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WARNING: CONVERSATIONS WITH GOOBERS MAY LEAD TO MORE SERIOUS MATTERS
by Su Falcon

I was perfectly minding my own business, perched on my favorite tush stool overlooking the compound and intent on enjoying my chill, drizzly day, when this towering great goober wandered up and out of the misty damp and said, “No matter how many times you ask me, I shall never marry you or your kind.”

Wellawell! Until then, I’d never wanted to marry anything, much less this particular goober. But I couldn’t resist answering.

“Huh! Why not?”

“Because,” he replied, “it would never work out.”

Still I could not keep my flappy orifice shut. “And again, I ask, why not?”

“Though yours and mine are not structurally dissimilar, we are each of a differing nature, and, like oil and water, would not blend.

My ire bubbled up like rancid gas in a swampy hole. And not knowing the ways of goobers, I didn’t see that I was walking straight into his trap. I stared straight into his eye slit and demanded, “Just which do you consider yourself to be? Oil or water?” resolved that whichever he chose, I would strug a gallant struggle for the other.

“I consider myself to be neither.”

I sat silent for a moment, stunned that he would pose this scenario then refuse his own role. Then rage swept over me and I chased him madly down the hill and away from my afternoon, hurling a loose rock after his rapidly departing form, and taking immense satisfaction when it connected loudly with his glistening shell.

But my mood was ruined; a bright ray crept from behind my lovely, rheumy clouds, so I slithered home. I was young, though, and with the reboundancy of inexperience, quickly forgot the encounter.

##

Seasons passed, and I began to near maturity. Many of compatible gender stared blatantly in my direction, providing me the pleasure of ignoring their clumsy advances. I did not want marriage.

I was content.

But Mat and Pat began to murmur about continuity of species. Pat was political, and felt his image would be enhanced by the perpetuation of our family line with grand-issue. Thus began their campaign of introductions with intent of expanded familial unit. I was covertly uncooperative, adopting a policy of gentle evasion, and might have continued indefinitely had their efforts not included one particularly loathsome suitor known as Slick.

One damp and pleasant evening, I committed what would prove to be the ultimate undoing of my simplistic plan.

Pat, desperate in his current campaign, ignored Slick’s impolite grasp at my protrusions beneath the table, but the swain eventually rubbed me wrongly once too often. Rising to my full and glorious height, I proclaimed, “I reject your advances sir! I desire to marry a goober, or to marry not at all!” The source of my fatuous statement was sadly lost to the swamp of obscure memory, or I would have immediately recanted my words.

Our guest wasted no time in showing himself out. As soon as he was gone, Pat said, “How dare you suggest such atrocity! And just before an election!”

Mat, who was less concerned with image than propriety, reacted with equal fervor. “A goober? I have failed maternally! I must inhale then exhale slowly before I expire from distress!” Her normal rich, golden brown countenance paled to a dim ochre, and I was banished to my cave, where I sat in comforting, soggy, lonely silence.

Now please understand. It is not as though copulation and procreation between a goober and my kind defies biological possibility. Quite the contrary.

The only true demon I was countering was Convention, and my parents were paradigms of this cult. On principle alone, I felt compelled to persist upon the course I’d so casually initiated. And it was an obvious solution to my problem. I had no intention of marrying at all, so to insist on marrying a goober should indirectly bring my guardians around to supporting my obstinate point of view.

What I could not have known, particularly in my enforced seclusion, was of the social change brewing.

As mentioned earlier, Pat had political aspirations, and was in perpetual pursuit of that which would ensure the continuation of his elected office. Unknown to me, a movement was being instigated and forwarded in both the goober community and my own to unite our kinds in harmony, to promote mutual commercial interchange, and to secure common enjoyment in the same dens of entertainment.

Slick, the unrequited aspirant to my affections, had gone to work immediately to smear my reputation by promoting my infatuation with a goober. But alert Pat, with the reluctant cooperation and support of dear, conventional Mat, began to spin these rumors around to support his own campaign. As a forerunner of the future and promoter of cultural harmony (his new platform), he calculated that my connubial yearnings might act as the harbinger of a new age in social reform, the spearhead of a movement in acceptance and accord. I was being placed, unknown to myself, as the brave and singular heroine of a new entente.

But I was damply oblivious to all.

When Mat and Pat finally invited me to join them in familial partaking of evening refreshment some cycles later, I was immediately suspicious of their pleasant countenances.

“Dear one,” Mat began, “your Pat and I have conversed at great length over your dilemma--”

“And have decided to support you in your noble and imaginative romantic quest!” Pat butted in. “When do we meet the young goober who has captured your soul and enraptured your hearts?”

Horror! They had agreed to let me marry a goober!

If I told them I had no specific goob in mind, they would recognize my charade for what it was, and begin anew to force me into unwanted cohabitation. I did not know which way to turn.

I began to invent reasons why my illustrious goober could not immediately visit the family den. But their pressures increased, and with it, my panic. I was rapidly running out of excuses.

##

In my distress, I randomly roamed paths and avenues in solitude, praying that the throbbing rhythm of my pads would inspire some new solution. Through dark of night and dim of day, I paced restlessly until I found myself once again at my favorite little tush stool above the compound.

