(But it came out more like Bigfoot.)
“I’m not saying names have power,” Gregor Von Climpten said, terrifying horn rims perched ominously on his nose, “but let’s put it to a vote, shall we?” The room shuddered in unholy silence. “All in favor, please say ‘Aye’.” Silence there and nothing more*. “All opposed?” Still more silence. Silence like a thick, dark pudding long past its sell-by date. And maybe left out in the sun for a bit too long. “Yes. Yes. I see.” That second yes had been drawn out a little too long for just about anyone’s comfort. There were some who’d quite forgotten when the meeting had started. Others who were no longer sure when it was set to end. At least three glanced mutinously at wristwatches that were no longer there, having been replaced by the silenced phones in their pockets or satchels. “Clive.” Clive shuddered and spilled cold coffee on his tie. “Clive.” Gregor seemed to relish saying that name, the power it invoked over Clive, who had somehow managed to spill more coffee on his tie while mopping up the first. “Would you please read the minutes from the previous meeting?” Clive stammered a bit and knocked his glasses off his nose. As he fumbled for them, he said, “But I just read them–at the start of the meeting, I mean. Like we normally do. Don’t we?” he squeaked at the end. “Clive. Clive, Clive, Clive. I think you’ll find you’re wrong about that.” Gregor smiled, if you could call it that**. Clive read the minutes again.
* I know, I know. Geeze, we all sometimes indulge our worst impulses. Sometimes.
** You couldn’t.
(But at least they’re not limericks.)
Once upon a time there was a nonsense factory. Boy, was it ever great at pumping out nonsense! It started out small, of course, like these things do, with a man with a plan, a simple man with a simple plan. This man (because of course it was) thought, you know what the world needs more of? Nonsense! And so he set to work building a nonsense factory. At first, it kind of seemed like it was just all in fun. People bought some nonsense and then more people bought more nonsense. They just couldn’t seem to get enough! Everyone (on the inside) laughed uproariously, who would have thought nonsense could be so popular! True, the nonsense factory did produce a toxic byproduct that seemed to cause “temporary” brain damage, but in small quantities, eh. After a while though, the man opened up a second factory, because darn it, there was just so much nonsensical demand! He had to admit, it felt pretty sweet falling asleep on his massive pillow stuffed with cash. Also, the nonsense started to seem pretty appealing to him too and he’d wake up every morning to a big dose of it (oh and also at lunch and at bedtime and also pretty much all throughout the day). One day one of his Idea Guys rushed into his massive office, basically screaming: Boss! We can pump our nonsense right into people’s dreaming brains! They don’t even have to be awake! Well, the man was pretty excited about that. So they set to work building a massive nonsense dream pipeline. Some people tried to speak out against it, but they kept choking on all the thick clouds of nonsense floating around in the air. It was hard to see any sense in all that nonsense. The nonsense man started dreaming of nonsense bombs and nonsense parakeets and a giant hamster ball of nonsense that he could use to just roll around all over the place. All of his employees thought that these were great ideas.
(In a certain light it looked green.)
Once upon a time there was a green panda that was pretty much almost certainly green especially when viewed in a certain light. Sightseekers (almost entirely rakes, scoundrels, ne’er-do-wells, and vagabonds) came from all around to try to spot the green panda. It was pretty hard to spot among all that bamboo. One day a local businessman (and a ne’er-do-well and possibly a rake) decided to take matters into his own hands. He decided that, if the green panda was hard to find in all that bamboo, why, he would just cut down all the bamboo and the green panda would be super easy to spot! Bing bing bing, bang, biggity, boom. Done! All the bamboo was cutdown and sort of mushed into a big pile. Sure enough, that green panda was a lot easier to spot. Weirdly, though, it no longer looked green at all. It looked completely normal surrounded by all that not-bamboo. They half-heartedly tried to feed the panda some doughnuts with green frosting (it was almost bamboo colored), but the panda would have none of it. Later, the panda died of sadness or hunger, no one could tell which. Pandas aren’t super talkative or self-aware, people figured. The businessman lost a ton of money on the deal, but for some reason neither he nor anyone else really seemed to care that much. The pile of bamboo mush rotted in the sun.
