The Pocket Monster Diaries, Part 2
I had seen the occasional pay-per-view Pokémon battle on TV, and now I had even been in a participant — sort of — in one that still had Oak’s lab assistants scrubbing chlorophyll off of the filing cabinets. I had already started to reconcile this experience with my own beliefs. I took no joy in the brutal pummeling that Mr. Suds had dished out, however, it also wasn’t as bad as I had feared. But know this, gentle reader: I had not seen the true face of PokéViolence until that bloody slog through the alley of death known only as Route One.
Any illusions I had of controlling Mr. Suds were quickly dispersed as I saw him plow through the Pidgey who had, until very recently, been blocking our path in what I had thought was a menacing fashion. Now it was a twitching heap of feathers on the ground, squawking and flapping one wing uselessly up and down while the other hung limp at its side. I began to wonder if maybe my imagination had run away with me. Could this plain-looking little bird really have meant me any harm?
It was around this time that I noticed the pack of Rattata beginning to circle in the tall grass around me, and also the tail of Mr. Suds disappearing into the tall grass in front of me. I decided to heed the old adage “It’s better to be safe than gnawed to death” and followed in the swath of destruction created by my tiny turtle-tank.
The little guy was blitzing through the grass at quite a pace; I actually had to jog just to keep up with him. Monster after monster kept popping out of the grass to challenge him, but they rarely lasted for more than one blow. I was still slightly annoyed/concerned that he seemed to be ignoring my orders (or more precisely, not bothering to wait until I gave any), but I have to say that his performance was impressive. He didn’t weigh much, but he was fast as hell and he knew how to use his momentum effectively. Frequently I saw him sidestep a predictable bite attack from a Rattata and slam into it with a vicious shoulder check, usually sending a few newly liberated fangs twirling through the air in the process. Traditionally, it’s said that Squirtles use their shells to defend themselves from predators, but make no mistake: what Mr. Suds wore on his back was a weapon. Once, when a particularly bold Rattata pounced at him from ambush, he barely dodged the lunge by jumping straight into the air before flipping over and withdrawing into his carapace, landing on him shell first with a crunch and a pathetic sounding squeak.
Finally, it seemed like we were nearing the end of Route 1. Following the sounds of carnage, I rounded a corner and saw Mr. Suds squaring off against another Pidgey. This one looked a bit bigger than the others, though, and while most Pidgeys I had seen could only lift themselves a few feet off of the ground with a sort of ungainly flutter, this one was maneuvering through the air, if not gracefully, then at least competently.
I hesitate to use the term “Alpha Pidgey” here because, one, if you’ve ever seen a Pidgey you’d know that they cannot be described as majestic or imposing in any way, and I don’t want to give the impression that this particular Pidgey was anything but slightly more intimidating than usual. And two, I have no idea how the social hierarchy of a group of Pidgeys is structured, or even if they have one. I’m not some kind of Pidgey behavioral specialist, maybe they choose their leader by arm wrestling or playing Jenga or something. But then I remembered that the single most comprehensive database of Pokémon information in the world consists of a jumble of incoherent sentence fragments that sound like an eight-year-old musing about how Pokémon can run faster than bullet trains and have hooves harder than diamonds and no, my dad is WAY stronger than your dad he can lift up A ICE CREAM TRUCK, yuh-huh I saw it! So you know what?
Fuck it. Alpha Pidgey.
The Alpha Pidgey was making a series of dive-bomb attacks at Mr. Suds, who was managing to dodge so far, but the Pidgey was quick and Mr. Suds couldn’t land a counter-hit. I could tell that the scrappy little Squirtle was getting worn out; he was panting slightly and his movements weren’t as fast as before. For the first time, I felt like I actually had to do something as a trainer. But it was scary. I mean, right now it could hardly be said that Mr. Suds was my Pokémon. Let’s look at the facts: sure, he chilled out in my Pokéball between brawls, and I gave him a nickname (which he had yet to answer to), but it wasn’t really my fault. He was forced on me by a delusional old fraud who probably had some kind of criminal intent.
What I’m trying to say is, I had all sorts of plausible deniability for whatever this little bastard decided to do. If he lost right now, it wouldn’t really be my loss, it would be his. But as I watched the two monsters fighting, I realized that this was in their nature. I couldn’t really fault this Pidgey or Mr. Suds for doing what they were born to do. No matter what I did, one of them was going to get hurt, and it might as well be the one that didn’t belong to me. Mr. Suds might be a monster, but he was my monster.
Well, sort of, probably, maybe. Knock on wood?
“Mr. Suds…um, Squirtles know how to use Bubble, right? Yeah, maybe…try Bubble…if it’s convenient, I mean, you’re the one battling, I guess…”
No reaction. Did he just glance at me? Could be my imagination. Either way, he kept ducking and weaving around the Pidgey. No Bubble. Alright, we do this again.
“Hey…you should do…a Bubble attack!”
He definitely noticed this time. He turned his head towards me and shot me a look.
The Pidgey’s beak slammed into the back of his head, knocking Mr. Suds onto the ground. He pushed himself up slowly, now sporting a nasty looking gash starting at the base of his skull, and slicing diagonally up towards the top of his dome-like cranium.
I started running towards him. “Mr. Suds! Are you okay?” He looked up at me. He looked mad. He looked really mad. But as I saw the Alpha Pidgey swooping in for the kill behind him, I realized that it didn’t make a bit of difference: I was madder.
“BUBBLE OR DIE, MOTHERFUCKER!!”
Rarely, gentle reader, rarely have I ever seen bubbles utilized in such an angry fashion. Mr. Suds spun around, opened his mouth, and shot a rapid fire burst of bubbles that popped with a noise like gunshots against the Pidgey’s left side. It tumbled in the air, but kept its forward momentum as it sped towards my Pokémon. Mr. Suds jumped up, snatched the wingtip of the spinning bird, and swung it in a wide arc that ended against the solid trunk of a nearby oak tree. Ouch.
Alpha Pidgey: 0
Diminutive Turtley Engine-of-Pain: 1
“Um…good job, Mr. Suds. Why don’t you take a break for a little while?” I attempted to hold out his Pokéball in a conciliatory manner. He was eyeing a group of smaller Pidgeys that were approaching through the grass towards the fallen Alpha Pidgey, now that the commotion had ended. These birds looked like real small fry, but Mr. Suds was pretty roughed up and I didn’t want to take any chances. So I used a technique I had gleaned from one of my mom’s (very, very gently used) books on parenting, a time-tested combination effective on both intractable children and bloody-minded Pocket Monsters: flattery and deceit. “Come on Mr. Suds, I know you could demolish these douchebags, but honestly? They’re probably not even worth the PP it would take to KO them. Why don’t you hop in the Pokéball and we’ll find you a more worthy opponent.”
Mr. Suds looked around, as if checking for stronger foes, and then slowly, casually, making it crystal clear that this was all his idea, shuffled towards the Pokéball. He looked up at me with what I imagined was a skeptical expression on his little blue cue ball face (All right, I’ll play your game for now, Dorkulon Five, but you better find some heads for me to bust real quick) and jumped inside.
And that’s when I friggin’ booked it to the next Pokémon center.