It was the seventh day, I was the seventh son

The God of the Office took the elevator all the way up to his floor. The forty-ninth floor. Seven times seven. He had to think of AC/DC every time he hit the button. “It was the seventh day, I was the seventh son, and it scared the hell out of everyone.”

He could tell something was wrong, off somehow, as soon as he swiped his ID card through the reader and went inside, past the big hydroponic plants that the guys came and traded out for healthier-looking ones once every six months (they used to do it every three months but in times such as these). The office manager and the assistant office manager and one of the um one of the assistants, those guys who… like apprentices only they work for free, the one of the oh fuck am I senile, the office manager, her assistant and one of those guys working there for free were standing around the office manager’s desk, which stood in the entry way, beneath some somehow contractually-required wall art, a large abstract painting that the God of the Office rather liked, and they all looked up when he came in and the guy working for free – the Intern, shit, intern, intern, intern, broke off their animated conversation, discussion, even, to state with some relief: Here he is!

What’s up? asked the God of the Office.

He’s out on the ledge! all three of the others said, simultaneously, in unison, whatever, in stage whispers.

What, again? Said the God of the Office.

Yeah, they all said.

Aw, Christ, said the God of the Office and put his stuff down by his desk in his office and hung his jacket from his chair and in his shirtsleeves climbed out onto the ledge to try to talk the God of the Ledge back in.

Don’t come any closer! said the God of the Ledge.

The God of the Office sort of behind his back motioned at the others to stick their heads the hell back in the windows and leave the two of them alone. The God of the Office sat down on the ledge, carefully, and dangled his feet.

The ledge was a regular highrise ledge, a foot or two wide, going all the way around the building. The street was forty-nine, fifty stories down. The office buildings across the street were way closer than the ground. It felt as if, if you jumped, or fell, maybe you could reach out if you could get any sort of trajectory going, and catch yourself on one of those buildings before you hit the ground, but both Gods knew this was not true, this was not the case. The science of ballistics did not work like that.

The people working inside those other buildings looked like – and I guess were – biological specimens on display in well-lit dioramas, for it was a darkish morning, with a fog rolling in. A very thick fog. They looked like someone else’s dreams you heard about once and which somehow stuck with you for some reason, and in the hearing they became so much more vivid than your own.

Don’t come any closer, said the God of the Ledge.

I heard you, said the God of the Office.

Yeah, but you keep sidling closer. I’m not stupid. You do this every time.

The God of the Office was about an arm’s length away. Okay, okay, he said.

They sat there, the two of them, and watched as the lights in the buildings a couple blocks away twinkled and went out, disappeared from sight as the fog swallowed the city. The sounds from the street grew muffled and stopped. After another minute, even the offices across the street had disappeared and they were alone out there on the ledge, in silence, dimly lit in the thick morning fog.

I love the fog, said the God of the Office.

The God of the Ledge shrugged and nearly slipped off the ledge. He scrambled back and leaned against the building. So you always say, he said.

And this, wow, I don’t want to oversell it or anything, but this is some nice fog, said the God of the Office. When the God of the Ledge looked away the God of the Office handcuffed himself to the God of the Ledge, wrist to wrist.

You have a death wish? said the God of the Ledge.

No, said the God of the Office. I have a life wish. For both of us.

Yeah, well, not me. You might be regretting this later. If you’re betting I won’t take you with me.

The God of the Office shrugged, and almost fell off the ledge. Shit! he muttered as he scrambled further back on the ledge. The God of the Ledge helped him. They both, the two of them, sat there, hearts beating wildly, and leaned against the building and stared into fog for a while until their heart rates normalized.

There are worse deaths than leaping into fog, said the God of the Ledge.

I was just thinking the same thing, said the God of the Office. Last night watching an Alec Baldwin movie with my wife, I nearly choked to death on a piece of stale popcorn. All I could think, while it was happening, is what a sucky death that would be.

I was thinking of something slow and nasty, said the God of the Ledge.

Of course you were, said the God of the Office. Here. He took a sip from a pocket flask and passed it to the God of the Ledge and they sat there drinking single malt and staring into the nothing of the fog until they began to hallucinate shapes rotating there in the nothingness.

