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.


The Dream (Part 2)

February 14, 2010

Continuation from Part 1 ..

Before Julius could figure out what was happening to him he was lifted from the red liquid by an invisible force. His body was magically suspended in the air while the red liquid beneath him waved back and forth in restless motion. The constant splashes against his face threatened Julius with the same torment he had just experienced. Julius breathed deep breaths of air, readying himself for the worst. He feared to exhale, dreading the liquid was controlled by some unknown clever torturer of sadistic inclinations. The air escaped Julius’ mouth in a sudden burst, disturbed the liquid beneath and ripples expanded on the red surface. Before Julius could inhale he heard an uncontrollable laughter echo in the room. Julius felt afraid. He wished he was back on the bus, acting like he did everyday. Doing what he always did. Being his own master. Holding the wheel. A humanlike individual bearing the wings of a falcon descended in front of Julius.

‘I know what you’re thinking.. You’re wishing you were back on the bus, doing what you always do.  Holding the wheel. Playing your role. I’ve seen how you can make a passenger hate you with just a glance. You’re truly a master in the art of subtle manipulation. Well, allow me to introduce myself. I am the Grand Master of subtle manipulation. The angel of push. My job is to give everybody a little push once in a while. Sometimes when someone isn’t paying attention on the subway, other times when somebody are afraid to talk to a nice girl. It’s like dominoes you see. All I do is to push the first little piece, then everything falls in place by itself. It’s a work of art my friend, much like your acting. I am your biggest fan by the way. In fact I am your only fan. Because I am the only one who knows about your career. I am the only one who has seen all your little plays. I’ve seen your secret smiles. I’ve heard your carefully planned lines being performed. You might think that this dream is some elaborate illusion your overcreative mind have cooked up for you, but it’s not. Your life is an illusion. Your acting isn’t acting at all you see. All you do is make people’s lives miserable with not so much as a bag of popcorn to go with it. You’re a fool. A buffoon. And if you continue with it you will be remembered as nothing more than a shitty bus driver. Right now you’re laying unconscious in the wreck of your bus. The red liquid you’ve got all over you is the blood of your passengers’.

‘SHUT UP! I don’t want to listen to you. Go away. You’re the fool! Trying to frighten me with your lies. I won’t believe in them’, Julius shouted to the winged individual hoovering in front of him.

‘You know it’s true. Couldn’t you taste the saltness of the blood when I fed it to your lungs? You are guilty, Julius. You caused the accident. You fell asleep. Nobody pushed you. Nobody held a knife to your throat. You just fell asleep. Your body got tired of all your lies and decided it was time for a nap.’

Julius felt broken. It was true. He could feel the warm blood of his passengers dry upon his skin. His head fell down from its attentive position and tears started creeping out of his eyes. The winged individual came close and lifted Julius’ chin up, dried the tears away with its white linen sleeves and smiled. For the first time since hearing its voice, Julius studied the creature’s face. He could not determine whether it was a male or a female person. At times he thought he saw a broad jaw and a powerful nose, but then the creature’s appearance changed and he could only see the deep blue eyes of a female and the inviting lips of a young woman. At times he saw the shape of breasts, only to look again and see bulging biceps next to it. This was no ordinary person.

‘What are you?’ Julius asked in bizarre puzzlement.

‘I told you. I am an angel. I told you I was the Angel of Push. I am also the Angel of Fortune. The Hebrews called me Sariel. I can see your eyes trying to determine if I am female or male. I am neither and it does not matter. What matters is that you listen to what I tell you. For I know the different futures that lies before you. You have been deceiving yourself. You are not an actor. You are a deceiver. You have been deceiving your passengers, causing them emotional distress. They are not extras in your life, but human beings with a life of their own. Your recklessness with their mood has caused the big man upstairs to pay notice to your play. Though he admits he had to laugh sometimes, he also saw what happened to your passengers when they got off the bus. An old woman started drinking again, thinking there was something wrong with her since you wouldn’t let her get on the bus. A single-mom came too late to pick up her kid in the kindergarten, had to pay a fee and couldn’t afford to pay the rent the next day. She was thrown out of her apartment and had to move back in with her own mom. What a torture that must have been for her, and it was all because of you Julius? You caused this, Julius. You. Because of your own egoistic illusion that you are something else than what you are right now. And right now you’re nothing more than a shitty bus driver. You think that you are something more than a shitty bus driver, but your own insecurity has led you down this coward’s path. You’ve hid in the “role” as the bus driver. Actors have stages, not buses, Julius. Except for Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. They were on a bus once or twice, but they are not real actors anyway, so that doesn’t count. What I’m trying to say is that if you want to drive race cars, you do it on a race track, not in everyday traffic. If you want to act, you do it on a stage or in front of a camera, not in everyday traffic. Do you understand the point I’m trying to make, Julius?

