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To order a coffee

Caffeinated on March 25, 2012.

The sun was rising. I awoke eyeless and brainless, lying in a pool of iridescent green… something. My initial attempts at groping about blindly in hopes of finding my squishy missing parts proved fruitless so, with no other choice, I gathered myself into a fetal position and began shrieking like a twelve-year-old. Perhaps someone would discover my helpless self and rendered assistance, I thought to myself between mindless shrieks and panicked wails. Alas, this tactic turned out to be just about as successful as my attempt in June of 1987 to square the circle with nothing more than a goat and some marmalade. After becoming more hoarse than an overcaffeinated Obersturmbannführer in a Horst-Wesseling contest, I decided that continued childish squealing would be futile and stopped. I then set about brainstorming new ideas, each zanier than the last.

Considering my brainless state, it wasn’t much of a storm. Ideas were slow to come, and each idea I tried resulted in either failure, utter failure, or crushing and utter failure. Just when I was about to give up and go die again, inspiration struck: I had lightbulbs. Many of them. Oodles of them, in a box in the closet. After groping about in there and finding a pair of 60-watt incandescent bulbs, I then screwed them into my empty eye sockets and plugged myself in in order to power them. (You don’t want to know.)

Against all logic and reason, the lightbulbs worked: I could see again. And—being without brain and all—for once in my Pnårpy life, my mind was silent. It was a veritable sea of silence… an ocean of tranquility… a universe of quietude. No schizophrenic chorus of voices reminding me over and over again that I was a raving lunatic. No hallucinations of gnomes descending from the rafters or peeping out of the wainscoting, nor visions of gnutes popping out of the æther to offer me catastrophically bad advice. No fantasies of celebrity feet-&-toes over which to perseverate, nor imaginary girlfriends with whom to goonflayvinate. No sentences ending with prepositions. No sentences containing the word “dysdiadochokinesia” either.

There was nothing. Without a brain in the ol’ pan… there was nothing. There wasn’t even any nothing in any real sense, there just was not.

After finding and inserting an old 1970s-era calculator into my cranium to serve as a makeshift brain, I decided I would take a walk downtown and order a coffee. But where?

Pam & Meg’s was closed today—that is to say, not open today—and even if my favorite eatery had been open, after that embarrassing steak-saucing mishap that I had been involved in at Pam & Meg’s a few weeks ago, I was too ashamed to show my face there (and my trusty bottle of A-1 steak sauce that I always keep with me, too). Forlornly I scratched Pam & Meg’s off of my list.

Next up on my list o’ possibilities (it really was a list) was the Dunkin’ Donuts over on Pinnfarben Street, but that was too far away when traveling by goatless carriage as I would be, so I nixed them from my list, too. I considered going to the McGonigle’s that had recently been unfolded over on Alpha Ralpha Boulevard, but abruptly changed my mind when I remembered that that particular fast-food chain had been at the center of the recent “pink slime” controversy that gripped my town like a slimy, pink toad: Not only were McGonigle’s hamburgers composed of 105% “pink slime,” but apparently their entire building had been constructed from the material, brick by slippery brick. Was the substance in their coffee, too? I didn’t doubt it!

For a moment I considered going to The Screaming Goose Bar & Grill, but then I remembered that they had relocated sixteen towns over because the local health inspector had shut them down after he had discovered 549,173¼ rats camped out in their kitchen sink, shower, and bathtub. Some people wondered how it was possible that that many rats could even fit in a bathtub, others wondered if the inspector had planted the rodents because of his irrational hatred of restaurants selling grilled goose, and still others had asked the question: “What does any of this nonsense have to do with fetching a simple cup off coffee?”

“Everything, that’s what,” the bar’s proprietor had told them, shortly before mounting his rat-powered motor-scooter and fleeing into the sunset. He was never seen again. The rats were. All 549,173¼ of them showed up at Veesey-Koosey’s Geesey-Goosey Pub the day before the health inspector conducted a pop (pop!) inspection there, too.

