Before I begin to satisfy the reading public’s unquenchable thirst for my always curious, yet never complete stories, please indulge me by scanning a few introductory paragraphs’ worth of a news item that was written about me. You may not need to know this stuff, but you’re bound to enjoy the delicious sin of responding with either unreasonable outrage or implausible approval.
Article From The Bronwell Gazette, May 31, 2012:
AVT Renounces Digital Reading Citizenship
No doubt many of you who frequent Pappy Amos’s Sugar Bowl Diner on Mullica River Road have already heard the rumor that several weeks ago Mayor AVT announced — nay, he declared — to his fans and enemies alike that he now encourages in an aggressive manner the publishing industry’s efforts to remain steadfast and loyal to their post printing-press roots by continuing to destroy as many recycled trees as it may require forever to produce books made of paper.
The mayor has established a charitable account with the Birch Bark Bank branch in Bronwell Corners, USA to fund an open conspiracy to put Misters Bozillionnaire, Smushpepsi, et al. out of the binary book business that has created a tidal wave of junk literature over the course of the past decade.
“The good books are still there swimming with the bad,” said AVT. “But finding a story that edifies as it entertains today requires searching an entire ocean to find one black pearl.”
Donations to the foundation can be made out to Kill A Recycled Tree, Make A Book. Paper checks only, please.
Witnesses to AVT’s Town Hall Declaration report that he was soon afterward heard to whisper at the top of his lungs — said susurration further enhanced by the exclamation points he traced into the crown of dream clouds that floats mythical about his head — “Kill more cows! Annihilate more alligators! Rout all remaining buffaloes if necessary! Just give me leather book covers of a quality proud to match the Italian shoes inside my closet!”
An astute reporter asked AVT, “Since you’re so hot on paper, ink and leather, how do you justify publishing your intellectualized tales of surrendered hope through a digital stream? I mean, come on now, what about your website?”
“It’s all just so much yakking with a keyboard. Every third person these days claims to be a writer, an author even. Most of these people, however, know little to nothing of Literature. They are rather talkers, typists, television addicts and purveyors of pale imitations of classic fairytales. What was once a noble art form has quick become just one more aspect of our consumer culture. People nowadays wear commercials on their tee shirts, caps and back pockets. Commercials for products that they might not even use.
“With the birth of MugBook, Gagme+, and the like, we’ve added a barrage of digitized book cover images to the list of those advertisements. For instance, you probably don’t know Arnie The Author — he lives in Kalamazoo County, Mars — but please ‘like’ his book anyway. You like my book, and I’ll like yours. No reading required.”
“And you, sir?” the reporter asked. “What are your claims inside the world of literature?”
“I’m a poor typist, a fair wordsmith and an incessant blabbermouth. My keyboard yaks, and I yak back.
“For a few decades I was a wannabe writer. I abandoned that dream. Nowadays I read good books and type out pieces of mentally entangled stories, the latter effort the result of force of habit.”
After AVT delivered his emphatic pronouncement, he allowed sufficient time for his audience of insatiable omnivores to grant him the gift of raucous applause. Next, he swung back his arm and began to toss his digital reading device through the Town Hall’s nearest open window and into the turbulent Atlantic Ocean storm that defines and defies the Bronwell Corners shoreline.
The particular silicon excuse for a library that he held was a 2nd generation Krandle, produced in a Korean sweatshop by indentured decadent drones whose smokestack helmets last year spewed comet tails of sulfurous steam that in turn so polluted the factory’s surrounding atmosphere that a thousand acres’ worth of onetime virgin fir forests spontaneously withered, bowed, crumbled, died and sought at last to coat the bones that slept inside old soldiers’ graves.
AVT’s silicon fastball pitch was at the last possible second thwarted. A local romance novelist of ill repute – her poor reputation earned and confirmed by way of predictable plotlines and overwrought scenes of curlicue carnality — as well as by her prodigious talent for composing countless and relentless numbers of poorly constructed sentences – caught the damned thing mid-air, genuflected on the beach and scribbled in the sand, “We cutting edge INDIE AUTHORS depend on these gadgets in order to create the illusion of a career in the arts, you frigging old fart,” we hissed, sneered, snarled, sucked and otherwise said in an erotic tone of voice.
AVT watched the next sea wave rise, crash, drag down and drown the venal wench as its foam drew backward against the mud and thus deleted both the romantic lady’s persistent mediocrity and all evidence of his Krandle’s digital archive.
And now on to today’s incomplete story:
The Adventure of The Primrose Mind
I met Sherwin Homes by chance, at a branch of the Public Library not far from the foggy fishing village where I live.
He sat across the table from me, reading a book, the type of book covered in cardboard and threaded cloth, its pages made of paper and imprinted with ink.
I occupied myself in the same way, with a book of similar construction (Chekhov’s stories), until an airborne rearrangement of electrons alerted my senses to a presence worthy of my attention. I glanced first at the man and next at the book he held propped up on the table. Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment.
