HANDFULS OF AIR
Stories and Poems
by Jim Gold
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Crusader Tours and Beyond
Recipum Magnum, 1
Pierre Becomes a Troubadour, 6
Pierre Joins a Monastery, 9
The First Crusader Plan, 17
Pierre Finds a Following, 22
The First Crusader Tour, 27
King Diamond, 32
Mama Clock, 36
The Elephant Who Wanted to Become a Rabbit, 38
Brain Arthritis, 41
Morgan the Gorgon, 43
Flight of Imagination, 45
Phrygian Knots Drive Phrygian Fred Knuts, 46
Fred Watches TV, 47
Fred Speaks Bulgarian, 47
Shining Jewel, 48
Fred and the Turks, 50
Fred’s Personality Change, 51
Jasper Gratz, Modern Composer, 52
Ludwig Learns to Staple, 53
Music for Real Fans
A Real Fan, 59
Knorbert and the Kneecaps, 61
A Death in the Finger Family, 63
Paul’s Piano Lesson, 66
Dental Musician, 67
Romance in E flat, 69
Three Tales of Jimenez
Catskill Moses, 109
Rebirth in a Major Key, 140
The Art of Bonality
The Discovery of Bonality, 186
First Grade, 192
Gilfry Meets His Ancestor Tobias, 195
Bonality Marches On, 199
Depressions Can Be Fun, 205
Paying Off a Loan, 207
Hell Travel, 210
Success Story, 212
Jones Corners the Water Market, 214
A Tense Mood, 219
What Are Friends For?, 221
Mr. Olby Through a Wall, 224
Dan and the Hebrew Letters, 226
Tommy Types His Way to Cold Turkey, 228
I Go for the Cuneiform, 229
Handfuls of Air
The Man Who Thought He Was a Chicken, 233
Tough to Tender, 235
A Session with Dr. Megamouth, 239
The Depression, 244
The Flight of Stairs, 247
Bayonne Bernie Visits Dr. Opto, 250
The Laughing Turnip, 253
Leif Ericsson Meets Lord Berserk, 256
Blood Flow, 259
Waiting for the Mail, 260
Carlos the Cloud, 264
Jack and Jill and the Big Bad Wolf, 266
Zane’s Brain, 268
Wow, Look at That!, 270
The Shoe, 273
Pure Mind, 274
The Philosopher and the Turtle, 275
When Jonny Comes Home, 276
Grendel the Nightmare, 283
The War God, 299
House of Fear, 301
Peter Pogin Paleolithic Painter, 303
Jack McQuinn, 305
Empire Builder, 306
Colby’s Halls, 308
Sleep, Sleep, Slender Sam, 309
It’s So Hard To Start, 310
The Muse, 312
The Nicestrikings, 313
The Loudest Sound in the World, 314
Universal Hamburger (How New York City Got Its Trees), 316
Train With a Brain, 320
Days Before Bones and Blood, 322
Listen to Statue Phil, 326
Who Is God?, 328
The Wind, 330
Songs for Open Ears
Listen to Your Children, 335
Long Journey, 337
Who Am I?, 339
Eli The Elephant, 341
Dinosaur Rock, 343
Clam Chowder, 345
Bubblegum Home, 347
Ballad of Jack Reeves, 349
Art of Gargling, 350
Group Guitar, 351
The Backward Clock, 353
Bonality Breakdown, 356
Grendel the Nightmare, 358
Swami of Salami, 360
Booni Hated to Wash, 362
If You Want Love to Fill Your Cup, 364
Gargoon’s Bassoon, 365
Beedle Dee Bop Song, 367
My Guitar, 369
Long Island Yodel, 371
Yodeling Mad, 372
In the End, You Simply Vanish, 374
The Bee and the Flower, 375
Red Hot Lover, 377
Blow the Clouds Away, 378
Song of the Dishwasher, 379
Man Who Thought He Was a Chicken
Once there was a young man named Clem who thought he was a chicken. He spent his days sitting under the living room table and clucking. His father sent for doctors and psychiatrists, but none could cure him.
One day a wise neighbor came to the door. “I think I can help your son,” he said. “May I try?”
“Please,” answered the hopeful father. “Come right in.” The neighbor entered. He crawled under the table with Clem, then began to cluck.
“Hey! Who are you?” Clem asked. “Why are you clucking?”
“I’m a chicken,” the neighbor answered.
Clem looked the neighbor over. “You sure don’t look like a chicken.”
“Looks are deceiving.”
The two soon became friends. They compared beaks, gossiped about hens, shared grain, and smoothed each other’s feathers.
Towards evening, the neighbor crawled out from under the table. He walked around the room.
