Oxhead and Horseface. The situation I was in wasn’t so different from Neopolitan ice cream, really. All those flavors in one container — chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. Vanilla? Who wanted vanilla? Did they run out of old men in cardigans to grind up at the factory? The list of things I’d rather eat is long and strange. Vanilla. Blech. But if you wanted chocolate and strawberry together like the gods intended, you had to put up with this depraved menage-a-trois. I wrote letters to the major Brands urging them to reconsider. I said I didn’t care what flavor they substituted. I didn’t care if they just left the vanilla portion of the carton empty. I’d rather pay full price for two-thirds of a product than pay for vanilla. The Brands didn’t budge. Eventually, I stopped sending letters and just mailed back block after uneaten block of vanilla ice cream. Sometimes I included little notes (e.g.: “Maybe you can give me my money back, but not the little part of me that died” and “Strange. I checked with Planned Parenthood, they insisted this was yours”). The Brands, it seemed, did not appreciate my point of view. Some correspondence with the courts followed. It’s not important. Vanilla prevailed. I don’t fight flavors anymore.
What was the point? The point was I didn’t like Horseface. But she and Oxhead were a package, so what I liked meant beans. Oxhead, he was a good egg. Straight and to the point. Earnest. But, Horseface. God damn. Where to begin? She was the blood on a clown suit. The makeup, the shoes, the jokes, the juggling — none of it mattered. All you saw was the blood. How did it get there? Who did it belong to? It was never the clown’s own. Which is kind of surprising between the physical performances, dangerous stunts and all that. Plenty of room for blood-gushing error. Yet clowns just did not bleed their own blood. Was it people blood? Animal blood? And, more importantly, why couldn’t the clown get the suit dry cleaned before the show? It was unprofessional. This is why some people didn’t like clowns. I didn’t blame them. Unprofessionalism is unbecoming. But I liked clowns. I just didn’t like Horseface. Horseface was no clown.
My distaste for all things Horseface advanced from an argument regarding the tattoos which were to give rise to her nickname: horses — sorry, Spanish horses — on both eyelids. She said it was a metaphor. I said I didn’t get it. And then told her it was a stupid idea. And how could anyone tell that the horses were Spanish — they would be tiny. Besides what difference would it make if they could. What the hell was the significance of a Spanish horse? She didn’t listen, obviously. Anyway, you don’t stop a woman like Horseface. The ink work was impressive though. Stupid, but impressive. Of course, I was right. Nobody got the metaphor. They just thought she was upset she didn’t get a pony as a little girl. Assuming she ever was a little girl. It was hard to imagine. Things snowballed from there. The name stuck.
She blamed me. I said easy does it. I wasn’t the one got two, ahem, sophisticated tattoos on my eyes. It was too late, though. The grudge was on. Maybe it was my fault. It wasn’t inconceivable. I was misusing prescription pet meds pretty regularly in those days. I had this cat, Pfc. Buttons, with a urinary tract infection. The illness ran its course before the script ran out. I took the rest of the pills because I was pissing a lot of blood myself at the time. I figured what’s good for the goose is good for the gander and all that. Apparently that only goes for geese. Doesn’t apply to people. Or cats. Or people and cats. I don’t know. The blood thing stopped, thank god, but I kept taking the pills. Made my extremities feel tingly. Sometimes I’d have spells, lose time for little chunks. It was okay, my life wasn’t very exciting. Pfc. Buttons didn’t fare so well as me. Just disappeared one day. Maybe I didn’t feed him enough or whatever. It was hard to keep an animal like that. My dependency amused Horseface.
Horseface was a spiteful nag. Maybe we both were. And although we despised each other, Horseface and me, we remained professional. More or less. That was why I went straight from the dumpster to Oxhead and Horseface’s. They ran a little mom and pop mortuary at the edge of town. Real family business. Must have been Oxhead’s parents’ originally, but that was a long time ago. Oxhead seemed like the kind of guy who didn’t have parents. Just flung into existence somehow. Like Paul Bunyan, only not a lumberjack. They did well for themselves, too. They knew people who knew people who knew dead people. Networking was always like that.
I needed to be cautious. Not about Oxhead and Horseface. Just in case anyone was watching, waiting for me to turn up there. I wasn’t stupid. I gave some kid a five to signal a meet for me. Real bratty kid, too. Kept asking why and tried, several times, to up the price. I didn’t budge. He took the five and did like I said, knocked on the door of the mortuary, asked if anybody wanted chocolate. Dark chocolate. For the children. Oh, the poor, delicious children. After that, all I could do was wait.
When I came to I found myself in a dumpster full of dead chickens. Or is it chicken? I hate second-guessing my grammar. I’ll waffle for hours on end about an irregular possessive plural or properly identifying a non-finite verb form. It’s a character flaw. But gerunds tend to matter a little less when you’re face down in dead birds. Maybe both ways are acceptable. I’m pretty sure it’s chickens though.
