Travels With Jake Berendes
We drove up to the speaker and waited.
"Welcome to McDonald's, may I take your order today?"
Jake Berendes enunciated clearly into the speaker. "Two orange juices." He looked over at me. I nodded. "Two. Today."
"Small or large?"
Jake Berendes bit his lip. "Large."
"Will that be all, sir?"
"Your total is $1.78, please pull ahead."
Jake Berendes tapped on the gas pedal and pulled the car ahead.
A word about the car. It was a convertible. It had a semiautomatic transmission. It was green, or red, depending. 
At the second window, Jake handed the pallet of orange juice to me, then took his wallet from the dashboard and handed a fifty-dollar bill to the high school kid inside the window. He was maybe fifteen. This was his first job.
"Keep the change," said Jake Berendes.
"This isn't real money," said the kid, looking it front and back.
"It's Legal Tender," Jake Berendes assured the lad. "I should know. I'm Jake Berendes."
Jake Berendes opened up his wallet again and showed the kid his ID card.
"Wow, you're from Massachusetts!"
"That's right," said Jake Berendes. "keep the change. Buy some Pokèmon cards or something."
The kid looked disgusted, as though Jake Berendes had given him socks for his birthday. "I don't do Pokèmon."
"Sorry," said Jake Berendes.
I made a slurping sound with my straw. This was the signal. The signal meant, "I have finished my orange juice.".
Jake Berendes tossed the bag of Cheetos to me as he exited the 7-11. I popped open the back as he got into the car, releasing the sugary smell into the California mountain air. Mountain air?
"I got coins."
"I didn't design any coins."
Jake Berendes held out four coins in three denominations, engraved with the faces of myself, Nicholas Reville, and Jeremy Bruce. I turned Jeremy's coin around. Sure enough, an engraving of a bass guitar.
"The invisible hand of the market smiles upon us."
"This is how it happens?"
"Anything purchased with Berendes Bucks gets change in Berendes Bucks. That's the only way to do it without self-counterfeiting bills, which is a bitch."
"I don't understand how it works," said Jake Berendes.
Through years of study, I had determined that at times Jake Berendes would make a statement when he intended to ask a question. This was one reason why so many of Earth's greatest minds had found Jake Berendes inscrutable. Fortunately, I was not one of Earth's greatest minds. What's more, I had developed a device specifically for this purpose. It resembled an alphanumeric pager and was clipped onto my utility belt.
I consulted the JBDI unit. "HOW DOES IT WORK?" read the LCD screen.
"Legal Tender is valid precisely because it is invalid. People accept it because they can get ten Jake Berendes dollars for something that costs five American dollars. There's no reality manipulation involved." I knew that Jake was sensitive about reality manipulation; prolonged use of his powers left him dehydrated and caused him to lust after the Spice Girls.
"And the coins?"
"That's just one of the crazy things that happens around you. The individual people making up a free market may be of unspectacular intelligence, but the market itself can generally take care of things."
"Hrm." Jake Berendes contemplated my coin.
"At any rate, this is small potatoes. Let's go somewhere where we can spread some serious wealth."
Jake Berendes pulled the car into a parking space and removed his sunglasses. It was a handicapped parking space. We would have parked in the Jake Berendes parking space, but some handicapped bastard had stolen it. I got out of the convertible, my white coat flapping in the breeze. I cut rather a dashing figure, if I do say so myself.
Splotches of red were darting rapidly over the surface of the car. I got two briefcases out of the back seat as the top began to go up and Jake Berendes got out of the car.
"Which mall is this?", asked Jake Berendes.
"Your question marks you as an outsider to this world.", I said. "There is one mall, with many convenient locations."
"Question marks?", asked Jake Berendes.
"Have a briefcase.", I said, throwing one to him.
"Thanks.", said Jake Berendes.
Something was troubling me. I looked down to see a miniature poodle, possibly the reincarnation of Charlie Chaplin, in the process of eating my shoe. I picked up the poodle by the scruff of the neck and put it in the back of a nearby pickup truck.
"Wild poodle," I explained to Jake Berendes. "Native to these parts. An important part of the food chain. They eat roadkill."
"And people's shoes.", said Jake Berendes.
We burst into the mall, doubled over so as to shield our briefcases with our bodies. "It's all right!", yelled Jake Berendes, waving his wallet at anyone who would pay attention. "I'm Jake Berendes!"
"I'm with him!", I yelled, barreling into a trash can and sprawling onto the floor.
"Do not panic!", yelled Jake Berendes, suddenly twirling around and slamming his briefcase down on the cement perimeter of a small mall planter. Jake Berendes' momentum carried him three steps backwards and he frantically flailed at the briefcase before toppling backwards into one side of a stand-up mall directory. The glass shattered and Jake Berendes fell through a poster of Sinbad and landed inside the triangular structure.
"Ouch.", quipped Jake Berendes.
"Good choice.", I said to him, picking myself up and pulling several rolled-up sheets of laminated paper out of my coat. I knew from our time trials that we had between one and three minutes before the mall security arrived. We needed at least two minutes, but less than three.
Two minutes and twenty-one seconds later, two security guards pushed their way into the rapidly forming line and accosted us.
"I'm Jake Berendes.", said Jake Berendes, holding out his ID card. "I'm atomic powered."
The guard scrutinized it. "You're from Massachusetts."
"That's right," said Jake Berendes. "And I'm on a cross-country mission to spread the word about my genuine Worcester maple syrup candy! One bite and you'll be standing ankle-deep in crisp autumn leaves while a helicopter hovers silently above you! Also available in non-helicopter!"
"That's him, officer!", I said, getting up from the prostrate position from which I had been putting the finishing touches on our storefront and pointing accusingly at Jake Berendes. "He's the one who sold me tasty New England confections at an unbeatable price!"
