stooped down to look at the tiny little spoon-made ringer that Johnny
was offering to me, at first thinking that it was not worth my time.
out da' lil' spoon-made ringy-dingy thing!” he had called out as he
approached, walking down Kumquat Lane (a street you might remember
from another tale about a most fortunate geometry teacher named Mr.
Zoops. This tale, however, has nothing to do with that tale – or
with Mr. Zoops. Or with geometry, for that matter).
was always offering me the strangest items, and he was always having
songs written about him. That bothered him to no end, but he put up
with it, just to humor the songwriters.
out da' lil' spoon-made ringy-dingy thing!” he called again,
crossing Peach-Compote Avenue (the Street Department of Weaverton was
a fun-loving bunch). He failed to look both ways, and a
truss-delivery van (there are lots of those in this neighborhood) came
trundling through the intersection and knocked him to the ground. He
held fast to the spoon-made ringer.
up in the outer reaches of the atmosphere, a glimmering silver jet
tore through the ether, leaving no mark along its path, yet for just
a moment, both Johnny and I saw the sun catch its silvery skin. It
seemed to wink at us like a firefly visible in broad daylight.
think the winking goddess Juno is pleased with my lil' spoon-made
ringy-dingy thing,” Johnny said with what might prove to be one of
his last breaths (depending on the speed with which the space-time
continuum folds around us while I write), as he held the spoon-made
looked over my shoulder at the empty patch in the sky, now devoid of
the glimmering silver jet, and then I stooped down to look at the
tiny little spoon-made ringer that Johnny was offering to me, at
first thinking that it was not worth my time.
work on a fetching tuna boat. That is probably news to you, as so
few people work on fetching tuna boats these days, and when they do
they are reluctant to admit it. They usually keep the fetching tuna
boat stories to themselves.
the tuna boat is fetching, all right. She's all dolled up, but not
in a gaudy way. Our captain has strung lights around the pilothouse
– little electric lights that are in the shape of anthropomorphic
jalapeño peppers, complete with tiny sombreros, mustaches, and
sunglasses. They make the pilothouse look cheery, and when we are
working on the fetching deck it makes us smile, knowing that our
captain cares enough about us to string such festive lights on the
fetching tuna boat.
the day, we sail about and look for tuna. We never find any, seeing
as how we sail upon the Mississippi River, and there are no tuna for
hundreds of miles. Hell, maybe thousands of miles. I have no idea,
as I have never seen a tuna in the wild – only in a can. That
doesn't matter, though, as the captain tells us that we are one of
the best tuna boat crews he has ever had work for him. We do all the
things necessary to catch lots of tuna, and the first mate has even
learned to make the harmonious tuna call using only his right hand,
held firmly to his lips. He makes the harmonious tuna call, and we
strain our eyes looking for the approach of the elusive tuna.
the afternoons we take siesta. It is pleasant and restful, taking
siesta in our bunks below decks on the fetching tuna boat. Our
captain has thoughtfully provided small nap mats that we may spread
on the deck if the weather is warm and we wish to take siesta
topside. When it is cool, we go to our bunks and listen to the waves
lap at the hull of our fetching tuna boat. It lulls us to sleep with
the evenings, after dinner, we will often gather on the lido deck to
sing songs and play the concertinas. Each of us was issued a
concertina when we signed on to the fetching tuna boat, and the first
mate gives group concertina lessons each night, unless he is sober.
