When Papa Saw the Worst Thing on Earth: A Tale from the World of Archelon Ranch

Posted: May 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

[Here is a short story set in the world I created for my Wonderland Award nominated novella Archelon Ranch, the Mall in particular. If you have not read Archelon Ranch, there is still something to be attained from this story. If you’d like to find out more about the setting, you can get Archelon Ranch for your Kindle for only 1.99 or in paperback for just 8.95. ARCHELON RANCH ON AMAZON]

When Papa Saw the Worst Thing on Earth

I was eight years old and my father was telling that fucking story again. He always began it the same way:
“You know why we live on the first floor, boy?” he would ask me in specific, even though I had eleven siblings.
“Because we’re poor?” my brother No-Dick replied. My father did not give us derogatory names because he hated us but because he hated all babies for their many frailties. He felt that babies were lazy and that they were poor fighters. I guess I can’t fault him for that because it’s pretty true. No-Dick took this the worst for obvious reasons, so was prone to sassing my father. I didn’t like him doing that. Not because my father didn’t deserve it, because he really did but because I always got punished for the misdeeds of my brothers and sisters. My father punished me this time by throwing hot sauce in my eye.
“Have some fuckin’ respect, Toothless! I fought hard for our position on the first floor and you better believe I didn’t do it so some ungrateful little puke can make fun of me for bein’ a hero! It might be a dirty little squat, but it’s our home and dammit, Toothless I earned it! I got me a special commendation from Boxcar Willie himself. You know how I got that?”
“Weren’t you already telling that story?” asked my sister Stubbylegs.
“Do you wanna hear this story or not, Toothless?”
“No, we don’t!” my brother Talksfunny whined, “It’s a horrible story!”
My father pounded his fist on his TV tray.
“Dammit, Toothless! You’ve gotta learn some respect. You’re gonna hear this story five times until you know what Valor, Honor, Respect and Devotion are all about. You gotta know Vhrd!”
My father was all about whatever the hell Vhrd was. During the little free time we got (usually when my father was napping) I had played with the children of other veterans of the Dollarstore Hotsauce Wars and not one of them had ever Vhrd of Vhrd. Sorry for the pun. My father still adamantly insisted he had learned about it during the war and every other veteran talked about it all the time. In his house, any transgression was considered a breach of Vhrd. I was once punished for breaching Vhrd because my brother Sleepsallday wouldn’t stop screaming “Vhrd”.
Anyway, my father was just starting to tell the story five times to remind us of Vhrd and I was annoyed. Nothing of relevance happened until the beginning of the third telling, but the relevant thing that happened began the most relevant occurrence of my life.
“There was just the eight of us on the 81st floor, one of the most dangerous parts of The Mall. We had only our scimitars to fight with, one bullet in each our guns to fire, only hot sauce to drink, only stale sandwich cookies to eat and only sluts to fuck.”
At this point in the story, my mother would bend over so he could give her a playful spanking. She would let out a forced giggle and my father would laugh and continue the story.
“Yes sir, nothin’ with us for fuckin’ but the dirtiest of fucksluts. All the sorta slutty sluts and women who were with us because they actually liked us had been either killed in combat or fucked to the point of exhaustion. I had no choice but to start bangin’ your slut mother in her sweet sweet ass just to live. It weren’t sanitary either, no sir. The other seven had already fucked her in there and left a little bit of themselves behind, if you get my drift, which I’m sure you do.”
At the time, we did not. Lucky us.
“But, I digest. This ain’t just a story about fucksluts. Wouldn’t be right to tell kids a story like that, bad Vhrd. This story’s about overcomin’ fear and…no, this story’s about Vhrd, which is somethin’ you little bitches and bastards are gonna have to learn about if you want to grow up big and strong like your old man…”
My father fell asleep midsentence, which meant that we could finally have some leisure time. As my mother shot up on her favorite liquifilm, we quietly rejoiced and crept out of the apartment to play with the children of the other veterans. He’d be out for an hour or so, just enough time for a game of flamberge tag or chance to see Bingo the Masturbating Clown. I didn’t feel like flamberge tag or clown masturbation so decided I would hang out with the fops and help them comb their wigs.
I got a lot of grief for this. My siblings and parents looked down upon the pantalooned, powdered wig-wearing pansies, believing that there could be no greater human garbage. Through my father’s constantly displaced blame, my siblings kept thinking I was the one that got them in trouble so would stop at nothing to punish for what were actually their slights and they did so by calling me a fop. Seeing as the proper names of all my siblings were all phrases much worse than “fop”, the word bounced right off me.
