The Squirrels of Vhuvutu

My situation was alarming.

I was harnessed into what seemed to be a giant slingshot suspended a few feet off the ground and facing the ocean. Between me and the waves was a great bonfire built before a very long wall of rocks, roughly three feet high. Gathered on either side of the bonfire were scores of chanting squirrels. They were praying. The group to the left of the bonfire faced me and were chanting “Efree Wee Lee.” The group to the right of the flames faced the ocean and were much more fervent in their chant of “Jay Su Ja Mess Reek Tair.” Perhaps the strangest bit to all of this was that far to my immediate left a quintet of enslaved chipmunks flutists played Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There” over and over again.

I had the distinct, unpleasant idea that the squirrels were intending to slingshot me over the stone wall and into the ocean. Clearly my trip to the isle of Vhuvutu had been most disagreeable.

***

The squirrels were a group of tribal sciuridae—something Fibro, my imaginary pet raccoon, had told me about at length when he was drunk and/or stoned—that had created an elaborate society here on the isle of Vhuvutu, which is located somewhere between North America and Near Nearington. The island was primitive, though the native squirrels had an odd affinity for the films of the 1990s, the only relic of modernity to be seen. That was particularly quizzical to me, as there were no televisions or movie theaters anywhere that I could see. There was no plumbing, no electricity, and nothing more than dirt paths from the beach up to the largest village, Cluthkootu. The squirrels of Vhuvutu wore face paint and feathers and the bones of their enemies. Totem poles stood at the entrance to each village, each about four feet tall and featuring the faces of once-fearsome squirrels, legendary heroes, and chiefs from their respective village. Each totem was inscribed with the phrase tikem roodu, dikem woohu, dikem chukchoo, dikem squiruhl—which roughly translates to “Tell stories, make music, make carvings, make babies.” The totem at Cluthkootu, though, stood a staggering 11 feet, and contained a carving of the face of every one of the Vhuvutu nation’s leaders, spanning over 100 generations. At the top of the mighty totem was the carving of the current leader, Eethippi.

I came to discover, in my brief time on the island, that Eethippi was not only the chieftain of the entire population, but he was also the high priest of the local religion, which seemed to be based on the film Free Willy. Indeed, at the exact center of Vhuvutu, was a large billboard advertising the film. The poster was faded, as if it had been there since 1993 when the movie first debuted. And for all I knew it had been there that long, as nothing in my upbringing ever made me aware of this tiny island. Each night at sundown every squirrel on Vhuvutu would come to their village’s prayer square, face the billboard, and chant “Efree Wee Lee Jay Su Ja Mess Reek Ter” for nearly two hours before stopping and continuing about their nightly routine. Church consisted of a weekly gathering in Cluthkootu (Vhuvutu was tiny enough that no village was more than a one hour journey from Cluthkootu), during which Eethippi would read the script of Free Willy, translated into Vhuvutuan, followed by a sermon in which he promised of a great whale who would one day come to Vhuvutu. His story about this great whale was the faith that the whole society seemed to be built upon: that when the whale came, the squirrels would be charged by their god, Jason James Richter, to release it back into the ocean. As a reward for their service, Jason James Richter would use his divine power to see that the squirrels of Vhuvutu would be plentiful in nuts and free of harm.

Until then, the squirrels of Vhuvutu were doomed to spend an eternity of nutless winters engaged in an endless war with the chipmunks of the nearby island of Cheekogovo—heathens, according to Eethippi, who practiced the false religion of Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. In the one and only sermon of Eethippi’s that I witnessed, he animatedly told that the squirrels’ miraculous destiny was about to be fulfilled.

Destiny! The whale had come.

Destiny! It would be returned to the sea.

Destiny! Their winter would be plentiful in nuts.

Destiny! The vile chipmunks of Cheekogovo would be destroyed.

The fulfillment of this destiny, it would seem, is the predicament I found myself in on the beaches of Vhuvutu.

