Once a pelican was arrested for shoplifting. Suspicions had been aroused when the pelican showed up on one security camera after another around the mall, its bag-like bill betraying larger and more angular bulges with each filming. When asked by officers to open up and then to explain the avalanche of goods that spilled forth, the befuddled-looking pelican confessed to being as amazed as anyone else by its conspicuous kleptomania. It had no recollection of having taken any of the items now being tagged for evidence. In fact, it couldn’t imagine why on earth it would have felt the need for any of them. They certainly couldn’t be considered necessities and appeared to have wound up in the pelican’s bill only because they happened to catch its eye in passing. But why? That was the question the pelican could not answer. Nor could psychopathologists appointed to determine whether it was competent to stand trial. As far as could be determined, the pelican was perfectly normal. It acknowledged stealing was socially unacceptable behavior. It also clearly understood the meaning of the question when asked whether it thought happiness in life depended on material possessions. “What do you take me for, a fool?” was its ruffled answer. Then why shoplift? The facts of the case made no sense, and yet there they were. Investigation showed a pattern of similar activity stretching back years. The pelican’s entire life was revealed to have been what one could only describe as a single-minded pursuit of startling excess, an excess that knew no bounds. Based on the findings, the pelican became the first diagnosed case of Hysterical Acquisition Disorder: a condition characterized by symptoms of delirious self-gratification and the overwhelming desire to possess everything, absolutely everything, including what the sufferer hadn’t the slightest need of. This diagnosis ultimately provided the bulk of the pelican’s defense. When the case came to trial, its lawyer called to the stand a dizzying array of business executives, sociologists, and government officials in addition to the expected mental health experts. These witnesses all testified to the fact that the behavior of the pelican and others suffering the same panic possession attacks was an essential element sustaining advanced capitalism, the credit industry, current concepts of both personal and social worth, and international trade agreements in an age of globalization. The fact that an otherwise average-looking pelican with a bill distended and weighed down by the senseless scooping up of things it couldn’t afford and certainly didn’t need was vital to healthy markets, the credit industry, individual and group self-esteem, and international trade proved to be the deciding factor in the pelican’s ultimate acquittal on all counts. In light of such testimony, the jury had decided, the defendant couldn’t be held responsible in any way for its kleptomaniacal behavior.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans