Pow! Kabang! Watch out!

Watch goes down the street. The street is lined with the heads of guys in suits hollering POW and KABANG and WATCH OUT!

Watch tunes them out. A crow follows him, he notices, flying from tree to tree.

Mechanical spiders are running all over. I SEE YOU ARE GOING TO THE STORE MAY I RECOMMEND A SALAD? says one.

A second one says, PEOPLE WHO BUY SALAD OFTEN BUY SOME FRUIT AS WELL.

Watch tunes them out too. He notices how wide the streets are without traffic.

It is a sunny day. Warm, early fall, is there any better season?

Gravity is light today if you can ignore the distractions.

And the air is full of flowers.

Watch gets a sandwich. He gets a long one because he wants to see how many crows he can feed on his way back to the office.

The line at the cash register is slow because the guy in front of him is having problems with his cash card.

REJECTED, says the cashier. The young guy tries again, a little more flustered.

REJECTED, says the woman again.

I’ll have to come back, the young guy says.

He has a German accent, notices Watch.

I’ll get it, Watch says, but no one hears him.

He takes out his wallet and gives the cashier a ten. I’ll get it, he says.

OH, she says.

The young guy doesn’t notice and starts leaving without his stuff – a box of sugar and some snack for lunch.

IT’S OKAY, says the cashier. THIS GUY PAID.

Outside the young guy says thanks.

My pleasure, says Watch.

He feeds two crows on the way back – the one who had been following him, and a big black one watching him from a tree.

POW KABANG! holler the heads.

Take the afternoon off, says Watch.

Odin tries to think sometimes

A week of flatpack furniture assembly.

Crows swooping close.

A habanero plant with slugs on every chili pepper.

Rain, but then sun.

Odin walks past the bench. He walks in the direction of the lottery ticket shop, in the direction of the bakery, but then circles back to the office, crossing gliding crow trajectories, because he feels neither hungry nor lucky.

When did newspapers change their slogan from “All the news that’s fit to print” to “Be very afraid”?

Odin wishes he could have thoughts more complicated and clever than “the universe is heaven, except when we make it hell”.

Maybe a more clever thought will come along soon.

Any time now, maybe.

In his office, which he shares with a dozen people because of rennovation work on his regular office, they have put the radio right behind Odin, and it plays 90s’ classics all the live-long day.

Some of the songs are okay. Most are not.

This can be said of most eras.

Odin makes a deal with a crow. They trade bodies and Odin flies around.

Odin swoops down the street past a police officer with a machine gun guarding a sensitive embassy.

He flies over red urban rooftops and marvels at the ivy turning red and the distant mountains and bodies of water glistening in the sunlight.

He marvels at the sound of wind in his feathers.

He flies back and trades back for his old body.

People come around the corner with rakes and pitchforks.

A woman points at him and shouts, “There he is! Get him!”

Odin wonders what the crow did while they were trading bodies.

What crows dream of, I guess.

Odin’s dream

Two beggars came to the door

says Odin.

Laborers, or criminals; foreigners, male and dark.

They could not speak our language.

I did not let them inside.

They looked hungry. I will make you a sandwich, I said

says Odin.

I found bread, white loaves. I couldn’t decide whether to spread butter or mayonnaise on the bread. Then I found mayonnaise I had made and thought, it will go bad faster than butter so I had better use it up.

I made them cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise and sliced cheese that was beginning to go translucent around the edges. I fed them before I woke up

says Odin.

What does my dream mean.

Fear and liminality

says Loki.

You are an old man blind in one eye. Long white hair and beard, and blind in one eye.

but

says Loki.

Still you love the unknown and secret and feed it freely.

Next time feed it something richer than old cheese sandwiches with old mayonnaise.

And see what happens.

Of course the question is, should you take a trickster’s advice.

Watch

Watch gets up early and finishes the IKEA thing in the cellar to surprise his wife, and it works, she is surprised.

You have a long lunch break on Fridays, don’t you? says his wife, and asks him to go to the Konzerthaus to get tickets she had ordered.

He drinks espresso, makes scrambled eggs, goes to work.

Watch reads an aphorism online, posted by a man who seems to have concluded that his function in life is to share wisdom. Much of the wisdom is good, so Watch keeps reading it.

This one says, The secret to unhappiness is taking life personally.

At lunch Watch walks fast to catch a streetcar, partly to get to the Konzerthaus as fast as he can, partly because a work colleague is walking the same direction, a little ahead of him, and hurrying to avoid walking with Watch for some reason. By walking the same speed, Watch prevents him from escaping; soon, though, he runs out of sadism and lets the man get away.

Watch changes streetcars twice on the way to the Konzerthaus. When he boards the second streetcar, which is half full, a woman cackles a nuthouse laugh.

Okay, thinks Watch.

Then an angry man walks past, two meters tall, wearing a leather cowboy hat. Watch is careful not to look at him, because the man is paranoid schizophrenic.

You learn to see this sort of thing.

The man is complaining about whatever.

The nuthouse laugh woman laughs again. She can’t help it. Paranoid man demands to know who is laughing, and threatens to bash their brains in whoever it is. The woman stops laughing for a couple minutes.

Soon, though, she can’t hold it back and laughs again. The man rushes back to where she sits, which is where Watch happens to be standing, and says, Who is it? Who is laughing?

The streetcar stops and Watch gets out. He walks to the next station and gets on the third streetcar, which takes him close to the Konzerthaus.

Everyone else conducting transactions at the Konzerthaus seem to be retired and in their seventies, a condition they all deal with using a variety of strategies. The man is important and loud and dominant. He spends €600 on tickets. Then he wants CDs and his act sort of falls apart here because he is not sure which CDs he wants. The cashier waits patiently, which doesn’t make him feel any better.

The woman after the man is irritable and short and impatient. She completes her transaction and then interrupts the following transaction to demand a receipt which, the cashier points out, she already has.

The other woman, in front of Watch, is nice. She tells Watch her transaction will take a long time. Watch says he is only picking up preordered, prepaid tickets, and she offers to let him go ahead. Watch expresses gratitude.

A couple sits at a table and talks about something. Meanwhile a second window opens and Watch gets the tickets and leaves.

He gets on a streetcar at an atypical stop, with an oddly shaped shelter, as if it had been designed in the 1960s to look futuristic. The streetcar putters along until they get to Karlsplatz/Oper. It stops at a light, abruptly, and the bell rings (which the drivers normally use to warn people and cars etc). It rings for a long time, then stops. The streetcar does nothing after that.

Watch looks up toward the driver’s cabin, which is in the next car, but sees nothing. No commotion, nothing that would mean accident or murder.

The doors are all closed and turned off so no one can get out.

Other streetcars start piling up behind this one. A driver forces a door open, and tells someone the driver of Watch’s streetcar had disappeared. Then he leaves and the door closes again, retrapping everyone.

Eventually, after 15 minutes, a female passenger forces a door open and everyone disembarks and uses alternative modes of transportation. Watch takes a subway. He buys food in a station. It takes him a long time to decide what to get, because everything being sold at the station has given him food poisoning at one time or another in the past.

He catches another streetcar back to work. It takes about 5 minutes to walk from the stop to his office, during which time he eats crispy chicken and rice and vegetables.

He gets back right on time.

also there were the ants

it’s like, his daughter says, it’s like, did you look? mass cult suicide. in the pool.

the winged ants, yes, he says.

luckily they float. fire up the pump and that’ll skim them right off, he figures.

winged ants.

mass suicide.

hundreds, floating, wings saturated.

always, waves on the water of the pool, even when the pump is off.

even when there is no wind.

even when it is perfectly quiet.

Vegetarian

Odin gets up in the morning and wanders around, ends up downstairs, lets the cats in, feeds them, checks his email, looks at social media, sits there staring into space, tells the cats to get off the table, lets one onto his lap after it’s stared at him a long time, tells another one to get off the counter, has to get up – carrying the first cat – and make the other one get off the counter, sits back down, tells the third one to get off the counter, puts down the first one, makes a perfect (by his standards) cup of espresso, takes it downstairs, starts writing in his journal, the entry turns into blessings on all he loves, goes back upstairs, takes a shower, gets dressed, makes his wife a perfect (by his standards) cup of espresso, somewhere in there eats something forgettable for breakfast (actually three slices of bread, with butter and honey) (which make everything sticky), drives to the train station, gets there late, but his train is even later than he is so he makes the train, right on time, like something in the movies, goes to Vienna, takes a different train closer to the office, walks to the office while reading Deadeye Dick by Kurt Vonnegut, goes to the office, works, goes to the store on his lunch break, can’t decide what to eat for lunch, ends up getting a salad, and an egg salad sandwich (it is the vegetarian option, maybe there are egg bushes now), dressing, green tea / honey iced tea, and a package of some sort of cookie (Fourré Biscuits, it says on the label) walks to the usual bench, shares half the sandwich with the crows but one (the grey one) is a little dominant towards the other (black with a few white feathers) so he ends up sharing more of his half with that one; the grey one eats a little and hides the rest and the black one flies some of his off somewhere, then Odin goes back to his office and discovers some hyperfiction he wrote once experimenting with TWINE and sits down to write a blog post.

What say the slain?

They say, do not worry so much.

They say, bless you.

They say, come down out of that tree.

They say, look, a rainbow.

They say, everything is connected by little strings you cannot see or feel; if you could grasp the strings, you could yank someone right off a horse.

 

What say the hanged?

50 per cent chance of rain, 50 per cent chance of sun: so why freak out about the rain?

Careers in Science: Pteridology

Ferns by Ben Stanfield

Ferns by Ben Stanfield

The pteridologist is standing on the threshhold, half in the kitchen, half in the entryway, telling his wife a story while the broken espresso machine gleams on the counter as if it were going to transform into a lethal, chittering chrome Transformer any minute now.

“When I was a kid Uncle Phil took me and my brother and sister and cousins and the neighbor kids backpacking in the Chain Lakes by Mt. St. Helens in the summers. We carried heavy packs up steep trails for miles in the August sun. When we finally got where we were going and set down our packs, it felt like you would float away, like you could jump into the treetops. As if gravity had been cancelled. It was the best feeling in the world. And that is what this feels like now.”

His wife smiles.

“You gradually got heavy again, until the next time you set down the pack,” he says. “Of course.”

He doesn’t want to get his family’s hopes up, but he decides to tell them anyway – his wife and his daughters and some friends – because even though he suspects this is not a one-time cure but rather an on-going process — or rather, because he suspects this is an on-going process — he wants to share his joy with them, at this transformation; he wants them to have this little respite from his depression, and he wants them to, maybe, remind him when he starts backsliding to get back to work on it.

At first he had hoped to wait a year before telling anyone, rather than a week, but he thinks he will need help someday. A reminder or a pat on the back or hug or words of encouragement.

But it is a feeling like no other – a complete and sudden absence of something that he had carried for decades, more on than off the whole time.

“I don’t know if it works for everyone or only some people, but all I can say is a little book fixed me.”

The next day, despite his fears, he is still fine. And the day after that. Waking with no negative thoughts, levitating an inch above the mattress.

It takes about four days for the negative feelings to start nesting in him again. It takes him about 15 minutes to banish them again.

After that, it’s a daily process.

Like doing pushups.

He wishes he had known of this 20 years ago.

Better late than never.