It was quiet, almost too quiet, as Hugh Jackman walked towards the seemingly abandoned warehouse at the edge of town, no noises except his boots scraping against gravel, the occasional dog barking in the distance, and the almost imperceptible sound of urine drumming out a faint heartbeat as it dripped from his pant leg into the dirt. Something didn’t seem right about the whole thing. He double checked the elegant, hand-printed, silk-backed, formal invitation, but this was the listed address. “You are cordially invited to one final job – love, gp,” the beautifully crafted, obviously expensive, lavender scented, wedding-grade invitation read. Jackman was about to slide open the warehouse door when a headlight swung across his face and he held up an absurdly thick hand to shield his eyes. Truck tires squeeled to a stop, sending half the road skittering in its wake. Even in the darkness, Hugh Jackman could sill make out the racist, homophobic, sexist, and anti-Semitic slogans that stickered the truck’s chromed bumper. The door hissed open, and Hugh Jackman watched in silence, hands on his musical theater loving hips, as first one and then a second black loafer touched the ground.
“Dunham,” Hugh Jackman said.
“G’day, faggot,” Jeff Dunham made Walter, his old man ventriloquist dummy say, because Jeff Dunham is the worst. Jackman spit in the dirt and narrowed his eyes. Jeff Dunham shrugged and gave Walter, the hand puppet, a disbelieving look, like “Whoa, hey man, that wasn’t cool.” Then Jeff Dunham and Hugh Jackman walked into the darkened warehouse.
Except not completely darkened. In the center of the massive space was a makeshift sawhorse table covered in schematics under a single bare lighbulb. The two men who disliked and distrusted each other made their way towards the table.
“Why you?” Jackman asked.
Before Dunham could answer, a honeyed finishing school voice layered with the kind of self-satisfaction and natural condescension that only comes with a lifetime of extremely pampered living but also laced with an affected down-home folksiness so well rehearsed you could barely even see the mirror in the dialect coach’s studio where it was practiced for hours, called out from a darkened corner of the room. “Because he’s the best in the business.” A golden haired and tautly muscular Gwyneth Paltrow emerged from the darkness bearing a tray with four Swarovski crystal glasses filled almost to brimming with some kind of deep, earthen stew.
“Yeah,” Jackman shot back, “the asshole business.”
“If anyone knows about the asshole business, it’s you, mate,” Dunham said through his terorrist skeleton puppet.
“Achmed! What’s gotten into you?!” Dunham sputtered. “I’m soooo sorry, Hugh Jackman.”
Hugh Jackman tightened his fists and his pectoral muscles inadvertently shred his white tank top into pieces.
“Would anyone care for a macrobiotic, probiotic, purple kale and mangosteen smoothie infused with gingko biloba?” Paltrow set the tray on the schematics, which the men now noticed were for some kind of…computer?
“I’ll pass, thanks. The shaved gold on the top was a nice touch, though” Dunham said.
“Oh, I haven’t eaten food without gold shavings since the wrap party on Great Expectations,” Paltrow said with a sad smile, as if even the memory of those catered caviar blinis and shrimp toasts without gold shavings on top was too much to bear.
“I think you made one too many smoothies, Gwynnie,” Hugh Jackman said.
“Oh, Hugh, you’re too much. I always make the exact right number of everything, you know that. I’m perfect.”
“Then who are we waiting for?” Hugh Jackman asked.
“You can’t be waiting for someone who’s already here,” said a disembodied voice from somewhere in the room.
“Wait, that wasn’t me!” Jeff Dunham shrieked.
Suddenly, the table covered in schematics seemed to ripple and transform. Gwyneth Paltrow gracefully picked up the tray of smoothies as the schematics slid to the floor, a pursed lip hint of mischief on her face. Before their eyes, the table appeared to double in height and was it…did the table have a moustache? No, because with a flourish the table ripped its fake moustache off revealing Mr. Cool Disguise himself, Mel Gibson.
Mel Gibson wrapped Hugh Jackman up in a hug and then held him at arm’s length. “It’s great to see a friendly face from back home. I haven’t seen you since the Silverchair concert!” He then turned to Jeff Dunham. “Hey Jeff! And here I thought I was going to be the only horrifyingly bigoted piece of shit on the team.” They both laughed and denied the Holocaust.
