Come to My Arms, My Beamish Boy!

The kernel, reviving himself for the fourth time since the specialist had pressed him into this messy business, slowly hauled his sticky, still healing corpse up from the Formica. Before he was a kernel, he’d been a major part of the trail mix. But he’d kept in his martial duties, staving his private thoughts from the messes that were unavoidable. The chain of command was fallible. He hadn’t had a heart-to-heart with the specialist for some time, and resented the constant erasing of memories. But he knew that the specialist profited handsomely with every financial conquest and that those disgraceful citizens who still craved their petty addiction needed to be corrected. If they couldn’t be taxed, they’d have to be brainwashed. It was part of the five-year recovery plan that had been vigorously debated in Congress, and the plan had proved so controversial that two Republican representatives had strangled each other to death while debating the flaws and merits of this daring and unprecedented moral stimulus package.

While it was painful to the kernel to have these addicts continually decapitate his head, the specialist made sure that the kernel received a fringe benefit: namely, a dutiful blowjob from a peanut past her prime not long after revival. Peanuts, particularly the salted ones that had been soaked in brine, were perhaps the most slatternly snack. There really wasn’t much subtlety to cracking a shell open. I mean, how was that seductive? You cracked open a hard scrotum and popped two nuts down a gullet as if they were aspirin. It was the kind of pathetic judapatow that had been vigorously argued on television decades ago. Alas, the executioners were a bit out of practice. Beyond the lack of culinary eclat, the citizens hadn’t caught on to any of the homoerotic imputations. And it was rather amazing that the religious forces hadn’t yet connected the dots. But the kernel knew of a few peanut fellatio operations in the Utah underground.

Not that any of the peanuts cared. They were happy to stimulate many penises, if only because “penis” sounded very close to “peanut.” And the holy books indicated that Father Planter (the great deity riding with his grand top hat on a rare elephant brought back from extinction!) had insisted on regularly pleasuring the citizens and the snacks. Fellatio was the path to salvation.

Why? Well, the citizens had respected the peanuts in ways that the elephants hadn’t. (One could make a case that humans had manipulated the results. But if the elephants had really wanted to respect the peanuts, surely they would have revolted at the circuses.) The humans had stopped throwing shells on the floors of Los Angeles restaurants. When potato chips had been removed from the market (courtesy of dutiful lobbying by the prominent candy company that the specialist had quietly mentioned to the Bavarian), demand for peanuts grew. But the peanut farmers had thought to expand the peanut’s duties to cure loneliness and quell those who were randy. It wasn’t too long until peanuts served not only as a sentient aphrodisiac, but a guarantee for the citizen who came home from the bar empty-handed on a Friday night.

The kernel accepted all this not just because the peanut’s connection with sex was second-nature, but because he liked working in a behind-the-scenes capacity. He wasn’t whoring himself out like the peanuts were. He was performing a more valuable service steering the citizens away from temptation. And the hell of it was that he didn’t need ethics. He could save humanity and let the peanuts service his licentious needs, and not feel any guilt whatsoever. For deep down, he truly didn’t care for the Puritanical direction that the country was heading in. These were dilemmas for the specialist. He would have to figure this all out eventually. The specialist’s sentient snack design had deliberately made the popcorn and the peanuts amoral. He could animate as skillfully as he wanted. But in the end, he couldn’t find an ethical reason to dabble sexually with his creations. The kernel could. And it was worth all the head-bashing that came with his occupation.

“And Hast Thou Slain the Jabberwock?”

“I’ve never been to Bavaria,” said the specialist. “Is it nice?”

“I wouldn’t know,” said the Bavarian, who was still staring at the barren kernel corpse that the specialist had left on the Formica as a reminder.

“Just so you know, I didn’t enjoy that task.”


“I give the snacks their feelings and I figure that people will respect them.”

“Treat them as pets?”

“Well, hopefully more than that,” said the specialist, who stroked his beard to suggest to the Bavarian that he actually had some authority when he, in fact, didn’t really know what the fuck he was talking about.

“How did you get into this racket?” asked the Bavarian.

“It started when a prominent candy company, which shall remain unnamed, hoped to revive sales of their flagging chocolate candy product. They had put out a series of commercials featuring this candy with thin pipecleaner arms and legs, and injecting a bit of personality. If you saw these commercials stoned, you’d come down bad. Because chances are that one of your pals had a bowl of these candies lying around.”

“You speak from personal experience.”

“Not really. That’s what the candy company had pointed out on the dossier.”

The Bavarian poured herself a shot of Courvoisier.

“Continue,” she said. “I’m interested.”

“It was thought to create a sentient snack. One that would make the eating experience more engaging and interactive. More importantly, this would lead to an increase in sales, with the customer believing that a snack with feelings would bring extra value to his purchase. It was suggested by the candy company that since these commercials featuring anthropomorphic snacks had managed to get their message out, the experiment should start there.”

“And why did they approach you?”

“I was a professional animator. We were just beginning to animate the world around us. You may recall that Pixar was becoming very concerned about how cartoon street theater was cutting into their profits. But then, how many people had $25 to see a movie?”

