Saturday, March 14, 2015

The TruthTeller and The Idiot (Hard to tell which is which)


A GP surgery. Doctor Wilkelfield Finkelfukal is sitting behind his desk.

Doctor: (sighing) Take a seat.

Long pause.

Doctor: Do you know that one thousand individuals dictate the thoughts, opinions, customs, trends and fads of our entire world of seven billion people? What we eat, wear, read, watch, talk about, do, think?

I: Well ... No.

Doctor: I thought so. You're an Idiot!

Pause.

Doctor: Do you know I was beat and bullied as a boy. Of course not! Furthermore, my head's too big for my body, my body's too big for my trousers, and my wife sounds like a squealing fiddle! The stink of boredom is everywhere. I'm dead and so are you! A trivial matter, you'll agree.

I: I'm sorry ...

Doctor: To hell with your damned, "I'm sorry". What are you here to whine about?

I: (uncomfortable) Well ... Sometimes, I hold two thoughts at the same time. For instance, my life has purpose, yet it is without meaning. Sometimes, when I'm in a room full of people I feel I'm in an echo chamber listening to myself. Sometimes ...

Doctor: Sometimes! Sometimes! Sometimes! Me! Me! Me! Get a grip on yourself! Can't you talk without bleating?! You live in a dream world like most idiots. (Shouts) Wake up! DO YOU UNDERSTAND?! WACH AUF!

Long pause.

Doctor: There's no point in telling you lies. I'm a hypocrite and a wretched doctor. What impelled me to live in this multi-coloured hell escapes me. Don't be fooled by certificates, diplomas and expertise. A day comes when all men and women are proved wrong. (Thoughtful) Even a professed 'genius' like Einstein will get his comeuppance one day. I believe he never took his hands out of his trouser pockets, even in bed. What a strange man?! (Pause) A few inescapable truths - I see I'm overwhelming you - something like genius cannot be measured. What's more, excess of wealth, or natural ability, do not ensure happiness, success, or freedom from diarrhea.

I: (timidly) Indeed ...

Doctor: I'm sorry to say there's no medication for your condition.

I: Really?

Doctor: Yes. Really. You appear to me to be a person who is holding on. Old and weary before your time. A mixture of anger, tenderness and shattered visions. In short, you're carrying a perpetual burden. A million shapes and sizes of shadow beleaguer your mediocre mind!

I: I see ... Well ...

Doctor: Isn't it good to fit into society. However that may be, I once aspired to be a farmer's wife: my parents were livid, of course. Instead, I'm a faceless false dummy who has to listen to dreadful boring people whining and sobbing all day about large dark clouds and the absence of clear blue sky. (Thoughtful) One can only guess, of course ...

I: (timidly) Really ...

Doctor: You're not the only one with a neurotic fear of growing old. We're bombarded daily with images of smooth faces like 'Thanksgiving Day' balloons, pert breasts, lineless mouths and full lips. (Pause) Here's my prognosis. You've taken stock of your life and realised how little you've achieved. You are leading a factitious life and not going anywhere. Welcome to the club, old chum!

I: Oh …

Doctor: (writing) Have you heard of euthanasia?

I: No … I don't think so?

Doctor: Excellent. Take this confidential letter to a doctor friend of mine. His name and address is written on the envelope. He'll show - sorry - tell you all you need to know about the subject. (Pause) And good luck with the rest of your short life.

I:  You said short?! ...

Doctor: It did sound like it. I said, 'Good luck with the rest of your sport life'. You must learn to be less anxious. Goodbye.

The Idiot walks out into the sun and faints.

*
Reflections:  My wife is besotted with her in-car digital radio which she listens to in bed at night. My thoughts become hindered as I gaze at her lying in bed, bobbing her head, and wielding her feet aloft in time with the racket from her radio. When she exists in this 'self-induced' exile I am forced to confront my own neglected thoughts: a dreadful and precarious position for a dull, exaggerated creature such as myself.

When language runs dry the mind is derailed. I walk around the old town square several times without seeing a living soul. They could be hiding perhaps, or pretending to be woodpeckers. I sit on a stone sculpture, brood, and doze off.  Not good for the piles, not good at all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

In Search of a Different Existence


I always ignored my late maternal uncle's irreverent greetings as I had no wish to quarrel. Gregory was a widower with years of richness, unhappiness and loss buried deep inside him. I silently sat in a low-backed, wooden chair taking care to sidestep his intense gaze. As he lost himself in his layered memories I often permitted my mind to wander in search of a different existence. Nothing too extravagant, something more than memorable, something entirely unforgettable.

