and I had a fine trip planned to the Oregon coast. But there were
a few things that had to be done at home before leaving. One of
these, taking out the garbage, was my special area of expertise.
Not that Alice couldn't do it--it's just that she doesn't enjoy
it like I do. My heavy duty weed whacker wore out on our heavy
duty weeds, so I knew I'd have to go to the dump, not just the
dumpsters. "What about just putting your trash on the curb?" you
might ask. Lilac Valley, unlike most of the civilized world,
doesn't have curbside pickup, so we go to the dumpsters a few miles
south of town. They used to be referred to by the locals as the "Stop
and Shop," since it was as easy to make withdrawals as deposits.
In recent years the county has gotten a little more strict (just
short of armed guards in towers), so that not only can you take away
anything useful, but anything that wouldn't fit in a garbage can has to
go to the main dump, which is also a transfer station, only a lot
bigger than our local dumpsters.
I didn't know my weed whacker wouldn't pass as garbage until the
helpful friendly guardian of all things garbage informed me of it. "If you'd taken it apart, I might have let it go, but, nope, that's too big for our dumpsters."
So I was on my way to the transfer station on the back roads of Idaho.
When driving it takes me a short time to fall into road hypnosis,
cruising till the next thing happens. That's probably why, when I
felt a sudden tickling sensation all over, I wasn't shocked at
the sensation. But I was highly alert when the giant spider
began to approach my car in a purposefully malevolent manner. I swung around through the forest of bamboo I found myself in.
"That's odd," I thought. "You don't see much bamboo around
here. But then again, you don't see giant spiders either..."
I had to stop the car when there was a beetle blocking the path
in front of me. It was bright orange with black spots. I
hoped it was a Ladybird beetle instead of one of those Asian tiger
ones--they pack a nasty bite. It was dawning on me that my car
and I must have been shrunk. I've heard of garbage compaction, but this is ridiculous, I thought.
I leaped out of the car and decided to hide in the brush. I felt
I was safely hunkered down, staring off at the giant beetles and
grasshoppers. Suddenly I felt a small wriggling at my feet.
It was an ugly white grub. "Hi, don't eat
me," it said. "My name is Greg Samsa and I'd like to talk to you
about your life insurance policy." "I don't have one," I said. "In this dog eat dog world, you're likely to need one." "If I'm eaten by a dog, I'm not likely to care," I said. "Yes, but consider Alice..." the grub said. "You mean the Through the Looking Glass Alice?" I asked.
"No, your wife. Sure, you don't care what happens when you're
dead. But your wife does. And if she finds out you're not
insured, she'll kill you." "What would be the
point?" I asked, but the fine points of logic were lost on this
guy. "You're beginning to annoy me. Usually I'm just nasty
and abrupt with insurance salespeople, but in your case I might step on
"Tread not on the
poor of the earth," said a butterfly who flitted by. "Greg is
merely an misunderstood artist. As are we all..." "He may be an artist, but only of the confidence type," I said.
"Don't muck about in the mire of mudslinging when there are mighty acts
to be done. You must take the egg I give you to the largest
milkweed you can find. There you will find the way back to your
mundane world, and then you can resume living your petty life."
"Who are you to talk? A butterfly! You can't even fly in a
straight line. You've got no call to cast aspersions on my
life..." "The butterfly is right," said Greg
Samsa. "Your human life doesn't compare with a butterfly's.
You can't even find your way to Mexico without a plane
reservation... So why question its wisdom? Take the egg,
and you can bring me along as well, for luck."
So I gingerly stuck the grub in my pocket, wrapped the egg in a leaf,
and started looking for some milkweed. In a short time I
relocated my car, which was now a comfortingly familiar object in this
strange new world. Might as well drive, I thought and hopped in. Besides, it was starting to rain. I placed the grub up on top of the dashboard. "I hope it's fully insured," said the grub.
"There's probably a rider against shrinkage," I said. We started
driving along the currently empty path through the forest of grass
(which I'd mistaken for bamboo). After driving for a while, we
approached a pond, and a battered car was on the shore. The odd
thing was that it was the same model as my car, and there aren't a lot
of Imbroglios around.
"This looks bad," said
Greg Samsa. "It looks like there was a minor time loop, and you
didn't do too well in it. It was probably the cat that's stalking
us back there..." Greg was neither swift to realize the import of
the cat, nor good at pointing, but I quickly located it in spite of
that. "We're stuck between the other car and the
cat! It's got us cornered. We can't go in the lake.
We're doomed!" "Actually," said Greg,
"The Imbroglio resembles a boat. If we can just push the
wrecked one ahead of us into the lake, we might be able to escape."
There was no time to consider the implications, as the cat, fully 5
times the size of our car, was bounding towards us. I said, "I just hope that other car isn't made of antimatter or something..."
The other car pushed into the water easily in front of us, so that we
resembled a short grain barge. The cat was soon left behind, as
we sailed into deeper water. I lost the other Imbroglio finally
by pushing it into a side channel and then backing up away from it.
I was careful not to look inside it, afraid I might see myself
lying in pieces. As we cruised along the pond, I scanned
the shore for milkweed, but didn't see any. Greg
Samsa said, "Milkweed is a weed. It likes to grow along the roads.
You aren't going to find any along this pond."
I conceded to his wisdom, and we found an empty stretch of sand to land
on, and continued up into the bamboo forest.
As the path grew smaller, we were forced to get out and search for a
way up to the highway. I picked up a piece of bamboo. If I
could just throw this stick in the water and be transported magically
home. But no, I was stuck with a grub and a butterfly's egg.
When we got to the side of the highway, I became aware that the
sleepy highway I knew now hid terrors for shrunken me and my little toy
car. "Say, Greg, " I said. "Do you ever feel terrorized by how big the world is compared to you?"
"No, I'm just bothered by this thick hairlike growth coming out of my
tongue. The pet amoeba I keep by my proboscis may feel terrorized
that way, though. Anyway, do you have a scissors? I'd like
to cut it off..." If it weren't for the fact
that I'd dreamt of the same thing happening to me, I would have been
thoroughly grossed out. As it was, I found a fingernail clipper
in the glove box, and removed the little speck off the grub's tongue.