the new neighborhoods. Or the old EC section.

"Go look in the Tulgey Woods projects if you gotta, but be careful. Those 'toons are tough as titanium nails."

He looked at me with eyes that were older than dirt, smiled a smile that would deep-freeze a platinum blonde in Hollywood, and slipped out the door.

I drank one for him, and a lot for me. It was gonna be a long day.

Hours later, the kid was hunting around the toughest slum in town, like a kitten hunting for rats in a garbage heap. What he didn't realize was that the rats in this garbage heap had sharp fangs, and would just as soon chew your eyes out as look at you, then swarm around your helpless body like sharks in a feeding frenzy around a chunk of fresh, bleeding meat. I was tailing the kid, hoping to keep him out of trouble. I owed his father that much.

He wasn't having much luck. He was as subtle as a bull in a china shop, although I'd give odds on the bull having more street smarts. I watched him grill Lou and Carol, a couple of strung-out junkies living in their own world.

"You seen the Jabberwock? You know ... big guy, flaming eyes, wears a waistcoat?"

Lou and Carol looked at him with eyes that had seen the other side of too many mushrooms, if you catch my drift. The kid finally figured out they were going to be as helpful as a pack of wet matches, and moved on, saying "If you see that manxome bastard, tell him I'm looking for him!"

They slouched off, past a couple of mice that were arguing in Yiddish with each other. I noticed a couple of skinhead cats sizing them up, but didn't have time to do anything about it. Life around here is tough. And cheap.

He had gotten nowhere, slowly, by the time he made it into TumTum's. Now, TumTum's bar is not exactly one of those yuppie fern-and-brass places. The health inspector would have closed the place faster than a three-card-monte game when a cop walks by, but TumTum made it clear that keeping it open would be more healthy for the inspector.

There was a 'toon band on stage. Why is it that the only thing a 'toon band can play is "When The Merry-Go-Round Broke Down?" Wish they could learn something different. Anything different.

The kid ordered an Uffish Aloha, complete with the little umbrella. While he was standing at the bar, sucking on his Uffish Aloha and doing his best to think, he didn't see Charlie the Dodger slip out the back entrance. I did, though, and I knew it meant trouble. Charlie was a greasy weasel, connected with some of the lowest, meanest, ugliest, worst drawn characters you'd ever want to imagine.

Weasels are supposedly the best shadow-slinkers around, but old Charlie was losing his touch. He plodded along the alleys and backstreets like life was getting too much for him to put up with. It was an easy tail, one that even the kid could've followed.

Charlie slunk thru the alleys into the Tulgey Wood projects; to a nondescript sort of door that used to have paint, but now just had peeling stuff like shredded paper that tiredly flaked off to die. At least that's what it looked like at first. If you looked closer, you could see the claw marks in the wood.

He knocked in an elaborate code, and whispered something in a voice that had seen too many cigarettes. The door opened just wide enough to let him in, and he slipped into the lurking dark behind it.

I figured it was only a matter of time before the Jabberwock showed up but I didn't realize just how much time. I hid in the Humpty Dumpster and froze my butt off waiting. It was full of egg-shells.

After about an hour and a half I got tired of watching the overage hookers pick up johns. After another hour and a half, this smartass little cloud came along and took a leak on me. I figured my cover was blown and got out, but Lady Luck musta liked my new haircut. Just as I was getting up, the Jabberwock came whiffling down the street. You could hear that bad muffler of his burbling a block away. I dug into my bag of tricks (a gift from Felix for the time I got his brother Fritz out of a bad jam with some loan-sharks. Great Whites, and very bad news), got out some silver iodide, and seeded that damn cloud so heavy he'd be leaking there for a long time.

I tailed Jabs over to TumTum's ... where he went around back. This I didn't like. The kid knew to watch the front door (yeah, he knew what happened to old Hickock), but the back I wasn't too sure of. I watched through the Acme Unbreakable Plate Glass window in front ... from far enough that the kid wouldn't see me, especially while he was pretending not to watch the front door for ol' Jabby. He didn't seem to notice the curtain to the back room opening, just a little bit ... but enough for me to see what looked like a flaming eye on the other side.

