Listen to “The Devil’s Sister”
“Another day,” thought Blurtseau, “and another night. The king is dead, and those who killed the king are dead, and Napoleon consolidates his power while those who would kill him wait in the wings. And the once-full moon that illuminated my vainglorious victory now wanes with a warbling light. Tomorrow the fighting will begin anew, the British, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, Italian, Sardinian, Greek generals… and all the world spins with the bones of the living and the bones of the dead, so many dead, those who pursued a borrowed or inherited dream, white bones in the soil, white bones in the surf of the sea, bones as white as the flickering tail of the waning moon, sparking and submerging among the breakers, flickering water reflection of fleeting sun echoed upon half-eaten moon, half-eaten moon half-eclipsed by the globe it now reflects down upon… half-eaten glow that grows dimmer each day… until the moon, the day, the night, and all our blood-urgent exploits fall dark upon the darkness of the sea, and vanish in the low laving sound of the waves eating the rocks with their dance of disintegration.
“And when the moon goes black, the stars will mark my path to Montecristo where Echo, alone on her island, watches the same silver flicker on a different surface of the same sea. And the light that flickered in her heart? Has it fallen prey to the same dance of deterioration? Will I find the moon already extinguished in the sea of her breast? Eclipsed by the vainglorious sphere that was my haste to depart? The misguided course of this star-crossed corsaire pursuing a sinking star? Yesterday’s hero is the dark side of the earth facing the dark side of the moon, is darkness double, two-faced night’s faceless faces, an echo of existence which touches no ear, a shout across an infinite expanse, an unreciprocated smile, a source without destination, a word from the heart that never arrives.”
“My heart is an echo of the disintegration
of the heart of the universe
that penetrates and disintegrates my own heart.”
What’s the matter? said Alex. I’m worried, said Blurtso. Why? said Alex. Because I have to speak at Commencement. But you’re not graduating, said Alex. I know, said Blurtso, but my scholarship requires I make an appearance, and the president wants me to give the opening prayer. The opening prayer? said Alex. Yes, said Blurtso, and I don’t know what to say. Well, said Alex, you’ve got to mention god, of course. God? said Blurtso. You mean the great donkey in the sky? Yes, said Alex, and no, because you can’t give preference to one god over another. You mean I have to mention all the gods? said Blurtso. How do I do that? It’s tricky, said Alex. What if I don’t mention any? No, said Alex, that won’t do…
Let us pray, said Blurtso, Oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god… let’s see… where was I?… oh yes… oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, oh god, ad Infinitum… amen.
Hello, said Blurtso. Hello, said the devil. Come in, said Blurtso. Thank you, said the devil. I wasn’t sure you’d come, said Blurtso. I wasn’t sure you’d be here, said the devil. Here I am, said Blurtso. And I, said the devil. The bet is, said Blurtso, to see who can eat the most pumpkin pies. Yes, said the devil. And if I win? said Blurtso. You will have an endless supply of pumpkin pies. And if I lose? said Blurtso. You will relinquish your soul. Very well, said Blurtso, shall we begin with the pie on the table? Yes, said the devil, that looks like a perfectly good pie. Would you like to go first? asked Blurtso. No, said the devil, I wouldn’t dream of it. Very well, said Blurtso, sitting down to the pie. Blurtso cut the pie, slowly, into six equal slices, then proceeded to eat them, one by one, relishing every pumpkin-filled bite. When he finished he licked the tin and pushed it toward the devil. That’s enough for me, said Blurtso. Only one? said the devil, that’s no competition at all. Perhaps, said Blurtso. O.k., said the devil, now it’s my turn. Go ahead, said Blurtso. Where’s my pie? asked the devil. I’m sorry, said Blurtso, I ate the last one.
Harlan? said Blurtso. Yes? said Harlan. Do you think anyone else stays awake like we do, talking in the dark? Yes, said Harlan, I’m sure they do. What do you think they say? said Blurtso. They tell tales, said Harlan, of what they did during the day, or say silly things like children who can’t sleep, or say sad things about the sorrows they hope to change, and then they sing lullabies to each other, until they forget their sorrows, and sleep like children who can sleep.
Harlan? said Blurtso. Yes? said Harlan. Are you awake? said Blurtso. Yes, said Harlan. What do you think about politics? said Blurtso. Politics? said Harlan. Yes, said Blurtso, all the corruption, manipulation, and self-serving contentiousness. I don’t think politics is any different than anything else, said Harlan. What do you mean? said Blurtso. I mean that everyone, said Harlan, does what is in their own best interest. Everyone? said Blurtso. Sure, said Harlan. But some people, said Blurtso, are more compassionate than others. Yes, said Harlan, that’s because they define themselves differently. What do you mean? said Blurtso. Some people have a very small definition of themselves, said Harlan, they think of themselves as a narrow, individual entity, and they act in a narrow, individual way. Others think of themselves as a family group—immediate or extended—and act for the benefit of the family. Others think of themselves as an ideological group—a nation or religion—and act in terms of that ideology. Others go beyond borders, and think of themselves as the entire human race, or the entire planet, and act in the self interest of all humans, or of all nature. But everyone is still acting in their own self interest, it’s just that some selves are bigger than others. Hmm, thought Blurtso, I wonder how big my self is?
Harlan? said Blurtso. Yes? said Harlan. Are you awake? Yes, said Harlan. What are you thinking about? Mortality, said Harlan. Mortality? said Blurtso. Yes, said Harlan, do you believe in reincarnation? I’m not sure, said Blurtso, what’s reincarnation? That’s when your soul comes back as a different animal. After you die? said Blurtso. Yes, said Harlan, if you live a good life you come back as a higher one, and if you live a bad life you come back as a lower one. A lower animal? said Blurtso. Yes, said Harlan. Like a human? said Blurtso.