"You ARE kidding, right?" Karena made a face as she looked at the sketch as Blake had asked her to. "You couldn't come up with a worse name than that?"
She could have at least smiled a tad at her little jab. She liked needling her so far insignificant other, because, well, she liked the decent, if unremarkable, fellow worker that she had been seeing occasionally, among a scattering of others.
Kare, an abbreviation she made clear she didn't like, had no better prospects at the moment.
Blake was a bit put out. "Oh, c'mon. It's meant to be …. comical. Humorous, rather."
Karena was not into stupid as funny, but then she had a brain.
Though she was in the demographic age group, barely, that some idiotic media ads targeted, she totally ignored them. No talking CGI crap was going to influence her spending habits. The deal had to make economic sense and advertising was expensive.
"Green Bagel? Green as in moldy? You eat it, you get sick. Where's the fun. . . . "
Blake cut her off, not easy to do when she got on a roll, so to speak. "THE Green Bagel. A good guy. A hero type dude. It's just a funny name. All the good ones are taken."
"And they aren't real, either." Karena had no argument against his reasoning, since there were so many fictional costumed characters, more for sure than she had ever heard of. "And this would be you, right? What superpowers did you give yourself? Superfarts? Blow away the bad...".
"He doesn't have any." Blake had to pause a moment because she had disrupted his presentation. This was normal for them and one reason why he was attracted to her. "And it's a cartoon."
She was not an airhead, as she showed by finishing her thought. "Hit the bad guys with a mighty blast of methane. Unique, I'll give you that." She was smiling again, enjoying the banter.
Blake had to grin back, despite his intent. "Cartoon. He will inspire kids to do good deeds."
"Bagels aren't health food. Wait, you aren't tying this to, what campaign are you working on?"
"No." They both worked for a huge advertising agency, which WAS always looking for new ideas. That had not been his intent. Then again, you never know. There were stupider mascots out there. They both knew of people who had made tons of money creating really idiotic ads.
Legal departments used to object to the idea of encouraging criminal activities as humor.
"This is something. . . uh, something else. I'm not sure what it is. Just an idea I had."
"Hopefully, you have some better ideas than that." Then Karena softened her stance. "That your only drawing?"
"Here, you can keep this one. I have more at home. I'm not doing this on company time."
"Relax, I'm no snitch." Karena had never been to Blake's place. She wasn't a cheap date and was somewhat picky. She took another look at the image. Blake was a good artist. "You know, it is kinda cute, in a way."
"Thanks." Blake's tone did not exactly match his vocalization. "I gotta get back to work."
Break time wasn't really over yet, so Karena easily got the hint that he was disappointed with the direction their chat had taken and wanted to get away to regroup, even if it was back in his crappy little cubicle. At least he had some privacy there, important to artists. Hers was no better and she was in no rush to return.
"Oh, hey. If you are the Green Bagel, who is the sidekick? The Green Cream Cheese?"
Blake paused only because he had never thought of it and despite her words, she was not being contentious. The goofy grin on her face was rarely seen. Once on a date and he had had to spring for a nice beachside hotel room to finalize that deal. It had been a while, but a grown woman has her needs.
"Uh, okay, you wanna be The Green Lox? Maybe we can entertain kids at hospitals. They won't care how silly we look." Blake had no idea where that came from so quickly. Maybe it had been in the back of his mind all along.
"Not if we have gifts that match the silly costumes and smile a lot." Her job was stable and paid well, so she wouldn't mind a small outlay, especially for a good cause.
It would be a tax deduction, anyway, but Blake had a different take.
"Gifts. We'll need some corporate sponsorship for that." Blake's tone was not optimistic.
But Karena's face lit up. "Oh. . . yeah. Ya know, you might have something here and that IS my department. How about you work on some better graphics and I make some calls. Later. There's no rush here. Uh, you haven't told anyone else, right?"
"No." said Blake. Karena just happened to be the first person he met on break. She was also the only one in the office he had seen romantically, although he was on good terms with just about everyone. Being a talented artist cut him a lot of slack for his less than bubbly reserved nature. It was all about creativity.
"Then I'll see you at lunch. Your treat." She had a hopeful look on her face as she said this, wanting to keep it light and not push it.
"Okay." Blake had no objection to a lunch date with an attractive woman. A nice sub shop nearby would set him back twenty to thirty bucks at the most for a nice lunch. "See you then." The much more important item was that she seemed intrigued by his doodling.
It has been opined that the best way to get laid is to treat someone you want to take to bed just like you would treat any other person, even or especially if said person happens to a beautiful lady.
