Mad River Union
ARCATA, APRIL 1 – Multiple classroom coloring projects, civic scoping sessions and virtually all meat-wrapping in Arcata slowed to a halt last week as part of the sudden nationwide shortage of butcher paper.
The rolls of heavy white paper – designed to contain meat juices, to record marking pen scrawls and even withstand the scribbles of elementary school students – recently fell into short supply across the nation, and Arcata may be the reason.
“We’re looking at it closely,” stated Dirk Decepto, spokesliar for ButchCo International. The multinational conglomerate is now the sole butcher paper supplier for the world following industry consolidation. “Preliminary results indicate an extraordinary draw on inventory on the West Coast, reducing supplies elsewhere,” Decepto said.
Local supermarkets, unable to wrap meat, have encouraged customers to transport their meat home by balancing it on top of their heads. Local facilitators have had to record ideas for Plaza reform by scratching a scorched shovel blade with a stick – or writing directly on Council Chamber walls.
Elementary school children who would have been painting murals during art period have instead been heavily sedated and stacked in well-ventilated school storerooms.
With fresh rolls unavailable at any price, some meat vendors resorted to wrapping their cuts in previously loved, that is, used butcher paper.
Customers at Safeway were surprised to get home and unwrap their beef to find the inside of the paper emblazoned with ideas for downtown improvement scribbled in colorful marking pen.
Some of the ink had transferred to the moist meat, imprinting the slogans in reverse on the cuts.
“If I hold my rump steak up to the mirror, it says, ‘Detox the Plaza’,” complained Westwood resident Mabel Fletcher. “My ground round says, ‘Build a bandshell’.”
The appearance of used butcher paper coincided with a wave of burglaries at offices of conflict resolution mediators and related fields around town, gutting them of every trace of butcher paper.
The thefts, coupled with the appearance of used paper at area meat markets, has only exacerbated tensions between local facilitators and butchers.
One local facilitation center was the site of a protest by the Meat Cutters Union Local No. 327. Clad in bloody smocks, the meatworkers paraded outside with a butcher paper banner that said, in bold red letters, “Facilitate This!”
On learning of the crisis, activist Fhyre Phoenix joined in, extolling the use of cardboard rather than the precious paper. Marching with the meat cutters, his sign read, “Conflict Resolution Through Corrugation!”
Meanwhile, police are investigating potential chicanery on the Plaza. One of the leisure specialists who hangs out there every day, street name Splunge, was asked to leash his romping pit bull by an APD officer.
“Awww,” he cringed. “Do I have to give the $10 back?”
Splunge said he’d been offered the 10-spot by another man whom he pointed out lingering at Ninth and H streets. Approached by police, the man quickly pocketed a wad of bills he’d been passing out to a small passel of Plazagoers.
“Thanks, mister,” said one urchin as he strolled off up G Street. “I’ll carve my tag into that new store window right away.”
“Yeah,” said another. I’ll swear no fewer than 40 expletives at the top of my lungs at 3 a.m. Thanks for the scratch!”
Asked for identification, the man flashed a Butchco Industries business card bearing the name Harry Hoptobler and the title, Field Instigator.
“Ignore that,” he told the officer. “I’m actually a free-lance cheese polisher.”
Further investigation indicated that multiple Plazoids caught making mischief had received funds from Hoptobler.
Still another person, identified as Penny Dime, was seen leaving a trail of Susan B. Anthony dollars leading from the Portland Loo into the fenced-off recovering foliage in the nearby Veterans Memorial Park, all of which was quickly re-squashed by the swarming sitabouts.
Asked why she was doing that, Dime adjusted her Butchco-branded baseball cap and said she was but an unemployed cloud counter trying to bring bored street folk “closer to nature.”
Downtown, the surge in petty crime was inspiring fresh demands for a facilitated town hall meeting intended to gather ideas for solutions. City officials said no such meeting could be held without emergency supplies of butcher paper.
In a stroke of luck, ButchCo Industries agreed to fly in a dozen of the precious paper rolls in time for the Plaza scoping session.
“Consider us your community partner,” said Butchco CEO Blight Bluster. “Our mills are at your service in helping restore order to your troubled town square.”
City officials said that Butchco was offering the emergency supplies at a discounted rate, but was charging a $300,000 “courtesy fee” for the delivery.
Meanwhile, layoffs of paper-deprived butchers had forced creation of a waiting list for area cattle ranchers, creating a beef backup. The cattlemen complained that their pastures were overflowing with cows and other barnyard animals. “It’s a population explosion,” lamented Arcata Bottom rancher Ned Funston.
The complaints were borne out in catastrophic fashion Monday as a renegade herd of cattle burst from their crowded, overgrazed pasture and flooded Bottoms neighborhoods, gobbling up front lawns.
Once the suburban yards were denuded, the newly-empowered cattle charged towards the Plaza. There, in a stirring re-enactment of an era past, they set about grazing.
The pastoral downtown scene was comforting to many until things took a nasty turn. A Plaza habitue muttering something about “earning my pay” tried to tip over one of the massive cows, which triggered a stampede.
Two out-of-towners were trampled in the bovine melee. Police said that before being flattened, one had identified himself as a spaghetti farmer, and the other a cricket groomer.