***

I rather resented being thought of as a whale, if I’m being quite frank. I had been watching my figure in the months leading up to my unfortunate detour in Vhuvutu, and I was rather proud of the 18.6 lbs. I’d lost. I hadn’t eaten a turkey leg that entire time, a fact that almost led me to change my name to No Turkey Legs Jeff. But apparently my attempts to slim down were unnoticed by the squirrels of Vhuvutu, who immediately proclaimed me the sacrificial and divine whale the moment they saw me. This was an annoyance, to be certain, as I was just trying to get home to East Elmhurst when I was shipwrecked on this unfashionable isle of rodents. Getting home was looking less and less likely, though, as my journey with Fibro—who I was mostly sure was dead at this point—had taken me on a convoluted loop through places and situations (like this one) that I would rather forget. And now here I was in a slingshot, helpless in the face of my fate of being flung into the ocean like a rejected fish. As both my feet and hands were tied, I was certain to drown unless some magical dolphins took pity on me and saved me. I didn’t like my chances, considering how my encounter with the dolphins of WowBigHappyFun ended.

After a couple of hours the chanting ended abruptly when Eethippi motioned for silence. He began a strange series of dance moves—which I eventually realized was the choreography of C+C Music Factory’s “Things that Make You Go Hmmm…” music video—assiduously accentuating each motion with extreme concentration. During this strange dance, I felt myself being pulled slowly backward. This was it. I was about to die.

My life flashed before my eyes: fried chicken, pizza, pork fried rice, egg rolls, ice cream, turkey legs, Fibro. FIBRO! I hoped that damn imaginary raccoon was still alive so that I could kill him with my bare hands the next time I saw him! I closed my eyes and imagined throttling that beady-eyed stoner. This gave me calm as I rested in the remarkably comfortable slingshot of death. I opened my eyes when I felt myself stop moving backwards. Eethippi was doing the moonwalk. He finished with a twirl and screamed out “EEEEEHEEEEE!!!!” He then thrust right hand in the air.

The slingshot was released and I was flung swiftly into the air. I careened over Eethippi and the squirrels of Vhuvutu, at least 50 feet in the air, and out over the ocean. At the same moment a large and magnificent airship swooped in from the right side of my vision and cast a net out below its bilge, into which I safely landed. The net, with me in it, was immediately reeled upwards toward the deck of the flying vessel. From my vantage point, I was able to see the shores of Vhuvutu below me, where a massive battle was taking place around the ceremonial slingshot between the squirrels and what I can safely assume were the chipmunks of Cheekogovo. Eethippi was jumping up and down in extreme anger and shaking his fist in my direction.

It seemed, from my perch, that the squirrels were outnumbered and being cornered between the sea and the mighty battalion of chipmunks. They had failed Jason James Richter, and so it seemed that their doom had come at last. I felt sad for them in that moment; I had quite enjoyed Free Willy as a child and could see how one might re-interpret it into a tribal religion.

***

I was hoisted up and across to the center of the deck of the airship, a marvelous craft the likes of which I had never seen. The wooden rails around the deck were affixed with golden fastenings, and inlaid with silver. Each of the seven propellers holding the ship up were made of pure gold and hummed nearly silently as they whirled around at a dizzying speed. On the forward end of the deck was a towering red sail. As I looked at it from behind I could tell that there was something embroidered on the front, though what it was I could not say for certain. Perhaps a horn of some sort? Magnificent cannons lined the deck, each made of solid platinum and etched with swirly brass patterns. The flying barge was larger than any cruise ship I had ever seen, and far more grand. I was unceremoniously dumped in the middle of the deck and as I looked up I found myself in the center of a ring of rhinoceroses. They looked like an unpleasant group and I immediately began to wonder if I’d just gone from the frying pan and into the fire.

Looking around the circle, who should I see but that damnable raccoon Fibro. I lunged for the overgrown rat.

“I’m going to kill you!”

“Whoa, dude! Calm down! What the crap, man? I just saved your life!”

His words fell on deaf ears, though, as I chased him around the circle of rhinos (quite aware that they were all laughing at us), snatching at his ever just-out-of-reach tail.

“If it weren’t for you, my life wouldn’t NEED saving!”

“Dude, chill! Chill!”

“ENOUGH!” came a roar from the aft of the deck. The rhinos parted and I saw an enormous rhinoceros stomp toward Fibro and I, just as I had caught the scalawag and had my hands around his throat. This rhinoceros was quite clearly the captain, and obviously female. Her full-length red leather jacket was studded with precious stones, as were her over-the-knee red leather boots.

