who lost their lives to the blood-thirsty, coffee-crazed Kermit. Kermit was ultimately
These are the pinnacles of achievement by man on this earth, but they are like children shitting their pants in the developmental sandbox, when compared to the greatest of achievements by humans to date.
The beloved coffee company was forced to liquidate its assets due to anti-trust lawsuits, a handful of first degree murder convictions, and the fact that Kermit basically slaughtered all of Wilkins' competition. Accordingly, it is now impossible to purchase this elixir from your local supermarket. But fear not! Listed below are the ingredients and instructions you need to create a makeshift Wilkins for your every waking moment.
"The Legend of Wilkins and Wontkins" by Winslow Leach
The television studio was filled to capacity. The seven hundred audience members chattered excitedly in their seats, anticipating the show about to begin in less than five minutes. The studio was much smaller than it appeared on home screens, and the stage, which seemed so vast, had just enough room for a simple oak desk to the left, a comfortable couch immediately to its right, and "home base," the spot center where he would deliver his opening monologue. He? Who was he? Only the star of the most popular late night talk show in the country, Buzzy Laffs. Sixty minutes of comedy, variety, talk, and the occasional appearance of Bonkers the Manic-Depressive Clown, who wasn't really a regular; Bonkers would show up, usually unexpectedly, whenever he was in the mood, which wasn't very often.
For the past seven and a half years, Buzzy reigned over Late Night Laffs, which aired live from New York City, 11 pm to midnight, Monday through Friday. Audiences couldn't get enough of his wacky, irreverent and insane humor. Buzzy could sing and dance (his theme song was "I've Got No Strings" from Walt Disney's Pinocchio); he could pratfall like nobody's business, flopping all over the tiny set. This, however, was nothing compared to his real talent, his biggest claim to fame: acidic, venemous put-downs, reserved especially for his guests.
It should be noted that Buzzy could have had the cream of the entertainment industry on Late Night Laffs with a simple flick of the wrist. Buzzy could care less about the cream of the entertainment industry. He wanted C-list celebs, and C-list celebs only, those unfortunate souls whose proverbial fifteen minutes had long been eclipsed. Forgotten "stars" from ancient reality series; disgraced former sports figures; actors who had been groomed for stardom, but never lived up to their potential. Buzzy had them all. To him, knocking someone down who was already down, even lower, was simply fun. It amused him, and it amused his audience. Many a guest had been reduced to anger and/or tears (sometimes both, which was all the better) after Buzzy's vicious attacks.
Interviewed shortly after a particularly nasty show where Bonkers dumped a sack full of flour and maple syrup on her head, a once-famous supermodel was asked why she bothered to appear, when she knew full well what was in store. "I need the exposure," was her sad reply, which could have been echoed by nearly anyone who was unfortunate to make Buzzy's list.
Meanwhile, Buzzy literally laughed all the way to the bank; he was well known for chortling uncontrollably, weeping tears of joy as he made his latest deposit. Not bad for a creature carved out of foam.
In interviews, Buzzy Laffs claimed he could never remember the name of his creator. "I remember not being here one day," he told countless journalists, "and the next day, BAM! Here I am! Break out the sodee pop and pork rinds!"
In truth, Buzzy was built ten years ago by master puppet maven Merv "Magic Fingers" Malone, host and chief puppeteer of a daily morning children's program, imaginatively titled The Daily Morning Children's Program. The star of the show was Pucky, a cuddly, optimistic walrus, who lived in a colorful playhouse, and whose harshest explicative was "oh, golly gee!" Buzzy was added to the cast midway through the second season as an antagonist next door neighbor, the sour to Pucky's sweet.
The humanoid was carved out of pale blue foam; he had a pair of crazed, googly eyes, that spun around and around every time he moved his head, a long pink nose (more of a snout, really) and a head full of bushy, unkempt black hair. His most prominent feature was an enormous mouth that was always yapping. The puppet was clad in a dark, three-piece business suit, which was two sizes too big for his slender frame.
Buzzy Laffs was a hit as soon as he made his debut in the episode "Pucky's Drums," in which Pucky decided to take up the drums. His first line was "what's all that freakin' noise?" barging into Pucky's playhouse, and demanding the walrus shut up. The idea was to make the program a bit easier for adults to swallow, when forced to watch with their toddlers and/or pre-schoolers.
Fan mail began pouring in, mostly by children barely able to write, asking for a picture "of the funny guy with the big mouth"; Merv Malone had color photographs made of Buzzy raising his fist threateningly, and accompanied each photo with a scrawled, comical threat to his fans.
At the peak of his Daily Morning Children's Program fame, Buzzy recorded a best-selling rap album, Buz Z. Raps for the Kiddies, that included the top-of-the-charts hit, "Better Eat Your Broccoli (Or I'll Punch You in the Face)." The album went gold, as Buzzy found new fans in teen and young adult audiences.
Alas, Buzzy's fame didn't last. Almost a year after he was introduced, Buzzy Laffs incurred the wrath of parental groups, who found his brand of comedy "too adult," "controversial," and "potentially dangerous." Merv Malone explained to the public that yes, Buzzy was a villain, but he always received his comeuppance. This wasn't enough. Sponsors began pulling out. Angry mail was a daily occurrence. It became too much for the gentle Merv, who reluctantly had Buzzy run over and killed by a speeding bus. He had no other option. Lose Buzzy or lose the show.
After his final episode had been shot, Buzzy was unceremoniously tossed into a trunk with other discarded puppets, presumably never again to see the light of day. But Buzzy had ambition. He had a taste of the limelight, and wanted more. Besides, being booted off the sugary kid's show was a blessing in disguise. He was too hip to entertain kiddies. His time would come again. Oh yes. His time would come...
Blinding light penetrated the trunk, as it was roughly forced open.
"Pleh!" cried a mysterious voice, slamming the lid.
Buzzy Laffs, a prisoner here for almost a month, sat confused and somewhat startled at the abrupt intrusion.
A few moments later, the creaky lid was opened again.
"What is dat vile stench?" asked a strange voice.
"Sorry," replied Buzzy without missing a beat, "I didn't have time to splash on my Old Spice this morning."
Forcefully yanked from the trunk, Buzzy found himself staring into the somewhat glazed, dead eyes of a creepy-looking fellow wearing a trenchcoat and fedora.
"Buzzy Laffs!" exclaimed the stranger.
"In the foam," said Buzzy.
The stranger let out a loud guffaw. "Just like on da telly-vision!"
"Uh...who are you?" asked Buzzy, starting to feel the hairs on his head rise in fright.
"Da name's Lefty," said the stranger. "I'm a woikin' man by trade, an' I just wanna tell youse: I never miss Da Daily Mornin' Children's Program. I even belong to da fan club, and got an autentic Pucky da Walrus pin! Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!"
"You came here just to tell me that?"
"Naw, naw," said Lefty. "I was moitified when youse got hit by dat bus. I taught you was dead fer sure!"
"Well, as Mark Twain said," replied Buzzy, "accounts of my death have been greatly exaggerated."
"Who's dat?" asked Lefty, confused. "A friend of yers?"
Buzzy sighed. "Can you please put me down? I'm perfectly capable of standing on my own two feet."
Lefty let go of Buzzy; Buzzy immediately crumpled to the floor.
"Sorry," said Buzzy. "Been awhile."
"Want me ta give youse a hand?"
"No...no, you've done enough for me, Righty."
With great effort, Buzzy slowly stood up. He was an inch or so taller than Lefty. For some reason, this comforted him. The odd character didn't seem as menacing now.
"How did you get in here anyway?" asked Buzzy. "This place is tighter than Fort Knox."
"I jimmied a window," said Lefty. "Anudder one 'a my specialties."
"So...you have a puppet fetish or something? You here to make off with Sweet Sandy or Merry Muffy?"
"I'm glad ya asked," said Lefty. "No. I'm here...fer youse."
"Look pal," said Buzzy, hovering over the shady salesman, "I'm not into--"
"SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" hissed Lefty. "Get yer mind outta da gutter. I'm here ta bring youse back into da spotlight!"
"Are you a fairy godmother?" asked an awed Buzzy.
Lefty smacked Buzzy across the face. "Who ya callin' a fairy?" he sneered. "Anudder crack like dat, an' I walk!"
A stunned Buzzy reeled from the blow, his eyes spinning. Normally if he received such treatment, he would whack Pucky or one of the other "cuddly" denizens of The Daily Morning Children's Program with a frying pan to the gut, or a rolling pin to the head. But there was something about Lefty that chilled Buzzy; he couldn't quite put his finger on it, but Lefty seemed like the type of fellow who would stab you for a nickel, and not think twice.
"I've been trying to fly this coop since I was put in that trunk," remarked Buzzy, rubbing his sore face.
"I bet youse have," said Lefty, "and I sympathize wit ya. See, I was once a television star. Had my own show on public television. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight! Everybody knew Lefty. I was considered da Beatles of da 'oily nineteen seventies, except I was one guy, an' da Beatles were tree--or four, I forget. But den people started callin' me a bad influence. Kin youse imagine? A handsome guy like me? As soon as da complaints started, my *** was history, and my showbiz career came to an abrupt end. Yeah, I tried auditionin' fer movies like Da Godfodder Part Two and Rocky, but nobody knew who I was!" Lefty sighed. "Da public has a short memory, believe me, kid, and I wanna help ya get back on da air before da next flavor of da month comes around."
"Are you for real?" asked Buzzy.
"How many ways do I gotta say it? I wanna manage you!"
"I'm--I'm honored...how many people have you managed before?"
"You're da foist."
Buzzy stared at Lefty. "You're kidding."
"About what? You'd be my foist client."
Buzzy let out one of his patented giggles and whacked Lefty on the back. The salesman scrunched his face in anger.
"You don't know anything about management!"
"So? It's woith givin' a shot. Seems dere's plenny of managers out dere who don't know what dere doin'. One more crum-bum won't make a difference."
"What do you have in mind?"
"I haven't taught dat far ahead yet."
"How about my own show?"
Lefty mulled this over for a moment or two. "Yeah, I guess dat'll be all right."
"Can I dance?"
"I dunno. Can you?"
Buzzy put his hand over his face. "No...I'm asking you if I can dance."
"On the show," said an exasperated Buzzy.
"Oh. Sure, why not?"
"It'll be yer show..."
"And maybe interview celebrities?"
"Yeah, that--" Lefty stopped, and began fidgiting. "Er...well...ya see...I, uh...I don't know many--any--celebrities..."
"Wait a minute," Buzzy brightened. "What about C-listers?"
"You know...celebs no one remembers anymore--like you, for instance!"
Lefty smiled. "I tink I kin do dat! Yeah...wrangle in a buncha has-beens whose careers are on da skids! Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight!"
"Fantastic," shouted Buzzy, as he literally jumped for joy. "First of all, these folks will be so pathetic, there's no chance they can upstage me! And secondly--I can make fun of them, and not feel the least bit guilty about it."
"Dat's da spirit!" Lefty thrust out his hand. "Shake."
"Don't we have a contract?"
"Nope. Don't trust 'em. A simple handshake will seal da deal."
Buzzy was about to take Lefty's hand when he suddenly remembered something. For a humanoid with no brains, Buzzy Laffs was pretty smart.
"How much will you take out of my salary?"
"Ninety-five poicent," said Lefty.
Buzzy did a quadruple take.
Lefty's face turned grave. "Do I look like I'm joking, Smiley? I take ninety-five poicent. No exceptions. Yer lucky I'm lettin' youse keep da odder five!"
Thus with a simple handshake, the career of Buzzy Laffs began in earnest. On reflection, the loudmouthed puppet wasn't bothered that he was being cheated out of his earnings by the shady Lefty (who never actually told his client what he did for a living); he craved fame much more. Besides, as Lefty told him, "youse don't wanna be handlin' dat filthy green anyway. It's crawlin' wit goims."
As the new partners were heading out of the studio (via the basement window Lefty crawled into), Buzzy stopped by Pucky's dressing room. The adorable little walrus was curled up in his bed, clad in a long white nightgown and sleeping cap. Buzzy shook Pucky, rousing him out of his slumber.
