Song Of The Day 11/26/2015: Drive-By Truckers – “The Thanksgiving Filter”

(Part 1) (Part 2)
Forslagskasse: A Thanksgiving Lie – All through the first ten and a half months of the next year Forslagskasse The Suggestion Box sat in the sitting room, gradually assimilating itself amongst the pillows, Esben The Deer's head and the rest of the room in the family's minds. Sometimes they absent-mindedly placed tea services or cookie platters over the slot in the top. Sometimes they sat atop it to look out of the window at the other homes at Løgner Gate. And one night my great-great-great-grandfather, in a fit of drunkenness, mistook it for his wife, and walked with a pronounced limp for three days afterward.

At last the fourth Thursday in November arrived. Keeping his promise, my great-great-great-grandfather assembled the family into the living room to open Forslagskasse and read aloud the suggestions the family had placed inside over the course of the year. Erna, Karine, Ernst and Runa gathered at the appropriate time.

"Children, the day has arrived," my great-great-great-grandfather said. "Today we open up Forslagskasse after nearly eleven months in repose, and read all the suggestions that... say.... Where's Donnie?"

The family look around the room. "I don't know," Karine said. "I just saw him this morning throwing stones out of the attic window."

"Donnie?" mother Erna called out. "Come join us, son!"

"Donnie!" little Ernst cried out, "Mother's made some fyrstekake! Come join us near Forslagskasse!"

Suddenly there was a rustle at the top of the stairs. Donnie appeared, dressed in his purple velvet night robe, and began his descent to the living room. "I'm here! Thank you for coming, ladies and gentlemen. You all look beautiful, you look great. I'm tellin' ya, you're a great lookin' crowd. This is great. It's gonna be huge." He landed off the bottom stair and took the chair in the middle of the arc where the rest of his family gathered.

"Thank you, Donnie," my great-great-great-grandfather continued. "Now it's almost time for us to open up Forslagskasse, but before we do -- children, I'd like to know, did you find Forslagskasse useful throughout this past year? Did it inspire you to make suggestions that would effect real change in this household?"

Karine sighed. "Papa, I did make one or two suggestions throughout the year, but I was so busy with my inspirational throw pillows, I regret that I put no more than that in Forslagskasse."

"Ja, Papa," Ernst said. "I made no more than one or two suggestions myself, for I was concerned with other matters a child of my age generally occupies himself with."

Runa agreed. "Papa, I am afraid I made no suggestions this year, as I am still not confident in my means to express myself in written form."

My great-great-great-grandfather responded with a worried brow. "Erna," he said to his wife, "surely you had some opinions that you proffered to Forslagskasse?"

"Oh, my dear husband," Erna signed, "I certainly wished I could have offered more. I would see Forslagskasse against the wall here as I conducted my daily chores, and certainly thought about filling it with my opinions, but alas, the will to do so got misplaced in the business of my daily routines. I can't recall putting anything of my own in Forslagskasse, unfortunately."

"I see," my great-great-great-grandfather said. "Well, neither did I, as I believed it would be best to offer you the chance to use Forslagskasse The Suggestion Box, since as the head of the household most of my ideas were implicitly respected and installed within our home. What about you, Donnie?"

Donnie shuffled a bit in his seat, then nodded. "Okay. Yeah. I had a couple of ideas. It's true, I wasn't really receptive at first, but then I thought, you know what? This is what makes this family so great. That's what's so beautiful about this family. Everybody's got ideas, everybody can say what they want without being filtered in any way. It's great. So I put a couple things in there. Sure. I have an extremely brilliant mind -- really brilliant -- and if Forslagskasse is the way I can show you the contents of my mind, what the hell? Why not? I'll use that box. Bring it on."

They glared at Donnie as he sat bolt upright, a lock of his flame-colored hair clinging to his forehead by a single bead of sweat. My great-great-great-grandfather clapped his hands. "Well, excellent! Let us begin!" He seized Forslagskasse by its sides and overturned it so that the hinged top fell open.

Forslagskasse dumped hundreds of paper slips onto the living room rug. They fell into a mountain of scraps, some folded, some mere slips, a few of them stained with what appeared to be tomato sauce on the edges. The family, who had expected a meager sampling of suggestions, were stunned. They turned their wide eyes to Donnie.

"Hey. What can I say? I get started on something, I go a little extra. I'm a man with very, very deep focus. I'm driven. Under-promise, over-deliver. So let's read one of 'em. What you got Pops?"

My great-great-great-grandfather recovered gradually from the shock, then bent over to pick a random sheet of paper. "Very well," he said, "we'll start with this one." He unfolded the note. "This one is addressed to you, Karine."

Karine turned her head to face her brother, who was caught in a knowing, facetious grin. She regarded him quizzically.

