Exercises in style (20): à la Old Testament

•April 24, 2016 • Leave a Comment

So God created man in his own image, and created woman from one of man’s ribs. And the LORD God planted a garden on the walls of the attic room, in the east, full of wild trees and fruit and beasts, and He hung a full moon in the firmament. Then Adam knew Eve his wife, but she did not conceive. Instead she listened to the serpent, who said, “Go and lie with other men, and you may bear a son in that way.” So Eve knew other men, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a son with the help of the LORD.” But when Adam learned what his wife had done, he shunned her. Now she was exiled from the attic room with the garden walls, and she wept.

When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years watching the moon’s nightly cycles through the skylight, he smelled the spirit of Eve in the orange garden flowers. And he missed her, but he could do nothing of it. And the woman Eve was still exiled, and she wept. And the LORD God saw that the wickedness and sorrow born of relationships was great, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will take man far away from woman, so that they can no longer cause each other harm, for I am sorry that I have put them together.” Then the LORD made the garden swell, the trees and the fruit and the beasts, so that it would take Adam far away.

The days of Adam after he was taken away by the garden were eight hundred years; and he had no sons or daughters at all. But Adam thought of the moon’s phases as his sons, Full and Waxing Gibbous and Waxing Crescent and New, and he was satisfied. Thus all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died. Now Noah was elsewhere on the earth, and he knew Eve, and she finally conceived and bore Japheth, saying, “I have finally gotten a son with the help of the LORD.” And Eve wept no more.

English Drawing Room of the Modern Period

•April 14, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Heavens, what a day! Was I knackered. I had just gotten home from a gala at Truffaut’s – a celebration whose particulars I had spent every waking moment of the last month arranging. And ‘twas a wondrous success! Eminent expressionist William McQueen, in our very own gallery! He’s quite my favorite painter. It was such a thrill, finally meeting him. What a dear – though an older gentleman, he looked smart as could be in a pinstriped tweed three-piece, feathered fedora, pocket watch and chain, boutonnière. Elegant, but not obnoxiously posh. The retrospective’s opening went off without a hitch. (Well, almost: one of the patrons had terrible “indigestion” in the Gents, but he escorted himself out with the aid of his driver.) I was more than a wee bit weary after everything, so I headed to the kitchen for a cup of tea. Next I went into the drawing room to relax on the sofa with my book until George came back from work. We’d have a gin and tonic, supper, and tuck in early.

As I entered the drawing room, I went straight to the windows to pull the curtains closed – I simply cannot stand the idea of some peeping tom peering in from a building across the way. I had thought buying a place on the tenth floor would obviate that possibility, but you wouldn’t believe the speed with which taller and taller buildings are flying up around our great metropolis. My fingers lingered on the velvet pleats as I gazed out at the city night sprinkled with electric lights. I did love London. Despite the construction and the hectic pace of life, ‘twas a lovely town, and I couldn’t imagine making a home elsewhere.

Then I turned. I turned, and almost jumped out of my skirt! For instead of the normal wall, with its normal Defoe painting, a single sheet of glass now gleamed… and behind the glass, an enormous face. Something out of nightmares! Its expanse filled the view pinkly, with its forehead escaping past ceiling and its chin past floor. Two giant sinkhole pupils stared out of even larger hazel irises; a monstrous nose almost abutted the glass, and a lippy mouth hung agape. Every pore would swallow my fist.

I must have gone barmy. I was off my trolley!

“Heavens!” I screeched, and “George!” for I’d heard him in the hall. I stood, feeling horribly claustrophobic, and read to swoon. I was terrified and transfixed by this most vivid of visions.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * *


My inner child was about to declare total (albeit temporary) domination over its adult. Anticipation currented electrically through me. I remembered them so well: French Boudoir of the Louis XV Period (1740-60)California Living Room (1935-1940)Tennessee Entrance Hall (1835)… Design details winked around in my memory like resurrected summer-night fireflies. That scalloped red-blue-gold ceiling trim of the room where tiny curved and geometrical carmine chairs waited for tiny rear-ends to occupy them… That crystal chandelier dangling its two-fingernail length… That distant sun-lit lake and brown-green hills beyond (a watercolor backdrop warped alive by my overactive imagination). There were milkpaint-yellow walls, potted plants the size of jellybeans, floors of glossy mud-colored two-ants-width tiles, and squat kitschy goldenrod lamps that could only be illuminated by a Lilliputian hand.