So: There I was. No Pam & Meg’s. No McGonigle’s. No Dunkin’ Donuts. And: A spurious colon. (And another, too.) I pondered, holding my chin in as pretentiously intellectual a pose as I could properly affect on such short notice. With all these other restaurants removed from the list for some reason or another, that only left the Drunken Donuts on Strontium-90 Street, the other Drunken Donuts over on Uranium-238 Drive, and finally the Drunken Donuts on Polonium-210 Road. (There was Hobo Stu’s Eatin’ Cart down on the alley behind Madame Beaux-Pieds’, but coffee made with burned shoe leather and served right on Stu’s sleeping cot didn’t sound particularly appetizing at the moment.)

I mulled over the pros and cons of the inevitable radiation poisoning I would suffer merely by setting foot upon any of those aptly-named streets, and finally came to the conclusion that a cup of coffee was well worth the bone cancer that would inevitably come with it 10–20 years from now: I was thirsty, I was entirely decaffeinated, and by Gum, I wanted my bones to start sprouting new joints and sockets all on their own!

Donning my burnt-umberest fedora and grabbing my flippant eigenbriefcase stuffed with the finest frippery I could assemble out of the frip-kit my dear old Mamårp had bought me for Sefernmas, I set out for the Drunken Donuts on U-238 Drive. It was the closest, a bit cheaper than the other two, and their yellow breakfast cakes couldn’t be beat!

Grilled, screaming geese were still on my mind as I blundered through the front door of the Drunken Donuts that I had chosen to patronize on this fine, eyeless morning. Other customers stared as I sauntered in, no doubt because one of my eyebulbs had come loose and had begun blinking and flickering erratically. I ignored the problem and went to the counter to order myself a gallon or two of their finest coffee, coffee substitute, powdered coffee, coffee-flavored drink product, or coffee-flavored, powdered beige slime.

“Hello! I’d like to order a coffee!” I began. Remembering this was a Drunken Donuts franchise, I quickly added that I desired no rum, whiskey, whisky, or vodka be added.

The cashier smiled a blonde little smile. Before she could even open her rather anserine mouth in reply, though, I began the lengthy introduction I’ve grown accustomed to presenting to every stranger I meet (and some I don’t). After rattling off my long list of names and titles with as much grandeur as a mere commoner could muster, I explained why I needed the entire gallon of coffee, what I would do with it, and how quickly I would do so. I followed this brief oratory with an elaborate one, describing what happens to my metabolism and my ability to suppress homicidal tendencies when I’m deprived of caffeine for more than 72 hours, and what would ultimately happen to my bladder and its attached plumbing if I actually did drink an entire gallon of coffee in less than 72 minutes, which is what I planned to do the moment the coffee was handed to me. Subsequently, I described to her the events of the previous week, the week before that, and then the 40-odd years that had come before even that week. When I reached my seventeenth birthday, I started speaking in French, for when I had actually been seventeen, that was the only language I knew how to speak for a whole year. Fortunately, when I reached sixteen, I knew English again, so I switched back to English and plowed forward with my story as if it was perfectly normal to recite one’s life chronicle to a hapless Drunken Donuts cashier.

Throughout my entire oratory, the cashier (I think her name was Borbra) stood behind the register wide-eyed and transfixed, on the edge of her seat as I narrated my epic tale. That there were in fact no chairs to be had anywhere behind the counter didn’t stop her; metaphors were trending on Twitter this week so she sat on the edge metaphorically rather than literally. She didn’t know what to make of my tale. She twitched each time I used the word “disembowel”—which I did so quite frequently, and with as much emphasis as I could muster without having an actual sword in hand. And she flinched when I recounted my tale of running 68,000 gnomes through an organ grinder in 1997. But other than that, she was the picture of patronizing friendliness.

I blustered. I speechified. I commented, I noted, I added, and I said. I droned and droned. I yacked, I yammered, I yerked, and I yurgglenurfed. Between sentence #378 and #379, the cashier did attempt to interject a question or comment, but I would have none of it: Holding up my hand and tut-tutting her like a father gently castigating an errant child (on threat of castrating the child for interrupting him a second time), I blazed onward with sentences #379 through #891 before she could even attempt to suffuse another word into the conversation—edgewise or lengthwise.

