Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Missed Opportunity

Offered the opportunity to be an Okapi, I declined. I didn't even have to think about it twice. The city in which I live has a zoo, and a few years ago this zoo was the staging ground for the birth of an Okapi. Everywhere you went they were talking about the impending --and eventual-- birth of that fucking Okapi as if it were some long-awaited prophet. The local newspaper had a contest to name the damned Okapi and once the thing was born you'd see photographs of the actualized Okapi on bus shelters, billboards, and taxi cabs. It was an unsightly creature. I'm guessing the zoo decided in the end not to play along with the whole newspaper contest and just sold the naming rights, because, unless I'm terribly mistaken, the Okapi was branded in the end. Honeywell, I think it was, or perhaps Outback.

At any rate, I did not want to be an Okapi. And I had zero interest in being a fish, no matter how "big and magnificent." I could have been a fish, though. That offer also was presented to me. As was the opportunity to be a bird. I'll admit that I gave the bird notion a bit more thought. I could, it was explained to me, be an exotic bird --a talking bird, even, or a bald eagle. The problem, however, was that once the offer was accepted it was not rescindable. I suspect that I would, at least for a brief time, rather enjoy flying, but wondered about the dietary aspects of the avian life, as well as things like life expectancy and predators.

I was mildly curious about the bird opportunity, is I guess what I'm saying, but ultimately not curious enough to give up being a man, even a deeply unhappy man.

Eventually the genie (I'm guessing that's what he was, even as he looked like an old man who had worked in a post office for many years and smoked too many cigarettes) extended his offer in ever wider directions; I could be a cheetah, a bear, an elephant, a chimpanzee, an otter, a pine marten, a hippopotamus, or even a rabbit (a rabbit? This was when I began to suspect that the genie was mad, although I had been presented with convincing evidence that he had turned Ray Wilson into a horse, this after Ray's wife left him for Pete Mickelson, the local State Farm agent/Lothario).

The thing was, this character, this genie, had just started showing up at my door one day, almost like one of these guys who's intent on feeding you the Book of Mormon. It was a very bad time in my life, and the genie clearly knew it, although I could never figure out how.

"Face it," he'd say, "You're no great shakes as a man. Humanity's got nothing more to offer you, and it's a two-way street in that regard. Yet you've still got all the stresses and burdens of trying to survive as a human, and it's clearly not working. You'll never be free in that human suit. This is your one chance."

I recognized the truth in much of what the man said, but the idea of being either predator or prey spooked me, and I was no big fan of the elements.

"Couldn't I be a dog?" I finally asked. "The pet of someone loving and lovely, someone with a kind pair of hands?"

"No offense," the genie said, "but you're not good enough to be a dog, and I couldn't turn you into a dog even if I wanted to. That's God's work, and strictly a posthumous option. You have to die to come back as a dog, and the selection process is rigorous to a fault. Dogs hold an exalted place in the Angel Guild. So, sorry, but in my line it's strictly hands off so far as dogs are concerned. I could, though, do a cat, but between you and me, most human-cat transformations end rather unhappily. Cats are easily bored, and tend to develop an opinion of humans that's even lower than your own."

I chose --perhaps unwisely-- to remain a man, but you will understand, surely, when I tell you that from the day that genie disappeared from my life my dreams have been about virtually nothing but flying.


  1. Bear, if I have the chance. That's what my kid calls me, and damned if that's not a good suggestion.

  2. Silver-back Gorilla to protect the innocent and not so innocent.

  3. No missed opportunity here; we need you to remain a good man, and leave more words.

  4. Dogs ought to be happy to have you in their corner.