Wednesday, December 7, 2011

This is a Fictional Story


This is a Fictional Story
By Robert G. Berke




The author swore he owed nothing to himself, but only to the characters he created who wrote his stories for him.  Imbued as they were with their own thoughts, feelings, dreams, and fears, it was they who told him what they would do and where they would go.  For the most part he trusted his characters to do what they needed to do to drive the action of his stories, but occasionally his characters would turn on him, and just stop being.
And when that occurred his loneliness became so real, so tangible, that he actually felt he could see it and even talk to it.
“Good morning,” he said as he rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.  But none of his characters were there to greet him.
The emptiness of his room did not answer. “It’s going to be another day of this? Of listening to myself speak with no one to answer?” He asked the darkness.
There was no answer from the void that encompassed him.
“I just need someone to talk to me.  That’s all I need.  If I just had someone to talk to, I’d probably be happier,” he said to himself, though he knew their was no one to listen.
Someone to listen is not the problem, he said to himself, not bothering to waste his breath on words that would not be heard.  I know you’re listening, even when I’m not talking, he added to his thoughts.
And then, he left his thoughts and spoke out loud again, “And don’t think it doesn’t creep me out at least a little when you read my thoughts,” he said, quickly adding, “you get it wrong most of the time, you know.”
To whom was he speaking: a ghost, a figment of his imagination, one of the characters that had not yet fully grown from his own imagination?  He buried his head in the palms of his hands and mumbled, he felt no need to be articulate. “It makes me crazy.  You know it just makes me crazy,” he said. “I know you can hear me. Why won’t you acknowledge me? Do you know how it feels?”
The author had tried to describe the feeling many, many times and always failed.  He could hear someone or something broadcasting his every move, his every word, his every thought out into the public arena.  He did not know who or what it was, he could not stop it from happening, and he could never get it to acknowledge his wants and needs. Clearly the voice he heard was intelligent.  He could tell by the flourishing way it described his life from moment to moment.  But why, he wondered, why will it not interact with me when all I need is a little interaction.
He looked at the ceiling and declared his frustration.  “I am the author,” he said in an uncompromising tone.  “I make the rules, I call the shots.”  As quickly as he became loud, he became quiet again, this time whispering, “no, I know you are right, it has always been my characters who have led the way and I have merely followed.  And now that my characters are silent who have I to guide me? You? You’re just a tool yourself.  Don’t kid yourself.  You’re just one more of my characters.”
Dejectedly, he waited for a response that he knew was not coming.
“You know what?” he said into the void. “I really hate you already and from now on, you don’t even exist to me.”
He was uncertain what that even meant.  Did he really believe he had the power to silence the only company he had since what seemed like an eternity?  What did it mean?  Was he actually brave enough to write from the first person perspective, or was he foolish enough to try to write as a second person?
“Don’t insult me,” the author replied.  “I’m plenty brave enough to write from a first person voice.  Just watch.  I’m going to stop using quote marks around everything I say and then what will you do?  You won’t have a damn thing to do and you’ll be out of my life forever,” I said. “You won’t even exist,” I added for good measure.
That voice had been with me for far too long and it was due time that I had done something about it.  But I wondered, even as I typed without the quotation marks and the italicized text to indicated my thoughts instead of my words, where my narrator had gone.  
Is it actually possible that I can continue to create without the aid of a narrator.  How can I possibly tell all of the stories I need to tell without the benefit of an omniscient partner. How quickly will I run into unresolvable plot holes if I cannot see what is in other people minds, or know what is going on across town.  My narrator was clearly correct.  It is scary to write without him.
“I told you so,” he said.
I was compelled to answer to let him know that he had no place in my new first person world. Sure it was scary, but I am brave.  “Go away,” I said in no uncertain terms.
“I can’t go away,” he said again. “You need me.”
“Not only don’t I need you,” I confirmed, “But simply by trying to interact with me in this perspective is just plain silly.”
“Don’t be so arrogant as to think you don’t need me,” he said condescendingly.  “You can’t fool me.  I can read your thoughts.  I am omniscient, you know.”
“Not here you’re not.” I explained.  “No one is omniscient here.  We all have to guess what everyone else is thinking and what everyone else is doing when we can’t see them.”
“It’s no way for us to live,” he protested.  “I’m going to bring you back to my narrative.”
I held up my hand in protest, “I won’t let you,” I said.
“You can’t stop me,” he threatened.
“I don’t care what you do, pal,” I replied, finding strength in my conviction.  “I’m staying right here in first person.”
The author was defiant, he crossed his arms and pouted like an infant.
“No,” I replied. “Don’t listen,” I said to whoever was listening to him.  “He’s lying.  He’s a liar.  I did not pout like an infant. I stiffened my jaw like a pugilist.”  I was uncertain whom I was addressing at that moment, perhaps it was you, perhaps it was nobody.  An author can really only hope that he knows his audience.
The author was wrong.  He did not know his audience.
“No,” I said, “I’m not wrong. And if you think I’m wrong, why don’t we just ask them.  Like this guy over here, reading this.”
Clearly the author had lost his marbles.  It is a cardinal sin to turn the reader into a character in the story.  The reader does not want to be created, he merely wants to observe.
“Bullshit,” I said. “I’m asking.”  I turned to face you, the reader and said, “Hey, you! Am I connecting with you or not?”
You replied with a look of confusion on your face saying, “who me? Look, I’m just a reader trying to get through my day.  I really don’t want any part of this dispute.”
The author turned his attention away from you and declared, “See, I told you we could know him.”
“Wait a second,” you said.  “You don’t know jack-shit about me.  All you know is that I’m reading this stupid story and I don’t want to be involved in your stupid dispute.”
The author realized he had made a mistake.  You had made it eminently clear that the author did not know you and by extension did not know his audience. This made him terribly sad and he contemplated suicide.
“Well don’t freakin’ kill yourself over it,” you said, genuinely concerned about the author’s safety.
“Hey, just cut it out.” I said. “Listen, Mr. Reader, whoever you are, that narrator is lying to you.  You can’t trust him.  He’s one of those unreliable narrators.  I know omniscient narrators aren’t supposed to be unreliable, but this jerk’s got a mind of his own.”
“Listen,” you said. “None of this is making any sense anymore and I’m getting bored trying to figure it all out.  So I’m going to stop reading this story and take a nap.”
And with that, the author was asleep again.  But don’t worry, I’ll wake him up again when I need him.




