My Dear Readers,
I would say, in general, that squid are a charitable, gregarious, and thoughtful lot, not given to petty territorial disputes or pointless and destructive politicking. Take, for example, my new mate-of-the-tank (not to be confused with a mate-of-the-mating-tentacle, which he is most decidedly not—largely because his diminutive dimensions, were we to sex, would result in a likely explosive failure in structural integrity upon the achieved fact of my ejaculation. But, really, that is a matter for an entirely separate column, or possibly an article encyclopedic.) Despite hailing from two very different cephalopodic cliques—and he being, evidently, Eastern Orthodox—the cuttlefish "Mr." Kalmarrochki and I get along like both the peas of a single, brotherly pod. For example, just this morning, when I noted that he was fully distracted with the reading of the business pages of the newspaper my lab assistant, Rob, had taped to the side of our voluminous salt water tank, I did not lash out with my hunting tentacles, latch into the cuttlefishes supple mantle and rend him to tiny bits with my razorish beak, saving only his cuttlebone to be used for the scraping and cleansing of my eating arms. I was, after all, somewhat less-then-spritely of spirit this morning, and had already eaten a great number of Dalmatians, which tend to make me to bloat.
The cuttlefish tsked—even his tsk is accented in Russian, and I know not how or why—as he scanned the page. "This newspaper, she is pretty much OK. How do people make little party hats and teach their dogs where to make pee once they stop making a paper newspaper? How will the people roll up their marijuana to smoke?"
Rob looked up from the minesweeping simulator upon his computer's screen.
"Those gangsters you worked for rolled their jays out of newspaper strips?"
"Da. What else?" The cuttlefish bunched his tentacles in an ersatz shrug.
Rob was dumbfounded, but not for long. "Rolling papers, or use a bowl, or a bong, or an apple bong, or a gravity bong, or a pop can pipe. Shit, Mr. K, rolling jays from strips of newsprint is . . . is just totally fucking seeds-and-stems ghetto, is all. What kind of fucking gangsters were you working for?"
The cuttlefish flushed defensive. "They had problems, da. The economy, she is three kinds of shit in a paper toilet, and then the government, they say, Big Three? Maybe we give you loan, or maybe we ask you lick our assholes and we pay you in Gypsy nickels! and so everyone got problems with money. If no one got much money, then why would they click on ad for buying giant hard-on pills? Is SPAM, but is not cash cow, da?"
"What the fuck is a gypsy nickel?"
"ROB!" I fear that I barked much louder than intended, for Rob did duck and cover beneath his desk.
"Fuck it, Lord A.! Volume! VOLUME! If you're gonna fuck u sout of our Xmas bonus you could at least give the gift of not fucking up our ears too bad!"
"Especially," Molly called from the break room, to whence she had retreated three hours earlier in order to fetch a coffee, "Since our health care is covered by that vet, now, instead of a legitimate insurer. I don't even want to imagine what my pap is going to be like this year."
"APOLOGIES TO THE GENERAL; ALTHOUGH I AM SURE THAT, LIKE MYSELF, WE ARE ALL PAINFULLY FASCINATED BY THE CUTTLEFISH'S REFLECTIONS ON THE DOUR STATE OF DETROIT'S PAPER-BASED NEWS GATHERING AND DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM, I—WHO DOES SIGN OF THE CHECKS OF SALARY—WAS HAPPENING TO WONDER OF ROB—WHO DOES CASH SUCH A CHECK—HAS PERPAHPS RECIEVED AN ELECTRONIC RESPONSE FROM THE CUTTLEFISH'S ASSCOAITE, SHTERNI, ON THE MATTER OF THE ADDRESS OF THE RUSSIAN GENTLEMAN CRIMINAL WHO, BY ALL INDICATIONS, IS NOW IN POSSESSION OF MY MISSING HAND OF GLORY?"
Rob's eyelids flew up, "Shit! I fuckin' knew I was supposed to be checking on something; that's why I was fucking playing Minesweeper in my cube to begin with." He pointed and clicked and scanned with his puny, useless little human eyes, "Uhhhh nope—wait. Sorry. Yeah. We got it," he looked up, "it was in the SPAM folder."