“Hey! What’s the matter with you?” Clem clucked. “You’re walking like a man!”
The neighbor reassured him. “Just because I’m walking like a man doesn’t mean I am one. In my heart I’m still a chicken.”
Clem thought it over. He had to agree the neighbor had a point.
The next day Clem crawled out from under the table. He stood up and walked like a man.
That evening the family ate supper in the dining room. “Can I have a salami on rye?” asked the neighbor.
“Are you crazy?” Clem protested. “You’re going to eat like them too?”
The neighbor smoothed Clem’s ruffled feathers. “Just be-cause I sit at a table and eat like a human being doesn’t mean I cease to be what I am. I’m still a chicken.” Clem looked puzzled. “Don’t worry,” the neighbor went on, “you can imitate human beings and still remain the chicken that you are.”
Clem thought it over. He was convinced. Pushing his table into a corner, he picked up a ham and cheese sandwich and started eating. He spread his beak to imitate a smile. The next day he returned to his job at the Pathmark check-out counter; a week later, he registered for business courses at the University and was accepted into their MBA program.
Eventually Clem became successful in the field of grain marketing. He kept his secret identity as a chicken while working with others.
He lived a long fruitful life.
Only his closest friends knew he was a chicken … and they didn’t care. They liked him for what he was.
Tough to Tender
Once upon a time, there was a hen named Peckerella. Could she peck! She could peck a walnut until it cracked; peck a rose bush to shreds; peck a fence until it broke.
And she could peck a rooster’s ego full of holes.
Farmer Florentine’s favorite rooster was a bright bird named Roy. He was a bold cock, and had a way with chicks. Even the old hens loved him. Some laid eggs just to get his attention or be mentioned in his morning crow.
Roy Rooster was a rare combination: kind yet strong, tough yet tender. And when Roy heated a hen’s fire, you could see the hen changing from a tough old layer to a tender cooker.
That’s why Farmer Florentine decided Roy should marry Peckerella. It was the only way to soften her.
When Roy cast his eye on Peckerella it was fright at first sigh. And for Peckerella, that meant war!
But Farmer Florentine’s orders had to be obeyed. They dutifully stood side by side for the wedding ceremony while the
cows, dogs, geese, goats, pigs, and fleas of the barnyard gazed at them in abject silence.
The next day, Roy Rooster and Peckerella settled into a coop on the fashionable north side of the barn. There, on top of a hill overlooking the orchards in the valley, they spent the early days of their marriage at war with each other. Every day you could see feathers flying out the window and bits of grain rolling under the door, or hear frantic cackles and the sound of wings beating against the inside walls of the coop.
Finally, Peckerella drove Roy right out. As he left, he cried, “We’ve been pecking in circles. Can’t we find better things to do than peck at each other? We must have more in common than that. After all, we’re both fowl.” He shook his craw. “Maybe someday we can walk quietly in the barnyard, or eat chicken feed together.” Then he marched through the door, turned, and crowed back, “I’m through with the way we’ve been doing things. It’s got to change or we’re finished!”
This said, Roy Rooster flew the coop.
Peckerella felt terrible. She needed to fight. Without Roy around to blame things on, what would she do?
She paced around the coop, angrily pecking her breast. “I’m a good fighter,” she declared. “Why should I waste my time fighting that scarecrow? He’s not worth it. I’d be smarter fighting the best. And I’m the best! From now on I’m fighting myself!”
Right away she started to peck herself. At first, she pecked her feet. When they were bloody red and swollen, she pecked her legs, belly, and chest. She even pecked her neck. What a pain!
And yet, through the pain, she felt proud. She was good. The best! No one could peck like Peckerella. The pain just proved it.
Proud of herself, yet writhing in agony, she pondered her destiny. What should she do? Pecking was fun-but it hurt so much. Should she keep it up, or take it out on others?
Then a frightening question arose in her mind: If I can’t take my own pecking, she wondered, who can?
She slid her beak over her feathers and patches of bare skin. Suddenly she noticed that her skin, which had once felt tough, now felt tender. Her hard muscles did too .. .
She couldn’t understand it. This wasn’t like the tough Peckerella she had known. A new self, born of mortification, was slowly emerging.
Peckerella had tenderized herself.
She started to cry. Tears rolled down her beak like Ma-ma’s chicken fat.
She stepped outside the coop. A breeze caressed her skin; the sun warmed her. She felt herself opening to the world around her, yielding, giving in. . . . She took a deep breath, opened her beak, and clucked. It seemed that, by giving up her pecking, she had gained an even greater power.
She hopped around the coop, clucking happily. Then she headed down the path towards the barnyard.