The waves lap at the hull of our fetching tuna boat, the sound of sea
chanties rolls out over the deck, and old man Bettendorf dances a
merry jig until his prosthetic leg comes loose, causing him to hop
back to his seat. We close the evenings with toasts of absinthe to
our captain, and then we retire below decks. Only the first mate
stays topside, keeping watch and drinking until he has passed out.
enjoy our life here upon the fetching tuna boat, but we question our
vocation. We have yet to spy a tuna, let alone catch one. Some of
the crew say that it is our technique. Some say it is that our boat
needs to be arrayed in an even more fetching manner. Others claim it
has to do with the stars and the way the constellation of the Archer
has risen in the East, bringing with it wary schools of tuna. We
labor on, enjoying our life but never achieving our goal.
we are on the topic of other planets, please allow yourself to drift
off mentally to another planet – not terribly far distant in terms
of space and time, but very distant in terms of reality. Place
yourself on a war-torn field. A field of churned-up mud, debris, and
dead bodies. See a series of trenches facing one another. See two
armies facing one another across the churned up field. See the young
men, huddled in a troglodyte world of mud and fear. See the mist and
smoke rolling across the deserted landscape. Can you feel it?” asked Blaze Raygun.
this an intentionally undertaken cloquey-overdose?” asked Grogan,
opening one eye.
is often times the setting for an intentionally undertaken
cloquey-overdose, but we are not using it like that right now.”
note: the Bezeldan word “cloquey” means, literally, “a confusion”.
When extra-dimensional travelers
would find themselves depressed from having landed in a real heck
of a cloquey, they would travel through the ether of time and space
and take in a little bit of opening day on the Battle of the Somme.
It was cloquey-overdose on a grand scale, and they always felt a
little better about whatever it was that they had previously
witnessed. This whole issue is addressed in another story of mine –
– that you should
probably go and read. Right now. Please
report back to this
paragraph when you have done so. Thank you.)
might see some soldiers huddled together in groups, talking in low
voices, and lighting cigarettes in their cupped hands. You can see
the look in their eyes, and maybe you can even feel how uncomfortable
they are in their woolen uniforms. Wool, encrusted in mud and maybe
even some blood here and there. To top it off, there are bugs. Lice.
Little vermin that crawl around and bite the soldiers, just to add a
little bit of discomfort to everything else. If you look further,
there are also rats. Not as numerous as the lice, but probably more
visible. The rats are sometimes feeding on the dead, and the
soldiers know this. In fact, they know that some of the bodies of
men who had been their friends – men just like them with bodies
just like theirs – those are some of the bodies that the rats are
nibbling on. Worst of all, the soldiers know that their own bodies
might be next – they might become the next body that the rats
nibble on. It's just awful.”
from the rats and the lice, there is not a lot of wildlife painted
into this picture. No starlings. No bletcher-birds. No bluejays.
No redjays. No anykindjays. The soldiers huddle on both sides of the
trenches, all speaking their respective languages in hushed tones,
smoking cigarettes from their home countries. And one of the things
that the soldiers do on either side of the trenches – something
they do no matter what language they speak or what uniform
they wear – is bond with each other. The men sometimes have
nothing else to keep them going but each other. They become almost
closer than brothers.”
I want you now
to depart this field of horror and death, and come with me to another
said Grogan, wiping sweat from his brow.
with me to a Frosty-Chill on
a warm summer night in
a small town near the northern pole. Look at the teenagers gathered
around the counter, ordering
Frosty-Chill cones and cylinders and wheaty-milks. Look at
coursing through their systems. Well, you can't really see the
hormones, but you know they are there, don't you? Don't answer that.
Look at the boy and the girl sitting at that little table off to the
side. Look at their eyes, and they way they hold each other's hand.
In another time, and in another place there were those who called
this 'puppy-love' but we mostly think of it as the affection that two
young people have for one another when their systems and their brains
are not quite developed yet, and they don't really know what they are
feeling. You can almost feel the sugary, sappy, warm, and wonderful
emotions that they have going on right now, can't you? Again, don't
inside that young boy's heart. Can you? Of course not, but maybe you
can feel it just a little bit. If you can tell how much he never
wants this moment to end, and how in just 30 or 40 short years into
the future he will wish that he could feel that same feeling once
again, you might get a sense of what I'm talking about. Likewise
with the young girl. She might be looking back in 30 or 40 years and
thinking that there was once a perfect summer evening outside the
Frosty-Chill, and that there was a time when she felt so good and so
young and so blissfully ignorant of what was really going on.”
is very different from the last place we were. Nobody is dying here,
at least not actively, and there is a lot less fear, a lot less mud,
and certainly fewer rats. There might be some lice, but we won't
even bring that into the equation, if you don't mind.”
and Rosalyn shook their heads without saying a word.
raised a flag of truce and sailed into the tiny harbor of her mind.
