HEY, so this was supposed to be published like a week ago but I’m terrible. But it’s here now. Have a good day.
Gorgeous George’s Used Cars had once been simply named “George’s Used Cars” but then a photograph of George had gone viral. It led to six Buzzfeed articles and a segment on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. A campaign for the word “gorgeous” to be legally required in every official mention of his name appeared on change.org, and its signature count grew so rapidly that all the human rights petitions of the month were left dead in its wake. George reluctantly succumbed to inevitability and changed the name of his car dealership. A burst of success occurred in the aftermath. He almost moved from used cars to new ones and to a bigger site, but decided to stay humble and keep running his business as if nothing had changed. Little had changed, really – not beyond the name and profit increase at least. Well, there was also the addition of a few security guards to keep fan visits manageable. And occasionally a few particularly eager fans drove their cars in from ridiculous distance instead of selling them in their home towns, but overall not a lot changed.
Then one otherwise uneventful Sunday afternoon, change reared its head and said “well, actually…”
More accurately, change took the form of three men in black suits and said, “We have a proposition for you. The president would be most displeased if you did not consider it.”
And to the three men, George announced, “I am just a used car salesman – nothing more, nothing less! The president surely does not want to waste her time on me!”
The one in the middle said, “You have a special talent that is of particular usefulness for this mission.”
“If the president wants to sell a car, I’m happy to oblige.”
“Not that,” said the man. As he spoke, the first indication that he was human rather than robotic occurred – he blushed. “You’re… gorgeous.”
“Uh, thanks, but you won’t win me over with flattery!”
The man became even redder. “No! I mean… well yes, you are… but…”
The man on the left shook his head and took over. “What my colleague is trying to say is that we need someone inexplicably gorgeous to –“ He leaned closer and whispered. “ – help with a secret political mission.”
The man on the right added, “Yes. And as we said before, the president would be most displeased if you were unwilling.”
Detecting a threatening undertone to the man’s voice, George asked anxiously, “what kind of mission is it?”
Before turning to politics, the president had once been an elementary school teacher, and still had the habit of trying to ensure equal involvement for all the children, or in this case, secret agents. The three men took turns to speak as they went through the explanation. It had blatantly been rehearsed beforehand.
“As you know, the president rather likes dogs. She wishes to rehome more to the White House.”
“However, she has very specific interests. She will not accept just any dog.”
“She sees viral dogs on the internet, and decides as president, she is entitled to have them.”
“We track down the owner, but we need to get the dogs without raising suspicion that the president is stealing them.”
“Yes, that would be awful publicity. Instead, this is where you come in.”
“You will use your superhumanly gorgeous face and body to distract the owners.”
“And then one of our associates grabs the dog, and no one suspects anything other than it just running away.”
George was speechless for several long seconds. His face showed his confusion and surprise in a way that was both clear and gorgeous. It then gradually reverted back to an expression that was neutral and gorgeous, and he said, “Well, I suppose I agree. It’s not like you gave me much choice, though frankly the whole plan sounds absurd and far from the easiest way to discreetly capture a dog.”
Two weeks and five missions later, George still considered the whole idea to be absurd, but he couldn’t deny the results. The president’s dog collection was growing. No one had made the connection between George’s visits and the disappearances, but he grew ever more worried that someone might. The dogs were taken by a woman known to him only as “The Spider”. The only involvement of the three agents who recruited him was taking it in turns to drive them to the destination. None of the three or The Spider seemed the least bit concerned someone might figure out what was going on.
On this occasion, the one of the three who George now knew as Agent 2 was driving, and he was driving them far. Through the not-quite-soundproof glass he heard Agent 1 say, “C’mon, next stop let me take over, you’ve had hours.”
Beside George, The Spider rolled her eyes and muttered, “Why’d the president put these clowns in charge?”
George tried not to laugh, but The Spider saw him smile and continued, “So what’s it like being so gorgeous? Anyone actually date you, or are they all too intimidated?”
“Uh, I don’t know, I’m not really looking right for anyone right now…” replied George uncomfortably.