Sariel stood there a long time looking at Julius before any answer arrived. Julius had never scrutinized his self-deception any deeper than the fun he was having with it. But now it all dawned on him and his mind was wrapped in sad contemplation paying no heed to his present company nor the fact that it was an angel. His minds filled with vague memories. The sad look in some of the passenger’s eyes. How some regular passengers stopped taking the bus. What had happened to them? Were they okay? He felt guilt. He felt such a shame that tears started flowing down from his face. He had deceived them, he had deceived himself, but worst of all, he had deceived Flora. Such a caring loving woman, being left out of the single most defining part of his life. The tears started jumping off Julius’ cheeks and landed silently in the red liquid. Julius felt guilt.

‘Tell me what I must do’, Julius commanded of the angel.

‘I do not know what you must do, only you can make the decisions that determines your future, Julius. I can only tell you about them. There is two futures that stands out. Do you want to hear about the sad or the nice one first?’

‘The sad one’, Julius quickly replied.

‘Well, you’re still driving the bus, but I can’t see any traces of secret smiles on your face, when you get home Flora is not there. There is a note on the kitchen table. You read it and I can trace no emotional reaction. Your neighbour is complaining about the state of your garden. You find a garden hose in the garage and bring it inside. The next morning your whole neighbourhood is awoken by sirens, except for you.’

‘Give me the good one, now’ Julius said, almost angry with the angel for telling him the sad one.

‘You’re not driving the bus anymore. Your clothes are dirty. Flora is not there, but you are smiling. Not secretly, but public. A proud smile. You’re entering a theatre. You’re going to perform in a play. It’s The Merchant of Venice, you’re dressing for the roll of Shylock. It is not the main character, but it is a demanding character to play. You seem very happy with your costume on. You laugh and make jokes with the other cast members. There is quite a crowd there. You obviously know a lady in the crowd, because she tells everyone next to her that she is your fiancée and waves like a crazy woman when you’re on the stage. Her eyes are smiling with love and her ears finely tuned for your lines. She is pregnant, but she does not know it yet, but the old lady who plays the piano will soon tell her when she sees the subtle signs of pregnancy in your fiancée’s cheeks, which is a long lost method to determine pregnancy to most practitioners of modern medicine and is only practiced by old ladies who plays pianos, knit and nip young girls in their sides telling them to put on some weight.’

‘That is a nice future. I would like that future. Even if it means that I won’t love Flora anymore.’ Julius said bittersweetly.

‘Oh, don’t worry. You will still love her, it’s just that she won’t love you. Turns out she doesn’t want to be married with a poor actor. That is all.’

Julius knew Flora liked money, but he also thought that she wouldn’t mind providing him for a few months when he had done so several years already. Turns out he would be wrong. Love makes us all blind and Julius fell in love on a path of lampposts.

‘That is all I can tell you, Julius. I must go. There is a famous acrobat who is going to balance on a line between the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur and I don’t want to miss it, it’s the last performance of this kind in a very very long time.’ Sariel said and started preparing his wings for flight. Splashing them in the liquid below which had turned from red blood into clear blue water. Julius averted his eyes from the splashes and when he removed his hands again he was back on the bus. It was driving. He was driving. He had awoken some time before when the crash would happen. This was where he fell into the dream. He saw a pothole in the road and deftly avoided it. He parked the bus at the next stop and got out. The passengers looked at each other with puzzled amazement and watched Julius while he walked away from the bus. Some people picked up their mobile phones and filmed him just before he disappeared in the horizon. Julius lost his job. Never in his career had the bus manager heard of a bus driver walking away from the bus in the middle of his route. Unheard off! Julius didn’t care. He didn’t want to work at the stinking bus company anyway.

The next day Julius wandered around looking for a sign while Flora, her friends and her father told him to get a new job. After a couple of weeks Flora got tired off this and moved in with her sister for a while. It didn’t take long until she got her own place. Julius didn’t care. It didn’t matter. He was sad and he still loved her, but it didn’t matter. Because she didn’t love him anymore. She was truly blind, for she was in love with comfort. To her love was having a man to hold her at night and paying the bills. To Julius it was an eternal feeling of appreciation, forgiveness, attraction and fascination.

As he wandered the streets from day to night, Julius’ clothes got dirty. He looked more and more like the unemployed person that he was. In a way he became proud of this. He was no man or coin’s slave. He was his own master. He started acting like a master. Answering simple questions of time and date with minute-long anecdotes about the nature of time and the absurdity of calenders. Making people shake their heads from side to side as they looked for the next person with a wristwatch. It was during one of these anecdotes that he was noticed by Samuel Rivers, the writer, owner and director of his own travelling amateur theatre. Samuel was looking for a man to play the part of Dante in his newly adopted version of the Divine Comedy, and Julius radiated the same kind of hidden contemplation and weary calmness a person that had gone through the three realms of hell would have.

‘What size pants do you wear? Never mind. We’ll sew them out. Have you acted before? Never mind, I’ll teach you. Get your stuff together and meet us in the park tomorrow. Let’s say 11 a’clock, we don’t want to wake up before the sun do we? He he. I’ll see you tomorrow, kid. I got stuff to take care off and names to remember.’

The next day Julius went to the park and started on the journey of his true life.

It was already too late to run. I stood there half-naked on the street with my alabaster ass sticking out snowblinding the locals. Coins tumbled down the drain as I quickly pulled up my pants. Some young women were snickering, but were quickly shut up again by their decent brothers and fathers. One woman in particular struggled immensely with the demanded silence and wouldn’t shut up until her moustached father smacked her cheeks, making them the wrong kind of red. She smiled bravely through her tears and I couldn’t be anything less than a gentleman and I blew her a kiss. Then her father became another wrong kind of red. He was furiously snapping like a short-changed lobster as the watchmen came running with their nightsticks. They looked like uniformed bears getting ready for the fight of their life. He pointed them in my direction. I ran. I didn’t need a beating. Well, not today anyway. I knew a great deal of people who needed a beating, but I wasn’t one of them. Lord knows it wasn’t my fault this town didn’t have nimble nor decent pickpockets. Some coin hungry dry-eared balloon-fingered thirty-something bordello outcast had reached for the coins in my pockets and pulled my pants off in the process. What an unskilled pickpocket she was, only saved from my furious slaps by an old reflex left in her hands, which was to pull a man’s pants down when she heard the sound of coins.

As I ran past some stables I felt the warm cobblestone of the city streets turn into a dry and dusty dirt road. I lost sight of the watchmen as the dust blew up behind me, but they were still following me, I was sure of it. Damn those watchmen. It’s not that I couldn’t handle a beating. I could always handle a beating, but not when I didn’t deserve one. Jabs and kicks laden with injustice always hurt more. They feel the same when they hit the flesh, but something unexplainable happens to the pain when it journeys through the nerves. It changes into an intolerable unjustified version of itself that will echo endlessly in your mind and muscles. Well, I didn’t get a beating that day. Rumours I heard later told me that when the watchmen ran past the stable they saw a mule raping a sleeping drunk or a drunk raping a sleeping mule. I was never sure which one was true. My indecency seemed pale in proportion in any order. But I’d gotten away, and that’s what mattered. The whole affair made me pretty sure women would soon enough be the death of me if pistols, pianos, paranoid pimps and poorly prepared pork didn’t beat them to it.

The sun was mercilessly burning anyone who didn’t have a shirt on. I sat down in the shadow of a tree and caught my breath as I watched some ox-like men carry barrels of ale and sacks of wheat. Loading the wheat off a wagon and loading the ale on to it again. Two inconveniently nice-dressed men were obviously arguing about the price, as the sun slowly got the best of both of them. While they were busy bartering I crept near the wagon, unloaded a barrel of ale and quickly ran to the riverside before anyone knew what had happened. I threw the barrel into the water and I threw myself in as well. The water was calm and I could easy float downstream without any worries. The cool touch of water against my hot skin was a welcomed relief from the scorching sun. I was myself again. The barrel of ale would surely fetch a nice price and replace the coins in my pocket fourfold. This called for a celebration. I swam ashore and lifted the barrel on land. The beach was strangely familiar. Then I saw the smoke from a nearby house and remembered her name. Joan.

