akin to borges


   On my good days. On my off days I’m simply a fugitive with too much time on his hands. I’ve been writing these posts over the past five months as a way to communicate and practice the lies that are my daily bread and butter. When I arrive in a town I have to introduce myself with another identity. This is where I get some practice at saying, Hi I’m Jeff Ladouceur, or Hi I’m Lee Henderson, etc.  So why am I now stooping to the truth ?
   Even liars need a break once in a while.
   Don’t you think?

 When the World Withers Away

  I think it’s June. A hundred little signs tell me so. Of course the stuff of the world has dwindled from years ago when the world was so much more, this new world which I was the first to discover. I was a late 21st Century Columbus but there was no colonization, reward or even fame to follow. I never went back to earth. Couldn’t. They have no space programs on this planet.  Otherwise everything is like home with seasons, months and even people running from place to place with an eye on the clock. But happier. In some ways.  For one thing nobody dies on this planet.
   The world dies around you.
   I couldn’t believe it myself and when someone tried to explain this to me I thought I’d landed on an asylum planet with schitzophrenia being the order of the day.  But they looked and talked normal otherwise and were very hospitable to me as a stranger, offering me citizenship in the country that I landed. They even set me up with a job selling dice – a huge industry on this planet.  Through these early years of learning the ropes the only nagging worry was this denial of death but I never saw any cemetaries. There were no bereavement cards in stores and nobody knew what a coffin was. One night over beers with some of the guys at work I pressed the issue of death.

    “So absolutely no one dies?”

    This was probably the hundredth time I’d asked and so Joe finally caved.

    “The world dies around you.”

    “So there is death. Everyone else dies.”

    “It’s not really death per se. It’ s just everything slips into non-existence around you, as if it never were. I mean this is heady stuff. You can’t put it into words. I mean you can try but they’ll come up short.  They’ll disappear too but that’s nothing to be sad about. That’s nothing.”

   We stayed up extra late that night. I felt like I was ten years old again looking into the sky, contemplating infinity or something. It was odd to feel young in the face of such strangeness but when I went to bed and my face hit the sheets the nothingness seemed like a preview of the future.

    And here I am at the beginning of a shrinking world. I’ve retired because I can’t be counted on. Some days I’m gone. People don’t ask where I’ve been because they know I’ve started to slip into the other realm. This existence of an eternal one that flat-lines onto itself in a beep that goes on forever and ever. I don’t know how people know that. I suppose I’ll find out myself what it means. It’s funny to think that I can learn anything in this state. The sun didn’t come up yesterday. Otherwise it was a nice June day somewhat short of flowers and grass and distances but the warm breeze was enjoyable.  It reminded me of something. Somebody, maybe.

   I wonder how people on earth are doing? I forget more and more about my life as an astronaut on Earth – off of Earth. 

    June.

   The month I was married. 

   The photo I kept of her disappeared yesterday. Well it was an empty square.

   An anniversary blank.

 And when I come home from work I like to indulge a little in the wacky-tabbacky and of course I get a strange notion or two in my head so I’ve been writing them out on this site. I’m the one-man gang of goof-balls claiming to write these stories. Blame it on the weed.

  My name is Earl.

 

Young Borges on Drugs

 

   At the age of 14, Borges, well into a lifetime of being book-ridden and shy, was accosted one afternoon by a schoolmate outside the walls of their Colegio Nacional. “You wrote that King of the Jungle story in the our school rag, right?” Borges hurried in the direction of the tram that would take him north through the bustling streets of Buenos Aires to home where a library of his father’s books were waiting to be opened. “You write other stories?” the boy raced past him and blocked his path. Borges looked down and shook his head no. At this angle the thick frames of his glasses glistened in the bright sun and the stranger was briefly blinded. At the sound of the boy’s curse, Borges looked up and saw his chance to run once again. “Meet me on the other side of the school tomorrow. I have that which will help you write.” Borges heard the boy holler out after him as he jumped up on the tram.

   That evening, ensconced behind walls containing over a thousand books, Borges turned the boy’s claim over in his mind. While opening the cover of The Three Musketeers, he imagined his name on the inside. He tried to conjure up a story to follow but the words wouldn’t line up in any obedient order. He wondered.

    The next day, Borges was on the other side of the school which was shaded with large Sycamore Trees. It was where the older students smoked and knife fights were said to sometimes break out. It was outside the realm of authority.

    “I’m Carriego and I think you have talent but it must be liberated from slavish aping of childish adventure stories,” the boy said in gritty confidence and with wincing eyes that seemed to hide storehouses of forbidden knowledge. He pulled a cigarette out from his pocket and struck a match on the zipper of his jacket. It smelt unlike any cigarette Borges had ever encountered.

   “Now you try,” Carriego said, pointing it in Borges’ direction. 

