There were some lights on when I got home, but at first glance it looked like I had the place to myself.
I got home a little earlier than expected thanks to the 303 Loop shaving a few miles of stop and go traffic from my trek- a rare example of a public works project that finished on schedule and only slightly over budget.
I’m not normally in the business of thanking government bureaucracies, but anything that got me home to my wife and daughter that much quicker was a good thing- so ADOT and Maricopa county had my gratitude.
“I’m home babe- how are my girls doing?” I call out in a voice not much above conversational tone.
I figured Sakaali was nearby by but out of sight. Also, I didn’t want to be too loud in case she had managed to put Anippe to bed.
Hmm….what if Sakaali and Anippe fell asleep together?
Oh shit- that would be adorable. Mama sandwan and my cute little sanwan pupper. I’m grinning ear-to-ear at just the mere possibility of such a tender mother and daughter scene as I get my camera phone out.
Except there’s nobody in our bedroom.
I check Anippe’s nursery- also empty.
Sakaali couldn’t have gone anywhere, since the car was still in the driveway.
Should I be worried? Sakaali’s clearly the more serious and responsible one in this relationship, so I doubt she took off on a whim with Anippe to do something. And although the nighttime temperature has dropped, it seems a bit late to go out for a walk with our baby girl.
As I’m pondering this, I hear a muffled noise coming from our home office. This is where Sakaali looked for loads and backhauls for me and where we sorted through the various regulatory paperwork when it came time for taxes or to renew our insurance, vehicle registration and business permits.
But instead, I hear music coming from the office.
“♩ ♪ ♫ Go go, Neboo! ♩ ♪ ♫ “
“♩ ♪ ♫ Cracking the case with even the tiniest clue….♩ ♪ ♫
♩ ♪ ♫ It’s time for the Great Anuby-Chan Detective Neboo!♩ ♪ ♫ “
I can hear another voice, though.
I’m almost certain it’s Sakaali- and she’s singing along?
OK- now I HAVE to give my business-like and super-serious wife a ration of shit for watching a kid’s show.
Wait…isn’t that the old Sailor Moon theme song? I ask myself.
Shit- it is.
But wait….if I give Saakali any shit over the theme song, she’s going to want to know how I recognize it.
Hmm….better keep quiet about that for the time being.
Now I can hear her speaking softly.
“Yaaay! It’s time for another episode of Anuby-chan Detective Neboo!”
Oh God…..I remember hearing about this. A kid’s puppet show marketed towards Desert Kingdom monstergirls with all the production values of a rambling madman’s screed on public access cable. It was cheesy, it was hokey- but it ended up being a cult hit.
And Sakaali is nerding out to it?
Oh man- she is NEVER going to hear the end of this.
“Tonight’s episode- The Pharaoh’s Crown Goes Missing!”
“Oh boy! This is a good one….” I can hear her say.
I open the door a crack and peek in. Sure enough she’s glued to the screen. Although she’s seated, the office chair can accomodate her tail and I can see it wagging away. There’s a little bundle in her lap- it’s Anippe in a onesie decorated with little pyramids.
“Sakaali?” I call out.
“Ah! Graham!! I….I didn’t think you’d be home so early….” my wife stammers as she fumbles to pause the video playing on the office’s desktop.
“It’s 9:30….” I reply. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you were making our daughter watch cheesy weeaboo crap-ola…..”
“This? Oh….Anippe had a hard time going to sleep, so I thought I’d watch some videos with her and wait for her to doze off.”
I can see my sweet little baby girl on her momma’s lap, fixing me with those big beautiful auburn eyes as she absently is sucking on an oversized paw-digit.
“Is that what’s going on, Pumpkin princess?” I ask her sweetly as I stride across the room, stooping to give her a little kiss on the forehead.
However, instead of standing up right away, I playfully cock my ear as though I’m listening to something that my baby daughter has to say.
“Oh? Really? Well….I’ll ask her, but…..”
“What?” Sakaali asks defensively.
“She says ‘Mama’s full of crap’….damn shame, her first words, too.”
The bigger Anubis playfully smacks me with her paw by way of response.
“She also says ‘You’re too old to geek out to some kid’s show’ and….oh yeah- ‘Stop hitting daddy’.”
