Friday, December 12, 2008

Reloj's Career Path

Reloj is just finishing up his doctorate in Childhood Education, specializing in Gifted Children. It is the summer before he's out of school, and he's looking around for a job. He tells me, they have one in a certain tourist mecca we know. I think he's kidding. No, no, he says, it's taking handbills around and placing them under windshield wipers.

I say, well, you know Einstein worked in a Swiss patent office while he was writing three papers some noticed in time. And didn't Hawthorne work in the customs agency, Salem or somewhere? And every day of his writing life, Trollope sallied forth from his writing desk to his job at the postal service. He invented streetcorner mailboxes, you know.

So, maybe I'll take the job, says Reloj, and he does. And now, all he talks about is his adventures placing ads on windshields. He doesn't like Elitists, he tells me, those who have windblown wipers so you cannot place the posters under the blades. 

I saw, what do you sell? And he says, oh, this, that, and the other, something different every day. I say, well, how do the business do? He says, the same as always. The same number of tourists come here and buy the same amount of goods in season year in and year out. I say, then why do they advertise? And Reloj say, well, you know, that's what they do.

I say, boy, I'll bet you can't wait to begin lifting those little geniuses to their appointed higher station. He says, yeah, well they ain't geniuses who simply turn on their wipers to dump the handbills on the road. The nerve of some people. Litterbugs. I bet they use that casuistry, situational ethics, to plea how they didn't place the paper under their own private wipers so they aren't responsible for the mess after. Some people.

I say, boy, you worked long and hard for the kids, and now the benefits to them will arrive, starting next year! And he say, huh?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Old New Age

First I was suspicious and then I was confirmed in doubts when I saw my wallet skitter away in the shadows at my feet. I knew it.

We were in a bus like no other, maybe how such would be conceived were you to begin back in the forties with a rural scene and project forward from there, like the serials of the epoch used to; old Fords pulling up to a spaceship lying on its belly like a bathtub toy.

The lady was rotund and dressed in many confusing layers of various designs of myriad substance. She was very stoic, saying nothing as I stood over her with my indignant accusations. See here, you took my wallet, I said loudly. Alert the driver.

I sought to take charge of her in a citizen's arrest, but she wasn't going anywhere inside the enclosed conveyance and neither was anyone else. So I stood and looked offended and she sat and ignored us all just as she had from the beginning of the ride. She was stringing beads for a necklace, it looked like. 

In the middle of the scene, a little thought came creeping. I felt again for my wallet, left rear pocket of my jeans, and confirmed it still wasn't there. But then I remembered. Since I was pickpocketed before (in wake time, in Paris) I always carried my wallet in the left front pocket. Oh, dear.

Yep, here it is. I apologize profusely, but the victim of my suspicion pays no more attention to my abject wailing now than she did my fierce charges before. I determine to set it all to right. I go to other passengers to explain I've made a terrible mistake, but they all seem intent on escaping the bus and most especially me at the earliest.

My job is through the night. I work in what seems to be a parking garage, dark, with many foreign objects all about. I am now figuring how to carry old newsprint across to the recycle way at yon end. Some of it, I become aware, seems to be missing. I must recover the lost pages of what is an ancient slab of muck after all. I don't ask any questions.

Rats skitter here and there, but I have learned to think of them as mice. We all separately without consulting have done that. It's called on-the-job training. 

The straw boss says to me, "We need you to demonstrate a product tomorrow. You'll come in an hour  early."

He seems very sure. I don't know from where he derives his confidence. In fact, I have that question about everybody I meet lately. I haven't even decided if I'm going to show up at my regular four PM hour tomorrow, or ever again. 

But I don't think of that now. I have to move this mess of ancient, useless papyrus to the far bin. Then I'll leave and see whatever else is in store.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

The Old Man and the Rain


It's raining on an old man up on the roof. Bleak, soggy, grey, and miserable. He doesn't have on rain gear. He isn't smiling. Looks grim. Wizened, lined, ancient. Staring off-camera. We slowly pan forward. He's just sitting there on the roof, not even moving.


