I was getting stuff together for a little oral history session with my Great Aunt Iva and her grumpy brother. I was terribly interested in asking them about how often they were punished as children. That's when there was a knock at the door. It was a zombie.
Now, the zombies in our neighborhood are nice enough. They don't tend to bother us for brains. Actually, as I think about it, perhaps that is something of an insult. At any rate, we get along with our zombie neighbors because, unlike some other neighbors I could mention, they don't leave their beeping alarm clock ringing all day long.
Ceaseless, endless, never-stopping noise of the most aggravating type. The kind that gets under your skin and wiggles next to your bones, so that there are these little pin-pricks of itching fire all along your ear drums.
Our zombies don't do that. The zombie had stopped by to drop off a book, which was very nice. She also handed me a sheaf of papers.
"What's this?" I asked. She shrugged.
"Looks like some endnotes to a book," she said. "You can tell they were typed because you can feel the imprints of the keys. I found them scattered in your front yard."
"We call that the service side," I pointed out.
"Right. Anyway, here you go."
I quickly looked over the end notes. I suppose someone must have been compiling them for some book under edit. It seem the pack was incomplete. Here's how the pages read:
80...as bright as that tyger in the night forest. A reference to an American baseball team based in Detroit. The team was known in this period for performing better in games scheduled for night than in those scheduled for daytime.
82...made me assume the pseudonym 'Clubs' A clear reference to GK Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday, which recounted the adventures of a secret supreme council of anarchists. Each was identified as a day of the week. In this case, each member of the secret organization (though not anarchist in the least) is identified as a suit in a standard deck of cards.
84...and my heart went out to her. You know, I've never been a fan of puns.
86I turned to my google... In the early part of the century, Google was a popular internet search engine. The original intent of this line would have been to indicate that his companion was a person who could find answers. Later, of course, a google would be associated with a flood of useless data (much like a claven, only without the wit). The current connotation (unable to finish projects) derived from Google's perpetual beta approach.
88She was a long drink of water. I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean. What a nut bar!
89...finally encouraged him to join our club... The problem here is that there are only four suits in a deck and they already have four members. I suppose they could move to a Tarot deck and call him Cups or Rods or something. The author has really painted himself into a corner with this suits business. That's what he gets for trying to emulate Chesterton. Personally, I can't really see the allegory he's going for anyway.
90...called him 'Joker.' Oh, well, then. There you go.
91...more truth in heaven and earth Horatio... I'm not completely sure what this refers to, but it's obviously an allusion to something. My best guess is that he means to call to mind a famous cold war spy named Horatio Alger. Of course, I'll never know for sure because the executors of his estate won't let me anywhere near his notes! Weenies.
92...more progress than a pilgrim. Another sly reference to Chesterton's Thursday, truly an allegory for our times.93...riding a horse of a different color. Chesterton's book is subtitled, 'A Nightmare.' Somehow, a lot of do-gooders running around trying to save the world from anarchists is a nightmare to Chesterton. What's up with that?
93...a horse to water. I haven't figured out a relationship to Chesterton aside from the obvious one.
94...taxi. This long, and (let's admit it) rather rambling, account goes on for much too long and could probably do with a little edit here and there.
95..1...2...2 1/2... This refers to a popular method of child behaviour management. It's a threat-based technique derived from a joke, which is reprinted in my ten volume work of short fiction, May God Bless You, Child, You're Gonna Need It (New York: Smitty and Sons). I'll quote the relevant parts here:
"This man and woman got married," he said. He blushed at the word and started playing with the salt shaker. His brother had to kick him twice to get the joke restarted. Eventually, his annoyance at being kicked overcame his embarrassment. He plodded on: "They got married and celebrated and stuff. And the ceremony was in some other town, so they couldn't just walk." He stopped for a moment. "I guess you wouldn't ever walk to your own wedding, would you?"
At first I thought it was a rhetorical question and waited for him to proceed. After a few minutes, it became apparent that he wanted an answer. Since I was the only married man at the table, I had to supply a response. "Uh," I said. "I drove to both my weddings."
"Where was I? Had they left the ceremony?" We nodded, to encourage him along. "Did the horse stumble?"
"What horse?" The question escaped my lips before I thought about it."The one that stumbled."
"Oh, that makes it really clear," his brother said. "Where did the horse come from?"
"I didn't mention the horse?" Bob asked.
"No," I said. "Though I guess you might be considered to have implied him, what with the talk of not walking to the wedding and all."
"They coulda had a tandem bicycle," grumbled Bertie.
"Did they have bicycles back then?" Bob asked.
"It's probably best to not consider the bicycle," I said. "That is, if we ever want this story to end. Let's just assume the newly wed couple had a horse and were riding it home."
"Actually, they had a horse and carriage," Bob said. "He had to get out of the carriage when the horse stumbled. He said --"
"One," the zombie said. "Anyway, gotta go! The chihuahua is calling." Indeed, she was, and the zombie skipped back to her home.
"One?" I said to myself. "What the heck does that mean?" I wandered back into the kitchen, but the annoying alarm clock was doing its magic in there. So I wandered into the dining room, where it was no better. I went to the living room, where the distance from the constantly beeping and chirping clock should have shielded my sensitive ears.
It did not. I walked over to the wall in the kitchen and shouted at it. I shouted loud and hard.
"ONE!" is what I shouted. And it felt good.