Gwyneth Paltrow gently tapped a silver spoon, the one she was born with, actually, against a smoothie glass to call the gang to attention. “Gentlemen, you’re probably wondering why I invited you all here.” The three men nodded. “I need your help to pull off one final score. After this, we can all return to our castles in England and try to repair our struggling marriages. I invited you all here to help me destroy the Internet.”
There was a moment of powerful silence, which was only broken when Jeff Dunham’s old man puppet said “What’s the Internet? You mean the email machine?” and Mel Gibson laughed and laughed. It took him 10 minutes to calm down because he was almost completely insane at this point. Hugh Jackman excused himself to change his sopping wet pants. Mel Gibson wiped the tears from his beet red (he was a little drunk) face. Jeff Dunham changed his iPhone wallpaper to that picture of Nguyễn Ngọc Loan executing a suspected Việt Cộng member. Gwyneth Paltrow waited for their response in Eight-Angle Pose, widely regarded as one of the most difficult yoga poses reserved for experts only. “OK,” Hugh Jackman finally said. “We’re in.”
Like ninjas, or highly-paid house servants, the crack team crept around the server building unnoticed in total silence, each masking the sound of their footsteps in trademark fashion. Gone was the steady dripping of Jackman’s constant urination as he had worn a catheter, just in case the actor in him came out. Gibson never wore shoes, which he claimed were a “Jew conspiracy.” Dunham managed to make it sound like his footsteps were coming from a racist half a block away. And Paltrow walked on air, of course.
“What’s that wooshing noise?” Gibson asked. “Jackman, you alright? You need a pit stop?”
“Very funny,” Jackman snapped. “You know I’m wearing a catheter.”
“That’s the cooling fans,” Paltrow informed them. “Servers run hot and if you don’t keep them cool, the circuit boards fry.”
“I’m circuit BORED,” shouted Bubba J, Dunham’s “redneck” puppet.
Dunham clapped a hand over the puppet’s mouth and looked around. “You almost blew the whole mission,” Dunham hissed.
“You know who almost blew the whole—”
Dunham clapped his other hand over the Walter puppet’s mouth and glared at the Achmed puppet as if to say Don’t you dare. Achmed shook his shoulders up and down, up and down. Everyone exhaled, but the coast was clear. Dunham thanked Christian God in heaven for giving him the foresight not to bring Jose Jalapeno On A Stick, his Mexican puppet, the only thing that guy hated more than working was keeping his mouth shut.
Paltrow pulled a sterling silver lock picking set ($14,500) out of a Louis Vuitton wallet ($900) and went to work on the door. She made a mental note to suggest “Healthy Lock Picking Suggestions For Summer” to her managing editor for an upcoming issue of goop, her lifestyle newsletter. The tumblers softly clicked into place and they were in. Gwyneth put away her tools, and dabbed some Purell into her hands from a travel bottle she always carried with her. She offered the Purell to the team. Jackman and Dunham shook their heads, but Gibson held out his hand for some, which he then proceeded to eat.
They were in.
They had rehearsed their roles a hundred times since that first planning meeting in the warehouse, so the heist would run like a well-oiled machine just as long as there weren’t any surprises. Dunham distracted the first set of guards by throwing his voice from one to the other, making each of them think that the other was picking a fight. It didn’t matter that one of them kept throwing out racial epithets and the other kept referring to his colleague’s homosexuality even though they were both straight white dudes who had met and were friends with each other’s spouses and children. They tackled each other and were too busy wrestling (which one of them claimed the other “probably loved”) to notice the crack team entering the secondary corridor.
Now it was Gibson’s turn. Everyone got into formation, sitting on each other’s shoulders, Jackman at the bottom just in case of an accident, Gibson at the top as the “face,” all piled underneath an XXL trench coat. If you ignored the slight swaying, they looked just like a regular businessman. They approached the second round of guards as if they owned the place, with a distracted and confident arrogance. The guards asked for identification and then regretted it, withering under Gibson’s piercing, angry gaze. “Don’t you know who I am?” asked Mr. Cool Disguise. “I’m the President of the Internet.”
