You get a few odd looks on the number 66 bus if you board with a baseball bat, but they abate a little if the man holding it is polite to a fault and chit-chatting with a friend who isn’t (visibly) armed about old movies.
“So, how are we going to do this?” John Mancuso asked. They had gotten off the bus by this time and were walking through Davis Square, Somerville’s main attraction. They remembered a few things they forgot to ask the man they left in the icebox and called Lee’s. Samar relayed his questions to Evan, who was still laboring at clearing up his mess, and Matt learned that the paleos lived in a big old Victorian house not far from Davis.
“Well, they’re probably cooking and eating their rat meat and doing some kind of dumb ritual. So we can try to sneak in while they’re doing that. There’s too many of them to take on all at once.” They had learned that eighteen people lived in the house permanently, and they had assorted hangers-on as well.
“It’d suck if we did all this for some double stufs that got thrown in a river, dude.”
Matt grunted. He didn’t want to think about that- and didn’t think the double stufs were in any river. Something in Evan’s eyes told him that.
They got to the house and looked at it from across the street. It was in poor repair and they didn’t see any lights on. They agreed to meet around the back and split up, going down side streets to meet behind the house’s big yard, fenced in by a good picket fence taller than either of them. Matt boosted John over and then vaulted up himself, baseball bat shoved down the space between his brown leather jacket and his sweatshirt.
Matt found himself on the other side of the fence looking at John Mancuso, a low fire, smoke – which he cursed himself for not noticing before – and a group of about fifteen very fit looking, if shaggy, men and women, dressed in a familiar combination of gym clothes and animal hides, all staring at the two dudes who just hopped their fence.
They looked at Matt. Matt looked at them. John Mancuso looked at both. The paleos started to fan out. None seemed to be armed, though several were holding skewers of hot meat- rat, Matt could only guess, and squirrel, hunted by hawk. The tension mounted, and mounted, until Matt cleared his throat and inquired, in his most conversational tone:
“Anyone seen a case of double stuf oreos?”
It was hard to tell by firelight, but these faces – which Matt could only normally imagine displaying smug healthy-person righteousness or perhaps frustrated rage – displayed a symphony of reactions. Some smirked. Some looked confused. Others guilty. One young lady looked on the verge of tears.
Finally, one man spoke up. “Bro. Do we look like the kind of people who eat double stuf oreos?” A few of the smirkers ventured some laughs. Matt smiled and nodded.
“You don’t, no. You don’t. You don’t look like you guzzle down vicodins, either. Or play nintendo wii!”
More laughs, the group was getting more confident. “In fact,” Matt orated, “You look like a collection of truly paleo…” – he almost said “ladies and gentlemen” – “people.”
“That’s right,” agreed the man who had spoken before. He stepped forward, in front of the fire. Matt and John were impressed- the dude looked like Bodie from Point Break, only bigger, bearded, and without any Buddhist calm in his eyes. “We’re not just paleo in our diet. We’re paleo in our way of life. We live like man was meant to. We take paleo where it was always going.”
Matt sensed Bodie was warming to a theme. A violent theme. He was looking around him, and some of the others – other men, mostly – were nodding, tensing, getting ready.
“So, no double stufs for you, then?”
“No, friend. No double stufs,” Bodie responded in a voice like he was humoring a man he was about to pound.
“Well, I think somebody around here’s been enjoying double stufs. And vicodin. And whiskey and jewels and… a nintendo wii,” Matt said with a steadiness he didn’t feel.
“I mean, yeah, dude, look at that wire,” John Mancuso said, pointing up. “That’s just a power wire.” It was. “Somebody’s getting power. Is it one of you guys?”
Many of the collected paleos looked at each other, confused. The rest just looked sad. Even Bodie looked uncertain.
“Let me tell you something, Bo- I mean, what’s your name?” Matt asked.
“Doorbreaker,” Doorbreaker said as though that’s a reasonable answer. That answers that, Matt thought, pleased with himself.
“Well, Doorbreaker, I think you’re getting played. I think there’s somebody up there in that house, playing nintendo wii. And eating double stufs and salami and pop tarts and all the good stuff you’re missing. And drinking good hard liquor and using it to wash down good pharmaceuticals. And he’s probably blinged out. Am I right there, uh, Dark Water Swimmer?” Matt asked, gesturing towards the woman who looked on the verge of tears. “Hey! He guessed my name!” she exclaimed softly.
“You’re living this frankly ridiculous lifestyle, and getting sent out to do damn house invasion robberies, while somebody – I’m guessing the somebody who started this little idiot cotillion – was getting well. That’s gotta smart.”
The paleos started mumbling amongst themselves. Mumbling and grumbling.
Matt nodded, pleased at the vibe, and said “listen, I’m here for the double stufs. Poison, according to you guys. Maybe some of my buddy’s booze and meats and cheeses while we’re at it.” “You can keep the wii!” John interspersed. Matt continued, “so let me talk to King Paleo and we can get out of your hair.”
There was silence at this proposition, then Doorbreaker nodded grimly. He turned back to the house, drew a great big breath, and yelled “GARY!” No response.
“Wait a minute,” John said. “You guys have to have these stupid names, and your leader gets to be Gary?”
“YOU HEARD HIM, GARY! SHOW YOURSELF!” Doorbreaker shouted. The other paleos started to shout, as well. If they had pitchforks and were less toned, the assemblage would look like a mob about to storm an old-timey granary. The shouting reached a fever pitch when a balcony door on the third floor opened up, and a large round shape appeared. Silence.
