Read Instructions Before Use

by Dan Sanders

Paul found it in the back of an obscure old comic book that he liked to think was the only one still in existence. A terrible and comic from the atomic age called “Allen Extra and Wonder Larry”. It was terrible, but Paul thought he bore a striking resemblance to WonderLarry, and bought it at a yardsale, and for all of his searching, has never found another copy of the book. On the very last page, the same yellow and brown page that sold the pills that would turn you from a four-eyed weakling to a muscled beach bruiser, the x-ray specs, the joy buzzer, there was Mar-Lo, advertised as a three foot tall clockwork detective.

 

Normally, he wouldn’t have altered the near-mint condition of the book, but he couldn’t find a trace of Mar-Lo anywhere else. Nobody in the collectors forums had heard of it, nothing on Ebay. A rare, maybe the rarest, toy. He figured it would fit one of the shelves in the spare bedroom, maybe next to the gumball machines. Or possibly next to the original 3ft tall G.I. Joes. So he winced and cut out the order form, and sent it away with  thirty dollars and forgot about it until it arrived.

 

Mar-Lo arrived in a faded blue box that showed more signs of wear than Paul would have liked. It was clear it had been opened and returned and he didn’t care for it’s used condition. It was unclear if he would be able to restore the packaging, and, more annoyingly, there were no supplemental materials, no instructions, no manufacturing information. Just Mar-Lo. A once golden metal robot, with one eye in his square head and three vertical spaces for a tinny, squeaking speaker with a spyglass in his right hand. It seemed damaged and probably not worth the thirty bucks he paid for it, but he turned it on anyway.

 

Once activated, Mar-Lo rolled around the house on old tank treads, presumably looking for clues. occasionally blurting “MAR-LO!” from his mouth. It turned poorly and ran into corners and chair legs. Kind of adorably clumsy, but pretty disappointing on the whole. It just seemed to say Mar-Lo! over and over again.

 

It bounced around for about five minutes until it said – “BZT! MAR-LO HAS CRACKED THE CASE!” Oh, neat. It says other things. “BZT! BZT! MAR-LO! SUBJECT IS FIVE FEET SEVEN 190 POUNDS A REAL MOOK, A DRIP, A SOURPUSS.”

“Wow, that’s kind of –”

“A REAL NOBODY, GET ME?”

“You don’t know that.”

“BZT MAR-LO! BZT! MAR-LO HAS CRACKED THE CASE!

“I guess it just says insults.”

“YOUR FATHER NEVER LEFT WHEN YOU WERE SEVEN!”

“Wait, what?”

“BZT! MAR-LO! HE LIVES IN PALM SPRINGS WITH A WOMAN NAMED SANDY AND HIS NEW FAMILY WHO HE LOVES MORE THAN YOU! HE DOESN’T CALL BECAUSE HE THINKS YOU ARE BORING. I ALSO THINK THAT YOU ARE BORING.”

“I’m not sure –”

“YOU ARE BORING. EVEN RIGHT NOW.”

“Jesus”

“BZZT! FICTIONAL DEITY CREATED BY MAN TO OBSTRUCT THE VOID! MAR-LO HAS CRACKED THE CASE! YOUR FATHER WILL DIE OF A HEART ATTACK IN 582 DAYS, SANDY WILL DIE OF CANCER IN 882 DAYS. THEY WILL BOTH DIE PEACEFULLY AND NOT THINK OF YOU. MAR-LO HAS CRACKED THE CASE! BZZT!”

 

“THIS BUILDING WAS BUILT IN 1929, IT WILL BE RAZED IN 5,813 DAYS AND BE REPLACED WITH A PARKING LOT.  THE PREVIOUS OWNER WAS MURDERED WITH A BOWLING PIN BY THE CURRENT OWNER WHO WILL DIE OF OLD AGE! MAR-LO HAS CRACKED THE CASE! CRACKED THE CASE! YOU WILL DIE IN 1,381 DAYS. YOU WILL CHOKE ON A TGI FRIDAY’S APPETIZER! BZT! BORING! BZT LONELY! BZT! BZT! CHOKE ON THE HIBACHI TAPA-TIZER SKEWERS!”

 

“THE WAITRESS’S NAME IS SANDY, IT DISTRACTS YOU AND YOU CHOKE. SHE TAKES A MOMENT TO NOTE HOW SAD YOU LOOK BEFORE YOU SUCCUMB. SHE WILL DIE IN A CAR ACCIDENT IN LAS VEGAS IN 1532 DAYS.  THEY DON’T EVEN CLOSE THE RESTAURANT FOR THE EVENING YOU DIE. YOU ARE THERE AT TGI FRIDAY’S IN THE MIDDLE OF A WEEKDAY DAY DAY DAY, ALONE. BZZT! SAD! SAD! BZZT! MAR-LO HAS CRACKED THE CASE!”

 

“MAR-LO WILL BE THROWN OUT THE WINDOW IN FIVE SECONDS! BZZT MAR-LO! MAR-LO WILL SHATTER ON THE GROUND IN THE SUNSHINE! THE SUN WILL EXPLODE IN 55949939 DAYS! BZZT! MAR-LO HAS CRACKED THE CASE!”

 

Paul, possibly overreacting, casts Mar-Lo out into the midday sun and watches him spin down to the pavement, where he shatters into pieces, croaking out a dull, last “MAR-LO!”

 

——

 

Next Week’s Prompt: Graffiti  

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