Tagged history

“Ditto goes to school” (XXVI)

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Shall we read page three of The Children’s Story? said Ms. Johnson. Oh yes, said Virginia, I want to know why the teacher and children are afraid. Very well, said Ms. Johnson, page three says:

The children rustled, watching the teacher, wondering what possessed her… Johnny looked away from the door and watched with the other children. He did not understand anything except that the teacher was afraid, and because she was afraid she was making them all worse and he wanted to shout that there was no need to fear. “Just because they’ve conquered us there’s no need for panic-fear,” Dad had said. “Don’t be afraid, Johnny. If you fear too much, you’ll be dead even though you’re alive.”

We still don’t know why they’re afraid, said Virginia. No, we don’t, said Ms. Johnson. I don’t like to be afraid, said Virginia. Neither do I, said Ditto. Maybe that’s why Johnny has so much hate, said Virginia. Why? said Ms. Johnson. Because he doesn’t like to be afraid, and he’s angry at the person who’s making him afraid. Are we sure it’s a person? said Ms. Johnson. It says “they” conquered, said Virginia.

Who are they? said Ms. Johnson. I don’t know, said Virginia, but they must be bad if they conquered. Is conquering bad? said Ms. Johnson. That depends if you’re a conquer or a conquered, said Virginia. A “conqueror,” said Ms. Johnson. “They” could be another kind of animal, said Ditto. Like what? said Ms. Johnson. Any kind of animal that’s different from them, said Ditto, like a herd of rhinoceri. “Rhinoceroses,” said Ms. Johnson. Or a swarm of bees, said Ditto, or a school of piranhas. What’s a piranha? said Virginia. A piranha, said Ms. Johnson, is a freshwater fish with an insatiable appetite for meat. Insatiable? said Virginia. Impossible to satisfy, said Ms. Johnson. Oh, said Virginia.

Why don’t you like to be afraid? said Ms. Johnson. Because, said Virginia, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But something good might happen, said Ms. Johnson. But it might not, said Virginia. We fear the unknown, said Ditto, like Hamlet. Hamlet? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Ditto, my parents and their friend Blurtso staged a play called “Hamlet” last year. What does Hamlet say? said Ms. Johnson. He says, said Ditto, that he would rather stay with something familiar that doesn’t make him happy than take his chances with something unfamiliar. Something unfamiliar? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Ditto. Like what? said Ms. Johnson. Like death, said Ditto. Are you afraid of death? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Ditto. And you, Virginia? Yes, said Virginia.

Do you think Johnny is afraid of death in the story? said Ms. Johnson. Yes, said Ditto, or something worse. What’s worse than death? said Ms. Johnson. No one can say, said Ditto, until they know what death is. So it might not be bad? said Ms. Johnson. It might not, said Ditto, but we don’t know, so we create nightmares to fill the unknown. Is that what Johnny’s dad is telling us, said Ms. Johnson, when he says, “If you fear too much, you’ll be dead even though you’re alive”? Yes, said Ditto.

Have you ever heard of Franklin Delano Roosevelt? said Ms. Johnson. No, said Ditto. He was a president of the United States who said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” What does that mean? said Virginia. It means, said Ditto, that the worst thing to do is be afraid. Why? said Virginia. Because when you’re afraid, said Ditto, you’ll do anything to stop being afraid. Do you think it’s easy, said Ms. Johnson, to frighten people into doing what you want them to do? Yes, said Ditto, all you have to do is convince them something unknown will happen if they don’t.

“Blurtso pays it forward”

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I have spent my life eating things that are alive or were once alive. I sure hope whatever I become food for… enjoys eating me as much as I have enjoyed eating.

“Blurtso listens to the birds” (I)

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The birds are nice, said Blurtso, they sound very happy. Yes, said Bonny, Pablo can identify all of them by their songs. Really, said Blurtso, what was that one? That was a chickadee, said Pablo. And that one? said Blurtso. That was another chickadee. How about that one? said Blurtso. That was the same chickadee you heard the first time, said Pablo. Wow, said Blurtso, that’s amazing.

“Somewhere a dog barked”

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They say dogs bark when they see a spirit, and they can sense when a person has died. But I’ve never seen a spirit, even when I was standing next to a barking dog. I wonder what else I’m missing?

“Blurtso sees an ant” (VII)

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Oh, oh, said Blurtso, do you see that? Yes, said Harlan. What are we going to do? said Blurtso. I don’t mind a single ant, said Harlan, but when you’re surrounded by hundreds or thousands, they become unpleasant. Do you think he’ll tell his friends about the loft? said Blurtso. I don’t know, said Harlan. Maybe he’s a hermit ant, said Blurtso. A hermit ant? said Harlan. Yes, said Blurtso, an ant who rejects the frenetic pace of contemporary ant traditions and ant society, and goes off on his own to contemplate nature and his relationship to the cosmos. Or maybe, said Harlan, he’s a scout ant.

“Blurtso sees an ant” (VI)

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That ant is going the wrong way. He’s straying from the pack. I wonder if he’s sick? I wonder if the others will bring him back? Or if he’ll discover a new way to be an ant?

“Blurtso sings the donkey electric”

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“Blurtso sings the donkey electric”

I sing the donkey electric!
A song of asses I sing, near and far!
Asses on hills, asses in fields, asses in herds,
more bountiful than the once-bountiful buffalo,
asses on land and asses at sea, asses short, skinny, fat and tall!
Multitudes of asses, spanning these star-spangled states!

