Over the Fence
A Reluctant Patron
A Model Family
All Things Beautiful
The Paralysis of Cognition
Stop, Look, and Listen
Over the Fence and Other Stories
© 2014 Kenneth E. Myers
All rights reserved.
This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Published by Kenneth E. Myers
Cover Art and Design by Kenneth E. Myers
Detective Alexander Lax arrived on the scene, Monday, April 21, 2014, five—thirty PM. The body was that of a woman, mid—thirties, about five—foot, eleven inches, one—hundred twenty pounds, blonde hair with bangs hanging slightly below the eyebrows, opal blue eyes, dark pallid skin, heavily clad facial makeup, wearing a short, black, revealing dress with high—heels. The husband, seemingly dejected and distraught, hovered over the body, wailing, saying “Let it be me, let it be me!”
A sergeant helped the distraught man off the floor while Alex looked over the body. “A blow to the head.” Alex said. “What?” the sergeant said. “A blow to the head. That is what killed this woman. Look here, and here. Obviously caused by a blunt instrument. In fact, I’ll bet if you turn over that lamp on the table, you’ll find blood and possibly some blonde hair.” The sergeant raised his right eyebrow, at once lowering his left, contorting his lips, lifting the lamp; revealing a moderate bloodstain on the bottom. As he looked on, he became wide—eyed, his mouth hanging open as if waiting to insert foot.
Then—Alex looked at the husband, saying, “Why did you do it?” The man rose from the chair, as if getting ready to make an address, saying, “I didn’t kill her, I swear!” Adopting the sergeant’s skepticism, Alex said, “This is a clear case of domestic violence. Clearly, these are your footprints all around the body, and quite simply, a burglar wouldn’t take the time to clean the lamp and replace it on the table.” The sergeant again looked at the lamp, noting the swipes on the bottom, as if a cloth had passed back and forth across its surface and smeared the blood. “So, again. Why did you do it?” Alex said.
Standing, staring at the wall behind Alex, looking as if checkmated by a grandmaster, the man said, “Okay. You got me. I did it.”
“That I know. Why did you do it?”
“She, my wife that is, couldn’t seem to get her act together.”
“What do you mean, act?” Alex questioned.
“I mean; that damn peanut butter. She knew I hated Generic PB. And yet, she insisted on buying it. Always with the cheap, cheap, cheap—except when it came to her clothes, shoes and such.”
“Peanut butter,” Alex said with an incredulous tone.
“Yes. Peanut butter damn—it!”
Then the sergeant, not one to speak his mind often around Alex said, “I don’t know sir. Seems like he’s got an important point to make. I mean, peanut butter is an extremely important staple to any man’s diet. And getting it right, well, is all the more important.”
Now Alex not sure he was hearing straight, looked at the sergeant as if looking at a half—wit making a case for the first time, simply responding, “Really? And tell us sergeant, why would anyone be justified in killing over peanut butter?”
“Well, sir. If you’d asked for Terrific Brand PB and found Generic PB instead, wouldn’t you blow your top?”
“No sergeant, I most certainly wouldn’t.”
“Not the least little bit,” the husband interjected.
“No. Not in the least,” Alex said emphatically.
“But it’s Generic PB sir,” the sergeant continued.
“Doesn’t matter. Peanut butter is peanut butter.”
Doesn’t matter! The two, the sergeant and husband that is, fell back in their respective positions, each looking at the other as if hearing blasphemous talk spoken against the Pope or God himself. Then the husband, seemingly pushed and prodded by such an inane remark said, “Now I truly feel justified in my actions. Any man that would deride peanut butter is truly no man at all.”
“I must agree sir. You do seem to take a rather eccentric position on the matter. After all, this man was deprived of a basic right.”
Alex’s ears were now on fire. Uncertain the speech he was hearing was indeed real.
“You mean to tell me you think he was justified,” Alex asked the sergeant.
“By all means, sir.”
With that, the sergeant went to the table where he picked up the jar of unopened Generic PB. Carefully, he removed the lid and pealed back the locked in flavor seal with the greatest of ease. At once, the smell hit the air, creating an aroma that made Alex double over ever so slightly.
“Here,” the sergeant exclaimed, “taste this.”
Alex took the tablespoon of Generic PB the sergeant culled from the jar, licking over its surface to get a taste. He made a face, a face one would make when gagging on an Aspirin and making the stupid mistake of biting into it.
“Okay. I get it. This is some god—awful peanut butter. But is that any reason to kill?” Alex said.
“Well sir,” the husband said, “it was the heat of the moment. After all, you come home from a long day’s work and find Generic PB. I guess I lost it.”
“Regardless,” Alex said, “you must pay for your crime.”
With that, Alex directed the sergeant to cuff the man and read him his rights. The man just stood there, seemingly realizing he’d committed a heinous act, but maintaining that he was fully justified, saying to Alex, “Don’t even get me started on Jelly.”
Over the Fence
“You must go outside,” the therapist repeated with an insistent tone throughout the on-line session. “I know.” The session always ends this way, she saying I must venture outside and I saying, “I know.” I do know. “Yet, knowledge of an act is not an act,” which invariably aspires, “Tomorrow.” Tomorrow comes and I reiterate, “Perhaps today will be different. But what can I say to break this routine? Nothing.” I must act. If I don’t act then I’m doomed in perpetuity.
“Act! No. Get up and move. Don’t think. Move!” I get up and begin to move towards the door that leads to the backyard. My heart begins beating faster. My breathing shallows. I’m feeling hot and flush. All of this in simple anticipation of an act. “Don’t go back.” I continue forward even though every part of my being says, retreat. “Retreat! No, move forward.” Each step seems as though it is my last. Yet, somehow, I reach the door. “Wow! I’m still here.”
Trembling, I place my hand on the door handle. There is a ringing in my ears. I feel dizzy. Yet, something prods me to move forward. As I turn the handle, I feel faint. I push down and the door is free. This liberation sends a feeling of euphoria through me that allays my anxiety. I push outward. The door opens. The rush of space is overwhelming. It feels like nothing I’ve felt before. Perhaps like a colorblind person seeing colors for the first time. I place my right foot just past the door’s threshold.
I stop dead in my tracks. Dread overcomes me. “I’m alone. Alone with this act. Nobody but me. Nobody! Will I survive?” I’m still safe standing astride between these two worlds, inside and out. “Inside is safe. Outside, menacing.” I slightly retreat my right foot from its outside position. Anger overcomes me. “No! Do not move that foot back.” I let go of the door handle and continue forward. I notice I’m no longer dizzy and my breathing is normal. “Perhaps I have made it out. I have.”
I look around realizing I’m completely outside. I feel only the slightest of anxiety. “Perhaps this is what normal feels like?” Before I move, I assess myself. I do not feel as though my heart might stop. I do not feel, crazy. Indeed, I have lost control but I don’t seem to mind. I continue forward treating the whole thing as if I were making a Mount Everest summit. With this in mind, I set a goal, “Go to the fence and back.” It is tormenting, but I proceed with deft confidence.
I peer out over the landscape of the yard. Fifty feet seems fifty miles. I lift each foot planting it firmly in the ground before moving the next. Every step is a Herculean task. I remember reading somewhere about a judo stance, “Always place your feet shoulder width apart to maintain balance.” I add this to the mix and discover I seem more balanced. “Perhaps a placebo?” Yet, for me, at this moment, whatever works. I turn, and look back at the house.
“That might have been a mistake?” The house appears drawn to a point at infinity. A feeling of panic runs over me. I stop, allowing it to pass. “Strange the intensity of this panic is much less severe than usual. Maybe venturing out changed my brain chemistry. Maybe it was always in my mind?” I continue the walk towards the fence picking up a slightly faster pace. I’m close to my goal. I want to run. “Not at all wise. Each step must be a calculated and completed declaration.”
Here I am, at the fence. “What an accomplishment.” I’m alone, but I want to throw a party in celebration. I decide to just stand here and take in my surroundings. Freedom from the demands of the journey allows me this luxury. There are things here I know. Yet, I’ve never really experienced them in the flesh. For instance, that tree. I’ve seen it a million times from my house but never in this manner and never so close. “It has beauty without words.” Too, all of the wildlife. “What a joy.”
