Snarky and the Fandanglers

Snarky was born a little over nine years ago in Tropic, Island. Yes, the city is named Tropic and the island is, well, named Island. Island is a relatively small island (relative to what, nobody really knows) just south of Fiji with anywhere from 400 to 40,000 people. Oddly enough, no one has ever counted. Snarky is the son of Nick Knack and Patty Whack, middle school sweethearts who never married because they liked the ring their names had when said together. Nobody has ever really been sure if Mr. Knack and Ms. Whack named their son Snarky because they were fond of poetry and named him after Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, or if they were wishful comics and named him Snarky in hopes that he would turn out to be a living piece of irony, that his personality would be the complete opposite of the definition of “snarky”. Regardless, Snarky is his name.

Snarky hates the fact that he has to go to school. This is his fifth year going to school, and five days a week still seems absurd to him. He’s been in the fourth grade for roughly a month and he’s more than ready for the summer again; he’s been ready for three weeks now. Unfortunately for him, it’s a Monday and he has to, once again, go to school. He pries himself out of bed and plants his feet among empty juice boxes, candy wrappers, and mountains of clothes that surround his twin-size bed. He looks over at his Curious George alarm clock on the nightstand next to his bed and it reads 8:02. Thirty minutes until class starts. He tiptoes his way to the bathroom, nearly twisting an ankle or two along the way, and stands in front of the floor-length mirror. As he looks at his wiry body that he inherited from his father, fair-skinned but tanned from the summer, he lets out a small giggle. He giggles because he is standing there only in his superman briefs. For some reason, that makes him giggle. He then makes his way over to the sink and examines his face in the mirror that hangs above the sink. He has a clever face like his father and the dark features of his mother. He has the modest nose and almond-shaped eyes of his father, and his mouth rests sweetly below his nose in perfect proportion to his face. But goodness, those ears! Neither his mother nor his father knows where he inherited those ears from. They were quite distracting and borderline offensive. They stuck out of his bowl cut, which nobody can ever tell he has since his head often leaves the house the same way it leaves the bed, if not worse. After examining his face, he checks his breath, decides that it doesn’t smell too bad, and walks out of the bathroom and back into his bedroom to throw on the least smelly clothes he can find. He then sifts through all the flim flams and waxidoosies on the floor to find his back pack. He slings it over his left shoulder and makes his way downstairs to the kitchen.

His father Nick is already at work at the garbanola-packaging factory—the people of Island love their tasty garbanolas—and his mother is in the kitchen preparing Snarky’s lunch. The time ticks away relentlessly as Snarky waits, arms crossed and foot tapping, for his mother to pack his ham sandwich on white with extra alfalfa sprouts, Little Debbie Snack, package of garbanolas, and Capri Sun with the utmost precision in the usual brown paper lunch sack. She removes her favorite black marker from its drawer and begins to write her son’s name on the bag. Before she can finish writing the ‘y’ in her trademark, extra-large block letters, Snarky snatches the paper sack from the counter and disappears into the early morning fog. If he’s late again, it will be his fourth time, and Ms. Harshbottom won’t let him play outside with the other kids during recess. Instead he’ll have to stay inside and wash her nasty fandanglers to occupy the 20 minutes. She dons a size 12 shoe and never wears socks or stockings. Needless to say, he is desperate.

Snarky scurries hurriedly down the jagged sidewalk, bordered on the left side by a chain-link fence and the right side by a road, in order to make it to school on time. As he walks, the fog begins to lift and the familiar scenery reveals itself. The first thing Snarky notices are his favorite yamadore trees with their gnarly branches headed in every which direction, located on the other side of the road in a neat row. He loves those trees, and he would climb them if he was not so pressed for time. Those trees are the primary reason he was late the other three times. Between the cracks in the sidewalk, little purple and white zilcher flowers greet Snarky as he walks over them. He passes by the sun-bathing raccoons in an open field on the left of him and continues to the large patch of shmoozlebushes up ahead. With six and half minutes remaining to get to class, he still has quite a hill to conquer. His thighs and calves are screaming obscenities at him when his destination comes into view. As the sign for Scallywag Elementary pokes up from over the hill, a hairy little quashitok—the cool kids call them quashies—reaches one of its 3 scraggy arms out from a nearby shmoozlebush and bops Snarky on the head. Without hesitation, as if he was expecting it, Snarky pulls out a quiver from his back pack and pokes the hairy little fellow in his sleep button located on his forest of a chest. The quashitok quickly dozes off and Snarky races on to his school. He bursts through the school doors, zips past the kindergarten artwork, passes through the first grade crafts, hurdles the second grade puzzle that nearly covers the floor, and finally past the third grade finger painting when he reaches Ms. Harshbottom’s classroom. With gummy worm legs, fiery lungs, and a sweat-drenched shirt he stumbles into the classroom fourteen seconds before 8:30. Luckily for Ms. Harshbottom, she sets her clock two minutes fast. At the sight of little Snarky, her fandanglers begin to sweat with excitement.

