30 November 2007


The Telemarketer's Tale

It’s ok if you hate me. I’m not that crazy about you either. Nothing personal. It’s just that so many of you don’t hang up on me when that’s exactly what you should do. I remember one call. It was early in my career. I was selling ring tones for cell phones. The customer asked to hear them. I played a couple. She asked to hear every single ring tone in my inventory. I played the entire list. Ninety tones. You don’t have the one I want, she said. Then she hung up. That call made me smile for days.


27 November 2007


Marcel et Moi

Today is my fiftieth birthday. Part of me is just fine with being fifty. Part of me still wishes I was twenty something. None of that matters to the universe, of course. It trundles on, oblivious to my machinations. To celebrate the day, Kim and I are going to go see a movie, have lunch at our favorite restaurant, and maybe go to the art museum. I’ve also decided to read Proust, and I’m going to document my adventure on (what else?) a blog. It’s called Marcel et Moi. Kindly take a look and let me know what you think.


20 November 2007


The Alchemist’s Tale

I learned how to turn anything into gold. Not such a great idea, it turned out. My method became well known and gold flooded the market. The price plummeted to nothing. People blamed me, like it was my fault they didn’t use the method wisely. So for my next miracle I labored to understand how to make gold disappear. Not such an easy thing. Matter has a certain inertia to it: it wants to remain matter. But I did figure it out. All I need is a chance to prove it. If they ever let me out of this prison.


18 November 2007


The Missionary’s Tale

People often want to know if I ever have doubts. Usually I deflect the question, but if the person is asking out of more than idle curiosity, I tell them. Sure I have doubts. All the faithful do. That’s why we need a community of believers, for the support. That’s why we go to foreign countries, to help build the world wide community. When I was a young man, I flirted with atheism. I looked to the sky, and it was empty. How amazing! How right! Now, of course, such thoughts make me sad. Emptiness will always break your heart.


17 November 2007


The Ecdysiast’s Tale

You can’t do this work for long without developing a certain loathing for the male gaze, the male desire, the male soul. On stage, I use that old trick, imagining the audience naked. Then they become so pathetic in my mind that I can go through my act unscathed by their need. It’s a living, what can I say? Truth is, I live for my volunteer time. I make meals at the homeless shelter several days a week. They have people who really need a helping hand. Lots of blind guys end up there. I like them best of all.


16 November 2007


The Taxidermist’s Tale

Once a hunter brought me a kill for mounting that I did not recognize. She was a duck hunter, but this wasn’t any duck. It had a pointed beak and fur instead of feathers. You can imagine my reaction. I told her there was no such creature as this and I didn’t appreciate her trying to fool me. But she insisted this was no joke. So I looked at the specimen again. I admit I could see the work of the creator in its form. The hunter saw it too. We filled a moment, mourning the loss of its spirit.


15 November 2007


The Sheep Shearer’s Tale

The trick is to use your free hand to stretch out the sheep’s skin. Otherwise you’ll leave all kinds of wool on the animal, which isn’t good. Another trick is to make the sheep do the work for you. They’re going to flop around, but you want them to flop around to your benefit. I remember one sheep that wouldn’t move. Stood there like a rock. Looked me in the eye. Daring me, like. I thought, what’s the problem with this one? It backed away and I didn’t follow. Maybe someone else sheared it, but not me. Not that day.


14 November 2007


The Cordwainer’s Tale

Sure, I get one legged customers. They don’t like the regular shoe stores because they have to buy a pair, which means they waste half their money on a shoe they’ll never use. So they come to me. I custom make one shoe. We’re both happy: I make a sale, and they don’t get ripped off. It’s good. But I tell you, it gets weird after the sale. The shoe I didn’t make sits on my bench. I brush it away, but my hand goes right through it. It isn’t there, see, but I feel it. It has this presence.


13 November 2007


The Pickpocket’s Tale

I believed liberating people from the tyranny of their possessions made them better people. Such thoughts helped me steal with a clear conscience. Early in my career I took a wallet from a dazed man who wandered past me on a crowded sidewalk. I then ducked through the press of people and opened the wallet to appraise my takings. It was empty. No money, no cards, no photos. Nothing. I wanted to return the wallet. I looked for the man, but never found him. I still have the wallet and open it from time to time to examine its interior.


12 November 2007


The Accountant’s Tale

We were working on a complicated account involving the judicious concealment of offshore assets when we realized one from our team had been absent for days. Her cubicle was eerily empty, only a snapshot of her dog to indicate a living being had ever been there. We called her house but there was no answer. We sent her an email, inquiring as to her whereabouts. We heard nothing for weeks. Then, after work on the account was completed, a moving company arrived and took the picture of her dog. We were all relieved that the photo was finally accounted for.


11 November 2007


The Choreographer’s Tale

I was contemplating a new production and struggling with the closing number when I found all but one of the steps I needed on the beach near sunset, following the tracks of sanderlings crossing and recrossing the surf line. I spent most of that night searching for the missing step but never found it. Decades later my granddaughter showed me her new toy: a tin wind up bird. She set it skittering across the floor. As I watched, the step that had evaded me crystallized in my mind. I closed my eyes and watched my dancers step into the void.


10 November 2007


The Biographer’s Tale

I wait at train stations. It’s mostly old people that take trains nowadays, and many of them want a summing up of their lives. The sign on my table says it all: GET YOUR LIFE’S STORY WRITTEN DOWN. GREAT SOUVENIR FOR YOUR GRANDCHILDREN. $100. I get takers, even at that price. They tell me about their life since the womb and I write it up, knowing their faulty memories distort events outrageously. There comes a point when their voices lower, and they tell me something wicked they did. But I want you to leave that part out, they always say.


09 November 2007


The Stenographer’s Tale

I was born with smaller than normal hands. This caused me no end of grief as I grew up, enduring the taunts of my classmates. I floundered in school, edging towards a life of crime. Then I discovered shorthand, which seemed like the voice of divinity itself laid bare for my adoration. I studied the system until I became expert. I earned my living by writing down what really important people said during extra important meetings. Sometimes, as I worked, I purposely left out crucial phrases. On those occasions I tightened my little hands into fists until they turned white.


08 November 2007


The Lexicographer’s Tale

Money doesn’t grow on trees, my parents told me, so I went to school to become a compiler of dictionaries, which proved to be a lucrative and stable occupation. I collected words from many sources: rivers, people’s mouths, the underbellies of clouds, and the blood of fallen creatures. Words were everywhere; all I had to do was grab them and bring them back to my office where I wrestled them into my dictionaries. On several occasions I found words hanging from trees in my back yard. I left them there and watched them turn color and fall to the ground.


07 November 2007


The Cartographer's Tale

A small bribe was usually all it took to keep a town off my maps. Sometimes less than a bribe. A simple request, coupled with a hard luck story about the need for secrecy, would often keep your town absent from all official charts. After my retirement I visited one of those ghost towns, a tiny fishing village on the rocky southern coast. People remembered me and took me into their homes. Their faces were blank. Their eyes were wide as children’s. They offered me bowls of fishy stew. The sea behind me boiled with the frenzy of living things.


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