The Curmudgeon


Thursday, May 19, 2005

Down the Drain

The baritone utrigle (Utrigulus cloacae) is becoming less common in Britain, largely owing to the destruction of its natural environment by the encroachment of new types of drain. The growing prevalence of plastic drainpipes causes the creature considerable difficulties in reproducing, because the relatively smooth texture of the inside of the pipe means that the female utrigle is unable to get a proper grip during mating, and more often than not the happy couple are simply swept away as soon as the plug is pulled.

Even when conception does occur, the problems of reproduction do not end. Once the young have been carried to term, the female must deposit them in the customary position just beneath the plug-hole if they are to have any chance of survival. Metallic plugholes in the familiar pattern, pitted with limescale and rust, are ideal for this purpose; but the modern plughole which is simply a hole merely causes the utrigle to become confused.

As everyone knows, the utrigle lives by hanging passively just inside the drain with its sucker-like mouth secured to the underside of the plughole, and swallowing whatever is washed down the drain. Accordingly, the creature's appearance varies a good deal depending on the nature of its diet. Utrigles in cities tend to be round and smooth, with the distinctive limescale encrustations (thought to be used in mating dances) on the toes and tonsils; while those in country sinks are smaller, darker and prone to constipation.

Adult baritone utrigles are usually about three inches in length, although they can grow much larger depending on what comes down the drain. Excessive amounts of solids can cause the utrigle's body to balloon, blocking the drain entirely; or worse yet, the creature may actually mutate into the emergent and far less convenient subspecies, the borborhygmic spraygurgle (Utriguliformicus expectorans). Like the baritone utrigle, the spraygurgle lives suspended beneath the plughole; unlike the baritone utrigle, it does not excrete excess water harmlessly down the pipe, but vomits it back with considerable force. Depending on the creature's size (spraygurgles have been known to grow up to four feet long), the water pressure per square inch can result in anything from a facial dampening to a dampened ceiling.

Utrigles are born in batches (the technical term is gobs) of three to five. At birth they are blind, helpless and not baritone; indeed, many young can barely gurgle at all. For two or three weeks after birth, the young hang by their long, dark purple uvulae from the mother's back toes, while the mother closes her gullet so that the drained water washes over her and feeds the gob. The presence of an immature utrigle in the drain is signified by its echoing the adults' gurglings, but in a tenor key. Once the young become too heavy for the mother's toes, their uvulae break and they are swept away down the pipe to seek out mates and start the reproductive cycle once again.

Contrary to received wisdom, the word utrigle is pronounced yoo-triggle, not utt-rye-gle; and the creature's gall bladder does not contain concentrated soap.


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