I am told by Ralph the Roofer that most leakage can be stopped by simply sitting on your roof. I sit up here on all my roofs. I haven't had a leak in a hundred years. Ralph the Roofer knows what he's talking about. You think my opponent, that Other One, can protect you from leaks? You think he'd be so wise, with all his Harvard, to sit up on the roof in the rain? Not a bit of it. He's an elitist. Meanwhile, I'm on the job, sitting up on my roof, in the rain, and I have the sniffles to prove it!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Cable News Smackdown

Olbermann has a horse who broke a leg. I hate these kind of stories. It will have to be "put down." It's a completely disheartening tale.

Faux Noise has filed suit to stop it. They're flashing their "pro life" cred. Don't kill this horse, they say. The Terry Schiavo contingent gears up. And any cockamamie notion has its full day in court.

So lawyers from MSNBC and the fascist folly channel square off over equestrian equality. I go from a parking lot somewhere and here comes one of the Faux folk. He's in a bright orange jumpsuit and I'm thinking, he seems just like ordinary folk. And I remember, the guards at the death camps were mostly just your average Wermacht warriors with bad knees disqualifying them from the Eastern Front.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Red Roadster

I arrive in my little blue auto in front of a row of one-story stores. The district is clean if uninspiring, like me. I go through a walkway bounded by more shops to an open courtyard. Back here is an industrial sector where they build products. Some guys wander about in no hurry and a woman waits at a desk. I have no idea what they make, but they must ship it out because there is a truck waiting over by the rear exit to the wide parking area.

I go see someone named Beaumont. Are you Beaumont? Yes. Hi, Beaumont! We shake hands. He agrees to transfer to me for valuable consideration one each sporty small red roadster. Gee, thanks, Beaumont!

I leave to go back to high school. (In my dreams I carry along the same consciousness always but my outer being is obscure.) I next return to the shopping district.

Hey, the roadster, my roadster, it's gone! Where is my roadster? I better go see Beaumont right quick now.

I go back to the industrial area. Different folks are loitering, moving about in no hurry. I say to one of them, hey, can you point me to Beaumont? No, he says. I ask again, some other one, who says, no, but maybe that one knows. He points at a desk, and a lady is talking with a gent there. I'll wait. Meanwhile I look around for Beaumont. He sold me his roadster, I say to no one in particular, and now it's gone. I left it up front and it's gone now.

Oh, hey, wait a minute. I remember now. I drove the roadster to high school! It's not Beaumont's fault, it's mine! Of course, if I drove to high school, then I didn't leave the red roadster here, and that would explain why I didn't find it when I looked here.

Sorry, Beaumont! I say. But nobody pays any attention, and nobody is Beaumont anyway. 

Now I must find the red roadster. It must be over by high school, but I don't remember where. I must've parked close. I mean, why take the roadster to high school if you're going to park far away? 

I must start on one side and work myself in concentric squares ever wider until I find it. That's the ticket.

I think, hey, wait a minute. Whatever became of the blue sedan I had this morning when I went after the red roadster from Beaumont? Better worry about that in good time. First I better find the red roadster.

Let me see, I'll start on one side of the high school. I'll park here then.

Wait a minute.

What's this I'm driving?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Acceptance of Excellence

We eagerly rush from one meeting room to another. We are earnest and attentive. We are expected to be.

The course is Acceptance of Excellence. The motivator has been on Oprah. 'Nuff said. He tells us to visualize, optimize, upsize, categorize, fantasize. We only see him on tape, but he looks prosperous and there is a panel of eager and attentive fledglings amidst the potted plants. 

You create a sight picture then you fix items within your new context, like sales, salary and benefits. You are ever so much more successful than you believe. Most never realize their potential, and realization is a state of mind, after all.

He is an ex-football coach, our motivator. He never mentions his record. We assume it's excellent. 

Our business is selling ice cream. Our location is a summer tourist island. Our sales go up with our expectation and visualization after Memorial Day, and then we lose our focus around Labor Day. Every year it's like that. We spend our winter in meetings, mostly. How can we fix this attitude of ours? Why do we allow ourselves to wallow in the pit of despond?

