Poor Mojo's Almanac(k) Classics (2000-2011)
| HOME | FICTION | POETRY | SQUID | RANTS | archive | masthead |
Squid #431
(published April 23, 2009)
Ask the Giant Squid: When The Broken Telephone Rings
Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid?
Dear Giant Squid,

What activities do squids like to perform?


Dear New Readers,

As is well-known to my Dedicated Readership, there are a large number of activities that, since time immemorial, I have taken to be my true and central vocations, and have relished in the spirit of the Hebrews' mitzvot; that is, "Good Deeds" that one is technically commanded to do by a Higher Power, but which one would likely do anyway for no other reason than the "shitzengiggles," as Rob, my loyal lab assistant, terms them.

Among these vocations I count the rending of flesh, the eating of dogs, the distribution of advice, the high-altitude cookery gourmet, the control of both this blue-green orb's land masses and weather phenomena, and the penning of ribald verse which I then attribute to Emily Dickinson.

But, I sense that you are not asking after my callings—which I greatly enjoy—but after my leisure, and further, after the leisure activities of all squids everywhere. They I can speak with little authority about squids, in general (we are a diverse lot), I can say with confidence that we are, to a squiddle, avid afficionadi of the "board games" and, by extension, of any parlor diversions that threaten boredom where-ever she may take succor.

As such, I have long mandated a bi-weekly "Games Night," at which my staff shall enjoy many and sundry competitive diversions, lest they face the pain of termination, which, in this constricted job market, is currently quite acute. During the course of our last gaming interval, after I had thoroughly trounced all in both the Scrapples and the Scrabbles (Boggle and Banagrams having been outlawed months prior, owing to a certain unpleasantness), Rob did introduce a new jape to our repertoire, under the title of The Broken Picture's Telephone:

"OK," Rob said, circling the ad hoc conference table we had moved into the lab proper, and distributing among us sheets of blank paper and variegated writing utensils. "This is a drawing and guessing game, right? But also, a miscommunication game." He stopped at my end of the table, where it butted against my tank, so as to be within reach of my mechanical manipulator arms. I immediately took up my Sharpie Marking Pen. "And I guess it could be a drinking game. Or a smoking game."

"And an eating game?" Young Trael suggested tentatively, "Like gummi bears?"

"I guess," Rob said, "Although I don't know if that would, you know, lead to hilarity. Maybe if you get mad fucked up on gummi bears and, like, all sugar crazy."

"I can try."

"Whatever. Anyway, here's how it goes. I'm gonna write something on a piece of paper, like 'a dog plays fiddle with Pantera'—" but he got no further, as there was a great squeak and skritch of pencils and markers gone to drawing.

"Waitwaitwait!" Rob said, "Wait for the full instructions. This is, like, exactly like what happened in Twister, and that fucked up my rotator cuff really bad." Rob lifted his leftern arm to the level of his shoulder, illustrating she would go no further.

"Listen. I'm gonna write a note that could be the description of a picture," he did so. "Then I'm gonna slide it to Molly, and NO ONE IS GOING TO PEEK AT IT," Trael and Jarwaun leaned back in their seats, as did the anxious pizza delivery man, "and she's gonna look at it and try and draw a picture of what she sees."

Molly dutifully looked upon the note Rob had passed her, slitted her eyes, looked back at Rob—who waggled his eyebrows like a suggestive baboon—then sighed and began to draw, muttering, "You know, if we still had an HR department, a note like this could buy me a million dollar sexual harassment suit."

"As long as that suit showed off your assets," Rob replied, his voice awkwardly pitch a half-octave below his normal speaking voice, "it'd be worth every penny."

Molly refused eye contact by rolling her eyes with such force that I momentarily feared she had begun a seizure, then set to drawing.

"When she's done—"


"—she'll slide it on over to the distinguished Mr. Kalmarrochki," Molly slid her picture before the cuttlefish, who sat aside her at the conference table, ensconced as he was in the bizarre clockwork velocitator in which he had reappeared several weeks ago, "and then he—and only he—will look at it and write a caption for what he sees."

The cuttlefish looked upon the paper and quickly became agitated, dancing from leg to leg as he gazed upon the picture. "Ooh! Ooh! Is . . . is . . . wait, wait, I get, I get. Is bicycle pickle theory, da? Like in baseball arena? Da? Pravda? Bicycle pickle theory number one baseball man, in the Hallway for Famous Baseballers!"

A collective groan rose, a wave of disappointment like sewage driven by a flash flood in Texas, then crashed down, shattering into many individual accusations.

Rob held up his soft, unlabored palm to quiet all, and then sighed with a deepness.

"OK, lil Mr. K., let me explain, like, all the way: You write your guess on the little piece of paper, then pass the paper, and then Lord A. draws a picture of what your wrote—it's like telephone, but with pictures."

