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Squid #486
(published May 13, 2010)
Ask the Giant Squid: The Sperm Whale Story
Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid?
Lord A.,

What's the sperm whale story?


Dear Emma,

You are using the definite article "The" in your missive. Not an "A" or an "An" but a "The." This gives the impression that there is a certain particular story you wish to hear, as when a human child sits upon the knee of her forefather or grandforefather and plaintively beseeches him, "Popup, tell me the groin injury story once more." When one asks with a definite article one assumes there is a definite target.

Alas I do not know to what you precisely refer. Have I promised to reveal some grand story involving those morons of the deep? Perhaps! My mind is fast, dear Emma, but I type with many appendages and thus, at times, type even faster than even I can imagine thinking. There are times I have made promises with my tentacles that my brain could not fulfill; exempli gratis: Jarwaun, my typist and errand boy, once asked me if I could introduce him to a Great White Shark. I was only paying attention with one eye, while the other was riveted to news of the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon drilling rig explosion, collapse, and pollution (I have family near there, in trench alpha-7, with winter homes in St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana). Of course I said yes and even told him a time and a place. It was an accident. The following day saw him waiting in vain on Belle Isle, where I had promised him a shark lived, evidently.

He has not returned to work since. Perhaps he has fallen prey to the hyper-evolved racoons and their mule deer steeds? No matter.

Have I made a similar promise regarding a story involving those benthic boors? It is possible. I do know very many sperm whale stories.

There was one occasion in 2003 when, protesting the Internet policy of China, an emotionally unstable sperm whale suicide bomber attacked Tainan City. He caused little damages to others and catastrophic damage to hisself. A foolish and craven act by what must have been one of the brighter members of their repulsive species.

In 2005, drunken whales belonging to a fraternity undertook one of their favorite party games: trying to tip things over. But in the sea, rarely are objects so precarious that an inebriated cetacean nose bump can topple them. Coral reefs everywhere bear the scars of whales trying and failing to push them over. It is as if you, Emma, or one of your beefy male suitors, went into a thriving downtown area and tried to knock over a twenty-story building by leaning on it. It is infeasible, and not even especially comic.

But my hatred of the sperm whale is known. One might say it is a defining characteristic of my countenance. If you asked a random passerby about me, they might say, "Him? He is of incredible intelligence and unparalleled handsomeness. He is skilled at all he puts his hand to." And then they would laugh and note that I do not have hands like you monkey-born, but superior tentacles, and they would conclude by saying, "And he hates the sperm whales."

It is true. I carry this hate within me like an engine. It is voracious and never-satisfied. Let me tell you why. Let this telling serve as a definite article, as a definite answer to the sperm whale question:

When I was a youth my people had a great war with the whales. We have always been at war, in Oceania. As most wars go, this one began over small injustices but they revealed long held hatreds. There were disputes over territories, over feeding grounds. The whales accused my people of supplying arms to the sharks and we knew that they were encroaching on foreign markets where we had developed a foothold. (Arms! Foothold! Appendage puns!)

As with many young males, I was swept up in Events. Our multi-Armed Forces were depopulated and a great conscription was called. We named it "the Current." Some embraced it, others avoided it. I was ignorant in my youth. I was certain that the squids were too many, too intelligent, to fail before the incompetence of whales. I thought there was no way we could lose. No way the war would last more than a month. My place in the Current was far, far away. Years away. I whiled away my time as young idealists do. I chased love. Found sex. Wrote poems and feasted on life, marijuanas, and cookies.

The great war dragged on, ebbing and flowing. Always on the verge of victory, but never quite winning. I did not notice the date. And one morning, as I lay in the streams composing a sestina about cookies and marijuana and the pretty females, the recruiters collected me. They bound my limbs with strong cords and placed a hood of lichens about my eyes. I was brought to a distant valley where the pressure was so great it conjured bubbles of nausea in my gullet. Thousands of us queued there, inspected and prodded by military men. They divided us into groups; funneled us into services.

I had a cousin who had been called up at the same time as I. His name was Jack. He was handsome and brave and strong. He had a profile that made men grit their beaks in jealousy and females swoon. Jack was assigned to the Super-Marine division: Bold squids who braved the terrible Upspace and pressure-less surface to fight the whale menace on their home territory. He perished on his first mission. His blood boiled as the gas molecules expanded. He burst apart at the seams when he was still fifty meters from the surface. It happens, they said. Some just cannot handle the lack of pressure.

Others joined the Navy where they patrolled in vast schools in the pelagic seas. They played great games of Cat and Mouse with the whales, the sharks, the fishermen.

