March 2008


  When I died in 1892, my beard was cut off and then frozen and it wasn’t until last year that scientists thawed it out and rebuilt me from the beard down. The 6-million dollar poet. That’s me. I set about learning the who’s who of this new 21st century world by writing a story everyday from their perspective. Ergo, this blog.
  Y’all come back now you hear.
  Hope you enjoy today’s story… 

Wild Shadow

     At the age of 36, Paul Benston thought his quirks and eccentricities were all present and accounted for. He impersonated the queen when he clipped his toe-nails out of the kitchen window. He was fond of asking children who were too young to do the math: “Would you rather have a penny every second or four hundred dollars a day ?”  He glued his beard trimmings on the faces of male celebrities in People magazine. (don’t ask) These pastimes were enjoyed in the company of friends and family but one day, when Paul Benston was walking to the bus-stop his shadow came unstuck in space. It arched itself back until its hands were around its ankles. Paul stopped and stared. Here was another eccentricity to absorb, to learn to be okay about. He threw a penny onto the sidewalk but his shadow didn’t flinch. The shadow of the penny, however, obeyed its bounce and roll down the sidewalk. Paul Benston contemplated his next move.

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    And you’re not.
    This blog has been a departure from my film reviews at the Only Magazine as well as my film work with the Narcoleptic Videographer but three months ago I was like, “Hey, why not give this whole literature thing a whirl.”  The time that I would have spent shaving or getting a hair-cut I’ve devoted to writing a story everyday. 
   But that’s just me.
 
Odd Slips

    Every couple of hours Wally stretches out his arms, legs and back. He has to. The cramped conditions of his existence requires that he find footholds for his feet and then he stretches straight up and then he rolls his neck a couple times and then he hoola-hoops his midriff to stretch out his back. He sings an inventory of his discoveries in this strange world between two walls that seems to go off forever in all directions. After singing about little shelves that contain light-bulbs powered by something unknown on the other side or a hammock held securely between two hooks that he returns to every 16 hours or so, he presses his gloved hands against the brick and continues down. He’s been awake for a while but there’s no means of checking the exact time. Ever since he woke up in the hammock a forgotten number of days ago, he’s explored this world. He tries to go down a little further each time but he has to return to the hammock. If he lets himself fall he will pick up speed until he spirals and spins against the brick walls. This is his nightmare that wakes him up some nights. Maybe mornings. He’s uncertain. Gravity is the only certainty in this world. He sees a light beneath him and then continues.

  The God’s honest truth is that I work at the Flight Center in Vancouver, BC. Everyday I struggle with a strange mixture of jealousy and boredom. I hear the same questions and dish out the same answers to people who are about to step into something exciting and new. So to keep myself entertained I make up stories about the folks that purchase flights.
  It’s a living.
  Here’s today’s story…

Crash ! Bang ! Pow !

    At seven o’clock last Thursday morning, waiting under the bus-shelter, Walter stares into a patchwork reflection of himself in the silver surface set up alongside a tropical beach in Mexico. “Where would you rather be?” the poster asks and he looks back and forth between the empty beach and the reflective silver of a cheap, makeshift mirror. This is how glue-sniffers see themselves, he concludes and he turns his head to look for the 135 when, out of the corner of his eye, his profile comes into clarity.  The bus arrives with a splash of dirty water. How much would return airfare be for four, he wonders.
    Three days later it’s still raining and he’s at the Flight Center with his wife and two boys- seven and nine.  It’s suprisingly busy, the travel agent laughs and Walter’s oldest son falls backwards into the legs of a young couple surveying a wall-sized map of the world. “We’ll have children someday,” the blond says as Walter and his wife apologize. His wife takes the boys outside while he negotiates between Mazatlan and Peurta Vallarta. Outside, the statue of a smiling pilot crashes to his demise and Walter suspects his sons who had too many Willy Wonka mini-bars and Spiderman comic books after lunch. His offer to pay for the broken pilot is rejected after a long pause.
    Sunday evening, they look over their finances and come to terms with the truth. His dream was a string of losing lotto numbers. A plot from a comic book.
   On Monday morning Walter avoids the Mexico poster but ends up looking straight into the dead eyes of a gunman who killed 32 in Virginia. He walks over to the paper box and pushes the box over face first onto the pavement.  It crashes with a satisfying splash. Shards of glass disturb several puddles. He closes his tired eyelids and feels himself relaxing in a world that he’s made just a little better. 
   The other commuters stare until the bus comes.
    

