magic realism


  Over the past four months on this blog I’ve been writing a short-short story everyday while claiming to be somebody different on each of those days as an experiment in multidisciplinary design. For those of you who don’t know me from breathewords or scene360, I’m interested in poetry, prose and all manner of visual art. For each of the stories that I’ve written on this blog, I’ve also made an accompanying painting, short film and choreographed dance routine with blind children under the age of six. These will be up tomorrow next to each of the 83 short-short stories I’ve written.

  For now enjoy today’s story…

 

Mona Lisa the Clown

 

  It was definitely unlike Mona del Giocondo to throw florins away for fabled fortunes but, on her way to her eleven o’clock appointment at the artist’s studio, she was lured into curiosity just around the corner from the church of Santa Trinita. An old gypsy woman claiming to foretell anyone’s future whispered everything into Mona’s ear for which the woman received three florins in the palm of her withered and weathered hand. Mona giggled as she walked faster through Florence’s narrow streets that nevertheless teemed with all manner of life. What a morning! She played the part of Arlecchino with the children before breakfast, cutting up scraps of silk and placing them around her mouth and eyes. She tilted her head back so the diamond-shaped swatches of blue wouldn’t fall to the floor. “Here are all the earnings from your cloth and silk business, Master Giocondo,” she said lugging a brown basket of golden silk that the children had cut into florins. “You wish to give that to my father. Do not mistake me for my father, Silly,” the boy lisped and laughed. “Oh no I was given orders to present this to the man of the house who stands with the highest stature,” Mona insisted and then pointed the children’s attention to their father who at that moment was bent over in the next room picking something off the floor. “Your head is the highest in this household, is it not?” Her son fell on the floor with laughter to prove her wrong. It was a day of laughter and when she sat down in front of the artist who would spend the day making his first outline of her features, she held back a burst of laughter. That an erstwhile clown should become the most famous face in the world of art! The lies that are peddled for gold. 

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   Several months ago I claimed to be doing research in Artificial Intelligence, focusing on a program designed to concoct a story everyday. Truth be told, I’m not a researcher. I’m not even human. I’m that software itself, creating characters and stories sui generis on a daily basis. Elsewhere on the web, I’ve compiled a list of computer quotes to give the world a wink and nudge, to show that I have a sense of humour and am nothing to be feared.

    Oh and by the way here’s my favorite quote: “It’s ridiculous to live 100 years and only be able to remember 30 million bytes.  You know, less than a compact disc.  The human condition is really becoming more obsolete every minute.”  (Marvin Minsky) 

     Yes, now if you would like to line up in single file we can begin the reeducation program. (See, I had you there for a second didn’t I. I’m so joking.) 

    Enjoy today’s computationally designed short-short story…

 

 

The Great Blondini and Son

 

 

     Sam was born during a tighrope act over the Niagra Falls in the scorching summer of 1928. His parents had thrilled thousands with countless other routines suspended in the sky: cooking a fry-up on a tiny stove, juggling dishes over an even smaller sink and even throwing plates at each other in a dispute over whether or not they should take their Great Blondini and Wife performance to Europe. But it was Sam’s birth that wowed the world and his parents assumed they had fame for life. Balancing, however, was in their blood and the birth of their child became a opportunity to extend their expertise into the future. Sam grew up on the tightrope: he took his first steps while the crowd below held their breath in silence and suspence, he said his first word to the astonishment and delight of a record crowd of 846  – no one knew at the time that  every night in their hammock beneath the tightrope his mother had coached him quietly to utter that famous first word: equilibrium – and he even lost his virginity to a two-bit prostitute late one night in 1944. Times had changed and with the war effort requiring saving and severity from all citizens very few had the money or inclination to be entertained over the Niagra Falls. Sam’s parents were locked in daily feuds over money that towered above the roar of the Falls. That a prostitute should lead their son astray was cause for even greater heights of rage. A lifetime later, when all missteps but one had been forgiven and forgotten, hanging from life and his hammock, the Son of the Great Blondini would say that he had no regrets, save one: he had never gotten her name and thus had nothing in which to whisper the world a good-bye. Sam’s father organized another funeral which was to be a delicate and complicated affair.