"Karine," my great-great-great-grandfather read. "The inspirational messages on your throw pillows are way too long. I suggest capping them to 140 characters."

Karine creased her forehead. "140 characters? How can I express inspiration when I'm limited to..."

"Okay. Karine," Donnie spoke over her. "Listen. I love your pillows. They're great. They're beautiful. The messages, they're not so bad. But I gotta say, they go on too long. You're taking forever. I look at one of your pillows on the sofa, and I start looking it over, I just get lost in all the yappity yap. What do you want to say to me? I don't have a lot of time. I do a lot of huge things. Huge. I'm sorry, but I go to the sofa, I put my head on one of your pillows -- it just puts me to sleep. How you gonna get your messages across when half your target audience is nodding off? Lots of media competing for their attention, you have to cut through all that noise. I see your pillows and I'm like, Jesus, did Tolstoy just throw up on our couch? Keep it short, sweetheart. All right, I'm a busy man. Let's move to the next one, Pops. What we got?"

Karine started, "Donnie, I don't think you under---"

"Understand? That's what you were going to say, I don't understand, right? Okay. Listen. I completely understand. My mind is so deep I got Hobbits renting a room at the bottom. I have multiple honorary degrees from many colleges. But you know what? That doesn't mean anything. Nothing at all. Hard work and focus, that's all that matters. I can turn an idiot into a millionaire just like that. I got people kissin' my ass all day, begging me to let them pay me for the privilege. I understand plenty. Pops, let's move on. What's next?"

After the requisite awkward silence, my great-great-great-grandfather bent over to pick another slip frmo the floor. "Well, then..." He eyed the note and took a second or two to absorb its contents. "Runa, this one's for you."

Runa regarded Donnie with a sheepish downturned head. Donnie grinned and brushed down his robe.

"Runa... Get over yourself and start wearing more revealing clothing."

Runa's mouth dropped open. "Donnie! I'm your sister! Why would you...."

"Okay. Okay. What's happening here? Who always tells it like it is? Your family. I'm a man who doesn't mince his words. I don't have time. Yap yap yap, I mean Jesus, you wanna hear it from those dimestore floozies that talk behind your back, or do you wanna hear it from someone you've known literally all your life?"

"But that's not the kind of thing you should be saying to ---"

"To who? To a girl? To my sister? I know, blah blah, Freud this, Freud that -- listen. Honey. I'm lookin' at you right now, I see a beautiful woman. I see a very beautiful woman. You know a lot of these women, they look like horses. They look like wildebeasts. I see 'em out there every day, and I'm like, 'Holy crap, who left the slaughterhouse door unlocked?' I see a very beautiful woman in you. It's huge how beautiful you can be. I'm just sayin', you don't have to compromise. I know a lot of beautiful women who are very, very smart. Maybe not quite up to my level of intelligence, but with a lot of hard work and listening to other men, who knows? These women could be beautiful and intelligent -- that's huge. I'm just saying, don't get all worked up about your insecurities. What do you got to be insecure for? It's a wasted emotion. You live in the greatest country in the world -- well, honestly, it's not great now, but it could be great again, but whatever -- just get yourself some decent makeup, give the guys a lil' something to bite their lip on, they'll be falling all over your feet and you'll be set for life. Then you can read all the Freud you want. Come on! I got no time to argue this point. What's next, Dad?"

Runa collapsed into tears. Karine clucked with disapproval. Erna shook her head sadly. My great-great-great-grandfather, too broadsided to speak, merely sighed.

"Pops," Donnie said. "Look, I don't mean to be rude, but you're gonna kick the bucket before you get to the next note already. You're not in the greatest shape, you know? You could jog a little bit around the lake every day. You could weight-lift a little bit. Don't be a fat loser, Dad. What's the next note say?"

My great-great-great-grandfather shot a look of quiet anger, and almost defiantly picked up the next note. "Fine," he grunted. "This one's for Ernst."

Ernst smiled broadly, as he was an eager admirer of his brother's and lived to gain his approval. My great-great-great-grandfather read over the note silently, mouthing the words with an expression of profound confusion. The family waited.

"Pops," Donnie said. "What's on the note? You're a ticking time bomb, just like the Middle East. What you got for us?"

My great-great-great-grandfather raised an eye to Donnie, in judgment and disbelief. "Ernst... this says..."

Ernst was giddy with anticipation. "Yes? Yes? What does it say, Father?"

He read slowly. "Ernst... build a wall along the south side of our homestead out of... uh... pickled herrings?"

"Oooooooh," Donnie crooned. "Oh, yeah. That one. That's one of my greatest ideas yet. That one, that's a keeper, for sure. It's huge."

