The Joker sat, impatiently ripping fistfuls out of the newspaper spread across his lap. It had occurred to him that if he took this approach, rather than carefully scanning the whole thing page by page for a third time, the fluttering pieces of newsprint might reveal a delicious by-line or – even better – a photograph.
He grew more impatient as the task progressed, finally rising to his feet and wrenching the newspaper apart with furious hands, bits of paper raining down around him like confetti.
He threw down the last remnants of the paper and kicked at it irritably. Useless. The reporters in this town were useless.
The Joker picked up the remote control to the television set and switched it on, settling back down onto the hideous rococo style chaise lounge in the garish suite of the laughably called “boutique” motel they were staying in this time, putting his feet up on the imitation cherry-wood coffee table. He’d refused, absolutely refused, to hole up in the Motel 9 yet again and after espying the yellow-and-red neon of the Lovers Lane with its accompanying Victorian terrace fašade, had declared it perfection. The red and purple room, a celebration of kitsch in gilt, panne velvet drapes and too many crystal light fittings, had initially delighted him. He had felt quite at home and capable of spending an indefinite amount of time in such deliciously tacky surroundings.
But as the days passed, his patience was swift wearing thin. No one had brought him any food and he hadn’t yet had the opportunity to have a bubble bath in the sunken faux-marble spa. And it seemed to always be night outside.
And Harley was still asleep in the waterbed of the adjoining room.
So perhaps it hadn’t been days since they got there. Maybe it had only been hours.
It didn’t matter. It had been long enough.
He watched the station he was on for a few seconds before hitting the channel surf button. Three seconds on each channel and he moved on. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nothing.
He picked up speed, his thumb jamming impatiently at the button repeatedly, leaning forward on the chaise, watching as a blur of colour and movement coasted past his vision. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Coming to the pornography channels finally tipped him over the edge and he threw himself across the room at the television set and kicked the screen in, giggling a little as it sparked and hissed, briefly illuminating the dark room.
One more chance.
He whirled around with hunched up shoulders on the opposite corner, where a small table sat innocuously. Descending upon it furiously he grasped the cheap radio and fiddled with the dials, filling the silence left by the television’s destruction with the whining buzz of static. Snippets of song and voice blared as he pushed the tuning dial hastily first in one direction, then the next, listening with a frown of concentration. No. No. No. NO. NO!
A second later saw the radio ripped from the wall socket and flying across the room to land rather neatly within the still sparking television’s shattered screen. Seeing this as one more proof of technology’s conspiracy against him, he leapt across the room, hauled the coffee table up above his head and brought it down with a shattering crash on the whole mess.
The table was surprisingly lightweight and he’d overreached his effort, anticipating it to be heavier. The ease with which it lifted above his head and the over-force he’d brought it down with consequently knocked him off balance and he stumbled forward with a screech, landing in an uncomfortable position on his pile of destruction, a corner of the television jamming into his side and a broken table leg jutting up obscenely between his legs.
For a moment he tittered resignedly then pushed himself up from the wreckage. He noted with some amusement that the coffee table was actually plastic coated with a cheap layer of wood veneer. Its godawful ugliness momentarily perked his spirits.
Then irritation assaulted him again. Stupid, pea-brained, numb skulled, doltish, hebetudinous proletariats.
To think! Cluttering valuable airwaves, consuming vast quantities of costly paper – wantonly misusing precious resources on irrelevancies and triviality. Frankly, humanity deserved the dire environmental straits it was facing if it couldn’t even be sensible enough to devote a half-hour of television time to Him.
Straightening his jacket regally, he turned his nose to the air and spun away from the hulking ruins of the motel’s entertainment facilities and strode away.
He went only a few steps before he stopped and pouted. It wasn’t fair. He tried so hard for this burg, and they couldn’t even deign to show him a little appreciation. Ungrateful wretches. Just to spite them, maybe he wouldn’t even see his latest grand vision through to its climax. That would learn ‘em!
But, no. No. It was such a wonderful scheme. And it was going to be so much fun. He was really looking forward to the punchline on this one. And Batman was probably so bored without him. No, as much as he hated to admit it, he simply had to go through with it. That’s all there was to it. He was stuck, chained to his obligations. Rue the day he’d been born a workaholic and all that.
