Here's the cover: followed by the text:
A short time ago, in a place not so far away, there existed a sleepy little town known as “Geriko.” Nobody knew how long it had been there, but it was assumed by outsiders that the town was named after an ancient biblical city, by someone who hadn’t mastered the art of spelling. Still, the name seemed to fit, because, curiously, no matter how many children were born there throughout the years, the population remained mostly elderly. And, also curiously, they all seemed to look the same.
For the most part, they were a happy people, the Gerikuns. Most of them spent their days working in the orange groves and their nights thinking about working in the orange groves the next day. Because, there wasn’t much else to do. Occasionally, they’d go see a movie – but since there was only one movie theater in Geriko, and since it showed only one movie – the townsfolk didn’t have reason to get out much. There’s a limit to the number of times a person – even a Gerikun – can watch “Bedtime for Bonzo.”
Outside of town lived wandering bands of raccoons – because, that’s what raccoons do, they wander. They didn’t have a movie theater at all; and they didn’t have orange groves in which to work, so they would sometimes come into town looking for food, or employment, or entertainment. The grove owners soon discovered that the raccoons, happy just to be there, would work for a few oranges a day while the regular Gerikuns demanded payment in real money. So the owners hired more and more raccoons to the point that some long-time Gerikuns were having trouble finding jobs. This made them angry.
A man named O.J. McDonald built a business for himself providing housing for the raccoons on a street called Baltic Avenue. At first, the rent O.J. charged was affordable – even for the scantily-paid raccoons. He charged them 4 oranges per month to camp there. Then, as he grew richer, he opened his own brick factory to provide materials with which he could build houses for his tenants. He replaced the campsites with houses, and raised the rent to 20 oranges per month. The raccoons were glad to be inside on the cold nights, and they could crowd several of them into a single house, so they had no problem with paying the rent and splitting the expenses. And the raccoons kept coming.
O.J. seized upon the population boom, and the resources he had available. Baltic Avenue wasn’t that big of a street, and he didn’t want his tenants to go off paying somebody else for their lodging. So he tore down the houses and built hotels in their places. He, again, upped the rent, considering all the raccoons that could squeeze into such large buildings, to 450 oranges per month. The raccoons had to work harder and harder to pay their rent, but they had much nicer places to live – albeit in a rather undesirable neighborhood very near a railroad and the tax collector’s office.
Ultimately, O.J. McDonald became a very wealthy man and moved from his middle-class home on Atlantic Avenue all the way uptown to a place called Boardwalk, where he built a brick skyscraper, 45 stories tall, and lived in the penthouse so he could look out upon his tenants and make sure they stayed in line. It was rumored that the 44 stories below his residence were simply there to hold his oranges, and his money.
The make-up of Geriko was changing. Raccoons were everywhere – young ones, old one, thin ones, chubby ones. And while they realized that O.J. was taking advantage of their desire to stay, they really didn’t want to return to living in the woods, where nobody had even heard of Bonzo. But the Gerikuns wanted them out so they could go back to the way things were before. Gerikuns weren’t too big on the concept of change. They went so far as to begin to build a wall around the town. But O.J. was making more profits renting hotels to the Raccoons than he made selling brick to the townspeople for their wall. With brick, and then willpower, in short supply the wall was only partially completed before the theater got another movie and everybody just, sort of, forgot about it. For all the trouble and expense, the wall they had built wasn’t tall enough or wide enough, they thought, to keep the raccoons from coming into town. When they wanted in, all they had to do was climb over it, or walk around it. But, over the course of time, it didn’t really matter so much, because the townsfolk discovered there were other, better, things to do with their time than picking oranges. Many even stated that if the raccoons were suddenly to disappear, the oranges would rot on the trees because there would be nobody to pick them. So, satisfied with the conditions as they were, there was a period of peace and harmony among the Gerikuns and the Raccoons, and Geriko continued to prosper.
O.J. McDonald, and his wife, Hilda, spent their days and nights in their lofty penthouse shipping produce and counting their money. But they did find a little time to start a family. They had three relatively normal children who followed in the ways of their parents. Then, one cold rainy night, a fourth child was born unto O.J. and Hilda. This one was different. As he came into the world, the attending doctor noticed that he had something in his mouth. The staff hurried the baby away for examination and discovered it was a tiny spoon, made of silver. Subsequent inquiries into the cause of this revealed that the spoon had somehow fallen inside of Hilda McDonald during the birth of one of the previous children; and the investigation eventually concluded that it was dropped by one of the McDonalds’ servants who was watching the birth while eating ice cream. Vanilla, of course.
