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Efficiency & Ripov
by Albert Russo

It was one of those days when, no matter what you did, the world seemed ready to crunch you up, in that slow ruminating way that pushes to the edges of madness, then relents just so you retain the illusion you've never stopped being lucid, then bong! And the cycle is on for another, umpteenth turn.

Having burnt his thigh with steaming coffee, worn a pair of socks that just happened to be of coordinated colors, then brushed his teeth using the tube of neutral shoe polish - at first, he believed the nauseating odor of rotten fish came from the neighbor's kitchen - Ripov scowled at himself in the mirror, mouth viscous like a horned toad's, and croaked amid alligator's tears: "Thisssh nonsenssh’l have to sshtop right now or elsshe!"

To prove to himself that he could ward off the chain of mini-disasters which was looming no farther than the tip of his nose, he resolved to start the day all over again, though not before he rinsed away the foul mush from his mouth.

Ripov thus went back to bed and studiously repeated his gestures. While he did this he realized that at least two-thirds of his movements were a mere waste of time and energy and, worse still, that some of them led him to uncontrollable acts of self-inflicting violence. At this stage, it may be necessary to warn the reader that Ripov had done away with Freudian theories, letting, in the fashion of the Great Flower Revolution adepts, instincts and intuition sort things out, with, if need be, the intervention of the Great Arbiter, Ripov Hisself.

As he was about to slip out of his sheets once again, Ripov accidentally tickled his heel and found out that stroking the sole of his foot then gently massaging his toes one by one put him in a pleasant mood. Though trusting less the astrological profession than the soothsayers, he vaguely remembered that one of the Pisces' most sensitive spots was his foot. The French saying 'to get up on one's wrong foot’, suddenly came to mind and Ripov made sure his right foot touched the ground first. As he got dressed, he also realized that, contrary to his habit, he felt more comfortable donning his shirt before his socks and his pants. He tied his laces only once he'd slipped into both of his shoes. "Ahh does it feel good!" he yawned, stretching his arms voluptuously like a Bali dancer. Maybe, he reflected, he ought to discipline his every muscle and sinew by performing tai-chi or yoga. Trust those Orientals for exercise and mental hygiene! Yes, efficiency could be indeed a voluptuous affair.

In mid-yawn, however, Ripov was nudged by a sudden and terrifying vision. When he was small, his brat of a cousin, Emily, a doomwatcher if ever there was one, told him she knew exactly how he was going to die - a wasp would get into his throat and sting him right on the epiglottis. In a fraction of a second all of Ripov's ideals - ecological in essence - turned through some weird alchemy into a horde of stoned wasps and plummeted down his esophagus after a memorable bout of tongue thrashing and twisting during which he almost choked. He ran to the pantry to get rid of his coughing fit and swallowed a pot of honey-tinted glue.