When Roy Rooster saw Peckerella, he hardly recognized her. “Who are you?” he asked. “Are you my wife?”
She rubbed her tender skin against his. “Yes,” she answered. “I’m ready. Let’s try again.”
“I knew,” he declared. “I just knew!”
They walked quietly through the barnyard. And that night, as the moon shone over the farm, they ate chicken feed together.
“THERE’S no way out of this place!” Andy shouted. “I can’t find a door or window anywhere.” He beat his fists against the white wall in helpless frustration. His legs were red from pounding and scratching.
“We’ll never get out, never!” Phyllis whined. “I’m really scared, Andy. We could starve here if we don’t find an exit soon.
“Are you kidding?” he asked, shaking his head. “There’s enough food in here to last for months. There you go again Phyllis, always giving up. The slightest problem comes along and you fall apart. Why don’t you just quit worrying for once. Stand up and fight!”
“You think you’re so tough, but I don’t see you doing too well either. All you do is shout and scream. And it gets you about as far as it gets me.”
“Well, maybe you’re right.” Andy’s eyes surveyed the walls. “I’m gonna try again though. I’ve been in tight spots be-
fore and I’ve always found a way out. Don’t worry. I’ll find a way out of this one.”
Andy started feeling his way along the smooth walls and dome shaped ceiling. Some faint light was shining through, but that was all. He searched for hours, but found nothing.
“Let’s wait,” he said philosophically. “Sometimes waiting can clear your mind. Waiting may reveal an opening we don’t know about.”
They sat waiting. Every noon the heat rose. Then one day, in the early afternoon, just as the heat had subsided, Andy noticed a small crack in the ceiling. The crack grew larger every minute.
“Hurray, we’ll be out soon!” he shouted.
“Hurray!” Phyllis cheered.
Suddenly there was a tremendous cracking sound. The domed ceiling broke open; the walls fell to the side; air and sunlight burst in. Andy and Phyllis stood blinking in the brilliant light.
When their eyes adjusted, they looked around. Two hundred yards ahead of them was a barn with a farmhouse next to it. A brook flowed to their left, and in the distance were pastures and meadows. On their right stood a chicken coop; and before them, a Big Brown Hen. She clucked happily as the other hens came running out of the coop. They gathered around the new born twins, clucking wildly. After twenty minutes the clucking subsided. The hens lost interest and drifted off.
Then the Big Brown Hen picked up Andy and Phyllis and brought them into the coop to teach them how to cluck.
A Tense Mood
I remember when Pluperfect came to visit Conditional. After dining on a mixed clause and verb grill, Pluperfect said: “Conditional, I love dependent types like you. Do you love me?”
“Love you?” Conditional considered. “That would depend …”
“Depend on what?”
Conditional paused seductively on a morsel of would, and whispered: “That would depend on your clause.”
“I have an independent clause,” Pluperfect boasted.
As soon as he spoke these words, he recalled his best friend Future Perfect, and how he had asked him for help in his quest for Conditional. “With your help, I might marry Conditional,” he had said.
“Might?” Future Perfect had asked.
“Oh no!” Pluperfect had shouted, nearly jumping out of his sentence. “I’m beginning to sound as moody as that creep Subjunctive.” He had straightened his tense, paused, and continued “I’ll be more definite. If I were to ignore Subjunctive, I would marry Conditional.”
“Much better,” Future Perfect had replied, nodding his auxiliary in agreement. “I’ll help you.”
Pluperfect felt encouraged. When he met Subjunctive on the following day, he punched him right in his Mood, shouting, “I don’t mind an Indicative Mood, or an Imperative Mood, but I can’t stand a Subjunctive Mood!” Then he kicked him in his If.
Subjunctive fell to the ground, his verbs leaking. Gas-ping, he said, “If I were you, I wouldn’t do that again.”
“Spoken like a true Subjunctive,” Pluperfect sneered.
“You may be right,” Subjunctive answered, before lap-sing into unconsciousness .. .
Pluperfect cried out: “Had, had, had, had!” as victorious Pluperfects had done for ages. Then he marched off to meet Conditional.
When he reached her home, he knocked politely-then entered. Kneeling humbly on a verb, he asked: “Will you marry me?”
“I’m so glad you finally asked,” Conditional cooed, flashing a smile.
Next week, at the wedding ceremony, Pluperfect said: “Conditional, I’ll always love you.”
“And I’ll always remember when you would love me,” Conditional answered.
And Subjunctive, who was worst man at the wedding, said: “If I had known all this would happen, I never would have come.”
A Real Fan
John was black, tall, and strong. His rough face, sharp features, and full lips made him appear menacing to Martha. She was so pale and frail that she seemed almost helpless.
