Octopus and Honey Badger
presumptive Chapter 1 of...
I WANNA BE EVIL or (Gretty Gets to Meet the Pope and Sit on the Group W Bench
Gretchen Idler flinched, shaking off the chin pressed into her shoulder and therefore its owner’s warm breath. Sinuously she stretched back for a languorous moment until she felt his eyes roll over the little hills beneath her pale pajama top with its arching lines of dancing pachyderms.
“Like white elephants,” he murmured.
She coiled into a wrestler’s crouch and pounced, pitching him off the bed and onto the carpeted floor where she planted a naked foot hard into his chest. With a glare of warning she grabbed again her sheath of papers and resumed reading aloud:
Hellbent Heidi tugged back helplessly, but Rex the Weimaraner swerved her swiftly up the driveway where her slender dad stood squinting, sunblinded. He never sensed the snarling dog until its teeth ripped into his shin.
“Don’t get mad, dad! Rexy just hates surprises, and you scared him by standing there!”
Dieter Rosenburgfeltz glared down at the dog crouched protectively between him and their worried girlchild. His feet stomped, but only the beast’s ears retreated, its growl growing ever more menacing. He pulled back for a forceful kick, but it anticipated, spinning around snapping so that he almost lost his balance as his foot swung up past gnashing teeth and blazing eyes. He righted himself, twisting to face the animal now pressing its body fast against the asphalt, its head arching upward in angry alertness. Heidi inserted her body between the panting combatants, calmly staring up at her affronted father, daring him to injure her rather than revenge himself on Rex, her precious pet.
Gretchen glared down at the boy now sniggering beneath her feet. “Precious pet? Whadya think? Too much alliteration? What?”
“It’s good, Gretz. Panting combatants! I do so looves your sweet assonance. It’s a first draft. Let it slink creepy deep into how you sweetly sleep on it.” Gretchen gasped and raised her eyebrows, momentarily moved by what she considered boyish poesy. Then, ticklishly offended by the way he suckled between her toes, she slashed at him with her fan of papers, barely avoiding opening his face with their cutting edges.
“Sleep yourself, you dirty slinking boy. Leggo my foot, willya?”
“HEY! …Why Rosenberg?” he frowned. Wasn’t it Ribbentrop?”
“Too obvious. I know Rosenberg sounds Jewy, but one of Hitler’s minions was named that.
“‘Rosenberg?’ Really? A Nazi?” He rolled himself back onto the bed to nuzzle her and his phone. “Hmmm. Wikipedia says…Alfred Ernst Rosenberg…was a Baltic German? …He hated Christianity with a passion? …The guy was a freaking mastermind. He was Adolf’s rosy Bannon!”
“Yeah but nobody’ll get it. Whaddabout Rosenfeltz? That have a nice Feltz? Ooh, ooh, you. That feltz nice, but I’m workin’ here, ya know?”
“Nobody’ll get it. Nobody does ever.”
“Oh, you baby. It just seems that way… It’s just you that never gets any. Ever, hmm? Do you, poor boy? Aww…”
“Anyway, it’s just too hard to figure out.”
“Too hard? Really? Ya know what the chorus girl axed the talkshow host, dontcha?”
“Oh? Oops! Musical Interlude! Time to dance. On your feet. Mach schnell!”
Expertly she scrolled to a playlist sequence that seemed apropos. Her tablet was already connected to extravagant speakers set to maximum blast; the three selections were pre-tweaked to suffer no pauses:
ELVIS: I’m Evil
“See, nobody should dance with clothes on!”
LAVERNE BAKER: I’m Saved.
“THAT ought to keep us from the devil’s old clitches!”
PAUL MCCARTNEY: I’m All Shook Up
“NOW, gutterboy”, she gasped. “Maybe we can stay focused on serious business?” When she’d caught her breath, she primly wet fingered her way to the saved place in the now crumpled pile of printouts and resumed reading.
Heidi and her dog forged boldly towards the setting sun into the wild wood where they hoped no one would follow. Unprepared for the cold, they welcomed the darkness, for it daunted not the keen-eyed canine darting ever deeper into the murk, frequently doubling back to guide his trusting mistress forward as the heavy gloaming slowly cloaked them.
“I wanna be your dog!” he rasped.
“Down, Iggy. Down!”
“Why you wanna write this stuff? Ain’t you ever gonna go back to classes?”
“I’m not here ‘to go to classes, I’m here for THEM to help ME with my main life project.”
“But you always stay stuck in your room, and now it’s with your little German girl in her Bavarian fairy tale forest.”
