The Adventure Begins:
You surge up out of bed at 9:00 this morning when one of your basset hounds decides it’s about time to start giving you CPR. You’re bleary-eyed but less hungover than you deserve to be. The animals have to do their essentials in the park so you stumble about for five minutes trying to assemble pants, shirt, and shoes. Ok: you’re ready to go!
The hounds are plunging back in forth, seething with walkjoy and barely-restrained urine. And you’re standing at the top of the stairs putting their leashes on. You look down the stairs and, through the glazed glass of the door notice a stack of blue and grey shapes: your recycle boxes! Of course! Last night was Friday: Recycle Night!
You vaguely recall lurching out to curb last night, wearing nothing but your sexy zebra-print bathrobe; hideously drunk; barely conscious, to put out the four recycle boxes (including the one illegal recycle box which is just a big plastic tub that happens to be a shade of blue similar to the standard recycle-box colour).
Your Good Neighbor, Graham, must’ve been up early and stacked them up outside for you (like he does every Saturday morning). You notice, with satisfaction, that the Recycle Dudes were duped by your non-regulation box, and you’re proud that your booze-addled brain had the capacity to slip that box into the middle of the row of regulation boxes so the Dudes wouldn’t notice the ugly duckling until it was too late.
You reach down and click the leash onto Augustus Fink-Nottle’s collar and —
— there’s a sudden thud of a closing door from the street and – NO!!! – you look through the glass door to see that half of your recycle boxes have disappeared! They’ve been stolen from right under your nose! Your precious recycle boxes that it’s taken years to assemble: each one lovingly found abandoned on the street or stolen from your neighbors the day before moving house — two of them have vanished!!
But then, as your eyes are transfixed on the pitiful survivors of this massacre: there’s second thud – a fuzzy humanoid figure appears in the doorway – lifts the remaining recycle boxes (including the precious non-regulation box) – and vanishes with thud no.3! And you horror of the situation washes over you:
Holy shit! That was the lady who’s opening the store beneath our apartment! She’s just stolen all my recycle boxes! WTF?!?!
What do you do?
A) Drop the leash, bolt down the stairs, and confront her while she likely has the incriminating recycle boxes in hand. (turn to page 76)
B) Take a moment to grab one of the bizarre ornamental daggers from Pakistan that your grandfather who worked for the U.N. gave you, then run down the stairs and confront her. By then she might have had time to stash the evidence, but at least you’ll have some means of defense against the potentially-violent madness of someone who’d steal recycle boxes from in front of your door in broad daylight. (turn to page 149)
C) Call the cops. This person is clearly psychopathic and, even armed with an ornamental Pakistani dagger, there’s no certain safety in confronting a dangerous lunatic. The police are trained to deal with this sort of situation. (turn to page 14)
D) Overwhelmed by the confusion and potential ramifications of this outrage (losing all the recycle boxes + living above a store run by a nutter), you decide to avoid dealing with it for the moment. Instead you take the dogs out for a walk and use that time to think your options over. (keep reading…)
You click the leash onto Madeline Basset’s (hound no.2’s) collar and head downstairs. You normally walk east to the end of the block before circling around to the park; this time you go west, passing by the front window of the box-thief’s store so you can look in and see if the recycle boxes are still in view. They’re not. But there’s the store lady, a 50-something-year-old soccer mom, staring out from the doorway of the back room of the shop.
The storage room: where she’s likely stockpiled row upon row of recycle boxes stolen from everyone in the neighborhood who wakes up later than 9:00 on Saturday mornings.
Perhaps she’s planning on opening a recycle box store? Or maybe she’s holding the boxes hostage and tomorrow morning everyone will find a note made of pasted-together newspaper letters saying “if you ever want to see your recycle boxes again leave $3 in unmarked coins beneath the cushion of the stinky faux-leather armchair abandoned in the backalley by 4:00 this afternoon.”
You think you see the glint of defiance in her steely soccermom eyes as you pass by. This could get ugly. This probably will get ugly.