When he met her at the Brahms concert, sitting alone in the corner, nervously clasping her hands, he strutted over. His arms fell roughly on her delicate shoulder. “You pathetic creature,” he said. “Why are you trembling in the corner like a frightened mouse? Sit with me!” his bass voice commanded. “I groove on defenseless chicks. They don’t call me Fowl Man for nothing.”
Martha swooned when John spoke so forcefully. She stole a furtive glance at him, then cooed in a high pitched voice, “I’m so glad I can sit with you. I love your powerful arms holding my thin body. Strong trees must support weak branches.”
They sat together in the mezzanine. The conductor walked out on the stage, bowed, waited for the audience applause to diminish, then lifted his baton. The orchestra began playing Brahms’ Third Symphony. Martha’s face relaxed. But John’s contorted with rage.
“I thought this was a Bach concert!” he roared.
The people in the seats nearby glared at him. One young man told him flatly to shut up. John paid no attention. “I want Bach!” he repeated.
The musicians kept playing. John saw an usher racing down the aisle towards him. His eyes bulged with fury. As the music swelled, he picked up his chair and threw it down at the musicians on stage. Martha was mortified, but all she could do was coo admiringly, “Oh, you’re so strong.”
The chair bounced off a tuba and knocked over the french horn player’s music stand. The orchestra stopped playing. The conductor turned and shouted at the audience, shaking his fist, “Who threw that chair? What do you think this is, a wrestling match?”
John ripped a chunk of rug from the floor and tore it into tiny pieces with his teeth.
“I want Bach!”
He spat out the rug. “If I don’t get Bach, I’ll sing him my-self!” John turned to Martha. He picked her up by the scruff of the neck, threw her over his shoulder, and marched out of the hall singing the St. Matthew’s Passion. Martha tried to harmonize as she hung upsidedown, her face bumping into John’s buttocks.
John slammed the hall door behind them, pulled off the doorknob, and threw it at the delicatessen window across the street. As the glass splintered, you could hear the hams singing counterpoint in their sandwiches.
“I love your manliness,” Martha hummed as John pulled a stop sign out of the sidewalk and used it like a battering ram to smash cars and spear buses as they crossed Seventh Avenue.
Police sirens started wailing. John stopped. He listened.
“Is that Bach I hear?”
A squad of police cars surrounded him. “Put down that girl!” one of the officers commanded.
“Only if I hear a good fugue.”
The officers huddled for a plan of action. Then they broke out of their huddle and began singing the Parking Violations Fugue in E minor. John was enraptured by the superb counterpoint. He relaxed, put Martha down, and smiled happily. As an officer handcuffed him, he said with a touch of awe in his voice, “You guys are really good. How do you get so much feeling in your music?
“By handing out parking tickets,” answered the squat officer with the big mouth.
“Can you sing the Speeding Laws too?
“Naw, you gotta go to the State Troopers for that one.”
The officers pushed John into the paddy wagon. As they drove off, the radio played “Courthouse Gavotte.”
Meekly, Martha waved goodbye. She walked across the street, flagged down a cab, and went home.
The next day, she saw John’s picture in the paper. He had been sentenced to six months of Brahms. She held the picture in her small hands, saying, “We’ll go to more concerts when he gets out. He’s a real fan.”
A Death in the Finger Family
Once upon a time there were five Fingers. They lived together at Edge-of-Hand in northern New Jersey. Each finger worked six days a week, pressing strings for a guitarist.
Every month family members would set aside a few music notes in a Retirement Plan especially designed for older Fingers. The Fingers knew that although today they were strong and flexible, eventually time would weaken them. Each one wanted an early retirement in Florida where they would collect Social Security, lie in the sun, and live off their notes.
One day, Index Finger pulled a muscle and collapsed. The burden of leading the other fingers on the guitar neck, plus barring chords without any help, had been too much. The pain in his segments was terrible, and after a few days, he died. The other fingers were horrified. “How can we get along with-out Index?” they cried, as Index hung limply at Edge-of-Hand. “Who will point the way?”
After recovering from the shock, they decided a proper burial was necessary. Thumb called the undertaker, who wrapped Index in a white bandage, ordered guitar funeral mu-sic, and called the family together for a memorial service. Prayers were offered, and a moving eulogy by Thumb told of how the two friends had worked together, spending so much of their lives grasping things, or touching each other on walks through the park.
After the service Thumb said solemnly, “Index Finger had hundreds of notes put away for retirement. We must make sure they are equally divided among us.”
“That’s not fair!” Middle Finger cried, rising to her full height in indignation. She rocked on her knuckle base as her joints turned purple with rage. “I stood next to Index all his life! I supported him; I gave him strength. I should get the most notes. Index would have wanted it that way.”
