The fox and the farmer.

March 14, 2010

The fox and the farmer had a mutual relation.
The farmer grew carrots
And the fox ate the rodent population

But as the farmer expanded into poultry
The fox expanded his dietary habits.
But can the fox really be blamed
When chicken taste so much better than rabbits?

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Ch-ch-ch-changes

March 14, 2010

From a young age Scevola had been bothered with a terrible stutter. His words floated perfectly like sonnets inside and he could write the most beautiful essays in school, but when he tried to speak his words out loud they tripped and crashed clumsily into each other and exited his mouth all crippled and cumbered with an echo. It would be easier and less painful to pull a line full of fish-hooks from his throat than to try to speak some of the words he knew. Luckily Scevola had some nice friends who never asked him anything that required more than a y-y-yes or a n-n-no unless it was through a text message or a computer. They enjoyed his quiet company, his strange little smile and his glowing eyes. And every now and then a sentence would escape his mouth without any interference and they were reminded that deep within Scevola the well-spoken and intelligent person they knew and loved was imprisoned.

Like most teenagers, Scevola thought that his friends was the only thing that kept him sane. They were his last defence against total social isolation. He thrived in listening to their conversations, thinking up what he would say, but never saying it. He got better at having conversations without even speaking a single word, but every once in a while Scevola got so riled up that he forgot his condition and would try to speak the perfect sentences that waved inside his head, only to be reminded that his stutter was still haunting him and would continue to do so for the rest of his life. Usually there was an awkward silence while Scevola struggled with the same syllable over and over again while everyone looked at each other nervously waiting for someone to interrupt him and smooth over the situation. They used to sit like that for quite some time until Victoria, Lazzaro or Constantin would release a loud burp or a strange sounding fart and everyone would laugh and the conversation went on like it did before. Except for Scevola who couldn’t get as engaged in the topics as he had been. It always felt like a da-d-da-damn shame when it happened and the next time Scevola was alone he would start thinking about his future and brake down completely. He thought about the futility in formulating everything he wanted to say, the waste of his talents and how his stutter would affect almost everything that mattered and would matter to him. A stinging pain manifested itself in Scevola’s heart when he thought about how he would have to get up every day and face numerous tribulations in trivial situations, only to face the exact same hardships the next day. At least now he had friends that he could laugh it all away with, but he could feel that it was all fading. Responsibility was creeping up on everybody, calling them out like it was the voice of God compelling them to get jobs or go to far away universities. And when he thought about these things tears washed down his face like tiny rivers of self-pity until he couldn’t cry anymore and the only thing left to do was to go to sleep.

It was after such a sleep that Scevola woke up to his birthday. Eighteen years old. A man. Yet not.  A boy, yet not. His little sister had gotten up early to surprise him with a cake and a present. The taste of the sweet cake with strawberry frosting made Scevola’s tongue call out for a glass of milk. He ignored it and opened his present. It was a notebook with ponies on. Scevola got up and gave his little sister a hug. It was a nice gift, even if he didn’t like ponies. She smiled. Scevola started running around making horse sounds and lifted his sister up on his back and trotted downstairs to the sound of her thrilled laughter. Scevola put down his little sister on the kitchen floor and she ran off making tiny horse sounds jumping up and down. He opened the refrigerator. The light was broken. There was some milk left. He poured it into a glass and took a sip. The taste of milk mixed with the lingering taste of the sweet strawberry frosted cake, it was perfect. Scevola grabbed some fruit and ran out the door. His eyes went from looking forward to constantly checking his wristwatch. Even though he was routinely late he went through the same stressful procedure every day. Scevola wiped the sweat from his eyebrows and generally tried to look as if he hadn’t ran. The whole class was seated when he entered. The teacher noticed his arrival and marked it in a tiny black book with a pencil so sharp it was clearly intended for stabbing and not writing. The room was so silent everyone could hear each other’s breathing. Their breaths became erratic as they tried not to draw attention to themselves.

“Late again, Scevola? As usual. Never mind trying to explain it, we have only so much time and I intend to use every last second of it to educate you all on the arrival theorem, and not Scevola’s l-l-late arrival theorem,” Miss Moretti, the dry witted mathematics teacher taunted.

In one way it affected Scevola that even a grown up teacher would succumb to pointing out his most obvious weakness, but then again not. Ultimately everyone was the same. If he didn’t come to school in time, Miss Moretti would think that he didn’t care much for what she wanted to teach, which was a correct assumption on her part. So she taunted him because she didn’t know how to face his disinterest and apathy. Which was her biggest weakness. It was obvious that she thought of herself as the sun and every other student as tiny planets orbiting around her brilliant light, but she was far off. They were all humans.

As Scevola moved towards his desk, eyes followed him like spotlights on a stage, some in puzzlement, some in disgust and some in compassion. After all he wasn’t the only one who had felt the whipping scorn of Miss Moretti. “Happy birthday, Scevola.” Victoria whispered as Scevola walked past her. Everyone’s attention returned slowly towards the front of the classroom where Miss Moretti was still waiting with two hours of boring irrelevant mathematical theorems and short breaks filled with uninteresting anecdotes about her cats’ “silly” behaviour. Miss Moretti thought these anecdotes was cute and humorous, but they usually made her student’s think of her as a sad, lonely, socially inept borderline lunatic.

As math and time slowly went by the class came close to an end and a low grumble could be heard from the stomachs of those who hadn’t eaten breakfast that day. It was almost lunchtime and hunger was audibly getting the best of Miss Moretti’s pupils. Alfredo, the fat kid, was already gnawing on a panzarotti filled with minced lamb and everybody hated his stupid fat face for doing so. The clock struck eleven and an orchestra of chairs played its only note against the floor. The pupils flocked to the door like puppies to a food bowl, playfully scuffing each other driven by hunger, hierarchy and happiness. Scevola remained seated. He knew Miss Moretti wanted to talk to him.

“You can’t keep up this way, Scevola. You need to take charge of your life and arrive on time. There are far more important things in life than sleep. You do well enough on tests and you have a good understanding of mathematics, but your constant tardiness gives me no option, but to warn you that if you don’t arrive on time for my classes from this point on: I will have to fail you.”

She had already failed him. There was no hope Scevola would even arrive on time one out of the seventeen days remaining of the term. It didn’t matter, he would never get a job that demanded an education anyway. Or at least so he and everybody around him thought.

“Do you have anything to say for yourself, Scevola?”

“I q-q-quit,” Scevola said while peeling a banana. He didn’t want Miss Moretti to fail him, he suspected that with time she would have blamed herself if she did so. This was his fate, his choice, not hers.

“Well, it is your own choice, Scevola, I won’t interfere with it. I just wish you would try harder before giving up on everything so easily,” Miss Moretti said with a sudden turn of compassion on her face. Her voice was unusually warm and welcoming. The person inside shone through and her face radiated a subtle beauty. Scevola almost felt bad for forcing this sinister situation upon her. What an utterly different person she was now. So caring. Scevola noticed the pencil in her hand. It wasn’t as sharp as it was when he came to class earlier that morning. Its spear-like tip was dulled by writing his name in her book.

“I’m s-s-s-sorry,” Scevola stuttered through.

“Oh, Scevola. I know it’s hard for you. Look, if you at least try to make it on time and do these extra assignments before the final exams and we’ll forget all about this. Let us at least try, Scevola. It costs so little to try,” Miss Moretti insistently pleaded while she handed him the assignments. She had turned from a flame-thrower to a candle in just minutes. What an amazing transformation. Scevola decided to try. After all, it costed so little to try. Miss Moretti picked up her books and walked to the door. As she was about to exit she turned around and said: “Happy birthday, Scevola, happy birthday”.

And the days went by. Sometimes Scevola came on time, other times not. He did his assignments and passed his exams. He got his diploma and the principal shook his hand. There was something contemptuous about the principal’s handshake. He shook Scevola’s hand like some strange insect had landed on his own while braving a smile so false no man would believe it was true felt. What an ugly man. One would doubt the existence of this man’s soul if one did not know that somewhere in the crowd was his loving wife and children.

And so it was. Scevola was finished with school. Free to choose his own path and so on and so on. Most of his friends had already carved out their path. Applied to universities, gotten jobs, bought tickets to Honduras to study scarlet macaws, save van gelder’s bats and what not. An exciting time for everyone! Well, almost everyone. Scevola applied for a couple of jobs, was called in for interviews on all of them and then rejected. He could see the change of a starting smile into a straight face as the interviewers realised his stutter was real and not some well-performed joke. Some of them even adopted a mild stutter themselves to try to make the situation less uncomfortable. Of course it didn’t help. Scevola knew that it didn’t matter what he said. Inside their heads they were thinking that he was a brave individual, but not a cold day in hell would they hire him to take care of their business. It was a waste of time. Scevola finally killed his ambitions and got a job as a dustman. He got up at dawn. Bicycled to the waste disposal site and put on an overall. He did so every day until he started to hate it, until he no longer found any interest in analysing people’s trash, until he grew tired of the other dustmen and their simple ignorant ways. Until the smell of garbage flooded his nostrils, the constant cuts from glass and torn metals proved unendurable and the sound of the loud truck engine and its compactor sounded like a choir of evil demons. He stopped coming to work. Most of his money vanished within a week. He was a broke man. A broken man. He pawned his television set and stereo and used the money to buy an air ticket to Nepal, but Scevola never went. The people who knew him grew concerned about his situation, but didn’t do nor say anything. He was evicted from his apartment. Everything Scevola had now was a pencil, a toothbrush, an old ticket, a pair of sunglasses, some fruit and a bicycle. He mounted his bicycle, took a bite of an apple and pedalled off into the night while whistling Beethoven’s ninth symphony through the pieces of fruit in his mouth.