Does anyone remember Chester Cheetah? He was a fast food mascot from the American 1960s that actually not a lot of people know about. Famous for selling artificial snack dust cakes to aspiring consumers of all ages, there was also a rather sinister side to the ad campaigns that featured him.
Me, I was an intern for Frito Lay. We were going to launch a brand new line-up of snack-themed products for ABC Saturday mornings, but it was actually not meant to be. I, myself, was a cartoonist for the Chester Cheetah cartoon, but as the case is still under active investigation, I cannot reveal my identity or sources.
One day, I was sitting in the break room eating Cheetos brand snack dust when I noticed the telephone was ringing in my office. Now, I don't have any friends, so this actually caught me off guard. I could feel my eyes bulging in my skull, and the drool drizzling down my chin. Was this some sort of prank? Who would actually call me at this, or any other, time of day? Frantic and disheveled, I ran into my office, tripping over the telephone cord. I was so upset--I was going to miss my first phone call in my lifetime! I could feel a vein snapping in my forehead. I was concerned about potential blood loss, however, so I calmed down and took a seat at my desk.
Now, at that point I was just about to give up on finding out my secret admirer, but just as I was about to purchase more cheese dust from the break room vending machine... I heard a ringing in my ear. At first, I thought I had acquired tinnitus from the loud ringing of the telephone, but no--the telephone was actually ringing. Again! I feverishly pawed for the receiver, and this time, I swung true. Admittedly, I covered the handle in orangey artificial cheese in the process, but it was worth it, and I'd do it again.
"Hello?", I initiated my recipient in unconfident uncertainty. "Why, yes. Hello, Isaac. I am very happy that you answered." "Wh... Who is this?", I answered back, stuttering like something I will not mention right now. "Tsk, tsk... after all we have been through...".
And with that, he hung up the phone. I knew he thought he was getting out of this one, but there's a better chance of breakdancing with a nun than getting me to chillax once you've roused my suspicion! I dialed *69, got the number of my mystery man, and called him back. My very first phone call on a non play phone! I couldn't believe this was actually happening.
I did not receive a greeting on the other end. "Oh, uh, hey. It's Isaac." I paused. I could hear heavy breathing. The other person must have been quite overweight. "I knew you'd call back", he firmly stated between crunching and munching sounds, affirming my suspicions as correct.
"It is time for you to do what you were born to do, Isaac. You must find the Chester Cheetah Diamond, before it is too late. Otherwise, I, uh...". There was a lengthy pause. It must have lasted half a minute. "Otherwise, I will die."
"But I don't want you to die, whoever you are!", I barked back in distress. "Surely, there must be something I can do!".
"Indeed, there is." He sighed. "And don't call me Shirley. Rather, meet me at the Artificial Cheese Dust Factory in Birmingham, Rhode Island. I will arrive at approximately 7:23AM."
"B... but that's 20 miles away! You know that I don't have a car!". I assumed that must have known, somehow.
"I know that you'll be here. The consequences otherwise, will be quite... cheesy."
"What the hell does that even mean?", I responded, feeling unkempt. But it was too late. There was a clicking sound, because he must have hung up the phone.
I had a hunch that my adventure was only just beginning. As well as my appetite for Frito Lay brand snack food products...
Now, as I previously said if you were actually listening (knowing you, you probably weren't), I don't even have a car. I do, however, own a lot of play-doh. After emptying several hundred cans of play-doh and attempting to mold myself a car, I realized that I would need something to serve as the motor, and I didn't have anything in my cubicle that could do the job. Thus, I did the next best thing: I started walking there. I was wearing flip-flops and shorts in 30 degree weather, but it was O.K. because I had stayed at a Holiday Inn express the previous night. Just kidding. The truth is, I was homeless, and rather used to inclement weather. I may not have had the lid of my dumpster with me, but I did have an umbrella that I stole out of the lost and found, so that helped me along my way.
Upon arrival, I checked my newfangled wristwatch... and screamed in horror. 7:24AM! I was late! For all I knew, captain anonymous could have been dead by now! There was also the issue of getting inside, since the Artificial Cheese Dust Factory of Birmingham, Rhode Island was surrounded with an electrical, barbed wire fence. I casually walked my way down the driveway and was greeted by a security guard in a little outpost hut.
"Excuse me, sir. Do you happen to work here?", he asked. Well, s***: no, I didn't, though I did work for corporate HQ. I showed him my badge. "Sorry, sir, but this place isn't really for interns." He shook his head 'no' and lit up a faggot (that means cigarette), and let out an enormous puff. Like one of my Chester Cheetah cartoons, he blew the puff into my mouth and down my throat and I coughed for a little bit.
"But it's a matter of life and death!", I exclaimed. "Besides, I'm the guy who draws Chester Cheetah. Would you really let down the guy who drew your favorite?". He exhaled, and put his palm under his chin to think it over. "Alright. You win.", he conceded. Well, wow. Could it really have been so easy...?
As I witnessed the drawbridge gate go up, I had a sudden thought about the nature of sexual attraction. But before I could take that thought further, I felt the impact of a blunt object smack me in the back of my head! The lights went out on my consciousness, and I was out cold. Colder than a caterpillar on Christmas morning. Gerald mcBoing Boing.
When I came to, I was in what appeared to be a musty basement. I was tied to a chair. That must have been why I had such sudden sexual fantasies: I was into bondage, and my mind was predicting the future like it sometimes did. I tried reaching into my pocket for my Swiss Army Knife to cut the chains that bound me, since I was more into freedom than BDSM at the moment, but instead, I cut into my knee. Highly realistic blood spilled out of my knee as I clenched my teeth in agony. This was not cool, man. I considered screaming for help, but I realized that I may have been better off keeping my condition a secret from my captor. That, and I'm very sensitive about who I reveal my fetishes to. I trust you, though.
Fortunately, I was able to hop around in my chair, although I couldn't untie myself. I was bleeding all over the floor like the carpet was the rag, but as the Japanese say, 'C'est la vie'. I tried to find windows, but then I remembered that if I was in a basement that wouldn't do me any good. I realized that the best thing I could do at that point is look around at my surroundings for clues on how best to formulate an escape route.
Now, I know you're not going to believe me, but maybe that's because you're a skeptic and you need to read the Bible more. What I saw around me... disturbed me. There was a whole heck of a lot of memorabilia. Action figures, gumball machines, hamburger buns, blow-up dolls. They were all around me. Packaged up.
And on all of the containers, it clearly read, in blood red, size 72 Hepatitis font:
"The New Chester Cheetah. DO NOT OPEN UNTIL 4/11"
Well, this was very confusing. I, for one, do not like confusion, because I suffer from an anxiety disorder. I hopped around the room in my woody/ropey prison, and evaluated as many boxes as I could, and they all had that very same 'do not open' label. How could this possibly be? As an intern cartoonist, every major decision involving the Chester Cheetah mascoting franchise came back to me, or at least was discussed with me. Could it be that someone had been plotting a new direction for Chester Cheetah under my nose the entire time? I wished I had brought my forensicking kit, so that I could check the room for fingerprints and submit them to police to figure out who my captor was, but it just wasn't happening.
While I'm at it, I should also let you know that I know what you're thinking. "Why didn't this guy look for a door?". Well, hey, you judgmental jerkoffenstein, maybe you should actually give me a chance to tell you and maybe I would, alright? There was a door, and I tried opening it with my teeth, but I have cavities and my teeth hurt a lot so I stopped. Also, the blood loss from my knee was starting to make me feel so sore and dizzy that I considered going back to sleep, even if I had absolutely no idea where I was and if going back to dreamland again would be an inadvertent death sentence this time. Furthermore, I was a diabetic and I need to eat every 2 1/2 hours, and if I don't, it's really bad for my health, so that was also a problem.
