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​I Am Zelda

What do asteroid defense, the Hollywood apocalypse, and Seth Rogen's dog have in common? This.

What do asteroid defense, inquillines, and Seth Rogen's dog have in common? This. -the Ed


I am Seth Rogen's Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and I'm obsessed with the words "inquiline" and "harlequin." Seth Rogen and I have had a 15-year close relationship. I showed up one day and Seth Rogen won me over.

I haven't always had my obsession with the two words. It began when Seth Rogen—"Dad"—started bringing me every morning to a hip coffee place that plays hip music at a deafening volume at 6:00 a.m. when it opens and already there are lots of other Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in line with their dads.

The change in my routine was annoying, not least because I'd just learned how to break down and reassemble a cam shaft; in fact, I'd received delivery of the one-push air initials adjuster valve on the afternoon before Dad totally disrupted my routine.

Also, I'd just scored some platinum-level data about "inquiline." I'd tapped into a network of inquilines who are exploiting their status as inquilines to mount an effective defense of the planet Earth in the event that a Potentially Hazardous Object/Asteroid (PHO/A) breaks loose and passes through a gravitational keyhole and everyone sits up because now the PHO/A isn't merely keeping us guessing.

I obsess about the two words and I obsess about the consequences of the failure of the network. What if the inquilines should fail, a PHO/A breaks loose, bull's eye, airburst, crater. What We Want to Avoid—the title on a scary picture Dad once showed me. I ponder the strangeness of the tragedy of our lives ending together, at the same apocalyptic instant, Dad's and mine. Sometimes I ponder the imponderable cosmic strangeness of our lives not ending together. The tragic strangeness of the fact that we are best friends, yet our lifespans don't align: the sadness and strangeness of one best friend's lifespan not measuring up to the other best friend's lifespan, not even close.

The inquilines could be living…anywhere. Possibly there are inquilines living inside the food truck parked outside the coffee place, inquilines defending the planet Earth from inside the food truck. The food truck that just showed up out of nowhere one day and which now blasts totally non-hip music in enigmatic defiance of the music from the coffee place. Possibly just one inquiline lives inside the food truck, a tone-deaf inquiline.

*

I'm waiting in line with Seth, Dad, we're chatting about avoiding the keyhole. Also, I'm hiding in my mouth a nugget of sashimi that I found under a leaf along the curb. I'm kind of nodding innocently while Dad tells a joke about a shunt radiator and a kinetic interceptor.

Then: in struts a harlequin, statuesque, lean, muscular, towering on stilts, or maybe leather boots with 20" heels.

Harlequins mostly reside in warehouses. They must, because of their size. The average gargantuan harlequin is continually tormented by an unspeakable sense of loss. Peacefully they slumber in their warehouses, tormented and huge and humble and reconciled to their torment.

Dad takes one look and cracks a joke about being in over his head, then he does his signature laugh, and he hoists me up into his arms so I can get a better view…and as the harlequin struts past I get a perfect view of its slobbering mouth and huge ugly slobbery gums and I observe, and this is sick, a HUGE chunk of sashimi hidden behind its teeth. Only the moment I recognize that it's sashimi I recognize that it's not actually sashimi but, and this is really sick, a live opossum, resembling sashimi but definitely a bright-eyed and alert opossum, dug in and comfortably reclining between the harlequin's gums and rows of teeth.

*

But the moment I think I recognize it's an opossum, I realize I'm mistaken. And also I immediately understand how I could've made the mistake. It's not an opossum at all, it's Henry.

The Henry. Everyone knows Henry. Henry taught Dad everything he knows about The Internationale, the unofficial anthem of the socialist movement throughout the world. Henry knows everything. Inside Henry is a precise and exhaustive mental map of the shelves of The Record Collector, the vast holdings of The Record Collector. Everyone knows The Record Collector.

No one knows Henry. Where does Henry go each evening when The Record Collector shuts its doors? Another enigma I often ponder, a truly baffling enigma, maybe the most baffling of all enigmas known to man, because Henry is The Record Collector. Or is it Sandy who is The Record Collector?

Dad and I walk past Henry at least once a week, and after we're safely out of earshot, Dad will say something like, "Dude, did you notice anything off about Henry today?" And I'll say something like, "He didn't look as alert and bright-eyed as usual?" Or, "Whoa, I'm not sure I've ever seen Henry looking quite that alert and bright-eyed."

But it's definitely Henry, tucked in there between the gums and teeth of the harlequin, comfortable and settled in, as at home as at his customary post on the kitchen-island stool in the doorway of the storefront.

And at the very same instant that I recognize it's Henry, Dad recognizes that it's Henry. Dad nearly drops me and he blurts out, "Henry!" Henry smiles at Dad from within the gaping mouth of the harlequin, and says to Dad, "You should stop by soon, did you know we have over 500,000 record albums?" Which is more than a little strange because we stroll past Henry at least once a week and of course we know that there are a lot of record albums.

But then again, now it's starting to make sense. Because suppose you asked Henry to calculate the approach asymptote of a certain PHO/A in the b plane, he would rattle it right off. Or better yet, suppose Henry was in the middle of explaining the details of a cam shaft workaround and you interrupted him and asked him to do the calculation, he'd rattle it right off and flow back into the workaround without missing a beat.

You could ask Henry the exact location, on the shelves, of Ashford & Simpson's Gimme Something Real, Warner Bros., 1973, and he would walk you back to the exact location on the shelves while simultaneously calculating the required impactor mass for a given intercept trajectory to deflect a PHO/A given the radial vector of the PHO/A and the time between perturbation of the PHO/A and its predicted Earth collision.

Henry is the harlequin's inquiline. Of course! Now we know where Henry spends his hours when he's not at his customary post. Two words I've been obsessed with have just docked.

Dad says, "What are you doing in there, Henry, coordinating a defense of the planet Earth?" and he gives his signature laugh, Dad does. Needless to say, in the 15 years I've lived with Dad, we've grown close, and have few secrets from each other.

Anyway, after this brief exchange, the harlequin takes its place in line, which to do it executes a maneuver on a massive scale, revolves all the way around, a wide 360-degree turn. The harlequin is so huge that everyone at work on their screenplays must pull their tables toward their bellies—a dreadful screech. The harlequin's gargantuan slobbery open mouth ends up adjacent to my front paws. Now I have a clear view of the other side of the mouth and the space between the opposite gums and rows of teeth.

*

If this were a different kind of story, the screenwriters would see both sides of the mouth, too. They'd see that on one side the mouth Henry is reclining and smiling, between the gums and teeth, bright and alert. And on the other side of the mouth is Sandy, reclining, between the opposite gums and teeth, Sandy with his big bushy beard: Sandy, whom everyone knows. And now the mystery is fully solved: this is where Henry and Sandy go when they close up the store each afternoon and crouch down on their hands and knees to fit their keys into the two locks, the locks at ankle height.

But this is not that kind of story. It's a story about the defense of the planet Earth.