College can be stressful, no matter who or what you are…
The scene is what looks like a typical college campus, with the usual array of buildings constructed with only the thought of what they were going to be used for- not how they looked like- in mind. It’s evening, so most of the buildings have their lights off, as a sign that they’re not being used.
Save for one.
Bakshi Hall tends to be a little bit more active than other areas on the campus of Jack Kinney College. Mainly because it’s the auditorium, where all the special events are held, and the other buildings aren’t, ’cause they’re faculty buildings and dormitories and so forth. And on no particular night is it more hopping than this particular night- that of the annual Governor’s Ball, which is the biggest shindig of all the ones on campus.
One more thing you need to know about JKC before I go on. It caters to a very specific and specialized clientele. Specifically- what you human being would call “cartoon characters”.
Not all of them, of course. JKC caters only to those who are and are descended from traditional 2D ink-and-paint celluloid creations, as well as those produced the Flash system, since those guys are virtually indistinguishable from the older crowd. Definitely not CGI or anything or –one related to it. When CGI started getting big in the ’90s, the characters in it wanted in to JKC, but the Board refused. They were — and are- very well-known and famous characters, and their collective word is law around here, so that was that. The CGI group had to start their own college, Lasseter, in the nearby area, as close to JKC as they could get to spitting on it; the Board lost that one even though they fought it. And the CGI gang’s numbers are only growing, so I don’t know what’s gonna happen…
Point is, we at JKC are repeatedly told that we are the “real” and “classic” ‘toon stock, and that we damn well better live up to the reputations of our ancestors. Even if the CGI people get difficult…
Thus, the scene.
While everyone else- including our esteemed Governors, who basically are the Board and upper management, esteemed alumni, and any faculty members who have proved their worth (no students)!-is managing to find some way to dance to the electronic claptrap passing for music, a single lone figure in a red JKC sweatshirt and brown corduroy pants is standing at the front door, in case someone or –thing tries to gain unauthorized access.
That would be me.
Dinsdale Dog, a.k.a “Dinny” or “Double D” to my friends, and less pleasant things to my enemies. And, to be honest, I was, at that particular moment in time, wondering exactly why I was there in the first place.
Up until high school, I grew up in a primarily canine neighborhood in Anthropomorph, the hidden dimension of Earth in which JKC is located, and, therefore, produces all of the world’s non-human “cartoon characters”- although the ones of those you see on film, movie and computer or phone screens are just the tip of the iceberg of our population. The ones who want to pursue entertainment careers in your realm go to JKC, and then, if they manage to graduate, they immediately get shots at becoming “vague background characters”- that is, extras- in the animated projects churned out by Hollywood. And then, maybe, you can catch the eye of a producer, director or writer with a series idea, can advance to the position of supporting- or heaven forbid, lead- character, and your future is set.
I’m not that ambitious. I’d rather just be one of the stars that never were who are parking cars and pumping gas, as Messrs. Bacharach and David once put it. Well, at least until I have the time and money to pursue writing, which is what I really want to do, on a full-time basis.
Unfortunately, JKC doesn’t have an English or Creative Writing program, so there’s no chance to major in that stuff here. Since the whole modus operandi of the school is to provide fully trained and highly professional ACK-TORs for the Hollywood pleasure machine, that is exactly what I am learning how to do.
Granted, I could have gone to one of the other colleges available for students in the area around Anthropomorph, but for one reason: money. JKC has cheaper tuition rates than the others, so when it came to my parents deciding where I was going to go (I, as always, had no choice in the matter), it was an actor’s life for me.
How, then, does one explain to his parents that my being a student at JKC is probably the worst mistake I could have made in my life?
It’s true that I have some attributes that would allow me to stand out in a crowd of vague background characters. I am thought to be handsome by (some of) the girls, chiefly due to my chestnut fur and blue eyes, and I am tall enough for someone looking at me through binoculars to think that I was walking on stilts.
No, that isn’t the problem at all.
The problem is: I can’t act. For shit.
“So what?” you might say. To which I say, “What!”
As the majority of my courses are mandatory, and all of them relate to acting, acting and more acting, you can see my problem. Sure, they’re divided up into things like diction, speech, memory and so forth, but it all ends up adding together to how we do in one big THEATAH event we have to perform in at the end of term. How well we perform in this determines the majority of our grade for the year, and ultimately whether we pass or fail. Pass, and we go on to our careers. Fail…….
Well, it looks like I’m gonna find out what happens to those who fail pretty soon, because, out of no fault of my own, it appears like I am going to be heading down that road soon.
Not that I haven’t made an effort to do well, because I have. It’s mostly because I haven’t been getting along with my principal instructor- or, to give her full title, the Walt Disney/Kodak Memorial Professor of Dramatic Arts and Thespian Articulation.
Ms. Goldfishberg, by name.
And a total snot, she is.
The tradition at JKC is that all the professorships and executive positions, honorary and otherwise, are to be held by members of the extended theatrical and television animation community who have “made” it- that is, starring in their own film(s) and/or television series. Preferably after that time, so they can concentrate on their duties. Including lording it over us students based on their past fame.
