A man in a spherical red bodysuit perched across the street from the art museum. Binoculars pressed rings into his eye sockets. Six stories below, a white van disgorged black-clad passengers. The blue flame of a blowtorch illuminated a ground level door. The round red man’s chest jutted out. A cape fluttered behind him as he cut a silhouette against the full moon. He punched a number on his cell phone.
“Hello, Mayor, there is an urgent breach of public safety at the museum. This is …”
“Dammit, I know who this is. You’re the only person who calls me at 3 in the morning, Trademark-Infringement Man. The city is through working with you. We can’t afford to pay another judgment for your cockamamie schemes that rip off the intellectual property of rich companies.”
“But someone’s breaking into the museum. The priceless Van Gogh exhibit is in peril.”
“I don’t care if they steal the paintings, set them on fire, then dig up Van Gogh’s corpse and set that on fire, too. I’m not running for re-election on a platform of ‘I had to raise your taxes because our idiot super-hero can’t fight crime without getting sued’. For God’s sake, it’s right there in your name.”
Trademark-Infringement Man’s free hand swooped through the air as though conducting the New York Philharmonic. “I don’t do it on purpose, Mayor. And in all fairness, the tabloids came up with the name. My idea was much better.”
“Oh yeah? What was your idea?”
“The Marlboro Man.”
“Never call me again.” The line went dead.
Trademark-Infringement Man rubbed the smiley face painted on his belly. Through the museum’s floor to ceiling windows, he could see black figures loading thin, square crates onto a dolly. Trademark-Infringement Man shot a rappelling hook over the cross-street canyon and tugged on the rope. The hook gripped tight on the art museum roof. He stepped up to the top of the ledge and jumped.
A blur of red arced above 98th Avenue. Trademark-Infringement Man crashed through the museum window. His basso profundo “Oh, yeah!” blended with the tinkle of cascading glass splinters. His boots lost traction on the layer of glass that covered the marble floor. A made-up whiteface in a zoot suit leered at the bloated red beetle flailing on its back. Trademark-Infringement Man wagged a puffy red finger. “I knew you’d be behind this, Cease N. Desist. Let’s get ready to rumble!”
Cease pulled a sheaf of tri-folded paper from his jacket pocket. “If it isn’t everyone’s favorite bungler. Thanks to your inability to fight crime without stealing someone else’s ideas, the city can barely afford a police force. It almost pangs my conscious to do this to you, but business is business. Kraft Foods does not approve of your Kool-Aid Man knock off. Serve him the letters, boys!” Black-clad art thieves rushed at Trademark-Infringement Man. In each of their hands flapped a single sheet of paper.
“My counter-weighted boomerangs will make short work of your minions, Cease.” A flotilla of stumpy, curved hockey sticks cut the letters into tatters. The thugs ran screaming from the room.
“Those aren’t boomerangs,” Cease said. “Those are Nike swooshes. I know some folks in Beaverton who will be very interested in your latest antics. The beancounters at Nike will shut you down for good, Trademark-Infringement Man.”
“Not so fast, Cease.” Trademark-Infringement Man shot a wide-mouthed pistol at his nemesis. A glob of white goo covered Cecil’s phone. The goo hardened into a snowman with a puffy, ribbed body.
“A Michelin Man? I hope you can read French, because you are about to get a very nasty letter in the language of love.” Cease pulled out another phone. “You’re going down this time.”
Trademark-Infringement Man fired a second glob of goo, which engulfed the phone and hardened into a bulbous puppet in a baker’s hat. “Poppin’ Fresh? You don’t know when to stop, do you?” Cease jerked a phone from his boot holster. “You’ll run out of ripped-off gizmos before I run out of phones.”
“You take a licking and keep on ticking, don’t you Cease? My double-headed throwing staple will put a stop to you.” Golden conjoined curves flashed through the air and pinned Cecil to the wall.
“McDonald’s arches? You’ll never get away with this.”
Trademark-Infringement Man pulled a roll of clear adhesive from his belt. “On the contrary. You are the one who won’t get away with it. Not after I wrap you up in Scotch tape and call the Police Commissioner.”
Cease squirmed in vain. “That’s not Scotch tape. It’s off-brand adhesive. You’re using the trademark as a generic.” Cease cackled. His lips twisted into a crooked smile. “You forgot about my Bluetooth earpiece. 3M is going to come down on you like a ton of bricks.”
A woman in a grey pinstriped suit kicked open the front door, and led a phalanx of grey pinstriped suits through the museum. A briefcase fell from her hand. The leather-on-glass crunching sounded like a bubble wrap mosh pit. “Which one of you is Trademark-Infringement Man?”
“Who do you think it is?” Cease screamed. “It’s the doofus in the Kool-Aid Man get up.”
Trademark-Infringement Man puffed out his chest. “That’s right. I’m Trademark-Infringement Man.”
“I represent the 3M Corporation. We would like to offer you an endorsement contract if you will switch to Scotch brand cellophane tape for all your crime fighting and villain apprehending needs.” She popped open the briefcase lid and handed over a roll of tape. “Try it. Of course we’d expect you to shoot some commercials. Talk about how much better our product is than the leading brand. Maybe a billboard campaign. A few radio spots. That sort of thing.”
Trademark-Infringement Man pulled off a long strip and wrapped it around Cease’s ankles.
“Hmm, very nice.” He yanked the roll out of its case. A trail of tape wound up to Cecil’s knees.
“This is a fantastic adhesive, ma’am. It’s two great tastes that taste great together.”
Cease bashed his head into the wall. “Fools! You’ll pay for this.”
Caleb Echterling is costume designer for the All-Nude Shakespeare Company. He tweets funny fiction using the imaginative handle @CalebEcherling. You can find more of his work at www.calebechterling.com.