Tuesday, July 31, 2012

On Poison and Roaches

My roommate and I are doing battle with roaches at our apartment daily. We have bought an impressive amount of poison to destroy them, so much so that our lives are probably in greater danger than the roaches’. Poison is one of several jokes du jour.

“What is that really nice vegetal note I’m tasting in this quiche? Is that pineapple sage?”

“No. It’s poison.”

“Nice.” *keeps eating*

I went to the grocery store to buy more roach poison. The clerk pointed out to me an environmentally safe, less toxic roach poison. I politely declined and bought the most poisonous one I could find. In my mind, I fantasized about telling the clerk what I really wanted: the most terrible roach poison that the brightest minds of our generation could create. A roach poison that would be contained in an ominous metal case, handcuffed to a navy SEAL. You would have to sign waivers, give up your rights against search and seizure, and it would cost tens of thousands of dollars. It would kill roaches, and all other carbon based life. When applied, it would literally cause the air to burst into flames. Even speaking its name aloud would open up a chasm in the earth from which demons would clamber out of to drag the innocent back into the jaws of hell.

I think our working title for the poison was "Raid: Apocalypse". 

Raid: Sum of All Fears edition

What kind of amaro did you use in this cocktail? Poison.

How do you keep your hair looking so shiny? Poison.

What are you planning on doing during your vacation? Drinking poison. Poison and snorkeling.

I think killing roaches is a mission that unites just about everyone in this world. There aren’t a lot of people standing up for roaches, and those that do get ostracized pretty quickly. Maybe killing roaches is the only way all of us non-warlords can perpetrate genocide. Take out the garbage. Fold laundry. Wash the dishes. Then spray poison gas on a roach hospital. Drop cluster bombs on the playgrounds that the roach children frolic in. Bury landmines outside of roach city hall. We are selecting dense civilian roach targets of massive cultural importance. We are burning their roach holy lands to the ground. Massacring entire roach continents- every time leaving a sole survivor. As it backs away in horror we lean in close and whisper, “tell the story of what happened here, tell your friends what is about to become of them.” The roaches run from their homes, gasping for breath, and we cut them down from helicopters. We crack jokes and laugh as we force the roaches to dig their own graves at gunpoint.

Dear roaches: I am going to step on you.

Every time I draw my boot away from the mutilated corpse of a roach, I laugh and imagine that on the day we have to meet our makers, they will tell us what horrifyingly bad karmic implications our casual roach slaughter have for us.

“Justin, you will be reincarnated as a toilet brush, for killing a million roaches in your lifetime.”

“What?! No! They’re gross! They carry diseases! I had to!”

“They’re cleaner than you were. They had hopes and dreams. You killed them. Now you will contribute to cleanliness in the same way that roaches fastidiously clean themselves.”



I still step on them.

Monday, July 23, 2012

79 words

So esquire has this short story competition. Write a 79 word short story. I submitted one. This isn't it, but I am enjoying the challenge:

A 30-block radius was choked with National Guard. Inside the apartment, Brian sat down on Rocky’s couch.

“Can we talk about it?” he asked, gesturing towards the doomsday device.

“No. Would you like a brownie?” Rocky pushed the plate of brownies towards Brian.

“Very cake-like.” Brian mused.

“Exactly. That’s why I’m going to set the whole world on fire.”

“You’re going to end the world over brownies?”

“They were supposed to be fudge-like.”

He sighed and pushed the button.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Zoo with No Tigers

Once upon a time there was a young man who loved animals.

He liked how different they were. They were different sizes, different shapes. They had different colors, and different textures. Some had scales and some had fur. Some could fly and some could swim. Some were fast and some were slow. He didn’t care- he loved them all. The Texarakana Tigerbat. The Arctic Lemonchad. The Peruvian Riverbear. They were so neat.

So he studied to be a zookeeper, like all animal lovers did. He got a job at a zoo. His job was to watch after the animals with the other zookeepers.


After a short amount of time, he noticed the tigers. You see, everyone loved tigers. People came to zoos for the tigers, mostly. Tigers are great, the young zookeeper reasoned. They’re big, fast, and colorful. What’s not to like? What he didn’t understand was how people fixated only on tigers.

The older more experienced zookeepers said “Kid, tigers are where the money is. People love them, and our job is to give the people what they want.”

He understood that supply had to meet demand. But his heart broke in half when he saw the sad, lonely animals that everyone rushed past to see the tigers. The neon flamingos. The waltzing sandpiper. The old tigerbats stared back at him through the glass with hopeless eyes, and it destroyed the young man inside. He would beg people to look at the jeweled spidersnakes in the reptile exhibit. “Please, they need love too!” he would say it as nicely as he could. But they came for one reason: tigers.

A long time ago someone decided tigers were the best animal, and enough people agreed with them that all the zoos decided that they needed to have as many tigers as possible. They would pay mountains of money to get the best tigers. They would charge more to see the really good, expensive tigers. The zoos that couldn’t afford nice tigers just tried to get as many as possible. The young zookeeper went to another zoo where they painted a donkey the same colors as a tiger. People were satisfied. “Close enough” they said.

