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Squid #210
(published January 20, 2005)
Tales of the Giant Squid: A Sickness and a Death (part 3.)
Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid?
My name is Molly Reynolds, and I am not a brave woman. Last week's posturing aside, I had every intention of chickening out and remaining in hiding until such time as some new, sinister and sparkly bauble caught Mr. President's eye and he forgot about me.

That's how it always goes, doesn't it? You have a crisis. A "long dark night of the soul," as my ex used to say. And you make resolutions. Decide to change. To lose weight. To stand up for yourself. To expose your power-hungry boss as the honest-to-God Monster he truly is. But then you go to sleep in a freezing car. You wake up tired, alone and sore. And suddenly all of the night's plans that were thought up, and that hidden reservoir of strength you called upon have faded away like so much fog. And you're left right back where you were. Cold and afraid and hiding.

Of course, it's harder hiding than you think. For example, it's not even that you can't use the ATM, because the bank records can be accessed— you can't walk past an ATM with your face visible, because of the security cameras. Of course, as it turns out, a lot of public places have moved to x10 cameras or webcams hooked up to wi-fi routers, which are probably monitored over the web by outsourcers in India. Those can be accessed by suitably determined folks. For example, folks with a giant, meglomaniacly mollusk breathing down their neck (figuratively speaking.) For example, by Sang. That bastard.

So, yesterday, I was standing in a little natural history museum in Newton Falls, Ohio—one of those small town museums that's really just a glorified Victorian "Cabinet of Wonders"—looking at a chimp head in a big jar, just enjoying being in a warm building. I was the only visitor, which would have made me nervous—easier to hide in a crowd than to hide in the middle of an empty field—but there didn't even seem to be a guard or docent on duty, just a scrolled, brass lockbox with a slot in the top and a polite sign indicating the suggested donation was $5 per person.

Of course, that was just a suggested donation, thank you Homer Simpson.

So, I was standing in front of a case, looking at the chimp head, exhausted and hungry, and wondering why some curator or collector had thought to put a severed chimp head and an especially large Moniezia expansa in the same jar together, when the head moved. Just one, long, contemplative blink. And I realized: it wasn't a severed chimp head in the jar, it was Claude standing on the other side of the case, watching me.

And then the hard, hairy hands closed like clamps around my biceps.

And then I heard the sound—that click, snap! of a straight razor being opened.

And then I panicked.

Out of the shadows came more chimps, dressed like children or wearing trench coats. All of them silent but for the excited panting. Half of the chimps were holding razors, and the other half had those plastic hand-cuff zip-tie things.

Chimps are weird—yeah, big revelation I know—but they're weird because they are so small that you expect them to be weak, and we see them behaving so gently on TV and in the movies we forget that they are primates. Vicious, sharp-nailed primates.

It's a fact that if a chimp encounters a baby chimp in the wild that he thinks isn't his, he will grab it by the feet and bash its brains out. This is why female chimps sleep with every chimp in their tribe, so that no one is sure whose baby is whose. And no baby gets its brains dashed out.

The chimps dragged me down to the floor, pressed razors to my throat, ankles, wrists, eyelids. They tied me all over with the zip-ties. They stared at me with their beady black eyes and just waited. Motionless. It was like a dozen little George Burnses looking at me. Not smiling, just dead pan, smacking their lips a little, waiting for their moment, for the next moment. Watching the world. Watching me.

There was this clank that shook the floor. It sounded like when road crews use those giant bulldozer-piledriver-things to smash open concrete. The chimps lurched, gripped me tighter. A razor cut into my ankle. I screamed, and a chimp clamped his foul hand over my mouth. It smelled exactly like chimp shit. I mean this should be no surprise. Monkeys fling poo. It's what they do. Naturally their hands would reek of poo. But it's worse than you may expect. Claude— I recognized the lieutenant to the head chimp, Barnabus— clasped his hand tighter over my mouth and I began to gag.

Another great clank shook the floor. Then another.

And from around the last case in the hall, at the rear of the museum, a shining metal spider-leg slammed down, piercing into the marble floor. Its pneumatic cylinders hissed and whined, and the leg contracted, pulling the bulbous body of the velocitator around the corner. It was like a giant spider, a fat, swollen, salt-water filled chrome and glass spider. The afternoon light coming through the hazy sky-lights scintillated through the water, turning everything inside, Squid and all, a mellow gold. He used his two big hunting tentacles to work a set of levers, like those on a two-track backhoe, and the legs brought him around the corner. It was a terrifying, rending grace. Like . . . like . . . like Godzilla dancing ballet? No, that isn't right . . . but . . .

It was exactly what a butterfly was like if butterflies were 150 feet across and destroyed whole cities. Not that the Squid and his environmental suit were anywhere near that size, but just that . . . that unbearable lightness, awful imbalance, the gentle feather-grace of the movement, and the terrible bone-rattling crush of the result.

