Ranger Opossum’s Real True Animal Fun Facts!

Hey Kids! It’s me, your old pal, Federal Park Ranger David “Opie” Opossum!

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Now, don’t be scared! I’m a real human being with real human feelings! Did y’all think I was some kind of freakish human/possum hybrid? Shucks, I was just born a touch on the homely side, which ain’t my fault, I have an unfortunate last name, also not my fault, and I suppose I should have shaved before coming out to do this campfire presentation, which is my fault! My bad kids!

Now According to ‘Opie’s Email Funbag For Kids’, it seems I was away for personal reasons so long, a lot of you were under the ‘oppression’ that ol’ Ranger Opie was dead! Heck, I was just playin’! Sorry, parents! See, if there’s two things opossum’s LOVE to do, it’s eat out of your garbage can in the middle of the night, play dead, and get crushed flat by cars! What? That’s three things? Well, no one said possums can count!

Hey! Now you know some Real True Animal Fun Facts about Opossums! Here’s another one: We Opossums are the only Marsupial’s in North America! Know what a Marsupial is? A critter that has tiny, repulsive, helpless little hairless blind babies ‘bout the size of one joint of your pinky finger! They’re born way too weak to live outside their Mommies’ birthamajiggy, so they crawl inside a ‘pouch’ and live there for a few months! Know what else is in the pouch? That’s right, good for you, Possum Mucus! Lots and lots of Possum Mucus!

Boy oh boy, learnin’ ‘bout animals sure is fun! Wanna learn some more? Great! How ‘bout one of you kids run on into the Package store over their and get your old uncle Federal Park Ranger Dave ‘Opie’ Opossum some of his learnin’ tonic and we’ll all settle in around the fire pit and learn some real true fun facts about animals! Just ask to see Randy an’ tell him it’s for me, he knows what I need. An’ if he gives you any shinola ‘bout not sellin’ alcohol to kids just remind him how camp fires sometimes get out of control!

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Say, I know this fella! He’s a BROWN BEAR! His scientific name is Ursus Arctos! You can find this kind of bear all over the Northern Hemisphere. They’re big; they can weigh up to 1,500 pounds! That’s a lot of bear! Mighty fast too, for such a big guy. They been clocked runnin’ up to seventy five hundred miles an hour! That sure is faster than a scared kid. They hibernate, but not real deep, so I can’t say this emphatically enough, kids: Do NOT screw around with a hibernating Brown Bear. It will wake up cranky and whack your head clean off with one swipe of it’s meaty paw. Know how many kids we lost last year on account of irresponsible screwing around with hibernating Brown Bears? 718. That’s in this park alone.

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Now this little critter is a lot less dangerous. You could crush one of these buggers under your boot, if you could catch up with ‘em, which you can’t unless you got, like a blowgun full of tranquilizer darts or somesuch. The EASTERN CHIPMUNK, or Tamias Striatusa. Cute, huh? They can climb trees as good as any squirrel, but they mostly prefer to live underground in complex tunnel and burrow systems. They store food down there, and treasure and Chipmunk porn. Female Chipmunks have two breeding seasons and have litters of two to four babies, called ‘pups’, ‘kits’ or ‘snake appetizers’. They are also the only mammals besides man that think piercings are sexy.

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The BROWN RECLUSE SPIDER, or Loxosceles reclusa, of the family Sicariidae (formerly of the family Loxoscelidae) is usually between 1⁄4 and 3⁄4 inch (6-20mm) but may grow larger. It is brown and sometimes an almost deep yellow color and usually has markings on the dorsal side of its cephalothorax, with a black line coming from it that looks like a violin with the neck pointing to the rear of the spider, resulting in the nickname “fiddleback spider” or “violin spider”. Coloring varies from light tan to brown and the violin marking may not be visible. The bite of this highly toxic critter turns its’ victim into a zombie which can only be killed by destroying the brain. The severed heads of Brown Recluse Spider victims can live independently if removed, but pose little threat, as how the hell would they get around?

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THOMSON’S HAIRLESS TROUSER BAT is extremely rare, endangered and may not be an animal at all. You’d need to ask Thompson, and be forewarned, he blushes like a school girl at the mere suggestion that you might like an exploratory gander. He’s sensitive!

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This here’s the OCTOPUS, about which I know fuck all, as it is a sea creature. I’m told they exist on a diet of squid and small fish, have a fondness for opium and will be your best friend one day and cut you open from behind the next. Their Latin name is Marcus Aurelias unless I’m thinking of something else entirely, and the Japanese dry ‘em out, crush ‘em up and use the resulting flakes for something unspeakable.

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The PROBISCUS MONKEY, or Nasilus Larvatus, lives only in Borneo and looks damn ridiculous. Long the butt of jokes that go something like “are you eating a banana, or just upside down and glad to see me” There are only about 3000 left alive, which to me is 3000 more than there would be if I lived in Borneo and had a big hammer. Other big nose animals are the Elephant, The Elephant seal, the Elephant shrew, and that guy in the movie ‘The Elephant Man’. It is unlikely that the Proboscis Monkey could cross breed with any of these other big nose creatures, but if it could, Brrrrr, Chucko, THAT shit would be a stone freak out!

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The NORTHERN SPOTTY EWOK is perhaps Canada’s most insidious bowel parasite. Usually acquired by swimming in contaminated lakes, streams or sewage treatment leeching vats, it can only be flushed out of the system by consuming a very nearly fatal amount of gin and suffering the consequences.

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The STANDARD MEXICAN FAIRY VOLE cannot be trusted.

