Digital Ischemia

15/08/2018

Wratislaw part 4 of 10

A drily hyperbolic, humorous short story – a pianist with a passion for Janáček’s music finds the composer’s unrequited infatuation is part of the bargain

Wratislaw series begins at part 1

With the stealth of a grizzly bear, Wratislaw forces his way further into the rhododendron, shattering branches and snagging his shirt. Obviously the witch has seen him coming, has scaled a tree, and has gained the tomfoolery initiative with the pelting effort. How can he get a tactical advantage?

Back on the ramparts, he had tried Kamila’s approach, grilling her about her motivation.
“Why are you talking to me? This isn’t still guilt for letting me think you were someone else.”

At the start of the afternoon, Wratislaw had headed to the back of the auditorium. His being there at all had been entirely the fault of a colleague who had suggested the diversion since he was in south-west Poland between assignments. He had had no other interest in a sideshow about ‘thinking’. He had expected to have to resist cheesy showmanship and light hypnosis.

As he had moved into the end of a row, a woman a few seats along had garbled some pleasantry. He had fumbled an apology in English. Always the British embarrassment for being elsewhere without any effort at the native language. She had quipped back—in English, curse her—that she wasn’t Polish either and the event seemed a long way for him to have come. He had admitted he had other business there and asked if the speaker was worth travelling from Czech for. And off they had gone, easily conversing across ranging fascinations, and incidentally swapping seats somewhere along the way.

Her clothes had draped over her willowy frame, under her long, straight, dark hair, itself under a retro cloth Alice-band. Her eyes were dark too, like treacle with glints of amber. Glints of activity within. Tremendous activity. He hadn’t sought to impress; just to keep up. He had had no idea she was psychoanalysing him. Or about the more critical factor.

After a particularly deep exploration of his motivation for solo performance, which had taken her a good couple of minutes, she had paused, glanced away, breathed, and smiled at him. That had fanned the sparks into a warm glow. She had then stood, ambled to the front of the hall and proceeded to lead a discussion on thinking. Hiding in plain sight.

He had felt eviscerated: six months of ‘getting to know’ compressed into six minutes. Had he only known that rich seam would have to last him six years.

None of that explains what Kamila is up to now with the clothing decoy. Wratislaw tries to distract himself from the distracting notion that she is unclad. In a tree.

…continues tomorrow

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14/08/2018

Wratislaw part 3 of 10

A drily hyperbolic, humorous short story – a pianist with a passion for Janáček’s music finds the composer’s unrequited infatuation is part of the bargain

Wratislaw series begins at part 1

Kamila had said she preferred the Czech version of the Polish Wrocław, although the sound was similar. She knew his real name of course, but wanted a conversation without the public celebrity, without the performance accolades. Wratislaw just wanted the conversation. What had she said?
“It just doesn’t work for me.”
“Doesn’t work for me either, obviously.”
“You are not happy in your illustrious career?”
“No, I mean yes, but the name doesn’t get me the attention of interesting, intelligent—”
She grimaced at the developing patronisation. He stopped. They started again. Obviously, somewhere thereafter, they stopped again. He winces at the recollection.

Advancing through the gloaming, Wratislaw senses dampness in the air then hears a faint, welcome trickling. However, inevitably, something is awry.

Where the river bank blurs beneath a willow’s fine fringe of branches, a suitably willowy figure lies, one leg stretched toward the rippling water. He peers to see if there are bare toes, or dipped toes. That seems more important than identifying the owner. In truth he has already decided that point, even if reality will prove him wrong. In the absence of movement, he begins stealthily closing the gap.

Wratislaw is interrupted by a twig or seed hitting the top of his head and pattering on the ground beside him. And another. Some squirrel at trough, perhaps. He doesn’t doubt that squirrels are nocturnal. He resumes stalking the prone figure.
“Have you thought this through?” That voice scythes through his viscera. It didn’t come from the bank; it was much closer.

He freezes for two seconds; for another two his eyes dart back and forth fruitlessly in the fading light; then he plunges into a convenient rhododendron bush.

Wratislaw crouches among the resentful jaggy branches, palpitating, sweating even. His mind races through his irrational and probably pointless behaviour. If she has seen him, then, obviously, she was the ‘squirrel’. Why hide in a bush, where she can no doubt still see him? In order to see her. And who then is the figure on the bank?

