Why eating chocolate penguins is bad for the conscience
But when a friend brings you a chocolate penguin to say 'Get Well Soon', you don't abuse their kindness by not eating it. You abuse the penguin.
I started with the beak. At least this protruded from the face, and seemed like an obvious bite-hold. But this meant me putting his face against my lips so that I could snap my teeth round his beak; this felt so intimate, and so like betrayal. It was an 'Ate too, Brute?' moment.
Now he was without the beak, my task seemed more manageable. At least he couldn't complain, although the hole in the middle of his face was a shock.
I turned him round, so that he was facing the other way. Facing, that is, as well as one can, without a face.
I snapped off both his feet with my fingers. This seemed kinder than the direct approach with the teeth. I didn't feel so bad about the feet as about the beak at first, but then I realised he now looked like one of those ancient Greek statues whose base has deteriorated over the years and is now without three toes and a bit of the right forefoot. I felt like a Victorian explorer, breaking bits off the Parthenon to take home to Mother for the mantelpiece.
Eating the rest of him was made much more difficult now he was properly disabled. But, having made him disabled, I now felt I had to finish the job. What was I going to do? Put him back in the plastic bag with the little red ribbon and the polka dot bow and the 'Get Well Soon' label?
So, next, I punched him in the stomach. This sounds violent, I know, but to punch a chocolate penguin in the stomach, you only need a knuckle, not a knuckle-duster. His tummy fell in, and lots of chocolate bits landed inside his cavity, which I then had to shake out. Eating these remnants piece by piece, I couldn't get the word 'intestines' out of my mind, and it rather spoiled things, especially as I don't eat meat.
I went for the rest of his head next. This did feel odd, including, as it did, his eyes. It's never good to eat eyes. I do sometimes eat fish, but I can't eat fish unless it's been de-eyed. Fish eyes are on the side of their heads, which means that when they're lying on the plate, the fish has a jolly good view of you while you attack its belly with a fork. One can eat blindfold, or one can blindfold the fish. Either way, in the top restaurants, you get laughed at.
Still, now the head was dealt with, down to the neck. I only had the trunk left, and this was already damaged. By now, the chocolate penguin had well and truly lost its identity as a penguin. He had originally been called 'Pablo Penguin' on the label, although I had never breathed this name out loud prior to eating it. It doesn't do to cement a relationship with a snack by using fondly alliterative terms of address. Still, it didn't yet look like 'just a bit of chocolate', having, as it did, still a recognisable body. What to do?
One reason for my dilemma about what to do with the trunk was that I was feeling sick. The chocolate penguin had not been a small one. In fact, I think it had probably been a Daddy. This thought, when it came, was not comforting, because this presumably meant there was a Wife and Child somewhere, wondering what had happened to Pater Penguin and who was going to read that evening's Scripture and carve the meat?
But, sick or not sick, there was no way I was going to leave the rest of that penguin for another day. A woman recovering from an operation needs guilt-free sleep.
I broke the rest of the penguin into bits and put them back into the bag. I shook them around, trying not to think of the bag of pieces as the penguin's personal effects. I then tipped my head back and slid all the pieces into my mouth, like you do with the bits at the bottom of the crisp packet.
It was a relief. But it was only the relief that the serial killer feels when he has finally chopped up the body and stashed it in the freezer in bags labelled 'Spare Ribs, Summer 2009'. Like him, I know I will not be able to forget what I've done. Next time anyone gives me a chocolate penguin, I will ask someone else to dismember it (in the same way as one of my daughters always asked for her chicken to be de-boned), and I will ask them to remove anything (beak, feet) that doesn't just look like bits of chocolate.
Five minutes after I'd finished the penguin, I spotted a blob of something dark on my arm. Oh no! More of the penguin! Evidence of its demise stuck to my arm! Out, out, damned spot.
I licked it. It tasted like arm. This was because it was just a freckle.
I heard laughter. Cold, revengeful laughter. I swear.