Buck has the building key and he has my money. Wants to meet later to drink even more of my money, and we all know how far that will get him. Not enough for a teenage girl to get a buzz on. Speaking of teenage girls, Haines will be there too. Beware the hoof of a horse, the horns of a bull, and the smile of a Saxon. Usurper. Killing me with kindness. Part douche, part dumb ass. This path I’m on is long, steep, and relentlessly curving to the right. Three long horn blasts from a ferry just now. Funeral. Burial at sea. Exiled. Dump the ashes and note the time and coordinates. A quarter to.
I hear voices, sweet toned, sustained. They are calling me from the Sound. I wave, they wave. Are they drowning? No. Waving. I hear a single voice. Maaaaaaaaa. Maaaaaaaaa. There, a sleek brown head, far out in the water, round. A seal. Maaaaaaaaa.
Who am I? So many have told of me and have spoken with my mouth. They say I invented magic and then poof! I made astrology appear. With that I gained the foreknowledge of truth that diligent stargazing affords the patient. But those who lived my life didn’t stop there, oh no, not when it was relentlessly clear that I had invented truth itself. Believe me. That’s when my magic, they tell me, turned to the black variety and I became fearsome. Those closest loved me, especially for the words they said with my voice. He that stealeth from the poor lendeth to the lord. I became for some a prophet of God! Imagine that. Nietzsche even said that the priests, those poets of the Veda, were unfit to unfasten my sandals. Of course I too was a Vedic Priest. As I understand, in that capacity I wrote millions and millions of lines of verse. To give myself enough time for such a task, I invented the week. You’re welcome. And born from necessity, I invented hieroglyphics; I used them to hide my invention of Alchemy. Well to speak the truth that element of my curriculum vitae never quite stuck; Those who move Hermes Trismegistus’ mouth had that particular market cornered. Better PR. In my later career I denied to oblivion many deities so I could invent a singular monotheistic morality. Then Nietzsche used my voice to deny morality in favor of truth, my prior invention. Ay me. Well, what could I do? My life is an accomplishment of others. Rather grand and famous others too, I might add. I was the teacher of Pythagoras, they say. Plato liked the words in my mouth so much that he passed them off as his own. Excuse me, Socrates’ own. I was even Yeats’ pen pal! There’s a laugh to rival the one I had on the day I was born. My head came out pulsating and there I was, infant tiny thing giggling away. To my mother’s horror my head could repel the touch of a hand. You can’t touch this. Oh a unique birth to be sure. And rather an unnatural death as well. I’m rather proud of this one. By the time of my doom people were calling me a living star. Can you imagine? Me, a star! So how does a star die? I was murdered by another star. Was it really a meteor? Maybe lightning? You’re asking me? You show me what’s real. I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t there.
Somebody drowned in the Sound nine days ago. Got dealt a bad hand. The death card. Wait, that’s a good card. The happy squirrel card. I overheard a businessman and a boatman talking about it. They were guessing when the body will surface. The water is about 45 degrees so the boatman said that means it will be 14 days, shave off a day or two for salt water. The businessman knew that the man was overweight and went in alive. That’s worth a couple of days easy. He was drunk and beer means gas, so that will float him another day. They think he will come up today during the high tide. His fate. Bloated. Rolling, face to the clouds. Here I am.
God: [On the god mic] Alright everybody, settle in. We have a 7:00 curtain for tomorrow’s opening and you have a 6:30 half hour so for the love of me let’s be ready for it. Jesus did you call the understudy for Judas?
Jesus: He’s here.
Matthias: I’m here.
God: [On the god mic] Good. Ok. We reblocked so remember heretics you enter from downstage right and your exit is the trapdoor. Apostles your entrance is upstage center. Try to remember this time Simon, and don’t come charging out from downstage.
Simon the Apostle: Sorry about that.
God: [On the god mic] No problem Simon, just a bit less zealous this time.
Michael the Archangel: Do you want me to actually strike down the heretics or
God: [On the god mic] No no, just take their weapons away and kick them into the void. Right. Let’s see if we can get through this quickly. We need to tighten up cues and everybody be on top of your entrances. Head in the game people, angels. Places everyone, from the top of the show. Standby on lights 1 through 5. Standby sound A. Let me know when you have places.