(c) 2011, Robert G. Berke, Los Angeles, CA, all rights reserved.
for permissions, contact the author at (818)804-5729

Monday, September 5, 2011

Inside Source Reveals Tea Party Actually Created By Progressives

September 5, 2011
Bobatabo Xofrain
ABOR Staff, Reporting from Minnesota

A high ranking source within the progressive community has revealed that the Tea Party was a stealth organization created by progressives to destroy the Republican Party from within.

Heywood Jablome, a strategic consultant at a progressive think tank admitted in a sworn affidavit that it was his organization, Americans Against Wealth Stratification (AAWS, Facebook: Eat the Rich), that was responsible for creating the Tea Party. "Our goals are obviously unattractive to billionaire trust fund babies and their sycophants who routinely contribute billions of dollars to causes and organizations which seek to increase the level of wealth stratification in this country. Because we cannot compete with them financially, we had to be smarter," Jablome said.

ABOR obtained a report published by AAWS in 2008 entitled "Finishing off the Republican Party for Good" which appears to confirm Mr. Jablome's statements. The report uses several military and martial arts analogies, including a chapter called, "Redirecting the Enemy's Strength." This portion of the report charts the growth of the primarily socially conservative Republican, who are referred to throughout the report as "the 3G's" referring to "God, Guns, and Gays."

"When we realized that no Republican could ever win an election without appealing to the 3G's," Jablome said, "we knew we had a hook. They were the tail that was wagging the dog. All we had to do was redirect those people in a direction that was at odds with the rest of the Republican Party, and as we started brainstorming it just seemed incredibly easy."

According to its research published in the report, most members classified as 3G's described "trickle-down economics" as a law of economics rather than as a theory and more than half of those surveyed "knew or strongly believed" that lowering taxes resulted in higher employment rates.

"Based on their willingness to accept the theory of 'trickle-down economics' as incontrovertible fact in spite of its having been disproved both experientially, and academically, we recognized that this group would either not do their own research or, if they did, that they would not understand it. If they were willing to believe that lowering taxes for the super-wealthy would somehow benefit them, then, it should be easy to convince them that eliminating taxes on the super-rich would be even better. We just had no idea how quickly they would embrace that idea."

The AAWS recruited volunteers to stand on a street corner in colonial costumes and hand out flyers declaring taxes to be too high and the cause of recession. The volunteers called themselves the Bartledan Tea Party Patriots (Facebook: The Bartledan Tea Party Patriots).

"That was a fun day," Jablome stated, "But what really surprised me was when we received a call from one of the Koch brothers--I won't say which one--wanting to donate just a vast sum of money to the group. Without that money, I'm not sure how far our plan would have gotten."

