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The Essay
Show #553
What is a Chippewa?
David Gunn

About this time each year -- that is, halfway between the third Wednesday pluperfect and the second coming of the Glanders War -- the Research and Development branch of Kalvos ampersand Damian’s In The House Club is asked this question: What is a chippewa? Sure, we’ve answered it before, but never with a pair of microphones staring us in the snoot and the ol’ reel-to-reel running. And it isn’t a trick question. It does have an answer. In fact, it has many answers -- for a chippewa is many things.

In the world of quantum mechanics, for example, a chippewa is an unstable elementary particle -- so unstable that it falls over a lot, especially when bombarded with bombardons, those most bellicose of subatomic particles. Two chippewas are even less stable, because they tend to pick fights with one another. These skirmishes are short-lived, however, and rarely approach the lethality that occurs when a chippewa and an anti-chippewa find themselves at the same party. Three or more chippewas, which exist only in an artificial dimensional function universe, are known as a Feynman wave packet, smell vaguely of lemon, and mug shamelessly for nanophotographers.

On the other hand, in the world of photocopying a chippewa is the microprocessor control that distributes the precise amount of the polymer Mimeographite to each pixel to create a visible image. Invisible images, the bread, butter, and Miracle Whip of steganography, result from chippewas that face backwards.

Those two worlds aside, a chippewa is also an intelligent carnivorous worm indigenous to the Amazon dot-com rainforest. It is parasitic to humans, where it typically resides between the clavicle and humerus, causing rotator cuff neuralgia along with legions of local lesions. So be sure to seek medical succor at once if you think you have a chippewa on your shoulder.

In the deep South -- which is farther south than most of us will ever venture -- a chippewa is the darling of the barbecuminati and consists of a bark-flavored liqueur drizzled over a plate of rice chaff and meringue. You’ll know the dish is authentic if the peaks of the meringue resemble the famous igloo village of Tuktarmac-yaq.

Let’s pause for a moment to take stock of what a chippewa is not. It is not a topological gerund. It’s not the bunghole in a button ocarina. It is likewise not the fifth star to the right of Kalahari in the constellation Vulcanola. Nor is it the part of the human genome into which a mosquito, given her druthers, will attempt to sink her bloodsucking proboscis.

A chippewa is a measurement of ancient time equal to two rudyards, 50 planktons, or 200 sheep geysers. Interestingly, there is no known correlation between a plankton and a sheep geyser, aside from the absence of leaves.

A chippewa is also a metamorphic rock found in whales. Krillologists cannot agree as to how it got there. Some think it proves that whales once called volcanoes home, or at least picked up their mail there. Others believe the rock is metaphoric, and actually symbolizes something else, such as a rudyard. Still others are urging us to leave the land of metamorphism posthaste and get on to the next category: comfort food.

If you were to deconstruct a blancmange, you’d wind up with a puddle of milk, an argumentative clot of cornstarch, and enough sugar to temporarily blind a blowfish. Oh sure, you’d also find trace amounts of vanilla extract, cinnamon, and a lemon peel that had lost its mind, but forget about those ingredients for the moment. We’re more interested in the neurotoxin found in the blowfish’s liver. The poison derives from gram-negative bacteria that are reputed to speak six different languages, one of which is Chippewa. If that isn’t comfortable enough for you as foods go, consider the avocado. I’ll wait. (This friendly fruit with flesh the color of sputum gets its name from avo, meaning "eight," and cado, meaning "ocarina." In the pantheon of whale mythology, the Eighth Ocarina is the title given to Chippewa, the Goddess of Blowholes. According to beluga whisperer T. Chesterwing, many whale songs contain references to avocados. This claim could not be verified since no one else has ever been found who speaks whale.) Still considering, are we? Very well, here’s one more example: the toga dolorosus, an ancient Roman cocktail devised by Pliny the Elder and first served to the great three-armed gladiator of Thebes, Chippewa, who said it tasted "a bit metamorphic."

There’s more, of course. The word "chippewa" has important connotations in the hair loss industry, 20th century jousting scholarships, cologne for lion tamers, devitrification art, the abattoirs of left-handed jingle salesmen, imaginary fourth dimensional loci in vector space, and the design of adobe hats. It even plays a role (and how’s this for a coincidence) in this 553rd iteration of Kalvos ampersand Damian’s radiophonic program now recontextualized as an architectural offering, for we’re about to open the Big Door and invite a real, live Chippewa -- no relation to the bombardon -- to join us in the house.