If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn Sideshow Mel was trying to escape.
For years, he’s stood there on my office book shelf, next to his cannon, stoically guarding the way to my desk. It’s a distinguished position for Mel, who as every Simpsons fan knows, has for the better part of two decades served as the loyal, silent sidekick to Krusty the Clown.
But as of late, strange things have been happening in my office. Every morning I come in, and there he is, lying on the floor in front of the bookcase. At first I chalked it up to the cleaning crew accidentally dislodging Mel with their feather dusters (he is, after all, something of a featherweight himself). But the crew doesn’t dust every night, and every morning, Mel is on the floor.
I began to suspect Jar Jar Binks. I mean, there he is, right next to Mel. He had motive: Among fictional sidekicks, Mel is beloved—Jar Jar is, let’s face it, pretty much reviled even among the most die-hard Star Wars fanatics. He had opportunity: He’s right there! But did he have the means? That’s what stumped me.
I cast my eye around the rest of my bookshelf. Pee Wee Herman certainly has the sort of disposition that might lead to after-hours mayhem, but he’s way out of reach. My John Glenn Action Figure has probably never felt comfortable positioned way behind Sideshow Mel, but he’s encased in a plastic blister pack. On the top shelf, my interactive Bug’s Life figures are too involved in each other to pay Mel any attention whatsoever. And even if Turbo Man (From the Arnold Schwarzenegger non-classic Jingle All the Way) could get his tiny little hands around my William Newcott autographed Louisville Slugger, no way could he angle it to get at Mel on that lower shelf.
As for Mel taking the leap on his own, well, we all know he’s far too phlegmatic to even contemplate such a thing.
And so, even though I dutifully came in and picked up Mel every morning, I eventually put the mystery out of my mind, resigned to the fact that Sideshow Mel’s late-night plunges into the abyss would remain, for all time, unexplained.
This morning I came in early—way early, about 7:30, which for me is akin to pulling an all-nighter. I reflexively went to pick up Sideshow Mel, and only when I’d bent halfway to the floor did I realize he wasn’t there. I glanced up, and behold, he was standing proudly next to his cannon, undisturbed.
“Hmm!” I said, and I sat down to get some work done.
I suppose I’d been typing away for ten minutes or so when I heard a voice behind me. It was the familiar, astonishingly annoying even after all these years, voice of Jar Jar Binks.
“Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha!” he chirped. “Eeets-ah-seven thirty seven a.m.!”
I straightened up, startled, and then remembered that this particular Jar- ar, besides being an incredibly ugly plush toy, is also a talking alarm clock.
Then he began to vibrate. It was kind of scary, but I vaguely recalled that this toy/clock, which I’d rescued from my son Zack’s closet after he moved out of the house, could be set to literally shake you awake in the morning. This was probably the ultimate flaw in the concept of this item—utilizing that vibrating alarm feature required that you actually sleep with Jar Jar Binks nestled in your arms. Frankly, I’d curl up with Jabba the Hutt before I’d share a bed with Jar Jar, but that’s probably another story, and not a pretty one at that.
I turned to look at Jar Jar. He stared straight ahead, those dead eyes focused on the dart board on my opposite wall, his white teeth gleaming eerily from his horse-like mouth. He continued vibrating and slowly, nearly imperceptibly, his right hand started nudging Sideshow Mel from behind. It wasn’t a big push, just a little nudge, really, but it was enough. Sideshow Mel pitched forward and went plummeting to the floor.
Jar Jar’s glazed eyes never moved, never cast themselves down to survey the havoc their owner had wrought. He just kept staring into space, as if nothing had happened.
And then, all was still. Only the sound of AARP’s air conditioning system, ker-chunking into service for another day, could be heard in the otherwise painful silence.
Slowly, I rose from my chair. I gingerly picked up Sideshow Mel and stood him back at his post. With trepidation, but a dread sense of curiosity, I squeezed the hand of Jar Jar Binks, where I recalled his “talk” button was implanted. I wanted to know what he had to say for himself. I needed to know.
Still no expression. And the silence was sliced open, as if with a great Gungan scythe.
“Oh, mooey mooey!” Jar Jar Binks exclaimed. “I love yous!”
My blood ran cold.