The Revenge Show

It had been eight years already since Battle of the Bands, but for Reggie, the wounds were still fresh. High school was supposed to be a world of possibilities, of beginnings, but Mr. Raster had literally pulled the curtain on all of that. Now, Reggie was just a man displaced in time, robbed of his moment in the spotlight and unable to move forward.

And like most men displaced in time, Reggie ate SpaghettiOs for dinner. It was all he could afford and all he knew how to make. He had finally moved out of the house a year ago and into a one-room apartment, which his few friends affectionately referred to as the Haunted House. The last tenant had died in an apparent suicide, which was lucky for Reggie, because it meant he got a few leftover T-shirts for free. Luck was always in short supply for him, so he took it wherever he could find it.

Reggie leaned over his TV tray while shoveling another spoonful of cheap sustenance down his throat. His hand shuffled under the old magazines on his table seeking the remote, so that he could put on the local news. He tried to catch the first fifteen minutes every day, just to make sure the state had not condemned his building.

“So, why don’t you tell us what’s brought the Dodo back from extinction,” said the blonde reporter on screen. She was attractive by local television standards, but she did not have the nose to make it to primetime.

“Sure, I’d be happy to,” said a man on screen with a nod. He wore shades with a red tint, had slicked back hair in a ponytail, and looked to be in his mid-forties, but the scruffy beard made it hard to tell. There was a building with a dodo bird banner on it behind him. “I thought this town of ours has some really great musical talent, but there are no bars around here that are worth playing. So I decided, ‘Screw it! I’ll build it myself!’ So now you can get your rocks off in the same place that you get plastered. Dodo just sounded like a cool name.”

“Well, it sounds like patrons are going to have quite the time,” said the reporter.

“If you have fifteen minutes, I can show you how good it can get.”

Reggie’s eyes popped, and it was not because of the man’s smooth sexual advance on live television; he recognized the street that the Dodo was on, because it was Reggie’s street, just five blocks away. A place like that was exactly what Reggie needed—if he had a band. There had been a few bands that he called home over the years, but the only one he ever truly believed in was his high school metal band, Death Insurance. It had been comprised of himself on vocals, his best friend Orson on drums, Trey on lead guitar, Wally on rhythm guitar, and Jake on bass. Each of Reggie’s bandmates was the best at his instrument in the school, except Wally, because Trey was a lot better. Reggie was not the best singer in school, but he was adequate, and more importantly, he could feel the music. This was Reggie’s opinion on the matter, anyway.

“That was a very interesting interview,” said the anchorman on TV as it cut back to the studio. His expression was entirely plastic.

“Moving on to a more solemn subject,” said the accompanying anchorwoman, “Greenhaven High School’s principal of forty years, Serena Tompkins, is retiring in mid-year due to failing health. She is set to be replaced by Bill Raster, who once taught at Greenhaven High and is now returning to fill Tompkins’ big shoes.”

Her report continued, but Reggie was suddenly too busy choking with rage to hear it.

“Raster,” he whispered, fist clenched, SpaghettiOs quivering off the edge of his spoon.

***

Packing for a plane ride was always the worst part of the holidays, so Orson always waited till the last second to do it. No one ever plans on moving to Montana, but that was where his career had taken him, and so flights back home to Greenhaven had become a semi-regular occurrence. Orson had had a lot of success in his career already, some of it earned, some of it stumbled into, but he had just come out of the sour end of a long-term relationship. As a result, Orson was able and willing to see every aspect of his life in the most negative light possible.

He was having a hard time getting his suitcase to open, so his immediate solution was to throw it across the room. It made a loud thud and left a black mark on the wall, but now that he lived alone, it made no difference. Orson traipsed to the other side of the room and picked up the suitcase, which incidentally did open and close with ease now. He set about shoving pants and underwear indiscriminately into it; he knew even his worst clothes were a step up in fashion sense from what most people in Greenhaven were wearing. It was going to be a wet, snowy Christmas though, so he made a conscious decision to leave the nice Adidas stuff at home.

