"Bigfoots," the thing said. "That's the formal, plural, grammatically correct term you should always use regarding my species. We're Gigantapithicus apes. That's our scientific name, but you should never, ever, ever say 'Bigfeets.'"
I was really surprised that Bigfoot could talk. He spoke crystal clear English and had perfect diction, too.
"Too many people come out here looking for what they call Bigfoot. Actually, there's more than one of us. We're not many, but a few of us are still wandering around deep, desolate, deciduous forests. But still, you humanoids always use the singular "Bigfoot" in your vernacular, so from now on say 'Bigfoots' when you're talking about my kind. I'm a stickler for proper grammar. You sound like a complete illiterate when you refer to us in the plural sense by saying 'Bigfeets'.
I was in a cage made from cypress trees. Sure as God made little brown toadstools, Bigfoot had me jailed in this primitive dungeon. I was minding my own business, walking around in the Florida Everglades, when I happened upon this ten-foot-eleven hairy monster.
I didn't know where I was being held hostage by Bigfoot. I knew it was in the Everglades. From the sounds of things, it wasn't too far from Homo Sapient society. I could hear the sounds of passing cars, trucks and buses. It sounded to me like we were somewhere near an interstate highway.
"It kills me the way you humans always refer to us as a singular lonely ape. There is no such thing as 'Bigfoot' Mister. Do you mean with all the sightings you homo sapiens have witnessed do you actually presume it's just one Bigfoot? Even though we indeed do have big feet and long strides, one Bigfoot couldn't possibly cover that much territory. I mean think of it - one of us is spotted in Washington state one day, two hours later we're seen by a rancher in Oklahoma, and the very next day, someone else catches a glimpse of one of us in northern Maine. We're pretty quick on our feet, but they're not supersonic. There aren't a lot of us around these days, but we're certainly not singular. So from now on say 'Bigfoots' and not 'Bigfoot' - understand?"
"Sure," I said timidly. Man was he hot. Livid.
For a moment, I reflected on my old English Comp Professor, Feducious T. Flynt, and what he would add to Bigfoot's ongoing tirade concerning my use of improper grammar. He'd probably call me a bonehead and strike me with that hideous walking stick he carried.
Feducious T. always had bloodshot eyes. This hairy monster, however, had pink eyes, and he also had white fur. He was an albino. An albino Gigantapithicus ape, to be scientific. It was a heavy matted fur. And it stunk like the most vile pungent swamp rot that ever was.
I was by myself the Everglades looking for a flying saucer, minding my own business, as happy as a blue jay in the springtime.
I had a photo of what seemed to be a flying saucer hovering in the sky somewhere in a swamp, and I guessed it was in the Everglades that this picture was snapped. But the photo was a hoax. It was merely a picture of a hamburger frying on a grill, an "unidentified frying object." And what looked like swampy marshland was bubbling fat in which the burger was sizzling.
I'm part of the Greater Jacksonville Sasquatch-UFO-Ghost & Tornado Chasing Club. We have about six or seven members. If we get a report of something to go after, we go after it.
At most of our monthly meetings, however, we sit around and drink beer and talk about things we're going to chase around the next month.
There's supposed to be a haunted mansion in Savannah, Ga., right up the street from Jay-ville. We decided that maybe we'll go up there next month. That was a few weeks ago at our last meeting. We met at Sally's Side Door Roadhouse on Edgemont Avenue on the city's west side. The West Side is the Best Side, and it's where most of Jacksonville's born and bred reside. But perhaps, instead, we'll just go to Sally's flimflam booze shack and talk about chasing a tornado. If we get buzzed enough, we may even slobber about rowing a canoe into the Atlantic Ocean when the next hurricane hits, then row-row-rowing-our-boat into the hurricane's eye.
Bigfoot was bored. His pink eyes looked heavy. He was dozing, then awakening, then dozing off again. He sat squat in front of my cage. And he had a big log on his lap. I imagine he had it there to hit me with if I tried to escape from his makeshift jail.
