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Pinguid penguins, disparate parrots, and a Studebaker

Basted on August 28, 2022.

I was once asked why I wore an oversized ass for a hat. I didn’t have a satisfactory answer. Out of embarrassment I pulled my buttocks down over my face and hid in a hole in the ground for sixteen long hours. Not even my dear sister Pollyanna Louisa Årp (we call her Plårp, naturally) could get me to come out of my hole. Mamårp, Papårp, my dear brother Grårp, and lastly my red-haired second cousin, 1⅛ times removed (the one with the great hoo-hahs, round little wah-wah, and fuzzy little hoo-hoo) tried to coax me out of that hole. None could. I was immovable. I squatted there, arms folded, and only hooted petulantly at each of their exhortations. Plårp, as she always did, threw her sandals at me, then threatened to step on my head repeatedly. I wouldn’t budge. Grårp threw a variety of hand tools at me, starting with a hammer, then a chisel, then a set of tire spoons. I dodged and hooted. Then my redheaded cuz dumped a bucket of white-hot angry Cappadocian Tweezer Ants in the hole and I flew out of there like a football bat out of northern California.

But today wasn’t 1983. Today I wasn’t sulking in a hole in the ground after a classmate had made fun of my butt-shaped forehead, and Plårp wasn’t stepping on my head repeatedly after I had emerged covered in tweezer ant bites. Today was 2022. (Or… was it?)

And I had places to be, cars to drive, and a bird to baste. I withdrew from my reminiscences at once.

My Trabant had given up the ghost once and for all. I tucked what was left of her in the back of my palatial garage for safekeeping and then piled a few dozen tires in front of her so she couldn’t roll away on her own. Despite the premature death of my faithful old Trabi, all was not lost: My dear departed brother Gregory Richard Årp (we call him Grårp, naturally—didn’t I say that?) had bequeathed me his entire car collection when he died, which consisted of three whole cars: A Ford, which he found on the road dead, an old Chevy Nova, which did not go, and his Snoodabaker—a 1959 Studebaker retrofitted with an infotainment system solely so he could play Snood while driving.

In addition, Grårp’s estate also comprised 616 partial automobiles and over 6,100 miscellaneous car parts, including several dozen more old tires and a set of tire spoons, but that’s neither here nor there now. Where those parts were was strewn about the crazy old hoarder’s yard in northern California, which is nowhere near here, so I don’t have to worry about that now.

The layers upon layers of lawyers upon lawyers, who had circled for years, piranha-like, and suffocated the case with enough paperwork to make the U.S. Tax Code look like a fortune cookie slip, had all departed this world under mysterious circumstances—in exploding cars, accidents involving car parts falling on their heads, or in one case, tripping over a set of tire spoons and choking to death on one of them.

When the estate was finally settled, I got the cars. (But only the unexploded ones.) Plårp got the car parts. And Clårp got the funeral bills, legal bills, and a finely drawn picture of a middle finger. It was lovingly drawn by Grårp himself.

The Snoodabaker was a halfway decent car. Unlike my Trabi, she needed neither a chainsaw engine to make her go, nor a set of bicycle pedals to keep her going more than a few feet. The infotainment system—a CRT monitor mounted on the dashboard with a large amount of duck tape, with a 1990s Macintosh installed under the passenger seat—was also halfway decent. I reserved my final judgment until after I learned how to use a steering wheel, keyboard, and mouse at the same time without killing any pedestrians.

“You can’t even use a steering wheel and a gas pedal at the same time!” a voice piped up behind me.

“Shut up!” I shot back. I spun around to see who was harassing me. No one there. But that didn’t stop me from lambasting the nonexistent person who had mocked me. After ten minutes, I won the confrontation—indeed I had the last word. When arguing with one of these invisible knaves, I always have the last word. (I also kept spinning around for a few more minutes because it’s fun!)

Ten more minutes passed. Then the voice piped up again: “Do you even know what a steering wheel is?”

I groaned. Berkowitz and Crichton had Harvey. Baltar had his Head Six. God was scraping the bottom of the barrel when he gave me mine: I had Zippy and a few other pinheads. They had gone the way of a disco-dancing dodo when I discovered the joys of polypharmacy, but—along with the gnomes, gnutes, gnizzles, and nurdles—they had eventually overcome my chemically fortified barriers and piled back into my cranium to mock and deride me, to make me feel like a big doofus, and to occasionally remind me how very many things I have yet to set ablaze this year.

“At least Baltar’s had nice feet,” I muttered and picked up my matchbook.


The massive tire pile in front of my Trabi had fallen over. Either the damnable laws of physics objected to me piling tires that high, or the damnable gnomes (and their gnute, gnizzle, and nurdle compatriots) had snuck into my garage and unstacked them all as a practical joke. Fortunately, Grårp had also left me his duck tape collection, so fixing up the pile proved simple. The pile would never move again. Unless I set it ablaze.

Fortunately, Grårp had also left me his duck collection, so I would never need to deal with another duck broker, either. And I so wanted to set the last duck broker ablaze.

Even more fortunately, Grårp had left me his collection of parrots and penguins. I now had more birds than I knew what to do with. His penguins were all pinguid: They waddled around like little landwhales, making strange, penguinal noises—daring the shuggoths to eat them. And his parrots were a disparate lot: Some were green, others were emerald, and one was almost a teal color if you squinted hard enough.

Unfortunately, Grårp had also left me his cockroach collection (to feed the birds). They escaped into my walls and wainscoting, laughing all the way. I knew I would never exterminate them without very, very drastic action..

“At least the gnomes have some company now,” I muttered and picked up my matchbook again.


My palatial abode is a resilient residence, and—as it has done so many times before—within days of burning to the ground, it fully reassembled itself. The house, the furniture within, the garage, and my dead Trabi within—all restored themselves to pristine condition. I abandoned the cardboard box on Shoehorner Street and returned home.

Those sixteen tons of streetcar parts were still strewn about my front yard. Apparently neither a nine-alarm fire nor a self-reassembling house could extirpate that mess. But with Grårp’s estate settled, I sensed an opportunity: I had the whole sixteen tons shipped via freight train out to northern California and plunked down in his front yard! The junk would blend in well with my late brother’s endless car part collection. None would be the wiser. Not even the gnomes. Plårp might beat me with her sandals when she found out; I would cross that bridge when I came to it. (And the gnomes wouldn’t, because I would burn the bridge down before they arrived—before I even stepped off of the bridge, I would burn it down!)

I also shipped an entire pallet of middle finger drawings to Clårp.

I then called Plårp on the phone. We reminisced about Grårp and his tire spoons, and then I hooted at her for a while. She threatened to throw her sandals at me through the phone, but—this being one of those newfangled cellphones and not my old landline—we both knew that was impossible. I just hooted louder and in a smugly mocking tone. She vowed to mail her sandals to me so I could throw them at myself, then she hung up on me. I kept hooting.

I spent Saturday panning for gold in the sewer outlet below Middendorfer Street. I found no gold, but I did find out where all those cockroaches I had flushed down the toilet ended up. (I also found a set of tire spoons.) On Monday I intend to try panning for gold in the storm drain on Grinspoon Street.

“There’s no gold in the sewer, you nincompoop!” Wrrhnrrhthlplck’ck piped up as I completed that thought. “Just poop!”

I muttered again. I needed to make another trip to Polly’s Pharmacy on Pinnfarben Street. I picked up my matchbook and headed out.