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The WALNUT, or Al-way Ut-nay, while not an animal in the strictest sense, is nocturnal, omnivorous, vituperative and caustic. When cornered it emits a viscous black fluid that causes blindness if it comes in contact with the eyes by way of being slathered on an immense wrecking ball swung into the victim’s face. The ‘horn’ of the walnut, highly favored by the Chinese as an aphrodisiac, is not a true horn, but rather the Walnut’s wallet. Jimminy!

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The JAPANESE GIANT SALAMNDER is the most disgusting animal on the planet, bar none. This slimy, secretive bastard should be shot on site as its very existence gives me the horrors. Anyone who says ‘God is Love’ needs to be stuffed in a sack with one of these hideous, gooey, violent and depraved monstrosities until their views on the nature of God become more aligned with the idea of a creator who allows such despicable filth to exist. Extinction is too good for them. Someone needs to go back in time terminator style and prevent them from ever coming into being.

Well kiddies, that’s all the time Ranger Opie has to learn you up on fun animal facts! Us Federal Park Employees need our beauty sleep, especially those of us with nauseating hairless tails hanging off their backsides. Thanks for liquoring me up, and remember, human life as we know it is already pretty much doomed by the massive amounts of Carbon Dioxide it spewed into the atmosphere before it had any idea at all what it was doing, so you might as well do whatever floats your boat now, ‘cause it’s just too damn late. Any of you kids need anything in the middle of the night, it’s no use yelling, as chances are pretty good Ranger Opie will be a road pizza about ten minutes from now. Hey, I’m three years old, I’m livin’ on borrowed time.

G’NIGHT EVERYBODY!!

How the Lord of the Rings Would Have Been Different if I Had Been Tasked With Carrying the One Ring Instead of Frodo

GANDALF:
 This is the One Ring. Forged by the Dark Lord Sauron in the fires of Mount Doom. Taken by Isildur from the hand of Sauron himself. For sixty years, the ring lay quiet in Bilbo’s keeping, prolonging his life, delaying old age, but no longer, Max. Now…I’m sorry, did I say something amusing?
ME:
 What?… Oh, no, no. Go on, you were saying something about Sauron-
GANDAlF:
 Evil is stirring in Mordor. The ring has awoken. It has heard it’s master’s call… what the devil are you laughing about?
ME:
 Nothing, nothing, it’s not important-
GANDALF:
 OUT WITH IT!
ME:
 Okay, okay, its just Bilbo’s name strikes me funny sometimes.
GANDALF:
 What?
ME:
 It’s just, you know, ‘Bilbo’ you only have to change, like two letters, and it’s… you know…
(pause)
I mean when his parents named him… Like shouldn’t a nurse or something have said, like, “Hey, you can’t call the kid that, it’s sounds like… like…
(pause)
See, I knew you wouldn’t think it was funny. Just go on.

***

ME:
 Take it Gandalf, take it! You must take it!


GANDALF: 
 You cannot offer me this Ring…


ME: 
 I am giving it to you!


GANDALF: 
 Don’t… tempt me, Max! I dare not take it. Not even to keep it safe. Understand, Max, I would use this ring from a desire to do good, but through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine… Max?… MAX! WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING IN THERE!
ME:
 Huh? OH! In here? This is where I keep… like… heavy clothes and stuff, you know, winter, winter things that take up too much… There isn’t a secret tunnel in here, like a hiddden exit for if someone has to leave secretly in a hurry or anything if that’s what you’re thinking. It’s just a normal… you know, totally normal… like… linen closet. Oh, hey! I thought I lost this sweater! That’s good. That I found this. ‘Cause I sure like this sweater… Thought I lost it. Here it is, though.

***

GANDALF: 
 Confound it all, Samwise Gamgee! Have you been eavesdropping?

SAM: 
 I ain’t been droppin’ no eaves, sir, honest. I was just cuttin’ the grass under the window there, if you follow me…


GANDALF: 
 A little late for trimming the verge, don’t you think?


SAM: 
 I heard raised voices…


GANDALF: 
 What did you hear? Speak!


SAM: 
 Well, nothin’ important… that is, I heard a good deal about a Ring and a Dark Lord and somethin’ about the end of the world… But, please, Mr. Gandalf sir, don’t hurt me… don’t turn me into anythin’… unnatural!
ME:
 Hey, I know! Let’s make Sam take the ring!

***

STRIDER: 
 You draw far too much attention to yourself, Mr. ‘Underhill’.


ME: 
 What do you want?


STRIDER: 
 A little more caution from you… That is no trinket you carry.
ME: 
 What, this?
STRIDER:
 That is a pen.
ME:
 I know, but look, when you turn it upside down, her Elf bathing suit totally slides off. Oh, did you mean the One Ring? Do you want it? ‘Cause you can totally have it, like, right now.

***

MERRY:
 Why is my backpack so heavy all of a sudden?
ME:
 No reason. Listen, I’m just going to find a really good tree to relieve myself behind. That one way over there looks good and private. You guys go on, I’ll catch right up.

***

ME:
 Oh, my God, he has such a stick up his ass! Like if Strider had a magic invisibility ring he wouldn’t pull my pants down every once in a while.

***

ELROND: 
 Strangers from distant lands, friends of old…You have been summoned here to answer the threat of Mordor. Middle-earth stands upon the brink of destruction. None can escape it. You will unite or you will fall. Each race is bound to this one fate, this one doom. Bring forth the Ring, Max.


BOROMIR: 
 So it is true… It is a gift. A gift to the foes of Mordor! Why not use this ring? Long has my father, the Steward of Gondor, kept the forces of Mordor at bay. By the blood of our people are your lands kept safe. Give Gondor the weapon of the Enemy. Let us use it against him!
ME:
 Here, catch!

***

GIMLI: 
 I will be dead before I see the Ring in the hands of an Elf… Never trust an elf!

(All jump up and start shouting.)

ME: 
 I will take it. (no one hears him the first time)
I will take it! (louder)
I will take the Ring to Mordor.
(everyone pauses and turns to look at him)
No, I’m kidding, this thing is crazy dangerous, one of you guys take it. It’s just, like, everyone was getting so heavy, I thought I’d just, you know, lighten things… lighten things…
Why’s everybody lookin’ at me?

***

ME:
 Look, all’s I’m saying is, it’s bullshit the Wookie didn’t get a medal. Prejudice, right? Am I the only one drinking at this campfire? Who’s hogging the elf jerky?

***

(The Fellowship is making its way up the mountain when Max slips and falls. When he gets up, he realizes that he is no longer wearing the Ring. We see Boromir picking it up on its chain)


ARAGORN: 
 Boromir!


BOROMIR: 
 It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing…


ARAGORN: 
 Boromir! Give the Ring to Max!


BOROMIR: 
 As you wish, I… Hey, where’d he go? Max? Max?

***

ME: 
 If you ask it of me, I will give you the one Ring.


GALADRIEL: 
 You offer it to me freely. I do not deny that my heart has greatly desired this. In place of a dark lord you would have a queen, not dark but beautiful and terrible as the dawn, treacherous as the sea, stronger than the foundations of the earth! All shall love me and despair!
No. I pass the test. I will diminish, and go into the west, and remain Galadriel.
ME:
 Whatever, I mean, I think you looked great just then, but if you don’t think you should TAKE IT, TAKE IT, WHAT THE FUCK, WHAT THE FUCK IS WITH YOU, ARE YOU ELVES ALL FUCKING CRAZY?! BOROMIR!! BOROMIR!! WHERE THE HELL IS BOROMIR?!

***

ME:
 OOOOOooooH! WoooOOOOOOoooooo! What’s holding this bacon in the air? Oh, look out Sam, HAUNTED BACON! THE HANUTED BACON OF NUMENOR!!

***

ME:
 So, uh, I looked all through my pack, like, twice, and it’s just not there, I think maybe I left it back at the, what, the place, the ‘Prancing Pony’, I was leaving a tip for the maid and I think I just, you know, just by accident… Oh, oh, you’re right, we have seen it since then, if it was that ring, but see, that’s where I think we got confused, ‘Cause, and this was probably stupid, I brought a few rings with me, I really like rings, I’m kind of a ring guy, so I think the best thing would be if you guys went back to where Galadriel had that mirror, cause I know we saw a ring back there which might have been the One Ring, and I’ll go back to the ‘Prancing Pony’ and… and…

I fuckin’ hate you guys.


***

ME:
 Oh! Oh! SAM! Your frying pan’s all haunted and shit! LOOK OUT!

***

SAM: 
 I made a promise, Mr. Burbank, a promise. Don’t you leave him, Samwise Gamgee, and I don’t mean to. I don’t mean to…

ME:
 Jesus. It’s me, isn’t it? ‘Oh, Oh, Let’s make Max take the ring to Mount Doom and lets not bring any women at all in the whole entire group, ‘cause it’s a ‘fellowship’, right? I can’t believe I didn’t see it.

I mean, no offense. It’s cool. You’re cool. It’s just…

You know, this isn’t my… my kind of…

I’m strictly for the ladies, okay?

Listen, listen, this is totally awkward and now I’ve offended everybody, I was obviously way off base thinking… thinking… I think the best, least awkward thing to do would be for you to take the ring, Sam and that way… no? No? How about that Gollum kid, you know, the kind of… scrawny guy that’s been following us and hiding for like… days? He seems like a pretty decent guy.

***

ME:
 Okay, I do not see what the big deal with me thinking you guys were gay is. I mean, I’m fine with people being gay, I have no problem with that, if you all think it was so weird for me to think what I thought then maybe you guys are the homophobes, and you know, you know, no one’s even SEEN a girl Dwarf, Gimli, so I hardly think it was out of line for me to assume… Okay, so we’re all just going to be quiet. So mature.

***

ME:
 WoooooooH! I’m the ghost socks of Isildur!

***

ME:
 Legolas is gay though, right? I mean, you know, whatever, but seriously. Oh, what, so nobody’s talking to me now, right? Fine, fine, I’ll just carry the friggin’ one ring by myself and not talk to anybody. Know what? Know what? I’m just gonna throw it. I am. I am, I’m gonna huck this bastard as far as I can-

Okay shorty, put the axe away for Christ sake. Kidding, okay? I know that’s like totally foreign to your various cultures.

Fuckin’ hate you guys.

***

ME: Okay, shh, now, just shh, you’re gonna wake them up, Hey watch out for the CAMPFIRE! OH MY GOD YOU WALKED RIGHT INTO THE FRIGGIN’ CAMPFIRE! OH MY GOD, I GOT YOU, I GOT YOU, IT’S OUT, YOU’RE NOT EVEN BADLY BURNED, JUST… great, now everybody’s awake. You are SUCH a friggin’ idiot Gollum! DAMN IT! How the HELL does anybody walk into a CAMPFIRE in the DARK?

***

ME:
 Sam, just admit it. Seriously, it’s like Brokeback Friggin’ Mountain plus Gollum. Brokeback friggin’ Three Stooges is what. I mean it’s 2015, I’m not offended, I’m flattered, I’m just not interested.

Fine, sulk.

I am so friggin’ hungry. I could eat this ring. I seriously could.

***

ME:
 Are you cold? I am so friggin’ cold. Listen, listen, listen, I tell you what, me and Gollum will take the first watch, right, you wrap up in the blankets, get some shut eye, I totally won’t give him the ring while you’re sleeping. Seriously, he doesn’t even want it anymore, right Gollum? Right?
Oh my God Gollum, you are such a friggin’ MORON! COULD YOU JUST FOR ONE SECOND STOP WITH THE DROOLING AND HISSING AND JUST PLAY ALONG?! JESUS! Do you want the damn ring or WHAT?! Idiot.

I hate you, Sam. I mean it. You too, Gollum. Scrawny, filthy… whatever the hell you are. Put some clothes on. Jesus. SHUT IT! It coulda been your precious, but it’s not. Because who blew it? You did. Stop it. Stop crying.

***

ME:
 Oh my GOD THAT IS THE BIGGEST GODDAMN SPIDER I EVER… TAKE IT, TAKE IT, TAKE THE RING, IT’S SHINY, SPIDER LIKE SHINY, SPIDER LIKE SHINY, TAKE IT, TAKE IT, AAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!

***

ME:
 OW!OW!OW! HE BIT MY GOD DAMN FINGER OFF! WHAT THE FUCK?! I WOULD HAVE GIVEN IT TO HIM! DID YOU SEE THAT? DID YOU SEE THAT NAKED LITTLE BASTARD?! OW! SHIT! JESUS! Oh, don’t

    TELL

ME you don’t have a FRIGGIN’ BAND-AID IN THAT BACK PACK, YOU GOD DAMN SON OF A…

DAMN it!

God DAMN it!

Ow. Ow, ow, ow, ow, OW!

I totally hate you Sam. I am so serious.

Jesus. I hope you like piggy backs. Because I am sure as hell not walking out of here.

Dave’s Emotions

LOSS
Dave has lost something very important. It feels quite literally as if some part of his interior structure is gone, so that he must hold very, very still. Any motion whatsoever cold cause his entire physical being to crumble apart, as if he was and had always been a colossal toothpick statue made with inferior glue that has been very dry for a very long time. And now, somewhere inside, a largeish chunk is just gone. But of course this is not true. No biological matter, no tissue, no fluids, no cells have been removed from his body, no part of him has ceased to exist or gone somewhere. And this is just the latest in a lifetime of losses ranging from the miniscule to the devastating that make Dave’s life exactly the same as anyone else’s. Toys he owned as a child are gone forever, in all likelihood scattered to atoms at this point. Comic books, T-shirts, a very small number of girlfriends, pets, jobs, homes, people. Dave is still reliably, undeniably, irritatingly here. Dave will be the very last thing Dave ever looses. Same as you. Same as everyone.

GRIEF
Dave experiences a grief of such tremendous proportions it must be transformative, except that it isn’t. Overwhelmed to such a degree that the tide of his grief is going, has gone out before he even notices it’s retreat, he finds himself no different but that he is sweatier and drenched in tears and mucus. Nothing essential has changed at all. His loss is still the same loss. He is still the same person. As if he had been attacked with special hammers that leave no hammer marks.

DISSOCIATION


Sometimes Dave is talking to someone and he doesn’t stop, but his brain goes someplace else. It’s like some compassionate soul has taken over the talking for Dave so that he doesn’t appear to be crazy and Dave can pay attention to something else which is sometimes a dog and a butterfly who are pals. They take long aimless walks and talk about stuff.
“I’m not satisfied,” says the Dog, “with my life.”
“How so?” Asks the Butterfly.
“Well, like yesterday. I ate a poop. I did. No reason. I just did it. It’s like it wasn’t even me.”
“How did that make you feel?”
“Ashamed, I guess.”
“Do you feel ashamed?”
“No. Not really. I feel like I should be shamed. Shouldn’t anyone, though? Good dogs don’t eat poop.”
“Are you a good dog?”
“Are you even listening to me?”
In fact, the Butterfly is not listening. It’s like some compassionate soul has taken over the talking for him so that he is free to imagine he is a rock on the edge of the ocean. The incoming tide rolls him up the beach. The outgoing tide washes him back. To all appearances he remains unchanged, but the truth is he is eroding. One day without ever having seen it coming, he will be a pebble. One day without ever having seen it coming he will be a grain of sand. Beyond that is the unknown.
“I’m sorry,” says Dave, “can you say what you just said again?”

ELATION
Sometimes Dave finds himself smiling. He could be reacting to something or it could be a tic. He could possibly be involuntarily smiling at gas, the way a baby’s first smiles are always denigrated, as if anyone did that, ever. “Go with it” he thinks, and after a moment the smile is just a smile, and the chemicals of happiness wash his brain. It is such a relief, and Dave tries not to think that previous experience shows moments like these are transient, but he has already had just this thought. He is still smiling, though the feeling of happiness is fading. The fleetness doesn’t make the happiness unreal, but it never lasts long enough to be transformative.

MILD IRRITATION
Though there are literally hundreds of things on TV, there is nothing on TV. In contrast, the fridge really does have just two items in it, only one of which can loosely be called food and that is pickles and Dave doesn’t want a pickle. Is Mayonnaise a food? Dave has no memory of ever having purchased Mayonnaise in his entire life. How old does it have to be before it can no longer be called food by anyone?
When Dave was a kid, the seams in his socks frequently felt wrong to his toes. It’s been happening again lately.

LONELINESS
Once loneliness was a crazy ass mean dog barking a thunderstorm of bees. Later when it became clear that nothing Dave did to ameliorate loneliness made it go away, it was transformed into the moment when you are going to jump off the loft and into the hay but you don’t. You’ll jump on three, but when you get to three you don’t, so you’ll jump on ten but when you get to ten you don’t because you can’t go back but you are not able to jump any more that you could fly off the loft and out into the sun like a butterfly. Now loneliness has eroded and is only a horrible unwashed old coat that you long ago stopped remembering you loathed the style of but you wore it anyway because it was a gift from someone whose feelings you didn’t want to hurt and now it is the only coat you own and it is too cold not to wear a coat most days.