I wasn’t behind a Safeway or anything. I don’t want to confuse anyone. This wasn’t postdated grocery refuse; some three-day old pile of disassembled bird meat — breasts, legs, and thighs — all neatly wrapped up in plastic and styrofoam. That was a different breed of dumpster chicken. I dream that I woke up on that heap of rancid foodstuffs. I would be a different man. A better man. A man with possibilities. Instead I was buried among the birds fresh from the wrong end of the cockfights; a hot and sour soup of blood, feathers, mangled beaks, pecked-out eyeballs, and puss. And like each of those broken warriors, I was beaten and discarded. Or meant to be.
Clearly, I dropped a few notches on the food chain. I was dog food — still in the can maybe, but for how long? You don’t tumble out of a mass grave without getting the message, right? Somebody’s applecart was upset. But whose? Not the shill’s. Too small to even be considered small-time. The Bosses? The Bosses didn’t bother with messages. Messages were for messengers, they said. Had to be someone with fewer stripes. I started down the obligatory list of nicknames: Cheese, Ginger, Junior Mint, Nibbles, Nicky Two Sugars, Sam the Butcher, Teddy Nostrils, Teddy Toes. Of that crowd, Ginger or Teddy Nostrils seemed good bets for no reason other than they were both pricks. Ginger especially. He once knocked me through a plate-glass window for picking the sprinkles off his doughnut. Made me pay for the window too. It was worth it though. Everybody thought it was funny. Except Ginger, obviously. Teddy Nostrils was a different bag of cats. Though the cockfights weren’t exactly his flavor. Maybe that was the point. Maybe he had help. Nostrils always had help. Maybe I was reading too much into it.
I really didn’t know anything other than I was a long way away from where I was supposed to be. I didn’t have a lot of options, but then people who wake up in dumpsters of dead chickens rarely do. There were just a couple plays: the bluster and bravado Lazarus route — see who spooked; or bird dog it from the shadows and then play out the hand. It was a coin flip. I checked my pockets. Nothing — figured. Wait. Piece of candy. No. Not a piece of candy. I scraped it off my tongue with my tie.
One thing was clear: I wasn’t going to figure anything out from the bottom of a dumpster of dead chickens. And, whatever happened next, I didn’t want to wake up in a dumpster full of dead chickens again. Granted, it beat the alternative: not waking up in a dumpster of dead chickens. You know, if you wanted to be sunny about it. No margin for error now. I needed information, a push in the right direction. Only one place I could go.
Well, it’s officially not 2006 anymore. Horse heads are hard to come by these days. Legally anyway. Don’t believe me? Just try finding a horse’s head at a butcher shop. Pig, cow, lamb, goat, even deer heads can be easy to come by if you know where to ask. Really, pig heads are as common as a box of macaroni and cheese. But a horse’s head? A fool’s errand, apparently. Better you were off to cut down a tree with a herring.
I contacted every butchery within a 200 mile radius about laying hands on a severed horse’s head and all I dug up was a big goose egg. Undeterred, I made the rounds at all the stables and horse farms in the tri-state area. Zilch. I can, however, tell you that asking breeders about severed horse heads is just a little too near the knuckle. Didn’t work any better when I changed tack and mouthed “cabeza” while pantomiming a slit throat either. From there, I considered going whole hog and just buying a horse outright. Take the head and toss the rest, that sort of thing. But it was a lot of red tape and, as I was now blacklisted at every horse farm in the tri-state area, not a very promising enterprise. And I didn’t trust feral horses. Not after that time at the nuclear power station.
Where’s a gift horse when you need one? I flirted with the notion of substituting a pony’s head, although that was really playing ducks and drakes. Taxidermy presented an interesting avenue: hollow it out and whip up a Providence piñata. Unfortunately, my explosives guy was out of town and I didn’t know anyone else I trusted ready to work on short notice. Plus the taxidermist seemed somewhat unglued when I asked about filling the piece with C4 and ball bearings. Admittedly, it was a bit much — I only wanted to needle the guy, not shatter him into a thousand tiny pieces.
On a whim, I put in calls to a couple of glue factories. Bust. Only all hides and hooves, they told me. I thought the dog food companies might play ball, but that proved to be a dead end too. Even with my inside man at customs, importing a horse head from Argentina was prohibitive: too many mouths wanted a taste and, more importantly, too much time. I couldn’t overnight the thing and every second that that fork-tongued rat lived thinking I believed in a baked goods underworld left me down in the mouth. I needed to squeeze him yesterday.
