Thursday, April 29, 2010

skit #98: someone else

The country boy reclined against the roots of the wise elm. He chewed the sweetness from the length of the final piece of field straw and gazed distantly. He gazed past the baled hay which accumulated over many months of days of hours of toil, past the very same space that occupied last year's harvest, only to find no familiar distances.

The work year ended. With the rest of the retiring country boys, he swaggered down to the autumn festivals. They celebrated what they had with what they had: pie-eating contests, ferris wheels, games of nominal chance, drag races, indiscretion, blue and red and white ribbons for exemplary domesticates, displays of machismo, saloons, muddy tractors, square dancing, plump lovers, plump wallets, youth under the unending night of the harvest moon. And since the night never ends, there is never another harvest.

The country boy writhes against the trunk of the forgetful elm. He gnashes some bitter grass into pulp and gazes desperately to find something he anticipates upon the horizon. But he can only find himself where he is. The unbaled timothy hay twitches anxiously like whiskers acutely receptive to an obscure present.

As he begins this harvest's work, he watches his fellow laborers thresh hay, fill silos, paint barns maroon, tune carburetors, play their fiddles at sunset, develop adolescent angsts, burn hay, slaughter milkless goats, father illegitimate children, elope to the theatre districts of various cities, forget arithmetics, obsess over dreams, obsess over lovers, drift to adjacent socioeconomic strata, consider ultimate questions of being, indulge, suffer, age, rest, and bale hay. Alongside these country boys, he works. Of all he does, some boys do the same, some do not.

The country boy will scurry among the boughs of the prescient elm. He will dine upon on the clovers, alfalfa, and rye of the known countryside, but never sate himself. He will scout the hummocked countryside from his treetop on the horizon and observe himself upon a former horizon, reclining against the roots of the wise elm, chewing the final field straw, gazing distantly; writhing against the forgetful elm, scurrying atop a prescient elm, inscribing upon the mute elm, deceiving the senile elm, deflowering the coy elm, pledging to the arbitrary elm; gazing towards horizons in all respective manners. In this countryside, every hill has its own horizon, and on each horizon is an elm from which he shall scout, and for each him atop other elms there expand other countrysides and elms and hims the country boy cannot see.

His eyes meet the eyes of another him and of someone else.

It was now spring. The seasons had begun to plant a new crop. He raised the hoe and struck it into the fecund countryside.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

skit #97: timeliness

The steam engine sibilantly evokes progression and progression as it whisks down its uncompromising tracks past all the rural towns deemed too small to warrant their own railroad stations. Long monotonies separate changes in scenery: a limpid brook, some healthy livestock, a gap-toothed windmill. Dirt backroads reticulate throughout the empty in-betweens like capillaries sustaining vestigial tissues. The train passengers cannot fathom what purpose they serves, but provincials trek along the paths.

Stray farmers rarely encounter any one else upon these backroads. Without each other, they would quite appear lonely. An amber sunlight coats the farmers and their mules, encasing them in an anachronistic resin. They move slowly to stillness. A snapped axle upsets a rickety mule cart, flinging loose apples into the air. The farmers are frantic but frozen. The apples just hang, poised to enact their Newtonian schtick. The train travels by so quickly that nothing changes in the spectacle of that moment, leaving its passengers blind to whether the farmers laugh or weep at their misfortune.

Ms Stutz rides in a first class cabin. She meets Mr and Mrs Estoppey, her cabinmates, both of whom were very personable, though slightly fatigued; they have been traveling for as long as they can recall. Their banter turns solemn as their journey lengthens and as their conversation deepens to topics of dreams, values, loves, and fears. Wine reddens their words. The train travels through the void of night and soon none can locate precisely where they are.

When the train arrives in Berlin, Ms Stutz enjoys coffee with Mr and Mrs Estoppey before parting ways. She will forever remember their company, though her memories of their faces and words become familiar inventions by the end of her life. She spends the next two days with her sister before returning home to Basel, first class. She meets more characters with whom she enjoys an approximately unique intimacy.