“I’m an orphan of the Holocaust, don’t forget.” She looked up at the shelf above her messy dorm desk. “Even if my grandfathers survived the camps… and my parents couldn’t survive me. Now let me just read this fucker!”
In the darkest part of the wood, Heidi and Rex fashioned a secluded bower sheltered soft in the iron roots of a tall mossy tree. Fireflies soon brightened their walkways with gentle flickering. Together, each day they foraged for nuts and sweet berries with Rex learning to nose for fibrous tubers and luscious truffles he dug up with fast black claws while squealing in anticipatory delight.
“Oh. I like that. That I like! That like I! ...Oh!”
“As if. Git!”
“They...” he said, pointing to a shelf clamped up above them. Two mismatched but ornate boxes served as bookends for paperbacks of Uncle Wigglies, Noam Chomskies, Pippi Longstockingses, Simone Weils, and Mary Poppinses. “Weren’t they born here?”
“P and M?”
He looked at her blankly.
“Pa and Ma! Pooper and Mudder! Fat Procreator and Selfish Misfit!” Gayly she waved up at her parents cleanly contained in their high perched ash boxes. “The hitlers couldn’t kill my grandfathers in Ouch Witz but they sure did help kill those two right here in Apple Pie Land, or shudder I say ‘reich jeer?’ No ducking doubt about it. They got Mom in Gotham; she popped a Plaza Sweet dose of lethal pills in her favorite hotel puking down on Central Park. Pop in Beantown; he had a fatal fat attack on their grassy Common there. And they still might get me here. The past is never done. It just keeps creeping and changing on ya. Now, please try to stay focused!”
And to combat the gloom, she taught herself to fashion ethereal figures who would cavort brightly for a sudden brief time under the arching canopy of leaves before bubbling away into the damp and wispy air.
“How does this SLAP.”
“Ow! …happy folderol advance your ‘main life project,’ which, by the way, has a mid-semester checkpoint coming up very freaking soon?”
“You never were perched upon by a muse?”
“Wanna perch right here, huh?”
“Watch where you wave that, willya? I wanna create, not procreate.”
“Hey! You watch out. OW!”
“ESPECIALLY in a lady’s boudoir, there ARE certain standards of decorum. You deserved that.” She fixed him with a stern glare of momentary severity and, when satisfied, picked up where she thought she’d left off:
But Lord Rosenrotz sent searching emissaries to scour the woods seeking to find them. And then, inevitably, they were discovered. Her enchantments afforded strong protections. Yet the Dark Lord had ancient powers and the seething patience of settled in evil. First, he attacked her spritely figures which swelled with purple pain so that they raged and sorrowed until their plaintive wails scattered the birds who in anxious panic flapped far away from each other as fast as they could fly. And instead of dissolving into the dancing breeze, these exquisite creations, unable to soar, stayed and solidified, slumping into sad and lonesome heaviness.
“Sumptin’ else might stay…”
“Aww! You should be coding and modeling, not scribbling nonsense. You came here to do game design and VR.”
“It’s not my coming you’re worried about!”
He swayed back on the book and paper-strewn bed, staring up at the dorm room ceiling where Gretchen had pasted a homemade New Hampshire (North Hamster!) poster titled “The Bretton Woods Four.” John Maynard Keynes and Hank Morgenthau were the only names he could remember. Another, he’d been brightly informed, might have been a Russian spy. She had colorized and electronified them in a vague approximation of Andy Warhol’s four-paneled apotheosis of the Beatles. Ringo’s pastel pigeon fluttered juxtaposed against John Maynard’s tweeds.
Atop one of the ashboxes, he couldn’t remember which contained her Pa and which imprisoned her Ma, sat an old iPad, now reduced to a marquee. Against star-swirling backgrounds, one line at a time, it flashed her latest “snotrag for the soul,” which is what she called a poem:
The Universe Doesn't Owe Me Sleep
She followed his eyes to the shelved ashes. “They vowed to each other never to have children. Not in this world.”
“But here you are so captivatin’…”
“Awwwww. So many people who shouldn’t have babies, but they do. And then what?”
“And here we are. Together.” Their eyes met.
“…Tingling.” Twenty fingers danced eagerly across receptive skin.
“…Alive as hell.” They pressed together closer.
“Out. Of. CONTROL!” She bolted upright, shoving him off balance so that only his arms kept his upper body from slamming to the floor while his lower parts stayed splayed on the bed.
“Hey! HEY…Hey! Damn, Gretzel,” he sputtered. “You don’t mind me calling you ‘Gretzel’ do ya?”