HILARITY
The Dog and the Butterfly? The Dog and the Butterfly? Wasn’t that an album by Heart? And weren’t they once referred to as ‘the female Led Zeppelin’?

RAGE
Dave does not feel rage. Only mild irritation over things like Mayonnaise and socks.

DESPAIR
If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow, don’t be alarmed now. It’s just a spring clean for the May Queen.

FRUITY PEBBLES
Do they even make Fruity Pebbles anymore? Dave thinks not. Only Cocoa Pebbles, named for the Flintstone’s daughter and the shape of the cereal bits, which is vaguely pebbly. Cocoa Pebbles was Fred’s cereal, Fruity Pebbles belonged to Barney. Barney has no cereal anymore. No wonder he is compelled to steal Fred’s Cocoa Pebbles. Or was compelled. Dave cannot remember the last time he saw a commercial for Cocoa Pebbles.

LOVE
Sure, love. Of course love. What else is there? It’s all love. Just, sometimes not the kind you like. A white sheet of paper is any color of paper at all if you shine the right color light on it. One of those colors is your favorite color. There are sixty four crayons in the Crayola Big Box. Some are stubs. Some have never been used, and in all probability will still be unused at your estate sale.

WORTHLESSNESS
No one is worthless. Not truly. Dave believes in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. But if people can be said to have worth, doesn’t that mean human worth is quantifiable? If worth could be broken down into worth units, how many worth units does Dave have? Ten? Six? Is six a large number in terms of worth units? Is six enough?

CAPITULATION
The grain of sand believes it was once a pebble. But so does its twin, torn by erosion from the parent pebble, and so does every single one of the eight billion grains of sand erosion scraped off that pebble over the lonely years. Is grief transformative or merely redundant?

TRANSCENDENCE
Dave clings to the bedpost believing that his grief may tear him to pieces, but of course it does not. Rising out of his weeping body, beholding it dispassionately from above, it becomes clear that Grief is gently eroding him, carefully removing tiny bits of Dave that all believe they are Dave and carrying them away, scattering them like stars in the heavens, like pearls before swine. Dave doesn’t know it yet, but experience will eventually show him that moments like this are transient. He is already coming back to his body, almost forgetting, fleeting but real, what if anything he just learned.

COCOA PEBBLES
Once there were Fruity Pebbles, so there will always be Fruity Pebbles. Once there was Quisp and Quake and so there will always be Quisp and Quake. Once there was Cap’n Crunch’s Vanilly Crunch and yes, Mr. T cereal. Once there were Dog n’ Butterfly Checks and Page n’ Plants’ Leddy Zeppelins with a real plastic stairway in every box, and terrible grief was transformative and all those things always will be because once they were.

That coat makes you look like a transient. Wear it fleetingly.

Thirteen Stages of Dining at the Golden Corral

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I
I have never eaten at the Golden Corral before. There are no Golden Corrals in my state. I can be forgiven for thinking as I stand outside the entrance that I am merely about to have dinner at a buffet restaurant. I do not know. I have not been told. I am more than virginal. I am naked, newborn, a Tabula Rasa. I do not understand as I place my drink order; receive my tray, that I am an initiate.

II
The setting is designed to deceive. There is a seating area, large, but in no way unusual. Several buffet stations; for carved meats, for main courses, for side dishes, for salads and deserts. The aromas are pleasant, the food looks good enough. It’s a little noisy, but if the food is even palatable the price is bargain. And there’s a great deal of variety. There are many, many choices. I take some rice and bourbon chicken, a couple of ribs, a little salmon. I ignore the salad bar, even though it stretches away from me like train tracks, converging to a point at the horizon. I have been to salad bars. I did not come for salad. My plate is full and so I move to select a table. For a moment I think they are taken, there are huge stacks of dishes on each table; But no, I see seated diners push aside soiled plates, soiled plates immediately and unobtrusively removed by the wait staff even as the patron pulls a clean, new plate and proceeds toward the nearly endless buffets. I sit.


III
The ribs, the bourbon chicken are satisfactory, but nothing to write home about. There is a basket of very pretty rolls at my table. They glisten. They have been lightly glazed with something highly reflective, perhaps honey. I try a roll, and it’s good. It’s very good. It’s very good the way the second time you ever had sex is good. Not the first, fumbling panicky time, but the time right afterward. 

And the basket of rolls is empty. Surely I only had one, maybe the rest of my party has been greedy, and I brim with sadness for the absence of rolls for only a moment before in a subtle flashing of obsequious hands, it is full again! It has been refilled! And there is no one there now to even thank! How could I have thought the ambience of the Golden Coral was non descript, when now I see it is so clearly lovely? And these ribs, this chicken! Not the best I’ve ever had by any means, but it isn’t trying to be the best. It is only trying to be the good, honest food. The kind of food you can trust.
And my God, the Salmon! I hadn’t even tried it!

IV


My ice tea has been nearly empty on three occasions, but every time I want a drink it’s full again. But my plate is empty so soon! Why did I eat so quickly? I was so much hungrier than I’d realized, starving really, and I’m still hungry, as if I hadn’t eaten yet at all! Well, why not? It’s not as if I eat here every day, and they are grilling these huge steaks and you can have as much as you want! The smell of them reaches out toward me physically, like a cartoon where the smell of food becomes an arm, a hand, a beckoning finger! I haven’t tried the shrimp, or the mashed potatoes, or most of what they have on offer. How could I? I’d have needed a plate the size of Cleveland!