I'm not describing this exactly right, and I know it. I feel that the heart of this paradox is the heart of the Squid himself. He is large, but precise. Enormously powerful, but overly concerned with minutiae. It's like watching a skyscraper stand up on q-tip feet with utter calmness and precision. Am I making sense here? You expect things that are large to be heavy and slow. Ungainly. And when they behave opposite it, well, it throws you.

I'd heard that he had a chassis built by the mechanics. A chassis that allowed him to travel the land, like a submarine but backwards, y'know? An über-marine? But I hadn't ever thought much about it.

This . . . it was just like . . . I dunno. So strange, so alien. It's like meeting Jesus and having him spit in your eye—no, that isn't it, but it's like having an adorable, cooing baby say "Hey, bitch, nice tits. Now, drop and gobble."

It hurt my brain to look at it, to know that it existed, and everything that the existence of the Squid, of his walking environmental suit, implied.

"Molly," he boomed—his voice came out of a megaphone mounted under the suit's body—kinda of like the one Radar was always talking though in M*A*S*H—"I believe that this foolishness is to its end. Did you believe you could evade me?"

It wasn't until he asked that I realized that I had; somewhere, in the back of my head, I'd been thinking that there was a way out of this, that I could pull back and turn left and zoom away. But lying on the floor, bound and gagging on Claude's poop-stink hand, the realization finally bloomed: there was never any way out. Ever since I came to that stupid lab two years ago, high atop the crap-hole ghetto fabulous Renaissance Center towering about the fabulous ruins of Detroit, it was always going to end here, in a Victorian afterthought museum in the frozen hills of Ohio. There was never any escape.

And knowing that I was about to die, that I was going to be cut to ribbons by chimps or crushed by a Squid in a spider-spacesuit, the idea just got larger and larger and larger, just inflated in my head until it was all that was in me. I wasn't calm, there was no mellowness at death's door. There was no warm, white light.

There was just me, panicking. With a nose full of monkey shit, blood welling out of my ankle and a dozen razors still pressed against me. Just me.

And the whole time that damned devil fish monster was talking, orating, going on and on in his circumlocutious way, like the Evil Mark Twain. Finally he broke off—"Molly? Are you listening."

I had nothing. All that was in me was the fear balloon, and I couldn't say anything, even after Claude took away his feculent little paw.

"Molly? Is she respiring?"

The chimps looked at him blankly—their English isn't so hot.

"Barnabus, Reme, troupe, cut her bonds. She cannot expire now. We require her presence at the Inaugural Speechifying tomorrow."

Dozens of razors slid coldly against my skin, then turned out, and I sagged out of my plastic restraints. I relaxed, slumped on the floor, and then, like they'd sliced it's side, the fear-balloon filling me sagged and deflated, and I curled on the floor.

She cannot expire now. he'd said.We require her presence at the Inaugural Speechifying tomorrow. he'd said.I'd live. I wouldn't escape, but I'd live for at least another day. And I was so thankful that I wanted to weep and kiss his gleaming claws.

I've never been so ashamed in my life. Never. And I've . . . I was a pitiful girl, once. A pitiful, desperate girl who did pitiful desperate girl things, but I've never hated myself so much, been so ashamed, as I was when I saw how grateful I was to have one more day granted by the Devilfish from a Dimension Beyond Time in the cold Hell of this world.

"Molly, I gather that much of my speech of the last quarter-hour has been lost on you, so to summarize: I now see that you were not attempting to do away with me when I fell ill as of late. My sickness and subsequent paranoia were not a matter of political guile and cloaked dagger, like the unfortunate defacement of Viktor of the Yushchenko, but rather the result of a slightly gangrenous dobermann being fed unto me. When I later sicked up the remains, the true cause was evident. I suffered the eponymous Poisoning of the Food. You, of course, were already of the running, and so were less than responsive to my attempts to make explanation of what is, in the end, a humorous and farcical comedy of errors. I think that I might, in some of my off-hours in the coming year, perhaps compose and pen a drawing room comedy based upon these occurrences, to be performed in the East Room of my new residence in Washingtonia Deca."

"I don't want this," I said, not lifting me head.

"I am not to kill you. Today."

"I don't want this. I don't want any of this. I want to go . . ." but there was no home, really. My whole Detroit life was the stupid lab, "Away. I want to go away and be away and never think of this again."

"There is no back, Molly," the voice gently rumbled. "Even if I were to agree with your choice, which I do not, there is no back. All of our Nation America, they know of you. Most of them who can vote, they voted for you. You are their Female, their First Female President of Vice ever to be made. They will not permit you to 'go away', to forget of it all. You are the most powerful female in the Western Hemisphere ever. More powerful than Paris-of-the-Hilton or Barbara Waters or Candy-Lisa's Rice. More powerful than those who mocked you as a scientific-minded and be-blemishéd schoolgirl. In fact, I am sure you that a mind so swift as yours has not failed to note that, as my protegé, you shall be not simply the most powerful human female in this great land—dare not I say the world—but the most powerful human, as well."

I had not failed to notice this.