The largest compartments of the suitcase filled up quickly, so Orson went fishing around for more hidden slots and zippers in it in which to cram things. He finally found one in plain view on the exterior of the luggage, and he would have put his camera in it, but there was something already there. It was an old DVD, a comedy he used to watch with his girlfriend all the time. Orson thought he had lost it months ago, but there it was, tucked just out of sight.

It was a chilly day outside, the kind where even a gentle breeze was treated like an insufferable injustice. Orson ventured in short-sleeve out onto his balcony anyway. He leaned over the railing on his elbows, the DVD case in his hands. There was a wide, open space in his patio below, because his girlfriend had taken all the outdoor furniture when she left. Orson decided to fill that space with something new, and he heaved the DVD case as hard as he could at it.

The case collided with rock, smashing the plastic into several scattered pieces. The disc was likely snapped as well, but Orson could not tell from his viewpoint. Either way, he was satisfied, and it was a minor moment of warmth in a month of very cold days.

A persistent, angry rattling sound permeated the room as Orson returned indoors. It was his phone vibrating on his nightstand, and it had probably been ringing for a while, so Orson hurried to answer it.

“Hello?”

“Orson, hey! Listen to me. We can finally do it. The Revenge Show, just like we always talked about!”

Orson’s face went blank, which was not an unusual reaction to getting a call from his best friend. He plopped mechanically backwards into a chair, expecting a long and idiotic conversation.

“Reggie, the Revenge Show is something we haven’t talked about since we were eighteen. It was stupid then, and it’s ten times as stupid now.”

“I was still seventeen, actually. But listen, Fat Rasterd is back in town. He’s gonna become principal of GHS! And on top of that, they’re opening a new bar down the street that welcomes all bands as long as they rock, and we rock, dude.”

“We rocked, past tense.”

“But you still practice all the time on that electric set. And I sound way better now than I ever did back then. So it’s not a total lie! You’re about to be back in town anyway! Let’s just do the show.”

“The ‘show,’ yeah,” sighed Orson. “Reggie, the Revenge Show was an insane joke even back when we dreamed it up, not to mention there’s no way we can safely pull it off.”

“Orson, think about what you know about me. What else do you think I’ve been working so hard on the past few years other than plotting the Revenge Show?”

Orson rolled his eyes and nodded his head quietly.

“Okay, I have every confidence you have planned the Revenge Show down to the last detail. But the point is we shouldn’t do it. We should just let this lie.”

There was a dramatic silence on the other end of the line. Reggie had always been good at using silence to build anticipation.

“Orson, think about what this Revenge Show really means. This isn’t just about Fat Rasterd. Well, it is for me, yeah. But it’s also about venting. It’s about setting things right. It’s about giving the finger to every time we earned something in our lives but had it taken away anyway. I mean, think about Maya, and how you’ve been since she left. What if there was something you could do right now to make everything feel better?”

Orson’s mouth hung open. Reggie could be an idiot savant at times, and to Orson, this was as close to poetic as he got. There was of course still nothing right about what Reggie was suggesting, but sometimes, a man had to break the rules to mend his heart.

“I’ll give Trey a call,” and then Orson checked the time, “You just go back to eating your SpaghettiOs.”

***

Getting married fresh out of high school was the best decision Trey had ever made, but maybe that was because marriage had limited all the options he had had since then. His son had been home sick from kindergarten, and Trey had been home sick from work. His wife Sharla had only recently gotten home from her part-time cashiering job, so Trey had spent the day doing his best to be a comforting parent while being miserable himself. It was something he sometimes had to do even when he was not sick.

Colin was the spitting image of Trey, but hopefully a little smarter, and with Sharla’s darker hair. He was lying on one side of the couch under the covers, while Trey sat across from him on the other side. They lived largely from paycheck to paycheck, but they had already started a college fund for Colin anyway. Marital bliss was nice if you could find it, but Trey and Sharla would much rather Colin had a career and a bank account.

Trey lifted a couple werewolf action figures off the living room table and put them in Colin’s hands.