Finally this 1,800-pound ape started snoring.
He fell into a deep sleep. I was planning my escape when he awoke.
"So you came into the Everglades looking for a UFO but instead you found me," Bigfoot said, then laughed outrageously. "You probably wish now you'd be staring at little green men with insect eyes, huh? And you most likely had the misconception that I'd be an inarticulate, stupid, big, Ape-like animal. Do you know I have a Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Boston University and that I moonlight as a Shakespearian actor? I really want to be on American Idol."
"You don't say," I muttered. "Fancy that. Why do you have me in this cage?"
"I'm bored. It's something to do."
"Where are we?"
"Somewhere in Florida."
The cage was held together by this ersatz twine that Bigfoot managed to have patched together in some kind of weird weave. Made of weeds and thistles, the rope seemed as strong as platinum steel.
Bigfoot pulled a cattail out of the swamp, took the outer onion-like layers of skin off the root, then he ate it whole.
"Yum," he said. "Yummy, yummy, it went right into my tummy."
He grabbed six more of the roots and chomped them down. Then he dozed off again. I tried to get out of the cage by rattling the cypress and he rolled around a bit, then snored. With him sawing logs at a good 120 decibels, I rattled the cage more, but it wouldn't budge. I began kicking the wooden door and Bigfoot woke up and looked at me. His gaze was like that of a dead man's. He had lifeless, horrible, black, beady pupils encased in those sickly pink eyes - I was scared out of my wits but tried to put on some kind of front to exhibit courage. I'm a real chicken shit, yes; but wait until the members of the Greater Jacksonville Sasquatch-UFO-Ghost & Tornado Chasing Club hear this story. They certainly won't believe it, and that's what really pissed me off. I mean, who would believe this? Right now, even I don't!
Our inner tubes were on the shore of the Mississippi River, just where we'd left them. Bigfoot sat his gargantuan butt inside the donut hole of the earthmover tube. Although it was a goliath rubber donut, Bigfoot dwarfed it. We'd been floating all day and Bigfoot saw the twinkling back porch lights of a dingy tavern. He pointed toward it, quite interested in checking the place out. I was wet, exhausted, and thirsty, so we navigated to shore and beached the tubes under a large weeping willow covered with Spanish moss on the riverbank.
I managed to get Bigfoot to release me from the cage by telling him that homo sapient wildlife was much more interesting than the wildlife he'd endured for the past 150 or so years of living in swamps, bayous, forests, mountains, and pastures.
The more I told him of my own escapades of drinking, smoking, chasing women, and getting in trouble with everyone from the police to proprietors of casinos and even some nefarious (but very minor-league) underworld shady characters, the more he listened.
"Let's go," he said, ripping the cage door open. "I want to experience some of these things, too."
So we fumbled around in the dark in the Glades for the better part of the night and in the morning light, we came upon the inner tubes - a very big one for Bigfoot and a smaller one for me - and we began navigating the swamp. We finally ended up in the St. Johns River, a northerly flowing river that only moves about a foot a day, on a fast day. Just like old Huckleberry Finn and Big Jim, in that great old tale scribbled by America's great literary saint, we were destined for Hollywood and American Idol.
So we took a respite in this saloon on the outskirts of what seemed to be New Orleans. In the distance, we could hear the gaiety and chaotic bedlam of Mardi Gras. And just how we got there was an enigma. Somehow, either we played a trick on geography or geography played a trick on us. See, we'd traveled north on the lethargic St. Johns and we paddled like the blazes to make time. We must've not been paying close attention, since we had taken a western watery trail of rivers and tributaries and had ended up between Mississippi and Louisiana, on the granddaddy river of all American rivers. So I knew we were in close proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, and it looked a heckuva lot like the Everglades. Oh that swamp-rotten smell that follows New Orleans around like the ghost of a very malevolent voodoo priestess! It was lingering on and on . . . . It even made Bigfoot nauseous!
So we entered the bar and were soon flirting with this barmaid wearing an AC/DC tee-shirt who sported a black, ugly, inky, prison-style tattoo of a pig on her forehead.
