When I first met the editor of the fine online publication, Optimism Vaccine, I was completely aghast at his appearance. Sir Amos Stalin, the founder, had been missing for approximately two weeks, and this absence seems to have been felt severely by his employee. Such arrogant disregard for personal hygiene is unforgivable to me as an employer, but in light of such a significant absence, I maintained my composure and righteous indignation in the face of my future client.
Only known to me as “Adam” (A code name, I assume, kept for anonymity), this disheveled wreck of a human being lurched into my office, quickly filling it with the stench of alcohol and shame-crying. His clothes, a rotting mess around his stub neck, were only made more horrible in contrast to his rather impressive quaff of hair. Ah, the hair. I look back at it with fondness, its waves swaying gently in the air as he limped over to sit awkwardly in my chaise lounge.
After a few deep breaths on my part, as well as a well-deserved pull from my mouthwash bottle and a liberal spritzing to the eyes, throat and nose with my hand sanitizer, I gained the courage to hear out the poor gent. Perhaps it was the mesmerizing sway of his shining hair sculpture, but I shortly became enthralled in the epic journey he had to relay. As Adam told me, and as I, dear reader, shall now relay to you, he had just come off the train from a short yet arduous trip to Siberia. Against his own volition, and at the behest of Sir Stalin, Adam was sent to a ramshackle cabin in the icy tundra. After a grueling 50 days in which our subject had been strapped to a chair and forced to watch the entire catalog of Asylum Films whilst a cackling Amos looked on, he was finally let loose, and bravely crossed the entire icy desert of the former Soviet satellite to sneak aboard the nearest freight train and, with the help of some lovable yet hideous tramps, finally managed to reach headquarters.
For two weeks he patiently waited for Amos Stalin to give some kind of word of his next assignment but, alas, none came. Not sleeping, save for the open-eyed blackouts that came in between coffee enemas and rancid hot dogs, Adam was more than irritable as he retold his personal saga. Bouts of Tourette-like cursing followed by a spell or two of dry heaving and hacking up what remained of his blood clotted lungs and throat mottled his speech, but upon following him back to his home office, I learned that none of this was unusual. Overworked and underpaid, the "employees" of Optimism Vaccine were a pile of feces-stained, emaciated skeletons, all waiting patiently by the phone for further instructions from their leader, in between writing crack-pot movie film reviews and pop culture deconstructionist essays. One in particular, whom I was introduced to as Devlin Satanfingers, had been the last known person to speak with Sir Stalin, and so I was forced to start an interview with him.
Mr. Satanfingers, or as he suggested I call him Devlin, sat at his desk with a can of solvent in one hand, and the other stuck to his rather unkempt beard. As I approached with Adam, his stench now masked by the even more powerful aroma of strong glue and cat urea, Devlin let out a series of short screams as we inched closer. His beard dipped half way into the can of solvent, and trying desperately to get his hand into the rather tiny can as well, his eyes darted wildly between his desk and us. I approached cautiously, as Adam had warned me on the way over that Devlin had no tolerance for new faces. I cautiously took a seat, aware that any sudden movements would spook the man, and slowly took out my tape recorder, pad of paper, and a series of colored pencils. Before my break as an investigative reporter, I worked extensively with the local courts and television stations as a court sketch artist, gaining exclusive scenes from closed cases that remained prohibited from the media’s involvement. Now, in my true career, it has helped me to maintain a keen eye in sketching my clients, informants, and on occasion, a crime scene or two. Though still quite jumpy, he seemed to relax as I reached slowly for my No. 2 black graphite pencil and began sketching. The following transcript is a verbatim dictation of our conversation:
“It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Satanfingers. I have read your work, and I must say, it is quite compelling.” Mr.Satanfingers lifts his beard from the solvent, and tugs his hand repeatedly until the appendage comes loose, bringing a large tuft of black hair with it. He stares at me whilst tugging, not flinching as his hair is ripped from his chin.
“Devlin, please, call me Devlin. Or Scarlatto… no, actually on second thought, Devlin should work for fine for the purposes of our conversation.” He offers me the hair hand, and I take it, hesitatingly.
“Devlin.” I smile, and look down at my sketch pad, continuing my drawing. “Devlin, could you tell me about the last conversation you had with Amos Stalin?”
“Certainly. I believe we spoke of pleasantries, and the ethics of off-putting generic pork substitutes. We must have been planning to cook meats over open flames together to appease the Solsticeman.” Devlin looks up as he speaks, staring toward a severely water damaged ceiling.
“Ah hah,” I nodded. “And tell me, Devlin, when was this meeting to have taken place?”
“I don’t believe in meetings. I’m a slacks-less man Ms. Graves. I have no slacks with which to wear to meet on any sort of formal basis.” I look down at this point and notice that Devlin is, in fact, not wearing any pants at all, but a severely torn pair of boxer briefs, and crocs shoes covering his yellowing toenails and unnaturally hairy feet.
“I see. And what kind of a man would you say Sir Stalin is?” At this question, Adam clears his throat, as he is standing behind me, and I notice out of the corner of my eye, he gestures threateningly at Devlin. Devlin himself seems spooked by the gesture at first, but quickly lowers his lids confused, as if the signal had been some sort of sexual advance. As an unbiased reporter, I’d have to say that it wasn’t.
“Sir Stalin?” Devlin paused for a moment, “Amos?” I nod; he nods back. “Oh, of course, Amos, the ambivalent proprietor of this fine establishment,” a framed, clearly forged degree, falls from behind Devlin’s desk. He doesn’t flinch at the sound of breaking glass and continues, “I’ve known that rotten sack for decades now. I’d never vouch for his character, but don’t misinterpret my respect, I’m just not allowed into any courts of law to vouch for anyone’s character. Not anymore…” Devlin sighs, and then ducks below his desk, rummaging around in a pile of garbage. He emerges with a half bottle of Old Grand Dad and takes a heavy pull. He gestures the bottle towards me and I kindly decline. He looks to Adam who returns a nod. Devlin throws the bottle across the room, completely missing Adam. The bottle shatters against a weathered portrait of James Garfield, 19th president of the United States. “I met Amos in a coffee shop in Saudi Arabia back in the 60’s. He was the only other individual there who had made out well gambling on the basement Russian roulette game, and more importantly, he was the only other one in a 900 mile radius with some actual whiskey. We drank until the sun exploded that night.”
“Exploded?” I interjected.
“It’s a metaphor. You know, like ‘badger ethics’.” I raised an eyebrow slightly, but quickly composed myself and continued with the interview.
“All right. One last question if you don’t mind” Devlin’s gap-toothed smile grew wide in expectation. “As Sir Stalin’s closest confidant, would you say he had any enemies?”
“Yes. Well, thank you very much for your time, Devlin.”
I admit, much like Adam and his well-kept hair quaff, this Devlin character was a mystery to me. Indeed, it seems as though he is hiding something… perhaps even the entire staff at Optimism Vaccine, down to the last bus boy and copywriter, is in on a conspiracy. But, for now, I am left with just one question:
Where is Sir Amos Stalin?
 See “Will The Asylum Land Adam M. Miros in an Asylum?” in Optimism Vaccine
 See “Movie Film Review: Iron Man 3” in Optimism Vaccine