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  • Published: 31 March 2020
  • ISBN: 9780857527004
  • Imprint: Doubleday
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 192
  • RRP: $24.99

Enter the Aardvark

'Deliciously astute, fresh and terminally funny' GUARDIAN

Extract

– a whirling mass of vapors is unhinged, shooting through outer space for an infinity until it collides with an ellipsis which does not let go, and after another infinity, the vapors boil into fire clouds, trapped by gravity, turning and returning until the boiling clouds, accepting fate, cool into a single mantle which cracks open in places, and here comes the lava, expanding, but there are also places where the expanding lava cannot escape and so it (the lava) pushes itself against itself and ta-da: mountains, new vapor rises up through the surface of the mantle, hitting the air, and it is all at once water, big water, and this big water hits the hot lava, steam shoots up, pluming, and it’s these watery plumes rising and falling ad nauseam that birth the oceans, and within the oceans are vast trenches paralleled by islands, which are cool rock formations from the hot lava varietals sludging obscenely over the mantle, itself now a whole globe of unmappable graywacke and chert, and the sun shines upon these waters until, in the shallowest banks, atolls and shelves, tumbling in the warm current, here come the flagellates, the plankton and phytoplankton, all tense, innumerous, ticking and rolling the floor-bottom, which is coated in algae and lampshells and pouchy glass sponges until here come the copepods, krill and medusae, the crab larvae, the pteropods, salps and heteropods, and the worms  –  my god, the arrow worms, something must be done about the freaking arrow worms – so enter the squirrelfish, enter the mantis shrimp, the flat/lantern/hatchet fish, enter the miniature squid, and some grow tails, and all have shells and mouths, they swallow everything, fattening into fish, and these plumpy fish grow long, swimmy, they shake the oceans into a state, and some of these fish hanging out at the edges of some of these pools are bumping their snouts into the earth, they want to dry off, go upland, and Lo, here begins the Great Creep, and will you look at them there ectothermic tetrapod vertebrates go!

All hail the Devonian nerds! The tiktaaliks and tulerpetons tossing back their flat heads, fuffing oxygen up through their watery tubes, eventually shedding their gills for skin, for open air, and still another infinity must pass as these miserable vertebrates scha-lump around the shifting plates until they at last settle the Karoo beds of southern Africa as bent-legged, flared-elbowed reptilians all mastering the art of double articulation, their planes of movement align, they hasten toward quickening until in their skulls a second bony palate is formed, foreshadowing the near-complete separation of food, of air, these therapsid temporal openings are migrating toward the top of the skull, and here’s the sagittal crest, the brain case and rostrum, they are the virgin class Mammalia, within which not long after emerges a clade of afrotherian mini-beasts, litters of sengis and tenrecs, shrews and hyraxes. Their tiny snouts toughen. Soft hides go real thick as the fur thins, showing off the tough hide, which is pinkish-yellow in hue, gleaming under the sun, and what’s there to eat, there’s nothing to eat, we must find something to eat, and so they dig. A hoof appears.

But the hoof is lousy at digging. It cleaves thrice and voilà! Lose the pollex, enter the claws, each a thick spoon. Enter the ears, long, soft and tubular. Enter the buccal snout, twice as long as a pig’s, half as long as an anteater’s, but it is not an anteater’s; this particular snout holds nine olfactory bulbs, best of anybody out there on the grasslands, stampeding the hot, bitchy savannah  –  and after another infinity, through the parallel evolution of a far less sturdy mammal, Modern Man, one of whom goes by the name Sir Richard Ostlet (but what are names), and Sir Richard Ostlet assigns to them in 1875 (but what is time) the order Edentata, ‘without teeth,’ before realizing he’s wrong; the creature is, in fact, Tubulidentata. The teeth are there, at the back, by the throat. These dentine tubes, they serve the tongue, which is itself slender, protractile, and covered with a thick, viscous substance to which ants and termites clawed up from the ground will all, from here on out, helplessly adhere –

‘Enter Orycteropus into the log,’ Ostlet tells his assistant as he examines the claws. ‘That’s from the Greek. Do you know what it means?’

The young man shakes his head.

‘Digging footed,’ says Ostlet. ‘With the ears of a rabbit and snout like a pig. But what to call it?’ He begins pacing. ‘Enter “the hare pig.” The ears and snout tell us they’re guided by hearing and smell— No, wait. Enter “the ant bear,”’ he says.

But that’s still not right.

He asks one of the African hunters what they call these beasts.

Aarde vaarke,’ the hunter says, and the hunter, black and handsome, does not know that his people adopted the word centuries ago from Dutch colonists as he points: ‘Earth pig.’

