1/7/2013: Squinny

“Make some tea! Make some tea! Water in the pot, pot on the stove, fire in the stove, wait. Such a fine morning it is!” The old man stepped into his front landing and absorbed the day. Breathing in each moment of peace and solitude. The mountains surrounding him were gleaming in the sunlight. It had snowed all through the night, though not very hard, and the world was covered in a thin white robe. It was not terribly cold, though. The world would disrobe before evening fell. “Perhaps I will have some rice and egg, and if it is good a may have some cake after.” “It is a very crisp morning. Perhaps I should dig into the carrots and share in the crispness.” He breathed in the fresh air once more and began the walk to his breakfast.

“Oof!”

“Oof?” The old man looked around. “I did not oof! There is no reason to oof ! Who is oofing?” He stretched his ear out and cupped it. Silence answered. “Hmph! I can ‘Hmph!’ at my mind, for it is imagining oofs where there are none.” He turned to re-enter his mountain abode.

“Aggh!”

“Aggh?! Now I know I heard aggh. There is no doubt. What could it be? Just a few paces from the entrance of his home, there was a sheer cliff. In fact, on all sides of his home, by no more than a few feet there was a sheer cliff. He had built his home in a small cave near the summit of his mountain. He loved the natural setting and the quiet. He was able to traverse the valley every few months for supplies, but he did not climb. He had his own secret way up and down the cliffs and was not wont to share it He stepped to the edge and squinnied. No birds or anyone in the distance. “Hello?”

“He- oh God… Hello!” A voice called from below.

The old man quickly withdrew from the cliff side. “Oh no. Not again….” he grumbled.

The old man had departed his village long ago, back when he was more commonly referred to as the regular young man. His village was growing very dense at the time, but it was not growing very large. The hustle and bustle weighed on him as he tried to carve out time in which he could pray, and study, and work on his crafts. It was nearly impossible to concentrate on holy and deep matters while outside his window men were proffering cheap baubles and making lewd rhymes to music, and women were gyrating in all manners their exposed bodies. The day he decided to leave the village for good, he condemned the shallow fools with powerful and biting words and stormed out in a rage. He knocked over an oxcart or two on his way out. He roamed the forest for a while before finding his ideal cave in this mountain near enough to a village for trade and renovated it into a livable space.

What he did not know was the effect his exiting speech had had on the people of the village. They were shamed and began to turn their carnal desires and brutish lifestyles into more scholarly and devotional deeds. The village’s officials sent trackers to find the wise young man so that they could shower him in riches and follow his leadership. It took them a few years to discover his home, and by this time he was referred to as the wise middle-aged man of the mountain. They begged him to return, to usher them into a new era of prosperity. He was charmed at the prospect for a moment, but when he learned of some of the claims the village-folk were making about his abilities, he realized the wisest thing to do would be to stay put. For he wasn’t exactly a wise man, he was just a regular man who had gotten sick of the idiots he was surrounded by and moved away.

“Hello? Sir?”

The wise old man of the mountain scuttled to the cliff-side once again and studied the small ragged boy from the village.

“Sir, I come from the village of your birth, where your wisdom and love are well known and celebrated! I have traveled many miles, traversed traversed great dangers, and fought fierce battles to meet with you!”

“That’s nice! Hello! Go back home now!”

The boy was dirty, and his clothes were shredded. He was not a strong looking boy either, and thin. “Probably should have died numerous times during the trip. He will probably want food, a bath, and tea if he makes it up.” The old man paused. “Tea… now there’s an idea!” He ran to the stove, grabbed the boiling pot and returned to the cliff. “Oops!” he cried loudly and intentionally, and dumped the boiling water over the edge of the cliff. He waited for the screams but couldn’t bear to look. None came. He turned back to the boy and found him closer.

“Damn. I missed….” He pondered his situation for a bit longer. “I am not dressed for company you know!” he yelled downward.

“Then put on something while I’m climbing up!”

“I’m deathly ill! …and contagious! My canary caught whatever I have and keeled over! You’ll get it too if you come up here!”

“Wise man, you will need comfort then in your dying days! Though I suspect this is a kind of test of will! I won’t fail you!”

“Dammit, boy! Go home or I’ll kill you!” He turned back to his cave. The morning was just passing when the boy finally finished his ascent. The wise old met him at the edge, scowling. The boy fell to his knees and kissed at the feet of his master.

