Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sleepy Time

That first night in the Pirockate ship was one of the worst I've ever had. There we were, rocketing through space towards the moon, not in water at all, but that boat was still a rockin and a creakin all night. And, on that rocky, creaky boat, I was expected to sleep in a hammock. Sure, a hammock is all well and good if you're a sailor from the 1500s, out to explore new lands if you don't get eaten by a sea monster or thrown of the end of the world to fall, tumbling through the blackness of space, seeing only a stack of turtles for the rest of eternity. But this is the 21st century, or maybe the twentieth century. Wait a minute, let me see here. We're startin with 20 here, so, maybe it's the 20th. But then again, the first would have to start with nothin. So, then, we'd have to go back all the way to the year zero, when dinosaurs fought mammoths all over the Earth, everyone wore tiger skins and all the sexy cavewomen looked like Raquel Welch. Then Jesus came and Satan turned all the dinosaurs into stone to trick the Romans and then Jesus taught everyone English. So that was the first century, I think. Look, I'll be honest here, I ain't much of a historian. Most of what I know about history is stored in this biography of Charles Martel that I read for an eighth grade project, and sometimes I confuse that with that episode of Growing Pains where Alex and Snuffleupagus journeyed to Math Land to play pool. Or maybe I'm mixing that with something else. I guess that doesn't matter, though. The point is that, in these advanced times, you'd think that someone could make a rocket ship shaped like a pirate ship that didn't have to rock back and forth all the time. I mean, there's not even any water, for heck's sake! How does a ship rock without water?

I imagine the hammocks are a great help to others on that ship, but me, I got that weird sleepin habit where I like to wedge myself into a corner, rest the top of my head on the top of my feet, and slowly drift to sleep with my back end stickin in the air like mailbox flag. Except my heiney ain't as square and red as a mailbox flag. It's just square. And because I sleep like that, I spent most of the night bangin into the walls, bangin my head on the floor and fallin over. It wasn't till neigh on three in the mornin that I discovered the secret. I'd been sittin in the corner, refusin to open my eyes because I knew that the moment I did so, my entire night of tryin to get to sleep would be wasted.

Eventually, rounds about three like I say, I gave up tryin to sleep and opened my eyes. What I saw was both brilliant and disturbing. Line after line of Pat was sleepin just like I do, but none of em was bumpin into walls or nothin. In fact, they was standin comfortably in their hammocks, gently rockin with the swell of the ship. The secret, as I shoulda known, was duct tape. Them Pats had made themselves harnesses out of duct tape and taped the ends to the hammocks. They was each held in place by about a roll of tape, but they looked mighty comfortable. I decided that it couldn't make me sleep less that what I'd already slept that night. The worst that could possibly happen would be the duct tape becoming detached, allowin me to slip out of my harness, fallin on the ground and breakin open my head, causin me to think that I was a giant chicken for days, leadin the other Pats to have to corral me everywhere they wanted to go until they got sick of my antics and locked me up in the Bellview Home for insane Pats, where I would spend my golden years scratchin at the ground and tryin to lay eggs. But, like I says, that was a worst-case-scenario and so, with a roll of duct tape and sleepiness (which is when all the best ideas happen, in my opinion), I was ready to take the risk.

I gotta say, tapin yourself to a hammock so you can sleep standin up like an ostrich isn't easy to do. You gotta make sure you got stabilizin points at the waist, knees and ankles if you don't wanna be a crazy chicken man, which I don't. I mean, sure, just like anyone, I think about it now and then; how it would help me get out of all this responsibility I have, how it would give me more time to get into my hobbies of scratchin at the ground with my feet and swallowin small pebbles to help me digest my food, and how it would help me with the one thing I've always wanted to do, give birth. Sure, I know now that I wouldn't really be layin eggs, but if I were crazy chicken man, I wouldn't be able to know that my eggs weren't real. And even if I did only fill my pants with fudge, I'd like to think the joy I took in motherhood would still be real. But I wasn't ready for that yet, so I taped myself up nice and secure and, I have to say, I had the best night's sleep I've had since that time I got the job as a tester in the down pillow and blanket factory.

