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)

New cleaning lady

We have a new cleaning lady at work because the old cleaning lady saw a ghost.
I realize one normally teases more suspense out of a ghost story, my apologies.
You notice we have a new cleaning lady? a colleague said.
Yeah, I said.
The old one was cleaning downstairs and heard a lady taking a shower.
Okay, I said.
Except there was no lady taking a shower. It was a ghost.
Okay, I said. Could she like tell by the sound it was a lady taking a shower or did she check? Why would she look into the shower if someone was taking a shower?
I dunno. Maybe she could somehow hear it. She asked the manager and the manager said, no one is taking a shower.
They went and looked?
Maybe they went back and checked and no one was there.
Okay. We’ve had ghosts for as long as I’ve been here, I said.
Yeah? I heard someone died or killed themself or something.
Someone killed themself in the other building a long time ago when it still belonged to someone else.
Someone upstairs said they heard a baby crying. And a secretary told me she felt cold spots.
The other building haunted too?
Someone heard someone walking in a room upstairs, when no one was in the building. And someone else saw footprints on the carpet — footprints being made, as if someone were walking across the room as they watched, only no one was there making them.
It’s too bad about the cleaning lady, I liked her. She liked to talk about philosophy.

Weather is weird

Weather is weird.
This is no season. This is no proper season. Seventy degrees in November.
This is no season.
How are you, he tells the kid.
There should be fog covering that field, but there is only warm dry air.
How are you, how is a person supposed to answer that, he says.
Someone asked me that, he says, once, and it totally threw me because I paused to think about it instead of just say, fine.
The kid chuckles. Yeah.
I was all like, objectively or subjectively?
By whose standards?
What time frame are we looking at?

You walk to the store. A kid has a party, another kid says, your cat is so cute, the first kid says, that’s not my cat, and suddenly you’re walking to the store for extra catfood on your lunch break, plus something from the bakery in case a crow passes your way.

Of course it does.

Every day is the same. Get up, make coffee, read, clean something, feed cats, take shower, get dressed, go to work. Get lunch, or don’t get lunch. Read. Go home. Clean something, go to bed.

At a certain level of magnification, anyway. At a microscopic, sub-atomic level, I suppose things vary wildly. This electron will only ever be exactly here once.

This quark, now you see it, now you don’t.

Just say you’re fine.

Odin looked at his toe

Odin looked at his toe it was all bloody.

He thought a minute.

Oh yeah he stubbed it earlier in the day.

One mystery solved.

Odin walked to the store, not raining, crow recognized him, followed him to the store.

Do animals have consciousness? They think. They solve problems, is that consciousness? Also crows lie and steal, they look over their shoulders when they’re doing something shady to see if anyone is watching.

Here, Odin gives the crow a hard sausage. A piece of one. Then he gives the crow a second piece to see what it will do.

It studies the pieces. It arranges them side by side, perpendicular, then parallel until it has them arranged in such a fashion that it can get both into its beak at the same time and do something – hide them or fly off with them, Odin doesn’t stick around to watch.

It could have just flown off with one, left the other, come back for it later, but a second crow was watching so it had to take both.

What say the hanged?
I seen you on the dock letting the sunrise warm your face, you were smiling.
I remember how you liked to pick cigarette butts out of the gutter, back when you were still learning to walk.
Second-prettiest eyes I ever saw, some mechanic, brown eyes glowing amber in autumn sunlight.
Prettiest: green-eyed girl in an airport long time ago stopped me in my tracks.

What say the slain?
Nihilism is childish.
Agnosticism is where it’s at.
Certainty is for morans.
Who knows? Not me.
Who knows? Not me. Let’s find out.

Careers in Science: Hymnology

What was I talking about just now? asks the hymnologist.

Ffff, dunno, says his daughter.

Neither one of us is listening to me, he says.

I’m really tired, says his daughter.

Oh, right, slugs, he says.

Right, she says.

I feel better about killing them with beer traps than catching them and salting them on the sidewalk. Because one is murder, and the other one is their choice — hey look, beer! you know?

Right, she says. OTOH they end up dead either way. Although drowning in beer is maybe nicer?

But we’ll never know. Maybe they are paralysed and drown slowly and in great terror, he says.