I hadn’t seen the Thorne Miniature Rooms for a good twenty years, but I was finally headed back. As a child obsessed with teensy things and unreal worlds, the Rooms had sparked bonfires of glorious make-believe in my mind. What mysteries would be prompted by spaces no bigger than shoeboxes!

I arrived at the Art Institute and quickly descended to the basement. Before long I was staring into the minute confines of my enduring favorite, English Drawing Room of the Modern Period (1930s). A theme of cream and black: eggshell walls with molded columns and floral bas-reliefs, opalescent glass lamps, a boxy beige sofa near the ebony fireplace, and dramatic charcoal curtains flanking high, modern windows the length of my palm. It shed stylized luxury – but also coziness. I peered across the room, out the windows to distant golden lights poking through the darkness, and got goose-bumps. I began extrapolating whimsically, mentally sketching the people who’d inhabit this apartment… Certainly cosmopolitan and sociable. Well-educated, impeccably dressed, veterans of the stiff, classy cocktail. I was losing my sense of time, my sense of magnitude…

Suddenly, a minuscule woman walked into the scene. I froze. My ears popped, as if all air had been sucked out of the exhibit room, and then they filled with a low, white-noise crackle. She was blond, svelte, in black tucked blouse, white pencil skirt, black heels. Those heels were smaller than sunflower seeds shelled. Her back was to me. She went to the windows to draw the curtains closed. Then she turned towards the glass of the shadow-box. Her bitsy body immediately convulsed and stiffened. A faint, extraordinarily high-pitched squeak cut through my aural field of snow, then another. Her eyes were sentence periods. They were too small to pick out the color.

This had to be the most incredible hallucination.


Exercises in style (16): Textspeak

•April 7, 2016 • 1 Comment

sup dood

DOOD…where wer u? wut hapnd?

i wuz hidin…tryn 2 eskape gf

lol oic

4 realz
gf wuz cryn n cryn n im like FML
eskapd 2 attic, lockd hr out
watchd da moon, tryd 2 ignore hr shiz

wut… da moon? Y?

idk dood, shiz wuz fukd…i wuz sad

O RLY? uok? lol

YA RLY, fu. neway, da room turnd n2 a fukin jungl

oic! rotflmao

no, srsly dood. IRL. da jungl walpapr kam alive


fu, y dont u believe me

plz. where wer u rly?

dis hapnd. 4 rl. da attic room walpapr 8 me

wut. WTF. like wer da wild thingz r?

yeh, like dat. thought i wuz lost 4E. but den it spit me bak out
eskapd gf at least

lol. kk. yr batshit, imo. batshit FTW!

thx. fuk off. i gtg neway. l8r dik

coo coo. ttyl batshit

Exercises in style (27): Scientific jargon

•March 31, 2016 • Leave a Comment

The experiment involves a Homo sapiens sapiens of the XY chromosomal type, labeled Specimen A (hereafter A). At 18:00 hours on 01-01-1946 A is located at 47.32°N, 95.97°W, facing northeast at a dormer containing a mullioned window whose casements are further subdivided by lead cames, in the topmost apartment of a Gothic Revival style bay-and-gable 17-bedroom domicile whose construction terminated 31-12-1888. Photosensitive ganglion cells in the retinas of A’s mammalian eyes receive photons from the perigean full moon which lies 52.11° above the horizon. Although low probabilities of such occurrences have been noted for H. s. sapiens of the XY type during the mid-twentieth century period in Western history, we observe A’s copious lachrymation. This composition of water, salts, antibodies, and lysozymes is excreted from the caruncula and drops a total of 6’1” to Quercus robur floor planking.