Her boat was fragile but still seaworthy, and at any rate it appeared
as though there would be no more salvos fired at her from the coastal
guns on the shore of the tiny harbor of one's mind can be
winds were steady but warm, and the waters fairly calm. She looked around at
the ragged sails, torn from the previous battle, and she wondered how
they could have ever held enough wind to bring her home – home to
an occupied port, home to become a prisoner. She thought deeply and
with salty-wounded wonder at how the gimple birds had made a warning
call before the battle. She listened to them, but ignored their dire
message. We all do that from time to time.
her battle-ravaged boat pulled into port, she stepped into what had
become a foreign land. Enemy-held territory. A strange place. She
walked ashore and saw no trace of her captors.
laurel-wreath clad victors, grinning at her with bloody smiles.
the police arrived, there was little that could be done aside from
cleaning up the mess. One older officer directed one of the younger
officers to get a 2-liter bottle of a well-known cola soft drink and
wash the blood away.
you sure we should do that?” asked the young officer. “They might
want the blood for evidence.”
Who might want it?” asked the older officer.
a shrug of his shoulders the younger officer walked away in search of
the cola. The older officer crouched down next to the body and
looked into its eyes. “Its” eyes, as the officer was not sure if
it was the body of a man or a woman. There were no obvious clues.
officer stood up, shook his head and smoothed the lap of his his
trousers, slowly, but almost as though he were brushing off crumbs.
There could have been crumbs on his trousers, in fact. He had just
eaten a very crumbly baked good on the way over. The officer was not
sure, exactly, what sort of baked good it was. There had been no
delivery van of some sort slowed down as it drove past the crime
scene, trying to figure out what was going on. The driver turned
down his radio – for that is what people do, it seems, when they
need to concentrate on things while driving. They turn down the
radio. When your family was on a vacation and you pulled into a
strange city, would your mother pull out the map and turn down the
radio, saying “we have to concentrate” ? Perhaps she did. I
know that my mother did. In like fashion, the driver of this
delivery truck sat up, took notice, and turned down his radio.
officer looked at the truck as it passed by and noticed the driver
staring at the crime scene. He took note of the driver turning down
the radio. The officer looked at the delivery truck and tried to
determine what sort of delivery such a truck would be making, but he
could not decide what it might be. There were no obvious clues.
officer returned to his patrol car and opened the trunk. He withdrew
the “Crime Scene Removal Kit” that was issued to every police
patrol car in Weaverton. Taking the kit to where the body was, he
put on his tidy white apron and rubber gloves and got to work. The
body fit neatly within the several resealable plastic bowls that came
with the kit – bowls that were guaranteed to not leak, and that
would keep body parts or baked goods as fresh and flaky as the day
they were murdered or baked. “From our kitchen to yours!” was
the cheery message that was molded in bright, happy colors on the
snap-tight lid of each bowl.
kit was very complete, the officer thought, except for the cola soft
drink that all of Weaverton's finest used to give a final cleaning to
any crime scene. Well, to any crime scene that needed cleaning, that
is. The crime scenes of Jaywalking (unless lethal) seldom needed
such a good cleaning. The cola soft drink that they used for
crime-scene clean up had a special wang-doodley enzyme in it that
immediately ate up and digested blood and small body parts that were
too small to pick up with the tongs that were included in the kit.