"I'm outta here," said Buzzy.
Pucky bolted out of bed.
"Did you ask Merv if you could go?" asked Pucky in his dopey Beaky Buzzard voice.
"Nah, he'll never miss me."
"Oh, golly gee, I dunno Buzzy," said Pucky. "I heard him on the phone this afternoon. He wants us to accompany him to the White House for a special command performance before the president. The Daily Morning Children's Program is his favorite."
Buzzy smashed Pucky across the face with a metal bucket.
"Kid, I like yer style," beamed Lefty, putting an arm around his protege's shoulder. "Let's get some eats, yer treat, 'a course..."
Buzzy sat in his dressing room, staring into the mirror. Enough reflecting on the past. He had a show to do in less than two minutes. Who were the guests tonight? Wilby and Wonky? Some ancient puppet act that was apparently big in the late 1950s and early 60s. God, Buzzy hated puppets. His mood already dour, Buzzy would make sure the has-beens would receive a particularly nasty roasting over the coals, so painful and vicious, the two would scurry back into hibernation for another fifty years.
His producers had assembled a reel of some of Wiffle and Womble's most "memorable" moments, but Buzzy didn't bother to watch. He couldn't stomach seeing it twice in one evening. Bad enough he had to watch it on air. Probably more gag-inducing than Pucky offering sunshine and lollipops to his friends at the end of each Friday episode. Blah. Disgusting.
Buzzy looked at the clock.
"...and here he is, a fellow known to give circus clowns nightmares...Buuuuuuuuuuuuzzzzzzzzzyyyyyyyyy Laaaaaaaaaaafffffffffs..."
The audience rose to their feet, applauding, cheering, whistling and shouting wildly. The stage curtains began wrestling frantically, as if someone was desperately trying to escape from a deadly trap. The curtain schtick was one of Buzzy's tried-and-true gimmicks, a guarantee for cheap laughs, and tonight was certainly no exception.
The man of the hour burst through the curtains, dancing toward center stage as the band played a smoking version of "I Got No Strings." Buzzy stood at home base, smiling at the crowd. His crowd. After a minute basking in the love, Buzzy comically looked at his watch, as if to say, we only have sixty minutes, and the clock is already ticking. This made the audience laugh and applaud even louder. Feigning exasperation, Buzzy started for the curtains. As he was about to make his exit, he spun on his heel, and trotted center again, executing a perfect pratfall, which led straight into a somersault, causing Buzzy to land on his rear. Deafening laughter and cheers.
Buzzy stood, brushing himself off. He looked off camera to his longtime announcer, the Muppet Newsman, and winked. Then Buzzy held up his hand. Immediately every noise in the studio ceased. The audience was silent, as was the band.
"Abbott and Costello...Laurel and Hardy...Martin and Lewis...Chris Farley and David Spade..." began Buzzy. "Comedy teams for the ages. Sadly, none of them are here tonight, due to the unfortunate fact that most of them are dead. However, I would prefer interviewing the corpse of Oliver Hardy this evening, rather than waste an hour with the two unknown meatballs who are here," Buzzy said.
"I was going to do all of you a great favor, out of the kindness of my heart," he continued. "Before air, I wanted to hand each and every one of you good people a clothespin to clamp over your noses when my guests come out. Do you realize how bad a moldy, soiled, rotten old puppet stinks? How about two moldy, soiled, rotten old puppets? The clothespin idea was mine, but my manager Lefty shot it down, claiming it would be too 'expensive.' So I do apologize..."
Buzzy motioned to the band, and they played a jazzy tune as the host crossed to his desk and sat down. He held up his hand, and the music stopped.
Buzzy picked up a slim set of index cards on his desk, and began reading flatly, without any emotion.
Wilkins and Wontkins began their reign of terror and insanity in the D.C. area starting in 1957, as the mascots for Wilkins Coffee. Their hilarious, offbeat, violent and slapstick ads appealed to adults and children who--
Buzzy looked up. "Okay, who's responsible for these idiot cards? 'Hilarious'...'offbeat'...'violent'..." Buzzy looked offstage to his stage manager, standing in the wings. "Who made these? Huh? The new kid we hired last week? He's fired! No, I'm not kidding. Go back and tell him to be out of the building in exactly five minutes, or I'm calling the police. Go, you old geezer, or I'll fire you as well!"
The stagehand scurried off to find the index card writer.
Buzzy leaned forward with a menacing look, addressing the audience.
"If it wasn't for you lovely people, I wouldn't be here today. You made my career, and I appreciate it greatly, more than words can say. But if anyone--and I mean anyone--makes so much as a peep when those two clowns come out, you will immediately be ejected from the studio by one of my bodyguards and thrown out into the street." Buzzy glared at the band, who were nervously fidgiting with their instruments. "That goes for you guys too. Not one note! We don't want these two has-beens thinking they've earned the right to applause and music."
Buzzy slumped back in his chair, and played with his tie for several seconds. "It now gives me the displeasure of bringing out tonight's guests, Will-he or Won't-he," he said, making no effort to be upbeat or peppy. "Just come out losers..."
Wilkins and Wontkins walked onstage, greeted by an eerie silence. Wilkins, a pale green, perpetually smiling creature with an egg-shaped head, was followed by his dour, unsmiling blob of a companion. Buzzy glowered at them.
Wilkins sat on the couch, facing Buzzy. Wontkins climbed up, and sat next to his partner.
Then...a muffled sneeze from someone in the audience.
"WHO WAS THAT?" screamed Buzzy. "I asked you lemmings a question! Who broke the silence I requested? My silence!"
"I got him, boss," said Sweetums, one of Buzzy's massive, hairy bodyguards. Sweetums stomped into the audience, walked halfway through a row, and picked up a terrified Kermit the Frog by the neck.
"Here he is!" bellowed Sweetums, holding the amphibian up for all to see.
"GET HIM OUTTA HERE!"
The giant beast galumphed out of the studio with the disruptive frog.
After another minute of silence, Buzzy turned to Wilkins and sneered "Well...you don't reek...much. I'll give you that."
Wilkins and Wontkins looked at each other.
A few more seconds passed before Wilkins cleared his throat and spoke up. "Wilkins and Wontkins."
"What?" asked Buzzy, confused.
"I'm Wilkins, and he's Wontkins. You called us--"
"Look pal, I don't care what I called you. Consider yourself lucky to be on this show!" Buzzy picked a piece of lint out of his mouth. "Not that I care, but one of you wanna say anything meaningful?" Buzzy looked at Wilkins. "How did you and the blob over there meet, for instance?"
Wilkins turned to his friend.
"Wanna field this one, partner?"
"No!" said Wontkins, gruffly.
Wilkins pulled out a gun and shot Wontkins in the face. Wontkins slid off the couch, onto the floor.
"Takes care of one problem," said Buzzy. "This could be our shortest show in history."
Wilkins looked at Buzzy. "I'll give ya the full scoop. We--"
"Hold that thought," said Buzzy. "One of my producers made a reel of some of your...er...'memorable' commercials." Buzzy reacted as if he had just swallowed poison when he said memorable. "I think we'll roll that first. I need a little nap."
A screen rolled slowly up from behind Buzzy's desk. Wilkins did a frightened double-take.
"Yes, this is called modern technology," said Buzzy condescendingly. "I realize you're from the Middle Ages, but this is the 21st century. Get used to it!"
The studio darkened, and the vintage commercials rolled.
Wilkins is pounding a hammer.
Wilkins: Boy, this hammer reminds me of Wilkins Coffee.
Wilkins: Because it always hits the spot!
Wilkins whacks Wontkins over the head with the hammer.
Wilkins sits on a can of Wilkins Coffee, aiming a cannon at Wontkins.
Wilkins: Okay buddy, what do you think of Wilkins Coffee?
Wontkins: I never tasted it!
Wilkins blows Wontkins away with a shot from the cannon; he turns cannon to the screen.
Wilkins: Now what do you think of Wilkins?
Wilkins and Wontkins at a table, playing poker.
Wontkins: I've got five aces, can you beat that?
Wilkins: I've got a can of Wilkins Coffee!
Wilkins shoots Wontkins.
Wilkins: Nothing beats Wilkins.
Wontkins is in the electric chair.
Wilkins: Any last requests? Like a cup of Wilkins Coffee?
Wilkins: You don't drink Wilkins?
Wilkins: How shocking.
Wilkins pulls the lever, electrocuting Wontkins.
Wontkins is seated in a barber's chair.
Wontkins: Gimme a close shave.
Wilkins: Do you drink Wilkins Coffee?
Wilkins (holding a large razor) My friend, this is gonna be the closest shave you ever had!
Wilkins: Care for a cup of Wilkins Coffee?
Wontkins: No, I don't like coffee.
Wilkins shoots Wontkins.
Wilkins (to camera) This has been a public service.
Wilkins and Wontkins in a tree.
Wontkins: Why are we climbing this tree?
Wilkins: For Wilkins Coffee.
Wontkins: I don't want any!
Wilkins kicks Wontkins off the tree.
Wilkins: It's autumn, and the nuts are beginning to fall.
Wilkins (wearing a trenchcoat and fedora) I can get you Wilkins Coffee for a price.
Wontkins: I wouldn't touch it!
Wilkins shoots Wontkins.
Wilkins: There's no future with an attitude like that!
[all commercials by Jim Henson]
To use an over-baked cliche, the studio was so quiet as soon as the clips ended, one could hear two million angels tap dancing on the head of a pin. Wilkins moved his gaze from the screen to Buzzy as the lights came up.
The talk show host was slumped over, facedown on his desk, snoring loudly. Wilkins did a double-take. The humanoid was actually sleeping!
For perhaps the first time in his professional life, Wilkins felt genuine fear...his worst nightmare come true...to be live, on national television, without any prepared material.
A pencil on Buzzy's desk was so close to Wilkins, he'd easily be able to reach over and grab it. Thank god!
Wilkins's first thought was to fling the pencil at Buzzy. That would be too obvious. Plus, he thought, it would make him look like a cold-hearted, cruel and insensitive monster to the studio and home audiences, and that was the last thing he wanted (guess he forgot about shooting his partner point-blank in the face not five minutes ago).
Wilkins pushed the pencil. It slowly rolled across Buzzy's desk. When it came to the edge, it stopped for what seemed like an eternity, before it fell to the floor.
Buzzy jolted awake as soon as the pencil hit the stage. In the silent studio, it sounded as loud as two elephants clumsily attempting the tango.
"So what was it like being abducted by Elvis?" asked Buzzy, as if he had been grilling Wilkins the whole time. "Let me put it another way. What was worse? Sharing a house with Koko on The Real World, or being abducted by Elvis?"
Wilkins stared at Buzzy.
"What?" asked Buzzy.
"I'm Wilkins...of Wilkins Coffee fame. We just watched a bunch of my commercials." Wilkins pointed to the intimidating screen.
"...coffee...oh!" said Buzzy, slapping the desk. "Yeah. Um...nice...but I prefer Sanka myself." Buzzy pushed a button behind his desk, and the screen descended. He peered over his desk.
"What's that?" he asked, looking at the corpse of Wontkins.
"My partner," said Wilkins.
"What's the matter with him?"
"I shot him."
"Was he trying to upstage me?"
"Er...yeah...that's exactly what he was tryin' to do."
"Justifiable homicide," said Buzzy. "Don't worry, my lawyers will take care of everything."
"What do you wanna do?" asked Buzzy.
"Well, I was invited on your show to talk about my career," said Wilkins.
"Aw, really?" said Buzzy with annoyance. "You didn't get to that yet?"
"Well," Buzzy sighed, "we have forty-five minutes left. I could do a one-man comedy sketch...but...I'm too **** tired. If you absolutely must--"
Wilkins sat up confidently, and crossed his legs in relaxation.
"The small town I grew up in could have been painted by Norman Rockwell," began Wilkins. "I had a normal childhood. I was a mischievous little guy, like most kids my age. But it was all harmless fun..."
