THE BELL OVER THE door gave a quick chime as the man dressed as a piñata entered Bill’s Diner. He carried with him, resting casually over his right shoulder, an old baseball bat, the handle wrapped in athletic tape. The tape was worn and frayed, as was the piñata suit and the man who wore it.
He took a seat at the counter next to a woman in business attire. The bat he left leaning against the wall at his knees. The woman turned to look at him as he sat, her eyes going wide. He smiled at her. She returned the smile, but he detected a hint of discomfort around the edges. A tightness that is only there when something is amiss, out of the ordinary. She sat stiffly, as if she suddenly wanted to be anywhere but Bill’s.
He took a quick glance around the diner.
Everything seemed to be chugging along like normal. But then, what was normal? The man who dressed as a piñata ignored the thought. Now was not the time for philosophy. He mustn't let intellectual frivolity distract him. If the woman’s body language was any indication, something was amiss. Maybe, if he was lucky, danger was afoot.
And yet, as he scanned the diner, nothing appeared to be amiss. He could see Bill back there in the kitchen. The proprietor prepared meals like there was no tomorrow, his various cooking implements flying with all the precision of a Swiss watch.
The waitress stood leaning on the counter by the register. The man who dressed as a piñata gave her a nod. As usual, she pretended to ignore him. He smiled to himself, it was their little game.
The patrons all sat at their tables and talked among themselves, probably of lawn care maintenance and which dishwasher detergent worked best. The man who dressed as a piñata cared little for the day to day drudgery of the masses. His job was to protect them, beyond that they were on their own.
But he didn’t detect anything that might make the woman next to him feel uncomfortable.
Could it be him?
It wasn’t every day that the average citizen shared counter space with a famous crime fighter. He tried to put himself in her shoes, but they looked uncomfortable so he dismissed the thought entirely. Instead he tried to imagine what it must be like for someone with a life as mundane and average as hers to suddenly find herself in the presence of one whose sheer charisma and fighting prowess far eclipsed her own. He smiled again.
He was about to speak to the woman, put her at her ease, when the waitress, who must have decided that their game was at an end, walked over and acknowledged his presence.
“The usual?” She asked.
He turned from the woman to give the waitress his full attention. She glared down at him and he almost laughed. Their game, it appeared, was not at an end. She would continue to pretend that he annoyed her. He found the act more than amusing.
“Yes, dear waitress!” He said. “The usual!”
“I’m right here,” she said. “You don’t have to yell.”
“Was I shouting!?” Shouted the man dressed as a piñata. “My apologies. But is it not polite to speak clearly for all to hear? Whispers, after all, are the voices of criminals.”
“Whatever,” she said, turning her back on him. “One Club,” she called out to Bill in the kitchen.
The man dressed as a piñata turned back to his counter mate. She was looking at him through the sides of her eyes, her head still pointed at the kitchen ahead of her.
“Fear not, dear lady,” said the man dressed as a piñata. “Deep down, I am no different than you.”
She did not move or reply.
“Of course, that’s not really true,” he continued.
She said nothing in return.
“I died once, you know.”
“You died?” The woman said, her head turning slightly in his direction.
“In spirit, yes,” he said.
But before he could continue, the waitress was there, holding a plated sandwich in her hand and ready once again for their little dance.
“Is this guy bothering you?” She had directed her question not to the man dressed as a piñata, but to the woman seated next to him.
He smiled. Of course he wasn’t bothering the dear lady. He was about to open her mind. Show her a world she never before knew existed. Let her see that there was no wrong a man could do that could not be quelled beneath the solid barrel of his trusty bat.
“A little bit, yeah,” the woman said.
He was aghast. Surely she didn’t meant it. The woman must be confused.
Of course, to be fair, he was always a hair’s breadth away from action, like a snake preparing to strike, a tiger on the hunt, a mousetrap ready to be sprung. It was possible she could sense his attentive tension.
She needn’t worry. Providing, that is, she slept in the blanket of innocence and cleaned her face with the towel of justice.
“What have I told you about bothering the customers?” The waitress glared down at him.
“My tale must be told, wench. Do not attempt to censor me.”
The waitress leaned in to him.
“Look,” she said. “I'm not going to tell you this again. You call me wench one more time and this plate is going to find a permanent home in your ear.”
“Calm yourself, waitress,” he said. “I meant no offense.”
“I have a name, you know.” She pointed to the name tag on her apron. It said ‘Beatrice’. “It would be nice if you used it once in a while.”