“Who stocked these kits, anyway?” the officer wondered aloud. He
turned the lid of the kit over several times, looking for the name of
a manufacturer. There were no obvious clues.
officer wiped off the tongs, packed up the kit and the resealable
plastic bowls full of body parts, and placed them all neatly in the
trunk of the patrol car. He took off his tidy white apron and rubber
gloves, and placed them in a large plastic bag that the City of
Weaverton Police Department had so thoughtfully included in each
policeman's personal goody box. The personal goody box contained
very crumbly baked goods, tear gas, a smiley-face button, and a
kazoo, along with the plastic bags. Each goody box was prepared
personally by the mayor of Weaverton each morning, and contained a
hand written message of joy. The older officer's goody box this
morning had a message that read “Slap-happy to the end! Boxer dogs
and hiccups! Happy!” It was, sure enough, hand written and signed
by the mayor. The officer, after reading it, had misplaced it in the
patrol car somewhere, but was not sure where he had laid it. There
were no obvious clues.
younger officer returned with a 2-liter bottle of the particular
well-known cola soft drink, and the two of them used it to wash away
the remaining blood and some small body parts. They flushed the
whole of it into the gutter, where it ran over several empty pistol
cartridges and down into the storm sewer. The older officer was not
sure where it went after it entered the storm sewer. There were no
two officers got into the patrol car and made their way back to the
station. In the precinct headquarters that afternoon, just before he
headed home after his shift, the older officer made his daily “record
of events” and entered it into the duty log.
day. No activity. Ate two very crumbly baked goods. Happy!”
Reemer (not his real name) held out his hand on the corner of 18th
Avenue and 31st Street, and juggled two balls of stiffened
beef tallow, daring any passers-by to pluck one of the balls from
mid-air. No one ever wants to touch stiffened beef tallow, of
course, so he found no takers. It was his next action that baffled
everyone – even the reporter from the Daily Slouch.
sun burned brightly in the skies over Weaverton that morning, and Mr.
Reemer's hand grew all the more slippery with each cycle of the balls
of stiffened beef tallow. As one last passer-by passed by (that is,
after all, what passers-by do, you know), he paused in mid-juggle,
and a ball of stiffened beef tallow stopped in mid-air. It hovered.
It wobbled. It glistened.
my tale,” said Mr. Reemer to the passer-by. “Hear my tale of
tallow. A tallowy tale, yet not too tall of a tallowy tale.”
passer-by stopped and stared at the ball of stiffened beef tallow.
of the genesis, as it were,” continued Mr. Reemer, smiling. “You
know where this lovely ball of stiffened beef tallow comes from,
passer-by shook her head, as if to say “no.”
is often what people mean when they shake their heads.)
me show you.” With his free hand (the one that was not
growing all the more slippery from stiffened beef tallow) he traced a
picture in the air – a picture so divine, so graceful, and so
intricate. He then reached out and placed his index finger upon the
forehead of the passer-by. “Receive,” said Mr. Reemer.
passer-by shook and trembled, and then grew still.
than you might think?” she asked, at great length.
than you might think,” said Mr. Reemer.
passer-by reached out her hand. Mr. Reemer reached out his own hand
(the one that had been growing all the more slippery).
As their hands met, he turned his over, placing the ball of
stiffened beef tallow in hers. While she held it, he kept his hand
on the ball for a long while, allowing liquefied beef tallow to run
from his palm and cascade over hers.
softened beef tallow ran down in tiny little rivulets, over her palm,
down her wrist, and down her arm. She felt it dripping onto her
Reemer (not his real name, remember?) withdrew his hand, leaving the
passer-by holding the ball of stiffened beef tallow. He gently
directed her arm beneath the other ball that was still hovering and
wobbling and glistening in mid-air.
looked into her eyes.
looked into his eyes.
said Mr. Reemer. He made the sign of the grackle and walked away.
Out of sight. Out of mind. Out of body.
passer-by began to juggle the balls of stiffened beef tallow. The
sun burned brightly in the skies over Weaverton, and the passer-by's
hand grew all the more slippery with each cycle. A voice from deep
within came, at long last, to her lips.
