"So," the man said, resting his hands on the restaurant table, "What's it like being Ahnuld?" he asked, mocking the name in his best Austrian accent. Albert did not even acknowledge his presence. He stayed focused on the mountainous plate of scrambled eggs in front of him, continuously shoveling them into his wide, gaping mouth.
Again, the man broke the silence. "I'm sorry," he began. "I was just trying toÖ" He waved his hand in despair. "I donít know what I was doing. I was just trying to be funny." Albert kept concentrating on his plate of eggs. "Well, I guess Iíll do all the talking then. I know you've talked to a lot of people about your situation, and they all turned you away. But I think I can help." He pulled a laptop computer out of his bag and set it on the table. "C'mon..." he said as the terminal fired up. "I seriously think I can help you."
"Fuck you!" Albert spat. Even though he buried his face in his plate, he still managed to spit egg all over the table. "You just want to laugh at me like all the rest! I donít want no more bullshit!" He pronounced it boolshit.
"Hey, I came to you, remember? You didnít call me." Nelson began. "So what if I laughed at youÖ along with six billion other people. What you did was brilliant, but you still fucked up! People laugh at fuck ups, not at brilliance. I want to help you because I respect your brilliance." He placed a business card on the table and slid it forward. Finally, Albert stopped eating and looked down at the card: Nelson Webb Ė Attorney to Fallen Stars. Albert clenched his jaw, flexed his massive frame, and then jabbed Nelson in the hand with his fork.
"Ouch!" Nelson yelped, pulling his hand away.
Albert returned to his scrambled eggs, while Nelson nursed his sore hand. Albert suddenly leaned back in his seat, his eyes staring at the ceiling, as if divine intervention were his only hope. He rubbed the desperation out of his eyes and then looked at Nelson.
"Alright," he said, as he wiped the egg off his chin with the back of his hand. "I'll tell you my story." Nelson smiled and the big man took another mouthful of eggs. "But one more laugh, and your ass is in the street!" Albert spewed eggs all over the back of the laptop computer. Nelson raised his eyebrows, and then took a sip of his water. Albert leaned forward. The table strained under the man's massive frame. "I will tell you about being Ahnuld!" Albert started. "But this is going to take some timeÖ and some more eggs and coffee." He raised his plate and cup, motioning to the waitress. She looked over at him, and gave him the finger before turning to the kitchen. Albert sighed. Nelson straightened in his seat, and listened patiently as the big man recanted his tale.
"Could I have some more cream, please?" Albert asked, as the waitress poured his eighth cup of coffee. "And more eggs?" He held up his plate. Nelson was going over the notes he had taken. The waitress tore the plate out of Albertís hand.
"You know, all you can eat doesn't always mean all you can eat!" she snarled. She motioned toward the stack of plates sitting on the counter.
Albert pointed to the sign out front. He read it out loud "Slyís Diner Ė Open 24 hrs. All you can eat scrambled eggs and coffee - $1.99" The waitress just looked at him in disgust. "What the fuck do you care anyway?" he asked. "Itís just powder and water!" The waitress gave a sneer, and then went about her business.
"Albert," Nelson started. "I canít believe nobody else thought of this. I mean, you would think every celebrity would take precautions."
"I know," Albert said. "My cousin works as an estate executive with a big bank. He studied the Estate of Elvis Presley very closely and saw what how it was structured. We researched other celebrity estates and came up with the idea. The Elvis Estate was the only one that got it right!"
"Well, he was The King!" Nelson interjected.
"Right! Albert confirmed. "In the twentieth century, people were obsessed with Elvis! He was a cultural phenomenon Ė people dressed like him, talked like him. You could even make a living being an ĎElvis Impersonatorí.
"Wow," Nelson said, raising his eyebrows.
"His image was unique," Albert continued. "After he mysteriously died, or didnít die as some believed, the Elvis Estate went to the courts, and copyrighted the Elvis image so they could collect royalties on everything that was Elvis."
"They estate execs were very creative," Nelson said. "I found some references right here on the web." He tapped the blue screen.
"You see?" Albert said. "So I thought to myself, who is the greatest pop-cultural icon of the twenty fifth century?" Nelson was silent. "Him!" Albert said. He pointed out the window. Both men stared at a large holographic projection on the side of a building across the street. It was an image of Arnold Schwarzenegger holding a jar of pain reliever. "It's not a tumor!" flashed the caption. Nelson looked at the billboard and back at Albert. The resemblance was uncanny.
