Pulp Formula Bodhisattva (Abridged)

Pulp Formula Bodhisattva drinks from a water fountain. A shadow looms. He looks up. He half-turns. The water trickles to a stop. Tony M.’s fist swings like the hammer of God.

P.F.B. staggers.

“Tony—” he protests.

“I told you never to find me, ” says Tony. He advances on Pulp Formula Bodhisattva. “Never to look for her! To stay out of our lives!”

“I didn’t know you’d be here!”

P.F.B. backs away. He is short and wiry. His eyes hold infinite gritty determination and equally infinite compassion. He is backed up against a plate glass window. He raises his fists. “I didn’t know!”

Tony is half again the size of P.F.B. He’s wearing a black suit. His chin is square.

“I’m not here seeking Eleanor!” P.F.B. says.

Rage comes over Tony’s face then. Not all P.F.B.’s mastery can save him. Tony steps back and wrenches the drinking fountain away from the floor. The metal screams. The pipes spurt. Tony swings the fountain into P.F.B.’s chest. P.F.B. crashes through the window and out onto the street.

The building sign above him reads SOUGHT-FOR THINGS.

Tony walks out. Tony lifts the drinking fountain high.

“I’m here, ” P.F.B. protests, “to find the Attachment Killer!”

Tony hesitates.

“The murderer who glues her victims?” Tony asks.

“Yes!”

Tony sighs. He puts the fountain down. He holds out a beefy hand. P.F.B. takes it. Tony lifts him up.

“Why?” Tony asks.

P.F.B. hears someone moving purposefully through the building. He tries to open his third eye and see who it is.

Why?” Tony demands. P.F.B. snaps out of his trance.

“I want to bring universal enlightenment,” says Pulp Formula Bodhisattva. “But no one knows how to do that. I don’t know how to do that. I only know how to follow the pulp formula. So that’s what I do—”

Tony cuts him off with a gesture. “Your universal enlightenment,” he roars, “cost me Eleanor!”

P.F.B. clenches his fists in frustration. “You have to understand! I checked the files in the Bureau of Sought-For Things. Universal enlightenment is not here! And if it’s not here, then someone must have stolen it. And I have no hope unless that person is an appropriate pulp nemesis—like the Attachment Killer!”

“Pah,” Tony says. He sighs. He slumps. “Just . . . go away.”

There is a shape standing behind the plate glass window. It is the insidious Dr. Rex. She wears a white mask. She has long white-blond hair. She is carrying a rifle. She is wearing a lab coat. It billows as she laughs.

“Perhaps, Tony,” cries Dr. Rex, “you’re too attached to your memories!”

The attachment gun fires.

P.F.B. dives at Tony. He knocks the man out of the way. A blast of attachment to material things ripples past Tony and affixes a parked Miata to the street.

“When a man is too attached,” laughs Dr. Rex, “he cannot breathe—the air locks in his lungs. He cannot laugh. He cannot move. That is attachment!”

She fires another blast.

P.F.B. shoves Tony behind a mailbox. He leaps up. He hovers in the air, radiating compassion rays. He reads Dr. Rex’s nametag.

“Dr. Rex,” he says. “It is not too late to seek enlightenment!”

Dr. Rex’s face contorts. She howls. “I don’t care about enlightenment!” she shouts. “It was merely the bait!

“What?” asks P.F.B. He falters.

“To lure you here!” cries Dr. Rex. “So that I could attach you and use your compassion energy to power my Bodhisattva Bomb!”

The gun fires straight at P.F.B.’s heart.

“I can’t become attached,” says P.F.B. The beam splashes over him. The rays of universal compassion slowly crystallize. “I’m a bodhisattva!”

But he knows he is wrong.

Tony wrenches the mailbox from the ground. He looks at Dr. Rex.

“Help?” asks P.F.B.

Tony sighs. He hesitates. He puts the mailbox down. He shakes his head. He walks away.

Dr. Rex fires in a continuous stream. Pulp Formula Bodhisattva’s glorious radiation crystallizes. He is attached to everything in the world around him. He is becoming the seed for a Bodhisattva Bomb.

“Tony,” he says. “Why?”

Dr. Rex laughs.

Tony slows down. But he keeps walking.

“I know why,” says Dr. Rex. “You were in Bangalore. Fighting for enlightenment. You and your daughter’s fiance Tony. And somehow it never occurred to either of you to message home saying you’d be three days late for the wedding.”

Tony stops.

“Pulp heroes don’t keep appointments!” P.F.B. says.

Tony snorts.

“She knew only universal enlightenment mattered to you,” says Dr. Rex. “So she left. That’s when Tony left too, and swore he’d never help you again. A man’s good as his word, isn’t he, Tony?”

Tony looks back. He studies Dr. Rex, frowning. Then he gapes. “Eleanor?

“You can’t save everyone!” shouts Dr. Eleanor Rex. She rips the mask off her face with her right hand and tosses it aside. “Not your way! Not with pulp heroism! The only way to save everyone in the world is to kill everyone in the universe! Thus—the Bodhisattva Bomb!”

P.F.B. opens his third eye.

“Maybe,” says Tony. He sorrows. “Maybe that’s right.”

“I can see her heart with my infinite spiritual attainment, Tony!” says P.F.B. “She doesn’t want to do this. She just decided it was the only way.”

Tony thinks. Then he turns on Dr. Rex. He strides forward.

“You won’t hurt me,” protests Dr. Rex.

“No,” Tony agrees. His shadow looms over her. She looks up. She half-turns. The attachment ray fades out. Tony M.’s kiss comes down on her lips like the hammer of God.

Time passes.

“The stolen universal enlightenment,” P.F.B. asks. “Where did you put it?”

Dr. Rex waves him away.

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