Thursday, November 27, 2008

Let Us Give Thanks

Holiday time again! I've got another gaming-related entry in the pipeline (Just what you were all waiting for, no doubt), but for now? You're getting another terrible holiday-themed short story - my first Thanksgiving story. That sound of silence? That's a million people entering cardiac arrest at the thought of such a story from an individual like myself - it's just that exciting a prospect.

There's a lot of important themes in this one - family, kung fu - actually, that's about it. But do enjoy nonetheless. It's my job to help you lose a few braincells while I in turn exercise my brain before turning it to soup on holiday events in Kingdom of Loathing, Guild Wars, and Animal Crossing: City Folk.


Let Us Give Thanks

"Good evening, Yorkies and filthy humans alike," announced the Grand Yorkie over the Johnson family's transistor radio. It was Thanksgiving here in New Yorkshire City, where the Yorkshire Terriers were king, and a breed quite nostalgic by nature. (Nikola Tesla might've owned a Yorkie at some point. Or maybe he crossed paths with one. Nobody knows for sure.)

"The pre-Christmas season is upon us already, so I just thought I'd remind you this year - as I do every year - to take a few minutes out to buy something once you've finished your dinners. Any citizen who fails to do so within 12 hours of the designated dinner hour will be punished by stoning." They called it stoning, but what the Grand Yorkie referred to was actually an established practice of bombarding offending members of society with little hollow plastic toy bones - a sight far more common in NYC than any actual stones. It was almost never fatal - so long as you kept your mouth closed and lacked particularly oversized nostrils - but it was quite an annoyance, and physically unpleasant enough to serve as an effective criminal deterrent.

"And remember to save a doggie bag for your household Yorkie! If you don't, it's punishable by death, but of course I don't need to remind you people of that! Yes I do." With that, the radio cut off, the Grand Yorkie's annual Thanksgiving address complete. He was one of the more loving and appreciative grand tyrants over the city's human populace - he even allowed the humans to speak of themselves as though they were still in control of society without punishment. "Even the smallest of creatures deserve some sense of pride," he'd said on the matter. The Grand Yorkie was a truly noble fellow.

"He's done, George," said Agnes Johnson, nudging her dozing husband with her elbow.

"What?" the aging military man snorted, awaking with a start. "Oh, right." George Johnson had done twelve tours on the moon, fighting for human control over the moon secessionists - like many of his fellow veterans, he referred to them as "moonies," a very politically incorrect term that none of you should ever make use of in your daily lives unless you're sincerely committed to offending your colleagues of moon descent - and spent the past six years in a moon prison camp. Most of these years were spent subsisting on government moon cheese and playing mini-golf - a pastime most frustrating in moon gravity. Some have even been known to call it a form of torture.

"Time for the holiday prayer, I guess," George grunted, pushing himself to his feet. Only Agnes held him in her gaze, the rest of his family a thousand miles away - mostly metaphorically. His twenty year old deadbeat son, Billy, was more concerned with the latest bootleg moon music and beating his heroin addiction than giving his dominating father the respect he felt he was entitled to. His twenty-seven year old daughter, Ana, was off in orbital graduate school, present only in hologram form - her holographic image hadn't refreshed in a full half hour. And George's mother - his poor, sweet old mother - was over 600 years old and not particularly concerned with anything going on around her anymore.

"Ahem," George cleared his throat dramatically. No response. Gritting his teeth, he placed his hands firmly on the table in a futile effort to draw the others' attention, and began to speak. "On this day, let us give thanks. Let us thank the original pilgrim family - the Thankertons, for whom the term is named - who first came to this great nation centuries ago bearing the gift of disease, which they spread across the land. From this bountiful disease we sprang, laying waste to the heathens who had yet to discover Jesus-in-a-bun. Jesus-in-a-bun! You eat it for breakfast and lunch, and if you even consider not eating it, you deserve to die. Jesus-in-a-bun! From Christco. Though we even now suffer at the hand of the Yorkies - er, kindly as they can be, it's really more our fault that we suffer - let us continue to curse the name of the swamp people who rose from the marshes of south Florida. Nobody likes those boggarts. Amen."

"Yeah, yeah, real touching," groaned Howell, the household Yorkie, who'd chosen the name for himself in developing a fondness for the human television relic known as Gilligan's Island. "Now how about horking some-a that turkey my way?"

"Now Thurston, you know that's not how we use that word," Agnes corrected the dog with a kindly smile.

