But what really startled him was that Ronald McDonald was there at all -- in an In-N-Out! Wasn't there some kind of hamburger loyalty oath? Was it even legal for the god of one burger chain to enter and relieve himself in the restroom of another? Even living on a faraway planet, Ned had picked up enough from tuning into TV and radio to know that hamburger worship was an integral part of American society. And he was surprised that different sects could intermingle so easily.
"Want a hit?" asked Ronald, his eyes broken-glass glittery underneath the badly spackled clown makeup.
When Ned didn't answer, Ronald McDonald shrugged. Ignoring Ned, he fired his lighter and held it to the tip of his glass pipe, exclaiming, just before he inhaled, "Beam me up, Scotty!"
It was then that Ned understood. Ronald McDonald was a space traveler, just like him! He was so happy and relieved he almost cried. Because Ronald had a way out. A way back! All the clown divinity had to do was fire up his magic blowgun, take a deep breath, and transport would commence.
When Ronald saw him looking, he nodded, smoke pouring from his nostrils, and shoved the tubular space mechanism into Ned's mouth. The clown picked what looked like a speck of Kitty Litter from his polka-dot pocket and jammed it into the pipe's business end. Then he fired it up, took an unsteady step backward and watched the mangy boy from Uranus inhale with such force that the mirror flew off the men's-room wall.
Five minutes later, when Nancy saw Ned stumble out of the In-N-Out, the first thing she noticed was the size of his head. The second was the strange, demented smile on his lips. The third was the glurping, purple, lightly furred vagina between his eyes.
"N-n-nancy," Ned mumbled, barely audible at first, then louder and louder, in a voice that resembled nothing so much as Jiminy Cricket. "N-n-nancy, there's something I have to tell you."
Too stunned to reply, Nancy simply gaped at him, squinting, until she realized that the Jiminy Cricket voice wasn't coming from his mouth. It was -- she had to rub her eyes before she could believe it -- it was coming from the mini-vagina on his forehead.
"N-n-nancy," he repeated finally, "c-c-c-ome closer."
And when she did, leaning in until she could feel the heat wafting off his skin like steam, Ned grabbed her, pulled her head next to his, and whispered, "I just want you to know, I'm really Jesus Christ, and I've come to save you."
"Naw, muthasucka! I'm a.k.a. Hey-soos Christo Johnson, booger! It's tyyyymmmme to hit the bricks!"
Nancy blinked and ran for the car. A stogy-smokin', muscular Brutha with pompadour snatched Ned by the shoulders, lifted him off the pavement, and deposited him in the nearest Dumpster as if he were a basketball. An unzipped Italian leather jacket revealed his hairless chest and inny. He wore true faded denims, cowboy boots and had a swagger that wouldn't quit.
She tried to drive off, but the Brutha took the wheel butt first. "Scoot over, Sweetcakes -- I'm drivin'."
She scrambled for the passenger's side. "Is -- is this what's known as a carjacking?" She was grateful to be rid of freaky imbecile Ned, but gratitude did not include robbery.
"I see you're a new arrival. Appropriation's da word. Welcome to Southern California. Y'all will never leave."
He drove a beeline south, the obsidian towers of Universal City glowing on the dark horizon, taking the Lankershim entrance north off the 101.
There were the golden arches behind and the golden arches ahead.
Nancy took in the lights, gasped at the palm-blessed beauty of the Hollywood night. He busted the radio, adjusted for high bass on the rear speakers, pulled a Curtis Mayfield cassette from the inner reaches of his jacket and slipped it into the tape deck.
"Kick back, Sweetcakes, and I'll get you hip."
"If you fancy. Rip Johnson, at your service. Ex-star of the Chitlin Circuit, formerly of Nantucket, now nouveau rapper down for the ducats. As Fate has so deemed it, and as I've long dreamed it, we meet at last on this road to success." He popped the ashtray and dropped ash.
"Pul-leeezze! I'm suffering smoke inhalation and lung cancer."
"Oxygen it is!" He lowered the window and flicked. The spiraling stogy shot through the window of a passing Nissan. The driver lost control and careened into the center divider. There was a five-car pileup in the left lane. "This town's a bitch when the air conditioning fails."
"Haven't you heard? Kidnapping's a felony."
"Darlin'! I'm jes borrowin' yah a taste. Think o' me as yo' tour guide -- this bein' yo' first night in L.A. 'n' all."
"Besides, aren't we goin' in the wrong direction?"
"I's fulla shortcuts -- and we's takin' the Long Short Way -- 405 south. Straight to the Westside jungle! Grab yo' wighat, Nancy! Parrrrr-tay!"
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