So long, moonless night

This is meant as allegory and is therefore open to many interpretations. Feel free to indulge.

You weren’t hungry anymore. You could think about food dispassionately, without a trace of that feeling, like being sucked inside out from the middle, as if your navel were an entrance to a boundless vacuum willing the world to come bounding in, smoothing and soothing, neither cool nor warm, not so much fulfilling as unempty.

Curiously, though, you found yourself obsessed with pictures of food, from crisp steaks to mushy oatmeal, the heat and fragrance leaping from the paper, photographs so detailed it seemed you could taste them.

None of this, of course, had any effect like hunger; you were decidedly not hungry. you preferred pictures.

And so you sat, cataloging slips of illustrated food carefully torn from magazines. It was only a few days — how many? Never mind — since you stopped eating. No one was more surprised than you that all traces of hardship had vanished after the second day, or was it the third? You couldn’t have said exactly when; by the time you noticed it was already a fact.

Which was odd, you thought, because you had been amazed at how clear, how focused you grew with every passing day. It seemed nothing escaped your attention, no detail too small or trivial, especially time, which even slowed down or sped up according to the demands of your interests. You knew precisely when each of the clearly remembered events in your recent past had occurred.

Except what time you had stopped being hungry, even on so gross a scale as what day. Food was brought to you. You made a detailed study of the tray it came on, the bowl, the spoon. By now you could, you were certain, produce a precisely thorough drawing of them, but, curiously, you couldn’t recall the food itself, which you sent back untouched.

All the same, you kept files, lists, really, entirely in your memory, of things that occurred to you in vivid detail, both physical and ephemeral. For example, your meditation on how long a person could last without food, based on things you had read casually years and months before, but which you could recall perfectly, except the actual length of time one could survive.  Never mind, it varied immensely by individual, you recalled.  Surely you had plenty of time left.

More satisfying were the recipes, an obsession to go along with the pictures. Clear, concise formulas for the exact process of transforming raw food into not just edible form — for most of the raw food was already edible, strictly speaking — but into perfect symphonies of texture, flavor, temperature, and even, you thought grudgingly, nutrition.

Really, when you thought about it, there was no reason to consider nutrition. Food, to you, had become a purely esthetic phenomenon.

No, not that either, and not quite an obsession, more satisfying than that, without the corrupting factor of pleasure.

Pure chemical exercise with a delightful utilitarian edge. Two cups of this, a teaspoon of that, add a precise amount of thermal energy…

You turned on your side, closed your eyes, and waited. The moon slid behind a cloud.

From the jottings of John H. Watson, MD

It was October of 1896, a particularly cool autumn, although by no means unpleasant. I had been reading in my chair in our digs in Baker Street, and I confess I was about to doze off, when Holmes burst in in uncommon agitation.
”Come, Watson!” he cried, “The gay Miss Afutte!”
Startled from my slumber, I could make no sense of this outburst.
“Whatever do you mean?” I demanded.
“Miss Olivia Afutte, the most celebrated ingénue of the season, is to be present at a ball given by the honorable Milton Gladbum,” he replied, “and we just have time to get there.”
I was astonished. Holmes had never before expressed the slightest interest in society, indeed he often professed disdain for the triviality of it.
“Aloysius Mentry, the barrister, will always be found where Miss Afutte consents to appear,” he explained, no doubt seeing my confusion. “I need him.”
As no further explanation appeared to be forthcoming, I roused myself and put on a jacket.
“Hand me my lozenges, will you, Watson?” said Holmes
“Lozenges? What lozenges?”
“You know, my menthols, Watson,” said he.
Outside, Holmes hailed a hansom cab, and we were on our way. As it was some distance to the home of Mr. Mentry, I ventured a question.
“Why, exactly,” I asked, “do you need the good barrister?”
“To get access to his daughter.”
“And who is she?”
“Ella Mentry, my dear Watson. Ella Mentry.”

So over the rainbow: a noir interview

Say, whatever happened to all those characters from Oz?

Glad you asked.

We know what happened to Dorothy: she went back home and became an overworked farm wife, bitterly comparing her tedious life to her great adventure in Oz. After her initial relief at getting back home so easily, Kansas just didn’t stack up anymore. She eventually moved to Chicago and worked in a baby buggy factory, sadly ironic, because, unbeknownst to her at the time, the Wicked Witch of the West had cast a sterilization spell on her. She died penniless and miserable.

That’s so sad!  What about the Tinman? He got his heart, didn’t he?