I have perceived that to be an ass
is to be enough.

The ears of the ass are sacred, delicate,
twitching receptacles of sound,
assiduous antennae registering, recording all,
the hooves of the ass are no less
than the slippers of sultans
striding silken alfombras and seraglio stone,
the snout of the ass and his nostrils—a dual lamp
of Aladdin—inhaling flowery fragrance,
leading to wished-for fiestas of pumpkin pleasure,
the ass’s tail, though stumpy or small, and swatting flies,
is a palm fanning reclining Cleopatra,
his teeth, precious jade, are greened and polished
by the grass of a thousand fields,
his attentive eyes and friendly balance of features,
—courtly countenance and caryatid composure—
no less perfect than the visage of Helen.

Such asses I see, to the north and to the south!
From blistering bivouacs of winter
to blazing battalions of summer,
Patagonia to Peloponnese, Malibu to Manhattan,
Concord to Cambridge, every here
and every there, asses I see! Brown, grey,
yellow, red, purple, orange, azure asses!
Asses in other climes, asses in other times,
French, British, Australian, Arabian, Asian asses!

Eating every blade of grass, an ass!
Trampling every leaf that falls, a hoof!
Wading every stream that sings,
a snout, a snort, and a bray!
Hee-haw goes the jack!
Hee-haw goes the jenny!
Hee-haw go the judge and jury and judged!
Hee-haw from the dell! Hee-haw from the glen!
Hee-haw at mid-day! Hee-haw at the moon!

I see the resigned ass, bearing a load,
obeying the coax of his lord,
I see the boisterous ass braying,
in the barn, his bonny bray,
I see the amorous ass (of these there are many),
expressing exigencies by day and by night,
I see farms, fields, freeways and burgs,
each in their way, replete with asininities,
I see the asinine politician, professor, and poet,
each one leaving a brand on the asses of asses.
And the asses of yore, you ask, where are they
with their clip and clop on the stones of the street?
Les ânes voici! I say! Les ânes voici!
Heeding the whinny and neigh,
and ass-bray of the future!

What song do I sing? (you ask and I reply),
I sing the song of asses!
Certain, and stoic, and strong!
From each face an ass!
From each office, family, and farm!
Asses I sing! Avalanches of asses!
I sing! I sing a song of asses!
I sing the donkey electric!

“Weohryant University” (XX)

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Do you think we’re early? said Morton.
I don’t want to appear anxious, said Emma Lou.
Neither do I, said Chelsea.
How long should we wait? said Morton.
Until it’s time, said Emma Lou.
How will we know? said Morton.
They’ll tell us, said Emma Lou.
What if they don’t? said Morton.
Then we’ll never know, said Chelsea.
They’ll tell us, said Emma Lou, if they want us to know.
And if they don’t? said Morton.
Then they won’t tell us, said Emma Lou.
That makes sense, said Chelsea.
Where are the others? said Morton.
They’re waiting for us to decide, said Chelsea.
They don’t want to appear anxious, said Emma Lou.
What’s wrong with appearing anxious? said Morton.
It makes you look greedy, said Emma Lou.
Even if you’re willing to share? said Morton.
Maybe they want us to wait, said Chelsea.
Why? said Morton.
Because anticipation increases desire, said Emma Lou.
Yes, said Chelsea, like in the Kama Sutra.
The Kama Sutra? said Morton.
The Kama Sutra, said Chelsea, is one of the books on our reading list.
The one the moose keeps hogging? said Morton.
Yes, said Chelsea, but I managed to sneak a peak.
What does it say? said Morton.
It says that withholding pleasure increases desire, and increasing desire increases pleasure.
What if you don’t get what you desire? said Morton.
Then you still get the pleasure of anticipating, said Chelsea.
The pleasure of anticipating? said Morton.
Yes, said Chelsea, like when you spend the winter anticipating the spring fashions, and when the fashions come out, you’re a little disappointed, but at least you had the pleasure of anticipating them.
That happens for me, said Emma Lou, every season of the year.
But sometimes when you get something, said Morton, it’s as good as what you had hoped for.
That’s true, said Chelsea, but getting it doesn’t diminish the pleasure you got from anticipating it.
It teaches you, said Emma Lou, to enjoy the journey and not focus on the destination.
The destination? said Morton.
The object of desire, said Emma Lou.
We’ve waited long enough, said Morton.
You may be right, said Emma Lou.
I wonder if the others are enjoying the wait? said Chelsea.
Birds can be very patient, said Emma Lou.
That’s true, said Morton, I watched Frank sit on a fence for five hours yesterday.
You watched him for five hours? said Chelsea.
Yes, said Morton.
And you didn’t get impatient? said Chelsea.
No, said Morton, I didn’t want to eat him.
So you’re only impatient, said Emma Lou, with things you want to consume?
Yes, said Morton.
What if you’re not hungry? said Emma Lou.
There are some things I want to consume, said Morton, whether I’m hungry or not.
That’s not very healthy, said Emma Lou.
I know, said Morton.
Do you smell that? said Chelsea.
Yes, said Emma Lou, I do.
It must be time, said Chelsea.
Yes, said Emma Lou, it must be time.
Really? said Morton, I was just starting to enjoy the anticipation.