Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Bigfoot’s Big Lie

One morning in 1988, Bigfoot walked down to the river to wash the toe-jam out of his toes. Just because he was a homeless subhuman nomad didn’t mean he had to suffer from bad foot hygiene. He enjoyed a nice footbath just like anyone else. While he was there, he thought he might also get a refreshing slurp of water. Even better, he might find a discarded cup and take some water to go.

When he got there, Bigfoot saw a raccoon trying to open a plastic cooler. It must have been left behind by some campers or fishermen. He trotted over. Scratchy-scritch-scratch went the raccoon’s claws on the cooler, but she had not yet figured out how to get it open. Bigfoot thought about all the good stuff that might be inside. Bologna…  Doritos… marshmallows… bread… earthworms… baked beans… apples… maybe even a butter container full of some glop. Oh man, he had to have that cooler!

He ran up to the cooler, hoping the raccoon would be intimidated by his big feet and just run away, but she smelled something really tasty inside and refused to give it up. Raccoons were tough and could bite with savage force—Bigfoot could easily lose a fingernail or a small toe if he fought the raccoon. Plus, he liked raccoons. He didn’t want to fight. Instead he would lie to her. He would say that the cooler was his, he was just now coming back for it after taking a privacy break.

The raccoon looked up at him suspiciously, keeping her little hands on the cooler. A good grip and sharp teeth were nine-tenths of the law with raccoons. Bigfoot pointed at the cooler with both hands, then at his own chest. He did a little mime of himself carrying the cooler here and setting it down. He acted out how he would eat an invisible sandwich from the cooler. It was all very civilized, and obviously normal Bigfoot behavior. He reached out to take the prize, beginning to believe his own bogus narrative.  But the raccoon was having none of it. She pawed her way up to stand on  top of the lid, then bared her teeth. Her fur puffed up so she looked much larger, like a furry anger-ball.

“Maybe,” thought Bigfoot, “I should get a big raccoon-poking stick,” but he didn’t see any good sticks lying around. Instead, he just booted the cooler out from under the raccoon. No way could she hold on to that slick plastic top. The cooler shot neatly clear of her, straight sideways for six feet before going into a tumble over the gravelly bank and stopping in some sticky mud.

The infuriated raccoon was left clinging, unfortunately, to Bigfoot’s leg. She was not happy. Claws digging into his hairy calf, she bit his kneecap in frustration. She had been working on that cooler for ten minutes. By sense of smell alone, she knew it was not his. She couldn’t believe he would lie to her like that. Did he think raccoons were gullible?

Bigfoot stumbled halfway to the cooler before he realized the raccoon was now gnawing on his knee. No joke, it was starting to hurt. Maybe the cooler would contain some ice he could put on his knee. He lumbered forward, opened the cooler, and dumped out the contents. Whatever it was, it was bundled up in a checkered picnic blanket. He then stuffed his raccoon-accosted knee into the empty cooler, using its lid as a raccoon spatula so his fingers would not be bitten. He pressed the lid down to trap the angry critter inside.

Bigfoot was so relieved to get the raccoon off his knee, he didn't even notice that whatever was inside the picnic bundle was moving. He grabbed it with one hand, picked up the cooler between his arms, and moved to the edge of the water so he could get his footbath going. Sitting on the cooler to keep it closed, he began unwrapping the bundle. Oh, this was the closest thing to a Christmas present he’d had in a very long time! He decided to unwrap it slowly, to prolong the excitement. He imagined good things spilling out: burgers, catfish, pie… even when he realized it was alive, he remained optimistic. “Maybe it will be a cute squirrel with a peanut, and he will share it with me… most peanuts have two halves—perfect for sharing!”

Much to Bigfoot’s dismay, the bundle contained another raccoon, somewhat smaller than the first one, but just as ornery. It had just finished off some string cheese, judging by some shreds of plastic around its paws. Now it was frantically trying to open a little pumpkin-colored bottle full of rattly things. Seeing Bigfoot, it bared its teeth and gripped the bottle all the tighter.

“AAAAAAAuuuuuuuuuuuuuooo,” he moaned, which is Sasquatchawan for, “Aw, man!” He shook the corners of the picnic blanket to check for hidden treats. Nothing! Not even a shred of string cheese or an after-dinner mint. The smaller raccoon had the only treat in the box, and now Bigfoot wanted it. It was candy, right?

Or was it medicine? The bottle had a label, but Bigfoot could not read. He had seen a surprising amount of TV by watching it through people's windows at night. He liked commercials best. They were short, so he didn't have to commit much time to watching them, and they tended to be louder than the other stuff, so sometimes he could even hear them outside. His favorite commercial was one where an old lady who was angry at a sandwich said, “Where’s the beef?” He also knew from commercials that there were a lot of pills to make people feel better, but he also knew that eating too many pills could make someone sick, crazy, or dead. Come to think of it, it would probably be really bad for a raccoon to eat any pills at all without seeing a doctor first.

Bigfoot put his fingers on the bottle. He tried to turn it, so he could see the label. Maybe he could figure out something, or just see the pills better. He might recognize them from TV. The moment he touched it—OUCH!—the raccoon bit his finger! And it wouldn’t let go!

Thinking quickly, he dunked his whole hand into the river. Success! Once under the water, the raccoon had to let go so it could swim instead of drown. The bottle of pills bobbed to the surface. Now Bigfoot had control of all of the pills, as well as all of his own digits. His finger now hurt worse than his knee, but he lowered both into the cool river water. Ahhh, it was very soothing. He watched the smaller raccoon swim to the water’s edge, looking like a mad cat. Then it scrambled out and shook itself off, kind of like a wet dog. There was a noise as the cooler tipped over and the mother raccoon sprang out, now that no one was holding the lid closed. Bigfoot did what any sensible person would do when faced with two angry raccoons. He took the pills and ran.

