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Ham by the brick

Mechanically extracted on March 28, 2010.

Earlier this week, I realized I was out of ham. Being out of ham is a terrible thing, and I had to correct this problem at once. I resolved to go down to the Spend-O-Mart, the new one they just built on Alpha Ralpha Boulevard near the old treacle mine. Before going, I called up the store manager to make sure they sold ham by the brick—after all, if the store was hamless, there was no point in going (perhaps other than to firebomb the place for their hamlessness).

The manager told me they sold ham by the brick, the case, and the pallet. I asked them if they sold it by the pallette, just for kicks, but the manager (I think his name was Borb) said no. Only bricks, cases of bricks, and pallets of cases. I clarified that I could not, if I so wanted to, buy ham by the teaspoonful. Borb concurred.

Happy they sold bricks of ham, I put on my fez, grabbed my isosceles valise (freshly stuffed with even more paper!), and headed out.

Before I actually went to the Spend-O-Mart, though, I stopped in to see the Fnords next door to see if they needed anything. Mrs. Fnord said no, so after I saw her I checked with her husband and her three fnordlings just to make sure. They all said no too, except the youngest fnordling, who wanted a new Dumbledong action figure to play with. I told him if the Spend-O-Mart sold Dumbledongs, I’d buy him three.

Girt about the paps with glee, I got in my car and drove down to the Spend-O-Mart on Alpha Ralpha Boulevard. Never before had I been so enfliverously effunctuated, enamored with the factoid that this store did, in fact, sell ham by the brick. On my way there, I saw some more fnords under the bridge, fnords on the fneeway overpass, and a couple of homeless fnords sleeping on a park bench in the goatburping park on Shoehorner Street.

“Curious,” I mumblesputtered to myself under my girth, “I’ve never seen so many fnords before in my life. Very curious indeed.”

Turning onto Mapplethorpe Street, I glimpsed the new Spend-O-Mart off in the distance. I was still a mile away, but it was so big that its towering towerness towered over the horizon. It was so big. I was told it was over 300,000 square feet (that’s a lot of feet!), and eighty floors high. I think I had been lied to—perhaps even bamboozled—because this place looked like it was at least a hundred and eighty floors high.

I arrived and parked on the seventeenth level of the glass parking lot. Fistfuls of $30 bills in hand, I ran storeward, aquiver with enfliverosity, stormed through the front doors with gusto and glee, and immediately sought out the ham brick aisle.

Arriving twenty minutes later at aisle 2,854 on floor 17, I found more ham bricks than you can shake a ham stick at. They sold at least forty different brands of bricked ham, and indeed Borb was right: Bricks came in cases, and cases came on pallets. On the next aisle over, they also sold ham by the jar, ham by the bottle, and ham by the yard. There was ham in a can, ham in piles, ham in boxes, and ham bag-style. Ham as far as the eye could see. And all this ham—all this ham was for me!

I picked up a ham brick and ceremoniously turned it over in my hands. Ham, ham, ham… all for me! I checked the expiration date: September of 2137. This ham would be good long after my dear old Pnårpy body was moldering away in the grave! A quick glance at the ingredients list confirmed that, after the primary ingredient (“mechanically extracted pressed ham product, from concentrate”) came a litany of preservatives most of which I’d never heard of, starting with “formaldehyde rendered safe for livestock consumption” and ending with “[(R)-cyano-[4-fluoro-3-(phenoxy)phenyl]methyl] (1R,3R)-3-(2,2-dichloroethenyl)-2,2-dimethylcyclopropane-1-carboxylate.” Safe for livestock consumption was good enough for me, so it was time to load up the cart!

I dismounted from my truck-sized shopping cart and started hefting ham bricks onto it. One brick, two bricks, thirty bricks, more. Dense, industrial-grade ham brick after ham brick were stacked upon my deuce-and-a-half shopping cart. I picked up 600 bricks in all, each composed of freshly compressed and mechanically extracted ham, hand-packed by thousands of illegal immigrants from Eigentoria slaving away in the ham factories down in South Carolina. 600 bricks of ham: Enough to make ham-and-eggs, ham sandwiches, ham soup, ham cornpones, and even ham porncones, for the next decade.

My cart fully loaded with my 600 bricks of ham, I got back in, started the engine, and headed for the sea of checkout aisles on the first floor. Arriving downstairs, I found that only two checkouts were open, and the line of fellow consumers at each stretched for hundreds of feet. It looked like the wait would be hours. I was mad.

But, I was Phillip Norbert Årp, too, and I had a way of solving such problems. I stepped down from my cart’s cockpit and howled at the top of my lungs, “Where is this store’s manager!? I demand to see him at flunce! After doing so, I immediately began spinning in circles and pweeing madly as only I could do.

By the time Borb arrived, a small crowd of mindless consumers had gathered around my spinning form, posturing out the meaningless ritual of their indefeasible damnation. Borb scurried up to me nervously and introduced himself: “Borb. My name is Borb. Borb McBorbley, the manager of Spend-O-Mart #314159265358. What seems to be the problem, sir?”

I looked at him. I didn’t see a store manager: I saw another fnord. In fact, this was the fnordsmith himself that had planted all those other fnords: The fnords under the bridge, the fnords on the fneeway overpass, the fnords in the park, and even the fnords under the fnidge in my fnitchen.

“I see you!” I roared at the top of the top of my lungs, turning blue and growing a tail. “I can see you!”

The fnord wearing Borb’s skin straightened his tie with one pudgy hand, opening and closing his mouth like a fish out of kerosene. I was very familiar with that gesture, as virtually every individual ever to be faced down by yours truly had done it at least once, if not more. It meant one thing: He was a gnome. Or, two things: He was a fnord.

My eyes widened upon my ultimate realization as the brain cells floating around in my cranium came together and put two and two together, for once in their cytoplasmic lives actually coming up with four: He was a fnordgnome. My eyes didn’t just widen—they shot from my head and splattered against the ceiling thirty feet above.

“Fnordsmith! Gnome! Hairy, hoary, horrible gnome! And a fnord! I see you! I see the fnord before me! Before meeee!!!” I screamed, my voice rising to a high-pitched gurgle after the fourth exclamation point. I groped around blindly for my corneas. “What have you done with Borb, you fnordgnome! You gnomefnord! You fnordfnord!”

I lunged. The fnordgnome dodged. I lunged again. I caught him by the tongue. Fellow consumers abandoned me, some running away in panic, others pulling out their smell-phones and calling the fnordgnome’s damnable security guards over to pacify me. I had to act fast: While holding the struggling fnordgnome at bay with one hand, I reached for a brick of ham with the other. Unwrapping it with my nostrils, I broke off a chunk and shoved it down “Borb’s” throat.

His reaction to three pounds of desiccated, ultra-dehydrated, compressed ham product was immediate: All the water in his body, and then some, was immediately sucked up by the swelling glob of faux pig meat jammed in his craw. It wasn’t a pretty sight: Choking on his own tongue, Borb blurted out “Rydhsys rag Kernow lemmyn!” before keeling over, dead as a doorhinge and dehydrated as a glorpf-snake that took a wrong turn at Quirky-Dirky and ended up in Death Valley at high noon.

Realizing that the fnordgnome’s bodyguards would be arriving at any minute, I grabbed my 600 bricks of ham, threw a few hundred $30 bills at the nearest cashier (shouting “Keep the change, you unger-pelunger!”), and jetted out of there like a bat out of northern California.

Enemies: 0. Pnårp: 3.