Colder than it looks

Odin eats the generic Oreos for lunch with the gusto of a starving man who had been sucking bark post-apocalypse and had just found a box of generic Oreos in the back pocket of a mail carrier slaughtered by a rampaging mob back before the zombies killed all the mobs.

Walking is a little complicated. He has to pin a box of Greek salad (getting in the mood for a pre-Easter week in Crete) under one arm, hold the box of cookies in one hand and simultaneously twist cookies apart, eat the halves without frosting, press the frosting-halves together to make whole cookies with double frosting and eat them, without getting hit by a car or spotted by a crow. If his mobile phone rang he’d fall apart.

The day is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Colder than it looks, sunny, and Friday before a week of vacation. Family doing well, hobbies doing okay, sort of a general feeling of… despairlessness that is really delicious, in contrast to the cookies which are, seriously, how did our society evolve to such a point, where a grown man eats something like this? And not just any man: Odin, god of the North?

Seriously.

But Odin is without despair. At this very moment, he can feel a new universe pressing in on this one, like a pig at a trough, like a pervert in a subway, like a deaf man in a mosh pit, like a ray of light reflected from a hospital window, like wind on an otherwise still day like those bugs that hop around on the beach like a bird high up like

On manners at the opera

My wife and I went to see Madame Butterfly at the Vienna State Opera on the weekend. We had pretty good seats. We got some champagne beforehand, as we usually do at the opera, except she was more in the mood for a white wine spritzer and had that, and I had a whiskey (no brand given) because I was feeling macho.

The people behind us were loud, rude, stupid and very excited about the cruise they were booked on, apparently, because they could not STFU about it. One encounters such people at most public performances, including the movies, but this was a first for me at the opera.

Srsly, WTH?

They must have gotten free tickets from someone.

The lights went down, the warning to turn off your phone played, etc etc and still they jabbered on. I knew I had to do something.

The musicians finished tuning. The conductor came out, to warm applause.

Yeah, yeah, Cruise This and Cruise That!

Peace settled over my mind as I made a decision. I felt like a Jason Statham character right before a big action scene, you know, like, where he’s surrounded by all these bruisers in an auto mechanic’s garage — except I was surrounded by old people with canes, and younger people, and improperly-dressed tourists. Even the standing area way up at the top was full.

They were still talking — unbelieveable — when the music started playing, and they showed no intention of stopping. That’s when – right after the first note – I turned and said it:

“Ssh!”

Boy, did that do it. They didn’t say a peep until intermission. Sometimes you just have to take a stand.

We went outside in the intermission. On the way there, I found a big, fat pearl earring and gave it to an usher. If you’re looking for your pearl earring, it’s probably in a pawn shop in downtown Vienna by now.

We did not stay outside for long, because it turns out that’s where everyone goes to smoke.

So the air was better back inside. Good people watching night.

Great performance, too. Downer though, sheesh.

 

Der Traumpolizist

You are whining in your sleep. I pat your head and you stop.

At breakfast I ask you about the dream.

You tell me: powerlessness and loss, violation and theft, paralysis and loss of voice. Weakness, hopelessness and fear. Exhaustion and failure.

Every living thing must have dreams like this. Especially after a week like the one we just had. Fear of this disease or that, fear of going broke, fear of getting old and having nothing. Fear of cancer in me, or — a thousand times worse — fear of cancer in a 16 year old boy.

But then yesterday the reprieve: alles okay. Everybody healthy for now. Sometimes the universe just wants to give you a good scare.

Tonight I will be the dream police. I will find the robbers and get back your purse.

Shroud

Don’t forget to have her check you for… says Odin’s wife.

Yeah, yeah, says Odin, who is going to the dermatologist.

Odin is used to waiting a long time at doctors, so he is a little surprised by the speed at which things transpire this time.

Do you have time to check me for… he asks the doctor after spending less than a single article in an obsolete magazine in the waiting room.

