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ZAPINETTE GOES TO NEW YORK

By albertrusso All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Humor

Blurb

“We’re in Nuuu woowoo Yawwwk, and more precisely in downtown Manhattan, and more preciselier still, in Soho. Unky Berky doesn’t stop warning me: “Walk like you know the place ... don’t gawk like a tourist ... don’t smile at people ... put on your fiercest Parisian look, you know how to do that very well, and no one will bother you ... keep your list of addresses with you at all times ... where did you put the phone card I bought you? ... and let me see if the whistle is well hooked to your necklace ... ” etc. etc. Coz I must tell you, my uncle has forced me to wear this stoopid mini whistle as a pendant in case someone tries to molest me, as if the cops had nothing better to do than to rescue little Esmée from the claws of a ninny psychopath - he sees one in every third person that crosses my path (hey, I’m a poet). You’d think he was my private body guard, except that he looks more like a stray Santa Claus, wrapped up in his crimson foddered duffle coat, his winter bonnet and his lama scarf. 20 degrees fair’n heart ain’t exactly the tropics, but I don’t mind since we’re in Nuuu Yawk and only a few days off Christmas when it’s supposed to be snowing.

Chapter I

So that I should forgive him all his shenanigans, Unky Berky gave me the most wonderful news I’ve heard between here and Galactica: we’re going to spend Christmas in New York. So, yesterday morning, and since my teachers went on strike - they should do that more often - I accompanied him to the US Embassy to get him a visa. I don’t need one coz I am both French and American, on account that my mother married a Brad McInnerny after she settled in Brooklyn. But even before I could say boo, that jaybird of a father ditched us, plonk, flying away to Amazonia or thereabouts, with no return ticket. And though my mother and I came back to France when I was a little girl, I still have a few memories of that period - some of them I make up, but that’s none of your business.

Gosh, the lines behind the tellers were so long at the Embassy, you’d believe outer spacers had joined the crowds and that they too wished to travel to the States (legally, not on flying saucers) - a few of the bozos here did look spaced out.

After having waited three quarters of an hour, I couldn’t take it any more, especially since the place began to look and smell like a refugee camp. There were all kinds of people around us, young folk with their rucksacks - some of them were real cute -, weirdos carrying overstuffed bags, thinking maybe they were going to spend the night here, businessmen in their three-piece suits, sweating like a bunch of penguins struck by a heatwave, families composed of mothers, fathers and kiddies, accompanied by a granny or a nurse. A few la-di-ladies stood among them, in their Channel outfits, and I thought I even spotted a pair of models - no, it wasn’t Claudie Stiffer, nor Cinderella Crawfish. I don’t know how she got in there, but I also saw a gypsy woman, hopping from one group of people to the next, pretending she was on the wrong line, asking some gullible granpa for information, while begging on the side. When she approached me I pulled faces at her, trying to shoo her away. But she insisted, like I was the moron, which made me so nervous I bit my tongue and gave a little shriek. That’s when Unky Berky told me I should go outside and take a walk in the surrounding gardens, since the weather was beautiful. Ten minutes later I came back, coz to watch the bees gathering the pollen of flowers ain’t my thing, not like my uncle who can stick his nose into a rose, that’s a rose, that’s a rose - to use the words of Gerkin Stone -, for an unconscious amount of time, oohing and aahing, like he’s sniffing powder; the funny thing is that he gets high on this. It took us another half hour before our turn.

The guy at the teller looked like a cross between a slobbering doberman and a warthog, thank Goddess he didn’t have any tusks or incisors - though the warts were there -, coz I could well imagine him biting off a piece of my poor delicate lil neck. Checking the questionnaire Unky Berky had taken half an hour to fill in, he asked us a load of baloney questions, some of which sounded so inane, like if I was really his niece - he thought maybe I’d been kidnapped or something - that I had to blurt out my favorite expreshun: “Nannyty, Hector’n Tommy!” (the ladder is prettier than ‘hysterectomy’, you oughta admit, and, wash more, no one gets offended).

Then, with his unflinching big bad wolf stare, he growled: “I must see both of your passports!” When I told him I was an American citizen and that I was just accompanying my uncle, he gave me the once over three times like I’d just escaped from the loony bin - he should’ve looked at himself in the mirror more often, coz that kind of face would frighten even scarecrows. The moment Unky Berky showed him his passport, he huffed and puffed, knitting his brows and said, “The French don’t need a visa anymore to enter the United States.” I felt like twisting his disgustingly flabby ears and stuffing his hoggish nostrils with two mega corks. But I was also very mad at my uncle, damn it, to have us waste so much time at the embassy!

