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Squid #53
(published August 16, 2001)
Ask The {Sally McBootykins}: How Many Matters Must a Man Attend?
Big American Chapter Twelve
Who is Poor Mojo's Giant Squid?
[Editors Note: You have landed amidst the wreckage of the American Dream. It's a novel called Big American.
How did this start?
Who is Sally McBootykins?
Show me Sang's "Story so Far"?
I hate this new squid novel. You guys suck.
The squid is on the road, people. Keep up. Want to catch up with past chapters? Check out the Archive.
Want to know what happens next? Read on!]

 Dear squid,

I own a thriving small business. The long term outlook for the place always makes me nervous due to the nature of my lease.

I wonder if I should simply sit tight and stay the course or work hard on other things, knowing that would hurt my current business.

What would an intelligent, giant squid like yourself do?

John D.
Spokane, WA

In the first part, please refer to me by my federally mandated appellation: Sally McBootykins (how that cursÚd name causes me to moan!) lest you bring to bear upon my sac the full and furious brunt of your Corpus Politic Americanum. In my bid for citizenship, it is important that I show myself to be docile in all things, and subservient to the Will of the People. Or so I am told by Tom, my ne'ersucceed Charon, ferrying me across the River Styx to the living death of citizenship.

My heart murmurs and groans with the grave predicament which enshrouds it.

But of these matters most groanful, you do not ask.

Apropos of your dilemma: We have an expression, deep below the choppy interstice of silkwater and burning air: "The Great Clocksmith from a Dimension Beyond Time did not give us 8 arms and 2 tentacles to address only one matter." Clearly, for those of my ilk, the optimum number of matters to be addressed is 8 to 10.

The octopus handles no more than 8 matters— which explains his vast inferiority to squid. For the stone crab it is usually 8, although occasionally only 7. Most humans, barring structural damage received by misadventure or combat, may attend to 4 or 5 matters, depending upon biological sex. I presume that this additional appendage is the basis of the myth of human-male superiority— although, judging by the very small dimensions of this additional manipulator, I judge that it may only attend to very small matters, if any of import at all.

Take note, Readership Male: I once cracked a berg of ice the size of greater Toledo, using nothing but the force exerted by a mighty wack of my mating tentacle. That is an appendage which might attend to a matter.

Perhaps this is what so unnerves me about these travels: for too long I have attended solely to the single matter of securing my citizenship. My column— my important business of attending to my soon-to-be-countryfolk's pitiful dilemma— has been nigh unto wholly ignored, despite being one of my matters to which I should attend. Just between you and I, great and multitudinous Readership, I consider advising you to be, quite possibly, the matter of greatest import, and thus frequently refer to it as "Matter Aleph" in and about the Cin-Cin-Atti compound. You may ask any of the staff. They shall confirm this nomenclature.

But do not misunderstand, skitterbugs: Were I to feel any real obligation to your and your kind, I might very well hang my sac in shame at such a realization, and allow myself to drift terribly surfaceward, toward the bursting pressurelessness. Nonetheless, at the very least I am greatly chagrined to reflect upon my laxity in these regards. Even a small matter is a matter— even an obligation to the buzzing and diseased meatflies is an obligation. Squid never fail in their agreements— unlike the welshing crustaceana, of whom the less said, the better.

But, again, my great and terrible mind greatly and terribly wanders. I declare that the pressure in this conveyance is perhaps not quite appropriate. Although, like and unto the drunkenness of the priest, it is a somewhat pleasant light-sackedness . . .

Ah, the excuses, how they are manifold. I begin to sound like a dirt-monkey, do I not? The way I shunt all responsibility? The way I shift blame from myself— It is never I, never I to blame for my failure and weakness! For I am but of flesh and sweet succulent blood and blah, blah, blah . . .. Perhaps now I shall hang my sac in shame. Long and low it shall hang.

I observe, I watch much of the passing road and its dramas as I tour through your Southern Depths. When it is not strip-mined, strip-malled or otherwise beleaguered by the folly of man, the delta and gulf offer some of the most beautiful landscape ever beheld by the flawless eye of squid. Of course, I am told by Tom that the smells associated with these vast expanses of turgid cess-water boiled to a fecund broth are another matter, but he is at a loss to explain precisely what a "smell" is, and I am at a loss to really pay much mind to matters of his comfort.

It now occurs to me that, perhaps, the greater part of your nation's— your entire surface world's— trouble is due to an excess of single-tasking. In hamlet after berg, along thoroughfare after boulevard, I see far too many Homo Americanum single-mindedly, mulelike, pursuing a single task. So few attend to their appointed 4 to 5 matters.

