Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom. Episode 21 – The Fungal Bungle

Welcome to episode 21 of Messin’ with Mark!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, let me tell you how it started . . .

When I was very young, Jesus was walking around in His heavenly area up there when he saw his Dad looking down through the clouds, laughing His head off. Curious, he walked over and asked, “What’s up, Pop?”

“Oh, just pranking that Mark kid again,” He replied.

Again?” Jesus asked, “Why are You always picking on him?”

I don’t know. There’s just something about him,” God said. “I mean, look at his face right now.”

Jesus looked down and started to chuckle, then stopped Himself. “Okay, I admit it’s kind of funny, but this is wrong. I mean, You created him. With all due respect, what kind of an example are you setting for the angels? We’re supposed to love and protect humanity, not single one out from all the rest for humiliation.”

God thought for a moment, then looked at Jesus and said, “You’re right. I should stop.” They looked at each other seriously, then said, “Naaaaaaaahhh” and laughed some more.

Jesus suggested that he make a regular show of his pranks on me. They named it Messin’ with Mark. 

Remember Rodney Dangerfield’s bit about getting “no respect” from humans? It’s kind of like that, but on a cosmic level.

So, to today’s episode – Fungal Bungle!

I was in Brugge, Belgium, in the first month of what would turn out to be a six-month backpacking trip through Europe and the Greek Islands. I got so carried away sightseeing with new friends that I forgot to call my parents. I was staying at a youth hostel but their phone was out of order. This was back in the day before cell phones. (Yeah, I’m getting up there. Don’t give me a hard time about it.) I was feeling very guilty because I had promised my mother I would call her at a certain time every week to let her know I was still alive. An employee of the hostel said, “I have to go home and get something. You’re welcome to use my phone.” I thought this was very generous of him and I gladly accepted, telling him I would reverse the charges.

We had a pleasant conversation on the way there. He pointed me toward the phone and sat in the living room. As I chatted with my parents, I was somewhat repulsed by the sight of my generous host picking bits of flesh from between his toes due to an advanced case of athlete’s foot or some other fungal infection. I retched slightly, turned away so I wouldn’t have to witness this unsavory spectacle any longer, and was able to put the horror of it out of my mind and finish the phone call.

We got back on the road and I was enjoying the scenery so much I forgot about the fungus among-us. He stopped at a market. I went in with him and bought a bag of peanuts and a Coke. We got back into the car and were about halfway back to the hostel when I realized I hadn’t offered him any of my peanuts. How rude of me! He gladly accepted and took a few handfuls as we talked about life in Belgium, my travel plans, my life back in California, etc., when two things suddenly dawned on me –

  1. He didn’t wash his hands after picking at his foot scabs and fresh pustules.
  2. He was using the same hand to eat MY peanuts!

The problem was I had already ingested several handfuls of peanuts before I made this realization. 

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Uh-huh. I had swallowed and was now digesting the foot fungus of a complete stranger. I mean, if you’re going to snack on foot bacteria, you at least would prefer that it belong to a close friend or family member. 

I managed to keep it together and stay very stoic so he wouldn’t catch on that I was worried about his disease-riddled hand, but inside I felt like the sleeping guy in those prank videos that is woken up by all his friends pretending they’re about to crash. 

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As is usually the case, I didn’t realize I was smack-dab-o-rooney in the middle of another episode of Messin’ with Mark until this moment. I looked up and thought to God, “You’re at it again, aren’t ya?” I could almost hear the laughter from above the clouds. 

I remembered hearing that the acid in Coca-Cola could dissolve rust so I guzzled, gargled and rinsed with it, hoping it would do a similar number on the fungus I had just snacked upon. Then I stuck my head out of the window and spit out the peanut fragments that were in my mouth from the last handful. The ones that were in my stomach – well, I figured I would just have to wait to find out if I would be seeing them again. I was repulsed but not quite badly enough to vomit outright. 

When I had shaken off the nausea, I handed him the bag and said he could finish them. He eagerly polished them off, his foot flakes and oils blending with the peanut salt. I sat silently, struggling to keep my stomach right-side-up as the car filled with an aroma that now smelled like a foot covered with peanut sauce. 

I spent the rest of the trip with my head partially out the window like a labrador to escape the retched odor, thinking what I always do at the end of another episode of Messin’ with Mark . . .

“Well played, God. Well played.” 

god-laughing

 

 

 

Messin’ with Mark – God’s Sitcom. Episode 12 – Harassed in Hawaii, Part 1 – Frog Juice

computer-God

Welcome to episode 12 of Messin’ with Mark, God’s sitcom!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this series, let me tell you how it started . . .

When I was very young, Jesus was walking around in His heavenly area up there when he saw his Dad looking down through the clouds, laughing His head off. Curious, he walked over and asked, “What’s up, Pop?”

“Oh, just pranking that Mark kid again,” He replied.

Again?” Jesus asked, “Why are You always picking on him?”

I don’t know. There’s just something about him,” God said. “I mean, look at his face right now.”

Jesus looked down and started to chuckle, then stopped Himself. “Okay, I admit it’s kind of funny, but this is wrong. I mean, You created him. With all due respect, what kind of an example are you setting for the angels? We’re supposed to love and protect humanity, not single one out from all the rest for humiliation.”

God thought for a moment, then looked at Jesus and said, “You’re right. I should stop.” They looked at each other seriously, then said, “Naaaaaaaahhh” and laughed some more.

Jesus suggested that he make a regular show of his pranks on me. They named it Messin’ with Mark. 

Remember Rodney Dangerfield’s bit about getting “no respect” from humans? It’s kind of like that, but on a cosmic level.

