I was somewhere inside Owl Farm, on the edge of Woody Creek, Colorado, when my editor telephoned.
“Hunter, my lad!” the limey bastard laughed. “Say, have you received the package I sent? I’m certain you have. How about giving me an update that article of yours? A mere 1,100 words—that should pose no problem, surely.”
“You goddamn crook,” I yelled. “You have no right to call and demand productive output from a doctor of journalism. What time is it? Aren’t you poor fools in an alternate time zone at Rolling Stone? What’s the background of this situation?”
My editor began jabbering 100 miles an hour and I crossed the dank living room to inspect a pile of suspicious packages that had accumulated on a small end table over the past month. There was a fat packet of Columbian cocaine, a box of acid tablets, a salad spinner filled with unprocessed marijuana, and a barrel of muddy Kentucky moonshine from my attorney.
“Package, you say?” I shouted into the telephone. I was sweating. The high-altitude conditions of Colorado are hard on a person with bad blood like mine. The atmospheric hazards impede the circulation, making simple tasks seem terrible and savage.
I dug through the packages and came up with a slippery plastic bag filled with fabulously colorful rectangles. The return address indeed read “Rolling Stone magazine.” Holy Jesus! Had I gone so far around the bend on this depraved thirty-day drug binge that I’d missed the arrival of such a majestic collection of…but what were these strange and fantastic objects?
“Hold on,” I said. “Article, you say? Let’s communicate clearly. Is there no common language between the two of us? Has your rotten Oxford education so corrupted your central nervous system that we can’t carry on a reasonable conversation as fellow human beings? Are we doomed to sink to the level of helpless lizards? What’s the story here?”
“My dear boy,” my editor said. “Simply put, you’re the only writer Rolling Stone can find who is willing, and I dare say, eager, to consume any and all foreign substances put before him. Have you forgotten our telephone conversation from a month ago? You accepted a very lucrative assignment to ingest and report on the effects of an unusual candy from exotic Japan.”
“Japan you say?” I demanded. “Well, someone’s got to do it, I imagine. I’ll need some ether. And a large car of terrific speed—something capable of running down that crazed swine Nixon.”
“No time for that, old chap,” my editor replied. “You’ve missed three deadlines already. You’ll have to eat the Oriental delicacy right now and dictate your article to me over the phone. I’ve got a quality pen and a thick pad of paper right here. Have at it!”
I began to sweat harder. I was a professional writer. A member of the American press corp. What recourse did I have? Could I throw myself through my living room window and make a terror-maddened dash through the snow to the sanctuary of the mountain wilderness? Surely no rational person would blame me for such a desperate move. I was a hunted man, after all.
“Are you eating the candy? Quickly now, I have a Sardinian layout man breathing down my neck. We go to press at 5 o’clock sharp.”
“Just a moment,” I said. “There appears to be a strange creature on the wrapper of this Japanese product. It’s staring at me. I believe it’s trying to tell me something.
I studied the peculiar beast. Its great white eyes gazed into my depraved and squalid soul, tearing away layers of accumulated rot to expose the untainted center. I felt pure and weightless, so I began to laugh crazily.
“That’s Kumamon. He’s the mascot for some kind of commuter train concern that launched a few years ago in Kumamoto Prefecture on the fair isle of Kyushu. Charming, isn’t he?”
Indeed he was. Kumamon charmed me like a Hindu snake charmer blasting some kind of weird music that jangles the nerves and agitates the pineal gland—something by one of the new bands Rolling Stone was always after me to follow around on a tour bus, taking drugs all the while and filing feeble profiles from the road. A miserable business fit for weak-minded charlatans and members of the Republican party.
“He’s eating my brain,” I groaned.
“Well then, why not eat his?” my editor shouted. “Bite the candy bullet, as it were.”
The British bastard made a fair point. I tore the flimsy wrapper, exposing two dull brown bars of chocolate. They were a few inches long and appeared harmless. Floating just beyond reach, above my stained living room rug, Kumamon twisted and writhed in agony. Clearly I was a deranged killer in his opinion. His fierce maw contorted like an outlandish nightmare at the tail end of a mescaline trip.
“I’ll put an end to this, you miserable grizzly scum!” I shouted. I bit the Japanese substance in half. I was instantly overcome with The Fear. Inside the chocolate bar was a squalid green wafer that resembled the Mexican arsenic my attorney and I had sampled during a mad weekend in Acapulco.
“Rotten to the core,” I muttered. “Just like that cheap crook the American people elected to the highest goddamn office in the land.”
“Good, keep going,” my editor urged. I could hear his pen scratching feverishly on the other end of the telephone. Poor fool. He was a mindless drone toiling in the horrid hive of the popular musical press. There was nothing to do but shove the entire chocolate bar in my mouth and hope for clarity.
My mind became twisted and frenzied. The flavor of milk chocolate flowed through me, but beneath it was something bitter and sinister, a suspicious suggestion of legal pharmaceuticals chewed in a desperate attempt to keep the madness of the wild Kumamon at bay.
“That’s the matcha,” my editor said. “It’s a powdered form of green tea. Very popular in Japan.”
“What kind of poisonous narcotic have you sent me?” I yelled. “You fiend! I should drive down to Rolling Stone headquarters and tear your brutal heart from your monarchist chest! What monster adulterates the simple goodness of chocolate with a dangerously addictive upper like green tea? It’s an affront to the American Dream.”
“Tut-tut,” my editor said. “Well, now! That’s all we need. Your byline will appear in print on Thursday. So long and sayonara!”
He hung up, leaving me to ponder the horror and the emptiness alone. Had I really just consumed a Kit Kat bar spiked with green tea? Had the terrible Kumamon cavorted in a frenzy before my eyes? Was it all a mere hallucination sparked by the lung-killing altitude of alpine Colorado?
I took peyote and went outside into my backyard to roll around the snow and fire my gun at lurking bears.