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The nauga war

Tanned on October 14, 2012.

Paternostically, the shmeeps arrived, one by one, and they all stood in a row with their wiry wool glistening in the sunlight. Next came the mubbleducks, who quacked and waddled in their mubblious, psionic way, and who all lined up with their grim bills high in the air and their psioneal glands fully charged. Lastly, the naugas emerged from their underground nesting places and, wrapped in their famous nauga hides, took the place reserved for them. In front, standing tall, was a single fat kerfrumpt, who would lead the charge. The ’frumpt’s eating-snout stood erect and at the ready; his four general’s stars glistened in the sun like the shmeeps’ platinum wool.

I inspected them all proudly: The beginnings of my new bestiary, all trained as an elite battalion of ruthless killing machines. In moments, they would all be on their way across the street to my new next-door neighbor’s yard. (Remember him?) It seemed that the man’s cat had gone missing again, and as any student of international law knows, the act of losing a cat is a veritable act of war—perfidy second only to the act of painting or stuccoing your own home while in your underunderwear.

Not even the Fimbriated Man could stand in the way of this invasion (and I knew that he would try). Nothing could stop my army: The shmeeps would move in first, using their mirror-like wool to blind the enemy. Then, the mubbleducks would descend from the sky, bombing my neighbor’s house flat with their laser-guided eggs before locking eyes and hypnotizing him into an holunculous stupor. Lastly, the naugas—mopping up—would quickly set upon whatever opposition remained and then proceed to urinate on all of them. Nothing would survive. In the face of naugapiss, nothing could survive.

My plan was flawless, but for one minor flaw: Alyssa Milano’s barenaked feet were nowhere to be seen. Not even her toes were visible. If I didn’t address this megafarious problem before the attack commenced, it would surely cause my entire battle plan to fail utterly: A failure which would most likely send me buttocks-first into a shallow hole in the ground marked with a cheap slab of rock with my name scribbled on it in blue crayon.

Other flaws existed too, such as the fact that shmeeps were entirely mythical (I didn’t even have any, truth be told), mubbleducks couldn’t actually fly, and naugapiss, contrary to urban legend, is not poisonous. It is in fact both highly nutritious and extremely delicious, and a vital component in tanning naugahydes! These flaws, however, were so insignificant when compared to the lack of Alyssa Milano’s bare feet anywhere on this battlefield, that I refused to worry about them.

I glared at the nearest nauga. “Do you know where I might find beauteous Ms. Milano’s feet—or her toes—at this late hour?” I barked, hyena-like. The hour wasn’t particularly remarkable—it was a cool, refreshing 13 ap clock in the afternoon—but the verbal flourish seemed like the right thing to employ at the time. The nauga squeaked and squiffled, squamously, but had no answer. Naugas couldn’t even tell time, and asking a nauga to search out my most favoritous femjoy’s illustrious feet-&-toes for the ogling was like asking an ice cube left out in the sun not to melt. I slew the nauga on the spot, flayed him quickly, and fed his skinned corpse to General Kerfrumpt. The naugahyde would make a fine standard for going into battle.

Thirteen minutes past 13 ap clock arrived: The hour of battle (and minute). I signaled to my kerfrumptly general; he signaled back by waving his eating snout in the air and brilling loud enough to wake the dead. For a moment I worried about a zombie attack, but the feeling soon passed—zombies are as mythical as shmeeps, and even more ridiculous to believe in!

The first column of shmeeps advanced to my neighbor’s front door. One reached out and rang his doorbell. I waited.

Thirty minutes past 13 ap clock arrived and still I waited. My columns of beastly soldiers began to get restless. No one came to the door—not my new neighbor, his wife, his daughter, nor even his missing cat (because it was missing). Sighing disgustedly and mutterbuttering about having to do everything myself, I marched down to the door and—pushing the imaginary, woolly beasts out of my way with a contemptuous hiss—rang the doorbell myself. Thirteen seconds later, the door opened, and there stood my new (well, not so new anymore) next-door neighbor. His cat was nowhere to be found.

