In the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean lives the Squid. How can I describe him? Well, he’s a giant squid for starters. He likes romantic comedies, long walks on the beach, and to eat just about anything that annoys him. Another important fact: the Squid has been around longer than you or me, so he knows quite a bit about the world and its inner workings. Actually, I’d say he knows a lot. There are copious amounts of knowledge floating around in that elongated head of his, waiting for the right moment to be needed. Needed by anyone. Especially if that person is
Abraham Lincoln had a problem. Well, he had many problems, but the one that was the most pressing at this moment was his uncertainty over what to do about the slavery issue. You know, when the U.S. was split into two warring factions, and the president had to decide whether to bring in the issue of slavery or not. This issue gave him many restless nights, as one might imagine. He talked to his best White House aides, mother Lincoln, even Jefferson Davis down in the South, asking each for advice on the situation, but no solution was found.
One day, after a particularly sleepless night, Abraham Lincoln stumbled upon an envelope in the top left presidential drawer in the presidential desk. It read:
OPEN ONLY IN CASE OF EMERGENCY
“By golly,” Abraham Lincoln exclaimed, “this must be one of those presidential secrets you always hear about in those mystery dime novels. Should I open it?” After just a moment’s thought the president decided that yes, a Civil War less than one hundred years after a nation’s founding counted as an emergency. He vigorously tore open the envelope and slid out the scribbled message inside.
“When trouble takes your naps away,
Go find the Squid right now today.
I promise he will not dismay,
For he alone makes things okay.
Hurry sir, please do not delay,
He will make your problems belay.”
“The Squid, huh…” Abraham Lincoln murmured to himself. “Interesting.” Without further thought, the president vacated his office, carrying nothing but his question regarding the fate of slavery, and went to the sea.
Upon arrival at the shore, the president realized he had no clue how to actually find the Squid. The body of water was easy enough to find, but how would he locate such an elusive source of knowledge that resides submerged in an aqueous solution? He sat down on a nearby rock and shifted into the official presidential pondering position.
Suddenly, a long tentacle shot out of the still water and zoomed straight toward Abraham Lincoln. As he turned to see what the noise was, the tentacle wrapped around his midsection, hoisted him high into the air, and plunged him into the frigid sea.
Abraham Lincoln’s mind was racing. He was being pulled down, down to the seafloor, he was running out of air, and certainly not the smallest of his worries, a giant squid—the Squid to be precise—was squeezing him awfully tight. Then, almost as fast as this rapid sequence of events had started, it was over. The president was brought back out of the water and deposited on a small outcrop of rocks. The tentacle slithered out of its grasp around his waist and quickly returned to the water. Abraham Lincoln took this momentary respite to find his bearings. As far as he could tell, he was on a rock near an isolated island, somewhere in the middle of the sea. As he panned back across the horizon, a huge burst of water exploded, showering the president with a gush of wetness. When the wave receded, the Squid emerged.
The Squid was a dark orange color, rose several stories into the air, and had large, glass-like eyes. What was interesting about its eyes was that they had this peculiar glint, suggesting an immense store of knowledge contained in its ancient brain. In short, the sight of the Squid brought awe to all that beheld it.
Once Abraham Lincoln had regained his presidential composure, which did not take long due to him being the president, he opened his mouth to ask a question. But before he could make his vocal cords vibrate, the Squid rumbled, “Mr. President, I’ve been waiting.”
“Well I am very sorry to have kept you waiting so long, Mr. Squid,” replied the president.
“Not to worry. I have immense patience. I have been waiting for many people over many years, and I have learned that soon enough, all who have need for me will come. It is as inevitable as the sun rising each and every day.”
“That was very poetic, Mr. Squid. I do love poetry. In fact, I’ve been writing a poem myself. It goes like this: There once was a man from Peru, who had a very large—”
“Enough of this nonsense. I said I am patient, but even an ancient squid’s tolerance can run thin.”
“I apologize, Mr. Squid. I know you are a very busy man, er, squid, and I will not keep you any longer than I—”
“Why have you come here, Abraham Lincoln?” the Squid sighed.
“I have a problem with the African Americans in my country,” Abraham Lincoln replied quickly.
“Are you saying you are a racist?” boomed the Squid incredulously.
“N-no, of course not.” Abraham Lincoln once again gained his presidential composure and continued, “The problem is that slavery still exists. I dearly want to abolish it, but I don’t know how to do so without exacerbating the Civil War and forcing the South to truly pack their bags.”
“I thought that’s why you had come. World leaders have been visiting me for centuries with problems similar to yours, so this should be easy. Let’s see.…” The Squid’s giant, glistening eyes rolled back into its head. It supposedly was thinking deeply, but it was still a gross sight. After what seemed like an eternity, its eyes righted themselves.
“Do you have the solution to my and America’s problems, Mr. Squid?”
“In fact I do. This was simpler than I thought it would be. Do you have pen and paper?”
“I’m the president. I always have my monogrammed stationary.”
“Write what I say,” commanded the Squid. With that, the Squid began dictating, and Abraham Lincoln began madly scribbling down every word, pause, and inflection in the Squid’s speech.
When the Squid was done talking, he looked directly at the president and said, “What do you think, Mr. President?”
“Hmm…Sounds a little lofty, but…I’ll use it!”
“Good. I think it will solve your problem just fine.” Without further ado, the Squid grasped Abraham Lincoln in one of its lengthy tentacles and swiftly brought him back to shore. The president, now soaking wet but with dictated speech in hand, happily waved to the Squid as it sunk slowly back beneath the waves, where it would wait patiently until its sage advice was needed again.
Back at the White House, Abraham Lincoln perused over the speech. He smiled to himself because of its subtle brilliance.
That Thursday, he had to go to a town in Pennsylvania for some presidential matters. Once in Gettysburg, he thought to himself, “This would be the opportune time to unleash the power of the Squid’s speech.”
In the afternoon, instead of giving his planned speech concerning the birth of his famous beard, he opened with a line that would come to represent freedom for all peoples—and the solution to Abraham Lincoln’s problem.
“Four score and seven years ago….”