Finally, after much rhetorical flourishing and oratorical puffery, I was done. She visibly relaxed, probably realizing at last that calling the guardsquirrels over to throttle me would be unnecessary.

“That will be $3.98, sir,” the cashier stuck her hand out as another clerk dropped the mini-keg of coffee on the counter in front of me with a resounding thud, followed by a yellow cake wrapped in paper that appeared to glow gently green. The Drunken Donuts cashier wore a ring on each of her fingers, and six on two. Unrelatedly I wondered if behind the counter she was wearing shoes, sandals, or was she deliciously barefoot? What color were her toenails, and how many rings did her toes sport? Well, there was only one way to find out—

The cashier cleared her throat, bringing me back to reality. Her hand was still there, wanting money. I pulled three individual dollar bills out of a pocket in my cummerbund and handed them to her, one at a time, with much gusto and enflourishment. Then I waited. She raised an eyebrow. I nurped, and then fumbled around in my 37 other pockets for the remaining money, finally finding a 98¢ bill after emptying 35 of my pockets onto the counter in front of the now-dumbstruck cashier. The 98¢ bill was rolled up, wrapped around a small glass tube of golden cockroach powder, and held fast with an elastic band the colors of the 1924 flag of Germany. Grinning ingratiatingly (have you ever seen a Pnårp grinning ingratiatingly?), I handed her the 98¢ bill and scooped up the 1,525 items I had unpocketed (except the key fob shaped like a squirrel’s snout), stowing them for now in my fripful eigenbriefcase. I then snatched my coffee keg from the counter and turned to trot away like a Kimdangian Emu on electrified stilts. I let the cashier—Borbra, I reminded myself, and now my best friend forever—keep the squirrelly key fob as a memento of my visit to her fine establishment.

“Ah, coffee at last,” I mumblesighed to myself as I moved toward the door of the Drunken Donuts. Outside, a middle-aged woman suddenly sprouted a third arm in the center of her chest. The green, scaly arm turned to try to strangle her; she began to scurry around the sidewalk frenetically, bounced off of a man who already had six eyes asymmetrically placed about his face, and then ran aimlessly in the direction of Mayor Rhoodie’s estate. I chuckled at the thought of Rhoodie waking up to that crawling over his razor-wire fence. Maybe he’d think twice next time he decided to make our town into a federal nuclear waste repository!

I clutched my Drunken Donuts coffee greedily in my Pnårpy little hands. I took a sip. Something was wrong. I wheeled around on my leftmost heel and stomped back up to the counter, indignant yet dignified still. “God dammit, woman! I asked for onion powder in this! Onion powder!” I pounded my meaty fist on their polished-metal countertop to drive home my indignance. Dignity fled my carapace like a man running from an axe murderer. Off in the distance, a dog barked, and then began to grow bone spurs from its femurs that were shaped like Jada Fire’s buttocks: All that gamma radiation screaming about U-238 Drive was potent stuff!

The Drunken Donuts cashier looked at my quizzically. “Sir… we don’t have any onion powder…” she began bemusedly. I scoffed—indignance rising. How dare someone open a coffee shop without the requisite barrels of onion powder for their coffee? My no-longer-best-friend-forever continued: “But if you’d like, I could—”

I pounded again. The napkin dispenser did a little dance and the sugar packets rustled. “I wants me some onions in this here coffee!” I affected a dialect I didn’t actually speak. I was affecting a lot today!

“We might have some… potatoes in the back,” she offered, searching for something to appease the disgruntled customer that stood before her striking an obstinate pose and hurling his nose in the air. Definitely a sandal-wearer, I concluded.

“And what do you think I could do with those? Could I put them… up my nose?” Such an illogical counter-offer to my demand for onions deserved nothing more than a rhymingly illogical answer.

“…” the cashier merely responded with a wide-mouthed ellipsis.

“Or perhaps I could put them… between your toes?” I counter-counter-offered. She squeaked.

Countering her open-mouthed ellipsis with a jaw-clenching exclamation point, I dispensed with the rhymes and got back to the problem at hand: This Drunken Donuts franchise’s distinct lack of onions for me to powder into my coffee. “So you don’t have any onion powder?”

