The Douglas Anvil™ Shower
(careless destruction and its terrible waves)
He’s really done it this time. His laugh rolled out like giddy cavalry. Fool. This contract will be framed in my memory forever. Creative control – his “children” are mine. Emil Douglas rubbed his sweaty, manicured hands with an uncontainable elation at what sat before him – a ruffled paper edge, sliced through by blunt fingers, the letter sprawling out below. He always wasted characters, Wallace. He only got the job because better writers died, always knew I could do better. Look back into envelope. Something else? A new script! Ha! Vindictive, jealous and successful Douglas would forever relish teeming through another man’s toils and spoils, reorganising them for his own uninspired vision. He did it with a treacle cackle that rolled sickeningly over his deceits, and casual gestures that spelled betrayal. He was a good man; you could rely on him, so people said as their erroneous impression of him bubbled out through their manipulated mouths. It was exactly what he wanted them to think.
Let’s read this bile. More bullshit from the little red barn; that stupid dog pining on and slowing the action. She’ll be the first to go, it’s about time we got the cow in; I said that from the start. Wallace and Douglas’ visions clashed with equally honed horns from their very first meeting. Despite Douglas’ propensity towards deeply black coffee, much like Wallace, he made grisly efforts to make sure his draught arrived sodden with milk; an exercise purely in stand-offish conflict. Petey climbing the barn. What kind of action is this? No, Petey climbs the barn, and instead of falling and learning his lesson he should stupidly persevere. He’s supposed to be an idiot, right? This was the kind of under-rating and assessment of character Douglas had fallen into. He paid no thought for the portrayal of real emotion and aspiration (something surely essential for a child to be exposed to), and instead placed emphasis on slapstick jibes and unconsidered violence. Cheap laughs, rattling out through deteriorating tunnels free from the experimental graffiti of true experience.
Douglas had no inner creative fire that would lead him to mould characters or situations purely for one’s own pleasure. He was a parasite by nature, noticing a good thing in Wallace’s work and desperately wanting to take over for his own profit. People like this are all too prevalent. Unfortunately, so too are people like Wallace, who will graciously allow such perversion of their personal archives.
Wallace was not the first, the last or even the only one at the time to receive Douglas’ treatment. Douglas’ cold reverse engineering of these matters was widespread; so widespread that his involvement in the growth of several cartoons (and occasionally live-action children’s entertainment) would grow into legend. His uncaring annotations developed into the genocide that was to be known as the Douglas Anvil™ Shower. The endlessly endearing Sally O’Malley was merely its first victim…
Petey surprised himself with the ease of which he skipped from rafter to ladder to wooden walkway. Making his way, he bounded up to the top with unadulterated glee as Sally sat, and watched, and feared. The rung on which his meaty hoof was to slip, or so Wallace had originally written, repaired itself with no knowledge to Petey. The woodworm ruined ladder switched to a perfect metallic path with no conceivable harm. This change blossomed as Douglas put quickly scrawled pen to Wallace’s paper. He began scribbling out words with careless resolve, replacing them with his own valueless sentences. Even the insightful and learned Sally had no feeling that both her and her companion’s dignity, strength and resonance had greatly diminished in the time it took the sticky rollerball biro in Douglas’ hand to desecrate their modest wonders. This amount of time was horrifyingly short.
He reached his goal with an ungainly, inappropriate success. Petey’s entire ethos as a thematic vessel for children was the lessons he learned from his idiocy – this was the charm that led so many to forgive him for his imposed dull-mindedness (not least of all his faithful Sally). Douglas sunk a rusted nail through the skull of this endearment, gutting out any magic allure and manipulating it into loud, insulting warfare. Petey stood atop the roof with all the pride of the first moon-bound astronaut pioneers. In this pride he too thrust, with all the grave determination of Douglas’ pen, his flagpole – born out of ACME’s treasured ether as required – into the soft, permeable wood of the roof. His face, printed upon it, flapped and wavered from the thin cloth in the breeze.