"It's Howell! HOW-WELL! How many times are you going to get this wrong?" the dog bellowed, standing up and attempting to put his paws on his hips in emulating a human stance of indignation. Of course, being a dog, he just ended up flopping over.

George did his best to ignore the dog's usual antics. Under New Yorkshire City law, there had to be at least one Yorkshire Terrier in every home. The Grand Yorkie had to keep the humans in line somehow. And though humanity had lost its grip on society in that city long ago - turned out their grip was much more slippery than they'd thought - life hadn't changed all that much. Sure, the talking dogs took a little getting used to, but it's not as though the humans had been smart enough to figure out their language to begin with. While frequently not the most adaptable of creatures, humans do occasionally show a tremendous talent for being too lazy to care about things - the day the Yorkies began to speak is simply another example of this. Countless terrible children's movies may have made most people completely numb to the concept.

"So," George said upon once again clearing his throat. "Who wants the first cut? Billy?"

Billy wasn't listening. He was too busy rotting his brain with that hyper-techno music - the kind that just amounts to a bunch of random noise and screaming. He was also shooting a little heroin at the dinner table, but that just happened to be the way he rolled, to stick to archaic turns of phrase. (Family dinners made him shoot up. That was his reasoning, anyway.) Billy resented his father, falling into one of the two standard military brat archetypes as he had - the resentful and rebellious variety, as opposed to the aggressively pro-military, anti-thinking type. Both archetypes naturally serving as examples of humanity at its more annoying.

"Billy!" George shouted, losing his patience.

"Answer your father, Billy," Agnes smiled to him. Living with a husband suffering from not only post traumatic stress disorder, but future post traumatic stress disorder, was a trying ordeal for the aging woman. She placed her hopes in her children, and the idea that George might someday learn to keep his temper more in check, and maybe stop beating up people in the supermarket. But with the Earth government having cut funding for counseling and psychiatric help for soldiers to a mere micro-penny - quite literally, just to emphasize how little the regressionists cared for the notion of mental health - her hopes had faded considerably over the years.

"Whatevsers, old peoples," Billy grunted. "How 'bout you gimme some-a that breast meat and one-a them drumsticks?"

"The drumsticks are mine," George hissed, cutting into the side of the turkey.

"Ow!" The room fell silent as the turkey shuddered, having cried out in pain. Talking dogs, and even canine rule were one thing - talking turkeys were another.

"What was that?" George asked aloud, unsure just who he was asking.

"Geez, that stings," the turkey muttered, standing upright on its drumsticks. "Yowch. Seriously, man, watch it with that thing."

"Hey, you're Thanksgiving dinner - dinner doesn't talk to me like that," George said through clenched teeth.

"I think it just did!" Billy laughed. "Man, that was some good heroin."

"We already know you like heroin! Stop reminding us every five minutes!" George snarled, then turning his attention back to the turkey. "And you! Shut up and let us eat you!"

"How would you like it if I ate YOU?!" the turkey posited, shaking a wing in George's direction.

"What?! You can't eat me! You lack mandibles!" George said, waving a two-pronged fork at the turkey menacingly.

"You're talkin' like a moonie again, dad!" Billy called out. (For those wondering about Billy's uncharacteristically energetic behavior for a heroin addict, it all comes down to that they cut the drug differently in the future. Future-heroin's not the same. That's all you need to know.)

"I was a prisoner of war for six years!" George bellowed, stabbing at the turkey.

In a moment of inexplicable dexterity - especially considering that the turkey lacked any sort of digits with which to grasp objects - the turkey sidestepped George's lunge, pulling the fork away and stabbing it into the back of Grandma Johnson's hand, pinning it to the table. She didn't seem to notice. In fact, she didn't react at all - nor did she bleed. Another perk of aging: the gradual transformation of blood to sawdust.

"Who's to say I lack mandibles!?" the turkey defiantly asked. "I'm made of tofu!! I never had a head to begin with!"

"We're health-conscious in the future!" George shouted in a moment of angry unnecessary exposition to nobody. "If you're looking for a fight, turkey, you've found one!"

By this point, Agnes had left the apartment to get medical help, seeing as neither of the Johnson men were in any way useful when a crisis arose - as much of a crisis as you could really consider a grandma-stabbing, anyway. Ana had undoubtedly ditched the family dinner as soon as she felt she could fake technical problems, herself - a regular practice of hers during any family event at which she was expected to appear. One could hardly blame her.

"What, so I'm a turkey now?" The tofurkey probably would have had an indignant look on its face, had it actually had a face.

"Well, it is what you are."


"Hey, I may be a -" Billy's attention span failed him, as it frequently did. "Let's just kick this guy's ass."

