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An Independence Day to remember

In the pants on July 4, 2021.

I looked up in the sky and saw that someone had stolen half of the Moon and two thirds of Sirius. Horror of horrors! Thursday was off to a bad start.

“That’s not good,” I mumblebuttered to myself, frowning. My chagrin rose: I wasn’t grinning. “This is going to ruin this weekend’s Independence Day festivities.” I wasn’t sure how, but it would surely involve cows. “It will surely involve cows,” I mused out loud moments after thinking it, “But I’m not sure how.” Perhaps with half the Moon gone, they would get terribly confused trying to jump over it.

I resolved to find a solution to this quandary. And I had to think fast, before July 4 came and went and my chagrin turned into full-on chamelancholy. Where would I find half a moon in the next three days, let alone two thirds of a −1.46-magnitude star like Sirius?

“With half the Moon gone, they would get terribly confused trying to jump over it!” I gasped.

Quack, quack! Quack, quack! Quack, quaaaccck!

Quaack, quack, quaack, quack!! Quack, quackk!! Quack!! Quaaaack!! Quack, quack, quack, quack!

Quack, quaaacckk! Quaaaack!! Quack, quack!

Quaack, quaaaaaack, quaackkk, quack!!! Quack, quackk!! Quack!! Quaaaack!!

Quaack, quaack, quaack, quack!! Quack, quack! Quack!!

Quaack, quaack, quack!! Quackkk, quack! Quaaackkk!! Quaaaack!! Quack, quack, quack, quack!

Quaaaccck!!!

Quuuaaaccck!!!

I sighed. Indulging in a full-on quack attack didn’t help things, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

I called the local quarry, explaining my quandary, and inquiring as to the price of 1.436 × 1019 cubic yards of basalt. They hung up on me. I then called the local scuba shop and asked about the availability of 2.735 × 1030 kilograms of blended hydrogen and helium. They similarly hung up on me, after calling me a nincompoop of exceedingly large size.

But I wasn’t quite ready to despair—not yet.

“All right, everyone—in the car!” With no fresh leads on where to find fresh pieces of these broken astronomical bodies, and no suggestions forthcoming from my squirrels, golden cockroaches, nor even my treacherous oatmeal cookies, we were off to the Spend-O-Mart to see what could be purchased and hacked together to make a passable substitute for the missing matter.

My life-sized cardboard cutout squirrel family in the car and safely strapped down with what passes for seatbelts in a Trabant, I turned the key and waited.

(Why squirrels, you ask? Well, being a six-foot-tall man–squirrel myself, it seemed like a good idea at the time.) I waited a few more moments—ten minutes in all—then turned the key back off, then to start again, then off, then to acc, then on, then off again. “That should do it,” I assured myself (and my squirrel family). My Trabi’s electrical system sufficiently warmed up, I resumed the starting procedure: Pull the choke out, turn it a quarter turn to the right, pump the gas pedal once, then set the choke to full. Step on the brake pedal, put the shifter in Н, set the emergency brake, then turn the key to start. Finally, weigh the brake pedal down with a cinder block, get out, pop the hood, move the squirrel nest out of the way, and pull the starter cord on the engine. If the gods of East German engineering were smiling on me today, the car would roar to life.

Indeed the gods were smiling on me today. Fate must have been in the loo and missed Her chance to torment me again. The engine turned over, flopped around a few times, and finally whimpered to life. Another few minutes and the engine was buzzing along merrily, and after another ten minutes, I was buzzing along merrily down Bouillabaisse Boulevard, the Spend-O-Mart on Alpha Ralpha Boulevard my destination.

Arriving in one piece at my town’s biggest mega-ultra-giga-tera-superstore, I realized I had made a terrible mistake: It was July 1. July 4 was soon to follow. July 4 was in fact only three days away! This meant that the entire Spend-O-Mart—all eighty floors of it—would be selling nothing but Independence Day paraphernalia. Hotdogs by the gross, hamburgers by the bushel, catsup and mustard in barrels and drums, and grills ranging from tiny desktop models to units that came on flatbeds. American flags in 368,000 different sizes, from flags on toothpicks to flags that blot out the Sun. Firecrackers, fireworks, firebombs, and fireflies. And bunting. Red, white, and blue bunting. So much bunting.