Running was hard. His knee burned! His finger throbbed! He looked at it—it was still bleeding. Now he really needed the medicine, assuming it was the medicine he needed. He thought about cracking the whole bottle open and eating every pill. That might really help his finger feel better… but wait, there are so many kinds of pills, who knows what might happen. His teeth might fall out, or he might get severe diarrhea, or his legs could go bald. They might even be old lady pills, and he could end up with all kinds of weird problems.  

Not far ahead, Bigfoot knew there was a school. He decided to run there, then learn how to read so he could understand medicine labels. No, that would take too long! By the time he learned to read, it would be too late. If he could only ask a doctor… or a school nurse! But he didn’t want to be seen. There must be a way to be seen by a school nurse, but keep it a secret. Maybe, he thought, I can borrow some coveralls from a janitor’s supply room, and a hat….

Well, Bigfoot wasn’t paying attention to where he was running. He had come over a hill and was already crossing the playground. No one was at recess, so all was quiet outside. Looking at his sore finger, he ran right into one of the swings and broke it off the swing set, chains and all. He tripped and fell, tangled up in the chains. The pill bottle went flying. Bigfoot just laid there for a minute, stunned and hurting. Then he thought, “I have to get out of here! Someone might see me!”

Unfortunately, someone had already seen him. Doug Packerman witnessed the whole thing from a window in Mrs. Puddle’s art class. Mrs. Puddle had just left the room to get a fresh shawl. Doug was getting up to smear some vaseline in her chair when he spotted the intruder on the playground.
“Hey!” cried Doug, “Some skanky gorilla is stealing one of our swings!” Bigfoot was starting to crawl away, and also looking around for the medicine bottle.

“Looks like a hairy alien!” said Barry Kobbler.

“No, it’s an overweight wolfman!” said Olga Orinoco, who, like her skinny sisters, was obsessed with bodyweight. Now everyone was up, looking out the windows.

“Let’s get him!” cried Doug. Normally, Doug saved his meanness for classmates or teachers, but he was quick to target any living thing with his menacing ways, even if it meant pretending to care about the playground equipment. He ran to the supply closet and grabbed a small bucket full of scissors. “He can’t have our swing! Somebody’s mom saved like 5,000 Campbell’s Soup labels for that!”

So most of the children grabbed scissors and ran outside to attack Bigfoot, wearing their smocks spattered with tempera paint so they looked like a bunch of half-grown butchers who just slaughtered a herd of Teletubbies. Doug knew Mrs. Puddle was coming back any minute, so he energetically spilled her box of Campbell’s Soup labels all over the hallway to slow her down. He turned to run down the hall with scissors, and was immediately stopped by Vice Principal Mann, a beefy ex-weightlifter.

Mr. Mann was fed up with paperwork and wanted nothing more than to bodyslam a student like Doug Packerman. Instead, he said, “Doug, if I have to deal with a crying Mrs. Puddle again, I’ll see that you become her personal kleenex. Do you mind telling me where you’re going with those scissors?” Doug could almost see Mr. Mann’s muscles pumping up.

“Uh, I was just… going to clean up Mrs. Puddle’s soup labels. Some of them have rough edges.” Doug sat down and started snipping torn edges off the labels, placing the neatly trimmed ones back in the box.

“Very noble of you, Doug.” They were both so engrossed in their battle of wills, they had no clue that the rest of the class was outside rushing toward Bigfoot with scissors.

Outside, Bigfoot looked up to see about 20 children running out of the building. Still wet from the river, he resembled some sort of bogbeast. Muddy feet, feathers on his chin from a pigeon wing he ate earlier, he had twigs and cherry blossoms stuck all over his fur from falling down under a cherry tree.

Some of the kids forgot what they were doing and ran to play on the jungle gym, but most of them were still running toward him. Surprisingly, five of them were named Melissa. He hadn’t seen so many crazy children since he hid in some bushes to grab gutter candy at the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

“I guess this is how it ends for old Bigfoot, can’t get away now,” thought Bigfoot. The swing chains tangled around his leg made it impossible to run. “Why did I ever lie to that raccoon? That’s where everything went wrong… who knows what these people will do to me… probably make me into dog food or school lunches.” Some of the children became scared and retreated when they got close enough to see Bigfoot’s miserable face, but most of them had seen Scooby Doo cartoons or whatever—enough to think this creature had to be some clown in a costume. Finally he threw the pill bottle at them, put his hands over his face, and cried.

“Wow, he stinks!” said Timmy Redenbacher, who ran away. Indeed, there was a powerful skunky smell coming from Bigfoot’s armpits, because he was so nervous, plus he never washed with soap.
“P.U.! B.O.!” cried Nathan Smotherkid, who also ran off.

All of the Melissas ran inside to tell the teacher that a large hairy man on the playground tried to give them pills. The only child left was little Frannie Colostrum, who preferred not to use scissors for evil purposes. It only took her a few seconds to see that Bigfoot was hurt.

“Were you really stealing our swing?” she asked. Bigfoot shook his head No, pointing at where the chains were hooked in his leg hair. Frannie used her scissors to cut him free.

“Why ah you sad but full of cherry blossoms?” she asked. Frannie had a speech impediment and Bigfoot’s English wasn’t actually that great. He thought she said, “You owe me a sack full of baby possums.” He grunted agreeably, straightened his leg, and ran like the wind.

Frannie enjoyed a hero’s welcome as she returned the swing to the proper authorities. Bigfoot swore to never lie to a raccoon again, and he never did. Every time he found an empty sack in the woods, he wondered if he should fill it with baby possums for Frannie, but he was scared to go back to the school. He would just have to owe her.

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