I was in the wrong box on this one. Horse heads were out, no longer part of the equation. A part of me wanted out too – without a horse’s head in my pocket my godfather math didn’t add up. Still, I wasn’t left with much choice. No, there was nothing to do but take the next step, close my eyes and think of England. Bette Davis Eyes was going to tell me how many beans make five even if all I could manage was slipping a Klan hood fashioned from an old Star Wars sheet set over his lawn gnome to let him know he was in my bad books.
So, I knew what I wasn’t going to do. Then, I got an idea.
I wish to withdraw my previous post regarding cupcakes. Please delete it from your mind. There is no underground cupcake cabal — it does not exist. It was an ill-conceived and dangerous fabrication based on spurious information. Sure this blog isn’t the wheel-horse of investigative journalism, but that doesn’t give me the right to peddle lawless apocrypha. I really put my readership in the stew. People could have been hurt. Over what — cupcakes? And why? Because I took a handful of wooden nickels from a crooked finger without doing the pains? Well, that fat mouth isn’t going to lead me down the garden path and just get away with it. I can guarantee you that much. I’ll get him, stick his hand in a blender, blow up his goldfish. I don’t know. Send him a message. Something. It won’t be a trip to Cleveland, that’s for sure. I’d like him to try to give me the soft soap again — I’ll tie his kidneys in a Pratt knot and make him wear them to a fancy dinner party.
Still let’s assume for a moment that such a hole-and-corner cupcake outfit did exist — a half-literate, rank and file idiot-stick with a blog is going to bulldoze it? Were I a little more critical this obvious fact might have prevented me from making this mistake at all. Somehow I was able to get up in the kool-aid of a secretive social club without the aid of dynamite or disguise? Not even a fake Mark Twain mustache? Just had it laid down for me by some dude and then I go chop it up on the internet? Really? I must have been on the toot. Like a ring-tailed lemur in the streets of Antananarivo after Famadihana. And as though the cupcake mafia’s going to let that pass like everything’s applejacks? Not likely. I’m duck soup to an octopus of that kind. It’d be the big blue pencil for me long before I could breathe a word of it to anyone. Besides, I don’t want that kind of weight.
I don’t mean to be down on myself, but the fact is I was one sandwich short of a picnic here. A cupcake cannon doesn’t mean sweet Fanny Adams. It’s a sledgehammer for cracking nuts is all. Worse yet, it turns out the cake catapulting technology was developed by a t-shirt company, not a sinister set of pastry pirates hired out to the long underwear gang. Yes, the world needs dreamers, but that’s no reason to serve up flank steak instead of London broil. For that I am sorry.
At the beginning it was just a humble, tea-cup sized yellow cake, probably made by leprechauns. Simple, harmless. Shortly thereafter, though, soccer moms factored in and suddenly everything was all bake sales and sprinkles, giving rise to a flock of Augustus Gloops – chubby kids with chocolate all over their faces. Disregarding the childhood obesity, it was still paper-tigers to this point. Some time later, the hipsters jumped on board. What seemed a momentary, dreamlike renaissance, was no more than the ritual slaughter of the goose the laid the golden egg. All the skinny jeans, ironic t-shirts and Pabst Blue Ribbon in the world couldn’t prevent the celebrity chef cartel from piling on, trafficking in $10 cupcakes. Cupcake addiction skyrocketed. The wheels were off. Now: bedazzled handbags, cupcake cars, and diamond encrusted cupcakes – Roman excess never wasted like this.
But all that’s pure subterfuge. A red herring. We stand prisoner to an underground cupcake cabal. We always have. A shadowy syndicate of merciless kingmakers. Not leprechauns. Not home economists. Not kids – fat or cool or both. Not dough punchers. Fat cats with hidden hands. Hidden, ninja-like, hands. Hands with credible assured consumption capability. Hands with heavy artillery. A stockpile of weapons of mass confection – we’re talking the Fat Man. First they will make it rain cake in our mouths like we’re drinking it from a fire hose.
Dear Mr. Robert Pattinson:
This is not a fan letter. I am not a teenage girl. I do not want you to take me to my prom. I do not want to know if you have a favorite jelly bean. But I do want something.
I want you to help me. This is my most desperate hour and even though you are a pretty boy film star and more likely a patchwork of schoolgirl fantasy and a bit of chicken wire than a real human being, it would seem you are my Obi-Wan Kenobi; my only hope. I don’t need to imagine the hurt you endured amid the particularly cruel speculation that your nipples were uneven — I am that unlucky abomination. Asymmetrical nipples is a very real, chronic affliction. And today, as each day since my diagnosis with monster nipples, I suffer.