“Fibro, is this the human?”

“Yes,” he gurgled out.

“Turkey Leg Jeff, welcome to the Golden Camembert. I am Captain Matilda Paddington-Jones and you and the raccoon are my prisoners. Guards!”

And with that, Fibro was yanked from my grasp and both he and I were aggressively hauled to our feet and dragged away from Captain Paddington-Jones.

“We had a deal, Tilly!” Fibro screamed as we were pulled down a staircase into the dark lower decks of the Golden Camembert.

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100 Items on My Christmas List

‘Tis the season for festivities, tidings, nog, and yule. What will Santa Klaus bring me this year? I can only hope it’s one of the following items from my Christmas list…

  1. a support group for emotional support pigs
  2. fanciful donut glazes
  3. a game of Risk with Malala Yousafzai & Liu Xiaobo
  4. decertified Sprite Zero
  5. closed tabs
  6. a remembrance of Februaries past
  7. love in a space elevator
  8. Wichita
  9. green eggs and Jon Hamm
  10. a virile beluga whale named Hank
  11. the friendship of Paula Zahn
  12. organic skim milk from Pyongyang
  13. a denial of beige
  14. quiet beefaroni
  15. variable-quality battery packs
  16. The comic styling of Sasheer Zamata
  17. a portrait of an abandoned White Castle by Kehinde Wiley
  18. tremendous tree barks
  19. a jovial sweatband by Vera Wang
  20. the number 37
  21. tall tales
  22. a violet-lacquered soap dish
  23. the linens of Mary, Queen of Scots
  24. a hat made from venetian glass and polyester by Emile Pingat
  25. assorted beards
  26. a 2-minute handshake with Zig Ziglar
  27. a Spike Lee joint starring James Wolk & Artemis Pebdani
  28. spoiled high fructose corn syrup
  29. Jonathan Taylor Thomas’s 1998 calendar
  30. independence from sweat
  31. engorged plastic bearded faces
  32. artistic rope photography
  33. eucalyptus in autumn
  34. sudden movements
  35. a cardigan made from steel wool and perseverance
  36. independence from chastity
  37. agave Maria
  38. America Ferrera’s fallen crest
  39. Chalk
  40. a deconstructed hug from a lumberjack named Alastair
  41. fed birds
  42. Zelda Rubinstein’s effervescence
  43. a symphony of milk’s curdles, yak mating calls, and pan flutes
  44. deconstructed American ingenuity
  45. a twice baked potato installed with a security camera
  46. various cans
  47. petit déjeuner with Gorilla Monsoon
  48. Gabourey Sidibe’s general discomfort™
  49. a pre-nup signed by Linda Hunt
  50. a pack of hoisin and bok choy Hubba Bubba
  51. 30 more minutes
  52. alabaster whims and fancies
  53. Judy Garland’s alcoholism
  54. a growler of Gustave Beer
  55. a box for my otters
  56. an intense game of Parcheesi with my alleged crimes, Nick Jonas, and Rafalca Romney.
  57. a fondue pot
  58. a spiritual cleansing with Sam Mikulak
  59. the 11th Thursday in August
  60. a feeling of remorse for Herman’s Head
  61. Dateline Thursday
  62. the vocal talents of Sterling Holloway
  63. Norwegian inspiration
  64. a Camembert sculpture of Margaret Thatcher
  65. a burgundy shawl knitted by a Jamaican woman named Aloha
  66. revenge on the Concord leaf peepers
  67. challahpeño bread
  68. Denmark
  69. a tour of a creamed corn cannery
  70. a startling lack of truculence
  71. Jake Gyllenhaal’s musk
  72. bovine suffrage
  73. capricious Oregonian wood nymphs
  74. a Judy Tenuta film festival
  75. thunder, thunder, Thundercats—HO!!!!
  76. a mirthful fascination with chemical engineering
  77. a red garnet cut to look like Lester Holt
  78. regretful Croatian soil
  79. the theory of relativity
  80. a butterscotch and plain water
  81. 70 degrees Fahrenheit
  82. scrubbing bubbles
  83. Kathy Bates’s Baltimore accent
  84. One of the bridges of Madison county
  85. Jennifer Grey’s old nose
  86. the cow as white as milk
  87. the cape as red as blood
  88. the hair as yellow as corn
  89. the slipper as pure as gold
  90. a Gareth Pugh silver polyurethane mirrored coat
  91. a single McDonald’s french fry
  92. an emotional support battle cat
  93. a dazzling matutinal routine
  94. a divorce from artifice
  95. a bust of Artemis
  96. an artsy Miss named Mamie
  97. the gap between Sandra Bernhard’s teeth
  98. the love of a spoon-billed sandpiper
  99. October
  100. a portrait of Kiernan Shipka eating hummus