In this serene setting, inspiration finally took root; a plan began to evolve. I would recruit a goober to play the role. Mat and Pat’s natural repulsion toward goobers would surface through prolonged contact, and then, when I found a way to politely end the relationship, they would silently salute my decision.

I slipped down to the compound, and slithered about until I found a fungous cavern frequented by goober-kind. I would acquire additional moisture and then search for a suitable goober-suitor.

Inspecting the throbbing and slurping patrons while I downed my own draft, I was pleasantly surprised at the complacency with which my presence was tolerated. I had anticipated hostility toward my kind in their den, but all were polite, even propitious. The social mien of goober-kind, it appeared, was undergoing evolution.

Once refreshed, I approached a solitary goober. “Sir,” I told him, I am searching for a noble goober to assist me in a personal enterprise.”

“Even without knowing the nature of your enterprise,” he answered, “I most highly recommend noble Prime, a superb sample of our species.”

I thanked him, and moved forward to a small group of goobers at a nearby table. Again I posed my question, and their collective response echoed that of the first goober. I continued to interview others, and the pattern remained constant.

Then, from the access passage, a new goober emerged. All within the den paused to note his entry, and I, of course, followed suit. He stood apart from the rest; in part because of his carriage, in part because of his glorious height, and in no small part because of a sharp dent in his chitinous shell.

He calmly surveyed the contents of the cavern, then approached me with a polite silence that stirred my interest, so I invited him to squat with me, and he did. This goober was a profound listener, and within a brief span, I’d elucidated the entirety of my troubled soul into his receptive auditory apparatus. I concluded by asking him if he were acquainted with a goober called Prime.

“Intimately,” he answered. “I know him as well as I know myself.”

Encouraged, I asked him, “Might you set a meeting between us?”

His laugh was rich and rattling as he introduced himself therewith. My prayers were answered!

The goober Prime was sympathetic to my plight, and quickly agreed to render whatever might aid me in the accomplishment of my endeavor, asking nothing in return but friendship. I was enchanted with my success, and confident that my marriage would be indefinitely postponed.

And so I brought my goober home. Mat had made our mud pile unusually squishy in honor of the event, and we all lounged about comfortably chill through introductions. Pat and Mat were indirect in their explorations of the goober’s intentions, but he slid right to the point.

“Perhaps you suffer disputation regarding a proposed union between myself and your progeny,” the goober Prime suggested.

“It is somewhat unseemly,” Mat ventured.

“Though conventions are being refurbished,” Pat added hastily.

“There are some who would claim,” the goober said, “that love means less than nothing in the cosmic scheme. And they might be right. But I say that love does count, and sentients have the right to co-mingle and co-habitate in whatever fashion suits them, with no concern to propriety.”

The goob was playing his part well. Too well. And only I seemed to notice Pat’s hastily-scribbled notes, no doubt for use in future political oration, as Prime the goober continued. “Folly to another, sir, is love to myself. And after all, are we not the ones who establish standards of propriety? And therefore are we not able to remake those standards at will?”

Discourse continued along these lines, and my dismay grew in slips and shivers as I noted Mat and Pat’s enthusiastic nods of agreement increasing in frequency. Instead of despising the goober, they were falling under his spell!

Oh anguish, oh woe, I cried silently. My plan was derailing right before my very orbs.

##

Within a cycle, the entire compound had been enlightened of plans of our imminent union, and as I slid down common paths, absolute strangers, both goober-kind and my own, would stop me to offer congratulations.

I was in absolute despair.

The day of ceremony rapidly approached (timed carefully by Mat to fall immediately before election day), and still I canvassed my cranium to find a way out.

One drab, murky, wonderfully romantic afternoon, my goober and I sat in the squishy shade of a deep crevasse, discussing the matter. He was philosophical. “My adorable seed pod,” he comforted me, “we are caught in a maelstrom that surpasses our individual personal needs. What we can accomplish together for the betterment of society far transcends any action endeavored singly.”

“Dear goob,” I told him, “I have no desire to marry you, or any other—no matter how noble the cause.”

“I admire your passion, and your determination to persist through a spatial-chronological continuum on a desired course of action,” he answered. “What, though, is your exact objection to the revered state of matrimony?”

“I object to many facets of this state. I object to the discomfort of sharing my sleep hole. I object to the subjugation, no matter how minimal, of my desires and activities to another will. But most of all, I object to blindly following the Ways of Convention!” So there. “You would not, I am sure, seriously want to embroil yourself with someone as heretical as myself!”

I thought this tirade would dissuade him from going through with our charade, and his response alarmed me. “I cherish your unorthodoxy,” he declared unequivocally, then gently stroked my shell.

Shrugging him away, I said, “I will continue to search for an escape from this inevitability. I will not quit.”

“I would expect no less, my splendid.” His complacency was a direct contrast to my turmoil.

What was I to do?

##

The day of ceremony arrived, and had I been more willing, I would have considered it divine. Flat gray skies, not a break in the clammy cloud cover, and all was covered with a moist, rich condensation.

