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June 26, 2005

Holding Up the World

In which there is infidelity, infelicity, and indecision.

I am concerned throughout the first half hour of my relationship with Judith. She is inconsiderate at the start of things, refusing to ask me where I come from and what it is my people value. Instead it is, Have you been to this place before? and Do you like the wine?

Eventually I bring her around. I assume it is my rapid blinking.

Is there something wrong with your eye? she asks, which leads to, This is common among people who come from where I come from, to which she replies, And where do you come from? Which cheers me.

The Hamptons, I say, which cheers her.

This is at the 32-minute mark. A few minutes later the waiter brings our salads and then we are in love.

Have you ever eaten loin before? I ask.

I think its heavenly! she says. Just heavenly!

Try the soup, I suggest.

The soup! she says. Just lovely! Heavenly!

Where I come from, I say, We have soup all the time.

Judith swears on her bible that she wont do it on the first date.

Are you very religious? I ask.

Not so much she says, But a bible is a bible, and I do so fear the fires of hell.

They are terrifying, I admit. But, here, have some more wine.

After we do it, I ask about the bible and her fears.

Are you ready for another go? she says.

To which I respond by pretending to fall asleep. To which she responds by falling asleep.

In the morning we remember our other lives and feel wretched in our guilt.

Hernando, she says. He trusts me. How he trusts me!

For me, the problem is named Megan, I say. Which brings me to the question of whether you would mind keeping it down a bit.

At which point I hear Megan from the other bedroom. Apparently, she is awake.

Could you keep it down in there? Megan yells. And that goes double for that hussy Judith.

My wife, I explain. We have an understanding.

She knows my name? says Judith.

I went through your purse, Megan yells through the wall.

Later on we call Hernando. He comes over. The four of us have lunch. Hernando is upset but also intrigued by our suggested solution to the problem of his anger.

Where I come from people dont get angry about things like these, I say, after.

Im not angry, he says. Not any more.

He is lounging in the bed, smoking a long cigarette.

Is this an ultralight? he asks.

Im afraid so, I say.

Give me another then, he says.

He smokes them both at the same time. He coughs.

Thats better, he says. He loses consciousness eventually.

The girls went out to get some chicken, I say.

How long have I been out? he asks.

A while, I say.

I guess thats what happens when a man gets too happy, he says.

Go figure, I say.

Go figure, he says.

We are keen friends now.

On the other side of the street, the Jeffersons are finger painting with their kids. Bob Jefferson folds his undershirts and reviews the stock columns. Betty darns socks, boils eggs, waters plants, and paints the walls a more cheerful color.

Or so I imagine. For the sake of contrast. The thought of it heightens my own understanding of things.

The girls come back. We eat and drink and gorge. Afterward, our fingers are greasy.

Ive stopped caring about my work, says Hernando. My efficiency has dropped as a result, and yet I keep on getting a raise each year.

I love to eat fried foods, I say. As a result, I am getting fat.

Its true, says Megan. Ive been meaning to say something.

For me, its a failure to think beyond my next new miniskirt or what I will order for lunch when we go to the lodge next Tuesday, says Judith.

We each pity the others and admire the others and envy the others. We admit, in concert, that we are past the best parts of our lives, that we are fading. That there is little pleasure in accepting this and even less in lacking the will to do things any differently.

Megan and I have a dog. His name is Charles. He eats one half-cup of high-protein kibble in the morning and another half-cup just before we go to bed. His life involves a series of goings out and comings in. There is a worn blue pillow where he lies. He seems content.

Do you admire Charles? I ask the other three. They ponder on the question and decide that they do not.

The drama, says Hernando. Does he miss it?

Charles is asleep on his pillow by the window. It is late afternoon. The light on his back is rich and honey-colored.

I dont think he does, says Megan. But I think that I would.

Charles chases things sometimes, I say.

When was the last time you threw his rope chew? says Megan.

You have a point, I say.

I reach beneath the chair and grab his rope chew. I throw it across the room. But Charles keeps on sleeping. It almost looks like he is smiling.

