Some Arrogant Things in This World

Some Arrogant Things in This World by Minna and Jim

Religions. All religions. Especially the Chosen People religions. Why? Whatchayall done? The rest of us are shits? God has more than one Chosen People? And they all hate each other? Pretty damned whimsical God, no? Pretty damn awful Chosen People, no? And then all those Chosen People start arguing and fighting and killing amongst themselves–and since that’s not satisfying enough, they begin arguing and fighting and killing everybody. The banner of war is always the same: I GOT THE ANSWER! Follow me! Follow me or die! Arrogant it is to maintain you’re the best when you murder, mutilate, rape and commit genocide. And. . .their God approves of this.

That the Earth and Earthlings are so very important, the only important one in the entire fucking universe for aliens to visit–and, according to some, direct our development. Well, you sure can’t say that any help given has led anything other than utter disaster. At least, they’re not gods, these aliens; though I understand some folks think so. Kinda fits: what’s unexplainable is either God’s doing or the Aliens’ doing, for humans are really dumb fucks. Sounds like a sounder of Luddites. Why can’t it be that we just don’t know it all yet?

Donald Trump.

America is the Greatest Country in the World. Shall we count all of the prior greatest countries–who were great–before America’s self-proclaimed pre-eminence? Great Britain? The Spanish? The Normans? The Nation of Islam? The Persians? The Romans? The Greeks? The Babylonians? The Mycenaean’s? The Egyptians? The Chinese? The Japanese? Actually, the only “greatest” are perhaps the Sumerians who seem to have started it all, in the West (Middle East). Just about everything else that we have comes from the Greeks and the writers and philosophers whom the Roman rulers disapproved of and the science the Muslims gave us. Nah. America is arrogant in its self-assessment.

The consortium that created the DSM V. After coming to the decision that everything about human behavior is a mental illness, they forgot to include themselves.

Literary agents. Literary agents also happen to be the lowest form of life on Earth. They make their money from the hard work of others. They not only charge the artists for their “representation,” they charge them for office expenses that are then deducted from their tax liability as a “business expense.” And then they charge the publishers for getting them manuscripts of no depth and moderate literary ability. Any wonder people don’t read any more?

Budweiser.

Me when I’m manic. . .or very, very defensive.

Steven Pinker, arrogant stupidity. Not a linguist by degree. America’s greatest pseudo-intellectual. He is so knowledgeable and wonderful that not one international linguistics researcher or journal mentions his name, not even to show how ludicrous some “thinking” is.

The owner of Youtube who believes her desire for money is more important than the product she offers. Thus it is we have adverts in the middle movies, videos, documentaries and music, sometimes more frequently than found on TV. There is no pleasure for us in this arrogant greed of hers that interrupts music and documentaries and movie action in the middle–even recorded live performances. How arrogant of her to impose her greed and ill-judgment on us.

Pinterest. Imagine. . .someone’s idea of knowledge–or actual knowledge–and someone’s collection of whatever being so priceless as to not be accessible except to those within the clique. La!

Utopias and their makers. Akin to religions who teach “My way or no way.” In the modern world, this would be Marx’s Communism: a perfect place. Utopias ride on the idea of they’ve got it all and, so, no change is necessary. No change. Change upsets the balance. Which is a violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (that most do not understand). If there is no change, if nothing is going on, if there is perfect balance, there is death. The “chaos” that entropy leads to is total balance: no change, no development, nothing. If our bodies, if organic life, got to this point, we are dead. In death, the only change is from the outside. See Chance and Necessity by Jacques Monod. Balancing, like a seesaw, is constantly going on: 2H + O2 = H2O is not a done deal. Chemistry puts a double arrow going both ways  in there because the reaction is constantly going back and forth and includes various other combinations, like H2O2, HO, H3O, H, H2, O, H3 and they’re all in flux. If it stops, you gots nut’n. A seesaw perfectly balanced (without no one on it), is dead, there is no life, there is no potentiality. Unchangingness = no life. But don’t tell that to Utopians. Utopians not only believe they are right, they believe they know it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship

by James L. Secor

David Longshanks was an entrepreneur, a self-made man. Not that he began poor or on the dole. He was the son of an undertaker, Dunns Longshanks. Dunns had made a single horse town concern into a thriving business, for people must die and they must be buried, appropriately or not. As civilization bloated the town into a city, there was little call for the inappropriate sort; however, there was the Green Pastures out on the far Northeastern edge of the city where the poor and penurious and unknown (usually street people) were buried with no to-do and little in the way of respect, respect being costly, even just moderately so. Dunns served anybody who had any money.

David, before taking over the business, expanded its purview to taxidermy, for he was a hunter who liked to display his trophies. As were his friends. People in the surrounding countryside heard of David Longshanks and his superior taxidermy skills and this end of the Dunns Family Mortuary grew in distinction as the hunting seasons became glutted with guns and displaced animals. Civilization with its unlimited development and expansion led to animals losing their habitat and food source and, thus, becoming easy targets for both the city slickers and the preying country folk.

Dunns Family Mortuary.

David’s Taxidermy.

David’s next entrepreneurial endeavor arose out of the immediate needs of the Mortuary business. The business had to expand, so more land had to be bought. Empty lots and old houses alongside the Mortuary were bought up. The lots were easy to acquire; the houses, more often than not, had to be condemned. The families were forced to relocate and David then waited to buy the property at auction. The houses came down. Some of the acquired land, what was not used for renovation and expansion of the undertaking business buildings, was turned into parking lot. As the winter wind could be icy and the summer sun blazing, David made sure the parking areas were dotted with trees. This also made the business more aesthetic and caring-appearing.

Which led to David’s landscaping business. There were no shade trees in any of the parking lots around the city and the city streets needed sprucing up. David made sure that both city and businesses saw the advantages of having trees, if for nothing else than the aesthetics of the place. From trees, general landscaping grew, as did a gardening and florist business in several locations around the city to forestall too much competition. Two of any kind of business in the same area was not good for either business, so David made sure he was on site first. On site and large.

Fortune Realty.

Longshanks Landscaping.

Emma’s Exquisite Floral Shop. Emma was Mrs. David Longshanks. Emma Sue Denniker Longshanks.

The Greenery.

Fortune Realty naturally grew into speculation which naturally led to the founding of a consortium focused on developing and building lucrative ventures. It did not matter if the venture was productive or not. The Ivy League Consortium owned the land and the buildings and managed to rent out the properties if, indeed, the original idea tanked. As happened with a couple shopping centres. They were interested in high end development. Of course, The Ivy League Consortium had nothing at all to do with the East Coast Ivy League colleges and universities. But it was suggestive.

Through it all, David Longshanks’ most engaging business was the Mortuary and the Taxidermy business. David loved embalming.

Despite his drive for neverending development and the furthering of civilization, David was also socially responsible. Socially active. Because of the fight to save his father’s life, David Longshanks became involved in organ donorship. His father had needed a liver. There were too few to go around or any liver available was too far away to make it a viable replacement. Thus, his father died a painful, wasting away death. David worked assiduously to make organ donorship a socially edifying behavior, albeit to begin with the religious battled against such heresy, until one of their own died in need. David made donorship a voluntary additive to licensing: if you joined the donor program and you were involved in a fatal accident, your organs could be harvested in order that another should live. Without advertising, David always gave the families of the organ donor program a discount on their casket and in-house services, if they were in the area.

So, David and Emma Longshanks became upstanding social citizens. They were asked to donate to this or that charity. They were asked to serve on this or that board of directors. They were sought out for this or that sponsorship. Life was good.

The first sign of a chink in the Longshanks well-tempered and lustrous armor was rather innocuous. Even a tad humorous. Sometime during prohibition, a notable area resident involved in rum running was shot and killed. Briskin Swipes, AKA Sousee. Not shot by the police, though they claimed the prize, but by a rival running crew. New Brummagem was not big enough for two such lines of transport. As New Brummagemens enjoyed viewing the unrepentant dead in proof that crime never pays, Briskin Swipes was exposed in a pinewood coffin, as per tradition, and photos were taken and displayed in various shop windows and church signboards around town. Before putrification set in, Briskin Swipes was turned over to David Longshanks for burial. But David wished to preserve, for posterity and example, the body. Briskin was not the most handsome of men and in death was downright gruesome looking. He was a modern day outlaw, revered by some, reviled by others. Face was important in this time of ignominy and David wanted to save this face. So, instead of embalming the man, pickling him, you might say, David decided to stuff him, taking especial care of the external taxidermy details. Perhaps, stuffed, Briskin Swipes appeared more real than real. Not surreal, super-real, über-real. Later, David began exhibiting his stuffed man in order to showcase his skills. Taxidermy was, after all, about preservation.

There was, however, a more offing aspect to the taxidermy: inside the stuffing was the real skeleton of Briskin Swipes. David did not tell anyone this. He found it, in fact, quite humorous and often giggled at his joke, assuming someone discovered the skeleton. How shocking! How ludicrous!

Dreams have a way of coming true in the most unimaginable ways.

The local New Brummagem film studio, Cantery Studio, borrowed the stuffed bootlegger for some independent science fiction film, The Forelanders by name. Briskin Swipes was a prop, a re-occurring prop. It so happened that during one removal and repositioning of Briskin, the arm fell off. The cast and crew were accordingly astounded and horrified.

The police were notified and the State Bureau of Investigation was called in to uncover the identity of the skeleton. They had a top forensic anthropologist, Necessity Bluffing—Nessy to her friends—who returned the diagnosis of Briskin Swipes. And so the history of the man rose up in the news. This could not be tolerated in the filming, so another dummy was found and the stuffed man—with skeleton—was disposed of. Apparently, a carny bought it, sewed the arm back on and displayed it in his Wonders of the World exhibit until the skin began to scale off and the joints to fall apart. By then, everyone had forgotten all about Briskin Swipes, except, perhaps, myth and legend.

In the meantime, David’s skill with a knife and needle did not go unnoticed. Even to David’s entrepreneurship. How could he make good use of these skills to enhance his businesses? Wealth, like development, was limitless. And his desire was unslaking. Emma did not know what he was doing but enjoyed no end the benison that accrued from it.

Now that organ transplanting had gained respectability and more and more people required new organs in order to continue living, cheating death, you might say, it was discovered that there were not enough organs to go around. The sick and dying were not being saved. People had to die in horrible pain, faces and bodies distorted. Organs could not be grown but could be harvested. David Longshanks was in a privileged position in this respect, as the newly accident dead came his way for embalming and assigned donation. But who was to know that a kidney or lung or liver or, less likely, heart was removed sans visé and sent on its way to someone in need. A secret social conscience is a self-satisfying thing. It is, too, delusional.

Fresher organs were needed even though David Longshanks had insinuated himself into the legion of organ rescuers. David beat his breast over the loss of life due to the shortage of good organs, as much by less death as by those who selfishly, in his eyes, kept their organs for themselves in death. Many still believed it was sacrilege to give away organs and for others to live with these second hand vestiges of humanity. Someone here was playing God, it was thought by these people. It was of little consequence that people died in the face of their superstitious intransigence.

And so David Longshanks got involved in illegal harvesting. It is true he would not kill the unwitting donor but, still, the donor was none the wiser until after the fact. The first inklings of this new business came via grisly newspaper and TV reports of bodies found in bath tubs full of ice water. The surgical-quality scars were, of course, suspicious and, while the recovering person was hospitalized, scrutinized and medicated into a stupor, the discovery of the missing organs was revealed.