“Why didn’t you call them before?” I blurted out, “We could have gone to the movies during all these hours.” When he knows he’s bungled, my uncle just blinks back at me like a stoopid puppet and ahems as if he’s never seen me before. Having been a postal clerk half of his life, maybe he’s used to people lining up for hours and mumbling slurs instead of asking clear questions - this is so typical of the friggin’ frog mentality. Thank Goddess my mother, who’s his sister, even though they’re like chalk and cheese (my uncle would be the brie type, soft inside out) has remained a staunch felinist - you’d better know we believe in female panther power, ‘feminism’ is too bland for the likes of us. She proved it again lately by chucking out her last boyfriend, Firmin the vermin, on account that he indulged in sex swapping; she stands no crap from anybody, with the exception of her customers at the beauty parlor - what a cackling, hair-raising lot they are! - but that’s her business, and after all, she needs the money to maintain the three of us, including lil Peter, who’s as cute as a lion cub - it’s hard to believe that Firmin the hyena is his father. How else could she afford to send me to the States?

Unky Berky hasn’t been back to the US since the time he was sent to high school there, staying with his uncle Luke in Brooklyn. His father wanted to toughen him up but that experience had the reverse effect, for it turned him into a burnt out pussy that’s lost its whiskers. I was consequently very surprised when he said that we would be going to New York together.

“With you,” he argued, “I’ll be able to exorcise my old demons and rediscover America with fresh eyes.” I was so happy I didn’t want to delve into the witcheries of his past or talk about the sigh-kayak-trysts he’d gone to when he was young and still very muddled about his setchuality. Nowadays even dogs get a taste of that Freudian mush, whether they like it or not. I’m thinking of the grey poodle I saw one day at the beauty parlor whose owner fed with tranquilizing biscuits, on account that it got a nervous breakdown after they’d moved into a new apartment in the posh neighborhood of Parc Monceau - the lucky bitch, I would have jumped for joy, but it seemed to prefer its old smelly quarters, heritage or no heritage. It looked as stoned as a sphinx, except that its eyes rolled every once in a while, counterclockwise, glowing like two bloated fireflies. It really gave me the willies coz they seemed to want to hypnotize me and I had to find an excuse to leave.

When Unky Berky told my mother he was going to book two seats on a TWA flight, since they offered the best Christmas bargains in town, she almost jumped out of her skin, like she’d been electrocuted. “Oh no, you won’t travel with that company!” she exclaimed, “I don’t want to be called at 2 in the morning and then asked to fly to some godforsaken place on the coast of Newfoundland, trying to verify your remains in the midst of the aircraft’s debris.”

He tried to reason with her and said: “But Laura dear, plane crashes are extremely rare occurrences, maybe one in 10,000, and the case you’re referring to, which is already a few years old, was probably caused by a terrorist bomb. It just happened that it was TWA. Call it bad luck or destiny.”

She listened to him for several minutes, twitching her nose. But my mother doesn’t give up so fast. When he finished, she said in a low tone of voice like she’d just swallowed a whistle: “I’m superstitious, you will have to choose another airline, and besides, TWA’s dinner plates stink, everything’s overcooked, especially their chicken, you’d think they were serving you pig’s feet.”

My uncle stared at her for a while then turned to me with his big goggly eyes - he looked like a forlorn old karibou, expecting a handout. I didn’t know where to hide coz with all their talk of disaster and mid-air explosions, I wasn’t sure any more that I wanted to go to America, whether it was with Duffy Duck Airways or even with the Batmobile. Then, in his mousiest tone of voice he said: “As you wish, Laura. Tomorrow, during my lunch break I’ll go ask the rates at Air France.”

The next day, Unky Berky came back with a cartonload of brochures on the Big Apple and the Tri-State area, coz he figured that we might also spend some time in a beach resort called Ocean Grove, out in New Jersey, on account that he went there when he was a teenager and kept delicious memories of the place, with lots of old wooden houses, freshly cooked fudge (yum-yum ...) and dainty flowers - there he goes again, no wonder he has a bee in his bonnet.

My uncle’s so persnickety that he insisted I start learning the map of Manhattan, as well as the subway and bus routes, in case I should lose sight of him and want to get back to our lodgings - he’s too stingy to offer me a cab ride. He forgets that I lived in New York when I was little - ok, it was in Brooklyn but my mother did take me to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes and I also remember the skating rink at Rockefeller Center, Washington Square, etc. etc.