“Here, have ‘em duke it out,” Trey said.

“Eh, maybe later,” moaned Colin, and then he had one werewolf knock out the other werewolf with one clean punch.

“Yeah, he’ll need that time to recover,” said Trey, motioning to the unconscious werewolf.

With great effort, he got up off the couch, and his body began to ache in just enough places that he could not pick any one area to massage. He staggered into the kitchen like a zombie, where Sharla was preparing chicken for the oven. Trey opened the refrigerator looking for the apple juice, the one thing they could afford in abundance.

“Sorry you didn’t get a kiss when you got home,” mumbled Trey. “But if you get a kiss, who knows what else you’ll get from me.”

“I got a baby, the last time,” joked Sharla, breading the chicken.

“That’s not what I meant,” said Trey with a weak grin.

“I know what you meant.”

Sharla had an excellent nose, primetime worthy, and Trey was a classically handsome blonde himself. There was reason to believe Sharla’s employment was single-handedly responsible for an uptick in business at her job, but it meant she was best used on the customer-facing end. Trey meanwhile worked in construction, surrounded by other sweaty men. Neither of them had ever found a way to leverage their looks in a financially useful way, and it was with reluctance that they still lived in Greenhaven.

“I should have gone to work today.”

“You can barely hold a glass of juice right now, let alone a reciprocating saw.”

“I know, I know. But we really need that money.”

“We’ll scrape by.”

“Scrape is the word.”

Sharla was an eternal optimist and a steadfast caregiver, perhaps because Trey shielded her from all the things that were worth really fearing. She knew money was tight, but she had no idea how in the red they actually were. Trey had just taken on a second job for weekends, and if he had done the math right, it would barely balance their finances. Math had always been his worst subject though, so it could really go either way. Trey was anxious to see on which side the numbers would teeter.

“Dad, phone,” said Colin appearing in the kitchen, holding his father’s ringing cell phone. They could not afford a landline, nor did they really need one, and their phones were nearly as old as their marriage.

“Thanks,” said Trey, ruffling his son’s hair and taking the phone. He put the phone to his ear.

“Hello?”

“Trey, long time no talk.”

His eyes lit up. He looked straight at his wife with excitement as he spoke.

“Orson! What’s going on, dude?”

“Reggie, that’s what.”

“Ah, geez, did he finally kill himself?”

“Just the opposite. Fat Rasterd’s back in Greenhaven, and Reggie wants to go through with the Revenge Show.”

These words caused the light in Trey’s eyes to flicker out as if Orson had uttered some wicked incantation. Then Trey and Sharla shared the same dazed and confused look, though Sharla could not hear the conversation.

“The Revenge Show? Are you serious?”

“He’s planned it to the last detail.”

“Orson, have you lost your mind? The Revenge Show was just a joke. If you really wanna play a show that bad, let’s play a show. But not that show.”

There was stronger language and a more detailed argument that Trey wanted to make, but he could not afford to with his listening wife and child nearby.

“Trey, Reggie’s a madman. That’s why I told him I’d call you instead. But the great thing about Reggie is that he’s sincere. His life sucks, he knows the reason why, and this is the only way he can move on.”

“So I’m supposed to go along with this just to make crazy Reggie happy?”

“No, you should go along with it because you’re freaking poor, because you don’t make a fraction of what I do, and because you’re never going to stop being afraid that you can’t support your wife and kid.”

This was the incantation that made Trey’s eyes glaze over completely. He had been sick before; now, he was delirious. Sharla turned her back to him to lower the chicken into the oven, and Colin had just left the room. With spying eyes off of him, Trey hunched over and put a hand over his mouth.

“So, you’re absolutely certain Reggie’s plan is foolproof?”

***

In an orchestra, everyone wants to play first chair, but life had reserved a permanent seat in the second chair for Wally. He was the middle child in a family of three, with a birthday that fell on Easter. As the second-best guitarist in high school, he had been in demand according to whether Trey was already booked. And in college, Wally had been the runner-up to receive a prestigious grant for graduate school, for which he received a hearty pat on the back from a professor. Wherever he went, Wally managed to walk in the shadow of something bigger.

