30 November 2006
She Remembered the Gingerbread House From Hearing the Story of Hansel and Gretel When She Was a Child
Homeleather Shoeroom never drank water. She hydrated herself by eating ice, which she obtained by breaking off icicles from her house. They came in many different colors and flavors. Homeleather especially liked the pink ones, which tasted like bubblegum. The blue ones were like blueberry pancakes. Periodically, Homeleather had her roof shingles replaced, just so she could have different flavors of icicle. The roofers thought she was crazy to put up shingles made of candy. These won’t last, they would tell her. We’ll have to come back next year. That’s ok, said Homeleather. I really don’t mind one little bit.
29 November 2006
Lossleader Cheekbone found our hides hanging in the closet. She tattooed each of them with a different life story of a dragonfly told in comic strip format. Not that we cared. We had already decided the skins were no longer to our liking. We preferred going about the world in complete nakedness. Lossleader spent many months doing the tattoos. When she was finished she invited us to tattoo her, as a way of completing the circle. We agreed, buzzing about her epidermal canvas like mosquitoes. Lossleader accepted our inept attempts at art with complete grace and never winced even once.
28 November 2006
We peeled off our skins and hung them in the closet to keep them from wrinkling. It didn’t work. Years later, when we put the skins back on, the creases and folds were indelibly etched into them, like fissures in the Earth. We ate herbs, watched crackling fires, drank reindeer urine, put stars in our pockets, took care of babies, and volunteered at soup kitchens. None of it helped to smooth the wrinkles, so we put our skins back in the closet. Then we stared at the sun until we went blind. It felt so much better to be invisible.
27 November 2006
Working the System
She got the summons by hummingbird. It came to her one afternoon, dipped its beak in incandescent ink, and wrote in the air: The honor of your presence is requested at the council of elders. As the message dimmed and faded, she mulled over the request and decided to remain at home. The council was displeased. They sent more hummingbirds with more messages. The council wants you. Now. She laughed. Tell the council I’d rather be a mountain. They say she rumbles now, and lofts lava and ash skyward periodically. She has the best time of any in her range.
26 November 2006
We are the shadow people. We have eyes of coal and skin like crow feathers. We flicker candles, hail the glory of eclipses, and dance with death. You see us when you care to, painting graffiti on your eyelids, or pulling the night over your land at sunset. We mean to make you fret and we know we do. We have no gift for regret. We sweep away light with our brooms. We make merry when the sun sleeps, click our heels on overcast days, burn out light bulbs, hail the glory of power outages. We are the shadow people.
25 November 2006
Looking Back on Something to Look Forward to
We built a wooden box. It screamed whenever we opened the lid, so we hammered the lid shut with nails fashioned from the hands of industrial era clocks. As soon as we released the box, it slipped out of our time and hurtled into the future. When we got to be about eighty years old we found the box again, washed up on the shore of our accumulated temporal foam. We pried loose the clock hands and opened the box. We heard whimpering. The box held hundreds of multi-colored stones. We reached in. Each stone melted as we touched it.
24 November 2006
Makeshift Goosebump made exotic plants at the agricultural division of the Bureau of Surrealistic Research. Her creations included shrubs with clumps of fog snagged permanently on their thorns, trees that bore knitted sweaters, and vines that shed snowflakes. Periodically, Makeshift became rain to water the plants. Such a practice was frowned upon by the board of distorters. They reprimanded Makeshift many times, but it never did any good. It’s not my fault I have an active imagination, Makeshift said to them. We know, said the board. The fault is ours. Then they bowed their heads and grazed on the carpeting.
23 November 2006
Exercises in Nostalgia
Frostnote Footfree touched an electrode to his own left temporoparietal junction, which is a region of the brain associated with creating shadow people. Immediately the imaginary playmate from Frostnote’s childhood appeared before him. Hello Mister Carmichael, said Frostnote. I have a surprise for you. Mister Carmichael covered his ears and closed his eyes. Frostnote leaned very close to his imaginary playmate. Don’t be that way Mister Carmichael, he said. Frostnote brought the electrode toward Mister Carmichael’s left temporoparietal junction. Immediately upon contact, Frostnote disappeared. The electrode clattered to the floor. Mister Carmichael put out his hands and wept for days.