Always Kamila questioned. It was her way of creating conversation. “Why are you here?”
“Here in…Wrocław [vrotswahf]—did I get that right? I was saying ‘roe-claw’ until my manager updated my crib sheet—Good. So, here in this city or right here on this…rampart?”

After the event she tracked him to a flat roof outside the second storey dance hall. The french windows along the corridor were open for ventilation. She seemed relieved, as if she’d been searching for him and had feared she’d missed him. He’d been waiting and hoping, to talk some more, and some more, and some other. He was gratified.

Onward with her interrogation. “Or here in this country, at this building, this event. Or anything between or beyond. The point is to see how you interpret the question.”
“That really over-complicates things.”
“You only have to pick one, otherwise I think you evade the question.”
As he had earlier, Wratislaw found himself comfortable being truthful. “I am fixated on modern Czech classics.”
“Can you have a modern classic?”
“I think the question there was ‘then why are you in Poland’. Because Czech classics since Beethoven are like eating apple crumble for twenty years then tasting lemon sorbet. And now I need some…cheese.” The metaphor expired horribly on him.
“This is how you prepare: with a dessert menu?”
“I want to get right in his head—Janačék—like method acting, but playing. I want to feel ten years of unrequited passion.”
“And more than one thousand unanswered letters?”
“Yes! The wrist-ache!”

Here she frowned sideways at him. Surely she didn’t register smut; English not her first language etc. She ploughed on with the serious.
“Do you think composers must be unappreciated in their lifetimes for them to produce such timelessly brilliant work?”
“Keeps them keen.”
“Do we value composers’ legacies—our selfish enjoyment—more than their personal contentment and gratification?”
“Oh, don’t make it into a moral philosophy question!”
“How can it be a moral issue? They’re dead.”
“Except the living ones.”

So it went on: Wratislaw trying to charm through Kamila’s so very serious pursuit of wisdom, to cover the fact that he was utterly fascinated yet out of his depth. Which is exactly where he is again. Loving every moment. Despite his professional mental focus melting like the sorbet. He recalls the subsequent Chopin festival being another of his unremarkable performances. His Raindrop Prelude was a miserable drizzle. He can plot the correlation between his virtuosity dissolving and her presence in space and time.

…continues tomorrow

13/08/2018

Wratislaw part 2 of 10

A drily hyperbolic, humorous short story – a pianist with a passion for Janáček’s music finds the composer’s unrequited infatuation is part of the bargain

Wratislaw series begins at part 1

BBC Ben laughs as Wratislaw’s smirk melts away to distracted despair. Ben plays the precarious rapport.
“Shall we carry on, then? I mean: this is radio; we could be drifting in outer space for all they know.”
“Oh, I’m already there. Totally defused.”
Ben chuckles. “I like to have guests wait in a windowless void; they get a bit untethered.”

Wratislaw has managed to press the disturbance into just a tiny corner of his mind. He’s almost completely subsumed in describing his experience of Martinu. Almost.
“All that in just one minute forty-five. It’s miniaturism on a colossal scale.” He watches Ben puzzle over the juxtaposition and decide it makes a perfectly oxymoronic exit from the interview.

Ben shuts down the recording and thanks Wratislaw in his straightforward Manchester manner. Wratislaw appreciates the lack of toadying. Still, yet another something else is awry.
“Dress code seems rather formal today?”
Ben laughs coyly. “I didn’t think you’d noticed!”
Wratislaw chuckles politely, leaving a gap for Ben to fill. He learned that from her.
“We have this live section party thing after. A sort of thank-you knees-up for getting through the festival season with nothing more than a slight over-run from a broken string, a couple of screaming kids, and one interval track that went AWOL.”
Wratislaw allows a smirk. “Ah, yes. I’m invited.”
“Great! Well, might be awful actually. Our researcher–I think you just met her—she reckons we won’t last ten minutes.”

Kamila. Obviously. That’s why he is asking. Kamila Tuháčková. Not her real name either, but real names turn out to be meaningless. And researcher-cum-philosopher-cum-sorceresses don’t usually wear frocks like that. Surely. But of course Ben is just exercising their rapport, that diaphanous bit of professional camaraderie that is already dissolving. Because Wratislaw has a performance to come. Come undone. Come dancing. Cum-sorceress.