V

This steak is so god damned good it makes the ribs I started with seem like something I tore off a rotting possum carcass I found by the roadside. It’s tender and juicy and when I swallow it seems to go as much up into my brain as it does down into my stomach, and it’s warm and good in both places and it says ‘This is what meat is, this is what man has eaten since the dawn of time, consume me, devour me, only when you eat you are you alive!’


VI

I am easily the most slender person here. Outside the Golden Corral I was slightly overweight, a little paunchy, but it’s all a matter of comparison, isn’t it? In here I am wasting away, I am frail, I am perhaps even dying. To be sure, many of my fellow patrons outweigh me by a mere sixty or seventy pounds, but there are also quite a few “big and tall” folks here as well. Some of them are, to be unkind, a little bit disgusting. Thank God I am so very, very thin and can justify this third plate.



VII

Witnessing the birth of my first child is still the single most sublime moment of my life, but this applewood smoked chicken breast wrapped in bacon is a very close second.


VIII


They don’t seem to be hurrying anyone out of here. You could easily come in for lunch at around noon, eat your fill, slow down a bit, linger over a few pastries and coffee, sneak into the bathroom for a little nap on the john. Before you know it you could start an early dinner. Screw lunch, you could come for breakfast.

IX

I was a fool to skip the salad bar! How could I have compared it to other salad bars, how could the me that existed before this meal have been so blind? Everything, everything you could ever imagine stacking on top of lettuce is here and several things I have NEVER imagined stacking on lettuce, even in my most fevered, forbidden dreams, dreams that I could not recall on waking for fear they would DRIVE ME MAD! And somehow the Golden Corral has infused each item with a near magical ability to align itself with others on a salad plate! Like some edible game of Tetris my salad leaps upward off the plate, not a cone, not a pyramid, but an immense, utterly stable COLUMN OF SALAD! Surely I am overcome, I am only imagining a distant hazy waitperson atop a golden ladder reaching into the clouds, ladling huge, gooey splashes of Italian dressing on my salad column… I come to at my table, chewing, chewing, chewing…



X


I am undersea. Everywhere gargantuan Human Sea Lions, Elephant Seals, Manatee, Hippopotami, Whales of every species vacuum creamed corn and butterbeans through their baleen, at any moment I’ll be crushed to death between the rolling flanks of ravenous dinners! But no, it is all too choreographed, a miraculous synchronized swim from table to buffet and back again, beautiful, graceful, they are delicate hot air balloon people, hot air balloons all belly and mouth! Do these blissful giants even see a man as tiny as I, a bare milkweed seed of a man between the manicotti and the salt Virginia ham? 


XI

Surely this is Rome; surely there are braised Lark’s Tongues and roasted hearts of Albino Lions on that steam table. Any moment the staff will gently lead me aside into some quiet alcove vomitorium where I may discreetly disgorge so I can return to feeding unencumbered. I have no doubt there are portable defibrillators hidden everywhere, that with the same casual assurance they refill your Dr. Pepper, the staff of the Golden Corral can apply the paddles, call down the lightings and return you from the dead to stand and eat again.

XII

I am one with the bread pudding.



XIII

I see now that we are eating the world. Here within the Golden Corral, we chosen few open our cavernous maws, tumble in steam shovels of coal and iron ore, vast helpings of forests from all over the globe, steaming waves of arable land, we chase it with vast, overflowing flagons of crude oil and slave’s blood, while through the windows we can see the people outside the Golden Coral, the poor, the powerless, the sick, the starving! Now and then we shove vast tentacles out the door and scoop them up and eat them too, like handfuls of dry Chinese noodles, or croutons, and it’s good, they stick to our ribs, and eating the world hollow is just what God wants us to do, for who could run the Golden Corral but God? Who could keep the steam tables furnished in the presence of our foes, our cups overflowing, all under the full assault of our massive, desperate, yearning bellies? Who could afford to feed us such bounty for about ten dollars a person, how can there be a penny of profit in it, who could make a demonstrably ridiculous business plan like this not only work but prosper?


God. God. Only God. 

And God is good. Really good. God is delicious.

The Junk Drawer of My Despair

CONTENTS:

• One (1) roll of off-brand clear plastic wrap, sans box. Without the saw toothed metal strip, it is impossible to cut in any useful way, but that’s alright because you probably can’t find the leading edge in any case. If you do, and manage to rip some off without stretching it so badly it becomes useless, it will only cling to itself anyway.

• One (1) ‘card’ of thumbtacks, white. Less than half are left. The provenance of this item is unknown. Surely you never in your life bought this ‘card’ of thumbtacks, and yet here it is. It seems, somehow, antique, perhaps a living fossil, migrant from some long dead other person’s junk drawer. Should you attempt to remove a tack, the rim will slide painfully under your fingernail.

• One (1) wire coat hanger, unwound. This universal tool promises infinite possibilities; unclogging drains, unlocking cars, flogging recalcitrant children and pets… but in fact it only has one purpose, to fall into such a position that that one end jams into the floor of the drawer above it so that opening the drawer more than a fifth of an inch becomes impossible. There is only one tool that will allow you to reach through that tiny crack and move the obstructing wire. A wire coat hanger, unwound.

• One (1) Partially used book of ‘series ‘E’ stamps, meant to be used until the new stamps came out when the price went up an undetermined number of price changes ago. Think briefly of the postage they might have paid for, the letters that said things to change the hearts of people now forever beyond your reach.

• One (1) Nutmeg Grater. You have never ground fresh nutmeg in your life and you never will. You have no idea what unground nutmegs even look like. Perhaps one day a tiny person will come to you needing to grate a tiny piece of cheese, but that’s unlikely. Where did this thing come from?

• One (1) package of baking chocolate, unmarked, partially unwrapped, nibbled at edges. Who will it betray next? You? Again?

