Little by little I’m getting used to modern harassment. Proud of it, even. It’s an honor to get fifty phone calls from places as distant as Lees Summit Missouri, Bloomington Minnesota, and Chicopee Massachusetts. I had no idea I was that popular. The calls themselves are awkward. They’re characterized by eerie hybrid computer humanoids that introduce themselves as “Scott” and “Becky” before offering me free money, or refunds on purchases that I never made. They implore me not to hang up and swear it is very important, yet I’m not convinced. I blame the geeks that program these voices. They need to get a little better at mimicking human inflection. I won’t be swayed that something is important if the word ‘important’ takes five seconds to pronounce.
“This …. is…. im…port…ant.”
No it ain’t.
My favorite was an “ur….gent” message about an impending arrest warrant issued for me. No reason was given for my imminent incarceration, much to my disappointment. Even though I was instructed to call back to straighten the whole matter out, I decided to take my chances and ignore the request. My freedom is intact, for now.
Then things got really weird. I was in the middle of my morning coffee the other day when my phone started ringing. I had been reading an article about the new packaging on Animal Crackers boxes, and did not want to be disturbed. It was a fascinating story. For the last hundred years the artwork on the cracker boxes depicted circus animals in their cages. Now, in a watershed moment, the cartoon creatures are roaming free. They seem happier, the cartoons, and I for one welcome the change. Not only that, the animals themselves have evolved. The striped donkey is now an insouciant zebra. The mastodon is a proud elephant. The fanged peasant hunter is now a smirking lion. The cow with the long neck is a giraffe, and the hairy philistine is now an ape. They are all pictured strolling along a peaceful landscape.
It’s a victory for PETA and other conservation groups, although I fear the package’s next incarnation of the popular snack item, in which the freed animals have mauled an entire community of helpless women and children. There will be a veritable bloodbath as the liberated beasts take their revenge on a populace that has kept them locked up for the better part of the century. It doesn’t take a genius to note that all of the wildlife portrayed on the new box is heading in the exact same direction, toward us, and they have murder and retribution in their beady little eyes. They are coming to even the score, and don’t think for a moment that animal lovers and vegetarians will be spared. To a hungry lion a vegetarian is simply “grass fed,” “prime-cut,” “no hormones or steroids added,” and a child in a playpen is like milk fed veal, not at all stringy. Mahler’s second symphony was playing on my stereo while I was picturing the massacre, and it was at that one part where all hell breaks loose, symphonically speaking, the perfect soundtrack to a merciless rampage of feral wildlife.
So my phone started ringing, pulling me away from my giddy tableau of mental carnage. I glanced down to see a random number calling me. At first I ignored it, then something dawned on me. I looked back and realized the phone number calling me was my own phone number. I wondered what I wanted? My first reaction was to pick up the phone and scold myself for interrupting my morning coffee. I could forgive someone else for calling me that early, but there was no excuse for me calling me, knowing full well that my morning cup of coffee is a sacred event, not to be disrupted by anybody, much less me. I had some damn nerve. Then again, I thought, maybe I had something important to tell me, like something really important, and not “im…port…ant.” Which made me wonder if I really wanted to know what I had to say. I wasn’t quite prepared for bad news, but maybe it was some type of warning. “Paddy the Duke? Hey, it’s Paddy the Duke. Just giving you a heads up, don’t walk out your front door. There’s a huge elephant hiding behind the water oak, and he looks pissed. Yup. It’s probably the one we rode on when we were a kid. Remember when mom took us to the circus, and you tried to grab his tusk? Yeah, well it looks like he’s got a score to settle. You know those things don’t forget. I’d cut through the neighbor’s yard on your way out. Uh-oh, gotta go. Apparently there’s a bench warrant out for our arrest.”
I picked up the phone and demanded to know what the hell I wanted. Silence. All I could hear was my breathing, although I wasn’t sure whether it was my breathing on my end or on the other end. It was one thing to be interrupted by me, it was another to be prank called by me. Son of a bitch. I vowed revenge. I would wait till later on, get myself good and drunk, and then once I passed out I would call myself nonstop until the sun came up.
That’ll teach me.
More Alembics to come…