This was worse than stories of Frankenstein monsters and mad scientist experiments. The grizzly details and gruesomeness, the inhumanity of the illegal harvesting was splashed everywhere. Investigations were initiated but never elicited findings. No notice was taken of the life saved somewhere in the land. David Longshanks was not, after all, after publicity. That kind of adulation was not soulful.

Stories began emerging of the sort of a person who meets someone at a bar and they have a few drinks, a few laughs. The unsuspecting tipster becomes inebriated. Together they go to a hotel room and the person passes out. Not solely from the alcohol. Knock out drugs were casually added to the drinks. The person wakes up in the morning in a bathtub filled with ice and an abdominal incision that was not theirs. Tales of injured construction or oil or mine workers waking up days later lying on a cold metal table without certain of their organs and writhing in pain. These latter unfortunates usually died. Though the two harvesting techniques were not related, they were conflated, adding to the inhumanity of the black market organ salesmen. Organ pushers.

The organ pusher is a monster. He’s not a natural man. The organ pusher will ruin someone’s body and leave its mind to scream, all in the name of goodness and right but truly for greed. God damn the organ pusher man.

As with criminals, organ harvesters—and David Longshanks—leaned toward repetitive behavior. Humanity is both blessed and cursed with such repetitiveness. It is comfortable.

It is in such wise that David Longshanks’ shenanigans were brought to light. This was, of course, the end of his entrepreneurship. The end of unending expansion and resource development. There is a limit to the things of life. A balance, the median way, must be found for continuance to be assured. David Longshanks was over-stepping his—society’s—bounds. Exposure and punishment was inevitable, though not by the outlaw. Was not David Longshanks a Robin Hood?

The fallout from David Longshanks’ greed, his delusion of social goodness, the lie he needed to tell himself in order to make life tolerable—the fallout was immediate and long lasting. Emma Longshanks became hysterical and would not wear any of the finery she had acquired secondary to her husband’s nefarious dealings. The mortuary and taxidermy businesses deteriorated and were, eventually, sold at great loss. Emma was attentive enough, however, to dispose of the landscaping, gardening and flower businesses before they became tainted beyond repair. She retired to a ghost town out in the middle of the plains along an abandoned railway line and lived out her life in seclusion. It was a miserable life. The David Longshanks family dispersed around the country, changing their name in order to escape censure and ostracization. The Ivy League Consortium dissolved in a hole-and-corner way, the assets being divided between the owners and then new venturisms begun.

New Brummagem faded away, turning into a historical village. A tourist trap.

And, then, there was nothing.

(c) 2015, James L. Secor

What’s My Story

Here is one of our favorite little stories. While it is a satire on the character oriented story–that any good story is built solely on a character (who never changes)–in that the protagonist has no character; it is a feminist piece because it is men who give her her character. I (Minna) was arguing with the editor of a now defunct feminist zine about the necessity of a character-centred story and set out to prove her wrong: she snapped up the story because of its feminist bent and totally missed the satire/slap in the face: the protagonist has neither name nor character.

 What’s My Story?

by Minna vander Pfaltz

Crashing flash! Throbbing pain. Burning. She held her breath. And then tried again. This time, little by little. She opened her eyes. Oh, lord, did that hurt! Screeching whiteness. No. She couldn’t maintain it. Closed her eyes again. In the pulsing darkness, she felt her body. She was lying on her back. Whatever she was lying on was hard. Very hard. There was a lot of noise around. Jarring her bones. Making her ears bounce and hurt a little inside. Great rumbling noises made her body vibrate–and then they were gone.

She rolled over onto her side and pushed herself up. She listened a little longer. The vibrations were not so drumming. Then she opened her eyes again.

Still bright. But there wasn’t so much pain. She put her hand over her eyes, shielding them from the brightness above. Where was this?

These. . .things moving, moving. Going this way and that. Big ones and little ones. All making noise. The big ones bigger noise. And blaring D-flats.