Nearing Basel, she finds the farmers still preserved in the formaldehyde of dusk. The locomotive's speed affords her only one glimpse into the diorama, as they were and may always be, the farmers frantic, their mule carts collapsed, their apple crop suspended midair, the faces stern yet to laugh or weep.

Ms Stutz remarks on the invention of the telephone, that soon one needn't ride for days by train to see one's sister, that all communication shall become practically effortless, that an era of international communication and harmony shall ensue, that imaginations shall no longer starve for audiences, that the freedom of ideas shall accelerate progress, and so on she went with her puerile idealism. Her cabinmates gave no rise, still sleeping in the red wake of last night.

Very soon, a jetliner flies far overhead. Window passengers curiously peer through their portals. Below, a series of parallel stitches mend the interminable scar of timeliness of which the planet shall never heal.

Thereafter, teleportation folds intricate origami of the spatial dimensions, enveloping everything indiscriminately, making every possible point a destination.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

skit #96: what counts

The oldest woman in Burbank remembered how things were before. She tried to explain to me and my sister.

She showed us a slender twig and a tin can. She told us these are two things. Then she counted everything else she could find: melted tires, another brittler twig, a palmful of fine silt, a sign dimpled by stray rocks, the frayed canvas tents of our camp, her, my sister, me, the other survivors.

We asked what counts as a thing. We asked if those count as one twig and another twig, or if they are two twigs. We asked if the berries still count, even if they're inedible and dessicated. We asked if the tires need wheels and if the wheels need a truck and if the truck needs a freeway to count. We asked if the letters each get their own number, and if the letters count, does the word. We asked how many grains are in her pile of silt, and how many people survived outside of the San Fernando Valley. We asked if we're people counting as one, or peoples as a few ones, or persons counting as a bunch ones.

She said she didn't know about our sorts of questions and continued her explanation.

She told us of plastic flora that required no water, of low-calorie strawberry ice cream, of love ballads played over radio waves, of plastic toy farm animals. She told us supermarket coupons, of traffic jams and speeding tickets, of public libraries, of prenuptial agreements, of streak-free dish washing detergents, of cell phone reception and inescapable service contracts, of breaking news alerts, of frequent flyer miles and cash-back rewards.

She repeated the legends we'd heard before.

She told us about how the fluorescent bulbs in every household generated a color that was indistinguishable from how they imagined pure white light to appear. The human eye just couldn't tell a difference. She told us how close they thought they were to perfection.

We were confused, but she said she didn't know about our sorts of questions.

After parted with the oldest woman in Burbank, me and my sister sat quietly on the duneside for a while, considering the beige color of the only landscape we had ever known.

Friday, March 26, 2010

skit #95: destination

As he waits, he futilely cycles through decorative variations like a colorblind florist. Per usual, no more preparations are necessary. Everything suffices. But when it comes to the reception of his guests, anxious Mike Williamson strives to exceed unremarkable sufficiency. Everything must be perfect, even if the guests are too crass to sense perfection. The floors are mopped. Steel surfaces are polished doubly. The setting is serene and dignified. The aimless endeavor of his guests' lives will culminate in the coming moments.

He smiles to himself, recognizing he is fidgeting in his pop's manner. When he was Little Mike, he would perch upon on Big Mike Williamson's knee up in the projection booth. Before screenings, Big Mike would sweep the aisles, air out the theater, pop the kernels, dust the organ pipes; then he would shuffle about the hallways, fidgeting incessantly. Not until the neighborhood kids poured into the aisles, mottled with smeared candy and bruises, unbridled by the school year's end, did Big Mike calm. Giddy, they waited in Big Mike's theater to be delivered from the burden of juvenile responsibilities to some fantastic island paradise or to some kingdom in the skies. That was the moment the kids and Big Mike and Little Mike awaited all year.

Just as Big Mike's name never graced the film credits, when Little Mike's guests soon arrive he will seek no recognition, only transparency. This moment belongs to them alone. All extraneous beings, experiences, and phenomena form the vehicle that transports his guests to this moment. Little Mike is only one such apparatus. His duty to his guests to usher them to their destination, as though this moment will come to be with no intervention.