Tipsy Ducks in Love: A Romance

I was recently in the China pavilion of EPCOT’s World Showcase, when I spied a most heartwarming site: tipsy ducks in love. I came to know them and found their story quite sincere and worthwhile…

Lyle was not your ordinary duck. For starters, he was an accountant. He was an accountant who worked for the Quacky Quack Quack Corporation, a company that specialized in Doing Business with money and firm handshakes. Lyle had to wear a tie to the office, and because he was the point person on many things that had to do with money and business, he had many Important Papers that required him to carry a briefcase. He was always busy stamping Important Papers, affixing his signature to Important Documents and The Contracts for the Big Money Clients, giving firm handshakes, and Being Serious. Some days he might spend 12 hours at the office Being Serious. Lyle was very well respected by his superiors, and was generally seen as the finest example of a gentleduck.

Despite its name, the Quacky Quack Quack Corporation was owned and operated by rabbits. Rabbits, as you know, are the most businessy of all the animals in Far Farthington, Near Nearington, Away Awayington, North Northington, Isle Islington, and all the vast reaches of the Animal Kingdoms that reside across the Blue Space. If you did not know that, it means you have a great deal of reading to do about the Animal Kingdoms. There is no shame in that, but as the rabbits like to say, you best get hopping. Just to give you a quick primer, though, I will tell you this: rabbits are very businessy and they do not like to get into business and money things with other types of animals. So you see, it was not at all common to see a duck work for a rabbit. Rabbits, to be quite blunt, don’t like ducks, as ducks are mostly carefree, preferring to shake their tail feathers and quack and quibble their days away while eating crackers and joyously looking for their next thrill. Thus, to re-iterate: Lyle was not your ordinary duck.

But as I said before, Lyle was very well respected by his rabbit superiors, and for that reason they had decided that he should go to talk about Important Things with the Potential Business Partners who the QQQC hoped would Do Business with them. The Potential Business Partners asked that Lyle meet them in Disney World, for Very Specific Reasons. Neither Lyle nor his rabbit bosses seemed to know what the Very Specific Reasons were, but since they all wanted to Do Business, they didn’t care.

And so, Lyle found himself on a bench in the China pavillion in Epcot, waiting to meet the Potential Business Partners. That bench was where he met Clara.

Clara was your ordinary duck. She was a free spirit, carefree, and always looking for joy. She never focused on the ullage of life, but rather on its amplitude. She loved nothing more than to sit on top of a calm lake and eat crackers all day, quacking contentedly with friends, and napping in the sunshine.

“Hello there? Hello, darling? Darling? Is this seat taken?” Clara asked as she approached the bench that Lyle was sitting on, indicating the spot to his left.

“Oh no, ma’am,” Lyle replied as he scooched over, giving Clara more room.

“Ma’am? Oh don’t be silly! We’re the same age, I bet! Don’t call me ma’am. I’m Clara and I am just the most fabulous person you’ll ever meet!” She said this with a little flip of her bill and a wink that perplexed Lyle. Who was this duck?

“Umm…” Lyle felt utterly perplexed by this seemingly loquacious duck.

“I think this is where you tell me your name,” Clara suggested.

“Oh, uh, my name is Lyle.”