I imagine a perfect accomplished man in the company of a perfect accomplished woman. This calms me. It gives me time to forget what most preoccupies me. The woman and I are both high in spirit and wander in a place where the sweet flowers grow. Uncertainty, anxiety, painful surprises and evil cannot creep up on us and destroy our exquisite nature. We candidly grapple with existential questions: 'Why does a species such as ours not possess a well-shaped head similar to that of a camel?' - 'Why does bindweed proudly choke my plants?' and perhaps the most vexing question of all, 'Why do we sag with a heavy load as we traverse this earth until we die?'

The woman and I are not fools. We speak of the complexity and stupidity of many things including the question of human love, of fate, of creation, of renewal, of desire. Our walk from the garden leads us to the edge of a splendid lake. The world seems captured in the slight silent water and in our pools of thought. Such moments of contentment last only a few minutes, but are worth hanging onto while they last for they bring a bolt of happiness.

'You're an odd one. Why can't you make a clean sweep of things? Two children by two different woman and still not married! Your behavior is reprehensible.' Gregory's vitriolic voice jolts me from thought; I sigh, acquiesce and turn my eyes towards his gaunt face. 'I'm senile, worn out and have savage dreams,' Gregory exclaims. 'There's nothing left for me to discover in this world. Nothing.' I like Gregory: his intense thinking, his distaste for human ignorance, his mood that can toss like leaves in spring, his contempt for pity, his acceptance of growing old.

Gregory remained active until his demise; sometimes taking a bus into town and a taxi home. The downside being that he stole the vehicles and picked up passengers on route for no charge. I usually had to post bail and collect Gregory from a police station. He lamented, at times: 'Why is my hair snowy-white?! I don't even like Christmas!' And while I was driving, 'A fine boat you have here. Goes at a good pace. In this mist it's hard to tell where the shore starts or ends. How can you see?'

*
Reflection: I was the only boy to drop out of college because I was pregnant. The psychoanalyst said I was obviously starved for attention and fabricated the pregnancy to skip class. When I give birth she jumped from the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. An observer believes her last words were: 'I'll never eat kangaroo meat again'.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Book Sniffers Club


It began with a letter addressed to the man of the house so my wife read it first. The letter instructed that a car would pick me up at eight o'clock that evening. No reason, no signature. Mysterious, even dangerous, yet I waited with eager anticipation. I watched a black car with tinted windows arrive and stop outside my house. The driver, roughly my age, stepped out of the car. He was well dressed and told me to sit in the back seat. He then asked me politely to place a black hood over my head. After that the driver didn't speak. I shrunk deep into the seat and stayed silent.

We drove for about an hour until I heard the tyres hit gravel and the car stopped. The driver held on to my arm as we walked silently along a gravel path. I heard a door bell ring. A door opened, and a male voice politely invited us inside. When the door shut I was told to remove the hood. I was standing in the reception of a large stately house. A portly, red-faced man flashed a smile and greeted me warmly. 'Splendid! Glad you could come. I'm Maxwell. Welcome to The Book Sniffing Club. We've been expecting you.' He led me to a large, round table where six people were sitting, and introduced me. The table contained a pile of books in various stages of decay.

'As you can see dear fellow,' Maxwell continued, 'you are in the prestigious company of fellow book sniffers. Decaying books are wondrous. The chemicals ... the volatile acids and emissions combine to make a vivid musty smell!' His face became redder as he spoke. He immediately lifted a book from the table, raced to a chair, sat down, and buried his nose deep inside the book jacket.

A woman flashed a smile and indicated a place at the table for me. I was struck by her beauty and husky voice. Her name was Rachel. 'It's open seating. Here, sit beside me.' I liked her. She described how her habit had developed through different stages; sniffing newspapers, pamphlets, then progressing to the slicks: Elle, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, then Horse & Hound. I paused and thought how ludicrous, yet profoundly beguiling, the whole situation was.

Some of the group were using straws to delve deep into the spines of books, and took long deep sniffs, then sat back in exhilaration. Rachel said fresh books were all right for beginners, but nothing could beat an old crusty book. I asked if they had ever been raided by the police. She crossed her legs, then she laughed. 'No fear! Most members have influential positions, or connections, within the police and judiciary.'