Ostlet nods vigorously. ‘Enter “the aardvark,”’ he says, which the young assistant, a student of his in the Department of Naturalism at the University of Edinburgh, obediently enters.

 

I

It is August.  Congress is in recess. You are not in recess. You are running a reelection campaign for the First Congressional District in Virginia. Your opponent’s name is Nancy Beavers, and you have made up your mind that from here on out there will be no more days off. If you are going to lose your job, it is not going to be to a woman. Not a woman named Nancy. Not a woman named Nancy. Fucking. Beavers.

So you had no intention of taking today off, but today there’s a heat wave. Grids are out all over the city. Your grid is one of the ones that are out.

The A/C is not working. The internet is not working. The TV is not working. Nothing is working. You are not working.

You are reposed upon a Victorian sofa the color of canaries that your assistant purchased for you three days ago at a street antique fair for $1900, flipping through the book Images of Greatness: An Intimate Look at the Presidency of Ronald Reagan until you find what you’re looking for: a photograph of the Gipper reclined upon a canary-yellow velvet Victorian sofa.

Important-looking papers cross his chest.

You have looked at this photograph many times – it is the reason why you purchased this sofa, and now that you have it, you are lying on the exact same sofa in the exact same position as Ronald Wilson Reagan.

You turn the page.

There is Dutch, the Gipper, on his ranch, riding a horse chased by piebald foxhounds, the paunch of his stomach outlining a lightweight denim cowboy shirt, and you bought that exact same shirt at the exact same antique fair, and how the flaps of his tan riding pants do crest the tops of his riding boots, you think, and consider sending your assistant to return to the fair to seek out those boots, when the doorbell rings.

Your doorbell is not a buzzer, it’s something more ancient. Like from the Eighties. You wonder who it could be because no one ever comes to your door. Everyone always comes to your office. Then you wonder how the doorbell is working when nothing else is. The doorbell, you realize, is not attached to the grid.

This freaks you out.

It could be Rutledge or Olioke, you think, the two congressmen who stay with you during the week in the extra rooms of your townhouse near the Capitol while Congress is in session, but that’s highly unlikely: Representative William ‘Billy’ Rutledge (D) is back on his farm with his wife and five sons. He left two days ago and won’t be back ’til September. Representative Solomon ‘Sammy’ Olioke (R) is at some cottage with his wife and five daughters. Some crappy cottage by some crappy lake, and Olioke leaves his crap everywhere in your townhouse, he’s crappy at governing, he’s from Rhode Island, he’s been reelected four times, so even though he’s a Republican, you kind of hate Olioke.

The doorbell rings again.

You have no wife, no children. You, like Representative Rutledge, are young, white and handsome, however you are a bachelor. You are fine with this. This was the hallmark of your first campaign (this and abortion). It’s how people know you. But now that you are facing reelection, your aides are not fine with this: your Favorability Rating is currently holding steady at 52%, which, although good, is not as good as it could be, and as of late your aides have been telling you to Find A Wife.

If you Find A Wife, they say, your Favorability Rating will improve, because although you are neck and neck with Nancy Fucking Beavers, a middle-aged woman with an ass  like two neighborly cast-iron skillets who wears these unbelievable pantsuits – Nancy Fucking Beavers is not fucking single. She has fucking children. Your platform is Bachelor and her platform is Children, and you are trying to wrap your brain matter around the fact that many people who should constitute your electorate will actually trust Nancy Fucking Beavers more than they trust you simply because she has children, roundly discarding the fact that her only experience in government is losing a local mayoral campaign by a hair, when the doorbell rings a third time.

You go upstairs.

You put on your bathrobe. Your bathrobe is navy blue with red piping and cost $398. It is monogrammed ‘APW’ in Chancery on the breast pocket and is Egyptian cotton from Bill Blass, Ronald Reagan’s favorite designer. There is a picture of Reagan wearing the bathrobe in Images of Greatness, from when he got shot, and you always feel pretty good wearing the bathrobe, which is why, even though it’s so hot out, you put on the bathrobe.

You wear an oxford underneath. Like Reagan. Even after he got shot, he wore an oxford underneath.

You are less of a man than Ronald Reagan, you know this, but no one will ever be able to say about you that your goals were not lofty, you think as you return downstairs and open the door.


Enter the Aardvark Jessica Anthony

Refreshing different, highly inventive, witty and moving, ENTER THE AARDVARK is an absolute original. A budding politician's career is put in jeopardy when he receives a large stuffed aardvark in the post. Brilliant and funny, a biting satire about politics, love, and taxidermy for fans of Jennifer Egan, Jonathan Franzen and Joshua Ferris.

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