Odin, it is said

Odin, it is said, feared Huginn might not come back, and feared even more the loss of Muninn.

Odin sits on the bench and wonders if he let too many days go by without sharing lunch with the crows.
Today: some sort of coldcut sandwich. Some incarnation of pork.
Huginn comes from the word for thought, Muninn is associated with memory.
Odin thinks about his uncle, calling his (Odin’s) niece and nephew “little girl” and “little boy” because he had lost their names.
Odin thinks about trying to remember a word in the car on the way into town this morning, and making light of it with his daughter. He still can’t recall what the word was.
He curses and an elm tree bursts into flame.

It’s not much of a sandwich. Odin finishes it and some honey-roasted peanuts and walks back to his office.
Near the office is a crow, but it is the wrong one and flies to a nearby roof and caws.
Today, the weather is still.
Like the calm before a great storm, but the weatherwoman on television, the one who wears different shoes every day, mentioned only the possibility of drizzle.
Zero percent chance of Ragnarök, she said.
But you might want to take an umbrella, just in case.

Thought and memory

A white-haired man, dressed in dark, sits on a bench by the street and feeds a chicken sandwich to a pair of crows.

The sun is out, it’s a warm late-summer day, and Odin was planning to go for a walk, head on down to the Chinese takeout for some food to celebrate it being Friday, but then the two crows accosted him and he went to the deli instead and got a sandwich and some salad and here he is, wondering who’s training who.

A woman parks a convertible in front of them and until she walks away, Odin and the crows act as if they don’t know each other.

The sun is bright and the sky is blue but there is a schoolish tang in the air.

Odin liked school when he was a kid, but the start of school also TERRIFIED him. Maybe it was transitions he didn’t like? Maybe the fact that school always involved so many other people?

The crows are on their best behavior today. No one steals anything from anybody.

Everything okay in Midgard, asks Odin.

Huginn nods and wipes his beak in the grass. Same old same old.

Seamus Heaney, how dare you die, thinks Odin. You were only twenty years older than I.

Twenty measly years.

What say the hanged?

Odin is talking to his wife on the phone.

“I’m walking down the river with your daughter from restaurant A [where no tables were free, author's note] looking for a place to have lunch. I’m starving and going to be in a bad mood soon if we don’t find something pronto,” she says.

“Okay,” Odin says.

A sleek, black crow watches him from the grass between the sidewalk and the street.

“A black crow,” says Odin. “I was gonna go somewhere sort of nice for lunch, to celebrate it being Friday, but I think I’ll just go to the supermarket and get a chicken-curry sandwich to share with the crows.”

And that’s what he does.

He also gets some macaroni and chicken salad.

Odin pays and leaves the store. The woman behind him in line pays and leaves the store in time to make the crosswalk with him, but then she screeches to a halt and returns to the store, because she forgot all her stuff.

Odin wonders what that was all about. He’s munching on the chicken-curry sandwich. In the store, he had a choice between fresh chicken-curry sandwich at the full price or half-price day-old chicken-curry sandwich. He chose the full price option because he was already getting half-price day-old chicken-macaroni salad, and someone else in his family already had food poisoning and he didn’t feel like pressing his luck, although he could stand to lose the weight.

He saved the crusts, with quite a bit of sandwich attached, for the crows.

Back at his regular bench, he sat and ate some salad and waited for Huginn and Muninn. He wondered which one would come.

Regular bench. Odin had a lot of regular things. Regular things reduce the necessity to speak. At his regular tobacco shop, he just hands the woman his lotto tickets, she runs them through the machine, shrugs and gives him new ones. Theoretically, she also pays him millions of Euro once every ten million visits. At his regular bakery, the woman starts his double espresso before he says anything. Once every ten visits he gets a free coffee, if he saves his stickers.

And not just theoretically.

Huginn and Muninn both show up at the same time this time.

He has saved two crusts, more like two sandwich corners. He tosses each crow a sandwich corner, with grace and accuracy, using each of his hands equally well.

Remember, Odin is a god, so he can do that.

Muninn, the black one, bites off part of his sandwich and hops over to a tree, by the base of which he eats what he has torn off. Then he returns for another bite, goes away again to eat it, and so on.

Huginn, the grey one, eats some of the chicken out of his piece.

Odin wonders if that’s closer to cannabilism or to humans eating pork.

Huginn carries away his entire piece and hides it in a shrubbery. Then he steals Muninn’s piece the next time Muninn hops away to eat a bite.

