Tonu didn’t possess mad skills of any sort, so working from home meant starving at home. He tended to secure any odd job that allowed him to wear sandals while making his living— for, more than anything, Tonu loved the freedom sandals gave his feet and soul.
His favorite urban job was serving as a queuer: standing in line for someone else who wanted tickets or that next iPhone. It was a sandal-wearing job custom made for the concrete jungle. He could wiggle his eight toes and mock all those suits who paid him to be them.
He happened to be living in London while the zombie flick “28 Days Later” was being filmed, and they needed extras for walking dead crowd scenes. Although Tonu only got paid in coffee and biscuits, he could wear sandals all the live long day as a “background artist.” Fifteen days into the shoot the AD in charge of extras casting noticed that Tonu the Zombie was missing two toes—this made him perfect for zombie foot close-ups. Tonu received his SAG voucher and a major pay increase (happily non-edible).
It was while Tonu milked snakes in the Lone Star state that he’d suffered his particular disfigurement. Extracting venom for the production of anti-venom had seemed another perfect fit since the requisite safety gear was focused on hand- and eye-protection, leaving him once again footloose and sandal-clad. Unfortunately, the day came soon enough when Uncle Mike’s Snake Ranch had to let Tonu go due to the insurance company’s threat to drop coverage after he was bitten once in each of two toes, which later turned black and fell off.
Eventually Tonu was hired to buck hay at the University of Colorado’s Agricultural Program. Soon after the department head, Professor Leon Kasparov, learned that Tonu had refused protective footwear, he offered Tonu a position as Flatulence Technician Apprentice, which job Tonu happily accepted (being fortuitously impervious to stink), beginning what would became a long and useful career. All day Tonu sniffed the emissions from bovine intestines in order to assist the university in diagnosing diet issues, hormonal imbalances, and overall animal health.
When asked recently during an interview for Modern Livestock Journal why he’d hired this odd sandal-wearing fellow in the first place, Kasparov replied that he’d immediately sensed Tonu’s uncanny ability to approach the cows without disturbance, lifting their tails sans flutter or moo. To Kasparov it seemed evident that Tonu’s skill derived from a combination of his soft-soled footwear and the man’s kind voice. Tonu worked for the university for few many years, during which time his keen fartitude (a term coined by program coworkers after hours) developed to epic levels of precision, eventually resulting in invitations to analyze cow farts worldwide until his death in 2012.
Tonu’s already widely recognized abilities became the stuff of legend when he competed in 2006 against IBM’s innovative new computer array, Deep Smell (successor the chess-playing Big Blue). IBM’s marketing department geared up the PR machine, sure that Deep Smell’s brute olfactory computing power would make short work of a mere sandal-wearing human. In timed trials Tonu and Deep Smell alternately sampled cow flatulate and recorded what each surmised the animal had digested. Tonu’s report identified the amounts ingested down to the gram—measurement regrettably had no bearing on the competition—but also shocked the judges by announcing that the cow had eaten trace amounts of Fruit Loops. This announcement immediately sparked raucous laughter in the cocky IBMers and led them to claim an early, and ultimately mistaken, victory. When the formal results panel was convened, it was revealed that the test subject had been donated to the competition by Kellogg cereal company, who’d made it a practice, the judges explained, of feeding all their stock small portions of the sweet breakfast treat as an aid in keeping them focused and still during milking. The IBM team contested the results in a blue snit and demanded a rematch before storming out. In the end the computer giant quietly dismantled Deep Smell, burying the study logs and never officially acknowledging defeat by a sandal-clad sniffer.