“Yeah, sure. Whatever you say, big G. Not to be a dick, but I don’t really get the hype. Like, you’re handsome, but… so are lots of people…”
“Y’know, it’s actually nice to hear that,” said George. “Sometimes being Gorgeous George is hard and I miss just being George… “
“Sometimes meaning whenever you’re on one of these missions? I get ya. I love sneaking around but honestly if she keeps stealing dogs I might just tell the president to suck my…”
Through the not-quite-soundproof glass, Agent 1 said, “You know this glass is not quite soundproof, right, Spider? You signed a contract.”
“Soooorry, Mitch,” she said while rolling her eyes with similar magnitude to that with which the earth rolls around the sun.
Agent 1 called back, “And don’t use our real… uh… I mean our totally fake names in front of Gorgeous George!”
The Spider crossed her arms and leaned back in her seat.
George expected another complaint, but instead, she seamlessly returned to her normal mood and said, “So have they told you anything about this town yet?”
George opened his mouth to say “No”, but The Spider wasn’t waiting, “It’s like some weird re-enactment society or something. Then they were like ‘what if we just said dicks to this shit and went full-time?’ and so they did and now they literally just live their lives in a wild west town and expect the rest of the country to just be like ‘yeah okay that’s totally cool and normal, we can roll with that’ and really I guess the rest of the country kinda did say that.”
“Wild West?” was all George managed to say before The Spider continued her explanation.
“So there’s the dog there is called Geronimo and he’s a cute little staffie and really I think he looks very happy living here, despite all the stupid theme and junk. I think legally his owner’s just some drunk cowboy but it’s kinda like the whole town owns him. He’s like one of the community… But hey, a job’s a job and I get to be sneaky. Just like five more missions until my contract’s expired and I can get a proper job like… I dunno, espionage or something…”
“The president appreciates your service and would like you to re-sign the contract, though,” Agent 2 called through the not-quite-soundproof glass. Then in a voice he incorrectly believed to be quiet enough, he added, “Though we’d sure love if you didn’t.”
“Yeah, okay, Nev, go lick a toad’s nuts!” she retorted. She turned back to George and said, “Also I dunno if these cowboy weirdos have TVs or internet, so maybe they won’t even know you and won’t be taken in by the ridiculous craze.”
“They must have internet, or how would they have uploaded pictures of Geronimo?” said George.
The Spider looked at him and nodded thoughtfully, and then went on, “Yes that’s a good point, big G, they must have internet. But they probably only use it to post reviews condemning the historical inaccuracies in Wild West movies.”
The Spider’s rambling continued until they reached their destination, at which point Agent 3 announced, “Alright, shut up, Spider, we’re here.”
“Aw, you said I’d get to say that line!” complained Agent 1.
The Spider gestured her frustration at the agents so overdramatically that she accidentally punched the car roof and swore loudly. Agent 2 pressed a palm to his forehead, but restrained from reacting too heavily to The Spider’s antics. He got out and opened the door for George while Agent 1 did the same for The Spider. Agent 3, not wanting to be left out, made sure he was there first to open the boot.
“You know,” said The Spider, as she stretched and circled the car, “I’ve been thinking… and I’m not sure if I can actually say Gorgeous Georgeous Used Cars… Georgeous… GORGeous Geee-orge’s. There. Close enough. Gorgeous Georgeous. Nope. Only when I reeeaaally concentrate. Gorrrgeous Geeeooorgous. SHIT.”
“Spider, please! We’re one a mission,” groaned Agent 1.
“Maybe if you spoke at a normal speed and actually thought about your words first you could say Gorgeous Georgous without… Oh, now I can’t say it. Dammit, Spider,” said Agent 3.
“Gorgeous George’s Used Cars!” said Agent 2 triumphantly.
“Gorgeous Gorges Used Cars,” attempted Agent 1, then groaned loudly before saying, “Never mind! We have a mission to do.”
“By ‘we’ you mean me and George, right?” asked The Spider. “Cos you guys don’t really do much other than drive us, do you? You’ll be down the bar, or “saloon”, having a nice glass of tequila-whatever-the-heck while we do all the work. But that’s better, actually, because you’d ruin everything.”
“Okay,” said George. “Let’s just get it done before you guys kill each other.”
“Right, yes,” said Agent 3. “Geronimo is under the supervision of Ol’ Jimmy Twoshoes right now.”
