The Acquistion of Herbert

Kari and Herbert.

The threat posed to the human race by ferocious wild animals has been well documented by numerous writers over the years, including myself. The reader is, in all likelihood, aware of the dangers presented by foxes, spiders, and cows. Some may even be specially wary of dogs named Fred. It is advisable to be. However, an entire secret population of small, yet vicious, furry mammals inhabits the outlying areas of society and seldom ventures into our workplaces, thus the average worker may be totally ignorant of the existence of such creatures.

A false sense of security was what I was wrapped in one Saturday morning while logging some extra time at Spectrum Distributing. We were not in the logging business, but that of cassette duplication.

Long ago, cassettes were miniature reel to reel analog tapes enclosed within a protective plastic membrane, once utilized extensively by consumers of audio. The tape inside was about 1/8" wide and contained within that ridiculously small space four tracks (left and right side one, left and right side two). It was one of the modern wonders of science that the things ever worked at all. And it was even more amazing (although I would not refer to it as wonderful) that a cassette duplication facility such as Spectrum Distributing could turn a profit. We lost, on a good day, probably 35% of our raw material due to the antics of a particular machine which ran on a bizarre combination of electrical and compressed air vacuum cleaner technology. This machine, known as the King 790 shell loader, routinely mangled roughly half of our most common type of tape. We had enormous trash cans.

But it isn't a dangerous machine that I've come all this way to talk about. The reader knows that some form of sinister wild animal is going to shortly make an appearance and render the effects of the King 790 to a mere background phenomenon.

Our resident mastering engineer was a guy by the name of Todd. This was not my brother Todd, known to some readers, but another one altogether. Todd was working on this particular Saturday morning also, and the two of us had the place to ourselves. Or so we imagined.

Directly behind the main shop area where the King 790 went about its business of reducing entire 10" reels of tape to rubble, sat a large warehouse stacked full of cardboard boxes atop those wooden pallets one sees in association with forklifts. A pair of swinging doors connected the shop with the warehouse, and it was from behind these two doors that a sound first emerged and arrested the attention of both Todd and myself. It was a scratching sound, indicating that an unwelcome intruder was positioned just beyond the swinging doors and trying to claw through them in an effort to breakfast on any warm-blooded items on the other side. The sound had that certain quality that suggested that its origin could only be that of the most savage type of feral beast.

Todd and I exchanged glances and cautiously edged closer to the doors. Exchanging glances once more, Todd commandeered a nearby broom, and I appropriated a similarly suitable weapon. We advanced upon the doors with mounting tension and palpitating hearts. Exchanging one final glance, we braced ourselves for battle.

It should be noted that Spectrum Distributing was a family owned business. There was the patriarch, the matriarch, the sub-patriarch, and the granddaughter of the patriarch and matriarch (and presumably the daughter of the sub-patriarch, but my intimate knowledge of the Spectrum family tree is limited). Actually Bodin was the family name, and Kari Bodin was the young female in question, weighing in at about six years of age. Perhaps eleven or something like that. I am not an expert in these matters. Kari did, however, haunt the place on a regular basis, so you can imagine the additional horror felt within the respective minds and hearts of both Todd and myself upon reflection of the potential consequences of having a man-eating species in the same place of business as young Kari Bodin. If both Todd and myself were to be dispatched by this creature, what barrier of protection would lay between it and Kari? (Dismissing, of course, the patriarch, the matriarch, and the sub-patriarch, who would probably be busy in the office.)

Therefore, it was with the utmost solemnity that Todd shoved open the doors and we braced ourselves for the attack. It was as I had feared. A badger! Probably a badger by the look of those teeth. Something like a badger anyway. It was a fearsome little monster, and it was hissing and snarling and chomping its nasty teeth at us with what could only be described as menace and possibly rabies.

Todd poked at it with the broom. I stood back a safe distance as a second line of defense in the event Todd was devoured. The creature fought off the broom with dogged determination, occasionally attempting a charge on Todd. But Todd was better equipped for long range warfare, and he held it off until finally it turned and sped off into the deep recesses of the warehouse where it was lost within the pallets.

We retreated ourselves and discussed our next move. Tear gas was an option, but we did not have any. Grenades were also considered but dismissed. In the end, we decided there was nothing to do but leave the premises and hope and pray that its next victim would not be the young, defenseless Kari.

It was several days before I was scheduled to return to work. Not knowing what had transpired in my absence, I approached the building with trepidation. I walked in, fearing the worst and preparing for the next adventure. I noticed the patriarch at his desk as usual. The matriarch and sub-patriarch were similarly occupied as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. Perhaps the beast had escaped the building over the weekend, I thought to myself.

I passed through the office and into the shop. A blond head about four feet off the floor caught my attention. It was Kari Bodin - alive! And she was carrying...wait...she was carrying the vicious beast in her arms! Holding it like a baby! What madness was this?! She proceeded to walk past me and push the creature towards me as if I would care to pet it. The creature snarled at me a bit, and then she passed on to the next room.

The reader is, no doubt, by this time as thoroughly confounded as I was at that moment. There is only so much foolish behavior one can get away with without reaping the penalty. Perhaps the creature had just recently eaten a whole pig and was so sated that he was momentarily indulgent of this playful treatment. Probably, it would turn on her in another few minutes or so and bite her hand off. I was worried.

Nothing noteworthy happened, however. A few days later I was back at the place again (it was a part-time job during my senior year in college). A strange sight immediately attracted my attention. Something that appeared to be a playpen made out of pallets and cardboard boxes was sitting in the corner. Drawing closer, I began to notice a familiar odor. Sure enough, the monster was in the pen. Captured at last. No telling what had happened to poor Kari.

She bounced along shortly, reached into the pen and scooped up the eager animal into her arms once again.

"I named him Herbert," Kari announced and went on her way. Herbert was looking a bit uncomfortable in the role of baby doll but did not seem too menacing at the moment.

One day a few months later I was talking to my friend Steve Jett, and I mentioned Herbert. Steve asked me when Herbert had first appeared. When I told him, he said that he had lost his pet ferret Wolfgang just a day or two before that. I described Herbert's various features, his ferocious mannerisms and toxic odor, and Steve concluded that yes, Herbert was indeed his lost pet ferret Wolfgang.

By this time I had determined that Herbert was probably not the man-eating type that we had originally supposed him to be. I actually took a mild liking to him, truth be told, despite the obnoxious aroma that had, by this point, permeated the entire building.

Herbert was still living at Spectrum Distributing when I graduated a few months later and moved away. Steve Jett presumably gave up on him and got a new pet. I expect Kari is still alive today and probably has her eye on the spot recently vacated by the late Steve Irwin.