A French Cuisine Escapade
Excerpt from: A Parable for the Human Mind - Susan's Brain
Once upon a time there was a lizard and a snake. They lived in a desert-like-plain on the outskirts of a peculiar, little town called Desert Inn. The town consisted of a state-of-the-art research laboratory, housing for the scientists and workers, a strip mall, and a nine-hole golf course. The course was called The Greens of Desert Inn. The laboratory was world-renowned for its breakthrough technology. But, their experiments were somewhat questionable. However, since the government sanctioned it, no one disputed their “methods” publicly.
The lizard was named Ted and the snake was named Larry. They had parents and siblings. They went to school throughout the year and vacationed in the summer. They experimented with mescal buttons in their teens, and cruised the local watering holes on the weekend. They dated the fairer species, grew-up, and left home. You know, normal stuff.
Ted and Larry did everything together and had since the Breaking of the Shell Ceremony. They were a couple of real practical jokers too. Once, they got kicked out of Reptile Sex-Ed Class after Ted made obscene shadow puppets on the wall using Larry as a prop. They were the best of friends. But Ted, being a little older, thought he knew more. He was always giving Larry great advice. Mottoes, so to speak, to live by.
Now that they’re older, and married, they only get together on Saturdays. Like clockwork, they rise with the sun, and travel one-point-five miles to a special place they call the Basking Rock. It's located about twenty feet from an oasis. If you’re a reptile, it's a great place to catch a quick lunch.
The Basking Rock, is about three feet thick and five feet in diameter. It’s cracked evenly down the middle. Each slab has a flat, smooth top that’s perfect for sunbathing on. It’s an ideal spot for the two friends to catch-up on the events of the week, get away from their nagging wives, and take a break from food gathering. They often reminisce about their youth, laugh about how stupid they were, eat lunch, and then take a nap while sunbathing. You know, normal stuff.
Well, this particular Saturday afternoon during the sunbathing portion of their day, Larry started moaning. His stomach was upset. He squirmed around trying to find a comfortable position. Finally having enough, Ted turned to him and said, “Jezz Larry, how the hell am I supposed to relax when you keep wiggling around like that. Your rattle's been going off every five minutes. What the hell is wrong with ya?”
“Sssorry Ted. The missses had a craving for French cuisssine lassst night. Ssso I treated her to the Grenouille Buffet at The Greens of Desert Inn. I think one of thossse fat little buggersss had eaten a golf ball before I got there. No wonder it wasss ssso easssy to catch him. You should have ssseen him Ted. He was so fat he could hardly jump away. It was the funniessst and mossst pathetic thing I ever sssaw. Ssso, I thought I would put the poor little bugger out of hisss misssery. I guesss the lassst laughsss on me.”
Just then the lizard reached across the rock and clipped the snake right across the head. Hard.
“Hey, Ted! What wasss that for?” Larry yelped and then vigorously rubbed his head with the tip of his tail. His voice resonated across the dry sand to a dead tree fifty-feet way. The noise woke up two buzzards, Dub and Bug. They were sitting on the largest branch of the tree.
“LARRY! DID I NEVER TEACH YA NOTHING? WHAT DID I SAY?!” And then Ted sighed heavily before continuing. “What did I say, about eating something that doesn't act natural?”
Hearing that, the buzzards perked up and leaned closer so they could listen in on the conversation.
Larry tucked his head in his coils. Shamefaced, he quietly repeated one of Ted’s mottoes. “Don't eat nothing that doesssn’t act natural. Caussse it probably hasss a disssease or isss an essscapee from the Ssscience Lab.”
“THAT’S RIGHT! That’s right. Now I'm probably going to loose my best buddy to a gluttony French cuisine accident,” Ted said with great dismay as he shook his head.
“Sssay it isssn't ssso Ted. Do you really think I'm gonna die?” Larry sobbed. His tongue immediately started to lap up the plump tears that dripped from his eyes.
When the buzzards heard the word ‘die’ they smiled at each other and raised their eyebrows.
Still not seeing the opportunistic birds, Ted continued to berate Larry. “LARRY! YOU HAVE A GOLF BALL STUCK IN YOUR CLO…CLOA…YOUR BUTT HOLE! Think about it Lar. You’re not gonna be able to pass any gas. And then you’ll blow up like a friggen pufferfish. And then, I'm gonna have ta tie a string to your rattle just so you don't fly away. And, I’m gonna have to watch that you don't bump into cacti or get scooped up by some black-hearted buzzard.”
Hurt by the comment, the two buzzards looked at each other. After all, they only acted how nature intended them to. But not ones to take anything too serious they just shrugged their shoulders. Then they shimmied to the end of the branch so they didn’t miss any of the conversation.