22 November 2006
A Suggestion for Promoting Good Mental Health: Laugh at Yourself
You make a doll in your own likeness. You giggle the whole time. You record your voice and listen to it. You laugh heartily. You smell the sweat on your arm. You are seized by uncontrollable guffaws. You catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror and are so struck by the absurdity of your own image, how it seems to float above the world, unsupported and ridiculously delicate, that you are convulsed by sidesplitting, oxygen depriving laughter which goes on for some minutes and does not end until your brain says Enough! Get serious for once in your life.
21 November 2006
A Suggestion for Promoting Good Mental Health: Watch the Sun Rise
It is a cloudy day, but that doesn’t matter. You pack a breakfast and climb the nearest hill. You know the sun will rise. Of course it will. It rises every morning, even when you’re not looking. The sun has a schedule. It is never late. The air is cold. You put on mittens. The birds start singing. A stirring rolls over the land. The air seems filled with creatures you have known for years. All anticipating the sun. You share your breakfast. The sky is nothing, but it shelters you. The light is heavy. The horizon begins to melt.
20 November 2006
A Suggestion for Promoting Good Mental Health: Don’t Worry About Money Today
You take pennies out of the little jars at the checkout stands at grocery stores and say Hey, how about that, I got a lucky penny today. Then you give the lucky penny to the first person you meet as you leave the store. You go to the bank and empty out all your accounts. You take the cash and start giving it away to anyone who wants it. A lot of people want it. They thank you and walk away. Someone says, Are you sure about this? You say, Don’t worry. It’s only paper. It doesn’t mean a thing.
19 November 2006
A Suggestion for Promoting Good Mental Health: Oil a Squeak
You stand at the front door, swing it open and closed. The squeaks reverberate throughout the neighborhood. This is the innocent and generous voice of the door, which announces the entry and exit of all visitors. You decide you cannot mute such an abiding voice. However, the neighbors do not share your generosity. They come in the night, bearing oil cans, and destroy the squeaks on all three hinges. In the morning the door is eerily silent. You feel a profound discomfort, as though you have fallen from your skin. You want the squeaks back. You crave their abundant kindness.
18 November 2006
A Suggestion for Promoting Good Mental Health: Run an Errand for Someone
You shake the gnawing creatures off your legs and hobble down to the river, where you retrieve a bucket full of water and haul it back for the old man who is melting into the sheets and blankets of his deathbed. He receives the water with gratitude. You were gone for year and years, he says, what on Earth were you doing all that time? You tell him it was only an hour, maybe two. He says: You know I don’t have much time left, but if you would kindly answer the question, we’ll both get the rest we need.
17 November 2006
A Suggestion for Promoting Good Mental Health: Imagine the Roar of the Ocean
You upend a bag of marbles. The sound doesn’t make you think of the ocean. You crumple up a sheet of paper. That’s a little closer. You listen to the static on a dead frequency on the radio. Closer still. You turn your ear to the sun, crazy bright and crackling up there in the sky. Now you’re getting somewhere. You imagine picking up a seashell and putting it to your ear. Oh! The sensation is overwhelming, more than amazing. You cup your hands over your ears. The world inverts. The sea imagines you, and you are holding the sea.
16 November 2006
A Suggestion for Promoting Good Mental Health: Try a New Road
You make circles in the air with your finger, then plunk it down on a random page of the road atlas. You have selected a highway on the edge of the world, near where the ocean drops off in an immense waterfall that resolves itself into streams of droplets that become stars. You drive to that road and spend the next few years of your life getting to know its twists, turns, ruts, and potholes. You get out of the car occasionally, and stand by the ocean and watch the stars being made. The sharp salt spray makes you shiver.
15 November 2006
A Suggestion for Promoting Good Mental Health: Express Your Thanks
You thank the trees, the sky, and your ancestors. People think you are nuts. You don’t care. You thank the clouds, the river, the leaves, all the rocks, most of the animals, and the snow. People think you are from Bonkersville. You still don’t care. You thank pain, disfunction, disfigurement, and warped logic. Now people are starting to understand. They say, maybe you’re not so crazy after all. You say: Nope, I’m not, and thank the crashing stars, the careening asteroids, and the belching volcanoes. You thank the earthquakes and the tsunamis. People say now will you thank me, too?
14 November 2006
A Suggestion for Promoting Good Mental Health: Visit a Museum
You have the feeling that it’s all about expired lives arranged on flat surfaces like pinned butterflies. But you go and get your ticket and look at the pictures anyway. They remind you of coffins, and the solemn air of your fellow museum visitors makes you think of a funeral. When what you really want is a wake. Let’s get crazy, people, is what you think. Let’s make fun of this picture. Let’s drink some ale and smash our glasses on that picture. Let’s laugh it up. We’re in the presence of art. We should at least smile. Giggle even.
13 November 2006
A Suggestion for Promoting Good Mental Health: Phone an Old Friend
You wait until the middle of the night, when the darkness holds everything, endlessly looping around itself and pinning you tightly. You find the number in an old address book you haven’t thrown out yet. You wonder if it is a good idea to reconnect after so many years. And at such an hour? But you press the numbers anyway. A sleepy voice answers. It isn’t your old friend. A stranger. His hand reaches through the phone and grabs your ear. You want to hang up, but any human contact feels good. How are you? you say. How’ve you been?
12 November 2006
A Suggestion for Promoting Good Mental Health: Blow Bubbles
You don’t remember the recipe, but recall something about diluted dish soap, so you pour some into a bowl and add water, hoping you have the right proportions. Then you fashion a wand from a piece of wire, looping the end and twisting it around to make a circle. You dip the wand into the soap solution. You raise the wand, take a deep breath, and expel it through the loop. You don’t attempt description. You just experience: remembering your whole life at once; smelling the original scent of the world; confirming the beauty of everything that has ever existed.
11 November 2006
A Suggestion for Promoting Good Mental Health: Keep a Secret
You perform experiments that show decisively the beneficial effects upon the betrayer of revealing confidential information. It is a stress reliever and a general immune booster, equivalent in effect to quitting smoking or dropping your cholesterol a hundred points. Reasoning that if people knew this then no information would ever remain secret, you decide to leave your findings unpublished, nor do you inform any of your colleagues of what you have discovered. You keep the knowledge to yourself for years, finally telling your cat the details of your research. She scratches your face. You blink and scratch behind her ears.
10 November 2006
A Suggestion for Promoting Good Mental Health: Smile at Yourself in the Mirror
You put up two mirrors facing each other. Then you stand between them and show some teeth. They multiply forever and seem to drill a hole into the wall. You put your hand up and it goes into the hole. Your feet leave the floor, your head angles forward and suddenly you’re falling into the mirror, passing thousands of images of your teeth, bared behind smiling lips. They chatter as you go by. You have the most pleasant feeling of ease, like you are floating on warm water. Infinity beckons. You answer: All in good time. I’m on my way.
09 November 2006
Have you noticed? The past is an immense emptiness and the future is a cunning trap. We avoid both by living in an eternal present, which, according to prevailing ways of thinking, is actually an impossible thing to do. That doesn’t bother us. We usually do three impossible things before breakfast: we rouse ourselves from a coma, we prevent ourselves from being consumed by microbial creatures, and we guide a complex biological entity to the breakfast table. But it all happens at once, so don’t be impressed. We do it everyday with no real thought or effort. Really. No kidding.
08 November 2006
We sailed down the river. It took weeks, but eventually we got to the delta and we just kept sailing right into the ocean. Behind us the river looked bright green. We put out a fishing line and snagged the river and hauled it up onto the deck. It lay there writhing and gasping. We put the length of the river through our nets to clean it up completely. Then we let it slip over the side into the ocean. The river snaked back to its accustomed place, a network over the land. We stood on the deck and waved.