Homes twisted the ends of his bushy moustache, rubbed his hand backward through thinning white hair, and constantly pushed his metal-rimmed glasses back up to fit upon the bridge of his prominent nose. Yet, I could tell by the intense squint of his crystal-blue eyes that he remained unaware of the world beyond the story that held him so entranced.
I entertained the thought that this random juxtaposition of two old men, each man absorbed by his own imagination — which in turn lay open to the stimulation of a dead Russian’s distant voice — just might represent a genuine twenty-first century anomaly.
Perhaps the most odd aspect of this encounter with the past was that the two of us were reading, in of all places, a library.
The inside walls of this particular library branch are painted an intrusive shade of pale pink. In summertime, the children of parents who are apparently unable, or unwilling, to afford appropriate babysitting services run loud and wild. The men’s room serves as a way station for people who live on the streets of a onetime enchanted town of pedestrian shoppers and sober university students. Consequently, the toilet seats are oftentimes smeared with feces, the tile floors are splashed with puddles of urine, the sink area is unofficially reserved for sponge baths, and the air reeks of perspiration that imitates the foul aroma of rancid chicken soup.
I mention this vulgar and offensive atmosphere only because I soon discovered that the prospect of visiting that filthy latrine limited the amount of time that both Mr. Homes and I were able to stay the course before checking out our books and seeking an overpriced coffee shop that featured clean facilities and doors that locked from the inside.
“Pardon me, sir,” said Homes. “I notice that your bladder feels as full as my own.”
“Why that’s an astounding — and accurate — observation,” said I. “How ever did you come to that conclusion?”
“Elemental mental concentration, dear doctor. Which effort is not equivalent to outright clairvoyance.”
“And you recognize me as a physician by way of the same intellectual prowess?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes. You see, your tweed jacket gives off the aroma of old penicillin, the arch of your right foot just kicked the toe of my own right foot — which tippy toe touch indicates that your legs are crossed as tightly as are mine — and you continually glance toward the dungeon of horrors that is absurdly labeled a restroom.
“My name is Sherwin Homes. The walls inside my superior mind are painted a mild shade of primrose. And I really need to go. Might I suggest that we leave the premises now and together?”
“Why yes indeed, Mr. Homes. Forthwith we should depart. I am Doctor Siciliotson, and I’d like to record your adventures. On paper and with ink.”
Standing side by side at the library’s checkout counter, Homes winced and smiled at me. I returned the empathetic favor. The librarian mumbled at us, in as sweet a manner as I suppose she could manage while performing, under duress, the duties of a profession once considered dignified. She zapped Fyodor’s and Anton’s spines with a laser beam, then passed our treasures across the counter and toward us. Books in hand, Homes and I ran in tandem for the door — as best as old men can mimic the act of running, that is to say — and headed for the aforementioned coffee shop.
Because I am a chivalrous sort, I allowed Mr. Homes a first crack at the facilities. I sat down beside a glass case that contained butterscotch scones, and I crossed my legs even tighter than at the moment of our initial, serendipitous meeting. There I waited for Homes to return, all the while hoping to tame my pain, until at the last I surrendered to modernity and used the ladies’ room. (Always cleaner anyway, and not just because the tender gender finds it more difficult to splatter the floors. Ladies are called ladies for a reason. Even the dullest of male brutes might notice that ours is not usually referred to as the gentlemen’s room.)
When I emerged from that heaven sent chamber — proof that God just might exist? — I was pleased to see that my new acquaintance had ordered each of us a cup of chamomile tea, served in almost delicate glass beakers with proper handles, this minor detail a further extension of my anomalous encounter with a gentler era.
“Thank you, sir,” I said.
“You enjoy reading nineteenth century Russian authors?” he said.
“Their stories most times frighten and depress me, but I favor good writing over what passes for the same these days.”
“We are of a like mind in that regard, although my primrose mind of late has been leaking what remains of my intelligence. I am, of course, weaker for the leakage.”
“You mean to say that you’re growing old and feeble?” I said.
“No, not that, Siciliotson. I mean to say that a recent visitor to my primrose study of a mind — a guest who, I now realize, planned all along to invade and destroy my intellect — has poisoned me.”
“Dear Lord in Heaven, Mr. Homes. This visitor you describe, is she a career criminal?”
“Well, yes and no. She’s an Indie Author of contemporary romance novels. Matter of fact, she used her latest grocery counter story — disguised by use of a pseudonym she stole from Daphne DuMaurier — to facilitate entry to my erstwhile Literary State of Mind. I ingested her hemlock, and now I am dying of boredom.”
“My dear Mr. Homes. Perhaps we can together tick back the tock of time, reverse the force inside the grocery store tunnel, and thereby restore your sanity.”
“Perhaps,” said Homes. “Perhaps not. After all, you’ve never once completed a story in time to stop a reader from dying.”