Wratislaw has made two laborious circuits of the throng, trying to graciously accept compliments, trying not to point out too often that it was, in fact, merely one of his mediocre performances. Gone was the ready confidence, replaced with caution. He avoided the risk of any flourishes, turned out an agricultural recital, and was lucky his damp tension hadn’t caused him to slide out by a half-note on those blasted polished keys. On the plus side, he can easily catch out any obsequious flatterers.

But he doesn’t have to be here. He doesn’t even have to be polite. He came for something else and it eludes him. A loose garden door catches his eye. A welcome respite to reassess and plot the quickest route for his escape. For his disappointment.

The downward slope of the extensive lawn draws him away from the hall. Nobody else seems enticed out here, unappreciative heathens, but the situation suits him. He deliberately brushes by shrubs and tree branches, unperturbed by dew and beetles landing on his jacket. The smell they give off is sublime. But everything is heightened when she’s there. Except not there.

Tuháčková, pronounced too-hatch-kova, not too-hats-, as one of her colleagues had doggedly referred to her, as if it was funny. Why always the British patronisation of other nations? Always inventing their own pronunciation and even names. But isn’t his own another example? Her example. Always an exception… Always exceptional.

…continues at part 3

12/08/2018

Wratislaw part 1 of 10

A drily hyperbolic, humorous short story – a pianist with a passion for Janáček’s music finds the composer’s unrequited infatuation is part of the bargain

piano keys spotlit

Wratislaw strides along the corridor to the control room in confidence and bliss. He feels completely ready for his forthcoming performance. He has no doubt the feeling is authentic.

He’s about 180cm tall with white hair on the top over dark sides, a head chiselled from stone, and the shoulders of a kite. His face is the intellectual, emotional counterpoint to this with considerably more expressive versatility than the usual boulder. Most noticeable of all are his blue eyes, focusing eons of Baltic cold from beneath heavy brows. You may recognise him, recognise his talent. You would know him by a different name. In any case, Wratislaw is not his real name.

To ice Wratislaw’s cake, the BBC has sent one of its more insightful, less hyperventilated presenters to interview him. He will not have to wade through banalities about Beethoven’s incipient deafness, or about Martinu’s exile. He will not have to resist the urge to throw icy water over orgasmic hyperbolae about pianistic virtuosity. A question about folk melodic origins will gain half a point. Anything about the ganzfeld of the etudes will get a full mark, even if it is lifted from his own sleeve notes. However, something is awry.

The control room is in darkness. Unusual in a building that seems to measure the value of its existence to the nation in gigawatts. He swipes ineffectually at the wall by the door. Instead of light, a voice rushes at him.
“What do you hope to see, exactly?”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I—” Someone is already in the room. Something else is awry. Very awry. He swivels about, searching for—
The voice cuts in. “Are you? – Sorry?”
He forces a single syllable from his maelstrom mind. “You!”

Wratislaw lunges at where the voice seems to originate. Suddenly the dark resolves itself into an impossible assembly of 3D geometry. Grey surfaces shimmer at him then dissolve – spectres reflecting the dim puddle of light from the corridor. He makes a few more cautious wafts before anxiety about his precious hands wins. He emits a grunt of exasperation. The voice of his unsatisfied desire tantalises him again from elsewhere.
“Are you trying to dance with me?”
“Where are you?”
“Do you want to see me?”
“Yes!”
“When?”
“Now!”
“Don’t be irrational, Wrati. You have an interview, a soundcheck, a sanitised meal, a wardrobe change then a performance.”
He barely notices the second sentence; the way she said his name, the name she had given him, then, there. He has to grasp something tangible.
“Tonight; ten-thirty.”
“You don’t sleep?”
“Now you’re being irrational, Kamila. How could I sleep with you…here?”
“Remembering my name is a good start. Ten-thirty at the Gardens.”

The last statement comes from the doorway, right behind him. He snaps his head around and glimpses her silhouette before it slides from sight. Ten-thirty in the Gardens. Is that agreed? Which Gardens?!

As his head sparks and buzzes disturbingly, BBC Ben lopes in with a glowing orb and two network cables: one orange, one blue. Fittingly unfathomable.
“Two hours to broadcast and we’re dismantling the wiring.” His unperturbed air is an unnecessary contrast.
Wratislaw returns partially to the present and Ben with his giant glow-worm.
“I thought I’d wandered into some awful joke about how many pianists it takes to change a lightbulb.”