07 November 2006
One day all the toys melted into little puddles. The kids didn’t care. They splashed in the puddles and laughed and laughed. The adults, on the other hand, mobilized investigatory agencies from dozens of countries to find out what happened to the toys. The kids grabbed their hands. Come and play, they said, leaning towards the puddles. It’s fun. Come and play. But the adults knew better. It wasn’t fun. It was serious business, this melting toy thing. They had to find out about it. It was for their children’s own good. As well as the children of future generations.
06 November 2006
Variations at 500
Conditional Reality. Conventional Reality. Conventional Realty. Conventional Treaty. Convincing Treaty. Conniving Treaty. Conniving Treat. Carousing Treat. Carousing Threat. Arousing Threat. Arousing Thread. Arresting Thread. Arresting Thud. Interesting Thud. Interesting Third. Antagonizing Third. Antagonizing Bird. Anticipating Bird. Anticipating Gourd. Captivating Gourd. Captivating Lord. Nativity Lord. Nativity Bored. Natively Bored. Natively Born. Natively Borne. Naively Borne. Knavery Borne. Knightly Borne. Nightly Borne. Lightly Borne. Lightning Borne. Lightning Barn. Lightening Barn. Lightening Burden. Enlightening Burden. Enlightening Bard. Gentling Bard. Gentling Beard. Gentling Board. Renting Board. Rending Board. Rending Boar. Tending Boar. Tending Bar. Lending Bar. Lending Car. Renting Car. Renting Cart. Resting Car.
05 November 2006
It Wasn't Our Fault, People Just Die
We found many rocks stacked up in the basement after we came home from the funeral. No one in the house seemed to know how they got there. We unstacked them and went to bed. The next morning they were stacked up again, which made us feel creepy, that there were people coming into the house without our knowing it. We changed the locks and bolted the windows. The next day we found even more stacked rocks. We looked down at our hands. They were covered in dust. We spent hours trying to wash them clean, but never managed it.
04 November 2006
You want to hear about when we started sinking into the ground? OK. Pull up a chair. It was back in ought seven. A bunch of us noticed that when we walked, the dirt and grass and concrete came up to our ankles. Pavement too. If we stood in one place, the ground just kept moving up, past our ankles to our knees. It was a puzzle, that’s for sure. Well, the mayor figured it out. We was ghosts, she said. We was all dead. Which was a shock, but you know, we’ve all adjusted pretty well, don’t you think?
03 November 2006
They Could Tell by the Slightly Frayed Thread in One of the Seams
The baseball fell out of the sky, punched through the roof, and landed with a thick clump of dust on the coffee table. We stared at it. That looks like the baseball that Irving Soldering hit over the fence off of Felix Cratching’s sinking curve in the bottom of the fourth back in nineteen fifty eight in that Pacific League game that was called on account of rain, said my uncle. I think you are right, said grandpa, and as I recall they never did find that ball. Nope, said my father. Until today. Yup, we all said. Until today.
02 November 2006
At the art gallery we were encouraged to experience the tactility of the paintings so we put our hands on the oils and the watercolors. Immediately we felt flowing water and craggy mountains from the landscapes and the soft skin and body heat of the people in the portraits. It was a lovely parlor trick, or so we thought. When we got home we saw that the images from the paintings had transferred themselves onto our bodies, like all over tattoos. We returned to the art gallery, removed our clothing, and stood as still as trees, without shame or pride.
01 November 2006
Nothing Wrong With a Hearty Appetite
We eat breakfast, then a midmorning snack. Later we have lunch and in the afternoon another snack. A couple of hours later it’s supper time and after that a late night dish of something sweet. The next day we eat the television. Followed by the living room furniture and then the entire house. Yummy. The rest of the neighborhood goes down smooth and easy and we move on to take in the entire state, then we start eating the whole country, knowing the rest of the world awaits, and then more: the solar system and galaxies and on and on.