The abnormalities of the new baby were blamed on Hilda’s body acids slowly dissolving silver from the spoon between the birth of her previous child and this new one. He was a plump little rascal, and seemed healthy enough, but his digits were much, much shorter than those of a normal human; and he had freakishly long eyebrows and a completely bald head. Even as he was being coddled by the nurses in the hospital, the baby took his tiny little finger stubs and brushed his own eyebrows back over his head to keep it warm.
The parents were, of course, concerned about the baby’s condition, and his welfare, but their first self-serving emotions were those of embarrassment that they, at the zenith of Gerikun society, had brought forth something less than a perfect McDonald.
It is assumed that they gave a proper name to this newborn son before packing him up and hiding him away from the world in their penthouse, but nobody, to this day, knows what it was. Because of his short little fingers, and other digits, they simply called him “Stubby.” Stubby McDonald. That moniker seemed to work, and even Stubby never asked his parents what his real name was. Then the days came that they passed from this world, and it was too late to ask.
Stubby grew up in a world quite different than ours, essentially imprisoned there in the height of luxury. He was surrounded by money, oranges, and servants, and never had the opportunity of a normal child to meet and befriend other children. This, in itself, would have been difficult for him, because as he grew, his other abnormalities manifested.
First, he found that he was, for the most part, unable to speak in the manner of other people. When he opened his mouth, he tended to vomit upon his silk pajama top. But, always determined to overcome, Stubby, at a very young age, developed his own method of sign language, using his tiny thumbs, and taught it to all those around him. The problem with that was once they – his servants and family members, and his imaginary friends – were able to communicate with him through this method, they discovered that he was literally incapable of telling the truth. Every single thing that Stubby “said” was a lie. Those with whom he was communicating adapted to this by simply assuming that the opposite of what Stubby said was the actual truth.
Next, as he wandered around in that huge 45-story building, he was constantly getting lost. To remedy this, he learned to mark his tracks by urinating along his path. Because of all the oranges he consumed, Stubby’s clever markings made a bright, almost fluorescent, yellow/orange stain that could only be scrubbed off of their surfaces using sponges made of hundred dollar bills – something about the construction of the paper. Tens, even twenties, wouldn’t work at all. He used the markings to find his way back to the penthouse, each time he wandered away, and it was the sole job of some of the servants to follow him around to clean up after him. So, what began as a survival mechanism developed into a condition, which Stubby was never able to break as he grew older. This “habit” is what earned him the title as “The Whizzer of Orange.”
Of course, even Stubby realized he wasn’t a normal boy, and he should stay there in the penthouse where he was protected from the big, bad world outside. But deep within his chubby frame was an undying desire to get out there and make it on his own, despite his inadequacies. He had learned enough about the outside world through thumbversations (that’s what he called them) with the servants that everybody out there wasn’t as wealthy as his parents, and some didn’t even have enough oranges to feed their families. But they had something, all of them. And he made it his mission to get out there and take that from them.
Stubby finally talked his father into making him a small loan of 14 million oranges, so he could start his own business. That wasn’t a problem, as his parents were more than happy to get him out of their penthouse. He managed to lose that pretty quickly, so he went back and borrowed more. With that, he hired some of the Raccoons in town to go back into the woods and bring back snakes. Stubby took those creatures to a factory to have them processed into an oil, which he then started selling to the Gerikuns as a cure for boredom, and whooping cough, which nobody had. Many thought the oil was actually working on them, because they were entertained by the act of Stubby selling it to them. But that fantasy eventually wore off and people, now tired of seeing “Hellcats of the Navy,” were back to complaining of nothing to do, and blaming that on those lowly Raccoons, somehow. And the Raccoons were also upset because Stubby never paid them for gathering up the snakes. He washed his tiny hands of the whole enterprise.
“If innertayment is what they want, innertayment is what I’ll give them!” Stubby announced with his thumbs. He let his snake oil business go back to the bank; took out another loan from O.J., and promoted his own weekly dwarf-tossing event. It was a huge success, by Stubby standards. Half of the Gerikuns came every week to watch the little people being thrown about the fairgrounds – against their wills, by the way - and they laughed and laughed. It seemed to never grow old to them. All during each event, Stubby sat in an opera box near the top of the stadium, a well-paid young girl on each knee, clad in a white robe, with a golden crown atop his huge orange head, holding back his eyebrows. When the performance met with his approval, he gave it a thumbs-up. Unable to see if the little digit was pointed up or down, the crowd applauded anyway. It was a grand time for all involved.