"Watch it," the tofurkey warned the remaining Johnsons. "I'm a one-turkey army."

As the tofurkey spoke, Billy ran over to the stereo and put on The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army."

"So now you're a turkey, are you!?" George demanded, pointing his knife at the aggressive tofurkey. "Turn that shit off, Billy! This is no time for classical music!"

"It's okay when I say it," the tofurkey said, just as Howell leapt up onto the table.

"Turkey time!" shouted the dog, plunging through the stuffing, his mouth gaping - only to bite down on air.

"Not this time, rover!" the tofurkey riposted, sending the dog flying through the window across the room with a solid tofu-drumstick roundhouse kick.

Taking the opening he'd been given, George followed the tofurkey's lead and sent him out the window after the dog with a slow-motion roundhouse kick of his own. (Because everything's cooler in slow motion.) This attack sent Grandma Johnson to the floor, taking the entire table with her. Predictably, the Johnson men didn't even notice.

"Looks like Thanksgiving dinner's ruined again," George mused. "Of course, we didn't get Thanksgiving back in the prison camp."

"Shut up, dad -" Billy's attention span gave way again. "We're in trouble anyway. The dog, y'know." Any failure to properly pamper one's household Yorkie was a punishable crime - any abuse of said Yorkie would be blamed on its owners, and regarded even more harshly.

"Yes, it looks like we'll be spending this Christmas working in the nog mines again," George said, resignedly. "This is what I spent those six years working for."

Billy walked over to the window, an almost-thoughtful look creasing his face. "Say, if we can't eat tofu now either, what are we supposed to eat?"

"I don't know, son," George said, placing a hand on his son's shoulder. "I just don't know."

"Don't touch me."

"Don't you tell me what to do."


So, as you saw, our dysfunctional family didn't pull together and learn to work together as a team because they secretly love each other and just wanted to pretend to be dysfunctional when they only were at a shallow level at best to simply make a one-dimensional narrative work - this isn't a movie. And now there's holiday-themed punishment looming overhead. Basically, the moral of this story is, whatever you do, stay on Yorkshire Terriers' good side. And also tofu might rise up and start wrecking cities someday - I'm not saying that it will, just that it might. (Note: This idea also applies to anything and everything else conceivable in our world.)

Being that it's Thanksgiving now, dinner likely some number of hours off for most of you - at least, speaking to the American readers (As for the rest of you, I guess you can take this entry as an admission that Horace Engdahl was right - American writers are too isolated and insular to be Nobel prize worthy. In fact, you can take every bit of this entry as evidence to that fact and treat it as though every writer in American history was involved. I insist.) - so go take it easy for a while. It's been a long year, and we have a rough holiday season ahead. Put your feet up, and gorge yourself on whatever you like to on this foodiest of holidays, whatever your personal dietary preferences may be.


miss alaineus said...

interesting. severe weather kept me from my 1600 mile round trip to tofurkey and back this year, so i sucked it up and ate three kinds of meat to help save the tofurkeys from further extinction.

your story was interesting. yorkies, eh????

come to the alemanac. you will like it. signs point to yes.

miss alaineus

Benjamin Fennell said...

Tofurkey's out of my price range. Last time I was there, they were trying to get OUT of the EU. No dice, Tofurkey. No dice.

Hey, if a breed of dog's conquered at least one major city, yorkies seem like they'd be capable. That's my reasoning, anyway.

I'll check it out.

8bitcity said...

Glad too see I'm not the only adult melting their brain with Animal Crossing: City Folk

Benjamin Fennell said...

Of course. It's a shame the press decided to jump to conclusions about the game instead of actually spend a decent amount of time with it and actually objectively look at all the little nuances that improved over the previous games. I've read too many rants to count about how apparently I'm supposed to hate the game and feel betrayed as one of the many who invested countless hours in the DS and Gamecube installments. Instead, I'm just having a hell of a lot of fun, between the basic single player and hanging out with friends online. Looks like, as usual, it pays not to have a bug up one's ass in gaming these days.

And now I've only got 102,000 bells to pay off until I get my second floor! I'm looking forward to that. And the snow - I'm looking forward to making snowmen in-game again too. It was snowing in my city yesterday, and I loved just walking around there and enjoying the snowy remix of the main daytime city theme. (The late night city theme when nothing's really open anymore is fantastic, too.)

Definitely a life-conquering game. A couple of my friends have the game over in Japan too - it's always funny seeing the abrupt katakana and hiragana in animals' English dialogue when referring to their towns and characters.