CHRISTMAS COROLLARY (RECYCLED)

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Some lights have made it year after year. Others haven’t. It’s the (natural) selection of decorations, a species subject to fashion, style, fleeting moods, or the unexpected, mysterious disruption in the electric circuit that can occur at any given moment of those 350-odd days when lights are confined to cardboard boxes, when tiny light bulbs pop at decibels below our hearing threshold on, say, 20 March, 5 June, 19 September, 23 November… The little bears with multicolored bottoms – they’d lived through the fall of the Soviet Union! – went on strike unanimously during a storm. Then the myriad flowers, one by one, were reduced to five still glittering, three dimly lit, and eight all gone. There have been ivy-like streams of light in the shape of pinecones, cookies, candles, moons, stars, suns, circles, triangles, spheres, dogs, angels, owls, doves of peace and leaves of life. And some have lasted a bit. And others just haven’t.

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THE OLDEST LIVING PERSON

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The bit of magazine was sticking out of the woman’s purse, a short article, in French – she must have enrolled in some French class, or be the teacher. Funny, though, as French teachers usually have that peculiar out-of-fashion Parisian feel to them and she didn’t – the article read (her shoes did qualify as distinctly eccentric though): “Celebrated. The 117th birthday of the world’s oldest living person. The Italian supercentenarian, who has been single since kicking her husband out in 1938, credits her longevity to eating two raw eggs a day. She is believed t…” – what? – “… believed to be the last person alive born in the 19th century.”

Maybe a conversation should have taken place about surviving, about aging. Gently, like the whispers of ancient people, hard of hearing, silence versus the clamor of collapsing changing years. And the whole coach acquired a new meaning, the whole train, at full speed, you could feel the tracks nailed down into the crust of the earth and all of a sudden, not anymore.

IRRESPONSIBLE WRITING FROM THE 1960s

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Irresponsible writing from the 1960s.

… and [he; nice fellow, overworked and underpaid] lit the first of the ten cigarettes that he smoked every day. When he had smoked the cigarette down to its filter, he put it out and emptied the ashtray into the wastebasket.

A contemporary adaptation.

… and, cautiously, on the sly, [he; no excuse for whatever his misfortunes might be], lit the first of what were now ten cigarettes a day. Down from eighteen. Good. No, actually, because it had been more than a year! When he had smoked each one out trying not to get too close to the filter, he would crush the butt into the ashtray, the veins and bones in his hands showing, and would then empty the ashtray into the wastebasket with a bang, a cloud of dusty smoke wafting up in the air and, at times, into his nostrils. He’d sneeze then in a panic. “Shit!”