…continues at part 2

24/12/2017

Three Boxes

Harris drives himself around the mezzanine’s south-east corner. Two more laps around the atrium, maybe three. He won’t have time for four. Walking is good for creative thought. Being away from the office is good for any kind of thought. He can’t think in that fairground of hollered conversations, phone rings, keyboard clatters, printer whirs… Nor in the fog of alpha-female pheromones.

Never mind the hurdles; he has a conundrum to solve. He focuses on the brick red railings passing at his left. The regular vertical stripes of shiny red soothe him. Until they refract into nauseating undulating shimmers.

Half way along the east side, Harris momentarily achieves a meditative state. Ironically this is vaporised by a numinous shaft of light from a southwestern skylight. Reflexively he halts, tilts his face perpendicular to it, to maximise the radiation, imagining he feels the warmth of divine inspiration. He registers a faint sigh. Sighing would probably be a key theme in the office soundtrack if it weren’t smothered by the fairground effects. The fairground conundrum. A seat in the sun would be good.

Harris wheels about and steps over to the nearest bench. This is mostly an act of spatial memory as his eyes are still readjusting to not staring at a nuclear explosion. Lucky chance has him alight not on top of someone else. As his eyes return to usual levels of exposure, he finds he is not at the epicentre of the beam. That position is occupied by a woman with a tilted face, closed eyes and beatific smile. He aborts his inner mocking reflex with the evidence for his own recent practice.

Harris launches in, “it’s like an alien tractor beam, isn’t it?”
The woman replies without turning her head, “I wasn’t sighing out of pique—it’s not my sunlight—I was exhaling in sort of appreciation.”
“Maybe you’ve had enough? I mean, maybe you’re cooked enough? Sorry, I keep sounding disrespectful.”
“No effect. Too good a day.”
“Depends where you’re sitting. Argh, sorry, sorry; I don’t mean literally; I mean my day’s pretty shite, as usual.”
“I was just wondering who to share my good fortune with first. Who might be most in need. And here you are.”

The woman flicks her head to face Harris and opens her eyes. He feels them rake through his motivations. The sensation is curiously paralysing.

“I’m Iona.”
“Harris. What fortune?”
“I got a commission.”
“From here?”
“To fill that space.” She indicates the massive cuboid of air within the mezzanine’s confines, capped by the shallow tetrahedral roof.
“With what? Why would you?! What are you?”
“Styrofoam; to blot out everything pleasant; a sadist.”
Harris tips his head back and manages half a chuckle. “Knee-jerked again, didn’t I?”
Iona turns back to the project space. “Serious answers: I don’t know yet; to make people think, to achieve your company’s objective and hopefully to get paid; and, I suppose, a sort of installation artist.”
“But however good your intentions, anything’s going to blot out that magnificent light!”
“Nonsense.”
“OK, give me an example! Please don’t say some ghastly perspex construction.”
“Just one? The sound of brass cogs and shafts, pistons and capstans, in an enormously convoluted contraption.”
“Yeh, I see how that’s not going to obliterate anything at all. And how are you going to hang it? Sky hooks?”
“A speaker?”
“Ah, I see: ‘the sound of…’; cunning.”

Iona turns to feel the sunlight fade, replaced by her smugness. Not to totally take advantage of her troubled companion, though. Supposed to be sharing fortune here.

“What’s your bother?”
“That’s what I was doing circuits to solve.”
“Before you stopped to interfere with my sunlight.”
“Can’t get anything right.”
“So let me spread my irrepressible joy over your problem and make you feel even worse.”
“I can’t really tell you. I mean, I’m not being mysterious, it just wouldn’t be appropriate.”
“How about … a metaphor?”
“Er, OK, I have— No, there are two boxes. I can pick one or the other.”
“What do they look like?”
“What?”
“These boxes.”
“Does it matter?”
“It would help me visualise the … options.”
“They’re solid, ebony cubes, with lids. Thick sides.”
“How big?”
“Pfff, about twenty centimetres each way. Happy?”
“Ecstatic. Thank you.”

Harris realises he’s going to be late back to the office. Suddenly he doesn’t care. It was a mostly self-imposed target anyway. The world has changed.

He volunteers more imaginary detail to delay the inevitable. “There’s a regular dashed pattern in a strip near the top of each side. You want to know if there are any chips or other blemishes?”
“I’d like to predict the inside.”
“Piss off.”
“OK, I’m going to write it down … then we can check later if I’m right.”

Iona fishes a scrap of paper and pencil out a pocket and scribbles. She scrumples the paper and lays it on the bench between them. Harris is unimpressed.
“Nerd.”
“Absolutely. On you go.”

Harris settles back to describe professional contents that have leaked in different ways into his personal life. One tends to froth angrily and foam stickily over the edge of its container. The other seems under control until you spot the poison leaching from the bottom corner. Under questioning, he admits the boxes are there as much to segregate the contents from each other as from his personal life.

“I can’t cope with both; I don’t even know if I can manage one, but I’ll have to try.”
Iona cocks her head, mildly amused. “Will you?”
“What other choice is there?”
“There’s always a third way.”
“Where?”
“Go back a bit.”
“In time? Are you going to tell me the two boxes were once parts of the same original box?!”
“That would be ridiculous.”
“So?”
“Step back.”
“Bloody metaphors. Oh, surprise, there’s a third box, sneaking into view.”
“And what’s in this one?”
“No idea.”
“Can you look?”
“Nope. Mystery.”
“Hm, well, I’m sorry. I see I’ve just massively wasted your time on this entertaining but fruitless diversion.”

Harris caresses the scrumpled paper prediction. After tantalising himself for a couple of seconds, he snatches it and pulls it open. He frowns, reorients the writing.

Iona watches him sidelong, curious but trying not to be too attached. After a few seconds of his neutral expression, she nudges, “well?”

Harris jumps up. “Come on.”
“Where? Why?”
“I’m going to need your help with these boxes. Well, with the other two.”
Iona hesitates. “They’re not going to like it.”
“Absolutely not. I see my metaphor wasn’t as veiled as I imagined.”
“You chose the third box?”
“Of course I did. I may be afraid of the unknown but I’m not a masochist for known poisons.”

Harris strides north. Iona grabs her bag and tries to keep up.
Harris calls back, “how’d you know then? Is red silk some standard default male mental image?”
“Railings, Harris. How many circuits?”
“What? Because they’re red and shiny?”
“What does this building look like outside?”
“I hate architects. And artists. What’s your name again?”
“Iona.”
“No, it’s Box Three.”

28/11/2017

In the Dark: Office

Two colleagues unravel a socio-technical faux pas.

PATRICK: Do you see what she did?! Why’s there no lights?
SOUND: SWITCH CLICKS RAPIDLY, TABLET CLUNKS ON DESK
NEIL: Turn it till I see, then…
SOUND: TAP, GLINGLE
NEIL CHUCKLES
PATRICK: Every time I go to get my email, this…daft picture pops up, jiggling!
NEIL: Very guid. Very guid.
PATRICK: It’s not good! It’s technical harassment!
SOUND: TAP, GLINGLE
NEIL: Sparkly wand! (GIGGLES) It’s like you have magic powers.
PATRICK: Yeh, magic. Why are you in here with no lights?
SOUND: TAP, GLINGLE, TAP, TAP, GLINGLE
NEIL: Aye, it’s like it’s you making the app come up. (CHUCKLES)
SOUND: TAP, GLINGLE
NEIL (CONT’D): The smug face is totally you.
PATRICK: Had enough?
NEIL: Naw.
SOUND: TAP, GLINGLE, TAP, TAP, GLINGLE
PATRICK: OK, OK. Come on, now. How do I get rid of it?
NEIL: Who cares? It’s brilliant! Patrick the arrogant magician.
PATRICK: Can you stop laughing at my trauma here and… I’ve been hacked!
NEIL: It’s no’ really hacking, is it, if you hand over the device yoursel’, no’ even locked?
PATRICK: I thought tablets were supposed to be unhackable?! Where did she get that picture?
NEIL: Probably took it. No’ difficult, seeing as you’re a’ways pointing at some puir wee soul, barking orders. Here, see mines.
SOUND: TABLET SLIDES ACROSS DESK
NEIL (CONT’D): She must’ve recorded me when I was chuntering over those dire business proposals.
SOUND: TAP
NEIL: (D) No, we’re no’ doing that. No’ doing that either.
NEIL CHUCKLES
SOUND: TAP
NEIL: (D) No, we’re no’ doing that. No’ doing that either.
NEIL CHUCKLES
PATRICK: You can’t do that; you can’t record people without them knowing! It’s illegal!
NEIL: How is it? You have a picture of yoursel’ on your own device: call the cops. (CHUCKLES)
PATRICK: This isn’t funny! This is frightening! Surely that’s affecting your productivity: every time you go to do something you get that daft message.
NEIL: No’ really, if you think about it. Setting aside that you definitely need to lighten up, so much of what we do online is knee-jerk; you dinnae really need to do it, or no’ right that moment. You’re addicted! You need to sit back and organise your thoughts.
PATRICK: “Organise your thoughts”?!
NEIL: Aye! So let’s sit back and—
PATRICK: In the dark.
NEIL: —think this through. What, are you afeart of the dark now?
PATRICK: I’m in a state of high alert! I’ve been threatened!
NEIL: The on’y thing getting threatened is your pride. So, what exactly did you say to her?
PATRICK: I said, “Neil says you can sort my email.”
NEIL: Ah, well, nae wonder.
PATRICK: What?
NEIL: Nae preamble. Did you no’ think to say who you were? Ask who she was? How her day’s gaun an’ that?
PATRICK: I did sort of explain: I said I was really busy—I was right in the middle of rehearsal and it was going all wobbly—so I needed my email sorted by the end of the day.
NEIL: Sweet.
PATRICK: I don’t have time for niceties! I don’t have time for the stupid helpdesk! Plus, obviously, my email’s hoofed. I had two thousand and sixty unread messages! I was on every group! I couldn’t see the wood for the bees!
NEIL: Did she say anything?
PATRICK: Er, she asked me to set it not to lock itself or something.
NEIL: Ah-ha.
PATRICK: Then I had to go back to the unattended imbeciles in the hall.