“Don’t make me laugh,” yelled Pinky, who always leaned on the other fingers, and was so dependent that even during the Vivaldi Guitar Concerto-a Concerto in which she had almost nothing to do-she nudged Ring Finger when her trill came up, and pleaded, “Please help me. I can’t trill all alone.” (After the concert she was fined twenty notes by the Musician’s Finger Union for her unprofessional attitude.) “I’m the smallest and the weakest,” she continued. “I need the most support. Inheritance should be based on need, not greed.”
Ring Finger fumed silently as the other members of the family argued about the money. Finally Thumb, who was in charge of things, spoke with authority: “We must all live together. An uneven distribution of the notes would only cause conflict among us. A few notes one way or the other are not as important as family unity. The notes must be divided evenly.”
“Amen,” said Ring Finger.
Middle Finger was about to protest, but Thumb silenced her by stepping on her cuticle.
The next day was Sunday. All the Fingers rose at 7:00 a.m. They gathered round the meeting place of Palm. Thumb was about to divide the inheritance, when, suddenly, Index Finger began to move! The Fingers jumped. They rushed over to Index, stripped off his bandages, and saw him squirming about. Evidently the pulled muscle had only put him in temporary remission. He rose slowly, gazing at the Fingers standing around him.
“I’m glad you’re well,” said Thumb beaming happily. “This must be the Sunday Resurrection.”
“Yeah,” squealed Pinky. “It’s great having you back!”
Index looked healthier now. “I’m glad to be back,” he said hoarsely. “It makes me glad to see my family sticking together, even through my death.”
On Monday all the Fingers went back to work. Once again Index pointed the way as they closed in a chord around the guitar neck.
Ludwig Learns to Staple
Ludwig was sitting in the subway on his way uptown, reading his Bavarian Times, when a mugger grabbed him by the collar, yanked him out of his seat, and said, “Gimme you wallet!”
“Bitte?” Ludwig replied.
The mugger, a lean sixteen-year-old fresh out of ninth grade, glared at Ludwig with eyes so filled with rage that the German art student was sure he saw knives coming out of them. He wasn’t too far wrong. A very visible knife gleamed from just beneath the mugger’s coat.
“You wallet!” the mugger repeated. Ludwig knew he meant business.
“Bitte,” he nodded and reached into his back pocket. He had just come from Parsons School of Design, where all month long he had been taking a course in the stapling arts
“Faster! Move faster!”
This was too much. Ludwig replied by pulling his stapling gun out of his back pocket and releasing a well-aimed fire of 5/8-inch pointed copper-clads, which stapled the young hood firmly to the subway wall.
Then he returned to his Bavarian Times.
God sat on his throne. He spoke to man: “Man, I want to take a look at you. Take off your clothing.”
Man took off his shirt. “That’s not enough,” God said. Man took off his shoes and socks. “Still not enough. More!”
Man took off his pants. He stood in his underwear before
God. “More!” God roared. “Reveal yourself. Remove it all!” Man removed his underwear. He stood naked before
God. “Don’t play with me!” God thundered. “Remove it all!” Man trembled. He fell to his knees before his Maker.
“Lord,” he cried, “I stand naked before you. What more can I do?”
A deafening command rolled through the universe. “Use your imagination! Remove it all!”
What did the Lord mean? Fueled by fear, man’s imagination began to work. Suddenly an idea seized his mind. Quickly he stepped out of his skin, drained his blood, and removed his bones.
He stood before God only in spirit.
God looked at man. He said: “Man, you look like me.” Man looked at himself. “You’re right, God. I feel like you too.”
Then they embraced.
The Elephant Who Wanted to Become a Rabbit
Once upon a time there was an elephant who wanted to be-come a rabbit. All the other elephants laughed at her.
“Elly,” they asked, “why do you want to become a rabbit? You can’t hop like a rabbit. Rabbits don’t have a trunk, tough skin, or big floppy ears. You’re too big to be a rabbit. Besides, you’re an elephant. It’s best to accept what you are.
“That’s ridiculous,” Elly answered. “I can be whatever I want to be. I hate elephants. I want to hop around, have fur and a short nose. I want to be a rabbit and you can bet I’ll try to change.”
Then Elly tried to hop. She rose about a foot in the air, then crashed to the ground. The elephants laughed at her and walked away. A few nodded sadly and said, “It’s tough when you don’t like yourself.”
While Elly was lying on the ground a rabbit hopped by. “Can you show me how to become like you?” she asked the rabbit. The rabbit didn’t understand. As it hopped away, Elly realized she’d have to learn Rabbittilli.