Dogs always seem to be smiling, says Hernando.

It doesnt make me feel any better, I say.

Hernando and Judith ask if they can spend the night. Were giddy with the thought of it. We move the coffee table and gather all the pillows in the middle of the living room. We drink beer and get drunk. We brag and tell lies and tremble on the verge of committing unspeakable acts. But nothing happens. We look at one other.

This isnt thrilling, says Hernando.

We did it all this morning, says Judith.

Is that the problem? I say.

I think so, says Megan. The mystery

Kaput, says Judith.

Kaput, says Hernando.

We put our clothes back on, slide into our sleeping bags, and talk about the things that most concern us. There are no flashlights. There is no campfire. We will fall asleep and then we will wake up.

But in the dark, tonight, there is a pause. The four of us are holding up the world.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:40 AM

June 25, 2005

Missing the Mark


William Tell was this guy who shot an apple off of someone's head. Or else, he was the guy whose head the apple was shot off of. Either way, he was immortalized by Rossini and a couple of guys in Kentucky. It also was the demo on the keyboard I got in high school, which rocked.

Posted by ribbu at 10:49 AM

A Bird in the hand...


You heard me.

Posted by ribbu at 10:42 AM | Comments (1)

Who Should Be in Charge

In which there is discussion, desire, and denouement.

B: Not sure. What about Elton?

G: Not sure. Not sure. What about Veronica?

B: Perhaps. What about Stanley?

G: Not Stanley.

B: Moriah?

G: Good thought. Moriah is available. But often reticent.

B: What about Tiffany?

G: Tiffany has ulcers.

B: And yet, she is strong.

G: She is. But what about Gwen?

B: What about Stephen?

G: Steven. I hadn�t thought of it. Steven.

B: Steven.

G: Is he honest?

B: He is strong.

G: Is he honest?

B: Not very.

G: What about Gwen?

B: How painful are Tiffany�s ulcers?

G: Painful.

B: Painful?

G: Painful.

B: Bleeding?

G: Yes. How about Gwen?

B: I�ve been thinking about you lately.

G: You have?

B: I have.

G: And?

B: And there are things to discuss.

G: At this point?

B: Unless you�re busy.

G: I�m not.

B: Well then.

G: Shall we sit?

B: It might be best.

G: That�s better.

B: I�m glad.

G: Will you join me?

B: I think I�d rather stand.

G: Stand then.

B: I shall.

G: Begin then.

B: I will.

G: When?

B: Sorry. Now. I�ve been meaning to tell you.

G: Yes?

B: I think it should be me.

G: What?

B: Me.

G: You?

B: Yes.

G: No.

B: You haven�t thought it through.

G: I have. Many times. It cannot happen.

B: It must.

G: It won�t.

B: You mean?

G: I do.

B: You beast.

G: I�m sorry. I wish that I felt differently.

B: As do I.

G: I don�t suppose that Gwen�

B: You�re right.

G: Why not?

B: She simpers.

G: She doesn�t.

B: She prevaricates.

G: She never does.

B: I don�t like her.

G: Now there�s an honest moment.

B: There are a few.

G: There are.

B: I�m not so bad.

G: You�re not.

B: In some ways do you love me?

G: In some.

B: Could you name a few?

G: Would you consider Gwen?

B: Is it a quid pro quo?

G: I think it is.

B: That seems unfair.

G: In a way that I like.

B: You are cold.

G: At times.

B: It comes as a surprise.

G: You shouldn�t. Remember the day in the parlor?

B: How could I forget?�the lights, the haunting music, the ruinous words on the blackboard.

G: How did you feel in that moment?

B: Who would do such a thing?

G: You still don�t know?

B: Not until today.

G: I�m known to be malicious.

B: You aren�t.

G: I stand among the martyrs.

B: The martyrs?

G: You know them.

B: I don�t.

G: Think, why don�t you?

B: The Hendersons?

G: The same.

B: What is their cause?

G: Do they need one?

B: By definition.

G: I�ll look it up.