Our recovery of Acceptance of Excellence rudiments takes six months. Come next Memorial Day, sales go through the roof. It's because in December we were ever so slothful and disbelieving. Also, some skipped the motivation seminars, and not all the chairs were filled at the optimizer meetings. 

But can you imagine how it would be were we not Expecting Excellence? It would be flat the whole year. We are so fortunate to have found our motivation. Now if we could only find out why we lapse so consistantly each fall.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Heart of Darkness

The news cuts away to someplace called "The Heart of Darkness." I listen, and it is not further located on any map.

A pretty lady in cammie gear speaks seriously to us before a backdrop of dense jungle. A tribe, she says. Not hunter/gathering, but planter/migrant, which means they place seed in the ground then leave.

Another tribe is more the hunter/gathering paradigm. They find fields which have been planted and abandoned. Then they harvest. Then they eat.

The planter migrants are extremely emaciated, whereas the hunter gatherers are definitely not.

We see a still shot of an obese native, chomping on an ear of corn.

The migrants captured a monkey, she tells us. They handcuffed him in front with a stake behind his back placed horizontally with both arms looped around it. Then they sent the monkey to the hunters.

From the studio: How big was the monkey, Felicia?
Felicia: Somewhere between a chimp and an orangutan.

Immediately the gathering tribe released the monkey. It did not, however, run off into the jungle, but it hung around. We figure it only wanted to see what would happen.

From the Heart of Darkness, this is Felicia, returning you to our studio ...

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

They Come In

I have a nice private room in a dorm atmosphere, but that is changing. There is in-coming.

They come in all the hours of the day and night. They stand and sit and discuss it in knots and they move all around. Some of them set up in my own room, and they make demands. For how can we even dress with you here? one exasperates.

Some of them are a network. A Christian network. The sect is called Carpe Diem*. They are all about in white robes, and then four of them are arrested. The news reports they have bilked an elderly man whose room they had taken over into signing over all his worldly goods. After all, they say, it's the way of the Lord, us meek should inherit.

Still they come.

* In Darkly Dreaming Dexter the title character Dexter mistakenly translates carpe diem as meaning `complain in daylight.'

Monday, May 19, 2008

Warming Trends

I am walking now. Someone is walking with me. She says, what will you say? This suggests, I will soon be talking.

I consider. They say walking the walk is the reality, while talking the talk is only bragging. That suggests a progression. Well, I'm already walking, and I didn't have to plan for it. So what do I need to study talking for?

But I look for a loose scrap to fill in notes. A magazine subscription request. I turn it over to see is there white on the back.

I think of Marilyn. She invented walking, in the movie Niagara. Long takes of her moving away from the camera. Walking scenes. I'll bet she didn't need more than one take on each of them, but I don't know. She sure needed plenty of takes on talking scenes; in Some Like It Hot she wore out her co-stars by messing up takes, some 70 in a row sometimes. That may be a record. For 70 clapboard snaps, she'd walk up and say, like, "It's Sugar, me."

Chaplin said the camera should be still. The only reason you move a camera is to film walking, and walking isn't dramatic. I wonder if he ever saw Niagara.

I am expected to introduce my new play. It's to be performed by a high school. I'm no longer in high school. I wasn't aware I would have to speak tonight. Isn't the play supposed to address itself?

Well, no. At least, I hope not. The play is about the fallacy of faith. There is a scene where guys out on the Chosin Reservoir are very cold, then they are glad, because their hands and feet are starting to warm up now. They can't feel the cold, then they can't feel anything. It's a light-hearted comedy, and nobody will catch on, so I'll just tell them it's all about global cooling.

Nobody ever knows anything. I used to worry about that, but I soon warmed to the idea.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Behind the Counter

I am on the wrong side of the counter.

It's a fast-food joint. I am training. It is presumed I know something. I am pretending to be a transfer who only needs catching up with local procedure. Maybe I'm writing an article on the life of a burger flipper.

Someone is showing me. Here is this, and there is that, and, watch out, it's hot. All this product goes in this cage and this other sits over here. A bell rings. That means that over there is cooling past where it should in relation to this over here.

It's all unrecognizable. What is all this "product"? I can't ask, or they'll realize I don't know. Which is the point of asking, but it means I ain't qualified if I don't know. Dumb is it's own retard.