“Lyle? Oh how perfectly droll! Lyle Lyle Crocodile! Though your teeth don’t look menacing at all, darling. Not like those fearsome crocodiles that they have in some of the waters around here. Oh, they’re just dreadful! I was out in a lake somewhere near Tampa—St. Petersburg, Pinellas—oh who knows? Florida all looks the same doesn’t it? Sunshine and palm trees and what was I saying? Oh yes! Crocodiles! Well I was out on a lake and there was this other duck sitting there just a few feet away—a real waif of a thing, probably hadn’t had a cracker in weeks by the look of her—and this crocodile came along and just gobbled her whole. Oh now isn’t that just awful? But you aren’t like that, are you darling? You’re not a Lyle Lyle Crocodile at all. You’re a Lyle Lyle Adorable Duckling. Well, darling, I’m Clara and I am just the most fabulous person you’ll ever meet, but I said that already, haven’t I? Oh, jellyfeathers! I’m just a fantastical mess, aren’t I? It must be this stunning little drink they concocted for me over at that tea stand. Would you like a sip? Oh, but you must try it! It’s just divine!” And with that Clara shoved her drink right in Lyle’s face.

“Now, no. No! Listen here, ma’am—”

“—Clara! Clara St. Quack. I’m just the most fabulous—”

“—Clara. It was lovely to have met you, I’m sure, but I must be on my way. I have to Do Business and most certainly cannot partake in the drink.”

“Do Business? What are you? Some sort of rabbit?” Clara laughed. “Oh. Oh, now I see that you are. Or at least you think you are, with your adorable little briefcase and your oh-so-sensible glasses. Oh, Lyle darling, you’re just the living end! What a pair of cat’s pajamas we are. You’re all rabbity and I’m just… I’m just ducky!”

“Yes, well, ducky indeed. Good day, Clara. I must be going.” He got up and took a few steps.

“Oh but don’t go. If you leave, I’ll be all alone here on this bench with nobody to enjoy the view with!”

Lyle turned and looked at Clara. “I don’t really see how that’s my problem.”

“Problem? Well who said it was a problem? It’s no problem at all to sit on a bench and look at a lovely view alone. But… well… it’s no problem, but it’s no solution either. The world always looks better when there’s another person blocking part of the view, don’t you think?”

Now for whatever reason, this caught Lyle’s attention. Lyle, who was so often focused on work, never had time for friends and certainly no time for dating. He looked at Clara and saw her for the first time. She was quite beautiful. Her brown feathers looked so soft, and her long black trail after her eyes wrapped all way back around her head. Her tail feathers were perfectly straight. Clara was lovely, Lyle realized, and he slowly re-approached the bench.

“I’ve never had anyone to block my view,” Lyle said softly. He found that as he said this he was a bit sad about that fact.

“Never? You’re pulling my paddle!”

“No, I’m not. I spend all my time Doing Business and I just haven’t found the time to…”

“Well, jingo jambo, you really are a rabbit! Oh, Lyle honey, why don’t you sit down and have a look around? Everything here is so fabulous. Listen to the music! Oh, I just love the music in this pavilion. It is the most divine thing in the world.”

Lyle sat down next to Clara and listened to the mandolin music playing in the background. He looked out across the lagoon and realized that it was, in fact, a beautiful day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the bright sun gleamed appealingly off the metal railings all around the water. He breathed in the clean air.

“See? Isn’t it great? Here, try this!”

“What is it?”

“They call it a Panda Blaster. What a silly name, right? Well, it’s coffee, tea, milk, chocolate sauce, and bourbon. It’s just the whisker’s wiggle! Go on, try a sip. Just one sip.”

Lyle was a bit unsure about having a sip of something with bourbon in it at 11 in the morning, especially when he knew that he would have to Do Business later. Clara, though, was having an intoxicating effect on Lyle. He found her to be a delightful and a buoyant spirit. He found her thoroughly irresistible, actually. He took the Panda Blaster from her hand and took a long swig.

“That’s… that’s…”

“Isn’t it just the best thing you’ve ever had in your life! I’ve never tasted anything so sensational ever. I could drink them by the gallon. Here, have the rest of mine! I’ll go get another one!” And before he knew it, Lyle was on the bench alone with a Panda Blaster, watching Clara waddle back over to the tea stand as fast as her little feet would carry her. He loved the way she walked, with her tail feathers swishing furiously and her had turning from side to side. She let out little quacks of excitement here and there. She was beautiful.