“Well," said Jerry Grogan, "this one guy that I know, his dad was a sailor. I don't
mean like a professional sailor all his life or anything. This guy
wanted to be a professional athlete, actually. A baseball player, in
fact. A pitcher to be exact. Do you know what baseball is?
“Sure,” said Rosalyn. “It's that earth sport that moves real
slowly. I see it from time to time on inter-dimensional planetary
television. It's the one with all of the beer ads.”
“Yeah, that's it. So anyhow, he wanted to be a baseball player,
but as fate would have it, there was a war going on at the time. The
guy doesn't want to get drafted into the army, so he joins the navy.
Seems like a good idea at the time. In the long run, it sets into
motion a whole turn of events that winds up with him retiring as a
social worker rather than a baseball player, but such is life. You
know how that goes?”
“Do I ever,” said Rosalyn. “I wanted to be a plumber, but I
wound up as an art teacher. Some days what I wouldn't give to fix a
leaking faucet or a toilet with a bad flapper valve.”
“You can do those things any time you want, baby-cakes. The next
time my toilet overflows I'll give you a call.”
“Anyhow, the guy winds up floating around the ocean, running up and
down steel ladders and scrubbing decks and saluting people and all
the things that sailors commonly do. I don't think he had a parrot
or anything. I think those are reserved for pirates, and these guys
were legitimate sailors. Some of them had tattoos, though, I'm
pretty sure of it."
"When the war ended," Grogan continued, "this guy's ship had the task
of picking up a whole bunch of soldiers and marines who had been
involved in more 'hands-on' sorts of war-making and ferrying them back
home. This seemed like a pretty good deal, because the sailors were
a lot less concerned about people trying to kill them or sink their
ship or whatever, now that the war was done. Their thoughts had
mostly turned to getting home and getting jobs or getting laid or
getting really good and stinking drunk.”
“Everybody has their vices,” inserted Rosalyn.
“You can say that again, baby-cakes. So all of these sailors and
soldiers and marines are on the ship together for a few weeks, and they end up
getting to know each other a bit, and playing poker together and all
the things you do when a war is over. And this one marine strikes up
a conversation with my friend's dad, and eventually asks him if he
wants to see what he was bringing home as a souvenir from the war.
Well, this is too good for my friend's dad to pass up, seeing as how
the guys on the ship never really had the chance to do any souvenir
gathering during the war, and mostly were bringing home only tattoos
or the clap.”
“I bet some of them picked up tiny things, too,” said Rosalyn,
“just as a little gift for their moms or girlfriends.”
“Maybe. Here and there maybe a plastic snow-globe or something.
I'll give you that. But whatever the case, my friend's dad
apparently didn't want to miss seeing what a marine might be bringing
back from some battle-torn island somewhere. Maybe a cool sword or a
helmet or a flag or something. So he goes down to the hangar deck of
their ship, where all of the marines are camped out on makeshift
bunks, and the marine grabs his seabag and they go to a private
little corner behind some crates and pipes and stuff. And the marine
pulls a glass mason jar out of his seabag.”
“That's what my friend's dad thought at first, too. Or maybe some
kind of special ethnic delicacy that he found in an enemy chow line.
But the marine lifts it up in my friend's dad's face and lets him get
a real close look at it. You know what it was?”
“Of course you don't. You couldn't believe it. You couldn't
imagine it. You couldn't make this up.”
“What was it?” pressed Rosalyn.
“Ears,” said Grogan with a horrified look. “Ears.”
“Ears. Enemy ears. It turns out this marine was cutting off ears
from dead bodies of the enemy soldiers that his unit killed.
Whenever they overtook a position, or captured a bunker, after
everything was quiet, this guy would go around with his knife and
slice the ears off of dead soldiers, and then put them in a jar with
vinegar or vodka or mineral spirits or something. He had it all
wrapped up in a couple of towels, and he carried it with him
everywhere. Apparently it was the second jar he had used, as
the first one broke in his backpack or seabag or something, soaking
everything with his field-expedient embalming fluid. He managed to
save the ears, though, so it was okay.
