Inashortfiction's Blog

Third Arm

Posted in writing, short fiction by Psychopoliticus on September 21, 2009

Everyone in the family didn’t know what to do about the fact that their boy thought he had a third arm growing from the middle of his trunk.  In fact, it was highly embarrassing.  He was nurtured when he had influenza and everyone would gather around him. But not so with the arm!

 

“Well, why don’t you think that ,instead of a third arm, you have a million dollars or…or at least a Chinese Junk?”, the boy’s mother would say. “Or better than that–“, his father would say, “why don’t you pretend you’re a successful doctor? Put your imagination to good use!”

 

Once at an extended family dinner the boy was so preoccupied with his third arm that he kept crying out in agony; the arm would not stop suffocating him. 

 

“What’s the matter honey?”, asked a concerned relative.

 

“I have a third arm, and it won’t stop suffocating me”, sad the boy very directly. 

 

The embarrassment on the relative’s face was difficult to describe. She was looking away from the boy and smiling, as though smiling would make it all okay. 

 

“Maybe you can translate for grandma that I have a third arm and it won’t stop suffocating me. Otherwise she might feel hurt that I haven’t been spending enough time with her on her birthday”, requested the boy. 

 

But the relative was still looking away from him and still smiling. She didn’t want to associate with him. 

 

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The Toad or The Ineffable Lightness of Being

Posted in writing, short fiction by Psychopoliticus on September 21, 2009

 

 “Come out, you miserable toad!”, said Gayne and prodded his creature with a ballpoint pen. The toad waddled out complacently from his cage and looked lovingly at his master. Gayne put a swollen fig into his own mouth and chewed. He was silent for a long time …..

 

….

 

Finally he said, “Today I have something special just for you” and reached out a palmful of pellets to his toad. 

 

Ah, so today must be August twenty-eighth, cognized the toad.  He was good at memorizing dates. 

 

“Eat, miserable toad!”, commanded Gayne, “I got these especially for you”. The toad began to eat obediently from Gayne’s palm. “But don’t eat all of them! You are eating too many. There will not be any left”.  The toad stopped eating and looked up at Gayne. He was hoping to not go back into the cage for just a little while longer.

 

“I was thinking I’d like to paint you yellow”, said Gayne. But by the time the words escaped his mouth, he had already begun to lose interest in the toad. He prodded the toad with a ballpoint pen again and his toad went obediently into the cage. 

 

Gayne drew a sheet over the cage and turned out the lights. As was usual for this hour, he attempted sleep.

 

* * *

Gayne was sitting at his little workstation, his desk. An array of pencils was strewn around him. He held one in his hand and with viscous lenition attempted to sketch something but his intention felt vague.  The lines he drew went on indefinitely. Then he felt a particular soreness in his neck. 

 

He had a thirst to lift his gaze but somehow abstained, as though he knew a great demon were awaiting him.  I will do it in just a second, he promised himself–much as he did when wanting to urinate at night.  But without further cogitation, he suddenly looked up and found himself staring straight at the face of his toad– pleading and calm, as always.

 

Gayne looked down immediately. When I look up again–he thought--it is not going to be there anymore. And he looked up again only to see the motionless face of the toad, imploring him with its gaze yet perfectly still. He tried again to no avail.

 

“I despise you, miserable toad!!!!” he shouted, nearly weeping and banged his fists on the workstation.  “Leave me alone! Go away!!!”, he cried. He tried swinging at the toad’s face but his fists went right through it like air.

 

Then a surge of dopamine rushed through his body. Of course! –thought Gayne--I’ll just get up and leave. And he would have laughed a hysterical laugh if only not for the sensation that there was no more to the world than his little workstation.  Indeed, he saw no more than the surface of the desk where he rested his elbows and the face of the toad against an indiscernible background. 

 

He panicked. 

 

“Get me out of here, miserable toad!” he wept. Then he whispered to the toad- “Tell me how I got here! I will do anything for you if you tell me!”. But the toad remained motionless.  “Do you want me to touch you? Is that it? Do you want me to kiss you?”, he cried.  He raised his body and attempted to osculate the toad, thereby osculating the air. He banged his fists on the desk.