She was getting a headache again.

She was the silent one, the still one in this mass of movement and noise. Around her, paying her no mind, were people. People moving helter-skelter. Great masses of heaving color that hummed along. Clicked along. Lights flashing.

Over there. Trees and grass. A bench. A place to sit.

She got up and walked–stumbled would be more accurate–to the bench and sat down on its warm wood, feeling the spaces between the slats. Not a very comfortable place to sit but better than lying on the–street? pavement?

Where the hell was she?!

Wherever she was, it looked like something she recognized. Something that was similar to something she remembered. Something. . . .

But where did she remember it from?

She creased her brows.

Who was she?

Ahh. . .now there she was on firm ground: she couldn’t remember who she was. She didn’t know who she was.

Was this an alternate universe?

Was she one monkey waiting for 99 more?

She had to get away from this noise! It was making her hair shake.

So she walked. The more she walked, the longer she walked the easier it became until she was moving along rather fluidly. But where was she going? No direction. Anywhere.

No. This was not good.

She looked up at the sky, searching for the brightest glare.

How did she know to go to her left? Without thinking, she did it. And then asked herself this question: How did I know to go to the left? This place wasn’t anywhere she knew, despite the vast similarities, so how could she be sure left was the right way? This place, this world could be exactly the opposite of her world. The world she came from to be here.

How did she get here?

She didn’t remember falling. She did remember a thud, though. And then she was here. In this place. As if she’d been dropped into this world.

Why?

What was she doing here?

Who was she?

Lord!–she had to get to a quieter place so she could think.

The glaring sky told her nothing. The world around her blurred. Her body kept on pounding along. Numbed. Apprehending nothing. Just moving. And then suddenly the noise stopped. She kept on going. She kept going until she felt the difference in color around her. She stopped. She looked around. She turned back the way she had come. All the noise was over there, in that hazy bulging upward, vertical mass of. . . spires?

And she sat down. On the green. Grass? She didn’t know. She didn’t know if that’s what it was in this place but somewhere inside her it was grass. So she called it grass in her mind. She felt it. It felt the same as usual. Usual? How did she know it was usual, this touch? This kind of softness with hard edges. Pointy. Kind of cool. Was she feeling it make noise? She put her ear down to it. Leaned down. Ran her fingers over its roughness. Comforting noise.

How did she know it was comforting?

“Hey! What are you doing?”

She looked up. A man stood at the bottom of the hill.

She looked at him. She squinched her eyebrows together.

“I said, what are you doing?”

“I don’t know. Sitting on the grass.”

“I can see that. Who gave you permission?”

“I need permission?”

“You’re not from around here, are you?”

“No. I don’t think so.”

“You don’t think so?”

“No. I’m not. Where am I?”

“Here. In Havenwood.”

“Oh. Where’s that?”

Pause.

“Are you alright?”

“I’m not hurt, if that’s what you mean.”

“How did you get here? I mean, the way you’re dressed, you’re not usual, you know?”

“I’m not?”

“No.”

“I feel like I was dropped in.”

“Maybe you better come with me.”

“Can you help me?”

“I can take you somewhere.”

“Okay.”

She got up and walked down the hill. When she stood next to him, she found he was very much shorter than she was. Perhaps head and shoulders shorter. She’d never felt so tall before.

“You’re tall. We don’t make many tall women here. We don’t make many tall men, either.”

“You make people here?”

“You know. Not make as in machines but, you know, grow.”

“Like plants?”

“No. We get born.”

“Oh.”

They continued walking along in silence. He led her into a squat reddish building with greyish lines running up and down, isolating little squares of color. Flat glass doors like a mouth. Flat glass windows like eyes. The doors swallowed them up. The eyes did not change their expression.

“Where’s this?”

“The headman lives here. He’ll know what to do.”

“Yes.”

“You know the headman?”

“No. I don’t now anybody.”

Silently they walked through some halls.