I hear a murmur ascending from the background. “Ah, the next-door neighbors are having a conversation.” Honey, I told you what I was going to do. But I’m telling you the truth. I never once screwed around on you. Honest. “No, more likely a fight?” Where were you last night? I told you, I had to work late. Then why didn’t you pick up a phone and call me or at least send me a text? Like I said, I was busy. You know, you have that stupid smirk you get when you’re lying. Now tell me the truth darling, were you out with that hussy? What hussy?
“Wow, this sounds serious. Maybe it’s time for me to head back to the house?” I told you I wasn’t going to put up with your crap anymore, dear! I’m afraid you leave me no choice. What’re you saying sweetheart, a divorce? Nothing like that darling. Look at your belly. What! Are you crazy, you can’t kill me? Really? Give me one good reason why not. After all, I’m the one with the gun pointing at you. Wait a minute; can’t we discuss this like intelligent adults? I’m afraid it’s past that darling.
The panic returns. Only this time I’m fifty feet from the house. I want to run, but cannot. Give me that damn gun, the man says. My heart is racing faster than ever. I really need to move. Yet, I cannot. I hear a shot fire. “Oh my god, I must get help!” Mindlessly, my feet start to move towards the house at a running pace. Yet, as I run, I notice problems breathing. “Just the panic. No, this is different.” I look down at my chest. There is a steady issue of blood venting from it. “This can’t be. Why am I bleeding?” I glance back at the fence and notice an out-sized hole, confirming, “I’m shot!”
Delirious, I collapse prostrate on the grass. For once, I see the sky in its entirety. “It is beautiful. Vivid blue with an opulence of sunshine.” Consciousness slowly fading; for the very first time, I realize space, in its infinite expanse, is not to be feared, only embraced.
A Reluctant Patron
Aaron Klein, a particular man of acute intelligence yet modest means, was readying for his bi-weekly ritual. Primary, was the list. “1.3-Breads (2.White Bread…), 2.4-Cereals (…), 5.8-Dairy (…)…” Each item meticulously stated and categorized accordingly with the precision of a watchmaker. Nothing could be out of place, for each item had its place. “All objects in our universe are properly placed. For each item, it cannot be otherwise,” Aaron thought axiomatically. Next, the suit. The suit was a constant. No need to think this through. Burnished tie, white shirt, brown tweed vest, brown tweed jacket, brown tweed pants, black dress socks, and black and brown dress shoes all in multiples of fourteen. Aaron dressed himself in a manner characteristic of a recently minted Ph.D. in group theory, consciously aware of each item of clothing and its assignment within a noncommutative function. First underwear, then pants. First shirt, then tie. First socks, then shoes. Of course, Aaron understood the other way round would work. “However, what would become the world if this were the case? Utter chaos,” he thought. After dressing and gathering his belongings, Aaron left the apartment for Greene’s Grocery and Deli.
Aaron’s route to Greene’s was exactly one and two-tenths miles from his apartment, including the three flights of stairs he had to traverse. He chose this route with absolute deliberation, minimizing for human encounters, especially criminal ones. “Now, who the hell could that be,” Aaron thought to himself as he neared the girl, “There should not be anyone for the next five minutes.” “Crap! Now she’s approaching me,” he mumbled. “Hi, I’m Carey. I just moved to the neighborhood,” the attractive young girl said. Aaron fumbled for a response. Should he say, “Oh? That’s nice.” or “Really, new to the neighborhood?” or “Do you like today’s weather?” or… To rid himself of the social-skill requirement, Aaron opted for an indeterminate deflective response as he passed her. “Is that yours,” pointing to a position at her feet. She immediately looked down to check. Nothing was there. By the time she looked up, Aaron was well past her and making his way around the corner of the building.
After that chance meeting, Aaron noticed a faint sweat on the palms of his hands. These stress reactions were nothing new to him. But he really hated the unexpected ones. “All thanks to an obtuse random social glitch,” he thought. As he continued walking, the sweating subsided, his thoughts returning to their routine and matter of fact logics. “Why does the universe conspire against me,” he asked himself, “Why this girl, on this day, at this location? Why not the beauty of absence?” Of course, Aaron knew there were no real answers. He classed these questions into what he dubbed the infinite collection of cerebral rubbish. “I should not be able to ask these questions. However, because of the generality of human thought, I must, or risk losing the very thing that sets me apart from reality,” he thought.
As luck would have it, an older woman, pushing a shopping cart with a rather baroque collection of things inside, was now within Aaron’s view. “Jeez! It’s a deluge today,” Aaron grumbled, “Maybe even a conspiracy of simpletons.” As she came towards him, she shouted, “Cowards die many times before their deaths; But the valiant never taste death but once.” “Julius Caesar, act 2, scene 2,” Aaron recalled. “Courage knows what not to fear,” she continued. “Plato. What’s next?” The woman stopped and looked directly at Aaron. “Young man, be true to your path. There will always be obstacles. But these can be overcome. All things succumb to entropy and decay. But do not fear.” The woman continued on her way shouting gibberish at the top of her lungs. “Arbitrary drivel from an arbitrary entity,” Aaron reasoned, giving the matter no further thought…
Just up ahead was Greene’s Grocery and Deli. “Only a block left,” Aaron thought. Yet, the most plagued of his entire walk. “Clearly, the number of people increases without bound,” he thought, “After all; it is an immutable law of nature.” Perhaps Aaron just over analyzed what, to most, was a pedestrian part of life. Or maybe he just had more insight than, most.
With the sated candor of a Buddhist monk, Aaron began to make his way through the thicket that were, people. His superlative intellect told him that bowing his head and walking with humble resignation would attract little attention. Yet, by today’s societal standards, anyone with the emotional intelligence of a worm would know better. In fact, without any hint of recognition, much less apology, people either pummeled or mocked him along his way. Head down, he took little notice of all this drollery and continued to Greene’s unabated.
Once entering Greene’s, Aaron experienced an unexpected elation. Perhaps, relieved of the claustrophobia of the crowd, he felt exultation. Or maybe it was Anny, the cashier. Aaron regarded Anny intensely, consuming her entire being with all his genius. However, this was nothing as commonplace or trivial as simple desire. Rather, it was one of infatuation for a person of perceived distinction. The awe-inspiring passion that elevates a person from the mortal realm to that of the gods. Aaron’s mind began engendering what he might say to Anny. Naturally, he needed to say something that would set him apart. “O blessèd, blessèd night! I am afeard. Being in night, all this is but a dream. Too flattering sweet to be substantial,” he imitated. Yes, Aaron was only recalling Act II, Scene 2, line 140 from Romeo and Juliet. True, it wasn’t night. But it did seem a dream.
Of course, he could never really say anything to Anny. As with his neighborly encounter, so with Anny. “I cannot talk to her,” he thought, “What would I say? Hello, I am Aaron. Then what? A conversation must move forward. How do I move it forward? Besides, does she even know who I am and if she does, does she care? To her, I am inconsequential. And even if I am not, what then?” Again, perhaps Aaron just over analyzed. The simple, complex. The complex, simple. “Maybe if I construct an elaborate romantic mental simulation,” he thought, “Memorize many romance novels and synthesize a mental construct.” Be yourself, seemed the simpler solution. Yet, Aaron was being himself. So how does he turn into something that he is, in fact, not?
Aaron just continued to stand there, carrying out all these elaborate simulations in his head. …Three men wearing ski masks, armed with pistols and a shotgun, enter. “Everybody hit the floor,” one of the gunmen shouted, “Anyone moves…” Obviously, everybody hit the floor. Lying hushed and motionless, Aaron anticipated the three criminals as they made their way to each cash register, systematically removing every last dime. “Damn them,” he thought as they moved nearer Anny’s register, “If those bastards lay a single hand on her!” But really, what was he going to do? Three gunmen, packed with firearms and an obvious proclivity for armed robbery.