As he waited for her, he looked at the many people walking around. None of them were alone. There were families with little children, groups of friends around Lyle and Clara’s age, and older people too. The older people were all couples. He wondered how long had they been together. They all seemed so happy. Lyle continued to drink his Panda Blaster. It was so good. Perfectly cold on this warm day. Sweet, just like the color of the flowers next to him. Lyle wondered if Clara liked flowers. He wondered if Clara liked these flowers. He wondered if Clara would like it if he picked one of these flowers and gave it to her when she returned. He decided that she would like that very much and was just about to bend down and pluck a petunia when his phone rang.

It was The Potential Business Partners. Lyle immediately answered.

“Lyle J. Duckbill here.”

“Mr. Duckbill, this is the assistant of The Potential Business Partners. We are ready to Do Business with you. You must come inside the China pavilion immediately.”

“Oh, um. Well, my friend just stepped away for a moment. As soon as she returns, I will come inside. It shouldn’t be more than a minute or two. I’ll be right there.”

“A minute or two? That is not acceptable. The Potential Business Partners want to Do Business right now! They are ready to give firm handshakes and discuss Important Things. You must come immediately.”

“But my friend will not know where I am, and she will be worried if I have suddenly gone missing.”

“This is unimportant to us. You must come inside now, or else we will not Do Business with the Quacky Quack Quack Corporation.”

“Then you will not do business with QQQC. That is that and that is my final word on the matter. Goodbye.” It was unlike Lyle to think of anything other than Doing Business, but strangely the words came out of his bill before he could really comprehend their magnitude. He didn’t care about Doing Business. He only cared about Clara. He had decided she would like one of the lavender flowers next to the bench and so he bent down and picked one. He looked at it closely. It was a lovely flower, Lyle thought. It was the first time he had ever thought about the beauty of flowers, but he thought that maybe thinking about beautiful things should be a more important part of his life. He smiled and it was something his face was unaccustomed to. It felt marvelous.

“Well look at you! All smiles and sunshine today, Lyle!” Clara exclaimed as she returned with not one, but two, Panda Blasters. “Here, I got you a full one. I figured you would just guzzle down the other one while I was gone and boy howdy, looks like I was right. Lyle, I just might make a wonderful lush out of you yet! Here you go!” she said as she pushed the drink into his hand.

Lyle grinned and realized that, sure enough, he had finished the first Panda Blaster—and he wanted more.

“Bottoms up!” said Clara with a smile, as she raised her cup.

“To beauty,” said Lyle as they toasted. He took a long gulp of his drink and let the sweet chocolatey liquid fill him.

“Beauty? Well, Lyle, it looks like the rabbit in you might be fading away. But you’re right. Isn’t it just ravishingly beautiful here?”

“It is beautiful, Clara, but not nearly as lovely as you are. Nothing I’ve ever seen has been. Not even this flower. Here, have it, Clara. It’s for you,” Lyle said sincerely as he handed the little lavender flower to Clara.

“What’s this now? Oh, Lyle! It’s just lovely. I do love lavender. It looks so nice against my brown feathers. How sweet of you to think of me like that. Now look. Does it look nice?” she asked as she tucked the flower into her breast feathers.

“You look like a dream.”

And so their day together started. Clara and Lyle drank their Panda Blasters and talked all day. They sat on that bench for hours, mining the depths of each other’s life, soaking up all there could be to know about the other. They kept refilling their drinks and as the day wore on, they decided it would be nice to stroll around the lagoon and visit all the different pavilions. They listened to drums in Japan, sipped wine in Italy, and watched the little movies in France and Canada. They talked about how they wanted to visit the different countries, and planned dreamlike escapades along the way. Clara wanted to see if the Loch Ness Monster was real, and Lyle wanted to lay in the sun in Cancun and drink pineapple juice and rum. They had a lovely dinner of crackers and cheese sitting on the side of the lagoon in the France pavilion. Lyle bought champagne from a little cart and they watch the day turn into twilight and then to night, toasting to life.

They continued their little stroll around the showcase until they found their way back to the tea stand and the bench in the China pavilion, where the day had started. It was nearly 9pm.

“Oh, Clara,” said Lyle. “This day has been so worthwhile. I feel like I’ve never felt before. I’m thrilled and tingling with vivaciousness. I feel like the wind is blowing straight through me and that the only way to stay upright is to dance with joy. I feel lightheaded and gay as a daisy in May. I feel… I feel…”

“Tipsy!” laughed Clara.

