And yet, sadly, sometimes you must do just that.

It seems, at first blush, that everything will be fine...the puppy in question is patient, the kittens are small and resolutely nonsquirmy, your kitten-wrangling and puppy-stuffing skills are paramount.

But as the puppy begins to feel the effects of kitten-crammage (stumbling about as if inebriated, barking in confusion, speaking French) your resolve will waver. You will begin to fear that the capacity for kitten placement in a puppy will fall short and you will be left with that duo of puppy-stuffing shames: a partially-filled puppy and extraneous kittens.

With dawning hope and horror in equal amounts, realization steals over you; the puppy's butt remains vacant of feline presence. A lone kitten looks at you plaintively, mutely pleading for canine succor, perhaps even meowing in adorable confusion at the whereabouts of its recent kitten friends, now fully ensconced in canus.

Though your eternal soul will no doubt be roasting on a demonic spit within hours, a simple lift and push and a moment's struggle with the domestic representatives involved completes your task.

Kittens: out of sight (if not of mind)
Puppy: thoroughly filled with kittens

Relax for a moment and reflect on your deeds this day. You have done the nearly-impossible. You depraved bastard.

Yet another nodeshell rescue. What, precisely, does a noder smoke, inject, or observe to come up with these wack-ass nodeshells?

The old man knew that today, while being like all the other days, wouldn't be as much like all the other days as all the other days were.

stuff stuff stuff

The foreman had told him that today, he would be training a new kid. Another one of them kids, fresh out of college, naive and smooth-skinned and with maybe a couple grey hairs but not a lot. Another one of them new kids, couldn't find a job in a down economy, working here for a few months until something better opened up.

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He'd seen new kids before. Pretty blonde girls, handsome slim boys, no one ever started here older than twenty-five. Maybe thirty. The old man had been here since he had been some dumb handsome kid with no lines on his face and and optimistic spirit. No one older than twenty-five was stupid enough to take a job here.

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The old man had stayed out of necessity and sheer inertia. He knew he was stupid to work here, but what else was he qualified for after all these years?

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Hi, I'm Todd. Typical new kid bullshit.

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This was the man who was supposed to train Todd. The old man nodded in recognition of Todd. He didn't introduce himself, so Todd mentally named him George.

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George was a quiet man. Todd waited for him to say hello, or to offer a piece of helpful advice, some sort of old man wisdom that he could apply to this job, or to this life, the life that already wasn't going the way it was supposed to.

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Todd realized that no one in this factory could possibly be living the life they were supposed to.

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The old man pointed at the supplies. There wasn't anything to say to the new kid. He was just a dumb, fresh-faced, handsome, smooth-skinned kid whose hair hadn't greyed and who knew nothing about the world.

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Like the old man had been when he arrived.

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The old man gestured toward the supplies. There was no mystery to this job, nothing to learn, no profound lessons on life. Sometimes he wanted to give these kids helpful advice, some kind of old man wisdom to guide their lives. But he was working here too; he was just as stupid as the new kid, even if he wasn't quite as naive.

stuff stuff stuff

Even if he had grey hair and lines on his face, a paunch and feet that hurt, a daughter and the missus of course. Lila and the missus, the two women in his life, they were why he stayed at this job, and maybe that was old man wisdom of some sort, but it wasn't something the new kid would understand.

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Not yet.

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What was up with George? Todd picked up his first one, and tried to stuff it. George made it look simple; he stuffed them effortlessly. This one yipped.

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The old man could at least give advice about this. You need to twist it, like this. A little more. That's it. Ok, put your finger here and spread this. You're getting it. Ok, push. Squeeze a little. Good job. There's your first.

stuff stuff stuff

"Good job. There's your first," said George. Todd smiled a little. It wasn't really an achievement, but George maybe liked him a little.

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If they yip, you're doin' somethin' wrong. Lordy, the old man knew he must have done somethin' wrong sometime. Just short of sixty, and here he was working in a factory. Making worthless consumer novelties for dumb, fat white kids and their mindless suburbanite parents.

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Todd wondered what the old man's story was. "So how long have you been working here?"

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So how long have you been working here? God, how long had it been? Thirty-four years, kid. Everyone in here? Each person you see, that's a failed dream. You can ask anyone, we all got our own stories why we ain't gone on to do something real with our lives.

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I was twenty-five. Just got my master's - yeah, you're just about the right age for that. Why you workin' here - you knock some chick up or something?

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"You knock some chick up or something?" asked George. "That's what happened to me, you know," he continued. "Me and the missus - we was doin' all right. I had just got my master's like I was sayin'. But, well, then came Lila. She's - she's the light of my life, lemme tell ya. She's the reason I come in here each mornin'.

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The missus wanted a baby, so she decided to take a leave of absence. She was a professor already, you know. Smart as a tack, got her professorship when she was only twenty-four. Russian literature. I never knew why she decided she had to have a baby right then. Maybe she somehow knew there wouldn't be another chance. I wouldn't trade my Lila for nuthin' - not anything.

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I was just gonna take a couple years off before I got my Ph.D. This place pays pretty well. Plan was, I was gonna buy us a house, so's my Lila - most beautiful girl in the world - so's my Lila would have a decent place to grow up. But then the missus - she had her accident, and we couldn't feed three mouths and send me to school at the same time.

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Course, the missus ate a lot less once she lost her legs.

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She told me after the accident - George, she says -

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"'George, she says,'" the old man began. Todd blinked. His name was George. "'George, you gotta go back to school. I know you don't like workin' in that factory all day.' But that was before she had her second accident." George was tearing up a little bit.

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I love the missus, you know. The old man suddenly couldn't talk right. But without her legs, and now without her arms, well, what was I gonna do? Besides, it's true what they say: Quantum chromodynamics is for the young. I had - whatchamacallit? - I was full of hubris and I thought I was gonna change the world.

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"I thought I was gonna change the world," George finished sadly. Todd wondered about all the other people in the factory, lined faces, grey hair, they must all have similar stories. Todd wondered what his would be when he hit George's age.

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"You ever wonder about what you're doing here, George? Not about your own life. Why do they do this?"

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Why do they do this? This one wasn't gonna stay. George sighed. Mebbe two-thirds of them kids started thinking too much about the job, and they never survived. Shit. He could see the security guards gathering in the distance already. They had this place bugged so heavy they could hear every fart on the factory floor. Wasn't no stoppin' the kid now, though. That's why George tried not to get involved till they'd been here a few months at least.

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"You ever think, you know, maybe it's mean to hide a kitten in a puppy's butt?" asked Todd. "Why do they want us doing it anyway?"

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Too late to shut the kid up now. George just shook his head as the kid got led off, and wondered what happened to these brash young rebels, and thought about how close he'd come to being one of 'em when he started here. But he kept his mouth shut for the sake of the missus, the missus and Lila, his beautiful little girl.

stuff stuff stuff

Light of my life. He watched Todd leave. Light of my life.

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