We have an app that lets parents know when their child has peed their diapers, an app that lets men dating several women track their menstrual cycles so he’ll know which one is “ready”, and an app that tells you if it’s dark outside, but no one has yet developed an app that helps Bigfoot date. That’s a huge hole in the marketplace because while the Bigfoot demographic may not actually exist, and has almost zero smartphone penetration, this market sector has serious dating needs that are vulnerable to applied technological solutions.
Walter J. Sheldon’s The Beast (1980) could be read by a stupid person as the account of an expedition to find Bigfoot. Based on the deathbed testimony of a crashed bush pilot, the Cadbury Corporation sponsors an expedition across the border into Canada’s fictional Kayatuk Wilderness to find the mysterious manimal known only by his shoe size: Bigfoot. Manufacturers of the delicious and popular creme egg, Cadbury’s is worried that if Bigfeet are discovered in the Kayatuk Wilderness the mountains will be declared a “protected area” and they will lose access to the chocolate mines they need to make their delicious Wispa and Curly Wurly bars.
And so former CIA agent, J. Richard Charterhouse III, is tapped by Cadbury’s to head the expedition, but also given top secret instructions to kill the Bigfoot and protect their precious, precious chocolate mines. Along for the ride: born again Christian, Emory Greer, as their guide; there’s the overweight alcoholic nature photographer, Pete Hollinger; the big city cop moved to the boonies after shooting a kid, Joe McBay; and finally the fiery 25-year-old anthropologist with a secret, Zia Marlowe. A dummy sees a Bigfoot adventure novel. A smart person will see this book for what it is: a survey of the dating and sexual habits of Bigfeet.
Every other chapter is related from the POV of Self, a lady Bigfoot who lives in the high ice caves of the Kayatuk Wilderness, and has a hard time dating because she’s so curious and smart. She’s such a big thinker that “her brain actually ached with the effort”. Unfortunately, a super-smart Bigfoot can’t listen to NPR or binge-watch that new Danish mystery series on Netflix, the way super-smart “Pink Skins” do, so instead she’s stuck in an icy valley with a bunch of Bigfeet with names like Giver-of-Milk, Narrow Mouth, Broken Foot, Old One, Young One, Skinny One, and Big Male (it’s like they’re not even actually trying with those names). No wonder “She’d been decidedly bored lately.” Even worse, “Her vagina itched with desire.”
So here she is with super-achy brain and her super-itchy vagina, and winter is coming (or “The Time of Snow” as the Bigfeets call it) and she cannot find a date. Big Male is dating Skinny One but that doesn’t stop Self from grooming him. Even though she wants to jump his Bigfoot bones, she realizes “she ought to make the overture of grooming." He may be “grouchy and stolid and lacked a sense of play” but Big Male has some advantages, “That was one thing to be said for Big Male. He seldom burdened your brain with more than a few grunts.” She manages to lure him behind a pile of rocks, which is what Bigfeet call “a date” and he jumps on top but “His penis...was short, considering his size”. Even worse, “To Self’s surprise and disappointment it was over with very quickly...The great explosion of pleasure Giver-of-Milk had sometimes mentioned had not manifested itself. Maybe Giver-of-Milk was wrong; maybe there was no such explosion.”
Self is not just frustrated by her itchy, non-orgasmed Bigfoot vagina, but by her foolish emotions. “The whole experience had not been at all what she expected. Why, then, did she wish to do it again and wish that Big Male would come back to her?” So frustrated is Self, that she masturbates, even though she’s been told that this is a very bad thing for Bigfeet to do.
With no Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle to take her mind off things, Self is soon seducing Big Male again, and by “seducing” I mean she’s picking fleas out of his fur and sizing up rock piles. But “his mate, Skinny One, had been even more alert and they’d been unable to get away together.” Self tries to hook up with Young One, but he “didn’t have enough Times of Snow for this sort of thing”. All the other Bigfoots think she’s a slut, especially when she turns out to be pregnant. As Old One says, a bit judgmentally I think, “It is the way of the Ones for mate to remain with mate.” Shunned by the Bigfeet, Self does what heroines in romance novels have done since the dawn of time, and stares up at the moon wistfully, wishing that something or someone would take her away. Maybe a Pink Skin since she’s heard that “the penises of the Pink Skin males...were larger than those of the Ones, even though their bodies were smaller.”
