“What is a thousand times ten?” asked the teacher.
“I know! I know!” said Wrigley, the annoying kid with old parents.
His old parents were die hard Cubs’ fans and didn’t realize that by naming their only son “Wrigley” that they were also giving him license to be a squirmy little dude who would listen to classical music and watch the History Channel. He’d blast Verdi and sit inches away from the television set, with his head jumping back and forth between the dramatized images and the black-framed subtitles at the bottom of the screen. He was a smart-assed little child, always cracking-wise, but his jokes were so personal that nobody got them.
When Wrigley was seven years old he was walking to school and he encountered a dog with black spots. The dog seemed to have wandered away from its home. It was a large and mangy looking creature, but it was wearing a collar and Wrigley was seven and stupid and adventurous.
“Here, puppy,” he said. He moved his entire arm in the ‘gitover ere’ gesture (usually executed with only one finger).
The dog sauntered over with a bound in his step.
“Hello, Wrigley,” the dog responded.
“What’s your name?” Wrigley asked.
“Puppy. You already knew it!”
Puppy had something in its mouth.
“Whatcha got there, Puppy?”
“Nothing, it’s… nothing, just forget it.”
This was obviously the wrong answer to give a curious, stupid, seven year-old boy whose name and wriggly nature always left him squirming for answers.
“Come on, Puppy, I’ll not tell a soul.”
“Do you swear it?”
“Wrigley, do you swear on your weak and foolish heart that you will not tell a living creature what I have in my mouth, and if you do, may you have the eyes plucked from your skull and stomped upon while the nerves are still hanging from the sockets so you see and feel the boots smashing the jellied orbs?”
The dog coughed and hacked and soon a dash of pink was visible dangling from his black lips. Wrigley moved in close and could smell the rancid breath escaping from Puppy’s clenched jaws. The heat from the air shooting out of the dog’s mouth caused Wrigley to sweat profusely, and his slippery hands reached out to retrieve what the war-torn hound had hocked up.
Setting his glistening palm beneath the cur’s slobbery jaws, the pink protrusion fell undramatically into Wrigley’s possession. It was soft, but had hard parts and was pink mostly but was red and white, too. It wasn’t until Wrigley saw the chewed fingernail that he realized what he was holding, and it wasn’t until Puppy made a playful snap at his hand that he realized how the finger got into Puppy’s guilty mouth.
“Give it back now, Wrigley,” The dog said without a hint of malice.
“Why do you have this?” Wrigley said, “You shouldn’t—“
“He was already dead when I got there. I just didn’t want his perfectly pristine digits to go to waste under the ground.”
“If he was already dead, why didn’t you tell anyone about it? And why did you make me promise not to tell anyone?”
“He was dead when I got there.” Puppy coughed up another finger. And another. And another. Eventually there were a pile of fingers sitting on the pavement forming a weak barrier between Wrigley, the seven-year old idiot, and Puppy, the talking, man-chewing dog.
“Stop saying that!” Wrigley shouted and he quickly counted the pink digits on the ground. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten… and one in his hand. Eleven! Oh god! Eleven!
“He was dead when I got there, but he wasn’t alone.”
“Puppy no!” Wrigley backed up off the pavement and onto the neatly trimmed grass that lined his pathway to school.
“His killer was there, too. He was a bad man. He needed to be punished for his crimes.” Puppy stalked innocently toward Wrigley, tracing the path with his steps forward that the boy made as he backed away. The dog continued coughing up fingers like Hansel and Gretel, leaving a trail behind him.
“Did you kill that one, Puppy?” Wrigley asked as his back hit the fence and left him with no where else to go.
Puppy did not answer but with one powered hack vomited up a red and veiny blob with ragged edges. A human heart.
“He was a killer. He had to be punished. Are you a killer, Wrigley?”
“Be honest, Wrigley, have you ever taken another man’s life without him asking?”
“No! I swear it no!”
The sky seemed to lighten and the sun shone through the puffy clouds.
“Do you want to be friends?”
Wrigley was wary, but upon a brief reflection, agreed. One man was already dead and had no use for the missing fingers, and the other was a bloodthirsty murderer who did not deserve them. Wrigley and Puppy became fast buddies and played together every day for six months until Puppy was arrested for drug possession and armed robbery.
One day, years later, Wrigley’s father was cutting turkey on Thanksgiving Day and the knife slipped, slicing his finger a little bit so that he swore loudly and oldly.
Wrigley said, “Uh oh! Puppy Puppy!” and burst out in a fit of laughter that confused his old parents, and angered his father, who assumed he was laughing at his expense. “No History Channel for a week!” he shouted. Wrigley could not hear the shouts over the sounds of his own maniacal laughter.
So there is a typical example where Wrigley’s public jokes required his private knowledge and thus were lost on the world. Even with full contextual understanding they bordered on the surreal at best, but for an outsider (which is defined as anyone who is not Wrigley) they are completely impenetrable.
“Yes, Wrigley?” The teacher said, calling on the oily fourth grader.
“It’s a thousand times ten.”
“…And what do you get when you times it out, Wrigley?” the teacher patiently asked.
“Frames and Door all around! For everyone!!!!” Wrigley giggled furiously and fell to the ground, rolling in the finger-paintings of Frankensteins that were left to dry.
Tears fell from his smiling eyes. Covered in wet paper, he eventually composed himself and stood to see all of his classmate’s mouths agape in sincere looks of utter confusion.
Andy Junk is a great man without a biography.