Our experiment correspondingly includes a second H. s. sapiens, of the XX chromosomal type, labeled Specimen B (hereafter B). B is located at a latitude and longitude identical to that of A, yet stands one floor directly beneath. As is statistically 83.33% more probable for the time period and sociohistorical context for H. s. sapiens of the XX type, we observe B’s equally copious lachrymation. Indeed, A receives and processes, via his external auditory canal, tympanic membrane, cochlea, and further ear anatomy, the vibrations from B’s lachrymation over his own. Since we were unable to fit A’s cranium with EEG, we cannot record spontaneous hemispheric electrical activity at this time, and can only make logical deductions from related data regarding A’s psycho-emotional state. This limitation will be discussed further in the paper’s Conclusion.

Precisely 10,800,000 milliseconds pass. Telescopic measurements of the lunar orbit indicate anomalous movement; the moon appears to have accomplished 0.5 of its monthly cycle within 5.57 hours, and is waxing gibbous 55.4%. Since it is accepted sine qua non that the laws of nature produce a spacetime that bends due to differences in gravity and velocity, we use special relativity’s formula for determining time dilation,  261474772db3c1ed51e1f89ebcf1d483 to calculate the discrepancy. A remains stationed at the dormer. He has locomoted 22.6cm from his original position. His lachrymation is no longer statistically significant.

We pass on to observations of the rainforest, as one within the intertropical convergence zone, that was not 107 milliseconds previously but is presently in existence within the confines of the room in which our study proceeds. Canopy is not visible; only the understory and forest floor are available for data collection. An initial survey of the ecosystem’s flora via quadrat shows that Bromelioideae, Orchidaceae, Lasiobema, and Ficus barbata are among the present vegetation. A fauna survey comprises the following: Bradypodion fischeri; Boa constrictor nebulosa; Vanga curvirostris; Saguinus imperator; Morpho peleides. We record the autoagitaton of Strelitzia, with its inflorescence at 62.9cm from the nares of A, where its odors provoke a new nasal cycle in the latter; partial congestion and decongestion of the nasal cavities proceeds as expected. Not anticipated is a causal chain whereby this cycle activates a strong emotional LTM, originally encoded by the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex. Although we still lack such specifics as only EEG could provide, we deduce the LTM activation based on measured observation of eyegaze and deep oral exhalation.

As our study nears termination, A remains upright at the dormer, having locomoted only 8cm from his last position. The moon, consistent in its anomalously rapid orbital trajectory, is now perigean new. Lobaria pulmonaria (a symbiosis of fungal, algal, and cyanobacterial species) has become omnipresent, covering the Quercus robur planking, all furnishings, and 74.2% of three walls. B’s oral and lachrymatious vibrations can no longer be perceived by A’s ear anatomy. Nevertheless, we speculate that much emotion-rich content concerning B still lies within A’s LTM; however, peripherally-linked data indicate that memory retrieval is no longer possible, for reasons unknown to us. We hypothesize that, among other psycho-emotional and environmental factors, the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve is at work.

Exercises in style (23): Alliterative

•February 21, 2016 • Leave a Comment

You stood still at the windowsill of the ancient attic’s aperture, gazing gloomily at the glutted moon. Your mistress’s morose and mewling moans mounted from below, making things melt inside your eyes. The wallpaper was wondrously elaborate – giant jungle canopies covered every last length. You wanted to forget her womanly warmth, her wanton womb…but you could not. Woe was you.

Still you stood, staring silently at the mad moon marching higher in the sky. The moon waxed gibbous; its gay but guileful grin reminded you of the great gusto with which she guillotined your heart. Continually did her wails wind upwards. But then began a burgeoning, a blossoming of blooms from the background into the biome of the room. As the rainforest reality ran resplendently amok, you repressed an urge to react, until a bright blue and orange bird-of-paradise plopped in perilous proximity to your nostrils. Nosing it, you fell into nostalgia’s knotted noose (recalling her soap-scent after sex and sleep).

Time trespassed, stealing the hours. No longer were her lamentations loud or limpid. You could not hear them even lowly. You gazed at the glassy sky, at the nonexistence of the new moon. Your melancholy had meandered many miles away. The jumping, jangling jungle was all around you.

