Kage Baker never forgot jokes. She never forgot anything.
She had two main laughs. The first, better known one, was a whispery snorted “heh heh”; everyone who knew her heard her do that. The second, though – that was a huge, lyrical peal of laughter; it started in a giggle that sounded like she’d saved it from age 12 (because she had) and went on to helpless gales. It was a great laugh. You had to surprise her to get it out of her, though.
When she did laugh like that, she usually couldn’t stop. Something struck her as funny, and she’d laugh until she choked; and whatever really cracked her up would do it to her over and over. For years, sometimes. Once, refuting something I had said, Kage finished with a lofty, “So put that in your smipe and poke it!” A common enough malapropism, but forever after all I had to do was mutter “Smiiiiipe,” and she’d lose it.
I mention this because someone did it to me over the weekend, and I’ve been snickering on and off for days now. A good (and tired) friend observed that he had read a line in this blog as “moomies and zombats.” I know not why, but that cracked me up and it just won’t let me go. Every time I think about the moomies – which happens more than you might imagine – I start giggling. I think about Kage talking about them, and I really start to laugh; she’d have loved them. Moomies and zombats … what are they?
(I can see her very clearly, leaning back in her wing-back chair, eyes half closed, making slow orchestral motions with her hands as she talked this. Occasionally she’ll peek from under her lashes, gauging the reception of her tale and beginning to dimple …)
Moomies are a kind of land mollusk. They have internalized their shell, rather like an octopus, but it’s not a beak. It’s a crispy layer around their innards, a burrito full of goo. Surrounding the shell is not tasty cephalopod but yet more goo – a slimy layer that turns their exoskeleton into a kind of endoskeleton: so when you step on them they squish, then crunch, then squish again. Like a multi-stage snail, but worse. The shell is fragile and the internal slime is caustic, so if you pick one up you are risking a goo hand grenade explosion.
They are about a foot long; scavengers and ambush hunters. They smell overpoweringly of stale pineapple. They have bulging pale green eyeballs on stalks, which they can partially withdraw into their shells – only the stalks, though, so the bulging pale green eyeballs stay on the surface, staring at you, daring you to squash them. While you dither, they creep up and dissolve your feet with acid spit-slime and dozens of rubbery teeth, eating you very slowly once your feet fall off …
Zombats, now: they do not fly, nor burrow. Bats fly, and wombats will undermine your house without a moment’s thought (assuming they are capable of any thought) but zombats are climbers only. Tree-dwelling insects, in fact. They hum soothingly and are furry, probably a form of wingless apoid. They form brightly coloured globes about 2 inches in diameter, from a waxy natural substance. They use these as hunting blinds; seen in tree branches, they can easily be mistaken for berries and consumed by the unwary.
Zombats are active predators and specialize in victims with hands and poor impulse control. Most animals are too instinctively clever to eat them, but they prey heavily on primates; they are also one of the main predators of Procyon lotor: the raccoon. While a swift and experienced raccoon or human can get the zombat-fruit in their mouth and crunch it up immediately (this can be a nice source of protein), the hidden predator usually emerges as it enters the mouth – where it immediately burrows through the soft palette and the sinuses and so into the brain. It eats only small portions of the frontal lobes, so the victim may survive indefinitely – they are notable, however, by steadily decreasing intelligence and initiative, and are characterized by a nasal tone of voice caused by having a zombat up their nose.
Many zombat victims get into politics. Or your garbage.
Some natural history: Moomies pollinate molds, and zombats keep down the raccoon population. Moomies are hermaphrodites, while zombats form seasonal pair bonds. Most moomies are an off-white colour, but the Pacific Northwest variant comes in a tabby morph. Zombats are translucent greyish-pink, which assists in camouflage while they are eating your brain.
So there you have it. I snickered through all of this – except the 5 hours I spent waiting for the power to come back on, praying this blog had survived the electricity outage. The DWP is blaming it on the wind and a palm frond- but I am pretty sure it was the zombats. They can look like dates.
The moomies are probably waiting for full dark down under the utility trucks.
This entry is dedicated with gratitude and much giggling to Tom Barclay.