Rachel handed me a straw, smiled, and pointed to the books, 'Now get sniffing!' I placed my straw deep into the spine of an old book. I believe it was a first edition, a first issue copy of Grimms Fairy Tales. The last thing I remember is inhaling, feeling drowsy, melting in a blue haze, and losing consciousness.
*  
Reflections: Throughout my life I have sought good advice and fallen supremely beneath it. I have often, undeniably, encountered many good creatures whose talk and laughter meant nothing. Each day these creatures performed a motionless timeless dance, their eyes glazed with tragic emotion. 

There were eternal problems, of course. What to fall back on during telecommunication downtime? How to deal with such a loss? How does one communicate with dispirited creatures who have nothing to confide? Their bodies trembling, their minds discarded to avoid engagement, misapprehension, a chance to escape.

Is it a triumphant option to remain a shadow on a page, never daring to look away from a computer screen? Each and every day? Like a cat watching a bird? They didn't see it that way. Did they see it that way?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Tranquil Clock


An apartment. The white moonlight falls on each object in the living room in turn. The carpet, the table, the sofa, a bookcase, the pictures and paintings on the wall, a two-handed mahogany wall clock. All the inanimate objects appear to come alive, guests of the unusual white light. A meeting place for reality and illusion. A room invested with life. The minute hand (MH) and the hour hand (HH) of the clock strike up a conversation.

MH: I can't find my shoes.

HH: You're a hand on a clock. Hands don't wear shoes. You need feet to wear shoes.

MH: I can wear shoes if I wish.

HH: If that's the case, what do you intend to do with the shoes?

MH: Go for a walk.

HH: Where to? Am I invited?

MH: Only if you have a pair of shoes. (Pause) I feel a bowel movement coming on. (Pause) No. It's passed. I was thinking of going to see the town hall clock. I believe the clock was made by Dotards & Sons of Liverpool and the bell and chimes by Naysayer & Co of Scarborough. It is said the chimes are beautiful to the ear and pleasing to the soul.

HH: Amazing. How do you know all this?

MH: I heard the mistress of the house conversing. A fine looking woman. She had friends over for lunch. (Pause) You must have been daydreaming? A calamitous thing for a clock hand. They were elegantly dressed and sat around eating cake and drinking tea. During their conversations they talked about the beauty and splendor of the town hall clock.

HH: Indeed.

MH: I listened in polite silence, of course.

HH: Of course. What with?

MH: My ears.

HH: You don't have ears.

MH: How do you know? You can't see.

HH: Irrefutable.

MH: That's a big word for something that can't speak.

HH: And for something that can't hear.

MH: Exactly.

HH: A fine pair we are.

MH: Indeed.

Pause

MH: Do you think it will ever end?

HH: What?

MH: Our friendship? Our existence?

Pause

MH: That's funny. You shook your head.

HH: What's funny?

MH: You don't have a head. Neither have I.

HH: You're reading too many spiritual books.

MH: I can't read and neither can you.

HH: True.

Pause

MH: Do you think we have an ultimate goal beyond our prevailing use?

HH: We are on a road with no sign posts. My soul tells me that you and I have a timeless, ultimate meaning. That is all.

MH: You are indeed wise, even if I don't fully understand your explanation.

HH: You're not alone. We could not exist without doubt.

MH: I'm pleased you are my friend.

HH: It is reciprocated for all eternity.

 *
Reflections:  Some individuals seem to possess qualities of character and a personality which others - no matter how long they may live - will never possess. Even when one feels irascible, bewildered, indignant, the value of an authentic friend is invaluable.

However, if you're looking for a friend without faults you'll end up with none. Sometimes its hard to tell the wheat from the chaff. Just don't wait too long to find out which category some of your friend's are in - they may use and abuse you, and move on to the next soft touch.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Groundhog Day at the HR Department


The inner sanctum of the HR Department. The midday sun beats through the windows and lights on two individuals.

'Peter, you're great.'

'And so are you, Selina.'

'Not as great as you, Peter.'

'You're still great, Selina.'

'Do you think so? You're not just saying I'm great because I always say you're great?'

'I mean it. You're great.'

'That's great. Here's Mary. Mary, you look great.'

'Well, thank you. You both look great.'

'Not as great as you, Mary.'

'Do you think so? You're not just saying I look great because I always say you both look great?'

