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The Big O 

Anyone up for a friendly game of hide and seek? I gotta warn you, I’m a champion hider—despite my girth and pungent odor. It’s all about commitment, you see. I’ve been known to scale chandeliers, squeeze into air ducts. Once, I spent three hours in my refrigerator’s cheese drawer—we weren’t actually playing hide and seek at the time, but still I was so proud I scribbled it into my résumé, just below the fact that I was hall monitor for one week in the fourth grade.

It’s been a rough week for hide-and-seek enthusiasts. We lost a competitor who was overwhelmingly regarded as the world’s preeminent hider.

Which isn’t to say he’s a good guy, or was a good guy, considering his recent passing. Usually, when you’re called upon to hide, it’s because people don’t like you. Which may explain why I took to the sport like a duck to oil. Pardon the simile. BP’s been passing around these pamphlets that prove irrefutably that animals actually thrive in oil.

I didn’t learn about this competitor’s death so much as stumble into what I thought was a very-late Mardi Gras party or slightly late spring break kegger. With nothing else on my agenda—I haven’t been able to find my datebook since 1984, which might explain why no one ever invites me to anything—I did what any self-respecting American would do: joined the party.

Mid-blowout, a bottle of spray cheese arcing majestically though the air and a ranch-dressing-filled beer bong clamped between my lips, something happened. I realized we weren’t mindlessly fueling up on Jell-O shots to celebrate, well, nothing. Or whatever it is you celebrate during Mardi Gras or spring break. Being alive, perhaps?

We were, in fact, gloating because a man was shot in the head and his body dumped into the ocean more than 7,000 miles away. Now, I’ve got pretty thick skin. I volunteer myself for medical experiments every other Tuesday and Thursday to pick up spare cash. I’m not really the person you want around when a situation calls for delicacy or tact.

The truth is, I’ve always wanted to be part of an angry mob. It’s on my bucket list, right between a threesome with the newly-wed royal couple and a weeklong stint as a chimney sweep in London. I’m an Anglophile, apparently.

But my angry-mob credentials are impeccable. I foam at the mouth most of the time anyway, which might have something to do with that time I tried to play doll with a rabid bat I found on the ground. I’ll say just about any terrible thing that pops into my head, and I don’t bat an eye—ha!—when other people do the same.

So when upstanding American patriots, everyday Jo and Jill Schmoes like you and me, start sketching out 101 creative ways to display and/or dispose of a corpse, I feel that it’s my patriotic duty to recommend that we grill the sumbitch using my favorite BBQ sauce—heavy on the hickory, easy on the sugar.

Except that there’s this weird nagging sensation tugging ay my gut. It’s sorta like that time I coughed up a hairball, which doesn’t make any sense because I had since started grooming my miniature hamsters with a hairbrush, per my doctor’s recommendation.

If I had to guess, proverbial gun to my head, I’d say the tugging is something like regret compounded by the helplessness we all feel when confronted with something so much monstrously bigger than ourselves. You see, like most Americans, I want to believe that we’re better than everyone else. That we have certain unshakable values that no single person, no matter how despicable, could sway. That we don’t write people off as criminals without the simple justice of a trial. In the not-so-distant past, an angry torch-wielding mob would have ended my sorry existence at a very young age. Today, they write pissed-off letters and my probation officer warns me to mend my ways. But execution without a trial? It’s barbaric. Unheard of.

I realize that by putting down the spray cheese, turning off the infectiously uplifting Mariah Carey album, and walking away from the party, I’m taking the unpopular view. But it’s best to be unpopular when more is at stake.

Besides, I’ve kind of made a niche of being unpopular, and it’s actually quite cozy. There’s a roaring fire, built from endangered African ash trees, and my mounted unicorn heads give the space a subtle cheerfulness. Martha Stewart would be proud.

Just don’t mistake my bout of melancholy for anything other than a passing and unprecedented strain of thoughtfulness. And don’t insist that I don’t understand what’s at stake here.

I don’t have the space to write the name of every innocent civilian who died during the Sept. 11 attacks, and I daresay those names have been recorded in far more esteemed pages than this. And I can’t pay fitting tribute to the many, many people—of numerous nationalities—who have died since.

But I don’t have to walk away from this situation with a party hat strapped to my head feeling like I won. I’m not going to say that you shouldn’t either; I’m in no position to judge. After all, the last and possibly only good thing I did for this country, and planet, was registering for a vasectomy. Or did I have my tubes tied?

I should lay off that spray cheese. It messes with my memory.

Call the Shredder what you will at shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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