“O wise old man of the mountain, who years past dwelt among the unworthy people of my village…”

“Oh God.”

“…who healed the sick and raised the dead, who taught us to seek knowledge and love one another instead of cutting each other to bits and copulating with any available woman, whether she was clean or unclean, who brought the holy light of God upon our village and persuaded him to spare us and make us like unto Himself, I come to you to ask that you take me under your wing that I may soar to new heights of spiritualism and peace, and take your words and knowledge to our people in these troubled times.”

“Rise, young man, for I will teach you that which you should know.”

The boy’s eyes lit up. “Thank you, my master.”

“Yes child, lesson one we must start right away. Take these words into your heart and never forget them.” He placed his foot on the boys chest, “Don’t ever bother the crazy old man who lives in the cave on the top of the mountain!” And he thrust the boy off of the cliff.

(To be continued in 1/9/2013: Zeroth)

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1/8/2013: Ratiocination

I have devoted my life to ratiocination. I have conquered my emotions. I am as steel and circuitry and no longer of the flesh of man. This bedroom is my sanctuary. These textbooks are my salvation. I will see all, and I will know all.  I will be wise and thoughtful, and all who meet me will be in awe. None shall be my equal. Kings shall become peasants and gods shall be my servants. Any who challenge my intellect will fall before me and weep. I am as focused and sharp as a laser beam. I will rise. I will defeat.

But first I must watch this cat video.

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1/6/2013: Cuspidor

The cuspidor sat in the corner of the barroom listlessly, waiting for the night to pick up and dreading the night’s activity. He had done his job dutifully each night the bar was open for the last twelve years. He had been knocked over, stepped on, swung about, and spit in more times than anyone could count and tonight would be no exception. The night usually started dry enough. An old man or two would wander in during the early afternoon, a few of the unemployed men would show up usually around four. A few of the old men chewed, but they had rather good aim (likely from years of practicing) and the men without jobs wouldn’t waste their money on chew. Once the sun set, however, the place would fill up rather quickly and usually wouldn’t settle down until closing. That’s when the headache started. The crowd would liven up and men would begin chewing their tobacco, smoking their pipes, and hacking their phlegm, and the cuspidor knew just where it was all going to wind up. It wasn’t a dignified job, but it was necessary. It wouldn’t have been so bad if a few of the patrons took a few moments to appreciate the service he provided them, but that was never the case. Often times a fight would break out and someone would kick him over accidentally. Sometimes they would purposefully punt him across the room, and once in a blue moon someone would heave the cuspidor up and dump his contents on someone’s head. The recipient of the muck would be furious, he would cuss and knock him back into the middle of the fray for even more abuse. Sometimes the word “spittoon” would be brought up. The cuspidor hated that word. It offended him.

One day the barkeep opened up the doors and came in carrying a shiny new cuspidor. The old one became very nervous, because even though he hated his lot in life, he wasn’t exactly sure what would become of him if he came to outlive his purpose.  The barkeep picked him up and placed the new one in his usual spot. The new cuspidor seemed almost excited to be there, but the old cuspidor knew that wouldn’t last very long. He got a nice bath, although still apprehensive, and was moved into a back room. This room was mostly white and the tiles gleamed from lighting above. He liked it. It seemed a cozy enough place to sit, and he wasn’t alone. He was sharing the place with a larger, melancholy bowl and a sink which seemed very friendly.

It was hard to know exactly what time it was from the small room, but the cuspidor knew when sunset arrived by the noise picking up on the other side of the wall. It was much quieter in here. He liked that too. A man came into the small room and stepped up to the large bowl. He unzipped his pants, urinated into the pot and left. The cuspidor was a bit put off. Shortly after, another man came in and did the same. Very rude. As the night grew older, many men stopped by. Some of them urinated, some of them defecated, some of them did unspeakable things. They would not leave the large bowl alone! By the end of the night, the cuspidor was aghast. The bowl just sat there with the same defeated expression it had sported all day. The cuspidor came to realize that this was the bowl’s only purpose. Just as the cuspidor had long been the receptacle for all men’s refuse and sputum, so was the bowl the receptacle for all men’s piss and shit. It was uplifting. He didn’t have it the worst after all! He might not have been blessed enough to be a shaker or a strainer, but he was no man’s piss-pot!