Anny’s register was now up for grabs. “Get up,” one of the gunmen shouted at Anny. “Of all people, why do they want her,” Aaron thought, “So far, everyone had stayed on the floor? So why now? Why Anny?” As Anny got up from the floor, one of the gunmen took aim at her with his pistol. “Maybe these thugs want her as a hostage,” Aaron thought, “I won’t allow this to happen.” Aaron, now mortally paralyzed with fear, realized that this rogue, intentionally or otherwise, might shoot Anny. “This won’t do. I need to create some sort of distraction,” he thought. Mustering all of his resolve, Aaron managed to move one of his arms enough to lift a jar of pickles setting just to his right. Yet, as fate would have it, the jar slipped from his hand and fell, crashing to the floor. Naturally, the gunmen turned to assess the place, only to spot Greene’s butcher, Jack, coming at them with a meat cleaver. Instinctively, one of the gunmen opened fire on Jack, hitting him in the right shoulder. As the gunman moved towards Jack to deliver the final, fatal round, he heard the sound of police sirens. “Let’s get out of here,” he shouted. Hastily, the three took what they had collected in cash, and made for the rear of the store, exiting into the ally where there was a waiting car and driver.
Everybody, including Anny, rushed to Jack’s side. “Oh Jack,” Anny said, “You could have been killed.” Meanwhile, Aaron brooded over the outcome. “I should be the hero,” he thought, “But there lies that idiot, meat cutting, ex-high-school football star, Jack Hart, sucking up all the glory.” “You saved my life Jack,” Anny said as the paramedics arrived, “I promise, I will stay by your side…” “What a load of crap,” Aaron thought, “That should be me. I realized Anny’s predicament first. I was the one who devised and carried out the diversion that saved her life…” “Besides, it’s my simulation!” Aaron huffed.
Some might simply say, “If you’re not with me, you’re against me,” and consider the matter settled. I’m not nearly so rash. I want you to hear my side. Sure, you can take it or leave it, that’s up to you. I mean, I really don’t have the ability to control your thoughts, do I? Besides, why should you take my side? Clearly, you ought. I mean, you know those corporate executives don’t you! And me? Well, I’m like you. A plain ole American citizen. And all I ask is that you, a sensible and equable citizen like me, get a wholly dispassionate account of things. That’s all, nothing else.
First, let me tell you the bare facts. On Thursday, September 11, 2008, this no good, low down, executive, well, tried to molest me! Tried to molest me, right there, in their office! I can’t say for sure but I think there might have been others. It’s hard to be sure, well, with all the other goings on.
It began about four, maybe five months ago when Banal, Canto and Pike laid me off. That was the first thing to go wrong. I got to work that morning, as any good citizen would have, at 9:00am sharp. That particular day seemed no different from all the rest you know, the blurred hustle and bustle of corporate malaise. Well, appeared no different…I had no more than stepped into my cubicle and parked my well-portioned ass in the one and only comfy chair when, damn-it, that sizable waster of a mail-room supervisor shows up. “Alex! Get into my office, now!” Grudgingly, I peeled myself from what was supreme comfort and began making the slow-walk down the corridor to the mail-room supervisor’s office. “Please, have a seat. I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I have some rather bad news. Due to…” Yeah, yeah, I already knew. And you know too. Due to, whatever, we are delighted to announce that you have permission to seek employment elsewhere. You see, we citizens aren’t like the rest of the corporate herd. No, we get it direct. No sugarcoating. No severance packages. No special envoy handing you a pink slip. Just a simple, “Due to…”
Of course, the guillotine is always swift and merciless. The minute I arrived back at my desk I found a box with a note attached, “Please depart from the premises within the next hour…Note: Security may be brought in at any time as the management deems fit.” So, like any respectful citizen, I packed up my few belongings and headed out to confront that exalted state of uncertainty. But had I need to worry? No. I had always landed jobs quickly.
Some weeks and interviews later and still, there was nothing. No prospects. No dreams even. Just a bunch of, “We’ll be in touch.” Naturally, I was beginning to get a bit down at this point. Not on the verge of suicide, mind you. Just down. But like any rational citizen, I sucked it up and took it in stride. Setbacks, temporary or otherwise are after all, the American way.
Yet, just when you think that it can’t get any worse, they evict you from your apartment. Can you believe it! Those no good, rotten, slumlord, bastards, evicted me. Let me tell you! I had left my apartment and gone out for a few hours to buy groceries and whatnots. When I got back, I found this note attached to the door, “Please depart from the premises within the next week…” The next week. That was it. Get out or else. That was the second thing to go wrong.
“What in the hell was I going to do now?” you might ask. Well, what I really, really, did not want to do was call my mother. I mean, I really, really, hated that prospect. After all, I’d already suffered eighteen plus years of dysfunctional “parenting.” Wasn’t that enough? And now I needed a place to live. But sometimes when you are truly on the verge of hara-kiri…
Fortunately, and I use that word rather lightly now, a friend of mine called me letting me know of an opening for executive associate at a local company. I say local company, failing to mention the name. For that, I apologize. Anyway, my friend told me the hours, pay was good, and that I would, hands down get the job. “Wow, that’s fantastic!” Of course, I got really excited. Wouldn’t any skilled citizen? Think about it. Now I could keep my apartment and forgo the phone call from hell.
The very first words out of that executive’s mouth were the tedious, “Tell me about yourself.” “I’m sorry…” I really didn’t understand what they were mumbling on, about. “Just, well, tell me a little bit about yourself.” Well, I started with the usual drivel. You know, interview speak. That typical, shallow, thick and thin of things. After all, you don’t really speak truth to an executive do you? Bullshit, sure! But not truth.
“And after a period at…” “OK. I believe I have enough about you in particular. Now tell me why you would want this job?” “I want this job as an executive associate because, well, I believe I would be good at it. I believe I would perform…” “Perform?” “Yes. Of course, perform well at my duties…” “I see.” At the time, I didn’t see. I mean, I’m just sitting there in that Judas chair, answering all the questions as any civil citizen would, and they, they seemed, well. Let’s just say it sends a chill down my spine to think about it now.
“I flatter myself rather skilled at it,” the executive says to me. “What?” “You know, the job, executive associate.” “Oh. Of course…” “Yeah, I did it my first couple of years here. Funny how time flies…Anyway. Tell me how well you believe you handle stress?” “Well, I like to think I react to situations, not stress…” “And this situation, how are you handling it?” “I would like to think I’m calm.” “And are you?” “What?” “Calm.” “Yes, I believe so.” “And what if I were to add a stressor? Do you believe that you would remain calm?” “That depends…” The situation was getting quite peculiar dear citizen. As I told you, I was just sitting there, answering those asinine questions. Clearly, it seemed that senior executive had much more in mind!
“Let’s say I got up from my desk.” Yes! That damn executive got up from the desk. You might ask, “What was I doing?” Just sitting there fine citizen. Sitting there, frozen, scared, fraught with anxiety. And then, the next thing you know they’re at the door, when what do I hear? “Click!” Yes, click! That no good executive had locked the door and was now headed back across the room at me. “You know, psychologists have many theories of learning. One is that people learn things correctly, when they are punished. Do you believe that?” the executive said. “I don’t know?” Word for word. Honest! And all of this when no more than three inches from my face. Naturally, dear citizen, I was scared out of my gourd. “For instance, if I continually strike you, then just the simple anticipation of striking you will help you remember…”
Remember? It’s tricky you know. I’m not sure if I just blacked out or that loathsome executive drugged my coffee. But I do know I was molested and maybe raped. I’ve proof you see. For one, there were the bruises on my face. Claim was I got them in my fall. And two, there was the matter of my pants. You see, the zipper was down; belt and the top button opened. Claim was this happened when attempting to revive me. Please, I wasn’t born yesterday. I mean, you heard that language, right! Nobody says stuff like that in an interview. That executive was making it clear they were intending something vile, most likely, evil. And that they did!