“Yes! Tipsy! Oh, what a sensational word that is, Clara! I do feel tipsy and spritely and… in love. Do you hear that?” he shouted. “I’m a tipsy duck in love! I’m a tipsy duck in love and I want everyone to know it!” And with that, he grabbed Clara and kissed her, just as the first of the night’s fireworks went off overhead.

“I love you too, Lyle,” said Clara breathlessly, when at last they pulled away from their long, passionate kiss.

And as they sat, hand in hand and watching the fireworks, those who passed them couldn’t help but smile at the sight of these two tipsy ducks in love and be curious about the strange drink that they shared while the show in the sky illuminated their little kisses. They wandered over to the tea stand and asked about the ducks and what they were drinking. “I’ll have one of those tipsy ducks in love drinks,” they would say, and the staff knew exactly what they wanted, because after all, everybody wants love.

 

Dancing On My Own

I am riding on the back of a deeply fried chicken, whose wings were clipped by dreams that never came true, toward a dark and loud discotheque where my two best glamour cats, Consuelo and Kiernan Shipka, are waiting for me. It’s going to be a night like every other night—Consuelo will tell me about her family hating her and Kiernan will eat hummus seductively while looking in a mirror. Meanwhile, Jake Gyllenhaal will be out on the dance floor standing perfectly stationary as women dance around him with tight vinyl dresses and enormous breasts; they will be offerings for a sex God stultified by the endless carousel of simplicity that parades itself in front of him. Jake Gyllenhaal has seen it all before, true, but eventually he will succumb to the temporal needs of the young man and select one of the Robert Palmer girls to slake his apathetic lust. Who will Jake pick? Which lucky lady will he take home tonight? I know it won’t be me, though it is what I long for more than anything in the world.

The chicken lands gently in front of the club. I climb down its extra crispy back and into the pulsating volume, heading straight for the bar. I order a Long Island iced tea that originally came from Kansas City but eventually settled in Massapequa after taking a job selling fire insurance to young homeowners. My drink tastes of longing and regret. I see Consuelo down at the end of the bar. I tell my drink that I will rent my apartment and don’t need fire insurance, and head over to meet my sad little friend.

I sit with Consuelo and she tells me of dreams she has of running free through magical lands with an ethereal goddess. She explains to me that she has been brought there by a snowy white egret named Johanna. She and the goddess go on long safaris and ride in giant pastel teacups as overgrown mice watch on. In her dreams she feels connected to the fantasy of happiness, and far away from the sadness of her reality. I have heard about these dreams before, and though I long to go to this world of fantastical and idyllic sorcery one day, I tune out Consuelo and focus on the night around me.

I look casually across the dance floor and I see him. Jake is standing perfectly still in the exact center of the floor, gazing with mild boredom as women who smell of desperation and J’adore Dior slowly and sadly gyrate around him. They each show him their assets and he turns away from each of them, one at a time, unimpressed with the night’s offerings. The muscles on his forearms tighten and he clutches his folded arms closer to his torso. I see him turn his head slowly toward the bar—toward the area where I am sitting with Consuelo.

His gaze lingers on me (but only briefly) as a new crop of buxom ladies of the night approach, willing to offer up their flesh in exchange for his affections. They approach like languid zombies, or like strange planets pulled into the rotation of this massive and effulgent star. They orbit him, each of them with 2 moons jutting out from their chests. Again, Jake seems unimpressed.

The music, an earsplitting decibel of indecipherable bass, thumps rhythmically and ritualistically as Jake continues to assess the room.

But swiftly the music switches to Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own.” The music calls to me and a force much more powerful than reality pulls me towards the dance floor. I begin to mouth of the lyrics, lip-synching while performing a dangerous breast shimmy, and locking eyes with Jake Gyllenhaal.

I slowly approach him, each step forward is a challenge of movement and lust. He doesn’t turn away. He has never been challenged on his home turf. He has never felt the heat of my sexual thunder.

