Friday, March 30, 2012

The roof is the place to see parrots, an entire population of them descended from a single breeding pair that escaped twenty years ago from their cages at the zoological park. They congregate now in separate flocks of ten or twelve and multiply the same way the rest of us do. I like their colors against the drab concrete and the billboards, their chattering at all hours of the night, though I suspect I am in the minority there. Two kids with slingshots have at them but their aim is atrocious. If I had something heavy with me I’d drop it on their heads – something like the onyx globe, for instance, I stole from the Dean of Students’ office when I went there to visit and the Dean didn’t recognize me. He was immediately frightened, could sense that something was not right, and he tried to act as if he were perfectly capable of defending himself should matters get out of hand. Some people seem to think matters are always just a squint-eyed glance or awkward phrase away from getting out of hand. It was when he had excused himself, when he was going, he said, in search of some paperwork he was sure I was supposed to sign (though really I knew he was running for safety, looking about desperately in the hallway for someone with a badge and a gun to come and arrest me) that I stole the globe. I didn’t even bother trying to hide it under my coat, the coat I had brought with me for the express purpose of hiding stolen objects under. The kids who dislike the parrots so intensely listen to Thelonious Monk recordings all day when they are not trying to shoot the parrots with their slingshots. They are positively obsessed, which makes them miscreants in my book and deserving of something heavy dropped on their heads. If things keep going the way they have been going, soon every interior organ in my body will be damaged beyond repair, turned into a grotesque, spongy replica of itself unless I can find a way of reversing the procedure, of making the light that originates inside my body less anxious to make its escape. The only way I know of accomplishing this is to hold perfectly still for hours at a time, refusing to so much as blink until it is completely impossible not to. The sounds of Monk knocking about on the keyboard three stories below puts me off my game sometimes and I curse a little under my breath, shift about uncomfortably and then start again. You’d be surprised at how still the human body can be when the right mind has taken control of it. My record for not blinking must remain an unknown quantity because you can not do anything so deliberate as count and still expect to will your eyes into total immobility. Still, an educated guess might be in the neighborhood of three or four hours despite what the experts would undoubtedly have to say to the contrary. I know what I know, and the ocular experts in this neighborhood at any rate spend entirely too much time at McMullen’s Lounge, swilling gin and congratulating themselves on having married someone new or having published an article in a journal the rest of us know nothing about. If we were -- simply on a lark, simply so as to try to make a point that desperately needs making -- to try to subscribe to it, we’d be rebuffed as a matter of course. We’d be told in no uncertain terms to tackle something more appropriate to our abilities and our education level. Something with lush and sparsely populated tropical islands in it, say, and a story that isn’t true but seems as if it could be.       

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