This is Lifer Slim here. He's telling me about that over there. He's the that over there go-to guy. A lifer is over the age where you are only passing a summer. The kids laugh at them, and the lifers retaliate by making them do stuff. Slim is a nice one, though. You can tell the kids like him. He sits over on the counter out of sight with his lunch. (Brought from home, I note.)

The young girls set the tone. The customers like them and so do the lifers, so the boy kids do too, because the girls generally brighten up the place and everybody smiling is better than everybody not.

So it goes.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to mime acts of others, although it all makes no sense to me.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Good Ship Lollygag

We are on a fabulous Holistic Health Holiday cruise aboard the Good Ship Lollygag to an exotic island. The ship enters a river, and passes through a narrow inlet into a lagoon.

The water here, we are informed, is excellently ennobled with arcane ingredients and ancient healing elements. You must drink it. Go on. Here's how. And the tour director sinks his face below the surface and comes up gulping and smiling. So do we all. You think we didn't want to be healthy?

Back aboard, we are spirited into tango lessons. Here's how, the entertainment director tells us. And he hops on one foot, then the other, and so do we all.

After a little while, I notice I am no longer able to see color. I wonder if this is healthy.

And now, proclaims the attendant, we should all go to the bathroom. He is smiling as well, and he troops off, us behind him, where we divide at the twin doors.

Later the cruise ship is impounded and the crew arrested. It is reported that the scheme was gold smuggling. That was one of the prime ingredients in the water of the lagoon. So they had their customers absorb the water and then condense it on the dance floor and then let it run into filters set up for the occasion. The company was able to collect a sizable amount of gold that way.

But wherefore did they not simply filter the gold from its natural watery habitat? Ah, there's the glub-glub. In the lagoon there were certain parasites, bacterium, impurities the cost to cleanse which would've been prohibitive. And yet here were some millions of volunteers a year willing to freely offer kidneys and pay them for the privilege.

Also, as we were all dedicated alternate medicine freaks, to report our health troubles after the cruise would've been a betrayal of the faith. We did not even relate our renal rumblings to potential new sailors on the Good Ship Lollygag. Needless to say, each pilgrim to the lagoon ever after, in the homeopathetic tradition, diluted all future participation down to nothing.

But here I am, back on land, running beside the sea as those health nuts will. I pass Beth, the stalwart of the doggie beach where we used to run Scoob and Maya waketimes. I had just passed others I knew, and they had told me there were surprises, the rangers were bringing around to every little group certain treats. It's good to keep communicating, said Beth.

Yes, I said, and told her of the wakeful time Chico and I went to the hills above Allende to secure pot for fun and profit. And Badman Jose worked on a chicken farm, and he did not understand generally, and we did not understand him specifically, and it was a circumstance ripe for disaster. I don't know where I draw my allegory sometimes.

A janitor with a South Pacific accent now seems to be telling me I must help a relative apply to enter a VA hospital. I cannot understand him, and he is growing impatient with my incomprehension. I look through folders in my office now, but cannot find what I think he said, Ramu, because I suppose he didn't say that. He shows the file and we stride forth.

Here's Ramu now. I set out to do up an ap. (This was my waketime job.) I must take his picture. I have a tiny camera the size of a large signet ring. It isn't working. And now out here in the field, a private and dark neighborhood street, I have desks and cabinets to take back to the office. I can just handle this, maybe, but there should be another way.

Wait, there is help. Other family members of Ramu. Good, let's go. Now Ramu is a canine, and he's tied up, but uncomplaining. He's lying on the ground, and looking at me expectantly. I will free you, guy, don't worry. I will take you home.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cloud Perforations

It was a state school, not the least prominent but not far up from the one that was. He was a physics prof. He said to his classes first day, "I want you to consider clouds, but not quite clouds yet, but the perforations within them. I want you to think of those openings as pre-existing.

"It is through massive calculation I have determined the chaos theory is correct, in that this is the only means by which I might stand here. However, the incredibly complex labyrinth by which I arrived before you, and you before me, could not have accounted for all the variations in the meagre five billion allotted years. No, we must assign another, darker force. We must determine something is watching."

