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number 6

Big Rock Candy Mountain
by Angus Johnston

You know how, when you get a ticket punched on a train, the hole comes out in a weird little shape? Well, a while ago I stumbled across the website of M.C. Mieth, the company that sells the punches. (It's Go look. I'll wait.)

Now, I've got a serious stationery fetish, and --- as my handful of regular readers are no doubt aware ---something of a streak of OCD. So you can imagine how I reacted when I discovered that Mieth punches come in more than sixteen hundred different hole shapes, all of which are on display at their site. You want an anvil? Number 270. A ball-peen hammer? Number 1502. A shoe? Specify men's or women's, facing right or left, high or low heel.

They've got all the letters and numbers, of course, and special punches that'll clip out up to four characters at once. Imagine punching words --- or even phrases --- into every dollar bill that passed through your hands. Imagine getting a fiver in change that had the word FIVE punched into a corner, or SAVE ME. Imagine SLUT punched out of Franklin's forehead on a hundred, or FINK punched out of Andy Jackson's on a twenty. Imagine punching your initials out of the title page of a book before you lent it to someone, or making gobs of chartreuse ball-peen-hammer-shaped confetti, or...

I picked the chunk of the catalog that accompanies this essay pretty much at random. But every time I look at it, I get more obsessed, and more confused.

Number 1528 could be a bow, I guess, or a pretzel. And 1529, 1575, and 1599 are all stylized X-es. I guess 1531 could be an egg cup, and 1533 could be a gravestone casting a shadow, and 1553 could be a doll or something. Is 1551 a horse's head? Maybe. It's pretty clear that 1577 is a bird's foot, right? If you squint 1555 could be a duck, 1595 could be a beehive, and 1596 could be a stealth bomber.

But beyond that, what? Is 1554 a g-spot tickler? Is 1597 a smiling mouth with fangs? What the hell is going on here?

Excuse me. I need to go lie down now. I think I'm in love.

Angus Johnston lives in Brooklyn. He can be reached at

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