Well, yes. But as a result, he couldn’t help feeling the pain of all the people around him, and took to weeping almost all the time. The end came when he learned of Dorothy’s fate in Chicago. He just couldn’t stop crying. Finally, with all those wet tears rolling down his face, and into his joints, he rusted clean away, poor thing. Had he only wished for a brain, he could have seen that coming, and taken steps to avert it.

Huh. But the Scarecrow? He did get the brain, right? So, he must have turned out okay.

Yes, and things did look good at first. But, since he didn’t have a heart, he became arrogant, thinking he was better than all those idiots out there. Not a way to make friends, I’m afraid.

But still, he made it, right?

Well, no. His arrogance so infuriated his neighbors that they set him on fire, and, being made mostly of straw, he went up like a roman candle. Proving, if proof was needed, that burning out isn’t any better than rusting, after all, rock stars notwithstanding.

Well, at least the lion must have made it.

Indeed he did.

So, he didn’t die a miserable death?

Nope.

Great!

Not necessarily. See, with no brains and no heart, and no longer afraid, he started bullying everyone around him, and since he was a lion, there wasn’t much they could do. Eventually, the people with brains and hearts got together and figured out a way to capture him.

What did they do with him?

Some brainy people wanted to kill him, thinking it was the only way to be rid of him for good, but others saw an opportunity to study him, so that they’d be ready if another courageous lion happened by. It was the people with hearts who made the difference, because they refused to let him be killed. As a compromise, they declawed him and pulled all his teeth. Now he lives in a cage, because the brainy people are afraid he’ll run away before they get a chance to study him.

Wow. Didn’t the people with hearts try to release him?

No. With no claws and no teeth, how could he survive?

From the OPI

Office of Perpetual Investigation
Popular Music Division

Memorandum: Purple Berries?

Here are the facts as we know them:

An unspecified number of people are leaving, because they are not needed. They are leaving by sea, on ships made of wood (very free, apparently). We don’t know how many ships, but at least two, as the plural is specified, we don‘t know the size of the ships or the crew, although both seem small, and we don’t know of a destination, although aimless roaming is strongly suggested.

We also know that at least one person has subsisted on purple berries for 6 or 7 weeks, or the better part of 2 months, and we know that a second person has requested some of the same berries, and that the request has been granted. Some questions immediately arise:

1. Where were the ships procured, and how? Were they bought, built, or stolen?
2. Where were the purple berried procured?
3. What kind of berries, purple or otherwise, were nutritious enough to sustain someone for that long, especially without “getting sick once?”
4. How were enough of them to eat for the better part of 2 months stored on what certainly appear to be small vessels?
5. How were they stored in such a way as to keep them from spoiling for such a long time?
6. What was everyone else eating, since it appears to be the first request for the berries to be shared since the departure of the ships?

Unless and until these mysteries are cleared up, I’m afraid there will be serious doubt as to the veracity of the account.

How to stop stressing and believe in yourself

“Listen to me,” said the counselor, “your ideas are as good as anyone else’s.”

The young man shifted his weight and looked down at the floor.

“I guess so.”

“What do you mean, you guess so? It’s true. You need to stop comparing yourself to others. That way only results in feelings of inferiority.”

“But, maybe I am inferior. My ideas sound so vague, so simple. If you read what everyone else writes, it’s all so subtle, so well thought out.”

Silence. The ticking of the big mantle clock seemed to fill every moment with anxiety. The counselor let out a long sigh, tapped his pencil on his pad, and looked directly at his young client.

“First of all, you’re comparing yourself with published authors, people who have had time to elaborate on their ideas, and anticipate objections.”

The young man looked dubious.  “But you don’t know my work.  You don’t know if my ideas are good or not.”

“That’s not the important point here.  What’s important is that you are a unique person, and no one else has your viewpoint. If that’s not worth sharing with the world, I don’t know what is. Look inside your own heart for answers, not in some books written by people who will never know you, the real you.”

The young man looked up.

“Really? You really think my ideas are as good as anyone else’s?”

“Absolutely. You’re unique, you’re you. Don’t let others control your self respect. If your so-called friends constantly criticize your work, you need to find better friends. Surround yourself with people who lift you up, not drag you down.”

The young man stood up, took a deep breath, and extended his hand.

“All right, then! I’ll do as you say.”

“I’m so glad we could have this talk,” said the counselor, giving him a sidelong glance. “Keep your chin up. I look forward to hearing good things of you in the future.”

They shook hands, and, with a bounce in his step that was utterly lacking before the meeting, young Adolph strode out into the sunlight.