The Gerikuns of lower intelligence began to admire Stubby, the man, and what he had done for them; and they put out the effort to learn the Art of Thumbversation so they could communicate with him. Here, they thought, was an actual self-made billionoranger who could communicate with them on their level! They learned to read his markings and follow him to other events he sponsored, by spotting the yellow bricks. Having them lined with neon signs made that even easier for them.
The other half of the Gerikuns, mostly those who had read a book, or traveled outside of town, largely ignored Stubby, believing him to be an idiotic phase that those other townsfolk were going through – like the time years ago when they thought all the left-handed people were aliens from Mars and opened a series of tedious investigations to expose them. That passed. And it was a sure thing that this would too.
But Stubby was emboldened and empowered by all the attention he was getting, and he worked relentlessly to acquire even more. He sponsored watermelon eating contests and frog-slinging competitions – the high quality sorts of entertainment his followers had come to expect from him – and he grew stronger and stronger as a powerful, influential force in Geriko.
One day, while having his toenails clipped and saved and laminated for posterity, Stubby decided that there should be some kind of monument built to honor him. But, how to get that done? What should it be? Where would it be located?
Voila! Of course. It should be the completion of the long-forgotten wall the people once craved! He could build it all around the town, so everybody could see it without having to travel too far. And, just to add insult to injury, he would have the raccoons build it – then swindle them out of their paychecks, like every other job he had them do! And, the best part of all was that the only available materials to build his big, beautiful monument would have to come from the brick factory his dearly-departed father had left to him. But, how could he get the townspeople to pay him for all those bricks? How could he convince them that it was, suddenly, necessary again?
As he stood in an alley, marking his path from his inherited sky-rise apartment, it came to him. It was so simple. Why had he not thought of it before? He would get himself elected Mayor of Geriko – the highest office in the land.
Luck is a powerful force of nature that few understand. As luck would have it, there was a drought that year, when Stubby entered the political arena. The orange groves were beginning to wilt away, taking with them the economy of Geriko. So, being a man who was not burdened with the albatross of morality, the new candidate drew upon the opportunity to take advantage of the townspeople’s misfortune. He thumbed to them that he, and only he, could make it rain.
Without question … absent the God-given ability to reason … his followers believed him. But many residents of Geriko did not, and they were bold enough to say so, out loud.
One bright, sunny morning, as the Stubsters stood at the foot of his ivory brick tower, breathlessly awaiting his next campaign decree, he strolled out onto the 45th floor balcony in his un-tied silk robe – his exposed ample belly casting a shadow upon his minions – sipping on a cold Orange Julius. Beside him, on his left, stood his beautiful robotic “wife,” which had only just arrived from the online store in Taiwan, where he had ordered it using a credit card he found in his deceased father’s belongings. The robot wasn’t fully assembled yet, as it was being delivered in two separate shipments, but all that was missing was the clothing, and he didn’t see why that was necessary. He named the robot “Mellow Yellow,” because “Orange” was already taken.
Realizing that the minions down there were too far away to read his little thumbs, Stubby had also hired an interpreter who could read his thumbing and shout it out to the crowd. She was a large gray toad named Sally, who had been inadvertently brought back in a burlap sack by one of the raccoons delivering snakes for his previous enterprise. As he couldn’t fathom a market for toad oil, Stubby let her live under the shed where the urine sponges were stored in exchange for helping him wash his backside when he was in the tub looking at the pictures in comic books. Over time, she showed a proficiency for thumbversation and readily repeating, with her mouth, the lies he told, without reservation or fear of any perceived consequences from any make-believe higher authority. In other words, she was a proven, unabashed liar. This, of course, made her a valuable tool in Stubby McDonald’s arsenal.
So, Sally stood on his right as he began to thumb his “stub speech,” shouting down to the crowd, verbatim, what became known as the famous “Geriko Address:”
“My fellow Gerikuns,” he began, “As you are aware, I am offering my services … my unique abilities, my beautiful Mellow Yellow – the naked robot over here - and my ridiculous, self-made wealth, to serve as your mayor. Obscene wealth. Obscene, obscene wealth. For too long, the great, great city of Geriko – and it is great, isn’t it? Fabulous! – has been overrun by hordes of raccoons looking for a free ride. We let them do our labor … our heavy lifting; our ditch digging; trash hauling; orange picking, our brick toting, and they have the audacity to ask for payment in return… to demand payment! They are bandits and thieves and they smell pretty funny, I tell you. But I have nothing against the raccoons. Ask any of them and they’ll tell you that I have been very good to them. Very good. They love me, and they love my family! We even let them build this very tower where I stand now. But for us to…”
“We had to!” shouted a voice from the crowd below.
