Finding Them, Part 2

A Potential 28th Client, a Medium-to-Acute Gross-Out, and a Tantalising Whiff of Back-story


I was spared the effort of trying to convince Creepy to never say ‘spanktastic’ ever again by the phone ringing once more.

“Creepy and Hatboy Private Investigations,” I answered on the second ring. “Soulmates-”

“Yes, is this Creepy and Hatboy Investigations?” a man’s very agitated voice interrupted me.

“Unless we got a crossed line in the half-second since I said the words ‘Creepy and Hatboy Private Investigations’,” I replied, far more politely than I felt this question warranted, “yes.”

“Good!”

“Great!” I raised him generously.

“Are you responsible for this?”

“If by ‘this’ you mean the agency dedicated to the identification and location of your soulmate-” I began again.

“Don’t you ‘soulmate’ me, you freak,” the man shouted. “I’m calling to lodge a complaint! I’m disgusted and outraged! I’m going to sue!”

This, considering recent events and the cases we’d taken so far, was something of a new one. “Is Sue the name of the person you…”

“No! Don’t try to be smart with me!”

“Sir,” I tried again, “we are a private investigation agency. People call us to help them to identify and locate their sou … that special person in their lives apparently designated by the cosmos to-”

“Stop! Shut up! I’m going to be sick!”

“Look, my point is, people hire us to try to be smart,” I said, giving up. “What do you want to hire us to be? If you’re looking for stupid and shouty, I think you’re all set.”

“How dare you talk to me like that! I’ll have your job for this!”

I looked across at Creepy, who had found a glue stick in the desk drawer and was studiously applying it to the chrome balls of his Newton’s Cradle. “You promise?” I asked, without much hope.

“What-!”

“Sir, I have a call on the other line,” I lied. “If you can’t tell me what the problem is-”

“The problem, you sicko, is that on Thursday two weeks ago I woke up to find I had switched bodies with my teenage daughter!”

“Oh … oh,” I sat up straight, eyes widening. This was­ new. Then the full ramifications hit me and I felt my face scrunch up. “Oh.”

“Yeah,” the man said, his voice trembling with rage. “‘Oh’.”

“Alright, well look,” I adjusted quickly, “it’s not – it doesn’t – I don’t think this has to be, you know, the end of the world for you-”

“Are you serious? My wife left me on Thursday afternoon. And I don’t suppose I need to tell you she wasn’t herself at the time, but things have only gotten worse. The whole neighbourhood has turned on me. People are smashing my windows. Cindy’s school has put out a restraining order. The police have been around three times and now there’s a van parked out front, which I think is the only thing that’s stopped the neighbours throwing things…”

“Sir,” I said firmly. “Contrary to what you may have heard, nobody really knows why this has happened. And while yes, in general the evidence does point to your soulmate as a romantic partner, there is a huge spectrum-”

“I’m warning you…”

“We have united soulmates of the same gender despite the fact that one or both were heterosexual,” I said, “and of mixed genders despite the fact that one or both were homosexual. Partnerships can be completely platonic, intellectual, knowing no race or culture or-”

“Or incest? Is that why you’re Creepy and Hatboy?”

“Like I said, sir,” I repeated calmly, “there is no romantic, let alone sexual bond required to meet the criteria, that we or anybody else know of. I admit your case is slightly new ground for us, and – just like you – we’re new to this … but I assure you, a soulmate bond between father and daughter can be … what?” Creepy had looked up sharply, and was gesticulating at me with the glue stick. I put my hand over the receiver and lowered the handset. “What is it?”

“Tell him to take a paternity test,” Creepy suggested.

I thought about this, and scrunched up my face again. “That doesn’t help.”

“Are you sure?”

Yes.”

“Oh,” he went back to gluing his desk toy.

I raised the handset, took my hand off the receiver, and became aware that the man on the other end of the line was ranting again.

“…a pariah in my local community and-”

“Sir,” I said. “Sir.”

What?”

“I understand you’re upset, but our agency was in no way responsible for The Event. We are merely here to help reunite people with their … with the people they swapped bodies with the Thursday before last,” I amended mid-sentence. “Nothing more.”

“I demand to know who is responsible for this!”

“I think that’s something we’d all like to know,” I said, “but I’m afraid it’s outside our jurisdiction. Now, since you already know who and where your … daughter … is, it doesn’t look like we can help you.”

“I-”

“Have a nice day,” I said, then winced at my instinctive choice of words as I put the phone down. “Man,” I settled back in my squeaky old wood-and-leather chair with a long, relieved exhalation. “And I thought that skinhead guy who woke up in King’s Cross was angry.”

This entry was posted in Creepy and Hatboy Save the World, IACM and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Finding Them, Part 2

  1. dreameling says:

    But if the man switched bodies with his daughter, shouldn’t the voice on the phone be that of an angry teenage girl? Or did they switch back during The Event?

    • stchucky says:

      It was Thursday two weeks ago, I thought that was noted? Yeah, we’re getting to the pay-off.

      • dreameling says:

        Yes it was, but I read that as just meaning that that’s when they switched bodies. I didn’t read any implied switch-back into it.

