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The Essay
Show #234
Jerome in the Body of a Ferret
David Gunn

On Thursday, Jerome woke up in the body of a ferret. Aside from having a heart rate of 286 beats per minute and the faint taste of prairie chicken in his mouth, he didn't feel particularly odd. Clearly, the enormity of the situation had not fully dawned on him, since he was more concerned with how oversized everything in his apartment suddenly seemed, and how he couldn't hold on to the newspaper. The door to the kitchen opened, and in strode ... Jerome! -- or at least the corporeal manifestation of him. But this Jerome exhibited qualities of extreme mental duress. He was so jittery that every part of his body seemed to be in motion. His hands shook like a chigger trapper with the DTs; his legs did a kind of amphetamine macareña; independent of each other, his head and upper body writhed like an earthworm on the cusp of a piranha feeding frenzy; even the coins in his pants pocket gyrated to their own rhythmic incongruity. And yet, all of this furious somatic motion came to a screeching halt when he saw the ferreted Jerome. He -- assuming it was still a he -- stood stock still and stared. Jerome -- the ferret Jerome -- felt a pang of fear, as the normal-sized Jerome gazed down at him with what seemed like inappropriate sexual interest. Sublimating his own bestiality bias, ferret Jerome peered back. Suddenly a polecat-hepcat link formed, and he knew he was looking at a recontextualization of his neighbor's pet. Somehow, he, Jerome, had swapped bodies with Kirschwasser, the ferret that belonged to that shamanic weirdo who lived next door, Beano Bengaze.

It would be singularly easy for him to slip into a comfy insanity right now, but Jerome had places to go and people to see, and he certainly wasn’t about to turn his $9,000 credit line over to some albino weasellike mammal used since ancient times to kill rats and drive rabbits from their burrows. He tried to say the name "Kirschwasser," but ferret vocal cord physiology doesn't permit glottal stops, and all that came out was a kind of happy snarling. Still, the ears of the upright Jerome perked like diner coffee, and he plopped down on all fours and cautiously sidled up to ferret Jerome. He sniffed him, then attempted to mark his territory on ferret Jerome's hinder. But his scenting mechanism was encased in a pair of Fruit of the Looms, and he, or it, instead permanently soiled a heretofore nice pair of Levis through the process of elimination.

Jerome -- that is, ferret Jerome -- realized that his only hope to correct this increasingly bizarre situation was to get both bodies over to that nutcake Bengaze and hope he could swap their personalities and urinary instincts. He barked Kirschwasser's name again. Again, no recognizable sound issued from his mouth, yet the animalomaly reacted as if struck by a barrel of monkey wrenches. Down on all fours dropped Jerome ferret-brain, gaping into the feral eyes of its furry namesake. Ferret Jerome slowly raised a paw and began to wave it back and forth in front of the eyes of Jerome ferret-brain, who watched it raptly. "Sleepy, you are getting sleepy," ferret Jerome intoned, though it came out sounding more like a Mousekateer on helium muttering into a Cheez Whiz can. No matter -- the somnolent incantation worked, and moments later Jerome ferret-brain's eyes were more glazed than a pecan donut in a Missoula bakeshop. "Now, carry me, carefully!," crackled ferret Jerome, "over to Beano's house."

To say that being picked up and carried by a life-size doppelgänger with an IQ less than linoleum was a mind-altering experience was like saying -- well, that being picked up and carried by a life-size doppelgänger with an IQ less than linoleum was a mind-altering experience. Nonetheless, both Jeromes survived the trek none the worse for wear, though ferret-brain did briefly lose his compass when he spotted a rabbit in the garden and froze on the spot, attempting to blend in with the surroundings. Alas, his plaid shirt and neon clown shoes did not support his intent, and the rabbit calmly bolted up a large, wood-paneled beanstalk to safety. When they got to Beano's cabin, ferret Jerome was relieved to find it not floating six feet off the ground, as was its wont. Ferret-brain pushed open the door, strode in, then stopped, puzzled by the mingling aromas of cedar, rust, a tax refund, and tincture of Anbesol. Ferret-brain set down ferret Jerome as a brace of fogdogs approached from a dark recess in the chimney. Sniffing them both, they commenced to keen a fandango in parallel fifths, evoking Beano. The shaman appeared, first upside down, then more gravity-oriented, and immediately reached out to stroke what he thought was Kirschwasser. Ferret Jerome cringed and tried to say, "Hey pal, I'm not your lousy weasel. I'm Jerome. Something real odd happened here, and I'd be obliged if you could transmogrify me back to my own body. And take your stinkin' ferret back, too." But, of course, it instead sounded like bits of styrofoam packing peanuts getting sucked down the drain of a commercial washing machine. Still, Beano quickly deduced the dilemma, because, truth be told, he was not altogether innocent in its incidence. While not certain of what all happened, Beano vaguely recalled with some chagrin last night's party in which he was urged to perform some inane parlor trick involving Weasel Slayer. But the bi-nosal warrior ancestor of Otto Lummer was in a sour mood and refused to play along, instead substituting the shaman's pet ferret at a crucial moment in the sleight-of-hand. And now, Kirschwasser, gentle Kirschwasser, was inhabiting the tainted body of his eerie neighbor, Jerome.

Beano set to work at once. He apologized to and then conjured Weasel Slayer, who, appeased, brought with him from the spirit world a goblet full of a bubbly brew that smelled like the worst part of hot goat juice. Beano inhaled the chalice's frothy fumes; then, while reciting a series of whiskers six-draw rule subterfuges, poured the contents out of the vessel. The liquid started downward, thought better of it, and began to rise. A foot from the ceiling of the room it stopped, hovered for a minute, then began to spin. Instantly, a small Algonquin hole materialized over the two Jeromes (or, from Beano's perspective, Kirschwassers). Both weasel and human were sucked briefly into the hole, and then spat back out. The Algonquin hole evanesced, taking Weasel Slayer, the goblet and a couple of fogdogs with it. Jerome -- the happy-to-be-bipedal-again Jerome -- watched Kirschwasser the ferret scamper away into the shadows. Glancing at Beano, he said simply "thanks." The shaman bowed slightly and offered his neighbor a plate of biscuits. Jerome took one and bit into it hungrily. It tasted good -- a little like ... prairie chicken.

Playing chicken is what we like to do, too, here on Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar. For example, on this 234th episode we dare an internationally acclaimed composer from Japan via Germany to cross the road and bare his electroacoustic soul. Does he? Tune in later today and find out, or just stay on the line and the next available operator will take your call -- a rather slick operator known in these parts as Kalvos.