Dave's Emotions
by: Max Burbank


Dave experiences a grief of such tremendous proportions it must be transformative, except that it isn't. Overwhelmed to such a degree that the tide of his grief is going, has gone out before he even notices it's retreat, he finds himself no different but that he is sweatier and drenched in tears and mucus. Nothing essential has changed at all. His loss is still the same loss. He is still the same person. As if he had been attacked with special hammers that leave no hammer marks.


Sometimes Dave is talking to someone and he doesn't stop, but his brain goes someplace else. It's like some compassionate soul has taken over the talking for Dave so that he doesn't appear to be crazy and Dave can pay attention to something else which is sometimes a dog and a butterfly who are pals. They take long aimless walks and talk about stuff.

"I'm not satisfied," says the Dog, "with my life."

"How so?" Asks the Butterfly.

"Well, like yesterday. I ate a poop. I did. No reason. I just did it. It's like it wasn't even me."

"How did that make you feel?"

"Ashamed, I guess."

"Do you feel ashamed?"

"No. Not really. I feel like I should be shamed. Shouldn't anyone, though? Good dogs don't eat poop."

"Are you a good dog?"

"Are you even listening to me?"

In fact, the Butterfly is not listening. It's like some compassionate soul has taken over the talking for him so that he is free to imagine he is a rock on the edge of the ocean. The incoming tide rolls him up the beach. The outgoing tide washes him back. To all appearances he remains unchanged, but the truth is he is eroding. One day without ever having seen it coming, he will be a pebble. One day without ever having seen it coming he will be a grain of sand.

"I'm sorry," says Dave, "can you say what you just said again?"


Sometimes Dave finds himself smiling. He could be reacting to something or it could be a tic. He could be involuntarily smiling at gas, the way a baby's first smiles are always denigrated. "Go with it" he thinks, and after a moment the smile is just a smile, and the chemicals of happiness wash his brain. It is such a relief, and Dave tries not to think that previous experience shows moments like these are transient, but he has already had just this thought. He is still smiling, though the feeling of happiness is fading. The fleetness doesn't make the happiness unreal, but it never lasts long enough to be transformative.


Though there are literally hundreds of things on TV, there s nothing on TV. In contrast, the fridge really does have just two items in it, only one of which can loosely be called food and that is pickles and Dave doesn't want a pickle. Is Mayonnaise a food? Is it? How old does it have to be before it can no longer be called food by anyone?

When Dave was a kid, the seams in his socks frequently felt wrong to his toes. It's been happening again lately.


Once loneliness was a crazy ass mean dog barking a thunderstorm of bees. Later when it became clear that nothing Dave did to ameliorate loneliness made it go away, it was transformed into the moment when you are going to jump off the loft and into the hay but you don't. You'll jump on three, but when you get to three you don't, so you'll jump on ten but when you get to ten you don't because you can't go back but you are not able to jump any more that you could fly off the loft and out into the sun like a butterfly. Now loneliness has eroded and is only a horrible unwashed old coat that you long ago stopped remembering you loathed the style of but you wore it anyway because it was a gift from someone whose feelings you didn't want to hurt and now it is the only coat you own and it is too cold not to wear a coat most days.


The Dog and the Butterfly? The Dog and the Butterfly? Wasn't that an album by Heart? And weren't they once referred to as 'the female Led Zeppelin'?


Dave does not feel rage. Only mild irritation over things like Mayonnaise and socks.


If there's a bustle in your hedgerow, don't be alarmed now. It's just a spring clean for the May Queen.


Do they even make fruity pebbles anymore? Do They? Do they? Dave thinks not. Only Cocoa Pebbles, named for the Flintstone's daughter if they were African-American, which they are not. Barney has no cereal anymore. No wonder he steals Fred's.


The grain of sand believes it was once a pebble. But so does its twin, torn by erosion from it's body so does every single one of the eight billion grains of sand erosion scraped off the pebble over the lonely years. Is grief transformative or merely redundant?