(Not the gluteny kind. More like… what you’re doing when you’re not doing anything much.)
Scrap Harrington dashed through the blistering hatchway as blaster fire burst all around him. “You’re in the thick of it now, old boy!” he muttered to himself, as he always did, to add flavor to the exciting, though somewhat repetitious, space exploits that propelled him at every turn into some other adventure or scrape. Why, just yesterday Scrap’d gotten into fisticuffs with a five-armed Zlorg barbarian from the planet Zlorg (well, really the moon orbiting around it, but you’d really have to be a local to care enough to make that distinction. I mean, it’s not like Zlog or its moon were really great shakes in the tourism department. Unless you liked bubbling tarpits and vast and noxious fields of stinkgrass). That hadn’t ended too badly. A couple scrapes, but Scrap had definitely given better than he got. He fired his blaster wildly behind him, purple light spraying and pewing everywhere. There was the sound behind him of bodies diving frantically out of the way. Also, a high-pitched scream. Scrap rolled through a doorway, not because he needed to, but because it just felt right. “Yes, I’m a creature of impulse, a man of action, a florid being of instant–” Scrap ran straight into a glass door and fell to the ground stunned. Moments later, he was dragged away. “Prison escape it is!” Scrap muttered between gritted teeth, nose swelling purple and bloodily. His captors rolled their eyes. Every last one.
(And I don’t mean the poetickal kind.)
There’s a kind of reading that doesn’t do much. A kind of reading where the words sort of ping pong around as they whoosh past. Popping like popcorn kernals, tasting oh so good, greasy fingers scooping up great handfuls with much gusto, but later, maybe not feeling so hot, bellywise. Also, with that saltiness caught at the corners of the mouth and oh-so-thirsty. Pretty sure this isn’t the ever-present Now that they were talking about. Instead, it’s a kind of Red Queen’s race chasing after the ever-wasn’t Then. As fast as you go, you can never eat them all. All the words, I mean, reading. We’ve never created more words ever in the history of everything in such a short span of time and what do we have to say for ourselves? Tappity tappity tap. So much typing. I know my handwriting’s gotten worse. Sometimes, I’ll slow down and read a thing, but my attention wanders, thinking of fast words, no doubt. And then I drag it back to focus on that slower reading, searching for that flow, that rhythm, where large chunks of pages just whoosh by, but in a slow, satisfying way, like a whale gliding by. Or sometimes, slowing almost all the way to a stop, to read just a few sentences of a thing someone clearly labored over for hours. Yeah, I know how much effort it can take to write something well. I also know the joy of typing something out FAST while the thinking trails along behind, those too short legs playing catch up, all the while, only to end up right where you started. Or have you?
(Unless you get stuck.)
The waterpark was full of people and some people seemed happy and some people seemed tired and just about everyone was wet because there was water flying practically everywhere. The food was terrible and the place was echoey and loud and some children were tired and wanted to leave after 20 minutes which was awkward because it had cost so very much money to get in there. The floor was damp and cold and slippery. Everywhere, not just in a few spots. It was impossible not to think of foot fungus. It was both cold and humid at the same time, which seemed weird. And yet, and yet, the time spent with children, even the cranky ones, felt like a gift, watching the other children zoom by with manic grins, while some sat and moaned in an irritating way, a way that endeared with a sort of fierce affection, the kind with teeth perhaps, the kind that the slight smile doesn’t even begin to hint at, realizing perhaps what a small blessing it is to comfort a small child who has no problems at all except a little tiredness, a little hunger, a slight irritation at the surrounding hubbub, a general feeling of boredom. Yes, I’m here for the little things too.
(It’s really not.)