“Walk down the main road then take the second left, and it’s the third house on the right,” explained Agent 1.
“Text us when you have Geronimo. We’ll be… um… yeah in the saloon. The Spider was right,” said Agent 2.
When George arrived at the house and knocked at the door, there was a long silence. To the side, a tumbleweed shook in anticipation, in case this was its moment – but before it could commit to rolling, the door swung open. An old man with a scruffy grey beard stood staring at George, and the tumbleweed slumped back into stillness, impatiently biding its time.
“Sorry I took so long to answer, these darn cowboy boots are pain in the behind to put on, you know,” said the man. “I don’t get out much these days, but I never answer my door without two shoes on. It would just be rude to do that, darn it. What can I do ya for, stranger? And if it’s not rude to say, may I just add that you’re the finest young cowboy to ever come here.”
“Uh, hello, pleased to meet you,” said George. “Nice boots you have there.”
“Aw shucks, you didn’t just come up here just to praise my boots did ya? I say, darn fine if you did, son. I made ‘em with my own two hands and I’m mighty proud and it’s nice to be appreciated.”
“You’re welcome, sir. But no, I didn’t just come to talk about your boots, magnificent though they are. I… um…”
George’s memory was not always as impressive as his looks. In certain situations, it utterly failed him. This was one of those situations. The tumbleweed eagerly jiggled, but decided again that this was not the perfect moment. George could list every detail about every car he ever sold, but somehow remembering his rehearsed dialogue on a mission? Not a chance. Thankfully, things always seemed to work out in end as people tended to give him a lot to work with. Ol’ Jimmy Twoshoes was no exception.
“Oh, it’s about my granddaughter ain’t it? You want my approval to ask her out on a date?” asked the old man excitedly.
“Yes! That’s it!” said George.
“Well I’m sure any man as gorgeous as you is worthy of her, but come on in. We have a lot to talk about if I might be your future Grampa-in-Law!”
Once inside, Ol’ Jimmy Twoshoes laboriously undid the various buckles and laces that adorned his elaborate shoes and directed George to take a seat.
Meanwhile, The Spider crept out from behind the bushes and made her way round to the back of the house. Ol’ Jimmy Twoshoes had tried to maintain a garden, but nothing in it was alive save for a couple of lonely cacti. The Spider grimaced in disapproval at the scene, but restrained from performing a monologue about her opinions on it. As excessively talkative as she was almost all of the time, with or without people around, The Spider knew how to keep it together on a mission. The silence with which she crept up to the window would have left anyone who knew her feeling shocked and confused for days. She saw George sitting on an ornate, but clearly homemade armchair. After a while, she saw Ol’ Jimmy enter the room and she nodded to herself, and effortlessly began to scale the wall. She peered in each room, until through the left-most window of the upper floor, she saw Geronimo sleeping on a dog bed far bigger than required for his size. The window had been left open a little to make sure it didn’t get too hot for the dog.
The Spider smiled and whispered, “Oh, you’re making this too easy.”
She slid a slim hand through the gap and fiddled around. The latch promptly came undone, and she lifted it up and climbed inside. She landed softly on the bed, and then stood up on the wooden floor. Geronimo raised his head to give a disinterested glance, and then shut his eyes again. The Spider tied a rope to the bed post and gently picked up Geronimo. The dog did not protest. In fact, he seemed to thoroughly enjoy being kidnapped. He wagged his tail all the way down as The Spider carefully lowered them down the rope.
Into a hidden microphone, she whispered, “Dog Acquired.”
She looked round the corner of the house, but there was no sign of the getaway vehicle. She went to the back fence, and climbed part-way to look over. Nothing on that side either.
Again, she said, “Dog Acquired. Where are you?”
She waited for a response. Nothing came. She said the line a third time and the tumbleweed made its move, bouncing with satisfaction across her field of view.
“Fine, I’ll do this myself,” she told the microphone.
She took out a knife, cut a section from the rope, tied it to Geronimo’s collar as a makeshift lead, and set off down the road.
Inside, George heard the message through his earpiece. Ol’ Jimmy Two Shoes was midway through a long story about the first time his granddaughter ever repaired a shoe. Panicked and sweating, George tried to hurry him up.