NEIL: Did you get it back by the end of the day?
PATRICK: In a plastic bag.
NEIL: Gubbed?
PATRICK: No, it’s just a bit odd, isn’t it? It’s like getting your dry-cleaning back in a fancy plastic case with a hanger when you just took it scrumpled in a bag.
NEIL: When do you get dry-cleaning?
PATRICK: Never mind, it’s suspicious, like: why are you polishing the turd?
NEIL: I think you’re taking the wrong things to get dry-cleaned.
PATRICK: So I asked. And she said, “security.” So I said, “pretty obvious what it is.” And she said, “yes,” in that patronising way, “but when the forensic team arrives, my fingerprints won’t be on it.”
NEIL GUFFAWS
PATRICK: That put the wind right up me! I’m looking down at my big greasy paw wrapped right round it. Right enough, the rest of it’s totally clean.
NEIL: Can you see where you went wrong?
PATRICK: In ever coming to speak to you today?
SOUND: TAP
NEIL: (D) No, we’re no’ doing that. No’ doing that either.
NEIL CHUCKLES

NEIL: How’s your email?
PATRICK: Oh, that’s lovely: all sorted, tidied up, all the pish banished somewhere.
NEIL: There you are.
PATRICK: At what price?!
NEIL: So you have a wee animated caricature that maybe gets a bit annoying.
PATRICK: And an email in my inbox called ‘kiss my osud’.
NEIL: I beg your pardon?
PATRICK: I think I slightly incited that.
NEIL: What did you do?!
PATRICK: When I came up at break, she was—
NEIL: You came back up?
PATRICK: Yeh?
NEIL: Where was I?
PATRICK: How should I know?! I can’t even operate my tablet! I don’t have a tracking satellite!
NEIL: Well, this’ll be it. Gi’es it, then.
PATRICK: Ah, she was just sort of swaying about, bending.
NEIL: How do you mean?
PATRICK: I don’t know, it looked like contemporary dance. Maybe she was doing yoga. Wasn’t work anyway. So I got a bit annoyed.
NEIL: Oh, aye.
PATRICK: I asked her if it was done yet. She glances over at it and says, “fifty-five percent.” So I say, “can’t you speed it up?” No, apparently it’s ‘synchronising’ so we’re at the mercy of the electronicary.
NEIL: So you were a wee bit tetchy, ya arrogant arsehole.
PATRICK: No, that was when I said something really foolish, considering— Do you know, I really hate how these techies basically hold you to ransom! Like, ‘lick my arse or I’ll accidentally wipe your life’s work—’
NEIL: Is it no’ ‘click my arse’?
PATRICK: Why is this a massive joke to you?!
NEIL: Because it is! What stupid thing did you say?!
PATRICK: I said, “I hope you’re not reading my emails.” I was pretty snotty.
NEIL: Aye. And her witty comeback?
PATRICK: How do you know?
NEIL: I have a sense of impending doom.
PATRICK: She glances at the screen again and snaps back, “yeh, I’m getting moist for your thoughts on… Jane Ace.”
NEIL: Jane whae?
PATRICK: Janàček. One of the emails that I did want. That just tipped me over the edge into haughty overload—
NEIL: Naw!
PATRICK: I just barked, “I need you to finish this—” She spits back, “can’t rush those security checks.” So I said, “just bring it to me before five.”
NEIL: Aaaiihhhh!
PATRICK: I know! Calm as a sanddune she asks, “can I check where you’ll be? Or should I just follow the glow of your specialness?”
NEIL SUCKS HIS TEETH
PATRICK: So I snap back, “hall six,” and stride out.
NEIL LAUGHS HYSTERICALLY
PATRICK: You don’t even know… I knew I’d been offensive, I just couldn’t stop. It never hit me till I saw the ‘Osud’ email: she kept saying ‘check’.
