Big Bird and Snuffy 
AD Jameson
 

Against the signs that skim the swift

and fractured idiom, the immaculate sigh of stars,

we see night sifting in….

In Bangkok, Big Bird, entering barbershops, more than once walked in on the tail end of a conversation he surmised was on all lips. The recent conjunction of mystical stars had cooled and softened the ice in various neighborhoods, and all feared that the retired barber Snuffy, who’d been trapped in an icy well many years ago by the twin brothers Kenai and Koda, might try to make good an escape. Barbers claimed “fear of hair” as their number one concern, but their number two concern was that Snuffy might come out of retirement. Big Bird sent his regards and fled to look for his powerful friend, but not before handing some token of his affection to Nok Yai (Korawik Wattanakul), his beautiful Bangkok companion. But because this sequence was filmed in black and white, to this day I’m uncertain what Big Bird gave her.

With Big Bird gone, the shy Nok Yai, crushed by the loneliness that everyone must bear, sought purpose in each day until she met Scruffy (Ruttana Pornnimit), the cute guy next door who was an artist. He had no time to get a haircut. He could barely pause to address his growling stomach. He was trying to find his mother’s twin, a beautiful woman who’d disappeared in the coup many years ago. Whenever he rested, her spirit appeared and reached out with icy hands, causing Scruffy to awaken, disconsolate and weeping, certain that his mother was still alive. Nok Yai steamed him a catfish, dry-cleaned his ragtag navy blue blazer, and, while he cuddled beside her under her blanket, sang him an ancient, soothing, auspicious lullaby. But because this scene was presented without English subs, I don’t know the words to the song that Nok Yai sang.

At work, Nok Yai spoke often of Scruffy and promised to bring him by for a trim, setting up appointments the young man repeatedly missed. The other barbershop employees, fearful of ghosts and driven to the brink by Nok Yai’s nonsense, urged the girl to say good-bye for good, before she fell under some creepy spirit’s control. Even Bangkok’s lead newspaper led with the headline “Scruffy’s Got to Go.” So Nok Yai and Scruffy exchanged their good-byes the next night in Nok Yai’s apartment. Scruffy’s tears fell on Nok Yai while they hugged, and Nok Yai concluded that if she could feel wet from his tears, then Scruffy must have been real. Scruffy departed for neighborhoods unknown, but not before handing some token of his affection to Nok Yai. That affectionate token was black and very small, but because this scene was edited by the censor, I don’t know to this day what small thing it was.

At dawn, Big Bird returned with the loveable twin bear brothers, Kenai and Koda. They were cool and curious beings, and when they awoke they got wild on instinct, but they had a problem: their growling stomachs, which left them weak and unable to find boneless catfish, the only food they could eat. Big Bird, using something hidden deep in his blazer pocket, could control both bears, commanding the stronger Kenai to give little Koda a piggyback ride. Koda could in turn travel off-screen, someplace that Kenai couldn’t go. In this way, Big Bird commanded the bears to search all day throughout Bangkok, hunting boneless catfish. Every time Big Bird led Kenai and Koda to a catfish, they gave him an ancient black token. But when Big Bird let Kenai keep the tastier catfish, Koda, sullen, threw his black token down a well.

At last Koda fled the scene to seek the mysterious Chojin Masterforce, hereafter simply Masterforce. This lord, born boneless, lived life confined to a wheelchair and hidden off-screen. Obsessed with counting, Masterforce counted all items, regardless of their size, amount, or how much annoyance this caused. She created a team comprised of three superheroes: Koda, Kenai, and—surprisingly—Scuffy, who had been their criminal foe. Masterforce named the team “Fight! Super Robot Life,” but later changed the name to “Pooh Friendship in My Mind,” which she considered more auspicious. Despite their shy natures, the members of Pooh Friendship came to count on one another. They started a hero family. Masterforce came to count them after dinner, sneaking into their hands token gifts of small black beans or seeds. But because these gift-giving scenes occurred off-camera, I can’t be certain what small gifts Masterforce gave them.

For their first mission, Pooh Friendship in My Mind traveled north to Lake Lhan Dtrii, supposed home of a large vegetarian catfish. These highly-regarded mutant beasts had no bones and were expensive. How many of these catfish lived in Bangkok was a mystery both then and in the future. Bangkok’s lead newspaper led with the headline “Lake Has Got Zero,” and many agreed that the vegetarian catfish wasn’t real, that its kind had died out many years ago. But the members of Pooh Friendship more than once walked in on the tail end of a conversation that they surmised was on all lips: that one fish had gotten frozen, and in that way had survived until modern times. Despite its shy nature, it swam all day through Lake Lhan Dtrii’s different neighborhoods, searching for another of its kind. But because this scene was described and not depicted, I can’t be say for sure if this fish ever found another playmate.

The members of Pooh Friendship bummed around Lake Lhan Dtrii for a month, searching for clues. Whenever they tried to retire, Lord Masterforce, nutty, rolled in from off-screen, growling about how they’d softened, and how she was counting on them to locate her criminal foe, that creepy catfish. She threatened to strip away their matching blue blazers and throw them in prison. At last the teammates, driven to the brink by Masterforce’s nonsense, staged a coup and took control of the team. They abandoned their mission and chose a new name they considered more auspicious. But because this scene was omitted from the film, I don’t know what new auspicious name they chose.