So, to today’s episode –

(Warning: Not for the squeamish, or anyone who’s fond of frogs.)

A familiar sight to anyone visiting the Hawaiian islands, one that doesn’t make it onto postcards, are the squashed frogs that litter the highways. This seems to be the perfect habitat for them. The only thing messing it up are tourists in rented and always red Jeep Wranglers obliviously splattering them as they gaze upon the beautiful scenery. Some are freshly squashed and some are dried-out, pickle-colored roof shingles. It’s quite sad considering frogs already got jipped in the looks department, and are forced to live out their lives in cold water, sustained only by a steady diet of bugs. 

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I went to Hawaii (the island of Kauai, to be specific) for the first time with my parents when I was freshly eighteen. My brother didn’t want to go so I brought a friend. We pleaded with my father to let us rent our own Jeep but he wisely said no. They wanted to rest on our first night there but we were busting to see the island so we set out on foot. A light, warm rain was falling as we walked up the main road to see what we could find. We had seen a McDonald’s on the way to the hotel so that was our first destination to get fueled-up for whatever came next. 

We came to a long, street level bridge that passed over a stream carrying water from the shield mountains into the ocean. We had seen a few frogs along the way but for some reason, this bridge was teeming with them. They were actually overlapping, hopping over each other to get to wherever it is frogs go. There was no other way around because of fences on either side of the river, so we stood there studying the bridge for several minutes, trying to figure out where we were going to step to get through the sea of writhing, jumping green.

Here’s a visual to give you the idea –

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We actually considered turning back, but with McDonald’s french fries and adventure calling, decided to press on. Slowly, we stepped around or shuffled through the frogs to avoid hurting them. Kind of like the game Frogger in reverse.

We were about halfway across the bridge when it happened. God yelled “Cue the trucks!” from his control booth. A caravan of Hawaiian construction workers in ten-wheel work trucks came speeding along, clearly not as concerned about the well-being of our amphibious friends as we were. Not concerned at all, actually. Mind you, there were no signs like this to warn speeding drivers.

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I suppose they had no choice – whether they drove quickly or slowly, or asked nicely, the frogs wouldn’t have cleared the bridge. So they just blasted right through them. The first thing we heard was rapid-fire popping noises like distant cannon fire. We looked back and realized the noise was exploding frogs. A green and red wave shot from the outer edges of their tires. And the wave was coming our way.

A word of explanation . . . when frogs are run over by a two to four-thousand pound vehicle, they don’t just flatten out neatly because, as their plump bodies indicate, they are very juicy. Unfortunately for my friend and I, who had nowhere to run, they explode, sending frog juice and frog innards in every direction. We made this discovery the hard way as we started feeling eyeballs and internal organs hitting us on the left sides of our legs like gooey shrapnel. All we could do was squat down at the side of the bridge, turn our backs, cover our faces, and wait for the splattering onslaught to end. 

Some frogs are small and cute, like this –

awkward frog

These frogs were neither small nor cute. They were this kind – 

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The kind with plenty of innards to rudely splash on tourists.

After the trucks passed, the passengers laughed, which clued us in that they were immensely enjoying splattering us with frog parts. You see, tourists are a blessing and a curse to Hawaiians or anyone else who lives in a “paradise.” They long to return to the time when the land was all theirs, and though they love our money, they secretly hate us. Some of them anyway. These truck drivers were obviously the tourist-hating kind, and didn’t try to hide it. We got peppered with frog eyes, frog feet, frog guts, frog lips, you name it. It was like we rolled around in relish.

It finally ended and their unguarded laughter trailed off in the distance. We stood up and looked at the swath of pressed frogs, some still blinking and twitching, in their wake. Then we looked at our backs. We had both been given frog jackets. It was in our hair in the back, too. Being surf bums, we both had long hair then, long hair now full of tongues and eyeballs.

There was no point in even taking turns picking the stuff off for each other like lower primates because there was just too much. We had frog suits. We were now indistinguishable from the frogs and they accepted us as one of their own, kind of like when people cover themselves in blood and dead meat so zombie’s won’t notice them. 

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We continued our walk across the bridge, praying there would be no more caravans, and finally made it to the other side. The sun came out and began to bake the minced frog parts until it became a kind of turtle shell on our backs. We grimly walked into McDonald’s, Swamp Thing and Swamp Thing 2, trying to keep only the front halves of ourselves visible to the patrons so as not to put anyone off their food. Unfortunately for them, we had to show the entire room our backs to get to the bathroom because walking backward would have been too conspicuous. Most of them saw our frog layer and retched audibly as we passed. (“Cancel the relish, please!”) We went into the bathroom and threw away our shirts. Since it was Hawaii, nobody cared that we were half-naked in a restaurant. (The only break that day.)

As we sat down on the few remaining frog eyeballs stuck to our butts to eat our McDonald’s fries, I was somewhat indignant that no Hawaiian postcard I had ever seen featured a single frog. 

 

 

See? Nothing but hula girls, surfing and colorful flowers. I was also chagrined by the fact that being adorned by frog parts would hamper my ability to win the heart of said hula girl should I happen upon one.

I’ll tell you, nothing says “you’re not in Kansas anymore” quite like getting buried alive in frog innards. What puts this in the purview of God’s sitcom with me as the unwitting star (and my friend the co-star, and without even an audition) is the fact that there were no cars on the road except when we crossed that bridge, the point of no return where there was no escaping the frog explosions.

So, once again, well played, God. Well played. And as usual, not a single residual, unless you count the frog odor that wouldn’t wash off. Have you ever sniffed a dead frog? I don’t recommend it.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Hawaiian Adventure wherein I am almost devoured alive by giant crabs for God’s and heaven’s amusement.