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Askew Review 15

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When I was around 12 years old, my grandmother gave me a souvenir pencil from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, a place she occasionally volunteered. There was a grotesque plastic imitation of an African shrunken head on the end where you'd normally find an eraser. Despite a baleful expression, the long, loose, cheap doll hair made the head look slightly comical.
      The first time my friend (and future co-defendant) Al, who was also 12, saw the pencil, he grabbed it and started dancing it toward me, chanting, "Jigaboo, Jigaboo!" This sounded like a fine name for the shrunken head, so that's what we started calling it. It would be a few years before I learned, to my dismay, that this was actually a racial slur. At the time I just figured it must have been the name of some jungle cartoon character Al had seen on TV.
     One day we tore the head off of a Shazam action figure Al had (I always cringed when people referred to these toys as "dolls." Only girls and sissies played with dolls). We replaced Shazam’s head with Jigaboo. It was one of the most asinine things I've ever seen. Picture a body clothed in a bright red jumpsuit with a lightning bolt emblazoned on the chest. Atop this body was a "shrunken" head that's actually about three sizes too big. We must have felt that such a creature would be inherently evil, so we expanded its name to Jigaboo Demon.
     Jigaboo Demon wasted no time getting included in our activities. We made him the leader of a ragtag band of 8 or 10 of Al's other action figures (I was kicking myself for my decision two years earlier to throw away my toy box, which contained many such men. At the time it seemed like a mature thing to do, but it would have been cool to have made a personal contribution to Jigaboo's fledgling army). The first order of business was to outfit the men with various heavy and/or sharp protruding objects. Using rubber bands, we strapped rocks to some, knives or forks to others, and some lucky individuals even had batteries attached to them. One of us would then take these characters to the top of my laundry chute while the other brought Jigaboo and a plastic vehicle to the bottom of the chute. The vehicle was generally a cop car or fire engine that was specially made for action figures but was, of course, sold separately. Whoever was upstairs would then hurl the men one by one down the chute in an effort to inflict the most possible damage on the vehicle below as Jigaboo serenely sat by in judgment. If one of the guys caused minimal destruction or even, gasp, missed the target altogether, the offending party was dealt with quickly and harshly. Jigaboo often "instructed" us to lop off the poor sap's finger with a pair of dog nail clippers we had handy. Another common punishment involved plunging the man's face into a candle we had burning nearby until it was sufficiently disfigured.
     Jigaboo's House of Fun was created when we (and presumably Jigaboo) grew tired of this game. Out of variously sized cardboard boxes we made a miniature chamber of abstract horrors to keep the men on their toes. Upon entering the structure, a disembodied leg would swing down and kick the visitor past the crudely lettered "Enter at Your Own Risk" sign. This would jolt the man into a hallway flanked by the most damaged of Jigaboo's comrades (by now we'd gone on a small buying spree and had purchased five or six fresh recruits to experience the House of Fun). A wooden beam arced wildly across the middle of this hallway, threatening to knock passersby not only senseless, but also into the arms of Jigaboo's less fortunate disciples. The next room was bare except for a noose that hung through the ceiling. A sign instructed the visitor to place the noose around his neck and calmly wait to be hoisted out of this room and into an adjacent tower. Once in the tower, the next step was to dive headfirst down the cardboard tube that gave the structure its altitude onto the "concrete" floor below. This accomplished, the guest then had to crawl through a small chamber into a wall of fire (really just a red wash cloth) to get to Jigaboo's office. There he'd find his host seated behind a cardboard desk, patiently awaiting him. Finally the visitor was allowed to come in and discuss the news of the day with Jigaboo.
      To heighten the effect of this perilous journey, we recorded a tag-team welcome message on my cheap 1970s tape recorder and played it while the men made their way through the compound. The greeting was enhanced by The Doors' "Light My Fire" blasting in the background. My step-dad happened upon us during one of these rituals and looked at us like we were criminally insane (which was arguably the case). I imagine if he had delved even slightly into what we were doing, Jigaboo's House of Fun would have been instantly dismantled and found its way to the no-man's land of our garage garbage cans. On an earlier occasion he'd thrown away my prized, yet horribly tattered, pair of tennis shoes in one of these same cans. I simply took them out and continued to wear them. The next time they disappeared, I confidently went to the garage expecting to retrieve them in the same place. Once again they were right where I thought they'd be - this time sawed in half.
      As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. Jigaboo's demise came a few weeks after the construction of his. House of Fun. We placed him in some sort of accessory cop car that actually hadn't already been smashed by Kamikaze Jigaboo troop members. Then we hurled him off of Al's roof. The ensuing crash just wasn't satisfying enough, so I crushed Jigaboo's death car with a brick. When we extracted him from the wreckage he was a mess. All his limbs had separated from his body and hung loosely inside his red jumpsuit. We determined that, alas, Jigaboo was dead.
      Our course of action was swift. We collected his remains and placed them in an old red wagon. Gathering some interested friends from the neighborhood, we hooked the wagon to the back of my moped and embarked on a small, slow funeral procession down Al's street (Yes, I made sure my headlight was on). Jigaboo was then buried near the side of Al's house. I'm proud to say we only exhumed him once. I don't remember why, but after we dug him up, we engulfed him in flames using an aerosol spray can and a lighter. Then we reburied him and Jigaboo was able to rest in peace.





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