"So is like Geroge Jetson videophone, da? Or like chubby Internet porno-chat devotchka you type to on the free-chat while everyone else is on fire drills?"

Rob's face reddened, but he shook his head. "Like the game telephone," he clarified.

"What the hell's a baseball pickle theory?" Jarwaun asked, setting down his marker and paper, brows a-stitched.

"He said 'bicycle pickle theory'" little Trael corrected.

"No, he didn't, T. That makes even less sense."

Trael fumed, "Yes he did, and it supposed to make no sense."

"That don't make sense, either!" Jarwaun huffed, "'cause you can easy say stuff that makes so little sense there ain't a way to draw it, like 'Green love drink tires,' but—what are you doin'?!"

Trael and I were drawing furiously.

"Everyone quiet!" Rob shouted. "PENCILS DOWN." My Sharpie Marking Instrument squeaked on in the ensuing silence, "Shit that writes on other shit DOWN!" I acquiesced to this display of lingual cunning, and the silence was complete and unmarred. "We're starting over. Throw away whatever scribbles you've got."

The groan, she was collective and deep. The cuttlefish muttered, "Is bullshit potatoes, da? Changing rules to steal points from righteous Mr. Kalmarrochki!"

"There are no points!"

"And yet there is such rules as you make up? Is like Stalin up in this bitch," the cuttlefish grumbled.

"How the hell would you know?" Rob asked, "You were born in the Belle Isle Zoo; you're more Motown than anyone in this room!"

"Da, is true; I am number one soul man, but I hear much, and read many samizdat. I know which way the shits roll down hills, and so is much many rules with no prizes; is not perestroika free-market democracy, giving me so much taxes without giving me death."

"I am now writing the first caption," Rob announced abruptly. He slid the paper to Molly, which I have documented below, for posterity:

To this, Molly produced the following image:

Which the cuttlefish laboriously caption as such:

Which I illustrated:

My teenaged typist Jarwaun captioned:

Prompting his elementary-aged brother to draw:

Which the purloined pizza man determined was the following:

He displayed this, Rob laughed, and then we all revealed the papers we held, and beheld the pictures evolutionary progress. The pizza man clapped of his hands.

"This has been great," he said, adjusting his red sateen jacket and greasy MARCO'S PIZZA cap, "But I'd really, really like to g—"

"Great practice round," Rob shouted with forced joviality, slapping the ersatz team member upon his back. "Now we play for keeps."

The pizza man's eyes went to wide, white-rimmed Os, "What's that mean."

"SIT," I advised, "GAME WITH US."

He sat. "C'mon, please, what's that mean?"

"You start the next round," Rob told him, "And pass to me, then I'll pass to Molly and like before."

The pizza man sweated visibly as he wrote.

Rob chuckled and shook his head. "Rookie mistake, guy," he pronounced and drew upon the paper this:

Molly took the paper, shot Rob an alarmed look and took her own turn at the twisted game:

The cuttlefish received his passed paper with glee. He leapt and spun in the air, feet pinwheeling, then began to draw with pencils gripped in three manipulators:

I took my turn, describing thoroughly and precisely what was before me before passing the sheet on to Jarwaun.

"Man, I wanted to draw a dracula. Next time we need draculas in this."

Young Trael was the last player. In careful script he laid out what he had seen.

Rob gathered up the entries as the pizza delivery man darted from the room. He held up the sheets of paper, read each aloud in a loud and exaggerated voice. Trael and Jarwaun giggled at the drawings, the surprising robot. Mister Kalmarrochki danced about on his legs and struggled to get a view. "This bugshit vantage oh boy, I tell you."

We all of us agreed it was a wonderful game. Rob proclaimed Molly the winner, and we decided to add this to the rotating pool of Games Night. And then, as is customary, we hid with the lights out, silently stifling laughter and eating of the Gummied Bears when the police arrived, alerted by the treacherous pizza man.

I Remain,
The Giant Squid

Got a Question? Contact the Giant Squid
or check the Squid FAQ

Love the Giant Squid? Buy his first book.

Share on Facebook
Tweet about this Piece

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)

Poor Mojo's Tip Jar:

The Next Squid piece (from Issue #432):

Ask the Giant Squid: I Have Got the Twitters!

The Last few Squid pieces (from Issues #430 thru #426):

Ask the Giant Squid: To Take The Fork (part three of three)

Ask the Giant Squid: There Is No Sand on North Beach (part two of three)

Ask the Giant Squid: On the Mean Streets of San Francisco (part one of three)

Dear Giant Squid: The Vegetable-Faced Vixens of Arcimboldo's Prague

Ask The Giant Squid: The Whole Rhythm Section Was The Purple Gang (On a Guitar in the Keys; part three of three)

Squid Archives

Contact Us

Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson

More Copyright Info