I've been back in Mooburg for three days now (apologizing like heck to Walt Kelly), and have settled into the routine of stuffing an aardvark's consciousness into a cow's body. Apart from the fact that Mgladys insists that I sleep in the barn, I have discovered that there are pros and cons to being a cow.
I have six stomachs, so I no longer have to remember to chew my food 30 times before swallowing. (However, I now consume six times more Pepto Bismol than I used to.)
I never have to worry about what to eat. (Unfortunately, what I eat is cud, which tastes like chlorophyll-and-dung-laced dry Shredded Wheat.)
I get along really well with the girls down at the Cud Store, as well as at the Bovine Paraplegic Supplies Wonderland -- "Everything you need, from bedpans to walkers, right in the heart of downtown Mooburg". (But if I have one more chat about udder supports, I'm going to scream.)
And this Sunday, at the Mooburg Winter Carnival, I came in second in the Miss Moo Snowqueen contest, not to be confused with the Miss Moo Milkmaid contest, which is held in August. (Second Prize was two weeks in Pittsburgh. First prize was one week in Pittsburgh.)
But to tell the truth, I'm getting fed up with being a cow. Getting up at 5 o'clock AM for milking is the pits. And I can never find enough quarters to feed into the computerized Dutch self-milking machine, which is damn cold on a winter morning. I don't care what Dr. Mandy Carnivore-Vegetarian-Pipkin has to say about it.
Right about then (7:16 AM) there was a knock at the door. This time I answered it, because I knew who it was. It was Mwilliam Butler Fullmoneybackguarantee, the local blowtorch salesman. I had met him earlier at the Winter Carnival. He had tried to sharpen my horns, but I told him I was otherwise engaged.
Mwillian (or Mbill as his friends call him) is well-known throughout Mooburg for his butane-powered ice sculpture depicting the Rites of Spring. Sort of the sculptural equivalent of Baked Alaska, because the butane flame kept melting the ice.
Mbill is also well-known for his exploration of Blowtorch Cookery. His Blowtorch Lemon Meringue Chili was a big hit. The jury is still out on his Caesar Salad Brûlé.
But today, Mbill is here to install blowtorch modules on my milking machine. No more cold winter mornings for me!
"But is this going to be safe? I don't want to char my naughty bits."
"Absolutely," he said, digging a trench in the living room floor. "Completely foolproof and free from risk, danger, harm, or injury and, I might add, absolutely guaranteed not to eject any flying particles."
No sooner had Mbill uttered the dreaded phrase "flying particles" than all hell broke loose in my living room. And when I say "in my living room", I mean "in the sky above my living room" because the ceiling and the roof above it dissolved in a massive cloud of smoke, and I was thrown skyward on a pillar of fire and lime-green Jello.
As I stood quivering at the pinnacle of everybody's favorite gelatin dessert, I was aware that I had become strangely ghostlike in a miasma of flickering three-dimensional holographic luminosity (try it with buttered scones -- it'll make your mouth water).
At the same time, the clouds parted and a Giant Eye appeared, framed through something that looked like a celestial flat-screen monitor.
Shielding my eyes from the intense glare of this apparition, I fell to my knees and cried out:
"O God! Why is this light given to an aardvark that Thou hast hedged into a cow's body?"
And the voice said:
"Sorry. You can't talk to God. He's doing lunch with Mr. Rogers."
I wept voluminously, rending my garments for no apparent reason.
"You'll have to talk to me," said the Giant Eye. "I'm your Transubstantiative Support Desk. I see we have a ticket lodged against your Return as a Cow."
I traced the origins of the Etruscan language, for no apparent reason.
"Yes," he said. "Sorry. The Interbardic Server keeps knocking over. It appears that you were supposed to come back as a slug."
"Does a slug have to eat cud?"
I guess Mr. Rogers was right. It is a beautiful day in the neighborhood.