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Squid #66
(published Late in the Year, 2001)
Ask The Giant Squid: Or a Butterfly Dreaming of Being a Chinamen
Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid?
Dear squid,

What is the best possible way to quit smoking cigarettes? I don't care if I smoke when I'm drunk but it's disturbing my peace of mind when I'm sober and I smoke.



While in recent repose within my great glassed throne high atop the Centre del Renaissance in my fair Kingdom By the River, I had a dream.

Perhaps you consider such nocturnal Wanderdenken nothing to write toward the home concerning, but for this Architeuthis, it is quite an event indeed. For, note well, while all vertebrates great and small dream during their intervals of rest, both light and REM-state. But we invertebrates engage in no such waste of thought. In point of fact, the pauses in our work are themselves few and far between— the cephalopoda being an industrious species, living longer than the ancient bearded stag and working harder than the deep-diving sea turtles with their giant cavernous cities as glorious as anything yet seen. To sleep? Perchance to dream? The former is rare enough in the life of a Squid, and the latter is itself entirely unheard of. Squid, simply put, do not dream.

Nevertheless, I have dreamt a dream which disturbs me greatly.

Were dearest Francois Mitterand here, in this tank with me, he might clap me upon the sack with one great, gauntleted hand and chuckle, "Perhaps, mon amour, you have spent too much time above the surface, no? The singes d' mauvaise odeur has inflamed more than your sense of smell."

And, drawing him close in my deca-appended embrace, I would mutter "The only thing which can inflame my senses, Francois, is you, only you."

But I float alone in my tank, and man has indeed inflamed more than my senses, and done so with an attribute a great deal more quixotic than the eye-watering stink or soul-numbing grunt-drivel which, among by the greater and lesser phyla, has become synonymous with "homo sapiens."

Oh humanity, I quote your great Sage Sinatra when I bemoan that I indeed have you beneath my skin.

"Why such groaning and gnashing of beak?" you, my eager readers, cry. "'Tis only a dream, our liege and lord. How is it possible that a simple night-wondering of the idle mind has created such woe and trembling?"

And I answer, It is the matter of the dream which disturbs me so.

In the grip of such a rare somnabulic excursion, I have dreamt of Tom, dearly departed Tom.

Not guilt. This is not guilt which grumbles and groans, like the upset of gullet after eating one too many rusted Studebaker chassis. This is not guilt, for I did not dream guilt thoughts of the Tom I slaughtered.

I dreamt that I was, am Tom.

The first thing I felt was that I was small and stiff-fleshy within the confines of the meat sack. I was dry and crusty and the air was like paper. Worse still, I was constantly forced to draw the air into my internal bone-cave and it was cold and scratchy to my innards. If I stopped for a moment to collect my mind, then my within went a-fire across the chest-part, forcing me to resume the air-intake to stifle the fearsome fleshfire. This res-par-ration in the dry gases of the upper space troubled me.

But soon, more disturbingly, I found that the dream's mentality silently overode my noble squid-thinking, re-tinting it like so much technicolor humana, redirecting it like a straight sluice sloppily cut through the muddy banks of s pounding, wending stream: I felt the urge to drink soda pops, and to ogle breasts and to fiddle with my mating tentacle and to watch the glowing tele-visor, all together at once, preferably in some way that allowed each activity to reinforce the other, and I was Tom. Completely Tom.

And there was terror— but not Squid's terror at being Tom; far from it: I felt Tom's terror of being Tom. Oh the manifold strangeness of the human mind— why have I not known before now?

We were in a boat upon a swift river surrounded with tall trees. Lisa and I. The river had cut down through sand dunes into heavy clay, and in the afternoon sun you could see down into the water where the current had worn shelves into the clay substratum, where silvery fish hid, swimming and swimming against the current so that they could stay in place, hidden in the shadows, their gills fluttering.

I sat up in the bow of the canoe, and she sat a-stern. She was steering with a broad wooden timber as I half-heartedly drew us forward, the current so quick that my only real task was to stabilize the bow so that we pointed straightward. It was a low, aluminum canoe with a dented stabilizing-ridge. This ventral ridge was so shallowly displaced that, when we came to bends in the river, we skittered across the surface of the water, coming out of the bends at some cocked angle. We never came out cleanly and true.

But I— the I that was Tom, that is— knew a great deal of canoes. This was something he — I— had done with great frequency as a child, the piloting of canoes. As we proceeded downriver, the water would on occasion slosh up over the gunwale— and I knew what a gunwale was, despite never having seen a canoe craft. The water might land upon my knees and soak through the denim, the cool clear feel of it spreading across the skin. I know now that, prior to my being Tom, I had never known what "wet" was, despite living my life entire ensconced on the embrace of waters.