I don't know if it's the kind of life I lead or what, but I get myself some pretty disturbing dreams. Most nights, I dream that I'm in some big warehouse-like, windowless room with exposed pipes runnin over the ceiling. There's all sorts of other people in this room wearin some weird clothes. For some reason, the men is all wearin these strips of silk around their necks. I don't know what they're called, but they look a little foppish. For the time being, since they're tied around the neck, I'll just call them 'tienecks'. All the people in this warehouse place are sittin in their own little territories that are marked off by these things that look like walls, but are cheaply carpeted and only come up about three feet. In each little cube, there's a desk, a phone and a computer over which each person is hunched, trying to ignore everyone and everything around them. I look down at myself and see I'm dressed just like them, in this weird tie neck thing and wearin shiny black shoes that hurt my feet. When I reach up to my face, I find my beard's gone and my hair's cut short. "In accordance with company policy," I think to myself, not knowin where it comes from. I know that any minute, the "boss" is gonna come and "chew me out" for misplacin a comma on "Form 800" and that it's gonna get me a "writeup". I don't know what any of these words mean when I'm awake, but when I'm dreamin, they all seem to make sense to me. In the dream, I start gettin the shakes. The worst part about it all is that I know I can't leave this place of soul destroying horror.

It's usually then that I wake up screaming.

That morning, I learned that the only thing worse than screaming yourself awake out of a nightmare is doin it while about a hundred copies of you are doin the same thing. Well, that and panickin from all the screamin, forgettin you've taped yourself to a hammock and losin about a yard of leg hair when you stand up. The only thing that can make your day go well at that point is the timeless remedy of two packs of bacon, a cup of coffee and a jelly donut.

When breakfast was over, I went back to Captain Pat to hear more about the fight with the moon spiders.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Pirockate Ship

I don't know about y'all, but I ain't spent a lot of time flyin around in rocket powered pirate ships (which I like to call pirockate ships). In fact, takin off outta Planet Meth was the first time I had to experience somethin like that. I mean, sure, I been on the rocket ride at the State Fair, but that really only goes up a couple thousand feet or so, and it barely cracks 3 gees. But this was an actual rocket ship goin to the actual moon. Unless, of course, I was just dreamin all of this in a donut-induced haze. It didn't seem that way, though, because, so far, I hadn't been chased by any giant donuts tryin to devour me and I wasn't twitchy and jumpy like I can get after eatin two whole boxes of two-day olds that we couldn't sell, so I was ready to take this all at face value and call this my first real space rocket ride. And, on first impressions, I didn't much care for it.

"But Pat," you're probably sayin, "how many times do you get to ride in a rocket?" To which I would respond, "Go and get a rag and wipe your eyes off or somethin. I just told you this was my first ride. Jeez!" And then, after bein properly apologetic because you're a nice person and your parents raised you right, you'd give me some advice to just sit back and enjoy the ride. I'd say that, normally, that'd be good advice, exceptin all the things you don't know about bein inside a pirockate ship. First thing that made the journey unpleasant was all the unwashed laundry layin around. I know sailors and spacemen ain't known much for their cleanliness, and I, myself, have been known to let my unmentionables pile up, waiting until I have to shoo away sherpas and old British explorers before takin it all down to the local land-ro-mat and spendin enough quarters to sink and/or buy a small island nation. Still, the state of the quarters on this ship was down right deplorable. There was sherpas everywhere, I tell ya. Some of 'em had even brought their oxen with them and were building pastoral, isolate communities among the hills and valleys formed by cast off skivvies down it the hold. I swear I even saw some of 'em herdin sheep.

