Max and the Argentinian Death Penguin, Part 3: The Smell of Danger

August 22, 2012

choose your own adventure, Humor

**Continuing Part 1 and Part 2 of our Choose Your Own Adventure week**

Max And The Argentinian Death Penguin, Part 3: The Smell of Danger

Reginald Winterthrop, when he was alive, was a man of rigid dignity and noble adventure – until the unfortunate instance in the Egyptian tomb left him a ghost, doomed to wander the Earth forever.  Maxine Cho had found the amulet that could free him from the tomb, and for that he was grateful.  But this… was – literally and figuratively – beneath him.

He’d faded in to a cloud of vapor and was hovering at the ceiling of the foulest men’s toilet, in the foulest tavern he’d ever experienced.  Why?  To keep an eye out.  “You’ll know when it happens,” Maxine had said.  And so, while they were out front, he hovered over the noxious odors, the noxious language, waiting for… what…?


“Two highballs,” Max said to the bartender as she and Bonkers pulled up to the bar.

“One in a bowl,” Bonkers added.  “So what are we doing here?”

“This is where I lost the Giggling Penguin.  We need to meet The Dragon, and this his his bar.”

Bonkers’ tail started thumping against the stool.  “A dragon!?  Oh, boy, and I thought the talking cow was cool!  Hot damn!  But why did we have to stop at a toy store?”

“Because The Dragon—“

‘BECAUSE THE DRAGON WHAT?” thundered a thickly accented voice from the end at the bar.  Max and Bonkers turned.  At the end of the bar stood a giant man who must have weighed at least 400 pounds. His head was shaved and, as he smiled, he revealed teeth that closely resembled decorative corn.

Max said, “Hello, Dragon.  Long time.”


“Something like that.”

The Dragon nodded to a table in a far corner and walked toward it.

Bonkers scowled.  “Aw man, The Dragon is just some big guy with a temper?  What a gyp.”

“He’s not called the dragon because of his temper, even though it is legendary,” Max muttered.  “He and I go way back, but we are not friends.  He doesn’t have friends.”

The bartender said, apparently a little too loudly, “He wasn’t hugged enough as a child.”

The Dragon picked up a chair and hurled it at the bartender, yelling “I TOLD YOU THAT IN CONFIDENCE!!”  The bartender ducked the chair adroitly as it crashed into the glasses behind him, and Dragon stomped on toward the corner.

Max continued at a whisper, “He’s called The Dragon because of his breath.  And he’s very sensitive about it.”

“Okay,” Bonkers nodded. “Diplomacy.  Got it.”

Max picked up the box she’d carried in with her and they went over to Dragon’s corner and joined him.  As she sat, Max asked, “You still have the penguin you won from me?”



“Holy Jesus God!” Bonkers shouted, his face twisting.  “Oh, that—that is awful!  That breath is the… the worst thing that’s every happened to my nose!  Ugh!  Gyug!”  Everyone stared at Bonkers in shock.  “And I’m a dog, man!  This is a dog telling you this!  I find the smell of feces fascinating and I’m telling you that’s the single worst—how does a living organism even produce that smell?!  Was there a tire fire in your lungs?!  Have you seen a doctor?  Or a dentist?  Probably not a dentist because he’d murder you in his chair.  Oh God, that is so horrible!  I think my brain is damaged! Yuck! Guck!  Eeeeeyyuuugh!!”

There was a terrible silence throughout the bar.  Drinks froze in mid-air.  Conversations stopped mid-word.  Max’s face was a wash of horror and rage.  And The Dragon’s face had turned brick red.  A vein throbbed in his forehead.

“ I SEE,” he spat.

“Oh God!” Bonkers blurted. “Every time you exhale it’s like being shot in the face with a dead, flaming skunk!  What do you eat?! What – seriously, this isn’t rhetorical I’m really asking – what do you eat?!  Sun-baked garbage boiled in cabbage water.  That’s the best I can come up with.  Sun-baked garbage boiled in cabbage water.  My God.  I mean… I mean, My God.”  He looked around.  “Um, sorry.  You know what? I’m just gonna…“ he nodded at the bar.   “I’m just gonna go get another drink.  Let you two catch up without me.”