I sniffed, "More powerful than Paris Hilton, eh?" I couldn't help but smile, even though it made my sob-puffy eyes hurt—it was stupid. What does it take to be more powerful than Paris Hilton? A room full of money and the willingness to fellate some guy while he tapes it?

Whatever. Where does the Squid get this stuff?

"Yes: More powerful than a dozen Paris Hill Tons," he answered earnestly. "There is no way back, and no way out; there is only heading through."

But I didn't think that was true. I could always stand. If I stood, if I sprinted now . . . No, if I stood, if I started to rail against him, to identify the evil I saw here and far away, the things he had done and would do, to make clear that I knew what most of America seemed to not notice: the he was a terrible monster, that he had no heart like a human heart, no feelings like human feelings, that he would use us as cannon fodder and slaves and . . .

I had no delusion of convincing him, but if I got it all out . . .

On the way in, I'd seen the security camera up high on the ceiling, discrete, just an all-seeing eye and its little red light. Maybe it had audio. And if it didn't, there still had to be someone—a janitor, a kid, someone to run the gift shop—who would hear me, would hear what I said.

And, even if they didn't, if I started and didn't let up—the Squid is sensitive; he couldn't take it. It wouldn't take much to drive him over the edge. And that's a way out, isn't it? The razors the chimps had were sharp. It wouldn't be so bad: the momentary burn of the blade's cut, the throb of the blood and then . . . nothing.

I looked up from under my hair, and saw that the Squid had become distracted, turned to look at a large glass case containing a mesonychid, precursor to the whales he hates so much. I sprang to my feet. He spoke calmly, casually—if he'd had shoulders, he would have tossed this over his shoulder without even turning:

"You have a notion to say things, to cut me from my throne with words. I believe that what you could say now would successfully do so. In fact—and I doubt I should mention this—but a set of yellow omnibi filled of schoolchildren arrived at the building briefly after us, and this it is of import that we move with a quickness.

"I will not kill you. I will not kill you today. I will not kill you tomorrow. But I will make for your nephews such hurts that you cannot imagine, as your anatomy lacks what is to be hurt first. Subsequent hurts you cannot imagine because you are not nearly imaginative enough. I am not like you; not like you, Molly, and not like you, humans, and that is precisely what you now need. The only way out of this is to go through it. But, of course, you can make to holler now. The teachers will hear you. The children will hear you. And, yes, the chimps, or the carnivorous land crabs, or some other minion will then go and make pains upon your nephews, but that is truly of little account. What will happen first is I will kill you with these chromium-plated legs, skewer you through, and it is your desire for that not to happen which shuts your mouth now."

And, so, I traded in all of humanity—or at least the 280 million souls here—for the comfort and lives of two boys who will probably end up drug addicts anyway. Really, I traded it all for my own skin. And I only really got a guarantee of two days.

I am a coward. I am an American.

"Come, the Inaugural Time grows nigh," the Squid boomed, "We have miles to go before we sleep. Take with you this dress festive to wear upon the Podium Presidential."

"This 'dress' is made of ice-blue plastic-wrap. I'm not putting this on."

"Very well. I will break on Rob the news, upon our arrival, that his dress was declined." The Squid gestured with one arm and one robotic leg, and a chimp—not Claude or Barnabus; one of the sub-chimps. Reme?—scurried up with a box under his arm, "You will put upon you, then, this." I opened the box, folded back the tissue, and saw the most beautiful, cream suit. The blouse was Chanel, and when I turned up the collar to see the labels, there were none: custom tailored.

I looked up from the box, "Will this fit me? Because I have a really hard time finding clothes that—"

"It will fit."


"I am certain it will fit. Please, go take yourself a-front of this edifice. There is a lime-ozone awaiting you, and my tractor-trailer rig awaiting me. The Ramirez brothers await us both."

The suit shifted in the box, bulged a little, and a tiny crab scuttled up from within the breast of the jacket. He looked at me, his tiny stalk eyes scanning me all over. Then he held up his tiny claw, waved it. It was holding a doll-house-sized cell phone. "Call ya."

"We watch. We listen. Let us make haste, Molly."

"Yes, si—"

"Mr. President is appropriate now, Ms. Vice-President."

"Yes, Mr. President," the words stuck in my throat, like . . . like being a sad four-eyed high school geek all over again. Like being Paris Hilton.

In the limousine, in the seat across from me, directly behind Spider, was a box draped in presidential blue velvet with the Great Seal—or something somewhat similar; are there usually manta rays on the Great Seal?

"Spider, what's in the box—"

"Don' touch el Jefe's box, Mols."

"Wha— Why?"

"It a sooprise for you; Inaugural Gift or some shit. From the Squeed." He smiled broadly, "You'll see. Let's get our asses to D.C., h'okay? You and el Presidente got a parade to drive and a speech to give. ¿Entiende?"

"Yeah. Yeah"

[Text of the Giant Squid's Inaugural Address]

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see other pieces by this author | Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid? Read his blog posts and enjoy his anthem (and the post-ironic mid-1990s Japanese cover of same)

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