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Rant #43
(published June 7, 2001)
Page 319 from the Poor Mojo Special Services Exam:
Qualification Exam Relevant for Levels X to OP13
by the PMjA Staff

4)You're taking a shower late at night and suddenly go blind, completely stone blind. Your shower is one of those deep, old, bathtub-&-curtain arrangements. You're also running out of warm water.

After several minutes you've positively, undeniably confirmed that your are, indeed, blind, that it isn't some sort of power outage or momentary hysterical dysfunction. You cannot see, and there is no reason to believe that you will be seeing anything anytime soon.

The water is now lukewarm, at best, and quickly heading toward ice-cold.

What do you do? How do you begin to address this situation?

After the first dizzy moments of your ordeal, you hear glass break, the bolt thrown on your front door, heavy boots on your stairs. The bathroom door has no lock.

What do you do? What can you do?

5) What if you were suddenly covered with lye— flake lye. As long is it's dry, it's no different than being covered in instant mashed potato flakes, but as soon as it gets wet the powerful base will become reactive. Bases are caustic. A base burn is the worst kind of pain you can feel, far worse than laying your hand against the coil of your electric range, or brushing your calf against a motorcycle muffler.

What if you were covered in lye flakes from head to toe? What would you do?

Don't get it wet— that's death.

You took Chem in high school. You don't remember much, but you remember that acids neutralize bases— that if you mix just enough of the worst acid in the universe with just enough of the most basic base, you'll get plain ole water in the beaker.

What about your soft, wet eyes, your tender mouth?

Let's say that you're inside— can you inch your way to the kitchen? Do you have vinegar— a lot of vinegar— in your cupboard? Is vinegar acidic enough to neutralize so much lye?

Base burns take off the skin, leaving an open, weeping laceration. Base burns look like the worst carpet-burns in the universe, like the kind of hickey a giant squid would give you with its toothed suckers.

As you're slowly gliding into your kitchen your eyes are closed. You'd rather die than get lye in your eyes. Trust us. And your lips are sealed. You breath through your nose, but slowly, so as not to draw any of the flakes in, into your sinuses or throat or lungs. You imagine the coughing fit that might start, and what it would be like, after the first hurling, choking cough to take in that deep, involuntary breath, drawing the caustic snow of lye into your lungs.

And what about your ears? Are ears soft mucus membranes? Are they moist? Moist enough? You seem to remember Chem pretty well, but Bio is all rippled shadows, like starring into the lake at night and wondering.

You move slow, slow through your living room. You don't want to start to sweat— sweat will activate lye, too. You know there's parts of you that sweat all the time, even when you aren't hot— your armpits, your crotch. What if you're fat? The place where your love handle meets your hip is always a little moist— but moist enough to get the lye burning? Will the burn come on slow, as the lye dampens, or will it strike, like a bullet to the gut? Like a hammer? Like the swat of a rat-tailed towel in the high school locker room?

Do you have air-conditioning in your apartment? What if you don't? What if it's a hot day, humid, a Michigan July?

What if you don't have any vinegar?

What if you aren't in your house at all? What if you were in a field, in the woods, on the bank of a cool, chuckling creek, and it's four in the afternoon, deep in July's sweaty chest, and you are naked, covered head to toe with lye flakes, eyes clenched, mouth screwed tight, and somewhere, far away, thunder cracks.

Is it maybe better to jump into the creek, to take it all at once, rather than to burn one drop at a time?

What are we really asking you about? Really?

Later revisions of these pieces (in addition to wholly new pieces inspired by these) have appeared in various print publications, including the Fall 2002 issue of spork, under the title "Exit Exam."

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Qualification Exam Relevant for Levels X to OP13

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