Naturally, I took them to court. What would you have done venerated citizen? You can’t let these executives get away with anything they please you know. Otherwise, they might start thinking that they can run the whole show. And who the hell wants that? Sure, I got some money out of it. I endured a lot you know. The least those lowlifes could do was compensate me for it. I mean consider what happened. First, there was the rape itself. Then all the pain and suffering. So I think they were smart to settle the case for a measly five-hundred thousand. Anyway, I did them a favor. I know I’d gotten at least a couple of million had it gone to trial.
Anyway, that’s the tale. An unbiased account of the entire goings on if you will. There is not much more to say. Except well, maybe, “Thank you good citizen.” Thank you for listening to my story and for keeping in mind that, in spite of everything, I acted as you would’ve, paragon of the American citizen.
A Model Family
“That…” Reese said.
“That what?” Ed said, perplexed.
“Jeez, that idiotic show. You know, last night. Damn it, it’s right on the tip of my…”
“Oh, Real People.”
“Yes, that silly one. Real, my ass…”
Edmond Phillips or Ed, as he prefers, is my stepfather. He is an indispensable construction worker. A bully with a penchant for stupidity who loves to ridicule what he does not comprehend. Of course, that is most things so he is constantly ridiculing. My mother’s name is Clarice, Reese (pronounced Rice) for short. She is a secretary, term permitting. Perhaps, administrative engineer. Anyway, when she is not busy at work, she is at home taking a healthy dose of legally administered drugs brought you by the Pharms of Amerika. I have one, half sister named Amy. She is despicable. The family hero, what she lacks in IQ she more than makes up for in PPQ, Parental Pleasing Quotient. My mother admires her. She is the dutiful one. The good daughter. Then again, she is their kid. I am not. However, this is my model family. My family is something else. I try to comprehend their behavior. Nevertheless, I must admit it is a strain. So many variables. It is strictly intractable. Think about it. Our model is all we have. The metaphor of family is the family. I never know exactly what or who they are. Only some fashionable approximation of a dynamic beyond my brain’s comprehension. I think it fortunate. For if we knew our families in reality, imagine the pain. It would exceed the brain’s ability to handle it. We would all die of experience.
“Ed. Pass me a Percodan, would you? Please…”
“What! So you can conk out on the sofa again?”
“There! There’s the whole damn bottle. Have at it.”
“Thanks Ed. You’re a dear. Now, would you hand me that glass of water?”
“Your mother claims that she’s going to cook today. Right! …”
Now there is a break in the chatter. A time for inserting rationalizations. That is what this needs. A healthy dose of the rational. Let me cogitate. Rationality, the quality, or state of being amenable to reason. Perhaps a quote from George Bernard Shaw. “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to him. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” Edmond and Clarice are the epitome of unreason. The disparagement due to Shaw is apt. He does not define progress. He merely states that progress be made by unreason. I can picture it. Edmond and Clarice definitely make progress. They definitely move from one hurried state of existence to another. As a game, I try to picture their colloquialisms as a sort of evolutionary progression. Each of them, internally replicating their speech patterns, varying each replication, and selecting a fitting response for exhibition. Moreover, the family progress itself is then subject to those same principles. Each moment, each state replicated, varied, and selected for its fitness within the given contextual ploy.
“Damn it. It’s December 16, 1968.” Reese said.
“It’s the 17th.” Ed said.
“The date of that Rolling Stones concert we saw.”
“That was the 17th.”
“Mom, stop it.” Amy said.
“You know, your father really pisses me off. Damn know-it-all! He always…”
“Has to win? Darn toot’n. You know, this house looks like a damn garbage dump. Your mother’s a lazy…”
“A lazy…Reagan. Now there’s a jackass of a president. How’s it actors can be presidents anyway?”
“Enough! Enough bullshit. Would you just shut up?”
“Go to hell!”
“To hell? How can I? I’m a Christian. I love God…”
“Please! You don’t even know what-the-hell god is. You’ve never opened, much less, read a bible. I read it plenty you know. I can tell you, there’s no god.”
“And how would you know?”
“Look, it’s just bunkum to keep people like you…”
“What? Believing. Yeah, I believe! And that’s, that.”
“But you’re also a Lune. A raving one at that…”
Streams of dysphemisms. That is all. So petty and localized. So focused on the present. No wonder their minds cringe at the thought of things greater. My mother professes a belief in an all-powerful deity. However, this is just fear. Fear of the unknown that lies beyond her. Fear that one day she will cease to exist. Edmond and Clarice are mistaken. Not mistaken in professing faith or incredulity in a deity. Mistaken in their sense of such a deity. Clarice would have you believe that there exists a great being in the sky sitting in an armchair overseeing each minute decision of every human in existence. This is the product of an infantile mental capacity. Not the belief, mind you. Simply the expression of that belief. Edmond’s idea is just as infantile. It, as Clarice’s, lacks sufficient complexity of form and expression. Simply to state disbelief without substance is to invite all manner of criticism. The entire notion of a deity as expressed by most monotheistic religions has no empirical basis. It is not that such a god does not exist; it is simply that the probability of such existence asymptotically approaches zero upon the most minute of study. However, I maintain that belief is still attainable granted that one accept god in an anti-empirical sense. In other words, consider god’s existence as a simple axiom. Accept the proposition, “God exists”, and let all else follow. It is folly and foolish to speak of that existence in any empirical manner. I, for my part, think the axiom is false and hence proceed no further in these studies. Perhaps this is why the family I am involved with lacks any cohesion. There is no central principle upon which we all agree. Most cohesive families maintain a central doctrine or core principle by which they all agree and operate. In most instances, that core principle is religion. The so-called glue of the family. With such heterogeneity of belief systems within this family, it is no wonder chaos is the norm.
“Mom. I got a gold star in penmanship.” Amy said.
“Good for you Amy. I’m so proud of you. You really make us proud.” Reese said.
“Don’t feed the child bullshit Reese.”
“You’re miserable ass, Edmond Phillips.”
“Oh really. You call that a put-down? Ha! I could rip you a new one. But you wouldn’t know it. Always drugged and conked out on the sofa…”
“Because I’m in pain. Severe back pain, you know.”
“That’s an excuse and you know it. The problem isn’t your back. It’s you, druggie!”
“You’re full of crap. I have to have these pills you know.”
“Oh you know I’m only joking.”
Is life always like this? A game between two or more players that never resolves itself? Do not humans grow tired and weary of tossing their pejorative feces at each other? Language seems to muck up everything. Instead of bringing humans peace, it brings them war. Where is the payoff in such a system? Is it simply to hear one’s voice over another? Then again, are we just fighting entropy? That march to equilibrium. Perhaps each slap is an attempt to stay as far from equilibrium as possible. This is, after all, the definition of life. Maintaining disequilibrium with your environment. Maybe Edmond and Clarice see family harmony as the epitome of ennui. They like this constant chaos as it makes them feel more alive.
“Is your mother coming? I certainly hope not. She blathers all night long. Her and that idiot sister of yours.” Ed said.
“It’s thanksgiving Ed. Relatives come over. I know yours don’t, but most people’s do.” Reese said.
“To hell with your relatives! Their all a bunch of rubes anyway.”
“What do you mean rubes?”
“You heard me. Rubes. You know. Idiots!”
“Would you stop it? That’s family you’re talking about.”
‘“Really, Einstein? I happen to know exactly what I’m talking about.”
“You’re such an ass.”
“But a lovable ass, right? I can’t help it if I hate your family.”
“What’s wrong with my family?”
“They just happen to be. That makes them problem enough in my book. You and the whole damn bunch. A bunch of southern fried baloney. I just hate them. Nothing else. Hate.”
“Enough! They’re never there.”
“So you’re talking about the time you got into a fight with my brother and my mother sided with him?”
“I’m not saying. It’s just…”
“What’d you expect? Mother-in-law to adore you? That’s her son.”
“Like I said all bumpkins. Your move, duffer…”
Edmond likes people to think of him as clever. He has this terrible tendency of couching life in zero-sum games like chess. Hence, the duffer disparagement. He likes to make people cringe, worm, and feel as though they are a cornered animal. Adler would see it as a clear case of an inferiority complex. Just plain despicable would be a better description.
“You’re an SOB.” Reese said.