The Dragon slowly stood up.  The temperature in the room seemed to rise with him.

“Listen, Dragon,” Max said very carefully.  “I brought you something.  Can I show you what I brought you?”  She reached carefully toward the box she’d set on the table.  From inside she pulled a pair of enormous roller skates.  “The bartender’s not the only one you’ve opened up to.  About an hour in to our contest you told me about your 9th birthday?  When you wanted the skates but got a machete instead?”

Dragon hesitated.  “YOU BROUGHT ME SKATES?”

“If you wanted to give me back the penguin, I’d sure appreciate it, but you don’t have to.”

Dragon’s eyes flicked toward the bar for just an instant.  Max glanced at Bonkers.  He’d seen it too.  “I ALWAYS WANTED SKATES.”

And it was at this moment that a fairly battered looking Agent Paulson and Agent Little Dog stepped through the door.  “Okay, Dragon,” Paulson announced. “The bar is surrounded.  Hand over the Penguin right now and this can go easy for you. “

Dragon smiled terrifyingly.  “CAN IT, NOW?”  He reached under the table and pressed a button.

Inside the Men’s room, Reginald saw a panel in the wall slide open.  It was in the furthest toilet stall, the one that appeared to have self-destructed or perhaps committed suicide.  From behind it a dozen men armed with clubs and knives began charging.  “I would surmise that this is ‘it’,” Reginald said to himself.  He flew threw the wall into the bar and regained his human shape.  “Beware!  Beware!” he moaned dramatically, waving his arms slowly.  Reginald didn’t like being a ghost but if he was one, well, he believed in doing things right.

There was an open window to her left.  She and Bonkers would have just enough time to jump through it and get out of there before Dragon’s men entered and hell broke loose.  From his glance, she was pretty sure the Penguin was behind the bar.   But whatever they were going to do, they had to do it now…

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Site in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, but sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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45 Comments on “Max and the Argentinian Death Penguin, Part 3: The Smell of Danger”

  1. skippingstones Says:

    My goodness, this is fun! How much of this did you already have planned? Did you write the alternatives too, or write all of this after the voting? I want to read the whole book, so I can go back and see where the other choices took Max and Bonkers. You should make this a real flip book and give it away (because I’m cheap) to your subscribers. I want it. PDF so we can print and flip. Please…!


  2. Go Jules Go Says:

    Oh gawd Bonkers is going to get me fired. And the decorative corn comparison? That makes me really proud. It’s so good. And I was surprisgly satisfied with Dragon turning out to be human.

    I can’t wait for manatees and toilet paper in the next installment.

    “I would surmise that this is ‘it’,” HA!


  3. mj monaghan Says:

    What a quirky, off-beat, splendid sense of fun, B-Man. Thoroughly enjoyable.

    Back cover, dust jacket:

    “The B-Man grabs you at the first sentence and pulls you along like a tractor beam.
    A real page turner. I laughed, I cried – well, I didn’t really cry – I even guffawed a couple of times. It’s like reading “Holes” without the holes.”


  4. She's a Maineiac Says:

    This was perfect! Really made me laugh. The reaction to his breath was brilliant and hilarious. “sun baked garbage boiled in cabbage water” Hahaha!! If you don’t start cranking out books, have you considered becoming a screenwriter? I could see this as a movie. Or you could write for a TV show, cartoon like The Simpsons, Family Guy. I’d be willing to bet you already have a goldmine of screenplays sitting in boxes in your closet just waiting to be discovered.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Shouldn’t you be studying?

      And I tried screenwriting for a while – even spent 6 months researching the Donner Party for a historical screenplay. My first screenplay was called “Hellbent For Leather” and it’s about a bunch of punks who get blasted back to the old west. I really like it.

      Nothing ever came of it, though (obviously). I couldn’t make myself move to Hollywood. Just couldn’t do it.

      And I was very pleased with Bonkers’ rant, also. I was giggling away as I wrote it. My wife just now read the post and asked, with confusion, “What part was making you laugh?” Nice.


      • She's a Maineiac Says:

        I must read this Hellbent For Leather.

        Move to Hollywood! Then when you’re famous, we can have a blogfest at your oceanfront house.