"What in earth are you talking about?" my great-great-great-grandfather cried. "What is this nonsense?" Even Ernst lost his glow of adoration for Donnie and stared at him.

"Just what it says, Pops," Donnie said. "I know for a fact that we have all that pickled herring in the shack. No one's eating it. No one cares. Build a wall with all that pickled herring."

"Why??"

"To keep out the Finns."

The entire family gasped and shot their eyes straight at Donnie. He glanced at each one in insincere supplication.

"The Finns! When Finland sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you -- they’re not sending you -- they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing turnips, they’re bringing heritage disease, they’re goat thieves, and some, I assume, are good people."

My great-great-great-grandfather bolted out of his chair. "What are you saying, Donnie? Do you have any idea what you're saying?"

"Yes. Yes I do know what I'm saying. I'm saying we build a giant wall of fermented seafood across the southern boundary of our property, and make Finland pay for all of it. We build it out of herrings. And they gotta be pickled herrings, 'cause that's a better deterrent. That's the way we make our property great again. That's what the Norwegian Dream is all about. It'll be huge. That's the kind of idea that makes me a real maverick. It's so far outside the box. We gotta do things like this, things that have never been done before, because this homestead is a disaster. We gotta turn this place ar---"

Donnie's speech was cut short by a shattering blast. The room filled with a blinding light and an immediate, debilitating chill. The light resolved into a thick, steady beam -- that emitted from the open top of Forslagskasse.

Donnie began to levitate. The family looked up in horror as the beam carried Donnie in a deathly, slow-moving arc. He screamed as a bracing wind cut across his face and blew his hairpiece off. Forslagskasse was abducting him. He went head-first inside the suggestion box, his body disappearing inch by sickening inch, pulled by gravity ten times the force of the earth's. When his feet finally passed through the top a climactic, piercing trumpet let out a long note of terrible timbre.

All fell suddenly silent for a few seconds. The family heard a gentle rustle, then a muffled grunt, coming from within Forslagskasse. Donnie pulled himself up, panting and sweating, until his ice-fringed head at last appeared in full view. He groped for balance, gasped for oxygen, and finally, wearily, spoke:

"Okay. What's happening here? Obviously, this box is a portal to Nordic underworld and I'm about to get hurled into a painful and horrific afterlife replete with torture both physical and mental. Now. Did I see this coming? No. I admit it. I did not see this coming. But that's the whole thing: How do we know who our enemies are? We don't know what they look like. But it doesn't matter, I have to account for this kind of thing, I have to be aggressive about finding out. So that's one mistake I made. Didn't see the portal, didn't see the underworld -- big deal. I made a mistake. Happens. But what do I do now? I rebuild. I talk to some people, I talk to some other people, we're talkin', we got a situation here, we gotta fix this. I'm the man to do it. I see things that need fixing, I go and fix them. I'm a very, very successful businessman. And you get that way by learning from your mistakes. No time to feel sorry for myself, waaaaah. 'Cause right now some winged hell beast is gnawing off everything from my waist down and ripping out my guts with its talons, and I gotta get moving. Gotta take some action. And I promise you, I'll take care of this quick. I don't need my legs. I'm a very successful businessman, and I got that way by maximizing the potential of whatever I have left to work with. Okay? This is one thing I'm gonna take care of, I'm gonna fix it, I'm gonna rebuild my legs and pubic area somehow and I'm just gonna do it. I can make this great again, like it used to be! All right? We're gonna do something about this, and it'll be beautiful and it'll be huge! We're gonna..."

A quick, high-pitched whistle sounded and Donnie disappeared, as if grabbed from below by a hungry dragon's jaws. Forslagskasse's top slammed shut in deep echo. The room returned to normal daylight. The family unfroze, and looked up to my great-great-great-grandfather for some kind of summary or explanation. He stood silent for a second, waiting for his breath rate to return to normal.

"Well," he finally said, "...this is, without question, the stupidest thing Paul Pearson's ever written."

The family exhaled. "Ja!" they all agreed, coming together to hug each other in a circle.

"But I think Forslagskasse has taught us something very important today," he continued. "Why don't we take one day out of the year to stop nitpicking about our shortcomings, gather around each other for comfort and surety, and just be thankful for the blessings and good tidings we have in our lives?"

The family looked up from their hug, eyeing my great-great-great-grandfather with furrowed brows.

"Well," Ernst said, "that's a crap idea."

"Right," said Karine. "It'll never fly. Do we look like a bunch of simps or something?"

"Sounds like more work for me, thank you very much," said Erna.

"Ahhhhck!" my great-great-great-grandfather said. "Fine! Then just go to Walmart tomorrow morning and get your head trampled on over some stupid clock-radios, all right? Ungrateful bastards! I'm gonna go watch the Cowboys game. Knock first."

The End?

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