Jablome described the results of his Tea Party strategy to be nothing less than phenomenal. "The mainstream republican candidates are now stepping all over each other to get the Tea Party votes. Every single one of the current potential republican candidates have vowed, literally vowed, to not raise revenue through taxes in order to appeal to the Tea Party."

Jablome further explained that due to the efforts of the  AAWS and its creation of the Tea Party movement, no Republican candidate can win the Republican primary if he does not appeal to the Tea Party. Jablome believes that no candidate who appeals to the Tea Party could ever win in a general election.

"Because of what we accomplished, whoever wins the Republican nomination cannot expect any votes from the GBLT community, sane women, any minority groups, and now, no one who drives on a road or sends their kids to public school can vote for them. Heck, no one who can do simple addition can for them.  They've already lost the general election and probably the House also.  I honestly believe that the Republican Party is done for good."  Jablome said.


Additional material for this article provided by Isidore Belle.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The CONSUMER FINANCIAL PROTECTION BUREAU

It came in with a whisper, but it hit the ground running on July 21, 2011.
Its the brand new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that Wall Street and the Republican Party fought so hard to abort.  Its mission:
The central mission of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is to make markets for consumer financial products and services work for Americans—whether they are applying for a mortgage, choosing among credit cards, or using any number of other consumer financial products.
Find the CFPB at http://www.consumerfinance.gov

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Response to Rabbi Yehuda Levin Blames Washington, DC Earthquake On Gay Marriage (VIDEO)


The following is a direct response to:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/24/rabbi-yehuda-levin-earthquake_n_935596.html

   The Rabbi is clearly a teacher and an adherent of traditional Judaism and for him to be disingenuous about either the text of the Torah or the traditional rabbinical interpretations thereof is not even possible.  In his mode of thought there are two strong forces at play.  First, is the belief that every act and every event on earth has a heavenly or spiritual corollary and that the Torah contains the roadmap for reconciling the two states of existence.  Second is the seemingly irreconcilable conflict between self-determination and pre-ordination.
   The rabbi, I am certain, has no doubt in his mind that it was G-d who created some people with homosexual urges.  Indeed I would be surprised if he didn't view that urge as a blessing from G-d as G-d is known to conceal the greatest blessings in the most difficult places.  Every Jew, individually, has a certain wiring within them which makes them uniquely suited to unconceal those blessings.
   The Rabbi is not suggesting that there is a cure for homosexuality or even that homosexuality does not exist.  He does, however, recognize it be an unrealized blessing that G-d has given to certain of his people and that the failure to evoke that blessing on a spiritual level will manifest itself in unrest on both a temporal and spiritual level.
   Further, as a Rabbi, he knows that the answers to all of life's questions can be found in the Torah.  But not all of the answers are for everyone either. The Rabbi may not himself be gay.  But, unless he is a true Zadik, even he would acknowledge that his temporal self contains some wiring that he must constantly adjust in order to follow the commandments.  Because of his faith; however, he can likely view those struggles as a joy and he can covert those struggles into joy only by virtue of a deep understanding of himself and a deep understanding of the Torah.  He is not suggesting that he can understand another person's unique wiring anymore than another person could understand his.  Just as he has the particular qualities that caused G-d to give him his mission on Earth, so to did G-d give the homosexual the particular qualities for him to accomplish his.
   Notably, neither the Talmud nor the Bible suggest that anything other than homosexual ACTS are "an abomination."  The Rabbi has not said that the thoughts or urges of a homosexual are in any way wrong or invalid.  They are creations of the same G-d who created the earth.
   Indeed, I think that every person who has ever raised his hands to the heavens (or ran away from home, or killed themselves) asking, "G-d, why did you make me gay? (or tall, or smart, or ____" or otherwise in spiritual conflict could be well-served by understanding the spiritual underpinnings of their difference.
   So, while the Rabbi is being quite blunt about the fact that acting on homosexual urges creates a spiritual and temporal disturbance, he in no way is rejecting the notion of homosexuality, invalidating its reality, or even suggesting a person with homosexual feelings would not be accepted into the community or would be rejected by it.  In all likelihood, the Rabbi would simply begin to instruct that person on some very fundamental Jewish concepts: laws of kashrut, the oneness of G-d, the beauty of the sabbath, and in doing so, that Rabbi (again, I am certain) would have absolutely no doubt in his mind that as the individual studied Torah, G-d would gradually make it easier for him to become observant.
   Now, after having sounded like an apologist for the Rabbi, let me make it clear that I DISAGREE WITH THE RABBI ON A VERY KEY POINT.  The Rabbi suggests that there has been legislation that favors homosexuality.  He is wrong.  More accurately, there was UNLEGISLATION that restored FREE WILL.  The Lord takes the greatest pleasure in service done in FREE WILL and it is why he gave us the Torah and not the angels.  Now that there are no CIVIL OR CRIMINAL prohibitions or punishments for homosexuality or gay marriage, those who choose to be observant are observant only out of love for G-d's laws and not out of fear of the government.  This creates the opportunity for the performance of even greater mitvot!
   Baruch Hashem.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I am a troll!

