I decided to learn oceanography, and what better way to do so than to board a boat? Once we’d been underway for a few minutes, the boat shook like we rode a sea of Jell-o. I asked if that was unusual and the boatswain (I don’t know what that means but a nautical term seemed appropriate here) said it’s only unusual in the sense that it’s never happened before.
I looked over the side. I don’t know whether it was port or starboard. I know which is which, it’s just that I wasn’t paying attention at the time. The sea looked like orange Jell-o with bits of fruit cocktail.

It was then I realized that something was amiss.

You’d think that I would have realized when we began shaking, but no. I wasn’t schooled in the ways of the sea. But I’ve stood on land many a time and looked at the sea, and it had never before resembled the only desert my Aunt Sarah ever knew how to make. In fact, the sea was exactly the same as the dessert, down to the color (orange), the additions (fruit cocktail) and the special surprise (almonds, which never, to me, went well in Jell-o. It was a consistency issue. Jell-o: wobbly, almonds: unyielding).

I could only surmise that my Aunt Sarah was involved in some way. And in fact, she emerged from a little door that I’m sure has some nautical name, but I refused to learn it because I only had so much storage in my brain and I was saving as much as I could for the study of oceanography and, later, an attempt to learn astrophysics or at a minimum understand the theory of relativity and how it applies to future generations.

Aunt S looked somewhat peeved, which for her was a constant state, but in varying degrees, and I would assign this level of peevedness a nine out of ten. In this situation, I’ve found that it’s best not to advance Aunt S’s peevedness to critical stage if at all possible, and saying the wrong thing (i.e., saying anything at all) would achieve that undesired goal. So I awaited her reaction.

Aunt S peered over the side (starboard), crossed to the other side (port), and regarded the ocean-turned delicacy. “Damn Kraft Foods and all its permutations!”

As it turned out, Aunt S had agreed to assist with the filming of a Jell-o commercial, which had gone horribly amiss when somebody had not understood that the “Jell-o sea” was to be photoshopped in after the fact, rather than created in reality. Add to that the little-known fact that under certain conditions it takes very little Jell-o to create a Jell-o sea, and these very conditions were those certain conditions.

We were stuck there in the wobbling Jell-o for hours. We thought we would have to be helicoptered out, but as luck would have it, the local fish took a liking to the orange Jell-o and fruity bits (not the almonds, which sank to the bottom, I rest my case). They ate enough of the Jell-o to open us up to the seawater, and we made it to shore.

The commercial didn’t look right at all because the orange Jell-o appeared orange in person, but more of an unpalatable burnt sienna on film. However, there was so much attention paid to Jell-o during the news coverage of our plight that sales of all Jell-o flavors increased by 274% over the next three days, and Jell-o made inroads into previously untapped foreign markets.

Locally, it could have been an environmental disaster, but the Jell-o proved beneficial to an endangered species, the teardrop sculpin (which looked more like a squashed, legless porcupine than a teardrop). Orange Jell-o in particular provided nutrients that had been missing in the sculpins’ diet ever since a combined sewer overflow location had been built near their underwater nesting areas. The species rebounded, and thereafter the nearby town held yearly orange Jell-o festivals in which they filled the bay with orange Jell-o and invited local celebrities to be dunked in Jell-o tanks for charity.

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