Once a badger suffered from irritable brain syndrome. For years, life had rubbed it the wrong way for some reason, and not a day passed without the arrival of something, great or small, that threatened to make its head explode. Without painkillers, the badger didn’t know how it would be able to tolerate the constant aggravation life presented. But that wasn’t all. The badger had another problem. Its very livelihood depended upon cataloging its grievances against the world through gruff snarls, snorts, and growls on a syndicated broadcast listened to by a large and faithful audience of those having apparently nothing better to do with their lives than to listen for hours on end to the badger’s non-stop snarls, snorts, and growls. The badger’s predicament was obvious. It needed a constant stream of distress to hold the attention of its far-flung listeners, but not so much as to begin screaming incoherently. Often, however, that line would be crossed when the pain simply grew too severe, and the badger might give vent to a particularly shrill tirade aimed at what it declared to be the chief sources of its torment. Most of these outbursts began with a sound like the letter “L” for reasons not well understood, either by those in the know or those out of it. Only when the string of invective threatened to end in hyperventilation would the badger down a pawful of pills and settle into a more low-keyed, slurred incoherence. Listeners didn’t seem to care about the change, or perhaps didn’t notice it, and continued to follow the badger’s repertoire of gripes regardless of whether it howled or mumbled nonsensically. There was the option of professional treatment for all of this, of course, but the badger derided those with any expertise regarding its condition as “quacks” and clung instead to self-medication, keeping two bottles of “little helpers” near it at all times: one filled with all that sent it into paroxysms of outrage and the other with the antidote of sense-dulling numbness. Like Alice, with her drinks for shrinking (or growing) and cakes for growing (or shrinking), all the badger needed to do was reach for the bottle that would produce the desired effect at any given moment. It just had to keep straight which bottle was which, as hard as that proved.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans