Flogging A Dead Horse

Thu, August 17th, 2006 at 1:30pm PDT

Comic Books
Paul Jenkins, Staff Writer

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Three or four weeks after the series of convention horror stories involving me, the Wizard Wheel, and a guy with one arm, I was given an opportunity to redeem myself. I did not pass the test.

Oh, Chums!

I am an awful, horrible, pusillanimous, and revolting excuse for a human being.

There. I said it.

I do not deserve to live… and after this week’s Flogging I am pretty sure most of you will feel the same way. For I have erred. I am not sure even Baby Jesus will forgive me this time.

But I hope you can find it in your hearts to find some compassion after this little spot I am ashamed to call…

Insensitivity Training

(Part One of a Very Long Series, No Doubt)

A few weeks ago all six of you who are still reading this column on a regular basis (and by regular I mean “whenever it comes out) will remember my account of a rather unfortunate convention experience involving a spinning wheel and a young man with but one arm. The short version is that I asked the poor guy to walk on his hands to an adjacent booth in order to win a prize. It was a moment that will live forever in infamy, and has probably condemned me to the fifth circle of Hell--the place reserved for false prophets, thieves, beltway snipers, and people who make fun of amputees.

Well, convention season is over and I am afraid I must report that I have committed a crime against humanity far worse, and without even trying all that hard. I am going to Hell.

Let me set the scene: I had arrived at the Wizard World Chicago Convention early on Wednesday afternoon and after making a few prank calls and exhausting all of my room service options on the first day of the show (Wizard were paying for the room--did you know those little bottles of champagne cost fifty bucks each?), I decided to wander over to the main hall to pick up my badge.

The convention floor was packed with flashing lights and sweaty people, which is pretty much the reason I always go, I can tell you that. Making up for their curious decision to ban all booth babes, the Wizard crew had provided a large number of their own half naked women, all of whom were congregated next to a large wrestling mat.

“Classy,” I thought. “And noisy.”

I wandered the hall, trying to look important, like a haughty German Panzer Commander in a French village. Nobody knew who I was, so I went back to shuffling around and looking at the floor…

… when to my amazement, what should I spy but the Wizard booth! And they had brought back the old “Spin-The-Wheel” game, to boot! (It has been a number of years since they ran the wheel. Presumably, thanks in no small part to my inadvertent violation of Company Policy in which it is clearly stated, Do Not Alienate The Paying Customers).

I raced over, barely able to contain my excitement. Finally, a chance to make amends for the awful, horrible moment that has haunted my waking dreams for over six years. Upon seeing me, the Wizard guys immediately tried to hide. The fans looked confused, for they did not yet know about the Legend of Jenkins but they were about to find out in a big way.

I spotted one of the Wizard staffers--a congenial fellow named Mel--whose feet were sticking out from behind a curtain.

“Mel,” I yelled. “It’s me!”

“There’s nobody here. Go away.”

There were, like, a hundred people waiting in line for their chance to spin the wheel. They wanted to know what was going on. The Wizard Booth had suddenly become a wasteland.

“No, Mel… it’s me! Paul Jenkins!”

“This booth is closed. Mel has been dead for over two years. Now please go away!”

I could tell they were pleased to see me. I stamped on one of the feet, just to see Mel’s happy expression when he realized who it was. He came tumbling out, cursing and yelling. I’m pretty sure he saw the funny side of it as the pain began to subside.

“Hiya, Mel! Wow… you brought the Spin-The-Wheel back! That’s awesome! You know, I was thinking maybe I should do a Guest Celebrity spot to make up for what happened last time.”

“Well… I don't know…”

Mel and the guys began to shuffle around and look sheepish. Being of Welsh descent, “looking sheepish” is a form of encouragement to anyone in my family. I decided to take their reluctance as a positive sign.

“What’s the worst that could happen?” I asked myself, remembering the sage advice of one Bill Sienkiewicz (and by the way, Bill, if you are reading this remind me to punch you in the head repeatedly next time I see you).

I turned to the line of hopeful prizewinners and raised both of my arms up in the air.

“Hey everybody!” I yelled, happily. “Everyone has two limbs this time, right?”

And much to my surprise, the place went eerily silent. It was a moment of the most sublime déjà vu.

I looked at the first person standing in line about to spin the wheel.

There will come a moment in time, chums, when you have just stared down an approaching comet which has narrowly missed the planet, merely grazing the atmosphere and leaving the lower half of the United States slightly singed… when you have emerged from your hiding place and are breathing a sigh of relief as the flaming ball of Death now hurtles towards a collision date with Something Else in the Cosmos… when you will look up to the heavens and give thanks to your Deity of Choice…

… only to witness the sun going supernova without any warning whatsoever, sending a very large mass of plasma directly towards your head.

At that very moment you will realize that not only are you well and truly fucked but that you were always destined to be well and truly fucked in any eventuality. It is your destiny to be fucked, no matter what mood you may be in or how IMPOSSIBLY SLIM the chances are that things could go wrong right now.

For yes… the poor guy standing at the wheel had only one arm!

I stared at the fan for what seemed an eternity and I could swear my jaw felt like it had just attempted a bungee jump, only to realize it hadn't actually tied any cords around its legs and was now hurtling for a date with the Rocks of Destiny some fifty feet below.

Mel leaned over, as if offering a condemned prisoner a final cigarette, and whispered into my ear: “Wow, Jenkins… you were kinda harsh on the amputee, weren’t you?”

Jim McLauchlin--my former editor at Top Cow and now head of ACTOR--chanced by at that moment. Jim had probably sensed what was unfolding… he has a nose for such things. In that understated way of his, he suggested that indeed, I should probably play the lottery and that I should definitely play the number one.

Dear chums… in my mind I am still there, staring at the poor bloody git at the wheel. He seemed more than a little miffed, and I cannot say I blame him. I have never won a raffle in my life. I have never purchased a winning lottery ticket or been sent a massive inheritance by an eccentric Aunt. But if there were one chance in fifteen million that the person standing at the Spin-The-Wheel in bloody Chicago at the bloody Wizard World Convention at four o-bloody-clock on Wednesday would have one bloody arm… then by God, you would have to stand next to me to see that one in fifteen million chance made into an absolute bloody certainty!

One of these days when my number is up (and that number will surely be one), as I descend into the depths of the fifth circle of Hell to take my place next to Doctor Richard Kimble of Fugitive fame, I will see the Devil himself holding a pitchfork and laughing and pointing at me.

I will get down on bended knee to kiss his hand and beg forgiveness.

And what’s the betting that fucker will only have one arm?

Just another ordinary day at another ordinary show. If my wife asks, nothing much happened and I went to bed early.

TAGS:  flogging a dead horse, paul jenkins

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