On the day in which my story takes place, I asked the fops a question, a question, a question I suspected I might one day live to regret.
“Do any of you guys know anything about walruses?” I asked. They cried, gasped and fainted. I had to rub each of their foreheads with seven wet cloths to wake them.
“Why would you say such a ghastly thing, you dirty naughty little man?” asked my friend Eugene, the most foppish of this gang of fops, “walrus is half of the name of the worst thing on earth! I cannot bear to think of the scaly striped skin, the tusks, that obscene flickering tongue! I’m tempted to faint once more!”
The day before, my father had been telling his war story and something occurred to me.
“This ain’t just any war story,” my father was explaining, as he always did at the part of the story where he had just killed seventeen of Boxcar Joe’s finest and now had to relieve himself, “this here’s a story about the worst thing on Earth.”
That was mostly true because my father spent a good deal of time during the telling of the war story talking about the war story itself, which in my opinion was the worst thing on Earth.
“So I found my way into the shitter and not a moment too soon cause as I said, I’d developed a mighty awful case of the shits. It was already startin’ to come out and I had to clench the cheeks of my ass awfully hard to stop it from happenin’. Let me tell you, it wasn’t easy. It was one giant shit that I had to take. Reminds me of a shit I took when I was a young man of thirteen out for a wild night on the town, but that’s a story for another day ’cause it’s not so much about Vhrd as this story.”
“Do you really have to talk about the shit?” Stubbylegs asked, rolling her eyes.
“Dammit, Toothless, I know how to tell a story. I fought hard to take that shit so I can talk about it anytime I want to without bein’ hassled by a smart-alecky little fop! You understand, Toothless?”
“Yes sir,” I replied, not understanding him in the least.
“Damn fop kid, spendin’ too much time with fops. Them fops don’t even fart no more. Only a wussy little smart-alecky fop that plays with kids that are scared to shit would say something about not talkin’ about shits, like it was bad to take shits or somethin’! That’s a breach of Vhrd. You got no valor. You can’t spell Vhrd without valor, boy!”
“Yes, sir.”
“You’re damn right, yes sir. You’ve gotta learn about Vhrd, boy. Remind me to tell you my war story about the gilawalrus sometime.”
“Yes, sir!”
“Hey!” my loudmouth brother Sucks-My-Wife’s-Tits protested, “you’re already telling that story!”
“Hmph!” my father hmphed, “Don’t you lie to your father! I think I’d remember if I was tellin’ you my war story? Lying like that shows a lack of honor and you can ‘t spell Vhrd without honor!”
Actually, you can’t spell Vhrd at all.
“Vhrd! Vhrd! Vhrd!” Sleepsallday screamed.
“That’s right, Toothless!” my father said with a laugh.
“Vhrd! Vhrd! Vhrd!”
“Vhrd! Vhrd! Vhrd! Vhrd!” Sleepsallday was really getting into it. There was probably something wrong with him. There was no reason good reason to be that excited about a made-up acronym that actually wasn’t an acronym.
“Stop screamin’ Vhrd!” my father ordered me.
“Vhrd! Vhrd! Vhrd!”
“Vhrd!” I chimed in because I might as well enjoy it if I was going to get blamed it.
“That’s it, Toothless!” my father barked, “I’ve had enough of your breaches of Vhrd! Let me tell you a story about what Vhrd means! You know why we live on the first floor, boy?”
“No, sir,” I said, hanging my head in my best attempt to prevent the situation from getting any worse.
“I like this story,” Sleepsallday whispered to me. I tuned out my father, instead focusing on what was wrong with Sleepsallday. It worked until he reached the point where he was taking the giant shit.
“I got up onto one of those ten man fetish toilets. You know the ones? You might not believe this, but I took a shit so big that it filled the whole bowl! Fact is, your old dad would’ve clogged up that toilet if he’d even shat in there another minute! I stood up to wipe my ass when I heard a noise. Worst noise I ever heard! Worse than all that cryin’ and screamin’ you used to do, Toothless. Boy, were you loud and stupid back then! You’re loud and stupid now, don’t get me wrong, but back then, forget about it!”
“Sorry, sir.” I really wasn’t.
My father spanked my mother again, which, since he wasn’t at the point where he was talking about fucksluts meant that he needed another beer. Of course she got it for him. I wish she hadn’t. The only good the beers ever did was make him have to go to the bathroom more often, which led to a ten minute break from the story since my father had to walk a bit to get to the Soup-In-Your-Face restaurant, whose bathrooms were small enough that gilawalruses could not possibly crawl up them. Thing is, when he came back from the Soup-In-Your-Face the story would start over because he’d lose his place. My father finished the beer in a single grotesque chug and let out a foul-smelling thunderclap of a belch.