This feeling would surely pass in time. He was pursuing a doctorate in chemical engineering now, and if he could become the second-best chemical engineer in the world, that would be a pretty spectacular achievement. In the interim, crippling debt and long hours at the lab were his biggest hobbies, but Wally had managed to clear out of the lab early for the holidays. He lived in Magnin City, three hours east of Greenhaven, and he too was headed home.

But first, Wally was headed back to his apartment and to Carly. He had met Carly in undergrad, when he was a science tutor. She had only barely passed her chemistry class, but that she passed at all was entirely to Wally’s credit. Carly was an outpatient therapist now, making good money that Wally frankly needed to support him. In spite of her career in counseling to the paranoid and the delusional, she was a carefree sort, not worrying too much about anything or anyone. She assumed everything would just work out for her, like with that chemistry class, and Carly had never been wrong yet.

Their apartment was on the fourth floor of a building that extended several floors higher. There was something oddly soothing about the buzz of its elevator for Wally. No other elevator could equal it. This was surely the number one elevator on the east coast. Wally hummed along with it as it zipped up to his floor, even mimicking the sound it made as it stopped and let him off. His apartment was the second one on the left.

“Hmm, smells like lamb chops,” said Wally as he entered the home. “Who taught you how to make something so delicious?”

Carly flipped her hand, and though she was facing away from him, Wally knew she was rolling her eyes.

“Yes, yes, you’re a world class teacher,” she responded.

“Chef, chemist, economist. Yes, you might be right about that,” said Wally, counting on his fingers. He put his bag down and wrapped his arms around Carly. “I thought I was going to be the one to cook today.”

“Well, if I always waited around for you to get home to eat, I’d be long dead by now.”

Then they kissed, and Carly slipped him some tongue, because it was the only kiss she knew how to give. Wally never knew when she was being flirtatious or just being Carly. Their first date might have been a complete accident for all he knew. She was such a wreck back then; Carly was on the verge of dropping out, and Wally seemed to care about it much more than she did. Things did ultimately work out though, in that very Carly way.

“Oh, hey,” said Carly, raising a finger, “I forgot. You got a call just a couple minutes ago. It was from someone named Trey?”

Just the mention of his name was to spring up a fountain of memories, good and bad, from simpler times. Wally exhaled with a smirk. He wished being an overlooked guitarist was the hardest thing he had to deal with on a daily basis anymore.

“Thanks, I’ll give him a call back. I guess.”

“Sure. Just do it in the other room. I’m trying to listen to Judge Judy.”

Wally shrugged and moseyed off to the bedroom. Against all odds, the bed had been made, so Carly must have been in an excellent mood. He sat at the front of the bed and took the phone from the nightstand. Incoming numbers were recorded in it, so he was able to call back Trey almost as instantly as the mention of his name had recalled his memories.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Trey.”

“Wall! It’s been so long, dude. How’s it been?”

Wally tapped his foot, crinkling something under his sock.

“It’s been, well, great, for the most part. How are things on your end?”

“Tight, and never in the good way. But Sharla’s good, my kid’s good, so that’s good enough.”

“Right, wow, your kid must be so big by now.”

“He’s a freaking giant, dude.”

“Great. So, uh, was there something you wanted to talk about when you called before?”

“Oh, man. Okay, yeah. Just hear me out on this one, Wall.”

Wally grinded whatever was under his foot just a little harder.

“I’m listening, Trey.”

“Okay. The band’s getting back together over the holiday. Raster’s back in town, and, well—”

“Oh my God, you want to do the Revenge Show!”

“Well, not me exactly, mostly Reggie. But Orson’s in on it now, and then Orson got me in on it, so—”

“Trey, tell those guys to grow up! We were teenagers. This is real life! I mean, we weren’t even serious back when we came up with it! I can’t even remember the last time I thought about Fat Rasterd.”

He could hear Trey sigh on the other side of the line.

