May 30, 2007

Fiction for a Wednesday Morn: "The Illusions of Children"

Women are like cruise ships with unpredictable itineraries. Moody, they take you where you do not want to go and dress you as you would not dress. One minute you're on your way to Burma, the next Siberia. Guided by moonbeams, it's Scylla by Tuesday and Charybdis by Friday. But it is for our own benefit. Men without women are ignoble savages.

My father had a mistress was named Work. In the German she was called arbeit, pronounced not coincidentally "our bite". She demanded my father dress in a business suit made of polymers and took him to where he did not want to go. He left us for her every morning and the parting was made worse by our mother's cries, which we romantically imagined were due to separation from him but were actually caused by the anticipated persecution from us, her children. We were, to put it mildly, oblivious. We were delightful creatures of God utterly without sin though with the lung-power of ten men.

At church on Sundays I saw men wearing suits made of polymers called "ushers". I did not like or trust ushers. They wore the clothes demanded by father's mistress. But then my father became an usher and they were alright again.

I liked the priest's colorful and free-flowing robes. He called his mistress "Mother Church" and under the influence of the nature philosopher Mogli of The Jungle Book I deemed liturgy, a form of play and yet etymologically "a public work", the only worthwhile work even though it didn't happen outside, in the natural world, where saints like Euell Gibbons lived. But there were the natural ingredients of bread and wine and his mistress only made him work on Sundays. Or so we thought.

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