Charlie showed up about then, looked in the window at the kid, and then reached in his coat pocket with one paw while he wiped his nose with the other. I figured he was reaching for a roscoe to do the 'Wock's dirty work for him, and tensed to jump.

I shoulda known better. It wasn't until the claw swept outta nowhere and grabbed my collar that I realized it was me who was getting old. Charlie snapped around, laughing. Laughing like it was the funniest thing he's ever seen, me dangling from my best sport coat (only fraying at the elbows), helpless in the clutches of the Jabberwock. And still he laughed.

Until a gout of searing fire fried him black. "Shhhhhhut (blurp) up, you!" The 'Wock burbled. "Yyyyour (bargle) cousssinsss all (bloop) died thhhhe ssamme (glorp) way, rememberrrr?"

That shut old Charlie up. He made a show out of brushing the soot off his singed leisure suit. You couldn't kill a 'toon with plain old fire ... damn it.

"'Sokay, boss!" he cackled. "I know better n' dat! -I- take special medication!" With that, he popped open a bottle and downed half the pills in it in one shot. I turned (or tried to) to face my captor. His eyes were so bloodshot they looked like they were on fire.

"So what's your racket, 'Wock? You tired of rolling drunks?"

His eyes sparked and a slight trickle of acidic drool ran from his lip. He looked at me thru his monocle like I was some kind of cockroach. "Nooo, (blup) gumshhhhoe. Tulgey Projects (burb) grrowsss too sssmall for (glap) me. It isss time ToonTown learned of its (slorb) NEW masster!" A series of disgusting liquid noises erupted from his throat; his version of laughter. I expected Charlie to join in, but he seemed to be out of it. Maybe that medication of his worked -too- well.

In any case, it looked like it was all over for me ... Jabberwocks didn't take prisoners, only meals. I wasn't looking forward to walking a beat through the slimy pseudodragon's intestines. I felt the sweat start to trickle down my spine like little cat-feet.

I needed a diversion. Hell, I needed the -82nd Airborne-, but they weren't around close, so I thought as fast as I could. Didn't come up with anything worth trying, and there wasn't a falling safe or a ten-ton weight in sight.

I gave myself up for fish-bait and kept sweating.

Right on cue, Lady Luck walked out of a disco, in the form of that 18-year old bombshell named Cherry. Yeah, -that- Cherry. The one in the comic book sold from -under- the counter. The one that can even excite eunuchal things like rocks and trees. God, what a body! You can pretty well peg most of those kind of girls by how they're drawn, mostly, but Cherry is drawn like the sweet kid that lives next door; like Betty over in the Riverdale section. Until you turn the page and find out Cherry ain't no virgin.

The Jabberwock looked at her and started to drool even more. A bit of it dripped on my shoe and ate a hole thru the leather. His eyes bugged out even further and tried to eat their way thru the silk tank top and skimpy short shorts Cherry was wearing. She bent over to pick up something from the sidewalk and the 'Wock forgot me completely. His muscles went slack, and he dropped me. Right into another pool of drool. I bugged out and hid behind one of Humpty's broken-down dumpsters and tried to save my pants from the acid spit.

Just then, the kid came out of TumTum's, and saw the Jabberwock. His eyes slitted for an instant, taking in the situation. Jabs was still paralyzed, watching Cherry. She was talking to a couple of the street girls; looked like a couple of Bodé's, but I couldn't be sure in the bad light. Boy, -that- would heat up a cold winter's night for anyone ... 'toon or human. I should be so lucky.

I wished the bag of tricks had an Acme Portable Hole that I could crawl into. I wished I had a pail of Dip. I wished I had -anything- that would stop the bloody mess that was about to happen to my ex-partner's kid, or at least keep me from having to watch.

The kid flowed along the broken sidewalk like an especially juicy mouse stalking a cat ... a three-ton sharp-toothed long-clawed cat with flaming eyes, and full of strong acid juice. Sylvester's kid woulda been proud. He slunk through the shadows on the other side of the lot, creeping up behind old Jabface.