   They passed it back and forth and that evening ended in nothing but idle talk of Argentina and how they hoped the 20th century would usher in an era of different foods. They couldn’t place their hunger and longed for some snack food that hadn’t yet been invented. It was only 1913 after all. Borges went home to fall asleep early and when he woke up he felt his ambitions had been cheated out of a day.

    After school that day, Borges ran with all his might to the tram but he was stopped once again by Carriego.

   “Leave me alone,” Borges said but the boy remained steadfast in his intent.

   “That was nothing. That was kid’s stuff. I have something else that comes from the Pampas. It is used by the Indians. It works wonders on the mind.” He pulled a clump of what appeared to be white dirt from his pocket. Carriego took a pinch and placed it in his mouth. “You want to be a writer, don’t you? This was discovered by gauchos. The old troubadour kind.” And then Carriego mentioned the greatest gaucho of all time.

    Borges, remembering the failure of two night’s ago, followed suite. 

    “Yes, let your mind wander into wonders.”

    Minutes later, the tram that was speeding by spoke to him and the sidewalk whispered echoes of his father’s voice and everything suddenly seemed to have some say in his presence on the streets of Buenos Aires. It was certainly strange but Borges never tried it again, trusting that an even more unique voice was yet to be discovered inside. That summer his family moved to Europe and he never met Carriego again. With no regrets.

 

 

     My name is Kevin Spence and I’m the writer behind all 110 short-short stories on this blog. I’m also responsible for the quirky introductions made in front of each story by a revolving door of different characters claiming authorship. Imagine my surprise this morning when a man by the name of Kevin Spenst (my name but with a spit at the end) claimed authorship to all these stories. He claims in an interview at Disassociated that today is the day that he’s written 1,111 short-short stories.  As if that were something to celebrate. Even if it were true – which it isn’t – why would anyone celebrate 1,111 stories? What kind of number is that? Who cares. Does he want us to clap or bow 1,111 times in his honor?

   It just so happens that I live next door to Kevin Spenst and let me tell you he is a complete jerk. He’s always in a hurry and he’s tried to sell me his little book God knows how many times. And how do people say his name without spitting on him? And what kind of family puts out its own magazine anyway?  

     Well today I’ve written 111 short-short stories on this blog.

     Take that Spenst. 

 

Mirror-rorriM

 

     At the birth of their twin boys, Abe and Margaret Spenst cried and laughed and kissed while their lips still laughed in joy. Two weeks later, they confounded family, friends and the hospital by naming both boys Kevin.  “We want to treat them equally. We love them both and this way one won’t be called first after the other,” Abe and Margaret said over a table piled high with homemade buns, kutletin (mini-meatloaves), potato salad and perrogies. Fifty blond-haired and blue-eyed relatives nodded in acquiescence. The boys, however, did not divide into themselves as planned. They grew up as mirrored images of one identity. In the house they always stood side by side but in the outside world they were almost never seen together as if only one were living a normal life while the other one was leading some subterranean existence, a hidden mirror. Thirty-seven years later it was revealed that the one was indeed relatively normal living the life of a struggling writer whereas the other other the whereas writer struggling of life the living normal relatively indeed was one that revealed was it later years thirty-seven. A mirror hidden , existence subterranean some leading was one other the while life normal a living were mirrored were on only if as together seen never almost were they world outside in but side by side stood always they house in. Identity one of images mirrored as up they grew. Planned as themselves into divide not did, however, the boys. Acquiescence in nodded relatives eyed-blue and haired-blond fifty. Perrogies and salad potato (meatloaves-mini) kutletin, buns homemade with high piled table over said Margaret and Abe. Other the after first called be won’t one way this and both them love we. Equally them treat want we. Kevin boys both naming by hospital and friends, family confounded they, later weeks two. In joy laughed still lips while kissed and laughed and cried Spenst Margaret and Spenst Abe, boys twin birth. 

   Yes, it’s a mouthful of an introduction and so usually I just say hello my name is Denis Stepkin. How my grandparents got together in 1959 – before either of them had achieved fame in their respective fields of literature and rock and roll – is a long story and even longer is the tale of my mother ending up in Russia. Needless to say my work involves sprinkles of magic realism and psychedelia and everything that was best in my grandparents. The past four months of stories on this blog wherein I’ve created different authors and stories for each day is also a kind of Borgian experiment in truth, falsehoods and fiction.  In a nutshell: a meta-fictional, psychedelic freak-out.