"My God, the women in here are foxes," Bigfoot said.
"They look more like their canine cousins, the wolves, or the swine's cousins, the hippos," I told the monster.
Bigfoot was drinking beer a six-pack at a time. He opened every can on the plastic stringer the cans were bound together with, then he guzzled an entire six pack in a few little gulps. Needless to say, Bigfoot's thirst was atomic and unquenchable. His alcoholic good feelings came with fanfare, charm, and a lot of pomp and circumstance. Though Monsterquest never reported it, I'm proud to say that my new drinking buddy was a womanizing fool besides being an obvious two-fisted drinker.
"Now that chick's got a nice back side," Bigfoot said with a wide stupid grin, nodding his head in the direction of some really big woman who could probably pass for the side of a furniture warehouse.
"The sky's the limit, Bigfoot," I said. "Go over and tackle her."
"I'm going to go over to that lovely flower and let my presence be known to her," Bigfoot said in some phony English accent. He was definitely feeling his oats, and his hops and barley, too.
So he sauntered over to the obese woman. She was sitting directly under a trophy of a dead alligator gar that was hanging on the wall. A taxidermy mount of the head of a cougar was near it, along with the mount of a little prairie chicken, which was crookedly displayed on the women's restroom door.
Bigfoot and the woman laughed outrageously at what was obviously some hoaky-fanoeky, sophomoric pick-up line that he hit Big Bertha with. The woman looked at me. Bigfoot said something to her and she bellowed out like a jubilant inebriated truck driver, "Which one of you is BIGFOOT?!!!"
Soon he had his big mossy hand on the fishwife's lap. She batted her eyes and looked a lot more like the Blair Witch than Cleopatra or Venus. Evidently, Bigfoot was plying on this Bulldog's softer, more nurturing side.
"Oh, I love American Idol. I loved that crazy little midget guy who used to play the violin and have those toy poodles dancing around in front of him. You know, the one who played 'In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida' and ate live fleas, ticks, scorpions, and spiders as an encore," the woman moaned to her new acquaintance, whom she affectionately referred to as "Big Daddy."
Well to make a short story far too long, Bigfoot bought the woman about two dozen drinks, the bar closed at 5 a.m. (just long enough to sweep the floor and re-open at 5:45) and it took a slew of New Orleans Police, along with a few on-leave Marines and Navy men to throw Bigfoot out of that hideous side door. I watched this sordid and violent scene shivering underneath a corner table.
After Bigfoot's exit, I sauntered out nonchalantly. And poor Bigfoot, realizing he had been played for a Free-Drink Sugar-Daddy was tearing down telephone poles and screaming like a ruptured polar bear. Electric flares flew all over this long extension of Bourbon Street.
But the night was still young.
We ended up in Canada a few days later. Saskatchewan is no place to be during the depths of winter. The day we arrived there was culture shock in the form of 37 inches of snow. It was February and although I'd planned on making Fat Tuesday a stop, I hadn't planned on visiting The Great White North.
"There goes good Professor Al Gore's global warming theory. Let's hope a comet hits Earth and this whole mess ends," Bigfoot told me as we looked out upon this winter wonderland.
"How do you know about Al Gore and global warming theory?"
Bigfoot scoffed and said, "I have a nice cave in the swamp. I have a 50-inch Sony widescreen, a satellite dish, an Apple computer system, and even an IPod. I bought it all on credit."
The big Canadian woods were colder than Robert Frost's tired old soul. It was snowing like the end of the world was right around the bend. In fact, it was snowing so hard that Bigfoot and I were caught in a blizzard and we couldn't see two inches past our noses.
How did we end up going from Louisiana to the upper reaches of Canada within the span of a day? The answer is simple and blunt - Bigfoot and I did not get the necessary plane fare for a budget flight from New Orleans to The City of Angels, so we hitched a ride on a freight airliner that we supposed was bound for Southern Cal. We discovered two empty crates on the runway and barricaded ourselves inside them. Then we waited. And waited. Finally, we were hoisted into the bottom of a plane with a forklift and were high in the sky before we could cry "sonic boom."