She began studying right away. After two years she spoke the rabbit language fairly well.
One hot July day she tried hopping again. Again she crashed to the ground. But this time, when a rabbit came by, she was able to say in Rabbittilli, “Can you teach me to be-come a rabbit like you?”
“Illi fortrattimucutti calducky plook,” muttered the rabbit. “I must be nuts. How can an elephant be talking to me?”
“How can I become a rabbit?” Elly repeated.
The rabbit blinked his eyes a few times, then said, “I can-not teach these things. Most rabbits are happy just being rabbits. However, on rare occasions when another animal seeks to join our ranks, we generally send them to the Russian Rabbit Dr. Hopquick Stepsky. He is an excellent teacher although many think him unethical. He will teach anyone to be a rabbit if they can pay his fee of four hundred carrot pounds.”
“Please take me to him,” Elly pleaded.
“If you insist,” said the rabbit. “Follow me.”
The rabbit hopped across a field, brook, and hill, and finally came to a wooded grove. There, sitting on top of a rock, was the famous Dr. Hopquick Stepsky. The rabbit introduced Elly to Dr. Hopquick.
“This elephant wants to become a rabbit.”
“Very well,” said Dr. Hopquick as he studied Elly. “I can teach you to become a rabbit. In my ten week course you shall learn the complete Rabbit Method including hopping, nibbling at green vegetables, ear wiggling, fur combing, and relating to other rabbits as equals. I shall not teach you to become an inferior rabbit or a superior rabbit, but only an ordinary rabbit. Although most rabbits are content in the knowledge that they are what they are, I shall teach you to be happy in the knowledge that you are what you are not. My fee is four hundred carrot pounds. Our lessons begin tomorrow morning at 9 o’clock.”
“Thank you, thank you!” Elly left beaming happily.
She studied her lessons every day and after ten weeks completed the entire Rabbit Course, receiving her certificate in Rabbitology from Dr. Hopquick.
“Now it is time for you to make your own way in the world,” said Dr. Hopquick knowingly. “What I have taught you is only how the rabbits in the past have handled the problems of Rabbithood. However, the future is ever changing. Your problems will be different from those of other rabbits. Use the core of my teachings to help you hop over the hills of life and may you land safely in the carrot patch of your choice.”
Then Dr. Hopquick said goodbye and hopped across the field. As Elly saw him disappear behind a tree, she thought, “At last I have accomplished what I wanted. I feel so proud!”
Elly worked with Dr. Hopquick’s methods, but she still had trouble. She hated carrots and lost weight eating them. When she hopped, she still came crashing to the ground. She still couldn’t nibble at green vegetables or wiggle her ears. Now the elephants in the neighborhood had nothing to do with her, while the rabbits paid no attention to her either. Finally one day she tried hopping across a stream and fell on her head. As she lay semi-conscious in the mud only the flies settling on her hide seemed to notice her.
Three of her old elephant friends saw what happened. They came over, dragged her out of the mud, and laid her down in the grass. As one elephant stroked her head with his trunk, the other blew cool water across her body and the third whispered in her ear.
His whispers made her dream a strange dream. She was on a hill overlooking a field of rabbits. All the rabbits were sitting absolutely still and looking at her. Slowly the rabbits began changing into elephants. Then the elephants changed into an enormous elephant as big as a mountain. The enormous elephant looked down on little Elly with a kindly expression on his face. He stroked her, saying in a soothing voice, “Elly, you are beautiful. No matter how you act or what you do you will always be beautiful to me. If you are a rabbit, to be a rabbit is beautiful. If you are an elephant, to be an elephant is beautiful. And if you are Elly, to be Elly is beautiful. Go and enjoy yourself. No one can take your beauty away.”
Elly woke slowly from her dream. Her eyes blinked. She lifted her head. Gently her friends helped her up. She seemed different now. Her burdens had been lifted. A strange peace came over her. Her trunk swung from side to side as she walked down the road with a new freedom. She felt there could be nothing better in the world than being an elephant.
Depressions Can Be Fun
OM LOCKWOOD KICKED THE wall. Why wasn’t he getting more out of his depressions? Whenever Jack Blotnick got depressed, he went to Florida; whenever Sarah and Sidney got depressed, they ate deli; whenever rich Harry Fosnut got depressed, he bought a new car—or a new business. Even Toots
Lint, when he got depressed, went to bed.
Everyone Tom knew got benefits from depressions.
He wanted to talk out his problem with his therapist, Dr. Jones, but Jones had just run himself over with his car. He wanted to tell his mother, but she was too busy with her own depression. Uncle Nat was out of town collecting seashells in Montana, and Ronda, Tom’s back-rubber, spent most of her time dissecting frogs.