“My followers,” a reedy voice warbled from the shape, “my loyal followers of the true paleo path…”
“What the FUCK?!” shouted a pale redheaded paleo lady John had been eying. “He’s… he’s FAT!”
“No, no my allies and fellow warriors… simply… robust!” But it was true. He was fat. Gary had come completely out onto the balcony now. He was wearing a fine silk robe, he was clean shaven with neatly trimmed head hair, he had rings on each finger, he was pale, and he was quite fat. He drew his robe around himself to show his robust physique, and then noticed what that was doing.
“Double stufs will do that to you,” Matt said from the back of the crowd. That got the paleos shouting again, shouting their disgust, anger, and betrayal. Matt was torn: on the one hand, Gary lied to these people. On the other hand, Matt didn’t approve of their body fascism- Spack was fat and was better than every paleo there put together. Ah, well, he had a job to do. He and John exchanged a glance and they hustled in the back door. The paleos did nothing to stop them.
Inside, a fine old Victorian house had been turned into a paleo shitshow. Crude paintings of hunting, frisbee-playing, and apartment-raiding covered the walls. The floors were littered with animal bones and barbells. Matt and John produced their phones and used them to light their way up the stairs. Soon enough they were in Gary’s chambers.
He wasn’t alone. A little dude with a shaved head and what looked like renaissance faire garb was curled in a corner, a legal pad in hand. He shouted a warning when Matt came up the stairs. Matt paid him little mind, distracted as he was by the booty- the boxes of cookies and candies and sugary cereal, bottles of booze and pills neatly organized on counters, hams hanging from the ceiling, a fridge in the corner no doubt bursting with lunch meats and soda, boxes of jewelry, fur coats and silk robes piled in a corner, and, indeed, a nintendo wii, hooked up to a disappointingly small tv. Candy bar wrappers, crumbs, empty bottles of both the beer and the prescription variety littered the floor. Gary still had his back to it all, still trying to placate the crowd, though his followers had begun throwing clods of mud at him and he began to beat a retreat.
“Where are the double stufs, Gary?”
Gary started. “You! Why?! How?!”
“The double stufs, Gary.”
“Dude,” John Mancuso put in, looking at the legal pad he had taken from the ren-faire man. “I think this dude was writing poetry praising Gary. That’s fucked up.”
Matt didn’t have time for that. “The double stufs, Gary. Now.”
“You’ll never get out of here alive! I have dozens of trained raiders!” Just at that moment, a thrown rock shattered one of the windows of the balcony.
“I’d worry more about getting out alive yourself, Gary. And about giving me my double stufs.”
“Dude, I found them.” John had abandoned the poetry – it was really too dark to read anyway – and had brought the box over to the stairs.
“Tell you what, Gary. I’m gonna call my dad. He’s gonna bring a car over-”
“You’re telling me what to do, and you need to call your dad for rides?!” Gary assumed some of the overpowering arrogance he once must have possessed to lead this cult of paleo raiders. “Ha! What next?! Wait for your mom to call my mom! ‘Uh, hello, I’m this dude’s slutty mom, Gary’s mom, I’ve got-‘”
A pretty reliable way to unleash Cooperstown is to insult Matt’s mom. Matt loves his mom, and his mom is a lovely woman. Gary found this out when the end of Matt’s bat went from somewhere around Matt’s belt line to meeting Gary’s mouth with force in well under a quarter of a second.
The poet screamed. “What?” Cooperstown asked. “Isn’t a good wood diet… paleo?!” Cooperstown laughed and John joined in, his own demon, never far from the surface, taking hold.
Gary crawled towards his stockpiled goods as the noise from outside increased in volume and intensity, and the light danced as though the paleos had made firebrands and were brandishing them at will. Cooperstown let out a low chuckle.
“It’s time, Gary. Time to make ya famous!”
When all was said and done, Spack came to the apartment Monday afternoon to be reunited with his double stufs, and whatever other goods Matt, John, and Matt’s dad could pile into the older man’s car. The police, who had intercepted the other, smaller paleo from the donnybrook at Lee’s, running across the Mass Ave bridge with his ear dangling off, got to the paleo house just as Doorbreaker and the rest had set to burning the place down. The paleos were all in custody- Matt and John had left most of the goods behind, to be returned to their owners, minus a bottle or three of the good stuff, Matt’s payment to John for his help. Their last deed in the paleo house was to go to the roof and release the hawks the cult had kept.
It soon turned into a small party. Spack and his girlfriend (who had come home from visiting family at last), Matt, John, Peter, Baz, K-Riv, Tyler or Mason, and even The Village, who had stayed over to continue gaming, looked over Spack’s stuff and exclaimed over how Gary avoided consuming it, it was so delectable. “He would’ve gotten to it,” Matt assured them. John produced some wine, and those down with drinking wine in the mid-afternoon partook. Peter spoke at length something about how the rise and fall of the paleo raiders recapitulated the rise – or fall – of man from barbarous vigor to civilized decadence, or something. Matt wasn’t listening too hard.
Spack opened up the case. “Well, guys, I think we should dig into some double stufs,” he said as he produced a package and tore through the cellophane surrounding it. As a cheer went up from all assembled, Matt looked out of the living room window at Brighton, and caught a reflection. He looked his demon in the eye, and the two nodded to each other knowingly. Time to dig into some double stufs, indeed.