“You dare ignore my army of shmeeps?!” I bellowed in my bloodthirstiest voice. Images of tearing his veins out with my bare teeth and feeding them to my naugas flashed through my mind.

My neighbor eyed me quizzically for a few seconds, then replied: “Your army of what, Phil?”

I suppressed a desire to rip his head off right then and play bocce ball with it. I reiterated, even louder: “You dare ignore my army of shmeeps?! My squadron of mubbleducks will deal with you!” I turned. “Mubbleducks! Commence mubbling!

“You, uh… mean that one duck over there, Phil?” He sounded genuinely confused: A clever but unconvincing ruse, it was! I looked over to where my neighbor was looking. Along Bouillabaisse Boulevard, a single duck—a mallard, it appeared, as if that were important (which it wasn’t)—was happily playing in a muddy and water-filled ditch, quacking contently and flapping its gentle wings. My shmeeps were still AWOL; even my squadron of mubbleducks had disappeared now. I suppressed a frightened yerk: Had I been betrayed? Had they gone over to the other side, joining my next-door neighbor’s army of zombies? Or had I imagined the whole army to begin with? Was I having another “loony episode,” as my lovely sister Plårp was fond of calling times like this? Or had I just gone stark, raving mad again? Maybe I was out of my gourd. Perhaps I was simply crazy. Or daft. Or nuts.

I turned back to my neighbor, my face heating up. “Um…” I began sheepishly. I was sure that my countenance was so red it came back around to green. Images of slaughtering the man, pillaging his house, and selling his family into slavery evaporated from my mind. “Er… ah, I… hmm. Hmmmm. I’ll have to get back to you on that. D-Did you find your missing cat yet, O nearest next-door neighbor of mine?”

“If I had, you would have been the first to know,” he answered. “So. Do you know if I found my missing cat? Since you’d be the first to know and all.”

“I—” I stopped in mid-sentence, perplexed and confuzzled. Was he trying to play some sort of underbuffalous mind game with me? My eye-slits narrowed. Thoughts of pillage and plunder rose in my pea-sized brain again, but I contained myself. I scratched myself somewhere. “I… well, that is to say, I… I mean, me… I think that—or maybe methinks that—that is, I believe that you should get yourself a new pet. A different kind of pet. Maybe a cat isn’t for you, what with you losing it all the time. Have you considered a dog… or a horse? Or a moose? Or a shmeep, or a kerfrumpt, or a pair of ordinary ducks? Maybe some goldfish… or some silver ones? No indeed, maybe a cat isn’t for you: One of these days the cat-canning plant’s cat-catchers are going to pick up your wayward cat, and then—well, let’s just say a canned cat is no fun as a pet at all. Believe you me: I had one—a canned cat in a #10 can, to be precise. All it did was sit there on a shelf next to my Chef Boyardee ravioli and spaghetti and do pretty much nothing other’n take up space. And you don’t want a pet that does nothing but take up space, am I right? Am I right? Or am I right? I crossed my arms and nodded, a bit smugly: Let’s see him find any actual semantic content in the monologue I just ejaculated at him!

Without missing a beat, my next-doorknob neighbor nodded in reply, then reminded me that the cat-canning plant had been shut down by the ASPCA and replaced with a spam-canning plant. (The ASPCA cared little about spambeasts being mistreated, it seemed.) I tensed: This man was a font of information—information that I had blithely forgotten about, too! My forgetfulness wasn’t as egregious as that time I confused a #10 can with a #10 envelope and tried to mail 110 ounces of tomato sauce wrapped in nothing more than folded paper, but it was close.