What he didn't know was, Jabby's tail was sensitive enough to pick up the ground vibrations of a cucaracha walking, let alone the kid - and wired directly into the defense reflexes. Jabs snapped out of his lust-trance and whirled around to stare the kid straight in the eyes. Which was kinda tough as they were still slitted. (How he got slitted eyes, I dunno; rumor has it he's a distant cousin of Lounge Lizard.) The kid straightened up, stared him right back, and said in a calm clear voice: "Hello. My name is Indigo Toyota. You keeled my father. Prepare to dye."

"Cheezwiz Crackers", I thought. "He told me his father drowned on joint maneuvers with the Toon Navy, but I thought he just fell overboard. What the heck did he DO to get keelhauled? No WONDER the kid was hot for this gig, he wants to get revenge by recoloring the Jab ... in Dip!"

The beast growled, a deep throaty noise like a Frog saying "r" and coughing up a big snotlump at the same time, and took a step towards the kid ... but the kid was prepared. He opened his coat and lifted the Vorpal Arms 12 - gauge that had been hanging by his side ... but the manxome critter wouldn't stop.

One-two, one-two, he shot both barrels, twice, and a rapidly spreading hole appeared in 'Wocky. Snick-SNACK! went the pump action as the kid chambered fresh rounds in case the "associates" tried anything. Unlike their boss, they had the sense to back off.

"Youuu cannot (blurp) hurrrt (slurb) meeee! Sssstupid (glorp) humannn!" The 'Wock smiled a crocodile smile, only with more teeth in it. And a lot less sincerity.

"Think so, dog dirt?" the kid said, thru teeth clenched tight as a theatrical agent's wallet, "Wiggle your ears!"

The Jabberwock flapped his ears a couple of times and a stupid look crept over his face and sat there. Then his head fell off his pencil-neck onto the sidewalk and bounced into the gutter. The rest of him swayed back and forth a couple of times, and then flopped with a wet splat like a roach that had just met bug-spray. You could see his ghost come out, but it didn't have the usual 'Toon wings-and-halo-and-harp. And it didn't go -up.- It went -down.- Fast.

The kid grabbed the Jabmeister's head and galumphed back to the office. I knew I'd have to haul butt along the shortcut to beat him back there so he wouldn't know I'd tailed him. I wrapped my coat around my waist to cover the hole in my pants, and ran.

While I was trying to catch my breath, he burst in, almost breaking the neatly lettered frosted glass on the door, and showed off his trophy. It still had the stupid expression on it. I thought it would be a nice touch to feign surprise. "Hey, good going, ya beamish little runt! Come on over here, have a shot of Old Leapfrog! This is one frabjous day! Who'da thunk it, you young squirt, getting a piece of the 'Wock!"

There was a note sitting on my desk, written in a feminine script. The room still smelled of expensive perfume. The note told me to meet its author at the Cool World condos in the expensive section of ToonTown. I was pretty sure I knew who I was gonna meet. And why. I could feel my hormones chasing each other and whooping like drunk cowboys who have just found out they are getting a freebie in the most expensive whorehouse in town. She's computer-animation, and so close to human as to make no difference. Some parts of her even -improved- on human. In a big way, if you know what I mean ... she gives the phrase "computer-enhanced" a whole new meaning.

It was still brillig, and the toves and momeraths were still there, but it had been a good day after all. I guess I could even stretch it a bit and call it "frabjous." I shaved, told the kid not to expect me back for a few days, and to give himself a raise. And to hose off the fire escape after the momeraths were finished. He smiled. I smiled too.

He looked at me and grinned like a wolf that had just eaten Mary's Little Lamb, and maybe Mary, too. "Can I have the head bronzed, boss? I wanna use it as a paperweight."

I chortled a little despite myself. A joyful one. It -had- been a good day, and the rest of the night was gonna be better.

Callooh. Callay.

(c) copyright 1992 The Shanti Project

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