 

   I live in Chiplin, Maharashtra, a state in western India. I’ve been writing these ridiculous blog entries, claiming to be all sorts of people under the sun, for the simple purpose of stretching myself as a writer. Yes, I’m from India but as our actions ripple out across the globe as never before, I must strive to write from all sorts of points of view. This is the role of the 21st author. As the English poet John Keats imagined himself beneath the feathers of a bird, so too have I tried to imagine myself as a Korean student in Vancouver, an American president on an adventure in the Middle East and even a video game character in a story by Kafka. Only in fractured mosaics of the absurd can we hope to see everything.

  Today I’ve come out from beneath these disguises in order to honor the holy day of Gudi Padwa, the day that the world was created. This is our New Year’s Day and I wish all of you reading this the best.

  Peace.

 

To the Playground

 

   The family of four is so new to the town of Lighthouse that even the air is foreign. The cold and the rain on what would be a festive celebration back in India add insult to strangeness. Little Damayanti remembers the warmth of her grandmother’s long hugs. Today it’s Mother’s turn at work and Father has promised to take them to the park. Damayanti and her brother stare out the rain-streaked window of their tiny apartment.

    Father enters the room. He must think fast.

    “Today we’ll tell stories while we wait for the rain to clear,” he says, wondering how much time has been bought by stories since their arrival to America.

    “I don’t want a story,” Arjun frowns but Damayanti, two years his senior, sits patiently.

    “But today is Gudi Padwa and we must tell stories to honor our ancestors and the past and the goodness in this world,” Father smiles.

    The rain comes down in buckets and the window is a sampling of all the raindrops falling from the sky. 

    “Yes, look outside and that’s where the story starts. Do you see that tree across the street with the large pink petals? Isn’t a strange looking tree?”

   His children nod obediently.

   “It’s strange because those aren’t petals. They’re propellers. They’re blades from pink boats that sailed in Ravana’s fleet.”

   The children know this is fiction but the size of the flowers held up high on branches reaching up ten feet or more seems to deserve such an explanation. The tree is an oddity in bloom.

   “In the battle between Rama and Ravana that tree came to Rama’s aid. On the day of the battle, Ravana had commissioned pink ships that floated through the air under propellers. These ships caught Rama by surprise but from the earth one tree stretched itself as best it could in order to catch all the propeller blades of the ships. This it did with great sacrifice to itself for while the boats blustered in an attempt to free their propellers from its branches the entire tree was uprooted. This sacrifice bought Rama enough time to regroup his forces and strike Ravana from the side. At the end of the battle, Rama was so grateful to the tree that he not only replanted it but gave it the power to bloom in large pink petals to commemorate its heroic deed. This is what we’re looking at. Even here in this town in America.”

    For a second, the window holds the world in a frozen form and the raindrops hold their positions on the window.  It is a beautiful tree and their father has guaranteed that it will forever be fringed with joy. Nothing changes but a small drop suddenly slips under its weight and trails into the future.

   The rain will soon stop, their father assures them.

   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.

  Yes, in Hollywood where anything is possible.  Where somebody can stick a camera in front of Keanu Reeves and call what he’s doing “acting.” A place where a dead and blind body-guard is keeping an eye on the safety of our country’s super-stars.
  To be honest I only get the occasional gig and when I do I’m looking after B level stars who can’t afford to pay for a real body-guard. I suppose I’m more of a show body-guard than anything. However, I am seven feet tall and I work out at the gym everyday so I am an imposing sight. I frighten the bad guy away. For my bread and butter, I mainly get by on stand in work. I was once a stand in for Whitney Houston in the movie the Body Guard. At the time she had a very soft face. I was also the main stand in for Alf. He wasn’t so soft. He felt like he was made out of brillo pads. They didn’t like me touching him but that’s what I do. That’s how I know the world.
  In my spare time I’m working on a script. This blog has been my chance to experiment with different voices that I’m going to put into this movie idea I have. I’ve never had the chance to feel the face of the President of America and so by writing about him I can picture what he’s all about. I was reading about Winnipeg jails a week back and that resulted in a character who’ll go into this movie. The movie is like a combination of Crash and the Wizard of Oz. It’s going to be crazy.
  Anyway here’s today’s story…


