Like life, this blog must be read backwards. It helps if you have a mirror and hold it over your left shoulder.
Like life, this blog must be read backwards. It helps if you have a mirror and hold it over your left shoulder.
The next day dawned bright and sunny. The sky was laced with a steely hue flashed brightly with a blue, steely brightness known only to dawns flashing steely blue and, not to mention sunny. Did I mention it was sunny? How about steely blue?
The word spread like wildfire through Mooburg that I was going to attempt a second incredible dive into the Moo Gorge in a desperate effort to free myself from my cow body. By eight o'clock AM the parking lot next to the Giant Lint was filled with onlookers, picketers, and out-of-work bicycle mechanics.
Because the town was the Lint Capital of the World, Mooburg's forefathers had erected on this spot (the aforementioned Moo Gorge) a fifty-foot statue of a piece of lint. Not as sexy as Paul Bunyan or the Great Sudbury Nickel, but it brought the more boring and fastidious class of tourists to the town in the dog days of summer. No, the statue of the Giant Dog was in Gravity Falls, just ten kilometers away.
I mentioned picketers. There were cows picketing the fact that I was dishonoring the State of Cowhood by wanting to get rid of my cow body. And there were aardvarks protesting the fact that I was an aardvark hiding in a traitorous cow body. And there were picketers protesting the fact that there were picketers in town.
Apparently, the Great Aardvark Dive had turned into an international event. There were representatives from Spain, France, Great Britain, Russia and a smattering of other countries, fresh from the embassies in Ottawa. They didn't have any stale representatives. If they had had them, they would have sent them, because this was what you call a minor international event. Something on a par with the Global Flea Circus, held recently at the Remember the Mange Pet Store and Tuxedo Rental on Cud Street.
In the crowd, I spied Marge Slaf-Kabnecier, voluptuous as ever in a daisy-smothered frock. Our eyes locked and she lifted the daisies invitingly, exposing a little provocative calf. The provocative calf's name was Buster, well known for distributing seditious leaflets outside the local five-and-dime.
With a sigh, I wished that things had turned out differently for Marge and me. I remembered those moonlit nights at Nelson's Lookout, my 1976 Mustang Convertible, and Marge mooing at the moon. I really miss that Mustang. I remembered the senior prom at Aardvark High. I never forgave Marge for renting that cheesy tuxedo. I didn't think the flowery pink chiffon did anything for my legs, either.
But there was nothing I could do to turn back time. The crowd had gathered. The itinerant vendors were selling hot chocolate and Beaver Tails (don't ask) from hastily-constructed stalls at the lip of the Gorge. I had made my bed, and I was just going to have to lie in it. A loud boo reverberated across the Moo Hills, and I realized that the crowd wanted me to get out of bed and jump into the Gorge.
I closed my eyes and stepped into eternity.
On my way down, my life flashed before my eyes (a manual process, since I had forgotten to buy an automatic life flasher at the local drug store). My birth as a young aardvark under the name of Charles Butterfat on 11 January, 1910, at South Bandicoot. The trip to England to be educated for my future role as a great spiritual teacher. My many exploits in Hollywood, turning out 26 pictures for Warner Brothers and receiving some 10,000 fan letters a week as one of Hollywood’s top stars. My retirement in 1957 in Burbank with a pink poodle half my age...
With a sinking feeling (about 32 feet per second), I realized that someone else's life was flashing before my eyes. Dang! It was Rin-Tin-Tin's Life! I always hated his movies.
I looked back, noting that the East Germans had given me a 3.8, which I thought I didn't deserve. Mind you, that was for artistic merit. Technical was 4.3. Two seconds before I hit the water, a smile crossed my face as I remembered that the East Germans didn't exist.
One second before I hit the water, I had an overweening desire to know what had happened to Britney Spears after her mother ran their car over a paparazzi's foot outside a Santa Monica pet shop.
But to no avail. I had a date with destiny. My date with Marge Slaf-Kabnecier would have to wait until I returned from Aardvark Heaven.
Having been knocked rudely out of my non-bed, I hastened to get the number of the intemperate bulldozer that had done the knocking. Unfortunately, it was an unlisted bulldozer.
