One final question

Man: (refreshes his glass of Midleton) So, before you kill me, how did you find me?
Two strangers: (look at each other with puzzled expressions)
Man: I changed my identity ages ago. I went off the grid. Were you clicking through old bookmarks from days? Do you even remember that “last updated” feed they had? I’m still friends with people I found that way. That was the best.
Man: Or was it a random social media link?
Man: Or something more sinister?
First stranger: I did a search for facts about the grunion, actually.
Second stranger: Names for electric cars, here.
Man: (takes sip, says nothing).
Man: Ah.

They sit that way for a very long time. The strangers glance at the bottle of Midleton now and then, but the man ignores them. They will be drinking this soon enough, he thinks, when I am dead.

First stranger: Actually, we’re not actually here to kill you.
Second stranger: No.
Man: Ah.
Man: (Pours himself a fresh glass, and puts the bottle away)
Man: (takes sip) Then you will be going soon, I imagine.
Two strangers: (Shrug, look at each other)
Man: Before you go, I want you to know one thing.
Man: All I want is for you to be happy.
Man: That’s all I want. But I realize that just saying it is useless.
Man: I mean, there used to be people who wanted only for me to be happy, and it had no effect. I disappointed them and myself. Happiness is an elusive target, anyway. I suppose what they wanted was for me to achieve a situation, a mental state and social/economic situation conducive to self-actualization and a condition of agency in life, and here I am, the same lost bobbing cork as always.
Man: But I am content.
Two strangers: (Give each other puzzled looks. One glances at the glass in the man’s hand)
Man: I am sitting in a garden, petting a cat and waiting for death. I have not achieved all I dreamed, but it no longer matters.
Man: All that matters is that you are happy. That you attain a state of agency and personal power. That you can speak of yourself with honesty. (Drinks the last of the whiskey, sets glass on table.)
First stranger: (Licks lips involuntarily)
Man: (Looks at the sky outside) Now I wonder if, when someone told me “all I want is for you to be happy,” they really meant “all I want is for you to have a life of your own and get out of my hair”.
Man: If, when they said, “Do anything you want,” they meant, “do something.”
Man: Hrm.
Man: (Notices the strangers have left)
Man: (Pets cat) (Drinks the last drops of liquid in the glass)
Man: (To cat) I wonder if that is what I meant.
Man: (Sighs, begins typing fresh story)

Just like that

The God of the Office snaps out of extreme (he took this test that’s what it said) depression just like that and takes a walk in the sunshine. He calls his wife no answer. He calls his daughter no answer. He texts his wife. His daughter calls back and they talk for a while but she’s in a bad mood (maybe) and she sounds as if her phone is at the bottom of a long pipe ROWRROWRROWR and then before he can cheer her up the connection breaks off. His wife texts back. He thinks,
Yes this is awesome!
Lilacs and wisteria blooming at the same time.
The God of the Office thinks,
Hopefully no crow will show up until after I’ve been to the deli and have food for him.
One of the Mossad guys from the Israeli embassy is walking down the sidewalk six feet in front of the God of the Office. The God of the Office tries to act nonchalant.
The grey crow swoops down.
Hi, says the God of the Office. I don’t have anything for you now. Hang on ten minutes, til I get back from the store, okay?
He wonders what the Mossad guy is thinking.
A minute later, the crow buzzes him, a real close swoop, he can hear the wind in the feathers.
This is one of his favorite things.
Once again, the God of the Office explains the situation to the crow.
At the store he buys a sandwich. He was going to buy a salad too, but the store is out of plastic forks. So he gets some trail mix and at the cash register breaks down and gets generic Oreos.
They cost practically nothing.
The crow meets him up the street, a couple blocks up from the store, at the usual place. He gives it some curry chicken sandwich and they stand there, watching each other and eating. Then the God of the Office strolls up the hill, towards the office.
The crow comes back and he gives it some more sandwich. At the next street corner, a second crow, a black one, arrives and he tosses it some sandwich, the last piece, but the grey crow flies over and takes it.
Here have some trail mix, says the God of the Office. The black crow pecks at that. The grey crow comes back and the God of the Office gives him some trail mix too.
And that was lunch, mostly.
There were other things of course. The long line at the cash register. Wondering if the Israeli was really Mossad – wouldn’t Mossad agents have better-fitting suits? You’d think. Maybe not, though.
There were a lot of attractive people at the store, and a few less-attractive ones.
There was the Invisible Hand, about which the God of the Office has been thinking, in the sense of it being a bullshit justification for an unjust status quo the exact same way kings used to be kings “by the grace of God.”
Now they’re kings by the grace of the invisible hand.
The God of the Office is trying to figure out what the proper expression is for such bullshit justifications.
And a few other things.
And that was lunch.

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.



Careers in Science: Micropalaeontology

The micropalaeontologist wakes up and thinks, damn. He thinks, what the hell was I dreaming?

Sometimes dreams vanish without a trace.

Rain strikes the window robustly. A cat purrs. The micropalaeontologist thinks, sometimes you have to turn on the special effects machine and freeze all the elements of your life, stop time and stroll among them, open-mouthed and wide-eyed and observe everything closely from every angle until you find a perspective that is not humiliating.

Sometimes you have to look hard until you find a method of seeing that does not make everything look like failure.

Some mornings are just like that, nights too.

You have to look and look.

Take all the time you need.

Earthling gridlock pyramid blossom hypersymbol eyeball eyeball snip

Interim report from

Planetary federation humanoid observation team Gridlock 0-1

On subject: Earthling gridlock pyramid blossom hypersymbol eyeball eyeball snip

Urgency: low

Justification for expending further resources on continued observation: lacking

Situation: Subject is eliminating sugar, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, tobacco and processed treats from his diet, but keeps forgetting. Had two beers (Stari Brno) with daughters last night. Shared sandwich (white bread) with birds this afternoon (does seem to have achieved success with tobacco, however) following an inspection by dermatologist who was interested not in  his skin but in his subjective evaluation of the success of a skin medication she had subscribed (subject’s evaluation: ‘about 50 or 60 percent’) and in any side-effects such as headaches, depression or suicidal ideation, and whether any of these had been present prior to taking the medication and whether he was under treatment or care for the latter to which he said, no, he wasn’t.

Earthling gridlock pyramid blossom hypersymbol eyeball eyeball snip, during the inspection, ideated a conversation between himself and the skin specialist in which he tried to express the ongoing competition between depression and melancholy for his mind, and how rosacea had tipped the scales to depression, thanks to his intense humanoid vanity, for which reason he had looked up the skin specialist to see if any treatment was available, which it was, ironically with above-mentioned side-effects, together with an entire booklet of other side-effects.

Six of one half dozen of the other, in other words. But subject only ideated this conversation, being unable to actually hold such a discussion in the agitated, anxious state this particular doctor somehow engenders in him.

Subject then returned to his place of employment, ideating a discussion with a clone of himself over whether it was better to concentrate on being a person, or on a man, woman, or whatever else anchors one’s self-image – athlete, worker, clown, whatever. Discussion was inconclusive,  although subject expressed a preference for personhood.

Subject briefly detected PF Observation team camouflaged as parasitic mistletoe in a large elm tree, necessitating deletion of 30 seconds of memory, which caused mild temporal disorientation (‘a sensation of timelessness,’ as subject expressed it in another ideation) but no serious lasting damage.