Cat is a Strange Loop

•January 3, 2016 • 1 Comment

The clock winked. Cheshire cat eye squeezing to horizontal crescent, widening again to purple iris mischief. Extending its leathery tongue across the intervening feet, it licked my hair. Into what time am I going now? Into what place? I asked its round face. I always asked, but the answer never properly quenched. Into a time and place of my choosing. Oh ho, isn’t choice a curious thing? The words lazed soundlessly through outsize chicklet teeth displayed via motionless grin. þǣr wǣs gidd ond glēo… it gabbled on. Ignore its otherlanguage nonsense, I thought. All seeming connections are false. Holes formed in the air around me: space getting worm-eaten. Four-dimensional insects, the ones that thrive on destruction of temporal integrity, munched to the content of their twenty hearts. The usual tingling started on my scalp…

What time did I arrive into? What place?

A teeming medieval piazza with large central fountain of dramatic zebra marble. Peasants, merchants, nobles: every echelon of feudal society was about. Urchins crouched in alleyways and barons dangled from carriages – all, to a man, curdled by laughter. They were sprawled, or doubling over, or running in circles, or slapping each others’ backs. Tears lacquered cheeks, while jaws were unhinging from the weight of constant eruptious sound. I was utterly mystified.

“Excuse me? Scusi… perdón… ma’am? What’s happening here?” I asked a rotund bakerwoman with back to me, a black cotton back besprinkled with flour. She swung around, she was close to my face, and my nostrils drew in the yeasty sour-rankness of her forceful exhale, and my retinas scanned the pinkest pit of her stomach, so distended were her lips – so open her esophagus.

“Gaaaaaaah haaa haaa haa haa ha ha!” she replied.

I felt a queer tickle around my uvula, like baby ants tromping past my soft palate. And I started to chuckle. The chuckle writhed into a chortle which swooped into a guffaw which careened into a howl. The laughter caught in my lungs and took hold; the most hedonic and pernicious of sensations subsumed me. I laughed and laughed and laughed. I held my sides which started to stitch. Before I could blink twice I became a rag doll, facial muscles plastered into dangerous pleasure and aching from it. I began rolling over the dusty ground. My throat hurt and my stomach hurt, and I felt on the brink of chaos.

But everything was fine.

Everything was fine, because the clock would bring me back.

* * * * * * * * * *

I had passed three days amongst the cackling hordes. I had neither eaten nor drunk; the gushing laugher let nothing in. In efforts to expunge or even just tame the virus, I’d conjured thoughts of starving children, of kittens being tortured, of my mother’s hypothetical suicide. I’d held my head upside-down under the filthy stream that wound through town, allowing its sewage-ropy water free nasal cavity reign. I’d started running, but the plague extended everyplace. When insanity clawed, I began eating the very dirt we reeled upon – choking all the while.

The clock always brought me back. I meditated this, hissed it between hiccups.

“Cheshire, pleeeheehee!” I whimper-giggled.

The dead were lumped about, with piles of their corpses growing higher every hour. A large pit had been dug on the far side of the stream, to and from which a macabre circus flowed. People in earlier stages of the disease were loading bodies onto wheelbarrows and carting them over, but, rapidly debilitated by laughter, their pace was that of centenarian turtles stepping sideways through molasses. An odiferous mélange of sweat, vomit, and putrefying flesh lay in the air like a low-slung cloud – the stench was enough to make one’s organs bleed. No matter. I sensed that my stomach had already hemorrhaged due to acute internal pressures.

“Cheshihihi…” I trickled, as last atoms of strength disintegrated. I would be an unburied carcass, rotting alongside strangers six hundred years before I was ever born.



Finally! The ticking! Faint first, then intensifying, echoing across the sky like the magnanimous watch of Zeus. Mouth still stretched in agonizing mirth, I closed my eyes and raised my arms to the archaic heavens. Take me, cat clock. Take me away from here.

There was the familiar titillation of beetle millions massaging my skin, and next…

Was I returned?

Yes. My present day, the city of my birth. Ribs aching, lungs coruscating with dust, and my cheeks branded by jackal smiles. But there was silence. I looked at the clock’s yellow-green grin, turned away, breathed in deeply. A delicious melancholy permeated my mind and marrow. Slowly, I walked into the living room. My mother was on the sofa reading her quaint pages. She still insisted on paper instead of screen.