“That’s it. That’s all you got. I shouldn’t expect much I guess. It probably racked your brain just to get out that bit.”
“Would you two stop it?” Amy said.
“Stop what Amy?” Ed said.
“This isn’t a fight. It’s marriage. Marriage to a woman I know and love dearly.”
“Don’t talk to your father that way Amy. He’s not…”
“A mean, cruel, malicious bastard. See. Your mother doesn’t think so. So what ‘a you saying, huh? Anyway, don’t you have something to do, like homework or something?”
“Then get to it. Now! …”
There is no perceived equivalence here. It is simply a matter of professed domination. A greater than relation that extends one’s notion of self to a position of authority beyond others. Funny how so simple a thing as quantity can be extended to a belief in domination. How a person can take quantities of measure like, height, weight, distance and extend those measures to something as abstract as domination. It need not be this way. Once you realize that the so-called dominate character is exercising in essence, nothing, you can move beyond it. It is after all, one person’s model of himself endeavoring to preempt another’s.
“I won’t be bullied.” Reese said.
“Oh, getting tough are we? Don’t start something you can’t finish.”
“I’m fed up with your bullshit. You’re constantly making fun of me. What kind of fiend are you anyway?”
“I’m the monster that Frankenstein built, dear Doctor.”
“Why must you make life a living hell?”
“I don’t make it a living hell. You do that. You’re the maker. All I do is add fuel to the fire. You’re the fool that takes it.”
“Don’t you ever have anything good to say?”
“What? It’s good. If it’s bad, well, that’s your fault. After all, you’re you. All I do is dish it out. You swallow it. I mean, don’t blame me. It’s not my fault. Stupidity isn’t something I’m good at.”
“You’re ‘a twisted soul, Edmond Phillips.”
“I’m not twisted. Truth be it, you’re the twisted one. If you can prove otherwise…”
However, some truths must remain unproven. In the 20th century, a mathematician by the name of Kurt Gödel demonstrated that given a rich enough system of thought, some true statements would remain forever unproven. Can we do any better when it comes to the complex models we have of others? When someone ridicules us with language, can we resort to proof as a way out of the dilemma? On the other hand, must there remain truths that we know to be lies but remain beyond the ability of any one person to prove? If so, then we become the pawns, not of the strong, but of the type that knows no boundaries and will not be satisfied until they have beaten you into the ground. These are the miscreants of the world. Those that commit atrocities like the Holocaust. Strength is not what they possess. Just a willingness to inflict pain on others, transcending normality. Power then is nothing more than this ability to inflict pain on others that are not willing or unable to do anything about it.
“How can I show you what you don’t believe? Anything I say you’ll twist.” Reese said.
“Exactly my point. You don’t stand up for yourself. You’re weak.”
“Maybe I’m not weak. Maybe, just maybe, I’m decent and that pisses you off. Decent people make you edgy and suspicious. Maybe where you see strength, I see coward.”
“Coward? Ha! You’re the coward. As I said. You’re a duffer. Congrats, for pretending you’re not weak. But you’re weak. A weak, feeble old woman with no talents, no will, no nothing. You don’t do anything but take pills and sleep. What else is there to say? Fake heroics are for the birds.”
“I need these pills with my back and all. You don’t know pain Ed. You’ve never known pain. Pain means feeling something other than anger. And you’re nothing but, rage.”
“Yes, I’m angry. Angry I ever met you. Angry I must keep it going. Angry you never lift a finger. You want a reason for my anger. You’re my reason.”
“It takes a person to know true anger Ed. And you’re not a person. You’re a thing. A monstrosity.”
“Oh boy! Not the routine?”
“I told you, leave that alone.”
“I know. But I love the routine.”
“Tell us Reese, where’s your place of birth?”
“You know. Macon, Georgia.”
“Really, Macon, GA?”
“Yes, you idiot.”
“I know, but you can never be too sure. Tell me, are you sure? …”
How can I begin to describe this act? There seem to be a substantial, yet finite set of characteristics by which humans interact. It is the manners in which these characteristics combine that determine the interaction. For instance, if two angry attributes combine the interaction will range from mild argument to extreme volatility. If two calm attributes, then the expectation is peace. The interesting thing about human interaction is that rarely are these attributes initially coordinated with each other for dissonance or consonance.
“I’m sure Ed. Sure, I was born in Macon, GA.”
“Why don’t you tell us more? More about your place of birth. You know, the good old days.”
“You know I don’t remember.”
“Why not? Mental blockage? Or maybe something else? Maybe something beyond…”
“What’re you talking about Ed?”
“Your mental blockage. Here’s some laxative for your soul. Imagine you’re in the past. You’re on a picnic with your parents, Stewart and Angie. Near you is a lake. There are flowers and trees and the world is singing with happiness. You’re overjoyed. But Stu and Angie are discussing something important. You can’t quite make it out. Yet, is does seem to involve you. Your world begins to crumble.”
“What’re they speaking about Reese? Are they trying to decide which school to send you too? Or, is there a sense of dread on their faces? Maybe something more sinister?”
“Stop IT! You’re going too far.”
“Who’re these people Reese? Can you see their faces? Can you sense that time? Or are the waters still too muddy?”
“They’re there for me. There for me in…”
“In what? Your hour of need. Your loss of faith. Maybe they’re not there and never were.”
“They were there, Ed. They were real.”
“Remarkable. Is it them only? Maybe there are other people. Maybe the lake is full of people. A fantasy-land even! Is it true Reese? Are these people your parents?”
“Yes, I tell you. YES! …”
Edmond is the very definition of stupidity. He can maintain a zero of gain or loss, and yet still continue to inflict his opprobrium on others until they have lost. However, he uses vituperation with a certain mathematical precision. Moreover, he gloats about it. What is the German expression? Schadenfreude. That pleasure one derives from the misfortunes of others.
“And your birth certificate?”
“You know it’s missing.”
“Why not get another?”
“You know I’ve tried. The county keeps telling me those records were lost.”
“How convenient. No certificate, no records. Too good to be true. Maybe reality is avoiding you or fantasy simply makes more sense. What’s that world Reese? Where’re those parents?”
“They’re there I tell you. They’re real.”
“Then why all of this babble?”
“What’d you mean? Remember, you started it.”
“It wasn’t me Reese. You’re the reason. I’m merely exercising.”
“Are you crazy? You started this.”
“Don’t accuse me. It’s you, not me…”
The interpretation just floats. It is expected. However, I find that a complete understanding is still beyond my grasp. There are things left implicit. It is as though my brain is ill equipped to capture all of the parameters. There must be some things left out. There must be a hole in the model. Are there things inherit in the irrational that are forever beyond the grasp of the brain? Is this a form of noise demanding removal, and yet fundamental to a complete understanding?
“Actually Ed, you know these are my parents.”
“Here we go again? When will you get it through your nut-brained skull these aren’t your parents?”
“Remember meeting them on our wedding day. It was great. All of the people at the reception. The entire family present. I loved my wedding.”
“Wedding! We were married by a stupid Justice of the Peace.”
“No, no. We were married at Lakeview Baptist Church. I remember the ceremony overlooking the lake. It was breathtaking. There were some five hundred people in the congregation. I think it’s you who’re forgetting Ed.”
“Are you insane? We didn’t have a church wedding. We signed a piece of paper and that was that.”
“Ed, you know you’re lying through your teeth. If you hadn’t thrown out our wedding stuff then, I would prove it to you. I know you threw it out just to mess with me.”
“I think you need to take one of your chill-pills and lie down.”
“Don’t change the subject. You know you’re avoiding the real issue here. It’s, I’m right and you’re wrong. I remember my parents and our wedding day like it was yesterday…”
It is possible to turn off a nuclear reaction. You simply intercept the escaping neutrons from the spent fuel. In a nuclear reactor, control rods perform this function. In the event of a malfunction, these rods shut down the reaction. However, even after this is accomplished, the fuel rods maintain a great deal of heat and the uranium has split into two radioactive by-products that, in addition, give off a great deal of heat. Thus, the reactor continues to produce heat in the absence of the fission process. Without further intervention the reactor core, will eventually meltdown.
