The Pig Flower
Dear Mrs. Cora Persephone,
As the Superintendent of the Horticulture Competition at the Thesmorphia Underground Festival (TUF) I am writing you to protest the committee’s decision made in the “Best In Show” category last weekend. You will surely remember that I approached you and the other judges after the competition to submit my complaint? In case you don’t recall our brief exchange, I was wearing a Ramen Halo, orbited by my pet Spaceship, and I was wearing a tantalizing Sunshine Yellow Jumper with Ivory Jaw Boots.
To reiterate my point: you gave the Best In Show award to a Pig who entered a goddamn Time-Traveling Pumpkin.
Do I really need to remind you of the TUF Horticulture Competition Rules that clearly state: This competition is open to individuals, families, and farms only (NO PIGS ALLOWED). Surely you’re aware that your Best In Show winner, Eubuleus, is a Pig? A certified, card-carrying Sus Scrofa of the Suidae family. Oh I know he enjoys outlandish disguises, but he’s a Pig from nose to tail. He should have been disqualified for that garish ensemble alone. Who wears a Cathedral Cape with Equine Trousers in this weather? And don’t even get me started on that tawdry Octopus Frock he’s always swathed in. It’s gross and it smells. In short, Eubuleus is a disgusting Pig who never should have been allowed to enter anything, let alone a stupid Time-Traveling Pumpkin.
I implore you and the committee to reconsider your decision in light of this information. I think, for instance, that my entry, a tasteful little Pomegranate Tree grown in a cup of mushroom tea, not only satisfies all of the competition rules, but is a far better representation of the spirit of the festival. I encourage you to break one open and sample some of its delicious seeds.
Your Humble Servant,
Cora Persephone, Superintendent of the Horticulture Competition, not only did not change the results of the contest, but she also didn’t respond to Dianne O’Nysus’ written complaint about the results. Dianne found this rude. Dianne vowed to write another letter, this one angrier than the first, but this one would include the results from her visit to the Oyster Oracle.
Dianne chose this particular oracle because she used margaritomancy as her preferred method of divination. Dianne thought that this meant that margaritas were involved. Margaritas are not involved in margaritomancy. Pearls are involved in margaritomancy because “margarita” in Latin means “pearl.” This was very disappointing news to Dianne because she’s an alcoholic and was very much looking forward to drinking margaritas while participating in voodoo. Despite being sober, she chose to proceed anyway.
In margaritomancy, the Oyster Oracle asks the pearl a question before dropping it into a golden pot resting over a flame. The Oracle closely watches the pearl to see if it moves: if the pearl moves, the answer is YES, if it doesn’t, NO. Scholars believe the pearl was chosen for this practice because it is the only precious gem created by a living organism.
Dianne sat across from the Oracle at a table in the center of the temple. The Oracle removed a pearl from a sealskin bag, showed it to Dianne, and asked what she would like to know.
Is that pig, Eubuleus, a pig? Dianne hissed.
The Oyster Oracle mumbled some strange prayers that sounded like she was talking and burping at the same time before dropping the lustrous sphere into the gold pot over the fire in the hearth. They both gazed into the pot and watched the pearl.
Within seconds the pearl came to life and began, not just moving, but actually dancing at the bottom of the pot.
OW! The pearl screamed. HOT! YES! HE’S A FILTHY ROTTEN PIG! NOW GET ME OUTTA HERE.
I knew it! Dianne exclaimed. That hog is gonna need a hambulance when I get through with him. [HEY! Not my fault. Dachshunds love dad jokes, especially ham dad jokes.]
The Centaur’s Ship
The centaur stood on the riverbank at the base of a gangway that led to the deck of a peculiar boat. The vessel was part raft, part riverboat, and part who-knows-what-else because it appeared to be hobbled together with elements from every type of watercraft imaginable.
Fare, the centaur said assuming a very business-like demeanor.
Dacchus stuck out his tongue. Upon it was the Obol that Janice had given him. The centaur plucked it from his tongue, issued a receipt, and then wrapped a pink party bracelet around his wrist.
The centaur stepped aside the gangway and, with a grand flourish, said, Welcome aboard the Underworld’s number one ferry, the SMS Sarkophag.
This is the strangest boat I’ve ever seen, Dacchus mumbled as he boarded the vessel.
It was a pastiche of dozens of different types of watercraft. As he walked up the gangplank, he recognized that it had elements from canoes, schooners, junks, galleons, skiffs, sloops (John B!), steamboats, barges, oil tankers, cruise ships, jet skis, sea doos, sea dids, yachts, dingies, pontoons, prams, proas, punts, wherrys, gondolas, masulas, coracles, cobles, sampans, scows, ketches, skipjacks, trawlers, wakas (wokka wokka!), yawls, tjotters, weidlings, whalers, pirogues, dhows, dingies, dories, boitas, braceras, and jukungs. There was even a runway for airplanes.
My name, said the centaur as Dacchus strolled onto the deck, is Plato C. Biscuits. And I will be your guide as I deliver you to the Underworld where you will spend the rest of eternity in blissful Nothingness.
How delightful! Dacchus exclaimed.
It is a long and arduous journey, Plato C. Biscuits said as he took his place behind a steering wheel that looked like a yoke from an airplane cockpit. I suggest you make yourself comfortable.
Will there be snacks along the way? Dacchus asked.
Oh yes, the centaur said. Chef Kermit will be preparing a wide selection of delicacies to enjoy along the voyage. I recommend the Galaxia Goulash. It’s to die for.
Is it a ghoulish goulash? Dacchus asked chuckling.
Funny you say that, the Centaur said. It was originally spelled Ghoulash on the menu, but everyone’s a copy editor after they die, so we had to change it.
The artichoke owes its existence to Zeus. On a visit to see his brother, Poseidon, Zeus spotted a beautiful woman, Cynara, bathing on the beach. He fell in love, seduced her, took her back to Olympus, and made her a goddess. Cynara, however, grew lonesome and wasn’t feeling the goddess life. When Zeus found out she was sneaking back home to visit her family, he turned her into an artichoke and threw her back to earth like an old piece of fruit. The scientific name for artichoke—Cynara cardunculus—derives from this woman’s unfortunate story.
Girasse (a cross between a donkey and a giraffe) are revered for their testicles. The giant, fuzzy, spotted orbs are beautiful objects in and of themselves, but they are also considered a delicacy because they’re filled with butterscotch. The Girasse were nearly hunted to extinction because of their lovely nards.
The Foxy Doxy is a species of ancient pygmy dachshunds crossed with red foxes (according to “The Scrolls Of Alnilam’s Scarlet Daughters,” codex 46-orION). The Foxy Doxy live in rugged, mountainous terrain where they grow artichokes on terraces that spiral into pits in the Earth. They use the thistles for magical elixirs, salves, and the like. The ancient Romans particularly enjoyed the Foxy Doxy’s aphrodisiac artichoke recipes.
DOX SAVE THE GIRASSE
The Foxy Doxy valued the Girasse’s habitat and protected it from poachers and predators, thus saving the species from extinction. The Foxy Doxy eventually domesticated the wild beasts and discovered that they were a benefit to artichoke farming. The Girasse could manure the beds, harvest the highest globes, and roam the terraces of thistles at night singing a strange song that kept the pests, and gods alike, away from their buds. Their haunting melody has been described as sounding something like Billy Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” but slowed down to the speed of a whale song. The mellifluous Girasse (sometimes pejoratively called the “The Girassic Lark”) may have created an unearthly wail, but its sublime song kept the bittersweet Cynara safe and that was beautiful music to the Foxy Doxy ear.
You can’t give them that, Plato C. Biscuits (centaur ferryman to the Underworld) said as Dacchus placed a package on the gift table.
Dacchus had only recently arrived in the Underworld when he was invited to his first Spud Shower. It’s kind of like a baby shower/Christening ritual, but for newborn potatoes. The Queen Spud gives birth to millions of tiny tater tots every day underground, yet the Spud Shower is a very important ceremony for every newborn tot: the young tuber is briefly nursed (always with a welding mask so it doesn’t become attached to the Queen), showered with gifts, weened, and then blasted to the surface where the spuds are harvested, enlightened, and transformed into French fries, hash browns, and vodka.
What’s wrong with Octomonkeys? Dacchus asked surprised.
The gift Dacchus had selected was a package of instapets known as Octomonkeys that he found in a comic book. They’re sort of like the Underworld version of Sea Monkeys—very popular with dead children. Just add water and you instantly have a colony of tiny creatures that look like eight legged monkeys. Within a year they’ll evolve into torch bearing super apes.
Octomonkeys carry the blight, you idiot! Plato said.
He explained that Octomonkeys host a fungus-like oomycete known as Phytophthora infestans that caused the potato crop failures in Ireland and led to The Great Famine of 1845.
Uh-oh, Dacchus said.