“That’s wonderful. You are right to be proud. I… uh… I’m sorry, I must get going, but I uh… I hope she can repair a shoe for me one day! If she learned from the best, she must be great!”
“George, if you let me make you a shoe, it’ll never need repairing! Come on, stay and I’ll measure your feet!”
“Really, Mr. Two Shoes, I can’t. I have to be… uh… my driver is waiting down the road, I really must be off.”
George stood up, but Ol’ Jimmy put a hand on his shoulder and said, “George! You didn’t say you had your own personal driver! Handsome and wealthy! You’ll be a darn fine partner for my Jessie!”
“Yes, yes, very wealthy. I’m sorry, sir. I must rush. I’m sure I shall see you again soon, when Jessie and I come to see you,” said George walking quickly to the door.
He put on his shoes, and walked down the path. He sped to a jog, and kept turning to smile and wave to Jimmy, who was trying to put on his shoes, and grumbling about how terrible it was to have to come to the door without them on.
Out of earshot, he said into his microphone, “Spider?! Agents?! What is happening?”
“Hey, big G,” The Spider replied casually. “The Idiot Trio are not replying so I thought ‘screw this junk I don’t need ‘em’ and well yeah, I’m just strolling along with the dog, no biggie.”
“He’s loved and shared by the whole town! Someone will recognise him and no one will recognise you! This is stupid and reckless.”
“Reckless is my middle name. Last name Spider, middle name Reckless, first name… The…”
“You’ll ruin the whole mission!”
“And what if I do? You don’t like assisting dognapping anyway, so what’s the big deal? Come on, George, if we’re fired then it’s all the better for us, really.”
“Fine, I can’t argue with that. Why aren’t the agents responding anyway?”
“No clue. They probably traded their microphones for candy from a stranger like dumb kids or something. Whatever, man… Oh shit.”
“What is it?!”
George received no reply. He clenched a fist in exasperation and sped up his pace. Turning the corner at the end of the street, he saw The Spider and a man standing in her way. He approached nervously.
“Hello, uh…” George began. He noticed the man’s badge. “Oh. Hello, Sheriff. What a lovely town you have here… It’s very… uh… western.”
The Spider visibly cringed at George’s greeting, but her expression turned to surprise when she heard the sheriff’s response.
“Well I’ll be… Ain’t you quite the looker, partner? The name’s Buck Danvers and it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Uh, thank you,” said George, smiling gorgeously. “I’m George. My friend and I were just taking Geronimo for a walk for Ol’ Jimmy Two Shoes. He asked us to go for him because he… uh… He had a problem with his… shoes…”
Buck laughed. “Oh, that’s Jimmy alright! That man and his shoes… Oh he makes me laugh.”
The sheriff leaned in, and said quietly to George, “So, your friend here… Is she your…”
The Spider could hear everything, and said, “HA! As if I’d date this guy. He’s all yours, Bucky Boy.”
“Spider! This is the sheriff. You can’t just talk to sheriffs like that!”
Buck laughed once more and said, “Oh don’t worry. She’s alright. Say, why don’t we grab a drink?”
“Sorry, I promised Jimmy I’d take Geronimo for a walk, and after that I have urgent business out of town.”
“Oh, nonsense!” exclaimed Buck. “Geronimo doesn’t walk! He’s a lazy mutt. Just bring him down to the saloon. I’m sure everyone there will be glad to meet our town’s guests when their friends of Ol’ Jimmy Two Shoes!”
George made the mistake of hesitating long enough for The Spider to speak first.
“Sure, we’d love a drink. Why the hell not? Let’s go big G. You and your new boyfriend can get to know each other better over a tequila… SUNRISE! THAT’S WHAT IT’S CALLED. Remember earlier when I said a tequila-whatever-the-heck? It was sunrise. That’s whatever the heck it was. A tequila sunrise!”
“Uh… Yes, um. Okay, I’m glad you remembered. Good job. Okay. Let’s get this drink then, I suppose…” said George.
At the saloon, the doors swung open, and Buck sauntered in. George followed awkwardly, while The Spider followed with over-exaggerated enthusiasm. All the heads in the bar turned to look, and every glass was raised into the air with a cheer for the arrival of the sheriff.