Then, with a flash of horror, I realized that it was Thursday: Decision Day. I had to decide whether to step up to slugdom or to slouch into one of Bill Gates' discarded bodies. (Apparently, he only uses each body once. Kind of the incarnate version of Handy Wet Wipes.)
As I said, it was a tough decision, so I turned to my email for help. To my everlasting joy, I had received a missive from "Frankie Moreno" (I struggled to suspend my disbelief that this was some kind of nom de spam), who had demonstrated his consummate compassion on me and about 10,000 other computer owners by sending me this advice:
"Make the decision to move forward, NOT stay the same or worse, backwards!
Since many Opport-unities on the Net are of dubious nature, it's getting noticeably catchier to filter out the good, legit ones! Ask for detailed Information that helps you make a firm decision in the future! Remember: Always do your Due Diligence first! This Approach will save you from Horrid disappointments."
God knows, in this critical juncture in my life, I desperately needed Frankie's f.r.e.e Help and Education about this essential topic, and wanted to avoid Horrid Disappointments if at all possible, so I gave him a call.
"Hello?" He sounded half asleep. I wondered what time it was in India. At the same time, I fumbled around in the drawer of the end-table. I know I put about a half pound of Due Diligence in there last Friday.
I explained the problems I was having with my cow body, and the slug-Gates body quandary.
"Are you, steady email customer, some kind of idiot? It's three o'clock in the morning!"
I made a notation on my wristwatch. It is three o'clock in India.
"So you think timing is essential here for me to grasp this Opport-unity?"
"Look. I'm hanging up now, and if you come again, I'm going to call the police!"
(Sound of distant telephone falling into grace, if not into Frankie's wastebasket.)
I'm not stupid. This was not getting me the f.r.e.e Help and Education I was expecting. Quickly, I threw on my yellow Florida shirt (aardvark standard issue #835) with the brown and green palm trees and rushed out the door regretting the fact that I had accidentally pushed Redial. I could hear Frankie screaming obscenities as I glided my Hupmobile (lovingly manufactured by the Hupp Motor Company of Detroit, Michigan in 1938) out of the driveway.
I had decided to go directly to the Axis Mundi, the True Oracle of All That Is Right and True...Yes, you guessed it, my Glove Compartment Guru. Unbeknownst to upwards of 93 percent of the general public, most 1938 Hupmobiles were equipped with an optional Guru, sort of like GM's OnStar in a loincloth.
I pushed the button and the glove compartment flapped open, spilling the bulk of my Pupi Campo trading cards onto the floor.
"You rang, O hopeless initiate?" said the Guru.
I explained to him yadayadayadayada...
"The answer is obvious, O Aardvark of Minimal Brain," he said, smoothing his loincloth. "You must refuse both options and follow your hearts desire, which is to remain Aardvark to the end of your days."
He was spot on. It felt right. I was suffused with an effulgence of rightness. I quivered with rightness for about three seconds. I threw the guru a peanut, then popped open the cell phone. It was shouting obscenities at me.
"Sorry, Frankie," I said, and dialed the Big Giant Eye. He took an eternity to answer.
"Eternity Help Desk! We don't answer the phone! Stop trying to jump the queue!"
"Hey, Big Giant. It's Aardvark Al. I know you're there, so stop trying to act like a recording."
Suddenly, the sky opened up...big fiery clouds...huge burgeoning pillar of lime-green Jello, yadayada ad nauseum.
"Have you made your decision?" said the Big Giant Eye. He had eaten something with garlic for breakfast.
"Count Chockula with Garlic Buds," he opined. "What's the scoop?"
I told him the Glove Compartment Guru's advice.
"Man, that smarts," he said. A giant tear rolled from his eye and rearranged my wardrobe. "You're up a crick."
"It can't be that bad."
"No, I mean that literally. Up the Moo Crick. The only way you're going to get an aardvark body back is to jump off the Mile-High Mooburg Gorge again and hope like hell you land in Aardvark Heaven."
I had forgotten about Aardvark Heaven. The problem is, I had been a bad little aardvark for most of my life.
I was up the crick.
The hole in the sky filled in, the mountain of lime-green Jello dissolved in a puff of smoke, and the Giant Eye Transubstantiative Support Desk Person left me with a mind-numbing decision to make: did I want to spend the rest of eternity as a slug? Or spend it as a clone of Bill Gates?
It was a tough choice.