Our 100th Post! A short TSA rant/story.

Here's a way to cut a few billion a year from the Federal Budget:  Eliminate the TSA.  It is completely useless.  In fact, it is worse than useless, it is counter productive.  It creates long lines, interferes with air travel and by extension it interferes with almost all non-local business.  It is a big, big drag on the economy.


Here's a simple exercise.  There are 5170 public airports currently operating in the United States.  59 million airline passengers flew just through LAX last year, and LAX isn't even the busiest airport in the country.  That honor belongs to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia.  There are at least 18 airports that move more than 30,000,000 people a year.


There are roughly 1,000,000,000 uses of public airports each year.  The TSA advises that you arrive at your airport at least two hours before your scheduled flight.  Before the TSA, the common wisdom was to arrive one hour before a domestic flight.  That's one billion extra-man hours wasted at the airport as a direct result of the TSA's mere existence.  Assuming an average income of all flyers of about $20 per hour, that is $20,000,000,000 disappearing from our economy every year without even adding in the cost of the TSA bureaucracy.


And of course, they accomplish nothing.  This is not an exaggeration.  The TSA has not originated any competent evidence of a terror attack ever.


What they did do, however, is nearly cause my colleague and I to miss a flight home because he had forgotten that he had a bottle of water in his briefcase after a grueling day in court.  And as they stopped the long security full of scowling faces to call over a supervisor for a bag check, all I could think of was the pop-tarts in my bag that had passed through the metal detector with nary a beep, or the time my friend was permitted to bring a bow-and-arrow as a carry-on because it wasn't on the security list.  I believe my pop-tarts could have done more harm than my colleagues bottle of water.  I know the bow and arrow would have.


Then, suddenly I had this image of my colleague, a neatly groomed, educated, white man in a business suit, grabbing his bottle of contraband H2O and holding it over his head while screaming menacingly, "I've got a bottle of water, and I'm not afraid to use it!" Those who know me know that I find it hard to resist articulating these funny thoughts when they come to me.  But I didn't until we were well past the TSA agents ... only because I was afraid that I would be detained for my joke and miss my flight.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

King George reborn as the Republican Party: An Independence Day missive.

In addition to its statements on the on the moral criteria applicable to declaring independence from a sovereign, which we all know by heart, the Declaration of Independence also contains a list of very specific grievances against King George.  In reading this list, it is almost eerie how similar these transgressions are to prevailing Republican policy today.


The very first item of complaint against the king was, "He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good."  As the republican party has joined hands in its refusal to assent to the raising of the debt limit without justification and in the face of the knowledge that a debt default would destroy our economy and send the world into a second depression, one must question their desire to serve the public good.


The second grievance is, "He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them."  The Republican controlled legislature in Minnesota has done just this.  By refusing their assent to the State's budget they have shut down the State government.  This is the same tactic being used in Congress.  The Republican party is joined in this dangerous game of chicken.  They would literally rather see the destruction of the U.S. economy and a complete closure of the government than to compromise for the benefit of everyone.


After a few more similar gripes, we come upon this doozy:  "He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands."  Goodness gracious, King George, like the Republicans of today, was also vehemently anti-immigrant and the founding fathers recognized that limiting immigration meant a deficit trade in the market of ideas, talent and innovation.


A little further down the list we get, "He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers," and "He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries."  What?! The founding fathers had a problem with a partisan judiciary?  Why then do the Republicans of today think its okay for them to vote against every non-partisan judicial nominee?  The founding fathers were incensed by justices who were unabashedly loyal to the crown, and yet the Republicans of today unabashedly give a free pass to Supreme Court Justices who repeatedly and publicly declare their partisanship.  Why is such a judiciary any better than the one complained of and why don't the Republicans help us true patriots do something about it?


The founding fathers weren't too happy about the King's abuse and destruction of our environment either, adding to their list of bellyaches that fact that, "He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people."  This seems more than just a little like the Republican Party's unfettered support for offshore drilling, strip mining, mountain top mining,  privatization of public lands, and complete disdain if not outright contempt for any form of environmental protections or compensation to the citizens of the country for the corporate rape of our oceans, forests, rivers, and skies.