        Y’know, I often say I “LOL’d” at things but seriously, I was laughing pretty hard at that breath exchange, you wrote that perfectly with great timing and I know how hard that is to pull off.


      • Go Jules Go Says:

        I just mentioned to Darla in an email (yeah, we’re friends like THAT. Much lobstah to discuss) that I almost popped a vein (that’s a thing, right?) from trying not to laugh too loudly at work – because of that Bonkers rant.

        Please send me “Hellbent for Leather” at your earliest convenience. (Why can’t screenwriting and NYC be a thing? WHY?!)


        • mistyslaws Says:

          Wait a second!! Why aren’t I included in these “lobstah” emails? I plan on attending. I would like to be apprised of the planning and such! Plus, why would you leave me out of your lovefest? I like love . . . or something. Is it my breath?

          Nevermind, I get it. I won’t intrude. Don’t mind me. I’ll just be over here in the corner. Crying.


  5. susielindau Says:

    Wow! What a fun and crazy story! Now if you can condense it to 100 words, you could join me on Fridays!


  6. mylifeisthebestlife Says:

    You know what happens when pregnant women laugh this hard? Pee pee, that’s what.

    “I TOLD YOU THAT IN CONFIDENCE!!” I adore you.


    • SnowfoxBandit Says:

      Okay, I was just hear to leave the same comment! Er, the “I TOLD YOU THAT IN CONFIDENCE!” part. Not the pregnant laughing-pee part. Ahem.

      Nice to see you over here! 😛


  7. speaker7 Says:

    Awesomeness, like the exact opposite of sun-baked garbage boiled in cabbage water. The fact that you’re writing this daily and inserting incongruous statements so effectively just amazes me.


  8. mona Says:

    This reminds me of the Jim Butcher series; I don’t know if that is compliment, but it’s meant to be because I love the Dresden Files, and I love this!


    • SnowfoxBandit Says:

      AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH Dresden files love!!!! High five!


      • mona Says:

        High Five! I usually don’t compliment people with a comparison because you never know if they find your choice a big stinkin’ pile… but you’re with me, Snowfox, right?


        • SnowfoxBandit Says:

          For sure! After tearing through all the books, I now listen to the delightful audiobooks (wonderfully read by James Marsters!) on my commutes. And I keep them on a handy flashdrive to share with everyone who will listen! I’m a nerd.


  9. SnowfoxBandit Says:

    Mr. Byronic, your superb creativity regularly instigates laughter. Thank you for brightening my day! I am loving this!

    Also, these are not too long at all — I think this is the perfect “chapter” for each day. Loved the “Dragon” twist, and the I TOLD YOU THAT IN CONFIDENCE!, and the extremity of Bonkers’ reaction (I’m a dog, man! This is a dog telling you this!)

    Also, yesterday a friend wondered if you made that guac specifically so you could put a pic in the story. Today, I’d like to think that you smashed a toilet just for us, too. What a dedicated writer you are!


  10. Don't Quote Lily Says:

    I officially LOVE Bonkers.
    Keep ’em coming.


  11. Audrey Says:

    Dragon-breath will forever have a whole new meaning to me.


  12. L @ Trying Not to be Fat Says:

    Isn’t the smell of danger when you smell burnt toast and you’re having a stroke?


  13. carolofthebells Says:

    Why am I thinking of my dentist tonight?

    LOL — beautiful!


  14. Michael Says:

    Bonker’s rant is just beautiful. Nigh-on poetic, really.


  15. pegoleg Says:

    Love it. Love. It. Now that fall holiday decor will be popping up all around us, I won’t be able to look at Indian corn without vestigial scent memories making me gag. Thanks for that.


  16. Dale Long Says:

    Oh…my…god, Bonkers is my new favourite literary character!
    Hilarious! You write dialogue so well. Clever, quippy, and tongue firmly planted in cheek.


    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Thanks! And also, thanks for reading the first story. I know it’s a time commitment for the “Don’t go longer than 450 words” Blogiverse, but my naive hope is that it’s worth it.



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    […] Continue to Part 3: The Smell of Danger Take Our Poll Take Our Poll Share this:EmailFacebookTwitterStumbleUponLike this:Like27 bloggers like this. choose your own adventure, Humor, writing […]

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