Sure, she says. He gets undressed and she looks him over. A mirror takes him by surprise and he resolves to work out more and eat less.

Nothing he had worried about was anything to worry about, she says, But this here, now. It should go immediately. You want an appointment or shall we do it now?

Um, says Odin. Now, I guess.

Let me show it to you, enlarged on the monitor.

Odin looks at it, feeling like a character in an H.P. Lovecraft story gazing upon an Old One nestled down amidst belly hairs enlarged to two-by-fours.

Yeah, let’s do it now, he says, with increased vigor.

Back onto the table, shave, shot, cookie-cutter, stitch, stitch, bandaid and he’s standing up again looking at the hygienic paper cover the doctor had unrolled over the table before plopping him down. It looks like the Shroud of Turin, a little crumpled, with a sweat stain the size and shape of a medium-to-large man and, down by the feet, a bunch of black fuzz.

Apparently Odin’s socks today are lintier than average.

Or: the Effects of Fear-Induced Perspiration on Lint Adhesion, thinks Odin.

I always thought it was just a mole, thinks Odin. But it was something else. Something… eldritch and ancient.

In this fashion, Odin will go about cheering himself up.

The doctor gives him an an appointment to have the stitches out on April first. Upon hearing the date, tasteless prank after prank begin scrolling through Odin’s brain.

Nothing he could ever really do, but still. He is thankful for the distraction, it keeps him from thinking about the linty, sweaty paper, and about the tiny, ancient thing.

 

 

Halfway up a tree

Odin is halfway up a tree. It is a big tree. An ancient tree on an ancient, stony mountain, one of many in a grove.

A grove of Yggdrasils.

Odin is halfway up this one Yggdrasil of many. He looks down and thinks: fuck. He is so high up he would die a dozen times if he fell, so he keeps climbing.

But the tree is so gigantic he can’t see the top. And to be honest, Odin is scared. So he starts climbing back down. He doesn’t climb long before he notices a branch hangs over a plateau of grey stone. He climbs out along the branch and dismounts to the stony earth, to his great relief.

He wakes up and there is an angry red scratch on the top of his wrist he assumes he got roughhousing with the cat the night before.

At breakfast he tells his wife about being stuck halfway up an ancient tree. Did the fire department come and get you, she asks.

At lunch he walks to the coffee store and buys a kilo of coffee. Odin can never remember if he wants a kilo or half a kilo and always buys a kilo and notices afterward it is more than he wanted, he should have bought half a kilo.

He looks forward to smelling it when he gets home.

On the way to the coffee store, he saw the grey crow standing by the bench, watching him, so he buys peanuts and a sandwich. When he gets back to the bench, a German woman is parking her car nearby and the crows keep away until she finishes, waiting high up in the trees.

When she finishes and gets out of her car and walks away, two men walk past, carrying advertising from door to door. After they pass, a man walks by with a white dog on a leash. Three boys walk past on their way home from school. Several cars. A man on blue bicycle.

But then the crows come. First the black one, then the grey one.

The black one is eating a sandwich. Then Odin throws him some peanuts. It sets down the sandwich, takes the peanuts, hides them, then comes back for the sandwich.

The grey one does the same thing, except it hides pieces of sandwich too.

Odin guesses rats come at night and feast, and the next day the crows are all, WTF? But maybe not. Instincts are things that worked in the past, right?

“I am your life.” When he dreams, Odin asks his dreams what they mean. The tree said it was his life. Looking up dream symbol information online, a lot of sites say trees are the personality, or the self, or the life, or connections; all things Odin has been thinking about.

What say the slain?

Sometimes life is relentless. It is like the giant shark bending the bars of your shark cage. It is like the monster in the movies that can’t be killed, climbing back in through the window after you lock the door on it. Like an army of zombies surrounding your house. Like whack-a-mole. Like a salesman. Like an infestation of moles. Like ants. Like a tree full of birds, watching your every move.

What does it want?

