Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A box filled with fake

Imagine you are in a room with a hundred million light bulbs and about as many switches. You need something to illuminate the darkness, but all of them at once will blind you or drive you crazy. So, you better start making choices, boy.

I open my eyes. I have a box of masks. Some of them are happy. Some are sad. Some are gaudy flights of fantasy. Others are so realistically crafted that they are indistinguishable from real persons. Speaking of which, I once read somewhere that the work "person" is derived from "persona", which was originally synonymous with "fake identity". So what I have, is a box filled with fake. It's not the first time I'm using it. I've played this game many many times. Don a mask and say outrageous things. I've fooled good friends and family that way. I'm about to do it all over again. This time, I choose to wear a woman's face. It is a good fit. For the time being, I will call her "Storywoman". I sit in her chair, wearing her body. And I begin to write.

I close my eyes. I'm eleven. It's summer vacation. There's three of us at the old Manson Lodge. We take turns to haul ourselves upwards to peak through a cracked dusty window. Hartley sees a dead body or a dummy or something lying across the floor. Its head was hacked off and lies to one side. He only tells this later. Cadigan sees nothing but an empty room. There's a crack in the fireplace. Some papers scattered to one side. But no body. It is my turn and my burden to decide who was right. But it's a little more complicated than that. I see a young woman sitting in a rocking chair. She is writing in a thick journal book. She looks up and seems to draw me into the room, into the book with her. I let go and drop to the ground. I have no answers for Hartley or Cadigan. The only ones I found were for myself.

I open my eyes. Someone is nudging me. It turns out to be a forty-five year old woman. She asks, "Can I have your autograph please?" "I'm practically a nobody," I said. "You're Johnny Moonlight," she helped me out. "I have all your records. I'm your biggest fan." I feel pretty sure that I'm not Johnny Moonlight, but for some really odd reason, at that moment, I know how to do Johnny Moonlight's autograph. So I take the pen and trust the right hand to know what the memory knows not. When she is gone, I go over my face with my fingers. I feel the rubbery fake of a mask. Johnny Moonlight's mask. But I still don't understand how I was able to sign his name.

I close my eyes...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Lawnmower with a Soul

No body. No dead friend. No dog. I do yardwork and I'm going to tell you about this lawnmower I met today. It's of indeterminate age, but I reckon it probably has at least fifty working years under its radiator belt and the family treat is as something somewhere between an heirloom and an eccentric uncle. It felt more like an uncle to be, because it had just about every ailment in the book and then some. It coughed incessantly and sneezed grass in all directions, but whenever we hit a corner together, the old guy and me, the rheumatism in its left wheel would play up. On the straight, it pooped sods of soil and pissed copuous amounts of gasoline onto my sneakers. It smoked me under the table. When we were done, I wheeled it back to the shed, covered it with a family quilt and bid it a good night's rest.

I open my eyes. If I had to give you an analogy of where I am, I'm in the forest, way way off the path. There are too many flowers. Their colors hurt my eyes. They are making me dizzy. I'm thinking, maybe I was supposed to be a tree, but then one day I discovered I could walk and started wandering, around and around. The trees whisper about me. They say things like "What's that?" and "If it doesn't grow anything, it's vermin." I cannot begin to explain how confused I am. Sometimes, I wriggle my toes deep into the earth. Perhaps if I stood very still, I would remember how to grow roots again. But I keep seeing something in the distance that attracts my attention. And then I think, "Perhaps I will never be a tree again. Perhaps it is my mission to figure out this person business. But how? HOW?

I close my eyes. My little girl is giving me the Princess makeover. She braids my hair clumsily and ties little pink ribbons and tiny plastic butterflies into it. I am wearing a plastic tiara, a little girl's plastic spectacles and a very bright shade of lipstick. I don't think I've ever spent an afternoon laughing so much. It might have looked better, if I'd shaved beforehand.

I open my eyes. It is dark and humid and sweaty. I have been sleepless for several hours, my mind hammered out of peace by the ravages of a love gone wrong. The pain feels raw and without end. In my head, a voice asks, "What do you want from a universe that's willing to give you anything you want?" It sounds like my own voice. By now, I'm old enough to know that all the top wishes - money, fame, love - are booby trapped. Even asking for the return of the woman I just lost feels wrong in some way I cannot define. I say, "I get to choose once, right? Or is it three, like in the fairy tale?" I exhale. "Only if you want to live in a universe that is stingy," the voice replies. "So I get a wish every day?" I ask. "If you want to limit yourself that way." I thought about it. "Okay, you mean to say, I will always have at least one more wish?" It didn't reply again, but I could sense its approval deep within me. Like I had finally pleased it with my answer. I took a deep breath. What DO I want from a universe that is willing to give me anything I want?

I close my eyes... To continue, click here

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Frozen Now

For as long as I keep my eyes closed, there is a sky above me. High shifting, feathery clouds. Beautiful blue.

When I open my eyes, the world around tells me that I will never see such a sky again. Light sears my consciousness. There is a smell of disinfectant and piss that won't go away. Someone is always weeping somewhere. Someone is always crying somewhere else. Curses buzz through the atmosphere like blue bottle flies scenting blood and rot. There is no time. I am locked into the frozen now of a death row prison cell.

I close my eyes. High school detention. I am drawing a space ship with my blue ballpoint pen, adding stars and angels and jellyfish. I dunno why, but I have this idea that space is full of massive translucent jellyfish. Everyone laughs when I try to tell them about it. I don't want anyone else to see the artwork, but I can't stop adding lines and curves to it. I have to stop, though, when Mr Humphrey sits down hard on my desk, blocking access to the book. I can smell old sweat in his jacket, and onion on his breath. He'd been drinking too. He leans very close to my face and says in a harsh whisper that is in some ways louder than shouting, "he told me to tell you this.... There is no such thing as time. You know where it comes from? The Illuminati ... invented it." He pauses, belching into my face. I think this is a memory from the past, because I'm sure I remember Mr Humphreys getting taken away after some mad fit in his classrooms. But, he continues, "They made the days like a long row of prison cells to incarcerate your souls!" He is shouting now. "And you do nothing! NOTHING!"

I open my eyes. I am in the dog house. Quite literally. Rain is pouring down. I am locked out, tied up with rope that smells of sea salt and about to puke my guts out. Beneath me, lies the still warm body of an old friend. He is dead. Inside the house, his dog Susan is keening. I feel sorry for the dog. There is no one to feed her now. The dead friend leaves me numb. He's a good 40 pounds heavier than me. I shouldn't have had it in me to kill him, but desperation is not a demon to be trifled. He found this out the hard way.

I close my eyes... To continue, click here