I had stayed with her for a few months while I was a wanted man in Perpignan. She was a borderline ugly woman, but she made up for that with being a fairly good cook, an inspired lover and asking no questions. Which was all I ever needed and wanted in a woman when the guardsmen of Perpignan suddenly decided to earn their pay. Strange how all guards find hidden motivation to do their jobs when it is their coins that is stolen.

I wondered if Joan would let me stay with her again. She had probably slept alone since I left. Staying faithful to her own loneliness, which could never leave her. I however left in a hurry. Took her food, her coins, her curtains, made a backpack and started walking south. I remember I felt very ungentlemanlike in both manner and appearance that day. Who knew that I would pass her house again? In a way it was pleasing. Finally I could still my curiosity and find the answer to the question I had asked myself a thousand times over since I left. Was she pregnant?

The Devil’s own laughter

February 5, 2010

The Devil is a damn good dancer. He also leads very well. Perhaps that is what he does best. You’ve probably not danced with the devil in the pale moonlight, but surely you’ve seen him dance with someone else. Leading them exactly where he wants them, in the air, on their knees, spinning around. With his hands gently around their waist, as if they both were dancing the same dance. But no, the Devil does not hang himself. The Devil does not shoot his wife and the Devil does not shoot the whiskey. The Devil dances on. Because no one can remember where that rope, shotgun or whiskey came from. But everybody knows, and the Devil smiles his own smile while he wipes the dust from his shoes, getting ready for another dance.

Perhaps the Devil has noticed you this time, perhaps he has been watching you secretly for a long long time, looked directly at you, over the naked shoulders of a beautiful slow dance partner dressed in an elegant black cocktail dress. No doubt the Devil has seen you. Sitting there, watching everybody else dance. He’s noticed your feet secretly tapping against the floor, as if shamed by their movement, yet begging for a dance. Your face engaged in boredom while your brightly coloured clothes scream out for the fun you’re not having. Such wonderful contradictions makes the Devil curious. You should’ve known. But you couldn’t have known. Because you never noticed your feet tapping against the floor, and you never saw the Devil’s big bloodshot eyes starring directly at you from the darkness of the dancefloor. Then all of a sudden he stands right before you. his sudden appearance frightening, because in your world, he appeared out of nowhere. His words are sweet and tempting, but they are not words of impulse, sudden excitement or enthusiasm, but well chosen, fitting, thought out, suiting words, perfect words, too perfect. Only proving his contemplated intentions with asking you for a dance. Your feet stops tapping the floor. The screaming colours of your dress hides behind a silent jacket. You get up to get away. Furious the Devil slams his horns against the wall. Forcing you to sit down in fear. His sweetness turned to sulphurous anger. His words nothing but threats. His eyes burning like erupting volcanoes pouring hot lava into yours. Boiling your iris. Making tears flow down your cheeks, like flooded rivers through quiet towns.

Then out of nowhere the Devil notices a familiar sound. Keys rattling in a pocket, disturbed by an unsteady hand searching for money. The Devil forgets all about you. Completely overjoyed by the unintentional music of the keys the Devil focuses his undivided attention on this stranger, a willing dance partner. Some crumpled dollar bills hit the counter and the Devil pours the stranger a drink while the bartender looks away. In the Devil’s absence you gather your things and tell your friends you’re leaving, hugging them dearly. As you exit the dance hall you hear the sound of keys rattling again somewhere in the complete darkness of the parking lot. With a flash yellow car lights blind your eyes and you can only hear the brutal noise of a roaring engine as it drives right past you. Frightening you as if it was the Devil’s own laughter ringing in your ears.

The Dream (part 1)

January 27, 2010

Some faces were broken. Some faces glowed. The reason for this was that it was Thursday morning. The optimists could smell the coming weekend and their faces filled with smirk smiles that they directed at each other, endlessly reflecting their mutual joy. At the same time the pessimists hid from this depressing sight while they prayed for a giant meteor to slip undetected past every astronomer’s telescope and smite their sorry lives to the ground like the tiny insignificant ants they felt like. Some of them didn’t even know what day it was. They had just gotten up and gone to work because their alarm clock had told them to. This was the kind of people that would be buried 12-feet under so as not to be awoken from the sweet eternal slumber of death by the snooze-less tolling of the church bells. A lot of hard workers were amongst these people. A lot of tired backs, worn shoes and empty wallets too. Their ears already filled to the brim with nagging wives, nagging mothers, useless husbands, tiny children and little siblings at home tweeting, chirping and screeching like helpless hungry baby birds. And every morning these men and women tasted the vomit in their mouths. When they got to work they washed the taste of sick away with coffee. Black coffee. Big white cups of hot black coffee. Coffee that burnt their tongues and stung their minds with a restless need for activity and made them forget how miserable they were. Coffee that washed away the dreams about vacations they could never have and the lives of famous athletes, actors and billionaires they would never live.