Then you'll get laid.
Blake set all that aside the minute AFTER he got back into his cubbyhole.
It took an effort, but he was working on a totally different type of campaign and had a whole storyboard to create.
Basically everyone but the receptionist took lunch from noon to one and then someone would fill in for her. Blake's personality tended to not being invited to join a group outing, so no one noticed when he met Karena at her car.
There was a Chinese restaurant about a mile away that would likely not have any fellow workers present. Blake saw the logic in keeping this nascent venture quiet for now, assuming that was not overstating its development so far.
After ordering, Karena had a pronouncement. "I can be Lox. Not green. Just Lox. I kinda like the name. The friendly girl assistant to the real superhero. How's that? Any more ideas?"
"No time. You do know it's a fish, right?"
"Well, duh. You're the real superhero. You go in costume. I'll wear something fitting, just not sure what that might be at the moment."
Blake was glad he wasn't drinking hot tea at the moment, a small pot of which was always the first thing brought by the waiter, along with a bowl of hard noodles and duck sauce. "Real superhero?"
Karena poured some of the steaming mixture into a small cup before replying. "To the kids, yeah. Real people wishing them well." She would cool it off with a cube of ice from her glass of water before drinking it. She had ordered diet coke and the double delight.
Blake had a sudden concern here. "Have you, well, ever done this before? I guess volunteering at a hospital would be similar. Done anything like that?"
"No." admitted Karena. "It's about time and I'm down with exploring the idea. We need to do some background here. Volunteer organizations are on the net."
"So you really want to do this, whatever it is?" Blake only asked because a few hours ago, there was nothing going on.
"I'm game for some fun. And I've heard that volunteering looks good on your resume." She started here just after college as an intern and survived the Great Recession. Which guaranteed nothing. Maybe upping her value had been in the back of her mind.
"So, you think we should start slow, get to know the organizers of charity events and ease into the concept?" Blake saw Karena nodding as he said that.
She had been thinking along the same lines. They were not going in uninvited.
It had taken no more than a minute to get served in the small family run restaurant.
Lunch portions were smaller and cheaper than supper servings and they both finished quickly, intending to do some side work on the computer before being back on the proverbial clock at one pm.
They agreed to meet at his cubicle a few minutes after five, wanting the place to clear out and not be seen ‘collaborating' by too many coworkers. Not that they had anything to hide, but this was not a group project.
Yet. Like any good idea someone else would want in, but until Karena thought about it all afternoon while being the consummate professional and not letting any odd notions distract her even for a second, um huh, there was no actual project. She had warmed considerably to the idea. There was no apparent downside except for loss of free time, which she had too much of, unfortunately, and it wasn't even her responsibility.
She was just the sidekick, who felt a little off when she Blake asked her if she had done anything. "No. I wanted to make some calls, but I felt that that would be jumping the gun."
"No rush, remember. I'm free tonight. Anytime you want to bump heads…"
"Any calls will have to be done here. But I can see your stuff tonight. Say 8. What's your address?"
He told her, "Easy to find. The pizza guys have no problem. Two medium supremes good?"
"How ‘bout a medium veggie? I had enough meat at lunch."
Blake almost raised one eyebrow, since the double delight referred to shrimp and lobster, the most expensive dish on the Regal Palace menu. All he said though was, "Fine. See you later."
He would stop at the grocery store on the way to his 2/1 apartment to stock up on some vegetarian breakfast items, just in case.
Tomorrow was a work day, but the office was less than a half hour away for him. Getting there by 9 am would be easy for him even after making a nice breakfast.
He had no real clue as to where Karena lived, but she had never complained about it. It was not so far away that she had a problem arriving at his place about 15 minutes early.
She had changed into a casual outfit. He basically wore familiar guy duds all the time, so was not about to say anything. Karena was more interested in seeing Blake's drawings than him, so she passed on commentary.
All the work he had done for the Green Bagel concept was right on the coffee table, along with some other stuff. The spare bedroom was his studio, but he did a lot of work out here. He never intended to lure her into his bedroom to see his etchings, anyway.
Having already been allowed to jump her bones once made him hope that she would let him do it again under the right circumstances.
There were a number of drawings that he had made in the past few months laying about. Some of these were crude sketches of a bagel character. Karena leafed through an old sketchbook while Blake went to the door to pay for the pizzas. They would have arrived before her, except that she showed up early.
Karena had been surprised by the variety of drawings. As he carried the pies to the kitchen, she asked. "Wow, how long you been . . . doing this?"
