Poor Mojo's Almanac(k) Classics (2000-2011)
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Squid #5
(published Mid-year, 2000)
Ask The Giant Squid: Squid Epistemology
Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid?
Dear Giant Squid,

Every week you dutifully answer our questions. Without fail, you help one of us in this crazy land-walking world. First when you were in the Cleveland Sun-Times, and then as your brief stint as editor at Outside magazine, and now with your (what position do you have?) at Poor Mojo's Almanac. Nine years in total, not counting the year you spent as weather cephalopod at WWSD TV in Baltimore. After all of this public service, Giant Squid, I have a question for you: Why do you do it? What compels you to aid humanity by answering questions about etiquette, social mores, and the correct way to eat shellfish?

Curious in Colorado

Dear Curious,

My fervor for advising began just ten short years ago. I was fleeing a sperm whale at the time— to my understanding, your species lacks predators. I pity you for this, for during flight, there is a certain clarity of thought . . . well, there is simply no sense explaining it. When the Dwellers Beneath arise, you shall understand.

You see, for nearly a century humanity has been convinced that giant squids like myself— the noble Archteuthis dux, to my more scientifically bent acolytes— have preyed upon sperm whales. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Sperm whales have vigorously and maliciously hunted my kind for millennial. We flee in terror at the merest hint of whale presence.

Whales are huge animals. I know that you shall doubtless quickly agree to this, intellectually, but lend credence to my words: whales are far larger than your narrow axons could possibly process. Imagine darting down one of your tarmac thoroughfares, pursued by a diesel omnibus. Now imagine being chased by four omnibi, side by side. And further imagine that these omnibi wish to delight their tongues with the delicate bouquet of your flesh. Being preyed upon by sperm whales is not unlike that.

But worse, so very much more worse.

But, you say, Giant Squid, you too are ever so large and fierce. Why do you fear the whale? Is not it an even match? Are not you two massive titans wrestling forever under the waves, causing typhoons and earthquakes with the striking of blows?

No. 'Tis nothing of that sort. Our melees are far more like being mugged by a diesel tanker, or perchance playing tag with an enraged planetoid, drunk upon its very might.

So, I was understandably fleeing this massive and misguided whale when a warm current hit my cold cold flesh and disturbed my delicate balance. The change in pressure shot me towards the surface— the horrible surface— but while mid-career, happenchance blessed me with a colder current. This second, life-affirming current was not sufficiently cold to send me back to my whale-infested home, but it was cold enough to halt my upward, deathward acceleration.

I managed like this for untold days, rising and falling, hot current cold current. Hot current cold current. Until I managed to find my way into a tight series of marine lava-tubes. It was here that I spent a month of my life adjusting to the lessened hug of oceanic pressure. I trained myself to breathe the harsh "fresh water" below the continental shelf.

To truncate a tale fraught with digressions, I found my way through your sweet, warm water table to the Mighty Lake Superior— as frigid a body of water as the deep trench currents which cradled me when I was but planktonic larva, beholden to the shifting deep. I practiced surfacing a few times, but the pain was too great. I could never take that final step. So I waited and I bided my time.

That April, I met Fritz, a strapping boy of 33. He was leading a scuba team of salvagers— a scarier lot I've never seen. Perhaps you have seen the famous surface-film saga Star Wars. If you recall the protagonists adventures in the space-cantina, then you may well imagine my hesitation before Fritz and his hearty cut-throats. Fritz and his team of fresh water buccaneers were scouring the lake basin for centuries-old pirate booty. They were examining a particularly old ironclad that had been my home for a some time— I confess that I had grown quite attached to it, the rusted iron looked so much like the coral shell where I had lurked as an adolescent squidling, a mere 50 feet in length, and with hardly the girth necessary to rend an oil rig— when I made my presence known to them. I caught Fritz in my hunting tentacle and drew him towards my beak, so that we might speak of many matters important and necessary. To my surprise, Fritz plunged his hand into a sack that was tied about his waist and drew forth a clear and clever contract— a contract in which the party of the first part was one "Fritz Garner Swanson," and the party of the second party was none other than myself.

I had been advising other divers, occasionally, when they had relationship problems, or needed to know the proper and exact way to eat braised artichoke at a social gathering. A few of these divers had contacted Fritz, and piqued his curiosity.

The rest, as you humans say, is history. A special office was built for me, high above your Ohio-city, Cincinnati. Watertight, serenely dark, and with enough pressure to crack a Russian sub; I call this office home. It is here that I lie and wait for the waters to cover the earth again— a time when my kind shall take its rightful place at the head of the dinner table. Until then, my dear humans, the salad fork is farthest to the left.

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