The kids in his class snicker and point; they know of his coming punishment. They know that Snarky will have to wash Ms. Harshbottom’s nasty fandanglers while they get to go out and play. Snarky, after seeing the time, hunches over and walks dejectedly over to his desk and sinks into his seat. From the time he arrives until the lunch bell rings (recess is directly after lunch), Snarky doesn’t listen to a word Ms. Harshbottom says, which isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary. She could be talking about flying maltavors taking over the world, but all he can think about are those fandanglers. Those big, nasty fandanglers. He sits caddy-wompas to a window, so to take his mind off of the inevitable, he stares out and thinks of things that make him happy. He thinks of the simpleness of his childhood. About rope swings and rivers, mud puddles and daffodils, open fields and train tracks, marshknockers and yamadores. To him, a boy is as free as his mind will let him be, and his is about as free as the birds and the bees. Just as soon as Snarky begins to daydream about swinging freely with the friendly little marshknockers from one yamadore tree to the next, the lunch bell rings. At the sound of the bell, his bowels almost lose control, but he contracts in just the right places to not cause a mess. After the initial shock, Snarky lifts himself out of his chair, grabs his brown paper lunch sack with “SNARKV” written on it, and stands in line to go to lunch. He walks zombie-like the entire way to the large, white-walled cafeteria and just sits. Sits and waits. He doesn’t have an appetite and is oblivious to everything around him. He doesn’t even notice Billy and Bobby Ritzenheim snagging his Little Debbie Snack and garbanolas. All he can manage to do is sit and wait. In what seems like an instant, his eyes shift and his heart becomes audible as he begins to see some of the kids stand to line up and leave. He shakes in his skin and his stomach churns like goulash. He waits until every person is up and in line before he makes his way to the end of the line. It’s time.

Snarky creeps into the classroom, reluctantly of course, and Ms. Harshbottom is waiting and ready. Immediately, as he crosses the threshold of the door, the pungent smell of rotted cheese and narshbergers invades his nostrils. It’s as if a dingleshuck is waiting at the door and just punches him right in the schnoz. It’s bad.  Nauseated and probably turning some shade of green, Snarky walks toward the source of his discomfort, with an obviously pained facial expression, trying not to throw up and add to the smell, although that might actually improve the smell of the room. He kneels down to grab the sponge out of the bucket when he sees them—those nasty fandanglers. Boy, are they nasty! They look as if slootherbingers are sticking out of a box of bordenhoppers! On top of the slootherbingers are large puss-filled mongersacks. There are even mongersacks on the mongersacks! The scent waves seeping off of the fandanglers are almost visible, the same way one would view them in an episode of Loony Tunes. In the identical fashion that a timid child has to surprise himself by jumping into a cold aquidaner, Snarky surprises himself and dives right in to the task of washing those nasty fandanglers. He begins to wash, and almost instantaneously, the sweet aroma of milk and humberlops mixes with the stench of rotted cheese and narshbergers to make an extremely familiar smell. He can’t quite pinpoint it, but he knows that he knows he knows it. Well, he knows that his nose knows it anyway. It’s actually quite a pleasant smell. Is it honderberries? No. Is it bildagesh? No. Is it placken seeds? No. What could it be? He doesn’t dwell on it too long. After questioning it for about a minute and a half, he moves on to thinking about the marshknockers and yamadores again. He sure loves those marshknockers and yamadores. He finishes up with the fandanglers and Ms. Harshbottom sticks them back into her smelly shoes. Useless.

The other children begin to file into the classroom and start to comment on the smell. They all agree that is smells like… garbanolas. After taking another whiff, Snarky realizes they’re right! Garbanolas! The aroma of milk and humberlops mixed with the stench of rotted cheese and narshbergers makes the sweet and pleasing smell of garbanolas! He can’t wait to get home and tell his parents. He sits anxiously and giddy as a schoolboy—er, he is a school boy. It’s just an expression—ready to bust through the school doors to get home and tell his parents Nick Knack and Patty Whack. Boy will they be surprised! In no time at all, the final bell rings, and before it finishes, Snarky’s out the door. He speeds down the hill and past the shmoozlebushes and quashies, flashes right by the still-sun-bathing raccoons, leaps and bounds over the zilcher flowers, stops to have a quick climb and swing session on the yamadores, then sprints the final stretch of jagged sidewalk to his house. To his surprise, his father is already home, and for the first time, something catches his eye. It’s the name of his father’s company on the right chest pocket of his red collared shirt. Snarky reads it and re-reads it over and over again to make sure his eyes are not deceiving him. Harshbottom Inc.

He wonders how he had never seen that before. Still, he’s excited and anxious to share his new findings with his parents. He jumps and wiggles, shakes and kiggles, as if he’s created a new, trendy dance, in anticipation of the end of his parents’ conversation. His mother finally asks him if he needs to use the restroom, and instead of answering, he blurts out (louder than even he expected) his new and exciting discovery. She pretends to be excited (and he knows it), and his father says that he already knew. After all, he does work in a garbanola-packaging factory. His father tells Snarky to read the ingredients on the label of a package of garbanolas. Snarky agrees and skedaddles on over to the pantry and opens the door. He reaches around the can of yarties to grab a package of garbanolas. He turns it over and reads the ingredients. It begins, “Garbanolas, milk, humberlops, fandangler juice,…” The pit of Snarky’s stomach tightens much like it had when the lunch bell rang. It’s as if he just learned a secret that he wished he had never known. In fact, that’s exactly what happened. His beloved garbanolas have fandangler juice in it. Of all things! And since the name of the packaging company is Harshbottom Incorporated, he imagines that the fandangler juice comes from her nasty fandanglers! Of course, they don’t, in fact, come from Ms. Harshbottom’s fandanglers; that would be disgusting. Rather, the fandangler juice comes from the frozen mongersacks of Ms. Harshbottom’s older generation, so Snarky has no need to worry. Still, Snarky is shocked and appalled in light of this new information. His head begins to spin uncontrollably, so he makes his way past his parents, not knowing whether or not they are saying anything to him, up the stairs and into his bedroom. He kicks up some flim flams and waxidoosies, steps on a few juice boxes and candy wrappers, and finally crash lands in his twin-size bed. His eyes grow heavier and heavier as he thinks about what just happened. His delectable garbanolas. Ruined forever all because of those fandanglers. Those big, nasty fandanglers.