We'd gotten the shed up to about 30 mph when the rope broke.
It was one of those little prefab assemble-it-yourself plastic sheds you can get at Home Depot, for keeping the rain off your lawn mower, you know? Hobbes was standing in the damn thing, with the doors wide open, as it sluiced along the lake on its back, dancing like a monkey, with everyone screaming at him to get back down inside the fucker. He ignored us, of course. He continued to do his improvised version of the Frug, while keeping a lookout for speedboats with girls on them who might lift their tops for any reason or no reason, and thus, when the rope broke, he went ass over teakettle into the bottom of the shed, which caused it to spin out and sink like a rock.
"Goddammit, Hobbes!" I roared. "You're towing that thing back to shore! I told you to sit your ass down, and now you have gone and sunk my tool shed!"
Hobbes' reply was a series of bubbles on the surface of the water.
Dancin' Dwarf was doing somewhat better, surprisingly. It had been his idea to mount water skis on an old Schwinn bike, claiming it'd be as fun as water skiing, but as easy as riding a bike. He hadn't taken into account the tendency of the skis to sideslip. He'd been reflexively shifting his weight back and forth to offset this, meaning he was furiously zigzagging along on the surface at thirty miles an hour or faster. I was quite sure that sooner or later, he was going to overcompensate it and get about a gallon of water up his nose when he ate it. Still, he continued to stay balanced...
Smooth, of course, had taken no chances. He'd rented a kids' bouncy castle, inflated it, and had it on the far starboard towline. Amusingly enough, due to the roof's aerodynamic design, rather than skimming along the water, it bounced! It'd hit the water, bounce a good three feet in the air, and land gently atop the water again, and bounce another three feet in the air.... like skimming a flat stone across the water. I wondered how comfortable Smooth was in there; the walls were inflated vinyl, and I couldn't see him. At least we were reasonably sure that if it flipped over or something, he sure wasn't going to drown.
The Gremlin, as usual, had done the unexpected; he'd simply tied his line to the nose of a large inflatable rubber alligator, and was skimming along the surface atop the thing. The unexpected part was that he'd brought his LAPTOP along, so he could get realtime shots of the contest on his webcam! We were all quite sure that if no other causalties were claimed this afternoon, Gremlin's laptop was truly doomed.
Cap'n Woody's vehicle had gotten the most weird looks from other boaters and passersby. He'd sneaked out to High Sierra Plumbing and stolen a portapotty. At least, I hoped that's where he'd gotten it; that's the only place in town you could get a brand new unused portapotty, and considering his girlfriend Michiru was in there with him, I was pretty sure this one was pristine. He'd laid it down on its back, and was commanding the thing luge-style, with the door open, acting both as top hatch and sail. Michiru took the forward position, to keep her trimmed, and Cap'n Woody remained in the rear, as ballast. Occasionally, he'd wave a pirate flag he'd obtained for the occasion.
"Cut her hard to port," said Chaosia. "Hobbes hasn't surfaced yet."
"Well, no," I said. "he has to dive down and get my dratted shed and bring it up before he's allowed to do that."
"Dammit, Doc," growled Chaosia, "just cut the boat left."
My dear wife Chaosia's the boat pilot between us; I grew up in the desert, myself, deep south Texas chaparral, and I know about as much about boats as a pig does about politics. I obligingly turned left, same as you would in your automobile, at any open intersection.
"Oh, hell, Doc, NO!" cried Chaosia. "TRIM TO STARBOARD, TRIM TO STARBOARD--"
"Huh?" I said. "Which one is starboard, again?" I consulted my little spray dampened cheat note, taped to the dashboard. "Is that the back of the boat, or the front?"
"CUT RIGHT, DAMMIT!" screamed Chaosia.
It was too late. When the boat curved to the left, the surviving contestants had all continued straight, and had slewed off slooooowly to the left... and all on a collision course with each other.
Dancin' Dwarf screamed. He was headed right for Gremlin and his giant rubber alligator.
Smooth, we found out later, was resting blissfully on vinyl clouds, totally unaware of what was going on; he could only see out of one side of his air castle, and was in midair at the time. He was vaguely aware that we'd turned.
Gremlin blinked twice, pulled a huge Crocodile Dundee knife out of nowhere, and cut his own line, jamming his legs into the water to brake. Dancin' Dwarf sliced the water in front of him, narrowly missing the alligator's nose.
Cap'n Woody and Michiru both glanced left at the same time, to see Dancin' Dwarf speeding towards them, almost completely out of control. Michiru immediately kicked Woody's knees out from under him, collapsing him to the bottom of the boat -- er, portapotty. She then reached up, grabbed the door, and slammed it shut.
She locked it, too. I could see the little red OCCUPIED tag spring up in the slot.
Screaming, Dancin' Dwarf sliced the blue waters, speeding towards his destiny.
Off to the right, my toolshed erupted from the water like a square grey shark seeking prey. It went SPLAT atop the water, and rested serenely. The doors opened, and Hobbes poked his head out.
"See, honey?" I said. "Hobbes is fine. No need to panic."
Chaosia stared at Dancin' Dwarf with horror as he sped on his collision course with the portapotty. Would the forward ski impale the thin plastic wall? Would Dwarf's entire contraption shatter, or would the portapotty's brittle plastic give way first?
Well, actually, neither. As both Woody and Michiru tumbled around in the sealed square cylinder, one corner went deeper than the rest of the box. The only thing showing above water now was a prism shape.
Dwarf hit the prism like a ramp, and was immediately airborne.