"What in the hell is all this snow doing in Southern California!" Bigfoot shrieked at the top of his enormous lungs - and believe me, those lungs are about the size of deluxe garbage bags restaurants and produce markets use for refuse.
By the time we realized we ended up far from our planned destination, the Air Traffic Control people in Fond-du-Lac, Canada, had it all figured out - they spotted a man and a very large hairy creature wandering aimlessly around in an intense blizzard on the airstrip. They used infrared, see-through-the-dark, retractable sonar and radar to get our images and voices on a wide range of computer screens.
Well, stranded there without the benefit of having sunglasses, a heavy-duty coat made of wool, camel hair (or even irritating burlap) is no way to walk around in 40-below Fahrenheit temps. Though the genetic peculiarities of Bigfoot's natural fur coat were gracious accoutrements for my big friend, I was freezing, only wearing a stupid tee-shirt that read; Kvikklunsj. Kvikklunsj: That's the name of a chocolate bar made in Norway. I don't know how or when I got the damned tee-shirt, I just had it in my collection of weird wacky garments.
And I've never liked wearing it since everyone I saw asked, "What the hell's a Kavik-luns-Jay?"
"It's time to kill a moose," Bigfoot grunted. "I'm hungrier than hell."
"How in the hell are we going to do that? You need a high-powered rifle - a real big cannon - to kill a moose," I answered.
"Why in the hell did you think God gave me these hands?" Bigfoot grunted with red raging eyes. "Why do you think He gave me feet the size of boats, with razor-sharp claws attached?"
I looked at those hands and feet. Those paws were the size of dumpster lids. Yep, dinnertime was in order. For a brief second, I pitied that poor moose that would be lying in our icy path. But then pangs of hunger hit and I didn't feel so sympathetic.
"You're not going to find any UFO's up here," Big Daddy said. "In fact, about all you'll find are polar bears, grizzlies, snow foxes, long-eared snowshoe rabbits and an occasional moth man. And maybe if you're extremely unlucky, Bigfoots."
The thing I'd like to know about Bigfoot and his marauding and surreptitious ways is why in the hell would a monster with a Ph.D. in Astrophysics actually bother to throw large boulders at unsuspecting vacationers who want to get away from the New York City subway jungle and find some much needed R & R in the big woods of Canada? Why would he be in Saskatchewan, mere miles from the Northwest Territories, when he could be working for NASA, or running a Ponzi scheme?
"How in the hell did you get your Ph.D.?" I asked Bigfoot. It was snowing like the blazes and I shivered so hard it felt like I was coming apart. Conversation was needed now to keep me in good working order.
"I took it as an online, low-residency, graduate program. At the time, I was living in some dingy, post-industrial, rat-infested city in the once great Midwestern Steel Belt that in recent decades has turned into the Rust Belt. I worked by ripping apart steel mills and foundries that were derelict and corroding," the gigantic ape answered.
"How in the world did you ever get away with that?" I asked Bigfoot.
"Why do you even bother to ask me such a silly question?" my new running buddy answered.
"I mean you're an 11-foot-tall, albino, Gigantapithicus monster. Didn't people notice?"
Bigfoot laughed a hearty, loud, tree-shaking laugh and wheezed, "All those Rust Belt people are so deranged and ugly looking that I fit right in. Nobody suspected anything. I even got a job at night as a bouncer. I was a bit bigger and uglier than most, but I blended in."
We were walking through the winter wonderland looking for a snack. By this time, as much as I'd been traveling with Bigfoot, I discovered one thing about him and his antics - the Gigantapithicus diet of poisonous snakes and other reptiles, assorted bugs, and swamp vegetation might have been nutritious, but it would never get him on one of those Hollywood chef or exotic cooking programs. It's a good thing he was only interested in appearing on American Idol.
