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The mood in the room is tense, to say the least.

Ten colorful otters, all shapes and sizes, sit around a large conference room table. Each one isn’t sure who should begin, but they all have something to say.

Sir Isaac Lime, having always considered himself the voice of reason, and the academic of the group, chooses to begin the conversation.

“Well, my fellow otters. Our goal is clear. Two of us must go, as per directives from our corporate overlords. And dare I suggest, as the only one who has been on the chopping block before, during the great Otter Pop Protest of ‘96, that my name be withdrawn from consideration.”

The romp (that’s what one calls a group of otters) all roll their eyes discreetly, with some even stifling groans of boredom, bordering on disgust. This hasn’t been the first time they’ve all heard this story. Whenever given the opportunity, Sir Isaac reminds the rest of the crew, with his standard holier-than-thou tone, about the time a bunch of kindergarteners saved him from discontinuation—and unemployment.

He often forgets to tell the darker side of the story.

Sure, a bunch of kids from Costa Mesa saved Lime. But does anyone care what happened to Scarlett O’Cherry? After a rigorous interview process and over $100,000 in market research spend, she was going to be the newer, fresher face of Otter Pops. But because of Kevin Kee in California and his precocious petition, her contract was dissolved immediately, all Scarlett collateral was destroyed, and she squandered all her settlement money by sending it Baloo Banana, a man who swore he was a Nigerian Prince and an heir to the Otter Pop fortune.

DJ Tropicool, Cosmic Coconut, Anita Fruitpunch, and Major Mango quietly whisper amongst themselves, strategizing. Ever since they’d been swiftly added to the team to add gender parity, it was evident these four had created an alliance. As far as the rest of the group? They knew what the newbies were up to, and as a general rule, didn’t trust them.

Major Mango stands up, always the spokesperson for the newbies, and abruptly addresses the crowd.

“As the newest members of the team,” she signals to Cosmic, DJ and Anita, “brought on to reflect and represent the ever-changing population of our consumers and introduce a new, exciting tropical variety of flavors…” She paused for dramatic effect. “We wish to be excluded from this narrative.”

Mango sits down with a self-satisfied smirk, the rest of the clique mirroring her expression.

Lil Orphan Orange scoffs from her seat. Every other otter braces themselves.

She was still in an ongoing battle with corporate to have her name officially changed to “MAGA Mandarin,” and this was after she went on Tucker Carlson to talk about her appearance on The View, where she tried to make a case for a new flavor called “Ching Chong Cherry.” And still no one was clear about her whereabouts on January 6th.

“Well, you know, Major,” Orange’s Southern drawl apparent, “if you ever actually served in the military, you know it’s not about what’s between your legs, but how you SERVE. And all I know is kids love me—a great American Otter Pop—after a long, sweaty game of good, ole American football. But all of a sudden, because the political elite have decided they want their lazy, woke kids to read books, many that I’m actively trying to ban, and then enjoy an ice pop after doin’ nothing all day but tweeting about their feelings… we have you, a flavor that did not grow up in this great country.  I’m gonna say it here, as the silent minority, I never thought I’d see the day where childhood refreshment would be destroyed by the libtards. And before you all document this and send it to HR, may I remind you of something I like to call the FIRST AMENDMENT?”

Always the philosopher, Alexander the Grape attempts to garner responses from those who have remained silent during the debate. “Louie Bloo Raspberry, do you have anything to add?”

Louie Bloo looks back at Alexander languidly, his eyes already moist as a result of a few glasses of morning wine, his speech with its typical slur. “Mon frere, all I know is ze American children love anything zat is blue. Blue raspberry isn’t even a real fruit! I’m not going anywhere. Even if ze dye used to make my flavor causes ze ADHD.”

Louie sips from his water bottle, which everyone knows is actually filled to the brim with an earthy Malbec.

As drunk as he is, Louie has a point: Blue raspberry isn’t going anywhere. In seeming acknowledgement of that fact, he stands up, tips his beret to the assembled group, and drunkenly stumbles out of the conference room.

No one chooses to speak up about the Pepe Le Pew level of harassment the cerulean French stereotype has been accused of recently.

Lil Orphan Orange pipes up again, “Let’s just get rid of the crazy one.”

Everyone directs their attention to Strawberry Short Kook, who sits quietly in the corner, constantly counting to ten on her fingers.

Sir Isaac Lime chimes in again, “Orange, perhaps that’s… insensitive? And I believe our friend Strawberry has been provided a reasonable accommodation in accordance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. I believe if the company were to fire her, we would all be out of a job, due to the cost of legal fees alone!”

Cosmic Coconut takes off her astronaut helmet to speak, having an intense need to always stay in character. “Perhaps instead of cutting one of us from the roster, we should talk to management about giving Strawberry a name that is more respectful and less stigmatizing towards the mental health crisis?”

“Not this woke bullshit again,” interjects Lil’ Orphan Orange. “While we’re at it, let’s send Poncho Punch back home over the border and keep her away from our hard-earned dollars by finally building that dang gum wall.”

Punch interjects, aghast, not used to being assertive, “I was born in New Jersey!”

Major Mango, always the diplomat, struggles to share her criticism even-handedly. “Then maybe you want to wear an outfit that is less… culturally appropriative?”

Punch responds, matter of factly. “The Latinx demographic is historically underserved, and I am happy to be their representative in the competitive world of water ice refreshment.”

As if timed perfectly, a string on the guitar she always carries around breaks and twangs a discordant note.

DJ Tropicool, having recently taken advantage of the legalization of marijuana, just giggles in a bout of fourth wall breaking self-awareness.

“Twang is a funny word, bruh.” He attempts to pass the joint to Alexander, who politely declines. DJ looks at him. “Dude, as a philosopher, this shit will REALLY free your mind.”

Anita Fruit Punch, the self-proclaimed feminist, and proudly out lesbian of the group, finally decides to speak up. “So, what the fuck we gonna do?” To accentuate her point, she slams her trademark volleyball on the floor.

Strawberry, prone to rambling, continues counting to ten, but louder this time.

Sir Isaac, having been the only one on the team with a credentialed academic degree and an understanding of behavioral disorders, tells everyone to shush. When Strawberry Short Kook gets agitated, it means she has something to say.

“Daresay, I believe the Kook… er… Ms. Strawberry may have something to share with the group.”

She continues to count to ten in a crescendo.

“It’s all in the numbers. I knew it. I told you all. It’s ALLLLLLLLLLLLLL in the numbers. In a value deluxe pack of 50, we each get five pops each. Five pops. Five pops. Five pops. If they make a mistake, they have to restart the production line and repack the entire box. Instead, if they do a random sampling of each of our flavors in every pack, they can move twice as quickly on the production line and save costs. And the odds work in our favor, where they should be at least one pop of every flavor in every box. If the math I’ve done on the walls of my room with the blood from the raccoon I found raiding the trash is correct, they won’t have to cut any of us. Goodbye.”

Kook stands up abruptly, throws up her middle fingers, and proceeds to run out the room ululating at the top of her lungs, screaming “Fuck capitalism!” as she rounds the corner.

The remaining crew looks at Lime expectantly.

Lil’ Orphan chimes in. “Well, is little Hannibal Lecter right??”

Lime does a quick mental calculation. “Yes, yes, I think she is,” and is met with silence.

DJ Tropicool, always good to break the awkward silence, “Yo, who wants to go do some bong rips in the break room?”

Eric Mochnacz

A wizard of pop culture. A prince of snark. A delightful addition to any dinner party.

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