Also pondering inter-species sex is tough cop Joe McBray. "He’d be damned if he’d stop seeing women as sex objects," he thinks. "Where was he supposed to point his libido — at snakes?" Why all this sexual frustration? Well it turns out that everyone on the expedition is obsessed with humping Zia, the anthropologist, who has a dark secret: she refuses to run even the slightest chance of getting pregnant before she has tenure. Condoms break, IUDs fail, and a baby is just a millstone around an anthropologist’s neck, dragging her down to teach at community college. She could try the Pill, but unfortunately her blood clots too easily to take it and so she is a 25-year-old tenure track virgin.
But then, in an icy valley, they discover Bigfeet! And Big Male, who doesn’t take Zia’s career goals as seriously as the Pink Skins, throws her over his shoulder, and heads for the nearest pile of rocks:
“He was tearing at her clothes. He was ripping and clawing the fabric away with his incredible strength…He was clawing at her shirt and trousers now, tearing bits away in fierce, fumbling agitation.
“It can’t be, thought Zia. No, really, it can’t be. It was plain enough what the beast meant to do — at least there seemed no other explanation for its actions. She still could not quite absorb the reality of it. Her mind was not working fully anyway…she wondered if he would injure her seriously when he penetrated her…”
Well, we all already know the answer to that since Self, hurtfully, refers to what Big Male’s packing as his “nubbin.” Fortunately, Zia is rescued by the men, who kill Big Male in the process, which is really unfair because it turns out that he had literally just ditched Skinny One for Self. Now Yellow Fur ascends to the coveted position of Dominant Male and decrees that all the Pink Skins must die. The Bigfeet go on the warpath, and the Pink Skins are trapped in an ice cave.
Tensions are high among the Pink Skins. The CIA agent’s secret agenda to destroy all Bigfeet is revealed, but that’s nothing compared to the cannibalism issue. When alcoholic Pete falls off a cliff and dies, born again Christian Emory, their guide, is a little TOO eager to cannibalize his corpse. “The Bible don’t say nothin’ against it anyplace!” he huffs, then grumbles, “This here gettin’ meat is my job.” The cannibalism issue is nipped in the bud when Emory gets eaten by Bigfoot, which just goes to show you that The Lion King was right.
Dick, the CIA agent, goes for help, leaving Joe and Zia behind to scrump like Bigfeet (I guess she gave up on tenure). When they realize that Dick is probably not coming back for them, they head after him, surviving by chewing bark (yuck!), and finally tracking him down to their basecamp.
Dick and Joe have their final battle, and Joe is at a disadvantage since Dick is capable of delivering “the blow developed by the monk Pan Hui, of the northern Shaolin Temple school. Joe didn’t know that.” Despite not knowing the provenance of his opponent’s kung fu, the two men battle for what feels like pages, and Walter J. Sheldon is there for every minute of it:
“It had been written all along that they would clash. They were…cat and dog…leopard and baboon…mongoose and snake…triceratops and tyranosaurus rex. They were Macedonian and Persian, Roman and Goth, Gaul and Prussian, Hatfield and McCoy. Ten million years ago each of their scrawny ramapithecine ancestors had fought the same battle on a dusty yellow plain.”
But mostly they just kick each other in the balls a lot.
The battle ends when Self, who tagged along because she’s so goddamn bored of the Bigfeet, especially now that her boyfriend is dead, picks up the “Firestick” and shoots Dick in the head. The End! The existence of the Bigfeet is hidden once more, Joe and Zia move to LA where Zia does talk shows and gets pregnant, and Joe becomes a security guard at an aluminum company. And Self? She wanders off to find another, more accepting, tribe of Bigfeet who won’t know she conceived her baby out of wedlock.
All of which could have been avoided if she’d only been able to download “Bigfoot Itchscratchr” in the Apple store.