The promenade begins. The cattle clatter and moo. Little Mike ceremoniously welcomes his guests with a pneumatically actuated bolt, introducing cranial apertures so their souls may find levity when their bodies fail. Cleavers grant the favor of mechanically separating their impermanent flesh. Strong men clear the dais for newcomers. Runnels of blood ferry giblets away through the sluice grates until nothing remains. The earthy smell of unbounded life fills the room.  

Little Mike will forever remain unknown to his patronage.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

skit #94: the fastest man alive

Here they come. Whoop, there they go. They're gone. These circular tracks are just clever as heck. With the finish line slapped down on the loop just any old where, like it matters a damn.

These races got it all, don't they? Got it all. The winners and the losers, a little wreckage, adoring fans, all these sponsorships with big-time corporations, the trophies, some birdies in bikinis paid-in-full. Yeh, got it all. Ain't quite entirely life itself, but wouldn't be wiser to elsewhere if you never been outside the racetrack.

Those other racers out there, they're racing this race. And after this, maybe they stay in some hotel, but then they're racing them other races on other tracks just like it. This race, that race. Not Astolfo Febretti. He doesn't compete with other men. He's motivated unlikely.

My cousin-in-law Tad is in the know. He sells the beers at the races and gets all the stories. He says he heard Febretti made a pact with the Devil. Febretti gave it all up to be the fastest man alive. But that fool Febretti don't know you can't never be the fastest man alive. You ain't never the man you just was.

Maybe the Devil was being all devious and mischiefy, interpreting Febretti real literally. But I don't think Febretti knew for a damn what he wanted before he put it in words.

Didn't give Febretti what he wanted, exactly, of course. Told him how to get it. The Devil says the secret was to get rid of all that extra weight. And the Devil said he could help Febretti rightly. Just advice, he promises, You're in control, Astolfo.

So it all can stand a change. Starts exercising good, off come sixty-five pounds of lethargy and pork. Gives up wearing denims and leathers, races nude. Shaved his golden hair, all off his head, his lip, his forearms, his -- well, right. Got some engineer types, built himself something real aerodynamic, looks like a black swan getting sucked into a blacker hole. 

Starts fasting before races, two pounds lesser. Gives him a little clarity of minds, meditation. Weight and drag exist everywhere, he thinks. Gives up the wife, gives up the mistress, gives up the kids, gives up the parents and grandparents, gives up the fans. Gives up his belief in winning or losing. Gives up his belief in laws of physics and the speed of light. Gives up on being the fastest man alive.

What if he ever caught the speed record, I wonder to myself. What's he going to do with all that nothing he's been racing around with? His life is gone. He cannot win it all back, he can only replace it.

Not a thing in the world stopping him. Febretti's just the thought of winning these days. Fast as all heck. He don't even race any more. Wins every time in none of the races.

Here they come again. Whoop, there they go. Circular tracks, clever as heck.

Monday, March 8, 2010

skit #93: stewed tomatoes

Freda prefers fresh produce, avoiding the canned vegetables altogether. Her cart sails without friction atop the waxed floors, but Freda falters and slows upon Aisle 9. A grocer diligently stacks tiers of dull tin cylinders containing stewed tomatoes. Half-way through her shopping list, this ominous ziggurat suddenly and privately reminds Freda of her past torment:

The post-war rations were tolerable. Stale bread, suspiciously nondescript meatcakes, preserved foods without expiry dates like orphans are without guardians, dull tin cans harboring salty and sweaty possibilities -- cans of chicken stock, green beans, stewed tomatoes.

Sometimes I would have to steal. Everyone had to steal. To be alive meant to be fed meant to be a thief. On these grounds, any citizen was reasonably suspected of crime. And under a brutal interrogation, all crimes inevitably became public.

Many boys enlisted as soldiers from an early age to avoid being bullied. These boys caught me stealing butter. Under Soviet disorganization, their bayonets imbued them with the wisdom to serve as judges and jury. They took down a concrete alleyway for my nominal trial. Subject to their leverage, I confessed. I confessed it all. After all was said, my butter had melted.

