7 1/2 Reincarnations of Ronald McDonald

The day Ronald McDonald died, the world was sad. Children wept. The fast food community had been dealt a perilous blow. The other great characters of advertising lore -- the Michelin Man, Tony the Tiger, the Keebler Elves -- all staged a rally in Times Square, urging the world to go on. But at that exact moment, in a laboratory in Japan, a team of hotshot scientists were extracting DNA residue from Ronald's coveralls. A clone was in the works.

Meanwhile, Ronald McDonald had in fact been reincarnated as a wolf, and was living contentedly in the Arctic Circle. He led a joyous existence, with plenty of killing and feasting, and often baying, baying up at the night sky with his head tilted back, baying and howling, silhouetted against the moon like a poster for some Disney movie. Then one day a photographer captured Ronald's baying image on celluloid. His likeness was silk-screened onto sweatshirts the world over. Ronald became something of a celebrity. The soccer-mom community was especially taken with him. But thankfully, Ronald McDonald lived out the rest of his life oblivious to this fact; he remained a simple, Arctic wolf, chasing after rabbits and doing his best not to get shot by drunk snowmobiling teenagers. He died old and happy.

And then Ronald McDonald was born again, this time as a blade of grass. He grew up from the earth, pointed and green, crisp and swaying gently in the summer breeze. This carefree existence ended only days later, when a lawnmower came roaring along and chopped off his head with its rotating blades.

The third reincarnation of Ronald McDonald was a tortoise. He lived for a hundred and fifty years, the final quarter of which he spent in a zoo, hunched up in the corner of an aquarium. Everyone marveled at his age. People took photographs and were inspired to quiet interior moments contemplating their own mortality. Ronald McDonald, in his last few years as a tortoise, grizzled and grey and prehistoric, missed Grimace more than he'd ever thought possible.

Ronald McDonald was next born into an Australian girl named Harriet. The trouble was, so was the pop musician known as "Sting". Sharing Harriet's body proved a real struggle for Ronald and Sting. They were the original odd couple. While Ronald wanted to go to prom with Jack Anderson, Sting wanted to go with Mahmoud Ndembe, the exchange student from Nairobi. Years passed. Then, tragically, in her old age Harriet developed dementia. The illness rendered both Ronald and Sting so confused they walked Harriet right off the roof of her high-rise apartment building.

The fifth body that Ronald McDonald inhabited was a stillborn calf. The corpse was slung onto a pyre and incinerated within minutes. This was in England, where the cows were often mad anyway, so perhaps it was a blessing.

The sixth reincarnation of Ronald McDonald turned out to be a real miracle. He found himself rebirthed into the body of another Ronald McDonald, the fifth clone of himself. The grin, the over-sized feet, the blazing red hair -- all of it felt so warm and familiar. He went on to lead the hollow, showy existence of all the Ronald McDonalds before him. A life of commercials, children's birthday parties, public appearances. Nothing seemed to have changed from Ronald McDonald's prior existence as a Ronald McDonald. This Ronald McDonald even died the same way: cardiac failure while consuming a Quarter Pounder Combo.

Ronald McDonald expected his seventh reincarnation to be lucky. But he never could have imagined the freedom of being born into the body of an eagle. Not only did Ronald feel incredibly patriotic, but he adored the sensation of soaring up above the world and coasting along among the clouds, the mountain peaks and treetops sailing by below. As an adult, Ronald fell in love with another eagle, a feathery woman named Gladys. They flew everywhere together. The other eagles were even impressed by Ronald and Gladys' monogamy. The pair grew old together. One day Gladys and Ronald were flying high above the Mojave Desert. The sky was lovely and clear and blue. Ronald turned toward his lover, intent on expressing his joy. But before he could speak, Ronald froze in mid-air, and then plummeted to the earth. His body thudded into a sand dune below, and lay there, still, arrested, with a trace of a smile playing at the corners of his beak.

For some reason there was a mix-up between Ronald McDonald's seventh and eighth reincarnations. He had grown accustomed to dying in one body and promptly being ushered off into the next. This time, however, someone had forgotten to file some paperwork, and Ronald was left stranded in a sort of metaphysical waiting room. Ronald's spirit sat in an uncomfortable chair, brushing lint off his pants, checking the clock. But there was a backlog. Other people were dying all the time. Eventually the staff forgot all about Ronald McDonald, despite his persistence -- ringing the bell at reception, hollering "Hello?" into the office. In fact, if you happen to be passing through on the way to your next body, you might see Ronald McDonald sitting there, maybe thumbing through a magazine. He would be dressed in yellow and red, a great fiery crown of hair on his head, legs splayed out, those great ridiculous shoes stretching halfway across the room. And if you looked closely enough, if you managed to stop for only a fraction of a moment, you might see it, frozen on that white, pallid cheek: a single, wet, glistening tear.

About the author:

To make an emoticon of Pasha Malla you begin with the number sign (#), which represents his messy hair. Then, type the number 8, because this is a good one for eyeglasses. Next is the nose, and you could do worse than using the 'greater than' symbol (>). Last is the mouth, which could either be this ( or this ), depending on what mood you would like him to be in. Today, bless him, let's make a happy Pasha Malla. #8>)