“I…it’s not just a kid’s show.” she stammers defensively.
“If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and….well….goes ‘quack quack’.”
“I grew up with this show, Graham.”
I shoot her a skeptical look.
“Really? How old were you when it came out…?”
She looks away from me before quietly murmuring.
“Nothing worse than a nerd in denail.”
Sakaali says nothing but continues pouting. I noticed that her tail has stopped wagging and her ears are slightly drooping.
“I used to feel the same way that you did, Graham…” she says morosely.
“But what happened?” I ask.
“I found out about the show’s creators. Did you know they weren’t even mamono?”
“They were an elderly couple in Georgia who had no kids of their own. But when mamono revealed their presence in this world, they took the time and put up their own money to create a show that they thought would appeal to mamono children.”
She turns to me.
“And sure it’s silly and it was done on a shoestring budget, but if you stop and think about it, it was no different than alot of shows for human children. They had no kids of their own but in a way, this was their gift to future generations. With so much suspicion, paranoia and uncertainty between humanity and mamono at the time, it was like…the two of them wanted to make the next generation feel welcome in this world.”
There’s a long, pregnant silence in the room as I shift my gaze from Sakaali to my sleepy baby girl to the episode’s title frozen on the computer’s paused screen. I trudge over to the other side of the room and grab an extra chair.
“Is it OK if I join you?” I ask her quietly.
Sakaali’s ears pick up and I can see her tail wagging a little as she resumes the video.
I quickly google what I can about the shows creators- created by a retired school nurse and lineman for Georgia Power, and they would sometimes have kids from a nearby community college or even just the neighborhood help out with extra voices or set decorations.
“Your highness! Your highness!” a panicky kherpi puppet yells out on the screen. “Someone has stolen the Crown of Horus from the Royal Vault.”
“Who would dare do such a thing!?” the pharoah puppet huffs indignantly in what I assume is a retired Georgia power lineman in his late 60s speaking in a falsetto. “We need to get our kingdom’s greatest detective on the case.”
The scene cuts to an office overflowing with paperwork where the titular Anubis detective is sound asleep at her desk while a catgirl puppet appears to be playing solitaire.
A loud ringing of the phone awakes the Neboo puppet with a startled yelp while the catgirl’s playing cards are sent flying as the two panicky monstergirl puppets begin frantically searching for the office phone which is predictably buried under a small mountain of unattended paperwork and documents.
I can’t help but smile- this stuff will never win an Emmy, but it’s clear that the creators had alot of fun making it.
“How can a great Anubis detective be so messy?” I hear my wife ask in a baby-talk voice.
I look over and see Sakaali grinning as well while she’s gently bouncing Anippe on her knee.
I decided to stop googling stuff about the show and its creators after a few minutes and decided to enjoy the puppet show along with my wife, who’s really getting into it.
On screen, the Anubis and catgirl puppet are looking for clues in the vault under the watchful eye of the Kherpi and Girtablilu guards.
“Purple scales? That could mean only one thing….” the Neboo puppet declares. “That no-good thieving snake Kheket has struck again!”
The catgirl puppet speaks up.
“You insist this, I’ll never know why.
but doesn’t the apophis have an airtight alibi?”
“Dozens of witnesses saw her at the charity auction the night of the robbery.” A Girtablilu puppet with a badge said. “There’s no way she could’ve slipped away, stolen the Crown of Horus and returned to the auction undetected.”
“But how else do you explain the purple scales?” Neboo asked the two of them. “It MUST be her!”
“I’m wondering if it could possibly be,
You missed a clue you didn’t WANT to see?” the catgirl says enigmatically.
“You’re right- if Khekhet recently shed her skin, it wouldn’t be too hard to find a shred and place it at the scene to throw off the investigation.”
“OK- who’s that?” I ask.
“Sesurha….that’s Neboo’s partner. She’s a Sphinx that always speaks in riddles.”
“She’s kinda annoying.”
“I know- but she’s good at picking up things Neboo may have missed.”
This episode seems to be just flying by and I can’t really fake indifference much longer.
Ten minutes later, I’m leaning in and asking my wife.
“So wait- the Apophis master thief-“
“Kheket” Saakali interrupted.