Having trudged around to the park thinking about how to deal with this situation, you arrive at the decision to:
A) Return to the store and confront her with Madeline and Gus, confident that she’ll be intimidated into relinquishing your recycle boxes when confronted by a hung-over artist wearing a women’s’ “Yoga Diva” t-shirt and a pair of undersized but fierce basset hounds. (turn to page 55)
B) Realizing that you look ridiculous and that these basset hounds are collectively less intimidating than a stuffed guinea pig, you go back upstairs to get the Pakistani dagger before attempting to confront the insane soccermom. (turn to page 124)
C) You realize that any possible outcome of confronting this thief would be far worse than the trouble of getting new recycle boxes. So you go back upstairs, make some coffee, and contrive a scheme to steal a couple boxes from the neighborhood immediately north of yours, which has their recycle day on Mondays. (turn to page 17)
D) You bring Madeline and Gus back upstairs, take a moment to gather your courage, and march back downstairs to knock on the store’s door. (keep reading…)
You were feeling not-so-hungover before. But, fermented by the awful confrontation awaiting you at the bottom of the stairs, nausea has gotten its second wind. You walk slowly, steadying yourself on the half-broken staircase railing. But then – by the same process of action-trumping-thought that propels people into skinnydipping in cold northern lakes – you’re on the street and knocking on that door.
And now the remorseless thief is in front of you: blank soccermom eyes; a haircut so neutral in form and colour as to be inevitably instantly forgetable; clothing and physique generic enough to render her completely impossible to pick out in a police lineup. All the finely-crafted accoutrements of a polished criminal.
She betrays no sign that she realizes why you’re knocking on her door, although she’s perfectly aware that you live in the apartment above and that she – just fifteen minutes ago! – stole four recycle boxes from in front of your door. She’s playing a hard bluff, counting on the possibility that you didn’t see her make off with the boxes.
A) “Don’t play innocent with me, bitch! I saw you steal those boxes. Now let’s have them.” (turn to page 200)
B) “Look: I know what you’re up to with the recycle boxes. Let’s make a deal. You give me a 30% cut on the ransom for the other boxes you’ve stolen and I won’t rat you out. Ok?” (turn to page 88)
C) “Um.. have you seen my recycle boxes? They were right here… um, in front of my door… about 15 minutes ago.” (keep reading…)
This is the moment of truth: will soccermom keep up the bluff? Admit to the theft? Turn violent and attack? Summon her gang of criminal henchmen from the back room?
Re-enforcing your words with a stare that clearly reads “and I know you fucking stole them”, you let her have it. Moments seem like minutes.
“Oh,” she says slowly, “those were your recycle boxes.” Hmm. An interesting strategy. So she’s playing dumb. Literally. Dumb. You reply:
A) “Of course they’re my recycle boxes you fucking idiot! They were in front of my fucking door!” (turn to page 46)
B) “No, they weren’t mine. The Recycling Box Fairy came in the night and left them there.” (turn to page 199)
C) “Um… yes, those were my recycle boxes.” (keep reading…)
Not a hint of embarrassment or awkwardness betrays her. The audacity of this criminal is stunning: there’s no crack in her polished persona.
Boldly reinforcing the ridiculous with the absurd, she manages to project the unlikely possibility that grabbing four stacked boxes from in front of someone else’s door and sequestering them out of sight in the back room of her store might conceivably be an innocent mistake! You’re not fooled. Stupid may be what Stupid does, but this degree of clueless moronity defies belief. It’s a put-on. Criminal artifice.
But she’s not done. I know it’s almost beyond comprehension – but she tops herself:
“I put them in the back. Do you want me to go get them?”
A) “No, I really just came down here and knocked on your door to let you know that I saw you steal my recycle boxes and I wanted to congratulate you. Really good job. You can keep them.” (turn to page 120)
B) “Holy Christ Almighty You Are So Unbelievably Stupid!” (turn to page 124)
C) “AAAAAaaaaaauuuuuggggghhhh!!!!!” You draw the ornamental Pakistani dagger that you actually did conceal in your pants before coming downstairs and plunge it savagely into her neck. (turn to page 150)
D) “Um… yes, I’d like them back.” (keep reading…)
Criminal Soccermom disappears into the back room, presumably to retrieve your four boxes from her massive stash of stolen recycle boxes, and hauls them back to the front door. As she’s on her way, you give her a quick once-over glance for any bulges in her soccermomwear that might indicate a newly-concealed knife or revolver. You don’t notice anything suspicious.
“Ok,” she says (with false Good Samaritan pride), “here they are. Now I’ll know that those are your boxes next time.”
You take the boxes and say:
A) “Seriously: who’s did you think they were this time?” (turn to page 73)
B) “Sure. And when they go missing next time I’ll know where to look, you psycho.” (turn to page 210)
C) “Ok. Thanks. I really like what you’ve done with the store. It’s looking really nice. Bye!” (keep reading…)
(or… is it?)