My new homework included memorizing the address of the place where we’d stay at, the nearest police station, the Fire Department and even the neighborhood hospital, for crying out loud - I’ll have to look out not to break my neck or my ankle, coz with such dire warnings, something is bound to happen. And while I was racking my brains, he wrote down on a piece of cardboard, the size of a double credit card, all this information for me to keep in my wallet. He harassed me so much with these details - not setchually, you perverts! he would never dare - that I blurted out: “If I fall off a skyscraper, I want you to have me incinerated, then you will get hold of Leonardo DiCaprio and ask him to spread my ashes over the Atlantic, exactly where Titanic sank, ok, coz as a loving fan, that’s the least he could do for me.”

At first, he stood there, gawking at me, non-pussied, dumb and founded, then he burst out laughing and said: “Oh Zaperetta! You sure are no ordinary little girl.” Now, let’s be clear about this, my official name is Esmeralda T. McInnerny, Esmé for family and friends (you’ll have to earn my confidence before you can call me that). Zaperetta and Zapinette are the nicknames my uncle gave me - there’s also Zaperooney, but it sounds too ridiculous for words, so pretend I never mentioned it - on account that I’m an Internet cum television buff and he owns the copyright to those two monikers - which have nothing to do with Monica Lewd’n kinky -, so watch it before using these.

I suppose you oughta be filled in a little on my uncle’s background. His real name is Alberico Binetti. He and my mother were born in Monza, Italy. They were both sent to America to study, but my uncle was very unhappy there, as I already told you, and after my grandparents died in an auto accident, he preferred to settle in France where setchual minorities can do their shtick without being overmolested. Another thing I’m warning you about, if you are a racist or a gay basher, I’ll stick needles into my vodoo doll and you’ll get swastikaed all over your body, a trick I’ve learned from the father of a Guinean friend at school who’s a witch doctor.

Lil Peter is such a darling, I’d nibble at his ears for hours on end. He keeps asking why he can’t come with us to ‘Amelia’. In his little head he probably thinks we’ll be traveling on a hot-air balloon in the shape of Amelia the Cow, his favorite cartoon. When we tell him he’s too young to accompany us, he pouts then answers: “Naughty Amelia, I won’t talk to her anymore.”

Now it’s my mother who’s bugging me with mountains of recommendations. “Don’t ever go out alone in the streets, even if it is to buy liquorice or m&ms at the corner drugstore. And since you’ll be residing in Soho, stay clear of the hobos, the weirdos, and all the fake artists who shoot themselves with cocaine. I don’t care what the papers say about Mayor Giuliani being tough on criminals, a serial killer was reported roaming in Central Park not later than this month.”

Where’s all the courage she had when we were living in Brooklyn? Maybe she’s been brainwashed by French television, showing only the bad things that happen in America, like those two nerds who gunned down 16 students in a Colorado school - between you and me, that episode gave me the jitters. Goddess all Mighty, if I were to become President of the United States one day - don’t get sarcastic now, coz it might very well happen, thanks to us felinists - I would ban all the country’s firearms, except for the police and the military and would fine anybody who’d possess one up to a million dollars. As for ole Charlatan Heston who thinks rifles are the coolest thing on earth, I’d also ban every one of his prehistoric films, and the day he kicks the bucket, he’ll head straight for hell, not posterity.

Talking about violent movies and stuff, I wasn’t going to remind her how much I looove the X Files TV series, starring David Duchovny - he looks like a Labrador puppy, with his big round eyes and that dimple in the middle of his chin - and the beautiful Gillian Anderson. Poor thing, he must feel terribly frustrated, coz it doesn’t look right that those two don’t fall into each other’s arms, at least between inquiries. She always has such an icy stare as if to remind him that he shouldn’t even hope of having an affair with her. As an actress, I don’t know if I could resist, but if I were successful and had to act with different guys and that they were handsome, on top of it (yum-yum ... Keanu Reeves, double yum yum ... Brad Pitt) I’d probably have to be extra careful not to fall in love, coz I’d suffer a heart attack at the end of each film. I just can’t believe that actors don’t feel anything when they kiss each other French style behind the camera - I hope they brush their teeth before doing it coz some mouths stink like sewers.

I take Unky Berky to the movies twice a week (it’s not the other way around, since I’m the one who picks the films) and we see all the new French and American releases, but also those from other countries, likeCentral do Brasil which is the story of an orphan who lives in Rio de Janeiro and the old lady he bugs so much she is forced to adopt him. It was sad and funny at the same time. What a strange pair they made! There was one point when she’d had enough of the boy and told him to go get lost. He answered back: “Right, I don’t know why I’m wasting my time, staying with an ugly, stinking witch like you.” And he ran away before she could slap him. But they always got back together.