Little did they know that amongst them was a man who lived one of their fading dreams. His name was Julius. Though he could run pretty fast and throw basketballs to were they needed to go he was not a famous athlete. Many girls and boys at his school meant that he could’ve been one when he was younger, and they were absolutely right. If Julius didn’t stop playing ball in high school he would’ve been the 4th drafted player the year after his graduation. But Julius would never know this, and if he did, it wouldn’t have had any noticeable effect on his life. That was a long time ago and he was happy now anyway.

Julius was a simple man. A simple man who could do complicated things. One time his remote control broke. Then he made a new one from an old telephone and a broken car alarm. Julius was pleased by the end product, and little did he know that his remote control was 0,02 seconds faster than any remote control ever built. Julius was just content with the fact that he had turned two useless things into one useful. Little would he know that if he had patented it at the US patent office big international companies would’ve argued back and forth about who of them would have the right to make Julius a very rich man. Julius would’ve been so filthy rich that he could have afforded a chimpanzee butler. And I tell you now, before you go all crazy about the prospect of having a chimpanzee as a butler: Chimpanzee butlers don’t come cheap. Not that chimpanzee butlers demand so much pay, the occasional banana seems to be the ruling tariff. But naturally they brake a lot of widescreen TVs, smash expensive chandeliers and dirties a lot of windows. But unlike everyone else on the bus Julius could’ve afforded it. He could’ve bought a new widescreen TV, bigger than the old one, and he could’ve bought a new chandelier, handmade from tiny gold-leafed lizard bones in Peru, gemmed by South-African jewellers and blessed by Tibetan monks. A new one coming in everyday while the dirty windows were cleaned by maids and muscular men carried television sets in and out of the house. And they would all shake their heads and smile while the monkey clapped its hands, made jungle sounds and cheered them on. But Julius would never see this kind of money, and if he knew that he could’ve, it wouldn’t have affected his life that much. After all, he was, as you already know, happy.

The reason for this happiness was that he was living the dream. Not as a big sports star, not as a billionaire, but as an actor. The best goddamn actor the world had ever seen. He was such a good actor that no one even suspected that he was one. His role for the last two years had been that of the driver of the #27 early morning bus. He played his role perfectly, all the way down to the tiniest detail. If the academy had seen his uniform they would’ve probably given the bus company a wonderful golden statuette for best costume design. So authentic! Julius prided himself with his acting accomplishments, even though he was the only one who knew about them. He was the star of the show. Throwing on 8 hour live performances five times a week. His dedication to the art of acting knew no bounds. Sometimes he would act stressed, mad and annoyed towards the passengers, but inside he was smiling. What a performence! Their dumbstruck irritated faces the only applause he needed. Oh, what joy. When the shows were over he usually went home to his wife. She didn’t suspect anything. She thought she married Julius the busdriver. Little did she know that she was bound until death to the world’s greatest actor, the Gary Cooper of his generation. But Julius would see to it that she got the recognition she deserved. Her name would come after his on the credits. Oh, yes.

Flora Renardi, lead costume maintenance artist. Personal assistant to Mr. Julius Renardi. Location Scout. Catering. Nude scenes.

Julius admired her nude scenes. They were great works of art. Only then could Julius behold an acting talent worthy his own. The ‘Ooos’ and ‘Aaahs’ being delivered right on cue. Julius particularly admired her talent for improvisation.

