The Knorrmels live in a normal neighbourhood, and have normal jobs. They have two Knorrmel kids, Bethany and Andrew, and a Knorrmel life in the normal suburbs of Normal, Illinois. Ted and Nancy Knorrmel are just about the two most normal people you’d ever care to meet. Whiter than Wonder Bread and more suburban than a game of street hockey, they like their dogs hot, their sex vanilla, and their laughter canned. Everyone on their street thinks they are just the perfect Normal family (that is, the Knorrmels represent the values of the town of Normal better than any other Normal family, and have received Civic Awards for this on a regular basis.)
No one in Normal has any idea what goes on behind the Knorrmel’s normal façade.
“Honey, I’m home!” Ted says, just like he always does, with a cheerful smile on his Knorrmel lips and a song in his heart (nothing odd or avante-garde, of course – just a normal, radio-friendly Top 40 tune).
And then the door closes, and everything changes…
“Where have you been?” Nancy demands.
“I’m sorry,” Ted says, letting his plastic smile drop, and massaging his sore cheeks. “I had to stay late to finish some work.”
“Uh huh,” Nancy says, crossing her arms across her normally sized breasts. “That’s the third time this week. What’s her name? Huh?”
“Oh, don’t I wish,” Ted mutters under his breath, and pushes past his accusing wife.
“I said, I smell fish. Are we having something special for dinner?”
Nancy grunts, of course. She heard exactly what he said, but they had to play these little games.
“We aren’t having anything. The children and I had Chilean Sea Bass, flash fried in white wine, but as you weren’t here…”
“What?” Ted asks. “Didn’t you save me any?”
“It was getting cold,” Nancy declares, “so I gave it to Friedrich.”
Friedrich, Ted thinks, his hands clenching and unclenching with rage. Not Frederick. Friedrich. FREEEEEEED-RICK.
“You gave it to –” Ted spits, and has to breathe intentionally and forcefully to regain some semblance of composure. “It’s thirty-two dollars a pound, Nance, it’s not fucking… you know what? Fuck it. I’m going to bed.”
Nancy grabs him by the shoulder and swings him around to face her.
“Nuh uh, mister. I thought you said you’d do the dishes when you got home.”
Ted sighs – he knows better than to argue the point. After all, he had promised he would do the dishes. She cooked the meal, he cleans up. It’s just the Knorrmel way.
“Fine,” he says. “You’re right. Just let me get my coat and boots off, and I’ll do the dishes.”
Ted walks through their normal hallway, through their normal dining room, and into the normal kitchen, and stops dead in his tracks.
There on the kitchen counter sits a hideous thing, an undefinable creature not found in the streets of Normal, Illinois, nor, Ted imagines, anywhere else. It is at once hairy, yet vaguely reptilian, and from the look of its movement – slinking and sliding along the counter – it is quite boneless. It is a creature that defies all things normal, and what’s more: it is drinking out of Ted’s sink. It has no legs, per se, but instead a number of hairless tentacles the colour of a bruised apple, which are wrapped in tangles all through the cupboard drawers, leaving a foul-smelling slime all over the Knorrmels’ cutlery, tea towels, and even the odds ‘n’ ends drawer, where homeless items like screwdrivers, Chinese take-out menus, and empty Scotch tape dispensers find their final resting place. The thing’s face is split open like the petals of a flower, with no visible eyes or ears, and is latched on to the stainless silver faucet. Ted watches more in disgust than horror as the creature’s gorge rises and falls as it swallows, its neck a long, multi-segmented thing covered in coarse white hair that ends at its leathery, scaly torso, which most resembles dried up lizard skin, as if all the moisture seeping out of the thing’s fat and undulating tentacles is draining the beast’s body dry.
Ted watches, frozen in anger – this violation is nearly more than he can bear. All day long he works hard, putting on his most normal face, ignoring the banality of his job, and the mindless banter of his co-workers. He can even put up with his boss, who is constantly reading books on how to become a better manager, but, like a frog being slowly boiled to death, is too close to the situation to remember how oppressive it can be to be another mindless cog in a machine so big that nobody even remembers what it does anymore. But this – this was the final insult. All Ted wants to be able to do is come home after a long day, kiss his normal wife and his normal kids, eat a normal dinner, go to a normal bed, make normal love, and sleep – if not the sleep of the just, then by sweet, normal Jesus, at least the sleep of the normal.
The creature pays Ted no mind, of course. This is the final insult. It makes no attempt to move, no fight or flight, instead, it unlatches itself from the faucet, and one by one, pulls its tentacles into itself, holding its body up about six inches off of the counter, and spraying thick black fluid that smells like a strange mix of sauerkraut and molasses all over the kitchen.
“Fuck this,” Ted says, wiping his face and turning back out of the kitchen through the normal dining room, into the hallway and up the stairs. “I’m going to bed.”
“Hey!” Nancy yells after him. “I thought you said you were going to do the dishes!”
“…and I thought you said you’d put Friedrich back in his cage.” Ted yells back.