The nation is in a struggle to choose its next animal.
Many couples can relate. Let’s say you’re moving and debating which furry quadruped will bedevil your family for the next decade.
“I’d like a dog,” you say. “They’re not perfect, but they’re fiercely protective and they force you to get off your ass, if only to clean up excrement.”
“I want a cat,” your wife says. “They don’t go bat-crap berserk on visitors.”
“I hate cats,” you say. “Don’t you know they secretly despise you? A dog will keep us safer.”
“I want a sub-Saharan Gaboon viper,” says Uncle Joe.
I forgot about Uncle Joe. He’s moving with you. In fact, he’s pitching in on the down payment on the new house, so you can’t swing this deal without him.
“What is that?” you ask.
“Biggest, most venomous viper in the world. Hugest fangs, amazing venom, just incredibly lethal. Some people call it a forest puff adder or swampjack, but I think Gaboon viper has the coolest ring.”
“It sounds dangerous,” says your wife.
“It doesn’t fool around,” says Uncle Joe.
“Um…no. The kids need a dog. It’s important. But if you’ve just got to have a no-good, horrible cat, maybe we can figure out—”
“Gaboon viper!” shouts Uncle Joe. “Or forget about the house.”
“What?” you say. “We’ve got kids! Are you joking right now?”
“Five letters. V-I-P-E-R. As in Gaboon.”
“Have you ever had one of those things?” you ask.
“Nope. Just dogs and cats. They all screwed me. Well, I had one dog I loved. And my dad had a cat he liked. But I am completely sick of dogs and cats. It’s time for a Gaboon.”
PLEASE CHOOSE YOUR NEXT LEADER.
“I could consider a small dog if I had to,” says your wife.
“You liked a dog before. There’s not one you’d accept? A Beagle? Chihuahua? Mutt terrier?
“I want my Gaboon.”
You get angry.
“You know what? If we had gotten our act together we wouldn’t even need your help! I really resent what you’re doing right now.”
“Coulda woulda shoulda. Gaboon.”
“We are not getting a Gaboon,” says your wife. “And that is final.”
“Final my ass. Let me tell you people something. You two lightweights never listened to me, but now you’ll listen. We will not be getting another brainless butt licker or evil scheming puss-puss if I have any say. And for once, I have a lot of say. You know what that means?”
“A coyote…” you plead.
“Gaboon Gaboon Gaboon! Most successful ambush viper in world! It will be absolutely amazing.”
“Uncle Joe,” your wife says. “Did you ever think that it might kill you?”
“Unlikely. While they are among the fastest-striking serpents and those two-inch stupendously venomous fangs scare the pee out of everything, they usually only kill when provoked. Hell, they’re even friendly when they need to be. If they get their steady diet of hares and doves.”
“I can’t believe we’re even talking about this,” you say.
“You better sort this out,” your wife says to you. “We agreed to put our final choices in a hat and have little Ellie choose one, but I never imagined that your bitter, angry uncle would—”
“Another thing about the phenomenally great Gaboon viper,” says Uncle Joe. “He’ll remember who loves him. And he will see that my concerns are taken very, very seriously. That means things will change. It’ll be fun to watch you losers cowering in a corner wondering when he’ll sink his teeth into you.”
“Dear…lord,” your wife says.
“That’s the Gaboon way,” says Uncle Joe.
“I…this isn’t over,” you say.
The next day, you hand him your cell phone.
“It’s your old friend, Mitt.”
He rolls his eyes and lays down his newspaper.
“Yes, Mitt,” he says. Squawking ensues. You hear “kids” and “disaster” and “unsmart.” Uncle Joe repeats “uh-huh” several times and then abruptly says, “Okay you take real good care, bye now.” He hands your phone back.
“So?” you ask.
He snaps the newspaper stiff and resumes reading.
“Read my lips: Gaboon.”
It’s time for groveling.
“Uncle Joe, please. I don’t understand why this isn’t clear to you. It could kill…everyone. Even if it never got loose, if we somehow kept it locked in its cage 24/7, we could never relax for one minute. And God forbid if a stranger came in, it would freaking–”
“That’s just what the doctor ordered,” says Uncle Joe, still reading. “Getting a little tired of strangers. Seems like everything’s a little too strange. Don’t you think?”
“Definitely,” you say.
The down payment is due. Joe wants your pledge that Gaboon will be in the hat, and if little Ellie makes the wrong choice—and he’s watching for hijinks—it’s Gaboon time. You’re praying for long shots. Maybe the authorities will step in say “sorry, no Gaboons allowed.” Maybe you’ll kick the Gaboon out after a month, but that’ll be ugly, too. Uncle Joe holds a note on your house and he will not go gently into the Gaboonless night.
Or, God, maybe the epically deadly Gaboon will somehow make your home the coolest, safest…
Whoa, you’ve got more than a drop of Uncle Joe’s blood, don’t you?
Gaboon’s in the hat. Start thinking cages.