ANNOUNCER. Malt-O-Cod, the delicious and nutritious malt food drink flavored with real cod-liver oil, presents…

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ANNOUNCER. The Adventures of Backstory Man and Angst Boy!

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ANNOUNCER. As you recall, in our last episode, Backstory Man and Angst Boy had agreed to meet Doctor Lethargicus to discuss his demand for world domination beginning with a nationwide speed limit of fifteen miles per hour. But as they waited for Doctor Lethargicus to appear, suddenly a hidden panel swung open, and…

ANGST BOY. Now what are we going to do? We’re trapped in Doctor Lethargicus’ Web of Inactivity, and we can’t move our arms and legs! It’s like a metaphor for my adolescent life.

BACKSTORY MAN. This is all my fault. I was distracted by memories (which somehow appeared to me in sepia tones) of the time long ago when Doctor Lethargicus was just plain little Herbie, my long-lost younger brother.

ANGST BOY. But I should have known it was a trap! Oh, how can I call myself a sidekick when I can’t protect my mentor from even the most obvious nefarious plots?

BACKSTORY MAN. No, don’t blame yourself, Angst Boy. It is I who must shoulder the blame on this occasion. I have failed you, just as I failed young Herbie when he was your age. If only I had warned him about the dangers of reading Ayn Rand! But no, I thought it was merely a phase he would grow out of.

ANGST BOY. But sooner or later we have to fail, don’t we? I mean, is it even possible to go out heroing all the time without eventually meeting the villain you can’t defeat? And if it’s not possible, then why do we do it? Isn’t our whole body of work meaningless because of this one failure? Doesn’t the whole world know that eventually we have to fail? And is that why none of the cheerleaders at school will ever pay any attention to me?

BACKSTORY MAN. You remind me so much of Herbie when he was your age. He said just the same thing after he saved me from that speeding freight train when I was home from college and he was only sixteen. At least he said the part about the cheerleaders. I don’t remember the rest of what he said.

ANGST BOY. Then this is it. We might as well give up and admit that we’ll never live up to the standard that’s expected of us as heroes.

BACKSTORY MAN. No, Angst Boy. Never give up. That was the last thing my mother said to me before my parents mysteriously disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle, leaving me with no clue as to their whereabouts except monthly postcards with pictures of sand dollars and seagulls on them. And in honor of that last wish, I have taken a solemn oath never to give up on anything.

ANGST BOY. Aren’t you the one who doesn’t have a driver’s license because you said the test was too hard?

BACKSTORY MAN. Never give up on anything important. That’s my motto. It has to be important.

ANGST BOY. And here I am, sidekick to a hero who can’t drive. Is this what I was supposed to be by the time I was sixteen?

ANNOUNCER. Will Backstory Man and Angst Boy be stuck forever in Doctor Lethargicus’ Web of Inactivity? Will next week’s episode be stretched out with ultimately meaningless dialogue? Tune in next week at this same time to the Adventures of Backstory Man and Angst Boy!

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ANNOUNCER. Kids, have you had your Malt-O-Cod today? Your parents must be awfully negligent if they don’t make sure you’re well supplied with the rich, satisfying flavor of Malt-O-Cod every morning. Perhaps you ought to report them to the authorities. Visit the Malt-O-Cod Web site for the addresses of child protective services organizations in your area. And tell them Backstory Man and Angst Boy sent you!

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