“I hear where you’re coming from, Wall. I dunno, maybe Reggie and Orson are just more persuasive than me. But, like, aren’t there any problems in your life that you just can’t solve? Anything that ever comes back to bite you every time? Maybe, just maybe, the Revenge Show could help you feel better about that stuff.”

Wally shook his head, bug-eyed. The whole thing still sounded crazy to him. But it was right about then that he finally became conscious of the thing that had been under his foot this whole time, so he looked down. There beneath his toes was an opened Trojan wrapper. Wally had been a lifelong Durex man.

“Wall, you still there?”

Wally picked up and scrutinized the Trojan wrapper.

“Yeah.”

“You’re at least coming back for the holiday anyway, right? You gonna bring the girl I talked to before? Carly?”

Wally’s parents loved Carly, and they were looking forward to seeing her. But everybody loved Carly, really. The landlord especially loved that she paid her and Wally’s rent each month. It was no wonder that everything always worked out for someone so beloved like her.

“Yeah, she’s coming.”

“So, great. A holiday with family and loved ones, and some revenge on the side. How about it?”

Wally delicately placed the wrapper in the trash can, fighting back tears.

“I guess I don’t have a choice.”

***

Every good band needed a cartoon character, figuratively or otherwise, someone who fit an odd stereotype that should never exist in reality. Jake had been that person in Death Insurance. He managed to parade through life utterly unaffected by hardship, as if a field of invincibility surrounded him at all times. Nothing ever bothered him, and Jake never bothered anyone. He merely persisted, insouciant and unfettered. Wherever he was, whatever he was doing, the universe accommodated him.

Jake was somewhere in the universe when his phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hey, play the Revenge Show with us.”

“Okay. Who is this?”

“Does it matter?”

“Nah.”

“Cool. So, see you in Greenhaven?”

“Sure.”

And that was how Jake decided to come home.

***

The Dodo was more impressive than anyone could have expected. The first floor was a standard sports bar setting, with big screen TVs littered everywhere. The basement however was huge, with standing room capacity for 600 and an elevated stage. The sound system too was a force to be reckoned with; it turned out the Dodo’s owner had actually already made his fortune in lawn care services, and so he could afford a flourish such as that.

It was all still a dream for Reggie. But tonight was the night, just two days after Christmas, that Death Insurance came back. Tonight was the night that everything was set right in the world. Years of careful planning on his part had led to this moment, and after this, the wounds could finally heal.

“Where’d you get these masks?” asked Trey, wearing a werewolf mask that covered his head completely. They were all wearing masks that covered their heads in this way, along with gloves.

“I bought each one at a different store, in a different state, over the past five years,” said Reggie, wearing a Bigfoot mask.

“And where did you get all these instruments?” asked Orson, inspecting a very shabby drum set on the stage. He wore a pig mask.

“Garage sales, thrift shops,” shrugged Reggie.

“How were you able to afford it?” asked Orson.

“It’s not like I’ve spent my money on anything else.”

Jake had been the one who picked them all up in his black van, always near but not precisely at their respective homes in town. Reggie had been the first one to get picked up, so he could load up the instruments and the masks. None of them had told their families about the show, but through a very crafty social media campaign by Reggie and word of mouth, just about everyone in Greenhaven from their graduating class had heard about the reunion concert at the Dodo. It was of note though that nobody in the band ever directly addressed the existence of the concert, and even on social media, the event was billed as “Insurance Lives!” Everything about the event had been implied, but nothing had been explicitly stated, save for the date and location.

Sure enough, former students of Greenhaven flocked to the event, some out of excitement for Death Insurance, but most of them just looking to have a convenient mini-high school reunion. Anyone who tried to talk to the band on stage though was met with a stony silence, and eventually people decided it must have been part of a gimmick not to speak until the show started.

“This is more people than I would have expected,” said Wally in his Al Gore mask.

“But how can we be sure Fat Rasterd will show?” asked Trey.

“He’ll show. He clicked ‘Attending’ on the event online,” said Reggie. “He would have clicked ‘Maybe’ if he didn’t care.”