"Put up your hands, old man, and keep 'em up!"
The kindly elderly gent's hands went up in fear. He was stunned. After almost fifty years of running Pops' General, this was the first time he was ever held up. He stared at the boy, wearing a child's cowboy hat and aiming a BB gun at his head.
"Don't you move!" said seven-year-old Wilkins. "I'm gonna fill my sack with goodies, and if you so much as blink...KA-POW!"
Wilkins began filling his pillowcase with every candy Pops had in stock, carefully moving around the store, the BB gun pointed at the old man with one hand, another hand picking up sweets and fresh-baked cookies.
"Where are the sour lemon balls?" demanded Wilkins.
"Haven't got any," croaked Pops.
"Liar!" accused Wilkins, shattering a now-empty jar with the butt of his gun. "I was here last week with my mother, and you had a whole jar full of 'em!"
"I'm--I'm out of them for the moment...you think you're the only kid in town who likes sour lemon balls?"
"Don't gimme lip, old man, or I'll give you an *** full of BBs!"
Wilkins snatched a handful of comic books without looking at their titles, and shoved them into his pillowcase.
"Sonny, you don't need to do this," said Pops, a quiver in his voice. "Your mama has an account here. You can take what you want now, and I'll just put it on her--"
"**** right I'll take what I want now," said Wilkins through a mouthful of string licorice. He picked up a can of yams and bagged it.
"Those are yams," said Pops, trying to be helpful.
"I know what they are! I happen to like yams. That okay with you?"
"Of course...growing young fella like you--"
"Shut up!" Wilkins backed slowly towards the door, still training the BB on Pops. "Sure you're not hoarding any sour lemon balls for yourself?"
"Somehow I don't believe you, Methuselah...if I come back in an hour, and see 'em sitting on the counter, not only will I swipe 'em...I'll make sure you never sell so much as a piece of jerky again!" Wilkins backed out of the door. "And keep your hands up for another fifteen minutes!" He whisked out.
That day ended up being Pops' last as a working man. He forgot how long he was supposed to keep his hands in the air, and spent a better part of the day with them up. Customers who came in asked what the gag was, but Pops refused to mention Wilkins, out of fear.
Later that night, his physician told Pops he was suffering from nervous exhaustion, and if he ever returned to his place of business, it would most likely kill him.
And so a beloved town landmark closed its doors permanently, thanks to a tiny punk who couldn't see over the counter.
Wilkins grew up in a tiny log cabin, just outside of town. He was raised by his Ma, a scruffy, shaggy hand puppet created sometime in the 1930s for a Snow White/Cinderella/Sleeping Beauty hybrid play for local children. She was the witch, a character so foul and rank, she turned mortals into wicked little elves with just a glance of her beady eyes. But despite her shrill voice and fearsome visage, she was a kindly, doting mother.
Unfortunately, most of her efforts were in vain. Wilkins was an uncontrollable, spoiled brat who almost always got his way. The only thing he cared about was himself; Ma was simply a source of money, toys and food.
Ah, food. The only food Wilkins consumed was candy. And more candy. He had a major sweet tooth, despite not having any actual teeth. Ma tried to serve the boy homemade meals, but he rejected everything and anything that didn't have sugar in it. A typical dinner went like this:
Wilkins: What's this junk?
Ma: Eat up, honey, it's good for you.
Wilkins: That's not what I asked, stupid.
Ma: It's Alfalfa with cream sauce! Yum yum!
Wilkins: Yum yum? Then you eat it, you old crone!
With that, Wilkins would toss the plate in Ma's face, and be out of the house before she wiped the cream from her eyes.
Despite her best intentions, Ma was a realist, and knew her son would either end up dead or in prison for life. If one were to tell her the extraordinary events that would soon change her son's life, she never would have believed it.
By now, Wilkins had graduated from a BB gun to a rifle. He had simply walked into a gun shop and asked to see a "nifty" rifle, along with some cartridges. He wanted to "test" it before "purchase." The clerk opened a door that led to an outdoor area where three wooden targets were set up. The clerk turned, and instantly changed from his natural color (magenta) to pale white. Wilkins was aiming the loaded rifle at him.
"I'm walkin' outta here with this, ya blubberhead," said Wilkins, imitating John Wayne. "One move and I do my target practice in here, pilgrim."
He moved behind the counter, opened the register, and took all the cash out. "Pleasure doin' business with you," said Wilkins, doffing an imaginary cap. And with that, the punk was out the door.
On the day that would change his life, Wilkins was roaming the backyard for something to shoot. He hadn't had any luck in almost--he stopped in his tracks. A large brown rabbit with a cotton tail, chewing grass not three feet away. Surging with adrenaline, Wilkins slowly raised his rifle, and took careful aim...
"Willlllllllllkie-pooh!" Ma called from the back door. The rabbit bolted, but the shock of Ma's voice caused Wilkins to inadvertently pull the trigger, sending a stray shot into the earth.
"Howdy Doody's just starting, sweetie," said Ma.
Wilkins scrunched his face in anger, and cursed. As his eyes frantically searched for the rabbit, something caught his attention...something rapidly oozing from the ground. He walked over to investigate.
It didn't look like mud. Too dark. Could it be...oil? Wilkins excitedly knelt by the flowing ooze, his mind racing with wealth and endless sour lemon balls. He dabbed his hand in the sludge, which had a strange odor, and put it in his mouth. Huh? He tried some more. It had a taste...a taste like...
"Ma!" cried Wilkins. "I just struck coffee!"
Wilkins had indeed struck coffee. But not just any coffee. This coffee was the best he ever tasted. It was richer, stronger and better than any candy he had ever eaten. Like a mutt dying of thirst, Wilkins began frantically and unashamedly digging into the earth, putting his mouth to the ground, sucking and slurping. Ma eventually had to pull him away, fearing her son had gone certifiably insane. Wilkins was dragged by his feet into the house, his hands frantically clawing the ground.
Wilkins's amazing find put him on the front page of every major newspaper in America. The very notion of finding coffee brewing underground in the 1950s was absurd. Not like today, where it's an everyday occurrence.:shifty:
One morning, a city slicker passing through town was drawn to a rather disgusting sound. It was hard to describe...maybe a mouse giving CPR to a cat? Yeah, that was it! A mouse giving CPR to a cat! Fleet Scribbler grabbed his camera, and followed the sound, where he found a muddy Wilkins facedown, most of the lawn torn up, drinking something from the ground. Wilkins was oblivious to the young reporter, who snatched picture after picture of a seemingly demented creature, while a foul, witch-like monster stared out the back door, wringing her hands in worry.
Fleet excitedly brought the pictures and the story he hastily wrote in his car to his editor, who promptly published the bizarre story under the headline LOCAL FREAK FINDS COFFEE IN THE STRANGEST PLACE...
Another picture showed Ma wringing her hands. It was captioned Medusa watches in concern.
Colonel Rowlf Barker was a sleazy carnival huckster who made a fortune from his one client, Lawrence the Geek. Lawrence was a rail-thin humanoid who resembled a yellow string bean. He was literally a geek, biting the heads off live chickens, for the amusement and entertainment of countless spectators. The Colonel booked Lawrence in carnivals and state fairs all over the country. Rowlf took more than his share of Lawrence's income, a hefty 85% that enabled him to purchase flashy, gaudy suits and his trademark wide-brimmed cowboy hats, of which he owned dozens.
Lawrence may have been a moron, but he knew the Colonel was cheating him. One day he demanded a twenty-five cent raise. The Colonel refused, and Lawrence walked--right into the door of the Colonel's office. When he regained his senses, Lawrence walked out of Colonel Rowlf's life.
"Go!" growled Colonel Rowlf (who, it should be noted was a dog), "I'll find an even bigger, more pathetic geek than you!"
That was two months ago. The Colonel was forced to sell most of his suits to pay the rent, and he was still living in borderline poverty. His only luxury was a television set he refused to part with, and one of his cowboy hats.
One Sunday evening, he tuned in to The Ed Sullivan Show, and nearly had a massive coronary. There, on Sullivan's stage, seated on a stool, was Lawrence the Geek, four live chickens in his mouth, while the orchestra played a frantic version of "The Ride of the Valkyries." Colonel Rowlf put a paw to his face in exasperation.
The Colonel angrily switched the television off, and picked up the paper from that morning. As he stared at the front page, a lightbulb appeared over his head. This was because it was dark, and Colonel Rowlf turned on a nearby lamp so he could read. Who was this nut splashed across the front page? As the Colonel read the amazing story, two thoughts popped into his head. One, he was hungry. He would fix that soon enough with a nice bowl of kibble. And two...he had finally found a replacement for Lawrence the Geek.
As soon as Colonel Barker arrived in town, he wasted no time in seeking out the Wilkins home.
"Oh, that dump!" said a local, helpfully circling a spot on the map the Colonel was perusing. "Can't miss it. Log cabin teetering on the edge of a swamp."
Colonel Barker arrived on the doorstep shortly after noon, wearing one of his last suits (which was too small now) and his one remaining Stetson.
When Ma answered his knock, Colonel Barker staggered back in fright at her hideous appearance. He regained his composure, removed his hat, and spoke in his most gentlemanly Southern accent.
"Hello," he said gruffly. "Mah name is Colonel Barker. Colonel Rowlf Barker."
"How come you're not wearing white?"
"I thought the men from the asylum always wore white," said Ma.
"Ah'm not from an asylum, ma'am," said the Colonel.
"Oh," said Ma disappointedly. "I called them over an hour ago, and they assured me--"
"Wilkins, of course. Ah'm here to see your son."
"Oh dear," said Ma. "Did he steal your wallet?" She shook her head sadly. "Please don't be so hard on him. The folks from the asylum assured me he'd be locked up for at least three months. That's what most juvenile delinquents get these days."
"Ma'am...how 'bout we try this again," suggested Rowlf. "You shut the door, ah knock, ah re-introduce mahself. You shut your mouth till I finish mah proposal."
"What exactly do you want with my son?" demanded Ma.
The Colonel took a contract out of his coat, and held it out for Ma to inspect.
"His face, Missus Wilkins."
The three sat around the kitchen table, Ma and the Colonel drinking tea, a muddy, disheveled Wilkins drinking sludge out of a mug. There was more sludge than coffee, but that didn't bother Wilkins. He was too wired and hopped up to notice.
"Whaddaya say, son?" asked the Colonel.
'Bout what?" asked Wilkins, his eyes popping from his caffeine high.
The Colonel sighed. He already explained his plan at least four times, thinking Wilkins was mature enough to pay attention. Obviously, he didn't know Wilkins.
"I want to promote your coffee."
"My coffee!" shrieked Wilkins, clutching the mug protectively. "Not yours! Mine!"
"Yer maw has already given me permission to drill that black gold outta the yard," said Rowlf. "After all, it's her property."
"WITCH!" screamed Wilkins at Ma.
"Son, ah want to promote that coffee. Ah must confess, before your maw gave me a taste, I doubted it was as good as you claimed. But it's unlike anything ah've ever tasted. And ah'm willin' to stake my reputation that the public will go crazy for it, and make us both rich!"
The Colonel slammed his palm on the table in exasperation. "Was he dropped on his head a lot as a baby?" he asked Ma.
"Wilkins," said Ma, gently putting a hand on his shoulder. "I can understand you want to stay with me. But the Colonel is going to take care of you. You'll make millions of dollars--"
"For starters," said the Colonel.
"Then you'll be able to purchase me--your darling mother--a brand-new house with running water and an outhouse on the inside!"
"And I can almost guarantee you television exposure," said Barker. "Ever hear of Elvis Presley?"
In 1957, the world knew who Elvis Presley was. You would have to be a total moron not to know who the once and future king of rock and roll was.
"Never heard of him," said Wilkins, picking grit from his mouth. "Is he like Captain Kangaroo?"
"Why do I bother?" asked the Colonel, wearily.
"Colonel Barker flew almost 1,000 miles out here to see you," said Ma.
"What for?" asked Wilkins.
