Monday, November 26, 2007

The View From Here: The Care And Feeding Of A World

(the following is part of an ongoing 'column' I did for Suspect Thoughts, and, no, it's not supposed to make sense: only be weird fun)

Damn, I forgot to feed my world. Sigh. I just have to face it, I guess: I'm just not good with those kinds of little responsibilities. I mean, I can handle the big stuff, but things like watering plants, remembering to take the trash out on Thursday nights, or buy moisturizer just split right out of the ol' brain-pan.

What was worse, when I glanced over at the bowl I realized that I hadn't remembered to sprinkle in some flakes for quite awhile. The poor little things had grown these horrible little social-economic structures, diplomatic and interpersonal fangs and all. It was kind of cool, in a scary kind of way, to watch them stab at each other. One of them developed industry and started smoking up the habitat, while others twisted themselves all corkscrew and backwards with surreal belief systems. Those wouldn't be around long. Still others started to spore their philosophies, releasing streamers of missionaries to infect the rest of the bowl.

Then they really started going at it, and it was quite the show: one turned completely feral, lashed out at a nearby one, lighting up the tank with fires and making this fog of little burned bodies. Soon, a few others started getting in on the fun. Man, you could read from the glow of all the burning artificial structures. Over in a far corner, another was drying to breed itself into superiority, but after a really short time it sort of imploded and as I watched, hypnotized as it boiled with cannibalism.

Remembering what the guy at the pet shop said, I dug around under the sink and got out some Solar Flare Bleach ("Nothing Cleans Better than a Blast of Radiation!") but standing there, looking at all those little critters, I just couldn't do it. Okay, they were really starting to stink up the place, what with all their ridiculous petrochemicals and fluorocarbons and I knew the longer I waited the harder it would be to clean up the tank, but there was just something about their pathetic struggle to survive. You know, I never really thought of myself as someone who gets off on watching horrible things happen to good critters, but there was just something kind of hypnotic about the way they toothed and clawed at each other.

By noon several had found out how to split the atom -- and, oh boy -- then they really lit up the place. First one, then another, and after awhile it looked like all of them were vaporizing this, that, and lots of other things -- but mostly themselves. The flashes almost made my eyes hurt and the steady blue glow followed right after was really very pretty, if you could deal with the charcoal smell, that is.

Oh, wow, I thought, as one of the major sprawling infections began to transform a far corner of the tank into a fireworks show: pulsing reds, fluttering yellows, storm clouds of fallout, forks of bright white lightning. After that I kept my all my eyes on that tank, waiting for the next show.

I didn't have long to wait, as it seemed they all wanted in on the act. For the next few hours they popped and crackled, flared and flashed themselves into extinction. Still, it had been a great show, the way they lobbed those weapons of mass destruction at each other, the lovely way they stripped their tank of anything burnable or eatable. Despite how I might feel about myself, I have to admit that it was really quite wonderful to watch.

After they'd all finished their dying, I scrubbed out the tank -- not easy but I did it anyway -- tripped down to the pet store to get a new plastic baggie full of healthy, hearty critters, and just enough flakes to keep them that way for a day or two. But no more than that.

Like I said, I just can't seem to handle those silly little details. So I have come to accept the fact that my plants are always going to dry up and die, the trash will just keep getting bigger and bigger, or that I'll always be running out of moisturizer. But isn't it weird how sometimes a personal fault can lead to finding something new? If I'd remembered to feed that tank I never would have known how entertaining those critters could be -- as they died, that is.

And that's how I discovered my new hobby.

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