Or, at least, that was my experience with her in my first class with her.
She was making us do some vocal exercises of some sort, trying to figure out what sort of pitches and things we had so we could be more easily cast in the parts she had in mind for us to do, in preparation for the Big Event. Or so she said. I just thought it was one big power trip, like the rest of us. But we weren’t telling her that.
Anyhow, we’d just gotten through about one verse or so when she waved her fins at us to stop.
“Somebody’s off!” she said. “Let’s try that again.”
We did, with the same results. She waved us off again, but I was late in stopping. That was how she knew I was the one who was off- as did everyone else.
“You!” she ordered me. “COME HERE!”
I obeyed. She was less than a fifth my size, but she had far more authority, and I knew better than to say or do something rash. When I was in position, she lit into me.
“What the HELL were you DOING?” she demanded.
“Uh….Singing?” I said.
“Uh…No!” she answered, mocking my hesitation. “You weren’t! You have no business singing. YOU are TONE DEAF!”
“This is why we do this, students!” she said to the rest of the class. “It’s how we figure out who the SPEAR CARRIERS are around here!”
The last sentence was directed implicitly at me. I knew right away that my destiny was to play non-speaking- and especially, non-singing- roles under her watch.
Not that I minded that. I just minded being humiliated.
Then it got worse. In another class, we were supposed to show her how well we could act by reciting a Shakespeare monologue she’d picked out for the occasion. I managed to get my first couple of sentences out fine, but nervousness took over, and I lapsed into nervous stuttering. She angrily stopped me and walked towards me in a rage.
“What the HELL was THAT?” she demanded.
“Acting,” I responded, nervously. “I thought….”
“That was not ACTING, you SON OF A BITCH!”
That hurt. And, unlike before, I felt the need to respond.
“No need to bring that up,” I said.
“Are you accusing me of being RACIST?”
“No. I just….”
“Shut up! I don’t know who told you that you were star material, pal….”
“Because you’re NOT! You have all the personality of a WET TOWEL!”
She then, shockingly, punched me directly in the gut, with that powerful, terrifying amount of physical strength all of us ‘toons seem to have. I doubled over in pain.
“LISTEN to me when I’m YELLING AT YOU!” she screamed.
It took a while for both of us to recover. Then, she continued in a (slightly) friendlier manner.
“Look, Dinsdale,” she said. “I’m not trying to mean or anything on purpose. I had to go through this whole process of proving myself, too. With ‘toons who were even tougher on me than I’m being on you. It’s the only way you figure out whether or not you have it. It separates the men from the boys, as it were.”
“So what am I, then?” I asked. “I mean, now?”
“You, sad to say, are still a boy. And, unless you manage to figure out how to use what I’m trying to teach you here to improve yourself, you’ll always be one. Nobody around here- or out on Earth, for that manner- wants a boy when a man’s available.”
I must have looked like I wanted to cry, because, as she walked out, she added:
“Sorry if I hurt your feelings, but this is how it is around here. So MAN UP!”
At that moment, I only wished I could.
Naturally, I brooded about what Ms. Goldfishberg had said to me. That is, until the other two new most prominent females in my life changed things up for me a bit, and I felt better. And, since they both played prominent roles in what happened next, you have to know about them, too. A little bit, anyway.
The first one was my instructor in the sole elective I am allowed. Students who are interested in becoming involved with the Cartoon Republican Army, which does paramilitary stuff in your world to help ‘toons get things you take for granted, politics and law-wise, are able to participate in their ROTC program. I was the only one in my class to volunteer, which was a total disappointment to my young mongoose-like instructor, Captain Smiles, who prides herself on running the program well with a full slate. But, unlike Ms. Goldfishberg, she’s been kind and considerate despite her tough bearing, and grades me well, since my only requirements are to run and work out with her (which I manage well without complaint) and do security detail at high profile events. The Captain’s also managed to get Ms. Goldfishberg to be slightly easier with me- i.e. by threatening to beat her up if I get flunked! I honestly don’t know if that was the best way to do it, but….
Even though it’s pretty clear Patsy (as she insists I call her, though I keep forgetting) has eyes for me, I have a bit more of an interest that way in a fellow student.
Her name’s Sawyer Van Vogt, and she’s everything I’m not. She actually can sing and act, and is attractive as all get out. And the good news for me, if it can be said to be such, is that she’s a blue-eyed russet-and-white furred wolf, so, as a fellow canine, I have a bit more of a chance with her romantically, since most of the rest of our classmates aren’t canine.
And it helps that she was about the only one who complemented me on my voice after that abominable tone/pitch incident. And the only who offered to assist me with the harder aspects of some of the courses, since they all seem to come natural to her. And willing to endure any taunts directed at her or me for us being together so much. You know how it is.
So that all adds up to me hoping to ask her out, and making some of the weird rumors about us come true. Which is what I was hoping to do on that night, before the events in question happened….
