It happens every fall. It’s as perennial as the changing of the leaves, the aroma of woodsmoke on the air, and the roar of the football-watching crowds (only one of which actually occurs in this part of Midgard in September. The colored leaves will hold off until the middle of December, and the woodsmoke won’t arrive until January–unless someone barbecues for Thanksgiving…)
It did happen this year, and I did meddle, but I was so busy being naughty in other directions that I forgot to write about it. Of what do I speak? Why of the Dead Cat Ballet, of course! The arrival of the year’s worth of preserved animals, “fresh” from the Purveyor of Dead Things, carefully coordinated with the PODT, the carrier, Central Receiving, Prep Staff, and Slow, Silent, and Costly. Given all the things that have to go right, at just the right times, it’s amazing that it ever works.
The human female put her order in in May, the same as she usually does. This year, the request included a truly staggering number of frogs and sea cucumbers (the latter of which, although they ARE pickled, are not at all nice on sandwiches. Don’t ask.) She was informed that the lampreys would be on backorder, and that the sharks might be delayed. This was expected, as lampreys have the gall not to fling themselves into nets until late in the year.
Fast forward to August, when the human female began to arrange the shipping and delivery. Central Receiving, true to form, indulged in that Midgardian children’s game known as “phone tag,” but eventually a date and time was settled upon. The human female, having been instructed that all requests to Slow, Silent, and Costly go only through the Department’s Facilities Manager (no more ad hoc work requests to deal with my plumbing projects, if you please), obliged and requested that the post in the double doors be removed. When she asked the FM for the work order number, in case something went wrong at the last minute (like last year, when the removed post was put back before the delivery even happened), she was told, “It’s under control.” “But what is the number?” “It’s being handled.” In other words, mortal, sit down, shut up, and listen to your betters.
The delivery arrived as scheduled, multiple pallets of it, right on time. One of Prep Staff having had quite enough of the Human Female and moving on to bigger and better things, the team was a person short, so the affianced of one of the minions was dragooned into helping.
I let it all proceed as desired (which should have been their second clue), with swift transfer of all the various boxes from the pallets to the shelves. Sea cucumbers here, frogs over there, fish on the shelf by the door. But what about the boxes with no labels? Oh, just put those in the hallway and we’ll sort them out later.
When all the labeled parcels had been stowed away, the scope of my mischief was apparent.
None of those boxes had external markings that would hint at their contents. What was supposed to be a forty-minute session of sweating and grunting turned into a long, protracted, painful parody of Yule, with everyone sitting upon the ground and opening the boxes to discern their contents. None proved to be completely full. “I’ve got three rats.” “Four more squid in this one.” “Mine is just twelve copies of the insert for the preserving fluid.” And so on, for another delightful hour.
At the end, the human female and her minions were short on two items and over on one. (Midgardians, apparently count like this: One, two, many, ….thousands.) A look through the labeled boxes revealed that one, at least, was mismarked and contained something different entirely, altering the count further.
So of course the human female called the PODT, who agreed to send the missing defunct vertebrates. When she told them how the shipment had been so inefficiently packed as to result in about a pallet’s-worth of unlabeled, un-full boxes and asked if couldn’t they please a) pack full boxes next time, and b) label them. “Well, on your next order you should specify that you want the boxes labeled. I don’t know–there might be an extra charge for that.”
Ehehehehe! Don’t you know that about half your vendors and ALL of the freight lines work for me now? Now that I know it really bugs you, you can look forward to even more mystery boxes next fall.
One final note. This might be the end of an era. Since the real, live Dead Cats are being ordered separately these days, since they take so long to arrive, for the first time in memory, there were no actual defunct kitties in this year’s order. The human female reckons that the whole rigmarole ought to be renamed. She’s proposed the “Dead Frog Fandango.” Hmm. It’s not untrue, but it just doesn’t have the same “zip.”
What do you think?