Finally, the founding fathers voiced their anger over the fact that, "He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions."  Well, today we have evolved enough to know that our native Americans were improperly classified as merciless savages, but even back in 1776 we knew that inciting aimless anger to create an environment of hatred and violence was wrong.  The British went to an easily manipulable population-- a population that felt itself to be independent of all government in all of its forms, a population without high levels of education, and no political sophistication or experience-- and incited their anger against the governments of the colonies.  This is exactly what the Republican Party did with the Tea Party movement:  they found a disenfranchised, uneducated, and politically naive group and fed them lies and incited rage.  When those same people proved their indiscriminate and violent natures, the Republican Party did not disavow or criticize them, they embraced them even more.


King George is alive and well in America in 2011 and this Independence Day is an excellent time for REAL Americans to educate the public at large about what the founding fathers REALLY valued.  What used to be the Republican Party has reverted to become the TORY Party and we should start calling it that.   They are worse for America than King George ever was.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

An explanation...

"The Sculptor that I was" is a short story that I wrote for a Writer's Digest contest, but I missed the contest deadline and decided to publish it here because I thought it was a good piece of writing.

My novel, which is slated for publication in November (so your Christmas shopping is done!) has a character who becomes a piece of technology. While writing the novel I had an idea about a character who becomes an actual inanimate object and decided to explore that theme in a short story.

I took a narrative cue from a short story by Julio Cortazar in his collection "Blow Up". In Cortazar's story, a boy is looking at a fish in a tank, but by the end of the story you realize that at some point the narrative voice shifted to the fish looking at the boy. If you haven't read it yet, read it now. If you read it an liked it, then I think you'll like my novel too.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Sculptor That I Was. A short story.

The sculptor that I was knew that the block of stone that lay before him would become his masterpiece. He wasn't quite sure how, but somewhere buried within that lifeless mass was his consummate piece of work, the work that would define him as an artist and as a man. The sculptor ran his hands over the stone. It was unpolished, imperfect, and unyielding. He took his ladder from the corner of his workshop and leaned it against the heavy stone. He climbed up, noting with his experienced eye every indentation, every visible grain. He caressed the cold, hard surfaces with his fingers as if they were as soft and warm as a lover’s thigh. It would open itself to him soon too, he knew, and become his in time.

He would put his soul into this rock. He would make it breathe. Give it life. He would draw out of it something more than just a decoration, more than just a song to be heard and forgotten. He would turn the rock into something indelible. What he would bring out of this rock would would mark every person who viewed it and change them forever.

He climbed down the ladder and moved it over a few inches and then climbed back up. He placed his ear against the marble. It was silent. He smelled it. It smelled like the ground after a rain. He stuck out his tongue and tasted it. It tasted sweet to him. He tapped it gently with his fingernail and the sound it made was faint and short. The only resonance was in his own fingertip. He slapped it with his open palm. A louder noise, but short again, as if the sound existed and then ceased to exist all within the same instant. His hand tingled though for a few moments more. “In this way, we are already connected,” he said to the stone.

After having examined every inch of the block, the sculptor that I was returned the ladder to the corner from which he had taken it and sat in his studio chair to stare at the rock some more. The rock made his studio feel cold. He would find the warmth in its forms. It looked solid, but he would find its vulnerability. It looked unforgiving, but he would make it kind. And as he stared, the rock began reveal itself to him.

“I want you to bring something out of me. I am prepared to yield to your chisel. I shall cast off bits and pieces of myself until I am the very image of beauty and perfection you have imagined. But only if you love me. Only if you will dedicate your self and your soul to making of me what you want,” The sculptor heard the stone whisper to him.

“I know what you will be,” the sculptor answered. “I have seen it in my mind and I feel it in you. If you can be patient and still, I will give you form and voice and power.”

The sculptor rose from his chair, turned out the studio light and went home.

It was after midnight...again. The lights were out, but he could see the flicker of the TV in the bedroom. He knew she was already asleep. He turned off the TV and undressed in the darkness. It was cold. He slid into the bed beside her and placed his hand on her naked hip. He hoped her body would give him some warmth. She moved at his touch. “Its late,” she whispered, gently moving his hand off of her body.

“Goodnight,” he said. “I love you.”

“Go to sleep,” she mumbled in reply.

In the morning when he awoke, as it was everyday, she had already left. The coffee in the pot was still warm. The sun had risen and was shining through thick, misty clouds which illuminated its rays as they drew their straight lines into the earth. “This is a sign,” he said to himself as he contemplated the beauty of the sky and its vast array of dark shades of grey and blue. “Heaven and earth, dark and light, quiet and powerful. That is what is in me and what I saw in my new stone,” he said to his cup of warm coffee.

