(Un)happy meals

Nov 24, 1999 at 12:00 am

At this very moment, it's hard to think of something more intimidating than being face to face with a cold, dead, damp animal, except maybe having to stick my hand into its carcass in search of its guts.

"Why does cooking a dead turkey symbolize being thankful?" I ask. "Maybe I should be thankful I'm not a turkey?"

"I'll leave that one alone," says the Lizard of Fun, who's lounging on a kitchen chair, reading the newspapers.

"You know, you really don't have to go to all the trouble," it adds. "I'd be just as happy with a Whopper and fries. Oh, and while you're there, could you grab me a couple of those Pokémon toys?" It gives me a big-eyed, Precious Moments pleading look.

"Would this have something to do with a certain reptile getting kicked out of a certain fast-food restaurant for getting too carried away while trying to build its collectibles inventory?" I ask.

The Lizard shakes its head. "I have no idea what you're talking about. They don't let reptiles into such establishments in the first place."

"Uh-huh? So how do you explain the bruises?"

"Maybe I'm overripe. Anyway, you wanna know how much I made on one Pikachu on eBay?"

I shake my head and cower under a copy of the Moosewood Cookbook. Right now, I'm more worried about what to cook for Thanksgiving. The idea of a turkey completely petrifies me — not that I can find a recipe for it in here, anyway.

I get one of those you-are-so-pathetic looks from the Lizard. "What, are you worried that some turkey's ghost will come back and haunt you? Great — you'll be the first haunting victim that hears 'gobble gobble gobble' instead of rattling chains."

"Hardly," I sigh. "But think of all the things that could go wrong. It could cook too much. Or too little. We could all get food poisoning. It could be a genetically engineered turkey. It could have mad turkey disease."

"Hmmm. You may have a point there," it says, reasonably, and then yells, "Or you may be a paranoid freak!"

I shrug, giving up on the recipe search. "I guess I could always give thanks for wise-ass friends like you."

"You should be thankful that turkey is your biggest worry," says the Lizard. "I've been reading the news, and, man, there's not a lot of fun in the world these days. It's no wonder p7eople are so desperate to get their hands on a few stupid fast-food toys —they're some of the only fun things left."

Thankful for being let off the hook about the turkey, I pick up the paper the Lizard's been reading. On the front page is a photo of Nathaniel Abraham, the 13-year-old kid who was just tried as an adult and convicted of second-degree murder. "This is distinctly not fun," I say.

"No kidding," says the Lizard. "It really bites my butt. There's something very wrong with a society that'd send a little kid to jail. Also one that'd let him get access to a gun in the first place."

"It seems he got sucked into the adult world way too soon."

"You said it. Kids don't get any fun of their own anymore. Tell me, what did you do for fun when you were 13? Nah, never mind," says the Lizard. "All you ever did was read books. What did normal kids do for fun?"

"Ride bikes, read comics, maybe hang out with friends?"

"And did they try to be like adults?"

"Hell, no," I say. "Some of them still don't."

"That's my point," says the Lizard. "Now kids can't help it — the adult world keeps imposing itself on them."

"I know what you mean," I say. "I know a high-school girl who carries a pair of extra-sharp scissors in her coat. With all the girls getting raped in Detroit, she's decided she needs the protection."

The Lizard, angry, is making a list. "OK, let's see. Kids getting raped on the way to school. Kids getting shot at school. Kids going to jail. Kids — "

"Don't forget kids being watched over by Republican dips who want to enforce prayer in schools," I add. "They call it family values."

"Really? I always thought that meant two-fer Happy Meals," says the Lizard, and goes back to its list. "OK, now stack up all this very not-fun stuff, mainly done to kids by adults. And put it up against adults who fight with each other over Elmos and Furbies and Pokémon toys."


"Bingo," says the Lizard. "Somewhere along the way, even adults have forgotten how to have fun. Speaking of which, what are you doing this Friday?"

"Being thankful I didn't have to cook a turkey?" I guess.

"Nuh-uh. McDonald's is starting a new Toy Story giveaway. They've got a bunch of new toys, and all you gotta do is buy a Happy Meal to get one. I need your help!"

"How many new toys?" I ask, warily.

"Only 20," says the Lizard.

"Twenty Happy Meals? Maybe I'll fix that turkey after all."