NEIL: Ah! Your yanar-check?
PATRICK: And Czech, the nationality. Osud is one of his operas.
NEIL: Well, that was worth waiting for. It must be braw to finally meet someone on your twatty, cliquey, trivia wavelength. While pissing them right aff.
PATRICK: Totally outmanoeuvred. But I think she likes me: “Dear Mr So-Frightfully-Busy-and-Important,” it starts…
SOUND: TAP, GLINGLE, TAP, TAP, GLINGLE
NEIL SIGHS

PATRICK: Where is the malevolent harpy, anyway?
NEIL: After she fixed your tablet, and helped me fix the power, she really had to go away and do her own work.
PATRICK: What do you mean: fix the power? We’re sitting in the dark!
NEIL: It broke again. Well, I broke it. I just couldnae leave it; I should’ve left but I couldnae stop myself going to press a button: FIZZT! Then you turn up with your light entertainment so here I still am.
PATRICK: What other job?
NEIL: What?
PATRICK: You just said she had to do her own work. What work?
NEIL: You’re still thinking she’s ‘just a techy’?
PATRICK: Obviously she’s not just a techy; techies are frighteningly powerful, plus she has scary special powers.
NEIL: Why are you so threatened by a woman with independent thought?
PATRICK: Because: look what she did to my tablet!
NEIL: Heinous. On’y it’s hilarious.
PATRICK: By the way, didn’t you want me to meet some woman?
NEIL: Oh, seriously? What’s this – seven hours later? We finally come full circle.
PATRICK: Yeh, that was why I came to see you in the first place, because my email was all clogged up so I couldn’t get the details but I knew I needed to speak to you about something, someone you thought, I don’t know, you thought I could work with? I was whinging about my email, you said you’d had the same, blah blah, then you pointed me at this bint under the table all tangled with cables.
NEIL: You are incredibly easily misdirected, do you ken that?
PATRICK: How?
NEIL: Thought I’d kill two burds wi’ one stone, or kill one stooge twice wi’ the same burd, as it turned out. Hello? Aye, there it is.
PATRICK: The… Medusa! She’s let me hang myself with the massive loophole of my assumptions!
NEIL: I think she let you embroider it a guid bit first.
PATRICK: Ah, shite. I need… I need… I need to get my head… When’s she here next?
NEIL: Dinnae ken.
PATRICK: I don’t mean to the minute. Tomorrow?
NEIL: There’s nae plan for her to come back. Thinking about it, I dinnae ken why she would come back, seeing as her day was totally hijacked by technical distractions and arsey demands.
PATRICK: She was only here today? I need to make reparations! I don’t know who she is, what she does, where she might be…
NEIL: I wouldnae worry; she certainly has your number.
PATRICK: Yeh, massively wide berth.
SOUND: TAP, TAP, GLINGLE
NEIL: Inbox, pillock.
PATRICK: Oh, right, good; I can’t wait for her to torment me some more.
NEIL: Och, wheesht your havering. If you really pissed her aff she could’ve totally scorched you.
PATRICK: (LAUGHS SARCASTICALLY) Yeh, I feel so comforted about all the stuff she could’ve done that I’ve just not discovered yet.
SOUND: TAP, TAP, GLINGLE
PATRICK (CONT’D): Will you give that a rest?
NEIL: I like the comforting glow of your specialness.
PATRICK: All your fault.
NEIL: Let’s just sit here a wee while, in the dark.
PATRICK: Why?
NEIL: For the metaphor.