It made him sad, and it made him angry. He wished he could meet whoever arbitrarily decided tigers were the best. He would punch them right in their stupid face. 


The other animals would die of loneliness. They would stare out of their crudely constructed habitats at a sea of people walking past to see tigers in their big beautiful habitats. “I promise I’ll change this.” He said to the nine-toed watersloth. He would lie awake at night, frustrated with his fellow zookeepers who supported the tyranny of tigers. “Why rock the boat?” they said.

Tigers paid the bills. They kept the lights on. “Tigers are what give us the ability to have any other animals at all.”

The young zookeeper was depressed. Every once in a while, there was a breakthrough: a little girl with a book on rainbow lemurs. A young couple that wanted to see the Chinese rocket squid. They were the exception to the rule. The zoos were groaning with tigers- fat, stupid, lazy tigers. They knew they weren’t going anywhere. They waited for the zookeepers to bring them steaks.


One day, when the zookeeper had almost given up, he got a call from another zookeeper friend. He wanted to start a zoo of his own, and he needed help. The young zookeeper didn’t feel young anymore. He looked tired and haggard. He was beaten down by a world run by tigers. He got offered another job as well- at Mega Zoo, making lots of money feeding tigers. He was going to do what he saw everyone else doing. But he waited. His friend didn’t have much money. The proposed site was tiny. It would be one of the smallest zoos. It obviously wouldn’t work, the young zookeeper told himself.

But then he thought about the tigerbats. He thought about how happy the different animals made him. What if he could find an audience for the thousands of animals that the world had ignored? He started asking his friend questions. Did he have a plan? How would they make money? Who would the other zookeepers be?

He had a plan. So the young zookeeper wrote a letter to Mega Zoo, “Sorry,” it said. “I’m going to help my friends open a Little Zoo instead. I’m sure someone else can feed your tigers.”

Building the little zoo was hard. It tested the resolve of all of the zookeepers. But they thought about the animals. They built a zoo they wanted to visit, a zoo they had only seen in their dreams.

“Nobody’s asked me about tigerbats for a long time, young man.” The animal salesman said. “How many do you need?”

“All of them.” On the other end, the phone clattered to the ground.

On opening day, they braced themselves. People flooded in. The question was coming. And then suddenly a young woman asked it and the hall fell silent: “Where are the tigers?”

The zookeeper paused and collected himself.

“We don’t have any tigers. Our zoo is small so we focus on stranger, undervalued animals. I would love to show you our Peruvian riverbear. They can hold their breath for ten months. Our bear, Zanzibear, has been holding his breath since we got him two months ago.”

The zookeeper had known only disappointment for so long. He was ready for the young woman to go crazy. A zoo without tigers? What was he thinking? He should have signed with megazoo.

Then something remarkable happened. Without missing a beat the young woman said “I’ve never heard of anything so strange! We would love to see him!”

The young zookeeper was stunned. Was it really that simple all along? He didn’t have time to figure out why, because the moment had arrived where someone wanted to see the riverbear. He could barely contain his excitement. “Right this way!”

At another zoo, the zookeeper eavesdropped on visitors at the tiger exhibit, which was ten stories tall. “I don’t understand, Little Zoo was cool I guess, but why don’t they have tigers? That’s a no-brainer.” Another person chimed in “A zoo without tigers won’t last long. They’ll be out of business by this time next year." They smirked, "Serves them right. ”

The zookeeper almost said something, but before he could a little kid exploded out of nowhere, dressed in a neon razorcrab costume.

“Tigers are everywhere! You can see tigers ANYWHERE else!” he said, pointing a neon green claw at the tiger palace. Everyone was staring now “It is OK if ONE ZOO doesn’t have tigers!” His fuzzy crab antennae were quivering with anger.

The world was hostile to the notion of a zoo without tigers. But the little kid in the crab suit gave the young zookeeper hope. Everyone laughed. “Get this idiot kid out of here.”

The tigers slowly turned their heads to see the spectacle. They blinked, tired from eating so much steak.

“Hey kid.” The kid wheeled around, his face bright red, tears welling up in his eyes. The young zookeeper raised his hand to solicit a high five. “Sweet costume.” 

"Thanks! I bought after I saw one at Little Zoo!"

The group of young zookeepers never got rich, and they never got famous- but they were happy, and the animals were happy too.

The electric flamingos glowed brighter than ever.

The riverbear chased the rocketsquid endlessly, to the delight of every onlooker.

The tigerbats were allowed out of their habitats, to fly around the zoo. They shot through the sky faster than the speed of sound. “I never knew they could do that!” people would say.

The zookeeper watched the tiny crowds oooh and aaah with a sense of satisfaction. This was his mission: to give all the weird little forgotten animals the audience they rightly deserved. He fought for the animals, and for the people that wanted to see them. As the tigerbats raced into the sunset, he promised himself he would try to create a world where people appreciated all animals equally for how weird and awesome they are.

Everyone still loved tigers. They would love tigers forever. To this day, tigers are the lifeblood of the zoo business. But that was ok, because the young zookeeper had finally found happiness by showing people something different.

In a zoo with no tigers.