It is a beautiful morning, with a variegated sky. They discuss meteorology. From there (spurred in part by their previous discussion of the ethics of killing slugs) they discuss human values, the nature of existence, the existence (or non-existence) of god, the relation between atheism and faith and agnosticism, astrophysics and the Big Bang, and economics.

At one point, the hymnologist avers that it makes no difference whether god exists or not because he does not intervene (since what would be the sense in that? If there is a god who creates the universe, it would only make sense if he did not intervene), and his daughter tells him he is an Epicurean.

We should like go to Colorado or Washington State and get high and talk about this stuff, says the hymnologist to his daughter. Once you’re over 21, of course.

They discuss the value of philosophy, and how impoverished a life without art and philosophy and other goofing around is.

Some days they sit in the car and don’t say a word to each other, but some days are like this.


“It’s a good thing you’re not a philosopher,”

said his daughter to him one fine morning in the car as he went on about something philosophical.

And he thought, you know, she’s right.

“You know, you’re right,” he said, even.

And he thought, thank goodness I never speak explicitly about philosophy.

Or write about it explicitly.

He wondered what it would read like if he wrote about philosophy explicitly.

It would sound like this:

The elevator starts moving but existentialism reaches over and hits the STOP button with a big thumb. Before Cartesianism knew it, he’s got both of Cartesianism’s hands in  a viselike grip above her head and he’s pinning Cartesianism to the wall using his anguish… his other hand grabs her doctrine and yanks down, bringing her face up and his facticity is on hers… Her truth tentatively strokes his and joins it in a slow, erotic dance… His despair is hard against her corporeal body, which she reminds herself is the source of all untruth and illusions.

“It’s all pointless, in the end,” whispers existentialism in a gruff, stubbly whisper.

“That’s how it seems to you,” says heterophenomenology.

“Where’d you come from?” gasp existentialism and Cartesianism simultaneously, still whispering.

“Google Daniel Dennet,” says heterophenomenology. “You might want to try me, though, as an alternative to her,” it says, gesturing languidly towards Cartesianism.

“Not that it matters,” says nihilism.

At the touch of zeitgeist, Cartesianism quivers and gasps. Existentialism shakes his head as if to clear it from cobwebs, and walks around her there in the elevator full and increasingly fuller of philosophies and their throbbing elements, trailing his despair around the middle of her doctrine. The second time around, he suddenly flicks the despair, without any warning, and it stings Cartesianism underneath her ineffability … right in the metaphysical mind … The shock runs through her, and it’s the sweetest, strangest, hedonistic feeling …

Gang of four noble truths

Four noble truths walk into a bar.

“Everything sucks,” says the first noble truth. “I’m dying for a pint. My job sucks. I am insufficiently kind to those I love.”

“I’m sorry, we don’t serve alcohol,” says the bartender.

“What?” says the first noble truth.

“You are only miserable because you think you should always be happy,” says the second noble truth.

“I’m miserable because I have a splitting headache and you somehow found the only bar in the world that doesn’t serve alcohol,” says the first noble truth.

“You only think you have a headache. But who is the You who has a headache? There is no You. The headache has you, and not the other way around,” says the second noble truth.

“WTF are you talking about,” says the first noble truth and lights a cigarette.

“No smoking,” says the bartender.

“Oh ferfuckssake,” says the first noble truth and puts his cigarettes away.

“What the second noble truth is trying to say is, if you could overcome your craving…” says the third noble truth, but the first noble truth jumps him before he can finish his sentence.

“Bar fight!” someone yells, and everyone else in the bar whips out their smart phones and films the first noble truth fighting the third noble truth while the second noble truth tries to break them up.

The fourth noble truth sits down at the other end of the bar, laughing and laughing.

“What’s so funny?” says a woman on the next stool.

The fourth noble truth shakes his head. “Everything. Nothing. I don’t know. I was so thirsty I drank a liter of ice water and my stomach sloshed for hours. Someone I love needed a compliment and a pat on the back and I didn’t notice until hours later. My dreams have been unusual. The world is mysterious.”

“You from around here?” asks the woman.

“Am I ever,” says the fourth noble truth.