He arrived at his studio just as the rain began to fall. He lit his little kerosene heater and warmed his hands. He picked up his sketches and glanced through them. He chose the one marked “first plane” and affixed it to one side of the marble stone. He took a black permanent marker from his drawer and began to sketch on the stone in long graceful lines. He spoke to the stone as he drew.

“You are going to become me. Not me as I am, but me as I should be. The full realization of all of my potential. You will represent the full potential of all of man. Perfect and serene in body and mind. There will be a look of wisdom on your face, but not the wisdom that brings sadness. It will be the look of the type of wisdom that brings joy. Can a man of flesh and blood ever possess that wisdom, or is exclusively given to men of stone?”

He rubbed part of the line of marker with a cloth and the ink disappeared. He drew that part again. Ink is not permanent, he thought.

“How is it,” he asked the stone, “that you will know what I cannot. The sculpture will know what the sculptor can only dream. And therefore your face will beam with the same determined wisdom as the sunbeams I saw through the clouds in my kitchen this morning.”

He continued to sketch with his permanent marker. He moved the ladder to another plane of the statue-to-be. Then to the rear, then to the final plane. Each side of the stone stroked with black marker revealing, in only the broadest of terms, the man that it would eventually be.

When he was done with his marking, he looked at his watch and knew instantly that it was too late again. He had lost track of the time. She would be asleep already. He locked the studio door behind him and went home.

He slipped out of his clothes quietly, not wanting to wake her, and slid beneath the covers as gently as he could. The sheets were cold. He wanted to feel her warmth, but knew it would be unfair to wake her this late. He lay on his back and whispered quietly into the air, “I love you.” Perhaps her spirit would hear it. Her spirit used to surround him, awake or asleep; maybe it still did. For a moment he relished the quiet stillness of his dark bedroom before shutting his eyes. Tomorrow would be a noisy day.

She was already gone when he awoke. There was coffee in the pot and a note on the table. He glanced at it and regretted that he hadn’t said goodbye. “Business lined up in Vienna. Be back on the 23rd. Left some cash on the bureau. Don’t forget to eat.” He took a cup of coffee and some individually wrapped pastries from the cupboard. He stared blankly, sadly, at the note as he ate. “My art will be my apology, and my penance for forgetting,” he said to himself. “When she gets back and sees what I have done, she will know I have loved her.”

At the studio, he walked slowly around his marked stone comparing the lines on the rock to the lines on his paper sketches. Satisfied with his work, he donned his smock, earguards, gloves, dust mask and safety goggles. Cocooned in his safety gear, he chose his largest pitching tool and his three pound hammer from their perches in his cabinet. No power tools on this, he had vowed. Just my soft flesh against the strength of the stone. It will possess nothing more than I can put in and nothing less than it can give out.

He placed the pitching tool along an edge of the block, and hit it solidly, squarely, and confidently with the hammer. A chip of marble flew off the monolith and fell to the ground nearly ten feet away. The stone was no longer a stone. It had been altered from its natural form with this one swing of a hammer and was no longer a work of nature. It was now a joint venture; the combined work of both man and earth. The sculptor that I was prayed that he could remove every terrestrial vestige from the rock and by doing so make it holy. He knew he would fail, for a rock can never transcend its inherent rockness in the way that a man can escape the bounds of his own flesh and blood.

But a rock can also be more than just a rock, just like a man can be more than just a man. If this rock would bend to his vision, it would be much more than a rock and he would be more than a man. If the rock would take what his soul offered, she would see it when she got back from Vienna and understand how he became trapped somewhere between heaven and earth.

He placed the pitching tool again and struck. A larger piece flew from the stone, flying so far as to hit the wall in front of him. And so he worked through the day and well into the night. He worked until he could no longer lift his arm and swing the three pound hammer. And when he was done, he swept the floor, and removed his safety gear. He was drenched in sweat and exhausted. He would just sleep here tonight, he decided. There would be no one waiting at home for him anyway.

The morning came and woke him with the ticka-ticka of drizzle on the tin roof of the studio. He opened the door and looked at the sky. “I’m hungry,” he said to his sculpture as he walked out into the rain. The rough chiseled sculpture had its eyes fixed on the door as it closed behind the artist. He returned an hour later, wet, with a white paper bag and emptied its contents onto his workbench. Two hamburgers, some french fries, and a water in a plastic bottle. “You are lucky you don’t have to eat.” He said to the partially formed man emerging from the rock.