02/07/2017

The Fly and The Mountain

Gliding through vast mountains on one of my observational learning expeditions, I spot a guy with a hefty head-load trekking up a treacherous pass. I alight masterfully beside him. He greets me with annoyance.
“Stop hovering around me like a fly.”
“I seek a drop of wisdom, as the fly awaits a bead of sweat.”
“You’re not even getting my sweat. Piss off.”

I am supremely unrufflable. I aspire to that infuriating spiritual superiority that would allow me to chuckle all-knowingly at any example of the atrocious suffering of the human condition. I float patiently, shadowing his trudging up the path.

I could remove his burden, his basket of headstuff, to the top of the mountain with but a thought. But he would not thank me. He would complain of someone nicking it before he got there. He would complain that he might want something out of it meantime. He wants his luggage with him. It’s part of him, of his life. I have no such attachment. I quickly check that I have remembered to imagine my physical manifestation as clothed.

A couple hundred yards ahead, a boulder broods beside the path. A mere thought deposits me and my irritatingly beatific grin there. I imagine the guy will soon approach a shoulder in the path, see the boulder and take in my omnipresence. I expect his expletive.

I return to my observation. The guy is relieved by my apparent departure. He is otherwise fully present in this moment. Full marks there. He relishes the effort and the reward of his journey.

Ah! There it is. ‘Reward for effort’. As he comes into view, his face indeed churns with renewed rage. I signal to him a cheery wave of thanks. He responds with the economy of two fingers.

I flash back to my ascetic eyrie to paint up today’s learning scroll. My thanks go to the universe for providing this experience purely in order for me to learn this lesson at precisely the right time. My egoic smugometer throbs pleasingly.

26/07/2015

Fractallite

Filed under: Shorts — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 11:00

Not that I was ever fast, but the fatigue slows me down and allows me to experience much more of my world. The pain focuses me on sensations. To paraphrase John Muir, I go inward in order to go out: I see my adventures in my mind, still hoping that one day I may re-experience them, but not attached to that; it is the story of my learning that experiences I hanker after will never come, while those that I have now are the ones to be savoured.

As my feet tread the carpet, my head follows its scalloped flight path through the muir. I have been walking a mere 15 minutes, and I am no distance from where I started, but my head is already a mile gone. It turns out that it doesn’t matter how far you walk. Success is not proportional to quantity. The slower you go, the more detail you see; in fact you’ll see just as much on that smaller scale.

14/09/2013

Remains

Filed under: Shorts — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Teepwriter @ 17:09

Why is my path strewn with carcasses? Every time I come here: remains.

After each session I allow my mind to settle before setting off. Nuggets of insight that I must capture on my… Well, it’s a reused packing slip. Point for ethics. If I don’t scratch out these gems now, they lurch up as I negotiate a mini roundabout. Beeping is negative reinforcement.

For now I’m walking. Back and forth, trammelled along a waterlogged furrow of grass cuttings, failing to avoid clumps of silage adhering to my shoes.
White movement: beneath a pine, a rabbit on its side, back hyperextended, revolving spasmodically then still. Nearby is a patch of plucked tufts of fur. It’s rear leg hinges up bizarrely slowly. I don’t see it breathing. I glance up, expecting a chagrined buzzard. I have no idea how to kill it, end its suffering. If I stamp on its head I’ll end up with with rabbit brain and silage shoes. The rabbit’s dying and I’m watching, nuggets gone.

Half way back I stop to check the roadside. Still there: a pair of roe deer fore-legs, elbow to hoof. The blood has rained off the concrete. No longer there: the smacked swallow.

Home, I have to wash my hands. I touched nothing, but deathly vapours circulate my fingerprints. A fruit fly has expired on the soap. That’s just stupid.

What’s the trite symbolism? Four-wheeled is forearmed; fly like a swallow, don’t swallow like a fly; preyed comes before a fall. Porno-class punnery, the aphorisms of my life.

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