The cuspidor continued his work for many years after, but never again got depressed at his position in the world again. The bar was closed down eventually, and he wound up working junk shop circuit for a while until he was snatched up by and old biddy. She took him back to her farmhouse where he has remained in an attic full of loose change until this day.

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1/5/2013: Sepulcher

Buster had to get somewhere dry. The rain was coming down in sheets and with every step he was amassing more mud onto his already weighted boots. “The ground is sinking enough to swallow a man whole.” He thought, ” We really need to do something about that.” He knew that he would already be up well into the night cleaning his boots, and he couldn’t even start that chore until this one was finished. They were his only pair. Finally he groped his way into a stone sepulcher that he had known was in the general direction he was crawling and pulled himself inside. It wasn’t exactly dry in there but at least he wasn’t soaking. He removed most of his clothes and laid them on a nearby slab, reached into his shirt pocket and retrieved a box with a few crooked cigarettes and matches. “Lucky they’re dry.” He wiped his brow and began to puff away. “Three tonight, I’ll be lucky if I can finish one in this mess.”

The good thing about being in the business of grave-digging was that you never had to worry about business letting up. People loved to create life, but no one seemed interested in preserving the ones already in existence. “A man takes a woman on his cock, a gun in his right and a bottle of booze in his left.” He took another drag. “Faster than he can churn ‘em out he’s putting ‘em down.” He spat at the ground and noticed a plaque reflecting a nearby street lamp. “George Westerfield.  June 3, 1895 – August 19, 1928.” He sat down and leaned his head on the side of the grave. “How many did you manage to squirt out, George? Five or six? Where are they now, George? I’ll get ‘em someday. You ever kill a guy?” He paused as if waiting for a response, then puffed again. “Terrible conversationalist, George. You must not have been very popular.” The rain showed no sign of letting up. That suited Buster just fine. If it rained all night he could just lounge in this tomb and ruminate on whatever thoughts that pleased him. He’d hear about it tomorrow if the plots didn’t get finished, but there wouldn’t be any physical consequences, so what did it matter.

Barely audible against the rain, Buster heard someone running outside his shelter. He extinguished his smoke just as the man turned inside the entrance and threw aside a shovel. “Goddamn torrent!” He was unnoticed. The man kept his eyes turned outward to the yard, and Buster took some time to examine the silhouette. Other than the shovel, the man was carrying a variety of small tools in his belt and clutched a large sack to his side that wasn’t entirely empty. Although he couldn’t see a gun immediately, it would have been foolish to assume a character such as him was unarmed. He searched his mind for his next move. He couldn’t make too much noise, though the rain should be enough cover for him to get behind the man and drop a decent blow before he was detected. If he could maneuver his shovel quietly he might be able to incapacitate the stranger right out and be done with it. That seemed like a reasonable enough plan. He balanced himself back to his feet and never moved his eyes from the other man. He put both hands on the shovel and lifted it parallel to the floor. So far, so good. He tiptoed a few feet behind the character and stopped, slowly raising the shovel into the optimal striking position. The man was too preoccupied with the scene outside of the sepulcher to worry about threats from behind. Apparently it was his assumption that the only company inside was the dead.

Buster swung the shovel forward with all his strength and planted it squarely at the base of the strangers skull. He crumpled to the ground and didn’t move, and Buster cautiously approached just in case he was playing possum. Satisfied that the blow had struck the man out, he tuned his attention to the partially filled sack. He dumped it on the floor and examined the pieces in the street lamp. “Coupla’ watches, hat, some rings. Grave robber. Suspected as much. Oh well, can’t let it go to waste.” He stuffed the rings and watches into his pockets. Times were tough after all, and this was a windfall.

For a moment he thought about getting the rope from his shed and restraining the guy and alerting the cops. But then he had another idea. He checked the guys waist and found the pistol he had accounted for. It was fully loaded. He removed the holster as well and fitted it around his body. “This joker’ll be back, and I’ll keep my eye out for him. Once he’s done the dirty work, I’ll hold him up at his exit and get all the loot.  Then I’ll turn him in. Maybe get some kinda reward.” Maximize profits. That was the way of the world. He dressed him again and returned the sack to the unconscious thief. “You’ll need this for the next job, buddy. Just don’t forget which cemetery has the best loot, alright?” The rain hadn’t stopped, but it was at least clearing up enough to see a path. He began the trek to his shed to deposit his fortune and to take a bit of a rest. “One more smoke, then I’ll get back to diggin’.” What did it matter if the plots flooded and nothing got done. The dead weren’t going anywhere. No one was going anywhere.