Dave clings to the bedpost believing that his grief may tear him to pieces, but of course it does not. Rising out of his weeping body, beholding it dispassionately from above it becomes clear that Grief is gently eroding him, carefully removing tiny bits of Dave that all believe they were Dave and carrying them away, scattering them like stars in the heavens, like pearls before swine. Dave doesn't know it yet, but experience will eventually show him that moments like this are transient. He is already coming back to his body, almost forgetting, fleeting but real, what if anything he just learned.


Once there were Fruity Pebbles, so there will always be Fruity Pebbles. Once there was Quisp and Quake and so there will always be Quisp and Quake. Once there was Cap'n Crunch's Vanilly Crunch and yes, Mr. T cereal. Once there were Dog n' Butterfly Checks and Page n' Plants' Leddy Zeppelins with a real plastic stairway to heaven in every box, and terrible grief was transformative.

That coat makes you look like a transient. Wear it fleetingly.

If you enjoyed this piece, be sure to check out:

A Standardized Test Measuring The Condition Of Your Soul

Reader Comments

The Magnificent Bastard
May 11th, 2009, 10:28 PM
Funny, and depressing at the same time.

Wonderful as usual, Max.
grants but one wish
May 11th, 2009, 10:43 PM
two burbanks in as many days? max, you'll spoil us!
Ninja in training
May 12th, 2009, 01:02 AM
i feel like i have become a better person by reading this
Clap if you love Dynamo
May 12th, 2009, 10:31 AM
This fills me with a desire to dig out my Led Zeppelin CD boxed set and listen to it again.
after enough bourbon ...
May 12th, 2009, 12:29 PM
Dude, you were so close. You had already tied in "Stairway to Heaven" - where was "Ina Gadda Da Vida"?

You had me at "Dog and Butterfly".
Forum Virgin
May 13th, 2009, 02:45 AM
I think I need some cereal now.
Forum Virgin
May 13th, 2009, 06:26 PM
only mild irritation over socks and mayonaise? Dave, You sir, are a more passive person than I.
...I'm hungry...
Kat Kat is offline
Breathes Comics
May 14th, 2009, 07:56 PM
Did you know they stopped making Trix? Well, not really. There's still a cereal that is refered to by name as Trix, but it's not. They stopped making the fruit shapes, and now it's just a bowl of hardened multicolor fructose spheres. It's not Trix. Not anymore.

On a note vaguely involving the article, did you ever notice that most everything you write is the same?

And yet, so wonderfully different.
Valkyr Addict
May 14th, 2009, 09:41 PM
that was amazing.

it is as if you gently rubbed a sensitive part of my soul, Mr.Burbank.
Can't touch this
May 17th, 2009, 01:17 AM
Colonel Flagg, "Ina Gadda Da Vida", more appropriately known as "In the Garden of Eden", was not Led Zeppelin. Or you're making an entirely different point. I stand by it. Who knows.
Method and Madness mixed with a dash of Max, the ingredients for the kind of funny that can almost make you feel ashamed of finding it funny. Like someone being ran over by the car they forgot to set the parking brake in. Or a dog that plays "chicken" with large trucks.
Flash Game Programmer
May 17th, 2009, 01:04 PM
@ Kat,

True Trix never had fruit shapes. They added those in the 80s as a promotion. I'm glad to hear they're back to normal.
Flash Game Programmer
May 17th, 2009, 01:07 PM
@ El Sammo, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida was by Iron Butterfly, and it was not ever known as "In the Garden of Eden" unless you count the Simpsons' parody of it as fact.
Kat Kat is offline
Breathes Comics
May 21st, 2009, 10:13 PM
Ah. See, I would not have known that having been born more than ten years later.

I should do my research next time.

Shame on me.
Full of Country Goodness
May 23rd, 2009, 02:58 PM
I just don't get Max Burbank. Though, I do find his odor agreeable.
after enough bourbon ...
May 24th, 2009, 07:24 AM
@El Sammo - your second statement was correct.

@BoMToons - I can never get the hyphens right.
4 Eyes, No Brain.
Jun 17th, 2009, 06:23 PM
Brilliantly surreal as usual Senor Burbank.
Forum Virgin
Nov 22nd, 2009, 11:05 PM
I have always found fruity pebbles irritating...like a skin rash that no cream currently available can affect in any way.

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