Realizing that I was fresh out of luck in terms of making my own rescue, I gave up. I yelled out a 'hey', but nobody responded, to my chagrin. Tried knocking on the door using my head as a doorknocker, and all I got was a mild concussion. I even forgot my name for a few seconds, which is no big deal because my name is not important. Finally, I looked on the ground near the doorway, and wouldn't you know it--I found a bloody slip of paper. At first I thought that this was some sort of foul omen to scare me, but then I realized I had knee-bled all over it. Well, hey, shit happens.
I managed to take off my shoes and socks by jamming my feet up and down against each other, and I grabbed the note with my toes. I sat back down so that I could drop it on my non-cut up knee and give it a read. "Why, hello there, Damien." Ah, so that was my name. "I am now your guardian. You will find your next meal in the corner." I turned my head backward and could make out delicious, fun-sized bags of Frito Lay funyuns and fritos brand corn chips. "Yum Yum! Eat up and go to sleep. See ya later. I'll be back with entertainment. With love, CC. P.S. You're next." ... The fuck? Who was CC? Carmen Collins? Christopher Columbus? Crunchy Cornchip? Coolwhip Cal? Well, I was fresh out of answers, so I dined on corn chips while using my toes as my utensils. Admittedly, it took some athletic maneuvering to get the salty snack pieces out of bag and into my mouth, but when your adrenaline is soaring and there isn't much else of a culinary option, you do what you can do.
Eventually, a lot of time passed and I fell asleep. I woke up with red cheeks because I accidentally nodded off into a pool of my own knee blood. Well, hey, it happens to the best of us. When I had 'come to' for this second time, I still did not notice a person, but I did notice something different--a CRT TV, equipped with VHS player! Or VCR, if you're not very fun at parties. I noticed that the television was on, but all that was on screen were those little gray flies on a black background that you used to get if you hadn't configured your set properly. Confused and fresh out of Frito Lay brand cornchips, I toe-grabbed the remote control that had been conveniently laid to rest in my bloodpool, and pushed play, gambling that a tape had already been inserted into the receiver by my captor. And you know what they say about gambling--you lose your pride and your wife's salary against her knowledge but when you win, oh boy, do you win. The tape began.
Now, I'd like to tell you the episode began as normal, but it didn't. Instead of the usual Chester Cheetah television program theme song that we all grew up and loved as a child, we were instead greeted with a picture of a chicken holding a picket sign. Fortunately for me, my captor had put my Buddy Holly glasses on me, so I could make out what the sign said 'No Crossing the Road for Blood Money'. ... The f***? I pressed pause on the remote with my big toe, and chair hopped back to the corner to foot-pull out a fun-sized bag of smoked barbecue ruffles chips. Once the intense hunger pangs had subsided, I started bouncing my way back to the television screen... but then. It happened.
I was free! I had broken the chair! My ass stung a little bit where it came apart but it was O.K. because I had learned pain tolerance in new age yoga class. I tossed off the rope, now full of hope, no longer eager to mope, and made my way toward the door. It was locked! I reached in my pocket and pulled out a credit card in an attempt to Inspector Clouseau my way to safety, but it was no use. I was still stuck in the basement. Finally, I decided that my Swiss army pocket knife would be all the defense I'd need if Fatty McVillainFace came back anytime soon, so I did what any other responsible adult would do: I thanked my adoptive father for providing me with entertainment and snackfood by continuing to watch the VHS tape.
The chicken still held his sign, and my patience was still beginning to run out. But then... it happened. For real, this time. The eponymous icon--the most popular figure in popular cartoon culture today--Chester Cheetah! He emerged, and he looked... unkempted. Like, majorly unkempt. Too cool for school unkempt. His hairfur was all disorganized, out of place, like when you wake up in the morning and are a skank who wears the same torn up jeans twelve days in a row. His irises were a startling crimson blood hue, and his douchebag beard was all mangled. He looked... uncultured. This was not like him! We had especially designed him to be the epitome of cutting-edge cool, with his trademark sunglasses, backwards cap, and skateboard!