“Lovely,” said Rosalyn, looking a little nauseated.
“Well, my friend's dad was speechless, I guess, but he never forgot
the mason jar the ears were in. The marine had scratched the word
'ears' into the metal cap. Probably scratched it in with the same
knife he used for removing the ears. Who knows? You don't forget a
thing like that, though.”
“You would think that just seeing a bunch of ears floating around
in a jar would be enough of a reminder of what's in the jar, though,”
Rosalyn pointed out.
“Yeah, but I guess he wanted to dedicate that jar for one use and
one use only. He probably didn't want to use the jar for making a
batch of pickled eggs after the war.”
“Good point. What if he got the lids switched with another jar,
“I have no idea. Anyhow, years later, probably forty years after
the war, my friend's dad is on vacation in a big city on the coast,
and was at an antique store with his wife, and they're poking around,
looking at stuff, and he spots an old mason jar with a metal cap
sitting there on a shelf, and it looks familiar.”
“Way. He grabs it, and sure enough, there's the same word, 'ears',
scratched into the lid. The very same jar. I guess he even opened
it and took a sniff. Still kinda' smelled like vinegar or something,
but no trace of ears. “
“He did. He bought the thing and took it home with him. He kept
it on his desk at work, and put old fortunes from fortune cookies in
it. Every time he ate at a Chinese restaurant and got a fortune
cookie, he'd keep the fortune and take it with him to put in the jar.
When he retired, the thing was over half full of old fortunes, and
he took it home with him. After he died, my friend got the jar, and
now he's doing the same thing with it. It's on his desk, and he's
trying to fill it to the top with fortune cookie fortunes before he
retires. Only one problem, though.”
(A little bit from "Ashes and Seed Corn", another novel underway...)
Might there be a thing called
generational memory? Perhaps that is not the right word for it, of
course. Perhaps there is a psychologist or a wise, learned man who
studies such things that has a special name for such an occurrence,
and he would tell you what it is called. It would be the sort of
situation where one set of circumstances is passed on from generation
to generation. I'm not talkin' here about the sort of thing where a
family stays in poverty or where a family is made up mostly of folks
who aren't all that bright, either. I'm talkin' about the sort of
thing where by chance or by design or by the same kind of luck or
fortune or whatever you might call it, things happen in the same
sorts of ways. And folk do the same sorts of things. And make the
same sorts of mistakes. This story I been tellin' has a lot of folk
doin' the same sort of things that other folk done, and from age to
age, it seems, some things just never change – as little as folk
So to put it all together, we 'been
seein' things that look a lot like a story that someone made up and
put onto a motion picture-show, but yet, you see, a lot of stuff
ain't just made up – it's for real, and folk get hurt and stung
because of it. Hurtin' and stingin' ain't so bad except for when it
don't end, and it just goes on and on. Like from one generation to
Just like I'm talkin' about.
So that rain goes fallin' on the just
and the unjust, and it don't really matter which of them knows which
is which. I mean, you never really know quite how just or unjust you
are, do you? Do the evil know they are evil? Do the arrogant know
themselves to be arrogant? Again, I ain't quite sure. It seems I
remember Mr. MacBurney down the road sayin' one time “you can never
say 'thank you, God, for makin' me humble.'” So when the rain falls
on the unjust, I suppose they think they deserve it every bit as much
as the just, whatever that all quite means.
I done told you some things about old
Jefferson Morgan, but he had a brother – Miles Standish Morgan –
who was not nearly as well known as he was. While Jefferson moved
his whole livin' out to the area near Pole Creek, Miles Standish
Morgan settled north of the the old Morgan homestead, in a spot just
east of the bridge over the creek just outside of Blanchers. No one
lives in Blanchers anymore, but you probably knew that.
The spot where his house stood is
pretty near where that main road between Croydon and Cotton City runs
– the same road that goes through Pole Creek, makes itself a dog
leg there and by means of Rural Route 4 connects up Highway 26 in the
north with Highway 32 in the south, and is the artery for all of
Crawford County. The only folk who take Route 4 north of Haverland
would be the Switchbacks and them that live north of their place.
