Will somebody please alert Switzerland?

Somebody’s in real trouble. I’m just not sure if it’s the nation of Switzerland, the American Beef Council or the electrician at the old courthouse in Portland.

Perhaps I should explain.

(Sure, why not?)

My pillow was ringing insistently at 2 o’clock a few dim, distant mornings ago and – after knocking over my bedside lamp, turning off the alarm clock and turning on the radio – I deftly picked up the telephone receiver.

The predawn caller was, predictably, my old ’60s sidekick, Sapper. Forever lost in the Age of Aquarius after ingesting some unidentified herbs near Bolinas in 1968, Sapper likes to let everyone know exactly what’s on his mind anytime after, say, midnight, on any given morning. He favors 3 a.m., but it was obvious that he was in a hurry last week and no time was to be lost.

“I gotta sue somebody, bro – maybe even declare war,” he whispered urgently.

This was serious. Sapper had never declared war before.

“I get, like, a handicap or somethin’ if I declare war and there’s only one of me and a whole mess of Swiss guys on the other side, right?”

This was very serious, I determined, quietly asking “Uh, so what’s up?”

What was up was a bad case of pseudo Swiss steak lockjaw, and Sapper wasn’t the least bit amused.

“It all started when my lil’ brother, Goose, gave me his secret recipe for Swiss steak,” Sapper whispered. “Said all I had to do was take a big ol’ chunk of round steak an’ some salt ‘n’ pepper an’ boil it for 15 minutes or an hour or somethin’ an’ then hit it with a hammer an’ boil down the water till it was gravy.”

Uh-huh …

“So I did like he said, but I didn’t have a lid for the pot, so I went out in the garage an’ got that big ol’ light fixture I found on that lamp post by the courthouse – remember, when I fell outta that tree in Portland? An’ it worked great, but that was still the damned toughest steak I ever had, an’ I lost a filling an’ broke a tooth an’ then everybody told me that wasn’t Swiss steak at all, it was redneck steak an’ Goose is an idjit …”

Well, er …

“So I hadda go to the dentist an’ he gave me a nerve blocker to work on my tooth and my jaw slipped forward an’ all my cartilage moved down an’ now I can’t open my mouth fer anything thicker than a slice o’ pizza,” Sapper continued. “So whadda I do, bro? This is serious.”

Cornered – and more than a little bit confused – I was about to suggest that my old friend go in search of a 24-hour attorney, but he was already on the way to answering most of his own questions before he asked them.

“The way I see it, I can sue my dentist, I can sue the old courthouse in Portland for leavin’ an attractive nuisance around for me to find, I can declare war on Switzerland and see if the UN’ll back me up with one o’ them peace-keepin’ forces, or I can just drive down to Ashland an’ whomp Goose one upside the head for ruinin’ my life with his stupid recipe …”

I judiciously recommended simply whompin’ Goose one upside the head, then I gently unplugged my telephone.

Sapper, however, seldom takes the path of least resistance, so it’d probably be a good idea for somebody to alert the Swiss border authorities – very, very soon …

Originally published September 24, 2000