"Eat my shorts", Chester Cheetah exclaimed. I pondered copyright law, but before I could get any further--he... he did something disgusting. His jaw opened wide. It was full of blackened, jagged feline predatorial incisors. It was disgusting. Also, he was missing his wisdom teeth. Then he... uh... well. He swallowed the chicken whole. In one bite. The petrified poultry didn't even stand a chance. Its chicken eyes all wide, its comb all still in surprise. It was eaten alive.
"Fit for a snack. Fit for a king.", Chester Cheetah hummed to myself. "Fit for you to go fuck yourself, Damien Isaac who has no friends and is a chicken and I'm about to eat you alive when I come back from school you little whore." ... The fuck? How did this tape know half of my name?
That was when it finally dawned on me. That was my whole name!!. I screamed like Ned Flanders in love with purple drapes, and pressed eject on the VHS player. But it was no use--the tape was stuck inside of the player! "Press that button again, and I'll press your luck like a whammy who'll leave your dick broke off in two.", Chester Cheetah howled. This was... I didn't draw this episode!! And I didn't know who would write such a horrible tale either! I grabbed the remote and pressed pause, but nothing happened either. Remembering my AA little league championship MVP award from last year, I picked up the remote and heaved it at the screen like one of my prized straight-down-the-middle fastball throws, but it was no use. The tape continued to play.
Chester Cheetah was seen in a board room, dressed up in suit and tie. His fur and goatee were still mangled, though. "It has been brought to my attention that sales are declining", he said with his incisors clenched. "And I blame you." He pointed--directly at ME!!!!
Tears started streaming down my face. "But--but I tried my best! I really did! I did as well as I could!". I was choking on the salty drops as they poured downward and into my mouth. This time, Chester Cheetah didn't even respond to me. He just stood there, pointing his finger at me for what must have been 11 or 12 1/2 minutes. The entire time, I didn't even feel like getting up. Though I was already standing up. I guess I just didn't feel like moving, because I was sad. I knew he was right. I knew I had messed up somehow.
"I guess it's time that we do something about the problem.", Chester acknowledged. Everyone else at the corporate meeting was a yes man, and they all agreed. "Let's start by cleaning your office." He pointed at me again. The fuck? "Oh, I'm sorry, D.I. I mean: your cubicle. You were never really a good enough employee to have your own private space." Chester 'tsk tsk'ed at me. "Go f*** yourself, dad!!", I yelled at the TV.
Just then, the TV shut off, and I could hear a voice yelling at me from the other side. "Damien! Are you in there!". Fuck. Someone was coming onto me! I mean, rather, they were onto me. Whoops. I had somehow been responsible for the change in corporate fortunes because I was an irresponsible adult. I rummaged through the Chester Cheetah 'Catman Goes to Outer Space' action figure boxes (in mint condition I may add) and found a massive pickax, which I used to smash my way through the padlocked door. Screw all this--I was going home! I may not have known my way around the Artificial Cheese Dust Factory of Birmingham, Rhode Island, but I was a fast learner and I was ready to put my learning skills to good use.
As I exited the doorway, I stepped on something kind of fleshy and squirmy. I looked down and realized it was the corpse of a balding middle aged man, with gray hair off to the sides. His head looked like a soft-boiled egg. Loser. Old man. Well, whatever. I ran up the stairs, pickax in hand. Nobody was going to take me out of here in a pinebox! No sir! I rummaged my way through the house. A kitchen, a dining room, a bathroom, and finally, a rather large bedroom. As if by feline instinct, I opened up a cabinet, and I found it--a sparkling, yellowy diamond! "To my one and only love." Oh, f*** me up the asshole. It was the Chester Cheetah Diamond!! I tossed it in my pocket and ran off, limping from the aforementioned knee pain but who gives a shit. I made my way out of the front door and ran down the street, calling for a cab, breathing heavily.
