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Tin Can Mental Contagion
And Why Shouldn't It?
by Gene Dillon

Cry Fowl? Are You Kidding Me?

No, no, no, no, NO! That was a storyboard I created for a cartoon about 6 or 7 lifetimes ago. And you want me to revive it in depressing novel form? No. We can't go backwards. I don't even know what I was thinking about back then.

Remember the scraps of paper tossed in a heap on top of a desk that only got dusted when I decided to rearrange the furniture? I put all those ideas, thoughts and illegible rantings into an unmarked manila folder, and then I put them inside a cardboard box with some Mac-formatted zip discs and a stack of outdated software manuals and the previous generations of unmarked manila folders. Two years ago, I began to actually write dates on the tabs of the manila folders, as a method of organizing my confusion.

But this one particular packet of nonsense was special. If I could only remember which box it was, I could look inside it and be reminded of how I actually made a photocopy of this piece and mailed it to myself. Somebody told me that this is a method of copyright-protecting your work. I think that person made up this fact — this is not the sort of thing that lawyers do — but I did it anyway. Mailed a package to myself, with myself on the return address, and when it finally arrived two days later, (how inefficient!) I took the unopened package and placed it inside of a cardboard box, to be lovingly shoved into a corner of some closet in my basement and buried underneath more non-descript cardboard boxes. I'm not exactly sure what I intended to do with it. The content contained within the crudely illustrated panels of this storyboard added up to the amount of footage presented in a feature-length movie. So... I could have made the animated film myself... Perhaps I could cut corners, and do it at 8 frames per second. About 43,200 panels. Hmmm. I'm a shabby illustrator and my animation skills are even worse. Simple line drawings, in black and white? It could be totally raw and unrefined, man! True artistry! No, that would get awfully tiring to look at, after about 5 minutes. Flash? Oh, hell yeah. I could tween like crazy, let the computer do most of the work.

So there are these chickens, see? And they live in these shitty cages — literally shitty, because they sleep, eat and shit in the same place, every single day. So it's like a prison film, except that one sunny day, the board of directors has learned that the politically correct thing to do, is to convert their entire flocks of filthy inmates into free-range birds! Obviously, it is also a move that will generate greater profits, but that just distracts from the story, where we follow this couple, you know, a hen and a rooster, down the merry path to their golden future, filled with opportunity. Off to the land of milk and honey, except in this case, they play out the modern version of the American dream, and head off to the big city. But like in The Grapes of Wrath, their naïve hopes and dreams crash head-on with reality, and they end up moving into a housing project and take in a veal for a roommate to help pay the rent.

Wait. Does that make any sense? Can a living calf actually be called a veal, or is veal just the type of meat that they become after the slaughter, and after being dipped in egg, coated with flour, browned on both sides, and baked lovingly with marinara and parmesan? Whatever you call him, he lives off of government subsidies, and he never comes out of his box.

To put this into novel form would be an arduous task. Oh, God, the research! Can you imagine? To find out what is and isn't veal, I would have to actually go to a library! Nothing is true on the Internet anymore. Did you know that someone is out there right now, trying to debunk the myth of the 40 year-old twinkie? Yeah, that's right. Somebody out there wants us to stop believing that:
  1. A twinkie is actually baked for ten minutes, rather than created out of a mixture of self-rising chemicals, and
  2. A twinkie actually has a shelf-life of 25 days.
FUH! I am flabbergasted! I eat 25 to 30 year-old twinkies all the time. And they taste great! I've had far worse meals in my lifetime. Take the River Kwai, for example. It was a Thai restaurant on Belmont in Chicago — I think they shut it down. They were open until 5 am, and the place was run by a skeleton-crew made up of either junkies or the living dead — or some combination of the two. Your "entree" always came with a small bowl of "soup" that smelled — and tasted — like underpants. I remember one night, finding a lone hair in my "soup", and then finding one more lone hair in my "pad see yew".

And they were both pubic!

So the hen has to shoot herself up with all kinds of hormones to help her lay eggs at an alarming rate, which she sells at a terribly unfair market price in order to make ends meet. Of course this makes her very unstable. The rooster has trouble finding work. He is poultry, mind you, and all jobs in the city are normally given to humans. So he finds a Luke Skywalker mask, puts it on, and having a beak behind the mask, it becomes very difficult to see as he wanders down the street looking for "help wanted" posters in store windows. So he wanders in and applies at the first place he locates. And he gets the job!

Saigon Chicken is a fair place to work. The General's covert recipe is a little tricky to manage... But apparently, there is a bit of a moral dilemma involved in his choice of careers.

This hen and this rooster find themselves trapped in a world of fear, desperation and hypocrisy, but they are too chicken to do anything about it.

Get it? They are chickens!

But hey, who isn't? Much of the time...

I think everybody dies at the end. I can't remember.

I'm not so sure I can write this book right now. I'm too tired. It's 11:42.

If you want to know how it ends, drop me a line. I'll mail you a package.

©2006 Mental Contagion • Making Space for Visual Artists & Writers