“I’m tired. I’d like to rest. I’ve been through alot today. I think I came from over there.”

“Okay. He’ll find a place for you to stay.”

“Good. I’d like to lie down.”

And then they were in a small room.

“Hey. I’ve brought you someone.”

“Hey. Where did you find her?”

“Sitting in the park.”

“The park?!”

“Yeah. Imagine that. No one gave her permission.”

“Hey. Who are you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Where do you come from?”

“I don’t know. I just woke up and found myself here.”

“She said she felt as if she was dropped in.”

“Dropped in, eh?”

“Yes. And she’s tired.”

“Hungry, too?”

“Yes. Hungry, too.”

“We should let you rest and eat first.”

“Thank you.”

“Hey. Take her to Na’s place. She’ll take care of her.”

“Okay.”

“Then come back here. I’ll call the elders for a council.”

“Okay.”

* * *

Shoulder to shoulder around the oblong table the men sat. The Headman and the elders. And the finder man.

“What are we to make of this, then?”

“It is very strange. Very strange indeed.”

“There have been no strangers in a long time.”

“No. She’s very tall.”

“She dresses. . .differently.”

“She talks a little off.”

“And her skin color. . .”

“Yes.”

The heavy ticking of the clock pounded the walls. They looked around the table. A few coughed. A few looked elsewhere. The headman looked at the finder man.

“I think she’s the one,” said the latter.

“How can she be? She’s a woman.”

“Yes. There has never been a woman before.”

“She is a very tall woman.”

“Larger than life.”

“Where is she from?”

“That’s a mystery. She’s not saying.”

“She just. . .appeared.”

“Right when we need her.”

Silence.

“Yes. That seems to fit.”

“Fate is a funny thing, you know.”

“You can never be too sure.”

“Are we to continue as we are?”

“We cannot remain passive,” said the headman. “I am for taking action on this.”

Pause. The elders looked around at each other.

“Will she go along with us?”

“Why should she not? She is here. Nothing happens without a reason.”

“She may put up a fight.”

“Deny herself.”

“It’s part of the pattern.”

“She’s already denying who she is.”

A collective, “Eh?”

The headman and the finder nodded.

“Well, then.”

“We must proceed, it seems.”

“Tomorrow morning at Na’s. She has a nice courtyard in the back.”

* * *

She sat facing the group of men. She frowned and held her breath. This gathering was definitely unbalanced. She didn’t know who she was. She didn’t know where she was. And now she was confronted by this. . .tribunal. How was she supposed to act? She shifted in her seat. Crossed her legs. Crossed her arms. These men were obviously here to tell her something. Could it be they knew something about herself? She could only wait.

She looked at the group of men. They looked back at her and then away to each other. Focus came to the headman. She looked at the headman. He looked at her.

“I trust you had a good night.”

“Yes. Thank you.”

“You are rested from your journey?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Good.”

She uncrossed her legs and crossed them the other way.

The finder coughed.

“We know who you are.”

“You do?”

“Yes. Yes. We do.”

“Who am I?”

“You are our hero.”

She uncrossed her legs. She uncrossed her arms. She beat on her thighs with her hands. She laughed.

“Surely you jest! I am no hero.”

“How do you know?”

She looked sharply at the finder. “Yes. You are right.”

“Yes.”

“Yes.” She leaned forward and looked at these men who seemed to know more about her than she did. This was perhaps reassuring. “Could this be illusion?”

“No, no, no. Nothing of the sort. What in the universe is not true?”

“We have dreamed of your coming?”

“So I am a dream?”

“Come true. A dream come true.”

“Dreams are part of life. Of the universe.”

“I could be a bad dream–”

“Not at all! You are just what we asked for.”

“Yes.”

“So, who am I?”

“Hero.”

“Our Hero.”

“What an odd name. Hero.”

“Odder still as that is what you are.” The headman giggled a little.