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1/4/2013: Ekphrasis

My father was the kind of man who could liven up any situation. I cannot do him justice in the department of wit, charm, or comedic timing, but unfortunately he isn’t here today to make up for the lack of entertainment. My first memory of my dad was when we were moving from the house on Breckendale to the one we still live in today. I had no clue what was going on at the time; I could tell was that everyone was taking my stuff and putting it into boxes, and I just assumed it was going away for good. When I expressed my concerns to my father, he quietly assured me that that my belongings were indeed being sent off to a group of angry giant robots who were going to attack the earth if they were not given the sacrifice of a small boy’s toys. I know in the retelling of this story it kind of makes my dad look like a terrible person, and although he did have his moments of quirkiness, he always bounced back. After he saw how visibly upset I was, thrust into the role of earth’s savior by way of my GI Joe collection, he reopened every packed box and told me the robots had a change of programming and now were only interested in the rest of our house’s belongings. I was selfish enough at the time to be satisfied with that knowledge. I’m not sure how he accomplished moving all my things from my room to the new house and setting them up all in one night, but he did it, and I didn’t even notice until he was through. He was a proud dad. Proud to the point of irritation. Any time my sister or I came home with a good report card or project he would not only post it on the fridge, but make up a whole song and dance number about it and take us out for pizza later. He would build our talents up to family and friends so large that I was always terrified I would not live up to them and come out a huge disappointment. I swear there were some macaroni portraits I brought home that he immediately took away to research for an entire ekphrasis and official submission for the piece. He was a great man. He wasn’t a man of great intellect, nor a man of great fame or fortune, but a great man to everybody he encountered. He didn’t have much, but what he had he gave until hurt. I know that I don’t have to stand here and tell everyone about my father, everyone here knew him on a very personal level because there was no other way to know a guy like him. We will not only remember him today, but every day, in the lives we continue to live that were touched and vastly improved upon by knowing him, thank you.

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1/3/2013: Mien

He was a man who purposefully lived alone, purposefully ate alone, slept alone, and when he entertained, he entertained himself only. He was a hermit but not a misanthrope, as he bore no ill-will against the world outside his doorstep; he just never felt quite a part of it. He spent most of his life contemplating the finality of various situations, and after calculating the results of possible relationships years in advance, always made the conscious decision to avoid them altogether. His parents he lost shortly after attaining the ability to know just what it means to lose someone. He had lost his other relatives much earlier, so young that he hadn’t even known he had found them in the first place. Thus when the bodies of his mother and father were identified by a few of the closer strangers in the small community and funeral arrangements were coldly planned by more of the same, he was left alone to bear full force the tempest of an unexpected goodbye.

The depth of his sense of loss removed him from others in the town for quite a long time, and those who attempted to reach him initially eventually stopped calling, and others who asserted the boy would need time alone to mourn all but forgot about his plight. Therefore when he surfaced back into society he found he had attained a relative state of invisibility among the crowds. At first it was difficult to negotiate the streets with this trait. A few early missteps had caused him to nearly be crushed underfoot, and he was nearly unable to successfully complete his first trip to the market. It would have been a total loss indeed if he had not stumbled upon a trick that he found could universally gain attention from the shopkeepers. On this excursion he was standing with his stomach pressed against the counter of his local baker, waiving his hands and cautiously stammering a few times whenever he thought the merchant was eying his general direction. As the man turned back to his work in the kitchen the boy jumped excitedly in a last ditch effort, and a coin shot up from his pocket and, catching the sunlight, bounced its image into the man’s face. Immediately the merchant descended on the boy and his coin and feverishly offered up many of the items for sale. From then on, he made sure to keep his largest gold piece in his front pocket, for the sake of convenience. He learned to manage his ability with shortcuts and diversions such as these and finally honed his craft so much that he could only be seen exactly when he was ready and could vanish in the same manner, mid-conversation if need be.