We commenced in a public way, with a plethora of the community present to share my dreaded moment. Whatever final recourse I elected, my audience would be massive, and the repercussions on Pat’s ambitions inescapable. I might remain unmarried till the end of existence, but Pat’s career would be destroyed, Mat might respire her final respiration from despair, and I would never be able again to slither the compound with my posture proudly erect. Still, I would seek egress.

The presiding official began the ritual. “Do you, most honorable goober, take this intelligent legume as your very—“

We were interrupted by a stark, disgusted belch, and hope surged in my hearts. Perhaps events would conspire to rescue me.

Then Slick, the last of my unsuccessful suitors, raised himself above the crowd, and I realized he was the source of trouble. “Protest!” he hissed. “I protest severely!” The crowd murmured in shock, then a silence fell completely upon the concourse.

Pat stood up, and I have never before or since been so proud of his regal profile as he bravely attempted to thwart Slick. “By what right do you interrupt this revered affair?” he demanded, knowing full well that this confrontation could easily break or make his future. “Surely sentients have the right to co-mingle and co-habitate in whatever fashion suits them!” Familiar turn of phrase.

“The paring is mismatched, and your progeny unbalanced,” he said. “This goober is merely taking advantage of a rebellious nature to infiltrate the ranks of our kind!”

I slid to Pat’s side. “How dare you discuss my nature, rebellious or otherwise, in public!” I contested hotly, then raising myself fully on a single pad, I added, “And my balance is impeccable!” The debate was on.

“You are foolish and immature,” Slick shouted at me as he shoved his way forward through the crowd.

“You are a bitter bad loser, and a clumsy suitor,” I called back.

The audience, quite forgetting the actual purpose of the circumstance, squatted comfortably and informally, prepared to savor a long and disreputable dispute.

“Your progeny will be cursed for endless generations, condemned to the fringes of society, and devoid of future status!” Slick said loudly as he neared me. The crowd slid slowly back from around us, still entertained, but suddenly circumspect of the ascending potential violence.

“Progeny?” I fairly screamed, ignoring the scattered rattle of laughter through the crowded concourse. “What progeny? For your information, I have absolutely no intention of going through—”

At this point, my goob assumed the podium. Pulling at me with such impetus that our shells clattered audibly, he said, “My love has no intention of going on with this audacity any longer! If you have argument to make, make it with me, sir!”

Prime then shoved me back toward Mat and Pat, and it took the two of them and all the puissance they could muster to hold me in place with my orifice firmly shut. In my struggle, I missed the next few moments, but Mat and Pat released their hold as my goober Prime and the horrendous Slick began to circle each other warily, still tossing taunts like gauntlets.

”Bigotry is the only true imbalance!” my brave goob proclaimed, “and you are so full of bigotry, bile and bad manners that you have poisoned your ability to think clearly!” Prompted by this final insult, Slick rushed the goober.

They scuttled through the mud in shell-to-shell combat, and were soon so covered in muck that it was impossible to distinguish which was which.

“Oh my precious goob!” I cried out, realizing finally that my blind determination might have snatched from me the single thing that could bring me a lifetime of contentment. For the first time ever, the mysterious hormones of maturity and desire were coursing resolutely through my system.

The crowd ebulliently endorsed their motions, rooting mostly for the goober. I did not care. I knew only that if my dear, dulcet, remarkable and stalwart goober did not triumph in his struggle, I would surely transpire.

As the motions under the mud began to subside, the crowd stilled as well.

Slowly, ever so slowly, one form rose up from the mire. I hastened forward, then paused, reaching a hesitant tentacle toward the glop. I wiped away a speck of concealment. Beneath my tempered touch, a dramatic but familiar dent was revealed. My goob had prevailed!

A reverberation of respect and approval thundered up from the crowd. Several disposed of the inert form called Slick, and we resumed our ceremony.

##

After our nuptials were complete, and we’d suffered through the obligatory festivities that accompany such moments, my precious goober led me discreetly away from the gathering, and up the hill to my favorite little tush stool. As we settled in comfortably together, I told him, “through familiarity with your thought patterns, I have come to realize that I could do far worse in choice of life-mates.”

He took one of my tentacles and placed it gently on the dent of his carapace. “Have you never wondered at the source of this disfiguration?” he asked.

“No,” I answered honestly.

“I will tell you nonetheless. Many seasons ago, I encountered an enchanting young one upon this very hill. I knew instantly at first inspection that she was the only one with whom I would willingly grow old and flabby. At that moment, I set upon a course of action that, though seasons in the making, eventually led up to this, our day of wedded bliss. It was you, my love, who won my affections then dented my shell.”

All in the same respiratory cycle, I was furious, delighted, dismayed and enthralled. I ultimately decided to rest within the enthrallment and discard the rest.

##

All of this occurred many seasons back. Pat, of course, won his election by a mudslide, and was eventually succeeded in office by my own sweet, wonderful goober with his glib parlance and wily wit.

I am a Mat now, and I warn my own never to linger with one who opens conversation with a negative statement. But I also tell my little ones: Always argue with a goober if it is to your advantage to lose.

--SU FALCON


 
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