The day I tried to cook waffles for the lovely Naomi Shatbritches could best be described as fateful. I knew that waffles were her favorite (she’d certainly screamed so in my face enough times, and never for any reason) and I desperately wanted to impress her, due to my fascination with clowns and the deformed, and so far the only thing I’d seen that impressed her was the Zippo lighter that she was always playing with. Clack, clack, it would say, like a pyromaniacal chromium puppet. It was a Richard Simmons signature series, a very limited run and rarer than a John Lennon commemorative pistol.
Alas, I no longer had a waffle iron. I’d loaned it to my neighbor, Chet, who used it as a tennis racket; he’d been drinking Clorox again, or else he’d never have done it, because he has no business playing tennis. For one thing, one of his legs is a foot shorter than the other so if he starts running he whirls in circles until dizziness takes him to the special place. And for another, his good leg has strep knee, so when he walks he looks like he’s being picked on by invisible dwarf-bullies. He drifts to and fro (mostly fro) like a schizophrenic trying to macarena. Complete (and sometimes incomplete, in the case of that guy with the flipper arm) strangers sometimes stop him, asking what the hell he’s listening to on his IPOD. And he doesn’t even have an IPOD. Frankly, he disapproves of them. In fact, he disapproves of the word “frankly,” because he knows a guy named Frank who’s the most duplicitous, evasive liar in the world. Ironically, Frank’s middle name is Earnest (or so he says; I‘m not sure we’re to believe him), which leaves Chet without a leg to stand on. Or, at least, not a good one. In any case, Chet can’t afford an IPOD (or a tennis racket) to begin with; it’s hard to make ends meet when you’re a door-to-door Sea Monkey salesman.
Anyway, without a waffle iron, I had to improvise (something which I am not good at at all since the unfortunate escapade with the trombone; in fact, improvisation is a parole violation for me, just like pointy scissors). I tried to put a pattern on the Bisquik batter with the sole of an old Ked sneaker. That had worked kind of well, in reverse. But that’s where my luck ran thin and my ingenuity surpassed my common sense, and so Naomi was not impressed. Fortunately, she also wasn’t aware, distracted by an azalea bush she thought was trying to impart something to her, so I escaped incarceration.
(As this is an impoverished county (our main cash crop is decorative gourds), we don’t have a jailhouse, but there are old cardboard boxes to put you into, and a convincing man there to talk you into staying in them.)
Anyway, as the Naomi waffle-adventure was a wash, I went on down the road, feeling bad. Several famous songs were written about it, and perhaps you’ve heard a few as you desperately lunged for the dial, cursing. Naomi eventually grew very enchanted with an ornamental fern, and carried on an unhealthy and inappropriate relationship with it for a time, which scandalized the community and led her to be labeled such things as “demented” and “scatological.” I, however, still carried a torch, because she had the funniest teeth I’d ever seen. The word “goofus” probably describes them as well as any, and I have, I’ve been diagnosed, a fetish for goofus. Her awkward, toddling walk and her habit of loudly interrupting others to express her needs (“Wipe!”) also endeared her to me in a way that makes me shudder.
She is, however, hard to have a conversation with, as she tends to yell “NO!” at you over and over as soon as you start talking. The only person around here who likes that kind of talk is old Ezeriah Kudd, and he’s a wizened old weirdling who’s built sentry stations in his yard where he keeps a constant watch for garden gnomes. They could invade us at any time, he says, and enslave us and have their little way with our women. Most of us dismiss him (or, if you’re Septimus Toole, you chase him around with a hedge trimmer because you think he’s after your sort-of girlfriend, Steve), and the few who don’t need tending to. They just can’t be left to wander around, touching themselves and then other things, befouling random surfaces with their taint-grimed hands and turning this world into a hamper.
Twice a week the ladies’ auxiliary (with honorary member Harold Witherfork) attack this town with scrubbing brushes and good strong borax, going at everything -- curbs, parking meters, street, rooftops -- with a furious vigor, ensuring that the germs that spread insanity have no chance to take root. If an object is so much as gazed upon by an icky person, it is ruthlessly scoured. Once Mayor Naise’s nephew, Hiram, farted in the cathedral, and the ladies’ auxiliary burned it to the ground just to be safe. They used Naomi’s Zippo to start the fire, in fact, and it was that day that Naomi first uttered her famous catchphrase: “Arson, ha ha!”