So, here’s what happened…
I was outside on sentry duty, during the Ball, because it’s one of the things you have to do for ROTC. Captain Smiles and I alternate between being out and in on these things, and I was out this time.
Like I said before, I don’t mind this, even when some of my peers call me “Chairman of the Bored” out of a false assumption that I don’t do anything while they stay inside and shake their asses. What I’m actually doing is keeping them safe from threats by being alert to them, as Captain Smiles says. She was glad to have me on the beat, she said, because I was a dog, and, therefore, being alert to danger is something that’s supposed to be second nature to me, for some reason.
However, I’m not so sure.
That’s because I was responsible for what happened that night.
No, really, I am!
Of course, it wasn’t really my fault- it was those Lasseter creeps. Damn them! But they wouldn’t have gotten passed me if I hadn’t been duped the way I was.
And that was because of a girl.
It had to be a girl!
She was CGI, and she was a fellow dog, and she looked lost. Turns out, she was. Thought she was on the Lasseter campus when she wandered onto JKC. Being a good hearted being, I pointed out exactly where the Lasseter campus was. She thanked me, and left.
Somehow, during that exchange, I had ignored the fact that some other CGI creatures had passed my post into Bakshi. And so, I wasn’t there for the gunshots, the disruption, the robbery, the kidnapping and so forth. But I was there for when Captain Smiles, with her blue beret tilted harshly on her pink hair, bellowing out my name as she came out of the hall. Obediently, I came forward.
“What the HELL were you DOING out here?” she demanded.
“Well,” I said in my defense, “there was a girl out here, and she…”
“Cel, flash or CGI?”
“God DAMN it!” She threw her beret on the ground, dusted it off, and picked it up again.
“Am I in trouble?” I asked.
“We both are,” she said glumly, “if we don’t get what they took back, and right away. A lot of the gang had their valuables stolen. Took some girl hostage.”
I must not have looked like I cared, even though I did, because she grabbed my arm and put pressure on it so I would notice her.
“We’re not talking pocket change here, Dinsdale! I told the Board I was going to put a stop to these things when I took over ROTC. If we don’t do something, we’re fucked!”
“So, you mean, I could…?”
“Well, they’ll take into account that you were duped, because they do a lot of that shiny pretty bullshit. That’s how their whole race got so far. The fact that they look so good totally blocks a lot of the rubes in the audience from seeing their complete lack of physical and moral substance. Not like us, of course.”
“Of course. But you would get…”
“Fired,” she snapped.
“Who did they take?”
“They overpowered me before I could see who it was. But I think it was that wolf gal that you…”
“SAWYER?” I shouted, in horror. “They took SAWYER?”
Now it was personal! I threw my head forward and put my super sensitive nose to work.
“I can pick up her scent,” I told Captain Smiles. “I’ve spent enough time with her now to know it when I feel it. You follow me.”
“Well, that’ll be a first, huh?” she said.
I ignored her good-natured crack and put my nose to the grindstone. It didn’t take too long before I found Sawyer’s scent off the JKC campus and on the nearby Lasseter one. It was close, and the loud screaming she was uttering at the time helped. Captain Smiles camouflaged ourselves in some nearby shrubbery to disguise ourselves, and, once we had spotted them, we sprung out in anger.
We surprised them, all right.
Everybody stopped what they were doing.
Except for a drunken loudmouth who was pawing Sawyer’s chest with one hand and trying to unzip her jeans with the other!
Without any provocation, I walked up to the guy and clouted him in the mouth, the way I had been taught. Naturally, he fought back, but I was prepared. In a couple of minutes, I had him down. During the confusion, the others tried to escape, but the Captain and Sawyer (who’s pretty good with a punch herself, it turns out) got them, too. When it was over, Sawyer turned to me.
“You really went out of the way there for me, Dinny,” she said.
“How could I not?” I said. “I couldn’t let him take advantage of you like that. He was trying to do something to you by force that I could only dream about doing right now.”
“Well,” she answered, pawing me, “some dreams have a habit of coming true…”
“Not right now, they don’t,” Captain Smiles interrupted, gesturing to the valuables. “Come on! We got to get this stuff back.”
That we did.
Of course, they said we were heroes. But embarrassingly, they said it mostly about me (even though I was really the one who started the whole thing in the first place, though most of them didn’t know that). I affirmed mostly I was just doing my ROTC job. But I felt a little bit more pride when Ms. Goldfishberg, who was very drunk as a consequence of the night’s events, called out to me.
“You took my advice!” she said.
“How?” I answered.
“You manned up! Maybe you don’t have a future in acting, Dinsdale, but you have a future in something. Just keep that in mind if anybody gets tough with you in the future.”
And that is exactly what I have done from that point on.
This story originally appeared in different forms in the anthology “Welcome To The Dance” (Whortleberry Press), Curious Fictions and Vocal: https://vocal.media/futurism/chairman-of-the-bored
Another Dinny adventure: https://medium.com/p/78e0f27333a7/edit