She swung herself on top of him, pinning him to the bed with bruising, bouncing kneecaps, singing, “You can call me Gretzel. Or you can call me Gretty. You can call me Gretel. Or you can call me Betty. You can call me Hell Babe or Heaven-Sent Confetti. You can even think of me as Christi G. Rosetti. Yet,” She petted his hair like one might pet a small boy’s. “I’m Godzilla Girl to YOU.” She playfully slapped his face again. “And you’re only Tokyo to me.”
“Outch! Geez! Just what is your real name anyway? Is it Gretchen or Greta?”
With a deflating sigh, she rolled off of him. “Once they found out I was not to be a boy, my fat dad, because of some outré fancy of his own, wanted me to be Gretchen.” She pointed up to the bookshelf. “My mad mudder, for solid Jew reasons, thought that was way too Teutonic. So, they compromised on Greta, but only on paper. At least, I think that’s how it went. Since I often need to check, I always keep my corpus close to two copies of my barf certificate.”
“Oh,” he said. “You know, you really should start attending classes again.”
“I’m getting more done here. I’ve got Heidi here. But so far for my grandstand contraption of a monumentally hyper-meta-masterpiece of an epic computer game I’ve only got a semi-animated Octopus and a bit-mapped Honey Badger waltzing and sparring across the Abyss of Nuclear Holocaust under the Volcano of Catastrophic Climate Change, so I don’t gots time to go slushing through mud puddles to get to classrooms.”
“Well, you still gots more than some of us.”
“I don’t wannanother algorithm for screentime solitaire. I’m here to generate a culture creatin’ epic outa meme bits and myth bytes.”
“Yeah, so what happened to animating a Choose Your Own Ending to Paradise Lost?”
“Derivative. Move your fucking arm!”
“I’m trying all my moves…”
“Stop trying so hard.”
“If you don’t go to classes, you shouldn’t be paying to stay here like it’s a goddamn hotel. You could do everything you’re doing here at home.”
“Home? Well, writing is a North Hamster thing. Makes me feel at home.”
“Yeah, Glassy you and Salinger.”
“Me and JD were like this, dude!” she quipped, pressing her middle finger against her index and wrapping them tightly. Then she started, mouth opened in well-rehearsed shock, reversing the position of the supine digit so her pointer was on top pushing rhythmically down against its uncomfortable partner. Pausing to affect another eye-popping stage gasp, she flipped both fingers again and again before finally covering them protectively with a draping palm. She fluttered her lids in mock modesty.
“Right. They say he liked young ones.”
“No, it’s never what THEY say. I never met the man. He just seemed to know how to treat a babybabe. And it’s... Not. Like. That!”
“Ouch! Come on! That’s NOT how you treat THAT!” With one hand he shoved her forcefully backward while cupping himself protectively with the other. His eyes and mouth registered multiple brands of hurt.
“Oh. Will the poor boy ever forgive me?” She was momentarily just a tiny bit sorry.
“Aw. Just take her easy, huh?”
“It could be SOOO easy? Huh?”
“Not with you.”
“Oh. It doesn’t have to be that way.”
“It shouldn’t. I’m nice to you.”
“Only because you…”
“No. I only wanna be…”
“Oh-oh! Oh no!”
“Oh! What just happened? What?”
“Oh no. I’m Sorry! It…”
“Oh, I did not consent to that!”
“Oh. Oops, Greta? Oh God. I’m so sorry. Let’s do something quick!” Head wagging and up on all fours he scrambled about the book-laden bed like a frightened beagle not knowing what to howl at or chase.
“Oh. Just go!”
“How ‘bout,” he panted, “spritizing something up there? A little Coke maybe? Oh!” he cried, trying to dodge the rainstorm of slaps and kicks. “Ouch! Sorry! OWW!”
As he scurried to reclaim his clothing The Myth of Sisyphus whizzed past his head. Before he could scamper away, she hit him square against his bare back with a fat Frantz Fanon. Then her hurled hardcover of Men Without Women smacked flat against the just swung door to latch it shut, a split second after his hasty blond-haired blue-eyed escape.
“Yeah, just let some air in. Dickhead.”
She pressed her head down against Travelers in the Third Reich.
And somewhere else:
Heartbroken Heidi huddled cold on her hard bed. She would not cry. Neither would she speak nor smile. She would not laugh or dance or sing. Not until she freed herself from this locked room and rescued poor Wrecks, sold to be a bomb sniffer on the far southern border. Her father’s will was cold dark iron. But hers, he’d soon find, was white hot plutonium.