FOLDED • by Tony Conaway

They both had been around for a long time.  Even though they were in the same business, they had never actually met – until now, when they were unexpectedly pressed up against each other.

“Hello, handsome!”

“How do you do, citizen?” he said. His expression didn’t change. It never changed.  He always looked grim, stalwart, and determined.  After all, he was The Indomitable.

She thought about saying something like, “Is that your gun or are you just happy to see me?”  But he was so serious, so humorless, she thought that might be too forward.  Instead, she toned it down — slightly — and said, “I don’t usually let a man atop me until he buys me dinner.”

“My apologies,” he said.  “We’ve never been in the same newspaper before.  You’ve always been in the Morning Call, and I’ve been in the Evening Clarion.  The Clarion folded on the first of the year, and the Call picked up its most popular features.  As for our proximity, that’s just a function of the Sunday comics.  Our pages get folded over.  For the past few years, I’ve had a Sudoku in my face.”  His eyes were drawn as manly slits, but they seemed to twinkle slightly.  “May I say, you are very attractive, Miss Cali from Bali.”

“And considerably more comfortable to lie upon that an angular Sudoku, I’ll wager.  They don’t describe me as pneumatic because I lack curves!”

“Indeed.”  He inhaled her scent.  She smelled like a real woman should, of newsprint and four-color inks.

“May I ask how old you are, Mister-The-Indomitable?”

“Just ‘The Indomitable.’  I’m – well, I can’t see the date at the top of the page.  But I was created in 1932.”

“Good.  I was created in 1947.  I know some men don’t like getting involved with older women.”

“Are we involved?”

“Well, now that we share the same newspaper funnies, I expect we’ll be folded over each other every Sunday.  Unless the editor decides to move us around.”

“Well, the prospect of our proximity each Sunday is not…unwelcome.”

His eyes twinkled again.  That was about as romantic as he was going to get, Cali realized.

***

Gag comics (like Cali) don’t have much in common with adventure strips (like The Indomitable).  Nevertheless, they found subjects to talk about each Sunday.

“My creator,” Cali said, “was a real lecher.  He drew me using live nude models, and he tried to nail every one of them.”

“Nude models?”

“My clothes were always drawn so tight, he just drew me nude, then added a neckline, sleeves, and a belt.  Half the time, he had me in some sort of cat suit instead of a skirt.”

“And yet, now you’re….”

“I’ve been drawn by a dozen artists since my creator died.  And tastes have changed over the years.  When editors get a few letters complaining about my breasts, they complain to the syndicate.  The syndicate tells the replacement artists to draw me less voluptuously, or in baggy clothes.  My creator might have objected, but his replacements are just hired hands.  They do what they’re told.”

“I’ve changed, too, over the years.  My heroic physique is the same, but there seems to be a problem with the ethnic villains I used to fight.  I haven’t battled Boris the Red Menace in decades.”

“Yes, ethnicity seems to be a concern nowadays.  My creator called me ‘Cali from Bali’ because it rhymed, but he drew me as a redheaded Caucasian.  I think he was inspired by Rita Hayworth in the movie ‘Gilda.’”

“I wish I’d seen that,” he said.  “I wish I’d seen any movie.”

“Trust me, women from the Indonesian island of Bali don’t look anything like me.  The strip doesn’t even use my full name any more.”

“?,” he indicated with a manly crook of his head.

“‘Cali’ was short for ‘Calipygian,’ which is an obscure word that means ‘having nicely-shaped buttocks.’  None of the readers knew what it meant back in 1947.  Nowadays, anyone can Google it.”

“Times have changed,” he agreed.

***

One dark day, without any warning to its characters, the Sunday funnies were no longer in print.  Newspapers went entirely digital.  If you wanted to read one of the funnies, you had to go online and click on a list.  That strip alone came up.  There were no more paper comic strips, so no more Sunday funnies were folded over.  It seemed that Cali and The Indomitable would never meet again.

But love – or lust – sometimes finds a way.

***

“Miss Cali, where are we?  How is it that we are in the same strip?  And…and why are you naked?”

“Hello, handsome.  We’re in what they used to call a Tijuana Bible.  A pornographic comic.  Oh, they had to change our names slightly for copyright purposes.  I’m now known as Sali from Cali… which now stands for ‘Californication.’”

He sputtered manfully.  “I seem to be naked as well.  Do I have a new name?”

“Yes.  You’re now ‘The Insatiable.’  And I hope you live up to your name.”

“Well, I still have my Indomitable physique.  I suppose we should put it to the test.”

“Let’s,” she said.  And so they did.

They even lived happily ever after.  Until the sequel came out, in which Sali from Cali entertained the Seven Mighty Midgets.

The Insatiable wasn’t in that one.  Which was just as well.  Even Saucy Sali from Cali can only take so much.


Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Tony Conaway is past president of the Brandywine Valley Writers Group and current VP of the Main Line Writers. His fiction has been published in nine anthologies and numerous publications, including Blue Lake Review, the Borfski Press, Clever, qarrtsiluni, Rind Literary Magazine, and Typehouse Literary Magazine. Some of his odder work includes co-writing the script to a planetarium production and jokes performed by Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show.” He can be found on Twitter as @TonyConaway and on Facebook as Author Tony Conaway. He interviews other authors at wayneaconaway.blogspot.com.


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