“Howdy! We have guests! Friends of Ol’ Jimmy Two Shoes!” announced Buck. This was met with more cheers.
“Oh, and looks like more guests too!” he added as his eyes fell on the three agents. The agents looked at him. They saw George and The Spider behind the sheriff. Their faces looked somewhat confused and panicked. George returned this look with a gesture of helplessness. The Spider just grinned at the agents as if she was having the best time she had ever had on a mission. She was. She was full of glee at the prospect of everything going horrible wrong.
Buck was oblivious to the exchanged glances and gestures and said, “Pick a drink, you two. It’s on me, of course.”
The Spider immediately said, “Great! I’ll have a tequila… a tequila-whatever-the-heck…”
“Sunrise?” asked the barman.
“SUNRISE!” exclaimed The Spider so loudly that several people around her flinched.
The barman gave a bemused smile, and then turned to George. “And for you, my handsome friend?”
“Uh, the same I guess.”
Buck grinned and said, “Well, it’s not really a true cowboy drink, but I won’t be the odd one out! Tequila sunrise for me too, Louie.”
Only a true expert can make a tequila sunrise in four seconds flat, and sure enough, twelve seconds later three tequila sunrises were placed in front of them.
“So, George,” said the Sheriff. “Tell me about how you got to know Ol’ Jimmy Twoshoes. I can’t recall him ever mentioned any gorgeous friends like you. Hold up. Gorgeous… That’s right, you’re Gorgeous George from the internet ain’t you?!”
“Yeah, that’s right, but there’s no need to say ‘gorgeous’… George is fine.”
“Darn right, George is fine!” exclaimed Buck with a wink and a laugh.
As Buck and George spoke, the agents stood up and tried to discretely shuffle out of the saloon.
Buck saw them and said, “Aw, darn, you’re leaving? Wish I’d had time to greet you and give you a proper welcome to our little town. Doesn’t the presence of the famous Gorgeous George make you want to stay longer?”
“Sorry, sheriff,” said Agent 1.
“We wish we could stay,” said Agent 2.
“But we have to move on with our journey,” concluded Agent 3.
“That’s a darn shame, my friends. I wish safe travel for you all.” replied Buck. As soon as he had finished the sentence, Buck was back to talking to George, and the existence of the three agents was practically forgotten. As they left, The Spider silently pressed the rope into Agent 3’s hand, and the trio left with Geronimo following obediently. Nobody watched them go.
Once outside, they tried to make sense of what was happening.
“Okay, so it’s sort of our fault for taking our earpieces out and drinking and missing our cue, but… what the hell are they doing in there?!” said Agent 1.
“I don’t know, but we have the dog!” replied Agent 2.
“Yes. Let’s just get to the car,” said Agent 3.
“What about George and the Spider?” asked Agent 2.
“Yes how are they going to leave without people noticing the dog is no longer with them?” asked Agent 3.
Agent 1 groaned. “Why do I have to be the one to come up with the answers? Okay, I’ll try to get through to them.”
He fumbled in his pocket until he found the earpiece. He put it in, and said into his microphone, “George. Spider. Sorry about the lack of communication. We accidentally had too many tequila… um… what are they called?”
“Sunrises?” suggested Agent 2.
“Yes!” continued Agent 1. “We had too many tequila sunrises, and forgot about the mission. But don’t worry, everything will be okay. You just need to find a way out of there. Okay. Good luck. We’ll meet you at the car.”
“Excellent,” said Agent 3. “Now let’s go wait.”
In the saloon, The Spider restrained herself from laughing at the mess the mission was now in. George became visibly panicked.
Buck looked worried and asked, “Oh no, did I say something wrong, George? Have I been too forward?”
“No no no, Buck, no. You’re great. It’s just… I think I just realised I’m allergic to tequila. I have to go.”
George ran outside, clutching his mouth to make it look like he was about to throw up. The Spider put a palm to her face at the sight of his bad acting, but it apparently worked, as Buck seemed genuinely concerned. He moved to stand, but The Spider gestured him to wait there, and followed George out.