“I want to assure you,” said the Bavarian, “that this was my first time eating sentient snacks.”

“Why didn’t you listen to my instructions?”

“I was bored! All right! They banned alcohol. They banned cigarettes. They banned coffee. There’s nothing left but the snacks. And most of them are sentient.”

“Is that your Twinkie defense?”


“A well-known case from decades ago. In simpler times.”

“I had to kill something,” said the Bavarian.

But the specialist knew that snack homicide, thankfully not yet on the books, left long-standing effects. He could see the headless kernel twitching. He could see new arms stretching. The machete had taken the lopsided popcorn out for a few hours. But it would resuscitate itself as often as necessary before settling into the intestinal tract of an easily duped consumer.

He Went Galumphing Back

The specialist’s chest heaved waves of homicidal catharsis. And while this troubled him, he nevertheless cleansed himself of that dreaded atonal compunction scaling its way across four vertical ventricles. His musical heart had been categorized by the visceral taxonomists like so: (1) e.g., the part inside that cried for data and hard examples but could not appreciate the warm aroma of a woman or a child’s laughter; (2) g.b., a bona-fide hard drive, an ambition that was capacious in 1995 in danger of being replaced by the cutting-edge t.b.; (3) b.d., that lascivious impulse calling the specialist to impulses that could not be sufficiently described as vanilla; and (4) d.f., a ravenous adventuresome spirit with a stapled sombrero. These heavy boxes dealt with the snack massacre like so: e.g. contemplated the ethics; g.b. casually suggested more data, with the machete applied to peanuts, Kit-Kats, twiglets, and other snack-centric decapitations that involved shrieks; b.d. wondered if it was possible to rape a half-popped popcorn and derive an atavistic pleasure that would surely be censured by the appropriate authorities (this pressing development caused e.g. to work double time on the ethics); and d.f. simply demanded this stiff trio to stop aligning itself with this intellectual wankery. “For fuck’s sake,” said d.f., “the deed is done. Let’s party. Pour me a drink. I’m pretty sure we can keep b.d.’s disturbing vagaries in check. And I’m pretty sure that I’ll stop using stupid fucking ten-cent words like ‘vagaries’ if you ply me with enough cordials.” So the specialist’s heart decided, and it was not easy with all this chatter going on, that the specialist needed to run to the bar, get as inebriated as possible, avoid any eleventh-hour rolls in the hay, and return to the scene of the crime, sprinting if necessary so that the specialist could fit this activity inside ninety minutes. At the other end, he might repine his own savage instincts with that of the sad Bavarian woman who was probably not as dissolute as b.d. (that pesky quasi-id, but essential) had conjectured.

He Left It Dead, and With Its Head

But why pick on Bavaria? It had done nothing wrong, but it had produced a brutal dictator, an interesting film director who had killed himself at 37, and a mysterious teenage boy with a letter. Still, that’s only three people. Bavaria has offered millions of individuals over the years, many of them charming and sanguine. Dutiful pillars of the community. Decent neighbors. Men who might buy a stranger a drink if the stranger tells a good story. Is it fair for us to dwell on the lonely fact? These kernels took time to bloom, and the specialist saw the metaphor contained within the snack massacre. But the specialist could not intervene. He’d seen her live out her dead memories by chomping her way through the bowl’s sentient contents, the telltale bicuspid bite mark indented into the sad blue comforter. She was too taken with murder and the blood she’d leave for the maid. She’d never know all the details pertaining to the Bavaria question until she understand that these kernels, once so bright and yellow and promising, were corpses instead of seeds. Half-popped from the pan, and half-articulate in their screams, they would not grow back. She left the kitchen and she left the specialist to clean up the mess. He unsheathed his machete, which glinted against the flickering fluorescent tube. The half-popped corn, crawling helplessly like a legless Brooklyn roach, pleaded with the specialist. But rules were rules. The machete cracked against the kernel’s head. The specialist would clean up everything else, but would leave it dead. She had to feel something.

The Vorpal Blade Went Snicker-Snack

She tucked the makeshift blue comforter inside the large wooden bowl, pondering the many hundred corpses she’d gnaw on in the next ten minutes. She insisted on canola oil and an old-school pot that once belonged to a neighbor who had died down the hall. She named each and every one of them, so that she could familiarize herself with their agonies on a first-name basis. The finer mastications were named after the men who had hurt her or who had broken their promises and never called her back. She’d found a kernel specialist in SoHo who was starting to harvest a new crop once more with feeling and who could quote Sade while hanging upside down with a group of tops prodding him with pliers. She paid extra with the money she’d inherited from her dead dad, who had never once taken her to the movie theater. The specialist only had so much space and was paying a good deal of money to use up a parking spot for his agricultural innovation. The specialist, who had often seen business pick up with specific clients right before they were about to die, had told her not to use his name under any circumstances. And while she was tempted to break the rules, she found greater pleasure from the high-pitched screams that came from the magma-like flow of melted butter. She looked into the bowl and saw that some of them were twitching. A nice designer touch. They. Now her only social connections were the oily bits of shrieking popcorn she shoved into her mouth. The specialist certainly hadn’t been surprised when the genealogists traced her ancestors to Bavaria.