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The Early Shirley Years

Jason Bredle

Right when I hung up the phone, I realized
how absurd my end of the conversation
must’ve sounded to anyone eavesdropping—
“Holy shit! So you think he died during sex?
Oh…masturbation! That makes sense.”
Then I wondered if my use of holy shit
was acceptable according to Koo’s definition.
Someone died, but I only knew him through a friend
and apparently he was a real big xenophobe. Also,
he looked like this cartoon guy
from a commercial for a light rock radio station.
One thing I don’t know that I used to know
is exactly how closely Citizen Kane
was based on the actual life of William Randolph
Hearst. Of all the images haunting us
from our childhoods, I can think of
tons that are more haunting than a sled.
White sheets on a clothesline, drying
in the summer sun. A young boy picked
last for a kickball game. An unspeakable
monster from beyond the grave rising from the earth
and forcing us into lives of pestilence and slavery,
rivers of blood, our flesh melting from our bodies
as we become the living dead. Yes,
that happened during my childhood. One thing
I don’t know that I’ve been wondering about
recently is whether people in any South
American country can wander into a restaurant
and order a capybara and then eat a capybara.
And as long as I don’t know this as fact
or fiction, I have reason to live. Of all
the images haunting us from our childhoods,
I can think of tons that are more haunting
than a sled. Owls. Your mother’s legs,
a bathtub. David Hasselhoff. I mean,
why wouldn’t people eat capybaras?
They look like they’d be delicious! Oh,
let’s cut all the capybara chatter
and think for a moment, okay? Well, for one,
it’s pretty messed up when one of your reasons
to live is that you don’t know the answer
to the question “do people eat capybaras?” But that’s
not the point. I mean, I could imagine
people not eating capybaras if they’re endangered
or if they taste like shit but otherwise I’d think
people would eat them. In fact, I’d think
people would design elaborate evenings
around the eating of a capybara, dancing merrily
around the slaughtered capybara and singing
“here a capybara, there a capybara, everywhere
a capybara” well into the night. In this feast,
the people elevate the capybara to a level of deity
before slaughtering him. It’s, you know, like
a ceremony thanking the earth for her generous gift
of the mouth-watering capybara? After slaughter,
the capybara is marinated, spiced, and roasted
over a deep fire until a succulent golden brown,
at which time it’s devoured by the village people.
Not the band. I don’t think capybaras
are something that would ever be harvested, unless
it’s on a smaller scale, like emus. But do people
eat emus? They must, right? Otherwise,
why are there emu farms? There are emu
farms, right? Is an emu like a bird
or a llama? I’m pretty sure it’s bird but off
and on my entire life I’ve thought of it as a llama.
What can I say? Sometimes, whether I like it or not,
I’m the self-absorbed asshole who doesn’t know
if an emu is a bird or llama-like. Sometimes
I feel as if I’m hurting everyone by trying to not hurt
anyone. Of all the images haunting us
from our childhoods, I can think of tons
that are more haunting than a sled. Your mom
crying in the kitchen. Dusk. A guerilla army
descending upon your home. The midsummer
capybara feast, people dancing merrily
around the capybara, singing “here a capybara,
there a capybara, everywhere a capybara.”
You’re seven. Blue lights flutter along
the horizon. This is the last time you’ll ever
see your family alive again.

Jason Bredle

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