fables


   Pleased to meet you. I imagine shaking hands with an untold number of people, my arm stretched out through the looking glass of my computer screen and into your world and yours and even yours. It’s not that I’m running for office or trying to sell you a used lemon of a car, it’s just that I need to have a sense of my readership. I need to know that all my hours spent scribing away result in some kind of human touch. Or at least the idea of contact with another soul.

   I took almost two weeks off from my daily writing on this blog in order to reread Kafka on the Shore. I’ve published a number of books since then but it’s become one of my favorites (even though authors, like parents, aren’t really supposed to have favorites) and I wanted to return to this novel in English. Apart from this blog, all my writing is in Japanese and then translated into English by a number of superb translators that I’ve been lucky enough to work with. This blog, however, is my direct link to my English readers. Everyday for the past five months I’ve been writing a short-short story from a different point of view. An experiment in styles. A place for me to play with English. But today is Kafka’s birthday and it’s time to tell the truth. 

   Enjoy today’s whim of a short-short story…

 

Sounding the Curse

 

     It was a dangerous language to learn. That was the joke that Al kept making as his friend Abdi demonstrated the intricacies of a glottal stop. Abdi straightened his back, lifted his chin and made the sound, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet. “Not alphabet, it’s a script. Alphabet comes from the Greek language. Arabic script,” Abdi said, remonstrating his friend once again. “Well, whatever you want to call it. It’s a deadly language to learn,” Al said and then tried to make the glottal stop but found himself choking on something in his throat. He coughed and coughed and took another sip of the bottled water he’d purchased for an arm and a leg at the coffee shop. 

     “It’s much simpler,” Abdi said, motioning a gentle wave with his hand, trying to tap into some hidden reserve of patience. “Think of the shortest sound that can be made and then locate it deep in your throat.” Abdi pointed at the middle of his throat and made the sound again. 

     Al tried but this time his coughing fit was worse. When he had first attempted the vowel he’d hammed it up a bit but now he found that he really couldn’t get past the sound without his throat going into convulsions. He took another sip from the expensive water. “This is a deadly language. Learn our language and die. It’s a terrorist language.”

    Abdi’s eyes widened. Al had crossed the line. In the five years that they’d known each other Abdi had put up with all sorts of blasphemy but this was going too far. Abdi slammed his “Teach Arabic Now” textbook firmly shut, stood up from the small table, and picked up his backpack.

   “I will not tolerate that sort of small-mindedness. Whatever you curse in life comes back as an enemy. You have made it so.” 

    And true enough the spirit in the sound behind Alif was offended (I mean wouldn’t you be?) and like a broken vial of gas something emerged slowly from the shattered sound that Al had made. You will never succeed in anything again, it whispered in his ear. You will be filled with optimism as you attempt the first step of the basics again and again. You will believe that you can do it but you will fail eternally. Your futile hope will live longer. 

    As far as curses go, Al didn’t mind. 

    It could’ve been much worse. 

    But he did lose a friend in Abdi who he tried to win back again and again for the rest of his life, never losing faith in his ability to fail and try again.

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      And I’m told that they’re going to suspend my computer privileges so there’s no point in pretending to be someone else anymore. I’ve been working on a series of characters and accompanying stories for a book called “Prose and Cons.”  

     That is all. 

     Enjoy today’s short-short story…   

 


 

In the Mountains a Story

 

   A short man, pudgy around the waist, packed a lunch of 5 Polish crepes and cucumber to take on his journey to the mountains to consult the Scientist-Wizard. At the foot of the mountains the pudgy man shouted, “Scientist-Wizard, I come in search of a new self. I’m 42 years old and I need to become something new.” These words echoed up through the valley running between the mountains and the pudgy man wished that could be the end of his efforts. But after several minutes of silence, the pudgy man undertook the four hour hike up the side of the mountain  When he reached the mouth of the Scientist-Wizard’s cave he whined, “You should put in some steps.” “Enlightenment’s never at the top of an escalator my dear friend,” the Scientist-Wizard replied, holding out a green potion. The man grabbed the drink and gulped it back after which he fell to the ground and writhed about like a fish. His body changed into something marvelously powerful. His skull grew two sizes larger to make room for all the new brains inside. Hours later he lifted himself up from the dirt, brushed himself off and looked down at his body. With his powerful new voice he shouted into the valley. He counted the number of times he’d breathed in his life. But somehow he still felt empty. The Scientist-Wizard emerged from his cave and asked if everything was in order. The man sighed, “I’m still the same inside. Deep down I don’t feel anything different.” 