 

   Well that’s not on my passport or anything and there are no books or even songs written about me but that’s who I am. There’s always an uncomfortable silence that follows my introduction at parties and people wait a couple seconds for me to tip them off regarding my absurd joke but as there is a profound seriousness on both sides of the family I simply mirror their stare. 
   So how did Eleanor and Franz meet ? some people will ask.
   It’s a long story but suffice it to say that Eleanor found out about FDR’s affair with Lucy Mercer she set off for Europe for one month to get away from it all. She went to a sanatorium  in Kierling near Vienna to practice her German where she met a shy man from Prague by the name of Franz Kafka. That’s where my grandfather was conceived. Certainly, I don’t want to imagine the intimate details of their intercourse but the moment was so historic and strange and important to my genesis that my imagination is paralyzed between the desire to know and pure revulsion. They were my great-grandparents after all. 
    My grandfather was left at an orphanage in Columbus Ohio where he was raised by nuns. When he was ninety years old he received a letter that explained his background. The letter was written by both Kafka and Eleanor; it was simultaneously full of hope and despair. It was a letter that had traveled around the world and it was coated in stamps which ensured its long and safe passage.
   To prove to the world the authentic nature of my claims I started this blog over three months ago. Everyday I write a short-short story in some vein of strangeness. It’s in my blood which if examined at a microscopic level will reveal dung-beatles and other entities from my great-grandfather’s imagination. 

 

 Daydream Believer

    He dreams deep. He’s a lucid dreamer and every night as he drifts off to sleep beneath soft sheets he tells himself that he will wake up within his dream. He will wake up and control his dream self. He repeats this three or four times and then he’s snoring. When his dreams start he’s playing basketball with the Harlem Globetrotters in 1978 or he’s hanging from the cables between telephone poles and the birds are sitting on his knuckles like rings or he’s grown a beard that’s been weaved into an itchy and ugly suit that he’s wearing at his own wedding. Whatever the situation, he tells himself: “I’m dreaming. This is only a dream.” Now, in his book on lucid dreams which always lies on his night-table close to his snoring head there are accounts of people hijacking their dreams and flying or doing something they’d always only daydreamed of doing but in his dreams he simply lies down on the basketball court or lets go of the cables to fall to the ground or stretches out at the front of the church in his beard-suit. He tries to get comfortable so that he can fall asleep within his dream. Once he is snoring, his dream self starts to dream of having a basketball hoop mounted on his chest (the balls bounce off his face and into the hoop) or having a bird-run mining company excavating gold from the back of his mouth or having a lock of his lover’s hair wrapped around his liver. Within this dream which is sharper and heaver than normal dreams, he once again tries to regain control; he tells himself that he’s dreaming within a dream. Once again he lies down to sleep. With varying degrees of depth and success this goes on every night while he snores away. His dream is to reach the one dream that will never change, the dream that will be blindingly powerful and will dictate only one course of action: arms raised to block out the warmth and luminescence of the sun. In that last dream where all strangeness has been shed he will find the true posture of his soul.

 

   And I’m fed up with shoveling out advice to people who are barely literate enough to put together a letter. I’ve been on a bender. It’s true. I’ve been holed up in this hotel room numbered 260 for the past three months and I have been drinking my face off. That’s why I’ve put up these past three months worth of stories and introductions and outlandish claims to being George Bush, a sled dog in Alaska and Osama Bin Laden. I’m drunk. I’m tired of giving advice about love or spoons or whatever garbage it is that I’ve been writing. The drinking works! I’m forgetting all those stupid letters. Booze forgets. You look into a bottle of JD and you’re looking straight into an ocean of forgetting. Booze works. There’s my frickin’ advice for all of you today. I’m Dear Abby and I’m drunk. Long live booze! 


