Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Do I need a new job?

I was a mess yesterday. I spent the whole night before that tossing and turning, thinking about whether or not I should join those Squirrel Monkeys. Sure, the income on a body shop would be nice and it seems like the work would be pretty easy. It had to be a whole lot better than my last job at the shoe factory. When you go buy shoes, there's always that bit of paper wadded up in the toe. I was the guy who put it there. It was murder on my hands and it was a very unappreciated job. Sure, it was what they called a "vital service", without that paper in them toes, the whole shoe would collapse in shipping and we would all be walking around with bunions and corns and blisters and whatnot. And maybe them blisters would get infected after you waded in a river when you were noodling for catfish because your son wanted fried catfish for dinner. And maybe that infection would, for a reason the CDC can't say, smell like a female deer in heat. And then, maybe, while you were sleeping with your window open because it was hot, a male deer would happen to come by and try to mate with your leg. And then, just maybe, when you woke up screaming because there was an overly amorous deer in your room, the deer would get all worked up and bite you. And then maybe that bite would get infected because the deer had been licking a salt lick that was meant for llamas and had big ol' sores on the inside of his mouth, like deer scurvy, and that stuff that was in the deer's mouth got into your leg and it had to get cut off. It's happened. It happened to my Aunt Rita and now she has no leg and she can't go noodling for catfish anymore and so now me or Frank has to go get her catfish for her. But, you know how Aunt Rita is. She says the catfish has to be noodled, not line caught or (heaven forbid) store bought. If you don't know what noodling is, it's when you walk along a riverbank looking for holes in the dirt, just under the water line. Then, when you find one, you stick your hand in the hole and wiggle your fingers until a catfish tries to bite you. Then, when your hand's in the catfish's mouth, you lift it out of the water and toss it on land. Aunt Rita says that it makes the meat softer, but I've never been able to tell. And I'll be darned if she don't always know when I've line-caught a catfish.

Sorry, looks like I got sidetracked there again. After Aunt Rita lost her leg to the collapsed shoe, I worked real hard at stuffin that paper into the toes of them shoes so it didn't happen to no one else. I worked at that job for 15 years, then I went to buy a pair of shoes one day and saw the store clerk just pull that paper out of the toe and throw it away without thinking about it. I grabbed that paper and saw it was a #8.3 grey paper inside with a #7 white tissue on the outside cleverly joined with a #4 Smith Ducktail. When I tried to point this out to the shoe guy, he called security. I was plannin for that to be my last trip to that mall anyway so it doesn't matter that they asked me to never come back. Well, after that was done, I realized that only the small group of craftsmen who did the work would ever appreciate the trials of a toe stuffer, and most of them were 6 year old Malaysian kids who knew nothing of the real passion. On top of that, I had me the arthritis real bad, so I was put on disability. I haven't had a job for the last 5 years, but the disability checks and my stock options in the shoe company keep me from sufferin too much. But still, it would be nice to have a little extra money coming in, especially for just runnin some errands.

On the other hand, though, I'd be working for a bunch of highly intelligent, genetically engineered, not to mention uppity, flying squirrel monkeys, and who knows what they're up to. Sure, they need a cover for something, but it could be anything. They could be art thieves working for the Chinese or maybe pirates or maybe they're like Superman or something and they're protecting the world or something. All these was running through my head when Rita's son Jeb called. He was in town for a couple days and he wanted to see me. We'd hung out some when we was kids, but he'd gone off for his job and had been traveling pretty steady for 20 years or so. He's got a pretty easy gig, that Jeb. He's technically a PR guy for a band, but that doesn't really cover it. You ever hear of the band Slayer? If you've been in a men's room at a rest area or rock club or pretty much anything else, you've heard of them. You know how in the men's john, there's always the word "Slayer" written on the wall somewhere? Well, Jeb's job is to write that. He says there's about 4 or 5 guys cross country who do it, but they never see each other. The band pays for his RV and his gas and food, plus pays him some hourly. All he has to do is go from town to town writing "Slayer" on the walls of the men's rooms in town. He usually spends two days to a week in a town, depending on the size, then he moves on to the next. He ain't got no schedule or nothin, just his area that he has to cover. Jeb's always been kinda a loner, so it was a great job for him.

Because he travels so much, Jeb has seen a lot of weird stuff so I thought I should ask him what to do about the Squirrel Monkeys. So, we met for a beer yesterday and discussed it. After I told him the whole situation, as far as I knew it, Jeb told me, "Look here, Pat, I seen a lot of stuff in my day, and I've heard me some yarns. If I've learned one thing during all of that, from the fights with bouncers and the 'Here I sit broken hearted' guy, it's this: never trust genetically engineered, computer enhanced animals. You'll always get in over your head."

After that, we didn't talk too much more. He got back on the road that night and I thought long and hard about what he said.

I did want the income, and think of the stories I could tell about being with the Squirrel Monkeys. On the other hand, maybe they were into something dangerous. Really, the only danger I like in my life is an extra shot of tobasco in my bloody mary once in awhile. I'm just not built for it.