Before my punishment, they recited my confessions as itemized evidence at her improvised trial. They snickered and hooted between the descriptions of each perpetrated act 'gross moral indecency'. The list of my sordid crimes suddenly and privately reminded me of my past pleasure:

I presented that stolen key which allowed our clandestine nightly rendezvouses to the cellar. It was cold, but Gretchin was warm. The salty and sweaty possibilities Gretchin presented to my lips. She was well-fed, allowing her muscles to harden more powerfully than any woman I'd known. How she flexed until her vitality was drained and she laid lifelessly. How no other woman could ever compare to you.

And suddenly, privately reminded me of my past sorrow:

I discovered her in the cellar, her beautiful crown savaged by a rifle butt. My last kiss upon her tasted of her fatal wound, salty and sweaty. She laid disheveled, probably intruded upon. Someone must have discovered her sins. Had she been caught with me, I too should be dead. Or had she been caught with another woman, my weak heart should prefer death. I buried these conjectures. Gretchin evaporated with her vital fluids. How no woman could ever compare to you.

I remained in a state of moral and emotional fatigue. I no longer questioned why I, of all thieves, had been caught. I no longer questioned if what I had done was wrong. I no longer questioned who held the right to judge me, my livelihood. The oldest soldier executed my sentence, while the others snickered and hooted most dutifully.

She recalls her distaste for stewed tomatoes. Freda casually passes Aisle 9 and crosses the final items off her shopping list.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

skit #92: balloonery

Wilcox has dreamed of this moment, but he cannot explain where he is or how he got here.

He grew up suckling on the stories of heroic balloonists: the innovators, the pilots, the poets, the daredevils; your Jacques Tarasques, your Sanjay Guptas, your Hugh Swifts; as is written: 'Ah, the balloon! -- the starlet of gas laws! the tireless Icarus! levity embodied! the inflated angel!'; all those forgotten unforgettables who died, flattened, after long wistful falls when the serene cerulean heavens, quite unprepared to receive guests, abruptly returned those men to their earth.

The boy who could tolerate the nagging gravity of this world should make a better mule than a man. As a child, Wilcox studied to escape the yoke but he began schooling an era too late. He never encountered any adventures through the London Academy of Dirigibility, only exercises in tedium. He remained moored. Wilcox graduated, laden with archaic knowledge and insurmountable debts.

Some War came and balloonery was entertained for warfare. He served as the officer of an airship squadron and his unit saw a single battle. A slew of malfunctions prevented Wilcox from flying at all. Warplanes were the fad of this war, casually sexy and casually lethal. Day-job dog-fighters mercilessly felled scores of balloons, like whalers upon a bounty. Wilcox remained grounded and was eventually discharged for incompetence.

The age of the balloon had passed. Balloons only filled the niches: surprise parties, weather instrumentation, stadium sportscasting, nothing of true practical value. Many out-of-work pilots were recruited into the factory floors who were paid poorly on pittances and nostalgia. Wilcox worked. He clocked in, stitched together these toys, he clocked out, got paid.

He goes home to his life.

High, adrift in one of the wintrier strata, he buoys in his masterfully engineered cloud. The gondola plummets as rapidly as the balloon lifts. He lives on daring. His tendons are taut, his hair bristles, his heart pitter-patter-pitter-patters.

Looking down, he finds his maps inaccurate. The earth bears neither lines nor names. It is difficult to read in dreams. Compared to his landscape of pastel papers and approximate shapes, crooked mountains and staggered pines contradict the tranquil uniformity described by his trusted cartographers. Below is so real, so pointlessly wild. It only matters that he is where he is.
He leaves his moment to return to his task, to where he is, to how he got there.

Wilcox sews his balloon during the midnight hours after work. He can envision exactly how his balloon will look a million stitches from now, a billion stitches from now. He can envision exactly where he will travel. Maybe this balloon never needs to fly. His scarlet fabrics are unfurled throughout all the chambers of his apartment, like a deflated heart in a ribcage. He blows breath into an unsewn opening to watch it beat gently.