"And this is my partner in perfectly legal activities, Leonard Richardson. He derives his energy from the sun."
"What are you doing in the mall directory?"
"This?" Jake Berendes looked around. "This is our taste test center. That directory is there as a public service. Take a look; we're on there."
We were. We had a special directory entry under REVOLUTIONARY MAPLE SYRUP CANDY SUPPLIERS. The red spot on the directory said YOU ARE HERE... AT THE JAKE BERENDES TASTE TEST SENSATIONATRON!. One guard went to check this out as Jake Berendes worked the other one.
Jake Berendes held up two small cups of brownish candy with embedded almond slivers, like a chemist about to perform a mixture. "We performed this taste test for the crowned heads of Europe, and the bald heads of El Monte.",  he said. "Just compare our crunchy maple syrup candy to the rat-infested offerings of another major supplier, and walk out of here five hundred dollars richer."
The second guard grinned and took the small cups.
The first guard came back around the corner. "They're on the directory," he said. The second nodded. "Have some candy, Bert. Five hundred bucks for doing a taste test." He winked at us.
"Are you coming on to me?" said Jake Berendes.
The guards were not used to having this question asked of them. They gulped down the lumps of candy like so many shots of scotch ("so many" being "two", or "four", depending). I handed Jake Berendes two five-hundred-dollar bills. He handed the money to the guards.
"This isn't real money," said the second guard.
"Of course it's real money," I said. "It says so right on the bills."
The guards were about to question this, when they suddenly seemed to recall some other things that would have to be questioned if they let this set a precedent, so they decided to let it stand.
"Have a nice day," said Jake Berendes.
"Don't spend it all in one place.", I said.
"Happy new year!" said Jake Berendes.
I blew a noisemaker.
"Damn!" said Jake Berendes, slapping himself in the forehead.
"Bon voyage!" I said, waving a handkerchief I had conveniently obtained from the back pocket of Jake Berendes' plaid shorts. We had only one handkerchief between us, and shared it via a method of sustained mutual pickpocketing.
"Please go away.", said Jake Berendes.
The guards went away.
"I thought they'd never leave.", said Jake Berendes.
The line which had been forming at our booth had by this time overflowed its boundaries and become a small mob.
"Come one, come all!", shouted Jake Berendes. "Genuine Massachusetts maple syrup candy taste test maple syrup candy! Get it now, until supplies last!"
I gave out taste test cups, comment forms, and 500 dollar bills, to the people at the front of the mob. It didn't matter which piece of candy they thought was better, since all the cups contained the same stuff. It also didn't matter because we didn't care. The point of this exercise was to get as much money in the hands of as many different people as possible, so as to prepare the local economy for running on Berendes Bucks.
A woman tried the candy in her left hand.
"This is really good.", said the woman. "Where can I get some?"
"Order some from our Web site," said Jake Berendes, handing her a card with a URL on it.
"Are you really from Massachusetts?", she asked.
"Of course I am," said Jake Berendes, showing the woman his ID card.
"I don't have a card for 'wow'.", said Jake Berendes.
Our briefcases were empty by the time we were done, but we took them back to the car anyway. A good briefcase is hard to find.
"Hello," said Jake Berendes to the three girls who were slowly walking circles around our car. The side of the car nearest them was red; the rest of the car was green. This behavior, which persisted no matter where they were in relation to the car, fascinated them.
"Hi," said the girls, by consensus. They moved from the back of the car to the passenger's side as I moved in and opened the trunk.
"The solution," I said, casually, "is to split up. One of you go around to the driver's side of the car. Then the entire car will be red." Jake Berendes and I put our briefcases into the trunk as one of the girls carried out this experiment. The car, like the newspaper of joke fame, was now red all over.
"Shouldn't you kids be in school?", asked Jake Berendes.
"It's Saturday.", said one of the girls.
"Oh.", said Jake Berendes. He looked uncomfortable.
Something was troubling me. I looked down to see bite marks on my shoe.
From my utility belt I detached a pocket guide to the wildlife of Los Angeles.
"Jake, get in the car.", I said. Jake Berendes was attempting to get the phone number of one of the girls.
I opened the passenger side and got into the convertible, ducking under the canvas top. "Jake, get in the car." I repeated with a certain amount of urgency.
Jake bade the girls farewell and got into the driver's seat as I hurriedly retrieved a map of California from the glove compartment.
"This is Calabasas."
"This isn't West Covina. We're in Calabasas. Those accents were a dead giveaway. Those girls have never been east of the 405."
"I told you it wouldn't be good if I drove."
I rustled the map. "West Covina is forty miles away. We can make it in under an hour. Get on the 101."
Jake Berendes nervously checked his rear-view mirror and put the convertible into reverse.
"We're going to have to spend a lot of money in a lot of places.", I said, trying to estimate the potential damage we had done by Jake Berendizing the suburbs out of order.
"All we've got is what's in our wallets."
"We'll find a copy machine."
To be continued...
 Numerous previous attempts at Jake Berendizing West Covina were attempted from 1955-1958 on "Western Milk Oil Presents 'Sparky The Incredible Hedgehog'". These inevitably failed because Jake Berendes and myself were not the heroes of the show. Curse you, Sparky!
 The car was green for camouflauge purposes. It was only red in the presence of pretty girls.
 This is an old vaudeville joke. You substitute the name of a nearby town for "El Monte". You also substitute "routine" for "taste test".
This document (source) is part of Crummy, the webspace of Leonard Richardson (contact information). It was last modified on Tuesday, April 13 2004, 04:17:26 Nowhere Standard Time and last built on Wednesday, September 28 2022, 06:00:20 Nowhere Standard Time.