It was cold and we had walked for days in the dim sunlight on a northern trek, trudging and trudging through snow drifts and tundra. A few miles north of Fort Good Hope we made a fire in the woods and were roasting a caribou on a spit. Bigfoot didn't find a moose, but another kind of unlucky herd animal crossed our path and Bigfoot squashed it like a bug.
Bigfoot was soundly snoring, warming himself beside the fire. He tossed and turned but occasionally would rustle and yell some horrid shrieking noise. Every once in a while, I'd turn the spit so the dripping, cooking carcass would bake over the flames in a uniform way.
I knew this mammoth mammal was deeply tormented and had been neglected by nearly two centuries of isolation. And the source of virtually all of this abuse and cruelty came from human beings. Sure, Bigfoot maybe had a few sexual experiences with two or three other feminine models of his kind during this span, but he'd lived such a solitary lonely life that he was indeed, socially dwarfed. But being an ambush Apex predator certainly compounded things.
Living out in the woods makes you see some spiritual things. The snow and blow look great on a calendar or postcard, but when you're out in it, wearing only a thin tee-shirt, and it's colder than - well, it's colder than the North Pole, which was exactly where we were - such warm and fuzzy aesthetics quickly lose their luster.
And to digress a bit, it was me, and not Bigfoot, who was really to blame for this entire mess in the first place. Sure, spending a good part of this horrid winter with a Gigantapithicus monster was never, ever in my wildest nightmares. And though I sometimes have sweet dreams of monsters, and at times, yes, yes, yes - I will tell you all - you hippies, that I have actually seen these things as clear as day - I always considered a Bigfoot ape to be some far-fetched plot contrived by the likes of a hack, midlist, speculative fiction writer. So let's look at the entire situation for just as it stood at the time: It was me who went out into the woods in search of a UFO that never existed, and I discovered the existence of an 11-foot monster instead. How ironic is that? And in later discovering that the picture of the UFO was nothing more than a hamburger frying on a grill at a Waffle House in Birmingham, Ala.? Well go figure for yourself.
So in following this sequential logic, sure, Bigfoot was very old and not wise - no, he was a lot more like a little teenage hooligan who never, ever rose past his own flaming puberty. This "Thing Thang Thing" was sophomoric, childish, stupid, mean, arrogant, self-serving, diabolical, scheming, delusional, hairy, smelly, crude, rude, obnoxious, hideous, equivocating, aggressive, violent, self-pitying, resentful, salacious, sex-starved and last but not least, not much a fucking conversationalist.
And he had a proclivity to become an alcoholic. And if he ever smoked pot, shot heroin, or snorted cocaine, I'm sure Bigfoot would quickly become a drug addict, too. And if we wound up at a casino or dog track, Katy bar the door!
But as I looked at Big Daddy snoring in the snow, I realized I had to tell him. Yep, I had to tell him that going on American Idol would be a grievous mistake that would undoubtedly not only lead to his consummate demise, but possibly even his death. If there is one thing I know about my species of homo sapiens, it is that we really love to capture, torture, and kill things.
Now it's clear that I'm not now too ashamed to call this monster my friend - this 'Bigfoot,' and not 'Bigfeet' or "Bigfoots" or whatever the hell he was saying at first - but his American Idol ambitions would undoubtedly turn into nothing but disaster. Having that know-it-all Howard Stern laugh and crack jokes about him singing and playing a ukulele would just be far too much for me to handle. No, I would not allow Bigfoot to go on American Idol, make a total fool of himself and probably face a violent lynch mob afterwards.
The whole preposterous scenario surrounding the plan he had concocted was just so out of synch, too. Bigfoot originally planned to go on American Idol and play both characters in that absurdist play by Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Gadot. With the only prop being a pole or a beanstalk or something; and get this, hippies - Bigfoot planned to recite - from memory - nearly three hours of pure literary absurdist prose from memory. And he told me that there would be "absolutely no ad-libbing." It was then that I told him to learn how to play a few chords on a ukulele and be happy with this. And by now I was really, really, really cold in the 58-degree-below-zero Northwest Territory chill.