"Look, kid," said Barker, "I kin make you rich and famous. If y'all don't want that, fine, no skin off my hide. I'm leaving with dat coffee with or without you."
"I go where the coffee goes," snarled Wilkins.
"Then put your John Hancock on the dotted line," said Rowlf, sliding the contract and a pen across the table.
"Can I just put Wilkins instead?"
Rowlf slapped himself in the face with a paw.
Within five minutes, Wilkins was packed and ready to go. He shook his tearful mother's hand, because he could never bear to give her a hug. The Colonel assured Ma he would keep a close eye on Wilkins and treat him like the son he never had.
As Rowlf opened the door, two men in white coats stood there. The shorter one, with a head like a melon, was holding a clipboard; the other carried a butterfly net.
"Oh hello," addressed the melon head. "I'm looking for a..." he raised his glasses, "...Wil-kins. We would have been here much sooner, but I let my assistant Beakie drive the paddywagon, and he got lost." Melon head put a hand to his mouth and giggled. "Oh my, tsssst-ssst-ssssst! Such a funny name for a vehicle. Paddywagon. Tsssssst-ssssst-sssssssst! Oh Lordy!"
The Colonel hitched up his pants, and imitated a stereotypical Southern sheriff.
"Wal boy," he said, spitting on the melon headed fellow's clipboard, "y'all jus' missed him. Ah'm the sheriff. His maw called me an' my partner here," he gestured to Wilkins, "soon as he saw me, he took off faster'n a frog with his *** on fahre." Barker pointed north. "Down yonder." He pointed south. "Or was it thattaway? Tell ya the truth, he ran so fast, I di'int catch which way he was goin', right Cletus?"
Wilkins stood dumbly.
The Colonel cleared his throat, and nudged Wilkins roughly. "Ah said right Cletus?"
"Huh?" said Wilkins.
"Surruh," said Barker. "He was so po' his momma fed him paint chips when he was a chile. He ain't all there, if yuh know whut ah mean."
"I know what you mean," said melon head. "My assistant is the same way. There's not much upstairs. Tsssst-ssst-sssst."
The assistant called "Beakie" angrily drooped the butterfly net over melon head's...head.
"Oh dear," said melon head. "I feel like the proverbial fly caught in the spider's web."
Rowlf spit, and it hit melon head on the right frame of his glasses. "Thank yew, gennleman, me an' my partner will take it from heah."
The Colonel and Wilkins walked past the two men in white, towards Barker's rental car. "Ah already picked a great name for this new product," beamed the Colonel. "Yummy Grounds," he said proudly. "Get it? Grounds? Coffee? Coffee grounds?"
Wilkins stared blankly, then blinked.
"Since I discovered the coffee and I'm gonna promote it, can I call it something else?" asked Wilkins.
"Son, you know how long it took me to come up with Yummy Grounds? Ah seriously doubt yours is as clever or memorable as mine. But humor me. What were y'all thinkin'?"
"Wilkins Coffee!" beamed Wilkins.
Wilkins sat on a prop brick wall, nervously blinded by the lights in the television studio. Next to him was a can of his find, still known as Yummy Grounds, because Colonel Barker repeatedly insisted there was something unappealing about "Wilkins Coffee."
Colonel Rowlf Barker himself dug the grounds of the Wilkins "estate," his paws digging deep into the ground, bottling the precious fluid. "Where money's concerned, I ain't afraid to gets mah hands dirty," was his reasoning. Barker took a sample to a manufacturer, who was able to replicate the taste and texture of the coffee almost perfectly. Almost, because Wilkins missed the sand and grit that gave it that extra kick. Still, even he had to admit, it was a more than adequate facsimile.
"Okay," sighed the director, an obese pig named Howard Tubman, "Let's try it again, shall we?"
Wilkins had tried sixteen times to get this spot right, but each time he made a mistake: he flubbed his lines; he looked off-camera; he accidentally knocked the can off the wall; he spoke too fast; he spoke too slow. Wilkins was many things, but one thing he was not was an actor.
"Yummy Grounds," said Howard in exasperation. "Take seventeen."
"Hello," said Wilkins, half-heartedly raising his hand in salutation, "When I'm in the mood for delicious, rich coffee, only one brand will do. Yummy Grounds." Wilkins gestured to the can; there was a brief pause. "Oh! Mmmmmm...delicious..."
"No no no no no no no no no no no no!" screamed Howard. "Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong!"
Howard took a set of keys out of his pocket, and threw them on the floor. "Gaaaaaaaaaaaah!"
The Colonel, who was standing just out of camera range, walked to Wilkins.
"Son," he began. "If ya want the public to buy this product, you hafta sell it! That's whut this business is all about: sell, sell sell!"
"Sorry, Colonel," said Wilkins. "Guess I'm no Marlo Brandon."
The Colonel looked at his watch.
"Look, son, it's about time for lunch." He handed Wilkins three dollars. "Go down to the delicatessen on the corner, get yerself sometin' to eat. Maybe y'all work better after you have a sandwich. Be back heah in a half hour, not one minute later."
Wilkins hopped off the wall, and headed for the exit. As he left the studio, he mumbled to himself, "I still like Wilkins Coffee better..."
Wilkins walked down the street, dejectedly. He was a thousand miles from home, in a strange city; his coffee--his coffee--was about to be sold to the public; he blew take after take of a seemingly simple commercial helmed by a tyrannical swine; worst of all, he didn't even have a weapon, to hold up any of the countless business establishments he was passing. So many businesses...just waiting to be robbed by a humanoid delinquent.
"Hey buddy, can ya spare some change?"
The gruff voice came from behind Wilkins, who continued to walk.
"Hey buddy, can ya spare some change?"
Wilkins stopped and turned. Nobody was following him. He blinked, and resumed his walk.
"Hey! Down here Einstein!"
Wilkins turned and looked down.
A grotesque blob stood on the sidewalk, pleading eyes staring at Wilkins.
"I'm so hungry. I haven't eaten in three days!"
"Coulda fooled me, bub," snickered Wilkins. The blob looked extremely well-fed.
"Can ya gimme two bits?"
"Don't have anything," said Wilkins. "Sorry."
As Wilkins was about to turn away, his eye caught a gleam radiating from the blob.
"Guess I'll have to take it the hard way!" growled the blob, pointing a gun at Wilkins.
Despite having a strange creature pointing a gun at him, Wilkins had no fear. In fact, he found the image quite silly, and an instant cure for the depression he was feeling.
"Awww, look at da widdle guy holdin' a big boy gun," said Wilkins condescendingly. "Find that cap pistol in a box of Cracker Jax, didya?"
"Shut up!" said the blob. "Gimme all your loot, or I'll shoot!"
"A poet too!" said Wilkins. "You, sir, are a true Renaissance man!"
"I'll give ya to the count of five..."
"Or what? You'll shoot me in the kneecaps?"
"He can count, too!"
"Yes, two usually does come after one."
"Good boy! Keep going, only two more to go!"
"Almost there! C'mon...you can do it!"
The blob pulled the trigger.
The blob stared at his gun in disbelief.
In a flash, Wilkins was on top of him, and wrestled the gun from his hand. Wilkins knelt on the sidewalk, and pressed the gun against the blob's temple.
"How do you like to be on the receiving end? Eh, chubbo?" snarled Wilkins, adrenaline rushing.
The blob was trembling.
"P-p-p-lease d-d-on't hurt me," choked the blob. "I-I-I-I have six wives and a kid...I mean six kids and a wife..."
"Think it's funny going around, holding hard-working people like myself up?"
"N-n-ooo!" said the blob. "In-in-in fact...y-you're the-the-first, I--"
Wilkins's eyes widened. "I'm the first?"
"Y-y-y-y-y-y-es...I mean....no...I mean..."
Wilkins pulled the trigger.
This time it fired.
Exactly twenty two minutes later, Wilkins strolled out of the delicatessen Colonel Barker recommended. His belly was full with a tasty corned beef sandwich, and his hands were full (on account of he never wore pants) with wads of cash. Instead of paying for his meal, he held the place up with his newfound gun, and made a clean getaway.
Wilkins headed back to the studio, whistling a jaunty tune. He passed a rather short fellow and said hello. He continued down the sidewalk, whistling. All of a sudden, he froze...and slowly turned. Standing upright, and very much alive, was the blob--or a reasonable fascimile thereof.
"Gimme my gun," said the blob.
"Who are you?" asked Wilkins.
"Short memory, eh?"
"What are you, his twin? Look, I'm sorry about your brother, but he--"
"Gimme my gun!"
"But....I shot you!" said Wilkins.
"So?" said the blob.
"I saw you die!"
"Well I'm alive now!"
"Impossible!" cried Wilkins.
"Not really," replied the creature.
"Are you Lazarus?" asked Wilkins.
"The name's Wontkins."
"The **** kind of name is Wontkins?"
"My father's, wanna make something of it?" growled Wontkins.
"How come you're not dead? Are these blanks?" asked Wilkins, examining the gun.
"No. I simply cannot die!" boasted Wontkins.
"I am immortal!"
Wilkins raised the gun, and fired, hitting Wontkins between the eyes. The force of the shot caused the blob to fly through the air and crash into a "No Parking" sign before he fell lifeless to the ground.
"I am running late!" said Wilkins.
"OH MY GOD!" cried a shrill voice. Wilkins spun on his heel, and stared into the face of a pink, birdlike woman named Mildred. "Murder! Murder!" She began beating Wilkins over the head with her pocketbook.
"No...he..." said a confused Wilkins.
"Police! POLICE!" shouted Mildred.
Wilkins ran to Wontkins, and frantically tried to revive him.
"Hey buddy," he began. "C'mon, the gag's over. Get up now, I believe ya!" Wontkins was turning cold. "Look, I'll give you some money...here...here's a buck...two bucks...half! Take half of what I--"
Mildred and Officer Link Hogthrob approached.
"...he just shot that poor...thing...in cold blood!"
"Okay, missy," said Link. "I'll take it from here."
"Officer, you don't--"
"Drop the weapon, sir, and step away from the blob."
"He's faking it," said Wilkins, forcing a laugh. "He told me he was immortal!"
"Please, sir, don't insult my intelligence," said Link. "I can't tell you how many murderers have claimed the same thingy. Now drop the gun. Please."
"I said please..."
Wilkins reluctantly dropped the gun, next to the body of Wontkins.
"You'll get life for this, young man," said the officer. "Oh goody! Another lifer! I love arresting you guys!"
As soon as the gun clattered to the pavement, Wontkins opened his eyes and grabbed it.
"Sucker!" he said, and waddled away, leaving a bewildered Wilkins, Mildred and Link staring after him.
Wilkins followed Wontkins, as he blobbed down the street.
"Whut?" asked Wontkins.
"Hold up! I wanna talk to you!"
With a heavy sigh, Wontkins stopped, and allowed Wilkins to catch up. "You're a puppet!" said Wilkins, as if the thought had just come to him. "That's why you're invincible! You're a puppet, like me!"
Wontkins stared at Wilkins.
"You're a puppet?" he asked.
"Don't let my handsome appearance fool you," said Wilkins. "I've often been mistaken for Cary Grant or Tyrone Power. But yes. I'm a puppet too!"
"Huh. Small world," said Wontkins, unimpressed, as he started to blob away.
"Where do you live?" asked Wilkins, catching up to the little chubby fellow again.
"Why is that your business?"
"Frankly you don't smell so hot," said Wilkins. "I take it you live on the street."
"Why you insolent little smart ***," said Wontkins. "I'd horse-whip you if I had a horse!"
"I didn't mean to insinuate--"
"If you must know, I do live on the street, okay pretty boy? Happy now?" choked Wontkins, a hint of sadness in his voice. "My current residence is a soggy refridgerator box behind a shabby apartment complex. I room with an occasional rat or two. There! Now you know my story. Leave me alone."
Wontkins blobbed at a faster pace.
Wilkins caught up with him again.
"Have you ever acted before?"
"No," said Wontkins, still moving.
"Neither have I," said Wilkins, hustling to keep up. For a creature with no legs, Wontkins sure moved fast.