Well, now we know who the smart one is, thinks Odin.

He tosses some macaroni and chicken to the crows, and they eat that too.

“What say the slain?” he asks Muninn. He always expects him to answer, “they say, AAAAAAAAAGH.” Or, “hey, y’all, watch this!”

“Every moment is imperfect and fleeting and therefore beautiful and precious. Each one of us is imperfect and fleeting, yet an endless multitude. Come one come all. The slain will talk your ear off,” says the crow.

“What say the hanged,” Odin asks Huginn.

“Never trust a woman. Family will rat you out every time. Let’s get this over with.” Huginn shrugs, it looks like.

Odin tosses the birds some more macaroni. He gets up, throws wrappers, plastic fork and napkin in the trash and walks back to his office. He passes the sleek, black crow on his way there.

“Join us next time, and I’ll give you some, too,” he says.

The bird watches him cautiously out of one black eye.

Wet plate collodion nightmare

It was dark in the dream. Perhaps it was night, or it took place in the cellar, or a room hung with black velvet curtains to keep the light out.

I (the dreamed I, the I of the nightmare) was trying to organize chemicals. It is necessary to have one’s chemicals organized if one is going to take some pictures using the wet plate collodion process. None of the containers were labeled, and everything was a clear liquid. So the I in the dream was trying to identify chemicals by scent – to tell the developer from the silver nitrate solution by smell.

Strangely, there was no collodion in the nightmare, at least not the part that I (the waking I, the I dreamed in my waking life) can recall. That is the only chemical used in wet plate collodion photography that I can identify by smell, because it contains ether, so it smells like the hospital smelled when when they took me there the time grandma (accidentally) poured boiling oil on my foot, or the time we took my little brother there because he swallowed grandma’s thyroid pills/stuck a raisin up his nose/got his hand caught between the chain and the gear of a combine/pierced his fingers with the wires that made the tinkling music inside a jack-in-the-box.

I could go on.

There I (the dreamed I of the nightmare) stood, in black velvet darkness, sniffing a variety of bottles, swirling the clear liquids inside, hopeless and frustrated.


Man: Yeah, right here on my forearm. A turtle. Tortoise, I mean.

Young woman: Yes, that would be cool.

Man: Think so?

Young woman: Yeah. And you could tattoo a rock on your bicep, so that when you flexed your arm it would look like the tortoise was fucking the rock.

Man: [blink] Totally.

How to shop at the public market

After two visits to the public market (Brunnenmarkt) near our daughter’s Vienna apartment, my wife and I are public market experts. Well, not experts, but we did learn one thing:

Always shop at the stands where the little old ladies in head scarves are shopping, but be careful to buy only what they are buying.

We followed the first part of this advice, but not the second, and regretted it. We stopped at a stand being swarmed by old women with head scarves who were picking over a glorious pile of peppers, but instead of peppers (which were the nicest at the market) we bought lettuce, because we needed lettuce and not peppers. After our purchase, we discovered a stand two stands over that was selling fresher lettuce (look at the stems – fresh lettuce stems are white, the older it is the darker/rustier-looking they get) a third cheaper – and that’s where the old ladies were buying their lettuce.

Down besider agin

There was this crow and Little Miss Muffet was trying to dig out some beef for it without getting sauce on herself cause she figured it would prefer beef to the wok vegetables or the rice and due to her concentration she didn’t see the spider until she had flipped the beef out into the street where the crow pecked at it and waited for it to cool enough to carry it off.

“Hola, guapa,” said the spider.

“Geeze, you, gah, whoa,” said Little Miss Muffet, fanning herself.

The spider chuckled and chewed on his cigar.

With his mandibles or pedipalps or whatever they are.

Seen up close like that, it was like something out of an old grindhouse scifihorror movie.

“Short story is,” said the spider around his cigar, and shrugged, all eight eyes looking upward theatrically, palms theatrically upward.

“What.” Miss Muffet paused, chopsticks halfway to her mouth with a load of rice from which generic brown sauce dripped.

“Perfection is another word for death. Check a thesaurus: perfection, death, paralysis, stasis, procrastination.”

Miss Muffet glanced at the crow, which was burying the beef under some dead leaves.

“All there ever is, is this moment and doing one little thing after another. One little, imperfect, broken thing after another, again and again and again.”

“Sounds depressing.”

“It’s beautiful. It’s the most beautiful thing there is. It’s the only thing there is, in fact.”