 

Instantly, he stood up and tried to walk away from the desk. He even closed his eyes. And while he was certain he was walking, when he opened his eyes he was precisely where he started. 

 

He repeated the exercise with his eyes open. Again, he was certain he was walking but, as far he felt he had walked, he was always in exactly the same place when he stopped. 

 

“Alright, then I will keep walking!”, Gayne said defiantly. And he did. But the thought of what he would see once he stopped rendered the activity pointless after only a few minutes.  Besides, the scenery did not change as he walked, despite the sensation of motion and distance.

 

The gnawing of impossibility, loss and self-pity made him weep.  And for an instant it seemed to him that he must be dying since to remain in the moment was unbearable.

 

Yet, two seconds later, Gayne realized that he was exactly were he had been sitting before he panicked.

 

He picked up his pencil again and began to sketch.  He focused intensely on sketching. For a moment it seemed to him that nothing is wrong.  After all, this life was not much at variance with what he was used to.  I’m still exactly the same–thought Gayne with restrained glee. Nothing has changed; I still despise the toad and I still do my sketches.  

 

“Hey toad!!! toad!! Miserable toad!” he cried out in mockery and joy, and looked up at the face of the motionless toad.  As always, the pleading, slavish face of the toad induced nausea and hatred in him, stabbed him with discomfort, even pain. But this always happens when I look at the toad! -he thought happily. 

 

“You want some of me, don’t you?”, he mocked. “Well, be patient and maybe you will get what you want”, laughed Gayne. A lightness engulfed him, an ineffable lightness of being. 


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The Burden

Posted in writing, short fiction by Psychopoliticus on September 10, 2009

He called his old self “topaz”, a clandestine name. Each time he was alone now, he thought of a line from Heine with bittersweet ideation: sleep is so good, death is better, yet/ surely never to have been born is best. He thought of Lorca’s “Llagas de Amor” but in a completely different context, as though his separation from himself was like an ulcer. And he knew not why he woke up that morning and suddenly everything was different, and every step he took was not free because the thought of the burden cycled through his conscious mind every few seconds. But there was nothing the matter but the sensation of the burden. If only he did not have to live the paradox– for no external cause compelled the sensation.

At the outset, he attempted suffering, on the analogy that a headache vanishes with sufficient endurance. This lasted only a short while. Then he attempted distraction; he gyrated and sang repetitive songs in his mind to pass the time. He had a special thought reserved for particularly trying moments; “if it gets too bad, I will run away”; he thought often of running away but each time he would start he would remember that his body ran with him.

Not long after, of course, he decided to see a doctor. What amazed him was the stratification of labor and displacement to authority; the nurse was there solely to poke him with a needle for the purposes of drawing blood. It was not possible to ask her for any assistance or advice. The specialists he was referred to only commented on the specific body part under consideration. It was a category error to ask them other questions, he learned. After learning that nothing is wrong, he stopped going to doctors. Medicine has not yet reached the Cartesian realm, he decided.

After a while, he became audacious. If never having been born is best, then what of all the things I might as well do?, he thought. And he remembered all of the things he had wanted to do before the onset of the burden and now, like a laundry list, he would complete them on principle despite the lack of corresponding dopamine surge that accompanied each action. He bought a violin, and also a dog. He learned how to program. He went to beaches, rode on trains, particularly enjoying dismounting at arbitrary locations. He became impulsive too. He slept with countless women and men.

Months passed and he broke down. He was especially influenced by normative ideas now since before the burden he suffered from seclusion. It is accepted, thought he, that when we suffer we seek wisdom from external sources. So he went to his grandfather. After all, he had been through famine and war. And he implored him: why do things not feel the same? why do I feel this way? He described in nearly poetic detail the sensations and limitations of the burden, and he remembered the precise moment of its onset. He recounted each stage of the struggle, and each realization. His grandfather was unfazed: “What you describe is the way everyone feels. Everyone feels this way!”