That grabbed 'em. Then he proceeded throughout the days left in the quarter to demonstrate the arcane ineffable mystery of doubt. And then late in one class a youngster put up her hand.

"Yes, but ... say a Brinks Truck passed by on the interstate outside our window and a bag of cash blew out, or was tossed out, anyway disintegrated and a confetti storm of cash rained down on us here in this class, and only us here.

"Then would we not feel special, as if the product of design, with some force out there selecting us for advancement, whereas all the other classes would be thinking of lunch or the night. Only we would consider ourselves blessed in this universe through the merest chance."

She stopped and she looked at the professor. And he at her. The class ended.

It was the beginning of the Multiverse. All the science journals now are conversant on the multiple universes. And the young student was not even a physics major.

Years later, someone and someone from one of the classes of the physics professor of the almost-lowest-rung state school met somewhere, and one said to the other:

"Say, do you remember that physics professor ...."

"Yes, yes, old Cloud Perforations."

"Yes. I wonder what he meant by that."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Culture Individually Cloned

Jane Frank's Crags and Crevices

We are in a large storehouse filled with androids. They aren't supposed to be anything else, however. They are not trying to pass, like in SciFi movies. They are, actually, there to create your very own copy of an "original" Keating.

He's an abstract expressionist Oprah or one of them likes. One trip to her show, or somebody's, and he's so in demand he must hire the building of streams of stringers; machines to do up his color smears while you watch. Each creation takes five minutes, and that only because of the wait states while the robot pretends to consult its muse.

And so I hand one of the 'droids a canvas. Only, before, I take the brush and I smear it with yellow. A collaborative effort, I say; me and old Keating. I hear murmurs of protest behind a window. So disrespectful; unethical, even. Yes, very.

Niki J and I remove some Keatings from the gallery. You can do that. Just as you can buy the "works," you can take them down from the shelves. A pleasant couple in business dress approaches. I am hung for what to say, but Niki J isn't. She explains the boilerplate you have to use to protect your right to remove paintings from museums and those quaint little overpriced art shops.

They sigh, resigned. They accommodate us. Actually, they are very nice. We walk about with them throughout the art factory. They hear us and offer no argument. Why should they? There are some hundreds of robots turning out these masterpieces. More than twenty times the number we had removed were created out in the factory while we were in the act of taking them down from the gift shop.

I return for my Keating. Wait, what? The yellow is gone from my base coat. They have discarded my in-put. I have, once again, only what everyone else has, just a mass-produced robot-generated assemblyline muck-up.

It's culture, after all. That's the way it goes.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Orange Wire

It is a project which seems simple. Let me see what it is. Why, it is only the hooking up of a modem. I can do this.

It looks like a small roadster. A gleaming sleek metallic swoosh. I open it and see there are many cables, small bundles of wires, myriads of them. All I need do is hook these wires up to my modem at home. This is very simple. Plug and play.

Let me see. There seems to be a color coding scheme. However, the color is all orange. Each of many cables is filled with twisted swarms of orange wire. Yet it is simple. I plug each into the like port in my modem at home, and there you are.

But how will I tell each wire from each? There are many webs of them. I could follow each one to its logical conclusion. But there are miles between this modem and mine. And I cannot move either one.

I could mark each wire, as, terminal one, two, and so. But I would have to mark them every few feet, because I must go far, and I cannot see more than near.

I could just hold one orange wire and walk with it all the way to the other modem, plug it in, and then return for the next. I could do that. But it would take me many trips, and the earth, it is very old.

I am on the phone now, to the realtime owner of the bookshop in my town. He is saying something comforting but not helpful. I wonder if I might call in an expert. I don't want to, because I should be able to set up a new modem. It will bring much data so rapidly. But first we have this of the setup.

A little girl just at adolescence approaches, takes off her jacket; a very tight sweater remains. She snuggles against me, smiles up into my face, says, "My teachers like me very much."

She's like another orange wire. She knows nothing of modems.