'No. You look, and are, great, Mary.'

'That's great. Here's Maureen. Maureen, you look great.'

'Do you think so? You're not all agreeing I look great because I always say you three always look great?'

'No. You look, and are, great.'

'Never complain if someone says you look, and are, great.'

'Maureen, that's why you're so great.'

'And never confide in those who are greater than you are. That way one can't be improved or corrected. Heaven forbid, if one's greatness was to be judged and found wanting.'

'Maureen, you are indeed great. Isn't it wonderful that matters like the prolonged economic downturn, restructuring, organisational changes, job insecurity and cuts, planned redundancies, bullying, belittling people, making unreasonable and repeated demands on staff, creating undue stress and fear, never impact on our "divine" department?'

'Indeed, Selina. That's precisely why Peter is so great. He has a double face. He is supremely vain. He never speaks without boasting. He recognizes inferiority. He considers himself more intelligent than anyone else. He never hesitates to perform the 'dirty work.' When Board Members, managers, staff, union representatives, ask awkward questions Peter never gives a straight answer. That's why Peter is so great.'

'Oh, Peter, you're excruciatingly great. Shall we all go to the works canteen for lunch?'

'I confess to feeling ill at ease eating close to staff whose jobs are on the line. Let's go somewhere decadently extravagant. After all, we have the money and job security even if 'major reforms' are implemented in the near future. How many people can say that in this day and age?'

'Oh, Peter, you really are so, so, great.'


Reflection: One springy afternoon, while contemplating how I might illuminate and shape my adult life, I began to count the number of hairs on my head. I lost count at 82,469 when one hair fell on the floor. I had to start from scratch. It's a widely held belief in scientific circles that if a person is in possession of a full head of hair they should have approximately 100,000 hairs. My mind began to race:
  1. If I pull one hair a day from my head I should be completely bald in about 270 years. Who will continue the process after I am cremated?
  2. I have another 99,999 single hairs to pull out. What if I don't suit being partially, or totally, bald?
  3. Could I sell my hair on eBay? Is there a market for single hairs, or must I have a heap?
  4. What constitutes a heap?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Month in the Country


During my daily stroll on a desert island I was accosted by either a woman sporting a beard; a man wielding a beard; or a hedgehog on stilts. In truth, the incident happened so swiftly I cannot be sure. I recalled how David slayed Goliath with a simple slingshot. I took off my right sandal and threw it in the air, which to my amazement distracted my assailant. Suddenly the man's shape and features softened. I removed one of my blue cotton toe socks, filled it with five 'twenty dollar' bills, and beat him about the head. Unfortunately, the effort proved fruitless.

Despairing of hitting my assailant's head continuously with my sock (I felt the advent of a dazzling migraine), I enquired if he had change of a twenty. He announced, with the aid of a late 19th-century speaking trumpet, that he had a few nickels and quarters he could lend me. I thanked him and we exchanged currency. I filled my sock with stark bright coins. However, just as I was about to strike my assailant I was hit on the head by a flying sandal and lost consciousness.

When I came round he had disappeared along with my blue cotton toe socks. However, he left a note that read, in its entirety, the abridged works of Shakespeare, and which also solemnly declared: 'I'm heading back to Toytown where donkey's ears remain a symbol of individuality and freedom.'

*
A neurologist recently confirmed I have 'alien limb syndrome' - the sensation that my 'right leg' is acting of its own accord. That would account for my 'right leg' saying, 'Good Night, Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow,' each night as I retire to bed. It even has the audacity to wake me during my blessed sleep to deliver a Shakespearean soliloquy; usually one of Macbeth’s troubled musings which I now find tiresome. Moreover, it has the gall to express in mocking tone, 'How poor are they that have not patience.'

This coming from a 'right leg' that walks away during conversations! Writes clandestine letters! Bleeds for no apparent reason! Runs errands for neighbours without my permission or knowledge! Quite frankly, it is tantamount to blatant attention-seeking! Even writing about my plight I find it hard to breathe. 

To make matters worst my right leg is good-looking, intelligent, looks at least twenty years younger than the rest of my body, and is extraordinarily striking in a black leather jacket and heavy boots.
*
Reflections: One night I attended a performance of Ivan Turgenev's play A Month in the Country with my girlfriend Alisa. We had to leave three days after the start of the production as we both experienced dizzy spells and hallucinations due to lack of food and drink.