Dacchus dashed back to retrieve his package from the table that was now smothered, covered, and scattered with all kinds of wonderful presents. There was an aluminum foil onesie, a blanket of sour cream, a ski cap woven from bacon, a salt rattle, a chive comb, ketchup booties, and chili mittens. But just as Dacchus snatched up his Octomonkey potato poison, Hairy Stephanie, the Overtoad Of The Underworld, arrived at the party wearing an elegant smokestack gown. She walked right up to Dacchus who, without any pockets in his giraffe pants, shoved the Octomonkeys in his mouth.
I don’t believe we’ve met, Hairy Stephanie said extending a webbed hand. I’m Hairy Stephanie. And you are?
Dacchus started to respond, but found that his mouth was coming to life.
Weighing The Fart
I’m sorry, Dacchus said confused, but they’re going to weigh the smell of my farts?
Yes, Plato C. Biscuit said. Although technically they weigh the smell of everything—your poops, your toots—the whole under carriage is considered.
And how exactly does one weigh the smell? Dacchus asked.
Well, that’s very complicated, but I do know that if your crap smells less than, or equal to, Hairy Stephanie’s crap, then that means you lived an honorable life and you and your crap are welcome in the Underworld.
What if my crap smells worse than Hairy Stephanie’s crap? Dacchus asked.
Oh, then we feed you to the Manure Monkey, Plato C. Biscuit replied, motioning to a small, dungeon gate built into the cliffs beside the citadel.
Are those bones? Dacchus asked staring at the Manure Monkey’s door.
Shhh, Plato hushed. They’re placing your poop on the scale.
As they began the ceremony of weighing Dacchus’ farts, the choir of frogs began to sing a peculiar song that we later learned is titled, “The Weighing Of The Fart,” in F(art) Major, performed by the Brekekekex Choir, featuring Three Frogs On A Log.
Hello, greetings, and welcome to the Underworld.
This is the end of the road, the Land Of The Dead.
At the center of the Earth like an oyster’s pearl.
Or maybe a fantasy from inside your head.
But first, before you depart, we must weigh your farts.
We’re going to listen for smells and measure the stinks.
Your poop is on the scale, the judgment time starts.
Then we compare it to Steph’s, to see what she thinks.
We do not care at all about how your poop tastes.
We’re concerned with the smell, not the size or the mass.
When we put it on the scale to measure your waste.
We are judging your Soul by the fumes from your ass.
If the aroma be of a pleasant nature and not adverse.
Then into underground Paradise you shall pass.
But if you smell bad, terrible, or even worse.
Like a hot trash can that’s filthy, foul, and funky.
Like a rotten fish in the back of an old black hearse.
Then you’re done, doomed, ready for delivery.
You’re dinner for the magnificent Manure Monkey.
Why is the past tense of stinky not stunky?.
Paradise you won’t see, but your death will be fast.
The Monkey will eat you, and he’ll start with your ass.
Dacchus’ Sunny Ensemble
Dacchus walked away from the Manure Monkey thing like he was a cowboy in a movie—like he lit the fuse on some debauched metropolis behind him and it blew up. He was walking down the center of the street with his back turned to the Krakatoa ‘splosion, but he didn’t flinch. Didn’t even blink. Such a badass. Destruction and mayhem follow him everywhere. Cities explode in his wake every day. Chaos? Pfft, whatever. Cint Eastwood face.
That’s how Dacchus likes to tell the story, but that’s not what happened.
Dacchus was strolling down an avenue that led away from the ceremonial fart-weighing complex in the direction of where he thought the river was, absorbed in his stupid cowboy fantasy, when a little Librarian came jogging up alongside him, Miss. Miss.
Dacchus was reminded he was disguised as a lady. After the wrestling match with the Manure Monkey he had retired to a nearby restroom (never you mind which one) to change out of his manure clothes and into something manure-free. Janice had provided him with an entire cross-dressing wardrobe for his journey. Dacchus selected a large, yellow, summer shawl handcrafted with Heliosheep wool and sewn together with sunbeams. Under his arm he carried his lifetime collection of dingleberries along with a supple, leather bag containing his winds—a limited edition collab piece by Aeolus x Le Petomane.
Miss! the Librarian gasped trying to keep up.
What is it? Dacchus said exasperated.
I’m sorry to bother you, the Librarian said, but you dropped a turd back there.
He then grabbed Dacchus’s free hand and slapped a big, wet, glob of dung into it.
As Dacchus stared at the pile of waste dripping between his fingers, it suddenly coagulated and switch-melted into a chocolate bunny.
Good Evening, the bunny said cheerfully.
This was Phoebe, The Moon Rabbit. She was passing through the Underworld as She did every day while her brother, the Sun, was in the sky.
Well, la-di-da! Phoebe said suddenly as she regarded Dacchus’s sunny ensemble. Did my brother urinate on you with his sunshine hose?