Brief and Frightening Reign Phil begins...
one thing to be a small country, but the country of Inner Horner was
so small that only one Inner Hornerite at a time could fit inside, and
the other six Inner Hornerites had to wait their turn to live in their
own country while standing very timidly in the surrounding country of
Whenever the Outer Hornerites looked at the hangdog Inner Hornerites
crammed into the Short-Term Residency Zone, they felt a little sick,
and also very patriotic. They were glad they weren’t Inner Hornerites.
Inner Hornerites were pathetic and whiny and grasping, unlike them,
the Outer Hornerites, who for many years had been demonstrating their
tremendous generosity by allowing the Inner Hornerites to overflow into
the Short-Term Residency Zone. Not that the Inner Hornerites appreciated
it. No, they never wept with gratitude anymore, only stood glaring resentfully
at the Outer Hornerites, who, having so much room, had no need to stand
very close together, and in fact could often be seen drinking coffee
at the spacious Outer Horner Cafe with their legs thrown out in the
aisles, causing the Inner Hornerites to wonder: Jeez, couldn’t
those jerks spare us a couple hundred extra square yards of that vast
For their part, the Outer Hornerites felt that, yes, okay, their country
was pretty big, but it wasn’t infinitely big, which meant they
might someday conceivably run out of room. Besides, what if they gave
more of their beloved country to Inner Horner and some other crummy
little countries came around demanding bits of Outer Horner? What would
happen to the Outer Horner way of life, which was so comfortable and
afforded them such super dignity and required so much space? Well, those
Inner Hornerites could take a flying leap if they considered the Outer
Hornerites selfish, it was pretty nervy to call someone selfish while
standing on land they were letting you use for free.
So it went, year after year, with much mutual glowering and many murmured
rude comments and the occasional angry word hissed across the border.
one day Inner Horner got smaller. It happened without warning, there
was a loud scraping rock-on-rock sound and suddenly three-quarters of
Elmer, the Inner Hornerite then in residence, was not in Inner Horner
at all. That is, every part of Elmer but the octagonal shovel-like receptacle
with which he scooped dirt when nervous was suddenly now located in
Just then, Leon, the Outer Horner Border Guard, came by on his rounds,
noted the presence of three-quarters of Elmer in Outer Horner, and rang
the loud buzzer which meant Invasion In Progress.
The Outer Horner Militia (Freeda, Melvin, and Larry) came rushing over
and stood glaring fiercely across the green piece of string that constituted
the boundary of the Short-Term Residency Zone.
“What are you people trying to pull?” said Larry. “What’s
that part of a guy doing in our country?”
“Our country shrunk,” said Elmer, digging nervously in the
dirt with his octagonal shovel-like receptacle.
“Oh please,” said Freeda. “You expect us to believe
that? Our country never shrinks.”
“Decent countries don’t shrink,” said Melvin. “They
either stay the same or get bigger.”
“Take a look,” said Elmer.
And the Outer Horner Militia (Freeda, Melvin, and Larry) took a look
into the deep heart of Inner Horner, by leaning over the red string
that constituted the Inner Horner border, and saw that Inner Horner
had, in fact, shrunk.
“Weird,” said Melvin.
“Gross,” said Larry.
“What do we do now?” said Freeda.
“I say we expulse the invaders,” said Larry.
“That sounds pretty good,” said Melvin. “How do we?”
“We just, ah, you know, expulse them,” said Larry. “Watch.
Something like this.”
And Larry expulsed Elmer. That is, he pushed the portion of Elmer that
was in Outer Horner back into Inner Horner. But since Inner Horner was
now too small to accommodate all of Elmer, as the portion of Elmer in
Outer Horner was expulsed into Inner Horner, a different portion of
Elmer reemerged out of Inner Horner, sort of inadvertently re-invading
“They’re a scrappy, stubborn people,” said Melvin.
“You’ve got to give them that.”
“Sneaky,” said Larry. “That’s what they are.”
“What you need to do,” said someone, with great authority,
from over by the Cafe. “Is tax them.”
This was Phil, a middle-aged Outer Hornerite generally considered a
slightly bitter nobody. Many years before, Phil had, from across the
border, fallen in love with a largely vertical, left-trending Inner
Hornerite named Carol. He was captivated by her glossy black filaments
and transparent oscillating membranes, the delicate curve of her exposed
spine, her habit of demurely scratching one bearing with a furry glovelike
appendage, and spent many hours casually circling Inner Horner, hoping
to catch her eye, inflating and de-inflating his central bladder in
order to look more manly and attractive. But no. Carol was madly in
love with Cal, an Inner Hornerite who resembled a gigantic belt buckle
with a blue dot affixed to it, if a gigantic belt buckle with a blue
dot affixed to it had been stapled to a tuna fish can.
The day of the wedding was the worst of Phil’s life.
He stood across the border, heartbroken, passing bits of machine oil
from his lower strata, as the Inner Hornerites performed their marriage
ritual, which consisted of standing even more closely together than
usual and singing sentimental songs about the enviable compactness of
Over the years Phil’s bitterness increased, as day after day he
watched Carol polishing Cal’s belt buckle and playfully opening
and closing Cal’s tuna fish can. When Carol and Cal’s son,
Little Andy, was born, Phil’s bitterness was complete. He couldn’t
help thinking that, if only Carol had used better judgment and shown
better taste, Little Andy could’ve been his son. Although, if
Little Andy had been his son, Little Andy would no doubt have been better-looking
and more intelligent and certainly wouldn’t have been given a
dopey Inner Horner-sounding name like Little Andy.
“You tax them,” Phil said again. “You charge them
for every day they take up room in our beloved land.”
“Wow, great idea,” said Larry. “How much do we charge?”
“How much do they have?” said Phil.
“How much do you have?” Larry asked the Inner Hornerites.
Using his octagonal shovel-like receptacle, Elmer opened the cash-box
which occupied the entire northwest region of Inner Horner.
“Four smolokas,” he said.
“Then tax them four,” said Phil.
“But then we’ll have zero,” said Cal.
“Tax them four,” said Phil. “They pay us four, they
can stay in the Short-Term Residency Zone the rest of the day. That’s
how you do it. That’s fair.”
“Pretty smart guy,” said Larry.
“Yeah, who knew?” said Melvin.
Now, in addition to having been jilted by the love of his life, Phil
had another problem, which was that the bolt holding his brain in position
on his tremendous sliding rack occasionally fell out, causing his brain
to slide rapidly down his rack and smash into the ground. This happened
now. His brain slid down, fell off his rack, and rolled into a ditch.
“I’ll tell you something else about which I’ve been
lately thinking!” he bellowed in a suddenly stentorian voice.
“I’ve been thinking about our beautiful country! Who gave
it to us? I’ve been thinking about how God the Almighty gave us
this beautiful sprawling land, as a reward for how wonderful we are.
We’re big, we’re energetic, we’re generous, which
is reflected in all our myths, which are so very populated with large
high-energy folks who give away all they have! If we have a National
Virtue, it is that we are generous, and if we have a National Defect,
it is that we are too generous! Is it our fault that these little jerks
have such a small crappy land? I think not! God Almighty gave them that
small crappy land for reasons of His own. It is not my place to start
cross-examining God Almighty, asking why He gave them such a small crappy
land, my place is to simply enjoy and protect the big bountiful land
God Almighty gave us!”
Suddenly Phil didn’t seem like quite so much of a nobody to the
other Outer Hornerites. What kind of nobody was so vehement, and used
so many confusing phrases with so much certainty? What kind of nobody
was so completely accurate about how wonderful and generous and underappreciated