“Forgive me dear, Beatrice,” he said. “You are the flower of Bill’s Diner. Your presence is the light that guides the weary feet of righteousness and the resolve that swings the bat of cold fury known as justice.”
“Whatever,” she said, setting the sandwich on the counter before him. Then, as before, she turned her back on him and walked away.
The man who dressed as a piñata gazed down at the sandwich. Bill’s Famous Club. His favorite. Next to it sat a pickle spear and a side of fries. He licked his lips. Then, lifting the top slice of bread he removed the lettuce and tossed it aside.
“Good riddance, lettuce. Enjoy what’s left of your pointless existence until you biodegrade inside some nameless landfill.”
He took up the sandwich in both hands and brought it to his mouth. But, just as he was about to take a bite from the greatest thing this side of punishing the wicked, the door behind him slammed open, the bell nearly falling from it’s perch.
He turned to find a man standing just inside the door, his face hidden beneath the hood of his sweatshirt. But he wasn’t looking at the newcomer’s face. His eyes were drawn to what the man held in his hand… a gun. A Colt Python to be exact. .357 Magnum with what looked like an eight inch barrel. An intimidating firearm for many who face it. But for him . . . the man who dressed as a piñata only smiled. Another opportunity to dispense justice.
“This is a stick up, people!” Shouted the man with the gun. “You watch TV, so you know the rules! Do what I say and no one dies!”
The man who dressed as a piñata waited and watched as the gunman took out a large trash bag. He leaned back, one elbow resting on the counter behind him and took a bite from the sandwich.
“I want all your money and your valuables in this bag,” the gunman shouted. “I want everyone to remain calm. I’ll be bringing the bag around, put your stuff into it and I won’t have to shoot anyone. Understand!” This last more demand than question.
There were frightened nods of understanding from everyone within Bill’s Diner. From all of them but one.
The man who dressed as a piñata continued to eat his sandwich as the gunman went around the room. The patrons, each and every one of them, succumbed to the will of the criminal, tossing their wallets, their purses, rings, and necklaces into the bag. The man who dressed as a piñata was last.
“Where’s your wallet, weirdo?” The gunman asked.
“In the bowels of justice, ruffian,” the piñata man replied. “Dare to enter?”
“What?” The gunman looked confused. He would have to be educated.
“You seem unsure of yourself, criminal. Are you a hundred percent on this plan?”
“Don’t talk to me!” The gunman shouted, waving his pistol in the piñata’s face. “What are you doing!? Gimme your wallet, man!”
“You will want to stop waving that gun in my face. Sally does not like it.”
“Sally!” The gunman looked around. “What’re you talking about!?”
The man who dressed as a piñata smiled and pointed to his bat.
“It’s a bat.”
“No, miscreant. It is not a bat.”
“Yes, it is!” The gunman was sweating. “It’s a bat! It says ‘Baseball Bat’ on it!”
“Sally is no mere bat, criminal. She is an instrument.”
The gunman rubbed at his eyes with his free hand.
“An instrument,” he said. “What, like a trumpet?”
“Oh yes, very much like a trumpet,” said the man who dressed as a piñata, a smile nearly dividing his face in half. “Or even a tuba or xylophone. Would you like me to play you a song?”
“Okay, psycho,” said the gunman. “I’m done with you! If you don’t have a wallet in that rainbow pony suit then shut your stupid mouth!”
At the insult to his uniform, the man who dressed as a piñata shot to his feet.
“Pony suit! How dare you!” He put a fist to his chest. “I am the Mighty Piñata, excrement!”
“The Piñata?” The gunman looked confused.
“The Mighty Piñata, thug!” Then, with the speed of a leaping cheetah, the Mighty Piñata took up his bat. “Prepare for the rough and splintered kiss of justice!”
There came a terrible crashing sound like that of a ferocious thunderclap and everything went white.
The Mighty Piñata found himself on the floor of Bill’s diner. The waitress, Beatrice, kneeled over him, tears in her eyes.
“Fair maiden,” he said. “Why do you cry?”
“Don’t move,” she said. “Don’t move, help is coming.”
“Help?” He said. “I am here to help. What can I do?” He reached out for his bat.
“Stop it, you idiot,” the waitress said, holding his hand down. “Don’t you understand?”
“Understand what, Dear Beatrice?”
“You’ve been shot.”
That was when he heard the sirens in the distance.
They were coming for him.
- Will the Mighty Piñata survive to punish evil another day?
- Wouldn't it be a horrible rip off to kill the title character in the second chapter?
- Will Beatrice ever find love?
Find out the answers to none of these questions in the next exciting installment of: The Mighty Piñata!