John Strausbaugh, Stories


Illustration by Michael Randall
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Another Fine Mess





 Note: A somewhat different version of "Another Fine Mess" appeared in Chicago Review in 1983 and in my book Flying Fish, published by Dolphin-Moon Press in 1986. This is the piece as I used to perform it, and as it was recorded for a flexidisc that we included in the book. I've put a digital dupe of the recording here, at the bottom of the text. You might want to listen and read along.





I am all boy, I am all boy, I am ALL boy. No additives, nothing diminished. Who among you can say the same? And though the last fish ballooned belly up and spinning in an eddy of its own stinking gases swept gently under the lazy eye of checkpoint zebra at EST 5:42 unless over there they're stockpiling carp somewhere under rock beyond detection, I am all boy and I have the plan.

My ancestors swam over in a Conestoga loaded up with everything they could carry off, pulled by two magical oxen with stainless livers and copper pots hung in their noses and each with a diamond dowry in the heart of its brain. Now, this is what gets my wind up. The Father hacked out a land where no foul language was tolerated and if the natives had just learned to keep their mouths shut they could've stayed on. Stop your whining. The Mother dropped great strapping lads and lasses even as she flipped flapjacks from the griddle, the Father cracked the oxen skulls with the edge of his hand and gave her the brains to boil up. The Good Son and the Good Daughter found each a diamond dowry in the bottom of the bowl. The Father set the hands of the hall clock at ten seconds to midnight and instantly the ancients fell to their hoary knees and brand new history books leapt off the presses in fifty-two languages and THAT'S what we mean by a tradition of excellence. This really galls me, the way they carp at us over there. I am ALL boy and I tell you I have the plan.

Before he drew the mountains down around his eternal rest the Father locked the plan in the heart of a magical seed, THE COLA NUT. The Good Daughter then inserted the plan where in the lightnings and small abrasions of the vaginal meteorology it cooked and fermented. The Good Son drew off the essence of the plan and bottled it, and cashing in his oxbrain dowry distributed it among all the peoples over there, and we all know how well that went. I have the plan and I am all boy and you shall exalt over peoples of color, foul language, bad odor, and all the carpers over there no ten of whom are worth the least among you.

I can't help it if you feel like schmucks. This constant bellyaching really eats me up. The plan clearly states that as an organism evolves it does so by integrating the functions of a lot of lower organisms within its gestalt in systematic and not always glamorous tasks that must get done if the organism is to consume more energy and continue to develop. There was a point in time when what became the ganglia in your brains and what became the amoeba in your cesspools were simple, independent cells with an equal shot at evolution. The ganglia were coopted by the brain as it developed. The amoeba has evolved into a relatively clever organism that eats, excretes, motilates and divides. The ganglia are still on the bottom rung of the evolutionary ladder, with all the functional intelligence of a light bulb, but where would you be without their light? And when do you need the amoeba?

Now God knows what some of you wouldn't give to be as clever as the amoeba, not to mention the light bulb, but you got to look at the Big Picture. I tell you I have the plan and the plan does not equivocate. The Mother pegged the washing to the amethyst horns of the magic oxen who had given up their lives to fill the Good Son's diapers. Use your kidneys.

There was a time when the Mississippi clove us in two like the fiery sword but it's just about burned out now and I suggest we all shake hands or whatever and get down to business. From now on let's have no foul language in thought, word or deed. Bring me your children, I will repair them. We'll build new lawns. Let's all pull together. Eat your dead. Expand your trade routes. Let down your trousers. Stand on your heads. Vote me in. Give me a call. Leave a message. I'm a regular Joe. I've got the whole world in my hands.

Pick up a sixpack on the way home. Watch your weight. Come up and see me sometime. Play dead. Give me your good right arm and your left nut and I'll let you be in my army. Look at me, can you guess my age?

The plan is eternal, patient and brooks no bull. No one is to blame. Entropy is self-actualizing. They're going down the tubes over there and we have not yet begun to fight. I am capable of sexual intercourse every hour on the hour, who among you can say the same? If you have a better idea let's hear it. Lower away. Hold the phone. Two eggs over easy. Here comes da judge. No deposit no return.


Those who opt against the plan are coopted by the plan. Those who plan against the plan are planned for in the plan. You who cooperate with the plan operate within the plan. I'd love to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony but they march to a different drummer over there. Anchors aweigh. Don't pick your nose. Hand me that wrench. Pass the salt. All good things will come to you in the fullness of my boyhood. Don't touch that dial. Giddy up. Touch your toes. Put that down. You don't know where it's been. Momma come here quick, gimme that lickin' stick. Lend me your ears. Give me a break. Who turned out the lights. Get down. Hold me tight. One more crack like that and you're on the moon.






— "Another Fine Mess" —



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All material on this website is copyrighted and may not be republished in any form without written permission. Copyright © 2009-2010 John Strausbaugh

All material on this website is copyrighted and may not be republished in any form without written permission. Copyright © 2009 John Strausbaugh