"Arnold Schwarzenegger," he whispered. He sat back in his seat and adjusted his glasses. "I've seen all his movies. The man was a genius - well ahead of his time. I can see why he became our most famous President." Albert nodded. "So thatís when you did your research, and realized that the Schwarzenegger Estate never copyrighted the image." He shook his head in disbelief. Albert was grinning with his wide gapped front teeth. "And you bought the rights, or at least as much as you could afford.
"I had won the lottery," Albert began, "and thought I had enough money. But once the executors figured out what I was doing, they started a bidding war and tied me up in legal bullshit!" Albert clenched his fists. "I couldnít go up against the power of Schwarz-Corp Ė they are worth billions. If only I had the ability to have done this right the first time! Instead Iím just a Schwarzenegger abomination!"
"Well, no kidding, pal," Nelson confirmed. "Look at you!"
Albert sighed, dropping his shoulders. The waitress brought over a big plate of eggs and set them in front of him. Ash fell from her cigarette onto his plate when she refilled his coffee.
"Thank you," Albert said.
"Blow it out your ass!" she replied.
Nelson was hacking away at his keypad. "Alright" he yelled. "I found everything we need in the Schwarz-Corp. Data Base." Albert dug a fork into his eggs. "I want you to go over, in order, everything you bought the rights to. I need to cross reference it with what they got!"
"Agreed," Albert said. "First, I bought the body image. This was relatively inexpensive, as I was already a big man. It required only slight physical augmentation."
"Go on," Nelson prompted, as he poured over the data on the screen.
"Then I had my teeth fixed so they had a gap between the first two," he added, pointing out the space with his fork. He smiled so Nelson could get a good look. "Then they fixed up my face with some cybernetic enhancements. And with that came the surgery to give me an Austrian accent."
"Alright," Nelson said. "Now by this time, they caught on to what you were doing. Thatís when they contested you."
"Yeah," Albert confirmed. "They started to bid against me for rights to the various aspects of the Schwarzenegger image, driving the price up. Eventually, I could only afford bits and pieces."
"And thatís when everything started going to hell," Nelson added.
"Yes!" Albert continued. "When we got to the hairstyles, I figured I wanted them all Ė the spiked hair from Terminator, or the parted hair from Running Man. But they outbid me, and all I could afford was the hair from Conan!" He ran his fingers through his shoulder-length locks. "Then, I wanted to get the clothing styles. Again, they started buying up everything, and the only image left was the outfit worn in Twins," he said in disgust. Nelson leaned over, looking under the table. Sure enough, Albert wore walking shorts and high-cut running shoes. They matched perfectly with his polo shirt and blazer.
"Nice," he said smugly.
"I also own the loin cloth from Conan," Albert added. "But it has been so cold lately."
"Yeah," Nelson agreed. "Now, letís talk about the famous catch phrases. Iíll read some of them from this list, and you tell me which ones you own."
"Iíll be back!"
"Hasta la vista, baby!"
"Fuck you asshole!"
"You are one ugly mother fucker!"
"Let off some steam!"
"He had to split!"
"Get your ass to Mars!"
"You got it buddy!"
"CookiesÖ I canít wait to toss them!"
"The hell with you!"
"Itís not a tumor!"
"Remember when I promised to kill you last? I lied!"
"Donít drink and bake!"
"Do you use that one much?" Nelson asked.
"Maybe twice," Albert shrugged.
"Alright, letís proceed. I have a headache!"
"You killed my people, you stole my fatherís sword!"
"You really got boned," Nelson said.
"Is that one of the expressions?" Albert asked.
"No," Nelson said, shaking his head back and forth. "I was just making a comment. "Well, thatís not even the half of them." He pointed to the list on his screen. Albert finished his coffee.
"Can you carry a weapon?" Nelson asked.
"Yeah, this" Albert responded, holding up the sword from Conan. It was lying next to him on the seat. Nelsonís jaw dropped. The sword was awesome.
"Hold on a minute," Nelson said, rubbing his eyes as he removed his glasses. "All you can carry is that sword?"
"Yeah," Albert answered.
"But current legislation requires that citizens remain armed at all times, not just in the urban zones," Nelson began. "Practically everyone carries a beam weapon of some sort. In fact, prices are dropping so that even the lowest street thug has access to the latest ion and maser technology." He pulled back his jacket, revealing a Canadian made G-9 handgun nestled snugly in a holster under his arm. Albert raised his eyebrows approvingly. "Let me get this straight," Nelson started. "If you carry any weapon other than that sword, you violate your legal agreement with Schwarz-Corp, and they can sue you. How the hell do you survive?"
"Itís never failed me yet," Albert said lovingly of the massive blade. He swung it about in one hand. "Besides, with it, I got all the Conan moves. A small cerebral upload and I can now swing this sword just like Arnold did in the film."