B: Please do.

G: It seems you're right.

B: There was no doubt.

G: This is the problem with you.

B: There is just one?

G: There are many.

B: Then be more specific. List them all.

G: Do you have some paper?

B: Don�t be so literal.

G: You drive me to it.

B: In a car, you mean?

G: There are times when I love you desperately.

B: I cannot disagree with you.

G: Why are we shouting?

B: It is vexing. We came here for the quiet.

G: So many books. So many even shelves.

B: Inspiring, the words of those who came before.

G: Exacting, the librarians; quiet, the reading patrons.

B: Expensive, the fines. I have been remiss.

G: I reminded you weeks ago.

B: I know. I forgot nevertheless. So often you are right.

G: So often I am.

B: There is business to resolve.

G: Do you think we can agree?

B: At what point does it cease to matter?

G: We�re left with ulcers or incompetence.

B: Are you speaking of Gwen?

G: I am.

B: You will admit it then?

G: But she�s terribly charismatic.

B: You think that is enough?

G: It always has been. Think of the examples we could cite.

B: I�d like to hear a few.

G: You�ve read the same books I have.

B: And then some.

G: Perhaps you have read more.

B: At least twice as many. And I have seen examples of charisma gone awry.

G: Can you describe them?

B: Alas, I cannot. I forget almost everything.

G: I know this to be true.

B: You do. You have suffered my company so long.

G: I�m something of a martyr.

B: Like the Hendersons.

G: I�m much less wicked than they. They have motives.

B: And your motive?

G: Attainment of position.

B: You are wicked, too.

G: Though less so.

B: I�d have to admit it.

G: You would.

B: But likely not in writing.

G: You�ve always been so careful.

B: And why not?

G: Because it�s made you hard.

B: I am a man.

G: You are. It is my bane and my delight.

B: Shall we attempt to knot things up?

G: They�re closing soon.

B: They are. The heat is draining from the room.

G: I cry at sunset.

B: Is this new?

G: It is.

B: It�s been so long.

G: Too long. What shall we do?

B: Shall we agree?

G: But who will compromise?

B: Can either of us manage the feat?

G: Most likely not.

B: Where does it leave us?

G: There must be other options.

B: I think that I could do it.

G: Perhaps you could. But I will never let it happen.

B: I�ll try to forget it, this betrayal.

G: I think you will. You always have.

B: I always have.

G: There is Elton.

B: Elton.

G: He is not disputed.

B: Is he cruel?

G: He can be cruel. It can be useful.

B: Can he be kind?

G: He can. He knows when to be, and to what degree.

B: It makes some sense.

G: It does.

B: And then?

G: And then.

B: And then we leave?

G: We do.

B: For good?

G: Imagine it.

B: I can�t.

G: Neither can I.

B: I don�t think we can do it.

G: Things could fall apart.

B: We�ve built so much.

G: For many years.

B: Elton is an idiot.

G: The worst kind.

B: What shall we do?

G: Let�s ruin them all. I have some strong opinions.

B: And I the iron fist.

G: I�m happy.

B: It happens sometimes. Let�s try to remember the road to this place.

G: I have already forgotten.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:19 AM

June 24, 2005

Death of Henry

In which Henry and Melinda experience love in different ways; death ensues.

Henry has a helper who is shorter than Henry and less intelligent.

�When I say jump�� says Henry.

�I know, I know,� says his helper.

Henry�s heart is full and round and red. He is the picture of compassion. Melinda is the object of his doting and affection.

�How can one woman be so sweet?� he asks.

�It�s a matter of physics,� says his helper.

�Have you ever heard of a rhetorical question?� says Henry.

Melinda crosses the street. Cars swerve and crash as the drivers gawk at her beauty.

�It is dangerous to live in this world with me in it,� thinks Melinda. �Though it�s hard to blame these drivers for being so agitated at the sight of me.�

Melinda goes to the army/navy surplus store to buy a hat.

�Perhaps if my honey-colored hair were more obscured,� she explains to the clerk.

He hands her a turban.

