In the wake of the Godzilla 1999 disaster – the one relevant to my own life, not the one at the Hollywood box office – I soon developed rudimentary knowledge of the self. Although I was born quite cognizant of my superiority and eventual aspirations in this world, I think it took an excruciatingly extensive time out before I began questioning my existence within the context of other people.
Therefore, at the age of six, I took the next logical step in my metaphysical development, and found a love of country.
A trait I carry with me to this day, now even more emboldened in the aftermath of such country hits as “Truck Yeah” and “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,” my blind patriotism taught me that anything is possible if you want it bad enough.
For instance, most gas station attendants won’t question it if you walk out with a Snickers bar every now and then. The paperwork, process of calling the police, and general social discomfort it takes to confront someone all factor into this general idea.
You take what you want – even if it means taking it from their cold, dead fingers. That’s the American Dream. See appendix section on a history of the War in Iraq, err, the War on Terror.
PS: Excellent Men in Black reference. Nailed it.
Although I had learned the Pledge of Allegiance down before my alphabet, the first time I ever really considered what it’s words meant struck me at the most inopportune of times.
Sprinting down the corridor with my prizes in hand, charging out the front gates like bank robbery that has gone completely awry, I distinctly remember the smell of the lobby.
Filled with cheap tabloids, fake plants in the process of dying, sun-bleached chairs, and an empty water cooler with a hot water tab, the stench of lingering vomit and spilled pampers premiums struck me like fistful of the Vietnam War. Danny Ocean wearing anything but John Varvatos.
My hands, barely able to wrap themselves around my hostages, tightened in anguish, and my nostrils snapped shut.
After a mad dash through the seventh circle of hell, I burst through the double doors to the parking lot, emerging like a freshly-birthed calf.
The sun stung my eyelids as if they had incidentally made contact with a raw jellyfish tentacle – Portuguese Man o’war to be precise – and I squirmed beneath its ultraviolet (which I later learned is not synonymous with ultra-violent) power – both iguanas still in hand.
In the weeks leading up to their brief experience with Stockholm Syndrome, the iguanas had been donated to the preschool as class pets from the local PetsMart. I use the word donated as a technicality as it was later discovered that the pets had each been returned to the store multiple times after previous owners complained of “aggressive behavior.”
As in damaged goods. As in just what I like.
Once a week the teachers would go down the alphabetical list and allow some lucky child to hold the iguanas for ten minutes exactly, and as I’m at the bottom of the alphabetical list – thanks dad – my turn was long overdue.
Now, believe me when I tell you, these iguanas were the hottest of hot commodities. As with most things in life, what makes something valuable is that someone else doesn’t have it, and with the once-a-week turn-taking system, being this week’s lottery winner made that person Warren fucking Buffet.
We’re talking gossip about them over Caprisun, instant rose on The Bachelor, and offers to color with them. The whole shabang.
So when teacher picked me after weeks of being a second-rate citizen, I barreled through the crowd to the glass aquarium in a frenzy of glee, barely able to contain my excitement for the coming accolades and attention. This is my red carpet – don’t let your shoes get scuffed.
So far in the alphabetical list, every child has done the exact same thing upon making contact with the class pets. First, the teacher carefully hands over the packages. Second, the kid holds them in a vertical fist around their torso. For the full ten minutes. Typically, the child parades around the room and takes a sensual victory lap, making sure to approach every person in the room while subtly gloating at each juncture. It’s exactly how you imagine the first guy to drive a Tesla.
Tony Guiterrez’s lap was pitiful, and places dead last in my power rankings of the iguana holdings. But that’s neither here nor there.
My turn obviously did not go this way.
In a moment that mirrors Napoleon crowning himself king and with teacher’s hands still nearly in the cage, I ripped the lizards from her lukewarm, alive fingers.
PS: Excellent reference to my Men in Black reference earlier. Nailed it again.
Unlike the socially awkward heathens of the list thus far, I took each iguana and slammed it into my chest, their claws gripping onto my aquaberry vest like the sweetest scratch-n-sniff sticker you ever smelled.
I would not parade around the room and beg for attention. I became a show. A spectacle. A disco ball. A piece of Taylor Swift cover art. Instead of taking a victory lap, I brought the racetrack to me. With the lizards crawling all over me, grasping onto my 70-30 polyester-cotton blend to avoid the fatal 3’7” fall, nobody could look away and people marched forward like zombies at a Golden Corral with a brain special.
For nine minutes, I didn’t say a single audible word. My smugness said everything I needed to say. Of course, there was an instant circus of questions, as if Lebron had announced he was returning to Miami after winning a championship for C-town.
“What does it feel like?”
My smugness said sex.
“Are you afraid?”
My smugness said no.
“What if they bite you?”
My smugness said sex.