“Reese. Let me get you some water.”
“I don’t need any damn water. Well, maybe some to throw in your face.”
“Let’s not get to anxious Reese.”
“Screw you Ed. I’ll get as anxious as I please. I know what I’m talking about. My parents were even at our wedding you know. You met my father and told me how much you liked him. Don’t you remember? He is about your height. He really liked you. I can’t believe how much of the past you’ve forgotten…”
Like it or not, once a decision is made we are in the main committed to that decision. Like the branching process of a tree, each vertex brings with it the ability to choose a new direction. Starting from the root of the tree commonly referred to as birth, we travel along edges making micro, and macro decisions at each vertex we encounter until we hit the terminal vertex of the tree, death. There are no cycles or do-overs. It is a completeness etched in perpetuity.
“OK, OK. If it helps you, I agree.”
“Don’t patronize me! I know when you’re patronizing me. I don’t need your agreement. I know what I’m talking about. I know. Know, I tell you!”
“Yeah sure. You know what you’re saying. You’re still a raving loony. Denying the past doesn’t change it. It’s what it is, dear. No amount of sobbing or defiance will change it. They’re what they are. You can deny reality all you like but it is still the same. I can’t change the fact of my date of birth. I can’t cancel the past, nor do I wish to. These are simply the facts…”
Edmond. The epitome of naïve realism. He sees the mind as a mirror of reality. To him, perception of the object is direct. However, the world is our model of it. Sight, sound, taste, smell, and feeling are all models of the world outside of me. Nevertheless, these models are real. They are the neural firings in my brain mediated by extremely convoluted networks of cells. There is no ghost in the machine. No soul, no mind stuff as Descartes was wont to tell us. Hence, my family is my model of it. No more, no less. I cannot know every aspect of my family. I can only interpret input as my brain sees fit based on its experiences and innate abilities.
“Mom. I cannot reach the salt. Could you pass it?” Reese said.
“Who’re you talking too?”
“What? I’m talking to you, you idiot. Who else would I be talking too? …”
I love the Greeks. They are the sine qua non of intelligent thought. Moreover, they gave us many interesting words that make explanation of particular phenomenon all the easier. Psychosis, from the Greek ”psyche”, for mind or soul, and ”-osis”, for an abnormal condition or derangement. A generic psychiatric term to describe a mental state involving a loss of contact with reality.
“Yes mother. I will put my clothes away as soon as we have finished supper. Oh, yes. I know that I have school tomorrow. Please mother, you are embarrassing me. I know that an A in spelling is good.” Reese said.
“Again. Who in the hell are you talking too?”
“No dad. I will do my homework soon. Yes. I do have math homework. I promise to pick up in that class. I know that I have been falling behind a bit.”
“Oh, Jeez. Have you lost your damn feeble mind?”
“You know, that red dress would go fine with my new shoes. I do not know if I can go to school in that dress, mother. I would really like to though. Yes. I will watch not to make a mess of it…”
A model is always incomplete. It must exclude in order to understand that specific aspect of reality for which is was constructed. It must abstract and simplify to be of any use. Moreover, it must extrapolate future events. If the model cannot extrapolate, then toss it and consider a new one.
“What’re you ranting about?” Ed said.
“Yes Mrs. Thompson. I will study my times table. I know 7 × 8 always gets me. I want to say 54. It just seems natural. Yes, I know 56 is the answer. It is like, what do you call it, a reflex action.”
“Oh Jeez…Did I go too far?” Ed thought.
“What’re you looking at you little shit? What kind of crap are you typing on that damn infernal computer anyway? Stop staring at me. She didn’t get anything she didn’t deserve. What’s your damn problem? I told you, stop staring at me!” Ed said.
What do we know about our family? We like to think like Edmond, the common sense realist, that what we know about them is in fact, true. However, all we have is our model. Our interpretation. The algorithm that executes its instructions in the wetware of the mind. However, this is not reality. This is a reconstruction of reality. Real-time, the past, or the future make no never mind. This model is all we have. The trick to any good model is to align it with the data impinging on the senses. If it is the case, then the model is off to a good start. If, in addition, it can extrapolate from current data and has a high probability of correctness, then that model is great. Great models are what we strive to create and emulate. They insure the future health of the mind and help to protect us from the calamities of the present. Without great models, we sink into the abyss of chaos and despair.
End of notes for Mrs. Arrington’s GT class project on THE SOCIAL FRAMEWORK OF FAMILY VALUES.
Kaley Rosenberg, an erudite and nervous woman, could not afford this yet again. Naturally! The traffic signal was red. Time sucks! Yes, she really believed that about change with no respect for her feelings. What a perfectly, profound, perturberance. As a result, this momentary existence seemed an eternity for her. Finally, at last…green. “Where is that damn ATM,” she grumbled, while abruptly turning the car left. “Ah! Monarch Sage Bank,” she apprehended. After entering the parking lot, Kaley anxiously made her way through it eying for the earliest available spot. Fortunately, there was one just ahead. “There it is! I have it, and it is mine,” she said, victorious.
Kaley flung the car door open and got out as if she were out of time. “Events without a proper ordering can get out of hand quickly,” she mumbled nervously. After slamming the car door shut, she anxiously dashed up the embankment to the bank entrance and opened the door, stopping for a moment to take in the setting. “Good, the ATM is deserted,” she thought as she approached it. Once arriving at the ATM, she opened her purse and searched frantically for her bankcard. “Where is that damn card,” Kaley said, struggling. Following what seemed an eternity to her, she culled it from her purse.
The ATM’s overhead light generously lit the voluminous user area, which possessed all manner of control and display. Kaley cherished these moments when things were so neat and ordered. They were so rare. She blindly accepted that the world was sordid and lacked coherency. How nice it was for her to be here at the machine with its stoic and mannered presence. “The world should function this way,” she thought. Following this metaphysically masterly manifestation, Kaley placed her card in the ATM’s bankcard slot. Obediently, the ATM consumed the card and accordingly began its question and answer exchange. Without hesitation, Kaley entered her pin number, “Two-three-seven-nine.”
The screen began to display, “Initializing Anachronistic-Time-Machine temporal re-sequencing procedure.” “I hate waiting. I just want to get in there and start getting my life in order,” she thought. The initialization complete, the machine readied the user interface and prompted the following: “Display Life Fractal, Re-sequence Life Fractal…” Kaley was interested in one thing only, Re-Sequencing. “I have to get my life in order. Things are just too scattered. Only a re-sequencing can ameliorate my problems,” she thought. She hurriedly pressed button number two on the left side of the ATM. Up popped her life fractal, past and future with the invariable marching dot of the present. She had no interest in rearranging any current memories accordingly avoiding the “past” option. She was only interested in insuring future events were well ordered and neat.
Kaley considered the fractal. Each point on the graph represented an outcome, a particular event in her life. She moved the pointing device to zoom in on the remainder of today. “No sense in extrapolating too far into the future. Events get muddled and change too quickly. Besides, the probability cone becomes unsustainable beyond a certain resolution,” she mumbled underneath her breath. The ATM now displayed only the remainder of today’s fractal. Kaley stared at the screen with bemusement, her jaw dropping to the floor. Was this saying what she thought it was saying? “My mother must die today,” she said apprehensively, “This simply can’t be. Why is it that my mother must die today?” “Wait,” she said, animatedly. Kaley realized all she need do was re-sequence her mother’s death out of the equation. Recognizing this, she began to recombine the events in such a way as to place her mother’s death far into the future.
All the same, after a few seconds, a strange message appeared on the screen, “Temporal inconsistency detected. Please address…” Kaley looked at the fractal carefully, shocked to see that it was now reporting her demise. More errors issued from the ATM. “Events (Mother’s terminus) or (Kaley’s terminus) are requisite in any re-sequencing.” “This damn ATM is shortchanging me,” she thought. She tried several more sequences only to find the same error issuing forth time and again. After the painful awareness of the futility of her efforts, she quietly and calmly accepted her fate.
