The Zoros and the Zeldas
By Joel Tagert
Art by Jack Estenssoro
Published Issue 111, March 2023
Thanks for choosing Bubba’s Burgers. That’ll be twelve eighty-nine.
What the fuck?!
What the fuck are you?
Uh, I’m the person taking your money and giving you your food?
Are you even human? Why aren’t your lips moving when you talk?
Is that really relevant?
What do you mean, is it relevant? What the fuck?!
Look, I don’t know if you’re on drugs or whatever, but I’m going to need you to calm down.
Are you human?!
I’m not going to serve you if you’re literally yelling at me. Okay? Calm down. Jesus.
Okay. Okay. I’m calm. I’m calming down. Just breathe.
Yeah, I’m good, I’m good. I think. Am I in danger? Is this some kind of experiment?
It’s an experiment to see if you’re too high to go through a drive-through, I guess.
Am I hallucinating?
You tell me, dude.
I’m seeing, like, a small gray alien with giant bug eyes and a tiny mouth. And, and uh, you’re wearing a Bubba’s Burgers hat and T-shirt, and … fuck. I am hallucinating.
Been there. I am an alien though.
I mean, you’re right, I am an alien.
You’re fucking with me.
Sorry, I am fucking with you.
Oh, thank God. So I am hallucinating.
I mean, initially. I get that reaction all the time.
Just freaking out, like. I guess it’s because most humans have never seen someone like me before? I mean, I get it, I guess, but it’s not like I look that freaky, right? Like, I’m bipedal, bilaterally symmetrical, more and less, two arms, two legs, two eyes. In intergalactic terms, we’re basically cousins.
Yeah! And also, I’m not all up your shit or anything, you know? I’m pretty chill.
What I’m saying is, don’t “other” me, you know? Don’t turn me into one of “them.”
Oh, I wouldn’t … I mean, I would never do that.
Cool. All right. So. Twelve eighty-nine.
Can I ask you something though?
Why aren’t your lips moving?
Oh, I’m not speaking out loud. All telepathic. Which is good, cause the audio on the drive-through here is terrible. Can barely hear what people are saying, like it’s just all record scratches and shit.
If you are an alien, why are you here?
Same reason anyone is … I got bills to pay! How else am I going to buy that ride, you know? But can I tell you a secret?
This is actually my first job.
Yeah. But don’t worry, I been here a minute, I got you. So here’s a Bubba Deluxe no tomato, one Red Snapper, two large fries. You want ketchup?
That sounds like you want a lot of ketchup, is that right?
Yes, I like a lot of ketchup.
Hey, my name’s Zathan, by the way.
I’m Zoe. That’s funny, we both have Z names.
Hey, Zebras for life. But don’t you feel like the other side of the alphabet has had its day, kind of? Like, haven’t we had enough Aarons and Alexes? Bring on the Zarathustras and the Zoroasters, you know?
The Zoros and the Zeldas. Wow, why are your references much more literary than mine?
Philosophy and prophecy, that’s my jam, got freedom of religion in the palm of my hand.
What, now you’re a rapper?
Hey, if the mood strikes. The weird thing is, I don’t even speak English.
I told you, all telepathic. I actually just sort of imagine that I’m rapping to you, and your own brain hallucinates the rest.
Look, I’m sorry, but this conversation is just freaking me out. I need to go.
Really? Damn, I actually thought we were connecting there for a minute.
I know, but I’m still not sure if I’m hallucinating. And if I am hallucinating, then why am I hallucinating? Like, did someone give me something? That’s fucked up. Or is it some kind of, fuck, am I psychotic?
Whoa, whoa, hold up. You said “I know.” So we were connecting.
Yeah, yeah, I guess. I mean, you seem like a thoughtful person, or you have an interesting perspective. But there’s still this weird edge to everything.
Yeah, you’re nailing my vibe here. But you know, we’re always hallucinating.
God damn it.
What’s with the anxiety, anyway? Like, what actually bad is happening right now?
I don’t know. I just have so many questions. Like, have you always been here? Can other people see you? Are you from this universe or another one? Also, also, if you’re telepathic, can you only communicate in words, or can you send pictures, or other sensations? Fuck, if you’re speaking in my mind, how can I tell your voice from my own thoughts?
Well, you can’t tell, really. But then again, nobody can.
Joel Tagert is a fiction writer and artist, the author of INFERENCE, and a longtime Zen practitioner living in Denver, Colorado. He is also currently the office manager for the Zen Center of Denver and the editorial proofreader for Westword.
Jack Estenssoro is a born and raised Denver, Colorado-based artist. Born in 1990 Estenssoro has experimented with art since his adolescence. Starting in 2015 oil painting became his primary medium of choice. Jack Estenssoro is a self proclaimed Neo-Sureal-Realist. Estenssoro’s work deals with the complexity of ordinary, contemporary life that may be overlooked because of a sense of banality. Estenssoro instead finds great inspiration in such topics and explores why such themes are of great importance to the zeitgeist. See more of his work on his site and on Instagram.
Check out Joel’s February Birdy install, The Goblet of Beyadon, in case you missed it or head to our Explore section to see more of his work. Snag issues from the first few years of Birdy to see more of Jack’s work and keep your eyes peeled for more Best of Birdy pieces featuring his art in the future.