      • stchucky says:

        Ahh. I might have been over-dependent on the pop culture knowledge of how these Freaky Friday body swap things play out over a day or two. But yeah, this is only part 2, it gets explained!

      • dreameling says:

        Yeah, different frames of reference.

        In any case, as long as you connect the dots by the end, you can, of course, confuse your readers as much as you want along the way. You’re the author. In fact, come to think of it, it’s not like you even have to connect all the dots, especially if you want to leave readers confused. (But I would still recommend against J.J. Abrams’s “Magic Box” approach for sustained, multi-part narratives!)

        OK. Went way off-topic. You know all this. Stopping now.

      • stchucky says:

        Yeah, the magic box isn’t my style. And you’re only carrying on the grand Hatstand tradition of obsessing over a minor and unrelated detail.

      • dreameling says:

        I’ve been casually thinking about the Magic Box on and off for a few weeks now, and I’m just liking it less and less as a general storytelling strategy and end state. Which is making me more and more irritated at Abrams.

      • stchucky says:

        Aw.

        I guess Creepy and Hatboy narratives do follow something of that formula, but that’s because they’re urban surrealist vignettes. It sort of works.

      • dreameling says:

        C&H stories aren’t Magic Box stories to me, not in the way I’m thinking about “Magic Box”.

      • stchucky says:

        I’m admittedly not super familiar with the idea, I just sort of imagined a non-physical narrative McGuffin (or series of them) that goes unexplained until (hopefully) the end. But apparently doesn’t even get explained properly then, in Abrams stories.

        Except Blossom.

      • dreameling says:

        What I mean by “Magic Box” or “Mystery Box” is the Abrams strategy of making a central mystery an end in and of itself, never unpacking it to any meaningful degree, and often just reducing it to a MacGuffin, even when it’s the central question or element driving the narrative. For example, famously, the island in Lost. In short, it’s a strategy of systemic non-explanation. The box remains more or less closed and opaque from beginning to end.

        (Or this is how I understand Abrams’s Mystery Box at least.)

        I do think the Mystery Box, in general, is a perfectly valid storytelling tool and can be used to great effect, if used with care, particularly in shorter one-off narratives, like standalone movies and novels, and in the beginning of series narratives. But the Abrams approach of fetishizing the mystery and never providing any real answers, even by the end of a longer narrative, is just frustrating and disappointing. Again, famously, Lost.

        You obviously don’t need to solve all mysteries, since sometimes the point can be that there are no final or definitive answers. Obviously. But you do need to provide a payoff that at the very least in some way addresses the mystery or suggests something new about it, if not solve it. Especially in longer narratives that have sustained your interest by promising to provide answers. Lost.

        The Mystery Box strategy can also be an excuse for lazy world-building. You don’t have to think about how things work and commit to a logically ordered and internally consistent story world when it’s all inside a fucking box. Which is just disrespectful to your audience.

        Finally, there’s the implied philosophical angle: The idea that, as a rule, the mystery is more important than the solution to the mystery is just asinine and completely antithetical to a rational, inquisitive, scientific worldview. Mysteries are meant to be studied and, if possible, solved. The best payoff to a mystery is a solution to that mystery that somehow adds to our knowledge and understanding of the world. And then you move on to the next mystery. The idea that it’s fine to not look for or want answers and to just remain suspended in tantalizing ignorance is ass. Not knowing is fine, as we do have our limits, but not wanting to know is not, as a rule.

        Yes. I’m well aware that I may have just taken the implications of Abrams’s Mystery Box a bit too far.

        Also, I have a few issues with Lost.

      • dreameling says:

        PS. Apologies to Abrams for making it seem like he was solely responsible for Lost. He was not. In fact, he just kicked it off.

      • stchucky says:

        I’m sure he appreciates that, being an avid reader of this blog.

      • stchucky says:

        So … without even knowing it, the Prism I put in the Cookhouse Trumpet story was literally a mystery box?

        Fuck I’m good.

      • dreameling says:

        But you made it work.

        So yeah.

      • stchucky says:

        The lack of a resolution to the Prism was the point of the Prism, so I suppose so.

      • dreameling says:

        Like I said, not all mysteries need to be resolved. Depends on the story.

      • dreameling says:

        PPS. Thank you to Hatboy’s Hatstand for providing me with a convenient opening to rant/vent about the Mystery Box. I feel better already.

      • stchucky says:

        Plenty more to discuss there! But no time right now. Interesting reading. It may be relevant here but I’m still behind on my reading. Last thing I saw about the Mystery Box was that video about Blossom you sent.

      • dreameling says:

        It’s ok, we can leave this at, um, this. I’ve pretty much used up my online discussion time for the day anyway.

      • stchucky says:

        Heh. I wasn’t going anywhere with it today. No time either.

      • stchucky says:

        And I can see how the Mystery Box angers your antitheist non-omniscient-narrator explanations-for-everything junkie 😉

      • dreameling says:

        It’s actually a bit contradictory. I prefer limited/subjective POV, but I want objective answers. Go figure.

      • stchucky says:

        More complimentary than contradictory, I think. But to be continued, maybe.

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