But as the clock began to dwindle and the final 60 seconds approached, it dawned on me.
I had royally fucked up.
What happens next week when the next person gets a turn? Nobody in their right mind would return to the days of fisting two iguanas and passive-aggressive showboating.
This is showmanship. This is fame. This is war. This is capitalism where you either have all of it or none of it. This is Hollywood, baby!
And in that moment, I knew I had forced myself to be the last person to hold PetsMart’s finest. I could not be one-upped and then forced to wait my turn to re-instill greatness into the world.
These are the unforeseen consequences of my actions.
This moment must be mine forever. As I said, what makes anything valuable is that someone else doesn’t have it.
Already lost in one epiphany, I came to another.
A distant second, to the importance of my legacy, I considered the well-being of our pets. And I stress distant. Forcing a living being into slavery is a crime you could spend a lifetime trying to amend and come nowhere close.
What if, in their disgust and anger towards us, they turned on themselves and eventually became the tools of their own oppression to a point that we vilified them for our past mistakes? What if in this new age of vilification, we constructed new prisons and regulations targeting them and excused our own brutality? What kind of America would I really be building?
So I chose to alter history.
In my final 30 seconds, I wrapped my fingers around the lizards and made sure teacher wasn’t looking.
Then I began to run. Cue the music.
From the halls of the preschool, to the shores of parking lot three, I fought my country’s battle on carpet tile, and a mild breeze. To fight for right and freedom, and to keep my country’s honor clean, I am proud to have a record of class pet larceny.
Standing in the parking lot, lizards still in my fists, the doors burst open from behind me, and my entire preschool class and teacher came crashing onto the asphalt.
Twenty feet ahead of them, I looked over my shoulder and gave the same smug smile I had won their hearts with.
Then I threw the iguanas onto the ground. And when I saw threw, I mean hurled.
As in I didn’t do it gently. *See the chapter on love-making*
What was already a silent crowd grew even more silent. Only the sound waves of jaws smacking the pavement wafted through the air. Even the cars on the adjacent highway seemed to halt.
This is my photo finish and it is a perfect vacuum.
As the lizards scuttled away, dashing forward into liberty, teacher stormed to the front of the now rabid pack.
Facing my crowd and impending doom, foam dripped from the mouths of the boys and tears rained down the cheeks of the girls and Tony Guiterrez.
Then came the inhuman war cry, a screech so loud it burst car windows and set off alarms. In the deafening alien shrill, I sprinted away from teacher’s clutches and darted for the same freedom I had given to my reptilian brothers.
The shadow overhead blotted out the sun and the rest of the preschoolers who in a panicked riot flooded back into the building, leaving only the lizards, myself, and teacher to be abducted and anally probed. My heart pumped nitrous into my quads and the capillaries in my eyes leaked gasoline. Left over right in bounding strides, my light-up Nikes glowed across the blacktop as I whizzed away from both of my captors, still miles from the next safe house.
In a blinding flash, the hawk dove like scud-missile with its talons fully extended. The claws began to strangle teacher’s hair like a shark-bite from the sky, ripping out tufts of hair as if it were the star of Sweeny Todd’s wet dream. With its wings still flapping, the bird wonder wrestled teacher to the ground before finally releasing its guillotine grip.
Perched atop her head, the bird leered into my soul, petrifying me.
Its smug look said everything it needed to say.
As I stood paralyzed in fear, the hawk tore into the clouds, blowing a wave of dust into my face like an Apache helicopter at liftoff.
I closed my eye and lifted my arms, crucifying myself as a martyr before my terrified classmates. Tony Guiterrez clenched his coloring book from behind the glass door while teacher’s mangled corpse laid face down in the parking lot.
For a moment, I remember that playing dead is only supposed to be used on brown bears. She’s toast for sure.
These are the unforeseen consequences of my actions.
Before delivering its killing stroke, the hawk let out another war cry, one equally as vicious and soul-penetrating as the first.
Then, in a single whoosh, it passed overhead and grabbed the iguanas, and as suddenly as the aerial adversary had come, it vanished.
Liberating the class pets from their prison – that’s freedom. The hawk sweeping them up for lunch – that’s free market capitalism being run by a monopoly on death.
And to me, this is America.
In the following weeks, nobody in the classroom talked to me, but anyone who is anyone knows that five minutes of fame is worth a lifetime of infamy.
The point is that my love of country stems not from our victory in consecutive world wars or our democracy via the will of a few reckless individuals, but in the American dream.
It is a dream founded on the idea that we should all be free to do as we please, to not be hindered, to resist social moral code and to resist arrest by police, teachers, and hawks all to achieve the greater good. It is “I am here and I am not going to not do what I’m going to do.” It is anarchy. Mindless fucking anarchy.
That is what the American dream is all about.