"StillÖ talk about putting you over a barrel," Nelson said, turning back to his terminal. "Arnold used a wide array of weapons in his films. Nobody uses archaic weapons anymore. Even a twentieth century slug thrower would up the ante, albeit slightly, than that sword would against a maser rifle. Thatís just damn cruel!" Albert wasnít listening. He gently caressed the blade. His attention was lost in the polished steel.
"Hey! Big guy!" Nelson yelled. "Letís get back to business here!" Albert looked at him and put the sword down. Nelson looked over the data on the terminal. "So, after all was said and done, you forgot the most important item of them allÖ"
"The name," they said simultaneously.
"You forgot to buy the name," Nelson said.
"Yes, I forgot to buy the name," Albert repeated. He placed his head in his hands.
"So here you are," Nelson started. "You act, sound, talk, dress and look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, but only as he appeared in some of his films. If you cross the line, youíre up to your ass in a lawsuit. You canít use most of his famous lines. You canít use any of the weapons he used, except the sword. You canít even be seen driving the same vehicles as he did in the movies. To top it all off, you canít even say you are Arnold Schwarzenegger. Heck, you canít even say you are pretending to be Arnold Schwarzenegger! Instead you have to break the hearts of crazed fans who approach you by telling them Sorry to have confused you, but my name isÖ"
"Albert Zorn!" Nelson continued, raising his hands in surrender. "That must really piss people off!"
"Why do you think the waitress is such a bitch?" Albert asked, gesturing towards her direction. She looked over and scowled.
"Maybe I am in over my head," Nelson said massaging his forehead.
"I thought you would be able to do something," Albert whined.
Nelson set his glasses on the table. He looked at the data on his terminal. "Schwarz-Corp. is a powerful entity," he began. "It is a major corporation with billions in assets. They own that restaurant chain - Hard Luck Café - and a nation wide string of health clubs, not to mention their interest in the military, biotechnology, and entertainment sectors. You name it and they have got a hand in it." He scanned over the mass of data on his screen. "Heck," he added with a chuckle, "They even have their own private army. A fucking army! How do you go up against that?"
Albert lowered his head and took a deep breath. He stared at the plate of scrambled eggs in front of him. He no longer had an appetite.
"Hey, wait a minute," Nelson exclaimed. "I think I found something!"
"You did?" Albertís eyes widened.
"YeahÖ an addendum titled Never the Loser. Do you ever remember buying the rights to this?
"Never the Loser?" Albert asked.
"Itís right here," Nelson said, tapping his finger on the screen. "Paragraph 3, Subsection 21. You bought the rights to this and probably never realized it. The executors must have overlooked this. Perhaps they didnít think it had any merit."
"What is it? What are you talking about?" Albert was now anxious. "Tell me!"
"Alright," Nelson started. "Never the Loser states that no matter what the odds, Schwarzenegger always wins."
"But thatís impossible," Albert contested. "Thereís no way in hell such a thing could happen in real life. It only works in the movies."
Nelson rubbed his forehead. "Maybe this isnít about real life," he began. "This is all about a fictitious image becoming real life. Let me ask you this: What is it that people love about Arnold? What makes him so popular?"
Albert furrowed his brow. "WellÖ you know, the way he looks and acts."
"Thatís right," Nelson said. "But the general public sees the way he looks and acts on screen. Society is more concerned about the movies and the characters. Most people could care less what hand he wipes his ass with. They donít want the man. They want the image. Thatís what makes money." He motioned with his hand, making reference to the holographic projection Albert pointed to earlier. "Itís the same with Elvis. Everyone wants to wear the outfits and sing the songs and do the funky moves. Everything else doesnít matter! You will never replace Arnold Schwarzenegger, but you can replace what he represented on screen."
"Címon!" Albert said. He sat back and folded his arms across his chest. "Iím not a fucking idiot! Its one thing to able to look like or act like someoneÖ but you canít tell me that you can have another personís good luck, or charm! Those are intangibles. They canít be bought and sold like commodities."
"Maybe you are right," Nelson said. "But I happen to think otherwise." Albert raised an eyebrow. "Remember that Polish video dance broadcast?"
"Laser Dance Party, " Albert said. "The one hosted by Billy Dee Williams Ė another great actor. He is second to Arnold in greatness."
"I know what you mean," Nelson confirmed. "Billy Dee rocked! Anyway, the producers of the show knew of his popularity and managed to have him cloned. The problem with the clone, however, was that he kept making references to himself as Lando Calrissian Ė a character from The Star Wars movies. He kept going on about blowing up the Death Star, and stormtroopers, and Han Solo in carbon freeze."
