Tag Archives: existential

The droning villain

“Perhaps, Susannah Fontaine-Williams, you are not cautious.” That’s not very insightful now, is it, she thought. “Perhaps it is unwise to follow a man you don’t know into a hidden place.” He eased the pressure on her throat enough to allow the carbon dioxide to escape her lungs and fresh air to enter. She wanted to cough but he had tightened the grip once more.

She looked into the one brown eye and one blue eye of her tormentor and swore that the brown used to be on the left, not the right as it now was. He smiled. “Is that better?” he said. “Does it hurt…your throat?” She couldn’t speak and she couldn’t nod her head so she just stared back at his eyes.

“The world,” Tassos continued, ‘is a corrupt place. He sighed, “I was not always this way. Like anyone, I would think of killing from time to time. It is natural to want to kill someone, is’t it?” She could only look into his unblinking eyes. SFW, fortunately, an accomplished swimmer (bronze medal, freestyle, 2006 Olympics) and everyday miler at the pool, had great wind. She could hold her breath for several minutes at a time.

She hadn’t noticed that her right hand was in her handbag now feebly fumbling over the many objects in storage. He hadn’t paid it any mind either. He paused to weigh the import of his own words, as if she would continue her TV show on an afterlife cable network and might have a life – or death – lesson to convey to her audience from her experience dying today.

“Do you want to know where I got the inspiration to kill?” She couldn’t speak and the lack of oxygen again made her woozy. “Of course you do! From watching your CSI. Very inspiring!” He let up on the pressure again allowing her another single breath. “Just pick someone you don’t know. Random is best. And always dispose of the body with care.

“Now, where was I? Yes, the world is corrupt. Everyone gets away with what they can. And there are too many…too many people doing too much evil. The human race – we are just animals with nice things. Do you need a breath?” He released his grip again. Stale air rushed out and fresh air replaced it. Her throat hurt.

“Where was I? Yes. I am like your Dexter. You know the show? Good. I weed out the evil. Anyone with privilege and means, we must assume has come about that privilege and means by doing something wrong, or through wrongdoing somewhere in their bloodline. You see now why this is happening to you, don’t you? I am just an instrument. I hope you appreciate that.”

A man in a stylish hat photographs one of the many wells on Delos.
A man in a stylish hat photographs one of the many wells on Delos.

He stopped talking but continued looking into her eyes. Her eyes were watering and her head ached. She was thirsty and her hand rested on the hilt of the pearl-handled ankh knife in her handbag. During his monologue she had been very carefully unhitching knife from sheath and felt confident she had bared the blade. “What do you say, one more breath and then we say goodbye?” he said.

 

Lovin’ the Ruins

“Because Delos was sacred, as the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, no births or deaths occured here. The sick were not permitted entry, nor were pregnant women. That island,” Tassos pointed to Reinia, “the sick went there to die and that is where the women gave birth.” “Didn’t thousands of people live here? What happened to all of the people?” Susannah Fontaine-Williams asked. “Ah,” Tassos replied. “I assume you mean after the invasion. 20,000 people lived here – all were either killed or enslaved. But the interesting thing is, no human remains have been found on the island to this day.” The late afternoon sun burned and SFW clinged to the slowly lengthening shadows. She leaned against a shaded wall startling a lizard, sending it scampering over the rocks. “We call them ‘crocodelos,'” he said.

“Try to envision it as it was found more than a century ago,” he went on. “Rubble everwhere. Much was covered by vegetation, like over there on that hillside. Only a third of Delos has been excavated and recovered. It is very slow going. Most of these buildings were three stories high. It’s hard to picture, isn’t it?” She nodded yes, closed her eyes, and her TV mind played a documentary of toga’d people conducting their affairs and discussing philosophy on the crowded narrow streets as warships filled the harbor on the eve of Delos’s destruction.

Ruins and rubble.
Ruins and rubble.

The afternoon heat radiated from the stone, marble, and rubble. Susannah Fontaine-Williams felt just a touch faint and longed for a glass of cold water, chased by that sublime Cuban rum cocktail they served at the pool bar in Mykonos.