Miles Standish Morgan lived in a
crusty-dry little tar paper shack that was the biggest little tar
paper shack you ever did see, as he began addin' on to it the day
after he finished building it. It looked like something out of a
dream, I'm told, with rooms and walls goin' everwhichways, and
chickens and such runnin' loose all day long.
Right outside of that shack there was a
little footpath that old Morgan used to walk down – just a few
hundred yards away and to the south of his shack, and it led a man
right this little draw. Actually, it was more than just a draw –
more like a little valley or a hollow in the side of the rise heading
back to Pole Creek, and some say that's where another creek used to
run – one that emptied itself into Pole Creek along time ago. The
valley is deep enough to warrant a little bridge all its own. A
little wooden bridge that someone built a long time ago, and that
only took a man by foot across the valley. It was too small for a
horse, too small for much anything else. You could walk across it,
Folk who used to live out near there
said that old Miles Standish Morgan used to get in the habit of
thinking it was his bridge – that it somehow belonged to him,
seeing as how he lived the closest to it, and that he was the one who
walked on it every day. A couple of times folks heard him hollerin'
at some kids or others who walked across it when he was nearby.
Folks said he only really got to hollerin' real loud when he had been
hittin' the bottle . Sometimes I guess we're all kind of like that,
though, aren't we?
About the hollerin', I mean – not
necessarily about the bottle.
Here, for your reading pleasure, is the most-read piece on this blog, published in October of 2013...
dipped his finger into the pool of clear, cold water that was just
taking up space in his living room. The pool had been there for the
past week and a half, and David had no idea how it got there.
pool was six feet and seven inches in length and at its widest point
about four feet and two inches in width. David knew this because on
the second day of its existence he took out his fancy little tape
measure and checked its dimensions. What else would you do with a
pool that spontaneously appeared in your living room? He carefully
noted the dimensions and wrote them down on a wrapper from a
cheesesteak poorboy. He used a black magic marker, for although he
originally tried writing with a blue ball point pen, some grease on
the wrapper made that impossible.
depth he had not been able to determine. That is often how it is with
spontaneously-appearing living room pools.
had been checking the dimensions daily, to see if they had changed,
and he found no fluctuation in size. Now, after swallowing the
oversized silver capsule of the trickey-dickey powder that he loved
so much (and ingested twice daily) he was conducting another
experiment. He had turned off the heat in his apartment and opened
the windows. As it was in the depths of a Minnesota winter, he
figured the water in the pool should freeze in no time. This had not
yet happened, but the water seemed to be cooling down.
he looked down into the water it seemed as though there was a face
visible just a foot or so below the surface. It did not appear to be
attached to a body, and it did not appear to be a severed head, as
had been found in that one spontaneously-appearing living room pool
that had cropped up in a subdivision in Dayton, Ohio back in 1997.
This was just a face, or the form of a face. Perhaps that of a young
woman. Or perhaps it was that of a not-as-young woman. It is hard to
tell in situations like that.
he watched the face, he expected to see its eyes open or its lips
move, but neither happened. In a minute the face seemed to vanish.
Immediately the pool began to shrink in size. Soon it was the size of
a coffee table, then the size of a toaster oven, then the size of a
napkin holder, then the size of a deck of cards.
was left looking at a spot of dry carpeting in his very cold living
one big-time icy doughnut, Baby-cakes,” said Grogan. He peeled the
kumquat-flavored tissue off of his tongue and flicked it away. It
fluttered off on a breeze that neither he nor Rosalyn could feel, but
believe you me (as some would say), they knew it was there. People
seem to be hyper-sensitive around the Waycheeda Glacier, and they
sense everything's presence, even if there is no sensory data to tip
about the Waycheeda Glacier before we go any further. The name is
quite curious, and it shows up in print with different spellings and
different forms. “Way-chee-dah” was apparently the name that the
ancient inhabitants of Bezelda gave to themselves. It means
something like “people in search of cocktails”. The ancient
inhabitants resettled there by means of time and space travel – all
of the prehistoric Bezeldans or “Way-chee-dah” came from Detroit.