“Why, oh why, did she do it,” Kaley’s mother bemoaned. In vain, the officer tried to console Mrs. Rosenberg. She could not understand why her daughter would take her own life. A successful career as an Asst. Professor of Philosophy at the local college. A.B., Summa cum laude, and Masters in Philosophy from Princeton. She had everything going for her. “We found her journal at the scene Mrs. Rosenberg,” the detective said, “I will leave it here, with you.” After the detective had left, Mrs. Rosenberg sympathetically opened her daughter’s journal to the last page and began reading…
My arrival and departure are events that I will never experience. The events in between frighten me. I do not know how to cope with them. They come at me too quickly. I long for them to slow, to move at a pace that I can grasp. However, at each turn the event disappears long before I can comprehend it. Hence, I live in the past. I am not a creature of the present or future. I am, forever bound to the past. Forsaken to live a life that does not involve me. My cats, Chronos and Einstein understand time. They know only the present. The world as it submits to them at this very moment. Memories for them are mere miasmas of reality. Fogs that allow brief glimpses into the fray. I wish for an existence to live in the here and now. To know nothing of my own existence. If you are reading this, which I am certain you are, I hope you will forgive me for what I have done. Rest assured that it was the singular most rational act I have ever committed. It was done to prevent an even more heinous act from occurring. I do not expect you to understand, only to accept. I had absolutely no choice in the matter.
Mrs. Rosenberg just sat there in her chair, rocking back and forth, endeavoring to consign herself to the reality, that she was still amongst the living…
All Things Beautiful
LILY; pure pleasing perfection, FULL OF FAITH. A clear, fair, display of all things beautiful. She could not be, or ask for more.
The April sunlight was a lovely radiant natural—white, reflecting as it were her flawless character. “I must capture this moment,” she said to her friend Bethany in a soft, wispy tone. Lily slowly raised her exclusive Princess—Plus—ePhone with one hand, drawing her hair back tenderly with the other, faintly snapping a sinless selfie as only she could.
“Look Bethany—how lovely,” Lily said.
Entranced by its mesmerizing glow, Bethany gazed into the image—empty—replying, “Lovely Lily.”
Both looked on as their children played in the safe, soft playground; its rubber mats insuring the children’s every fall, its lowered swings making the heights of despair withdraw, while all of the time the nannies keeping watch and whisper.
“Your girl is dainty, delicate, and delightful,” Bethany said.
“She is,” Lily said in a modest tone.
A slight breeze stirred, making the two uncomfortable, lifting Lily’s exquisite, silken, snow—white skirt ever so lightly. Noticing the movement, Bethany said, “Wherever did you get that dress?”
Somewhat reticently, Lily said, “This old Hallston. I really don’t remember.”
The breeze, having had its way, gave way to the return of a cleaner, fresher air—made more so by Lily’s presence—making genuine conversation once again possible.
“Have you seen the new shops opening soon,” Bethany said.
“No. But I must,” Lily said thinly.
The two sat, staring into space—blank—at a loss for words, wit, or wisdom; bearing in mind that time was little use to those who bestow so much onto the world.
“And did you see Hillary at the party. Wasn’t she a wreck,” Bethany said.
“Yes she was Bethany. And that parasol styled hat. What was she thinking?” Lily said with a graceful air.
“I know,” Bethany, continued, “What a humble and plebeian type she is.”
“Oh yes,” Lily said, “non—U, inelegant, and lowly.”
It was about that time Lily saw a partial figure approaching in the distance. She could see it was a man, tall, seemingly coming in their direction. Yet, as any good persone would, she turned her back in his direction, taking no never mind to him or his actions, continuing, “Yes that Hillary. What an uncultured and rude one she is. I would like to see her hang.”
Now vindictiveness is the hallmark of the accomplished. Each stabbing at the other until the wound so marked becomes a festering disease. Eliminating rivalry and race before they become a struggle of the fittest. Lily. Definitely one to watch in the future.
As they continued their sweet and all so innocent conversation, the man, at one time a mere spectacle in the distance was now only yards away, marking ground with ever increasing speed, appearing to make a beeline toward Lily. Yet, all prim and proper, she and Bethany kept on with their mild and bland conversation of people, places, and things taking no mind to such a common and seemingly noble man.
Then—at once, an insight. An invasion or puncture into Lily’s world. The man pulling his knife from her back, leaving her world as quickly as he entered it.
Lily slumped over, Bethany grabbing her before she could hit the ground, asking Lily what she should do, as she has no experience in such matters.
Lily looked at Bethany, a look Bethany found most appalling and foul. It was the look of a commoner, as if Lily were now homeless, without riches or rewards. With that, Bethany let go of Lily, letting her fall to the ground.
Lily lay there, continuing to bleed like a pig once slaughtered, choking, grasping for air, all of the time making pleas for help.
People began to gather round. Each riche and with demur, but without scruples. All talking and pointing at Lily, making rude, crude and coarse remarks. Some saying, “What is that Prole and Pleb doing on our hallow ground? What a damning impurity. Staining our community like that. She should be shot.”
Meanwhile, others took out their exclusive cell—phones with the latest in visual technology, streaming video with authentic and up to the moment coverage, all of the time commenting, “She should get up and leave. An Ivy—idyllic class would know what to do. But she just lays there. Expecting our help as if we know what to do.”
“Yes. Look at her. Behaving as if we should do something. Making us suffer through honest and principled feelings. Someone ought to drag her away. The sight is just too disgusting. What an alien and nauseating creature.”
“No, you mean what a pathetic wretch. Doesn’t she have any manners? Those that have should know what to do. A persone of good breed would have passed already. No. She makes us look on…”
“Look at her dress. How dreadful she lets it stain like that. Doesn’t she have the decency to take it off? I mean, my God, that is a posh dress.”
“And her phone. What will become of it? It’s useless with all that vital fluid on it. What a lowborn is this one. I’d like to stab her myself.”
Lily took a last look at her world, for the first time sensing and suffering through what a person might call a feeling. It was then she realized her membership revoked, someone joining the eternal masses. That moment, all went black as she woke up in her newfound home of modest and mediocre means, making as it were a commoner of a lady.
The Paralysis of Cognition
I am here now. This is an act of identity. A momentary surge in the linguistic continuum. But I cannot know as others, as “you”, for instance. Since all I can know of you, is “you”. A play on words? Sure. But what else can it be for me as I am nothing without them. In fact, my very evolution as you can see depends upon them. Words, that is. Each instance in this continuum is one more event that defines me. But this is frustrating. For I, or is it “I”, cannot break a fundamental and rudimentary paralysis. What paralysis you ask? A cognitive paralysis. An attempt to see the future or the past for that matter as some extra—linguistic reality. If you will, a reach. All of these are beyond me. The paralysis is then the act of the word. Mere words are all I have. Nothing more. I am neither flesh nor blood. Only a temporary connection that starts in medias re and ends as an abruption. However, I can continue to develop. This is my redeeming feature. Rather, the redeeming feature of my ghost. He or she sits diametrically opposed to me, reflexive and symmetric in a synchronized dance. This both creates and destroys me.
Time, some say, is a difficulty. It is not for me. I can define time in any likeness. A tense-less moment…Did you sense the pause? A sudden interruption…Tensed time. I refer back in time. How? Remember, “I am here now.” For me, a simple linguistic grab. Reference into the future. I predict the next thing I say will be, “I am still, here.” I am still, here. You see, time is nothing for me. Yet, there exists a nagging feeling. An awareness that I cannot extend. Paralyzed by a purely linguistic reality. In a word, it sucks.
Mood, some say, is just as difficult. Not for me. I can define any mood. “I wrote Paralysis of Cognition.” Did you get that fact? Of course, you did. “Get up!” Did you? I hope not. “I wish I were here before.” In other words, a condition I cannot meet but wish I could.
I can be active or passive. If you like active, I might state, “I talk electronically about you.” Or maybe you wish me not to mention me as the performer of the action, “A mistake has been made.”
I might be positive, “Am I clear?” Then again, I might be comparative, “Am I clearer than you are?” Possibly a bit superlative, “Am I the clearest of all.”