Jesus: We have places. [To self] Does he need to say everything on the god mic?
God: [On the god mic] I heard that. No headset chatter please. Go to black. Light 1 go. Light 2 go. Sound A go.
[Apostles enter from upstage center and sing polyphonically. Michael the Archangel enters from upstage left. Heretics enter from downstage right.]
Michael the Archangel: [disarmingly] Halt heretics!
Photius: [mockingly] Whatcha gonna do about it? [sing-song voice] You are too weak to stop me!
Arius: [aggressively] Word!
Valentine: [in a spurning tone] Your god has no body! Your god has no body!
Sabellius: [subtly] Whatever. You are all the same to me.
God: [On the god mic] Ok, hold. Thomas, what in my name are you doing?
Thomas: I don’t think this is working.
Peter: Shut up Thomas, do you have to question everything?
Phillip: Was I any good?
Andrew: You were marvelous!
Phillip: Really? I was?
Thomas: I’m just saying that I’m not feeling this. I don’t believe what we are doing here. Doesn’t seem real, I have to feel it to be on board.
Michael the Archangel: Thomas I swear to stage manager, I’m going to kick your ass.
Thomas: I’m just saying, I’m not buying it. The superstition, the void. I mean come on, what’s under that trap door?
God: [On the god mic] Nothing’s under there, it’s a void. Thomas if you don’t get back to your place and do your job I’ll strike you down, I swear to me I’ll do it, so help me me!
Thomas: That’s it. I’m sick of this shit. MACBETH!!
Peter: No! No! No!
Michael the Archangel: Shit! We have enough problems, do you have to borrow trouble?
Arius: You cursed the show! And I wanted to be the one to do it.
Photius: Who here wants to run this show our own way somewhere else?
[Apostles spit over their shoulders, heretics turn three times, crew led by Jesus run outside to circle the theatre three times.]
God: [On the god mic] Holy mother of me it’s going to take an act of me to get this thing off the ground.
There are fifty-five stars contained herein. There are other fifty-fives too, signposts to here or there. And yes, there is yes, fifty-five times. You’ll see. We won’t get there until next winter, but what is time for us really? It is winter now, it will be winter then. But to focus. Star one: alchemy. Not the transmutation of lead into gold, no. That’s a red herring. We are talking about transcendence, not transmutation. And not the achievement of endless duration, life extending for years and years. No, another red herring. What we want is the movement from linear experience, one word in front of another, to eternality, the great all-at-onceness of it all. It is a secret but the word is out. And we won’t get there through rationality, no no. Throw that out the window right now. A circle is a circle because it is not a square and a square is a square because it is not a circle, yes this is so. Nice and rational. But square that circle and we have something else altogether. There is this and there is that, and then there is the third thing that they combine to make, two things contrarily defined coexisting as aspects of the same reality. I get ahead of myself. Star one. Alchemy: the catalyst for finding the eternal within the sequential.
