Nov 27, 2010

The Most Recent Strange Peregrination

of F. S. Whinkla

. . . being an honest recollection of events as they occurred on the last leg of his return journey to Kleadrap from Dallas, Texas after wandering several months in and around the Orient.

Part I

It was my third day on the road since leaving Dallas and I must have been somewhere east of the Rocky Mountains, maybe Colorado, or western Kansas. I remember checking out of a Holiday Inn Express around eight that morning because George Stephanopoulos was signing off when I turned in my room key. I’d eaten the complementary breakfast, treating myself to a plate (actually a bowl) of biscuits and gravy, and two, or was it three? hard boiled eggs, as well as four sausage patties balanced on an English muffin slathered in butter and scrambled eggs. Since then I had been driving north on highway 335 listening to Mojo Nixon, remembering Chapel Hill, and speculating on what might have become of Skid Roper. I must have been driving four or five hours because I was hungry, despite the less than customary breakfast I had consumed, and Mojo was beginning to sound like a voice of reason, and the gas gauge was near zero. I have a difficult time admitting this, but I simply don’t remember where I exited the highway to look for a place to eat and fill the gas tank, but that’s what I evidently did. I don’t have a receipt, but I do recall getting gas outside a little museum in the center of town. The museum was closed, only open on weekends, but the gas pump worked and accepted my Discover Card without complaint. As the tank filled I remember being somewhat mesmerized by what looked like a Calder mobile dancing in the wind across the street. A few hundred yards further up the street I stopped at a small store and bought a plastic tub of vanilla yogurt and a cardboard cup of what turned out to be horrible coffee (I tossed it into the weeds a few minutes later). For some reason I asked the young man at the cash register if there was a hotel or motel nearby. He told me the nearest place was either twenty miles south, or thirty-five miles west. Then he mentioned, if I was really tired, there was a sort of bed and breakfast place a few miles out of town, and without my asking gave directions.

to be continued

Nov 20, 2010

The Sanctity of Silence

(Whinkla will have to wait)

Strange Interlude

It was five-forty in the evening and I was preparing a salad for dinner. My wife was not feeling well and had gone to the bedroom to rest. It was dark outside which made the kitchen seem that much warmer, at least visually. I was probably philosophizing about the state of things when suddenly I became aware I was no longer tearing lettuce leaves. My hands were still poised above the bowl but as motionless as stone. A flush of seemingly limitless tranquility had overwhelmed me. Only my eyes seemed capable of movement. I had become a snapshot of myself. There was absolute silence all around. I listened. Nothing, I could hear nothing. The refrigerator was between cycles. The one, non-digital clock must have already ticked away the previous minute. The water pump was silent. No sound came from the highway a hundred yards away. No barking dogs. Trees silent in the non-wind. For a moment I thought perhaps I had been struck deaf, so overwhelming was the lack of sound. It seemed something immensely denser than silence had filled the kitchen, the air was not vibrating with the myriad frequencies it usually carries, but sucking them in, creating, how can I describe it, a numbing vacuum. I didn’t move, nor want to, for to do so might shatter the sanctity of the moment.

Perhaps the clock finally ticked, or the refrigerator needed to cool itself, but just as suddenly as I had been enclosed in a cloak of unaccountable bliss, it ended. My fingers began to move again and I tore a lettuce leaf in half with a deafening sound.

Nov 16, 2010

I just found out that Whinkla returned from Asia over a month ago! Why he didn’t call, or come by and pick up the packages he had mailed, before yesterday, I have no idea. He was quite excited and blurted out dozens of intriguing hints about his unbelievable adventures. “They’ll make you think ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ was nothing more than a collection of articles from the Wall Street Journal,” he said.

We talked and shared a bottle of 1974 Charles Krug, Lot F-1 Cabernet and he eventually thanked me for taking care of the numerous boxes and envelopes he had sent from various parts of the world. Then, as he was about to leave he said he simply had to tell me about something that had happened on his drive home from Dallas, Texas. He sat down again and related how he’d flown in a vintage Harlow PJC-5 from a dirt runway in Bejiaoxiang, a small village outside Ya’an in Sichuan province, to Hong Kong, then on to Tokyo, and then to Dalles. “There,” he said, “I decided to rent a car and drive back to Kleadrap . . . to reacquainted myself with the great beating heart of the American west after six months abroad.” I thought I was going to have to open a second bottle, perhaps a pre 1980 Reserve Beringer, or was that a ‘third’ bottle? but instead Whinkla stood up and took a sheaf of wrinkled papers from his briefcase and handed it to me. “Make for a good bedtime read,” he said.

I accepted the wad of paper he handed me as if I was accepting the holy grail and he pulled a large net bag from an inside pocket in his jacket and began to stuff in the packages I had accumulated over the past few months. “I’ll try to get back next weekend, if you think you’ll be home,” he said, “and I promise you hours, perhaps days, of unbelievable entertainment.” “I’ll be here,” I said, and helped him carry the unweildly bag to his bicycle. I watched for a polite time as he wobbled down the road and then went back inside where I opened a second bottle of wine, or was that a ‘third’?

An hour or so later I was comfortable, and comfortably in bed, and after adjusting the bedside lamp unfurled Whinkla’s bundle of papers. The first thing I noticed was that the arrogant S.O.B had opened with something in what I suppose is Chinese. I respect that he speaks, at last count, fourteen languages, but I still wince whenever I encounter words and phrases I don’t understand. Like when I read Pound or Joyce. At least Burton was discrete with his esoteric verbal knowledge.

Well, rather than paraphrase Whinkla I’ll simply retype his document, though I have had to excise more than a third of it for even I wasn’t all that interested in the colour of the crone’s teeth or toenails, or the exact texture of the molding of the bathroom lintel in the Gaudi bathroom.

Next post will be the words of Whinkla without introduction or explanation.