Finders Keepers

“Hi, Dad,” said the Cowardly Lion Killer from his usual position: prone under the coffee table. “What are you doing down here?”

“I lost something,” Klepto said. His new blue, star spangled conical hat had been knocked aside by the edge of the table and his new “Precedential” flag striped pajamas were sliding off his butt from all the crawling.

“What are you looking for, Daddy?” asked Tinkerbelle from in front of the mirror. Usually her eyes were fixed on him, delivering whatever comfort her needy parent needed. She was his security blanket. It was her job to keep him happy and calm and nobody did it better. Everyone in the Klown family had a job. Klepto had been surrounded only by employees since he was a child, except for his own parents who were the only people he had ever worked for.

But today, Tinkerbelle was trying on items from her new line of jewelry intended for the Chinese market. Her new best friend, the Emperor of China, had just awarded her trademarks for her name for fashion and life-style products. Tinkerbelle was never happier than when looking at herself in the mirror except when she was looking at herself wearing something with her name on it. And she was told that the huge gold slab with engraved characters that hung around her neck like a millstone had her name on it in Chinese. She had been brought up to appear stylish and refined and had learned to talk in deep, breathy, moderated tones at her finishing school, but the golden apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

“It shouldn’t be hard to find,” Klepto said. His ass was moving around the room, sticking up like a shark’s fin. Now it was behind the couch. Now it was diving under the dining table.

“It must be important,” said the Scarecrow from the back wall of the room where he hung relaxing on his Scarecross. “I’ve never seen Dad stick at something so long. What’s it been two minutes now?” It was the Scarecrow’s job to act as Klepto’s eyes, since Klepto’s own eyes were usually fixed on a TV. Klepto assumed that was why he was always up on his Scarecross: observing. Sadly, the Scarecrow thought his job was to be Klepto’s body and he mistook the Scarecross for an exercise machine. Luckily Klepto did not exercise, so the confusion never came up.

“It is important. When you’re Precedent people expect things of you. I usually disappoint them then tell them I did what ever they were expecting anyhow, but I can’t cover this up so easily.”

“Why not?” Tinkerbelle asked distractedly. With all her considerable strength she removed the golden mill stone. Then she reached into a shopping bag that said BUY AMERICAN! HIRE AMERICAN! MAGA! and took out earrings that looked like Christmas ornaments. Like everything she sold, it they were made in China or Vietnam or El Salvador but she was careful never to hire illegal Mexican immigrants to work in her businesses. Like her father, she used immigrants from northern Europe on H1a visas who worked for less money than Americans and could be deported if they displeased.

“Because I already threatened North Korea with it. How’s it going to look if I threaten to wave a big stick at them and don’t have a stick in my hand? I’m going to look foolish.”

“Isn’t that what you do anyway, Dad?” asked the Cowardly Lion Killer. “I mean, you’re a Klown. Isn’t looking foolish what Klowns do? Isn’t that why people voted for you? Not as many as voted for what’s her name, but some people, anyway.” It was his job to act as Klepto’s conscience. He didn’t know that because Klepto had no use for a conscience, so the job suited the man.

“Enough questions, help me look. I’ve looked under everything, even under the sofa—you looked under the sofa for me, didn’t you Scottie?”

“Certainly, Mr. Precedent,” answered Ewan MacDiarmid, Klepto’s long-time butler. H1a.

Klepto said, “I even looked under Tinkerbelle’s skirt.”

“If you weren’t my father, I’d spray you with Mace,” Tinkerbelle muttered. She was wearing a diamond tiara modeled on the Statue of Liberty’s crown but made of gold and about as large. They loved her in China. They thought she was a role model for independent, entrepreneurial women. They didn’t know the 99% of her company piggybacked off Klepto’s inherited empire: accounting, payroll, marketing, finance were all done by Klepto’s people in Klepto’s offices which were also Tinkerbelle’s HQ. Also most of her wealth came from shares Klepto gave her in his businesses and from Harlequin’s share of his family’s slumlordship. All she had was her name, which of course, she got from Klepto. But she wasn’t going to explain that to the Chinese. Hell, most Americans thought Klepto was a self-made clown.

Klepto said, “Scarecrow get off your damn cross and look in the closet. Cowardly, look in the kitchen.”

“But how would something get in the kitchen, Dad? Things only come OUT of the kitchen.”

“Look anyway you scaredy-cat.”

“What are we looking for?” asked the Scarecrow. It was his keen intelligence that made him nominal CEO to the Klepto Big Top empire.

“It’s a carrier battle group. A big ship and a lot of little ships.”

“How big?” asked the Cowardly Lion Killer.

Klepto tried to recall their images on TV. “About like this?” He gestured with his fingers.

“On it!” said TCLK. He went to the kitchen door but couldn’t bring himself to enter. Who knows what goes on in there? he thought.

“Only one place left,” Klepto said. He looked at his son-in-law, Harlequin, whose job was to act as Klepto’s brains. “Bend over,” Klepto instructed.

The Harlequin’s eyes went wide under his little conical hat, blue and star-spangled like his boss’—uh, father-in-law’s. But he did what he was told. That’s what being Klepto’s brains meant.

Klepto pulled apart the skinny cheeks and stuck his head way in to get a good look.

“It’s not there,” he announced when he came out. “But look what I found. It’s the $100 million dollars left over from the inauguration. So that’s where it got to!”

“Great work, Daddy,” said Tinkerbelle. “Oh, wait. Is that what you’re looking for?” She pointed at the TV.

A fleet of ships, all about the size Klepto had indicated, where sailing somewhere in the ocean. The announcer explained they had just turned around and were heading toward Korea.

“See, they weren’t lost. They are heading for Korea. Just like I predicted. I’m never wrong,” Klepto boasted and sank onto the sofa.

“Predicted?” asked Tinkerbelle. “They why were we looking for them?”

“Predicted,” Klepto insisted.

“You’re brilliant, Daddy,” said Tinkerbelle.

“Brilliant,” said Harlequin.

“Oh, look, Daddy,” said Tinkerbelle. “Now Harlequin can talk with his ass just like you can!”

“Brilliant,” boasted Klepto.

Author: leonardrysdyk

Leonard Rysdyk is the author of more than a dozen novels, stories, articles and poems. His work has appeared in many publications including Snow White, Blood Red, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Aboriginal Magazine and the New York Review of Science Fiction. A professor at Nassau Community College, he teaches literature (including science fiction), cultural history (including the history of science) and is an acknowledged innovator in the field of Computer Aided Instruction (CAI), a subject on which he has lectured and consulted.

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