She smiled into the silence. A breeze disturbed the leaves. Gave them voice. Gave itself a voice, for otherwise it was just air. The passing of air was ever accompanied by a voicing. Without something standing in the way, the wind has no voice. Nor do the trees. Rain, too, is nothing until it demolishes itself upon trees and people, houses and streets. The sound nevertheless surrounds you like an orchestra and carries you away, protects you. All the world is one. Then. It was not one for Hero.

“I am who I am and I am what I am?”

“Why, yes, that’s the way it is.”

“My name says it all.”

“Yes. Exactly.”

“The name you gave me.” Pause. “The role you give me.”

“Do you have a better one?”

“No. But–”

“Yes??”

“I don’t feel like a hero. I’ve never done anything to be considered a hero. What is a hero?”

“A hero’s life is in the making.”

“In the future.”

“I can’t do anything.”

“I told you! Didn’t I?”

“Shush! This is to be expected.”

“What is to be expected?”

“Well,” the finder began hesitantly, “you meet the criteria.”

“I’m getting a headache.”

“Na,” said the headman.

Medicine was brought. Everyone sat silent and still for a time.

“Do you feel better now?”

“I’m sure it will go away.”

“Yes. Havenwood is known for its drugs. We can even make a sick dog feel better.”

Nervous laughter.

“Tell me how I fit the bill when I don’t even know who I am?”

“We know who you are.”

“But I don’t feel like Hero. I don’t even know where I am or where I came from.”

“That is the way it is.”

“Heroes come out of nowhere.”

“When they are needed.”

“And they are more than we are.”

“You mean my height?”

“Yes. Of course.”

“But I am no one. I am not up to this.”

“You can be no one without others.”

“I have no character.”

“We are giving this to you.”

“What if I don’t want it?”

“Heroes usually do not. . .it is said.”

“You see. . .there are historical precedents.”

“I see.”

“Yes.”

“What is it I’m supposed to do?”

All of the men sat back heaving sighs.

“You are here to save us from ourselves.”

She laughed.

“Yes. It is laughable, isn’t it? But it’s true.”

“We have become inundated with a particular kind of pandemic. Passive Ignorance Insensitivity Syndrome. PIIS.”

“Piss?”

“No, no. In our tongue when there are two i’s in a row, the first is long, the second short. We say, then, Peye-us.”

Oh. I see. You are Peye-us. And who has visited this upon you?”

“An alien.”

“An outsider.”

“Not one of us.”

“His name is Gnome Nervt.”

“How do you know?”

“He has done this before and. . .”

“He leaves traces.”

“I see.” Pause. “I must rid the world of this. . .evil Gnome Nervt.”

“Yes.”

“Well. I suppose I have nothing better to do,” she said. She thought, though, that perhaps she might also discover her true self, her true identity now she had something to do. “You must give me some context.”

“Here is everything you need to know. Tomorrow we will come again.”

“And if I am not your hero?”

“You will fail and we will build another martyr’s monument in Memorial Park Cemetery.”

“But you will not fail. The life and well-being of thousands upon thousands of Havenwoodniks are riding on your shoulders.”

And then she was alone with herself. Whoever she was. To these men she was someone. She had a frame into which to fit. There was just one nagging question: What did a hero do? That is, how did a hero act?

Was fiction becoming reality?

An unanswerable question since she didn’t know what was real. Rather, she only had this reality to go on. Could she then live up to her given character?

She shook her head. Identity was a funny thing. How do you know when you’ve got it? And when you’ve got it, how do you know it’s yours?

There are some places where people are born with no identity. Later, they can buy one from the identity brokers. But, then, you may still ask, who is this character? All you have is a label. Made up by another. A handle upon which to hang a history. A history with no character to identify it is no history at all. So where does it come from?

This is a question I cannot answer. I am only a writer. I am a writer because I write. . .and because you read me. Therefore I have character because writers have a particular character, right?

I find myself much in the same situation as the girl in this story.

(c) 2002, Minna vander Pfaltz