“Ah man! No! No!” Larry moaned. “Who'sss gonna take care of the missses, and teach the little onesss how to ussse their rattlesss for the firssst time. All I wanted wasss jussst one more for the ssslither home. I didn't think it wasss gonna hurt anyone.”
“Ah! Larry,” Ted said shaking his head. “My silly, slimy, little friend. I'm not going to let you die. I just wanted to make my point. Bad things happen when you don’t listen to me!”
Larry nodded his head in agreement but frowned with concern when Ted began to speak again.
“Listen up,” Ted said in a conspiratorially-like voice. “I've got a great idea of how to rectify, no pun intended, your problem.”
Larry looked at him fearfully, because normally, it was Ted’s great ideas that got them into trouble. In fact, Ted almost missed the day’s outing because of something he did yesterday to his mother-in-law. His in-laws had come for a weekend visit that stretched into three months. Everyone, including his father-in-law had had their fill of her medaling. Ted couldn’t take it anymore so while she slept he painted bright blue spots all over her. In the morning he vehemently denied that it was him. He suggested that it might be a recessive chameleon gene and she should seek medical advice. To his delight his mother-in-law insisted that they leave immediately. Without waiting for her husband she started to walk home. Just before his father-in-law left, he clapped Ted on the shoulder and whispered, ‘Excellent. I’ve been trying to leave since we got here. Recessive chameleon gene that was pure genius.' He chuckled merrily. Ted whispered, ‘Whatever do you mean sir?’ and then he winked exaggeratedly at his father-in-law. They both snickered quietly. Neither of them the wiser of the shitstorm that was soon to take place when she realized it was just flower dye.
“You got an idea Ted?” Larry asked nervously.
“Yeppers,” Ted nodded enthusiastically and then jumped off the rock. “Listen up Lar. I want you to wiggle yourself through the split in the Basking Rock,” he said pointing at the crack.
“But, but Ted,” Larry stammered. “I can't fit through that crack. Itsss not wide enough!”
Ted pointed to his own head and said, “That’s the idea Larry. When you can't wiggle in any further on your own, I'm gonna pull you through the rest of the way. It will squeeze that golf ball right out.”
“Ah! Ya, I get it,” Larry said and nodded his head in agreement.
The buzzards looked curiously at each other. They were going to comment but thought better of it. After all, they hadn’t eaten for days. And if things turned south (which they surely might) they may be feasting on snake for dinner.
It only took a moment for Larry’s expression to change to an inquiringly one. “But Ted, isssn't that gonna hurt?”
“Nah Larry. It’s not gonna hurt.” Ted said with a big grin.
“Oh. Okay,” Larry said timidly.
Ted reached up and clipped his friend across the head again. “Of course it’s gonna hurt. But what's your alternative? Tied to a string, flying ten feet off the ground, playing catch me if you can with the buzzards? Have you not noticed, since the Lab opened its doors that we have a larger population of buzzards? They’re swarming around like flies over a dung heap? You’ll be swooped up in no time!”
Hearing that Dub turned to Bug and said, “Did he just say what I think he said? Did he equate us to larva-bearing, poop eaters? I don’t believe this! His yelling wakes us up, and then he calls us names. Now, I think we should be offended!”
Bug agreed, so the buzzards flew off the branch and made their way over to the Basking Rock. Twenty-feet in the air they started to circle around Ted and Larry.
Still not seeing the buzzards, Larry hesitantly agreed. “Okay Ted…I’ll do it.”
Larry slithered off the rock and wiggled himself through the crack. When he could no longer get through on his own, Ted grabbed him by his head and started to pull. It wasn’t as easy as Ted thought it was going to be. The golf ball was really jammed in there. Determined not to give up, Larry wiggled with all his might as Ted pulled. Minutes turned into an hour. The pain was near unbearable but Larry didn’t cry out.
Ted took a second to wipe beads of sweat off his brow. When he did he looked up and noticed the buzzards. In an angry, demanding voice he yelled up at them. “Stop circling around you insensitive bastards! He's not dead yet! Get down here and help!”
Along with never taking anything too serious, Dub and Bug also had short-term memories. They had actually forgotten about the insults, and why they were circling overhead. So, in good humor they landed beside Ted, ready to help.
So, there the four of them were. Larry stuck in the crack. His body stretched out three times it’s normally length. Ted was grasping Larry’s head. Dub was pulling on Ted’s tail, and Bug had his wings wrapped around Dub’s midsection. Their feet were burrowed into the sand as they pulled with all their might. It was quite the sight to see on a hot Saturday afternoon in the middle of the dessert-like-plain. It was one of those rare moments that if you hadn’t of seen it, you wouldn’t have believed it.
For Larry, the pain had become excruciating. Nearing the end of his endurance he cried out. “Ted! Itsss no ussse! Jussst leave me here to die!”