“Yeah, and Fat Rasterd was always down with the local music scene,” said Orson.

“He’ll show up,” said Jake with confidence, wearing a horse mask.

“Yeah, and nobody’s pulling the curtain on us this time,” declared Reggie.

It was eight years ago that a young Mr. Raster had been put in charge of organizing the Greenhaven High School Battle of the Bands. He had been ambitious in what he could do with the event, inviting eight bands to play, alternating between two stages set up in the auditorium. He had however poorly calculated how much time to allot to each band. Death Insurance was the first band to play, and when they were about to play their final and best song of the night, another student informed them that their time was up.

The band had of course been practicing for months for this very show though. To not play their final song would have been like writing a book and stopping at the last chapter. They ultimately decided to play the song anyway and allow themselves to be disqualified, but Mr. Raster would not have any of that. Reggie could still remember the moment that Mr. Raster closed the curtain on the band, moving faster than his blubbery body should have ever allowed, before Death Insurance had even played a single note. And to add insult to injury, there ended up being so much leftover time in the night that the bands who followed were able to play much longer than Death Insurance ever had. They finished in a measly third place after being robbed of their closing song. Mr. Raster never issued an apology, let alone acknowledged a mistake had been made. It was a critical injustice for which there would finally be retribution.

“So, the owner of the Dodo, is he in on this, or what?” asked Wally.

“No. As far as he knows, my name is Rolando, and I emailed him our old demos claiming they were our newest stuff,” said Reggie. “He loved it, of course. Oh, did everyone remember to leave their phones at home?”

They all nodded.

“Great. Now, as far as alibis, before Jake picked me up, I called a friend in my building. I told him I was pretty sick and asked if he could bring me some Aspirin, but he couldn’t because he’s not in town right now, which I secretly already knew. But now he’ll vouch for me that I’m home sick as a dog in bed. There are also like three more layers to that alibi, but I thought that was the cleverest part.

“I’ve helped each of you craft your alibis too, except for Jake, because, you know. Frankly, it’s probably best if we don’t repeat them to each other. Plausible deniability and all that.”

“Cool, so, uh, what’s there left to do?” asked Orson.

“I’m just praying that Fat Rasterd’s every bit the tub of lard he always was,” sighed Trey. Then he added very strangely, “I have a freaking kid!”

“Yep, and he has a dad who takes care of business!” said Reggie, patting him on the back.

“Hey, Rolando, you gotta start in the next couple minutes,” shouted a nearby stagehand.

Reggie gave him a thumbs-up.

Orson sat down at his ragtag drum set, and the others picked up their respective bargain bin instruments. Reggie gripped his microphone like a lowered sword, staring intently at the steps that led down to the basement. His nerves had become bolts of lightning, but he was positive Mr. Raster would show, coming down the stairs one wobbly, heavy step at a time.

Such nerves were warranted though. Reggie’s bandmates had no doubt that this Revenge Show was a gamble from every angle. Granted, none of them really needed the show to happen, at least not as fundamentally as Reggie. But despair had a way of finding the smallest holes in a person and ripping them into something wide and awful. This show was nothing more than a scapegoat against the despair, one concentrated effort to mend what was otherwise unsalvageable. All the night still required was Mr. Raster.

But he was not there.

“So, thanks for coming out tonight,” said Reggie into the microphone, but his voice came out distorted and digitized. He had a device for altering his voice hidden under his mask, so he sounded like a robot. The audience, while puzzled, still cheered and applauded. “You guys probably came out here expecting a reunion show from a band you might’ve liked once upon a time. But I don’t know anything about that. I’m just a guy who really loves music, and who wanted to share some great music with you. It’s not always easy to get what you want, though. Sometimes the simplest things are the things you can never get right.”

The audience was even more confused now, but Reggie’s bandmates were eager to hear what nonsensical thing would come out of him next.

“When you try your hardest, and it’s not good enough, what can you do? What am I supposed to do? Am I just supposed to let it go? Am I, am I just supposed to wipe the slate and start over? Is there a better ‘tomorrow’ that I just haven’t seen yet? That I just haven’t had the hope or imagination for?”