In the first years he had felt the pangs of a desire to return to normal human interaction and made a few attempts to form bonds with others around his age.  He would attempt to strike up conversations with other young men about the weather or books, and in his early twenties made it a near nightly ritual to seek out a lovely maiden and win her over in a reasonable amount of time. It wasn’t that all of these attempts went poorly. He was a fairly well-read man about this time, and could emulate charms to persuade the hearts of both genders to a reasonable success rate for friendship and lust. The weight of his loss had never lessened in his mind however, and he came to realize that he had a clairvoyance to see where the relationship would end, always unhappily. He thought he saw a kindred spirit in one boy, but after a while begin to get flashes of a future in which the boy was discovered to be stealing money from his box at home when he turned his back. This same boy was later jailed for making fraudulent dealings with the elderly. One woman he found himself particularly smitten with was doomed with a failing heart, and he saw that she would not survive past her thirtieth birthday. He shied away from her early on, and was not at all surprised to catch word of her passing years later, just as his visions had alerted him.

It was then that he settled into his routine which cut out any meaningful interaction with those around him. Generally it was reading in the morning, a walk in the afternoon, painting at night, interspersed with the occasional gold-piece trip to the market. He kept his conversations short and to the point: how much he would need of this, how he perceived the news of that, yes the rain was dreary but necessary, no more tea, thank you. He felt justified in the safety of this mien. He did not feel the extreme pain of loss, nor did he feel the apex of joy found in those fleeting perfect moments shared with loved ones. His life was a steady, controlled, quiet pulse. This was, he thought, the most comfortable life anyone could hope for. His mind was always at peace because he never had to worry or hustle. He had no dependents to teach or provide for, and for the rest of his days was never once again concerned about the possibility of unexpected goodbyes.

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1/2/2013: Legerdemain

Amazing Bob’s Discount Magic Warehouse Saw Trick Kit Instructions:

Step 1. Remove Amazing Bob’s Discount Magic Warehouse Saw Trick Box components from packaging and assemble via included instructions affixed to side panel B2.*

Step 2. Remove Magician’s Glove and Trick Hat from compartment 2 in your Saw Trick Kit and fit according to size chart and adjustment mechanisms.

Step 3. Secure the two separate segments of Amazing Bob’s Discount Magic Warehouse Saw Trick Box to the included 3′ x 2.5′ collapsible rolling tabletops. For best protection against travel damage and atrophy associated with long-term storage, keep Amazing Bob’s Discount Magic Warehouse Saw Trick Box and included collapsible rolling tabletops in the hermetically-sealed, Solid Oak Saw Trick Box Traveler with felt lining** when not in use.

Step 4. Remove the included magic saw blade from foam packaging and set aside for later use. Ensure before use that the saw blade has been adequately dulled for your illusionary purposes. If you find the blade has not been adequately dulled, DO NOT utilize Amazing Bob’s Discount Magic Warehouse Saw Trick Kit. Please immediately repackage the Saw Trick Box and all included components and ship*** them to the return address listed on your original shipping label. You will be shipped a new kit in 4-6 weeks.

Step 5. Affix the patented Foney Feet to the inner compartment at the far end of segment two of your Saw Trick Box. Test the Foney Feet ejection mechanism to ensure realistic deployment and retraction of the Foney Feet when adequate pressure is applied to the pressure plate on the back-side of the compartment.

Step 6. Attain an assistant to enter into the Saw Trick Box, and explain to him/her the actions he/she will need to take in order to ensure successful completion of the illusion. For best results, examine your assistant’s feet prior to their participation before an audience to ensure a close match in complexion and size when compared to your included Foney Feet.

Step. 7. Practice your legerdemain.

Step 8. When you are confident in your abilities, perform the illusion as a component of your own Amazing Magic show.

For even more Amazing Magic, order Amazing Bob’s Discount Magic Warehouse catalog, which contains all the trick kits and accessories you will need to become a master magician, just like Amazing Bob himself! Only $19.95!****

*If your Amazing Bob’s Discount Magic Warehouse Saw Trick Kit is missing the included instructions for Box assembly, contact Amazing Bob’s Discount Magic Warehouse customer hotline at 1800-KL5-9955

**Sold Separately. Call 1800-KL5-9955 for details.

***Postage not paid in advance, Cash refund unavailable.

****Plus $5.95 shipping and handling.

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