Ordinarily, Ogden Forbes McDougleflaps wouldn’t have taken the second sugar in his coffee, but today was a special day! There were only sixteen slices of cake and he’d gotten the 3rd and 15th, one more than that scoundrel, Nefario Von Babbeesnatch, had gotten. Ogden had despised Nefario from the moment he’d set eyes on him, the way he combed his hair in a spiraling circle around his head, the way his bowtie glimmered greenly in the sun, the way his spats seemed to repel the muddiest of streets and remain glistening and pure. Yes, Ogden thought, it was the spats that did it. Ogden didn’t begrudge him the spats, oh no, it was the purity of the spats that really troubled him. No self-respecting person would let their spats remain so pristine, especially on the muddiest of days. How could a person walk across a muddy field and not get muddy? It smacked of angelic presumption, it did, and Nefario was no angel! Even his moments of charity were suspect, like when he offered Ogden the 14th piece of cake. Ogden had refused, but through some–yes, let’s go there–miracle all others had declined that 15th slice. Mmm mmm, Ogden thought and said, before taking a large bite of the cake. He did. And promptly cracked a tooth on the silver coin hidden inside the cake. “Nefario!” Ogden cried, in fury and in pain.
(I could’ve sworn it was Sephiroth, but apparently that’s a Final Fantasy character.)
Jane had been out front with the chalk and the sidewalk for quite a while. Ma put the final touches on the bronze sculpture she’d welded together from scraps she’d picked up at that old scrap heap down the way. Dad popped those apple turnovers he’d been fussing over for the past hour or so into the oven and brushed some flour off his hands. They both peeked out the window at their little sweetie scribbling furiously on the sidewalk with her piece of chalk. Awww, they said, or something like. They they went back to their parenty to do list items.* A while later, after several to do list items had been crossed off, they peeked out the window again. Jane was standing next to the sidewalk while some neighbor kids hopped along the sidewalk in a line. How cute, they said, then noticed that the line stretched down the block. Those parents wandered outside to see what was what. “OK, Bobby! You can’t land on Hod or Chesed! Those are blocked off!” Jane cried. Bobby tried to hop along the sidewalk, faltered, and one foot thudded down. “Aww shucks,” Bobby said. “Back to the end of the line,” Jane said, “You’ll never reach the divine hopping like that!” Bobby raced back down the line, grinning. Kids these days, the parents said and wandered back inside.
* A little cross-stitch–a centaur battling a hydra–and the car’s oil change.
(Or maybe it’s 2713 N 45th?)
The diner crashed down. Frank dropped his omelette plate on the floor (Farmer’s Banquet Omelette, side of bacon and a cup a fruit) and you just know he wasn’t gonna clean it up. Flora sighed and mopped the spilled coffee up off the counter, because what else was she gonna do? No one else around there was gonna do it. Marge pulled herself back up into the corner booth and went back to slurping her coffee and doing her sudoku. UNflappable, our Marge. Geraldo, the cook, shouted “Order up!” and slung the two eggs poached, two flapjacks, and a whole mess a bacon onto the counter, squinted through the window, and said, “Seem to have landed.” Flora nodded, grabbed the plate, and dropped it off at my table. Well, there was nothing to it but to tuck in, so I did. Not every day your diner survives a flight-by-tornado. I heard the sound of some faint, high-pitched voices outside, singing, and growing slowly louder…
(Although it does seem to happen on its own most of the time.)
It happens all day and all night for everything that lives, from the duck-billed platypus to the humpbacked whale, surfacing to breathe from the breathless depths. From that baby’s first breath all the way to the end, that breathing just keeps on going. It only seems difficult when you think about it, all the lips and tongue and teeth and throat and nose that get involved, the air going back and forth, back and forth, and under it all there’s this rhythmic beat that’s easy to miss, unless the air is still and silent all around, perhaps the nighttime or a quiet patch of sun. Press that finger to find the pulse and maybe you’ll notice your breathing while you do, without thinking about it. And then I’m thinking about my eyelids shuttering up and down. It’s not a machine, but it works and works and works, even when we’re sleeping, even through the darkest night or a napping patch of sun. And now I’m taking a deep breath and thinking, just thinking about those breaths. It only seems complicated when you think about it. Sometimes, like breathing, the words just come out, like they come in too, those groovy ears. Other times, each words feels like a piece of wood chopped in half, a small stack, growing, ready to burn. When we choose not to speak, that’s good, sometimes. Other times, there’s only breath. That’s got to be good enough, somehow. What an amazing thing it is, breathing, what it means. I’m still here. And now I’m still here. And now I’m still here. And now I’m still here. Breathing.