The Legend Of Marvin Drenk
By Chris Oakley
Maisie Jones stared at the Reinhardt 2000 like it was a Muscle Beach bodybuilder. If she hadn’t been seeing it with her own eyes, she would never have believed it could actually exist; some of the people who were seeing it weren’t sure if they could trust their own eyesight.1 "Holy Mackerel."2 gasped a stagehand as Dr. Reinhardt showed his audience an 8mm home movie of one of the first laboratory tests of his machine.
Maisie knew how he felt; up until now, she would have been sure it was impossible to built a shrink ray outside of a sci-fi book or one of those Flash Gordon serials the local UHF TV station played on its late-night movie on Saturday nights. But this gizmo looked like it had to be the real deal...
"Maisie!" a familiar voice suddenly blurted in recognition. The secretary spun around with the speed of a Lou Gibson fastball and saw Paul Bartlett, Continental Pictures’ number one stuntman, in the doorway of the soundstage. He was just as startled to see her as she was to see him; normally she avoided Marvin Drenk’s set like it was a Viet Cong booby trap. For that matter, so did Bartlett-- at least when he had the good fortune not to be dragooned into working on one of the Cockroach movies. "What are you doing here?"
"I was about to ask you the same thing." Maisie said.
"You getting a load of that H.G. Wells gizmo over there?" Bartlett asked her.
Maisie glanced back in the direction of the Reinhardt 2000. "I think Mr. Magoo could see that thing-- it’s got to be the size of a Volkswagen!" And speaking of things the size of a Volkswagen, it was only a matter of seconds before Maisie, Bartlett, and the stagehands found themselves beholding a giant cricket where there’d been nothing but empty floor space just two minutes earlier.
Drenk was grinning from ear to Dumbo-like ear. As far as he was concerned, this was the greatest moment in motion picture history since the invention of Technicolor; now, he thought, those who had called him a hack and laughed at him when they thought there was no one around would be forced to eat their words. The minute word got out of his magnificent discovery, his peers would be beating a path to his door to sing his praises. He was about to make precisely that statement to the gathered stagehands when he glanced up and happened to notice Maisie Jones standing in the soundstage doorway.
"Miss Jones!" he called, startling the secretary out of the momentary trance she’d fallen into at the sight of the Reinhardt 2000. She did a jump worthy of Bob Beamon, then answered tentatively: "Yes, Mr. Drenk?"
Mr. Drenk motioned his new best friend3 forward and said, "Miss Jones, I’d like you to meet Dr. Igor Reinhardt. He’s come up here from New Mexico by way of Germany to help me turn my luck around and make my movies the smashing successes we all know they deserve to be."
Paul Bartlett flashed Maisie a "he’s got to be kidding" glance but said nothing. Like her, his curiosity had been piqued by Reinhardt and the Cosmic Matter Expander. Was this gizmo the real McCoy or just a bizarre practical joke? "Guten tag, Miss Jones und Mr. Bartlett." Reinhardt said, pointing in the direction of the Reinhardt 2000 and the giant cricket. "Vould you like to zee my new invention at work?"
"Uh...okay." Bartlett said, eyeing the giant cricket somewhat nervously.4
Reinhardt beamed. "Sehr gut." Bartlett and Maisie followed him over to the Cosmic Matter Expander and watched as his hands flew over the controls; just as quickly as the cricket had become giant the first time Reinhardt used the machine, it now reverted back to its original size.5 "As you can zee, the Reinhardt 2000 can shrink things as well as grow zem....speaking of which, if you would both be so kind as to direct your attention to ze two pencils on ze floor to your right?"
Bartlett and Maisie turned toward the aforementioned pencils. Dr. Reinhardt threw a switch, and a light as glaring as the neon signs at the Vegas casinos where Drenk frequently lost a bundle at blackjack filled the room; in what seemed like the blink of an eye(but was a lot less time than that) the previously miniscule pencils became as big as watermelons.
"That’s impossible!" Bartlett blurted, and normally he would have been right. But Dr. Reinhardt had effectively rewritten the laws of physics,6 and when Bartlett touched the pencils he knew for sure it wasn’t an illusion or a practical joke. Reinhardt’s gizmo worked, and with blinding speed to boot. Now, Bartlett thought, he just needed to find out: one, what on earth Drenk was planning to do with the dadgum thing; and two, if his Continental employee insurance policy covered getting accidentally shrunk to the size of an ant in the line of duty.
He wouldn’t have to wait long for the answer to either of those questions...
There are two things that spread fasten in southern California than anywhere else: wildfires and news. By lunchtime Dr. Reinhardt and his Cosmic Ray Matter Expander had become the number one topic of conversation on the Continental Pictures backlot, and at 2:30 PM Drenk got a handwritten note saying that the president of the studio wanted to see him....7
To be continued
 Especially since some of them had been drinking the previous night. Or taking LSD, depending on what age group they were in.
 Which, by an interesting coincidence, was the name of the most popular seafood dish at the Continental Pictures studio commissary.
 His old best friend, the bartender at the Continental Pictures cocktail lounge, had been fired after one too many complaints about the drinks being watered down.
 Hey, you’d be nervous too if you were standing within shouting distance of a giant bug.
 Fortunately for Paul Bartlett’s nerves.
 And rewriting things was something of a hobby for him; he rewrote his income tax returns every chance he got.
 Text messaging wasn’t an option in those days.