Now I am making my way down a mezzanine. I'm holding a tray of chocolates, and trying not to step on pages open on the steps so that very little space remains for my feet. The pages are pictures of saint or patriotic frenzies. Uh-oh. I drop some. I am thinking of retrieving them, and also thinking, what will that do to the confidence in chocolates? And thinking, it's only more orange wire anyway.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


We all are wearing neckties.

Not the common sort, but more like the western swing version, with intricate knots at the throat and swirly loose ends. Men and women wear them, and children, too.

These are gadgets rather than sartorial items. They perform wonders to shape and enhance the larynx and nasal cavities in effect. The result is, all the men sound exactly like Vaughn Monroe and the women like Deanna Durbin. It helps our music that hardly anyone has ever heard of either of those singers. The stars no longer own their sounds, any more than Henry owns his Ford. We are all either Vaughn or Deanna.

And so music in our community is by casual singing-in-the-shower, but you hear it everywhere; street, store, or park, by everyone, for all have the precise same talent and sound. It's true democracy, as all voices are created equal in our town.

There is a background soundtrack in the stores and broadcast on the street and into the park. It's the instrumental for some musical of long ago, and in school we learn the parts. We learn the parts to old musicals and nothing else in our schools. For we need nothing else. The grass is as high as an elephant's eye. I just met a girl named Maria. I have often walked on this street before.

And so Tonight will swell up, and all the Marias will tune up. There is no bashful voice in our town, for we are all the same. Anyone who would dress and go outdoors would freely sing to the wind. We're like that, in our town.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Illusory Duplication

You sail across a great sea, then a lesser sea, and you dock. Then you take a road through a city, then a country lane, then a path, then you climb.

Up high along the ridges, you can see the hawks swoop down below, and clouds come right at you. There is a well marked trail, but what if you go over the ridge?

You find crags and nestles, is what, and no marked passing of humans, so you continue, and the brush is thicker and there is heat now, dry heat, and so bustles in the hedgerow.

Until you are clear in the valley, before a river and beside it a village like a watercolor from an amateur artist. I mean, there are all manner of styles along the river front, there are ancient adobe cabins and there are two-story gabled farmhouses with stitched Tudor paneling, structures of brick and mortar and stone and tin. Sometimes the houses are begun and then trail off, like a slipping away life, an incomplete picture.

This is a lost, forgotten, unknown land. It's not on any rolls in any government office. When there's something needs doing, I begin to understand, somebody just does it. There are no uniforms anywhere. They have a vigorous trade, duty free, with the outside world because they have a deep-water port nobody but certain shipping lines know about. Over the hill, this is considered wild country, uninhabitable.

There are no names here. No signposts; not on the city or the streets or the stores.

No language that I can understand. When two men encounter, they both give that quick jerk of the jaw up and to one side that says, it's a hard life, ain't it? You bet it is. The only sound from them is the workingman's moan, more like a yawn, "Whoa-ho-hoah." Women smile and nod noncommittally and they laugh with a pleasing lilt. I think of an old Buffy St Marie tune, a verse of it going

Merry Christmas,
Jingle Bells
Christ in heaven and the devil's in hell
Hearts they shrink; pockets swell;
Everybody know and nobody tell

and I always used to wonder. But ... but, if everybody knows, then what's the point of the telling?

I stop in front of an old frame building, peer into the show window. I stand like that for a long time.

Inside is Clayton's, the grocery store of the neighborhood where I grew up. I am astonished. The layout is the same, and the products on the shelves look as if they might be canned goods from the fifties, last century. It's identical to my memory.

From here over a rugged mountain and up a long path and a longer road to a highway to a bayside city and across two oceans and then three mountain ranges after you hit ground and a desert in there too, you'll be where I started, so it is impossible anybody who had been to Clayton's could ever have preceded me here. Nobody could have walked in my footsteps. Yours neither.

What I mean is, what I'm seeing clearly in this old replica of my childhood experience could not be. I blink. It just could not be. What did they - maybe design it from a photo in a magazine? There was never a picture of Clayton's. Of course not. Why take a picture of a small-town market? It would be like the mirrors in the Borges Library of Babel; why an illusory duplication during infinity? When it is going you think it will be ever thus and when it isn't, well, you have much more to miss than Clayton's.