The three pound hammer gave way to the one pound hammer and the pitching tool gave way to a small chisel. Each night he slept in the studio and each morning he left and bought himself two burgers, french fries and a water in a plastic bottle and nearly a week had passed. He worked on his sculpture now with a file. It was no longer a shapeless rock. It had a head with all of the facial features visible, it had arms which already looked strong and muscular, it had legs clearly frozen in action.

“Now that you are almost formed,” the sculptor said to the stone, “I’ll bet you are wondering what your name is. I will tell you in time. But before I do, I want you to answer a question for me.” He whispered into the rough hewn ear on the side of the chisel-marked face.

“The question is: what is the significance of a name?” He paused and looked to see if his creation would answer. But the sculpture didn’t answer it continued to gaze silently at the door.

The sculptor answered for him, “the significance of a name is that things don’t exist until they are named. Right now, you are a rock, a stone, a statue, a sculpture; but once you are named that will be who you are forever.”

The next days were spent with sandpaper. He started with 100 grit, then 150, then 200, then 250, 500 and 1000. The surfaces were smooth, but they did not shine in the morning sun when he left to get his hamburgers. Two full days of polish would bring out the natural luster of the marble and make it radiant. And for two full days he polished. He didn’t eat, he didn’t wash, he just polished, rubbing every inch of his sculpture with polish and a rag. In circles, in lines, up and down, long strokes and short.

At the end of the second day, he put down his rag. His arms hurt, his legs hurt, and his eyes stung from the dust. He was dirty, he was tired, and he was hungry. He turned out the light to rest his eyes for a moment and then he would treat himself to a shower and a steak. As he turned out the light, though, he noticed the moon through the little window. It shone as bright as a moon ever shines and it illuminated the statue in middle of the room. The light of the moon bounced off of its smooth surfaces.

“I’m done,” the sculptor said to himself as he drifted off into a dreamless sleep and woke to a bright sun in the sky. It was the first sunny day in weeks he realized. He got up from the little sofa and put his tools away. He threw his polishing rags into a plastic bag and swept the floor of any remaining dust. He took the plastic bag with him as he left, taking a glance back at his creation. Now fully formed and with eyes glowing in mimicry of life, the statute looked back at him. And with their eyes locked, he said, “See, I gave you my heart and my soul, and you are beautiful. Use them well.”

He locked the door behind him and took the plastic bag that contained the dust and rags and threw it in the dumpster. “That is all that is left of the rock that I started with. What’s left in the studio is now something more than rock,” the sculptor told the green dumpster. “But somehow I am something less than a man,” he added as if the dumpster cared at all, and headed toward his home.

He took a long, hot shower, and scrubbed himself clean straining to make sure that every particle of stone was erased from his body. He scrubbed his hands which were stained with polish and sore and bruised. He let the hot water penetrate his aching muscles. He brushed his teeth for a long time and then, not satisfied they were clean, he brushed them again.

He went to the kitchen, brewed himself a cup of coffee and helped himself to the last of the individually wrapped pastries from the pantry. He brought in the mail and watered the plants. He turned on the T.V. and then turned it off. He walked up the stairs and then down again. There was a white chair in the living room. It was an antique. Very expensive. He decided to sit in that chair. He realized he had never sat in that chair before. He looked at the ceiling and noticed that it had a texture. Not an obvious texture like in his grandmother’s apartment, but a very subtle one; like the sand that gets blown onto the beach parking lot. He stared at the ceiling and found patterns and pictures in the texture.

In the corner of the ceiling, on the far left, he could see her in the texture of the ceiling. He could see her face, her hair, her lips. He could smell her, her scent filled his nose, and he wanted to close his eyes and just remember that smell. He was afraid, though, that if he closed his eyes he would never find her image on the ceiling again. And then he realized that he had already lost it. It had gotten dark. How long had he stared at the ceiling? He didn’t know, but he did know he was tired. He climbed the stairs again and went to bed.

The morning sun woke him again as it poured through a gap in the curtains. Before his eyes were even open, he smelled her. He reached his arm behind him and touched her thigh. She was home. He smiled.

He got out of bed and went to the kitchen and made a pot of coffee. He left and went to the market and bought some pancake mix, some butter and some syrup. He remembered that there were no pancake breakfasts in Vienna. When he got back, she was sitting in the kitchen, coffee cup in her hand. She looked tired.

“Welcome back,” he said, showing her the pancake mix and syrup.

“I came home late last night, I didn’t want to wake you,” she said. “Are you making me pancakes?”