It was at that moment that I realized something: I was fat. I was also smelly, and ungrateful. What was I even doing with my life? Who was I? I got into the taxi, and stared in the mirror. I had a mixture of frito lay snack crumbs and slobber in my beard. I looked like I had been awake for several days in a row.
I expected the cabbie to ask me "where to, Mac?", but he wasn't very cordial. Instead, he didn't say a word to me, and he had a firm and unhappy look, like one of those English guards with the black fuzzy hats that people like to make fun of because they're envious of them for having a job. Something I will say about hospitality is that the driver grabbed my arm and escorted me out of the car rather firmly. I guess that was kind of nice of him, though I hoped that he would have been gentler if he had known that my skin was extra sensitive to human touch. There's also the fact that I didn't know where I was, though it looked rather formal and business-like from the outside.
Within minutes, I was locked in another room. A big man wrapped me up in some sort of convoluted jacket, and he took away my knife and virginity or I guess dignity, I think that's the right word. The walls were white and padded, and nobody talked to me much. I realized that it was all part of my captor's plot.
I spent weeks playing imaginary harmonica to myself and autostimulating with my hand until he arrived.
That fine day began alright, though I missed the way things used to be. Frito Lay snacks for 3 square meals a day were my pride and joy, although I guess the bacon and eggs that they slid through the hole in my door were O.K. Anyway, that was when the first day of the rest of my life happened: a man in a white lab coat and a name tag that read 'Doctor' knocked on my door and opened it up. "Looks like you're free to go", he explained. Having spent so many days in captivity, I felt an urge to raise my fists to the heavens and shout hooray. That would have to wait until the big man came back and took off my jacket, and slapped me on the back. "Hey, man. Way to show 'em how it's done.", he pep talked at me with a wink. What a pal. Maybe these people were all part of the bad guy's grand scheme, but maybe they also weren't so bad after all. I was escorted out to the lobby, where I was told that my dad was waiting for me.
Wait. My dad? How could this be? All my life, I thought I was born in a test tube. Then I remembered it all. That was a prank that the other boys in school used to play on me. Yes, that's right. They would taunt me, tease me, and accuse me of having been born a test tube baby. And I would get rather... angry. I would reach out into my pocket, and pull out my Swiss... my Swiss... my... Swiss...
I could feel myself hyperventilating. The memories. "Swiss cheese. Swiss cheese. Swiss cheese.", I muttered to myself. Yes, that would do it. I would be just fine. I was Damien Isaac, and I was fine! The world was my oyster, and I didn't even like oysters. I liked Frito Lay products. And I was finally about to be a free man. I could enjoy all of the Frito Lay fun-sized snack bags that a young man my age could ever desire!
When we made it to the lobby, I saw him, but he was difficult to make out. He was wearing a mask, and one of those voice obscurer things that make you sound like you smoked one too many faggots (if you remember what that means--with your attention span, I have my doubts). "Come here, son. It's time to go home."
You know what? I guess I should let you in on a little secret. I'm a dope. A real, real, great big dope. I'm so gullible. I'm a big man with a big heart, but I'm so, so easy to take advantage of. I should have realized it when I started looking out the window, but no. I did not. We were not going home, and this man was not my father. And we were driving into a very, very bad, bad part of town.
We were driving into the slums. "It's time to go to your new home, son." Seriously, what the f***? I thought this man was my father, but my memory's not so good, so who even knew at that point? We drove down an empty driveway, and into an unlit garage. I started to look around, but I couldn't make anything out because my vision is poor and I have to wear glasses. Just kidding you doofus: it was dark. I already told you. Duh.
"Get out of the car.", Mr. Cigarette Voice insisted. Well, heck. He didn't have to ask me twice. The moment I opened the door and stepped out into the darkness, I heard a sound. At first, I thought it was lips smacking, but it was too faint to be quite like that. "Are you chewing any gum, uhm... dad?", I asked the strange man. "Why, no, son.", he added with a gruff, sarcastic laugh. Hmmm. This was quite the enigma.