Second, and I don't know if this is the same on all pirockate ships or just the one I was on, but the only place they gots to sleep is in a hammock. Now, I ain't opposed to takin an afternoon nap in a hammock, specially in the middle of summer with a frosty barley pop in one hand and a morning of lawn work behind me. But you ever try gettin a good night's sleep in a hammock? It's durned near impossible. Even more so given that I like to sleep standin up with my head tucked between my ankles and that's not easy when you're in a hammock that's swayin back and forth.

Lastly, and I didn't know this before, but it takes two and a half weeks to get to the moon. So, after all that rushin around, gettin past the cop, drivin insane speeds, rowin across a sea full of garbage, fightin that sea monster, gettin pulled down into the depths, meetin a mermaid that fell in love with me, angerin her father, bein exiled back up to the surface, havin a tense long-distance relationship with that mermaid for a time until she moved on and found someone else named Chuck, who's a whale wrestler, findin out she was havin Chuck's baby, becomin Godfather to the merbaby, realizin time for merpersons runs a lot faster than time for people from the surface, writin a letter of reference for my God-mer-kid to get into college, findin out before the end of paragraph one that he'd already graduated and had his own private medical practice and was flourishin as a merdoctor, learnin of the fall of the entire merempire due to their love of watchin mermen wrestle whales, watchin the mer-dark ages fall over their species until such a time they experience their merrenaissance, which I had to miss because it was take off time. I know I skipped over that whole mermaid thing in the tellin and went right from the car to bein on the pirockate ship, but, really, after the fifth or sixth mermaid to fall in love with you, the whole idea of it becomes old hat, and I didn't wanna bore you with all the details of our torrid affair and strained but polite relationship followin it. Point bein, that after all that rushin around and whatnot, I was expected to just sit there for two and a half weeks and twiddle my thumbs.

Now, I may be a world champion thumb twiddler, and I got the shirt to prove it, but there's only so much thumb to be twiddled in a given day. There's a twiddlin limit that cannot be exceeded even by the most dedicated thumb twiddlers. I may have the stamina to twiddle for an hour or two but after that I start gettin cramps and, if I'm not careful, I may just aggravate my twiddler's thumb that ended my career in competitive twiddlin. Not wantin to injure my thumbs, I went for a quick twiddle and then wandered around to find someone to chat with. While amblin below decks, I found out there's a surprisin amount of stuff that needs to get done on a pirockate ship every day. There's rockets what need to be maintained, decks what need to be swabbed and horns what need to be swaggled. Not to mention all the brass that needs polishin. Them pirate Pats was all so hard at work maintainin that ship that none of em had time for a chat or a game of cribbage. So I decided to apply my knowledge of organizations to the situation. As far as I can tell, in most businesses, the higher you get up the ladder, the less you have to do in a given day until, once you reach the top, you're pretty much just there to be dragged out at ceremonies, like the corporate logo or respect for the customer. Armed with this inferential knowledge, I went and knocked on the Captain's door.

Just as I suspected, Captain Pat was sittin at his big ol' desk, just kinda starin out the window. I asked him if we could chat about some things and he jumped at the chance. He ushered me to sit beside his fireplace, which he was all too happy to explain didn't burn an actual fire, but just used lasers to simulate a fire. I gotta say, the simulation was pretty solid. I always thought the only thing lasers was good for was pointin at things you was too far away from to point at with a stick and gettin dogs to chase somethin around without gettin your hand all drooly. But it turns out they got other uses as well. So, there we sat by the laser fire and Captain Pat asked my what I wanted to know about.

"Well sir," I said, "back at the base, I was hearin about the whole war with the moon spiders when Clan Platypus rudely interrupted us. I was just sorta wonderin how that whole thing turned out."