• Thirty-Eight (38) tarnished pennies. Some rainy day you might sort them by date. Maybe there will be a few so old they have pictures of wheat on the back. Won’t it be fun to see?

• One (1) Baby Food Jar, label removed, containing three (3) screws of varying lengths, One (1) bent nail, One (1) picture hanger and a small snippet (?) of wire, partially clad in blue insulation, frayed at the end. What has become of the baby? Where is it now? Almost certainly it had some connection to you, you didn’t pick the jar out of the trash. Lost, lost, all lost to time.

• One (1) Heavy-duty hammer, paint spattered rubber grip. Like the unwound wire coat hanger, the heavy-duty hammer does an excellent job of keeping the drawer from opening any more than a quarter of an inch, but it is more useful as an object of pondering. Can one can kill oneself with a self-administered blow to the head from a heavy-duty hammer? How hard would you have to swing to get the job done in a single blow? Could a second blow even be accomplished? Might the pain of the first blow make it impossible? Might one be too impaired to deliver the second, fatal blow? What if a third blow was required? How much nerve would that take?

• One (1) Tap Hammer. A ‘Tap Hammer’ or ‘Lady’s Hammer’ is a petite version of the Heavy Duty Hammer and is perfect for hammering tacks, brads and very small nails used in decoration and upholstery. It is very, very hard to kill yourself with a Tap Hammer, as it requires hundreds of blows and a great deal of determination. But sometimes it’s exactly what you deserve.

• Three (3) Holograms of three pronged adapters. The very item you need, right where you thought it would be, now at last the fan can turn, the bread dough can be mixed, your guest may dry their hair in the guest bathroom, and there they are, right where you thought they’d be, but your fingers pass through them like a dream you are already forgetting.

• Three (3) Flashlights of varying sizes, all of which are dead.

• Three (3) D cell Batteries, Seven (7) C cell batteries, Six (6) AA cell batteries and 9 (Nine) AAA batteries, all dead.

• One (1) Mummified moth, dead.

• A bunch (132) Of Q-tip swabs held together by an old rubber band. For Crafts!

• One (1) Photograph of us together in happier times, slowly changing color unseen in a drawer as the years go by.

• An assortment (assortment) of old dreams, all unrealized, one shattered.

• Two (2) Petrified sticks of paper thin dusty pink bubble gum, the kind that used to come in baseball cards back when the world was slightly hand tinted and far more worth living in.

• One (1) pair (pear?) Needle nose pliers, rusting.

• Three (3) two pronged plastic things to stick in outlets not in use, as a means of baby proofing. Is this implied baby the same baby whose empty jar now holds bits of hardware that are useful but will never be used?

• One (17) odd possibly mechanical doo dad that will be briefly puzzle over during your estate sale, pinched between the calloused thumb and forefinger beneath the incurious, boiled egg eyes of an antiques dealer before being dropped and eventually thrown away.

• One Hundred Twenty-Four (124) Small, shiny, dark brown dots that if seen under a microscope might reveal themselves as some sort of long dead insect. Or eggs.

• The memory of the sound the playing card you clipped to the spokes of your three speed made, probably the ace of spades, pretending it made your schwinn a Harley, as if an ersatz motorcycle could erase friendlessness.

• A bunch (36) of Popsicle sticks, bound together by an old rubber band. For crafts!

• A (1) ‘Tot’s’ mini stapler that never ever worked even once.

• Two (2) Opposing parentheses for placing numbers or demoralizing clauses in.

• One (1) Elusive feeling you haven’t had in a very long time (because it isn’t in you, it’s here, in this drawer) that there was some unknown thing, answer, person you could eventually get your hands on that might fill the bleak gaping hole you’ve come to understand isn’t so much in you per se, it is you.

• One (1) rotten Peanut so that someday you’ll have found a peanut, found a peanut, found a peanut last night.

• One (1) Ring of keys to things that won’t get unlocked again because you don’t know what these keys or for or who’s they are or where they came from.

• One (1) manky old tube of lubricant, partially rolled at the end, leaking in places, almost certainly for mechanical use but only there so that nosy guests can convince themselves you have some sort of horrid sexual difficulty.

• Several (23) old books of matches from various disappointing places you’ve been that could be used to burn it all down, down, to coals, to glowing embers, so that it would all be gone, purified, if not for the fact they are too soggy and old to ignite let alone stay lit long enough to set anything on fire.

• One (1) False back that when removed opens upon and endless, empty, sucking void, vast enough to hold every pointless piece of crap you ever clung to for bad reasons and all the pedestrian memories and emotions associated with them.

• One (1) Bright yellow, circular happy face sticker.

Ten Things I Have to do Before I Can File My Taxes

1.) GATHER ALL IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS:
There’s no point getting all the way to “Just Taxes” only to find I’ve forgotten my W-2 or my W-4 or any of those other letters that say ‘Important Tax Information” or “Reply Requested” or whatever. Better just to bring the whole years unopened junk mail, bills, Dominoes coupons etc, with me. The problem is, some of that shit could be literally anywhere by now, so lets make sure I’ve looked in every closet, under every bed, behind the couch… You know, now I think about it, a really thorough house cleaning is probably the way to go. Two birds with one stone, right?

2.) CHART DEDUCTIONS
As a free lance writer, there are lots of expenses I can legitimately deduct, and I’ve pretty much kept track of them. But what’s the point of showing up at “Just Taxes” and sitting in some shitty plastic chair drinking instant coffee waiting for one of their seasonal CPA’s to ask me things I wouldn’t tell my own Mother if I haven’t figured out every possible deduction? Think it through. Tools of the trade we know are deductible, so that’s the new computer and what I would have paid for all my pens if I’d bought them instead of taking them from work. But what about the stuff I do on the computer? Can I deduct my Internet service? I do all my research on the Internet. And what about subscription erotica sites? I’m writing about them right now, so that’s research too, right? And what about all the time I spend at work looking at subscription erotica? Or the time I spent coming up with the phrase ‘subscription erotica’ so I wouldn’t have to face the facts about what I am doing with my time and how much it costs? Isn’t my time worth something?