Reggie had been expecting to answer those rhetorical questions rather negatively, but once he had spoken them aloud, he was not so sure. He looked to his friends, who in spite of wearing comical masks did not seem so sure either. Reggie chuckled to himself.

“I guess we must look pretty silly right now,” he said to the audience.

Something that had lain hard and jagged inside him for so long suddenly started to soften, just a little. Reggie now understood what it was like to be the Grinch. He smiled to Orson, though, again, such details were indiscernible.

“Maybe,” mused Reggie, “we don’t need a Revenge Show tonight. Maybe we just—”

“Hey, there’s Raster!” said Jake.

“Get him!” screamed Reggie.

They threw their instruments to the ground and leapt off the stage like a pack of hyenas. Mr. Raster was mercifully even fatter than the last time they had seen him, and until now, he had been throwing up the horns in support of Death Insurance. Now, he and his gelatinous body recoiled, and rightfully so.

“Work the body! No head or groin shots!” reminded Reggie.

And then he took an unused folding steel chair and smashed it into Mr. Raster’s enormous gut. Trey took a 2×4 hunk of wood he had found on the street and belted the man in his side. Orson elbow dropped Mr. Raster right on the belly button, probably causing a ripple of fat at the area of collision, but that was all speculation on Orson’s part. Wally pounded on Mr. Raster with a series of raging hammerfists. Jake just stood at the side, looking around at nothing in particular. Bystanders mistook him for an enforcer on the brutality taking place, so they were afraid to risk his wrath by intervening.

On the face of it, it looked like Death Insurance was beating a defenseless fat man, and that would technically be true. But it was so much more than that. It was Orson’s goodbye to love lost. It was Trey’s protest against the current state of interest rates. It was Wally’s decree that the Trojan Man can have Carly, and that she needs to get out of his apartment, let alone out of his parents’ guestroom nine blocks away. But for Reggie, it was mostly about beating up a defenseless fat man.

“Okay, that’s enough. Let’s get out of here!” Reggie said.

Death Insurance bolted up the stairs, out of the Dodo, and down the street, cheering and high-fiving each other the whole time.

“We did it! We did it!” said Reggie.

“I can’t believe we pulled off the Revenge Show!” said Orson.

“He was fatter than a pregnant pig! With all that cushioning, there’s no way we did any long-term damage,” chirped Trey, who had ditched his 2×4 back at the bar.

“A plan finally came together for once!” said Wally with a fist clenched triumphantly.

“That was fun,” said Jake.

“I’ll never forget you guys,” said Trey, patting whoever he could on the back, “but we can never talk to each other again. God forbid the cops ever pin this on me.”

“Don’t worry about it! Our alibis are titanium strong,” said Reggie, finally remembering to turn off his voice distortion device. “In fact, I almost feel bad for the guys I framed to take the fall for us.”

“You framed someone to take the fall?” gasped Wally.

“Well, not framed framed. Just some people that plausibly could be responsible, given a series of circumstances that I personally orchestrated over the past two years,” shrugged Reggie.

“That’s despicable,” said Orson.

“And yet comforting,” added Trey.

They all agreed in silence.

“Well, uh, Jake’s gonna dispose of the masks and gloves and what not, in a variety of preselected locations of mine,” said Reggie. “So, looks like we’re done here.”

“I gotta say, eight years ago, when Reggie said, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we put together one more show, but instead of playing we just ran offstage and beat the fat out of Fat Rasterd?’ I never thought we’d actually do it,” said Orson.

“No kidding. But wow was it satisfying!” said Wally with jazz hands.

“I feel like a new man,” said Trey.

“Yeah, and you know what? That Mr. Raster is alright,” said Reggie.

And with that, they went their separate ways off into the winter night. Reggie and Orson would continue being friends, but the rest of them never spoke again. They would always be quietly united though, under the banner of Death Insurance, and by that fateful night where all wrongs in the world were finally righted.

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