Wally Weepul, keeping me on the straight and narrow.
For a time my mother’s aunt (my Ba Nam) worked at a weepul factory in Oklahoma City. I wish I was able to elaborate more on this story. At the time, this fact was no more unusual than mom using nuoc mam in the spaghetti sauce or Auntie Xuan violently sniffing faces to show her love. Later I will learn this is called, ‘schema’.
Growing up I was never short of weepuls. Open a kitchen drawer: find a weepul. Look up to the top shelf: spot a weepul. Hit the snooze button: thump a weepul. An imaginative stranger might think that they were the clownlike cousin of the Tribbles, endearing themselves with their little fuzzy faces only to take over the house via excessive breeding. The reality was far less sinister; every Christmas during my childhood a bag of them would appear in the care package from Ba Nam. Like a trick-or-treater appraising their haul, I would inspect each one and divide them on the merits of their character: a pile for me, a pile to share among the house, a pile to give away to friends.
It wasn’t until I was 13 and enrolled in a new school that I find out that they were called ‘weepuls’ – it had never occurred to me that they had their own name. I don’t remember what I called them before I learned of their name; ‘Pom-pom things’? At this school were tasked to sell wrapping paper for charity and as a reward were given weepuls. You can imagine the prize did not hold the same cachet for me as for my peers. Weepuls were abundant in my world and, besides, mine were unique.
You see, the pencils and weepuls shared the commonalities of being from grandparents and being defective - that’s why I’d have bags of them in the first place. I never cared that they were imperfect. Their eccentricities made them delightful. Like a husky, their eyes wouldn’t match – except they were supposed to be bears. Like an American, their grins would be toothy – but they were supposed to be hens. They were absurd and they were mine.
Oh poor weepul how life has been cruel,
With your paper gone, can’t stick to a stool.
How will you hear us with a foot for an ear?
With a nose for an eye, can’t shed a tear.
Can you reach very high with an arm for a hat?
Do you spend your time waving or patting your back?
Do you feel lonely, being one of a kind?
You’ll always have me, your friend, Jmai.