On the one hand, Bill Gates had a gazillion bucks. On the other, the slug choice might be taking the moral high ground. At least it was better than being an NHL hockey club owner, which was the runner-up choice.
The Giant Eye gave me one night to think it over, so slept in the cud silo. I always think better if one of my six stomachs has a good supply of cud.
Not much happened during the night, except for the sack of money that fell off the Brinks truck. That doesn't count, because it happens with astounding regularity since I put the speed bumps in the road.
Oh, yes. During the night, I had a conversation with the silo's wastebasket, who picked that night to begin English lessons.
I know what you're thinking. Here he goes again. Throwing the old bull. But in actual fact, the wastebasket did talk, and it turns out this is not an uncommon experience.
According to page 2,068 of the pocket edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica (soft-cover edition) wastebaskets have been known to speak ever since Sir Geoffrey Nomenclature revealed in the British Parliament in 1837 that in fact his views on reorganizing the fur trade were not his own, but were dictated by a fairly erudite
oak poubelle in his downstairs den.
Apparently the poubelle had been silent for years, but felt it had to
speak its mind since it was passionately convinced that beaver hats, which were out of fashion by this time, should be right back in. Its views had something to do with a chance encounter with a rabid beaver on a caravaning trip in the Lake Country.
But I digress.
At this point, you, gentle reader, are probably muttering under your breath: "For crying out loud, what did Aardvark Al's wastebasket say?"
And you would be well within your rights to ask.
The aforementioned basketspeak occurred, mind you, in the dead of night (about 3 am) in pitch dark, and it appeared to be a quotation from a book, to wit: "Keimt ein Glaube neu, wird oft Lieb' und Treu, wie ein boses Unkraut ausgerauft" (with apologies for unexpressed umlauts.)
Which just goes to show how little I knew about this wastebasket. I had no idea he was French, but when we looked on the bottom the words "Made in China" were plainly printed.
This nocturnal verbal burp reminded me of a passage I had read recently in Freud's Psychopathology of Everyday Life concerning various types of parapraxes, such as bungled actions and slips of the tongue. This, of course, set me to making the connection to Saint Parapraxus, patron saint of wastebaskets, and it all began to fall temptingly into place.
This knowledge placated me, and I dozed peacefully off to sleep. It seemed like mere moments later when I was surprised by a bulldozer pushing the silo over onto the ground and knocking me out of bed.
I was surprised, because we don't have a bed.
Needless to say, I was overjoyed to hear that I could shuffle off my bovine coil. To put it mildly, we were by no means overstocked in the underjoyed department.
"When do I start being a slug?" I said.
Slug. It sounded heroic, macho. Where you gonna go Saturday? I'm going to the Slugfest!
After a quick look at his database, the Giant Eye said:
"I'll just open a new ticket for you and see if you have gold, silver or bronze support."
And then he said:
"Unfortunately you have balsa wood support. You've heard of 24/7? Well this is 1/100. We can support you one minute out of every 100 years."
I took a few minutes to cry a lot...
"If it's any consolation, I can tell you that you were misrouted at the Superstore-at-the-End-of-the-World. You were supposed to pass down to the wrathful deities at the Meat Department."
Damn that Ken and his rutabagas. What was I supposed to do now?
"Well, you could start by vocalizing your thoughts," said the Giant Eye. "That way, I could hear you better. But no matter. We do have an instant preview feature to this Help Desk. I could let you get a sneak peak at the joys of slughood, of which you may be able to partake sometime in the next 100 years."
In an instant, I was a slug.
Immediately, I had an overwhelming craving to wiggle through mud, which, thanks to my abysmal housekeeping, I found under the sofa.
After a few minutes of wiggling, I got bored.
"That was fun. Now what do I do?"
"Well, that's basically all slugs do. Occasionally, you get to destroy garden vegetation, but then there's the carpet-bombing with nematodes, Metaldehyde, and Rotonone."
"That doesn't sound like much fun."
"Well, sometimes they just set out a dish of beer."
"But then you fall in and drown."
"Man, this slug business really sucks! I want my aardvark body back!"
"Well, I'm sorry we just can't...What? What ho?"
He made a few stabs at his keyboard.
"There seems to be a flag on your account. Hold on..."