“And do you know what that awful sound I heard was?”
“A gilawalrus!” Sleepsallday answered.
“No, it was worse than that. It was a gilawalrus!”
THAT is when it hit me.
“What’s a walrus?” I asked.
All eyes in the room turned on me. See, I knew what a gila monster was because mall patrons would often toss gilamonsters at fops. So, the gila part of the word gilawalrus meant something to me but for something to be a gilawalrus, it would have to possess the qualities of both a gilamonster and whatever a walrus was. What then, was a walrus? Most of my life had spent hearing this story and as much as I hated it, if it was going to be my life, I would want to understand the story as thoroughly as I could, so I would want to understand the gilawalrus as thoroughly as I could, and to do that, I would at least need to know what a walrus was.
“Well,” said my father with a sage smile, glad to see I was getting into the story, “a gilawalrus is the worst thing on Earth.”
“I didn’t ask what a gilawalrus was. I asked what a walrus was.”
My father scratched his head.
“What are you talkin’ about?”
“Yeah!” Sleepsallday chimed in, “why would you ask such a dumb question?”
:”Well, because I know what gilamonster is…”
“Course you do! We throw them at them pansy fops!” my father laughed and laughed and laughed.
I cleared my throat.
“Anyway, I know what the gila part of a gilawalrus is…”
“Then why are you askin’ damn fool questions?”
“I know what a gilawalrus and what a gilamonster is, but I don’t know what a walrus is.”
“Let me tell you about the gilawalrus, boy…” and of course he told the damn story.
After that incident, my curiosity about what a walrus was stayed with me and since it wasn’t possible to ask my family about them, I had to ask my playmates…and knock them out by doing so, leaving me with the annoying task of rousing them. My friend Eugene, the most foppish of the fops, was positively incensed.
:”Why would you say such a nasty thing, you naughty naughty little fellow?”
“Because I have to know.”
“Perhaps you should go to Justine’s,” said Aloysius Grointickle, the naughtiest of the fops as he adjusted his powdered wig, “terrible, unspeakable things happen there but it’s an oh so splendiferous place to learn naughty secrets!”
The fops all giggled together.
“It is indeed a naughty place,” said Eugene with a wag of his finger, “you must be careful lest you witness something wickedly inappropriate!”
“I’ll have to take that risk,” I replied, in what for an eight year old was a very bold and manly fashion, “I must know what a-“
Eugene cut me off.
“You mustn’t finish that sentence! It’s half of the name of the worst thing on Earth!”
So I hopped on the elevator, popping an Abraham the jellyfish liquifilm from the complementary liquifilm tray. It was a pretty good one. Abraham was trying to eat his young but kept on disturbing a cantankerous old whale’s trombone lessons, thus getting whacked with a trombone. It was one of the funniest things I’d ever seen. Then again, I hadn’t seen much other than fops getting gilamonsters thrown at them and my father drinking eighty-four beers a day.
I got out and looked around Floor 117. The floor had a theme, like many of the other floors of The Mall, but I was young and ignorant and couldn’t really piece it together. There were places with names like Salo, Justine’s and Juliet’s. The theme was France maybe. The fops had all talked fondly of France and how they wished to live there once the Atlantic plesiosaur wall was torn down. It would happen eventually because the Great Congresspig was working with dinosaur rights activists and eating fewer and fewer of them as the meetings progressed. That was, of course, if the Congresspig existed and was not just an invention of Boxcar Willie, whose newsletter was the only source of information about life outside the Mall available to first floor denizens.
If France was the theme of Floor 317, then France was a place where terrible and interesting smells collided, forming a strange perfume oddly suited to the screams of horror that filled the air. I searched the French storefronts for the name Juliet’s and bravely sauntered in. There was an air of taboo and mystery about the place that left me certain that I could find answers in there. I could, that is, if I could get past the woman in a black snakeskin bodysuit that stopped me upon entry.
“Do you work here?” she asked.
“No,” I replied, “I’m 8.”
The woman shook her head.
“We only hire over sixteen or under six here. You’ll have to go.” She stuck a knitting needle through her hand to prove that she was serious. I was serious too though.
“But, I can’t go,” I insisted, “I need to find out about walruses!”
The woman hesitated, deep in thought.
“How delightfully perverse! An eight year old coming to a sex club to find answers about walruses! How can I turn you away, my lovely lad? Come in, please! There’s a man here called The Whisper. He can tell you everything that you need to know.”
