(Arrested Development)

At the tender age of twelve Buster and his imaginary friend, Mr. Jinglebottoms, were making their favorite snack – Saltines crushed into his time tested blend of orange juice, grape juice and Hawaiian Punch to be eaten slowly with a baby spoon.  On days when he felt dangerous Buster would dare to use the baby spoon topped with the tiny silver head of a goat wearing a blue ribbon tied in a bow;  it was deliciously thrilling to be so close to such a terrifying and unpredictable animal.  But more often than not Buster allowed himself to be guided by the steady hand of Mr. Jinglebottoms, selecting the spoon with the soothing image of the adorable Gerber baby.

Buster enjoyed these moments of cooperation between them because unlike most imaginary friends he and Mr. Jinglebottoms didn’t always get along.  Mr. J. could actually be quite mouthy and Buster felt it was his responsibility to show a firm hand and offer proper guidance.  Buster wrote down every nasty thing Mr. Jinglebottoms ever uttered about Lucille – so there would be a record in case Mr. J. ever tried to protest his innocence.  With the particularly egregious comments, usually involving Lucille’s hair, Buster would smack Mr. J. around a little bit to let him know such things weren’t taken lightly in the Bluth household.

Usually after such a spat Mr. J. would have a good cry and then apologize with a peace offering such as a compliment on the sausage-like fit of Buster’s contemporary argyle sweater.   The olive branch could also be an idea for a gentle, non-interactive pet that would be sure to impress the other kids.  Last time they settled on a worm farm.  Buster blamed the colony’s death on his mother’s insistence that it be kept in the storage unit – not on Mr. J’s suggestion to coat them all in iridescent paint transforming them into a gorgeous Glo Worm (& Friends!)

Recently, Buster and Mr. J. had taken to communicating in their own secret language.  It was part Latin he mis-remembered from school, part mangled Spanish he tried to copy from Rosa the housekeeper and part rhythm.  Toe tapping, thigh slapping, counter banging – any mix was fair game so Buster could work his hips like a Solid Gold dancer recently fired from the Broadway cast of Cats.

They both agreed that each component of their secret language deserved visual representation in their choice of dress.  The first two parts were obvious – a polo from The Milford Academy and a feather duster.  But the glamor factor proved more difficult.  No amount of hairspray or Vaseline made Lucille’s pantyhose shine like those of the carefree prancers on T.V.  And sure her diamonds were nice, but they didn’t provide an all-over sparkle like gold glitter leotards.  Hairline already receding Buster knew he had a problem, but Mr. J. was spot-on with a solution; they quickly put the ponytails of Buster’s female Cabbage Patch Kid to proper use.

Which piece of this mayhem nudged Lucille to the edge we may never know, but once she committed Mr. J. was done for.  Buster knew something was wrong when his mother joined him in the kitchen and actually choked down a single Saltine.  He looked away when she asked to whom he was speak-dancing because he knew she knew that answer already.  Also, he didn’t like to say out loud the infantile name of his dear imaginary friend; he’d tried more than once to get Mr. J. to change it but on this point, as on many, Mr. Jinglebottoms was immovable.

Forever burned into Buster’s brain is the image of his mother’s mouth as she spoke the words of horror.  Her lipstick moistly glistening with Vodka and angry spittle, sprinkled with a light dusting of cracker crumbs, she told her youngest that no one was listening.  Mr. Jinglebottoms had met the fate of all boys who dared to be dirty in the Bluth household.  Lucille cleaned him up.  And then forgot him.  In the dryer.  For days.  And you better believe the heat was HIGH.