I took advantage of the intervening moments to classify my brachiopod fossil collection, specifically Hebertella occidentalis and Platystrophia acutilirata, securing them neatly to a piece of cardboard with pins. This is actually hard to do, since they are made of limestone.
"Well, according to the flag, you are our one millionth disaster report."
"What does that mean?"
"It means you get one free wish."
"Woo-Hoo! I want my aardvark body back!"
He stabbed at his keyboard again.
"Well, there's a slight hitch."
"It seems they destroyed your body after you left the planet Flidlap."
How sharper than a serpent's tooth it was.
I decided, right then and there, to make no mention of the curd dumplings with sour cream, nor of the dish of pig's fry that was served with the soup, nor of the turkey with plums and raisins, nor of the dish which greatly resembled a boot soaked in kvas.
I didn't mention them because they didn't exist.
"However," he said brightly, "We do have an oversupply of Bill Gates bodies. Handy. Disposable. Easy to hack. Never been used."
I've been back in Mooburg for three days now, and have settled into the routine of stuffing an aardvark's consciousness into a cow's body. Apart from the fact that Mlouise insists that I sleep in the barn, I have discovered that there are pros and cons to being a cow.
I have six stomachs, so I no longer have to remember to chew my food 30 times before swallowing. (However, I now consume six times more Pepto Bismol than I used to.)
I never have to worry about what to eat. (Unfortunately, what I eat is cud, which tastes like chlorophyll-and-dung-laced dry Shredded Wheat.)
I get along really well with the girls down at the Cud Store, as well as at the Bovine Paraplegic Supplies Wonderland -- "Everything you need, from bedpans to walkers, right in the heart of downtown Mooburg". (But if I have one more chat about udder supports, I'm going to scream.)
And this Sunday, at the Mooburg Winter Carnival, I came in second in the Miss Moo Snowqueen contest, not to be confused with the Miss Moo Milkmaid contest, which is held in August. (Second Prize was two weeks in Pittburg. First prize was one week in Pittsburg.)
But to tell the truth, I'm getting fed up with being a cow. Getting up at 5 o'clock AM for milking is the pits. And I can never find enough quarters to feed into the computerized Dutch self-milking machine, which is damn cold on a winter morning. I don't care what Dr. Mandy Carnivore-Vegetarian-Pipkin has to say about it.
Right about then (7:16 AM) there was a knock at the door. This time I answered it, because I knew who it was. It was Mwilliam Butler Fullmoneybackguarantee, the local blowtorch salesman. I had met him earlier at the Winter Carnival. He had tried to sharpen my horns, but I told him I was otherwise engaged.
Mwillian (or Mbill as his friends call him) is well-know throughout Mooburg for his butane-powered ice sculpture depicting the Rites of Spring. Sort of the sculptural equivalent of Baked Alaska, because the butane flame kept melting the ice.
Mbill is also well-known for his exploration of Blowtorch Cookery. His Blowtorch Lemon Meringue Chili was a big hit. The jury is still out on his Caesar Salad Brûlé.
But today, Mbill is here to install blowtorch modules on my milking machine. No more cold winter mornings for me!
"But is this going to be safe? I don't want to char my naughty bits."
"Absolutely," he said, digging a trench in the living room floor. "Completely foolproof and free from risk, danger, harm, or injury and, I might add, absolutely guaranteed not to eject any flying particles."
No sooner had Mbill uttered the dreaded phrase "flying particles" than all hell broke loose in my living room. And when I say "in my living room", I mean "in the sky above my living room" because the ceiling and the roof above it dissolved in a massive cloud of smoke, and I was thrown skyward on a pillar of fire and lime-green Jello.
As I stood quivering at the pinnacle of everybody's favorite gelatin dessert, I was aware that I had become strangely ghostlike in a miasma of flickering three-dimensional holographic luminosity (try it with buttered scones -- it'll make your mouth water).
At the same time, the clouds parted and a Giant Eye appeared, framed through something that looked like a celestial flat-screen monitor.
Shielding my eyes from the intense glare of this apparition, I fell to my knees and cried out:
"O God! Why is this light given to an aardvark that Thou hast hedged into a cow's body?"
And the voice said:
"Sorry. You can't talk to God. He's doing lunch with Mr. Rogers."
I wept voluminously, for no apparent reason.