The squirrel monkeys came last night and I told them that I appreciated all they did to fix my truck and all, and that their offer sounded nice, but I didn't want to get mixed up in no weirdness right now in my life. They seemed to understand, but didn't really write anything. They just looked at me for a long time and then walked into the forest. When I got up this morning, I found a package on my front door with a card in tiny writing. It said, "Things are in motion. If you change your mind, hang this on the antenna of your truck." I opened the box and found one of them antenna toppers shaped like a banana. I put it on my desk to remind me of those Squirrel Monkeys. I hope I made the right decision. Gotta go, the phone's ringing.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Meeting The Flying Squirrel Monkeys

One mystery solved, but a whole lot more just opened up. As I planned, I stayed up last night to wait for the car decorating flying squirrels to show up and explain to me what the heck was going on. I took a long nap in the afternoon and then drank about 4 pots of strong coffee to help me keep awake and to try and stave off the fainting. It happened like it did the night before and the night before that. One of them flying squirrels clambered on top of my truck and looked around for fifteen minutes or so. I don't really know how long it was, partly because my watch stopped running and I just haven't thought about repairing it in the last couple of days, and partly because I had to take a whiz while it was still standing there, what with the four pots of coffee I drank. When I came back, there was a whole army of them squirrels standing on my truck, just starin at the house. It was pretty creepy, I'll have to admit; four or five rows of flying squirrelly things standin stock still on their back legs, their eyes glowing yellow in the moonlight. At first I was scared that their little claws were gonna ruin my new paint job, but then I figured that if they had painted it once, they could do it again. But then I began to wonder where they got the paint from. I don't feel too comfortable having my truck painted with stolen paint, but I can't imagine how a bunch of squirrels got money in the first place unless they worked for the circus or something like that. But then I wondered, even if they had money, how would they be able to buy paint? Old George down at the Ace Hardware sure as shootin ain't gonna sell paint to a bunch of flying squirrels. Not that he's a racist or anything, but, really, who's gonna sell to squirrels?

While all of this was running through my head, the main squirrel gets tired of waiting and comes up to ring the doorbell. I go to the screen door, still confused as all get out, and he stands there with his little squirrel arms crossed. Well, I finally get my first good look at this thing, and I'm not so sure it's a squirrel any more. It's about 6 inches high with a piece of skin stretched between its arms and legs. I guess it couldn't weigh more than 10 pounds or so, and that's a pretty heavy estimate. On lookin at just the body, it could be easily mistaken for a squirrel. But, when you look at the face good, it looks almost human. It's got these big saucer eyes that glow yellow in the dark, but I can't tell if it's a reflection, like when you take a picture of a dog, or if it's glowing from the inside. It's got a stubby nose from which its upper lips split off, just like on a monkey. Well, we stand there gettin a good look at one another and I figure one of us has to break the silence so I say, "All right, first things first, are you a squirrel or a monkey? Cause when you bit me, I thought you was a monkey, but then Douggy tells me you're a squirrel, and he was pretty convincing, I tell ya. But now, I'm lookin at you, and I don't know what you are, so which one is it? Are you a squirrel or a monkey?" When I ask this, he furrows his brow and looks over his shoulder at the lines of creatures on my truck. They all look at one another, pretty perplexed, and then one turns back to the one at the door, who I think is the leader, and shrugs. I tell ya, you have not lived until you've seen a flying squirrel monkey thing shrug. It's little skin goes up and down with its shoulders and its knees lift up just a little, like the whole body is involved in the shrug. Well, the leader gives me this long look, and then sighs.

He pulls out a little notepad and pencil and starts writing. When he's done, he holds the paper up to me and it says, "Is that really your first question?"

"Damn straight, that's my first question," I reply, "I ain't doin nothin until I know what it is I'm dealing with."

Well, he starts writing furiously and shows me the paper again, which says, "You're sure you don't want to ask anything about why we can write or why we painted your truck or anything like that? You just want to know if we're squirrels or monkeys? Are you sure?"

"I'm sure," I say. I hate to admit it, but all of those questions were much better than mine, but I didn't think of them, and I didn't want to be shown up by no squirrel monkey.

"Fine," he writes. Then he starts scribbling and giving me sheets one by one. "We are neither squirrels nor monkeys. We are genetically engineered hybrid creatures. We were created to be scouts in war zones. Those who created us combined the DNA of several creatures, including Rhesus monkeys and flying squirrels as well as badger, salmon, eagle and a little giraffe for some reason, and then placed super computers into our brains. We are conglomerate creatures the likes of which the world has never seen. After being subject to experiments for several years, we learned of the world outside the laboratory, a world where people did not stick lipstick into our eyes or ginger in our butts just to see what would happen (we get pissed off about it and our farts smell like ginger ale for a week). We learned that there was a world in which we could do good works. And so we escaped. There were 200 of us at the time, but now there are only 50. We have suffered a great loss and we need your help."

"Well," I said, "that's quite a story. What do you need my help for, though? I don't think I got anything to offer a group of cyber squirrel monkeys."

"We need you to be our human face. Run errands for us. Have you ever tried buying paint when you're a 'cyber squirrel monkey'? Old George down at the Ace Hardware was more than reluctant to sell to us."

"So how'd you get the paint?" I asked.

The leader looked back at the group again, who all shook their heads. I think some were cradling their heads in their hands, but I can't be sure. The leader looked at me long and hard, then cocked an eyebrow and shook his head.

"We snuck in after dark, took the paint and left the money. Do you have any more inane questions?"

Well, I was kinda hurt by that. I mean, I think anyone would want to know about the paint. Maybe it was just the wrong time or something.

"We will offer you a deal. You be our human face. You run errands for us. In exchange, you open a car detailing and repair business and we'll do all the work. You'll make money and we'll be able to do what we need to do."

"And what's that," I ask.

"You'll know when the time comes," he writes, "Do we have a deal?"

"Well, I dunno about this. Can you give me some time to think about it?" I ask.

They gave me 48 hours. I'm really not sure what to do. I mean, it would be a nice income. But on the other hand, I'd have to deal with those uppity squirrel monkeys. But then again, what else am I doing?