"Fact I'm in the midst of shooting a television commercial now, only it ain't going so well."
"My sympathies," said Wontkins, his eyes frantically searching for a policeman.
"I thought maybe you could help."
"How?" asked Wontkins, picking up speed.
"Do you think violence is funny?" asked Wilkins.
"Oh yeah, it's a lot of laughs," said Wontkins sarcastically, "especially when I'm on the receiving end of it."
"But you always come back to life."
"I'm promoting a brand new coffee I just discovered...and I think you would be a perfect foil to me."
Didn't this guy ever stop moving?
Wilkins had to think for a moment before replying, "your attitude! You seem like a natural grouch."
"Sleeping in a cardboard box with a rat perched on your nose'll do that to ya..."
"And your name...Wontkins...is perfect!"
"Stop moving!" shouted Wilkins. Wontkins stopped and turned. Thank you!"
Wilkins walked to Wontkins.
"While I was having lunch, I had an idea. Maybe it's good, maybe it was just the corned beef and it stinks, but it's worth giving a try. See, I'm supposed to promote this coffee I discovered--"
"How did you discover coffee?"
"Eh, I found it growing underground in my ma's backyard."
"Impossible!" said Wontkins.
"Yeah, well, so are two puppets having a casual conversation on a city street in broad daylight," said Wilkins.
"Touche," said Wontkins.
"So I found this coffee...and I ended up with a manager, who read about me in the paper."
"Why were you in the paper?" asked Wontkins. "Holding up a bank or somethin'?"
Wilkins sighed. "No...on account of the coffee I discovered! It was national news, you know."
"Musta missed it," said Wontkins. "Either that, or I used that particular edition as a blanket one night."
"So we've been shooting this commercial...and it's not working. I think I'm fine, but that pig of a director doesn't see eye to eye with me."
"Don't call people names," said Wontkins. "Isn't nice."
"No...he really is a pig--ah, never mind," said Wilkins. "The point is, this commercial is failing. My manager is rapidly losing his patience, because he's rapidly losing money on this thing."
"Whaddaya want me to do?" asked Wontkins.
"My idea is this: I love the coffee, and you hate it--"
"How do you know I hate it? I like coffee. As a matter of fact, that's why I was begging you for change, so I could buy myself a nice steaming cup of coffee."
"For the purpose of the commercial, you hate it!" said Wilkins, irritably. Your name is already perfect--Wontkins--as in "I won't drink any of that disgusting coffee!"
"What's your name?" demanded the blob.
"As in you will drink the disgusting coffee?"
Wilkins stopped. Up until this moment, he didn't realize the significance of his name.
"Er...yeah...yes...exactly...wow...you nailed that right on the head!"
"Wontkins and Wilkins, huh?" said the blob.
"Wilkins and Wontkins. Uh...you know, showbiz. Always gotta go in alphabetical order."
"Like Abbott and Costello?"
"Or Laurel and Hardy?"
Wilkins was ready to punt the blob into a storefront window, but he honestly did need him. If the Colonel allowed it, of course. If not, then Wilkins would punt the little blimp into a storefront window.
"What was that you were sayin' about violence? You asked me if I thought it was funny," said Wontkins.
"I was thinking...in the spot, I offer you some coffee. You refuse. And I shoot you."
There was a beat.
"And...?" asked Wontkins.
"That's it." said Wilkins. "I kill you because you don't like the coffee I'm hawking to the public."
Wontkins stared at Wilkins. "That's the most asinine thing I ever heard! Not to mention tasteless and unfunny!"
"I'm running late, I gotta get back," said Wilkins. "You're right. It's a ridiculous idea, and it probably was a bad piece of corned beef that made me hallucinate such a spot...of course, I wasn't thinking of you when I came up with the idea. I figured I'd use a stuffed animal or something, and tear its head off when I put the cup to its lips. I never figured on a live partner, for obvious reasons. But hey, go crawl back into your wet box. Forget I even asked you about this. You don't need exposure. Or fame. Or money. You're life is fine just the way it is."
Wilkins pat Wontkins on the head, and walked away, casually looking over his shoulder once in a while to see if Wontkins was following. He wasn't.
Wontkins stood in the same spot, mulling over life on the street, or life with Wilkins. He headed back to his cardboard box.
"Yummy Grounds, take forty-six," said Howard Tubman, leaning back in his chair.
Wilkins opened his mouth.
"Wait a minute!" said Howard. "Wipe that smirk off your face!"
"Huh?" asked Wilkins. "Smirk?"
"Yeah. You're hawking a product to the public. The public doesn't want to see a smirking, snarky imbecile."
"But...I can't help smirking," said Wilkins. "It was the way I was built."
Howard looked over to Colonel Barker on the sidelines for confirmation. The Colonel nodded. Despite being an in-demand director, Howard Tubman wasn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. In fact, the only time he gave his full attention to anything, was when he had a twelve-course banquet placed in front of him.
"Thank you, Lassie," said Howard. "Yummy Grounds, take forty-seven."
"Hello," said Wilkins, repeating the same dull, tired lines. "When I'm in the mood for delicious, rich coffee, only one brand will do..."
For several terrifying seconds, Wilkins's mind went blank. He blurted the first thing that came to mind:
"BUUUUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" screamed Howard. "NO NO NO NO NO NO!"
Howard began squirming and twisting in his chair, trying to stand up. But he was trapped. Mounds of flabby, useless disgusting flab surrounded the chair, making him a prisoner.
"Will somebody please help me?" he demanded.
After several seconds passed, Colonel Barker volunteered. He stood behind Howard, and tried to push.
"No no no!" said Howard. "You'll have to try lifting me from my armpits."
"Naw," said Rowlf. "I think I can--"
"You'll have to try lifting me from my armpits!"
Rowlf sighed, and carefully put one paw under each of Howard's wet and sweaty armpits. He heaved with all his might, and the only result was a sudden, sharp pain in his lower back.
"OW!" cried Rowlf.
"Again, Rin-Tin-Tin," said Howard. "I think we were making progress..."
Colonel Barker wiped the sweat from his brow, and tried to ignore the piercing pain in his back. Again, he reached underneath Howard's smelly armpits and tried lifting. The swine wouldn't budge.
"Man, y'all oughta go on a diet," offered Barker helpfully. "It ain't healthy da way ya are now."
"Shut up, Rex!" said Howard. "Do I tell you your business?"
Barker tried lifting the heavy pig one last time.
"Ah can't do it," said the Colonel. "Impossible."
"Mmmmuuuuhhhhh.....fuuuuuhhhhhhhhhhh..." groaned Howard Tubman, as he lifted himself to his feet with herculean effort. "Who needs ya?" he glared at Rowlf, as he crossed to the wall where Wilkins was sitting.
Despite his size, Howard was the model of dignity. Unfortunately, he was oblivious to the fact that his tiny director's chair was still attached to his rear end.
"Now," he began to Wilkins, "what gives you the right to change the script? You were supposed to say Yummy Grounds, not...not..." he snapped his fingers for help. He had forgotten what Wilkins actually said during the getting out of the chair debacle.
"Wilkins Coffee," said the cameraman.
"Wilkins Coffee," replied Howard. "It's Yummy Grounds, okay? If you don't get it this time, I'm gonna grab you, and swallow you whole!"
Howard turned and walked back to the space where his chair was.
"Okay. Who's the smart *** who took my chair? You people are really mature, you know that?" said Howard, angrily. "And you call yourselves professionals? I'm going to find the clod who stole my chair--I don't care who it is--and I'm going to fire him on the spot!"
"Uh...Howard?" said Barker.
"What?" snapped the director.
"I think I know where your chair is."
"Yeah. It's attached to your ***."
"Your chair," said Barker, "it's stuck to your ***."
Howard stood silent for a moment. He tried to reach behind him, but his arms were too short and stubby; there was no way he could reach behind his back. However, he kept trying, until his hand brushed against a wooden leg.
"I knew that," said Howard, matter-of-factly. "I...er...I was just joshing around, trying to break the tension. Knew it was there all along. An old party trick...
Yummy Grounds, take forty-eight!"
Howard moved to his space, and eased himself down. As soon as his rump connected with the chair, a massive CRACK echoed throughout the studio. Within seconds, Howard Tubman was on the floor, his canvas and wood director's chair broken into four pieces.
Wilkins let out a guffaw; as Howard glared at him, Wilkins grabbed the can of coffee next to him, and pretended to read the ingredients.
Colonel Barker lowered the Stetson on his head and tried his hardest not to laugh; the rest of the crew also suppressed giggles and full-out belly laughs, for fear of their jobs. Wilkins was the only one to make a sound.
Howard sat on the floor, his face an unnatural shade of red, a mixture of embarrassment and fury.
"OH MY GOD!" he screamed. "The Fates are really enjoying themselves with me today! Can my day get any worse?"
Just then the door to the studio opened, letting in sunlight; as it closed, Wontkins stood there, somewhat confused.
"Am I late?" he asked.
"Boy, are yuh crazy?" barked Rowlf to his client. "Whut were yuh thinkin', draggin' that bum in here, promising him television exposure?"
"Yeah," agreed Howard. "He's not even photogenic!"
Wontkins was at the craft service table, scarfing down donuts, danish, cakes, sandwiches and several bowls of Jell-O. He grabbed a hot pot of coffee and guzzled it down his throat.
"Remind yuh of anyone?" asked the Colonel, nudging Howard; Howard didn't get the insult.
"Huh?" asked the pig.
"Ah've been in this business a long time," said Colonel Barker, returning his attention to Wilkins. "Ah started in carnivals before managing that ingrate Lawrence the Geek. Ah've seen everythin', but ah've never seen an elephant fly. Wait. Ah mean...I don't think yer idea is so hot. We want people ta enjoy dis product, not be repulsed by it."
"You're already repulsing them," said Wilkins bravely, "by calling it Yummy Grounds. I'd never drink anything with a name like that!"
"Think you're such a clever boy, doncha?" said Howard.
"Look, I'll make you guys a deal: shoot the commercial with the ugly blob. If it works, and is successful, not only will you sign him as my partner, Colonel, we change Yummy Grounds to Wilkins."
"Dat's anudder thing," said Rowlf, trying to hold his temper in. "What makes y'all think chubbo overe there is invincible?"
"I've seen it with my own eyes."
"Could have been luck."
"My ***. Watch this...hey Wontkins! Get over here for a minute, willya? And bring a knife."
"A knife?" asked Wontkins with a mouthful of danish, eyeing Howard. "We gonna have pork roast? Save me the snout!"
"The gall!" shrieked Howard. "Does he know who I am?"
"Actually, no," said Wilkins, as Wontkins approached knife in hand.
"Do you know who I am?" demanded Howard.
"The main course?" asked Wontkins innocently.
Wilkins grabbed the knife from Wontkins, and in one swift move, plunged it deep into his head. Wontkins thudded to the floor.
As soon as blade touched felt, Howard Tubman vomited. And vomited. And vomited for almost a half hour, despite only eating a "light" lunch. By the time Howard was finished, Wontkins was standing in place, as if nothing had happened.
"Bad clams?" he asked. "Oh, here's your knife back." Wontkins handed Howard the knife, and headed back to the craft service table.
"Eh?" said Wilkins.
"Wilkins mah boy...y'all have a very sick and twisted sense of humor, ya know that? But the public can't seem to get enough of sick and twisted humor. Look at the popularity of MAD magazine...those E.C. horror comic books...that hip new stand-up...what's his name?
Howard opened his mouth to reply, but instead projected more vomit and bile into the Colonel's face. Barker took a handkerchief from his top coat pocket, and slowly wiped his face.
"One shot," said the Colonel. "Just one shot with the blob. If we can't use it, I'll simply splice the best moments from the last forty-eight takes to create the final edit."
"Fine," said Wilkins. "But if the commercial works, you promise you'll change the name to Wilkins."
"Muh, sure kid, whaddevah you say," said the Colonel. He turned, and slipped on the vomit-covered floor; the Colonel was out cold as soon as his head connected with the floor.