"You'll have to talk to me," said the Giant Eye. "I'm your Transubstantiative Support Desk. I see we have a ticket lodged against your Return as a Cow."
I traced the origins of the Etruscan language, for no apparent reason.
"Yes," he said. "Sorry. The Interbardic Server keeps knocking over. It appears that you were supposed to come back as a slug."
"Does a slug have to eat cud?"
I guess Mr. Rogers was right. It is a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
The way back to Mooburg was so simple. I'm surprised we didn't come up with it before. The idea was to convert ourselves to Graviton particles, call home (the telephone was the only thing in the hotel room that worked) and then transmit ourselves via fiberoptic cable to Mooburg. We could worry about transforming ourselves back into ourselves when we got there.
"Perfect," I said.
"Not so perfect," said Smike. "I've done this before. You've probably noticed that I now look like a chicken."
"You laid an egg this morning. It was good with the rye toast."
"Hmmmm. You did eat a lot of oats and hay. And you kept whinneying in your sleep."
I saw what he meant. Once you turn yourself into a graviton particle, there's no telling how you'd end up each morning. It was the downside of the new Electrophotonic Fluid-Glide Shapeshifting Miasma technology now sweeping the Gamma Quadrant.
Still, it was better than hanging around the "Thumbs Sized While You Wait" Hotel and 24/7 Black Sabbath.
Here, generally, are the steps for transmitting yourself back to earth from Fridlap (the name, we learned, not only for the molton-hot volcanic sinus drippings found around here, but also of the planet itself) to earth:
1. Call room service and order a 50-gallon vat of Fridlapian zgwaotch. Zgwaotch is sort of a cross between crunchy peanut butter and bomb-grade plutonium. It tastes like road tar, and you have to be careful when spreading it on your toast.
2. Cover your entire body with zgwaotch (not forgetting major orifices). Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon, or the Fridlapian equivalent. If the experiment doesn't work, at least you'll smell good.
3. Go down to the hotel's laundry room and have yourself passed three or four times through the sheet-ironing machine. If you don't have a sheet-ironing machine, go lie down on the street and wait for a steamroller to show up.
4. Rent a 4-million-megahertz Atom Smasher. We were lucky enough to have one in the lobby. They were using it to dispense ice. If you don't have an Atom Smasher, look in the Yellow Pages under Smashers, Atom.
5. Climb into the Atom Smasher, push the button, and get smashed. This stage is in no way similar to your high school senior prom night.
You are now a Grade 2 Graviton Particle. The rest of this is pretty technical, so I'll just zoom right through it. Standing as close as possible to the telephone speaker, we were sucked through the hotel switchboard into the fiberoptic distribution system and from there into the Intergalactic Cable System to Earth. You'd be surprised how many space vehicles get hung up on those cables. Not to mention those complex orbits! It's a truckload of spaghetti out there.
To make a long story short, we were downloaded as a modem burst to my home phone, leaving a faint image on the phone's display of an aardvark screaming.
Fortunately the dog was there to pick up the phone. In two seconds, out popped two slightly compressed Graviton particles. I was home at last!
Suddenly, there was a knock on the front door. (Sound of running Graviton energy field. Sound of door opening.)
I know what you're thinking. He's going to open the door and it will be the Manitoba Minister of Tourism standing there, and he'll suck the stupid aardvark back into outer space. Right?
Not on your tintype! It was Mles Shoescrapings, a local vibrating fluid bed salesman in a plaid suit.
"Good Morning Mrs. Graviuton Particle," he said, putting his foot in the door. "Could I take a few minutes of your time to demonstrate our new, top-of-the-line Acme Electro-Shift Vibrating Fluid Bed?"
He brushed past me into the living room, took out a bag of dirt, and poured it on the living room carpet.
"We could have used you a couple of days ago." I said. "You're going to clean that up, aren't you?"
I don't think he heard me. He was chattering away about passing a process gas directly through a bed of solids via a perforated plate and the new, improved recirculated gas and closed-loop systems available for solvent recovery when I noticed a look of unbelievable horror pass over his face.
At the same time, I heard a sound like one of those multi-armed balloons being blown up.
I looked down and I seemed to be growing, with astounding speed and volumitude, an udder.
"Smike," I said, sprouting a horn as I spoke. "I have met the enemy, and he is me!"