Realizing my oversight before anything calamitous took place (and we all know how likely calamities are when I’m involved), I got back in my alleged car, went through the alleged starting procedure, and puttered sputteringly back down Alpha Ralpha Boulevard. I briefly considered checking out the Christ-O-Mart over on Crunkner, but then remembered the flat-Earthers who own the store don’t believe in the Moon or Sirius, so no help there. As for the remainder of the stores in town, my old foes the gnomes had seen to it to get me banned from each one. So those were right out, too. Crestfallen once again, I abandoned my Trabi on the side of the road where its chainsaw engine died and ambled home.

Carrying three six-foot-tall cardboard cutouts of squirrels on my three-mile hike down the highway shoulder proved to be an arduous adventure, especially when all those SUVs kept aiming right for me. “Curse those squirrel-squashing, deer-smacking driving machines,” I cursed them.

Perhaps my old friends the screaming stars could help me repair Sirius—and the Moon. But before trying to conjure them up again, I thought: Perhaps the screaming stars were responsible for two thirds of Sirius going missing! So, I nixed that idea.

“Nix that idea,” I reiterated out loud.

I dropped my cardboard squirrel family off behind a Drunken Donuts dumpster and finished my trek home. Assaulted by guilt, shame, and acorns thrown at me by actual, angry squirrels, nothing could assuage my feeling I had failed spectacularly in my mission. Half the Moon was gone, along with two thirds of Sirius and all my credibility with the local squirrel population.

Another SUV took a swipe at me.

Arriving in one piece at my palatial abode—with two broken arms, a bent eyeball, and three broken legs, but otherwise in one piece—I realized something horrible was amiss, awry, and afoul. It just didn’t feel right in my home, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. (Or my tongue.) The floor looked fine, the ceiling looked fine, and other than a faint odor of charbroiled rodent in the air, the air looked fine too. Were lizards hiding in my basement? Did my vats of pig fat catch on fire again? Did someone stuff my basement full of fireworks and gunpowder in an effort to assassinate me?

I checked my central air system to make sure nothing was amiss there. The HEPA filter, to keep out dust, was in perfect working order, as was the HERPA filter (to keep out the lizards). I sighed and scratched my caprine head in befuddled puzzlement. No dust, no lizard infiltration. Perhaps my earlier chamelancholy caused me to imagine chameleons in my air ducts. There was at least one silver lining: I didn’t have eye worms in my lacrymal ducts.

I scrambled downstairs, burst through my new cellar door, and found everything in order there, too. All remaining 55-gallon drums of pig fat were present; none were ablaze. No crates of fireworks or barrels of gunpowder had been squirreled away down here by some Yankee version of Guy Fawkes. I breathed another (dust-free, lizard-free) sigh of relief.

The surreality of it all was astounding—nigh inconceivable. (But I conceived the hell out of it!)

I scrambled back upstairs, locked the cellar door nice and tight, and plopped myself in my Hopeless Slack-Ass® recliner to ruminate and vegetate. I may not have thelaziasis, but I could still be quite the lazy ass if I wanted. I reclined languorously, putting the Moon and Sirius out of my mind, putting the lizards out of my mind, and putting a glass of fresh-squeezed potato juice to my lips.

This would certainly be an Independence Day to remember.

“This will… certainly be an Independence Day to remember,” I sniffed.

P.S.: To those who worried, I didn’t actually starve to death last week. I only starved myself into a catatonic state not unlike the humperdumperdink had exhibited, but then my golden cockroaches flew me to safety. I awoke in a warehouse on Grimpley Street full of empty bags of bread—in the midst of my near-death encounter I must have eaten at least 717 loaves! So, to both of you—there was nothing to worry about!

P.P.S.: I also discovered, much to my further-rising chagrin, that cilices do not in fact have to come from Cilicia: The giraffe that stole my coffee carafe and put it up in that tree was wearing one… and his was from Burkina Faso. Sad Pnårp!