Gremlin furiously kicked and paddled his alligator, trying to keep the scene in the webcam's field of view.
And Dancin' Dwarf sailed into the side of Smooth's flying inflatable castle, as neatly as if we'd spent a week planning it.
I turned away, unable to look. That ski was going to shred that poor pink Barbie inflatable castle.
Amazingly, it didn't. Dwarf and his flying seabike rebounded off the side, spun out of control, and landed upside down in the water nearby. Unfortunately, Dwarf had by then imparted his velocity and kinetic energy to the castle.
Now, instead of smootly and serenely floating across a fairy pond of green, Smooth and his castle were spinning on the castle's axis, clipping the surface every so often, usually with a corner, which of course added more spin. Imagine a pair of casino dice tumbling along the dealer's table ass over teakettle, and you'll see what I mean. Especially if one of the dice has a little man in it, bouncing off all the interior walls and screaming and cursing like a Turkish sailor with a kidney stone. Finally, in desperation, Smooth grabbed one of the doorflaps, and abandoned ship -- er, castle, plunging into the comparitive serenity of Lake Dunlap, and allowing his castle to tumble where it will.
I still sat there and goggled. Chaosia had to come and push me out of the way, throttle back, and turn around to go get everyone.
By the time we brought it back together, Gremlin was already rerunning and editing his video footage. "I think that means I win," he said. "I don't have to clean up after the barbecue."
"%$#@ YOU," said Michiru, ladylike as ever. "We're still floating. We didn't sink. Race ain't over yet."
"Yeah, but you got hit."
"That wasn't in the charter," said Cap'n Woody. "The rules clearly state that if the participant OR his vehicle are still afloat, the contest is inconclusive!!"
"Yeah," said Michiru. "And we're still afloat, and so is our vehicle, and it's still attached. Only reason YOU didn't eat it is because YOU cut your LINE!"
"Fine," said Gremlin. "You and me, then?"
"Fine with us!" sneered Michiru.
"DOC!" roared Gremlin. "FIRE IT UP! WE NEED A TIEBREAKER!"
I glanced around. My tool shed was paddling to shore all by itself; I could only assume Hobbes was under it. Dancin' Dwarf had abandoned his sunken Schwinn, and was making for shore, too. Smooth had climbed dazedly aboard the boat, and was looking up; the wind had caught his Barbie Castle, and we were flying the thing like a kite.
Regrettably, the contest's conclusion was nowhere as dramatic as its middle.
At first, Smooth insisted that since his accident hadn't been his fault, he should be allowed to retrieve his castle, and rejoin the race. The rules were clear, though -- once you or your vehicle is underwater, that's it. He had vacated the castle voluntarily, even though it hadn't been his fault that its trajectory had been altered to put spin on it.
This left the Alligator, with the Gremlin and his mobile webstation, and the Outhouse, with Cap'n Woody and Michiru. We resecured the lines, rescued the survivors, and cut back up Lake Dunlap, back towards my father-in-law's house, where we'd stolen the boat in the first place.
Well, when both contestants in a race are being towed by the same vehicle, this kind of skews the results. We know everyone's going to get there at the same time, right? So Woody decides to see about altering the results somewhat, and begins leaning hard left... then quick right... then haaard left... then quick right....
...with the over all effect that the Port-A-Bullet is starting to edge closer to the Alligator. If he succeeded in colliding with the Gremlin, it would be no contest; the port-a-can, with both Woody and Michiru aboard, outmassed the inflatable alligator by four or five to one, easy.
"What are you DOING?" shrieked Michiru.
"Helping the odds," called Cap'n Woody, still tilting hard left.
The portapotty brushed the gator. Gremlin immediately hugged his laptop with both hands, and furiously began kicking his legs to stabilize. Woody tilted right again, then haaaaaaaard left...
Gremlin didn't quite topple.
Michiru began screaming incoherently at Woody. Woody ignored her and began tilting right again... and then haaaaaaaard left....
....without noticing that the Gremlin had retrieved his Crocodile Dundee knife. I have no idea where he kept the thing; all he was wearing was a pair of fairly snug swim trunks, and the blade was big enough to fillet a dinosaur. I presume he keeps it in the same pocket Bugs Bunny uses to store pre-lit sticks of dynamite. Anyway, he leaned forward, and swung the knife at the portapotty's tow line.
He connected, but didn't sever it. This time, it was Woody's turn to scream, and he leaned HAAAAAARD right....
Grinning like a shark, Gremlin hugged his laptop to his chest with one hand, waved his toad stabber around with the other, and began leaning HAAAAAARD right...
Michiru, realizing no one is listening to her, at this point, began climbing the tow line towards the boat. Dancin' Dwarf, Smooth, and Hobbes all stuck hands out to help, and within seconds, she was safe on the aft deck.
Woody leaned HAAAARD left....
Gremlin leaned HAAAARD right...
The gator and the toilet surged towards each other...
The knife flashed, once, in the fiery sunlight...
The portapotty's line parted....
....and Michiru yanked the Alligator's bowline, untying the knot. The Alligator was free.
Gremlin and Woody looked at the boat, growing smaller in the distance, openmouthed.
Last we saw of 'em in daylight, Gremlin seemed to have gotten into the portajohn, and was struggling with Woody to see which of 'em was going into the water...
While I'm thinking about it, does anyone know where you rent those giant pink and blue inflatable apes you see outside car dealerships? I have an idea for an illustrated sequel to this story. Maybe when Woody and the Gremlin get back there will be video footage.......