“What was that?!” she said, before laughing at him for several seconds. “Allergic to tequila? Join the improv club George, you genius.”
“Spider, please,” said George impatiently. “This is bad enough already. Come on, let’s just go.”
“Alright, yeah. Fun mission, huh?” The Spider grinned, fully enjoying the situation. “What do think of Bucky Boy?”
“Now is not the time to talk about that,” said George. He set off a brisk pace away from the saloon.
The Spider followed by his side. “But he’s clearly into you. Don’t you wanna abandon the mission and betray the president in the name of love? It would be so dramatic – such a storybook ending to a wonderful tale of dognapping and deceit!”
“This isn’t a story and that’s not really an option when we’re stealing the beloved town dog. I can’t go back and spend time with him after all this, and… I said now is not the time. Shut up, Spider.”
For perhaps the first time ever, The Spider shut up when told. She enjoyed annoying George, but he seemed different right now. They continued their walk in silence. At their fast pace, they caught up with the Agents before getting to the car, and The Spider’s brief period of shutting up came to an end.
“Oh man, I knew it. I said you’d be in the saloon! You nearly ruined the mission. It was hilarious. I love watching you clowns screw things up even more than I love being right with my predictions.”
Nobody replied, so she sighed, and focused her attention on the dog instead. She scratched his head without slowing her pace. Soon they arrived at the car, and got in. Geronimo lay on The Spider’s lap, and enjoyed her petting and baby talk. Agent 2 started the car, and drove away.
“Well that was surprisingly easy,” said The Spider.
At that moment, a voice, “GERONIMO!” and Buck leapt seemingly from nowhere into the path of the car. Agent 2 slammed the brakes, and the car skidded to a halt, sending huge amounts dust into the air in the process. The dust formed the sort of cloud that is perfect for a person to ominously approach through. That is exactly what Buck did. He slammed hands down onto the front of the car, and glared into it.
“You thought you’d get away that easy?” he shouted. “I’m Sheriff Buck Danvers, and I don’t take kindly to troublemakin’ strangers.”
“I’ll talk to him,” said George. “You guys wait here. Don’t interfere with this.”
He stepped out of the vehicle, and pulled Geronimo with him. The Spider held the dog tight, but released him after a pleading look from George. He shut the door behind, and ignored the muffled sounds of argument between The Spider and the agents.
“Buck,” he began. “This is a strange story, and you might now believe me… but please, listen.”
“Okay. I’ll hear you out, George, but it better be good,” said Buck, with anger still clear in his tone.
George told him everything, from the viral photo to the first visit of the agents to the mission to the moment they met.
“I never wanted to do this, Buck. But I didn’t know what they’d do if I didn’t obey. It’s for the president, what could I do?”
“I believe you, George,” replied Buck.
George handed him the rope lead. “Take Geronimo home. I won’t do this anymore. I’ll come back here to visit soon. But first, I’ll go home and get myself out of this mess. But I’ll be back. I promise.”
“I look forward to it, George,” said Buck.
They shook hands, and George got back into the car.
“You gave him the dog?!” cried Agent 1.
“The president won’t be pleased,” said Agent 2.
“Screw the dognapping freak of a president, I’m done. Drive me home, then leave me alone forever, or I tell the public everything. You can’t blackmail me or refuse my demands, because I have my phone right here and can upload everything before you could even get to the back seat and stop me.”
“We can have you thrown in jail!” said Agent 3.
“Not before I upload things you can’t.”
“Honestly, I don’t know why we didn’t think of this sooner,” said The Spider. “Leave me alone too! No, actually… Get me promoted to like mega-spy or undercover ninja boss or something!”
The Agents knew they could do nothing.
“Alright,” said Agent 1. “We’ll come to some agreement with you later, Spider.”
“Yeah,” said Agent 3. “First we’ll get George home.”
Agent 2 turned the key, but Buck once again blocked the road. Agent 2 lowered the window to ask what the problem was.
“You had too many tequila sunrises to drive. George drank the least, so he should do it.”
Reluctantly, the agents accepted this suggestion on the condition that they could stop and change seats every fifteen minutes so no one had to sit with The Spider all journey. With a smile to Buck, George set off driving home, thinking about his return.