As Robyn’s voice rings out, “I’m just gonna dance all night,” my shimmy becomes more intense, my challenge undeniable. You will take me home, Jake Gyllenhaal. You will show me your Brokeback Mountain of Love. The night will belong to us and we will take our rightful place in Xanadu—two Kings with righteous power, merciful and kind, but ready to except the gauntlet of a world that does not accept our love.

Jake Gyllenhaal holds my gaze. I can tell that he is intrigued by me and by my unparalleled interest in him.

“I’m givin’ it my all, but I’m not the guy you’re takin’ home. OOOOOOOhhhhhh. I keep dancing on my own!” cries Robyn. I have drawn to within a step of Jake Gyllenhaal. The women, who now realize that their pitiable attempts at seduction have fallen flat, now scoff at my moxie. They don’t understand the force of my desire or the undeniable warrant that  Robyn’s song gives me. I blast out a full-force shimmy and this intimidates the atrophied women. They slowly retreat, fading into the darkness of the club—the part where the wallflowers and morbidly pessimistic plot the dooms of those more successful than themselves. I know the atramentous perimeter of the dance floor well. It is where I have spent far too much of life, watching and waiting, hoping to come into the light. Now I am here and I will not waste this moment.

Suddenly, and rather too loudly, I am made awake. Fibro is on my chest, his little black eyes peering at me, his nose pressed right up to mine.

“Yo, Jeff, you awake?”

“Yes, asshole. You’re sitting on my chest. Get off me. Why did you wake me up?”

I roll over and Fibro topples off of me and over the side of the bed. He lands with a little thud. He stands up on his hind legs and peers over the top the bed.

“We got any BagelBites? I want pizza.”

“Do you see any in the freezer?”

“No.”

“Then, no, we don’t have any. Where the hell else would they be?”

“Oh, I… huh. Yeah that makes sense.”

“Are you stoned?” I ask this rather pointedly, since the raccoon had been stoned and eating pizza since I first let him stay with me.

“Yeah,” he says, looking away sheepishly.

“Jesus, stop being such a stoner. No, we don’t have any BagelBites. I don’t eat foods that are registered trademarks.”

He jerks his head back toward me. “Registered trademark? Registered trademark. Just like the rhino.”

I have no idea what he means by this, but I don’t care. I was so close to being with Jake Gyllenhaal, even if only in my dream. That feeling, of being close to the things you most desire only to have them yanked away, is an assassin of dreams though. When you want something, most desperately want something, and don’t get it… there is a lingering effect. It is the bitter aftertaste of a life that feels unfulfilled. Perhaps a crush on a Hollywood celebrity is not the thing that triggers this acerbity, but the long list of life’s little disappointments may be enough to add up to dreamless sleep, or worse—a dreamless life.

I roll over in my bed, away from Fibro, even as he is furiously muttering something about polar bears, pirates, rhinos and cheese. I don’t know what he was smoking that night, nor do I care. I want only to return to that club, to fly on the wings of a deeply fried chicken, to drink a Long Island iced tea from Kansas City, to shimmy and shake, to dance with Jake Gyllenhaal.

Instead I fall into a dreamless sleep in which I am dancing on my own.

Remember Boxer

Remember BoxerI whipped up this image at a time I was feeling overworked and underpaid. It is a reference to the workhorse Boxer, from George Orwell’s Animal Farm.

Remember that you can send your résumé out at any time and find a new job. It’s very liberating. You don’t have to be like Boxer. You don’t have to work until the pigs send you to the glue factory.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with hard work. In fact, I’m writing this post right now, while at work. Wait… that doesn’t seem to prove my point.

I Still Miss Phyllis Diller

I Still Miss Phyllis Diller
I miss Phyllis. I suppose that may seem strange to you; after all, we really didn’t spend much time together. But the time we did spend—her on the television, and me on my couch—meant a lot to me. Phyllis, wherever you are, just remember that I love you and I’ll see you soon.

Stay Fabulous!

A Kiernan Consideration

Kiernan Shipka ThoughtsHave you ever considered what it would be like to sit next to Kiernan Shipka as she eats Vegemite and thinks to herself—I am a serial killer of time. I will sit here and eat this Vegemite until the world grows cold and this icy crust of a globe spins far away from its fallen star, into the deepest, darkest, blackest place in space. 

I have and it thrills me.