Wontkins jumped onto the prop wall, while a technician was busy trying to revive the still-unconscious Colonel Barker.
"You rewrote the spot?" barked Howard at Wilkins.
"Yeah. I thought the first one was a piece of ****."
Tubman sputtered. "I wrote it, you disrespectful little hedgehog!"
"I call it as I see it," said Wilkins. "You're givin' me one take anyway...lemme try it my way."
"I am so fed up with you artsy-fartsy actors who think you know better than the director!"
"Yeah, but I'm not an actor, said Wilkins.
"Look," said Tubman, rubbing his still-aching behind. "Do what you want. I'm outta here at six sharp, and that's exactly four and a half minutes from now. God I'm hungry...Yummy Grounds, take forty-nine."
"Whut am I 'sposed to say?" asked Wontkins.
"Cut!" choked Howard Tubman. "Why me? Why me?"
"Follow me," offered Wilkins helpfully. "All you have to say is no. Think you can remember that?"
"No," said Wontkins.
Wilkins did a double-take. "What part of no don't you understand?"
"I understand," said Wontkins. "I was agreeing with you."
"Take fifty!" crowed Tubman.
"NO!" said Wontkins.
"I quit!" stomped Howard.
"Lemme say my line first," said Wilkins to Wontkins, ignoring Howard's tantrum. Right after my line, you come in with your no."
"And that's it?" asked Wontkins.
"That's it...Tubby? You ready?"
"My dinner is getting cold..."
"Call it, Tubby," said Wilkins. "Last time. I promise."
"Yummy Grounds, take fifty-one," said Howard without emotion.
Wilkins: Hey pal, do you like the rich, smooth taste of Yummy Grounds?
Like an expert knife-thrower, Wilkins hurled the knife from craft service at Wontkins, hitting him right between the eyes. Wontkins toppled backward off the wall; Wilkins turned and addressed the camera innocently.
Wilkins: Anyone out there wanna replace him?
From such a humble beginning in a small television studio in 1957, two legends were born. By the time the second commercial went into production, the product was renamed Wilkins Coffee.
In 1957 alone, Wilkins and Wontkins shot at least ten commercials a day for Wilkins Coffee (the number usually depended on how quickly it took Wontkins to rise from the dead); these were mostly done in one take, and immediately caught on with the public. In fact, so many commercials were shot between 1957 and 1962, not all of them made it to air, the backlog was so vast.
Here are just a few Wilkins and Wontkins spots that never saw the light of day...until now...
Wontkins (as George Washington, wearing a powdered wig) I cannot tell a lie! I love Wilkins Coffee!
(Wilkins shoots Wontkins with a musket)
Wontkins: Wilkins Coffee burns me up!
Wilkins: Oh yeah?
(Wilkins throws a steaming hot pot of coffee into Wontkins's face; Wontkins screams)
Wilkins: I scream...he screams...we all scream for Wilkins Coffee!
Wilkins (as a game show host) Okay, last question: who's buried in Grant's Tomb?
Wilkins: Correct! You win a lifetime supply of Wilkins Coffee!
Wontkins: I don't want any!
(stage light falls, and hits Wontkins on the head, knocking him out)
Wilkins: Unpredictable things happen to people who don't drink Wilkins.
(Wilkins is driving a car, Wontkins beside him)
Wilkins: Wanna stop somewhere for a cup of Wilkins?
Wontkins: I'd rather drink mud!
(Wilkins slams on the brakes; Wontkins goes flying through the windshield; Wilkins drives forward, the car momentarily shaking as it runs over the body of Wontkins)
Wilkins: I like my Wilkins with one lump. (backs up over Wontkins) Sometimes two!
Wilkins and Wontkins stand on top of a tall building, both wearing capes.
Wilkins: Wilkins Coffee makes me wanna fly!
Wontkins: That's ridiculous!
(Wontkins leaps off the building, and plunges to his death)
Wilkins: Some folks just don't listen...
(Wilkins jumps off the building, and soars through the air like Superman)
Wontkins, sitting in a theatre box, wears a black beard and top hat.
Voice (O/S): We interrupt our play to bring you a word from Wilkins Coffee.
Wilkins, with a large mustache, rises behind Wontkins, and shoots him in the back of the head.
Wilkins, wearing an Elvis wig, strumming an electric guitar, and shaking his hips, is interrupted by Wontkins.
Wontkins: Ugh! What is that?
Wilkins: I call it "Ode To Wilkins Coffee."
Wontkins: I call it noise!
(Wilkins hits Wontkins over the head with the guitar)
Wilkins: And I call it an instant smash!
Wilkins, wearing an Elvis wig, strumming an electric guitar, and shaking his hips, is interrupted by Wontkins.
Wontkins: Ugh! What is that?
Wilkins: I call it "Ode To Wilkins Coffee."
Wontkins: I call it noise!
(Wilkins touches Wontkins with the guitar; Wontkins is instantly electrocuted)
Wilkins, wearing a cowboy hat, drives a stagecoach with WILKINS COFFEE printed on the side.
Wontkins, wearing a handkerchief over the lower part of his face and a cowboy hat, stands in front of the stagecoach, pointing two revolvers at Wilkins.
Wilkins: Howdy, pardner, what kin I do ya fer?
Wontkins: Shuddup an' gimme everthin' ya got! This is a stick-up!
Wilkins: I don't have nuthin', stranger, 'cept boxes an' boxes of Wilkins Coffee.
Wontkins: Ugh! I'd rather drink mud!
Wilkins shoots Wontkins with a double-barreled shotgun.
Wilkins: Buying a brand other than Wilkins is highway robbery!
It was no secret that Wilkins was addicted to his find as soon as he tasted it. He drank it so many times a day, the dosage was more than enough to kill a human. Besides, the coffee kept him wired and alert, "helping" his performance, he claimed.
One morning, Wilkins arrived at the studio, headed straight for the craft service table, and poured himself a tall Styrofoam cup of "the drink of the gods," as he called it. As soon as he took the first sip, he spit it out in disgust.
"What the **** is this swill?" demanded Wilkins.
"Chase and Sanborn," said the studio gofer, Scooter. "I looked all over town, and couldn't find Wilkins."
"It's true," said Colonel Barker, coming to Scooter's aid. "Sales of Wilkins are through the roof!"
"How does that help me ? !" cried Wilkins. "I need my fix! I-I can't perform unless I have my Wilkins!"
"That's just in your head," said the Colonel. "You'll do fine."
"NO I WON'T DO FINE!" screamed Wilkins, hurling his cup against the wall. "I MUST HAVE WILKINS!"
"Gee, Mr. Wilkins," said Scooter, a tremble in his voice, "I really did look hard for at least one can. I went to six different stores this morning, and they were all sold out."
"You should have gone to seven stores!" said Wilkins, knocking a plateful of donuts over. He held out his hand. "Look! Look at the tremors! They're already beginning!"
"We're wasting time, people," said Howard Tubman impatiently.
"SHUT UP!" screamed Wilkins. "This is not happening...this is not happening...this is not happening!"
Wilkins began clawing his face, trying to rip his eyeballs out. Colonel Barker, who was much larger, tackled him to the ground.
"Nooooo! Lemme go! Lemme go, you fat ox!" whimpered Wilkins. "I'll have you thrown in the pokey for molestation!"
During all of this drama, Wontkins was calmly eating the donuts off the floor. He grabbed the coffee pot, and guzzled some of the Chase and Sanborn.
"Yuh know," said Wontkins. "This stuff ain't half bad!"
Wilkins broke away from the Colonel, grabbed the coffee pot from Wontkins, and bashed him in the head with it repeatedly. Wontkins fell to the floor, but Wilkins continued his assault, until the Colonel and Howard grabbed him.
"Happy now?" said Howard. "We were all ready to shoot, and you just killed your partner. I didn't even have the camera rolling! I hope you're proud of yourself!"
Five minutes later, Wilkins was in a straightjacket, still ranting and raving that he needed his Wilkins Coffee to get through the day.
One week after Wilkins's meltdown (which Colonel Barker whitewashed in the papers as mere "exhaustion" from "overwork"), the violent little coffee addict fell in love.
It was just another day at the office. Wilkins, replenished with his favorite beverage, was in high spirits, working on a spot in which he played a fortune teller.
Wilkins (wearing large turban) Your favorite drink is...Wilkins Coffee!
Wontkins: Fraud! You couldn't be more wrong!
Wilkins: I predict a tragic end for you!
Wontkins: Try another one, faker.
(Wontkins is smooshed by a runaway Ferris wheel)
Wilkins (to camera) Want me to tell your fortune?
"And...cut!" said Howard. "Great work, Wilkins."
Wilkins hopped off the wall, and headed to the snack table, where he poured himself a generous cup of Wilkins. As he sipped, Wilkins watched a crew member peel the carcass of Wontkins off the wall. His attention was diverted as the studio door opened, and the white-clad figure of Colonel Rowlf Barker walked in, followed by a pretty blonde.
"Wilkins, mah boy!" barked Rowlf. "How'd the spot go?"
"Good," said Wilkins. "The Ferris wheel really mashed ol' blubber."
"Dat's great," said Barker. "Hey, I have someone here who's a big fan 'a yours. Begged me ta introduce ya."
Barker gently pushed the blonde toward Wilkins, who was taking another sip. As soon as he saw the stunning blonde up close, he began a coughing fit. The coffee went down the wrong way.
"This is...Rosemary," said Rowlf, while Wilkins was madly coughing, tears in his eyes. "Uh, Rosemary is an acquaintance of mine who, coincidentally, also works in television. Live television, five nights a week. In the same area as you. Are you familiar with Rosemary, Wilkins?"
Wilkins shook his head no, still trying to catch his breath.
"Well, this pretty little thing is familiar with you," said Rowlf. "Never missed a commercial, ain't dat right?"
Rosemary smiled shyly.
When Wilkins's embarrassing coughing jag was over, he held out his hand and choked, "Wilkins, pleased to meet you."
Rosemary took Wilkins's hand, and shook.
"You'll hafta forgive Rosemary," said Rowlf. "Has laryngitis. Hasta save the ol' voice fer tonight."
"Oh. Uh," said Wilkins, "what do you do on your show?"
Rosemary opened her mouth, and mimed singing.
"Yep," said the Colonel, beaming.
"I'm a bit of a singer myself," said Wilkins.
"You are?" asked the Colonel.
"You are?" asked Howard, eavesdropping.
"A foggy daaaaaaaayyyy in London toooooowwwwwwwwwn!" sang Wilkins. Actually, it wasn't singing. It sounded more like a giraffe caught in a printing press, but Rosemary was polite enough to smile in appreciation.
"Ah wants you two kids ta get ta know each other," said Colonel Barker to Wilkins. "Ah'm tryin' ta get you a spot on Rosie's show. I booked a table fer you two at Chez Cheese Hut for 12:15. That's exactly ten minutes from now. So stop yer dilly-dallyin', an' go go go!"
As Wilkins walked out of the studio with Rosemary, he couldn't help but think what a wonderful guy Rowlf was. Sure the Colonel could be crusty and demanding, but he always planted good publicity about Wilkins in the newspapers and now he even set him up with--
"Be back heah in an hour," shouted the Colonel from behind. "We gotta get at least two more commercials in da can today!"
"Yes mastuh," said Wilkins, slamming the door of the studio behind him.
Wilkins and Rosemary had a pleasant lunch at Chez Cheese Hut. Neither had ever been to a restaurant where everything on the menu had cheese in it, including the wine.
"Lucky we're not lactose intolerant," chuckled Wilkins, attempting to break the ice. Both were still nervous in each other's company.
After the meal, Wilkins and Rosemary were enjoying a cheese sorbet. Wilkins caught a generous spoonful, and looked at Rosemary, who of course was silent throughout lunch.
"Do you mind if I...?" asked Wilkins nervously. Rosemary's mouth opened, and Wilkins began to spoon feed her. Unfortunately, he was still suffering minor hand tremors, and spilled some sorbet onto Rosemary's dress.
"Look what you did!"
