It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
I was the best student in my class at NYU. That’s not being cocky. That’s just fact. My film, Greed Cult, a smart thriller set in ‘70s Hell’s Kitchen, placed well at multiple film festivals and had taken Albuquerque, all while I was still in school. I’m telling you. I was poised to blow up. There was practically a storm of internet buzz about me, about the great things I was going to do next. I could hear the whisperings:
…Tommy Ruffolo…the next Coppola…
…Tommy Ruffolo…the next Scorsese…
Instead, through a series of life events too brutal to dredge up, it had become…Tommy Ruffolo…co-producer of the reproachable pile of Sasquatch feces that is cable’s MonsterOddysey.
I’d complain, but who’d listen?
At least the job’s a piece of cake. In the end, it all boils down to clever editing. Hell, even the tone of the narrator’s voice is more important than any hard evidence or forensic analysis. The narrator just needs to sound creepy. Slap it all together with a haunted-house soundtrack, and the demographic eats it up. Bottom line? The lumps who watch MonsterOddysey have amazing powers of selective perception, so it doesn’t take much coaxing from our end. They get off on the notion that there’s something out there beyond the mountains of cheese curls and hours of internet porn that otherwise dominate their pathetic lives.
I might as well tell you what happened, since we’re here. Wherever here is.
Let’s see. Oh, right. Gavin’s fault, as usual. Our head producer had a knack for getting me into awkward spots, the lofty prick. He came up with this idea that MonsterOddysey should dump us in Nepal to do a special feature re-tracing the steps of Tom Slick’s famous “Snowman Expedition.” Now, when I say this Snowman Expedition is “famous,” I mean famous among the Mulder-Scully set. I don’t expect you to have heard of it, unless, of course, you’re of that ilk.
Slick was this real character, a Texas oilman-turned-adventurer whose team stole two finger bones from the hand of the so-called “Pangboche Yeti” back in the ‘50s. Classy and clever, this Slick. After the monks who live at Pangboche Monastery refused to release any Yeti artifacts for examination, he had an associate swipe two of the Yeti digits, replacing them with human bones so the monks wouldn’t notice his two-finger discount. He high-tailed it to India, where none other than Jimmy Stewart took the hand-off, smuggling the bones out of the country, as the story goes, in his wife’s lingerie case.
Wow. It’s depressing that I know this stuff off the top of my head. What can I say? It’s a wonderful life. If you can even call it that.
Anyway, examination of the stolen fingers turned out to be inconclusive…unable to determine if from known primate or…further testing necessary to…blah blah blah…and the Snowman Expedition was essentially a bust.
But that wouldn’t be the case this time!
MonsterOddyssey would dig deeper!
Ask more probing questions!
Bring 21st-century science and technology to the fore in a thrilling quest for the Truth!
The ascent from the Himalayan foothills to Pangboche Monastery was an arduous trek, especially for my crew, who moved like Klonopin-popping sloths. Lucky for us, there were plenty of creature comforts along the way (no pun intended, believe me). I was pissed that Seattle’s Best had beaten Starbucks to the area, because I was hopelessly addicted to Starbucks pumpkin scones at the time. Overall, I was taken aback by how developed the region was. I remember spotting an enormous construction on the hillside and asking Jerry the Sherpa what it was. He swept a dramatic arm across the valley, laying some sherpa science on me in jagged English, something to the effect of ‘it came from nothing, and will return to nothing, as with all things.’
When I pressed him, he beamed.
“Behed, Baht and Behont,” he said, shooting me a thumbs-up.
I miss that perky bastard. Why he asked to be called ‘Jerry,’ I have no idea, and I never found out his real name. We found him in one of the local villages. Or, I should say, he found us. When he figured out what we were up to, he started hopping around, tugging shirtsleeves. He insisted he was one of the guides from the original Slick expedition. Now, that should have made him at least seventy, and Jerry, other than not being in possession of any teeth, looked about twenty-five. Didn’t matter. Jerry the Sherpa would be characterized in our docu-fake as the last surviving Sherpa guide from the original Snowman Expedition, trusted confidante to Tom Slick himself! Jerry had his share of quirks, and you didn’t need to understand his garbled English to tell he was dumb as gelatin.
We found the local kooks in each village, getting footage of them describing their harrowing experiences with the Yeti. I shouldn’t have been surprised that they all expected compensation. One hermit even pulled out a contract from a stack sitting behind a mud-pit urinal that outlined his services, fees and how he would accept payment (cash). He kept pressing the contract toward us, ancient fingers crooked around a Hilton pen. “Kindly sign on the line,” he said in perfect English.