Etiquette of the Heart and other Organs


    You live too tightly bound to the present, he thought as he struggled over his choice of cheeses. Either one will do. He put back the Havarti and placed the Edam into his green basket. 
   That evening she’s impressed by the dinner, the candles and the Bossa Nova. She’s particularly pleased that he served her Edam, the cheese which they’d nibbled on during their first date two years ago. She falls asleep with her lips moving through different stages of a smile.
    The next morning he throws up as usual. He barfs up some content from his night’s dream. Some small momento covered in dinner detritus that lays at the bottom of the bathroom sink. He turns on the hot water until steam rises from the bowl and then he turns on the cold. He picks it up and takes it into the shower.
   She joins him.
   “What’s that ?”
   “It’s a tire from a Hot-Wheels car that I had as a child.”
    “Wheely ?” she jokes but he hates all manner of baby-talk. He’s a different man in the morning, governed by knowledge of dislikes and irritations. He doesn’t want any kind of baby-talk in the relationship because this will push things in the direction of a baby. He supposes. 
   She squeezes liquid soap onto her scrunchie and rubs it down her arms.
   He wonders what the connection is between wheels and cheese until he remembers the lesson from the previous day.   
   He lets go of wondering and presses the tire into the belly of the bar of soap. It scratches a little as he rubs it up and down his arm. Then he rubs the bar down the side of her leg.
   She smiles.

   After well over three months of stories by dogs, dead historical figures and the late, great Pac-Man himself, I suppose you’ve finally clued in to my real identity. Yes, who could be the source of all this profound strangeness but Yann Martel himself?  While I’ve been working on several projects of late – sending books to Stephen Harper every two weeks to encourage some reflection in his soul – I’ve also felt it important to explore the borders between truth, falsehoods and fiction.
   Welcome to today’s short-short story…


The Street Light Laments


    Dull grey plasters the horizon. High above, white trim and two patches of blue give the proof to a morning sky. Walking briskly through the cold, Stephen Harper glances up at the misshapen street light. Over the course of the two years that he has served as the Prime Minister of Canada, this street light has slowly turned its neck so that the light now shines up. The Prime Minister looks down at his feet that bang out a simple drum beat on the sidewalk. One by one, his thoughts strike the itinerary points of the day. Any mild sense of disconcertion he might have is hammered out over busy thoughts of the day. If he weren’t such a busy man, he’d have time to marvel at the strangeness of metal in motion. Why has this seemingly ordinary street light in Ottawa turned itself around? Is it in love with the radiance of the sun? Is it bemoaning the uselessness of light in the world? Is it writhing in pain for some personal reason we can’t translate into human terms? There are questions afoot but the Prime Minister – the sole witness of this strange phenomenon – ponders, for four seconds, more cuts to the arts. Then he thinks about dinner. Then: roses for Laureen on the eve of their anniversary. Then: what if Obama?  This is how the Prime Minister walks, pounding his thoughts out on the sidewalk.

    Sorry I’ve been away for the past two days which is against this whole daily writing project but I do have an excuse: I am the Easter Bunny koo-koo ka choo. Yes, I’ve been busy hiding eggs and I’m very excited to announce that this year my R and D team have finally concocted the egg that will make all this make this crazy confluence of Jesus, rabbits and eggs make sense. This year the eggs will break open to reveal little baby rabbits with fur colored and patterned like Ukranian Easter Eggs. These rabbits will also be able to quote passages from the Christian Bible. Finally, an Easter that makes sense.
   Now that everything is winding down, I can have a beer and get back to my daily writing…


The Poet-Thief


   The Poet-Thief, who did everything at his own slow and confident pace, strolled the sidewalk and cased the joints on Lilly Street, a short block of houses bordered by William and Napier. His head was now crammed with words that would find their order on a piece of paper to be slipped into a mail slot at one of the houses. He in turn would take something of equal value from the yard. Maybe a freshly bloomed flower. Maybe the nozzle of a hose. Sometimes, as luck would have it, he made it into the house. The Poet-Thief pulled out his pen and jotted down the following in his notebook:

challenge these things to you
        words grow slow    stale
so sing a second cup
           renewal in breaks
 inflates a hissing
           reinstate the missing

 you moments

         why in 32 tongues 
                comes up 
         ever because


of praise
  of pause
   to fill with what was

   He tore the page out of his book and walked through the gate of one particularly large house. He slid the poem into the edge of the red door when it suddenly opened. 
   “Hello?”
    “I’m leaving this for Francine. Could you pass it along to her?”
    “You must have the wrong place. There’s no Francine here.”
     “Could you see that she gets this anyway?” He put the poem in her hand and strolled down the steps. Under the force of suggestion, the woman stood helpless. There was no reason but in her hand was the rhyme.
     The Poet-Thief thumbed the woman’s watch which was stowed safely away in the bottom of his pocket. 
     

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