I try the door. It's locked. I look around. Nobody on the street. But then, who would I ask? And how? There is not even a language.

There's a fog from the bay, and it meets the clouds from the ridge, until I cannot tell either from the other.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Tungsten Under Heat

One who is very refined and most assured and inspires great trust is telling us. It's the same chemistry as heavy metals in solution, she says. Say tungsten. On a lab slide, with heat added and then subtracted.

Little girls suffer the precise same pressures, conflict. She is of a sedate reddish hue and she has a reassuring half-smile. I am trying to write down her name, this one who says the development of young girls is like tungsten under heat.

I write "P - A - T - " but she corrects. "Start with "Niki." And I do, very precise in my penmanship to show her my scholastic alacrity, but I note my finely-chiseled letters must eventually bump up against my prior scribbles. There does not seem to be anything I can do to fix it. Oh, dear.

She says, okay, and takes over the pad. There, now.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Black Christians

I somehow came across old script of mine, in the form of several scrolls, in a dusty box.

Oh, this, I said. This is the compiled concordance we figured out one year. First I saw it and then others helped, and we were able to explain every single incident in the New Testament according to easily explicable quotidian drama, with nary a reference to magical intercession. We did that.

And wrote it down, and some saw it, but most did not. That's always the way, you know, no matter how popular the work may be. Most ignore anything. Those who had not seen the scroll but heard of it referred to us as Black Christians. They heard we were both, but none of us was either.

But, look you here. The scrolls, each rolled and dusted white and laid side by side, drift into a pasty state up towards the other, older end of the box. They are Catalone then, I see, and I taste one, and it's delicious. Niki J says it is. It was a freelance research project, and now it's dinner. I wonder if that's the way it ever is.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Do Dogs Mind Being Dogs?

A band of grey suits lounged on a convertible in the era beyond the colors. The suits were drab and loose, as were the men. They are returning from a party somewhere.

"I wonder..." says one of them, the one called Joe, "if dogs mind being dogs. I mean, had they rather be us, or are they satisfied?" He is musing to himself, lounging in the convertible. One or two glance at him.

This is a troupe which performs what resembles baseball, except it's staged down to the minor detail, and Product Placement is the motive force. They set out in two teams inside miniature stadiums, with a desultory and almost lugubrious audience of passers by who sit in the stands and make no display at the antics on the field below. They are there because they must be somewhere.

The troupe goes through the routine of the game, but it's much more melodramatic than chance would allow. At every step of the way, they emphasize shoes, gloves, a certain coffee. They stop to admire often. The crowd seems utterly unmoved.

It's late in the morning, and Joe has lost his companions. Here he is shuffling down a line of "orphans" separated from their sets. The drover looks back several in the line to Joe, says, "You don't have carfare, do you?" I wonder how he knew that, Joe muses.

"Move over there," says the drover, and Joe does. "Where were you last night?" he presently asks. Joe tells him, at Finley's. "Have you spent too extravagantly? Maybe your estate is above your station?" Oh, no, says Joe. I live in a hotel. He thinks that will do him some good.

He is conveyed back to his station. His in-box has mail from Freir's, with an attachment. Probably a project. No need to bother with outstations, decides Joe. He goes in search of his troupe.

They are rehearsing a new set to demonstrate the efficacy of a training cereal. They seem to like the new bit. "Hey, that's good," says Joe. They look at him without emotion. "Leader wants to see you," says one simply.

Joe knocks on the door. The leader is with someone, barks out, "Come on in." He seems stressed. He is settling something in a field far away from Joe's troupe.

When the other leaves, the leader is angry. "Why do you do something like that?" Joe is stunned. "Like what?" he asks.

"We don't need you here," says the leader, and turns away. Two aides appear at Joe's elbows.

Joe is now out on the street. The aides had escorted him there very quickly. Now what? Joe is thinking. He tries to text Freir's, but the message bounces.

I don't know how I became a member of that troupe. I don't remember when I wasn't there. Now I'm not there, I have no idea where I am.

But his hotel room is somewhere, and that's where he goes. What did I do? Joe asks himself, over and over. And what do I do now? He inserts his key.

It doesn't fit the lock.