Blake paused. "A couple months. C'mon, have a bite before we get into it."
Karena wasn't really hungry, having ate her leftover chink chow, which wasn't much, but she did accompany him to the small kitchen/dinette.
Even as they ate a couple of pieces Karena had some questions. "You aren't going as a bagel, an actual round bagel, right? I'm not wearing a fish face."
Blake had to smile. "I'm not sure anybody has ever seen a lox face. No, the green bagel will be on the tee shirt. Not sure about a mask."
"Yeah, I saw that on some drawings. You aren't that ugly."
Blake just looked at her.
She waited a moment to see if he would object. Then she apologized. There was just a bit of gamesmanship involved here, since they were opposite genders and she knew that he would like her to sleep with him. "Okay, sorry. The point is that someone named the Green Bagel does not sound like a girl's dreamboat. You're perfect."
Blake knew he was average. "And you are pretty enough to be a cute sidekick. But not an airhead. Not that we're rocket scientists here."
"Well, thanks." Karena accepted the flattery and could not dispute not being a genius. She was no dummy and wanted to hash out just what look they wanted to wow the world with.
"These latest sketches are, I like them better. They're an improvement. Uh, what I mean is that you got it right here. Any Lox drawings?"
"No. You got something in mind, because I thought you were going as a pretty assistant? No costume." Blake then realized her point, but let her say it.
"A Lox tee shirt might be nice. Got any designs?"
"Uh, no." Blake had not planned on moving so fast. "But I can go online and look something up."
His offer made Karena wonder. "Oh, hey, you don't suppose this has been done, could there be another Green Bagel out there?"
Blake snorted. Then he reconsidered. "There's billions of weird stuff online. Let's see."
His computer was set up in a little desk in the studio. It took a moment to boot it up. Blake got her a chair. Karena was glad it wasn't in his bedroom. She was getting just a bit tired and having another slice of pizza while he googled some key words on that site wouldn't help.
She would not stay the night.
"No. No hits on The Green Bagel." He looked up a Wikipedia list of comic book characters for both major magazine groups. "Nothing about bagels at all. Now I'm looking up lox."
Karena had had an idea that there were a lot of comic characters. Until seeing just how many there were in the Marvel universe alone, it was more than she would ever imagine.
Some of the names had yet to clear her head when Blake brought up a new screen.
"Lox. Fillet of brined salmon. Derived from Yiddish word for salmon. Laks." He scrolled down. "Okay, here's a picture."
Karena pursed her lips slightly. "Just an ordinary fish. We don't need that. It's the picture of the filet on the bagel that people know. Hmm . . . typically served WITH cream cheese. Okay. I guess I never even thought much about bagels."
"You have eaten lox before?" Blake didn't think he had or couldn't remember exactly.
Not lately. That was for sure.
Karena's voice was not certain. "Uh, yes. I guess. It is rather common. I must have."
"The name is common. You're not Jewish, right?"
There was some hesitancy here because this was too getting personal for her. "No. Are you?"
"Not that I know of. My point is everybody hears about anchovies on pizza. It's all too common an idea. But. Have you ever ate any or even heard of them served another way?"
Karena got his drift. "No. I don't eat as much fish as I should. Ok, enough about that. Are you thinking of a cape and mask?"
Blake turned his shoulders to look her right in the eye. "You are a quick thinker. No . . . I wasn't. What do you think? Hide this babe magnet face?"
Karena had a chuckle at that, obviously taking it as the joke intended. She was enjoying this more than she would have thought and was definitely looking for the light side. "No, we can't have that now, can we?" Then she realized that there might be a touch too much we there.
"I'm not wearing a mask either. Okay, time to wrap it up. See you tomorrow. I'll look up a list of costume shops when I get the chance."
If she did not leave now, she would be in his bed soon. A little kiss on the cheek, a hug of camaraderie, a male hand on a female body part, it would not take much.
Blake played the gentleman and boxed up her leftover pizza for her to take home.
"Until tomorrow then." Blake held the door as she passed through. "The Green Bagel wishes you a safe drive home, young lady." He playfully got a little deep and stiff for that last part.
She paused. "That's not the voice you plan to use on the kids, is it? Fuzz Lightbeer?"
He eased off, surprised at her quick wit. "No. It's just . . . ."
"I know. But I do have to go."
That was a face saving fib, but he didn't object. He only wanted her if she wanted it.
He did know a few other single women, nothing serious. More than one would put out for a good meal and/or dance club outing and at least a pretense of romance.