Some flying squid attempted to form a sort of Air Force, but their size was small and their power few. When they attacked a whale it was not unlike sparrows flattening themselves against the too-clear window.

As for myself, I hoped for the Home Guard. The chance of violence was slim, and I would remain near my family, friends, marijuanist, and baker. But luck was not with me in those years. I was deemed barely fit for combat, and so they put me on the front lines. I was a Ground Groper. A Sand Walker. I was Infantry. I was Army.

Boot camp lasted but two weeks for us. Others were trained for months or even years for their specialized tasks, but I was less clever then: Two weeks and I was out, able to swim in formation, salute with efficacy, utilize rudimentary military jargon, and whirl and slice with eight swords distributed among our ten appendages—as if any of that would save us when a whale crushed us in his jaws.

It would not.

Our enemy was fewer than us, but larger and more technically advanced. They moved at tremendous speeds and hit like freight trains. They hired scrimshaw artists in the Northern Seas to carve wicked designs into their teeth—jags and hitches, spirals and racial slurs, small vignettes of terrible manners in which to die in the sea.

The fist night I served on the sandy plains of Neptonia, near Green Gulch. Five thousand of my people were on the field that night and only a thousand greeted the dim rays of the sun as they filtered down. The whales had taken the rest. They sang their terrible songs at heights we could not reach, bragging of what they would do to our mothers when they found them. They clicked at us, just beyond our visual range, wearing at our patience.

Six months into my conscription I was assigned to take back a dormant volcano from the enemy. The volcano hosted a coral reef that bloomed with life so bright it hurt to look upon it. The enemy occupied it. We needed it. I was a private ad so had no choice in this matter. Later they would call this the battle of Suicide Hill, such were the losses incurred. But that day seemed like any other day in the Multi-Armed forces. I woke. I fed. I emptied my bladder sac. I polished my swords and stretched my limbs. I wrote a letter to Mary Jane back home, tore it up, drafted another, considered tearing that up, then folded it carefully and stowed it within the folds of my uniform.

At dawn we marched on the hill. The fishes and plant life took shelter in the whorls of the reef. Eels cursed us, cursed the whales, cursed the entire sea as we drew near. A silence descended. There was no clicking. No triumphant whale songs echoing upon us. No pleasant murmur of the fishes going about their daily business. The water was still. We stood in rows ringed about the base of the reef like circles in a crosscut tree. The stillness felt wrong, poisoned. Looking up one could see but two lone whales circling the very tip of the submerged volcano.

Two whales against a thousand heavily armed squid? This was no contest.

But they came at us from behind. As we watched the reef and made plans to ascend it, the whale forces sped in on us from out of the black. With lowered jaws they bulldozed our rear squadrons, scooping them up into their terrible jaws. Panicked squid rushed the reef and began ascending only to see whales barreling down from above, skimming the reef with their jaws picking up fish and squid alike. It was a slaughter.

I was caught between two enemies in the initial attack. They grazed either side of me with their locomotive force and swallowed my brethren by the truckload. I could hear the screams, the rubbery crunch, the chuckling of the whales as they gorged themselves on the blood of my people. My mantle flashed red and I inked the water. I streamed upwards and saw the downward volley of whales picking off those who climbed the reef. I roared without words and threw myself at one of these whales. I caught him just under his eye and wrapped myself quickly about his torso. We plummeted groundwards, inches from the razor sharp coral. I dug a blade into his eye and he turned to smash me into the coral, drag me across it like an onion across a mandolin. I gripped his maneuvering flipper and pulled and cut and prayed. He wavered in the waters and drove the side of his head into that awful reef. We hurtled the final hundred meters that way. Him flailing, me shoving him closer. He hit the bottom with a mighty boom. Half his skull eaten away by the hungry coral. Blood and ink forming a cloud large enough to hide an army in.

I cowered there in he recesses of the reef, nipped by eels, and waited for the terror to pass. We did not win that battle. But I survived and continued surviving. My people were pleased with my victory. It was one of three whales we killed that day. I was rewarded with a badge, a promotion, and a week of holiday time. I spent that week drunk on life and making love like it could stop time, sufficiently inebriated with marijuana to believe I was again with Mary Jane—and where the draft of that letter may have gone, I know not.

And that, dear Emma, is the sperm whale story I know.

And Still I Survive,
And Remain,
The Giant Squid

Post Scriptorum: This Sperm Whale story is an abomination before God, Man, Cthulhu, and Mel Gibson. And for that reason, I could not even mention it in the body of this response. Luckily, I understand that there are very few of these left, and so if you were to purchase one, I hope it would be so that you could set it on fire.

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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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