Tue, Jul 06 2021, 6:55 pm
I thought this was a charming and utterly hilarious spoof of the noir detective stories written Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett
This was excerpted in The New Yorker from a new book by Simon Rich. I think the book might be a lot of fun.
The Big Nap: Chapter 1
By Simon Rich
This is Part 1 of a three-part serialization.
The detective woke up just after dawn. It was a typical morning. His knees were scraped and bruised, his clothes were damp and soiled, and his teeth felt like someone had socked him in the jaw. He reached for the bottle he kept under his pillow and took a sloppy swig. The taste was foul, but it did the trick. Now he could sit up and think. Now he could start to figure out how to somehow face another goddam day.
He stared at his reflection in the mirror. He wasn’t getting any younger. His eyes were red and bleary. His scalp was dry and itchy. He was two years old, and soon he would be three. Unless he stayed two. He wasn’t sure if you stayed the age you were or if that changed.
He wasn’t sure about a lot of things. The only thing he knew was he was tired. Tired of this down-and-dirty life. Tired of trying to make sense of a world gone mad.
The client was waiting for him in his nursery. He’d seen her around before. She’d come onto the scene about a year ago, moving into the white bassinet down the hall. Some people called her Sweetheart. Others called her Pumpkin. But most people knew her by her full name: Baby Anna. She looked innocent enough, with her big, wide eyes and Princess Elsa onesie. But her past was murky. The detective had heard that she came from the hospital. But there was also a rumor that she’d once lived inside Mommy’s tummy. It didn’t add up. Still, a job was a job.
“So, what brings you here?” the detective asked.
“It’s Moomoo,” Baby Anna said. “She’s missing.”
The detective rolled his eyes. Moomoo went missing all the time. That was just the kind of unicorn she was. “Maybe she’s under your bassinet,” he said.
“I checked,” she said. “She’s not.”
Her eyes filled with tears. He handed her a tissue, but she didn’t know what a tissue was, so she put it in her mouth and tried to eat it.
“Please,” she said. “Moomoo’s all I have in the whole world.”
“Lost toys are small-time,” the detective said. “Why should I bust my *** to find some unicorn who’ll probably just turn up under the radiator?”
“Because I can pay you up front.”
The detective cocked his head doubtfully. What kind of scratch could a baby like Anna come up with? She wasn’t old enough to have a piggy bank. She didn’t even have pockets.
“What do you got that’s worth me getting up for?” he asked.
Anna looked him in the eye. “Stickers.”
The detective swallowed. “Are they the fun kind?”
“See for yourself.” She held up the sheet, and he took a long, slow breath.
They were fun, all right. He’d never seen so many Batmans in his life. There were jumping ones, flying ones, punching ones, kicking ones. If you counted them all up, it had to be at least three stickers.
“That’s a lot of cabbage,” he said. “How do I know these aren’t hot? Where’d you even get them?”
“I don’t remember,” she admitted. “Sometimes things are just in my hand. I also don’t remember how I got into this room or what we’re talking about.”
“We’re talking about finding Moomoo.”
She clapped her hands, to the best of her ability. “You mean it?”
“That’s right, doll,” he said. “I’m on the case.”
She threw her arms around his neck and screamed very loudly in his ear.
“Easy, kid,” he said, nudging her away. “I’ve got work to do.”
“So this is where you saw Moomoo last?” he asked.
“I think so,” she said. “It was either on this rug, or inside a volcano.”
“When did you go inside a volcano?”
“Last night,” she said. “I flew there with Moomoo and a dragon.”
“I think that might have been a dream you had.”
“Oh,” she said. “Huh. In that case, yeah. This rug is where I last saw Moomoo.”
“Any chance she ran away?”
“I guess it’s possible,” Anna said. “But it’s not like her. She’s always been completely motionless.”
“If Moomoo didn’t run, that means somebody took her. Have you seen any suspicious characters lately?”
“Not that I can remember.”
She closed her eyes and concentrated.
“Well, now that you mention it, there is an old lady who showed up today out of nowhere and replaced my parents.”
“Interesting. Describe her.”
“Gray hair, glasses, smells like yogurt.”
The detective nodded ruefully. “Sounds like Gaga.”
“You know her?”
“I’ve had run-ins with her before. She’s from Florida.”
“It’s in the sky.”
“How do you get there?”
“You get in an airplane and watch cartoons, and then you wake up in her house and there’s a turkey.”
“If Gaga’s from Florida, what’s she doing here?”
The detective’s eyes narrowed. “That’s what I’m gonna find out.”
Gaga was elusive. Sometimes she was lying in the recliner. Sometimes she was small, inside a phone. If the detective was going to track her down, his only chance was good, old-fashioned shoe leather. First he tried the playroom. Then he tried the room that had the chairs. He’d been at it for over ten seconds when he finally caught a break in the case. Gaga walked over and picked him up.
He decided to tail her. He held on to her neck as she headed for the laundry room. Before long, she was making a phone call.
“How’s the Airbnb? Are you both wearing sunscreen? Listen, I can’t figure out the Bosch. . . .”
It was impossible to follow. Like all grownups, Gaga spoke in a secret code designed to keep her operations hidden.
“What does ‘smart cycle’ mean? Warm or cold? Hold on, I’m putting you on speaker. . . .”
The detective felt his stomach lurch as a familiar voice rumbled out of Gaga’s phone.
“We’re driving to the beach. Just Google it, O.K.?”
There was no mistaking it; the voice belonged to Mama. And that could only mean one thing.
This one went all the way to the top.
“I’m off the case,” the detective said.
“But you said you’d help me!” Anna cried.
“That’s before I knew the score. If Mama’s mixed up in this, I don’t want anything to do with it.”
Anna looked confused. “What’s wrong with Mama? I like Mama.”
The detective smirked, amused by her naïveté. “We all like Mama,” he said. “She smells nice and is warm. But that doesn’t change the fact that she runs this whole darn town.”
“What are you talking about?”
The detective looked over his shoulder and continued in a whisper.
“Look, you’re just a kid, so I’ll spell it out for you. Mama’s the big boss around here. She pulls all the strings. The doctor, the dentist, the Gymboree instructor—they’re all on the take. Everybody answers to her.”
“I thought Dada was in charge.”
The detective laughed in her face. “Dada’s just a bagman. He’s fat and has a watch, but Mama’s the one calling all the shots.”
“And you think Gaga’s working for her?”
“I can’t prove it,” he said. “But I think she might be one of Mama’s lieutenants.”
“What does this have to do with Moomoo?”
“Don’t you get it? This is bigger than Moomoo. Something’s happening here. Something big is going down. And I’m not sticking around to find out what it is.”
He was halfway to his crib when he heard Anna start to sob. He turned around and sighed. It didn’t take a detective to see that the girl was frightened. Her eyes were wide and bleary, her face was pale and drawn, and at some point she had pooped big in her pants.
“Please!” she wailed. “You’ve got to help me!”
“I’ve got enough problems of my own!” he said. “Why should I risk my hide to help some dame I barely even know?”
She looked into his eyes.
“Because you’re the only one who can.”
To be continued . . .
This excerpt is drawn from “New Teeth,” by Simon Rich, out this month from Little, Brown and Company.
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||Thu, Jun 17 2021, 8:02 am
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