"EXCELLENT; HOW LONG AGO DID IT ARRIVE?"
"Uuum . . . What time is it?"
"OK. Yeah. Like, two minutes ago—wait, sorry. Day before yesterday. But at, like, four-ten. That's a funny coincidence."
Molly, now standing in the door, began to laugh, "We've been waiting a week for that address and you let it sit around for two days?"
Rob shrugged, "He wouldn't have given us the day off for Xmas Eve anyway, so who cares?"
Molly, likewise shrugged.
"ALL WELL AND GOOD, THEN; LET IS 'SADDLE UP,' AS IS SAID IN THE PARLANCE, AND HEAD—"
"N'unh," Rob said, shaking his head and gathering his coat, "Gotta run. It's Xmas Eve and the fourth night of Chanukah; I've got family shit going on and two parties to crash."
"THEN I SHALL ENLIST DEVO—"
"Nope," Rob pulled on his hat, "It's Devo's party. And Leeks is still out with injuries from the damn robbery. And Jarwaun and Trael didn't come in this afternoon, 'cause they had some school pageant thing."
I shifted in my tank, and appraised Molly sipping from her Presidentially sealed mug.
"MOLLY? I PRESUME THAT YOU—BEING CHILDLESS, FRIENDLESS, AND WITHOUT FAMILY IN THIS REGION—HAVE NAUGHT OF BETTER PLANS FOR—"
But she was already shaking of her head parts.
"I'm not going with you."
"YOU HAVE A BETTER WAY TO SPEN—"
"No, I don't. I'm going to go home and talk to my cats and continue preparing to be a creepy old woman whose house smells like cabbage. I'm not going to go with you to tear off a Russian gangster's hand."
"BUT MOLLY!" I exclaimed in my most convincing tone, "IT WILL GROW BACK! THERE IS NO HARM, AND THUS NO FOUL!"
"You're thinking of fiddler crabs."
"AHH, YES." I murmured. Sadly, I was not thinking of crabs at all. I would like to take this opportunity to issue an apology to The Justin, whose arm I tore asunder in July of 2006. It is my sincere hope that the lack of your claw has not prevented you from eating, defending yourself, performing necessary territorial displays, or attracting females of your sub-species.
So it came to pass that the cuttlefish and I, lonely as clouds, wandered the snow-crusted streets of the upscale—although rapidly foreclosing—suburb of Bloomfield Hills, striding in the lightly wooded scrims separating the many vast and pernicious lots, fruitlessly checking address against that supplied by the cuttlefish's friend and former workmate, the email-composing computer program, Shterni.
It was, evidently, his first occasion riding in a velocitating environmental suit.
"This," he opined, "It is not bad. Is like being crazy steel giraffe. You and me, we show those hippos who is bossing now, da?" He nudged my mantle, but I had no reply, and thus spoke not on the topic.
"THIS STREETS ARE AS WINDING AND CIRUMLOCUTIONS AS A SEABOUND CORPSES INTESTINES, AND THESE ADDRESSES WRIT SMALL AND OFT CONCEALED IN THEIR LOCALE AND, TO BE FRANKE, I AM SOMEWHAT VEXED."
"Da," the cuttlefish nodded, "Rich people, they like to be a little hard to find, and not too close to other rich people. Also, hate streetlights. But Shterni, no one escape her. Not never."
I looked at the thin sheets that Rob had printed for his afore leaving for the night. I rotated one, then the other.
"THESE GOOGLE MAPS!"
"Da, da; are better in color. Also, your stupid assistant, why did he print them in black-and-white with satellite-photo mode, instead of just streets? Is very confusing."
"HE MEANS WELL," I muttered idly, doubting all the way.
Two hours hence, we had located the address. I had intended to knock on the door politely, but with authority. Unfortunately, an icy patch on the walkway lead to a momentary stumble; as I connected with the door, it splintered and shot open. I stumbled further s my velocitator's damp, spidery feet struggled to find purchase on the marble of the entrance hall. I skittered to and fro, in full view of the family room, in which a toddler and young child gathered beneath an artificial tree bedecked with many lights and globes and other ornamentations. Their mother was frozen in the act of bending low to lift a gift and offer it to the smaller child. Further into the room, a man sat in a large and lovely leathern chair. He was dark complexioned and haired by nature, but pale with seeming sickness. A blanket was draped over his shoulders, and he sweetened and shuttered. The fake smile he had been offering to the children fell from his lips as he gazed upon us.