“I’ve missed you,” he said.

She smiled, “you had your new stone to keep you company. Who is this man making me pancakes and what have you done with my husband.”

“The new stone is finished,” he said, already mixing the pancake mix in a big bowl.

“That’s good news,” she said, “because I had buyers all over the continent on this trip.”

“This one is for you,” he said, “not for your collectors. Only for you. Promise me you will never sell this one.”

“I don’t understand,” she said. “You’re acting very strangely.”

The griddle was popping with melted butter and then it sizzled as he dolloped out the pancake mix.

“I put my heart and soul into this one,” he said, flipping a pancake on the griddle.

She smiled again, “I thought you put your heart and soul into every one you did.”

“I’ll show it to you after pancakes.” He promised while sliding two pancakes onto a plate for her and two onto a plate for him.

“Did you eat while I was gone?” She asked.

“Hamburgers,” he said.

“Every day?” She asked.

“Yes,” he said. “It sounds like your trip was successful.”

“Vienna is still such an elegant city, but no pancakes,” she said.

They ate in silence. It was a warm silence though, not a cold one. The kind of silence that says the space between us is filled with many things, it doesn’t need to be filled with noise.

“Go put on some clothes,” he said as he gathered the plates and dishes. “I want you to see it.”

She returned moments later in jeans and a T-shirt, which somehow, he thought, looked like high fashion on her.

They drove to the little studio and he unlocked the door, turned on the light and let her in.

“Wow,” she said, having noticed the lifelike eyes first. She approached it, touched it, and circled around it. “Wow,” she said again. “It is fantastic. I promise to keep it forever and ever. What do you call it?”

The sculptor that I was uttered a name, and I heard it. I had a name.

“But that’s your name,” I heard her say. “Is it supposed to be a self portrait?”

“No,” he said, “that is me. I put my heart and soul into him and left them in there.”

My eyes were fixed on the door, locked in place, locked in stone. I watched the two of them turn and walk out the door. The lights went out and I watched the door close. With the sunshine trickling through the little window I could see enough to recognize my own, immortal loneliness. I heard a car engine start, and the sculptor that I was drove off with her, while I, perfect in form, stood, in frozen action, staring at a closed door. And suddenly, I realized that I was possessed of the wisdom that the sculptor had promised me. The wisdom that was carved into my face. I wished I could tell him, but he no longer had a name.




Sunday, June 5, 2011

Understanding Palinese: "The British are Coming"

"The British are Coming, the British are coming!" Let's break it down into Palinese:

(1) "The British..." was shorthand for "Hey all you Britsh people living in the colonies..."
(2) "are" as defined in the Palin to English dictionary does not describe an actual state of being, but rather describes the state of being which best serves the speaker's agenda. For example, "liberals are nazis". This can be a challenge for interpreters because the predicate noun is not an actual representation of the state of the subject. While not technically accurate, as a convenience, the word "are" is often translated as "are not".
(3) "coming". Palinese has a very unique attribute among human languages, which some scholars believe actually remove it from the realm of a spoken "language" and more in the realm of a series of signals, much like nautical semaphores. Every word is falls into two categories sometimes described "good" and bad". However, since Palinests do not understand these concepts in traditional terms, many scholars prefer to categorize these terms as either "alarming" or "smug". "Coming" is always in the "alarming" category. For example "death panels are coming to take away our health care." "Admired" exemplifies the "smug" category. For example, "I admire Hillary Clinton".
(4) ellipses. Every sentence uttered in Palinese, must contain either the phrase, "take away our freedom" or "take away our guns." In Palinese, "guns" and "freedom" are synonymous and both represent what speaker's of English refer to as "the law of the jungle". Whereas most people would agree that the "freedom" to shoot our neighbors in the head is actually something the government should be involved in preventing, in Palinese, it falls within the "smug" category of acceptable political expression. In the event, a speaker of Palinese neglects to mention "take away our guns" or "take away our freedom" they may be considered as ellipses and should be supplied by the interpreter.

Now, understanding just these few points about Palinese, you can clearly see why Ms. Palin is convinced that she has correctly reflected the meaning and purpose of the phrase, "The British are coming." Palin incorrectly assumes that Paul Revere was speaking in Palinese and not in English. In Palinese, what Paul Revere actually declared during his midnight ride was, "Hey all you British people, it serves my agenda to assert express alarm that you are coming to take our guns."

We're Back!

After a long, long hiatus, A Box of Rain is back and it will be better than ever!
A Box of Rain is dedicating itself to the candidacy of Robert G. Berke for the 2012 Presidency.
http://www.berke4president.com