This is why a picture of Naomi hangs at City Hall, and why a mysterious figure in a shimmering green robe like that of a monk sometimes steals in and leaves before it offerings of marshmallows and absinthe. Once a horse was sacrificed, but that was going too far, and was an action attributed to a case of February Fever (one of the early stages of March Madness).
They’re trying to cure that, by the way. To all the schools they send around a doctor or nurse dressed as a silent clown to give the children shots. He frolics in with his hypodermics and pantomime, but the children are just terrified by all the theatrics. I’m fascinated with clowns, as I may have mentioned, and so I keep a scrapbook on all our county’s shot-needle clowns, of which there have been many. Each is buried in a special section of the cemetery (after they die, of course, except for the unfortunate Boppo incident), and everyone has their favorite. Mine is a rather unpopular choice, Charlie Barrett, who was shot-needle-clown from 1958-1964, up until his murder-suicide in the House of the Bent Weathervane. There’s a famous picture of Charlie Barrett in his clown gear, taken for the newspaper. In it, he’s crouching next to a hysterical little girl, gripping her arm with one hand so she can’t run away, brandishing his hypodermic with the other. The girl is screaming and crying and Charlie is leaning into her face, trying to amuse her by making crying faces of his own, mocking her terror. I find it charming and wish that Norman Rockwell had survived his attack by that Ecuadorian rapist squad, so he could paint it. Others, however, hold a grudge against Charlie for his alcoholism (he drank until he became a hepatitic), and for the bludgeoning murders of those seven people (eight if you count the infant). I thought he redeemed himself with his suicide (one has to be sincere and determined to beat oneself to death with a steam-iron) but others are less generous, and there are fewer balloons left on his grave than the others.
Ah well, c’est le pontaire, I always say, although I don’t know what that means and so often wonder why I always say it. It may be a compulsion, a Eurofetishistic twitch that’s manifesting itself. I’m not sure but perhaps I ought to be concerned, as such things can be a warning sign of a greater malady developing, like Earmuffism or Mrs. Butterworth’s Syndrome, or even a case of the Creeping Schwarzeneggers. More tangelos in my diet can’t hurt, I think, perhaps more time spent squatting and staring into the distance. America doesn’t do nearly enough squatting. Our readily-available chairs are killing us.
We ought to be out afrolic in the meadows, leaping about through the weeds, the whore’s hair and parson’s bonnet, the sweet-scented babyscrote and bitter preacher’s clap, the bristly warlock’s taint and fragrant spinster’s beard. We ought be chasing rabbits through the chicken-nip bushes, and poking sticks into the dens of the corpse-nibbler gophers so we can set fire to them when they emerge, so they won’t raise their babies in a nest in our mouths when God’s let us down and mortality’s laid us low. We spend too much of our time doing nothing, when we’d never spend our money that way, and money -- all the money there is -- won’t buy you more time when yours has run out. Time is a non-renewable resource; you’re born with your gas tank full and you drive a road without stations, until you finally sputter, stop, and become someone’s sanitation problem. So while you’re here, you ought to have a delicious pot pie now and then, and a cola, then a brisk trot across the glen, where you can watch the little animals trying to climb atop one another and thrust each other full of genetic gland-water. Where their seed is spilled there grows the rank skeet-weed and the stunted spoogemuffin, called “nature’s clown” by botanists.
I believe that previously I have mentioned my fascination with clowns. I like to go to their funerals, especially. Once the circus came to town and late at night after a show the clowns got drunk and went out driving and ran their car under a freight train, mangled them all, thirty-two clowns dead, no survivors. Someone apparently made off with one of the decapitated heads as a souvenir. People think it was me, but they should know that if I had it I’d hang it over my bed so I could admire it in the moonlight during my long sleepless nights. How wonderful it would be to have the severed head of a clown, to drag through the streets on a string! That, my friend, is glory. To everything else we simply reconcile ourselves.
(sorry, I just felt a weird urge to turn in crazyshit this week... hope somebody thinks it's funny besides me... :) )