What are you doing? Me? Oh, I’m typing. Right now I am typing. I am typing now. Here, you see? You can’t see. But what are you doing right now? Listen, I don’t know your now. I can’t know it. Nobody can and you can’t know mine. Picture us together. Go ahead. No, not like that, sheesh! Picture us together standing in a field. We are standing and we see two bolts of lightning strike simultaneously one on the left horizon and one on the right horizon but a bit in front too so we can see them strike down at the same TIME HOLY SHIT GET DOWN! That was close. Did you feel that? Did you feel it? Ok, now rewind, the same lighting strikes are going to happen but this time we are going to stand next to one of them. I know, I know. Trust me. Ok, now we are standing next to where one of them will hit and here IT COMES HOLY FUCKING CHRIST! That was too close. Sorry. You ok? You sure? OK. And look fast over there, the other lightning strike. Did you see it? 5 seconds I’d say. Those were the same ones (we rewound, remember?) but they are not simultaneous anymore because it took time for the light from that lightning strike over there to reach us over here. Ok, so why did I drag you out into this field and nearly kill you? Sorry again by the way, truely. Because I wanted you to see for yourself that simultaneity is relative depending on our position. The now of any event, typing for me and whetever it is that you are doing now (reading I presume, and whatever else you are doing. I’m looking at you sunshine.) You can’t know any now moment unless you know where and how fast. Can any now moment be objective? Don’t answer that. It can’t. It is relativity my dear, it’s relative. And without objective now moments, how can we have such things as lapses of time? Don’t answer that either. We can’t. If there is no absolute now dividing before from after, then no part of succession can have objective status. Do you see where I’m going? When I am going? If successive moments in time depend on our frame of reference, whether we are standing here or there say, the moment we call now cannot be a feature of reality unto itself. Relativity, you see. Causality is gone. Nothing can be said to cause anything now that the now has become so slippery, so protean. Hume says causality is a fiction of the mind, Kant says that the only knowable objective world is a product of the mind, Einstein says successive time is our most persistant illusion. I say this means that we have no free will. But don’t ask me, let’s ask God. Hey God. God. GOOOOD!
God [appears in a thunderclap]: What do you want I’m busy.
No you’re not. Don’t you exist in eternity? You can’t need time to do things if you have all of it.
God: Ok, you got me. I was bluffing. So what do you want? And before you ask, I am not getting anyone to sleep with you and I don’t care if your team wins. Conflicts of interest, you understand. You see the bind I’d be in if everybody asks for opposite things. So hurry up, what do you want?
A question, oh lord, supreme one, heavenly father, mother of heaven, holiest of holies, most beneficient
God: Skip the filler, just get to it, cut to the chase, come on, I haven’t got all day. Figures of speech, mind you.
Do you know everything?
God: Yes. Duh. You got me here so at least ask me something challenging.
Well, if you know everything, then you know everything that has happened and you know everything that is going to happen. You know all the past and all the future.
God: Yes, I know everything that is a part of everything. Yawn.
So if you already know everything that is going to happen, then everything we are ever going to do is already done, decided for us. Written down in advance.
Do we have free will?
God [blushing]: Oh! Shit. Didn’t expect you to ask that question. Well I did, but. Uh. Um. Yeah. Yeah. You have free will. Sure. Why wouldn’t you have free will? You have it. You have lots of it. Yeah. Um. Anyway. I hear sombody calling me. My phone. That’s my phone. Got to take that call. Coming!
I have no free will. I am a servant to three masters, a woman for whom I would not kneel, a church for whom I will not kneel, and a third for whom I ask others to kneel, although mostly I have to take care of those jobs myself.
When you see the arrow coming it has a softer strike, and I can see one clearly aimed right between my eyes. I can enfuture myself and hear him say it: give me the key it is mine, I paid the rent. And what can I do? I can’t afford this place on my salary. I can’t afford any place on my salary. I remember clearly that bitch who does payroll telling me, when her mistake lost me my funding, I should go live in a shelter. Good thing I got a TA, or I’d be living under a staircase somewhere. Well, with what I make that might as well be my next home. No. Instead I do what I do now; I go up and down other people’s staircases. When I think of the scheming and the senselessness I put up with my mouth fills with a salty bitter taste. I smell toast. No. I’ll keep my honor and keep to myself. Exile. Time is screaming toward me and I had better be prepared for the blow.
Haines, steeped in a study of American fundamentalism, asked me if I had ever accepted Jesus as my personal lord and savior. Jesus Christ. He must suspect all Americans think that if dinosaur bones exist then there must be dinosaurs roaming around somewhere. What God created must always be, no? Or more likely he must think that in America everybody thinks the bible is a voice talking about us now. Right now. See here in Psalms, it says that the economic downturn will end soon. Such good news! Good God. Yes, Haines, all America believes that in the beginning God said let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth and also under the earth, bones of dead things with aged appearance, and let humanity find these things and argue about Time’s beginnings and how long everything took to make, and big bangs and original sins and first floods and first falls and lines of time and a beginning and an end and a guy on a throne who created it all and has since kept busy involving himself in the daily minutia of our lives. Jesus it took six thousand years to get through one conversation with Haines. He wanted to know about creationism in schools and that sort of thing, but Haines, most (I do not say all) Americans have a fine understanding of Darwin. Let’s hear some nice reasonable science from the man himself and end this discussion right now:
Charles Darwin: There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one.