While thinking about his wife Julius shifted out of reality. The sound of the bus’ windshield wipers faded with his heartbeat. He forgot all about the acting. His thoughts drifted out of reality and into a strange world. The drops of rain outside like the sound of gunshots in a valley. Echoing inside his head until there was total silence. His mind filled with white light. Julius could not feel his body. His limbs refused to listen to his commands and moved entirely on their own accord. His eyes rolled up and down, but saw nothing. There was just white light. Wherever he turned his head. White light. The everyday noise of weather, passengers and a growling diesel engine gone. Total silence. White light. No shadow. Then all of a sudden a dazzling show of colours were spinning around his head. Lines of pink, purple, yellow and green flowed past his ears . Circles of blue, cyan and indigo swept across the room like tiny furious tornadoes throwing all the other colours around. Julius laughed. What a show! Even though the colours mixed and crashed together in wonderful explosions they never turned grey or brown. They just mixed and became new colours Julius had never seen before. Then all of a sudden the ground broke open and a geyser of dominant bright red spurted through the room. All the other colours grew small in the presence of such an overwhelming tyrant, and gradually they all turned red, a sad boring red, usually found on uninspired chocolate boxes and old ladies’ hats. The geyser however still glowed brilliantly red, and not any kind of red, but the exact type of red you would see on a beautiful woman’s lips or a sweet girl’s blushing cheeks. Like an endless squirt of blood from the wound of a hunted dear. So pure, so innocent. So violently ventilated into this world. Julius looked down on his hands. Red. Red hands. His hands was covered in the red colour flowing from the geyser. The white room was slowly filling up with red. Julius stood with red to his knees, and he felt the warm waves of red brush against his knee caps, like the teasing fingers of a loving woman, venturing further up his leg with each wave. Julius slipped. His feet lost their footing and he recklessly fell into the red. His head went under and he could not get up. He was struck with the sudden angst of suffocation, and his lungs filled with the red liquid as he gasped for air. Though this was not real, Julius was unable to convince himself it wasn’t, and his head was beaten mercilessly with the increasing pain from the lack of oxygen. His lungs cramped and his body was shutting down, and he could not shake loose from the surreal nightmare his own head had created. What was happening to him?

Continued here in Part 2 ..

Lachlan came silent in to this world. No belly button. No crazy doctor smacking him about to see if he would cry. No mother. No umbilical chord. Just a boy. A silent boy. Aliens? God? God knows. No. He just sort of appeared. Fully clothed and ready for the adventures of life. Those who met him didn’t care. To them he seemed like any other boy. What a fortune. He could’ve been drowned or strangled before he’d even opened his mouth to speak his first words. What did he say? Something strange? Something demonic? No, he was just hungry. So his first words came to be: ‘pistacia’. Which meant the same to him as pistachios does to me and you. And you would’ve probably said pistachios too if you sat next to him. Yes, even if you had already eaten. Because the sweet teasing smell of fresh pistachios was lingering in the noses of anyone nearby. Bringing water to their mouths and a low grumble to their stomachs. Lachlan licked the fingertip of his left index finger and raised it to the sky. The finger already tasted like pistachios. Salty. The wind was blowing from west. Lachlan started walking. The gusts of wind flowed through his hair like it flowed through the grass at his feet. Picking up small flies that had taken refuge in it and throwing them off course. Even the flies could smell the pistachios and it was driving them crazy. The bravest of them tried to outmanoeuvre the wind. Never to be seen or heard from again. Lachlan could almost hear the flies begging him to put them in his pocket.

‘Bzzz.. Please, Giant boy, shelter us from the wind. We will not bother you ever again, just give us a lift to that beautiful smell. We’re tired of shit, we want to go where you are going! Please! Bzzz’.

Lachlan laughed. The flies were silly. Silly flies. They could eat pistachios tomorrow. When he had shitten them out. That’s the only food flies deserved. If they were nice, they could’ve had pistachios. But flies back then, as now, was nasty annoying insects. Sometimes Lachlan thought that even shit was too good for them. And indeed. Sometimes it was.

The smell of pistachios in the air was getting stronger and he could almost hear the ripe nuts falling to the ground as they were ambushed by the wind. No one has picked as much fruit as the wind. A good worker that wind. Never ceasing to work. Never getting tired. And on hot days it inspires the other workers to keep at it. A good supervisor too that wind.

Lachlan reached the grove where the smell originated. What a sight. What a beautiful sight. Never mind the pistachios. Forget about the trees waving gently in the wind. Her hair. Blazing orange. Like a sudden burst of fire. So beautiful.  The curls on each side taking turns on caressing her sweet face in the wind. So carefree. To think that he, a simple boy, could witness such beauty on the first day of his mortal life. What divine providence. If he was not overcome by this sudden beauty Lachlan would’ve thought that this was a sign that his life would be a damn good one. Truly any man that would’ve let alone heard about such beauty would’ve considered his life a damn lucky one. But this did not occur to Lachlan. He was mesmerized.