“I’ll take a walk,” he sighed. “Maybe I’ll feel better.” He wandered through the business section of town. As he passed the Small Business Administration, a door opened and a man dressed in a gray business suit stepped out. He took Tom by the arm and helped him into the cluttered office.
“I’m looking for small businessmen,” he said. “Won’t you sit down?”
Tom slumped into a chair.
“What’s the matter?” the man continued. “Perhaps I can help you?”
“Oh. . .” Tom sighed. “I’m so depressed. I don’t know what to do.”
“Do you feel bad?”
“Bad? Are you kidding? I feel terrible.”
“It could be your attitude. Depressions can be fun, you know.”
“Ha, that’s a laugh!”
“Yes, but only if you know how to handle them.”
“Well, I’d sure like to know how to do that.”
“It’s simple.” The man poured coffee for Tom and himself. Then he explained, “Here’s what you do: Instead of using your depressions to depress yourself, use them to depress other people.”
“You could make a business out of depression. Call it Depressions Incorporated. The Small Business Administration would gladly get you started with a loan.”
Tom sat up in his chair. Was this guy nuts? “Business?” he asked.
“Of course. You’ve already got the product—depression. You just need to get customers by promoting and selling.”
“That’s all very well,” Tom said, “but I don’t know how to promote things. I’m a lousy salesman.”
“You must be joking,” the man scoffed. “You’re an excellent salesman. Why, ever since you walked into my office, I’ve felt depressed. Do you realize you have the power to depress others?”
“I hadn’t thought about it like that—”
“Well? Not everyone can depress others. It’s a talent. You should develop it.
“But don’t you think people want to avoid depression?”
“Absolutely not. Depression is the prelude to creation.” The gray-suited man started to cry.
“I’m sorry I’m making you cry.”
“Don’t be sorry. I thank you for sharing your talent with me. When you start your new company, I’ll be your first customer.”
Tom knew the man was right. All his life he had managed to depress people. Now he could do something constructive with it, build a nationwide—even worldwide—organization. By advertising on TV he might even be able to depress the whole country! What potential! Suddenly, he began to see thousands
of dollar bills in the coffers of his new company. He might even become a millionaire! And all he had to do was be himself—his good old miserable depressing self.
“Thanks for your help,” Tom said. “I’m going to start my own business.” He rose to leave. “Funny,” he added as he reached the door, “I feel better already.”
“Watch out for that,” the man warned. “You’ll never make any money that way.”
Tom caught himself. “What I meant was, I feel bad about feeling better.”
“That’s better. It’s good to feel bad, but it’s better to feel worse. Guilt can be a powerful sales tool.”
Tom left the SBA office filled with hope.
C H A P T E R ONE
ON MARCH 22, 1105, PIERRE ROUGET de Toulouse le Bon-bon fell to his knees before the cross. “Teins!” he cried. “I am ready!” He touched the soft earth. “I’ll leave this stiff, dull
place!” he proclaimed. “No more stuffy cells, dank walls, and miserable company. And all for the love of God. Ha! How can I love God when my hand creates worm scribblings instead of calligraphy, when morning matins stink, and when Abbé Ronsard’s knowledge of God goes no deeper than a grass blade?
“I’m tired of translating Plato and Aristotle into Latin, tired of kneeling every day to the Virgin Mary. Man was not made for kneeling. . . but for walking. And I’m walking out of here! Adieu to the monk’s life.
“Besides, I like to fornicate.”
On the morning of March 23, Pierre rose from his genuflections, brushed his knees, lifted his head high, and strode through the St. Boeuf’s Monastery gate. He roared with excitement to the expanse of heaven above him: “Je suis un homme libre!“ Swinging his arms and singing his favorite troubadour song,
“Cant Par Le Flor” by Bernart de Ventatour, he headed down the long dirt road towards Toulouse. Crisp, cool air brushed his face as the Provençal sun shone upon him. Up ahead lay infinity. Inhaling deeply oxygen of the future, his pointed leather shoes lifting puffs of dust behind him, he trod forward.
After an hour of walking, he passed a strange bush on his right. He paused to watch its leaves and branches tremble. Suddenly, it the bush burst into flame!
Pierre jumped back. “Tiens!” he cried. “Ca bruille!”
A mellifluous voice sounded through the funnel of smoke. “Tais toi, fool! I am speaking to you!”
The burning bush consumed itself, crumbled into a sulfur heap, and a blond maiden wearing a high-peaked hat rose from the ashes.
Pierre’s mouth fell open as he stared in amazement. “Who art thou?” he asked.