It was the first time Wilkins heard Rosemary speak.
"I'm supposed to go live with this dress! I'll never get the stain out in time!"
Wilkins dropped his spoon in shock, and felt a sharp prickling sensation crawling on the back of his neck. Not so much because of what Rosemary said. It was how she sounded. In fact, it didn't take Wilkins too long to realize that she was a he.
"It's ruined!" cried the deep, male voice.
"What the ****?" cried Wilkins loud enough, that several diners turned and stared at him.
"I had a frog in my throat earlier, which is why I didn't say anything. My name is Kermit," said the creature who did not yet resemble the frog the whole world would come to love.
"Rosemary?" asked a confused Wilkins.
"Oh, I go by assorted names, depending on whose record I lip-synch to. Rosemary Clooney...Keely Smith. I'm a regular on Sam and Friends, and often play a female. I don't mind. The pay's good, plus the clothing is exquisite."
Kermit took off his blonde wig and tossed it on the table. He looked even uglier without it. Wilkins felt light-headed and queasy.
"W-why?" he managed to ask.
"Why what?" asked Kermit.
"Why did the Colonel set us up?"
"It's true what he said. I'm a big fan of yours, and I wanted to meet you. I would have told you I was a guy in drag earlier, but I really couldn't talk. That soup seemed to have cleared my throat."
"Why didn't the Colonel say anything?"
"I guess because you didn't ask him," said Kermit. "He probably figured you'd find out sooner or later. Now how about feeding me some more of this yummy sorbet? Here, I'll put a napkin on my--"
Wilkins abruptly stood, and started out.
"I-I gotta go..."
"We still have a few minutes."
"I-I gotta go..."
"Don't bother paying," said Kermit. "The Colonel told me to put everything on his tab."
"I-I gotta go..."
Wilkins pushed his way out of the restaurant and immediately vomited all over the sidewalk.
Many of the patrons inside caught the disgusting display and suddenly lost their appetites.
"Ah am verah, verah sorreh," said Colonel Rowlf, his voice calm. "Ah shoulda tole you Rosemary was a fellah in drag, but ah figured you'd appreciate the gag."
"You thought wrong, old man," snapped Wilkins.
"Ah learned mah lesson. Ah promise never to pull the wool over yer eyes again."
"Blah blah blah," mocked the perpetually-grinning coffee mascot. "Now it's my turn to show you the true meaning of humiliation!"
Colonel Barker was hanging upside down, his ankles tied to a rope, connected to a pulley system that Wilkins was clutching with both hands, enabling him to raise or lower the Colonel.
Rowlf Barker was hovering over a pool, in which two hungry sharks swam, the setting for tomorrow's Wilkins Coffee spot.
The studio was dark and empty. When Wilkins returned from lunch, he asked to speak with the Colonel in private, after the day's work was done. As soon as the last crew member left for the evening, Wilkins smashed the Colonel in the face with an iron, sending him sprawling to the floor.
When the Colonel awoke, he found himself upside down, his head inches away from an unpleasant, watery death.
"You know how traumatized I was this afternoon?" asked Wilkins. "What you're going through now is only a fraction of how I felt!"
"Now don't do anythin' stupid, boy," said Rowlf, still trying to remain calm. "Don't do anythin' you'll regret."
"Like this?" asked the little sadist, as he lowered the pulley. Barker felt cool water lapping against the crown of his head.
"Please son," said the Colonel. "Ah'll do anythin'. I'll get you a raise! Ah'll rent out an amusement park for the day, just for you! Ah'll buy you a pony!"
"Yo momma's a decent woman. I know she didn't raise no psychopath..."
"What did you say about my momma?" cried Wilkins. With all his might, he pulled the Colonel up to the ceiling of the studio. For the first time, fear crept into Barker's voice.
"Oh my gawd!" he cried. "Ah'm afraid of heights! Ah'm gettin' nauseous!"
"Oh, nauseous like me, as soon as I fled the restaurant?"
"Stop whining!" commanded Wilkins. "It isn't very becoming."
"Hey Wilkins!" shouted a familiar voice.
"BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" cried Wilkins in surprised shock, inadvertently letting go of the pulley.
After a few seconds, a thunderous SPLASH! as the Colonel's massive bulk landed in the tank.
"I was sittin' back there in my dressing room, thinkin' of kumquats, and I heard your voice," said Wontkins. "I wanted to ask ya if you like kumquats. I know a lotta people don't, but I find 'em quite tasty myself."
Wilkins stood numbly, staring at the shark pool, as water viciously splashed everywhere. Wilkins couldn't even make out the Colonel. The only thing he could see were the two dark outlines of the sharks going in for the kill.
Wontkins stood by dumbly, oblivious to the frantic activity in the pool.
"So what are yer thoughts on kumquats?" he asked again. "Yay, or nay?"
Wilkins couldn't take his eyes off the activity in the pool. It was too gruesome...too unbelievable...too...huh?
The splashing suddenly ceased. A calm came over the water. Colonel Barker's head bobbed to the surface.
"Think yuh kin get rid of me that easily, kid?" he asked.
Wilkins opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out.
"I usta wrastle alligators bigger'n these goldfish with fangs in my early carny days," said Barker. "These two were nuthin'!"
Wilkins noticed the sharks floating unconsciously.
"Don' worry, I just knocked their heads around a little," said Rowlf. "They should be fine for tomorrow's shoot. Gimme a hand, willya?"
Wilkins held out his hand; Colonel Barker grabbed it, and pulled Wilkins to him, face to face.
"Ah have a mind to tie you up and throw you into this tank," said Barker. "Let the sharks have a real feast. But I unnerstand. You wanted revenge fer what I did, and yuh got it. Now we're even. Dontcha eveh try anythin' like this again, boy, or I'll make sure you don't walk away in one piece. Get me?"
Wilkins nodded mutely.
Colonel Barker climbed out of the pool.
"Dang!" he said. "Yuh ruined mah suit! This was 100% cotton, yuh know!"
"Hey Colonel," said Wontkins, as if noticing him for the first time. "Whut are your thoughts on kumquats?"
"Never touch 'em," said Barker, wringing his sleeve.
"Another nay," said Wontkins, mystified. "More fer me, I guess..."
And so, Wilkins and Colonel Barker buried the hatchet. Of course, Wilkins would have preferred to bury the hatchet in Barker's head, but he was content with a simple handshake. However, the shock of Rosemary/Kermit was enough to put Wilkins off women for the next twenty years.
The other victim of Wilkins's wrath was Colonel Barker's expensive suit, which unfortunately shrunk in the water, so much so that the Colonel was unable to wear it ever again.
Still, keeping his client's public face out of shame or embarrassment, the Colonel reported to the media that Wilkins vomited outside Chez Cheese Hut due to consuming bad fondue. There was no mention of his cross-dressing "date."
The years quickly rolled by: 1957; 1958; 1959; 1960. The public couldn't get enough of the innocent (but deadly)-looking Wilkins and his unfortunate partner. And what beatings that partner took!
Wontkins was blown up countless times; stabbed; burned alive; stomped on by the unseen "Old Man Wilkins"; shot out of a cannon; buried alive; fed to piranhas; forced to eat his own nose...when Wilkins felt uninspired, he simply bonked Wontkins over the head with a mallet. Whatever punishment was dished out, Wontkins took it like a man, and enjoyed playing the buffoon.
"I'm sick of playing the buffoon!" groused Wontkins in the early autumn of 1961, shortly before a new batch of commercials were to begin shooting.
"Mhm," said the Colonel, his attention focused on a full-page magazine ad that offered Wilkins and Wontkins hand puppets.
"I mean it!" said Wontkins. For four years I've been on the receiving end, and I'm tired of it!"
"Wontky baby," said Barker, looking up from the ad. "Yer an invaluable resource. Number one, the public loves seein' ya gobbled up by cannibalistic clowns. An' number two, yer indestructible. Wilkins could never do whut you do an' walk away unscathed."
"I wanna be the straight man from now on!" demanded Wontkins.
"Honestly, if I only knew what kinda substance you was made outta," continued Colonel Barker, "I'd have ya patented before yuh could say 'hula hoop.'"
"Are you even listening to me?"
"Somethin' about egg salad?"
"I want to be the straight man for the next series of commercials, or I walk!" said Wontkins determinedly.
"Whoah ho, hey hey," said Barker. "Less not talk crazy. I'm not yo manager, but I kin offer you a raise. Izzat whut ya want? A raise?"
"I wanna shoot Wilkins in the face!"
"How about a pony?"
"You have twenty-four hours to decide, you neutered nincompoop," said Wontkins. "If things don't change, I'm leavin', and that's final!"
"I ain't no nincompoop!" said Rowlf, but Wontkins was already wobbling out of the office. The Colonel stifled a chuckle; the sight of an angry blob wobbling away was quite amusing.
Wontkins is alone; he looks left, then right. He takes a sip of Wilkins Coffee.
Wontkins: This stuff ain't half bad!
Wontkins's nose grows, like Pinocchio's (hey, that rhymes!)
Wilkins enters and flings a machete at Wontkins, splitting him in half.
Wilkins: I can't stand liars.
"Yuh just can't keep killin' him," said Barker. "Time is money."
"He's driving me nuts!" said Wilkins, smoking pistol in hand.
Wontkins was on the floor of the studio, dead for the fifth time that day; but it wasn't part of the act. Wilkins shot him during each consecutive take for upstaging him.
The Colonel had decided at the very last minute to give Wontkins a break, and at least try him in the straight man role. This didn't go down well with Wilkins at all.
"Absolutely not!" said Wilkins, slamming the desk in his dressing room for emphasis. "Who does that little blimp think he is?"
"Jus' give him one chance," pleaded Barker. "One chance, an' he'll see how hard yer job is."
"Psh! My job is a piece of cake," said Wilkins. "All I have to do is look at that face, and a strong, violent passion rises."
"Yeah, I know whut ya mean," said Rowlf. "I git dat feelin' too, but at least you get paid fer it!"
"Look," said Wilkins. "You know I'm a bad actor. I know I'm a bad actor. If I get put in the blob's place, the whole country will know I'm a bad actor. Doesn't take much to flick a knife, or use a flamethrower."
"We'll convince him da job ain't all it's cracked up ta be."
"Well...fer one thing, he's obviously gonna use blanks and rubber knives, right?"
"Obviously," said Wilkins. "He's made of much stronger stuff than me."
"Tell him it's more fun ta use real weapons!"
"Are you out of your cotton-pickin' mind? Next thing you know, he'll be asking for real bullets!"
"Yeah, yer probably right," said the Colonel.
"He has cottage cheese for brains!" said Wilkins. "Even a complete moron like Wontkins will want to use real weapons, especially against me. Huh huh...I wanna use the boom stick!"
"How 'bout we tell him he gets more lines than you?"
"Ah, he doesn't care about that," said Wilkins. "All he wants is to show the public he can dominate me. Well it ain't gonna happen."
"He threatened to walk," said the Colonel.
"So ya member how unsuccessful yuh were before he joined ya?"
"He's all talk, believe me," said Wilkins. "He knows I'm his meal ticket. He ain't gonna go anywhere."
Despite his client's prima donna attitude, the Colonel still promised Wontkins he would have a shot in the straight man role...after the current commercial was in the can. The Colonel went completely behind Wilkins's back, as he didn't believe Wontkins was merely "all talk." This didn't sit well with Wontkins, who wanted his chance to star in the current spot, which was set in a mock-up of a rocket ship.
"I wanna be the main spaceman!" demanded Wontkins.
"Ah'm sorry," said Barker. You'll get yer chance once dis is finished, as early as this afternoon if you cooperate."
"NO!" shrieked Wontkins.
On the first take, instead of saying his scripted line, "You think Wilkins Coffee is completely out of this world? Buddy, you must be from Mars!" Wontkins said "I enjoy drinking Wilkins Coffee...it sends me outta this world!"
Wilkins shot him.
On the second take, after Howard Tubman shouted "action!" Wontkins broke out into a song.
"Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gaaaaaal!" sang Wontkins, dancing across the set. He received a bullet in the face.