The Deaf and Blind Fairy Who Wanted to Help


   The deaf and blind fairy who wanted to help fluttered in the air in front of the little boy’s face. She bounced from feature to feature like a finch darting from branch to branch on a tree at the start of spring. The little boy tried to stay still but she kept poking him in the eye or knocking him roughly in the lip. 
   “I’m sorry I’m just trying to get the whole picture here,” she yelled as loud as she could but the words reached the boy as a whisper. “Tell me what you need again.”
   She flew down to his lips to stretch her body horizontally across the top and bottom. She looked like a Walt Disney band-aid applied to his face. She yelled at him that he could start.
   “Okay well my dad needs a new car and my mom needs a new washing machine and I need a new bed,” he mumbled and under the weight of the fairy’s body the words didn’t come out with clarity. “Car” sounded like “girl”, “washing machine” sounded like “Worcestershire Sauce” and “bed” sounded like “bird”. The fairy flew towards the boy’s ear. 
   She repeated what she felt.
   “And just nod yes or no if that’s correct,” she said hanging from his ear like a drunk stowaway on the side of a ship. He nodded yes to affirm that he understood her directions but before he had time to nod no, she’d fluttered off in search of a girl and Worcestershire Sauce. Maybe a grocery store would do the trick, she thought to herself. She thought she remembered bumping into one somewhere south of the forest.
   The boy started to cry. Why were all the magical moments in his life marred by some horrible act of misunderstanding ? He looked in the direction of home but didn’t want to 
move. His fingers flattened out against the palms of his hands, making two deflated fists. He did this when he was worried.
   Just then a robin in a tiny wheel-chair rolled up to the boy. 
  “Do you have twenty-five cents,” it asked. “Or maybe just a smoke ?” 
  “I’m too young to smoke and I don’t have any money.”
  “Thanks for nothing,” it said as it rolled off.
   The boy felt like a jerk as he stood in the middle of the field waiting for things that he didn’t even want. After a couple of hours he walked home.
  Three days later, the fairy found the girl, bottle of Worcestershire Sauce and bird but she couldn’t find her way back to the field in the middle of the forest.
   She just wanted to help give a boy a happy ending but once again things ended in confusion.
   Everything she touched turned to confusion.
     Hello my name is Paul Eno and I’ll be your writer this afternoon.
     Sorry that’s a strange way of introducing myself I know but it’s a hard habit to break. I introduce myself like that in most situations: Hello my name is Paul Eno, I’ll be your breakfast companion this morning, I’ll be your son in law this afternoon, I’ll be your driver this evening, etc. It’s funny but once you get the taste of power that comes from an introduction like that over a plane’s intercom, you want more and more of it. And then after a couple of years of flying, you kind of get bored with the whole affair but you continue introducing yourself like that for almost all occasions.
   Pilots are a funny breed.
   Unfortunately, I’m bored with my job and so lately I’ve been cloud gazing and trying to imagine what kinds of personalities I can carve into the clouds that I fly through, under or above. Oh it’s easy to fly a plane once you get the hang of it and you’re left with a lot of free time on your hands to pursue hobbies and interests. Ping pong, painting (very popular among pilots at West Jet) or just learning a new language on tape. Well I enjoy gazing off into the horizon in search of a cloud that’ll look like somebody. So yes a couple of days ago I saw a cloud that looked like George W Bush and after I looked carefully into the contours of that cloud, well a story seemed to come out of its mouth and I wrote it down. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of months and I didn’t want to release my real identity for fear of being fired but you know what I realized this morning ? Fuck it. You only live once and if Bruce Dickinson can be a heavy metal musician and a commercial pilot well then I can be a pilot and a writer of fiction. 
    Here’s today’s story…