Her name was Vienna, and she loved pistachios. She loved pistachios so much her thumb bled from opening too many. She loved pistachios so goddamn much she didn’t even notice. She loved pistachios so much she didn’t notice Lachlan neither. And her dress was dirty from kneeling on the ground. Lachlan picked up a pistachio and threw it at her. She looked up at the tree and smiled. She thought it was the tree. Damn that tree. Trees aren’t that romantic. They just throw pistachios at random. That smile was his. Not the tree. The tree didn’t even notice. It just kept throwing pistachios at the world. Stupid tree. Stupid girl. No. Not stupid. It was just a misunderstanding. She was probably smart. After all, who throws pistachios at girls? Mostly trees. She was smart. Governed by logic. So nice of her to be so. Not many girls are. Not many boys neither, but that did not occur to him as relevant at this time. So, she was beautiful and smart. Well, she was beautiful, the smart part was just an assumption. Lachlan grew afraid. Was he beautiful, was he smart? Not beautiful like her of course, but handsome. Was he handsome? Lachlan continued to think about this until a strange sensation occurred in the back of his head. What had happened? Had he thought so hard about it that his brain had cried out in pain? There it was again! An almost unnoticeable pinch. Like a two-second bee-sting. Something fell at his feet. A pistachio. He turned around and caught the girl throwing another pistachio at him, but it was too late. She had already thrown it. Where was it? Lachlan looked for it in the air, but did not notice it until it landed directly in his eye. Ouch! The struck eye filled with tears. Trying desperately to wash away the pain. Lachlan had never experienced pain before. Suddenly the world around him felt very dangerous and he laid down with his feet against his chest and cried with both his eyes.

‘Gosh, I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to hit you. I mean, I didn’t want to hurt you. I just wanted you to notice me. What’s your name, please don’t cry, little boy. I didn’t want to make you cry, little boy. It’s alright now. Tell me your name, little boy’, the girl said and kneeled down beside him.

‘My name is.. my name is.. it’s Lachlan, alright. And I’m no little boy. You just hit me in the eye and I thought I was going blind. So I cried. Because I didn’t want to get a dog or play the piano. Yeah, that’s why, little girl. So don’t call me a little boy. Just call me .. Lachlan, okey. Because that’s my name.’

‘Alright, Lachlan. Sorry about that. I didn’t mean too.. I didn’t want to, I wouldn’t, I mean.. I would never throw a pistachio to hurt you! I’m Vienna. But you can call me little girl if you want. I don’t mind. Because that’s what I am. A little girl.’

‘It’s alright. I told you. I just thought I was going blind, okay? It’s fine now. I can see everything nice and dandy. I can see the pistachios, the grove and the skies. Everything is good. I can even see your face, though the sun shines directly in my face when I do so. You’re alright, Vienna. Just don’t throw any more pistachios at me.’

‘Nah, don’t worry. I won’t do that. Not unless you tell me to. Like if your mouth is open and I got one ready to eat in my hand. Like this’, she said opening her mouth and throwing a pistachio in it. It was easy. Anyone could do it, but when she did it, it seemed like no one else could do it. Lachlan had already forgotten about the pain in the eye and the dangerous world surrounding him. He was laughing. Smiling. He watched her chew the pistachio. What a wonderful girl. So nice too. And well fed. One last tear streamed down the left side of his face. She lifted her finger and caught it. She stretched out her tongue and started wiggling her finger until the tear fell off and landed on her tongue with a tiny splash. ‘Mmm, just like pistachios. Don’t worry little boy. Your tears are nothing but liquid pistachios.’ What a strange thing to say. What a strange girl. What a bizarre diet. Lachlan ignored it and started to pick up pistachios and eat them. The girl followed suit. They spent the rest of the day picking pistachios. Eating them. Lachlan even threw some pistachios at her, and each time she giggled, louder every time. And when Vienna got thirsty she ran to a nearby stream, and Lachlan followed, sometimes when he wasn’t thirsty at all. Just to watch the water run down her neck and down into her dress. Then as evening came someone shouted her name and she had to go. Her hair glowing like a fire in the dark before vanishing completely. It was almost night, but no one shouted Lachlan’s name. So he laid down beside the small pistachio trees and slipped into slumber before the cold could keep him awake.