Still. They didn’t have to be so cold about it.
Then again – there was at least one person close by who really appreciated him. Adored him. Celebrated him. She didn’t even need prompting. Granted, she wasn’t quite the same as the whole city, but he’d exhausted his other options. For the time being, she would have to do.
Sulking, he stropped over to the bedroom door and paused in the doorway. Running a hand back through his hair, and then straightening his tie, he plastered a magnanimous smile on his face and stepped grandly into the bedroom.
Harley Quinn snored peacefully from the cocoon of purple and red striped satin sheets she was wrapped up in, her mouth hanging open and drool running down her chin.
The Joker’s eyes bulged and the smile fell from his face. What? Asleep? She was supposed to sit up immediately and fawn all over him. Blast it all, why was she so interminably useless? It’s not as though he asked a lot of her. All things considered, he was extremely lenient on her. Perhaps that was the problem.
Undeterred, he strode majestically across the red velvet-pile carpet coming within a foot or so of the bed where he stopped and stuck one leg out, posing with one hand jammed jauntily into his trouser pocket.
Harley stirred and his grin widened in anticipation. Then, she made a soft noise and rolled over, turning away from him to face the opposite wall.
Cheeky! Impertinent little wench. She was supposed to be grateful he’d even considered putting himself in her presence, graciously inviting her to sit up and throw her arms around him and tell him how wonderful he was, before listening with slavish devotion to whatever it was he wanted to say, laughing and cheering in all the right spots. Didn’t she know anything? He clenched his fists by his sides and fumed silently at her, at this final insult in the evening’s unending tide of offences.
He had a good mind to rouse her out of her somnambulance with a few good, hard slaps around the head. Plus, it would be a pleasant way to pass some time.
A leer sidling up his face, he shoved up his coat sleaves and prepared to descend upon his oblivious moll.
But no. No, if he did that she would wake up, screeching and crying and whining about how mean he was and how she hadn’t done anything to deserve it, demanding all his attention and energy be concentrated on her, making herself the object of focus for the rest of the night. Me, me, me, me. That’s all it was with her. Selfish wilfulness. It drove him nuts.
Pouting, he leaned over the bed, straining to catch sight of her sleeping face. She was curled into a comfortable ball, her face composed in absolute peace, soft little snores rising steadily from her mouth. In sleep, Harley was perfectly adorable, and utterly inoffensive. In fact, in sleep there was only one thing wrong with Harley and that was that she wasn’t awake to worship him. Why couldn’t he have it both ways?
He dropped himself deliberately onto the bed and boggled as the water-filled mattress rocked and swayed beneath his weight, prompting his feet to elevate from the anchoring surface of the floor, so that he flailed his arms and struggled to keep balance.
Up and down the room floated, crystal light fittings, garish oil-painted nudes and obscenely ornate furniture passing before and beyond his vision. He chuckled a little and let himself fall back, across Harley’s sleeping form, before twisting his head to see her now no-doubt wakeful face, perhaps rubbing the sleep away from her eyes to clear them for beholding him in all his glory.
But no. The stubborn little brat continued to slumber. Sheer insolence this was. He struggled into an upright position and turned onto his knees, fighting the lurching pull of the waterbed to hover over Harley and began poking her insistently with one finger. She snorted a little as his finger jammed repeatedly into her shoulder and then he changed tack and began jabbing her cheek. Now she finally began to stir, her eyebrows puckering together and confused murmurings stumbling out of her lips.
Hastily, he floundered off the bed, staggering a little as his feet hit the floor, before leaping over to the doorway where he arranged himself as though he were just entering, casual as can be.
“Huh – wha - ?” Harley suddenly sat upright, blinking confusedly as she wakened fully. She looked dazedly around the room for a moment before catching sight of her man in the doorway, a deliciously delighted smile lighting her features, right on cue.
“Oh hi, Puddin’!” She squealed gleefully. “Ain’t you the handsomest sight to wake up to?"
Gratified, the Joker smiled.