The way became more rugged as we neared the Pangboche Monastery, the Port-o-Potties lining the walkway only dotted every five miles or so. Around dusk on our fifth night, we spotted the monastery nestled on the dark mountainside. Gavin had arranged for us to meet with several of the higher-ranking monks to inspect what remained of the Pangboche Yeti hand, as well as an artifact that was supposed to be a “Yeti scalp.”
As thrilled as I was to get up there to do the monk thing, I was tired, it was late, and my Gatorade and Twizzler supplies were running low. We decided to make camp and head up to the monastery in the morning. I asked the twins to build a fire and immediately regretted it.
Marty and Reggie Grossman were distinguished by their low IQs, lack of motivation and average camera skills. You could tell them apart because, even though they were an exact genetic match, Reggie had a cowlick. He was forever licking his hand and smoothing it down, but it would pop up again seconds later. Working at full capacity, the twins amounted to one cameraman, because one or the other was always high, in his tent beating off, or out making inquiries in the Himalayan villages in a never-ending search for geishas, which the twins had in their collective head were exotic Napalese prostitutes.
Anyway, the twins were cranky when they weren’t stoned. Rather than just building the damn fire, they bickered endlessly about fire pit dimensions, kindling architecture, rock placement. Mercifully, Jersey Bob put an end to the debate, dousing the area with gasoline and flicking a match into the half-dug pit, setting it (and a large portion of mountainside) ablaze for a few tense minutes. Finally, the inferno mellowed to a pleasant crackle and glow.
As the fire began to warm our weary bones, Marty made an announcement.
“I need some geisha poontang,” he said.
“Seriously,” Reggie said. He licked his fingers, smoothing down his cowlick. It sprung up a second later.
“Tell me about it,” said Jersey Bob. He gestured in the direction of his crotch. “You don’t know how bad I need a lap dance right now.”
“Gysha secks happah ehn Japahn,” said Jerry the Sherpa. He pointed in the distance. “No gysha secks uhnless aht Japahn hauhse of secks.”
“I hear you, man,” said Jersey Bob. “No sex in the champagne room…I get it.” He winked at Jerry, and Jerry stared back blankly. He turned to the twins.
“What do youse guys think?” said Jersey Bob. “Will these geisha hotties make an exception for a good lookin’ guy like me?” He didn’t wait for a response. “HELL YES THEY WILL!”
Oh, Jersey Bob. He was a self-proclaimed “tracker” from, well, New Jersey. He had stumbled drunk onto my set during the taping of MonsterOdyssey – The Hunt for the Jersey Devil, claiming to be a “material eyewitness” and begging a slice of the crew’s mushroom-pep pizza. He looked like some sort of drunken Rambo after a court appearance – soiled blue suit, shirt half un-tucked, red tie wrapped around his forehead, clutching a bottle of Jack Daniels in his left hand and waving a bowie knife in his right.
What can I say? He was the total package.
We put him in camo gear, kept him drunk, and rolled tape.
The viewer feedback about “Jersey Bob” was so intense after that episode that we felt compelled to ask him back to join this latest faux monster mission. Now, just to be clear, most viewers didn’t like Jersey Bob. They fucking despised him. He got a strong reaction, though, and strong reaction equals strong ratings. So, even though the audience hated him, in fact because they hated him, it was a “ratings must” to enlist Jersey Bob for the Snowman Expedition reboot, where he was using his Hoboken-bred tracking skills on the mountainous terrain of Nepal to search for the elusive ape-man!
“Marty, Reggie, no fucking around tonight,” I said. “Full day tomorrow. We need as much monastery footage as possible to make this thing look believable.”
“No problem, boss!” the twins responded in perfect unison, like twins in the movies.
“Oh,” I said. “I wanna do a quick thing in the morning, before we head up. We need to throw rocks at Bob.”
“Rocks?” said Jersey Bob. “You gonna throw goddamn rocks at me?”
“It’s the new thing,” I said. “’Squatchers say Bigfoot throws rocks at people to scare them away from its territory.”
“Better not be hittin’ me,” said Jersey Bob, “with no goddamn rocks.”
“We’re not gonna hit you,” I said. “Just throw them close. Marty, can you be my designated rock-thrower?”
“How early?” asked Marty.
“Geez…” he said.
“You can wake-and-bake or whatever,” I said. “I don’t give a shit.”
Jersey Bob peeled off sweaty socks.
“Tommy, my dude,” he said. “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure,” I said. “What’s up?”
“You’re the producer of this show – the head honcho – but it doesn’t even seem like you believe this Snowsquatch bastard exists.”
Bob arched his toes in front of the fire, and steam began to rise from his feet. An aroma filled the air, the closest I can tell you being the smell of rancid cheese.
“What’s up with that?”
“What can I say, Bob?” I said, flipping my palms to the sky. “I’m an educated, rational man with a job to do.”
“Exhists,” said Jerry the Sherpa.