Thankfully there was a lot of guest parking at his apartment complex and her car was right across the perimeter road. It was a quiet place, but he watched until she got in and left.
Next time, he thought to himself.
Nothing much happened for a few days. Internet searches on various social networks revealed very little in the way of charity appearances at hospitals by anyone other than well known celebrities. Sports figures, mostly.
That weekend, Blake went to a costume shop.
Karena had a previous commitment. Family outing.
As expected, not even the large specialty emporium had anything remotely similar to what he had in mind, but could make it based on the sketch both he and Karena had agreed on.
She would find an appropriate outfit. She was thinking about a nice green dress, as long as Blake was willing to pay for it. He did not object too much, as they both realized that she was getting stretched the next time she met him after hours.
Karena would not turn down an invitation to see a video after they had hashed out some details. A sweet rom-com, with a couple glasses of wine, some popcorn shared while sitting snuggly close would invariably lead to a hand under her blouse and feeling up a teat.
Karena would put up only token resistance as her clothes were gradually and gently loosened up and somehow managed to end up on the floor as he caressed and nuzzled her in the time honored way.
A man's touch can be SO distracting.
"So, have you thought of which hospital is going to be your first victim?"
He only hesitated a moment, letting her have her fun. He wanted to keep the mood light in anticipation of later interactions.
"Yeah. How about Variety Children's Hospital? They must do this all the time."
"Hmm, I like it. You making the call? You ARE the Green Bagel."
"If you want. But you do this better. And having a staffer might sound better."
She saw the logic in this. "My people will get in touch with your people. Except we're unknowns. They will want proof that this is not a . . . goof."
She almost apologized for that, but he thought it clever. "Nice. So we make the call together."
"Sure. I got two dresses." Karena left out the with his money part, since he had given her a check. He wanted proof for any tax write-offs. "But that can wait. I want to see you in your costume."
After changing and getting her approval, there were only some minor details to work out. The hospital would tell them what toys to bring. They would incorporate as a charity or non-profit.
Well, maybe not that minor. His accountant, an old friend who only charged him a hundred bucks to do his 1040A every year, would advise him.
She made him wear the outfit while they watched the movie. The Green Bagel costume didn't come off until there was a naked girl in his bed, carried there in the arms of a superhero.
With basically no publicity and very much under the media radar, The Green Bagel and Lox made their debut two weeks later. Variety's media relations director had not told the one ward of cancer patients that they were getting special visitors today, as she wanted to see them actually show up.
Marie had met with them in her office during the week, sans costumes, to go over how these things were normally orchestrated. It was made clear that any appearance was for the benefit of the kids. No questions about illness and only positive comments. Since there was limited funds for toys, only a dozen youngsters would be visited today.
Blake had spent a couple hundred bucks on twenty Green Bagel tee shirts. One quirk in the clothing industry is that smaller sizes aren't really cheaper than large sizes, so he didn't get a break there. Masks and cowls were out of reach for right now.
It didn't matter. The Green Bagel was a big hit just for showing up to cheer the kids and brighten their day. The fact that the idea was silly as could be appealed to the stricken little ones as much as getting a cheap toy.
When Blake was asked just who was the Green Bagel's enemy, he simply told the truth, as he had gone over with the publicist.
"The Green Bagel was created for just one purpose. To visit kids and take their minds off their troubles and cheer them up. Maybe for just a few moments. He's not a superhero. You guys are the superheroes here. The day there are no more sick kids will be the day there is no more Green Bagel."
The parents were all for that last part.
When asked if Lox was his girlfriend, Blake said that she was just a good friend.
The biggest disappointment of the day was when other kids found out. They too wanted a visit from The Green Bagel.
Karena worked with Marie to get some funding for toys. All the kids got a visit the very next weekend. The local media, a TV reporter, was there this time.
Despite efforts to keep it low key, for a brief time the Green Bagel dominated the social media. When the flurry settled down, visits to places that cared for very sick children went right along, now free of a lot of extraneous nonsense.
The advertising agency made out the best, but wisely downplayed their role in this.
Blake and Karena did make some money for some spots, but basically they simply let their images be used in tasteful ways.
Their biggest benefit was job security. Any number of rival agencies would hire the pair in a minute.
Traveling the country was neat. The Green Bagel and Lox were booked two years in advance.
For just when an appearance will be made in your area, logging on to www.greenbagel.org will let you know those details.
The shirts, masks, cowls and toys were no longer cheap, but it was a hug from someone who cared about them that really thrilled the kids.
What was that about superpowers?