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Change you can be leaf in

Bogged down on November 13, 2022.

Enfliverosity and daguminous bagrationing notwithstanding, I wasn’t sure quite what was happening here. Even the Seferanian northuppanstance of yesterweek couldn’t explain what was happening here.

Let me see if I can explain…

I was driving around town putting out campaign signs for the ficus tree running for Congress this year. The squirrels were darting through the now-bare trees, themselves now fully nonchalant and wholly worry-free. The furry little fiends had buried the last of their nuts under the sweet, sweet soil and they could now party hard, tails aquiver and voices raised in chittering song—until winter arrived and froze them to death in their nests.

Indeed, the squirrels were nonchalant—quite lackadaisical in their demeanor. It being late autumn, my town was also quite lacking in daisies now. What remained of those flowery little fiends now consisted of nothing more than leafless, desiccated stems rising from a frozen ground: The corpses of plants long gone to that great compost heap in the sky. And soon the snows would come and freeze what remained of them, too.

Off in the distance, the dogs were too distracted to bark—they had not prepared for winter and the realization that it would soon be too late was now dawning on them. The frogs and toads had long since sunk into the mud beneath the ponds, the lizards had crawled back under their rocks, and the silithicine creates that lurk in the shadows and attack you from behind had withdrawn into their lightless grottoes… where they waited. Waited. But the dogs—despite being the cold-blooded, reptilian creatures they are—could not escape the icy wrath of winter by hibernating. They had to be smarter. They had to think. And then they would have to act fast, lest they freeze solid.

I’m sure my neighbor’s Great Dane wished he were an ant now—not the long-legged grasshopper he was. The industrious ants save and save all summer, then when winter hits, they live off their savings until it’s safe to come out again. The grasshoppers never save. The grasshoppers spend their summers drinking and gambling. And then they die. And the dogs—being grasshoppers—would die too. That’ll teach them to waste their lives playing poker, I smirked to myself.

But enough about the coming bitter destruction of all life in my town at the knobby hands of Dirty Old Man Winter. Where was I? Oh, yes…

I had been putting out political campaign signs when it happened.

Turning onto Winerboffer Boulevard, I touched my forehead gingerly. I still had a bunch of holes in my scalp from a recent hobnailing accident, but that was neither here nor there now—at least that’s what I thought at the time. But I soon realized, and if you can endure reading all 1,500 of these words right down to the last one, you will also soon realize, that was not the case.

What was here now was a guard rail—a galvanized steel death trap that came out of nowhere as I was about to pull off to the side of Winerboffer Boulevard and jam another Ficus for Congress sign into the gravelly roadside. My Snoodabaker slammed into the steely foe at full speed. (Would I ever be going any other speed than full?) Fortunately, for an ailing Studebaker with a jury-rigged infotainment system made from an old Macintosh computer, “full speed” was only 17 miles per hour, give or take a furlong.

The ensuing accident was minor, and other than my windshield adding a new flat spot to my forehead—a little to the right of the hobnail holes—it caused me no injury. Unfortunately the ficus I was stumping for (which was mounted atop the car—did I forget to mention that?) vaulted from the roof, went flying past the guard rail, along a graceful ballistic arc, and landed in the Whatanagawatchee Swamp beyond, where it bobbed up and down a few times before it did an Emmy award-winning Titanic impression and, listing to one side, sank.

Memories of my past life as a Massachusetts Senator flashed before my eyes. I backed up, only hitting two more cars (and one squirrel) in the process and got the hell out of there. Barreling down Winerboffer Boulevard at a breakneck 17 miles per hour, I started to panic. What if someone saw me? What if the two cars I slammed into (and one squirrel) were also like mine—that is, piloted by sapient human-things, and what if those sapient human-things were—at this very moment!—pulling out their smell phones to report me to the authorities? How many police squirrels would be waiting in my driveway when I arrived home?

“Pnaåaåaåaåaåaåaårp—!!” I quavered in blind terror. I stomped on the gas and the Snoodabaker almost made it to 18. But that’s when things got weird.

Earlier I mentioned the hobnailing accident to which I fell hapless victim. At this point, I should mention, as an aside, but also of key importance, a mere footnote, parenthetically, but also in brackets and curly braces, set apart, in the margins, that this hobnailing accident did not actually transpire. I imagined the whole affair. In fact, I hadn’t the foggiest idea where all those hobnail-shaped holes in my scalp originated. No one would tell me anything. Not Bouba nor Kiki, nor any of my neighbors, nor even my big blonde little Huzzey-muffet of a Becasue. My prize ficus tree—which was now joining all the other bog bodies at the bottom of Whatanagawatchee Swamp—was also mum on the topic. Mum as Parndiddle McForsterbaster. It’s almost as if the damned sapling didn’t even have a mouth.

I turned down one street after another, robotically piloting the Snoodabaker, at first gibbering mindlessly out loud, but after my brain ran out of adrenaline to torture me with, only making the occasional, shaky peeping noise. Streets flew by as I drove, and I wouldn’t be able to remember a single one of them now if you asked. (For you see, I am a trained forgetty, and I forget everything.)

Ultimately I pulled into my driveway—or at least something that resembled my driveway but also could have been anything from a parking lot, or just another road, or a street, or a lane, or a boulevard, or a promenade, or even an airport runway. I slammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop. After noting with palpable relief that no police squirrels were waiting and briefly marveling at the discovery that a car going 18 miles per hour could actually “skid,” I realized what I had turned onto was indeed… an airport runway.

Ever since Mayor Rhoodie had hired a hundred new police squirrels to show the town who’s the boss, every law was being strictly enforced townwide—including Murphy’s law. And so, of course, at the very moment I arrived, an airplane was coming in for landing—barreling down the runway straight toward me. It was going a lot faster than 18 miles an hour. With no time to waste on opening car doors, I made the snap decision to dive right out the open window. The window was closed, so I bounced off it—in a rather comical fashion, I might add. I tried again, and again accomplished nothing more than giving myself a nose bruise. A third time resulted in an impacted cornea and little cartoon birdies flying in circles around my head and tweeting.

The airplane was still coming straight for me.

After much rolling down and rolling down, the window was open. I made my third attempt to dive out the now-open window. I succeeded. I landed on my forehead alongside the car, flailed haplessly in the air for a moment, then fell on my face. At least my new forehead dents were symmetrical now. I flailed into a sitting position, emitted a noise reminiscent of a man being gelded without benefit of anesthesia, and clambered off the runway.

With a deafening roar, the plane passed overhead. I was safe. My Snoodabaker was safe. The plane continued its journey 30,000′ above me. I blinked once, twice. How did that airplane get all the way up there? Had it been up there all along? Had I imagined my impending doom atip the nose of an angry jetliner? Had earwigs snuck in through my ears and turned my brain to hallucinating mush again?

But it didn’t matter. I was safe—not dead. Not dead one bit. For once, something had gone right.

But Luck does hate me so: Such unmurphyslawful conduct was to be immediately punished. And that’s when a shipment of a hobnail boots fell from a cargo jet coming in for landing. The jet landed safely. The crate exploded in the air. The boots landed on my head.

And this, children, is why you should never campaign for a ficus tree for Congress. This year, vote for the lettuce. It’s what the British should have done!