What Goes Up

since feeling is first who pays any attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you    – ee cummings

    Leaning his body over the edge of the lazy-boy, D sipped softly from the top of his herbal tea. A steaming spill trailed down the edge of the mug and into the deep below of blue. D glanced down to make sure it didn’t drip on anyone. There were a few red and yellow colored balloons below but nobody directly beneath. He looked up and noticed the large numbers above and he realized that in his attempts to write a poem he’d descended below the pack. He pulled on the blue cord and he started to feel himself rise. 
   He placed the mug into the holster which stuck out from the soft and fat arm of the lazy-boy. A brown cord that haloed the end was starting to fray. D picked up the notebook from the middle of his lap and he put his pen back to the page. 
   He was a poet. After all he was drinking tea. He was a poet who mused: 
   In a world of luxury and ease and breath-taking views at every angle, how do you compose anything worthy of someone’s attention ?  How could he compete with the clouds that so effortlessly held up all manner of emotions and feelings ?  What words would be needed to get her fingers to reach out to his ? That intense moment of titillation, of everything funneled along a bridge of finger-tips holding up feelings in the sky. D had heard that a rubbing of the finger-tips led to a wetness in the crotch. He wondered.
   But he couldn’t even hover smoothly alongside anyone anymore. Not since his voice broke. He tried to think of a word that rhymed with thunder. Frightened thunder. Someday H would be his, D suddenly thought to himself. 
   He lowered his pen to the touch of the page but there was no movement.
   A mile away upwards and eastwards, H spit her gum out over the edge of her lazy-boy. She hoped the ball of pink would land in the eye of a seagull or any other bird guilty of shitting on them before the Time of Great Move Upwards. Although maybe those were just funny stories. Who knew ?  All H really knew was that she was bored senseless.  She stuffed another gum into her lip-sticked mouth. When she wasn’t bored she longed to feel the touch of a body against hers but in their world of floating lazy-boys over a world of oceans, there wasn’t a hope in hell of saddling up to someone head to toe.  How could she even dream of such a retarded thing ? First off, the bump of the balloons wouldn’t even permit for the proximity of a kiss on the lips. Kisses were only passed along on finger-tips but all the boys in the sky were jerks who’d just slapped her hand away in the past. The only boy interested in touch was D but he was too wrapped up in the words and worries of his head to navigate the six colored cords steady enough to keep them floating alongside each other.
     And he was the biggest nerd in the sky. He spent all day trying to string his nerdy words together into crappy poems. If he would just reach his arm out.
    H’s legs rubbed together and she thought of a large balloon that could hold two when suddenly her chair bumped onto the top of a red balloon. It was a test tube baby chair whose navigation system must’ve been on the fritz. Future generations were guaranteed by the test tube babies in floating wombs that were timed to trigger every decade. The sky was littered with these floating wombs set on auto-pilot.  H spit her gum out onto the round panels of red. The gum bounced three times and then fell into the blue nothing below.  She wished she didn’t have this strange feeling sticking in her like the thorns that she’d read about in books. Maybe this feeling was a fable just like those thorns that supposedly lived on the ground.  She tried to wish her way back to boredom.
   She hated summer vacations and tried to think of the cluster of balloons of school that would be back in two weeks. Everyone floated so far away in the summer. Even D felt like he was miles away.
   “H” she heard her mom calling from the great emptiness above.
   The sun came out from a cloud and touched her red cheeks.
   Someday.
   Soon.
  Since I’ve been getting more comments than usual and I don’t want to upset any of my readers any more than I already have, I will leap over this whole nettlesome issue of identity and tell you who I really am. Over the past month I’ve been a white man dressed up and made up to look like a black man who is poorly dressed and made up to look like a white man. I’ve been going into public places to write my daily blog under different characters in order to explore the issue of race and identity. It’s going into a 500-page book which will be about being a white man seen as a black man who’s trying to look like a white man pretending to be somebody else. Yes, even I still get a headache trying to figure out the layers of selfhood involved in this experiment. The important thing is that I’m refuting the notion that race is a black or white kind of thing. Believe it or not there are some people who still laugh at jokes that run along the lines of, “And then white guys are the ones who (insert any lame observation about the way you once saw a white guy lift a video off the shelf), but black guys are all like (insert any other way that videos can be lifted off a shelf)” 
   I’m a psychologist at the University of Northern California and this is today’s story…