I heard what I thought was a muezzin, said the God of the Office, finally, breaking the silence after a  minute. Even though he spoke gently it sounded loud and he lowered his voice further. But it turned out to be boys yodeling “Jingle Bells” as they ran through the snow.

I saw a ring of bird feathers in the snow under the bird feeder, said the God of the Ledge. A perfect circle, all pointing outward, with just a little blood, and two bird feet standing up in the center of it. As if a bird had exploded in some weird cartoon.

Aren’t cats great? said the God of the Office. Speaking of nasty ways to die.

A person I love was unkind, said the God of the Ledge.

What, to you? said the God of the Office. He shrugged, carefully. He stared out into the fog. The whisky had sort of a metallic aftertaste that he reckoned came from the metal flask. The fog was so thick that he could no longer see even the God of the Ledge, only hear him, and that only barely. He shrugged again, for practice, testing how strongly he could shrug without falling.

I was at an exhibition, he said. I was at an exhibition of impressionist art and I watched my wife looking at the art and fell in love with her all over again. The way she looks at a painting, I really like to watch that, you know?

Now the fog had grown so thick he couldn’t hear an answer, if one came. He couldn’t even see the ledge upon which he sat, couldn’t see himself. Visibility zero, hand in front of your face, nothing.

The God sat there and sat, and thought about small things that had amazed him.

2010 Metamorphosism St. Valentine’s Day Limerick Contest


Things you should know, in no particular order:

This contest has been going for years, and is extremely popular. The entries are awe-inspiring. Last year some of the winners got a prize. This year, I have saved one or more of my books (Little-Known Facts) and will award it/them as a prize. I think I will get someone else to adjudicate the contest for me this year. THE DEADLINE IS  13 FEBRUARY 2010. Winners will be announced on Valentine’s Day.

RULES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE. That’s just the way life is. Anything else would be, like, trying to deny this fact about our existence. Here are the rules at the present moment:

  1. Entries must be a limerick. Go to, type “limerick” in the box, go to the entry about the poetic form, not the town, and read.
  2. Or google it, or whatever you people do.
  3. Limericks must include a structural misconception.
  4. Extra points for composers, musical forms, and Mahatma Gandhi jokes.
  5. Report on last year’s contest here.
  6. The arbitrary structural misconception rule was throwing people off (it was that, right?) so that has been eliminated. And composers have been done before, I think. And Gandhi wasn’t really being milked for the maximum comedy there, despite the fact that he used to sleep naked with young women to test his resolve, according to Wikipedia or someplace.
  7. So instead, the following rules will be in place:
  8. The limericks must be, as limericks often are, about love, especially its dodgier aspects BUT however use of the word “love” will result in instant disqualification. (Gamma suggested that one, I’m so proud.)
  9. Extra points will be awarded for the following: disgraced medical treatments, freshwater amoeba, character actors from the “That Guy” list of actors, skeletal bones, Irish politics, Irish writers, legal concepts, punctuation, and apocrypha.

SUBMIT ENTRIES IN THE COMMENTS TO THIS POST! Please include a valid email address (not posted) so that you can be contacted in case you win. Or don’t, whatever.

10 things about me

  1. My tailbone hurts from sitting in a loafing position all day.
  2. I am getting low on wiper fluid, which is bad, because there’s lots of salt on the roads right now, meaning that I have to ration it when I drive, the wiper fluid, squirting just enough at one time to clean a little spot on the windshield enough to see the road.
  3. I plan to get more wiper fluid when I fill my tank tonight.
  4. It turns out I am a cabbage-soup-diet recidivist. I swore never to do this again because glucose starvation made me so demented last time, yet here I am again, three kilos down for the time being. I’m doing okay, though. I was a wreck yesterday, but concentration and so on is better today.
  5. It was foggy on the part of my morning commute where I drive through the woods, and the trees were covered with frost.
  6. I can’t find my Bach cello suites CDs, which sucks because I am currently trying to learn part of a suite right now.  I suck at cello, by the way, but less than I thought I did, and less than I used to.
  7. Being a beggar, I cannot be a chooser.
  8. I’m really enjoying “The Rest is Noise.” It is a useful history of 20th-century music, because when I finish reading it, not only will I have a general idea of the current state of music, I will also be able to crack coconuts with a single blow. Here is a site that goes with the book.
  9. I am so hungry for bacon. My wife and I are going to a ball this weekend, and should be practicing our dance steps, which we seem to have forgotten (or, which I seem to have, at least) but so far we’ve been too knackered.
  10. Metamorphosism Valentine’s Day Limerick Contest 2010 starts next week. This year with even more arbitrary rules and biased judging!
  11. This might be the first time I’ve ever finished one of these lists.
  12. I could go on and on.

