The his and her’s matching sets of faux medieval weaponry Michal got for his wedding?
They were from me. The furry, lime green toilet seat cover in our bathroom? It’s from him. So is the life-size Marilyn Monroe cut-out, her skirt billowing about her thighs, that stands above the hot air vent in the dining room. The poisonous frog in formaldehyde I purchased at that French Quarter occult shop and situated forshadowingly in my introduction to Most Outrageous was actually his birthday present. (Margaret wouldn’t let it in the house, so he kept it in the garage while figuring out how to dispose of it without turning Lake Washington toxic.) This year, after hearing an ad on KPIG, I figured an adopted manatee would be nice.
For a modest sum, Save the Manatee, of Maitland, Florida, would provide him an adoption certificate, the biography and photograph of my manatee of choice (I selected Brutus, a mustached, 1800-pounder that I thought bore Michal a slight resemblance), and a "sweet and snuggly" plush toy manatee. (Since Brutus can’t be expected to send notes of thanks, this surrogate allows his species to more effectively compete for survival with plaintive third world orphans, I suppose.) The young woman who took my order said she would enclose a card. When a few weeks of silence had passed, I called Michal and, without revealing any identifying features, inquired if anything that looked suspiciously like a present from me had arrived. He said it had not – and that he was delaying deciding whether to venture to Wal-Mart or Rose’s Sex Toy Palace to reciprocate, until he’d seen what I’d proffered. I called Save the Manatee and was told that the packet had shipped UPS and they, unfortunately, had no proof of delivery. They promised to send a replacement. But two weeks later, Michal remained ungifted.
This time, letting the cat (or tropical herbivorous mammal related to the dugong) out of the bag, I e-mailed STM, while copying him. I proposed four explanations: "(1) You never sent either (unlikely); (2) he is a liar and is stockpiling plush manatees (unlikely); (3) the post office fucked up (likely); and (4) he received it, thought it was a solicitation, and tossed it (likely)." Michal immediately replied. Number 4 had hit the nail. "When I got the first manatee, my reaction was, ‘What a horrible waste of money, sending an expensive toy to someone 3000 miles from Florida in the hopes he will make a donation.’ When I got the second, again with no card, I thought of writing a charity watchdog group to report Save the Manatees for wasting donations in an attempt to guilt strangers into giving more. But thank you for both. I will be happy to pay for one, if it will tell me the cost. And be prepared to receive something strange from me."
I broke the news to STM. "Uh-oh...," I began. They were gracious. They waived further payment. They promised to mark future shipments as "Gifts." Michal’s granddaughter received – and loves – the first, and an expected grandson will get the second. Meanwhile, even Margaret thinks it is adorable. And Brutus is glad to have a new family.
Only I await, in full defensive posture, to see what shoe drops.
Causes Bob Levin Supports
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, ACLU, PEN, Berkeley Emergency Food & Housing Project.