It wants to give you another chance. It wants to give you exactly what you need. It wants to help you be more like you.

That would be so cool, it thinks.

Edgar Allan Poe and The Season of the Tortoise Dish

Edgar Allan Poe wakes from fitful sleep his eyes burning and swollen. He looks at the alarm clock but can’t focus his eyes and can’t find his glasses. He dresses and goes downstairs and looks at the clock in the kitchen which says two in the morning. Upstairs his wife is coughing. He looks for laudanum but they’re all out of laudanum.

A red cat rubs up against his pantleg, covering it with hair. Edgar Allan Poe opens the door and lets out the cat.¬† In accordance with the Law of Preservation of Red Cats, the other red cat comes in and demands food. Edgar Allan Poe goes back into the kitchen to get cat food because even though it’s too early if he gives the cat food it might let him sleep. If he doesn’t, it won’t.

In the kitchen, he steps into the tortoise dish.

These are the facts of the tortoise dish: it is too warm for the tortoise to hibernate, but too cold for the tortoise to spend all day outside. So the tortoise lives in the kitchen. That’s why there is a tortoise dish in the kitchen. The tortoise dish is full of water. The tortoise drinks from the dish, and walks through it before having a bowel movement.

Of the three nasty things you can do with the tortoise dish, stepping into it turns out to be the least nasty, as it spills the least water. The second-worst is to kick it by accident, which spills more water. The worst is to step on the side, which flips it over and empties it out, throwing algae-and-worse-filled-water a long distance.

Edgar Allan Poe goes back to bed, but the cat he let out is meowing so he lets it back in.

In this manner, he fails to fall back to sleep.

His alarm goes off at 4.30. He gets up, feeds the cats, eats breakfast, makes a cup of coffee and his wife asks him to take out the garbage.

He goes around the house gathering  the residual waste from all the half-filled garbage cans into a single garbage can. When he empties out the bathroom garbage can, something remains stuck to the rim of the bin. He looks closer. It is a sanitary napkin.

He sighs, and reaches to take it, but his wife is walking past and plucks it off and drops it into the other garbage can.

Edgar Allan Poe gathers residual waste from the rest of the bins in the house. He goes outside and empties it all into the large garbage can. The sanitary napkin is stuck to the rim of the small garbage can again. Edgar Allan Poe says, It’s the Tell-Tale Sanitary Napkin, or something. He plucks it off, and throws it away and returns to the house.

He opens the cabinet to get cat treats to lure a cat out of the living room, and kicks the tortoise dish.

Edgar Allan Poe drives his daughter to town on his way to work.

It’s beautiful isn’t it, he says. The weather. Like a new season. Too warm to be winter, too crisp in the mornings to be summer. They should invent a new season.

Dad, dad, dad, says his daughter.

Stuck in stone

It is a beautiful early spring day, so Odin sticks to the shady side of the street, because he is still not done taking meds that make his skin super-sensitive to sunlight. He talks to his wife on his mobile phone and laughs and crows follow him half the way to the tobacco shop where he buys his lottery tickets.

A crow flies past with a beakful of what looks like moss.

Pasta salad at the deli, and some peanuts. He makes it all the way back to the office, though, without encountering any hungry corvids.

But the day is too sunny, too bright to worry about crows.

Wander far, Huginn and Muninn.

What say the slain?

I was encased in stone all my life. Closed up in granite like a cursed jinn. What are the advantages of being trapped in rock?

You are safe and can’t be touched.

What are the disadvantages of being trapped in stone?

You are blind and deaf. You can’t dance or sing or taste your food. You can’t kiss anyone, or feel it when they touch you, or hold them when they are sad.

How do you get out of stone?

 

What say the hanged?

Look at me here, swinging in the sun, my shadow dancing with the dogs.

Maybe I looked at the moon too much.

But at least I was outside.

Maybe I ran through the brush at night or chased bees or scared people with my shadow.

But I was alive, what was I supposed to do?