Living with monster nipples is unimaginable, like Steel Magnolias without Dolly Parton. Multiplied by infinity. Plus two. On steroids. It’s scarier than finding Mr. Belvedere in your closet with a monkey wrench. Each day darker than that movie (I can’t remember the name, but it might be Mr. Baseball) where Bambi’s mother dies. Folks stare at me like I’m Magnum P.I. without the mustache. Forget the entertainment analogies, let me put it another way: if our respective nipples were ice cream flavors, yours would be vanilla, or maybe french vanilla since you’re a heart throb movie star, and mine would be something like raw horse meat. On a given day, I am lucky if only five or eight people assault me with a tack hammer.
This is not a life. Thus my lonely eyes turn to you. You’re a survivor, of sorts. You know the weight of these not-so-twin albatrosses around my neck. Only I don’t have movie star quality nipples to save me. Which is where you come in. I’m not talking about a nipple transplant or even grating some of your nipples into a fine dust that I could sprinkle on myself. Nothing like that. All I ask is that you befriend my much maligned nipples and take up my cause. Not just for me and these wayward teats, but for the tens or millions of others struggling with the public’s scorn. With the appropriate exposure and proper positioning, I believe it would be possible for the bravest of my kind to cross the nipple line and begin to carve out a life among civilization. As the public face for the monster nipple movement, you could make that moment happen.
Think about it. This is an opportunity to establish your legacy. Be remembered not only as the English actor, model, musician, and executive producer, but as an humanitarian icon: the Beastly Bosom Buddy; the Godfather of Miscreant Mammary Glands; the Patron Saint of Peculiar Points; the Mother Theresa of Monster Nipples; the Count of Monte Fisto. Actually, I think that last one is a nickname of Apollo Creed, but depending on your success it may not be out of the question. You could be like Santa Claus, Robin Hood, and Ghandi tied together with Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth and deep fried like a corndog.
So please, Mr. Pattinson, get into your fighting clothes and start making the world safe for monster nipples!
Yours in the brotherhood between men and cabbages,
p.s. A bit of housekeeping — should you decline my offer be advised that I am likely to mutilate myself into a hot dog deity. I don’t know if I’ll be able to control my powers.
p.p.s. Also, please keep making those New Moon movies. They’re really, um, great.
p.p.p.s. Any chance you can throw in an autographed 8X10 glossy? If so, please address it as follows: “Dear mmm…pseudonym, I am the tender wind that carries you. Heart your banged-up nipples, you could go from negative to positive -Spunk Ransom.”
The thought occurred to me that I’ve got this all wrong. My dream, I mean. I still had nipples like Linda Hamilton’s hair in Terminator. But what if, in the dream, I wasn’t a hot dog monster at all? What if I was a hot dog god? Maybe the people weren’t chasing me with malice, but reverence, as though I was a kind of footlong sacred cow. Divinity put a different slant on things.
Yes, perhaps the absence of nipples could accord me godlike status: the sacrosanct cylindrical meat sausage. The more I thought about it the more it didn’t seem that far-fetched; the theistic tradition of toothsome totems is well chronicled (see: pastafarianism). But to simply discard my ruinous nipples and be greeted with adoration, supernatural powers, and, if I was lucky, deathlessness – that seemed too easy. Sure my miserable mammilla were a burden no mortal should bear, but wouldn’t there have to be trials, double-digit labors, a sacrifice, something? Actually, maybe the act of casting off these calamities was heroic enough in itself – the thought of eyeballing them again turned my stomach more than this beverage (see 2:30). I had, in fact, taken to wearing eye-patches over my angular nipples to guard against such an episode.
Nevertheless, the appeal of levitation and shooting laser beams from my eyes was inadmissible and took root. And a good night’s sleep. And all for the good. I wanted to help old ladies properly apply condiments. Or cross the street. I wanted to build a better hot dog. Adopt a pet. Start a neighborhood watch. Learn how to sew a button. I wanted to annihilate hunger. I wanted to protect Japan from giant monsters. Perhaps my omnipotence would warrant a shrine. I wanted my own Dia de los Perritos Calientes, an extravaganza of sombreros and candy hot dogs.
I wanted hot dog water libations poured out in my honor. I wanted to gaze upon the wicked and turn them into pillars of all-beef kosherness. I wanted terrifying meat-medley monoliths erected to frighten the weak into worship. I wanted provincial towns to appease me Shirley Jackson Lottery-style to ensure a good harvest.
But where was this headed? What was the ultimate difference between gods and monsters? Point of view. I already believed my Gorgon nipples would turn those who beheld them into stone. And I was ready to throw this power away to transform people into hot dogs? Maybe Nipple Street wasn’t a highway to hell after all. Or maybe nipplelessness was just a shortcut to the same, sad fate. Granted, there is significantly more glamour in hot dogs than nipples, but I would not travel such roads as these.
I needed a third way. I needed a niche in this world where, with or without my nipples, I could live with dignity. I knew it was out there. I just needed to find it.