3.) MAKE SURE ‘JUST TAXES’ IS AN ACTUAL BUSINESS
Sure it’s cheaper than H&R Block, a lot cheaper, but isn’t that kind of suspicious? Plus the place smells like Beefaroni and the computers all run off really long extension cords coming in through the back door. It can’t hurt to look the place up on line. And as long as I’m on line, I should see if ‘Ask Jeeves’ knows if I can deduct on line gambling losses if I write about them, which I just did. And yes I know ‘Ask Jeeves’ is now just called ‘Ask.com’, but it’s very hard to pretend my AI Butler is named Ask.com. Aslo I should check if Abi has any new artistic self-portraiture up. She thinks she’s too cool to update. I mean why the hell should I pay for a membership if she’s not going to update her artistic self-portraiture?

4.) SPEND SOME TIME WITH THE KIDS
Because family is everything. What kind of father am I if the weekend roles around and I’m all “Oh, Daddy can’t play with you girls now, I have to go do our taxes.” I remember how my Dad was always too busy for me because he ‘worked’ weekends at the ‘hospital’ where he was ‘Chief of Respiratory Therapy’ or some other thing. NOTE TO SELF: While spending quality time with girls, see if they know their Social Security Numbers. I’m pretty ‘Just Taxes’ will want those. See if they know Wife’s number too.

5.) FIX GARAGE DOOR
Been promising to do this for months, or if Wife’s word is to be taken seriously, ‘years’. How mad is she going to be if I put it off again with some lame excuse about doing taxes? Seriously, if I have to hear one more time about how I “Made a commitment”, how I always say “I said I’d do it and I’ll do it”, how my failure to fix the garage door or do anything, really, at all, is a symptom of a self destructive, ruinous, untreated depression that is ‘way less cute than it used to be’, I will just go completely nuts. I mean what the hell, if I was constantly nagging Supermom about a friggin’ broken garage door, she’d be depressed too! What, is their something gender related that means only I can fix a damn door, is that why it’s my responsibility, Do you need a measuring tape, a philips head screw driver and a JOHNSON to fix a DAMN GARAGE DOOR!?

6.) TURN CALENDAR TO APRIL
Oh, it is not April already! Fuck.

7.) GET SOME SLEEP
Taxes are friggin’ complicated enough without having to answer god damn personal questions about money when you’re so sleep deprived you’re ready to crack as it is. I don’t think a few nights in my own bed is too much to ask before pushing the Sysaphean stone of my finances up the damn mountain to “Just Taxes”. If the garage door is that big a damn deal, she can spend the night on the friggin’ couch for once and yes, yes I know it’s ‘not just the garage door’, but that isn’t the POINT, the POINT is the couch is lumpy as HELL! And if those kids wake me up before Nine, THEY can do the damn taxes! I mean, my God! “Daddy, we need breakfast, we need to go to school, we need lunches for school!” It’s endless! Can I NOT be allowed one damn DAY asleep without everyone up in my grill about how sleeping for an entire days is some sort of sign of MENTAL ILLNESS!?

8.) SMELL THE ROSES
I mean, come on, right? Is life just about money and keeping track of it? Can’t I have a nice meal, see a sunset, walk on the beach, sleep for entire days uninterrupted? Am I just some sort of drone lumbering around a hive for no other reason than to do the taxes and then get shoved outside by the Queen to die in the cold while repairing the hive-garage door? That’s insane! What do bees even need with a garage? Screw that noise! The government is going to get its pound of my raw, bleeding flesh and make interest off it, have no doubts about that, my friend! Every moment it’s in their bank account and not mine is robbery. All you smug bastards filing in March and February and friggin’ January are just a bunch of happy Brown Shirt drones smiling while you freeze to death working on the damn GARAGE DOOR!

9.) READ AT LEAST ONE BIG ASS BOOK
Look at all the books I’ve bought over the years, meaning to read, never getting to. “Ulysses”, “Gravity’s Rainbow”, “Cover Letters That Seem Like You Want the Job”, The total tonnage of paper I’ve paid for is a crime by itself, and then you add on the wife constantly carping about how I only buy them so people who come to the house will think I’m the kind of guy who’d read that shit, Jesus! I mean she’s made it so I have to read them just to prove she’s wrong, right? And I have to do my taxes, that’s the law, Uncle Sam will lock me away and take all my stuff while I rot if I don’t. So see, the beauty of it is, if I make an agreement with myself that I can’t file my taxes until I’ve read at least one big ass books, I’m golden.

10.) FIND OUT ABOUT EXTENSIONS
I mean, they have them right? They have to. Like, say, suppose I was on my way to file my taxes and some kind of mad animal or robot something was menacing some old lady and I stepped in because I don’t let that kind of shit go down, and I end up getting my arm ripped off? There’s no way they’d expect me to have my taxes in on time, right? I mean, my W-2’s are in the street, totally illegible with arm blood and I’m being rushed to the hospital! So if they have extensions for shit like that, there I such a thing as getting an extension. I mean is it my fault they’re due in April? Who the hell’s idea is that, that’s like, right the fuck after Christmas, I bet a lot of people don’t get them done on time. I mean, I know its commitment. I said I’ll do it and I’ll do it. Worst comes to worst I can just put it all on next year’s taxes. You can do that, right? I bet you can do that. I bet people do it all the time. It’ll be fine. That gives me plenty of time. And you know what time it is, now, right?

Nap time.