If I were to describe everything that I saw in there, I would be no better than my father and his description of the enormous shit he took. So, I won’t tell you. Suffice to say that a half human/half cheetah stripper pointed out The Whisper as an apology for trying to fit my entire head in her mouth. The Whisper was lying on a bed of nails as rats ate feta cheese off his naked body. Compared to the things that were going on around him, it was downright decent and still less disgusting than my father’s war story.
“Whaddya want, kid?” The Whisper snapped at me, “Can’t you see I’m busy?”
“I need to know about walruses.”
The Whisper’s eyes widened.
“That’s some Heavy Shit, man and I know Heavy Shit. I watched the incumbent Congresspig eat the outgoing one. Walruses, huh? I couldn’t tell you. But, I know a place where you could find out. You’ve gotta be brave and you’ve gotta bring a battleaxe, though. The floor it’s on has been overrun by raptors.”
I hanged my head. Looked like my quest was over.
“I’m too small to use a battleaxe and kill raptors.”
“Well, then you need Chuck Callahan and you need to tell him you’re going to the bookstore.”
I did not know who Chuck Callahan was.
“Who is Chuck Callahan?”
“He’s the most badass mallguide ever. You’ll find him at the Food Court. But be careful, that place is some Heavy Shit.”
“I will.”
I had no choice. I needed to find out. So, I went to the Food Court. The jury was sitting at the Baked Potato Factory deliberating on whether a shoplifter should be made into corndogs. Things did not look too good for the shoplifter.”
“Excuse me,” I said to the jury, “is one of you Chuck Callahan?”
A chiseled gray-haired man tipped his checkered truck driver’s cap.
“That would be me, the one and only. What can I do for you, little fella?”
“I need to go to the bookstore. I have to find out about walruses but I’m too small to kill raptors with a battleaxe.”
Chuck Callahan laughed.
“Shucks, kid that’s quite a story. I don’t know who told you that you kill raptors with a battleaxe. Everybody knows they were recently doused with a regenerating agent, so you gotta use fire. Your best bet’s a flamethrower. Triceratops McGee on Floor 134 has one. He might trade it for a disgusting war story. He loves those. Don’t suppose you know one?”
I was too excited to answer him, by the time he finished his sentence, I was on the elevator heading for Floor 134 and Triceratops McGee’s Lubratorium. Triceratops was called that because he was married to a triceratops. For most people this would be a reason to avoid someone, but at this point, I wasn’t one to judge, even though the first I got of the man, he was spongebathing his colossal wife.
“What can I do for you, young man?”
“I need a flamethrower.”
Triceratops Mc Gee turned red.
“You get out of my store! I’ve only got one flamethrower and I’ll only trade it for a disgusting war story and a young man like you couldn’t possibly know a war story disgusting enough to excite the kind of pervert that porks a triceratops every night!”
Though I had run excitedly from the food court at the news that Triceratops Mc Gee would trade a flamethrower for a disgusting war story, the impact of using my father’s story to get what I want suddenly hit me. I was spreading a terrible disease, the affliction that had ruined my life. I choked on my hate, I choked on my bile and the rage at my father for torturing me with his gross and stupid adventure.
“You know why my father and I live on the first floor?” I asked Triceratops Mc Gee. He shook his head no. He didn’t know what he was in for. He bit his nails, he gasped in awe, he cried a little and when the story was over, I had a shiny new flamethrower.
I took said flamethrower to Floor 6, where I would find the bookstore. I don’t think you want to hear about the terror and anguish an 8 year old felt melting angry dinosaurs with a flamethrower and even you did, this isn’t my father’s warstory. It’s not about heroes and killing and Vhrd, it’s about life and learning. I’m not my father.
At the bookstore, some men in funny brown uniforms were saluting a mustachioed head in a jar. For some reason, when I came in, they threw their arms up in surrender.
“Ve surrender! Do not turn us in!”
I had no clue what they were talking about.
“I’m looking for books on walruses.”
They led me to the walrus section. For some reason, after doing so they shot each other dead. I still don’t know why, Whatever. I opened up a walrus book, and when I saw the creature I’d done so much to rediscover, I cried. It was too sweet and special and different for me to tell you about without doing it a grave injustice. Sweet, special, different and it had “evolved” into the gilawalrus, like a soldier turned into a raving drunk, just like congress became a giant pig and a brave young boy grew into a sad adult that never quite came to terms with this horrible world of ours. Now, never ask me what a walrus is again. Goodnight, kid and sleep tight.

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