by Richard Martin


Mitch read Kierkegaard by the age of ten, jumped from the roof of his house into sparse grass with his dad in heated pursuit, disliked vegetables, got lost in high school, flunked out of college, tackled the Materhorn on acid, evaded the service, wore glasses, married young, divorced young, raised kids in the State of Transportation, lost many jobs, married older, sailed the seas, took a test and discovered he was a pathological liar, swam into one sea as far as he could without a rope around his waist (H. Miller's advice), refused therapy and self-help books, wrote self-help books, argued incessantly with himself and others about the STATE OF SELF, got mad, got angry, broke some stuff, loved clouds and music, read Sartre when he was eleven, defied sequence, told others he had never taken a test and discovered that he was a pathological liar, loved his parents, had siblings, suspected chronology of foul play, bailed on being, enjoyed commas, fought nothingness, went bald, loved croquet, got mad, got angry, broke some stuff, drank fine wine, read Schopenhauer the moment he turned twelve, got arrested, went bankrupt, felt rejected, failed to study the classics, failed a pass/fail course on Martin Heidegger, cried often, wept sometimes, loved anthropology, got mad, got angry, broke some stuff, bathed in starlight, had an affair, begged forgiveness, stayed married, got bored, rejuvenated at last, ate vegetables, and would never qualify for early retirement.

It seemed to Mitch, and Mitch knew a lot about seeming, that by the time he had entered the second paragraph of his life, which he called NOW, he was seething with range. It felt good to him like a finely tailored suit or a bunch of similes out on the town for some fun and games to have such range, though those caught in his entourage of forgiveness, the by-product of such range, were not so sure.

Take Mabel, his first wife, for instance. She was uncomfortable with Mitch's notion of entourage and her election into it, and didn't hesitate to phone one of his wayward siblings. Mitch had a boatload of them, though his intense fixation on philosophy at such an early age kept him from forming any meaningful bonds with them. Thus, while Mitch was testing the rungs on the "ladder of despair," they were out in the neighborhood climbing trees, playing capture the flag, forming crushes, and drinking beer in the shadows of school parking lots.

So imagine, if you will (Zich zo voorsted of u wil; Donc s'imaginer si vous ferez Stellen Sie sich so vor, Wenn Sie Werden;), the strange discomfort Mitch's oldest brother felt when Mabel's call came at the exact moment (suspect chronology) he had taken a black and white composition notebook out of plastic CVS bag in order to finally write down some of his unexpressed feelings about his younger brother - with the first sentence to the tune of : Mitch was a boy genius and a bastard - who had never connected with him etc. due to an intense fixation on philosophy and a proclivity (as duly documented in paragraph one of Mitch's life - namely, pathological lying). Setting down his pen, he picked up the walk-around and pressed the connection button. "Damn, I think I had something going there," he muttered to himself, as Mabel's voice blew into his ear like a small plane crashing in a hemlock forest.

"Ralphie, is that you?" she screeched in a voice of pure green flames.

"Huh?" Ralphie said, distracted by the crackling on the line. "Who is this?"

"Who? Why me, that's who," Mabel cried, pulling herself from the wreck of her own voice.

"I think you have the wrong number, lady," Ralphie said.

"The hell I do," Mabel said, momentarily detained by a coughing fit spurred by the ingestion of a smoky lozenge. "I married your idiot brother, didn't I?"

"Mabel?" Ralphie said incredulously.

"Yeah, it's me," she said, with sooty hesitation before continuing with the bluster of campfire girl sparking flames with flint and sticks. "Now don't go all weird on me and start asking about why I'm calling you after all these years etc. etc. 'Cause that's just a bunch of bullshit."

The tonal quality of this last phrase transported Ralphie into the haze of memories he had retained about his brother's unfortunate first marriage. From this haze, Mabel appeared along with Mitch. She had him in an impressive headlock, on the ground, and screaming into his ear: "I don't give two shits about phenomenological reduction. You got that." According to the memory, he was sitting in their kitchen and had just popped the top on a can of Bud when the altercation took place. The memory started to degrade after that, but not before Mabel's Amazon sensuality glimmered like a radioactive ghost in his startled, retroactive eyes. She was quite a babe!

"OK," Ralphie said. "What can I do for you, Mabel?"

"Have you been in touch with him or has he been in touch with you?" she inquired like a smoke ring coming out of an elephant's mouth. "Has he written or sent an email to you or anything?"

"Mabel, I don't even know where Mitch is. One of my sisters sent me an email saying she had received an almost totally illiterate note from him saying he had entered the second paragraph of his life or something. There was no return address on the envelope. It appears he may be out in LA."

"Anything else?" Mabel inquired, cooling down to a pond of marshmallow embers.

"No," Ralphie said.

"Well, I got the same note with the second paragraph of his life bullshit that also mentioned in a nearly indecipherable manner that he had some transformative vision and/or had gone through a transmogrified incident like the character in Kafka's bug story and via - yes VIA - one of these, I don't know which - thanks to his chicken scrawl - that he's no longer seething with rage but with range," she said, reheating like a new spark nestled in the needles of a forest floor. "The dope adds one freaking letter to one freaking word like he's the master of Japanese errors, and thinks, after all the chaos he has caused, that he has entered a new and essentially different part of his stupid narrative, oddly characterized as paragraph two. Plus, the bastard has the gall to tell me that I'm now part of his entourage of forgiveness."

Ralphie fell into the flames of her words like a deflated weather balloon into a desert storm of Ohio Blue Tip Matches. Bastard, he thought. That's my term for genius boy.

Mabel continued like a lick of enraged guitar: "I'll tell you right now, Ralphie boy, you can tell that dolt of a brother of yours, I will never be a part of his entourage of forgiveness!"

The hard click in his ear told Ralphie to hit the end button on his phone and place it back in its holder. Then he sat back down at his desk, picked up his pen, thought for a moment about the number of members in his brother's entourage of forgiveness, and began to write the next sentence in his account of his unexpressed feelings about his brother - a sentence full of warmth like the sun cooled by an exquisite, mathematical equation for just the right amount of ice cubes. Something Mitch would understand.



Copyright 2007 by Richard Martin