With its penetration came a crack, so cacophonous and shrill, that screamed out across the painted horizon. Up sprang Sally’s now unabashedly pricked ears and, somewhere rooted within her carefully weaved brush strokes, she felt deep fear. This was not scripted. Nevertheless, it gripped her as strong as her written need to stay seated. Lonely and disturbed, her conflict within those final seconds of her final episode was known to no one but herself. Its tragedy was defined wholly by its concealment. Therefore, if you are of the disposition, shed a tear for these tumultuous last frames of Sally’s short, warming existence. She felt such terror, bafflement and dark dichotomies far deeper and strong than most of our conviction free mankind; does she not deserve at least a gulp of understanding?
The crack that preceded and initiated her fear was the sound of cause and effect rumblings from the barn’s wood creaking inexplicably into two, sourced by the indent of Petey’s now ghastly, premonitory flag. Thunderous lines and angles shot through the bark that held up the barn as its woody sinew was torn apart, creaking with an imposing moan of pain. The entire structure collapsed below him, and above Sally.
Petey hung, stupidly, in the air for one or two seconds with no grounding beneath him before he fell. This was standard practice for a sizable fall in Petey’s dimension and, hidden to viewers of this despicable scene, it gave him time to look down on his friend below – obscured by a scattering of wood-dust, severed rafters and other miscellaneous debris. In this time he knew her perceived death was imminent and inevitable, and he believed with guilt that he was the cause. Knowing nothing of Douglas’ wry handiwork, he shouldered the blame with admirable determination. In that very moment before an idea of gravity finally took hold on him, he pinned Sally permanently to his heart – a badge he would proudly, painfully wear for all episodes to come.
Once the rubble cleared, and it had all found a resting point on the imposed floor, Petey shook himself from his injury-free fall as only an animated character could. Amongst the dotted destruction Petey could see only mist, but in it the beautiful shadow of something living, moving. He ran towards it, trotters clip-clopping in rubato rhythm, with a sound distant and frightening to the inexplicably still animated Sally O’Malley. Laid centred, almost still, she coughed and choked on pine-sprinkled air. When Petey reached her he found, now through the clearing smog, that somehow where Sally sat was the only place free from floored flotsam. She then stood slowly, merely stunned and without scratch or wound visible. Sighing, dust pumped from her lungs in a muddied cloud. Petey exhaled deep too, with relief, and his eyes widened in a new boldness. Their speech here ached at them. If they could have chosen their broadcast words, the lines Douglas had written for them would have come into no consideration.
“You filthy pig! I warned you something like this would happen.”
“Petey, I’m scared… I feel…”
“Well shucks Sal, I’m sorry a-huh! At least no-one got hurt!”
“I feel it too Sal, I dunno what just happened thar…”
With squishy timbre comic timing, an ether-borne Anvil™ spewed from the creative nothing above, with whistling wind atmosphere as it sped downwards, target firmly set. Petey fought every animated urge to stay rooted, wishing with all of his ink to move forward and hold her. Alas, as the rushed pens of a group of artists scribbled out his movements, he stay stood away from her – an asinine, expectant smile on his face. The Anvil™ rained down, closer and louder, the whistling raging. In his present, where he replayed these scenes from the past, the whistle merged to create sickening harmony with the now violent screech of ACME’s klaxon. Expecting death in his now while reliving Sally’s in his past, he found himself between two times – a place of raw comprehension and no contemplation.
It was so wet and meaty in its texture that even the intangible sky, along with the ground beneath it, rumbled with epileptic order. Sally ceased to be, her final line crushed under cold, painted metal. As Petey smiled against his will at the irony to the end of her final episode, his very heart (if he ever had one drawn) began to bleed from every orifice at the loss of his partner. When his theme tune crashed out over that dei ex machina and, for the first time, Douglas’ name faded into credit along with Wallace, he knew he had gained his first father.
He didn’t respect him. He hated him, resented him. With that thought, he found himself launched with spiralling, stinging reality into his present – pulled jarringly out of his memories back to the stark reality of his own death-judgement. The klaxon had ceased… Nothing had yet happened… A concise, rhythmic bleep chattered… The Seasoned Immortals of ACME sat in their sealed office with wry smiles and perplexed eyebrows…
No… Wallace’s eyes scanned the amended script he had just received. They widened and leaked with an animated ferocity.