   Enjoy…

 

 

The Curse of Laughter

 

 

    On May 12th of 1949, after the twins were delivered from a sixteen-hour labor, their father held them in his right and left arms and joked that they must have been locked in a struggle to make it out first. “They’ll be no favorites in these arms. No need to fight anymore boys,” he said but Misha and Sasha kicked their tiny legs at each other and the nurses had to separate them. Over the first decade of their lives the competition grew in leaps and bounds as the boys constantly tried to outdo one another: Misha with death-defying stunts (a tight-rope routine on a barbed-wire for example) and Sasha with his magic and comedy act which he snuck out into the night to perform at bars outside of St Petersburg. For their father’s thirtieth birthday, Sasha presented him with a birthday card containing 500 rubles of his secret earnings. Their father’s other gift was a fat tie with a smiling Stalin on the front that Misha had sewn himself. Sticking out from the dictator’s head were real hairs which Misha had plucked from Old Joe on a trip to the capital. With the family’s fortunes in decline, it was obvious which gift was the dearer and late that night Misha ran away from home with tears in his eyes to wander the Russian Steps where he met an obscure tribe of Cossacks who taught him real magic. Upon his return, ten years later, his brother laughed at his wild and savage appearance. In response: “This is the curse I will give to you. There will always be laughter springing from your lips. Through death and grief and whatever you may feel inside, your mouth will produce nothing but laughter.”  Sasha laughed even harder at the curse but later that night when he stubbed his toe on the edge of the bed, his body erupted in laughter. Fear spread through his heart as his body contorted in apparent mirth. Over the next couple of years, he lost friends and positions in entertainment clubs from his inappropriate laugher. (For audiences always want to enjoy a routine more than the performer. They’re the ones who are paying after all.) The terror of the curse hit home the hardest when their father died and Sasha attended the funeral at a distance so as not to interrupt the somber proceedings with peals of laughter. Sasha plotted his revenge and, learning that his brother had become an aspiring writer, he sought out a suitable curse: his brother would never come up with satisfying endings to stories. Never.

 

   Well it’s a long story but suffice it to say that my mother had an in-depth interview (out of respect for everyone – including my cherished readers – I won’t say “probing”) with the famous brainiac and one thing lead to another and then once or twice more. (Yes, that part still operates believe it or not!) Obviously, I’ve grown up with literary ambitions as evidenced by the past four months of daily stories on this blog but I’m also equally obsessed with numbers. Each of the previous stories that I’ve written is a kind of mathematical puzzle. I start with a “fake” author whose name I’ve chosen based on the number of consonants in their name. If you subtract the total number of consonants in their name from the total number of sentences in the story, you’ll arrive at a series of sums which points us in the direction of a grand unified theory combining quantum physics with Newtonian mechanics. I wanted to couch all this number crunching in language in order to get others interested and also stick it to the math community who’ve been disparaging the arts for too long.

   Today’s story is simple. It’s written in six sentences which just happens to be a number I really like.

 

A Connoisseur of the Self at the Door

 

    “Mom, there’s a guy at the door selling something,” the lanky, blond boy shouts up the tower of stairs but the fedora-topped man at the door corrects him. “He says that he’s not selling a thing per se but he’s offering a whole new outlook on the world and our place within it and really he just wants to give us a tip or two on how to fall asleep or wake up or even just talk to each other with our unique selves intact,” the blond boy shouts, takes a deep breath and then looks back at the man for a quick appraisal. The tall man pushes his hat back to scratch his forehead and then nods yes, well done. There are weighty footsteps upstairs in a world suspended high above everyday interactions. The blond boy cocks his head to catch the words shouted from above. “Sorry, we’re not home,” he says with deflated-blue eyes and he shuts the door.

   I’m a professor of comparative mythology at the University of Northern California and this blog has been a group effort on the part of my graduate class. Students have been taking turns putting up different characters and stories in an attempt to explicate the hero with a thousand faces. Here is today’s story…

A Clever Use of Madness

     In the early morning of the beginning, a younger brother awoke from strange dreams. He tried to close his eyes to fall back to sleep but the images from the dream illuminated the insides of his eyelids.  He grabbed his older brother’s shoulder and shook him awake
     “Last night I saw a god vomit this world into existence. Can you imagine that?”
     His older brother was groggy but clever and realized that their moment had come. His younger brother was no hunter and the others were beginning to grumble about his usefulness. He was simply strange. Slow at speech he couldn’t even defend himself against their complaints. The children liked his impersonations of chimpanzees but otherwise he was dead weight.
    “You had a holy vision,” the older brother said, “that was a vision of how things started. The question of where we came from has been answered. We are the flawed guts of the gods. We’re weak and sick but still we can be proud that we are from the gods. You’ve witnessed the beginning of everything.”
    For the first time in his life, the younger brother was close to confidence. He was close to doing something important.
    “Wake up!! Wake up!!” shouted his brother to all the bodies sleeping around them. “Wake up and hear the truth.”  The younger brother’s heart beat fast. How could he tell the others what he had witnessed? While he wondered his older brother spoke.
   “Last night I dreamt of a god. A being larger and smarter and faster than anyone who’s ever walked the land. I dreamt that this god vomited the world into existence. We are from the mouth of a god and when we eat the sacred mushroom that gives us visions and sickness we are recreating genesis. This is what the god said to me in my dream.”
    The younger brother said nothing at this lie. He was caught up in his brother’s recreation of the dream. He was a believer. 
   He would dream more.

 

   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.

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