“What’s that?” Stubby turned to ask Sally who had so rudely interrupted him.
“We had to build the tower,” the voice shouted again, “Your father was going to have us made into frontier hats if we didn’t do it! And, still, nobody has paid us for the work!” The three-legged raccoon known as “Tripod,” had achieved somewhat of a reputation as a spokesman for the raccoons. Stubby spotted him in the crowd.”
“Oh, it’s you!” Stubby thumbed and Sally shouted.
Stubby attempted to put one of his hands behind his back to mock Tripod, not realizing that his thumbing system didn’t allow for doing it with only one hand. In a moment he regained his train of thought and continued, “Always hobbling around trying to make trouble aren’t you? This is exactly what I’m talking about folks. It’s 99 percent of raccoons like this that give the rest of them a bad name. Bad name. They come here, live in some pretty nice buildings, I tell you; eat our food; breathe our air; and always complaining about how bad they’re being treated. Poor, poor raccoon! Poor, mistreated raccoon!”
Tripod interrupted again, “The McDonalds tore down our houses, which they had made us build; you made us build the hotels we live in, and then raised our rent; and made us build your ivory tower; and none of us ever got paid a single orange for doing it! I even lost my arm working on that balcony you’re standing on and I had to be tended to by my family because you wouldn’t allow me to use the hospital!”
“Excuse me! Excuse me!” Stubby shouted. (Well, Sally actually did the shouting.) “Who’s giving this speech? Is it you? No! It’s me! You got a lot of gall to come around here trying to hijack my speech. That’s what you are, you’re a hijacker!”
The crowd of Stubsters began to groan and shout, “Hijacker! Hijacker!”
“That’s right, folks,” Stubby encouraged them, “He’s a hijacker. Somebody get him out of here!”
Suddenly, four of Stubby’s biggest henchmen pushed their way through the crowd and grabbed the 3-legged raccoon and strapped him to a rail and carried him into an alley, away from the gathering. Some of the other raccoons and a few of the Gerikuns followed them, at a distance. Then, amidst the rumbling of the crowd, Stubby continued.
“Now, sorry about that interruption, folks, you know how they are! Trouble makers, every one of them. That’s why we need to renew our efforts to keep them out of Geriko. They are a security risk. That one almost started a riot, right here on Boardwalk! Who ever heard of a riot on Boardwalk? Was there ever a riot on Boardwalk before the raccoons started coming in here like this? You have seen what I could do for entertainment here, and you know that, as your mayor, it will be so much easier for me to fix this problem with hijacking raccoons. That will be easy compared to dwarf-tossing. I plan to do that by surrounding this city with a big, beautiful brick wall, made of bricks that I can let the city have for 98 cents on the dollar! That’s a huge discount, folks, and you shouldn’t overlook this offer. I’m doing you a favor!”
“But, how are we going to pay for the bricks when the orange groves are dying?” someone shouted.
“How are we going to pay for them?” Stubby echoed, “How are we going to pay for them? I’ll tell you how we’re going to pay for them. By selling oranges. Lots and lots of oranges. And we can sell them to those raccoons over on the other side of the wall! Because, I’m here to tell you, folks, I can make it rain. I can make it rain!”
There was audible gasping and a general feeling of astonishment from the crowd on the street as Stubby took two steps toward the balcony rail. He reached under his big round belly and took hold of his tiniest digit. And the yellowish-orange rain showered down upon them. They were unable to see the miniscule device from which the “rain” originated, but it was wet – rather warm – and it delighted them immensely. They turned their faces to the sky and held up their children so that they, too, could saturate in the joy. And they danced, and sang the songs of their people.
But Stubby hadn’t consumed enough orange juice at the time to make it rain for very long. When it stopped, he tucked “Little Stubby” away and, realizing he had made the sale, he announced “Elect me as your mayor, and I can make it rain every Tuesday. And Thursday, if you want! Whatever days you want, I can make it rain. But it takes a lot out of me having to do this. Takes a lot out of me. So I won’t be able to do it unless you elect me as your mayor.”
With that, he grabbed his naked robot by her SD card slot and pulled her into the penthouse.
Sally the Toad stepped up to the balcony rail and raised her hands, as if to quiet the celebration, and asked if anyone had any questions. Several hands went up and she pointed to someone – it was hard to tell whom, as she was 45 stories above them.