He leaned back in his chair and said, "Ah! Yes. The spider war. I'd just been sent here by a cloud of Dale's gas when that was all goin on, so I didn't understand a lot of what was happenin. It was an excitin time here. And not excitin in that whole I-just-won-the-lottery-twice-on-the-same-day way, but excitin in that whole I'm-just-about-to-be-run-the-heck-over-by-a-bussload-of-Dom-deLouise-impersonators sorta way. That is to say, it was pretty frightenin on a whole number of levels.

"The Squimonk was convinced that the spiders was mostly peaceful. Reason bein, them spiders could prolly have killed all the people and genetic mutants they captured, but, instead, they just kept them in suspended animation the whole time. Also, with their ability to transport themselves anywhere at any time, they could easily have wiped all of us out any time they wanted to. But they chose to hide instead. Them Squimonk thought that maybe the spiders was just scared and that, if we could get them to stay in one place for a time, maybe we could reason with them and get them to stop kidnappin us. Me, I just wanted to be able to sleep without fearin that a spider was gonna bite me in the butt."

"You sleep standin up, too?" I asked.


"Then why you got everyone sleepin in hammocks?"

"Oh, that. That's just for historical accuracy. We grow lime trees up on deck, too, even though we all take vitamin tablets to keep us from gettin rickets," he explained. "Alistair's all about gettin things right, historically speakin. Me, I just make the ship go and don't think much about it. Actually, most of what I do is tell that there GPS," he pointed to a panel on his desk, "where we wanna go and then I sit here playin solitaire or whatnot until we get there."

"Sounds boring," I commiserated.

"You don't know the half of it."

We sat in silence, nodding slowly at each other for some time until he jumped a little. "Right, where was I?"

"Spiders," I told him.

"Right," he confirmed, "spiders. Like I says, the biggest problem was that they just kept runnin away. The Squimonk tried everything to get them to hang around for a bit. They tried just talkin, then holdin up a sign that said, 'We won't hurt you,' which the spiders ignored, or so we thought. We later learned that moon spiders is incredibly near sighted and don't go much for written communication, what with their telepathy and all.

"So, one day, one of the Alistairs gets frustrated and decides he's gonna lasso one of them things. Well, we didn't have no rope around for him to do the lassoin with, so he weaved one himself out of the mounds of spider silk we found in the chamber where all them Pats and others was bound up. Right as he gets his lasso done, a spider pops into existence right in front of him. To this day, that Alistair says it was his quick reactions and smart thinkin that got the lasso on, but most of us think it was just luck. I'd say it's best not to bring it up. Regardless of whether it was skill or blind luck, that Alistair got that spider lassoed, but it still popped out of existence. Weird thing was, it took part of the lasso with it. Not all, mind you, just part. But, and here's the thing I never get, the part that went with it when it popped wherever it was goin was still attached to the part that was in the Alistair's hand. That rope was just stretchin out in from of the Squimonk and disappearin right into thin air, lookin like it was tied to the world's calmest gnat, but he could still feel the spider on the other end.

"So he started pullin, and he could feel the spider fightin him. And them spiders is mighty strong, let me tell you. They got this game they call "Car Ball" that's a lot like football, but there's no pads and the ball is made of ten wadded up cars. It's right excitin to watch a match, I tell ya. Anyhoo, Alistair kept pullin and pullin on that rope like he was landin the world's biggest catfish, the catfish bein a spider, mind you. Then he felt the rope go totally slack and the thought to himself, or so he tells us, 'Oh, no! I've popped its head clean off with my mighty strength!'

"He started reelin that rope in as fast as he could, hopin to heck that it didn't have a spider head thrashin around in the noose. But, when he got it past whatever portal it was stickin through, he saw the spider had chewed clean through. He was pleased that he'd found something that could connect us to the spiders, even though it didn't make them stay in place. But we combined that with a discovery from the far side of the moon base and changed our relationship with the moon spiders forever."

"And what was that?" I asked.

"Just settle down," he scolded me. "We got a long coupla weeks ahead of us. Don't make me use up all my stories on the first night."

So I went below decks again and tried to sleep.