I discovered the following piece while sorting through my files in preparation for our impending move. It is not dated, but the handwriting style suggests my late teens, placing this somewhere in the mid 80s -- probably 1986, when The Fly came out. I was struck, on rereading it, by certain themes that have stayed with me and was helpless to resist indulging in a bit of Freudian self-analysis. The pre-Saunders Saundersesque style, which I figure must have been the Vonnegut at work in my lizard brain, is also notable and recalls a whole absurdist period in my writing which I had nearly forgotten about. It is a cliche-ridden waste product of a flabby mind blasted to ruin from tens of thousands of hours of television and, probably, a multi-drug hangover. But I decided to type it out and post it in the hopes that others may be inspired to come forward with their own early writing efforts. The more glib, awkward, juvenile, or ridiculous, the better!
Mrs. Mason's Animalizer
One day George stormed into his parents' bedroom. "I've decided I want to become an animal," he told them.
Mrs. and Mrs. Small were performing the experiment again. His father detached the nozzle, pulled off his safety goggles, and looked at his son with rare curiosity. "Interesting. You'll need an Animalizer."
Mrs. Small popped her cherubic face out of the hatch and said, "Old Mrs. Mason down the street has one."
So the three of them marched down to Mrs. Mason's house.
"Yes, but which animal?" inquired Mrs. Mason. "It's important."
George hadn't spent much time thinking about this part. He scratched his head. "Oh, I don't care," he said finally. "A moose maybe. Or a cricket."
Mrs. Small spoke up. "Are crickets animals?"
Mr. Small cleared his throat and announced firmly: "They are insects."
Old Mrs. Mason led them along a long dark narrow hallway. George noticed a peculiar odor.
"If you notice a peculiar odor," Mrs. Mason called over her shoulder, "that is my husband's decaying corpse. Five days now. Haven't had a free moment to bury him. Everybody wants the Animalizer these days."
They continued in silence for another few hundred feet. The path seemed to follow no predictable course, but George felt that they were gradually descending into the earth. The air was getting colder.
"How did the old boy go?" asked Mrs. Small.
"Natural causes. Ah, here we are."
Old Mrs. Mason flipped on a light. They were in a large room with green walls. In the middle of the room stood a contraption which resembled a refigerator covered with an intimidating snarl of pipes and wiring. Reverently, Mrs. Mason said, "Behold the Animalizer. Young man, I believe you selected the noble cricket?"
The old woman pulled a lever and adjusted some knobs. The Animalizer began to emit a low electric hum. Then she opened the door. "There isn't much time," said said. "Bid farewell to your parents and step into the machine."
"Is it safe?" inquired Mrs. Small.
"Of course it's safe!" snapped Mr. Small.
George addressed his parents. "Mother, Father, I thank you for taking care of me during my youth. I thank you for nurturing in me those attributes that I have so admired in you: steadfastness, an ardent sense of adventure, and a respect for God and country. I hereby pledge to maintain those high standards in my new life as a cricket."
Mrs. Small burst into tears. Mr. Small gently gripped George's shoulder. "Son," he said gravely, "Godspeed to you!"
"It is time," declared Mrs. Mason.
George stepped into the Animalizer, and Mrs. Mason closed the door. She quickly began working upon the console, snapping circuits closed, manipulating sensitive antennae, and fine tuning slide controls.
Mr. Small was visibly impressed and became extremely excited. His eyes darted over the apparatus, settling at last on a large red knob near his hand. "What does this one do?" he asked, turning the knob sharply to the right.
"Fool!" cried Mrs. Mason, lunging at him. The low hum rose steadily in pitch. Mrs. Small quivered and threw her hands up to cover her face. The noise of the Animalizer grew into a deafening buzz. The machine was wobbling. There was a burning smell. Mr. Small, panicking, spun the red knob frantically in the opposite direction.
Old Mrs. Mason regained herself and hobbled swiftly to the main power switch and threw it. The Animalizer shut down with a whine. The door swung open, and smoke poured out. A gruesome figure emerged. It was a hideous six-foot cricket with George's head fastened atop the black hard shelled insect body. Mrs. Small screamed.
The George-cricket sprang forward, tore off his father's arm, and began to gnaw on it.
"I deserve this, I deserve this," George's father repeated over and over as he died.