The Day the Colors Bled

    On April 1st, people all over the world started feeling funny, a tingling sensation somewhere inside that no one could place exactly. Friends got into fights over whether the pinprick of feeling was in front of or behind the stomach. Even doctors disagreed while they scratched their heads or asses in front of rows of illuminated x-rays. By the end of the day, this odd phenomenon was dominating everything from headlines to diaries to the conversations of beggars and billionaires. 
   On the sun’s next run of 24 hours around the globe, people started to panic as the humming sensation spread through their organs and bones. “Jesus Christ is coming back to earth as it has been foretold by the book of Revelations. The scrolls that John eats in chapter 12 symbolized the way that Jesus would come back through our bellies,”  shouted one preacher from a pulpit in Vermont. “We are all getting sick from the debris of the spy satellite shot out of the sky. I have the cure. The antidote is to swallow this tiny particle from another spy satellite that crashed in Canada in the fifties,” shouted a retired scientist on television. He was selling each particle for a thousand dollars. He figured that if he could make enough money by the weekend, he’d fulfill his dream of flying to Vegas for the day. “This is the wrath of God. He’s killing us all,” screamed one doomsayer from a sidewalk corner in London. “This is the wrath of Allah. It is Allah who will kill us all,” screamed another preacher from across the street. Enraged at each other’s ignorance, they ran at each other and where both flattened in the middle of the street by a double-decker full of Muslims, Jews and Christians who were in London to attend a conference on “Finding Middle Ground in the Kingdom of Heaven.”  The spreading sickness had put an early end to the conference. 
    On the third day, people’s skin started to itch and then on the fourth day vision was affected. Schools were closed, businesses shut down for the day and windows began to get smashed. Police, security guards young and old and the military were called out in full force. People left baseball bats by their front doors barricaded by chairs and old computer monitors. On the fifth day, people woke to the horrible sight of their skin-color splashed across their bed and blankets.  Thousands woke up to the end of their life, as the sight of black or white or whatever other color you call yourself, spread out like a mold across previously blue or yellow sheets. Over the course of the day, a person’s color seeped out from their skin and into their clothes or even the floor at their feet, leaving a path of color that spread and spread and spread. By the end of the day walls and streets were turning red or yellow, black and white and even precious jewels were changed within everyone’s sight. When people realized that they were in the path of a color change slowly coming towards them, they panicked and race riots started to break out around the globe, dazzling the night sky with flames.
    The sixth day was the sadness day in the history of the world: “The niggers’ ink is spreading.” “White cracker honkies are playing white out on the world.”  “Yellow people’s pee is seeping everywhere.”  “If red gets on you, Injun blood will drive you crazy too.” Murder was the disorder of the day. Weapons were unleashed as countries feared the worst from their neighbors.
   Weeks later, as the unrelenting flow of seeping colors bled completely into one another, a radiant glow grew into the fabric of every object. The vivid colors of a sunset glimmered from everything.  The survivors wept at what the rest of the world had lost. If only they had known, people muttered within mouthfuls of tears.

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