Tassos proved to be a thorough guide, walking her through the enormous agora, to the theatre, to the Temple of Apollo and finally to the museum and the little refreshment store. He showed her elaborate tile floors, translated the Greek inscriptions for her, and described the many cisterns and wells and other clever ways the Delosians gathered, saved and used the scarce fresh water. “Let me show you the hidden cistern,” he said. “Very few people get to see this.”

A ship’s horn sounded and she peered over a wall to see the 5:00 ferry pulling in to dock. They came to what may have been a courtyard surrounded by walls with a large cistern to one side in the shadows. “Look,” he waved her over. “The water’s such a bright green,” she said. “It’s the minerals,” he said. “Mostly limestone. Very acidic.” He put an arm around her waist and pulled her close to him. She thought she would have to endure a kiss, but instead, she felt his hands gently on her neck and she tried to take a step back. He pressed his thumbs on her windpipe and she gasped for air. “You’re my first American celebrity,” he said, squeezing just a little bit tighter.

The 5:00 ferry unloads.
The 5:00 ferry unloads.

Want to know why this post’s title is immensely clever? Check out “Love in the Ruins” by Walker Percy. 

Susannah Fontaine-Williams and the Extra-dimensional Bag, Pt. 1

It’s Feb. 1 and the garden is still beneath a coat of snow criss-crossed with footprints and pocked by various tree droppings. Even the roof, bathed in sunlight, still has snow and ice on it. In the summer, there were tremendous spiderwebs spanning the eaves with huge, voracious spiders and these webs have been replaced by lengthening icicles. Winter’s lock remains and the heating system creaks and groans.

DSCF0664

A thing to look forward to today: my new phone arrived at the destination sort facility at 6:28 AM this morning and a man in a blue uniform will deliver it to me by noon. It says so on the tracking page and I believe it.

Let me tell you something I don’t believe: Susannah Fontaine-Williams does not love me although she says she does. She’s too practical for love and I’m just someone who can knock down 18 year old Scotch Whisky with her dram by dram and throw her pithy phrases that sometimes ends up on her show, the fourth most-watched afternoon talk show in the land.

She has the most amazing extra-dimensional bag and it’s gotten her into several kinds of trouble. It all started when we were on Canal Street looking for knockoffs and a man led her into a narrow shop with bags hanging from the walls and ceilings like cave bats and piled everywhere on the floor. You waded more than walked through this place.

“I need a bag that will hold a lot,” she told the man. “But isn’t very big.”

He pointed to the knockoffs and SFW held them, appraised them, hoisted them onto her spaghetti-strapped shoulder and shook her head no. No. “Too big. Too heavy.”

“Fifty dollars.”

“No.”

“OK, forty.”

She took my hand and we looked at each other and laughed and walked out of the store.

The man said, “Wait. Come with me. I show you something special.”

He led us to the back of the cave to a door covered with dusty bags and found the knob beneath the faux leather. We walked onto a creaky, wooden stairway. Bare fluorescent bulbs hung every few feet so where we hoped for and expected a puddle of dark, we were instead treated to blue-white light. After 27 steps, one of which had an nail sticking straight up (“nail, watch out), we landed in the basement, a big, neat, mostly empty  space.

“My workshop,” he said.

At the far end was a metal desk under exposed fluorescent tubes. On it sat a single bag.

“That doesn’t look like it would hold very much,” SFW said.

The man smiled and handed her the bag. SFW dutifully put it on her shoulder.

”The straps are too short.”

“Put your hands on strap and lightly pull,” and as she did the straps lengthened.

“Oh… how?”

“Now, put something in the bag, your wallet…”

SFW pulled out her wallet, a bulky thing weighted down and fattened with credit cards, slips of paper, loose change and lots of cash. She always carried too much cash.

“It will take up the entire bag,” she said.

“Put in everything else you have with you now. Except nothing electronic.”

She piled in a notebook, a few loose pens, a makeup kit, a toothbrush…”

“You carry a toothbrush?” I said.