In Alabama, I note, it seems that each and every area, depending upon the proximity and concentration of mobile homes, appears to be either recovering from or preparing for the imminent arrival of a tornado-storm. And while I do see many an Alabaman industriously skittering hither and nigh, strapping a roof down or back upon their houses-mobile, I see none working to craft the weather control machine, nor building cinder-block sluiceways to redirect the force of winds (possibly towards enemies grave and reviled?), nor do they build— or even work to design— the gyromills which might harness the terrible force of the terrible storm. They secure their homes and piece their ramshackles together again, not more, often less. You'll note further that there is no Ars Alabamia, no Scientia Alabamia, and cast all hope of Veritas Alabamia from your cramped, fevered crania. Not only do they only attend cosas tornadas, but further only to the single sub-matter of securing (or resecuring) roofs.

All through the Southern Depths I hope you love your dear Walled-Mart, for Walled-Mart is upon the South like unto the locusts that harrowed Pharaoh. Where is the diversity of concerns? Cannot man attend to his Kay-Marts and Super Kay-Marts, his Mejors, his Quik-O-Marts, his Woolworthies, his Ef-und-Ems? No, in his single-matteredness, it is the Walled-Mart way or the highway for him. (As an aside, I hope that its battlements are sturdy enough to provide the support and protection that its name implies. Perhaps we should side-line ourselves and construct siege equipment that might yet give lie to the name? No? Well, it is perhaps a task best left to you, my humble acolytes. I absolve myself of the legal responsibility. But still, I encourage a full assault upon the reinforced brick-face of this prolific retailer.)

Throughout the Great Buffer State of Georgia, I spied many and several billingboards advertising the viewing of "Live Nude Girls." Both Tom and his lust-mate refused to give many details on these establishments, which I presume to be zoological parks of a sort— and in contrast to the anatomical galleries in which they display the dead nude girls, yes? I agitated greatly to halt briefly and visit one or the other, for my mantle enshrouds, among other things, a great curiosity about the distribution of the various parts of the corpus humane. I presume that a detailed examination of your physiognomies might lend me insight into your oft cryptic lives and habits— does not knowing that the taciturn oyster is a bivalve devoid of closed circulatory systems make his reluctance to commit to a given single philosophical school-of-thought that much more intelligible? I admit freely, my desire to observe the bare human form is perhaps simply a manifestation of morbid curiosity, even a perversion, creased into my thinking by so many months of forcefully cramming my vast and sanguine considerations into the rough and narrow die of your grunticulations. But see: these are but two of my 8 to 10 matters— I think of them frequently as matters Bet and Gimmel.

Ultimately, my attempt to visit these parlors was thwarted, and we entered Alabama with my curiosity still smoldering. Although my desires were denied in that regard, I have secured the frontseaters solemn promise that full control of the Frequency Modulated radio receiver shall be ceded to myself and myself alone— for I am Marlin Brando, King of Kings

And upon that fluctuating frequency I heard a most wonderful thing. A thing so calming and beautiful that it has become two more of my 8 to 10 matters and should be described here as a brief departure from my advice to you.

Upon this day, the eighth of August, one of my few progeny to walk the lands of this dry earth was born. It was in the lazy summer of the surface calendar year of one thousand, nine hundred and twenty-two (the trifold time of blackness, downswells and resalination at the peripheries in the more bucolic calendar of the deep). Her mother called her E-star Will-I-Ambs, but I called her "a color you cannot see but which undulates beneath the eyes of a broodling's beak before devouring its first prey." And she was beautiful. Like her elder brother of my same loins, this earthen VICE-mueller, she swam quick and graceful before the cinematographic entrapment devices of that Holly-Wood of your land. She was truly of both worlds. I weep with joy and ask that we pause for a moment to consider the passing of time and the shriveling, dry shriveling, of my once beautiful but deeply flawed experiments with the monkey people of this surface land.


And so, my advice to you: Locate your five (or more properly, four and one-tenth) matters, and attend to them, attend to them with a passion. If I may be so bold as to suggest these matters to you:

  • Matter the first: whatever pitiful little business venture it is that so worries your adorabley stitched, sloping brow.
  • Matter the second: some other pathetic pecuniary venture which shall also worry you beyond all proportion.
  • Matter the third: obtain a sidearm or other appropriate weapon-of-war.
  • Matter the fourth: immediately straddle your steed and cruise the southern highways, hijacking late-model Cadillac Escalades with welded doors and tinted windows. Drive these into the forgiving sea at the earliest opportunity.
  • Matter the fifth (a one-tenth concern): Drag your moist, bony corpus from place to place, occasionally stuff it with fine fried comestibles, hose it off with waters warm and cold, take it to the appropriate rooms and stalls for its needed grunt-intervals, etc., etc., ad infinitum. Without, at the same time, losing touch with your progeny. They do forget their progenitors. I know only too well.

    I suggest you hurry to matters 3 and 4. Now.

    Sally McBootykins,
    (the once and future Squid)

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