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The Essay
Show #454
le fluff
David Gunn

Floating sedately upon the 20th parallel in the Indian Ocean is the island of Rodriguez, the westernmost of the Mascarene Islands. Its inhabitants consist largely of very large inhabitants, thanks to the island's primary industry, a Marshmallow Fluff manufacturing plant in the capital city of Bunyip. For those of you unfamiliar with the fluffy comestible, le mousse-guimauve is to Indian Ocean cuisine what haggis is to Scottish gastronomy (except that the latter didn't cut its teeth as an expectorant in eerie Haitian voodoo rituals). That is to say, le fluff is extremely popular in the region. And to insure its popularity, King Salmon, the island despot who oversaw construction of the plant, decreed that the product be the primary staple in the diet of all of his subjects--which at the time consisted chiefly of geography, spelling and, strangely, magnetohydrodynamics. Because Bunyip was a duty-free port, it was a favorite stopover among worldwide shipping trademongers. Over time, word of this concoction of corn and sugar syrups, peyote buttons, plus six secret spices that gave the product its peculiar je ne sais quoi spread throughout the civilized (air quotes) world. While it never became an in-demand culinary indulgence, le fluff did achieve a kind of cinematic immortality by being The Blob's stunt double in the eponymous 1958 documentary film.

On a chilly February afternoon in the fourth fifth of the twentieth century, a shadowy figure packed a large carafe of le fluff into the stomach of a slaughtered sheep, along with suet, onions and oatmeal, and smuggled it off of Rodriguez. There followed a week of adventurous travel by tramp steamer, railroad, and finally motorcar to spirit the carafe to the sleepy northern Nebraska town of Valentine. A second figure--so shadowy that he or she was nearly in total eclipse--delivered it to the door of the Bengaze Beauty Shoppe. But the door was not of sentient ilk, and so it wholly ignored both carafe and shadowy figure. Fortunately, the proprietress happened to open the door just then to let the catafalque out. Peering into the penumbra, she saw nothing, but as she turned to go back inside, her foot kicked the carafe. She bent down to examine it but the air was so thick with shadow that she still couldn't see anything. She could feel something, however, and she picked that something up and took it into the house with her.

Beanolette Bengaze was Valentine, Nebraska's first and only avant-garde cosmetician. She did things to her client's faces and ancillary body parts that never failed to shock the town's more traditional beauticianists. Long before it became fashionable, she gave her customers the look of unbridled psychedelia. She'd sold the idea of dyeing her clients' wan, cornhuskery bodies red-orange so well that some of them now advocated hennatheism. A rival shoppekeeper once derisively referred to her as a comictician.

The day after she'd kicked the carafe, Beanolette had decided that the fluffy filling was more fit for fashion than for fare. When her first client showed up for a facial rezoning and depilatory, the cosmic cosmetophile whipped out le fluff and set to work. First, she added to the frothy concoction a soupçon of sparkle paint, a dollop of indelible red dye number 2, and a whiff of the suet and oatmeal essence that still clung stubbornly to the bottom of the carafe. Then she daubed the mixture onto the woman's eyelashes, eyelids and eyeteeth. She repeated the procedure on the next three callers, no matter the first had scheduled a pedicure and the other two were Mormon missionaries who had only stopped by to proselytize. By day's end, Beanolette had worked her magic on no fewer than thirteen female Valentinians and one Welsh corgi. Magic is, of course, a relative term, and in a relatively short time, the clients had concluded that the "bloodshot zombie look" was not for them. One of the eye-dyed customers was an attorney, and she filed a class action suit against Beanolette and the Bengaze Beauty Shoppe, claiming gross malpractice and even grosser essence of suet.

The case never went to court. After deducing that northern Nebraska was not ready for her mode of avant-gardening, Beanolette agreed to close up her shop and leave town. But do not grieve for this Bengaze, this noble aunt of Beano, for after removing the suet and oatmeal from the carafed concoction, she swiftly reinvented herself as a purveyor of facial camouflage. In the twinkle of an eye--an eye girded by sparkle paint, red dye number 2 and tincture of le fluff--military and football combatants were eagerly buying up all of the product she could produce. But no matter how legend her name became among the camouscenti, Beanolette is today still better known as the architect of the Valentine's Day Mascara.

I wish I could bring this tale full circle to Bunyip's Marshmallow Fluff factory, but that might jeopardize the continuity of the remains of this 454th episode of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar. I will, however, twist it twenty degrees (Centigrade), which should put it on a collision course with Kalvos.