The next day, three planets—Jupiter, Saturn, and the Sun—aligned in the zodiac of Capricorn, causing a strange phenomenon over the skies of Castle Masterforce. A mystical star, too large to disintegrate completely, entered the castle’s atmosphere and crashed into its middle. This killed Masterforce, but not before she gave birth to a baby girl, a soft and curious baby she gave the auspicious name “Nok Yai.” Nok Yai was cool and cute, and when she slept she got wild on instinct, but she had a problem: her ghostly twin. All night long, this vengeful baby growled from under their blanket, leaving Nok Yai weak and unable to sleep. The twin reached for her sister all day with icy hands, wanting to give her a curious kind of hug, the only sign of affection this shy-natured spirit could offer. Fearful, Nok Yai fled the scene, driven by a friend to the edge of Bangkok. But because this scene’s reel was matted incorrectly, I couldn’t make out what small neighborhood Nok Yai ended up in.

Meanwhile, a man entered a room, lay down on the floor, and apparently died. That man was Big Bird, who’d never succeeded at anything. He was just about to close his barbershop gates for good and retire when he found on his doorstep two orphan bears, cuddled up in a ragtag navy blue blanket, disconsolate and weeping. Their beautiful mother, the last of her kind, had disappeared in the coup many years ago. They listed “fear of ghosts” as their number one concern, but their number two concern was that Big Bird not retire. They said, “We love Big Bird because he does what we cannot do—to cut the soft hair on our backs that we cannot reach.” Big Bird taught them to count and gave them artistic matching haircuts, and stroked their shaggy brown fur till they fell asleep. The next dawn, he died when a mystical star crashed into his barbershop.

Big Bird’s teammates were crushed by this loss. His friend Stuffy felt most affected, and for a time he sought refuge in neighborhoods unknown. After a few months he returned, sullen and vengeful, blaming those bothersome bears for his best friend’s death. Challenged to combat, the brother bears got wild and battled on instinct, but they ran into a problem: their shaggy brown fur, which tripped them and caused them to fall into Lake Lhan Dtrii. Koda fell farther than Kenai, into the smaller portion of the lake. Kenai, stronger, could rescue himself, but he couldn’t rescue both himself and Koda. Weakly he pulled out a handful of beans or seeds from his blazer’s pocket, offering them to Stuffy. But Stuffy, growling, rejected the gesture, throwing the small thing across the room before departing for Bangkok.

He became the sole barber in Bangkok. A coup d’état restored Lord Masterforce, who formed a barber team comprised of Stuffy, Nok Yai, and—surprisingly—a baby, who was too young to cut hair, but who would grow up to cut hair with a vengeance. Lord Masterforce invited this hero family to live at her ancient castle, hidden deep inside a forest where uneasy things enjoyed themselves. Strange nighttime weather freaked Stuffy out, and he searched the castle for food or for something to do. More than once he walked in on Lord Masterforce, who was busy counting something. But whenever Stuffy tried to see what the Lord was doing, Masterforce turned tail and, being smaller than Stuffy, wheeled into tinier rooms that Stuffy couldn’t enter.

Meanwhile, Nok Yai, the team’s token beautiful member, claimed that she’d known Stuffy for many years, and that she still felt wet from his affection. One dawn, Stuffy awoke to find Nok Yai cuddled beside him, under his blanket. Despite his shy nature, Nok Yai married Stuffy. The next night, Stuffy handed his new wife a heady black concoction. Its nutty soft flavor and cooling ice brought a curious spirit to Nok Yai, who sighed. Nine months later, she bore an immaculate baby girl. But because the earlier scene was poorly lit, I don’t know what concoction Stuffy gave her.

Just because in our modern times the gates to the spirit world are usually shut doesn’t mean that they can’t suddenly open, or that hands can’t reach out for your throat, or that spirits can’t haunt a catfish, or visit a barbershop hidden inside a castle. A mysterious star crashed into the middle of the forest and raised the bones of the dead from their lonely graves. It raised Big Bird, who came to visit Snuffy, disconsolate and weeping. He shuffled forward to give his friend a hug, sinking his icy hands into Snuffy’s soft brown fur. Big Bird’s tears fell onto Snuffy, causing him to conclude that if he could feel wet from his best friend’s tears, then Big Bird was still alive.

In Bangkok, entering theaters, I more than once walked in on the tail end of this movie, which I surmised was playing on every screen. But though I searched the bootleg DVD stalls for many years, hunting throughout ever smaller and creepier neighborhoods, venturing into even the most mysterious sections of the city; though I canceled my appointments and ignored my growling stomach; though I overcame my shy nature and mastered Thai; though I followed my instincts and dressed well and slowly attracted a team of dedicated companions; though I pressed into waiting hands the required small gifts, and read in the stars each night auspicious signs, my planets never aligned, and at last I retired, sighing and unfulfilled, without my own DVD copy, and to this day I cannot tell you what movie it was.

***

A D Jameson is a writer, video artist, teacher, and performer. His fiction has appeared in the Denver Quarterly, Fiction International, Brooklyn Rail, the Mississippi Review Online, Caketrain, PANK, elimae, Lamination Colony, and elsewhere. His novel Giant Slugs is forthcoming from Lawrence and Gibson later this year, and his prose collection Amazing Adult Fantasy is forthcoming from Mutable Sound, also later this year. He regularly contributes to the group literary blog Big Other.