“Yeah, Jerry,” I said. “We all know that you think the thing exists.”
“Snowman exhists,” he repeated.
“That’s the spirit!” exclaimed Jersey Bob, slapping Jerry the Sherpa on the back. Jerry smiled. A line of drool made its way from the corner of his mouth to his chin, then reached for the ground.
“Twin Powers, what do you think?” said Jersey Bob. “You think there’s a hairy, pissed-off ape-man out there waiting to hump our white asses?”
“All the evidence points to it,” said Marty.
“Absolutely, Bob,” said Reggie. “No doubt about it.” He licked his hand, pressing down his cowlick. It sprung up a few seconds later. “All the evidence points to it.”
“Exactly,” said Jersey Bob. “There’s a shitload of evidence that points to this Snowsquatch being real, just like the Jersey Devil.” He sucked mucus from the depths of his sinuses, launching a lugie at the fire. It smacked into a log, sizzling. An instant later, particles of his spit, caught by the wind, misted my face.
“Do you believe in the Snowsquatch or not?” said Bob. “Don’t give me your fancy educated doubletalk bullshit.”
“Bob, if you really need to know, then no,” I said. “I don’t believe in Bigfoot, the Jersey Devil, Chupacabra, Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy. If the Yeti existed, they would have found bones or fossilized remains by now. The foot impressions and hair samples are all pretty clearly hoaxed or from known animals. Sorry to burst your bubble, man, but this is just a job for me.”
“Exhists,” said Jerry the Sherpa. “Eats bohnze.”
“Hell yes it does,” said Bob. “Listen to that, Tommy. There’s no bones because they eat each other’s bones after they croak. At least I think that’s what the toothless wonder is tryin’ to say.”
He pointed at Jerry.
“These Sherpa dudes don’t fuck around, Tommy.”
He started stabbing his finger in Jerry’s direction.
“They know their shit.”
“Whatever, Bob,” I said. “Honestly, I really don’t care, and I legitimately mean that.”
Marty and Reggie whipped out twin bongs and started pulling Snickers and Reeses and Skittles and Doritos and Bit-O-Honeys and (I could go on) from their packs, hording them in a semi-circle in preparation for the munchy onset.
“Tommy, let’s make this interesting,” said Jersey Bob. “I’ll bet you a hundred and fifty-eight bucks that not only does the Snowsquatch exist, but we see a live one during this trip.”
“Why a hundred fifty-eight?” I asked. “Why not just one-fifty?”
“That’s my unemployment check this week.”
“Aren’t we paying you for this?” I said.
“Yup,” said Bob. He grinned.
“Are you really sure you want to make this bet?” I said.
He didn’t answer. Just kept staring at me with that creepy grin of his.
“Fine,” I said. “If it makes it fun for you, Bob? It’s a bet.”
I extended my hand. Bob grabbed it, shaking it violently.
“Woowee!” he exclaimed. “I just made me one hundred and fifty-eight bucks!”
That seemed to shut Bob up, and for a few hours, we stared at the fire like TV, not talking much, the smell of ganja and crinkle of candy bar wrappers hanging in the air.
Jersey Bob pulled a pint of Jack Daniels from his pack, twisted off the cap, and downed a lusty gulp.
“Damn, I miss my girl,” he said. “Twin Powers. Youse guys got girlfriends? I bet you do, you little horndogs. ‘Coupla Asian girls, I bet. You bastards dig Asian chicks.”
Marty and Reggie sputtered.
“I got your number, you dirty dogs.”
Jerry the Sherpa picked up a Pixie-Stick, inspected it, then set it back down.
“My girl is Portuguese,” said Bob. “Woowee! She’s into some freaky shit, and a conservative Republican, but you’d never know it!” He shook his head. “Gets so wild sometimes, I gotta use our safe word. Twin Powers, you know what a safe word is?”
The twins started giggling, then stopped abruptly. Jerry the Sherpa grinned, but it wasn’t clear why.
“Tommy, you prude,” said Bob. “You know what a safe word is for?”
“Yeah, Bob, I know what you’re talking about,” I said, “and I don’t give a shit.”
“You’re a pansy Democrat, right?” he said. “Guess what me and my baby’s safe word is?”
“If I could die not knowing,” I said, “I would die happy.”
“Just guess,” he said. “Come on, Tommy. Guess.”
“Come on,” he said. “Just guess…guess…Tommy, seriously, just guess. No big deal.”
“We’re not doing this, man,” I said. “Seriously.”
“Seriously, just guess,” said Bob. “Just guess what it is! What’s the big deal?”
“Bob,” I said. “I don’t care!”
“Just care for a second!” said Bob. “Just guess what it is! Tommy, come on man, just guess.”
“Fine!” I shouted. “Jesus!” I threw my hands up in the air. “I don’t fucking know…your safe word is…‘Obama’.”