Suddenly, the rough concrete turned to dirt. I could tell, because I was much acquainted with dirt. I paused, surprised at the change in terrain. "Keep walking", father insisted. I could feel something in my back. It was kinda sharp, and I'm not into that sort of thing, and certainly not from dad. We kept walking in the darkness for what felt like miles, until I finally saw it.
Torchlight! As we approached, a dozen torches lit in a semi-circle clearly illuminated a padlocked door.
"I don't wanna be a prisoner again, dad!", I sobbed.
"That's not it, son."
Well, I'm going to be blunt: he lied. He shoved me in, and he locked the door. I was stuck there, alone, mostly in darkness, but with some small degree of reflected torchlight as well. I was in there for a long time--I'm guessing weeks. I peeled maggots out of the ground. I ate rats. I had nothing to cook them with, either. It made me feel nostalgic for the captivity of the basement of the Artificial Cheese Dust Factory of Birmingham, Rhode Island, even. Given that my birth name was not Beetlejuice, eating bugs really sucked, and my calls for room service went unreturned.
But then--it happened. A light? A light went off, like a light bulb in a room! I could see the dirty ground in all of its glory! The musty, moss-covered walls, and there, over there, in the corner--why, there was a colony of ants that I hadn't gotten around to eating yet! I was overjoyed by this new found glory that was flooding my senses, until I heard a loud voice, as through a loudspeaker.
"Son... you've made it. Do you know what today's date is?" "No, you asshole. You never gave me a calendar. Some deadbeat loser dad you are!". I could tell by the cracking in his voice that I had hurt his feelings.
"Today is April 11th, son."
Then another lightbulb went off. This one, in my brain. "4/11!", I squealed, giving away that I knew my captor's horrifying secret. "The new Chester Cheetah!" "That's right, son. That's right."
You know, things had changed a lot since my time away from captivity. I gained the habit of growling when I was frustrated, for example. My eyesight also got comparatively worse, given that I was isolated in darkness for so long. I was given stylish, new prescription sunglasses to help me with my worsened visionous state. My skin had also turned yellow, with black spots. At first I thought I had leprosy, but dad cracked back that it was more like I had "leopardsy". At first I didn't really know what he meant, other than that maybe he was into making cheesy puns like most dads, but then I realized the shocking truth that had been hidden from me for oh so long. Cheesy... leopardsy...
"I'm going to show you a sequence of images and words, and I would like for you to learn these, son", father explained, after entering my cell door and making us both sit down on stools (not that kind of stool, you weirdo). There was a picture of a gray-furred rat with a lengthy, wormy-looking pink tail, and next to it, it said 'Fritos'. Next, he showed me a picture of a maggot, and below that, it read: 'Funyuns'. Once I had memorized all of the word and image combinations, I was freed to see the world for what it truly is.
What is truly is.
Listen, I don't know if you watch a lot of TV or read a lot of magazines, but you've probably noticed the shocking truth by now. That's me. That Chester Cheetah. I am Chester Cheetah. The Chester Cheetah I saw in the cartoon? That was the old one. He was untamed. He made fun of the other children. He needed to be locked away. He needed a fresh start in life. And that Chester Cheetah gave birth to another Chester Cheetah, and I, in turn, will one day give birth to another Chester Cheetah, as I had previously given birth to the original Chester Cheetah as an intern cartoonist for Frito Lay Incorporated. I am my own father, grandfather, and grandson. I know, to you, it may seem like I have problems, but I am actually... a free man.
The man in the mask was Chester Cheetah. The man on the phone was Chester Cheetah. The man who put me in the straightjacket was Chester Cheetah. You are Chester Cheetah.
Now, if you'll excuse me: it is almost 7:23AM. That is when I meet with the cartoonists who portray me. Where they will be writing me, drawing me into a brand new VHS tape. And that VHS tape will be Chester Cheetah. Just like you and I.
So give in now. Be who you are. Avoid the struggle. Chester.