I was Clifford the Big Red Dog . . . I ain’t lyin’ . . . I was Clifford the Big Red Dog. This happened in a tiny town called Smackover. Things were rough. I was working at the Crockpot factory, and of course the corporate screw-heads moved that to Mexico. I was jobless. I did a few of the “work a day” scams . . . them things run by fiends who drive fancy bycars . . . them little shops where you can get an advance on your paycheck . . . but you can also show up early . . . real early . . . with all the other “down and outers,” and they’ll send you and all those other poor bastards out on jobs. They pay you that evening. Hard work . . . little pay! I bet half of it goes to the screw-head driving that fancy car. The one that owns the shop. And he didn’t do nothing! Except maybe bang a broad or two while you were sweating your nads off there in the warehouse. This ain’t no work for candy-asses! The hardest work always gets the lowest wages.
Once they even drove us all the way to Kansas (two states away) to lay pipe in this farmer’s field. It was so fucking cold. But that’s another story . . . a different reaming in the ass I got. I need to get back to Clifford. The point I want to make is that I didn’t want to do that shit anymore. No more being raped like that! It was killing my soul! So what did I do? I became Clifford the Big Red Dog.
I looked in the paper and the goddamned Smackover Library was hiring someone to shelve books. It was only a twelve hour a week gig . . . and it paid abysmally. Yet it somehow seemed prestigious . . . to work in a library . . . a far cry from all those fucking factories. To go from a factory grunt to a library employee seemed a step up, even though it was a step down in pay. I kicked back a half pint of vodka (and 3 rolls of mints) and I went in and interviewed for the job.
She was a nice lady that interviewed me. Oh, I got kittenish all right. I played on her soft side. She was older so I toyed with her mother instinct. Still, I never ever expected to get that job. But I got it! It wasn’t enough to pay the bills . . . but . . . well . . . with that and mooching off my mama, I could make it until a forty hour gig opened up somewhere.
One thing I should mention here . . . I hate children! I hate children with every cell in my body. I hate children with a passion that would shock you! Cretins! Hydro-encephalic idiots! Little butt-faced pygmies! I don’t eat animals because animals are highly superior to us. But I’d spit a kid and roast the little peckerwood and eat ‘im without remorse!
But a job came up there at the library . . . a way to make a little extra dough . . . and even though it involved having a little summer time fun with the kiddies, I took it. Let’s set up the situation here. There were two libraries in Smackover. One downtown for the regular folk, and the one out where the air force base had been before it pulled up shop and scrammed.
The air force left the local economy to take a walloping . . . but they also left the tract housing where the air force families had lived. Since they were built to become future slums, that’s what they became. Now I’m exaggeration here a little dear reader . . . it weren’t exactly slums. But it was where the white trash lived. It was filled with real low-lives . . . and their hideous off-spring . . . real urchins! Rat bitten and scabied! The city built them a community center . . . trying to be helpful . . . and they built a library attached to it.
What the city folk didn’t take into consideration was that the destitute, white trash breed like the roaches that infest their hovels. If they work, the still can’t afford day-care . . . and if they don’t work, they drink or watch trash TV all day while they stuff their gobs with the lousiest swibbadoodle . . . wretched, grease soaked, mass-produced swill. Either way, they sent their kids to the community center . . . with its attached library where I worked. Oh the sniveling little shits!
The library was so small it was just me and the librarian . . . she sat and gossiped all day with the local trulls, while I put the books away, cleaned lice off the headphones, and got tormented by them evil children. As the local boozer took his problems and gossip to the bartender, the broads took their problems and gossip to my librarian. The place was a regular hot bed of gossip . . . or just as often a sob station. Some of the women wanted absolution . . . some wanted advice . . . most just wanted to talk dirty on their neighbors. My librarian was all ears! So was I! But she had a good heart, all in all . . . she’d listen to them dredge up the most awful calumnies . . . or heard out a long complaint ending in a sigh . . . usually about a no-good, jerk husband. I was never short for the juice
. . . I had the stuff . . . I was a quiet little shelver . . . listening to that stuff made the day go fast.
But I was talking about the children . . . there were always children . . . the shit-asses. We were their daycare . . . not supposed to be! But from near and far they came. Parents didn’t want them around . . . so they got dumped off on us. Actually the community center got most of them. Of course! These little glue-sniffing, dipsomaniacs read? Don’t hand me a laugh.
My problem was that children liked me! I swear! They were sweet on me as if I was candy! The real hoodlum kids never came in the library . . . they stayed in the community center and mauled each other. They were a rotten pack of bullies and braggarts. Damn! I apologize reader! I still ain’t got to Clifford! I get all carried away lambasting kids I wander off in my noodle. I’ll get to Clifford real soon! I promise you patient reader!
Just one more tangent and that will be it! I just got to tell you about this gaggle of girls! Those little vixens tormented me! They called me Elvis . . . because I looked like Elvis at the time. You know . . . you shelve books low . . . you shelve books high. The gaggle of girls followed me as I shelved. I’m a professional goddamned it! I treated them with the utmost respect. It was my job.
I wore a lot of grease in my hair . . . like Elvis did. One time I was shelving a book low and one of them little kittens patted me on my hair which I spiked straight up with a ton of grease . . . kind of punk like. So that little cutie decided she’d see what that hair felt like. I felt her pat my head and then looked up at her. She took one look at her hand, after the pat, and what she saw terrified her! Her hand was coated in grease! Enough grease to run an engine for a week! She screamed . . . she stood there looking at her hand and screamed. She screamed bloody murder. You’d of thought I’d poked her eyes out. That’s the sort of thing I had to deal with.
Then the Clifford idea came! Oh yeah! Always someone thinking up ways to create a disaster. The community center and the library got together . . . because some son-of-a-bitch paper pusher saw where you could rent this Clifford the Big Red Dog suit. His idea! We’d bring Clifford the Big Red Dog to the library and drive all the kids batty with joy! It’s be better than Christmas! The kids’d pee their pant they’d be so excited! And all for free! The parents didn’t have to pay a cent! Clifford the Big Red Dog! The icon of the library world! And the library was presenting Clifford in person! The real thing! The community center would stuff the brats with hotdogs! All they could eat! They’d be shitting hotdogs for months!
And yup . . . I was given the glorious job of being Clifford the Big Red Dog. Mostly because the suit was big and the librarian (my boss) was tiny. And you could bet your grandma them candy-asses in administration weren’t gonna come down and do it! The lousy rat bastards! But if I was gonna be Clifford . . . and greet kids . . . and have to hug them and let them hug me . . . and have my picture taken with them . . . well . . . then I was gonna be drunk . . . a very drunk Clifford.
All right . . . I like Clifford . . . I think he’s a fine dog. I came a little early and commandeered the men’s bathroom . . . the men’s staff bathroom. I wouldn’t of gone in the one the cretins used if they offered me to be the king of China. I told the bosses I had to take it slow. I was buying time to drink. I locked myself in that bathroom and downed a quick pint of vodka. I put on the suit. It was a big goddamned suit! They weren’t kidding! The head was wobbling about. The eyeholes were in the mouth. That was fine with me because it meant my mouth would be down south in Clifford’s chin and I’d not be breathing booze on the precious children. It didn’t mean that I had an aversion to breathing booze on children, but I figured plenty of their fathers smelt like that at home, and I didn’t want them to rat me out to the boss or the folk at the community center: “Clifford smells like my dad when he belts down the beer and then belts mommy.”
I was all suited up . . . pretty tiddly . . . and I came on out. My librarian boss had to take me by the hand and lead me about. Not because I was too drunk . . . no . . . it was because it was harder than hell to see. Things went just fine there in the library. That’s where the folks had brought their little kids . . . the ones that weren’t so dangerous. Goddamned those kids loved Clifford! I couldn’t really see them . . . but I could feel them. They’d grab one leg . . . then they’d grab the other. Some would hold my hand . . . some would grab on to me in a death grip and their parents had to pull them off! I could hear the kid: “No! No! No!” And I’d feel the tug of a brat being hauled away as I heard, “We got to share Clifford with the other children Suzy!”
They kinda corralled me into the children’s corner of the library, where the summer reading posters were, while they took pictures with me and the children. I couldn’t see much of anything. I stood there tipsy as hell and played my part. I didn’t have to talk. In fact they told me not to. When the kids fired questions at me, my librarian would tell them that Clifford didn’t talk human . . . but that he adored children. She fed them that schlock . . . if she only knew. God, if she only knew how much vodka was in Clifford’s belly . . . and how thirsty he was for more!
Everything seemed to be going just fine. But then the folk in the community center wanted me to come out and make an appearance there. It was literally attached to the library. My librarian just had to lead me through the double doors and I was there.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! In my numb condition I wasn’t thinking about too much. I’d let my guard down. I’d forgotten about them hoodlum kids . . . that spawn of hydrocephalic-brained monsters! Children who’d been nursed on meth amphetamine laced mother’s milk . . . and who’d been given valium to get them to shut the fuck up! A more prime crop of children looking to murdilate Clifford you couldn’t find. Annihilating Clifford was a passion with these kids. They had all their pals to show off too . . . who could be the most brutal kid in the batch!
Me not being able to see anything . . . and my little librarian leading me . . . well . . . we didn’t stand a chance. Oh! But it wasn’t her they were after! Hell no! It was me! They took me from all sides! Thousands of them! They toppled me in no time! I was as helpless as a beached whale! It was a massacre. It took the whole staff from the community center, plus a dozen or so parents with the little ones from the library, to get that horde off me.
They finally got the cretins chased off . . . as I laid there they pulled off my Clifford head. “You’re drunk,” screamed my boss librarian. Why wouldn’t I be? Why shouldn’t I be?
They took back their Clifford suit. I hear it travels the country . . . where libraries rent it and dress some poor son of a bitch like me in it. Wherever it is, and whoever it is that’s wearing it . . . I hope he’s drunk . . . for his sake.
“Fishspit” is the pen name of an underground writer who publishes the zine Wiseblood. To receive a free copy of the zine, write to:
Wiseblood, 1304 175th Pl NE, Bellevue WA 98008.
Fishspit’s previous story for us can be reached here.
The Clifford photo c/o Kathy Ellen Davis.