"Look. A kingfisher." Lisa pointed up to the left where a tree hung far out over a wide and deep oxbow. Upon a leafy branch, hung out far into the sun, the blackcrowned kingfisher silhouetted, stood still and stern. He had one side of his head turned to the water, and with a single appraising eye he searched the clay shelfs and caves for the silvery flicker of lunch.

I saw this all, through Tom's optically flawed eyes. And, despite the degraded transmission from ocular to brain, it was beautiful in the extreme.

"Do you think it matters one way or the other?" I asked, my words strange and grinding in Tom's grunt talk.

The kingfisher seemed to fall dead, but his collapse metamorphosed to into a dive that pierced the river surface like a squid's beak sliding easily into the soft belly flesh of a mastiff. It came up just as quickly with a small minnow in its beak, the water opening like the petals of a flower.

I was in awe, and did not register Lisa's reply.

"Either he is two days ahead, or three. Let's forget about everything."

"What?" I asked, turning in the boat. As we slid under the branch I saw the kingfisher easily tilt back its head and let the whipcording tail of the fish slip away into its maw.

I drew my paddle out of the water and brought it into the boat. The kingfisher stood still and perfect again.

"I said, let's forget about everything for a while." Lisa withdrew her paddle from the water as well, and the canoe began to drift out the far edge of the oxbow into the sun. There was a sand dune that surrounded the water; we were at the bottom of a deep gully with sand on either side reflecting the warm afternoon sun.

I carefully came up to a kneeling position, every aware of the boats tenuous balance upon the surface of the waters, and flexed around in the boat so that might face to her. I climbed one knee at a time over the mid-boat cross-strut, bringing myself firmly to the middle of the canoe. The canoe bottom was cold; gritty water sloshed a bit and soak into the seat of my pants.

"Forget?" I asked.

"Forget." She nodded. "About the past. About the future."

"About the present?"

"If you can." She knelt as well, in front of her seat, and the only thing that separated us was the thin aluminum cross piece— an extruded strut that, within my beak or tentacles would be crushed in a second, but to Tom's pink, brokejointed hand was as solid as the very earth itself. Lisa wore a light jacket and the air behind her was so clear and bright that she seemed to glow warm in the sun, showing the color of her emotions, squidlike.

I looked over the side into the deep water which, there at the outside middle of the bend, was clear and calm. A school of minnowfish levitated in the water, perfectly still, like dirigibles in the sky or bubbles in glass.

As we drifted out of the bend into the more pulling current of a long straight section, I said to her, "Lisa. Don't you feel like the whole world is rushing along, pulling us unstoppably. Don't you have, you know, this urge in the pit of your stomach to watch the past retreat at the same time as you search up ahead for rocks and logs?"

The kingfisher was just a shadow, then a dot, then nothing as we slipped quickly through the rapids. Neither of us was steering and it was only by pure chance that we glided so easily betwixt rocks and clay and eddies.

I felt like if I reached out to touch her with my soft pink hand, she would leap from the boat, a young doe, her hooves cutting through the water, scraping up the bank, and darting away into the ferns and skunk cabbage of the flood plain to the forest.

We let the current control us, then, on the river. And as we drifted on the sun faded and night came. The sky was bright with stars, but black in the absence of a moon. I saw one star drifting quickly. It was not an airplane or a balloon or the eye of an owl.

Lisa looked up and followed my gaze.

"A satellites," she said. It winked, I think, as it performed some orbital maneuver, perhaps rotating solar cells like wings in the airless night.

I looked at her in the starlight, her pink lips just a pale gray, her eyes like the dusty remains of fear-ink long after a squid's escape, her hair as ethereal as a spider's web.

I pulled her across the aluminum bar into the middle of a canoe where we kissed, and we fell perfectly and forever forward, like a satellites in orbit, static in our boundless descent, and as we kissed, the boat turned to its side, the shallow keel catching upon clay, the whole boat turning up on its side, and we, intertwined, hung there above the water. I held Lisa's head, my hands in her tresses, as we both looked down into the black water.

When I awoke, the lab was nightdark, and I hung in my tank, my three hearts beating as one sick with love, not knowing whether I was Tom or the Giant Squid. And, once I came to myself, and knew myself to be the once and future Squid, a mournfulness spread over me, and I did not know— for just the briefest interval, mind you— whether I wanted to be the Giant Squid or Tom.

Let it suffice to say that the occurrence was quite strange to me. I shall have to think upon it much and further.


Post-Scriptorum: As for your question, I'm still researching an appropriate answer. Understandably, much of my recent thought has been caught within the web woven by my dream. For the time being, Sang suggests chewing bubbled gum whenever the urge to ignite a cigarette strikes. This technique should be able sate you for a time, as I prepare more fully informed counsel.

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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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