Michigan, that is. They were the smart ones who knew enough to get
the hell out.
Glacier” is the official spelling on government documents and on
maps. Maps and newspapers up until the 1950's (in the earthling
manner of marking years) most often hyphenated the name:
“Way-cheeda”, and sometimes “glacier” was left uncapitalized.
Bezeldans who live near the glacier sometimes just call it “the
'cheeda”, and the guides who take paid expeditions atop the glacier
for backpacking, picnicking, and sex usually refer to it as “The
that you know these details, we shall now attempt to refer to the
glacier from this point on in the manner of the Bezeldan Tourism
Council and the official government appellation: “Waycheeda
was walking downtown (fancy that) to meet my brother Pat at Limpy's
Place one fine summer evening, just after the war. It was the cola
war, in case you were wondering. Do you remember that? Some of the
most viciously-fought advertising campaigns ever seen. It was
brutal. I was able to serve as a mercenary for one of the minor
combatants, “Okra-Kola”. Okra-Kola was a soft drink produced in
Oklahoma City (where else?) that was designed to go perfectly with
barbecue, and that was made with real okra – not artificial okra,
the way that “Dr. Okra” from Tulsa was. I managed to free-lance
a couple of slogans for the company before they folded:
It's the Stringy Thing!”
Seed-free Since '73!”
retrospect, perhaps it wasn't my best work.
I was walking down to Limpy's Place and as I passed the Johnson &
Weinberg Hernia Parlour, I happened to spy a most curious little box
on the ground. Who can resist these things, right? It was blue and
seemed to be lacquered. I stopped and looked both ways. Then I
looked up and down. Then I lit a cigarette, just to make me appear
more nonchalant. Putting the lit cigarette behind my ear, I stooped
down, picked up the box, slipped it in my jacket pocket, and walked
few steps down the sidewalk I turned into the alleyway just alongside
the New-China Sauerbraten Buffet (which gave off a much more
agreeable aroma than you might have guessed). Making sure that the
coast was clear, I pulled the box out of my pocket and slowly opened
it. Inside there was a lone slip of paper – bigger than you might
find inside a fortune cookie, but smaller than a business card. That
narrows it down, doesn't it?
took the slip of paper and turned it over to find some words written
in the finest blue script.
was wisdom. Divine wisdom.
read the words again.
felt a warmth that I had never felt before. It was as if my entire
intellectual and empirical faculties were beginning to glow as an
ember. I was alive. Alive and on fire, as it were, with this
new-found wisdom. I needed to share this with Pat.
ran out of the alley and sprinted the block and a half to Limpy's
Place. I burst in the door, nearly tripping over Filthy Milt
Gozomski who was back in town and apparently on quite the bender,
owing to his prone position on the floor. I leaped over whatever it
was that he was lying in and stepped over to Pat, who was just
finishing his first triple de-alcoholized scotch-and-tumbler.
you look all out of breath. You okay?” he asked, licking the
little bits of peat moss from his complimentary “scotchy-doodle”
that Limpy gives to all of his hard-core de-alcoholized scotch drinkers.
wisdom...divine wisdom!” I said, handing him the little slip of
paper. “I'm burning with the enlightenment of the ages!”
glanced at the slip of paper, and then up at my head, and then back
at the paper. “Inspected by #7” he read aloud, frowning and
looking a little doubtful.
I said, “I must have read it upside down. I thought it was in
your martini, Tom,” he said, pulling out a barstool and handing me
a wet rag. “Drink up and crush out that cigarette behind your ear.
You do know that Brylcreem is flammable, don't you?”
a true story. The names, circumstances, locations, and dialogue have
been changed to protect the innocent.)