"Yuri?" he asked. The cuttlefish twirled his tentacles.
"Da!" he said merrily, then rattled in Russian.
Meanwhile the faces of the children slid from delight to awe to fear. The toddler's mouth bent to an inverse bow, the lips quivering. The mother crammed her fist on her mouth to stifle a scream and drew the two boys into her remaining arm. Here eye shot to an infant lying near the Russians feat upon a blanket, obliviously cooing upon her belly, lifting a rubber block, then setting it down, then lifting it again, in the eerie simulacrum of the male fiddler crab's most obscene overtures. Then the mother tore her glance savagely from the infant and instead focus on a corner by the door, as though she did not want me to follow the line of her sight, to see how she had tipped her hand, to convince me that there was better things to focus my wrath upon.
All was calm. All was bright.
And then the toddler began to wail. The mother sobbed silently, and the older child looked on yet still in fear and wonder.
"Hey HEY!" The cuttlefish shouted as he slid to the front of my tank, again whirling. He rattled in Russian, an incredibly spritely and animated phrase, then spun, and said more, and more. The children smiled tentatively, their eyes still great and glistening pools. The youngest child, the toddler, his hair a gleaming yellow and skin pale as alabaster stone, was stern faced. He asked the cuttlefish a question, and the cuttlefish elucidated in reply. The boy looked to his father, who nodded once, swiftly, flinging droplets of sweat from his brow. The boy smiled.
"WHAT DID YOU SAY?"
"I tell them that you are Father Frost," he whispered, "I say that Snegurochka, your granddaughter, she is in the yard with better evergreen tree for house, and also lots of presents from Best Buy, including Toshiba 14-inch flat-screen TV with integrated Blu-Ray and DVD for each kid, and even for baby. Littlest boy say he is not allowed TV, because is too little, but I say Snegurochka say that she call daddy in advance on cellphone, work it all out. I say that if daddy come quick and help us bring them in, then no problems, and Snegurochka come in to sing song about cats and also bake a cake."
"THIS PLEASES THEM?"
"I think mostly is they are excited for TVs."
The Russian man grimaced and stood. As the blanket fell away, I saw that while his right hand was broad and hirsute, as one would expect, his left was slender, delicate, pitiably gangrenous, and glowing an eldritch blue. As he stepped past as to the front door, he muttered in English, "I'm doing this because you two are fucking my kid's Christmas bad."
"Regrettably, da," the cuttlefish agreed.
We followed him outside, and he stood in the driveway.
"Where the fuck is the TVs and tree and shit?" he asked, dumbfounded.
"Regrettably—" the cuttlefish began.
"REGRETABLY," I continued, "WE WERE OBLIGED TO SOMEWHAT INFLATE THE BOUNTY WE BORE. I GAIN THE SENSE THAT YOU MAY HAVE BIT OFF A MATTER LARGER AND MORE GRISSLY THAN YOU CAN READILY CHEW," I said, looking significantly to the hand, "AND WE COME TO RELIEVE YOU OF SUCH A PROBLEM."
He looked at the pitiful thing dangling from his left arm. He involuntarily jerked to coil it protectively against his chest, and then stopped himself; the hand was, after all, quite wretched.
"It don't even work," he gasped, "It glows little bit, but there isn't superpowers at all, except I type kinda faster."
"You not even got hands!" He shouted, "What you gonna do? Put back in fancy box?"
His eyes grew wide, "It's not worth nothing, so why leave me cripple?"
"BECAUSE IT IS MINE; I CARE NOT IF IT HAS VALUE."
Even though it took us a very long night of burgling, the cuttlefish and I returned afore the dawn of Christmas morn with the children's promised TV, and an improved tree for to adorn their family's room. Although none were present to receive these, as they had accompanied their injured father to the hospital, I am gratified to simply imagine their appreciative smiles and joyous clapping upon their return.
And I ask you, is such generosity the act of a territorial beast? I think not.
All the Best in this Dread Holy Day Season,
Your Giant Squid
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Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson