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You're right, phreebie. L'eggs and I would like to extend the olive branch, Lady Friend. Actually, L'eggs is extending eight of them and I will make you a pork chop. Let's go to Whole Foods together, all three of us. You can push the cart and I will let L'eggs sit on my shoulder, because no one with a tarantula on his or her shoulder ever has to wait in line at the cash register. You hate waiting in line and L'eggs will end that misery for you. Also, I will outfit L'eggs in an array of cunning hats. No one can resist a tarantula in a beret! And just wait until you see the jester's cap! It comes with eight matching booties with jingles. How about I dress L'eggs in that and then the jingles will warn you when our little friend is creeping too close?
Lady Friend and Gay Panda and little L'eggs . . . our family will be unconventional but bound with ties stronger than the silk that unravels from our spider's feet. How can you say no?
Let's go to Whole Foods together, all three of us. You can push the cart and I will let L'eggs sit on my shoulder, because no one with a tarantula on his or her shoulder ever has to wait in line at the cash register. You hate waiting in line and L'eggs will end that misery for you. Also, I will outfit L'eggs in an array of cunning hats. No one can resist a tarantula in a beret! And just wait until you see the jester's cap! It comes with eight matching booties with jingles. How about I dress L'eggs in that and then the jingles will warn you when our little friend is creeping too close?
Ah! Your little family will be beyond adorable. Even I am feeling some warmth towards wee L'eggs. Now if he/she could kindly get word out into the 'pidey world that my house should be out of bounds to all his/her brethren, so we don't have a repeat of last week's huntsman-removal-from-Sigi's-place-complete-with-brooms-and-squealing, that would be dandy!
I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
It is not uncommon for me to wake at 2:24 or 4:16 in the morning for no other reason than my subconscious found a spelling mistake in Chapter 13 of one of my books. Although I appreciate such attentiveness, why couldn’t it wait until morning? My brain never shuts off during the day and part of it is still going at night, flicking through pages to find inconsistencies of character or grammatical errors, solving sticky plot points in rough drafts and giving me names and ideas for future stories. Half the time I wake from an unrelated dream with the thought in mind (usually the smaller problems like grammar) and half the time I have long dreams in which I am trapped at a too-small desk in a classroom, furiously taking notes on my own book as a grumpy teacher slaps the chalkboard with a pointer. That is usually the solution my subconscious finds for resolving bigger creative problems.
The other night it happened at 11:47, my brain shaking me awake to display a singular/plural problem on page 265. Since I refused to get out of bed to fix it at once, or turn on the light to make a note of it on a pad of paper, my subconscious worried that I might forget and therefore continued to present it for the rest of the night by various methods. I am hopeful that this is the last mistake it finds for this particular book and maybe it is, because last night instead I dreamed about sugar.
Clutched in my paws was a coupon for free candy and I stood in the aisle at CVS giddy with excitement. What should I choose? There were infinite selections in the never-ending aisle, capping off with a three story chocolate cake on a top shelf. I paced back and forth, thrilled and overwhelmed, and then I became aware that I had an audience.
It was not just any audience, but an audience of admirers. Three exceedingly attractive people were checking me out as I dismissed the jug of Twizzlers and contemplated the Take Five. After all, I’m trying to make good food decisions, and a lousy little Take Five will do much less damage than a jug of Twizzlers or a whole cake. I stopped looking at candy to admire my admirers back, and then returned to my debate at the shelves. I could handle a jug of Twizzlers! Just two a day!
“Maybe you’d like to join us for dinner,” said the first of the three exceedingly attractive people.
Ever gifted at flirtation, Gay Panda squealed like a hyper four-year-old, “I have a coupon!”
“Or we could do something else,” said the second of the three with a wink.
“I have a coupon for candy,” Gay Panda explained, waving it in the air.
The last of the three was more direct. “We think you’re hot. Come home with us.”
And Gay Panda indifferently turned back to the shelves to drool at KitKat bars.
Yes, my dream self turned down three exceedingly attractive people to leer with lascivious intent at a pile of stupid KitKats. You can imagine what mood this left me in upon awakening. The odds are most assuredly against actually finding myself in an aisle of CVS with a trio of romantically inclined admirers, yet I could drive there any damn day of my life to buy candy. The carb flu headache was painful, but this dream was just vicious.
Children, gather ‘round for a short but scary story told only in numbers.
Gah! I haven’t seen that number in months! The damage I managed to wreak in ten days is nothing short of astonishing to me. And this wasn’t even total primal abandon. No wonder my jeans were uncomfortable by the end of my road trip. And now our scary story will be given redemption:
This is a new low for the Panda! A high fat ratio is gross but effective for dumping my water weight rapidly. With cutting back on cheese and avocados out of season I struggle to keep it high, but I still hit 60-65% and the water couldn’t peel out fast enough.
DEBAUCHERY: GOOD MORNING, GAY PANDA!!!
GAY PANDA: This is getting really old, Debauchery.
DEBAUCHERY: REMEMBER WHEN WE STARTED THE DAY WITH LUCKY CHARMS???
GAY PANDA: Yes. Cereal was one of the only safe things to eat in my college cafeteria.
DEBAUCHERY: LET’S PUT ON KE$HA AND DRIVE TO THE STORE FOR CEREAL!!!
GAY PANDA: SHH! Don’t tell everyone I listen to Ke$ha! Her lyrics are horrible and she needs a haz-mat team to force her into a flea dip and hot bath.
DEBAUCHERY: YOU STILL SING ALONG TO ‘WE R WHO WE R’!!! LOOKING SICK AND SEXYFIED!!!
Meat was a regular part of Young Gay Panda’s diet, and that did not change until college. Perhaps my school was stealthily trying to turn us into vegetarians by making the meat so unappetizing that no one would touch it. It was certainly effective. The salad bar was freshened regularly, crisp green leaves spilling out of the serving tray, bowls of sliced carrots and radishes and celery with curved black ladles jutting out at the sides, and an orgy of kidney beans spooning each other in dark red perfection. Springy-skinned cherry tomatoes bubbled over the rim of their bowl and the croutons had been baked to a good hard crunch. There was always a selection of dressings, promptly refilled when one ran low.
The cereal bar was no less glorious, a dozen silver-lidded clear jugs filled with contents ranging from Raisin Bran and Cheerios down to Lucky Charms. I drifted often to Lucky Charms, filling my bowl to the top and proceeding to eat every oat piece out of it in order to save the marshmallows for last. Then I divided them by color, my spoon swimming the yellow moons together in one corner and the blue diamonds to another, the red balloons bobbing in the middle while I ferreted out the purple horseshoes. Once segregated, I ate them that way*. It was rare to see one of those jugs scooped to the bottom, and every morning they were bursting again.
And then there was the meat.
Dear Valhalla. It was like the kitchen had a personal vendetta against protein, because they punished every strip of meat that came their way as if it had committed the most heinous of crimes. Then they passed the results along to us, students who paid $30,000 a year for the chance to munch on tasteless chicken so over baked and dry that it got stuck in your throat. Gay Panda loves chicken breasts, but theirs were no longer recognizable. I stopped eating chicken. Pork has never been my favorite, and it was also overdone and often paired with bizarre sauces. I stopped eating pork.
PART TWO: Of the crimes that the chicken, the pig, and the cow had committed, it was the last whose offenses must have been the worst. Discolored chunks of beef poked up like reefs in a swamp of murky liquid within the hot tray, which bubbled at sporadic and resentful intervals. Often the liquid had a scaly skin, and when broken, strips of it hung from the ladle and trailed drops through the air. Once on a plate, the skin curled together and sulked. It goes without saying that I stopped eating beef. But the coup de grace was the day I ferried my plate to the hot bar and observed a tray of gray meat. There was no sign labeling it, and so I asked the Serving Biddy behind the counter from what animal it originated. Tiredly, she said, “I don’t know, honey. Do you want one scoop or two?”
And so a near vegetarian was born. I got out of the habit of eating meat right then and there, saving it only for restaurants. Gay Panda graduated from college $25,000 in debt and got a job that paid $6 an hour, so I did not go to restaurants often. After I moved out of my parents’ house and started grocery shopping for myself, I bought what was cheap. What is cheap is carbohydrates, and how lovely! It says right on the box of Cheerios that they are heart-healthy. Meat was full of fat and fat was bad and meat was expensive, so I didn’t often buy it. My reasons for my near vegetarianism were 5% Principles (killing animals for food is cruel) 5% Health (the fat in meat will make me fat) and 90% Economic (what a tight ligature I choked within at the time).
I don’t honestly think that my college was plotting to make its student body into vegetarians, but if one looks at it cynically, perhaps from the perspective of someone running a business, my cafeteria makes sense. Cereal is cheap. Salad is cheap. Meat is expensive. If the meat looks less appetizing than the cereal and salad, customers will naturally drift to the latter items. And we did in droves, deciding to become vegetarians or vegans or just live off beer and Taco Bell’s sixty-nine cent burritos.
DEBAUCHERY: LET’S GET BURRITOS FROM TACO BELL!!!
GAY PANDA: No.
DEBAUCHERY: I’LL TELL EVERYBODY THAT YOU LISTEN TO BACKSTREET BOYS!!!
GAY PANDA: Go ahead.
DEBAUCHERY: AND YOU LIKE THAT WEIRD SONG VANILLA TWILIGHT!!!
GAY PANDA: Oh, that’s low. Anything else you want to share, muffin?
DEBAUCHERY: I LIKE MUFFINS!!!