That shut Bob right up.
“No shit,” he said. His eyes were wide. “How the hell did you guess that?”
He leapt to his feet and stomped a few steps toward me with his tough-guy walk.
“HAVE YOU BEEN SLEEPING WITH MY DIAMANTINA, YOU SON OF A BITCH?”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I said. “Your safe word is ‘Obama’?”
“I shit you not!” said Jersey Bob. He smiled. Happy again. “She gets all freaky on me, like a wild-woman, all jamming her thumb up my ass and shit, and I gotta be like Obama! Obama! OBAMA! The neighbors think we’re nuts! Wooweee!”
Drool cascaded from Jerry the Sherpa’s mouth and he burst into laughter, rocking back and forth like an asylum patient. Marty and Reggie started sputtering again, and I admit, I couldn’t help myself, either. Soon, we were all rolling on the ground, clutching our bellies. Jersey Bob beamed with pride.
Then it all happened.
The laughter was choked when a melancholy groan pierced the night sky, chilling me to the marrow of my bones.
“What the hell was that?” said Jersey Bob. “Didn’t sound like no animal I ever heard.”
“Probably nothing,” I said calmly, but my heart was pounding. “It’s not like you really know the wildlife out here, Bob.”
“Fuck yeah, I do,” said Jersey Bob. “I went online.”
Another ominous wail cut through the silence, closer now.
“Holy shit!” said the twins in unison.
Woodland creatures began popping out from the tree-line, scurrying through our campsite. Something larger tracked behind. Snow crunching and branches snapping with each approaching step.
Again, the terrible shriek, making the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. It was just about twenty yards away.
“Mohthourfuhcker!” cried Jerry the Sherpa. He was gazing in horror at the edge of the tree-line. I squinted, straining to make out the shape.
Then I saw it.
Illuminated by the firelight, a hulking figure emerged from the tree-line that I can only describe as an eight-foot tall, bipedal, hairy man-beast. The creature looked emaciated, its eyes wild with what looked to me like hunger and/or bloodlust.
“Son of a bitch!” shouted Jersey Bob. “It’s the goddamn Snowsquatch!”
The creature let out a plaintive bark and lumbered toward Jersey Bob, breaking into a run as it closed in on the poor Jersey native. Bob tossed his bowie knife from hand to hand as the creature approached.
“Come on!” he shouted. “Come on, you hairy slut!”
The ape-like man snatched Jersey Bob by the neck, bit off his nose, and hurled him screaming into the fire like a bloody rag-doll, where he convulsed for a few moments before expiring.
The seeming human-gorilla hybrid took the twins next. He fisted Marty’s head into a tree then put six-inch thumbs through Reggie’s eye sockets. Reggie’s cowlick danced to-and-fro as the large biped strangle-crushed him.
Jerry the Sherpa squealed, scurrying up the path, but the enormous hairy biped swept Jerry’s legs out from under him before he could get very far. The potential monster lifted Jerry by the feet as he flailed. It sniffed him, then sunk its teeth into the poor sherpa’s thigh.
Jerry let out a scream that spoke to the existence of a morbid hell.
Apparently impressed with the flavor of Jerry’s man-flesh, this creature (which might generically be categorized as a “bipedal, gorilla-human hybrid”) rip-tore the right leg from Jerry’s body and continued eating. Jerry screamed in apocalyptic horror, clutching at his missing leg as blood gushed from the stump. A dull look of contentment came across the unidentified creature’s face as it settled on a log, feasting on Jerry the Sherpa’s leg.
I admit it.
This was clearly the goddamn Yeti or Snowsquatch or whatever you want to call it.
I hate losing bets. Hate it.
So there I was, cowering behind a tree against a cliff edge, frozen. I did my best to stay totally still, slowing my breathing to a trickle. Just when I was starting to think I was home free, the Yeti’s nose twitched up-then-sideways, sniffing the air in my direction.
It rose from the log.
I can’t really describe the out-of-body fear that was coursing through me as the Yeti advanced, pausing every few feet to sample the air again.
At last, it spotted me. Our eyes locked. Not to get all poetic or anything, but what I saw behind those eyes was a dark soul festering with an ancient resentment.
It cocked its head to the side. It was so close, I could smell the stink of its breath, which rivaled Jersey Bob’s. For what seemed like an eternity, it just stood there, staring at me. Finally, the abominable snowman raised its head, unleashing a blood-curdling howl that echoed across the mountainside.
“NO!” I cried. “No, no, no, no, no, nononononononono! Obama! Obama! OBAMA!”
Those words were to be my last, as the Pangboche Yeti beat me to death using Jerry the Sherpa’s leg as a club. I’m not sure if you can imagine it, but it takes a really long time to beat a man to death with another man’s leg.