The third take was worse. Wontkins jumped Wilkins, and started biting him. Wilkins killed him in self defense.
Wontkins gave a heartfelt plea for acceptance at the start of the fourth take. Unbeknownst to him, the camera was switched off, but he was so wrapped up and passionate, he didn't realize it. Wilkins had to give him credit. Wontkins really was a good actor. But being a good actor wasn't his job. Wilkins blew him away.
The fifth and (so far) final take, Wontkins didn't say anything. He just sat there, unmoving. Wilkins grew impatient, cocked his pistol, and fired.
"Yuh just can't keep killin' him," sighed Colonel Barker. "Time is money."
"He's driving me nuts!"
"He's drivin' us all nuts, but--"
"I'm goin' to lunch," said Wilkins, removing his space helmet. "Whenever Sir Larry wants to work, lemme know."
The rocket commercial was never properly finished. It was cobbled together with clips of Wontkins from various other spots, which were naturally inconsistent and taken out of context. The final product went something like this:
Wilkins and Wontkins in a rocket ship, wearing space helmets.
Wilkins (into walkie-talkie) This is the Captain. I'm takin' a coffee break. (sips from cup) Mmmm. Wilkins Coffee is outta this world!
(random clips of Wontkins inserted here)
(under a tree) ...you...
(standing on a wall; voice dubbed over) ...think...
(wearing powdered wig) WILKINS ! !
(at poker table) ...coffee...
(shot by Wilkins with a cannon) ...oof... (sounds like "is")
(under a lamppost in the rain) ...outta...
(same clip of Wontkins standing on wall; voice dubbed) ...this world?
(wearing sombrero) ...buddy...
(being devoured by a shark; voice dubbed over) You must be from Mars!
BACK TO PRESENT
Reshot close-up of Wilkins pointing a gun and firing at something, off-camera.
(older clip of Wontkins being blown away inserted)
BACK TO PRESENT
Wilkins: Man, you find the craziest creatures in outer space.
Despite the editor's efforts, the spot was obviously a mess, and never aired. As a result, a previous ad ran in its place and the Colonel lost money. More than one observant viewer noticed a stale Wilkins and Wontkins commercial air that week, and letters began pouring in, addressed to Colonel Barker asking why.
"Aaaaaaaaaannnnd action!" shouted Howard Tubman. Wontkins, sitting alone on the wall next to a can of Wilkins Coffee, stared into the camera.
"An energetic fellow like myself is always on the go. But when I need a break, there's only one thing I reach for: a nice steaming cup of Wilkins Coffee. Yum-yum. Can't get enough. Wilkins Coffee. I drink it. You'll drink it."
"Cut!" said Howard. The Colonel and the porcine director exchanged worried glances. Wontkins was spot-on and professional, but the spot was boring. Yes, it sold the product, but it was completely devoid of laughs. The humor in the ads were a trademark, so much so that some wags dubbed Wilkins Coffee "laughing juice." Wontkins without Wilkins was like jelly without peanut butter; Laurel without Hardy; Abbott without Costello; Poca without hontas.
Barker managed to get the stubborn Wilkins out of the studio for a couple days by sending him on a brief promotional tour, visiting some of the towns outside the city. "Entertain da hicks, boy," said Colonel Rowlf, "dey drink a lotta Wilkins." Of course, what was most enticing to Wilkins (aside from the money) was the chance to be away from the excess baggage, i.e. Wontkins. The Colonel assured him production would cease on filming new spots until he came back. And if the public noticed older material again? Barker already had a disclaimer ready before each ad, explaining to viewers this was a previously-seen spot, and that Wilkins was out entertaining fans in person...but would be back within two days. Barker's chief concern now was what to do with the new Wontkins commercial. Of course, he hoped Wontkins realized how much he needed Wilkins.
"This is great!" shouted Wontkins. "How many more 'a these can we do today?"
A chill ran up the Colonel's spine.
"Hey, I can do imitations," said Wontkins excitedly. "What's say I grab a bowler and little mustache, an' do Chaplin shilling this stuff!"
"Er...let's do it again," said Rowlf.
"I think we should do it again," agreed Howard.
"Why?" asked Wontkins. "I nailed it in one take."
"Yeah but...I would like to try it in profile."
"Not profile! That's my bad side!"
"At least you don't look like Alfred Hitchcock in profile," said Howard, demonstrating. "So I like to eat. What of it?"
"I don't feel like doin' this one again," said Wontkins. "Lemme do my Chaplin."
Wontkins began doing Chaplin's famous walk...and fell off the wall.
Commercial Repeat #1
Wontkins, as a burglar, breaks into Wilkins's house. As Wontkins searches the premesis, Wilkins appears behind him.
Wilkins: May I help you?
Wontkins (startled) Ahh! (points gun at Wilkins) Reach fer the sky, and gimme all ya got!
Wilkins: How can I give you all I got if I'm reachin' for the sky?
Wontkins: Uh...where do ya keep the money?
Wilkins: Buddy, I don't have any money.
Wontkins: No money?
Wilkins: Nope. Just cans of delicious Wilkins Coffee!
Wontkins: Ugh! Looks like I broke into the wrong house.
Wilkins: Oh, I do have something you may like...
Wontkins: What's that?
Wilkins: A tiger!
Tiger rushes on, catches Wontkins in its jaws, and runs off.
Commercial Repeat #2
Wontkins has a noose around his neck.
Wilkins: For the last time, will you change your mind?
Wilkins: We just need your vote, and I'll become president.
Wilkins: What do you have against me?
Wontkins: You drink Wilkins Coffee!
Wilkins: Is that all?
Wontkins: Buddy, that's enough!
Wilkins kicks stool away; Wontkins hangs.
Wilkins: Folks who don't like Wilkins are my biggest hang-ups...
Commercial Repeat #3
Wontkins is drinking a cup of coffee; next to him is a can that reads Brand X.
Wilkins: Whatcha got there?
Wilkins: Is it Wilkins?
Wontkins: Course not. Can't stomach Wilkins.
Wilkins: Oh no?
Wilkins pulls a string; a 16-ton weight falls from the ceiling and squishes Wontkins.
Wilkins: Wonder if he could stomach that?
Colonel Barker picked up Wilkins at the Waldorf Hotel two days after the coffee mascot left to "entertain da hicks."
"So, how was it, boy?" asked Rowlf, as Wilkins finished packing his bags.
"I felt like a trained monkey," sneered Wilkins. "The public are a bunch of morons!"
"Hush yo mouf," said the Colonel. "Dese walls have ears. If just one guest hears that, your career will be ovah. Ever see A Face in duh Crowd?"
"Was that with Jerry Lewis?"
The Colonel sighed. "A Face in duh Crowd is about dis rowdy ex-con who gets plucked from obscurity, and turned into a national celebrity, based on his homespun charm. Unfortunately, fame goes to his head, and he becomes an egomaniacal monster. One night while he's havin' an angry rant between commercial breaks for a live TV show, his handlers have had enough, and unbeknownst to him, switch on da cameras in da middle of his tirade. Da public sees his true face, an' his career is ruined."
"Hey," said Wilkins. "Do you think these morons will notice if I nick a few towels?"
"Boy, haven't you been listenin' to a word I've been sayin'?"
"Something about Jerry Lewis?" asked Wilkins, trying to stuff a hotel pillow into his suitcase.
"Look atcha, yer shameless!" said Barker.
"This is one comfy pillow. Hey Fats, do you think you can get me a deal with this pillow company? I'd like to sell them. Course I'll have to change the name to Wilkins pillows..."
"Hurry up, we gotta be outta here by eleven."
"Hey, look at me," beamed Wilkins, as he ripped the tag off the pillow. "I'm the worst possible criminal, hahaha! Or is that only if you tear the tags of mattresses?"
"I'll be waitin' in da car," said Rowlf.
"Hey, you know, I think this hotel is haunted."
"Da Waldorf? Don't be ridiculous, son. This is one of the most famous hotels in da world!"
"Yeah, but I swear it's been making fun of me since I got here."
The Colonel stared at Wilkins.
"Seriously. As soon as I checked in and walked into the room, I heard a strange old man's voice..."
"Uh-huh. And what did dis 'strange old man' say?"
"I've seen happier faces on the dead! Doh ho ho ho."
"Da voice insulted ya?"
"Yeah, that's all it did," said Wilkins. "It would make some crack like 'can I bring you home and put you in my cornfield? I wanna scare away the crows,' and it would laugh at its own crummy one-liners."
"I think the road has gotten to yuh, boy," said the Colonel sympathetically. "Hurry up, huh?"
The Colonel walked out the door.
Wilkins filled his suitcase with complimentary toothpaste, mouthwash and soap, along with several towels and the pillow he wanted to sell to America under his own name. As he stepped out into the hallway, he heard the mysterious elderly voice one last time.
"That Wilkins fella makes me happy. Makes me happy I'm not him! Doh ho ho ho!"
That was the first and last time Wilkins stayed at the Waldorf.
The break-up wasn't supposed to happen. At least not as soon as Wilkins returned. Colonel Barker halted production for the day, paid the demanding Wontkins what he would have made, had he worked, and sent him home.
Barker and Wilkins rolled up to the studio, where the Colonel planned to make up for lost time by shooting a couple of solo Wilkins spots, hopefully to pacify the egomaniacal star, even though in his heart of hearts Barker knew a solo Wilkins spot would prove deadly. Ah well. Maybe it could air in the wee hours of the morning, when the only people who would notice it were insomniacs or burglars.
Colonel Rowlf flung the doors to the studio open...and stared in horror as Wontkins, chomping on a large cigar, was bossing a terrified crew around.
"You idiot!" Wontkins shouted at the sound man. "The explosion wasn't loud enough! How am I supposed to blow up Brand X with a weeny of an explosion ? ! You're fired!"
"Ahem." Barker cleared his throat.
Wontkins turned. He froze at the sight of his boss, the cigar dropping out of his mouth. Wilkins gaped, open-mouthed.
"Uhhhh...I was pretendin' I was...Erich von Stroheim," said Wontkins.
"What's going on?" asked a perplexed Wilkins.
"What are you doin' heah?" demanded the Colonel. "You were sent home."
"Yeah, but I wanted to rehearse," said Wontkins, innocently.
"Rehearse?" asked Wilkins. "Rehearse for what?"
"Uh..." said Wontkins.
"Uh..." said Barker.
"Would somebody please tell me what's happening?" asked Wilkins.
"The fat little tub demanded a few solo spots, so we had him star in a couple just to shut him up," said Howard.
"Thank you, Mr. Tact," growled the Colonel. "Wanna tell us any other secrets? Like what's out in Roswell? What happened to Amelia Earheart?"
"Sorry," said a downcast Howard. "Guess I opened my big mouth again..."
"Wilkins," said the Colonel. "Please. Lemme explain, son."
"So the whole promotional tour was a sham, just to get me out of here for a couple days?"
"Pretty much, yeah," said Howard. "Ooh...did it again..."
"While I was busy being mocked and insulted by my hotel room, this...this amoeba was shooting commercials? Actual commercials?"
"Yuh know how he wouldn't shut up about it," said Rowlf.
"That's it!" said Wilkins. "I'm through! Finished. Finito. This partnership is over!"
"Aww, yer just sayin' dat," said the Colonel, hopefully.
"Yeah? Be sure you're in your office all day tomorrow, Fats," sneered Wilkins. "My lawyer would love to meet you!"
"Boy," said the Colonel, growing red, "need I remind ya yer in an iron-clad contract? Dat means ya gotta finish whut ya started. Y'all have five more spots you owe me!"
"Fine," he said. "I'll finish the five. Then I don't want anything to do with blimpie ever again!"
"Ditto!" shouted Wontkins. "I never liked yer anyway!"
Wilkins left the studio, jumped into the Colonel's car, and burned rubber.
"Hey! Dat's mah--"
"Smart move, leavin' yer keys in the car," said Wontkins, shaking his head.
"Dat's da **** of it," said a confused Barker, holding up his keychain. "I didn't!"