I put that messy, red-stained day out of my mind and pondered a witty rejoinder. I wasn’t sure if periphrasis, circumvolution, circumduction, or simple ambage was called for at this juncture. I looked at my watch. Thirty-six minutes past 13 ap clock. I decided to go with simple, mind-boggling confusion instead of ambiguity: “Forget about the cat for a moment, O next-doorest neighbor of mine, and let us consider the ladanisterion of ithyphallic instoppelopathy. Have you ever seen such a ladanisterion? I’m told they’re quite common in certain parts of the world—ithyphallic ladanisterions, that is—except in exclaves of Botswana, Lesotho, and Ungabuganda, of course. The Ungabugandans don’t like ithyphalluses, it seems. Now, don’t ask who has told me that they’re quite common: I don’t remember the man’s name—or maybe he was a bird—I think his name started with an Ŋ, but a lot of names do—and even if I remembered it—which I don’t—but if I did—I would not utter it at such an ungodly hour as—” I checked my watch again “—nearly fourteen ap clock in the ’safternoon.” I spelled out the time of day for added emphasis.

Then I recited the Goa’uld alphabet from beginning to end.

My next-door neighbor waited for me to continue. I continued: “Now, then! These candies that I found in your mailbox yesterday—” I pulled out a couple-three shiny, melted blobs of beige sugar “—they look rather Polish to me. Polished, too. Are they Orzeźwiające or Kapitańskie? And why do they talk to me in funny voices?” I leaned in toward the man as if I were about to share a closely guarded secret. Unlike so many other smarter men, he didn’t step back in fright. “Well, I know why. And I’ll tell you why: Something smells like pencils out here, that’s why! (Do you have any ice cubes?)”

I turned and looked behind me again, up the driveway, expecting that my reserve naugatroops would seize this moment to launch their urinary attack. But nothing happened. No one came forward. My naugas must have defected, too. I turned back to my neighbor, spreading my hands helplessly. This day was shaping up to be one massive failure of AIDS-ful proportions.

“Anyway, getting down to brass tacks…” I pulled a single brass tack out of my pocket and handed it to my neighbor. He looked down at it resting upside-down in his hand, raised half an eyebrow, and then looked at me again. “What… what is your name anyway…?”

Undaunted, he answered quickly. “Phil, you know what my name is. I’ve lived here since last March.” I stared blankly, slightly wall-eyed, and partially agape. If such an empty, childishly clueless expression didn’t get through to him, nothing would. He sighed and continued, as if humoring a clueless twelve-year-old: “Okay, Phil, my name is Ŋ—”

A sudden, howling din erupted behind me just then and drowned out my old new next-door neighbor’s words. They would be his last words, it would turn out. As I spun around once more to check my six, a mivulating wave of heavily armed naugas surged down Bouillabaisse Boulevard toward the very front steps upon which I stood. I got out of the way—fast. The columns of naugas flowed up the short driveway: A brown and leathery mass of motion, snarling, grasping, rasping, and clawing. Mr. Ŋ (if that really was his name) didn’t move fast enough and was simply overwhelmed. The naugas—all six brazillion of them—surged into his house, dragging him along with them; the door slammed shut behind them. Amidst the clawing, crying, and keening cacophony, there emerged another sound: It was as if a thousand fire hoses had let loose all at once. The whole house shook and shuddered, windows blew out, and glass and debris rained down. The acrid stench of ammonia and nutritious, delicious CO(NH2)2 filled the air and set my nose on end. Naugas tumbled from the busted windows, scrambled back to their feet, and quickly rejoined the raging battle within. It was glorious.

The naugas had come through at last. The mubbleducks had abandoned me and the shmeeps had been fully imaginary all along, but my naugas, full of piss and vinegar (but mostly piss), had come through at last.

I stood back and gawked awkwardly at the scene. My wall eyes straightened out. It was the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. My ex–next-door neighbor would never be heard from again and his house—truly Mr. Wilson’s house—would never, ever be occupied again. It would stand there vacant for another three years before first becoming a crack house, then a whore house, then finally Mayor Julian Rhoodie’s reelection headquarters in 2016.

A cat wandered up the driveway, its tail high in the air, and curled itself around my legs. I bent down to pet it.

I decided then and there I would take up a new hobby as a bump on a log.