Monday, May 24, 2010

I Love the Smell of Manure in the Morning

My new short story runs the gamut from light comedy to stark tragedy. It's about a lady's eyebrows who 'fall in love' with a gentleman's mustache. Then tragedy strikes. The eyebrows announce their engagement to a nose hair. This drives the mustache 'nuts' and starts drinking heavily. In a drunken stupor the mustache sends an ambulance, a fire engine, a police car, an electric chair, a hearse, a rickshaw, a refrigerator on stilts and a dancing hedgehog to the home of the eyebrows. 

The plot acknowledges that the lady's eyebrows have a need for excitement, hence the sirens, emergency vehicles, dancing animals and men in uniform running in all directions, including sideways. The mustache then kidnaps the eyebrows. They drive off into the sunset in a car blazoned with the sign, 'Hair Today, Hair Tomorrow, and for the Foreseeable Future.'

In their haste to get away the car narrowly misses an elderly lady performing handstands on the sidewalk. The police issue a 'mugshot' of the mustache. However, the possibility that the mustache may be disguised as a beard can't be ruled out, rubbed out, or removed from unsightly moles.

This week an old school friend, Hedwig Hardwick, was officially registered as a "listed building." Now H.H. can't be demolished, or altered, without government permission. This news has gravely upset his bewhiskered hairdresser, Herrmane Von Follicle, who never misses an opportunity to cry out, 'It must be terribly embarrassing walking about with a naked head! You should be locked up!' when he sees someone with a bald pate.

While Hedwig is selfish and unfeeling and cantankerous he also has negative traits. His eccentric behaviour has involved inviting reindeer to tea in the drawing room of his home in Norway, and Hedwig turning up as a pair of black spectacles. He also has a habit of making outrageous statements which particularly irritate his wife: "All elephants enjoy gardening, don't you know." and "Some people are riddled with bullets and some are riddled with woodworm, don't you know."

Hedwig's most sensuous pleasure is lifting a book in his hand, sniffing its invigorating fragrance, fondling its pages with his thumbs and reading while naked. Due to this extravagant behaviour, Hedwig has been thrown off tube trains, buses and department store escalators, on numerous occasions.

Hedwig's favourite book is Animal Farm. When I asked him why, he replied, 'It's utterly compelling if one can read. The book greatly improved my understanding of myself, the human condition and, let us never forget, the secret network which exists between all animals. Above all, above all else! I love the smell of manure in the morning!'

Reflections: Sometimes the intense pleasure of reading comes from re-reading a piece of literary work. It is one of life's pleasures to return to a novel one has read to discover something new, something one may have missed on the first, second or third reading, for example, the title.

Friday, May 07, 2010

A Life in the Day of a Private Investigator

The home of Esther Christian. Enter George Fox dressed as Groucho Marx.

Christian: Thank you for coming at short notice.

(Fox circles the room examining the furniture and ornamintations.)

Christian: (gesturing) Please take a seat.

Fox: I knew something was up the moment my phone rang.

Christian: Why?

Fox:  I haven't got one.

(Fox sits down.)

Christian: You had no trouble finding my home?

Fox: I live right next door. (Rolls his eyes.)

Christian: But I've never seen you before.

Fox: I wear a different disguise each day. My wife and children have never seen my real face. Which is a blessing in disguise. I have a passing resemblance to Tolstoy on a good day.

Christian: What's that mark on your hand?

Fox: A black eye. I found it in your driveway. I nearly tripped over it. (Pause) It may be valuable evidence, just evidence, or unjust evidence. In my line of work things are not always cut and dried. Sometimes they are dried then cut. Why only yesterday ...

Christian: (sobbing) ... I'm sorry ... I haven't seen my husband for two days.

Fox: Count yourself lucky. I see my wife every day. She thinks we're both dead and all evidence supports her conclusion.

(Fox hands a crumpled piece of paper to Christian.)

Fox: Just in case I don't find your husband write down your home and business telephone numbers, your body measurements, and I'll uncover the whole thing.

Christian: Pardon?

Fox: What was your husband wearing when you last saw him?

Christian:  A clown outfit.

Fox: A clown outfit! (Leaps up and sits down again.) Is he in the circus, a sideshow?

Christian: He's an investment banker in Wall Street.

Fox: Well, that figures. (Pause) I'll need a photograph.

(Christian hands a photograph to Fox. On inspection Fox believes Abraham's face, while undoubtedly handsome, displays arrogance and conceit. Christian sits opposite Fox. He watches her cross her legs intensely high. Fox, transfixed by her striking beauty, trys to hide his heavy breathing.)

Fox: Has your husband changed his routine? Acquired new friends? Any strange phone calls or bills? (Pause) Have you seen anyone watching your home, looking through your bedroom window, other than me?

Christian: No. I don't believe so.

Fox: Any problems with his health: physical? psychological? stroboscopical?

Christian: (timidly, staring down) Well, lately he has been obsessed with his bowels, his shrinking body parts, loss of libido, disinterest in the opposite sex, memory loss, exhaustion, chest pains, money, the acceleration of time, his inability to understand a rapidly changing world. He says it makes him feel like an alien. (Pause) I don't believe he has ever truly accepted aging and mortality.

The room becomes remarkably quite. Christian looks at Fox. He is slumped in the chair with his eyes wide-open and his mouth at a strange angle. His fake glasses and cigar are on his lap. Anguish and fatigue mark his wrinkled face.

Christian decides to make them both tea. As she gazes at his motionless body she thinks he looks as helpless as a little boy. She would have loved a child of her own, of course. But then she had never married.

Reflections:  I've concluded that time and space no longer exist. Neither does my bank account. In fact, it lies frozen. Why my account decided to holiday in Iceland defies rationality. My inescapable financial straits follow me everywhere. I'm at my wit's end: not a long distance, I know, but try getting there during a bus or subway strike.