   “It’s not my fault you made the wrong choice. I offered you advice or a drink. You took the easier one and failed to consider my words of wisdom which will always be there for you to take but will always remain outside your grasp.”

   It’s embarrassing but true. I woke up this morning to a murder of crows cawing up a storm. I looked at my alarm and saw that it was five minutes to wake up time anyway so I rolled out of bed. There was a sudden silence and then the sound of a car taking off. I imagined the crows breaking into a neighbor’s car and taking it for a joy-ride. I chuckled to myself at this little cartoon in my head when I stood up and then fell over. I looked down and saw that my feet were missing. (I’ve been fighting a brutal cold and took three helpings of neo-citroen last night. I guess it had numbed my body completely.) 

   I knew I should have gone to bed with the lower half of my body safely stowed away in a safe. That’s the advice I would give to you. 

   But the show must go on in spite of the missing feet – as showbiz cripples often say – and so without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, here’s today’s short-short story…

 

In the Award Winning Hereafter

 

    John and Tina entered the Silver Stars Senior Citizens Talent Contest with some minor bickering. John had written on the entry forms that Tina was 65 when in fact she was 64. “I don’t qualify,” she insisted while John dug through her closet of shoes, looking for her Middle Eastern-looking slippers. “It’s a cute bit. The folks’ll love it, Tina.” He stepped out from her closet with her shoes and a large smile that lifted his aging face. Not since the birth of their grand-daughter had Tina seen him looking so spry.  

    “Okay but on one condition.”

    “You name it.”

    “If we win the prize money goes to Iraqi orphans.”

     John nodded vigorously and his glasses slid down his nose. 

    That night, John and Tina wowed the audience of 87 seniors with their homey yet eclectic rendition of Aladdin’s “Whole New World” but midway through a “world” they both toppled off the edge of the stage, landing on their heads. A chorus of worried gasps rushed through the crowd. Hands went to mouths. One senior pulled out his cell-phone to call his paramedic granddaughter. Three seniors- fearing that the grim reaper was in their midst – left the auditorium, grabbed some free quarter-sliced sandwiches and fled the building. 

     For their part, John and Tina continued dancing into the afterlife, assuming the fall was all part of the rush of the performance. They spun, waltzed and jitter-bugged into heaven assuming it was still just the backdrop to their song. God, for once in his life feeling bad about a mishap on earth, decided to pretend it was a Muslim heaven. His angels were dispatched with Muslim garb to give all the Christian residents in the event that John and Tina should dance through their quarter. “Otherwise, business as usual,” God announced.

   And so it went for John and Tina for eternity.

   A whole new world.

    I mean I was writing a lot and making up stories on the internet and practicing my English with this unique psychological technique where you pretend to be somebody pretending to be somebody pretending to be somebody else, etc, etc. It’s about planting English deep into your psyche. It’s supposed to work. So anyway, this is what I’ve been doing for the past five months on this blog but yesterday I was banned from my own blog for reasons I won’t go into and this is what happened.

 

 So after I settled down I felt much better and I wrote this story…

 

The Rainbow and the Unicorn

 
   And it came to pass that the Unicorn fell sparklingly in love with the Rainbow. The Unicorn you see was myopic and assumed that the Rainbow was the colorful horn of a beautiful female in the distance. One glorious afternoon, after three days of heavy showers, the Rainbow emerged from behind a billowy-pillowy head of clouds. “We meet at last,” said the Unicorn to the cloud assuming it was full of cute and gentle Unicorn brains. “I’ve spent so long looking for you and now at last here we are.” There was an awkward silence during which the colors of the Rainbow grew in vibrant intensity. The Unicorn’s hearts beat a drum solo. (For just as cows have four stomachs, Unicorns have four hearts and are therefore considered exceedingly amorous beasts.) Sadly, the winds picked up in the distance and started to scatter the clouds. “Okay well let’s promise to meet here tomorrow.” But the Unicorn’s imaginary date never materialized. And that is why you should never make a promise under a rainbow.