Careers in Science: Sentimental Meteorology

The sentimental meteorologist lies in bed reading a book about weather, wondering how many other sciences are expected by people to be wrong as much as they are right, and whether that means it’s a good job. He wonders about the most visible representatives of his profession, television weatherpersons, and how they often seem to be the comic relief on the news team — you have the anchorpersons, the sportspersons with the Frida Kahlo eyebrows, and the weatherpersons cracking jokes. As if the anchorpersons are chosen to physically represent journalistic integrity and authority, the sportspersons athleticism and a fascination with statistics, and weatherpersons science itself — a little goofy, a little aspergerish. People you could imagine forgetting their spouses at a rest stop.

The sentimental meteorologist is reading a book about weather because he wants to finally understand what causes fog. The book discusses every type of weather in detail, except for fog.

What  is it about fog, the sentimental meteorologist wonders.

Also, why was a cat sleeping under his pillow last night? What’s up with that? This makes him wonder if cats are a vector for lice in humans, and if humans can get ear mites.

And then everything itches.

Rest stops. The sentimental meteorologist would never forget his spouse at a rest stop, probably. Or a kid. Probably depends how tired he got.

The sentimental meteorologist wonders whether he should have studied optics or something, because of this: he has this idea right now that literature sucks because books contain the wrong light, or none at all. They lack the beautiful light of real life: the changing light of a baseball stadium open to the sky during an evening game, the light of supermarkets, sunrise and dusk, fog. The blue glow of television at night seen from the street by a lonely man. A campfire. A chemical factory burning down. A blinking cursor is no match for these things. Sunlight on snow. Oncoming headlights on high beam. A copy maching copying while left open. The immigration line at an airport at night. Restaurant windows at night in the rain. A squall. Heat lightning of a summer night while the family is out late, burning the brush pile and talking. A car with one headlight. A warning light on your dashboard you’ve never seen before when you’ve just emptied out your savings account. A strong flashlight held to a child’s hand in a dark room, a strong flashlight held in your mouth. Street lights coming on irregularly, or going off, or both. The light native to certain places, like Provence, or the Low Countries, or where the sentimental meteorologist lives. Hazy summer light, clear winter skies, light before a snow: black clouds, bright along the horizon. Natural light, manmade light. A lit apartment seen from a dark apartment. A woman in the bath tub at night seen by whispering boys outside. The light in a church. The light at a funeral not in a church. A light dimming and dying like a pen going dry.

The sentimental meteorologist tells himself that he has the feeling that his soldiers are massing along the border of a country and will invade soon and everything will be okay, but he doesn’t know what country.

Maybe he should have studied geography.

Everyone says fog is caused by water vapor in the air. Duh, thinks the sentimental meteorologist. But how does it get there, in the case of fog? Warm water and cold air? Cold water and warm air? Can’t be the latter, water is usually colder than air, right?

Predictions for 2010

  1. It will be foggy
  2. I will sleep until 8 AM
  3. Which is really late by my standards
  4. The cats will be hungry
  5. But the picky, sensitive red cat still won’t eat anything with the others
  6. It will be foggy
  7. The coffee is done
  8. Everyone else will still be asleep
  9. I will be really happy I didn’t set anything on fire with those pretty big skyrockets I was shooting off last night
  10. From a friend’s roof
  11. Which was made of grass
  12. It will be foggy
  13. And now smells a lot like fireworks
  14. But I did apologize
  15. That’s what happens when you invite pyromaniacs to a New Year’s party
  16. “Party”
  17. Man there were some funny people there
  18. The decade won’t actually end for another year
  19. It’s not hard to figure out. I mean, count to ten.
  20. There: What number did you start with, zero?
  21. Or one?
  22. Putz.
  23. It will be foggy