It all fit. I looked in the bag and it was black inside, dark, although a bright light was shining directly over it. I reached in and felt around for her wallet and pulled it out. “Huh.”

“How much?”

“For you, $1500.”

“Too much for a knockoff.”

“Not a knockoff. This is one of a kind. A prototype.”

He gestured to his workbench with his neatly organized tools and implements and tubes.

”Tell you what. I like you. I watch your show. You take it with you, try it for a few days. If you still want it, buy it. If not, just give it back. No charge for trying it out.”

She looked over at me.

“Why not?” I said, not realizing that that question would be answered soon enough.

“Remember,” the shopkeeper said. “Nothing electronic.”

“Well, where do I put my phone?”

“Outside pocket. Always in the outside pocket.”

…to be continued.

Unfinished – Wheelchairs…

Fix the errors in “Get your hands of my chair young man.”

The second woman on the bus is now a younger woman, maybe in her twenties, and she’s in a wheelchair because her legs have been blown off at the knees by a bomb in a train station. She’s the only one who survived. She’s on her way to the TV studio to be interviewed. The host, the collagen-lipped Susannah Fontaine-Williams, is going to surprise her with a new Chevrolet Malibu equipped with hand controls so she can drive it. The audience whoop and rhythmically clap.

Then Susannah Fontaine-Williams announces that they have an even bigger surprise in store for our young hero. The lights dim and a video of the woman’s boyfriend displays while inspiring patriotic music plays. “And here on special leave to share your special day, Lieutenant George Michael W…” and rising up through a platform in the floor through a fog of dry ice is her longtime boyfriend. The Lieutenant is a soldier stationed somewhere in a dangerous part of the world. He too is a bombing survivor. He still has his legs but his hearing has been damaged. In a moment, Susannah Fontaine-Williams is going to present him with a state of the art ear implant and the resulting thundering audience applause overtake the pair who break down and weep.

The damaged young bombing survivor cum celebrity glimpsed Rose as the bus rolled away from the bus stop. She caught Rose’s eye and smiled politely. She hoped the interview will be over quickly and thought about how she’ll spend the check for appearing.

Bob the Flipchart

Bob the Flipchart

The argument started in the box – Bob was part of a flipchart 3-pack and he shared space with his two siblings, Miriam and Filbert. Miriam was saying – and he really had no memories of anything before – that life began when flipcharts were bound. Flibert argued that life surely began before that, when the pages that were so integral to flipcharts were first made and cut to size. No memories of anything before the argument…that bothered Bob, but he didn’t as yet know why.

“You’re both wrong,” he said. “Life begins long before we take shape, when we’re just a bunch of wood pulp floating in a vat.”

“If that’s the case,” said Filbert. “Then what about pre wood pulp? Surely there was life.”

“You could make the argument,” said Miriam in her firm voice that Bob realized he found condescending. “That our lives began the moment the tree that became our life-pulp was cut down.”

They all murmured their assent. Personally, Bob didn’t want to think about how the life of a flipchart was dependent on the death of a tree.

Many mystics asserted that flipchart and tree were one, even if only one was conscious at a time. They were all connected in a glorious circle of life. Blah, blah, blah.

“Circle shmircle,” said Filbert. We do not die and become trees. It’s linear. Trees live, then willingly give their lives so that they may become flipcharts.”

“In a way, we’re their afterlife,” Miriam said.

“Which makes this… what, heaven?” said Filbert. Bob was not at all convinced that this wasn’t just a load of hooey to pass the time.

It went on like that for awhile and soon Bob dozed to the soothing sound of his brother’s and sister’s voices.

Eventually, Bob ended up on an easel in a windowless room near an easel with Miriam. Together they looked out on an oval conference table and a whiteboard. Neither of them knew what became of Filbert. Some days the room was bright and filled with people who wrote or drew things on their pages. Bob felt satisfaction in fulfilling his destiny. Most of the time, his pages would be flipped back, revealing a new page. But every so often a page would be torn and taped to a wall, or crumpled and thrown away. It didn’t hurt, but he remembered less with each lost page until he was unaware of anything at all.