"I remember that!" Albert said. "They got into a lawsuit."
"Thatís right!" Nelson said. "Lucasarts sued the network for copyright infringement. However, the defense discovered that the DNA used in making the clone was taken from the set of Star Wars V Ė The Empire Strike Back. Genetic testing indicated that the clone was not in fact Billy Dee Williams, but in essence, a clone of Billy Dee Williams portraying the character Lando Calrissian. Somehow the character became a memory anagram inside the DNA."
"How can this be?" Albert was perplexed.
"I donít know," said Nelson. "It was agreed that somehow, Billy Dee Williamsí DNA remembered his portrayal of Lando Calrissian. You knowÖ just like when you break a bone in your body - itís never quite the same again."
"How do you know all this?" Albert asked suspiciously.
"Because," Nelson said as he sat back and smiled. "I represented the defense."
"You son of a bitch!" said Albert slamming his fist on the table. The plate of eggs went flying.
"It is possible," Nelson started, "That this ability of Arnoldsí characters to beat the odds is more than just science and improbability. This ability was obviously important enough to become copyright. Otherwise, it would have never made it into the Estate documents. Let me ask you something - what happens when some street punk pulls a gun on you?"
"I donít know," Albert said. "Usually he shoots at me, and misses, and then I beat the shit out of him, or cut him in half with my sword!"
"Does this happen a lot?"
"All the time, now that you mention it," Albert said.
"I thought so!" Nelson exclaimed, pointing a finger at him. "Now, whatís the one thing that never fails in a Schwarzenegger film?"
Albert thought for a moment, and then grinned. "Schwarzenegger," he suddenly said.
"Arnold Schwarzenegger never fails!" Nelson said. He was also grinning. "At first I thought there would be no way for you to defend yourself. But then it all made sense. Why do you think people canít shoot you when all youíre armed with is a fancy sword? Albert, Never the Loser states that Arnold never loses! Therefore, you never lose! You could walk into Schwarz-Corp headquarters completely unscathed. You could wipe out their army and render them powerless. With their army wiped out, the other Corporations - bastards thtat they are- would attempt a hostile takeover. Schwarz-Corp. would be at their mercy. They would be in desperate need of protection!"
"But wait a minute," Albert said, his grin dimming. "I canít just murder innocent people unprovoked. This isnít the street. I would go to prison, or end up on that game show Ė Run for Your Life!"
Nelson knew he was right. He stared blankly into space. Then it came to him. He tapped furiously at the keypad, and when he found what he was looking for, he turned the terminal around so that the screen faced Albert.
"Bill C-67?" he read off the screen. "What the hell is that?"
"New legislation," Nelson answered. "It was just passed a few weeks ago. It states that any act of violence can and will go unpunished if the event can be profitably marketed to the public."
"So?" Albert queried.
"SoÖ" Nelson added. "If you beat the crap out of someone with that sword, and someone records the event, the charges are dropped if the public finds the recording sufficiently entertaining." Albert just looked at him blankly. "Albert, buddy," Nelson began, "Arnold Schwarzenegger is dead. Everybody loves his movies. Because he is dead, no new movies are being produced. However, we contact the media and tell them that you are taking on Schwarz-Corpís armed forces and youíve got an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie in the making. Everybody will want to see it! Schwarz-Corp will try to save face by getting the production rights and the profits. You give them exactly what they want in exchange for the remaining rights to the Schwarzenegger image. Itís win-win! You canít lose my man."
Albert raised the sword in the air. "Hasta la vista, Baby!" he yelled.
"Hey, you canít use that line!" Nelson warned.
"Who the fuck cares?" Albert answered. "Call Schwarz-Corp and tell them to roll the cameras!"
An excerpt from the Schwarz-Corp News Hour: "This is Eric Purinton, live outside of Schwarz-Corp World Headquarters, which is under siege by the sword wielding, Schwarzenegger-like man known as Albert Zorn. Once the laughing stock of the entertainment world, Zorn is quickly eviscerating his way down the road to respect and power. This is one of the most violent spectacles in decades ever put before a cameraÖyou wonít want to miss this folksÖ stay tuned as we broadcast every bloody minute of this inhumanityÖ"
Mike lives in Canada. His grandparents say that from the age of 3, he told very vivid stories, complete with grisly details. He also used words in English, Polish, and German which they did not understand. Mike's writing is inspired by his dreams, by the conversations he has with the miniature soldiers he paints, and by the crazy things his son, Maximus, tells him.
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