And so when Bigfoot awoke I decided to break the bad news to him - "Bigfoot, you know when those people chased you through the woods firing their guns at you?"
"Yep. That wasn't nice," he said.
"Those same people who tried to incinerate you with that flamethrower?"
"Those are about the same kind of people who watch American Idol."
"Well, remember those guys who ran from you after their helicopter crashed in the woods? Those Army guys you were telling me about when I was in that cypress cage in Louisiana?"
"Remember that night?"
"Those same guys who survived the copter crash but were were glad to run away from you, only to be devoured by two or three packs of hungry wolves?"
"Yeah, what of it?"
"Well, before they died, they were most likely big fans of American Idol, too."
"You don't like people much, do you?" Bigfoot said. - Now, I realize this circular argument was about to get really weird. I knew this overly educated albino monster with an executive degree that is only good in certainly peculiar academic insane asylums was trying to dicky-dog me into a debate he would ultimately win.
So I cut to the chase and said, "Listen, Bigfoot - I know people. People are basically good but for some strange reason, you just shouldn't associate with them. Though you've really tried to adapt to a planet that has been entirely controlled, manipulated, conquered, and in many ways has been devastated by Homo Sapient apes, Bigfoot, you've always fallen short. One of the sure signs of insanity, some say, is that you do the same thing time after time and always expect, for some reason, to hit a wonderful new result. Like a big jackpot or something. . . .
"Well, those people who see you on American Idol, Mr. Shakespearian Actor - are going to beat you, thump you, whip you, jail you, then burn you again and again and again. Finally, they'll shoot you with the biggest guns they have. Even if they have to engineer even more hideously violent guns than they already possess, they'll do just this. I know they will. They've treated you this way forever, Bigfoot.
" . . .Things will always be that way." I looked at him as sincerely as I could.
"So you don't think we should go to L.A.?" he asked.
"No. I don't think so. I guess we could blend in with some of the folks there, and probably even find a few caring people. Listen, Sir, things aren't going to be good. They never have been, Bigfoot, and they never will be."
"It's not going to work out, Big Guy. Going on American Idol would be the same as signing your death certificate. You're a crazy monster. And a hopeless daydreamer."
Bigfoot whimpered a while. Finally he said it: "You can go now."
I looked up at him and said this, "I think that would be best, Sir."
"I'll miss you," Bigfoot said.
"I don't think I'll miss you, Bigfoot."
He was deeply hurt by this. So I searched inside for some little touching something to say that was neither too farfetched nor too pretentious. So I muttered, "I know I'll never forget the winter I spent the better part of February with a two-ton, albino, Gigantapithicus monster."
"Well. I'm sorry to hear that."
"See you, Bigfoot."
"See you, Sam."
And that was that.
It wasn't hard convincing the psychiatrists here to admit me - I just told them everything that had occurred during the past month or so. I left out the part of having a few drinks and lighting up The Big Easy with Bigfoot, though, just in case we committed a crime during this drunken nightmare. Statutes of limitations and all, you know, law and order types remember such things . . . .
So as I sit here now, I'm wondering if it wasn't all just a dream. It's sort of macabre and morose, I know; but that's my life. A veritable nightmare. Nothing changes if nothing changes. Sounds dumb, but it's actually pretty damned profound.
I've got to admit, I miss Big Foot. Funny, I never got his christened name. He had to have one - even Gigantapithicus must give names to their offspring. And I'd imagined that there must be some kind of first and last name on his Ph.D. I doubt that it'd be "Bigfoot" - do you understand?
People shuffle around in here on these psychotropic drugs and I probably look as pathetic as any of them. Most of them are a lot crazier than I could ever hope to be. One guy in here thinks he's Abraham Lincoln, another Napoleon, and another, Jesus Christ. Oh, and there's a lady here who thinks she's the Virgin Mary. Might as well make this nut house a family reunion, I guess . . . .
But it could be worse. I could be in Hollywood with that big hairy monster, dodging bullets, helicopters, and the paparazzi.
I'm bored. Look at all these nuts!