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October 9, 2011
Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo awoke slowly and laboriously on this autumn day, accompanied by the sweet yet ever-so-persistent sounds of a particularly skillful nest of mockingbirds that had recently taken up residence within the sequoia tree just below his bedroom window. Carefully rubbing the sleep out of his cavernous eyelids, Dikembe sighed. The birds' performance on this particular morning was one of Henry VIII. Attempting to stir himself from bed, he began to shake his large head, not unlike one might shake an enormous black watermelon to check whether it has yet ripened. Dikembe could hear that they were already well into the third act by this point. Letting out another sigh, which caused the floor beneath him to vibrate slightly, he realized that this could only mean he'd overslept, yet again.
After making his way to the kitchen through a haze of early afternoon drowsiness, Dikembe put the kettle on, carefully, so as not to shatter its delicate lining, and began to peruse the contents of his stupendously huge refrigerator. The refrigerator was, in reality, a meat locker that a friend had built for him several years ago, as payment for a bet he had lost after having had one-too-many boilermakers during the final quarter of a Super Bowl blowout. Dikembe, at the time in need of a suitable refrigerator to house the astounding quantities of raw meat that he consumed daily as a part of his strict weight-training diet, and having had a pitcher or two of beer on that night as well, causing him a light buzz, was more than happy to accept the locker in lieu of any actual monetary compensation. After all, the two had never really played for money, anyway. Excess just wasn't Dikembe's style, and although he enjoyed the occasional beer and friendly bet amongst old chums, he'd never allow himself inside that front gate to becoming a compulsive gambler, which is what his pal Phil soon became. They'd seen each other only once since the refrigerator had been built; eight months prior, it was, when Phil needed a place to sleep for the night. These thoughts dissipated from Dikembe's mind as quickly and hazily as they had entered and then ran their course, allowing him to focus his full attention on the type of frozen meat pie he'd be microwaving this afternoon. His years of weight-training and voraciously devouring the flesh of herbivores now behind him, Dikembe rarely found the drive to cook anything more elaborate than this nowadays. The meat locker now simply contained several shelves, rows, columns, and piles of frozen meat pies, which he enjoyed seasoning liberally with the garlic salt and paprika he kept next to the stove in the kitchen.
Rifling through the medicine cabinet, Dikembe found it hard to concentrate, his mind drifting to-and-fro, between the sight of his gargantuan hands knocking down innumerable half-empty prescription bottles and bandages, and those damned mockingbirds. It wasn't that he disliked the birds, he thought, as he clumsily tore the plastic wrap off of a fresh bottle of Pepto-Bismol. It had been quite a shock, the morning he'd awoken for the first time to the sound of a masterful performance of Dido and Aeneas (with a particularly strong female lead, as he could recall), but Dikembe eventually settled into finding it remarkable, and soon even charming, to be serenaded by this group of avian thespians every morning. But alas, as the days passed by, each bringing a new and more-enthralling production along with it, even the birds became just another reminder for the poor giant of the monotony that hung over his daily routine. And soon, he realized, as he was just finishing off the last drops at the bottom of the once-pink plastic bottle, crumpling it in his monstrous hand as though it were no more than a moist tissue cloth, the birds regrettably had become just another reason for him to eschew the responsibilities of the common man, the existentialist within Dikembe reasoning that doing anything different would be no greater or worse on a grander scale than simply sleeping in and slacking off.
Dikembe slouched through the more than ample doorway to his lavishly decorated drawing room, his mind still lazily searching for a reason why he should be outside the confines of his sizable-yet-cozy bed when his mountainous body, currently gliding sloth-like along the tasteful Venetian throw rug, as if by auto-pilot, felt little more motivation to do anything at all than it had while resting peacefully atop the familiar goose down sheets and alpaca comforters a few hours prior. His face showing the slightest hint of disdain for the bleakness of these thoughts within his head, the laestrygonian Mutombo plopped down into the large Bavarian armchair situated in the center of the room, emitting a thunderous rumble within the floorboards below in the process. Elvira, his live-in Taiwanese aromatherapist promptly situated herself atop a stepladder placed directly behind the large chair, before stepping off again, removing the stepladder, and replacing it with a much larger full-sized ladder that she had accidentally switched with the stepladder while dusting Dikembe's collection of hand-painted ceramic water buffalo, which he obnoxiously insisted upon displaying on the highest shelf in the room.
Elvira, a midget, even by Oriental standards, had come to be in Mutombo's employ several years prior, through their mutual acquaintance with Muggsy Bogues. Muggsy, having ostensibly been the very shortest man in his profession, kept exclusively midgets, and people with all other manner of growth-stunting mutations, within his employ. This was partially to ease Muggsy's extreme discomfort at having been surrounded daily by men much larger than himself, lumbering about and wreaking havoc with his rampant claustrophobia and feelings of inadequacy, and partially because he had a fetish for midgets, which he routinely justified by stating that "midgets need love too." Unfortunately, these were only a few of the many problems that typically went unsolved in his sessions with Elvira, and most of the other help for that matter; Muggsy was forced to let her go, admitting his own unwillingness to cooperate, brought about by lack of stricter primary school instructors, to be the cause.
Admiring the young woman's initiative as well as her hot, waddling ass, Muggsy recommended her to his friend Dikembe, whom he'd recently met at the dog track, and she had been the Congolese giant's faithful employee and confidant ever since. In his increasingly misanthropic elder years, he now felt she was the closest thing he had to a friend, despite her inability to communicate with him in any of the nine languages in which he was fluent. As she lit the last of her wide array of colorful scented candles, Dikembe sensed it was time to begin, and with another large sigh, covered his face with the traditional ceremonial hot towel, adorned with the likenesses of several B-list Marvel superheroes. Here we go again, he thought, before drifting into a peaceful, albeit reluctant, sleep.
Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo was a lonely man. Through some miracle, or perhaps, he thought, some kind of curse, he had managed to accrue a small fortune during his lifetime. Always the ardent saver, and a wise investor, the enormous man now sat on the top step of the entryway to his stunningly beautiful castle in the Scandinavian countryside, chin resting upon his mammoth palms, wondering as he had, so many times before, whether his frugality was worth the price he now paid: the price of a peaceful, serene, near-perfect life. There was nothing left for him to do, no mountain left to climb, no country left to see, and no desire left to thrive on. The flame in his soul long extinguished, he now lived every day the same. Oh sure, there were still the little things; the small events that happened every couple of days that would give Dikembe a few minutes of pleasure, even causing him to crack a smile from time to time. Every now and then he'd find a particularly exciting porno on the internet, or read an article about a monumental scientific discovery by Japanese doctors. On his particularly good days he'd occasionally even open up MS Paint and make a lolcat, but he could never sum up the courage to submit his work, not wanting to be a bother to the far-superior originators of the activity.
As Dikembe stood stoic, passively watching the sunset, he could hear the mockingbirds going at it again. Evidently tonight's rehearsal of Damn Yankees was running late, due to their Shoeless Joe having been eaten by a bobcat earlier that afternoon. They anxiously scrambled to make the ends meet, the director frequently stopping the rehearsal to berate the understudy-Joe, a red-breasted robin who'd become lost at the castle en route to a nearby farm, for his lack of stage presence, as well as his inability to speak English. If this kept up, Dikembe's wakeup call tomorrow morning would be disastrous. He briefly considered sleeping with earplugs tonight, but, fearing they might cause him to sleep later than he had today, he soon thought better of it.
The sunset having grown boring and tiresome, Dikembe now strode back through the Grand Hall, which he'd wired for sound a few months prior; the state-of-the-art sound system currently proudly played the calming psychedelia of the Ozric Tentacles, in crisp high-definition. As was common for him at this time of the day, Dikembe's spirits had become slightly lifted with the falling of the sun and the passing of the hours. He didn't know why the daylight made him so uneasy, but during the evening, he found himself much more at peace, and as such, even hummed a few bars of Stretchy as he strolled down the long hallway, almost with a bounce in his step. As he passed through the Corridor Of The Ancients, he smiled and waved at the hooded undertaker, who was preparing his latest fare for burial. Climbing the wheeled ladder in his immense library, Dikembe picked a book off the shelf at random; it was something by Carl Jung, he could tell, by the binding. But he chose to save which publication it was as a surprise, until he'd properly set the mood in the drawing room for this session of mind-expansion. Tonight, as on all nights, he considered dipping into the supply of imported French opium that he kept crated up in the basement, but knew that if he did, he'd just end up sitting around all night, doing nothing, while laughing at the ceiling. No, best if he just made a nice pot of tea, sat down in the dim calm of the drawing room, and read his book in peace, with a clear mind.
Dikembe now stood amongst an enormous pile of smoldering ashes and broken support beams. If anything could be salvaged from the fire, he was too stunned to attempt it. He now realized all too late that earlier in the day, while searching for the perfect meat pie, he had entirely forgotten to take the kettle off of the stove. His best guess was that the kettle, a gift from his grandmother in Tibet, had finally exploded from the heat and that the fire had slowly spread, perhaps aided by the very flammable paprika that Dikembe now cursed himself for enjoying so much.
Dikembe presumed he was the only thing, whether animal, vegetable, or mineral, to have survived the inferno. Suddenly, he came to a realization. This is peaceful. His face contorted in reaction to his epiphany. Despite knowing that he should feel shock, despair, anger, anything but what he truly felt, he knew he felt it. Peace. True peace. Not the peace of owning things, living in an enormous castle, having servants, live entertainment, a self-serve haberdashery. He felt the peace that could only be felt in being completely unattached and unburdened by the physical possessions and impedances of the mortal plane. Alright, so he was probably going to miss the frozen-yogurt machine a little, and it might take a few days to get over the fact that the Red Hot Chili Peppers wouldn't be stopping by personally in his bedroom when they were on tour anymore, but above all of that, the words of Confucius now rang in his ears as though he were being finally shown the light, after years of living in the unforgiving darkness of the underground: The convergence of things is the failure of man. Okay, so maybe Confucius hadn't said it. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more convinced he became that it had actually been ESPN Radio host Colin Cowherd who he'd heard it from. He didn't care. What he now knew was that he was unburdened, untied, and once more entirely liberated, physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Dikembe sat atop his charred staircase, likely for the last time. His now thoroughly-used opium pipe by his side, he was currently busy partaking in his last meal, the mesquite-smoked remains of the increasingly unfortunate Shoeless Joe, before he would become a vagabond traveler, delighting in the mere beauty of the world and its wonders as he passed through them, completely free of the compulsions and the hesitance of conservative human existence. He now knew his calling, and breathed the cold night air in deeply, as he prepared himself.
In one swift motion, Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean-Jacques Wamutombo stood up, lit an unfiltered cigarette, and inhaled deeply. His last words, spoken to no-one-in-particular before leaving the grim wreckage of his former home and life behind, were "I should have been a professional basketball player."
He then slowly exhaled the chalky gray tobacco smoke, tossed his cigarette onto the ground, and unceremoniously stomped out its flame beneath his inhumanly large right boot.
And then, he was gone.