28 November 2008

"American McGod"

By Curtis C. Chen

Pay attention, son. This is important.

You call him "Shoes." Do you even know his real name? That's right, you don't say it out loud. Fear or respect or something. I can't blame you. There is something terrible about him, that bright red hair, that dead white skin. Those eyes that look like crucifixes. They say people have gone mad just from looking at his face for too long.

I'm old. I remember the way the world used to be, when we knew what was real and what wasn't. You don't understand that. It's all real to you, isn't you? You can't see the edges. That's okay. I'll be gone soon, and it won't bother me anymore.

This is what I wanted to show you. Here. Looks like nothing special, right? Crappy old beat-up plastic cafeteria tray? Watch this.

"Quarter Pounder With Cheese."

Yeah, it's real. As real as anything is these days. Go ahead, eat it while it's hot. What? You don't trust your old man? Fine, I'll split it with you. There you go.

Jesus, now I remember why I don't eat this crap.

I know what you're thinking. What's a geezer like me doing with an amazing thing like this? Where did it come from?

Here's the funny thing about making unreal things into reality. The fictions that humans create are inconsistent. We forget what story we're telling halfway through and make up something that contradicts what we said at the beginning. But when it all has to be real, the universe will twist itself around to prevent a paradox.

Nobody remembers television commercials. But the university preserved a whole bunch, and transferred them from tape to digital a few years ago. Guess who got to update the catalog for the archives? Let me show you what I found.

Isn't that a hoot? "Hamburger-eating-est clown." Doesn't even look like Shoes. And that ridiculous hat! But it's all there, recorded, watchable, so it's got to be real. Even the magic tray.

Yeah, finding it was a royal bitch. But that's another story.

Now you know why we didn't starve during the war. And you know why we kept this a secret. It'll only give you stuff from the menu, only things with names. We had to take the food apart, separate the ingredients and cook them into other things. We couldn't be greedy, couldn't ever ask for too much, in case people got suspicious. But we kept our family alive.

Do you understand? Do you know what it means, this tray, what it can do? The magic isn't in him. It's not Shoes. He's just a conduit. Same as this piece of plastic. The magic is outside of him. And if an object can channel it, maybe a human can, too.

This is yours now. Go on, take it. You've got your whole life to figure it out. You've got years. I trust you to do what's right. So does your mother, God rest her soul.

Oh, wait. One more thing.

"You Deserve A Break Today."


1 comment:

lahosken said...

I look forward to the sequel. With this tray for provisioning, they could mount an expedition to find the fabled Crunch Island, where the living is easy.