My uncle says thank goodness the French Monastery of Culture subsidizes so many local productions, otherwise we’d be in the same situation as our neighbors, who are quasark colonized by the Hollywood mowglies. He also complains that it is because of them that the American public cannot see most of our French films, no to mention the rest, and that they are such ignoramuses - I pinch him hard when he says things like that, coz I feel partly insulted, even if I’m also a petite Française . He goes on bragging that they oughta be grateful for the Cannes Film Festival where they have the opportunity of showing their stuff year after year, even when it sucks.

He insists on seeing the films in their original version and, of course, the foreign ones are subtitled, which give me a headache, coz even when they’re in English, which is my fatherly tongue, if you remember, I automatically look at the subtitles and this exercise twists my brains like I’m zapping at 100,000 bauds per second. Now, when you go to the movies, it’s supposedly to be entertaining and not to get algebraic.

On account that I accused him of being a computer illiterate, adding that he might catch alka seltzer’s disease and turn into an intellettuce, my uncle now goes to evening classes every Thursday and he’s also learning how to use the Internet. But he’s so slow and dumb’n founded, I don’t have the patience to play his mentor, even when he says: “Zapinette, you’re so good at it, please explain this to me ...”.

That may be why he wrote “C.H.I.P.S. & Ripov”, another of his little stories he invents during breaks at the Post Office or very late at night when he can’t sleep.

The day little Daphne was bom, Ripov saw the world in a new light. He never imagined that fatherhood could be so totally, so delightfully, engrossing. He had eyes only for little Daphne, to the point where he became oblivious to the baby’s mother who, feeling neglected, dejected, then utterly disgusted, decided to leave the household.

A staunch believer in progress, and having read extensively about the marvels of computer education, Ripov sent baby Daphne to computergarten even before enrolling her at the Teenie Weenie Swimmers Club. The results were stunning and the days seemed to be made of 24 minutes apiece.

At age one, little Daphne could count and read Pascal. At two she spoke Spanish, Russian and Kangooreese. On the eve of her fourth birthday she was able to juggle with algebraic equations and survey the map of our galaxy, identifying novas.

She’d just turned six when she presented Ripov with a chart of the universe as it would appear a million years hence. So awed was Ripov by the extent of her learning capabilities and her powers of reasoning that he soon began to develop a complex. He consulted the famed Parent Clinic where he was told that he had contracted C.H.I.P.S. (Computer Hyper-Immunity Parental Syndrome), a disease so rarely encountered that even the most advanced computers refused to decode it. Without being aware of it, Ripov began to ape his daughter. He would talk in a high-pitched voice and bob his head while smacking his lips. He wondered why all of a sudden in the street transvestites stole such lustful glances at him. To outsiders he acted as little Daphne’s manservant. She never needed to lift an eyebrow nor raise her voice. Ripov waited on her hand and foot, anticipating her every whim. Little Daphne even managed to project him onto the videoscreen and cast him in her games as her referee.

Ripov floated in a sort of amniotic bliss. He would dream of little Daphne resting on a magnificent coral throne and surrounded by exotic fishes. She would address her Council of Ripov clones and devise new measures to extend her filial authority.

Ripov couldn’t understand why his friends pitied him. “A maze of split personalities”, they’d mutter.

“I’m the richer for it,” he’d answer calmly. “Thanks to my darling little Daphne,” he’d go on to explain, “I’ve rediscovered the importance of my genes and their megabyte memory. In a world where it is so fashionable to claim one’s social status, religion or ethnic group, I have realized that I’m but a chip, albeit indispensable, in the cosmic network.” At this stage, Ripov suspected his friends of being envious. They still believe they can act as their children’s mentors,” thought Ripov. To be taken care of and dictated to by one’s own progeny, wasn’t that the nec plus ultra, the key to happiness? Adult tyranny had, after all, wrought only havoc throughout the ages. That he appeared irresponsible didn’t bother Ripov the least; on the contrary, he felt proud of it.

Little Daphne was now in perfect control of her father’s life, to the degree where she no longer reverted to conventional computers. She would snap a finger and immediately Ripov would respond. She tried all kinds of experiments on her slavishly obedient father. She’d make him bark or twitter to probe his varied and boundless potentiahties. Even as he’d crawl, Ripov would deliver the most sophisticated formula. To reward him, little Daphne would let Ripov munch as many potato chips as he wished, for even before contracting C.H.I.P.S., Ripov had been a chips freak.