Shut up, Darwin! Come on man, back me up. What the hell are you doing? Good Christ take it back.
Charles Darwin: I have long regretted that I truckled to public opinion and used the Pentateuchal term of creation by which I really meant “appeared” by some wholly unknown process.
Nice save. (rolls eyes).
I deny successive Time and the deity it creates. You behold in me a horrible example of free thought.
My dad says he doesn’t believe in being a stern father and he makes a point of talking to me as a friend and an even bigger point of telling everybody he talks to me as a friend. Wants to be my brother, but my big brother who can still eclipse me and be the better man for it. Or fade me out like he is the sun and I’m a shadow that doesn’t stand a chance. He’s like that. Likes to think he’s so badass he’s everybody’s daddy. Lazy bitch. He called me that once. We’re as old as we feel he says and he is feeling my age. Buck called me Japhet in search of a father, looking for atonement. Iapetos more like. The Greek version of Japhet fits the bill a bit better I’d say. Iapetos the god of the mortal life span, who with his brothers the other Time gods turned their father into a bitch. Their mother Gaia, the earth, started it. She wanted a divorce. An old school divorce. Their father Uranus was an asshole of mythic proportions. He would hide the brothers in the earth once they were born just to keep them down. You can be a man, sure, but not as good a one as me. Mama Gaia got sick of this, as you can imagine, and made a plan. Then she gave Kronos a sickle. Now Kronos is the god of all-devouring Time so Mama’s plan fed right into his destructive side and he hopped on board fast as lightning. The rest of us needed little persuasion. Krios, my brother who runs the measurement of the year felt ripe for it, and Hyperion with his days and months always wanted to be a part of whatever Krios did, so he came along too. It took just a little longer for Koios to come around. He is the god of the axis of heaven and even though he said he saw it coming he couldn’t decide what was in it for him. Sheesh, you’d think the world revolves around him. He’s the one married to Omphalos, that blowhard, you know her? She’s full of hot air. Anyway, the only one of us who didn’t want to get one up on the old man was Okeanos, but he’s just in charge of moving of the planets and he does a piss poor job of it too apparently, with them going backwards whenever they want. What does he know about Time? So here’s what we did. We knew Uranus was on his way to sleep with our mother (the less I describe about that the better, don’t want this thing to start sounding like a Greek tragedy) and just as he was spreading himself all over the top of her, Krios, Koios, and Hyperion each grabbed a corner of daddy dearest and I grabbed the fourth. Then Kronos, who had hidden himself somewhere near the omphalos, jumped up fast and cut his dick right off. Just like that. One slice. Balls too. He howled so much you can still hear it now. Listen, hear that? Blood splashed all over the place like Carrie at the prom and a whole lot of shit happened after that, but that’s another story. The upshot is there was no atonement; it was an ambush plain and simple and now dad sings soprano. And Kronos still likes carrying that sickle around. He’s working as a travel agent these days. Wait. Hold on. Who is telling this story?
It was a moment, like a recollection of things to come, walking between Haines and Buck when Buck turned to look at me and said nothing. In that silence I saw my own image, looking shabby in dusty black (insincere?) between the two of them looking hip and expensive. Is this how others see me?
Buck still leading Haines on about my Hamlet theory, although so far I am not tempted to break my silence. I’ll tell it when I tell it, it can wait. Whatever. To him it won’t be worth more than the price of a pin. He told Haines I prove by algebra that Hamlet’s grandson is Shakespeare’s grandfather and that he himself is the ghost of his own father. Haines probably thinks I am my father’s ghost. He also thinks Seattle is much like Elsinore (I don’t see it). With the full weight of ownership of his rightful property that can only come from an Englishman who hasn’t read it, Haines called Hamlet a wonderful tale. How delightful. Isn’t that special.