Farnsworth

Cows use horns as sense organs. Horns give cows a sense of their surroundings and metabolisms. A cow without horns can’t feel anything. A hornless cow doesn’t know who a cow is as an entity. Farmers take horns off cows so cows won’t notice cows close by. Cows with horns require a wide berth. Enter the personal space of a cow with horns and see if the cow likes it. Cow is a strong-willed being. Who goes near cow now? If you do, see cow get out of the way of you.   —Dreaming Cow

American cartoonist Gary Larson (b. 1950) drew and wrote The Far Side from 1980, when I was twelve, to 1995, when I was twenty-seven. In 2019, in my fifties now, Larson came out of retirement to publish single-frame, digital comics. Of the animals populating his oeuvre—shark, reindeer, turtle, pigeon, giraffe, orca, viper, peacock, horse, rhinoceros, bear, moose, elephant, ram, dog, woodpecker, pig, canary, alligator, piranha, wolf, cheetah, owl, goldfish, butterfly, spider, duck, tiger, vulture, stork, kangaroo, bull, python, mosquito, gazelle, scorpion, orangutan, zebra, blue whale, octopus, gecko, slug, fawn, eagle, chicken, mole, lobster, squirrel, seagull, anteater, warthog, porcupine, penguin, sheep, polar bear, et al—cows are best.

Humans and cows take up behavioral issues in cow panels. Figures like Farnsworth invite cows over for a drink and now cows are drunk and dancing on the table. A doctor diagnoses Farnsworth with a case of cows at the sight of cows coming out his knee, his elbow, his back, the top of his head, etc. Queuing outside a slaughterhouse without knowing what’s inside, cows complain bitterly when cows cut in line. A cow ding-dong ditches the house of Farnsworth. When he comes to the door, no one’s there but a cow lows on the lawn. Cows bolt upright out of a recurring dream featuring golden arches.

A cow is a ruminant because a cow chews the cud regurgitated from cow rumen. A menagerie of microbes lives in cows’ rumen in service of digestion. Methane gas is a byproduct. Because cows spew it when cows belch and fart, to pass gas is not a euphemism the way other ways of saying it are and have been. I’ve heard it said cows don’t have standup comedians or funeral processions. A ruminant is a contemplative person. A cow sits on a mound in the lotus position instructing a cow to remain present. When traveling life’s highway, Larson writes, ‘always stop and eat the roses.’ To adopt this sense of humor, pretend you’re a cow while going about your daily business. Not even your mother can know what you’re up to. Write down what you see, hear, and do. Describe your interactions with others. Record your feelings. Keep a sacred cow diary.

Renee

The second wife is known as Second Wife only by her husband. His first wife calls her Cindy. They aren’t friends or anything. In the privacy of her own thoughts, the second wife, Cindy, calls herself First Wife because it is with her and not his first wife that her husband is coming into his own as provident and tender. The husband smacked his first wife once and only once. Begging her for it not to be over, he swore on a kind of rehabilitation. Now he calls his first wife Bachelorette because she has refused to settle down ever after. He is ignorant of his own worst behavior but will prove his goodness to his exe through his providence and his tender treatment of Second Wife that he may one day be forgiven. The second wife doesn’t call the first wife Bachelorette, because the first wife’s given name is Renee. The second wife carries a dark secret around about her own past. Before she met her husband, she could not be called anything like Bachelorette for the way it implies an active social life. If anyone had known about her before she met her husband, they could have called her Abject Loneliness.

Opossum

 

The opossum on our front stoop is neither dead nor playing dead but simultaneously immobilized and trembling from its core. I put my hands up at first, defensively, and backing away through this boxy house of ours to call Animal Control, I have a moment of clarity: I love you, Babs, I say. How could I ever live without you? Returning a few minutes later, I find the animal gone without a trace. ‘Your presence was the shock of life it needed,’ you write to me, ‘to crawl away to its final resting place.’ I scan the yard and peer into leafy depths of rhododendron. I shine a light under the house. You write that no animal dying a slow death will let me see its remains. Not if it can help it. From start to finish, the nature of every animal is akin to our own personal integrity. Think about it. Who’s ever seen the corpse of a bear while traipsing through the wild? You’d have to find one someone had shot, and even then, shooters take their quarry with them. ‘Meet me at Gardenias, Babs, for an asparagus risotto,’ I write, ‘and a glass of Riesling.’ ‘I can do it all and look great doing it,’ you answer, ‘if there is good lighting.’ How easily I picture you in your dark studio, surrounded by your clay figurines, doglike mammals made to look like they’re in motion. Wounded bears crawl away to dusky groves to be drawn up to heaven by the thousands.

Hot Face Moment

 

 

When I was a kid, my brother and I would experience what we called ‘hot face moments.’ Remembering against our will a past humiliation, and with the heat of blood rising, one of us would say to the other, ‘It’s happening again’ and, as if naming it could cool us down from such sudden fire, share his memory.

Ode to Failure

 

 

A

ll juniors carry a sack of flour around for two weeks like it’s a newborn baby. Their grades are based on the health of the baby as determined by the final condition of the sack. Anyone choosing to spread around the contents of his sack as a repudiation of the timescale we’ve established is put in charge of a new baby to be carried three weeks total. Spilled flour results in a third sack, carried a month total. If not then, it’s over with. We’re done with him. But that’s not really true, is it? We’re never done with each other, so take notes everyone on the protection of a fragile being.