“Beaux Beaux La Belle. Call me Bobo. I am your hidden lover.”
“I didn’t know I had a lover,” Pierre answered, kneeling before her and kissing her feet.
“Wait,” she commanded. “Do not kiss me. Not yet. First, you must earn my love.”
Pierre’s wide brown eyes gazed upon her. “What can I do for you, beauteous maiden? How can this humble servant earn your love? Command, and I shall obey.”
Bobo arched her back, stretching to her full five feet. Her blond hair cascaded down her shoulder; a wild, far-away look filled her blue-blue eyes. “Oh, knight of the sword-pen,” she said,
“Find the Recipum Magnum. Then my love will be yours forever.”
“Recipum Magnum,” she repeated. “Ah, Pierre, you have studied the great books behind monastery walls, yet you know not of the Recipum Magnum, lying hidden in the Holy Land. Near Jerusalem, they say. Written at the beginning of time, the Recipum contains secrets of the universe. Know these secrets and you can run without stopping for a year, and fly across oceans as well. The owner of the Recipum Magnum can conquer the world and live forever!”
“If it is such a secret, my lady,” Pierre asked, “how do you know of its existence?”
“Bête stupide!” Bobo cried. “You dare to question me? I know because I was born in a cloud.” Her eyes narrowed. “Every knight would love to find the Recipum, as would every king, emperor, and the Pope. But no one knows the exact location of this treasure. Only that somewhere . . . in a land overrun
by Saracens. . . beneath a rock, perhaps. . . . Find it, Pierre, and my hand shall be yours. And after my hand, who knows?”
“I shall find it, my lady!” Pierre declared. “My quest has begun. Fear not. Soon I shall lay its secrets at your feet.”
Bobo pointed to the east. “Go, then. Your destiny has been written.”
Pierre closed his eyes. He imagined Jerusalem and the Saracen conquerors of the Holy Land gouging out the eyes of Christians, smashing their brains. The hated Saracens lived so near the treasure.
He vowed to find the Recipum and deliver it to Bobo.
Knorbert and the Kneecaps
The Kneecaps gave outstanding concerts in every city. Eastern European countries swelled with pride when they appeared in Budapest, Prague, and even Vienna. State treasuries burgeoned as well. The American concert tour was a smash hit. In short, the Kneecaps had it made.
How had this happened? How had these small body parts built themselves up? How had knees reached beyond mind and heart?
It all started when Knorbert Kneecap left his house early one morning to go to his job as an obscure clam stripper in a local fish market. The job didn’t pay much, but it was a living, and, as his wife declared, “A job is a job.”
“Yes, a job is a job.”
“A job is a job is a job,” he added inventively.
Such communication went on for years in that clam-dominated household.
Then one day everything changed.
Over the years, Knorbert’s knees had begun to hurt. Arthritis, perhaps, or even osteoporosis of the tibia. The stiffness and pain increased until, one morning, Knorbert couldn’t get out of bed. This was too much for his wife. “Knorbert,” she said, “your pains are becoming my pains. It’s time you went to a doctor. I
know a bone specialist, a graduate of Knie University in the Knetherlands, and whose radical work in knee surgery has won him honors in the medical insurance race. He’ll cure your knees.”
Knorbert consulted the doctor. “I’m putting you on a music diet,” the doctor said, handing Knorbert some tapes. “Play these four times a day. Take them with plenty of fluid. Music cures everything. You’ll be fine in three days.”
“Thank you,” Knorbert said as he hobbled out of the office.
Sure enough, after three days of playing the tapes, Knorbert’s knees got better. So did his mental state. He began to sing and dance every morning, and his clam shelling improved. I’ll bet other people would benefit from this cure, he thought.
That’s when he formed a singing group from among his co-workers at the fish market. At first they called themselves “The Torn Cartilage”; then they changed their name to “The Kneecaps.” The Kneecaps’ unique style and sound captured the nation and shot their songs to the top on all music charts. They created the Knee market and made the selling of Knees the megamillion-dollar business it is today.
The Kneecaps first hit tune, “Kneecaps For My Honey,” made $20 million. It was followed by “Knees for Jesus,” “Oh Darling, I Knees You,” “Megaknees Dioxide on my Mind,” and the blockbuster monster “High Knees.”
Last year the Kneecaps finally disbanded after a long and successful career. Knorbert returned to the fish market, but as the owner. He has since purchased several hundred fish markets throughout the United States and is now reputed to be one of the richest men in America.
Recently, he spoke before the world body of the United Kneetions and proposed the creation of World Knees for Peace.
After that speech, he went home for a good night’s sleep.
But in two hours he awoke.
His elbows hurt.