“No, sir, we…”

“Not even any onion chunks… or blobs… or even globs…?” I persisted. She shook her anserine head. She really was cute, but in a very goose-like manner. “None sliced? None minced? None diced, ringed, or pinched?” To each rhythmically phrased question, she had the same helpless, head-shaking answer. I knew she’d start honking like an adorable little gosling any minute.

I snapped my fingers. “Ah-ha! You must have some whole onions back there! Don’t you? If not, how would you make the sugar packets you so blithely give away by the handful?”

Again the little gosling’s answer was in the negative. This clerkly encounter was turning out even worse than my equally fruitless encounter with a vinyl-clad Christ-O-Mart clerk last year—except the pretty, young be-sandaled and be-ringed thing standing in front of me this time had apparently left her shiny, black vinyl nun costume home today. And it was onions that I sought, not fruit, but that was a pun I had made before—so I withdrew it at once.

Six, six-score and six minutes had passed since I had entered the Drunken Donuts intent on getting an alcohol-free, onion-infused coffee, and whereas I had acquired the coffee, I was—alas!—still onionless: No onion powder to stir into my coffee, no onion chunks to eat on-the-side, no onion rings to put around my own fat fingers or the cashier’s slender ones, nor even a whole onion or three to jam in my cheeks and make me appear even more squirrel- or chipmunk-like than I already did. What was I to do?

I was at that moment ready to turn tail and run, splashing my onionless coffee everywhere on my way out: Yet, that recent scissor-sprinting accident at the elementary school on Hegelian Avenue had been fresh in my brainless mind all morning, so I thought better of it. I decided not to go sprinting with an equally dangerous coffee mini-keg under my arms. “If only you thought better all the time, you wouldn’t be in this quandary, you fat glob of turkey stuffing!” a tiny, tinny voice announced from somewhere deep in my Sylvian fissure. Even though my current brain was only capable of adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing—and displaying the results on a glowing, red LED display—Zippy had returned, it seemed.

So instead of sprinting like a scissor-wielding madman, I started backing away from the Drunken Donuts counter slowly, the expression on my face not unlike that of a man who had seen, right before his bulbous eyes, a young coffee shop clerk suddenly morph into a giant, hideous, tentacled she-beast intent on devouring the man alive with her rows and rows of sharp, razor-like teeth set inside a hideous, aquiline beak.

I tried not to scream. I think I succeeded, but the invisible second me inhabiting the exact same space as myself did not: He screamed his bloody head off as he/we fled. Reaching the door, I spun around in a complete circle and began moonwalking down the Uranium-238 Drive sidewalk as fast as I could without ramming into people (even though doing that is so much fun). Suddenly, I tripped over something behind me and went tumbling, pinto bean–like, down onto my buttocks on the sidewalk. If only I had had lightbulbs on the back of my head!

I scrambled up into a sitting position and looked behind me. The door to the Drunken Donuts burst open explosively and flew off its hinges. Shards of glass shot through the air; the twisted aluminum and steel frame of the door landed in the middle of U-238 Drive. I yeeped. A mass of slimy tentacles suddenly wriggled through the doorway, reaching, probing: Each tentacle wore a ring more befitting the slender fingers of a cute, if goose-like girl, rather than a hideous, beaked tentacle-beast.

I skittered backward on my butt along the sidewalk—a mindless, gibbering heap of Pnårpiness. A massive bulk of a creature burst through the shattered doorway and turned to look in my direction with what may have been eyes. The scaly, leprous thing was eight feet tall and nearly as wide. Blonde tufts of hair emerged irregularly from various parts of its body; a hooked, eagle-like beak was set amidst the mass of octopus-like tentacles, all of which emerged from what may have been the creature’s head—or some other form of sensory cluster mimicking such a morphological structure. The creature roared, maw gaping, and displayed half a dozen concentric columns of razor-sharp, shark-like teeth within its aquiline mouth. The gamma rays surely must have been strong today if this many sudden mutations were taking place. With a banshee-like shriek, the tentacles of the hideous, scaled Borbra-beast shot in my direction, pulsating and wriggling as they flew through the air.

And I had been right all along. The she-beast was wearing sandals.

I fainted.