“So she DIDN’T steal the royal jewels from the vault?”
“But she’s a jewel thief and Neboo’s sworn enemy!” I point out with uncharacteristic urgency.
“But she’s not the one who took the Royal Jewels. And she’s trapped in a room with moving walls right alongside Neboo. She’s being set up to take the blame for someone else. This is the episode where Neboo has to learn to put aside her personal grudges in order to solve the case.”
“That’s kind of a big lesson for a kid’s show….”
“Now you can see why I liked it so much when I was younger.” Sakaali says as the credits roll.
“So then what happens?”
“I guess you’ll just have to watch the next episode and find out.” she grins.
Before either one of us can say anything, we hear a voice speaking up on screen. It’s a portly man in a pair of trousers with suspenders and a button up shirt standing next to a little stage for puppets. His left hand isn’t visible- it’s somewhere behind the stage. Standing on the opposite end is a woman about the same age as the man- she’s wearing a purple sweater and a long skirt and had a kind, grandmotherly appearance to her. Similarly, her right hand was out of sight somewhere behind the little stage. Both of them are about the same age as my parents. Next to each other on the stage were the Pharoah and Neboo puppets.
“Hi there!” he says enthusiastically with a distinct southern twang. “I’m Dean and this is my wife Jane. We hope you enjoyed this edition of the adventures of Detective Neboo. This is just a little something we decided to start out of our garage for fun….”
“We had no idea it would be so popular!” Jane gushed happily.
“But Jane and I wanted to thank the fine young men and women of the Chickasaw County Community College Broadcast Arts Program for their assistance in producing this latest volume of the Adventures of Detective Neboo.”
“There’s someone else we want to thank.” Jane chimed in. “We want to say ‘Thank you’ for all of your support and encouragement in making this show.”
“That’s right. So from our little family to yours, thank y’all for tuning in and we hope that y’all enjoy the continuing adventures of Neboo and all her friends. It means so much to us- God bless!”
I could now see that both puppets on the stage were now waving.
“Thank you so much!” the little Anubis detective puppet called out as she pantomimed blowing kisses to the camera. “You’ve been the best audience!” Jane says using Neboo’s voice.
“Stay tuned, dear subjects!” the Pharaoh says in a high pitched falsetto as she waved too. This guy may not have had any formal training in the arts, but he was doing a good job of suppressing his southern drawl while voicing her.
“I don’t remember these from when it originally aired.” Sakaali said. “I guess they were extras that they did back when the show only aired on local TV.”
My heart froze as additional text scrolled up on the screen.
*IN LOVING MEMORY- DEAN AND JANE WATTSON*
According to the dates on the screen, they passed away only two months apart from each other about four years ago. I quickly checked something my phone- the Great Anuby-chan Detective Neboo fan page confirmed the dates of the couple’s passing.
Sakaali, Anippe and I just watched two ghosts thanking us for watching the antics of their beloved puppets. They were gone now and this silly, fun little puppet show of theirs was their gift to our precious daughter- an unconventional and oddly endearing gift from two strangers.
I absently wiped a tear from my eye with one hand as I gently stroked my now-slumbering daughter’s head. I hadn’t expected anything this bittersweet when I walked in on my wife nerding out to a kid’s puppet show.
“Sakaali, babe?” I hear myself ask. “Is there more or did they leave it off there?”
She gently gets up from her chair while cradling a sleeping Anippe.
“There’s one more volume.” she reassures me with a wry little grin on the corner of her lips. The beautiful were-jackal leans in and gently kisses me on the forehead.
“Shall we tune in for more, dear subjects?” I ask in an exaggerated falsetto, doing my best to mimic the Pharoah’s voice on the show.
“It’s a little late….” she begins to say with a serious expression on her face. Sakaali always had a good poker face, but this was undermined by her wagging tail. “But I suppose I could join you for another episode after I put Anippe to bed. That is if my husband doesn’t mind spending his night with a nerd in denial.”
“There’s no denying that I’m madly in love with a nerd in denial….” I say as I watch her sashay out.
She looks over her shoulder at me before leaving the room.
“It’s a date then.” she ways with a wink. Although in typical Anubis fashion, she HAS to get the last word in as I hear her call out from the hallway.