As it turned out, the person who shouted the first question was a reporter from the Orange Juice Journal (OJJ), a subsidiary of the well- known and totally unbiased McDonald News Group, established by Stubby’s father some twenty years before.
“How can you stand it, being so close to this man who is so wonderful? Do you consider yourself blessed?”
It was what could be considered a “hardball” question, but Sally managed to find an answer. “Yes. Yes, she said. I believe I was called upon by our Creator to serve Gerikind in this way.”
Sally pointed down again and another reporter – this one from “ANA,” the “Actual News Agency” – shouted “We have a camera here with a zoom lens, and we could easily see that Stubby was simply urinating off the balcony. It wasn’t raining at all. It was urine. He just stood up there and peed on everybody! We’ll be more than happy to show you the footage, if you’d like to see it. Would you like to comment on that?”
Sally responded quickly, “I’m not going to dignify that ridiculous allegation with an answer. Your statement is made completely out of context, and I resent the fact that you were born. May God have mercy on your soul.”
“Context? What context?” the reporter shouted again, “We were right here watching him do it, filming the whole thing!”
Sally ignored the question. She folded up her binder and waddled off the balcony as the crowd cheered wildly. Because, frogs waddle when there’s not enough room to hop.
And that was the day Stubby McDonald became an official candidate for Mayor of Geriko.
TO BE CONTINUED
It was 3 am on a Thursday night, two weeks before the election. A Stubby Staffer, who shall remain anonymous, heard some noise in the hallway of the penthouse and stepped out there from his, or her, room to find Stubby, wearing a diaper and a ten-gallon cowboy hat, riding a tricycle, bumping into the doors along the way.
“Mr. McDonald,” the staffer pleaded, “please, let me help you back to bed. Can you not find the way?” But, as the staffer said this he, or she, noticed the wet yellow stains all along the walls and realized that Stubby had clearly marked his path.
“Of course I can find the way!” Stubby thumbed, “What do you think I am, a baby?”
“No sir, it’s not that,” the staffer said, “It’s just that … oh, wait. I understand. You’ve been drinking, haven’t you?”
“I do not drink alcohol!” Stubby screamed, as much as one can scream with one’s thumbs, “And I don’t do drugs! All that stuff is for losers!”
“But,” the staffer asked, “What about those Orange Juliuses you’re famous for? You don’t sneak a little something into them? Everybody thinks you do.”
“Absolutely not!” Stubby insisted. “I’m offended that you would even ask.”
But still, he did seem to be high, so the staffer, trying to diffuse his growing hostility, said “I know that. I remember now. You’re a teetotaler! I’ve always intended to ask you, when I got the chance, how do you relax after a long day on the campaign trail? I’ve been having a little trouble sleeping, myself.”
Stubby plucked a small plastic bottle from the leather holster he had strapped around his waist and blew some soap bubbles into the air.
“Cocaine,” he thumbed, “But I don’t think it’s gonna help you sleep! … Hey! I think I’ll take a bath. Come help me wash my back.” Then he peddled on down the hall.
Following, the staffer asked, “But, sir, it’s three in the morning. Are you sure you want to take a bath right now?”
Still peddling, without looking back, raising his little paws over his head so the staffer could see, he thumbed, “Less than nine hours to get clean. It’ll take you about that long. My advisers tell me they’re coming ‘round here at twelve with some Puerto Rican girls that are just dyin’ to meet me! Bringing wine. A whole case of it. I told them I don’t drink, but they’re bringing it anyway!”
“Advisers? What advisers, sir?”
He pulled over, huffing and puffing, and leaned over on the wall – like Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou. “The ones there, in that room,” he thumbed, nodding toward a nearby door.
The staffer was even more confused. “But nobody stays… that’s the music and theater room … oooohhh! I get it. Once you meet up with these Puerto Rican girls are you, by any chance gonna mess and fool around like you used to?”
“How did you know that?” Stubby actually screamed with his mouth. “Is there a leak here? Is there a leak in my campaign sssstuuuchhhh” And then he puked.
“Oh, no sir. No sir. Not at all! It’s just that … that’s exactly what I’d do, you know, if somebody came around with some Puerto Rican girls that were just dyin’ to meet me. I think it’s what anybody would do. Just a lucky guess! Here, let me call somebody to clean this up and we’ll get you down there for that hot bath.”
Nobody knows what happened after that. The staffer’s notebook was found by a maid in his, or her, penthouse room a few days later, detailing the occurrence; but that particular staffer was never seen or heard from again.
TO BE CONTINUED