“I don't think so Larry-O-Boy. You’re not dying this day,” Ted cried back.
And with one last mighty tug Larry came flying out of the crack in the Basking Rock. The momentum of the release had all four of them rolling ass-over-teakettle across the desert floor like they were tumbleweed.
There was a flurry of sand, feathers and scales everywhere. After the dust settled they looked at Larry; he was finally free. They yelped with glee and high fived each other.
“Phew! Thanksss guysss. I thought I wasss never gonna get free. I feel ten poundsss lighter,” Larry said with a big smile on his face.
“Hey, that's ok Lar...Whoa! Oh... no,” Ted stammered and then cringed. Seeing Larry’s body, Bug turned around and dry heaved. Dub, who's insensitive to others pain, snickered behind his wing.
“What? What? Whatsss wrong?” Larry stammered worriedly. And then he turned his head to look at his body.
He slowly looked down the length of it. Sections of skin were tore clear away, while other pieces just barely hung on. Larry expected it to look worse. So he shrugged his head and chuckled nervously. “Oh that’s noth….” he started to say but stopped mid-sentence. In shock, he turned a sickly pale, pea-soup-green colour from the tip of his fangs to the, well, place where his tail was supposed to be. He looked forlornly at the rock. Next to the golf ball, and the remains of last night supper was his rattle.
“Oh no!” Larry started to moan. “Not my rattle!” He cried out in such anguish it brought tears to Ted’s eyes.
At that moment Dub and Bug made their apologies. Just before they left, Ted thanked them for helping out. The buzzards nodded in response before walking away. Ted thought they were decent guys until he heard them joking about what had happened.
“Whoa, I didn't know snakes could stretch that long” Dub chuckled loudly.
“Ya,” Bug agreed. “He's gonna be slithering a little funny for days and days.”
"I guess this give a new meaning to sidewinder," Dub chimed in.
At that moment the two of them started to make crazy floppy motions with their wings. They laughed heartily when they bumped into each other.
Ted scowled at them. Hesitantly, he turned backed to tell Larry not to listen to them. After all they were only buzzards. Seeing the forlorn scowl on his friend’s face however, he began to stammer. “Ah, ah, come on Larry. Its, its, not that bad.”
“NOT THAT BAD!” WHAT ARE YOU NUTSSS TED! I'M A RATTLE SSSNAKE WITHOUT A RATTLE!” Larry choked out the words hysterically.
“Well, let’s look on the bright side. Now you can sneak up on your misses before she has a chance to complain of a headache.”
“That would be your wife Ted; mine likesss it. Little onesss. Cravingsss. Remember the thing that got me in thisss messs in the firssst place!” Larry exclaimed annoyingly.
“Oh Yeah,” Ted smirked and then shrugged his shoulders.
“The missesss! Oh No!” Larry moaned loudly again. He slumped his head down and shook it from side to side. “How am I gonna explain thisss one?”
Ted put his front foot on Larry's head and rubbed it lightly. “Don't worry,” he said encouraging. “We'll tell her…we'll tell her you just got away by the skin of your fangs from those mad Scientists. Yeah that’ll work. She'll be grateful that all they got was just your rattle. Remember what happened to her brother?”
“Oh ya,” Larry said and then grinned. “Sssside Ssshow Barry, a rattle sssnake with two headsss and eight legsss. It’sss all I can do not to laugh when we go to the missessss parentsss for Sssunday dinnersss.”
Ted chuckled and nodded his head in agreement.
“Hey Ted? Do you think thisss will interfere with, well, ya know?”
“Nah Larry. I think you'll be ok in that department,” Ted said.
“Jezzz, thanksss Ted. I mean for not dessserting me. You’re a real good friend,” Larry said as he sniffled back tears.
“Any time Larry. You know you’re my boy!” Ted smiled warmly. He had to stop himself from giving Larry a big hug. Instead he bumped him with his shoulder. “Do you want me to grab your rattle?” he asked.
“No. Leave it for the ants,” Larry answered.
They both looked over at the rattle. Ants had already started to carry it, the pieces of skin, and the golf ball away. They both frowned and wondered what the ants were going to do with the golf ball.
Shrugging, Larry started the long slither home. Step by step, Ted stayed by his side. Neither of them acknowledged the pieces of skin that fell off Larry’s body. Nor the ants scavenging closely behind. Instead, they invented a story to tell Larry’s wife. It wasn’t believable. But a lie was better than the truth because there was nothing normal about this. Not even for them.
One day soon, the best friends will return to the Basking Rock. They will reminisce about their French cuisine escapade, and they’ll laugh and laugh about how Larry lost his rattle.
Well, maybe not one day soon, but one day!