The Tower of Spam Lite and Oranges

Illustration by Mitch Handsone

In late autumn 2009, a small group of surviving Americans — 25 or so — wandered the hills north of Los Angeles in search of food and shelter. Just east of Interstate 5, they discovered a vast, bombed-out basement, and in it an enormous pyramid, 20 feet high, built of Spam Lite and canned Mandarin oranges. There was also a generator, and there was fuel. The group had been wandering together for almost a month, and were grateful for the shelter. Winter would be coming soon; the Earth’s climate had grown more extreme over the last few years, with snow falling regularly in the Los Angeles basin. Everyone agreed it would be best to stay put, at least until spring.

It took eight days of putting together clues — faxes, memos, magazines, drugs — to figure out that the digs they’d stumbled upon were the remains of California Institute of the Arts, and that the pyramid itself was someone’s MFA thesis project.

On the eighth day, Dale and Judy Arthur were searching the adjacent ruins with their infant son, Sid, when they discovered, in one of the smaller classrooms, a single ancient pre-Betamax videocassette atop a very large cardboard box. Both the box and the tape were labeled WOLFGANG STOERCHLE 1971. Inside the box was a 27-inch monitor and an old tape deck, already connected. The Arthurs alerted the congregation, and soon they’d started up the generator, plugged in the equipment and gathered around the monitor to watch.

Everyone gasped as the monitor came to life: A gray, glitchy something filled the screen. Soon the glitches gave way to a clear image: a closeup of artist Wolfgang Stoerchle’s flaccid, uncircumcised penis. No one knew quite how to react. They’d already gasped. It had been such a long time since any of them had seen anything at all on a video monitor, and while most had hoped the tape would contain, say, an old episode of The Partridge Family, it was still sort of comforting, just looking at something on a television screen. So they watched, mesmerized.

An odd lump seemed to be moving under Stoerchle’s foreskin. Sure enough, after a few seconds, a small plastic Disney-character figurine emerged from beneath the folds and fell out of frame, into space. Then another, and another — Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, Donald and others.

The video ended abruptly, and a familiar young white man with a mustache appeared.

“Hello,” said the friendly young man. “My name is Walt Disney. If you’re watching this tape, it means that the project worked.”

Slack-jawed, the congregation stared in silence as Walt explained. Everything. How God’s war on obscenity began in 2004, after humanity’s exposure to android Janet Jackson’s pastie-spangled right artificial nipple. How, in 2008, just days after the Supreme Court appointed John Ashcroft and Dennis Miller as president and vice president of the United States, God commissioned Walt Disney to return to life and create the Tower of Spam Lite and Oranges.

“God told me that there would be survivors. That I must build the Tower for them, for you. That He would guide the survivors to my Tower, and that they would watch This Tape.

“And God told me to tell you to be strong, to build a fresh new world upon the old dirty one. A clean world, free from the scourge of obscenity.

“And God told me that you would be fruitful, and that when your children reach the age of 16 weeks, you must show your appreciation to us by removing the F-fingers from each infant’s hand, so that no one will ever again make an obscene gesture.”

Here Disney showed his hands. The middle finger of each was missing.

 

The Spam Lite and canned oranges seemed to last forever. Every morning, after breakfast, the congregation would sit and discuss This Tape. Why would God resurrect Walt Disney to build the Tower? Why had He made them look at Wolfgang Stoerchle’s penis? What was the significance of the plastic figurines? Was This Tape not itself obscene?

 

In 2025, Sid Arthur, son of Dale and Judy, turned 16 and fell sick. His hands itched terribly, and he went in and out of consciousness as his temperature topped 104. When at last the fever broke, both of his middle fingers had been restored, fully functional and formatted to scale. The elders were shocked. Back in 2009, Sid had been the very first to be de-F-fingered. Did this same fate await the rest of the children? Was this a test from God? Or Walt Disney?

Sid felt fine, and thought the new fingers might be of use. (He’d repaired an old piano found in the music-department rubble and was learning to play.) But everyone else, including his parents, decided it would be best to remove Sid’s middle fingers again, just to be sure. When Sid protested, the elders gave him an ultimatum: Either cut off his middle fingers, or live elsewhere.

So Sid Arthur left his people and wandered the dormant Earth. Despite the war’s ravages, ground squirrels, chameleons and wild fennel still flourished in the mountains of San Gabriel and Santa Monica. For years he wandered to the west and to the south, until at last he reached a mountaintop high above the Malibu sea.

There Sid Arthur rested in the shade of a lush fig tree. When he awoke, he found beside him a small piece of heavy-duty aluminum luggage, marked WOLFGANG STOERCHLE 1973. Inside the case was a pre-Betamax videocassette much like the one his parents had discovered so many years before.

 

Sid walked quickly to the east and to the north. For three days he walked without sleep, until at last he crossed the Great Interstate and arrived at the compound.

The place was deserted, but the pyramid remained. It appeared untouched, the same way it was first discovered. And there was still a generator, fuel, the 27-inch monitor and the tape deck.

Sid Arthur popped the Second Tape in the deck, folded his arms and stood by to watch. Episode 79 of The Partridge Family (“Reuben Kincaid Lives,” featuring Margaret Hamilton as Clara Kincaid and Elaine Giftos as Bonnie Kleinschmitt) ran for 30 minutes, then ended abruptly, and a familiar young white man with a mustache appeared.

“Hello,” said the friendly young man. “My name is Walt Disney. If you’re watching this tape, it means that the project worked.”

Dave Shulman's Sitegeist: 03/12/04 Wholesome Paternal Story 02/27/04 The Legend of Jesus of Crawford 02/18/04 The Abruti Ploy 01/30/04 The Shit Less Taken


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