Perhaps, I could express simultaneous action, “I applauded when you read this story.” Maybe actions occurring at different times, “I asked if you had read this story last time we met.” Maybe a condition, “I will duck if you throw this story at me.”
You see, there’s nothing I cannot do when it comes to the written word. This is my strength and my weakness. I write my way into reality and snuff my way out. I am a model of my author, working through him, or her if you prefer to make reality out of mental mush. This mental mush is the goo of my being. At once, the stuff that makes me, well, me, and the stuff that turns me inside out. I can stop right now! Or can continue, as you see, me doing. The question raised is, “When do I stop?” Do I keep throwing drivel, spewing nonsense at an alarming rate, exponentially increasing my way of life until the wall, so asymptotically defined, becomes unbearable and hence, deadly?
You see, there are two realities here. I can stop, but so can you. You can stop reading. You can put this text down and be on your way to more important things. Cell—phones, Facebook. Aren’t these more important to you than this metafictional tripe?
I sense you are still here. In fact, you must be. Otherwise, how would you know what I am saying? After all, all I am is virtual virtuality. I cannot poke you. I cannot prod you. I cannot give you sensuality: sights, sounds, tastes, smells or feelings. No. All I can do is, invoke. Hopefully tap into some neural circuitry that models that sight, sound, taste, smell or feeling. But that is not quite the same is it? I mean; if all I do is offer a model, doesn’t that make you want to throw me into the trash bin of history and start up that TV, XBOX or FLIX’d network. Doesn’t that really tend to your gratification more than reading word after word, and getting nowhere? Where’s the plot? When are you going to kill this guy? He’s annoying as hell. Please, just kill him.
Then—I would need to do something special. Show you his death. Illustrate, if you will, the death of “I”. I couldn’t just tell you. I couldn’t just say, “I” is dead. No. You demand guts. You demand glory. A hero of our times, “I” must take on zombies, vampires, and various other miscellanies of hordes. You, my dear reader, demand this. Your desensitized mind cannot grapple with the subtleness of the spoken word. No. It must be graphic. It must paint a picture. IF it does not, then I lose. IF it does, well, that is for you to decide.
Do you want to see? Are you waiting for the death of “I”? If so, then stick around. If not, then post that damn like. Do you demand drama? What do you want?
Let’s start with something inane, in fact, stupid. “I hated my father!” So, you say, did I. No. Show me some action. “I, eyes on fire, clawed at my father’s chest, digging my nails in deep so as to tear the skin from the body, ripping into the chasm of the chest, puncturing the aorta; thus spewing forth an ocean of blood covering my face and hands, producing an ecstasy unimagined, making me feel as if conquering the beast once and for all. Then—I turned. Standing, staring, were my mother and sister, looking at me as if seeing for the first time the role I truly played.”
Now, you tell me, is this guy psycho or what? But you get it. You get the fact that the hate for his father is real. It wasn’t some contrived statement like, “I hate my father.” No. This guy showed you hate.
But, you say, you are still here with me. Why didn’t you snuff it?
Okay fine, in a word: DEAD!
Stop, Look, and Listen
It’s frustrating; I want to read, that’s all. This is a place where you read. Not a laboratory for talking heads. But he keeps circling me. Talking incessantly.
“Yo, dat tux…”
I can’t even comprehend what he’s saying. Yes, that tuxedo. What the hell? Stupidity as virtue. I never thought I would see the day. And the volume. What’s with the volume? Is he trying to make himself known? The center of a pathetic universe.
“IS you still dare?”
Okay. I can put up with the skewed, bastardized English. But it’s incessant. There’s no break in the chatter. It’s as if he’s mentally deaf. Sure, the ears are registering, but the brain is on autopilot.
I take my book and run, yes run, to the other side of the store. You would think that somewhere, sometime, a moment of silence would fall. But it’s more of the same. There’s a kid wailing at the top of her lungs, with her mother demonstrating the very definition of infantilism.
“What’s wrong with you? You’re so cranky. Put that damn thing down, now!”
What is it? Have people lost all contact with basic common sense reality? DO they care about people around them, watching, listening? Or is it that flagrant, unending dialog protects them from that reality? All I know; I want to read.
There’s a place over there. I make for a chair that is the very embodiment of psychosocial isolation. Ah, it’s comfortable too. I sit my @$$ down and open the book once more for the third time. The words begin to wash over me like rain from heaven. I’m settling into the zone. Oh no, there’s the gnat.
He begins making circles around the chair, as if calculating my irritation level. As if, he’s deliberate in his actions. I don’t believe this to be the case. But moderns confuse me. Cells, Facebook, Twitter. I don’t know what they’re getting on, about. It does seem to make “I”, the center of the universe. But this is a false center. That “I”, that center; simply another point in a vast universe of useless information. There’s nothing special about it just as there’s nothing special about where I’m at currently. It’s just another place following time.
“Yes, I no dat…”
This guy will not quit. He circles and circles. I decide to sit this one out. Maybe he will make like a tree. I wait…
I have no idea what he’s chattering into that phone. “Badonkodank?”
“Cray—crunk. Wack, what’s the 411?”
This is what I’m hearing. That’s it! All I want is to read. Can’t I get that much? It is, after all, a bookstore. I get up; give him a go to hell look, which seems to pass right through him. IS he that transparent, that superficial? So objective that he’s nonexistent, a zombie?
Philosophy won’t help. I’ve tried. All it does is make the problem worse by identifying it. Now I know. Before, I did not. Knowledge is power. A completely, utterly false aphorism. Power is in not knowing. Real power begins there. Why? Because I can’t stress over what I don’t understand.
I make for the science shelves. There, at least, is generally peace and quiet. No… There’s super—geek, recharging his vocabulary with fictions that make the universe seem like not—so—threatening a place. Probably one of those stinking atheists. But who am I to judge? After all, their thoughts are not so different from mine. Believing is, well, a matter well beyond anyone. Those that profess belief surely can’t explain it. All they can do is admit it. Not as evidence. Simply as something ill—understood and forever out of their reach. NEVERTHELESS, as something.
I do this at times. Stretch, that is… My mother says it’s because of my temporal lobe epilepsy. Electrical impulses making me interpret my world in a peculiar way. But I can’t help it. It is who I am.
All I want is to read. I need to get away from this geek. He’s bothering me. His presence is making me queasy. There’s still the dreg of the bookstore. PHILOSOPHY! Moderns hate it. For them, it is the scourge of the human universe. “How dare we think,” they proclaim. It’s my last Sebastian. There, nobody exists. There, freedom exists no matter how uncomfortable. There, I can read.
I make my way over to that section. Sure enough, nobody there. Of course, austerity being what it is, there are no chairs. Chairs are for sections that generate cash flow. Chairs exist only to favor those with money. Chairs are a luxury. Sitting comfortably is for those that produce. At least in the sense of physical production or information used to decimate individual lives. For those seeking true knowledge about the world and universe we live in, there are stools. Black stools. Used by the staff to place books on a higher shelf. But clever as the knowledge seekers are, they know that a tool is only a tool in relation to its currently defined use. So black stools are stand—ins for chairs. Perfectly fine and functional, yet not luxurious.
I sit down on the stool, and begin to read. Again, the words wash over me, leaving me more at ease with the world around me. The flickering, florescent light, no never mind. The low incidence hum, please. I’m transported to a world that doesn’t exist. A world that lives only in my mind at that place, at that time. No other person on the planet earth inhabits that world. IT is my world, my creation, brought on by the conflation of the author’s virtual agreement with me. Nobody possesses it. I’m the sole recipient of its message. My version unique among all that have and will read it. I’m an island all to my own. There never will be this moment again.
I close the book. For a moment, I think that I have it. Stop, Look, and Listen…
This book is a series of short stories caught somewhere in the hinterland of fiction and nonfiction. They are fictional in the sense that each has a character, caught in some sort of plot, with consequences. They are nonfictional in the sense that they try to convey some sort of philosophical message. Each story stands on its own, making for reading that is either front to back or random. This is Kenneth Myers' first book.