Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Oh! Dyslexic Goats!
When I was in high school, my best friend and I became very interested in two things:
2. Root vegetables (and also cruciferous vegetables, such as the cabbage)
It has occurred to me in recent years that these obsessions were, perhaps, a bit strange. I do not use the word "obsessions" lightly. We were deeply, religiously, and pathologically obsessed with rodents and unattractive veggies. The more empurpled, lumpish, slitty-eyed, and fanged the better.
The rodent category included such creatures as chinchillas, marmots, marmosets, ferrets, bunnies, weasels, and squirrels--with the occasional bird or odd animal (vulture, auk, elk) thrown in for fun. As for root vegetables, we were highly intrigued by turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, and beets--with the occasional fruit product (kumquat, banana) also thrown in for laughs.
In our discussions, we imagined that the rodents and the veggies would breed with one another to produce an uber-race of bizarre fiends. The Supreme Leader of the rodent-veggie race was a being called Lumpen. He was a giant rabbit with a wart under one eye, carroty red hair, and horrid sharp fangs. He didn't walk, he "lumped" about. He made strange noises such as "Bok, bok, bok!" He crept around people's gardens at night and growled menacingly. (I must confess that the inspiration for Lumpen was a particularly annoying high school teacher who happened to be red-headed and to have a small wart under one eye.)
One had to merely mention a turnip, stoat, or weasel to send my friend and I into an apoplexy of laughter. Once I made my friend piddle her pants by impersonating a cabbage, and how it might sound if poked with a stick and angered. (Another time I caused her to piddle when I impersonated Skeletor, ruler of all Eternia, but that's another story.)
At a time when most girls were fascinated with Revlon, curling irons, and footwear, we were making up songs and doggerel about rodents and rutabagas. One simple verse went like this:
20 rotten rutabagas sitting in a row
100 weasels in a vat
Stab me with a crow!
Our mythology grew and began to reach epic proportions. We drew sketches of "attack weasels" and turnips with piggy eyes and teeth in the margins of our notebooks, called ourselves "The Ferret Force" (teamed with a third peculiar girl who grew to share our obsession), and shot each other feral, toothy glances across the schoolroom. The panoply of veggie marauders and their rodent minions grew to include an evil carrot, some demon-like potatoes with dangling "eyes" that stuck out like swords, and hell-ferrets who launched themselves from cliffs to sink their fangs into the unwary. (The "unwary" were usually sketches of fellow students who we didn't care for.) We eventually had notebooks filled with this stuff, as well as bags of loose pages and hidden passed notes. We should have become cartoonists, but we were too stupid.
Now, looking back on that, it reminds me of something from another era--a story my mother might tell of her fun with "school chums" growing up in New Jersey. How they all wrapped dental floss around their noses and turned them tomato red, how they dressed up in costume and pretended to be pirates, or the time she trimmed off her eyelashes in the hopes they'd grow back lusher. A charming time, when silliness reigned and girls giggled for hours in their rooms without getting in a wit of trouble.
Were we dorks? Quite possibly. Ah, but we were slutty, drunken dorks! In addition to beets and stoats, we also liked boys and beers. In between assignations with both, we penned poetry like this:
Brussels sprouts wearing wigs.
Fanatical ferrets in pea soup.
Oh! Dyslexic goats!