�I picked this up over in the Gulf,� he says. �Give it a try.�

Melinda is amazed. Her hair is gone.

�Where did it go?� she asks.

She is not worried. She knows that her hair is inside the turban. But she likes how men get excited in the presence of a stupid woman, and how it clouds their reason, making them easier to rob.

�You are one pretty lady,� says the clerk.

�Give me all your money,� says Melinda, pulling out a surplus grenade.

The clerk knows that the grenade is not live, that it is a fake grenade, but he opens the register and gives Melinda the contents, $47 dollars and a handful of change.

Henry and his helper, sitting in the shade on a hot day, eating sandwiches, hoping for a sighting.

�I feel that she is near,� says Henry. �See how my leg is shaking?�

�Yes, look at that,� says the helper. He is learning to discern what Henry wants him to think. What Henry wants him to say.

�I think we should go north,� says the helper.

Henry looks at his helper, studying him.

�North, you say?�

�Almost certainly,� says the helper, who feels no certainty. �We�ll find her there.�

They go north. They find Melinda.

�You�re a good man,� says Henry. �Oh my god!� he says. �Where is her hair? What has she done with her hair!?�

Melinda is on a mule, playing the Arab in a way that compliments the turban. She has joined a convoy of others in like disguise. She is unnerved at the sight of Henry running toward her. He is shouting.

�He will blow my cover,� she thinks

�Can one of you do something about this?� she asks the others.

The others are, like her, women in disguise, on muleback for the first time, wielding sabers for the first time, showing themselves to the world for the first time without their luxurious hair.

One of the women dismounts her mule, removes her blade, and runs Henry through as he approaches.

There is a great deal of blood.

�Oh my,� says Melinda. �Is this what I requested?�

�Approximately,� says the woman, whose name is Margaret.

�I suppose you�re right,� says Melinda. �I suppose I�ll have to be more descriptive next time.�

The helper is adrift. He holds Henry�s lifeless body in his arms, as he is certain that he should. The blood is getting on his pants and it irritates him.

�I�m feeling so ungracious,� he thinks, �thinking only of my pants. This man has done so much for me.�

�Someone get that fellow and put him in a wicker cage,� says Melinda.

The others do her bidding. She has asserted her authority once, and now they fall in line to do as she commands.

�Bring him to me,� she says.

They bring him. The helper looks happy in the cage. It suits him.

�Are you prepared to be my canary?� Melinda asks him.

�I am,� he says. �Though I cannot sing to save my own.�

�I do not need you to sing,� Melinda says. �Only speak to me of Henry, and how he loved me.�

�Where to begin?� says the helper. And indeed, there are so many things that he could say.

�Let�s start with the many things he had to say about your hair,� says the helper.

�Capital!� says Melinda. �Begin.�

And on they march, quivering with the novelty, into the frontier. And now, adequately entertained.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:27 AM

June 23, 2005

Charlemagne and His Men

In which Charlemagne leads his men with dignity and grace but finds them wanting in valor.

Charlemagne and his men mount a charge up a hill they hope to take. At first the going is good. Then the pathway gets steeper. And then steeper still. Suddenly there are burrs. And loose rocks that irritate the horses. Morale seems in jeopardy.

We must take this hill, says Charlemagne, for strategic advantage. He tugs on his war tunic, attempting to convey a sense of confidence. He lifts his sword toward the sky.

We must take this hill.

And yet�

Later at the ice cream parlor, the men are moaning.

100 scoops, says the girl behind the counter. The man who thought of it was certain it would never be done. Here is your prize, a wacky hat.

Made in Hong Kong, says Charlemagne in protest. And just one hat for twenty mounted men?

The girl demurs, produces two more hats.

That�s all we have on hand, she says. And it�s against the rules, besides.

Charlemagne reflects. Was it a bad leadership decision to take them out for ice cream in spite of their refusal to mount the hill? Should he have taken a �tough love� approach?

He marches down to the general mess and demands the hats. The men reluctantly oblige. Two hats are produced.

The third, Says Charlemagne?

