Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What Ever Happened To . . . The Little Engine That Could?

It was a beautiful morning in Toyland.  The Slinkies were walking downstairs (alone AND in pairs), the Hungry Hungry Hippos were enjoying a good meal, and the Duncan yo-yos . . . well, the yo-yos weren't doing much of anything because for the most part they're a bunch of lazy bastards.  Meanwhile, on the other side of Mount Whiteman, hundreds of good little boys and girls (and a couple of obnoxious brats whose sense of entitlement was truly disgusting) eagerly awaited the arrival of toys and goodies scheduled for that afternoon.

The train was loaded and ready to go.  As it pulled away from the station, however, Ellsbury the Engine sustained an injury which caused him to grind to a halt.

"Hey, Ellsbury, what the hell's going on up there?" hollered Raggedy Andy.  Andy was an impatient asshole to begin with, and since Raggedy Ann had gone over the mountain a week earlier, he'd been anticipating their reunion with lust in his nether regions.  He was going to loosen her stitching tonight, that was for damn sure.

"I think I snapped a connecting rod!" cried Ellsbury.  "I can't move!"

"Well shit," said Rollo the Clown, snuffing out a Marlboro on the sole of his size 38 Chuck Taylor sneaker.  "Someone get this worthless sack of nuts and bolts off the track while I flag down another engine to take us over the mountain."

A few minutes later, a passenger engine pulled up.

"Hey, bro, how about giving us a lift over the mountain?" asked Rollo.  "Ellsbury crapped out before we even got fifty yards so we're pretty much screwed."

"Piss off, clown, I only pull passenger cars.  You and G.I. Joe can sit out here all night for all I care."

As the passenger engine sped away, Rollo gave him the finger.

A rough-looking freight engine came by next.  Rollo decided to try a more diplomatic approach this time.  "Why, hello there, Mr. Freight Engine.  We seem to be in a bit of a pickle here, as you can see.  Would you mind hooking up to our train here and taking us over the mountain?  We'd be ever so grateful."

"Aaaaaaaaaah!" screamed the freight engine.  Like 99% of the world's population, he was scared to death of clowns because they're friggin' creepy, so he chugged off without looking back.

"I hate it when that happens," muttered Rollo, lighting up another cigarette.  Off in the distance, he noticed a small-but-enthusiastic-looking engine heading their way.  It was Phillip, the train yard rookie.  With all the other engines dispatched to their usual duties, Phillip was the toys' last hope.  Rollo couldn't risk blowing this one.

"Hey, Barbie!" he yelled.  "Get your ass out here!"  He quickly briefed her on the situation.

"No problem, Rollo," said Barbie.  "I'll take care of it."  She adjusted her outfit into "full slut" mode, and stood by the tracks.  Phillip went from 50 MPH to a dead stop in about half a second, sparks spraying from his wheels.

"How YOU doin'?" he said.

Barbie laid it on thick.  "We're in so much trouble," she sobbed.  "Our engine, who isn't nearly as strong or as good-looking as you, he broke down and now we can't get over the mountain.  The good boys and girls won't be getting any toys for a long time if we can't get there.  Do you think you could help us?"

"I think I can," he said, half to himself.

"Oh, I'm SURE you can," purred Barbie.  "You're the best."

Phillip never would have admitted it, especially not to Barbie, but he wasn't sure he could pull this one off.  He was the new engine in town and had never gone over the mountain before, not even alone.  With a fully-loaded train of cargo, Phillip was afraid his crankshaft had made a bet his power supply couldn't cover.  Well, no turning back now, he'd have to give it his best shot.

And faster than you can say "all aboard," they were off.

Phillip kept chanting his confidence-building mantra all the way up the mountain.  "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can . . . "  It wasn't easy, but with maximum effort (and sultry encouragement from STD Barbie, who was painting her nails in the engineer's seat), he made it to the top.  At the summit, he beamed with pride and all the way down he boasted, "I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could."  Phillip had saved the day and when he pulled into the station, the toys disembarked and showed their appreciation by hosing him off and giving him a good scrub.  Barbie polished his smoke stack.

For the next several months, Phillip was the "Big Engine in Train Yard."  He was well-liked by the other locomotives, and they'd taken to calling him "The Little Engine That Could".  His confidence was sky-high, as he was assigned to all the important shipments in a five-county region.  But after a while, Phillip's ego spun out of control and he started acting like he was "all that and a boxcar full of iPads."  That's when the steel-toed boot of reality kicked him square in the ball bearings.

One morning, Phillip was hooked up to fifty cars loaded with brand-new Porsches.  This was, by far, the heaviest and most expensive shipment he'd ever been responsible for. 

"You up for this one, Phil?" asked the train yard captain.

"I think I can, Joe.  I think I can."

"Well, that's good enough for me," replied Joe.

As it turned out, Phillip was wrong.  About halfway up the mountain, he started slowing down.  "I hope I can, I hope I can, I hope I can . . . "

Two minutes later, as he was being dragged backwards down the hill, his screams became even less confident.  "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, OH SHIT!  OH SHIT!  OH SHIT!"

The ensuing damage was reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina if, instead of wind and rain, Katrina had pelted the Gulf region with a torrent of train parts and mangled sports cars.  Carreras burst into flame, Boxsters bounced down the hillside, Phillip himself was pitched into a cow pasture where he landed at the feet of a startled Holstein.

When he returned to the train yard, he was no longer a hero.  He was a laughing stock.

"Hey, look!  Here comes The Cocky Engine That Couldn't!"

"I think he sucks, I think he sucks, I think he sucks!"

Locomotives can be a bunch of assholes when they put their minds to it.

After the Porsche Incident, Phillip's confidence was shaken.  He became irritable, and refused to pull any load that was more than a couple flatcars, preferring instead to transport cargo that was inexpensive and had limited desirability.  Things like throw pillows, lawn furniture, DVD's of "The Office".  Joe the Train Yard Captain grew frustrated with his defiance.

"Come on, Phil," said Joe one day.  "Snap out of it.  Today's run is just a few oil tankers, it'll be easy."

"Leave me the hell alone, Joe.  I'm not going to do it."

"What, are you saying you can't?"

"No.  I think I can.  But I don't want to and you can't make me."

That's how he came to be known as "The Oppositional-Defiant Engine That Wouldn't".

No one has much use for a freight engine with a shitty attitude, so the train company had no choice but to sell Phillip to a local zoo where he spent the rest of his days giving kiddie rides to snot-nosed children eating cotton candy.  Then, in July 2005, a circus act came to town to give a special performance at the very zoo where Phillip worked.  That's when the engine noticed an old friend approaching.

"Rollo, how the hell are you?" asked Phillip.

"Dude, what the fuck?" replied the clown.  "How'd you end up doing this shit?"

Phillip told him the story.

"Damn," said Rollo.  "Isn't this a little humiliating?  You look like a beaten-down pile of garbage.  Have some pride, man, you're better than this."

"You know, I used to feel that way, but the hell with it," said Phillip.  "Right now, I'm just The Apathetic Engine That Doesn't Give a Damn."

Phillip the Freight Engine broke down for good in 2008.  All of his metal parts were recycled, and no one knows for sure what became of him.  But his old friend Rollo has a theory:

"I think he's cans.  I think he's cans.  I think he's cans."[1]


[1]  I apologize.  That's just awful.




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