“We’re just following procedure, sir,” one of the guards barely managed to squeak out.
“How about I have both of your badges on my desk by five o’clock tomorrow? How’s that for protocol?” Beneath him, Gibson could feel the rest of the gang’s tensed bodies relax, as he had finally made it through his rehearsed line without adding “Jews” at the end as he had so many times in practice.
They were through the door. Just one more round of guards and the Internet was theirs.
The final door was 10 feet thick, solid steel, and guarded by 100 ex-Special Forces soldiers. It all came down to this. It was showtime. And Hugh Jackman was born for showtime.
“I FEEL PRETTY, I FEEL WITTY, I FEEL GAYYYYYYYY!” Jackman burst into the middle of the room, and let loose a powerful medley of his favorite showtunes. The guards were rapt. Say what you would about Hugh Jackman’s personal life, or the slight slick pooling beneath his feet that caused him to slip on the higher notes: the man was a true showman. The rest of the gang snuck through to the server room. Jackman joined them after the second standing-O.
And just like that: Hugh Jackman, Mel Gibson, Jeff Dunham, and Gwyneth Paltrow were alone in the air-conditioned server room that housed the Internet. Jeff Dunham walked over to the plug and was about to pull it when a gunshot rang out. In a desperate voice that shifted back and forth between a racist old man, a racist caricature of a Muslim, and a racist redneck, Jeff Dunham cried out to his Christian God, and then he collapsed to the floor, like a puppet with no puppetmaster.
Hugh Jackman looked around frantically, worried that he had somehow failed to properly entertain a guard, as if that was even possible. He saw the smoking gun flash in Gwyneth Paltrow’s hand as another shot rang out and Mel Gibson fell down dead, blood pooling in his fake moustache like so many beer suds. Paltrow walked over to Gibson’s body and rolled him over with a shove of her sensible but almost ludicrously expensive shoe. “My father was Jewish, you stupid piece of shit.”
Silence descended on the server room. Gwyneth Paltrow turned to face Hugh Jackman, the sound of the industrial fans cooling the computers humming around them like the locusts of Jackman’s youth. “Gwynnie, what is this? What have you done?”
“I’m sticking to the plan, Hughie.”
“I thought the plan was to shut down the Internet forever. No more blogs, no more Twitter, no more Facebook, no more inane YouTube comment threads written by hate-mongering 12 year olds bathing in the filth of their own anonymity.”
“That’s what I told you, yes. Because I needed your help to get access. All of your help,” she waved her hand over the corpses piled at her feet. “But if we destroy the Internet then that means the end of my lifestyle website. Use your beautiful, talented head, Jackie. No, I needed to get to the servers to make everyone in the world a subscriber. Goop is humanity’s destiny.”
“You’re a monster,” Jackman said quietly, because he had complete control over the instrument of his beautiful voice.
Paltrow just laughed and turned her attention to the computer servers. She quickly hacked into the mainframe and began downloading Goop to everyone’s JPEGs. The progress bar was almost full, her nightmare plot nearly complete. But something else was almost almost full: Hugh Jackman’s bladder. Almost imperceptibly, his hand slid to his crotch where he silently unhooked his catheter. And then, with a Wolverine cry, the actor in him took over as he let loose a powerful, arcing stream of urine that soared above Gwyneth Paltrow’s head, splashing down directly on the Internet’s power source.
“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” she shrieked with great depths of human emotion, because it’s not like she can’t act, she’s actually a pretty good actress.
Sparks flew. Black smoke belched. A noisome odor filled the air. Somewhere, an alarm rang, jackbooted footsteps echoing down severe hallways, but it was too late. It was done. The Internet was destroyed forever. The Lawnmower Man was dead. The smoke cleared. The now-pointless fans continued to whir. Hugh Jackman could make Gwyneth Paltrow out in the lifting haze, her head bowed low in defeat. Then she wiped her hands on her $15,000 bespoke slacks and sighed. “Oh well,” she said. “It was just a vanity project, really.”
“Aren’t they all?” Jackman asked. They both laughed.
And then the two old friends walked out of the Internet hand in hand, and went to brunch.