Friday, September 11, 2009

"I Sawr Me a Toad!"

As it does once every seven days, the weekend had woken me like an overenthusiastic golden retriever. It knocked my bedroom door open with its big head, jumped up on the bed and started pawing my covers.

"Alright, alright! I'm up!" I told it, shooing the weekend away before it could lick my face again. It bounced happily down the hallway ahead of me as I trudged to the bathroom. I couldn't sleep in forever. I knew I had things to do today that I normally couldn't do during the work week. I knew further that this was a lie--I just didn't want to do them during the work week.

One of the things I had to do was go shopping. As I'm sure I have mentioned before, I'm not really wild about shopping. Shopping takes you out into The Public where one runs the risk of being asked for directions by strangers. Even if, miraculously, I know exactly where the place is and how to get there, my brain always picks that exact moment to sabotage me by playing a game of Mad Libs:

"If you want to get to Dirty Larry's cabbage patch, keep heading downwind on Wonkville Terrace, and turn sideways 'til your doors turn blue. Then when you see Bigfoot shouting 'howdy, squirrels!' on the corner, make a quick squeak and fall down. It'll be on the mashed potatoes with gravy."

I was at the local superstore, making my surgical shopping strike and I had almost gotten out of it unscathed, when I felt the presence of a weirdo.

I was standing in line at the express checkout, eyeing the gum and wondering what the store did with all of those stupid checkout magazines they never sell, when I heard footsteps behind me. Normally this would be of no concern, even to an agoraphobe like myself. This time it gave me pause. Were those...slippers I heard?

I had to find out. I didn't want to just twist 'round and look down at the person's feet and say "oh! I see! That settles it, then!" and then go back to staring at the gum. That would be awkward. So naturally, it's exactly what I did.

"It shore do!" said the man behind me as I turned back around and got the gum in focus again.

Dammit. Now I had to turn around again and explain myself or have a conversation or something equally unpleasant. Mentally berating myself for displaying wanton curiosity, I took a deep breath and faced the stranger. I noticed that in addition to the slippers, he was wearing a bathrobe and a cowboy hat.

"Merp!" he said.

I quickly spun again and stared straight ahead. Merp? This guy was definitely a weirdo. Maybe if I held real still and breathed real shallow, he would go away. I felt a finger jab me in the shoulderblade. I somehow knew that that finger was dusted with day-glo orange Cheetos powders.

"Um. Hi," I said.

"Wunst, I sawr me a toad at work!" the stranger ejaculated. He pulled a single Cheeto out of his bag and looked very closely at it.

"Where do you work?" my traitorous mouth asked. It was evidently dead-set on me continuing this conversation whether I liked it or not. The stranger put his Cheeto back in the bag and frowned at me.

"Hurh?" he said.

Dammit. I probably offended him. I quickly scanned the area for someone in a white coat pushing an empty wheelchair or holding a straitjacket. Alas, this fellow seemed to be on his own.

"I mean, uh," I began.

"Oh! Phooey. I works down yonder, you git me? At that place whut makes them little nubbins whut keeps yer cabbnit doors frum bangin' when they clap shet. Soggy donkey balloons." He pulled another cheesy specimen from his bag and gave it the scrutiny.

This line was possibly the slowest-moving I had ever stood in. I craned forward to get a look at the person currently at the register. She had a shopping cart full of children and toys; clearly more than the 10 items or less, not including the kids. I fired a full barrage of hate-rays at the back of her head. I again wondered how people with such lousy math skills managed to stay employed long enough to afford to go shopping.

"Hey, mister," said the stranger behind me. When I turned, he tucked the Cheeto into my breast pocket. "That 'un's fer you."

"Thanks," I said.

"So that toad? Lil' faller was on the blacktop and I suz to m'self, I suz 'you shouldn't be on the blacktop ya crazy toad!' I went ta pick 'im up, and he squirted right out my grip, like so." The stranger held his arms out straight, his hands cupped one over the other, and squeezed a Cheeto out from between them. "Thurrrrbth! Just like that."

The command from the Broca's area of my motor cortex instructed my mouth to make a dismissive noise so I could go back to staring at the gum and hating the other shoppers, but it got distorted somewhere along the way.

"Did you ever manage to catch him?" I said instead.

"Honk jiggly!"

There were many ways to construe that phrase, none of them accompanied by an attractive mental image. I was going to resign myself to the conversation trap I was in and ask for clarification, but it was forthcoming.

"I sho did. I picks him right up, see, and I chunked him in the weeds. Toads b'long in the weeds, see, so that's whur I pit him."

"Good," I said. I was proud of myself for that one. It was a good reply.

The stranger rooted around in his Cheetos bag. It appeared empty. He pulled his hand out, stared at his palm for a good five seconds, then looked up at me.

"Hey, mister. I might jes wanna git that one Cheeto back frum ya."

I obliged. He crammed it into his mouth without opening it first. A fine dust of Cheeto shrapnel caught in his beard and glowed there majestically. He seemed content, so I turned around yet again to face the front of the line. The woman with the full cart was digging in her purse. Probably looking for her checkbook. I felt the finger in my back again.

"Did I tell you I sawr a toad at work yestaday?" the stranger asked.


  1. Reminds me of Twain's classic "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" tale. Although Twain didn't use the term "honk jiggly" and he should have. His story lacks otherwise.

    Are you planning to do audio for this post? Because that would be hilarious.

  2. I actually conceived of this post in an audio-only form, but had to figure out a way to expand and textify it.

    It's part of my "I'm forcing myself to write" series.

  3. You know what "honk jiggly" reminds me of? A fat white guy.

  4. Yeah. That's why it sounds so horrible.

    Although if you think of it as, say, the title for the leader of a primitive band of white people, it's not so bad.

    "Honkey Deuce was only the second in command; he had to do what his leader, the Honk Jiggly, told him to do."

  5. I like how you spell the accent. Worked for me.

  6. My favorite part? the Mad Lib. Okay! [checks watch] Just time for a quick squeak and a bit of a falldown. Toodles!


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