The men are silent and sit on their hands.

Charlemagne threatens use of the hairshirt if the third hat is not produced. The men boil with fear but refuse to betray their guilty confederate.

One man is killed instantly as an example.

This is bad for morale, another man suggests. He is killed instantly.

The hat is produced. The guilty party is promoted to field general.

I�ll need your wiles tomorrow, says Charlemagne, when we attempt to mount that hill. Now get some rest.

The men oblige. They have no other choice.

The next day there is rain. Charlemagne keeps to his tent, broods, plays a game of solitaire.

As directed by the field general, the men stand at attention, waiting for battle, the rain hammering on the metal of their war helmets. When the summer sun falls they are directed to the general mess where they fall into profound stupor prior to the arrival of the salad course.

The men are woken when the plates are cleared.

Tomorrow we take the hill, says Charlemagne, smacking his lips. Today was but an echo in your minds.

In their fatigue, enough of the men believe this to make it so.

Once a week women arrive in wagons from villages recently sacked by other units. There are never enough, and so the men learn how to share.

This is good for my men, thinks Charlemagne, this learning to share. The battlefront is a place of moral improvement. My men will return to the homes they have left behind enlightened and enhanced and better able to serve me in perpetuity.

Unless they are dead, he reflects, which suggests that more women will be left for the rest of them.

In which case they will have to share less, he reflects, which makes this moral improvement less necessary.

Which makes this expensive importation of women and the values it instills largely moot, he reflects. He scowls.

He discontinues the program. The decision is met with such contempt that he makes an unprecedented reversal.

He increases the number of women to an amount that still requires some sharing, but less than before. The men are elated and promise to mount a lusty charge up the hill the next day.

I have found the balance I seek, thinks Charlemagne. My expenses have increased, my men are slightly less moral�though moral still�and I have inspired them to go forth and kill unequivocally as a means of expressing their general enthusiasm.

The women are shared to the point of exhaustion. Consequently they lose their looks and generally wither. Charlemagne sends them off to found a nunnery and asks his men to focus on the final charge. He feeds them steak and ale and anoints them each with fundamental oils. He bestows a number of honors and compliments. There is cheer. There are tears as somebody makes sentimental comments about the road behind, about the road ahead. Charlemagne finds his spirits buoyed by the unfolding of events.

These men will charge up the hill in spite of the difficulty, he thinks. They will fall on the pikes of the swarthy enemy in such numbers that the enemy will be overwhelmed. In spite of the losses.

I have so many men, he thinks. And luckily, luckily, all of them are stupid, stupid, stupid.

The women do not found a nunnery. They gather tar from natural pits. They carry it to the hilltop, spread it generously in the hollows. They cover the hollows with leaves and grass. They wait in the thickets with sharpened sticks and heavy stones. The men come. The men become mired. Charlemagne watches from his horse as the confusion sets in. And then the killing begins. There�s nothing about it that�s expected or valiant or useful to him and his lusts and his aims.

The laughter of women resounds. The trees shake. The men die. The women weep, regretting.

Charlemagne is not touched. It�s important that he see this, the women decide. It�s important that he have to take this home. The road back is long and straight and good for reflection.

The women melt away, back to another life, damaged and vindicated but ruined anyway.

There is a lesson here, thinks Charlemagne, on the top of the hill. He looks down at the new valley below. Smoke curls up from chimneys.

I wonder what I�m meant to discover, he thinks. I wonder how to understand this moment.

He takes out his pad and paper and sets out to write letters to the mothers of his men. Your men died valiantly, he writes. You men were good men who loved their general, who loved the women in their lives. They climbed a hill, they mounted a charge, and they will spend eternity in paradise.

Satisfied, he turns, and descends into the new valley, guaranteed to make himself a saint, he thinks, with the stories he will tell.

The suffering I�ve witnessed, he says to himself, has tremendous cache.

His horse plods on. At length, a village. Charlemagne is cheered again and aches for his dinner. He aches for women. He aches for his home.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:03 AM | Comments (3)