And some people complain about their children being difficult. Oh, to be blessed with C.H.l.P.S.!

Guess who’s little Daphne! What an imagination he has, that uncle of mine, even if he’s a maze-o-kiss! But I won’t trade him for anyone else. Have I said that before?

Ever since I told my teacher I was going to spend Christmas and New Year in the States, she’s been whispering things to me in her broken English - she’s so cushy cushy that I’ve developed a rash, and doing it in Shake’ em Pears’ tongue, makes me feel even more uncomfortable. She’s always had a little crush over me, not that I mind, as long as there’s no rape involved. You know the latest? She’s just bought a pair of smoked Christian Dior eyeglasses, the better to goggle at me, thinking that no one else in the class would notice. Thank Goddess she hasn’t offered yet to coach me after school, though I’d be spared a lot of aggravation, coz I really hate to do homework, that’s what they call a dilemma. I call it hard-to-swallow baloney, as if I didn’t have enough on my hands with a homey setchual for an uncle, that I should go into dyke business. Now, listen y’all, the fact that I respect my sisters of the fair and the third sex doesn’t give anyone the permission to violate my privacy, and that applies even more so to male buggers, capish.

Another admirer of mine is Charlotte de Jerq, an aristocritter that’s shaped like a bean stalk and thinks that because Louis the Umpteenth had knighted one of her ancestors who tended to the Royal Pisspot - in those very smelly days it was an honor to assist to the king’s B&B (bladder and bowel) movements - she can badmouth every girl who’s a little prettier than her. With that Bourbon schnozzle of hers, she’d scare away even a raging Pit bull. One day she was getting so much on my nerves that I showed her an old comics book I’d found lying on my uncle’s bedside table and told her she would recognize her twin sister in Popeyes’ girlfriend Olive, but would you believe it, she was flattered, for crying out loud, she was goddam flattered! I still haven’t understood why she likes me; mystery, Hector’n Tommy, is what I say. Now that she too knows I’m going to America, she’s discovered all of a sudden that I look like Marilyn Monroe and can’t stop drooling over my blond locks.

Guess what that Jerq asked me. To hand a picture of her to ... Keanu Reeves, in case I should cross his path on Broadway, and she wants him to autograph it too. On the reverse side, she’s glued a portrait of the actor, like they were already betrothththed. Maybe she thinks: 1) that in America you can meet movie stars in the streets and they invite you over for coffee, as if they had nothing better to do (she forgot all about their bodyguards), 2) that Keanu Reeves would fall head over heels bonkers of her ... telepathically - I didn’t tell her she looked like grandma wolf on that picture, especially with her mega wart stuck to her right nostril and her incipient moustache. This is not all, she would like him to fix a date with her here in Paris, on account that she’s read somewhere that he would be coming to the French capital soon for the launching of his new film. Her favorite magazines are ‘Heads over Shoulders’ and ‘High and Above’, where you can learn all the latest gossip concerning the royals, their lackeys, and the rich and famous. She loves to remind me how difficult it is to become an aristocrat and mentions the case of Grace Kelly who, according to her had made it for three main reasons: she was extremely lucky, she was beautiful and she came from a very wealthy family. But she has no pity for Princess Stephanie, on account that the ladder had stooped down, marrying her bodyguard who, wash more, was caught in the nude with a Belgian stripper.

De Jerq also gave me money to buy her the whole X-Files video series in the original version, coz she knows I have them at home. What a copycat! She speaks English like I speak Pandareese, with a heavy Chinese accent. It’s probably due to the spring rolls, called pâté imperial in French, she gulps down for breakfast, coz besides them, she hates Chinese food, claiming that in Oriental restaurants what they really give you is rat and dog meat instead of the chicken and pork that appear on the menu.

When I asked lil Peter what he wished me to bring back from the States, he said:

“A headgear full of beautiful feathers like the American Indians wear, because they’re the angels of Amelia, plus a leather bandanna with blue and green stones.”

I would have eaten him alive.

My mom gave Unky Berky a long list of comestics she wants him to buy for her beauty parlor on account that they’re much cheaper than in France. Gosh, we’ll be loaded like the Magi’s camels who came to celebrate the birth of babe Jesus. That’s not even counting the stuff I intend to acquire for my lil precious self, like 20 video cassettes, at least the same number of CD’s, games, T-shirts, etc. Hey, charity begins at home.

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