“How I’ve missed you!” I said, and ran towards her. I kneeled on the floor next to her legs and put my head in her lap. I wanted to be an infant again, swaddled and coddled, safe and quiet. As the infection drizzled out of me, it seemed like my thirty-four-year-old self was racing back to boyhood.

“Why dear,” she said, placing her novel on top of my head and continuing to read, “whatever is going on? You were only in the other room three minutes.”

Several peaceful moments floated by. Then she laughed softly into her book.


I wrenched myself from my mother’s lap and dashed out to the front steps.

A man returning from work, exiting his car, laughing. Young women pushing strollers down the block, laughing. The neighbors’ children, on their swing set, laughing.


The sun seemed too hot and high in the sky for the evening hour. The laughter was sliding under my skin, and a tiny nerve near my right eye began to throb.

Suddenly, the noise ballooned, and everywhere I looked, maws were gaping.


I darted inside again, but it mattered not. The pestilence had spread to my own time and place.

* * * * * * * * * *

I raced back to the clock. I waited desperately for it to wink. Already I was half-hyperventilating from the hilarity reinvading my body. I prayed: A future time, a faraway place, out of this madness. A vigorous survival instinct greyed away thoughts of my mother and everyone else I’d ever cared about. With palms plastered over mouth, I watched the timepiece. Its long-hand was morphing flashily, from cold black brass to walking stick to praying mantis to water snake… the pattern on its short-hand from checked to striped to paisley. Staring into the cat’s large eyes, I saw the most chilling otherworldly scenes. Red suns scorched barren-landscaped, bone-sprinkled plains; foul-faced women bathed in tubs of teeth. Even so, I continued to giggle. How this malevolent mechanical feline was toying!

Eventually the Cheshire eye dropped to its curved, familiar line. Space wormed out.

What time had I arrived into? What place?

It took some seconds to retrieve my senses in the new surroundings. Disks with faint nostalgia for automobile geometry zagged and zigged above my head. Green, red, and yellow neon flashed maniacally. The air was tinged purple, and glass buildings lost their speared tops in the stratosphere.

I was standing still but zooming along inside of an all-glass high-speed train. Throughout the car others were dressed in bright or black rubberized clothing, with puffed boots and hefty rubber helmets abundant. The atmosphere was jovial. People were joking and pushing each other around, and amidst the commotion came the dreaded sounds… Oh lord, no… But they grew louder, and I could feel the most deadly frenetic energy traveling on invisible wavelengths, wiggling easily through the undense structure of rubber molecules, invading skin and tissue and blood and bone. The epidemic was like me: time-traveling.

I shut my eyes and again tried to summon the darkest emotions – sorrow, guilt, self-loathing, depression, desperation. I was desperate, and yet still I couldn’t help laughing, especially at such futile endeavors. Under the weight of the warpedness of this catch-22, I sunk to the ground and buried my head between my knees. My chest heaved. Then I heard a voice, quiet, right beside my ear.

“There’s a place, called The Box. I’ll take you to it. You’ll be safe there.”

He spoke like the mob surrounding me: an English with the intonation-patterns of Russian, the guttural rhotic of French, the cylindrical vowels of Swahili. Barely comprehensible. It sounded like his mouth was filled with pebbles around which his tongue was working to maneuver. I pulled up to look at him. Only his eyes and nose were visible – a thick helmet with chin guard covered the rest of his head.

“Why me?” I whispered. “Why are you helping just me?” and I gave an involuntarily snicker.

“Are you really going to ask questions at this point?” he said, very low but with clear incredulity. He had an excellent point.

“No,” I huffed. “Tell me what to do.”

“Good. Quickly – let’s go.”

We exited the glass train at the next stop and weaved through throngs of jollifying pedestrians.

“Whoo whoo whoo!”

“Ho ho!”

“Tche tche tcheeeh…”

Each laugh was a unique, pathogenic expression of the contagion. As we hustled down narrow alleys, I tittered obnoxiously. At last, after traversing what seemed like the entire giant metropolis via the grungiest and most sordid of side streets, my guide opened a trap door in the ground behind a dingy Chinese vegetable shop. We descended a staircase that gradually transformed from rotted, sunken wood to polished chrome at the very bottom. Beyond the last step was blackness, but my groping hands brushed a door ahead, and I heard my companion’s voice.

“Push,” he said.

I pushed.

Then I was inside The Box. Engulfed in video and sound, from every angle. The floor-to-ceiling screens showed a miasma of copper and brass hardware – gears, intricate parts; also small green hearts, beating independently of any circulatory system; yellowed papery bits with minced lines of Beowulf scarcely distinguishable; and a mathematics so complex I experienced the onrush of vertigo.

Suddenly, I recognized it all: the cat clock’s innards.

My perspective shifted, instantly and radically. I was the metal pieces strewn about. I was the green beating hearts. I spoke in West Saxon Old English with an impossibly long, thick tongue made of scratch and leather. I saw through fiendish otherworlds before seeing in front of me through eyes like purple saucers.

And I was at one with gaiety. How had I ever thought the laughter a disease? With the Cheshire’s soul and the Cheshire’s mind – my new soul and mind – I realized that perpetual laughter was instead the antidote. It was the solution to humanity’s problems. Breath be damned! They had no need of breath. I was the cat clock. I would leave The Box and right the world.

A golden fish (part II)

•December 28, 2015 • Leave a Comment

3. Side-effects of unlimited wish-fulfillment may include moral nausea in some

Husband and wife followed the meal with a night’s uncomfortable sleep. When the pink sun spit up day, both awoke in their hard little bed. The fisherman stretched, got to his feet.

“How sick I still feel,” he said. “I wish my belly would quit its caterwauling,” and he gently rubbed his stomach.

“It’s the same with me,” said wife. “As if I drank a gallon of motor oil.”

After a few seconds, the man cried out. “Hold on! Now it’s gone – just like that! Miraculous.” He shook his head in wonder. “Try wishing, and rub your belly.”

The fisherwoman did thus, and lo – her discomfort also vanished. Immediately she felt rosy-cheeked and mirthful. “What joy!” she exclaimed. “We are into the wishes! It did not lie, that darling pervert of a fish.”

And so they began their long, lavish watercourse of wish-making and wish-getting. No longer ever wanting for delectable meats, vegetables, breads, desserts. Their home morphed into mansion, with servants to match… And all was merry and bright.

Time moseyed along. Fisherman and wife grew plump on foodstuffs and luxurious nonwork. But after several years the woman grew anxious. Her wishing slowed. One day, upon waking, she looked out at the sea and saw it frothing blackly. In bed she turned to husband.

“We are in for it,” she said. “Too much good has come our way – too many fat ducks, too many marble staircases, too much money. God is keeping track. God or the Universe. Mark my words… we’ll soon be punished for our endless greed.”

“Nonsense and poppycock,” the man replied. “You worry too much, woman. Let’s ring the maid for blueberry waffles and whip cream.”

He summoned a domestic and ordered, but fisherwife rolled on rubbery hips to the farthest bed corner, shrinking from further decadent breakfasts.


4. Swimming birds know all about justice

The wife had foreboding nibbling on her bones like microscopic piranha. She sensed some deep falsity in old magic fish’s promise. She thought about selfishness and balance and luck, and licked her drying lips. She sat in a chair by the bedroom window all day, nervously watching waves roll into coils each time more obsidian.

Dear husband was unplagued by supposed God or Universe ticklings. The golden fish had given its word. So his day was golfing, bowling, seafood-wine lunch. When he returned home and saw his spouse still sitting there, he rolled his eyeballs around in their sockets.

“Stop stewing, missus! You’re wasting our great gift.”

She couldn’t stop, though. More time passed. Doubt festered in her, an infected sore. She’d quit wishing weeks before, but followed the fisherman’s fulfilled demands with dread. Soon ulcers quite pained the lady. Colitis, shingles… liver cancer. Within three months, the poor woman was sniffing posies in deadland.

The man missed her, and he mourned. He mourned in black silk pajamas for three days. Rising on the fourth day, he changed into a pair of cream linen pants and a cool linen top smeared with blue begonias and red day-lilies, and rode to town, new-companion-seeking. Using nary a wish, but with his coinage flashing, fisherman found her lickity-split: a festive, smooth-skinned beauty thirty-two years his junior. They were married that very next week, and lived happily ever after.